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22 June 2011 @ 01:26 pm
FIC: Of Spectrums and Spoons [The Avengers]  
Title: Of Spectrums and Spoons
Author: atraphoenix
Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Nick Fury and Maria Hill
Rating: G
Summary: Natasha had been taught to pretend – to make eye contact and to act and respond just like she was supposed to act and respond - from an early age.

Author's Note: Written for this prompt on avengerkink. Special thanks go to sasha_lilyrat for her encouragement, her proof reading skills and her general awesomeness. For more information on the spoon theory, visit this wonderful website.



It was Bruce who noticed first, of course, but Tony was the next one to put the pieces together. That was partly because he was Tony Stark and he liked to keep a close eye on what was going on under his roof and partly because, as a child, it had been suggested that he was somewhere on the spectrum himself. He’d done his research at the time and, as an adult, he’d made sizable donations to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and been an outspoken critic of the ridiculous vaccination controversy. He’d once got into a heated argument – which he liked to think that he’d won, although Pepper had pointed out that it was impossible to have a logical debate with someone who was so hard headed and ignorant – with one of the board members from Autism Speaks at a party in Los Angeles. He was definitely not on Jenny McCarthy’s Christmas card list.

“I don’t care that Natasha’s autistic,” he griped, picking up a screwdriver to toss idly from hand to hand as he leaned against the laboratory bench. “I just want to know why she didn’t tell us.”

Bruce looked up from his microscope, removing his glasses with the long suffering sigh of someone who had realised that Tony Stark was up to something that would stop anyone else from getting any work done that day.

“Maybe because it’s nothing to do with us?”

“We’re supposed to be a team.”

“We are a team.” (If someone had told the Bruce of a year ago – the Bruce that had declared the Avengers Initiative to be a time bomb rather than a team – that he’d come to believe that wholeheartedly, he’d have laughed aloud.) “That doesn’t mean we have to tell each other everything.”

“We need to show her that we don’t think her autism makes her a liability.”

“As simple as that?”

Tony jabbed at him with the screwdriver. Bruce swatted it away with a roll of his eyes.

“Yes.”

“How?”

Tony shrugged.

“The plan’s still a work in progress.”

“Maybe you should talk to Clint. He’s known Natasha the longest.”

“Yeah, we should start there.”

“We?”

“Yes, we. Come on, jolly green. I’m calling a team meeting.”

***

It started with the perfume.

Five months after the battle against Loki and his Chitauri, and nearly two months after Jane Foster had completed the calculations required to open a permanent bridge between the Earth and Asgard, the Avengers had been rushed to Brazil for an urgent mission. They hadn’t had time to pack. They’d barely had a chance to prepare. They had been waiting for Fury’s helicopter to arrive when Bruce had noticed that this was having a negative effect on one member of the team in particular.

Natasha rarely relaxed. Given her profession, that was more than understandable. A relaxed assassin wouldn’t survive for long. This was different. She was anxious as well as typically tense. Bruce knew the difference. He was, after all, a bit of an expert on stress. He didn’t get a chance to ask what was wrong or how he could help, though. Before he could speak, Clint appeared, a travel sized bottle of perfume in his hand.

“I thought you might need this.”

He held out the bottle. In her eagerness to take it, Natasha all but snatched it out of his hand to dab a little on her throat and wrists. It wasn’t until much later that Bruce worked out that the perfume was an important part of her routine before missions. And that the positive and familiar scent kept her anchored in the potentially chaotic world of the battlefield.

***

He started to notice other things after that. It had been clear for a long time that Natasha didn’t speak unless she had something to say (and, sometimes, not even then). At first, Bruce had attributed her stoic silences to what she was rather than who she was. After all, assassins weren’t really known for being loquacious and she’d worked alone or with only Clint for company for as long as she’d been with SHIELD. She wasn’t used to being part of a group. She wasn’t used to having that many people to talk to. As the Avengers started to spend more time together both on and off duty, however, it became harder for Natasha to conceal the way that she occasionally went nonverbal. Or the way that she occasionally said a bit too much, even in inappropriate situations. (Nothing compared to Thor’s pronouncements or Tony’s antics, of course, but enough to attract Bruce’s attention now that he was keeping an eye out.) Or the way that she could occasionally be found with her knees hugged to her chest, rocking gently backwards and forwards. Or her rigid resistance to certain types of change.

She refused to be interrupted during her training routines and she was the last one of the group to move into the newly renovated Stark Tower. (Tony had done his best to make her rooms comfortable for her – “So, how many guns do you think you need to make a place homey?” – but she’d responded to his efforts with a cool indifference.) Maybe the change in accommodation had been one change too many. Maybe she had been unwilling to share a kitchen with a god who destroyed toasters on a weekly basis and ate an impossible amount of pop tarts. Bruce didn’t know and he certainly didn’t mind. The Black Widow was a consummate professional. None of the things that he’d picked up on inhibited her ability to do her job and do it well.

He wouldn’t have noticed anything if the Avengers hadn’t started to spend a lot of time together and that wouldn’t have happened if Natasha hadn’t started to trust her new team mates. They all needed time off, but Bruce got the impression that having so many people to spend her time off with was new to her. It had just been her and Clint for a long time. (Which was hardly surprising, given what he knew of her life before SHIELD. He didn’t know much about her past, but what he did known often felt like far too much.) She wasn’t sure how to act around her new friends, so she tried to act how she thought the world expected her to act.

It wasn’t going to be easy to prove that they were not only aware of her autism but accepting of it. And if they couldn’t, they wouldn’t be worthy of her trust.

***

It was with great trepidation that Clint made his way to the meeting that Tony had called, but, in the end, he didn’t have to make use of any of the threats that he’d had lined up in his head. The team had the utmost respect for Natasha. (They’d respected her from the moment that they’d met her – or, in Tony’s case, been introduced to Natasha instead of Natalie – even if they hadn’t necessarily liked her very much at first.) That wasn’t going to change just because there was a new label involved.

“So, that’s it?” he asked, looking from one to the other. “You don’t care?”

“Were we supposed to?” Bruce asked.

“I thought it would be more of an issue. So did Natasha.”

“Hey, why’s everyone looking at me?” Tony asked, “I’m not totally insensitive.”

(“That’s news to me,” Steve muttered, not quite under his breath.)

“Look, I don’t want to piss her off either,” Tony continued, not missing a beat, “And not just because I’m pretty sure she could kill me with her pinkie. We might be the world’s most dysfunctional family, but we’re still a family. It doesn’t matter where she is on the spectrum …”

“You know,” said Natasha from the doorway, “I’m pretty sure this is a conversation that I should have been included in.”

Her expression was so cold that even the normally unflappable Tony Stark hesitated when she stepped inside.

“Hey, Natasha. We were just …”

“I know what you were just discussing.”

“Tasha, it isn’t like that,” said Clint quickly, “They were just trying to work out how to let you know that they know.”

“Well, now I do.”

“It doesn’t change anything,” Tony continued, “We all know how good you are at what you do. The way you read people …”

“Which isn’t my ‘special skill’,” she interrupted, fixing Tony with a hard stare, “If that’s what you’re about to say. It’s my job. It’s something I’ve learned to do. And I’m good at it.”

To his credit, Tony looked suitably contrite.

“Point taken.”

“Look, Natasha,” said Bruce, speaking apologetically rather than defensively. “We weren’t having this meeting to try and decide what’s best for you. We just want to make sure you know that it isn’t going to be an issue.”

It was harder for her to stay angry at Bruce Banner than it was for her to stay angry at, for example, Tony Stark. He was so earnestly honest. He always tried to do the right thing. Not just because he wanted to atone for the damage that the Hulk caused, but because the alternative simply didn’t occur to him.

“I’ll have to take your word for it,” she said, eventually. “We’ll see if anything changes when we’re out in the field.

“It won’t.”

It was a promise. She wanted to believe him, but she’d been a professional liar for so long that she was used to thinking the worst of people.

“Like I said, we’ll see.”

The Black Widow left the meeting as quickly and as suddenly as she’d joined it.

***

“Well, that could have gone better,” said Tony, breaking the awkward silence that followed her departure.

“I can understand why Natasha didn’t say anything,” said Steve, eyeing Clint thoughtfully. He’d been surprisingly quick to grasp the concepts that Tony had wanted to discuss. It had turned out that Steve had passed an anti vaccination picket during one of his many trips exploring and reacquainting himself with New York. Given how sickly he’d been as a child, it wasn’t a surprise that he was a supporter of vaccination. Bruce also suspected that the ‘cure’ rhetoric that was endemic to the movement had reminded Captain America of some of the attitudes he’d seen in Germany. “But why didn’t you tell us? We’re a team.”

“It’s not my business, it’s hers. Besides, I didn’t know how you’d react. I mean, I was pretty ignorant until I took an arrow in the knee.”

“Wait, you play Skyrim?” Tony interjected, to blank looks from the rest of the group.

It was Bruce that tried to repair the conversation that Tony had derailed.

“Natasha shot you?”

“No, a rogue agent did. Tasha saved my life. There’s no one I’d rather have watching my back. I don’t give a damn what her medical records say.”

“Neither do we,” said Steve, firmly.

“I am glad we shall all rally to defend the Lady Romanoff’s honour,” said Thor, speaking for the first time in a low rumble. “Even though she has no need of our protection, that is what allies should do. I have only one question.”

“Which is?” asked Tony, speaking in the tone of someone who knew exactly what was coming next.

“What is this spectrum of which you speak?”

***

Bruce slipped away while Tony and Clint were using an old fashioned game of rock, paper, scissors – “Come on, Barton! That wasn’t fair. Best out of three?” – to decide who had to try and explain autism (and, by extension, neurodiversity and ableism) to a well meaning but thoroughly confused demigod. He came from a warrior culture and Bruce suspected that he’d have trouble understanding why anything less than a limb lost in battle would even be considered a disability. He’d manage it, though. Despite his ongoing battle with the toasters of Stark Tower, Thor was far from unintelligent and he had a good heart underneath all that muscle.

He found Natasha in the gym, sitting on one of the benches with her knees pulled to her chest, rocking gently back and forth.

“What happened?” she asked. She didn’t turn her head to look at Bruce when he sat down next to her. “I know Clint won’t have talked. Did Stark hack my medical records?”

“Actually, we worked it out.”

Worked it out?” she repeated, fists clenching in anger.

He nodded.

“You don’t have to be angry because you didn’t … what? Act ‘normal’ enough to fool us?”

Her stony silence was an answer in itself.

“Look at the people you’re working with, Natasha. There’s Tony Stark, Captain America, one of the world’s best professional assassins and the god of thunder.”

“And you.”

“And me.” Bruce gave her a wry smile. “And together we protect the world from aliens and supervillains. What do any of us know about normal any more?”

***

From an early age, Natasha had been taught to pretend – to make eye contact and to act and respond just like she was supposed to act and respond – but, in the end, that wasn’t what she’d learned. She’d learned to play a thousand different roles. She’d learned to trick people into seeing exactly what they wanted to see and to use their foolishness and vulnerability to uncover exactly what her employers wanted to know.

As she got older, it became even easier. Not just because she’d had more time to learn how to read people but because she was beautiful, apparently. When her targets saw her beauty, they didn’t see anything else until it was far too late for them. The real Natasha – the girl who had once been Natalia Romanova and who had sat in silence while the other orphans in the Red Room wept and screamed, lining up her toys in the same way that she now lined up her weapons – and her habits remained largely unchanged. Everything that people thought they knew about her was a mask. An act. Until meeting Clint and joining SHIELD, she had never stayed in one place long enough for anyone to catch a glimpse of who she really was.

She’d saved Clint’s life on a bloody battlefield in Volgograd and, three months later, he’d disobeyed a direct order from his superiors in order to pay off his debt to her. He’d even encouraged them to offer her employment instead of a prison cell. It wasn’t an equal trade. She might have saved his life, but he’d given Natasha a life that she’d never had in the first place. She could fight by his side for a thousand years and never pay off that sort of debt.

That wouldn’t stop her from trying.

Somewhere along the difficult road from their first meeting to the Avengers Initiative, mutual respect had developed into a real friendship. SHIELD were the ones who had diagnosed something that she hadn’t realised needed a diagnosis, but that wasn’t the moment when everything had changed. It was only a label. Everything had changed when she’d let Clint in on the secrets of the routine that she always followed before a mission. (She’d followed it for as long as she could remember. Daily routines weren’t really an option for someone with her career, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t fond of routines in general.) Neither of them had commented on the intimacy of the moment – they never would – but they knew what it meant. It meant that she trusted him. It meant that she’d really let him in.

Despite her relative disinterest, Natasha had done her own research into autism after receiving her diagnosis. For every website that had struck a chord with her and every story that had been almost familiar, Natasha had found a stereotype or assumption that made her grit her teeth. On the whole, however, it didn’t bother her. The people who mattered weren’t that stupid and the people who were that stupid were usually marks on a mission. She never let them see anyone other than her assigned persona and she rarely saw them again when her business was concluded.

She could only think of one moment when ableist ignorance had made her snap. It was a relatively recent memory and, consequently, still raw. She’d been on edge since Clint’s disappearance and one of the few members of SHIELD to have read the contents of her file expressed surprise when it came to her concern for him. She’d reacted so quickly that Coulson and Fury hadn’t had a chance to reprimand him before she’d grabbed him by the throat.

(“Oh, I have emotions. Can you guess what this one is? This one is anger. My partner is missing. I’m autistic, not a robot. Of course I’m worried.”)

She had emotions and she understood emotions, even if she didn’t always enjoy them. The fear of losing Clint, the best friend that she’d never expected to have, had been more palpable and terrifying than any other fear that she’d ever felt.

***

Glancing over at Bruce, she saw that he was looking up at the ceiling instead of at her, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. The Avengers were the first people since Clint that she’d found herself caring about. She’d started to trust them, so she’d put up a mask to hide anything that might make them think less of her. That might lead to her losing them.

After a long pause, she finally replied.

“You’ve got a point,” she admitted.

Bruce turned his head, giving her a glimpse of his familiar self deprecating smile.

“It has been known to happen.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” He gave her a softer, warmer sort of smile. “It’ll be ok, you know.”

“I know.”

One day, she’d probably believe that.

***

The Security Council were on the line again.

Nick Fury stepped away from the central console of the air ship and into a small side chamber that had been set up specifically for these calls. He hated these calls. Didn’t he have enough work to be getting on with?

Although, in theory, SHIELD worked for the council, Fury made sure that he kept a close eye on what the individual members were up to. Just in case. He knew, for example, that one of the esteemed members was having an affair with another. And he knew that they’d been reading the medical files of the individual Avengers very recently. Which was what this waste of time was going to be about.

“Director Fury. We’d like to know why we weren’t informed about …” He paused. It was the pause of someone who knew that he was about to say something offensive but was too ignorant to stop himself. “Agent Romanoff’s condition earlier.”

“That would be because it’s a non issue,” said Fury, implacably. The Avengers had put the pieces together a few days ago and, as Steve had so emphatically stated when Fury had asked if the new information was going to cause any trouble within the team, knowing the truth didn’t change ‘a damn thing’. “Romanoff is one of the finest agents we’ve got.”

(Besides, given the assorted dysfunctions of the rest of the team, Agent Romanoff was the least of his worries.)

“Nevertheless, the council thinks it would be a good idea to remove her from duty until we can be certain that she will not be a liability in the field.”

“She’s never been a liability before,” he pointed out, darkly. “And this is the same council that thought it would be a good idea to fire a nuclear weapon at a civilian population?”

He didn’t smile, but he felt a certain degree of satisfaction when they struggled to reply.

“Director Fury …”

“If you try and take her off the team,” he interrupted, “You’re going to have five extremely pissed off superheroes out for your blood. And you won’t like any of them when they’re angry, believe me.”

“This is your decision, Director. You will be held accountable for what happens next.”

Nothing is going to happen. The Avengers are going to carry on doing what they do and you’re going to regret the day you tried to bring your bigotry into my organisation.”

“Your organisation?”

“Yes, my organisation. SHIELD is my organisation. The Avengers Initiative is my project. I put the team together and I’m proud of every single one of them.”

They blustered for a little longer, but Fury hadn’t given them much room to manoeuvre and they seemed eager for him to bring the discussion to an abrupt close. When he turned away from the wall of screens, he found Agent Hill waiting for him in the doorway to accompany him on the journey back to the deck.

“Proud of them, sir?”

“Hill, if you tell Stark I said that, I’ll make sure you’re on desk duty for the rest of your career.”

“Understood, sir.”

***

As soon as he’d understood the basics, a well meaning Thor had asked Clint if there was anything that he could do to make Natasha’s life easier. Clint’s response had been a vague shrug – “Why don’t you ask Tasha? She knows herself best.” – but, as usual, the demigod had not been deterred. Which was why he was currently sitting at the dining room with Clint, Natasha and the contents of the cutlery drawer.

The spoons were lined up in a row in front of him.

“And how many spoons will it cost me to prepare for a battle?”

“We’ll make it three,” said Natasha, removing them from the line.

“More if he wants to style his hair first,” called Tony from the doorway, waving at the trio as he passed on the way to the laboratory.

“Four,” amended Clint, taking away another spoon. “Which means you’ve only got six left for after the battle.”

“Five if you count the one you always keep in reserve.”

Thor furrowed his brow, regarding the spoons intently before looking back up at Natasha.

“Lady Romanoff, your comrades in arms will always be there to help you find an extra spoon when you have need of it.”

“I know,” she murmured.

As Clint squeezed her hand under the table and Thor gazed at her with guileless acceptance, Natasha realised that she was starting to believe that.
 
 
( 29 — Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow? )
(Anonymous) on June 22nd, 2012 02:05 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. God. Let me love you. Well writen fic about a female neurodivergent character, it's like the holy grail.

I can't praise this enough. So much of it rang true, especially (unfortunately) all the little moments of ableism. The unnamed SHEILD Agent who was surprised Natasha could feel anything, I've had similar reactions so often, sadly I've never been able to snap back at the idiots like she did. I also really like Thor here, and that he does ask Natasha when Clint makes the suggestion, and then offers to help her on her own terms rather than try and offer her a "better way" of doing it. (Something I've come across too)

Basically I could sit and quote the whole thing and tell you how great it, and you, are but I'm hopelessly inarticulate so I'm just going to tell you this made my whole day <3
The Island of the Fay: [disney] mulan and mushuatraphoenix on June 22nd, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC)
And I'm just going to flail happily, because how else can I respond to such a lovely comment? I wanted to make it as realistic as possible, so I'm both glad it rang true and sorry you've had to deal with that sort of ignorance youself.
snack_size: dont see how thats a partysnack_size on June 22nd, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
This was so well written - both in terms of style and content, and all of the characters were really...true, I guess. I loved the interaction between Bruce/Natasha and how it sort of paralleled the more unsuccessful ones they had in the movie.

And I really appreciated the ending - I've been so low on spoons lately (spectrum/physical health problems) and it gave me a smile to see it show up. Thor, at the end, was so squeezable, and I like how you wrote him, thoughtful but still toaster-destroying... :)

Thanks so much for this, and the honest portrayal of neurodiversity!
The Island of the Fay: [avengers] science brosatraphoenix on June 22nd, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
This was a wonderful comment to find in my inbox, thank you! I'm so glad you liked it. (Especially the spoon scene. That was definitely my favourite to write. I wanted an ending that was sweet and fluffy without being too ridiculous and I'm very glad it made you smile.)

Edited at 2012-06-22 11:09 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on June 22nd, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
I know this will sound ridiculous but your use of the spoon theory rocked my world to it's core. I've used spoon to deal with my various other issues (fibromyalgia and depression) but somehow never translated that same idea to my HFA.

Basically A+++ plus for this, I agree with that first anon, this sort of fic is the holy grail of fandom.
The Island of the Fay: [disney] best day everatraphoenix on June 22nd, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
It doesn't sound ridiculous at all! This comment has, without a doubt, made my day. Thank you very much.

(My friend suggested linking you to this post, which is the spoon theory tailored specifically to autism. It's a great read and you might find it interesting and / or useful.)

Edited at 2012-06-22 11:01 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on June 24th, 2012 06:55 am (UTC)
*gives you a standing ovation*

I have no words for how AWESOME this fic is. Only a million hearts.

<3 x 1,000,000!

Um, but in all seriousness, I'm an autistic fangirl who came here from avengerkink. I'd been avidly watching the prompt to see if it got filled, and my joy (and handflapping) when I saw the link to this page was INTENSE.

The way you have managed to stay completely true to canon and yet conduct a convincing exploration into how autism would intersect with Natasha's life.... I am really, really moved. I have zero expectations of encountering (even subtextually/potentially) autistic female characters when I consume my media, so I hadn't considered the possibility for her.

But with your fic running through my head, I've been able to reevaluate, and I have decided that this is now my personal headcanon. It explains SO MUCH about her logical outlook (that nonetheless manages to incorporate those she cares about) and how she is able to seem so "blank" when she is manipulating people. And I LOVE how you incorporate that aspect of her character, without flinching from it at all! Autistics CAN AND DO learn to use emotions as tools!

But honestly, my favorite part here is absolutely Natasha explaining her situation to Thor via spoon theory. I had actually never encountered that analogy before I clicked on the link AND IT HAS HELPED ME SO MUCH ALREADY.

And “Lady Romanoff, your comrades in arms will always be there to help you find an extra spoon when you have need of it.”? Smiling so very much right now, I can hear him saying this perfectly and it gives me so many warm fuzzies. ^___________________^

So basically this has made my week and I am so grateful and happy you filled the prompt. THANK YOU!
The Island of the Fay: [disney] who needs a prince anyway?atraphoenix on June 29th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
*blushes hugely*

I had to fill it. Partly becaue it needed to be written - and written respectfully, which isn't necessarily the same thing - and partly because the discussions that accompanied the prompt were absolutely perfect. It reaffirmed my faith in the internet.

That was probably my favourite part to write. I really wanted the Avengers to be accepting as well a supportive. And warm fuzzies are always good.

Thank you for reading and commenting!
Truthmaker: Loki Puny Godtruthmaker on June 24th, 2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thanks for the link. Off to read now.

And thank you for sharing this. It was so incredibly awesome to read.
The Island of the Fay: [discworld] fantasyatraphoenix on June 29th, 2012 11:38 am (UTC)
You're welcome! I hope you find it interesting and I'm really glad you enjoyed it.
half-pint horror: ShAmy smooch <3raqs_loki on June 25th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC)
goddamn this just makes so much sense. I love it. very touching, beautifully written, and thoughtful approach to the subject matter. also, many feels for spoon theory :)
The Island of the Fay: [disney] gleefulatraphoenix on June 29th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you thought so. (And that is an adorable icon, too.)
(Anonymous) on June 29th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)
As a woman on the spectrum, I agree with many of the above comments, that this fic really is the holy grail- good, non-stereotypical portrayals of people on the spectrum, and ANY portrayal of women on the spectrum, are sadly rare.

Autism is poorly portrayed in most media, as well as in fanworks and even characters in RPGs- it's subject to some narrow stereotyping, and it seems there's only two types of people with high-functioning autism/Asperger Syndrome, and anyone fitting one of those types is exactly like everyone else with that type. It's usually seen as something that only guys have, and it's usually seen as stagnant, and stuff that those of us with autism have difficulty picking up or learning is usually skewed to things we're incapable of picking up or learning, or that all people with HFA/AS have EVERY symptom of it. For the record, I suck at math, I'm fairly feminine in some respects, particularly when it comes to clothes/jewelry/makeup, I'm good at lying (except to my mom sometimes, but that's because SHE KNOWS EVERYTHING) and have no qualms about doing so if I need to, and yes, I feel emotions.

Can I just say I love that you point out the godawful "AUTISTICS DON'T HAVE EMOTIONS" stereotype is complete BS? I have feelings, and even *gasp* express them? We sometimes express our feelings differently, but that doesn't make us emotionless. And yes, sometimes we even cry (I recently cried during a certain scene in Brave that I won't say for spoilery reasons). Sorry for the tl;dr, but I have a lot of feelings about how autism is portrayed, and the fact that you dealt with it so nicely makes me so happy.
The Island of the Fay: [atwood] nolite te bastardesatraphoenix on June 29th, 2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, you're right. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen the subject covered badly, but I could probably count on the fingers of one the hand the number of times that I've seen the opposite. The unfeeling / lack of emotions stereotype is probably the one that make me the angriest, but they're all unhelpful and damaging in different ways and to varying degrees.

I'm so happy you thought I handled the prompt well, particularly since I'm allistic (though not neurotypical). I consider myself an ally with a reasonable knowledge of the spectrum and the prejudices that people on it face, but even the most well meaning person can make mistakes sometimes. (I’m lucky enough to have a brilliant beta who also happens to be a Black Widow fan, a disability rights activist and on the spectrum herself.)

(Ooh, Brave! I can't wait until that comes out in the UK. August seems like a long way away.)
healer_twilight: Momohealer_twilight on June 30th, 2012 11:16 am (UTC)
This is really awesome. Really, REALLY awesome. I see that you've already recieved bunches of glowing comments from people and several personal stories, so I thought I'd share mine.

Let me start by saying I'm 25 now, and we think I have Aspergers. It's not a formal dignosis, since we don't live in a very well developed area, and haven't been able to actually find a doctor to dignose me, nor could we afford to see one right now anyway. We've done a fair bit of research on our own, though.

For nearly all of my life I've had, shall we say, 'problems' and we (my family and I) had absolutly NO CLUE what the hell was wrong with me... Just that I didn't react like an 'normal' person to certain things, and while perfectly intelligent, was unable to function in certain situations for long. I'd heard of autism of course, but wasn't aware until pretty recently how broad a range of peole it covered.

And actually knowing that, Hey, there are other people out there who can't stop talking one minute, then have to force out words the next, and listen to the same song a thousand times, or just DON"t GET IT when someone says one thing, but really means the opposite. My mother in particular, has trouble understanding why it is that I can read a situatuion in a book and understand with perfect clarity, but when faced with a similar situation in real life be unable to understand a persons physical ques with any regularity (I'm a fairly good guesser, but after a bit most people seem to figure out I'm faking it...) *Shrugs*

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for writing this, and WELL. I saw the prompt when it was first posted, and was half afraid that, if it even got filled at all, it would badly written or clichely stereotyped, or even that it wouldn't be treated as a serious issue and devolve into a crack fic. I was so happy to see it done right.
ladyiscaylis324ladyicsaylis324 on August 2nd, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC)
Hear, Hear. I'm an Aspie myself, and this story struck a chord in me that none of the others managed.

My mother good-naturedly calls me her part-time Aspie, since I'm extremely high functioning even compared to other Aspies (For example, not only do I understand and recognize sarcasm, I am a very fluent speaker.) But that doesn't mean that I'm not still affected by it every day (such as listening to the same song ten million times). The spoon theory might not apply to me (in fact I had to look it up) but my interactons with everyone around me are forever overshadowed by this. I have few friends and a tendency to bury myself in stories. My stepmother still seems to think I'm a bit of an overgrown spoiled brat because--since I live with my mother--she dones't have to deal with me on a regular basis and see just how defined by this I am. I doubt she even bothered with more than a cursory overview of the symptoms.

Knowledge is the only cure for ignorance. When my diagnosis was first tenatively broached, my parents just heard 'autism' and couldn't find someone else fast enough to tell them otherwise. I've been under the labels of ADHD, Depression, and Bipolar before my parents finally swallowed the truth. I will forever wonder what my life would have been like if they had been strong enough to face it sooner.

So thank you. Stereotypes do no one any good, and only cause countless people needless pain. People cannot see the truth if no one tells them the truth, so I applaude all those who can find it in themselves to speak out.
sweetwatersongsweetwatersong on July 11th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
This fic showcases some of the reasons why I love fandom because it allows me to see through someone else's eyes in ways I can't normally, and because through it I meet those who can teach me so much. My experience with autism and other disabilities is very limited; I've never thought much about the issues involved, the difficulties and discrimination that may arise. I'd like to believe that I don't treat anyone differently, but I may be having my own little moments of ableism without realizing it.

Getting to read this fic and the comments has made me more aware of these issues, of what life is like for those with autism or disabilities. It's wonderful to meet other fans of these kickass characters and hear what their experiences are like. That may not have been your original intention in writing this, but it's really helpful and eye-opening. I love my best friend's little brother to pieces, but I know that reading a fic about someone with Down syndrome would help me see what life is like through his eyes. The spoon theory link was really helpful too; basically, thank you for writing this, writing it well, and getting me to think about these things.
(Anonymous) on July 11th, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
beautifully done. ty for pointing out that yes, we do have feelings, even if we do not have the ability to express them. also, love the way you managed to get in a small reference to the horrible, horrible Autism Speaks.

Fics like this mean a lot to us autistics, because it helps get out the word that the stereotypes are not true - and they only keep many, many of us in the closet. I am commenting anonymously because I am on the spectrum, but I do not have the job or the life where I can be open about being autistic.
our roads may be golden, or broken, or lost: Liberty + Justice OTPelliemurasaki on July 15th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
THIS IS DELIGHTFUL.
liarashadowsongliarashadowsong on July 16th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
I sort of wandered over here from avengerskink, because the prompt sounded interesting, and... This is a fantastic fic. Really, really great. Although I think I'll understand the last scene better if I do some research on that spoon theory, and then re-read.
ilovewalesilovewales on August 13th, 2012 08:38 am (UTC)
Wow. Just wow. And yessssssssss. I was diagnosed with Aspergers very recently, and it's so good have an example. I was fascinated by the spoon theory when I looked it up and although it doesn't apply to me particularly, it works brilliantly for my autistic friend and the two people I know with ME. Back on topic, it's amazing to see an awesome fic about a female autistic character :) I wish there were more in the media. Great fic :)
Sharonekamianya on August 22nd, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
This is fantastic. It rings so true to all the characters.
Most of all, I nearly flipped out in joy just at the title-I love the spoon theory (I've used it to explain day to day life dealing at times with an invisible illness and many of my friends have been nknown to use the phrase "I'm out of spoons"), and I think the use of it for the interaction with Thor was BRILLIANT.
tamakitotamakito on September 7th, 2012 04:05 am (UTC)
Thiiiis is truly amazing and moving.
renata kedavra!renata_kedavra on September 30th, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
This is such a great fic! Yay! A friend rec'd it to me when I mentioned that I re-watched Avengers and thought Natasha seemed like she was on the spectrum. Glad to see others have interpreted her that way too.

And the way you did it was so smart and fitting. Perfect characterization of everyone. Hooray!
Silvainsilvainshadows on October 25th, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)
This is basically my favorite thing ever. There are seriously no words for how much I love this, it is amazing and pretty much hit me right in the heart.
jabberwockpiejabberwockpie on November 27th, 2012 08:22 am (UTC)
I want to state up front that I was really leery of reading this because it's hard to get it right and some people just don't even try.

I've been diagnosed as Asperger's (among other issues) but nobody really noticed and got a diagnosis until I was an adult. (Well maybe "noticed" isn't right. Put all of the pieces together, maybe?) And my brother, Sam, is 11 years younger than me and his difficulties are more apparent than mine were, so he was actually diagnosed when he was a little kid.

So I was wary of reading this, but you did a great job! I thought this was a really interesting interpretation of Natasha's character.

For every website that had struck a chord with her and every story that had been almost familiar, Natasha had found a stereotype or assumption that made her grit her teeth.
Yes, exactly like that.

I want to flying-tackle-hug Tony for pissing off Jenny McCarthy. There is just no universe in which that is NOT awesome. (Admittedly Tony seems to enjoy pissing people off, but that doesn't make it less awesome.)

“Lady Romanoff, your comrades in arms will always be there to help you find an extra spoon when you have need of it.”
Thor learning spoon theory is both adorable and touching. I adored this line.

And Clint is just generally very sweet and respectful about everything.

But now I just wish I had Natasha's assassin skillset to deal with asshats who treat my brother badly or say shitty things when we're in public or are ALLEGEDLY trained to teach special ed and don't know shit.

Lately Sam has been being a brat and misbehaving because he's 14 (and teenagers are evil) and NOT because he's autistic. I can tell the difference and I CAN NOT BELIEVE that I actually had to explain this to his teacher. No, not all of his problems are because he's autistic! (I do love my brother, don't get me wrong. I've effectively been his second parent since he was born. I just wish that this teenage pissiness phase would pass like, right now.)

Incidentally, I had to buy the stupid $50 ($45 on sale) Avengers Target Exclusive 8-pack for my brother for Christmas because it's the only way to get the Black Widow action figure (she comes with the other Avengers, Nick Fury, and Loki). Because he loved the movie but if he didn't have the whole team he would be Very Upset. (His favorite scene is when Hulk is smashing Loki.) And it's not a being selfish thing so much as he REALLY WANTS (needs?) things in complete sets.

I'm sorry, I get verbose when I'm tired and I've been annoying people by talking way too much about my baby brother pretty much since he was born. But I wanted to say what a great job you did on your story.
whitchry9whitchry9 on August 23rd, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful. I've never even thought of Natasha as being on the spectrum, so this is a wonderful read.
Also, go Tony for taking on Jenny McCarthy.
I've never heard of the spoon theory before, so that was interesting to note.
And oh my goodness could I love Thor more? I just want to hug him and feed him pop tarts forever.
Gingerxyzgingerxyz on November 6th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for this. This is really wonderful and respectful and fits surprisingly well with canon. As many other people have mentioned, there really is such a lack of female characters on the spectrum (I actually can't think of any) and while I have come across a few fics involving autistic portrayals of characters, none of them have been anywhere near as good as this (though some of them were okay-ish rather than awful). This was a really nice and unexpected surprise. Now I just need to find a good portrayal of a gay female aspie and I might just die of happiness. (We do actually exist! Though I very much doubt I'll ever get to see such a character in mainstream media. Maybe some day...)

I particularly liked Thor learning spoon theory (especially the mention of always keeping a spoon in reserve, that's something I try to be very careful about, because you never know when something unexpected will happen and you'll really need it). Also everyone being really supportive of Tasha and standing up for her. Also thank you so much for tackling the whole "we don't have emotions" misconception. That's one that I find to be particularly hurtful.

Honestly, the first time I read this I felt that I didn't have much in common with the Natasha portrayed in this fic but while writing this comment I kept realising how many little details I could relate to.
killiarakilliara on November 20th, 2013 08:31 am (UTC)
Thank you.
This is beautiful and made me tear up a little. Do you mind if I friend you just from this fic? Here from the TVtropes fanfic reccomendation page.