SUMMARY: Casefic. The tables are turned on Sam and Dean – this time they're the hunted, and it's a new enemy who wants them.

SPOILERS: Set late in Season 7. References to canon incidents through Season 6, and some oblique references to a couple of Season 7 incidents but no plot spoilers for anything in Season 7. This is a casefic which takes place in-between canon hunts.

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke & Co. I am playing in their sandbox, with their toys, with much gratitude.

RATING: T for swearing, including the 'big boy' words, as Jensen once called them, adult situations, and violence.


GENRE: Gen/Hurt-Comfort/Adventure

A/N: Written for JaniceC678, based on a plot bunny she kindly gave me to play with. The full prompt will appear at the end of the story so as not to spoil things. Beta-ed by the always awesome Harrigan. I tinkered post-beta, so any remaining goofs are mine and mine alone. Enjoy.



"Damn…" Dean rolled onto his back, chest heaving, his skin flushed even under the cool moonlight filtering in through the sheer curtains. "You sure know how to push a guy's buttons."

Parise, the woman he'd met just hours earlier, rolled onto her side and raised herself up on her elbow, black curls falling over her equally flushed face as she wrapped a long leg around his. "But that's a good thing, n'est-ce pas?"

"Oh, hell yeah." As Dean's breathing evened out, he reached up and ran his fingers down her face, once more taking in the flawless coffee-colored skin and unexpected blue eyes, the high cheekbones and full lips that had drawn him to her from the far side of the bar. "I'm… impressed. You even found a few buttons I didn't know I had."

"No easy feat," Parise smiled, "to impress you, I mean. I sense there have been many lovers." She slid her hand over his chest. "Many women invited into your bed, although few are invited here." Her hand came to rest over his heart.

Dean's smile faded and Parise chuckled softly. "Don't frown, mon cher." She leaned in to kiss him. "I'm not picking out curtains. It's just… an observation."

"An observation?" Dean ran his tongue over his lips, tasting her kiss. "You running your mojo on me?"

"Mais non. My mojo, as you call it, is just for the tourists." Parise's soft accent deliberately became exaggerated. "Dey love to 'ave dere fortune tol' by de direct descendant of Marie Laveaux, de Voodoo Queen."

"Son of a bitch." Dean raised an eyebrow. "You really related to her?"

Parise shrugged. "I have Cajun blood, Haitian blood, West African blood… Follow any branch of my family tree back far enough and one will cross with hers – eventually." She grinned. "Of course, the same could be said for almost any Creole in Louisiana."

Dean brushed her hair back from her face. "Questionable family ties aside, I think the tourists come because you're hot." He bit back a grin. "Can't see'em buying that shtick if you were fugly?"

Parise smacked him playfully on the chest. "I think you just managed to compliment and insult me at the same time." She shrugged. "Look, when life is bad, people want to know things will be OK again. They want … reassurance. I use my gift to give it to them. But it's New Orleans so they want a bit of a show, too. Throw in some French and a juju doll and suddenly," she snapped her fingers, "reassurance becomes magic."

"Magic, huh?" Dean pulled her closer. "So, other than I've got a few notches in my belt, what does your mojo tell you about me?" It was a dangerous question, but good sex and a belly full of whiskey fed his reckless streak. Hell, he was in bed with a storefront psychic he'd just met; he'd kind of bypassed upstairs brain thinking a few hours back.

Parise ran her hand along his jaw. "With a face like this, there will always be a woman in your bed when you want one… but you have yet to find the woman." Her eyes glittered mischievously. "Perhaps because there is more fun in the hunt itself."

Dean grinned. "Guilty as charged."

Her smile faded as she studied him. "But I sense… sadness. You've lost family, and those scars still run deep. You lose yourself in work, in… adventure, but the fear of loss is always with you."

"Adventure?" Dean grin stayed in place, masking his discomfort at the truth in her words. "I told you I'm in pest control, right? It's only an adventure when a bored cougar decides she wants something more than termites taken care of."

Parise's eyes narrowed. "You also bear great responsibility. It weighs heavily on you."

Damn it, Dean. He stared up at the plantation fan turning slowly above the bed, mentally kicking himself for opening this door. Rule Number One – have your fun, say thanks to keep future options open, then get the hell out. His forced smile was back as he returned his attention to Parise. "You got me – the quest to make this a pest-free world is a great responsibility."

"That's not-"

Dean cut her off with a kiss. "I should go." He swung his legs off the bed, stood up, then turned back to Parise. "This was – you are – really something."

"Et toi, mon cher." Parise bit her lip as she took in his cut physique, now in silhouette against the white sheers that billowed softly in front of the open window. "But there's no rush. Unlike you, I have no roommate." She rolled onto her stomach, the moonlight highlighting the curves of her ass. "If talking makes you uncomfortable, I'm sure we can figure out something else to do for the rest of the night."

"I'm sure we could." Dean was tempted – damn tempted – but her abilities were starting to make him feel vulnerable. The practiced smile returned. "And next time I'm in town, if we're both still free agents, maybe we will." He squinted into the shadows as he scanned the floor. "Now, where the hell are my clothes?" His eyes slammed shut when the room was suddenly flooded with light; when he peeled them open, Parise was grinning up at him, her hand still on the bedside lamp.

"To help you find your clothes." She sat up, never breaking eye contact with him. "And to let me fully enjoy the view while you do."

Dean's smile was genuine as she pushed herself off the bed and stretched. "Just so you know, the light makes this view thing a two-way street. And my side of the street has mighty fine views."

"Here." Parise reached down and pulled Dean's jeans, the belt still threaded through the loops, from under the duvet puddled on the floor and held them out to him. "Now what were you wearing underneath… boxer briefs?"

Dean took the jeans from her and stepped into them. "Why don't I just go commando."

"Why not? As you say, you're a man who loves adventure." Parise sighed as Dean zipped up his jeans, then moved toward a dresser behind him. "Before you go, I have-" Her smile faded as her gaze fell on his tattoo, seeing it for the first time undistracted and in full light. She reached out to touch it, a long, slender finger tracing the outline. "Tell me about this."

Dean glanced down as he fastened his belt, her touch fueling an involuntary shudder. "What about it?"

Parise's focus stayed on the tattoo. "You tease me about my mojo, say you don't believe, yet you wear a powerful mystical symbol."

"Mystical?" Dean gave a casual shrug. "I just thought it was cool."

Parise looked up, eyebrow arching in surprise. Or was it disbelief?

Dean laughed. "The tattoo guy told me it was for good luck. I figured it couldn't hurt." He glanced again at the tattoo, then looked up at Parise, feigning worry. "He wasn't bullshitting me, was he? This isn't Cajun for I'm an easy lay, or something like that?"

"No, no…" Parise smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "It is protection against evil. Powerful protection." She shrugged at his look of surprise. "In my work, I'm often asked about things like this… symbols for luck, talismans to ward off evil spirits…. I've seen many similar designs, just never one quite so detailed, so… true." Parise relaxed suddenly, smiling again as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Forgive me, mon cher. I promised I would not bring my job home with us. Whatever the story behind your tattoo, it's sexy. Very sexy. So let's see what I can do to change your mind about staying." She pressed her body against his and kissed him hard.

"Damn." Dean ran his hands down the small of her back after he returned the kiss in kind, upstairs and downstairs brains once again at war. He shook his head as he reluctantly pulled himself from her hold. "It's taking every bit of self-control I have to not to jump back into that bed with you but… I really have to go." He glanced around the room. "Any idea where my shirts are?"

Parise offered a pretty pout. "Kitchen, I think."

"Kitchen?" Dean grinned. "Oh, right."

"I'll get them." Parise turned to reach for a white silk robe hanging on the back of the door.

"No, I can find them." Dean pulled Parise's hand away from the robe, letting his gaze wander from her face to her full breasts to her toned belly and legs that didn't quit. "You stay here. Remembering you like this will keep me warm at night for weeks to come."

"And remind you what you missed out on." Parise opened the door for him. "You want me to call you a cab?"

"Nah." Dean jammed his feet into his boots, sans socks. "The walk'll clear my head."

"It's a long walk."

"There's a lot to clear."

Parise flashed a seductive smile. "Take care, mon cher."

"Always do." Dean winked at her, stepped into the hallway and with a forced exhale jogged down the stairs.


Parise listened for the front door opening and closing, then pulled the robe off the hook and slipped it on, belting it loosely. She pulled back the sheers and watched as Dean walked along the front path, still pulling on his shirts. She offered a smile and a small wave as he glanced up before heading down the street and disappearing into the night.

There was no trace of the smile when she dropped the drape and snatched up the phone from the nightstand. By the time a voice on the other end answered, her expression was stony. "We have a problem."


Dean checked his watch as he crossed the motel parking lot: 2:20 a.m. If Sam had hooked up with the blonde who'd been hitting on him at the bar, Dean would be crashing in the back seat of the car. Whatever. He could live with a little discomfort if it meant Sam was having some rare fun.

"Hopefully yours was a little less psychic than mine," he muttered, still unable to shake the unsettled feeling that had started when Parise read him. The woman was ridiculously hot, the sex had been great and until the too-close-to-home mojo reading – which, yeah, yeah, he'd kind of brought on himself – it had been a good night. So why was his gut churning?

"Hopefully it's just the gumbo." Dean rubbed his stomach as he checked the doorknob to their room; there was no Do Not Disturb sign. "Damn it, Sam. Without a soul, you'd sleep with anything in a skirt. Now, you're a freaking monk." He shook his head, as he fished the room key from his pocket. "If you're not at the blonde chick's place, you deserve to be woken up for being so freaking clueless."

He banged on the door. "Yo, Sammy. You and I need to talk." Dean shoved the key in the lock and pushed open the door, flipping on the ceiling light. "Why the hell are you sleeping when-"

He froze.

The table and two chairs in the corner were both up-ended, the beds askew and a streak on the faded wallpaper on the back wall looked suspiciously like blood. A shotgun from the weapons bag lay on the floor, partially under the bed. "Sammy?"

Dean's head snapped to the left; the bathroom door was open, the room beyond it dark and empty. He yanked his phone from his pocket, speed-dialed Sam's number and his stomach lurched when the answering ring came from the nightstand – exactly where his brother left his phone when he hit the hay. Sam's duffel was on the floor in front of the dresser and his laptop was open on the bed, like he'd been checking for a new case before… before whatever the hell had gone down.

Dean crossed quickly to his brother's bed and reached under the pillow; when his fingers closed around Sam's gun, the crushing pressure in his chest made it hard to breathe. With no phone and no gun, no damn way had Sam taken off voluntarily.

He grabbed the shotgun from the floor and sniffed the barrel; it hadn't been fired – but was that good or bad?

The job in New Orleans – a simple banishing of a poltergeist from a historic home – was done. They were hitting the road in the morning. Sam's disappearance had to be tied to something else. Dick Roman? Crowley? Or was Lucifer somehow screwing with his brother's head again? Dean glanced over at the door; there were no signs of forced entry. Either Sam knew his attackers or… or they didn't need a door to get into the room.

"Son a bitch." Dean sank down onto the end of the bed. "Sammy… where the hell are you?"


Sam opened his eyes, or at least tried to; it was like someone had glued them shut. He felt groggy and sick.

He swallowed, grimacing at the sour taste in his mouth. His eyes snapped open when it hit him he was gagged, his mouth taped shut. The shock helped clear his head; instinctively, he tried to yank off the tape but his hands were bound behind his back, more tape securing his wrists.

Reining in rapidly building panic, Sam glanced around. He was lying on his side on a hard floor and it was pitch black. He squinted into the darkness, searching for any sign of light, for any clue to tell him where he was but there was nothing. He listened, but there was only silence.

Sam struggled to sit up and grunted when his head slammed into the ceiling. The ceiling? No, it couldn't be – it was only inches above him. Fear fed the pressure building inside his chest; the floor and ceiling were less than two feet apart. He leaned to his right, his head quickly colliding with a vertical surface there; he slid to his left, with the same result.

A chill ran through him that had nothing to do with temperature. He was in a box. A fucking box.

His heart rate sped up. A casket? Sam almost threw up just thinking the word. A casket would mean he was … buried alive. No. No….

Sam yelled for help but his shouts were easily muffled by the gag. He kicked out frantically and pain shot up through his legs as his feet slammed into the wood; his feet were bare, his ankles also bound.

He stilled, inhaling and exhaling slowly through his nose, forcing himself to calm down. Pull it together, Sam. Figure out what happened. The heat inside the confined space was stifling, sweat running freely down his forehead, stinging his eyes. His head was muzzy, too, like he'd been drugged. Had he? Focus. You need to focus – remember how the hell you ended up here. He dropped his head, resting his forehead on the floor as he sifted through his hazy memory...

"This is it – Dave's bar." Dean smacked Sam's arm then moved toward the entrance. "Come on."

"Le Chien Noir?" Sam stared at the sign above the door. "Dude, that means The Black Dog."

"What it means is free food and drink." Dean reached for the door handle. "Look, Dave wants to say thanks for turfing his poltergeist and we're tapped out. Screw the name, a free meal's a free meal." He raised his voice as they stepped inside the packed bar. "He tells me they have the best gumbo in the state."

After threading their way through the crowd, Dean leaned over the bar to talk to the bartender. Between the music and the chatter, Sam couldn't hear what he said, but they were quickly seated at a small reserved table at the side with generous glasses of good whiskey in front of them. The massive bowls of gumbo that soon followed lived up to their billing. When their dishes were cleared away and their glasses refilled, Dean leaned back in his stool, expertly surveying the crowd. "Yo, Sammy. Blonde, eight o'clock, totally checking you out."


"Don't 'Dean' me." His brother rolled his eyes. "A man has needs, and you need to get laid. It's been… I don't even know how long it's been. I just know that frustration makes you cranky, and I don't wanna live with cranky any more."

Sam shook his head, swirling the whiskey in his glass. "If you think the blonde is sending out signals, go for it."

"No, I said she's sending out signals to you." Dean tossed back the rest of his drink. "I have my eye on the dark-haired goddess at two o'clock. I've already fired off opening salvos and, as expected, they were a direct hit. So, excuse me while I go sink my battleship." He offered an exaggerated grin, set down his glass and pushed himself away from the table. "The room's yours. Now, go talk to the blonde." He began working his way through the crowd toward a beautiful Creole woman at the end of the bar, pausing just past the table where the blonde sat to shoot a look back at Sam and mouth the words, "Hot. Talk to her."

Inside the crate, Sam retched and screwed his eyes closed as he willed the latest wave of nausea to subside. To feel like this, he had to have been drugged; and whatever he'd been given was doing a real number on his stomach as well as his head. But with his mouth taped shut, throwing up was a direct route to choking to death. Although his death was the likely end game for whoever had put him in this crate, he'd fight with everything he had to spoil that plan….

There was nothing subtle about the looks the blonde was sending his way. She was tall, beauty queen pretty, had long wavy hair and a spark in her eyes that suggested she loved having fun... just like Jess. Sam swallowed. Way too much like Jess. Even after all this time, after everything that had happened since he lost her, she was still an open wound.

He'd once envied his brother's ability to separate the emotional aspects of a hook-up from the physical. It was only as he got older, as they got closer again post-Stanford that he'd realized that Dean was nowhere near as good at detachment as he liked others to think. God knows there had been far fewer one-night stands since his relationship with Lisa ended, and tonight was his first hook-up since the Amazon Lydia.

Sam, at least with his soul in place, had never been good at the whole one-night thing. 'You're too much of a girl, Sammy,' was Dean's subtle take. Sam's track record didn't help, either; when he did jump in with both feet, he was much more likely to end up with a Madison or a Ruby than a Dr. Cara.

But the blonde – Carrie – took the decision out of his hands. She'd made her move right after Dean left the table, coming over with two glasses of whiskey and placing one in front of Sam as she slid into his brother's vacated seat. She'd introduced herself, and they'd talked.

Sam's stomach cramped. Had Carrie done this to him? Roofied his drink? No…. He remembered talking to her – a far-from-subtle move-it-along gesture from Dean on the other side of the bar encouraging him to take it to the next level – but it hadn't gone beyond that. And he had no memory of touching the drink she'd brought for him.

Every time Carrie laughed or brushed her hair out of her face, Sam saw Jess. Shortly after Dean left the bar with the brunette, Sam apologized for cutting things short and left alone. Carrie had seemed disappointed but made no attempt to follow him. He went out the side entrance, caught a glimpse through the window of Carrie talking on her cellphone, then returned to the motel.

Once back in the room, he'd changed into sweats and a T-shirt and brushed his teeth before settling onto his bed with the laptop. He did some digging into the most recent acquisitions of Roman Enterprises but, finding little more than corporate rhetoric, quickly moved on to finding another hunt. He fell asleep with the computer open on his lap.

He was startled awake by pounding on the door. His hand was halfway to the gun under his pillow when his brother's voice followed the knocking.

"Sam, open the door. I've got beer and Cajun wings – my hands are full."

"Damn it, Dean…." Sam slid the computer off his lap, yawning as he pushed himself off the bed and stumbled across the room toward the door. "That bowl of gumbo could have fed a family of four for a week. How the hell do you still have room for wings? Let me guess," he yanked open the door, "you worked up an appetite with-" He coughed at the cloud of dust blown in his face.

Sam's heart raced again with that memory. It wasn't his brother standing outside the door – it was Carrie, the blonde from the bar, flanked by two strangers.

"Hey, Sammy. Surprise!" Carrie's taunt was delivered in a perfect imitation of Dean's voice. "Miss me?"

Sam instinctively slammed shut the door but the dust, whatever it was, dulled his reflexes and the moment's hesitation was all the two men needed. They pushed past Carrie, threw themselves at the door and forced it open, shoving Sam back into the room. He staggered backwards, fighting to keep his balance as the lights suddenly developed halos around them and the men's voices took on a weird echo.

"You're coming with us, Sam." This was from the smaller man, a forty-something built like a boxer. "Easy way or hard way – that's up to you."

Sam's foot collided with the weapons bag as he backed up. He'd never have time to load a shotgun, but…. Barely breaking eye contact with the intruders, he snatched up a shotgun by the barrel and swung it like a baseball bat. The bigger man, a muscular African-American, was closest and the stock caught him on the side of the head, sending him bouncing over the bed before crashing into the cheap table and chairs by the window.

Sam took a backswing at the second man but was already off-balance and had lost the element of surprise. The smaller attacker dodged the blow and spun around for a roundhouse kick, his booted foot landing heavily on Sam's ribs, slamming him into the motel room wall and sending the shotgun flying from his hands. The side of his head smashed into the fire alarm, leaving a streak of blood on the wallpaper as he slid to the floor.

"Good. I was hoping you'd pick hard way."

Sam barely had time to lift his head before the man dropped in front of him and jammed a syringe into his chest. His hand instinctively jumped to the needle, yanking it out but whatever was in it worked fast. Already dizzy from the dust and the blow to head, his arms fell to his sides, suddenly too heavy to hold up, and the room started to spin.

"No!" Carrie slammed shut the motel room door, stormed over to Sam and pulled the syringe from his hand. "No drugs. We were clear – no drugs!"

Sam's attacker was breathing heavily as he pushed himself to his feet and turned to Carrie. "Look lady, your impressionist mumbo jumbo and magic powder may have gotten us in the door, but you wanna take down a hunter, you don't fuck around."

Carrie glared him. "You just needed to subdue him. As soon as I recited the spell, he'd be under my control."

The man snorted. "You did see him swinging the shotgun, right? Getting our heads used for batting practice wasn't part of this deal." He watched his partner untangle himself from the upended furniture before shooting a look of contempt at Sam. "Whatever. He's all yours. Go to town with your hocus pocus."

Carrie held up the syringe, anger flashing in her eyes. "I have to wait now until this clears. It clouds the way."

Sam's vision was sliding in and out of focus, the light in the room seeming to fade as the drug took hold, but it was easy to tell that Carrie was pissed – even a little scared.

She shook her head. "Ti-Jean won't be happy."

"Yeah, well your boss's happiness is not a big concern for me. He wanted Winchester, we got him Winchester." The hunter glared down at Sam. "He's lucky the kid's still breathing. If Ti-Jean didn't have something I need, believe me, Winchester would be dead. I've been looking for him… for payback… for a long time."

Those memories hit Sam like a punch to the gut. Payback? For what? The men knew he was a hunter, knew him by name – and their fighting style, their use of a knockout drug, both screamed hunter. But who were they? He didn't recognize them and the only name they'd used was Carrie's boss, Ti-Jean. That name meant squat to him. As for the blonde, she knew spellwork. What the hell kind of witch was she?

Carrie was staring down at Sam, as if deciding her next move. "You have the means to secure him?"

"Of course." The big hunter spoke for the first time, gingerly touching his blossoming black eye as he moved up beside his partner. "Once we're clear of witnesses, it'll be our pleasure."

Carrie nodded. "Good. He'll keep fighting us until I can bring him under control. See that he causes no trouble. I'll meet you at the warehouse." She turned and left, slamming the door behind her.

Sam screwed his eyes closed, riffling through his memory for further details, but everything quickly faded to black after Carrie left the room. He had nothing more until he'd come to moments earlier.

Sam rubbed his face against his shoulder, trying to loosen the tape over his mouth but the gag wouldn't budge. He kicked the side of the crate in frustration, then stilled, breathing heavily. OK, the hunters had obviously put him in this crate. They and Carrie were both working for this Ti-Jean, but who the hell was he? And who was the hunter who wanted payback?

A car door slamming, followed by muffled voices interrupted his musing, and his heart rate escalated to the point his chest hurt. Voices. If he could hear people talking, he wasn't buried – and if he wasn't buried, he could get out. For the first time since he'd regained consciousness, there was a flicker of hope.

Light was suddenly visible through cracks in the crate, like a cover had been pulled off. His prison then jerked forward, the sound of wood scraping on metal suggesting the crate was being pulled from a vehicle of some kind. That guess seemed sound when he was lowered roughly to the ground. The lid was quickly pried off, and Sam flinched as complete darkness suddenly gave way to brilliant light, courtesy of the industrial lamp directly overhead.

Through watering eyes, he peered up at the faces surrounding him; there were the two hunters from the motel, one on either side of him; Carrie was on his left and a third man he'd never seen before stood at his feet. They appeared to be in the warehouse Carrie had mentioned at the motel, crates similar to the one he was laying in piled high at the outer reaches of the light. A glimpse of an open tailgate behind him confirmed he'd just been pulled from the bed of a pickup.

"Get him up."

On Carrie's order, the two hunters each hooked an arm through Sam's and roughly sat him up. Between the sudden change in orientation and the drugs still in his system, he would have toppled right over had they not held on to him. His eyes widened as the third man stepped forward, running his thumb along the edge of a large knife. Instinctively, Sam fought his captors' hold but bound as he was, he was easily restrained.

The man with the knife smiled coldly as he grabbed Sam's T-shirt, slipped the blade edge under the hem and sliced upwards all the way to the neck. He pulled open the two halves, exposing Sam's chest, then stepped back, his expression unreadable as he turned to speak to someone cloaked in the shadows. "Yeah, he's got one, too."

What the hell did that mean? Sam's focus was pulled toward the sound of small heels tapping on concrete – a woman's footsteps – somewhere off to the left. When she stepped out of the shadows, Sam recognized her.

Dean's voice ran through his head. "I've already fired off opening salvos to the brunette goddess at two o'clock..." The woman now standing beside Carrie was the one Dean had hooked up with in the bar. Sam's stomach lurched. If she was involved in this – whatever this was – where the hell was Dean? What had she done to him?

The Creole woman shook her head as she walked up to Sam, shooting a look of contempt at Carrie. "All this, because you couldn't do your job and get him into your bed."

Carrie looked like she was about to retort something but quickly thought better of it.

The brunette turned to Sam. "And you… you should have gone with her. It would have been a far more pleasant way to fill the time until we needed you."

The gag made Sam's demand for answers unintelligible, but his intensified struggles to free himself earned a savage blow to the temple from the shorter hunter. The punch snapped his head to the left and slammed his brain into his skull. He sagged in his captors' hold, fighting to stay conscious.

"Merde." The woman glared at the hunter. "You seem to have a problem with orders, Monsieur Wandell. I thought we made it clear he's not to be damaged."

Wandell. That name cut through the haze in Sam's head like a machete. The hunter – he was Steve Wandell's brother. This… this was payback for him killing Steve while possessed by Meg.

Wandell glared back at the brunette. "He's breathing – and that was a major concession on my part. Don't push it."

"Oh, it's not me who's pushing things..." The Creole woman visibly reined in her anger, forcing a smile. "Fortunately for you, nothing you've done is irreversible." She turned her attention to Sam. "Now, the tattoo, that is a problem…."

The tattoo? Sam's battered brain tried to process what was happening. What the hell did his tattoo have to do with this?

The man with the knife stared down at his prisoner. "What if I get rid of it… slice it out of him." He moved up and jammed the tip of the blade into Sam's sternum, just below the tattoo.

The brunette shot him a condescending look. "Your knife will have no effect."

"Really?" The man's arm jerked sideways, slashing the blade across Sam's biceps.

Sam flinched, grunting behind the gag as bright red blood quickly filled the gash, then ran down his arm.

"Isn't that the effect you wanted?" Sam's tormentor smiled smugly as he moved the knife to the tattoo, but that smile slipped quickly as his hand shook, some unseen force stopping him from slicing into the skin there.

Sam's eyes widened at the prickling sensation under the tattoo, at the skin reddening within the ink as the mystical symbol seemingly fended off the attack. OK. That was new.

"C'est sa couillon!" the woman hissed, knocking the man's hand – and the knife – away from Sam. "How many times must I say it… he will not be harmed. Not here, not now." She gestured at the tattoo. "As for that, whoever inked that symbol knows their spellwork. It's protection is permanent." She moved in front of Carrie and ripped the tape from Sam's mouth. "Is that not so, mon cher?"

Sam's mouth felt pasty and sour and it took a moment to get his voice to work; when he did, it was quiet and rough. "Where's my brother?"

"Dean?" The woman ran her hand down Sam's face, affecting a mock pout when he jerked away from her touch. "He's fine. He'll join us soon…. He has a role to play in this, just as you do."

"I don't understand why you let him walk away, Parise." Carrie shook her head. "I mean, you had him. You could've just-"

"You question me?" Parise's response was sharp and fear flashed briefly in Carrie's eyes. "I accomplished what I set out to do, which is more than I can say for you." She turned back to Sam. "By taking this one, we've stopped them leaving town. By the time we need him, we'll have Dean."

"You leave him the hell alone." Sam's voice cracked as he spat out the words.

"Relax, cher. You need to regain the strength this man's poison has stolen from you," Parise traced her finger around the outline of Sam's tattoo, "while I need to open this lock."

That confused the man with the knife. "What's the big deal with the tattoo? It's just-"

"Tuat t'en grosse bueche, DaCoste," Parise hissed at him before turning back to Sam. She pulled her hand from her pocket, unfurled it and blew the powder within into Sam's face.

The dizzy, disconnected feeling Sam had experienced in the motel room returned with a vengeance.

"Move him to the camp." Parise dusted off her hands. "Tell Ti-Jean to keep him in the peristyle. The heat of the bayou will soon sweat out Wandell's poison. I'll be in touch as soon as I find a way to break the tattoo."

Carrie frowned. "You think it's possible?"

"Of course. If there's a spell to create the protection, there's a spell to undo it." Parise turned to Wandell. "In the meantime, you and your goons stay clear of the brother and make sure this one keeps breathing, tu-comprends?" When he nodded tersely, she turned to leave. "Carrie, come with me." The two women quickly disappeared back into the shadows.

"Don't… you…." Sam couldn't get his voice to work. The men holding him up let go and without their support he collapsed, grunting as he landed painfully on his bound arms. Unable to move but still semi-conscious, this time he was fully aware of the men smirking down at him as they lifted the lid and once more fastened him inside the crate.

Continued in Chapter Two…

A/N: Hope you enjoyed. Much more to come. Thanks so much for reading.