TITLE: Where We Land
SUMMARY: Suddenly she realizes that what she's been feeling all afternoon is a peculiar sense of jealousy. Nathan has experienced a part of her own life to which she has no access, holds pieces of the puzzle she has been trying blindly to build. 3.09 post-ep, companion fic to Homesick.
NOTE: For Laura. Betaed by Doks. Thank you! :) This will make more sense if you read Homesick first, although you don't strictly have to.
Where We Land
Audrey is acutely aware of Nathan's gaze on her back as she opens her door, the light from inside spilling out onto the shadowy deck. He has not been inside since the morning after her kidnapping, when he'd reluctantly lifted the crime scene tape, leaving her alone here only after several minutes' protest. Sometimes she thinks of that day, of the sting of the empty coffin, the healing cuts she'd made on her own skin, as the moment when everything started to shift, when the tentative happiness she'd begun to feel in Haven had started slipping away.
Nathan follows her inside silently, allowing her to be lost in thought for the moment. It's more than a drink she's offering him tonight, Audrey thinks. It's an olive branch, a way back to the friendship she's denied him for the past month. She isn't sure that she's ready, but it seems somehow inevitable, like so many things between them. She can still feel the ghost of his palm again her cheek, and she wonders whether this is what it's like for him, breathless swells of sensation in a sea of isolation.
Audrey goes straight to the kitchen and finds the bottle of Jack that Duke left behind after a particularly long night searching the contents of his grandfather's leather-bound journal. She pours two glasses without turning around, knowing instinctively that Nathan has joined her. He is standing just over her shoulder when she offers him one of the glasses. He takes it wordlessly, regarding her over the rim with a silent intensity which reminds her vividly of the last evening they were supposed to spend together here, and how much has changed since then.
She lifts her own glass and takes a deliberately long swallow, feeling the liquor burn all the way down. Whiskey isn't her usual drink of choice, but it feels somehow fitting tonight, strong and caustic, already beginning to erode the tension in her shoulders, the enormity of Haven's fate resting on her. Finishing the glass in a second swallow, Audrey pours herself another, suddenly craving the distraction.
"Things kept changing," she offers by way of explanation, when Nathan's gaze has grown decidedly concerned. "While you and Duke were gone. At first it was only little things, but by the end it was a completely different Haven." Feeling restless, Audrey picks up the bottle and her glass, moving to sit on the couch with her legs tucked up under her.
Nathan follows warily, taking a seat in the opposite corner. Still she is acutely aware of the fact that this is the first time in weeks they have been alone outside the comfortable buffer of the police station. Claire's words seem suddenly to reverberate in the back of her mind, and Audrey takes another gulp of her drink to dull them.
"Different how?" asks Nathan, seeming to decide at last that this topic of conversation is worth following.
"The Rev's people controlled the town," says Audrey, gauging his reaction, uncertain whether she is ready to tell him the rest. "Claire was there, and Jordan, to help me get away before they could find me." For a moment she wonders how close their own reality might have come to that kind of turmoil if Nathan hadn't been here, holding the town together. She thinks of foundations and deepset cracks, then takes another sip of her drink to ward off the chill.
"Jordan?" asks Nathan. One word, countless repercussions.
"You were dead," says Audrey, because suddenly the thought of holding that hurt alone is unbearable. She finishes her second drink and sets the glass aside. The alcohol is making her head swim, working loose the knots that seem to sit permanently in the pit of her stomach since she learned of the Hunter.
Suddenly she realizes that what she's been feeling all afternoon is a peculiar sense of jealousy. Nathan has experienced a part of her own life to which she has no access, holds pieces of the puzzle she has been trying blindly to build.
"The Chief was there too," she offers, tentatively. In the past she would have told him sooner and without any hesitation. But he has spent the past month rebuilding the walls she'd so tenaciously knocked down, and now she is reminded yet again that in the aftermath of her recent decisions, she has no idea where they stand.
"Alive," says Nathan, not a question, but still hesitant, as though waiting to see whether she will choose to hurt him with this information.
The prospect makes Audrey's heart ache. "He was helping me too. But he missed you. It was obvious."
"What did he say?"
Audrey shakes her head, wishing yet again that she'd had more time with the Chief, more time for all of it. "That he hoped our Haven was the real one. That he wanted you to outlive him. He was willing to help me stay alive and try to fix things, even though that would mean he'd be dead."
Nathan finishes his own drink, holds out his glass and waits for her to refill it. Audrey meets his gaze for a moment, nearly overflows the rim when her fingers brush his, made clumsy by alcohol and exhaustion.
"Anything else?" asks Nathan, pulling back slowly and nearly draining the glass in one long swallow. That isn't like him.
Audrey frowns. "Like what?"
Nathan shrugs, but there is nothing relaxed about the line of his shoulders, the visible tension in his jaw. "Just thought he might have known things we don't. About the Hunter. About—you."
It seems suddenly obvious that this is still foremost in his mind. That even after being thrown back in time, facing the loss of his own future, of their entire world, Nathan is still most concerned with finding a way to save her. It feels like suffocating, as though she is being crushed beneath the weight of her own peculiar destiny, her responsibility to Haven and all of its inhabitants. To him.
Audrey feels the irrational urge to run, to simply leave right now, get in her car and drive until this place and her past in it seem like nothing more than a distant dream, a ghost town haunting the edges of reality. She feels dizzy, alcohol and adrenaline mingling with the aftermath of the day. She's on her feet before her head's had a chance to catch up, and she pauses for a moment, unsteady. Nathan's already standing beside her, his eyes filled with questions.
"Do you want something to eat?" she asks abruptly, because she needs something to focus on, and suddenly it occurs to her that she's missed both lunch and dinner. "I'm going to make something."
Audrey crosses the room back to the kitchen without waiting for a response, feeling more grounded already with this task in mind. But opening the refrigerator reminds her that she doesn't have much here beyond a forgotten loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. She stands with the door open, cold pouring out, the hopelessness of the past four weeks catching up to her once more. Nathan catches her by the shoulders, bringing her back to the present.
"Hey," he says, quietly. "Let me."
"You cook?" Audrey allows him to steer her out of the way, watching as he bends to rummage in her refrigerator.
After a moment, he comes back up with bread, butter, and cheese.
"Comfort food," he says, when she quirks an eyebrow questioningly.
Nathan pulls her frying pan from a cabinet without any further direction, and Audrey wonders just how he's known where to look. She has to guess that he was the one who'd cleaned up here after her kidnapping, while she'd been at the hospital, receiving antibiotics for her wounds and a forgotten referral for a trauma counselor.
Audrey leans against the counter, watching as he turns on the stove, slowly melting a lump of butter.
"Trick is to heat it slowly," says Nathan, assembling the sandwich and placing it in the pan with the same precision he uses to collect evidence from a crime scene. "Just starts to melt the cheese without burning the bread."
"I was worried you and Duke wouldn't be able to get back on your own," Audrey admits, after a stretch of silence. She hates feeling helpless.
He takes a plate from the cabinet (effortlessly, again), and slides the sandwich onto it, holding it out to her as if this offering might somehow be the answer to everything.
"Thank you," she answers, softly, taking the plate back to the couch.
This time he sits beside her, watching intently as she breaks off a piece of the bread, warm against her fingers. It seems to melt against her tongue, and Audrey closes her eyes for a moment, savoring the saltiness of the cheese, the richness of the butter. It is comforting, and she allows herself to wonder for a moment whether this particular experience is one she has ever truly had before. Whether there has ever been someone to take care of her. When she looks again, Nathan is regarding her with a small, cautious half-smile, an expression she has not seen in weeks. For a moment she feels still, content, safe in a way that has eluded her since her sky began to fall.
"I should go," says Nathan, when the sandwich is gone and he's finished another drink.
Audrey hesitates, instinct telling her let him go, to maintain some semblance of the safe distance she's been trying to create.
"It's late," she says instead. "And you've had too many drinks to be driving." She goes to the little linen closet and retrieves a blanket for him without waiting for a response.
She's halfway to her bed by the time he speaks, halting her in her tracks. She turns to look at him again.
"We didn't get back alone."