AUTHOR'S NOTE: Inspired by (Episode 2x03 – Love Machine) when Audrey notices the nails in Nathan's shoulder. He insists that he's fine (typical Nathan) and she gives him a small lecture. I could've written about the vanishing barn at the end of that episode, but I'm trying to stay away from writing only about Audrey/Nathan in this series. So, this is Audrey/Duke (Friendship)
Duke was outside the Grey Gull, practicing drawing Senor Taco on the medium size chalkboard. In another hour the bar would be packed, with the usual weekend crowd. So, he was taking a small break from business ownership, before the craziness began.
When, the familiar Blue Bronco pulled into the parking lot. It wasn't unusual to see Nathan's truck there. Much more often, now that Audrey lived in the apartment above the Gull. The three of them usually had drinks a few nights a week, and sometimes they even ate dinner together.
Somehow, it became their normal routine. Both Duke and Nathan knew it was Audrey's attempt, to get them to become friends again. And, not just tolerate each other's presence when needed. Which was working though, neither of them would admit that to Audrey.
However, when Audrey got out of the truck it was obvious something was wrong. Duke couldn't hear what Nathan was saying, but no doubt the fight was about Nathan's new 'fashion accessory'. And, Audrey wasn't exactly quite with her responses. Her anger seemed to only rise, the longer their conversation went on. Duke wasn't sure if he should break it up, or stay out of it. Audrey's voice had raised just enough for him, and anyone walking in or out of the Gull to hear.
"I'm tired of this 'I'm fine' bullshit, Nathan…. Just go…. Have a nice weekend, Chief Wuornos."
Audrey slammed the truck door hard, ending the conversation. The loud bang made Duke wince inwardly, just a little. He could only wonder how it sounded. Or, more like how it felt to Nathan when Audrey called him 'Chief Wuornos'.
She walked up the stairs to her apartment, without giving Nathan a second glance. If she had, she would've seen a mixture of guilt and defeat on his face. It had quickly changed back into his normal calm straight faced expression, as he drove away. Though, anyone who had witness the ending of their argument knew otherwise.
"Okay, show's over." Duke said, looking at the small crowd that had formed behind him. "Worry about your own interesting lives, and stay out of theirs."
Of course, he knew the friendly advice wouldn't stop Haven's gossip mill. But, he couldn't stop the urge to defend his friends. After the crowd dispersed, Duke walked off the porch and into the parking lot. So, he could look up at Audrey's apartment. He stood there for a few minutes. Audrey and Nathan would work it out, they always do. With that last thought, he walked back inside his bar.
But, an hour later a 'To Go' bag is handed to him. Apparently, Audrey requested that he deliver it to her. No problem, he would just bring the food to her and leave. 'The bar is busy, and they're shorthanded tonight' excuse, wasn't actually an excuse this time. Audrey was probably still pissed off at Nathan, and wanted to be alone anyway.
Duke walked up the stairs, leading to the front door of her apartment. Part of him hoped that she only wanted the food, and not to vent out her 'Nathan problem'. He honestly didn't want to be involved with their problem. But, knew he would listen to her no matter what. Meaning he was unwillingly involved now. He and Nathan would joke that she had the affliction, of getting them to do whatever she wanted. Both of them wrapped around her little finger, from the first day they met her.
"You know," Duke said jokingly, when Audrey opened the door. "Just because I own this fine establishment, and I'm one of your best friends. You can't take advantage of me like this."
"I would only be taking advantage of you, if I made you pay." Audrey said, taking the bag from him and giving him a small smile. "And, I ordered dinner for you as an apology."
"You're just lucky it's not that busy right now. Otherwise, it would be me cancelling on you this time." Duke teased her, following her into the apartment closing the door behind him. "They'll call if they need me."
"And, you don't need to apologize. You were going to have a public argument with Tin Man, sooner or later. And, technically you were in your own front yard."
"That is also the parking lot of your business." Audrey replied, grabbing a couple of beers out of the refrigerator. "And, it was a fight not an argument. You just heard the ending of it."
"So, word will go through the Haven gossip mill. Audrey Parker got pissed off at Nathan Wuornos. That you actually swore." Duke said, as if it wasn't a big deal following her out onto the deck. "How guilty and defeated maybe even a little heartbroken, Nathan looked watching you leave."
"He really looked that way?" Audrey asked. Concern and regret clearly showing, on her face and in her voice.
"Heartbroken may be stretching the truth a little." He said, sitting down on one of the white lounge chairs. "Anyone who had been watching him during your argument could, see he wasn't okay with how it ended."
"Don't worry, after a few days the town will be gossiping about something or someone else."
"It's just...he always acts like some Tough Guy." She sounded a little frustrated, placing the bag on the small table between the two chairs and sitting down.
"I don't know how many times I tried to get through his stubborn head, that he's not invincible. Just because he can't feel pain, doesn't mean he's not injured."
"But, it's like he has some kind of 'Hero' complex when it comes to me. I'm far from being a damsel-in-distress, yet he insists on being my human shield. Taking all the physical damage that the 'Troubles' throw our way."
"Today was just another example of that." She continued. "We were attacked by the machines in Lewis Pufahl's workshop. A nail gun put four nails into Nathan's left shoulder."
"And, all he says is that it's fine. That it would bleed less, if the nails were left in. And, he continues on with the case as if nothing happened to him."
"Right," Duke said. "I heard about the 'killer' machines. This town has become one big mixture of Stephen King stories."
"Anyway," Audrey continued, a little annoyed by the interruption. "Any machine that Lewis worked on came to life."
"They were killing anyone, who would give Lewis a reason to leave Haven. We realized what was going on just in time, because a zamboni machine at the hockey rink almost crushed his girlfriend to death."
"My point is that Nathan could've gone to the hospital. And, I could've finished the case on my own. What if he fell and, those nails pushed completely into his shoulder?"
"He could've ended up with an injury that required, more than a few days of his arm in a sling. He even joked about it. Saying at least it wasn't the hand he shoots with."
We're best friends and partners, but both those relationships are two way streets. It's not that I don't appreciate that, his first instinct is to protect me. But, I'd prefer it if neither of us got hurt just to solve a case."
"He needs to let me protect him too. It's not like I haven't had my share of bruises, scars and broken body parts before I came to Haven." She finished. "Sometimes, I feel that he underestimates me by protecting me all the time."
"He doesn't underestimate you," Duke tried to reassure her. "But, he does have his reasons to protect you. Other than, you're his partner and best friend."
"Like what?" Audrey asked curiously.
"Forget I said anything." He said standing up, silently cursing at himself. "I'm not a relationship councilor. So, I'm the last person who should be giving you advice. It's not my place to tell you, anyway."
"Duke, tell me." She demanded. Reaching out her right hand, and grabbing his left arm. The serious and determined expression on her face, made Duke wished he hadn't said anything at all. Duke knew Audrey wouldn't let him go, until he answered her.
"Okay." He said reluctantly, sitting back down and she released his arm. "But, if you tell Nathan that I told you any of this. I will deny it."
"You may not realize it, but sometimes you slip back into 'Orphan Mode'." Duke explained. "Keeping some things that bother you to yourself until, you're holed up living on frosting."
"I mean, you don't do it all the time. But, you sometimes seem to forget that you have people who care about you now."
"Nathan protects you not because he underestimates your ability, to protect him or yourself. And, it's not about being a 'Tough Guy'. Or, because he can't feel pain."
"It's one of the ways he shows how he cares about you. That he can take care of you, without crossing any lines relationship wise." He continued. "Without you getting pissed off that he's doing it. Even though, that part obviously doesn't always work out so well."
"You should know by now," Duke finished. "That Nathan is an 'Actions speak louder than words' Guy."
Audrey watched as Duke reached into the bag, and was surprised. He handed her the clear container, filled with a dozen of her favorite Rosemary's cupcakes. But, what meant more to her was the yellow post-it stuck to the top of the container. With the words 'I'm sorry' in Nathan's handwriting.
"Are you crying?" Duke teased her, reaching his right hand up the cup her cheek. So, she couldn't look away from him.
"Shut up." Audrey replied smiling, swatting his hand away from her face. "When did Nathan bring these?"
"You want to know why I stopped seriously flirting with you," Duke said, ignoring her question. "And, started to friendly flirt with you?"
"I wasn't aware there was a difference." Audrey said, still holding the cupcake container.
"I stopped when I realized, that Nathan can feel you." He smiled at the shocked expression on her face.
"I figured it out on my own, he didn't tell me." Duke answered her question, before she could ask it.
"I pieced together what happened at Carpenter's Knot with the Chameleon." He finished. "The question he asked me. About a guy like him who can't feel anything, meeting a woman discovers he can feel her touch seeming like fate. How he would find some reason to have skin-to-skin contact with you."
"He thinks we're fated to be together," Audrey said, sounding a little insulted and hurt. "Because, I'm the only thing he can feel."
"His said it seemed like fate, not that it was fate." Duke corrected her. "Audrey, we both know Nathan wouldn't use you like that. Or, force you into something you don't want or aren't ready for."
"He's too much of a damn Gentleman, probably figuring out what he wants as well. If what he is really feeling is attraction to your immunity to his trouble. Or, if he wants you for the amazing woman you are. With Nathan it's all or nothing at all."
"No one's forcing you to make a life changing decision. Even though, Dave and Vince might hint at it. All I'm saying is take it one day at a time."
"Well, I'm going to go," Duke finished, standing up. "Before, all Hell breaks loose. Sometimes being a legit businessman, is a pain in the ass."
"So, you are cancelling on me after all." Audrey said jokingly, pretending to be hurt.
"I'm sure there is someone else, you want to have dinner with right now." Not looking at her, but down into the parking lot. Audrey stood up, and walked over to where he was standing.
"How long has he been here?" Audrey asked, unable to stop the happy smile on her face.
Truth was she had spent the hour after their fight, just sitting on her couch. And, staring at one of the walls painted stormy blue. As odd as it may sound, it helped her relax after a stressful day. She didn't know how to explain it, but that color seemed to fit her apartment. As if, it always belonged there. She felt that it gave her apartment, a warm, cozy comfortable, safe feeling. She had finally found a place, where she was wanted and needed. She was finally home. And, then she realized why she felt that way. It was the exact color of Nathan's eyes. Audrey had gone from being angry, to feeling miserable. She needed to vent to Duke and, using the food delivery was a perfect excuse.
"I had a feeling that, I would be unwillingly dragged into this at some point. So, I decided to help get you two at least talking to each other. We both know that you two would be stubborn and miserable, avoiding each other all weekend long."
"He was walking in, when I was walking out to bring you the food. To apologize and asked me to deliver the cupcakes." Duke explained. "Apparently, both of you think I'm your Personal Messenger. When, you're pissed off at each other."
"So, I lied. I told him to wait, because I needed to speak with him." He finished, pushing off the railing and looking at her. "Don't make me regret this."
"Thank You." Audrey said then, kissed him on the cheek.
"If you really insist on thanking me," He said with a sly smile. "You can make some or, all of my parking tickets disappear."
Duke walked down the deck stairs, and to the front door of the bar. However, he stopped on the porch. Watching as Audrey walked down the stairs, and over to the truck. Nathan got out and they were standing an arm's length away. They stared at each other for a moment, until Audrey reached out and held Nathan's hand.
Duke knew he had made the right decision to stop pursuing Audrey, after witnessing the scene in front of him. It wasn't Nathan's reaction to skin contact with Audrey. But, the way Audrey and Nathan were having a silent conversation. With their eyes, smiles and now touch.
Something he never experience with Audrey, probably because he was too busy flirting with her. He walked back into the Gull, unable to deny the pang of envy and a little regret. And, how he would trade Audrey kissing his cheek. For Audrey to look at him, and hold his hand like that.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is going to be the last entry for now. I have two chapter stories that I've been neglecting. And, I'm focusing on finishing them. But, this is definitely not the end of this series.