A/N: I carried many fears around in my pocket as a young McQueen, letting their combined weight drag me down into miserable states of mind. In addition to mermaids, I must admit that stuffed toys gave me chills. They sat there on the shelves and judged me without saying a word, their eyes cold and heartless. Not believing my phobia, my mother insisted on buying me a companion in the form a stuffed duck. I can no longer recall the name, but I was forced to keep him in order to make my mother happy. I very much hated that duck.
By Deanie McQueen
And to think he'd nearly forgotten.
Mr. Ted was just as fluffy and rat-like as he'd remembered; Sam snatched him up with grabby hands from the bottom rung of the shelf, letting out a squeak of happy surprise. He instantly forgave Bobby for sending them clear across the country to invade one of their father's storage spaces. Childhood memories floated back into his mind as he petted down the stuffed rat's fur: taking Mr. Ted on ghost-hunting adventures as a wee Samuel, John's indulgent pat on the head when Sam insisted on bringing Mr. Ted to dinner, the way Dean always squirmed when Sam and Mr. Ted got too close.
A thought struck him. "Hey, Dean." He called over to where his brother was poking through a milk crate full of weapon parts and, strangely, boxes of Tic-Tacs. "Lookit what I found."
Dean looked up, hand on the forestock of some poor rifle. "Yeah?"
Sam held Mr. Ted up proudly.
"AH!" The gun part immediately fell to the ground, clattering on the concrete floor. Dean backed up against the nearest wall, hands flat on the brick. "Where the hell did you find that?"
Sam's eyebrows scrunched together. What a strange, remarkable creature, his brother was. "It's Mr. Ted, don't you remember?" He waved the rat around in the air for emphasis. "Dad found him at that garage sale with that toothless dog and the maraschino—"
"I know where he found it, Sam!" Dean hadn't taken his eyes off Mr. Ted, like he was anticipating some kind of plushie attack. "I thought I salted and burned that fucker years ago!"
Sam frowned at that, squeezing Mr. Ted fondly. Why would Dean want to destroy one of his childhood companions? Mr. Ted had never hurt anyone, had never committed any foolish deeds; his paws were too small for such things. And he wasn't evil, surely. John would have seen to that. Which only meant one wonderful thing.
"Are you…?" A small and evil smile crept onto Sam's face. "Are you scared of rats, Dean?"
"Fuck, no." Dean said immediately, and Sam believed him. Now that he thought about it, he could recall several rat-finding experiences in their life. Neither of them loved rats, to be sure, but Dean had never seemed that bothered by the critters before. "It's just," Dean spoke up again after swallowing spit, "I fucking hate Mr. Ted. Stuffed rats are unnatural and strange."
Sam's grin bloomed larger: he hadn't had this kind of opportunity in years. "So it bothers you when I hold him?" he asked.
"Yeah," Dean gulped.
Sam stepped closer, some kind of cruel brotherly instinct buzzing and flaring when Dean let out an uncomfortable whine. "Would it bother you if I made you hold him?"
"Yes!" Dean was practically plastered against the wall now, eyes wide and green and fearful. "Yes, it would bother me! And while we're at it? Back the fuck off, dude. Don't get…don't get any closer."
But Sam did get closer: close enough that Mr. Ted's whiskers could brush against Dean's full-of-holes shirt. Such a cruel and evil brother, Sam was, and he delighted in it. He considered it payback for the Impala's loud music (which had most definitely caused some kind of hearing damage over the years) and Dean's love for all things meaty and for all the clown jokes and reckless driving and his complete and utter refusal to buy anything but Tide for their laundry. In light of all that, some stuffed rat jokery only seemed fair.
"But Mr. Ted wants to say hello," Sam teased, and poked Mr. Ted's nose into Dean's chest. "C'mon Dean, just give 'im a pet."
"Just a little pet!"
Dean's body was shivering, clenched tight. "No! Sam, I'm serious, get it the fuck away."
"'Hello, Dean,'" Sam pretended to talk like Mr. Ted, all throaty and high. He very much doubted rats would speak in such a manner, but he did not excel in making rat-noises. "'All I want to do is say hello and you're being so shivery and odd. Why won't you just—' AH!" Sam screamed, Mr. Ted's monologue cut off when Dean ripped the plush toy out of Sam's grip and flew out of the room.
Sam could only stare at the swinging door for a moment, lost in awe. Then he rememberd Dean's hate and a horrible thought squeezed his heart. Mr. Ted might be in danger.
"Dean!" he cried, rushing out of the room. He saw the outline of his brother near the Impala, body hunched over something on the ground. "DEAN!" He yelled again when he saw the telling spark of a match, but it was too late: Mr. Ted had been set ablaze. "NO!" Finally there, Sam knocked his brother out of the way and immediately stomped on Mr. Ted's form, putting out the flames. A quick look confirmed that Mr. Ted was now charred and resembled a lump of something Sam couldn't bring himself to touch. It looked diseased and broken.
"Had to do it, Sam." Dean was panting, already looked more relieved as he stared at the dead Mr. Ted. "Pushed me too fucking far and I had to do it."
"No, you didn't!" Tears welled up in Sam's eyes, spilling over before he could wipe them away. It didn't matter that it'd been years since he'd even spared Mr. Ted a passing thought, but seeing him on the ground, utterly ruined, brought back all the fond memories. "You didn't have to do that at all! You're a mean brother!"
"I wasn't the one who shoved it in my face!"
"You don't…" Sam struggled to continue the argument, wrecked as he was. "You don't deserve a face!"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Sam clutched at the ends of his hair, utterly lost in grief. "Quit yelling at me!"
"Quit yelling at me!" Dean shouted, but seemed to lose his ire rather quickly. He growled once, rubbing a hand over his face. "Look, Sammy—"
"Don't call me that!" Sam was not about to take any more of Dean's sass, intentional or otherwise. He was traumatized, heart ripped to shreads at the sight of his beloved childhood non-pet on the asphalt. Life would never be the same.
Another growl, but softer. "Sam, I'm sorry. I didn't…I didn't mean to hurt you, but I can't stand stuffed rats. I just can't. You were too little to remember, but I was trapped in a toy store, once. Before Dad knew it was something he needed to take care of. It was night and all the little toy eyes came to life and they were speaking to me, Sam. The bears were rather kind, but the rats wouldn't leave me alone. They said cruel things and I've never recovered."
Sam sniffled, wiping his nose on his sleeve. That did sound like a fairly traumatic experience, but he wasn't ready to forgive Dean quite yet. The pain was still too near. Mind addled with sadness, he tried to think of some common ground between them, something that they could do to set things right.
"Could we…can we bury him, Dean?" Sam asked, and when Dean looked like he might disagree, added, "It might make me feel better. Closure and all that."
Dean sighed. "You want to have a funeral for your childhood plush toy?"
Sam bristled. "I want to have a funeral for Mr. Ted, my beloved childhood friend and companion who you just burned on the asphalt like a heartless human being."
Dean raised his hands. "Fine, fine," he said. "We'll have a funeral."
And they did. Dean declined to speak when Sam asked, but Sam pulled out a few happy memories from his brain and whispered his goodbyes on the edge of the parking lot. Mr. Ted was buried next to an ant-hill and a broken Coke bottle, and somehow Sam found it fitting.
"Goodbye," he said, and joined Dean in the Impala.
They drove away, another part of Sam's childhood lost to dust.