Commodore Glen Ross paused in the doorway of the Pool Hall, leaning against the doorjamb as he looked around. Well, everything looked like it was still in one piece. Including, he noted, Gary sitting at a nearby table and McQueen just coming from the back room.

"Well, it looks like you survived. " Ross said, grinning at his friend's scowl. McQueen had been dragooned into looking after Gary during his R&R, a situation the man hadn't really protested. Of course, he hadn't thought looking after Gary would be that much of a problem. Ross, having raised three kids of his own, knew better.

At the sound of his voice, Gary had looked up blinking at him with wide, innocent eyes. Too innocent. Gary had definitely been up to something and Ross looked around again, more intently this time, searching for anything that looked wrong from the last time he'd been on the Bacchus.

A long table set against the far wall had a blanket draped over it to form a tent and inside he could see several of Gary's "friends". . .the assortment of stuffed animals he'd gathered over the last year. . .inside, along with various other items, including a blanket and pillow. A perfect little hideaway. He wondered briefly if it had already been in place or if McQueen had thought of it to keep Gary busy but in sight.

On the table in front of Gary were even more of his friends, including a couple of the large white raccoons often referred to as the Rikkis and a large teddy bear wearing an Angry Angel jacket and beret. Where the bear had come from was still unknown, but Gary, Ross remembered, had named him Ty Bear, much to his brother's chagrin.

But Ty Bear looked. . .odd.

Ross walked over to the table and picked the bear up, running a hand over the fur. It was still stiff with paint. The formerly white bear was now a wide variety of colors and he looked up to grin at the scowling McQueen.

"What happened?"

"Happened?" McQueen looked at Gary. "Gary, why don't you tell Ross what happened to Ty Bear?"

"Me?" Gary looked wary.

"You were there, right?"

A finger crept into Gary's mouth as he stared at his brother. "Uh-huh." He mumbled around it.

"Well then, take your finger out of your mouth and tell Ross what happened." McQueen said firmly. "Want a drink?" He asked Ross.

"I think I'll need one."

"Me too." Gary piped up.

"A soda for you." McQueen walked behind the bar and soon returned with drinks. He set a glass of rum in front of Ross and a glass of soda in front of Gary before settling in a chair next to Gary. Tilting the chair back so it balanced on two legs, he rolled a bottle of beer between his hands and studied his brother with an amused look. "Tell Ross what happened, Gary." He said gently.

Gary stared at his brother for a long moment then turned back to Ross. "I was in the back room. . ."

"Supposedly sleeping."

"I was sleepin'! I mean. . ." He glowered at his chuckling brother. "I was! But I woke up an' I wanted to paint some so I did. On the wall." He blinked innocently and Ross nodded in encouragement. "Well, I was doin' pretty good so I pick up Ty Bear to show him."

"Oh?" Ross looked at the bear.

"Uh-huh. He like to look at my paintings." Gary nodded for a long moment. "But I drop him an' he fall into the paint." He looked at Ross with wide eyes.

"How many paints?"

"Huh? Oh." Gary peered at the bear, lips moving as he counted. "Four. Pink an' blue' an' green an' orange. An' yellow. Five."

"A lot of paint for just being dropped."

Gary blinked, obviously thinking hard. "He fall into the paint and then he tip the paint over. All over hisself. An' over me too." He nodded solemnly.

Ross glanced at McQueen, who was now staring up at the ceiling, a faint smile on his face.

"Then he run away." Gary continued.

Ross raised an eyebrow. "He did?"

"Yep. He run away. An' he leave little Ty Bear footprints all over. Right, Ty?"

"He sure did." McQueen agreed, not looking away from the ceiling. "And every little Ty Bear footprint was followed closely by a Gary footprint. Except, of course, for the ones on the wall and ceiling."

Gary stared at his brother, eyes wide then he looked at the table, the tip of his finger in his mouth as he thought that through. "I was trying to catch him!" He said finally. "Uh-huh, 'fore he got paint all over." He looked at McQueen from the corner of his eye anxiously.

"Well, that makes sense." McQueen agreed.

Gary looked relieved and he grinned cheerfully. "I got all covered with paint so I go into the bathroom to wash up. . ."

"That's where I come in." McQueen interrupted. "I walked in and found Ty Bear leaning against the wall."

"Why isn't his jacket and beret covered with paint?" Ross wanted to know.

McQueen opened his mouth to answer but Gary beat him to it.

"They was bein' washed so they was with the clean clothes." Gary had grabbed a Rikki. . .Ross couldn't tell which one. . .and was hugging it tightly. "An' then Ty come into the bathroom and he help me scrub off the paint." Gary frowned severely at his brother. "But he scrub too hard! Make my arms an' legs all red an' tickle the bottom of my feet somethin' fierce."

"But we got all the paint off." McQueen said.

"But you didn' have to scrub so hard!" Gary complained.

"What happened next?" Ross asked in a loud voice and Gary looked back at him.

"Well, I hadda change so I stay in the bathroom and Ty go back out and when I come out, he had Ty Bear in the bad place."

"Gary. . ."

Gary frowned, studying the Rikki he held. "He was in the time-out pen.' He corrected himself. "But he don't like it none!" He paused. "Course he never been in it before. Most times the Rikkis are in it."

"The Rikkis are very bad." McQueen said

"No, they're not!" Gary protested. "They. . .they jes' clumsy. An' slow. They get caught. Like Ty Bear. But Ty Bear was in the ba. . .the time-out pen."

"And what did you do then?"

"Nuttin'!"

"Gary. . ."

"I jes' go over to talk to him. Me and the Rikkis. And Li'l Badger."

McQueen let the front legs of his chair thump on the ground, leaning forward on the table. "He was sorting them by skills."

"Was not!" Gary protested. McQueen looked at him and Gary rested his chin on Rikki's head, scowling. "I was trying to. . .to figure out what each Rikki could do."

"Did you know Pirate Rikki can pick locks?" McQueen asked Ross.

"Really?" Ross looked back at Gary, who was chewing on the Rikki's ear, watching him with solemn eyes.

"Gary, tell Ross what Li'l Badger was doing." McQueen suggested.

"He was being bad."

"Oh?" Ross had given the badger to Gary the last Christmas and was honestly wondering what kind of trouble it could get into.

"He like Ty Bear bein' in the pen. He think it funny."

"Sibling rivalry between bear and badger." McQueen said, once again leaning the chair back on two legs and staring up at the ceiling.

"They like each other! Jes'. . .at a distance." Gary insisted. "Anyway, uhm, Ty, he go to get supper and. . .and. . .Ty Bear escaped!" Gary's eyes were once again wide with assumed innocence.

"How'd he do that?" Ross asked dutifully.

"I don' know! I turn around an' he gone! I think the Rikkis help him."

McQueen made a choking noise that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. "I looked at the doorway and Pirate Rikki was wedged into it, keeping an eye on me."

"Pirate Rikki? Oh." Ross realized that was the Rikki Gary held, a large white raccoon with a bandanna, an eyepatch and a parrot on its shoulder.

"He. . .he. . .he. . .Ty Bear told him to do it!" Gary said. "Make sure you don' come back too soon!"

"And Badger? Tell Ross what happened to Li'l Badger."

Gary blinked. "He. . .he try to tell on Ty Bear but the Rikkis don' let him. They put him in the bad place!"

"Where'd Ty Bear go?" Ross asked.

"Where he go? I don' know. He run away. He go an' hide. An' then Ty come back."

"Leaving even more prints on the wall and ceiling as a distraction." McQueen said. "Of course, I had to point out that Ty Bear was going to get cold without his jacket."

"Brrrr bear." Gary added with a giggle. "Brrrr. Brrrr. Brrrr." He clutched his Pirate Rikki and rocked, hooting with laughter.

McQueen was laughing as well and Ross was grinning broadly.

"And what did Ty Bear do then?"

"Oh, he wait for Ty to leave again an' then he come back to get his jacket. But then he not want to leave so he stay. An' he a good bear so Ty let him." Gary nodded vigorously.

"Is Li'l Badger still in the time-out pen?" Ross asked and Gary stared at him, a finger creeping into his mouth. He looked at Ty then at Ty Bear.

"Ooops."

"Go get him." McQueen suggested.

"'kay!" Gary set Pirate Rikki on the table and ran for the back room.

"I was wondering if he'd remember him." McQueen stretched.

"So where was Ty Bear?"

"He was tucked between the bed and wall and surrounded by Rikkis. But there was this little tie-dye ear just visible from the pile."

"Ahhhh." Gary thumped the door back open and ran out with Li'l Badger tucked under an arm. There was something different about the badger from the last time Ross had seen it, something oddly familiar. Ross stared narrow-eyed at a grinning McQueen.

"He okay." Gary said. "He was readin'! He like to read."

"He's the one who sounds out the big words." McQueen said in an aside to Ross. "Gary, let Ross take a look at Li'l Badger." McQueen said.

"'kay!" Gary offered the badger to Ross. Ross took it with some trepidation.

The badger was wearing a miniature version of Ross' uniform, complete with a commodore's cap. He sent a glowering look at McQueen.

"Don't look at me. I didn't do it. Gary." He looked at his brother, who had retrieved Ty Bear and was settling back on his chair. "Who gave you the outfit for Li'l Badger?"

Gary blinked. "Ahhhh, I ain't suppose to tell."

"Was it Twonky?"

"Twonky? No, not Twonky. Twonky give me Rikkis."

"Do you know?" Ross asked McQueen and the other man grinned.

"Who's the one person not afraid of either of us and has the connections to get that outfit?"

Ross stared at him then muttered under his breath, words McQueen was glad Gary couldn't make out. He hoped. "O'Rielly." Ross sighed and Gary stared at him.

"You not suppose to know that!"

Ross looked at him then smirked at McQueen. "Did it ever occur to you that O'Rielly is probably also the only person who would dare to give Gary something like Ty Bear?"

McQueen sat up suddenly, the legs of his chair coming down with a thump. He looked at Gary, who stared back wide-eyed.

"You not suppose to know that." He half-wailed then reached over to snatch Li'l Badger and scoop up the Rikkis on the table. Leaping to his feet, he ran across the room, tossing them under the table with the rest of his little friends. Babbling to himself, he scrambled under the table with them and pulled the blanket down, disappearing into his little hideyhole. Seconds later, Pirate Rikki appeared, peering at them from behind the blanket.

McQueen looked at Ross. "What would go with Rory? Maybe a baboon? Little stuffed baboon. Rory Baboon."

Ross laughed. "Go for it. I dare you."

McQueen grimaced at him and reached for his beer. He had moved his chair so he could see Gary's hideyhole and he could see a bright blue eye peering out over Pirate Rikki's head. It blinked at him and then vanished.

"He'll probably fall asleep in there." He sighed.

"Why does the only Rikki with just one eye keep watch?" Ross couldn't help but ask.

"I don't know. It makes sense to him so. . ." McQueen shrugged.

"At least one good thing came out of this. He'll have to change the name of that bear." He grinned at McQueen's questioning look. "Ty Bear. Ty-Dye Bear."

"That's not an improvement!" McQueen snarled.

But Gary had apparently overheard Ross' remark. Even now he could hear him chanting, "Ty-Dye Bear! Ty-Dye Bear" from his hideyhole under the pool table. After a moment, he crawled out and trotted over to the table, Ty Bear in his arms. "What Ty-Dye mean?" He asked with a puzzled frown.

Ross glanced at McQueen before explained. "Tie-dye is something that is many colors swirled together."

"Oh!" Gary brightened. "Ty-Dye Bear! Ty-Dye Bear!" He crowed, turning to trot back to the table. Halfway there, he spun suddenly and darted back to push McQueen off the chair. McQueen, who had turned his head to glare at Ross, didn't notice until too late. He thumped to the floor with a grunt, trying to ward off an attacking Ty Bear welded by his laughing brother.

Gary jumped back to his feet, gave the now-laughing Ross a wide-eyed look and said in a very solemn voice, "Ty-Dye Bear a bad bear." Then McQueen started to sit up and Gary squealed, spinning to run back to his hideyhide, vanishing into it and drawing the blanket close.

"You are not helping." McQueen snarled from the floor and Ross laughed even harder. After a moment, McQueen joined him while Gary crouched in the safety of his hideyhole, softly chanting "Ty-Dye Bear" and laughing to himself.

NEVER THE END

 

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