Recipient: eviljr (Pinch hitter #1)
Warnings: no AO3 warnings apply.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, but this time it is my galaxy.
Author's Notes: Set in San Francisco after the end of Season 5. Alternate universe.
Summary: Evan Lorne never joined the USAF. Instead, he went to art school.
Evan watches groups of patrons drift around the gallery, pausing here and there to stare at a picture. His feet hurt and he's tired-he's had very little sleep for several days, getting the last few works finalized after Marcia, the gallery owner, insisted another four were needed. "Just small works, darling, for balance. I'm sure you can dash something off for me."
He sips a glass of water, knowing better than to risk the cheap wine Marcia serves at openings. He's happy with the works, even with the last very rushed four. In fact, the pressure to complete those final paintings made his brushstrokes looser, more flowing, he thinks.
Maybe he can do more like them-eight inch squares each containing a face. Pressed for time, he'd sketched random people passing by his café table, down on the waterfront. The one he likes best is of a striking, long-faced man with a wide, mobile mouth. Evan had noticed the guy's curling smile as he strode past. He'd taken a mental snapshot then dashed the lineaments of his face down quickly with charcoal before memory faded.
His mother likes the four portraits. "They're very lively, Evan," she'd said yesterday evening when he gave her a sneak preview of the exhibition. "I never did understand why you prefer landscapes. People are a lot more fun."
"Sometimes, Mom," he'd said. "They're more trouble than landscapes, though."
"I could kill that bastard, sometimes," his mother had said fiercely. He hadn't replied, just looked away. He didn't want to talk about Jason.
He's staring into his glass of water, frowning, when someone clears their throat. "Excuse me, are you Evan Lorne?"
Evan looks up-and up, the guy's really tall. It's his fourth portrait. His face is as Evan remembered-long lines, wide mouth. Slightly horsey but there's something fresh and open about him and it's incredibly attractive. His eyes are creased with smile lines but he's not smiling now. He looks tentative, serious.
"Oops, busted," says Evan, grinning.
"Um, what?" the guy says, a crease forming between his eyes.
"Sorry," says Evan. "I kind of took liberties there, drawing you as you dashed past and then putting the painting in the exhibition. I was under a lot of pressure and I just..." He shrugs. "You've got an interesting face."
The guy flushes, and this is ridiculous-Evan can't go on calling him "the guy". "What's your name?"
"Oh. Oh, I'm David Parrish. I, um, yes. Pleased to meet you." They shake. Big hands. Nice firm pressure. Interesting calluses. Don't fucking go there, Evan. "No, I'm not, ah, upset about the portrait. I guess...it's flattering. It was just unexpected-I only came in on a whim. I liked your painting of the Quercus kelloggii grove that's on the posters outside. Your landscapes are lovely."
Evan squints at the guy. David. "Quercus kelloggii?"
"Ah, Californian Black Oak is its common name. In Yosemite, right?"
"Yeah, I did a hiking and painting trip there a few months back."
"I'm envious," says David, and there's that smile-Evan can't help but smile back. "Yosemite's one of my favorite places on E-" He stops, coughs. "Ah, in California."
"You've been there?" asks Evan.
"Oh yes," David says enthusiastically. "I did my doctoral thesis on higher altitude lichens. I've spent a lot of time there."
"So you're a...biologist?" Evan asks.
"A botanist," David says. "I work, ah, for the government, these days." He frowns, then seems to make an effort to change the subject. "But that wasn't why I approached you. I'd like to buy the portrait, if I may?"
"Oh," says Evan. "I'm afraid...let's see." He leads David over to the row of small, square pictures by the entrance. Sure enough, it's as he recalled-the portrait of David's already sold, the number red-dotted. The small portraits all sold early. Marcia'd been right-they'd been very good icebreakers. "Sorry, it's been taken," he says.
David looks rueful. "Well, I'm not surprised, you're very talented." He runs a hand through his hair. "You must think me vain, but it's for my sister. Her birthday's next month."
"Artists would've starved across the ages if people hadn't commissioned portraits," says Evan, amused. "It's okay to want a painting of yourself."
"Oh, would you?" asks David, lighting up, that smile back in force. God, he's gorgeous. "I mean, can I commission a portrait?"
Evan doesn't do commissions. Like he told his mother-people are too much trouble. "Yeah," he says, realizing he's been staring at David's mouth. "Ah, sure, no problem. You're local?"
"Mmmm," says David, nodding. "We're, I'm...based close to the harbour, yes. I have a laboratory, and quarters, I mean...I live locally, yes."
"I'd have to get you to come to my studio, if that's okay?" Evan pulls a card out of his hip pocket with the address and his mobile number. "Easier for me to work there," he explains. The light's good, and all my art supplies..."
"No, no, I understand," says David, nodding. "Quite. I can't, anyway. Um. It's a government facility where I'm based. Restricted."
Evan raises his eyebrows. "Top secret lichens, huh?"
"Oh, yes," David says seriously, then a flash of guilt crosses his face. "That is, er, no, no of course not. Just joking."
There's stuff David's not telling Evan, and briefly, Evan wants to grab his card back and cancel the deal. Jason had secrets. The drugs, the stealing, the other men. He frowns at David, but there's no duplicity in the lean planes of his face, in his eyes.
David shrugs, frowns. "I'm sorry, Evan. There are things I can't tell you. Government work, like I said. I'm not being deliberately mysterious."
"Adds to your appeal," says Evan, and David blushes and smiles shyly, and okay, that's enormously hot and extremely fucking promising.
"Marcia?" Evan calls, taking David's elbow and steering him toward the street. "I'm leaving."
"Okay, darling," wafts back from the office where she's doubtless tallying her cut from the sales. "Have fun with your friend."
Evan ignores her. "Coffee?" he asks David.
"Yes, please. It's great to have so much choice," David says enthusiastically. "Scientists run on coffee, you know."
"So do artists frantically preparing for an exhibition," Evan says, holding the door for David. He's not sure why David makes him feel protective, but there's something almost innocent about him. "I'm kind of running on fumes, here, so you'll have to excuse me if I faceplant on the table."
"Well," says David earnestly, patting the jacket pocket where he'd stashed Evan's card. "I have the address if you're overcome with exhaustion, so I can get you home. That's...if there's a bed there, not just, you know, paints and easels."
"Oh yeah," Evan says. "There's a bed there."
"Well, that's great," says David, a gleam in his eye, and Evan thinks maybe he's not so innocent, after all.
"Shall we?" asks David, and they step out into the San Francisco dusk, on the trail of coffee.