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the collector

Chapter Text

Ellie certainly wasn’t expecting anyone to be in the art gallery. Especially not at this late of an hour. 

When Dina said there was something important for her at the gallery, Ellie thought she meant a new shipment of paints or charcoal had come in. Not a person. 

Ellie steps into her wing of Dina’s art gallery. Her paintings are nailed to the wall and illuminated by soft lights that give off the perfect vibe. 

And staring at Ellie’s largest and favorite work is a woman, dressed in a dark wine suit that clings to obvious muscle contained in fabric. Ellie swallows, her throat dry as she drinks in the sight of the woman, who has her hands tucked into her pockets and her hair in a fashionable braid, the end touching the middle of her back. 

“Your art is… indescribable,” the woman says, and Ellie is jolted from her thoughts. The woman looks over her shoulder, and Ellie’s voice is stolen from her chest once more. “You must be Miss Williams, the artist?” 

“Ellie is fine,” Ellie says, pulling her hands from the pocket of her hoodie. She feels severely underdressed compared to this goddess of a woman before her, but Ellie hadn’t known that she would be talking to someone at nearly midnight. Ellie takes the first step forward, extending her hand. “You are…?” 

The woman pulls her hand out of her pocket, and Ellie notices the details of the leather glove encasing it. “Abigail Anderson.” 

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Anderson,” Ellie says, wondering how the leather can feel so soft yet so rough at the same time. 

“Please, call me Abby,” Abby says, drawing her hand back. She pulls the other one out of her pocket, and Ellie notices how they’re both gloved. Must be a collector thing. Abby’s head tilts back to admire the wall length painting, a hint of a smile on her cheeks. “I’ve been staring at this for minutes, trying to figure it out.” 

The painting is a mix of Ellie’s two chosen mediums— oil and charcoal. While most are only one, Ellie had chosen to use both for her largest piece. On the four separate canvases that make up the entire piece, each other dotted in splotches oil and charcoal, coming together to make the image of two leaves and a moth. Half the moth is drawn and smudged in charcoal, while the other half is painted in brilliant and rich shades of oil paint. 

Abby is staring at it like it’s the Mona Lisa, and Ellie suddenly feels very critiqued. This is an art collector she’s standing next to— a very obviously rich one, if the golden watch and necklaces are any indication. 

Ellie looks at her artwork fondly, aptly named Revelabo — the latin word for expose. She might come to hate some of her older works— as all artists do— but this piece will always be her favorite. The connection she has to it makes it so profoundly important. 

“The use of charcoal smudging and impasto makes this so deeply rich,” Abby says quietly, not even disturbing the silence of the art gallery. “It’s beyond beautiful. More so than anything I have in my collection.” 

The compliment burns down Ellie’s spine. “Coming from a woman as eloquent as you, it’s a high praise.” 

Abby cracks a smirk. “Eloquence is demanded in this line of business, especially when negotiating with more difficult artists.” 

“I can imagine. Some that I’ve met have, pardon my language, a stick up their ass for no reason,” Ellie says, and the laugh that comes from Abby is absolute bliss to Ellie’s ears. It’s warm and it resonates in Ellie’s chest. 

“So it seems, but you might just be the most pleasant one I’ve met so far,” Abby remarks, her hand slipping into the pocket of her vest to produce a pocket watch. Of course she has a pocket watch, she’s rich, Ellie thinks. Abby tucks it away. “How much for this piece?” 

Ellie blinks, then shakes her head. “None. It’s not for sale.” 

Abby’s thick manicured brow arches with interest. “Oh? Are you sure? I’m willing to pay any price for such an astounding piece of artwork.” 

Any intention that this woman might’ve had is soured by the thought of her throwing money around for priceless (in Ellie’s eyes) artwork. Ellie crosses her arms. “I’m sure. Everything else in this wing is for sale, but not this one. This one never has been and never will be for sale.” 

The art collector’s lips purse together in thought, and then she nods her head. “I understand. I’ve searched long for a new work of art to hang on my wall, and this was the perfect one. Now, it seems that space on my wall is destined to stay empty.” 

Interesting. Ellie was convinced Abby would move onto another artist more willing to fill their pockets, but Abby secedes easily. 

“It’s important to me,” Ellie explains, though she has no reason or motivation to explain herself to the opulent art collector. 

“Clearly, or else you wouldn’t be so adamant,” Abby says. She slides her hands into her suit, and takes a few steps back. There’s a flicker of hope in her eyes, mixed with something Ellie would call passion. “Although, I do hope you’ll change your mind. I have a history of being…” Abby’s eyes dip down Ellie before coming back up. She drawls out, slowly, “Persuasive.” 

Ellie swallows tightly, watching as Abby turns around and walks away, the heels of her shined shoes clicking on the stone floors of the art gallery. Ellie doesn’t even realize she’s not breathing until Abby steps out of her wing of the gallery, and she inhales deeply. 

She needs to talk to Dina. Yell, more like. 

As Ellie sweeps through the other exit of the gallery, the thought of Abby and her wine-laced words don’t leave her mind. 

~~~~~

Ellie pulls at the collar of her shirt, only for her hand to be slapped away by Dina as the latter approaches holding two flutes of champagne in one hand. 

“Stop touching your outfit. I ironed your shirt, and I’m not letting all of that hard work go to waste,” Dina reprimands with a point of her finger, before tugging on Ellie’s crisp lavender tie and adjusting the lapels of her blazer. Dina shifts to stand beside Ellie, sipping on her champagne. “Also, you should be socializing. Stop hiding back here like you always do. Go out there and sell your art!” 

Today is another art exhibition, the end of a deadline that Ellie’s been pushed under for weeks. Around the room are new pieces of art to replace the old, all waiting to be sold. Some are going for only a few hundred (smaller pieces), while others are well into the thousands range. All around are people, dressed in their finest clothes and admiring the many canvases hung about the room. 

Ellie’s eyes drift to the permanent centerpiece. Revelabo shines brighter than any other piece in the room, and Ellie has always liked that. A sign placed on a podium in front of the artwork says in bold, NOT FOR SALE . The idea that the most beautiful piece of all cannot be bought or owned by another has always struck deep within Ellie. It makes her feel possessive, almost. 

Maybe that’s a bad emotion to have, but Ellie has it anyway. 

“Fine, I’ll go socialize with the rich people,” Ellie mutters, downing the entire flute of champagne in one go. Dina lets out a laugh before taking the empty glass and pushing Ellie away. 

As Ellie moves along her own exhibition, she spots little red dots on a majority of her paintings. No doubt that a hefty amount will go to Dina, as she’s the sponsor and curator of this exhibit, but it’s nice to know that Ellie’s work isn’t going to waste. These paintings will be going to homes, and Ellie is happy about that. 

“Miss Williams,” A passing elderly man approaches her. “Your art is beautiful. I simply cannot wait for it to be in my house.” 

“Thank you kindly, sir, for supporting my art,” Ellie says, the sentence slipping out of her mouth without any true thought behind it. Ellie’s become accustomed to these sort of compliments, and now has ready replies in her head. She doesn’t even have to think about it much anymore. 

Regardless, the elderly man seems pleased, and goes on with his day. 

Ellie spots Jesse and Joel in the corner of the room, talking over drinks served at the bar. Immediately, Ellie heads toward them. If there’s anybody she can count on, it’s them. 

“Hey, guys,” Ellie says, and they both turn to look at her. 

“There’s the superstar of the hour,” Jesse says. He raises his drink to her in toast. “Congratulations on another exhibition, Ellie. You outdid yourself this time.” 

“Thanks, Jesse,” Ellie smiles gratefully. “Anything caught your eye?” 

“That I can afford? One or two, but I might run my pockets dry if I bought everything I loved here,” Jesse remarks, and Ellie shakes his head. She does personal pieces for him, anyway. Free of charge, only for her closest of friends and family. Jesse steps away for Ellie and Joel. 

“Hey, kiddo,” Joel says, and opens his arms. Ellie dives in for the hug, relishing in the soft warmth. 

When she pulls away, she yanks at his green tie. “Look at you, all dressed up. Didn’t know you had it in, old man.” 

“Oh, ha ha, ” Joel rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling, wrinkles in the corners of his eyes. He glances around, nothing but pride in his eyes. “This is amazing, Ellie. Look at all of these people, damn.” 

Ellie laughs, looking fondly at Joel. He’s always so shocked and surprised by the turnout of people— Ellie is too— but he looks so proud he could cry. He hugs Ellie tightly again, and kisses her forehead gently. 

“Keep shooting for the moon, kiddo,” Joel says, patting her arm before walking away to go talk to Tommy and Maria, who are perusing the artworks. 

Ellie sighs happily. Today has turned out to be a fantastic day so far. 

Her eyes drift to the entrance of the exhibit, and her pulse quickens. 

Walking in without a care in the world is Abby Anderson, the elegant art collector, dressed in a heather grey suit with a subtle plaid pattern, and in place of a button down, she wears a black turtleneck, with a thin gold chain around the neck. Paired with the black leather gloves and a pair of round glasses that accentuate her sharp jawline, Abby looks absolutely jaw-dropping. 

It’s unfair, how easily she pulls it off. Her braid is just as smooth and ornate as it was the last time Ellie saw Abby, just a few weeks ago. Briefly, Ellie wonders if she’s here to try and purchase Revelabo again. 

Abby wanders into the exhibition, her face schooled into one of emotionless stone as she peers at the many pieces of art hung on the wall. Though she’s not directly looking at Ellie, Ellie feels very judged under the critical eye of the gorgeous art collector. 

And just as Ellie is about to go hide elsewhere, Abby looks over her shoulder, and their gazes lock. Abby turns and smoothes the fabric of her black turtleneck, and Ellie feels impossibly drawn to Abby, like there’s a magnet in those dark eyes reeling her in. 

Ellie doesn’t even realize she’s walking until Abby meets her halfway. 

“Couldn’t resist, huh?” Ellie says, an edge to her voice that Abby thankfully doesn’t take to heart, if her laugh is any suggestion. 

“No, I suppose not,” Abby says, looking about the exhibition. Then, she looks back down at Ellie— being quite a few inches taller, thanks to the smooth leather chelsea boots she’s wearing. “This exhibition is one of the finest I’ve been to. The displaying of the artwork is fantastic, and the art itself is… indescribable.” 

Ellie is thrown back to when they first met each other, and her face burns with a blush that reaches the tips of her ears. “Thank you. Most of the work goes to Dina, the curator. She pushed me to get all of this done.” 

Abby cocks a brow. “Really? I’ve only talked to the curator of this gallery in passing— to organize my visit— but I’ll be sure to give her the thanks she deserves.” 

Everything about Abby screams high class and high society, and Ellie is stuck to it like glue. The gold of Abby’s necklace shines in the lighting, and Ellie is almost tempted to touch it. 

“I hope you enjoy the rest of the exhibition. We have a bar and an appetizers table, if you’re hungry,” Ellie says, pointing to both places respectively, but it seems fruitless; Abby’s eyes don’t leave her frame. 

“Hm, I’ll take you up on the bar,” Abby says. In a move that causes Ellie to freeze up, Abby’s hand comes up to fix her tie, which had apparently become crooked. She’s acutely aware of the warmth that emanates through the glove, touching her tie and even smoothing her pressed button down, getting rid of any wrinkles. Abby’s eyes show a tinge of desire, but for what? Abby whispers, her voice husky and rough, “However, there’s only one thing I’m hungry for, at this moment.” 

The innuendo doesn’t go over Ellie’s head. Rather, it hits her in the face like a shovel. 

She nearly chokes, leaving Abby looking quite satisfied. The collector walks away with a smirk on her face, and Ellie has to remember how to breathe. 

It’s only later, once the crowds have dwindled due to the late hour and the appetizer table has been depleted, that Ellie comes face to face with the shocking amount of artwork she’s sold. Nearly every piece in the room has a red dot next to the price tag, an indication of her success. Dina, flitting about and talking to the last of the attendees, looks absolutely ecstatic. Ellie can’t blame her— the success of the exhibition does fantastic for the gallery itself. 

Ellie sticks around to help the caterers clean up, while Dina collects the checks from the buyers before sending them off with a certificate of ownership, signed by both Dina and Ellie, the unstoppable curator and artist duo. 

“You should be pleased.” Ellie nearly jumps  out of her suit. I thought I was the last one here? Ellie thinks as she turns around. Of course it’s Abby. 

Dina has long since disappeared back into her office to do some more work before closing, and the caterers and bartender have left as well. It leaves only Ellie and the temptingly beautiful art collector alone in Ellie’s wing of the gallery. 

“So many valuable pieces of work were sold. I imagine your pockets will be quite padded after this night,” Abby remarks, walking slowly around the gallery. She undoes the front button of her grey blazer, a motion that doesn’t go unnoticed by Ellie. 

“I’m not in it for the money,” Ellie says, crossing her arms. Abby looks at her sharply. 

“I never said you were, but in this day and age, it’s always a little nice to have some lying around, don’t you think?” Abby jests. 

“Says the one who spends thousands on artwork.” 

Abby laughs, deep and rich. “How hypocritical, coming from an artist.” 

“I’ve been known to be a hypocrite every now and then,” Ellie replies. 

It goes silent, and Abby’s attention, of course, drifts to Revelabo. As does Ellie’s. 

“I have a distinct reputation for visiting art galleries once, and only once,” Abby begins, a slight head tilt to the side. “If a gallery doesn’t have what I’m searching for, then the point ceases to exist.” 

“You’ve seen me twice,” Ellie comments, and Abby hums. 

“You’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen, Ellie Williams,” Abby says, her voice low. She comes closer, her shoulder brushing against Ellie’s back, and Ellie catches a whiff of the cedar and cinnamon cologne that wafts off Abby. The tall woman leans in, her breath warm on Ellie’s ear, “Is there nothing I can do that will convince you to sell me your artwork?” 

Ellie swallows, feeling so tempted to simply lean back into the muscular arms of Abby Anderson, but she restrains. 

“Not for sale.” Ellie is firm and resistant. She can feel Abby turning around behind her— her back pressing to Abby’s front, and a leather-gloved hand snaking around the front of her blazer. Somehow, Ellie doesn’t mind the touch. Might be because she feels ridiculously attracted to this woman. Maybe. 

“How unfortunate, one would think,” Abby whispers, her hand sneaking inside Ellie’s jacket, slipping past between the gaps of her buttons to touch skin. Ellie inhales at the warmth of the glove. “But fortunately for me, I have a masterpiece in the palm of my hand.”

Ellie sighs. This might as well happen. Her heart is already hammering in her chest, and there’s no point in pretending that she isn’t drawn to Abby. Her anxiety kicks up at the thought of somebody seeing, of somebody walking in, of somebody looking at the cameras that are stationed in every corner of the wing. 

Fuck, it turns her on. 

“I realized that it wasn’t the artwork that drew me here,” Abby says, her voice a low alto that soothes Ellie’s ears. Abby’s hand feels like fire on her stomach. “It was the gorgeous artist, so fiery, so silver-tongued.” 

Ellie can’t help the groan that slips past her lips, and she can almost feel Abby’s smirk on her neck. “What are you going to do about it?” 

Abby’s hand withdraws from her shirt and Ellie almost whines in protest, if it weren’t for said hand traveling lower, to the buckle of Ellie’s pants. In a single blink, the buckle is undone followed by the button, and Abby slides her hand in while crooning, “This is what I’m going to do, Ellie Williams.” 

And as Abby places her palm against Ellie’s heat, the artist moans, the noise echoing.