watch you die a thousand times...

Spoilers: Through s3

Chapter Rating: T
Chapter Warnings: None
Chapter Characters/Pairings: Nathan/Audrey, Marah Friedman (past!Audrey)
Chapter Summary: "Audrey?" Nathan. Right. She swallows hard, feels her throat close up unexpectedly. "You're aware it's 1am, right?"

Author's Notes: Set during 3.10 "Burned", co-linear with last chapter.

Obviously s4 has premiered, but this story will still be based entirely off s3 canon. Any similarities with the s4 storyline are good guesswork on my part. So no s4 spoilers.

Song for this chapter is Loneliest Girl in the World [youtube . com (slash) watch?v=6dybnhzMs2E] by Cary Brothers


you are the loneliest girl in the world
taking your hits as they come
you are the loneliest girl in the world
and tonight you'd fall for anyone

xxx

Nathan calls back five minutes after she'd hung up, and Audrey nearly shoots her phone at the startling noise. She takes a few breaths, answers, "Parker," in a voice she tries very hard to keep steady.

"Audrey?" Nathan. Right. She swallows hard, feels her throat close up unexpectedly. "You're aware it's 1am, right?" He sounds… off. Which shouldn't surprise her, given the time – but then, she doubts he'd been sleeping. He might think she's oblivious, but she's well aware that he's spending most nights at the station.

"Yeah," she rasps. "I'm sorry, I just…" She can imagine the look on his face, studying her with his head tilted slightly, eyes worried.

"Just what?"

Audrey rubs her face, suddenly finding it very hard not cry. Because just Nathan's voice, it's enough to make her feel safer. And it's enough to remind her that he's not here. She knows she shouldn't say anything, knows he has enough to worry about, but the words tumble from her mouth. "I'm sleeping on my couch with my gun," she mumbles, and somehow it doesn't sound quite as crazy as she'd thought it would.

Nathan sucks in a breath. "I'll be over in ten."

He makes it in eight, and Audrey stares at her phone the entire time, watching the glowing numbers slowly flick by. She's not sure exactly how it had happened, but suddenly she needs Nathan here more than anything she's ever needed in her life. Maybe in any of her lives.

There's a knock on her door and an automatic jolt of panic, a rush of adrenaline. Her hands shake a little as she picks up her gun, peers carefully through the peephole to find Nathan. Just Nathan. She unlocks the door, flips the deadbolt, and finds herself locked in Nathan's arms.

It's the first time in weeks that she really breathes.

She snakes her arms around his waist, clinging tightly, face pressed into the warm fabric of his jacket. It smells like coffee, like chinese food and those awful oils he has on his desk. It smells like home.

Nathan pulls back, eventually, when she's started to shiver. He smiles down at her, murmurs, "Hey." All she can do is try to smile back, knows her voice would betray her if she tried to speak. "Duke might try to evict you if we leave the door open any longer," he states, as though her heating bill was the biggest problem of the evening, and suddenly she's laughing. A little too close to hysterically. Nathan just orders gently, "Come inside, Parker."

She starts to head back to the couch but he tugs her hand insistently, guides her to her bed. "Not a chance." A protest dies half-formed on her tongue at the look on his face, so genuine and openly concerned, so caring. He looks as exhausted as she feels, worn to the bone, and the guilt is overwhelming.

"You need rest, Audrey," he almost pleads. "You're no good to anyone this exhausted, you know that." Neither are you, she wants to snap, but she's done enough damage there.

Instead she swallows, heart beating faster at the thought of sleeping alone here, unprotected. The Skinwalker knows she lives here, and it could be anyone. (Even Nathan, an awful little voice in her head whispers. She squashes that ruthlessly.)

"I can't."

Nathan looks at her, intensely enough that she flushes, and says quietly, "I'll stay." She hears her breath catch, feels a relief so strong it's overwhelming, nearly sends her staggering. He gently presses her onto the bed, gesturing pointedly at her pillows. "You sleep."

"Nathan…"

"Parker." It's rare that he gets the final word on anything, but she's exhausted and she needs him here too badly to push any further. There's another surge of guilt – what right does she have to ask him here in the middle of the night, when she's been so horrible? When he looks ready to pass out beside her?

"Audrey." His voice is immeasurably softer and she realizes she's just sitting there, staring at her shaking hands. "Whatever's going on, with us, with…" He fades and the guilt surges stronger, but he reaches out to take her hand, kneeling in front of her. "You're my partner." He says it like it explains everything. (And somehow, it does. It always has, it always will.)

She lays down without another word, tugging the blankets over her and placing her gun on the nightstand. (It's harder than it should be, letting that go. Nathan is here. She's safe. She trusts him.)

"Sleep," he says again, so gentle. She does.

xxx

it's in the way you fall down to bed
it's in the way you cry when he's not looking

xxx

She watches other parents with their children, watches them laugh and play and kiss wounds better. Places a hand on her stomach, feels the life within her move lazily, and an ache in her chest that grows with each day.

She knows she can't stay. Knows she'll never watch her child grow, never hear its first word or watch it take its first step. Will never get to love the little being inside her.

Still, Marah knows her child will be alright. It will have its father, if not her. Even if Liam can never explain why Marah just one day vanished, one day left her child and her husband without a word, without a trace… She wonders if Liam will tell it the truth, or if he'll make up a story. If he'll consider Marah dead.

Tell no one, the man had said. Tall and dark and foreboding, a smile on his face like he knew worlds more than her.

For all intents and purposes, Marah supposes she will be dead. Should be already, but the life within her has granted her borrowed time.

"My little warrior," she whispers. There's a slight kick in answer.

xxx

you are the loneliest girl in the world
i'll watch you die a thousand times again

xxx

It's only after he's beyond certain Audrey is out that Nathan allows his body to sag, falling back into a chair. Audrey's warmth against his chest, even slight through his shirt, had reminded him how tight his lungs still are, had made them ache in a way he'd forgotten they could.

Still, in the face of her fear he'd quickly forgotten all of that. He'd known she hadn't been sleeping – he doubts any of them are, really – but he hadn't realized it had gone this far. She's always so strong, so together, dealing with everything that comes her way with a capacity that leaves him gaping.

Or not.

He studies her, pale as ever. It seems that every day she fades a little more, retreats a little further into… wherever it is she goes. Somewhere he can't follow.

The only time the lines of exhaustion and stress leave her forehead is when she sleeps. When the fear and pain fade from her face, when she gains a little color back, when if he sits still long enough he could almost pretend they're months earlier and she has no deadline, no fate looming over all their heads like an unseen storm.

Not that he sees her sleep much at all anymore – no more movie nights where she falls asleep on his couch, stakeouts where she thumps her head on his car door or late night paperwork at the Gull when Duke finally kicks them out, citing Audrey's drooling on his table a health hazard. Still, occasionally he's caught her passed out at her desk at the station, or rarely napping on her couch (has to resist the urge to cover her with blankets, to soothe his fingers through her hair and along her face until those lines that mar it vanish.) It's the most peaceful he ever sees her, and it always kills a little part of him when she jerks awake, terror in her eyes. Recently the dark circles beneath them only seem to get deeper, sleep seeming to do her more harm than good, and it's enough that he's ready to beg Claire to slip her sleeping pills.

Tonight, though. Tonight, he's going to make sure she sleeps. He'll sit here all night with his gun in hand if it will put her mind at ease. He'll shut off her alarms and close all her blinds (and so help him, if Duke shows up tomorrow morning and wakes her he'll shoot the man.)

She'd fallen asleep moments after her head had hit the pillow, and it wrenches something inside him, how easily she falls back into trusting him. How this is all she's needed to be a thousand times more okay, and she wouldn't ask him, wouldn't tell him, wouldn't let him do a damn thing. He's not sure if he's more angry or concerned, settles on grateful that she'd finally called him.

It's not all that long before she starts to shift, her breathing coming in short gasps. She starts mumbling frantically, all the tranquility of sleep gone from her face, and it's enough to get him to her side. He sits beside her hesitantly, whispers, "Easy, Parker. You're okay."

But she continues to writhe, whimpering quietly, until he reaches out to press her shoulders down gently, so gently. "You're safe," he murmurs, feeling her tremble in his grip. "I'm here, Audrey. You're safe." He continues his mantra, carefully tucking her hair back from her face when she stops thrashing so hard. Lets his hand linger on her cheek, on the lines on her face, and tries not to marvel at the softness of her skin, at how badly he's missed her.

She quiets, eventually, melting back into the mattress with an abandon he hasn't seen in weeks. He'd forgotten she even knew how to let go, to shut off for a little while, to let someone else take care of things for a time. To let someone else take care of her.

When she finally wakes the next morning it's late enough to satisfy him. The bruises under her eyes look smaller, and when he hands her mug of coffee she gives him a small smile he hasn't seen in far too long.

He leaves her then, with a promise that she'll eat before she comes in. Her soft, "Thank you," is enough to send him grinning the entire drive to work.

xxx

you are the loneliest girl in the world
and i just want to make it go away


Reviews are love!

(Marah Friedman = bitter servant of god)
(Liam = protector)