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07 June 2012 @ 06:30 am
Dust Devils: Dust Cain’t Kill Me (Chapter 14)  
April 14, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma





Dust Devils

Chapter 14

Dust Cain’t Kill Me


**O**

April 14, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

She heard nothing—no wind—no whispers—nothing beyond her sniffles and sobs. She shifted, head throbbing, struggling to find clean air to breathe. Snuffling, she coughed a mouthful of cleanser-thick grit and swallowed it, having no other means of disposal. The slick mess made her shiver and retch again. Pressing her clammy forehead to Dean's chest, she tried to be brave, but her legs cramped and her head hurt, trapped in the stuffy dark under his shirt. She wanted out—now.

It had been a monster—not a storm—a real-life monster. She was sure of it. It had known her, had whispered to her, had wanted to hurt her. She'd only ever known that kind of hate, that kind of evil, one other time. But this had been so much bigger, and if Pally hadn't been there, she would have died, she was sure of that, too.

Pally. She was so worried about him. He'd had a hard time in the storm, he'd yelled and screamed and twitched, and then he sat, talking nothing but nonsense, laughing for no reason—calling her Sammy. How could he think she was a boy? After that, he'd stopped talking at all, and that had scared her the most. He hadn't moved or made a sound in a while, not even when she poked him hard and called his name.

He'd told her to keep her eyes shut and to stay put, and she'd been good and done what he said, but now that the wind and whispers had stopped, she didn't know what to do.

"Pally?"

He didn't answer, he just breathed—fast and rumbly. Florabel's lungs rumbled, too, but not near as bad as his. If she'd swallowed a bucketful of dust, and she was sure she had, Pally must have swallowed a whole lot more.

"Pally, say something, please!" She grabbed his sides and shook him, but he didn't stir.

She gulped tears and snot and coughed some more. She had no room and no air, and both Pally and the tree pressed into her, hurting her. If she didn't do something soon she was going to fall asleep, too—and that would be bad. After a moment of wiggling to get some leverage against the tree, she pushed away from Pally with all her might, buying her some breathing room. Earning a couple of inches, she made up her mind to disobey him, hoping he wouldn't be too mad. She opened her eyes.

To her surprise, she found it wasn't totally black anymore. Pale light came through the flannel of his shirt, but she couldn't see anything solid yet. Tunneling under Dean's shirt, she popped out the top like a prairie dog, her head pressing against the bottom of his chin.

The silver moon, three quarters full, lit the dust-covered landscape. A few comet-like tails of dust caught the moonlight, twisting and serpentining through the air as it settled. The world was eerily still—shell shocked, glassy-eyed, and mute.

Pally's head leaned against the gnarled bark of the tree, the drift stopping an inch below his chest. Black dirt covered the cloth around his mouth and nose, and thick mud filled the space where his eyes should be. Florabel squealed, panicked. He didn't look real. She untied the rag and tapped his cheek.

"Pally, please, please wake up!" He didn't move, not even a little.

Digging herself out took time. She worked in waves, first freeing one hand, then another, resting in between efforts. By the time she heaved herself up and out, she'd popped all of the buttons on Pally's shirt, and his whole body now listed to the side, his face buried in the dirt. He started to choke.

Bracing her feet against the tree, she grabbed the straps of his bloody overalls and pulled until she freed his head and he stopped making such horrible sounds. She rested for a minute, sinking into the drift as she searched the horizon.

Not far away, the silhouette of the house and barn stood dark against the moon and a million shining stars. It wasn't far. She had to get Pally home. Pulling on Dean's arm, she tried to free him from the drift, but she only wound up digging herself in deeper. She didn't have near the strength to free him.

"You have to wake up, Pally! I cain't git you to the house." No response. Nothing but a small, raspy gurgle from his throat. She hugged him in despair. "Oh, Pally…" Florabel glanced toward the house. "I'm gonna go git Mama, Pally. Don't be scared." Giving him one last hug, she fought her way out of the drift.

Teetering, her bruised and battered legs refused to support her, and she fell on her bottom with a jolt. She stretched her aching body, bloody from tumbling along the prairie floor and stiff from hours of cramped inactivity. With a yelp, she plucked out a spiny quill imbedded in her shin.

She didn't want to move. Everything hurt and she was so, so sleepy. But Pally needed her, and she needed her mama, so she backhanded her tears away and quit her bellyachin' like Old Jeb would tell her to do. Bracing her hands on the ground, she got her feet under her and staggered toward the house, making her slow way around large, rippling dunes of dust glistening in the moonlight. Tottering forward, she saw candles twinkling in the windows that her mama must have put there to guide them home.

A huge drift covered the entire back of the house, all the way to the roof, burying the backdoor. She couldn't get close.

"Mama!" Her voice was small and her mama wouldn't hear her through that much dust anyway, so she walked to the front of the house to find another drift blocking the stairs to the porch. She tried to scale it, but she mired down, wallowing.

"Mama!" Exhausted, she flailed and writhed, fighting the drift, but getting no closer to the porch. "Mama!"

She'd been brave this whole time. She had. But things were bad now and her body stopped working right, her movements jerky and twitchy from exertion. Her spirit broke and she fell into the drift.

That's when her mama opened the door.

"Mama…"

Her mama didn't hear the whisper. She held a small kerosene lamp in her hand, her face blank and hopeless as she peered into the night. Dark dust covered her from head to toe. It must have been as bad inside the house as out, even with all the weather-stripping they'd done.

"Mama…" Florabel's small voice rasped as she flailed in the drift, her body giving out on her.

Hearing Florabel's voice, her mama looked right at her. Recognition sparked and her entire body became a wrecker-ball of emotion and need, throwing herself into the drift, plowing her way to Florabel, legs thrusting the dust as she came. She released a raw, primitive growl, from somewhere so deep it scared Florabel. She felt its vibration in the drift around her.

Arms stretched, Emma swept her into a crushing embrace. Her mama clutched and hugged and gasped, wringing her out like a dishrag, shaking her in a violent caress. Her mama didn't talk, she just kept groaning and sobbing and kissing her—kissing her everywhere—and shushing her even though Florabel wasn't crying anymore.

"Mama," Florabel said as her mama kissed and kissed her. "Mama…"

"Shhh, babygirl. Shhhh…" Her mother's first real words. "Shhh." She sunk into the drift and rocked Florabel like a baby. "Shhh…Mama's here. Mama's right here."

Breathing in her mother's scent, the little girl surrendered to the hug, whimpering and snuffling. Sleep tempted her, but she remembered Pally, and Florabel's eyes flew open.

"Pally…" She lifted her tired head. "You gotta help him, Mama. He won't wake up."

Her mother stopped rocking, stirring from her dazed stupor. "You seen him?"

Florabel nodded. "He saved me, Mama." She wiggled, trying to break free. "But he ain't awake even though I tried and tried to rouse him. We gotta go git him."

Emma gripped the little girl's shoulders. "Where?"

"He's by the dead tree that's got the crow's nest in it. Please, Mama, let's go git him. He's breathin' funny."

"Oh, God." Emma floundered her way to the porch stairs and deposited her daughter. "Stay here, Florabel." She turned to fight her way out.

"Mama, no! I want to come, too!"

"Don't you dare leave this house." Emma's voice dropped an octave. "I'll go see to Dean. You wait here." Florabel knew that tone and that's all there was to it. She sat on the steps to wait, when she heard a voice in the dark.

"Ho there! Emma? Florabel?"

Both women watched a figure walk out of the night. "Old Jeb!" Florabel cried. "You gotta help!"

The old man trotted up. "You folks all right? I been stuck in town all this while worried sick. I come back as soon as…My God…" He drew a sharp breath when he saw them. "Florabel, honey. You look like you been trapped in a coal mine for a week."

"Hurry! Pally's out there an' he's hurt bad! Please help us!"

"Where is he?"

Emma grabbed his shirtsleeve. "Over by the tree."

"Mama! Don't leave me here alone!" Florabel begged.

"I got her, Em." Jeb made quick work of the drift with his longer legs. He scooped the little girl into his arms. "You can hold the lamp for us, okay, doll?" He picked up the lantern. The little girl swallowed another sob and nodded. "Good girl. Let's go git your Pally back to you."

**O**

February 13, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

Dean must have left the TV on. Typical. If he'd told him once, he told him a hundred times to shut the damn thing off. Probably left it on just to provoke him. He could see his shit-eating smirk, already. Asshole. Sam smacked his lips and rolled over, trying to ignore it. After a few groggy seconds, however, Sam realized the voices were coming from inside the room, not from the TV.

He sat up with a jolt and hissed, grabbing his ribs, seized by both a sharp pain and the bone-deep realization that Dean couldn't have left on the TV. He sat for a moment blinking slowly as reality sunk in. His head felt spongy, his tongue sour and flabby.

"Steady there, Sam." Bobby rose from the table and came over to the bed. "Why don't you lie down a bit longer?"

"A bit…? Wha'?" Sam squinted at the clock—8:42am. "Are you kidding me? Jesus, Bobby, what the hell?"

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, sorting through his memories. They'd returned to the motel after their aborted rescue attempt and settled in for a night of research. Bobby'd put on a pot of coffee for the three of them, and that was it. He didn't remember anything else.

"Bobby?" He glared at the older man, voice thick with suspicion.

"What? You needed the sleep." Bobby shrugged but avoided eye contact. Guilty bastard.

Sam bitchfaced him, seething worse than a Yellowstone geyser. "You drugged me!"

"I did no such thing." Bobby folded his arms hotly but then cooled, shrugging a small, contrite shrug. "Technically, it was Ellen." He pointed to his accomplice.

"While you distracted him." Ellen squinted, giving Bobby a tart glance. She put her hand on Sam's shoulder. "Hackles down, boy. You needed the rest. You were out of fumes to run on."

"How could you let me sleep?" He flung the covers off, growling in frustration.

"Don't get lippy with us, boy. If we hadn't put you down, you'd ‘a just dropped," Bobby said. "We been doin' what research could be done, and now we'll all go on together without the threat of you topplin' over on one of us. Ellen could probably take it, but I'm damn delicate." Ellen smacked him.

"Sam, listen honey. There really wasn't much we could do that early in the morning. Cimarron County hasn't uploaded all of their old records yet. We could only go as far back as the 1950's and there was no information on that plot of land between now and then. Whatever happened there had to have happened earlier. We're gonna have to go over there and take a look. Go on and get yourself a shower and then we can head out."

Sam blinked, his righteous indignation over being drugged forgotten for the moment. "Hang on." He rummaged through his duffel and handed Ellen a card. "We have this, too."

She read it and raised an eyebrow. "Mad Dog? Who's that?"

"He's the previous owner. Didn't get his real name, sorry. The contractor at the construction site gave us his address. Gerry said he was the city's main doctor for decades. Retired now, I guess. I'm not sure how long he owned the land, but we might be able to get a lot of information from him."

Ellen pocketed the card. "Let's split up and cover more ground. You and Bobby head to the County Record's office, and I'll go have a chat with this Mad Dog."

"You sure you don't want me to go?" Sam asked. "Gerry hinted the old Doc is kind of cranky."

"Ain't my first rodeo, Sam. Been tendin' bar for twenty years. If I can handle Bobby Singer on a bender, I can handle some old coot with an attitude." Her eyes glinted with mischief.

"You're hilarious," Bobby said.

Ellen nipped the old hunter's nose and gave his cheek a couple of light smacks. "And don't you forget it." She grabbed her jean-jacket and palmed Bobby's keys off the table. "All right boys. I'm off to see Mad Dog. I'll meet up with you at the Record's office when I'm done."

**O**

April 14-15, 1935—Boise City, Oklahoma

Emma couldn't see him at first.

"There he is, Mama!" Florabel pointed to the crumbled form half buried at the base of the tree. "He's right there, see?"

Jeb set the child down and held the lantern aloft while Emma ran forward.

"Dean!" Emma called his name as she scrambled her way through the drift.

"I'll get ‘im." Jeb handed the lantern to Florabel and began digging a solid trench through the mound of dirt so they could free the young man.

"Oh God." Emma's hand went to her mouth in horror. "Don't no one touch his eyes." She cradled his head. "We gotta be careful and clean them with water until the dirt is well gone." Smoothing her hand through his dusty hair, she patted his cheek. "Dean? Can you hear me? Dean!" She called him again, this time in a voice that demanded an answer.

Dean expelled a rattled breath and moaned, but he remained otherwise unresponsive. Jeb continued to attack the dust, hands pawing and digging with furious strokes. He made enough headway that Dean lost his support and toppled limply onto his side. Emma reached around, holding his upper body, keeping it out of the drift, while Jeb continued.

She put her arms about him and kissed his temple. "We got you, Dean. You's gonna be all right." She turned to Florabel. "Florabel, shine the light a little closer."

Holding him, Emma checked him for other injuries, hissing when her hand came away from his back, sticky with muddy blood. She separated the shirt tatters, revealing the angry gash on his shoulder and upper arm.

"We's gonna have to clean that an' sew it up." She continued taking inventory. "Hurry Jeb. We gotta git him out'a here. His breathing's bad, and there ain't no tellin' how much blood he lost." Her voice was all business, but she locked eyes with Jeb revealing Dean's grave condition to the old man. Jeb's eyes twitched to Florabel and then to Emma. He nodded and returned to work, digging as fast as he could.

Once Jeb made a serviceable path, Emma tilted Dean into his waiting arms. He threaded his hands under Dean's armpits from behind and clasped them around his chest.

"After we git him free, we'll be able to lift him proper, but right now I'm just gonna slide him nice ‘n easy like." Jeb heaved him toward Florabel and the lantern. Dean moaned in pain. "It's gonna be all right, son. We gotcha."

With effort, Jeb eased Dean from the drift and laid him flat. The old man tapped Dean's cheek as they huddled around. "Christ, he's a mess. He's covered from stem to stern an' he's rattlin' purty bad, too." Jeb scanned Florabel. "How'd you make it through without being as bad off?"

"He kept me in there." Florabel pointed to Dean's burst buttons. "Like the tent he made for me in my room."

Emma swallowed, fingers caressing his torn shirt. "Oh Dean…"

"Dean, wake up, son." Jeb tried to rouse him.

"Wake up, Pally." Florabel knelt with the others, holding one of Dean's hands and patting it. "We's here—Me and Mama and Old Jeb." Her composure faltered, and she started to cry. "Please wake up."

Dean stirred at that. "Sammy?" The effort sent him into a coughing fit. Emma and Jeb rolled him on his side, thumping his back.

"That's it, son. Git it out."

Dean coughed and vomited thick grit into the dirt.

"We gotta git him to the house now." Emma nudged Jeb. Easing Dean on his back, Emma situated herself by his feet, ready to lift, but Jeb put up a hand to stop her.

"I'll git him." The old man gathered Dean and lifted him with a grunt. "You mind Florabel. I wouldn't ‘a been able to do this when he first come here. He's lost a lot of weight."

Emma snatched up Florabel and the lamp and followed Jeb to the house. The moon gave enough pale light that Jeb remained sure-footed for most of the way. He never spoke a single word of complaint and only asked for help once they reached the drift by the front porch. Emma set Florabel on the stairs and went to help Jeb with Dean. After a struggle they got him through the drift and into the house.

More dust had settled in the short time Emma'd been away. A layer of dust at least an inch thick coated everything. Dust even clung in clumps to the walls, like wet snow on tree bark. They stirred up a cloud of it as they walked through the parlor and into the kitchen. Emma wiped off the table and motioned for Jeb to set Dean there. It was then that she saw Jeb shaking with the strain. He gave a heaving sigh as he set his burden down, swaying as he lost balance from the abrupt shift in weight.

Emma grasped his arm. "You okay, Jeb?"

"I'm fine. Ain't as peppy as I used to be, but I ain't a-gonna bust." He patted her hand away. Emma checked him over, making sure he was steady before setting about lighting the lamps.

"I hate to ask, Jeb, but we's gonna need water, and lots of it."

Jeb nodded and grabbed two large buckets. "Don't even need to ask, Em. Bring out the big tub and we'll use that to catch what runs off when we clean his eyes. I'll be right quick." Taking the pail, he opened the backdoor and saw the wall of dust. "Well, that ain't a-gonna work." He headed toward the front door, instead.

Emma dragged the washtub toward the table. She peeled Dean's overalls down to his waist and removed his shirt, leaving him in his union suit.

"Dean…" He made no response. She examined the mud on his eyes and gulped squeamishly. "We'll git you fixed up in no time." She brushed her shaky fingers through his hair. "You done real good, Dean. You got Florabel to me safe, just like you promised you would. I cain't never repay you for that, and they ain't no words to tell you how much it means. Ain't no words to tell you how much you mean...." Tears spilled down her dirty cheeks as she took his hand in hers. "Me an' Florabel is right here."

Florabel climbed on a chair and leaned into the table. "We's with you, Pally." She took his other hand. "Please be okay." She buried her head in his chest, whimpering.

"None of that, Florabel." Emma warned the girl, even while wiping tears from her own eyes. "We cain't spare no time for that. We gotta do what needs doin' to bring him back to us." She touched her palm to Florabel's brow. "You be brave."

They heard Jeb's heavy boots coming. "Git down, now, baby girl. We's gonna need room." Florabel moved away.

Jeb set the first pail next to Dean. "We's gonna have to scoot him and tilt his head off the table and let the water run into the tub."

Emma lifted the other bucket from the floor and poured it into a pot on the stove. "Florabel, add fuel to the stove and set this water to boilin' for Mama, then I want you out of the way, you hear me?"

"Yes, Mama." Florabel set to work with the kindling and coal.

"I'll keep bringing the water until you tell me to stop." Jeb grabbed the pail and headed for the door.

Emma hoisted Dean until his head hung off the end of the table. She grabbed the pail and a glass of water and began pouring it over his eyes as she supported his head with her hand. Dean reacted violently.

"Nhnnnh!" He thrashed his arms about, moaning and coughing, spraying Emma with mud.

"You's all right, Dean. Don't move now." The man continued to cough and splutter as she poured the water. He tried to get a hand to his face, but Emma used her hip to hold it down. "Don't touch your eyes, Dean. You'll do damage we won't be able to undo. Now hold still."

"Sam!" He called for his brother, disoriented and in pain. "Nahhrgh! Sam?"

"Shhh. Dean you's right here with me an' Florabel. Remember? You got caught in the storm. I'm cleanin' your eyes because you got dirt in ‘em. Just stay still an' don't move about." Again, Dean tried to get his hand to his eyes. "Dean, no!" Emma used her stern voice. "You's gonna blind yourself if you rub dirt into your eyes."

She stopped work, battling Dean's hands, forcing them away from his face. He flailed and lashed against her, determined to get to them. Emma felt pity and relief when Dean lost the battle with a whimper and moan, his strength drained for the moment.

"How's he doin'?" Jeb asked as he brought another pail of water.

"I cain't clean his eyes, he keeps fightin' me," she said as the wounded man made another attempt to get to his face.

Jeb came up. "I'll hold him, you pour." The old man took both of Dean's hands and held them, leaning across his chest. Emma emptied another glass of water over his eyes.

"Fuck! Sammy!" Dean struggled madly, unaware of his surroundings, fighting for his life. "I'll fuckin' kill y'assholes!"

Emma couldn't stifle a gasp of shock at his language.

"He's just airin' his lungs out, Em. He don't know what he's sayin'." A hint of a smile lit Jeb's face. "Ain't that right, Dean?"

"Fuck you," Dean wheeze, bucking against Jeb. "Where's m'brother?" Another coughing fit rocked him, and they turned him on his side until it passed.

Emma heard Florabel weeping in the corner. "He's all right, Florabel. You sit quiet, an' be good."

"Uhhnh!" Dean must have heard her crying. "Sam?" His voice cracked with emotion. Jeb thumped his back to try and loosen more of the dirt in his lungs. Dean growled in his throat, but another coughing fit interrupted him. "I'll…fucking kill you, Slaid," he said when he got his breath.

"You tell ‘im, tough guy," Jeb said with a pale smile and patted him.

"Y'touch Bel again an' yer dead…y'fuckin' here me?" Dean tried to claw his way free from Jeb's grip.

"What's he talkin' about?" Emma brows pinched. "Slaid ain't touched Florabel." She continued thumping Dean's back to loosen the dirt. Dean coughed until he vomited what looked like sludge from the bottom of a stagnant pond off the side of the table. He continued to mumble invectives to Slaid whenever he had the breath to spare.

"Dunno, might be he's confusing what Slaid done to you the other night. He's talkin' off his nut right now, Em. Don't pay it no mind." The old man cocked his head at the little girl in the corner. "Hang onto him a moment, Em." He crossed the room and picked Florabel up, setting her on the table next to Dean. "We don't got Sam, but we got Florabel, Dean. You remember her, don'tcha? Ain't no one hurt her. She's doin' just fine, thanks to you."

Florabel lay next to him and hugged him tight. "Please don't fuss, Pally, we's only tryin' to help you. We don't want you hurtin' yourself."

"Sam?" He snaked a protective arm around the little girl.

"Close enough." Jeb chuckled. "Now we's gonna clean your eyes out, son. You hold on tight to Florabel so she don't git scared."

Florabel cuddled him and held his hands while Emma and Jeb went back to rinsing his eyes. The pain had him writhing in agony.

"Fffuck! Stop! Please stop! Jesus fuck!"

"Should I just go git the Laudanum, Em?" Jeb worried his lip.

Emma hesitated. "We cain't Jeb. Not yet. We gotta git his lungs cleared. The Laudanum will stop his cough, an' we need him to bring the dust up." Dean let go of Florabel, fingers groping toward his eyes.

"Well, we's gonna have to do somethin'." Jeb caught the young man's hand and held it. "His eyes is stinging him too bad. I know what it feels like to git a little somethin' caught in my eye…I cain't imagine a whole eyeful of it."

Emma sighed and went to the bedroom. She returned with an armful of sheets.

"You git on down, Florabel." She lifted her off the table and sent her to the corner. The little girl wobbled and sat, blinking dopily. Emma watched her settle and went back to work.

She turned to Jeb, handing him some sheets. "We's gonna have to knot him down." She and Jeb set to work, twisting the sheets around Dean's wrists and tying them to the table-legs near his feet so he couldn't lift his hands above his waist.

Once Emma and Jeb had restrained Dean, they went through both large buckets of water. Dean fought them, but he was so out of it, he didn't appear to know he'd been restrained. They repeatedly flushed his eyes, holding them open and working to remove every grain. Tears continuously poured from his blood red, agitated eyes.

His irises roamed around, searching for something to focus upon, but whether due to his current confused state or because he had no sight, they never landed on anything for more than a second. They would have to wait until he was coherent to know the full extent of the damage. Jeb waved his hand in front of Dean's eyes and snapped his fingers, but Dean didn't respond. There was no way to tell what that meant, though. They peeled back his lids and poured more water into his eyes, flushing them thoroughly.

"Sammy, please stop," he begged just before his body went slack.

Emma stopped pouring and bent down, checking him. "Dean?"

"He's just passed out. It's a blessing, really," Jeb said. "Let's finish this so he don't have to go through the pain of it when he's awake."

"I hope he didn't grind the dust into his eyes with his hands, when he was in the storm," Emma said. "He won't be able to see if'n he pressed on them."

Jeb nodded. "Well, at least the crust and dirt on them was untouched when we found him, so we gotta hope he had the sense not to rub ‘em during the storm." He patted Emma's cheek. "We's gonna fix him up, darlin'. Don't you think otherwise."

When they'd done all they could with his eyes, they moved on, untying him and rolling him over. He didn't flinch when Emma inspected his shoulder wound. "This needs sewin'." She palmed her forehead, exhausted. "Then we need to clean him up and git Florab…" She stopped cold, looking toward her florabel.

Florabel lay curled in the corner, covered in bruises, scratches and dirt. "Florabel," Emma scurried to her and pushed aside the girl's blonde hair, now nothing more than a sooty mass of tangles. "Florabel?" When she picked her up, the child remained malleable and unresponsive in Emma's arms. "Jeb!" Emma called to the old man in terror. "Somethin's wrong!"

Jeb ran over and cupped the little girl's chin, trying to rouse her. "Florabel? Doll? Open your eyes, sweetheart." She opened her eyes for a brief moment before they shut again.

"What's wrong with her?" Emma eyes went wild with panic.

"Look at the time, Em." He pointed to the clock. "It's 3:00am. This little thing has been through hell today, she's tuckered is all. C'mon, let's git her washed and then we'll finish with Dean and git ‘em both to bed."

He poured some of the hot water into the tub. Emma removed the tattered dress, stroking it wistfully. There was no saving it. She fingered the lace, remembering the hours she spent sewing it, thinking how surprised and delighted Florabel would be. She set the dress aside. It didn't matter. None of it did. She had her little girl, thanks to Dean.

Emma immersed Florabel in the lukewarm water. She remained fast asleep, opening her eyes only when her mother leaned her head back to wet her hair, but closing them when Emma spoke a soothing word. Emma hummed to her, kissing each finger as she washed them one by one.

"My baby girl," Emma whispered. "My beloved."

Jeb went into Dean's bedroom and removed the top cover from the bed. Folding it, he carried it from the house, beating it free of dust. He returned and held it open, ready to receive the little girl.

"I'll take her into Dean's room. It's a mess in there, dust everywhere, but it ain't no better or worse than anywheres else. I'll hang a wet sheet on the window agin and start dustin' tomorrow. We's gonna have to keep that room as clean as we can so's their lungs don't git no worse. Best to put them in the same room so's we can watch over them at the same time. Let me have her, Em." Emma set the naked child in Jeb's outstretched hands.

"Don't let nothin' happen to her, Jeb."

"Ain't nothin' gonna happen to Miss Flibbertigibbet." He covered her and bounced her lightly in his arms. "I'll put her to bed and then we can git Dean tooken care of."

Emma turned to the young man and began stripping off his overalls. "What's this?" She pulled the gun from his pocket. Eyes popping wide as she showed Jeb. "Why would Dean have a gun?"

Jeb hemmed. "Oh, th-that's mine. We was gonna go shootin' for practice. I lent it to him." He cleared his throat, shifting Florabel in his harms to hold out a hand. "Here, let me take that and I'll put it in his drawer for now." He took the gun and disappeared into the bedroom, leaving Dean alone with Emma.

The woman's eyes flitted over him as she took a steadying breath. He looked terrible. Emma remembered the strength and power that had emanated from him when he first arrived, despite how sick he'd been at the time. He was so thin, now, his muscles still defined but so much less than what they'd been. She unbuttoned his union suit and eased his arm out of it. Dirt crusted to him like a second skin—scaly, black and gritty. The shotgun scar now had a matching gouge on the other side of his shoulder. Blood mixed with dirt to fill the wound, causing it to gape wider. She wiped his back clean, blood flaking off like rust, dusting her hands with coppery slivers.

Emma knelt and spoke in his ear. "Don't you dare think of leavin' me and Florabel now," she said. "We need you, Dean." She surveyed the dusty, muddy kitchen as the tang of tears pulled behind her eyes. "Please stay." Her voice hitched. "Your family needs you." She turned away and sobbed into her hands. After a moment she stopped and looked at Dean, having found what inner strength she needed to fight. "You'll stay." She snuffled, her jaw set and defiant. "I know you will." She rose and took the pot of steaming water off the stove and began cleaning his wound.

**O**

February 13, 2007—Boise City, Oklahoma

Ellen parked the car in front of the small, idyllic farmhouse surrounded by a large, well-tended yard. Staked signs with bright slogans dotted the grass: ‘Think Green', ‘Say No To GMO's',Corporate Dropout' and Ellen's favorite, ‘Eat Right, Exercise, Die Healthy!'

"Oh Lordy." She chuckled under her breath. "Probably one of them health-nuts that run marathons well into their 80's." She turned up her collar and tucked her chin into her jacket, her breath smoking against the cold rain. Jogging to the house, she rang the bell and waited. After getting no response, she rang a second time.

"Quit it, already! Give an old lady a moment!" Ellen heard the muffled malediction from behind the door. When it opened with a lurch, Ellen was surprised to see the voice belonged to a petit, spry elderly woman, eyes sparking with indignation. "Y'think I'm deaf, do ya? Gotta ring several times?"

"No ma'am," Ellen said, cowed…and amused. "I'm looking for…" she began, but the old woman cut her off and laid into her.

"I told them other fellers from Monsanto they could kiss my ass," she barked. "An' I'm tellin' you the same thing. I ain't plantin' your damn seeds on purpose. If'n they don't want them freaks ‘a nature to go airborne and take root amidst innocent people's crops then they should Frankenstein them things to stay put in their own damn fields. It ain't like they haven't jerry-rigged their genetics in all other respects. Goddamned vultures! I don't even want yer damn seeds in m'field. Them mutants is contaminatin' my clean crops. Now git the hell off m'property. Sue me if'n you want, but I'll fight you pricks to my last dyin' breath! Just watch an' see if I don't!"

Ellen had a hard time keeping a straight face. This old thing was a spitfire, and she liked her immediately. "I'm not with Mons…Monsn…whatever you just said." She held her hand up as the old woman grabbed the door, making ready to slam it shut. "I'm looking for Mad Dog. Is he here?"

"You ain't with Monsanto?" The old woman looked Ellen up and down. "What d'you want, then?"

Ellen hesitated. "Um, I'm with the Oklahoma Historical Society. I'm working on a survey. I was told the old farmstead by the airport where they're building the new mall used to be owned by Mad Dog. I wanted to get some information from him on the old place. Is he your husband?"

"Him? Husband?" The old lady hooted. "They ain't no ‘him' and they ain't no ‘husband' ‘round here, honey. They's only just me."

"You're Mad Dog?"

"Don't you Mad Dog me, never did much care for that nickname. Historical Society, huh? Well, I reckon you can come on in, then." She opened the screen door and stood back so Ellen could enter.

"You prefer ‘Doc', then?" Ellen suggested as she moved inside.

"Oh hell, just call me by my given name." She closed the door and pointed to the parlor. "I'm Florabel—Florabel Livingston."

Continue to Chapter 15

Back to Master Post

 
 
 
jpgr: SPN Rock Paper Scissors anijpgr on June 7th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
Florabel became a doctor!!! Yay!!!! I think your three months of research is paying off. This is marvelous stuff.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 7th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
She did! She did! Guess she must have made good use of that toy doctor's kit! Oh, doing research for this story was an absolute joy for me. I sincerely ate up everything I could get my hands on, so it never felt like "research". But I'm glad that it came across on the page.

So glad you are enjoying it, still! I can't tell you how much.
deangirl1deangirl1 on June 7th, 2012 02:47 pm (UTC)
Wonderful! Wow. This story is so rich - I agree - your research is just the gravy. I loved the tirade against Monsanto! I studied the case in law school, so it had me chuckling. I adore that Florabel became a doctor - and now we know she'll live! The writing in this chapter is just so rich and evocative - from the descriptions of the landscape to the human emotions. This really is the most well-written fic that I think I've ever read. Just fantastic. If I had the complete manuscript in front of me, I'd lock the door and consume the whole thing- it's killing me to have to wait until Monday for the next chapter!

I'm betting Ellen is about to see that picture... I can't wait to hear Florabel's story. I'm wondering if she's been half expecting Ellen... and when Dean comes back, how it it going to affect him to see her as an old woman. I'm betting he's going to have to go through losing all his memories again. Having Sam will bring back that part quickly enough I'm sure. And I hope that having Florabel there will let him remember Emma and Florabel - I'd hate for him to lose that time even though it will be awful for him to remember losing Emma... Poor Dean. He never can seem to catch a break.

Thanks for this.... I'm recommending this story everywhere I can....
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 7th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
I am honestly staggered by your comments. Thank you so much. Seriously. This story has been hit or miss over on ff.net. Had some crap reviews, some pissed off PM's from people because I killed a kid, some people saying the story is flat out boring, some don't like the swearing, etc., etc. So, my own confidence is at its lowest ebb. Not that I can't take my lumps like anyone else, but it's been a truly humbling experience, and one that has left me uncertain as to whether I care to ever repeat it. So, believe me when I tell you that your comments meant the absolute world to me. I honestly appreciate it.

I'm glad you liked this chapter. I was always uncertain about this one. There were three times in this story when I had to break a full chapter into two for length. This was one of them. So, chapter 14 and 15 were conceived as ONE chapter. This was the first half of it. I always felt that this chapter lacked that punchy tension and payoff that you get in chapter 15. But in the end, I just didn't want to scrimp on the h/c and decompression after the storm. As a reader it always frustrates me when it is glossed over, so I just allowed the h/c to have its "moment" and let 'er rip.

Thank you again for your comments and encouragement. Consider yourself hugged!
tifachingtifaching on June 9th, 2012 12:14 am (UTC)


Edited to say: I just took out the whole first part of my comment because I went and looked at the first couple of pages of your reviews on ff.net. You've got some smart cookies reading your fic over there. I have smart cookies reading my fic too, but not very many of them, so I was a little LJ biased there. For the most part, your reviews are very positive, so don't let the one from the person who was against children dying in fic, or the one who doesn't like reading chapters get you down.

This story is in no way boring. Children die, it sucks, but it's a fact of life and that a child's death was a part of your story in no way makes it bad. The swearing? Seriously?

Please don't let your confidence ebb and please don't let a few negative reviewers keep you from writing awesome, well researched, fantastically drawn out and characterized stories. Really. Don't. *stares at you until you start plotting your next epic.*

Edited at 2012-06-09 12:34 am (UTC)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 9th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
I'll be fine. I just won't be killing any children in the near future. /snort! I still feel the pitchforks and torch-marks. Yikes!
mdlawmdlaw on June 7th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
Ah ha! I knew it. I'm hoping Dean will get to meet her when you're done TORTURING him. m :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 7th, 2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
Oh...hehe. I am such a bad, bad steward. Poor Dean. I am so ebil. And yet, I fear his torture is just gettin' started! /rubs hands gleefully (but...still....with such shame). Thanks so much for the comment. Hopefully Dean will have a moment with old-lady!Florabel before all is over, you know...if he's not in a coma. ;)
Rince1windrince1wind on June 8th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
Whew, I'm so glad Florabelle survives!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 8th, 2012 09:51 am (UTC)
You don't know that for sure! She could have been killt...reconstituted and brought back to life. She...she could be a Franken!Florabel! You just don' know!!! I mean, she could totally be a Zombified version of herself! She could be a...

um...yeah, ok...I got nuttin'. You're right. She lives. :P

Thanks for the comment! :)
slowkimical1slowkimical1 on June 8th, 2012 07:20 am (UTC)
Dust Devils
This is honestly one of the best works of fiction, fanfiction or otherwise, I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Your work is so descriptive that during the storm I felt like I could actually crack grit between my teeth. It is an absolutely beautiful story with such appealing and likeable original characters that I just can't stop reading. I can't wait till the whole thing is posted so I can read it again in its entirety. Amazing work my dear.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 8th, 2012 10:01 am (UTC)
Re: Dust Devils
Your comment is SO going in a frame. I'm going to spoon with it and pet it and make little cooing, slurpy noises with it. I am not freakin' kidding! :P

Ok...maybe I'm kidding.

About the slurpy noises.

The rest all stands.

;)

THANK you SO much for such lovely, encouraging comments! I'm gabberflasted so bad it's causing spoonerisms! Seriously, though...I'm thrilled you are enjoying the story. Thrilled.

/hugs
stazzijenstazzijen on June 8th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
I am so enjoying this. I look forward to all your posting days with the excitement of a ten year old. I saved the last two chapters up so I could read them together.

You are a fantastic writer and have really captured the atmosphere of the storm. I feel as though I was there with them.

Looking fowrard to the next chapter. x
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 9th, 2012 01:36 am (UTC)
Yippy! I'm so glad you are enjoying it. The storm was THE event that made me want to write this story, and I really wanted it to be extremely sensory. It was something that I had envisioned for months before I wrote it. So I'm glad it worked for you.

Thanks you so freakishly much for your comment. I appreciate it so much!
catnthecradlecatnthecradle on June 8th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
Great post, the results of the Black Blizzard are terrifying!!

For the last several chapters I've had a picture in my mind of how the story would end, Sam gets Dean back and they go to the old folks home and 80 yr old Dr. Florabel would see Dean and call out Pally. But now I'm doing my happy dance around the room 'cos you've brought in Florabel early and we're gonna have 7 chapters with a chance of both old and young Florabel!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've got to say that this is one of the few fics I've read that could make it as a novel with all original characters. This is a story that I'd enjoy even if it wasn't set in the Supernatural world with Sam and Dean.

Thank you for sharing.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 9th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
Wow. I don't even know WHAT to say to that. THANK YOU. I really fell in love with Florabel, Emma,and Jeb during the writing of this story, and when I was done, I actually missed them. Truly. So it means the absolute WORLD to me that you are enjoying them, too.

I definitely wanted 2007!Florabel to be an active part of the story. So she will definitely have her part to play in the adventures in both timelines.

You are more than welcome, and it is a sincere pleasure to share the story with everyone!

/hugs
tifachingtifaching on June 9th, 2012 12:17 am (UTC)
Oh, Dean! Are you blinding him now? Because that would be awesomely evil of you. Battling Slaid with bandages on his eyes, oh please, oh please. LOL, I see from an above comment that you're not close to being done TORTURING the poor boy and I'm so looking forward to see what you do next!

Oh, Emma. He promised he wouldn't leave you. My heart is breaking for her and for Florabel because I'm sure you're not done torturing them yet, either.

And hooray for old lady Mad Dog Florabel! Can't wait to hear how she got that name!

Lovely and descriptive as always. Please never have Dean stop using curse words. :D

Edited at 2012-06-09 12:20 am (UTC)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 9th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
Yeahhh...Dean is going to have some physical challenges while he takes out the bad-guy. But he's Dean-fuckin'-Winchester, right? He can take it. But I expect it to be a bumpy....lumpy, ouchie-ouchie road for him. Because I'm just that mean. Heh.

Ugh, poor Emma and Florabel. They are such Dean-girls now. And loving Dean is never painless. :(

Hehe...the story of how Mad Dog got her name comes up next chapter! Woot!

My version of the Winchesters, Dean specifically, will always swear. Poor Emma will just have to get used to it! :P
(Anonymous) on June 10th, 2012 04:24 am (UTC)
Hello there. It's your anon reviewer again! I totally loved your Delirious!Dean in this chapter and how he switched back and forth between deliriously protecting Sam and deliriously protecting Florabel. I wondered if he might say even more about Slaid and Florabel while he was so out of it. I hope Emma or Jeb asks him about that when he's functioning a little better. I understand how he doesn't want to betray Florabel's confidence and that he didn't want to discuss such a disturbing event on the poor girl's birthday. But he really needs to come clean to Emma about what he knows. I have a feeling that him keeping silent for much longer is only going to cause more harm than good!

So you're going to continue hurting Dean? How deliciously exciting and enticing! I can't wait to see what you're gonna do to the poor guy next......uh, I mean, Dean's gonna be hurt more? That's, uh, just, uh, terrible...you know, for him. ;-)

Awesome to run into Florabel in the "present." And of course she's still got a copy of that picture and of course Ellen is gonna see it, and then their rescue efforts can really begin in earnest!

Another great job with this chapter. Your descriptions are really something to marvel at. You put your reader right there in the middle of the Dust Bowl, trying to to cough and choke from all the grit! Looking forward to the next chapter!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 10th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
Hey there, you!! It really is tense, not knowing what is going to come out of Dean's mouth while he's incoherent. Very worrisome! And, too, you have to think about Florabel's long-term recovery. She seems pretty clueless right now, and that actually makes things easier for her. But can you imagine what she will feel when she finally reaches the age where she puts it all together? That's when she's likely to have some pretty profound PTSD. Poor thing.

Oh poor Dean. He has the unfortunate luck to be under my pen right now. Tsk-tsk. For someone who absolutely adores the character, I really need to have my head examined for tormenting the poor boy. /hangs head in shame. But...um...yeah. I'm afraid he'll have a hard go of it for a while yet, I'm afraid. /wiggle mustache.

Aw, I love having a double-dose of Florabel. She brightens up any timeline she's in! Hehe. Yep, yep...she'll be a fount of information for the other hunters, I'm sure!

Thanks SO much for the review! I'm delighted that you are still enjoying it!
(Anonymous) on June 10th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
So, who needs to have their head examined more? You, for tormenting Dean, or the rest of us for enjoying it so much and cheering you on?! LOL!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 10th, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
Perhaps we should all walk arm in arm to the MRI machines! Either that or we COULD just read and write more fanfic instead. I pick door #2! :P
Joapieceofcake on July 4th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
Florabel can swear herself now can't she..LOL! Fiesty :-)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on July 5th, 2012 09:36 am (UTC)
Yes! But I fear she was corrupted on that score years ago! LOL.
BiPboysinperil on September 16th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
I am sitting here in the parking lot finishing this chapter before I go shopping, and I literally just gasped and flailed. *Florabel!*
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 16th, 2013 11:43 pm (UTC)
Ha! That's so cute! I hope your shopping went well!

Oh yeah, I couldn't resist Florabel and Sam teaming up in the present. They'll find a way to get Dean back.

Thanks so much for the sweet comment. Made me smile, big time. :)

Kat