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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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misery in the morning
children of dune - leto 1
So it's Friday and I sent Child to school in ambitious hopes of working on such things as laundry and errants and whatnot. After sleeping extremely late. Unfortunately, the late-sleeping didn't work out, but I had an egg mcmuffin and a hash browns, so on balance? Not so bitter.

I'm awake on my day off, though. And on lj instead of doing laundry or cleaning or, say, something productive. Bah. This is productive.

Finished tagging SV last night while svmadelyn tempted me with Kirk/Spock fic, which led to me wandering back to look at my Voyager stuff, and kind of wonder what I was thinking. Actually, I'm thinking of instituting a tag system that has something going on like this:


I write hopeless misery more often than I thought. In which I thought I had done it like, three times. But no. There's a tiny garden of grinding misery going on in there.

In less the spirit or word of five fic you like.

Five Fic That Make Me Wonder What I Was Thinking With All That Hopeless Misery Thing

1.) My Usual Lie, SV, 2/2/2005.

Okay, it's also this goodbye to a show that *hurt* me, but when I started it, I was more in the place of 'ice-skating, cool'. I meant it to go a lighter direction, with snowy cuteness and revelation and hot chocolate and porn, but it got introspective fast, and bitter. Clark's growing up and growing away and what he's wanted before he knew what to call it is already beyond his reach. It doesn't stop him reaching for it, though, and feel it slip through his fingers even as he takes it, knowing that doing this will make it worse and still unable to stop himself. Lex is this--too-damaged, too-broken, too-bitter future-supervillian who can't ever go back, who doesn't even want to, even for Clark, but takes what's offered to remind himself of what he can't really have. It's mostly two unhappy people having a post-breakup, honestly; they broke up years ago. Now they're getting around to having the relationship to give them the context for it.

I have two favorite bits out of this story.

When I was fifteen, Clark wants to explain, I didn't know, do you understand, Lex? I didn't know. And when I was sixteen, I didn't know what to do about it. And then you left and came back and it's like you forgot what I was, or who I was, or something. Like you forgot everything but what I am, like that was more important than anything else. When I was seventeen, I could have, but you stopped wanting it.

And this.

The slow brush of lips against his is as inevitable as the coming of winter, and Clark closes his eyes, like that's a place he can hope to hide. Lex kisses him, slow and sure and deadly patient, and Clark thinks he'll remember this, later. That he might even regret it, later. Not today, definitely, not tomorrow. But soon. When there aren't any more lies they can tell, when there isn't anything like truth left between them--

Nothing like this will ever happen again. Clark, pressed into body warm leather, Lex's skin beneath his fingertips, thinks that nothing will ever hurt like that will.

It's a repeated theme from the middle to end, Clark's youth against Lex's fragile inability to really trust, but it kind of crystalizes all I feel about SV. That pairing hurt me. And I loved it more than I've ever loved any pairing before or since. Though honestly, SGA is getting close.

2.) A Memory of Waking, SV, 7/3/2003.

This was supposed to be my last story in the fandom, and I spent a lot of this time period wandering around work with my MP3 player filing and singing along to The Scientist and The Boys of Summer and Brian Kinney, and kind of viciously unhappy with SV. There was this entire place of missed chances and altered courses for the worse for everyone; this vague--hmm feeling. It was partially a rebellion against my own tendency to AU to fix things, and wondering about Lex and Clark if there hadn't been that tragic bridge accident turned first-make-out-session; the people they would have been, for better and worse. And while the world in this scenario it might have, on the average, been slightly better; for the people it was worse. Clark's all surrendered passivity, in a tiny farmhouse in a tiny, dying town out in the middle of nowhere, grieving for the wife he lost and the life he didn't live. Lex's is unfilled potential who burned out brilliance to be something less than ordinary. It's wistful and sad and really, really, really depressing. I suppose the dream-images kind of gilded the lily--seriously, did I *need* them? No. I just wanted to rub salt into the wound. Not only are you both miserable, but look, it could have been better! Or at least interesting. They part the same way they came together, with Clark sleeping away his life while Lex runs away from what he could have been.

Favorite bits:

"She must have loved you very much."

"I--she did." Clark's gaze lifts, as if something is being torn free inside him with every word. He doesn't seem to notice Lex's fingers, brushing slow strokes through fine, tangling strands. As soft as it looks. "She made me promise, finally, never to leave her again. It was the only thing--the only thing she really needed from me, for me to be here for her. I couldn't deny her that, not--not for anything. I'm glad I did. It made her happy and she--lost so much. She didn't deserve that, too."

Lena had asked for everything. Did he love her like that? Lex can't remember. He remembers the first time they fucked, but then, he'd almost thought it was different. How she twined around him and breathed into him and told him she loved him and that she would save him from himself, that together they could do anything, be anything. Fall of chocolate dark hair over his body and he'd believed her, believed everything she said.

Not quite the man she expected to marry now, certainly not the one who promised her anything she wanted if she'd only stay, wanting every second he could have from her, every touch, every look, every breath.

He'd loved her, then. This bright flare of brilliant light that somehow, never lasted. His obsessions never did. He should have known that.

"You were very lucky."

Clark pauses, like something Lex said didn't quite make sense in his head. "Yeah. I suppose I was."


Orgasm is a slow fall from a bridge, eyes wide open, seeing nothing, gasping for air. Falling mindless and weightless and sated and holding on so tight he can't imagine letting go.

He will, though. He has to.

At dawn, he thinks, eyes closing heavy and dark, Clark's weight pinning him to the bed. He'll slip away, like a thousand other nights with a thousand other people.

*"For what it's worth, I hope you stay."*

Turning his head, Lex rubs his lips in dark hair and wishes that he was the man who could.

The second isn't as clean as I usually like, but the last line still hurts me. Somehow, it's worse when characters trap themselves in boxes they create for themselves and forget how to open them again.

3.) Grey Water, X-Men Movieverse, 2/14/2001.

This one, at the time, was a lot milder since I had no personal investment in Toad. Seriously. Who has a personal investment in Toad? But I sat down to get something out that was as far from Logan/Rogue as I could get--I had *issues*, but then again, L/R writers all got regularly knocked by the comic fen and the movieverse gen fen and basically everyone who wasn't, well, *us*, so we got sensitive and fairly isolationist--and slammed out this bitter, bitter Toad post-movie, lost and looking for his master. Toad's this person limited by what and who he is--let's all face it, the unattractive and visible mutations have a harder row to hoe than say, oh, Storm--and his only security in the world is Magneto, who promised him freedom and safety and gross tongues don't matter. He goes from starving teenage murder-to-survive to henchman, which makes him a non-starving grown-up murder-to-survive, making Magneto the center of his universe. Losing that leaves him drifting, rootless, no past and no future, waiting for someone to tell him who he is now. Knowing he'll never be as important as Magneto's dream, Magneto's vision--or Magneto's Xavier.

Favorite bit, per above.

He was starving to death in the slums of York, where all the mutants went to die and left to rot. Fourteen bodies littered in his wake while they hunted him like a rabid dog and he danced out of view to collapse against a dumpster smelling of urine and rotting meat and wait for them to pass him by, imagining their deaths in a hundred messy ways. Three days out of that hellhole they kept him in, four minutes from his next victim. Sewers were better accommodations than where he'd been, he'd swear it to anyone.

Yeah. Let's move on now.

4.) Stories Out of Childhood, Queer as Folk, 12/23/2003.

The thing about this one is, it's an impossible situation. It's like one of those tragic mix-ups, except it's sex with your former lover's very underaged son. Justin's living post-Brian very well, but Brian and life left his own scars on Justin that never quite healed, and wandering around a club, he's old(er) and jaded and playing at cynical and not really yet. He knows what he's looking at when he sees Gus, but really has no idea what he's seeing. He's just fascinated. In a way, he's reclaiming his early youth before the attack, recreating a scenario he's done a dozen times, with himself in the position of older, wiser, more powerful, but Gus isn't like any of the others. Gus is Brian stripped to sixteen and startlingly beautiful and not jaded at all. He's fallen in love with an image, like Justin did, and in the end, Justin breaks him just as much as Brian broke Justin.

This is one of those that cannot end well. It just can't. Not unless I gave them all amnesia and possibly a drug cocktail. Justin fucks his ex-lover in his ex-lover's son's body and knows he's doing it and hates himself, but doesn't stop him. Gus got stripped of his adolescent illusions. Everyone is traumatized by orgasms. I still look back at this one and wonder what the hell I was *taking*.

Bit, because I can.

But, once upon a time, not here and not now, but long ago and far away, he woke up in a hospital bed alone and his mother cried, and he hadn't seen her cry in years. The sterile smell of the air in his lungs and rough feel of the sheets against his skin were overwhelming, curiously important, and he winced, because he thought that he'd never felt anything so uncomfortable. His body was thick and leaden and the covers didn't protected him from a damn thing, even himself.

Remembers this rage that came out of nowhere and everywhere when she came to his bed to touch his face, and how his hand tried to fist and couldn't.

His body knew what his head didn't, what his memory refused to show and tell.

Once upon a time, he fell asleep before prom and woke up at a hospital, and they can tell him anything they want to, about last dances and long kisses and a baseball bat, but it's not any more real than any other fairy tale. He believes his hand, that cramps up when he works too long; he believes the scar, faded and uneven in the mirror; and he believes the anger he never learned to outgrow, only to hide.

Seriously. What was I on?

And finally.

5.) Heels, Star Trek: Voyager, 2000ish.

The thing about this one is that I remember writing it more than I remember it, so it has this kind of low-grade glaze going on of anger in general at slash fandom. Do not judge--I was like, one year into fandom and twenty-four and there were these flame wars? And stuff? Okay, never mind.

I always tend to look at it through Paris/Torres goggles, which helps, but only a little, because I went back last night and read the entire thing straight through like I would if I were a Chakotay/Paris OTPer or writer and--wow.

It's this--to go meta, it was supposed to be a different way to look at Voyager. It's not canon. It took the Tom Paris-slut cliche and the dysfunctional Paris/Torres cliche and kind of remixed them both. Chakotay and Paris are on and off and mostly on in this long-term fuckbuddy thing, which is kind of like a relationship where Tom is cheating regularly. But since it's not a relationship, it's not cheating, and Chakotay spends an inordinate amount of time thinking just that while Tom fucks or offers his ass to anything moving. He's bitter and angry and God, so in love from the first word that I hurt myself writing it. He's taking whatever he can get, and Tom always comes back to him, and that's almost as good as proof of what Chakotay doesn't want to admit he wants. He's front and center for the obsession that will rule Tom's life when he falls for B'Elanna, watches them come together and fall apart and finally get married and Tom give up everything and everyone else. It's dirty--the entire thing givs me the jeebies because it's constant, grinding misery--I mean, Chakotay is misery, pain, misery, more misery, wow, more misery, then kind of a rip out the heart and chew on it thing by the end. Seriously, I have Chakotay watching their first time--what was I *thinking*?

And I read it last night and narrated bits to svmadelyn while she told me how much I sucked, because MY GOD and I KNOW, Jesus. And there's this--not glee, by the end, I'd burned out brain cells vaguely hating myself, since it's not that great a commentary on Paris/Torres either--but this string through it of no one gets a happy ever after here. They do, however, get orgasms. Except for Chakotay.

Stylistically, it's clumsy and very pretty and completely unChakotay as a first person narrator. It pretty much rests on the fact that it's just pure angst, with no redeeming value.

It was odd--it wasn't the sex itself that changed at all--it went on pretty much as always, with a few variations Tom picked up from B'Elanna and introduced without comment into the repertoire. It wasn't the enthusiasm, though Tom's enthusiasm had changed from almost innocent pleasure to driving and uncomfortable necessities. And watching him sleep, I saw that the heels no longer marked his ass and there were no nail marks on his back. But the bruise on his inner thigh was always there, her private message to me never changing and I could have hated her for that.

Still, he showed up in Sickbay at irregular intervals and without commentary got the bones fixed. When the Doctor started asking, he replicated himself an osteo and every night I was in his room I spent the first hour working patiently to put him back together.

No, what scared me were the PADDs--they were everywhere and they were programs and they were ones that required no safeties on the holodeck. And I knew who he was writing them for. I even knew why.

He never said a thing about it and I curled up in bed beside him and tried to figure out if the scenario was losing Tom either way. And I knew him as well as I knew myself, knew he was fragmenting himself into a thousand pieces right before my eyes in his own cool, distant way and you know what, Kathryn? That's the first time I admitted to myself that I loved him.

He was as addicted to her as any junkie on the street and I wanted to hate her for that, that she could do this to him and he wouldn't stop it.

So I fixed what I could and waited and one day, she was wearing heels again and Tom made love to me with his smile back and his creativity restored, and I curled up under his blanket and wondered why I felt like shit.

And--yes, A Handful of Dust could be argued to be on this list, but honestly, I broke Lex, drove Clark crazy, and made them like it, then they conquered the world. That's happy. I mean, compared to poor Chakotay and his slutty boyfriend who fucked him over.

Right. Hmm. So now I'm curious, if you've read this far--we all read fic that breaks us. Which ones ended up with that low grade sense of hopeless misery after reading? Where you just sat there in shock thinking, no. No no no. Fix this. Fix this *now*. WTF author? And so forth.

ETA: Okay, and the sixth, bonus track. New entry here on The One That Madelyn Put Out a Hit On Me For, AKA the Somewhere Adultery Snippet</a>.


That would be an extremely useful tag. Sadly, the people who'd really need to use it never would.

we all read fic that breaks us

I've developed a pretty good early warning system for that, and I avoid it like the plague. As a result, I've thankfully not actually more than glanced over any such fic in a long time, and have managed to repress the ones I read way back when. *shudders*

I need to use that tag. I spent a lot of my first fandom and quite a bit of SV with a vague, low-level thing going on against one character or another. Honestly, mathematically, Seven of Nine suffered the most, but B'Elanna came close. Chakotay just wins for the story where I never let up on his constant pain. Jesus.

I've developed a pretty good early warning system for that, and I avoid it like the plague. As a result, I've thankfully not actually more than glanced over any such fic in a long time, and have managed to repress the ones I read way back when. *shudders*

I still fall over them, even when I'm careful. *sad* It's very--something.

Umm, that would be that little bit you posted in the Somewhere-verse. You know the one. Everyone does.

But does it really count if I never posted it to my webpage officially?

I still cling to that one. I could do a commentary on the fic if you like.

Hmm, I thought Absolute Zero might have made the list. Couldn't get through that one (not even past the first chapter, sorry to say), though I quite liked In the Space of Seven Days.

Slut!Tom was a cliche? Heh. I wasn't really into the Voyager fandom, wasn't really online then, though the first fanfic I stayed up all night to read was The Colonel, which sounds like it should be SG1, but was this brilliantly long story about Seven of Nine, and Voyager, and this colonel who got lost in time. :)

Absolute Zero is weird. It's all--I mean, torture and mutiny and I know this sounds insane, completely, completely insane--but I never thought if it as particularly dark, just unrelentingly violent. Just--okay, it is completely insane. It would have ended well. I invest more than ten thousand words, there's happiness in some shape or form, by God.

Hmm. I may need to look up The Colonel.

Guh. Um. Mercy. And to a lesser degree, Freedom is Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose. You know the ones, right? Problem is, they were both just so good too.... XD

It's been a while since I read SV, but I remember having mixed feelings about A Handful of Dust! It was definitely depressing, but um, I felt hopeful at the end. I mean. Everything was totally fucked up, but uh, they were together? *is a pathetic fangirl.* ♥

You mean Mercy from Smallville? God I love that story.

Hey, I am totally with you on Dust. It always falls into my apocalyptic yet happyfic place.

If I were to tag my own stuff, I'd probably need I'm-sure-there-was-a-point-to-this-when-I-started and It-was-a-good-idea-at-the-time-no-really.

The fics that get me are really well done deathfics. Almost anything else can be recovered from or adapted to, but death's kind of hard to fix, even in some of the fandoms I read. Bonus points for killing off my favorite character. There've been some really good post-showdown-with-the-Demon SPN stories where Sam is dead and you can just see the chasm it left behind in Dean, the raw bloody edges that aren't ever going to heal cleanly, and that -- the recovery -- is more of a gut-blow to me than the death itself. (There are equivalent stories in every fandom, of course, but working off the top of the brainpan...)

Hee! Yeah, those are excellent tags. I know the weirdness of a story coming out and staring at it blankly, wondering, huh?

See, I avoid deathfics for just that reason. I just--God. Every time I hit one, I'm just broken.

Which SPN ones? I'm curious now.

A confession *ducks for cover*
I came to you for SV and stayed for SGA and on the way I dipped a toe into your QaF - even though by then I hadn't actually seen much of the American version - odd little spawn but it did grow on me. And the very first *very first* fic I read at random was Stories out of Childhood - I never dared read any of the others!

*disappears off to see what you put poor Chakotay through*

God. I'm so sorry. That fic is like--beyond words. It's--wow. That is not a new-fandom fic. That is a fic you read after being *really jaded* by the fandom.

The rest are happy! Er--happier. Yes.

*sad for Chakotay* Madelyn gave Chakotay Orion wives in chat after I explained what I'd done. Four of them.

I know it's not in vogue to choose the story that ate fandom, but Freedom's Just Another Woed... killed me dead. I mean to the point that listening to the podfic could make me cry in the car. In traffic. And the song that Lim used in her video could, too. Part of that is me, though. I was very emo about my divorce at the time and the theme of not being what you thought you'd be just slammed into me and made me a big ball of cry.

And Mincat's I Got Soul, But I'm Not a Soldier made me cry so hard my neurotic, emotionally retarded dog braved his pathological fear of desk chairs (don't ask) to jump in my lap and lick my face.

Ooh. I need to look at that second one. Except--you say it made you cry. Hmm.

*heads desk* Nathan. Nathan and Stuart.

Poor Chakotay BAD Jenn *wags finger*

Yeah. *sad* It was just--character torture. I didn't even hate him! And yet I did that. Gah.

Off the top of my head, "Yellow Means Slow" is the one that kills me every single time.

There have been a few others, but I don't generally torture myself with them on a semi-regular basis, like I do with YMS.

I never read Pru's deathfics for that very reason. Just no. Cannot deal.

(Deleted comment)
The House of Three Skylarks by Mirabile Dictu. God, even the title makes me cry.

Deleted and reposted because apparently I suck at coding. :(

Back in 1999 was my first foray into fanficion and I only read Babylon 5 and Voyager then. I read a very, very horrible bad!fic. --- 2004 I started reading fanfiction again. Talk about traumatizing.

However there are a few stories who hit me pretty hard, one especially. Prisonnier de Guerre by switchknife. I read the first version of the story and it broke me. I was crying so hard, it just hurt so much. I couldn't sleep that night. I swore never to read this fic again. Then switchknife reworked the story and I read it again. And it still hurt. I doubt I ever read it again. But then I already said that once, so who knows?

Sometimes I like reading death!stories or dark stories though some of them can break me a little. I don't know why but on occasion I look for those stories although I tend to stick with those I already read. Perhaps I need some small comfort in knowing how it will end. *shrugs*

Basically I read anything and everything as long as it is well written. Of course it depends on my mood. It's strange - the longer I read fanfiction the more picky I get concerning the quality of the fic and the less picky I get concerning things like fandom, pairing, rating...

Hmm... stories that broke me...
Koi's Mercy in SV, that I found off your rec list. And especially reading it when I did, coming off of her A Nice, Friendly Game, it just. God. Killed me.
And therefore, I can't read any story that has Lionel Luthor as a main character. I can't. Even the one where he's like, undergone a complete transformation and invites them all to Christmas. God, that story broke my brain, but not my heart. So does it still count?
Pru's How to Be... series broke a little bit of me.
SGA had a few that broke me, but I love the fandom so much that I just tend to transport myself to the happy place of glossy memory. But I remember The Jenny Code did things to my heart with a dull spoon.
I didn't break open at Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose, because I reread it so many times in such a short space of time that I've started to see the bits that aren't heartbreaking and are actually fairly uplifting. But The Hollow Men broke me to bits. And then Empty: the Te Deum Remix did it again.

Death!fic generally breaks me in a good way -- cathartic tears of healthy angst. I also get kicked in the ouch button, in a little worse way, by unrequited love, and by "they both want to be together but they can't because [external forces: DADT/moved away/married the wrong person...]." The ones that really, really, really hurt in the not-good way are "one or both wants to be together but they can't because [internal forces: personal neuroses/personal fears/they've hurt each other too many times/partner betrayal...]." I'm not touching that Chakotay fic with a ten-foot pole.

A Handful of Dust, I actually read as a happy ending story.

The one story that broke me forever, in SV . . . Grail's Immortality. I didn't sleep for three days after reading it, and I'm still so traumatized ( three years later! ) that I refuse to even look it up to put a link in here.

Seconded! That story absolutely broke my heart, I was completely unprepared for the ending and it was so realistic and raw and yeah I was just completley depressed after finishing it.

My classic "oh-God-that-was-wonderful-and-I'll-
NEVER-EVER-READ-IT-AGAIN-*sob*" is 'If You Are Prepared' by Cybele.