Hold Onto Me
Disclaimer - Nope. Not mine. I looked all over e-bay and Amazon for them and couldn't find a thing. So the Thunderbirds are not mine. Any OC's are mine and I will pursue anyone who uses them without permission.
OK, so this is Sammygirl1963's birthday present, started early, and it's a three -part story. Thanks for all the reviews, and now, on Jean's actual birthday, I can finish it for her. She loves Scott and Wee Tracys. That and my warped idea of a birthday card.
Jeannie Bates looked like she was about to cry – something she hadn't done since the day they buried her daddy.
Drawing in a shaky breath, Jean ran out of her bedroom, flying down the stairs, calling for her mother all the way.
"Bertha Jean Bates," Millie admonished as the thirteen year old ran into the kitchen. The dining area was darkened, Millie having closed the storm shutters when the sirens went off. Luckily, it had been at a slow time and the few people in the diner at the time had run back to either their homes or workplaces to make sure everything was secure.
"I swear, you make enough noise to be a whole -"
"Mama!" Jean interrupted. "It's Scotty."
Millie froze for a moment before asking, "What about Scott, baby?"
Jean's breath was coming fast and hard, with Millie afraid the girl was about to hyperventilate. Finally, she sucked in her breath and calmed herself before speaking again.
"Scott and I were talking on the radio -"
"In a storm, Jeannie? I have told you, stay off phones and that radio in bad weather," Millie interrupted.
"Dammit, Mama!" Jean cried. "Scotty and I were talking and he said he and Alan were in the barn and that it had been hailing but then he was gonna try and get them to the house and then he yelled and there was just static."
Millie blinked, surprised by her daughter's cussing followed by confusion at her rambling sentence. When she finally figured out the jumbled words, Millie gripped Jeannie by the shoulders.
"Barn, but Jeannie, the Tracys don't have a barn, just a couple of sheds."
"He's at his grandparents, Mama – remember? He didn't want to keep the radio at the house."
Feeling safe to pull aside the storm shutter now that the all-clear had sounded, Millie looked out at the streets. There was debris but it was clear Bailey hadn't taken a direct hit. But from the radio alert Millie had heard just before the sirens had sounded, it was obvious the storm's path had been east of Bailey.
The Tracy farm was east of Bailey.
Grabbing her keys, Millie opened the door and headed out. But just as she turned from locking the front door, her anxious daughter by her side, Millie halted when a shadow loomed over her…
Lucy held Virgil and Sarah Jane close to her, brushing her lips over their hair repeatedly in an act to comfort them – or herself, she really wasn't sure. Finally, an alert sounded and the gathered staff sighed in relief.
Lisa, the nurse from before, smiled and held out a hand to Sarah Jane, who just curled deeper into Lucy's side.
"She's a bit shy, isn't she?" Lisa murmured.
Lucy just shrugged, knowing that the truth was that the tiny red-haired girl was just used to not feeling safe – at least when she wasn't with the Tracys. "You're fine, baby," Lucy promised. "We'll keep you safe."
Lucy was about to try and find a phone when Lisa came back over, bringing a forty something red-head. "This is Rosie – our medical records clerk. If you're ready, she can download the records you wanted."
"Let's go," Lucy said as she stood, holding onto Virgil and Sarah Jane.
There – everything would be fine now – wouldn't it?
Ruth Tracy sat quietly while Gordon ate his cheeseburger and fries that they had gotten at the franchise restaurant on the ground floor, before bringing it back up to the waiting area. Usually, she wouldn't get junk food for any of her grandsons, but Gordon had been so good as if he could sense the stress his grandparents were under. Grant had been taken for a PET scan and the nurse had cheerfully told Ruth that she and Gordon should get something to eat. Although they had already eaten lunch, Gordon was, after all, a growing boy. Ruth smiled as she took another sip at her sweet tea.
For years, Ruth and Grant had only had barebones insurance, the most they could afford. But Jeff had insisted on contributing to an upgrade. When Grant had argued, Jeff reminded him of two things. One, it was family and in family it wasn't charity. Two – did Grant really want to risk losing the farm in case of a catastrophic illness? Her husband's love for the land his family had settled in the post-Civil War Kansas was and even though he knew the chances of any of his grandsons being farmers were slim, Grant would still want the land passed down. He always said two things endured – family and the land.
"Grandma," Gordon piped up, "what's an F-3?"
Ruth raised her head before following Gordon's eyes to the television on the wall. With a sick feeling in her stomach, Ruth looked at the map as the newscaster droned on.
"In a bizarre twist, blue skies suddenly fell dark this afternoon and our 20 percent chance of rain became a certainty. Across Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri, report of high winds, violent thunderstorms and hail the size of quarters have been pouring in. There have even been two reports of twisters. An unconfirmed report of a possible F-1 twister occurred briefly north of Kansas City. While an F-3 has been confirmed as traveling through Kansas farm country, but we have not been able to discover if there was any damage or loss of life."
A map appeared above the reporter's right shoulder, with an area highlighted in red. "This area, west of Kansas City, is mainly farming country. The only major industrial location, a factory owned by Tracy Industries, is in the nearby town of Bailey and the factory manager assures us they were virtually untouched. According to the Sheriff's office of Bailey, there seems to only be some minor damage and no injuries in the town itself which was not directly in the twister's path. However, Bailey's Sheriff, Amos Taylor, has said he has not had a chance to head out to the farms. He is asking anyone who lives in the red zone to call in and let them know they are uninjured or if help is needed."
The words "Sheriff Amos Taylor, Bailey, Kansas" appeared where the map had been and they could hear Amos's voice.
"We have about thirty farms in the affected area. I am asking the residents of this area to call either the station or someone else in town. It will let us check on those who do not respond first."
The images faded and the newscaster reminded the number of the Sheriff's office even as it flashed below him on the screen. Ruth quickly pulled out her cell phone. She had never liked the devices, but Jeff had won that argument as well, insisting that his parents needed it, at least when they left the farm.
"Ma'am," a young woman called out as Ruth walked into the hall. When Ruth turned to her, the woman smiled regretfully. "You can't use a cell phone out here. In the waiting area only."
Ruth fought down panic and frustration and spoke urgently to the woman.
"Miss, I need to call my family and I don't want my grandson to overhear me."
The young woman looked thoughtful before nodding. Finally, she spoke. "Come with me," she gestured, leading Ruth down the hallway. Opening a door, she let Ruth in.
"This is my office," she said with a smile. "If you want, you can sit at my co-workers desk. She took the day off for her granddaughter's birthday." She shrugged her shoulders, and smiled again. "There are no records out there and I'll need to stay in here while you are here, but it should be ok. Unlike a lot of areas, medical records doesn't have any equipment that will be affected by cell phones."
"Thank you," Ruth murmured as she sat at the empty desk. She quickly called the house first and was terrified to get a message of "this number is not currently available". As panic was held back, Ruth called Lucy, only to get her voice mail. Then Ruth dialed her son's cell phone, praying all the while. "You best answer that phone, Jefferson."
As soon as they had the all-clear, Jeff headed to his car to get home. It was frustrating when the phone rang, but he answered it absently.
"Jeff," his mother's voice came across, making him almost sigh in relief. OK, it should be nothing that would keep him at work. Because of the tornado – which hadn't even entered Kansas City proper – Jeff had found himself running almost thirty minutes later than he had promised Lucy.
"Yeah, Mom," Jeff had said as he unlocked his car. "Is it important? I told Lucy I would be home thirty minutes ago-"
"You mean you haven't been home yet?" RuthTracy asked frantically. "Lucy said you would be home and would get the message. You aren't there? You aren't on your way to the farm?"
"Why would I go to the farm, Mom?" Jeff asked absently as he put the car in gear, having set his cell phone to hands-free.
"I had called Lucy to pick up Scott and Alan," Ruth explained. "Scott was helping with some chores and watching Alan – your Dad hasn't been feeling well and we had that appointment in Kansas City to see the doctor."
"Dad's sick?" Jeff asked only for his mother to frantically break in.
"Grant swears it's nothing and God willing, he's right. But the boys…Jeff, I can't reach Scotty! Lucy had to take Sarah Jane to the urgent care center, that little twit of a sister of hers caused the poor girl to hurt her arm. Sarah Jane came over to your house because her mother was leaving with Holly to take her shopping again. Virgil went with them to keep Sarah Jane distracted. Gordon is with your father and I because…well, that boy is best not left unobserved. But I thought Scotty and Allie would be alright. Scott is so responsible…"
"Mom, I'm sure they are fine -"
"It's not just the phone lines being out that has me worried, Jeff," Ruth cried. "They are showing the path of the twister. Oh, Jeff – I know that area! The farm is dead center. And those two boys are out there alone! You need to get out there, and fast! Lucy left a message at the house for you to pick them up because she didn't want to interrupt your meeting. But – oh, sweet Lord! You have to find those boys, Jefferson! Please – I just know something awful has happened. I just know it…"
Jeff sped up a little, only to say to his mother, "But Mom – the twister was north of Kansas City. That's nowhere near the farm."
"There were two twisters, Jeff – a small one north of the cities and an F-3 just east of Bailey."
Pulling to the side for a minute, Jeff brought up the weather report on his phone. He paled as he realized his mother was right.
"I'll call you when I have the boys, Mom," Jeff said firmly, pulling back into traffic. As he got onto the highway to head west, he used his voice commands on the phone.
"Call Farm." Jeff got the same message as his mother, but it didn't stop him from repeating the command every few minutes, praying it was just a temporary problem with the lines and that his boys were alright.
It had only taken a few minutes for the medical records clerk to download Sarah Jane's records to memory stick Lucy had brought with her.
"Thanks for providing the stick, ma'am," Rosie cheerfully said. "If a patient or patient's family brings along something I can download the records to, I don't have to charge. And that darn temperamental computer seems to freeze every time I try to use the billing program."
"Well," Lucy smiled back, "thank you for getting these records for me. As often as we take care of Sarah Jane, these will be – helpful."
With a chipper wave, Rosie turned back to her desk, sighing as she began to dig through the requests for records. Paperless medical offices, my aunt fanny…
It only took a few more minutes for Lucy to herd the two children into her mini-van. The medication had made Sarah Jane even drowsier, so she and Virgil were in the backseat, the tiny red-head resting her head on Virgil's shoulder while he hummed a song for her. Lucy smiled at the sight, before she put the mini-van in gear.
They had barely left the clinic when the cell phone that Lucy had plugged into the charger rang in its holder. Lucy quickly said, "answer" so as not to wake up Sarah Jane.
"Mom?" John's voice came across.
"John," Lucy said softly. "Are you all done?"
"Yes. I tried calling home and there was no answer. Mrs. Taylor said if no one was home, she didn't feel right about me going back to the house."
"Is Mrs. Taylor there?" Lucy asked. John didn't answer but a new voice came across the phone.
"Hi Joyce," Lucy said, knowing Joyce Taylor from PTA meetings.
"Johnny had said you would be home but when no one answered – well, I can keep him here for a while longer."
Lucy sighed. "That would be wonderful. Sarah Jane – well, she had a bit of an accident and I dropped the other boys at my in-laws while Virgil and I took Sarah Jane to the clinic."
Joyce sounded concerned. "Is she alright?"
"She has a broken arm, but she should be alright."
"Well, thank goodness for that. Just give me a call when you get home."
"Are you sure?" Lucy asked. "I can swing back and get Johnny."
"It's no trouble," Joyce assured her. "I love having Johnny here. My children miraculously behave when he is."
Lucy smiled, knowing the Taylors' twin daughters, who were in Gordon's class, had crushes on Johnny and would behave like angels if her second son was there.
"Alright," Lucy sighed again. "Let me round up the rest of the wild bunch and I'll call you when I get home."
As soon as the call disconnected, Lucy said "Call Farm". She might as well tell Ruth she wasn't coming for the boys. Sarah Jane needed to rest and Jeff could get the boys from his parents. Hopefully, Alan had napped and Scott had been too busy to strangle Gordon.
But the automated message made Lucy frown.
"Maybe the storm damaged some phone lines, Mom," Virgil said quietly from the backseat.
Lucy smiled in the mirror before refocusing on the road. Sure, that was it. Nothing to worry about, Grant and Ruth were probably already on their way back to farm if they weren't there now. But still…
At a stoplight, Lucy checked any missed called that would have been recorded while she was away. One from Ruth's cell and not a single one from Jeff…Oh, that man was in trouble. Glancing at the time, she frowned. Jeff had said he would be home almost forty-five minutes ago and Johnny had said there was no answer there. That meant he never got the message at home. But still – even a general message of "call me" should have gotten a response and Lucy knew she had left that at the office.
"Call office," Lucy commanded only to have the call ring four times before the click that indicated the line was going elsewhere was heard.
"Jeff Tracy's office," Ann-Marie cheerfully answered.
"Ann-Marie, can you get me Jeff?" Lucy asked.
"He already left. He said you were expecting him home early tonight."
"I am – but I did leave a message earlier for him to call me."
"I'm sorry, Lucy. We have a temp here and she must have forgotten to give me the message. I'll look into it and call you back."
"No," Lucy said. "I don't want to get her in trouble. But if Jeff calls and I haven't reached him, let him know I am on my way home. I want to have Sarah Jane settled before we get the other boys."
"Is Sarah Jane alright? Should I get John Woodbury? He was about to leave for a conference in Chicago, but I might be able to catch him."
"No worries," Lucy said breezily. "I have it under control."
Once that call had disconnected, Lucy was quiet for a moment. As yet another emergency vehicle passed her, Lucy wondered if the tornado had set down anywhere in the county. Hopefully, it was just some wind damage or downed power lines.
"Call Jeff," Lucy finally said, relieved when Jeff answered.
"Luc – I can't talk now," Jeff said.
"I just wanted to make sure your mother reached you, Jeff. Do you have Scott and Alan?"
"I'm on my way there now. God – there is so much debris on this road."
"Debris?" Lucy asked. "Were the winds that bad?"
"Lucy, the weather reports are saying an F-3 followed the Widow's Peak River."
Later, Lucy would be grateful the traffic around her had slowed to a standstill due to an overturned tractor-trailer. The farm was located next to a river. Widow's Peak River.
"Amos!" Millie breathed out. "I declare, you scared the daylights out of me."
"Just stopping by Millie to see if you were willing to help set up a canteen if the Red Cross needs it."
Millie looked around. "Well, I see some storm damage, but nothing we can't handle. We don't need the Red Cross and I have to get out to the Tracy Farm."
Amos shook his head. "Not a good idea. The twister hit that area and the Tracys haven't called in. I know Jeff got his folks a cell phone, but I don't know the number. Maybe -"
"They aren't there," Jeannie popped in.
"Well, that's good," Amos sighed. "If Grant and Ruth aren't at the farm -"
Jeannie broke in again. "Scott and Allie are there alone. I was talking to Scott and we got cut off. I gotta get out there. C'mon, Mama," she fussed, pulling at Millie's arm.
"Whoa," Amos said. "Now, Miss Millie – your car ain't gonna make it through mud and debris. I'll head out that way as part of my sweep and I'll let you know, alright?"
"Mama!" Jeannie protested. "We gotta go."
"Amos is right, Jeannie," Millie sighed. "Let's go in and -"
"No!" Jeannie protested only for Millie to turn her daughter around and swat her behind.
"To your room, Bertha Jean. You are not too old to go over my knee."
"You try it and I'll smack my head," Jeannie muttered as she stomped back into the diner.
Amos chuckled. "She is as tall as you now, Millie."
"Taller," Millie sighed. "She'll have my Charlie's height – and he was six – two."
Nodding, he patted the woman's arm, wondering if she would ever get over losing her husband. "I'll check on those boys as soon as I can. They'll be fine. You know Scotty Tracy would never let anything happen to his baby brother."
Remembering the knife wound the teenager had gotten last fall, protecting little Alan, Millie nodded. To her, that was part of the problem.
Millie was so lost in thought, she never saw her daughter sneak out the back of the building and grab her bike from the storage shed just off the back porch. As Jeannie sped out of town, speeding towards the Tracy Farm, Millie headed back into the diner. Ever if she wasn't needed for the Red Cross, there would be people who had lost power that needed meals. Luckily, she had a generator and could cook for the town for three days without a refill of gas. Pulling out the fixing for some stew, Millie lost herself in her work, never noticing how uncharacteristically quiet her daughter was.
Alan Tracy hurt. There was something big and heavy over him and it was hot and he hurt, especially his right leg. Alan could sense more than see his older brother, Scott, near him. He reached out a hand and felt for his brother, relieved when he could touch Scotty's face. But Alan became frustrated when Scotty didn't wake at his touch the way his big brother usually did.
"Scotty," Alan whined softly before raising his voice. "Scotty, wake up. I's needs you!"
The toddler tried to move close to his brother only to cry out in pain. Whatever this big heavy thing was it also hurt. And not a knee scraped hurt. Nope. A little spray and a kiss wasn't gonna make this feel better.
Crying, Alan curled as close as he could to Scotty. His big brother had to wake up. Scotty had promised to always be there when Alan needed him. Well, Alan needed Scotty and he needed him now.
The pain and terror were exhausting to the two year old and eventually, Alan fell asleep, refusing to release the clump of Scott's hair he had woven his fingers into, not understanding what the icky, sticky stuff was in Scott's hair. Then again, maybe it was best he couldn't see the blood.
Grant was sitting next to Gordon when Ruth got back to the waiting room.
"Grant!" she breathed in relief. "Is everything alright?"
The farmer pulled his wife close to him and kissed her hair. "The doctor says he wants to review the results with some colleagues. He'll bring us back next week."
"Grant, do they think…" Ruth had lost her mother to cancer and had suspected a few times with her husband, but she didn't want to hear it.
"Now, Ruthie," Grant smiled as he continued to hold her close. "They've made lots of progress over the years. And I am one tough old bird. Like a -"
"Like a thunderbird, Grandpa?" Gordon looked up, smiling at the man. He hadn't understood all of it but he suspected his grandfather was ill and would need all of their love and support.
"A thunderbird, Gordon?" Ruth asked with a touch of humor. Oh, how this grandson made her laugh. He was so much like her late brother.
"Yeah," Gordon said. "One of my classmates is part Native American and his grandpa is a shaman – that's a holy man like a preacher, you know. And he knows the best stories, like the Thunderbird that is smart, and fierce, and real strong. The thunderbird is an unstoppable force. You that kinda bird, Grandpa?"
Grant pulled his grandson into the embrace with them and nodded. "Yeah, Gordon. The thunderbird can survive any storm and even make a few himself."
"Storm," Ruth whispered. "Grant, there were twisters -"
"They mentioned it briefly on the news, said they'd have more info soon," Grant interrupted.
Before Ruth could say anything, the news came back on. The news of his own possible diagnosis was nothing when he saw where the twister had hit.
"Jeff is on his way there," Ruth whispered.
Grant steeled his jaw before leading his wife and grandson from the room. "C'mon, you two. Let's make sure the barn is still standing." After that, Grant was silent – as were Ruth and Gordon. There really was nothing else to say.
Jeff had made good time heading out to the farm as quickly as he had. Oh, he knew the way by heart and every curve or bump of the road, but with all the debris and some minor flooding, getting to the farm had been a personal challenge in his car.
He pulled into the yard and Jeff's heart almost stopped. The screen door was completely missing and the front door was half open. Jeff slowly climbed out of the car, looking around in dismay. The barn was damaged, that was clear, but besides the screen door the house didn't seem all that bad.
News reports on the radio as he drove to the farm had said the twister had followed the river for miles, even changing its path at one point. Jeff had driven over a bridge where he had once fished in the river that was now a muddy mess. Soon, not even mud would be there.
A small brown object caught the worried father's eyes. Laying in the yard, muddy and missing an ear, was Alan's beloved "Boo Bear". Looking around, Jeff felt an invisible hand clench at his heart. His baby wouldn't go anywhere without that bear.
"Allie," Jeff whispered before strengthening his voice. "Allie! Scott! Boys! Where are you?"
Jeff ran into the house where he had grown up, just missing falling from where a metal rod that had once been someone's lawn chair had torn the second of three steps leading to the front door clean off. "Allie, Scotty! Please, answer Daddy!"
Scott didn't call him Daddy anymore was a thought that flickered through his head. Checking the storm cellar, running through the rooms he had once played in, calling out his sons' names, Jeff didn't even feel the tears running down his face.
Please God, Please God, Please God…it became an endless litany running through his mind. Not his boys. Not his strong, dependable Scott. Not his sweet, innocent Alan. Take his money, take his life…but don't take his boys.
Jeff heard a vehicle outside and prayed it was someone who knew where his boys were. He quickly ran outside, almost slipping where the linoleum floors were soaked by rain water and green leaves.
"Jeff!" a new voice called out.
Jeff left the house to see Sheriff Amos Taylor climb out of his truck. The town had been trying to get the man to use a sedan, but he had always insisted that something with four-wheel drive was needed to not only take care of Bailey, but the out-lying farm lands. Millie personally felt that the man was just being ornery.
That was probably also true.
"Jeannie was on the radio with your oldest boy when the storm hit," Amos explained.
"She told Miss Millie and when they couldn't reach Scott, Jeannie began to panic."
"I wasn't panicking," Jean protested. "And Mama and I were gonna come but Sheriff Amos wouldn't let her drive out here."
"If any roads were washed out, how could her car manage, Jeannie," Amos said reasonably. "And I caught Miss Bossy-pants here riding her bike out here."
"I would have made it too," Jeannie argued before turning to Jeff.
"Mr. Tracy, when I was talking to Scotty on the radio the sirens went off in town. Scotty said he was gonna grab Alan and head for the house when the radio got all staticy."
"The radio?" Both Amos and Jeannie had said that, but Jeff was so frantic it hadn't really thought about it but then he recalled the old short-wave radio his uncle had owned. His mother had found it in a box when she sold her parents' house a few years back. It had been a fun project for Scott and Jeff to tinker around with it until it worked and in order to keep little brothers from it, Scott kept it in his grandparent's barn, as the younger boys were not allowed in the barn without an adult. Grant had even mounted an antenna on the barn roof and Jeff had "found" another radio that he had persuaded Millie to let her daughter take so that Jeannie and Scott could talk whenever they wanted to if the boys were visiting their grandparents.
Looking over at the barn, Jeff was dismayed to see most of the glass was shattered, and one of the front doors hanging from a twisted hinge. As he stepped closer, Jeff could see the antenna for the short wave radio lying in a shattered heap up against what was left of the old truck Grant Tracy had been trying to fix up.
"Scotty!" the frantic father called. "Allie!"
The trio ran towards the barn, Jeff and Amos pulling the broken door off its hinges, the unbroken door inexplicably jammed in its place. Glass crunched under their feet as the three delved deeper into the barn, their voices as silent as the building itself, until a sound, softer than the coo of a dove, made Jeff run towards a tumbled mass of hay bales…But the sight of a slender arm, a fading scar showing in the sun that peaked through the broken windows and where the part of roof was missing almost had Jeff's heart stop again.
"Oh, God," Jeff whispered. "Scotty."
Jeannie looked at the two grown men and growled in frustration. "Move, dammit!" the thirteen year old cussed as she grabbed at a piece of debris and pulled it free.
The teenager's action had shocked both men into action. Soon they had the debris moved to the side and then their collective breaths drew in at the sight in front of them.
John Tracy sat up suddenly and headed to the door.
"Johnny," Joyce Taylor said as she emerged from the kitchen. "Where are you going?"
"Something is wrong," John insisted. "I need to get to my brothers."
Joyce pulled the young boy back to where her son and daughters had paused in their argument to stare at John's strange behavior. "Honey, you heard what your mother said. Your brothers are in three different spots. You'll see them tonight."
"You don't understand," John cried. "Something is wrong."
Joyce sat on the sofa and pulled John in next to her. As the eleven year old became more upset, Joyce grew concerned. She remembered what Lucy had said about her boys – one always knew if the others needed them. Now she was becoming worried as well.
Gordon moved restlessly on the truck seat between his grandparents.
"Gordon Cooper Tracy," Ruth admonished. "You are acting like you have ants in your pants."
"Grandma," Gordon said with uncharacteristic solemnity. "We really need to get to Scott and Allie."
"We will, Gordon," Grant said as he patted his grandson's knee. "We're getting to your brothers as fast as we can."
"Ow," Sarah Jane said softly.
"Sarah Jane," Lucy said in concern, grateful for the distraction. "Are you alright? Is the pain medication wearing off already?"
"No, Mrs. Tracy," Sarah Jane answered. "Virgil just squeezed my hand real tight."
"Sorry, Sarah Jane," Virgil mumbled. "I'm just getting real worried about Alan and Scott."
"Me too," Sarah Jane mumbled as she lay her head on Virgil's shoulder. The pain medications made her real sleepy. "Me too."
Jeff fell to his knees, afraid to touch his son. Scott had small cuts over most of his body but it was the long, bloody gash on the side of his head that was so frightening. The teenager had his body curled defensively, as close to the inner wall as he could. Before Jeff could bring himself to do anything, the small sound could be heard again.
A small blonde head pulled itself from under Scott's body. "Daddy!" Alan said before his lower lip started to tremble. "Daddy, Scotty won't wakes up."
"Oh, God – Allie. Baby, are you ok?" Jeff whispered.
"I's hurt, Daddy and Scott won't wakes."
Looking over at Amos, Jeff began to speak before a noise above him drew his attention. "Look out," Jeff called as he threw his body over his sons.
When the debris settled once more, Amos looked over from where he had pushed Jeannie down. "Jeannie, go get the collapsible stretcher from the back of my truck." When Jeannie looked to argue, Amos gave her a glare.
"Now, Bertha Jean," Amos stated.
Once Jean was gone, Jeff managed a small smile while trying to calm Alan. The two year had paused in his sniffles before looking up at the sheriff. "OOH. You'se in trouble. Jeannie don't let nobody calls her Beatha."
Amos wanted to argue but considering the look Jeannie had shot him, he found himself agreeing with the toddler.
"Got it," Jeannie said as she came back into the barn, hauling the stretcher behind her. "But should we be moving them?"
"At this point," Jeff muttered as he helped set up the stretcher, "it's more dangerous to keep them here. Amos, do you have that collar on Scott?"
"Yep," the sheriff responded.
Jeannie knelt down beside her best friend, forcing back her tears and looked at the toddler. "OK, Sprout, you stay right there. Don't cha move a muscle, ok?"
"Like tatues?" Alan asked between new tears.
"Tatoos?" Jeff asked as he moved the stretcher so that they could gently roll Scott on to it.
"Think he means statues," Jeannie explained. "Sarah Jane gets him to play it when the boys need to do their homework." Turning to Alan, she grinned. "Yeah, Sprout – statues. You gotta be really still so your Daddy and Sheriff Amos can help Scotty." She looked at the little boy and whispered to the adults, "His leg looks wrong. No," Jean frowned, "the b-a-b-y's leg. I think it's broken. It probably got pushed wrong against the wall while Scott protected him."
The toddler, although scared and in pain, remained still, his trembling lower lip the only sign of his continued distress.
As a rafter above them groaned, Amos and Jeff lifted the stretcher. When dust trickled down on them, Jeannie grabbed Alan and held him close. "Get Scotty outta here," Jeannie barked. "I got Allie."
The two men quickly moved to the exit but were outpaced by Jeannie. Just as they reached the door, the rafter that had been groaning snapped, bringing down more debris, with a particularly heavy piece landing right where the boys had been just moments before.
Ann-Marie Thompson was waiting when Auyna came running back in.
"Ms. Thompson," the temp halted in front of her. "You told the agency it was important." Auyna was really hoping they were going to offer her a permanent slot at the company.
Ann-Marie glared at the younger woman, holding out the crumpled message. "Lucy Tracy called, but neither Mr. Tracy or I ever got the message." When Auyna looked to argue, Ann-Marie held up a hand.
"In some places, a message from the boss's wife may not be considered an emergency. But if Lucy was trying that hard to get through it was. And if it wasn't, it still wasn't up to you to decide. I'm instructing the temp agency that we will pay you through next week, but that they are never to send you to any Tracy Industries location again. And don't waste your time in applying through personnel. It won't work."
Auyna flushed and looked to argue when Ann-Marie leaned over the desk.
"And by the way? Jeff's office has security cameras, accessible only to him, me and the head of security. Jeff would never call his boys "brats" and he adores Lucy. It would kill him to lose any of them. You never stood a chance."
Auyna turned on her heel and walked out with as much dignity as she could manage. Ann-Marie watched from the window as the girl left, almost hoping that Auyna would slip in the puddles.
"Nah," she muttered. "Little bitch would probably sue."
Driving back from the city, Annette Woodbury glanced over at her older daughter with a frown. Something had distracted the girl and she had wanted to go home.
Holly refused to look at her mother. She was worried about how badly she had hurt Sarah Jane. Not that she cared if the little brat was hurt – but the fact that their mother had taken the family mistake to the Tracys. Holly knew that Mrs. Tracy suspected her of causing some – ok, most – of the injuries to Sarah Jane. If she could get evidence that it was Holly, that jumped-up witch could cause Holly problems.
"I wish she were dead," Holly muttered.
"What was that, Sweetheart?" Annette said.
"Oh, um," Holly stuttered. "I said it looks like there was trouble ahead."
Sure enough, the road was blocked ahead. "Looks like the second twister caused problems," Annette mused at the sight of the police blockade.
Holly shrugged. Any delay was , she thought with a toss of her golden locks. She'd cross that bridge when she came to it. She'd win in the end. The world was going to be hers…and no one was going to stop her.
Lucy Tracy and Grant Tracy both managed to pull into the front yard at the same time, only to see an ambulance parked between Jeff's sedan and Amos's truck.
Flinging open the door to her SUV, Lucy called out, "Virgil, keep Sarah Jane there." Running forward she found herself caught up in her husband's arms. "Jeff, my babies…"
A medic turned to Lucy and motioned her forward.
As Lucy kneeled beside the gurney, she gently touched Scott's head. Her oldest son's eyes opened weakly.
"I kept my promise, Mom," Scott said shakily before closing his eyes in pain again.
"Promise?" the medic asked Lucy even as Jeff listened to the man's partner explain that it was "only" a concussion. Head wounds, you know, do bleed rather freely.
Jeannie answered from inside the ambulance, Alan on her lap, a tiny brace securing his leg. "Scott promised when Alan was born he would always look after his baby brother."
"We found them in the barn," Jeff explained to his wife, hugging her close. "Scott was wrapped around Alan."
"So what happened to Alan?" Lucy asked.
"Broken leg," the one medic explained, helping his partner with the gurney. "We'll take both boys to the hospital. Who's riding with us?"
Lucy kissed her husband's cheek. "You ride with them. I'll take Virgil and Sarah Jane home…well, with Gordon and I'll get John…" Lucy looked frustrated as she realized how long it would take to get to the hospital.
Ruth stepped forward. "Lucy, Grant and I will take your vehicle – Gordon, go get beside your brother – and get John." Looking around her home since the day she had married Grant and smiled sadly. "Let's get the boys all taken care. We'll start cleaning up tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll have power by then. And phones."
The medics looked at each other before the senior one offered, "Ma'am you can ride up front with me." He glanced at Jeannie. "OK, slugger – hand over the kid and climb down."
Jeannie glared at him. "Toby Watson, if you don't wanna find out how much of a slugger I am, you better take care of Scotty. And Alan!" she added hastily. She gently handed Alan to Jeff as the older man climbed into the ambulance. "You and Scotty are gonna be fine Sprout," she said kindly, kissing his forehead. "When you feel better, you come into the diner and I'll put some ice cream on your blueberry cobbler, ok?"
Alan nodded slightly as he cuddled in closer to his father. He loved that treat, but right now he was hurting too much to care.
Soon the ambulance was hurrying down the road as quickly as it could and the Tracys were pulling away after having secured the front door. Ruth had sighed at the sight of the rain water and bit of debris but knew how much worse it could have been. In the meantime, she had four children to take care of. Grant had eyed Jeannie who was still watching an ambulance she could no longer actually see.
Amos had nodded and put his hand on the thirteen year old girl's shoulder, mouthing to the Tracys, "I got her."
Finally as silence reigned on the farm, Amos had nudged Jeannie. "C'mon, Jean – you're Mama is gonna be worried."
"He'll be ok, right?" Jeannie asked, sounding younger than her years.
Hugging the girl tightly, he whispered in her ear. "Yes, he will. You two swore this was the year you were going to the Little League World Series, didn't you? It's your last year of eligibility, remember?"
Jean nodded, straightening herself as she wiped fiercely at her tears. "You better believe it. We may have been knocked out last year, but not this year. Scott better stop goofing off 'cause we have a trophy to win."
Amos smiled at the girl as she climbed into his truck – after he had persuaded her to leave her bike in the back – and watched the child of his heart as they drove away from the farm. Damned if they wouldn't do it. The Tracys and the Bates were two of the most determined families he had ever met…
"And did you?" Kate asked as she entered the infirmary.
"Huh?" Scott said as he looked up from Alan's bedside. He had tried to rest or at least read at Emily's desk. But in the end, Scott had found himself sitting by his little brother and telling him about that awful-wonderful day. The fact that Alan had slept through all of it was irrelevant.
"Win the Little League World Series?"
Scott grinned. "Yep. Bailey has actually been to the World Series twice since then but Jeannie and I were the co-captains on the only one to go all the way."
"So the series you were talking about at the wedding was that," Kate asked as she handed her husband a cup of coffee.
Scott frowned. "Either that or when Jeannie helped lead Kansas State to the College World Series. Not sure. When the two of us get together, the glory days frequently come up."
"Honestly?" Kate chuckled. "You had a concussion and you did that?"
Shrugging, Scott sipped his coffee. "Well, I wasn't playing again for more than a week. Jeannie relieved frustration by hitting a lot of homers. She still holds the American Little League record for most homeruns in a season. Some of our games that year sounded more like football games than baseball."
Scott smiled as he brushed some hair from Alan's forehead. "With a broken leg, we all took turns carrying Alan most of that summer. It was the easiest to keep up with the kid since he'd learned to run."
Kate sat next to her husband and frowned. "Don't you mean learned to walk?"
Chuckling, Scott took another sip of coffee. "Not with Alan. Kid went straight to running and hasn't stopped since."
"With you guys for brothers, is that a shock?"
It took the couple a moment to realize who had spoken. Scott set down the coffee cup and leaned over his brother, taking the teen's hand. "Allie – how are you feeling?"
Alan smiled weakly. "Like I went through two twisters, a flood and a crazy dog." Alan frowned. "Whatever happened to the dog?"
"He came up against Jeannie Bates," Scott shrugged.
"Oh," Alan said softly. "Dead as a doornail, huh?"
Alan squeezed Scott's hand. "I didn't remember that other one. When I was two. You could have died protecting me?"
With tears in his eyes, Scott squeezed back. "I'm not surprised you forgot that. You were little more than a baby. So you heard me talking?" When Alan nodded, Scott continued.
"The day you were born, I made you a promise. Hold onto me, and I will keep you safe. You haven't made it easy, but I will always try to protect you. I know you don't like us to treat you like a baby but remember – you will always be the kid whose diapers I changed and who held onto my fingers as he learned to walk."
Alan looked past his brother to Kate and smiled at her. At her wedding, they had both lamented over the fact that their families would always see them as babies. It was a bit easier to take these days…
Looking up at his brother, Alan nodded slightly. "Thanks, Scotty."
"For what, Allie?" Scott asked softly.
"For never letting go," Alan whispered as he drifted off, the meds drawing him back into the peace of sleep.
"I never will," Scott promised. "I never will."
A/N - OK. So - what do you want for Christmas?