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A Picture is Worth

August 30th, 2006 (05:10 pm)

Title: A Picture is Worth

Author: faye_dartmouth

Rating: PG, gen

A/N: I wrote this a long time ago and probably never would have posted it if not for the...encouragement of a certain beta reader of mine. This is inspired by the way Sam looked at the photo of himself, his brother, and his dad that he found in John's motel room in the pilot. No real plot, just retrospection, so take it for what you will.

Disclaimer: Seriously, by this point, you think I am not sadly aware of who really owns the boys?

Summary: Sam has heard a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

A Picture is Worth

 

Sam has heard that a picture is worth a thousand words.

He's not so sure about that, but he knows that pictures tell stories, hold within them a moment of life, a moment of reality, a moment of truth, and keep them for the rest of time.

He finds photos fascinating, ever since the first time he visits Jessica’s parents and she shows him her life story through a series of overstuff albums. He likes to look at her baby picture, where she is red and shriveled and crying in her mother’s arms. He loves the picture of her first birthday when she has chocolate cake smeared over her delighted mouth. He loves the picture of her on her first day of school, in her little pink dress and Barbie lunch pail clutched in her eager hands. He loves the picture of her first date, where she stands next to a scrawny boy with a goofy grin. She stands close to him, but not touching, an exasperated smile on her face as she silently begs her parents to excuse her from this embarrassment.

He loves seeing the way Jessica changed throughout her life, the way her photos document that change and shows him how she became the woman he loves so dearly. It makes him think, for the first time, that photos are snapshots of time, that when time has passed and people have changed, the photos stand as a monument to what was.

When he thinks about it that way, it seems right his family has so few photos to reflect their existence.

When he gets back to his apartment, he searches through his things, looking for the photos he knows exist somewhere. He finds four of them, scattered throughout this things, one in a pile of his schoolwork from high school. Another two at the bottom of the suitcase where he hides his small cache of weapons. He finds one more in the top drawer of his desk.

Sam collects all four photos and lays them on the bed before him. As he fingers them, he thinks of Jessica’s albums.

In the course of his life, he’s only managed to collect four photos. It stuns him and he feels empty somehow, devoid of history and significance. But he clings to the photos, keeps them stacked together in the drawer by his bed, and looks at them when he can’t sleep at night.

He almost loses the photos; they almost burn in the apartment along with Jessica and his dreams. He wouldn’t have retrieved them at all, wouldn’t have retrieved anything, except Dean makes him. Dean takes control, sifting through the wreckage, pulling out items and gauging Sam’s reaction for their importance.

Dean ultimately only keeps a small bag full of things, a few mementos from Sam’s time with Jessica. He salvages all the photos he can find, all the ones of Jessica, and the four Winchester family photos that represent the rest of Sam’s life.

It is a few weeks before Sam can even look at what was salvaged and when he does he feels numb and disconnected, as though they are pieces from another life. He is surprised to find the photos, surprised that of all the things that had burned, they somehow survived. He almost wants to think why those came out unscathed, but then he might have to start thinking about everything else that didn’t.

But as months pass, sometimes when nightmares pull him from his sleep, he looks at the photos, tries to remember them, tries to recreate the memories capture in them.

The first is his fifth birthday. He is chubby and blonder, and he is holding a knife—his first knife, the first weapon his father ever trusted him with. He lost the knife when he was seven, left it in some motel or rest stop between Houston and Memphis. But he is so proud in the photo and he models it proudly for the camera. What he likes best about the photo, though, is Dean standing next to him, so close but not touching, and he is watching his baby brother, his face thoughtful and careful. Sam recognizes that look, knows that it’s the same one he sees on Dean’s face even now. It’s almost expressionless, and most would say Dean looks like an unhappy child, but all Sam sees is love.

The second is from the first and last Christmas their father took them their maternal grandparents. Dean is wearing an ill-fitted sweater with a giant snowflake. His hair is gelled and he is pulling at the collar, looking miserable next to the Christmas tree. Sam is all smiles, though, barely contained excitement at all the splendor of the season. Sam wants to remember that moment, but he can’t, he can’t even remember his grandparents, though he still remembers the stuffed bear they gave him that Christmas.

The third is a picture that a friend gave to him from a field trip in tenth grade. They had been living in New York then, just outside NYC, and his English class had taken a day to visit some of the museums. During their lunch break, he and a kid named Evan found their way to the library, and meandered through the tall stacks in awe. Evan was a shy kid, an odd one, too, and he seemed to understand something in Sam that Sam never expressed. Sam never knew why, but Evan brought his camera, a disposal one, and had a stranger take their picture. They’re smiling and have their arms around each other like they are best friends. Evan gave him the picture the day before Sam left New York. Sam left without a goodbye, without an explanation, and sometimes he thinks about that, looks at the picture, and feels sad.

The last is of his parents in their first year of marriage, before Dean was even born. It is the only thing in his life that exists from before the first fire, and he’s not sure how he ended up with it, but it came with him to college. When he showed it to Jessica, she said it was beautiful. She had it framed and gave it to him as a Christmas present their first year together. From then on, it sat on his bed stand, a monument to a shattered dream, a living promise, and a fallen hope.

It is this picture that he wonders about the most, how it survived when everything else in the bedroom was nothing but charred remains. The frame is blackened slightly, but he doesn’t care, lets it sit at the bottom of his duffel, taking comfort he can’t explain just from knowing that it’s there.

Sometimes he thinks about it at the strangest times. The image comes to him when he’s in the shower, when he’s in the car, when he’s loading the shotgun with rock salt as a ghost rears its ugly head.

Sometimes, when he is almost asleep, he understands it, understands why the pictures linger in his mind. To him, the Winchesters are like a photograph, frozen in time. Years and years have passed, memories have risen and fallen, but still they are the same. Their poses have not change, though the color has faded and the edges are marred. They do not tell a story, not like Jessica’s, because theirs is a life of vengeance, not of love. They have not grown or shrunk, learned or lost—they remain the same, unaffected, except in vibrancy, which has dwindled with the passage of time.

Comments

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: August 30th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)

He is surprised to find the photos, surprised that of all the things that had burned, they somehow survived. He almost wants to think why those came out unscathed, but then he might have to start thinking about everything else that didn’t.

oh sammy :(

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
Sam

:(

He lost so much. He needs a hug. I volunteer.

But I guess Dean would need a hug too--watching his baby brother grieve and not knowing how to deal. Any taker?

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:19 am (UTC)

*oh SO volunteers*

don't look at the promo pictures or I'll end up having to look!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 08:16 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 04:05 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 1st, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: September 1st, 2006 10:17 am (UTC)

Posted by: cutedevil666 (cutedevil666)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:11 am (UTC)

Oh that was beautiful. I loved the idea of Dean grabbing thier pictures from Sams apartment. Great job.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)

I'm not sure Sam would have any presence of mind to do ANYTHING post-Jessica. We saw him flying off the edge in Wendigo so I figure he spent most of that first week in shock and denial.

But Dean would have to know they would have to salvage something--or Sam would have nothing left.

It's all so depressing!!

Posted by: a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf (embroiderama)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
Sam - nightmare

To him, the Winchesters are like a photograph, frozen in time. Years and years have passed, memories have risen and fallen, but still they are the same. Their poses have not change, though the color has faded and the edges are marred.

Ack, this made me get all teary. Lovely story!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:39 am (UTC)

Thanks! The Winchesters, when you REALLY think about them, always make me more sad than anything else.

Posted by: a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf (embroiderama)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:45 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)

Posted by: a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf (embroiderama)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:51 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)

Posted by: a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf (embroiderama)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 03:01 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 03:08 am (UTC)

Posted by: bluesister (bluesister)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)

It’s almost expressionless, and most would say Dean looks like an unhappy child, but all Sam sees is love.

The 4 selections are good: random like real life but each important.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 03:10 am (UTC)

Life really is random, and I can't imagine the Winchesters were good at documenting life. And what little they did have was likely to get left behind amongst moving around. But even the remnants would speak so much to who they are and what they value.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 12:30 pm (UTC)
giddy

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Posted by: Jo (apieceofcake)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC)
Broken Winchesters

Lovely! Thanks :-)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)
Sam

You're welcome! And thank you!

Posted by: Dawnie (dawnie1970)
Posted at: August 31st, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC)

*is killed dead* Oh, so very poignant and sad. *hugs Sammy*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 1st, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)

*sends Sam to do CPR*

Thanks :)

Posted by: Dawnie (dawnie1970)
Posted at: September 1st, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC)

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