therapeutic thump

i like your moxie, sassafras!


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NaNo: the whimper, the bang, whatever, THE END. (Also, notes and a request.)
his grief lays waste to the world
innie_darling
Well, that was a lousy week.

Sorry for the delay. Here's the last bit. 5,718 words to finish this thing off.


He cuts Jo's hair, at her request, while she sits in a chair near the row of three-quarter-sized appliances that passed for a kitchen - New York apartments were apparently designed by the same people who'd fashioned tins for sardines. Her hair is light like fluff, silky when he catches hold of a strand and rubs it between his fingers. "I'm not tender-headed, Sam," she laughs when he draws the comb carefully and gently through her locks. "You think my mom went this soft on me?" And no, he can't imagine that Ellen would have; it's hard to picture Ellen with a little curly-haired girl. "Five quick swipes with the brush, bristles digging into my head, and a smack on the bottom if she thought I'd been fidgety," Jo says matter-of-factly, sounding happier than she has in a long time, even before he invaded her life and set up camp on her couch. Maybe this is what she sounded like when she was talking to Sean and he could answer back with words and touches; maybe this is how she sounded before she had to burn his body.

Memory might be sweet, but he's not Ellen, bustling about with a million things to do; he's got nothing but time, and he can certainly lavish some of it on her. So he keeps going with the wet tortoiseshell comb, watching the gold in it and the gold of her damp hair wink at him with each careful pass. "This is how she did it on days we'd all get dressed up and go somewhere," she says, reminiscing, and he squeezes her shoulder before dropping the comb on the kitchen table and reaching for the scissors.

"Tell me something?"

"Hmmm?" Her eyes are closed now like she wanted to give herself over to the pleasure of the comb running through her hair and scraping gently across her scalp; he can see the dark spikes of her eyelashes down against her cheeks.

"What makes Rob an expert on fae?" He doesn't quite want to broach the subject of her anger when he'd first mentioned what had snatched Dean, but that question's there too, if she chooses to pick it up.

She shifts her weight a bit, trying to get comfortable with staying in the same position for so long, but there's not enough padding on her or the chair to make that really feasible. The newspaper on the floor crinkles with her movements. "Sean told me that Rob's mom used to tell them both stories about the fae, long, detailed stories about their beauty and their danger and the glamour, all of that. He could never remember any of them to tell me, but he'd always talk about that time with a smile on his face. I don't think he got over her death."

He turns her head to a different angle, trying to catch the best of the light, and starts snipping at the ends of her hair again.

Her eyes are still closed. "Rob listened to those stories too, only he pretty much memorized them. He told me a couple once. I don't remember them now, but I heard enough to jibe with the lore that was out there. Those stories were true."

"So, what?" Sam asks, carefully combing the strands out again; they keep stubbornly curling back up. "You think Rob's mom was a hunter?" He's never heard of a hunter with the last name Robson or Kelly, but then again, most hunters stick to what they know and kill - like Gordon, like Elkins; the Winchesters got dismissed as jacks-of-all-trades until people took a closer look at their track record.

"Could be," Jo says. "Maybe it was her, maybe it was her husband, maybe her parents. I never got to meet her." She shakes her hand, where a piece of hair has landed. "I know for a fact that he didn't get over her death either." She pauses, hesitates a little before saying, "He's been really good to me, Sam."

"I know," he says, surprising himself. He's never seen her go all ... cloudy and dazed, helpless and boneless around the guy; Jo might be made of sterner stuff than he is. Rob comes through the door before he can say any more, a wide and genuine smile forming on his face when he sees what they're up to.

"Well?" Jo asks; she'd refused to do this in front of her bedroom mirror.

Rob cups her chin with kind fingers and turns her head this way and that. "You look beautiful, Joanna," Rob says, completely straightforward, and Jo beams up at him and leans back to let Sam finish the job.

*

Rob's been snappish all day, a far cry from his usual cooler-than-thou demeanor, and Sam desperately, angrily wishes that Rob would just touch him and set his mind free of everything except seeking and accepting the next touch instead of making him the object of all of his frustrations. But Rob's keeping his hands to himself, and Sam can't take another minute of this pissiness.

He pretty much lunges forward, achieving direct contact at last, and startles back immediately. Rob's skin is hot; usually he's warm - Sam can't pinpoint much in his memories, but he does remember, vaguely, dopily, that lulling warm lassitude that Rob's touch brings to his mind and body - but now he's running a few degrees even above that. He wonders if Rob is sick, if all of his irritability is a sign of shame that his body can succumb like anyone else's, but Rob looks just the same. Better than ever, actually, his eyes glittering and so blue it almost hurts to look at them, and his pale, perfect face set off by black hair tousled by Sam's embrace. Rob's not looking flushed or hectic, just keyed up and anxious, and Sam gets a glimpse of Rob's big, square, silver watch and realizes what day it is. The vernal equinox is here, and Rob's wondering whether he made the right call.

The realization that saving Dean is this important to Rob, enough for him to get this worked up, takes Sam by surprise but doesn't budge him an inch off his chosen course. He opens the window, letting the first day of spring's chilly air in, and presses forward to lose himself in Rob's hot, smooth skin.

*

"We're going to do this spaghetti method, 'cause all I've got is a bunch of little fragments that don't add up to much," Bobby says, voice sliding in and out as the phone he must have balanced on his shoulder gets jostled around while he picks up one set of notes after another.

Bobby was right about loving Dean, if he's hung on to that pet phrase. Sam can remember the day the joke was born.

They'd been at Bobby's on a hot summer afternoon, trying to figure out what could have sucked the intestines out of three white businessmen over in Charles Mix County. Dean had been pushing for some kind of creature living in Lake Andes, and Bobby had gone so far as to allow that there was always that possibility, while Sam, irritable from the heat and the way his hair curled uncomfortably high in it, had scoffed and pointed out that there had been not a drop of water anywhere near the bodies. "This's the spaghetti method, Sammy," Dean had said, smiling broadly, conspiratorially, at Bobby, who'd taken a huge package of ground chuck out of the fridge and tossed it on the counter. "Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks."

"Quit grinnin' at me like you're waitin' for me to drop my panties," Bobby had said, clearly waiting for Dean to get his lazy ass up from the kitchen table and start helping out with making hamburger patties. Sam had kept shuffling the papers in front of him, sure the solution was in there somewhere.

He had looked up to see that Dean couldn't decide whether to laugh or make a face and so ended up choking on his ice water, and Bobby had clapped a hand to Dean's back as if to smack the choke right out of him, but ended up rubbing warm, paternal circles over Dean's shoulder blade. "You idjit," Bobby said. "You know anyone who makes spaghetti that way, you kick 'em out of your goddamned house."

Sam thinks he can feel Bobby's hand against his spine, comforting and somehow permanent, before remembering that it was Dean's back, not his; that sense-memory must live in another bit of Dean's soul that got swapped over permanently to him. "I'm listening, Bobby," he says; "hit me."

"Okay, we got a fae band that lost its queen in The Book of Green. Followed the footnotes from there to find a group of satyrs that organized themselves like fae in the Index. I found a legend of a migrant band of fae. And another about fae that've teamed up with tricksters, as if either of 'em needed any more mojo. And there was an apocryphal tale about fae scouring the world for their rightful king in the first appendix of Bower's last book." In another lifetime, Sam thinks, Bobby, translating texts and chasing down footnotes, could have been a strict but beloved professor, sporting a grizzled beard and neatly slicked hair. And in another lifetime, another world, Dean would dote on his wife and be ruled by the iron fists of the little sons and daughters he loved like he couldn't get enough of them.

He has to get Dean back, even if that means bringing him into a world that's caused him nothing but grief; he needs his brother desperately.




"I'm wanted by the FBI," Sam points out, as rationally as he can. "I'm not about to walk into an airport and hand myself over on a silver platter."

He waits for Rob's leer, but it doesn't come; Rob's frowning like a wrench has been thrown into his plans. "You want to drive to South Dakota?" There's a strong hint of that's the dumbest idea I've ever heard in his tone.

"Done it before. Lots of times," Sam shrugs. "It's easier to slip by unnoticed on the ground."

Rob's hand shoots out to circle his wrist, pale, elastic handcuffs. "We'd be wasting time."

"We can make it in less than a week," Sam says, the declaration of an expert. "And this way we can carry all sorts of stuff we wouldn't be able to get through airport security. Trust me."

Rob looks up at him through his eyelashes, straight, dark bristles, with an odd smile on his face. "There's not a lot of 'stuff' we'll need for this; it's down to you and me, Saintly, not weapons." His smile grows broader, Cheshire Cat-like. "Trust me."

*

Rob clearly wasn't expecting him, but Sam just waits patiently on the doorstep until Rob blows out an ill-tempered breath and lets him in. The place is palatial, one of the old New York brownstones that was built to last. There are wide windows framed in thick velvet curtains, the panes polished clear and sparkling. Everywhere he looks, something is twinkling brightly, the furniture and the art on the wall all gleaming and coordinated in shades of gilt and green.

"I'm ready, man," Sam says before Rob can ask. "All packed" - he hoists his duffel bag up to eye level - "and ready to go." He takes another long look around, deliberately avoiding Rob's impatient eye. "Looks like you're not, though, so just steer me to the books and I'll stay out of your way while you pack."

He feels better than he has in months; he hasn't taken a first, proactive step in rescuing Dean in so long, and when he woke up and realized he could familiarize himself with the texts Rob was using, his stomach had settled and he'd been able to breathe again.

"Out," Rob snaps.

"No," Sam says stubbornly. "We need to get going today, and I know I owe you, but I'm not going to let you fuck this up either." He's toe-to-toe with Rob, glaring up at him.

Rob smiles all of a sudden, that familiar smirk settling back into place as he slides a warm hand around Sam's neck and bends his head to kiss him thoroughly. Sam cannot keep his arms from coming up to hold Rob closer.

"Most of the books are already packed away, Saintly," Rob says, strong teeth near Sam's ear, Sam's cheek. "But sit tight and I'll bring you something."

Sam goes obediently to the green velvet settee he'd dumped his duffel next to and sits; the piece is firm despite the plushness of the cushions, and he sits up straight. On the opposite wall is a framed piece of thick, heavy paper, metallic ink glittering under glass. He gets closer and finds it's a family tree, an unusual one, with only female names in the unbroken chain of branches until there, at the very bottom, are "Mary" leading to "Sean" and "Moira" to "Rex." "Very House of Black," he says when Rob comes back into the room with a big cloth-covered book in one hand. "Harry Potter," he clarifies when Rob makes no comment. Rob just steers him back to the couch and Sam takes the suggestion and opens the book.

There's not a lot of new information there, but it's good to have things so clearly laid out, and he goes through the material carefully, trying to commit as much to memory as possible. If Rob said there wasn't room for this in the car, or that it's not one of the crucial texts they'll need, then that's good enough for him.

His stomach growls and he holds his place in the text with a finger and checks his watch. It's been hours since he showed up unannounced, and he's starving. "Rob?" he calls, getting no answer. He makes his way down a bright hall, glancing into each room he walks by; the place is empty. He turns to head back to the living room and sees a large framed photograph on a small table in the corner of the hallway, just near the open doorway back to the main space. It takes him a minute to realize that it's not Rob staring out at him with those challenging blue eyes; it's Rob's mother, who passed those eyes and that face down to her son intact, as if there was no second person involved in Rob's conception. Next to her is a woman with lighter hair and china-blue eyes holding a small, round blond boy against her hip. Rob is seated on his mother's lap, upright like it's a throne, his face already much more defined and stripped of baby fat than his cousin's, defiant gaze mimicking his mother's.

He hears the front door open and goes back to the living room to see Rob, who says, "Let's get going, then, Saintly." Sam scoops up his duffel and the open book and sees an envelope addressed to "Joanna" on the table by the front door; he leads the way out and Rob locks up behind them.

Sitting out front is a big, shiny SUV the color of pewter with tinted black windows. "Hop in," Rob says. "Maps are in the glove compartment. You're navigating."

*

The car is tricked out with all the bells and whistles, so conspicuous that Sam's tense until they get out of New York City, only then reasoning that Henrickson has no clue that he's not with Dean or in the Impala. And Rob isn't anyone the FBI would be looking for. Right here, in the buttery-soft pale grey leather passenger seat, sitting high above the traffic, is the safest place he could be.

Rob doesn't drive like Dean; there's no easy slouch with one arm out the window, no fond pats to the steering wheel, and no domination of the stereo. Rob's got the A/C on low and some radio station on, the volume too low to make out much. Sam looks sideways at him and sticks one of the maps from the glove compartment into the back of the book; he keeps reading, trying to take advantage of the silence.

*

"Pull in here," Rob says out of the blue.

"I'm not tired," Sam assures him. "I've only been driving for a couple -"

"I'm stopping for the night, and that means you are too." There's no room for disagreement in Rob's tone.

"Here, though?" The place is way nicer than his usual digs; there's a valet coming for their keys already. "We can't - I mean, I can't -"

"Saintly," Rob says, meaning shut up. "Can't take it with you, can you?" If that's code for anything, Sam doesn't get it. Still, he can't let Rob assume the expenses of a trip that's to save Dean; he needs to pay his way.

"Unless you're rolling in it -" he starts before Rob interrupts him yet again.

"I am." Rob gets out and heads for the shining glass doors and thickly carpeted lobby, and Sam scrambles to get his book and his bag and follow.

He reaches the front desk in time to see that the credit card Rob slides across the cool marble counter has his real name on it, and the man in the discreet dark-blue uniform smiles after he swipes it through. "Thank you, sir. 2448. If you'll follow the bellhop to the elevator."

The room is large, the bedspread and the curtains beige shading into gold. The bed itself is enormous, bigger than a king, and heaped up with pillows. Five minutes after Rob's tipped the bellhop for bringing up his luggage, Sam's face is buried in one of the pillows, soft and cool, his ass is in the air, and Rob's heavy hand is inching down his bare back.

The bed is too plush for Sam to have any stability at all on his hands and knees; he just keeps sinking into the dense softness like it's quicksand. Rob lays Sam out flat with a pillow under his hips and drapes himself on top of Sam like a blanket. The air conditioning prickles pleasantly against Sam's warm skin, and by the time he comes back to himself and hears the shower running, he's covered in marks from an insistent mouth.

*

"Why would the fae take Dean?" Sam asks, finishing another chapter. Rob looks in the rearview mirrors and switches lanes.

He doesn't realize he even said it out loud until Rob answers him. "Fae take what they like. They like beauty."

No surprise there; Dean's always been the one with the outrageous good looks. But he's had those all his life - at least, once he grew into his too-pretty features and bulked up a little. If it was just a matter of getting Dean alone, why hadn't they taken him when Dad had taken off and Sam was at Stanford?

"Surprised, though, that they didn't wait for you, Saintly," Rob says with a smirk. "That pretty face and those visions dancing around in your head. Fae like power even more than beauty."

Sam tries to smile back around the lump in his throat and the knot in his gut. He made Dean the perfect prey with his soul-switcheroo; the visions he sloughed off onto Dean only made his brother even more attractive to the things he was hunting. Even if he spends the rest of their lives apologizing, he can't make up for what he did to Dean. "Pull over," he says sharply. "I need to drive."

Once he's behind the wheel, he asks, "So why did Missouri only see him sleeping? What are they doing with him, with the people they take?"

"They'll keep him for the ceremony at Midsummer," Rob answers, looking pointedly out the window. "The stolen are a big part of the ceremony. That's when they'll decide whether to make him one of their own forever or kill him."

No. Not even the fae could fail to see Dean's worth and choose to discard him like trash. Sam refuses to entertain the notion for a single moment; he concentrates on the real threat, that the fae will adore Dean so much that they'll want to keep him with them for all time. He pushes down the thought that at least that way Dean would be safe - from hunting, from Henrickson, from him; Dean would never choose anything but Sam.

*

They've hit Illinois and are making good time when Sam looks out the window to see flat, dry land and weathered buildings on which the paint has faded until they blend right in with the dust. "How are you going to find the fae?" He'd called Bobby again, pushed for any information that would give him a reasonable starting point, but Bobby had said that his dogs hadn't even been able to find a trace of Dean after about three miles northwest of Bobby's property. And the site where they'd stopped, whimpering and pawing at the ground, didn't so much as set off a click from the EMF meter or flare up at a little salt, iron, or holy water. "Do you have a self-bored stone?"

Rob eyes him speculatively, with eyes that look like the only water around for days. "Never did find one of those," he says thoughtfully. "That's why the timing of this has to be just right. Come on, Saintly, you read the book. Midsummer Eve -" he prompts.

"- under the full moon, even a mortal can see the fae reveling," Sam finishes with him. "But how do you know where to look at all? 'Three miles northwest' is pretty vague, and that's a lot of area to cover. Plus we don't know if they're even in the same place." He needs to know the plan; Dean only wouldn't share the details of a plan when he knew he was taking on too much of the danger and Sam would pitch a fit. He doesn't think he's got another martyr on his hands, but Rob's dedication to this case has never made much sense to him; it's certainly not due to any loving devotion to him.

"These fae are constantly on the move, you're right. No one's ever been able to pin them down before." Rob pulls his sunglasses out of his pocket and slips them on.

"So how are we going to do it?"

"I've got a plan," Rob says dismissively.

"And I've got a right to hear it."

"Ooh, Saintly, look at you with your backbone firmly in place," Rob teases. "The plan is you."

Instinctively, Sam shrinks back into his seat. "Me?" His heart starts racing. This is the most important case he's ever been on, and the most nebulous, and Rob needs to have a better idea than that. "I couldn't even get out of the apartment to do any research, I've got no idea what kind of fae we're after, I don't know how to convince them to let Dean go -" The words are spilling out of him, panicked and sharp and high.

Rob's hand, tight on his jaw, is the only thing that stops him. Rob shakes, none too gently, and Sam's head feels like it's been set on a spring like a jack-in-the-box instead of a neck. "But you know your brother," Rob says firmly. "I'm not tracking the fae; I'm tracking Dean, with you as my self-bored stone."

Oh, he wants to say, that would make sense, except I'm not the one with a hole in me. That'd be Dean - I'm actually overflowing with what I took from him. Instead he clicks his jaw, nods, and keeps quiet.

*

His blood starts buzzing one day and won't stop, no matter how long he lies in the oversized tub. Rob's hands only makes it louder, but the vibrations feel too good to stop, and Rob draws back, uncertain for the first time, and Sam latches on to him, won't unlock his arms and legs, cinching them tightly together. All he can think about is Dean and his Magic Fingers obsession, and then it hits him, this is because he's close, Dean is almost in his grasp, and he laughs, wild and free, even when Rob's mouth covers his.

There is nothing to stop him from pressing Rob down into the big soft bed, nothing to keep him from swallowing down Rob's dick, nothing that won't let him crawl up Rob's big, hard-muscled body to sink down at last on his spit-slick cock and watch Rob's eyes go from electric to fiery. Every touch just gets his blood humming more insistently, and that is the sound of the victory drums. He knows, deep down, that they're going to win. And then Rob pumps his hips and Sam just can't think anymore.

*

The moon rises full and luxurious overhead, spilling light down almost wantonly, wasteful and reckless. Sam just follows the tug in his gut, Rob moving next to him, both of them stepping silently through the tall grass of this untended meadow.

Somewhere between one breath and the next, he sees Dean. And then he's running, flat out, like he's aiming for a four-minute mile, and his blood is singing, but Dean doesn't get any closer. Rob's hand closing around his arm brings him up short. Suddenly Sam can see the fae ringed around his brother's bier, every detail extraordinarily sharp. The flowers heaped up on Dean's recumbent form are as varied and vivid as Missouri had prophesied, but the fae's faces are far from friendly. Some of them, he sees, are carrying spears or bows and arrows, and their beauty is terrible, a weapon all its own; he has to slit his eyes to be able to look at them for more than a moment.

They ring protectively around Dean, and before the circle closes, Sam can see that Dean looks like he's merely asleep, resting for a few hours. Most of the lines on his face have smoothed themselves out, and there's no loss of muscle mass, no diminution that tells the truth about the many months he's lain there. He dares a look at Rob, who's watching Dean with a hungry gaze, drinking in Dean's beauty.

Rob propels them both forward, and the music that's been winding its way through the air and into Sam stops, the dead silence shocking him, making him think for a moment that Dean's somehow been killed. Rob's hand is trembling, damp with sweat, but his voice rings out, clear and carrying. "Midsummer Eve, many full moons ago, you lost your queen. You have been seeking her heir, the king from the prophecy you all know in your hearts." He drops Sam's arm and steps forward, the moonlight hitting him like a spotlight, washing out his pale skin and making his eyes glitter; Sam cannot get his feet to move him closer to either Rob or Dean - they're cemented to the ground. "I am the lost king. Her blood runs in my veins. I am Rex."

Instantaneously, every single electric-blue gaze is focused on Rob's face, and Sam finds himself able to move once more. The sound of voices - questioning, demanding, staking claims - floats over his head; he leaves it behind and rushes over to his brother's side. "Dean," he whispers, reaching out to touch that still face, that loose hand lying by his side.

He doesn't know how long he stands there, but it cannot be long enough to take in every detail of Dean's physical being, the dense softness of his hair, the patterns of his freckles scattered across his cheeks and nose, the slow and steady throb of his pulse in his throat. A cheer goes up behind him and Dean's eyes - soft and lambent - open and focus, after one long heartstopping moment, on him. "Sammy," Dean says, voice rasping and trying to find a smile.

Sam holds out his shaking hands and Dean, reaching for him, vanishes.

*

"What did you do?" Sam screams.

He's not sure who he was yelling at, but it's Rob who steps forward. "Dean was taken because they believed he might be the lost king. Now that I've been acknowledged as the rightful king, they've let him go."

His brain is just not working. "Let him go? Killed him?" His fists are raised, itching for weapons.

"No." Rob's voice stops him mid-stride. "Let him go, put him back where they found him, no different than when they took him."

It takes some time to process that, but when he finally does, he's sure of something else. "You used me. You've been trying to find these fae ever since your mother told you that you were the lost king, and you let me believe you were trying to help me find Dean."

Rob's wearing that familiar, unsettling smile, but his eyes - and the eyes of all his clan - are cold. "Didn't I help you find your brother, Saintly? Safe and sound, not a scratch on him? And when they realized he wasn't the one, wasn't he set free to go?"

He can't bring himself to admit it, any of it. But he cannot walk away either - something is binding him to the ground again. "It's you that we're puzzling over now," Rob says, and Sam's blood runs cold. He cannot be kept apart from Dean one minute longer, or the last vestiges of his sanity will slip away. "What are we to do with you?"

Rob comes close, tips Sam's chin up with his warm fingers, and brushes the hair out of Sam's eyes. "Such a pretty boy," Rob murmurs, kissing him deep, and Sam cannot fight it.

Rob breaks away and Sam gasps for breath; Rob just smiles and slides a hand into Sam's hair. "Any time one of my band requires a favor, you will do all that is in your power to grant it." He grins, a flash of white teeth in the dark night. "I'll be seeing you," he whispers, and seals the deal with another kiss.

When Sam opens his eyes, Rob and the rest of the fae are gone. It takes a moment for his legs to start moving, and he tries to remember where Rob left the SUV. He finds it in about ten minutes, and remembers Rob making a show of putting the keys in the glove compartment. He fishes them out, starts the engine, and turns on the headlights, scouring the landscape for Dean.

*

Dean's asleep in the passenger seat when he knocks on Bobby's door. The Impala is gleaming in the moonlight, sitting next to Bobby's truck in the driveway, away from the scrappers that litter the yard. Bobby says not a word when Sam points to Dean, just squints to see him through the windshield and makes no excuses for the water welling in his eyes.

Sam carries his brother upstairs and puts him to bed. There are two chairs in the room, and Sam drags them both over so that he and Bobby can sit side-by-side and keep vigil.

*

Sam wakes up to the smell of coffee and bacon and sits up with a start when he realizes the bed is empty. He runs down the stairs, taking them four at a time, and bursts into the kitchen. Dean and Bobby are sitting there, all four elbows on the table, nursing enormous mugs of coffee. "Dean," Sam breathes, then chokes on the torrent of words he feels coming up.

"Morning, Sammy," Dean says quietly.

"I don't - I'm sorry - what do you -" Sam stutters, and Dean's face softens.

Dean gets up and with steady hands gentles Sam into a chair. "Sam. You saved me. From the crossroads demon and from the fae. So quit saying you're sorry."

"But I took away what you need to hunt," Sam says, focusing on Dean's face, full of forgiveness, instead of Bobby's.

"No." Dean doesn't shake his head, but the denial is unmistakable.

"No?" He can hardly dare to believe. He darts a glance at Bobby, who's shaking his head like he knows exactly what Dean's up to, and his heart sinks.

"Look, Sam, this was always about saving people. Even more than hunting things. And I can still do that."

"But you could - you could settle down, live a normal life." Even as he says it, he knows it's not true. Dean might possibly have chosen to settle down, but he won't be forced into it because the skills and instincts he spent a lifetime honing have been stripped away from him.

"I can still save people, Sammy," Dean repeats quietly, and Sam subsides.




So, Sam thinks, the fratboys they saved from the vengeful spirit that haunted their basement were right; this bar is the perfect place to unwind: cheap beer that tastes like the good stuff, pretty girls who could shoot pool, and a bartender whose eye could be easily caught.

Dean's talking to one girl in particular, a girl with long black hair and little black glasses and big black boots, so Sam heads over to get the next round. "Hey," he says, and the bartender looks over, nods, and starts to mosey over.

Sam looks over at Dean, laughing and bending a little to get his ear closer to the girl's pretty mouth, and figures he should buy the girl a drink too, just for putting that smile on his brother's face. "Let me get three beers, please," he says, pulling the cash from his pocket and setting it down.

This time, when he looks up, he notices that the bartender's eyes are a familiar, unmistakable shade of electric blue. The bill he's laid on the bar gets swapped for a note on stiff, pale paper. You are very good at this, indeed. Doesn't matter how that came to be, does it, Saintly? What matters is that you remember what you owe me. Your first job starts tonight. He crumples the note in his fist and the bartender smiles pityingly at him.

He thinks he can hear Rob's laughter.






Visualizing Rob
I'd started off thinking that Rob would be a younger, more obviously athletic version of Dylan McDermott, but then Chuck reminded me of the existence of Matthew Bomer, who was closer to the right age. So picture the baby those two guys would have had, if you'd like a mental image of Rob.



Notes and a Request
Hmmm. Where to begin? I guess with the request. Please tell me, as honestly as you can, what needs work. If I do manage to muster up the energy to edit and rewrite this into a workable story, I would like to do so with the best input possible, and that can only come from you guys. I won't say "don't worry about my feelings," but I will say, like Jo, I'm not terribly thin-skinned, and I know you guys are smart and wonderful readers who have no investment in making me feel bad about myself. So.

I think I should say something about my intentions for the story, so you can gauge what I succeeded at and what I failed at. I should note too that the finished story was originally going to be called "Silk Road," but I watched Mississippi Burning a little while ago (wow, are there a lot of shots Supernatural has borrowed from that movie!) and found a better title from the quote "This can of worms only opens from the inside."

(1) The Sam/Sarah relationship was supposed to be wonderful for the short time it lasted, and the bloom was supposed to wear off pretty quickly. Sam was supposed to be confused by this - Sarah is exactly the kind of girl he wants, should want to marry - and he's not really clear on what went wrong. I'm not sure if the external stuff (Dean's disappearance) kind of messed that trajectory up. Also, I don't know if it's clear that the reader is free to imagine Sarah and Jason getting together after Sam leaves.

(2) The Henrickson subplot was a last-minute addition, and really goes nowhere, though it does keep Sam conveniently cooped up. I don't know if it's still necessary.

(3) June was supposed to have a much larger role. I'd originally considered naming all of Rob's friends and giving them personalities, but decided the story didn't require that work; in cutting them, June's role was supposed to expand to fill that space. Somehow, it just didn't. But I love June. There's more I'd like to explore with her.

(4) Jo's marriage. I wanted Jo to have realized from her horrifying experience in Duluth that pining for Dean was going to get her nowhere, and so she takes off and unexpectedly finds a guy to love who loves her back. I didn't really want to be mean and take him away from her, but she needed to be sad and not content by the time Sam caught up with her. Sean is less clear to me than June, but it might be nice to think about Sean/Jo at some point in the future.

(5) Rob. Oh, what a pain in the ass he's been. First he was going to be just a Bad News Bear, someone who'd turn Sam upside down and not be all that nice about it. I will admit that at least some of that was motivated by the fact that, in my fanon at least, Sam has been extraordinarily lucky with the people he loves. By that I mean not that Sam gets happy endings (duh - Jess), but that the people he loves tend to love him back and want to take care of him: Irene, Ben, Jess, Sarah, DEAN. I kind of thought it was about time that Sam got to know what it's like when he's not put first. Also, I really enjoyed exploring Sam's sexuality in "Sunshine State," his repudiation of his love for another man when that man was revealed to have some startling similarities to Dean. Sam pushed all of that - loving another man, wondering if he loved Dean romantically, his identity as a Winchester and soldier, etc. - away in one fell swoop, so I figured it should be a guy rather than a girl who challenged Sam here. Anyway, Rob was pretty much going to be an unrepentant bastard, someone who could put the whammy on Sam and didn't have a lot of compunction about using it. But I didn't think that was very interesting, and I had NO desire to write even borderline non-con, so. I don't know if it came across, but for all that Rob does have some fae power and Sam (being Sam and demon-touched) is especially receptive to it, the fuzziness that Sam keeps claiming sweeps over him whenever Rob touches him is not entirely real. I think it's Sam's way of evading responsibility for the gay relationship he is in. Because he thinks of himself as straight, and has convinced himself that the episode with Ben was more about his feelings for Dean and his messed-up childhood than his own bisexuality. I'm not really planning to write any more with Rob, but I want to know if he was interesting, believable, consistent, etc., or if his character and his role in the plot will need a major rehaul.

(6) Dean's soul. I really did not mean to write something so permanent and so sad. But I think if there'd been a quick and easy solution, Bobby would have found it. Man, it always comes back to Dean breaking my heart.



Thank you so very much for reading and encouraging me! I hope you had a good time somewhere along the way!

  • 1
Oh, wow.
Okay.
Um.

Dean's back, yay yay.
Rob? Sucks. The deal with Dean's soul? Sucks. Just...jayzus.
You broke me a little bit here.
*sobs quietly*

I am gonna have to fix this in my head. A lot.
But i love the idea that Rob couldn't find his own people without Sam. I loathe that Sam was not only 'glamoured', as it were, but then put into debt.

You are eeeevol. Sheesh. So evol.
*sniffle*

I'm so pleased you stuck it out to the end with me! Thank you for all of your comments along the way.

I am gonna have to fix this in my head. A lot. Is the fixing something I can do without changing the underlying story? Or is this more a way to make a happy ending that will satisfy you?

But i love the idea that Rob couldn't find his own people without Sam. I was really pleased with this notion, because why else would Rob do all this work for and invest so much time in some guy he's never met before? Even if Jo vouched for Sam?

Thank you so very much!

Hrmmmmmmmmm......how to fix this in my head.... I guess that i would find some...out, for Sam. That some 'favor' that Rob called up for him - and really, just how many does he think he has? Sam got him his *inheritance* and his people back, he can't owe him *too* much.... Anyway, Rob calls on Sam for some 'favor', some 'payback' and it's damn sketchy and damn dangerous and somehow one or the other of them ends up nearly dying and *that* is not part of the payback *at all* and - let's say Sam is very badly hurt/fucked/whatever and Dean being Dean does something sneaky and underhanded but *allowable* by the arcane terms of such things and not only gets Sam help but also gets Rob off their backs for good.

*it's all blurry and lots of light and close ups and things in my head, no real form or substance, just...yay, happy ending!*

And! Or....some peril that will involve Sam giving Dean a bit of himself to keep him there/alive and he'll inadvertently give back what he took. The idea of Dean having the visions is actually kind of cool, but i hate him missing that oh-so-vital and *Dean* bit of his soul.

And, now, see, this all goes on *in my head*. I don't ever imagine that you would *ever* change your own story to make it more like *i* want it. Your story is your own and a very good one, too.

I just have issues, and pretty much if the story is good enough, as far as my brain is concerned, it's *real* somewhere, and my brain can't handle that kind of sadness and hurt on the boys somewhere in the 'verse so...it fixes it. I 'fixed' books and movies when i was a kid all the time. Really angsty, horribly sad and hopeless fics make me literally ill and won't read them. The few i *have* read, not knowing how awful the end was going to be, come back to haunt me and i just hate them.

You gave us a pretty 'good' ending as endings go, but of course my brain has to figure out how to make it, eventually, 'right', so it can rest easier.

*just me and my issues, skippin' down the road...la la la...*
:)

Ah, i missed the request part. Rob is that kind of character that annoys the everloving fuck out of me, so i think you should ignore what i say about him, as i like that kind of character *never*, in any story. Basically the 'i know things you don't, i won't tell, you amuse me, dance, puppet, dance' sort of character. Gah.

So, you know - i'm not the best judge 'cause i don't like those people when C.J. Cherryh writes 'em, and i'll forgive her *anything*.
:)

Rob was not, surprisingly, fun to write. I'd thought he would be - someone who's so completely out for himself would at least be a nice change of pace - but he was juts a huge pain in the ass. So I hear you.

I liked this ending. I figured Rob had some alternate agenda, but not quite sure I guessed what. Glad Sam got Dean back - I'm unclear about one thing, but I'll put it in a few notes?

Overall I loved this story. I am so happy you finished it.

I am now going to give some thoughts/reactions...in the hopes of being helpful! I have to say: this is all completely and utterly off the top of my head. Obviously I don't know your story as well as you and some days I did read the entries fast! To help with proper notes I'd have to re read. But in the MEANTIME to say something useful:

Pace wise - probably looking at it all, I'm not sure whether the Sarah bit wouldn't take up too much space, esp. as it doesn't tremendously move the plot forward? If it's about Dean being taken and Sam getting him back - you need enough set up to establish/hint at us that's Sam's different, to explain what's happened, but I remember a few days with Sarah...possibly don't need so much of it?I didn't imagine Sarah with Jason after Sam left but perhaps I am slow.

I was confused when Sam first got with Rob - as he'd seemed to not like him at all - so perhaps upping the emphasis, not that it's non con but there's something about Rob that's irresistible? I may have to go back and re read cause perhaps I just missed it. I'm not sure what you are saying with your note above - that Sam is claiming fuzziness because he doesn't want to admit to an attraction he is acting on?

Once he was *with* Rob I got that he was something Sam had to come back to and I got that he melt...misty and fuzzy when he was around him. It was more that first connection that confused me.

I liked June.I felt it worked that we didn't know her so well but that she covered Sam's ass when she had to. We don't have to touch people's lives a LOT for them to feel kindly toward us after all. Sam's the kind of person I think would inspire that help.

The Henrickson plot gave her that purpose at least (cos it's him she's covering Sam to isn't it?). Otherwise Henrickson at least gives Sam a reason to feel so enclosed and trapped - in a way Dean is in sleep - in the apartment with Rob and his fuzzy making. You could perhaps work on tying it more into Sam's general frame of mind if you were concerned about it - I don't know, something about nothing Sam does is right or how can he save Dean when he can't even evade the feds...something. But it didn't feel like, woah what's this. I bought it.

I liked Jo. I thought Jo worked. I loved that she'd built a life and was happy and okay it didn't work out and she was sad...but she had something. She had the pub and she knew what she was doing. I felt that she had grown up, but not forgotten the boys or her past and so she helps Sam when she can. I bought all that.

So: Dean. He got Sam's visions and Sam got *all* of Dean's hunting skills? So Dean...has none left? The hint at the end that Dean can still hunt people seemed to say that...I don't quite understand how that swap works? Dean could retrain and relearn after all, couldn't he? They're skills that might be relearnable to some extent?? Perhaps I am missing something.

**

Gosh I hope that's all okay and useful. I have to say I LOVED it. I liked the solution Sam had to saving Dean...I liked Bobby and other hunter's reactions to Sam - so believable, I think I commented on that on the time. How you'd moved Jo on was great, and a Jo I could get on board with. Rob worked too (and Matthew Bomer!! I totally see it! He's hot too, hmmm nice)...it's interesting to give Sam a relationship that's all sunshine and roses and just as much love back.

Anyway those are my two cents, for what they are worth. People reading this entirely might not agree and I don't mean to sound critical. They are thoughts I had off the top of my head when reading your request.

I really liked it. I am happy you wrote and finished it - thank you.

I am sure you are relieved to have an opportunity to work on something else now!! :)

Obv I mean, interesting to give Sam a relationship that's *not* all sunshine and roses. *facepalm*

Hee, I knew what you meant!

Goodness, thank you so much for being so generous with your comments! I really appreciate this so very much, and it is incredibly helpful.

I'm not sure whether the Sarah bit wouldn't take up too much space You know, I went back and looked, and there's about 13,000 words of Sam/Sarah. That's the length of "Lacuna"! Some of that was clearly a function of having to write every day and dillydallying with Sarah because I knew I could write her and I wasn't sure yet how to write Jo and June and Rob. But you're absolutely right - the Sarah section needs to be pruned in a major way.

I was confused when Sam first got with Rob - as he'd seemed to not like him at all - so perhaps upping the emphasis, not that it's non con but there's something about Rob that's irresistible? Yes, this was maybe the hardest scene to write, because I couldn't quite figure out how to have Sam accept Rob's advance without flat out saying that Rob is irresistible and showing my hand too early. I wanted Rob's "want, take, have" philosophy to be apparent, but writing from Sam's POV, it was hard to figure out how he'd react to that. I will have to think more about this. As for my note - what I meant was that, yes, there is a little bit of fuzziness, especially at first, given that Rob has this fae power and Sam is susceptible since he's already touched by supernatural powers. But I think Sam's exaggerating - even to himself - just how fuzzy his mind goes, because he doesn't want to think that he is at all responsible for the relationship.

I'm glad you liked June!

Henrickson at least gives Sam a reason to feel so enclosed and trapped - in a way Dean is in sleep Dude! I didn't really even see that parallel before! Whoot! And I'm glad that Sam's headspace made sense.

Glad too that you liked grown-up Jo.

So: Dean. He got Sam's visions and Sam got *all* of Dean's hunting skills? So Dean...has none left? Ah, I was very unclear about this - sorry! No, Dean has the hunting skills that anybody who is in good shape and with a clear mind would possess; he has strength and speed and accuracy. What he lost is that extra edge, all of those instincts, and the *desire* to hunt. Put it this way: if Sam did no hunting at Stanford, at the end of his college life, he was at the same level that Dean is in this story. The training is there, and the knowledge, but not that uncanny, incredibly tight and skilled execution. Does that make more sense?

I am so pleased you liked this, and I'm so thankful for all of your help.

You know, I went back and looked, and there's about 13,000 words of Sam/Sarah. That's the length of "Lacuna"! Hee!!! Well here's a thought - you made very interesting points about the Sarah relationship being one Sam should want yet he doesn't, or it clearly fails to work. That's something you could easily transplant into a separate story, and limit the amount of time you spend with her here? Although you may still need the point about it being something that not works I realize...

Setting aside Sam's bisexuality as something he may feel the need to explore, and looking at Sam and any relationship: I think the relationship with Sarah was one Sam wanted at one point. In Provenance, he still thought he could kill the YED and go back to being 'normal' - or at least pretended to himself that he could.

By 'What IS AWSNB', isn't he saying to Dean that this life is important; he's pretty much accepted that this is how it's gonna be. Now, I don't know how Sam feels a relationship fits into this life - I'm not sure he has worked that out yet - I think there's too much going on with Dean and him to even worry about that.

But... I'm not sure Sarah would be someone he'd burden with this life...even though she made it clear she's a big girl who can make that decision for herself. I'm not sure what my answer is to that question, but to me anyway perhaps some of things you were exploring could be done in a separate story.

It's something that I think is a whole interesting topic by itself anyway! :)

Happy to point out the enclosed in apartment/sleep parallel ;) Hee you put stuff in you didn't even know ;)

Ah I SEEE. So Dean's lost the desire to hunt too? I am interested to see what kind of life they'd set up for themselves at the end of your story. Thank you for explaining that to me.

No worries at all on the notes - happy to help! You took the time to offer me general crit when I needed it so it's no problem at all for me to throw a few fic notes out there. I mean it's not like I run around offering crit, but when people ask and genuinely want it, I think it's nice to give as much of your reaction as you can.

Thank you for writing it for us all to enjoy!

(Edited just for sense)

Edited at 2007-12-10 05:17 pm (UTC)

PS

As for my note - what I meant was that, yes, there is a little bit of fuzziness, especially at first, given that Rob has this fae power and Sam is susceptible since he's already touched by supernatural powers. But I think Sam's exaggerating - even to himself - just how fuzzy his mind goes, because he doesn't want to think that he is at all responsible for the relationship.


Ah I seeeeee. And yes that's something that's hard to write, when you're in Sam's POV isn't it? How much he doth protest too much... ;)

I enjoyed following this story a lot, and I look forward to reading it in one shot. I think some of what you're worried about in the rewrite will be mitigated somewhat when it's all together.

The only thing that I remember jumping out at me was the reveal of how Sam saved Dean. I got the sense that you needed to get it in there to move the story along, and it did, but if you decide to rewrite, I'd avoid it coming out so directly in a conversation between Bobby and Sam, who obviously know it all already. I don't know if a better alternative would be a flashback or just Sam thinking about it, or even rewriting the phone conversation, but it was a little more writerly than the rest of the story.

As for your specific concerns:

1 - I liked the Sam and Sarah parts a lot. They were paced well, they were fun, it was nice to see Sam enjoying himself, and the slow build with Dean worked well. But it mostly ended up being a context for what Sam was doing when the plot started, and so I'd either cut it down a little bit or include some meatier resolution to the emotional side of that plot later on (even if the resolution is "my brother is missing, I can't worry about this right now").

4 - I like Jo's marriage, I like that she has a life. I was a little thrown by how much of a life she'd had in the, what, two or so years since the thing in Duluth--it is, of course, enough time to get over Dean, meet Sean, fall in love, get married, bond with his family, have Sean die, and then start to get over him, but not by much. I'm not sure if this is something that even needs addressing, but I do remember suddenly wondering if this story was actually taking place five years in the future and I just hadn't realized.

5 - Man, I bet Rob was a pain in the ass. I don't think I can give you good feedback on him without going back and reading this again. I like characters that are self-interested, so Rob's desire to be in Sam's life makes sense (Jo's? I dunno.). Sam's attraction to Rob (mojo-related or not), and the emotional investments associated, are a little harder for me, but that might change on a re-read. Does he feel like a real person to you? If he does, you're probably fine.

6 - See above re: reveal. I'd actually really like to see the consequences of Sam's solution from Dean's point of view, if you were ever so inclined.

First off, let me say thank you so much for taking the time to offer concrit; it's not all that easy to be honest about flaws in someone else's story, especially in public. So I very much appreciate what you've done for me here.

The only thing that I remember jumping out at me was the reveal of how Sam saved Dean. I got the sense that you needed to get it in there to move the story along, and it did, but if you decide to rewrite, I'd avoid it coming out so directly in a conversation between Bobby and Sam, who obviously know it all already. I don't know if a better alternative would be a flashback or just Sam thinking about it, or even rewriting the phone conversation, but it was a little more writerly than the rest of the story. Yeah, this is something I tried to imagine in several ways. Ultimately, I wrote it as a phone conversation with Bobby for a few reasons. The first and most obvious is that Sam needs to get on speaking terms with Bobby, since Bobby is the only one who holds certain key pieces of information. But even more fundamentally, Sam has spent an awful lot of time in this story avoiding thinking about what he did. Every time he thinks of it, it's always in terms of "saving Dean" - he doesn't want to think about how drastically he acted and what the alternatives to that action might have been. So he keeps all of that locked up, never speaks of it, hardly even thinks about it. So when the dam finally breaks and he does speak of it, it only made sense to have the audience be someone who knows, who can judge him fairly. But I agree that the conversation itself needs to be rewritten to blend better.

About your comments on Sarah: this is kind of exactly what I think. I liked seeing Sam having a good time, liked seeing Sarah and everything she represents. But ultimately it takes up much too much of the story, so I will, as you suggest, be chopping some of this away.

I was a little thrown by how much of a life she'd had in the, what, two or so years since the thing in Duluth--it is, of course, enough time to get over Dean, meet Sean, fall in love, get married, bond with his family, have Sean die, and then start to get over him, but not by much. I'm not sure if this is something that even needs addressing, but I do remember suddenly wondering if this story was actually taking place five years in the future and I just hadn't realized. Heeee! That was one of my secret fears - that I'd simply crammed too much living in too short a time. The only reason I had the story take place within a few years of the deal-breaking was that (a) I couldn't see Dean surviving for much longer than that if he still hadn't told Sam the truth (about the visions, about his lost instincts) and (b) I couldn't imagine the boys not having any friendly contacts for much longer than that. But I'll have to think about how to make both timelines - Winchesters' and Jo's - make sense.

Rob's desire to be in Sam's life makes sense (Jo's? I dunno.). Sam's attraction to Rob (mojo-related or not), and the emotional investments associated, are a little harder for me, but that might change on a re-read. Does he feel like a real person to you? If he does, you're probably fine. Rob is involved in Jo's life partially because of proximity, but mostly because she's the last link he has to the family he misses so much. Everyone around him is dead. And Jo's lost a lot and hasn't mustered up the courage to reach out to her mother, so he's all she has too. I think there's affection there, but they're mostly convenient for each other. Sam's attraction to Rob is, I think, harder to rationalize, and I guess I have to consider whether it is necessary to the story. My instinct is that it is, but I think some time away from the story will help me figure it all out. And sometimes Rob feels like a real person and sometimes he feels like a caricature. The thing is, though, he *should* feel like a caricature at times, because there is very much something about him that Sam completely fails to grasp.

I'd actually really like to see the consequences of Sam's solution from Dean's point of view, if you were ever so inclined. Some rainy day, I just might be.

Thank you so very much for your time and thoughts!

Somewhat belated feedback *g*. I really enjoyed the story - of course it's a bit difficult to read in fits and starts but I expect it to all hang together well when it's posted as complete. I liked the Sam/Sarah relationship a lot, how it was good for Sam emotionally but when he needed it to be useful practically (with the money) that was there as well; the way you write Sarah is engaging and forthright.

I will say I found the end a little bit rushed - I would have liked to see a few more consequences with Dean. He and Sam were apart for a long time (for them) and I felt a bit disappointed not to see more of them reconnecting to each other, especially after the revelation of the consequences of Sam's actions to break the deal. (Although the last section seems to suggest you're planning to write a sequel, maybe that will be in there?)

I enjoyed the fae lore a lot, having something powerful that Sam couldn't fight the way he's used to, either by the Dean-ish brute-force method or by finding out more and more about them.

I liked Sam's relations with all the characters - having to rely on Jo and coming to trust and value her, the OCs, the reconciliation with Bobby. Regarding your specific question about Rob, I enjoyed the character but I have to admit it was reasonably obvious early on he was fae and I totally bought into the idea that he was whammying Sam. I don't know how you'd get around that exactly - IIRC Sam thinks about the daze pretty much every time you write them having an encounter, maybe if once or twice he's in a bad mood and turns Rob down or in a good one and the sex is particularly good?

I'm looking forward to seeing what (if any) changes you decide to make but I do think it's a really strong, enjoyable story already - it was a good month (... or so) *g*.

Thank you so much for your feedback! It's wonderful of you to take the time to give it.

I liked the Sam/Sarah relationship a lot Me too, actually, which I was not expecting, since I knew Sam was going to be moving on. I have a tendency to do this, I think - let myself get caught up in each relationship as it's happening instead of remembering to hold something back for the ultimate destination. It's why Ben got such a long build-up in "Sunshine State" and I think I need to cut some of the Sarah stuff here. Maybe. Haven't decided yet.

I will say I found the end a little bit rushed - I would have liked to see a few more consequences with Dean. He and Sam were apart for a long time (for them) and I felt a bit disappointed not to see more of them reconnecting to each other, especially after the revelation of the consequences of Sam's actions to break the deal. (Although the last section seems to suggest you're planning to write a sequel, maybe that will be in there?) Hmmm. The ending was definitely rushed. I knew where the story needed to go and felt that I'd dragged my feet too long already. But the part about Dean not reacting too much to Sam's dealbreaking spell was deliberate - Dean made up his mind a long time ago to live with the consequences and not tell Sam what he'd actually done. And I can't imagine that Sam would be able to say anything to change that. Also, ha! to the sequel idea. Let me get this mess sorted out first.

I enjoyed the fae lore a lot, having something powerful that Sam couldn't fight the way he's used to, either by the Dean-ish brute-force method or by finding out more and more about them. That's really what this was about - Sam facing something new (both romantically and professionally) and trying to see what he did with that. I'm glad this worked for you!

I enjoyed the character but I have to admit it was reasonably obvious early on he was fae and I totally bought into the idea that he was whammying Sam. I don't know how you'd get around that exactly - IIRC Sam thinks about the daze pretty much every time you write them having an encounter, maybe if once or twice he's in a bad mood and turns Rob down or in a good one and the sex is particularly good? Oh, shoot! I will have to think more about how to disguise Rob without making him completely unreadable. Thanks for your suggestions!

I'm looking forward to seeing what (if any) changes you decide to make but I do think it's a really strong, enjoyable story already - it was a good month (... or so) *g*. Aww, you're too kind! Thanks so much!

Argh. I did not mean to take this long to catch up and leave con crit on this.

I love the story overall, the thing about the soul swap and how it unfolds towards the equinox, and all the different relationships you portray. The Sam/Rob thing got across clearly to me. I felt like Sam was enjoying it too much for this to be merely him being magicked, but it's also clear Rob's doing some kind of, I don't know, glamour, using his magic as part of the seduction. But I got how conflicted Sam felt about it and that he wasn't just being whammied, he found Rob exciting. I thought Rob filled up something Sam needed right then, just as Rob was using Sam for his own reasons.

Like a few other commenters, having read the whole thing and looking back I feel like the Sam/Sarah went on too long for the context of this story. I loved that part so it's hard for me to say trim it back, but it didn't seem as important in the overall scheme of the story as its length suggests it is.

I really like the Jo stuff. And she's an echo of Ellen, with the bar, the dead husband, sheltering Sam.

Sam's emotional journey in this worked really well for me, it held together and all his reasons for doing things made sense to me.

The ending did feel a little rushed, but I don't know if that's just a consequence of writing nano-style. Plot-wise it works fine. I just felt like I needed more time to digest what had happened, more time for the characters to digest it. Maybe more on how being among the fae changed Dean (or was he asleep the whole time?)

Lovely work, I'm amazed you can write like this when you're rushed!

For the delay, you will be spanked forthwith. Or, you know, I could say THANK YOU for bothering to catch up with what's no more than a very rough draft and offering real and thoughtful criticism. Your pick.

The Sam/Rob thing got across clearly to me. I felt like Sam was enjoying it too much for this to be merely him being magicked, but it's also clear Rob's doing some kind of, I don't know, glamour, using his magic as part of the seduction. But I got how conflicted Sam felt about it and that he wasn't just being whammied, he found Rob exciting. I thought Rob filled up something Sam needed right then, just as Rob was using Sam for his own reasons. Hee, Sam, you vixen! No, seriously, I'm glad that at least some of the conflict came across. Because I hoped Sam was being a little "the lady doth protest too much" about Rob and the whammy. There *is* a whammy, but it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card for Sam, you know?

Like a few other commenters, having read the whole thing and looking back I feel like the Sam/Sarah went on too long for the context of this story. I loved that part so it's hard for me to say trim it back, but it didn't seem as important in the overall scheme of the story as its length suggests it is. I totally agree. The length of that section really had more to do with me needing to write every day and not yet knowing how to start the Sam-in-NYC/Sam-meets-Jo/Sam-meets-Rob stuff. So I should be able to trim it easily. What I need to think about is how much of the emotional stuff needs to be excised as well - do I just skip the Sarah-and-her-mom stuff?

I really like the Jo stuff. And she's an echo of Ellen, with the bar, the dead husband, sheltering Sam. I really liked how this part turned out too. I like the relationship Jo and Sam ended up with here. I'd thought when I was planning the story that they might get together somewhere along the way (I've always seen Sam/Jo more easily than Dean/Jo), but I'm pleased with the way their bond unfolded here.

Sam's emotional journey in this worked really well for me, it held together and all his reasons for doing things made sense to me. Good! I was really worried about that, and worried too that the timeline might stretch things too far past the point of credulity. Thank you for your reassurance.

The ending did feel a little rushed, but I don't know if that's just a consequence of writing nano-style. Plot-wise it works fine. I just felt like I needed more time to digest what had happened, more time for the characters to digest it. Maybe more on how being among the fae changed Dean (or was he asleep the whole time?) Agreed on the rushed feeling. I so wanted to be done with this. I think plot-wise I did get everything I wanted in there. As for Dean, I wanted him to be asleep, unchanged by the fae - there's only so much I wanted Sam to be responsible for.

Lovely work, I'm amazed you can write like this when you're rushed! You are too kind, sugar!

Catching up, now! I'd forgotten how much I was enjoying this, so it was really nice to come back and read the ending, and I'll leave comments on some of your questions in case you're still interested in detailed feedback:

I do feel that the Sam/Sarah storyline takes up a disproportionate amount of space in the story. It's all lovely, and I really like what you did with it, but I think the effect could be achieved in less words. Interesting thing about Jason: I was left feeling like Jason and *Sam* could get together. That is, I'm sure, a product of me having been waiting for the Sam/OMC portion of the program, but when we were introduced to him, that's where I though it was headed.

Re: Rob, from the start, I was waiting to find out not *if* he was evil, but just how evil he was. I suspected his involvement with the fae early on, but the lost king angle (and nice use of the name Rex, btw) was very cool and unexpected, as was his using Sam for his own purposes. I never suspected that Sam wasn't as affected by Rob as he let himself believe, but I love it.

What you've done with Dean's soul is kind of heartbreaking, but I think it works for the story, and it obviously doesn't have to be a 100% happy outcome to be good. I liked it, in any case, and you've left Dean alive and coping, which, honestly, is looking pretty good right about now.

I'm sorry I didn't get to reading this sooner, but I really did enjoy it, and I hope you have fun revising it without the pressure of NaNo!

I am still interested in detailed feedback - I was just thinking I'd like to get this cleaned up and posted before I get totally into my bigbang story. So thank you for helping me out!

I do feel that the Sam/Sarah storyline takes up a disproportionate amount of space in the story. It's all lovely, and I really like what you did with it, but I think the effect could be achieved in less words. Definitely. There's no question about it - I let it go on for so long because I (surprisingly) enjoyed writing that relationship and also because I was trying to postpone writing the rest of Sam's journey. It will be cut - and if I can do it properly, I might even make a separate story out of what I cut.

Interesting thing about Jason: I was left feeling like Jason and *Sam* could get together. That is, I'm sure, a product of me having been waiting for the Sam/OMC portion of the program, but when we were introduced to him, that's where I though it was headed. Ha! Wow, that's something I never even considered! Hmmm. Jason in my mind is totally hung up on Sarah, but Sam is awfully pretty. Eeeeeenteresting.

Re: Rob, from the start, I was waiting to find out not *if* he was evil, but just how evil he was. Oh, I like the way you put this! So I shouldn't be worried about disguising him. Hmmmm.

I suspected his involvement with the fae early on, but the lost king angle (and nice use of the name Rex, btw) was very cool and unexpected, as was his using Sam for his own purposes. I never suspected that Sam wasn't as affected by Rob as he let himself believe, but I love it. Yay, I'm so glad all of this worked for you!

What you've done with Dean's soul is kind of heartbreaking, but I think it works for the story, and it obviously doesn't have to be a 100% happy outcome to be good. I liked it, in any case, and you've left Dean alive and coping, which, honestly, is looking pretty good right about now. Yeah, I wasn't really planning on writing a downer, but I knew there wouldn't be an easy fix either, so this sort of acceptance of what's happened seems like the best we can hope for. I'm really glad you felt that too.

Thank you, again, so very much! I really appreciate your thoughtful, incisive comments!

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