Yes, I know they're not mine, but really, it's not as if I'm damaging them!

AN: Anansi is the prank-playing trickster spider-god of West African lore. I pinched the title of the story from Neil Gaiman's comic masterpiece. I hope he doesn't mind. The Malleus Maleficarum is the official Catholic handbook for the popular sixteenth-century game of spot-the-witch.

Anansi Boys

It started innocently enough, with Sam grabbing one of his older brother's t-shirts out of the laundry basket by mistake. Winchesters did not function properly without a certain blood-caffeine-level, everyone who knew them was aware of that, and Sam's was running dangerously low that morning. (At Stanford he would discover the decadent pleasure of cappuccinos, but no matter how good they tasted the unfortunate fact was that one cappuccino held only about a quarter the amount of caffeine needed to kick-start his brain in the mornings.) On that particular morning, he'd already arrived at high school before realising that the garment in question was Dean's favourite Metallica t-shirt.

Uh-oh. Brotherly retribution was almost a certainty. Only the mad and the very foolish interfered with Dean's most prized belongings without prior permission. Sam felt a shiver of unease that quickly drowned in the overwhelming need for a cup of coffee.

But that evening, nothing. Of course, that might have to do with the fact that Dean spent it in the bar hustling the local idiots out of their hard-earned cash. Sam had never understood why people always thought his brother's good looks and scruffy clothes denoted a lack of intelligence. He put the t-shirt in the laundry and hoped Dean would realise it had been an honest mistake.

The next day he dropped into a chair in his calculus class and pulled out his textbook – only to find himself holding a copy of the Malleus Maleficarum under the teacher's very nose.

He spent the rest of the afternoon in the school guidance counsellor's office, trying to explain that it's just a prank, and no, I don't know where my brother got the book from. When they finally – and still rather doubtfully – let him go, Dean was waiting for him outside the school, with Metallica blaring out of the Impala's open windows. They both pretended nothing had happened.

Sam had a free afternoon the following day, and he used it to redecorate Dean's bedroom in bright pink and Backstreet Boys posters.

Dean was out till half-past two a.m., burning the lot on a bonfire somewhere out in the woods. On the way back he found the time to plant a mutilated voodoo doll of the Principal in Sam's locker – just in time for the school's monthly locker-inspection day.

This time, the guidance counsellor sent a letter to Dad. Thankfully he was still on a job, and Sam destroyed it at the earliest convenience. After the infamous Nair incident of '94, John Winchester had made his views on his sons frequent prank wars only too clear. These days they made sure to always call a ceasefire before he got back.

When the Winchester patriarch finally did make it home, it was to find Sam cuffed to the railings of the porch shouting taunts at his older brother, who was knee-deep in the neglected flower-bed, wielding a shovel and inventing new swear words with every other breath as he dug for his buried tape box.

One friendly neighbour was kind enough to inform John that the police were already on their way.

John barely managed a reply. For a moment, he just stood stunned, before making his way up the garden path. The boys fell guiltily silent; Dean dropped the shovel and gave his Dad a sickly parody of his usual grin.

By the time the police arrived, Sam was free, Dean's tapes had been exhumed and John was imposing a blanket ban on all prank wars until the end of the boys natural lives. It lasted an impressive six years. Course, Sam spent four of them in California not talking to his father or brother. Now he was back, under the most awful circumstances imaginable, he hadn't laughed in weeks, and Dad was off combing the country for the thing that killed Mom and didn't want either of them around.

What Dad doesn't know won't hurt him, Dean decided and reached for the spoon.