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1. Nathan was glad his first kiss was with Duke

Nathan met Duke Crocker not long after he'd turned five years old, on their first day of kindergarten. Nathan had been kind of scared, going to school all on his own, but his mom had told him that everything would be fine, and he'd make plenty of new friends so he wouldn't be alone. Nathan trusted his mom, so he went into the classroom by himself, trying hard not to look back and see if she was still at the door.

He made it as far as putting his backpack in a cubby and finding a seat at one of the tables before he couldn't take it any more and turned to look. There was no one outside the door, and Nathan wanted nothing more than to run out after her, beg her to let him come home. He stood up and looked around quickly; the path to the door was clear, and if he just ran fast enough, maybe he'd make it.

Nathan never got the chance to find out whether he could have caught up to his mother or not, because just as he was about to take off, a hand grabbed his and pulled him back into his seat. He was all set to apologize, sure that the teacher had somehow known what he was thinking and stopped him, but when he turned around, he found another boy in the seat next to him, fingers curled tightly around his.

Nathan looked up at the other boy, waiting for an explanation, but the boy just smiled at him. "I'm Duke," he finally said, after Nathan had stared at him for a minute.

Nathan's mother had taught him his manners, and normally he knew he should shake hands when meeting someone new. Only, since Duke was still holding onto his hand, he wasn't sure what to do. Take his hand back and then offer it? No, he kind of liked that they were holding hands. Best just to tell Duke, "I'm Nathan."

"You and me are gonna be best friends." Duke grinned at him.

Nathan smiled back. His mother had been right after all; he'd already made a friend.

Everything went really well after that, with Duke hardly leaving his side, even though they couldn't keep holding hands once class started. They spent months like that, ignoring the other kids during class and at recess, and Nathan had never been so happy in his whole life.

The day before they started Christmas break was when it happened, because Nathan knew he wasn’t going to see Duke for a long time, and he did his best not to show how sad he was about that. Sure, he was excited for Christmas (his mom always made the best cookies), but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun without Duke around.

It didn’t take Duke long to figure out why he was being even quieter than usual. Nathan wasn’t really surprised. “Don’t be sad, Nate. We’ll see each other again before you know it. And there’ll be new stuff to play with, too, right?”

Nathan managed a watery smile and a nod. “Are you sure you won’t forget about me?” Nathan didn’t think he could handle that, but who knew what other friends Duke might make while they were away from each other.

“Of course not! You’re my best friend in the whole world.” With that, Duke leaned in a planted a big kiss right on Nathan’s lips. He leaned back and grinned while Nathan flushed bright red, embarrassed but pleased.

Nathan never did know whether or not Duke remembered that kiss, but there was no way he was ever going to mention it. Duke didn’t need to know just how grateful Nathan was that he’d had his first kiss before the onset of the Troubles.

2. Nathan never really had a crush on Carla Rose

By the time Nathan entered the third grade, he’d been unable to feel anything for over a year. The longer it went on, the worse things seemed to be for him. He was called a freak more times than he could count, and though most people eventually got used to it and left him alone, there were always those few kids who did their best to make his life a living hell.

Luckily, Nathan still had Duke, his best friend, and one of the few who hadn’t really treated him any differently after finding out he couldn’t feel anything. Sure, Duke asked him questions about it, even helped him test things out a few times, just to make sure there really wasn’t anything he could feel.

Duke was all Nathan needed, all he had, really. After his mom died and his dad started working way more than he had been, Nathan had been at a loss. Too many things going on in his life, and too few people who gave a damn. Just Duke, who could be counted on to hang out after school and on the weekends, who would pick up the phone whenever Nathan called him just to hear a friendly voice.

Nathan would have done anything for Duke, and that was probably why he went along with it when Duke told him that Carla Rose had a crush on him. Nathan didn’t know her that well, but she seemed nice enough. Nice enough, anyway, that the more Duke talked about her, the more Nathan started to believe that she must be someone he would like. Why else would Duke be pushing him in her direction?

After weeks of talking her up, Duke finally said that he’d asked her, and she’d said she liked Nathan back. Nathan’s stomach immediately began to flip-flop, and he couldn’t believe how many people were congratulating him about it.
He walked up to her right there in the hallway, more nervous than he’d ever been, but more excited, too. He was only two steps away from her when he very nearly lost his nerve, half-turning to look at Duke and drawing courage just seeing his friend giving him the thumbs-up.

Except then there was screaming, not just from Carla, but from a couple other kids, too. Nathan whipped around to face her, but she was already running away from him, crying. Nathan turned back to Duke, desperate to figure out what was going on, but when he turned back, all the boys who’d been congratulating him earlier were laughing at him, including Duke.

Nathan looked at the floor, embarrassed and angry, but most of all, confused. It was then that he saw a few errant drops of blood right next to his shoe and began to understand. He hurried to the bathroom, and when he caught a glimpse of his back in the mirror, it was obvious why Carla had screamed.

His shirt was a bloody mess, tacks sticking into his skin all over his shoulders. He went to pull one out, but stopped short, remembering something his dad had told him about wounds bleeding more if you removed objects from them. He left them alone and waited until the bell rang before hurrying to the nurse’s office. As she patched him up, she asked him who had done it, but he said nothing, and had no idea what to say, anyway.

The principal called Nathan’s dad and sent him home early, for which Nathan was grateful. He couldn’t have faced anyone after what had happened, and it was so much easier not to have to try. When Duke came by later, Nathan refused to let him in. He didn’t want to hear Duke apologize, because there was nothing that would make this better, not when Duke had to have planned the entire thing.

Nathan knew that day that he’d never be able to count on anyone but himself, not even someone he considered a friend. And Duke? Well, Duke would never be his friend again. He was better off alone than having a best friend who would treat him like that. Nathan didn’t say a word to Duke for the next four years.

3. When Nathan had sex with Duke for the first time, he could hardly feel any it

The first time Nathan purposely spent any significant amount of time with Duke in ten years was the day before he left for college. He’d actually had no intention of saying anything to Duke or even seeing him, but then Duke showed up on his doorstep with a box of Nathan’s favorite pastries. And maybe it was because he was leaving town and would likely never see Duke again, but Nathan found that he was feeling just shitty enough and about everything that was going on that letting Duke in the door didn't seem like such a bad idea.

They sat down in the kitchen and each dug a pastry out of the box, Nathan wondering what could possibly have brought Duke here but unwilling to just ask. They finished their pastries in silence, and Nathan had to fight the urge to lick every last bit of icing from his fingers.

“So, uh, I’m leaving Haven tomorrow.” Nathan’s eyes widened slightly; he hadn’t heard about that.

“That what brought you to my door?” Nathan eyed him warily, still waiting on that explanation.

“Yeah, I guess. Look, Nathan, I don’t want to leave on bad terms with you, so I thought maybe-”

“You thought maybe what? That if you brought over a box of Danish everything would just be forgotten?” Nathan didn’t know why he’d even let Duke near his house; there was still too much bitterness and anger between them to attempt civility.

“You know what? You’re right. I never should have come. Have a good life, Nathan.”

Duke turned to leave, but he only got about two steps before Nathan grabbed his arm and spun him around. Nathan was completely ready to haul off and punch Duke right in his pretty face, he was sure of it, only somehow he found himself yanking Duke closer to him and pressing their lips together.

It barely qualified as a kiss, seeing as there was more biting going on than anything else. Nathan didn’t care, though; he was feeling no pain. Like, literally not feeling any pain because as he’d discovered the other day, he couldn’t feel his lips, or really, any part of his face. The Troubles were coming back.

It was different from the last time this had happened, when he’d suddenly just felt nothing at all. No, this time it was creeping up on him slowly. He’d been noticing it for the last week, how if he pinched his arm, he couldn’t feel anything or how he could do sit-ups until he was too tired to move without ever feeling the burn in his abs.

And maybe he’d let Duke in out of nostalgia for their friendship, but there was no question that his failing sense of touch was responsible for the fact that instead of pushing Duke out the door, he was dragging Duke toward his bedroom, unbuttoning Duke’s shirt and running hands that could only sort of still feel what was going on up under Duke’s shirt.

Nathan didn’t know why Duke was going along with any of this, working Nathan’s jeans open and getting a hand inside. Nathan just about cried when he realized that he couldn’t feel Duke’s hand, which was pretty clearly groping him thoroughly. Instead, he pulled Duke’s hand away and pushed Duke down on the bed.

Duke looked momentarily startled, but he was certainly clear on how this was going to end, tugging the shirt off and working on his jeans. He was fully naked by the time Nathan made it down to his boxers, and harder than Nathan might have expected he’d be. It was a surprisingly hot sight, one which Nathan fully hoped was having some effect on him. He was too scared to look down and find out.

Fortunately, he was somewhat distracted by Duke taking himself in hand, stroking his cock like he had all the time in the world. Nathan knew it would be a bad idea to stand there staring for too long, so he finally removed his boxers, relieved to find that he was hard enough not to totally ruin things. He climbed onto the bed, scooting up far enough to sit on Duke’s thighs, reveling in all the places they were touching, some of the only places he could still feel.

Duke just looked at him expectantly, so Nathan batted his hand aside and took over. Nathan found himself wishing he could feel what he was doing to Duke, what was making him grunt in pleasure and thrust his hips up as far as he could, but that way lay futility, so he tried his best just to concentrate on Duke.

It wasn’t long before Duke got his act together and started trying to return the favor. Nathan assumed it must be doing something for his body since his dick got a little harder, and it was definitely doing something for his mind (seeing Duke here, like this, doing that), but he was almost sure there was no way he’d be getting off like that. And it just...really galled him, that he started this - one last hurrah before college or losing all feeling again, something like that - and he was gonna have to end it without even really getting to feel Duke in any appreciable way.

Nathan was preoccupied enough with his thoughts that he didn’t even notice Duke obviously preparing to flip them until it was already happening. His immediate instinct was to flip them back over again, only since he was using Duke’s momentum, they both rolled right off the bed. Duke landed with an ‘oof’ as Nathan wound up sitting on his stomach, and he was still for a second, trying to catch his breath.

“Oh, you fucker,” he panted out between labored breaths.

Nathan was prepared for it when Duke tried to flip them again and managed to hold him in place. Just barely, though, because Duke’s dick slid against his ass at the attempt, and that, Nathan most definitely felt. He’d never been fucked before, but it suddenly seemed like the best idea ever, like if his sex life was going out the window, it might as well go out with a bang.

There was a tube of lube in his night stand, he was pretty sure, and probably even a condom, so he leaned forward, trying to get it without overbalancing. He finally managed to find both and pulled back to find Duke looking at him questioningly. Nathan dropped the condom on his chest and popped the lube open.

“You’re going to fuck me,” Nathan said, taking hold of Duke’s hand and squeezing enough onto it to make his fingers slick and shiny.

“What? Nathan, you can’t just-”

Before Duke could finish, Nathan guided Duke’s hand around behind him and waited for Duke to get with the program. Only, Duke just laid there like an idiot, not even trying to take what Nathan was offering up. With a long-suffering sigh, Nathan slid his fingers in between Duke’s, both to slick them up and to get things moving.

He pressed both of their index fingers slowly inside himself, and though the sudden stretch burned, he relished it, wanting whatever feeling he could have for as long as he could have it. Duke’s eyes widened in shock, and it was all Nathan could do not to laugh in his face. Well, for a moment, anyway, until Duke got over being shocked and began moving on his own, and then the last thing Nathan felt like doing was laughing.

Duke pushed things along more quickly than Nathan might have hoped for, keeping it just the wrong side of painful. He couldn’t bring himself to care much, especially not once Duke found his prostate and everything became far from painful. Then, Nathan was beyond ready, unable to suppress the groan that had been building.

“Now, Duke.”

Duke hesitated a beat too long for Nathan’s patience, so he took matters into his own hands once more, ripping open the condom and rolling it down over Duke’s cock in a motion far too smooth for the kind of rush he was in. Duke had enough presence of mind to pull his fingers out of Nathan and get his hand out of the way, and then Nathan was sliding down onto him, taking things probably far too fast, but he could feel everything, and that was all that mattered.

Duke gripped Nathan’s hips tightly, but he didn’t do anything other than hold on, for which Nathan was grateful. He could move any which way he wanted, until he was leaning forward, balancing himself over Duke and barely even moving. All it took, he found, was a short back and forth to keep Duke hitting right where Nathan wanted him to.

Duke couldn’t have been getting much out of it, but he didn’t complain, just breathed heavily and looked at Nathan like he was the hottest thing Duke had ever seen. Nathan never would have suspected that as any kind of turn-on, but boy was it ever. Before he even realized quite how close he was, he was coming, and maybe he couldn’t feel anything his dick was doing, but pleasure still wracked his body. Duke must have been getting more out of it than Nathan thought, because he only got in two thrusts before he was coming as well.

It was probably a full minute before Nathan felt like he could move enough to pull off of Duke and slide to the side. They lay there in silence for a long while before Duke finally got up to dispose of the condom. Nathan must have dozed off a little then, because the next thing he knew, Duke was gone, along with any sign that he’d been there in the first place.

Nathan didn’t know why he expected anything different, but somehow he’d thought that maybe this would have changed something between them. Even worse, he couldn’t find it in himself to be angry, just felt sort of numb, much like the majority of his body. Nathan was pretty sure the anger would come later, but right then, all he could do was get dressed, finish packing, and get the hell out of town.

4. Nathan hated Evi the moment he met her

One of the last things Nathan ever expected to hear was that Duke Crocker had gotten married. Not that he thought he really knew Duke that well (not anymore, anyway), but there were some things that just seemed given. It was strange how he hadn’t given a flying fuck about Duke’s life in a long time, yet something as simple as a wife could make him react.

Of course, he’d kept a straight face, tried not to let on that he was even the tiniest bit surprised, but the truth of the matter was that he was actually pretty fucking pissed. Not that Nathan had expected Duke should tell him anything about his life, or, at least, he didn't think he had, but that was the sort of thing people should just know about each other. People who spent any appreciable amount of time together, anyway.

And that was the heart of the matter, really. Since Audrey came along, he and Duke had spent more time together than they had since they were eight years old, and he’d maybe begun to think that they were making their way back toward being friends. Every time he saw Evi, she was a reminder of the closeness between them that he still missed after all of these years, that he still wanted back, despite everything.

Nathan didn’t like what it said about him that he could hate someone on sight like that, but it was really hard to help it. The guilt on that count lessened a little, once he found out that she had been Duke’s business partner in his shadier dealings, and he was glad for it, because that, at least, was a solid reason he could put a name to without sounding like a complete idiot.

He wasn’t happy, when she died, because no matter how much he hated someone, he never wanted them dead, not even Duke’s criminally-inclined wife. Nathan found out pretty quickly that her death was going to work out well for him, in that it caused Duke to turn to him even more. Nathan was able to repay Duke for what he did when Nathan's dad died by being there for Duke as much as he could while Duke grieved. Not that he really knew what to say or do to help, but then, Duke didn't need anything extensive. They’d always been alike in that respect, though; major upheaval required nothing more than being around and willing to do whatever was needed.

They maybe grew a little closer after that, but their friendship was still fragile, even after years of being on the mend. Maybe it wasn't ideal, wasn't easy like it used to be, but it was something.

5. Nathan has never wanted to kill Duke

For a long time after they stopped being friends, Nathan was sure that he’d like nothing more than to see Duke dead, he hated Duke that much. It had taken leaving Haven to get some perspective and finally realize that there really is a thin line between love and hate, and mostly what he felt for Duke was still the same love it had been all those years ago, just twisted by anger and betrayal until it turned into hatred.

Then, when Audrey had shown up in Haven, it had become abundantly clear. Not that she ever said anything or asked why he hated Duke so much, but the fact that she could be friends with both of them, see and help bring out the good in Duke he’d forgotten was there, cleared the way for him to maybe begin to forgive, if not forget. It was an uneasy truce, and Nathan slipped back into old ways perhaps more often than not, even promising he’d be the one to kill Duke a time or two.

He’d never really believed it, not until Audrey disappeared, with the only evidence left behind belonging to Duke. It was so easy to let the anger have free reign then, to get so carried away in his hatred that he was ready to shoot Duke without even the benefit of listening to his explanation. Standing there with his finger practically twitching on the trigger, it would have been so easy, so easy to just end all the mixed up shit he couldn't help feeling about Duke there and then by ending Duke.

Fortunately, rationality took over before Nathan could do anything stupid, and it suddenly seemed ridiculous that he'd even entertained the notion that Duke would have kidnapped Audrey. He loosened his grip on his gun, but obviously not quickly enough, because within seconds, Duke had a gun of his own (and how had Nathan forgot that Duke liked to hide weapons everywhere?) and was firing a shot off. It went wide enough that he was in no danger of being hit, but he was quick to lower his gun after that.

“Enough with the shooting. I know you wouldn’t have taken Audrey.”

Duke looked suspicious for a second, but he lowered his weapon readily enough once Nathan holstered his gun. It wasn’t until later, working with Duke to plan out how they were going to find Audrey that he fully appreciated the fact that they’d been a hair’s breadth away from one of them killing the other, maybe even killing each other. It wasn’t until much, much later that Nathan realized he’d rather have been on the business end of the gun than the other way around.

1. Nathan visits Duke’s daughter as often as he can

Nathan absolutely loved babies, which was no secret to anyone who’d been anywhere near him when there was one around. What may have surprised some people (okay, probably most people) if they’d known the whole situation was that Nathan had loved Duke’s daughter the second he’d seen her. He’d held Jean in his arms, and though she wasn’t his in any sense of the word...well, she was his.

It broke his heart a little bit to have to send her away, but of course, there was no way she could stay anywhere near Duke. He’d been maybe a little bit too involved in the adoption process, but that he could always put down to the strange circumstances. It was both the best and worst thing that could have happened when Social Services agreed to let him make the trip to Nebraska to take her to her new family.

It was hard to give her up, even when he got there and met the couple who had adopted her. He knew she would be well-loved there and have a good life, but that didn’t make him want any less to be able to take her straight back to Haven and keep her with him.

He’d intended to just hand her over and leave, promising himself he wouldn’t even look back, but he wasn’t surprised when he couldn’t do that. He fed them a story about Jean’s father being too ill to keep her or even visit her, and he never did know for sure whether they believed him or not, but they agreed to send him photos periodically and have him visit a couple times a year. It wasn't what Nathan might have wished for, but it would have to be good enough.

It wasn’t until nearly ten years later, long after they’d made peace and settled back into friendship, that Nathan could finally bring himself to tell Duke that he’d been going to visit Jean. The look of utter shock on Duke’s face when he opened his birthday present from Nathan that year to find photos from Jean’s life decoupaged onto a small chest was just about the reaction Nathan had been expecting. He’d maybe even expected the gratitude and adoring looks as Duke carefully inspected each of the photos, but what he hadn’t expected was to be grabbed and kissed full on in front of practically everyone they knew.

They hadn’t touched each other in a way that was anything other than platonic in more than twenty-five years, and it was nothing like Nathan remembered it. There was no anger here, only desperate joy, on Nathan’s end as well as Duke’s. He’d never felt Duke like this before – touching because they wanted to and, now that the Troubles were gone again, because they could both enjoy it – and it was something Nathan had unconsciously been waiting for for so long that he hadn't even realized he wanted it until he had it. Now that he did, though, he couldn’t imagine living without it ever again.