Written for willowmw for Sweet Charity.

The Ravages of War

John's eyes snapped open, unaware of what exactly had woken him, and he felt for the gun under his pillow. Then he realised he didn't have a gun under his pillow because he was sleeping on the couch and hadn't been able to work out a way of keeping a gun under his pillow without losing it down the side of the cushion. He quietly felt for his gun where it was laying on the floor beside the couch and shifted his head slightly so he could see into the kitchen area where the light was on and there were sounds of someone using the sink.

"Dean?" he said upon seeing that his son was the one using the sink. Dean jumped and turned, relaxing when his eyes fell on John.

"Dad! Sorry, I, uh, didn't mean to wake you." John stopped feeling for his gun and instead looked at his watch. He had to strain to see it in the meagre light coming from the kitchen because it was four in the morning and still dark out.

"What are you doing up?" he asked, voice still rough. Dean froze like a deer in headlights. The next words out of Dean's mouth would be a lie, John would bet the Impala on it.

"Nothing." Well, John definitely wasn't losing the Impala any time soon.

"And I'm the Queen of England. What are you doing?" John really hoped it was something relatively innocent because, even though it was possible for him to be wide awake in a mere moment (though more often than not with some kind of caffeinated aid), he'd rather just go back to sleep. Dean's hesitation wasn't boding well.

"I'm, umm, I'm freezing Sam's clothes," said Dean slowly.

"You're what?"

"Freezing Sam's clothes." There was a long and awkward silence. "He's been really uptight lately and bitching about everything and--"

"You know what? I don't want to hear it. Just freeze them quietly, okay?" John dropped his head back onto the pillow and shut his eyes.

"Sure, Dad!" said Dean, his voice audibly brighter. John drifted off to sleep again, only vaguely hoping that this wouldn't come back to haunt him.

Breakfast that morning was surprisingly uneventful, but only – John assumed – because Sam hadn't attempted to get ready for school beforehand. Sam must have had a test at school or something because Dean was doing a god-awful job of hiding his glee and Sam had to have been distracted by something if he wasn't noticing that. John briefly pondered on what a bad idea it had probably been to let Dean carry on with what he'd been doing, but then again, he'd had a very good night's sleep.

John was reading the paper when he heard Sam's voice from the boys' bedroom (the only bedroom).

"Dean, where are my clothes?" came Sam's voice, laced with just a hint of dread.

"What?" said Dean, sticking his head out of the bathroom with a grin that showed he wasn't even going to bother feigning innocence.

"I said where are my clothes?" Sam had come out of his room and was glowering darkly at Dean. Dean took some time to think. Sam rolled his eyes.

"Kitchen," said Dean cheerfully.

"Kitchen?" Sam looked towards John sitting at the kitchen table. John shrugged, deciding that having nothing to do with it would be his best plan of action on this one.

"Yeah, try the fridge." Sam stalked into the kitchen, glaring at Dean as he passed. "Be sure to check in the freezer!" John went back to reading his newspaper. Well, he pretended to go back to reading his newspaper. What he actually did was stare at the paper while listening to Sam walk by him, open the fridge, open the freezer and then...

"Deeaaan!" John peered over his paper. Sam looked furious. John couldn't see exactly what he was furious about because the fridge door was in the way but he could take a good guess. Sam wrestled with what could only be a pile of frozen clothes. "It's fucking stuck in there!"

"Language," John warned, earning himself a good glare. Dean ducked back into the bathroom in an attempt to hide his outburst of laughter from an already enraged Sammy.

"Just give it a good pull!" Dean called. Sam muttered darkly and heaved on his clothes, finally falling back onto his ass as they clattered to the floor. He then stood up, shut the fridge and picked up his rock-solid block of clothing. John put aside his paper because this was generally the time when things got broken and he wanted to avoid that as much as possible.

Sam was holding onto his clothes so hard his knuckles were white. In that solid icy block were a few T-shirts and a couple of pairs of jeans. It wasn't much, but it was all Sam had (that was wearable to school) and that was the whole point. By this time, Dean had come out of the bathroom to laugh openly at his brother.

"Don't you even think about throwing it, Sam," said John, the fewer holes they made in the walls, the better. Sam's eyes flicked towards him and for the tiniest moment it looked like he was going to bear the brunt of Sam's anger. But Dean was still laughing, so Sam slammed his clothes down on the table and charged.

John returned to the apartment after a hard day's work legally earning money for a change. It was the kind of soul-killing job that reminded you why you went through all the trouble of credit card fraud in the first place. He returned to find that Dean was out god-knows-where with god-knows-who doing god-knows-what and Sam was home from school, but that was usual. What wasn't so usual (though usual was a very relative term) was Sam sitting at the kitchen table ripping up a shirt.

Now, John wasn't the kind of father who kept track of what his sons wore, but he was pretty sure that it was one of Dean's shirts. He'd been waiting for some kind of retaliation, because even though he'd made Dean lend Sam some clothes to wear to school, that didn't make up for Dean getting one over on Sam. Still, ripping up a shirt seemed a little malicious and, well, straight-forward for Sam.

"Is that Dean's shirt?" asked John. Sam glanced up at him as he ripped a particularly large hole.

"No." Sam grinned. "It just looks a lot like Dean's favourite shirt." John nodded. He briefly considered getting involved, then decided against it. Life had been entirely too quiet lately and they were getting restless. Some excitement would do them all some good. Plus, John was more than a little curious to see Dean's reaction.

It took a while for Sam's work to pay off; Dean liked to wear shirts until they were practically toxic before he changed them. But it was a spectacular payoff when it happened. There wasn't any warning whatsoever, one moment Sam was watching TV and Dean was in the bedroom doing what he does and the next there was a lot of shouting and running.

Most of the shouting was from Dean and most of the running was from Sam and for some reason everything was centred in the kitchen where John was trying to research. John calmly picked up his coffee so that Dean diving across the table to grab Sam wouldn't spill any of it, but aside from that he didn't interfere.

"You little..." said Dean, "I'm going to... You fucker, I'm going to... My favourite shirt!" Dean was having some trouble talking in complete sentences. John calmly sipped his coffee. "Dad!" Dean finally turned towards him and held out the shredded shirt, while Sam stood on the other side of the table sniggering. "Look what Sam did to my shirt! My favourite shirt!"

"That's a pretty ripped up shirt," John agreed. He saw Sam out of the corner of his eye, getting something out of one of the little-used kitchen cupboards.

"It was my best one!" He held it up in front of him to better survey the damage.

"But Dean," said Sam, his expression one of innocent confusion. "I thought this was your favourite shirt." He held up Dean's favourite shirt. Dean looked back at the material in his hands and then at the shirt Sam was holding up. Relief flickered over his face oh so briefly before it hardened into an angry glare, which very effectively conveyed Dean's exact thoughts. He stalked up to Sam, who barely shrank away, and snatched his shirt back. He then stomped away and slammed the bedroom door behind him. Sam grinned.

A long time passed before Dean set his next trap, long enough for John to take out a poltergeist in the next state over and for Sam to stop being so vigilant. That was the point of waiting, no doubt, plus the first week or two seeing Sam check every seat meticulously before he sat down and carefully opening doors before walking through them brought a smile to both John and Dean's faces.

The long wait was why it was so unexpected when Dean wandered into the bathroom while John was about to brush his teeth and choked on his own yell. John turned towards his son, eyebrows raised. Dean glanced behind him out the bathroom door and then drew a tube of toothpaste out of his pocket and pressed it into John's hand. He then took the tube John was already holding and put it back in its place by the side of the sink. John looked at Dean for a moment more before he turned away and continued brushing his teeth (with the new tube of toothpaste, of course).

John was almost out the door when Sam's indignant shout emitted from the bathroom.

"Augh, Dean, seriously? Garlic toothpaste? Where'd you put the real stuff, you shit head?"

Sam's retaliation was relatively quick and just as simple. Dean was expecting it and John was sure it wouldn't work, but Sam was clever about it. And really, it was almost insulting how much enthusiasm Sam had for everything except hunting.

It was Sam's turn to cook and Sam put more effort into it than usual to make spaghetti bolognese from scratch, which was incredibly suspicious. Especially considering Dean never did give Sam the real toothpaste and he'd had to go to school with more than a hint of garlic breath. Or so John had heard; he'd left by that point.

So yes, Dean was very wary while Sam was cooking and kept checking up on him. He seemed mostly satisfied that nothing untoward was going on, but still, when it was served he didn't dig in right away. In fact, he poked and prodded it, smelt it, very tentatively tasted it, but he still wasn't satisfied.

"For God's sake, Dean! Just have mine!" said Sam and pushed his plate towards Dean.

"No way! You can't get me like that." Dean was looking between his plate and Sam's, trying to determine a difference. It didn't take long before John became fed up with the stalemate.

"You can have mine, Dean." Sam looked horrified for the briefest moment before he wiped the look from his face, but not before Dean saw it. All of a sudden, he became very eager to swap plates. Dean passed his plate over and John pushed his plate along the table. Sam, in the guise of helping John move the plate, slid it out of John's hands and gave it a little extra shove. It knocked into Dean's fork and sent it off the edge of the table. Dean bent down to pick it up.

While Dean was under the table, Sam shook a bottle out of his sleeve, uncapped it in such a show of dexterity that John wouldn't be surprised if he'd been practising. He upended it and poured a red liquid over Dean's meal. As soon as Dean started to come back up, Sam had that bottle back up his sleeve in a flash. John thought he was trying a little too hard to look innocent, but Dean, with his "safe" meal and insatiable hunger, didn't pay any attention to Sam.

Dean managed to shovel three full forkfuls into his mouth before the taste registered. His eyebrows shot up and his eyes bugged before he opened his mouth and ejected what food was still there back onto the plate. He panted loudly a few times before shooting up from his chair to get himself a glass of water. Sam was laughing as he took the bottle of Tabasco sauce out of his sleeve and placed it in plain sight on the table.

Dean looked like he wanted to tell Sam exactly what he thought, complete with the most colourful language he could think of, but his mouth was too occupied with gulping down water.

"Thanks Lucy, I swear I'll get it back to you tomorrow, okay?" Lucy nodded and retreated back into her apartment. She was a sweet little girl, if a bit shy, but was completely besotted with Dean in her own way. Dean smiled as he examined the doll in his hands.

"You'll get what back to her tomorrow?" John asked. Dean jumped, but when he saw that it was John returning home early he let the smile creep back onto his face.

"Oh, you'll see." Dean briefly stepped into the bedroom and secreted the doll somewhere Sam wouldn't find it before brewing up some coffee to await Sam's return from school.

It was early morning, just after dawn, judging from the light, when John was snapped awake by a yell. He had his gun out and was halfway to the bedroom door before he'd even really opened his eyes. He threw the door open and relaxed immediately.

"You bastard! That's not funny!" said Sam throwing the clown doll at Dean's head and missing. He then fell back against his pillow and pulled the blanket up over his head. "It's not even a little bit funny, Dean, shut up!" His voice was muffled by the covers and only made Dean laugh harder, so he curled up and made a point of ignoring everything outside his little cocoon.

"That was a low blow, Dean," said John, not really disapproving, but he felt he had to attempt some kind of disapproval as a show of good faith.

"But you should've seen his face!" Dean cracked up laughing again.

It had been a long and hard hunt. So nothing out of the ordinary. Dean was dead on his feet and John wasn't far off it. Mud that had dried on the long drive back was flaking off them as they climbed out of the car, only to have it turned back into mud by the torrential rain as they headed for the cover of their current abode.

They were both cold, they were both fed up and all they both really wanted was a shower and a bed. Unfortunately only Dean would be getting a bed due to the shortage of beds in the apartment, but John was pretty used to the couch by now.

Sam was watching TV when they arrived, shedding coats and layer upon layer of wet and dirty clothing as they went. They grunted at Sam in greeting, unable to muster up the energy for real words.

Dean took the first shower and John dropped into a chair, letting his leaden limbs weigh him down. Sam, meanwhile, leapt into action and started transporting trays of stuff from the fridge to the bedroom.

"Sam?" asked John. Sam stopped, looking a little guilty, and showed the tray he was carrying to John, revealing it to be full of Jell-O. John sighed while Sam stood uncertainly in the middle of the room. "You're cleaning up after." Sam broke into a grin.

"Sure, Dad!"

John stumbled out of the bathroom and flicked off the light, leaving the room in darkness. He felt his way towards the couch and collapsed onto it. He then wished he hadn't. Dean let out a very undignified noise when the full weight of his dad fell onto him but then he shifted into a more comfortable position and drifted off again, happy enough with the arrangement.

John wasn't. Dean was just too lumpy to make a good mattress.

"Dean?" asked John as he shifted back off the couch. Dean mumbled something into the cushion, and John managed to make out the words 'bed', 'filled' and 'Jell-O'. John very briefly considered letting Dean have his place, but in the end decided on using his last vestiges of strength to haul Dean off onto the floor.

All three Winchesters slept contentedly, though Dean was the only one who woke up the next morning with a numb arm.

John was worried. Worrying was in no way a new concept to him, what with being a father, not to mention being a hunter of the supernatural. He regularly worried about things, in fact. He worried that he would be killed on a hunt and leave his sons unprotected, he worried that the thing that took Mary would come back for the rest of his family. John had plenty to be worried about.

However, he had a new worry to contend with. He hadn't seen even the slightest hint of Dean's counterattack. Nothing, not even a cunning glint in Dean's eye. It was like Dean had just given up and let Sam have the last word. If John knew his son (and he liked to think that he did), he knew that Dean was not one to let anyone else have the last word. Anyone else other than John, of course.

So, John was quite sure that Dean was planning his revenge, he just hadn't seen any evidence of such planning. That either meant it was something that didn't require much planning, or that it was something so bad, he didn't even want John to know what was going to happen.

So yes, John was worried. Not nearly as worried as Sam was, for obvious reasons, but he was keeping a close eye on Dean. He couldn't decide whether or not to be proud that Dean was doing such a good job of hiding his intentions.

The tension finally broke one morning with a scream that John barely recognised. John was fairly familiar with a wide variety of noises his sons could make. Gasps of shock or awe, cries of fear, yells of frustration and anger, but this was something new. There was definitely some anger in there, and a hint of shock with a fair amount of horror. But mostly it was a long and high shriek.

Sam stormed out of the bathroom, steam billowing out behind him and the towel he'd hastily wrapped around himself barely staying up. He screamed a word that might have been his brother's name, but it was hard to tell. Dean took notice, though, and scrambled to get the table between himself and the approaching Sam.

Sam raised a hand to his head, grabbed a chunk of his hair and pulled. Most, if not all, of the hair came out. He held his hand out towards Dean and then turned around, absolutely apoplectic with rage and showed John his hair. John's eyes widened in realisation as he looked between the chunk of hair in Sam's hand and Dean, who looked to be on the verge of popping a blood vessel trying to keep his laughter under control.

Sam threw his hair on the floor and faced Dean again. Dean was crying with laughter and that was what John attributed it to when Dean's survival instincts completely failed to kick in when faced with 142 pounds of incredibly pissed off 17-year-old. Sam completely forgot about holding up his towel and let it drop, which lead to Dean falling over with laughter just before Sam decided to attack.

It didn't end very well for either of them.

Dean returned to the apartment with the supplies he'd gone to get as well as the cashier's number in his pocket. He prodded the bruising around his left eye. The swelling had pretty much gone, and with the right story, he'd managed to make a black eye seem like an attractive asset. The right story being something that didn't mention being beaten up by his naked little brother.

Dean opened the door to the apartment and stopped short when he saw Sam (complete with hat) sitting at the kitchen table reading a book. Sam wasn't meant to be home from school this early, which meant that he'd come home early for a reason, which couldn't mean anything good for Dean. Dean had had a feeling that a black eye wouldn't be sufficient revenge for Sam.

"Hey, Dad," said Sam without looking up, "You're back early."

"I'm Dean, Dad got back before lunch." Dean carefully entered the room and put his bag down on the kitchen table. John was in the shower, or, judging by the sound, had just got out of it. Sam looked up.

"So, you're not in the shower?"

"No, genius, Dad is."


"What--" Dean looked over at the bathroom door. It was slightly ajar with a bucket of unknown content perched precariously on top of it.

"That you, boys?" said John. Both boys watched in horror as John's arm reached towards the door.

"Dad! No!" they yelled in unison.

The End.