Title: Veterans of the Prank Wars

Author: embroiderama

Characters: Dean (17), Sam (13), John

Rating: PG-13 (gen)

Spoilers: none

Warnings: none

Word Count: 2429

Disclaimer: Sadly, none of the Winchesters belong to me.

Summary: Like Dean said in Hell House, there's nothing much to see in East Texas. Like Sam said, it's stupid, and it escalates.

Notes: This is a holiday request story for regalaelectra. Beta'd by the lovely and speedy missyjack, plus last-minute input from pheebs1.

By the time they pulled up to the hotel in East Texas, Dean was already bored of the place. No scenery worth looking at, just bushes and scraggly trees and crappy old trailer homes bunched up in twos and threes between the dying farms. He'd run out of batteries for his Walkman last night, and Dad was in a mood to drive with the radio off, listening to the engine or some shit. Sam had his nose buried in a book and frowned over at Dean every time he tried to start a conversation.

Dean would have joined him--the new issue of Popular Science sat in his bag waiting to be read--but Dean had learned years ago that reading in the car didn't work for him, and that the smell of puke took a long, long time to fade from the inside of the Impala. By the time Dean had spent a few hours playing Metallica songs in his head, he knew that East Texas was going to be one of those places where they had to make their own fun.

Dad had taken off at first light to do recon on his own. By the time Sam woke up and shuffled into the bathroom, Dean was up and dressed, reclining on Dad's empty bed and watching TV. He kept his expression blank until Sam closed the bathroom door behind him, but then he smirked and turned down the volume on the TV. Listening. Waiting.

The clatter of something small dropping onto porcelain. "Ugh!" Loud spitting. The splash of water turned on too high. "Ew, ew, gross!"

Sam yanked the bathroom door open and stormed out, wielding his toothbrush like a weapon in his upraised hand. "What the hell, Dean? You are such a jerk!"

"What?" Dean smiled, a look of practiced innocence on his face. "I thought you liked salt?"

"Not on my toothbrush, you butthole!" Sam scowled and turned on his heel, stomping back into the bathroom and gargling for several minutes.

That was the most entertaining thing Dean had seen in two days.

When Dad hadn't returned by lunchtime, Dean and Sam walked down the road to the closest convenience store. Sam seemed to have gotten over the morning's prank, walking beside Dean with a smile on his face. Dean felt himself smile, too, when he saw the girl working behind the counter at the store. She filled out her little shorts and tank top like they'd been designed for her curves, and long brown hair fell to her tanned shoulders.

She looked up when the bell above the door announced their entrance and returned Dean's smile.Looked like the town might have some interesting scenery after all. Might just have to take the guided tour.

"Sammy, go pick out some snacks."

When Sam walked off toward the potato chip aisle, Dean leaned across the counter and nodded his chin at the soft serve machine behind the counter. "Hey, can I get a couple of cones to go?"

"Sure thing," she answered, leaning over a little, giving Dean an even better look at the scenery. "Vanilla, chocolate or swirl?"

"Vanilla for my little brother over there. I'll take the swirl."

"Oh, you like to mix it up a little?" She turned to make the cones.

"As much as I can, sweetheart."

"You can call me Amy." She turned and put the vanilla cone on the counter and offered Dean another smile before turning back to make the second cone. "So what are you doing around here?"

"Just passing through. Any sights I oughtta see before I leave town, Amy?"

"I, uh--" She turned back around and gave Dean the once-over before continuing. "I could show you the best place to get a burger if you want to come meet me after my shift."

"Excellent. I love a good burger."

Sam returned then, dumping an armload of soda and chips on the counter and picking up his ice cream cone. As Sam started licking his cone, Amy rang up their purchases. Dean reached into his wallet and frowned. The solitary twenty was in there, as expected, but there was something wrong with it. It was sticky, slimy.

Dean felt Sam's eyes on him and turned to glare back at him; the dancing glee in Sam's eyes as he licked the ice cream cone just made his jaw tense up further. He knew Sam didn't have any money on him, so Dean had no good choice other than paying with the twenty in his wallet. Sighing to himself, he pulled out the Vaseline-smeared bill and reluctantly handed it over.

Amy's lip curled up as soon as she touched it. "Eeew, gross!"

Dean sighed audibly this time. "Look, I'm sorry."

"Geez, what is your problem?" Amy looked at him like he'd crawled out from under a rock. "You know what, I think I'm gonna be real busy tonight." She slammed the register closed and, holding the slimy twenty in two fingers, stalked off toward the hidden area behind the counter.

Dean reached over the counter, grabbed a bag, and stuffed their purchases inside. Sparing a single angry look for Sam, he took off out of the store, bag in hand.

"You're the worst brother ever," Dean growled when he heard Sam's steps beside him.

"You started it."

"You suck."

Back in the room, they sat on separate beds and ate their lunch in silence, Dean stewing over the prospect of spending the evening rotting away in this room with his brother and father when he could have spent it with Amy and her many lovely attributes. After a while he went off to the bathroom and, when he noticed the plastic trash can sitting next to the toilet, he got an idea for revenge that might just make him feel a little better.

Humming to himself, he got everything ready and then stepped into the bathtub, well away from the door, and called out. "Sam! Get in here!"

Dean heard Sam get off the bed and walk over to stand near the bathroom door. "Dean? What's wrong?"

"You've got to see this! I think it's the biggest roach we've found in a motel room yet!"

"Oh, man, re--" Sam's exclamation cut off with a gasp as he opened the door and a couple gallons of cold tap water dumped onto his head from the trashcan Dean had propped on top of the door.

Dean bent over with laughter, his anger from earlier forgotten at the sight of his brother, t-shirt and shorts soaked through, hair plastered to his forehead, water dripping from his irate features.

"You're such a moron! This is stupid!"

Dean just continued laughing, finding it hard to take Sam seriously when drops of water flew from his body with every angry gesture. He just stepped out of the tub, tossed a clean towel at Sam, and went out to watch some TV.

Dad didn't get back until early evening, and after they ate the pizzas he brought Dean asked for permission to go driving in the car for a while. He'd had his license for over a year, and still Dad almost never let him drive on the long hauls. But he felt like he had to get away for a while, off on his own, where he could pop in a tape and blast some Motorhead.

Some of his need must have shown on his face because Dad handed over the keys with only a brief reminder to be careful with the car. As if Dean would ever do anything to hurt the Impala. Not only did he love that car almost as much as he loved his family, but he knew that Dad would have his ass in a sling for the rest of his life if any harm came to the car through his own irresponsibility.

So Dean drove carefully, not too far over the speed limit, just enjoying his tunes and the cool night air. When he got back to the hotel room, Dad and Sam were in bed, so he got undressed quietly and went to bed. Before he got under the covers he checked carefully for anything out of place. Sam had been too quiet all evening, and Dean was still waiting for Sam to seek retribution for the bucket of water dumped on his head. But the sheets felt clean, empty except for his brother's form on the other side of the bed, so Dean slipped inside them and went to sleep.

He awoke to Sam's urgent whispering in his ear and frantic jostling of his shoulder. "Dean!" He whispered harshly. "Oh my god, Dean, wake up! You better wake up before Dad does!"

Dean sat up, immediately and completely awake. "What's goin' on?" He glanced over to the other bed, but Dad looked asleep as normal, a wide lump under the covers. Sam's eyes were wide as he pulled on Dean's arm, tugging him toward the motel room door. Dean pulled his jeans on over his boxers, shoving his feet into sneakers as he zipped up the jeans and hurried to follow Sam outside.

The early morning sunlight dazzled his eyes, and he struggled to see what Sam was so upset about.

"Oh my god, Dean, look!" Sam pointed at the Impala, which was parked several spaces away from their door, the closest spot that had been available when he got in the night before. "What did you do?"

Dean squinted his eyes to look, and what he saw sent his heart crashing into his stomach. A terrible scratch across the side of the car, the precious Impala, and a bright streak of white paint scraped along the wheel well. Oh, god. Oh, holy shit. Not even Pastor Jim could call on anyone powerful enough to save him now. Dean's thoughts raced with plans that died immediately upon conception. No way Dad would fail to notice this. No way to get it fixed before Dad woke up. No way Dean could afford it anyhow.

He heard Sam calling out to him from beside the car. "Come'ere, Dean, look at it closer." But what good would that do him? Why would he want to look down the throat of the hellhound about to eat him?

"Boys?"

Dean froze at the sound of his father's voice behind him. He knew he should walk to the car or turn around to try to make it up to Dad or just plain run off until things settled down, but he couldn't move an inch. All he could do was stare at those marks on the car, the car Dad had trusted him to drive.

"What the HELL?"

But, still, he couldn't answer, and now even his lungs were paralyzed. The air inside him turned to concrete, and he couldn't breathe. I'm sorry, he wanted to say. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I can't BREATHE. The Impala grew smaller and bigger, and the sun reflecting off the chrome blinded him. He blinked his eyes to clear the sparkles from his vision, and he felt hands on his shoulders--Dad, I'm sorry--before everything went dark.

Dean woke up to rough concrete underneath him. He felt a gentle hand pat his face, and for a moment he wasn't sure what was going on. When he opened his eyes to see his father's pissed-off face, he remembered. The Impala. Shit. Why was he lying down?

"Hey, Deano, you with us now?" Dad's voice sounded surprisingly gentle for someone he expected to be homicidal with rage.

"I'm sorry." Now that he had the breath to say them, Dean needed to get the words out before Dad said anything more.

Dad's face went dark again, and Dean struggled to push his hands against the ground and sit up. "You're not the one who needs to say he's sorry," Dad said, which made no sense, no sense at all. "Sammy, come on."

Sam walked closer, his gaze cast down. "Dean," he said, drawing the word out, sounding on the brink of tears. "I'msorryIdidn'tmeanit."

"What?" Dean wished he had some idea what was going on here.

Sam's long legs folded, and he sat down on the sidewalk next to Dean. He looked down at his lap and then thrust his hand out toward Dean, offering up what looked like a couple of old stickers. "I'm sorry," he muttered, "It was s'posed to be a joke. To get you back."

Dean examined the half-ripped stickers, not understanding. "What the fu--heck are you talking about?"

"The scratches. They were fake. I got these at that joke shop near our last apartment."

Dean didn't know what to say. He just stared at his little brother, half shocked that the kid would have the balls to take things this far, half hurt that he would want to.

"You were supposed to come look at it up close! It looked really fake up close! It was only supposed to scare you for a minute!"

Dean nodded his head and reached out to punch Sam lightly on the arm. "Sorry I ruined your brilliant plan. I--" Dean looked over at Dad, who still crouched behind Sam. "What happened?"

"You passed out, dude." Dad's face looked more worried than mad now.

"I did not!"

"Yeah, you did." Dad pushed up to standing. "But I might get a little wobbly myself if I thought something happened to that car. Come on, I'll give you a hand up."

Dean took his father's outstretched arm and accepted the help in getting to his feet before following him back into the room. Sam trailed behind them, still looking upset and worried. Dean sat down on the side of the bed, and Sam sat down next to him.

"Are you okay?" Sammy suddenly sounded a lot younger than 13.

"Yeah, I'm fine." If a nasty little headache building behind his eyes didn't count. "Sorry for freaking you out." He wrapped an arm around Sam's shoulders and squeezed him lightly. "I guess you were right."

"Huh?"

"You said playing pranks was stupid. I, uh, I know I feel pretty stupid right now."

"Yeah, me too." Sam nodded, looking over at Dean with a hopeful smile on his face. "Peace?"

"Yeah, kid." Dean grinned back. "Peace."

Dean breathed out the last of the tension that had clutched his chest and rested his head against Sam's. The prank wars were over, at least until Sam discovered what Dean had slipped into his shampoo bottle.