Buzz's eyes opened slowly in the dark room. As his vision focused on his surroundings, he could see that Bonnie's clock read one o'clock in the morning, and that all of his fellow toys – including the cowgirl nestled next to him – were fast asleep. The couple lay enveloped in Bonnie's new beanbag chair, which she had received as a Christmas present only two days prior, and where the little girl had placed them lovingly when she tucked her toys in for the night.
He kissed Jessie lightly to rouse her, and a sleepy smile formed on her lips before her eyes fluttered open. When the cowgirl turned her head to face her boyfriend, he reached over and stroked her cheek affectionately.
"You want to go out in the living room for a while?"
"Sure," she yawned.
Leaving Jessie's hat on the chair, the two toys descended carefully from their unsteady surface and tiptoed hand-in-hand out the door and down the hall to the living room, where the only illumination came from the moonlight reflecting on the snow outside and the faint embers still glowing in the fireplace. Buzz released his hold on Jessie's hand and walked over to the tree to plug it in, then they scaled the sofa and pulled down the throw blanket that had been draped across its back, so that they could bundle up against the chill that was typical of the middle of the night in an old house. Wrapped cozily in the fleece and in her space ranger's arms, Jessie stared at the glittering Christmas tree next to them, captivated by its charm.
"I'm glad ya plugged the tree in; it's so pretty," the cowgirl rambled on happily. "I'm gonna be sorry to see it all taken down soon. This's been a great Christmas, hasn't it?"
The only reply Jessie received, however, was her boyfriend's arms enclosing her even tighter, almost suffocatingly so.
"Buzz? You okay?" she asked, puzzled by his reaction. "You're awful quiet. And you don't usually squeeze me tight enough to rearrange my stuffin'."
"Yeah, it's just… I'm glad you didn't go to Mason's today."
"Oh really?" she teased. "Didja need some guy time with Woody?"
"No," Buzz sighed heavily. "But I needed time with you, tonight."
Jessie freed herself from her space ranger's grasp so that she could look him in the eye. "What in tarnation happened at that playdate that you didn't tell us about? You and Woody made it seem like nothin' big."
"Nothing happened that you need to worry about, Jessie," he replied tenderly.
"Fiddlesticks, I know somethin' happened," she insisted. "You're actin' awful funny. Please tell me, Buzz. We don't keep secrets from each other."
Buzz glanced down, then met her concerned gaze. She, of all people, had a right to know.
He took a deep breath before he began. "The playdate was far more perilous than we made it out to be. Mason got these new toys – Battlesaurs – who were fresh out of the box, and didn't know they were toys. They were dangerous. They had a battle arena and fought other toys… to the death. We saw Socky get his arms ripped off. And another… he lost his head."
The cowgirl's eyes widened with horror. "But what about you and the others? Did they make y'all fight too?"
"Unfortunately, they did. They gave Trixie and Rex armor. Woody and I were thrown in the arena to fight their leader – Reptillus was his name. At first, the combat was exhilarating. But then I realized they meant business. They had us hanging over a fan blade, Jessie." He paused. "And the only thought going through my mind was whether I'd ever see you again."
"Oh, Buzz!" Jessie threw her arms around her boyfriend's neck in a fierce embrace. He hugged her to him with equal fervor, while she continued with her questioning. "How didja ever get free?"
"Trixie escaped and turned off Mason's video game, and he and Bonnie finally played with us all," the space ranger explained. "If they hadn't come in when they did, I—"
Jessie jerked back, tears welling up in her eyes as she gazed at him imploringly. "Don't even say it, Buzz." She rested her head on her space ranger's shoulder, needing to be as close to him as possible, and he stroked her hair soothingly. After a few minutes spent just savoring each other's presence, the cowgirl broke their silence.
"Why didn't ya tell us all this before, when you got home? Y'all made it seem like you had fun."
"We did have fun, once the kids played with us. But Woody and I decided on the ride home that it would be best to keep the details from the rest of the toys. We didn't want them to be scared to go to Mason's."
"Well, I don't really like the thought of ya goin' back there. Not unless I can go too and know you're okay—"
He kissed his girl on the forehead, trying to assuage her anxious thoughts. "Not to worry. I honestly believe things will be better there in the future, now that they've been played with."
"But my boyfriend and brother almost got shredded to smithereens! What if they forget and think they're real again?"
"And this is why I didn't want to tell you," Buzz chuckled, feeling better now that he'd gotten things off his chest and been honest with her. "It'll be alright, Jessie, I promise. Besides, I think Reptillus and Trixie have something going on. He'll look out for her friends."
Jessie sat up, shocked. "Wait, Trixie likes someone who tried to kill ya? What about Rex?"
"Rex seems fine with it. And Reptillus came around. Just don't be surprised if Trixie starts asking you relationship questions," the space ranger warned with a smirk. "She would not stop talking about him the entire trip home."
"So are we in danger of losing our cutest-couple-in-Bonnie's-room status?" she queried playfully, climbing into her boyfriend's lap.
"Never," he murmured, cupping Jessie's face in his hand and flashing that grin of his that she couldn't resist. He closed the distance between them, and as their kisses intensified, the cowgirl guided him downward onto the sofa cushion – until he winced in pain.
Jessie rolled off of him with a start. "What's the matter? Did I do somethin'?"
Buzz hoisted himself upright. "It's my back," he grimaced, trying to massage the kinks out of his black midsection. "Much as I hate to admit it, I think I'm too old and out of shape for hand-to-hand combat anymore."
"Nah, you're jus' outta practice. What on earth didja do in this fight?"
"Oh, the usual – flips, kicks, wrestling – and Woody using me as a shield."
"Well, no wonder!" She gently traced the lines of the space ranger's jetpack with her fingers. "Does my Buzzy need a backrub?"
"As much as I'd love that, I don't think it'll do much good," he said, now twisting and turning in an attempt to alleviate the pain. "This couch is just too soft, and sleeping on the beanbag didn't help."
"I've got an idea." Jessie slid down from the sofa and gestured for Buzz to follow her. The cowgirl crept beneath the Christmas tree, over the train tracks, and made herself comfortable on the red skirt encircling its base. Buzz saw what she was doing, and smiled.
"C'mere," she beckoned. "The floor's nice an' hard for your back. 'Sides, the lights look amazin' from underneath. We can make a better memory of this day."
The space ranger willingly followed. He stretched out next to his girl, cautious of his aching back, and extended an arm so she could cuddle against him. As they lay admiring the twinkling canopy above, the stress of Buzz's day began to fade away, and he let out a laugh.
"Looking at all the colors made me remember – your brilliant brother tried to use a crayon as a weapon."
Jessie giggled. "And how did that go?"
Once again mirth filled the room that had witnessed so much happiness in the past several days. After the couple regained their composure, Buzz pulled Jessie closer.
"You know, I've never really thought much about myself in battle. I've always just been in the moment, not fearing for my safety. But it's different when you have someone to fight for… to come home to."
Jessie raised herself to lounge across her boyfriend's chest, her chin resting near his. "If there's anyone who can always triumph and make it back home to me, it's you."
Buzz grinned at his cowgirl mischievously and reached up for her braid, letting it slide through his fingers. "I'm glad you have such faith in my abilities."
"Course I do," she purred. "You'll always be my hero." Jessie leaned in and kissed her space ranger softly on the lips, then suddenly pulled away, her hands resting on his chest and a glint in her eye. "Oh! I was thinkin' all day, waitin' for you to get home… if we're 'the villagers' now, whadd'ya think that means, hmm?"
Caught up in the moment, Buzz played along, and answered thoughtfully. "Well… I suppose we're married, and this is our house, on the outskirts of town in the countryside." As he spoke, the space ranger eased the bow off the end of his cowgirl's braid and ran his fingers through her hair to loosen it. "We just got in from sledding, our clothes are covered in snow, and we're very cold. We have to figure out a way to warm up, fast."
A flirtatious smile spread across Jessie's face. "I'm pretty sure I can come up with somethin.'"
Buzz and Jessie came together in a passionate kiss, and even the glittering lights surrounding them vanished from their senses, as all they could see and feel was each other. The discomfort they had both felt from Buzz's trials with the Battlesaurs – both physical and mental – was the farthest thing from their minds; all that truly mattered now was the love that they shared. Their most treasured gifts were each other, and they were indeed grateful.
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