Best FF That Shows Us That Hell Isn't Other People, It's Never Being Able to Get Away from Other People. And When You're Stuck in That Kind of Hell, the Last Thing You Need Is More Company: Opposites Attract, by penknife. X-Men movies, Jean Gray/Scott Summers, Jean Gray/Logan. This is from the Powerswap Challenge. And it's - see, one of the things that's least forgivable about the canon (all varieties of it) is how they've handled Scott. He's got Ideal Marvel Superhero written all over him - the angst, and then the mutant power, and then the added angsty angst angst. He's got traumatic brain injury that keeps his power from turning off! That's fuel for the angst, people. That right there should have informed his entire character, and it's easy to believe that it did, that his inability to control his power is the reason he's so anal and controlled otherwise. But instead of showing us what it feels like to be trapped in a mutant body - a broken mutant body, with a power that doesn't work right - the canon gave us Cardboard Cyclops. Thank god for FF writers. Here, Penknife shows us how much worse Scott's situation could be. And, in the process, she shows us a truly agonizing triangle, where it's impossible to tell need from love and where no one has any choices at all. This story is astonishing on first read - and then you start to think about it, and it gets even better. This is a perfect example of the character-switched AU, the kind in which one or two things are changed about each character, so that we can better see the real core of each person. It just doesn't get better than this.
The Best FF That Shows Us the Surprising Similarities Between Television and a War Zone (Not, I'd Wager, a Surprise to Anyone Who Actually Works in the Entertainment Industry), and Also Shows Us That a War Zone Really Is Hell: April in Paris (The Hemingway Remix), by iamsab. Sports Night, Natalie/Jeremy, Natalie/Danny. (No, wait, give this a chance. Seriously. I know it's het, and I know Natalie/Danny is creepy and wrong. But, believe me, this time it works.) Sabine has taken the Sports Night folks to Paris. During WWII. Not ballsy enough for you? Look at the subtitle. She's written them as Hemingway characters. Just sit back for a second and let that wash over you. Now that you're convinced this is the weirdest thing you've ever heard, know this: she pulls it off. The characters are all recognizable, all right - they're who they've always been, and they fit right in to WWII Paris. That Sabine managed to write this is pretty much proof that nothing is impossible in the right hands. It also means I will be sick with envy every time I so much as see the name Sabine or the word Paris for the rest of my life. This, people, is the world-switched AU at its finest: the characters we know and love in a setting, universe, and style only one person could ever imagine, and even then only if she'd taken a recent blow to her head.
Best FF That Shows Us What Archaeologists Already Know: If Things Are Made Right, They Outlast the People Who Made Them. Surprising That This Applies to Superheroes, Isn't It? The Mystery of the Bat, by basingstoke. D. C. Universe, gen. One of the most important things about Batman - and, just in general, about a lot of the DC heroes - is that he's not super. He's a normal human. OK, bad choice of words there. How 'bout twisty, half-crazed, tormented, Original Gothic Brand human? In any case, he has no special powers, just a lot of skill and money and a brain that uses logic but not sense, if you get my drift. Among other things, that means that Batman can die a lot easier than, for example, any of the X-Men, or Superman, or Spiderman. But it also means that anyone just as fixated and obsessed and motivated - if there is any such person - can be Batman, because it's the suit that matters, not the man inside it. I love this AU, even though (warning, folks!) it's got character death in it, because it shows that. And it gives us all our, or rather, my, favorite people, just ever-so-slightly different. Dick's still in Gotham, Babs is in the batsuit, and Tim's the anal-retentive Fox (Yes, the Fox! Hee!). And, as usual, Dick has all the heart and Tim has all the answers. So here's a fantastic example of another kind of AU, the fate-switched: the characters are all here, but a few minor changes in their lives - including, in this case, a literal flip of a coin - and somehow everything is simultaneously the same and re-arranged.
Best FF That Shows Us That You Never Get Tired of the Classics, or of Ray and Fraser in a Sweaty Environment: Two Men in a Boat, or Adventures on the African Queen, by sihayab. Due South, Ray Kowalski/Benton Fraser. The first reason I love this one is the idea of it. I mean, yes, when I saw the first half of the title I hoped it was going to be a take-off on Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, to Say Nothing of the Dog! (and I will love forever anyone who actually writes that: RayK, Fraser, RayV or Turnbull, and Diefenbaker on the Thames). But what it actually is - Fraser as Katherine Hepburn and RayK as Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen - is inspired lunacy, and I adore it even if Dief (renamed Mackenzie, for obvious reasons) is back in Canada. Because admit it: you can see Fraser as strait-laced, uptight missionary Hepburn, and you can also see Kowalski as a hyperactive version of Bogart. So here we have a great example of today's final kind of AU: the transplant, where the characters from one world are put into the story of another one. This one requires a very deft hand and very careful selection of the two worlds being blended, because the characters have to stay themselves and the story has to stay itself. I think you'll agree that Sihaya was fully up to the task.