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For Posterity

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Evan paints her, but always from memory. She won't sit for him.

It's not that Laura's shy - she's a Marine, and she's not body conscious. Years of Basic, of slogging through mud and communal showers, of being one of the guys, have long since knocked that out of her.

She just won't sit still for long. She starts off well enough, although, hmmm, thinking back, maybe she is a little shy. No matter that they've spent hours fucking, exploring each other's bodies top to toe, when he poses her she always cracks wise, and after five minutes she's restless. Fidgeting. By ten minutes she's abandoned the pose and is playing the fool, pulling faces or mooning him, saying "Hey, Evan, catch this for posterity!" then bounding up to peer over his shoulder and slide her arms around his waist. "Paint faster, so I can blow you."

So then Evan gets distracted.

It's OK. He's got action drawings, some dashed off sketches, and they almost capture her, almost satisfy him. He tells himself she's a free spirit and he shouldn't try and pin her down in a detailed oil study, but she's so goddamn beautiful and sometimes, when she's sitting at the desk, intent on her work and the light catches her sidelong, it stops his breath.

That's the answer, he realises. Don't pose her, draw her working. Draw her focused, lower lip caught between her teeth as she teases out the innards of a defused mine or a busted Genii IED, or cleans and oils her gun. Active but transfixed, wholly concentrated on the task at hand.

He paints two versions, in the end. In the first he softens and transforms her, blurring the picture's edges, Laura's golden hair a pre-Raphaelite halo around her intent, lovely face. On impulse, he paints her as a fantasy princess, gazing transfixed at a frog in the palm of her hand.

The other version tells it like it is, shows her sitting there in Marine camo, her sidearm in pieces on the table, sucking her lower lip in concentration. He doesn't paint the beret. Her hair's too glorious and Evan loves to untie it and shake it loose, to bury his face and hands in it, breathing it in. If he can free her hair forever in a painting, he will.

He gives her both versions for her birthday. The Princess and Frog picture has her falling about laughing, but she likes the one in camo. Evan likes it best, too. It's honest, captures her as a warrior, as a specialist, caught in a moment's intense concentration.

For her next birthday he gets out the discarded Princess and Frog painting from the back of his wardrobe and does a companion piece. In it the frog's suddenly exploded and Laura's open-mouthed, staring bug-eyed at her empty palm, covered in bits of amphibian.

That one's her favorite.