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10 May 2012 @ 06:30 am
Dust Devils: Pictures From Life’s Other Side (Chapter 6)  

February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma



Dust Devils

Chapter 6

Pictures From Life’s Other Side

**O**

February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

"What do you mean ‘it took him'?"

"It went right for him, Bobby. The only reason I got dragged in at all was because I was trying to hold him. It focused completely on him, and the spirit controlling that thing—that wind elemental or whatever the hell it was—it recognized him. The spirit chanted something. I couldn't tell what language he was using, but it sounded Eastern European. I think I can remember some of the words. I've never experienced anything like it before." Ellen and Bobby helped him to sit up. "We have to get back there. Let's get going."

"Well hold on just a minute," Ellen said. "We don't know what we're up against. You said yourself you didn't know what it was. There are a lot of things it could be, and we need to narrow down the list of suspects. We have to be smart about this." She looked from Sam to Bobby. "And we need to get them to stop construction. We can't have people working there while that thing is loose."

Sam rose to his feet and got his balance while Ellen kept a protective hand on his elbow. "I need to find, Dean. We have to—" Another thought struck him. "Shit, he was hurt, Bobby. He needed medical attention even before we ever left to investigate that site. I tried to get him to stay in the car, but he came in, anyway. Typical."

"Hurt?"

Sam tapped his shoulder in demonstration, his face a cobbling of fury and guilt. "His shoulder, remember? From where I shot him. He was afraid to have it checked. Didn't want to have to report it. But it'd gotten infected, probably a lot worse than I even know. He wouldn't let me near it, but you know how Dean is."

"Yeah, kid, I do." Bobby sighed. "But let's get this square. You didn't shoot him. Meg did, so you need to stop with the hand-wringing over who did what."

Agitated, Sam barreled on without pause. "And what if he woke up somewhere in the same condition I was in? He'll have an infected gunshot wound with absolutely no idea who he is or what happened to him. We have to find him. Now. I can't sit around anymore."

"We're not gonna just sit around. That thing you saw, I saw it, too. I've already been there and back. I heard some of the words. I've seen it, and believe me, we do not want to go in there again unless we know exactly what we're up against. There was a lot of raw energy coming from that thing. No telling what it can do besides just blowin' wind at you." Bobby adjusted his cap and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "First things first. We need to get a hotel room and you need to sit your ass down and tell us everything you know, everything you and Dean did since you first got here. We can't help him if we don't know the whole story."





**O**



February 17, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Florabel sat in the rocking chair, one lazy leg dangling over the arm, the other pushing languidly against the bed, rocking the chair back and forth while she played with a couple of marbles in her hand. She rolled them around each finger and then clacked them together a few times.

She heaved a dramatic sigh. "You been sleeping since forever, Pally." She clacked the marbles harder. Nothing. She sat up and leaned against the bed, sticking her face close to his.

"Pally. Ohhhhhhh, Paaaaaaaaaally." She watched his dreaming eyes rove beneath their lids. Spying a feather poking through his pillow, she tugged it out. Opportunity and mischief lit her face and she blew on the feather, making the downy strands diabolically fluffy. Brushing the feather on his chin got no response, so she tried his nose. His eyelashes twitched. Her eyebrow arched in response, and she crooked her tongue against her lip in deep concentration. She went in a second time and that attempt elicited a full-on nose-scrunch. Florabel giggle-snorted into her palm. Encouraged, she inserted the feather into his nostril, giving it a maniacal wiggle. She ducked as his right hand lurched up and batted at the offending probe.

"Quit it, Sam." The words came out thick and drowsy. Dean cracked a goopy eye when he heard the little girl's puckish laugh.

Florabel cocked her head to the side, the picture of innocence. She pressed a couple of marbles into her mouth, offering him a bright smile through her chipmunk cheeks. "Something wake you up, there, Pally?" she asked hollowly through the marbles.

Dean gave her a groggy double-take. "Something or someone." He closed his lids with a sleepy puff of indignation and bunched the blanket in his fist, cuddling it closer.

Snickering, she climbed onto the bed, settling herself right next to him. Florabel poked him in the nose until he opened his eyes. "I ain't never met anyone who sleeps so much as you." She gave the feather an impish twirl with her fingers.

Dean noticed the offensive implement of torture in her hand. "You fiend."

Florabel cackled and nodded, agreeing, dusting her nose with the feather while Dean adjusted a pillow behind him. "Who's Sam?" she asked as she knocked the marbles together with her tongue.

Dean scrubbed his face with his working hand and focused his gritty eyes. He let out a puzzled huff of air. "Who?"

The little girl shrugged. "You said for Sam to ‘quit it' just now when you was still mostly asleep. Who's he?"

"S—Sam?" As he stumbled over the word, the room slipped away and he fell into the clutches of a series of swirling images. He saw a young boy curled asleep beside him. Next, he watched a dimpled teen doing calisthenics. Another image stuttered into focus; the same dark-haired boy, older now, tense and angry, tossed a shotgun into the trunk of a car. Colors ran together and one scene melted into another, until he found himself standing in a room engulfed in flames. The same young man…Sam…screamed and struggled as Dean pulled the boy to safety. Dean's eyes flew open as the ceiling exploded. He flinched and bucked in an instinctive bid to get away.

"Pally, no!" Florabel gasped, spitting the marbles from her mouth and trying to push him back. "You'll hurt yourself. Stay still, please!"

Dean's eyes ricocheted around the room, inspecting the ceiling for signs of fire. Recognizing his surroundings, he collapsed against the pillow, panting in dazed confusion. The vision had been so real. His body trembled with adrenaline, and he hissed as a hot, electric pulse rippled through his shoulder and arm. He palmed his face, trying to block out both the searing pain and the sudden impulse to leap up and run.

"Shhhh, Pally." The terrified child gulped and whimpered. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't ‘a woke you up. It's okay. You's gonna be okay."

Though they weren't memories in the strictest sense, the images evoked raw emotion. They'd felt real, as real as the little girl and the dusty bedroom. They'd felt more like…he grappled with the concepts…more like an accurate representation of reality. Or a more accurate representation of his reality, perhaps. The dimpled boy—Sam—had made the strongest impression on him. He was important. He was key. The compulsion to make contact had been so strong—to find Sam, to protect him. But no matter how hard he tried or from what angle he approached the images, the truth—the actual memory—remained out of reach. His head hurt from the strain.

"Dizzy," he managed to say. "I just…" He scanned his surroundings knowing intuitively that he didn't belong there. "I don't know what's happening. Everything is…all wrong."

"It's okay, Pally. Things is gonna come back to ya. Don't fret, now. Is Sam a friend of yours, maybe?"

Dean tried to remember, but the imagery eluded him like a piece of paper in the wind. Every time he went to grasp hold of a thought or a memory, it sailed further away. He saw only the black storm, heard only the chaotic incantation he couldn't get out of his head: Én itt beidéz, Hala. A szél az Ördög!

"I don't know who he is. But he's someone important. I know that much."

"Well just don't sit up so fast. You'll pull your shoulder. I don't want you to be hurt no more, Pally," Florabel said. "Doctorin' is fun, but you gotta git better so's you ‘n me can play marbles!" She tapped the two glass beads together, trying to cheer him up. "I hope you don't see Sam agin. He cain't be very nice, if'n it makes you so unhappy to ‘member him. Don't you give him another thought, Pally. Okay?"





**O**



February 8, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

"Dude, fuckin' get off me." Dean pushed Sam away with his good hand. "Personal space, geek-boy."

"Dean…" Sam watched his brother stifle a groan as he eased the watch off his wrist.

"Sonofabitch," Dean muttered, ignoring Sam. "What happened to ‘takes a licking and keeps on ticking'?" He shook the watch with a mournful whimper.

"It's not a Timex, Dean. I don't think it was waterproof, sorry."

Sam tried to keep his tone light, but the demise of Dean's wristwatch in the frigid waters of Lake Superior was just the tip of a very large iceberg of guilt. No matter how adamantly Dean insisted otherwise, Sam took full responsibility for all wounds, great and small, his brother had suffered under Meg's reign of terror.

"You're buying me a new watch when this is over." Dean fondled his watch one last time, heaved a tragic sigh, and tossed it into the backseat. The action forced an involuntary hiss of pain from him.

"Your shoulder's infected, Dean. You need to have it looked at."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, thanks for the diagnosis, Dr. Sexy. I'm not an idiot, all right? And just where should we go to have my gunshot wound looked at, huh?" he asked. "I think I'll pass on the mandatory police notification, thanks."

Sam sighed in exasperation, but he knew his brother was right. "Let me see it, Dean." He reached for the bandage.

"Dude, what the hell?" Dean flinched away. "I said I got it. Let's stop at a pharmacy on the way back and pick up more antibiotic cream. I'll take care of it. I'm not two years old, you know. I think I know how to take care of a simple flesh wound."

"Yeah, well you haven't. And don't think I can't see how much pain you're in. I'm not two years old, either, and I think I know the signs of a serious infection when I see them. We shouldn't even working this case. We need to stop and deal with this first."

"The bad guys never sleep, Sammy. They're more reliable than the Post Office. Neither snow, nor rain, nor bum shoulder, nor gloom of night or however the hell the saying goes."

"Dean, let me help, man. This is my fault"

"Dude, enough with the dewy-eyed, guilt trip, already. You had nothing to do with this." He reached across with his right hand and opened the door, bracing his wounded arm as he got out of the car. "C'mon, let's go talk to this Matt guy."

Sam watched Dean battle with his balance, and all the exaggerated stretching and overblown yawning he was doing to try and hide it didn't fool Sam for a minute.

"Jesus, get the lead out, Sammy." Dean peered at him through the window. Sam shook his head and got out of the car, boring holes into his brother all the way to the house.

Reaching the door, Sam knocked. After waiting a good twenty seconds Dean raised his eyebrows. Sam shrugged and knocked again.

"Sec!" someone called. "I'm gettin' there, hang on." There was a clatter, followed by a sharp intake of breath. "Goddamn, dumb-ass crutches!" At last the door opened, revealing a scruffy man of about thirty, balancing on one foot while trying to manhandle his crutches into place with little success.

"Matt Crawford?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, that's me. What's goin' on?"

"I'm Sam Ulrich, this is my partner Dean Hetfield. We're from OSHA. We'd like to talk to you about the accident at the construction site."

"Uh, yeah. Right. You can come in and talk all you want, but it wasn't no accident." Matt backed up and pivoted. After stumbling again, he gave up on the crutches altogether and hopped the rest of the way to the recliner. "Freakin' ass crutches. Y'gotta be a gymnast to use ‘em." He sat and drew the footrest out, settling himself. "Say, if you guys want a beer there's some in the kitchen," he said. "And you can grab me one, too, yeah?"

Dean quirked his cheek. "On it."

"Mr. Crawford, we read about what you told the reporter from the paper," Sam said. "We'd like to get the story from you, if that's all right."

"It's ‘Matt', and I ain't gonna change my story. So if you want to ‘tidy' the mess and make it look all pretty in your books, that's up to you. I saw what I saw, and I ain't changin' my story."

Dean handed Matt a beer and offered one to Sam who declined. He set the extra down and tried to open the bottle with his ring but couldn't get any leverage with his left hand. He attempted to cover it by opening it one-handed, but that didn't work, either. Grabbing the bottle with a huff, Sam opened it for him. Dean shrugged and took a couple of nonchalant gulps. Sam's lips thinned into a line of irritation and worry, but he said nothing. He turned to Matt.

"We're not trying to make you change your story. We just want to get a detailed account," Sam said. "Can you tell us what you saw?"

"Well, you read the papers. A damn ghost is what I saw." Matt pulled on his beer. "It was the ugliest damn sonofabitch I ever did see, too. I was up on the scaffold, and suddenly there it was. Damn thing smiled this wide-ass smile and started chanting something crazy."

"Could you make out what it said?" Sam asked.

"No, I couldn't make out what it said. I ain't taken a course in crazy-ass, ghost talk 101, yet. It's on my bucket-list, though." Dean turned to Sam and raised a lone eyebrow. "It was gibberish." Matt went on. "But that's when the wind started."

"Wind?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, it was blowing all hell, west, and crooked. The ghost started blippin' and flickerin'. An' that's when I noticed the other one."

"Another ghost?"

"I guess. Hell I don't really know for sure. It all happened so fast, and I was just a little preoccupied with, you know, not dyin' at the time. It was either two ghosts or the same ghost skippin' around or something. It'd be right next to me, then it'd show up on the other end of the scaffold. The chanting got really loud then. And the wind…? That's when the scaffolding started to snap and buckle." Matt took an emphatic glug from his bottle. "Have you ever seen the Tasmanian Devil cartoon?"

"Hell yeah." Dean grinned. "Taz can totally kick Daffy's ass." Sam cleared his throat in warning, but Dean just smirked and smacked his lips together. "So you were attacked by…the Tasmanian Devil?"

"Cute. No, but it looked similar. It was this rotating, dark cyclone. Then, there were these crazy fingers of electricity running through the poles of the scaffold. ‘Zzip—zzip'…you know…like Frankenstein," Matt said with a nod. "I knew I was in a shit storm then. I started to climb down, because I wanted to get the fuck away from that thing. I didn't get far when a huge gust hit me and that was it—lights out. I didn't even remember hitting the ground. I still don't. Got most of my memories back, but I don't have that one. Don't want it, either."

"And you couldn't remember anything at all when you woke up?" Sam asked.

"Not my own name. Not my wife's. Nothing. I couldn't even remember how to talk when I first come to. Finally, things started coming in flashes, but it wasn't until my brother came and showed me pictures of my high school football games that I remembered." He took another long drink. "Fellas, OSHA shouldn't be involved in this. You got things all wrong. It wasn't anything Gerry or the other contractors did. We followed the safety procedures to the letter. It wasn't a ‘work accident'. It was a freakin' ghost, so you boys can just stick that in your OSHA pipes and smoke ‘em," he said. "Sorry. But I ain't takin' it back."

"It's all right, Matt. We just wanted to find out what you had seen and heard." Sam turned to Dean who had disengaged from the conversation. He stood, rubbing his temples, fingers still clutching his beer. Sam noticed the fine sheen of sweat above his lip.

"I think we have enough." Sam plucked the beer from Dean's hand, snapping his attention back. "We good here?"

Dean pinched his eyes and blinked them wide open. "Yeah." He cleared his throat. "I think we have it covered."

"We'll let you know if we need any more information. Thanks for your time, Matt." Sam placed a firm hand on his brother's arm, guiding him to the door.

"One thing, though," Matt called from his chair.

"What's that?"

"I've never been more terrified in my life, you know. And it wasn't just because of seeing a ‘ghost'. It meant to harm me. It whispered to me and I felt more hate and evil coming from that thing than I've ever felt before. It ain't a joke. That thing wanted me dead. Don't go out there. You could get killed."

"We'll keep that in mind, Matt. Thanks again," Sam said before shutting the door. The rain and wind hadn't let up, and the wooden stairs were snotty-slick with rot. "Let me help you, Dean."

"I'm fine, dude. Take your damn hands off me. I think I can walk down four steps on my own." As if on cue, the moment Sam removed his hand, Dean over-compensated and stumbled on a step.

Sam reached out a steadying hand, giving his brother a triumphant bitchface as he helped him down the rest of the stairs. "How's that working out for you?"

Dean paused, obviously waiting for the agony in his shoulder to subside, before giving Sam a carefree grin. "I'm like a cat, Sammy. I always land on my feet."

Sam snorted. "That's because I kept you from face-planting, Dean. Now, give me the keys."

"The hell I will."

"Dude, you always pull this shit. Now give me the keys unless you're okay with passing out and crashing the damn car. I'm not joking, man. Keys or hospital. Your choice."

Dean sniffed haughtily and handed him the keys with an affected, casual smile. "Remind me to pick up your Midol while I'm at the pharmacy, Samantha," he said as he walked to the car on shaky legs.





**O**



February 19, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

"You look mighty handsome. I ain't never seen a boy as fine as you, Pally." Florabel crossed her legs Indian-style on the bed and put a marble between her toes, squeezing it until it popped out in a spectacular arc toward the head of the bed. It bounced off the headboard and rolled back into Florabel's waiting hand. She squealed with delight. "Look what I done, there, Pally."

"That's amazing, Florabel," he said as Emma wiped the last of the shaving cream from his face.

"There you go." Emma folded the rag. "All done. You sure you want to try and git up? We can bring your supper to you right here in bed."

Dean cupped his bandaged shoulder. It hurt, but he was fidgety and anxious to move. The four walls of the small room had closed in, day by day. Cabin fever had taken hold and Dean needed to move.

"I think I'd like to give it a try. My shoulder feels a bit better today."

"Mama and Jeb made everything special, Pally. We even got butter for the cornbread tonight. Penny was a good cow and gave extra cream. She must ‘a known you was gittin' up today." She rocked back and forth and clapped the soles of her feet together like a seal.

"Florabel, you skedaddle now. We'll be out in a minute." Emma scooted her daughter off the bed.

"Mama, I want to stay here."

"No ma'am. You do as you's told, Florabel. You mind me, now." Emma left no room for argument.

"You can sit next to me at dinner, Pally. I'll save you the best seat." She gathered her marbles and stuck them in her pocket. Emma saw her to the door, but the girl spun around, dawdling backwards. "See you soon!" She waved at him, beaming.

Emma shut the door and shook her head. "She's quite taken with you, Mr. Hetfield," she said, blushing. "I hope she don't trouble you too bad. She don't have many friends. I cain't let her go to school in case a black blizzard comes up. We ain't got a car anymore to go fetch her, so she gets rambunctious from being penned in so much."

"It's ‘Dean', and I'm pretty taken with her, too. She's a great kid. She's been good company."

"She talks too much. She got that from her papa. Never did know a man to jabber so much as Red." The spontaneous memory caught Emma off guard, and she looked away, her eyes wilting. When she turned back she was all business again. "All set?" She bent in, readying herself to get him out of bed.

"I'm sorry about your husband. Florabel told me he passed away last year."

"It's been a hard year." She cleared her throat, brushing the conversation aside. "Like I said, she talks too much." She gave him a weak smile and leaned in, gathering him up. "You ready?"

"Ready." His stomach lurched as he rose and he yawed into the young woman's helpful embrace, hugging her arm like a pillar. Blinking furiously, he waited for the spots before his eyes to clear.

Emma held him patiently, letting him cling to her. "You all right, Dean?"

He breathed through the nausea as the room tilted and twisted. "I think so. I just need a minute." He wondered if maybe he'd been overly ambitious thinking he could just get up and go on about his business.

"Do you need to lie back down?" She smoothed a hand over his back. "We can try this agin later. They ain't no hurry."

Dean's eyes popped open. "No!" He was surprised by the anxiety in is voice, but he couldn't bear another moment in bed without a break, at least. "No." He kept his tone even. "I'm good to go. I just needed a sec."

She nodded and grabbed a shirt with her free hand. Shifting him in the bed, she helped him swing his feet over the side and then let him rest some more. "Your shirt was all tore up when we found you," she said. "I have one of Red's that I cut the sleeve off of. We'll git that on you and then I made a sling that'll support your arm. I washed your trousers, but I think they may be too loose. You need to fill out some, agin. I have a pair of Red's overalls you can wear. You's a little taller ‘n him, but I let the hems down. And even though it's chilly, I ain't gonna try and fight you into a union suit with your arm hurt. If'n you get cold, we'll just git you a blanket."

"I'll be fine, really."

Emma drew the shirt over his head and situated his arm through the large hole where the sleeve had been. The woman soon became lost in her work and said nothing more until she'd guided each of his legs into the overalls, leaving them bunched around his thighs.

"I'm gonna have t'git you on your feet while I hitch these up." She warned him. "I want you to lean on me, an' if'n you feel like you's gonna pass out, you tell me so an' I'll git you right back down."

"Okay," he said miserably.

It took three tries, but he made it up at last, gritting his teeth in abject humiliation. He gripped his throbbing arm as he sat down, too wiped and too mortified to say anything. Emma swung one of the bib suspenders over his good shoulder and hooked it, leaving the other to dangle.

"We'll let that one be. Let's git you slung and your shoes on, an' we'll go have dinner. I dunno about you, but I surely worked up an appetite."

Dean studied her composed smile. "Why are you helping me?" he asked as she eased his arm into the sling.

"What a question, Mr. Hetfield."

He watched her work, trying to understand her, trying to understand any of this. "It's ‘Dean'. Why would you help someone you didn't even know for all this time?"

Emma shot him a glance and went back to work, adjusting the sling. She grabbed his boots and began working his feet into socks and shoes. Tying the laces with nimble fingers, she made eye contact. "If you come across me hurt and senseless in your barn, would you just leave me a-lyin' there?"

He blew out an incredulous breath. "No."

"Then why would you think we'd do something like that?" She paused and then shrugged. "You was hurt and you was here. There ain't no ‘why' beyond that. I wouldn't no more leave a man in need of help than I would any other of God's creatures." She finished with the laces and rose. "You may not remember much about who you are or where you come from, but I gotta wonder with all them scars you earned, what awful things you seen that would make you think folks wouldn't do you a kindness." When he made no response, she shook her head and smiled. "C'mon Dean. You's all ready for the feast." She made a sweeping motion toward the door and offered her arm. "Shall we?"

Once standing, she let him get his center before helping him shuffle to the door. "You's doin' real good, Dean." She encouraged him.

In the hallway Emma used the wall to brace herself as she took a good portion of his weight. When they turned the corner, Dean heard voices coming from a nearby room.

"No no no, Slaid, you got it all wrong. I reckon if your brains was dynamite, there wouldn't be enough to blow your nose," said a male voice. "If'n you see a black blizzard and the dust is black, it come from Kansas. Everyone knows that. Black from Kansas, Red from Oklahoma and gray from Colorado or New Mexico. Y'can always tell where a storm come from by the color. An' Kansas is dark black."

"Bah, Kansas is red," a second strange voice insisted as Emma and Dean entered the large country kitchen.

Florabel bustled around, setting the table while an older man stirred something in a large, cast iron kettle. A third man, thin and reedy, sat at the table. The little girl shrieked when she spotted Dean.

"Pally! You made it. You look so smart in them fine clothes!" She ran to greet him as though she hadn't seen him in ages. "We got stew and cornbread and butter! Jeb and Mama, they made sure the stew is good and thick. Do you like stew, Pally? It's real good."

"I'm sure I'll love it." His legs wobbled and threatened to give way. "Um, where should I sit?"

Florabel sensed his imbalance and scraped out a chair nearest the backdoor. "You sit right here, Pally. I'll be right next to you if'n you need anything." Emma helped him sit while Florabel danced in circles around them.

Once sitting, the little girl made the introductions. "This is Old Jeb. I told you all about him. He sat with you a lot when you was bad off."

Jeb stretched out hand, giving the young man's good arm a firm, friendly shake. "Mighty glad to see you up and about. Everyone was worried there for a day or two, but these two girls don't give up easy."

"We surely don't, thank you very much!" Florabel agreed with a self-assured nod.

"I can see that," Dean said. "I'm very grateful to everyone for helping me. I don't know what to say."

"Don't say nuttin'," Jeb said. "Emeline here is the most neighborly woman I ever did meet. I should know. I owe her more'n you do." Emma waved him off and started filling bowls.

"Ms. Livingston is the best woman in the county," Slaid said. Emma gave the farmhand an uncomfortable smile as she set a bowl down in front of him.

"That's Slaid." Florabel gave Dean a knowing glance. "He's the other farmhand I tol' you about."

Dean looked Slaid over. It was no mystery why Florabel didn't like him, monster or not, with his stained overalls and skeletal face, unkempt stubble growing all the way down his neck. Dean nodded coolly. "Hey."

"Devil Fighter rises from the dead, ya?" Slaid crumbled his cornbread like it was a clod of dirt and tossed it into his stew, spooning up a huge mouthful. "Good. Slaid won't have to dig big, big grave." He took another loud, wolfish bite.

Dean's stomach flopped squeamishly as he watched Slaid take another obnoxious bite. "You always talk with your mouth open, dude?" Florabel smirked around her own mouthful, her blue eyes star-struck and brimming with admiration.

Slaid licked a glob of gravy off his fingers and stared. "Dude?"

Jeb cleared his throat. "Emma says you don't remember how you got here." He set down his spoon. "You had some kind of card that said OSHA on it. What was it that we said it stood for, Em?"

Emma filled her bowl and sat down. "I don't recollect for sure. Something about safety and health."

"That's right." Jeb snapped his fingers and broke a piece of cornbread in half. "Occupational Safety and Health Administration. We was thinking you might work for the government."

Dean squirmed as they all focused on him. The words meant nothing. "I don't remember." He took an awkward bite of his stew. It was nothing more than meat and brown gravy, but it was warm and savory. He hadn't realize how hungry he was until that first bite. "This is really good."

"Mama's the best cook. She made good and sure no dust got in it. I don't taste hardly any grit at all." She buttered a piece of cornbread and handed it to him. "Put this in it, Pally. It makes it even better."

The meal progressed and Dean enjoyed both the food and the company. Emma's stabilizing calm, Jeb's easy laugh, not to mention, of course, Florabel's enthusiasm for everything helped to keep his mind off his shoulder. He filled up quickly, though, and wondered if he overdid it with what he did eat. By the time supper was over, he was sweaty and lightheaded.

Emma rose and cleared away the dishes. "You boys want some coffee?"

Dean perked up at the word. "Yes, please."

Jeb rose, "Let me help you, Emma." He placed a mug in front of Dean. "You remember if you take cream or not, Dean?"

"I'm not sure." He raised the mug of black coffee to his lips. The moment the hot, pleasantly bitter liquid passed his lips, he was transported elsewhere.

He saw himself at a table with a white, ceramic mug in front of him. The longer he watched the scene the more his point of view shifted from observer to participant. He had no memory of the event, but he now watched through his own eyes. He looked down at the mug, felt its warmth in his cupped hand. He sat, chatting with the same dimpled man he'd seen earlier. Sam. The boy laughed at something and dug into a plate of eggs.

Dean felt a comforting familiarity with Sam so close to him, and he knew with an instinctive certainty that if he could make physical contact, if he could just touch the kid, he'd remember everything he'd forgotten. Dean reached out—so close—almost there, but his hand suddenly slammed against an invisible barrier inches away from Sam. The image dissolved, and the Livingston's kitchen materialized around him. Emma captured his wayward hand that had hit her square in the breast when he'd groped out to touch Sam. Without a word, she calmly redirected it while trying to keep him from falling. Jeb stood next to her, lending a hand.

"Pally!" Florabel fought her way through the web of arms holding him. "It's okay, Pally. Don't fret, now. We gotcha."

Dean searched the faces of the people hovering over him. "What's happening?" He blinked, disoriented and dizzy.

"Devil Fighter faints like a girl." Slaid laughed. "Ya. We'll have to keep the salts handy for this one."

"You shut yer mouth, Slaid." Florabel's cheeks flamed red with anger. "He cain't help it. He gits spells sometimes. Don't you make fun. It ain't nice."

"Careful, little one." He licked his lips, grinning. "Or the big bad wolf will get you." He screwed his spiny, long-nailed fingers into claws and growled. The little girl squealed in terror and latched onto Dean like a limpet, burying her face in his chest.

"Careful Florabel!" Emma snatched the child back. "You'll hurt him."

"Slaid, you damn idiot." Jeb's nostrils flared as he roared at the man. "Why you gotta do that? You ain't right, you know that? I swear, somebody done stole your rudder at some point. And you wonder how she could git crazy notions about you." He shook his head in disgust. "You got no sense how to git along with people, and I cain't even excuse you on account of your foreign upbringing. I reckon where you come from, they'd think you was an ass, too."

"Language, Jeb," Emma scolded, juggling both Dean and Florabel.

Slaid blithely picked his teeth and chewed on a piece dislodged rabbit. "I was just funnin' with the little one. She knows I don't mean nothin'." He backed away. "I best go. Don't want to scare her. I'll leave her to tend the Ördög Fighter before he swoons again."

Dean's eyes went wide. "What did you say?"

Slaid grinned at him as he stepped around the table toward the backdoor. As he passed, he pretended to trip and slammed into Dean's wounded shoulder, shoving it into the table. Dean gasped in shock and agony. Slaid bent in, close. "I said I'll leave her to tend the Ördög Fighter."

Jeb pulled Slaid off Dean and shoved him toward the door. "Out!"

Slaid turned with an innocent shrug. "I'm sorry. I tripped."

"Don't give me that, Slaid. I swear you's so crooked you could swaller nails and spit corkscrews. Now, you git on out of here." Jeb slammed the door on the man.

The room dipped and pitched around Dean as he bobbed like a dinghy in a hurricane. He squinted at the hazy figures clutching him. He tried to listen to them, but he was deaf in his left ear and the right was ringing like a crystal goblet. The world around him turned stormy and black, just like the twisting vortex that had held him captive. And as he floated toward the kitchen floor, he suddenly remembered Slaid using the very word he'd heard over and over in the storm. Ördög. He didn't know what it meant or why Slaid of all people would utter it, but as soon as he was conscious again, he was going to find out, one way or another.

To Be Continued…

Back to Master Post

Continue to Chapter 7

 
 
 
beckydaspazbeckydaspaz on May 10th, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC)
So things I notice here when reading it the second time is that you managed to have all possible time lines in this one chapter...HOLY SHIT! What an accomplishment! Seriously though, you have the past, the present, the past/present (with Sam and Dean working the case) and yet it all flows so perfectly together and you write them SO distinctly different from each other, that not once was I like "wait where are we?"

That's talent, and you have it by the bucketloads. Really amazing work. And then of course Dean's confusion about where he is and who Sam is and where he belongs is just....beautiful. There is no other way to describe how wonderfully you write that. I hurt for him, but it's so heartwarming to see that even when Dean doesn't know anything, he knows Sam. Great job and such a nice thing to wake up to! :)

See you next chapter! Cause you're not getting rid of me, you know that by now right? :P

*love and hugs*

-Puddin'
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 11th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Thanks Puddin'! Yeah, you know, I never really thought of that juggling act there with the three different times! Ha! I'm glad it was all understandable! Yes, Sam is definitely going to remain on Dean's mind no matter how much or how little he remembers!

I really appreciate the comment! Big ol' hugs! You're the best!
Joapieceofcake on May 10th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
Good job you update twice a week, I really couldn't wait any longer! I am loving this :-)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 11th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
Wahoo! I am so glad you like it! Thank you SO much for the comment and the encouragement!
tifachingtifaching on May 21st, 2012 12:46 pm (UTC)
"the imagery had entirely overwhelmed and upended his equilibrium." That's how I feel as I'm reading this story.

So...the wind spirit knew Dean? I know this was mentioned in an earlier chapter, but I'm so intrigued to find out how Slaid could have known him before.

Sam's panic. Love it. And Dean's memories coming back. It's going to be harder for him with no Sammy there to spur them on, but he seems to be managing ok. Oh, the humiliation of Emma dressing him. Poor baby.

I loved the flashback to the interview with Matt. Dean's stubborn refusal to let Sam see the wound. Sam's guilt and concern.

I'm loving Emma and Florabel and Jeb more and more and Slaid is just getting creepier.

Edited at 2012-05-21 12:52 pm (UTC)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks SO much, T! I'm absolutely thrilled you are enjoying this. Yes, Dean is definitely going to have a harder time without any prompts. That's kind of why I stripped him of his 2007 "goodies"...cell phone, amulet, etc. I'm not going to make it easy on him! LOL. Poor guy. Geez.

Slaid is a bad baddie. He's kind of fun to write, but then I think....Did that come from me? What the hell does that say about ME? LOL.

Thanks again! I appreciate you reading this!!
Rince1windrince1wind on May 21st, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Okay, catching up now that last week and the busy weekend are over!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 21st, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
Yay! Welcome back!