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Pick Up a Phone, God Damnit

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Audrey could always tell when Duke walked into the station from the way Nathan would look up and then sigh like his life was just too hard to bear. It always made her laugh a little because Duke was inevitably there to see her, not Nathan. She liked to think that it was just that Nathan couldn't stand to be out of her presence for any extended period of time. She was pretty sure she could hear him sighing all the way through the closed door of his office.

"Officer Parker," Duke said, sitting down in the chair by her desk and smiling his most ingratiating smile at her. "I was wondering if you could help me with some parking tickets."

"Again, Duke?" she asked, taking them out of his hand and flipping through them. "You know, if you just stopped parking illegally, you wouldn't be getting these so often."

"I think you'll find," he said, pointing to the Officer line on the ticket, his hand brushing hers as he did so, "that most of them are from a certain Chief of Police we both know and... do not hate, most days."

"I'll talk to him again," she said, patting the back of his hand comfortingly and getting up to take them to Nathan. "Just stop parking illegally."

"It's like you're not even listening to a word I'm saying," Duke said mournfully behind her, staying in the seat. Really, they should just put his name on it, given how often he was there taking up space.

"Only when I know you're lying," she tossed back at him before knocking on the door to Nathan's office and going in, not giving Nathan a chance to claim that he was busy. He was never too busy for her, as far as she was concerned. She shut the door behind her so Duke couldn't listen in. If Nathan was doing something important, he could take a break for a few minutes to talk about their favorite subject.

"Duke's here again," she said, coming up behind him and putting a hand on his shoulder so she could lean down and see what he was doing. "Really? Cat videos?"

"We all let off some steam in different ways, Parker," Nathan said, turning a little to scowl at the door like Duke would be able to see it through the wood. "What's Duke doing here?"

"If you don't want him here, you should stop giving him tickets," she said, waving the tickets in his face. "It's a cry for attention. People will say you're in love."

"Please don't quote serial killers at me," he said, sighing like she quoted serial killers at him all the time, which was clearly lies. Dirty lies.

"It's a showtune," she said, because it was.

"You've never heard a showtune in your life," Nathan shot back, ruining the comeback with a goofy smile up at her. "I'm only in love with one person, and it's not Duke."

"Stop that," she said, bending down to kiss him sweetly anyway. "If you want me to believe you don't want to get in Duke's pants, then stop flirting with him so terribly. The goal is to make the person interested in you back, remember?"

Nathan scowled at her, pushing away from the desk and crossing his arms. "You may call it flirting, Parker, but I call it upholding the law."

"Are you going to arrest him for jaywaking next?" she asked, just to see him get riled up, knowing he wouldn't be able to resist rising to the bait.

"Oh no," he said, scowling even harder. "That's your jurisdiction."

"Oh my god," she said, leaning down and putting a hand on each arm of his chair, boxing him in. "You've arrested him for jaywalking before."

"No," he said.

"You have!" she said, grinning at him. "Anyway, that's not fair. If you weren't being a weenie, I wouldn't've had to arrest the guy."

"I was keeping you from getting fired," he ground out.

Duke, ever the master of ambivalent timing, chose that moment to open the door and walk in, even though -- or purely because -- he knew that Nathan hated it when he did that.

"What are you guys talking about?" he asked, hanging back by the door. Audrey turned to look at him in time to catch him checking out her ass and raised an eyebrow at him. He at least had the good grace to color slightly at that.

"Nathan's cry for attention," she said, shaking the handful of parking tickets at him as Nathan said, "Audrey's suicidal desire to get arrested."

"...Walking away now," Duke said, turning to leave and stopping with one hand on the doorframe. "Be careful," he warned. "The last time I had a fight with Nathan I got three hundred dollars worth of tickets the next week. Mysteriously."

"That wasn't me," Nathan said immediately. "And if it was, that had nothing to do with it."

"Half of them were on my boat," Duke said, clearly still scandalized by Nathan's audacity. If anybody else laid a hand on his boat, they would lose that hand. Nathan was lucky he had gotten away with just some mildly irritating station visits from an enraged Duke.

"It wasn't me," Nathan said smugly, while Audrey rolled her eyes because of course it was. "I was on a case. Traffic beat isn't my job, anyway."

"Lies," Duke said, finally turning to come back into the room. Audrey moved away from Nathan's chair, giving him room to roll back to the desk and pretend to be trying to work again. "Everything you just said was a lie."

"Untrue," Nathan said calmly, moving papers around.

"Admit you gave me a parking ticket for my boat," Duke said, planting his hands down on the papers Nathan was trying to move. Audrey had to stifle a laugh at that. "I'm pretty sure it's not even legal for you to ticket a boat and you did it anyway. What do you have to say about that?"

"It was parked badly," Nathan said mildly. "You were parked in a loading zone."

Duke sputtered and Audrey let a laugh escape her. He waved his arms in anger, and yelled, "The entire dock is not a loading zone, Nathan!" Nathan, unfazed, tried to rescue the papers that went fluttering to the ground

"Does loading happen on it?" he asked, looking for all the world like he was being perfectly reasonable. Audrey let her hand fall on his shoulder and squeezed, trying to communicate how hilarious she found the whole situation.

"Audrey," Duke said, turning to her and begging, "Reason with him. I still have those tickets--they're probably in the batch I gave you."

"Well," she said, drawing out the word. "Technically... I don't know, his reasoning is pretty convincing."

"I hate you both," Duke said, and turned and walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

Audrey dissolved into laughter and hopped up to sit on the edge of Nathan's desk, the side of his arm pressing into her thigh. She laced her fingers through his while she read the top few tickets.

"Nathan," she said, holding out one. "This is for parking in front of a lamp post."

He shrugged at her, but had the decency to look slightly bashful about it.

"Admit it," she said. "Admit that this is just painfully bad flirting and you like having him here."

"Never," he said, looking down at the desk, his eyes flicking toward the door.

"Admit it," she said, "or I swear I will become the girlfriend who withholds sex, and neither of us wants that."

"That's a terrible threat," he said, his thumb idly rubbing across the back of her hand. "You wouldn't last a day."

"I might," she said, even though he was right, she wouldn't. All he had to do was look at her like she was his world, and she was ready to jump him no matter where they were.

"You wouldn't," he said, and, after a long pause, added quietly, "It might be. Is that... is that okay?"

"Well, he's never going to want to date us if you keep giving him fraudulent parking tickets, I can tell you that," she said, grinning at him.

He slowly smiled back.

###

"What is this?" Duke asked, storming into Audrey's apartment just as she and Nathan were sitting down to a nice spaghetti dinner.

"Looks like a parking ticket," Nathan said. He took a long pull from his beer afterward and hooked his ankle around Audrey's under the table, drawing her foot toward him. She could feel his tension seeping into her and she crossly ordered her body to knock it off. This was Duke. Of course he wasn't going to say no.

"You could have just asked," Duke said, grabbing a third chair and sitting down with them at the third place setting. "Can no one in this town do anything normally?"

"Nope," Audrey said. "And you love it."

"Maybe," Duke muttered, folding up the parking ticket that had "not dating me and Nathan" written in the violation section and shoving it into his pocket.

Audrey reached across the table to cover his hand with hers. "You totally do," she said smugly.

THE END