In college, I spent way too many hours binge-reading (and writing) Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fan fiction on Friday nights, while everyone else in the dorm was blasting music and throwing back mind erasers. They had parties — I had Fanfiction.net.
Fan fiction-driven matchmaking has been around for longer than people have used the term "shipping." Since before the advent of the internet, fans have been imagining extended scenarios involving canonical or non-canonical (sometimes unlikely) couples who never actually got romantically involved in the comic or book or movie in question.
For many fans, fan fiction is more than a creative outlet — it's a way for them to right the "injustices" of writers or producers who refuse to level up the relationship status of characters who fans want to see as more than just loyal allies or mortal enemies. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you clearly haven't been on Tumblr.
For the sake of not turning this into an encyclopedia, I'm going to focus on fan fictional ships that haven't actually happened in canon. Or, at least, they haven't happened yet, considering that the JonErys (Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen) ship was just an internet phenomenon until Game of Thrones Season 8 gave so many fans what they'd been dreaming of.
Discover the true geek meaning of Valentine’s Day with these 21 ships that legions of fans wish were canon. I've also unearthed as many suggestive videos as possible. You're welcome.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, nothing I ever wrote made it to the internet. I was just too embarrassed. It eventually got trashed with my old hard drive, which was probably better for humanity.
Keith x Lance, Voltron
You can't one-up the top Tumblr ship of 2017, which soared onto the scene like an alien robot tiger when fans nostalgic for the original '80s Voltron fell in love with the thought of Klance once again. Expect a universe of smart-mouthed quotes from egomaniac Lance, who thinks he’s a badass, and reality checks from Keith, who actually is a badass. Wherever this relationship actually does go next, it's on autopilot.
Video: Manipulated canon
Light Yagami x L, Death Note
In Death Note, investigative mastermind L only has a deep and enduring relationship with jelly candy, which he occasionally cheats on with cake and ice cream. But that hasn't stopped fans from writing some pretty intense "enemyslash" between him and his target, the serial killer Light. It isn't that far a stretch since they pretty much stalk each other throughout most of the anime anyway.
Video: So close, but... canon
Aragorn x Legolas, Lord of the Rings
This popular pairing of two fantasy genre cover boys ships a rugged, outdoorsy type with an Elvin pretty boy who won’t get so much as a dirt stain on his boots. If this were real, Legolas' undoubtedly time-consuming beauty routine would probably drive Aragorn to have at it with his blade. No wonder so many Legolas fanfics involve unearthly amounts of hair products.
Grell Sutcliffe x Sebastian Michaelis, Black Butler
You could call this duo halfway canonical since Grell is obsessed with Sebastian, but — at least in the manga and anime — there's definitely some unrequited lust. Fluttering around the demon butler with swoons of "Oooooh, Bassie!" (and the more insulting "Sebas-chan!" in Japanese), the grim reaper who can't get his death scythe upgraded past a pair of scissors has become an entertaining counter to the more questionable CielBastian fanfics.
Sirius Black x Remus Lupin, Harry Potter
This is one of the most popular ships for Potterheads who solemnly swear they are up to no good — an Animagus who can willingly morph into a wolfish black dog and an infected human who goes full werewolf every full moon. Could there be magic between them for the rest of the lunar cycle? Possibly. Padfoot is a brazen trickster who's occasionally balanced out by the more secretive, responsible Moony, who mostly lurks in the shadows. Mischief managed.
Jamie Lannister x Brienne of Tarth, Game of Thrones
Since JonErys went canonical (at least TV-canonical), we've needed another GoT fantasy ship to take the Iron Throne. Enter the couple that has just been asking to happen since Brienne dragged Jamie across the Riverlands in chains. How Fifty Shades of you, Ms. Tarth. If you're wondering where the millions of fans who were disappointed when nothing happened in that hot tub scene went, they're still busy telling the internet exactly what should have happened.
The Tenth Doctor x Rose Tyler, Doctor Who
This was another one that almost happened, emphasis on "almost." In the end, the closest Rose could get to her Time Lord for the next 900 years was being stranded in an alternate universe with his biological meta-crisis doppelganger, which is why fans have had to create their own alternate reality for this couple over and over.
I am so, so sorry.
Video: Painful canon
Bilbo Baggins x Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit
At least a Hobbit-Dwarf ship isn't asking for the inevitable disaster of an Elf-Dwarf ship (eternal rivalry and all). It's also a refreshing change from all those Tolkienverse fics in which Thranduil or Legolas rescues some vapid damsel in distress who was really only trying to get his attention anyway. Bilbo x Thorin holds a lot of hidden emotional depth.
Groot x Rocket Raccoon, Marvel Cinematic Universe
Interspecies dating is nothing new in sci-fi, but the most unlikely fanfic couple with incompatible DNA has to be Groot and Rocket Raccoon. A smart-mouthed furry assassin and a flora colossus from Planet X don't exactly make for the best visual. It's easier to imagine the bond they forge while waging war or guarding invaluable batteries in space, but I can’t imagine their wedding vows being anything other than "we are Groot."
Daryl Dixon x Carol Peletier, The Walking Dead
When you're fighting off zombies, it’s best not to get caught up in a horde of ravenous walkers alone. There has been an undeniable bond between Carol and Daryl since the zombie apocalypse first shambled onto AMC, which is why so many imaginative shippers have ditched the Daryl and Beth thing (which, spoilers, died along with Beth) for this one. Even if Negan or the undead get to one of them first, this ship will live on in the annals of Archive of Our Own.
Superman x Batman, DC Universe
This is probably the most obvious slash pairing in the DCU, but SuperBat has been the kryptonite of so many hardcore DC fans who want to see more than just worlds collide. You can't not imagine a parallel universe in which two iconic superheroes join forces for reasons beyond obliterating evil. Sorry, Lois.
Ichigo x Rukia, Bleach
It's the perfect hypothetical romance. Boy meets girl. Boy gets attacked by vengeful spirit that wants to eat his soul. Girl tells boy she's actually a Soul Reaper whose day job is getting rid of these spirits and lets boy borrow supernatural weapons to vaporize it. Sarcasm aside, there were way too many opportunities in both the manga and anime for IchiRuki to happen — but it can only live on in fanfiction.
Xena x Gabrielle, Xena, Warrior Princess
The debate over whether Xena and Gabrielle really had anything more than a fierce warrior bond between them must date back thousands of years, but unlike many of the random pairings that exist in the realm of TV-based fanfiction, it actually does make sense. Shipping characters who already have unbreakable bonds that never go beyond platonic in canon is popular for a reason. What TV won't do, Tumblr will.
Video: Canon, technically.
Joker x Loki, Marvel and DC Universe
Whoever came up with this ship was clearly burdened with glorious purpose. When you introduce a killer clown with a suspiciously permanent grin to the scorned son of Asgard, you have evil multiplied. Just imagine what destruction these two could get away with if lit by the fires of passion. Only your undertaker knows for sure.
Kirk x Spock, Star Trek: TOS
I'm probably going to get flamed for this, but however many Trekkies wish the captain and his number one would hook up somewhere in the middle of Kirk's interplanetary trysts, Purely Logical doesn't exactly go with Purely Egotistical. I'm relieved this ship didn't actually happen during Spock's throes of Pon Farr in "Amok Time." Kirk and Picard? Don't even go there.
Jean-Luc Picard x Beverly Crusher, Star Trek: TNG
So this sort of happened, if you count the retrospective of Crusher and Picard's marriage and divorce in an alternative universe, which means it never really happened anyway. But every time Picard and Crusher were in quasi-close proximity I just wanted to scream at them to make out already — the underlying attraction was more than obvious. No one understood Jean-Luc better than Beverly, even without a tricorder. Not even Vash.
Yuri Plisetsky x Otabek Altin, Yuri! On Ice!
How anyone can deal with the razor-tongued ball of spandex, sequins and leopard print that is Yuri Plisetsky is beyond me. This is probably why the preternaturally cool Otabek is an opposite that attracts. It must also be the reason behind the onslaught of Otayuri fanfic and fan art that has taken over my Tumblr feed. Will this actually manifest on the ice? Until Season 2, keep fantasizing.
Video: Sort of canon (bonus scene)
Draco Malfoy x Harry Potter, Harry Potter
When boys teased me relentlessly in junior high, I never believed anyone who told me it was their strange and cryptic way of expressing they had a crush on me. Maybe that's what all that "Potter Stinks" business was really about in J.K. Rowling's novels. While they technically aren't even frenemies, Harry and Draco have that constant tension between them that could easily be twisted into something beyond teen angst in a slashfic.
Kylo Ren x Rey, Star Wars
If you haven't been subjected to most of the internet shipping Reylo by now, you must be living in a galaxy far, far away. I don’t care what the amateur Star Wars critics on the internet say because I swear there is always something gleaming in their eyes — and it isn’t undying hate for the other side. The supernova of Rebel scum getting into bed with the embodiment of Imperial evil would make Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala look positively PG-13.
Magneto x Professor X, X-Men
They're both misfits. They were both born with supernatural DNA mutations. They both have unfathomable powers. Just one thing: they also keep trying to destroy each other. Even in a canonical, non-romantic sense, Erik and Charles have one of those chronically on-again, off-again relationships that just never ends. It's just that much more interesting when you add the dimension of tragically conflicted love.
Pennywise x Babadook, IT and The Babadook
The internet was Babashook over this monster pairing, which emerged as some freakishly adorable fan art that went viral in 2017. As more fan art of the unlikely LGBT icon and his shapeshifting clown boyfriend spawned on Tumblr, these two crawled into the realm of fanfiction to create the ultimate non-human horror romance. Read From the Basement, if you dare.
Video: Total fanon