The Bear Remedy
Deanie McQueen

They've been coming for weeks, now: nightmares in all shapes and sizes. Sam's suffered through them all, always waking before the sky turns light, always tired and shaking and sweaty from whatever fresh horror his mind has dreamt up.

It's easy to ignore them, at first. Sam breezes through the never-ending hallways and the naked press conferences and tests without pencils for weeks before it even becomes an issue. He's not sure when or how it all changed, but he can count the number of hours he's slept in the past three days on a single jittery hand. Naps don't count. Sam's pretty sure he's surviving on his ability to doze off in the Impala for minutes at a time, but that likely won't last forever.

He's already cracking.

He laughs when it isn't appropriate, for one. It doesn't matter how hard Dean pinches his arm at the funeral they attend: the late Mr. Ted's orange sports jacket is tacky and pumpkin-like. In an unsurprising turn of events, Mrs. Ted is a bit displeased about Sam's outburst, but agrees to an interview after Dean promises to keep Sam in the car.

He's scared of ridiculous things, for another. The rabbits Shelley Harper keeps in her living room are both (in Sam's opinion) unnaturally white and twitchy. Sam keeps his eye on them the entire time, positive they are seconds away from escaping their cage and nibbling off his nose.

"What's your deal?" Dean whispers in a way that is hardly a whisper at all. "You're acting seven kinds of strange."

Sam's quite positive that Dean will poke fun at his fears, but he clears his throat anyway. "It's the rabbits," he says, keeping his eye on the smaller one nearest to the cage door. He has a suspicious look about him. "They might escape. My nose is in danger."

Dean looks at him like he normally looks at green food and overpriced draft. "You're psycho, you know that? You've lost your mind."

"Escape!" Sam whispers again, and would go on, but Shelley returns with three coffee cups, different and higher shoes, and freshened lipstick. She gazes at Dean pointedly, smiling too hard and too often.

Sam rolls his eyes. Then he looks at the rabbits.

"I'm telling you, we can't go."

Dean throws his arms up as high as they can go in the Impala, bringing them back down to slap on the wheel. "You're ridiculous. We're going."

"But we can't!" Sam has never been more convinced of anything in his entire life. "It's not safe!"

"What are you-? Look." Dean takes what appears to be a very pained breath, attempting to summon his most reasonable tone. "I'd like to you to look out the window, Sam, and tell me what you see."

"I see a death trap," Sam says honestly, and shivers.

Dean's patience is lost in another huff. "It's a bridge, Sam! A goddamn bridge! Look at the cars on it. Do you see the cars? Lots of them. All driving and going to the places they need to be, no dying involved."

"Any second, now," Sam whispers, convinced the bridge will collapse in a plume of smoke and spontaneous fire. He tries to say something else, but his eyes have been threatening to close for hours now, and the need for sleep is a fight he can't win. He immediately falls into a dream involving lizards and an inordinate amount of peanut butter, only to snap back to reality a second later when Dean yells.


"I'm up, I'm up," Sam assures, and feels confused for a split second until he spies the bridge again. "Dean, we can't—what?" He stops when he feels Dean's stare.

Dean narrows his eyes. "When's the last time you've slept, dude?"

Sam blinks.

"That long, huh?" Dean says, shaking his head. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Some age-old brotherly irk rushes through Sam. "It's not your problem, Dean."

Dean just rolls his eyes, ignoring Sam's words. "I know what you need."

"It's not over the bridge, is it?" Sam asks, and worries.

"A teddy bear?" Sam says, incredulous. "You're giving me a teddy bear?"

"Yup," Dean says, walking to the one and only window in the motel room, snapping the blinds shut and sending the space into semi-darkness. "I've just given you a teddy bear. What are you going to call it? Nothing dorky, please. It's a kickass bear."

Sam gazes at the terrycloth bear in his hands. It's rather big, for a stuffed animal: large enough that Sam's hands don't overwhelm its paws, and surprisingly heavy with stuffing. It's rather plain, as far as teddy bears go: no crazy colors or neck ribbons or mouths powered by batteries. Just brown and soft. Sam kind of approves, actually, but, "I can't believe you bought me a teddy bear."

"Let's move past the obvious, shall we?" Dean brushes past him to turn down Sam's bed, pulling back the covers and adding the extra blanket he'd found in a closet. "Yes, I bought you a bear. Now you need to name it."

"I—" Sam looks at the bear in his hands a second longer, considering, before snorting and tossing it on the bed. "I'm not naming a bear, Dean. I'm not five."

Dean shrugs. "Suit yourself. Doesn't matter, anyway. It's still going to work."

"I've been having nightmares for weeks, man A teddy bear isn't going to change that."

"A normal teddy bear wouldn't change a thing." Dean pauses to rummage through Sam's bag, although Sam's pleased to notice that his brother isn't ruining his folded clothes. Dean finds what he wants (Sam's sleep shirt and a pair of sweatpants) and tosses them into the bathroom. "Good thing this one's different."

Sam rolls his eyes. "You're being ridiculous."

"Nah," Dean disagrees, "Not really. Just doing what needs to be done." He claps his hands once, then points to the bathroom. "Now change."

Despite knowing where all this was going, Sam still finds himself balking. "Now? Dean, it's 2 in the afternoon."

"And you're way past your bedtime," Dean says, and walks past Sam to his own bed, flopping down before settling into a comfortable position. "I need to catch up on the lore, anyway," He holds up a book Sam vaguely remembers getting from the library. "Then I might just sleep myself."

Sam could argue, but it would cost him precious energy. So he goes into the bathroom and takes a shower to waste time, pulling on his sleep clothes when he finishes.

Looking in the mirror is a rather sad experience. Sam traces a finger around his eyes, poking at the dark circles and noting the grayness in his cheeks. He looks half-dead, despite the shower. Dean was right: Sam needs to sleep. Sam wants to sleep, but the nightmares make getting any kind of real sleep rather futile. Still, he might as well try again. The case they're working isn't that pressing.

Sam snorts when he steps back out into the room because Dean is already asleep, library book falling off his chest. His snores are faint but steady.

Sighing, Sam walks over to his own bed, climbing in and feeling more than a little stupid when he has to move the teddy bear out of the way. He's half-asleep in an instant, lulled by the softness of the blanket and his pillow.

He may or may not reach for the bear before shutting his eyes.

It takes a moment for Sam to catalogue his feelings upon waking.

His mind feels clear and alert for the first time in ages. He isn't shivering or sweating or suffering through the aftershocks of a terrible dream. Turning his head to the window, Sam can't spy a single ray of light. The fake white of the streetlamp has replaced the sun.

He looks at the clock: 11:24. PM.

"Whoa," he says out loud, quiet because he's not sure if Dean's still awake, sleeping, or even in the room at all.

Sam turns his head back, resting his neck. He can't even remember his dreams. He could go back to sleep if he wanted to, but he feels recharged in a way he hasn't felt in weeks. How strange that this day of all days would be the day that he—

The lights go on. "Sleep well?" Dean asks, sounding smug.

"I did, actually," Sam says, still amazed.

Dean takes a moment to undoubtedly revel in his luck, having guessed the day and the hour Sam's body would give in. "So you gonna name him now, or what?"

"Name who?"

"Your magical bear," Dean says, grinning.

"Dean, would you stop with the—" Sam would go on, but he stops when he realizes what he's holding onto. Looking down, he spies a huge tuft of brown clutched in his right hand. The bear. The soft and new and apparently magical teddy bear. "Wow."

"Told you," Dean says. "Big brothers are always right."

Maybe they were and maybe they weren't, but Sam wasn't going to argue.

He was going to sleep.