Andy's old toys perched on Bonnie's window sill, noses as close to the glass as they could get them. Arguments about getting in each other's way and excited exclamations at every car that looked even slightly familiar made it impossible for anyone to hear themselves think. Woody had told them to calm down at least a dozen times but was too excited to stay still himself, trying to pace back and forth along the crowded windowsill until he finally tripped over Rex's tail and landed on Slinky. Buzz and Jessie untangled them, Jessie giggling with nerves and excitement as much as amusement.
'Slow down there, cowboy,' said Buzz, pulling Woody up. 'Andy's going to be here for two weeks.'
'I know, I know. But we haven't seen him in months. And he's really coming. Can you believe it?'
Hamm looked around at them. 'You'd better believe it because here he is.'
'Yee-haw!' yelled Jessie at the top of her voice, Bullseye and Slinky were both wagging their tails nineteen to the dozen. Woody pushed to the front and stared down at the young man getting out of the car. The toys watched as Andy searched his pockets for the key to the place he was going to be housesitting over Christmas and then, as the door opened, Woody pulled himself out of his daze.
'Places everyone. Andy's coming!'
There was a general rush for the toybox, Chuckles returned to the spot on the windowsill temporarily ceded to Andy's toys and Hamm jumped up to his place on a shelf nearby. Trixie and Mr. Pricklepants were waiting in the toybox, Buttercup and Dolly having been taken to visit Bonnie's grandparents.
'Okay, everyone in position? Get ready,' whispered Woody.
'There's no point,' said Mr. Potato Head. 'He's not going to come up here.'
'Of course he is,' snapped Woody. 'He'll be here any minute. Quiet down and listen.'
Mr. Potato Head could roll his eyes all he liked but Woody had known Andy longer than any of them. Maybe he'd grown up, maybe it had been six months since he'd last seen them, but that didn't mean they were forgotten. Andy was here, in the same house as them, and he was going to say 'hi' to his old pals. The silence seemed to stretch, Woody resisted the urge to push the lid up and peek. Rex was holding onto Trixie as if for dear life and Mr. Pricklepants was starting to look sympathetic. Then footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs and, as the door to Bonnie's room creaked open, Woody turned a triumphant grin on the others, a look that was being returned from all sides. The lid of the toybox lifted and they went still.
Woody found himself lifted by familiar hands, placed on the floor in a sitting position against the toybox. A moment later Andy fished out his hat and dropped it onto Woody's head.
'Howdy, partner,' said Andy. He tilted Woody forward to give his pullstring a tug.
'You're my favourite deputy.'
Andy smiled. Reaching into the box he gathered up the other toys, placing them in a semi-circle around him. He didn't play with them or talk to them as he once had, although he looked as if he sort of wanted to. Just patted heads and flicked Slinky's tail, eyes deep with memories. The phone ringing downstairs interrupted his reverie and he stood up, leaving them where he had put them. They heard the click of him answering the phone.
'Hi. Yes, I made it here fine, Mrs. Anderson. Sorry I couldn't make it here before you had to leave…no, no, that's okay.'
He was too close for the toys to erupt into cheers. Jessie jumped up and down waving her hat, while Bullseye ran around in circles.
'He remembers us!' exclaimed Rex as quietly as he could manage. 'He really remembers us!'
'I told you. What did I tell you?' If Woody had a heart it would be pounding. He might be Bonnie's now, but he was always going to feel like Andy's toy.
Trixie poked her head out from under the toybox lid. 'Great going, guys.'
The sense of jubilation lasted for the rest of the evening, maybe all Andy had done was look at them but now that they had a new owner to play with them all they really needed from Andy was that acknowledgement. To be sure that they still meant something to him, even if only as memories. They trailed out onto the landing to listen in on the movie Andy was watching, not wanting to go downstairs and risk being caught but still wanting to be as close as possible, and whispered guesses about the plot to each other, making up scenarios to go with the dialogue which quickly became completely ridiculous.
They slipped back into Bonnie's room as the movie ended, expecting Andy to arrive at any minute. There was the sound of footsteps moving around downstairs, the sound of keys turning as Andy locked up for the night. Then, horribly, a crash. They all started, Buzz automatically lifting a hand for silence, and then they all froze, listening desperately for the footsteps to resume. For Andy to start cursing or even groaning.
Rex was the first to break the silence. 'What's happening?' he said shakily.
Woody took a few steps towards the top of the staircase. He could see the light from the kitchen forming a bright rectangle on the hall carpet. Everything else was dark.
'Woody, what are you doing?' hissed Buzz.
'He's hurt,' said Woody. 'I'm going down.'
Woody ran down the stairs feeling as if everything was in slow motion. He felt blank, numb, with only sound to tell him what had happened it hardly felt real. The whole evening felt unreal, reconnection with Andy, muffled laughter on the landing and then that crash. Woody slowed down as he reached the kitchen door, he couldn't risk being seen. Kneeling on the edge of the light he peered around the door into the kitchen. Andy was sprawled on the floor, blood running from a cut on his head. Woody's caution didn't last past seeing the blood, he ran into the kitchen and dropped to kneel by Andy's face.
'Andy,' he whispered, leaning close to hear Andy's rasping breath, laying one tiny hand in the hollow of Andy's throat to find the pulse. There was a gash across Andy's forehead, he'd tripped and hit his head on the kitchen table on the way down. A bouncy ball in the middle of the kitchen showed what Andy had tripped on and for a moment Woody hated Bonnie. He shifted his hand to Andy's cheek. 'Andy, please wake up.' Never mind that if Andy woke he would see his cowboy doll kneeling beside him, anything would be better than this stillness. Andy's face was completely lax as if the personality behind it was gone, he didn't look asleep so much as he looked dead. Woody swallowed, this wasn't like seeing a damaged toy, a popped joint or a wad of stuffing poking out. This was a ticking clock, Andy's time running out with every trickle of blood slowly pooling around Woody's knees. It was soaking into him, he realised with sick horror. Andy's blood was in his stuffing.
'Woody.' Buzz's harsh whisper made him jerk his head up, the movement almost enough to make him dizzy. Buzz was standing on the towel rail, once he had Woody's attention he grabbed a towel and swung down pulling it off after him. 'We need to press this against the wound.'
Woody ran to comply, grateful for something useful to do. They folded the towel as best they could and knelt side by side to hold it against Andy's head. Their hands looked so small against the green terrycloth of the towel, they were so helpless to do anything. A toy they could perhaps have mended, a few stitches, superglue, anything at all. They couldn't fix this.
'What now?' Woody asked quietly. Buzz only shook his head, now that they'd done the only thing he could think of he looked lost.
Woody turned away and buried his face in the folds of the towel as if to hide tears, pressing his whole insubstantial weight against it in a futile effort to stem the blood. 'You fixed me once,' he whispered. It had always been that way, really. Woody tried so hard to take care of Andy but in the end he was fifteen inches of vinyl and stuffing. Andy was the one who took care of him. 'I wasn't sure - sure you'd bother. But you did.'
Buzz's hand closed on Woody's shoulder, trying to offer comfort, but Woody couldn't even manage to pretend it helped. It wasn't supposed to be over, not like this. Andy was meant to be out there in the world, doing human things, growing up. It wasn't meant to end like this, on the kitchen floor, with a stupid accident and no one there to help. Woody jumped to his feet, he couldn't let this happen. He sprinted for the table, for the telephone, trying to reach it before he could think about what he was doing. While he pulled himself onto the seat of a chair, smearing the edge of it with blood, Buzz's hand closed on his ankle.
'What are you doing?' he asked, for the second time that day and in almost the same tone.
Woody twisted around so that he could look Buzz in the eyes. 'Calling an ambulance. Get back over there and take care of Andy.'
Buzz's eyebrows lifted and he tightened his grip. 'Are you crazy? They record those calls.'
'What do you think we should do? Let Andy die? No one's coming, Buzz, no one's going to help. Right now we're all he has and I've broken the rules before.' Woody snapped the last words, glaring at Buzz. Buzz's eyes softened and he loosened his grip enough for Woody to pull free and throw himself onto the table. His hands shook as he picked up the cordless phone, it dropped to the table with a clatter and he bent over it rather than pick it up again. Nine, one, one, he tapped in quickly.
'9-1-1, what is your emergency?' The voice was female, gentle and impersonal. Woody swallowed, instinct was trying to override determination at the sound of a human voice and all his joints suddenly felt looser, his own weight harder to hold up.
'Andy,' he whispered.
'Who is Andy?'
'My ow - my friend. He's hurt.' Woody shook himself, he was going to have to do better than that. 'He's hit his head. He's unconscious and it won't stop bleeding.'
'Could you tell me your address?'
'1225 Sycamore Street.'
'Okay, good. I'm sending an ambulance. Can you open the door to let them in?'
'I can try.' Where were the keys? Andy had been locking up, they should be near him. Could they manage to turn a key even if they found it? It wasn't quite like throwing your weight against a door handle.
'Is there a reason you can't?'
'The keys, I don't know-' There they were, under the kitchen table. The rest he couldn't explain. Time to hang up before he said something stupid. 'Thank you.' He pressed the "end call" button and jumped back down to the floor. Buzz had returned to kneeling by Andy, holding the towel in place.
'What did they say?' he asked.
'They're sending an ambulance. We need to open the door.' Woody grabbed the keys and turned for the hall.
Jessie stepped into the light from the kitchen and held out her hand with a determined look. 'We'll handle the door,' she said. Then Slinky's nose poked around the corner followed by Bullseye's head and soon everyone was there, even Trixie, Chuckles, Totoro and Mr. Pricklepants stood by the others.
Woody nodded and threw the keys to Jessie, watching the gleam of their arc hang in the air before Jessie caught them. 'Do it,' he said. 'Then get back upstairs before anyone comes.'
'You got it,' said Jessie, throwing him a salute.
As Woody resumed his place by Andy's head he could hear the sound of plastic scraping together in the hall, Jessie giving orders and the anxious murmurs in response. Maybe he should have been out there organising them, but he couldn't pull himself away from Andy to go and help. Andy was warm - was that a good sign? - bringing back memories of nights curled on Andy's pillow or in his arms. Nights when he could protect Andy from monsters in the dark, monsters no more real than the adventures Andy conjured up for him. It had been so much easier then.
There was a crash from the hall and Woody flinched, mind going back to the crash of Andy falling before he could pull himself together enough to worry about what might have really happened. Jessie stuck her head around the door before he could get up. 'Don't worry. We got the door open, everyone's fine,' she said breathlessly.
'Understood,' said Buzz. 'Get everyone upstairs.'
'What about you?' she asked.
Buzz looked at Woody who shook his head firmly. 'We're staying here,' said Buzz.
Jessie nodded, tugging the end of her braid. 'Be careful.'
The sound of toys sorting themselves out and climbing a staircase had faded away by the time they could hear sirens approaching. Buzz stood up first, tugging on Woody's arm. 'We need to hide.'
'We've done all we can.'
The look on Buzz's face said that if Woody didn't stand up and walk he was going to be dragged, so Woody stumbled to his feet and let Buzz draw him into the space behind the kitchen bin.
The paramedics called out as they entered, asking if anyone was there, and were puzzled when they didn't get an answer. But the kitchen light guided them to Andy and soon they were loading him onto a stretcher, still more puzzled by the towel left by his head.
'Did the guy just leave?' asked one.
'Maybe. The dispatcher said he sounded odd.'
'Dunno. Like he wasn't used to phonecalls or something.'
'Lots of people sound odd in an emergency.'
'Yeah, but most of them stick around.'
They stopped talking as they lifted Andy, carrying him out to the waiting ambulance. They shut the door behind them as they went, the sharp click of the lock sounding like a shot in the empty house. Woody stepped out from behind the bin and stared at the blood on the kitchen floor (and the chair, and the table, it was a good thing they hadn't questioned that). His legs felt stiff with the blood drying inside them.
'I'm going to clean myself up,' he said quietly.
Reaching the kitchen sink was harder than climbing onto the table and there were no convenient chairs to help him, but Buzz gave him a boost before climbing up himself. Woody dropped into the stainless steel sink, leaving his hat on the side, and used both hands to turn the hot tap on. Buzz joined him, easily rinsing blood from his plastic casing, while Woody knelt under the full force of the water watching blood trickle out of him as if he was the one bleeding.
'This is probably going to stain,' said Woody, then nearly laughed at himself for worrying about that when Andy might be dying.
Buzz jumped out of the sink and picked up the washing up liquid. 'Want to try this?' he asked. Woody bit his lip for a moment and then nodded. Buzz turned the bottle over, holding it in both arms, and squeezed some into Woody's waiting hands. Woody rubbed it into his front and legs, trying not to think about anything beyond getting clean.
'Woody? Buzz?' Jessie called from somewhere nearby. 'We saw the ambulance leave. You guys okay?'
'Up here,' called Buzz. 'We're just cleaning up.'
Jessie swung herself up to join them, throwing her arms around Buzz as soon as she was close enough and bending down to bury her head in his shoulder. Woody shut his eyes against the sight of them taking comfort in each other, angry with himself for envying them, and curled up under the nearly scalding spray. When the water abruptly shut off he looked up startled. Jessie was turning the tap off.
'Hey!' he protested, and she looked down at him with a smile that might even have been real.
'I think you're clean,' she said, reaching down to him. When she tried to help him out of the sink she nearly fell in herself, he was much heavier with his stuffing soaked through, and Buzz had to grab her waist to prevent it. Woody climbed out by himself, and as soon as he was on the same level as Jessie he found himself tackled into a hug which squeezed water out of him all over the worksurface. Woody hugged her back tightly, gratefully, before pulling away. 'Thanks, Jessie.'
'No problem,' she said. Then she brushed her hand down the wet marks on her front and made a face. 'Ugh, you're soaked. Let's go borrow a hairdryer.'
The next day passed in a haze. Woody knew he should be trying harder, the other toys felt as lost and anxious as he did and it was practically his job to be optimistic. At the very least he shouldn't be making them worry about him as well as about Andy. But he just couldn't do it, instead he left it to Buzz to offer them reassurance. Bonnie's original toys obviously weren't affected the same way and did their best to comfort Andy's old toys. Woody just avoided all of them, retreating to the highest shelf he could find and staying there. Buzz and Jessie tried to talk to him but gave up when he responded in monosyllables. None of the toys had any way of finding out how Andy was doing and the whole playroom was holding its breath, waiting for some kind of news.
Halfway through the second day Hamm called from his spot near the windowsill. 'Andy's coming!'
The effect it had on the gathered toys was like the sun breaking through clouds. They had been living under a gray pall, even the game of checkers Slinky and Jessie were playing was halfhearted. Suddenly everyone was looking up with disbelief giving way to hopeful smiles. Woody swung himself recklessly down the shelves joining in the general rush for the windowsill. There was Andy's car nearly at the house, or maybe just a lookalike, and it was almost too painful to dare to hope. But then it turned into the drive, and it had to be Andy. There he was, getting out of the car with a white bandage wrapped around his head. Alive, looking okay even and no more than a little pale. It wasn't until the door had already shut and Andy was inside the house that anyone remembered they should get into position.
'How did he leave us? Does anyone remember where I was?' fretted Rex.
'Next ta me,' said Slink, nudging the anxious dinosaur into position.
Andy was already coming up the stairs by the time they made it into the loose semi-circle he had left them in. He walked in and picked up Woody, turning him over in his hands as if he was thinking of something. When the phone rang he went to answer it with Woody still dangling from one hand.
'Hi, Mom. I'm fine. It's not going to happen again.' A pause. 'There's no sign of a break in or anything. And who would break in just to help me and then not stay?' Another pause, his hand squeezed around Woody's chest. 'I-I kind of wonder if it was Dad. Watching out for me.' Whatever Andy's mom said Andy was quiet for a while. 'Yeah. Maybe. Love you too, Mom.'
Andy put down the phone and wiped his sleeve over his eyes. Maybe he hadn't reached the right conclusion, but that was just as well all things considered. He hugged Woody tightly, holding on to the memento of his father that had always been there. After a few minutes he walked back into the Bonnie's room and set Woody down on the bed. Woody waited until the door shut to look up. The other toys gradually left their places and congregated around the bed looking up at him.
'It's fine,' he said and he saw the relief spread across their faces. 'Andy's fine.'