Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped
to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
—”Instructions,” Neil Gaiman
They arrived late Monday night in Chicago, found a motel (not one they’d stayed at before, because that was only asking for trouble) and spent all of Tuesday trying to find the specialty garden store the cook had mentioned that sold Green Man ornaments.
The search was not successful. At least pool was — on Tuesday night they got up a good-sized bankroll between the two of them, enough to fund a few days in what was not a cheap city. But if Chicago didn’t work out, Dean thought, he didn’t know where to go next. Other cities might have ways to the Hanging Man but the Winchesters had no way to get Kyoto, for instance — and all the clues they’d gotten said Chicago.
On top of this, Sam was visibly Not Saying Anything, and it was driving Dean crazy. During the day he just asked questions, his voice pitched low and gentle like he always did to get people to talk to him. At the hotel that night he had the book open and occasionally turned pages, but he spent so much time looking at Dean that he couldn’t have spent any time actually reading.
“What?” Dean said finally from the bed, where he had his leg propped up on his pillows and a book on his chest.
“The Hanging Man. It’s a story even Bobby doesn’t believe,” Sam said.
“Bobby just doesn’t know if it’s true or not,” Dean said. “If he didn’t think it was worth looking into he wouldn’t have let us come here.”
“Right,” Sam said. “And what has Castiel told you about this?”
“Nothing,” Dean said and swallowed. “He hasn’t said a thing.” He hadn’t seen Castiel, not even in his dreams, since the day they kissed — the day Castiel said he wouldn’t have sex in another man’s body.
“So how do you know, how do you believe, that we’re not being on a wild goose chase? That we’re not being diverted from something more important?”
“Sammy,” Dean began in exasperation.
“No, really, Dean. I mean, the Holy Grail? Really? Are you sure it is what we’re being told it is?”
“Yes,” Dean said and hauled the briefcase over from the other side of the bed. “I’m sure. Just hold it Sammy, just hold it for a minute, let it–”
“No!” Sam said, holding up his hands. “No. I don’t want to hold it. I don’t want to touch it, Dean.”
“Because –” He shook his head and when he looked at Dean his eyes were full. “Because every night I sleep in the same room as that thing, it gives me bad dreams. Dreams I don’t want and that don’t make any sense.”
“What do you see?” Dean whispered, holding the briefcase to his chest.
“I see you holding a sword to my throat,” Sam said. “I see a monster with a little girl in its mouth. I see you, lynched, and your body burning.” He pointed to the briefcase. “That thing wants me to fail. It wants me to turn dark side and — and — and –”
“Sam, stop,” Dean said wearily. “Please stop. You heard what Castiel said — the Grail is a door. We can’t control what comes through.”
“So why is it sending all this ugliness to me?” Sam whispered. “What did we do to deserve this, Dean?”
Dean put the briefcase aside and went to Sam, put his hands on Sam’s shoulders and leaned his chin against Sam’s head. Sam exhaled shakily. “Our family,” Dean whispered, “was chosen by Azazel to carry out his plans.”
“I know that, Dean.”
“I know you do, but you forget the same thing that he forgot. Choice, Sammy. Free will. We may have a destiny but we can still say no. You can still refuse.”
“I’m scared,” Sam whispered, leaning back in his chair. “When all this comes down, and you know it will, I don’t know what’s going to happen and it scares me.”
“What’s gonna happen,” Dean said, “is you’re gonna make the right choice.”
Sam sniffed and chuckled and moved out of the chair. Moment over. “The right choice, huh? Screw destiny and all of it. I wish I had your belief.”
“You do, Sam,” Dean said. “You’ve got all of it.”
Sam looked at him and gave a sad little smile, and went into the bathroom and shut the door. Dean sighed and got back into bed, and put his hand on the briefcase. It was warm under his palm.
He closed his eyes, wishing there was a way to make Sam understand. It was just a plain clay cup, small and insignificant, but every time he held it, it made him feel — just — loved.
That was the word. It made him feel loved.
“Send him good dreams,” he whispered to the cup and turned onto his side. He didn’t fall asleep until he was sure Sam was asleep himself.