Team Cowboy.

Chapter One

Disclaimer: I do not own Toy Story or any of its characters.

Summary: Sometimes even complete opposites must team up to conquer the most challenging obstacles. Often, this will involve coming to terms with someone of the most despicable avarice. What if the ending to TS2 had been different? Will the Round-Up Gang overcome the odds, or succumb to them?

~X~X~X~

The aged caretaker chuckled menacingly as he admired his fine crafty work. Perfect - as always.

"He's for display only," Eyes trained on his handiwork, he couldn't have felt more complacent. "You handle him too much, he's not going to last." The breath was shortly oozed out of him in a single, great gush of air when a bulky, overweight man charged into him to admire the star in the display case at a closer view.

Al McWhiggan couldn't have been more pleased. Large, rounded orbs gaped intensely at the final, most vigilant piece of his set. "Oh, he's amazing - you're a genius! He looks just like new!"

The cleaner ingested Al's attitude and his previous act only with meek interest as he folded his arms across his chest at the chicken man's side. In all fairness, nothing mattered to him as long as his work was spot-on as usual, and this time wasn't an exception of any sort. "And I hope you plan on keeping him that way," The old man commented, his spectacles glistening with some odd sense of superiority.

Al's optimism seemed to drop a mile as he moved his eyes towards the cleaner. "Huh?"

"Prizes such as this are very valuable artefacts, Mister McWhiggan." Al felt his eyebrows arch. Of course he was aware of that. It was the whole point behind why he was selling them, after all. They were like stuffed gold. "And many would be willing to take the burden of carrying them around off of your hands for you."

"Wha-?"

"Did I hear you mention before you were planning to sell this collection off, before?"

"Well - yeah…but-"

"Are you aware of how many mishaps occur within these luggage systems?" Al barely had the time to stammer an incomprehensible answer. "And I assume you don't have anything to protect your case with?"

"I never-"

"Well - let me tell you this, sir," The cleaner began, moisturising his lips as he spoke. "Replacements for these kinds of collectible items can be quite costly, if you know what I mean." Without even having the slightest intention of attempting to understand what the old man was saying, Al became unfaithfully aware of the exact meaning behind his words. "So you might want to try purchasing a lock - okay?"

He didn't even give the matter a second thought for the time being as he mindlessly agreed.

The Collectibles were of star-quality. Lose a piece of the set, and their sentimental value will drop significantly.

"Just go..." Her last hopes were far from taut. She felt them shatter aimlessly when the Sheriff lowered himself gently down from the windowsill and onto the chair's arm in defeat. He didn't understand. He couldn't have, otherwise he'd contradict her order by refusing. That was the best way to make sure that inner morals and intentions were sought out, she thought. Or perhaps things worked differently where he was from? He'd understand if he really knew her.

All the more reason for him to go, she tried to tell herself. But encrypting this into her mind was a whole different kettle of fish. Barely twenty-four hours before her saviour had arrived as the answer to all of her problems, but there'd been more to him than that. He did not want to be the saviour so to speak. He'd wanted to get back to his owner, Andy, to live as a child's favourite toy. A position only few dream to have and one that she'd lost a long time before. It'd broken her spirits completely to extents unimaginable. At this time she'd started picturing herself in his boots, and the path leading forward looked unfavourable.

As he walked away wordlessly dwelling on his own half-hearted thoughts, she tried to imagine what it'd be like to be in such a position he was in. If she'd been taken away from Emily by a mad-man with a passion for gluttony and dollar notes, would she want to go through with what they were suggesting? Would she have left Emily behind, even despite the fact that she was clearly growing up, to live a life of luxury before the eyes of thousands of little kids staring at her in awe? To be loved for eternity by children who knew not of her sentimental value - would it be worth it knowing what she'd leave behind? Jessie tried to narrow down her perspective to focus on only what truly mattered, but soon saw no point. She'd cherished Emily far too much to do that. But then why did she feel so bitter inside at the thought of being forced back into the place she most despised? The Sheriff was only doing what was right.

In exasperation and in a great sense of forlorn, she sighed and began the mental countdown. He'd be gone soon and Al would put them all back in storage. She'd been waiting many years for this chance and now she felt that counting on another hero to save the day would be pointless. Once the rest of them were back in the box, it might be years until they get another opportunity like this. And there was no guarantee to hand out the promise stating that they actually will. They could rot in the box for the rest of their existence while their bodies still functioned before time rusted her voice box up. After that, she didn't know what would come of her. She dreaded to think of it, simply.

That was why the museum was their greatest choice. Al's storing cupboard was damp and dusty, but the display cases in Tokyo, Japan wouldn't be. A polish every day and chances to stretch their parts whenever possible. Most importantly, they'd also have room and time to wander around after hours and they could just be free. Jessie didn't reckon she'd get any of that back in storage and plus, the muscle cramps and the dreaded fear of being trapped in darkness for the rest of time were awful.

She heard him lift the vent's hatch up. He was leaving them, and he wouldn't be coming back. Her insides hollered in despair at the thought of having to endure her apprehension all over again. Once he was gone, the waiting game would be played and there was no telling when it'll end. Simple as that - theoretically speaking of course.

Meanwhile the path the Sheriff faced looked gelid and unfriendly. The dark route the vent took towards his escape hung in darkness and desolation. He paused in deep thought for a moment. Was this really what he wanted? To leave the gang behind after everything they've been through? He was their only chance. That moment didn't last.

A voice drew him from his heavy state of mind. "How long will it last, Woody?" Woody's senses stilled. A point told was a powerful burden to the heart, but was there valid reason to it? Should he ask himself this? Or should he walk the cold trail ahead, like nothing mattered to him more than his loyalty to his owner? He wondered sadly, but came to no definite conclusion. His tongue felt like ice so he couldn't speak; but he listened, intently, to those soft words that had kept his female counterpart going with hope and determination through all of that time in storage. And felt his world fall quietly into new reality. "Do you really think Andy is gonna take you to college? Or on his honeymoon?" Pete's bitter twist made the point clear to the Sheriff. The child wouldn't and Woody was beginning to come to terms with this now, at the back of his mind. The path ahead of him now seemed inconceivable past the shadowing darkness. "Andy's growing up - and there's nothing you can do about it."

Woody'd never felt a blow like this before. It overwhelmed his every thought and tugged at his final heart-string. His head hung lower as he dwelled on what Pete had just said and came to his poorly constructed conclusion. Andy was growing up. There was nothing to deny this and he was very aware of it. Over the last year, Woody'd taken notice of the sudden disappearance of many of Andy's old pre-school toys and suddenly felt a great weight inside his chest as he pieced it all together. It was only a matter of time before Andy outgrew him and then who knew what would happen when he took his final rip? He'd face a fate similar to Jessie's and then there would be nothing left for him to do.

"It's your choice, Woody." Pete continued solemnly. "You can go back or you can stay with us - and last forever."

'Forever...' It was such a Purdy word. It was a term he'd been subconsciously pondering over ever since Ms. Davis placed him on the shelf the day before. Toys don't last forever. But was it true? The museum was offering him the answer to his question, and there were a great many chances of it being a no. They could live forever in Tokyo and would need not fear of rotting away or being rusted over by the hands of spontaneity.

"You'll be adored by children for generations." Woody perked up at that. The idea seemed very welcoming. To live forever being cherished and admired by children all over the world? Nothing to him seemed more content and satisfactory than to be able to make a child happy. He'd been to hell and back with Andy's father who'd kept him tucked away on a shelf in his room for years on end watching him grow up and leave bits and pieces of his childhood behind, one by one like waste with sentimentalised hands. And he knew eventually that Andy would only turn out just like him, in the end. He was bound to, but the fate wasn't anything the Sheriff wanted to face over and over again until the years didn't count anymore. It was Heartbreak, being torn away from an aging child like that. But what if he could live without it? To watch the awe-inspired eyes of wondrous children stare pass them from sparkling glass behind metal voids and live through it without the encrypted fear every toy known to this world was born with?

He'd never be touched. That seemed to be one of the key factors that crossed Woody's mind as he risked one more glance down the path that stood cold and malicious through the eyes of the spirited. Knowledge was burden to him and he knew of the times that'd face him if he made that route into the rest of his life. It'd be just like the first time. The kid would grow distant barely acknowledging the life that wanted nothing more other than value in a heart; then friends would be pulled away by a teenager and abandoned like they'd meant nothing; and then - well - the 'child-no-more' would just forget. Take no notice of every single thing they'd put forward for the sake of the one that'd grown too old for toys. Woody remembered what it was like very well. It was pure torture on the mind, the spontaneity of it all - being aware of what was out there waiting but with no idea on how long the Waiting Game would last.

Woody felt it safe to say that he did not want to go through with this again. But then he thought of the other option that perched before his form like a ready door to a guaranteed freedom. He could go to the Museum with his Gang. He was still under no immediate recognition of this fact as of yet, that he had his own gang to call family. It felt just so far-fetched to be true. All of his life he'd thought he'd been created just for the sake of it, to be a child's plaything for the entirety of his life. But it all went According to Hoyle, and he was a star!

Insubordination certainly wasn't a bad thing. The Sheriff knew this to heart. Without it, life would never change and sometimes it has to change for the better good of society. So then, if that was the case, it'd be safe to say all was fine to leave his owner behind to fill up the empty hole in the Round-Up Gang? He asked himself this very carefully and slowly as he stepped back from the vent's hatch.

At the corner of his eye he spotted the horse approaching nervously with eyes lowered facing the bland carpet. The look he saw on Bullseye's face almost tore up the stuffing in his heart. They'd go back into storage if he stuck to his logic and not his heart, and he didn't want to leave Jessie in the place she most despised while he made a kid with toys to spare happy. Glumly, the Sheriff thought of what a waste it'd be to leave the horse to rot for the rest of his time in the dark and felt melancholy stir in with emotions when Bullseye reached him with round, sparkling eyes in hope.

Woody made one final calculation of the pros and cons of this situation in his mind. And came to his conclusion. Lifting his hand to stroke Bullseye's mane soothingly, he felt his senses lighten inside. This was where he was meant to be - with his family. - - -"Who would I be...to break up the Round-Up Gang?" He started petting Bullseye's neck faster when the horse's expression lit like a thunder-bolt illuminating the night sky.

Stepping back, he closed the vent's hatch and paced to the side just as Jessie's head turned in his direction. And when he caught her gaze, brightening instantaneously when the shock died, he came to his final conclusion: This was where he was meant to be - - and who he was meant to be with...

...

He didn't understand how everything could've turned out like this. In the matter of a few mere moments, his confidence he'd once felt about the idea had arrogantly abandoned him leaving him distraught and befuddled where the pain ached. He breathed in and out slowly. Frustration and lachrymose began to mix into his emotions making it seem like he'd just made the worst mistake of his life.

And in all sincerity, his subconscious knew he had. He'd just down-right rejected Buzz's pleads for him to return back to his owner, flat-out. A child who cherished him deeply and one that wouldn't do a thingto hurt him.

He sadly picked out the tunes his character was singing in the Woody's Round-Up show in the background as he felt his spirits drop. Sitting on the tape roll down on the floor more than two yards away from the TV set, all seemed hopeless. He deflated as he sighed.

- Some other folks might be a little bit smarter than I am - He pulled back just a little bit. Insides lighting like a firework struggling against a water-mill, something about those words clicked at the back of his mind sticking in place.

- Bigger and stronger too - Maybe -It was the child on the TV screen that really caught his attention in the black and white. The purpose of a toy's existence revolved immediately around beings of that child's sort, to make them happy. It was what they were made for - to be played with and loved by a child. It was everything a cheap, disposable object could dream of. And to be a favourite was just...more than anyone the Sheriff knew could want. And yet he was prepared to give it all away to live forever to be admired behind glass and metal. It was frankly farfetched, and Woody knew he shouldn't want it.

Then his heart turned when he saw the child throw his arms around the puppet affectionately. That was all the Sheriff could want, and all he ever will want. He wanted to love and be loved.

- But none of them will ever love you the way I do - And that was when the pieces of the troubled puzzle fell into place harmoniously. Toys were meant to be for one reason, and one reason only. It suddenly made sense to the Sheriff now, that he was making the biggest mistake of his life. In disillusioned shock he straightened his posture and allowed the nerves in his body to fall limp as he dropped his gaze. - It's me and you, boy -

Something in his consciousness stirred and his hands subconsciously found the heel of his boot. Before he even knew it, the boot had been turned over and he was scratching the auburn paint off with his knuckles. The horrid frontage concealing only the truth that dawned on him too heavily for him to narrow-mindedly withstand.

-And as the years go by, our friendship will never die… You're gonna see it's our destiny-

A sigh. "What am I doing?"

A thousand bolts of electricity surged through him. Before he knew it, he could feel the wind on his body - his senses - his mind… Every single current brought pain through him. All over his body, he felt this inhumane emptiness spread over him. A strange kind of feeling: Guilt.

He couldn't just abandon his owner - no matter what. He had to stay with him - as well as the Round-Up Gang. It was a hard decision to make. The hardest one he'd ever faced, but he blatantly knew the answer.

Sheriff Woody the cowboy doll would be nothing without him.

Daring not to give it a second thought, he turned away from the TV set and his overwhelming façade, ready to rejoice with his heart and his mind.

...

His timing couldn't have been any more inconvenient.

Common instinct made Woody freeze in his spot, listening intently to the pounding sound in the distance. One - and then another. Footsteps. And they were heading right for the door.

Woody's eyes grew wide. "It's Al!"

Moments were ill by the time Bullseye and Jessie leapt back to their foam holdings to avoid being caught red-handed in the act of being alive. Woody barely had time to throw himself forward by the time the footsteps built up to the door, just missing the foam holding by the time Al bounded into the room with anxiety in his thick expression. Instinctively, the toys in the vent stepped back into the shadows to avoid being seen.

Frantically, the large man with boundless passion moved on his stocky legs towards the corner of the room. "I'm going to be late! The thing is I can't miss this flight." He carried himself over towards the cases he'd packed the collectible stars in and dropped to his knees. "Let's see: Keys, wallet -" He suddenly froze in his tracks, eyes captured by the sight of the famous collectible Woody in his hands.

All of a sudden, his expression dropped in pure disbelief. A moment of immobile wordlessness passed before the pressure eventually struck him full-on. "He was out of his case!" Al's logic behind the matter was far from adequate. "Oh, the old man warned me about this!" He dropped Woody back into his foam-holding, disquiet marking the creases on his face. A glance was shot around the room, but there was nothing to be found. This only aggravated him to an even greater extent. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, no, no!" A stuttering fool. "First they go for the Declaration of Independence and now me? What have I ever done to them? Oh Lord, have mercy!" They must have security cameras and spying devices all over the place.

"It must've just been an accident," He was on his knees now, trying desperately to think of the ideal explanation behind what he'd just seen. There was no point in even trying. The evidence was incontrovertible. "Oh, but I really need to go!" But even then he was the most indecisive fool known to the evolution of mankind. "I need to keep you guys safe!" Geri's words were knit-picking at Al's subconscious, and he just knew he had to do something about it.

Deciding he needed to get out of the apartment - right now- he put Woody in the case along with the rest of the toys. As he did so, his eyes fell upon the front of the case where a small rectangular shape of metal was perched directly above the handle. The circular rods protruded from the metal all holding numbers that could be mixed and matched to form a very unique code. Inspiration struck him momentarily. "Ah, I remember! This case has a lock!" A frown struck his face shortly. "If only I could remember how to lock it…" Contortion in his features then followed. "I'll do it in a bit - I just have to go now!"

And then, daring not to waste another moment, he took off with his gathered luggage and headed towards the door.

The toys in the vent stood in bewilderment, their expressions slightly agape as the reality of the situation began to kick in. Rex's drawling apprehension was the first sound to break the bounded silence. "Oh, I don't like this at all, Buzz!" His tiny arms were only halfway up to his face as his teeth chattered in timid fright. "Not one bit - what are we going to do?"

Not even an intellectual idiom on the noble Ranger's part. "They'll be all right, Rex. We just have to remain calm and orderly." To their unmindful beings, they were already shifting back down towards the end of the vent where the passageway headed the way they'd just crossed.

"Excuse me, if you will-" Intercepted the bonus Buzz Lightyear as they all initiatively made their way towards the elevator. "But I do believe that this historical land-petrifying monster here was with intention of receiving intellectual answer from me." Buzz rolled his eyes, deciding to instead train his gaze in the intended direction as he quickened his pace into a run.

Rex clasped his hands together, awkwardly fumbling around as he tried to keep up with the rest of the group. "Did you hear that? He called me a monster! Oh, I feel so honoured!"

"Never mind that!" Potato-Head inputted, retaining the urge to throw his bowl-cupped hat at the imbecile.

"But-"

"Not now, Rex!" Buzz ordered, quickly forming a plan together in his mind. "We just need to get to that elevator!"

There was no hustle after that. Common clairvoyance passed through them all freshly clarifying the objective in their minds as the cool air flattened out the senses around them hard.

A corner was turned. And a pair of glowing eyes met them. Scarlet eyes through the dim light - and a gaping gold mouth.

What the…? "It's Zurg!"

And as sure as Star Command, it was.

A short ding indicated the elevators arrival. With a loud, swoosh the exhilarant silver doors spread apart to allow entrance. Not wasting another second, Al passed through the doors and fitted himself inside. A gentle music played in the background as he thrust his chubby fingers against one of the buttons repeatedly to get the doors to shut promptly. After much uncalled for mental relapse, he pulled himself away and sighed deeply. Once he'd racked his mind together to enter a code into the lock, awkward unease began to wash over him.

"Just twenty-three more floors to go, big-shot - you can do this!"

Turns out, he couldn't. When the lift's descent down towards the ground floor halted abruptly after a mere ten floors, his mental state was nearing 'absolutely berserk'. He couldn't believe it: He'd miss his flight if he came across anymore unnecessary disruptions.

Before the doors even had a chance to part again, he was jabbing his finger into a button so forcefully his behaviour would've even shocked him had be been in the right frame of mind. "This lift is taken!" Still, uncoordinated commotion still seemed to occur behind the doors where he could spot a young brunette cradling a small child against her chest, her cerulean eyes agape in complete shock. Her face looked contorted. Al rolled his eyes. "I said this lift is taken!"

The doors closed, leaving a very aggravated salesman to just sigh heavily where he stood. The cries of the child could still be heard even after the lift continued on its journey. "Stupid woman! Didn't she read the signs? NO CHILDREN ALLOWED!"

A hatch was pulled back to construct a gaping hole in the elevator's roof.

"Are you sure this'll work?" Slinky asked cautiously, looking back at the fixated Hamm.

"I'm sure!" Hamm snapped in a hushed whisper, positioning himself closer to the hatch. "Just drop down and try to work that code. He's bound to have put one on by now."

That was true. Who knew how much time they'd wasted with their encounter with the notorious Zurg - Buzz's sworn arch-nemesis? Plenty of time to form a simple three-numbered code into a one dollar lock. A code that could break those with even the most patience and plenty of spare time on their hands.

From 0-0-0, there were nine-hundred and ninety-nine different combinations to choose from. Only one of them would work, proving quite arrogantly that the odds were not in their favour.

Coils rustling as he lowered himself down, he examined his surroundings. The Chicken Man appeared to have his stare heavily trained on the double doors ahead, definitely not paying much attention to anything else around him. A perfect opportunity.

Slinky quickly gathered up the sheer determination and made a swing for the case. A failed attempt. Another try - and he missed this one also. A pressure of some vague sort was beginning to build up within him stirring something that shouldn't dare be touched.

Come on! He tried again, this time just able to get his paws wrapped around the handle. Focusing on his balance as he hung, he lifted his concentrated gaze and reached for the padlock. Obviously, Al had been smart enough to conceal his code as the digits now read 0-0-0, unless he'd forgotten of course. A sudden flare of hope igniting in him, he tested it out. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

To add insult to injury, by the time Slinky even tried to have a crack at the code, a small ding was heard and the doors to the elevator sprung open allowing passage into the lounge.

"Finally!" Al proclaimed, sauntering forward without even a second thought. The sudden movement sent tremendous vibrations coursing through him and his springs reacted violently to this. He was forced to let go of the case as his body fell, head-first onto the floor.

No!

Before he knew it, he was joined on the elevators floor by the rest of the group. Shock mixed into his thoughts paralysing him instantaneously. How…? How was this even possible? He'd been so close! To taking the leap towards catastrophic chances…

It was Potato-Head who'd collected himself together the fastest. When his gaze travelled towards the lounge, he saw that Al was about to pass through the controlled doors that offered their only chances. All of an instant, the spud was aware of one thing: They had to get through it.

Taking the risky chance as soon as possible, he took his hat off of his head and readied himself carefully. He had only one chance at it. If he blew it now, then they'd lose Chicken Man and his toys for good - possibly forever in this massive city.

Like a Frisbee, he threw the hat through the air in the hopes it'd wedge between the doors to give them just that very small gap to squeeze through. If he succeeded, then they might find Woody and bring him back home.

Instead, the timing went slightly awry. Black plastic hit the door frames just as they closed, falling aimlessly to the ground when their taut hopes shattered into a million pieces...