The Beast: part 6

Mud always got everywhere. Whenever he had to buy new boots, not only by their fit, their price, or how well they were made, Samuel also had to judge how easy they were to clean. The less time as he had to spend crouched by the creek, his socks getting dirty underneath him, washing his boots off, the better. Mud and pine needles, too, prickling him and getting under his fingernails. He had to wash his hands after washing his boots.

"What are you doing?" he brother called from behind him, checking over a rifle.

"Cleaning my boots," Samuel replied.

"Why?" Daniel really seemed confused, and Samuel just sighed and shook his head. His brother was not a man who cared if things were cleaned. If it wasn't for the women, Daniel's beard would be mostly crumbs at this point.

"Ack!" Samuel cried out softly as a small fish swam into his boot. Frowning, he dumped his boot upside down and the fish and some muddy water went back into the creek. He shook water droplets off and… Samuel looked up suddenly, having a growing feeling on the back of his neck that he had learned to trust. His eyes searched the forest on the other side of the creek. There was something, something out there. Even without the feeling on the back of his neck, everyone knows the feeling of being watched.

"D-" Samuel began to call his brother but the feeling was suddenly gone. Faster than it had come it had vanished. It didn't serve to make Samuel feel any better, though. The idea that something was watching him, something that could come and go so quickly? It had been powerful, he could feel that. He was going to have to be very careful.

Dean awoke with a start as the Impala jerked to the side and Alex yelled expletives out the window. He opened his eyes just to see a red sedan drive away ahead of them. It was a sign of how sleepy he was that he didn't even question the sedan was to blame and not Alex, despite her driving record. He shifted his muscles slightly and looked over at Nikki, being the only other face in the car he could really see. He was so tired of looking at the back of his brother's head. There was something different looking about Nikki this time, though, and it took Dean a sleepy moment to realize what. His foot was missing from her lap. He looked down at his leg, and sure enough it was just sitting on the car floor by his other. He lifted it up and rotated his ankle clockwise, than counterclockwise. Dean let out a bark of laughter, causing all three people to look at him. This included the driver Alex, which is one of the reasons for her driving record.

"What?" Sam asked Dean, surprised to see him awake.

"My ankle doesn't hurt!" he said triumphantly, he even leaned back and propped the ankle on the seat in front of him so all could see him rotate it painlessly. Sam and Nikki smiled along with him, and Alex turned glumly back to the road.

"I knew it was too good to last," she grumbled but everyone heard her perfectly well anyway. Dean, though, took it that she enjoyed him being crippled because she liked to see him in pain, not because she liked driving his car.

"Gee thanks," he was very sarcastic.

"Do you think it's okay to hold your weight?" Sam asked him. Dean shrugged but nodded.

"Sure, I've been mostly walking on it the last day or so anyway," he said. Nikki tore a page off the notebook she carried in her pocket and handed it to Dean. He read it.

"I did, didn't I?" he asked her and Nikki nodded.

"Did what?" Sam asked.

"I twisted my ankle the day we started for Sally's," Dean told him. That had been more or less a week ago, at least enough time for Dean's ankle to heal. It had taken them a week to get from Nebraska to Montana.

"Damn we took our time," Alex voiced what the others were thinking. Nikki snatched the paper in Dean's hands back, turned it over and wrote on the back in pencil. She handed it to him again.

"'Not that she was expecting us sooner,'" he read and nodded at the point.

"Still, though. What were we doing that took us so long?" Sam asked. He meant it to be rhetorical.

"Witches," Dean answered.

"Ghosts," Alex said.

Nikki signed an addition, which included her holding seven fingers up a few times.

Sam sighed, how did this ever become his life?

Sally lived on County Road 27, which, considering all of the other roads were likewise named and numbered, should have been easy to find once you got into the general area. It was not so. All four passengers watched the sign for County Road 26 flash by them, and then stared in confusion as Alex pulled the car to a stop at the crossroads with County Road 28. All four would swear on their lives they hadn't seen a road between the two.

"Maybe we drove through a skip in time and space or something and missed it," Alex offered as a theory. Of course it was a wild and impossible theory, but it wouldn't have surprised any of them. She ended up calling Sally, starting the conversation by asking if Sally happened to live in the Twilight Zone. Alex listened, nodded, 'Yeah'd and finally turned the car on to County Road 28. A few miles later they arrived at County Road 27, which had been running parallel to the road they had been on originally. The setting sun met them head on.

"Yeah, we're okay. East onto 27, got it," Alex said into the phone.

"Uh, Alex, we're heading west," Sam pointed to the setting sun as proof. The car squealed and Dean swore at her as Alex did a quick u-turn and had the sun at their backs.

"No, we're fine. Be there soon," Alex said and hung up.

"Oh you're never driving this car again!" Dean yelled at her from the backseat. Alex's face scrunched up in anger and she muttered something to herself but Dean's 'wrinkly old ass,' but no one heard anything much.

Pulling into the gravel driveway, the Impala was ushered up to the house by a pack of dogs. It was an odd pack, about half a dozen of dogs, big and small, all colors, different breeds, and occasionally missing a limb or ear or eye. Alex slowed the car to a drawl so not to add to these injuries. This was slow enough so a terrier with one eye could continue to leap excitedly up at Dean's window, barking and slobbering all over the glass. He leaned away from the window into Nikki's shoulder, where she was leaning away from hers. Dean looked out through her window and saw, instead of a dog, a horse on the other side of the fence that ran along the side of the driveway. The horse was moving along, keeping pace with the car, and seemed, quite obviously, to be looking straight at Nikki, watching her. At long last Alex pulled the car to a stop by the front door of Sally's home. The house itself was a two story, ranch/cabin looking thing that was surprisingly large in size. A person couldn't walk far from the house in any direction without hitting a fence, and as they had seen from farther down the driveway, there was a large brown barn behind the house.

The Winchesters and Charles' all remained in the car, even after Alex had turned the engine off. The pack of dogs continued to happily run around them, jumping and barking to see who was inside the new car. Nikki's horse had run out of fence space and had now been replaced by a Great Dane looking dog, who kept licking her window so often Nikki began to wonder if the dog wasn't just one giant tongue. Thankfully, the front door opened and someone came out. The pack of dogs where on the porch in the blink of an eye, suddenly silent and adoring. Alex and Nikki smiled and the brothers stared at the woman in some surprise.

It was Sally Blackfoot, certainly, the woman from the photograph. Her black hair was tied behind her, and her brown eyes were looking at the car under thicker eyebrows than were necessary. Her skin was darkish and her features were strong and powerful looking. Over all, she was an attractive woman, even Sam would call her so. Dean thought all women were beautiful, but that was mostly because of his exaggerated sex drive, and not some deeper understanding. But none of these things were why the brothers stared at her. It was a credit to the Charles sisters that they hadn't thought Sally being in a wheelchair was important enough to mention.

With the dogs away, Alex and Nikki burst from the car, ran around it, and up onto the porch to Sally. Alex shook her hand happily and Nikki leaned over to give her hug. They were all laughing already by the time the brothers walked up the ramp to the porch and stood awkwardly waiting to be introduced. That terrier who had been jumping on Dean's window walked over and sat calmly by his newly painless ankle, looking up the almost six feet at him. Dean tried to act like the dog wasn't there. When Nikki stood up after a second hug, Sally looked at the brothers and smiled confidently. Indeed, even without words the woman seemed to be the very confident type, so much she didn't have to prove it like Dean, or even Alex, did. She'd eyed the brothers up and down for a moment, in a way that reminded Sam of the first time he'd met Jessica's parents. When her eyes met Dean's they looked shocked for a moment, but it was quick enough so that only Dean noticed it.

"Well then, these must be them. Well come in, dinner will be served soon," Sally told them all. She wheeled herself in the circle, the dogs moving out of the way like it was a habit, and the procession of them entered the house, Nikki closing the door behind them.

The inside of the house was large and grand, but is a homey way. It was all wooden, and the main decorating motif seemed to be rugs. Smooth, simple rugs were on the floor and Sally's wheelchair rolled over them easily. Larger, more elaborate rugs that were obviously never met for the floor hung from the walls. The main room had high ceilings, as on one side of the room where stairs leading up to a balcony that seemed apart of the second floor hallways. The ceiling went up high enough for both floors. Sam, being as intelligent as he was, wondered if one of the reasons there were so many rugs was to absorb all the sound that would bounce around the room. The floor rugs seemed to help cut down on the sound of the dogs' nails on the floor. That was another thing. Not only on the rugs, but on the furniture of the living room area to the right of the front door, there seemed to be an incredible about of animal hair collecting on things. As Sally led them across the giant first room, Sam looked up at the balcony and saw one of the reasons why there was so much hair. The railing for the balcony was much like the fences outside, and all along the bottom of it, laying there with an occasional paw hanging over the side, were a collection of cats. They all seemed to be made of as few parts as the dogs were, some missing a leg or eye or what not. A few were on the stairs, as well.

And they were all watching Sam, judging him in the way cats do.

He was glad when Sally led them, dogs and all, out of that room and away from the superior eyes. The room she led them into was the dinning room, with a long table that looked like it sat about ten. The chair on one end of the table was moved aside and Sally wheeled herself into the spot.

"Sit down, please," she smiled and they all did. Alex and Nikki sat to her right, and the brothers to her left. Sam sat closer to Sally than Dean did, and Dean did this knowing himself well enough to realize if he had to sit with his legs by Sally's he was going to say something rude about the wheelchair. Sam didn't mind, but his long legs did bump up against Sally's. She didn't notice at all, and Sam felt worse about it than if she had.

"So…" Dean tried to start a conversation. Sam would have backed him up in it but a short, round, pink woman entered from another door, carrying a large tray. She smiled at everyone and set the tray on the table between them all. There were five plates on it, all containing the favorite meal of the person it was closest to.

"I love it when you do that," Alex told Sally grinning.

"I'll be right back with the drinks," the woman said.

"Thank you, Rose," Sally said. The woman walked out and everyone copied what Alex had already done, that is taking their plate off the tray and setting it in the placemat in front of them. Now, an ordinary sort of psychic could easily know what their favorite foods would be, but it was the exceptional kind, the kind Sally apparently was, that would know where they would all sit to arrange the tray properly. The same was with the drinks when Rose brought those out and walked around the table to set the right drink in front of the right person. Nikki had the largest, coldest looking glass of chocolate milk Dean had ever seen.

"You do this for all your guests?" Dean asked once Rose was out of the room again.

"Only the ones who wouldn't be too freaked out by it," Sally grinned and took a sip of her ginger ale.

"I dunno, this is pretty freaky even for me," Dean said.

"Oh shut up and eat your hamburger," Alex snapped at him. Dean did so happily. It was even as rare as he liked.

"Sorry it took us so long to get here," was really the only non-wheelchair, non-psychic related thing Sam could think of to say.

"Couldn't be helped," she waved it off, "and you boys can ask about the wheels if you want."

They both looked at her instantly.

"Alright, how'd you get it? I can't see you getting into an accident," Dean said, putting on as much of a diplomatic attitude as he could. It made him look like the chicken hawk from those Looney Tunes cartoons.

"Were you born with it?" Sam asked her in addition. Dean looked at his brother, who was facing Sally. He knew Sally hadn't been born that way. He'd had a dream, he'd seen her walk. Dean's eyes went to Sally then, and found hers looking at him with meaning, and knowing. Dean panicked and looked away from her. Damn psychics.

"I fell off a horse, some six years ago," Sally put a smile on her face again and answered.

"Didn't you see it coming?" Sam asked, Dean still with his eyes on his plate. Sally nodded.

"Oh yes, I'd known it for years."

"Why didn't you stop it? Why'd you get on that horse?" Sam was very intent on asking this, and Sally was the only one who knew enough and was thinking enough to know why. He had seen what happened to Jessica before it happened, and he hadn't done a thing to stop it. He had been stupid, it had been a mistake, but Sally was someone who should have known better.

And she did.

Sally leaned forward onto the table slightly, breaking the rule about elbows on the table. She looked at Sam in the eyes, a strong, meaningful look with all the confidence and experience she had.

"Because the future isn't meant to be changed, Sam. It's written as permanently as the past. All we can do is prepare for it the best we can," she told him. The table was silent for a moment as everyone took this in.

"What'd you do to prepare?" Dean seemed to ask his hamburger. Sally leaned back in her wheelchair.

"I had an ambulance on hand, ramps installed. I had even gone and bought myself a wheelchair," she explained.

"And an elevator," Alex said, pointing in the general direction of it, "we knew her before the accident and asked her why the elevator."

"What did I say?" Sally asked her.

"'Preparation for the future,' or something mysterious like that. We didn't understand until we heard about your fall," Alex said.

"You mean you've been here before and you still couldn't find the place?" Dean asked Alex accusingly. She went on the defensive, the way she always did when her and Dean spoke.

"It was seven years ago!" she said. Dean was about to retort but Sally cut him off.

"Nikki's right, let's not quarrel at the table," she said. Everyone looked at Nikki, who hadn't even signed something.

"She didn't say so, but she's right. You all came to discuss photographs," she said. Sam nodded and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. It was a good decision to keep them in a safe, close, relatively hidden place. He pulled the three photographs out of it and set them by Sally's napkin. Naturally, she looked at the one of herself first. Her eyes went over the image before she frowned.

"What?" Alex asked worriedly, expecting she'd gotten some unpleasant psychic feeling.

"I know I've always photographed horribly, but I didn't think it went back lifetimes!" she said and shook her head. The other four let out an aggravated sigh, and Alex would have kicked her under the table if it would have done anything.

"Anything important?" Alex clarified. Sally looked at it for a moment longer before shaking her head and setting it down.

"No. It's just a picture taken for some silly white man's study. 'Savages' indeed," said an incredibly non-savage woman. The next picture she picked up was of what some could justifiably call a savage woman. It was the picture of Alex, or rather, Abigail. Sally looked at it closely, and the other four watched her much the same. Dean would have gone on watching her, but everything went black.

There was a loud flashing sound and an energetic male voice. Dean opened his eyes and watched a man step out from underneath some sort of black cloth. At first that was all Dean could see, but gradually the area around him came more and more into focus, and he could hear the relieved chattering of a group of people, men and women. One voice he knew instantly as Sam's, another was what Dean heard himself sound like on answering machines or video tape. A third voice was Bobbi's, and another was one he had only heard once but for some reason could still identify. It was Jessica's, and she sounded happy. Dean looked away from what he could now see was a camera man to the group of four people. They were all wearing old fashioned clothes, hair lengths were different, and one had a beard. There were Daniel and Samuel Winchester, standing with their wives in front of a familiar plant and painting. They were talking to each other about how long it had taken for that picture.

"I had a feeling you'd be here," Sally's voice said from Dean's shoulder. He looked over to see her standing by him, watching the four people as he was.

"What's going on?" he asked her, too confused and out of place to put any strength in his voice.

"The past, when those photographs were taken," she somewhat stated the obvious but Dean needed to hear it.

"And you're standing?" Dean decided was the weirdest part of this. She gave a sly look up at him.

"This is a vision, I can stand if I want to," she explained.

"A vision?"

"Yup. I came back here to see what there was. It's not a guarded vision, though, I left it open to anyone who could join me," she looked at him again, simpler this time, "and here you are."

"I-I don't understand," Dean rubbed his forehead, trying to put things together. He wasn't good at putting things together, he never had been. Sam was, why wasn't Sam here?

"I don't imagine you would understand. I'll explain it to you, only later. Now we should see what we came to see," Sally instructed and looked back at the group. The Mrs.'s Winchester were standing off to the side, while their husbands energetically pushed and pulled someone in front of the camera. It was Abigail, and damn if it wasn't Alex through and through. Even her protests were in Alex's Alabaman accent.

"No, ya don't got to do this!" she said.

"Don't you want a photograph of yourself?" Daniel asked her.

"No! I wouldn't mind one of her," Abigail stopped protesting just to point to someone away from them. Dean looked and saw Nikki, dressed like her sister with her hair likewise pulled back. She just smiled and shrugged at Abigail.

"Nikki's here too," Dean stated the obvious.

"Of course. Did you think she and Alex could be apart even in past lives?" Sally asked him and Dean supposed not.

"There, see, it's you who must be photographed," Samuel told Abigail. She sighed in aggravation as they placed her right in front of camera's lens. The photographer looked at her in a chastising sort of way.

"Your masters are willing to spend the money to remember you, ain't many Negros so lucky, you ought to be thanking them," he told her seriously. Abigail was obviously humbled by this, and fell quiet and still, her eyes fixed on the floor. The brothers fell silent too. Samuel gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder and they joined their wives out of the camera's view.

Dean felt like punching the photographer until he cried or passed out, whichever came last.

He smelled his hamburger again, and looked down to see it was on the table in front of him. Dean looked around to find his brother by his side, Nikki across the table from him, and everyone and thing where they should be. Sally was frowning at this photograph too.

"What?" Alex desperately wanted to know. Sally sighed and looked over at her.

"You're not going to like it," she said. Dean grabbed his still cool beer bottle and drunk as much of it as was possible. Everyone was too concerned about what Sally had seen to notice him and any subtle panicking he might be doing.

"Just tell me!" Alex demanded, looking like she might take Sally by the shirt and shake her.

"Well, it's nothing bad, well… it's bad, but not as bad as you're probably thinking. Samuel and Daniel Winchester paid for this photograph of Abigail, you all knew each other," Sally addressed the table now, not just Alex, "all of you, and Ruth and Joanna. Yes, Nikki, even you."

"Okay, so we were friends in our past life, how is that bad?" Alex asked tentatively. Sally took a sigh, trying to figure out how to say bad news in a good way.

"Well, while you all looked friendly with each other, I don't think anyone back then would have called you friends."

"Why not?" Sam asked. Dean finished his beer and began to drink Sam's while his brother's back was turned.

"Because, the Winchesters were all white, and you two," she looked at Alex and Nikki, "were black. And, it was the 1850s…"

There was a long moment where the only sound was Dean drinking.

"Oh no…" Sam practically sighed. He squeezed his eyes shut and held his face in his hands. Alex caught on then. She didn't say anything, which was worse. She pushed her chair away from the table and stood up, taking several steps over to the wall away from them. All they could see of her was her back as she tried to collect things. Dean looked at Nikki then, waiting to see her reaction. It took Nikki awhile to figure it out, almost an embarrassingly long while. When she did though, her eyes went wide and then fell half closed. Her head tilted to one side and her body seemed to follow. She looked somewhat like a lifeless puppet someone had just set down.

Dean continued drinking and Sally let out a rather simple sigh.

"You did all look like you were friendly with each other," she hoped it would help.

It was a good thing Sally did have an elevator in the house. Sam did not think, with his hands, that he could have gotten Dean up the flight of stairs by himself, and it didn't seem like the Charles sisters were going to help. Neither of them had looked Sam or Dean in the eyes since dinner, which was made easier by Dean camping out in the kitchen, drinking. Sam almost joined him a few times, but he knew his mouth tended to wander when he was drunk and now was a bad time for that.

"Come sail away! Come sail away! Come sail away with meeee!" Dean sang as Sam walked him down the hall on the second floor. The way he was walking, Dean may as well be on a boat.

"You need to learn how to deal with situations better," Sam told him as he found the door he knew would be their room. There was a post-it note with their names on it. She thinks of everything, that Sally.

Of course, she didn't think to tell Sam his brother would spend the night in an alcoholic daze.

Walking into the room, Sam dropped his brother onto the first bed they came to. The first thing Dean did upon lying there was burp loudly, and then giggle at how it had felt.

"Shook the bed," he slurred out. Sam let out a sigh. Why did Dean have to do this to him now? Sam really needed his brother here right not. He wasn't good at making things seem lighter, he never had been. Dean was, why wasn't Dean here?

And Sam really didn't want to carry their bags up, his hands still hurt, even if Dean's ankle didn't.

The Charles sister joined Sally in a small foyer on the first floor. There was a fireplace in the room and Sally thought she'd cheer her friends up by lighting it and supplying marshmallows and long sticks. The sisters sat up close to the fire roasting their marshmallows to golden perfection. Nikki had two on her stick, one for herself and one for Sally. Despite being psychic, Sally's marshmallows always seemed to be Hindenburg reenactors. Nikki offered to roast her one, which was good, since Alex spend so much time ranting she left little time to watch her marshmallow. Four had met a fiery end before she calmed down enough to roast properly. Nikki found herself once again only able to communicate with one person in the room, as she was unable to sign and hold her marshmallow stick at the same time.

"I know it isn't the history you'd like to have, but you have to remember, no one has the history they'd like," Sally told them. She felt like adding validity to this by citing her own history and dropping phrases like 'attempted genocide,' but didn't. This wasn't about the sisters and her.

"You shouldn't be mad at the Winchesters, either," she said rather adamantly, causing Alex to look at her, "they may have owned you legally, but from what I saw they didn't act like it. You argued back at them, questioned them. You said 'no,' and how many slaves ever got to say that to the people who owned them? And some man, he said something to you, something bad, and it seemed to hurt those brothers as much as it did you."

Alex turned back to her marshmallow, and saw Nikki look over at her in the corner of her eye. Alex knew she shouldn't be mad at Sam and Dean, or even Samuel and Daniel, but it is a long known thing that what one knows and what one feels are at times completely different. She was upset, and she doubted any logical would be useful to her now.

Nikki went to take a shower and Alex brought their bags in from the car. She noticed Sam's and Dean's bags were gone and, having noticed Dean's inebriated state, figured Sam must have come down and gotten them both himself. She wasn't angry enough to worry about Sam's rope burned hands and his pain. It didn't help he had gotten those rope burns saving her sister's life. And Dean's ankle, now healed, that had been to help them too.

Why was she still so angry with them?

Alex said good night to Sally and went up to the room she and her sister were sharing. Nikki was already taking her shower in the bathroom connected to their room. Alex dug through her sister's bag and set out her night clothes on the bed Alex thought looked a little lumpy. She loved her sister, but damned if Alex was going to choose the lumpy bed and let Nikki have the nice one. Nikki seemed to have been ahead of her on this, and sitting on the pillow of the nice bed was a page out of the notebook she always carried. Alex sat down and read it, knowing it was for her.

"We are the masters of ourselves. No one could ever own you. Many will try, and some will think they do, but they are fools. My sister is a hurricane: she moves of her own accord, stops only when she wants to, is strong, fierce, unable to be tamed, and hates southern Florida," Alex let out a soft laugh, "Know I will always love you and be proud of you, chains or no chains. You are free."

Nikki came into the room them, a towel around her body and a shower cap on her head. She stopped when she saw Alex reading the note. Alex looked at her and smiled, so Nikki smiled back.

Dean woke up in the night and went in search of a bathroom. He hadn't really been in his right mind when Sam found the bathroom connected to their room, and so found himself having to pee without any porcelain to help him out. He staggered around in the dark hallways of the second floor, his muscles slow and weak from alcohol and sleep. He hated walking around a stranger's house at night, especially not knowing where he was going and most especially in his underwear. The cats had woken up to watch him, too, and he could see the eerie flashes of their eyes in the dark. They were lucky he wasn't armed. They did seem to be following him, though, and he knew their snooty little cat minds were thinking he was an idiot, or a buffoon, probably. Buffoon seemed more like a word a cat would use.

"Why don't you quit following me and just point me to the can?" he asked one set of shiny eyes.

"It's on the right wall five feet in front of you," a voice said. Dean was drunk and disorderly enough to stumble to the ground in surprise. One of them answered him! They hadn't, of course, and Sally rolled closer to him, out of the pitch dark and into the dark his eyes had adjusted to. With him on the ground and her in the chair, she was taller than him. She seemed to him some sort of seated, supreme goddess, but he was still sort of drunk

"Thanks," was all he managed to say. She put the brakes on her wheels and helped him up. Dean practically had to climb up her wheelchair, and he was glad it was dark enough to hide the indignity of it.

"It's the door just past the picture of a…" she noticed the dazed look in his eyes, "follow me."

She turned around and rolled a few feet down the hall. Dean followed her and swung the open door she pointed to wide enough to get inside.

"We'll talk when you get out," she seemed to think of this as a warning, and Dean thought of it as one.

Normally, Dean would feel guilty taking the elevator down only one floor, it made him feel lazy and he wasn't lazy, but with Sally beside him, he pushed these feelings aside. He followed her into the elevator, which smelled different from any other place in the house due to being metal and not wood, and followed her out onto the first floor. Even in the dark Sally was able to maneuver around the furniture of her home effortlessly, while Dean would move a few steps and then hit something time and time again. He thought he was being less agile than a woman in the wheelchair, and felt slightly shamed. After they entered a room that smelled like burnt marshmallows, Sally told him to close the door behind him as she turned on a light. Dean could see now that Sally hadn't dressed for bed, and was still wearing the clothes he had met her in. Obviously she knew they would have a talk in the night, and Dean felt it was rude of her not to tell him earlier. He would have worn pants if he'd known. Sally beckoned him to a chair and he sat down. It was a little soft for his tastes but oh well. He tried to sit there with as much dignity and confidence as he could, but, again, no pants.

"So you wanted to talk?" he asked her, still trying to seem sophisticated. If Sam were there he'd have rolled his eyes.

"Don't you want to know about your power?" Sally leaned forward on to her knees to ask him slyly. Dean didn't know quite what to say, which was something. He didn't like her calling it that, it made him sound like, like Sam.

"What can you tell me?" he asked gingerly. A part of him didn't want to know, a part of him wanted to continue to pretend his dreams had all just been coincidences, or drunken visions, even. Dean wanted to go on ignoring that. But, even as he was now, Dean could realize ignoring it was what Sam had done, and Jessica was dead because of it. He had to face this, and figure it out. He had to be brave enough to understand.

"It seems you and your brother are opposites. He's pre-cog, right?" Sally asked and Dean nodded, "well, looks like you're post-cog. Sam has visions of the future, you the past. He sees what will be, you see what has been."

"But that's not possible…" Dean was afraid. Not afraid like he was of losing Sam, this wasn't the sort of fear of loss, this was the world shattering kind. If Dean really was like it seemed he was, he'd be a completely different person. That's not true, of course, powers or no powers he'd still be Dean Winchester, it jut seemed like he'd be different. The fact of him would change.

"Why not? Why can't you be? Your brother is," Sally narrowed her eyebrows at him.

"But that's Sam! He's special, he's really special, you don't know how much," was a stupid thing for him to say to a psychic. She thought so too.

"Because of that demon and your mother? I don't think that has anything to do with this," she said frankly. Again Dean was silent, trying to figure out how that could be. Sam had powers because that demon had done something to him, that's how Dean had always explained it to himself, when he actually thought about it. He tried not to think about it if he could help it.

"Then why is he- we… like this?" again he wasn't sure if he wanted to know. Sally shrugged.

"I have no idea, I just don't feel any demon feelings about you guys. I think you got your powers some other way. I can't say what," she told him. Dean leaned back into the soft seat, looking rather defeated. Sally went on, "but that's not uncommon. Most psychics don't know why they can do what they do. I don't, well, not really. These powers have been in my family for, well, a long time. An ancestor of mine once told his people about pale men carrying sticks that shot fire, and no one believed him."

She gave him a pointed look that Dean was still too drunk to really understand.

"I inherited my powers," Sally continued anyway, "but where my ancestors first got it from is a complete mysterious. So big of one generations of powerful psychics can't figure it out!"

"So there's no telling why I can… do what I can do?" Dean got that point. Sally gave him a simple look, now.

"I don't know about that, some people do know," she took an important pause here as she thought about a person who did know, "I'm just saying don't be too upset if you never figure it out."

But Dean did want to know, he wanted to know why he was like this so he could fix it, make it go away. The dreams and visions weren't so bad themselves, just the fact of what they changed him into. He was some horrible Not-Dean monster, now. For some reason the only thing that seemed to make him feel better was to rub his hands over his face.

"I should probably be reminding you about how Sam's powers didn't change who he was at all," Sally said and Dean looked at her between his fingers, "but frankly, Dean, things are more important then that."

"How?" he brought his hands down. Who he was seemed pretty damn important. But Sally's face changed, then, she became very serious, so serious Dean began to feel like his crisis of self was, indeed, not important.

"Because, what you're hunting, what you and your brother and Nikki and Alex all came here for, is based around something that happened in the past. I can see that, the answer is there, in your past. And you're a post-cog, Dean, you can see it if you look for it," she told him rather dramatically. Dean had to gulp.

"C-can't you?" he asked her. Sally shook her head.

"My post-cog abilities are weak at best. I can't see what's behind this, and I can't help you," she seemed to have enough self-esteem not to say this apologetically. Dean needed a drink.

"Then what good is all of this?" he practically growled.

"I said I can't help you, but I know a post-cog who can," she told him simply. Dean looked carefully at her.


"So, why are we going to see Nino?" Alex asked as she chewed on some toast while simultaneously passing Nikki the jam. Nikki hadn't asked for it, but Alex knew her well enough to know she was about to. Sally gave Alex a pleased little grin and Dean hung his head slightly. Sam figured Dean was still a little hung over.

"You know his post-cog abilities are better than mine. All of this has to do with your past lives, he'd be the one to see," Sally explained. Alex nodded in understanding and Nikki put jam on her toast.

"Who is this guy, anyway?" Sam asked curiously.

"And why do you two know him?" Dean grumbled at the sisters. Alex frowned at him and Nikki wiped jam off where she had dribbled it down her shirt.

"Nino Valdez. He's a post-cog living in Tallahassee. We met him years ago, a whole bunch of us, when we happened to come to the same house to get rid of a ghost," Sally explained.

"Yeah, you'll be meeting more of the crew now. Sally, Nino, and…" Alex stopped herself and the table went silent. Sally's smile faded and Nikki looked down at her plate.

"And?" Dean pressed on because he can be an idiot sometimes.

"Louise," Sally forced a little smile, "we all met at the same time."

Now Sam looked glumly at his plate, but it took Dean a moment to realize Louise had been the woman whose murder they had so recently investigated. He cleared his throat when he realized.

"How many others are in this crew of yours, then?" he sort of changed the subject.

"Josie, another psychic and Robert, he, oh!" Alex snapped her figures as a thought came to her. She turned to her sister. "We gotta get a new EMF meter from Robert, ours broke in the theatre, remember?"

Nikki remembered more the dangling for her life but yeah, their meter broke.

"Is he where you got your's?" Sam asked Alex excitedly. She nodded and Sam turned to his brother, "maybe we can get one too, huh?"

The fact that Dean gave him brother a long, silent stare of death really goes without saying.

Partly because of Sam's hands, partly because Sam helped him out so much the night before, and partly because he was keeping something major from his brother, Dean carried all of their luggage down to the Impala and threw it in the trunk. The Charles sisters' stuff was already in there, packed neatly over on one side. One of the sisters had to be a master organizer, Dean decided. He knew when they had their own car, their things had taken up the entire trunk, but now they had compacted their belongings and packed them so well it took up a little less then half of the Impala's trunk. Of course the Winchester brothers' two duffel bags didn't need half the trunk, but Dean didn't want to tell the sisters that. They took so much effort to pack well it'd be a shame to ruin it for them.

Sam came walking down the ramp to the car now. He had noticed Dean wordlessly taking his stuff to the car, and had it been anyone else but Dean he would have said 'thank you.' But they were Winchesters, and that sort of thing wasn't said.

"Alex and Nikki are saying their good-byes to Sally," he told his brother. Dean nodded and leaned against the car, facing the front door to wait for them. Now that he could stand on his two feet without pain he liked to as much as he could. Sam came and leaned on the car beside him to likewise wait. There was silence for a moment.

"So, Dean…" Sam started. There was something that had been bugging him, he wasn't sure if it was any of his business but he wanted to ask anyway.

"Yeah, Sammy?" Dean could tell that was the sort of 'So, Dean…' that lead to hard questions and he wanted to put Sam off it as much as possible. In fact, Sam had been thinking too much about how to phrase the question he hadn't even noticed the name.

"I noticed you got up in the middle of the night and left the room. You were gone for quite awhile…"

Oh crap! Dean though. Why did his brother have to be so damn observant? Okay, okay, he could lie to Sam, he's done it before. Maybe Dean had been sick, maybe he'd gotten lost, maybe he went down to get something to eat..?

"You didn't sleep with her, did you? Sally, I mean. Did you?" Sam asked.

Dean could have laughed out loud. Good old Sammy!

He was about to tell his brother he hadn't and given him a lie about where he'd been, but all he managed was a smirk and a shrug before the Charles sisters came out of the house, surrounded by the pack of dogs Dean had come to refer to as 'the Rogue's Gallery.'

Whatever answer Sam got from that smirk and shrug he kept to himself.

"Yes, yes, we love you too, now get the hell away from us!" Alex warned the dogs as she walked around the car and put her fingers on the handle of the driver's seat.

"Hey!" Dean yelled at her, watching her. She looked up at him in surprise. He gave her a very powerful glare and raised his arms as if to ask 'What the hell?'

"What..?" Alex asked confused. Dean's reply was to only strengthen these two actions. Alex turned to Sam instead.

"Sam, can you translate?" she asked him. He turned to his brother, looked him up and down and thought for a moment.

"Oh!" he said at last and turned to Alex, "his foot's fine. He's driving."

Alex let out an aggravated sigh, as children do when separated from a cool toy prematurely, and she and Dean walked around the car, essentially trading placed. She was still frowning as she got in behind Sam.

Dean had a devilish smile on his face as he sat down in the driver's seat again at last. Is first order of action, after shutting the door, buckling himself in, and gently turning on the motor like a long lost lover, was to pop a cassette into the player.

"Hold your head up! Oh! Hold you head up!" blared out of the speakers.

"Now this is what I'm talking about!" he yelled happily. Alex, who was still frowning, had to put her fingers in her ears against the loud music.

"We all hate you!" she yelled at him as the car traveled down the driveway, a pack of dogs barking after it.