Boxes in the Attic
Pairing/Characters: Nathan, Audrey, hints of Nathan/Audrey
Rating: T, just to be safe - I have plans for later chapters.
Disclaimer: As far as I know Haven is owned by Jim Dunn, Sam Ernst, and SyFy/Universal. If I did own it...well...I wouldn't be writing fan fiction, would I?
Author's Note: So here it is. A multi-chaptered story. Audrey and Nathan are clearing out the Chief's house, bonding ensues. The goal is to write a chapter for each room in the house (storage room, four bedroom, two bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, enclosed porch, and a basement). Everyone, please send my muse good juju - she has a tendency to be a bit...well...flighty. (The bitch.) I'm hoping that I don't run out of steam and actually finish this. (My track record is...less than impressive as far as multi-chaptered stories go. I think it's only fair that I warn anyone who decides to start reading this.)
Nathan was a go-getter, by most standards. He had never wanted to seem unworthy in his father's eyes, and so he worked twice as hard as anyone else in order to make a good impression. After a while he realized that he would never truly have his father's approval, so he settled into doing what was expected him as far as his professional life went, leaving his hard working attitude to his personal life. Cleaning, yard work, home repairs – all of it Nathan did with gusto and an attention to detail that really only showed when he was working an important case.
The fact that he had left the Chief's house alone for the last three weeks spoke volumes. Audrey refused to even approach the subject following the first attempt after the Chief's memorial service. After Nathan's freeze out, she realized it was futile to try and push the issue. After all, the Teagues had been urging Nathan to clean out the house and all that had resulted in was the interim chief's steadfast refusal to even drive within a mile of the place.
However three weeks after the memorial service Nathan realized that he couldn't let it sit any longer, and despite his own reservations about what he was about to do, it had to be done.
It was his first day off in a while, and he had left a message with Laverne that barring the end of the world, he was not to be disturbed over the weekend. It was going to take the next two days to sort through his father's house, and that was if he could detach himself from the project at hand and simply get things sorted into what would be saved, what would be thrown away, and what would be given away. It wasn't a task he relished doing – he hadn't been "home" since shortly after he graduated from college, and there were ghosts there he had to face. Ghosts he had been avoiding.
He pulled the Bronco up to the garage and climbed out, taking a deep breath before walking around to the front of the house. For some reason it didn't feel right to go through the back door. He should have been surprised to find Audrey sitting on the front steps with two cups of coffee in hand, but if he were to be completely honest with himself, he was glad that she was there. He sauntered over to her, one eyebrow cocked at her in a silent question.
"Laverne said you didn't want to be bothered for the whole weekend. I figured that you were finally going through the Chief's things," Audrey said as she held out a paper coffee cup.
Nathan nodded as he reached for the offered coffee. "I can't say that I'm surprised to see you here."
"It'll go faster with two of us working on it," Audrey shrugged as she rose and followed Nathan to the door. She said nothing as he took the time to work up the courage to actually open the door. He slid the key in and turned it, and with a light push the door swung open. She didn't know what to expect from the Chief's house, but it looked normal to her.
"We'll start in the attic and work our way down. That way we're not tracking dust into the parts of the house we've already cleaned," Nathan said as he made his way for the stairs. Passing quickly through a nautically themed living room towards the back of the house, Audrey followed her partner, only glimpsing the kitchen and a bathroom before heading up stairs.
"Is there an attic?" Audrey asked skeptically as she climbed up the stairs behind Nathan. "From the street view, it doesn't look like it."
"It's not an attic, technically," Nathan clarified. "It's a storage room off the master bedroom. For all intents and purposes, it was the attic," Nathan shrugged. "There's also a basement. I believe that's where we'll be ending this weekend."
"Was your dad a pack rat?" At Nathan's glare Audrey held her hands up in defense. "I just want to know if we'll be going through years and years of stuff or only the stuff that has some sort of sentimental attachment to it."
"The Chief wasn't one to hold on stuff," Nathan answered with an irritated huff. "I don't expect to find much beyond some Christmas decorations and a few family albums. Now, if my mom had some stuff boxed up that I didn't know about, we'll probably find that stuff, too."
At the top of the stairs was a short hallway, with a door directly in front of them. Audrey looked around, trying to acquaint herself with the floor plan. "So what's where?"
Nathan pointed to his left. "That's the Chief's room. It was my parents' room when Mom was still alive." Indicating to the door in front of him, he continued. "That is the door to the storage room." Finally he pointed to the right. "Down that hall; first is the bathroom, then a utility closet, and the door at the end of the hallway was my room when I was still living here. I'm sure by now the Chief has thrown everything but the furniture away."
"Did you take anything with you when you left?" Audrey asked as Nathan opened up the door to the storage room and groped for the light switch.
"I took my clothes, various trophies and plaques I'd accumulated, the important stuff. I did leave quite a bit. When I bought my house I got it fully furnished. I didn't need to take much more than my personal belongings. What I left behind I didn't care about," Nathan shrugged as he finally found the light switch. Flicking it on, he blinked and sighed. "I suppose we should get to work."
"Cleaning supplies?" Audrey asked, noting the fine layer of dust that seemed to coat the entire room.
"In the utility closet, it's that smaller door between the bathroom door and the bedroom door, but not the one with the plank doors. That's the linen closet," Nathan said, and as Audrey vanished to track down cleaning supplies, he surveyed the meager contents of the room. There was a beautifully crafted cedar chest tucked under some shelves, while several storage boxes were placed on an adjacent wall. On the shelf under the storage boxes was a row of leather bound photo albums which Nathan had forgotten about. They had once been kept in the living room, but after his mom died, the Chief had placed them in the storage room, never to be seen again.
"Okay, I've located a couple of dusters, a vacuum, a mop and bucket and a few scrub brushes. Would the broom be down stairs?" Audrey reappeared in the door way packing a bucket full of cleaning supplies in one hand and a mop in the other.
"There should be a broom in the kitchen. I'll go get it. Go ahead and start dusting the shelves," Nathan instructed as he moved past her and headed towards the stairs.
Shrugging off her jacket and laying it over the banister, Audrey grabbed one of the feather dusters and started at the windows. Years of dust and cobwebs seemed to coat the room, and for a moment Audrey wondered if it would be a better idea to take the vacuum to the cobwebs before she started dusting.
Nathan found her fighting with the vacuum when he returned with the broom. She had plugged it into the outlet in the hallway, which was probably the best idea as he had no idea if there were even outlets in the storage room, and was stretching and reaching in an attempt to suck something out of the corner of the room.
"Die, you eight legged bastard," he heard her mumble and he cracked a small smile. She was going after the spiders then.
"Everything okay?" he asked as he walked up behind her.
Startled, Audrey spun and hit him in the face with hose extension. In true Nathan fashion, he didn't even flinch, as if getting hit in the face with a vacuum hose was the most natural thing in the world. She immediately shut off the vacuum and dropped the hose to the floor. "Oh my God, Nathan! I'm sorry! You startled me!"
He blinked a few times and placed his hand on his temple, right about where she had hit him. "Obviously."
"I just thought that there were so many cobwebs in here that I should get those with the vacuum first, and then I would dust. Dusters with cobwebs never work as well as dusters without cobwebs," she rambled.
"It's okay, Parker. It didn't hurt."
She winced. "I know it didn't hurt, but I still feel bad about hitting you."
"It's fine," he grunted.
"So, um, what are you going to do?"Audrey asked him. "It's kind of pointless to sweep if I'm just going to be kicking up a lot of dust in a few minutes."
"I need to go through the boxes and determine what's being saved, what's being given away and what's being tossed," he said, jerking his head in the general direction of boxes and the photo albums. "If you can do the cleaning while I go through the boxes, that would be great."
To say that Audrey wasn't curious about the contents of the boxes would be a lie. Audrey was dying to know what was in them, but she respected Nathan's privacy too much to ask. So she continued to vanquish cobwebs and spiders while Nathan grabbed a box, stuck it on the floor, and sat down next to it. He took a deep breath and then opened it, peering into it as if it held a trap.
A picture of his mother and the Chief smiled up at him. He had no idea when the photo was taken, but there was no denying how happy they both looked. He picked up the photo only to find more beneath it. He remembered that these photos once decorated the walls of the house. They had once been proudly displayed in the living room, in the hallways and along the stairs. His mother had always been so proud of the Wuornos Family Gallery, as she had called it.
After she died, the Chief had taken them all down. Nathan had always assumed that he had just carelessly tossed them into the garbage. Instead they had been packed away with tenderness and care. What was with that man and his layers? Why had he kept so much hidden away from Nathan?
After establishing that the only boxes in the storage room held the old family photos, he moved to pull out the cedar chest. He tugged it out from under the shelf, and then grabbed a rag and furniture polish. As he cleared away years of dust, he noted the fine craftsmanship. An intricate nautical theme had been carved on the front and the lid, while a rope wound around the sides and back. He vaguely remembered the chest sitting at the end of his parents' bed when he was boy, and sometimes his mother would let him borrow it when he was pretending to be a pirate with the other neighborhood boys.
A cold feeling settled in his stomach as Nathan carefully undid the hinges. He couldn't remember what the chest had held. His mother had always cleaned it out before she let him play with it, and as far as young Nathan was concerned, it was his mother's treasure chest, a sacred place for her special things and a boy's sense of reverence had quashed any curiosity to see what was in inside it.
"Wow, that's beautiful," Audrey spoke up, leaning over to examine the schooner carved on the lid. "It has to be antique."
"It was my mother's," Nathan told her as he let his fingers drift over the intricately carved waves, wishing he could feel them. "She used to let me borrow it when I'd play pirates with the other boys in the neighborhood."
"Was Duke one of those boys?" Audrey asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
Half of Nathan's mouth quirked up into a smile. "While the rest of us outgrew it, he, on the other hand, did not."
Audrey laughed as she sat down next to Nathan on the dusty floor. "Well, open it up."
He opened the lid slowly, not entirely sure what to expect. The scent of cedar greeted their noses, which was infinitely better than the mothball smell they were expecting. Once the lid was up, both Nathan and Audrey leaned over the lip of the chest, took one look inside, and then they looked at each other.
"This belonged to your mother?" Audrey asked.
"Yeah," Nathan replied as he reached in a pulled out a leather bound journal. He flipped it open and saw his mother's familiar handwriting. Perhaps there were answers to his questions about his past in these journals, answers he wasn't sure if he was ready for.
Meanwhile Audrey had reached in and pulled out a mass of age yellowed satin and chiffon. She carefully shook it out and held it up to her body, and then gasped. "Oh my…"
Nathan looked up. It was a wedding dress most likely from the early 1900s, satin and lace and chiffon. It had tiny seed pearls sewn along the cuffs and collar, wide satin ribbon along the hem and as a belt around the waist, and a very delicate lace ruffle along the neck and wrists. "Is that a wedding dress?"
"I think so," Audrey said as she gingerly ran her fingers along the bodice. "It's beautiful. I think this is the kind of dress that every girl dreams of for her wedding. I know I did." She twirled around once and then grinned sheepishly down at Nathan. "I guess even I have my super girly moments."
Suddenly an image of Audrey gliding down the aisle of a church towards him wearing the dress came to Nathan's mind. He blinked rapidly a few times to wipe the fantasy from his brain, which was unhelpfully concocting a whole intricate wedding scenario. There were bridesmaids and groomsmen and an adorable little flower girl. Elaborate floral arrangements decorated the whole church. And good heavens, when had he begun to think of Audrey that way?
"You know, I never saw any wedding photos growing up. Now that I think about it, I never saw any sort of a reminder of it anywhere in the house," Nathan said quietly. "Not a dried bouquet, a cake topper, anything; let alone the two of them celebrating an anniversary. It was like they were never married."
"Well, seeing as the Chief wasn't your biological father, I suppose it's possible," Audrey admitted reluctantly as she began to fold the dress up. "I have to admit, it seems like a waste to store this. It's a museum piece, though it should be properly cleaned first. Who knows how long it's been in storage, or the last time it was cleaned."
Nathan merely shrugged as he reached into the chest once more and pulled out a five by seven silver picture frame. In it was a wedding photo of his mother and the Chief, smiling happily out. She wore the dress that Audrey had pulled from the chest while the Chief wore his dress blues. From the look of it, they were standing in the lobby of the town hall from the mid eighties. He seemed to recognize the trophy in the case behind them from the city's softball team.
"Parker, look at this," he said as he handed her the frame.
Audrey took it and smiled. "They look happy."
"It was so long ago I don't remember it well, but I do remember some happy times. But the bad outweighed the good by so much, it was easy to forget that there were even good times," he mused sadly.
Carefully Audrey removed the back of the frame and let out a speculative hum. "There's a date on the back of this photo." She handed it back to Nathan so he could see.
His eyebrows knit together as he frowned. "This was the year after Max Hansen was locked up in Shawshank," he said as he handed the photo back.
"You didn't know?" Audrey asked as she replaced the back of the frame. She had wondered, but the Teagues weren't willing to tell her anything that Nathan didn't already know, and since Nathan hadn't been asking, the newspaper boys had been oddly silent.
"I always assumed that they were married. It never occurred to me that they weren't, at least not for the first several years," Nathan answered softly.
Dropping to her knees next to Nathan, Audrey pulled him into her arms. She leaned her head against his and gently patted his shoulder. "I can't imagine how hard this is for you. Everything that you thought you knew turned out to be a lie."
"I think you can relate on some level. You don't know who you are," he pointed out.
"That is certainly true," Audrey agreed as she released him. She took a breath and then frowned at the chest. "So what do you want to do with it?"
"I'll pack it up again and all of these boxes are going to come home with me," he said as he stood, Audrey rising with him. "Who knows, I might get the dress cleaned and donate it to the Haven museum. I'm sure they'd love to have a dress from the turn of last century."
"Well, if you're going to take those down to the truck, I'll continue cleaning in here. I'm pretty sure I've got all of the cobwebs, so I'll move on to dusting," Audrey said as she picked up duster. "On the plus side, if every room is as empty as this one, it should be relatively easy to get through everything."
Nathan couldn't help but chuckle at Audrey's optimism that the job would be done quickly. "This is Haven. When has anything gone relatively easy?" he reminded her.
"Well, crap," she muttered. "Fine, let's just hope that the worst that we'll find are spiders."
Oh dear. Does anyone really know what they're getting into when they agree to clean out someone's estate? Especially when that person was the Chief? A good chunk of the fic will be exploring Nathan's past, a lot of it being speculation that will most likely be Jossed during this season, or if SyFy permits, in later season.
But! I fully intend to document my speculation in fanfiction form. Ha.