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A Miracle You Don't Deserve

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Duke Crocker is not a man with very good taste in women. There have been a few exceptions along the way, some lucky breaks, but he's got quite the talent of screwing those up and making them turn sour too. The end of the story is always the same: heartbreak and resentment. For the most part, that's cool with him; he's not the relationship type, anyway. He's having his fun, anything else would make his life more complicated than it has to be.

And, hey. It's not like his life isn't complicated enough as it is. There are days when he asks himself why he's still here, why he came back at all, why he didn't run a dozen times since. But then he hears something clink upstairs, hears Audrey yell out curses that would make a sailor blush, and he knows.

It's probably a good thing it didn't work out between them, that they never had their night out together. He'd have messed that up too, and the fallout would've been nasty.

 

***

 

She trips over the damn rust bucket every other morning, and yet it never really occurs to her to put it somewhere else. Audrey's not messy, exactly, but... There are more important things to deal with than sorting her apartment. It's functional. She knows where to find what she needs when she needs it. That's good enough for her.

Still mumbling profanities under her breath, Audrey sets about making coffee. It's too early for the Gull to be open downstairs, although Duke would probably put a pot on for her regardless. She brushes her teeth while the old coffee machine she got from Dave when she moved in rattles to life, wanders outside with the brush still in her mouth to feel the cold breeze of sea air on her face. It helps wake her up, which is funny, in a way, because Audrey was never someone who loved the seaside. She didn't hate it either; she just didn't care about it either way. She certainly didn't expect to consider it her home someday.

Then again, there's no telling if it's really she who never felt drawn to it, or the other Audrey whose life was the template for hers. For all she knows, she could've loved it in her last life. She could be from here. It could really be her home.

And then there's the way Duke smiles up at her when he steps out to get in his car and stock up on produce at the farmer's market in town, like he does every other day. Her favorite teacher in elementary school used to say that home's not a just a place to put your things and lay your head, but also the people who make you feel like you belong. Audrey thought those were pretty words although she didn't have either a place or a person to call home.

But ever since she came to Haven, she thinks it might just be true.

 

***

 

He sees her up on the balcony in her pajamas, hair standing up in every direction, toothbrush in her mouth and an expression on her face that's way too sullen and somber for how early in the day it is.

Audrey's not a morning person. Duke's not sure if the fact that knows that even though they never dated is something he's glad about or something that sort of stings. He smiles at her, and her lips curl up around her toothbrush in reply before she spits down the balcony and goes back inside. It's not classically endearing behavior, but it makes him light up with fondness and something he's never quite allowed himself to call love.

After she's disappeared from sight, he looks up at the sky, blue and clear and deceptively calm. A little less than six weeks and it's going to try and take her from him, rob them of every chance they might've had to be more than friends.

While he shops for fresh lettuce and tomatoes and apples, he makes a list in his head. Places to show her, stories to tell her. It's too long already by the time he's on the second item on his list, absentmindedly shoveling more homegrown tomatoes into a bag than he could possibly use in a day or two.

What he needs to do is make sure that they've got enough time, not trying to come up with ways to fill what's left on the clock. He thinks about the previous evening, when he told her about the meteor storm. How she looked shocked for a moment but then immediately went calm. Accepting. Resigned. Like this is her fate, and there's no point in fighting it.

He'll fight it hard enough for both of them.

 

***

 

Some days, Haven is downright idyllic. When there's no troubles, no death or destruction or other crazy stuff and the most dire police work they have to take care of is a disappeared purebred cat, it almost passes as a regular little town by the sea. Peaceful and calm. A place to raise children or grow old.

Audrey never planned that far ahead. Maybe some part of her always knew that her days were numbered, that it wasn't in the cards. Maybe that's part of her genetic makeup, if genetics have anything to do with what put her into this world.

Nathan's still on the phone with the old lady who called about her cat, heaving a sigh crowned with an exaggerated eye-roll. Just a few days ago, she'd thought that, maybe... But now they're so far apart that he might as well exist in another universe, circulating along a different orbit. It's possible he always did, and she just didn't realize it.

She wonders what her newly acquired shrink would have to say about that. Some crap about impending doom and how it puts things into perspective, probably. Audrey takes a deep breath, sips the last of her coffee – fourth cup today and it's not even 10 AM – and concentrates on the stack of paperwork in front of her.

 

***

 

Audrey's back early that evening, and Duke's more than a little surprised when she doesn't head upstairs, but rather strolls into the Gull and sits down at the bar. He doesn't greet her, raises his eyebrows instead. She does come in here after work some days, but he didn't expect today to be one of them.

“We spent more than an hour today looking for a cat,” she says. “A Siamese one, purebred, award winning. I don't know, I think she's ugly. I'm more into the fat, plushy ones? Anyway. We found it. In a tree. Nathan climbed up to get it. I always thought that's a joke or a cliché, not something that actually happens.”

Duke still doesn't say a word, just pours her a drink. Nothing too hard, some watered-down scotch.

She smiles, takes the glass from him, then sets it down before drinking anything. “The old hag kept raging on about how her husband always donated to the town, for a new flower bed here and a renovation there. Now she's damn well got the right to call the chief when she's got a problem to fix. As if there's nothing more important going on.”

“For her, there probably isn't,” Duke says. He doesn't feel like his contributions to the conversation are going to matter much, he just wants to show he's been listening.

“Everything that's going on in this town, and her world revolves around a damn cat.” Audrey frowns. “People see the reality they want to see, right?”

He wishes it were that easy, for the two of them. That they could ignore who and what they are, go about their lives without a care for the bigger picture. He doesn't say any of that out loud, though, pours another glass for himself, raises it and gives a pointed glance to the one that's still sitting in front of Audrey. “Drink up.”

She looks down to the glass, up to him, and down again. Then she shrugs, picks it up to clink it to his, and empties it in one go. “I'm not here to help stray cats. Well. Unless they'll turn into people next.”

Before he's got the chance for a reply, she pushes herself up from the bar stool she was sitting on. She reaches over the bar, touches her hand to his, lets it linger just a second longer than he can stand. He's the first to pull away, watches silently as she withdraws as well and turns around to go upstairs.

 

***

 

Hours later, Audrey's sitting on her bed, reading, when she hears a knock at her door. It's long past nightfall, and she didn't expect anyone. Not like she gets a whole lot of visitors usually, but well.

She bookmarks her page, sets the book aside, throws a look towards the drawer she keeps her gun in but decides against it. “Don't get paranoid now, Parker,” she chides herself while she gets up and crosses the room to open the door.

Duke grins at her, a bit sheepishly, holding up a bottle of scotch. The same from they drank from earlier, she assumes. “I thought maybe you'd like a refill?”

Audrey glances at the clock that's inching towards midnight. She shouldn't. It's late. Then again, she doesn't think she'd sleep much anyway. She opens the door wider to let him step through, takes the bottle from him and moves to get two glasses from the kitchenette.

He follows, hands gripping the waistband of his jeans, like he's clinging to it. “Can't sleep?”

She fills both their glasses, holds one out to him. “You must've suspected as much, or you wouldn't have come up here.”

“Touché,” he says and nods towards the balcony, moves that way without waiting for her reaction. They sit down outside, close enough that their knees touch, and for a few minutes they drink in silence. They're both on their second fill when Duke inches back a little, stretches out his arms. “I think having folks like that old hag worry about nothing else other than their critters is why folks like us have to... Worry about the bigger picture?”

She raises her eyebrows at him, makes the liquid in her glass slosh around. “Woah, that's deep, Duke. How many of these did you already have downstairs?”

He glares, and then squints at his glass. “Hm. Three? Point is, you're doing your job well if she doesn't have anything more important to think about than that damn cat.”

That's not the point, really, at least not the one that's keeping her up. But he's trying, here, and she can appreciate the effort. Not enough to lie and agree with him, but enough to smile at him, drunk and loose. He smiles back, color high on his cheeks from the alcohol and the cool air.

When she leans over to press her lips to his and he kisses back after a moment's hesitation, it makes all makes sense. For now, anyway. Tomorrow might be different, she doesn't know, doesn't care too much. There are not even six weeks left for her, and Duke's right with what he told her yesterday, when he first told her. She's got to start thinking about the things she wants to do with the time she's got left. Stop stalling. Live in the moment.

She'll start doing that tonight, see where it takes her. Where it takes them.