"Bugs, watch out!" Woody tried to warn her, but it was late. The love bug toy had just stumbled on a stone.
"Someone's too sleepy to see where she goes…" Bo said as she was helping Bugs get back on her feet.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry if I made you worry! It's just that I'm a bit tired. But I am perfectly fine. Well, except for my antenna" she said and tried to put it back into its place.
"Sorry it didn't last long, we'll fix it again" Bo reassured her.
The shepherdess glanced over at Woody, and he averted her look, turning at the ground, with a somewhat guilty expression on his face. She guessed that he was feeling bad when he realized how tired the little love bug and the others surely were too. But Bo didn't worry much. Woody would see her happy look when she was back again with Molly and that would be the end of it.
"Oh look! There it is!" Giggle pointed at the gallery, and suddenly Woody looked like he felt a harsh pain in his stomach.
The sun was up already and in the toys' sleepy ears echoed the sound of the children's laughter in the playground between them and the gallery.
"Perfect! Exactly what I need to wake up" said Bunny enthusiastically.
"Yeah, we haven't been played with in a while now" Ducky added.
"Guys, guys!" Woody stopped them from entering the playground. "Now is not the time. We have to help Bugs, playtime can wait".
"Fun wrecker" Bunny murmured.
"Well, if it is for Bugs, I will make a sacrifice. Anything for her" said Ducky, trying to make his voice sound more masculine.
"Woody is right" Bo supported him. "We don't know what are we going to face, so the more we are, the best".
"Thanks Bo" he gave her a slight nod. "Now, I think the best way to get to—"
"Everyone, freeze!" Duke's voice warned them about a kid passing by in a very close distance.
They all obeyed immediately. It seemed strange to Bo Peep that Duke was the one who noticed. Usually it was Woody, but now he seemed extremely distracted and confused to multitask.
"That was close" Woody was the first to get up after the child drifted away. "Thank you, Duke. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the best way to the gallery would be around—"
"Um, cowboy?" Giggle interrupted him.
"Not now, Giggle. This is important".
"Bugs missing is kinda important too" she pointed to the kid that had just passed by them. She was holding her in her arms.
"Oh no! Are you kidding me?" Woody shouted as loudly as he could so the children wouldn't hear him, but still loud enough.
"Mi amor!" Ducky exclaimed dramatically, reaching out his arms to her.
At Woody's signal, the gang moved closer to the little girl. They hid under a bench, ready to plan their rescue mission.
"Are we sure we need to organize a rescue mission?" Duke Caboom questioned. "Maybe after a little while the girl will just get bored and abandon her. I mean, it's not unusual for kids to do that. Like Réjean did!" his voice cracked in a ridiculously dramatic way.
"We can't count on that" Woody said. "Besides, even if that happened, we couldn't wait that much!"
They then began discussing how they should act, but Bo wasn't paying much attention. Instead, her eyes were fixed on Bugs, or to be more precise to the girl that played with Bugs.
"Poor kid" she thought. "She only wants to play".
The blonde child held Bugs at the height of her eyes. She seemed to notice her broken antenna.
"That's good. Looks like we don't have to come up with a plan" Bo thought.
But instead of dropping her down, the little girl hugged her.
"Your ear has a problem, eh?" she told Bugs with compassionate but weird voice. "It's okay, mine too", she pulled away her hair from her face and revealed a hearing aid in her ear.
The girl hugged her even tighter.
"I am Ellie" she introduced herself in a loud voice, so the love bug could hear her better, and then she ran off with her in her hands, pretending they were flying together.
Woody's arm on her shoulder brought her back to reality.
"What? Ready for what?"
"The plan! Weren't you listening?"
"I'm sorry, my Sheriff. Would you mind repeating it for me?" she asked in a flirty voice as she closed the distance between them, and she knew that when she would do that, he couldn't get angry at her, as his rosy cheeks gave away.
He was stuttering while explaining to her that they would go for their usual "Distract them with another toy" trick.
Giggle was too small to be noticed, Duke and Woody were usually appealing to boys, and Bo's part was to hook Bugs with her crook and draw her away from the kid. So Bunny and Ducky were the only ones left to act as the bait that would distract Ellie.
But no matter how close the stuffed animals came to Ellie, she never looked like even considering leaving Bugs.
"Come on, we're right here! Aren't we yummy enough?" Ducky whispered in desperation, disappointed that the plan wasn't going ahead.
After a while, everyone knew that they had to come up with another idea to get Bugs back.
They returned under the bench, forming a circle.
Woody was murmuring to himself: "Think, think!"
Duke cried out loud: "Réjean, why couldn't you be more like that girl? Why did you have to leave me so soon?"
Ducky was complaining to Bunny: "I even pulled off my charming smoldering face! How could she possibly resist that? Would you resist if you were a kid?"
"No, I honestly wouldn't" Bunny reassured him. "Even if I wanted to".
"Exactly! 'Cause I'm attractive! I can even do clap dance!"
Woody didn't seem like he could concentrate with all the dancing and the "Réjean, Réjean!" cries around him! Bo thought his head was about to explode. His face had never been so red, not even when she was seducing him.
"Stop!" he burst out. "Everyone just stop! Now's not time for fooling around! We need a solid, well-thought plan. So if any of you doesn't have a specific and clever suggestion, you can just sit silent!"
"Woody?" Bugs voice sounded right behind him.
"Not now, Bugs! We need a plan to save…", he then realized, "Bugs! Oh thank God, you are here!"
"My prayers have been answered!" Ducky exclaimed. "I was waiting for you, I was so worried!"
"How did you do it?" Bo Peep asked Bugs.
"Ellie had placed me in a bench and talked to me, and for just a split second she turned her eyes away from me when her parents called her. It was my only chance to leave".
"Well done, Bugs!" everyone congratulated her.
"But we must move fast!" she cut them off. "She is looking for me everywhere".
"Right" Woody took on from there and explained to everyone his plan on how to get to the gallery, moving around the playground and not through it. Of course everyone was on board and they began.
It certainly had taken them more time to arrive than Woody had calculated, but now they were there and that was all that mattered.
They went into the ventilation system of the gallery and managed to go up to the ceiling, thanks to Bo's staff.
"I'm glad to see that your crook has other uses too, except for hooking my neck" the cowboy didn't omit to comment.
"Later we can do that too, if you missed it" she smirked and kept on walking, happy to see his mood was better than she anticipated it to be in a moment like that, and he was even flirting her!
The tiles on the ceiling were removable, so they moved one just a bit so they could peek into the gallery.
The first thing Woody saw was clouds.
There was a painting of a deep blue sky with white clouds, just like the wall background in Andy's first room. Well, this painting was far more artistic and detailed, but still Bo noticed the nostalgia that hit Woody all over his face.
Next to that painting was another one with clouds, but this time the sky was purple and the clouds were pink and orange. A sunset. It was simply beautiful!
"I knew he liked painting" Woody whispered to Bo, "but I never saw a work of his. He's truly talented" he said with the proudest look on his face, his eyes shining.
Farther away there was a portrait of a girl with blonde curly hair around sixteen or seventeen years old. Now, Bo wasn't around to see Molly grow up, but she would recognize those features and that sweet smile anywhere! Indeed, a label under the painting had the title "Molly", and Bo's wish to see her in real life grew.
"Hey, Woody, look at that!" Duke pointed at a painting in the other direction from which Bo and Woody were looking at.
They turned around and what they saw made Woody's eyes widen and his jaw drop. Bo Peep placed her hand on his shoulder as she sighed.
It was a sheriff. Not just any sheriff. Woody was certain that it was him. Andy had painted him!
His memory of him was sharp, as he gotten every detail right, even his face expression.
The pants, the vest, the hat, the boot… All there.
If Woody could stand up and sit beside the painting, anyone could see that it was exactly him. Well, except for the badge he no longer had, and his colors, because the paint had been washed away in all those years, especially with the adventures they were having.
Bo caressed his shoulder as he was still staring at the painting. His eyes were locked on it, and she wasn't sure if he was blinking. Like he didn't want to lose a second of this.
The porcelain doll's eyes moved to the label underneath. She read the title: "The Good Sheriff".
And then, that moment came.
Woody had a good reason to take off his eyes of the painting and turn them to something else. Someone else.
He was here. For real. It was not a dream, or a fantasy.
He had changed, but the looks didn't fool him. He was still the same boy he knew.