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Title: Eye of the Beholder
Author: [livejournal.com profile] harrigan
Characters: Sam, Dean
Genre/pairing: gen
Rating: PG
Word count: 1432
Summary: preseries holiday ficlet for [livejournal.com profile] de_nugis and originally posted at [livejournal.com profile] hi_de_nugis.
Author note: I started to write a little angsty ficlet about our favorite damaged young men, but for various reasons I couldn't bring myself to linger in that mindset right now. So... this is what happened! Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] geminigrl11, who titled, beta'd, and generally improved this.

THUD! "{unintelligible grumble grumble} homework!"

Dean heard the weight of an overstuffed backpack slam against the scarred wooden floor of the hallway. Must be library day, he deduced; his brother's fourth grade textbooks didn't usually sound that heavy. The fourth grader in question made his appearance a minute later, scraping a kitchen chair across the linoleum. Sammy dropped into it with a sigh before bending down to tug at his boots. A trail of melting snow marked his path from the front door.

Newly fourteen, Dean felt the aura of teenage responsibility and the weight of his father's trust settle on his shoulders. A weekend without Dad, and he's in charge. What to do? Dean gave up his search for something to throw together for dinner and came over to pluck the knit hat off Sam's head, grinning at the chestnut hair that now stuck out in wild disarray. "Dude, what's up? Not that it's not a relief to see you might be human after all, but you love homework."

"It's"--Sam practically choked on the word--"art ."


"Whoever heard of homework in art? And on a weekend!"

Dean couldn't help the laugh the bubbled out. "I guess you need extra credit at the things you suck at."

Sam shrugged off his parka and let it slide to a puddle on the floor. "I'm not that bad."

"Trust me. You are. You'll still be drawing stick people when you're done with school." Dean almost followed up with a reference to their dad's similar lack of talent (ready to cite the Wendigo in Dad's journal as an example), but caught himself. It had just been a few weeks since Sammy had discovered what Dad did on those out-of-town business trips, and he wasn't dealing with it all that well. Then there was the fact that with the winter storm that was forecast, Dad would probably be delayed getting back. Not the direction Dean wanted his little brother's thoughts to take.

"Look. I'll help." Dean snagged a box of crayons and pad of construction paper from a kitchen drawer and plopped himself down at the table next to Sam, their shoulders touching.

"You can't do my homework for me, Dean!"

"Why not? You did that book report on The Last of the Mohicans for me."

"You paid me to do it. I'm not going to pay you to get me good grades. Besides, I want to turn in my own work."

Dean elbowed him gently. "How about if I draw something and you copy it. Is there a theme? You know, does it have to be a picture of something in particular?"

"Yeah." Sam sighed. "Something our family did together this weekend. Nosy teachers."

Good thing Dad hadn't agreed to Dean's suggestion to take them along on the hunt after all, Dean thought. He grabbed a black crayon and started sketching graceful arcs.

Sam watched studiously. "A snowman? I guess we could go out and make a snowman and then I could--hey, wait a minute!" Sam tried to snatch the crayon away from his brother, but Dean blocked him and kept drawing. "Dean, you can't.... Snowmen don't have boobs!"

"Of course not, Sammy. That wouldn't be anatomically correct. These are snowladies. When you see what I put on the snowmen--"

Sam shoved Dean completely out of the chair, stole the crayon, and started scribbling fat black lines across the entire sheet of paper. "Never mind! I'll just.... I'll just cover the whole page in black, and then we can go to the movies and sit in a dark theater, to match it!"

That actually sounded like a great idea to Dean. Children of the Corn II had just opened. And Dean knew all the tricks to get himself and Sammy into an R-rated flick.... Except the cupboards were bare and the old coffee can had just enough money left in it to get some groceries. Or movie passes, he supposed, but not both.

Frowning in thought, Dean watched the fat snowflakes gathering momentum outside the window, and gradually a smile tugged at his lips. "I'm game," he said, reaching for his jacket. "But it's gonna take a little effort. Dad left us plenty of dough for food,"--there was enough for Sam to eat, anyway, and he didn’t need to know any more than that--"but you know he wouldn't want us spending it on something else."

"So what're we gonna do, Dean?" Sam got to his feet too, eyes shining with faith in his big brother to come up with some crazy but awesome idea.

Dean reached into the coffee can and pulled out the bills, counting surreptitiously. Then he shook out the coins too and stuffed it all in his jeans pocket. "We're gonna walk over to that Home Depot and get us a snow shovel. Then we'll hire ourselves out clearing driveways for folks. By tomorrow afternoon, we'll have plenty to restock the coffee can, go to the movies, and maybe grab some burgers after!"

Sam's face lit up for a moment, but then he looked uncertain. "At school they said we're gonna get at least six more inches. The store's probably sold out of shovels by now."

Dean picked Sam's parka up off the floor and slapped it at his chest. "They're bound to have one or two left anyway. And if there are more folks there wanting to buy than they have stock left--well. If it's a lady store clerk, I'll just turn on my charm. And if it's not, then you just put on that pathetic Please sir, can I have more look from David Copperfield, and they won't be able to resist giving you the last one."

"It's Oliver Twist, dude. Not David Copperfield."

"Whatever. Just promise me you won't turn in a picture of a dark movie theater for your homework. I don't want it getting out that I snuck you into Children of the Corn Two."


It all went almost according to plan. They did get the last shovel, despite the other shoppers clamoring for it. Dean batted those long eyelashes and waggled an eyebrow at the young blonde who was working part-time after school, and she handed it right over.

They made almost a hundred dollars going door-to-door, Dean doing most of the heavy lifting as he scooped the wet snow off the pavement, and Sammy breaking up ice with an ice pick and spelling Dean when he needed a break.

The movie was everything they hoped for, and they even splurged on milkshakes to go with the juicy burgers after. Sam finished his homework that night, and read two of his library books on Sunday. Dean watched TV mindlessly and counted the hours till their dad would return, imagining his look when he discovered the extra money in their coffers. And they’d even earned it legally too!

John Winchester arrived home Monday, a little delayed by the road conditions, but unharmed. And from the lightness of his step, Dean figured he was in a good mood after a successful hunt. He watched from the corner of his eye as his father shucked his coat and duffle and leaned against the hall closet door, fanning the accumulated mail and then picking up the papers Sam had brought home from school to review. Sammy was in his bedroom, sprawled on the lower bunk, nose deep in his final library book. No surprise there.

Dean stood tall at the stove, adding spaghetti to the pot of boiling water. Life was good. His family was home and safe. And Dean had done a flawless job of managing in John's absence. He squared his shoulders, confident that he'd get at least a nod of approval from his dad this time.

The last thing he was expecting was his dad's unhappy bark: "Dean!"

He dropped the spoon. "What?" Even Sammy came peeking cautiously around the doorframe.

From the pile of mail and assorted papers scattered in front of him, John plucked a piece of construction paper, holding it up with an air of complete exasperation. The paper was labeled: 'What my family did this weekend' and stapled to it was a note: "Mr. Winchester - Please contact me ASAP for a brief parent-teacher conference." Then Dean's gaze dropped to the colored sketch Sammy had turned in.

kid art

Sam blinked, eyes wide and innocent. Dean cringed. "Dad, I can explain!"

John crossed his arms and waited.

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Author Note 2: Sam did progress beyond stick figures. But I think there's still a valid case for suggesting art was never Sam's forte. Case in point from episode 3.05 Bedtime Stories:


Author Note 3: I am not the artist responsible for the picture in this story. The artist is apparently somewhat anonymous. A rough history of the public circulation of this art is available here at snopes.com.

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