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Title: Learning Curves [AU]
Fandom: The OC
Pairings or Characters: Marissa Cooper.
Genre: Good question. Gen, for now. The 'verse this will fit into is more romance/crime.
Word Count: 1,128
Rating: T
Warnings: None!
Disclaimer: I own next to nothing. Marissa Cooper is Josh Schwartz's, no matter how often I borrow her.
Summary: He didn’t even work there, but judging by the stacks of books in his hands, the splotches of paint on his jeans, he seemed like an easy enough mark.
Notes: This is a prequel to a fic I've got planned, Made For You, wherein Marissa's a conwoman working with Frank to scam Ryan. This fic depicts her at the beginning of her con career. It's entirely unrelated to my other projects for The OC and stands alone for now.

This was for Prompt #22 in the Pile of Books Challenge at 5_prompts, a picture of a woman lying on the floor with a paint pot on her shoulder. At least, that's what I thought it was. The fic is really loosely inspired by the prompt; it was the idea of lying on the floor and paint that sparked this.

She lays on the floor, perfectly still, or at least not moving perceptibly. She’s shivering the tiniest bit. Lying naked and still on a wooden floor, during a New York City winter? Not as easy as it seems.

In the corner of her eye, she can see the painting, can watch Julian as he mentally plans each brushstroke before setting paintbrush to canvas. She really does like Julian. He’s charming, funny, and he actually thinks to ask her about herself instead of just talking about him all the time. In another life, she wouldn’t even be considering doing what she has to do next.

It’s a shame, she thinks. She could’ve really hit it off with him.

She’s lying flat, her head pillowed on her crooked right arm, her left arm outstretched, fingers splayed along the floor. The painting captures the curve of her back, her hips, her calves, the sides of her breasts. He’s a wonderful artist, really. He appreciates the female form as art, not just something to look at.

The wood is ice cold against her breasts and stomach, and occasionally Julian turns to her sympathetically. “No hypothermia yet?” he asks with a faint grin.

She doesn’t shake her head—that would change her position, and even if he’s far enough along in the painting that it probably wouldn’t do a damn thing, she doesn’t want to cost him any more time. She just wants to get off the floor, at this point. “Freezing my royal Rastafarian nay-nays off,” she quotes, with a smirk, knowing he’ll get it—Cool Runnings, one of his favorite movies, one he’d made her watch the other night.

“Sorry, love. You’ll be off that floor in a few seconds, I promise.” That’s another thing she likes—he calls her love. She’s been with him maybe four weeks, so there’s no thought of them even being in love, but it’s just the way he is. He had sisters growing up, she remembers. Must be why he’s so nice to women.

“Can I help you?” he’d asked when he saw her in The Strand. She’d been lingering around the Art section, feigning cluelessness when she asked if he could help her find a book on Vermeer. He didn’t even work there, but judging by the stacks of books in his hands, the splotches of paint on his jeans, he seemed like an easy enough mark. She needed someone who knew what he was doing.

“Can I help you?” had turned into “Can I take you out for coffee sometime?”

Coffee had turned to lunch. Then a dinner, a week later. Then breakfast the next morning. After they’d had breakfast in bed, still naked beneath the sheets, he’d reached for his sketchbook and charcoal, drew her lying there in bed, eyes half-closed, her hair loose and partly covering her breasts, the sheet stopping halfway up her body. It felt like Titanic.

And it was exactly what she was going for.

She never let him sketch or paint her face. They’d reached that one compromise. Her hair had to always be obscuring it, or she had to have turned her face away. He thought she was insecure.

She thought she was being cautious.

“There.” Julian finishes the painting with a flourish of his brush, then turns to her, motioning her up from the floor. He grabs her robe for her, helping her into it so she’s at least clothed, before pulling her by the wrist to the painting so she can see it up close, smiling excitedly. “What do you think?”

She blushes a bit, and she doesn’t have to affect the modesty. “It’s great, J,” she tells him. “I hope it gets you somewhere.”

“All thanks to you, Jo,” he tells her, and she wants to wince, but conceals it.

“I’m going to go put some clothes on,” she tells him with a smile, and he calls after her as she goes into the bathroom.

“Want me to order a pizza?”

“Sounds perfect,” she calls back.

She pulls her clothes on fast—her oldest jeans, slightly threadbare; her favorite bra; a plain white t-shirt. She knows she’ll have to move fast, can’t waste time primping.

Julian’s already put the order in for the pizza, and since the place he orders from is just down the road, they’re already en route when she leaves the bathroom, crossing his path on her way.

“I need to wash off, love; you can answer the door when they come? Wallet’s on the counter,” he tells her as he shuts the door and starts the water running.

He really is the perfect mark, she thinks. Trusting to a fault.

So she doesn’t feel as guilty as she could when she swipes his cash and credit cards and makes a run for it. After all, who trusts a girl you’ve barely known four weeks to handle your wallet? Apparently, Julian Moyer trusts “Jo Danvers,” even if he’s never seen her driver’s license or credit cards of her own. Even if he doesn’t know that her real name isn’t Jo Danvers at all.

Jo Danvers is the one who takes the money and runs. Marissa Cooper is the one who figures out what to do with it.

She makes a clean sprint down the next couple of blocks, and if Julian follows her, she never knows, because he never catches up. She runs so fast that she doesn’t notice when she nearly slams into her handler.

“Christ, Cooper,” Halden says, swearing under his breath. Still, he grabs her to steady her, then sees the cash and cards held tight in her hand. “Got the goods?”

“Yeah.” She nods, trying to catch her breath. “He’ll have to fill out a police report, call his credit card companies… it’ll take him a few hours at the very least, so you’ll have to move fast…”

“You act like we don’t know what we’re doing,” Halden laughs. “You did good work, Coop. Frank’ll be happy. He didn’t like the idea of you getting so close to the guy, but—”

“Hey, it got me a few meals and a place to sleep.” Marissa pulls her ponytail holder from her wrist and does up her hair. “Going to have to find a new mark.”

“Yeah. Frank will send you somewhere else; can’t risk you hanging around this area too much longer. Clear out for a few weeks, Coop. Hell, head to Jersey; lay low. You got a place to go to?”

“I’ll find one. You know me, good on my feet.”

“That you are.”

She starts to head off, and she hears Halden call after her. “Hey, Coop?”

“Yeah?” She barely looks back.

“Take care of yourself,” he hollers, and she smiles. 

It’s what she’s been doing all this time, right?

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