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28 May 2012 @ 06:30 am
Dust Devils: Blood Of The Lamb (Chapter 11)  
April 13, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma




Dust Devils

Chapter 11

Blood Of The Lamb


**O**

April 13, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

It was more night than morning when Florabel opened her eyes, her tummy flopping with excitement as soon as she realized the weekend had arrived. With two whole days of non-stop Birthday celebrations, not even Christmas could incite as much hyperactive adrenaline.

Standing on her bed, she danced a very private jig of joy and hopped off, getting dressed in record time. A string of unspoken superlatives fluttered across her face as she beamed in the mirror, but she swallowed it all, trying extra hard to be quiet. She wriggled with anticipation and licked her hand, taming her bed-head and swooping her hair into one manageable braid. She promised herself she'd wash up good and proper as soon as she finished her chores.

First things first, though. She needed to sneak downstairs and poke Pally awake. Chore-time never felt at all like work when Pally was with her, teasing her and laughing as he caught centipedes faster than anyone ever could. She shoved her feet into a pair of floppy socks and laid her plans.

Pally needed to have fun today. He'd been quiet and mopey yesterday. He wouldn't eat his supper even after her mama had fussed at him; then, he'd been restless and uneasy, wandering aimlessly about the house. She tried to get him to play marbles with her, but he didn't even feel like doing that. Seeing monsters sure took a lot out of a person, she knew better than anyone. She plunged her feet into her shoes. Maybe Slaid had used his jabber on him after all, and he didn't want to say so. She would understand if he'd fibbed. That kind of thing was hard to talk about. It could ruin anyone's appetite and make a person fractious. She'd just have to work extra hard to cheer him up.

She tiptoed across the hardwood floor. Her mama's room was next door and if she got caught awake this early, she'd be sent right back to bed. Slinking out her door, she was surprised to see Pally sitting all by his lonely self at the head of the stairs. He spied her and palmed something into his pocket as she padded over to him, whispering.

"Whatcha doin', Pally?"

He straightened his back and stretched, giving her half a smile. He raked his fingers through his hair, his shaky hands hinting at an edgy weariness, his red-rimmed eyes confirming it.

"I was too excited." Florabel looked at his sad eyes and hollow cheeks. She didn't think he looked very excited at all, but she didn't contradict him. "Couldn't sleep." He continued to fib. "I decided to wait for you, but you should still be in bed. It ain't quite morning yet."

"I cain't sleep neither!" She flopped into his lap, uninvited but not unwelcome as he shifted and made way for her, wrapping his arm around her. "Ouch!" Whatever he'd put into his pocket was hard. "What is that, Pally? That smarts!" Dean moved her to his other knee.

"It's nothin'." He changed the subject and dug into his other pocket. "Oh, hey, look what I found." He opened his fist and poured four marbles into her hand.

"My lost marbles!" Her volume rose with her enthusiasm, and Dean put his finger to his lips. She whispered. "How'd you git ‘em?"

"Birthday fairy brought ‘em." He gave her another partial smile, slumping against the wall.

The little girl pinched her brows together. "That ain't a real smile, Pally. How come you ain't happy?"

"Who says I ain't happy?"

"Your eyes say so." She lowered her voice. "Did Slaid hurt you?"

Dean tugged her braid and rubbed her back. "No. I'm fine."

"You ain't, though." Florabel craned her neck, peering at him. "I know you purty good, an' they's somethin' wrong. If'n it ain't Slaid, what is it? Didja have a bad spell? Is you missin' Sam agin?"

Dean released a derisive huff. "No," he said, but then he faltered. "Maybe…I don't know"

"You'll see him agin, Pally. You just got t'believe."

He shook his head and swallowed. "I don't think so." They sat in laden silence. "I think you might be stuck with me."

"Then, this really is the best day ever. Even if they was no jackrabbit drive or dance." She melted against him. "Mama an' me will keep you forever ‘n ever. We won't never hurt you."  With a serene, tender smile, she reached up and pressed a marble into one of his nostrils.

"Uh, Florabel—what are you doing?"

"Givin' you a present." Her voice was dreamy with devotion, her blue eyes brimming with love. "It's a lucky marble. You have to keep it forever ‘n ever."

Dean chuckled. "You're a weird kid. You know that?"

"Maybe." She gave him a mischievous grin. "But at least you's smilin' now."

He took the marble from his nose and examined it. It was the marble he'd retrieved from under Jeb's cot. He held it up to her face. "Same pretty color as your eyes, Florabel." He stuffed it in his pocket. "I'll never part with it."



**O**

February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

Sam sighed. "I tried to hold on, but we fell. That's all I remember."

"Jesus, boy." Bobby scratched his stubble. "This is sure one hell of a mess."

"Tell me he's not dead, Bobby." Sam supported his ribs with his arm and ground his teeth. "Tell me we can get him back."

Bobby blew out a lungful of air. "I—I'm not…"

"We're getting him back." Sam stood, his face defiant. "So let's get to work."

The old hunter released a puff of tense air. "We hear you, kid." He glanced at Ellen. "Jesus." He put his cap on. "Okay, so what do we know, here? We got us two vengeful spirits and an elemental, by the sounds of it."

"Hala," Ellen said. "That's what he called it, Sam?"

"Yeah. I'm pretty sure that was the word. You ever hear of it?"

Ellen sat and opened the laptop. "Bobby, you remember ‘bout ten years ago when Joshua banished that elemental up in Rome, NY? What was it he called it? Ale? Ala? What do you want to bet they're related?" She settled in, her fingers flying across the keyboard. "Here!" Sam and Bobby gathered around.

"A Russian wind-demon?" Sam's eyes scanned the screen. "Can a wind-demon swallow people?"

Bobby read along. "Technically, it says it's a Slavic wind-demon. There's various related lore all over Eastern Europe. We're talking very dark, raw energy, here—primitive."

"That's probably why your brain rebooted when you got too close; though, I've heard that even weak elementals can scramble folks' eggs if they don't know what they're doing," Ellen said.

Bobby continued to read over Ellen's shoulder. "These things are barely sentient. Says here, a couple hundred years ago, people used to think they were a source of tappable

power—that anyone who summoned and compelled the demon would gain power over nature. Some even believed you could gain power over people, that one could control them—bind them somehow."

"Yeah." Ellen pointed to the screen. "But it says here that was a false assumption. These demons don't bestow power to control minds. The power allows one to direct or conduct the demon, focus its power to destroy things."

"Okay, but how in the hell did it know Dean?" Sam asked. "He was adamant that he'd never been here before, but this spirit wasn't a death-echo mistaking Dean for someone else. It called him by name."

Bobby pinched the bridge of his nose. "It don't make a lick of sense."

"And how or why did it take him?" Sam asked.

"Dunno as it was a conscious decision." Bobby scratched his neck. "If you have two people pulling on something, sometimes you wind up breaking the very thing you're fightin' over. And this thing is just energy."

"Shit." Ellen jolted in her seat, squinting at the screen. "It says these things were once used as doorways or portals. Russian folklore says black sorcerers and mystics used them to move about from place to place. They'd summon two or three demons in different locations and travel from one to the other. It says only the most powerful mystics could control the wind-demon in this fashion, but it was ill advised, because," she read, "It was as though he who walked through the portal had takena draught of the River Lethe, his mind cleared of past and present with no propitious means of recollection." Ellen finished reading. "Sound like anyone we know?" She nodded to the others. "So we have to be dealing with a bitch of a ghost. It has to be strong to create a portal."

"Or maybe it has to do with the two spirits having a pissing contest. Could be it's responding to their combined energies." Bobby said.

"But wouldn't there have to be a wind-demon summoned somewhere else for it to be used as a portal?" Sam asked.

"You'd think." Ellen leaned back in the chair, contemplating.

"So," Bobby looked from one to the other, "all we have to do is find the other person who happened to have summoned a wind-demon somewhere on the planet and ask them for our friend back."

Sam paced the room. "Dean would have called even if he'd ended up in Siberia. He'd have found a way if he could." He ran his hands through his hair. "He was bad off even before he got too close to the demon. So he's probably hurt and scrambled, both. How're we gonna get him back if we don't know where the other elemental is?"

"It's too bad we can't get the elemental to reopen the portal and go fetch him," Ellen said. "But whoever tried to go after him would wind up with no memories of why they went there in the first place. We'd just lose the other person as well."

Bobby stopped short. "That gives me an idea that might work." He shooed Ellen away from the keyboard and started plugging away at something. "Anyone up for trapping a wind-demon and keeping two vengeful spirits at bay for a while?"

"You make it sound so easy, Bobby," Sam said with a huff.

"Ain't gonna be easy. It's gonna be reckless, dumb and dangerous."

Ellen laughed at that. "Aw now, Bobby Singer, I always knew you'd eventually say those three little words that would make my heart go pitter-patter." She leaned in to read the webpage Bobby brought up. "How can I resist?"



**O**

April 13, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

The sun had no warmth to it, but it was the sun. Visible for the first time in over a month, it shone bright enough to cast pale shadows. There was even a blue tinge to the sky. The wind still whipped dirt in their faces as they walked, but it was much calmer than it had been. Florabel thought it was a perfect start to a festive weekend, and the fact that they had kicked things off by walking toward Boise City was enough to make her burst with happiness.

Her mama had spent the morning making her wash and change into her best overalls. Mama and Pally had worked together, packing the baked beans that mama had made for the dance that night and had gotten everything ready to go. She couldn't believe they were finally on the way to the jackrabbit drive. Sandwiched between the adults, Florabel skip-hopped joyfully as they made their way toward town. Emma and Dean each took one of her hands and let her swing between them.

"Higher! Higher!" She laughed and whooped as they took running steps, leveraging themselves to get her more altitude. As she came down, Dean caught her and tossed her onto his shoulders. The little girl squealed and held onto his chin. "I ain't never been so tall before!"

"Be careful." Dean hopped, hoisting her higher. "Your head might hit the clouds. How's the weather up there?"

Florabel bounced and shimmied with delight. She wet her finger and stuck it high in the air. "Fair to middlin'!" She gave her report. "How's the weather down there?"

Dean took his own reading. "Fair to middlin' down here, too."

"Don't you hurt his shoulder, baby girl." Emma set a warning hand on Florabel's leg as she continued to bounce.

"She's fine," Dean said with a smile. "Here, let me get that." He took the basket Emma carried. Dean shifted it into his other hand and put his arm around Emma's shoulder when she took a small misstep off the side of the road. She moved in closer to him, welcoming the contact. Florabel giggled above them.

"What so funny?" Dean squinted up at her.

"Nothin'." She swung her heels against his chest. "This is just the best day ever. I cain't help myself!"

***

Below her, Dean strove to put aside the devastation of the past twenty-four hours, determined to do whatever he needed to make the day special. Things were off to a good start. He found himself relaxing as he walked. Florabel's slight weight on his shoulders and Emma's gentle presence soothed him like a comforting balm. The solace he found in these two was genuine. He gave Emma's shoulder an affectionate pat, and she responded with a soft, open smile as they walked.

After a couple of miles Emma pointed in front of them. "Look at all them people."

The crowd bottlenecked at the turnoff leading to the Crawford's farm. Folks nodded pleasantly to them as the trio pressed through the traffic jam and down a dirt road lined with dead, wind-beaten trees. Walking toward the large barn and an even larger crowd, Dean shriveled into himself, uncomfortable and out of his element. If he had to hazard a guess, he suspected he hadn't been much of a people-person in his past. Claustrophobia settled in as he walked by so many staring eyes. Florabel bounced against him with uncontained energy and excitement.

"Lizzy!" With a yelp of joy Florabel crawled down Dean's back as if he was a jungle gym. He reached behind him to ensure she didn't fall. A girl of a similar age waved and dragged her mother by the hand as the two children torpedoed toward one another. Meeting, they jumped and hopped around each other.

"We miss you so much at school!" Lizzy clung to her friend. "It ain't the same without you there."

Emma hugged Lizzy's mother. "Pauline." She kissed her cheek. "It's so good to see you agin."

"Come meet Pally!" Florabel hauled Lizzy over until they stood before Dean. He knelt and held out his hand. "This is Lizzy. I told you all about her, ‘member?"

"I sure do," he said. "Hiya Lizzy. Is this your farm?"

"Mmm hmm." Lizzy flushed and shook his hand. She whispered in Florabel's ear, her eyes on Dean. Florabel giggled and gossiped something back.

"Dean, this is Lizzy's mother, Pauline," Emma said, rescuing him. He stood and shook the woman's hand. "Pauline and I went to school together."

Pauline Crawford looked from Dean to Emma, beaming. "I'm so glad to meet you, Dean." She patted his hand. "Welcome. You make good ‘n sure Emma keeps a tight hold on you today, especially if Jane Coulter catches sight of you."

"Huh?" His brow pleated. "Who's she?"

Pauline laughed and gave Emma a sideways glance. "She's…"

"…desperate." Emma finished, and the two women eyed each other and laughed.

Dean stuffed his hands in his pockets, gripping Florabel's blue marble like a talisman. He hummed a tune he couldn't remember the name of to soothe his sudden social anxiety.

Pauline noticed his nervous tension and laughed. "Oh, it'll be all right. You'll be able to weather the likes of Jane." She took another look at Emma and Dean. "Well, it was real nice meetin' you. I cain't tell you how much. I gotta git, they's so much to do for the dance later on. Jack an' me's been runnin' like chickens with our heads cut off for days now." She took her daughter's hand. "Come on, Lizzy."

Lizzy twined a finger around one of her curls. "Mama, I wanna stay with Florabel, cain't I stay?"

Pauline waited for Emma. "We got her." Emma said, resting a hand on Lizzy's head. "She can stay with us for the rabbit drive. Why don't you take this?" She motioned for Dean to hand her the basket. "It's for tonight. We'll watch Lizzy for a few hours."

Pauline grabbed the basket and embraced her friend again. "All right." She turned to Lizzy. "You mind Emma and Dean, now, and don't run off nowheres. It's a big prairie."

"I'll be good, Mama." She and Florabel clutched each other and twirled with happiness.

After that, it became a constant stream of introductions—stranger after stranger—until Dean couldn't remember who was who. The Osteen brothers had come up at one point and thumped him good-naturedly, bragging to Emma what a great pool player he was. Dean's head swam from the constant stimulation. Every person they spoke to regarded him with such friendly curiosity, with such open fondness, that he didn't know what to say or what to do. He'd been clapped on the back, hugged, pinched, prodded and poked by person after person happy to meet him. He found it all…bewildering. Sam's twisted rejection had left him so wrung and broken, he didn't believe he merited the neighborly acceptance and kindness these people offered.

"You all right, Dean?" Emma asked. "You muddlin' through okay?"

He smiled down at her. "I'm fine," he said. "I don't reckon I spent much time with people in my past. This is all kind of new."

Emma thumbed some lipstick from his cheek, tsking. "I see Old-lady Folkers and her ol' wrinkly, dewlap of a double-chin left a partin' gift for ya. Gracious, Dean, you'll be scarred for life." She laughed, grabbing a hanky and wiping. "You's doin' real good." She encouraged him, her eyes soft with concern. "Looks like they's gonna have a big turnout today. I heard someone say we might have close to five-hundred folks here." She patted his arm. "But, purty soon the drive will start an' then you'll have somethin' to think about ‘sides all them people." Her smile dropped off her face, spotting something behind Dean. "Oh dear." Dean turned to see what had upset her.

And just like that, his social anxiety melted away as Slaid and Jeb approached. Dean stiffened with fury. His hand went into his pocket, grasping Jeb's gun, wanting nothing more than to put a bullet in that monster's brain right there. He drew Florabel close. She looked up, confused, until she saw what was coming. She moved in without a word.

"Big day, ya?" Slaid said as he walked up.

Emma acknowledged him with a tight smile. "Looks like they have a mighty big group today with the wind as calm as it is." She kept a soothing hand on Dean's twitching back.

"Our rabbit drive is gonna be the biggest there ever was." Lizzy clapped her hands, boasting. Florabel tried to get a grip on her hand, but Lizzy walked toward Slaid as he bent down to her.

"Is that right, little one?" His wolfish eyes raked over her as he stroked the girl's long, black braids. "So dark and pretty you are."

Dean took two strides, gripped Slaid's shirt and brought him up. "Don't touch her."

Emma moved between them in an instant, pushing them apart. "None of that here, you two. I won't have it." Her voice told Dean she meant business. She gripped Dean's arm, attempting to lead him and the children away.

Slaid backed off, his hands in the air in capitulation. "Big Devil Fighter, always causing trouble, ya?" He shrugged. A few other people caught wind of the altercation and gathered around, whispering. "Wants little girls all to himself, maybe?"

"You sonofabitch." Dean's vision tunneled as he charged the man. Halfway to his target, sturdy arms wrapped around his chest, restraining him.

"All right, there, son." Jeb adjusted his grip on Dean, steadying him. "Let's just go on and take a little walk, now."

Dean's eyes remained fixed on Slaid's as Emma and Jeb led him away. Once Slaid disappeared into the crowd Dean shrugged Jeb's arms off him. "I'm fine, Jeb. Damn it, let me go."

"You just need to cool off a moment, there, Dean. What's got into you? Slaid's a simple fool, and a rude one at that, but he wasn't doin' nothin'."

Dean huffed, wondering how Jeb would react if he knew. He'd promised Florabel he wouldn't say anything, though, and for the moment, he'd stay true to his word. But these people needed to know what the man had done. He couldn't protect Florabel with Emma and Jeb fighting him. The weekend—he'd give her this one damn weekend she'd so looked forward to, but then he'd have to break his promise. Dean bent over and took several breaths. Emma placed a hand on his nape. He tried to wince away, but she wouldn't let him.

"You's all right, Dean," she said. "Slaid was just tryin' to be neighborly."

Dean let out a lungful of air, teeth grinding against each other. "Yeah, okay."

"Come on, Pally." Florabel took his hand and tugged at him. "Let's go line up for the drive. They's getting' everyone ready to go. Let's have some fun."

"Okay." He could do this. It was only a couple of days. "Lead the way."



**O**

Despite spending most of the time shadowing Florabel and Lizzy, the jackrabbit drive was a truly surreal experience and not something Dean'd soon forget. Hundreds of people queued up, spaced a few feet apart, and walked in a line through the dead scrub, kicking up dust as they strode along. Some struck spoons on pots, some beat drums, everyone shouted and whooped. Most of the men and boys carried clubs, beating them on the ground to herd the rabbits in the desired direction.

Florabel squealed with delight when she saw her first jackrabbit. Panic-stricken, it bounded from a knot of dead thistle and leapt ahead of the approaching wall of humanity. Soon one rabbit became two and then two became three. In no the entire floor of the prairie swarmed with jackrabbits, scurrying in and out of buffalo-wallows, frantically seeking shelter but finding none.

The crowd dogged the rabbits for close to a mile into the prairie and then swept around, hemming in as many as possible and walking back, a carpet of rabbits sprinting before them.

Soon after they'd made the turn, Dean noticed Slaid had wormed his way near Emma and the girls. Holding a club in his hand, the farmhand pounded the ground as he walked. Making eye contact with Dean, he gave him a curl of his lip and pounded the earth again. He cased Florabel and Lizzy, pointedly edging closer, making a game out of harassing them—harassing Dean. Slaid smirked at Dean, challenging him to do something about it.

Dean decided to do some herding of his own. Gathering the oblivious women, he guided them to another place in the line. No sooner had Dean settled them but Slaid showed up again, malicious glee in his eyes.

Florabel and Lizzy ran about, mindless with excitement and adventure, chasing after stray rabbits that hopped and bounded through their legs in a desperate bid to stay ahead of the clubs. The children took no notice of Slaid hovering behind them, bating Dean. When Slaid followed them again after another move, Dean had had enough. Just as he dashed forward to take a swing at the bastard, the crowd shifted and tightened, creating a thin, tight run for the rabbits, leading them to the pens. The scene soon became chaotic and confusing, people running about, trying to contain hundreds of frenzied rabbits bounding everywhere. Dean lost Slaid in the crowd.

Dean shepherded the girls while their attention remained on the swarming rabbits. Within minutes the gates closed, trapping over a thousand of them in the holding pen. Dean remained tense and alert, scanning the crowd for Slaid but not finding him.

A tall man with a megaphone addressed the crowd. "Now we're gonna be gittin' these here fine critters on the trucks in just a few moments." He winked at the crowd. "So any folks who want to take them-there young kiddies on to the barn for some punch while we show these fine varmits a right-good send off, you best take them and skedaddle." Several parents took the hint and led the younger children toward the barn.

"Come on, Florabel." Emma took the girls by their hands to lead them away. "Let's go git some punch."

Before she moved, Slaid dashed from the crowd with a hoarse cry. Hopping the fence, he clubbed a rabbit to death right in front of Florabel and Lizzy. There was a moment of confusion as other teen boys and young men, thinking it was time to do their job, also jumped the fence and began beating the rabbits to death.

"Whoa, not yet fellers! Let's git them toddlin' kiddies to the barn first!" The man with the megaphone tried to stop the slaughter, but it was too late.

The girls screamed as Slaid continued to club the rabbit long past the point of death, blood spattering his face and overalls. Dean scooped up both girls and ran to the barn. Other shocked parents did the same. The bleating of the children was soon drowned out by the piercing, shrieks of dying rabbits.

Once out of earshot of the ongoing slaughter, Dean turned to Emma. "I'm gonna kill him." Emma reached out to comfort Florabel.

"I didn't know they was gonna kill ‘em!" The little girl sobbed into Dean's shirt.

"Come on, now, Florabel." Emma met Dean's eye and shook her head. "All them rabbits is pests. You's old enough to know they cain't stay. An' they's gonna feed a lot of starvin' pigs, now. Don't fuss so hard." She pried Florabel away from Dean and set her on the ground. "You an' Lizzy go git yourselves some punch now. It'll be all right."

The two girls hugged each other and walked toward the punch-bowl snuffling as they went. Dean looked at Emma in shock, but Emma took a pragmatic stance. "They'll be fine, Dean. They's farm girls. They ain't too young to learn the difference between pets and food."

"Doesn't matter when you have an evil dick deliberately trying to frighten them."

"I know." Emma nodded, ceding the point. "Slaid's so dumb I don't think he has nothin' under his hat but hair. My God, I don't know what he was a-thinkin'."

Dean knew exactly what Slaid was thinking. And he didn't know if he'd make it through the weekend without killing the sadistic sonofabitch.



**O**

"Sorry." He stepped on Emma's foot again. The sleepless night spent waiting for Slaid, the disastrous rabbit drive, plus keeping an eye on two hyperactive little girls had caught up with him, and his valiant attempts to keep the square had been a miserable failure. He'd flailed more than he'd danced.

He did it again. "Damn, I'm sorry Em." Emma kept encouraging him, though, bruised trooper that she was. Dean craned his neck, making sure Florabel and Lizzy were still dancing together not far away. There'd been no sign of Slaid since the kerfuffle at the jackrabbit drive. While Dean hoped the farmhand's little stunt had gotten him tossed out, he remained on high alert.

"The other way, Dean." Emma laughed as he slammed into her, having taken a wrong turn. He corrected course, spinning the other way and ran into another poor woman.

"Sorry! Sorry!" Dean winced as the woman limped away from him.

Emma grabbed his hand, steering him from the square. "Let's take a breather." Her eyes sparkled with amusement. "I don't know about you, but I'm so thirsty I cain't think straight." She led him to the punch bowl and poured them both a cup.

"God, I suck at this." Dean leaned against the table, swallowing the punch in two gulps.

Emma brushed a sweaty tuft of hair off his forehead. "Don't matter none, Dean. I'm havin' fun." She leaned against the table with him and watched the dancers. "Red always played with the band, so I ain't never danced much mys—"

"Why Emma Livingston, you didn't tell me this sweet boy was yours!" Dean heard a vaguely familiar voice. Glancing up, he noticed it belonged to the buxom woman from the store where he'd purchased Florabel's gifts the day before.

"Hello Jane." Emma greeted the woman with a strained smile. "Jane this is Dean. Dean, this is Jane Coulter."

"Oh my, we don't need no introductions, sweetheart. We already met, ain't that right, handsome?" She bounced on her hip and cooed, giving him a naughty laugh and a slap, as though they were sharing a private joke. Emma's eyebrows nearly flew off her forehead.

Dean offered her an awkward smile, shrugging. "We met at the store yesterday when I was there."

"Oh my, yes indeed." The woman sauntered closer, a lascivious gleam in her eye. "And what a flirt this boy of yours is, I might add." She tittered until she snorted.

Dean opened his mouth in surprise and coughed out a lungful of air. He turned to Emma to deny it, but she just rolled her eyes, letting him know she knew Jane was exaggerating.

"I cain't imagine Dean being anything but a perfect gentleman," Emma said. "Course it ain't easy when folks is throwin' themselves at him." Before Jane could do anything but gasp in offense, Dean stiffened.

"Florabel." He interrupted the women's cat-fight. "I can't see her. She was right there." He crossed the barn toward where the girls had been dancing. They were now nowhere in sight.

"She cain't be far." Emma followed him. "Don't worry so, Dean." But Dean wasn't having it. He called her name with no regard to volume, his eyes darting about the barn in a panic.

"Florabel!"

The little girl waved from the musician's platform where she and Lizzy had wandered and ran back to the adults. "We's right here!"

Dean bent down. "Don't run off like that," he said. "Stay where I can see you, okay?" He looked at her and silently communicated the need to stay close with Slaid in the vicinity.

"I will, Pally. I'm sorry." She bobbed her head, understanding him. "I was just sayin' howdy to Papa's old friends."

"All right." He grudgingly released her back into Lizzy's care.

Florabel signaled to the fiddler who winked and gave her a thumbs-up. He gathered the other musicians and began a slow ballad, breaking up the squares as people paired off. Florabel assessed the situation and set to work.

"You ‘n Mama need to dance this one." She pushed the two together. "It ain't even a square dance. You can just hold her tight and dance nice and slow." She pointed to the dance floor. "That a-way you won't step on her feet."

"Don't be so sure." Dean laughed, scratching the back of his neck. "Want to risk it, Em?"

"I believe I can manage one more, Mr. Hetfield. I don't think I need steel-toed boots just yet." Walking to the dance floor, she placed her hand on his scarred shoulder, while he settled his hand on her waist, drawing her in.

Dean glanced at Florabel who waved at him. She whispered something to Lizzy that set the two of them giggling like mad. Dean rolled his eyes at, shaking his head. Despite Florabel's transparent attempts at matchmaking, despite his hyper vigilance, Dean found himself drawn to Emma as she smiled at him.

Emma's blue eyes caught the reflection of the lanterns strung from the rafters, filling her pupils with a cluster of glistening sparks. He gazed at her lovely face, somewhat pared and pinched by drought and grief, but still beautiful. Admiring the small patch of freckles on her nose and her smooth skin, his eyes lowered, moving past her sinuous neck, roving over her clavicle and coming to rest where her fluttering heart gave away her nervous excitement.

And there it was, he thought; this was the beat of Emma's return to life. This was her moment of choice, her daring to hope again. Dean wanted to kiss her, wanted to put everything aside and lose himself in her open warmth. He'd been so preoccupied for the past two months, first with his injury, then with Sam. Now that both of those intrusions were out of the way, now that Sam was no longer pulling at him—and he wasn't, Dean reminded himself—now that he had to worry only about Slaid, he would soon be free to relax.

Once he had taken care of Slaid, the first thing he intended to do was to spend more time getting to know the woman who'd brought him back from the brink of death. And he wanted to know her. He sincerely did. His head bent toward hers, almost of its own volition. She responded, tilting her head to meet his, when Dean suddenly felt an intrusive tap on his shoulder, yanking him back to reality. He spun around to find Slaid standing there.

Dean went rigid, striving to keep his temper. He took a protective step in front of Emma. "What?" He spat the word at Slaid.

Slaid cleared his throat and nudged his chin, indicating his intent to cut in. "Do you mind?" he said with feigned politeness.

"You freakin' kidding me?" Dean glared at the man. "I don't think so, pal." He turned his back on the farmhand.

Slaid pressed, tapping his shoulder again. "Maybe you should let the lady decide." He put his hand on Emma's sleeve.

Dean deferred to Emma, her eyes relaying her unease and aversion. He turned back to Slaid. "She doesn't want to dance. So, get your goddamned hands off her."

Slaid smiled, playing his hand with seeming a cool head. "You want to make a scene, Devil Fighter? Let everyone see what you really are?"

His game faltered, however, as his placid charm gave way to violent anger, when Emma tried to pull away. His demeanor changed in an instant and he yanked at Emma's arm, loudly tearing her sleeve and making her cry out in surprise and pain. Several nearby dancers gasped at the brutality of it, but before anyone could wrench Slaid away, Dean had him by the throat. Barreling through the scattering crowd, squeezing the farmhand, Dean pushed him through the open barn door and into the wall of an adjacent shed.

Slaid squirmed, breathing hard, his face wheyish and sweating.

"Don't you fucking move." Dean flattened him against the wall, coming within an inch of his face. He kept his voice low as people ran up, drawn by the commotion. "Don't you ever touch them. I know what you are, you dick. I know what you did to Florabel. And I've seen your little shop of horrors under the barn, you miserable, sadistic fuck."

Slaid smiled up at him, all bravado and bluster. "I don't know what you mean."

"If you ever lay another finger on either of them, it'll be the last thing you do. Do got me?"

Slaid grinned, dropping his charade. He pressed his lips against Dean's ear. "So, you want the little whore for your own?" His breath came hot and foul. "Of course you do. But you'll always know I fucked her first." He licked his lips. "And, Mmm, the sounds she made—the screams. They were—"

Dean heard the satisfying crunch of Slaid's nose as it caved beneath his fist, a rope of blood whipping out and spattering the shed as Slaid's head snapped around. Several men jumped in, separating the two, even as Dean fought to land another punch.

"Ho there, Dean!" Dex Osteen shouted, a hand on Dean's chest as he pushed him back. "Easy there, hero. You taught him a lesson. Let's let him live long enough to put it to good use, eh?" The young man clapped Dean on the shoulder, trying to get him to stand down. Other boys came running forward, spoiling for some action.

Charlie Haffner hoisted Slaid to his feet and pushed him away, getting more distance between the two rivals. "Move on, Slaid. Ain't no call to be rough with a woman, you damn fool. You got what was comin' to you, now git on out'a here."

Slaid sucked in several breaths and cupped his nose. When he saw that the crowd stood behind Dean, he shrugged. "It was an accident. The stranger has always been against me. I've done nothing."

"Like hell you haven't," Dex said. "Go on, now. The dance is over for you, tonight."

Slaid daubed at the blood running from his nose, smearing it on his cheek and flicking it from his fingers.

He addressed the crowd. "Devil Fighter has you all fooled." Noticing Florabel, he tossed her a seedy smile. "See you at home, little one." He stepped back as Dean fought against the boys holding him. Turning to the crowd, he made a flamboyant bow before walking off.

Emma pushed her way through the crowd, her face twisted with horror and worry. "Florabel." Her voice trembled. "Go git our things. I think it's time we left."

"But Mama!"

"You mind me, now, Florabel!" She stopped short, taking a moment to collect herself. "It's gittin' late and we have a big day tomorrow." She steadied her voice this time. "Say goodbye to Lizzy." The little girl trudged off to do as her mother said.

The tension started to ebb. Charlie slapped Dean on the back. "You done right, Dean. Ain't no way to treat a lady."

"I'd a'done the same thing." Ed Haffner agreed.

Dex burst out laughing. "Lord alive, Dean. ‘Mind me to never git on your bad side. Hot damn!"

A stern throat-clearing from Emma brought the men to their senses.

"Sorry Mrs. Livingston." Dex tipped his hat to her sheepishly.

Dean stood still as she approached, expecting the worst, swallowing nervously. Emma stopped in front of him and was quiet for a long moment. When she spoke at last, there was a sparkle in her eye.

"Thank you, Mr. Hetfield." She gave him a quick pat on his arm. "That was very chivalrous of you." The crowd gathered around gabbling and giggling, egging them on.

"That weren't no proper ‘thank-you,' Emma." Pauline chuckled from behind her husband. Several other people hooted and snickered in agreement.

Florabel pushed her way between the legs and skirts of the onlookers, lugging the basket. She stopped short when she saw Dean and Emma standing together. Emma shook her head, eyes dancing as she looked at Dean. She kissed his cheek and offered a cautious hug that grew warmer as he returned it. The crowd erupted like confetti popping at midnight, showering them with sparkly whoops of approval.

Florabel's mouth opened in a perfect full-moon of stunned delight, and she ran to them, hugging their legs. "This is the most perfectest day ever!"



**O**

February 12, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

"What kind of spell?" Sam stood over Bobby who hunted and pecked at the keyboard.

"A retrieval spell. It might work, but it's gonna take a whole lot'a things going just right. We need to provoke the ghosts into summoning the elemental. We gotta hope they struggle against each other and create another portal. Once the doorway is open we trap the elemental and hold it in place—perform the retrieval spell, then banish the elemental once we have Dean back. As for the spirits, well, we'll have to deal with them once this is all over. For now, we need them."

"And you an' what army is gonna pull this off?" Ellen said.

Bobby shrugged. "We need a couple people to hold off the spirits once the portal is open and another to perform the rituals. The rest is just us not gettin' dead. And we've all had our practice at that."

Sam fingered the amulet hanging around his neck. "When do we do this?"

"We're gonna need some supplies." Bobby grabbed a piece of paper and to make a list. "We also need to get them to stop construction work. We'll need you to go in, perform your OSHA magic and convince that foreman to shut down until further notice. We want Dean back, but we also have to make sure these folks don't get hurt in the meantime."

Ellen watched Sam wince and grip his side. "You feelin' up to this, sweetie?"

Sam used his arm to support his ribs as he walked toward the door. "I could be on life support and I'd be up for this. I'm not leaving Dean out there. I'm getting him back. Tonight. That's all there is to it."

Ellen raised her eyebrows. "Yeah, okay, that was probably one of my dumber questions."

"All right." Bobby grabbed his keys and headed for the door. "Let's get this thing done. Time's a wastin'."



**O**

April 13, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

A glum Lizzy Crawford sat on the lip of the stage, idly watching the fiddlers play. The dance floor had long ago thinned. The little girl hopped off the riser and ran to the doorway where her mother chatted with a couple of old ladies.

She tugged at her dress. "Mama, I'm bored."

Pauline caressed her daughter's hair. "Ain't the same without Florabel, huh?"

"There ain't nothin' to do," the child said with a cavernous yawn.

"Well, it's way past your bedtime." She hugged her daughter to her. "Why don't you go on to the house and git yourself ready for bed, and I'll be along in few minutes to tuck you in."

"But I ain't even the least bit tired." Lizzy blinked slowly.

"Looks to me like either your lips is fibbin' or your eyes is. I'm thinkin' it's your lips," Pauline said. "You go on and git to bed. Mama will be up in a few minutes. I just want to see a few more folks off. It's been a big day and we's all tuckered, so I won't be long." She brushed a kiss against her child's nose and patted her bottom, sending her on her way.

"Night Mama." Lizzy skipped off toward the farmhouse.

It had been a thrilling night for her, getting to spend time with Florabel and meeting her new papa. The last time they'd seen each other had been at little Henry's funeral. It was nice to see her smile and laugh again. Maybe Florabel's new papa would let her come back to school soon.

She hummed to herself as she reached the backdoor of the quiet farmhouse. But before she could close the door behind her, a dark figure grabbed her and dragged her back, slithering a hand over her mouth and holding her tighter than she'd ever been held before. Terrified, she looked up and saw the Livingston's farmhand smile at her. Seeing his bloody face, she screamed, but his hand muffled the sound and her mama didn't hear her. She sunk her teeth into his fleshy palm, but the man only held her tighter. He lifted her in his arms, bringing her face close to his.

"What a beautiful child." The man whispered into her ear. "Such pretty dark, hair." He pressed his lips against her shivering cheek and pinched her nose so tight that she couldn't breathe. "Florabel loves you so."

Lizzy screamed and screamed beneath his hand, fighting with all her might. She cried for her mama and tried to get away from the monster, but he kept squeezing and hurting her until…until the hurting stopped.

***

Out among the dust dunes on the prairie, far away from the people, the houses and barns, Slaid rocked the child in his arms, though she'd long since ceased her struggles. He'd wanted the Devil Fighter, but there'd never been a good opportunity with the women and the old man constantly around him. Even the townsfolk now protected him.

It was time for the Ördög Fighter to pay for stealing his family. With this gift, Slaid had earned the Hala's blessing. Its power pulsed within him. Even as he sat holding his little sacrifice, his fingers pulsed and sparkled with more energy than he could contain. Exquisite blue veins and deltas of light ran up and down his arms and legs. He focused the energy on the Hala, bending his will toward it, demanding action.

And far, far away, hundreds of miles to the north, the wandering Hala manifested itself, accepting the offering and answering the call. It responded by kicking up a few grains of dust as it rushed toward its new master.

Continue to Chapter 12

Back to Master Post
 
 
 
tifachingtifaching on May 28th, 2012 10:27 am (UTC)
As soon as you went back to Lizzy I knew Slaid was going to take her. That bastard.

The jackrabbit drive was horrific.

I loved Dean and Emma. They're both going to be crushed when he has to leave. And poor Florabel. What's Slaid got planned next?

But Sam's coming. Still so many chapters left, I can't help but think the rescue attempt's not going to go very smoothly!

Also, yay with the crossposting!

Edited at 2012-05-28 10:28 am (UTC)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 28th, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC)
Ugh, yes. Poor Lizzy. Slaid has absolutely no problem brutalizing the things that Florabel loves. How cowardly of him to start with the weaker things. He's such a disgusting creature.

Oh the jackrabbit drives! Those were regular occurrences back then. I remember watching one documentary and they were interviewing this old man who took part as a kid. He was like, "I have no clue what the humane society would have to say about that now!" And it's so true. Times were very different, indeed! On the upside, I did read that they didn't waste the rabbits. They used them to feed other livestock. So for those times, the rabbits were both a pest and a blessing, maybe. Although, heh, I am not thinking the farmers EVER thought of them as a blessing.

Dean and Emma are so interesting to me. Emma certainly isn't the type of woman that Dean would normally be interested in. But he's in such a different *place* right now, that I kind of pull for these crazy kids. Heh. And then I remember, like you said, Sam's on the case, Dean isn't whole without all of his memories...and when it does come to pass that Dean has to leave (that's not a real spoiler...hehe...that pretty much is a given, right?) that it won't be as easy as one would think. We all know where he belongs. DEAN knows where he belongs. But that don't mean it's *easy*.

Yes, several chapters still to go...unforeseen (unless you're a history buff) events are about to unfold that kind of redirect the action for a couple of chapters. /mysterious mustache wiggle.

Thanks again, my dear girl, for all of your comments and assistance! You've been mindbogglingly amazing! I think I'll post my little story in the gen fic comm on Wednesday! Woot!
deangirl1deangirl1 on May 28th, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
I'm so eager for these updates, I'd convinced myself that you posted on Sunday and spent way too much of the day checking for the chapter -- but SOOOO worth the wait!

Another fantastic chapter! I almost don't want Sam to get Dean back - but it can't end well with Slaid. I knew the bastard would go after poor Lizzy - Dean is going to totally blame himself. I'm thinking that Sam is going to have a hard time getting Dean back even when he gets him back physically. He'll be beyond consoling if Sam brings him back before he can make Emma and Florabel safe from Slaid...
I loved Dean being so accepted by the community - something he so craves and never gets.
You do such an amazing job creating OCs... love Emma and Florabel now...
Wonderful writing as always - thanks for this!!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 28th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Aw...well just betwixt you 'n me, my husband actually does post these stories the night before they come out. I just don't link them to the comms until the next morning. So the stories are actually accessible about 9:00pm EST on Sundays and Wednesdays. We do that for scheduling. He works later than I do, so I post to the comms when he's still asleep, but he has to set up LJ because I just don't have the know-how when it comes to these techie sites. And you may well snigger...but this site is WAY too techie for me! :P But then again...I can't even work our TV remote control without fuckin' it up and having to have my husband come untangle what I've done. /snort

Yay! I'm glad you liked this chapter. When I was researching, I learned all about the jackrabbit drives and had to include one. How could I not?!

Poor Lizzy. That killed me. It really did. You're right, Dean is going to carry that weight whether he deserves to or not. One of my betas brought up the fact that had Dean told Emma right off about what Slaid had done to Florabel, Lizzy might still be alive. Very sad to think about how putting off telling something like that can have THIS outcome. Dean was trying to protect Florabel (not wanting to ruin such a momentous weekend for her), but in so doing it enabled Slaid to continue his quest to make the women love him. I personally don't blame Dean. I just think it's so unfortunate. And yeah...he'll totally be crushed when/if he ever finds out.

I love Emma and Florabel, too! When I was finished writing the story, I was lonesome. No joke. /boggles. I'm glad they are effective. I know it's so damn risky to write and OC-heavy piece. That's not to say that I ever, EVER put them before the Winchesters. I firmly wanted them to support Dean's story and not BE his story, if that makes any sense.

Thank you for your comments. I look forward to them as much as you look forward to the next chappie!

Edited at 2012-05-28 03:34 pm (UTC)
catnthecradlecatnthecradle on May 28th, 2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
I usually wait til a fic is over before commenting, but this is just a quick note to tell you how much I'm enjoying this fic.

Looking forward for the rest, thank you for sharing.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 28th, 2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you SO much for that! I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I'm so glad you are enjoying it. This was pretty much how I spent my cold winter nights! I'm so happy to finally be sharing it with everyone, so thank YOU for reading...and for letting me know that you are enjoying!
jpgr: SPN Son of a Bitchjpgr on May 28th, 2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
Another wonderful installment.! I wait somewhat patiently for Thursday
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 28th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
Awesome! I'm glad you liked this one. I'm looking forward to the next several chapters, too! We're coming up on the entire event that inspired me to write this story in the first place. So I am also kind of hopping like a little nutter with anticipation, too!

Thanks again for your kind and generous comments! They make my day!
beckydaspazbeckydaspaz on May 28th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oh boy. This chapter had SO many wonderful and heartwarming things going on (both in the past and in the present) that I was a bit caught off guard by the end scene. Poor Lizzy...

Good Lord Kat, every chapter just keeps getting better and better and sadder and sadder as I really want Dean to stay with Emma and Florabel. Maybe Sam can come live in the past huh? Marry some nice girl and settle down...Yeah, I didn't think so.

*sigh* Looking forward to Thursday, really, REALLY love this story so very much.

Oh and who knew that "loves you so" could be anything other than precious? *gags* Nice job!

*hugs*

-Puddin'
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 28th, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
Hello my beautiful Puddin! Thank you for your lovely comments! Wouldn't it be kind of idyllic for Sam to come and find a sweet girl. He and Dean could work the land and have children and country picnics, yeah? Sounds nice. But I'm thinking we'd all stop reading THAT story after the first couple of happy chappies. LOL! But one could hove for some peace and happiness for the Winchesters! Ah me....not to be, I think.

Yeah hearing those words come out of Slaid's mouth is really sullying everything that they stand for. I hate him, too! Loved it when Dean finally got to punch his ugly snoot.

Thanks heaps and gobs as always my friend! Your support really means the world to me!

/hugs!

Kat
lidia1991_anlidia1991_an on May 28th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)


Thanks for sharing your amazing work!

I love your fic!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 28th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to let me know you are enjoying. I absolutely appreciate it like you wouldn't believe!
Meridiancmsserenity on May 29th, 2012 12:26 am (UTC)
I, too, am someone that waits to post (usually) until a story is completed. However, on a rec (I will look for who sent me to you) I came here and became so engrossed in this story that I felt a little pitter pat at your comment that you don't blame Dean for Lizzy's death, knowing full well Dean will blame himself. Those men (Dean and Sam, of course) punish themselves far more harshly than anyone, living, dead or imagined, ever could. I believe it is part of why we love them so.

The characters in this are so visceral - I am invested in each of them. While everyone else has commented on your ability to flesh out Emma and Florabel - let me commend you on your ability to breathe life and a sense of horrific realism into the villain. From the child like translation of his abuse of her to the mottled thought process that sees his only goal - and how everything else is nothing in comparison to attaining that goal. Perfection. I feel like I am watching a truly well crafted episode and that, dear heart, is an uncommon gift.

Thank you for sharing your gift with us - and thank your man for his techpertise. :) (I have my own resident "damn, honey, what did I hit on this stupid remote" man, myself. Aren't they wonderful?!) I was going to apologize for being long winded, but I refuse to do so. I believe that you deserve every word for each moment I have spent captivated by your imagination.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on May 29th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
You...! /pinches your cheeks. What a wonderful thing to say. Thank you SO much for your kind and generous words!

Oh yes. WE won't blame Dean. But sure as the man lives and breathes and drives a cool black baby...he will definitely think it is his failing. It's just how the man operates, and I do agree...it is one of reasons we love him. He's so good and yet he never sees that in himself.

Wow, thank you SO much for your words about Slaid. He really is a literal fiend. Very bizarre to write, since I tend to think the two of us are nothing alike! OK, there may have been a kid or two in the middle of Walmart that I might have wanted to throttle, but c'mon! Can you blame me? ;) Seriously, though...he was a trip to write, so I am glad that he's working for you!

You are MOST welcome for the story. I'm so delighted that you are enjoying it. And...oh hell yeah! I love my techie husband. When people ask me how I fix my computer when it goes on the fritz, I tell 'em that I fix it like this: "Honey! OMG come quick! There's a big blue screen! Hurrrryyyyy!!!" And damned if that doesn't work...every single time! ;)

Thanks again for taking the time to let me know you are enjoying. It means a great deal to me!