Title: No Refunds or Exchanges by astolat
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Pairing: Rodney/John
Categories: AU, angst, humor, virgin (to gay sex), fluff, favorite
Length: ~10,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
Rodney McKay's apartment on Atlantis is an absolute mess and Jeannie *refuses* to come play maid. What other option is there than a mail-order bride? What he gets is John Sheppard. (AU, obviously.)

This is one of my most reliable go-to fics if I need a pick me up. Astolat's dialogue sparkles, as always, and the story is the perfect length to sustain the ridiculous (and utterly awesome) plot. I especially love the way that she manages to convey John's thoughts even though the story is from Rodney's POV (and Rodney, himself, is clueless).

Fluffy and fun with just enough angst to keep things interesting, this is one of my favorite SGA fics of all time.

No Refunds or Exchanges
Title: On Feathers and Bacon Sandwiches by Kryptaria
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Pairing: Sherlock/John (asexually)
Categories: creature!fic, AU, supernatural, fluff, humor
Length: ~21,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
John's a demon. And compared to Hell, Sherlock Holmes wasn't really all that bad.

This is probably the fluffiest fic featuring a demon that I've ever read. I do have to admit that demon!John sounds a little more like Sherlock than actual!John, but the writing is good enough and the internal dialogue entertaining enough that I don't mind. Mix in some wing!porn (without sex) and a delightful subplot involving ducks, and you have a lovely story to while away an afternoon.

On Feathers and Bacon Sandwiches
Title: Daybreak in the Midnight City by triedunture
Fandom: Supernatural/Avengers
Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Categories: AU, crossover, action, wing!fic, virgin, hurt/comfort
Length: ~45,000 words
Warnings: Distractingly improbable flexibility and mobility in Castiel's wings

Review:
In a fused universe where the Winchesters are hunting monsters while the Registration debate rages on in Washington, Sam and Dean stumble on a very big, very green, and very angry Hulk. Also, Castiel. (And then Tony Stark comes to play and things get *really* out of hand.)

The first half of this fic is one of my favorite of all time. I adore team-building stories and trust-building stories and hurt/comfort stories, and this is all three of them at the same time, which makes me one ridiculously happy reccer. The Marvel universe characters are especially well done, with Stark, Coulson, Bruce and the Hulk all fantastically well-drawn and beautifully in character. The second half is more about action and saving the world, which is less my cup of tea, but it's still well-written, fast-paced, and engaging, with a spectacular finale.

If you're in the mood for a highly entertaining team-building story with a chaser of action and world-saving, give this fic a try.

Daybreak in the Midnight City
Title: The Crown of the Summer Court by astolat
Fandom: Merlin
Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
Categories: AU, action, drama, humor, fantasy, favorite
Length: ~24,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
A troop of elves comes to Camelot to pick their next king. (Uther is not pleased.) Turns out Merlin is in the running. (Uther is really, really not pleased.) And Arthur is his champion. (...Uther? Uther!)

This story isn't quite as silly as my summary would lead you to believe -- in fact, it's a damn good old school fantasy, full of challenges and intrigues and the aphrodisiac qualities of magic. The beauty of the story, though, and what truly makes it worth reading over and over again, is the fact that astolat doesn't take her premise or her plot too seriously, which results in a lot of banter, a lot of humor, and a truly engaging tale of bravery, sacrifice, and magic.

Reminiscent of season 1 Merlin (with a less dickish Arthur), The Crown of the Summer Court is a fantastically fun way to while away a few hours.

The Crown of the Summer Court
Title: Better to Reign in Hell by copperbadge
Fandom: Avengers Universe (specifically: Thor)
Pairing: gen
Categories: AU, drama
Length: ~23,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
In this universe, Loki knows about his Jotun heritage. What he doesn't know, however, is that he's a hostage of war. When he finds out, things go downhill, and he ends up cast out, powerless, in Midgard.

I love the Loki in this fic. As copperbadge says in his notes, canon!Loki is a horrible, miserable, evil being, which means that nearly every Loki-centric story out there features an OOC Loki, one who is nicer and less evil than in canon. While the same could be said of the Loki in this story, he has a different background than the canon version, and that makes the changes in character plausible. And the end product is very entertaining: clever, strategic, and harboring very dubious morality. He may not be someone I would want as an ally, but he's certainly not someone anyone would want as an enemy. Mix in a fantastic Darcy and the dynamic duo of Coulson and Clint, and you have a fun twist on the original plot of Thor.

Better to Reign in Hell
Title: Let Us Dare by kianspo
Fandom: Merlin
Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
Categories: AU, drama, humor
Length: ~29,500 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
When Arthur is born, Uther dies instead of Ygraine. This changes everything.

I love the first half of this story so much. Watching Merlin and Arthur grow up together (two-year-old Merlin is adorable) is hugely entertaining and the writing is tight and fast paced. Things slow down quite a bit once Merlin and Arthur are grown and it isn't quite as engaging as the first half is. Still, it's a good read and you've got some court treachery to keep things interesting. Bonus: fantastic characterizations from all of the side characters, especially Morgana and Ygraine.

If you like canon!era Merlin AUs, this is definitely one you'll want to try.

Let Us Dare
Title: Imprimatur by Closer
Fandom: Suits
Pairing: Harvey/Mike
Categories: bonding, AU, drama, hurt/comfort
Length: ~22,500 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
From the author: "Mike was raised to believe Imprint was a life-changing event for those few lucky enough to experience it. Harvey was raised to believe it was a form of mental illness. When it actually happened, neither of them noticed."

As anyone who follows my recs for more than a minute knows, I'm a sucker for a good bonding fic. Mix that with Suits!fic and I'm a happy reader. I especially enjoyed how realistic and low-key the bonding aspects of the universe was -- bonding fic traditionally revels in melodrama and miscommunication and angst and while I do enjoy all of those things, there's also something quite satisfying about a story that's just about the practical aspects of unconsciously bonding to another human being (read: impotence).

If you're in the mood for a well written, laid-back bonding fic (or maybe just a Suits fic that *doesn't* go the D/s route), this is the story for you.

Imprimatur
Title: Copycat by IamShadow21
Fandom: White Collar
Pairing: Gen
Categories: kid!fic, AU, drama
Length: ~10,000 words (if you include footnotes)
Warnings: child in a crappy situation (pre-story)

Review:
An AU in which Neal is an autistic child forced to forge artwork, and Peter is the agent who finds (and rescues) him.

I debated this rec for a while, because the story overall feels very incomplete -- we never find out who took Neal, for example, and while the author really tries to put some foreshadowing of Neal's future in the story, Neal himself isn't fleshed out enough to really make it work (for example, there's no clear reason why Peter and/or Elizabeth would be part of Neal's future). Still, every time I've read this story I've enjoyed it, because the writing is phenomenal and the subject is interesting and, most of all, because the author clearly knows what she's writing about and I have a huge kink for authors who know their shit and express it well.

In short, if you're looking for a story in which Peter is Peter and Neal is a kid and together they build a family, well, this fic isn't for you. However, if you're in the mood for fantastic writing from someone who is clearly an expert in autisim, you definitely want to give this story a try.

Copycat
Title: Ain't Seen the Sunshine (Since I Don't Know When) by emungere
Fandom: Sherlock
Pairing: John/Lestrade (pre-slash)
Categories: AU, kid-fic, humor, drama, action, family, favorite
Length: ~26,500 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
Back from Afghanistan and struggling to make ends meet, John gets offered a very unusual job: nanny for a five-year-old Sherlock and a twelve-year-old Mycroft.

This one just makes me smile like crazy. I love Mrs. Holmes, who has decided (quite rightly) that surviving a war is perfect practice for being a nanny for Sherlock and Mycroft. I love John, who feels utterly unqualified but who loves his two charges immensely, even when they're being irritating. I love Lestrade, who is sweet and wonderfully calm under pressure. And I absolutely adore the young versions of Sherlock and Mycroft, who are unique characters all of their own though you can clearly see the seeds of the men they will grow to be. A brilliant AU that makes me smile every time I read it.

Note that there are sequels to the original fic. I'm not reccing them specifically (since they are more focused on the growing relationship between John and Lestrade and less on John interacting with the kids, which is my favorite part of the series) but they're enjoyable stories and the link to the series is below.

Ain't Seen the Sunshine
Sequels to Ain't Seen the Sunshine
Title: The New Deal by Closer
Fandom: Suits
Pairing: Gen (with a side of canon-level Harvey/Scotty non-dating)
Categories: AU, family, angst, drama, homeless
Length: 33,500 words
Warnings: pre-story child abuse

Review:
In his second year of law school, Harvey finds a homeless teenager on his doorstep.

Anyone who followed my recs over at epic_recs knows that I love homeless!fics, due to their inherent trust issues and angst. The New Deal has both of those in spades, but what really sucked me in was the way Harvey and Mike started out as strangers and ended up family. I adore found family fics and this is an exceptionally good one, with great characterization and some very entertaining Harvey (and Mike!) at law school moments. A great fic for Suits fans.

The New Deal
Title: a day too early (still a couple dollars short) by thatotherperv
Fandom: Suits
Pairing: Mike/Harvey
Categories: AU, drama
Length: 11,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
Instead of meeting Mike at the associates interviews at the hotel, Harvey is served by him at a restaurant. The subsequent hook-up was supposed to be the end of it, but in reality it's just the beginning.

I have a confession: I just can't see the point of most AUs in the Suits fandom. So much of what makes the show interesting is tied up in Harvey and Mike's interactions within the high pressure, fast-paced world of law (complicated, of course, by Mike's past and their shared secret) and you just can't get those interactions when they're two random men who happen to meet on the street (and, honestly, the entire cast of characters is vastly too driven and ambitious to be believably transplanted into, say, a grocery store or a coffee shop).

The exceptions to the rule, at least for me, are fics that are just ever-so-slightly AU. Like story fic, which does a brilliant job of changing just one small aspect of canon (where Mike and Harvey meet) and then exploring the altered character dynamics that result. It's extremely well done, too -- both Mike and Harvey are very much in character and the progression of their relationship from one night stand to something more is very believable. Best of all, the author manages to incorporate the feel of the canon interactions without the story being strictly within the canon universe (yes, even the D/s elements -- the fic is clearly heading into kinky territory post-story).

If you're looking for a full-AU, this probably isn't the fic for you. However, if you like What If? scenarios and the idea of Mike and Harvey exploring their relationship without the whole "Harvey is the boss" aspect, give this fic a try.

a day too early (still a couple dollars short)
Title: Fellow Travelers by J. Brooks
Fandom: Magnificent 7
Pairing: gen
Categories: kid!fic, AU, drama, adventure, h/c, humor, friendship, favorite
Length: ~30,000 words
Warnings: mentions of slavery and child abuse

Review:
A historical AU in which Ezra is a child living with his abusive uncle and Nathan is a slave on the uncle's plantation. Together Ezra and Nathan go on the run, heading west for freedom and encountering all the rest of the seven on the way.

I've been going through the longest fanfic dry spell ever. Intellectually I know this streak of mediocre-to-bad fic can't last forever, but emotionally I needed a pick me up. Thus I turned to one of my absolute favorite feel-good stories of all time.

J. Brooks is far and away my favorite M7 author. Not only does she have a brilliant grasp of the characters and a phenomenal sense of humor, but she accomplishes does what very few other M7 authors even attempt, much less succeed at -- to make Nathan and Ezra *both* likable and, more often than not, great friends. That talent is never more apparent than in Fellow Travelers. While the rest of the seven's interactions are engaging and enjoyable, it's Nathan and Ezra's relationship that is the heart of the story, from Ezra's (adorably) conniving ways to Nathan's sweet and often amusing over-protectiveness. Mix in a lot of humor, an engaging plot, and plenty of opportunities for every one of the seven to shine and you have my absolute favorite Magnificent 7 fic of all time. A must-read for fans of the show or for anyone who likes great writing, sparkling wit, and engaging characters.

Fellow Travelers (links to all four parts)
Title: Everingham by Katharine T
Fandom: Mansfield Park
Pairing: Henry Crawford/Fanny Price (side pairing of Edmund Bertram/Mary Crawford)
Categories: AU, romance, drama, angst, favorite
Length: 46,500 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
When Henry decides to skip the dinner party that, in canon, was the first step in the path that led to his elopement with Maria, it changes the entire course of his relationship with Fanny. An extremely clever what-if that takes a tiny decision on Henry's part and shows how it could have a far-reaching impact on the entire cast of Mansfield Park.

I have to be honest: for a long time, I really, really didn't like Henry Crawford, which meant this fic was a very tough sell. However, I'm one of those rare folks who doesn't care for canon pairings in Austen fanfic and this fic came highly recommended, so I decided to give it a shot.

Man am I glad I did. Everingham completely sold me on the pairing of Henry/Fanny (to the point that I don't really ship Edmund and Fanny anymore) and has become one of my absolute favorite and most reread fanfics of all time. Both Fanny and Henry grow enormously as people in this fic (far more so than they did in canon, in fact), resulting in a very slow-burn romance that somehow manages to take the antagonistic relationship Henry and Fanny shared in canon and realistically turn it into affection and romance. There are no shortcuts, either, and definitely no "hate turns into lust" moments. Every step of the romance is hard-earned and plausible, resulting in a very powerful story.

Of course, none of the above would be possible without superlative writing. Katharine does a brilliant job in that regard with the same light but formal language that Austen herself used and the same fluid POV (though, despite the summary, the story is most often told in Fanny's POV). Her dialogue is especially impressive; she has the same knack Austen did for taking formal language and occasional monologues and somehow making it sound like something people would naturally say. Mix in spot-on characterizations for absolutely everyone and a surprising (and, it must be said, brilliant) bit of character byplay in the final chapters of the fic and you have one of the best Jane Austen fanfics of all time. Very highly recommended.

Everingham (pt. 1) (pt. 2) (pt. 3)
Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by JoeLawson
Fandom: Hawaii Five-0
Pairing: Steve/Danny
Categories: AU, angst, hurt/comfort, bonding (!), creature!fic
Length: 39,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
In a world where humans and mermaids live side-by-side in a mostly-easy truce, Danny's a mermaid.

First, a reassurance: it's not as cheesy as it sounds. The mer-world is surprisingly layered and complex, considering the length of the story, and JoeLawson takes it seriously. The end result is a fascinating exploration of how Danny-the-mermaid (and why is it always Danny who is the mermaid/sea creature/cursed one/mafia guy/otherwise-AU-altered? Is it because he's just that much more interesting than Steve?) may be physically different than his canon counterpart, but there's nothing on earth that can change the essentials of his personality. Well-written, with intriguing customs and rituals, a fantastic Chin and Kono, and Rachel being utterly awesome, and you have a great fic for fans of Steve/Danny, AUs, or just Hawaii Five-0 in general.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Title: Kauoha ("to order or command") by ember_firedrake
Fandom: Hawaii Five-0
Pairing: Steve/Danny
Categories: AUish, angst, drama
Length: 30,200 words
Warnings: a bit of (completely consensual) powerplay during sex

Review:
All his life, Danny's been cursed with obedience: he literally has no choice but to follow orders. And if there is anyone on the planet who gives more orders than Steve McGarrett, Danny has yet to meet him. (The author calls this a fusion with Ella Enchanted, but other than the bare premise of an obedience curse they don't really have anything in common.)

I'm still having a tough time getting into H50 fics; unless there's some sort of AU aspect to them, they all seem to sound the same to me. This one, however, takes a unique premise that changes very little in the way of canon events, but puts a whole new spin on Danny's character. It's an interesting exploration of power dynamics and of why Danny might be the way that he is and it's quite fascinating. I also really like the way that other characters handle finding out about Danny's curse; not everyone is a saint, but you also don't have too many complete assholes. My favorite might be Rachel: she isn't perfect, but she's a good person and she tries her best. It's very easy to see why Danny married her (and there's clear reason for them to get divorced, which is more than we got in canon.)

My only quibble is that ember_firedrake uses quite a bit of canon dialogue in the fic. I understand that she's doing so to demonstrate the plausibility of her premise, but the downside is that it highlights just how awful canon H50 dialogue can be (at times it's positively painful to read). The author's original dialogue is vastly better written.

If you're a fan of fics that play with power dynamics or just a big fan of Danny, this is a fic for you.

Kauoha ("to order or command")
Title: Making a Living Out of Hope by casspeach
Fandom: Star Trek Reboot
Pairing: McCoy/Chekov
Categories: angst, (pre-story) slavery, hurt/comfort, AU, favorite
Length: 37,000 words
Warnings: dubcon, (pre-story) underage rape, (mostly implied) torture

Review:
While on shore leave, Leonard wins big in a poker tournament. His prize? Chekov.

I've had a tough time with Star Trek Reboot fics of late, so I figured it was time to break out a story that I know I like. Making a Living Out of Hope is an emotionally powerful hurt/comfort story about Chekov recovering from several years in slavery and Leonard struggling to overcome his own past (read: divorce) and open up enough to love another person. It's a story that's heavy on the comfort, but with enough implied hurt for all of the payoffs to be deeply potent; the end result is one of the most consistently stirring fics I've read in a long time. As a bonus, you also have a crew that is at least as professional as in canon (which is to say: not very, but compared to fanon they are the epitome of professionalism) and the characterizations are universally excellent (especially Jim, who is charming and breezy, but still very good at his job).

I'd never considered a Chekov/McCoy pairing before this fic, but casspeach has thoroughly converted me with this wonderful story of overcoming obstacles and finding love. One of my most frequently reread of all of my favorites.

Making a Living Out of Hope
Title: The Tin Man by James
Fandom: Leverage
Pairing: Eliot/Hardison
Categories: AU, angst, family, friendship, favorite
Length: 21,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
Eliot is a cyborg. No, really.

This is the first Eliot-centric fic I've ever liked (actually, it might be the first Eliot-centric I ever *finished*), and the reason why I like it so much is the same reason why I like all good Leverage stories: it's all about how the Leverage crew is not just a bunch of random strangers who work together, but instead a found family, with friends who would do anything for each other. Every one of the crew is awesomely in character (including cyborg!Eliot) and I love all of them. Best of all, Eliot Spencer is not a woobie; he may not be strictly human, but he's strong and capable and cared for. Anyway, being a cyborg is a lot less weird than being Parker.

Well-written and full of friendship and love, this is a fic for anyone who enjoys tales of acceptance, found family, and/or Leverage.

The Tin Man
Title: other things the road to hell is paved with by LuciaZephyr
Fandom: Dresden Files
Pairing: Dresden/Marcone
Categories: action, angst, hurt/comfort, drama, AU, pre-slash (at least until the very last bit)
Length: 140,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
The first (and thus far only completed) book of The Matter of Chicago series, an AU in which Marcone coerces Harry into signing an extremely sketchy contract during Fool Moon. Through the rest of the events of Full Moon and the events of Grave Peril, Harry comes to grip with his position as Gentleman Johnny's wizard as well as his growing feelings for his boss.

I thought about waiting until this series was finished to rec it as a whole, but as that could literally take years (or, considering my luck with WIP series, never be finished at all) and as this story stands perfectly well on its own, I'm going to rec it as is with the understanding that if the rest of the series holds up as well as this fic, I'll be reccing that down the road.

That said: damn. This is a hugely epic story, with a word count that rivals the combined word count of the two books it's based on and with nearly as much action. Marcone and Dresden are both in character and both of them grow and develop throughout the course of the fic so slowly and naturally that it's barely noticeable until you get to the end and suddenly realize how much they've changed (an inevitable change, and one that stays very true to the canon characters). Their relationship builds equally slowly over course of a year and a half as Dresden gradually adapts to the concept that a) he's working for Marcone and b) that might not actually be the worst thing in the world to ever happen to him. The end result is probably the most leisurely and believable Harry/John pairing I've ever read.

The biggest downside of the story is one that is unfortunately inevitable considering the premise but still makes me sad: Harry and Murphy's friendship doesn't survive the new alliance. That said, I'm hoping that future stories in the series will change this (as well as bring back Thomas, who barely got a cameo). To make up for the lack of Murphy you have Hendricks, who is dramatically more fleshed out than he is in canon and who ends up being surprisingly endearing, and considerably more time spent with the Carpenter family, who are universally awesome.

While this fic is sadly lacking in my favorite guilty pleasure (melodrama), it is a well-written action story that should appeal to anyone who likes the Dresden Files novels.

other things the road to hell is paved with
Title: These Tracks Stretch Out Before by ciaan
Fandom: Supernatural/Sky High
Pairing: Sam Winchester/Warren Peace
Categories: AU, crossover, action, angst, drama, crossover
Length: 25,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
In an AU crossover world where demons have been replaced by supervillains, Sam's psychic visions are flagged as a superpower. And where do people with superpowers go to school? Sky High, of course!

This is a very clever crossover, one that manages to keep Sam, Dean, and John perfectly in character while transporting them to the world of Sky High. Along for the ride is the Sky High crew, who are all a little more fleshed out than they were in canon (especially Warren's mom, who is awesome) and whose interactions with Sam are fascinating. Mix in some original (and very intriguing) superpower politics, daddy issues left right and center, and loads of very entertaining "Save the Citizen" competitions and you have a fun, albeit a bit angsty (John Winchester and Baron Battle: world's worst dads), fic.

Note: this is a complete story, but it's part of a series that appears to have been abandoned. Thus while most of the internal plotlines are tied up, the ending is a bit open.

These Tracks Stretch Out Before
Title: Horseshoe Nails series by Dyce
Fandom: Firefly
Pairing: River/Jayne
Categories: AU, angst, romance, action, hurt/comfort, humor, virgin, favorite
Length: 200,000 words
Warnings: amputation

Review:
Thanks to a couple of mishaps, everyone is gone from Serenity for two days except for River and Jayne. Shocking everyone (including themselves), they bond. The resulting friendship subtly but significantly alters everything that follows, most especially everything to do with Miranda.

At one point in this series, Inara explains why she likes the idea of River and Jayne being friends: "There's something about a man who really believes that what an attractive, vulnerable young girl really needs is to learn to shoot everyone who tries to hurt her in the head." This statement neatly sums up why this series is far and away my favorite Firefly story and why I come back to read it over and over again. I love the fact that, while Jayne will protect River if she needs it, both of them agree that the best thing for River is for her to be strong enough and prepared enough to protect herself. It's beautifully in character for both of them, and while the path to self-sufficiency for River is a long and at times bloody one, it's also immensely satisfying.

Making things even better is Dyce's characterization, which is nothing short of brilliant. Every canon character, from Firefly crew down to the Operative are pitch-perfect, both in their actions, their thoughts, and (most impressively) their dialogue. Her River is especially good; she juggles River's coherence and craziness with a deft hand and never falls into the trap of making her speak actual nonsense. Mix in phenomenal writing, slow-building romance, fast-paced action scenes, and a perfect balance of humor and drama and you have one of the most engrossing, satisfying series I've ever read.

Two Gorram Days
Kinship
Bank Job
Miranda

NOTE: there appears to be a fifth story in the series, but as it's not finished and (as it hasn't been updated in three years) likely never will be, I haven't read it and won't be listing it here. You can find it easily enough on Dyce's FF.net profile page (accessible from the top of the page on all of the stories linked above)
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