So. Alternate universes. God, how I love these things.
Best FF That Almost Makes Me Grateful to the DC Folks for Their Persistent Attempts to Reboot Their Universe Until Our Memories Are Completely Wiped of Every Reason Why We Liked Their Comics in the First Place. Almost. Although I Still Reserve the Right to Punch Willingham in the Nose If I Ever Meet Him. Kids' Game, by __marcelo. DC Universe, gen or Jason Todd/Stephanie Brown. You know how the infinite universes theory says that everything happens? Every time you flip a coin, a new universe forms, all that? (Yes, that is an oversimplification. Yes, there's more than one theory about this. Don't even get me started, seriously.) Well, I have long suspected that the DC folks are trying to represent that in their books via reboots; every two years, we have one, and the universes rotate one place to the right. So it's inevitable that sooner or later we'll end up where __marcelo goes here. Only, totally not, but wouldn't it be cool if we did? No more of this deal where we add three years to this character and then subtract them from that character and then pretend a whole bunch of other characters never existed. I mean, there's a reason I don't read this stuff anymore: I can't handle all the change. I'm not smart enough to keep up. But if DC did do this with the Batverse characters? I would so, so read it. So what is this mysterious thing that the author has done? (I'm trying for suspense. Are you suspended, yet? Well, fine. I'll keep practicing.) He made them all the same age: Bruce, Dick, Tim, Jason, Steph. And it's just - this story pretty much had me from the opening (is there a universe in which opening with Tim is a bad move?), but it turned into this whole illicit, secret affair when I got to Jason and Steph. Because they work together so much better than Tim and Steph ever did, and also - no. I was about to go to the dolphin-noises place, and you don't need to be here for that. Go. Read. (Eeeeeeee!)
Best FF That Makes Me Add Holmes to the List of Tragic, Cracked Crimefighters. Please Do Not Mention Holmes/Batman or Holmes/Batman/Bond to Me. My Brain Will Explode. Thank You. Out of This Room, by Dorinda (does anyone know if she has an LJ name?). Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes/John Watson. AUs in rare fandoms are, well, rare; I suppose that if there are only a handful of stories in your fandom, there's not a huge temptation to explore, say, the universe where Holmes is the surgeon and Watson is the detective. But I still want to read that, and a million other ones besides, so I treasure the rare fandom AUs I find. And this one is three in one, so you can imagine all the embarrassing clinging and fawning I do to it. Or maybe you'd better not. This is - okay, it's a brilliant look at some of the possible outcomes of a single canon situation. And can I just say how much I love that? It's kind of a variation of the Five Things That Never Happened story type, and I have a shameful love for those, and also for eigenstate AUs. But combine them - and this story does; it's basically Three Eigenstates We Didn't Observe in This Universe - and you have hit me square in the possibility kink. (I want to see all possibilities fully elaborated. This is one of the reasons I love fan fiction so much; you can find stories featuring all the possibilities and many of the impossibilities, too.) Plus, this story persuades me. See, Holmes is one of those fandoms where I'm handicapped by knowing the canon and, worse, having formed opinions about it long before I ever knew of fan fiction. So it's hard for me to buy Holmes/Watson, because it's hard for me to picture Holmes ever doing anything as messy and human as that. Dorinda, though - she writes Holmes precisely as I have always believed him to be. And then she gives me a Watson I am happy to accept, and it's Watson who makes the happy ending here a real possibility. So my reaction to this story is basically many inarticulate variations on the theme of wow. To wit: wow.
Best FF That Makes Me Really, Really Want to Learn How to Make Paper. A Heart for Every Fate and Wild, by destina. Stargate: SG-1, Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson. Okay, you're all familiar with the broccoli test, right? Some of my favorite pairings pass it, some don't. Many would know broccoli was wanted, but flatly refuse to get it. (I like 'em prickly and difficult, apparently.) Jack and Daniel might pass, although I think the refusing to get it thing would come into play with them. (Jack, for example, would know Daniel wanted broccoli, but he'd pretend he didn't. He'd come back with something seriously lame and stupid, like a lawn chair and three boxes of tampons, and then sit back to appreciate Daniel's expression when he saw them.) In any case, my point is, in this story (Yay! We're back to talking about the story!), Jack and Daniel pass the desert island test, which is much more stringent. (Since I just made it up, I suppose it's unreasonable to expect you to know what the desert island test is, so - if two people can spend the rest of their lives trapped alone together with no entertainment or distractions or conveniences, and at the end of thirty years they're both alive and as sane as they ever were? They pass.) I've often said that lost-earth (either it's gone, or they can't get to it) stories are not sad endings in SG1, and, as Destina proves here, neither is the desert island scenario. The obvious ending for a story like this is, "Yay! They're improbably rescued shortly after they find true love and hot sex!" I in no way object to that, not at all. But I love Destina for doing the brave thing here, skipping the deus ex machina and showing that, really, for some pairings, the desert island is a happy ending. And for writing this so damn well. Don't miss the sequel, either, which is basically an elaboration of the happiness of the ending, perfect for those of us who need a lot of reassurance.
Best FF That Makes Me Wonder, for What Has to Be the 80th Time, What the Hell Ginger Tea Is, and Why Everyone Drinks It but Me. The Convenient Husband, part one and part two, by Brighid, aka mz_bstone. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay. I'm sure those of you who somehow managed to miss this story can still tell it's from the Harlequin challenge, just from the title. (Those of you who weren't in the fandom for the Harlequin challenge - uh, it's a romance novel type thingie, and also, you are in for some amazing reading.) And that's one of the things I love about this story: it's just, it feels perfectly in line with the challenge. Perfectly. (And, seriously, I tried to think of something to write for that challenge, and I totally failed. It's not as easy as it sounds. Of course, it didn't help that my first thought, on seeing it, was that some sick, deluded soul in the SGA fandom wanted a bunch of flash fiction about jesters in masks. I was flat terrified, and had to click away to preserve my remaining sanity. I only figured out the truth some little while later.) I also love this story because I realized, reading it, that John and Rodney are the most portable characters ever. It's hard to think of an AU where they wouldn't fit. King Arthur's court? They fit! The Tokugawa Shogunate? They fit! McCaffrey-esque telepathic soul-bonding dragons? They fit! (I suspect, though, that Rodney would be a dragon in that AU. John would be his rider, of course. Chaya would be a queen, and Rodney would never ever let John mate with her.) Citizen Kane? Unfortunately, they fit there, too. (There are limits. I mean, John might end up as the sled, and also, no.) I just - I love that, and I love it especially when John and Rodney are so perfectly themselves, no matter where they are. They're definitely themselves in Brighid's story. (Don't ask yourself how anyone could consider marriage to Rodney McKay convenient. We already know John has no instinct for self-preservation.)
Best FF That Suggests That Unfortunate Things Will Happen to Those of Us Who Don't Answer Our Telephones. But I Don't Care; Those Things Are Incarnations of the One True Evil, and No One Can Tell Me Different. Last Will and Testament, by Speranza, aka cesperanza. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay. This one is a bonus because, okay, look - if, by some chance, you don't know about it, go read it right now. All other commentary is going behind a cut tag, and please please please do not click on this cut tag until you've read it, okay? There's a spoiler that could possibly actually spoil the story for you, and that would be sad, but it's the only thing anyone ever wants to talk about with this story, so I'm putting it behind the cut.
It's only those who have already read the story who are here with me now, yes? Okay, then I don't even need to tell you what the One Thing is about this story. I will say, though, that what I find most interesting (and, upon reflection, vaguely disturbing) about the story isn't that, and it isn't anything that I've seen discussed anywhere. Although I will admit I didn't, like, seek out meta on this, and I wasn't reading much of my friends list when this story was posted, so it probably was discussed everywhere and I missed it. Feel free to give me links or little lectures about the importance of paying attention, okay?
But, see - does anyone think that the weirdest part is actually that John is so much like his father, even down to looks, and Rodney is so much like his mother that they are, in essence, marrying the parent who raised them? I think a lot of us do that, to a certain extent, but the whole, uh, consanguinity just, well, really drives that home for me. I spent the last half of the story braced for the hideous news that Rodney had killed his father; I was terrified that Speranza had misunderstood a challenge she herself posted and, instead of writing a Harlequin, she'd redone a classic plot. (I figured that John was probably the one who would end up blind. Um, yeah, not my best work of ending-prediction ever.)
So, okay, it didn't go the Oedipus route - and, seriously, thank god for that. Which leaves me pondering the incest itself. Normally, incest is an unbreakable squick for me. But this story works because the brotherly relationship was never the main one in my mind. I apparently assigns values partly by primacy, and my hindbrain gives primacy to what I know first. And in the story, the sex came first, so that's the relationship I'm invested in, and then - wham! incest! - and suddenly I'm complicit in it, because I'm rooting for it. (From this, we can clearly see that Speranza is also a manifestation of the One True Evil, although she's way better than telephones.) The other thing I've seen discussed is the realism (or not) of this story, but to me, that's a non-issue; the whole essence of a Harlequin - and, again, this is just me - is that the writer defines the reality, and I have no expectations at all. It's totally not like crack, where I expect no realism at all in the premise and plot, and total realism in the characterization. (Harlequin challenges: freeing writers from the ties that bind them to any specific level of reality! That makes them sound like really good drugs, and, wow, they so totally are.)