Plus, of course, I learn valuable tips from established-relationship FF. I doubt I will have much use, in my future life, for tips on coping with sudden penguin transformations and the gay relationships they lead to (although I didn't mind learning anyway, and, hey, knowledge is good), but I'm sure I can find a way to use themed food terror to improve my marriage.
Well. Except I'm not really sure modeling myself on Lex Luthor is a way to ensure a long and happy love life. Or, you know what? Just delete "love" from that last sentence.
Best FF That Teaches Us How to Improve Our Long-Term Relationships Via Strategic Menu-Planning and the Use of Food As a Weapon of Mass Psychological Destruction.* Meanwhile, Back in Metropolis, by Punk, aka runpunkrun. Smallville, Clark Kent/Lex Luthor. I was three-quarters of the way through this story before I realized that it was in the second person. That is - I mean, seriously, that's amazing. I generally read second-person stories with a very jaded, snarky, oh you think you are so clever, Ms. Author Person, but let us see if you will drown in your own hubris now sort of attitude (no, really - mixed metaphor and evil-overlord chuckle and everything). This, obviously, is not conducive to loving the second-person story. But this one, this one sucked me in so fast I didn't even have time to wave for the lifeguard, never mind get my Fan Fiction Hauteur on. And no surprise, because this story is indescribably wonderful. It takes all the reasons that I can't ever have the Pure Fandom Love with Smallville and just erases them, replacing them with the jumbo family-sized package of fantastic dialog, humor, and green food. (Authors: now on sale at a store near you! Stock up! Why not see what amusingly green food can do for Jack O'Neill, or to Rodney McKay, or with Gollum, or near Angel?) This is the kind of FF you read blind, knowing nothing about the canon, and leave with a tiny voice in your mind shrieking "their love was meant to be" in embarrassingly high-pitched tones.
Best FF That Provides Important Clues to Why the Asgard Have to Reproduce by Cloning These Days. Far Afield, by destina. Stargate: SG-1, Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson. I have spent much time blithering on about the Great Looming Darkness in SG-1; if you're unlucky, you've heard me do it. Often in comments on someone else's post. (I do these blitz-type strikes on other people's posts, waxing highly philosophical about fandoms I don't know. It's a not-sleeping thing. If you see me doing this, tell me to go lie down, please.) Briefly, the Great Looming Darkness of SG-1 het and slash FF is this: the characters can have romance or they can have adventure. Not both. For it to be more than just sex, it has to be one thing or the other. So I love this story for not flinching from that fact. But I love it even more for showing us that you can face the cold hard facts of the SG-1 universe without loss or sadness or unhappy endings. (Actually, the adventure is what seems to mean loss and sadness for this crew; sometimes I think they only go to new places to bleed there.) Because this is, for me, essentially a picture of a good established relationship: they function, they plan, they travel extremely long distances to leave firmly-worded calls to action. (One of the major prerogatives and duties of long-term love – your loved one is the one who gets to tell you the hard truths, because he knows so much about you that he knows things you don’t. Yet. But you will, immediately after he says, "Um. You know that's...[ill-fitting/paranoid/a bad idea/wrong wrong wrong/flat-out crazy], right?")
Best FF That Proves That the Key to a Successful Long-Term Relationship Is Knowing When to Call for a Sitter, When to Hand Over a Lot of Chocolate, and When to Drive Very Very Fast. A Beautiful Lifetime Event, by Shallot, aka astolat. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay. OK. I really didn't want to recommend this one right now, because everyone else on earth has done everything in their power to get people to read it, including bribing, begging, and threatening with pointy weaponry. I figured if I waited a few months, at least I'd be getting a few new fans who might not have seen it yet. Because they were, like, from Mars. But, OK, I can't resist, and anyway I keep quoting this and Best Beloved has no idea what I'm talking about. So, fine. Anyway, there's always a chance that one of you has been waiting, on some ridiculous grounds. In which case I'm here to put a stop to that. (And no, I don't even want to hear it - "But I hate kidfic!" "But I hate John Sheppard!" "But I have no idea what SGA even is!" These are not acceptable excuses, people. The only excuses I'll accept for not reading this story are: 1) That you've been saving lives 24/7 ever since it was posted, 2) That you've been writing FF 24/7 since it was posted**, or 3) That you are in fact recently arrived from Mars***.) You don't need to know the canon to love this, but if you just can't bear the thought of reading it blind, you can go study this thread (aka "A Foolish Mortal Tries to Avoid SGA") first. But that's only good for a 24-hour reprieve, mind. So, what do I have to say about this story other than read now now now? Well, it's interesting, because it's kind of backwards: baby leads to marriage leads to love leads to sex. Which is not generally the formula for a successful relationship, no, but if anyone was going to manage, it'd be these guys; they're just looking for an excuse to marry, anyway, 'cause it's not like anyone else understands them. And I love that this gives this pairing the one thing it does not (yet) have: a sense of history, of depth, of more there than anyone else can understand. Which, of course, is exactly what a long-term relationship is. So, yes, it's a work of genius. And there will be a test on this.
Best FF That Teaches Us That in Every Long-Term Relationship There's a Time and Place to Be a Drama Queen, and There's a Time and Place to Let Things Go. Sometimes They're Even the Same Place. Dirty, by sprat. Due South, Ray Kowalski/Ray Vecchio. So. First, for those just joining us, you should know that Certain People do not read Ray/Ray, or indeed anything other than Kowalski/Fraser, and I respect their choice. (OK, honesty time, here in the parentheses where no one can see me. I actually only respect one person's reading choices, and only because that one person knows where I sleep. Otherwise, I'm pretty much the Jehovah's Witness of Fan Fiction: read read read read now now now or you'll never get me off your virtual doorstep. Listen closely on quiet nights and you'll probably hear me out there, saying, "Would you like a free connection to some really excellent Ocean's 11 slash? And can I tell you about the heaven that awaits you in the due South fandom?") So we have to have an alternate story for said People, or at any rate Person. But both stories always kick ass, and I heartily recommend both, and this is no exception. In fact, this is fucking brilliant, because it's the only good explanation I've yet seen for what I like to think of as the Dirty Vecchio Problem. And by "good," I mean "explains the canon without making Vecchio an asshole." I worship stories that manage to patch canon holes like this. (One of the strengths of the dS canon is how few repair stories it needs.) And I love all the details here, too - the way Ray copes with arguments, the bigger stories that are clearly lurking on the edges here, the rare sighting of the Viable Ray/Ray Long-Term Relationship. I just...I have love for this story. In egregious amounts. Now, can I speak to you about accepting gay porn into your heart?
Best FF That Teaches Us That There Is a Time and a Season for Loving, and Also a Time and a Season for Moving to Canada. (Unless You're Ray and Fraser, in Which Case Every Season Is for Moving to Canada.) A Reverse Country Song, in D Minor, by lyra_sena. Due South, Ray Kowalski/Benton Fraser. I paired this one with "Dirty" because they both involve fights. (Fights in which, actually, Ray Kowalski is kinda drama queeny. But, um, we love him anyway.) In long-term relationships, you fight. It's inevitable. And marriage counselors may tell you that active listening and communication and blah blah blah are the keys to a successful relationship, and they probably aren't wrong. But I personally believe that post-fight behavior is at least as critical to marital success as fight behavior. Seriously. The fight will end if you let it. Whatever comes next will matterway more. And, see, in FF we hear a lot about the fights that end with angst, and then angst, and then some extra angst when the poor abused party weeps in the rain for several hours. And we also hear about fights that never do end. And fights that last as long as Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency and then are resolved with a single kiss - plus, apparently, mind-wipes for all involved, since we never hear tell of the fight again. But we don't spend so much time reading about, you know, the stupid fights that end quickly. Or about people being legitimate grown-ups and just kind of dealing with problems. (The grown-up aspect of this is why it's a reverse country song, I suspect.) Which is why I love this story, 'cause, c'mon, they fight about beer and someone is a jerk but then, you know, he gets much-needed sleep and makes general and specific confessions of assholery and then they fix it.**** That is some seriously excellent post-fight behavior right there. (And they get bonus points for getting it all done before morning coffee.)
* Of course, food can also be used to positive psychological effect, as anyone who has ever given chocolate to a seriously grouchy woman will attest. Well, if the woman is me, anyway. But we're talking about Lex Luthor, here, so naturally we're learning by negative example. (Lex: put on this planet to serve as a lesson to others. Well, except when we're talking about loyalty, because this is a guy who knows how to back up a friend.)
** I will require links, of course.
*** I will want photos. Also possibly a ride back.
**** Warning: the "moving to Canada as dispute resolution" tactic is not recommended in every instance. It gets cold up there, for one thing. Also, not everyone likes moose.