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Half a loaf (3/4)

BBC Sherlock

Rating 15 (slash, swearing)

Betaed by Gayalondiel

Summary: John is now sharing Mycroft's kitchen, but is Mycroft hoping for something more?

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

There was undoubtedly a reason why Mycroft lived so near to Sherlock and had never mentioned it, John thought as he arrived at North Gower Street. In a house that was almost the spit of 221B. A logical reason, he was quite sure.

"Ah, John. Do come in," Mycroft said, opening the door. "You may find a few resemblances to Baker Street, all the houses in this area are of a standard design. But unlike you, I'm lucky enough to have the whole of the house. And a rather...quieter taste in wallpaper."

He led John through into Mrs Hudson's room -  no, where Mrs Hudson's room would have been. Here, there was a huge gleaming kitchen, all quarry tiles and chrome steel, like a mortuary for food. But with absolutely no dead things or experiments.

"Impressive," John said. "You could do...rather a lot of cooking here. Good cooking. Without risk of incidents." He'd never know himself to be prone to kitchen envy before.

"It's rather a waste," said Mycroft. "There's this and a dining room at the front on this floor, but I don't have the time or the inspiration for cooking or dinner parties. But as you can see, I have ample room for a bread maker."

"That'd be wonderful," said John, "if it's really OK. And, and is there somewhere I could store ingredients? A cupboard, a lockable cupboard, maybe?"

"I can assure you, John, any foodstuffs you leave here will neither be misappropriated nor contaminated."

"I'm sorry," John said, grinning, "I've lived with Sherlock too long. Once I've got the bread machine here, when would it be convenient to come round?"

"Anytime you like," said Mycroft, "Just let yourself in and out, I'll show you how to work the security systems."

"I don't want to disturb anything."

"I very seldom have visitors. When do you normally make your bread?"

"The thing's got a timer switch on it, so I tend to set it up to have something baked for about 7 a.m. Is it really OK to come round then? I mean on the days I'm not looking at corpses by that time in the morning? "

"That would be fine," Mycroft said, smiling. "I have breakfast about then, when I'm here, so it won't disturb me at all. But as I say, you'll have free access if you find another time is more convenient. Would you like to see the rest of the house, while you're here?"

"I'd be fascinated," John replied.  "So upstairs, the layout is similar to 221B?"

"Yes, except obviously the kitchen isn't needed, so that's a study. And as you may notice, there are eighteen  steps up to the next floor."

***

"It's slightly weird," John said, once they'd gone up. "It, it feels like someone's broken into our flat and forcibly tidied and redecorated it. Do you find it odd going into 221B?"

"There are far odder things there than some familiar architecture," Mycroft said. He paused and then added: "There are a couple of bedroom upstairs, as in your flat. I should at this point perhaps say...I know you sometimes stay at Sarah's when Sherlock is being..." His voice tailed off.

"The world's most impossible flatmate? Yes, I've kipped on Sarah's sofa a few times. I even ended up staying at Lestrade's once, when Sherlock was practising the trumpet."

"Ah, yes. I remember that week. I'm sure most of Baker Street does."

"He wasn't really that bad," said John. "It was just he kept on playing the Last Post, and that...got to me."

"What I was going to say," Mycroft went on smoothly, "is that if it's inconvenient to stay elsewhere, you're always welcome to come here. Or indeed, if any of the other facilities of 221B are out of action."

"Did I tell you about Sherlock dissolving the enamel on the bath last summer?" said John.

"Yes, you mentioned it. I didn't realise it was possible to do that."

"Hydrofluoric acid. I don't know what he thought he was doing. I wouldn't have minded so much, but it took ages to get the replacement plumbed in."

"If you'd only asked me, I could have arranged it. We have some very competent craftsmen working for us."

"Oh, it's OK. It did get me over my incipient swimming pool phobia. There's nothing like the prospect of a fortnight without a bath to make you realise that you can face going into a leisure centre after all, if it means you get a shower."

"You are a remarkable man, John," Mycroft said, beaming at him. John translated this out of the diplomatic as meaning: You're extremely weird, but I don't mind.

"Just the way things are when you associate with Sherlock," he said. "You said there was some kind of security system?"

It turned out to involve iris scans and voice recognition.

"Do you want my fingerprints as well?" John said cheerily, and got a slightly reproachful stare in reply.

"I'm sorry about this," Mycroft said, "but I've had to upgrade my security over the years."

"You've been here a long time?"

"Over 15 years now. My, how time flies. If you hold on while I update the system, we can give it a trial run." Mycroft bent over a terminal in his study.

"Anything else I need to know about?" said John. "Anything I shouldn't look at or do?"

"All the sensitive material in the house has additional security, so there's no need to worry. All that I ask is that you don't bring Sherlock here."

"Oh," John said, as it registered. "Are all these security measures to stop Sherlock breaking in?"

"Well, if it's inaccessible to him, it's not likely that anyone else could get unauthorised access. It's the one disadvantage of him living so close by."

He'd got the question wrong, hadn't he, John suddenly realised. Not why Mycroft lived near Sherlock, but why Sherlock had moved in near Mycroft, into an almost identical house.

"Sherlock used to live with you, did he?" he asked.

"He's stayed here for a couple of periods. He's very fond of the area, but he found some of the house rules here a little difficult to adhere to."

"He'd love that kitchen. He could fit half a lab in there."

"Exactly," said Mycroft.

***

He could hardly blame Mycroft if he'd kicked Sherlock out of no. 187, John thought, as he headed home. And anyway, it was more likely that Sherlock had stormed out of his own accord. So Mycroft was left in that big house on his own: no flat mate, no Mrs Hudson, no guests. A bit lonely, he'd have thought.

***

It became quite domestic very soon, in an extremely peculiar kind of way, a fixed point in the middle of the chaos of living with Sherlock. Most mornings now started with John going across to Mycroft's to collect the bread. Mycroft would be there, eating his breakfast, happy to chat for a little while before John headed home. It was friendly - civilised and satisfying - the smell of fresh bread, the peacefulness of it. And then John would go back to 221B and experiments strewn across the kitchen, and a note stuck on the fridge asking: WHY WOULD A MAN CARRY A HADDOCK IN HIS POCKET? (The really alarming bit was that when John looked at the current suggestions, he ended up pencilling in an extra one).

He worried sometimes about the effect he was having on no. 187. He tried not to trample blood or mud into the house, but he suspected he still trailed a more invisible chaos into Mycroft's orderly life. But Mycroft seemed quite content; even when John turned up with pink hair one morning, he simply raised an eyebrow and commented:

"I think your natural colour suits you better."

"It was for a case," John replied.

"Of course. And I presume that Sherlock has once again underestimated the permanence of certain hair dyes."

"It was a lot brighter last night," John said. "I fluoresced."

"Dear me. Dare I ask what colour Sherlock is this morning?"

"He didn't have his hair dyed. The idea is I would attract attention in the bar and no-one would notice when he disappeared." It took a lot to make Sherlock less noticeable than John, but last night they'd managed it.

"I see," said Mycroft. "And did you enjoy being the centre of attention?"

"Bizarrely fun for a while, but not really me. I'm resigned to being in Sherlock's shadow."

"Oh I wouldn't say that, John," Mycroft said smoothly. "Some of us know who we prefer to associate with."

***

If Mycroft could cope with pink hair, John decided a couple of weeks later, he could cope with John in his dressing gown. Yes, he would look stupid going through the streets, but this was London, no-one worried about things like that.

"I've heard of dress-down Friday, but not dressing gown Friday," Mycroft remarked as John came into the kitchen of 187.

"It's cold out there and I haven't got a coat," John replied. "God, that makes me sound like a Victorian orphan, doesn't it? Some of my clothes got confiscated last night."

That brought a gasp from Mycroft, followed immediately by: "I thought you were investigating Eastern European connections to terrorist groups?"

"So did we," John replied, as he opened up the bread machine and took the loaf out. "But it turned out that rather than a ruthless gang smuggling fissile materials, what we'd discovered was a bunch of Hungarian prats trying to dismantle some old X-ray machines in the hope of getting something vaguely radioactive. And they managed to contaminate us when we were catching them. So immediately after the arrest, we had a hazmat team insisting we undressed because their Geiger counters had gone click once too often. They sent us home in orange boiler suits. I'm pretty much resigned to that kind of thing by now, but they practically had to tie Sherlock down before they could get his coat off him. They say we'll get all the stuff back, but not when. And my brown coat bit the dust after the Northern Outfall Sewer, and Sherlock traded my duffle-coat to a homeless bloke for information, so I'm temporarily coatless."

"I see." There was a pause. John looked across at Mycroft who was fiddling slightly nervously with his cup at the kitchen table.

"I wondered..." Mycroft said tentatively, and then stopped. "I thought perhaps..."

Oh shit, John thought, he's going to offer to buy me a replacement coat, isn't he?  "Don't, please don't," he said, looking away in embarrassment. He was used to how generous the brothers could be, but this was too much. He just took things from Mycroft and never gave anything back. Here he was getting the loan of the kitchen and he hadn't even offered to cook Mycroft anything, in case he was on a diet.

At least I should give him some of the bread, he thought, he just sits here and smells it and never gets to have any. He reached for the bread knife on the opposite counter, and then turned back to find Mycroft standing by the bread machine. Just standing there, looking at John. And then at the knife in John's hand. And Mycroft's arms went up, protecting his face, and he was backing away, his face gone pale. Retreating into the dining room, and when John went towards him,  Mycroft slammed the door. What the hell was going on? Was Mycroft having some kind of breakdown?

"Mycroft!" John yelled through the door, but he got no reply. He waited for a minute or two, but none of it made any more sense to his sleep-starved brain. He was standing here in his dressing gown in Mycroft's house, trying to sort out breakfast and Mycroft was freaking out and refusing to talk to him. He didn't know what to do. Maybe Sherlock would have some idea what had going on.

***

"I think I just accidentally threatened Mycroft with a bread knife," he  announced as he walked into the kitchen of 221B, where Sherlock was squeezing what looked to be leaf mould in his hands.

"Disappointing it's only accidentally," Sherlock retorted and then suddenly stared at John. "Were you wandering round in your dressing gown at Mycroft's? Seems odd. Not to say provocative, even given the unerotic nature of that particular garment ."

"What are you talking about?"

"No, you're not wearing pyjamas, underneath, are you? Just your ordinary clothes. But with the dressing gown and the generally crumpled air, you do give the impression that you're either just out of bed, or just about to retire to it. No wonder you had to fend Mycroft off with a bread knife."

"Seriously, what are we talking about?" said John, sitting down. It was going to be a really bad day, he could tell already. Both Holmeses in completely doolally moods.

"That Mycroft's self-control was obviously particularly low this morning, so he made a pass at you. At which point you presumably scared him off."

"He didn't, I didn't...what?" said John, his brain finally catching up with Sherlock's comments. "Why would Mycroft make a pass at me?"

"Do I need to provide subtitles for the hard of thinking?" asked Sherlock. "He is attracted to you, and periodically makes an idiot of himself trying to engage your affection, despite your obvious complete lack of interest. Usual complete lack of interest. What made you use the bread knife this time?"

"Mycroft isn't attracted to me. Or at least not like that."

"John, what on earth is wrong with your thought processes this morning?"

"Mycroft's asexual," John said.

"Well he may have told you that, but it's just an excuse to get into your Y-fronts." Sherlock suddenly dropped the leaf mould in a soggy heap on the kitchen table, and appeared in front of John, grubby hands coming out to touch John's temples.

 "John, surely not even you..." Sherlock came to a halt. "You did know he's been lusting after you ever since he met you? You must have done."

"Mycroft's gay?" Sherlock rolled his eyes at that. "I mean," John added, fending him off, "he's gay and interested in sex, rather than not."

"He's been celibate a very long time, but it's extremely clear what he'd like to do to you. Your IQ  is fractionally above Anderson's, John, it's not impossible even for you to have worked it out."

"I didn't-"

"Seeing, but not observing as usual. To give only the more obvious pieces of data, he summons you to a warehouse and flirts with you, is unnecessarily upset when I nearly get you killed at the pool, and then wants you to come in and get 'debriefed' regularly. Think about the connotations of that, John, if your mental processes are up to simple language games."

"He wanted to help us. With the cases, I mean."

"So he naturally spends all his time with you discussing cases? Rather than say, books and scandalous titbits from his work? He practically passes out from lust and fear when you minister to his wounds. He takes you out to meals and gets you drunk, he invites you to stay with him at Christmas, and then he offers you free use of his house. How much more obvious does he have to get?"

"He's friendly, yes, but he never touches me. He doesn't even shake my hand nowadays-"

"The discharge of electricity would probably stop his heart. Except, of course, that you are not interested, and have presumably made that abundantly clear by now."

"I didn't...I didn't realise I needed to. I thought we were just friends. I don't think of him in that way. I just presumed, because of the asexuality, even if I wasn't straight, he wouldn't be interested."

"What on earth made you think Mycroft was asexual?"

"Well, I knew you were and-"

"John, if you were capable of the slightest amount of logical thought, you could work out that asexuality is unlikely to be an inherited characteristic."

"I meant," said John, "that you're both terrible with emotions, and push other people away, and the work's all that matters, and the rest is just transport."

"For me it is," said Sherlock, "always has been. Mycroft is different. He wants that kind of...intimacy, though I have no idea why. He just has a singularly poor success rate in finding it, for obvious reasons. Sighing after you when you're not interested is bad enough. Sighing after you so ineffectively that you don't even realise is just pathetic. I suppose he was scared if he was more direct, that you'd just turn him down flat. He takes failure badly."

"Can't say what he really feels, and a sore loser. Yes, he's completely unlike you," John retorted. "So...God, if Mycroft didn't know when I went round that I hadn't realised..."

"What exactly did happen this morning? It sounds entertaining."

"I can't remember the details. He wanted some bread, no, I thought I should offer him some bread, so I found the bread knife-"

"And he thought you were going to attack him," said Sherlock. "Completely irrational, but if he'd keyed himself up to make some kind of advance on you, and suddenly got spooked by the prospect of violence, I'm not surprised he crumbled. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of you if you had a knife handy, and I'm not a coward like Mycroft is. Doesn't that timidity bother you, by the way?"

"No," John said. "People are what they are. Possibly bravery is just stupidity, and if you're too clever you can imagine what it would like getting hurt, how badly things can go wrong."

"Some of us manage to be both clever and brave," Sherlock said smugly.

"Yes, well the rest of us find people like that particularly irritating, so it's just as well you're a bloody asexual," John replied. "Now, can you stop pretending you're a walking pile of leaves, and just leave me alone. I need to think."

***

What the fuck do we do now, John thought, as he went into the living room. Well, obviously, what Mycroft would do was pretend it didn't happen. That was what diplomacy was all about, wasn't it? Oh yes, you may have threatened me with a bread knife due to heterosexual panic, but that doesn't mean we can't behave in a civilised manner next time we meet. But he couldn't leave it like that, he had to apologise, explain at least. He had to go and apologise, because it wasn't the sort of thing you could discuss on the phone. And he had to do it right now, because 'sorry you thought I looked menacing' was bad enough, but 'sorry you thought I looked menacing last week' was ridiculous.

He kept his dressing gown on, because it was still cold outside and he might look stupid, but at least he didn't look dangerous. Well, at least as long as he stayed clear of knives. He went into no. 187, and walked into the kitchen. And there was Mycroft sitting at the table, drinking his coffee. He looked up as John came in, and the cup banged down too hard on the saucer, so that some of the coffee spilled out. Mycroft had gone very still otherwise, except that his eyes were going from side to side. Trying to work out if he needed to run, if John had somehow worked himself into a dangerous mood. Turned into another bloody Belgian.

"It's OK," said John, hurrying over to Mycroft, taking him by the shoulders,  "I'm not going to hurt you." He could almost feel the terror radiating off Mycroft, and then Mycroft's grey eyes, dark with fear, looked up into his. Some peculiar instinct to comfort him kicked in, and John's arms went round Mycroft as he sat, and then he was pulling him towards him, one hand starting to stroke Mycroft's tidy dark hair. If he was holding him, hugging him, Mycroft would know it was all right, he was safe.

"It's OK," he murmured into the top of Mycroft's head, and then somehow he was kissing  Mycroft's brow, soothing him, forcing Mycroft's terror away. "It's fine, I don't mind, it's OK, I wasn't, it wasn't like that, I didn't understand," he murmured between kisses. It felt good, he suddenly realised, just holding someone close after so long, the warmth and bulk of Mycroft's body, the feel of his smooth skin on John's lips, it was good, it was all good. He was doing the right thing. His lips angled down to meet Mycroft's, to kiss him properly...

The sudden screech of metal as Mycroft pushed his chair back was horrendous, confusing. And now Mycroft  was gazing up at him, not tenderly, but as if he was insane, as if this was some kind of nightmare.

"What do you think you're doing?" he gasped.

"I thought this was what you wanted," John blurted out. Oh shit, he thought, wrong thing to say. All the energy seemed to drain away from his body, as if he was losing blood. And Mycroft was so pale - he looked like he was bleeding to death as well, breath hitching as if the air had got thin. John's hands had detached themselves from Mycroft without any conscious thought. He stood in front of him, blankly. I have to say something, he thought.

"I want it as well," he stammered out, "Really. Maybe. I don't know. It's OK, I don't-."

"You don't mind. I know," said Mycroft, with chilly courtesy. "That's...generous of you. Unfortunately, whatever you may want, Dr Watson, I'm sure it's not helpful under the circumstances. Please excuse me."  He got up and walked out. John stood there, and listened as Mycroft went upstairs. There was no point in running after him, he knew that.

***

 "Love's middle-aged dream disappointed yet again," Sherlock said as John arrived back in the kitchen of 221B. "There's still some bread left, but can I suggest you buy yourself a new coat? Assuming that Mycroft won't now be interested in buying you one."

John slumped onto the sofa, because maybe if he lay down he could convince himself it had just been a dream. It certainly didn't seem at all real.

"I take it that someone panicked," Sherlock, said appearing beside him, and handing him a mug of tea. Terrible tea, admittedly, John could guess that even without tasting it, but it showed willing. "Budge up, I want to sit down. And I'd give long odds that it was Mycroft panicking rather than you."

John curled himself up round his mug. Maybe he should put some sugar in it, he thought. It might make the flavour slightly less awful, and hot sweet tea was supposed to be good for shock. But it was easier not moving. He could probably stay on the sofa for the rest of his life.

"No, you can't," Sherlock announced, "I need it as a thinking place."

"How did you, oh, never mind."

"What happened?" Sherlock asked, in a tone of deep resignation. "You rushed round to Mycroft's, anxious to prove that you held no prejudice against him for his pathetic lust. And then?"

"We...I ended up kissing him."

"How very unrepressed, especially given you were sober. And he didn't fold himself into your manly arms as you showered his face with burning kisses?"

"He freaked out."

"Mycroft's inability to cope with emotional encounters never ceases to amaze me. Where were you kissing him?" Sherlock held up a hand in entreaty. "As in, spatial location within the house, not on his body. I have no wish to know the latter."

"In the kitchen."

"Probably not a good move."

"Sherlock, do you think you could either be helpful or just bugger off and leave me to sulk? Why not the kitchen?"

"I suspect it brought back too many memories of Graham Henderson."

***

John finished mopping up the tea he'd spilled over the sofa, and then sat on the coffee table. Sherlock detached himself from the mantelpiece, where'd he retreated from the tea flood, and started pacing up and down in front of John.

"How much did Mycroft tell you about Mr Henderson? I presume he did finally take my hints."

"Nothing, I didn't ask him. Anthea told me he was a traitor, and Lestrade dug out an old file. He defected thirteen years ago or so."

"He didn't defect," Sherlock said, spinning around abruptly and grinning, "It was far worse than that. He didn't run off to Russia with half of MI6's secrets.  He ran off to the West Indies with half their pension fund."

"What?"

"He was the Service's head of accounts, set up a massive fraud. It wasn't just the pension fund; I gather he took millions from other funds of theirs as well. He'd been cooking the books for years, supporting his expensive tastes. Including his lover."

"Mycroft?" said John. It made a horrible kind of sense.

"They got involved soon after Mycroft came to work in London. The Service always tend to find their sexual partners internally, easier for security. And Mycroft was obviously... promising in many ways. Did it not occur to you to wonder how Mycroft afforded a house in central London when still in his twenties?"

"Your family's well-off."

"Not that well off. It was Graham's money, or rather, as it turned out, the Service's money. So Mycroft was buggered from the start, and ended up being even more buggered. Because when things got too hot for Graham and he ran, an awful lot of suspicion fell on Mycroft. How had he not realised what was going on, especially given his own financial expertise? Had he been planning to run away with Graham and lost his nerve?"

"What happened?"

"His name was eventually cleared, or at least they decided to overlook the matter.  And ironically, they couldn't prove the house wasn't legitimately his, Graham had cooked the books so comprehensively. So Mycroft has been rattling around in there ever since. I think he couldn't sell it at first, there was so much legal wrangling, and then he must have got attached to it. It's a nice house."

"So he's been sitting there and brooding about Graham for years?" He'd thought there was something odd about the house, no wonder Mycroft didn't like having people come there. "And the kitchen?"

"A particularly elementary deduction. There is a well-equipped kitchen and dining room in the house, but Mycroft does very little cooking or entertaining. From which you conclude?"

"That Graham was into that kind of thing. And that therefore the kitchen might have particularly painful memories for Mycroft. Why didn't Mycroft just change everything around? He hasn't been waiting for Graham to come back, has he?"

"No. I imagine it has a rather off-putting effect when your lover has comprehensively deceived not just his employer, but you. I swear Mycroft didn't know about the fraud, it would go against the few principles that he does have. He got hoodwinked, and I suspect it's the hit to his vanity that hurt him most of all. Leaving the kitchen much as it is was probably Mycroft's very discreet way of saying 'Fuck you, I don't care', to the memory of Graham."

"But it affected him a lot. Something like that, it must do. So he doesn't want to let anyone else get close to him again." It made Mycroft seem almost normal.

"You're not the only one with trust issues. I suspect he thought you were safe, he could lust after you from a distance. He didn't perhaps realise your talent for...friendship."

"And now?"

"Don't ask me," said Sherlock. "Not my area. You'll work something out eventually. No rush. Mycroft can hang around for years, we've established that."

***

It was 5.23 am when John woke up the next day. OK, that gave him just over an hour till he had to get up and collect the morning's loaf...oh shit. He curled up and tried to doze.

***

He was wiping the blood off Mycroft's face and Mycroft wasn't trembling this time, but lying calmly beneath John's gentle hands, it was all OK. But when he started to kiss Mycroft, Mycroft's lips started to bleed again and he couldn't stop the blood...

***

6.48 on the clock, he needed to get a move on, so he could get over to no. 187 before Mycroft went off to work. Oh, fuck!

***

"We're out of bread," Sherlock announced, as John dragged himself half-conscious into the kitchen just before 8 a.m. "If you want some toast, you'll have to go out to the shops."

"It's OK," John mumbled. "Not really hungry."

***

The dream the next night was worse. He was standing outside the embassy, he knew it was one, even though he couldn't read the name on the brass plate outside, and Lestrade was taking him by the arm, and saying, in that tightly controlled voice that he used when things had gone really seriously wrong: "I'm sorry, Mycroft's dead. There was nothing we could do. It was quick, he wouldn't have suffered, single stab wound to the heart."

"Can I see his body?"

"It's better you don't, John, it's really better if you leave right now."

***

He couldn't remember the dreams from the next few nights, he just knew he woke up sweaty and shaking. And on his own.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
emmessann
May. 26th, 2011 08:01 am (UTC)
This is terrific. I particularly love the way you've written Sherlock in this. We don't often get to see Sherlock as the one who knows Mycroft's past, rather than vice-versa.
marysutherland
May. 28th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it. The last Mycroft/John story I wrote had Sherlock being the younger brother from hell, so I wanted one where he was rather more helpful (if still irritating at times).
(Anonymous)
May. 27th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
I love how strangely domestic this is. And how John, in just being with Sherlock, must be getting a reputation as a strange(r) guy. Pink hair. Walking down the street in a dressing gown. What's next? XD

And Mycroft - he's so sweet panicky :)
marysutherland
May. 28th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
The original idea for this was seeing a prompt somewhere about John being married to either Mycroft or Lestrade, who'd be quite happy with him continuing to do strange casework with Sherlock. And somehow it emerged several months later as 20,000 words of badly warped domesticity.
sookail
Jun. 11th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
It really is a strange fic, with this blend of domestic/realistic/cute-in-a-way/horrible/awkward/lovely/lonely/incredibly original. Love it.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )