To understand is to forgive, even oneself.
Chuckles listened to the story of the escape from Sunnyside as eagerly as anyone. To Bonnie's toys it was an almost unimaginable adventure. To Chuckles, who had travelled miles fuelled by Lotso's determination and later seen what he made of Sunnyside, it provided a sense of closure. He hadn't been able to stop Lotso, but now it was over and Sunnyside was free. When the story was finished, though, and the toys started talking about what they'd like to do to Lotso if they got hold of him, Chuckles had to turn away. He was trying so hard not to hear that he almost missed the sound of someone climbing up to join him on the windowsill.
'Hey,' said Woody, sitting down next to him and looking out the window. 'Lotso's probably okay. He was already out of the incinerator. He'd just have to keep walking.'
'Lotso ain't ever going to be okay,' said Chuckles heavily.
Woody sighed, sounding more frustrated than resigned. 'He could have been. We saved him, he could have saved us and then we would have - we'd have found a place for him. Maybe here, although I guess you might not like that.'
'I'd have been glad to see him.'
'Right. Here then. All he had to do was press the button.' There was a tension in the cowboy's voice that didn't quite sound like anger.
'You don't understand why he didn't,' said Chuckles.
Woody shook his head and gestured widely at the rest of the room. 'They don't understand why he didn't. That's why they can talk about tearing him apart. It's easy to talk about what someone deserves for doing something you can't even imagine wanting to do.' Woody paused, half turned around to where the toys were running out of ideas for threats and breaking up to go about their business. 'They're good toys,' he said softly. 'But I've been on the wrong side of them before.'
'About leaving Sunnyside?' guessed Chuckles.
'No, of course not. I was more angry with them for staying.' Woody went back to staring out the window as he continued. 'It was a long time ago. Back when Buzz was new. They thought I'd murdered him and they came pretty close to killing me before they found I hadn't.'
'You don't hold it against them,' said Chuckles. He'd seen how close Andy's toys were.
'It's a long story. But they had some pretty good reasons to think I would.'
Chuckles could guess some of that story. An older toy used to being the undisputed favourite, a newer toy with special features getting all the attention for a while. 'You didn't,' he said, because he wasn't sure what the cowboy was upset about but some kind of reassurance seemed to be needed.
'I knocked him out the window. I wasn't trying to, I was trying to knock him down the back of the desk. But I shouldn't have done that either. I guess - I guess I know what it's like to make stupid, selfish decisions. The things Lotso did, I know why he did them. But I didn't want to think any toy could go so far down that road they couldn't come back.'
'Or wouldn't,' said Chuckles. 'Lotso ain't the type to admit when he's the one who's wrong.'
Woody nodded, still staring out the window blankly as if he was looking through the landscape rather than at it. Chuckles wasn't sure what else to say. The truth was that he could see Lotso in Woody. The toy he had been, the leader Chuckles and Big Baby could always rely on, or maybe the toy he could have become if he hadn't been consumed by bitterness. That same initiative that was so rare in toys, who mostly accepted their fates without question.
'Maybe you are a little like him,' said Chuckles slowly. 'And I'll tell you he was a good friend to me once. It's a comfort to think he had a chance of turning out like you.'
The look that got him was bewildered, touched and surprisingly vulnerable. 'You mean that?'
'Some reason I shouldn't?'
'None that I can think of.' Woody's small smile held more amusement than happiness and it occurred to Chuckles that the one thing Lotso had never had was a sense of humour about himself.
'You're a good guy. Don't doubt it,' said Chuckles.
'You too, then. Nothing Lotso did was your fault. Don't dwell on it,' said Woody.
'Thanks,' said Chuckles.
Woody smiled at him then, sudden and genuine. 'I should be thanking you.'
Chuckles didn't smile back, it had been so long he'd forgotten how. But he thought he might be starting to remember.