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Fic Recs IV

Let's move away from all that unpleasantness in the f-locked post, as I am feeling quite cheerful again.  In fact, you might even say I am enthusiastic.  Yes!  I am enthusiastic about all these great stories I have found in the last 6 weeks or so, and I'm doubling my enthusiasm by talking about them.  Since I think the last time I posted one of these there were about 2 people on my flist, some ground rules are probably in order:

1) I like oneshots.  And drabbles.  I have very small amounts of patience to go reading great big plot arcs in multi-chapter works, and I don't end up reading very many of them at all.  Thus, this and other lists will be composed almost entirely of short pieces I think you should read because they make me purr/cry/laugh hysterically before reading six times over, savoring every line.  If you're looking for the kind of story that will occupy you on a long airplane flight or car trip, I won't be of much help.  Also, this is not a definitive guide to every story I've read in the past month, or even just all the ones I liked.  These are my very favorites, the stories I've printed off and put in my binder, because I'll be wanting to reread them frequently.

2) It doesn't matter when a story was written; if I only recently found it then it goes on my list.  Even if it's two or three years old, I'll put it on the list.  I've had many authors surprised that I reviewed something they wrote six MONTHS ago, which in turn surprises me.  While I get that one's writing style is always evolving, being older does not mean it's not perfectly good.

3) Nor does it matter if a story already has 8 million reviews and has been posted sixteen different places.  If it's new to me, and I love it, I'm going to recommend it.  These lists are for my own personal reference as much as spreading the word.  Famous authors as well as brand-new unknowns get equal amounts of gushing praise love.

4) If there is an accepted format for such recommendations, I don't know about it and I don't care.  I just list fandom, title and author with a link to the story, and then ramble on about it for a paragraph or two in a mixture of summary and praise.  Sometimes I also post excerpts.   Depends how I feel.

Fandoms In This Batch: O.C., Grey's Anatomy, CSI: NY, CSI: Miami, CSI, House, Joan of Arcadia
Total Stories: 22

1. [O.C.] Running -- LemonStar
A quiet but comforting Ryan/Summer friendship story.  It's really full of warm fuzzies - Summer runs to Ryan when she's upset and needs to cry, not because he will comfort her or try to cheer her up, but because he will simply be there and let her cry, listen without interruption or judgement.  He's a safe haven, and nothing more.

2. [O.C.] Almost --BBallgirlie321
They were supposed to meet at the Bait Shop.

Another Ryan/Summer, slightly more romantic context this time.  I don't know why I like this pairing so much, since I never would have wanted it on the show...but maybe it's because all the traditional R/M and S/S stories are written by inane little hyperactive fanbrats.  This one is a bit AU, set shortly after college.   And as the title implies, it's really more about R/S finding their way toward each other, with Fate intervening before they ever really connect.  

He knew that her major was interior design, not fashion, and she knew that he followed in Kirsten’s footsteps and majored in architecture. She knew that both of their favorite colors were green, and he knew that she loved country music but listened to it in secret during high school so no one would ever know. She knew that his biggest fear was meeting his dad, not because he didn’t want to, but because he was scared he would mess it up. He knew hers was to have kids, because she was scared she would be like her mother and run away.

3. [O.C.] Now/Then -- Arualms
Dreaming or waking, Marissa never leaves Summer's side for long.  Marissa died a week ago.  Summer did not, or so they tell her.
(unlike all the other summaries provided, that one's my own particular interpretation)

This is a Summer-centric, post-season-3 story.  The title comes from the fact that the main story (now) involves a series of discussions Summer is having with her therapist, which lead into an italicized flashback (then).  I feel I should warn you up front that this story perplexes me.  It's almost as if it was written by two different people. The "now" is dialogue-based and very straightforward, and it feels like it interrupts the real story going on in the flashbacks. To that end, I have to admit I ended up only saving the italicized sections. Doing this alters the story a bit, from an overcoming-tribulations theme into more of a horror/mood piece, but also...it's amazing that way?

Throughout it you can see Summer first struggle against what's happening, then gradually sink into acceptance.   She has her best friend back, even when she's a figment of her imagnation and driving away everything else in her life the longer she stays.  Contains lots of rather eerie imagery, especially towards the beginning.  I don't know what else I can say that will better than an excerpt.

Summer and Marissa are sitting on Summer's bed, comfortable in short sweats and T-shirts. Sleep-over outfits. The Valley is on, but neither one of them is really watching. Summer leans back a little, allowing her friend more room to maneuver the brush around before once more bringing it down on her head, carefully pulling it through the dark tresses.

I missed this. Just you and me.” Marissa sounds calm, but there is an underlying edge that Summer can’t quite place. She isn’t sure she wants to know where it comes from, so she simply nods. She missed it too. The brush gets stuck in her hair, and she yelps in pain, sitting up quickly.

My turn” she says to avoid further hair-loss, taking the wooden handle out of Marissa’s hand and turning around to face her.The brush falls from her hand as her fingers go limp, her body suddenly rigid and she can hear someone scream. It takes a while before she realizes that she is the one making the noise, but even then it doesn’t really register. Nothing does, other than the sight of Marissa sitting there, smiling at her as if there is nothing weird about the blood running down the side of her face, dripping onto the pink bed spread, slowly pooling around Marissa’s body.

It’s nice that we finally have time for each other again” Marissa says, and how can she just sit there as if everything is normal? Doesn’t she see? Can’t she hear Summer scream? . . .

Summer watches, can’t look away, as Marissa bends over to pick up the discarded brush; stares as the girl pulls it through her hair, coating every single strand in red.

4. [O.C.] Little Girls -- Flash.Indie
All Kirsten ever wanted were little girls, but she’s stuck here with a house full of men, and a bellyful of little boy. Seth’s jealous and Ryan doesn’t feel like a big brother, but then the baby’s born and everything’s different.

This is a very lovely interpretation of what it might have been like if Kirsten had a baby boy.   It's Kirsten centric but switches viewpoints a few times to show Seth and Ryan's reactions to the idea of becoming older brothers.  These transitions flow easily and do not detract in any way.  There are some very adorable mothering moments, and plenty of brothers interaction.  Is all heart-warming with little infusions of funny here and there.  Read it, you'll feel good.  Had a hard time picking an excerpt, but this one shows off a lot of the highlights of the writing style:

Keys are fiddling in the lock, tentative, staggering. Seth can’t hold his alcohol, Seth will never be able to hold his alcohol, so when he stumbles in, knocks over the lamp Kirsten had bought two days earlier, and collapses onto the couch, it isn’t as much of a surprise as it probably should have been.

“You know what, Ryan?” Seth slurs, his fingers clenched in the cushions littered over the sofa, “You know what?”

“You’ve had too much to drink?”

“Not that much, but, you know what?”

“What, Seth?”

“I am,” he says, and he raises his arms into the air, punches out a fist. “I am jealous,” he says, and it’s the most honest thing he’s said all day.

“I know,” Ryan says, “I know, and right now you need to go to bed.”

“’m not tired though, Ryan,” and Seth’s yawning, eyelids slipping, he’s exhausted and he’s drunk.

Ryan wanders over, slips an arm under Seth’s waist, pulls the other boy to his feet. “You’re not tired,” Ryan says, “but you need to go to bed.”

Ryan’s not ready to be a big brother, but maybe, maybe he already is one.

5. [Grey's Anatomy] One Thousand Words -- Teh Fuzzy Penguin

Any photograph can tell you: she has red hair and blue eyes, and she's a surgeon. But photographs are worth...quite a few words.  A series of Addison-centric drabbles. 

I am in love with this collection.  Of the few completed 100-prompt tables I've seen, I have yet to see anyone write 100 drabbles that were all equally strong.  But she's doing it.  It doesn't hurt that Addison is among my favorite characters on this show.  They range from snippets from her childhood to present-day, from funny to sad to romantic.  As far as romance goes, they are mostly an even mix of her with either Derek or Mark.  If you only like one or the other, there will no doubt be a few in the collection that you don't like, but so far I'm 97% in love.  They're rich.  I dare you to read 5 and not be hooked.  Oh, and there's an added bonus in that each one contains a reference to literature, a classic movie, or literary device.  (mostly the first one)  It's fun to read her notes on that.

6. [Grey's Anatomy] Vanishing Act -- Eliza4892
Meredith's always trying to disappear.

So, remember when I issued a plea for somebody to write a word-art companion piece to part 1 of the ferry disaster, "Walk on Water," using the beginning/ending themes of Meredith slipping underwater?  Not 24 hours later, I found one.  Nobody will ever improve upon this; I'm convinced of it.  It's a beautiful introspective piece that shifts every other section from the present, where she's struggling in the icy ocean, to a situation with water from her past.  The past segments progress from childhood baths to after school at the YMCA to when she nearly drowned one year in high school, and it all ties together in a poignant end.  

7. [Grey's Anatomy] A Waiting Room of a Different Sort -- Eliza4892
I didn't even realize this was by the same author until after I'd sent my review.  I was just delighted that I had a piece like "Vanishing Act" to work as a definitive post-ep for ferry disaster part 2, "Drowning on Dry Land."  It continues the final scene of that episode; consider it sort of an alternative to how that continuation actually went in part 3. There's lots of nice Denny and Dylan and metaphysics discussed herein.

8. [Grey's Anatomy] I See You -- My Sharpie Is Green
And this is what I consider the definitive post-ep for "Some Kind of Miracle."  It's not exactly a Meredith story; it's not one story at all.  It's a half-dozen brief drabbles that summarize a few thoughts to accompany various relationships that were highlighted in this arc.  Izzy about Denny, Meredith about Derek, George about Callie, Addison about Derek & Mark (King Arthur references ahoy!), Cristina about Meredith and Richard about Ellis.  You must read them.  If the fact that I like it isn't enough to convince you to click the link, it's scored over 15 reviews in only a few days.   That's huge for a single-chapter piece.

9. [CSI: NY] Five People Who Never Died (And One Who Did) -- Ragna
*mumbles something about calling a moratorium on titleing fics with the cumbersome "Five..." anything.*

Six drabbles for the price of five, who can argue with that?  It's all AU, so the first five revolve around Claire, Aiden, Frankie, "Lindsay's Friends," Danny's brother, and then Flack's death.  I particularly heart the Claire one (duh),  just because it thrills me to think of her being around to meet Reed.  And because domestic scenes between her and Mac fill me with quiet glee.  The Frankie one is also rather nice, since it involves him being around long enough to stand trial and go to jail, and showcases a nice moment of supportive friendship between Stella, Hawkes and Flack.

10. [CSI: NY] The Only Living Boy in New York -- Stellaluna
Let me put it this way: after reading this, I'm pretty sure that the author has a magical time machine that can go first into fictional worlds, and then back 10-15 years in time to document exactly what was happening in Mac Taylor's life long before we met him. Every word rings true.  Every sentence.  This is definitive backstory for Mac, as far as I'm concerned, one which not only feeds my eternal craving to know more about Claire, but does an incredible job of taking us into Mac's head and exploring what drives him.  It does not conform to my usual heady love of poetic lines of imagery, metaphors dripping with description.  It is rich in depth but straightforward, much like the man himself, and that is what makes it beautiful.  The central theme of the story is his friendship with Stella, which seems to have weathered just about everything and is the one thing standing strong.  Oh yes, almost forgot, this is a companion piece to The Ten Cent Adventure, which starts off slightly more present-times before going back, basically Stella's side of the friendship.  That one's very good too, and I'd give it individual discussion except that then I'd want to keep going until my list was be nothing but her stories.  I feel like I've been living under a rock that I never read her stories before January, and I'm still kind of giddy over finding that treasure trove, but I'm attempting to rein myself in just a little.

11. [CSI: NY] The Last Piece of Cake - Sugah
You've got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.  [Danny/Lindsay]

Firstly, I tend to avoid D/L stories.  Love the pairing, but hate the amateur writing.  This is a particular pet peeve of mine.  Every damn day, unceasingly, a good 15/25 stories on the front page of fanfiction.net are devoted to this couple, and at least 75% of them are horrid.  Sappy, nauseatingly fluffy, melodramatic, and/or recycle the same plotlines over and over again -- but this one's different.  This one's good.  It's quite long (23 pages in size 10 font, single-spaced) - remember what I said about my short attention span? - but I was completely captivated.  

It's not so much a straight shot of D/L as Lindsay-centric in a way that gradually leads up to being with Danny.  Each chapter is centered around one point on a childhood list of the things that would make up "the perfect guy,” and each attribute is then described in three past loves – high school, college, a colleague early on in Montana – after which she had sworn off going out looking for true love.  She wasn’t planning to fall in love with Danny.  She was actively not planning to fall in love with him.  What you end up with is a very nice and well-written progression of how it happens anyway, Danny's role sliding in at the end of each chapter and becoming a bit more prominent each time. 

It’s full of detail, easy reading but nevertheless rich...which is to say that it moves fairly quickly, but you can also slow down and pick out all kinds of descriptive passages and figurative language and the like.  What it is, really, is four stories in one.  See, the title comes into play again; it's like a four layer cake; each chapter [slice], you move through the same four layers (Eric, Dexter, Martin, Danny).  Or maybe my lack of sleep is making me loopy.  Either way, all in all it's very, very satisfying.

12. [CSI: NY] Insomnia // Center of the Universe -- Anna2
I'm bundling these as one one the list because much like Danny and Lindsay they belong together.  Written before "Sleight Out of Hand" aired but honestly, they still fit almost perfectly into canon, or at the very least offer a scenario that's just as good.  The former is Lindsay-centric, "5 AM in a lonely hotel room and sleep won't come."  It's introspective but almost like a missing scene from one of the Lindsay-less episodes, as it's about her first night back in Montana before the trial, and she's missing the buzz of New York.  She's not missing Danny, because that relationship, whatever it is, is too complicated to think about.  Which is why he's not supposed to send her an e-mail whose contents are entirely personal rather than professional, and tells her to call him if she needs anything.

The second story is Danny-centric.  Her reply was too brief; she was clearly not fine, and so for the first time in his life he's leaving the tri-state area (formerly considered the center of the universe) to see her.  There is no mushy reunion with hugs and kisses.  By the end of the story, he's only just made the decision to leave.  Like the other piece, it's all about the introspective, and it's really about reflection.  About growing up in New York, the city providing everything one could have needed.  And it's a reflection on Lindsay, how when she'd first arrived he'd wanted to hate her, but that had fallen away.  It's really quite an impressive exploration of how their non-relationship progressed, staying fairly true to the show.  If I'd had any lingering doubts about their chemistry, after reading this I'm sure I would have been on board with D/L in an instant.  I wish somebody could explain a slash relationship like this; I might finally believe in it.  (oh wait.  Got that covered in the next one.)

13. [CSI: NY] Sorrow Three Times -- Stellaluna
Um.  So.  I have a thing about slash, the thing being that as soon as it's mentioned, I bolt in the opposite direction.  But I love word art, can't resist it, so despite the fact that I feel like I'm recommending you smoke pot, I'm recommending this story because it's just that good and artful.

Caught my eye because it starts out talking about ravens and crows.  Naturally I see this right *before* I see the Mac/Danny tag with a rating higher than G, meaning it's too late to stop myself.  No matter what comes later, there's no way in hell I can walk away from a Mac/Stella conversation, set during an exhumation in a creepy Queens cemetery, where big black birds are eyeing them.  What comes though, is this really rather fantastic explanation of how Mac and Danny came to be in this relationship, of sorts, which is more of a secret and undefined affair.  ["Keeping company, Mac supposes, to use the old-fashioned vernacular."]  It's a lot of deep, deep instropection on Mac's part, broken up by occasional lines of dialogue with Stella.  Part of the internal monologue involves comparisons of him and Danny to the platonic but no less meaningful relationship with Stella, and wrestling with the decision of whether or not he could/should tell her.  It's all very impressively thought out.  Still...the story is fantastic simply for its ominous descriptions of the birds.   And for Stella's conclusion on what you call a group of CSI's, if it's a "murder" of crows and a "killing" of ravens.

14. [CSI Miami] Predators and Prey -- MoonMadKitty
Someone's hunting young women like game in the Everglades...

I never read straight casefiles.  Okay?  Ever.  I tend to find them bland and uninteresting.  But something about this one caught my eye; I read half a chapter and I was hooked.  I stayed up for hours because I couldn't stop reading, I had to know what happened.  This could be an episode.  Honestly, it unfolds just like an episode, only massively more interesting than at least 50% of the cases I can remember watching on the show.   How can it not be, when you have an already sketchy hunting company secretly abducting, drugging and blinding young women to use as their newest exotic trophies for their customers to hunt down?  And that's all well and good, but the author has also fantastically captured Horatio's character; put it to words like I've never seen.  There's nothing romantic, not even a hint at a ship, but it reminds me of the reason I started watching this show - his empathy and compassion, his ability to soothe the hysterical, panicky victims and calm them down.  There's plenty of that.  Plenty of action!H, too.

15. [CSI Miami] Sleeping on the Couch -- Stunt Muppet
You there, are you in need of Horatio/Marisol fluff and/or angst?  I am.  Of course, I ALWAYS am, but that's because most of what little I find doesn't meet my high standards.  This does.  Or I should say, these do, because it's really two little stories in one.  Part 1 is made of warm fuzzies.  Seriously, I thought I was feeding my deepest reserves of fluffy self gratification when I wrote Dreamscape, but I think I like this one better.  Part 2 is the obligatory post-Rampage sadness, but done in a clever new way to tie in to the preceding ficlet.  And it is effective without being long, drawn-out, or melodramatic.

16. [CSI Miami] Cry When You Have No Hope --Ragna
Dear fanfiction.net: where is the influx of post-No Man's Land/Man Down fics that I expected to see, eh?  Sigh.  That's okay, I finally found a companion piece to suit my wishes.  It's Calleigh-centric, expanding upon her first scene with Eric in the hospital.  (non-shippy)  It ties up loose ends, illustrates her thoughts, and is very short but exactly what I needed to pad out that scene.

17. [CSI] CSIs in Toyland -- PonchoLives
After a grueling case, Nick falls asleep and has a dream.  [humor/parody]

How is it possible that I've never seen this before?  7,000 words and 52 individual reviewers, wow.  It's one of those stories where you just might die laughing.  It's apparently based off a similar, LOTR-based fic, but having checked that one out, I like this one better, since it has some semblance of a story format and isn't just a guidebook.  Am I going to sound really naive and ignorant if I continue to summarize it?   Sigh.  Anyway, adjust your mind to the fact that this is a dream sequence, suppose you could buy the CSIs like little action figures?  They come with detailed instructions for care, a list of their uses and compatibility with other figurines, and FAQ, plus options to purchase various boxed sets.  If only real instruction manuals were this entertaining!  All six characters (plus brief references to several others) are described in great detail.  A brief snippet of an FAQ:

Q: My GRISSOM unit hasn’t spoken to me for the past two days. Have I done something to offend him? How can I make him speak to me?

A: This behavior is quite typical of a GRISSOM unit. The longest recorded period of silence was three weeks by a GRISSOM unit in Spokane, WA. You should avoid any attempts to pressure him into speaking. When he has something to say, he’ll say it.

Now, if you are not already thoroughly familiar with this story, GO READ!   You will most likely incur some sort of physical injury from laughing too hard, that's how good it is.

18. [CSI] Free Delivery -- Iboneki
Psychoanalysis comes to to life.

A rather clever post-ep for "Monster in the Box" based on the "Hodges is the MCSK!" theory.  Anyway, it takes sentences from part of the therapist's speech to Brass and inserts them around brief passages of description to illustrate the words.  I'm still waiting for clarification on whether it's supposed to be read as tongue-in-cheek or dark and sinister.  I think it might be the former, but I initially read it as the latter; either way it's fantastic.  

19. [House] Darn!  They've Boiled the Missionary [MST]
Okay, not really a story. But this is *the* MST which hooked me on the community, and I've yet to read a better one.  Actually, not unlike that one Harry Potter fic I discussed in December, the story alone (whose original author/title are unknown and unimportant) is amusing enough to have you in stitches.  But it's better with an MST (even if there are some...references to House/Wilson in the MST part).  I cannot possibly explain why this amuses me so, so I'll quote you the author's intro and hope that convinces you to click:

"It’s dark; it’s benighted; it’s savage... It’s beyond bad!fic – it’s vile!fic!  Vile!author has taken my entire continent and thrown up on it in words. She sends House and the ducklings to save the Africans, who have never before beheld the majesty of white!Cameron but are just smart enough to rejoice at the sight of the metal bird."

20. [House] Chasing the Past -- vanillafluffy
Set 20 years in the future. Chase has returned to PPTH for a special event, and has a chance to catch up with the people who used to be a big part of his life. He also has a secret that he's been keeping for a long, long time.

I don't actually have a lot of House fics in my binder.  Thanks to that damn community, I'm even less inclined to go hunting, a-fearing the badfic.  So I thought this one warranted a mention, even if there's nothing particularly showy or flashy about it.  Chase-centric story, obviously; no pairing, and I hate to wimp out on praise, but the the summary *really* says it all.  Cuddy appears briefly, Stacey, Foreman and Cameron are just names that are mentioned; it's really only House and Wilson that he ends up talking to.  Both bits are nice, although the one with House is infinitely more amusing, of course.

21. [Joan of Arcadia] Walls --Wizened Cynic
Four easy steps to redecorating your house.

Very, very cute little Grace/Luke story, though a bit more centric for the former...about four stages in Grace's life.  Centered around four bedrooms, the color they were painted and what effect the colors had on her (or more appropriately, she on them).  Her childhood room (sunny yellow over the hand-painted bunnies; nice insight into young Grace and her mother), first dorm (an institutional white), the first apartment of her own (freezing cold and an odd sort of wallpaper), and a room with Luke (bi-colored, because they can't agree on the paint choice).

22. [Joan of Arcadia] The Lost Art of Lamps -- Wizened Cynic
I went through a period near the end of season 1/beginning of season 2 where I stopped watching the show, but I gathered that over the summer she was sent against her will to some kind of mental-health camp,  which I assume had something to do with telling people about her chats with God.  Anyway, this is an exploration of that time, where she meets Judith.  Despite having only the vaguest notion of who Judith was, I quite enjoyed reading the adventures of the inseparable miscreants.  Judith-centric, and if you must have slash then you can believe she has an unspoken and unrequited crush on Joan.  But you have to look for it.

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