by Chate Noire
Rating: Possibly PG-13 for some artistic nudity
Author's Notes: Watching as "America's Next Top Model" rerun made me fan over british photographer Nigel Barker (again) and so I kindly gave him a slight cold.

She was a perfect woman. From the very tips of her long, flowing golden hair to her delicate, stretched toes, she was perfection. Her back arched in a manner that was almost sexual, but her eyes conveyed a demure temptation, partly innocent, partly sensual. She was looking right at him, her mouth slightly open and lips glistening in the bright light. She was perfect.

Nigel sighed and lowered the camera. He could see plain as day how gorgeous the live picture in front of him was, but when she looked at him through the lens there was no passion in it, no life. The lights were adjusted thrice to his request, the backdrop altered, her pose constantly changing to find that single shot that will inspire him...and nothing. Whenever he raised the camera he looked at nothing more than a woman on a pile of satin sheets.

"Right," he said, putting the camera aside and rubbing his eyes. "Thanks, love, I think that'll be all for today."

His model covered herself and stepped down from the platform quietly. She worked with him before and could tell that despite not blatantly saying so, he was utterly disappointed with the shoot. As she walked towards him she noticed how tired he looked, and slightly paler the usual. She touched his back gently and smiled at him.

"You look tired, sweetheart. Go home and get some rest."

With that she turned around and walked out of the studio, leaving him sitting on the floor. Nigel looked after her with a half-hearted smile until she left the room, and got to his feet, swooping the camera off the floor. A slight dizziness came over him, followed by a quickly growing sensation he'd managed to suppress since the beginning of the shoot. The photographer placed his camera safely on a long table and, grabbing hold of said table to keep his balance, bent forward with a wonderfully releasing "HESSCHOO!". He sighed and sat limply on a nearby chair. The crazy hours he worked to meet the deadline for the NY show were treating him quite badly. He could not remember the last time he had a proper night's sleep or a decent meal; it was always snacks between sessions and short naps until the next model arrived.

The task of making coffee was proving to be somewhat more difficult than he imagined, with harsh sneezes that shook his body almost every minute. Finally, with a steaming cup of strong coffee in his hand, his allowed himself a few moments of rest. His nose, however, was not that kind.

After a ridiculous amount of "HEESChew!", "Huh-Eesssh!" and barely stifled "h'Tsccht!"s, Nigel was forced to get up and find a bleedin' handkerchief. Luckily, one of the trousers he messily piled in a small dressing room had one in its pocket, and immediately upon taking it he found it useful, catching a weak "huh-Sshoo!" in its folds.

This was so not the time to catch cold, he thought miserably as he slumped into the chair. The show was due in a matter of days, and he had not taken a single satisfactory shot yet. One good session, that's all he needed, with one staggeringly good model and copious amounts of inspiration. What he was getting so far, however, was a staggeringly awful cold and copious amounts of sneezing, which didn't help much.

Sniffling tiredly, he brought the handkerchief to his nose and reared his head in preparation for a sneeze he'd felt coming for ages.


"God bless."

The photographer was startled to find he was not alone in the room, and turned around to look at a young woman of no more than twenty-two, dressed simply in jeans and a T-shirt, short curly hair adorning her face.

"Uh, thanks." He stared at her for a short while and then seemed to gather his senses. "I'm so sorry, you're Anna, aren't you? So sorry, I lost track of time, let me just fix this...thiih...heh-HeEesssht!" He managed to stifle the last of it, feeling terribly self-aware. This ridiculous display was hardly worthy of a professional and not at all like himself. "So sorry," he said, after making certain that was it, at least for now.

"No problem," she smiled. "I mean, bless you. Shall I go and get ready?"

"Yes, please. Step on the platform when you're ready, I'll set the camera."

Nigel picked up his tool of the trade, preparing it carefully for another session. He rubbed constantly at his nose, trying to get rid of a distant tickle that will simply not be tolerated during the shoot. God, what a terribly awful timing for a cold. He blew his nose as quietly as he could and turned around.

There she was, on the platform, as beautiful and primal as Eve. He only noticed he was staring at her when a small, awkward smile spread slowly on her face.

"I'm sorry, I--" he started, and then shook his head and raised his camera, "shall we start?"

Looking at her through the lens, it was as if a hazy screen had been lifted from his eyes. She was even more wonderful than before. Her very essence shone around her, bringing life into the picture and lighting that spark he longed for within him. He adjusted the camera and took a picture. And another. And another.

"This is...fabulous," he breathed. It was as if a muse had entered the room with her, and colored everything with bright tones of art and inspiration. For a moment he wondered if she herself was that muse, the one he sought for days on end.

Replacing the film, he kept on capturing the intensity of her, stopping only to admire her through his naked eye and, unfortunately, to rub his nose from time to time. He used a brief moment in which she changed her pose to direct a short "HeeESCH!" over his shoulder.

"Are you alright? Perhaps we should take a break..."

"My God, no!" he nearly begged. "This is fabulous. You are fabulous. A few more shots..." He rubbed his nose firmly, obviously trying to stave back the next interruption.

She smiled and lay back, looking at him with an enchanting combination of innocence and lust. Nigel sniffed once and took one picture after the next, feeling inspiration surround him completely, breathing it, letting it engulf him. He was making art. No, he thought, this wonderful creature before him was art. He was merely allowing the world a glance.

He had no idea how much time had passed when he put his camera down. He lowered his head, pressing his hands together as if praying, and smiled. When he looked at her, she was sitting on the platform, half-covered in the soft fabric and smiling softly at him. She was still beautiful...amazingly beautiful. But the magic had died down, stored forever on film but leaving the room suddenly darker and colder. Nigel shuddered and let a lingering tickle come into being.

"huh, HUSCHHOO! HAsschoo! Haessh! Huh...huh...heh-IISCHOOoo!.."

Anna climbed down from the platform and sat beside him, shoulders bare and pale as those of a Greek statue. "Bless you," she offered with a gentle smile.

Nigel looked at her, his miraculous muse, his savior, this young woman of hardly twenty-two, spread his arms and held her tightly in his embrace. She was surprised, at first, but soon gave in to the warmth of his masculine form and hung on to him tightly. She could hear him sniffle near her ear and smiled secretly at how strong and how weak he was, all at once.

Nigel closed his eyes, and whispered "Thank you" in her ear. A single tear formed in the corner of his eye and rolled down, tracing the corners of a blissful smile.

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