The four toys on the ground watched as the plane lifted into the sky. Just a moment more and two of them would have been on the plane, lost forever.
Jessie cheered. "We did it! We did it!" She jumped off Bullseye, grabbing Woody with her as she hopped on his back.
"Nice roping, Cowboy!"
"That was definitely Woody's finest hour!"
Buzz smiled. "Here's your hat, Partner." Woody took the hat gratefully as he laughed…
Just another plane flew over their heads.
Startled, the four toys huddled together. Woody was the first to speak. "Let's…go home."
As the cluster broke up, the Cowboy started the introductions. He pushed Buzz forward slightly. "Jessie, this is my best friend in the whole wide world, Buzz Lightyear! Buzz, this is Jessie."
Buzz stuck out his hand for a shake. "Hello Jess…" Before he could finish the sentence, Jessie had grabbed him for a hug.
Buzz was so startled that if she hadn't been holding him so tight, he might've fallen over. Still, it felt nice. Very nice as a matter of fact. And she smelled…pretty. Earthy, like newly cut grass and fresh air. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged back.
"Buzz! Woody!" Potato Head and the other toys had slid down the ramp and were running toward them.
Jessie let go and bounded over to them, eager to officially meet her new friends. As Buzz stared after her, feeling a bit dazed, Woody stood beside him.
"Don't be too weirded out Buzz," he said quietly. "She's just a very affectionate person." Jessie was now hugging Potato Head, who didn't look too thrilled. "You see?"
"Oh…yeah…" Buzz said absently. Suddenly an idea occurred to him and he ran to join the others.
Jessie was hugging each toy down the line. As she finished hugging Rex, suddenly she came to Buzz Lightyear again. He smiled and held out his arms expectantly.
Woody quickly appeared behind Buzz and led him away by the shoulders. "Heh, just ignore him." He gave him a small smack on arm. "What are you doing?"
"What? I wanted a hug! Is that a crime?"
"Quit being weird and help me figure out how to get us home!"
"Relax, we'll just take the Pizza Planet truck."
"The Pizza Planet truck," Buzz repeated. "We followed you in it."
Woody, remembering the last ride he had had in that particular vehicle, winced. "Isn't there another way?"
"Welllll…" Jessie suddenly appeared behind them. She pointed to the luggage train. "There's always that."
As Buzz held on to the steering wheel, twisting and turning it with his whole body, he kept sneaking glances behind him where Woody and Jessie were seated. Jessie had her knees pulled up to her chin, which Buzz thought looked kind of cute.
"What kind of kid is Andy anyway?"
"Oh you'll love him!" Woody said reassuringly. "He likes science and soccer and drawing. He's not too good at spelling, but that'll change with time…BUZZ, LOOK OUT!" He screamed.
Buzz jerked his head around just in time to see the blue mailbox on the curb directly in their path. With all his might, he yanked the wheel in the opposite direction, sending the vehicle into a spin. Jessie and Woody screamed in terror and Buzz flew backward onto the seat.
The luggage train skidded to a halt. The three sat up, stunned looks on each of their faces. Jessie's hat had fallen off and her hair was mussed.
After a moment's silence, Woody glared at Buzz. "Perhaps I should drive!"
"No that's ok. I've got it."
"Well Ranger," said Woody crossly. "Maybe you should stop staring at Jessie and keep your eyes on the road!"
"Woody!" Buzz hissed, blushing. Jessie fiddled with her braid and giggled. Buzz felt relief. At least she wasn't offended.
As Buzz pulled himself back onto the wheel, Slinky started the gas again. The sun had finally set and the night was clear and starry. Jessie stared up in wonder. "It's been ten years since I've seen stars."
Buzz wondered how someone could go a decade without stars, but before he could question, Jessie had climbed up over the wheel and was standing on top of the cab. "Jessie! Get down before you fall!" Woody ordered, horrified.
Jessie, ignoring him, held onto her hat as she tilted her face upward, her braid whipping in the wind. She pumped a fist in the air. "YEEEE-HAHHHH!"
Buzz felt his heart knock against his chest. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
"Jessie!" Woody shouted again.
Jessie turned and glared. "Ok, ok!" She grumbled as she climbed back down over the steering wheel. "Bossy blue britches…"
"Will you stay seated please?" Woody said grouchily. "We're almost home!"
Jessie pulled her knees back up to her face. "Home," she murmured. "It's been even longer since I've had one of those."
Buzz kept watching the road ahead, but now his curiosity was even more peaked. She didn't have a home? Woody had said something at Al's about storage, but where had she been before that? It was then that Buzz Lightyear decided he was going to find out all he could about this new person in his life.
As the luggage train finally pulled up across the street and parked, Jessie bounced down from the seat.
"Oh Bullseye, it's so beautiful!" She said to the horse as he climbed down from the shelved truck bed behind the cab. He nodded in agreement and licked her face.
As she laughed, Buzz leaned over the wheel and stared wistfully. There was a cough and suddenly, Buzz was keenly aware of his best friend's amused look. "What?" He said defensively. "What are you smirking about?"
Woody had his arms crossed as he grinned smugly. "You like her, don't you?"
"Please!" Buzz hopped off the wheel and onto the seat next to Woody. "I…hardly know her."
"Uh huh, and you like her!"
Buzz ignored him as he somersaulted onto the pavement, landing perfectly on his feet. Nervously, he tapped Jessie on the shoulder. "It-it's a n-nice house. Um, it's got a backyard and a…" Buzz frantically searched his brain. "Um, roof." Mentally, he smacked himself. Of course it's got a roof! What an idiot!
Behind him, Woody guffawed. Buzz turned and glared. "Not one word, Cowboy…" He said quietly enough so Jessie wouldn't hear. Not that she would've anyway. She was already running toward the house, Bullseye on her booted heels.
After finding the spare key from under the bush, the toys let themselves in. Woody sighed. "It's so good to be home. I thought I'd never see this place again. The bedroom's…" Jessie had taken off like a shot up the steps. "Upstairs." Woody finished. He shook his head as he started to follow. Buzz was beside him.
"So, tell me about her." He said in a low voice, then added quickly, "I mean, I should know at least a little about her background since we're both in charge of Andy's room! Not that I had anything else in mind!"
"Right, Buzz." Woody pinched his cheek. "Wooks wike widdle Buzzie's in wove!"
Buzz smacked his hand. "I never said that!" Well, he hadn't said it, but he hadn't denied it either. "Just give me the condensed version."
Woody moved aside to let the other toys pass before answering. "She had a little girl once, named Emily. But Emily grew up and went away. Before she did, she donated Jessie to charity. Somewhere along the line, she fell into Al's sweaty hands and she's been in storage ever since."
"That's terrible." Said Buzz empathetically. It was more than terrible, he thought to himself. A toy's world revolved around the child who owned them. To be given up or rejected was like losing part of your soul.
As he went up the stairs behind his best pal, Buzz thought about the hug at the airport and how good it felt. He wished he could give her more hugs and make all the hurt she must be feeling go away. Maybe someday…
"I'm going to Molly's room first!" Woody said suddenly. "I want to let Bo know I'm ok!" As the Cowboy reached the second level, Buzz noticed he was suddenly smiling ear to ear. Of course he was. Woody was madly in love with Bo. He could be high strung sometimes, but whenever Bo entered the room Woody lit up like a Baby Glowworm. Bo was the only one who could make him forget all his problems.
Buzz suddenly wondered if he and Jessie would ever be like that. True he had only known her for about an hour, but he already had a warm feeling in his belly whenever he looked at her. Or thought about her. Or heard someone say her name…
He thought back to what Woody had said: "Widdle Buzzie's in wove!" Love? It was too soon for love, wasn't it? Buzz was at Molly's door now and he pushed it open.
Inside, he could see Jessie hugging Bo, who looked a little stunned at the Cowgirl's quick embrace. Woody was behind Jessie, hiding a snicker behind his hands.
Jessie let go and began to run around the room, grabbing whatever toy she could and giving it a noogie.
She's so… exuberant, thought Buzz. High spirited and fun and…
All of the sudden, Jessie was behind him. She grabbed him by the wide green collar of his spacesuit and rubbed her knuckles into his head.
It wasn't a hug, but Buzz felt weakness in his legs and butterflies in his stomach just the same. He had no doubt about it now. Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger, was in love.
As Jessie let go and ran to find another toy, Buzz caught sight of Woody and Bo. She had her face pressed into his cow print vest and her arms wrapped tightly around his torso as if she would never let go. Woody rested his chin on top of her bonnet as he hugged her back.
Someday…thought Buzz. Someday, I'm going to hug Jessie like that. For now though, he would just play it slow. Maybe start with a compliment. After all, she did have nice hair…