This is another excerpt from Full of Grace’s upcoming chapter, because I was so bent on putting Neko Atsume into it that i have to commemorate that. This is notable for being possibly the only time I’ve actually incorporated any elements of my real-life relationship into my fic.

Natasha was poking absently at her laptop with James next to her on the couch when she got the email from Vision. It seemed oddly formal, to get an actual e-mail from an actual android; had he, himself a computer, sat down at another computer to compose it, or had he sent it with his mind?

The subject line was “our mutual friend”, so she opened it without saying anything to James. It was a link to a new info drop online: some snoop had uncovered a bunch more documentation on the Winter Soldier in some godforsaken Russian backwater.

Tony hasn’t finished translating it yet, Vision wrote, but what he’s understood so far has him panicking. Other documents have mentioned the existence of control words, but this one has an actual list and some of their effects.

Natasha suspended her breathing for a moment, before glancing over at James, who was giving his phone a deep look of concentration. He knew, then. He frowned, and scrolled sideways across the phone, and scowled deeper.

She set her laptop aside, then reached over and put her hand around his wool-sock-clad foot, squeezing gently and reassuringly. “It’ll be okay,” she said. She was still working out how to explain Vision to him, how to maybe get them to meet up, and most importantly how to get him to consent to being scanned without setting off his conditioning.

He blinked at her, expression clearing. “Oh,” he said, “it’s fine. I was just thinking about something.”

Maybe he didn’t know. She raised her eyebrows at him. “You looked upset,” she said.

He laughed, and leaned in a little closer to her, re-settling so she could see his phone. “No,” he said. “I’m trying to get a good picture of a cartoon cat from a game to text it to Steve.”

His phone was open to a screen full of a cartoon landscape, maybe a backyard or something, littered with cartoon cats in varying states of repose. All the buttons were in– Natasha squinted. Bubbly Japanese. It was very kawaii. “What is this,” she said.

“Neko Atsume,” James said. “It’s appallingly popular among non-Japanese-speaking nerds who can’t read the buttons.”

“Can you read the buttons?” she asked. 

He gave her an inscrutable look. “You can’t?” She shook her head. He frowned. “Why would they give it to me and not you?”

“They took things back out sometimes,” she said. “I think I was more of a flight risk.”

“Fair point,” he said, a little glum. 

“No, no,” she said, “tell me more about cute cartoon cats,” because I am about to wreck your day.

He grinned. “It’s a dumb game, you just put stuff out and then you check back and they’ve come by and are hanging out. It’s really relaxing, there’s not really any strategy. But I sent it to Steve and I’m trying to make him all competitive about it. Just to wind him up.”

“Maybe you really are a supervillain,” Natasha said admiringly. Steve’s competitive streak was possibly his most entertaining feature, but it was hard to exploit. He had to be pretty comfortable with you to be unwary enough to let you wind him up. He’d basically never be at that point with Tony, which was too bad, because that would be some quality entertainment.

“Right?” James said. He scrolled sideways. “I’m Captain America’s fuckin’ nemesis. Somebody’s gotta be.” He laughed. “Anyway. So, you pick what objects, food or toys or beds or whatever, to put out into your yard, and it attracts cats, and that’s all there is to it, but if you use different objects you get, like, rare cats. It’s a whole– thing. And I’ve been doing it a little bit so I already have a whole dossier of cats, and I’m going to mess with Steve about how many more I have and so on.” He showed her said dossier, and the cartoons were really cute. Apparently you could take the pictures, in-game, and save them in your book of cats who had visited you.

“If you don’t feed them do they die?” Natasha asked.

James shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “they just don’t come by. They’re not, like, your cats. It’s no big deal if you don’t check in for a while. You come back, you can just pick up where you left off. It’s not like the cats get mad or anything. You put out more food, they’ll come back.”

“I can see how that might be appealing,” Natasha said.

“Yeah, it’s basically zero pressure,” James said. “But it’s still kind of rewarding.” He swiped through. “This one’s my favorite. The cheapest toy you can get with your credits is a stupid plastic bag, and this cat just, fuckin’, wears the bag on his head. Like an idiot. His name is something like Spot or Dash or something but I call him Baghead Idiot. Because he is.” He laughed, bringing up the photo. “Look at this fuckin’ idiot with a bag on his head. It’s fuckin’ great.”

“What an idiot,” Natasha agreed, amused.

“He’s my fuckin’ favorite,” James said. “It’s so stupid. And look at how all their assholes are little x’s. Isn’t that fuckin’ adorable?”

“It is,” Natasha said. She leaned in against James’s warm body, and made herself comfortable. “But you have a real cat.”

“The real cat is more work,” he said. He exited the app, and put his phone down on the arm of the couch, and kissed the top of Natasha’s head. “You seemed like you were readin’ something a lot less entertaining.”

“I was,” she said. She sighed. She could feel his heartbeat through her shoulderblade, warm and steady.

“Don’t, then,” he said. “Stop thinkin’ about it for a minute, hey?”

“I can’t,” she said.

“It’s about me, ain’t it,” he said, low and soft. His heartbeat picked up, going a little faster.

She twisted to look up at him. He had known, then. “Yes,” she said.

He looked away. “I knew one was comin’,” he said. “Info dump, yeah?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Control triggers, in this one.”

“Fuck,” he said. He breathed in slow, and breathed out, and she could feel him slowing his heartbeat deliberately. “Each of ‘em only works once but– each of ‘em works, y’know?”

“I have some too,” she said. “They’re buried, the ones that are left, and I may never find them all.”

He wrapped his arm around her chest– the left one, solid and immovable and warm. “I tried to find out about mine,” he said. “But I– it’s like my– I’m not allowed to rr– to read-” He stopped talking, and sighed. “Mm.”

“I can read it for you,” she said. She hadn’t thought of that.

He put his cheek down against the side of her head. “Yeah?” His voice was very quiet, but he sounded almost hopeful.

She pointed at her laptop. “Hand that to me and I’ll read it and summarize.”

“I don’t know if I can even do a summary,” he said.

“Tap out if it’s too much,” she said.

He let go of her to reach her laptop for her, and she started scrolling. His heartbeat went erratic before steadying out, and he turned his head. “I can’t even look,” he said.

“Close your eyes,” she said. “Put your hand around my wrist and squeeze if it’s too much.”

“If I have a seizure I’ll break your arm,” he said. “No. I’ll use the other hand.” He put his right hand so that the backs of his fingers touched her thigh, and put his left arm down next to her. “Okay,” he said. “Here goes nothin’, huh? Hit me.”

She rubbed her cheek against his chest, turning slightly so the screen was less in his line of sight. “I’m not hitting you,” she said, “I’m going to read it first, and tell you the most important things first.”

“Good call,” he said, and dug his phone back out to look at the cartoon cat game again. “Hey,” he said, “check it out, I got Samurai Cat! I gotta text that one to Steve.”

“Do that,” she said fondly, sparing him a smile before she went back to her grim reading.
1: What inspired you to write the fic this way?
2: What scene did you first put down?
3: What's your favorite line of narration?
4: What's your favorite line of dialogue?
5: What part was hardest to write?
6: What makes this fic special or different from all your other fics?
7: Where did the title come from?
8: Did any real people or events inspire any part of it?
9: Were there any alternate versions of this fic?
10: Why did you choose this pairing for this particular story?
11: What do you like best about this fic?
12: What do you like least about this fic?
13: What music did you listen to, if any, to get in the mood for writing this story? Or if you didn't listen to anything, what do you think readers should listen to to accompany us while reading?
14: Is there anything you wanted readers to learn from reading this fic?
15: What did you learn from writing this fic?
I was tagged by @salamanderinspace​ to post the first line of 10 of my fics!

Which pleases me, as I’m not the sort of person who ever gets tagged in anything.

Thing is, my writing style? I don’t do whammy first lines. I used to try, but they mostly didn’t work, and I outgrew the attempts. I try super hard to just drop you right into the scene; it’s almost always Protagonist, Action Verb, Setting, and then the next line is usually dialogue or a situation developing. I don’t want my first line memorable because I don’t want you to trip over it; I want you to walk right in to find out where the heck they’re headed.

I saw @galadhir, I think (or was it @heartofoshun?) do this meme as the first paragraph of five of your fics, and I liked that a great deal, because it gives you a lot more insight into the less-flashy writers. My first reaction on considering this meme was actually to feel really bad about my writing, but I just got a couple of comments on a recent thing from readers pointing out that my style tends to be both invisible and dense, and I was really pleased to hear that it comes across that way. Because that’s what I’m going for. 

So– look at the first line, and then look at the paragraph, and you’ll see why I did it this way. My first paragraphs tend to be short too! I don’t want to drown anybody. My first lines are nothing, they really are. And I felt sort of bad about that, but there are as many ways to tell stories as there are storytellers, so this is for all the rest of you who felt your opening lines to be lackluster even though they were stories you’d always loved. And if this style works for you, then maybe you’ll like the rest of my stories. :)

* Meduseld’s roof gleamed in the early spring sunlight, but to Éomer it looked more forbidding than friendly. He regarded it with trepidation as Edoras came fully into view ahead, and Éothain noticed his expression. 

The Clasp Undone, LOTR fandom, written in 2004 for HASA, now on AO3. An early example– setting, reaction, motivation and secondary characters in two sentences. I think I was trying for a whammy opener a little bit, or at least poetic imagery. I also had excerpted an obscure poem preface but I figure that doesn’t count for this meme. (For a while I thought the poetry was required before each chapter…)

* There was a caravan on the road, Khat deduced, from the actions of the pirates. He was not foolish enough to get anywhere near the action, knowing both sides would be perfectly eager to kill him, but he settled on a promontory and watched, waiting for the pirates to come back with prisoners to their camp. 

The Kenniliar-Charisat Road, gapfiller for Martha Wells’ City of Bones, written in 2009ish but unpublished until 2013 on AO3. I think you can tell I wrote this entirely for myself, never really intending to publish it– there’s little concern for reeling the reader in. It’s more just my personal heartbreak that the author was not going to write a sequel, and I wanted to spend more time with the characters. So this one is probably most interesting as an example of how I’d write if nobody was reading. Because, well, nobody was, and nobody is; it’s not a popular fandom. It’s only as poetic as it needs to be for the setting to be established; it’s mostly pragmatic in choreography, and then I take my sweet time with dialogue because that’s what I like. A challenge, though: one of the characters refuses to admit that he can speak the other’s tongue for almost the entirety of the story. No worries; Sagai can make up the difference.

* “You’re fulla shit, McKay,” John said happily, taking a bite of the almost-apple in his hand and chewing noisily because he knew it was annoying. Rodney reacted predictably, setting off on a great, somewhat-shrill, rapid-fire rant about the merits of the continuously-variable transmission in an automobile over a standard transmission. John didn’t give a fuck, but he’d wound Rodney up enough that he could enjoy the show, so he waited a moment, said, “But the Batmobile’s totally a stick shift,” and watched Rodney spin off into near-incoherence.

Bones Reds, SGA (gen), 2013, on AO3. This one, you can tell I’d been reading a lot of other fic. The McShep fic community (especially @theletteraesc, my forever fave) tended to favor fast-paced rapid-fire stuff, and banter especially, and I totally got sucked in. This is the closest I come to a whammy. (Another of my early examples starts off with “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me”, straight from John’s mouth; same idea.) 

The downside is that I think I kinda shot my wad in this paragraph and the rest of the fic is just okay. Eh! It was quite early in my AO3 days. 

* There was the sharp crack of rifle fire from behind a tree, and Peggy nodded to herself in satisfaction; it had to be Barnes. Good, she wasn’t totally separated from the others. She waited until he fired again, and someone screamed distantly as the bullet found its mark; she used that hushed moment to fall back, darting from her flimsy cover behind a bush to a more solid cover behind a tree trunk. 

Guts, a gen Peggy & Bucky MCU/Captain America fic, published in 2015 on AO3. Yo look at all those semicolons. I think I’m trying to channel 1930s English Schoolgirl here but it might just be that I used to be real into semicolons after a misspent Tolkien-obsessed youth and I’m bad at not using them for everything. 

* Steve was on top of Natasha, missionary-style, fucking her hard and steady. Bucky wandered in just as she was coming, and stood in dumbfounded shock watching as she shuddered and gasped.

Put On Earth With That Sole Purpose, Steve/Natasha/Bucky, 2015 on AO3, a shining example of my favorite genre, which is a pure-smut character study. That is what I love. It’s not just PWP, it’s a character study. I can’t help doing this and I’m hopelessly addicted to it. But as you can see, there’s no gradual introduction to the action here; we start with, quite literally, a climax. When it comes to fucking around, I don’t fuck around. 

I’m also going to cop-out, I think, and say I tag anyone who wants to do it, because the nature of Tumblr discourse is such that it’s super hard to figure out who of the writers I follow actually follow me back and would be interested. But if you, like me, are the sad sort who easily feels excluded, and nobody has tagged you, I am sorry to hear that and wish I were clever enough to have noticed to tag you. Consider yourself tagged. Maybe holler at me in the post and I will in future try to remember to tag you. If I ever get tagged in a thing again. Because I rarely do and often when I am don’t really know how to do it. Awkward peeps unite!! I’m here in this corner with you, and I have beer. 



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