He should have known she would figure it out before he worked up the guts to tell her. He probably also should have tried harder not to react when she smacked him in the arm so as not to give himself away.
"So, you've known you could feel me all this time and you didn't say anything?" They're standing on the pier in the middle of the afternoon and she's trying to wrap her mind around what he's just confessed and the fact that he hid it from her for so long. She's also trying not to feel hurt. "Why?"
His eyes dart away, looking at the water and his shoes and anything but Audrey and that look on her face. "How could I?"
"How could you not?" she counters, hands on her hips. She takes a step closer to him.
He's quiet for a moment, searching for the right thing to say. "At first, I wanted to make sure I knew what it was," he finally says, looking back to her. "I thought maybe I was getting it all back, you know?"
"And that's why you were poking yourself with pens and plastic cutlery for a week."
"Yeah," he says. "Nothing. It's just you. Your skin. But still, I didn't…" He shakes his head, frustrated.
"What?" she presses. She takes another step. "Tell me."
"I didn't want you to tell you and have you feel obligated," he says. "You're the only person I can feel, and it's... incredible, but I didn't want to make you feel like I expected anything from you." He stares at her, waiting for her response, and she can't stand the uncertainty on his face.
She gives him a small smile. "Like what? Weekly back rubs and blow jobs?" she asks, attempting to lighten the mood a little. It works, because he blushes and scrubs a hand across his face.
"We could make it bi-weekly, if you want," he says, and she laughs.
"Oh, Nathan," she sighs. She reaches out and takes his hand in hers, watches him close his eyes as he absorbs the sensation of her skin on his. "What does it feel like?" she asks, rubbing circles with her thumb.
He chuckles softly. "It's… overwhelming. It's everything," he says, and his eyes have gone watery. "Like a blind man getting to see again."
Audrey Parker is so not a crier, but she feels tears start to prick at her eyes, too. She drops his hand to wrap her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. She can't remember the last person she hugged. With a ragged sigh, he squeezes her back and buries his face in her neck.
"I wouldn't feel obligated to touch you, Nathan. I'm not that easily manipulated," she says. She absently runs her hands across his back. "But to be honest with you, I'm kind of touch-starved myself. I might actually have to take advantage of this new opportunity."
He laughs, his body rumbling against hers, and she loves how it feels. "I guess I'd be okay with that."
It's a sort of silent agreement between them, afterward, that they would start touching each other more often. It's completely innocent, platonic, simply a means of comforting and connecting with one another. Secretly, they each think it's thrilling and terrifying and promising all at once.
She'll hand him a pen when they're stuck doing paperwork and brush the tips of his fingers with hers, lingering long enough that he knows it was on purpose. He does the same with a cup of coffee, and she hides her smile by taking a sip.
In the truck, after a particularly trying conversation with Duke, she lays her hand on the seat between them, palm up. It's an invitation, and he takes it, squeezes her fingers, holds her hand the whole way back to the station.
He puts a hand on the small of her back when they walk, as if to guide her. She leans into his touch, and for a moment, he thinks about pulling her closer and tucking her under his arm.
One day, he does, and he grins when he feels her fingers settle on the back of his belt.
They hang out at the Gull after hours one night, drinking beer and playing Scrabble against Duke and Julia, and at some point he throws an arm on the back of her chair, warm against her neck. His hand is loose, casual, fingers brushing her shoulder like it's something he does all the time.
Duke looks back and forth at them, then turns to Julia with an eyebrow raised. I don't know, she shrugs.
He ignores it, until Audrey starts tapping her fingers to Nathan's hand when she talks and he absently rubs her shoulder and looks at her like she hung the moon.
"What's going on?" Duke asks, pointing his index finger at them.
Nathan and Audrey glance at each other and shrug innocently. "What?" Audrey replies.
"This," he says, gesturing between them. "This weird, handsy new thing you've got going on."
Audrey shrugs, the up-and-down motion of her shoulders jostling Nathan's arm. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Nothing weird going on here," Nathan agrees.
"Sure. Fine," says Duke. "Whatever. Don't say anything." He shakes his head and lays a few tiles on the board.
"Challenge," Nathan calls immediately, grabbing for the dictionary with his free hand.
"Of course you do."
He touches her, and she touches him, and it really is platonic and innocent until it's not.
Like any other night, they're holed up in the office, reading case files and eating lukewarm pizza side-by-side on the little couch. Later on, they'll debate over who, exactly, started the impromptu make-out session, but before long she pulls him down on the too-small couch so that his body is covering hers and hooks a leg around his waist while he kisses her like he might never get another chance.
His hands roam, running down her sides and up again, and he slips a hand under her t-shirt to cup her breast. She sighs and arches into his touch, grinding up against him. "Nathan," she breathes against his ear.
She palms the front of his jeans and he's trying to remember if the door is locked and if he even cares when the office phone rings. Loudly. Startled, they pull apart, breathing heavily, remembering just where they are. He swears under his breath, resting his head against her shoulder, and her hands are still on his biceps. The phone keeps ringing, and they wonder who the hell is calling this late and why and it better be important.
"I'll get it," she says, pulling herself out from underneath her partner and tugging her shirt down. He's grateful, because he thinks it's going to be a few more minutes before he can walk properly again.
It's been a long night, and they're back in the truck, yet another crime scene disappearing in the rear view mirror. They're working a case they can't quite seem to figure out, and while it's stressing the both of them, it seems to be eating at Nathan in particular.
She looks at his profile from the passenger seat. He's driving along the dark back roads to get them back to the station, illuminated only by the occasional street light and the dashboard. The lines of his face are hard, his lips firmly set into a frown, and she thinks he looks tense and angry and frustrated.
"Nathan, pull over."
"Why?" he asks, like she's crazy.
"Just pull over."
"We really have to get back to the station and –"
He glances at her and shakes his head before obeying and pulling the truck to the side of the road.
"What?" he asks, twisting in his seat to face her. "There's nothing out here. What did you want to see?"
"Nothing," she says. "I just want to talk to you."
He looks away. "I already know what you're going to say. I'm fine," he insists. He looks back at her. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not." She reaches over to take his hand, to soothe him, but he jerks it back. "Nathan, just let me help you."
"If you want to help, then let me go back to the station." He goes to start the truck, but she puts her hand on his and stops him.
"No," she says. She drops her hand. "You've been up for over 24 hours. It's late. We don't need to go back tonight."
"Nathan. The evidence isn't going anywhere."
"I know," he says. "I just... I wish I could figure it out. We're missing something, but... I don't know..." He shakes his head and stares out at the blackness. "I don't know what to do."
She makes an executive decision and reaches to unbuckle his belt, stopping only when she feels his hands on hers.
"What are you doing?" he asks, his voice low and gravelly and aroused.
"Helping you relax."
"Parker." He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. "I don't know -"
She cuts him off, bringing her hands up to his face and kissing him gently. "Let me," she says. "Please just let me do this. We can talk about it some other time."
He doesn't know what to say, so he just stares at her.
She kisses his chin, his neck, her hands settling on his belt and unbuckling it the rest of the way. She kisses his lips while she unbuttons his jeans and slides down the zipper with determination. The sound is loud it the quiet cab of his truck.
When she pulls him free and ducks her head, he doesn't stop her.
They celebrate solving the case with Chinese take-out and beer at his house, which ends up cold on the kitchen table when she grabs his wrist to stop him from stealing her szechuan chicken and he uses it to yank her closer, leaning down to capture her mouth with his.
He walks her backwards, her fingers fisting the front of his shirt, until there's no where else to go and she hits the wall. He grabs the back of her thighs, easily lifting her, and her legs wrap tightly around his waist.
The hard, cool of the wall at her back contrasts with the hard heat of him pressed against her front, and he's holds her up with one arm and slips her shirt over her head with the other.
Their kisses are urgent, fervent, lips and teeth and tongue clashing together. He groans when she nips at his bottom lip and then sucks gently to soothe it. The thick soles of her boots dig into his back, but he either doesn't notice or doesn't care as he thrusts against her. She reaches between them to undo his belt and jeans with one hand, and his breath is hot against her neck when she strokes him up and down.
"Oh, God, Audrey," he mumbles against her skin.
She kisses his temple. "Bedroom. Now," she says, and he gladly obeys.
When her back hits the mattress and he's hovering over her, they can't believe having this weird, handsy new thing in their lives took them so long.