Fan Fiction - Written by Doug Fowler - Book & Television Universe

Bear Story
Written by: Doug Fowler

If you liked "Toy Story," you'll love this look at a day - including one episode - in the life of Stephanie's best friend. And, you'll never look at stuffed animals the same way again. :-)

The stuffed bear dared to blink once. Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell the little girl was asleep. He paused, unsure of whether or not to get out of her grip. It was so much easier for the toys. They could wander around much more easily.

"Unnhh. Ergh. Okay, come on, I need my other foot," whispered Pillow Person as he crawled out from under Stephanie's mattress. A leg was caught under it still, and he tumbled backwards several times when he finally pulled it out. "Phew, Stephanie's getting heavy for a seven year old." He looked up at Mr. Bear. "You comin' out?"

Mr. Bear squirmed out and adjusted his hat. The dark brown bear wore a spiffy detective's outfit, and spoke in a light British accent. It was cordial, sensitive, yet with an air of authority that reminded Pillow Person a little of Star Trek's Captain Picard. "Hmmm, I might spare a few minutes. It's tougher, of course, with they sleep with you."

"Hey, you don't have to tell me about that. D.J. used to sleep with me all the time when she was little. Stephanie got you when Michelle was born less than three years ago." The pillow's eyes twirled, and he flailed his arms.

"Tell me something I don't know, Number One," Mr. Bear remarked wryly.

Pillow Person harumphed. He was much more direct that the whimsical Mr. Bear, and sounded a little like Woody on Toy Story, but not totally. "Must you call me that? Just because my initials happen to be P.P.," he groused, but with a grin. "Ah, well, it figures. It sounds like one of Stephanie's jokes. I don't know whether she rubs off on you or you rub off on her."

Mr. Bear shrugged. "She's got an imagination. Maybe not quite like Calvin's, but still, there are qualities of her that I've gained over the years. You know, D.J.'s just about given up looking for you. Care to be one of the toys going to charity tomorrow?"

Pillow Person rolled his eyes. "Every toy gets lost for a while. She'll find me soon enough."

"Well, spring cleaning will be the time. If not, I suggest you plan to stay in Michelle's room for a few years." He turned to several rhinos. He considered himself lucky - how many houses had stuffed rhinos with whom he could pal around? Especially where the little girls didn't think they were unicorns? But his owner, Stephanie Tanner, was one smart, witty, adorable little girl. And, she knew her animals.

The pillow waved an arm. "Come on, let's not argue about that now. We've got work to do." He called all the animals to attention. Numerous toys also stood up and took notice.

"Face it, Pillow, you're the toy of a girl who'll be a teen in a year," Mr. Bear analyzed thoughtfully. "And according to Peter Pan, she's already at the age when she'd move out of the nursery and be considered grown up. She'd stop playing with us." He grinned. He could never imagine Stephanie not playing with him. He knew D.J. had never had as close an attachment to that pillow. "In fact," he added, "D.J.'s never referred to you as 'friend.' At one point, she preferred an invisible duck named Norton to you. Now that really quacks me up."

Pillow gazed at Mr. Bear with a look of amusement. Mr. Bear had quickly risen in the ranks of stuffed animals there for one reason. After Pam Tanner - the mother of Stephanie, D.J., and the toddler Michelle - died just about two year ago, he and Stephanie cried together all the time. Of course, an outsider couldn't tell, but to a child, there was something special about a stuffed animal. If D.J. were bugging her, or if Stephanie just needed to talk, he'd be there. And, unlike many toys, children could tell when a stuffed animal had a sort of life to it.

D.J. had had her best friend, Kimmy Gibbler. So, she hadn't need Pillow Person quite as much. Still, he'd been there, too, for her. And, Pillow Person tried to defend his owner's small attempts to maintain that little girl attitude while getting older. "You and your pointless ramblings. You've been good for Stephanie. But I am a sophisticated toy; D.J. says so herself. She's growing into a fine young woman. And I'm proud to say that she used to drool on me when she was little."

Mr. Bear gave a whimsical grin. He knew D.J. wouldn't part with Pillow Person. Besides, with Michelle in the house, he could always get handed down. So could any of the other stuffed animals during tomorrow's spring cleaning. In fact, he hoped one in particular would stay.

One of Stephanie's stuffed bunnies looked up from a calculator. "Hey, are we gonna start the meeting? 'Cause if not, we've got some multiplying to do."

Mr. Bear cleared his throat, and brought the meeting to order, standing on a chair at the little table Stephanie and D.J. shared. First, he checked to ensure Stephanie was still sleeping. It would really be a mad scramble if she awakened now. "All right, now as we all know, tomorrow is spring cleaning day. Which means it's also the day when some of you will be going to help more needy boys and girls."

"It'd be a shame to leave this place," Rollie the Rhino uttered in a deep voice.

Mr. Bear grinned. "Well, Stephanie's told me about a few of you who I know made the cut. However, I'd advise you all to remember that this isn't about you, it's about helping other kids." He paused. He thought he heard footsteps in the hall. Pillow Person creeked open the door and peeked out with the corner of his...well, his head. Michelle was attempting to go potty; she'd called for her dad to get her. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah. If Michelle spots us, she's young enough we can make her think it's a dream," Pillow Person said confidently. He had experience that Mr. Bear didn't with toddlers.

"You're good at that sort of thing, I imagine, being around D.J. when she was little." Turning back to the crowd, he added that, "The key to this is sometimes just how a child thinks of you. It's very rare that you become a real friend, not just a toy. Don't think of being given away as the end of your career. It could be a great beginning."

As he rambled on, and then answered questions, Mr. Bear considered that even before Pam's accident, Stephanie had enjoyed him. But, she'd had other animal friends, too. In fact, even a few months after her dad's best friend Joey and her Uncle Jesse moved in to help raise the girls, she'd been carrying a stuffed dog with a yellow ribbon named Alphabet - whom she called Alphie.

He turned to Alphie as he finished. Asking to speak to him privately, he told him "Alphie, Stephanie's sort of forgotten about you."

"I know. But, it could just be my time to move on," the dog said with a shrug.

Mr. Bear smiled. He like this dog's attitude. It was a humble, unassuming voice. The duty of an animal, as with a toy, was to facilitate enjoyment in children. Stephanie had had him since she turned five. And, Alphie knew it might just be time for a change.

Still, Alphie had been important in helping Stephanie after her mom's death. "Look, I know the toys really don't get a chance. But the way Stephanie is with me, I might be able to mutter something, and remind her to keep you here...if you want to stay."

"Mr. Bear, you're her best friend. Better than Harry, better than Allie, better than anyone." He scratched behind an ear. "I've seen the way you work. You may not have a Hundred Acre Woods, but in some ways you're better than Winnie the Pooh. And, I'd be proud to go to some other young kid who's hurting, and say to myself 'I served under the Master.'"

Mr. Bear blushed - as much as that was possible for a stuffed animal. "Well, I'd hate to see you go. I relied more on you than you could realize after their Mom died."

Alphie raised his eyebrows as the others went back to their places. "Really?"

"Dogs are naturally loyal and understanding. Bears can be. But, look at my outfit. I'm a mystery-solving bear. I could just as easily have been Sherlock Holmes to some child's Watson. Instead..." He smiled wistfully. "Instead I got to swim in a current of tears. I got to go through the whole grieving process with that girl. Sure, I helped. But, I couldn't have done it without you."

"Thanks." They embraced. "Look at us, Mr. Bear. Over time, we become just like our owners, don't we?"

"We certainly do." Mr. Bear checked on the toys in Michelle's room, then crawled back up into Stephanie's clutches as she lay sleeping.

Spring cleaning day dawned as usual, with Mr. Bear sizing up the piles of toys which were being put in the corner. Stephanie informed him of what they were doing. As if we haven't known for weeks, he thought to himself.

Suddenly, Michelle wandered into the girls' room. He grinned. Maybe Michelle would take Alphie. He certainly hoped so. He hated to see that dog leave.

"Yikes," he thought to himself. "Michelle wants me! She's been after me ever since she could crawl." He wasn't used to children younger than about five at all. It was ironic that - even before Pam's death - he was the target of affection for not one, but two children.

That wasn't what he'd expected when he flashed that big grin, and Pam had picked him up for Stephanie. "Stephanie's so curious, always asking questions like a little detective. Always talking about anything, really," Pam had muttered to him - though most people would have thought it was to herself - at the hospital gift shop. "D.J.'s getting big, she's gonna get a bracelet, but you look like you're made just for Stephanie." When he arrived at his new home, he found just what he expected. A bright, witty, charming child. Stephanie was a little younger than he'd pictured, but she was beyond her years in some ways. At age four, she could already read, for instance. Those first few months with Stephanie had been so much fun.

He sighed as he watched Michelle pick up a few little toys and animals. Alphie was not one of them. He hated to see that little dog go. But, he himself had come from a hospital gift shop. He knew there were many hurting kids. Maybe Alphie would go to one of them. And, he would move on without him. Indeed, Stephanie herself could help him.

He failed to notice Michelle until it was too late. The toddler was carrying him away, unseen by anyone else. He watched as she went downstairs with him. Michelle stopped for a moment and examined the bear's outfit, making Mr. Bear very thankful. A toy's job was to provide entertainment, and allow children to use their imagination. He wasn't sure what he'd have done if she'd carried him off while going somewhere she shouldn't. He supposed at her age he could have come alive for just an instant. It hadn't happened often, but he'd heard stories, legends, really, from around the world. And, if he had to...

Someone was coming. Good, soon he would be back on Stephanie's bed...oh no!

He fretted as he went into a very dark piano bench. He could just hear someone saying "there you are, Michelle" as she closed the lid and began pounding on the keys. He was thankful it wasn't the oven. Michelle had put her shoes there several months before, according to Stephanie. But, still, it would be a very dull time. And, who knew how long he'd be there.

Mr. Bear shook his head. He sincerely hoped Alphie wouldn't suffer the same fate. Lost and ignored for years.

Mr. Bear tried to think positively. He began to relive things, as stuffed animals were wont to do when frozen. Still, thoughts of Alphie brought one thing to the forefront.

His mind drifted back to a spring day two years before. It had begun like any normal day. Stephanie had spoken to him and to several other animals, talking about the joys of spring. He grinned. Mr. Bear hadn't lived through a spring yet. And it would be just like Stephanie to take that detective bear exploring with her, or at least tell him all sorts of amazing things later. He expected her to run back up to show him a birds' nest, or maybe one of those butterflies that couldn't possibly be as pretty as Stephanie was saying, could they?

Instead, after a while, he'd suddenly heard Stephanie running up to her room. It was a sound far different than any he'd heard before. Far worse than the "I'm in big trouble and going to my room" cry, or the "I just skinned my knee" cry. Stephanie had grabbed him, crying her eyes out. And, as he was carried downstairs and hear people talk, he felt as awkward as any toy had ever felt. He knew he was seriously under-trained.

Toys were supposed to be for fun. Oh, some could be comfort objects. But, he was not your typical comfort object - especially for a girl. He'd heard stories, from other toys whose owners had come to play, of children who slept with fire chief bears, with action figures, even with toy trucks and trains like Thomas the Tank Engine. But, those were mostly boys.

Yet there he was, being carried by Stephanie, away from the rest of the animals, and longing to break toy rules and cry out for assistance. He knew it would be a very long day, and it was. He couldn't believe the places he'd gone, the sad places. The places no animal ever dared take his owner, but where owners sometimes had to take their animals. It wasn't until very late that night that Stephanie had finally gotten to sleep.

Weary, deflated, and sopping wet, his being sapped of strength, Mr. Bear unfroze, yet felt still almost lifeless. He sensed he couldn't leave the sleeping girl's side - she was holding on for dear life, with him hugging her back. And yet, he needed help. He fretted until Alphie and Pillow Person came into the room. Pillow Person had been under D.J.'s bed, until Alphie, noticing D.J. wasn't around, had gone into D.J.'s room to get him.

Mr. Bear gestured with his head. "You heard the news," he asked somberly.

Pillow Person nodded and sighed as he and Alphie walked over. "I just can't believe it's happened."

Alphie laid a comforting paw on Mr. Bear's arm. "Want me to cover for you?"

Mr. Bear bit his lip. He had no training in being a comfort object. If Stephanie did get sent to her room as punishment, she was just as likely to hold Alphie or another animal as she was him. But yet, he sensed one very important truth about his new situation. "I can't leave her. I mean, she's lost the most important thing in her life," he exclaimed. "Her whole world has been turned upside-down."

Alphie sensed Mr. Bear's nervousness. "But, how are you holding up?"

"The truth?" The others nodded. Heaving a deep sigh, Mr. Bear admitted "I feel like a newly sewn ball of fur. Like I don't even have my head or my limbs yet. Let alone that...consciousness little kids can give you."

Rollie the Rhino offered to take over in Stephanie's arms for Mr. Bear. "You need a break."

Pillow Person, the most experienced of the stuffed creatures, showed Mr. Bear how to wriggle free. He got out, and let Rollie slide in. "We have to be ready to change back at a moment's notice."

Alphie nodded. "She could wake up crying any second."

"You think I don't know that?" Mr. Bear threw up his hands and ranted. "All this time it's been 'Mr. Bear, how should I handle Kimmy Gibbler here,' or 'Mr. Bear, let's figure out where ice cubes go when they melt.' I was even ready for 'Mr. Bear, let's figure out how far up my nose I can stuff a bead.'" A rabbit gave a "been there, done that" look. "But I am totally unprepared for 'Mr. Bear, my mother has died unexpectedly, I'm scared of who might go next, and I feel like my life is falling apart.'"

Pillow Person wrapped an arm around him. "It's hard on all of us. These aren't the nightmare monsters we're supposed to fight," Pillow Person stated bluntly.

Alphie agreed. "It's really scary for you too, huh?"

"It's not just that." They gave him blank stares. "Don't you see," Mr. Bear complained. "I'm a comfort object now. She knows her mom gave me to her, so she picked me. I've been promoted to a new level. But, there's a big difference between that and a mere toy, which I was before; even if she was holding me during a timeout. And it was mostly you, then," he said, pointing to a bunny who had been there since Stephanie was two. The rabbit nodded. "And, one of the main job requirements for a comfort object is that they shouldn't be scared out of their wits themselves."

Alphie hummed momentarily. He could tell Mr. Bear was frightened. But, he also knew that children clung to certain animals for a reason. And, it wasn't always just their looks. "Maybe that can be a good thing."

"What," Mr. Bear and Pillow Person spoke at once.

Alphie paced slightly as he spoke. "Mr. Bear; I was just a grandma's gift. And grandparents give all sorts of animals. But, you and Stephanie share something in common. Right now, Mr. Bear, you're both scared. And confused."

"So what do I say? I don't exactly sound like I mean it when I say 'It's going to be all right.'"

Pillow Person threw up his arms. "You're right. This is a disaster. A tragedy."

"I've fought nightmare monsters before," Mr. Bear mused, "but Stephanie helped. And we beat them through our cleverness. She's one bright girl. But neither of us is clever enough to handle what's happened, and what's going to come. The funeral home was sad enough tonight. But the funeral itself? We stuffed animals can keep pouring out love in incredible ways. But I don't know if I have enough strength to give all that she'll need from me."

Alphie smiled and put an arm around Mr. Bear. "Look, you don't have to know how right now. She needs you to just be there to listen. Later, you can provide a few comforting words, and then more as you go. But what she needs right now is to know you're there for her. Because you are a link to her mother."

Mr. Bear smiled at the dog. He always seemed wise beyond his years. "Thanks."

Rollie cleared his throat. "She's shaking a little, you better get back here, this looks like a nightmare."

Mr. Bear was amazed at how collected Rollie - won by Stephanie's dad's friend Joey for her at a carnival when she was three-and-a-half - could be. He sighed as he leaped up and went back into her embrace, freezing at he did. Though she didn't awaken that time, she did several minutes later. "Mr. Bear, what's going to happen now?"

Mr. Bear's eyes grew wide. He thought he was just supposed to stay frozen. Was he supposed to answer that?! "Uh...everything's going to be all right." He wished stuffed animals could pray like he'd seen these people pray. He whispered "maybe you should go wake your dad or grandma."

Stephanie rushed from her room to her dad's room to D.J.'s - their dad was still up with her. Pillow Person had snuck back under the bed where he'd been. A doll had been standing as a lookout, lest she start to look for him and find him not there. Stuffed animals could sometimes change positions a little. But, this was a very bad time to do that. These girls needed to know things would stay put.

Mr. Bear remained quiet as Stephanie and Danny talked. He would try to glean as much as he could, and hope for the best.

Mr. Bear's mind shifted back to the present. He had helped Stephanie so much then. Even after she met Allie, her first day of Kindergarten, she still clung to him. She got agitated a lot more easily than D.J.. In a way, he was glad D.J. hadn't relied on Pillow Person quite as much. But, that pillow could only guess how to handle things. Alphie almost seemed more able to handle things, more able to help him cope. Stephanie had carried him around a fair amount, although that amount decreased quite rapidly as the months wore on.

And now, was Alphie able to help another kid? Or would he just lie somewhere, forgotten? And, How long would it be before someone opened that piano bench? In most households, it could be a long time before he was found. But, in a household with a toddler, the average length of time was two hours, it seemed. And if not - he needed to figure out how to check for time, so he could get out and catch up on things when it was nighttime.

Sure enough, just as he thought of that, Michelle opened the bench and pulled him out. Stephanie seemed elated to see him. She still clung to him a lot sometimes.

After they finished watching home movies, Mr. Bear wondered if the others had seen him leave. He hoped they weren't worried about him.

Once he got placed upstairs and Stephanie left her room again, Mr. Bear noticed two things. Pillow Person was back on D.J.'s bed. And, Rollie appeared baffled, to say the least. "Do you have any idea what's been happening here," he exclaimed as soon as they could safely move.

Mr. Bear looked around casually. "No, can't say as I do. Except that our friendly neighborhood pillow here seems to have been found."

Pillow Person threw up his arms, then beckoned Mr. Bear out the door. "Follow me," he insisted.

Mr. Bear gasped. In Michelle's room were literally dozens of new stuffed animals. "Didn't anyone tell the bunnies they weren't supposed to multiply with us," he shouted.

Pillow Person shook his body - he really had no head per se. "That's just it, Chief. Stephanie was so bummed because she thought you were gone, so she got the chance to pick from one of all these animals their grandparents brought. Except Michelle got into them on the couch and claimed them all for herself."

Pinky, Michelle's pig, oinked adamantly "I haven't even begun to get the names straight. And some don't have names. And don't think they won't all stay Michelle's, either. She's already named the panda here Peaches. 'Course, she was thinking about dinner at the time."

Mr. Bear rubbed his chin and mused, "At least she didn't have to go to the bathroom. I'd hate to think of what she would have called him then. Well, I guess we'll have to have one massive welcoming party, then." Mr. Bear grinned. "All you guys still couldn't take the place of me, huh? Boy, that would really warm my heart - if I weren't made of stuffing, of course."

After several minutes of telling the animals about the family they'd just come into, Mr. Bear and Pillow Person received a shout from Rollie. "Hey, some girls might be coming this way." They raced back into their former positions and froze.

Stephanie was coming upstairs with a classmate who Mr. Bear had seen a couple times. But, most amazingly, there was Alphie!

"Look, Mr. Bear. Sally, I used to have a dog just like that," Stephanie remarked. "Wouldn't that be funny if it was Alphie?"

The visitor shrugged. "Could be. I just know I got him today."

While the two played, Alphie managed to sneak over to Mr. Bear. "Poor girl's parents are filing for divorce. She's really going through some hard times. I've heard lots of stuff just in the last hour."

Mr. Bear grinned. "Well, I guess you got to the place you were meant to go."

Stephanie quickly looked over that way, and the two froze. "Mr. Bear, Sally says she doesn't know if that's Alphie or not. I think it's gotta be. I mean, I'm sure you teach all these other animals so much about friendship and love and stuff. Don't you?"

And in the wonderful, timeless imagination of a little girl, Mr. Bear smiled, and nodded his agreement.