Disclaimer: If I owned Haven, it wouldn't have ended on such a wicked cliffhanger. Or at least I'd know what was going to happen in season four.
Author's note: I just had to. That finale! Too many feels.
Audrey stepped into the barn and waited for something to happen.
She didn't know what the next twenty-seven years held for her. Would she simply close the door and blink out of existence? Would she die, as she so often described it? Would she go to sleep and wake up as another person, everything she'd felt and experienced as Audrey Parker gone just like her memories of Lucy Ripley and Sarah Vernon and who knew how many others?
Would it be over soon, or would she live those twenty-seven years? Perhaps her memory wasn't taken until it was time to leave the barn again. Perhaps she had twenty-seven years to remember and plan and mourn and ache, and none of it would matter because when she went back to Haven it would all be gone.
A few days ago she had hoped for the former scenario. Some last goodbyes and then a quick end. She didn't know how she could live twenty-seven years knowing when she saw Nathan and Duke again they'd be aged and she wouldn't remember them. Didn't like to think about how that's what they would go through regardless.
But now that James was in the barn that changed things. How could she wish away an opportunity to get to know her son? Her son – with Nathan. There had hardly been time to wrap her mind around that. She wished she could remember how that had happened. Sure, Howard had shown her, but watching like a voyeur with Nathan embarrassed by her side had been a poor, awkward substitute for firsthand experience. All she truly remembered from her past lives were a few minutes as Lucy in a crappy haunted house.
If she had a chance to spend twenty-seven years with her son, even if they'd both forget by the end, then surely she could live with every painful reminder of his father.
The inside of the barn looked the same as it had before – more like a sterile laboratory than an agricultural building. Nothing was this clean in Haven. Nothing was so cold.
"James," she called, and her voice echoed. There were so many doors and she had no idea where he could be. Maybe she had time to check every one and find him. Maybe she didn't.
"James, are you here?"
There was something strange about the air, but she ignored it.
She had just reached for the first door when her son came out of another one, down the hall.
He looked at her warily, and there was something about his expression and posture that was heartbreakingly familiar.
"Mom?" The word was uttered like a question, and she was surprised by how quickly his tentative tone brought tears to her eyes.
"Why are you here?"
She took a few slow steps toward him as if approaching someone Troubled. Wasn't this really just another case? One there hadn't been enough time to solve.
"Because that's what I do, right? Go into the barn."
"You could have stopped it."
"I wasn't going to kill Nathan!" That had never even been an option. What good would it be to avoid the barn if she had to live in a Haven without him in it – knowing full well that he should have been there? Maybe she should have considered it, if it would have ended the Troubles for good. But she hadn't. She'd sacrifice herself for this town and the good of everyone in it. But not him.
"I wasn't going to kill anyone."
He didn't say anything, but she could guess what he was thinking. He'd spent twenty-seven years thinking she'd been willing to kill her own son.
"Look, uh, I know we got off to kind of a bad start. And I don't even know why that happened because I honestly don't remember what I did as Lucy. But I know that it wasn't me who tried to kill you, because I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't sacrifice someone else for me. Especially someone I loved. Whatever happens I need you to believe that."
"I can't just flip a switch, you know. But I'll try."
She found herself nodding. Hopefully there would be time to convince him. If not, maybe they could get things right the next time around.
"So, do you know what happens next? Because I have no idea, except that in twenty-seven years I'm going to turn back up in Haven with someone else's memories, a new haircut and no idea that I've been there before."
"I think I was mostly asleep the last time. But it didn't smell like this."
"Yeah. It does smell like something's burning right?"
"Maybe we should figure out why?"
They started down the hallway together. As the smell grew stronger Audrey started touching the doors to see if she could find a source of heat. She couldn't detect any change in temperature, but when she touched one the white flickered into weathered wood beneath her hand.
"Whoa! Did you see that?"
"Touch the one nearest you."
James did. For a few seconds nothing happened. Then the white door appeared to be replaced by a wall which might have been part of an actual barn.
"Did this ever happen before?"
"Okay. Not following the plan. Great."
Soon the walls started to shift without being touched. After a couple of minutes the endless facility was gone, replaced by a large, colonial looking barn – which also happened to be on fire.
Perhaps she would be dying today after all.
"What do we do?" James asked her. She wished she had an answer, but she was out of her depth. The rules of the natural world didn't apply here, and her day had been filled with so much adrenaline and loss that she wasn't adapting as quickly as she normally did.
You have the strongest intuition of anybody I've ever met. Suddenly Nathan was before her, hands on her shoulders, looking unusually dapper in a black bowler hat. He was so close and so intense it took her breath away, and when she answered there was a strange cadence to her voice that wasn't her own.
"Audrey! Audrey, wake up." The hands around her now weren't Nathan's. James looked terrified, and Audrey tried to figure out why they were both on the floor, which was now covered in musty hay.
"What happened?" she asked groggily. Her head was killing her.
"I was hoping you could tell me! You just collapsed. And now your nose is bleeding."
When she wiped her hand under it her fingers came away dark and sticky. "A memory," she realized. "One of Sarah's memories. Something your father told me once." Seeing Nathan's devotion had filled her with resolve. She wasn't going to die without understanding exactly how this miracle beside her came to be – their child. This wasn't the end. "When we get out of this I'm going to tell you all about your father."
And then something came barreling into the barn.
Audrey pushed herself up and reached automatically for her gun. But it was gone. She'd left it with Duke. She stepped in front of James anyway, falling automatically into a defensive stance, and watched as the man pulled himself off the floor.
"Audrey! Thank God. Are you okay?"
"You're not supposed to be here!" If she'd had a gun she wasn't sure that she'd lower it. She wouldn't let Nathan come into the barn with her. She certainly wasn't going to let Duke give up his life either. "Damn it, you were supposed to keep Nathan out. Not follow me yourself."
"There was a change of plans. Howard's dead, so no one's driving this thing. And if you hadn't noticed, it seems to be crashing. So Nathan sent me to get you out."
She could see the flames now, licking at hay that wasn't supposed to be there. Above her a beam creaked as the fire traveled upwards.
"Why didn't he come himself?" she asked.
Duke's face crumbled and she was sure her heart stopped beating for a few seconds. "Damn it Duke! Tell me what happened."
"After you went in the barn, Nathan started banging on the door, and then he pulled a gun on Howard, asked what would happen if something happened to him. I don't think he was planning to kill him – he just wanted answers. But then Jordan showed up and started shooting at Nathan. So he shot Howard, and I shot Jordan. And then this light started coming out of Howard and the barn started to break apart – and Nathan told me to get you out. So I jumped in."
"How bad were his wounds?" she demanded. She knew they had to have been bad to keep him from following himself, especially since he couldn't feel them.
"I don't know. Everything happened so fast. But he's tough. You know that. Bastard isn't going to give up easy. He'll be just fine as soon as he sees you again."
They had to get out of there, but all Audrey could see was Nathan bleeding out on the ground, suddenly able to feel the agony of his wounds, dying alone because even Duke had abandoned him.
"The two of you were supposed to take care of each other while I was gone!"
"Damn it Audrey, stop being mad at me and come over here." She wasn't sure if the barking sound she made in response was a laugh or a sob, but in a few quick steps they'd met each other halfway and she collapsed in his arms. There was blood on his shirt, but she closed her eyes and tried not to picture how it had gotten there. "Women!"
"Don't make me regret saying those nice things about you," she said, breathing him in and letting the familiarity steady her.
"I was so afraid you had forgotten already," he whispered.
"This is touching and all, but perhaps we can refocus on not burning to death." James voice cut through the moment and Audrey pulled away and looked back toward her son, who was scowling.
"That's actually a really good plan," Duke agreed. "Smart kid you've got there."
"I can't leave the barn. The Troubles won't go away if I do. Maybe this is what's supposed to happen."
Duke grabbed her shoulder. "Audrey, it's not. I told you. Something went wrong. The barn's breaking apart, and Howard is dead. If you stay here you may never come back at all. You might just die. You, and James, and me. Even if we don't, I did not sign up to flash forward twenty-seven years and then lose all my memories. I came here to get you out, because that's what Nathan asked me to do. So that's what I'm doing. There's no time to argue."
"What happened to this being my choice?"
"I'm sorry we got in the way of that. Okay, honestly I'm not, because I think you having to disappear every twenty-seven years just to help a bunch of freaks with strange supernatural afflictions is a cosmic load of crap. But I think it's even stupider for you to throw your life away when it may not even help. What if you die here, and you never come back, and the Troubles don't go away? Who's going to help all those people then?"
And even though he didn't say it, she knew what his next sentence was going to be. Who's going to help Nathan?
"You don't fight fair, Crocker."
"I know. It's part of my charm." He gave her a crooked smile, and she felt her resolve cracking. "There's got to be another way. Let's find it. All of us. Together."
She thought of the three of them in rare moments of calm, drinking beers down at The Gull or bickering at the police station. It was the only time she'd ever felt like she had a family. When she'd found out her days were numbered, that was the first thing she'd known she'd miss.
"Together," she repeated. No more of this every man for himself philosophy she'd tried since Duke had told her about the Hunter. Trying to keep Nathan at arm's length to make her disappearance easier. Spending time with Duke but rarely letting him in. Suffering alone.
"So how do we get out?" James asked.
"Fantastic question," Duke answered.
"How did you get in?" Audrey asked.
"The barn was breaking up. I just ran toward it. Got sucked in, I guess. Not the weirdest thing that's happened to me since I met you."
"Arla told me she tried to get in last time. She banged on the door but couldn't go through."
"That's what Nathan did. But the door was gone by the time I tried."
Audrey surveyed their surroundings. If it had been a natural fire they should have been roasted long ago. The flames had spread, but they didn't seem to be creeping much closer, even though the whole place looked like wood and straw. It had been something else entirely when she'd entered. Duke had said it had been breaking apart back in Haven, but the structure seemed relatively sound, considering. If it had been breaking apart perhaps they could have just forced themselves through.
"Howard told me the barn would only appear when I was ready to enter it," she said. It was hard to believe that he was dead. She had no idea where his allegiance lied in this twisted drama she was starring in, but once upon a time she'd thought he was her boss. Turns out he'd been manipulating her for decades. "And once I closed the door, it wouldn't open for anyone else. Arla. Nathan. Every other time I'd wanted to stay inside. Or had decided to, anyway. But maybe I'm still in control. Maybe I just need to tell it that I want to get out."
"So tell it that," Duke encouraged.
She thought of Haven, devastated by meteors, waiting for the Troubles to end, knowing peace and hope were only minutes or hours away – only to have that hope shattered when they didn't go. The Guard would be incensed. They'd want someone to pay. Would it be Vince, for making them leave instead of guaranteeing Audrey went away like she was supposed to? There would be panic, and the panic would cause more Troubles to manifest, and there'd be even more panic. And more Troubles. The Rev's men would see this as a sign from God that it was time for those who were Troubled to be destroyed instead of saved. And the only one left to pick up the pieces would be Nathan. Injured, devastated, alone. He was the strongest man she'd ever met, but he shouldn't have to carry this burden on his own. She remembered the way he'd felt when she kissed him, the conviction in his voice when he'd sworn he'd die before letting her go. No one had ever cared about her that much before, not in her false life as Audrey Parker and not in any of her previous incarnations – she was sure of that in a way she could not explain. Maybe that was the difference this time around. Maybe that could be enough to break the cycle and find another option.
"Please," she whispered, closing her eyes and letting herself imagine what it would be like to see Nathan again, how she would finally stop hiding and give him everything he deserved.
When she opened her eyes there was a door directly in front of her, and the flames around it had receded.
"Come on," she commanded, no longer afraid. There was no handle on the door, but she pushed and it opened without resistance, sending her stumbling into the cool night air.
She turned back once they all had left and watched the barn start to burn in earnest, the structure collapsing in on itself.
"That was kind of too easy," Duke said. She didn't know if it was his puzzled tone or just relief, but Audrey started to laugh and couldn't stop until she was out of breath and tears ran down her cheeks.
When she finally calmed down Duke pulled her into a tight hug. "Don't you ever do that to us again, you hear," he whispered, and she was shocked by how close he seemed to tears.
"Yeah, I'll try not to."
She pulled away and saw James lingering awkwardly in the distance. She wanted to hug him too, but wasn't sure how he'd take it. What kind of relationship had he had with Lucy, before he thought she'd tried to kill him? How had they discovered each other? How many good memories did they have before they'd been poisoned?
"Hey." She settled with clapping a hand to his shoulder. He did not shrug her off. "We're going to talk, and figure all this out. And I am going to tell you about your father. I just have to find him first."
"Wait. You know who his father is?" Duke asked.
Audrey nodded, gnawing on her bottom lip. Now that she and James were back, she was in for a ton of awkward conversations. "Ah huh."
"Nathan," she mumbled.
"What?" he asked, though she wasn't sure if he really hadn't heard or was just deliberately drawing this out.
The shock on Duke's face almost sent her into hysterics again. "Nathan? But you were Sarah and … oh. That dog! Are you kidding me? You have no idea how he lectured me on how we couldn't change anything. That we would break the whole space/time continuum! And then he leaves me with my grandfather and goes off – to find you. I cannot believe it."
"Yeah well, you can give him hell about that later. Just as soon as we know he's okay."
That sobered Duke quickly. "Yeah. Good plan."
It was a starry night, but none of them seemed to be falling. The barn appeared to have dropped them off at the same place it had picked them up, but Nathan was nowhere to be found. Jordan, Arla, and Howard's bodies were missing too.
"Hope they left us a boat," James said.
There were a few, as if Dwight had never bothered to finish cleaning up after the shootout, which bothered Audrey more than she dared admit. If the meteors had been hitting town she supposed a few stray boats were the least of his worries. Still, he was rarely anything but thorough, and someone had to come back and remove the bodies.
As long as Nathan wasn't one of those bodies.
"Hey," Duke said after they'd docked outside The Gull. It must have been late because the evening crowd was gone and the bar was dark and quiet. Audrey knew she could pull out her cell phone and find not just the time, but the date. But she wasn't ready for that yet. "Do you want me to take you to the hospital?"
"No." That would be the logical place to check first, but something was telling her it wasn't the right one, and Nathan had told her to trust her intuition. "I'm going to go to his place. If I don't find him – I'll come back here. We'll look together."
"Need a ride?"
"No. My car's here. Look after James for me?"
"Course." She didn't like the way she saw her uncertainty written all over Duke's face. "I meant what I said. Nathan's tough. He's still waiting for you."
She wanted so desperately to believe that. "Yeah."
She turned toward her son. "Hey kid," she called, unsure where the endearment came from when they looked nearly the same age. But it felt right. James looked up and gave her a puzzled smile.
"I need you to stay with your Uncle Duke for awhile. I'll be back in the morning."
"Uncle Duke?" the newly christened relation asked with raised eyebrows.
"Yeah. You were the fun uncle once before, remember? Just don't go tumbling off any balconies this time, Mr. Pirate."
"I'll have you know that I was the fun uncle! Only some of that was the mind control. And I make an awesome pirate."
She gave him a patronizing nod, and he pushed her toward the car parked outside her apartment. "Go take care of him."
She nodded, waved to them both, and fished her keys from her jacket pocket.
Of all she'd seen and been through since she'd come to Haven, very little had terrified her as much as the drive to Nathan's house. The car's clock told her it was after two in the morning, and the vehicle seemed to run all right. She tried to tell herself it probably wouldn't if it had sat unused for twenty-seven years. She searched the darkened streets for reassurance that the barn hadn't stolen that much time. There were definitely subtle changes which might have resulted from rebuilding after a meteor shower – which certainly would have taken more than a few hours. But it didn't seem drastically different.
Even if he waited twenty-seven years for her it wouldn't change how she felt – just as long as he was alive.
When she saw his Bronco parked in the driveway she tried to bite back a sob. Unsuccessful, she pulled her legs to her chest and buried her head in her knees. Whatever he'd been through, no matter how long it had been, he didn't need to see her such a mess. But God, what a day it had been.
She'd never expected to see the end of it. To survive it.
She was done living in the shadow of her destiny. She'd stop the Troubles if they weren't gone, do everything she could to save the town. But she was done considering her life as collateral.
Her legs shook all the way to Nathan's door, but her knock was strong and certain.
Good thing too, because even so it took nearly five minutes to rouse him.
She was just starting to panic when she heard footsteps and a low, familiar growl on the other side of the door. "Damn it. Don't you know what time it is?"
She heard the locks being thrown. The door jerked open and there Nathan stood, barefoot in a pair of flannel pants and a grey t-shirt. He looked like hell. His hair was slightly longer and disheveled, but she couldn't see any grey. There were bags under his bloodshot eyes, and a faint scar across his forehead he'd never had before. He was pale and unshaven and smelled slightly of whisky. He was still the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
"Nathan," she breathed. She wanted to crack a joke to let him know everything was going to be okay, but she was too overwhelmed by the sight of him physically whole and emotionally broken. All she could manage was to utter his name like a prayer to a God she didn't believe in.
She watched his eyes widen into the shocked Wuornos expression she'd come to know so well. "Parker." No one called her that but him and she wondered, not for the first time, how he could make her last name feel more personal than her first.
But it wasn't long before he clenched his jaw and she could see his hope shutting down, just like every time she'd pushed him away when she'd really wanted to pull him forward.
"Are you real?" He was looking at her like he was a drowning man and she was a mirage, which in Haven was probably more likely than the truth. He sounded like a lost little boy, and she knew her fate was sealed. If the barn came for her now she'd never step into it again without him.
"Yes." When he didn't immediately believe her she reached out to run her fingers lightly across his scruffy cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned in slightly to her touch.
"Duke and James are at The Gull. After the shootout the barn started to burn, and Duke convinced us we had to go. I guess the barn had to listen to me. It let us out. But Duke told me what happened with Jordan. I was so worried about you."
He reached up a hand to cover hers where it was still resting on his cheek. "Dwight came back. Got me patched up. But you were gone."
Much as she wanted to, she couldn't apologize for something she still thought probably should have happened. But she did regret the agony it had cost him.
"How long has it been?" she asked. She couldn't run from that any longer, as much as she feared the answer.
His eyes opened, and she could feel the anguish radiating from them. She'd never meant to do this to him. It was why she'd fought so hard to keep him away when all she'd wanted for so long was to sink into his arms. "Two years."
It could have been worse. She'd do everything in her power to make it better.
"Then let's not waste any more time." With one hand already on his cheek it was easy to pull him down for a kiss. It was desperate just like the last time, but instead of shattering her heart seemed to be mending. There was no need to memorize each sensation, because this wouldn't be the last time they would do this. She tried to infuse him with the hope she now felt fluttering through her veins, the promise that no matter how lonely the last two years had been the next two would be filled with love.
When she ran her fingers along the nape of his neck his whole body trembled. When she finally needed to pull away to breathe she rested her forehead against his.
"The Troubles aren't gone, are they?"
"We'll need to fix that."
He took a deep breath and she felt it shudder through him. "Can you fix me first?" he whispered.
She threw her arms around him, pressing as much of herself against him as she could, hoping he could feel it through their clothing. "I promise," she whispered into his neck. As the tension began to drain from his body, relief filled her heart and settled in her bones.