Nathan doesn’t know how to put it into words. He’s never been good with words. Never been good at asking for what he wants.
“I want to touch you,” he says finally, and he can hear his own voice crack on the word touch.
Next to him, Audrey laughs.
“Nathan,” she says. “I dunno how to break it to you. You touch him all the time.”
Duke only grins. “Sure,” he says, easy as anything. “We can do that.”
In the low, yellow light of Audrey’s apartment, his pupils are huge. Nathan shudders.
“C’mon,” Audrey says. “I want to see you both.”
This Nathan knows. He likes to undress Audrey himself, can never keep his hands off of her. He’s maybe more of a hindrance than helpful, tugging her t-shirt over her head, fumbling with her belt buckle, fingertips numb and knuckles burning with heat where they brush the smooth skin of her belly.
“Don’t worry,” Audrey says, laughing but not quite at him this time, with something like delight. “We’ve got time.” She unhooks her bra behind her, letting it dangle from her crooked finger with a smirk before dropping it on the floor, slides out of her panties, Nathan’s hands trailing down her hips.
Nathan has seen Audrey naked before, but he hasn’t gotten tired of it yet. He knows every inch of her, from the scar on the bottom of her foot and her severed pinky toe, to the scar on the side of her right knee she still doesn’t remember getting, to the tiny mole below her left hipbone, to the roots of her hair.
After Mara, he wonders how much Duke knows.
Audrey’s hands are back on him and he likes that, too, her small hands pulling open his shirt and dragging it off his shoulders, shucking his jeans in one long, unhurried motion. Nathan is already hard by the time she gets him completely undressed.
Duke makes an appreciative noise at the sight of the two of them, his gaze raking over Audrey, down Nathan. His tongue runs along the inside of his lower lip, slowly, like a Duke-sized animal watching its meal. He reaches for the buttons on his own shirt and Nathan can see the instant his fingers stutter, hesitating. He frowns. Duke has never been self-conscious, not around them, not about his own body.
“You okay?” Audrey asks, quietly, her hands still on Nathan’s waist, little patches of sensation.
Duke jerks his head, fumbles for the buttons. “Fine. Just spacing out, sorry.” He gives them both a lopsided smile, eyes darting back down. Nathan swallows hard.
Sometimes, Duke lies to be kind. He kind of hates it.
When he peels the edges of his shirt away, not looking at either of them, and Nathan sees the dark handprints still stained on his chest, he gets it. He sheds his jeans without looking up, kicking out of the denim.
“Where do you want me?” Duke asks, lightly.
“Oh, everywhere, I would think,” Audrey says. “But since I do have a perfectly good bed, let’s start there.”
Nathan is going to ask him again if it’s all right, if he wants to keep going, prints that would match perfectly against Audrey’s hands tattooed on his skin, but Duke shakes it off like a dog shaking water, a physical jerk of his head. Not a no. Nathan doesn’t know the feel of Duke’s body but he still knows how to read it. He gets better at it, he thinks, every day.
Audrey doesn’t wait. She grabs both of them by the wrists, tugging them towards her bed. Duke tumbles onto the blankets without any elegance, rolling into the rumpled fabric like a cat.
“You got nice digs, Audrey,” he says, voice muffled in her sheets. “I’ve definitely slept in worse places.”
Nathan snorts. “I don’t doubt that.”
Nathan can’t remember the last time he and Duke spent the night in the same room, but he still remembers how Duke sleeps: on his stomach, face tucked into the crook of one arm, his other hand tucked under the pillow. He probably keeps a gun under there.
He watches the languid twist of Duke’s body as he sits up to face them, heels kicking the mattress. Waiting.
Audrey eels around him, pulling Nathan to the mattress behind her. She wiggles backwards until her back hits her headboard. She drags Nathan with her, fingertips hot points of pressure on his sides, and Nathan lets her manhandle him, until he’s sitting flush in the crook between her spread legs. Her breasts press against his back, hands tight enough to bruise, as she dips her head to press a kiss in the slope of his shoulder.
He can feel the quirk of her smile against his skin. “Relax,” she says, digging a thumb into the knot of stress he carries in his neck. “We got you.”
“Well in hand,” Duke adds, grinning, and there’s an edge of teeth against his shoulder bone as Audrey laughs. Duke crawls across the crumpled sheets towards them. His hands drag along Nathan’s legs, fitted over shins and kneecaps and then thighs, and Nathan can see the motion, but feels nothing. His back is sticking to Audrey’s skin, he can feel every one of her fingers, her tongue, but the rest of him floats - air, sheets, Duke’s hands.
He tries to think back when they were teenagers, in that brief period between hating each other and getting the hell out of Haven, what Duke had felt like. If he had run hot like a furnace or if his feet got ice-cold at night or if his hands had already been roughened from working odd-jobs on the dockside. He’s not sure he remembers.
“How you doing?” Duke asks. Behind him, Audrey slides her hand down between the sweat-slicked press of their bodies against one another, fingers slipping between her legs.
“I’m good,” Nathan says, hands fisting in the sheets as Audrey’s knuckles dig into his back, touching herself.
“Good,” Duke says, almost purring. Nathan can smell him, the sea-salt bite of sweat, and the spice of his aftershave, the layers of whisky and lime juice on his breath.
“Are we-” he says, panting. “Should we establish some ground rules, here?”
“Whatever you want,” Duke murmurs. “You know me. I’m up for anything.”
“I know,” Nathan says. Duke laughs.
“Yeah, well, if you get too wild my safeword’s ‘pina colada’,” Duke says carelessly, running his thumb down Nathan’s side.
“Maybe you should’ve tried that one on Mara,” Nathan says.
Duke goes still.
Behind him, he hears Audrey suck in a sharp breath. There’s a second where the hurt is so obvious on Duke’s face that Nathan registers it like a physical blow. Nathan watches as he squeezes his eyes shut, heels of his hands deadened on Nathan’s thighs, and his expression shutters closed.
“Fuck,” Audrey says.
The roar of the surf is loud in the quiet of Audrey’s apartment. Duke’s breath is heavy. It takes Nathan a moment to realize he’s breathing in time with the tide, exhaling when the waves roll in, inhaling when they pull back. He wonders, not with bitterness but with something like sorrow, how long it will have to be like this. How long Duke will be an open wound, left unbandaged to air out, tender to Nathan’s touch.
“I’m sorry,” Nathan says quietly. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Duke’s eyes are still closed. His hair is long enough to fall into his face now, leaning forward over Nathan’s lap. Black handprints stark on his skin. He thinks maybe Duke’s lost weight. He looks skinny, and tired. This is probably another tally mark in a long line of late nights of coffee instead of dinner, but Nathan doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do about that. He doesn’t think he has it in him to preach to Duke about healthy living.
Nathan listens to the sea-roar. Matches it to Duke’s breaths.
“You told him,” Duke says flatly, without looking at Audrey.
“Of course I did,” Audrey says, voice soft.
Duke sighs. He glances at Nathan slantwise, eyes bright in the yellow light.
“I don’t know how to apologize to you,” he says, and Nathan knows he’s not talking about their stupid fight tonight. He’s talking about all of it - the troubles, everything. “And I don’t know how to forgive you, either. I’m just so mad, Nate,” and for a second he sounds so young, like he’s sixteen and kicking Nathan’s locker, all tangled hair and curled fists.
“I know,” Nathan says. “I’m sorry for that, too, I think.”
Duke keeps still, an obvious tell. Normally, he’s better at hiding stuff like that, Nathan knows, and Audrey isn’t touching him in the right places to feel his own ache at that. He’s staring over Nathan’s shoulder. Audrey is so steady behind him she must be staring back.
“I’m Audrey Parker,” she says softly. “Not Mara. When Charlotte reassembled us, I called myself Audrey. I named myself.”
There’s a long moment where Duke just watches her, and Nathan is good at reading the visuals of bodies, can see the tension in every one of Duke’s muscles, like an animal ready to run.
“Names are important,” Duke finally says, voice a rasp, and Nathan realizes they’ve had this conversation before, that Duke is quoting an old line. He wonders how many times they’ve done this, how many times Audrey has proven to him who she is.
“Yeah,” Audrey breathes. “Names are important. So are actions. So is what I do.”
Duke’s eyes flutter closes. And then he laughs, breaking the moment.
“Only one of us is allowed to get all philosophical at a time,” he mutters. “And I thought I picked that racket. ‘Names are important.’ I’ve seen you try to parallel, Parker, and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.”
“Bite me, Crocker,” Audrey says, laughing with him.
“Okay,” Duke says, breathing out. “I’m okay. Are you…”
He trails off, studying Nathan.
“You want to keep going?”
There are very, very few things Nathan wants more. He nods.
Duke smiles. “God, I love you,” he says, and before Nathan can respond he reaches up with one hand, and Nathan can’t feel where he’s touching but leans in, anyways. “Can I kiss you?”
Audrey’s back arches, breasts pressing against him, knuckles raking over his spine, free hand slipping up to fold around his throat.
“Yeah,” Nathan says, hoarse.
Duke does. He leans in, bracing himself on both of Nathan’s thighs, and Nathan doesn’t close his eyes, watches as Duke’s face fills his line of vision. He tastes like whisky and lime, too. Audrey’s hand tightens on his throat, just enough for Nathan to feel the cut of it.
Audrey’s other hand is wet when she reaches around him to tangle her fingers in Duke’s hair, and the sensation hits him like a house collapsing.
Duke is all tongue, and teeth, hands tight on Nathan’s hips, and Nathan can feel it, the sweat of his palms, the bite of his fingernails. His tongue slides under Nathan’s tongue, ruthlessly, and Audrey’s hand curls even tighter around his throat and Nathan fucking whimpers.
Duke pulls back, and the loss of warmth and wetness nearly makes Nathan whine again.
“Still doing good there, buddy?” Duke asks.
“I felt that,” Nathan says.
Duke’s eyes go wide.
“Wait,” he says. “Seriously? You mean - “
Nathan jerks his head in a nod. “When you - and Audrey - when we were all touching, I could feel you.”
“Holy fuck,” Duke says.
Which, Nathan thinks, head swimming, about sums it up.
“Like this?” Audrey says, and her hand tightens in Duke’s hair. Duke smiles.
“Like my birthday’s come early,” he says, and leans back forward, tongues down Nathan’s throat, around Audrey’s fingers. His hands squeeze Nathan’s hips and Nathan thrusts forward, overwhelmed.
“I don’t-” Nathan starts, teeth catching on his tongue when Duke slides his own tongue down the center of his chest, tracing his breastbone. Under Duke’s mouth, he can almost feel his own heart kick up. “I don’t understand how this is working.”
“You know Audrey,” Duke quirks an eyebrow up at him, eyes copper-bright under his lashes. Nathan swallows a moan. “She’s got the magic touch.”
“Is this,” Nathan pants. “You didn’t - this isn’t aether, is it?”
Duke slows down. His hand tightens on him, and then very slowly relaxes. Careful, Nathan thinks, not to bruise, but Nathan can feel the tension in his grip.
“No,” Audrey murmurs into his throat. She slides her hand back down, slips under his arm to press flatly against his chest. “No aether. I’m not gonna touch the stuff. I promised, remember?”
Nathan nods. Under Audrey’s hands, he can feel his own sides heaving.
“Thank Christ,” Duke mutters into his skin. “Let’s keep that out of the fucking bed, shall we?”
Aether, Audrey’s touch, whatever it is. Charlotte always calls it science, and Duke makes cracks about sufficiently advanced societies. It’s a kind of magic, as Nathan understands it. Wishing, Nathan thinks, a little dazedly, is a kind of magic too.
And wishing in Haven always has consequences.
“Should we be worried about this?”
Audrey taps against him, considering. She keeps her other hand on Duke, and Duke burns against him. “You know what? I think we’ve earned a night where we don’t have to worry.”
Nathan shakes his head, a little. That’s not how it works, he knows that. In Haven, you don’t get what you deserve.
“Let’s just take it,” Duke agrees. “For once in our miserable fucking lives, Nathan, let’s just take what they’re giving us.”
His hands are warm. Nathan wants to put his own hands all over him.
“Okay,” Nathan says, finally. “It’s ours. Let’s take it.”
Audrey smiles into his throat. Duke slips his hands down, and down, and Nathan clenches his teeth on a moan.
“Yeah,” Audrey says in his ear, fingers sliding up his face, tightening in Duke’s hair, “Just like that.”
Duke swipes his tongue over Nathan’s teeth. Nathan wants to lay his hands out over him, cover every one of Mara’s marks with his own.
So he does. He reaches out, pressing his hand flatly to Duke’s chest, and marvels at the uptick of Duke’s heartbeat, the hitch in his breath. Duke’s skin is warm and smooth and god, Nathan wants to find out what every single inch of him feels like.
“Can I touch you?” Duke says into his mouth. “I mean-”
His hand wanders down, touches Nathan lightly between his legs.
“God yes,” Nathan says, and Duke grins against his lips. Nathan can feel him, hard against him.
“You know I’ve thought of this before,” Duke says conversationally. He fists a hand down him in a practiced motion. Nathan’s cock is already dripping and Duke spreads it down the length of him, starts up an easy, firm stroke, his hand slinging up and down, slicking him up. His own hand grips at him, too tight, Nathan can feel it now how he always holds too tight, and Duke doesn’t flinch. “How I’d get you off without you even feeling me. A little dirty talk, easy, because you are fucking big Nathan, just look at you.”
He flicks his wrist and Nathan bares his teeth.
“And I’d make it filthy,” Duke continues, and follows the jerk of his hand with his mouth, licking straight down his dick, hand still wrapped around the base of him. He smiles up at Nathan. Nathan’s hand skitters over him, his shoulder, his back, the back of his neck, whatever he can get. Elbow knocking Audrey’s arm. She holds firm, wrapped around him. A solid wall of heat. “I’d tell you about all the things I wanted to do to you. How I wanted to bend you over and fuck you over the edge of the couch and see how quick it takes you to come just from that. How I wanted you to fuck me in a pair of your handcuffs. How I’m going to get on my knees after this and eat Audrey out so you can watch. Well, that one’s maybe a promise.”
Nathan nearly comes right then and there, biting back a shout. Duke laughs, not unkindly.
“But you’re so easy now, Nathan,” he says, dragging his thumb along the slit of Nathan’s cock. “This is gonna be real easy,” he says, and takes Nathan into his mouth, swallows him all the way down.
Audrey slides down her other hand, stroking her fingers down Duke’s face, tracing his lips, down Nathan’s cock. She cups him in her hand, teasing, and Nathan gulps in air. Duke keeps at it, cheeks hollowed out.
He’s dimly aware of Audrey’s hand squeezing right above his balls, keeping him from coming, too many sensations in too many places at once.
“If you do that again I’m gonna- “ he breaks off, spine arching, as Duke does something with his tongue that leaves every muscle in him seizing.
Dimly, he hears Audrey chuckle, “Well, we wouldn’t want that.” Duke pulls away from him with a wet, obscene noise, Audrey’s fist still clenched in his hair, and Nathan whines, the sound startling out of him. His hips jerk forward uselessly, trying to find some friction.
“Is it too much?” Duke asks. His lips are slick.
“Nggh,” Nathan says. His hips buck upward involuntarily, heels digging into the sheets like he’s trying to find leverage, scrabbling up a landslide. Duke’s palms lay flat above his hipbones, holding him steady, not holding him down. He looks down on him consideringly, head tilted. Nathan pants.
“Gonna need some kind of verbal response here, Nate-”
“No,” Nathan chokes out. “Jesus Christ, do not stop-”
Duke chuckles lowly. “Okay, big guy, don’t worry, we gotcha.”
“We got you,” Audrey echoes, arching up against him. “We got you, Nathan.”
Duke lowers his head back down, sucking Nathan into his mouth. Nathan groans.
Audrey leans forward, shifting her grip on Duke, on Nathan, whispering in Nathan’s ear, “Yes, good, god, you’re beautiful, I love you-”
Nathan reaches out with one hand, threading his fingers through Audrey’s in Duke’s hair, hand over hand.
“Duke’s right,” she continues. “It’s easy, you’re so easy, Nathan, what do you want? You want to come in his mouth? You think he’d swallow? I think so.”
Duke’s tongue rolls around him. Nathan keens.
“Or you wanna cum on his face,” Audrey says, voice dropping. “He’d let you, you know. Whatever you want, Nathan, it’s easy, he’s easy, what -”
Nathan comes with a shout.
Duke swallows him down.
He squeezes his eyes shut and all he can do is feel, Audrey’s hands, Audrey’s legs, Duke’s mouth, Duke’s hands, the two of them pressed against him, holding him close. Holding him together.
He sags against Audrey, boneless. She keeps him propped up in the angle of her arms and spread legs, takes his weight.
Duke pulls off of him, gasping, grinning, and Nathan reaches for him, hands fluttering uselessly against his face, his chest, Mara’s marks. Duke wipes the back of his mouth and reaches up, slides his fingers under Audrey’s, pulling her hand down.
He presses his lips against her wrist and Nathan closes his eyes, overcome.
There is a very short moment, and then Audrey nudges him with her heel.
“Well,” she says, “Come on. Who’s up for round two?”
“You got some big ideas?” Duke asks, panting slightly. He’s still hard, Nathan can see. He strokes one hand down his own chest, lazily.
Nathan cannot wait to touch him.
“Where do I begin,” Audrey purrs.
“Or,” Nathan suggests, still struggling to catch his breath. “Duke, you - you could, ah, eat Audrey out. Like you promised.”
“She is the host,” Duke agrees, teasingly, fingers tapping against his stomach. “Although the service in this place could use some work.”
He rolls back over on the sheet, one hand still tangled in Audrey’s, one knee pressing against Nathan’s knee, smirking up at them.
“Where are my manners,” Audrey says, curling her fingers in his, her voice drier than dust. “You hungry? You want to break for snacks?”
Duke squints up at her warily, “You got anything in your fridge that isn’t month-old leftovers or beer?”
Audrey’s nose scrunches up as she thinks. “There’s probably week-old leftovers,” she says uncertainly. “And olives,” much more decisively.
“You’re an animal,” Duke says. “I’ll pass.”
“I could probably scrounge up some liquor, if you’re in the mood,” Audrey offers. “I know a great bar nearby.”
Duke shrugs one shoulder. “Maybe a cup of coffee in the morning.”
Audrey presses her cheek against Nathan’s face. He can feel her grin.
“You gonna still be here in the morning?” Nathan asks.
“You want me?” Duke asks back, lightly. His hand curls in the sheets.
“Oh,” Audrey says. “I think we can safely say that’s true.”
Duke stares down at the sheets, at his hand, twisting the cotton in his fist.
Nathan catches his chin with his thumb, tilting his head up, making him look.
“Hey,” Nathan says. “You with us?”
Duke licks his lips. “God, you’re gonna make me stupid,” he says. And then he says, “Always.”
It takes Nathan a second to realize he’s answering the question, and when he does, a grin breaks out over his face. Nathan can’t feel it, hasn’t seen his own smile in a while. But Duke smiles back at him, a bright curve of white, crooked teeth, and he knows he is.
“Good,” he says, and kisses Duke’s smile, laughing into it.