The internet was a beautiful and terrifying place.
Woody remembered the first time that Andy had brought up the subject of a computer with his mother. She’d told him in no uncertain terms that he was far too young to need something like that around the house, and why couldn’t he just use the school’s word processor?
Several years later, in the age of wifi and phones that could tell you whether your shoes matched your purse, and the sleek chrome laptop that sat on Andy’s desk still didn’t quite feel like it belonged. It helped that it had post-its on it in Andy’s reliable old scrawl and a “you’re the top banana” sticker from ninth grade with a grinning monkey that he couldn’t quite scrape off, no matter how hard he tried.
The first few weeks after it had graced the room, the tiny village of toys that inhabited the shelves avoided it like it was a bomb, ready to explode at a moment’s notice and cover them all in wires and keys. But that sort of paranoia couldn’t last long when Andy was on it every day, typing up book reports and shooting at aliens with lasers that made little ‘pew pew’ noises. Buzz couldn’t help but like that one.
And so they had watched. They watched, and they learned. The basic computer functions weren’t so hard to grasp. If they teamed up on the thing, it wasn’t so hard. One manned the mousepad square, one took the left half of the keyboard, and one took the right. Slinky could handle the entire thing on his own, stretching out across the entire laptop. For the rest of them, it was like a giant game of twister, plucking one letter here with a hand and another there with one leg twisted around the other. But what mattered was that it worked. They tried minesweeper first. It turned out to be Rex’s favorite game, but only because he thought it was like golf – trying to blow himself up in as few moves as possible. Nobody had the heart to tell him otherwise. They quickly moved on through word processing programs, Andy’s space invader game, and a strange little painting program that Etch-a-Sketch refused to acknowledge.
But after they had been through the entire computer, there was only one other place to go. The internet.
The rest of the toys weren’t very interested in this internet thing. They didn’t really see the point of it all, not when there was minesweeper to be had. On this, at least, Woody and Buzz were on their own. When they finally pulled up a browser window and stared at the sleek, rainbow letters of the ‘google’ homepage, they were at a loss. Andy always seemed to know what he was doing with this. But where did they even begin?
“Uhhh… Buzz?” Woody cast him a look, eyebrows quirked.
“Do we have a plan?”
“Oh. Right. So long as we’re clear on that.” He cleared his throat and looked back to the screen.
“I believe this particular ... thing… is used as some sort of search parameter.”
“What are we searching for?”
There was a moment of silence as the cowboy and spaceman looked at each other, then turned their head back to the screen and looked some more. The long typing bar was empty. The cursor line at the end blinked at them with perfect rhythm, mocking their ineptitude. After a long minute ticked away in the clock at the corner of the screen, Buzz clambered to his feet and rubbed his hands together. A stretch put him with one foot on the ‘w’ key, which pressed down obligingly.
“…Buzz, what are you-“
“Hang on a sec,” he replied, cutting him off as he crouched down in place. A second later he was jumping, casting both arms out beside him as they’d seen the Olympic longjumpers do on television. He landed on the ‘o’ key, plastic feet scrabbling to stop before he hit any other keys that would have to be deleted. After a glance to the screen proved he’d made a clean stop, he hopped down on it once more.
“W – o – o - … hey!” Woody laughed and stood.
“Give me a hand here,” was his only response. Chuckling, Woody obeyed, and between the two of them, ‘woody the cowboy’ slowly appeared on the screen. They both admired their work for a moment before Buzz glanced his way. “Do you want the honors?”
That earned him another laugh. “This feels all kinds of egotistical.”
“Do you have any better ideas?”
“Fair enough.” He paused, then gave the enter key a good kick with his spurs. They watched as the internet hummed to life. There was that funny little swirly thing the mouse did while the computer thought it over. A moment later, a long list of blue links popped up. Those, at least, they understood. They’d seen Andy click on those for hours, following links from here to there and everywhere.
“’A History of Woody’s Gang,’” Woody read aloud. “No, that sounds boring. I know that all already.”
“What’s an ‘ebay?’” Buzz asked, hand hovering curiously above the mousepad.
“I haven’t the slightest. But we can find out.” He followed that up with a decisive click. “That’s – oh. OH! Heyyy!” He turned to cast a wide grin at the spaceman. “You can buy all my stuff here! Look, there’s replacement hats, lunch boxes, burning banks… it’s like someone put all of Al’s Toy Barn stuff up online.”
Buzz made a curious ‘huh’ sound and smacked the button on the side of his helmet. It swished down to allow him a better look.
“There’s my lasso, and - … oh.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “there’s… me.” He sat back, unsure of how to take that. It was perfectly natural for toys to meet other versions of themselves. Buzz had lived to tell the tale, after all. But he’d never actually seen one. It wasn’t surprising, given how old his show was. It wasn’t exactly a popular new hit, brand new to light up the shelves like Christmas in July. He’d half expected to grow old never meeting another Woody at all. But now here it was. For sale.
This was even worse than the yardsale, and it wasn’t even him.
It was Buzz that spoke up first, with the extra burr in his voice that meant he had decided to be even more Confident than usual. “But hey, look how many bids you’ve got.”
Woody followed his eyes to the little tracking numbers that followed the image. “Ei-wh- eighty-two?” he managed.
“See? You’re popular! Look at that She-Ra, she’s barely in the double digits!” He clapped Woody on the back, and Woody allowed his soft stitching to be shoved slightly with the force of the smack.
“Is it so hard to believe that people could like you?”
“It’s just – he’s for sale!”
“Woody.” His shellacked blue eyes were unusually serious as he met Woody’s gaze.
He reached out and grabbed a handful of his absurdly yellow collar, tugging him over. “Shut up.” And with that, he kissed him. The soft noise of surprise that bled out from between their lips was warm enough that Buzz took it as approval, deepening the kiss until their teeth clicked together and Woody’s hands searched for purchase on the slick shoulders of Buzz’s spacesuit. By the time they drew back, breathless and tingling, Woody’s cheeks were already turning faintly pink.
“Yeah,” he said after a moment to regain his breath, “Okay. Shutting up.”