Mornings Are Forever

The rose twirled, as if of its own accord. He smiled- the fragrance filled the air, he had a sudden urge to fill his apartment with roses, to make every corner of the place smell of sweet roses. He knew Nat would laugh at him. Over-reacting to one little flower. She'd given it to him, on 'impulse' she said, in remembrance of their evening together.

Even if she couldn't remember it. Nick almost frowned, at the thought of that entire horrible evening. But Nat was so happy, she had filled in the blank spots with fantasies and encouraged guesses. He had told her of fascinating conversation, delicious food (for her), and a promise to repeat the night the following week. She was so happy, Nick loved watching her practically dance through the hallways at work. She thought she was subtle, not saying a word- but everyone knew. Everyone could tell that the clouds she was walking on were there for love.

Nick was just glad they didn't seem to know *he* was the reason. He frowned at the memory of Schanke's comments over the past few days. Maybe he knew? Well, surely Schanke wouldn't tell anyone else. Surely.

Then again, there were those instances of muffled laughter, everytime he headed for the Coroner's office. They probably weren't for him, though. The cops in his precinct had great senses of humour, always joking and pulling pranks. It was probably just a joke he wasn't in on. If they knew about he and Nat, well, they'd have said something by now. It had been nearly five days.

Nick set the flower in a glass on his worktable. An empty canvas sat on an easel nearby, and with the rest of the day free Nick indulged his desire to paint. He didn't know what he wanted to create, but he felt the urge so strongly. He turned the easel so he could see on one side, the rose, and on the other side, the windows. The blinds were cracked just so he could see the hints of sunlight as they arrived.

The morning was coming, and as the city and the world woke up he wanted to put something new in it. He picked up his pencil and began sketching a rough outline. The form he didn't know, he simply let his hand put lines where they needed to be. His happiness, and his love guided him. The curves were placed just so, and then the straight, bolder lings began to fill it in.

He watched with fascination, wodnering what it was he would be making. The lines all felt right, but he didn't recognise a picture in them. He thought about continuing to sketch until the picture came to him, but it didn't feel right. He set the pencil down and selected a brush. The pink paint seemed to call to the bristles, and he let the colour swarm over the brush, and onto the canvas.

The pink began defining the picture, creating bits of shadow and image that still eluded recognition. Nick would have been frustrated, had he not felt so good. He laughed, at himself, and the canvas before him. Taunt me, will you? I'll show you- I'll paint anyway! He let the pink paint go where it needed, then set the brush in water and picked up another, thinner one.

The black paint called him now, and he followed. As he began creating edges, and depth, he saw the picture. That moment of awareness was the best- when before his eyes he saw the painting, barely begun, and yet within it the finished image was shining. He smiled, and placed the new lines where they needed to go- still listening to the canvas for the proper time and place for each colour.

The rose began to take shape in one section of the canvas. He took a moment to colour it in hues of red, then left the stem barely begun and moved to the face. Someone was looking at it, and Nick let the paints draw the face, the expression of love, the soft lines and tender shape painting a face he knew so well.

He was a bit surprised to see the sadness coming out of the eyes, but he painted it anyway. The love was there, too, so it was all right. Not that he would have changed the painting, but it was nice to know it was there. Nick left the face when it was almost completed, and drew the flower's stem. The thorny green went downward, until it stopped suddenly in the clasp of a hand.

Nick painted in the hand, fingers wrapped around the stem heedless of thorns- or perhaps the flower was worth the pain? Yes, that was probably it. Nick left the arm unseen, the image of the face made it obvious whose hand it was. Didn't it? Was someone giving the rose? Or had it already been given? Nick couldn't tell- no doubt it was either.

The hand held the rose, and the face watched. Nick added the remaining touches, a line here, and shadow there. When it was done, he stepped back. The painting had taken all day, and he hadn't even noticed the time go. The picture was almost perfect- the face exactly right, the expression of love so evident, and the hidden pain muted, but there for anyone who had felt it, to see. The rose, exactly like the one which sat on his table, the colours as brillant; he could imagine that it smelled as sweet.

Nick set his brushes down, to soak in cleaner. He kept an eye on the painting as he closed the paints, made an effort to clean up so none of the paints or brushes would be ruined. And he let the painting dry, for he had an hour before the sun went down, and he needed to deliver the painting tonight. He took one last long look at it, and knew it was right.

Half an hour after sundown he knocked on the door. It opened, without an exclamation of surprise or even why are you here. Nick stepped inside and held out the painting.

"When I made it, I knew I should give it to you."

LaCroix took the painting, and looked at it. He said nothing, and there was no expression on his face. The expression in the painting said it all.

When he looked up at Nicholas, to ask why, Nick just smiled. "I have to go." He had to be at work soon, and he wanted to visit Natalie first. He stepped up though, and gave LaCroix a kiss on the check. He moved away, LaCroix still staring. "I'll ask Janette to find you a frame."

Nick left. For a long moment LaCroix stood in the doorway, watching as the Caddy disappeared from sight, and then waiting as the feel of Nicholas' prescence faded in the distance. Then he closed the door, and went in search of a place to hang his painting.

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