Initially I intended to post the first of these separately, and then the second one in a joint post with number 22, but as 21 ended up really long as well, it makes no odds to post them both here now. Enjoy. :)
Day 20: A Ship You Enjoy When Angry
It could really only be one:
Buffy and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I suppose it's not necessarily that I enjoy them when angry, more that the ship itself was very angry, at least for the most part - if we exclude "Something Blue", anyway. :)
I know this was a pairing that really divided the fandom, but for me, it was what got me hooked on BTVS proper. I was always a half-hearted Buffy/Giles and Willow/Xander shipper, and I think coming to the show relatively late (I think I started watching properly around season 5) was why I never felt the Buffy/Angel love. I didn't see the inception of that relationship, I wasn't there for its heart-breaking conclusion, and besides that, I much preferred Angelus to Angel and found him far less irritating when he wasn't around Buffy.
I was first aware of Buffy/Spike because someone pointed it out to me as their kink!ship well before it actually happened. At that point I didn't know very much about the characters and couldn't really see it. My love for the pairing pretty much developed at the same time as it occurred. One minute it wasn't there, the next it was. And then it ate my brain.
BTVS, and thus Spuffy, was responsible for my longest fanfic to date, the infamous "Cradle". I wasted over 100,000 words and eight months of my life on that monster, and I'm still amazed that I finished it. I started it in the aftermath of season 6, aided and abetted no doubt by going to SFX Magazine's first "Event" and getting to meet James Marsters, and I did not anticipate how it would end up. It was meant to be a one-chapter story. It still stands as one of my biggest achievements to date, despite some of its obvious flaws. BTVS was the last fandom I wrote for (excluding Most Haunted, which I obviously do because It Wasn't A Fanfic...) before my insanity-induced hiatus from 2005 onwards. My fics from that final period are probably my best work. I have finished stories since, for Ugly Betty, Pirates of the Caribbean and even some Jonathan Creek ficlets, but they took longer and more effort to reach a standard not quite as good as my counterpoint fic for the finale or what I achieved of "Broken Record". I re-read them occasionally; yes, they're not perfect, my characterisation is still not spot on for some of the players... but if I compare my UB fics or my PotC fic, it's like they're from a different writer.
I have Spuffy to thank as much as John/Aeryn for making me a better writer. Those two pairings (and fandoms) between them occupy the majority of my story list on FFN; even though I've probably spewed out more words on Norma/Joe, that was never for public consumption in the same way. In a lot of ways, the pairings which inspire me to write are those which are dearest to me. Fandom, shipping and writing go arm in arm; my first ever fanfic, if we exclude my Red Dwarf parody of A Christmas Carol, was a shippy Mulder/Scully scene, when I was about 15 years old. Nearly half of my life has been consumed by fandom, by shipping, by writing. The reason I can't maintain momentum in fandom these days is because my writing habits are sporadic at best; the periods in between the flurries of inspiration are becoming vaster and deeper abysses, and I no longer have the option of filling the between-series void with wish-fulfilment stories. It's a sad truth, and one I never hoped to realise.
These fandom posts are becoming strangely introspective beasts...
As for Spuffy: yes, it's angry. The crux of the pairing was that it was unhealthy, and I can see why a lot of people simply didn't like it. For me it was never about Buffy herself, but Spike: the jilted 19th century romantic poet. Tortured Soul Complex: go figure. If I'm honest, I disliked Buffy intensely for her behaviour and never felt she deserved him. I spent most of the pairing wanting to kick her in the head or for Spike to fight back. He went to Africa angry, and asked the demon to give Buffy "what she deserved" thinking that he wanted to kill her; instead he got a soul. I'm firmly of the belief that Spike wanted that soul, somewhere deep down, and that's what the demon saw. Of course that brought in the parallels with Angel, and that was the entire point; except Angel never wanted his soul, and it came with that messy clause attached anyway.
I don't want to use this post to get into fandom debates, because so much of this was hashed out at the time. I know a lot of fans didn't like season 6 because it was so dark; personally, it's my favourite, not just because it was the first series I watched properly (and addictively), and not just because of the musical, but because the show needed to mature with its characters. Season 7 also has some of my favourite episodes: "Beneath You" and "Touched" stand out in my memory. I love the fact that from their unhealthy, angry and violent beginnings, Buffy and Spike found some peace. Joss Whedon took a major risk towards the end of the show's run of potentially alienating half of the fanbase; I knew Buffy/Spike would never be endgame, just as much as it could never be Buffy/Angel either. Joss knew that as well, and even though part of me wishes he'd been brave enough to make that final call on our behalf, I know why he never could. Buffy/Spike was always haunted by the memory of Angel, the history of all three characters; it could never separate itself from that.
I haven't seen Angel, except for the first season, a few random other episodes and the beginning of season 5 when Spike showed up. As far as I'm concerned, Buffy and Spike ended with "Chosen". It wasn't perfect (damn you, fade-to-black!) and there wasn't a real, shown-to-the-audience concluson to it, but we had "Touched", and if an episode can make me sob as much as that one did (even when I knew it was coming!), it's worth something.
Here are two pictures from my favourite scene(s) in one of my favourite episodes, "Touched". I picked this one not only for the reasons above, but because this bit in particular is so still and silent, and the caps do it as much justice as the episode did... I consider this to be closure on the issue, even though she breaks his heart again an episode later, because it's a demonstration of forgiveness, comfort and calm before the storm.
Source: The ever-resourceful Buffy World
And, because you can't have a Spuffy post without it, here's a picture from "Something Blue" - it's canon because I say it is. :P And also, it's another of my favourite episodes, because I am that predictable. ;)
Day Twenty-One - A Ship You Enjoy When You're Happy
Some of my earlier days' ships could have fit this category as I found them before I went crazy. However, this is a ship which is feel-good and periodically takes over my brain...
Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean.
This is one of those lovely minority 'ships which slowly grew from a mild interest to a full-blown ship over the course of curious fanfic-reading.
I remember going to see the first Pirates film the summer it opened, with last_dance and translucent, at the Odeon in Birmingham. We made pirate noises and drank rum cocktails in the Briar Rose afterwards (quoting "Why is the rum gone?!" on a napkin and referencing it using the Harvard system, because we are massive geeks), and at that point it was just a fun, feel-good film that filled me full of piratical goodness.
At the time I found Will Turner boring. I do find that a lot of my ships have a counterpoint in which one of the characters is boring (see: Erik/Christine vs. Christine/Raoul; Daniel/Betty vs. Betty/Henry, etc), and also I wasn't a particularly big fan of Orlando Bloom. (I find his acting wooden, all the more so in the Pirates films because he's being upstaged at every juncture by superior talent. :P) At that point I wasn't even a particularly massive Johnny Depp fan, and can remember wondering what on earth he was doing appearing in a Disney film, considering he'd made an announcement at that point to quit showbiz altogether. That is, until I saw it and realised that he basically steals the show for the entire duration. I am firmly of the belief that the Pirates franchise would not have been so successful if not for Johnny Depp's sheer love of the character; no-one else could have done the part justice in the same way, and it gave his career a well-deserved springboard into bigger things.
So, Will was boring. Jack was awesomeness incarnate because Johnny was beautiful, bizarrely graceful and a total genius. As for Elizabeth, I already knew of Kiera Knightley and thought she was okay, and Elizabeth was a strong character from the beginning (she had me at the corset line). I initially found her scenes with Jack more engaging and entertaining and lined with UST than any of her scenes with Will, and that's where the pairing came from. Their interaction starts by him jumping into the sea to save her life, as her would-be husband, James Norrington, stands around gawping. Immediately, there is chemistry, as she saves his life in turn. Then they had that scene on the beach when Barbossa strands them on the rum runners’ island, which has prompted endless amounts of missing-scene fic on FFN. In the DVD extras there's an omitted scene just before they go into the cave at Isla de Muerta where Jack describes himself and Elizabeth as "peas in a pod", which has now become their motto, of sorts, within the fandom.
Okay, this particular meme entry will be picspammed to death because I have the DVD's at my disposal, deleted scenes and all. Be warned. ;)
1. Jack, Elizabeth and the Hat.
2. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!
3. Deleted "peas in a pod" scene. Jack makes this face after Elizabeth says, "You're a smart man, Jack". It makes my heart melt.
4. Same scene, the line in question.
That was just the beginning. Curse of the Black Pearl was a perfectly decent stand-alone film in its own right, but obviously there had to be a sequel. Dead Man's Chest is a bit manic and silly (and I do think Depp plays up to the comedy too much and makes Jack a caricature, which is a shame), but it has a special place in my heart for the Jack/Elizabeth scenes. It's rife with them. It's the film that brought the Sparrabeth shippers kicking and screaming into the light, because we actually had something solid to base it on. It actually became canon, because Norrington observes upon it and comments upon it. I love DMC for other reasons, too: Davy Jones is one of my favourite characters and Bill Nighy is awesome; Barbossa returns at the end and I always think Geoffrey Rush is severely underrated as an actor; and we get Tia Dalma with her amazingly pretty accent. All of that gets sidelined by the shippiness, though:-
5. Jack explains how the compass works (it subsequently points to Jack several times. :D)
6. First inexplicably UST-filled scene.
7. Next one, the almost!kiss. GAH.
8. And Elizabeth's Kiss of Death. This scene is amazing.
At World's End was something of a disappointment following the Sparrabethiness of DMC. It's also a shame they didn't have the foresight to spread the story out properly over the two sequels, as AWE is a massive plotdump of a film and there is so much more they could have explored. (I know, I know: at the end of the day, it's still Disney and they have other priorities.) I think all the Sparrabethers knew it wouldn't happen, because Will and Elizabeth were the proper focus of the story. I do love the film; it has elements which are utterly amazing, even though it's also disappointing in places. There's only one decent Jack/Elizabeth sequence, but that's only because of how DMC ends. Disney had to do it that way, but at least they gave us something before reverting to their master plan...
When I finally watched AWE for the second time, after getting the DVD and having a three-film marathon, it prompted my first and only Pirates-fic. Yes, it's Sparrabeth-centric, and yes, it's angsty. The best outcome of AWE, to my mind, is the amazing archive of fanfic which I found subsequently on redux_08 - a novel-length retelling of the story with all the mythology in place as it should have been, with a proper Sparrabeth ending. I devoured it over the course of three days in the wake of my film marathon, revelling in that familiar, heady sensation of falling head-over-heels for a new 'ship and stuffing myself full of all the fandom I could get.
9. This is the only scene where they have any kind of physical contact, after Jack drags her away from a dying Will on the Flying Dutchman. They do interact in the film and there are some nice moments (Jack voting her Pirate King is one of my favourite bits), but they were understandably difficult to cap. :P
OH, THESE TWO. *dies*
That's why it's in this category. The films are light-hearted in essence, and they make me ridiculously happy with their silliness, slapstick, adventure and romance. Jack and Elizabeth were a surprisingly angsty, dark and dangerous biproduct, and I did discover them before I went mad so they still count in that respect. :)
You have no idea how long that took...
Okay, I should probably make some food now. :P