In that set, I explained that I have a technique for dealing with potentially sad (or soul-destroying) stories: the safety tab. I have one story that I know is cheering and good and filled to the brim with joy and healing, and I keep that one ready and available in a tab. If a story takes a turn for the worse, or I finish it so depressed that I am ready to begin a career in coffee shop poetry slams, I simply click over to my safety tab and read until I feel better.
nestra, upon reading this, noted that she'd be interested in a safety tab recs set. (ainsley backed her up. Apparently there is a strong need for safety tab stories in fandom.) And I thought, hey, perhaps the people who are still silently resenting me for recommending such depressing futurefic will love me again if I only share with them the joy that is safety! So. This set.
I've had a lot of safety tab stories in my time in fandom. (I remember when I truly believed that safety tab stories could only be in due South, and then a dS story broke me so completely that I couldn't even look at anything in the fandom for three months. Those were sad, sad months, but at least I learned how to find safety in other fandoms.) But here's the thing: I've already recommended almost all of them. How could I not? There were times when I was re-reading my safety stories every single day. So I'm going to recommend a combination here: some safety tab stories that are newer, and thus haven't been featured here yet, and some of the great classics of safety. We'll start with the new.
We Can All Find Safety in the Knowledge That the Pegasus Galaxy Does It Better. And When I Say "It," I Mean Pegging. Healing Station Argh, by toft_froggy. Stargate: Atlantis, Ronon Dex/Teyla Emmagan, Ronon Dex/Teyla Emmagan/Rodney McKay, OT4.
This is my current safety tab story. I just do not even know how the world could be a bad place when there is a story that includes both alien General Hospital and pegging. You add in ice farming and Teyla being wickedly, wickedly manipulative, and you have a story that could heal the wounds inflicted by Ethan Frome. (Probably. Do not actually test this at home unless you have access to a 24-hour Literature-Induced Despair Hotline and fistfuls of psychoactive pharmaceuticals. Fistfuls. I mean this.)
I just - I am made deeply, seriously happy by this story. And then, like an extra bonus, there's something here that I look for in pretty much every SGA story ever, and hardly ever see: John and Rodney being bewildered by Teyla and Ronon's cultural references. Because, yes, okay, Star Wars and Star Trek and other things about stars - I can totally see John and Rodney geeking out about this, especially since their dream date apparently consists of playing Civilization and eating Cheetos and maybe making some drunk prank radio calls at around three in the morning. But Teyla and Ronon should have their own set of Pegasus in-jokes. (Like, there's that awesome SG1 story where the team are telling jokes, and no one laughs at all of them. I love that.) And here, they do. And John and Rodney get to be the people saying, "Um...what now?" Pegasus has popular culture, too!
So there's that, and then there's the humor, and then there's - well. The ending. Anyway. I'm telling you, and telling you true: this is a fabulous safety tab story. I have re-read this after reading stories where people have died, where favorite characters of mine have died and not come back, and it's fixed me right up. There's no higher level of safety, here. (Note: McKay/Sheppard OTPers who may be feeling wary: this will work just fine for you. I speak as one who knows!)
There Is Great Safety in the Deep Interconnectedness of Love and Real Estate Home Sweet Home, by astolat. Entourage, Vincent Chase/Eric Murphy.
You know how canon writers sort of beg us to slash their creations by writing two strong, likeable male characters (who are totally best friends and, okay, it's entirely for show-budget reasons but they share an apartment and spend 24 hours per day together and also they hold hands sometimes) who occasionally hook up with one-dimensional females with whom they have no chemistry and nothing approaching realistic dialog? The Entourage writers have taken this to the logical conclusion: Entourage, the show, is entirely about men. Women exist in its world essentially as window-dressing.
I am sure that the show writers believe that their characters are manly and tough and totally hetero. I am quite sure they believe that. But, well. When you spend every minute of your life totally focused on another guy, and all your emotional investment is in that guy, and everything else in the world comes second to that guy's needs...well. It kind of begs for slash, is all.
And there's one other thing that begs for slash in Entourage: it's that Vince and Eric are so totally married. I mean, they might as well have sex. They've already got rings. (Okay. No rings to my actual knowledge. But if there was an episode where Vince gave Eric a ring, I would not be at all surprised.)
So I find it supremely comforting to read about Vince and Eric. Their problems are just serious enough to be believable, while still being at least one remove from anything distressing in any other story I might be reading. And I seriously, seriously, seriously want them to just go ahead and accept their true love already. Which, in this story, they do. It is sweet and fun and all things comforting, and you don't need to know anything about the show to read it; I didn't when I started. (Plus, it has Ari Gold. Never underestimate the comfortingness of a Jewish pit bull with a filthy, filthy mouth. And Turtle and Drama. Dorks are comforting. Everyone knows this.) This story can heal a fairly major story wound - like, your OTP not ending up together. Or the world ending. Either one.
There's Nothing Safer Than Benton Fraser on a Rampage! I Mean, in a Story Sense, Obviously. In Real Life, That'd Be a Bad Thing, Albeit a Polite Bad Thing. Chicago's Most Wanted, by cesperanza. Benton Fraser/Ray Kowalski.
I have a friend who told me that once, when she was traveling through India, and sick and tired and miserable, she told herself the entire story of Some Strange Prophecy for comfort.
This proves two things: fan fiction is a powerful healer, and comfort stories are totally individual. Because Some Strange Prophecy in not a comfort story for me (fine story though it is).
But Chicago's Most Wanted totally, totally is. Why? Well. Amnesiac criminal Benton Fraser. Can there be a better reason? I just think the words and the healing begins.
Also, this story proves that in the land far beyond the Broccoli Test, there is another, greater test, and it is this:
If one member of your pairing can forget who he is and go on the lam, and the other one can track him and predict where he'll be next, your pairing has passed the Chicago's Most Wanted Test. I can think of few pairings that could pass, frankly. I mean, of my OTPs - Blair Sandburg could absolutely do this for Jim Ellison, but not vice versa unless you allowed senses-related trickery, which is a rules violation. Rodney McKay and John Sheppard likely have a 50/50 chance, but if they get it wrong, someone ends up in prison or something blows up. And, oddly, I don't believe Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson could do it alone, but any three members of (original) SG1 could easily find the other. I just think it would take all of them.
Anyway. This story can heal, at minimum, major, major tragedy. I turned to this after I finished The End of the Road, people. That's how powerful this is.
(There's another Speranza story that I also have used extensively for healing story-inflicted wounds, but it was never a safety tab story. I use About a Dog when a story has kicked me in my extremely sensitive - nay, hair-trigger - animal harm squick. If you have one, seriously, About a Dog should fix most problems. Don't thank me. Thank her!)
Traffic Jams and Car Accidents Are Extremely Healing! When They Happen to Dan and Casey, and Also Lead to True Love, That Is. Only Then. Diversionary Tactics, by shrift. Sports Night, Casey McCall/Dan Rydell.
Sports Night is perhaps the ultimate safety-story fandom for me. (Or it used to be, but we'll get to that.) Because, see, I truly believe that Danny and Casey are in love, and will always be in love, and that they will live happily ever after, bickering and making Dana's life hell and avoiding sports-reporting clichés forever. (No, really, this is a very sincere belief. You show me a story in which that does not happen, and my reaction will be, pretty much, "We all know the truth, thanks." Which isn't to say that a Sports Night story couldn't break me. Just - I have a very thick insulating layer of denial. Whale blubber thick.) Anyway. My point is - Sports Night = happy place. Danny and Casey start bantering, and I am suddenly soothed and cheerful and prepared to face the world again, even if the world contains a story that has hurt me greatly.
The only down side to Sports Night is that most of the stories that I used to use in safety tabs (Sports Night saw me through many, many much scarier, much larger fandoms) are gone forever, as far as I can tell; the archive is gone and the stories just aren't anywhere anymore. So now my happy place is tinged with sorrow; I go to recommend a story, and it's nowhere to be found, and I have a sniffly moment and have to turn to a healing story without even having read a sad one. (This is why we need the Archive of Our Own; won't anyone think of the poor recommenders? Our links! Our precious links!)
Fortunately, Diversionary Tactics still remains with us. And what a fine and excellent safety-tab story it is. There's banter, and then there's some momentary tension - but we all know in our hearts it will be fine, because this is Sports Night, where things are fine, damn it - and then, yay! A happy ending. And it all takes just enough time to heal one moderate-sized story wound, like a lengthy explicit torture scene. Or the death of a minor OC.