Author's note: This is split into five parts, with the point-of-view character for each part serving as the chapter title. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I loved writing it.
Part 1: Mr. Pricklepants
"I miss Sarge!" Rex wails, peering out the window at the line of men toting boxes. "It might be a birthday! LOOK AT THE SIZE…"
"Never fear, my good, er, man." Mr. Pricklepants charitably pretends not to notice that Rex flinches from his comforting pat. He is, after all, bristling with quills and Rex's skin is very sensitive. "The lady of the house has talked of nothing but her new kitchen for months."
Rex's sigh of relief is enough to tip his right over onto his substantial tail, and Mr. Pricklepants clears his throat to allow the poor fellow a moment to recover himself. It is in vain, for Bonnie has chosen that moment to burst through the door with a large box. Bless him, the man is a professional despite his anxieties and stiffens immediately.
"Would you like a house, Dolly? Or maybe…" Her dear laugh rings out across the room and she seizes Woody from his perch atop the hamper. "Or a general store!" His Bonnie is a tidy lady, and so it is the work of a moment for her to find and extract her store of construction papers and brand new markers. "You can be the husband, Mr. Pricklepants. Don't worry. It's not just a store," she whispers, a born conspirator. "You have to guard, because there's an enchantment and… and if you don't watch out then the wizard will turn everyone into silver spoons! But don't worry, Dolly can change them back!"
Part 2: Bonnie
The store is just the beginning. Jessie and Bullseye have their very own guard station/ tea shop, which says "microwave" and everything, with Trixie and Rex to help them keep an eye out.
The peas and potatoes have a garden where the secret ingredients that ward off sorcerers grow, but only because Buttercup sprinkles it with magic potion every time he visits. It's a good thing, too, because Chuckles, Slinky, the despicable Dr. Porkchop, and a whole army of aliens live in a fortress nearby, with so many booby traps that not even Woody can break through to stop them. Buzz has tried, but there's a secret magic radar force field that scrambles his lasers every time he tries to fly over. It's nothing but trouble, but they're too scared to do any evil stuff because every time they try they see the castle.
It's got turrets with real glitter and proud cone-shaped watchtowers painstakingly done up in green and yellow, because everybody has to know that Woody and Buzz live there, and who would dare cause any trouble when they are on watch? They can't ever, ever be split up or else. Andy didn't tell her that, exactly, but he told her without saying, and anybody can see it, anyway. Who else can rescue Woody when he's been flown up high by the bad guys, or help Buzz get his helmet to open when it's time for snacks? Jessie's hands are little, too, but she's got to take care of Bullseye and besides, Buttercup likes her best, too! He's really good at rounding up cuz he can fly and teleport and stuff, and Bulleye's never jealous because Jessie loves him too and he's really fast and can hide in little places where Buttercup can never fit.
Bonnie City is the best town ever, especially since Mom helped with the scissors and everything has signs and flowers.
Part 3: Woody
Woody likes the new normal, even if it had taken some getting used to. At first they had scrambled down the radiator every night to join the slumber party on the floor, but it was a very long climb and Buzz might be willing to risk his joints with a jump but Trixie had looked on Ebay and Woody knew just how hard it would be to replace his trusty boots. And then Bonnie took to waking at night, and creeping out of bed just to check. It wasn't so easy to scramble up quietly in time, and there was, after all, plenty of room in the castle. Even if Buzz's snores could wake the dead. Bonnie was trusting them to watch over her and she'd built them a castle herself, every last beautiful, hand-colored inch. He knew she had good taste when she'd drawn a lasso catching a spaceship before it could take off. Sure, Buzz maintained that the mural really showed his flightless friend's attempts to hitch a ride, but any dummy could see what was really going on.
And maybe it wasn't so bad to have a quiet place. Well, sort of quiet. "Woody!" Buzz always boomed, even if it was a muffled sort of boom at this time of night.
"Hiya, Buzz," he managed. He didn't feel much like company, but Buzz was hardly company anymore. More like – solid, comforting background. Even if it was easier for him – it was easier for everyone, it seemed – Buzz understood. No matter how long it had been, no matter how dark the toy chest, no matter how he'd ached all the way through to hear Andy moving, talking, laughing and playing without sparing one single thought for his old pals… Well. It was hard, that's all, no matter how much he loved Bonnie. No matter, even, how much she loved them.
And boy, did she love them. He'd seen Buzz's suspiciously shiny eyes when Bonnie had sat him down to apologize for never cuddling up to him at night. "You have edges," she'd explained in a stage whisper. "Sharp, scratchy, protector-y edges," she added, too fast, eyes all round with fear that she'd given offense. "So you have to protect instead of hug." Her eyes got even bigger, arms went around Buzz so hard his wing popped open. "But only when I'm asleep! I promise!" It was easy to see that it was all Buzz could do to keep from blushing all day as she toted him around and introduced him to her friends and her mom and the neighbors' cat.
Not that she didn't love Woody. Far from it. Her old friends had been very gracious about his sudden star turn as the Bonnie Town Sheriff. Mr. Pricklepants put it best. "We are more of an ensemble cast," he'd explained, not-frowning at Mr. Potatohead, who had the guts to ask which toy was the favorite.
Maybe it made him small. Maybe it made him petty, or mean, or a bad friend. But he missed being the favorite. Andy's favorite. Andy's. "Hey." Buzz nudged at him, sat down with a thump.
"I know, I know," and maybe his tone was just a little bit crabby, but Buzz didn't complain, just sat there, his shoulder brushing Woody's as they looked at the painting in the big room of the castle. A smiling purple Buzz had one arm draped around a bright red Woody, and together they were planting a star-shaped flag on a white-and-yellow moon.
Part 4: Buzz
Buzz has never really thought about his fingers before. His helmet needs the occasional adjustment, and the thick joints on his knees need more maintenance than he'd prefer, but his fingers? He's never had much cause to think about them. They're good for grasping and jumping and sliding into a fall with style. They are also, apparently, good for holding Woody's hand prisoner for the longest tea party he can remember.
It's excruciating, somehow, all the more so because Bonnie keeps adjusting them. His hold is too firm on Woody's soft, stuffed wrists ("You're pinching!" Bonnie cried. "That's not nice!" And it wasn't), too loose to keep Woody's slick plastic palm cradled for long. His index finger is separate because he needs to point at enemies and call Star Command and steady teacups. His index finger is separate because he needs it to pin Woody's hand gently against his thumb, just like Uncle Jack and his new husband Brandon.
He's never been disquieted by new frontiers. He likes this bold new life, with a castle-cum-starbase and a mobile with a glowing planet Saturn and a special place just for Buzz that had belonged to Pluto, a planet no more.
He's not supposed to like this. Potato's moustache keeps quirking when Bonnie looks away, like he can hardly hold back his wisecrack, and Hamm's smirk invites Buzz to be in on the joke.
It doesn't feel like a joke. It's not, not to Bonnie who loves her Uncle Jack more than anything. She'd told him so, late last night when she'd snuck Buzz out of his castle and under the covers for a chat. The look on Woody's face when he'd thought he was going to be left behind, left again, all alone in the castle while Buzz once again got his promotion… The look on his face when Bonnie had snuggled Buzz back in the Starbase Ballroom… "It's a surprise," she whispered, giving Woody a comforting pat. "You'll see." A stern look – a commander's look – for Buzz, "Now, don't you spoil it!"
It's not a joke. Woody will laugh, because he always laughs in that harsh way when something catches him by surprise and he's bracing for the blow this new situation will bring him, but it's not a joke.
Well, is he a Space Ranger, bravest man in the galaxy, or not? He curls his hand around Woody's, soft and secure, and gives Mr. Potato Head his best commanding glare. It's not that he doesn't want to look at Woody just now. Bonnie might see such a big movement, and it's his duty to make sure that everyone stays in line and… And…
And Woody's fingers curl around his, squeeze for just a moment before they go stiff and straight again because Bonnie's come back with the tea.
It's not a joke. He'll make them see. It's infinity and beyond.
Part 5. Buzz
There's a very particular blend of happiness and fear he's only ever had from Woody. It made sense to feel that way when Woody was ready to jump onto a moving plane. It made sense when Woody's too-big heart placed faith in yet another Zurg-in-training who had shown no signs of deserving it. It even made sense when he'd seen Woody slide into the attic box, big false cheerful smile doing a terrible job of masking his terror and heartbreak and stubborn, stubborn love for them all. That cocktail doesn't belong here, now, but Woody is all hunched up, staring at his hat with its brand new ring-of-Saturn ornament with something very like sadness.
It's not so easy to resist the urge to pat his own back, feel for the star sticker with a big "S" for sheriff that Bonnie had drawn on herself with great ceremony. His stomach swells with warmth just thinking of it, of the blinding grin Woody had offered when Bonnie was turned around to move the wedding party into a new line for the reception.
But it sinks again because there's Woody, crumpled up on the castle floor and a million lightyears away.
He lowers himself to the floor – darn those knees, more oil already? – and makes himself stay quiet. Woody's silence is oppressive, but if it's what he needs right now… He can make a game of it. There's Dr. Porkchop and Zurg, teamed up to interrogate him for the space station security codes. They'll threaten and stare and turn on bright lights, but he's not going to talk, not for all the gold in the galaxy…
He almost jumps when fingers brush against his. Woody's looking at him, something slow and sad and other things that are harder to pin down. "Andy never played with us like this," he says, and that hand that isn't not-touching Buzz reaches out to toy with Saturn's wedding ring.
"No," he agrees cautiously, but since when has he been cautious? "But it's good," he mutters, and loosens his helmet, leans in to brush his lips on Woody's cheek.
"Yeah," Woody agrees, and the smile on his face is much less complicated. "It's good," he whispers, and leans right in for a real kiss.