Okay, this rec list is dedicated to some Twitter friends who have a profound love of well-written AUs with good characterization. Much love to you all (especially to ExEm for nudging me into compiling this list).
This list started out as Destiel-centric, and then I realized when going through my bookmarks is that I’m an AU fiend in any fandom…and then I asked my Collective cohorts for their recs as well, so here’s a multi-fandom list, separated by pairing. Happy reading, shippers!
P.S. Past AUs that I’ve recced can be found on our Tumblr rec lists. 🙂
300 Things by cautionzombies
Summary: Dean’s life at twenty-four makes him feel like he’s forty—he works two jobs to help pay bills for his house and put his genius little brother through private school, and has spent six years (on and off, let’s be honest) working on his mechanical engineering degree at KU. With so much of his life devoted to his family, Dean has little time in his schedule for class and no time for social interaction. Then, while getting his classes together for the fall, he finds himself in a do-or-die situation: He must take his last literature class now, his spring already filled with those left for his major…except that none of the English classes will fit his schedule. This is how Dean grovels and begs Dr. Castiel Milton to make a special arrangement for him, and Dr. Milton does.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: This one is so fandom-famous, do I really need to say anything? Just read it.
Angelhawke by almaasi
Summary: A Dean/Cas Fantasy-Drama AU, set in a medieval world where two men are separated by a curse: every sunrise and sunset, both are eternally bound to transform into animals. Every night when darkness falls, Dean Winchester becomes a wolf, and his human mind is lost until the dawn. As the sun rises, his lover Castiel becomes a hawk. Their story has been the same for five years – until the day that a young thief named Sam stumbles into their twisted lives. Without even realising it, he becomes a part of their destiny, their paths entwined in prophecy and fate. Together with a few old friends, they set off on a journey to break the curse, but it won’t be easy. To pass the time, Dean and Castiel take turns to recount their past to Sam, narrating the tale of how they met, how they formed their profound bond, and how they found themselves wanting what no man should ever want: the touch of another man. ‘Angelhawke’ is a saga of forbidden love, friendship, and magic – but above all, family. Partially based on the 1985 movie ‘Ladyhawke’.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Let me give you a visual representation of when I realized that one of my fav fic authors had written a Destiel fusion fic with one of my fav films:
Yes, Falcor was excited too.
Bare by liketeachingpoetrytofish
Summary: Okay, so Dean was checking out a stripper, and a male one at that, but he didn’t care. He was already so drunk that he wouldn’t even bat an eye if a flying elephant suddenly landed in the room. Although a part of him did wonder why there was a male stripper at Sam’s bachelor party. Well, technically there were two strippers, the wing guy and some brunette who was currently on Ash’s lap. Stripper Cas AU in which Dean gets all the kinks and falls head over heels for baby blues and a smile that spells out danger.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: AU with Cas as a stripper? With tattoos. Obviously I recced this for reasons.
The Breath Of All Things by KismetJeska
Summary: Dean Winchester was twenty-six years old when a car accident killed his father and left him paralysed from the waist down. A year and a half later, Dean is in a wheelchair and lives in a care home in Kansas, where he spends his days waiting to die. It’s only when Castiel Novak starts volunteering at the care home that Dean starts to wonder if a changed life always equals a ruined one.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: This one was not an easy read, but I felt like the author really captured the mindset of a Dean who is bitter and heartbroken about his injury. Well worth the read, but mind the tags.
Crossroads State by Mercy
Summary: Castiel has a nice predictable structured life teaching high school, even if he happens to be overqualified for it. Then this guy moves in around the corner and literally knocks him on his ass.
The Collectress Thoughts: This one plays out like a rom-com. I love academic!Castiel.
Easy Now, With My Heart by casfallsinlove
Summary: Dean Winchester is a kindergarten teacher. Castiel Milton is a writer slash works-in-a-coffee-shop. He also happens to be the extremely hot one-night stand that Dean never intended to see again other than in his own fantasies (he’s classy like that). But suddenly Cas is everywhere and Dean is convinced that Fate is out to get him. And maybe they do this thing backwards, but that doesn’t have to mean they can’t make it in the end, right?
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Basically, a sort-of coffeeshop AU with lots of sex. What’s not to love about that?
The face of heaven. by orange_crushed
Summary: “This is the best day of my life,” Castiel tells him, when he comes back. “You’ve been so kind to me.” His cheeks are glowing a little from the cold, or maybe just because he’s an otherworldly being full of light. Dean doesn’t know. “If I burn another million years, I won’t forget it.” “Oh,” says Dean. “Good.” (In which Castiel is a fallen star.)
The Collectress’ Thoughts: I smiled the entire time I read this one.
He Came in Through the Bedroom Window by betty days (sadrobots)
Summary: Close to every day of every summer, Cas climbs into Dean’s room immediately after he wakes up. *** Just a day in the life of two nerds who realize they’ve been in love this whole damn time.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: This fic is almost TOO adorable. Can you hear me over the sound of my squeeing?
Kiss You When It’s Dangerous by zoemathemata
Summary: When his partner Uriel, betrays him, Federal Agent Castiel Novak is saved from becoming a ritual sacrifice by brothers Dean and Sam Winchester. Discovering the world of the supernatural and learning about werewolves, wendigoes, vampires and things that go bump in the night also leads to learning more about Dean and the strange life he and his brother lead. The more he learns, the more Castiel finds himself drawn into Dean’s world and toward Dean himself. Until Uriel wants to complete the ritual he started.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Okay, so this is one I recently read. I started it at 1:30 a.m., and stayed up until 4 a.m. to finish it. Trust me, you need Castiel as an FBI agent.
Let the Altars Shine by tiptoe39
Summary: For the sake of his family, Dean agrees to marry an angel he’s never seen. He’s not expecting true love, nor to uncover the mystery behind why the angels are taking husbands in the first place. But sometimes in marriage, the unexpected happens.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: I had to include at least one arranged marriage AU, and this one comes with a highly intriguing concept/plot.
Of Shampoo and Fruitflies by almaasi
Summary: Dean’s roommate is not what anyone would call ordinary. Cas is asexual, and autistic, and he frustrates other people with his unrelentingly ‘childish’ ways – but it’s different with Dean: they have an exceptional bond, something truly profound. Dean figures Cas wouldn’t respond to the idea of a crush the way most people would, so he has no intention of telling him he’s been harbouring non-platonic feelings for him for years. Then one night everything falls to pieces: Cas overhears something he wasn’t meant to hear. Things were never normal between the two of them, but now they might never be comfortable again.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: What I love about almaasi’s fics is how experimental they are. I went on a hunt for fics that portrayed asexuality or demisexuality, and this one did not disappoint. I will say, however, please mind the tags and author’s note, because the author has a few warnings.
The Prank That Filled the Spank Bank by Bookkbaby
Summary: It starts with a prank war and a chance meeting at the auto shop Dean works at. (Based off of Almaasi’s prompt: Castiel records audio pornography. Not professionally, or anything – he writes it and then reads it out, and uploads it free to the world. It’s not Dean’s usual type of porn – at all – but there’s something about Castiel’s gravelly, yet somehow smooth and beautiful voice that keeps him hooked.)
The Collectress’ Thoughts: When you read this one, have a fan close at hand because damn the thought of erotica read by Cas is just…unf. The sexiness aside, this one is adorable and hilarious.
Shut Up (Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is) by kototyph
Summary: Dean’s done some pretty stupid things, but getting drunk-hitched in Vegas to a colleague he barely knows might just take the cake. His surprise husband, Castiel, is a little weird but likable despite that, and Dean figures they’ll go back to Boston, get a quiet annulment, and go their separate ways. Six weeks later, he’s still married to one of the strangest, most genuine and definitely most dangerously lov– likable guys he’s ever known. Dean doesn’t know why or really even how it’s happening, but it’s getting harder and harder to remember that he has divorce papers to file.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: This one is domestic, it’s sexy, and it’s one of the best AUs I’ve ever read. Also, a DCBB fic from 2013–probably my favourite from that year. 🙂
Drarry (Harry Potter)
Harry Potter and the Sentinel Phenomenon by elyssblair
Summary: Everything changes the summer after fifth year. Draco refuses to take the Dark Mark and must deal with leaving behind the life, friends and family he’s always known.The Dursley’s abandon Harry alone in the woods for a week, triggering his Sentinel gifts and leaving him hurting and in need of a Guide. Can two rivals put aside five years worth of antagonism in order to work together to save Hogwarts and each other?
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Confession time: I’m a sucker for Sentinel fusion fics. Sentinel + Drarry? I am here for this.
Hannigram (NBC Hannibal)
Provenance by drinkbloodlinkwine and whiskeyandspite
Summary: Will blinks, slow. He glances to either side of himself, past exposed brick and reclaimed wooden floors, past steel fittings holding up tables marked ‘no laptops’ with carefully calligraphed signs and the wiry bulbs burning dim in light fixtures above. He looks at the young man behind him, who doesn’t notice past his phone and his earbuds, and finally Will turns back to the barista. Baristo? Coffee-monger? Fuck it. “Just coffee,” Will repeats again, slower. A delightful AU about a rare book dealer, an owner of a high-end coffee shop, and murder. This does involve Hannibal Lecter, after all.
The Collectiva Diva’s Thoughts: I never thought there would be a day when I would read a Hannigram coffee shop AU, and yet, here we are.
Johnlock (BBC Sherlock)
Bring Me Back to Life by yalublyutebya
Summary: After being injured on the Front, John Watson is sent to Craiglockhart Hospital for psychiatric treatment and finds himself sharing a room with the mysterious Sherlock Holmes.
The Collected Mutineer’s Thoughts: I’m a sucker for good historical fiction, fanfic or otherwise. This is the perfect example of how a well researched time period can make or break a story.
The Guarded Secret by mycapeisplaid
Summary: After his war injury, John feels broken, small, and useless. On a whim, he takes a position as a security guard of sorts at the gorgeous Holmes Hall in Yorkshire. As it turns out, he is not as broken, small, or useless as he thinks. A story of beauty and blossom, murder and mystery, loss and love.
The Collected Mutineer’s Thoughts: This story took me by the hand, pulled quite hard, and I went running after it. Maybe it’s because I love The Secret Garden. Maybe it’s because the characterization is spot on. Whatever it was, it worked. If you like a slightly gothic feel to your AUs, or enjoy the reworking of a classic story, then this is the fic for you.
Merthur (BBC Merlin)
A Binding Contract by eldee
Summary: In a society where people with magic are considered to be dangerous, are labelled as freaks, and have their powers cut off from them, Merlin does whatever he can to survive the hard life he’s faced with. When he’s in desperate need of money, Merlin’s landlord Aredian arranges and offers a magically binding contract in which Merlin is to become a ‘companion’ to Uther Pendragon’s son, Arthur. And when Merlin feels compelled to accept it, he never would have imagined that one man could change his life so completely.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Okay, so this one pushed my limits as it technically includes sexual slavery, but it’s not included in an icky way, I promise. As always, these two idiots fall in love and make me fall in love with the story, which is a brilliant form of AU that includes many of the themes from the BBC show.
Every Story is a Love Story by lady_ragnell
Summary: Camelot Publishing publishes romance novels, and when Arthur founds a new imprint of gay romance and invites his best friend and pet writer Merlin to write for it, it’s a bit too easy to miss the fact that apparently he’s living in one.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: These boys + smutty romance novels? Yes, please.
Not In This Land Alone by torakowalski
Summary: Modern AU. When Merlin Emrys gets a summer job at Buckingham Palace, he doesn’t expect to even meet King Arthur, let alone become involved in protecting him from a plot to overthrow the monarchy.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: I truly believe this to be an episode of the show that they forgot to air. Merlin has magic, so they totally time-travelled, right?
00Q (James Bond)
Old Gods, New Tricks by BootsnBlossoms, kryptaria
Summary: As MI6’s senior quartermaster, Q is accustomed to dealing with all manner of oddities. But an agent who won’t stay dead, a bomb in his office, and bad tea all combine to make for a stressful day. The muggers on the way home only make matters worse. And that’s before the owl shows up.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Definitely one of the fics that made me fall in love with this ship. And the owl? It’s a quasi-shapeshifter fic that’s kinda perf.
The Courtship of Mr. Bond by marlowe_tops
Summary: In which Bond is a retired naval commander with too much house, Q is a mechanical engineer with too many sisters, and they have lengthy conversations about decorum, bonnet-ribbons and philosophy in Regency England.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: 00Q meets Jane Austen novel. Please, sir, may I have another?
Sterek (Teen Wolf)
Fireman Derek’s Crazy Pie [Cheeseburger Baby] by owlpostagain
Summary: “He can’t blame me for the fact that I live in a building full of people united in the singular effort to ogle Hot Fireman as often as humanly possible.” Laura laughs, loud and echoing in the empty restaurant. “Hot firemen can make a girl do crazy things,” she agrees, nodding towards her brother’s name on the menu. “Derek won’t let me date anyone from his company, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the eye candy.” “Send them my way,” Stiles suggests, finally loading up a forkful of pie. “Apparently I’m incompetent enough that I need to be babysat at all times, because it would be cheaper than dispatching a truck every time I try to use a kitchen appliance.”
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Fireman Derek? Stiles & Laura are BFFs? SOLD.
Pack Up; Don’t Stray by the_deep_magic
Summary: AU – Werewolves are an enslaved underclass, collared and tagged by human masters. Detective Stilinski’s on duty the night they bring in an untagged stray.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: This is a slavery fic that uses the trope as a method of discussing issues of class and prejudice. I’ve read it several times, and I enjoy it more each time I do. Probably in my top 10 Sterek fics.
[Sleep]Walking After You by relenafanel
Summary: Derek is a sleepwalker who keeps wandering into his downstairs neighbour’s bedroom. Stiles is pretty sure the hot guy from the park is going to kill him in his sleep. He knows he shouldn’t have been so obvious about objectifying the guy’s really fine ass. Too bad it turns out Derek is easier to get along with when he’s sleeping.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: This one is sexy and funny in all the ways a Sterek fic should be.
Stony (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
And I’d Buy A Big House Where We Both Could Live by shinkonokokoro
Summary: Missing: Tony Stark, billionaire businessman, heir to Stark Industries, reward: none. Only Steve didn’t know that when he picked up the waterlogged unconscious man from the bank of a river.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: A non-superhero AU in which these two idiots fall in love and save each other. And, there’s kids. It’s a kid fic because Steve is the legal guardian of teenager!Clint and kid!Peter Parker. Steve as a dad? Deep breaths. Cue swooning.
I (created from fantasies) exist solely for you by Mizzy
Summary: Six years ago, without the Avengers Initiative there to save the day, scientist Dr. Eric Selvig sacrificed himself to save the world, the almighty demi-god Thor was lost to a terrible storm, and vigilante Iron Man – spotted with a nuclear weapon trying to take advantage of the situation – was forever labelled an enemy of SHIELD. This is a comic book office AU, where Steve is defrosted a year too late, Thor has forgotten who he is, and no one knows Tony is Iron Man. Also includes: office pranks, inappropriate post-it notes, and superheroes who like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Have you ever read a fic that left you smiling for hours afterward? Put you on a happy cloud for the rest of your shitty work week? This fic did that for me. Try to read it and not smile like an idiot when you’re done.
The Winged Soul by inukagome15
Summary: It wasn’t until he was three that he realized he was different and no one else could see the wings.
The Collectress’ Thoughts: Bet you didn’t know you need a Cap with wings until you read a Cap with wings, right? This one is high on my list of character fics as well.
Stucky (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Buck Me by OhCaptainMyCaptain
Summary: Steve’s been friends with Bucky for fourteen years. Unfortunately, he’s also been in love with him for nearly just as long. He’s been pretty good at hiding that over the past few years – until he follows a porn link one night and accidentally discovers that his best friend is secretly a camboy. Steve really shouldn’t watch those videos… Not with the filthy things Bucky does to himself that gets him screaming every time he comes…He shouldn’t… he really fucking shouldn’t. But Steve’s only human.
The Collectiva Diva’s Thoughts: I’ve got a thing for smut and unrequited/unresolved sexual tension, sue me.
Politics and Animals by Kryptaria, rayvanfox
Summary: It all started on a quiet Brooklyn street. Sure, putting the Veterans Administration clinic next to a funeral parlor was probably the universe’s idea of a joke, but it had a coffee shop right across the street. And the old church next to the coffee shop had a new sign over the doors: Howling Commandos. When Steve Rogers, the new Team Lead at the VA, first looked across the street and spotted the gorgeous guy with the cute dog, he never planned on becoming emotionally invested. It was just supposed to be a no-strings night of pleasure.But Bucky Barnes turns out to be far more complicated than Steve ever expected, and at every turn, it seems like Bucky’s past, his family, and his stalker are all conspiring against them. Is it even worth the effort?
The Collectiva Diva’s Thoughts: I like to think of this story when I’m gauging the characterization of a Stucky AU in terms of, will it read like the Avengers, but without the avenging?