The Green Eyed Monster
Setting: Early Season 2
Nathan Wuornos picked up the simple silver frame from Audrey's desk as if it was a bomb. "This is new," Nathan remarked, the distaste obvious in his voice. He glared at the picture of Audrey and Duke cuddled up next to each other, Duke's arm around Audrey, bright smiles on their faces, the ocean behind them.
"Yeah, it was only taken on the weekend, Dave took it, Duke asked him to develop it for us," Audrey explained happily, a self-satisfied tone in her voice.
"Us? So you and Crocker are an us now?" Nathan asked, the hurt tone clear in his voice.
"Only in the sense that the photo is of Duke and I, what's the big deal?" Audrey was confused by Nathan's attitude, after all Nathan had been the one to tell her to make friends and try to be part of the town, which was why she'd gone to the fair along the Warf where the photo had been taken.
"I just don't know if its, appropriate for a police officer to be fraternizing with a known criminal."
"Fraternizing? Seriously Nathan? I thought you two were getting along better, you've had a few beers with him yourself lately, are you worried about your reputation or is it just mine?" Audrey accused with a defiant tone. She clearly wasn't impressed with Nathan's holier than now attitude, after all Duke had helped them both out more times than she could count. She knew the two men had their differences but this was an overreaction.
"I'm just looking out for you Agent Parker."
"Agent Parker? I'm not with the FBI anymore remember, Nathan, so its Office Parker thank you but I thought we were a bit beyond all that, or should I start calling you Chief?"
"A show of respect in front of the others might not be a bad idea," Nathan couldn't believe what he was saying any more, he remembered the moment when he'd gotten angry and then everything that had come out of his month since then had come from some sort of alternative Nathan, like his evil half twin, and now he couldn't stop it. All over what, a photo of Parker with Duke? Well that was it, wasn't it? Duke always got the girl.
"Okay Chief," Audrey responded, her voice dripping with sarcasm, she glared into her partner's blue eyes and couldn't believe the coldness staring back at her. "If that's all I have some work to get back too," and Audrey sat down at her desk with a humph only to realise to her extreme frustration that she actually needed to get something from the bullpen.
"Wait, Parker, let me start again," Nathan begged, his eyes softening. "I'm an idiot. Ignore everything I said, it came out all wrong." Nathan pulled up a chair in front of Audrey's desk and lent forwards but studied his shoes because he was too ashamed to meet her quizzical gaze.
"Forget it. You know I thought you of all people would understand."
"You and Duke?" Nathan mumbled, struggling to get out the words.
"Duke and I are friends, you know that. What I mean is, I thought you of all people would understand that its kind of special for me to have a photo on my desk. To have anything personal. Do you know how many desks I can remember sitting at? Whether I ever did is beyond the point, I don't remember ever having one personal photo to stick up. Other people have parents, partners, pets, I didn't have so much as a goldfish. That's why when Duke gave me the photo I was so touched. Just like I was when you gave me those stupid boots and the shirt and the cup and the hat when I first moved here. I'm not used to having people in my life, and I thought you understood that."
"I do Audrey, I'm sorry, I just overreacted."
"Really, you think?"
"I know, I don't know what got into me, let me buy you – and Duke – a drink at The Gull after work. Please?"
Audrey hesitated but Nathan looked so sincerely sorry, like a kid who had been caught cheating on his homework. She softened albeit reluctantly, "sure."
Nathan let out a relieved sigh. He couldn't bring himself to explain that the reason for his temper was jealousy. Immature, adolescent jealousy. He knew his father would be laughing in his grave to see his son acting like a jealous toddler, over what, a photo of some friends having fun together on the weekend? He vaguely remembered Audrey had actually asked him to go to the fair, but he'd been busy. It wasn't like she was sneaking around behind his back, and even if she was, what claim did he have on her?
"Alright, well you get on with that work, I'll see you at The Gull at six."
"Okay," Audrey agreed. The frost between them was melting but Audrey was still glad that Nathan found some work to do in his new office instead of the one they had shared until his father's death. Nathan usually still spent at least part of the day at his old desk, catching up with Audrey or hiding from the constant interruptions of being the Chief and usually she liked these visits but at that moment Audrey hadn't quite calmed down enough to want her partner hanging around.
"Three beers Duke, Nathan's buying," Audrey instructed when the three of them gathered at the bar that night.
"Wuornos? Really? Wow either had a really good day or you stuffed up big time Nathan old boy," Duke quipped glancing from Audrey's confident smile to Nathan's lowered gaze. "Ahh I see it's the later, they always said that little Nathan doesn't play well with others. What's the tin man done now?"
"Nothing you need to know about Duke, just enjoy your beer," Audrey interrupted before Nathan could come up with a comeback and start a sparring match between the two men.
"Ohh, secret police business, I want to know, and yet I suspect its far more boring than it sounds, so I won't ask. I will ask this though, is this is only penance? He doesn't have to wash your car or help you move or whatever other horrid labours you can think up."
"Darn, I didn't think of that," Audrey laughed shooting Nathan a teasing glance. "I guess the beer will have to do." The sight of Audrey's smile lightened Nathan's moon considerably and he cracked one of his infamous half-smiles.
"I did get you something though, to say sorry," Nathan confessed, pulling a small rectangle wrapped in blue tissue paper from his jacket pocket.
"You really didn't have to Nathan, I'm sorry if I made too much out of it," Audrey was taken back. She knew Nathan was more sensitive than he seemed to those that only noticed the hard dependable exterior. His Mr Tough Guy act was convincing but she knew there was much more to Nathan Wuornos than that.
"I wanted to," Nathan supplied passing her the gift, and then averting her gaze as his nerves took over.
"Ooo presents, I love presents," Duke oozed. Nathan desperately wished that the other man wasn't there, but it couldn't be helped. He could hardly be rude to Duke after everything that had happened at work, he could tell Audrey's patience on that front was wearing thin, and he really did want to make peace.
"Nathan it's beautiful," Audrey smiled when she tore off the blue paper. It was another silver frame, obviously chosen to match the one Duke had given her. Inside was a picture of her and Nathan that she'd forgotten had even been taken. They were smiling happy that they'd just solved a case. Nathan's arm wasn't around here the way Duke's was in the other picture but the closeness of their bodies and the way they angled into each other showed that the partners were close. The similarity in the blueness of their eyes and their matching blue jeans made them look like a matching set.
"Hey nice it's just like the one… nice thinking Wuornos," Duke remarked eyeing Nathan knowingly. Duke wasn't mad exactly, where Audrey was concerned he knew better than to invest emotional energy in being jealous of Nathan, he saw himself as the bad boy with an outside chance – if Audrey decided that was what she wanted he'd be ready and waiting, but he was confident enough in their relationship to just be friends if that was all she wanted. At the end of the day Duke didn't have a lot of friends, he had a lot of contacts, a lot of people who knew him, people he owed favours too or who owed him favours, customers he knew by name and welcomed with a warm smile, but Audrey was different. She never made him feel bad about himself the way Nathan tended to and that was worth more than a roll in the hay. Still it didn't take a rocket scientist to put the clues together and work out that someone had been jealous and it gave Duke some satisfaction to realise that Mr Goody Two Shoes had felt threatened by his gift. Nathan shifted uncomfortably under Duke's knowing gaze but shrugged it off, let Duke think what he wanted, all the really mattered was the Audrey liked the gift, and judging from the broad grin that made him think of sunshine she did.
"It's a perfect match," Audrey smiled, letting the tension between the boys sail right over her head. "Thank you for understanding," and to Nathan's surprise she lent in for a quick hug and dotted a kiss on his cheek. It was an unmistakable reminder of that first kiss on the cheek that had made Nathan realise that he could feel her and hew was shocked, excited, flattered and flushed in a rush of warmth. Like the time before he couldn't help but put his hand to his cheek as if he wasn't quite sure it wasn't' a dream.
"You too Duke," Audrey added and planted a kiss on Duke's cheek as well. Duke grinned broadly, childishly anticipating Nathan's reaction but Nathan was happy to even notice.
"My pleasure," Duke replied. "Should I buy the next round? Just don't get used to it, a man has to earn an honest living you know."
"That would be a nice change," Nathan teased and the three relaxed into companionable chatter.