Rumours

"No keep your money, it's on the house today, we're just so happy for you," Rosie beamed as she handed Audrey Parker her take away coffee and a bagel.

"Ah thanks," Audrey replied with a confused smile. But it was Monday morning and Audrey had yet to have any coffee so she left it at that.

"And please," Rosie added, "Take a donut for Nathan, we're all so proud of the job he does. He had big shoes to fill when Garland passed but I've always said he's a lovely boy, whatever some people say. Not that you need to worry about that, he's a fine boy our Nathan, a good man. He'll make a good father one day," she added the last part with a knowing wink.

"Ah yeah," Audrey returned in bewildered agreement.

Everyone in Haven seemed to be in a good mood that morning. Everyone Audrey passed on her way to work greeted her with a warm good morning and a few more added their congratulations and well wishes. Audrey was surprised that so many had heard about the case she'd solved the previous week but she figured Dave and Vince had done a puff piece in the Haven Herald and gone a bit overboard. So she just smiled and nodded and murmured her thanks.

A few hairs on the back of her neck pricked up with suspicion and she was beginning to blush, especially when she overheard a little girl telling her Mum how pretty Audrey looked. That had definitely never happened on her way to work in Boston. If Audrey hadn't been immune to the troubles she might have thought something was happen to her the way it had to her ex, Chris Brody. Don't be paranoid Audrey, she told herself, people in Haven are just nice, it's time you stopped thinking like a city girl.

When she arrived at the station and Stan greeted her she knew something was up. First it was what he said, "Morning Audrey, so lovely to see you, we're all really excited." Then there was the high pitched excited tone he used, the goofy too happy grin, and the way every other officer in the station turned to look at her and wave good morning. She had never exactly been Miss Popularity and this was all a bit much.

"Okay," Audrey replied. "I think I need to have a talk with Nathan, is he in his office?"

"Yeah, of course you do, you go right in. Close he blinds if you like, we understand," Stan grinned and give Audrey a wink. That was the second person who had winked at her in one morning, Audrey was beginning to feel creeped out. "I mean we all suspected… but know we know, and it's great, just great," Stan enthused.

"Huh," Audrey responded, stumped.

"Nathan," Audrey greeted her partner as she entered the Chief's old office. "Why is everyone acting crazy and please tell me you aren't one of them, its too early in the morning for the troubles."

"Hey is that for me?" Nathan asked, eyeing the donut she'd unceremoniously dumped on his desk.

"Only if you can explain. Why are people acting so weird? Was there something in the Haven Herald about that case last week? I've told Dave not to use my photo without permission."

"Well about that," Nathan began and then he handed her the paper with a sigh and a smirk. He pushed his chair back from his desk, lent back and took a bite out of his donut.

Audrey's face froze when she saw the front of the Herald. Her hands actually trembled for a moment. "Oh My God. Nathan this is insane. You have got to be kidding me. I'm going to kill them both and you are going to help me bury the bodies," Audrey seethed. "This is all because of that prank we pulled at the mattress shop the other day? We let one person believe we were engaged and now the whole town thinks we're getting married? Only in Haven," Audrey sighed.

"To be fair, they did speak to several sources, there are quotes and everything," Nathan chuckled. "Apparently Duke is hosting our engagement party tonight at the Gull."

"I'll kill him too," Audrey threatened.

"Everyone thinks its great that you've hired a local dressmaker," Nathan teased. He was enjoying this way too much. "Oh and that I gave you my mother's ring in keeping with tradition, that was a nice touch, you should really thank me," he grinned.

"You're enjoying this!" Audrey accused. Hitting him with the newspaper.

Nathan shrugged, "Nothing else the Herald prints is true, why should anyone believe this? It's kind of funny, the couple mentioned on page three actually are getting married and they only got two inches, we filled half the front page."

"Nathan Wuornos this is not about your ego," Audrey fumed.

"Come on, its kind of funny."

"People will that that we're… you know."

"So let them thinkw hat they like, what difference does it make? Apparently mosto f them already assumed we were," Nathan wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Audrey groaned with frustration. "It's hard enough to be a woman on the force without people thinking I'm sleeping with my boss."

"You make our love sound so tawdry," Nathan complained. "Just remember, I was willing to make an honest woman out of you."

"No you didn't because WE ARE NOT GETTING MARRIED!" Then her anger dissolved into an uncontrollable laughter. Audrey sank into the lounge chair opposite the chief's desk. As the laughter died out Audrey held her head in her hands and wiped away hysterical tears. "You better make this right Wuornos. You have to tell them," she gestured towards the bullpen.

"But they're all so excited about the party. Duke reckons we could make a fortune of the gifts."

"Nathan that's fraud and since when do you agree with Duke on anything? I am not playing along with this shemozzle, how did Duke get involved?"

"I suspect he's looking forward to the revenue from tonight's party."

"We'll I'm not paying for an open bar. Sort this out Nathan, please, before it gets anymore out of control than it already is." Normally Audrey would have marched out into the office, called for their attention and told them herself but she simply couldn't face any more embarrassment. Nathan had let things get this far, it was time he stepped up and took the blame.

"Alright, I'll tell them, and I've already spoken to Duke, Dave and Vince. But there are worse people to have a fake engagement with."

"You would be lucky to get fake engaged to me Wuornos," Audrey laughed.

For a moment their blue gazes locked and a serious moment of unspoken longing passed between them, then it was pushed aside as Nathan got up to go and break the news.

"Nathan wait," Audrey interrupted, catching his hand as he passed by her. Nathan stopped in his tracks and looked down at her.

"Thanks for not being made, I realise this is kind of my fault," Audrey admitted. "I was the one that let that shop assistant think we were a couple."

"No worries, Duke will be thrilled to have his crown back as Haven's most eligible bachelor," Nathan smiled.

"Well you're pretty eligible yourself," Audrey smiled. She was still holding his hand and when she dropped it Nathan was slightly disappointed.

"Thanks, you're not too bad yourself," Nathan glanced at the cover of the Herald, "I know the photo was photo shopped, but you do look great in white," he added, leaving Audrey blushing slightly.

Audrey waited in the chief's office while Nathan explained that it was all a misunderstanding after some "undercover" work. He heard a few "boos" which made her blush even more.

The rest of the day was slightly surreal and fairly frustrating. Audrey stayed away from Nathan as much as possible, finding excuses to work separately. She groaned when she found a stack of bridal magazines on her desk, and business cards for various wedding related businesses kept appearing. It frustrated her to no end that a few people seemed sceptical when she told them the truth. One helpful co-worker quietly recommended a premarital counsellor if her and Nathan were having troubles. Audrey couldn't believe how keen people were to believe the fiction.

At 5 o'clock Nathan come into her office and said, "Alright Parker, time to go."

"What?"

"Grab your coat, we've got a party to get to."

"But I thought…"

"Just wait and see," Nathan smiled. "It'll be fine I promise." Audrey agreed dubiously but when they pulled up in the Grey Gull's packed lot she smiled. A banner strung above the evidence read, "HAPPY UNENGAGMENT PARTY NATHAN AND AUDREY."

"I have to admit, after the day I've had, this is kind of perfect," Audrey conceded.

"It was my idea," Nathan admitted, "Well mine and Duke's. I figure this might be my only chance to have an engagement party."

"It won't be yours, but it might be mine, so let's have some fun," Audrey agreed. They climbed out of the Bronco and Nathan offered Audrey his arm. She accepted it and they walked arm in arm into the party. Vice and Dave were waiting sheepishly inside waiting to beg forgiveness. With his bar overflowing with patrons on a Monday night Duke was as happy as a pig in mud. Audrey had to admit it was kind of cool; there was even a cake, made by Rosie of course. A few people even insisted on giving them the presents they'd bought before they realised it was all a hoax, they explained that Audrey had never had a proper housewarming and she deserved a few treats to thank her for all the help she'd given the town (though the monogrammed towels were perhaps a little over the top).

It was a Monday night so most of the crowd quietened down early but Audrey couldn't help but notice that her partner was having more than his share of the fun. "People have been buying him drinks all night," Duke explained. "I think they feel kind of sorry for him, and to be honest, I'm not sure he's not starting to feel a little sorry for himself," he whispered wisely. Audrey nodded knowingly and decided it was time to step in.

"Hey partner," Audrey greeted Nathan as she sided up to the stool he'd perched on next to the dance floor, he seemed to be watching a few party goers wistfully.

"You know this is the best fake engagement party ever," Nathan grinned. "I mean you are the best fake finance ever, you're smart and beautiful and anyone would be lucky to marry you- " Nathan reached up and touched her hair lightly.

"Whoa, slow down solider. I think it's time we get you home."

"You should come, you should see my new bed," Nathan enthused in a low voice, "I put the quilt on that you picked out. I wanted it to be nice for you, just in case, you ever came to…." He fished around for an ending that wouldn't totally embarrass them. Nathan was drunk, very drunk, but he vaguely realised he was giving too much away.

"Check," Audrey, supplied awkwardly. "In case I came to check, because I helped you pick out the mattress," she didn't know why she was trying so hard to keep things normal between them, Nathan was too drunk to care and she doubted he'd even remember in the morning. Heck they were at their own un-engagement party, what was normal about that?

"Because that's what you are, you're helpful, you're a good friend," Nathan agreed, his words kind but his tone bitter. "And I'm being a total idiot. You don't deserve this Parker, I'll get Duke to call me a cab." He patted her shoulder apologetically. He felt like he was failing her horribly. "I'm sorry I've made a mess of this whole night."

"You haven't made a mess of anything," Audrey reassured him. "It was lovely, really," she assured him, looking deep into his troubled grey-blue eyes. She couldn't bear to see him hurting, not over her.

"I should have asked you out the moment you got here, I shouldn't have taken no for an answer, back before you knew anything about the troubles or my affliction," he confessed sadly, he stroked her hair again though he hated himself for giving into the impulse.

"Nathan, we shouldn't have this conversation now, not like this," Audrey whispered. "Come upstairs with me, I'll put you to bed and we can talk in the morning, I'll make pancakes," she offered with an affectionate smile.

Nathan nodded weakly, gazing at her with total unveiled adoration. Her eyes, her lips, the halo of golden hair, she was too beautiful to imagine.

She guided him to the door and Duke called out, "Need a hand there?"

"He's fine," Audrey called back. Duke hesitated for a moment but then shrugged and left them too it. It wasn't his place to intervene.

"I should just go home," Nathan argued, the cold air hitting sobering him up as he staggered up the stairs.

"And have the whole town talking about how I sent my pretend husband home alone?" Audrey teased.

"You don't think they'll be talking about this?"

"I think Duke is the only one who noticed. I think most of our real friends went home about an hour ago. The crowd left in there are just randoms looking for a party to crash."

"It was a good party," Nathan sighed and at the top of the stairs and lent his back against her door, looking out at the night sky.

"We'll have to do it again someday," Audrey agreed before she realised what she'd just said, "I mean… like, for a birthday or something," she added awkwardly. Maybe she'd had a few too many to drink as well, or maybe it was just the proximity of her bed and the tightness of his blue t-shirt.

"Yeah for a birthday, or something," Nathan emphasised the last two words slowly and deliberately and before he knew the idea had crossed the veil between fantasy and action he was pulling her towards him and they were kissing. At first Audrey gave in, kissing deeply, losing her other senses as everything became about his touch, his lips, the wetness of his tongue, the gentle firmness of his hands on her back, the hardness of his stomach and chest pushed against her softness.

"Nathan wait, not like this," she whispered, pulling slightly away. Her eyes searched his, not wanting to see the hurt and disappointed that registered there.

"I'm not that drunk," Nathan reasoned.

Audrey gave him a long hard look, she really studied him. She let herself really see him. She let herself feel her longing for him. "Okay," she agreed, "But not here," she whispered, glancing around. Duke was probably watching them from behind the bar. "I'll go upstairs, give me five and then follow me; I'll leave the door unlocked. Let's keep this off the front cover of the Herald," she warned.

"Whatever you say Agent Parker," Nathan grinned, his mouth centimetres from hers. He badly wanted to kiss her again but he could wait. He had already waited so long.

Audrey nodded. "Five minutes?" she confirmed.

"Three?" Nathan asked hopefully.

"Four," she reasoned, smiling demurely. "Okay." And she snaked her way through the crowd, calling out a quick goodnight to Duke.

Nathan watched her every inch of the way. He was trying to memorise every sway of her hip. She glanced back over her shoulder as she opened the door.

Nathan counted Mississippis in his head painfully aware of the passage of each minute. Then with an nervous swallow he followed his partner's footsteps.

"Want me to call you a cab Wuornos?" Duke offered on his way out. Nathan just held up his phone by way of explanation. It wasn't exactly lying if Duke assumed that Nathan was going to call his own cab. Duke nodded.

A/N: I wrote too versions of the end of this because I didn't want them to sleep together just because the fans want them too, and my first thought was "not like this" but then I reasoned that neither of them are inexperienced (though admittedly Nathan has been out of action for a while) and honestly with the amount of tension between them and the number of failed attempts at a first date, it wouldn't be such a bad thing for them to finally just do it. If it happens this way on the show I think there will be plenty of unresolved tension afterwards to keep the serious going anyway! What do you think? Should they have waited? In my first version Nathan was too much of gentleman but I wanted Audrey to be a little more assertive. After all in 2x11 she was the one that kissed him (and previously on the cheek) so I tried to mirror that pattern here.