Audrey pulled off her jacket with an angry huff, throwing her gloves onto her desk. "Isn’t it illegal to own a furry demon as a pet?"
After picking up her discarded coat to hang up, Nathan gave her a look that said more than he had all morning.
She shrugged. "Well, it should be."
"It’s just a ferret."
She glanced down, frowning. "Tell that to my new boots."
"Don’t think of him as a rouge pet. Think of him as a member of Mrs. Whittaker’s family."
"Then we should arrest her for reckless endangerment of her child." She sunk down into her chair, rubbing the back of her neck.
"C’mon, you never had any pets?"
She stared at her hands when she eventually spoke. "We were never allowed to have any animals in the group homes. None of my foster parents had any either."
With Audrey it was always better to give quid pro quo instead of pushing her for more; she would only see more questions as an invasion of privacy or simply pity.
"I always wanted a puppy, but my Father only wanted a hunting dog. Mom wouldn’t allow it."
"So he’s always been this unfeeling?"
He quickly turned to face her, just in time to see her wince. At least she didn’t apologise this time.
"Shit. I meant the Chief." She worried a hand through her hair, squinting up at him. "So, um, has he always wished death upon the little furry things in this world?"
He sat down at his desk, ready to start in on the paperwork. Eager to avoid Audrey’s searching gaze.
Rationally, he knew he shouldn’t be so sensitive about it, as he wasn’t totally unfeeling. He can feel the pull of gravity on his feet and that odd switch in the weather that someone who’s been near the sea all their life feels when a storm’s coming in. He feels nauseous on flights and hungry after missing breakfast or when Audrey insists on working through lunch.
He can still enjoy the buzz of alcohol (although he wishes he didn’t feel the after-effects the morning after) and the woozy light-headedness of a strong head-cold coupled with even stronger drugs.
He still feels anxious on a first date, grumpy when all the coffee is gone but no-one’s refilled the pot and jumpy when he had to testify in court two years ago against a dangerous perp he’d arrested. He can sense a slight pressure when a wound is deep, like a weight forced down on him beneath the muscle.
Despite all this, he still couldn’t feel the push of a pen into his palm or the burn of molten metal on his wrist. He could only imagine what it felt like to notice the slight difference in weight between a heavy woollen pullover and a light t-shirt on his shoulders. Or know the warmth of a pet’s soft fur under his palm.
Or at least, that was the case until Audrey came to town. Now she had opened up his world to a sensation he had given up hope on ever experiencing again.
Growing up in Haven, Nathan was patient by nature and careful by necessity. He knew that he would have to be both when it came to moving forward with Audrey. The last thing he wanted to do was freak her out and watch her leave.
He knew she was still getting boxes shipped in from Washington, so that seemed to bode well. But sometimes from the hurried way she’d enter the office, complaining about not being able to find matching socks, made him think that she was still living out of suitcases, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. If she had even the slightest idea that every night he went to bed making a list called ‘Ways I Can Touch Audrey Tomorrow’, she’d be out of Haven before her coffee cooled and he couldn’t blame her.
So he had to choose his moments wisely, catch her when she was distracted by a case and sneak in what he hoped was a casual brush of skin against skin. He made sure to treasure them while he still could but was having trouble when it came to pacing himself. He knew he should dole the touches out sparingly so as not to arouse suspicion, but within a week he knew he was addicted.
He always aimed to be informal, to graze against her without too much fuss. She’d already noticed that something was different and he couldn’t lose her now that his life had finally been infused with sensation again. He’d already been so close when the FBI had given her an ultimatum. He’d really dodged a bullet there and for once was thankful that she had such deep curiosity when it came to her origins.
So he started out small, testing the waters with experiments. Skin-to-skin contact held the strongest pull, the warmth and texture of her imprinting itself across him like a brand, the strong pulse of life that flowed through her overpowering his own. She replaced the beat of his heart with the tattoo of her touch and he couldn’t find it in himself to tell her to stop.
He was wondering if he could feel her through clothes when his screen lit up with a new email. He had asked a buddy in Portland to look into anyone with the surname ‘Ripley’ after all searches for Lucy Ripley had dried up. The report looked to be pages long, giving detailed information on every Ripley listed in the area. He knew Audrey would appreciate the extra leads, but he also wanted to leave the office sometime tonight, something he was sure would never happen if she got her hands on this report.
He figured that it wouldn’t hurt to put it off until tomorrow. No-one on the list would disappear in the next twelve hours, so he minimized the window and looked up just in time to see her packing her files away.
His only answer was a quick nod.
She threw popcorn at his head, her aim perfect as usual. He lowered the DVD case in his hand in an attempt to shield himself.
"Do I look like someone who would enjoy a movie about talking cats?"
"Okay. Then what about this one?"
He turned away to face the television in an attempt to hide the snicker he couldn’t feel. "It’s got Justin Timberlake in it."
He could practically hear her rolling her eyes.
"Are there any movie options here not meant to tease me?"
He let the barest smirk slip, unable to feel his cheeks slide to accommodate his smile. It had been worth it to borrow movies from Dave and Vince.
"You could always change your mind and we could watch Die Hard again."
"Just trying to help. You’re the one without a favourite movie."
"And how would watching Bruce Willis kill a bunch of Germans for the third time, I might add, help with that? I think you just----hey, what’s that one?"
"No, give it to me!"
"Audrey." He warned.
She was obviously standing on her tip toes, trying to stretch out to grab the movie he was holding over his head yet she barely made it to his shoulders. He looked down at the crown of her head, grinning in triumph until she stepped forward, leaning into him in an effort to close the distance between her fingers and the DVD.
However, the force of that much contact at once was overwhelming and he had to take a step backward to regain his other senses. He blinked a bit, trying to get his vision to sort its self out again because all he could currently see was Audrey pulled up tight to him like that in bed.
Not one for quitting, she tried again, pushing herself up against him, one hand using his shoulder to climb higher. Her body was pressed flush up against his own and he brought the movie down an inch in self-preservation. He’d knew he’d never hear the end of it at work, but also that temporary defeat was a better alternative to sexually harassing his partner – an outcome that was looking more and more appealing as she struggled and squirmed against him, the scent of her filling his nose.
"A ha! Got it!" He thought she looked impossibly cute her a rosy smile and bouncing curls.
To keep himself from touching her, he stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Ah, yeah. You win."
"You’re losing your edge, Wournos. Probably comes from watching, what’s this, Homeward Bound? Seriously?" She settled back onto the couch, cackling madly, probably two minutes from phoning the whole town to spread the news.
He didn’t say anything in his defence when she eventually started the movie, but he did produce a smug grin when he looked over to see Audrey wiping tears away with the edge of the blanket he’d draped over her.
"Shut up." She sent him a dark glare, to which he help up his hands innocently.
"Didn’t say anything."
"Keep it that way."
Working in a town like Haven, it’s important to trust your partner. Which is why he felt awful about lying to Audrey, even by omission. (A fact that was drilled home again by their most recent case of an impersonating ghost). So he winced when he saw the Portland area code on his caller id.
"You get my email?"
"Haven’t gotten ‘round to it yet."
"With the way you asked, I thought it was urgent. I put a lot of man-hours into that, Nate. Off the clock."
"Appreciate it." He hung up with perhaps more force than was strictly necessary.
Audrey seemed to notice and abandoned her paper work. "What was that about?"
She sent him a quizzical brow, but didn’t pry. In that moment, she seemed perfect.
For the next few days things were going so well he’d forgotten about the report and so he was glad she was out when the Chief walked up to him, red faced and short tempered. He never liked to involve Audrey in his family’s problems and it looked like the Chief was ready for a fight.
"Nathan. What’s this about being billed two dozen hours from Portland PD?"
He snatched the memo from his father’s hand. "Just a joke with a friend."
"Well, sort it out. Accounting’s riding my ass about it."
He sighed. He’d have to call John about this little prank. "On it." He turned and left before his Dad could get out another word. He crumpled the paper in his hand on the way to his truck, throwing it over his shoulder to the small back seat that kept random essentials for small town police work.
He gunned the engine, hoping to drive off some of his frustration. Although if he were being honest with himself, his anger was focused a bit closer to home, the piece of paper in his Bronco was just another reminder that he’d selfishly put his own needs above Audrey’s.
Nathan sat at his desk, his head in his hands. He’d not heard from Audrey all weekend and it was beginning to look like she wasn’t going to show up.
For the last two days he’d done nothing else but torture himself by replaying their fight over and over in his head. Audrey had found out that he had been keeping the list of names from her and exploded. He’d tried to explain that it was simple forgetfulness rather than straight maliciousness but she had still stormed out.
The worst part was that she had every right to be mad at him since he knew how much she wanted to know more about her past. When he saw the betrayed look on her face, he knew that the loss of her touch was a fit punishment. If Audrey left, she would be taking a part of him with her and the man he was becoming in her presence would crawl back into his whole.
He saw Laverne look over at him with concern and he hoped she wouldn’t bring him a muffin, trying to get him to talk. The only person he felt like talking to probably hated his guts.
He decided it was time to start work and powered up his computer. He could at least still do some work while he sulked. He was just about to start on the mountain of paperwork he’d been ignoring when thick, leather work gloves landed on his desks, scattering the papers.
"Come on." He looked up, mouth gaping open at his partner who had just breezed in as though she hadn’t threatened to kill him two days ago.
"What’s this?" He poked at the gloves with his pen, a bit wary.
"Well, you may not feel its teeth, but I don’t want to bandage your fingers today and we got a call from Mrs. Whittaker. The demon ferret is trapped in her chimney."
"But, the other day—"
"We had a fight. No big deal. I can’t exactly call in a sick day because I’m pissed at you."
"So, you’re staying in Haven?"
"Of course." She sent him a weird look, as though unsure why he thought she would leave. Maybe he had been blowing everything out of proportion.
"Geez, you can’t get rid of me that easily, Wournos. But since you seem so shaken, I get to drive today."
She skipped past him, snatching the keys from his shirt pocket, her fingers brushing the flannel. He couldn’t be sure, because he wanted it to be real so damn much his mind might be humouring him, but he thought he felt movement through the cloth.
"Oh, but don’t think I’ve forgotten about that list. We probably could have talked to every one of them by now if we hadn’t lost all that time, so consider your afternoon booked."
He smiled as he followed her, a morning with a biting rodent followed by an afternoon on the phone had never sounding so appealing.