Disclaimer: Very much not mine.
Summary: Audrey is pretty sure this is what home is supposed to feel like.
Note: First of all, thanks again for your kind reviews. I truly appreciate them all. I keep going back and forth with this one, writing and rewriting, and I'm not sure I'm totally pleased with it, but here it is. Hope you like it.
Audrey officially resigns from the FBI six months after arriving in Haven, much to the delight of the Chief and her now-official partner, Nathan.
"Don't say it," she warns as they leave the Chief's office.
She can tell it's right there on the tip of his tongue – "I told you so" or a reasonable facsimile thereof – because he pretty much called it.
("You'll stay," he'd once predicted confidently as they walked along the water and mused on the duties of small-town cops.)
She glances back at him, a silent dare, and he smirks his usual smirk at her.
"Shut up," she says, and he laughs. "Let's go get lunch."
The truth is, there's a part of her that always knew she'd end up staying. She does like the weirdness, the mystery, but it's more than that. There's something about this strange place that's oddly right.
She feels like she belongs in Haven; like, somehow, she belongs with him, her partner and the only real friend she's ever had. Somehow, the idea of finding a place to finally call home is just as attractive as finding out the truth about the Troubles and Lucy and her own past.
She doesn't tell him all that, though. Not yet.
Nathan helps her find a place to rent, because she can't keep living in the motel forever, or so he keeps telling her.
She falls in love with the first place he shows her; a small, white one-bedroom house owned by Margie's sister, a retiree who's grown tired of the winters and the weirdness and fled to Florida. Jane's not coming back, Margie says in her role as intermediary, and Audrey can sign a one year lease with an option to buy.
It's perfect, she thinks, with its small, weathered porch and bright red front door. Like somewhere that, for the first time ever, she could stay for a good, long while and make her own.
Nathan points out that he lives only two blocks away, and she gets something approaching the warm and fuzzies. This feels right, she thinks.
She commandeers his Wednesday night by asking him to drive her to a furniture store just outside of town.
"I'm not much of an interior designer," she says from the passenger seat of his truck. She thinks of her old apartment and the sorry state she left it in. "I could use someone else's input."
He notes that she doesn't seem the type to ask for help in that way, and she tells him that she's not, except for the fact that one time the Teagues helped her buy a dress, and it worked out well.
"They didn't go in the dressing room with you, did they?"
She's trying to decide between two sofa colors ("White will never be that clean again, Parker. Think about it.") when an eavesdropping saleswoman intrudes and says, "I've got to agree with your husband on this one, dear. White looks nice now, but once your kids get a hold of it? Forget it!"
The saleswoman – Pam, according to her name tag – laughs, a high-pitched and grating sound, and Audrey wonders if she's naturally that perky or if she has pharmaceutical help. She looks to Nathan for help and finds none.
"Think of the kids, honey." He says it so earnestly and straight-faced that she almost forgets to be annoyed at Pam's presumptiveness, until she laughs again and says something cutesy about her grandkids and fudge bars.
"You know, I think you're right. When I come home covered in blood and dirt and just pass out on the couch?" She shudders for effect. "Not going to be a pretty sight. Dear." She tacks the endearment on with a smirk.
Pam is suddenly out of words, and Nathan's shaking his head, and Audrey thinks the brown really is much nicer than the white.
She brings her things over from the motel on Friday afternoon, consisting mainly of a suitcase full of clothes and the bed-in-a-bag set she'd purchased the day before. Nathan arrives soon after with a box of cleaning supplies, sandwiches from their usual lunch spot and a spider plant.
"Housewarming present," he tells her, placing the flowerpot on the windowsill over the sink. "Try not to kill it."
He helps her sweep the old hardwood floors, scrub counters and tiles and windows, until the whole place smells like a clean mix of citrus and bleach. He reaches up high to dust cobwebs from the ceiling and change light bulbs in ancient fixtures, and she can't help but stare at the strip of lean stomach exposed whenever his t-shirt rides up.
He catches her, once, but neither of them say anything.
Nathan shows up early the next morning with two cups of coffee and a box from Rosemary's. They sip the much-needed caffeine and eat crullers on her front steps, waiting in companionable silence for her new furniture to arrive. Half an hour later, the truck pulls to a stop at the curb.
By early afternoon, everything is delivered and more or less in its correct spot. Audrey sits on the chocolate-colored sofa, testing the way it feels in the living room.
"Not here," she says. Nathan pushes it around some more, and she sits again. "Eh."
"I thought you weren't an interior designer."
"It just doesn't feel right. The feng shui is off, or something."
He tries one more configuration and she pauses before nodding her approval. He flops onto the sofa, closes his eyes and sighs.
She lets him take the inaugural nap while she makes up her new bed.
On Sunday, Nathan takes her to the local hardware store to pick out paint and purchase supplies.
They stand in front of the large array of paint chips, gazing at blues and greens and every other color imaginable, and she doesn't have a clue where to begin. In fact, she thinks her eyes are starting to glaze over.
They decide that a soft, creamy beige is a safe enough choice and fill the shopping cart with rollers and brushes and other painting necessities, including that blue tape she saw on a TV show once when she couldn't sleep.
She tells him about an offer from Duke, but he shrugs it off.
"It's early," he says, and convinces her that they can do the painting themselves, without the help of Duke and his probably shady friends.
They wander up and down aisles and consider future projects like faucets and dimmer switches and drawer pulls for the kitchen cabinets, and Audrey is pretty sure this is what home is supposed to feel like.
Drop cloths are spread out over the hardwood floors and new furniture and blue tape is stuck everywhere ("Maybe I went overboard," she confesses) when he hands her a roller attached to a long stick and tells her to get cracking.
They tackle the living room first, the biggest room in the tiny house. They work steadily, good partners even outside of police work, the sounds of the local radio station floating around in the background. She hums to a familiar old song, and grins widely when he joins in.
"Not bad," Nathan says much later. The fumes aren't overwhelming, but they have all the windows thrown wide open, and a soft breeze blows through the house as they admire their work. It's dark outside, and the crickets have replaced the radio as their soundtrack.
When he points out that they managed only a minimal amount of paint on their clothing, Audrey dips her brush in the paint bucket, smears a bright splotch on his faded blue t-shirt and grins.
He flicks the tip of her nose with his brush, and she giggles.
"I hope you know a pizza place that delivers this late, Wournos." She pokes him in the chest with the brush and informs him that she's not going anywhere with a guy who has paint all over his clothes.
He volunteers to fly home with her the next weekend so she can pack up her old apartment and turn in her key.
("What are friends for?" he'd shrugged, and she'd said that she didn't know it was for all this.)
Audrey spends most of the short flight asleep on his shoulder. Nathan steals her peanuts.
When they walk in, the air is stale, dust is everywhere, and he cracks a joke about how she really isn't an interior designer. She rolls her eyes and tells him to start in the living room.
She packs the rest of her clothes into what's left of her suitcases and freebie duffle bags, carefully folding at first before giving up and tossing them in haphazardly. In the back of her mind, she wonders what the Teagues brothers would think of these outfits.
Nathan works on her book collection, filling three boxes with Grisham novels and true crime and even some teen angst that she knows he will tease her about later.
"Lot of books," he points out.
"Yeah." She stares into the kitchen cabinets, plate in hand, thinking about whether or not her set of cheap K-Mart dinnerware would survive the trip intact. "I've fallen behind."
He tells her that reading counts as a relaxing hobby and that she should try taking it up again. "When we have days off, I'll golf," he says, ignoring her comment about decoupage. "You'll read. Maybe we'll meet up at the diner afterward for pancakes."
"That'd be nice," she says with a grin. "I think these plates have to go."
They go to dinner at the Chinese place down the block and come back kind of sloshed on mai tais.
There's extra fortune cookies smuggled in her purse, she tells him, and they sit side-by-side on the couch, laughing for no reason other than that they're feeling relaxed and happy and inebriated.
"I've never seen you drunk, Wournos."
"I'm not drunk. Just buzzed," he says. He examines her face. "Are you drunk?"
She shakes her head and feels it swim a little. "No. Tipsy."
Their legs are pressed together and they sit, unmoving, in awkward silence that seems to stretch forever. She knocks her shoulder into his and smiles.
"What?" he asks.
She shrugs. "Thanks for coming with me."
"I'm glad I'm staying in Haven. And I'm glad I have you."
He smiles. "Me, too," he says.
Something about liquid courage runs through her mind as she reaches a hand out and cups his cheek. She runs her thumb lightly over his mouth and he shuts his eyes. "Can you feel this?"
"Yes," he says quietly, his breath warm on her fingers. He'd filled her in on that fact a couple of weeks ago, and she's been dying to test it ever since.
She scoots closer, moving her hand from his cheek to his chest. His heart beats steadily under her fingers, and she's not sure, but she thinks it's getting faster.
"Kiss me," she breathes, and he does. Slow and hesitant, at first, but she nips at his bottom lip and scratches her nails through his hair, and his self-control is gone, followed soon after by their clothes and any lingering doubt she had that Nathan could feel her touch.
The next morning, after they wake up together, after they address the night before (with soft kisses and stupid grins and promises to fully explore the matter when they get back), after they ship boxes to Maine and drop old furniture at the Salvation Army, after she makes him try the pancakes at the local diner ("Mediocre," he declares), she's ready to get the hell out of Dodge.
Standing in the doorway, taking one last look around, she thinks of the time she spent there, alone when she wasn't rushing from one job to the next, and knows she won't really miss it. It will become just another place she lived, once, with decent Chinese food and mediocre pancakes, and that's all.
"Hey," Nathan says, coming to stand beside her. He takes her hand and squeezes her fingers. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah," she says, and squeezes back. She smiles at him. "Let's go home."