BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Portrait
Monday, October 16, 2006

A picture brings back memories for one of Serenity's crew. Just a little something that wrote itself - feedback, good or bad, is wonderful!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1865    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

He’d bought it because it called out to him. Something about the painting had persuaded him to part with his hard-earned cash. After some haggling, of course. Couldn’t be seen to be too eager. But he’d paid what he thought was fair, and carried it back to Serenity. He hadn’t gotten any idea what he was gonna do with it, but took it into his bunk, planning to hang it somewhere, maybe above his guns, but it stared at him, like it was daring him to say something, do something in the middle of the night. So that kinda made up his mind for him.

Everyone was sitting down at dinner, chatting away. Mal had just told a joke that was on the wrong side of bad, and Freya had thumped him on the arm, causing him to threaten her with withdrawal of conjugal rights.

“Mal, I hate to point this out, but we ain’t married,” Freya said. “We are living in sin.”

“Lot of that going on,” Kaylee said happily, patting her rounded belly. “And a whole lot more.”

“I've offered,” Simon said, but she shushed him with a finger to his lips.

“’N’ I told you I don’t want that. Not yet.”

He smiled at her, his love shining from his face and making everyone else feel a mite uncomfortable. Except for River.

“If you start here I shall hit you over the head with a chair,” she said calmly.

“Start what, sweetie?” Kaylee said mischievously.

“Anything at all.”

Simon hid a smile and turned to look at his sister. “Did I tell you today just how much of a brat you are?”

“Yes.”

“Then just take this as a reminder.”

River gave him a dazzling smile and threw a bread roll at him.

“Hey, we gonna have a food fight?” Hank asked, brightening up. “I bags Zoe on my team.”

“No food fight,” Mal said firmly. “It costs too much to waste –“

Freya plucked the other roll from the air in front of his face. “River, stop it.”

“None left,” the young psychic said, not at all repentant.

“Jayne, I know my food ain't a patch on Kaylee’s, but you got some problem with it?” Zoe asked, looking at the big mercenary. For once he hadn’t finished everything on his plate.

“Huh?” He looked around the table, realising everyone was looking at him. “No, no problem.”

“Are you coming down with something?” Simon asked, remembering the virus that had spread throughout the crew only a short time before. “If you’re feeling at all unwell –“

“I’m shiny!” Jayne insisted. “Just … thinkin’ is all.”

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Hank joked.

“You wanna go outside?” Jayne growled.

“So what are you thinking about?” Freya asked, not feeling in the mood to be picking up teeth.

“I … look, just hold on a minute, will you?” He stood up and hurried out of the galley.

Mal looked at Freya. “What do you suppose this is about?”

“Maybe he’s decided to become a Shepherd,” Hank suggested, grinning at the thought. “Brother Jayne – kinda has a ring to it, don’t you think?”

“Not yet,” River said cryptically.

“You’re not suggesting …” Simon stared at her, appalled, and she just smiled at him.

“I think we may be about to find out,” Freya put in, seeing Jayne coming back with something flat in his hands.

“Jayne?” Mal asked. “What’s going on?”

The big man stood by his chair, not sitting back down. “I … I kinda bought this today, ‘n’ I …” He shoved it across the table. “Here, this is for you.”

Zoe sat back in her chair, as if his gift was about to explode. “Jayne …”

“What is it?” Kaylee asked, moving forward, trying to see inside the old blanket Jayne had wrapped around it.

“Just take it,” the mercenary said.

Zoe stood up, gingerly taking whatever it was from his big hands. She pulled the blanket from the front as Jayne sat back down.

“It’s a picture,” Kaylee said, her eyes wide.

“From Jayne?” Hank put in. “Just how obscene can it get?”

“I didn’t know you were interested in art,” Simon said.

“Aint interested in art,” Jayne mumbled. “And it ain't obscene.”

“But all those pictures you’ve got up on the wall of your bunk,” Hank went on. “All those naked women …”

“Ain't like that.”

Mal had been watching his first-mate. “Zoe?” he asked. “You okay?”

She hadn’t moved, hadn’t even breathed since she taken the cover off. “Where did you get this?” she asked finally, still staring at the picture.

“Bought it in town. Just some stall. Guy didn’t even know who painted it,” Jayne said softly.

“His name was Anselm.”

“Zoe?” Freya said.

“Named for some saint or other,” Zoe added.

“Saint Anselm from Earth-that-was,” Simon put in. “A great philosopher who opposed slavery.”

“Sounds like our kind of saint,” Hank said.

“What’s it of, Zoe?” Kaylee asked.

For answer Zoe walked to the counter and placed the painting against the cutlery pot, then stood back so the others could see.

“Oh,” Kaylee said.

“But that’s –“ Simon began.

“You,” Mal finished.

The woman – no, girl – in the picture was younger, softer, with hooded eyes that seemed to look out from the canvas in either hidden voluptuousness or extreme amusement at the vagaries of the world, depending on whether the viewer was a man or a woman, but it was most definitely Serenity’s first-mate.

“Wow, Zoe, that’s …” Hank couldn’t finish.

“I haven’t seen this in a very long time,” Zoe said quietly. “Not since he finished it, and wouldn’t give it to me. He told me it was the best thing he’d ever done.”

Freya got up and moved closer. “It’s beautiful.” She smiled at the other woman. “How old were you when this was painted?”

“Eighteen. So very long ago.”

Anselm rolled over in bed and looked at the dark beauty lying next to him. “I'm going to paint you,” he said, touching the smooth line of her spine. “Just like this. All wanton and sensual.”

She looked over her shoulder at him. “So you can only see my back.”

He laughed. “All right, maybe not. Turn over.”

She did as she was bid, and the full glory of her was revealed.

“Oh, yes, this is better,” he muttered, his breath catching.

“No,” Zoe said, sitting up. “I don’t think so. If you’re going to immortalise me, I think I’d rather it wasn't naked.”

“Why not?” he asked in frustration. “You’re beautiful!”

She pushed her long dark hair out of her face. “Maybe, but I’d like to be able to show my children someday.”

“Children?” He sat back. “You want to have children?”

“Not with you,” she said quickly. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to trap you into marrying me.”

He was more relieved than he would admit, but said, “Why? Aren’t I good enough?”

She laughed, a rich sound that seemed to complement her entirely. “Anselm, not only am I not looking for a husband, but you’re not looking for a wife. I’ve not met a man yet that I want to be with forever.”

“And when you do?” he asked, stroking her shoulder.

“I shall fight heaven and earth to get to him.”

“So young to have such high ideals,” Anselm sighed.

“And I don’t have time for idle chatter, not if you intend to paint me.” She smiled a little sadly. “Only another day, Anselm, and I’ll be gone.”

“Do you have to leave?”

“I’m a soldier. I can’t tell the ship to wait because my lover is slow in finishing what he started. I have to be on that dock at fourteen hundred hours, ready to embark.”

Anselm threw the covers back. “Then to work!”

He spent an hour arranging her in the large wicker chair, the shawl around her shoulders covering her magnificent breasts. He tried to leave just one showing a little, but Zoe pulled the fabric up, shaking her head at him. Her hair he combed himself, pulling the tight curls out to lay on her skin, but he left her face alone.

“How can I gild the lily?” he asked, picking up his palette.

“Aren’t you going to dress?” Zoe asked in turn, looking over his nakedness.

“And stifle the muse?” he cried, using his paintbrush to measure the differences between the width of her shoulders, the height of her head. “Besides, I rather like the expression on your face.”

She laughed as he began to put little touches of colour on the canvas.

She slept when he let her, some time in the dark hours of the morning, but he carried on working, biting his lip in concentration, stepping back then darting in again, his brush like a snake, biting into the soft flesh he was working on.

Finally, as the sun slanted in through the high window, he woke her.

“Zoe. It’s finished,” he said softly.

She sat up, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “What time is it?”

“Nearly time for you to go,” he said wistfully. “Don’t you want to see it?”

“I …” She shook her head. “I don’t know if I do.”

“Afraid?” he asked.

“Yes,” she admitted. “This is forever, isn’t it?”

“That it is.” He held out a hand. “See what immortality looks like.”

She took his fingers and let him lift her up, walked her around the easel.

“Oh. Anselm.”

“My dark angel,” he said, kissing her shoulder.

“I can’t take it with me,” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek.

“And I wouldn’t let it go.” Anselm smiled and pushed the moisture away with his thumb, leaving a smear of red ochre on her skin. “I want to keep it by me, always.”

“Zoe?” Freya asked, bringing her back to the present.

“So very long ago,” Zoe repeated. She turned around, looking at Jayne, who shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “Thank you,” she said sincerely.

Jayne’s eyes widened a little in surprise. “I … you’re … I guess you’re welcome.”

She picked up the portrait and walked out of the galley, her head high, her bearing erect.

“Did something just happen here I don’t know about?” Hank asked.

“I have no idea,” Mal said, realising there were things about his oldest friend that he still didn’t know. ---

The rest of Serenity was asleep when Jayne padded into the galley in his socks, intent on finding something to eat. As he switched the light on, he yelped in surprise.

“Dammit, Zoe, you don’t wanna be scaring a man like that! Could get yourself shot.”

“Are you armed?” Zoe asked from where she was sitting at the table.

“Well, no. But I could go and grab Vera if you like.”

“No, that’s fine.”

“So what’re you doing sitting here in the dark?”

“Remembering.” She looked up at him. “And what’s your excuse for being up this late?”

“I was kinda hungry.”

“Not surprised.” Zoe smiled at him, unsettling him again. “Why did you buy it?” she asked.

“I … not really sure,” the big man admitted. “I kinda … liked it.”

“Then why didn’t you keep it?”

“It didn’t …” He shrugged. “It didn’t seem right. Not in my bunk. Not with all those girlie pictures. And my guns. Just figured maybe it should come home.” He looked at her. “So Wash never saw it? The picture?” he asked.

“No. It was long before I ever met him. Before Mal, before the war … before things got complicated.”

“I know what you mean. When you’re young and you think life’s gonna be one big bowl of strawberries.”

“Cherries, Jayne. The saying is a bowl of cherries.”

“That ain't what Kaylee says.”

Zoe laughed. “No, I suppose it probably isn’t.”

Jayne grabbed a bag of protein crackers. “Well, this’ll do,” he said, turning back towards the bunks. “You want me to leave the light on?”

“No, switch it off. I like the dark.”

“Sure thing.” He turned off the lights. “G’night.”

“’Night, Jayne. And thank you.”

“Yeah, no problem,” he mumbled, stepping out of the galley.

Zoe sat in the dark, the portrait in front of her on the table, her mind somewhere else entirely …

“I will keep it with me for as long as I live,” Anselm said, watching Zoe dress for the last time. “They will have to pry it from my cold dead fingers.”

“I’d have thought you’d want to be buried with it,” she joked, buckling her uniform in place.

“And deprive the world of such beauty? Never.”

She smiled and crossed the room to stand close to him. “Well, if that happens, let me know. I’d kinda like to have it one day.”

“I will,” he said, bending forward for a kiss. “Somehow I’ll get it to you.”

“Just make sure you do,” she said, pulling him into her arms.

He had.

COMMENTS

Monday, October 16, 2006 3:41 AM

TAMSIBLING


Aww, what a sweet little back story for Zoe. I really like this - and the fact that Jayne bought it for her is even better, something tells me that if Hank had bought it for her, she would have been really ticked - but not Jayne.

Beautifully written and very vivid! Thanks for sharing.

Monday, October 16, 2006 4:17 AM

BORNTOFLY


*Sighs contentedly*

That was wonderful.

"“I’m shiny!” Jayne insisted. “Just … thinkin’ is all.”

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Hank joked.

“You wanna go outside?” Jayne growled."-Perfectly done.

A beautiful work.

Monday, October 16, 2006 1:18 PM

AMDOBELL


That was a really unusual piece and I liked Jayne giving it to Zoe because the picture belonged with her, as is Anselm from the Great Beyond had found a way to prod him so that she would get her wish. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 9:50 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Wow...this was beautiful, Jane0904! Definitely gives more dimensions to Zoe's almost non-existant backstory:D

Jayne's purchase of it is mighty interesting though. Not saying you're trying to herd Jayne and Zoe together, but I find it rather...fitting that Jayne was the one to find and purchase the painting. The man's always been an admirer of what is beautiful and/or dangerous. Why not a painting of Zoe when she was possibly at her most beautiful AND dangerous;)

BEB


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