Here's a birthday fic for musesfool, who writes really interesting, beautiful fic. A little angsty het for you, sugar! This takes place after "Bloody Mary" and that final scene. Ouch.
(You don't need to have read my story "Sunshine State" to get this, but I'm continuing my characterization of Jess as an artist, and mention is made of their trip to Paris. Also, the Cantor is the art museum at Stanford.)
My heartfelt thanks to the indefatigable janissa11, who polished this up and gave it this wonderful and evocative title.
Jess is standing on the corner, looking at him with cool, enigmatic eyes, and he knows this is sick, knows he shouldn't dive into the memory with anything approaching eagerness, but he wonders if just maybe she'll say something this time. I would have said yes, Sam or I was happy right up until the moment I died or I'm still waiting for you - all you have to do is come and find me. Anything except it wasn't your fault, because that's Dean's line, and Jess knows better.
But Jess stays silent, contemplative as a Madonna and withdrawn as a widow, and stands there, upright and unbowed, in a new dress that could be a wedding gown or a nightgown, clean white fabric that shows off the lines and curves of her flesh. She stands there, pivoting slightly, and her eyes follow him as the black car drags him away from her white form. There's something about her pose that's tugging at him, battering at his brain, and he chokes in frustration when he can't pin it down.
It's a message of some kind; he's sure of it. Jess was - is - an artist, knows better than anyone the power of positioning, the connotations of a stance. She'd taken him to the Cantor, showed him the meaning packed into each line of the Rodin sculptures, and promised they'd stand in front of the originals in Paris someday. When they'd gotten home, she'd pushed him onto the futon, arranged his limbs to mimic the pieces, and frowned prettily at him when she realized her life-sized Play-Doh wasn't cooperating.
"Not sculpture," she said decisively after ten minutes of concentrated silence, getting off his lap and heading for the cramped kitchen. She looked up, unsurprised, when he followed her. "You're not a sculpture; you're a painting."
He laughed then, a little self-consciously, drowning the noise by swigging from a bottle of birch beer. "Will you pose for me, Sam?" she asked.
He surprised himself by saying yes.
He followed her into the bedroom, watching her strip out of her clothes and exchange them for the soft, stained shorts and shirt she liked to paint in. She turned to see his eyes on her and made no move toward him, just said, "You too, Sam," and turned back to the mirror to catch all her hair in her hands and wind it tight and secure at the back of her head. She watched him from the mirror, waited for her meaning to penetrate his mind, and led the way to her studio.
She was entirely professional when he started scattering his clothes in a parody of a striptease, picked up his shirt and handed it back to him and said, "This'll be a good prop." She didn't blink when his silk boxers hit the floor, just maneuvered him with her hands on his biceps so that he was sitting on the overstuffed chair. She leaned over him and he could see the golden hairs on her thighs where she never bothered to shave, smell her sweet vanilla scent. Carefully, she positioned his legs slightly apart, his shoulders back, his chin down; the shirt stayed in one loose fist, his arm across his lap, like he'd just picked it out to wear. "Perfect," she said. "Hold it."
Until she set up her easel and began to sketch, he hadn't realized she was out of his line of sight. He was facing an undecorated corner of the room, so the only thing he had to look at was the shirt in his hand. The heavy salmon-colored polo was one of the ones Jess had bought for him, a gift for no special occasion, just something she'd seen and liked and wanted him to have. He was learning to trust that casual generosity, to accept it; he'd just said thank you and hadn't worried about how he was going to match her gift.
"You're drifting," she said; "sit up a little straighter." The air was thick with unfamiliar scents and he wanted so badly to turn his head and watch her work, deft hands in motion and a frown of concentration on her face.
His thighs were burning with the strain of sitting still, and he needed to stretch his back. But she was a quick worker when inspiration hit, and once the sketch was done she took a few pictures with her digital camera; even before he could say anything, she reassured him that no one would see the images but them and her hard drive.
She sent him out to do the grocery shopping and he went gladly despite the pile of homework he'd scattered across their bed; the clothes felt itchy and restrictive when he put them back on and he'd forgotten the list they kept on the fridge.
He came back with scattershot groceries, nothing that could be put together for a proper meal, just things that had caught his eye, bright produce in vibrant colors and packages of intricately shaped cookies. She nibbled on the cookies as she worked, adding pigment to the canvas, obliterating the silvery marks of her pencil, and he saw himself coming to life under her hands. He couldn't watch his genesis for very long, so he settled in their bed to read about Italian city-states and church rule.
She surprised him by not talking about the painting when she finally came to bed, the sharp scent of turpentine overlaying her familiar vanilla fragrance. In the morning, after she left for the math requirement she'd put off for two years, he snuck into her studio and looked at her work.
There he was, naked as the day he was born, and he suddenly saw how smart she was, how she'd given him layers. He looked like he was on display, but the way his gaze was averted, eyes locked away, made it into a lie; his silence about his past was there on the canvas, a secret in its own right, shared between Jess and him.
That's the message Jess was sending him. Her eyes and body moved together, forthrightly, tracking him. I told you everything, Sam, and you hid yourself away. His silence had gotten her killed. He feels himself choking on the realization, gasping himself awake, and finds himself in the car, legs folded uncomfortably to make the most of the cramped space, Dean's warm hand on his chest.
Dean's twisted toward him, eyes scanning him quickly, competently, and Sam doesn't need to think, to search his subconscious; he knows what that pose means from long familiarity, even after years apart. I've got you; you're safe; nothing bad is gonna happen to you as long as I'm around. He looks back at his brother and hopes Dean can read him too.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.