greenapple: sufjan plays the typewriter (writing)
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Imago Dei
Stargate Atlantis
Lorne/Sheppard, (Zelenka/Weir)
4100 words
August 2009
Adult content: explicit sex, drug use
Note: AU
Summary: See The Bug Boy, the fresh paint encourages. Up on the canvas, John wavers in the heat, caught in curve and fracture.






Evan finally notices him, where he's been standing behind him. Watching.

"John," Evan says, indistinct around the shape of the brush handle in his mouth. He removes the brush from between his teeth and sits back, feet hooked in the steps of the ladder and his hands braced on his thighs. He wipes the sweat from his brow with his forearm and nods at his finished work.

"What do you think?"

See The Bug Boy, the fresh paint encourages. Up on the canvas, John wavers in the heat, caught in curve and fracture. His likeness crude, childlike in hard bright blue and yellow shapes. Liquid, inhuman eyes bulge out at him, like the shiny glass skin of an aviator's goggles. Half Man Half Insect! proclaims the furling banner beneath his naked torso.

John shifts his gaze to Evan. Tilts his head up beneath the brim of his wool cap; pulls his jacket closer around him despite the heat. Is this how you really see me? he wants to ask.

"Sensational enough?" Evan unhooks his legs and turns to sit where he can look at him. Swings one leg idly; dipping his brush in the can of water hanging at his side.

John shrugs with one shoulder.

Evan's questions aren't the taunts and mean-spirited jibes like most other people's are. It's just Evan's way of including him, like he were a real person. Like he could answer, he just doesn't choose to. That's new, that brand of kindness. He's still getting used to it.

Evan shakes out his brush, fans it noisily against the rungs of the ladder. The corner of his mouth tugging up a little and this time when he dips his brush and takes it out from the water, he flicks it at John. Hard, from the wrist, as if he were pitching a baseball. Sun-warmed water arcs out and spots John's sleeve, the side of his face.

John ducks into the collar of his jacket and turns half away, so Evan can't see him smiling.

He doesn't know how to do this -- the roughhousing and playful camaraderie that Evan has probably taken for granted his whole life. He's supposed to give something back, he knows. If he were normal, he'd laugh and fling a curse back at him, maybe even pull him from the ladder, tackle him to the ground the way he's seen other boys do, other men. Or maybe that's the wrong thing, too. Too much, too much touching. He doesn't know. He keeps his hands tucked in his pockets and hunches his shoulders happily, instead.


**



Today's marks and dupes and gawkers shuffle through the tent. He does his best to look terrifying, to look menacing, to look ugly. The eyes on him, the looks of disgust, the kids' squeals of delight at being scared are always the same. It's the price he pays, for regular meals, for a warm bed come winter, for family that don't beat him when they get tired of feeling sorry for themselves -- more than a lot of folks have nowadays, more than he's had in a long time. This is the price he pays for a home.

He works the sideshow during carnival hours, but the management expects him to help out wherever else he can, too. Pitching and striking the tents, digging latrines, driving the trucks, whatever job there is needing doing, he can do it, mostly.

But after all the customers go home, in the dark, his time is his own.

He likes to sit and watch the big new Ferris wheel spinning slow, all lit up for a few good minutes before it gets shut down for the night. The lame operator, the dog-tired and mean-looking one with the brace, he won't let him come near it, on account of he'll scare the customers away -- but in the cool, quiet mornings he'll walk out a pace from camp and sit, and watch the cars swing in the wind. And in the sharp height of day sometimes he'll catch his breath and have a smoke, watching from the shade of an awning or underneath the big wheel itself, cars making squares of cool shade in the dry dirt. Looking up.

He's the only person who can scale the thing when it breaks down, and sometimes he hopes for it to happen just so he can find himself up at the top, balanced up there with the sky big all around him. Free.


**



After business hours, sometimes he'll stop by Evan's tent, the sweet smell of marijuana drifting out to greet him first before Evan's lazy hello can. Zelenka is there sometimes, talking and restlessly shuffling his cards. His eyes crinkled at the corner with laughter that he keeps inside, like the sound of it is secret, like a fortune in a closed hand. Sometimes he's out, and Evan says he's seeing the contortionist lady, Elizabeth, but he's never seen them together and Zelenka never talks about her. Some say she wears a wedding band on a chain around her neck, that it's made of solid gold, but John's never seen that, either. Another secret, in a carnival full of secrets.

Tonight, Evan is alone when he pushes the flap aside and walks into the dim tent. John can see him easily, even in the low lamplight. He's lying back on his low feather bed, coiled in smoke like silky rope.

John begins to undress. Layers fall to his feet, one by one: skins he no longer needs.

Evan, with his easy looks and perfect smile, had been hard for him to figure out at first. He'd never seen him lose his temper, never seen him complain. He never got into fights with the other guys, never fooled around with the women, didn't gamble, barely drank at all, and went to bed early most nights. John just thought of him as a freak among freaks, a normal down on his luck, keeping his nose clean and taking work where he could get it.

Until the first time, when Evan had asked to sketch him for one of the carnival's posters. Evan's hand had been swift across his paper, and then slow over John's mouth, asking if he could kiss him. Telling him he was beautiful. He'd thought Evan had been pulling his leg, then, making him into a joke. Until he'd seen the desperation in his face. Until he'd felt his tongue slick across his own, and the cool trail of spit he'd left across the shiny blue-black scales of his collarbones, and he'd realized Evan was just as much of an outsider as he was. He just kept it all inside where no one could see – not until he let them.

Tonight, he stands naked at the foot of Evan's bed and lets Evan's gaze travel over his body. Different than the looks the others give him, the ones who pay a nickel to see him. For Evan, he isn't a monster. For Evan, he is exotic, he's beautiful. He's human.

John's cock stands out half-proud, enjoying the attention. He rubs the back of one of his nails along the ridge beneath, lifting himself up for Evan to see.

"Come here." The cigarette nodding lazy in his lips, painting the half-dark between them with a brief haze of fire.

Evan crooks his finger and John kneels; crawls up Evan's legs, his claws kneading gentle on the solid muscles of his thighs.

Evan takes the lit reefer from between his lips and holds it out for John. John closes his mouth around it and inhales, sucking deep, letting the smoke scratch him all the way down, lets it lie thick and heavy in his lungs. He tugs at Evan's shirttails, pulls them free of his pants. John's hands scrabble desperately at Evan's clothes, scratching him in his haste to get to bare skin, making Evan breathe sharply in, and John breathes roughly out over Evan's warm, sunbrowned stomach. The smoke rolling off him like water.

He licks out after it, chasing it. Over the cleft between his chest muscles, down across his ribs, long tongue darting into Evan's navel. Kissing him there, wet and open-mouthed, then pressing the arrow tip of his tongue into him slow and deep as the shallow indent allows.

Evan chuckles. The sound of it is like melted light. Evan's belly and cock buck up to kiss John on the chin, the throat.

John ducks down and presses his face into Evan's fly. Inhales, breathing deep, taking him in like he did the weed. Like a drug, the familiar and comforting smell of sweat, of sex, of undeniable masculinity. The flexible spikes on John's neck catch and bend on the inseam of Evan's pants. He rubs the bridge of his nose across the soft shaft of Evan's cock, mouths at his testicles.

John's throat won't work like everyone else's, never has -- but here, in the safety of Evan's tent, he can vocalize with the low, clicking whine that Evan knows means, Please.

"Yes," he murmurs, distracted, petting and tugging at John's hair with the tips of his fingers. "No, wait..."

Evan licks his fingers and snuffs out the end of the marijuana cigarette, rolls sideways on the bed to set it down on the cover of a Weird Tales magazine, where a predatory, scaled, half-man creature is menacing the hero and bare-breasted heroine. When Evan turns back, he catches him looking, and gives John a funny look. Guilty, maybe, or angry. John doesn't always know how to read him.

Then Evan's got him by the wrist and is reeling him in, pulling John to him until John is straddling his lap, until he's got his hand on John's cock. Slow and tight, slipping his livid foreskin over the blood-dark head of his cock and back again. John makes a whirring, happy sound; closes his eyes and finds Evan's mouth by touch. Careful, so carefully, tracing Evan's bottom lip, until Evan finally opens up, sucking two of his fingers inside his mouth. Licking between them, around them, messy and wet. Groaning a little and losing his rhythm on John's cock, moving his mouth over John's fingers instead. Slouching down into the cushions.

John pulls free from Evan's mouth, a thread of saliva following, spit slick between his fingers. He nudges Evan's slack hand off his cock and takes himself in hand, guiding it to Evan's bottom lip. Paints it with slick.

When John pulls away, a thread of it still connects them. Evan chases after it, laps at the slick welling from his slit with the wavering tip of his tongue. Hums. He runs one palm over the soft curve of John's ass, and down, across the dark armor covering his legs. Back up to trace his cleft, and up, to the first smooth ridge of his spine.

"I want to fuck you," he murmurs against the bobbing head of John's cock. "When do I get to do that?"

Then Evan takes him in, his hot mouth is sliding down, clenching wet all around him, and John can't think about words made of gestures and sounds, about ways to let Evan know it's alright. He bends himself backward, taut and trembling, and is lost in the feel of another man's mouth.


**



The next day is a Sunday, and in the afternoon they take one of the company's rusting Model As out to see a matinee in town. Evan grinning all the way, whistling with his shirtsleeves rolled, the sun gold on his browned arms, gold in the soft hair of his knuckles where his hands rest on the wheel.

John strikes a match and they share a cigarette. He watches the flat land. The sky swept with cloud, and once, the dead white branches of a tree, an upended broom, a hand of bone.

Once in town, they park the pickup on the dusty street. John takes sunglasses from his pocket and fits them over his face, obscuring the yellow, the slitted pupils, more cat than cockroach. Turns up the collar of his jacket and pulls his cap low, but still the girl at the ticket booth stares.

"Skin condition," Evan says before she can ask, jutting a thumb in his direction. He forks over their combined forty-six cents.

"Not contagious?" She shrinks away from them.

"Ah... no."

John pretends to grin, shows off his teeth. Evan doesn't see, already walking toward the double doors. The girl blanches, though. He feels kinda rotten, through the newsreel and the serial, right up until the movie starts; the sad music opening up something in him, and he becomes absorbed in the story.

On the screen in the dark of the nearly-empty movie house, Karloff's eyes slowly become seen. From shadow to blazing white, they stare out at them, willing them all to be terrified by the naked humanity in them.

When John stiffens during the binding scene, when he shivers with real terror as they cover his mouth, those same eyes pleading, silently, for mercy, Evan takes John's hand and pulls it to his lips. Turns it over to kiss his roughened palm. Karloff's voice echoes in his ears: "They broke in upon me and found me doing an unholy thing"

Evan releases his hand, and they don't risk touching again.

After the show ends, they walk together back to the pickup. John with his hands in gloves in pockets and his chin to his chest, as if he were fighting off the cold of winter. He takes a double step to catch up to Evan, and they brush shoulders in silence. Cross the street, dust on their boots, and when Evan yanks open his door he turns and says, "Look. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."

That tightness to his face again, the thing John can't tell is anger or something else.

John shakes his head to let Evan know it's alright. The movie was good. He had a good time. A bead of sweat tickles the side of his face and he rubs at it with his shoulder.

Evan makes a noise and grabs John's cap off his head, tosses it through the window onto the bench seat of the pickup. His glasses follow. He works one of his strong hands through John's hair, kneading. Tugging at his dark, wet spikes. He pulls John in by the back of his skull, pulls him down until their foreheads meet. Evan grips his lapels and gives him a little shake.

"I'm sorry," he says, quietly.

John still doesn't understand what he's apologizing for.

"Hey!" a rough voice barks at them and they both look up. They slowly separate.

A man is crossing the street, moving quickly toward them. Dirty shoes, dust in the creases of his loose denim workpants, just like them, except his face is twisted into an ugly scowl. He points his finger like he's aiming a gun.

"We don't want your kind around here!"

When he's come within a few feet of them, they can hear him breathing hard, like he's been running. John recognizes him from the lobby of the movie house. Your kind. Freaks, he hears, the unspoken curse. John lowers his eyes, wishes he had his glasses. Then changes his mind and tilts his chin up and looks the man straight in the eye.

But the man is glaring at Evan, and John is a little startled to realize the fellow hasn't even looked at him. Hasn't really seen him.

"Relax, pal." Evan holds his hands up in front of him, palms out. His voice isn't quite so obliging. The man's a fool if he can't hear the threat. John stands straighter, ready to back him up.

"We're with the-"

"Pansies," the man sneers, and spits onto the ground. "Goddamned homos."

Without any more warning than a quick change in stance, Evan leans an elbow back, slams forward with his whole body into the punch. The blood is bright red, bright as wet paint, spilling out between the cage of the man's fingers held over his nose. He's babbling curses, and Evan delivers another hit to the chin to shut him up. He crumples, unconscious, to the ground.

They get in the pickup and start for home. They don't take his money; they've got two more days in this county before they move out again, and they don't want any trouble.

When John can finally see the big eye of the wheel come into view, Evan loosens his deathgrip on the steering wheel, clenching and unclenching his fist to let the blood back in. Grimaces at his bruised knuckles.

"Prizefighter," he offers, by way of explanation. A stiff word to match his stiff back, tense shoulders. "Gave it up." There's a long pause, and then, quietly: "Got to be I didn't know when to quit fighting."

John reconsiders Evan's solidity, his mild manners. His gentle hands.


**



Later, after, when the camp is quiet of laughter shouting broken bottles -- the tumbled-up joy and sorrow as unrooted and scattered and wild as the folks who call this place something like home -- they finish the smoke together. The taste of reefer and come is sweet when he licks across Evan's tongue. Evan's fingers are clumsy as they trace up his spine, rubbing the chitinous, snubnosed spikes that march up his back. John shivers into him where he lies pressed into Evan's side, sleepy and blissful.

Evan watches him, heavy-lidded and with a raw pleasure on his face that makes John hide his smile, still half-afraid of ridicule, of this new thing (joy, perhaps) being taken from him.

They both look up as Zelenka stumbles in, hair wild and shirt buttoned unevenly, looking just as dazed as they.

John feels a laugh building, and can only half-hide it, the skittering sound dancing out, and Evan coughs loudly to cover it.

"The Great Zelenka, ladies and gentlemen," Evan says muzzily.

Zelenka weakly flourishes his hand and marches across the tent to collapse face-first into his bed. Snores arise presently.

John and Evan turn look at each other. Evan traces his fingers across his ribs, where he's furred light blue with softer scales. They follow his spine back down to the small of his back. He pushes one between his cheeks, nudging him apart. The press at his hole is greedy and insistent. Circling him, kneading the tight muscle with the pad of his thumb. Evan raises an eyebrow and John's eyes shift nervously to where Zelenka is a huddled shape beneath his blankets. His snores are drowning out the sound of crickets, the sound of their breathing, his snores are eating up all silence.

John, his heartbeat swift, pushes back against Evan. The tip of Evan's finger opens him, makes a needy pressure inside of him.

Evan pulls out, too fast, and John's claws depress against the pad of muscle in one of Evan's broad shoulders; not yet breaking the skin.

"Okay, okay. I get the picture."

Evan brings his fingers to his mouth and sucks, then spits, rolling the saliva over them. John pulls himself up on all fours over him, legs spread. His hole feeling hot and suddenly sensitive to everything -- his heartbeat magnified there, the brush of cool, four a.m. air that makes the flame in the lamp bob and weave, and he clenches tight reflexively when Evan's fingers find him again. Too much to feel.

Evan hushes him and pets him. John forces himself to relax, and when Evan puts his finger inside him again, it's easier. Goes deeper.

It's unbearable; he needs release from this, and John doesn't know if it's because he wants Evan gone, or if he wants more. He rocks backward on his knees, trying for more, and Evan slides in to his last knuckle. Spit drying on his hands, and when Evan pulls out, the burn is painful enough to make John reconsider taking Evan's cock. Makes him think that maybe he doesn't want this, after all. Even after so long thinking about it, climaxing alone to the thought of doing it, when it comes down to brass tacks, he's scared.

John makes an impatient, disappointed sound.

Evan stills, and maneuvers him aside. He gets up from the bed, and John's chest tightens. He's made a mistake, he wants to be able to say. Evan is angry with him, and now he's going to leave, or make John go back to his own bed under the big wheel and the multitude of stars.

You can do anything you want, he thinks, just let me stay.

But Evan is going only so far as across the room, crouching to open a chest, moving things around until he's found what he's looking for. He comes back to bed with a small tin ("a soothing dressing for minor cuts, superficial burns, chafing, heat rash, and sunburn") and coats his fingers liberally with the stuff inside.

This time, John bucks back onto Evan's hand it feels so good, the pressure of his finger, and then fingers, inside of him, sliding in and out so easily. Evan hooks them to rub him from the inside, and John pushes his face into Evan's pillow to silence the strange, inhuman sounds his body wants to make. He forces himself not to grab blindly at Evan's cock, knowing he's capable of doing damage when he's like this, so gone, uncaring of anything but his own pleasure. He writhes, hips and back liquid and not half-bug but snake, now. He ripples, he waves. The better to feel Evan's hand, the better to feel. His inner lids snick down. Everything hazy but the ache to have more.

"Holy Jesus Christ," Evan swears, sounding a little awed. And then is struggling out from under him, fingers pulling free and John pulls tight at the emptiness he leaves behind. But then Evan is behind him, guiding the head of his cock to slip back and forth over his hole; "You should see how I see you," he says, "Like this. So pretty," with that same awe in his voice; and John hisses uncontrollably and the claws of his feet clench and catch in Evan's bedclothes when Evan thrusts into him.

Getting fucked up the ass, John has discovered, is the cat's fucking pajamas. He could ride cock all day and never get tired of it. Never, never, and he's chittering and making ugly glottal sounds in his throat and he doesn't even care. Zelenka wakes up enough to curse at them in some Bohemian language, and John still doesn't care. Evan's palms slide over his blue, glassy skin, touching him everywhere he can reach, talking wonderful nonsense at him, and John can only think, More, Yes, and More, and Forever. And Thank you, thank you.

Too soon, Evan hitches his breath, clutching at the soft of John's belly, pulling John up tight against him, and he feels Evan's cock pulsing inside of him. The sordid, savage feel of another man's come spilling deep into him.

Evan rests his cheek on John's back, sticking to him with sweat. He's trembling, his body trying to remember how to work, his lungs how to breathe. I did that, John thinks, and savors the rush of power that brings. It only takes them a few seconds, John's hand wrapped firmly around Evan's lazy grip, to bring John off again; and then Evan tips him forward and slides softly, wetly out.

John wipes up alone, Evan useless and slack-jawed next to him. John lies quietly next to him for a while. Watching.

He has worried before, that he feels too safe here. That he lets too much of himself show, leaves too much of himself exposed to hurt. He has worried that letting himself feel will only make it that much worse when he has to leave here someday and go back to the world; back to the people who don't want to see him for what he is, who only want to use him as a mirror for their own monstrosity.

Tonight, in his new home, with his new family around him, he doesn't worry. Tonight, contentment doesn't seem like such an ugly word.

John reaches over Evan's prone and naked body to rip off the cover of Weird Tales. He crumples it up and tosses it away, as hard as he can. It bounces harmlessly off the wall of the canvas tent.