torachan: (Default)
Travis ([personal profile] torachan) wrote2010-01-17 07:38 am
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Fic commentary: Such a Bitter Form of Refuge

Read the fic sans commentary here.

Okay, so. When I signed up for Yuletide, I was really hoping I would get assigned to [personal profile] eisen. I had already seen her Yuletide letter and knew that what she wanted was similar to what I wanted to write. And while I put down quite a few other fandoms, Psyren was really the one I wanted, so I was so thrilled when I did indeed get assigned to her.

She didn't say anything in her letter about wanting trans fic, so I wibbled very briefly over that choice, but I figured chances were good she'd like it even if she hadn't asked for it. And then it turned out she'd been thinking about it, but just couldn't figure out how to do it with these two, so we were on the same wavelength after all! :D

So I knew I wanted to do Asaga/Tatsuo, and I knew I wanted to do something with Asaga as trans, but how? She had said she wanted first-time fic, and had mentioned "Asaga's deliberate reshaping for Tatsuo's sake, how it often seems like Asaga is uncomfortable in his bulky and muscular body" as well as "how invasive it is that Tatsuo's body works better than average, now, compared to how he was before, and how that wasn't his choice at all". Since I had already decided I was going to do this from Asaga's POV, I knew the latter would not be a main theme, but I did want to work it in, and I hope I did a good job of that. So I had some basic themes to work with, but no actual ideas.

In an effort to make sure I had canon fresh in my mind, I had redownloaded the series and I went through and took out all the sections about the two of them, whether flashbacks or present day. It's not really that much, thankfully, so once I had found everything there wasn't a lot to keep track of. But there was enough that I still wibbled over what to do. So much possibility!

I think if she hadn't suggested first-time, I might have done something more focusing on their childhood. I thought of doing several scenes over the years, or have part of it in flashback, but I feel like I've used that sort of structure so many times.

Finally after reading over these twenty or so pages for the fiftieth time, I got the idea of doing something of a missing scene. And on the one hand, I love how this is so canon the way I did it, but on the other hand, gah, this is a fandom no one knows, so by making it so canon-dependent, I was really shooting myself in the foot in terms of having a possible wider audience.

But knowing I was writing it for a friend and someone who hopefully would be really thrilled with it made it an easy decision. I wanted to do something [personal profile] eisen would love and this seemed like the best way.

It's a long walk across the wasteland from where I crash-landed. It's not the first time we've done this, pressed together like we're running a three-legged race, but it's the first time I've been the one limping.

While I was writing this whole fic, I had the manga open and was referring back to it to really get a feel for the setting and what was going on. This is the page I started with (ignore the horrible translation for any pages I link, but this is the most convenient site), and the reason I decided to start with the walk across the desert rather than with Asaga waking up or something was because this seemed like the best place to get in some of the stuff about the changes that have happened to Tatsuo. So in the very first paragraph we get the contrast between then and now. It used to be Asaga helping Tatsuo, and now here's Tatsuo having no trouble at all lugging Asaga across the desert.

There's no hint of a tremble in Tatsuo's legs now. Not even when my knees buckle for the tenth, twelfth, twentieth time. He just grunts and braces himself, his grip tightening on my wrist and waist. We don't talk about it. We don't talk.

Of course they don't talk about it.

I try to focus. One foot in front of the other. It shouldn't be this hard, but I'm barely hanging on to consciousness by the time we get to wherever it is we're going. All I know is we're inside now and there's a bed and he's telling me to lie down. He pulls off my shoes and there's a burst of panic when I think he might try to take off my clothes, but he just shoves me over a little and lies down, and when I wake briefly sometime later, I can sense him still there next to me, so close I can feel his warmth.

I added the bit about Asaga's panic here quite late in the game, as [personal profile] helens78 said there needed to be hints of Asaga's transness earlier on. Which I agreed with, but had been having trouble figuring out how exactly to do.

Tatsuo is gone when I wake up in the...well, it could be morning. There's no windows in here, only light spilling in from the other room. No telling how long I've been asleep, though it must have been a while if my bladder is anything to go by.

Again, I had the manga open and was looking back and forth between these pages and the file the entire time I was writing this scene.

I blink a few times, trying to un-gum my contacts.

All the flashbacks show Asaga having glasses as a little kid, so I thought this was a nice detail.

There are voices from the other room, Tatsuo and a man speaking Kansai-ben. This must be his place. It's not Tatsuo's, that's for sure. Looks like someone's been living here for years, and Tatsuo's never been this messy anyway.

"I don't have time to nurse him back to health, Tatsuo," the other guy is saying. "Three days from now the neurocontrol tower's gonna be practically unguarded... If we miss this chance, we won't get another for a while."

What was most interesting to me about this scene is that while I was using exact dialogue from canon, I still had to write it myself. There's no official translation of the manga, and the scanlations are all so bad there's no way I was going to c&p from one of them (especially not that one on One Manga), so I translated all the lines I used here. I thought that might give me away as the author, but I didn't really care.

I push myself upright, haul myself out of bed, and shuffle the few steps to the open door.

In the beta, [personal profile] helens78 was like, you have Asaga getting out of bed and then the next minute she's magically with the others! And I was like, duh, can't you see the door is open and it's not far from the bed to the door? One of the downfalls of writing while looking right at the manga! :p

"He'll help us," Tatsuo says. His back is turned and he doesn't show any sign of having heard me get up, though I wasn't exactly quiet about it. Couldn't have been if I'd wanted to. A nap wasn't near enough to recover from that level of psi-usage.

"Don't worry about me," I grit out, leaning on the wall for support. "I'm tougher than I seem."

The other guy, he introduces himself as Kusakabe. I try not to stare. His body looks stretched out, his limbs alien and his head like some sort of steampunk cyborg. But he's got Playstation controllers hanging from his desk and an old cartoon paused on one of the many monitors that climb the wall above his desk, so he can't be all bad. And even if he is a Taboo, Tatsuo seems to trust him.

I'm pretty pleased with that description of Kusakabe. And [personal profile] helens78 liked it, too, so I think it does a good job of getting the visual across, even if you haven't read the manga.

And then Tatsuo turns around, the top of his Core peeking out from his half-zipped shirt, and right, of course. It's not despite whatever this guy is that Tatsuo trusts him.

"Guess you could say I'm someone who once quit being human for a while," Kusakabe says. "Nice to meet ya."

Man, translating that line gave me so much trouble! I'm still not 100% happy with it.

I push off from the wall, determined not to wobble, and when I say, "Nice to meet you, too," I mean it more than I ever have before.

I wanted to draw parallels here with Kusakabe's "human who quit being human" and how Asaga feels as if she's never been human and it just wasn't coming out right.

Even after Kusakabe says he used to work for WISE.

It's not just that he took Tatsuo in. It's the way he holds himself, like he doesn't give a shit. Like he's daring anyone to say a word about the way he looks. Not that there's anyone but the three of us, and before he found Tatsuo there probably hadn't been anyone at all. But being alone never makes it easier.

I can't help but admire him, even if it does make me feel small. Even if it does remind me how much I'm still the same cowardly little kid wrapped up in lies so tight they smother me.

I used to tell myself it was all for Tatsuo. Tatsuo needed me to be a hero, so that's what I'd be. A protector. A knight in shining armor. And then...this afternoon he'd formed those guns like it was nothing. This afternoon he'd looked me in the eye and said, That's why I got stronger.

He can protect himself now. He doesn't need me anymore.

N'aww, Asaga! Always defining yourself in relation to Tatsuo and what he needs from you.

I felt these paragraphs got a bit tell-y as I tried to make the transition from the earlier scene to the next scene. I really didn't feel like writing out the whole conversation where Kusakabe brings Asaga up to speed. It's not relevant to the story, so I really needed to compress things, but I wish I had been able to do so in a way that felt a little less clunky to me.

Kusakabe says he'll give me one more night to recover and then first thing in the morning we'll set out for the neurocontrol tower. He lets me and Tatsuo have the bed, says he's been sleeping in his chair ever since Tatsuo showed up anyway.

I'm not that sleepy, but I know I should get some rest. I feel drained, still, and I'm sore like I got the shit pounded out of me. Which I guess I did, just not the old-fashioned way. But knowing I won't be any use to anyone if I don't get some sleep doesn't make it any easier. It just makes me anxious.

I can hear the muffled strains of another anime theme song through the door, but the noise isn't a problem. I can sleep through noise. Tatsuo, though. Tatsuo is a problem. This isn't like when we were kids, when I used to stay the night at his house and we'd make a fort in his bed, sofa cushions piled high for walls and a blanket pulled across for a roof.

I had to get wee!Asaga and Tatsuo in there somewhere! They're just too adorable.

Back then he would kiss me and I would close my eyes and pretend. Now my eyes are closed, squeezed shut so hard it's giving me a headache, but I can feel him next to me and I can feel this body reacting. It's not like when we were kids at all.

The bed creaks as Tatsuo rolls onto his side, props himself up on one elbow. "I know I volunteered you, but you don't have to come if you don't want to." He fumbles for my hand in the dark, his palm warm and a little sweaty when he finds it. "This isn't your fight..."

"Don't say that." I turn to face him, scooting back a little so our bodies don't touch. "This is my fault. If I'd just come with you in the first place--"

"Then what? We'd both have one of these?" Tatsuo presses my hand againt his Core. It's softer than it looks, more organic. It pulses with his heartbeat. "Who would have saved me then?"

The Core. Again reminding us that Tatsuo is not the Tatsuo he used to be.

I open my mouth, but before I can say anything, Tatsuo is kissing me. He gets my cheek first, and then the corner of my mouth, and when our lips finally meet, I'm not quite so surprised. I pull my hand away from Tatsuo's chest, let it rest on his hip.

This is about where my first draft ended. I sent it to [personal profile] helens78 for some feedback even though it was unfinished, and then after editing and trying to continue writing I realised I just couldn't do it the way I had been, which was in third person. It just wasn't working at all and it was keeping me from being able to move forward and, you know, finish the story. (Which was key, as I think by this time it was actually technically past the deadline and I had just tossed a rough draft up on AO3 to keep from being counted as a defaulter. D:

I had wanted to write the story in first person when I started it. That's how it was coming together in my head. But I started second guessing myself because it seems like so many people in fandom hate first person with a passion and didn't want to take the risk that [personal profile] eisen was one of them. I kept thinking, damn it, I wish I'd taken a poll of my flist sometime back when I was first thinking about it, and just pretended I was curious what people thought of first person! XD

In the end, I just decided to go for it and hope for the best. It meant quite a lot of rewriting on the first half, not just changing the pronouns and verbs and such. Some of the way things were phrased before didn't work as well in first person and I wanted a more chatty voice so I added stuff in. I am really, really pleased with the way it turned out (and [personal profile] eisen liked it, too!) so I'm glad I didn't let me talk myself out of it.

This is what he needs from me now. I can do this. I can be whatever he wants.

"Hiryuu..." He reaches down between us and starts undoing my belt and for a moment I just freeze. His hand brushes the bulge in my jeans. Maybe it'll be okay. It will be okay. I can just pretend. I can just...

I grab his wrist and push him onto his back. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it's going to burst. "Let me."

I unzip his shirt and run my hand over his belly and up to his chest. My fingers skim the edges of his Core, mapping out the hills and valleys of scar tissue that surround it. He reaches for me again and this time I pin his hands above his head. "Please...just let me."

It's too dark to see his face, but when I bend down to kiss him, he says, "Okay."

I let go of his wrists and this time he doesn't reach for me. I get his pants undone and wrap my hand around his dick. It feels good in my hand, warm and hard and slick at the tip. I angle myself so I can rub against the mattress while I'm jerking him off, and it's not so bad this way. I don't have to think about it, just concentrate on kissing him, on making him come, and it doesn't take long for either of us.

[personal profile] eisen said in her letter that "if it's awkward and isn't even close to standard definitions of 'hot' I'll probably find that even more enjoyable than if it's more straightforward" and lucky for me I love that sort of thing.

Afterwards I wait for him to ask questions, but he doesn't. He zips up his pants and shirt and curls up close and kisses me again. His hand on my chest is as bad as his hand down there, but I don't push it away.

I must fall asleep at some point, because the next thing I know, Kusakabe's hauling us out of bed and out the door. We eat on the road and go over the plans for the raid while we walk, and aside from a couple run-ins with Taboos, the trek is surprisingly uneventful. We make camp that night in the ruins of an old ryokan that's still got a closet full of futons in fairly decent shape. I'm glad not to be sleeping in the same bed as Tatsuo, but I'm glad we're all in the same room.

I'm pleased with being able to get all that into one paragraph. I think it compressed better than the earlier scene change.

The next day is a repeat of the first, right up until Nemesis Q appears in the sky above us and starts talking in Yoshina's voice.

And this is, of course, right back to following the manga.

Kusakabe peers up at it. "You a friend of Asaga's?"

"Hiryuu," Yoshina says, "what the hell...?" Like Kusakabe is somehow weirder than Yoshina teaming up with Nemesis Q?

Hee. I like that line.

"If you wanna go, then go, Asaga...!" Kusakabe spits out. "I've told you before, there's no reason you need to get involved in this." He looks almost angry. "Me and Tatsuo are the ones who had these things jammed into our chests. This is our fight."

I can't leave Tatsuo. I made that mistake too many times already. And besides, I may not have been through Illuminus Forge, but it feels like someone took my body and made it all wrong. Even if no one else can see that.

I really like that bit. That summarises everything I was thinking when I started writing this.

"Sorry, Yoshina, but I can't go back yet."

This is where I belong.

And I could have gone on a little bit and followed the manga to the end of the chapter, but I think it ends well there.

It's hard to have a fic that I love SO MUCH and think is SO AWESOME and one of the best things I've ever written and not be able to share it with a lot of people, but I am so ridiculously pleased that I had the opportunity to write it for [personal profile] eisen and to know (well, hope) that one person would love it, even if it didn't have a large audience.

The title, by the way, is from A Dustland Fairytale by The Killers. Currently one of my favorite songs and I've been wanting to use that line for a while.
helens78: A man in a leather jacket, seated on the ground, looks up hopefully. (Default)

[personal profile] helens78 2010-01-17 05:41 pm (UTC)(link)
Yay, commentary! I always really like getting a look at where your writing comes from and what you've been trying to get across with it. I definitely got the parallel between Asuga and "human who quit being human", by the way!

(um, speaking of that, in both this version and the one you just posted without commentary, and ack, on AO3, it's written as "who once quite being human for a while" -- I would have thought for sure I'd have caught that in beta, but apparently not! *hangs head*)

ETA: Also, OMG, you are so right about the horrible translation in the link you posted. AAAUGHNNN.
Edited 2010-01-17 17:42 (UTC)
helens78: A man in a leather jacket, seated on the ground, looks up hopefully. (Default)

[personal profile] helens78 2010-01-18 12:48 am (UTC)(link)
Yay for crosspost edit! And for catching it now instead of after FFN. >_<

I love DVD commentary, but I think you and Ruth are the only people I know who do it on a regular basis. I would read commentary on anything and everything, but yeah, the lack of feedback makes it hard to know whether it's worthwhile to do. I'd happily do more commentary on my fic, but I never know which ones people would want to hear me blather about!