SUMMARY: Epilogue to Blood of the Bayou. The brothers are laying low, healing from their battle with the Voodoo bokor–but it looks like Voodoo isn't done with them.

SPOILERS: Set late in Season 7. References to canon incidents through Season 6, and some oblique references to Season 7. 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.

WORD COUNT: 14K+

GENRE: Gen/Hurt-Comfort/Adventure

A/N: I believe this fic will stand on its own, but it will likely make a lot more sense if you read Blood of the Bayou first. A big thank you to JaniceC678 and Freya for the encouragement which helped me lasso my muse and complete this story. It's a two-chapter fic, and both chapters are complete. A big hug and much gratitude to the always awesome Harrigan for the beta. Because I can't help myself, I tinkered post-beta so any remaining goofs are mine and mine alone. Enjoy.

Nine Tenths of the Law

Gulfport, Mississippi…

"Ow!"

"Don't be a baby."

"Eat me!"

Dean raised an eyebrow as he finished wrapping a fresh bandage around Sam's foot. His brother lay slumped in the bed where he'd spent the better part of the past two days. "Dude, you need a serious attitude adjustment–or to get laid."

Sam's jaw muscle twitched in annoyance but he didn't look up from the computer balanced on his lap.

Dean shrugged, taking in Sam's bandaged feet and his injured arm, still encased in a sling. "OK–getting laid would be tricky…but there are always options. We could get you a hooker and she'd–"

"Dude! Stop." Sam shot him a glare then returned his attention to the laptop. "One, don't ever use 'we' and 'hooker' in the same sentence. And two, in case you've forgotten, getting laid is what landed us in this mess in the first place."

"That's kind of leap in logic." Dean grinned as he fastened up the first-aid kit. "Besides, you managed to get screwed without getting laid."

Sam's attention stayed locked on the computer but his annoyed huff told Dean the jibe had hit home.

Dean's grin widened. "Like fish in a barrel." He moved around the bed to look at the laptop screen. "That better be porn you're so fascinated by. You should check out–"

"Dean." Sam's expression was now a full-on bitchface–a look pretty much matched by his brother once Dean caught sight of what Sam actually had up on the computer.

"Voodoo?" Dean glared down at his brother. "Like we haven't been up to our eyeballs in that shit over the past week."

"Exactly." Sam's jaw clenched. "They kidnapped me, shot me, hexed you, wiped out the protection of our tattoos…. They possessed us, tried to turn us into zombies, then–"

"Newsflash, Sammy–I was there."

"Yeah." Sam slammed shut the laptop then raked his fingers through his hair. "But you know damn well the zombie poison screwed up my memory. I'm just…trying to plug a few holes. Some things are crystal clear, but others…."

"I know." Dean's building temper quickly dissipated. The bokor had poisoned Sam as the first step toward turning him into a zombie. The antidote had physically revived him but, over the past two days, he'd gone back and forth between clarity and confusion. Sometimes he seemed like himself–OK, a bitchy version of himself, but after everything he'd been through plus two days stuck in bed, he'd earned a hand wave on that. But at other times, Sam was either zoning out or struggling to remember recent events, whether they'd taken place two days, two hours or two minutes earlier.

"It's the zombie toxin…all textbook after-effects." Jack Delacroix, the Cajun hunter who'd helped track down his kidnapped brother and aided in their eventual escape from the bokor, had swung by the motel earlier in the day to check on Sam's progress. "They should lessen over the next day or so…disappear almost entirely over the next week."

Dean scowled at Jack. "Should? Almost?"

"We're not talking about the flu, mon ami. The poison killed your brother." Jack glanced over at Sam, who was sleeping. "This ain't something you take a pill for and sleep off. Sometimes residual damage is permanent, sometimes it ain't–depends on the person. Now, Sam here, he's a tough son of a gun…."

Yeah, and he's died before, and come back just fine. Dean bit his lip to stop himself expressing that sentiment aloud.

Jack clapped Dean on the shoulder. "The fact he's come this far this fast bodes well–so as ma mere used to say, don't borrow trouble."

"Son of a bitch." Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "Doesn't matter what bottom feeder we go up against, they all seem to want to screw with Sammy's head."

Jack leaned back against the kitchenette counter, crossing his arms over his chest. "Look, you don't need me telling you what to do when it comes to your brother, but I'm gonna anyway. Dial back that protective streak of yours. Push him to get back to normal. The sooner he gets into the regular routine, the sooner the gears will all slip back in place."

Easier said than done.

Dean sank down onto the edge of his bed, opposite Sam, not speaking until his brother made eye contact. "Look, we've already been over this. Your feet and your arm aren't gonna heal overnight–neither's your memory. If you're missing a piece, just ask–I'll fill in the blanks." He snorted. "Just don't ask about the part where I was possessed. I'm drawing a big goose egg on that myself."

"Now that I remember." Sam offered a weak smile. "Anything you wanna know, just–"

"Oh, no." Dean shook his head. "You were possessed by a badass. I was possessed by a girl. I'm kinda happy my memory's been Windexed on that one."

"The Voodoo gods…. How do we know they won't come after us again?" Sam ran his hand over his chest. "They branded our souls, right? To claim ownership? And our tattoos, they–"

"We're good, Sammy." Dean felt himself tense unconsciously; they'd been over this–a few times, but Sam seemed to be having a hard time retaining these particular facts. Dean gestured toward the door and windows. "Voodoo sigils–no loa is getting past'em. We've got gris-gris bags to protect us when we leave the room and, as for this–" He tapped the tattoo on his sternum. "It's all locked up again."

"With a Sharpie." Sam yanked down the neck of his T-shirt, revealing his tattoo. "You drew on me, Dean–not exactly a permanent fix."

Dean raised a hand in protest. "Technically, it was Jack who drew on you, not me. But it'll work just fine until the burn used to break the protection heals. Then we re-read the spell and the tattoos are as good as new." He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "Anything else?"

Sam exhaled audibly, then pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yeah, we got anything to eat besides sandwiches?"

Dean smiled and pushed himself up. "Appetite's coming back–that's a good sign." He crossed over to the kitchenette and opened the tiny fridge. "Let's see–bread, margarine, tuna–"

"That kinda adds up to sandwich." Sam raised an eyebrow. "I want something hot."

"You and me both, but Jessica Biels is taken and Lindsay Lohan's off the rails." Dean slammed shut the fridge door. "OK, how 'bout I order pizza?" He rolled his eyes when Sam pulled a face. "Chinese? Mexican?" Same response. "Oh god, you want something healthy, don't you?"

Sam snorted. "If by healthy, you mean something that's gonna stay down once I eat it, then, yeah."

Dean grabbed his phone from the dresser and began punching buttons. "There's a market a few blocks from here. Let's see if it delivers."

"Dean, you can leave me alone for ten minutes." Sam cut off his brother as he started to protest. "You said it yourself, the room's locked up tight and I'm…Sharpie-protected. Just go–get some soup, maybe one of those rotisserie chickens…. After a decent meal, maybe we'll both be, I dunno, less bitchy?"

"Dude, I am never bitchy." Dean shook his head. "Annoyed? Occasionally. Pissed? Often. But bitchy? That would be you, Samantha. As for leaving you alone-"

"We're out of beer, too."

"Oh, low blow, Sammy." Dean exhaled loudly, Jack's voice running through his head. Dial back that protective streak of yours.

Sam rolled his eyes. "Come on, man. You've been stuck with me 24/7 for two days now. Give us both a break." He waved a hand at the door. "Seriously–go."

"And you call me bossy." Dean hesitated, but then grabbed his keys. "Whatever. But fair warning–you go missing while I'm out, I will hunt you down and kill you. We clear?"

"Crystal." Sam yawned as he shoved the computer off his lap. "I'm just gonna sleep. How much trouble can that get me into, huh?"

"Damn it, Sam." Dean froze with one hand on the door. "You just jinxed us." He glanced back at his brother. "Got your phone?"

Sam gestured to the nightstand. "Right there–right where you put it. You got your gris-gris bag?"

Dean tapped the pocket of his jeans. "Same place yours will be when you start wearing pants with pockets again." He glanced down at this watch. "I'll be back in twenty–thirty, tops. Stay put." He pulled open the door.

"Dean."

Dean turned back to see Sam looking straight at him, all traces of cabin fever-induced irritability now gone.

"Thanks…you know, for-"

"Yeah." There were times when Sam could say so damn much without saying a thing. Dean stepped outside, flashing an exaggerated grin as he turned back to grab the door handle. "Now, about that hooker–" He slammed the door closed just in time to hear the pillow thrown at him hit the wood and drop harmlessly to the floor. "I'll take that as a no."

Dean's grin faded as he walked toward the car. The big brother in him wanted to turn around, order pizza and tell Sam to suck it up; that's the way it was going to be. But the hunter in him knew that his partner needed to know that Dean trusted him to take care of himself. Besides, the bokor and his priestess were dead and Sam was locked up safely in a Voodoo-proof room.

What could go wrong, right?

xxxXXXxxx

Sam woke with a start, the fog of sleep lifting much more slowly. He frowned in confusion. The room was dark, his brother's bed empty. "Dean?"

There was no answer. Awkwardly, he pushed himself up, reached over to the nightstand and turned on the lamp. Sam blinked as the dull, yellow light illuminated the room–the empty room. Where the hell was Dean?

Sam's memory wasn't co-operating; he recalled talking to his brother, Dean sitting on the bed opposite him, but had no clue what they'd talked about. "Damn it." He rubbed his eyes then grabbed a bottle of water from the nightstand, chugging half of it as he waited for the fog to clear, trying to pull something–anything–from the mental haze he'd lived with since their escape from the bokor.

Setting the water bottle back on the nightstand, Sam saw his phone. He grabbed it and checked for messages; there were none. Quickly scrolling down to Dean's number, he hit send.

"Leave your name, number and nightmare at the tone." A beep followed the recorded message.

"Just me." Sam swallowed. "My memory's…short-circuited–again. Can't remember where you went. Call me."

He hung up and closed his eyes, forcing himself to sort through the jumble of images in his head. Jack had been there at some point–he just wasn't sure if it had been hours or days ago. Ditto for Jack's friend Kathleen, the nurse. With Dean's help she'd treated the bullet wound in Sam's arm and his shredded feet, both the result of his barefoot bid to escape his bayou prison. Sam snorted at the irony; those horrific memories were crystal clear. He flexed his bandaged feet under the covers and pulled his injured arm from the sling, clenching and unclenching his fist; he was sore but both injuries were healing. That meant the nurse's visit had likely been a day or two ago.

Sam's stomach rumbled, and that gave him the mental jog he needed; Dean had gone out to get food. Diner? No. Market? Yeah, that was it. Sam opened his eyes and stared out the window, frowning at the streetlamp on the far side of the road, perfectly framed between the balding curtains. Despite his suspect memory, he was damn sure it wasn't dark when Dean left.

"I'll be back in twenty–thirty, tops. Stay put."

Dean's voice suddenly ran through his head; Sam didn't need a watch to know that his brother had been gone a helluva lot longer than thirty minutes. He caught sight of a pillow on the floor behind the door, frowning as he tried to place its significance. It took a few moments more before he remembered throwing it at his brother.

"About that hooker–"

The pillow was still wedged against the door where it had fallen. If the door had been opened, if Dean had come back while he was sleeping, it would have been pushed out of the way. Sam's heart started to race. He hit redial on his phone; like before, it went straight to Dean's voicemail. Then he called every other number in his directory with Dean's name attached to it; the result was the same with all of them.

Had Dean told him something else he'd forgotten? Maybe he was going to a bar to hustle cash. No, not likely; when Sam was defenceless–Dean's words–his big brother tended to hover. Besides, if he was hustling pool, his phone would be turned on. Even in the middle of a game, he'd text him a response.

Sam swung his legs off the bed, grimacing as his feet hit the floor. "Suck it up, Winchester," he hissed, pushing himself up and hobbling across the room to the window. Their car was gone, confirming what he already knew; something was up–and it wasn't good.

Sam dressed as quickly as his injuries allowed. He ignored the loud protest as his bandaged feet were jammed into boots and remembered the gris-gris bag only when he reached for the room key. Shoving both items into his jeans' pockets, he kicked the thrown pillow out of the way and yanked open the door, eyes immediately scanning the parking lot for a car to jack. A compact that looked to be about ten years old parked near the road fit the bill; he had the door jimmied and the engine hotwired inside of a minute. The irony wasn't lost on him; he couldn't remember half the stuff he and Dean talked about over the past two days but the muscle memory needed to jack a car was as sharp as ever.

There was a brief moment of panic as he guided the car onto the road–Where the hell was he going?–until the empty seat beside him jogged his memory. Sam swallowed; to keep his focus, Find Dean became a mental mantra. He grabbed his phone; the closest market, according to GPS, was three blocks over. That had to be where his brother had gone.

Less than ten minutes later, he was circling the store's parking lot. His search to find their latest piece of shit car took way longer than it should, given it was a fight for Sam to remember what it even looked like. Eventually, memory and observation collided; there it was, parked facing outwards, near an exit, ready for a quick getaway if needed. Textbook Dean. That told Sam everything had been kosher at least up to the point where his brother had climbed out of the car. But after that….

Sam parked the stolen car two rows over, instinct rather than memory fueling his actions as he wiped his prints from everything he'd touched. Then he crossed the parking lot toward the market. He was sweating noticeably by the time he stepped on the mat which opened the automatic doors, and wishing he'd tossed back a couple of painkillers before leaving the motel. He dragged his sleeve across his forehead as he scanned the ceiling near the entrance; two surveillance cameras pointed down at him. Those might come in handy.

After a quick recon of the store confirmed that Dean was no longer inside, Sam sought out the store manager. The man's eyes bugged out when Sam flashed his FBI badge but he quickly agreed to help when told the Bureau was tracking down a brain-injured man with memory issues. Dean would love that, but experience had long ago taught them that civilians were much more cooperative–and asked fewer questions–if the victim was someone in trouble rather than a criminal.

Sam pulled a battered photo of Dean from his wallet. "Did you see him enter the store? It would've been at least a few hours ago, when it was light."

The manager, Jim Peacock, shook his head as the studied the photo. "I'm the night manager. I didn't come on shift until 5 p.m. I haven't seen him since I've been here."

Sam winced as he tucked away the photo, the store's bright lights feeding a growing headache. "I noticed you have security cameras at the entrance. I'd like to take a look at the tapes from the past few hours."

"Sure." Jim's eyes narrowed at Sam's unsteady gait. "You OK, Agent? If you don't mind me saying, you don't look so steady on your feet."

"I'm fine." Sam cleared his throat. "Touch football and few too many beers on a weeknight, not a good idea. Now, the tapes?"

"Yes, of course." Jim motioned for Sam to follow him, leading him to a small, windowless office on the upper floor. Sam's feet screamed their objection to the climb up the stairs and when they reached the office, he sank gratefully into the chair in front of small bank of monitors.

Jim pointed to the top row of screens. "Those are live feeds from across the store, covering all entrances and exits, as well as the store aisles." He gestured to a larger monitor at the bottom. "Playback of any tape will appear on this monitor. If you find the man you're looking for, click this button and it'll show you images from all cameras at that specific time."

"It's a good set-up." Sam nodded in approval. "Digital images?"

Jim nodded. "Cost us a fortune but so does shoplifting, so worth every penny if you ask me. You need anything else?"

Sam shook his head. "No–thanks. I just need to go through the footage."

Jim nodded. "I'll check with the staff but like I said, shift change was at five so anyone who may have seen him has likely gone home." With that, the manager left the office and closed the door.

Sam exhaled slowly, the Find Dean mantra still on a loop in his head. He checked his watch, then punched in the time-code for four hours earlier. It was an educated guess, plain and simple, based on the time the sun set and how long he thought he'd been asleep.

He'd been studying the images for about an hour, interrupted only once by Jim who brought him a bottle of water and confirmed that no staff on site remembered Dean, when he caught his first glimpse of his brother. Dean came in through the main entrance, casting a quick glance up at the security cameras much like Sam had done before ducking his head and continuing on into the store. Sam hit the button to show all camera angles from that time.

As he searched for his brother, he also noticed a small, dark-haired, twenty-something woman who entered the store just after him. Her movements were subtle but to a trained observer like Sam, it was obvious she was following Dean. Who the hell was she?

Dean's first stop was at the beer cooler at the back of the store, where he picked up a six-pack of El Sol; then he moved to the deli counter. As he walked up to the display case, the dark-haired woman ended a conversation with the deli clerk, shot Dean a subtle a glance then quickly moved out of frame. Sam sat up straighter, unconsciously twisting and untwisting the cap on the water bottle.

What started as a casual conversation between Dean and the clerk changed suddenly into something more. The employee's initially friendly demeanor turned threatening. Dean's expression hardened over something the man said; his shoulders stiffened and he set down the case of beer on the display case. His hand slid casually to his hip, within easy reach of the gun that Sam knew was tucked into his waistband, beneath his jacket. Dean didn't draw his weapon, though; the conversation continued for another minute or so, leaving Sam cursing the fact he couldn't read lips.

The exchange ended with the employee wiping his hands on his apron and walking out of camera range. Never hesitating, Dean followed him. A few seconds later, the dark-haired woman trailed Dean.

Sam scanned the various monitors; for a few moments there was no sign of any of them. Then the deli clerk, a tall, skinny, barely-out-of-his-teens kid with red hair, pushed open an employee entrance and disappeared into the parking lot beyond. Dean went out the same exit shortly after; Sam's heart rate picked up when he caught sight of his brother reaching again for his gun, but this time drawing it just before he, too, stepped out of camera range. The woman was the last one to come into view. She glanced around, as if to see if they'd been followed, then exited the store.

Sam watched the footage for a few minutes longer but none of the three returned to the store. Fumbling in his pockets until he found his jump drive, he jammed it into a USB port and downloaded the last 10 minutes of footage; it would help with IDs. He also used his phone to make crude screen-grabs of the redhead and the girl.

Pushing himself out of the chair and ignoring the pain in his feet, Sam barrelled out of the office and along the corridor in search of the manager. It didn't take long to find him; Jim was on his way up the stairs.

"Agent Smith? Did you-"

"The guy who works behind the deli counter–tall, red hair, early-twenties." He called up the photo of the clerk and held up his phone. "Who is he?"

Jim frowned. "That's Ted Brady. Why?"

"Ever had any problems with him?"

Jim shook his head, looking genuinely bewildered. "I got a note from the day manager saying Ted took off early today, but that's completely out of character. In fact, he's been our Employee of the Month several times. Why would he-"

"What about the store parking lot?" Sam cut him off. "Your cameras seem to cover all the entrances but I couldn't find any footage of the lot itself."

Jim shook his head. "That's phase two, I'm afraid. Those cameras won't be installed until next quarter. We haven't-"

"Show me the closest exit to the deli counter."

Still looking puzzled, Jim turned around on the stairs. "Please…follow me." He led Sam through the store to the deli, behind the counter and through a prep room that led to a small hallway and a large metal door with a red Exit sign above it.

Sam nodded at the manager. "I'm gonna need an address and phone number for this Ted Brady." He held up his phone again, this time displaying an image of the brunette. "What about this woman? You know her?"

Jim frowned at the blurry photo. "I'm not sure. She seems familiar-maybe a regular customer?" He swallowed at Sam's huff of frustration. "Sorry. I'll get you that address."

The manager disappeared into the store.

Sam stared at the door for a brief moment, then pushed it open and stepped outside. It led to the parking area at the back of the store. Three dumpsters lined the wall to his left, and security lights illuminated three delivery truck bays to his right. A few cars he assumed belonged to employees were scattered throughout the lot, but otherwise it was deserted.

Where the hell did Dean go from here? Had he gone after the redheaded kid? And how did the dark-haired woman fit into the picture? Sam put a hand on the brick wall and exhaled slowly, steadying himself physically and mentally.

First, their car was still parked out front. If Dean had tailed anyone voluntarily, the car would be gone. But what the hell had the kid said to Dean that would make his brother follow him out of the store in the first place?

Sam scanned the parking lot uneasily. What if it was Leviathans? No. He closed his eyes, fighting to remember the tape he'd watched upstairs; Dean had reached for his gun and bullets were useless against chompers. It was something else. He pulled his phone from his pocket and hit redial on his brother's number.

Sam's head snapped to the left at the faint but distinctive sound coming from behind the dumpsters–a Metallica ringtone.

"Dean?" Sam's chest tightened. He moved past the first dumpster, the ringtone getting a little louder. "Dean?" This time his voice was also a little louder, a little more urgent. There was no answer. He fished the small Mag-Lite out of his jacket pocket as he reached the end of the first dumpster, and flashed the beam into the shadows between them. There was nothing–no one–there.

Dean's phone flipped to voicemail. Sam cut off the call and redialed; Metallica started up again, the ringtone coming from behind the next dumpster. He stumbled to the end of the receptacle, swung around it and almost threw up.

"Dean!" His brother lay in a crumpled heap, face down, his legs tangled together, his head and shoulders hidden from view like someone had just dumped him there and run.

Sam dropped to his knees at Dean's side, fingers quickly pressing against his brother's neck. His stomach lurched at the feel of dried blood on Dean's skin but he exhaled in relief when he found a pulse. "Dean…. What the hell-" His brother was completely unresponsive. Had that skinny redhead done this? The woman? Sam's mind was spinning trying to figure out how–never mind why–a grocery store clerk or a girl half his brother's size could have beaten the crap out of a trained hunter. Possessed? Likely. But by what?

There was little conscious thought involved as Sam triaged his brother. Holding the Mag-Lite between his teeth, his hands skimmed over Dean's neck, torso, back and legs in search of signs of internal bleeding or broken bones. He wanted to pull Dean out from behind the dumpster and roll him over to get a good look at him but didn't dare do that until he was sure moving him wouldn't do more harm than good.

"Oh my god–"

Sam's head snapped toward the voice. The store manager's hand shot up to shield his eyes from the beam of Sam's flashlight, but his focus was locked on Dean. Jim fumbled in his pocket for his phone. "9-1-1…I should call 9-1-1."

"No!" Worry made Sam's response harsher than intended. He turned back to Dean and reached into his brother's jacket pocket, quickly finding his keys. "I don't want to wait for the paramedics. I'll take him to the hospital myself. Here–" He tossed Jim the keys. "Um, blue sedan, Louisiana plates. It's in…it's in the…second row in front of the main doors. Bring it around here."

Jim hesitated. "You sure? He-"

"I'm sure. Go–now!"

The manager took off and Sam returned his full attention to Dean. Lifting his brother's shirt revealed a torso covered in still-forming bruises; he'd taken a real beating. There was some give near his ribs suggesting one or two may be cracked or broken but by the sound of his breathing, it seemed unlikely one had shifted and punctured a lung–at least not yet. But they still had to move him.

"Son of bitch." Sam's injured arm meant there was no way he could lift Dean on his own, especially if it meant keeping him stable as he did; he'd have to wait until the manager came back. He slumped against the brick wall, pain and worry rapidly sapping his strength, and stared down at his brother. "Could use some help here, Dean. Anytime you wanna wake up…."

Sam didn't expect a response, and he didn't get one. He grabbed his phone, quickly scanned through his address book and hit send.

"Yeah?"

"Jack. It's Sam. I need your help."

"You got it, mon ami. What's up?"

"It's Dean. Someone beat the crap out of him."

The older hunter's voice hardened. "How bad?"

"Bad." Sam swallowed as he glanced down at his battered brother. "Broken ribs likely…. Can't see his face 'til we move him–and I don't dare do that 'til I've got some help. Hasn't so much as groaned since I got here."

"Hospital?"

The logical answer was yes but given they were still on the Leviathans' Most Wanted list, a busy hospital was a long way from the safest place to be. "His heart rate and his breathing are OK, at least for now. I know Dean would want me to MASH this, but-"

"I'm gonna swing by Joe's house and pick up Kathleen." Joe was one of Jack's crew, and his wife, Kathleen, the retired nurse who'd given Sam his post-zombie-death first-aid once they'd arrived in Mississippi. "Where you at?" Jack's tone was a little sharper when there was no answer. "Sam?"

"Sorry." Sam had zoned out for a moment. He cleared his throat. "What?"

"I know it's tough, Sam, but you've gotta stay focused. Where are you?"

"Um, about 10 minutes from the motel, in a market parking lot."

"Gimme the name and I'll meet you there." A door slammed as Jack left the house.

Sam glanced up to see their car screeching to a halt in front of the dumpsters and Jim, the market manager, scrambling out. "No…no. I've got help to get Dean into the car, but I'm gonna need another pair of hands at the other end."

"Fine. We'll be at the motel inside of two hours. Keep him comfortable and-

"If he takes a turn for worse, head for the hospital." Sam swallowed. "I know."

"Good. Stay cool, mon ami. Cavalry's on its way." With that Jack hung up.

Sam tucked his phone back in his pocket and shook his head to symbolically clear the cobwebs, if nothing else. He nodded at Jim as he came running up, and slid his game face back in place. "Bureau's setting things up at the hospital. I just need to get my partner there ASAP."

"Partner?" The store manager looked confused now as well as freaked. "I thought you said he was a missing person?"

Damn, he'd messed up there. Sam couldn't quite bite back a groan as he pushed himself to his feet. "He's–both. Dean was injured in the line of duty…wandered off while he was recuperating."

Jim shook his head. "But why would-"

"I need your help getting him into the car." Sam clicked off his flashlight and shoved it in his jacket pocket, the headlights from the car now providing enough light to work by. "He may have busted ribs so we need to jostle him as little as possible."

Jim nodded but said nothing.

Sam reached out and slid his hands under Dean's arms, carefully sitting him up. As he did, his brother's head flopped forward. Sam's injured arm protested against Dean's weight but he held on and motioned for the store manager to move in.

Jim pulled Dean's arm across his shoulders and slipped an arm behind his back. "Who could have done this?"

"Dunno. On three. Two…three." With a nearly synchronized grunt, the two men hoisted Dean to his feet and carried him to the car. "But we're sure as hell are gonna find out. I promise you that."

As Sam slid Dean into the back seat, he got his first good look at his brother; he was a mess–two two black eyes, one completely swollen shut, an obviously broken nose and a split lower lip twice its normal size….

"Agent?"

The store manager's voice snapped Sam from his shock. He cleared his throat, quickly re-checked Dean's pulse, then backed out of the car. He closed the door, then offered his hand to Jim. "Thanks."

Jim nodded, grabbing Sam's palm in a firm handshake. "Of course–I hope he'll be OK." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and offered it to Sam. "Here–it's Ted Brady's address. We tried calling his house but there was no answer. Oh, and this may be nothing, but one of my colleagues said Ted has a new girlfriend and that she's been pulling him into some…weird stuff."

Sam frowned as he pulled open the driver's side door. "Define weird?"

Jim shrugged. "Look, Bill thinks everyone under the age of twenty-five is weird, but he did say that the girl cursed him when he told her she couldn't park in front of the fire hydrant. Not swearing, you understand. Something that sounded like…." The manager seemed almost embarrassed to say the words. "A Voodoo curse."

Sam's stomach lurched. "This girl–could she be the one on the tape?"

"Of course." Jim nodded slowly. "I've only seen Ted with his girlfriend maybe twice but, yeah, she's the same type as the one in the picture. You think she's tied up in this, too?"

"Maybe." Sam felt like he'd been punched in the gut. Outwardly, he just pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to Jim. "Find out her name, give me a call. If I don't answer, leave a message. We'll take it from there." With a terse nod to the store manager, he slid behind the wheel and slammed shut the door. As he slipped the car into gear, he glanced over his shoulder at his brother. "Hang in there, Dean. We're gonna patch you back together–then figure out what the hell is going on."

To be continued…

A/N: Poor Dean got the worst of it this time. Gee, I say that like I had nothing to do with it. *g* Hope you enjoyed it. Chapter 2 will be up Friday; in the mean time, I'd love to hear from you. Cheers, and thanks for reading.