TITLE: The Most Wonderful Time
SUMMARY: Lately she finds herself unable to shake the knowledge that Haven is a dangerous place, that any one of her friends could be ripped away from her at any moment. A post-ep vignette for Silent Night.
NOTES: Every year I say I'm not going to write Christmas fic and then do it anyway. So here's a little post-ep for Silent Night, because I'm new to the fandom and just saw it for the first time. Hopefully this will take up at least five minutes of the hiatus for you all. ;)
The Most Wonderful Time
Nathan lingers after all of the others have left the impromptu party, even after Duke has begrudgingly admitted defeat in his quest to pry information out of Audrey, wandering back down to the Gull to try and entice her retreating guests into the bar. He stands by the piano for a while, then begins gathering up discarded forks and napkins. By the time Audrey's maneuvered the Teagues out the door, she's nearly forgotten that he's still there, surprised to find him in her kitchen, washing out the punch bowl.
"You didn't have to do that," says Audrey, leaning against the counter to watch him. He's up to his elbows in soap suds, and a few bubbles fly into the air as he places the bowl on the drying rack, moving on to clean a platter that's held cheese and crackers.
"Nope," says Nathan, glancing at her sideways without actually looking up. "But now you owe me."
"A bribe so I'll tell you what really happened today." He nods once; suddenly it seems obvious.
Audrey sighs. In truth she's known all along that she would tell Nathan everything about the case, whether he'd asked again or not. "Hadley Chambers is Troubled. When her dad walked out on her mother last night, she started turning the town into a giant snow globe. Population: two."
Putting the cracker tray next to the punch bowl, he turns to give her a look of such incredulity that she can't help laughing. It's too ironic that he would doubt the truth now, after a full day of refusing to believe that it isn't Christmas.
"You thought it was Christmas Eve," she presses. "Everyone did. Why do you think you woke up in a toy store? Why do you think Duke was wearing a Santa suit?"
"Duke in a Santa suit and I forgot?"
"You don't believe me," says Audrey, feeling suddenly exhausted.
Nathan dries his hands on the dish towel and turns to face her. "I always believe you."
The words send a momentary chill through her, and she shivers at the memory of the empty streets, of watching him fade away before her eyes. Lately she finds herself unable to shake the knowledge that Haven is a dangerous place, that any one of her friends could be ripped away from her at any moment. Lately she takes comfort in the fleeting moments of normalcy that remind her the worst is not yet upon them. Audrey reaches for the half-finished bottle of wine she'd intended for the refrigerator, and pours two more glasses instead. He takes one of them without question, following her to the couch.
"Christmas is my favorite time of year," says Nathan, taking a sip of the wine.
"You mentioned that," says Audrey. "When you thought it was Christmas Eve. I wasn't sure if it was just the Trouble affecting you."
"I love Christmas," he insists, surprising her.
"A holiday for getting presents and eating? Who wouldn't love it."
"I never liked Christmas," says Audrey, wondering whether she's setting herself up for another round of teasing attempts to cheer her up at the actual holidays. The prospect no longer seems so unappealing. "At least, Audrey Parker never liked Christmas. I guess I don't—actually know whether I've ever celebrated Christmas before."
"Because you don't have a family," says Nathan, giving her another peculiar wave of déjà vu.
"What about you?" asks Audrey. "Last time I checked, you weren't so big on family either."
Nathan looks into the surface of his wine for a long moment before answering, brow furrowed, expression darkening almost imperceptibly. "Christmas was one of the only times the Chief—my dad—would actually make an effort. Most of the time he was insufferable. Just pushed and pushed. But when the holidays rolled around, it was like he was a little kid again."
Wordlessly, Audrey reaches out and lays a hand over his where it rests on the couch cushions. Nathan turns to meet her eyes, and her heart aches for him as she sees the realization that Christmas will never be the same.
"We should spend it together this year," she offers. "Who knows, you might even convince me to change my mind about the holidays."
He nods once, then pulls away, still looking lost.
"But fair warning. If you tell Duke to play Santa again, I may have to shoot you."
"That was all the Trouble's influence," says Nathan.
"Right," Audrey agrees, solemnly, then gets up to pour more wine. She makes it halfway to the kitchen before bursting into laughter.