It was with sore feet and a feeling of utter bemusement that Jesse accepted the bottle of tequila from Marian as she shooed him out the door at the end of the day. He was still a little confused as to how he had ended up serving tables for the better part of the afternoon, and judging by the various amused looks he had been getting, he had a feeling that he hadn't heard the last of this incident.

Aunt Liz would probably tease him about this for the next month or so- he hadn't waited tables since he'd been a teenager, and when he had quit his job, he had sworn that he would never do so ever again.

Emphatically.

Apparently Life, (or was that just Marian?) had decided otherwise, and he had a bottle of the type of liquor he normally never drank in his hand to prove it.

Sighing tiredly, he paused in the street out the front of the shop, taking in the wet-velvet sensation of the cool, albeit slightly damp, air. He could smell the rain, and judging by the small flash of sheet lighting he spotted in the distance, and by the way the wind had just picked up, it was likely that he'd be feeling it soon.

It was about this point in time that Marian appeared at the front door of her shop, a worn, but obviously good quality raincoat worn over the kimono that she had worn earlier that day.

Jesse blinked.

The raincoat was actually a royal blue in colour. Apart from the first day that he'd seen her, he had never seen Marian in anything but green. He had to admit that he liked this colour on her.

Closing the shop door and locking it with many a jangle from the various bells that hung from her keyrings, Marian tested the handle, then satisfied that no casual marauder would be able to break in, shoved the keys deep into one of her pockets.

And then apparently noticed Jesse for the first time.

"Ack! What the hell are you still doing here? You scared the absolute bejeezus out of me!" she screeched at him, one hand holding her raincoat closed.

Startled at her reaction, Jesse backed up a little.

"Sorry," he murmured. "I'll just get going then..."

"Oh never mind, you just gave me a bit of a fright, is all," Marian interrupted, brushing her dark hair out of her eyes. She stopped, and considered him for a moment, and Jesse got the distinct impression that he was being measured in some way.

"Uh... something I can help you with?" he asked nervously, watching the (what he was beginning to recognise as) habitual mischievous gleam in Marian's eyes sharpen until they were practically glowing with suppressed glee.

"I thought you'd never ask- in fact, there is something that you can do for me, though if you ever want to back out, just say so immediately and I'll burn the evidence."

Burn the...? What?!

Why did he suddenly feel very, very frightened?

"I think," Jesse said very slowly, "that you had better explain what you're on about before I say 'yes' to anything you might have to burn later. Besides," he remembered, "it's a total fireban anyway... though this rain might have taken that down a few notches," he mused quietly.

A slight look of chagrin flashed across Marian's face, before she replied in an oddly bright tone, "Right, total fireban, explanations before commitments, all that sort of jazz. Gotcha. You're not a spontaneous sort are you? Never mind, I can cure you of that later if you like, but for this little project you don't have to be all that spontaneous, just willing to take your clothes off."

Jesse immediately went scarlet with surprise. "Wait, you want me to WHAT?!"

"Model for me. I'm planning a sculpture, and I need some sketches of a naked male to make sure that I get the proportions right. I'd just get them from the internet, only I don't particularly feel like trawling through epic amounts of porn in order to find some naked pics of guys who just-so-happen to be of the physique I'm looking for- besides, I really don't want my computer to crash like last time," Marian explained in about the same tone Jesse would use if he was asking his next-door neighbour if he could borrow some sugar.

He was never sure, afterwards, whether it had been the overly reasonable tone of voice, her insistence that it was just for practicality, or simply the fact that she was one of the more interesting things that had happened to him in a long time, but it was only a fifteen minute walk to a small house on the outskirts of Endeavour at the edge of the lake, and it was only about ten minutes after that that Jesse found himself disrobing in front of a woman that he had barely met, in a cheerful yellow-painted livingroom.

Was he imagining it when he thought that Marian's eyes had widened just a little upon seeing his bare chest?

After he had peeled his jeans off, Marian had said that he should leave his boxers on- he'd probably get cold anyway, and she said that she would probably only need the dimensions of the top half of him anyway.

Maybe her eyes had widened at the prospect of the perfect model for what she had in mind? What the hell did she have in mind anyway?

Jessse had plenty of time to contemplate these questions and more, as Marian speedily scratched out sketch after free-hand sketch of him in progresso and charcoal- first standing, then sitting on the lounge, and then reclining.

He was surprised he didn't feel more awkward about the situation- he felt that he knew nothing about this woman. Marian Emery. Born of Peruvian parents. At least one brother. Bilingual, spoke Spanish and English. Had a certain fondness for the colour green. Wasn't afraid to stand up to horrors like Flo Harris, and had managed to charm perpetual grumps like the Delaneys. His Aunt Liz seemed to genuinely like her, at least partly because in her own words "that girl knows about a good cup of chamomile tea". She owned a shop that perpetually smelt of incense and curry spices, and she was perfectly happy to make a scene.

And last but not least, apparently she was some sort of artist.

"So what's guy like you doing in a quiet place like this anyway?" she suddenly asked him, without pausing in her industry.

"Nothing really. I spent most of my life here, never really had any strong desire to leave."

Marian stopped.

"You're serious?" She appeared to be genuinely mystified, and Jesse reddened a little in annoyance.

Was she going to give him the speech about how he was wasting his time, his life by sticking around Endeavour?

"You've been outside though, haven't you." The comment was phrased as a question, but the tone was more one of certainty.

"Yeah, I make the trip to Sydney at least once a year to visit some friends of mine, but mostly I just stick to here."

"Thank God. For a second there I thought I'd got you wrong, and that you were going to tell me that you'd never been outside this little tourist trap," Marian sounded genuinely relieved, though Jesse was a little confused as to why.

Her tone annoyed him a little though, and he sat up straight on the couch.

"If you don't like it, then why the hell did you come here?" he demanded.

Marian laughed, and gestured placatingly towards him, nearly losing her charcoal in her eagerness.

"Hey now, I never said I didn't like this place." She grinned at him, and Jesse couldn't help but notice that somehow in the last few minutes, her kimono had loosened a little, giving him a tantalising glimpse of Marian's bright purple bra.

"Quite the opposite, in fact. It's a beautiful part of the country, this- all those gorgeous mangroves and tea trees really set that lake off, and I like the community atmosphere, as tricky as breaking my way into it is probably going to be, knowing how I usually get on with people."

For a moment, Jesse thought he saw a glint of sadness in the usually whimsical eyes, but no, Marian was wearing her usual manic grin, and soon diverted his attention by getting up and then plonking herself on the brown leather lounge next to him.

"Wanna look?" Marian thrust her sketchbook under his nose before he could reply, and Jesse found himself looking at what he had assumed from the speed with which Marian had drawn would be vague outlines.

Well, some of them were, but most of them were relatively faithful renderings. They weren't photographic, by any means, but it was unmistakeable that the figures in her drawings were all depictions of himself.

"...Wow, these are pretty good!"

For the first time since he had met her, Marian blushed.

"Well, I mean, they aren't exactly gallery quality- these are just a few bits and pieces to get me started... I'm going to sculpt something that will look like a cross between a Mayan and a Greek idol, and so I'm going to mix marble and sandstone and feathers and wood to get the cross-over effect I want..." she trailed off, and then closed her eyes and smiled, a smile that was similar to the expression Jesse had seen on her face the first time he had met her. "Thankyou," she finally said.

"You're welcome."

Jesse shivered a little then, and Marian patted his shoulder with a surprisingly warm hand.

"You'd better get yout clothes back on before you catch a chill and your Aunt Liz chews me out for letting her great-nephew catch cold."

Speedily yanking his clothes back on, Jesse didn't bother asking her how she knew he was related to Liz- seemingly she'd been keeping her ears open, and/or someone had been nice enough to explain a few of the tangled relationships that existed between the townsfolk.

Probably his Aunt Liz, to be honest.

Pushing his head through the collar of his shirt, Jesse noticed that Marian seemed to have vacated the premises. A slight clattering from what he assumed was the kitchen announced where she was about three seconds before Marian yelled something about tea.

Having been too nervous earlier, Jesse took a moment to take in his surroundings properly. He sat on a brown leather lounge in a fairly cosy living room. The bright yellow walls were set off by a number of equally bright paintings, that ranged in style and subject from obscure abstracts to what appeared to be a cubist portrait of a dog, albeit that the dog was painted in shades of purple and orange. An intricately woven rug sat in the middle of the room, saving the well-polished floorboards beneath from the legs of a somewhat battered coffee table, its surface pitted with coffee-mug rings and what appeared to be scratched-in names.

"Oh, you can sign that too if you want." Marian bustled in with a small teapot and a pair of teacups, which she set out on top of the coffee table with a casual disregard that would have made Jesse's mother wince, albeit that it was clear there wasn't much more surface left to spoil on it.

"Who are they?" Jesse asked. "Do you always get people you trick into being your models to leave marks in your furniture?"

Marian rolled her eyes. "Oh come on now, I hardly tricked you. I might have energetically encouraged you, but I was serious about burning the evidence- if you don't want me to use these sketches of you I'll give them to you right here and now so that you can dispose of them as you see fit. I mean, it'd be a pain, but meh, I'd deal." She shrugged. "And it's not all my furniture I get people to mark, and nor is it all my models, or only my models for that matter. This is my little shrine to the interesting people that I have invited back to my place in past times, to remind me."

Jesse observed how the table was almost covered, and raised his eyebrows.

"You must have met a lot of interesting people."

"You could say that, but part of it is just that I think that everyone is interesting in their own way- so many little people living little lives- so many who consider themselves the same and yet so many differences. Even those who think of themselves as original individuals are only partially right. Everyone breathes oxygen, everyone goes looking for sex or romance or relationships or all three, and everyone needs some sort of passion to keep them from going crazy. What's your passion Jesse?"

The sudden turn in the conversation left Jesse stumped for a moment, and he was silent as he thought about his answer.

His passion... if he was honest with himself, he hadn't felt passionate in a long time, not since Hayley had disappeared. He liked to do specific things- he was working through a distance education course so he could get his uni degree and he thoroughly enjoyed that. He liked to go for quiet walks at night, when most of Endeavour had gone to their respective homes.

Somehow he doubted that was quite what Marian meant.

"I... don't really know exactly," he said finally.

Marian considered him then, her eyes squinting a little as she regarded him. For the second time that night, Jesse felt as though he were being judged for something.

For a moment he thought that she was going to make a comment, but instead she reached down and pulled out a drawer in the coffee table that Jesse had been unaware of until that moment.

She handed him a sharpened nail, and though he felt slightly sacriligious for blatantly graffitiing a piece of furniture, Jesse laboriously etched his name into a space that was hemmed in by the signatures of people called "Lily", "Herald", "Jas" and "Scribe".

"There you go Jesse. Now you're surrounded by freaky people like me," Marian grinned at him, pouring him a cup of steaming chamomile.

Jesse wasn't quite sure how to reply to that, and so sipped at his tea to avoid answering her.

A/N: Hello people! Anyone out there? Bloody ghosts the lot of ya so I decided to give you lot this little tidbit instead of my previous plan. I've said it before and I'll say it again- feedback is always appreciated.

I refuse to play silly sulky games of "no reviews, no new content flounce" A little too highschool for me, so I will update this again in the not-so-distant future whether I get a review or not.

So there. :P

Ciao, Erisah.