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Last, but most certainly not least...

#5- Crowskin by Sintari

Fandom: Naruto
Pairing: Ino/Chouji
Rating: T
Summary: Let me also wear such deliberate disguises... In Ino's world, people look, but never see.

Why It's So Awesome: There are very, very few stories for this pairing that have any kind of substance, most leaving Ino in the shallow depths of Barbieland and Chouji to man the buffet table, and even fewer still that get it, get something, right. This Ino-centric piece does everything right in ways too profound for me to properly explain. It's the kind of story that, despite being barely over two thousand words, defines a fandom. This piece of fanfiction is what compelled me to starting writing, because seeing the beauty of this piece against the lonely backdrop of mediocrity hurt my heart. Every word I add to the fandom (because this truly is my ship) I measure up to this and I find myself lacking.

#4- Half Truths by Kimsa Ki-Lurria

Fandom: Bleach
Pairing: Ishida/Orihime
Rating: T
Summary: Mid SS-arc. “Ishida-kun,” she breathes, reaching her hands through the bars to the broken Quincy. “You are a good person.” She will tell him whatever he wants to hear. It is her gift to the living dead. Dark, Ishihime.

Why It's So Awesome: The tension is wound so tight that you could pluck it like the string of a harp. And for this story, it's a good thing. It's suspenseful, not in a frightening way, but rather in the same manner as the old Hitchcock movies where sound and lighting and pacing were everything. It is a clever piece of AU, the best kind of whodunit experience I've had with fanfiction, intermingling strong, desperate emotion with interesting deviations from canon.

#3- Three Days by Lotos-Eater

Fandom: Naruto
Pairing: Shikamaru/Temari
Rating: M
Summary: The Nara doth protest too much, methinks.

Why It's So Awesome: The story puts a twist on the often used inter-village marriage plot device and is carried out so very smartly that it is pure genius, just like the man it is written about. It is one of the first stories I ever read on ff.net, after hearing about the site from someone on the old tokyopop community, and it has stayed with me ever since, it's impact so thoroughly felt. And I won't lie, the sentimental factor does play heavily into its placement on my list. But if you take the time to read, I believe that you'll find that it's justified.

#2- Love Me Down by unkeptsecret

Fandom: Naruto
Pairing: Shizune/Kabuto
Rating: M
Summary: It stood to reason, then, that Shizune could allow herself to be stupid about something, just one thing, after a lifetime of spartan practicality, so Shizune lets herself be stupid for Kabuto. Shizune/Kabuto. Eventual Shizune/Genma.

Why It's So Awesome: Shizune is one of the most underutlized characters in the Naruto fandom. And when she is used in a story, it is normally as little more than an accessory to Tsunade. She regularly takes a beating in the form of shallow characterization and misrepresentation. But not here. Here, she is given respect and depth, wrapped up in a dark, haunting plot filled with expertly delivered turns of phrase. Even as Shizune careens towards certain tragedy, it is a spectacular site to behold.

#1- How & Why by randomsomeone

Fandom: Naruto
Pairing: Gaara/Sakura
Rating: M
Summary: A psychological war gets completely out of control. Lust doesn't cut it and love doesn't just happen, so how else can it work?

Why It's So Awesome: Have you ever picked a random couple and searched for stories about them on ff.net? You see that tiny bit of something in the canon and you want to know if anyone else saw it too? Well, that's how I became a GaaSaku fan. While watching the Gaara Retrieval Arc, something just made me think, "Huh, that could work". The fandom was already huge by then (though nothing like it eventually became), but I ran across this one on someone's rec list and fell in love. For me, this story defines that fandom. It's vicious and sensual, focusing on the psychology of the characters. It's beautiful story about fear and insecurity versus trust. And maybe it's weird, but whenever I read it, I remember everything I love about fanfiction and I feel like I'm home.
 
Well, that's it!

Wow... I really had fun doing that.
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