SUMMARY: Casefic. Epilogue to Blood of the Bayou. The brothers are laying low, healing from their battle with a 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 a couple of Season 7 incidents but. 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.

WORD COUNT: 14K+

GENRE: Gen/Hurt-Comfort/Adventure

A/N: Thanks so much to everyone who sent such lovely reviews to Chapter One. The weather here was kind of blah and work a pain in the butt so they really brightened my week. 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 the conclusion and, as always, be warned: there's whumpage ahead. :-)

NINE TENTHS OF THE LAW

Chapter Two

"Dean."

Opening his eyes took way more effort than it should.

"Dean…. We need to talk."

"Later," Dean mumbled, his tongue feeling thick in his mouth. "Got more Z's to catch."

"Look what he did to your beautiful face…. Such a shame."

"Huh?" That was a pretty girly thing to say, even for Sam.

Dean jumped when a hand ran gently down his cheek; delicate fingers, soft skin–sure as hell not his brother's hand. He forced open his eyes, his vision taking its sweet time to focus. When it did, he was staring up at a woman–a very hot woman–sitting on the edge of his bed. She had dark skin, deep brown eyes that were studying him intently and black hair fastened into a mass of tiny braids that tumbled past bare shoulders and down to her waist over a thin, white cotton dress. Multiple strands of colorful beads hung around her neck. He had no clue who she was.

Dean's attempt at a smile turned into a grimace as facial muscles tugged at bruised skin. "I usually like to know a woman's name before we share a bed. First name, anyway."

The woman smiled. "Oh, we know each other, Dean–perhaps not in what you call the Biblical sense, but certainly intimately."

"Inti–" Dean was suddenly wide awake, nausea roiling in his gut, as realization hit. "Son of a bitch–Erzulie." For the first time he was seeing the true form of the Voodoo goddess who'd possessed him at the bokor's camp–who'd laid claim to his soul.

She smiled at the recognition. "It's not just a pretty face behind those bruises, is it?"

"Oh, please…." Alarm bells clanging inside his head further fueled the nausea. Dean glanced around to get his bearings; he was in their motel room, lying in bed and beat to hell. He remembered going to the market… and getting jumped by some kid. Obviously Erzulie had been pulling the redhead's strings to arrange this little rendezvous–but why had she brought him back here? More importantly, why was she the only one in the room with him? His chest tightened when he took in his brother's empty bed. "Where is he? Where's Sam? If you–"

"Relax." Erzulie cut him off with a finger to his lips. "I'm not interested in your brother–at least for now." She ran her fingertip down Dean's chin and neck, stopping at his anti-possession tattoo. "It's you who has something of mine."

Fuck. She was still after his soul. Dean knocked away Erzulie's hand, his fingers resting protectively over the tattoo. Despite Sam's protests, the Sharpie-repair was obviously working; no damn way would Erzulie ask if she could just take. "Sorry, sweetheart, everything inside this meatsuit belongs to me."

Erzulie's focus stayed on Dean's hand – and the tattoo beneath it. "The mark is clever…but, as you already know, not unbreakable." She glanced up and shrugged. "I could have one of my mambos break it again."

"Yeah, 'cause that worked out so well for you last time." Dean's eyes narrowed. "And if it was that simple, something tells me you'd have already done it."

Anger flashed in Erzulie's eyes before disappearing behind her insincere smile. "Then perhaps I should just kill you–take what's mine when it leaves the broken vessel."

"Right." Dean snorted. "If that was the game plan, why didn't your redheaded puppet finish the job back at the market? Why am I still breathing?"

"Because…." Erzulie lifted her hand to run it down Dean's face. "Unlike my siblings, violence for me is always a last resort. With you, I hoped common sense would prevail…that we could seal the deal in a manner far more pleasurable for both of us." She leaned in to kiss him.

Dean placed a hand on her sternum, stopping her. "The answer will always be no. Throwing a little sugar my way ain't gonna change that."

Erzulie sat back, closing her hand over Dean's. Her fingers were as cold as her eyes. "Your loa was promised to me."

"Not by me, it wasn't." Dean pulled his hand free.

Erzulie scoffed at that. "I care little for circumstance–just that it was. And I want it."

Dean sat up with a groan, dragged himself away from Erzulie and slumped against the headboard. "Yeah, well I'm siding with the Stones on this one–you can't always get what you want."

"Very well." Erzulie said nothing for a moment, then leaned across to Sam's bed, beaded necklaces clattering softly as she moved. She picked up one of his brother's discarded shirts, running the fabric through her fingers. "When I used your vessel, in that brief moment when my loa and yours touched, as one left and the other entered, I learned a great many things about you, Dean Winchester." She glanced up at him, her expression darkening. "Like you sold your soul once before to save your brother's life. Would you not do that again…if history was to repeat itself?"

"Fuck you." Dean sat up slowly, fury muting pain. "You leave Sam out of this. You have no claim on him."

"You're right." Malice turned the goddess's smile ugly. "But I need no claim to simply destroy the vessel." She let the shirt fall to the floor, the symbolism not lost on Dean. Erzulie took in the cuts and bruises that littered Dean's face. "So much damage, and all I wanted was get your attention so we could…talk. Think what my puppet could do to Sam if I take off the leash–unless, of course, you care to honor our deal."

Dean leaned forward, closing the gap between them. "Which part of 'no' is giving you trouble? We have no deal–never did. And you touch Sam, goddess or not, I will turn you to dust."

"Really?" Erzulie smiled. "You think you can?"

"Check my track record–now get the fuck out." Dean scowled as he glanced at the sigils painted on the motel room walls. "In fact how the hell did you get in here? This place is warded up the yin-yang."

Erzulie snorted derisively. "No graffiti can stop me?"

"Yeah, it can. Wait–" Dean's chest tightened as he stared hard at Erzulie. "You're not here. You're not real."

"Not real?" Erzulie chuckled, a deep, rich laugh which under different circumstances could have been incredibly sexy. "Oh, mon cher, you're in worse shape than I thought. I assure you, I am as real as I need to be." She grabbed him by the throat, tightening her fingers in a vise-like grip. "See."

"No–" Dean couldn't breathe, Erzulie's hand slowly crushing his windpipe as she pushed him down onto the bed. He clawed at her wrist but couldn't break free of her hold.

Her dark eyes flashed with petulant fury, her mouth twisting into a cruel sneer as she glared down at him. "Give me what's mine, Dean, and I'll have no need to hurt you–or your brother."

"No–" Dean's voice was a barely audible croak. Darkness tinted the edge of his vision and he felt like his chest was about to explode. Then, just as everything started to go black, inexplicably she let go. Suddenly, he could breathe again, his gasp audible as air flooded his lungs. Erzulie's features began to morph–dark brown eyes lightening to hazel, smooth skin becoming stubbled, frustration and fury melting into fear….

"Dean!"

Nausea quickly soured relief, his stomach cramping viciously, his throat burning as he vomited. Hands on his shoulder and hip rolled him onto his side as wave after wave of sickness washed over him. Minutes seemed like hours, until he had nothing left to puke up. When the dry heaves subsided, the hands relaxed their hold and Dean rolled onto his back, forcing open watering eyes. Now it wasn't Erzulie staring down at him. "Sammy?"

"Damn it, Dean…." Sam had his worried face on. "How bad is it?"

Dean closed his eyes to stop the room from spinning. His voice was still a croak. "M'fine."

Sam snorted at that. "You're not even in the same zip code as fine. Where do I start… cracked ribs, black eye, concussion's a good bet, fucked-up knee, bus-"

"But you should see the other guy." Weakly, Dean lifted his hand, the physical damage from the fight now hidden behind a neatly wrapped bandage. "Busted this on his face."

"Not funny." Sam's sling was gone but his injured arm still clumsy as he twisted the cap off a bottle of water and poured some of the contents onto a motel facecloth. He pressed the damp cloth into his brother's good hand. "Here. Wipe your face with this. And watch your nose–it's busted, too."

"I noticed. I'm the one trying to breathe through it." Dean licked his lips and grimaced, his mouth sour with the taste of vomit. He didn't object when Sam helped him sit up, or when he stacked pillows from both beds between his back and the headboard to support him. Dean swiped the cloth across his face, wincing as it touched his nose and the broken skin around his swollen-shut left eye.

After Dean tiredly tossed the wet cloth onto the nightstand, Sam handed him the open bottle of water. "How's the head?"

"Feels like Lars Ulrich's bass drum." Dean scanned the room; Sam was the only other person in it. Good. That meant Erzulie was just– He froze at a flash of movement from the bathroom in the corner, his foggy head suddenly realizing that the sound of running water he'd awoken to had disappeared. "Who's in there?"

"Just me, mon ami." Jack Delacroix emerged from the bathroom, holding up a small, plastic trash can. "Tasked with cleaning out your puke bucket while your brother plays Flo Nightingale. Who says hunting ain't glamorous."

"Jack…." Dean swallowed, his heart still pounding in his chest. "What about the bitch?"

"Bitch?" Jack raised an eyebrow. "Kathleen's gone out to get medical supplies–something you're gonna need a ton of if she hears you calling her that."

"Kathleen?" Dean scowled. "No, not Kathleen. Erzulie."

"The goddess?" Sam's frown deepened. "Why would you think she's here? Is that who you were dreaming about?"

"Dream–" Dean exhaled slowly. "So it was a nightmare…. Thank god, a fucking nightmare."

Worry carved even deeper lines into Sam's forehead. "Dean, you've been out for like twenty-four hours. Just before you came to you-" His Adam's apple bobbed noticeably as he swallowed. "You couldn't breathe, and we couldn't wake you. What the hell was going on in there?"

Dean took a long drink of water, stopping only when Jack leaned in to gently pull the water bottle from his mouth.

"Easy there, son, or you're just gonna puke it all back up again. And when it comes to clean-up, it's one per customer." Jack sank down on the edge of Sam's bed. "Look, I'm not liking what I'm hearing, or seeing, any more than your brother. I think you better fill in some blanks, tout de suite."

Dean shifted a little, trying–and failing–to find a comfortable position. "How much do you already know?"

"That you went out for groceries and ended up beaten to shit." Worry and fatigue had bruised the skin under Sam's eyes and turned his face a pallid gray. "I found you behind a dumpster…brought you back here to patch you back together." He studied the damage to Dean's face. "The kid did this, right? The redhead from the deli counter?" Sam shrugged at Dean's look of surprise. "I saw the two of you on the store's security camera when I went looking for you."

"'Course you did." The plastic water bottle crackled as Dean flexed his hand subconsciously. "We were just shooting the shit, you know–same old, same old–until suddenly his whole manner changed. He looked up, called me by name and said, 'You must have known you couldn't just walk away–not with something that doesn't belong to you.'"

Sam's jaw muscle twitched. "Erzulie."

"Bingo." Dean took a sip of water. "Although damned if I know how she found me."

"Dumb luck." Sam snorted, shaking his head. "Our trademark, right? The kid's girlfriend is a woman named Isabelle Morin. She was raised in Voodoo, but took a turn toward the dark side when she was around fifteen." He shrugged again at Dean's raised eyebrow, pulling his phone from his pocket and calling up an image obviously taken from security footage. "You've been out for a while, so we did some digging. This is her."

Dean squinted at the blurry image. "Don't know her. Wait, yes I do."

"You do?"

Dean nodded slowly as he fought to place the face. "From the bokor's camp, the ceremony…. She was one of the chicks in the red dresses–the junior mambos or whatever you wanna call them." He shrugged at Sam's look of surprise. "What can I say, I never forget a pretty face–even an evil one. Still doesn't explain how she found me though."

"Like I said, dumb luck." Sam dropped the phone on the nightstand. "She went to the store to meet her boyfriend, saw you and–"

"Got on the bat phone to her boss–gunning for a promotion, no doubt." Dean slumped back against the pillows. "Told you we should've rehabbed in Vegas. Anyway, the kid–Erzulie–made the usual threats–coming after me, coming after you, blah, blah, blah, until I give up my soul. Then he–she–just turned and walked away. I followed him…. He jumped me just after I got outside. Were they still hanging around when you got there?"

Sam shook his head. "No sign of them–then or since. Jack's had hunters trying to track'em down but–"

"Looks like they've gone underground." Jack frowned. "But I'm more interested in the fact you saw Erzulie here, in this room."

Dean nodded, patting the bed. "When I woke up–when I thought I woke up–her ass was parked right here. She was in her own meatsuit for a change but serving up more of the same." He waved his hand at the wall. "But when I saw the sigils, it clicked that she couldn't be real, that I had to be dreaming. She got pissed, tried to strangle me–you know the rest."

"You stopped breathing, Dean. That was real." The muscle along Sam's jaw twitched. "And from the sounds of it, it happened right about when Erzulie attacked you in your dream. That can't be a coincidence."

"It's not."

Both brothers turned to Jack, the source of that statement. Dean found his voice first. "You wanna elaborate?"

Jack's expression was grim. "These two kids, we don't need them. They're just…tools, red herrings. When Erzulie possessed Ted Brady to beat you up, it wasn't out of anger or spite–she just needed you unconscious."

Dean's scowl was back and magnified by the bruising. "Because…."

"Because she needed a way to crawl inside your head." Jack leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "Think about it–she can't possess you. She can't find this room or get into to get to Sam and use him against you, whatever body she's riding. She could've kidnapped you from that market but one, she knows you'd die before giving up your soul and two, Sam and me, we'd be banging on every door in the state till we found you–and as long as she's riding a human horse, she's vulnerable. But this way…." Now Jack looked nauseous. "You're right under our noses and we can't stop her from getting to you."

Dean didn't like the sound of that. "What way?"

"The dream plane–damn it." Sam shook his head, obviously pissed that he hadn't figured this out sooner. "There's tons of Voodoo lore about loa entering a victim's dreams–getting inside their heads, screwing with them, literally scaring them to death."

Dean snorted. "I don't scare."

"No, but you need to sleep." Sam swallowed. "And every time you do…"

"She'll be there. Son of a bitch." Dean felt like he was going to throw up all over again.

"And make no mistake, mon ami, she can kill you–as real as if she was standing there with a gun to your head." Jack's expression was deadly serious. "The dream plane lets her slip right past every ward, every spell, even that pretty tattoo you wear–whatever state or even country you're in. You fall asleep, there's no place to hide."

Dean swallowed bile. "Well, don't sugar-coat it."

"He's right though." Sam studied Dean worriedly . "And what if she gets tired of this…game? I mean, look at tonight–you were choking to death. A few moments longer and–"

"But she pulled back." Dean's scowl deepened as he mentally replayed the dream. "She let go, right before I woke up. Why?"

"Because she doesn't have clear claim to your loa." Jack stood up, stroking a hand down his beard. "Right now, that's your Get Out of Jail Free card. As much as she keeps saying it's hers, bottom line–you never consented. If you die before giving that consent, when your soul, your loa, is released–"

"She'd lose it for good." Sam turned back to Dean. "She can't kill you 'til you say yes."

"And that's not happening. So, let's see, I lose my soul and become a zombie, she kills me outright, or drives me insane through life-long insomnia." Dean pinched the bridge of his nose out of habit, then winced at the pressure on bruised skin. "I'm not really seeing an upside here."

"So, how do we shut the door? Keep her out of his head?" Sam pushed himself up and began pacing, injury and emotional exhaustion making his gait unsteady. "And for that matter, how the hell did she get in?"

Jack shrugged. "I'd say her earlier possession of Dean likely played a role…" His gaze travelled over the cuts and bruises that littered Dean's body. "But given she didn't show up until after the beating, I'd say she needed blood or skin to complete the recipe–both of which that kid Ted was likely covered in. Put those together with a spell and…."

"Well, fuck." Dean threw his empty water bottle in frustration.

Jack cracked his neck. "I'd say we've got more research to do."

"Son of a bitch." Dean slowly slid his legs off the bed, his face scrunching in pain as he bent his injured knee. One arm stayed wrapped protectively around his ribs as he wiped sweat from his forehead with the other. He squinted up at his brother and forced a smile. "Make a big pot of java, Sammy–extra-strong. I need to coffee up until we figure out this mess."

xxxXXXxxx

Kathleen wrapped the last length of bandage around Dean's ribs, tucked the end under and pinned it in place. "That should make breathing a little easier while the bone knits." She smiled, blue eyes crinkling at the corners in a face far younger than her short silver and gray hair suggested. "But no picking fights–with anyone or anything. The difference between cracked and broken is just a fall or a lucky punch."

Dean nodded, looking appropriately contrite. "Yes, ma'am."

"Here." Kathleen shook two yellow pills from a bottle and pressed them into his good hand. "These will help with the pain–with no sedative side effects." She cut off Dean's protest before it began, recapped the pill bottle and placed it on the nightstand "Take two every 12 hours for the next three days, two once a day after that for a week."

"If I live that long." Dean tossed back the pills, washing them down with the bottle of water Kathleen handed him.

"Not funny." Sam scowled at him from the table in the corner, where he sat behind his open laptop. Jack was in the chair beside him, poring over a large book with yellowed pages and a battered leather cover.

Dean winced as he reached for his T-shirt, then turned back to Kathleen. "You should give Sammy a once-over before you go. His sense of humor is D.O.A., but hopefully the rest of him's alive and almost well."

"Dean, I'm right here, and I'm fine." Sam didn't even look up from the computer this time. His arm and feet were throbbing in a syncopated rhythm he'd gotten used to, and his memory lapses were now only occasional. Research still required a lot more focus than usual, but it was a small price to pay given what was on the line. "Just let her take care of you."

"Sam's OK–really." Kathleen took the T-shirt from Dean, helping him slip it on quickly and without fuss. "I gave him a check-up while you were out–got him some prescription salve for his feet, changed his dressings…. The bullet wound is healing nicely, too." She held up Dean's flannel shirt so he could slip his arms in without aggravating his injured ribs. "Rest is what you both need but after twenty-some years married to a hunter, I've learned not to pick fights I can't win."

"Smart lady." Dean stood up with a groan, holding Kathleen's proffered hand until he found his balance, then giving her a wink. "You ever get tired of that lunk of husband, you give me a call."

Kathleen raised an eyebrow. "Might be worth taking you up on that just to see the look on your face when I do."

Dean grinned. "Anytime, sweetheart."

"Tease." Kathleen grabbed her small duffel from the dresser then smiled at Sam. "He always this bad?"

"No–usually he's worse." Sam shot his brother a look, before turning back to Kathleen. "Thanks, for everything. We owe you"

Kathleen shook her head. "You owe me nothing. We good guys have to stick together, right?"

"Yeah." Sam had to smile at that. "Especially since there's so few of us."

Kathleen returned the smile. "Look, you need me for anything else, just say the word. Otherwise I'm gonna head on home. Joe, bless his heart, said he'll start dinner. Considering the kitchen looks like the aftermath of a zombie massacre when he makes toast, I'd like to get there before he does too much damage."

"Here, take my truck." Jack pushed back his chair and stood up, fishing his keys from his pocket. "I'll find my way home when we're done here. Just stay safe."

"Thanks." Kathleen took the keys. "Your truck'll be in the driveway when you get there." She smiled at the brothers. "It was nice seeing you boys again, although next time I'd rather it be over beer than bandages."

"Amen to that." Dean followed her to the door. "And those beers are on me."

"You take care of Erzulie–for good, you hear?" For a brief moment worry was visible on Kathleen's face, before quickly disappearing behind a neutral expression obviously perfected over years of hunting. "And if there's anything more Joe or I can do, you make damn sure we're on speed-dial." With a wink, she was gone.

"Nice lady." Dean shut the door after her, and turned back into the room. "But at the other end of the scale, how we doing on the Erzulie front?"

Sam scrubbed a hand down his face. "I've got all kinds of spells that are supposed to keep Voodoo spirits away, but so far nothing to kick one out once it's crawled inside your head."

Dean limped to the dresser and riffled through the grocery bags Kathleen had brought back along with the medical supplies. "Well, sooner or later, I'm gonna need my beauty sleep so–" A grin spread across his face as pulled out a plastic container holding a thick slice of blueberry pie. "Thank you, Kathleen. Why are the good ones always taken?"

"Dean, focus." Sam huffed in frustration. Humor and food were both coping mechanisms for Dean and knowing that just fed Sam's worry. "Your life's on the line here."

"I'm crystal clear on that, Sammy. Trust me." Dean fished out a plastic fork and gingerly sat down on the edge of his bed. "We'll figure this out–but on the rare chance we don't, seems like a damn good time to have some pie."

"Sorry to disappoint you, mon ami, but I don't think you're heading off to the hereafter, sweet or otherwise, any time soon." Jack quickly turned a page in his book, then glanced up at Dean. "I may have something."

Sam got a full-on told-you-so look from his brother, before Dean turned his attention to Jack. "I'm all ears. What do I do?"

Jack tapped the book. "Read this spell–and stab Erzulie in the heart with a silver knife."

Dean raised an eyebrow. "And I thought it'd be something hard. So, what? We have to track her down or summon her?"

Sam frowned as he leaned in to read the passage Jack's fingers rested beneath. "And say he can even get a knife close enough to use it, stabbing seems kind of, I dunno, basic? That'll really kill her?"

Jack turned back the page and pointed to an earlier paragraph. "We don't need to track her down–we go where we know she is."

Sam's eyes widened as he read the passage. "The dream plane–the confrontation, the killing, the spell, all have to happen inside Dean's head."

Dean frowned. "So, I kill her in my sleep?"

Jack nodded. "An oversimplification perhaps, but yeah. Do that, and you sever the connection."

"For good?" For the first time since he'd woken up to find Dean missing, Sam felt hopeful. "She couldn't mess with his head? Couldn't kill him for spite if she doesn't get his soul?"

"And I can sleep?" Dean sounded as skeptical as Sam. "And dream of hot women who aren't trying to kill me?"

"According to this, yes, no, no and yes." Jack turned to Dean, and shrugged. "You're on your own on that last point."

"Whatever. I'm OK with that. I-"

"I'm not." Worry carved deep lines into Sam's face; the spell was untested and Dean would be battling a supernatural being in an arena where she clearly had home court advantage. And all he'd be able to do was sit, watch and wait. "I don't like this. If she knows she's not getting your soul, she's got nothing to lose. What's to stop her from lashing out, from killing you out of spite?"

"Me. I'll stop her." Dean grunted softly as he stood up, his arm still wrapped around his injured ribs. "This is our only game plan, Sammy, if I ever wanna sleep again. And believe me–I do. So, give me the damn spell and let's roll."

xxxXXXxxx

Dean opened his eyes, his brow creasing in confusion as he took in his surroundings.

He wasn't in the motel room any more–he was back at the bokor's camp, lying on the dirt floor of the peristyle. The Voodoo church was dressed for the ceremony, just as it had been before he'd blown in up during their escape. Around the room, hundreds of candles burned in glass holders, the flickering light from the wicks animating the faces of the loa painted onto the glass. The carpet-like veve, the intricate, multi-colored powder mosaic depicting the pantheon of Bo, or dark Voodoo, gods, decorated the perimeter of the floor, undisturbed. Clay pots and jars covered the big altar at the head of the open-sided structure, and at the base of the smaller altar in the opposite corner–Erzulie's altar–baskets of flowers, perfumed oils, fruits and sweets were laid out in tribute to the goddess.

Dean sat up slowly, brushing the dirt from his bare arms. He frowned; his feet and chest were also bare, his jeans, t-shirt–and bandages–gone. He wore only the loose-fitting white linen pants the mambo had forced both brothers to don for the ceremony. "Son of a bitch…." His nose wrinkled in disgust. "Can't a dude even dress himself in his own dreams?"

He pushed himself to his feet with no difficulty, no pain. There was no bruising on his ribs and his eyesight was 20-20, his breathing clear. That was something at least; here, he was healthy–and ready for a fight. Perhaps because he was somewhat controlling the circumstances this time, the injuries from the possessed kid's attack had not manifested themselves in this dream. What had, fortunately, was the silver-bladed knife clutched in his right hand. As he had carved sigils into the blade, as instructed by the spell, Sam had found another incantation which ensured material objects travelled with you into the dream world. "Score another one for Sammy." He subconsciously tightened his hold on the weapon as he searched for any sign of Erzulie.

Dean crossed the peristyle, cautiously stepping through the open doorway, across the veranda and down the steps. Beyond the crackling bonfire in the pit in front of the church, a full, blood-red moon hung heavily in the dark sky, flattening where it touched down in the bayou waters, its reflection filtering through the reeds that lined the bank. The eerie silence was punctuated by the popping and snapping of burning wood and the soft chirping of insects. From somewhere off in the distance, rhythmic drumming mixed with a chorus of chanting voices, telling him that Erzulie's worshippers were close by even if he could see none of them.

There was no sign of the goddess, either. How the hell was he supposed to kill her, if she didn't show up? The spell contained nothing about summoning a spirit into a dream.

He needn't have worried.

"Don't you think this is a more suitable place for us to meet–for you to return what's mine?"

Dean spun around. The goddess stood in the doorway to the peristyle, her simple white dress from their last meeting replaced by a long, silky red gown that clung to every curve and left little to even his vivid imagination. He smiled coldly. "I dunno. We're playing your game–doesn't seem fair that you get home-field advantage, too."

Erzulie returned his smile. "My game, my rules. This is where I was meant to receive my tribute–and now I will." She glanced inside. "Everything is beautiful–all dressed for a celebration…." The goddess turned back to Dean. "Please tell me I have reason to celebrate?"

Dean nodded slowly. "I would definitely say there will be a celebration tonight."

"Good." Erzulie moved down the steps, her gown swishing softly around her ankles as she walked. "I'm curious, what changed your mind?"

Dean surreptitiously twisted the knife, hiding it from view, as she moved closer. "I don't like unfinished business–or chicks like you screwing up my dreams."

"What?" The goddess feigned hurt. "You don't find this form pleasant to dream about?"

With Erzulie now standing right in front of him, Dean let his gaze travel from head to toe, smiling appreciatively. "Oh the gift wrap is a solid ten." His smile faded. "It's what's inside the package that drops into negative numbers."

"I'm hurt." The goddess offered a sexy pout. "You're the one who chose to make negotiations confrontational. I had much more pleasant methods in mind." She reached up, threading her fingers through his hair and pulling him into a passionate kiss. Dean responded enthusiastically, even as his grip shifted on the knife.

He was quick; she was quicker. He twisted the knife in his hand, barely telegraphing the movement, and thrust the blade toward her. She grabbed his wrist, stopping the attack cold, an iron grip crushing flesh and bone until he cried out and dropped the weapon.

Erzulie's eyes flashed with fury above a smug smile. "You think I didn't see that coming? See what you had planned?"

Dean forced a smile. "Well, I hoped…." She still had hold of his right wrist, and his other arm was wrapped around her waist–so he head-butted her. It felt like he'd slammed his forehead into a brick wall, and did little more than make him dizzy and further piss her off.

Dean couldn't even fake an apologetic shrug before he was launched through air, and through the open doorway of the peristyle. He slammed into the center support post, a sickening crack of wood accompanying the impact, before his body crumpled to the floor. Stunned, he lay unmoving for a long moment before slowly pushing himself up with a groan.

Erzulie was standing over him, glowering down. "If you were a smart man, this could have been so much more pleasant. We could have a drunk wine and made love and those would have been your final memories before gifting me with your loa."

Dean snorted. "Honey, if this is your idea of foreplay, you're mixing up tantric with tantrum. Trust me, I-" He was airborne again before he could finish, this time smashing into the big altar, the wooden structure beneath the cloth collapsing under his weight, and sending him crashing to the ground, broken glass and pottery raining down on top of him.

When the shower of debris stopped, Dean peeled back the arm curled protectively around his head and dragged himself up, only to fall back against a roof support column. He was still fighting to catch his breath and waiting for his vision to focus as he peered up at Erzulie. "You know, this doesn't work for either one of us. I'm really not having any fun, and you kill me, you don't get what you want."

Erzulie carefully stepped through the rubble, then crouched down in front of him. Her dress pooled around her in a puddle of red silk, symbolism Dean tried hard to ignore. "Fun is not my goal, and neither is killing you. But I can push you to the edge, then pull you back–in that very moment before your loa flies its cage." Her smile was cruel. "You wake up, lick your wounds, but when you fall asleep, we do this all over–again, and again, and again. And believe me, I will do this as many times as it takes until I get what's mine." She tapped her finger on his chest, right over his heart. "You're mortal, Dean–I'm not. We could spend the rest of your short life playing this game."

Dean groaned. "Now that really doesn't sound like fun."

"So end it." Erzulie grabbed his face. "Give me your loa now."

"Oh, I can think of a better way to end this."

Erzulie's head snapped around toward the new voice. Sam was standing right behind her. She was in time to see him throw the silver knife toward Dean; it landed upright, blade stuck in the dirt floor, right beside Dean.

Even beaten up, Dean's hunter reflexes were sharp; he snatched up the knife by the hilt and as the goddess snapped back to him, surprise dulling her reactions, he plunged the blade into her chest. The spell he'd memorized from Jack's book, thankfully, was a short one. Erzulie tried to fight back, to push Dean away, but the sigils carved into the blade held her frozen in place. Her eyes flashed with fury; Dean's blazed in triumph.

And then the spell was done.

"Game over." Dean gave the knife a final twist. "Sammy here's way more fun to play with."

"You'll pay-" That was all Erzulie could say before flickering twice, like a television signal shorting out, then vanishing for good. Dean's hand dropped as the knife that had been stuck in her chest was freed of its resistance.

"Dean?" Sam's eyes were wide, his chest heaving over the scene he'd just watched play out. "Y'okay?"

"Damn it, Sammy." Dean slumped back against the support post, his head falling forward in relief. "You took your sweet time."

"You're the one who said wait thirty minutes before taking the dream root–let you go first to make sure Erzulie comes out to play." Sam moved forward, offering his hand to help his brother up. "Good thing I only waited fifteen, huh?"

"Really?" Dean grabbed Sam's arm, groaning as he hauled himself to his feet. "Seemed longer–much longer."

Sam shrugged at Dean's look of surprise. "You had some kind of…convulsion and your heart rate went through the roof, when Erzulie attacked you, I guess. I wasn't waiting any longer." He smiled. "Even had Jack slug me to speed things up."

"Jack slugged you?" A grin escaped despite Dean's attempt at annoyance over Sam not following their agreed-upon plan. "Don't suppose there's any way he videotaped it?"

Sam's bitchface gave him the answer.

Dean shook his head. "Man, I would've paid good money to see the old guy in action–especially against you."

"He's not that old–and he could take either one of us, if it came down to it." Sam rubbed his chin at the memory. "Oh, and you're welcome–for saving your ass."

"Hey, I had things under control." Dean brushed broken pottery from his hair.

"Uh-huh." Sam glanced over at the destroyed altar. "So you flying through the air and smashing into that thing–that was all part of your plan?"

Dean's expression turned sheepish. "You saw that, huh?"

"Yeah, I did." Sam studied his brother worriedly. "Seriously, how much damage is there?"

"I'm fine–at least in here. Ask me again when we get back to the real world. Speaking of which…." Dean frowned at Sam. "Knowing you're in my head is just weirding me out, so let's get the hell outta here."

"Fine, but speaking of weird…." Sam tapped his bare chest and pulled at the fabric of his white pants. "What the hell is up with this?"

Dean snorted. "Don't look at me. I didn't costume this flick." He clapped Sam on the shoulder. "Come on, let's snap our fingers or whatever the hell we have to do to blow this sideshow."

"I'd rather you didn't."

Sam and Dean spun toward the deep voice coming from the centre of the peristyle, Dean reflexively tightening his grip on the knife.

A tall muscular black man, dressed in black shirt and black pants, stood leaning against the centre support post. When he had both brothers' attention, he popped his cigar in his mouth and applauded slowly. He chuckled at their surprise, his laugh deep and resonant, and took out the cigar. "That's for getting one up on Erzulie. Not easily done, mes amis, I assure you–although it means she'll be a hellion to live with until she finds some other bauble to chase, another human to torment."

Sam tensed, subconsciously straightening to his full height. "Kalfou."

"Indeed." The loa gave a dramatic bow then walked toward Sam. "And at the risk of sounding like my petulant sister, we have some unfinished business, Sam."

"Son of a bitch…. Different band, same damn song." Dean stepped sideways, physically placing himself between his brother and the loa. "I'll tell you the same thing I told her–we owe you squat. You have no claim to what was never given willingly."

Kalfou smiled darkly. "Ah, the protective big brother bares his claws." He exhaled slowly, cigar smoke filling the air around Dean. "Careful, mon fils. You do not wish to make an enemy of me."

Dean's eyes flashed. "You really don't wanna be on my bad side either."

Kalfou chuckled. "Now I see why Erzulie wanted you so badly." A slight wave of his hand was all it took to send Dean flying through the air, this time crashing into Erzulie's altar, and crumpling amidst the rubble. "But I came here to talk to your brother–reclaim my own prize."

Sam held up his hands to show he was unarmed. His focus darted between Kalfou in front of him and Dean on the far side of the peristyle. His brother was a lot slower to get up this time. "Dean?"

"Still here." Dean groaned, pain etched into his face as he pushed himself up on his elbow. "But this shit is getting old. I-"

"Be silent."

Dean's eyes widened as he lost the ability to speak.

"Now…." Kalfou turned to Sam. "You and I have business to conduct."

Sam's forehead creased in confusion. "How are you even here. This dream–the connection was between Dean and Erzulie."

Sam voiced what Dean was thinking; Kalfou had no blood or skin from Sam to be able to enter his dreams.

Kalfou chuckled again. "Humans are so simplistic. My sister opened a door–I simply walked through behind her." His smile faded. "But I don't play games like Erzulie. You will give me what was promised me–now.

Sam swallowed. "And if I don't?"

Kalfou shook his head. "Erzulie kept needling your brother, threatening his life, enjoying the torment. I simply want results." He moved in closer; taller than Sam, he was now looking down on him. "If I threatened to kill you, what would you do?"

Sam's jaw set, his eyes locked on Kalfou. "Give it your best shot."

"Exactly." Kalfou's smile was smug now. "It doesn't take much digging to learn about the Winchester penchant for self-sacrifice. But…." The loa turned to Dean. "What would happen if it was your brother's life I threatened–or better yet, if I offered to spare it?"

Dean's voice still didn't work, but his expression easily conveyed what he thought of that threat.

"You leave him out of this." Sam took a step forward, eyes flashing angrily. "This is between you and me."

"So predictable." Kalfou let out a hearty laugh. "I love it when you prove my point for me. So, here's what I propose–you give me your loa, and I give you your brother's life." His face darkened, offering a glimpse of the true nature of one of the most-feared of the loa. "But test my patience and I kill you both, here and now–and your brother first, so your last moments will be spent watching me tear him apart."

Sammy…. Dean shot his brother a warning look.

Whether Kalfou picked up on the warning, or was simply emphasizing his threat the brothers would never know, but in that moment a jagged shard of mirrored glass rose from the debris of Erzulie's altar, shot forward and plunged into Dean's neck.

"Dean!"

Kalfou chuckled at Sam's horrified shout, revelling in the sight of Dean clutching his neck, blood gushing through his fingers, a nauseating gurgle the only sound he could make as he choked on blood running down his throat. Sam darted toward Dean but Kalfou stopped him, slamming a hand into his chest. Sam's eyes widened, as did Dean's: Kalfou's fingers were like five synchronized needles, piercing the skin of Sam' chest and pushing their way through ribs as he reached for Sam's heart.

The loa smiled at the pain etched on Sam's face. "All of this damage, all of the pain, for you and your brother, can go away with one simple word. Or it can be just the beginning." He glanced over at Dean. "And the end."

"No."

As Kalfou glanced away, Sam made his move. He plunged the silver knife into the loa's heart. Kalfou's head snapped back, eyes widening in surprise, but Sam's expression was stony. He grabbed the loa's shirt, pulling him closer, ramming the knife in deeper. "You had us all figured out, huh?" Sam's voice cracked with pain. "So how'd you miss Dean passing me the knife?" He shot a worried glance to his brother, who had handed off the blade when he'd first stepped protectively between Sam and the loa. Sam had slipped it inside the back waistband of his pants, waiting for his opening. "Dean, you wake yourself up, get out of here–you hear me? I got this. I'll be right behind you."

Dean couldn't speak but shot Sam a look that clearly said forget it; there's only one exit from this nightmare–together.

"Son of a bitch." Sam snapped his attention back to Kalfou, spat out blood, and began reciting the spell. His words were clumsy; the spell held the loa captive on the blade, but also frozen in place with his hand still buried in Sam's chest.

Sam was struggling; Dean shot his a look of support. Come on, Sammy, finish it. You're almost there.

Kalfou could only glower as Sam mumbled the last of the words that would sever all ties between them, end any claim he had on the young hunter's soul. "You've made a dangerous enemy, Sam Winchester," he spat.

Sam smiled weakly. "Get in line."

With the final words of the spell, Kalfou flickered and vanished, his bellow of impotent rage echoing across the bayou waters as he disappeared for good.

Sam dropped to his knees, clutching at the jagged wound in his chest and letting out a low, agonized groan. The knife fell from his fingers as he looked up at his brother.

Dean had one hand pressed tightly against his neck, fingers stained red, but he offered a shaky thumbs up with the other.

"Really? Thumbs up?" Sam gave him a classic bitchface. "No more screwing around, Dean. You wake yourself up–now, damn it!"

Dean gave a weak smile and mouthed two words. "Bite me." Then, he vanished.

xxxXXXxxx

Sam woke with a start, a sharp pain through his ribs waking with him. He sat up, clutching his chest but as his breathing slowed, the pain softened, then disappeared. He yanked up his t-shirt; he felt like he'd been kicked in the chest but there was no visible damage, no evidence of Kalfou's attack.

His head snapped up at a groan from his brother; Jack was hovering over him as Dean lay on his side, hunched over a trash can and spitting into it. When he flopped back onto his pillow, there was no jagged cut on his neck where the shard of glass had pierced his skin in the dream, but on top of the bruising from the earlier beating, his teeth and chin were stained red, as was the washcloth he swiped over his face. He was spitting up blood.

Sam's heart slammed against his ribs. "Dean?"

Jack glanced up as he took the bloody cloth from Dean. "Relax, mon ami. Your brother here thrashed around a little while you were on your walkabout, re-opened his split lip. No permanent damage–he'll live."

"Was never any doubt." Dean sounded like he had a mouthful of gravel, but the slight nod he gave Sam held no pretence. He was battered and bloody but it was all physical damage that would heal.

That should have reassured Sam, but it didn't. His stomach churned as he flashed back to Dean in the peristyle gurgling blood; to finding Dean in the wake of Alistair's attack, to the damage his own fists had done when high on demon blood or when Lucifer was pulling his strings. It never got easier seeing his brother like this; because Dean tended to believe he was invincible, part of Sam always would, too – and always wanted to.

"I'll be fine, Sammy." As he did too often for Sam's liking, Dean seemed to read his mind. "We did good–tag-teamed Fric and Frac, cut both cords for good." He cast an appraising look at Sam. "You in one piece-inside and out?"

Sam nodded.

"Good. Then may we be old and gray before we tackle another Voodoo case." Dean groaned loudly as pushed himself up and turned to Jack. "We should celebrate. You still keep that good Scotch in your weapons bag?"

"You can celebrate with Gatorade." Jack shoved two pillows behind Dean to keep him upright. "Look, pitch a fit all you want–I ain't afraid of you. But I am afraid of Kathleen–and what body parts I may lose if she finds out you downed liquor on my watch, all beat to hell like you are."

"I won't tell if you won't."

Sam snorted. Dean sounded like a cranky five-year-old–and he loved it. Their mother's death had shoved Dean into adulthood at the age of four; he'd become a hunter and a father-figure, a weapons expert and a con-man while most kids were still figuring out how to tie their shoes. Most everyone who met Dean Winchester saw only the battle-scarred hunter he'd become, a guy they'd want by their side in a fight, on a stool beside them in a bar and well away from their wives and girlfriends.

Few besides Sam were ever permitted to see behind that façade, witness the child-like parts of his personality that lingered, mostly because they'd rarely seen the light of day during childhood. Sam smiled at the memory of Dean's face-splitting grin when they'd won free food for a year as Biggerson's one millionth customers and the brain freeze antics after he'd OD'ed on ice-cream; at his full-fledged joy over simply going into a joke shop and buying a whoopee cushion, or being handed that giant neon slinky after the Plucky Pennywhistle's clown battle.

"What's so damn funny?"

Dean's annoyed question pulled Sam from his reverie.

"Nothing…nothing. Just glad you're all right. And, um..." A small smile escaped. "Don't ever change, OK?"

Dean's scowl deepened. "You hit your head or something?"

Sam snorted. "Let's see–in the past week, I was kidnapped, shoved in a box and shot, I was possessed, I was poisoned, I died and was brought back to life. You were possessed, turned into a mambo' puppet, beaten to a bloody pulp, twice, and we had to fight Voodoo gods in your head to stop them from stealing our souls. I guess that falls under or something."

"Dunno…." Dean shrugged. "Kinda sounds like a regular week at the office if you last name's Winchester."

Sam had the grace to laugh.

Jack just shook his head. "I admire you boys more than I can say, but I'm damn glad I was born a Delacroix."

Somewhere behind the bruises, Dean grinned. "It's who we are, what we do–the family business. Now get out the damn Scotch and pour three glasses. I wanna hear all about you decking Sam after he took the dream root."

Sam smiled. In the warped world they lived in, for this brief moment, this felt right.

Tomorrow? That was another day, another fight, and they'd deal with it like they always did. When they were on the same side, they could handle anything.

Finis

A/N: And there it is; another adventure complete – just as spoilers for the new season start to leak out. \o/ I hope this fic helped to cure the Hellatus Blues. Oh, and if there are any Walking Dead fans out there, I think you'll know which actress I had in mind when I wrote Kathleen. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers.

His voice cracked with pain, Kalfou's fingers still buried in his chest."