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Apocalyptic Love Songs 7

Sam had thrown himself onto the floor and was stretching out, restless from sitting so long, but he looked up curiously at this question.

“Oh, you know,” Dean said, flopping onto the floor beside Sam. “Reading, sleeping, figuring out where to go next, seeing that beastie that’s following us –”

“What?” Sam exclaimed.

“I saw it. Last night.”

“It came here?” Bobby said, frowning.

“No, I –” He had to look away, embarrassed. “I went out. I was hungry for something other than what you’ve got here, so I went out to dinner, and at the crossroads on the way back the car stalled and the critter came sniffing by.”

“And it didn’t attack you?” said Sam.

“Nope. Castiel gave me this.” He pulled the malachite amulet from under his shirt. “It’s protection.”

“An angel,” Bobby said slowly, “believes in mineral lore?”

“I don’t know if he believes it or not,” Dean said. “All I know is that it works. And it’s originally from the Fishers, anyway, and we know they’re not your average, everyday women.”

Sam shook his head. “This job just keeps getting weirder.”

“There’s more of it upstairs,” Dean told Bobby. “I thought I’d leave one with you and take the rest with us. You might get besieged after we go.”

“Thanks,” Bobby said. “Malachite. That’s a new one. So, you said you’ve figured out the next stop?”

“Yeah — it’s just one line in Dad’s journal, but I think it’s enough. He said he went to Chicago to find a way to the Hanging Man, but didn’t find one so he would try Sedona. And then he didn’t say anything more about it, so I guess he didn’t find him.”

“The Hanging Man,” Bobby said softly. “That’s a story I haven’t heard in a long time.”

“Who is he?” Sam asked.

“It’s not a he, it’s a place. A pub.”

“So we just look in the yellow pages,” Sam said. “It shouldn’t be hard to find.”

“You’re not listening,” Bobby said. “It’s not in regular Chicago.” He took a deep breath at both of their blank looks, and explained, “There are cities in the world that are said to have second versions above or below or between them, even. Sedona’s the best known — I’ve heard it about London, Kyoto, Auckland, Clarksville, Odessa and Chicago, too. You can only get there if you know the way, and it’s not like the normal version of the city most people know. It’s — I can’t believe I’m spouting this New Age crap, either — more magical.”

“Magical versions,” Sam said slowly, “of ordinary cities. Great. So how do we get there?”

“I don’t know,” Bobby said. “I’ve never met anyone who’s been, and only heard second- and third-hand stories about people who did. It’s like fairy tales — you fall asleep under the wrong tree and suddenly you wake up in a different world.”

“We can’t just fall asleep under random trees,” Dean said thoughtfully, “but we can follow the signs, same as we have been. We can look for the Green Man and the Green Knight, and more cards, and anything about the Grail. We’re being led.”

“I wish we’d just be told what the hell is going on,” Sam said and shoved himself to his feet. “If we leave now we can get to Chicago by tonight. Ready to get on the road, Dean?”

“Yeah, as soon as you are.”

“Let me hit the can and get something to eat and I will be.” He went up the stairs. Dean got to his feet as well and started gathering books and clothes.

Bobby said, “How are you boys doing for cash?”

“We’re . . . not great,” Dean admitted, “but I know a couple places in Chicago that have pool tables and gullible clientele, so we’ll be better. Bobby, I swear we’re okay,” he added when Bobby got up from the sofa and went to his cookie jar.

“Just take the money, Dean,” Bobby said and took out a few bills. “I worry about you boys. I worry about Sam.” He hesitated, looking down at the bills, and said softly, “I had dreams every night we were on that job, Dean. Dreams about Sam. The same dream over and over, really, Sam in a thunderstorm and covered with blood, and his eyes — they weren’t Sam’s eyes, Dean.”

Dean shivered. “He’s fine, Bobby.”

“Is he?” Bobby said, looking at him keenly.

“I’m not going to let anything happen to him.”

“I think,” Bobby said, “the question is more what he’s going to make happen.” He put the bills in Dean’s hand.

“Thanks, Bobby,” Dean said quietly. “I’m trying to keep him from going dark side. I am.”

“I know,” Bobby said, “but no matter how much we love someone, we can’t make them do what we want.”

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