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Dear Penthouse, Buddy thought wryly, I never thought it would happen to me. It was a thought that occurred to him a lot lately. But here he was, tangled up in one very crowded hotel bed with two controversial young stars of the Mid South tag division, who just so happened to be his co-holders of the tag team titles. "Controversial," of course, being the wrestling mags' term for "the yokels start sharpening their knives when they hear your name." And Buddy would fucking know.

And why should such a lucky guy be lying awake at night when he had a rock 'n' roll sex symbol and a bona fide wrestling prodigy to tire him out? Why that was because Buddy Roberts had a theory to test.

The three of them had started running together around the time of Michael's neck injury, and there were some things Buddy would have had to be as blind then as the Dog was now to miss. That they were crazy about each other, for one thing. And the night terrors. He'd known just looking at them that didn't neither one see many full nights of sleep, and he'd found out why the first time he crashed in their hotel room.

It took him a little longer to notice that they always had them in synch, and it wasn't long after that that he got to find out the contents first hand, and why sometimes when they passed a scarecrow on the side of the road he'd see Michael flinch or Terry go deadly still. Truth be told, he hadn't had a full night of sleep since the first time he'd tagged with them officially.

Celebrating after their title win - and why shouldn't they celebrate? It wasn't their fault the Junkyard Dog was such a sore loser he had to go and put his hands on an injured man not even medically cleared to wrestle - once they'd all gotten pretty good and drunk, Terry confided his soulmates theory and Michael couldn't even manage to scoff without a sentimental smile at the both of them. And at that very moment, all the world over, lonely men and women shed a tear because that was the end of bachelor playboy Buddy Roberts, folks, he was hooked for life and he knew it.

Terry's idea stuck with him, though, and not just because it was sweet as all get out. Whatever the reason why, they did all have the nightmares at the same time. But what if one of them just... didn't sleep? There were three of them, if it worked, they could sleep in shifts.

Even if it didn't, well, Buddy was starting to think it might be better to have someone awake to watch over the other two. Things had been getting worse since this thing with the Dog started. Michael had started having nosebleeds, and not just little ones. The kind where he'd wake up with half his hair dyed orange like he'd just been in a cage match. It scared the hell out of Buddy, scared the hell out of all of them.

So here he was, playing sentry and hoping like crazy it would buy Michael and Terry one night of good sleep.

It felt like he'd been lying there forever, trying to keep himself awake without disturbing Michael and Terry, when he tried to look over at the clock on the bedside table and couldn't. He couldn't move a muscle, couldn't even breathe. And at the very edge of his peripheral vision, there was the scarecrow.

Buddy could feel the fucking malice coming off the thing in waves, and he knew that if he couldn't get farther away from it, it was going to make him rot like the corn in that fucking field. Still fast asleep, Terry whimpered and rolled half on top of him, hiding his face against Buddy's chest. Oh God, Bam Bam, wake up. Wake up and take Michael with you and run, baby, please. But even though his heart was pounding so hard he could feel it in his fingers, Bam Bam didn't stir.

His teeth were starting to feel loose, and he felt suddenly sure that if he could move his tongue to prod them they'd fall out. Like trying to pick a rotting pumpkin up by the stem, that's how it would feel.

Burning from his chest out, he tried desperately to tell his lungs to work, but the message wasn't getting through. He hadn't even been able to blink, he could feel his eyes drying out. And through it all, there it was in the corner of his eye. He couldn't look at it and he couldn't look away.

"Buddy?" Michael's face swam into view, white as paper except for the bloody mess under his nose. "Buddy, hey, man, you're scaring me." Michael's hands touched his face and it was like the warmth shocked him back to life. He gasped in a huge, gulping breath, eyes stinging as he blinked tears back into them. By this point Bam Bam was awake too, kneeling beside him and gripping his hand. Buddy twisted around to look into the corner, but he didn't really expect to see anything there. That feeling of being poisoned, of being fucking irradiated, was already gone.

He panted, squeezing Terry's hand. "I'm okay," he gasped, "I'm okay."

"Fuck," was all Terry could get out, face twisting up like a little kid who's about to bawl from overtiredness.

Michael scrubbed a hand over his eyes and Buddy realized how close both of them had been to crying. "I thought-" Michael broke off, grimacing.

"I'm okay," Buddy repeated, reaching out shakily to take Michael's hand too. "Fuck, that went bad."

"No shit it went bad," snapped Michael, then, "what went bad, Buddy Jack?"

"I tried to stay awake. Thought maybe if we weren't all asleep at the same time, you know, no synchronized nightmares, no nightmares at all." He laughed shakily, still so relieved to have the use of his lungs it felt like a luxury. "Fuck, I've never even been that scared fighting the crowd in Lake Charles. Like the fucking avenging spirit of the whole fucking JYD fanclub showed up in our hotel room to finish me off."

Terry and Michael dragged him up into a hug, sandwiched between them.

"Jesus, Buddy, don't try any more experiments," muttered Michael.

"I promise," said Buddy, hugging them both back. "I learned my lesson." But, he thought, they were going to have to figure something out somehow. They weren't going to last long this way.