Sick as a dog

I’ve been sick this week, a weird combination of a cold and flu and general malaise. The one good thing about this craptastic state was that it brought me back to Road Rhythm’s truly excellent S/D story “Catch Your Death.”

In CYD, Sam is fighting the flu tooth and nail as he tries to convince Dean that the job they’ve stumbled onto in utterly un-scenic Columbia, MD is worth investigating. What seems like a simple salt-and-burn of a high school nerd murdered by his popular classmates gets complicated, fast; as Sam’s physical health deteriorates, so does the boys’ hold on what the hell is actually happening inside an abandoned apartment building. Of course, Sam is a terrible patient, putting what he reads as the job ahead of his own health. And, of course, the more that Dean tries to take care of him, the more Sam resists.

Know this: Road Rhythm has the boys down cold. In CYD, she trades on her understanding of Sam and Dean’s various foibles: their relationship to each other, to their jobs, to faith, to the supernatural things that they hunt. That’s what I dig about this story: it hinges at first on misreadings, mistakes, misunderstandings, but once everyone gets their collective heads on straight, the way that the plot (and the characterizations) unfold is logical and lovely.

She also has a very light touch with Sam. The story is rendered from his perspective and the Sam that she sketches from inside his sick, aching, and congested head is believable and sympathetic; he’s a mess and he knows it. Road Rhythm lets us see how physical illness brings Sam’s knowledge of his own mental and emotional disorder to the forefront and what that knowledge does to him, even from within a Nyquil-fueled haze.

As a reader who has more that a little love for Sam, I find this awesome. As a writer who finds herself pretty fucking stuck in Dean’s head–and unable to get a firm grip on Sam (‘s character)–I am utterly envious. [particularly because RR digs so nicely and hilariously into Dean’s head in “It’s All Very Meta,” another of her stories that I adore, but for very different reasons (and really should review, because RR will make you believe that Dean Winchester is a grammar and mechanics snob. She is *that* good.)]

Here, the story is the thing, first and foremost. There is some lovely fever sex, but it’s utterly entwined in the plot, in what’s happening between the boys and within the case itself. As a fledgling slash writer, may I say that I think this is terribly difficult to do, and even harder to do as well as Road Rhythm does here.

One of RR’s commenters over on the Sam and Dean Slash Archive suggested that reading this story is akin to watching an episode. I disagree: at some level, I found it more satisfying than that. Ok, yes, there’s a bit of sex, but the true joy came, for me, in the skillful way in which RR weaves the characterizations into the plot of the case and vice versa. This is just damn good writing, all the way around. If you’re a Supernatural fan who’s on the fence about S/D, check this one out; you can always skip the sex scene if it makes you squiffy, but I’m willing to bet that by the time you get to it, S/D’ll make sense–at least in the context of this story.

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