DISCLAIMER: They're not mine, which is just as well, because I'd have to buy shares in a distillery to keep one, and shares in a lettuce farm to feed the other.

TITLE: Pregnant Pause

RATING: T. Until such time as Dean is reincarnated as a nun, and takes a vow of silence.

SUMMARY: Dean suffers from dyswitchia, a learning disability that renders him unable to learn to stop pissing off witches. Sam knows that. What he doesn't know is exactly what the vicious old bat did to his brother. Dean, of course, is taking one of his luxury cruises up Denial.

BLAME: I don't know yet, but when I find out who sent this particular plot bunny to pester me, I will have some serious words with that person. As usual, I suspect the Denziens of the Jimiverse, in which I will set this story (since so many Denizens, Visitors, Lurkers and Casual Droppers-In are so fond of Jimi). Really, sending them to double team me when I already have a story on the go is just mean - this little bastard WOULD not SHUT UP until I wrote a first chapter.


Chapter 1

Learning disabilities are funny things. Funny peculiar, not at all funny ha ha. They can take many forms, and have highly specific effects. Dyslexia renders otherwise normally intelligent and articulate people unable to learn to read when taught in the typical manner that works on their unaffected peers. Those with dyscalculia are innumerate, having difficulty grasping the simple rudimentary concepts of number, quantity, and time. Dysgraphia describes difficulty in acquiring the skills of handwriting and spelling. Identified early enough, these disabilities can be challenged, and overcome.

Sam had long ago worked out that Dean suffered from dyswitchia: he apparently has an innate inability to learn to stop pissing off witches. Unfortunately, his diagnosis didn't come to light until he was already a young adult. Which was a shame, as early detection and intervention are crucial to dealing effectively with a learning disability. But Sam was always determined that, having identified the problem, he would do everything he could to maximise the chances that one day, Dean would eventually learn. One day. At some time in the future. The rather distant future.

Maybe after he'd been dead for a couple of years.

But not yet.

Which, he surmised gloomily, was probably why they were currently on the side of the road while Dean threw up everything he'd eaten for the past week, and then some.

...oooooOOOOOooooo... ...oooooOOOOOooooo... ...oooooOOOOOooooo...

She didn't like children. The old lady had been quite open about it when they'd confronted her. Children were noisy, smelly, dirty, disorderly, vexing things. They used crude language, their footballs sometimes came into her yard, they petted her cats without asking first, Girl Scouts tried to sell her cookies, Boy Scouts offered to mow her lawn or carry her shopping, and the way the older ones dressed, well, there had been words for girls who dressed like that when she was younger and none of them were complimentary, then on Halloween, when she was extremely busy, they had the cheek to show up at her door, demanding candy!

"Oh, and don't get me started about Christmas," she went on snippily, with a most expressive cat's-ass face of total disapproval. "The little wretches roam the streets. By day, they throw snowballs, and build inappropriately anatomically correct snowpeople. By night, Goddess above, the go carolling! The brazen little brats come right to my door, young man – right to my door! Gallivanting gangs of tuneless teenagers and tots, launching aural assaults of mangled renditions of what are supposed to be songs! They sound like the anguished wailings of the damned in one of the outer circles of Hell!"

Dean glared at her. "They don't sing Christmas carols in Hell, lady," he snapped. "Although some of the demons do put up mistletoe, and believe me, you make damned sure you do NOT walk underneath it…"

"And then," the old witch went on, bristling with outrage, "They expect me to reward them with cookies! They're obsessed with cookies, I tell you! When they're not trying to sell them to me, they're trying to cadge them from me. This town is better off without any more. I'm doing everyone a favour."

"That's not your decision to make," Sam told her angrily, "Afflicting this town with infertility just because you don't like children is cruel and selfish beyond description. You have no right to interfere with other people having families, just because you don't like them! It stops now."

"No, I really don't think so," she told them smugly. "So you two eager beaver little Boy Scouts can leave right now, before I decide that you are vexing, too."

"Oh, but we haven't offered to help a poor old lady yet," smirked Dean. "Can we mow your lawn for you? I know, how about we help you with your garden? That really interesting herb patch you have out front. Maybe we could do a bit of work on that?"

She scowled. "Leave now. If the police are all I summon to deal with you, be grateful."

Dean sighed sadly. "You know, we only need our Disruption Of Evil Spells merit badges to get to Eagle Scout," he told her. "Look, I already have my Recognition Of Occult Plants Considered Extinct In North America badge!" he went on brightly, pulling the remains of a small carefully topiaried shrub out of one jacket pocket.

The witch's face went from annoyed to angry. "That plant was irreplaceable!" she shouted. "Give it here!"

Dean snatched it out of her reach. "Nah, I think we'll just pull up the rest," he smirked, opening the front door. "Okay, Jimi! Dig! Dig!"

She moved to a window, where she could see the Winchesters' dog enthusiastically excavating the rest of her carefully laid out spell garden.

"You vandals!" she shrieked, "That spell took years to prepare and cast!"

"Is it just me, or is it cold in here?" asked Dean. "I know, let's light a fire!" He pulled out his zippo, and set fire to the bedraggled shrub he was brandishing. "There, that's better!" he said cheerfully, throwing it into the fireplace.

"Nooooooo!" howled the witch, making a grab for it. The small plant burned merrily with an interesting blue glow.

"Next time, if you gotta cast infertility spells, just cast 'em on yourself," Dean told her, "Because lady, you are as ugly inside as you are ourside." He cocked his head. "No, wait, that won't be necessary," he decided, "Because no man would get within shouting distance of you, let alone close enough to impregnate you."

She let out an inarticulate scream of rage.

"Er, Dean," began Sam.

"Still, it won't be a problem," Dean went on cockily, "Because after this life, you are so going straight to Hell. Watch out for the mistletoe at Christmas, is my advice."

"Er, Dean," Sam tried again.

The old woman made a dash for the sideboard.

"Looking for this?" Dean asked helpfully, waving a small, battered-looking book.

"Give me that!" she hissed, making a grab for it.

"No, Madam Fugly, I really don't think so," Dean's smirk widened, as he tossed her grimoire into the fireplace. "Ah, I love me an open fire," he sighed happily. "Maybe we could roast some chestnuts, sing some carols, what do you think, Sam?"

"Dean, I think you should learn to stop pissing off witches," replied his brother.

The old witch narrowed her eyes. "Evelyn Waugh did observe that 'Manners are especially the need of the plain; the pretty can get away with anything'," she mused to herself, "And you are so very pretty, aren't you? What a lovely daughter you would have made for your mother. So fond of children, too…"

With a speed and strength belying her age and apparent frailty, she sprang at Dean, grabbing for his head, muttering in a guttural language and radiating malevolent intent. Sam had his gun out and trained on her before she reached his brother, putting two shots into her. She still managed to grab a handful of Dean's hair before she fell.

"OW!" He pushed her away roughly, "Shit! That hurt!"

The old woman sprawled on the carpet, still muttering, and managed to throw the hair she'd yanked out onto the fire. It flared briefly with an intense blue light.

"So pretty, and so rude," she wheezed, coughing up blood. The Winchesters realised she was laughing. "What a lovely woman you would have made…"

It was easy to make the scene look like a gas oven explosion set off by an elderly woman losing her faculties; she had few acquaintances and fewer friends in the town she'd been cursing, and was known as a crotchety, unpleasant old biddy who was probably a few beers short of a barbeque.

"Shit, Dean," scowled Dean, "What is it with you and pissing off witches? It's like it's in your DNA! See witch, must piss witch off. It's practically Pavlovian!"

"I gotta get my entertainment where I can in this line of work, Sammy," Dean grinned, "Because God knows, the pay sucks."

"She did something," Sam persisted, "She was saying something, a spell, a ritual of some sort. She used your hair. She did something to you, bro."

"What, like turn me into a frog?" asked Dean cheerfully. "I'm not getting any urge to kiss princesses, Sam. Except maybe Princess Kate. Or her sister, Pippa. Dat ass, Sammy…"

"She's not actually a princess, she's the Dutchess of Cambridge," corrected Sam.

"She's married to a Prince, she's a Princess," said Dean firmly. "Actually, I'd tap that, whether she was a princess or not."

"I don't doubt it," Sam muttered, "But that witch did something, Dean. I think we should head back to Bobby's until we figure out exactly what she did."

"And I think you should stop being such a mother-hen, Princess Samantha, and concentrate on looking for our next job," Dean replied. "Don't worry, I don't want to kiss you."

"That's a relief."

"Or grab your ass."

"Good to know."

"But I do think you'd rock that wedding gown. The lacy sleeves would be so flattering to your biceps…"

"Jerk."

"And you've got the hair to carry off a tiara. French roll, perhaps? And some lovely matching diamond earrings…" Dean broke off suddenly, and drew in a shuddering breath. "Oh. Er…"

"Dean? Dean, what's wrong?" demanded Sam. Jimi whined anxiously from the back seat.

Dean just shook his head, and pulled the car off the road with a screech of protesting tires. He opened the door just in time to throw up copiously.

"Oh, gross, dude," complained Sam, wincing.

"Tell me about it," moaned Dean between heaves. He shuddered. "I think I just threw up my pancreas."

"Here." Sam offered him a paper napkin and a bottle of water.

"Not done yet." Dean convulsed again. "Oh, no, goodbye kidneys."

"We should go to Bobby's," Sam asserted. "I'm telling you, that old bitch did something."

"Shut up, Nurse Samantha," Dean managed a weak smile, "It's probably just the Ghost Of Burritos Past. You did tell me not to eat 'em this morning."

"That's true," admitted Sam. "Leftovers for breakfast, okay, but you really should draw the line at leftover leftovers. Even Jimi turned his nose up at them."

With a last groaning heave – "Sam, is it possible to throw up a chunk of liver, or does the whole thing come as a unit?" – Dean sat up, looking decidedly green. "See?" he quavered with a wobbly smile. "All better now."

"Good. Now move, I'm driving."

"Nuh-uh, I'm not stepping in that."

"Fine. Drive forwards a few feet first."

Dean muttered mutinously, but did as Sam instructed.

"You are totally over-reacting," he mumbled, as Jimi reached forward from the back seat and sniffed anxiously at his Alpha. "Now, onwards to our next job! You said there was a, er, hang on, don't go anywhere…"

Dean opened the passenger side door, and began calling for someone called Ralph again.

"I don't remember eating that," he mumbled. "Sam, what does an appendix actually look like?"

Sam sighed and slumped into the seat. Denial was not just a river in Egypt – if Dean was on one of his luxury cruises again, he'd just have to wait it out.