1. Paying for Time (PG-13, 3000 words, non-linear narrative. Outsider POV (after a fashion), Dean, Sam)
Summary: Where nobody gets hurt, no one falls in love because they are there already, and someone dies but kind of doesn’t. Oh, and pretty much everyone gets confused.
Dean is old and forgetful, Sam is dead and maybe a ghost. With Death long gone, and all the rules broken, Time has become fluid and ancient gods like Vertumnos have no constraints. So when Vertumnos offers Dean a chance to buy some time, he takes it.
This fic gave me such anxiety--and I loved the jumble of timelines here, the way you're never quite sure what's happening or why, but you know exactly what each moment feels like and you know this visceral compulsion to continue forward--to seek out the ghosts, and try to piece things together, and remember things that cannot be remembered.
2. Feed the Blood Garden (T, text adventure game, Sam, Dean)
Summary: The Darkness is closing in, and the Winchesters' only hope of fighting it is in a haunted house deep in the West Virginia mountains.
I love the wealth of items and people and sceneries that populate this fic, and the way these elements play so well to the form of it. Being able to play as both Sam and Dean and see how the case unfolds for them separately is fascinating--as is the disjuncture between whose calls can get through, who calls whom a liar and in what contexts, and for what. Whether it makes a difference to look at pictures first, or records--and what it does for you as a reader to wonder about which path either Winchester is likely to go with first. Really, really cool. And you can't go wrong with creepy houses! (Or doorways, as it were.)
* I think these two are a slightly harder sell, because the non-linearity and multiple timelines of the former force the reader to slow down their reading practice, as does the readerly agency required of the latter. And I know that when I'm reading fic, it's specifically because I don't want to work, and just want to chill! XD But these two are so, so worth it, and that extra engagement really doesn't feel like work at all. In fact, it adds to the mystique!
3. Over the Rainbow (PG-13, 9625 words, Sam, Dean, "French Mistake" AU)
Summary: For the prompt: "French Mistake" AU - for whatever reason, Sam and Dean cannot jump back into their own reality and have to stay in the other dimension instead. They think having to act is bad. But then they find out that they're expected to attend a con the following weekend - and it's NOTHING like the one Becky forced them to attend many years ago based on those blasted Supernatural books!
This made me really emotional. <3 6x15 is one of my favorite episodes to rewatch, and this was such a seamless alternative continuation of all the zaniness that happened there. I absolutely love the way Sam and Dean continue to stumble through J2's lives here. [...] Sam trying to figure out how to wrangle this convention business, and actually coming into a moment that was really important and special--both for their audience and for Sam and Dean themselves. There were so many quips and exchanges and observations in this that were just so true to theme and character, even in the midst of such a cracky premise; I think that's what I loved best about the episode this proceeds from, and I adore that way this feeling gets extended and elaborated upon in this fic.
I think my very favorite part about this, though, was Gen. She was her hysterical, alpaca/otter 6x15 self but also very much in love with "Jared" and committed to seeing whatever was going on through. She just gets on board with whatever's going on because she's in the episode, she's in the script, and that means she's got a job to do, too.
* I know this isn't the time nor place for crit, and tbh this is definitely more a criticism of my scrolling habits than the summary itself. But I do want to note that if I were basing my reading choices off of summary alone, I may not have clicked on this... But if that's what I'd done, I'd have missed out on something really, really great. Definitely one of my top favorites so far.
4. City Lights Fading Fast (PG-13, 5900 words, Stanford!era, Sam, Brady)
Summary: Stanford!Sam being a BAMF. Now with 100% more Tyson Brady.
For someone so dedicated to eventually becoming an adult who will serve and save people with his medical expertise and his glistening, toothpaste-commercial smile, Tyson Brady is strangely attracted to the undercurrent of violence in backwater highway bars
Can I tell you how much I love the characterization of Brady here, and the backstory this fic builds for him? I really fell in love with him here. And it makes what we know of his imminent future hurt in a way it never did before.
Sam, of course, I was already in love with, but as with all good relationships there are little things that make you fall in love with a person all over again, and this fic is so full of them. Sam's reflections on Brady, and on their different relationships to this bar scene, were so intriguing.
5. The Rose-Colored Glasses of Life (PG-13, 5000 words, Sam, Dean, minor character)
Summary: There’s no such thing as Retiring From Hunting Monsters For Dummies. (Mentions of alcoholism and suicidal ideation. Multiple POVs.)
God, I am hopeless when it comes to this genre of fic. Just sign me up for an endless replay of this fic on repeat forever and ever and ever, please, because I never want to leave it. I don't know what all the prompts were that blended into this, but I LOVE the selection of insights and moments and characters we've been gifted here. Maria's POV in the first section is stellar--and finding out she was the girl Sam sat with in Moondor was just THAT much better. Her combination of intrigue, sarcasm, kindness, perceptiveness, humor--and most of all, just the idk, honesty of her narrative, her honesty with herself--is so charming and real. And my hat is off to her for managing an encounter with Sam and Dean (however peripherally) at this point in their timeline.
And SAM AND DEAN. I love Sam's frustration here, his doggedness, his ability to imagine a future with Maria, only to dismantle it piece by piece. His insistence and his fight and his fear all come through so clearly here. This fic does so well in balancing Sam and Dean's relationship is something that's at once pretty fucked-up, irreplaceable, necessary to their survival, but also, somehow, a knife in survival's side. And then Dean, of course. Once a Dean H/Cer always a Dean H/Cer, I think, so this whole thing was like a motherlode of all my favorite Dean H/C things.