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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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midday, later than
children of dune - leto 1
It was actually kind of funny.

When I woke up this morning, my mouth tasted very--blue. Silvery blue, metal but not blood, but I ignored it and got dressed. By ten, the ache in my cheekbone sent me to our new supervisor, who looked me over with a half smile when I said I could probably last two more hours but I really didn't think I'd make it through the rest of the day. She nodded and remarked she hadn't thought I'd come in today, considering, which made me think, God, did I look that bad?

Apparently, yes.

So I sat down and took twenty five calls in two hours, or about what most of my unit takes all day to answer, bringing me to forty-seven or so, which is how many I usually answer in a day. Part of it was distraction and to make up for the fact I'd be out in the afternoon. Mostly, I'm making my unit look like shit comparatively speaking. And you have no idea how very much I don't care. Could be how tired I am, or my jaw ache, or the fact that the stitches in my gum came out spontaneously at work yesterday and freaked me out--but you know. I don't have time to be mediocre.

I can't take narcotics at work--my attention span isn't great on my best days, and as a friend last night remarked, it's hard to talk to me when I'm up because I can't track multiple conversational topics well. It's--frustrating. I guess it's also a little embarrassing.

But anyway, home, drinking warm milk and trying to check for swelling on my gum and cheekbone.

Right now, more comfort fic. It's a habit. When I feel like crap, I like to make other people feel good. So.

Your Cowboy Days Are Over (Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys) by samdonne

I don't think, even to the author, I've really been able to articulate why this story is right now my favorite, bar none, in any fandom. A lot of it is the worldbuilding, which is extraordinarily rich and detailed, that she made familiar and real so fast it's hard to believe it's not canon. A lot of it is the range of characters used--from Ekaterin and Ben--God, *Ben*--to Kolya, whose extraordinary characterization and utilization still leaves me breathless and a little sad that canon would never take this path. The sheer quality of the writing is a given.

"He doesn't feed on anyone else," John says, head hanging heavy, adrenaline fading out of his system. "And he takes almost nothing."

Hours, maybe days of his life. John would never have found a better use for that time.

My favorite lines. Just getting that out of the way.

I started the story one third down--I thought I'd skim, just to see, because isilya's rec had been so adamant and I tend to trust where she leads, and I started to skim, got caught up in a paragraph, and gave up trying to save myself trauma and went with it, resigned to being gutted or my mind blown or both. And I was, but in the way I love best.

John is amazing. He's--everything we've seen in tiny slices of the show, everything that's been hinted, but so much more. Extraordinarily complicated, that we already knew, but simple, too, stubborn and broken and never quite healed right. Ben was his--catalyst. In the story, he's a person, but he's also a symbol, a door that John walks through willingly, knowing what's on the other side. I guess as a parent, I understood the single-minded need to protect, the inability to give up--and i know how cliched that sounds, I do. When everything else is wiped away, everything *changes* when that responsibility became his, a burden that's not a burden, when everything crystalized for him, clarified in Ben--that was when I knew I'd love this story, even if it hurt. Ben's his salvation in a way, and he comes out after Ben's death completely broken but so bright, everything of him that wasn't necessary burned away, and he's--not just getting through this by the end. He's coming out on the other side as a differnet person, a better person, because of what he learned as a father and what he learned as a man, of the man he wanted to be for Ben--that man stayed. The life he had with his child stripped away the indifference and the calm and the superficiality and left him somewhere else. And he's just learning, at the end, where that is, and how to live there. Ben made John native, bound him to Pegasus in a way that's personal, and lasting.

I still get weird and soft when I read it, the fierce grief and the need to go on.

His relatinoship with Kolya, even more than that with Ben, completely held my attention from the first word. Enemy, yes, and uncertain almost-ally, but later, not quite a friend, but far more than an acquaintance. Kolya's journey from the man who held them at gunpoint in The Brotherhood to the man who contacted John on the planet is all in the asides and the small differences, the way Kolya understands, perhaps better than John does, what John could become. I think, in some ways, the exile after Brotherhood purified Kolya too, stripping away pride and vengeance, clarifying him and what he wanted, more than mere freedom for his people, but freedom for his galaxy. Becoming part of something bigger, and far, far more important and more powerful.

I can't really get how this affected me as a reader--John's journey, Kolya's--Rodney and Ronon coming to John exactly when they were most needed, Teyla's steady presence with John throughout the story, his grounding, the way she acted as his link to his old life, so when Ronon and Rodney came back, the three of them--I don't know the words. They linked him with who he was before Ben, so he could go on after Ben with what he'd learned from that. I'm simplifying badly something extraordinary and complex and utterly fantastic here.

Okay, going ot numbers. I keep getting incoherent when I try to explain feelings.

1.) I love that Teyla came with him, acted as his friend, his support, his grounding, keeping him from becoming consumed by his son, his own guilt, his new life, reminding him with her presence of who he used to be. I love how she was easy and she was honest and that she loved him and she loved Ben. I love that everything that makes her extraordinary--her strength, her compassion, her wisdom and her loyalty--are showcased here so thoroughly and so lovingly by someone who genuinely likes the character. It would have been so easy to make her background for John and his life, but she wasn't, was an integral part of him and the life he built with Ben.

2.) The planet was *amazing*. Glittery and bright and slick and alien and not--the best of modern sci-fi here, with all these bits of William Gibson that made me smile and go, yes. It could be like this. The use of memory as currency was beyond creepy and utterly fascinating and *useful* and understandable.

3.) Kolya, Kolya, Kolya--a man on a mission, obsessed and driven and hard, but he's *learned*. He grew up, too, realizing how much more he could be than a Genii thug or terrorist. That there was an entire galaxy out there being terrorized, that just maybe, a single people couldn't accomplish the destruction of the Wraith, that maybe the galaxy itself needed to work together to gain their freedom. His compassion with John never surprised me, though I guess it should have--but there's never been a lack of respect between them, never not known the measure of the other, and the circumstances they're in now let the similiarities shine through.

Also, he shingles John's roof. God. I loved that so much.

4.) Rodney (Ronon, Team). This was, in a lot of ways, also partly a team fic. They never stopped believing, trusting each other. I loved that Rodney came to John, by accident or design, exactly the second he was needed most. I love that John brought out the best of what Rodney is--brilliant and goofy and extraordinarily insightful when it's someone he loves, kind when it's most important, *there* when it matters the most, always honest, and completely immune to John's charm and never fooled by John's exterior. These are the parts that canon hints at, emphasizing the selfishness and arrogance and forgetting sometimes that Rodney, like everyone else in this story, is a work in progress himself, growing into something more and something better. I love that Rodney and Ronon and Teyla are attuned to John, understand him, give him grounding through the last half of the story, love that they support him because he's John and because they believe in what he's doing.

5.) Ekaterinn was *interesting*--an ally that wasn't entirely good but not dark so much as prioritized. It's hard for me to get a grip on her--I understood her motives, and the motives of her people, why they did what they did, and how they worked around their own chosen restrictions to help others in their fight against the Wraith. But she really has to be read in context--I liked her and I hated her, but I also understood where she was coming from, too.

I thought I'd be able to write more, but instead, I'm going to curl up for a bit until the drugs kick in.

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Is this the story that I scanned, and there's an OC whom Rodney calls John's underage girlfriend, and I ran away?

No clue, but if you did, you missed a truly extraordinary story.

And if thats the line I'm thinking it was, that was a *joke*, not a reality.


It's interesting to read your perspective on this story! Your love for John is such a touchstone for your readers...

He's not my One True Love (although I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers) but I, too, was completely drawn in to Cowboy Days. The quality of the writing did that, but it was assisted by an odd fannish convergence.

I spent the Spring enthralled by "Freedom's Just Another Word" and its characterization of Rodney. Ultimately, though, I am interested in the balance between John & Rodney, so I was hungry for an exploration and a development of John's character that would parallel the growing that Rodney does in "Freedom".

For me, Cowboy Days was a longed-for sequel in a fannish-emotional-zeitgeist way.

*flushes and grins* I love John. I love what he is, what he isn't, and the breathtaking things he could *be* and he's becoming. This one, along with [Bad username: ltlj"]'s Retrograde clarified how I feel about him, and how I feel about the universe he's in, and opened it up so much it leaves me a little awed.

Hmm. I hadn't noticed the bookending before, but yes, there is that between the two, isn't there? Huh.

I've been avoiding this fic, because after skimming the beginning I had the feeling it would rip my heart into little tinny pieces :(

It will but it won't. In a good, clean way, where it--okay, spoilers. No main character dies, and the ending is so sweet, so--God. I can't get over it. Read it. I mean it, I would not lead you to depressing fic, I *warn* for that. This is so hopeful I was almost crying at the end, it was so perfect.

At least you've *tried* to articulate things to the author -- I was so stunned and moved by the story back when it was first posted that I haven't even dared to send feedback yet. And it's exactly because of those lines you quoted; I don't even know where to begin to talk about my love for the story without getting into all kinds of personal stuff about friends of mine with disabled children, and friends whose child died, and my own struggles with a kid who's way, way out on the Odd And Difficult end of things, etc. Kind of heavy for random feedback from a total stranger.

*nods* *grins* I doubt any author minds feedback like that.

It hit me *hard* too, just in every way, too.

This story destroyed me into a thousand tiny little pieces, and I was never so happy to be shattered. I probably won't read it again for a long long time. But as I was reading it, I remember being so completely impressed, because the author had managed to make the show as it was work for me in a way I never thought possible ever.

*nods* I re-rad it twice right after I finished it, then set it aside for mulling.

God, today though, just--yeah. So perfect.

This fic is excruciatingly good, isn't it? Oddly enough, when I first read it (and cried) I tried to remember where I'd gotten the original rec from and I totally assumed that it was from your journal. So with this coming now--where the hell did I read about this originally? Who else puts up such fantastic recs (I'm pretty sure I've gotten quite a few from them) and can get me to read gen fic?

Man, senility sucks.

I recced it when it came out too. *grins* But I think a lot of people did as well.

God, so good.

Yes, you did a wonderful job of articulating just what made it so... so... visceral... it absolutely guts me but in such a ~good~ way... I'll go read it again...

I do the same to your's that I have saved too... ::thanks you again:: great writing is GREAT!

*hugs* It was *awesome*. Yes.

I wondered where the 238 overnight visitors to my site came from.

keeping him from becoming consumed by his son


Becoming part of something bigger, and far, far more important and more powerful.

You put it very well. Would that I had the time and stamina to write Kolya's companion piece, and watch John through his eyes.

I wouldn't actually kill to read Kolya's companion piece, but I'm willing to tactically maim for it. I like watching John through other people.

God, *yes*. Yes, yes, to everything that you said about that story. And now I so badly want to find that meta again, the one where someone said that John's new world in this one is the grown up Atlantis, where they understand that there aren't always easy choices or distinctions to make. You've said it better than I could -- the fierce grief and the need to go on.

That! That. *points wildly* That's why I love it.

*hee* Yes. *sighs* Filled with love.

Thank you so much for reccing this! I bookmarked it a while ago after reading this rec, and finally read it this weekend. I hope you don't mind, but I'm quoting a few lines from this rec at my journal, because you express your love for this fic better than I ever would.

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