deelaundry: (wilson huh)
Bammel? Sabine? Spoggly? Namaste?

[livejournal.com profile] queenzulu makes a compelling case for a House-AU of mine being anti-feminist here. It's very thought-provoking. Anything you'd be interested to add? I'd love to hear more analysis and opinions.

Please note that this is critical analysis of text/writing, not of me as a person. There is implication throughout the commentary about an author's responsibility for the end product of a work, which is an important idea that needs to be considered.
deelaundry: (folder)
posted to [livejournal.com profile] ficcommentary

Welcome to the DVD commentary for “Plural Possessive.” This is the eighteenth fic/ficlet I wrote in the “My Fathers’ Son” universe. After 16 fics in the ‘verse without explicit sex, for some reason #17 and #18, posted within a week of each other, were both NC-17. I don’t know how that happened.

Title: Plural Possessive (fic here)

The title was last-minute (as they usually are) )
deelaundry: (Default)
posted to [livejournal.com profile] ficcommentary

Welcome to the DVD commentary for “Pillory.”   I talk a lot about the universe and not much about the writing process; please feel free to ask any questions.
 
Title: Pillory
Author: Dee Laundry
Pairing: House/Wilson
Rating: PG-13
Summary:  What we do for love
 
That summary is not one of my best. Bleh.
 
Warnings: Alternate Universe (very alternate), Violence

This story was created... )
 
At the beginning I had five ideas, and I quote (from an email sent to daisylily and fallen-arazil for their opinion):
 
“1. Chase/Cam bad!fic (don't know plot)
2. H/W: Wilson's been dead a year; House doesn't care [Note: Much, much later, this turned into Function]
3. H/W: House gets cancer, finally realizes what makes him happy. Spends his last two months with Wilson 24/7 but no slash. [So, yeah, I plotted a ton of this in my head and will probably still write this some day.]
4. Canon episode filler. You take a scene from the show and fill in what one or more of the characters are thinking during it. Would probably pick a gen scene.
5. H/W AU fic. In a very patriarchal society, Greg and James have fallen in love, but the only way they can truly be together is for one of them to give up the substantial rights and privileges of being male and take on a female social role. (No sex change, no eunuch-ing - just socially, they would lose their "male" status.) Greg's very prominent and wealthy position means it would have to be James but James is extremely reluctant to take this drastic step. [And then I continued blah-blahing on about the AU for 450 more words.]”
 
I kind of stacked the deck toward #5, didn’t I?
 
The story laid out in that email took place over a period of several years, and fallen-arazil pointed out it was too long to tackle in the time I had. Hmm, I replied, just one scene then:
 
“Hurt/comfort, I haven't done that yet. I think James will talk back to Greg in front of other people, so Greg will be forced to punish him (lashing in the public square, maybe? painful and humiliating). Then the comfort scene with hurt feelings and sore posteriors, and what will James do to regain a sense of equality with Greg?”
 
Note:  Created for karaokegal's "Come As You Aren't" fic event.  Why this is different for me: Hurt/comfort; focus on description rather than dialogue; voice/language.  With grateful appreciation to Daisylily for beta, and fallen_arazil, Nightdog and Perspi for their suggestions and encouragement.
 
Another big reason this fic is different for me is focus on description. I loves me some dialogue, oh yes, oh yes, and thought for this fic I’d try to stretch and include more description (usually I skate by on as little as possible).
 
I don’t mind the eyes on me. That part hardly registers. As a boy, I was always fair of countenance and charming in demeanor, and I became quite accustomed to eyes following me. As a young man, I learned how to turn that to my best advantage, the best words and actions to undertake so that the fairest of maidens would keep their eyes on me and in private times add their lips and hands.
 
1) I don’t normally write in first person, but this fic demanded it so that I could avoid gender pronouns. More on that later.
2) Did folks get it from this description that Wilson is the “I”? Keep in mind that this was written before Season Three (when Wilson’s prowess with the ladies was thrown into some doubt.) Another important purpose of this passage is to state explicitly that Wilson/James is a man.
3) I also wanted to establish right away that we were in another place/time, and James’ voice is a large part. The words he chooses, his aversion to contractions – Daisylily described it as “19th-century-novelish language,” which seems as apt as any.
 
It’s not the eyes upon me that are causing the turmoil as I chafe at the wood trapping my wrists and the leather around my neck.
 
Here’s the first hint of description of the pillory itself. It’s different from the typical pillory we know because the prisoner’s neck is not captured in the wood.  Instead, the prisoner has to wear a thick leather collar that then gets fastened to the post.
 
The clock in the town square keeps time as perfectly as a metronome but today it moves more slowly than clouds on a windless day. Perhaps that is why the pillory was placed just here, to let the condemned keep close watch on the clock and so add another element of torture.
 
Hints, hints at what James is going through. I wanted to move slowly into explaining because I wanted James’ thought process to flow naturally and not knock the reader over the head with too many Bricks of Exposition.
 
Fifteen minutes have passed since Greg led me up here, locked my wrists in the pillory, and chained the collar on my neck to the post. I clearly saw pain in his eyes before he moved away, but that may just have been from the arduous task of climbing the four steps to this platform. Foreman had offered to do it for him, but Greg just scoffed.
 
1) The public display is an important part of the punishment; the pillory is on a raised platform in the town square. Also serves as a deterrent because the pillory is there permanently.
2) You may be wondering, “Why ‘Greg’? Especially when Foreman is Foreman?” Because it provides an indication (and later on, reinforcement) that the relationship between House and Wilson (Greg and James) is not quite what we know on the show.
 
“The code is clear. All aspects of the punishment must be carried out by the offended party.” He then yanked abruptly at my chain, punishing me for Foreman’s offer of help. An unjust indignity, but one I was in no position to protest.
 
More hints. I wish I hadn’t written “my chain” because it’s not James’ chain; it’s a chain used for punishment that belongs to the community. Like if you go to prison and have to wear handcuffs or ankle cuffs – they’re not your cuffs.
 
The memory of that tiny indignity causes a bit of anger to flare within me, and I blow on it gently, hoping to stoke the flames higher. Anger is truth; anger is strength; anger is a masculine humor.
 
1) This story has many more metaphors and similes than I typically use.  Many of them – all of them? – are nature-oriented – more on that later.
2) I like the cadence on the last sentence.  Repetition in threes is a naturally pleasing form. 
3) “Humor” was used deliberately (rather than, say, “emotion”), to evoke the medieval depiction of the four humors of the body (blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy). (When looking up the names of the four humors again, I found an interesting chart on the modern word “humor”.)
4) “Masculine humor” – James trying this one last time to cling to his male upbringing.
 
Instead, the flames are doused by the currents of shame that have filled me since the morning’s awakening. “It’s a half-hour,” Greg had whispered as he tightened his arms around me and pressed his chin to the top of my head. “One half-hour only, James; you’ll survive.” I had kept my cheek against his chest and closed my eyes again, willing the clock to move its hands backwards and then stop, to let us stay in bed together eternally and leave the rest of the damnable world to hang.
 
And here we establish firmly that Greg and James are in a lovers’ relationship, and that Greg is not eager to dole out the punishment. (I like the word “damnable.” So strong.)
 
The clock did not heed me; it never does.
 
Wistful James.
 
I attempt discreetly to stretch and ease the twinge in my back – this pillory was designed, of course, for frames several inches shorter than my own – and wonder idly why I had not wished for time to reverse fully back to allow me to refrain from my offense. There would be no need for this shame, this pain, this turmoil if I could return to that time and simply hold my tongue.
 
First indication that James has the station of a woman: “Designed for frames several inches shorter than my own” implies that James is getting punished at a women’s pillory. The pillory is designed for a typical woman, so that she would have to hold her arms just below breast level, an awkward position that stresses the muscles. Because average height for a woman (using US figures) is just shy of 5’ 4” and James is 6’ 0,” he has to lean over slightly and it’s creating havoc on his back.
 
Thinking about how the pillory is designed, Daisylily asked how often it happens that a man renounces his "maleness."  It’s rare but not unprecedented.  You give up pretty much everything when you do it - your money, your job, your power, all your peer relationships with men, and most of your rights. So it happens maybe once or twice in a generation.
 
Oh, and it’s not stated, but there is a separate pillory for men. Men have many more rights and freedoms, but they still have to follow the society’s code or be punished.
 
The thing is, I did it so thoughtlessly, the sundry men collected in that room provoking no caution whatsoever.  I spoke my mind naturally, as is my birthright, forgetting completely that I traded my birthright for true love. Every day I make the sacrifice again.
 
James reflects on his crime, how easy it was to commit because it was in the past not a crime for him. As a man, he could say whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted – and James and Greg banter and bicker as much as House and Wilson do. Now, however, James can’t do that because he’s given up his birthright, i.e., the plentiful privileges enjoyed by men but not by women.
 
James gets very romantic in his language throughout the story, and I wondered about that being OOC for Wilson. I realized, though, that he has to be for his own mental well-being. If Greg isn’t his true love, his heart’s desire, his soul mate in every romantic sense, then James’ sacrifice was for nothing. In the bible, Esau gave up his birthright to Jacob for a single meal – James has to focus on the ecstasy of his love for Greg or he’s in danger of feeling that he was similarly reckless.
 
On another subject: in the first draft, there was no mention of the other men in the room, and Nightdog pointed out that I’d left it unclear how other people knew of James’ crime of contradicting his (her) husband. As I noted to her at the time: “It was a remark House wouldn't have thought twice about if they'd still been peers, and wouldn't have minded even now if they were alone. Given the situation, however, he couldn't let it slide without serious repercussions to them both.” Thanks, Nightdog!
 
My neck is jerked forward a fraction; Foreman has tugged lightly at the chain. “Eyes open,” he whispers, without turning his head toward me. He is not supposed to talk to me during this time and certainly is not supposed to protect me from further punishment. It seems remarkable that he is here at all; surely the stink of this shame is not one he wishes to linger about his person. He does not have friendship as his motivation; he hardly knows me at all, and while he knows Greg quite well, there cannot be said to be a friendship between them. And yet, this may be a show of loyalty. He is Greg’s most trusted overseer, after all. Through his own skill and Greg’s appreciation of it, Foreman has risen to a rather exalted position for a man of his age. Perhaps he feels his piety will countermand the shame of his employer’s family.
 
Here’s the backstory on Foreman’s relationship with House – very similar to canon. Foreman has risen to a position of responsibility quickly. He’s not quite Greg’s right-hand man – there are others at Foreman’s level – but he’s getting there. I’m still not sure exactly what business Greg runs, and now it’s confession time. I could not decide (and still haven’t got it 100%) how industrialized this society is. Purely agricultural? Well into manufacturing? I even flirted with the idea that the community was as technologically advanced as we are today but with the repressive cultural mores making them seem more “backward” (as in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). This vagueness explains why there are so many nature-oriented metaphors; they’re safer, in case I make my mind up one way or the other in the future. (Heh, I feel like the show’s writers. “We’ll just leave things like how old Wilson is open so we don’t have to worry about working around it later.”)
 
Foreman is intelligent with many useful talents. He is also a braying ass.
 
Here’s Foreman’s personality – once again, very similar to canon. Hee.
 
Without closing my eyes, there is no way I can avoid seeing the crowd in front of me. I have tried to keep my eyes unfocused, but it seems some part of me wants to know, wants to catalogue the humanity that has come to witness my confession and punishment. There are those that simply revel in sick pleasure whenever a fellow human being is brought to the pillory. They are easy for me to spot, and easy for me to ignore.
 
There are many more that are likewise pleased but for them the pleasure is that it is me on this platform. I see Thompson toward the back, Brown and his three wives to the right, and Taylor and his family to the left. Nearer the front are Anne and Sarah. Not together; they barely know each other to speak. They are forever united, however, in their guilt over accepting my advances in earlier years. All five of these people, and more, many more, were shocked at my marriage to Greg and have never forgiven me for stepping back from my station in life. They see my sacrifice as perverted and worse yet, foolish. In my darkest hours, I cannot say that I always disagree with them.
 
1) See how the men go by surname and the women by first? Purposeful indicator of status.
2) This society has an interesting attitude toward sex. Casual sex is absolutely forbidden. Not only women but men will be punished if it’s discovered. However, sex during engagement period (betrothal) is permitted, and betrothals can be terminated by either the man or the woman without any legal or social consequence. Needless to say, people get betrothed a lot, sometimes for as little as one night. James was engaged dozens of times before getting to know Greg.  By the way, he was never married before this, but he did have a couple of long engagements.
3) Another interesting point: The shock and feeling of “perversion” have absolutely nothing to do with homosexual sex. It’s the stations that are important, not the genitalia. James’ giving up his station, “lowering” himself, is what’s abnormal and debased. Yet another reason why James has to over-romanticize it, although he cracks here and admits that sometimes he thinks it might possibly not have been worth it.
 
Looking around further, on some faces I see a conflict playing, one that makes me think of the times that I have stood in the crowd as the woman at this pillory confessed her crime and received her punishment. To bring comfort to the injured and sick was my profession and continues to be my nature. As a healer, I could not stop the well of sympathy that rose as each lash of cane or birch fell upon the condemned’s backside. As a man, however, there was always a satisfaction in the confession and the discipline. For a woman to act beyond her station is a crime in our society and a trespass against the laws of nature. Order must be maintained or we descend into chaos.
 
1) For House, the intrigue is in the puzzle itself, not necessarily the medicine, so I felt quite comfortable not having Greg be a doctor. Wilson, however, seems to be in it for the patient interaction (not that he’s selfless, but that’s what gives him the charge), so James definitely needed to have been a healer.
2) “Cane or birch” – two principle instruments for legal flogging. The other, of course, is the whip, but this society doesn’t whip. I learned way more about flogging than I ever wanted to.
3) The contrast between James’ thoughts as a healer and as a man accentuate how strong the moral/legal code of this society is. Even a person given naturally to sympathy and empathy with fellow human beings feels it is imminently proper to physically punish a woman for “acting beyond her station.” There is absolutely no flexibility in gender roles here, none. You are either a man, and you act this way, or you’re a woman, and you act this way.

 
The movement of the clock’s hands is excruciatingly slow and yet, it is movement, after all. I can hear Greg’s footsteps, slow, heavy, and irregular on the stairs behind me. I wonder if he is allowing Allison to help him. Foreman has not moved from his post in front of the platform, facing the crowd, so he can be of no assistance. If Greg is allowing Allison to support him, that is fresh torture for me; I can feel my bile rising at the thought. At the very least, this particular torture can be passed on. My sway over Allison’s fortunes is near-absolute, second only to Greg’s. A small comfort even on the best days, but I cling to that prerogative as one of my few remaining rights.
 
1) This society made some people think of colonial America and some think of ancient Rome. It’s an amalgam of my impressions of both those cultures, and others besides. The first wife/second wife dynamic is based on my recollections of Chinese polygynous relationships, wherein a husband would have a wife and concubines if he could afford them, and the wife held the power over the concubines.
2) Here's Cameron. (This was my first House/Cameron fic, and they barely interact. Heh.) Did you get that James hates Allison? Hates her absolutely. It’s left open here exactly what Allison’s role is, because James can’t bear to give voice, even in his thoughts, to her being Greg’s wife.
3) Chase doesn't show up in this fic, but he plays an important part in the larger story that I originally plotted. Maybe I'll write that part up some day...
4) “One of my few remaining rights” – Women don’t have many, that’s for sure. One of the few is the right to divorce. A woman gives up her family of birth and any possessions she might have when she marries; she is legally and socially completely dependent on the husband. The husband, therefore, has to take permanent responsibility for her and cannot divorce her. Only the wife can initiate divorce proceedings. (The husband, of course, can try to goad her into divorcing by any number of means, including bringing her up on charges for absolutely any instance of “acting beyond her station.”)
 
As I wait for Greg to arrive at my side and give me leave to confess, my gaze and thoughts are drawn to those few in the crowd with sadness in their eyes. Cuddy, an old friend of Greg’s and of mine, separated from us now by time and circumstance. Such a friend, though, as to still regret the necessity of this situation. Cuddy’s counsel, when Greg and I discovered we were soulmates, had been that we should leave, find a home in another land and be free of our society’s laws. We had laughed, Greg and I.
 
1) See how it’s “Cuddy”? Cuddy has the station of a man; first person ever to be elevated to that status. More on her in the prequel I’m going to write for [livejournal.com profile] betteronvicodin.
2) “Necessity of this situation” – James hates the fact that he’s being punished and finds it humiliating, but he accepts that this is the way it should be.
 
“You propose that we both give up our positions, fortunes, and families? To head into the uncivilized wild? For what benefit?”
 
“So that you may both remain men,” was Cuddy’s reply. Greg and I had laughed again – the thought of living outside of our home country was quite absurd – and yet some portion of my heart held no mirth at all. Whispers always abounded of places in which men and women might share responsibilities and privileges, taking roles and positions based on ability and not station. Fairytales to frighten young boys, I had sneeringly surmised.
 
1) This is a very closed society. I’m not sure everyone even knows that there are other countries out there somewhere. James has heard that there are other societies, but has dismissed them as inferior. (He definitely doesn’t believe that they could have less restrictive gender roles, because that would be “against nature.”) It’s their culture or “the uncivilized wild.” In the flashback, Cuddy knew what the sacrifice would be like for James and wanted to spare him, but Greg and James never considered leaving a serious option.
2) Daisylily pointed out that “both remain men” might make some people think James had been turned into a eunuch, or physically changed into a woman. I tried to add text wherever possible to confirm that it was a change in station/role, and not in any way a physical change.
 
Too late, it is entirely too late to think of other possibilities, especially those based on whimsy and fantasy. We made our choice as if there hadn’t been one, and after much struggle I made my sacrifice to be with the one I love.
 
I like the cadence and sound of that second sentence, and the concept of making a choice as if there hadn’t been one – a sense of inevitability. This is also I think the first time in the story that James states he had to struggle with the decision before he made it. He went back and forth for a long time.
 
My brother of birth is the last person I see before Greg unlocks the chain and nudges my head up. It is awkward to try to stand to full height with my wrists still trapped in the wood, but I do my best.
 
Another reminder that the pillory is too short for James.
 
Shame has filled me from sole to scalp. Breathing is difficult, as if I am drowning. The humiliation of this moment is overwhelming, and I want so desperately to blame it on someone else. It would be easy, quite easy to turn on Greg. He is the one holding the chain; he is the one who will deliver the punishment; he is the one for whom I gave up everything.
 
The pillory is accomplishing exactly its intended purpose here in causing James this much shame. Public humbling is one of the major enforcement tools for their laws. One note: in the American and European usage, it’s my understanding that the crowd would often call out insults and throw things at the person in the pillory. In this society, that would be unacceptable. The offended party carries out the punishment; the crowd serves as witness and provides silent disapproval.
 
But I was the one who walked away from my old station. And I was the one who forgot my new station and made such a grievous offense.
 
Notice how James puts all the responsibility back on himself. Psychologically, he can’t blame Greg because that would put some of their relationship up for questioning, and James can’t deal with that.
 
My brother’s eyes are welling with tears. How can this be his shame? He has no tie to me any longer; I have left my family of birth. I miss my brother, it is true. His counsel, his laughter, and his strength were dear to me. He has his own estate to consider now that our father has died, and at least this ignominy is not upon him and the Wilson name.
 
1) James’ “brother of birth,” in contrast to the concept of “brother of choice,” which comes up later. In this AU, James also has a missing brother, but there never was a natural place to mention him.
2) “Ignominy” is a cool word.
3) The shame of committing an offense comes down not only on the individual, but on the entire family line, as designated by name. (This was mentioned back in Foreman’s paragraph, too.) James’ crime doesn’t reflect on the Wilson line, because in order to marry he had to completely give up his family of birth. You can’t be in two families at once, so James is no longer socially or legally attached to the Wilson line at all. Under societal rules, James has to treat his brother of birth the same as any male acquaintance or stranger, which means James almost never gets to see him.
 
“Speak,” Greg says. “The crowd is of no importance, but you must be loud enough for the other Councilmen to hear.” He nods toward the four men in robes standing a few feet away. Their faces are grave, and I almost laugh. They are at war within themselves, I know. On the one hand, the disgrace, however minor, of a fellow Councilman brings them disrepute. On the other, they have no personal regard for Greg at all.  His plain tongue cuts them on every possible occasion, and without the wealth and power of his family estate, they would gladly toss him off the Council and into the street.
 
1) The Councilmen are the governing body of the society. Greg says “the other” because he’s on the Council too. Then it’s made explicit how wealthy and powerful the House family is – which is why it had to be James who gave up his position.
2) “His plain tongue cuts them on every possible occasion” – proud of the wording there, and it’s confirmation that House’s abrasive personality has transferred wholesale to this AU.
 
I silently thank Greg for that distraction, that second’s respite from my humiliation. Now I must confess, and declare myself, and accept forever that I am what I was not born to be.
 
“Accept forever that I am what I was not born to be” – It’s been months since James accepted the station of a woman but he still struggles with it. Here he makes the determination that he will stop struggling and throw himself into the role wholly. (Greg then undermines this at the end, but for now, James is resolute.)
 
“I am James, first wife of Gregory House. I confess, of my own volition and without coercion, to the crime of disrespect toward my husband. I spoke words that contradicted his, in disregard of my station as his wife, and in clear violation of the rules of our society. I humbly repent and submit to the punishment due me.”
 
1) Nightdog, I think, pointed out that James doesn’t even have a last name any more. He is in the House family, as designated in the public record, but only men are allowed to use the last name.
2) This is the first time that James has publicly used the word “wife” to refer to himself. Also the first time it was explicitly stated in the fic.
3) The words of the confession are dictated by the society’s code, so James had only to memorize them. Important words in the confession include “of my own volition and without coercion” and “humbly repent and submit”: the code requires true repentance, not just saying the words, with the sincerity gauged by the offended party. Defiance or grudging acceptance gets you into worse trouble.
 
Greg grazes a hand along my side, “inadvertently” touching me as he steps forward to make his declaration. In my overcharged state, I almost weep at his kindness. To the rest of the world, he is sharp and callous. I see his comportment as the shield that it is; I am the one he allows behind the mask. That he permits me to love him is the greatest joy I have ever known.
 
“Comportment” is another awesome word. I confess to using thesaurus.com sometimes to find the oldest-sounding word for a particular thought. A caution to any writers tempted by the thesaurus, though: do not use words unless you know both what they mean and what they imply (denotation and connotation). Misusing a word jolts the reader right out of the story. Also, note James getting all romance-novel rapturously sentimental again (still).
 
“I am Gregory House, citizen, Councilman, and patriarch of the House line. I accept the confession of my wife James. With this discipline, I forgive her of her trespass and on behalf of all citizens I provide her absolution.”
 
Greg, as the offended party, has a prescribed speech to give as well. After his name, he mentions first that he is “citizen,” which underlines two things: 1) Membership in the society is considered the most important trait; and 2) Women aren’t considered citizens. They are wives or daughters or widows – auxiliary members of their own culture. Next Greg notes his elevated position as Councilman, and third he indicates his place within his family line. He is patriarch because in this AU his father is dead. If his father were still alive, Greg would say, “first son of the House line,” even though he’s an only child.
 
Greg uses the female pronouns for James, as required under their society’s laws. It’s required in this case to use pronouns, so he uses the correct ones. In any other fics I write for this universe, you’ll see that in everyday speech, however, Greg goes out of his way to avoid using pronouns at all for James. In Greg’s mind, James is still a man, and he hates having to refer to James as a woman. (See also below.)  The pronouns are also why I had to write this in first person - would have been too confusing, as James goes back and forth between thinking of himself as male and trying to be correct and think of himself as female.
 
Three things happen with the last two sentences. First, Greg accepts the confession, validating it as sincere. Second, he personally forgives James (although in his mind there really wasn’t anything to forgive, he still must state it), and third, he forgives James on behalf of all citizens, because every crime is considered to occur not only against an individual but against society as a whole. Also note the word “absolution” – the punishment is supposed to be the last time reference is ever made to the trespass. Once you’ve received your discipline, you are back in good standing in your station.
 
Councilman Deane steps forward and hands Greg the cane for my punishment. Now he has two, is my unbidden thought and I chastise that portion of my mind that is laughing. What is there to laugh at? The strong stick that enables him to walk? Or the thin rattan that will bring me pain, and then absolution?
 
James is getting a little bit hysterical now (little bit of gender-bending humor there - “hysterical” is from the Latin hystericus meaning "of the womb"). The other purpose of the paragraph from my view as author is to describe the punishment cane so people know it’s not like a walking stick.
 
Greg told me just this morning that he had practiced his strokes, not wanting to chance wounds deeper than required by the code.
 
“On whom?” I nervously asked.
 
Laughing, he replied, “It is very fortunate for us that I had already imprinted your body on the trunk of the tree outside our bedroom.” I find it unbecoming to blush, but the memory of those sunny afternoons and our activities therein bid my cheeks to redden.
 
What is it with me and having these guys have public sex? I mean, seriously. Bet that bark was rough on James’ skin, although he seems to have enjoyed the encounters (plural!) quite a lot.
 
He continued, “As with a certain pleasure with which we are well acquainted, I have been instructed that proper technique is all in the wrist.” His subsequent demonstration of his wrist’s agility left me breathless and distracted me wholly from the future punishment.
 
A nice hand-job can take your mind off even the most serious of matters.
 
My mind is racing away from this moment, grasping at any idea or memory that might provide an avenue of escape.
 
I first wrote this sentence just to transition from flashback to real-time, but then I realized it’s also a good depiction of James’ anxious state of mind.
 
“James,” Greg commands, and I am dropped back into my body. The rumbling of the crowd rushes my ears, and the sun is far too bright. I see a small boy of no more than four in the crowd. He holds his sister’s hand, and I want to scream that this is no place for so small a child, but instead I hear a strange buzzing and a crack like ice on the river in the first thaw.
 
That metaphor for the sound of the cane smacking James is one I’m proud of. (Once again a nature one.)
 
The warmth across my seat is not unbearable. It spreads out from the line of the cane’s impact, and I have survived the first of the prescribed four blows.
 
I wanted the caning to come across realistically so I went to two "sensual caning" sites and one on the legal canings in Malaysia for research. Wow. I never, ever want to get caned, because it sounds horrible. Anyway, one thing everyone mentioned was a short “calm before the storm” after you’re first struck.
 
I imagine Greg’s arm pulled back again, but then the fire turns. It has become a scorching, and I lose my breath. A knot of aching develops deep in the muscle. Before it has a chance to grow, there is another buzz, another crack, and the flames have a new line on which to dance.
 
And here’s the storm striking. James was thinking, hm, not bad, but what he was experiencing was delayed reaction, and it only gets more painful from here. Also, in this society, all floggings are done to the buttocks. It adds a little bit more humiliation, bringing to mind as it does both being spanked as a child (which, you’d better believe they do in this society) and sexuality. It also provides an ongoing reminder over the next several days whenever the punished person sits.
 
I had thought before this moment that I would give myself the pride of not shedding tears before this crowd. An earnest stoicism is an honored mien for both men and women.
 
Karaokegal hates it when Wilson cries – he tried not to, I swear! Also, though I didn’t clarify it, “An earnest stoicism is an honored mien” is a standard aphorism in this culture. Parents say it to their rambunctious kids all the time.
 
In the face of this pain, I can no more stop my eyes from welling than I could stop my heart from beating. Of the two, I would move heaven and earth to stop my heart, for each thump rushes blood to my backside, to dance with fire along the cane’s loving lines on my skin and feed the tumors of ache that pulse in my flesh.
 
“Dance with fire along the cane’s loving lines” – LOL. “Tumors” is a little homage to non-AU Wilson as oncologist.
 
With the third stroke, the nerves in my back and legs begin to sing, counterpoint to the screaming from my seat. My arms ache from rigidity; I have bit my tongue; the skin at my wrists has been rubbed raw.
 
The effects on the rest of the body were documented on the Malaysian caning site. There is so much pain in your posterior that the rest of your body freaks out trying to handle it. James also still has his hands trapped in the pillory.
 
The buzz seems slower this last time, the crack softer, but it is only the roar in my ears dulling the sound. The cane’s last blow lashes lower, nearer to my thighs, and I imagine the burn igniting the hair on my legs, underneath my trousers. That foul, acrid stench would complete this picture so profoundly.
 
James thinking about the hair on his legs, and about his trousers, was another way to emphasize that he’s physically male. (Even though I’m not sure whether women in this culture shave their legs or not. But still, for readers in the real world, that’s what it implies.)
 
Also, Greg didn’t mean to hit the last blow quite that low, but he was trying to avoid hitting any spot he’d hit before. Having two lashes cross is particularly painful, according to what I read.
 
My head is pulled up; the collar slips off and falls to my feet. “James,” Greg says, and I would love to see his face but my eyes are having some difficulty focusing.
 
“James,” Greg repeats. “You are absolved.” From the warmth in his voice, that seems a good thing, but I am currently unable to remember what I should be absolved from. My own name as well seems an elusive dream.
 
“You are absolved,” is the final statement that ends the entire conviction and punishment. Originally, I had intended for James to have to make a follow-up statement (“Thank you, Husband, for having corrected me. I ask your pardon for the trouble you have taken, and I vow never to repeat this trespass.”) but the web sites were adamant about the punished person being out of it afterwards, so it didn’t fit.
 
Greg puts one hand to the back of my neck and rubs gently, and that at last brings me back. I see his face; I see his eyes; and I want nothing more than to melt into him.
 
Rubbing the back of James’ neck calms him, aww. Just like in canon.
 
“We’re going home,” Greg says, and I nod as he releases my wrists from their wooden encasement. At once, there is a warm body under me, supporting me as I stretch to a fully standing position. For a fleeting moment, it could be Greg, in front of me and beside me at the same time, but no. It is Allison, performing her duty. If I were to look at her, no doubt there would be tears in her eyes as well. Compassion is her trademark, her reason for existence. I will take the support, for I need it and it is my due from her, but the compassion I will spit back in her face at the first moment that I have the energy.
 
Allison, oh Allison. James hates you so. It’s not you, though, honey, it’s the idea of you. Eh, the practical implications are the same. (Also, you can tell I hadn’t seen S3 before writing this!) You’ll notice the phrase “it is my due from her” – James exploits absolutely every advantage he has over Allison; he’s relentless about it.
 
My legs are uncooperative, trembling and swaying. I lean heavily on Allison as we make our way down the steps. Her gasp at the pressure I exert pleases me.
 
Once down from the platform, Allison tries to lead me away, but I need Greg next to me. We are going home.
 
“I need Greg next to me. We are going home.” – That just gets to me for some reason. Simple but heartfelt.
 
Turning back, I see that Foreman has deigned to move his pompous frame and is supporting Greg as he hops down the four steps. On level ground, Greg’s pace can be a match to any man’s, but today he slows to walk next to me, as I step cautiously like an old person, tentative and unsure.
 
Daisylily laughed at “pompous frame.” Walking after getting caned: ow, ow, ow.
 
He might touch me as we walk – an absolved wife might hold her husband’s hand – but that is not Greg’s way.
 
Contrast here between Greg slowing down to walk with James and then not taking James’ hand. I doubt they hold hands much anyway, but it shows that Greg is not quite as attentive as James wishes he would be.

The walk back to our home takes far too long. The pain in my lower half ebbs and flows between agonizing and excruciating. I continue to press on Allison; she continues to do her duty – but I hope I am crushing the compassion out of her. She is the necessary evil of our family, and there is no need to bring emotion into it.
 
I don’t think I ever explicitly state it in this fic, but Greg needs an heir and that’s why he married Allison – hence, James’ designation of “necessary evil.”
 
At last, we pass the garden gate; at last, we cross the threshold of home; at last, the bed that Greg and I share is in front of me. I no longer need Allison, and I push her away roughly.
 
It’s not typical in this society for husband and wife to share a bedroom, but James has insisted on it from day one. (There’s another repetition in threes with the “at last”s.)
 
Simply sinking into the mattress relieves some of the strain, dulls the pain the tiniest fraction. “Husband?” I call, never having considered that he might not immediately join me.
 
Greg’s voice murmurs low behind me, and I move so that I can look. He is speaking with Allison, standing far too close for my liking. If he touches her at this time, she will pay.
 
Hmm, does Greg see Allison as the “necessary evil” or as something different? We never know for sure in this fic. Notice, too, that it’s Allison who’s going to pay if Greg does something James doesn’t like. This is not only because she’s the one James has control over; it’s also because James is determined to push all blame away from Greg.
 
“Husband?” I repeat. “Should I go and get the salve?”
 
“Allison will fetch it,” he replies as he stretches next to me on the bed. His hand is on my back even before he is fully reclined, stroking and massaging with perfect pressure. I close my eyes momentarily, but force myself to open them again so that I can take in his expression.
 
Back rub, yum. Greg knows firsthand how relieving a back massage can be when there’s pain elsewhere. And he likes touching James, so they give each other massages a lot.
 
The warmth and devotion I anticipated are there, but overlaying those is something else entirely. Amusement. It hardens my heart.
 
“It makes you merry to strike blows upon me?” I ask and turn my head away.
 
Poor James; he thinks Greg is laughing at him.
 
Greg’s hand pushes deeper into my back, in the one spot that always requires relief. I hold back from groaning my pleasure.
 
“It amuses me that you call out ‘husband.’ I thought that word to be among those forbidden between us.”
 
Greg is talking about how they skate as much as possible around the issue of James now having the station of a woman.
 
“You are my husband. Proven and paid for. Why should I deny it?” He continues to knead firmly into my back, providing a relief that contrasts the ache and sting still suffused within my seat.
 
“Proven and paid for” – James is referencing the confession and punishment he just endured.
 
“No one asks you for a denial. But if I had wanted a woman in your place, I would have taken a woman.” Greg pushes my shirt up; I pull it off over my head, hissing when stretching so tugs at the muscles of my bottom and thighs.
 
Greg’s getting a little bit annoyed here. He probably wouldn’t have been insistent about James taking off the shirt if he hadn’t been annoyed.
 
“But I am a woman,” I reply when the pain subsides to its former throbbing level. “Did you not hear my confession?”
 
As I am speaking, Allison enters the room with the jar of salve in her hand. She stretches toward Greg, but I reach out and claim the jar. When she begins to protest, she learns from my face how little welcome her words will be. With only a fleeting glance toward Greg, she departs, closing the door behind her.
 
Hates her. Allison is in a tough position, for sure.
 
Greg snorts and continues our conversation. “You now have the station of a woman." His hand gentles, its movements becoming caresses. “But your mind is a man’s, your heart is a man’s, your body is a man’s. Well, your body is two men’s – yours, and most importantly, mine.” He places a kiss between my shoulder blades.
 
Here’s the explicit confirmation that James is still physically a man. Here also is where Greg starts to cut James off from a coping mechanism he’s devised (see below).
 
“As is my heart, as is my mind, as is my life, as dictated by the law, for I am your wife.”
 
Yup, that’s what the law states – that a wife, and all she has and is, belongs to her husband.
 
It has never in the months of our marriage hurt me to think of Greg as my husband, as odd as that may sound. To declare myself wife is what causes the sting. In my mind, I have been comparing it to the searing from a fire’s errant ember; after today, I have the memory of the cane’s lash as a better illustration. Although, after today, I am committed to dulling the prick through repetition and acceptance.
 
Ever since he got married, James has felt conflict within himself between the life he had for so many years and the female station he’s now taken. He decided when he made his confession that he would stop struggling and commit himself to taking on the role of wife fully. He’s going to think of himself as a woman, use female pronouns, make himself think like a woman, and be at peace. That’s how he’ll cope, and what will make it easier for him as he goes about his business in the world.
 
Vigorously, Greg exhorts, “Allison is my wife. You are my partner, my equal. That is why I chose you and why you chose me. Speak no more of being a wife.” His hands are at my waist now, loosening my pants.
 
So of course Greg says no to James’ intention. That’s not what Greg wanted when he married James – he wanted James as someone he could spar with, someone who would challenge him. Wives are most definitely not allowed to challenge their husbands.
 
“My husband, is that a command?”
 
“Yes, it is.” Greg eases my pants down gently, and sucks in a sharp breath. The lines across my seat must be fierce and raw. He continues, “It is a command as one brother of choice would give the other. Why do you persist in this?”
 
I thought the term “brother of choice” came up earlier in the fic, but it doesn’t. It is an official, formal relationship in which two men declare themselves, basically, best friends. I think I’m going to flesh out this idea in the next Pillory prequel. Greg uses it here to show that he wants James to consider the command the way an equal would.
 
Gently he smoothes salve across my flesh, and tears well in my eyes once again. The pressure of his fingertips, light though it is, brings a fresh sting of pain, which is soothed by the chill of the salve. I wonder if blood is raised in the welts, but do not truly want to know. I found the best salve; that is all I can do to help myself heal.
 
Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch. “I found the best salve; that is all I can do to help myself heal” – That’s James giving up there, is what that is. If he’d said it out loud, Greg would’ve become very angry.
 
The matter at hand is convincing Greg that we can better protect ourselves by changing our language and mindset. “For form’s sake, we should –”
 
James thinks he can talk Greg into letting him retreat fully into femaleness. He’s a bit in denial, dontcha know.
 
“When have you ever known me to care for form? What other men think is of no consequence whatsoever.”
 
He has laid his right hand gently on my thigh and is now placing small kisses all along my back. With my pain, and this matter of importance open between us, how can such desire be coursing through me?
 
I wondered to myself if someone in that much pain could feel desire, but James is pretty hopped up on emotion. As well, he and Greg have a very active sex life, so he’s almost conditioned at this point to respond.
 
I steady myself and reply, “I believe that perception has been proven false today.”

There are light, feathery touches, as of butterfly wings, tracing along my inner thighs. An unfair distraction. Greg’s voice is growing husky as he says, “The laws have consequences, of course. We must follow them. But form, another man’s estimation, that is another thing entirely. And in our chamber, and in other places between ourselves, there are no witnesses to the law, so it ceases to exist.  We become the law.”
 
Heresy. Heresy to the point of apostasy. Greg is too clever by half. He knows things that he should not know. I cannot help but love him for it.
 
As James says, the idea that there are times or places in which you can ignore society’s code is an absolute heresy in this culture, to the point where it would be considered apostasy (abandonment of one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles, or a cause). Not to say that no one ever thinks this, or does it (James and Greg do it all the time, in how they interact when they’re alone), only that no one ever says it. James should be appalled by the statement, and probably would be if it came out of anyone else’s mouth. From Greg, he thinks it’s lovable. James is so, so messed up.
 
“You would have me carry two minds?” I have turned my head toward him and found his lips with my own. My words are spread between kisses, between licks across his tongue. “One way of speaking and behaving in private; another way out in the world?”
 
Greg wants to keep the status quo of what they’ve been doing. James should act like a man when he’s alone with Greg, and act like a woman when he’s with other people. They have so far been able to pull this off because James has stayed home a lot, but it’s been stressful for James every time he’s had to go in public, and even every time he’s had to be around Allison.
 
“Yes,” he replies, sighing at the touch of my hand on his chest. “As the activities of the bedroom stay in the bedroom.”
 
This makes me smile, my first smile since evening fell yesterday. “Yes, we are proficient in restraining those activities to the bedroom. Or the bath. Or the kitchen. Or the garden. Or on one occasion, our esteemed neighbor’s stairwell.”
 
Yet more public sex.  They can’t keep their hands off each other.  Hee!
 
I attempt to shift to my side, to get closer to Greg, but my worn flesh screams against the move, and I drop back onto my stomach. Greg sniffs, impatient, and reaches out. I have to close my eyes against the jolts of pain as he grabs my hips and turns me toward him. The flaring subsides after a moment, however, and the pain curls up like a cat.
 
1) Greg is not cruel to James but he can be very thoughtless in getting what he wants, as in when he makes James move here. 
2) I think “the pain curls up like a cat” is an original simile, but I often get nervous that I’ve stolen phrases from other places.
 
Before I can open my eyes, Greg’s mouth is on mine in a probing kiss, and his arms are pulling me ever closer. The feel of my bare skin against his rough clothes is an excitement I can barely stand. I lean into our kiss, making my own pursuit, but Greg pulls back.
 
He puts an inch of space between us and my body feels the deprival. Looking into his face, it’s clear he has a destination in mind. I am lost, but as always will trust in his certitude.
 
1) “Deprival” and “certitude” are real words that means “deprivation” and “certainty,” respectively, but I just like the sound of these better.
2) Just in case you were wondering, here’s James giving up his free will to Greg. The boy (girl) has it bad.
 
His eyes hold mine for a long moment, and then he speaks.
 
“James, I want evermore to have by my side the person to whom I made a lifelong vow. Your wit, your intelligence, your strength are the essence of you. I will do whatever it takes to ensure you are always with me.”
 
There’s Greg’s final word. He’s not going to let James take the safer, and probably healthier, path of throwing himself fully into the woman’s role. He loves James, and he’s also greedy. Greg wants it all: James as brother of choice and as bedmate; and it doesn’t matter if James has to pay the price.
 
His eyes are on me, and his hands and his lips, and the world may fall to Hell. Today is fading rapidly – the humiliation, the shame, the pain: what are those to endure, when my home is in the arms of one such as this? I will risk the pillory a thousand times more if this moment will be the result.
 
And James accepts it. Oh, James, you are in for a world of hurt.
deelaundry: (folder)
Part Three of the DVD commentary for “Around the World and Back Again.”
 
 
Final Note: Remix was awesome. I banged my head against the wall choosing a fic, worried and fretted while writing, made a goofy mistake and got yelled at by the remix coordinator – and I am absolutely signing up for this again next year.
 
“Around the World and Back Again” is one of my proudest achievements in fanfic. [personal profile] thedeadparrot provided an amazing story, and I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to retell it through another character’s eyes.
deelaundry: (folder)
Part Two of the DVD commentary for “Around the World and Back Again.”

Part Two )

Continued in the next post
deelaundry: (folder)
Welcome to the DVD commentary for “Around the World and Back Again,” which was written for the [community profile] remix_redux challenge. The original story was Singapore by [personal profile] thedeadparrot.
 
Going into it, I wasn’t sure how I’d handle remix, but knew that I didn’t want to do a simple POV switch. You know, switch a House/Wilson story from Wilson’s POV to House’s or vice versa. It’s been done excellently before, but I thought I should pursue more of a challenge.
 

Continued in the next post.

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