Author's Note: Hey howdy hey everybody! I apologize for the long wait for this chapter. The last update was what, nine months ago? Just a warning, this chapter was hard to write, and I imagine it'll be hard to read as well. Grab your tissues.
A Space Ranger is trained to know exactly what should be done in any and every situation. But after Woody finally told him about what had happened to Bo Peep, Buzz Lightyear found himself at complete loss, not having a clue what the proper thing to do or say next was. This was one type of situation that wasn't covered in the training at the Academy.
"I... I don't know what to say," Buzz admitted. "I'm sorry."
Woody only stared blankly at his own boots.
In an attempt to break the nearly awkward silence that hung between them, Buzz continued searching in his mind for the right things to say. Something to help him... to cheer him up...
"You'll be all right Woody, eventually," were the spaceman's chosen words. They were well-intended, but perhaps not the best words that he could have picked to say at that moment. Woody couldn't blame him for trying though.
"Not yet. Not for a long time..." the sheriff said, almost to himself, as though he had forgotten that Buzz was still there.
Buzz to felt a pang of sadness at hearing these words. "Don't say that."
"Just speakin' the truth."
"What truth?" Buzz countered, his faith in his ability to help his friend slowly building. "Woody, what would Bo do if she had seen you like this? Wouldn't she want you to be happy?"
Woody looked up. "Who are you to say what she would have wanted? If she were here, she would at least understand..."
Woody shut his eyes in mild anger. "Just... don't, Buzz."
Buzz listened to his own better judgement and decided to be quiet. But he now thought that he had been wrong to say what he had said about Bo, so he knew it would be best for him to apologize.
"I'm sorry Woody," he began. "I shouldn't have said what I said about Bo."
Much to Buzz's surprise, Woody sighed and said, "No, no, you were right Buzz. She would want me to be happy. I just... I can't. Not yet."
Woody lifted his head. His pupils darted back and forth, indicating to Buzz that his best friend was thinking about something.
He turned his head toward the Space Ranger. The expression on his face was worthy of being labeled as hopeless. "We were so close Buzz. We were only a few short hours away from being together again for the first time in five years! Why did that stupid teacher have to go and ruin everything for us?" His question seemed more desperate than angry.
Buzz put his hand on his best friend's shoulder. "It was an accident, Woody."
Woody's small, quiet voice replied, "I know. I know. I guess I don't really blame her. I blame myself."
"I could have prevented it Buzz. If I had somehow been there-"
"Now stop right there Woody," Buzz interrupted. "You had no possible way of knowing what was happening. And even if you had somehow been there, it seems most likely that you wouldn't have been able to prevent the accident from happening. So there is no logical reason for you to place any blame on yourself."
"I guess I know that," Woody replied. "But I just can't shake this feeling that I'm somehow responsible."
Buzz's heart ached for his friend. He wasn't sure what he should say.
"You're one of our leaders Woody. I know you feel responsible for all of us. But you have to know that when an accident like this happens, it is not your fault."
Woody didn't respond. A few minutes of silence passed before Buzz could work up the courage to speak again. During that time, he noticed something.
Woody looked exhausted. His eyelids were drooping a little. His arms had fallen limply at his side. His hat had been removed and placed at his feet. His eyes were now slowly starting to close.
But they came open again when Buzz said, "Something else has been bothering you too." Buzz was sure he knew what it was, but the cowboy had refused to admit it.
Woody looked at Buzz. Buzz gave him a look that attempted to prod Woody to finally open up about this subject. Woody realized that he was tired of trying to hide this problem. He felt so borken. He gave in.
"When we first came to Bonnie's, I was naive and thought that all of my problems would go away. I thought that having a new owner would help me forget the things I wanted to forget and move on to a new life."
"But it didn't."
"It just multiplied them." At that moment, Woody badly wanted to finally lift up his boot for the first time since they had arrived at Bonnie's. He almost couldn't, because he was afraid of the emotions he might experience if he did. He dared himself to do it anyway. He bit his lip when he saw the name of his former owner scrawled on the bottom of his boot.
"You miss Andy."
"It's more than that though. You know, there's this sense of security that you get from having the kind of connection with your owner that Andy and I had. I always knew that even if he let all the other toys go, he'd still hang on to me. At least, I felt pretty sure he would."
"Everyone was always jealous of you, you know."
Woody smirked a little. "Yeah, well I'm not the one to be jealous of anymore." He sighed.
Understanding that he was talking about Jessie, Buzz said, "It's not her fault Woody."
"I realize that. But... well, you don't understand what it's like to lose that kind of relationship and security."
"No, I suppose I don't."
"But Jessie's gained it. And not only that, she has... someone." Woody was careful not to use the term "boyfriend," knowing how much Buzz disliked it.
Not quite understanding what Woody meant by that, Buzz thought for a second. He then realized what the sheriff was talking about. "You mean me?" he asked.
"Yeah. She and you have each other. I just lost the love of my life. Where does that leave me?"
Buzz turned and put his hands on Woody's shoulders. "It leaves you here with us," Buzz told the cowboy. "We're your family, Woody. You'll always have us."
Always... that was exactly what Woody had once told Bo Peep. He had come to believe that there was no such thing as always. But at least he had his family now.
As Buzz looked into his friend's eyes, he could have sworn that he saw something like a faint glimmer of hope in them. But it vanished almost as quickly as it had appeared.