Nosy hummed happily around the handle of its paintbrush, flicking the tip lightly against the canvas with deft strokes. Many years had passed since it had posed as the model for one of Meriel’s first artworks, and it was even longer since it had been given its first easel and child-friendly watercolour paints. Even now Meriel, all grown up and a grandmother, still enjoyed painting and drawing in her spare time, and she’d created may fine pieces of art over the years, a lot of them depicting family, friends, and Fluffs, but everybody agreed Nosy was the true artistic talent.
The Fluff had an eye for detail, and despite its lack of hands, was capable of astonishing dexterity. It captured light and shade so beautifully that the scenes it painted had an ethereal quality that touched the soul, and its paintings were highly sought after. At its last exhibition two years previously, not a single canvas had remained unsold.
The painting it was working on right now, however, was not for sale; this one was special, an anniversary gift for the people who had given it a home and become its family almost seventy-five years ago. It was a portrait of Jack and Ianto’s eldest daughter; after all, it was only fair that Meriel should take her turn posing.
At sixty-seven years of age, she was still beautiful. Her brown hair was streaked with silver now, and laughter had left creases around her eyes and mouth, but her blue eyes were still vivid, her smile as wide and white as her dad’s, her back still straight, and her graceful, long-fingered hands still strong and supple. She looked more like a woman in her early fifties; she might not have inherited her parents’ immortality, but she was certainly reaping the benefits of their genes.
She sat quietly in a comfortable chair, gazing out of Nosy’s studio window at the pouring rain, a soft smile curving her lips and a faraway expression on her face. Nosy gave a questioning hum.
“Oh, I was just thinking about the day I painted your first portrait.” Meriel had painted her old friend several times over the years and had become far better at capturing its fluffiness, although her dads still cherished her first attempt. “It was a day very much like this one, far too wet for playing outside, so we went down to my playroom, and I made you lie in the same awkward position, with your head on my toy box for hours. You must have been so uncomfortable, but you never once complained.”
She smiled at the Fluff who’d been her first and bestest friend. She had a Fluff of her own now, as well as several Flufflets who lived with her grown-up children, and she loved them all dearly, but Nosy would always hold a special place in her heart, and she knew the Fluff felt the same way about her. That was at least part of the reason for this portrait, to preserve this memory of her.
Nosy hummed another question, the empathic bond they’d shared since her birth allowing Meriel to get the gist of what the Fluff was asking.
“Oh, no, I’m fine. This chair is very comfy; you don’t have to worry about me. I can sit like this for hours.” She’d inherited her tad’s talent for stillness; he found doing nothing very restful while her dad would be fidgeting after five minutes. Jack never could sit still and do nothing, he got bored and restless, which was why most paintings showed him knitting, just so he was doing something. “It’s nice to sit and watch the rain on the glass, very relaxing. Brings back a lot of memories.”
“Hummm,” Nosy agreed, continuing to paint, mixing colours to get exactly the right shade of pink for Meriel’s cheek, capturing the flush of happiness there. Good memories warmed a human person from the inside in curious ways. They warmed Nosy too, but that didn’t show on Nosy’s outside unless it made a conscious effort to change colour. Human colouring just changed automatically, something Nosy had noticed could be unwelcome and inconvenient, although Ianto turned bright pink far less often now than he used to.
“Sometimes I miss the fun we used to have together, when it was just the two of us, before the twins and Rosie came along. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a big sister, but I still used to get a little jealous that they took some of your attention away from me. You were run ragged, trying to keep an eye on all of us.”
“HUMMmm.” Nosy remembered those days all too well, juggling its responsibilities to its young charges while teaching its Flufflets. These days, it grew a new Flufflet as soon as Jack announced he was expecting, so that much of the youngster’s training was already completed before the baby arrived. That worked much better.
Meriel laughed. “We all have to learn from our mistakes. You were just unlucky that Dad produced twins after me; if you’d just had one new baby and a Flufflet to watch over you’d have had an easier time of it.”
There was no doubt in Nosy’s mind that Meriel was right. As the oldest child she’d done her best to help her friend out, but she’d been at school most days, and then had homework to do. Still, they’d all survived the Holy Terrors more or less intact, and despite their own best efforts, the twins had survived too, long enough to grow into responsible adults. There’d been times Nosy had wondered if they ever would.
A buzzing sound alerted Meriel and Nosy to the time.
“Well, looks like that’s it for today; I have to pick up my grandkids from school. Same time tomorrow?”
“Hum!” Nosy set its paintbrush aside as Meriel stood up. There’d be at least another week of sittings before the portrait was finished, these things couldn’t be rushed, but they both had other responsibilities too.
Meriel knelt down to hug her friend. “Thank you.”
“For letting me ramble. My kids and grandkids get bored when I start talking about the past. What is it with young people these days? Only interested in now and what’s ahead, never looking back. They don’t know what they’re missing. At least you, Dad, and Tad are happy to let me reminisce. And Snuffles, of course.” She kissed the end of Nosy’s snout. “See you tomorrow, enjoy the rest of your day.”
Slipping into her coat, Meriel picked up her umbrella, still a necessary piece of equipment for anyone living in Wales. Nosy saw her out, waiting in the doorway until she was safely in her small hovercar and pulling out onto the street, then closing the door it slithered back to its easel, where it made a few final brush strokes before drawing back to study the painting. It showed Meriel sitting in a chair and gazing into a mirror, where her much younger self smiled back at her.
Nosy hummed in satisfaction. Yes, the idea was working beautifully; the Fluff was sure Jack and Ianto would appreciate its gift.