Characters: Meriel, Ianto, Nosy, Jack.
Summary: On a rainy summer day, Meriel has found something fun to do, with the assistance of her very bestest friend, Nosy.
Word Count: 2213
Written For: Challenge 116: Portrait at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Entering Meriel’s playroom, Ianto found his six-year-old daughter seated at her small easel, the tip of her tongue poking out of one corner of her mouth as she concentrated on whatever she was painting.
“Hello, Sweetheart. You look busy.”
“Taddy!” the little girl complained. “You’re not supposed to interrupt when an artist is working!”
“Really? Well, I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I just came to tell you it’s time for lunch. Unless you’re one of those poor, penniless, starving artists who can’t afford to eat, of course. Then I’m sure someone else will be happy to eat your lunch for you.”
Meriel paused, looking up at her Taddy. “No, that’s okay,” she said hurriedly. “I can eat it myself.”
She nodded. “Yep!”
“That’s good to know. Growing girls do need to eat. So, what are you painting? Can I see it?”
“NO!” Meriel gasped, horrified, then remembered her manners. “I mean, not yet, Taddy; I don’t want anyone to see it until it’s finished.” She chewed her lip for a moment, clearly trying to decide whether she should tell her Taddy or not, then shrugged in a very Ianto-like manner. “I suppose you could guess easily enough so I might as well tell you, but you have to promise not to look until I say you can.”
“You have my word; I won’t look at your painting until you show it to me,” Ianto vowed solemnly.
That was good enough for Meriel; Daddy would cheat, but Taddy always kept his promises. “I’m painting Nosy’s portrait. See?” Meriel pointed across the room to where the Fluff was lying, it’s front end propped up on the toy box Meriel had dragged from its usual place in the corner, and its head turned to the side. “I wanted to paint Nosy’s face from the front, but I couldn’t get it right, so I thought it might be easier from the side. It’s hard getting all its fluff right though.”
“I imagine it would be,” Ianto agreed. “Fluffs are very fluffy.”
“Of course they are,” Meriel said seriously. “Otherwise they wouldn’t be Fluffs.”
“That’s very true. Well, can your subject take a break for lunch too?”
“Yep! We can carry on after.” Meriel carefully placed her brush in the easel’s water pot, took off her painting smock, and headed for the stairs out of the playroom. “Come on, Nosy. I have to wash my hands before we eat.”
With a cheerful hum, Nosy abandoned its pose and followed its charge up the spiral staircase, with Ianto bringing up the rear.
Usually, they would have had lunch out in the roof garden at this time of year, but today it was raining so instead Ianto spread a blanket on the floor by the French doors and they had an indoor picnic there while watching raindrops bouncing on the decking. The rain might not be particularly welcomed, at least by Meriel who had hoped to play outside today, but it was doing the flowers good. The beds they were growing in were deep, with good drainage, and they had an automatic irrigation system designed and built by Tosh, with help from Ianto and Jack, which delivered water below ground where the roots could absorb it without any chance of it being evaporated on hot days, but a refreshing rainfall benefited the plants in other ways, washing away pests and cleaning the leaves.
“I hope it won’t rain all summer,” Meriel sighed. “My sandpit is getting all soggy.”
“I’m sure there’ll be plenty of sunny days too. We can’t always have the weather we want.”
“I suppose, but it’s the summer holidays! It’s not so bad being stuck indoors at school, nobody minds if it rains when we’re having lessons, but weekends and holidays should be dry and sunny.”
As soon as lunch was eaten, and she’d helped her Taddy clear everything away, Meriel was off towards her bedroom again, taking the slide down into her playroom with Nosy right behind her so that they landed in the pile of cushions at the bottom in a fluffy tangle, Meriel giggling happily. She knew she was lucky to have such a fun place to play when the weather meant she couldn’t go outside.
Scrambling to her feet, she made her way over to her easel and pulled her smock on again so she wouldn’t get paint all over her clothes. Meriel hated getting messy.
“Okay, Nosy, you have to get back in position so I can paint you. I hope I’ve got enough green paint.”
Obligingly, Nosy slithered over to the toy box again and rested its head on the top, humming questioningly.
“A little to the left,” Meriel instructed, then, “No, that’s the wrong way. The other left.” Nosy shifted again. “Yes, just like that. Now don’t move, this is very tricky.” Picking up her brush, Meriel wiped off most of the water with an old rag before swirling the damp bristles in her green paint. Tongue once again poking out the corner of her mouth, she resumed painting her best friend’s portrait.
The afternoon slipped by faster than she would have thought possible and before she knew it, her Daddy was there, coming down the stairs.
“Hey, Princess, I’m home!”
Meriel wasn’t sure why Daddy always did that, saying ‘I’m home’ like she couldn’t tell that just by seeing him there, but it was the same every day he went to work.
“Hello, Daddy. Did you have a nice day?”
“Not really, it was very boring, but it’s a million times better now I’m home. What’re you painting?”
“Didn’t Taddy tell you?”
“No, he just told me you were down here.”
“Oh. Well, I’m painting Nosy’s portrait but it’s not quite finished yet and I don’t want anyone to see it until it’s done.”
“Not even your poor old Daddy who’s had such a hard day at work?” her Daddy asked sadly.
“No. Sorry, Daddy. I’m sure you can wait a little while though. Taddy and Nosy have been waiting all day.”
“Well, they’re both a lot more patient than your Daddy.”
“You’re sure I can’t just take a quick peek?”
Meriel frowned sternly, shaking her head. Her Daddy could be so naughty sometimes! “That wouldn’t be fair on everybody else!”
“Ah well, it was worth a try. Do I at least get a kiss from my daughter the artist?”
Putting down her paintbrush, Meriel ran to her Daddy and gave him a kiss on the cheek, careful not to get any paint on him, before hurrying back to her easel.
“Thank you, Princess. Taddy says dinner will be ready in about half an hour.”
“Okay, Daddy.” Meriel was too busy putting the finishing touches to Nosy’s portrait to notice him leave.
Almost before she knew it, her Taddy was calling down the stairs. “Meriel, Nosy, dinnertime! Hurry up please, or we’ll start without you!”
“Coming Taddy!” Meriel scrutinised her painting, took one last look at her ‘model’, made a couple more brushstrokes and nodded in satisfaction. “Finished!” Dropping her brush back in the water pot, she put the lid back on her paintbox, hung her smock over the back of her chair, and hurried up the stairs to wash her hands. “Come on, Nosy!”
With a relieved hum, Nosy followed, wriggling the kinks out of its long body; staying in one position for a long time wasn’t terribly comfortable, but Meriel had said it needed to stay very still, and it always tried its best to oblige.
“How’s the portrait coming along?” Taddy asked as Meriel took her seat at the dinner table.
“It’s finished, but it has to dry. You can all see it after dinner,” Meriel promised, picking up her knife and fork as Taddy set her plate down in front of her. “Oooh, sausage casserole! Yummy!”
Beneath the table, Nosy was enjoying its own dinner of fresh vegetables. Meriel sometimes felt sorry for her friend because it couldn’t eat things like sausages and bacon and fish fingers and roast lamb, but sometimes Taddy would buy veggie burgers so that she and Nosy could both have the same thing. Nosy didn’t mind though; it liked its veggies, so Meriel did too. It was just that Meriel could have lots of other foods as well, things that weren’t good for Fluffs.
Uncle Owen said that every living thing needed to eat the right sorts of food to stay healthy. If you fed them the wrong things they could get a bad tummy ache and sometimes even die, so she never gave Nosy anything different to eat unless one of the grown-ups told her it was safe. It would be unkind to give her friend a tummy ache; Nosy had a very long tummy.
Pudding was rhubarb pie, made from their own homegrown rhubarb, and served with custard, so Nosy got a slice too. After dinner, Nosy and Meriel’s daddies had coffee, but Meriel was too young so she only got a sip from her Taddy’s cup. It was hot and strong and sort of bitter, but she liked the way it smelled. When she was a big girl she was going to drink it all the time, just like Taddy and Daddy and Nosy did.
Meriel helped her daddies take all the dishes into the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher. Her job was to close the door and switch the machine on; that was very important.
“Do we get to see your painting now?” Daddy asked, almost bouncing up and down with excitement. Taddy said he sometimes felt like he had two children because Daddy didn’t behave like a grownup.
“I think so; it should be mostly dry by now.” Meriel had deliberately taken her time over dinner for that very reason. Taking the lead, with Nosy and her daddies trailing behind, Meriel made her way into her bedroom, then down the stairs to her playroom and over to her easel. “There. What do you think?”
It wasn’t a perfect likeness, Meriel knew, her paintbrushes were a bit too big for painting every single strand of Nosy’s fur and the green wasn’t exactly the right shade, but she’d done the best she could and she thought it looked pretty good. She’d almost got the shape of Nosy’s head right, and she thought she’d done very well with Nosy’s eye, big and round and green as grass.
Nosy hummed delightedly when it saw its portrait, and her daddies smiled proudly at her. “Well done, Sweetheart,” Taddy praised her. “It’s a very good likeness.”
“We’ll have to find the perfect place to hang it, perhaps on your bedroom wall,” her daddy agreed.”
“We should get a proper frame for it,” her Taddy added. “And we should give it a name; all the best paintings have names, like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’, and the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.”
“How about ‘A Girl’s Best Friend’ by Meriel Harkness-Jones,” Daddy suggested.
Both her daddies turned to Meriel for approval and she nodded happily. “That’s perfect, because Nosy is the bestest friend anyone could ever have.” She gave the Fluff a big hug.
“That’s settled then,” said Daddy.
“I’ll get a frame on my way home tomorrow, work permitting,” Taddy added.
The following evening, Taddy arrived home with a big picture frame and Meriel helped him frame Nosy’s portrait while Daddy was getting their dinner. They hung the picture on the wall opposite Meriel’s bunk beds, where she and Nosy slept, so that they could both see it when they were laying in bed.
“I think next time I should paint a family portrait, one with all of us in it,” Meriel decided as her daddies were tucking her into bed that night, “only it’ll be hard to find time for everyone to pose for it.”
“How about we ask Auntie Tosh to take a photo of all of us and print it out, then you could copy from that without having to hurry.”
Meriel thought that was a brilliant idea.
“I’ll talk to her tomorrow,” Daddy said. “See what I can arrange.”
“And now it’s time for you to go to sleep,” Taddy said firmly. “The weather’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow so perhaps I can get the washing done and then you can help me hang it out to dry.”
That was always fun because everything smelled so nice.
“Okay. Goodnight, Taddy. Goodnight, Daddy.” Meriel kissed her parents. “Goodnight, Nosy!”
“Hummm,” came from the top bunk.
Her daddies turned out the light and left the room, leaving the door open just a few inches, so Nosy could get in and out if it wanted to without waking her. They always thought of everything.
“You really are my bestest friend, Nosy,” Meriel whispered. “I’ll love you forever and ever.”
A furry head leaned down from the top bunk, humming, and Meriel knew Nosy was saying it loved her too. Pulling the covers up around her ears, Meriel closed her eyes and went to sleep, to dream of being a world famous artist, with hundreds of people wanting to buy her paintings. She would never part with her portrait of Nosy though, not even for a gazillion pounds!