Autumn-leaves 1

DVD commentary Q&A

I've noticed in the past that I basically suck at doing DVD commentaries on my own fic, for a rather specific reason: when I'm writing, I tend to approach it from a "narrate what's happening" standpoint (I kind of "see" or "feel" the story happening, I guess), and afterwards, that's what I remember -- the things that happened in the story, not my own thought process that went into it. In general, the main times that I remember a good bit of the creative process were on the stories where things got borked enough that I had to do a lot of unborking, like the White Collar horse-farm AU where I had to block out the ending using toys and rewrite it multiple times, because I had SO FLIPPING MANY CHARACTERS running around that I kept losing track of where they were.

But I've seen a couple people doing a variation of DVD-meme commentary where they ask for a specific scene, and then talk about what's happening in the scene -- what's going on in the characters' heads, what non-viewpoint characters are up to, what might happen in the parts of the scene that aren't shown. And that, I think I could do!

So - give me a scene from one of my stories, and also let me know if there's anything specific that you want to know ("what was Neal really up to", "why did [x] do [y]", "what happens after the last scene in this story") or I can just talk about the scene in general, probably from more of an in-universe than a meta perspective (but it depends on the fic). If it's one that I really don't have ANY thoughts on, I'll have you pick another one ...

My fanfic on AO3.

It doesn't just have to be fanfic - feel free to ask about a scene from my original work, if you'd prefer! (A non-comprehensive list of my non-fanfic stuff: Hunter's Moon - Sun-Cutter - Freebird - Homespun)

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Feels like I should ask someting serious and thoughtful, but I'm drawing a blank, so, since I reread it recently, how about some Neal's POV on "All These Roads Lead Home"? For example, for the scene when Peter approaches him and Neal totally misinpretates his intentions...

He really doesn't know, Peter thought in wonder. Neal was off his game for sure. And, now, apparently, convinced that it was something to do with him. Which was true. But the thought hadn't crossed Peter's mind -- although, from the stiffness in Neal's shoulders, it had certainly crossed Neal's -- that it might look like they were planning to send him back to prison.

...and then realizes what it's really about?

Or, if you prefer, something about another old favorite, "Spontaneous", when guys sitting at night at the old cemetery drinking wine. :)
how about some Neal's POV on "All These Roads Lead Home"? For example, for the scene when Peter approaches him and Neal totally misinterprets his intentions...

Hmmm ... :D

The thing about that part of "All These Roads Lead Home" is that Neal is in a really bad headspace. Kate's death threw him into an emotional tailspin, and at this point, he's barely hanging on; he's managing to put on a semblance of functionality, but he's a pit of anger and depression underneath. As far as the timeline goes, this is shortly after 2x01, possibly even before Peter commenting in 2x02 (or was it 2x03?) that Neal is starting to smile again. Neal is playing "normal", but he's actually a complete mess, and Peter can see that.

And like Peter also observes in the fic, Neal is off his game -- he's not noticing subtle social cues that he would normally pick up on. Basically, at this point Neal's mental processing power is being taken up almost entirely with guilt, depression, and trying to work out who killed Kate. He's just not thinking clearly at all. So yeah, Peter completely blindsides him. If he was operating on his normal level, he'd have worked out that everyone was up to something, and possibly figured out what it was, but as it is, it just comes out of nowhere and he has no idea what's going on. I think that in this fic, the Peter-POV version of Neal's state of mind is pretty much accurate. The one thing Peter doesn't quite realize is just how close to a complete meltdown Neal is. For a minute there, Neal thought he'd been caught -- he's definitely running his own investigation into Kate's death by this point, which Peter isn't supposed to know about -- or that he'd been framed for something, and that he might be going back to jail. It's just fortunate for all involved that they didn't keep him in the dark any longer, since he really might have had some sort of (subdued) meltdown.

Neal being Neal, as soon as he does figure out what's going on, he's able to shift rapidly into "social mode" and enjoy the party. And he's very touched, he does genuinely enjoy it, but I also think that as soon as he was able to slip away for a few minutes, he most likely vanished off to the bathroom, supply closet, or some other private setting where he could have a brief, very quiet, private meltdown. Not crying or anything that extreme, but just sort of letting go for a few minutes, shaking and dealing with the emotional roller coaster that he was just on. And then he pulls himself together and goes out and the scene in Peter's office happens.

He is grateful, truly! He's just kind of an emotional mess, and got handed a plateful of emotional overload that he wasn't expecting.
Thank you for the insights!

And ow, poor Neal *hugs him*. Now that you’re telling this, the fic seems more angsty than I saw it at first! :D Neal’s grief was kind of at the background, with him not being the viewpoint character, and kind of more subtle than in your other post-2x01 tag, “Seasons Turning”. Though the timelines of these should be pretty close, so Neal’s mental state pretty much the same.

I remember I thought that the first moments after Neal realized what it was really about could be most open we’ve ever seen him, with all his masks down. It didn’t occurred to me that he could have a private meltdown afterwards, but it makes a lot of sense.

But the whole thing still feels very hopeful and heartwarming to me, with everyone rallying around Neal.:) And I adore the hell out of Peter in here:)

I miss fics taking place in early seasons:)
Yeah, while the fic IS very hopeful and Neal is in a pretty good frame of mind at the end (for Neal at this point in his life) it's pretty much impossible to write anything set in this part of canon without having Neal's life be an absolute pit of misery that he's slowly climbing out of. Which is actually why I chose to set this fic during that time period, because Neal really needed something happy and distracting to remind him that he is liked and welcome at the White Collar office despite everything that's been going on. (And also because setting it during that time period was just about the only way that I could justify having Neal be oblivious to the fact that there was something suspicious going on around him; at any other time, he'd definitely have figured it out!)

For Written in Blood and Bone, can you talk a little about Natasha? What's she telling Bucky at the end, when she's speaking Russian, that "brought a look of surprised pleasure to Bucky's face"? Or what's going on in her head during Steve's meltdown just before Bucky appears? (Anything about Natasha's POV in that story would be awesome, actually.)
Woo! I would LOVE to talk about Natasha in that story. \o/

So first of all, in this story I got to use my headcanon MCU backstory for Natasha, which is sort of a synthesis of her comics backstory and the various clues she's dropped about her backstory in the MCU. Basically my headcanon for MCU!Natasha is that she really is the age she appears, but has some of the memories of previous Black Widows and doesn't always have a clear handle on what's hers vs what's not hers, hence occasional references (like to the KGB) that don't quite make sense for someone in her mid-20s.

(Canon may eventually joss this UTTERLY, but that's my Natasha backstory and I'm sticking to it until I have to stop! A lot of people writing MCU fic give her comics!Natasha's backstory, but to me movie!Natasha really doesn't seem consistent with someone who's been around since the 1920s; to me her character works better if she's much younger than the comics version. Mileage varies, of course ...)

Anyway, Natasha in this story is a Natasha who's in the process of figuring out who she wants to be when she grows up. I read her comment to Steve at the end of Cap2, about needing to make new covers, not as what she's literally planning to do but as a more metaphorical, Natasha-esque way of saying that she's questioning her whole life and needs to work out how much of her old life to keep and how much to discard. That's why she hasn't been in touch with Steve, much, except to drop him a line about Bucky now and then. It's possible, depending on how her self-discovery process worked out, that she might have decided to drop completely off the grid and Steve would never have seen her again (I'm sure she flirted with the idea, from time to time, of just cutting all ties and becoming someone utterly different with no connection to Natasha Romanoff at all) -- but in the end, realized that she can't build a new life, at least not the kind of life she wants to have, by setting fire to the old one and tacitly betraying everyone who depended on her. After the recent experiences she's had -- coming to realize that her life with SHIELD was founded on a lie, and that the person she trusted most didn't trust her -- she's come to realize that the person she wants to be is a person of integrity, and she's still not sure what that means for her, but it definitely means NOT throwing out the bonds she's already made.

What she says to Bucky at the end -- you know, that's one of those scenes where I kind of wished I hadn't made the decision to stay in Steve's head for the whole story, because I really wanted to get that bit from either Natasha or Bucky's viewpoint. Having said that, I'm not entirely sure of her exact words, but it was something along the lines of "My number's in your pocket; call me anytime you need to", or "Let's have dinner sometime without this big oaf tagging along and talk about things" ... basically an unconditional (and, for him, unexpected) offer of support in moving into the next phase of his life.

.... and, hahaha, Natasha during Steve's meltdown .... her thought process is pretty much what you would expect in that moment, basically "FUCK YOU STEVE YOU RECKLESS MORON you're going to get us both killed". Since we're only getting her outward body language, I played her reaction a little more for laughs than what she is actually feeling -- her *facepalm* reaction is at least partly a deliberate attempt to get Steve to notice that she's not on board with this IN ANY WAY, but she's also wondering if this might be a useful time to zap Steve with a Widow's Bite and if so, whether it would actually work for its intended purpose -- shutting him up -- or just make him louder.

At this point in the story, in addition to being concerned about tunnel creatures, she doesn't trust Bucky any farther than she can throw him. Natasha actually knows by now that Bucky is following them, and hasn't said anything because she didn't want Steve to do anything stupid (such as trying to talk to him) because she has no idea how Bucky is going to react to them. Unlike Steve, who trusts him by default because BUCKY, Natasha (at this point) is pretty sure that Bucky's more dangerous to them than anything else in the caves.
Thank you so much for the detailed commentary! I'm going to have to reply properly tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know you are made of every kind of awesome. :D
Thanks for this. I love the way you write Natasha. I can no longer remember if my head canon for her just happens to coincide with yours or (more likely) I've simply accepted yours so smoothly that I forgot it wasn't always mine.

And Steve is being a reckless moron in the caves, as he has been many times before and no doubt will be many times again.
The Courier. How did you come up with the idea to write from a third person's POV?
I think it's mostly just that I like writing (and reading) outside POV. I had a couple of outside POV fics in my previous fandoms, but I hadn't done one in White Collar yet. I was also still trying to get a handle on writing Peter and Neal, and discovered that I found it easier to capture their particular brand of wary affection by writing them through the eyes of someone who didn't know them.

The thing that I enjoy most about outside POV is how the viewpoint character usually doesn't know what's going on, or only knows part of it, while the reader knows a whole lot more because they have inside information, so to speak. This was especially fun to do in White Collar because so much of the show is about misdirection and concealing the truth, so it was a lot of fun to write a character who believes, at first, that the con is true (that Neal is her boss's henchman; that Peter is her enemy) and then slowly starts figuring out the more complicated truth. (On a side note, that's actually how I watched my first episode of Leverage -- it was a mid-season episode from season one, and while I did know the general premise, I had no idea, going into it, which of the characters were the protagonists or how much of the con was true. Which was actually an AMAZING way to watch a con artist show; I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed any of the subsequent episodes of that show I watched, just because it was so much fun trying to sort through the lies to the truth along with the guest stars!)

I also like writing kids' POV, so Grace was a fun character to develop. I always had vague intentions of doing a follow-up -- I often plan to write more with my OCs, and then rarely do.
Yes I like outsiders' point of view in WC because there's so much more in the Peter-Neal bond that they can see at first. We know them, so we understand, but for a stranger, they're most likely crazy ;-) (it's also true whenever a new protagonist is introduced in the show.)

You did write a follow-up, from Neal's POV, though I would have loved also to have Peter's POV in that piece. Soo much must have been going on his head..
Anything on Through The Storm and Safe To Shore? God, that fic broke my heart with Neal.

Peter wordlessly placed the anklet in his palm. As Neal started to take it, Peter closed his hand over the top of it, stopping him.

"Neal, I don't know how much I can promise as far as getting you out early. I'm gonna try. Every string I have, I'll pull. At the very least, I will make sure they hold to the terms of your original deal or, so help me, I'm taking the bastards down with me." Peter's fingers brushed his, the tips twining together with Neal's, the anklet clasped between their palms.

Neal swallowed around the lump in his throat. "I know you will," he said quietly. He gave the anklet a little tug, and Peter let go. Neal snapped it around his own ankle, the thought occurring to him as he did so that it had been a while since Peter had been the one to put it on him. Apparently he was chaining himself now.

But how did that old song go: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. He'd had a taste of it, and yeah, that's exactly what it had felt like. It had felt like nothing.

This felt like the warmth of Peter's shoulder against his, and Diana's hand on his arm, and knowing that Moz would still man the getaway car no matter how many times Neal turned him down. And, even though Mozzie wouldn't admit it, Neal had a feeling that his friend wouldn't object to a few more lunches with Elizabeth and evenings of harassing Diana over her parenting choices.
Poor Neal. ;___;

One of the things about that story is that Neal is severely depressed and doesn't realize it, which made writing his POV really interesting since I wanted to convey a sense of his misery/dissociation without Neal himself realizing just how bad it is. Obviously he's in a very bad mental head place while he thinks Peter is dead -- worse than he realizes, actually; I wanted that to come across too -- but he doesn't come out of it immediately after getting Peter back (there are some references later in the story to things like he's only sleeping 2 hours a night), and while he is climbing back out of it, it's really slow. (This isn't meant to be triggered specifically by Peter's "death", either; he's been slowly spiraling down into a worse and worse mental health place over the entire five seasons, and while the events of the story were obviously a catalyst for Neal falling into a pit, it wasn't the only causative factor.)

Another interesting thing about that scene is that I plotted it two ways. In one version, Neal is so deep in his depression/dissociation that he no longer feels enough connection to Peter to stay, and so he leaves with Mozzie. In the other version (the one I went with in the fic, obviously) he stays. I still think it'd be in character either way, but the second way -- the one I used -- was more emotionally satisfying not to mention easier to bring to a proper conclusion (if I'm remembering right, the biggest problem I had with the Neal-leaves version was that I had NO FREAKING CLUE how to end the story afterwards). So yeah, I kept him on the anklet; poor guy ...
Oh my god, yes. It is ridiculous how much the show has just swept aside all the shitty things that happened to Neal and made him all bright and shiny again. And it's kinda justified, he's a conman, he rolls with the punches, but NO ONE can be okay after so much shit. I'm so glad that was in the story.

Oh, but that alternate ending would have been so heartbreaking :(( And yes, you're right, either way, it would have fit. But I'm so glad he stayed. Especially for that scene alter on where Neal admits that he's not okay (not in those exact words, i think he says something like "You were dead and I killed you" to Peter). Emotionally, that was so satisfying.

Since you’ve invited people to ask again, I’m gonna repeat my question from the first post: how about something about another old favorite, "Spontaneous", when guys sitting at night at the old cemetery drinking wine. Or any other scene from this fic, actually. I love sense of wonder in it, and Peter&Neal just hanging out and playing outside of work.
Oh right, you did ask about that fic! I'm sorry I forgot. Thank you for asking again! :D

That's one of my early ones, when I was still poking at the shape of their relationship and getting a feel for how they relate to each other. I still love the concept of the fic and would love to see something like that on the show itself. One of the things I love most about the show is when they're just playing with each other. What Neal gets out of his relationship with Peter is pretty obvious on the show -- structure, mentorship, etc -- but what Peter gets out of his relationship with Neal is a little less clearly defined, but that sense of fun and play is one of the biggest parts of it, and I wanted this fic to be about that.

The story of the trestle bridge is based upon something that happened near the town where I lived when I was a kid. A lady went out onto a railroad bridge to catch her dog, which had run onto the bridge, and got hit by a train and killed. I remember wondering why anyone would stay on the tracks rather than jumping, though when I was older I realized that it was a long fall into swift, deep, cold water, so that would probably kill you too. But isn't possible death down below better than certain death up above?

Also, this fic was written before we found out anything about Neal's canon backstory, so the trestle bridge story might not still work now that we know where exactly he's from (though St. Louis does have plenty of railroads ...).

But anyway, the whole conversation between them about the bridge, with Neal promising to take Peter with him if he has to jump off a bridge ahead of an oncoming train, and then the follow-up later with Peter promising to catch him if the jumping turns out to be unnecessary, is basically a summary of their entire relationship and I still love that. :D
I still love the concept of the fic and would love to see something like that on the show itself. One of the things I love most about the show is when they're just playing with each other.
This is my favorite part of the show as well! Like that season 3 episode when they went treasure-hunting. I would love to see more of that both on the show AND in fics, with them just hanging out off-work, being friends and having fun.

But isn't possible death down below better than certain death up above?
I remember being with Neal on this one when I was reading. There's a chance of surviving the water, but there's no chance of surviving a train. (Saying that, I'd be probably stuck at the place like a deer in the highlights if that happened to me:-D) And yeah, this is their relationship in the nutshell.

Thank you for the insights!