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Aug 20

Flight of Icarus – The Sky is Surely Open

Chapter 2 (OK, so same as with the last chapter I will be adding sections to this post as I finish them. This is a reference post for me for now)

“Lets all remember their pièce de résistance where they ascended to a higher plane of existence so they could watch the life that they had seeded around the galaxy wither and die in bondage under the ever-loving care of the Goa’uld, who, oh yeah, were armed with technology based on the tech the Ancients abandoned, using the gate system they designed and built without ever considering some kind of shield. And the best bit of that is that these all-powerful god like beings have never stepped in.
You should remember Carter that I am the chief scientist on this project and you are the guest and the last time a head scientist in the SGC got pissed off someone ended up somewhere cold and unforgiving. Want to lay bets on whether its your turn?”

THIS IS A WIP! An un -beta read one – Beta based critique accepted all else keep to yourself.
Disclaimer-Anything you don’t recognise is mine all else belongs to its respective authors.
As usual
Italics – Thoughts/Mental comms
Bold – Flashback

Meanwhile Daedalus, hating Crete, and his long exile, and filled with a desire to stand on his native soil, was imprisoned by the waves. ‘He may thwart our escape by land or sea’ he said ‘but the sky is surely open to us: we will go that way: Minos rules everything but he does not rule the heavens’. So saying he applied his thought to new invention and altered the natural order of things. He laid down lines of feathers, beginning with the smallest, following the shorter with longer ones, so that you might think they had grown like that, on a slant. In that way, long ago, the rustic pan-pipes were graduated, with lengthening reeds. Then he fastened them together with thread at the middle, and bees’-wax at the base, and, when he had arranged them, he flexed each one into a gentle curve, so that they imitated real bird’s wings.

The Atlantis Lab (AKA Crazy Town)

Original Departure Date +1 week

“I can’t see anything that would have caused a problem from our end other than if something is wrong with the system on the other side. I know that you think that if that were true then the whole system would have never made a stable wormhole. But if both sides were supplying equal amounts of power the wormhole would have stabilised sufficiently to allow it to be used.

The constant strain of keeping the gate open like that could overwhelm a system that has probably been out of use for thousands of years. We know there are redundancies built in to the system, look at the Ernest incident or when Teal’c … we have to face the fact that we have no idea what happened on the other side of that gate and we have barely scratched the surface of the programming involved in the gate system. It is always possible that someone shut it down.” Rodney’s final words rang around the room as every scientist went silent and turned to face the arguing pair.

“Rodney,” Carter sighed, “ we already discussed this. You made a mistake. You rely on your unnatural ‘skills’ too much. You didn’t do your job properly and now you are trying to blame something other than you for Sumner’s murder.” Carter smiled sweetly turning so that she faced the rest of the room a little more. “ Really Rodney you expect me to believe that somehow an Ancient survived all these years just so that they could stop us from reaching Atlantis” As Rodney started to speak she held a finger up “ Or … or you want us to believe that the people who built the gate system managed to mess up building their interstellar, intergalactic spaceship city so that it didn’t last as well as the gates. You expect us to believe that the people the Asgard look up to managed to create a power supply that would allow us to dial another galaxy if there wasn’t enough power to sustain a stable wormhole for a reasonable amount of time? Rodney stop being ridiculous.” Carter turned back to the simulation running on the computer. Rodney looked at Zelenka, who shrugged and muttered, “Remember Liz said no biting … too hard”

“OK, well I’ll take all that in to consideration when you pull your hero-worshipping little barbarian-ideology superiority-complex filled head out of your ass and remember that these aliens that you have placed on such a high pedestal left just enough superior tech lying around this galaxy to ensure that a few dozen worlds could literally wipe themselves out. They left databases of technology that grab people’s heads and literally download the information into their brains without checking that the person they grabbed has suitable brain!

And lets all remember their pièce de résistance where they ascended to a higher plane of existence so they could watch the life that they had seeded around the galaxy wither and die in bondage under the ever-loving care of the Goa’uld, who, oh yeah, were armed with technology based on the tech the Ancients abandoned, using the gate system they designed and built without ever considering some kind of shield. And the best bit of that is that these all-powerful god like beings have never stepped in.

You should remember Carter that I am the chief scientist on this project and you are the guest and the last time a head scientist in the SGC got pissed off someone ended up somewhere cold and unforgiving. Want to lay bets on whether it’s your turn? ”Moron Rodney watched with delight, as Carter turned white with rage. The room seemed frozen on a knife-edge. Carter slowly realising she’s alone in a room full potentially deadly mutants.

“How many times Sam?” General O’Neill drawled from the doorway. ”Don’t piss off the mutants … someone could lose control and then someone else might loose all their blood. Isn’t that what you keep telling me McKay?” He gives Carter a pointed look as she salutes and leaves the room carefully side-stepping the soldier stood in the corridor.

“ Sheppard, I hate to feed you to the lions but I think they like you so I figure you’ll make a good offering to keep them from eating Carter alive.” He looked sternly around the room “ You break the deal and kill Carter I take the Major here back. Understand Doctors?” He smiled and carefully prodded John towards Rodney as the entire room began to turn back to their various white boards. He walked away from the room shaking his head “ Crazier by the day I swear.”

Behind him Rodney has grabbed John’s jacket and begins to tug him over to the back of the lab “ Aren’t they worried we might corrupt your programming?”

“Maybe they think you already did” Zelenka mutters

John shrugs and obediently allows himself to be tugged along.

——–

A few days later a pair of marines stood just inside the doorway of Doctor Rodney McKay’s giant lab listening what would quickly become known as ‘THE LECTURE’. They nodded at the appropriate points such as, “Back in one piece”, “necessary feeding and watering” and “Clearly not some kind of dog but if you don’t make sure he’s with you he might just stay there until he’s a withered husk”. The Major they’d been sent to find was sat at the back of the cavernous lab the Atlantis expedition’s remaining scientists had taken over. Perched on a packing case reading a book, occasionally making a note on a pad sat next to him. Once McKay decided that they feared him too much to allow any harm to befall Major Sheppard he shouted,  “The witch doctor wants you John”

“Sergeants.” John nodded to the marines “any idea what the good doctor wants?”

“Blood sample and active and passive brain scans according to the lovely little note he sent me” Rodney replied. John nodded again heading out of the door. “Wait, wait, you know you don’t have to jump up and go running to that vampire’s den with a happy little smile every time he asks for more blood!”

“I kind of do.” John turned round and continued with a slight grin “And he so very nice about it”

“He might be nice, but this is the 5th time this week,”

“Yeah, well, I have to keep going to keep checking if the niceness is real” Rodney stared at him for a moment before slowly muttering

“Repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results … I knew Bates damaged you”

“Huh…”

“You’ve clearly gone insane, they don’t let people that stupid fly things. So clearly you have been damaged. I’m blaming Bates. Carson’s right you do need brain scans. Off you go.” Rodney picked up a pen, turning back to his equations he waved a hand behind his head shooing them away.

John looked at Rodney oddly as he walked backwards towards the door “OK, we’re going to go now…” he turned on his heel and headed towards the lift marines in tow. As they crowded in to the elevator one of the marines brushed against him. So that’s why the General keeps calling that place crazy town. His huffed laugh had both marines stepping back and frowning slightly.

“Hey, you touched me. Sergeant?”

“Stackhouse, sir, and sorry its a bit…” Stackhouse trailed off as the other marine punched him in the shoulder lightly.

“Creepy? Yeah I get that” John finished as the elevator doors opened.

 

Crazy Town,

Original Departure Date +2 weeks

For once the large lab was mostly silent and mostly empty of people, most of Rodney’s so called minions having escaped for the night several hours earlier. One of the large central workstations overflowed with the disassembled remains of the ‘ZPM energy convertor’ white boards pulled around it displaying energy flow patterns and half finished equations most of them with post-it notes attached to them to show they are still ‘live’, most of the post-it notes had extra notes attached saying things like “ Dear god, do you want us to all die in a ball of flames? -Grodin”, “Stupid. Beyond Stupid! -McKay” and “IT WASN’T AN ENGINEERING PROBLEM!!!!! – Taahira”.

Major John Sheppard crept in to the lab carefully avoiding the muttering, wild haired Zelenka and McKay stood in front of one of the less decorated boards. Stopping at one of the desks he peeled a blank post-it off the pad and borrowing a pen he quickly read the newest notes and adding his blank post-it to the bottom of a rather long argument, he wrote

“You do realise that this is why the sign on the door says ‘Crazy Town’?” and then picking up his notepad from Rodney’s favourite desk John left.

“Did you just see someone come in here?” Rodney asked a few minutes later.

“No, Rodney, perhaps you have finally gone insane. Goodnight” Zelenka capped his pen dropped it in to the holder below the board and left the lab. He paused in the doorway and looked at the door. “Rodney, how long has this sign been here?” Rodney shrugged and opening his laptop waved Zelenka fully out of the lab.

Much later the same day Rodney rolled over in bed Huh, how did I get here? He opened his eyes and squinted at the opposite bed.

“When did I go to bed?” John looks over at him, slouched in a desk chair feet resting on the crate of books and clothes Rodney had forced him to take back when they ended up stuck in the mountain.

“Look John I have to go to Area 51 for a few weeks I’ll only be here for a day or so a week and…Well…Carson has that house near the hospital that he won’t part from…”

“And I can’t be trusted off base and don’t have clearance to go to Area 51 so the Quartermaster’s going to get some of the marines to clear a bunk so that someone else can have the room you had. Right?” John said easily barely lifting his head from the notepad in front of him.

“Well…yes. They already told you?” Rodney managed to sound both upset and disappointed at once

“Nah, Doc I’ve been doing this for a while now. I know my place.” John replied biting his lip slightly.  Rodney looks at him sadly for a moment

Original Departure Date +3 weeks

John sat on one of three identical beds spaced evenly across the small grey room.  The backpack Elizabeth gave him weeks ago resting on his lap, hand loosely covering the buckle the same way it has dozens of times a day since the mission failure. “I could just open you” he stopped and dragged his gaze from the wall to look at the bag “See what it is that this man I hardly knew wanted to give me. It would be easy to do, just pull and it’s done.”

““Ay? And then what would you stare at all day long?” Carson stated from the doorway. John twitched away from the voice before twisting his head and raising an eyebrow at Carson as he slipped through the door and pushed it shut. Carson walked over and sat down next to John slowly reaching out with one hand and slipping it on to his thigh. “You didn’t come to lunch John, I was worried. Guess you got distracted? Carson murmured softly.

John pulled the bag up his thigh until it rested over the top of Carson’s hand trapping it against his thigh. Reaching up he grabbed hold of the side of the buckle clip pushing it open quickly and throwing the top back in one move like he didn’t trust himself to finish the move. Sat at the top of the backpack is a bundle of filled envelopes with his name on the front. John reached in and lifted the bundle out setting it on the bed in the narrow gap between the two men. He looked at Carson and slowly he pushed the opening of the bag towards him motioning for him to carry on, Carson smiled lightly as he reached in to the bag and pulled out a photo. He showed it to John before looking at it. John stares at the picture as Carson looks at it.

Two boys play in the fall leaves under a tree as a horse grazes in the background. One of the boys is 4 almost 5 and the other is tall and proud at 7. The younger boy is holding a leaf out towards the horse as the other boy has just thrown a huge armful of leaves in to the air. The older boy is laughing but the younger boy is thoughtful focus fully on the horse. The horse looks up and there is a snap of the camera to the side of the younger boy capturing them forever in time. The mare snorts and shakes her head at the noise before walking over to the boys dragging each foot slightly drawing lines in the leaves. She reaches her head out and stretches her neck to full length to snuffle at the leaf in the younger boy’s hand. She wickers low in her throat in pleasure and nudges the boys hand to get him to pet her. Its runs like slow mo the horse’s head slowly swinging out to the hand as she steps forward and then the touch only slight but its result is huge. The boy throws himself backwards bursting in to tears. His mother throws the camera aside and neatly blocks the mares’ path as the poor creature startles. The horse turns and gallops away up the length of the field stopping half way to prance on the spot looking at the humans.

They look so happy. That little boy doesn’t realise that the next 20 seconds will change his life

“That moment sums up his childhood and tomorrow it ends” John whispered hardly realising that he’d spoken out loud. John felt a thrum of sadness with a stroke of compassion touch him and glanced up to see Carson looking at him and Carson’s hand flexed against his thigh.

They sat there in silence for some time and eventually John put the pack of envelopes back in the bag and closed it. He slid the bag down the frame of the bed and pushed it under slightly.

“I was 4 and the first emotion I felt was loneliness”

“I was 7 and my oldest brother was 21, he cut his finger off with an axe. I nearly killed myself doing something no one knew I could do. No one in that picture looks lonely so how long after”

“20 seconds, I was a child but I could see that she was so lonely. “Carson looked at him for a moment until John continued “The horse.” John dropped his head down studying his hands.

“My mother was shouting for someone to ring the doctor while my brother sat at the kitchen table holding his hand like he was about to say grace at dinner. It was fascinating, there was a pool of blood on the table that was slowly getting bigger and yet he was so calm. I walked up to the table and wrapped my hand round his wrist. I could feel every single cell in his body, every chemical that made up those cells and how the damaged cells differed from the normal ones.” Carson stood up and walked over to the desk, where he leant on the chair He feels excited, he’s delighted by the things he learned. John thought while Carson continued, “The body wanted to have a finger but it couldn’t find it. I could see the chemical blueprint so I kind of pushed and there was a tonne of screaming. Something happened to us, everything went away and the next time I was aware of anything I was in a hospital ward.” John looked up from his hands slowly.

“I didn’t tell anyone, my mother decided that the horse scared me.” John said flatly, he quickly stood, moving towards the door.  Out, I need to get out. Now. He started to turn the door handle and Carson appeared in front of him slamming his body in to the door. John flinched backwards abortedly reaching for his absent sidearm.

“John you can’t just walk away every time this comes up. Most of us talk freely, happily about our first experience! It makes us… That experience shapes you it affects how your life pans out.” He stops, taking in John perfect stillness and blown pupils.

Carson slides off the door and along the wall a little “There’s a theory that good experiences or positive experience tend to lead to people happy and confident in their abilities a bad experience often causes negative feelings to attributed.” Carson says voice low as though he were talking to the horse from the picture. “People with talents like you and me are more likely to have a negative experience but we are also the ones with talents that will allow us to come to embrace them. There is something wonderful about the things we can do, there is no reason… ”

“I’m sorry sir, I need to leave now.” And like that John is gone the carefully weighted door swinging fully open as Carson stands there watching John and his guard disappear down the corridor.

“Yea damned fool Carson, some days yea can’t help puttin’ the’ damned foot in it”. He takes the two steps required to let him fall onto the bed and drops on to it face first.

Crazy Town- A few moments later

“Look this is simple, take the initial flow readings and then use the later reading to figure out what changed.” Rodney walked away from the board he’s gesturing at and walked over to the desk muttering, “it would be easier to train grunts to do this.” He sat at his desk and twisted slightly watching as John walked in to the lab silently and quietly melted in to what has quickly become his corner

—————–

Military Barracks, Level 14

Departure date + 4 Weeks

Chris Stackhouse and James Markham were at one end of the room they shared with John Sheppard with two beds between them and Carson. Carson stood holding a slim cardboard box in his hands.

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence James pointed at the box and said,

“John isn’t allowed to get personal mail.” Carson frowned at the two men for a few more moments before asking,

“You gonna get in trouble if I leave him something?” at their nods he looked at the parcel, hugged it to his chest and walked out of the room pulling the door shut firmly behind him.

James sighed and with his blanket slowly sliding down his back carefully lifted himself up to sit on his knees, looking down at Chris. “Jesus.” The door burst back open and both men grabbed for the blanket as the doctor strode back in and slammed the door shut. Carson leaned on the door and smiled at the pair on the bed.

“Gentlemen, how do you feel about this no mail policy?”

——————

The next day John was sat at the tiny desk when Stackhouse walked in to the room with a cardboard box, he dropped on to the bed nearest the door and opened the box without looking over at John. He rooted through the package for a moment before pulling out two bars of chocolate, a box of condoms and three books. He chucked the bars of chocolate over on to his own bed and laughed at the box of condoms before shoving them in his sock drawer. He glanced at the title of the first book and threw it on to the desk in front of John quickly followed by the other two. John leapt from the desk chair, pressing himself against the wall before looking at Stackhouse in shock.

“ When you’re done with ‘Chaos’ I wanna read it.” Stackhouse said before standing and leaving the room.

John peeled himself off the wall and picked ‘Chaos” up. Sticking out of it was a note

‘Hope you like the new delivery method.

Carson’

——————–

Crazy Town,

Departure date + 7 weeks

Rodney strolled through his empire looking at what had been accomplished in his absence.

Finally minions who understand that I expect the same level of brilliance when I’m away as I do when I’m here.

He dragged his laptop off his shoulder and dumped it on his desk on his way to the communal whiteboards. Humming to himself he picked up a whiteboard marker pulled a post-it note off and began wiping out the more obvious errors.

John jumped as a bag was dumped on top of the papers he was filling in. Watching Rodney begin to wipe things out like he had never left John smiled and moved the laptop out of his way.

“Oi, if you are going to nick my desk at least have the decency to set that laptop up on a different one.”

John quickly unpacked the laptop and set it up, plugging it in and switching it on. Rodney worked on the board for a few more minutes before wondering back to the desk and poking his laptop. He peered at the file John was working on before saying,

“Your handwriting is dreadful. Are they sending you though the gate? That report looks like a gate team report.”

“My handwriting is fine and yes, I got put onto SG10 for a couple of first contact missions. Lieutenant Colonel Lorne wanted to get some experience working with a telepath.” Rodney frowned before huffing and shaking his head at John.

“The general said you were mine, I mean not personally as in my slave but …umm…. You work for me. He can’t say that and then send you off with someone else.”

“To be fair you weren’t using me. The military kinda works on that ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ thing.” John said with a half smile.

“I don’t like it.” Rodney pouts “ Anyway don’t you have your own desk somewhere. I seem to remember you having a desk.”

“Umm, technically?”

“If you technically have a desk, why don’t you go off and use that to write you reports on so I can have mine back.”

“ Because I technically have a desk, in the office I technically have because technically I’m an officer and we all have offices. But because I’m only technically an officer I have to share an office. With Bates.” Rodney winces.

“On second thoughts, don’t move an inch.” John nods and pats Rodney’s arm affectionately as the man projects unhappiness. “Your handwriting really is dreadful. If you were writing that report for me I’d make you type it up.” John shrugged at him and pushed No one is ever going to read it anyway towards Rodney’s mind.

———

SGC- Mess, Level 22,

Departure date + 9 weeks

“Mystery meat loaf or lemon once-was-chicken?” John asked Carson as they entered the mess.

“John, you don’t have to get my lunch. Look why don’t you get some drinks and grab a table and I’ll get the meals?”

“But you’re my superi….” John trailed off slowly before starting again. “Its better like this. It gives people a reason for you sitting with me. You don’t want people thinking that you’re my friend or something. Most of the marines think that Rodney is to crazy to mess with but…”

“I’ve got big needles and TB jabs, John, that tend to put most people of messing with the doctors. But if it’s going to keep you from getting trouble you go right ahead.” Carson waved a hand towards the queue.

A few moments later John placed a tray in front of Carson and took the seat opposite him.

“So, you haven’t stolen any blood lately does that mean you’re getting somewhere or does it mean you are stalled?”

“It means that I need the better machines and the dedicated team I have in Edinburgh. The equipment in the SGC is out of date and the company that makes the best machines is Swiss.” He looked at John’s confused face for a moment. “ Switzerland, the UK and Germany have an embargo on trading anything to do with genetic research to the US. I can’t get the machines I need so everything is taking longer than I’m used to.”

“ How come they were allowed to trade you?” Carson frowns at John for a moment “Sorry, I didn’t mean you’re a thing to trade … I just …umm” Oh god, shut up John. He thought as he babbled.  Carson caught the hand John was waving about and let a thrum of calm pass between them.

“ I know what you mean John. The British government aren’t willing to interfere with my right to work for whom I please but there are restrictions on what I can tell the American government and there is a reason that my whole staff is made up of non-American nationals. Technically I don’t think I’m meant to even tell you what I find out. But then I hardly think you are going to go running off to tell some anti-mutant researcher stuff.” Carson laughs at him self and feels John tense, uncomfortable as he starts to wiggle his hand out of Carson’s. Carson looks at him hard and opens his mouth to say something when John quietly burst out with,

“I wouldn’t run to tell them, I wouldn’t … I know you…If they asked me what I knew about your research I would tell them. I wouldn’t want to but I would have to. I’m not allowed to not follow orders.” Carson’s heart broke a little as he looked at John’s panicked expression, his medical mind took in his accelerated heart rate and panicked short breaths. “Carson, they would know if I lied or held back. They always know.”

“Breath, John. Its fine, I haven’t told you anything you shouldn’t know. I wouldn’t do that to you. And if they ask you anything you tell them. Don’t try and protect me from your government, they need me too much to do anything stupid.” He looked around glad that John and he always had lunch late when the mess was nearly empty. Looking back to John he shifted around the table to sit next to him. Firmly wrapping one hand around John’s wrist he leant his forehead against John’s temple and muttered “Breath, John. Nice and slow. In and …Out.”

Nearly half an hour later the two men sat next to each other eating cold lemon chicken and rice.

“ So, umm, does that mean that you’re going back to the UK to finish your research?”

“Just for a couple of weeks. Once we get past the tests we’re on at the moment the machines we have here are up to the job. Why? Wanna come with me?” Carson said nudging John with his shoulder.  John turned his head and raised an eyebrow at Carson.

“ They won’t let me off base, never mind out of the country.” He dropped his voice to a whisper “ They used to trust me more than this, I think Dr Z. is right. They think that you lot corrupted me.” He nodded looking right in to Carson’s eyes seriously before the two men burst out laughing.

“ Hey, Don’t ’cha know you’re vital t’ my research if I tell them I need you…”

“Nah Doc. I’m fine here.”

Military Barracks, Level 14

Departure date + 10 weeks

In a way that had almost become routine James Markham walked in to the pitch black room with a cardboard delivery box, he dropped on to the bed nearest the door, turned on a lamp and opened the box pulling out a mailing bag before dumping the rest of the box next to him. He opened the mailing bag and tipped out a box of condoms and a packet of cigarettes. He picked up the box of condoms with a laugh,

“Jesus, Chris, the Docs must think we do nothing but fuck. How many boxes have we got now? We could fuck everyday for a year and never need to buy any. It’s your lucky day, Chris, McKay sent the care package.”  He said standing and chucking the packet of ciggs at Stackhouse’s chest. He worked his way around John’s bed and dropped on to the bed next to Stackhouse. “Chris, are you even listening to me?”

“Nope.” Stackhouse pulled his pillow a little further over his head and tugged the blanket around himself “Shut the fuck up.” Markham sat there quietly for a moment in the semi dark before focusing on John Sheppard’s sleeping form.

“Hey, Sheppard, Mail drop. Lets have a look what you got. Sheppard? John?” Markham bounced off the bed he was sat on and gently poked the mop of hair sticking out from under the sheets and the world…blurred.

—————–

“…mes?…abe?….mon, don’t make me go wake a doc up. You don’t wanna do that to Sheppard, do you James? Hey, Jay-Jay, that you waking up?  Come on, open those eyes for me…”Markham slowly opened his eyes looking up at his clearly worried boyfriend. “Hey, James, fancy sitting up for me?” Stackhouse asked. John appeared over Chris Stackhouse’s shoulder on James’s mobile saying,

“Yeah, Carson is saying not to let him sit up… nooo wait he says ‘he can sit up … if we want him to puke on us.’ Thanks, Carson.”  James blinks and when he opens his eyes Chris and John are both leaning over him, no phone in sight.

“I feel… feelingly?” He says in a small-confused voice. “What happened” John raises a hand and waves it slightly looking apologetic.  Chris looks at John and then back at James before saying.

“How many times have I told you not to come back from guard duty and bounce around like a dick? It’s half 4 in the morning, man. You decided to poke a telepath in the head at half 4 in the morning!” John looks between them worriedly rocking back on his heels away from them. “I don’t even… You, love, are a moron. Apparently a lucky moron.” Chris Stackhouse reaches down and gently touches the side of James’ face. James gasps as he can feel love and worry and frustration and fear tumbled together pouring off his lover. Seconds later he flinches away. It’s all too much.

The flinch leaves him looking at John who is chewing his lip, whole body taunt with the desire to flee.

“ Carson thinks you probable have a concussion and…ummm… the feeling…feelingly? That should go away its, umm,” John takes a deep breath and standing up begins to move as far away as fast as possible whilst saying “ backlash. I kinda lashed out at you with my…” As he hits the wall he begins to sink down it saying, “ I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. So, so sorry.” He carries on muttering apologies curled in a ball near the door.

James looks up from his prone position on the floor at Chris who slowly leans backwards until his head hits the edge of the bed behind him and mutters.

“Fuck my life. I hate you both.”

“Nah, you love us. Well you love me … I felt it” James says in a totally stunned sounding voice.

 ————

Crazy Town,

Departure date + 11 weeks

“ Rodney, you have to stop sending me stuff”

“John, I’ve already told you humans need belongings. You are a human and you need stuff.”

“I have stuff now Rodney. Please stop. People are noticing the Stuff.”

“Is this about the condoms? Because that is Carson’s fault.”

“No, it’s not about the condoms” John said, suddenly feeling eyes on him he looked up from his phone conversation and noticed everyone very carefully not looking at him. “On the other hand if you sent Chris or James any more condoms I think one of them is going to fill your wardrobe with them or something. I heard them scheming last night.” He frowned at one of the scientists until she stopped looking at him and then whispered into the phone. “ Rodney, you know I can’t keep the books and I now have more clothes that I have ever owned. Please stop with the stuff” It’s making me uncomfortable. On the other end of the line Rodney sighed and finally agreed to stop sending clothes, telling John to dump the books in Rodney’s office when he’s done with them.

The little plastic mailbags with chocolate, condoms and cigarettes, however, just kept on arriving.

Mess, Level 22

Departure date + 13 weeks

Rodney watched carefully as John walked towards a table at the back of the mess three full trays carefully balanced so as not to spill anything.  Halfway across the hall Stackhouse stopped him and looked at the top tray. He grabbed a bowl of something off the table and exchanged it for a bowl on the tray. As John started walking again the men at the table with Stackhouse all started laughing. John reached the table and quickly gave Rodney and Carson their trays before sitting down with his own.

“John, what did he take off you?” Carson asked softly

“Pudding” John replied with a shrug.

“Why would he do that? I thought they were OK, I sent him cigarettes!” Carson turned and frowned at Rodney at the cigarettes comment but nodded along with everything else.

“They only had chocolate flavoured pudding left when he got served but they’d put more Jello out when I got there. He wanted Jello so he swapped with me. It’s fine.”

“Did he ask if you wanted to swap?” Rodney asked.

“No, why would he? Its only pudding, Rodney, there’s no point getting worked up over it. Anyway Chris knows I prefer chocolate, we both got puddings we like and he gets to keep his cred with the other marines.”

“How did he know you wouldn’t have chocolate pudding already?”

“The guys at the counter won’t give me chocolate pudding. Too many people like it” John explained at Rodney’s frown.

“But you got me chocolate pudding?” Rodney said sounding confused “Why give you chocolate to give to me but not give you chocolate for you?”

“Because if they piss you off they’re going to know about it for weeks. If they piss John off he can’t do anything to them.” Carson explained. Rodney started to complain about Stackhouse being a thief again and Carson forcefully said “ Rodney just drop it, Chris has figured out how to get John chocolate pudding and make it look like he’s being a dick to him. It obviously doesn’t bother John so let it go.” Rodney looked between the other two and with more tact than he usually showed he started bitching about the might-have-been-meat balls.

——————-

Crazy Town

“So I’ve been given a two bed room again and according to O’Neill everyone would rather live in three bed squalor than sleep in the same room as me.” Rodney says as he watches John correcting maths on one of the big communal whiteboards.

“You realise that who ever wrote this is clearly ill or sleep deprived? And I think it is probably best if I stay where I am. If you have to go somewhere again I’ll just have to disturb someone’s rooming arrangements again and I don’t want to piss the quartermaster off. She’s one of the few marines who seems to kind of like me.” John says, clearly not paying attention to what he’s saying.

“Humm, Radek wrote that two days ago. You do realise that you are better than most of my team. With numbers not the physics or the engineering.” Rodney says after a few moments, he lets himself smile watching how relaxed John looks.

“Radek has that flu virus that SG1 brought back from their last mission. I’ve always been good at maths that’s why I was allowed to fly helicopters.”

“That’s ridiculous you know, you had to be twice as good as everyone else to get half the respect. In any other country you could have been a top mathematician or a real pilot with a real rank.”

“ I am a real pilot, they don’t let fake ones fly multi-million dollar aircraft, Rodney.“ John replies sharply, clearly offended “ And yes, Rodney, they only made me an office because technically I can’t be a pilot without having a commission but it has buffered me a little.” John manages to make it sound like a peace offering for his previous sharpness. Rodney snorts and rolls his eyes leaning over and erasing the last number John had written and changing it.

“Yeah, right. Looks like some great protection to me” John suddenly snaps, angry with Rodney for making his accomplishments sound worthless.

“Rodney, how many enlisted men are there to a barracks on a normal base or in a warzone? Do you know?” At Rodney’s headshake John carries on “up to twenty. The beds practically touch. The showers are all communal and as you all have to be up at the same time and in your bunk at the same time. Its crowded, you get bumped in to, people grab you when they slip or get pushed. If someone in the bed next to you has a nightmare you are likely to get an arm to the face. It was hell and most telepaths don’t survive very long.

When I got into the pilots programme I could have cried with gratitude but I was too tired and worn thin to even realise that I was going to move to a two or three man room.

And as an officer when they can’t convince a mundane officer to bunk with me they can’t just stick me in with the enlisted. More often than not Rodney that meant that I got a room to myself, usually a small windowless room that up until two days ago was a closet but it was quiet and only had me in it.

Yes I had to be twice, three times as good as everyone else, yes my missions were more dangerous but my god, Rodney, I would have killed myself if I had to stay in barracks for any longer. Rodney, that was just basic. I can’t even imagine having been in a warzone” John suddenly realises he is shouting, stood toe to toe with a wide eye Rodney. He stares at him for a moment in silence before quietly saying “Sorry sir, permission to leave?”

“Yes, I mean gra…” before he could correct himself John had bolted from the lab leaving every scientist in the room staring at Rodney. “Don’t you lot have work to do?’’ he snaps. He walks over to his desk and dials by rote “Hi Carson, its Rodney…”

SGC, Carson’s office

Departure date + 15 weeks

“Is he hiding from you too, Carson?”

“No, Rodney, I’ve had lunch with him everyday. Just like I always do when I’m in the SGC. You embarrassed him. Yes, Rodney, I know it was him doing the shouting” Carson said holding a hand up to stop Rodney talking. “But any other time he got that worked up someone would have told him to shut up, or more likely hit him, long before he got to the point of actually shouting. Besides which John worked hard to get to where he is and you made him feel like you couldn’t see the merit in any of it. You are a mutant as well, Rodney, and you have to remember the mutants that John had met, up until he became part of the SGC, would have though that John had done the impossible. John, for an American mutant, is living the dream.”

“I …I didn’t see it like that. Wow, I need to apologise don’t I?”

“ Yup” Carson agreed with a firm nod.

“Nothing I would normally do when I insult someone is going to work is it?” Carson shook his head at him.

“Wait, does that mean that you do sometimes acknowledge you are wrong about something!” Rodney laughed at his friend’s tone and went to plan his grovelling.

Departure date +16 weeks

“You can’t keep hiding from Rodney you know. For a start I’m not going to let you get away with bringing lunch up to my office any more.” Carson gently said to John looking up at the slim man sat on his desk.

“I’m not hiding, Ok well I am hiding but it’s a tactical thing. Whenever I see him he says something rude or upsetting and I can’t ignore him like I do with everyone else. Avoiding him means I can’t do something I’ll get punished for.” John fidgeted, scrunching and smoothing his napkin refusing to meet Carson’s eyes.

“Why can’t you ignore him?”

“Because he’s my friend. I couldn’t ignore you either, but that’s different.”

“Different how?” Carson pried reaching across to poke John’s knee John just shrugged in response. They sat for a while in silence both picking at their sandwiches half-heartedly.  Eventually John touched Carson’s arm and looking at the floor he whispered.

“I could show you. If you want, I mean if you wouldn’t mind.” John squirmed for a moment and just as Carson was about to speak John said, “I swear I won’t hurt you, I haven’t had much practice doing this the friendly way but I can do it.”

“I trust you John.” Carson said as he gently got hold of John’s sleeve and pulled him off his perch on the desk and over to the couch. He sat down tucking John against his side and twining his hand into John’s.

“OK, this is a normal person like Radek or the General” Wariness, wrapped around fear, held together with hope of tolerance the emotions brushed against Carson’s mind softly but firmly.

“Rodney” Trust, hope, amusement and care all swirl together in a warm ball but bands of hurt and scared barricade the warm away.

“You” Trust, care, affection, hope and nervousness wrapped around Carson like a hug and Carson, almost involuntarily, lent down and pressed a kiss against John’s lips. Seconds later Carson jerked himself away from John and off the couch as the slim man pulled away gasping

“No, stop, please?” Carson, already on his feet backed off a little further, held his hands up and crouched down to John’s eye level.

“John, its ok, luv, its me. Open your eyes, you’re safe and I am so, so sorry. I have no idea what I was thinking.”

John opened his eyes slowly pulling his legs up to his chest and hugging them. He looked at Carson sad and a little lost.  “It was me, I made you feel my feelings. I thought I could make it so that you just saw them and didn’t feel them. I did it wrong. I’m sorry.”

 

“No John, I. Damn this is hard. It isn’t that I didn’t want to kiss you, you didn’t make me feel your feelings I did only see them.” John looks confused, so Carson continued, “I have feelings for you John. But I would never want to make you feel uncomfortable or scared.” He looked at John for a moment “ or confused. You have no idea what I’m rambling on about do you?”

Carson watched John carefully as he uncurled from the floor to stand next to his desk. He reached on to the desk picking up John’s gloves, a medical journal and John’s notebook before walking back to the couch and passing John his gloves. John pulled on his gloves and lifted his notebook from Carson’s lap, Carson crooked a finger at him and smiling slightly he patted the couch next to him and waited for John to slide closer to him. When John was close enough Carson moved so that he was leaning against him companionably and started to read his journal.

 

Nearly two hours later Carson gently nudged a half asleep John and softly said

“ I could spend the rest of my life with just this between you and I without needing a single ounce more.”

“ I still have no idea what you’re rambling on about.” John whispered burrowing in to Carson’s shoulder a little more.

 

ATA Research Lab, Level 21,

Departure date + 18 weeks

“I though we were done with this?” John complained as Carson finished writing on the blood ample he had just taken. Carson chuckled and after bagging the sample he pulled his glove off and handed John a sandwich explaining,

“I have to double check my finding before the conference. I’ll send this off to my lab in the UK and they will use the same method I used to check that the results are consistent.” He rolled the sleeves down on his lab coat and hopped up on to the bed next to John opening a new pack of sandwiches.

“ So Rodney tells me that you turned up in Crazy Town the other day and started working like nothing happened. I think you confused him with the suddenly being his friend again thing but at the same time I think he’s grateful to not have to talk about it.” The two men ate in silence for a while.

“I got fed up of eating lunch on my own and I wasn’t angry with Rodney anymore. I’ll miss having someone to sit next to when you’re gone.”

“ We’ll only be gone for a week or two and I though you were going on that big mission with SG10?”

John nodded and shoved the whole sandwich in his mouth to avoaid saying anything. But what about when you leave forever? He thought.

—————-

 

The International Convention of Modern Scientific Exploration,

Departure date + 19 weeks

Radek Zelenka stood centre stage, dressed neatly in a grey suit. Behind him the projection of a dissected Ancient device faded away, changing to a slowly turning IOA logo.  The crowd politely clapped and a few hands rose as Radek drew his explanation to an end. Ignoring the hands and the applause Radek looked down at his notes cleared his throat and continued speaking.

“The presence of Americans on the most recent project I worked on completely changed the way in which engineer talent based mutants worked. All of us changed the frequency with which we used out talents and I, myself, found that jobs would take three times as long to figure out. Even when it is not directly stated there is a hatred or fear of those of us who are Gifted. Such institutionally ingrained hatred affects everything and everyone, and so it is my belief that where viably possible the IOA should move operations out of American hands in order to allow projects to progress at their best possible rate.” Radek Zelenka took a deep breath and looked around the conference hall filled with hundreds of scientific and political minds. “There is little advantage in allowing small mindedness to destroy the progress that has been made in our more open minded member states.

America and its views of mutation as “dangerous and unpredictable” must not be allowed to dictate the progress of the human race or even the Stargate project. It is my opinion that if you cannot be trusted with one element…you should not be trusted with any part of the IOA’s future.”

Radek left the stage, took a deep breath, dialled a number in his phone and muttered, “It is done, for all the good that it will do.”

—–

“See you later, Radek” Carson says in to his mobile before snapping it shut. On stage the compere thanked Doctor El-Amin for his “ Fascinating insight in to xeno-bacterial necrotising fasciitis” before introducing the day’s main speaker, genealogist Doctor Carson Beckett.

“Good afternoon all, as always it is a great honour to be asked to speak at an event of such prestige. Today, as you may have guessed from the title, I will be talking the subject of evolutionary mutantism. My primary focus over the last few years has been on a gene called 17q5.1-q5.2, with a lab name of ATA. ATA can be traced back down family lines for many generations. Where possible we have used historic genetic material to trace the gene. Over the past year we have found the gene in several different preserved pre-historic bodies including Ötzi the Iceman and Ayiana of Antarctica.

My team has blind tested several thousand modern and historic samples, we did not test for any other genes and where unaware of the status of any of our volunteers. When we cross-examined our results with the statistics for our volunteers we discovered that where the ATA gene is present the phenomenon known as EM is also present. And the samples taken from extremely powerful mutants where indistinguishable from the oldest available samples where as mid range samples showed far lower levels of the gene.” Carson paused and after a few moments of silence the pointed to the one raised hand in the room.

“Doctor Beckett, just to clarify, you are saying that we are not evolving slowly in to a new form of existence but rather an old, a very old one?”

“Yes.” Across the conference hall Elizabeth Weir smiled at Carson, nodded and slipped out of the room as chaos erupted.

——–

 

Elizabeth Weir looked at the group of scientists around her as they discussed the response their various talks had gained from their peers.

“Well, I think that that went rather well. Opinions seem to be far more in our favour this year.”

“Ay, I have t’ say that I wasn’t expecting anyone to realise the implications of the ATA gene as quickly as they did. Sometimes I think that the Americans did us a favor when they started killing geneticists for trying to justify EM. Most geneticists just aren’t American anymore.” Carson laughed hollowly “And those that defected have good cause t’ want to know what their old government was trying to hide.”

“ The IOA representatives in the hall seemed very responsive to the idea that the Stargate should be ceased from American control. I think the upcoming election has lent a degree of urgency to these types of decisions.” Radek said “I’ve been approached by several scientists, American scientists, who want to know who is best to ask about getting citizenship in Europe somewhere.”

“People are scared even the ‘normal’ people.” Carson added.

“I think people are finally beginning to realise that we can’t continue to ignore American policy. Even the Chinese IOA representatives were talking about taking some kind of action. At this rate there’s going to be a war.” Elizabeth said sadly.

“Ay, well let’s hope that we’ve found a way to leave by then shall we?” Carson murmured.

——–

SGC – Rec Room, Level 22

Departure date + 19.5 weeks

 

The TV in the rec room had been stuck on a news channel for weeks. Having decided they couldn’t fix it everyone had started to blank it out.

John sat in an uncomfortable looking, low armchair shoved under a bookshelf. A well worn copy of ‘Chaos’ open on his knee and a notebook balanced on the arm. Feeling someone looking at him John dropped his pencil in to the book to mark the page and looked up stretching. He glanced over to a group of men playing cards and saw Bates looking at him with a smirk. Meeting John’s glance Bates nodded at the TV before looking back at his cards.

On the TV the news channel was showing sections from the presidential campaign. A Republican candidate stood in front of a giant image of himself speaking to a crowd. The banner at the bottom of the screen announced that T.Saltcher was winning the polls.

“As citizens of this great and proud land we are, each and every one of us, responsible for keeping the mutant cause as minor as possible. With each aggressive action they take these unsavoury type threaten our lifestyle, the safety of our homes and the future of our children.

If we allow these mutants, these unnatural “ progenitors of humanities future” to spread uncontrolled and unimpinged then we run the risk of being wiped out within mere generations.

Do not be fooled these …creatures…Will ensure that you will not see your grandchildren develop without some abnormality, they must be stopped so as to ensure the clean and peaceful continuation of human life. I promise that if you elect me, Thomas Saltcher, as the next president of the United States I will make sure that your grandchildren and their grandchildren are as normal and wonderful as you and I.

Goodnight and God bless each and every one of you beautiful, normal people.” The screen changed to a collection of election stats and John looked back down at his book.

“I can’t wait, even your little European friends won’t be able to stop them from putting you down like an animal when he wins.”  Bates stepped in front of John and knocking his books on to the floor, crushing him in to the chair he reached up on to the shelf above John’s head to get a book of card games. As Bates walked away Markham looked up from his sprawl on the couch next to John’s chair and muttered

“ You all right?” At John’s nod he raised his volume a little and said “ SG5, get your asses in your bunks we’ve got a mission tomorrow. That includes you, Sheppard, I don’t want you creeping back in the room when I’m trying to sleep.” John grabbed his books from the floor and practically fled the room.

 

——

The International Convention of Modern Scientific Exploration,

Departure date + 19.9 weeks

 

“Min nya förlovning med ett USA-baserat projekt betyder inte att min uppfattning av

deras lagstiftning har förändrats. Jag anser, jag har alltid trott att vi borde göra mer för att få dem att verkligen bli vad de nu påstår sig vara … en fri nation.”

(My recent engagement with a U.S. based project does not mean that my opinion of their legislation has changed. I believe, I’ve always believed that we should do more to get them to really become what they now claim to be … a free nation.)

Elizabeth stood in a huge lecture theatre addressing a huge number of the world’s most important people. Her words were passionate and when she stops it isn’t to let people think or for the translators to catch up it was to keep her voice from breaking or rising to a shout.

“Jag har sett några av världens bästa forskare som arbetar med varandra, otroligt duktiga och välutbildade, i samarbete med amerikanska forskare och deras fördomar. Det har funnits skillnader, och det har förekommit missuppfattningar att övervinna men vi lyckades det.

Men jag har sett svåra misshandeln av briljanta människor som utförts av medlemmar av deras militära och detta är något som måste åtgärdas! En av dessa människor i synnerhet, var en av de starkaste mutanterna jag någonsin har haft nöjet att möte. Han kunde förändra världen, och istället är han långsamt drivande sinnessjukt, förtryckta och ensam.”

(I have seen some of the world’s best scientists working with each other, incredibly talented and well-educated, working together with American researchers and their prejudices. There have been differences, and there have been misconceptions to overcome but we managed it.

But I have seen severe mishandling of brilliant people carried out by members of their military and this is something that needs to be addressed! One of these people in particular, was one of the strongest mutants I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He could change the world, and instead he is slowly driven insane, oppressed and lonely.)

Elizabeth waited letting the final sentence of her nearly hour-long talk sink in. When the applause starts she nodded to the audience, stepped down from the podium and went to retake her seat. Just as she is about to sit Jake, her assistant, catches her eye from his position standing near the door. He lifted a hand and pointed at the phone clenched to his ear.

As she reached him Jake stepped away and head out to the lobby. Elizabeth smiled and bemused followed him, seconds later the phone was shoved in to her hand.

“Plane flights are booked, so get her packed and on her way.”

“I really don’t appreciate being treated like a parcel you know Walter.”

“Ma’am sorry, I didn’t realise you had been put on the line. As I was saying to your assistant…” Elizabeth glanced down at the note Jake had shoved in to her hands and interrupted.

“Ah yes as I can see, Thank you. I’ll be with the general in 10 hours according to this. Do I need to prepare any information?” After a quick negative and the usual goodbyes Elizabeth hung up and after standing in silence for a stunned second, handed the phone back. She turned on one heel and with a smile on her face she walked back in to the conference.

——–

Area 51,

Departure date + 20 weeks

 

“Our great and wise leaders would like you to think that you are a scientific mission being sent to explore another galaxy and learn what you can of the Ancients but let’s face it they’ve given you all the people they want to get rid of.” Jack gave the jet lagged woman opposite him a half smile before continuing in a far less sarcastic tone ” You need to be prepared to not be able to return, prepare your people to work together, it will be hard, it will probably be dangerous and you’re gonna want to shoot some of them before you even leave. Hell I’m surprised on a daily basis that someone hasn’t shot McKay yet.

You’ve got a month to get your people back and ready. Oh and you might want to figure out how you plan to get home when you’re done. Good luck” The general pushed his chair back and left before Elizabeth could ask him any questions.

Elizabeth hurried across the room and out of the door just in time to race down the corridor and in to the elevator before it shut.

“Never mind getting back, Jack, how about you tell me how we’re going to get there?” Elizabeth said exasperated. Jack grinned at her and said,

“Better if I show you.” The elevator doors opened and the pair walked down the corridor in near silence. Jack swiped a pass card, pulled the door open and motioned Elizabeth in.

“My god, Jack, how did you get clearance to build this?” Elizabeth waved a hand around before finally pointing at the enormous spaceship filling the hangar. Jack cleared his throat and looking at Elizabeth said

“We didn’t. The IOA has agreed to smooth things over with the Russians and the Chinese if, and only if, we give the ship to your expedition and the blueprints to them.”

“And your government agreed?” Elizabeth said surprised.

“I think we are making enough enemies without pissing the IOA off.” He replied with a shrug. “ Anyway she’s yours, and she has to be outta here in a month. Lorne’s got the manual for her.” Jack smacked Elizabeth on the shoulder and left her staring at the ship.

————-

SGC- Civilian Rooms, Level 15

Departure date + 22 weeks

 

Carson walked in to the room he shared with Rodney and thought I really wish I hadn’t given up my lease so soon as the wave of discomfort and pain washed over him. He started to walk over to Rodney to find out what was wrong when Rodney looked up from the tablet he was reading on and motioned to the lump on Carson’s bed,

“Migraine” Carson nodded his thanks and then whispered,

“Thanks” when Rodney stood up a, squeezing past him and out of the door.

Carson walked over to the bed and quickly pushed his emotions to the background before sliding a hand under the covers and on to John’s overly warm forehead. John flinched back and hit his head on Carson’s thigh, making them both wince at the bolt of pain, before realising who was touching him and settling back into the pillow.

Carson searched for the cause of the migraine and slowly helped John’s stressed out system to produce the right chemicals to correct the imbalance. With a sigh he lent back on the bed and slid his hand to the back of John’s neck rubbing at the tension there.

“I can’t do anything about the tenderness but the light sensitivity and the worst of the pain should fade in a minute or two. “ John nodded and then screwed his eyes up regretting the movement.

After a while John uncurled and twisted to press his head into Carson’s hip, wrapping an arm around the thigh closest to him.

“Why didn’t you come and find me before it got this bad. Are you still scared of me?” Carson asked jokingly,

“Not scared of you, I fear for you.” John mumbled in to Carson’s hip.

Carson ruffled John’s hair softly “Ok, Why do you fear for me then. And why would that stop you coming for medical treatment?”

“Because in the end you’ll be like everyone else. You’ll get close to me and then you’ll get in trouble or you’ll….” John trailed off tiredly.

“John, I’m not going to get sick of you or leave and no one is going to punish me for taking a break from my research to treat your migraine.  You know I would do anything to avoid hurting you and that includes treating your pain.”

“You wouldn’t mean to, but you will eventually.” Carson started to protest, upset, but John quickly said, “I mean leave not hurt.”

“That’s not really any better John.”

“You won’t mean to but in the end you’ll die. Everyone who gets close to me dies.” Carson wrapped a hand in to the back of John’s T-shirt and firmly said,

“I do tend to try avoid dying John” then trying to lighten the mood “Besides if its only people who get close to you, I’ll make sure to always keep out of arms reach so you can’t get me. Or is this fascination with explosive materials a bit more homicidal than anyone realises?”

John rolled off Carson and glared at him “I’m trying to be serious here. You shouldn’t get this close to me, I’m not meant to have friends.”

“Don’t be serious you’re pants at it.  Also I’ve read the John Sheppard handling manual and it says nothing about friends.”

“That’s because you ripped that page out of every manual you could find. Rodney told me,” John said at Carson’s shocked look. “Look I really was being serious”

“So was I. Let go of my leg and I’ll go sit on Rodney’s bed so you aren’t close to me.” Carson sits smiling slightly waiting for a response.

“That’s not… You’re kind of an ass.” John sighed finally, tucking his head back on to Carson’s hip and curling up to the other man.

“Thanks” Carson said laughing, feeling mellow and safe. He looked down at John in his thin T-shirt and suddenly realising how much skin contact they shared he reached to tuck the blanket between them. John reached out and caught his wrist Leave it. It’s nice.  Carson pushed down the bed a little and pulled the pillow up behind his head smiling widely.

About the author

Pickingupellen

PickingupEllen is a fanfiction writer and fanartist from Scotland who no longer lives in the sticks.

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