1. Undine (R, Sam, post-10x23)
Summary: The Darkness lifts, and Dean is missing. Sam POV.
This fic finds Sam post-10x23, Dean wrenched from him once again, holed up on an island in Michigan in storm-time, and deep into some incredibly dark shit.
I love how fluently the maritime and shipwreck narrative of Sam's island wends into Sam's personal one--you get the impression that he's collecting and memorizing the history of the place nearly by osmosis, and perhaps out of habit, or of the need to have some narrative to hold, some hard facts to put to rote. And the combination, especially coupled with the storm imagery of the piece, does so well in creating the moody atmosphere of the fic. Sam's own narrative here is heartbreaking and soaring and yearning and wrenching, beautiful but also not afraid of scuffling in the dirt, owning ugliness, refusing to turn pain into tragedy, aestheticize something that should not be aestheticized. The way Dean in Sam's thoughts here is almost too much to make mention of, almost invisible, almost overpowering, but never once simplified--forever entangled in complicated exchanges and conditions of forgiveness--is so wonderfully done.
And I absolutely adore Rowena and the role she takes in this story. She's everything that makes her so captivating, alluring; this is Rowena, at her full potential, and I'm starstruck by her rendition here. Bravo!!
And then SAM. SAAAAAAAAAAM. Oh my god. <333333333333
I'm floored in particular by this segment, and the narrative trajectory that reveals itself immediately afterward. It's a breathtaking, intimate reflection on and from Sam: He's been to confession twice now in his life. Once in that church, offering his sins to an empty confessional, an absent priest, an absent God. He's wondered, off and on, whether the Trial would have even worked, had he completed it. Whether blood could be purified without absolution.
The first time he went, he was young and weary with the knowledge of his corruption. It wasn't a new discovery; shame formed the blueprint of his evolution, the scaffold of his sinew and bone and blood. Sam was, and Dean went hungry. Sam was, and Mary died. His existence was a house of cards, tumbling into chaos.
Forgive me father, for I am. I MEAN, DEAR GOD. D;
This whole fic is a thing of painfully staggering beauty. <3
2. Strangerland (PG-13, 4800 words, S9/10, Sam, Dean, Death)
Summary: It starts with the arrival of an invitation. Set immediately after 9.20 – Bloodlines. Inspired by the prompt: "It’s Death’s birthday – whoever would have thought it? Dean is determined to help him celebrate."
I won't quote my comment on this one, because it is complete shit, but let me try again here:
What I love so much about this fic is its arresting juxtapositions of the playful and terrible; the heartrending and heartless; of the colorful and stark; the familiar and unfamiliar. Heimlich unheimlich, if you want to get really technical about it. It's language play and image exploration, setting up these breathtaking sentences that are not only things of beauty, but of intense perception, character, and also, occasionally, blunt no-fucks-given. The language of it is there to be beautiful and beautifully unbeautiful at once, true to the Winchester aesthetic, and the way that all of this strangeness and unstrangeness tracks onto the space of home--the Bunker--and the bodies of home--the Winchesters' each other--plays itself out so fabulously.
Beyond the art of the thing, the premise is that toward the end of S9, the increasingly dysfunctional Winchesters receive an invitation--rather, Dean receives an invitation. To Death's birthday party. Which Dean is apparently hosting. And as canon staggers forward toward a (for now) ending we know quite well (10x23), Dean is tasked with attempting to figure out what the invitation is implying, and what he's going to do for the shindig.
There are so many ways this premise could come across poorly--trite, superficial. This fic doesn't even come remotely near the threshold of that happening. Richly imagined and unforgettably told, it's one of those queer, arcane word spaces you never quite want to leave. And that's good, because the truth is, you probably can't; it gets in you. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that in the midst of all this play and art, there's nothing coldly technical or austere about this fic at all. The characterizations are gold--in particular Death's--and the play never lets you forget as a reader that even if it feels like fun and games, the consequences are grave and this story is about characters, and characters' lives. It's just a really crazy good read, period.
(And omg, why didn't I say all that in my comment in the first place! /O\)
I'll stop using superlatives when y'all stop being the best, k. ;)