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fic: Speaking Likeness

Title: Speaking Likeness
Fandom: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Length: 350 words
Content notes: no warnings apply; contains angst
Characters: Jonathan Strange
Pairings: Arabella/Jonathan
Author note: Written for the amnesty challenge at [community profile] fan_flashworks; prompt used was Self-Portrait. This fic was inspired by the image in this post, which [personal profile] kalypso sent to me, and is for her.
Summary: A speaking likeness, people said, but that was precisely what a portrait could not be.

Strange gazed at the portrait of Arabella, as he had done countless times since coming to the Peninsula. The miniature was her own work, and had the liveliness and skill of all her pieces. It was as close to a perfect likeness as any thing could be, yet to look at it, he found, made his wife seem farther away than ever. He missed the scent of her skin, the warmth of her body in his arms, the small sounds she made in her sleep. He did not let himself think too often of more intimate sensations: they would rouse him, but leave him lonelier than ever when his solitary passion had spent itself.

A speaking likeness, people said, but that was precisely what a portrait could not be. He needed to hear Arabella’s voice, and he could not. He needed not to think about the consolations that lay so close at hand, and which he longed for more with each passing day.

By now he had given up all hopes of a letter from her. In his wilder moments he imagined some malign agency must be intercepting their correspondence, preposterous as the idea seemed in the cold light of day. Yet what other explanation could there be? He would not believe that she had stopped loving him, and even if she had she might still have written. Other men’s wives wrote to them, as he knew only too well from reading their letters aloud to those who needed it: letters mundane and poorly written, dull and disappointing, giving unwelcome news, but still letters.

The portrait gazed at him without reproach, without understanding, without pity. When he first came to the Peninsula he had carried it next to his heart, but that time was gone and he could not call it back. He closed the miniature-case and stowed it carefully in his luggage. It would keep until he came back from the mission with Grant, and if he did not return –

“Merlin,” Grant called to him, “will you come?”

“Coming,” he said, and went out into the chill November air.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/193809.html with comment count unavailable comments.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2015 02:04 pm (UTC)
Poor, sad Strange. The movement of the portrait from his person to his baggage is very telling, though he still remains hopeful. Even with Grant close at hand, all the wondering about why Arabella hasn't written him has to prey on his mind.

Nicely done!
Nov. 2nd, 2015 09:15 pm (UTC)
thank you! that intercepted correspondence continues to bug me - it doesn't happen in the book, and I feel that the TV series didn't think it through, either in practical terms or in terms of emotional fallout.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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