Word Count: 2600
Author's Notes: Set between the events of 14.13 Lebanon and 14.14 Ouroboros. In case you’ve forgotten Jules, she’s one of the Apocalypse World hunters. Yes, I am that person that wrote a character into my fic that was named after myself.
Written for the wonderful spn_summergen challenge. Thanks to the mods for another great round, in one of our fandom's oldest challenges.
Summary: (Prompt from recipient) The teddy bear with its mouth sewn shut is now locked away somewhere in the bunker. Why was Sam so drawn to it? Where did it come from? What would it hurt if he just pulled the string?
Sam Winchester did not trust the teddy bear.
This was not unreasonable given that his experience with cursed ballet shoes, killer clowns and yes, even an eight foot tall alcoholic masturbatory teddy bear, had taught him that nothing was innocent. Normal people lost a sock in the wash, they shrugged it off. Sam assumed the washing machine was haunted. Laptop crashes? Demons probably. Unexplained smell of sulfur in his bedroom? Well, that was probably Dean. Still, being suspicious had kept him alive (most of the time) and not possessed (except for those couple of times).
The bear was in the haul he and Dean had taken from the pawn shop that was a front for a black market for mystical items. When they had got it back to the bunker, Jules had done a good job of cataloging it and ensuring anything powerful or potentially dangerous was properly stored in warded lock boxes. She had left one box of stuff for him to review, in what he thought of as “The Lesser Archive Room”, mainly because it sounded rather Potter-ish.
Sam carried the box, which Jules had optimistically labelled “PROBABLY NOT CURSED”, up to the library. Aside from the bear, it also contained a ceramic ashtray that declared it was a souvenir of “Hell’s Canyon, Idaho”, a jar full of buttons, a pair of red velvet slippers, an empty Margiekugel beer bottle and a large blue book. Armed with his laptop, he settled down to do some research.
Sam reviewed the ledger they had found at the pawn shop, which noted some information about each item. It was frustratingly vague and unhelpful in most cases; Terry had been more concerned about moving his product than detailing its provenance. Sam suspected he didn't even care that much what an item did, as long as he could convince a buyer of its worth.
Even though he knew Jules had already done so, Sam ran the EMF meter over the collection. The machine barely squeaked and he picked up no trace of supernatural activity. He sat the items down in a semi-circle behind his laptop, like some sort of weird audience.
“Eeny meeny miney... who’s evil then?”
Sam picked up the bear. Despite having once posed as a teddy bear doctor, Sam was in reality no expert in them. This one looked vintage; it wasn’t a soft pastel plushie that you might see as part of stuffed menagerie for sale in the corner of a Walgreens but rigid with jointed limbs covered in faded golden fur that was worn down to bare spots in patches. A pull cord disappeared into its back, presumably connected to some sort of sound box.
The bear stared at him through glass eyes.
There was a line of thick, jagged, black stitches across its mouth. The mouth was only a row of embroidery and did not open, so the stitching was not for repair but seemed more symbolic. Sam ran his fingers along the cord which had a plastic loop at its end and was tempted to pull it. However the stitched mouth clearly indicated that someone, at some time, had not wanted to hear what the bear had to say.
“Found a friend Sammy?”
Dean came down the steps into the library and held out a beer.
“Funny. Have you spoken to Mom?” After the shock reunion with John, Mary had decided she wanted to head over to Lawrence and spend some time alone with her memories and a bottle of Jack.
“Yeah, she’s at that Motel 6 just off the Interstate. I think she and Dad hooked up there when they were dating.” Dean sat down at the table and sighed. The last few days had been hard on all of them, maybe Mary most of all.
Sam took a swig of his beer. “Do you think Dad remembered anything when he got back?”
“Doubt it. I would think if he did, well, wouldn’t he have done things differently? Stuff that affected what we did too? Hell, maybe he did but that changed the timeline, so we don’t remember it.”
They both laughed.
“Our lives…” said Dean
“Are weird,” replied Sam and they clinked beer bottles. For the sake of their sanity they had learned long ago some things would just do your head in if you thought too much about them.
“Speaking of weird, how’s…” Sam tapped his forehead.
“It’s.. I’m holding up.”
Under the table, Dean clenched and unclenched a fist. He’d gotten used to functioning with the roar of Michael in his head, but he had no idea how much longer he could keep going.
“Cas is in the archives reading through more Men of Letters journals. We’ll find something, Dean.” Sam sounded over-confident, which fooled neither of them.
“Sure we will, “ Dean didn’t have it in him to argue right now. He nodded his head towards the bear. “Maybe your new friend will have an answer. Why don’t you pull that string?”
Sam slide the bear out of Dean’s reach. “Let’s wait until I find out whether it has a demon trapped in it.”
Dean wandered off to do some work on the Impala and Sam returned to the bear.
“What is your story?” Sam asked, standing the bear on the table in front of him. Not some sort of Chucky deal, according to the EMF. “Cursed maybe?”
Sam ran his hands over the toy, not sure what he was looking for. It seemed large for a child’s toy, although Sam was no expert in the matter. He certainly never had a bear or anything like it as a kid.
He and Dean had shared toys, as much as he remembered, and Dean’s toys were Legos and plastic soldiers and Matchbox cars. Gas station toys.
“I would’ve liked to have a bear like you,” Sam heard himself say, not sure why he was confessing that thought to a bear. “I… I got lonely sometimes. And scared. And Dad and Dean… they were there of course but they were...complicated.”
He thought about Sully, his not-so-imaginary Zanna friend. He’d been older when he had Sully for companionship. He would probably never know how much Sully helped him, not just as a lonely kid who felt adrift in his family, but as one with demons keeping tabs on him. But when he was little and his needs were simpler, a bear like this would’ve been good.
The bear looked at him with a wry, knowing smile.
Sam picked it up and for a moment hugged it close to his chest. It felt solid, reassuring. Before the recent reunion with John, it had been a long time since he’d hugged anyone. Dean had given him some weird half hug before he went off to build the Mal’ak box and that was a strange enough occurrence that Sam had known immediately that something was wrong. Winchester hugs were reserved for end-of-the world shit.
He realized he was still holding the bear. He gave it one last squeeze and then it sat it next to his laptop and picked up the jar of possibly cursed buttons.
Dean spent a few hours tinkering with the Impala. He had realized after John's brief visit, that his Dad wouldn’t have seen the car since she was totalled, before Dean had rebuilt her. Damn, that was nearly 15 years ago. He wished he’d had a chance to show her to John, let him see how well she was holding up after surviving a couple of Apocalypses.
Dean stood up and stretched, looking at the other cars parked in what for all the world looked like the Bat Cave. He wandered into the storeroom to get his feeler gauge and grab another beer. When he got back to the car, in the middle of the hood, propped askew against the windshield was the old teddy bear that had been on the library table.
Dean looked around, but his brother was not in sight.
OK. Funny. Sam knew Dean had a thing about dolls, mainly those creepy porcelain things. They were just close enough to looking human, but were also very obviously not human, to freak him out. It was some inbuilt psychological thing - same reason why corpses freaked people out. Also, Dean thought, there was a reason horror movies were packed with terrifying dolls. Because they were terrifying.
Old Ted here, Dean picked up the bear, well bears were not really the same. He was good with bears. Sure, this one had the whole stitched mouth thing going on, but he figured the bear must've checked out curse-free if Sam was leaving him on the Impala to mess with him.
Dean had a bear when he was a kid. He remembered talking to it when he would hear his parents fighting, reassuring the bear that things would be alright. That bear burned away with the rest of his childhood on the night Azazel came when he was four. He never got another one; at an age well before he should've been thinking about it, he decided that he needed to put away childish things. Like baby toys and hugs, and crying.
He remembered the blanket that Sam was wrapped in was one of the few things that survived the night their Mom died. As a toddler, it was always in his hand, damp with spit and snot, a remnant of a life Sam didn’t even remember. It had disappeared at some point and Dean would tease him that it got so dirty that it “grew legs and wandered off” into the woods. Dean thinks Sam half-believed that for a while, probably because it was less distressing than the careless truth which was that it just got left in a motel or a diner, or just thrown out.
The bear looked at him, as if waiting for him to ask it something.
Dean ran his fingers along the string in the bears back. Maybe he was being too cautious, but he didn’t pull on it. He propped the bear back on the hood as he took a swig of his beer. Funny how one object implied such a different life, one with kids and school runs and Little League. The sort of life he had thought he’d wanted.
He’d told John he had a family and he did, even though it was a freaking weird one. And none of them needed a teddy bear; not even the kid. Dean imagined Jack asking, “What is the purpose of the bear?” To think at first he’d wanted to kill him, thought that the chance that he could become evil should be a death sentence. And now? Dean had probably never seen more simple goodness in a person.
He smiled to himself. He picked up the bear and, for some reason, gave it a quick hug before propping it up onto the roof of the car, popping the hood and getting back to work.
Castiel had failed to find anything in the archives to help Dean with what he referred to as the “douche-angel” locked inside his mind. There was nothing in lore or legend he could find that even potentially offered a solution. He knew Dean was resilient and strong beyond nearly any other human, save maybe his brother, but even Dean would not be able to contain Michael indefinitely. He needed to think upon other plans and, as it was past midnight, decided to go to his room.
Castiel didn't sleep and was happy to sit in the archive room or the library all night but Dean and Sam long ago had suggested it was good for him to have his own room. He knew this was partly because of the fact that he didn't sleep reminded the Apocalypse World hunters that he was an angel, something they had been besieged by their whole lives. And while Castiel had no sense or need for privacy, he found he appreciated having somewhere to think uninterrupted.
The teddy bear’s glass eyes caught the light as Castiel opened the door to his room. It was half-tucked under the blanket against the pillow. He sat on the bed and placed his hand on its head.
The bear just stared at him and didn’t answer.
Castiel wondered why the bear was in his bed; he assumed Sam or Dean had put it there. It must, he thought, be a prank. Cas had never quite understood pranks, of which the Winchesters seemed to have some fondness. Pranks seemed to be committed against someone for the purpose of annoying them, which was strange given that humans found so much about daily living annoying at the best of times. It seemed to be yet another of those human behaviors where the action was actually the reverse of its underlying meaning, one of the more abstruse rituals of social bonding. Just the other week, the brothers had spent a couple of days hiding various food substances in each other’s clothing. Castiel recalled how amusing it was to see Dean’s expression as he pulled on a boot that contained a slice of pizza.
He knew that that toys fashioned after animals were a common plaything for children. Like pranks, these toys seemed inherently contradictory. Which summed up humanity pretty well he thought, taking something dangerous and turning it into a benign and beloved thing. Like angels, he thought. His kind, on balance, had done more harm than good to humanity and yet they were generally portrayed as beneficent guardians. And where did the thing with the harps even come from?
Castiel took the bear and sat it on his knee. He hooked a finger through the loop at the end of the cord in the toys back, but didn’t pull it. Instead, he clasped the bear close to himself for a moment. He felt pleased that he had been included in a prank. Another piece of evidence he needed to keep account of to remind himself that he did belong here.
After his morning run, Sam returned to the library. Everything was where he’d left it the previous day when he'd abandoned his research on the maybe-cursed, maybe-not objects to join Dean and Cas to watch “Seed of Chucky” followed by “Toy Story 4”. An entertaining yet disturbing double feature.
Sam packed the objects back into the box. He had found no cause for concern about any of them, including the slightly sinister bear. He crossed out Jules’ label “PROBABLY NOT CURSED” and scrawled “MOSTLY HARMLESS” in its place. Sam put the bear and the other items back in the box, folded in the lid and carried it back down to the Lesser Archive room.
Sam placed the box on a shelf and turned to leave. At the door, he paused for a moment, feeling a strange desire to take the bear out again, but he shook it off as he turned off the lights and left.
Inside the box, in the darkness, the bear was slumped to one side. It knew them now. Knew their vulnerabilities, what made them weak. It could wait, he knew they would come for him again. Maybe then, someone would pull his cord and hear what he had to say.
“I love you.”