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Catastrophe

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In retrospect, Audrey realized she should have known something was up the first time Nathan high-fived her. Or at least by the time he was brushing his hand against hers every so often when they were walking together.

In her defense, he couldn't feel anything. How was she supposed to know he was going it on purpose?

###

"Hand me the salt?" Nathan asked as they sat eating dinner the Gull, even though the salt was closer to him. He nearly dropped it when she handed it to him, her fingers sliding along his for a second.

"Watch it, clumsy," she said, and his lips quirked up a little. "So what do you think? Jealous husband? Or the kid?"

Nathan was still looking at her with that funny little almost-smile on his face. She was starting to wonder if she'd spilled sauce down her shirt or something when he said, "Neither. I bet it was the dog."

"The dog?" she asked, because that was a new one. "Can animals even be Afflicted?"

"Don't think so," he admitted. "But he'd taught that dog to open doors and carry his knife when he was out hunting."

"So, what? You think he just fell on the knife six times while the dog was carrying it?" She laughed. "That's a little weird, even for Haven."

"Everyone else has alibis," Nathan pointed out.

She swiped a fry off his plate, ignoring his glare. He never meant it. "People lie."

"You're right," Nathan said, reaching for her fries and looking... weirdly pleased when she smacked his hand away. "I lie about going to my mother's funeral all the time."

Audrey shrugged. "It's a good way of getting out of finals in college."

Really, who hadn't done that before?

###

"Come on, Parker," Nathan said, holding up a hand. "Don't be a sore loser. You owe me a high five."

"Since when have you ever wanted a high five for guessing who did it right?" she asked, scowling at him and only meaning it a little bit. "Besides, a cow isn't the same thing as a dog."

"Not the same like the time you decided you won because dying from acute sudden onset anemia is the same as dying from a vampire?" he asked, still holding his hand up in the air like an idiot.

She slapped it, maybe a bit harder than necessary, muttering, "Who even owns a one-horned cow?"

"Technically," Nathan said, his hand clenching and unclenching by his side, grinning smugly because he'd won, "it was a bull."

She punched his arm (a bit harder than necessary, but it wasn't like he could feel it). "Dinner?"

"You're buying." He was still had a ridiculous grin on his face, and she found herself smiling in response.

"No way, that's my consolation prize."

"You don't get consolation prizes in the real world," he told her.

"Then you don't get someone to eat dinner with," she said. "You can call one of your many other friends." She knew she had won when he shook his head (still smiling) and started toward the truck.

###

"Stop that," Audrey snapped, snatching the plastic fork out of Nathan's hand. "I swear, Nathan Wuornos, if I have to watch you poking yourself for one more day..." She let the threat trail off.

"It's not like I can feel it," he said.

She sighed and grabbed his hand, hanging on tighter when he tried to jerk it back. "It makes my skin crawl."

"So sorry to discomfort you," he said. He was cranky today, and not even her hilarious story about the time she caught a serial rapist by trapping him up a tree had cheered him up.

"At least," she said, absently digging her thumb into the base of his and rubbing in circles, "when your hand falls off, we'll know why."

His hand had relaxed as she worked on it, his fingers curling loosely like the dead spider she'd found on her windowsill that morning. She wondered absently if that was what hands did when they were cut off, just curled up and died like a spider.

"It's not going to fall off," he said, not looking quite so grumpy anymore.

"That's just what it wants you to think," she said, letting go and going back over to her desk. The next time she looked up, Nathan was rubbing his hand and smiling.

###

Audrey was quickly coming to realize just why everyone in Haven hated fall tourists so much. She sat on a bench on the town common, drinking her coffee and making bets with herself on how long it would take Nathan to get to the common from Rosemary's. So far, she owed herself three hundred dollars, and the next five minutes weren't looking too good either.

A coffee appeared in front of her face a hundred and fifty dollars later and she cradled it in her hands, breathing in the steam gratefully. Nathan sat next to her, leaning back and sipping is own cup.

"Have you considered," he said after a couple minutes, "I don't know, moving out of the B&B?"

"That would be letting them win," she said morosely. Who knew that tourists could be so god damn loud all night?

"Yeah, getting set on fire by an Afflicted because you're sleep deprived is so much better." He hooked his elbows over the back of the bench, one hand dangling and just brushing the back of her neck.

She shivered, and Nathan chose that moment to move his hand. "Besides, where would I go? It's not like Haven's rental market is booming."

"You could move to a neighboring town," he pointed out before taking a long drink of coffee.

"You know that's hot, right?" she asked, shaking her head when he quirked and eyebrow at her. "I wouldn't want to miss the excitement of living here, you know?"

"Missing getting kidnapped on a sinking ship would be awful," he said. After a long moment of staring across the park, he added, "You could stay with me until you find a place."

She snorted. "Yeah, moving my mess into your tiny house? One of us would go crazy, and I don't think it'd be you."

Nathan frowned at a group of kids roughhousing by a fountain a couple yards away. He leaned forward to see them better, bracing his arms on his knees. "You really think you could outlast me? I lived with the Chief for eighteen years."

That might give him an edge, she had to admit. "Let's not try it."

He made a noise that sounded like he agreed, which was good because if he kept pressing it, she just might take him up on it. And that, that would not be a good thing.

***

"Nathan, don't you think you're being just a little melodramatic?" the Chief said.

"Melodra-" Nathan sputtered before Audrey grabbed his hand and dragged him out the door.

"You would think," he groused as she kept pulling him down the street until they were well away from the station, "that after all these Troubles we've dealt with, he would believe me when I say something's wrong."

Audrey nodded, and didn't tell him that maybe he was overreacting to the sudden prevalence of little old ladies taking their cats for walks and holding conversations with them in the middle of the sidewalk. She was pretty sure that was just what little old ladies did.

Once she judged them to be far enough away from the station that Nathan wouldn't get the urge to go back and cause trouble, she dropped his hand. He was still going and didn't seem to notice.

"I guess taking his son down a peg is more important than taking care of the Troubles," he was saying. The back of his hand brushed against hers every so often while he talked. "If I told him the station was on fire-"

"What if," Audrey said, interrupting him and turning the conversation to more interesting things. His hand brushed against hers again, and she shivered a little, "the cats are the ones who're Troubled. What if they're controlling the humans?"

"That would be a real catastrophe," he said, starting to smile a little.

She groaned, but didn't say anything. She could let him have that one.

***

As bare as the rest of the house was, Audrey had to admit that Nathan had a really comfy couch. It was the perfect height for her to lean on while she was standing behind it and reading a report over Nathan's shoulder.

The current one was something that the Chief had dug up for them, saying it might be related to their current issue with transformers blowing. It did seem similar enough that they would probably need to go talk to the family as their next step.

She didn't realize she had been tapping her fingers on Nathan's shoulder while she read until he shrugged and muttered, "Stop that, it's distracting."

It took her another few seconds to realize what that meant, coming from Nathan. "You can feel that," she finally said, going around the couch so she could sit next to him.

He nodded, not looking at her, but not reading anymore, either.

"Since when?" she asked, because that was important. "Oh, by the way, I can feel things again," was the sort of thing you were supposed to tell your only friend.

"For a while," he said, his face a mixture of apprehension and happiness when he turned to look at her. "Since a little after Jess left. But-" he swallowed "it's just you."

She almost pointed out that she should have known a long time ago in that case, but the look on Nathan's face stopped her. Instead, she picked up his hand, lacing her fingers through his and squeezing.

"So you can feel that?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, and she could hear his throat click when he swallowed.

"This?" She touched his cheek with her other hand and he leaned into it a little, licking his lips and nodding.

When she started to pull her hand away, he caught it with his free hand and kissed her palm. So she grinned and leaned forward, and said, "How about this?" before kissing him.

Oh yeah, he could definitely feel that.

THE END