Hematite Badger (hematitebadger) wrote,
Hematite Badger

Fic: Cross-Country

Title: Cross-Country
Fandom: Community/Haven crossover
Rating: PG
Wordcount: ~1680
Summary: Britta's summer vacation takes her to a small town in Maine where the food is good, the locals are environmentally conscious, and the bartender is kinda cute. Duke/Britta, written for a ficathon prompt.


The bartender has be kidding her, and Britta gives him a look that says as much, but he just watches her placidly. She gives in quickly, because you don't argue with the guy who controls the booze, but not without a little grumble as she fumbles for her wallet. "Seriously?"

"I card everyone who looks younger than the chief of police unless I know them personally," he says as he takes her driver's license. "And I don't know you...Britta."

(Duke cards her because she fits a profile, by which he means she reminds him of himself when he was younger and angrier and was looking for any possible way to flout authority. This license is a real one -- no way this girl could afford a fake this good -- but he's guessing that being legitimate is a relatively new development for her. Not that he has any moral high ground, of course, but he does have his liquor license to consider. The fact that she's kind of attractive and it gives him an excuse to talk to her is just a bonus.)

"You're a long way from Colorado," he continues, handing back her license and reaching for a glass. He says 'Colorado' like it means something to him, but doesn't elaborate. He pushes the beer she ordered across the bar to her. "What brings you to our sleepy little town?"

He sounds like he's actually trying to have a conversation, not just fill the silence, and Britta lights up. "I," she says grandly, pleased that she's finally getting to explain her vision to someone, "am taking a cross-country tour of small towns with thriving local agriculture in celebration of sustainability and in defiance of the corporate food conglomerates." It sounds pretty good, she thinks, especially for a theme that she came up with on the fly while already halfway out of the state. In truth, she started this trip with no goal other than "spend the summer as far away from Greendale (and Jeff) as possible," but no way is she getting into that with this guy.

"Sounds... noble," the bartender says, using that cautious voice that people sometimes get with Britta, when they're not totally sure if they should be backing away yet or not.

She presses on, because she's bored and lonely and wants to talk to someone and the bar is practically empty anyway, and because there's something about this guy that's catching her attention and she can't pin it down. "Pretty much every source I could find said that Haven has the best selection of local, organic produce in the entire state, maybe even in all of New England."

"Nice to know we're famous for something," he says.

(Duke knows all this already. His other business has turned into the source of a lot of the Gull's supplies, of course, but whatever he can source locally he does. It's because it's what Geoff would have wanted, but no way is he getting into that with this girl.)

There's a tiny streak of sarcasm in his voice, and Britta almost snaps at him not to patronize her, which she realizes would probably torpedo any further attempts at talking to him. She bites her tongue until something calm comes to mind. "I'm rambling," she finally manages. "I've been on the road long enough to forget how to have a conversation. Can I start over?" His lip quirks, which she takes as a good sign. She holds out her hand. "Hi. I'm Britta Perry. This is my first visit to Haven. What's your name?"

He gives her a full smile. "Duke Crocker." He takes her hand but doesn't shake it, just bows over it for a second like he might kiss it before releasing her. "Welcome to Haven."

(He's pretty sure she's more than a little nuts. He's also pretty sure he's okay with that.)

They've been talking for almost an hour when the thing that's been keeping Britta interested finally hits her, and she wants to smack her head on the bar. He reminds her of Jeff.

It's not a tangible or a physical thing. They have completely different builds and coloration, and Duke's scruffy look is the kind that takes five minutes in the morning instead of the kind that takes an hour to make it look like it took five minutes. She can't imagine Duke wearing a suit or giving a speech. But he has a version of Jeff's self-assurance and his quiet-but-obvious desire to be liked, and that thing where he might as well have 'LIAR' tattooed across his hands but Britta sort of wants to trust him anyway. He's exactly what she's been trying to avoid thinking about, which means that continuing to flirt with him -- and it's definitely flirting at this point -- is probably a really bad idea. She tries to make herself back away.

Duke watches her face fall and his brow furrows. "Something wrong?"

Of course there's something wrong, but Britta shakes her head. "Just...deja vu, or something. You remind me of someone, is all." He gives her a questioning look that she's starting to like, one that says he's not going to ask but he'll listen if she wants to talk. It's probably the first thing they teach you when you become a bartender. "A guy," she continues. "Not really an ex, but..."

"Someone you don't want to be reminded of," Duke finishes for her. Now he's the one backing off, not like he's freaked out but like he's trying to give her space. It's not something she can picture Jeff doing, at least not after such a vague comment.

He reminds her of Jeff, but just enough to remind her that there's a reason she liked Jeff. The rest of him is something new, and it's something she wants to see more of. Britta leans over the bar and touches Duke's hand. "You don't remind me of him that much."

When they're still talking at closing time Duke invites her back to his boat, which is a first -- she's been invited back to plenty of houses and apartments and backseats, but never a boat. Saying yes is a no-brainer, not that she would have said no to a house or apartment or backseat.

(Sure, he's a responsible adult and a legitimate businessman, sort of, but Duke still has a soft spot for young rebels, especially the ones who are old enough to know better but young enough not to care. Britta, with her mad, fervent passions and her denim armor, is someone he might have stumbled across in the life he used to live. In this life, she's still someone who's worth a second look, even if it means bribing one of the waitresses to stay late and close up for him.)

Britta doesn't know what she's expecting, but Duke's boat is nothing she's prepared for. It's elegant in a way she never would have imagined from him, appointed in the kind of material luxury she's supposed to disdain. It makes her feel out of place, which makes her feel defensive until Duke puts a casual hand on her back and guides her in like she has every right to be there. Once the shock of the place wears off, whatever he had planned gets put on hold because she wants to look at everything.

(He never gets tired of that first look, when people who think they have him figured out see where he really lives. Britta is even better than most; her eyes go wide and some of the cynicism melts away as she takes it all in. She demands a tour and he obliges, more fascinated by her reactions than she is by his collections.

She's interesting, and he likes her. It's nice to find something that uncomplicated for once.

Britta wakes up curled against Duke's side, because it turns out he's not the type of guy who kicks you out afterwards. He's the type of guy who offers coffee and bagels in the morning and then kicks her out, with an apology, because she's on vacation but he's not, and there's somewhere he has to be this morning. Before she leaves, though, he asks her two important questions: How long is she staying in town, and can he see her again? The answer to the first question is "a couple days, probably." The answer to the second is "yes, definitely."

(Duke ends up getting dragged into a police investigation that takes most of the morning, but he's in a good enough mood that he doesn't mind. He's in a good enough mood, in fact, that Nathan notices, and knows him well enough to recognize its source and make his distaste known. All this does is put Duke in a better mood.)

Everything Britta read about the local eco-friendly scene in Haven is true. The farmers' market is amazing, and full of people who're happy to go on at length about the benefits of organic and sustainable practices. The bakery has a huge selection of vegan pastries, all clearly and proudly labeled. She spends hours -- and most of her budget -- going through the racks at the town's secondhand store. She passes the next couple days in socially-conscious vacation bliss, and the next couple nights in Duke's bar and then his bed. It's not something either of them expects to last, and it's definitely not love, but it's something real, in its own way.

They don't exchange phone numbers when she leaves town; it's not even serious enough for that. But he tells her to look him up if she's even in Maine again, and she tells him to do the same if he finds himself in Colorado, and she's pretty sure they both mean it.

(He does find himself in Colorado just a few months later, although he's on a mission at the time and by then other things have gotten...complicated. But he still finds himself looking at a map, just to see how close they're going to be to Greendale.)
Tags: community, crossover, fic, haven
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