Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG

Author's note: Thanks to Von, who gave me that much-needed kick to get this one done. I started it way back in 2011 and never managed to finish it. Well, here it is. Hope you enjoy.

It started early. It began with the alarm clock. It started blaring some obscure channel that only played pop. Dean rolled over on his stomach and pulled his pillow up over his head to block out the sound. A second later, the clock radio squealed with static, which was followed by a thud and subsequent silence, which was then broken by a muttered "Shit" from his brother. Dean ignored it.

The springs of the other bed squeaked annoyingly when Sam moved. "Dean, get up," he said, his voice rusty with sleep.

Dean shifted a little and muttered a "Bite me" into the mattress, fully intent on drifting off again.

The other bed squeaked again, which was followed by a resounding thud that sent reverberations through the floor. Suddenly curious, Dean pulled the pillow away, turned his head and squinted at Sam, who was lying on the floor, long legs entangled in the sheets, while he cursed under his breath and tried to untangle himself.

A little concerned about this sudden bout of clumsiness, Dean pushed up on his elbows and blinked a little sluggishly at Sam. "What the hell, dude?" he quarried.

Sam managed to get out of the sheets, which he threw up on the bed with an irritated huff, then he clambered back to his feet and rubbed one chafed knee for a second. He muttered something under his breath that Dean couldn't make out, turned and headed over toward the bathroom, where he promptly collided with the half-open door. Granted, bathroom doors normally opened into the bathroom, not into the room, but it still didn't explain why Sam, who had actually been looking in that direction, would run straight into it. "Ow, dammit," he growled and rubbed his brow.

Dean rolled over on his side and sat up, ruffled his hair for a moment and watched Sam's none-too-graceful progress into the bathroom. The kid slammed the door on his thumb, which elicited another curse before the door shut. A quick glance back at the clock radio showed Dean that the object of his attention was dangling over the edge of the night stand on its cord, the plastic front cracked.

The rest of the morning progressed in much the same manner. Anything Sam could run into, he did. Anything he could tip over, he did. Anything he could spill, he did. And his frustration knew no bounds.

At breakfast he dumped his blistering hot coffee in his lap and upended the plate the waitress brought when he shot out of his seat, then nearly took down the table when he finally sat down again, cut his hand on the more than dull knife and stabbed his thumb with his fork. At this point, he stopped completely, refused to touch anything else and just sat there and sulked.

Dean watched him closely for a moment. "Did you pick up another rabbit's foot or something?" he finally asked.

Sam folded his arms over his chest and got his right cuff stuck in the zipper of his jacket. When he tried to pull free, he ripped the cuff and damaged the zipper. "No," he grumbled.

"Then what the hell is going on with you? You're not normally that clumsy." Dean was confused by this. Sam might be lanky, but he had a pretty good grip on his long limbs and usually wasn't prone to overturning things or running into doors.

"I don't know. There was nothing last night," Sam said and fiddled with the tear in his cuff for a moment before dropping his hands into his lap. He scraped the knuckles of his right hand on the way down and flinched. "Shit," he muttered.

Dean handed him a napkin before he could overturn everything on the table in his quest for one and he pressed it against his now bleeding knuckles. "Am I gonna have to pad the sharp corners in the car now?" he asked.

"Bite me," Sam grumbled. He looked anything but happy and Dean didn't blame him. If you were clumsy by nature, you were used to crap like this, but Sam wasn't and Dean could only see this as heading in the wrong direction. Sam had every reason to be grumpy about this, but it still didn't explain why it was happening.

"We dealt with that spook yesterday and you were definitely on a high note there. You didn't touch anything weird in that house, did you?" Dean was thinking out loud, going over the salt'n'burn job they had done yesterday.

"No, I didn't," Sam growled. "I'm telling you, there was nothing wrong yesterday. Whatever the hell is wrong, it happened during last night." He paused, then shoved his hand into his pocket to retrieve his phone. That went off without a hitch until he actually brought the damned thing out of his pocket. It slipped out of his fingers like a live fish and took a dive into Dean's coffee. The cup overturned and spilled its contents across the table and right into Sam's lap without a single drop ever hitting Dean.

Sam just sat there and stared at the disaster until Dean handed him a handful of napkins, fished his phone out of the lake of coffee and dabbed it dry before setting it aside. The waitress bustled over with a dish towel and mopped up the coffee, then gave Sam a sympathetic smile. "Having a bad day there?" she asked.

Sam didn't answer, just stared at the tabletop, his demeanor tense to the breaking point.

"He got out on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Dean said and smiled at her.

"I know the feeling," she said and left again with the soaked dish towel in her hands.

"I don't. Dude, what the hell?" Dean just eyed Sam for a moment. "Is there something you're not telling me?" If there was one sure way of making Sam spill the beans, this was it. That question, if it was legit, always triggered the blush-effect in his brother if he had something to hide. Sam simply couldn't lie to Dean. It just didn't work. And, sure enough, Sam's cheeks started burning a second later.

Dean sighed. The waitress returned and he asked for the check, which she brought back at once. He paid the bill and got up. "Move slowly," he said.

Sam did, but even so managed to tip over everything that was standing on the table when his jeans got snagged on an edge. The redness of his cheeks became hectic at that point and Dean figured he needed to be extra careful right now. To avoid any undue accidents from happening, he grabbed Sam's arm and guided him out the door, which generally worked fairly well until he let go for a second to stuff Sam's still coffee-dripping phone into his pocket. Sam took one step forward and promptly slipped and took what looked like an exceedingly painful spill onto the pavement.

"Holy hell, dude, you suck," Dean exclaimed, grabbed Sam's arm and helped him back to his feet. His jeans were torn on both knees and he was bleeding. This was worse than the rabbit-foot incident, though. Sam had been hit by bad luck there like nobody's business, but this was more extreme. The kid couldn't take two steps without landing on his face and that really wasn't the way to go through life. "Okay, we're heading back to the motel. We have to figure out what the hell happened to bring this on."

Sam said nothing at first, but looked both exceedingly pissed off and embarrassed at the same time. "I think I know what this is," he finally said.

"Good, you can tell me about it when I've gotten you into the car without you cracking your skull open on anything," Dean countered and guided his now limping brother over to the Impala. "Jesus, Sam. You look like crap," he added.

"If it makes any difference, I don't feel much better," Sam countered grumpily.

Dean unlocked the door and opened it for Sam, hoping to avoid any undue accidents that way, but he realized he had miscalculated the second Sam got into the car and cracked his head against the frame. "OW!" he yelped.

Dean barely managed to grab onto him before he nearly managed to keel over, one foot in the car. That could have meant a twisted ankle or, heaven forbid, a broken bone. Sam couldn't seem to find his balance, but Dean had a solid hold on him and finally managed to get him onto the passenger side seat without any further incidents. "Put your hands in your lap," he ordered and Sam obeyed without comment. Dean shut the door carefully and noted how Sam yanked his right elbow forward when the door touched it. If he had slammed the door, he would have hurt Sam. "Shit," he muttered under his breath, jogged around to the driver side and got in. "Okay, spill. What the hell did you do? Break a mirror? Have a black cat cross your path? What?"

"None of the above," Sam countered.

Dean noted that he still had his hands in his lap and wasn't moving. "Then what?"

"The book," Sam said and eyed his hands for a moment.

That meant nothing to Dean. "The book?" he asked. "What book?" He started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the street.

"The book of curses that I got from Bobby," he said. "I was ... reading it last night. There was a ... bad luck curse in it. But ... I didn't read it out loud and I didn't perform any of the rituals. They're not supposed to work if you don't read them out loud."

"You read a book about curses?" Dean wasn't really surprised. "Aren't these written-down curses supposed to happen to others then?"

"I don't know. I just read it once, then went to sleep. And now this happens. It can't be a coincidence," Sam said. "I ... OW!"

"What?" Dean almost stomped on the brake and shot his brother a startled look.

"I bit my tongue," Sam muttered and touched the tip of one finger to his now bleeding tongue.

"Okay, stop talking, don't move and don't ... do anything," Dean said. "I'll call Bobby when we're back at the motel. Maybe he knows how to reverse this."

The drive back to the motel was uneventful, but getting Sam unharmed from the car to the room wasn't. The short distance, which would have taken two minutes to walk tops on any given day in any given condition, took close to twenty minutes and any and all moves Sam made unaided ended in disaster.

It started with him trying to open the door, which nearly broke one of his fingers. Dean opened the door for him and when he climbed out, he once again cracked his skull on the frame, this time hard enough to make it bleed. Dazed by the impact, he slipped and landed on one already torn-up knee before Dean managed to grab him and stop any further injuries for the moment. "This has got to stop," Dean grunted and somehow managed to get Sam back on his feet without him falling over. He pushed him sideways and back against the backdoor. "Just ... stand there and don't move," he said, took a cautious step back and held up a hand to both caution Sam to listen to him and to be ready if anything untoward should happen while he closed the passenger side door.

Of course, the second he swung the door shut, Sam moved his left hand and got it caught in the door. Dean only barely managed to grab onto it and thereby prevent the brunt of the weight from slamming down on Sam's fingers. "Dammit! I said don't move," Dean hissed.

In an attempt to put distance between himself and the door to prevent further injuries, Sam managed to step on his own foot, which upended his balance and landed him sideways on the ground with a grunt of pain.

Dean released the door to come to his aid, but of course that resulted in the door slamming shut on his right foot instead. And to top it off, the sky opened up and rain started pelting them without warning.

With a bit of an effort, Dean got Sam back to his feet again and this time didn't release him when he once again attempted to shut the door and lock the car. They made it halfway up the stairs to their room on the second floor - a fact Dean started to curse the second Sam lost his balance and nearly managed to fall backward down the stairs again. "Have you completely lost the ability to walk on your own?" he huffed, clinging to the banister with one hand while holding onto Sam with the other. Somehow, he managed to steady Sam and prevent an undoubtedly painful fall, then pushed his brother ahead of him and stayed between him and what could only be seen a gaping abyss right now. "Move slowly. Focus on where you step," he advised.

Sam obviously tried his best, moved slower than he ever had before, and still managed to trip over the last step, which sent him sprawling on the outside balcony that ran the length of the motel.

Dean stopped and just stood and stared at him for a moment. "Don't move," he said and exhaled in a sigh. Damn, but wasn't this going to be fun? Making sure there was nothing in the immediate vicinity that could clobber, trip or otherwise hurt his brother, he managed to get Sam to his feet without further incident and guided him over to the door to their room. "Stop. And don't move. Don't even twitch," he said. Sam froze in place, just stood and waited while the rain pelted down over them, soaking them both to the bone.

Dean dug the room key out of his pocket and unlocked the door. "Stay here for a sec. I'll just clear a path," he said and stepped inside. The second he was gone from the door opening, he hard a creak, a crash and the sound of a lot of water gushing from somewhere.

With a light frown, he turned back to face the doorway and had to stop himself from laughing out loud. Even though the situation was anything but funny - Sam could get, and already had gotten, seriously hurt - there was just no appeasing lady luck when you were on her bad side. The rain gutter just above their door had broken and was now spilling a continuous stream of leaf-infested water down over his brother and if Sam's expression was anything to go by, it was about damned time to end this curse, because his little brother looked about ready to blow up.

Foregoing his previous urge to make sure the coast was clear inside the room, Dean grabbed Sam's arm and hauled him into the room, then closed the door. Then he took a moment to eye his brother, before he reached out and picked a few leaves out of Sam's sopping wet hair. "You never do anything halfway, do you?"

"Shut up," Sam muttered and glanced almost longingly at his bed. But he didn't move, had obviously learned his lesson the hard way.

"Right, so first things first," Dean stated. "Let's get you out of these wet clothes."

Getting Sam out of his clothes turned out to be a daunting and hair-raising experience. Dean had never known that you could cut yourself on a zipper and he only realized that you could because Sam insisted on handling that part himself. It didn't go down well, of course. After that, Sam was under strict orders to do nothing by himself.

***

"Rabbit's foot again?"

Dean sighed at the almost suffering tone Bobby managed. "Would have been my first guess too, but no. He thinks it's the book of curses you lent him," he countered.

"Did he perform the ritual?" Bobby asked, obviously well aware of what Dean was talking about.

He glanced at Sam, who sat on his bed, long legs stretched out in front of him, arms crossed over his chest, his expression bearing a striking resemblance to a thunder cloud. "Did you do any rituals last night?" he asked. Even though this - whatever the hell it was - had already taken a turn for the worse, he still couldn't stop thinking it was funny.

"I already told you I didn't," Sam growled.

"That would be a no," Dean said to Bobby. "He didn't do any rituals. Just read the damned thing, silently, and went to sleep."

For a moment the line was silent. Then Bobby sighed. "I don't know what to tell you," he confessed. "Unless he picked up something that has the same effect as a rabbit's foot or he performed some ritual that has brought this on, I have no damned clue what's going on. You said it started when you got up this morning?"

"Yeah, he basically fell out of bed and it's been getting steadily worse since then. I'm actually surprised he doesn't have a concussion after all the times he's cracked his skull on something," Dean said, which earned him a dark glare from his brother.

"Hmm. The only thing I can think off right now is Tracy," Bobby said after another batch of silence has passed between them.

Dean arched an eyebrow. "Tracy?" he asked, which made Sam frown, then hiss when that pulled at the cut on his scalp.

"Yeah. Don't really think she's got a last name or that it's her real name. She's ... an expert on curses. If anything, she'll know what it is and how to reverse it," Bobby agreed. "You're actually not too far away from her."

"Great. I'll go get her and ..."

"No," Bobby cut him off. "Whatever you do, you do not leave your brother alone. From what you told me, he's disaster-prone to a T right now. Leaving him alone would most likely get him killed."

"Right," Dean agreed and glanced at the window and the still pouring rain. "Not too keen on getting him back to the car, to be honest. We barely made it up the stairs in one piece and everything went sideways anyway."

"You got no choice, Dean. You have to take him with you. And you can't call her, 'cause she's got no phone," Bobby said, his tone a bit tight.

"Technologically challenged?" Dean inquired and couldn't help a grin at his own wit.

"More like convinced that anything with a current can carry a curse," Bobby said. "She'll know what to do. Just get him there in one piece."

"Okay, that sounds paranoid," Dean muttered. "Okay. Give me her address and I'll take him there."

Sam raised his head and stared at him. "Take him where?" he queried, obviously worried.

Dean held up a hand, stopping any further questions while Bobby gave him the address, which was - as it turned out - in the same town they were in. "Thanks. I'll keep you posted," he said and hung up on the older hunter.

"You're not taking me anywhere," Sam said, his tone stubborn. "I'm not going anywhere. Not with every step I take leading to serious injuries."

"There is only one way we can get a grip on this before it kills you, Sammy," Dean tried, not sure he could reason with his intimidated sibling right now.

"Did you not see what happened out there?" Sam asked and made a sweeping gesture toward the door with one hand. His watch dislodged and went flying, bounced off the wall and slammed into the upside-down basket serving as a lampshade for the light bulb dangling from the ceiling. The impact severed the already precariously bad connection and the shade plus bulb fell down, hitting Sam where the bulb shattered and cut into his arm.

Dean rushed forward to grab the remains of the lamp and threw it aside with one hand while grabbing Sam's wrist with the other to stop him from moving and aggravating the injuiry, which at this point was merely superficial. Using a discarded towel, he quickly wiped away the shards left behind from the bulb, then extracted the long sliver that had embedded itself in Sam's arm. "Hold still," he snapped when Sam made a move to pull his arm back. "With your luck right now, it's managed to nick an artery."

That turned out not to be the case, but Dean was at the end of his wits. They had to end this curse before Sam got into more trouble than he could handle. He patched up the cut with butterfly bandaids and then eyed Sam critically. "You're gonna have to go out in that. I'm not risking anything else by having you change clothes."

Sam sent a look down himself and grimaced. He was wearing a t-shirt and sweats. "I don't think me going anywhere is a good idea," he said and glanced up at Dean, his expression suffering.

"Oh yes, you are. Remember what happened when I left you alone after you touched that frigging rabbit's foot? You can't sit still and I'm not risking you getting injured further or - heaven forbid - that you get killed if I take my eyes off you," Dean countered and grabbed a pair of Sam's sneakers. "Let's get you into these and then we have to risk those damned stairs again. If this Tracy can't help, I'm going to drive you to Bobby's. He can babysit you until I figure out how to deal with this."

Sam sneered. "I don't need a babysitter," he muttered under his breath and for all intents and purposes sounded like a sullen five-year-old version of himself.

"Yes, you do. You're disaster prone right now," Dean disagreed and hunkered down in front of him.

With shoes on his feet, Dean hauled Sam off the bed and got him into a jacket, then guided his brother around the bed to the door.

Somehow, they managed to get out of the room, down the stairs and into the car without any further incidents and Dean was beginning to think that whatever was causing this was wearing off, when Sam gave him a worried look. "The book," he said.

For a moment Dean drew a blank. "What book?" he asked.

"The curse book. We should bring it in case Bobby got something wrong and it is the source of this," Sam countered.

Exasperated, Dean groaned. "Couldn't you have thought of that while we were still up there?" he groused and slumped back in his seat for a moment. "Okay, fine. I'll go back upstairs to get it. But you do not move a muscle, do you hear me?" He held up a finger and gave Sam a stern look. "Not a muscle. Say perfectly still. Don't touch anything, don't shift, don't even scratch your damned nose. You got it?"

Sam eyed him for a second, then nodded once. "Got it," he agreed.

Dean felt anything but good about this, but figured he had no choice. He managed to shut the driver side door as gently as he could before rushing up the stairs to their room. The sooner he found that book the better. It was not a good idea to leave Sam to his own devices for very long right now.

The book in question was on the bedside table where Sam had obviously left it the night before. He grabbed it and sent a quick look around to determine if there might be something else he needed to bring, but decided that the book was all that mattered. He closed and locked the door, then froze briefly when he heard the characteristic creak of the Impala's door. "Son of ..." he bit out, swirled and rushed over to the stairs, expecting all kinds of disasters to have befallen his wayward sibling in his brief absence.

As it turned out, a dingy old pickup truck had pulled up beside the Impala and the doors obviously were in as much need of a good oiling as his own were. He blew out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding in and hurried down the stairs to find that his brother wasn't in the car.

He pulled the driver side door open and looked into the car just the same. "Sam?" The book hit the seat where he dropped it as he straightened up and looked around the parking lot. "Sam?" he tried a little louder.

"Tall lanky guy?" the ancient owner of the pickup asked.

Dean hadn't even noticed the guy before, but focused on him for a moment and nodded. "Yeah."

The old-timer nodded toward the vending machine area. "He went that way," he said. "None too gracefully, I may add."

"Shit," Dean grumbled, then gave the guy a nod of appreciation before slamming the door shut and jogging in that direction.

And true enough, he found Sam standing in front of one of the vending machines, one hand braced against the front of it. Dean couldn't see his face, but something was definitely off.

"What the hell, dude?" he snapped. "I told you not to move a muscle."

Sam's shoulders tensed, but he made no move to turn around. The fingers of his right hand curled inward.

"Sam?" Suddenly worried, Dean took a step forward. "What happened?"

Sam turned his head just a little bit and the bouncing muscle in his jaw told Dean more than words could. The kid was hurt in some way. Something had gone horribly wrong in the two minutes he had spent looking for that damned book. "Don't know," Sam pressed out, his voice jittery. He shifted a little, which made his hand resting against the vending machine slide. He would have slammed face first into the machine's front if Dean hadn't made a grab for his jacket and yanked him back.

Dean turned his brother around and realized why Sam was so tense. What he couldn't wrap his mind around was what had caused Sam's left ring finger to become dislocated. "Aw man," he growled, grabbed Sam's wrist and inspected the bent-over-backward finger. "This is gonna hurt," he said, grabbed the twisted limp and snapped it back into place.

Sam grunted, doing his best to keep the pain under wraps, and then grabbed his hand and started massaging the obviously painful finger. "No shit," he muttered.

"How did this happen?" Dean asked. "I told you not to move."

"I didn't ..." Sam paused, his cheeks going a hectic red. "I wasn't going to ..."

Dean shook his head, grabbed Sam's arm and hauled him with him back to the Impala. "Get in slowly, watch your step," he commanded.

Somehow, Sam managed to get into the car without further incident, and Dean breathed a quiet sigh of relief for small favors.

The book of curses landed on the backseat and seconds later, the Impala tore out onto the road.

***

Sam was not in favor of sitting still, but his present condition left him fairly little choice in the matter. It seemed that whenever he moved, he got in trouble. But Dean's driving was making him nervous. What if this insanity expanded to include those around him or, heaven forbid, things he was in contact with? What if the Impala suddenly turned into a death machine for both of them?

Involuntarily, he grabbed out for the dashboard when Dean took a corner a little too sharply. In the process he had managed to forget his sore formerly dislocated finger and flinched when it hit the edge of the dashboard rather than settle onto it.

He yanked his hand back and if it hadn't been for Dean's quick response, he would probably have slapped the back of his hand right into Dean's face. Instead, Dean's fingers closed hard around his wrist, stopping his hand in mid-motion. "Do I really have to repeat myself?" he growled.

"Then stop driving like a frigging maniac," Sam countered, angry at the situation as much as Dean's continued insistence that if only he sat still nothing bad would happen.

Dean took his obvious concern to heart and slowed down before releasing Sam's wrist again. "I'm just trying to get us there as fast as possible," he said as ways of an apology.

"Yeah, but what if this ... curse, or whatever it is, spreads?" Sam shot back. He could not deny his worry and a part of him knew he was probably overthinking this, but he couldn't help himself right now.

"Spreads?" Dean gave him an frown for his trouble. "This isn't a virus, Sam. Curses don't spread."

"That's not how I meant it," Sam countered, annoyed. "What if anything I touch is included in this curse?"

The look of dread that crossed Dean's face would have been funny under other circumstances, but Sam failed to see the humor in his present situation. "Don't even think that, Sam," Dean said, appalled.

The Impala screeched around another corner when Dean subconsciously sped up again, which sent Sam crashing into the door. He cracked his right elbow painfully hard against the door handle, which simultaneously opened the door.

Dean lashed out and just barely managed to grab Sam's arm before he could topple out of the car while at the same time slamming on the breaks. The big muscle car came to a jittery halt in the middle of a thankfully empty street.

For a long moment, they just sat still, Sam halfway out of the car, Dean leaning across the seat to maintain his harsh grip on his brother's arm, and Sam could feel every single slam of his heart in his chest. After a few seconds of this, Dean hauled him back into the car, reached across him to close the door and pressed down the lock. With special care, he pulled off the road into a parking space and cut the engine, then slumped back in his seat.

"Told you," Sam finally managed after having gotten his thudding heart back under control.

"Shut up, Sam," Dean snapped, his tone belying his otherwise calm expression.

It took his brother a moment longer to get himself enough under control to drive on and when he finally did so, he drove below the speed limit, taking corners at a near crawl. Sam felt inclined to comment, but there was that voice in the back of his head telling him not to push it. Dean was rattled by the near miss and he never responded well to that sort of thing. Sam would end up with a black eye or worse if he pushed Dean's buttons right now.

***

Ten minutes later, they pulled up in front of what could best be described as a cottage in the middle of a garden that looked like something taken out of a fairytale. Dean growled under his breath, shoulders hunched a little, while he stared out at the ethereal looking place. It was impeccable, the white fence covered with barely visible swirly symbols, every tree and bush adorned with protective amulets, talismans and charms.

The near miss had shaken him to the core and the sooner they could get this damned curse squared away, the better Dean would feel. Right now, he felt anything but good, though. Almost in slowmotion, he turned his attention to his presently sulking brother. "I'm gonna go in there to talk to this ... Tracy. You are going to stay put. You are not moving a muscle. And this time, you will do as I say."

Sam's brow furrowed, but he avoided looking at Dean.

"Do I make myself clear?" Dean demanded.

Sam nodded curtly, still without looking at him.

"Sammy, I mean it," Dean pressed. "This isn't for fun. This isn't a frigging joke. This crap could get you killed."

It took a moment longer before Sam glanced at him. "I'm not moving, am I?" he countered, a little annoyed.

Reasonably reassured, Dean got out of the car and stepped into the fairy wonderland beyond the white gate. He sneered at the whole thing, but knew deep down that even though this woman was obviously paranoid, she was also very well protected. Nothing he knew of and had fought over the years would be able to cross the threshold into this garden.

He didn't even make it to the end of the short garden path before the door opened and a woman stepped out onto the porch. She was short, a little overweight, and dressed in a long flowing gown that suited her fairytale surroundings.

Dean stopped at the two steps leading up onto the porch and eyed her thoughtfully. "Are you Tracy?" he asked.

Her blue eyes narrowed a little. "Who wants to know?" she countered.

He liked the sound of her voice, but had little patience for anything that would draw out the solution of his brother's now life-threatening problem. "Bobby Singer sent me," he said instead of introducing himself.

She continued to eye him for a moment, then arched an eyebrow. "The fact that you made it past the gate proves you're not a demon," she stated matter-of-fact-like. "Or possessed, for that matter. What do you want, friend of Bobby's?"

"My brother has been hit by a ... curse. I think. Everything he does goes wrong, every move he makes is potentially lethal. We need to figure out what cruse it is and lift it before it kills him."

Tracy immediately looked over toward the car, almost scowling. "And Bobby thought I could help with that?" she asked in a tone that suggested she might not be able to.

Dean's heart dropped. "He says you're good at curses, that you know all about them," he insisted, trying not to sound desperate with little luck.

She frowned at him, then sent another speculative look over at the Impala. "Maybe. I'm not making any promises, though. Just keep that in mind. If it doesn't work, I'm not responsible for the outcome."

As he thought, she was paranoid, and it was already starting to grate against his frayed nerves. "Whatever. I just need some help on this one before he falls down a flight of stairs and cracks his skull open," he growled.

"Bring him inside. I'll need to know exactly what he has been up to these past few days, when the curse was activated, and who he might have pissed off to get this ball rolling," Tracy said, turned on her heel and marched back into the house without giving Dean the slightest chance of responding.

"Paranoid, frigging bitch," he muttered, turned around and strode back over to the gate and the car waiting beyond.

He unlocked the door and hauled it open. "Come on. Let's get you in there so we can break this damend curse," he said and took as gentle a hold of Sam's arm as he dared.

Exiting the car was not nearly as easy as getting into it had been and before Dean could manage to adjust to a renewed bout of clumsiness, Sam quite literally toppled out of the car and hit the pavement hard enough to draw blood. His chin connected rather hard, tearing the skin and spilling the blood. At the same time he didn't quite manage to get his left foot with him and it twisted, making him yelp.

Since the painful twist of his ankle was too much for him to take, he shifted in an attempt to alleviate the pain, but only managed to aggravate it before Dean could once again come to his rescue and yank his foot free before he could actually break any bones.

Dean hauled him to his feet, ready for any unsteadiness. And unsteady he was. The pain that shot up through his left leg when he tried to put pressure on his foot would have slammed him up against the car, but Dean had a strong, unwavering hold on him, which prevented any further injuries.

"Damn, I'm looking forward to kicking this in the butt," Dean huffed, having to put extra effort into maintaining some kind of equilibrium that would keep Sam on his feet and out of harms way.

Somehow, he managed to get Sam all the way to the garden gate before another incident nearly slammed him down on the spikes of the fence. Again Dean just barely managed to prevent this from happening, and he was both a little out of breath and a little out of patience when Sam finally managed to right himself enough to continue his limping trek toward the house.

Curiously, once they passed the garden gate, things seemed to get easier. Sam didn't stumble nearly as much, was better able to keep his balance and managed to climb the two steps to the porch without further episodes.

"All this protection-crap must work," Dean grumbled and guided him toward the open door.

"In here," Tracy called from the right side of the house.

Dean steered them around the door and into the den, which was cozy enough. It was a square room with double doors leading out into the hallway and adorned by two flowery couches facing each other with a hardwood coffee table between them. Dean deposited Sam on the couch facing the windows and let out a light sigh.

"Okay, he's in. Now what?" he asked, turning his attention to Tracy, who was looking through a bookcase at the far end of the room.

"Tell me how this started. Do you know?" she asked without looking back at them.

Sam glanced up at Dean, who so far remained standing. "I still think it's one of those curses in the book," he said.

Dean shook his head lightly. "Bobby says no," he countered.

Tracy turned around to face them, slight alarm registering on her face. "What book?" she asked.

Dean held it out to her and she stepped closer, reaching for it, until her gaze settled on the cover. This immediately made her drop her hand and take a step back. "Oh no, you don't," she said, the alarm turning to outright dread. "Get that thing out of my house!"

"So, it could be the book?" Dean asked, refusing to do anything before he had some sort of answer.

"Remove that abomination. It can undo all I've done here," she snapped and waved insistently at the door. "Out! NOW!"

Dean pulled it back and raised both hands in surrender. "Alright already," he growled and left the room to take the book back to the car. "Why the hell would Bobby give him this in the first place?" he muttered under his breath, dropped it on the backseat and returned to the house. He would need to talk to Bobby about this later.

Neither Sam nor Tracy had moved from their respective spots and neither seemed to have spoken while he was out either. "Okay, it's gone," Dean said, hoping to mollify the paranoid woman.

She made a few weird signs in the air, spat on her fingers and crossed herself. "Tell me everything," she said. "That book could very well be the reason for his curse, but I must know more before I can tell you."

"Fine," Dean said and settled down carefully next to his brother. "Yesterday, we did a salt'n'burn for a guy in town. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. This morning, he wakes up and literally falls out of bed and it's been going downhill ever since. No warning, no ..."

Tracy stopped him by raising a hand, palm out, her gaze fixed on Sam. "What were you salting and burning?" she asked.

Dean frowned and glanced at his brother.

"A ghost," Sam replied. "Nothing unusual about that. For us at least," he added.

Tracy nodded. "In what order did you do it?"

Sam glanced at Dean, who frowned lightly. "Uhm ... the usual order. We located the grave, dug up the remains, poured salt and lighter fluid on it and torched it. The ghost evaporated. End of story," Sam explained.

"Same old same old," Dean confirmed. "We've done that a million times before."

The look on her face became ever more thoughtful. "What order?" she asked again.

"What do you mean, what order?" Sam asked.

"Salt first, then fluid? Or the other way around? Did you find anything in the house that you touched? Sage? Lavender? Something along those lines? If you did, did you touch it before or after you burned the remains?" Tracy eyed him expectantly.

Sam mulled that over for a moment. "Come to think of it, there was a bundle of dried lavender in the kitchen. I did pick it up briefly," he said.

Dean frowned lightly, not seeing the connection yet. "Before the salt'n'burn," he added and looked back over at Tracy.

"Lavender, salt, lighter fluid, then you burned the body?" she asked, to which they both nodded. She made a face. "Are you sure there was nothing else? Any talisman, any amulet or something like that you may have been in contact with?" she pressed.

Sam glanced at Dean again. "The amulets Bobby gave us a while back," he said. "I don't have mine with me, but ..."

Dean dug his out of his pocket and held it out to Tracy to see. "He made them himself," he said.

Tracy looked a bit annoyed. "Old fool," she muttered and shook her head, then held up a hand again, warding off the amulet. "Put it away," she added and Dean did. "Okay, this is what I can tell from what you've told me here. You had a bad luck amulet on you, touched lavender, salt, lighter fluid and then lit up the body of a malignant soul," she said, then paused, a frown furrowing her brow. "That one usually demands blood as well," she said, almost as if speaking to herself, then focused on Sam again. "Are you sure you didn't cut yourself?"

Sam inspected his hands, but was unsure if any of the cuts and scrapes on them had been caused before or after he had gone to bed last night. "I ... don't know," he admitted.

"Didn't you bitch about having cut your palm on something?" Dean asked, grabbed Sam's left hand and turned it over. Sure enough, there was a line on the side of his palm. "So, now all you have to do is remember in what order this happened."

Sam stared at his palm for a moment, trying to piece together the events of the previous day. Getting cuts and bruises on the job was an everyday occurrence and not something he even thought about any more. But, then again, he had always been the analytical one and remembering details was what he did best. He closed his eyes, recalling the events of the previous day, watching himself rush through the salt'n'burn step by step. "We talked to Mr. Walker, got the details of what he was dealing with, then checked out the house. I went into the kitchen first, picked up the lavender because I couldn't imagine what a guy like Walker would want with that, then put it down again. When I did, I cut myself on the carving knife lying on the carving board on the kitchen counter. I remember thinking that he must have either bought it recently or had it sharpened, because I barely touched it, but it drew blood nonetheless. The cut wasn't so bad. I grabbed a paper napkin from a pile and wiped the blood off and it had already stopped bleeding," he said. "I dumped the napkin in the trash on the way out," he added. "We searched the rest of the house, found the clues we needed, found the grave out back, dug it up. I poured salt on the corpse, you poured the lighter fluid a few seconds after I started with the salt. Then we torched the remains and the ghost disintegrated."

"Okay. Then what?" Tracy prompted.

"We drove back to the motel, had a beer and some pizza and went to bed. I skimmed through the curse book, went to sleep and that's pretty much it," Sam concluded.

"So, lavender, blood, salt, lighter fluid and the burning of the body," she reiterated to which Sam nodded. "And then you read a curse book?" She shook her head. "Why don't you just open a curse box while you're at it?" She tsked and settled down on the edge of the couch across from them. "You have pretty much been hit by a bad luck curse from Hell here. And there's only one way to get out of it before it kills you. You have to perform pretty much the same steps, only in reverse."

"The same steps?" Dean interrupted and leaned forward. "Are you nuts? He can't. With his luck being the way it is right now, he'll end up killing himself before he even gets halfway through this ritual."

"I didn't say it would be easy, did I?" Tracy countered a little tersely. "He has to do it or the curse will kill him," she added. "There's on other way."

"Bullshit," Dean spat and sat back. "What if I perform it for him?"

"It won't work," Tracy said without a speck of doubt in her voice.

"Dean ..." Sam tried, but Dean stopped him by raising a hand.

"It's too dangerous. There must be another way. And where the hell are we going to find another spook at this point in time? And how do you un-torch a body?"

"The burning of the body has little to do with it," Tracy said, her tone bordering on the derisive now. "He has to re-read the curse in question, start a fire, sprinkle lighter fluid and then salt on the flames, then cut his hand and drip some blood on it and finally add a bundle of dried lavender to the mix before adding the bad luck amulet to the flames. The issuing smoke and melting amulet will have a cleansing effect and will lift the curse."

Dean stared at her for a moment. "You don't hear it, do you?" he finally asked. "How many parts of that scenario do you think he'll get through before he kills himself? Starting a fire? Adding fuel to the flames? Cutting his hand? Adding the amulet? All of that is a surefire way to end him. There has to be another way."

"Are you sure it will stop the curse?" Sam interjected, his attention locked on Tracy.

"Fairly sure," she countered, ignoring Dean in the process.

"What's fairly sure? 50%? 20?" Dean asked, not accepting that they cut him out of the conversation.

"More like 70-80%," Tracy said.

"Sounds good to me," Sam said and glanced at Dean. He was seeking approval, even though Dean had no doubt that he would try to carry through with this insane plan even if Dean shot him down.

He took a moment to glare at Sam before relenting. It was important to him that his brother understood how much he was against this scenario. "Fine," he finally growled. "Let's go get you killed."

Sam sighed, but said nothing further. Dean got him to his feet and back to the car with them both moving in slowmotion to avoid further injuries. Sam's twisted foot was a hinderance for walking too fast anyway.

Tracy followed them as far as the garden gate and Dean figured she wasn't the type to leave her property very often. "Good luck," she said and raised a hand in greeting.

"Thanks," Dean countered and slid behind the wheel. He sat still for a moment, watching Tracy retreat to the safety of her house, and then shook his head lightly. "Crackpot," he muttered.

"Bobby thinks she's an authority on cureses, Dean. She can't be that much of a crackpot," Sam said. "Besides, if this doesn't work I'm screwed."

"It'll work. We just have to do it slow and easy. No rushing it. I don't want you setting yourself on fire or nicking an artery in your haste to end this." Dean revved the engine, then pulled back out on the street and headed back to the motel. "First thing we'll do is get a room on the ground floor. And you're staying in the frigging car. Got that?"

"Yeah, yeah. I won't move until you say so," Sam countered tiredly.

The return to the motel went smoothly and Dean felt a little more confident that this would have a good outcome. He managed to get them a room on the ground floor just in front of where he had parked the Impala and got their stuff moved to the new room before getting his brother out of the car.

He got Sam settled at the small table inside the door before laying out the things they would need. The lavender he found outside the motel. There was a whole bush of the stuff and part of it was dead and therefore dry. Then he dug through Sam's jeans and located the protection amulet and placed that next to the rest of the things Sam would need to break this damned curse.

"Okay, just ... take it slow. One step at a time," he said. He had dumped several flamable items into a metal bowl, getting things as ready as he could so Sam had to do as little as possible.

Sam wiped his palms on his sweat pants while inspecting the items laid out before him. "Okay," he agreed. "So, first I read the curse," he said, picked up the book and flipped through the pages for the right one. In the process, he got several papercuts, but somehow managed to avoid bigger injuries. He read the curse out loud, then closed the book and let Dean take it. He then picked up the matchbook. Carefully, he broke off a match and glanced briefly at Dean before striking it. The match broke in half, but caught fire just the same. The broken piece landed in his lap, which made him rear out of his seat, which in turn overturned the table and knocked the chair over backward. Frantically, he tried to wipe the now smoldering match off his sweats, but the bit of match got stuck on his palm, which made him yelp and take a staggering step backward. He got tangled in the chair legs and fell over backward, slamming the back of his head down on the edge of the bed behind him. If it hadn't been for the fact that the bed had no footend and the matress was worn, he would probably have cracked his skull open on it.

"STOP!" Dean yelled, causing Sam to freeze despite his awkward position right then. Dean flicked the still smoldering match bit off Sam's sweats where it had relanded when he fell, then grabbed Sam's arm and got him back to his feet and positioned on the bed.

Then he picked up the mess left behind by Sam's first and - in his humble opinion - only attempt at doing this himself. "Enough," he said, his tone a little breathless. "You are not trying that again."

Sam stared at him, but made no move to disagree for the time being.

"Good. That's settled then," Dean muttered and started laying out the items needed again. "I'm doing it for you. You can drop in the coin."

"It's not gonna work," Sam groused from his place on the bed.

"Sure it will," Dean disagreed, grabbed his arm and hauled him back on his feet. "Sit. I'll take the first steps, you finish it off. In ten minutes, this will all be over."

"One way or another," Sam muttered and watched apprehensively while Dean set fire to the content of the bowl. He added the remaining ingredients, then handed Sam the coin. "Add it," he said.

Apprehensive, Sam glanced at him, took the coin and dropped it into the bowl. Without incident.

Smoke rose from the bowl, encompassing them for a moment until Dean cracked the window open and the issuing breeze disipated the smoke.

Slowly the flames died down and eventually went out, sending the last few fingers of smoke into the air.

Both of them remained still for awhile after, waiting for some kind of sign that things had changed. Then Sam pushed the chair back a little and carefully got up. He tested his left foot's ability to carry his weight, then shifted around and stepped over to the bed, where he settled down slowly.

"So far so good," Dean said. "Looks like it might be over, huh?"

Sam frowned lightly and gingerly touched the cut on his scalp. "It feels different," he finally said.

"Just take it slow for a bit. We'll see if it took soon enough," Dean countered and settled down on the chair Sam had just abandoned.

"I need a shower. I feel grubby," Sam muttered, got up and got moving. And nothing untoward happened, which convinced Dean that the curse was over.

With a heartfelt sigh, he leaned back on the chair and eyed the bowl with its charred contents for a moment.

***

Sam felt much better by the time he had showered and was wearing decent clothes again. He still moved slowly, was careful about what he touched, but nothing bad happened and he finally allowed himself to start to believe that the curse was broken.

Eyeing himself critcially in the mirror, he ran a hand over his chin, feeling the stubble there. Time for a shave. He picked up the razor and eyed it for a moment, still a little apprenehsive. If the curse was still in effect, but just taking a break for now, he could very well end up cutting his own throat with this thing. But he chanced it and when he managed to finish the shave without even a nick, convinction settled in and he smiled at his own reflection.

Dean was lying on his bed, hands folded behind his head, when Sam emerged from the bathroom again. He glanced over at him. "Feel better?" he asked.

"Much," Sam agreed.

Dean sat up and swung his legs over the edge, planting his feet squarely on the worn carpet. "Good. I say we blow this popcicle stand and get out of this town," he said and rose.

"Sounds like a plan. Do you have anywhere we should be or ..." Sam eyed him curiously.

"No," Dean said and started packing his things. "I think we should drop by Bobby's. I've got a thing or two to say about this curse book," he added and grabbed the mentioned book. It slipped out of his fingers and hit the floor, flapping open to the selfsame curse Sam had just managed to break. With a grumbled curse, Dean bent to pick it up and stowed it away at the top of his duffle, then eyed Sam. "Get a move on, sleeping beauty."

Sam rolled his eyes and started packing up too. "Bite me," he said kindly and flashed Dean a benevolent smile.

Before long they were ready to go. Sam slid onto the passengerside seat, revelling in the unpresedented sense of freedom not being bogged down by a curse gave him. To be able to move freely was something he usually took for granted, but appreciated so much more right now.

Dean slammed the trunk lid and got into the car, started the engine and stared out at the motel for a moment. "Not a place I'll miss," he stated and reversed out of the spot and pulled out onto the street.

They made it a fair ways out of town when a loud bang and sudden steering-issues hit them. The Impala veered back and forth on the road for a moment, causing great annoyance among the few other drivers behind them until Dean got the big muscle car back under control and pulled over to the side of the road. "What the hell?" he snapped and shoved the door open, which instantly resulted in a blaring of a horn and another car veering hard to the left to avoid hitting the door.

Sam frowned, a niggling suspicion rising in him, while Dean flipped off the agitated driver of a van and then hunkered down to inspect whatever damage had been done. "Son of a bitch," he snapped, rose and kicked the left front tire.

"What happened?" Sam asked, pushed his door open and climbed out.

"The tire's blown is what happened," Dean growled. "Luckily I picked up a spare last time we dropped by Bobby's."

"You want any help?" Sam queried, well aware what a question like that could do to his brother.

Dean stopped moving toward the rear of the car and eyed him with obvious surprise. "You know how to change a tire on a car?" he asked.

Sam stared at him for a moment, then grimaced. "Uh ... no," he admitted. "But I'm sure I could figure it out."

"Yeah, and get us both killed because you don't know how to tighten a bolt," Dean shot back. "Thanks, but no thanks, Sammy. I'll deal with this."

He got the things he needed out of the trunk, pushed the jack under the car and raised the left front tire off the ground. When he applied the tire iron, it slipped and he only barely avoided pulling his hand away. He started cursing under his breath while Sam watched with growing concern. "Dean ..." he tried, but his brother looked up, a dark expression etched into his face.

"Shut up, Sam. I'm trying to concentrate here," he snapped, obviously annoyed at not being able to get the tire iron to perform as it should.

"Dean ..." Sam tried again when Dean shoved the door shut, applied the tire iron again and finally managed to losen the first bolt.

"I just told you to shut up," Dean shot back and went to work on the second bolt.

Sam sent a look along the highway they were stranded on and felt his concern rise another notch at the sight of a semitruck coming toward them at well above the legal speed limit. "Dean!" he snapped, dashed around the front of the car, grabbed his brother and yanked him out of the way about a split second before the truck would undoubtably have slammed into him. It missed the sideview mirror by half an inch and roared past them with enough speed to shove them back a step.

Dean, still holding the tire iron in one hand, just stood there and stared after the truck, his breath stuck in his throat. "What the hell?" he muttered.

"I don't think we broke the curse," Sam said. "I think it's been transfered to you."

Dean turned around to meet his gaze. "Bullshit," he said.

"Dean, you just nearly got run over by a truck. The car blew a tire. When have things like that happened in succession?" Sam said, his fingers still locked around Dean's arm. "Tracy was very specific about it. She said it wouldn't work if I didn't do the steps. I didn't. You did them for me. And now you're getting the bad luck," he persisted.

For a moment longer it looked like Dean might disagree with that assessement, but then his shoulders drooped. "Aw man," he growled. "Really?"

"The signs are all there," Sam agreed. "I think you'd better let me deal with the tire."

Dean's expression changed from slightly upset to suspicious. "You don't know how. You just said so."

"I just watched you loosen the bolts. I can do that. How hard can it be?" Sam shot back. "Don't tempt this. Look how quickly it went downhill for me."

Dean made a face. "I don't know, man. What if you don't tighten the bolts enough? We could loose the wheel completely," he said.

"I'm not an idiot, Dean," Sam countered, a little miffed. "Look, just ... guide me through it and we'll be fine."

"I don't like this," Dean grumbled and refused to hand over the tire iron he was still clutching in one hand. "What about your foot?" he asked, glancing down at Sam's left foot. "I mean, you twisted it pretty badly."

"It's fine. It hardly hurts any more," Sam countered. "Stop stalling and give me the tire iron."

Dean grimaced, let out a heartfelt sigh and handed the iron over. "Just for the record ..." he began.

"... you don't like this. I got it, Dean, okay?" Sam finished for him, checked for traffic and then hunkered down next to the tire.

In no time, he managed to losen all the bolts and remove the flat tire, which he then replaced with the spare. Under Dean's sharp eye and verbal guidance, he tightened all the bolts and then stepped back to admire his handiwork. "Not too shabby for someone who's never changed a tire before," he said and looked up to face his brother.

"Yeah, you're amazing," Dean growled sarcastically and made a move to step around the car to help clean up. Apparently, he stepped on something that wasn't quite steady, because his foot flew out from under him, spilling him face first onto the asphalt and right into oncoming traffic.

Sam was quick to grab him and haul him out of the way and for a moment after that, they both sat on the grass on the side of the road, while several cars that could have been the end of Dean raced by, the first one honking its horn loudly. "You're not driving," Sam finally said, got back to his feet and held a hand out to Dean.

Dean ignored the offer for help and got back on his feet. "This sucks," he stated. "Let's find a picnic area and kick this curse in the butt before it gets us both killed."

"Fine with me. We need to locate some more lavender, though," Sam countered. "Just go sit in the car. I'll put the tools away," he added.

Dean growled something unintelligable under his breath and made his way slowly around the car to the passengerside door, which Sam had fortunately left open. Sam picked up the refuse from the tire change and dropped it in the trunk, then got in and glanced at his brother.

"The sooner you get going, the better," Dean snarled.

"Alright already. It's not like it's my fault," Sam countered, a little ticked off by Dean's attitude.

Dean gave him a dark look. "Oh really? I don't remember reading any frigging curse books after a salt'n'burn," he shot back.

"Yeah, well, if you hadn't been so insistend on doing the reverse for me, we wouldn't be in this mess right now," Sam snapped, his patience at an end.

"If I hadn't you would have burned the frigging motel to the ground," Dean snapped back.

Sam reigned himself in, pressing his lips together into a thin line for a moment. "Blaming each other isn't going to help here," he finally stated. "Let's find some lavender and get this over with."

Dean sneared. "Fine by me," he growled.

***

Locating lavender was more difficult the second time around, but they eventually managed to track some down in a shop that sold herbal remedies. Dean wasn't inclined to move much until they had what they needed and even then he would have to proceed with caution.

Sam found an out of the way spot for them to perform the ritual and set everything up just like Dean had for him. "Ready for this?" he asked.

Dean grimaced, grabbed the book, which promptly jumped out of his hands and landed on the table, upturned the bowl with the kindling in it and tipped over the bottle of lighter fluid.

Sam lashed out for it, but didn't get to it in time. "Shit," he muttered. "That was the last one."

"Great," Dean muttered. "So ... we get more. No big deal."

"Except for the fact that the longer this curse is on you, the worse it's gonna get," Sam countered. "We need to deal with this fast."

"Yeah, I get it, Sam. So, let's go get some more lighter fluid and deal with this," Dean said and shifted a little. The wooden bench beneath him creaked ominously. He glanced down and barely managed to glance up at Sam before the bench broke. Dean let out a grunt in response when something hit his side hard. He assumed it was pieces of the bench, which was obviously rotten, and didn't think more of it. It was annoying, yes, but not fatal.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked, worried.

"Yeah, I think so," Dean countered and reached a hand up. Sam grabbed it and pulled, which made Dean realize that all was not well. "Stop!" he yelped at the feeling of excuiating pain radiating outward from his left side. The pain knocked the air out of his lungs and suddenly breathing became a chore.

Sam ceased pulling at once, but the damage was already done. "What?" he asked, startled and obviously concerned.

Breathing in shallow gasps, Dean carefully ran his fingers over his right side until they connected with a protruding piece of wood, which had embeded itself in his side. "Shit, that hurts," he rasped.

Sam leaned in to inspect the damage. "That looks bad," he commented.

"Ya think?" Dean snapped. "Get me up."

"I'm not moving you until I'm sure this isn't more than a shallow wound," Sam disagreed and changed sides to better inspect the wound. He pushed Dean's hand out of the way and felt along the edge of the piece of wood for a second, then started removing bits of debris.

"What the hell are you doing?" Dean gasped, still trying to breathe around the radiating pain.

"Making sure you don't impale yourself on anything else when I pull you up," Sam said matter-of-fact-like. When he was satisfied that nothing else would cause more damage, he stepped behind the remains of the bench, grabbed Dean under the arms and lifted him up.

"For fuck's sake," Dean ground out, but didn't fight Sam when he pulled him backward out of the remains of the bench and deposited him carefully on the ground.

"Sit still," Sam advised and rushed over to the car to get their first aid kit. He then used a pair of scisors to cut Dean's t-shirt away around the piece of wood and removed that first to get a better view of what he was dealing with. "I don't think it's too deep," he muttered.

"Stop playing doctor and get this damned thing out of me," Dean snapped breathlessly. The pain radiated up and out in such a way that it made moving difficult.

Sam took a gentle hold of the oversized splinter. "You ready?" he asked, to which Dean nodded with gritted teeth. "On three," Sam said. "One," he counted and yanked the piece of wood out of Dean's side.

In an attempt to hasten the extraction, Dean pulled away from it and dropped down on his left side. Even though the pain was still very much present, the radiating quality that had nearly paralyzed him disappeared along with the pressure of the splinter.

Sam knelt down beside him, pulled the remains of his t-shirt away from the wound and inspected it. "Not too deep," he commented, opened the bottle of scotch he had brought and poured it over the wound.

"Son of a bitch," Dean bit out. "Warn a guy, would you?"

"Sorry. You don't want that to get infected, man," Sam replied and put a bandage on it, taping it down. "Can you sit up?"

Dean, who had made little effort to move yet, raised his head and glanced down at the now bandaged wound. "Yeah, just give me a second." He took his own sweet time and was annoyed by how hampered he was by this wound. He'd had worse wounds before without them slowing him down this much. "Aw shit," he groaned when he finally sat up.

Sam rose and held out a hand to him, which he took and allowed his brother to haul him back to his feet. The pain was managable, but he would really have liked to be without right now.

***

The second the bench broke, Sam's heart skipped a beat. It didn't surprise him that Dean got hurt, but the extent of the injury worried him deeply. Although the splinter had not gone in too deeply, there was still the risk of infection from the dirty and brittle wood. Although Dean wasn't prone to infections, this situation was a bit extreme.

"Let's get into the next town," he said and led the way over to the car. He opened the door and helped his brother settle himself on the passengerside seat without further injury. "You okay?"

"Stop fussing, Sam," Dean growled.

Dean's mood alone was enough to make him speed up. If there was one thing in this world Dean did not do, then it was having to depend on others to get things done.

They made it into the next town without further incident and Sam stopped at a convenience store to pick up some lighter fluid. Since public places were too dangerous, Sam decided on trying to find a motel outside of town, preferably some place he could button down until this curse thing was dealt with. What he was unsure about at this point was whether the ritual would work. After all, they had messed up the first attempt, which could have changed how things had to be done.

But he was willing to try. As long as Dean was in no further risk of getting hurt until they could kick this thing in the butt.

He located a cabin that suited their needs and spent the first half hour moving everything that might cause injury out of the way before bringing his brother into the room. His formerly painful ankel had seemingly healed in the meantime, which made his life easier. He could only hope that Dean's injury would turn out not to be as bad as it had appeared once the curse was off him.

Dean glanced around the now bare room for a moment. "You sure have good taste, don't you?" he asked. He was pale, sweaty, and Sam realized that an infection had already set in.

"We have to do this now, Dean," he said and waved at the setup on the floor.

With one arm wrapped around his obviously aching midsection, Dean took a slow step forward. "Yeah, I know," he agreed and mopped the back of one hand over his brow. "Open a window, dude. It's too hot in here."

Sam sighed. "It's not hot. You're burning up with fever," Sam countered and took a gentle hold of Dean's arm. "Sit down. Let's do this."

There was no stronger proof than the absence of opposition from Dean in both accepting the help and Sam's words and with this curse hanging over him, there was no doubt in Sam's mind that his brother was heading for the great beyond if he didn't put a stop to it right now.

Dean settled down with a repressed grunt and Sam settled down next to him. He held the book up for him to avoid further mishaps with that and Dean read the curse out loud, then followed all the steps with slow, meticulous care. His hands were shaking, sweat was beading his brow and rolling down his neck and he was in obvious pain throughout. The only thing that nearly went wrong was when he had to cut his palm to add the blood. His right hand shook so badly that he nearly managed to slash his wrist, but Sam grabbed his right wrist and steadied him without guiding his movements and Dean managed to cut into his hand without making it too deep. Then he added the protection charm to the mix and watched the smoke rise from the bowl for a moment.

They glanced at each other then, both of them waiting for some sign that things had changed.

"How do you feel?" Sam asked after a moment.

Dean pulled a handkerchief out of his backpocket and wrapped it around his hand, covering the cut there, then mopped the back of his right hand over his brow. "Calmer," he finally said and held out his right hand, which was no longer shaking.

They waited a while longer, both sitting still. Then Dean shifted a little, frowned and glanced down at his side. "It doesn't hurt so much any more," he added softly and gingerly touched the bandage covering his wounded side. "And I don't feel so hot any more either."

That made Sam smile. "Looks like it's over," he said.

"Yeah," Dean agreed. "I sure hope so. Because this has sucked out loud." Slowly, he climbed back to his feet and stretched carefully, testing the boundaries of how much he could move. "Still got the wound, though," he admitted reluctantly.

"My ankel took a while to heal," Sam countered and got up too. "Let me get this room squared away so we don't have to pay for damages and then I think we should just ... stick around here for a day or two. Just to rest up and heal properly."

For a moment Dean looked unconvinced, but finally relented with a nod. He was obviously tired and, despite the lifting of the curse, was still in some pain. "Sounds like a plan," he agreed.

Since the cabin consisted of two rooms - one bedroom and a smallish living area - Sam had been able to stow all the furniture in the bedroom to clear out the living area. He dragged the chairs and the round coffee table back into the room, spread the rug out before positioning them again and finally pulled the sofa out as well. Dean sank down on the latter with a greatful sigh.

"You know, for a moment there, I thought this was all going to go south," he said. "I mean ... you did help and from what Tracy said ..." He stopped and looked up at Sam, who was in the process of putting the finishing touches on the decor.

Sam stopped and stared at him. "What?" he asked.

"Dude, do you still have your protection charm?" Dean asked.

"Uh ... no. I threw it away. Figured it wouldn't work any more. It was half melted," he said. "Why?"

Dean's attention drifted sideways where he focused on something Sam couldn't see. "Don't know," he muttered. "Just ..." He pursed his lips and focused on Sam again. "I have a bad feeling about this, Sam."

Sam settled down on one of the chairs. "About what?" he asked. "The curse is broken. You're feeling better, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am, but ... when I helped you, the curse transfered to me. You helped me. Logic suggests that this would transfer the curse back to you," Dean surmised.

"I'm not having bad luck, though," Sam pointed out.

"No, but it took a while for it to catch up to me. And I think we're royally fucked if this thing has turned the tables on us again," Dean countered, dug his cell phone out of one pocket and dialed a number. "Hey, Bobby. Got a question for you," he said and put it on speaker.

"Good to hear from you," Bobby countered a little surley. "How's the curse going?"

"Not so hot. Tracy gave us the way out, but we messed up and it got transfered to me. We've managed to get it off me, but I'm afraid it may have reverted back to Sam. And Tracy seems to think that it's connected to the charms you gave us, that they played a part in this thing."

"Bull," Bobby said with much conviction. "May be something you boys did, sure, but the charms got nothing to do with it."

Dean frowned. "And you know that how?"

"Cause they're good luck charms as well as anti-possession charms, Dean. You think I would give you something that ain't safe?" the older hunter shot back, sounding all kinds of miffed. "If the curse ain't off, redo the ritual before it takes root again and you should be in the clear."

"See, it's the should be that I'm not happy with," Dean said. "Do you know anyone else who can help? Just in case?"

Bobby sighed. "Rufus. Next to Tracy, he's your best bet," he said. "If repeating the ritual doesn't work, get your butts to his place and let him sort it out. Preferably before either of you gets killed."

"Copy that," Dean said and glanced at Sam. "Thanks, Bobby."

"Don't mention it," Bobby replied and hung up.

Dean lowered the phone and switched it off. "Let's repeat this thing before it goes haywire. And this time, you do all the steps yourself. Just in case."

Sam nodded, grabbed the bowl and the remaining ingredients and set the whole thing up again. He used what remained of Dean's charm just in case it was needed and ended with watching the kindling burn to ash, which mixed with the liquifying charm. Nothing untoward happened during the ritual and Dean seemed to breath a little easier afterward.

"Right. That's done, then," he said. "Just ... make sure to tell me if you're feeling any clumbsier than usual, okay?"

Sam gave him a dark look. "I'm not clumbsy," he muttered, packed everything away and sent a quick look around the cabin's living area. "Stay or go?" he asked.

"Stay. I'm bushed. I need a few hours," Dean countered and rose stiffly. The wound was obviously still causing him some issues.

"Same here," Sam admitted.

***

It was the sound of rain more than anything that woke him. Well, that and the steady drip of water hitting him in the face. He rolled over on his side and sat up, mopped a hand over his face and glanced up at the ceiling. In the darkness of the room, he couldn't see anything, but he could hear the wind outside and the rain hitting the roof.

The decision, such as it was, was easily made. He would get up and move the bed away from the dripping water and then go back to sleep, because he felt absolutely worn out.

The second he put weight on his left foot, though, the stab of pain from his suddenly very sore ankel made him almost stagger sideways into the wall. "Shit," he hissed, barely catching himself.

"Don't tell me. You've gone all humpty-dumpty again," Dean's voice rang blearlily from the darkness.

"My ankel just wasn't as healed as I thought," Sam countered. "And the roof is leaking."

"And that's not unlucky?" Dean asked.

Sam could hear the bedsprings creaking when his brother moved and frowned when Dean bit out a curse, which was followed by the sound of one of the bedsprings breaking. The spoing-sound was followed by a yelp and a subsequent crash when Dean fell off the bed. "What the hell?"

Balancing on one leg, Sam reached out for the bedside lamp, but stopped short just before touching it. Leaking roofs and electricity usually didn't make a good mix. And since the curse was obviously still in effect, touching that lamp might get him electricuted.

"Turn the damend light on. I can't see squat?" Dean grumbled from somewhere on the floor.

"I'm not touching a lamp with the ceiling dripping water all over the place," Sam countered and wrecked his brain trying to remember where he had left his duffle and thereby his flashlight.

"Good point," Dean consented. He sounded a little out of breath.

"How bad did you get hit?" Sam querried while limping slowly toward the footend of the bed, where he seemed to remember having dropped his duffle bag.

"The spring didn't hit me. I managed to get out of the way first. Hence my less than gracefull fall off the frigging bed," Dean said. "It's my side. Damend wound is acting up."

"That's not good, Dean. I think this curse has rebounded on both of us this time," Sam said and sighed with relief when his fingers connected with the fabric of his duffle. He lifted it and felt the shift and following lightening of its weight as everything in it fell out. He'd managed to grab the bottom of it. "Aw crap," he snapped.

He could hear something rolling across the floor, then stop abruptly. "Got your flashlight," Dean said and a second later, the powerful beam broke the near complete darkness of the room.

Sam sent a look upward and paled. "This roof is not going to hold, Dean. We need to get the hell out of here right now," he said.

Dean, who was still on the floor, got up on his knees and ran the cone of light over the ceiling, seeing several sagging sections pregnant with moisture. "Son of a bitch," he bit out, struggled up on his feet, grabbed his duffle and hurled it through the open door into the living area. "Let's go, Sam," he snapped and followed it out.

Sam grabbed what he could of his scattered belongings and launched himself through the door a second before the entire ceiling in the bedroom gave way, showering both beds with debris and water and leaves. One crossbeam, broken in two, managed to impale both beds.

The brothers stood next to each other and stared in at the destruction for a moment. "We gotta leave," Dean insisted and Sam agreed wholeheartedly with him.

They made it out of the cabin before the whole thing just came down. The entire ceiling collapsed and they both stood there for a moment and stared at the destruction while the rain pelted down over them, soaking them.

"We're going to Rufus' place right now. We need this curse gone before it kills us both," Dean said.

"Do you really want to drive with this hanging over our heads?" Sam asked, a little worried by the prospect of either of them having to drive however far it was to Rufus' cabin from where they were now.

They both turned and eyed the Impala. "She wouldn't hurt us," Dean tried, his defense pretty feeble.

"'She' is not a living thing, Dean. It's a car and it's been possessed before," Sam reminded him.

"Shut up," Dean countered without any real venom behind those words. "Just get in. We'll have to chance it. I for one am not walking a hundred miles across this state and the next. That's a surefire way to get us both killed."

"We could call Rufus. Have him pick us up here?" Sam tried.

"No," Dean refused. "For all we know, the owners of this motel will turn into raving lunatics and will blow our heads off for 'damaging' their cabin. Or the credit card I used will be refused and they'll call the cops on us. There is any number of things that can go wrong here. We'll risk the drive. I'll just take it slow."

Sam considered it for a moment, then nodded. Dean had a point after all. "Okay, let's go before this gets any worse."

***

The drive to Rufus' place turned out to be a more daunting adventure than Dean had imagined. Since Sam was nervous like hell, Dean was driving, and his side was acting up big time. He felt the fever creeping back in, felt the dull throb of it in the wound itself, and wondered how long he had before he couldn't focus on the road ahead any more. He drove slower than he normally would have, but not slow enough to keep Sam's anxiousness at bay.

Things jumped out in front of them at irregular intervals, ranging from hares to foxes to deer and the occasional moose. Somehow, Dean managed to avoid all of them, but it made their driving pretty erratic and other drivers on the road got very aggiated about it. Dean refused to stop, though, which would probably end with him getting into a fight with another driver that he wasn't equipped to win right now. So he drove on, keeping an eye out for possible obstacles, and kept to the smaller and more deserted roads as much as he could.

With about twenty-five miles to go, the weather took a turn for the worse. The wind picked up and slathered the Imala's windshield with leaves and debris and in the process broke off one of the wipers. Dean gritted his teeth, both against the pain and the irritation filling him, while the rain battered his car with ever higher ferocity until the rain drops turned into hail, which proceeded to grow in size until they were the size of golfballs.

"Frigging weather," he snarled, veering left and right to avoid what could not be avoided; namely that the golfball sized hailstones would dent his car.

The high winds started tearing noticibly at the Impala when they were about seven miles from their target and when they had about a mile left, the engine stuttered and the big muscle car rolled to a stop, her engine dead. "SON OF A BITCH!" Dean yelled and slapped the steeringwheel.

Despite the chill the hurricane-like weather had brought with it he was sweating profusely. His head was aching and every breathe he took hurt. "Not now. Please," he pressed out through clenched teeth, trying the ignition over and over.

"Give it a rest, Dean. You're drowning the engine," Sam said helpfully.

Dean glared at him for a moment. "Shut up, Sam," he warned, but let off the key for a moment. The hood of his beloved car looked like it was made to hold eggs, there were that many dents in it. And the hailstones were living up to their names, now coming down the size of tennisballs.

He closed his eyes, focused inward and pleaded silently to anyone out there listening to just give them one more chance. Then he turned the key in the ignition and the Impala's engine stuttered to life again. But she did not sound good. He promised himself that he would take her to Bobby's and fix her up if they survived this crap.

They drove on and finally found the dirt track leading up to the cabin Rufus called home. Dean had barely managed to turn onto the track before the Impala's engine stuttered and died again. "Oh no, come on," Dean pleaded and tried the ignition repeatedly with no luck.

Sam anxiously looked out and up at the continuous downpour of tennisball sized hailstones that pelted the car. "We can't go out in this," he stated. "If even one of those hit you in the head, you're gone."

"Sam, we don't have a frigging choice. We need to make it to Rufus' place or we're screwed either way. And my car can't take this punishment much longer," Dean shot back, irritated and somewhat intimidated by the ferocious weather.

"You and your effing car," Sam growled. "How far is it from here to the cabin?"

Dean frowned. "About half a mile, give or take," he said, choosing to ignore the insult Sam had just hurled his way. He attributed it to concern and fear and hence wasn't going to let it bother him right now.

"Half a mile? It might as well be half a million miles. There is no way we'll make that," Sam complained.

Several hailstones hit the windshield in succession and the last one put a dent in the glass, which started a spiderweb of cracks rippling outward. "Aw, for fuck's sake," Dean snapped. "Get out. Let's get a move on. The faster we get up there, the faster this will be over with."

Fortunately this part of the forest consisted of old oak with a canopy so intertwined that only a fraction of the huge ice balls made it to the ground. They wove their way through the undergrowth, tearing clothes, hands, arms and faces in the process on brambles and other thorny growth, but both were very much aware of the fatal outcome if they did not manage to close the distance to Rufus' cabin.

Unfortunately, the cabin itself was in a clearing, which made it damned near impossible for them to make it across the open space without getting bombarded by the hailstones. Dean was breathing heavily, the renewed throb of the infection from his wound sending shivers through him with every move he made.

"We're not gonna make it," Sam moaned. The ground was covered in a slick, uneven layer of hailstones and more kept coming down all the time. What would probably have been a half minute stroll across the open expanse would be daunting and dangerous, no matter how they approached it.

Dean found that whenever he was faced with impossible scenarios like this, his response was the opposite of Sam's. Where Sam wanted to give up and call it a day, he needed to see it through to the bitter end, no matter what. And even though the situation was dire - he would admit that much - he refused to see this as his end. This was not the way he was going to go out of this life. "Bullshit," he snapped, grabbed Sam's arm and hauled him with him when he dashed out into the clearing.

To say that maneauvering across the hail-covered ground was difficult was the understatement of the year. They slipped and slid across the slick, bumpy surface, going down again and again, but Dean refused to give up. He got back up and hauled Sam with him every time and they finally made it to the porch and the relative safety of the old wooden roof.

Sam had been caught on the head by one of the hailstones and blood was oozing from the cut this had earned him. Dean himself had been hit by several of them and assumed he had a fractured shoulderblade from the feel of it. But they had made it across and they were still alive.

Before he could pull himself together enough to knock on the door, said door opened and Rufus stood there for a moment, looking at them with a dour expression on his face. Then he glanced out at the still ferocious weather. "Figured you were near with this coming down," he said and stepped aside. "Get inside. Bobby called and filled me in."

With fingers going stiff from the chill and the pain rippling through his body, Dean still grabbed a hold of Sam's arm and pulled him inside the cabin, where they both dropped down on the old couch.

"You two idiots just can't follow directions, can you?" Rufus sighed. "Fortunately, I got a cure-all way of getting rid of ugly curses like this one. 'Cause I know which one you've attracted. Moreover, I really don't know what the hell Bobby was thinking, sending you to Tracy's place. She's the most paranoid and superstitious witch out there. No way is she gonna go all the way to root this out."

The fact that Tracy was a witch should have raised a red flag with Dean, but he was just too damned tired and in pain to care right now. Instead, he settled for giving Rufus a suffering look. "Could you spare us the sermon until we're rid of this thing?"

Rufus arched an eyebrow, huffed and turned away to grab a few things, which he spread out on the rickety coffee table. He upturned a bag of foul-smelling herbs into a bowl, then used a piece of charcoal to draw an intricated symbol around it. He proceeded to upend two small vials of brownish liquid into the bowl as well, then picked up a knife and held out his hand. "Need blood from the both of you," he said.

He cut both their palms and added a few drops of blood, then picked up a small, old book and read something that was utterly unrecognizalbe to Dean, before he dropped a lit match into the concoction. The smoke rising from the bowl smelled worse than sulpher and both brothers reared back from it, but Rufus wafted the smoke towards them. "Inhale this. It'll drive the curse right out of you," he instructed.

Dean and Sam glanced at each other, then both leaned forward and took deep breathes of the foul-smelling smoke. They both gagged and coughed, their eyes watering, their throats burning, until Rufus covered the bowl with a plate, picked it up and carried it over to the door, where he threw the whole thing out, bowl, plate and everything. "That should do it," he declared and turned back to face them. "Might take a bit before it takes, though."

Dean sank back against the back of the couch and flinched when his damaged shoulder blade come in contact with it. Sam slumped back and closed his eyes while covering his face with both hands.

"You boys go get some shuteye. I'll just call Bobby to let him know you're still breathing," Rufus suggested.

It took a moment before they both managed to gather enough strength to get up and hopple into the adjoining rooms. Dean had alwasy wondered why Rufus had that many bedrooms, but was not about to ask any questions at this point. He fell onto the bed, wincing at the stab of agony rolling through him from his injured side and broken shoulder blade, but was too worn out to care. It took mere moments before sleep claimed him and he faded away while hearing Rufus on the phone to Bobby.

***

Sam awoke because of a ray of bright sunshine hitting him in the face. He cracked one eyelid and squinted out at the room he was in, briefly struggling to remember where he was. Then it all came back to him in a rush and he sat bolt upright.

His fingers immediately went to the cut on his skalp and he realized at that very second that the curse had to be broken. It was no more than a superficial scrape that barely hurt any more. He wiggled his left foot and found that the stabbing pain from the sprain was gone. It would probably feel a bit weak to stand on, but at least it didn't hurt any more.

Bumps and bruises that had felt like a battlefield the night before had been reduced to nothing more than slight discolorations and for the first time since this curse had hit him, he felt vaguely human again.

Despite all that, he moved slowly, pulled his legs over the edge of the bed and rose somewhat unsteadily to his feet. And yes, his ankel did feel a little weak, but it was nothing compared to the flaring pain he had experienced with every damned step he had taken last night.

Favoring his foot a little, he walked over to the closed door and pulled it open.

"... m telling you, it's the only solution to something like that. How in Hell you could even consider sending them to that hag I will never know."

"They were close and from what Dean told me then, Sam was one step from death's door."

Sam blinked at the two verbal combattants and wondered how long he'd been asleep. "Bobby?"

The older hunter turned and eyed him critically. "How're you feeling?" he asked.

Sam nodded vaguely. "Much better," he said. "When did you get here?"

"Couple of hours ago," Bobby said. "Your brother's still dead to the world."

"Should have seen'em last night," Rufus said and put the bottle of beer he'd been holding down on the coffee table. "Looked like something even a cat wouldn't drag in. When those hailstones came crashing down on my roof, I knew what curse it was."

"Yeah, you're all wisdom and spit, ain't ya?" Bobby growled with a sideways warning glance.

"Better'n you," Rufus countered with a snide smile.

"How long was I out for?" Sam asked, ignoring the lingering borderline animosity between the two old friends.

"Since last night," Rufus said. "And it ain't morning now," he added. "Sun's setting. You both been asleep for about twelve hours or thereabouts."

Sam scratched the back of his head pensively. "No wonder I feel like I've been asleep forever," he said a little sheepishly. "Aw crap. What about the Impala?" he asked, suddenly remembering the apocalyptic devastation showered on Dean's beloved car.

"Well, she isn't too pretty, but it's nothing a little tinkering can't fix," Bobby said. "We'll tow her to my place. Got plenty of spare parts."

"Dean's gonna be pissed," Sam muttered and gratefully accepted the bottle of beer Rufus held out to him.

"I may be wrong, but I think the both of you getting through this crap storm may be higher on his list of things to be thankful for than his worry about that piece of junk," Bobby said.

A door opened behind Sam and he turned to face his brother, who looked a little worse for wear. "You okay?" he asked.

Dean gave him a dark look. "Been better," he admitted and focused on Bobby.

Truth be told, Sam had seen Dean look worse, but he most certainly had also seen him look better. "How's your shoulder?" he asked.

"Better than last night," Dean said. "Think it's just bruised. And this," he added and patted his side lightly, "isn't as bad as it seemed. Think the fevers gone too."

"Same with my injuries," Sam countered. "Looks like any curse-related injuries are reduced once the curse is broken."

"Yeah, looks that way," Dean agreed and eyed him through narrowed eyes. "Where is the book?"

"What book?" Rufus asked.

"The curse book. The one that started this whole mess," Dean said, his tone flat. Sam could tell he was trying to keep his shit together right now, but wasn't quite managing.

"Why?" Bobby asked.

"Cause I wanna burn that sucker. There is no way in hell that this book is good for anything but kindling," Dean countered angrily.

Bobby stared at him for a second or two, and then pursed his lips. "There is no way I'm letting you burn a three hundred year old book that is one of its kind," he finally said.

Dean's demeanor darkened. "Is that a fact?" he growled. "That damned thing nearly got us killed."

The standoff was on and Sam feared the outcome. In essence, Dean generally backed down when Bobby got pissed about something, but Dean could be stubborn like all hell when he felt he was right; and he obviously felt that way right now.

Bobby glared at him with no noticeable result. "The circumstances were pretty much unique in this case," the older hunter admitted, "but that is no damned reason to burn a book like that. Bad luck curses isn't the only thing it contains. I've read that sucker more times than I care to remember and I've never been hit by bad luck."

"Did you see the weather last night? Did you see those hailstones raining down from heaven?" Dean demanded, waving a hand toward the ceiling. "The chance alone that we're still standing after this is ... astronomical. That book is a frigging deathtrap."

Bobby glanced at Rufus, who shrugged, not committing to either side. "The book isn't the problem, Dean. The events leading up to Sam reading it are. And that's not gonna happen again, is it, Sam?"

Sam flinched, but quickly shook his head when Dean glanced at him with dark stormy eyes. "No sir, no way," he agreed. "You can have it back and I don't ever want to see it again."

"There," Bobby said, waving a hand at Sam. "Problem solved."

Dean huffed, but seemed to have nothing further to say to this. He knew when he was overruled. "What about my car? Did you see my car?" he tried instead.

"You put the frigging thing back together after it was totaled by a semi, Dean. Don't give me shit about your damn car being pelted by hailstones. It'll take you a day to fix the damage and I got all the spare parts you may need. So stow the crap!" Bobby shot back, getting closer to being angry now.

Dean backed down at once. "Okay, fine. But a day won't do it," he countered a little timidly.

"Balls," Bobby growled. He had obviously had just about enough of the backtalk.

Rufus put a hand on Bobby's shoulder. "Let's sit down and have a beer. Then the three of you can get the hell out of my house and give me some peace here," he said with a smile.

Both Bobby and Dean simmered down at that. Sam could literally feel the tension ebbing out of the room. "You be sure to give me that book before we leave here," Bobby said, directing this at Sam, who nodded immediately.

Dean gave him a look he could not really interpret, but said nothing.

They all settled down to have a beer and things slowly returned to normal. One thing Sam knew for sure. He was never touching another curse book again. First the rabbit's foot and now this? He had been through enough bad luck by now to cover two lifetimes and there was no way he wanted more of where that came from.

The End