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Forever Within My Numbered Days

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On the second story deck of a building covered in sea-weathered shake shingles, under a crystal clear night sky, in a picturesque little town on the edge of the Maine coast that sometimes felt as though it were at the edge of the world, Audrey Parker sat and slowly sipped a beer. In well-worn black yoga pants that were slightly too long and covered half her feet, and an over-sized even more well-worn grey flannel shirt, her bare feet up on the banister, Audrey took a long pull and contemplated her life.

The shirt was Nathan's, acquired after a Troubled case landed her swimming in the cold harbor the temperature of which being hardly bearable even in the summer on a brisk fall evening. Nathan had stripped off the flannel shirt and passed it to her, leaving himself in only a thin gray T-shirt. Not a terrible thing to look at, she mused, Nathan Wuornos in a nicely fitting t-shirt.

She remembered that her chilly fingers had itched to sneak up under the hem of it to warm themselves on the flesh of his stomach. Instead, she'd settled for cranking up the old blue Bronco's heat. She had meant to return the shirt to him, but never had managed to find the time. If she was being honest, she had no intention of ever returning it. It was foolish and terribly female of her, but she liked that it smelled faintly of him her partner, her best friend, the one person she could absolutely trust.

Under different circumstances, she mused as she examined the chipped purple paint on her toe nails, they could have been more than friends. God knew that they both wanted to be. But in a matter of weeks she was going to be whisked away by a force she could barely understand, not to be seen again for 27 years. When she came back, her hair and eyes and name would be different. She'd have the same face, but someone else's memories, someone else's name. And she wouldn't have aged, while everyone she had left behind would have gone on with their lives - not that she would remember them anyway.

She couldn't do that to him. They were close, more than partners by their own admissions, and her leaving would affect him, she knew, regardless of what she did. However, if she could lessen the impact, make it somehow easier for him, she was damned if she wouldn't do so. They'd been heading for something at one point, a dinner of homemade pancakes that never were eaten, stolen, hurried kisses that were never acted on because of Troubles and kidnapping, ghosts and selkies, Groundhog days and one of them getting killed twice.

The Universe had a sense of humor, that was for damned sure. First, it landed her in Haven with the memories of an FBI officer, ensuring that she would ultimately partner up with the son of the chief of police. They'd become trusted partners, friends. They'd dated other people, to varying degrees of failure. Just when it seemed like they were maybe, possibly, heading towards each other on the same path, she had been kidnapped by the Bolt Gun Killer, interrupting their first real date. Then Duke had told her about The Hunter, that she would disappear in less than two months.

In that instant, Audrey had known what she had to do. She'd begun pushing Nathan away, even as she knew he worked to find the BGK, to protect her from him. She'd ended up pushing him into the arms of another woman, a woman for whom Nathan seemed to be tailor made the man who couldn't feel anything was perfect for a woman who was essentially a human taser. Jordan McKee. A member of the mysterious Guard.

Haven was full of mysteries. Audrey had always felt the one thing she was good at was solving those mysteries. Now it was seeming that she might be the town's biggest mystery of all. Always had been. For at least three cycles of the Troubles, some version of her had been in Haven, trying to help the afflicted. Nathan and Duke had just met one incarnation Sarah Vernon, Korean War WAC, nurse, redhead, the mother of the Colorado Kid, and the woman who killed Duke's grandfather.

Sarah had been full of fire. That's how Nathan had described her. Amazing, incredible, lonely. Was it possible to be jealous of a woman who was essentially yourself? Audrey wondered. Because she did feel jealous of Sarah Vernon, the mention of whom now brought a look to Nathan's eye that Audrey only used to see when he looked at her. Audrey wished she could remember what happened that summer in 1955.

There were so many memories that she had lost. She had tried to remember them, despite the pain and the blood and the threat that remembering posed to her life. She wondered now if her dream of the man she'd known as Agent Howard telling her to stop remembering had really been a dream at all.

With a sound that was half sigh, half groan, Audrey plunked her empty beer bottle on the weathered table beside her. She leaned her head against the back of the equally weathered Adirondack chair and closed her eyes, hoping to shut out the world, shut off her brain. She should go inside and go to sleep. That would be the mature, adult thing to do, rather than sit out here half chilled and half drunk, brooding. She didn't want to open her eyes and look at the starry sky above her. A few months ago, doing so would have been a pleasure, but now, looking at the night sky only reminded her of what she had to lose, what she would lose.

She heard the telltale creak of a foot stepping on to the first step of the staircase that led up to her deck. A few months ago, she might've assumed it was Duke coming up for a nightcap, a card game, a talk. Now, as she listened to the light footfalls, she wrapped a hand around the neck of her empty beer bottle; everything was a weapon. Truer words, she mused. The footsteps got closer and her eyes popped open. She was half-way risen out of her chair, bottle hefted high when she heard him call her name.

"Audrey?" Nathan's voice preceded him up the stairs by a few seconds.

Sitting again, she returned the beer bottle - casually, she hoped - to the table. "Hi," she said quietly. She furrowed her brow. "Is everything ok?"

He stood, awkward and clearly uncomfortable, his hand scratching at the back of his neck in a gesture she knew to be nervous habit or affectation it wasn't like if he had an itch he could feel it, or feel himself scratching it. She could almost see him mentally shuffling his feet. "Yeah, I -" He looked at her set up, the two empty beer bottles on the rail, the third beside her. "You got any more of those?" he asked, nodding towards the refuse.

She jerked a thumb in the direction of her fridge, inside the apartment. "Help yourself."

He nodded in thanks and walked past her into the apartment, careful not to touch her. She sighed, squeezing her eyes shut and rapidly, quietly banging her skull against the back of the chair. She wondered what he wanted. They'd grown apart, of late, which was her doing she knew that. Earlier that day, after he and Duke had returned from their sojourn to the past and she had told him about who the Colorado Kid actually was, what she had learned on her trip while he was going around getting himself shot and killed, he'd gotten the strangest look on his face. He'd left not long after, saying he had "things" to do. He'd probably gone and saw Jordan, she thought bitterly.

Suddenly, a blanket was unceremoniously dropped from on high and covered her head. Sputtering more out of annoyance than anything else, she poked her head out and saw it was the quilt from her couch. At her puzzled look, as Nathan sat in the other chair beside her, he said "Radio said it was going to get into the 40s tonight. Thought you might need that."

Realizing that she was a bit chilly, and her feet were freezing, she wrapped herself up in the quilt she'd bought at a store in town. For a while, they sat in silence, staring out at the bay. So much has changed in a few months, Audrey thought sadly. Before her kidnapping, before she had found out about the Hunter, this would have been an enjoyable evening a couple of beers, decent weather, each other's companionship. Now, it seemed that every breath, every word not spoken, every touch not given was another stone. Another weight in her coffin, dragging her down.

Screwing up her determination, she rolled her head to one side and fixed her gaze on him. "Nathan," she said pointedly. "What's up?"

Leaning forward, elbows on his knees as he let the bottle dangle loosely from one hand, he turned to meet her gaze. She looked so fragile, so tired. A little girl bundled up in a blanket, wearing an oversized shirt and looking for the life of him like she was carrying a huge, heavy, invisible cross on her back. Sometimes he wondered how she didn't break from it, when so many would have done. She was strong, his Audrey.

What's up, Nathan?

Why had he come here? After avoiding Jordan with the excuse of paperwork, his car had driven here almost without his realizing it. He blithely wondered if someone's Trouble was acting up and cars were driving themselves, but he knew that wasn't the case. He needed her, needed to talk to her, needed to stop this bullshit dance they'd been practicing for the last few months. He'd known she was trying to push him away, and he'd let her. It was easier to be angry at her then ask the harder questions. Being angry at her made it easier to ingratiate himself with Jordan, with the Guard. Wrapping himself in the hurt had helped ease the guilt of having a relationship with Jordan. But it always came back to Audrey. Only ever Audrey. Having traveled to 1955 and seeing Sarah, being with her, he was more sure of that one single fact than ever it was always Audrey. For him and for Haven.

He took one last pull of her beer. "I miss you," he said simply, not sure that was where he'd intended to start, then conceded it was as good a place as any, when she was three beers deep and he'd just pounded one back in record time.

Her eyes flashed pain for a split second, then she arched a brow. "I haven't gone anywhere." Yet, they both thought.

"Yeah, you have, and I sorta...let you," he said, setting his empty bottle beside hers on the table. "How long did you know about the Hunter before you told me?"

"Not long." Her answer was casual, off hand, simple, her voice steady. Inside, she felt as though she was breaking in half. God Nathan, do you think I've been lying to you? But she had been. Omission was a sin as much as anything else.

"That's why you gave up the dog; that's why you started acting so differently."

She took a deep breath. She was half drunk and wanted to go to bed but he was here and she was cozy inside the blanket he'd given her and she thought fuck it, I don't have much time left. I owe him honesty. On the other hand, she was bristling for an argument, as the beers did their work, and he had become so easy to argue with. Even when they were protecting each other, trying to save each other from life and death and something worse, they had fought, sniped, bickered. A thousand little wounds that made her ache. It would have been easier to give in, to love him, but how much more pain would that ultimately bring? She had to do the hard things, the things that hurt her; it was alright if she hurt, so long as others hurt less. "Are you asking me, or telling me?"

"Dammit, Parker -"

"Nathan, what was I supposed to do? You were making all these plans, for festivals and tickets to do things and I couldn't let you -" She bit her lip. "I didn't want you to make plans...with me."

"Did you ever think about what I wanted? Even for a second?"

Yes. You wanted me. She did not say it out loud, merely set her mouth in a razor thin line.

He stood up from his chair, began pacing. "You didn't. You did your Audrey Parker thing and made a decision for us, and I'm supposed to like it? To say 'thank you?'"

"My 'Audrey Parker thing'?" she asked incredulously.

"You do this...thing. This 'I don't need anyone, I'm the Immune to the Troubles Girl' thing. It's like you think you're immune to getting hurt, or it doesn't matter if you get hurt, so long as no one else does." His voice was rising. "Which is ridiculous, because of course it matters. I never thought you were stupid, Parker, but sometimes you're a moron."

In one corner of her mind, Audrey thought to be impressed with his rampage, the pacing and the force of his words. It would have been more impressive if it wasn't directed at her. The rest of her mind, through the filmy haze of three beers and an increasing level of exhaustion, registered mostly that he was yelling at her for trying to do right by him. She would have stood up, but thought she might wobble. At the risk of her dignity, she stayed seated but fixed him with a steely gaze.

"You are pushing your luck, Nathan Wournos," she warned, her voice dark.

"Really? Maybe it's time you got pushed. Maybe it's time I stop letting you try to ruin things because you're scared." He all but spat the word at her, his words shredding her self control, her will to see it through.

"You think I'm not?" He stopped pacing in front of her, his eyes haunted. "Jesus Audrey, why else would I join the Guard? I broke the law." He looked like a caged animal, restless and feral as he resumed pacing. No, not pacing; stalking. "I'd do it again. I am going to keep doing it." His blue eyes locked with hers and she felt trapped. "I'd do anything, except let you ruin us."

"I'm not trying to ruin anything! I'm trying -" Her voice almost broke but she bit down on it. Her own ravaged eyes met his. "Nathan, I'm trying."

"I know, baby," he crouched, reached out to smooth her hair, saw her eyes were slightly glazed from the alcohol. He couldn't decide if her being half drunk made her more amenable or more obstinate. He knew what it felt like to want to hide from pain. He also knew what the absence of feeling any pain could do to a person. "Why can't we try together?" His fingers stroked her hair and he marveled at the feel of it, all silk and velvet moonlight.

She closed her eyes, and giving in to what she wanted, nuzzled his palm. He felt her warm breath on the skin of his hand, as her lips brushed a hairs breadth above it.

His voice was soft and gentle. It was a tone he used only with her. Even with victims, he spoke with a certain degree of detachment. Without opening her eyes, breathing him in, the scent of him, she said "I didn't want to hurt you."

He chuckled, somewhat bitterly. "You've been doing a great job."

"Yeah." She let out a shaky breath and opened her eyes. Reaching up, she took his hand from her cheek, but held it. Looking at him, his shadowed eyes, his mussed hair, smelling how he smelled faintly of beer but mostly just of what she associated as Nathan, Audrey held open her blanket. At his confused look she said, "40 degrees, remember? It's cold."

Knowing a gesture and an apology when they were presented to him on a silver platter, he smiled. It took a little maneuvering, but they managed to squeeze themselves into her chair, with Audrey curled in his lap while Nathan tucked the blanket around them around her, mostly. She felt so light, leaning against him. She'd lost weight, he knew. She rested her head on his shoulder and he threaded his fingers through her hair, lightly scratching her scalp. He swore she nearly started purring.

"What do you remember about Sarah?" he asked softly.

"Nothing," she replied. "I've gotten flashes of Lucy, but nothing of Sarah." Her hand rested on his chest, playing idly with the ring he wore on a chain around his neck. He'd told her how they'd been his father's. She'd wondered where Garland had gotten in, as it was so much like the one that Vince had given her, the one that had been Sarah's.

He frowned, "How much of Lucy do you remember?" Hearing her mention Lucy made him realize how much distance had grown up between them. He thought back to Halloween, the Holloway house, how ill she had looked. How he had chosen Jordan over her. The guilt of the memory shamed in, made him press his lips against the crown on her head in what he could only describe as supplication.

"I remember finding the Colorado Kid. I remembered being in the Holloway House with him. With..." She trailed off.

"With your son," he finished. He was still working that one over in his mind, for a number of reasons. "It hurts to remember, doesn't it?" He felt her pull back slightly to look at him. "Claire told me," he confessed. "I think she was doing it as a friend thing, not breaking doctor-patient privilege."

Audrey sighed. "First it was just headaches, a few nosebleeds. Then the flashbacks made me start to lose consciousness. Claire's concerned about seizures, brain bleeding."

So much he hadn't known, hadn't asked. The hard questions, he thought. The hard truths. "Do you want me to tell you what I know about Sarah?"

His fingers kept scratching her scalp lightly, and Audrey found herself thinking that having her head and hair stroked by Nathan Wuornos was better than truth serum if she were a cat, she was sure she'd be purring. Had Sarah felt this way? Don't feel jealous, she ordered herself. "Is there more you didn't tell me after you got back?"

She felt him stiffen, only for a second, and the rhythm of his hand in her hair faltered, skipped a beat. Something there, she thought.

He took a breath. "She was...strong, like you. Bossy." He smiled. "It seems some traits recur from personality to personality." Audrey slapped him lightly and he chuckled. "She liked to beat me up, too. When she caught me in Mosley's room, she dragged me out by my ear."

Audrey laughed lightly, and he thought it sounded like music. "Seriously?" she asked. She began drawing lazy patterns on his chest. "Could you feel was it? I mean, was she...?"

"She was you, Audrey. She came to Haven having been through a war, so she was carrying that with her, but...yeah, I could feel her." He paused, mentally biting his own lip. "I kissed her. Twice." He winced. "Three times."

The patterns she was drawing on his chest stopped and she went very still. When she didn't say anything, he rushed to continue. "Technically, we kissed each other, then I kissed her, then she kissed me." He frowned, thinking. "It was like before you went and saw the real Lucy Ripley, where you walked away from me, then came back and just...laid one on me." He said it to get a smile out of her, but she gave no response.

Three kisses, she thought. Oh yeah, you could definitely be jealous of yourself. "What happened?" she asked.

"We took a picnic, down on the beach," he said. "The beach where my dad...where he..." Nathan trailed off. "We had some sandwiches, some beer. I was explaining the Troubles to her." He squeezed her more tightly to him. "She told me that I was her first friend."

"At least you're consistent," she murmured, and the patterns on his chest resumed.

He sighed in relief, realizing he'd already grown accustomed to the feeling of it. This is why she was pushing me away, he thought. If they couldn't stop this, there wouldn't be any more cuddles under a blanket on a cold starry night. There won't be any more anything.

"What else did she tell you?" Audrey asked.

"We talked about her memories of the Korean War, about Moseley's story." He paused. "We talked about us - her and I, I mean. There was a connection. We both felt it. Or, I felt it the second I saw her and she felt it as soon as she was done being angry with me." He slanted her a glance. "Sound familiar?"

She looked up at him and gave him a deadpan look. "Anything else?"

"Yeah," he said thoughtfully. "We sat on the beach, drinking beers, looking out at the water, and she told me 'we have time.'" He smiled at the memory. "Just like that. 'We have time.'"

"'We have time,'" Audrey repeated in a detached voice. "We have time." She started feeling dizzy, painfully dizzy, and her head felt like an ice pick had been jabbed through it. "Wehavetime..." The words ran together as the darkness closed in around her. From far away, she heard Nathan calling her name. He might have shaken her. She tried talking to him, but he was too far away. She couldn't move, couldn't see. "We..."

And then the blackness took her.