So, David, this set is dedicated to you. Because, um, it's full of stories you won't like! (Except you might like Phoenix Burning, actually; it's your kind of AU.)
The One That Explores Vulcan Teenage Sociodynamics in the Kind of Detail That Makes You Wonder if There's Already a Paper on It. Love Is Strange, by garryowen. Star Trek XI, James T. Kirk/Spock.
I have never seen Dirty Dancing. It was one of my father's favorite movies, so I am familiar with the general outline of the plot (there are people, and they dance!), and of course I've heard the quote "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Many, many times. But until I read this story, I thought that Baby said that line, in that emphatic third person people sometimes use. (So I would say, "Nobody tells thefourthvine not to use a serial comma!") I sort of pictured her pulling a knife out of her boot when she said it, to be honest. It - it really changes my impression of the movie and the line, to know that the guy said it.
Anyway. As you might have guessed from that incredibly fascinating digression, this is a Dirty Dancing AU. And it is awesome. I love this version of Spock, with his earlier exposure to humans (and to the ultimate vector of human-type feelings and also, I am absolutely convinced, super-kinky sexing, James T. Kirk). I love this entire story. It works as an AU because it's a believable backwards extrapolation - what is Spock like if he encounters humanity a little younger? (Kirk is actually just Kirk. I mean, for all we know, in addition to committing whatever felonies - NO I AM NOT MAKING ANY GUESSES - maybe he was dancing professionally during his pre-Pike years. I can totally believe that. It's hard to come up with a profession I couldn't believe he was doing during those years, although the ones that require a lot of schooling or, um, responsibility are kind of a stretch. It's a lot easier to buy, like, dance instructor, skilled second-story man, hacker, makeup salesguy, companion to the thirteenth Doctor - oh god I have to stop this RIGHT NOW. But you take my point.)
This story came with an awesome bonus, just for me. In between my first reading of it and the re-reading I did so I could rec it, I watched Journey to Babel. I had no idea, the first time I read this, how awesomely garryowen worked that episode into this story, or how much this is the perfect blend of TOS and Reboot. But, obviously, you can love this story even if you've never seen Journey to Babel. (Hell, you can love this story even if you've never seen any Star Trek, although I sometimes wonder if there's anyone in fandom who hasn't. But, in case there is, and that's you, a primer. Kirk: the captain. Spock: the alien. Ears: pointy. Love: eternal and true. There, you're ready to go.)
The One That Actually Made Me Go to YouTube and Put in "John Sheppard Free Skate." I More or Less Regained My Sanity, but Damn It, I Still Want to See These Routines. Out of Bounds, by icarus. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay.
This story nearly killed me. Because, okay, here's the thing: I do not read works in progress. I need to be able to wallow in a story, binge on it and, if necessary, even roll in it. I've learned that even if the story is finished and just being posted serially, my experience of reading it is different and less fun if I don't wait to read it, because: no wallowing! So I wait. And with this story, I waited for four years. (I think. Because I'm pretty sure this one started with the last winter Olympics.) But here is the thing: it was totally worth it. It was worth every sad face I made when an Out of Bounds update appeared and I had to remind myself, yet again, that I don't read works in progress. Because this story is awesome, and at more than 200,000 words, it deserves all the wallow I can bring to it. And, wow, did I bring a lot of wallow.
Plus, hey, clearly this is the time to read it, because it's topical. (Okay, sort of topical. But I still see people on my friends list talking about Johnny Weir, so topical is my story and I'm sticking to it.) Because: figure skating AU. Which is, by definition, awesome. (Yes, I am trying to imagine figure skating AUs in other fandoms, and - well. Arthur Pendragon as a figure skater? Awesome. James T. Kirk as a figure skater? So awesome it hurts. Sam and Dean as ice dancers? I - okay, I admit it, even I would read that, because of the awesome. But my point is: even those stories could not bring as much awesome as this one does.)
Admittedly, it's hard to imagine John Sheppard sparkling quite as much as Johnny Weir (Largely because no one can; I suspect Weir's a metahuman. Power? Supersparkle. And the convenient thing is he can just throw a cape on over his skating costumes and he's good to go fight - crime, or dullness, or visible roots, or douchebaggery, or whatever it is he fights.), but it's fun to try. I think we can all agree that what SGA was really missing, over the five seasons, was lamé and rhinestones.
Fortunately, this story will give you all of that. It's like every great sports movie you ever watched, except a) more epic b) more gay and c) starring John Sheppard and Rodney McKay. And I don't know about you, but for me, that's exactly what those movies were missing.
The One That Makes Me Wonder if There's an Old Slayers Home in the Jossverse Heaven, and What Exactly They Talk About There. Phoenix Burning, by yahtzee63. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy Summers/Angel. (ETA: Changed link to AO3, because it's more readable there.)
I don't ever want to be the person leaving a comment on a 4000 word McShep PWP that says, "This was really good! Except for the sex, man, I hate slash, and John and Rodney aren't gay and if they were they wouldn't be gay for each other, but still, this was good." So in general I try not to start off recs by listing all the reasons I shouldn't have liked the story. But in this case - yeah, I'm going to, because I want you to understand how wonderful this story must be.
First, I hardly read any Buffy or Angel fan fiction. (True fact: I am far, far more likely to write fan fiction in the Jossverse than read it. I don't even know why. I have written hundreds and hundreds of pages of the stuff, which for me is just a ton.) And, second, okay - I have problems pairing Buffy with anyone from the series. I just. I just do. The only character I ever feel comfortable seeing paired with Buffy is Faith, and her canon arc makes a happy ending there difficult. And, also, for some reason I cannot actually see any words on the screen at Yahtzee's website. (It's just - all white. I don't know why. I can still cut and paste the words, but I can't see them. I blame the internet gods.)
So, what with all those obstacles, I have had this story in my mental to-read folder for, oh, about three years or so. But recently someone mentioned it, and I do love the long stories these days. And, most of all, I have never read anything by Yahtzee that didn't leave me astonished and gleeful and simultaneously replete and wanting more. (You know the feeling: you close the book and you're so happy and you wish you hadn't read it so you could still have the pleasure in front of you.)
This story is, of all of Yahtzee's stories, the one that most left me feeling that way. It's AU from "The Gift," the episode in which - um, spoilers, by the way - Buffy dies. (Another spoiler, although probably this one is not going to surprise anyone: she doesn't stay dead.) It's set 350 years in the future. And it is incredible - right and true and awesome and just. Just. Amazing. I really don't want to say any more than that.
No, wait, I want to say one more thing. (Yes, I know, you're so surprised.) If you're like me, and you're waving this story away because you think it's something you wouldn't like: look, I hear you. I do. But even if this story is the kind of thing you don't like, you will still like it. It transcends its genres and categories and tags. Don't wait three years to read it. Now is a good time.
The One in Which Merlin Is Even Worse at Magic Than He Is in the Canon. Yes, It's Possible. Easy There, by syllic. Merlin, Merlin/Arthur Pendragon.
Okay, yes, this is the second sports AU in this set, and there is a reason: I love these. I love when someone takes another hobby of hers, a fandom outside of the usual run of media fandom - NASCAR, equestrian events, figure skating (although right now this probably counts as a mainstream fandom, thanks entirely to sparklepower), crewing - and writes a massive AU in it. (But where are all the non-sports alternate fandom AUs? I'm patiently waiting for the choral singing and competitive orchid growing ones. Surely there are fans with these hobbies! Surely they long to write epic AUs featuring said hobbies!) The writer loves the characters, and she loves the subject, and this pretty much always leads to glory.
It certainly leads to glory here. I had, prior to this, pretty much no interest in competitive rowing of any kind - seriously, a whole bunch of boat crews practice at the lagoon where I often take the earthling, and my only vague interest has been in what happens when you get sand under all that Lycra - but this gripped me. I cared deeply. And not just about getting Arthur's tab inserted in Merlin's slot without anyone breaking any fingers. (I am actually not a huge fan of awkward sex in most fandoms - I mean, I appreciate the realism, but I tend to cringe with embarrassment for the characters - but Merlin is wholly an exception, because Arthur and Merlin are just so incredibly dorky. And young. And speaking as someone who is dorky and was once young: the combination leads to a lot of hilariously awkward sex. Also hilariously awkward visits to medical professionals afterward, but there's none of that here, for which I am grateful.)
And Merlin (the show, although also the guy) lends itself especially well to AUs, I think because there's kind of an "AU goes here" label inserted into the canon itself. (I'm sorry, Malory and White and all the rest of you King Arthur writers, but what are we supposed to think with all the time jiggery-pokery and vague references to Arthur's return and so on? It's like you're begging us to write modern AUs, and future AUs, and also AUs set in Regency England (oh my god someone please tell me there's already Arthur and Merlin in Regency England), and we are just not that good at resisting temptation.) These are classic characters, and they work anywhere, and they definitely work so very well here. (Which is on boats. In case you forgot what I was writing about.)
Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comments.