I love the OTW - I volunteer for them, in fact - and I love what we do there. But most of all, I love the idea that someday, the works I recommend will be mostly hosted on the Archive of Our Own (soon to enter open beta!), and I won't have to post knowing that in a year or so, half the links will be broken. You have no idea how awesome that would be. Donate to the OTW! Do it on behalf of your fannish recommenders!
The One That Makes Me Feel Guilty That I Wasn't Paying More Attention in 1999.Sixteen Days in September, by tevere. Generation Kill, Brad Colbert/Nate Fick.
This story is amaaaaaazing. It isn't always easy to read - because I am a wimp, there are places I totally had to skip - but it's gritty and so believable it hurts. It's an AU; instead of joining the Marines, Nate joins the Peace Corps. And gets sent to East Timor, on the eve of the independence vote. (And if you're thinking, East Timor? Independence vote?, well, I am not surprised. The only reason I knew anything about East Timor before reading this story was that I looked it up on Wikipedia because tevere lives there. But, fortunately, you don't need to know about the country to read this.)
The great part about this story, though - okay, one of the great parts - is that it's so much like the canon. I don't think I've ever seen an AU achieve such perfect parity with the canon's tone and content. It's astonishing. I'm reading Generation Kill right now, and this story perfectly matches its blend of great characters, moments of human triumph, and screaming fucking incompetence. (My basic reaction to Generation Kill is that human beings are not competent or organized enough for war. When I am the secret ruler of the world, I will require people to prove that everyone in their chain of command has intelligence and common sense. If they can't, sorry! No war. It sucks, but if you can't find your ass with both hands, a GPS unit, and a scale map, you can't have any guns.)
I do need to warn you, though - the independence of East Timor was not pleasantly and easily achieved, and this story reflects that. If you know the Generation Kill canon, well, there will be nothing worse here than you've seen or read there. If you don't, you can still read this story, and I encourage you to - this is one of those things that is worth it - but do pay close attention to the story header.
The One That Makes Me Wish I Had a Shirt with Fake Tits on It. (Although at the Moment I Have All the Boob I Need. Thanks, Breastfeeding!) To Let, by amand_r. Torchwood, Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones.
You know how good this story is? The whole thing is told in second person, which would normally be enough to drive me to stockpile weapons and tack great big maps up in my (non-existent, because we live in California, and believe me, this was a major source of bitterness throughout my childhood) basement, but here, I don't even notice. Seriously. Every time I re-read this story, which I do a lot (because it is wonderful), I am surprised once again that it is in second person.
Telling a story longer than ten words in second person is one of those things where, if you have to ask if you're good enough, you're not. Fortunately, amand_r is, in fact, entirely good enough. She probably has extra talent she has to store in old spaghetti sauce jars because she can't fit it all in her head at one time.
Because, really, this story is just plain awesome. I love the outsider view of Torchwood, and, frankly - and I know this is a major crime for a fan, tantamount to admitting you secretly want your canon to get cancelled - I love the original character, who is interesting. And even canonical characters aren't always interesting. (Sometimes it seems to me that a major function of fan fiction writing is making a two-dimensional character, you know, three-dimensional. So if we can do that, and we can, why do we tell each other we can't write original characters? I get confused about that.)
There's also a coda, linked at the end. I actually like the coda, especially in light of Recent Canonical Events, but, well. If you are, like me, of a sensitive disposition, you might want to pay close attention to the warnings. (Although if you're like me, you'll read it anyway, and you probably will not be sorry.)
The One That Makes Me Wonder Where the Great Chefs Go When They Die. I Mean, It Can't Be Hell, Because Then There'd Be Good Food There, but Most of Them Are Not What Me Might Term Heaven-Qualified. City of Sinners, by kaneko. Oz, Tobias Beecher/Christopher Keller.
So if you know how Oz ended, you know that a post-series happily-ever-after for Beecher and Keller is, shall we say, slightly unlikely. (If you don't, you should still read this - it's that good - but you'll have have to just trust me: not likely.) Which is why I am kind of astonished that Kaneko managed to make one. Oh, it's not the perfect happily-ever-after - there's no ice cream or anything - but then, I think Keller and Beecher had kind of reached a place where they couldn't take that. Some people really can't have nice things, and if you're not that kind of person when you get into prison, I would imagine you are after you've been there a while. Beecher and Keller sure were.
So this is their kind of happily-ever-after. Which is, okay, in hell. But! It’s not a bad hell, as hells go, and, really, they wouldn't fit in in heaven. (Plus, they'd probably have to be quarantined; otherwise, they'd have a terrible effect on the angels.)
Plus, I just love the world-building (Can I use that term in this case? Do I mean plane-building?) here. This is totally a hell I can believe in. If I, you know, believed in hell. Anyway. My point is: this is a wholly awesome story.
And I would think that this kind of went without saying - I mean, if you have a story that's set in the afterlife, certain warnings are just not necessary - but, okay, yeah. There's some character death in this.
The One That Makes Me Very, Very Glad I Am Not a Vulcan. Fever, by penknife. Star Trek, Amanda/Sarek. (Does Amanda have a last name? I'm not even going to get into it with Sarek - I've learned that with Vulcans, it's better to just take the information they give you and be happy - but Amanda comes from earth. Surely she's got a last name.)
Soooo. Pon farr is one of those things that seems to have been made for fan fiction writers. Slashers, particularly. It's like the writer of that episode - holy shit, Wikipedia says Theodore Sturgeon, and frankly I would not in any way be surprised to hear that this is exactly what he did - sat down and said to himself, "How can I make sure that Star Trek is a fandom for the ages? And maybe get Spock a little more love from the ladies? Although, frankly, if the lady fans loved him any more, there could be riots. But then, I like a good riot." And then he thought of pon farr.
And if that was his plan, it worked. I am brand-new to the Star Trek fandom, compared to its overall tenure on this planet, and I have already read, I would estimate, thirteen thousand pon farr stories. It's like catnip to the fan writer's hindbrain.
The thing is, though - I've enjoyed pretty much all the pon farr stories that didn't spell Spock Spuck. But. Well. I never really thought about what pon farr would be like - for Joe Vulcan, for his mate (the lovely Jane Vulcan, or the equally lovely Jack Vulcan if Vulcans swing that way, or, in this case, the awesome Amanda Probably Has a Last Name but I Don't Know It).
This story is short, but it packs a hell of a wallop. And, really, I guess all pon farr stories should carry a dubcon warning - pon farr is the sex pollen you carry along with you! - but this one plays with that edge a little more than most.