NOTE: This is for my lovely Twitter ladies. You know who you are. ;) Thank you so much for welcoming me into this fandom with open arms.
Audrey Parker has never been big on existential crises.
At least not that she can remember, from the collection of pasts which are far from entirely hers. Up until the past month, contemplating the possibility of her life's end had seemed nothing more than a waste of time, an obstacle standing in the way of her ability to do her damn job. The irony of this is not lost on her now – surely she must have faced the revelation of her own impending disappearance at least once before, when she'd written a desperate note to herself, driven to leave clues to the many pieces.
But those memories are still hazy, still so very full of holes. If she's honest with herself, the image that is most salient in her mind now is one which never truly belonged to her at all. The memory of a little girl (was she ever a little girl, really?) who laid awake in the shadows of an orphanage and wondered whether she might be immortal. It had seemed, then, that if her life had no known beginning, there might not be an end, either.
Now the thought fills Audrey with bitterness, a surprising surge of the anger she'd thought was carefully locked up tight, tucked away to burn slowly where it won't be able to hurt anyone else. She'd thought she'd managed to accept the reality that time is running out, that every moment of her life now must be carefully strategized, measured out to maximize her impact on the Troubled. Minimize harm to the people she loves, mitigate the damage she'll leave behind. Terms that feel safe, detached like the FBI protocols etched into her mind. All the many skills she never actually learned.
Now, standing on her balcony as the stars emerge, she realizes that she has allowed herself perilous hope this day. Even watching Haven fall apart around her, even with a gun trained on her head, all she'd been able to think was that it might be possible for things to change. To be put right in a way that might give her more time, another chance.
Instead she is back here, in the mess her present has become, absolutely nothing altered, nothing gained, but another precious day slipped through her fingers. The night sky is painfully clear, the muted glow of the town doing little to dull the outlines of stars. Focusing her gaze on them, Audrey feels the vastness of the void above threatening to overwhelm her. Another memory comes unbidden, and this time she is unable to place where it's come from. Standing outside on a night like this, someone telling her in a cautious whisper that the lights are ghosts of stars long since dead, souls hurtling out into the universe, where they will become a part of everything.
For the space of a breath, she wonders whether this will happen to her when the Hunter comes, whether her very being might be splintered infinitely, merging with the starlight. The rational part of her brain still tells her that is impossible, but this is Haven, and she has already seen stranger things.
She isn't certain how much time she's spent staring into the sky, but her heart is already pounding when the familiar creak of footsteps on the stairs catches her attention, sends her spinning toward the noise, already on the defensive. Audrey's hand has not quite reached her gun when she recognizes Nathan's long silhouette, hesitating on the top step. His face is almost entirely in shadow, but the way that her world seems to shift in his vicinity is unmistakable.
"You have to stop doing that," says Audrey, though he has not been here in weeks. "One of these times, I'm going to shoot you."
Nathan says nothing, simply moves to lean against the railing beside her by way of response.
"What are you doing here?" she presses, because silence from him unnerves her now, when it has been a comfort so many times in the past.
"Duke owed me a drink," he answers, but doesn't elaborate.
Audrey glances sideways at him; he is standing scarcely a foot to her right, and now she realizes that she can smell the alcohol on him, even in the salt-soaked breeze. It must have been more than one drink, she thinks, and feels the beginnings of guilt uncoiling in the pit of her stomach.
"You had drinks with Duke," she paraphrases, slowly. "And now you're coming to me in case he secretly poisoned you?" It's an attempt at humor, but it falls painfully flat, swallowed up by the gulf of hurt and regret that now stretches out between them.
"You only have a couple of weeks left," says Nathan, again, almost as if he's sharing her thoughts. Then again, she doesn't think of much else these days.
Audrey bristles instinctively. It's starting to feel as though they are trapped in this same conversation endlessly. "And you came here to remind me again that I need to find a way to buy more time?"
"No." He shifts to stand with the railing at his back, facing her directly. "Just—thought I'd spend some of it with you."
Audrey finds herself at a loss for words as she has so often lately, his unexpected honesty stealing her breath. Paradoxically, his determination has remained the single constant in her life over the past four weeks, aside from the terrible knowledge of her impending disappearance. Gradually she is coming to terms with the fact that she cannot simply choose to disentangle his fate from her own, cannot save him with any number of sharp words or secrets. Nathan will never give up on her. As much as this thought has comforted her in the past, now it makes her entire being ache.
"Tell me about Sarah," says Audrey, because thinking of the future reminds her that she is constantly surrounded by the ghosts of her past.
Nathan shrugs, and for a moment she thinks he might not answer at all. "What is there to tell?"
"What was she like?" It isn't really what she wants to know, but she still can't quite bring herself to put that question into words. "Did she—want to help people too?"
"She was a nurse," Nathan repeats, and again there's something just beneath the surface, something he is not saying.
"But she helped you," says Audrey, surprised by the sudden tightness in her throat, the effort it takes just to ask. "She wanted to help the Troubled, too?"
Nathan regards her in the darkness with a look that makes her shiver, feels as though he might still be capable of altering the fabric of her very reality. "You know she did. What is this really about?"
"I need to know—" She thinks again of the afternoon, of Haven itself changing before her eyes. Audrey wonders whether time might spread out like an infinite web, all of it connected. Whether she might be living all of her many lives simultaneously in this moment, past, present, and future all converging like a point of light in the profound darkness of the night sky. "If I change completely every time, then in two weeks, I might as well be gone forever. But if there's any part of me that stays the same—"
"She was you," says Nathan, interrupting, understanding without hearing the rest of the words. "Not exactly the same, but it was all there. Everything that mattered. It was—incredible."
He reaches out and lays his palm against her cheek, as though he might be able to hold her together with the simplicity of this gesture, keep her rooted here in Haven, rooted to him. For one fleeting moment, she thinks it might just be enough.
"Come downstairs," he says, dropping his hand at last. "I'll buy you a drink."
There is a profound sadness in the familiarity of his invitation. She misses the ease of evenings at the Gull. Misses simply sitting in conversation with him, misses taking comfort in his presence without the constant companion of guilt, of wondering whom he will talk to in two weeks when she is gone. If he will talk to anyone.
"I don't think that's a good idea." The thought of sitting at the bar fills her with a peculiar sense of homesickness.
"It's been weeks since you had a drink with me," Nathan prompts, patient as ever.
Instinct tells her that she ought to decline, ought to send him home for his own protection. But that is not what he wants. For once, Audrey decides to be selfish, to allow him to be her anchor for the evening.
"I'll have a drink with you," she answers. "But not downstairs."
In the darkness, the length of his shadow stretches out to swallow hers as he follows her into the apartment.