The one thing they realized early on, about this relationship they figured out between all three of them, is that there was no fucking way they could live together.
First of all, while they saw each other for what seemed like every minute of the day, people--particularly Nathan--needed some alone time. And while the upside of seeing each other while they were working, or chasing down Troubled people (or anti-Troubled people) was that they got to see each other all the time, they needed a separate space where they could relax into their relationship. And another space where they could be by themselves.
So, while Duke had idly talked about renting one of the houses in the woodland just outside of town, Nathan and Audrey had reminded him (gently and not-so-gently) that he loved his boat in an unhealthy fashion, and he would be crazy to give it up.
Nathan had similar feelings about his own house, bought for himself when he eventually returned to Haven. Audrey liked her apartment a lot, even if she didn't have the same intense man-feelings about it as a building.
It was agreed--they'd keep their own spaces, even if they were holing up in one or the other place as a part of their relationship on a regular basis. Three intense, driven people in one relationship meant that there had to be an escape hatch for a little while.
This setup lead to some interesting revelations about where, exactly, each of them spent their time; and how some places worked better with them in pairs and others were essentially earmarked as "place of hotness."
"This is definitely a Place of Hotness," Audrey said, out of breath, climbing out from under the Tarzan-like bodies of her boyfriends. "That was my cardio for the day. No treadmill for me!"
Nathan just grunted--he was one of those passing-out guys, and Audrey and Nathan had mutually agreed to leave him alone and/or speak quietly for about twenty or thirty minutes after everyone had come. Occasionally twice.
Duke flopped over, giving her a goofy grin. A red flush ran down the angle of his chest and there was a sheen of sweat on his brow. "Eight points from the German judge," he said, scratching at his right pec where Nathan had inadvertently bit him when Audrey had hit his prostate with her fingers. The man could buck like a mechanical bull.
She scoffed. "Please," she said. "You're totally Brazil. You hand out points like you have a million to spare."
"Only on you, baby," Duke said, with an atrocious attempt at character voice. There was something suspiciously like a huff of laughter from the lump that was Nathan Wuournos.
"But seriously--more or less seriously--I vote this as the best place we bang. I don't know if it's something about being on the water, or if you've sprinkled the room with sex pollen, but I never get as many orgasms as I do on this here bed," Audrey said, grinning, her hair flopping down around her face. She twirled it on her finger, the thread of humor and agreement humming between her and Duke the way it always had.
"Very well. I commission this boat as a Place of Hotness. We'll have to print off a certificate at the station," Duke said, and was rewarded with Audrey's laughter. Nathan just punched him in the thigh, which didn't hurt only because Nathan couldn't get a good angle.
Duke ran his fingers into Nathan's hair, skritching at his scalp, and Nathan relaxed even further under the attention.
"Win," Audrey mouthed at him. It had been a long week. Nathan took it harder than either of them.
"Win," Duke mouthed back. Their ankles rubbed over the sheets.
Nathan usually came up here alone, when he needed to recharge, chase some of that solitude he'd lost in the time since Audrey came to town. Duke and Audrey respected that, found ways to entertain themselves (usually involving the Grey Gull's top shelf) or deal with other things that slipped the mind whenever they were in a room together. So it was a big deal when Nathan invited them to go up with him to the cabin on the weekend.
It was small, which wasn't too surprising; they brought an air bed with them, to complement the cot in the corner. Nathan shrugged when Duke cracked a joke about sleeping arrangements, and Audrey just smacked him lightly upside the head. "Now is the time when you swallow your reflexive pig-tail pulling and let Nathan bring us in on his own terms."
"Yes, mom," he'd muttered, and she gave him a look. He shut up.
When they arrived, Nathan was the reserved version of himself, a version that hadn't been seen in awhile. "So, there's not really a kitchen, but there's a hot plate, and if we pump the water outside we'll get it going in the sink. There's a firewood hot tub out back, which, um, is only supposed to hold two people, but I think if we're careful about the water level we can probably all fit in there." He looked at them both, eyes flicking back and forth. "One person may have to sit in someone's lap."
"I volunteer to sit in Nathan's lap," Duke said immediately, even raising his hand.
Audrey gave him a look again, and this time he quelled without protesting.
"Anyway," Nathan continued, as if he was hurrying to get it out, "we can build a fire, there's a grill stand out there, so we can cook the steaks we brought. The potatoes can go into the coals if we wrap them in foil. It's really pretty out here at night. You can see more of the stars than you can downtown."
He paused, looking up, something carefully hopeful on his face.
"Nathan," Duke said, prompting a glare from Audrey, "this is great. It's going to be like when we were kids, right? Drinking hot chocolate and staring at the stars?
"Well, with more Bailey's," Audrey said wryly.
Nathan smiled, looking relieved, which was a victory in itself.
That weekend wasn't so much about sex, or cuddling, or becoming closer as partners. It was about Nathan trusting them enough to let them in, show them a reserved part of himself. Duke put a lid on his mouthiness. Audrey was more silent than she ever was. They let Nathan lead the way, taking his cues on how he wanted to experience this.
When they drove back towards Haven, they shared private smiles, the scratchy radio filling the cab of the truck with a Gene Autry song. They'd found something, new and precious.
Sometimes it seemed like every important moment of their relationship happened on or near Audrey's couch. That's where this thing had started, Audrey and Duke a little drunk, Nathan stopping by after a case was closed. Audrey being braver than either of them knew how to do.
They'd figured out how this was going to work there, too. There was wine, and Nathan was constantly distracted from the little touches Audrey would land on on his cheek, his arm. The feeling of Duke touching him, for the first time in years, a decade or more, with Audrey holding his hand, was heady and overwhelming. They came out of that conversation--what started as a conversation, anyway--deciding that they were going to do this, three equal partners in their relationship, not just sex, not unrequited love, but the only way this was going to work. Together, in all things.
After that, it was like the weird walls they'd constructed between them, even with the sex being fantastic, just crumbled. No more weird looks, no more apprehension. They made a decision, and miraculously for three stubborn people, completely committed.
Their big, blow out fight a few months into that relationship also happened on (well, around) that couch. It had felt especially cold in Audrey's bed that night, used to two man-furnaces next to her. She hugged the pillow close, curled the comforter around her, and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.
In the morning, there was an assault down by the marina, and all three of them convened on the scene, staring at each other warily. Duke wore aviators that covered half his face; his hair was terrible, no tie to keep it back. Nathan had his berserker look on, and only spoke in clipped, sharp sentences, earning him a reprimand from the patrol officer who'd secured the scene.
Audrey cradled an extra large cup of coffee in front of her face. Her voice was scratchy, and she didn't speak up as quickly as normal. The whole team on the scene looked at them like they were about to brawl on the dock, giving each of them a wide berth. Audrey got a few frantic requests to fix it, which she thought was really unfair. It wasn't just on her to fix this. Just because she was usually the peacemaker in this town didn't mean it was on her to be responsible for keeping all of them nice and sane.
Laverne took her aside when they got back to the station, asking about what happened to make Nathan so angry, and she lost it. "Ask him!" she barked. "I'm not his goddamn keeper! Maybe I am fucking angry with him!" She stomped out of the station, draining her coffee on the stoop, and heading back to the coffee shop for more. She immediately felt terrible about yelling at Laverne, and got her the caramel macchiato with ginger topping she loved.
They reconvened at Audrey's apartment again, though they'd barely spoken to each other all day. Apologies and promises were soon followed by make-up making out, and even though Nathan ended up ripping the fabric of the couch cushion when he came down Duke's throat, it stayed, un-slipcovered, in Audrey's apartment as a relationship home base.
At some point in their relationship, Audrey and Duke both realized they needed time alone with Nathan to feel right in what they were doing. They got their time together, when Nathan went off to his cabin, or went out of town for the workshops on small metro/county policing he was increasingly invited to speak at. It was enough, for them; most of their relationship was conducted in the verbal foreplay that worked for them long before Audrey broke down and kissed him in Colorado, or Duke gave in again on her couch. They relied on words the way Nathan relied on touch.
But they'd had each some version of Nathan to themselves before they ever became boyfriends and girlfriend, and there was some trial and error to realize it wasn't just nice, it was necessary to stay sane.
Nathan never quite understood what they meant; he was happy with one or both of them, and for all his complaints about Duke, when they were together it was like Nathan rolled back the clock. He got a little like a teenager around Duke, always willing to push him into utility closets or wrap his hand around Duke's elbow, tug him close to throw an arm around his shoulders. All the things they never did, or stopped doing, when they were young. To him, they both fit; when he finally trusted them with his heart, it was completely, earnestly theirs.
Audrey, though, needed time to work with Nathan as much as she needed to spend some quiet nights alone with him. Sometimes they would catch a case, and Audrey would text Duke before they got started hey let me take this one and Duke would reply got it babe, I'm just going to restock the Gull. Nathan would ask where Duke was, and Audrey would shrug and smile, say "He's got Gull stuff going on today."
Those nights she'd follow him to his house, where he spent most of his nights with one or both of them, and they would eat takeout or make dinner, talking about their case or town gossip. She'd slide up close to him, runnig her hands up his arms under his undershirt, make him shiver as he cut carrots. He'd stop in the middle of a sentence to tug her close, bend her backwards like an old movie star and kiss her senseless. She'd climb him like a tree and make him carry her, legs wrapped around his waist, up the stairs to the bed. Or they'd sit by the fire and read through their notes, except for when they'd go crazy doing that again and instead read books or magazines, Nathan's head in Audrey's lap and the flames licking shadows over his face.
When Duke needed Nathan, he'd press a kiss to Audrey's temple and whisper, "Can you scram, babe, I gotta be with him tonight or I'm going to itch out of my skin," and she'd grin knowingly at him. While sometimes they went fishing, or hiking the trails north of town, most of what Duke and Nathan did together was fucking, making up for all their lost time. Duke would ride him, the same position as Audrey the time before, and pant out hot words and memories: "I, agh, I thought of you, like this, when I was down in Jamaica, this guy--he, he wasn't you, but, oh god--" Nathan would fuck him harder, fuck the memory of the other guy out of him, wordless and furious.
Duke would slide into him, covering Nathan's back and running hands up his sides while Nathan looked backwards where their bodies met. Nathan had told him once, shyly, that when he couldn't feel anything, he got off on watching and reading: porn, magazines, books of erotica, stories on the internet. He made his mind the thing that was aroused, imagining what his hand felt like on his cock, remembering what it was like to have sex.
Duke never stopped talking when it was just them, whispering in Nathan's ear about what he'd wanted to do with Nathan when they were dumb, scared teenagers in a rural town with too many eyes on them. Nathan would open his mouth, moaning, breath punched out of him, as Duke described in exacting detail everything they were doing and everything he had ever wanted to do with Nathan.
Duke didn't know what it was like for Nathan, to come without feeling the dick working him open, the hand on his cock, the mouth on his cheek, but Nathan fell apart like it was what he was made to do. Duke got an itch for it, for the sex, for working Nathan over like all his fantasies, adolescent and otherwise, combined.
He also needed the way Nathan would tug him close, snore in his ear, laugh like he did when they were ten. It was precious to him, the way they'd found each other again after so much time, so much hurt. So many arrests. He always wanted Audrey, and he mostly wanted Audrey there with them, but there were days when he needed to remind himself that Nathan had almost been his, once. He needed to pretend like Nathan was.
Nathan, in general, was open to however Audrey and Duke wanted to work it. He demanded knowledge and control in so much of his life. But when he finally got what he wanted, the two of them loving him, close to him, making him shudder and scream and laugh and smile, he figured: they figured it out in the first place. Whatever they wanted to do was pretty much all right by him.
He changed the sheets on his bed more frequently, stocked more of the food that he knew they liked. He turned up the heat higher and more often, bought them slippers and fuzzy sweaters and opened the door almost every night knowing that one or both of them would be there, for and with him.
Duke's Shitty Apartment
"Look, I had to move somewhere," he said when he finally let Audrey and Nathan come to the place he'd rented behind the Dairy Queen. "I gave Audrey the apartment, and I can't just stay on the boat all the time. It adds like a four hundred bucks to my gas every month, between running the engine and commuting."
Nathan had a look on his face like he was torn between calling in a favor from the Fire Marshall to have the place condemned, and throwing Duke into his truck and taking him to his house. Forever. Audrey just squinted at the dust and the shipping crates that kinda-sorta acted like furniture around a couch that was held up on one corner by a paint can.
Neither of them wanted to see the bedroom.
"I guess," Audrey said, hesitantly, "I mean, it's your place. Do you really spend that much time here?"
"You mean when do I ever sleep in the bed because I'm always laying next to you both, elsewhere?" Duke said, sardonically. "The point isn't where I sleep. It's that I have a place that's mine."
"Other than the boat?" Nathan asked doubtfully.
"Yes! Other than the boat! Sometimes I need to be in my own space on dry land!"
"You know what this would be good for," Audrey mused, "is poker night. We could buy that poker table at the antique shop we pass by in the mornings. There's a lot of...space."
Nathan's eyes brightened. "Oh! I bet we could use the fridge to store our catch! John Peters, you know, the farmer, he was saying his son had bagged a 10-pointer, and I was thinking about buying a cut of it but my chest freezer's already full."
Duke looked torn between mutiny and interest. "This is still my place," he said. "At least most of the time. I guess it makes sense to use it for social occasions. Occasionally."
Nathan and Audrey looked at each other; their faces were serious but their eyes definitely weren't. They started to approach Duke, eerily in step, until he was pressed against the wall on the other side of the room.
"Duke," Audrey said, voice low, "we totally understand that you need some time alone. Everyone does. Right, Nathan?"
"Yeah," Nathan said, and it was totally not fair that his eyelids were half-closed, making his pretty eyelashes sweep across his face. "We just want you to know that we'll always be here, waiting for you."
"Probably in the bed, with the covers tucked up against our bodies," Audrey continued.
"Likely with hands in inappropriate places," Nathan said.
"But we'll be thinking of you," Audrey said, her voice a low murmur next to Duke's ear, "probably even calling out your name."
Duke looked up at the crummy popcorn ceiling, where a dark stain was slowly creeping its way across the room. "I hate you both," he said, adjusting his stance so Nathan could pull down the zipper on his pants and drop to his knees, feeling Audrey unbutton his shirt and scratch her nails over his stomach.
"Of course you do," Audrey agreed. "Just don't stay away too long, Duke, or we'll have to find some fun ways to pass the time."
"Oh my god," he said grumpily, and tugged her mouth to his.
She rolled up in front of the police station, honking until Duke and Nathan--and half the afternoon shift--came spilling out of the doors. She opened up the window and grinned out at them.
"What the fuck is this," Nathan said. Laverne reached out and cuffed his arm. Nathan just blinked at her.
"It's an RV!" Audrey said cheerfully.
Duke had his hand plastered over his eyes like he was trying to shield himself from reality. "Please, please do not tell me you bought an RV," he said despairingly.
"Of course not," she said, and for a moment he had hope until she continued, "I just did an 18-month lease. That way they handle all the maintenance.
"Nice RV, Audrey," shouted Tammy Wynes from the stoop of her yarn shop.
"Thank you Tammy!" Audrey called back.
"Why--" Duke started, and then shook his head, putting a hand over his mouth.
Audrey used the handle to open the door, and said "Come on in, guys, you have to check it out. The interior is sweet."
They looked at each other, the same expression on their faces, but walked around the front to get into the car.
"I'll bring 'em back after their break," Audrey said to Laverne and Sheriff Hendrickson, who just nodded. In the case of Dwight, he looked like he was about to fall over laughing as she pulled away from the curb, making Duke and Nathan fall on top of each other on the bench sofa.
"Audrey!" Duke yelped, and Nathan said her name too, irritated.
"Sorry," she said, not really that sorry. It had been fun to watch in the rearview mirror. "I just wanted to get away from the crowd."
They were silent but for the pop radio station from the next county over, until finally Audrey pulled over into the lookout over the water. She turned the RV off, and came back to sit across from them both.
"Why did you get an RV, Audrey?" Nathan asked, almost polite if you didn't know he was completely serious about getting an answer.
"We are not the family fun vacationing type," Duke said, tying his hair back again from the loose strands that framed his face."
"We are a family, though, right?" Audrey asked, elbows resting on her knees, hands held together as if in prayer.
There was a pause; they'd never really talked about this before, but neither Duke nor Nathan was every very surprised to find that Audrey was a few steps ahead.
"Yeah," Duke said, and Nathan echoed him.
"Okay," Audrey said. "We've been helping people here in Haven and the region for most of a decade, did you realize that? I've been reviewing our cases, both the on-the-record notes and the off. Crime has dropped forty percent in the last four years. The 'accidental' death rate has dropped even further. Murders and assaults are both within the statistical average within territories of our size and population, instead of a reason the FBI checks in once a month and threatens audits, like they did a few years ago." She pauses, lets them digest this. Duke had thrown his arm casually around Nathan's shoulders, and Nathan has dropped a hand onto Duke's knee. They've gotten like this recently, probably after she made them celebrate the relationship's anniversary, like they finally trust each other enough to be casually affectionate, openly seeking each other out when sex wasn't on the table.
"We've been doing our job," Nathan says quietly; she can tell the numbers got to him.
"It's not over, though," Duke said. "It will never be over."
"I think you're right," Audrey said. "Nathan's already been invited to lead seminars in four different workshops this year. That article about our policework in the city paper got him even more attention than he already had."
"It should be you," Nathan said, a common protest these days.
"You know it shouldn't," she said back for the umpteenth time. "What if there are holes in my paper trail? What if Original Audrey left someone behind, a random family member or ex-lover? Former FBI Agent Audrey Parker doesn't need to be on anyone's radar, much less a room full of nosy LEOs. Duke doesn't either. This one is for you to take on."
He fell silent, the way this argument always went.
"Anyway," she said, "The sheriff can more than handle the territory. His little Troubled Deputy is already learning all his tricks. What I'm proposing," she paused, blowing out a breath, "is that we go on the road with Nathan. That Nathan agrees to do some more of his seminars about managing unusual casework. And while we're there, we reach out to the LEOs that look a little too eager to raise their hands, or the ones who don't speak and look freaked out. We help them. We figure out if there's a Trouble or not, and we help those people too." She looked at them both in turn. "There are Troubled diffused all over the country. Maybe the world. We know that. Lucy knew it. Shouldn't we try to help them too?"
Her case made, she folded up her legs and leaned back against the seat, dropping her hands into her lap. Nathan and Duke had some kind of conversation with her eyes; she was charmed that it was happening more and more, closing the connection between Audrey and Duke and Nathan and Audrey.
Duke winced as he said, "When would we leave? I'd have to store the boat, it's gonna take awhile to make her ready."
Nathan said, "We'll need to find someone responsible to manage the Grey Gull while Duke's gone. And find someone to water all the plants."
Audrey broke out into a smile. "Thank you," she said, sincerity in her voice. "Really. Thank you. I'm sorry I got the RV before I talked with you both about it, but I was getting that feeling, like drumbeat in my head, that I needed to do this." Her smile turned a little crooked. "Kind of like the feeling I had when I first came to Haven," she said.
Without ceremony, she skimmed her shirt off and tossed it to the ground, stepping out of her shoes and unhooking her bra. "Now, the really important thing," she said, unbuttoning her jeans, "is that we gotta break in this bed." She looked at them both, a little predatory, a little hungry. "I got the kind that takes up the whole back part of the ring."
Leaving her jeans on the floor, she walked back towards the door leading to the bedroom, leaving Duke and Nathan to scramble after. Nathan shook his head, let out a real laugh, and pulled Duke close to give him a happy, dirty kiss while Duke wrestled out of his button-up. This was going to be their home for the next year and a half. They did have to break it in a little.