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Artistic Differences

 

Chapter 9

The pizza had been delivered, and eaten. Daniel had assisted in putting every book away, still insisting that he didn’t have a ‘system’ for shelving them. Teased her about the two dozen or so romance novels that she had kept, the others used for the book swap area of one of the local bookstores. They had danced across the living room floor, gyrating to the beat of Aerosmith and Guns&Roses. They were both laughing and breathless by the time the bookcases were back in order once again.

It was nearly nine p.m. when the phone rang. Casey grabbed it, tossing the ice cream scoop to her husband. "Hello?"

"Casey?"

"Hey, Sam...what’s up?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing."

She could feel the heat in her cheeks. "Oh, yeah."

"Are you all right?"

"I am now."

"Daniel was frantic when he left here."

"I’m sure he was." Probably certain that she had fled Silver Springs...again.

"You’re sure you’re all right?"

"I’m still dealing with...things. But I’ll get there."

The pause alerted Casey to the fact that her friend was adding things up. "No matter what anyone says, it’s a beautiful painting, Case. I actually looked up the Venus myth today. Tiesha captured it perfectly."

"That’s what Daniel says."

"Believe him. And me."

She couldn’t help but smile. "I’m trying."

"I know. I’m here if you need me."

"Thanks, Sam."

"Stop by my lab in the morning. I have a device I’d like for you to take a look at. From one of Nirrti’s labs."

"Then it can’t be good," Casey replied. She’d read the reports on that particular Goa’uld, and the horrible things she had done in her quest for the perfect human host.

"Probably not. See you in the morning."

"I’ll be there." She hung up, turned to find Daniel watching her carefully. "Ice cream is melting."

He smiled, began to scoop the dessert into the waiting bowls. "I should have called and let her know that everything is okay. She was pretty worried about you."

"Sam is a great friend," Casey replied. Felt the wonder of having not just Daniel, but Teal’c, Sam, and Jack as well...people who cared for her...loved her in their own unique and individual ways.

"Yes, she is." He wouldn’t admit that it had been Sam who had noticed her absence. Wouldn’t admit that for a few hours, he'd had no clue where his Wife was, what she was going through. He would, however, berate himself for what he considered to be an inexcusable lapse in his attention to her.

She walked around behind him, slid her arms around his waist, pressed her cheek against the back of his shoulder. "As long as you love me, everything is fine."

"Then everything is perfect. Because I adore you. Love you. Need you. Want you."

"Writing a song, are you?"

He chuckled. "Smartass. Eat your ice cream."

She took the bowl he offered, sat down beside him at the breakfast bar. "I don’t know what I’d do without you," she said softly.

"You’ll never have to find out," he promised.

When he held her in the afterglow of their lovemaking later that night, she snuggled contentedly against his chest. As long as he loved her, she could face anything. Her emotions were still in turmoil, she was still embarrassed by the painting, and the knowledge that so many people had seen it...that so many people from the SGC had seen it. But she’d survived embarrassment before, and much worse than this. As long as Daniel loved her, this too would pass. Sleep wrapped around them softly, and she enjoyed blessedly dream free rest.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Breakfast was a rushed affair, each of the team members dashing into the commissary to grab a quick bite to eat before facing their day. Although neither Jack nor Teal’c said anything, both watched the young seer surreptitiously, looking for any signs that she was still upset. Sam had called both men after speaking to Casey, and had given her ‘report’ on what had been going on, and the reason for the seer’s sudden departure from the base.

Jack had already determined to squelch any rumors about Casey that he heard, and he was going to put a stop to the parade of SG teams leaving early for a quick trip to Denver. If they wanted to go see the painting, he couldn’t prevent them from doing so. He could, however, halt them from doing so when they were supposed to be working.

She wasn’t aware of it, but each of Casey’s teammates were on the lookout for any and all possible problems related to the painting. No matter from where those problems might arise.

 

 

 

Casey looked at the small device. Picked it up...turned it over, looked at it carefully. "It’s small."

"Thanks, Einstein," Sam replied.

"You’re welcome," Casey said, giving her friend a cheeky grin. "Does it work?"

"I haven’t been able to activate it."

Casey slipped it over her fingers. Tried to concentrate on the alien device, to determine the answer to Sam’s question. "Weapon," she murmured.

"Weapon? Like a ribbon device, or a like the weapon of a Goa’uld assassin?" Sam asked.

The young seer shrugged. "I’m not certain. I just see the word ‘weapon’ when I look at it."

Sam frowned. Took the device from her friend, pulled on the magnifying lens headset that she used so often in her work, and opened the back of the small...thing...for a second time. She carefully examined the miniature crystals, and their placement. "It can’t be a very powerful weapon," she muttered.

"Stun gun."

Sam looked up, her sapphire eyes made huge by the magnifying glass. "Huh?"

Once again slender shoulders moved up and then back down. "Stun gun."

The major began to smile. Well, that explained the odd looking strip of metal on the side away from the palm. "They have to get close to use it."

"Hey, so do we."

"Good point."

"Any more cool toys to look at? And when you’re finished with that, and you have it working, can I borrow it?"

"You may not zap Daniel with this!"

Casey grinned. "Who said anything about Daniel?"

For a moment Sam stared at her friend. Gaped when she finally realized who Casey was talking about. "He’d kick your ass!"

"Probably...well, if he can catch me. That Jaffa is fast, but I’m quicker. And I can fit into places to hide where he can’t."

Sam couldn’t help but laugh at the mental image that filled her mind...Casey sneaking up behind him, zapping him with the Goa’uld version of a stun gun...Teal’c dropping to the floor like a bag of wet cement...and then the possible avenues of revenge he would seek. "No," she said firmly, still giggling.

"You are just no fun," Casey sighed, her smile as wide as that of her friend’s.

"Right now, with this, that’s a good thing," Sam declared.

"I need to get to work on that freaking database. It’s a good thing I’m-" She stopped, looked around. "Immortal," she whispered. "As long as this thing is going to take, it might never be finished."

Sam giggled, nodded her understanding. "Thanks for the help."

"Anytime. Part of my job description."

"Which is?"

"Resident Seer and Doohickey Identifier." With a flutter of her fingers, Casey headed out of the lab and back toward the elevator...and level eighteen. And that damned, annoying database.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

There were only a few scattered SF’s and scientists in the commissary when she finally took a break long enough to grab a sandwich. Major Whitmore assured her that Daniel had indeed been down for lunch, complaining that his wife had been too busy to stop and join him. She frowned at that tidbit of news...she didn’t even remember Daniel coming into the office! Damn Goa’uld anyway! Between Nirrti and Geb and Ptah, the latter two of whom no one in the SGC had yet made contact, there were so many cross references that she was certain she’d confused the computer. She’d certainly confused herself a time or two, forcing her to go back and check and recheck links.

"Hi, Casey!"

The chipper voice belonged to the one person she really didn’t want to see or talk to. At least, not yet. Not until she had a firmer grip on her raging emotions. Everything that Daniel had said to her the night before, all of his reassurances, of his love and of her ‘innocence’, the gentleness he had shown when he had made love to her; all fled in the wake of her re-emerging feelings of shame and anger.

"Casey?"

She looked over at the lieutenant. The look of concern was completely lost on her at that moment, as waves of raw emotion washed over her. "How could you?" she asked softly.

"How could I what?" Tiesha asked, frowning slightly.

"How could you do that to me? How could you put me...put me in that painting like...like that? Goddess, it just proves that everything Helen Webster ever said about me is true! I never should have posed for you! I never should have trusted you!" By the time she had finished, she was shouting. Casey shoved the tray she carried, which held coffee, a sandwich and a huge slice of chocolate cake, back onto the counter; sloshing the hot coffee over the side, the dark liquid quickly pooling under the plates. She turned and ran from the room, oblivious to the stares and whispers. Didn’t even recognize Jack and Sam as the two people entering as she pushed past them.

"Uh oh," Sam said quietly, watching as Casey took the stairs, her head down, her long blonde hair hiding her face. A glance into the room partly explained what had happened. Tiesha stood still as a statue, her eyes wide, and glistening with tears.

"What’s going on?" Jack asked, not unkindly.

"Helen Webster," Tiesha said softly. Everyone on the base knew about Casey’s adoptive mother. What she had been convicted of, the case built almost solely on the testimony of her adopted daughter.

"What about her?" the colonel asked, frowning slightly.

"She did more than just set Casey up to be abused, didn’t she?"

Casey’s childhood was no big secret. The seer never spoke about it, unless it was a reference to her beloved grandmother, at least not to anyone who wasn’t Daniel or Teal’c. Everything she knew was from those two, or her own deductions, made from things said, or not said. Still...Sam sighed. "She said horrible, hurtful things. She called Casey a slut, and a whore. Starting when Casey was five years old. Screamed them. Every day. Helen Webster destroyed every bit of self esteem Casey had."

"Oh, god, what did I do?" Tiesha whispered, closing her eyes, putting a hand to her forehead. "I never thought...she’s so beautiful, so poised, I never...I never suspected...I should have talked to her."

"Casey didn’t know about the painting, did she?" Sam asked gently. Which certainly made complete sense of the seer’s stunned reaction at the gallery.

Tiesha shook her head. "I just assumed that by agreeing to do the photo...she wouldn’t mind."

"Oy," Jack said quietly. He was also putting pieces together, and coming up with a worrisome picture.

"I need to talk to her...to explain...to apologize," the lieutenant said.

"Tiesha, don’t be surprised...or hurt, if she doesn’t want to talk to you," Sam warned.

With a nod of understanding, the young woman hurried out the door. Whispers began to buzz around the room.

Jack looked around. "Nothing happened here, is that understood?" he barked, frowning at the group of nurses at a corner table, three of the individuals notorious rumor-mongers. His gaze moved to the two men, scientists of some sort, he thought, then to the SF’s who were sitting in various places.

Heads moved up and down. If the second-in-command was giving an order, and his tone of voice allowed for no other interpretation, not one word would be uttered about what had been witnessed...at least, not in a way that would bring down the wrath of SG-1.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Tiesha was already moving out of the room, determined to make right what she had unknowingly done wrong...hurting the seer, her friend. Now that she understood what Casey had suffered as a child, the things said to her, it didn’t take much deduction to figure out how she was viewing herself, as a result of the painting. Tiesha’s own grandmother had imparted bits of wisdom to her grandchildren. One of those tidbits was echoing loudly in the lieutenants head.

"Hurting someone doesn’t have to be intentional," Grandma Taylor had said. "And not being intentional doesn’t make it hurt any less."

Casey had been quiet at the gallery. But she often was, especially in a social situation. Even the SGC parties didn’t find the young blonde ‘chatty’. Oh, everyone knew that she chattered non-stop to her husband, and to Teal’c, who was, consensus agreed, her best friend. But she'd been more quiet that usual.

She frowned slightly. Remembered the almost haunted look that had been in those wide green eyes. Tiesha shook her head slightly. Casey had been surprised...no...she'd been shocked to learn that the portrait wasn’t a black and white photograph, but was instead a mural sized painting. Regardless of her intentions, Tiesha realized she should have at least warned her friend of the change.

Shaking as she waited for the elevator to take her to level eighteen, hoping that the seer had indeed returned to Dr. Jackson’s office, she tried to find the words to express her regret, to let Casey know that her own stupidity was what had led to this current...disaster. If Casey couldn’t forgive her, well, she would understand.

The more she thought about it, the more Tiesha berated herself. Why hadn’t she stopped long enough to talk to the woman so willing to be a model for her? Had she secretly feared that Casey would object? Had she subconsciously ignored the part of her common sense, the courtesy that had been taught to her by her parents and grandparents, because she wanted to win the competition before and above all else? How damned shallow did that make her, if she was willing to use a friend in such a manner?

The models that Tiesha had used in college were only that. Models. They had no say in the final product and they had no expectations of having any. It was just a job they were hired to do; to be a starting point for the artists to derive inspiration from. Rarely had the models wandered around the class after the session had finished to look at the student's interpretation.

Stupidly, it had never occurred to Tiesha that Casey hadn't been in that same mindset, or hadn't at least understood the role she'd been asked to play, especially when the blonde had made comments like 'You're the artist'. Oh, Tiesha had never lost sight of the fact that Casey was her friend, and doing her a favor, but in those moments when the camera had been whirling and the paintbrushes had been flying across the canvas, she had 'changed' into a being of inspiration, or Muse, for lack of a better term. Casey had, in her mind, become simply ‘a model’. Oh, what had she done?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey dropped down into the chair, rested her elbows on the desk, and buried her face in her hands. Although her emotions were still in turmoil, the prevailing thought in her mind was that she had behaved improperly by posing for the photo. Her head insisted that she had done nothing wrong, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to worry about. Her heart refused to be consoled.

To make matters worse, she had taken her own insecurity out on Tiesha. Who had done nothing to warrant the...attack. That was the only way to describe her reaction. She had verbally attacked the woman. Way to go, Casey, she thought, chastising herself as her words played over and over in her memory.

A timid knock on the open door brought her head up. "Oh, Casey, I’m so sorry!"

She wiped hastily at her cheeks. The outburst surprised her. "I should be apologizing to you! What I said...I shouldn’t have said those things-"

"You have every right to be upset with me," Tiesha said quietly, stepping into the room. "I never dreamed that you'd be...hurt...by the painting. You’re beautiful and so together, always so composed, and just...so...so...generous, and kind...please believe me when I tell you that I never would have painted that if I had known!"

The words shocked her. Composed? ‘Together’? She nearly gave in to the hysterical laughter she could feel bubbling up. Was that really how Tiesha saw her? She felt as if she were the biggest fraud walking if that were the case...she never felt composed or ‘together’. She always felt as if she were a step out of sync, always running to catch up, trying so hard to measure up, to be at least adequate, aching to fit in, even if just on the periphery. Generous? She always tried to be giving of her time and attention as well as financially...something that Grandma Rose had taught her. Kind? Do unto others, she thought, as Grandma Rose always said. Treat people the way you want to be treated, Rose had told her. A lesson all the more relevant given the treatment the little girl had been subjected to on a daily basis.

The harsh light from the florescent bulb in the ceiling light fixture glinted against the tears on the dark cheeks. Casey waved the woman into the room, opened the bottom drawer of the desk and pulled out the box of tissues that she kept there. "I’m glad you won," Casey said softly, offering a tissue to the lieutenant. "It will open so many doors for you."

"It’s been a very long time since I painted anything," Tiesha admitted, wiping her nose. "I love photography, I’ll never give that up. When I saw the color photo, the ideas..." she closed her eyes. "I haven’t been that inspired since my sophomore year in college."

Casey studied her friend. She'd known that Tiesha had been excited. She hadn’t known that it had been the painting, and not just the idea of competing, or winning such impressive prizes, that had been the reason for that excitement. That the sheer delight in creating had brought such joy to the lieutenant's dark eyes. "Daniel says you’re a very talented artist. That your...vision...of the myth, your ‘Venus Rising From the Sea’ is so beautiful, so realistic that it pulls the observer into the scene."

"He really said that?"

Casey nodded. "He also said I should be proud of my contribution to such an incredible piece of art."

"But you’re not," Tiesha said softly.

Tears began to flow unchecked once again. She wiped impatiently at them. "It’s just so...big."

"Is that the only thing that bothers you, the size of the painting?"

"I’m naked in it."

Tiesha gave a small smile. "Technically, you’re not. I made certain of that. I’m not a prude, but the painting wasn’t about a naked woman, it’s about a woman created from the mist of the ocean, as a result of a physical battle between a god and goddess. Something beautiful from the anger, the hatred, the mutilation. It’s a story of hope...of looking for the beauty in all of the ugliness of life."

Casey studied her friend silently for several long moments. She knew the myth. Daniel had told her about it the night before. Tiesha’s translation of that myth put an entirely new spin on the matter. "That’s exactly what you were trying to capture."

"Trying," Tiesha admitted, shrugging slightly.

"From what I heard at the gallery, you succeeded. The judges certainly saw that, and felt it."

"What about you?" Tiesha asked softly.

"I think I’d like to go look at it again. More objectively this time."

"Seriously?"

Casey nodded. "Would you go with me? Hold my hand?"

Tiesha smiled. "I’d be honored."

"Actually, I think I’m the one who is honored. If that photo inspired you..." she gave a shy smile.

"We’ll look at it together. And maybe I can come up with a way to put clothes on you...or maybe lengthen your hair a bit, to cover you more."

"You’d do that?"

"If it made you more comfortable, I certainly would." If Casey wanted the damned thing destroyed, she’d cut the canvas to shreds herself. Their friendship, the trust between them, was far more important than any painting.

The offer was tempting. Pleased her, because it meant that the woman valued their friendship above her art. But what Tiesha had painted had been her vision...her artistic interpretation of the myth. To change it...to alter it, would change the entire feeling of the painting, she was certain of that. "Don’t change a thing."

"You’re sure?"

Hell, no. But she had to learn to let go of her fears, of her insecurities somehow. And she certainly couldn’t let those dark fears affect anyone else. No matter how uncomfortable the situation might be for her, she just had to learn to deal with it; for Tiesha...and her future as an artist. "I’m sure."

Daniel raced into the room, having received a call from Sam alerting him to the incident in the commissary. "Casey?"

She flashed a smile. "Hey, handsome. Tiesha and I were just talking about going over to the gallery, to take another look at that painting. I’ve heard from very reliable sources that it’s a magnificent portrayal of the Venus myth."

He couldn’t help but grin. "You won’t be disappointed. Well...then again..."

She looked at him expectantly.

"Don’t expect to see yourself, Angel. The only woman in that painting is the goddess Venus."

Casey nodded. "So I’ve heard."

"So when will you go?"

Tiesha shrugged. "It will have to be within the next day or so. The silent auction ends tomorrow, and the highest bidders for each piece will be notified."

"You mean, it won’t be in the gallery?"

"No. It will go to the highest bidder."

"And no one knows...well, let me rephrase that...no one outside of the SGC knows that it’s me in the painting?"

"Not that I’m aware of."

She sat back in the chair. If no one knew it was her, and they were seeing the myth, the goddess, not just the woman...the model...She smiled. "Guess I just slid right back into obscurity."

Tiesha snorted, then laughed. "Well, when you put it that way, sorry Case, but your fifteen minutes of fame are over."

"And it was only here in the SGC," Daniel added.

"So we go look at it tomorrow night...the three of us? We could stop somewhere for dinner, my treat," Casey said softly.

"It’s a date," Daniel said immediately.

"We could leave right after our shift is over," Tiesha added.

"Done," Casey agreed.

The photographer reached for Casey’s hand. "Are we okay?"

"I think so. We had a little difference of opinion on a piece of art. Seems I was...wrong." Even if she still felt as if she had done something inappropriate, Casey knew that her Husband, and her friends, would never lie to her. They were telling her the truth, in spite of what the lies Helen Webster had planted so deep in her heart were telling her. Someday, she’d break through those lies. She’d eradicate them from her heart...from her soul. Someday. In the meantime, she had Daniel, and her friends and family at the SGC. They would never steer her wrong, never let her be hurt. As nervous...and embarrassed, as she still felt about the painting, that sense of security, the weight of that love, wrapped around her like a warm blanket.

Daniel sighed. How many more times would those scars haunt her...hurt her? Would he ever be able to find them all...heal them? Help her realize she was the strong woman that he knew she longed to be, and be secure in that knowledge.

Tiesha nodded, stood to her feet. "I’ll talk to you tomorrow." 

"I’ll be here," Casey smiled.

As she left the office, the young lieutenant couldn’t help but wish she’d never created the painting. Even if she hadn’t been so excited...so inspired, for years. If she had the money, she’d buy it herself...and cut the canvas to shreds. Hopefully whoever bought the painting would appreciate it...and never wonder about who the model had been.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Sam held up the form. "I went to Denver last night and picked this up. If you and I chip in together, we can buy Tiesha’s painting."

Jack stopped, the spoonful of Fruit Loops dripping white droplets of milk, which fell unheeded back into the bowl, splashing over the side. "And do what with it, exactly? Carter, that thing is huge!"

"It also bothers Casey, and she’d never ask Tiesha to withdraw it from the auction. I don’t even know that that’s possible, especially since she won first place," Sam pointed out quietly. "We can store it somewhere, until Casey’s ready to deal with it."

Teal’c nodded. "I would be most willing to assist in this purchase."

Jack studied his lover and friend. Then nodded slowly. Casey had run home one day, too embarrassed to face anyone because of that painting; had confronted the artist, shouting her pain at Tiesha the next. Daniel hadn’t said much, only that Casey was dealing with her feelings concerning the darned thing. He’d been around the seer long enough to know that ‘dealing with her feelings’ meant she was beating herself up for some perceived sin, only because of that fat bitch..."I’m in," he said quietly. "Just put on there that we’ll beat any top bid by five hundred dollars."

"Sir-"

"I have good credit, Carter," Jack replied. "It’s for Casey."

She smiled. For Jack, it was just that simple. Casey had saved his life, had thrown herself at him when a group of Jaffa had surprised them. She had taken a hit to the shoulder, but other than having the breath knocked out of him, Jack had been unscathed. That didn’t even take into account the missions that had been scrapped or postponed due to the dangers her gift of sight had warned them of...many times in the past two years; actions that had no doubt saved their lives a dozen times over.

"Indeed," Teal’c said firmly. "I do not believe it would be difficult to arrange for a load of money by contract."

"Loan," Jack said automatically. The twitch in the Jaffa’s dark cheek was the only outward sign of his amusement. He was certain Teal’c did it on purpose. There was no doubt in his mind that the Jaffa had a better grasp of the English language than he liked to let on. Sort of like him and names...he grinned inwardly.

With a nod, Sam began to fill in the pertinent information. Hopefully the very helpful woman at the art gallery would be correct, and there wouldn’t be many bids for the very large painting. The size, she had been told, was detrimental to sales of such art. Very few people had space for paintings that were so large. The minimum bid was five hundred dollars. They were looking at probably fifteen hundred at the most. Between the three of them, it wasn’t even a full weeks’ pay.

"Send them by courier," Jack said. "Better yet, get one of the Airmen on duty to drive it up."

"Sir, I’m not sure General Hammond would approve," Sam countered.

"It’s for Casey," the colonel repeated. "She’s helped save the world a couple of times now. The taxpayers owe her this much."

"Indeed," Teal’c said, crossing his arms over his massive chest.

She smiled. "Yes, sir." No doubt whoever was chosen for the duty would only need to be told that it was for Casey Jackson, and the task would be performed at top speed. It was nice to be able to cash in on a bit of that good will for such a worthy cause, she thought.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

It was nearly three p.m. The tall, slim woman pulled her suit jacket over the silk blouse she wore. She always walked through the gallery during the day, and always at this time. She was a creature of habit, nearly ritualistic in her strict adherence to her routine.

Tammy hurried forward. "I have the bids sorted and ready for you to look at. I’m surprised at the number that actually came in for two of the mural pieces. Six bids for Adonis, and four bids for Venus."

"That’s wonderful," Donna sighed. She had worried that the gallery would be stuck with the oversized paintings.

"I’ll type up the list of top bidders tomorrow."

"That will be fine-" She broke off, frowned slightly when a young man with closely cropped hair, wearing blue jeans and a deep blue windbreaker hurried into the building. "May I help you?"

"Yes, ma’am. I need to drop this off with the person in charge," was the polite answer.

Donna accepted the envelope, slit open the top with a perfectly manicured nail, and withdrew the Silent Auction Bid form. "Well, it seems we have another bid for Venus. Thank you, I’ll take care of this personally," she said, smiling at the young man.

With a nod and a fleeting smile, he disappeared as abruptly as he had arrived.

Tammy smiled. "I’d say the contest was a success."

"Very much so," Donna agreed. "I must admit, that several of the entries surprised me."

"Because of the quality of the work?"

"Because of who the artists were. A truck driver. A school teacher. An Air Force officer."

"So, a person’s ‘day job’ is indicative of their artistic talent?" Tammy challenged, a smile on her face. Donna was a nice enough woman, an easy boss to work for. And one hell of a art snob.

"No, of course not," the woman replied immediately. "It’s just that I had hoped that one of our local artists would have taken the top prize."

"And it bothers you that the Air Force officer did?"

"I just find it difficult to correlate art and the military."

Tammy shook her head. "You’re a snob, Donna."

The older woman smiled. "So you tell me."

"Good thing I’m here, or half of these people would never have had a chance to enter," Tammy teased.

"I’m certain you’re correct. I would have barricaded the doors, allowing only true artists through the gauntlet," Donna shot back.

"Artists who had proven themselves to be true, of course."

"Of course." Her smile widened. "I know that I often seem cold to you, aloof. I assure you, I can see true talent, regardless of who holds the paintbrush, or the camera, or the sculpting knife."

"Which is why you’re the manager," Tammy replied.

"Why don’t you run along? You’ve been putting in long hours for weeks now, you deserve a little break."

"You’re sure?"

"I’m sure."

Tammy nodded her dark head. "Thanks, I think I will call it a day. I’m going to crawl into the bathtub and soak. I’m exhausted."

"As well you should be," Donna exclaimed. "I hope you know how much I appreciate all of your help during this contest."

"You could always offer me a raise," Tammy grinned.

"I didn’t say I appreciated it that much!"

With a giggle, Tammy fluttered her fingers in a parting wave, and hurried back to her office. She didn’t expect any further bids to come in. Her preliminary list was ready, all she had to do was type it up. And then begin the task of contacting the highest bidders, and making arrangements for each piece to be picked up, or delivered.


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