AN: Quick note. The results of the January bonus chapter vote are now in, and the winner was Bex. That chapter will be published in the next little while or so. I expect to have the February chapter vote set up by the end of today. Just to reiterate, the vote is now open to anyone, not just people who follow the story, though I do encourage you to follow. That’s all for now. Hope you enjoy the chapter.
In spite of his better judgement, James dawdled somewhat on his return home, glorying in the feel of the night air all around him; the utter freedom of weightlessness. Floating high above the city lights, he could almost feel the wind all around him, the way it flowed and eddied, the currents changing from altitude to altitude. He closed his eyes to focus on the feeling, a smile touching his lips. It felt like reaching beyond himself, trying to extend his hands further than the reach of his arms. With this new reach, he imagined he could shape the very winds themselves, feel them move and sway at his fingertips. He chuckled to himself, imagining the wind at play, and, just for the hell of it, he tried brushing his imaginary hands against one of the currents. It moved, shifted away from him, the flow of it changing at his suggestion. He grinned, enjoying his own pretense, until he felt the current brush against his form. He opened his eyes wide, staring at nothing, before, experimentally, he tried again. He reached out, nudged the wind with the hand beyond his hand, and again, felt the current change against him. Again, in the spirit of the experiment, he used the hand beyond his hand, this time choosing something more overt. He slapped himself with it. He let out a small shriek as the torrent of wind sent his body tumbling, base over apex. It wasn’t long before James Toranaga righted himself, stared at his hands, and began to laugh.
“So darn cool!” He said gleefully. “I need to fly more often. I need to fly WAY more often!”
James spent a few more moments soaking in the excitement, before pivoting in the air and making for his home as fast as his power would allow.
Despite his glee, James approached his house with a degree of care, checking his window from a distance, just in case either of his parents might be poking their heads in through the doorway. Unfounded concerns, it would seem. The room was empty, his television paused mid-scene. He floated inside. Was Casper off somewhere dealing with his parents? Had the other boy needed to go home? He dropped to the floor and stepped towards the door, trying to figure out a way of wheedling the information out of his mother. He stepped out into the hallway, only to immediately come face to face with Casper, who was hurriedly pulling his fly back up. Ah, toilet, right. He opened his mouth to speak, but Casper shook his head and raised a finger to his lips, his other hand reaching out to gently push James back into his room, before stepping in after him and closing the door. The moment the door was closed, the older boy’s external calm dissolved.
“How’d it go?” He asked hurriedly. “Did it work? Is Tasha okay? Why’re you so hyped all of a sudden?”
“Yeah, Tasha’s fine,” James grinned. “And I found something super cool. The coolest. Maybe even the most cool thing!”
“Yeah, I noticed it was cool.” Casper chuckled, his nerves seeming to ease a fraction. “You’re practically giving me a sugar rush over there. What happened?”
“New power,” James exclaimed, as loudly as he dared. “I got a new power and I was controlling the wind and it was awesome!”
“Great,” Casper replied, deadpan. “But I meant what happened with Tasha. You know, my friend? The one who got shot?”
“Oh,” James muttered, his excitement faltering for a moment. He sat on the bed, trying to force himself to calm. “Right. Sorry. Uhh, Tasha’s fine. We got her home, pretty sure no one saw us, and she said she was gonna go yank the bullet out. Her place is kind of a mess, and she seemed okay enough to joke with me about her boobs.”
“You were joking about her boobs?” Casper asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” James nodded. “I was trying to figure out what’s so cool about em.”
“About Tasha’s boobs?”
“No, just in general.”
“Are you kidding? Boobs are awesome.”
“Meh,” James grunted. “You’re older.”
“Not THAT much older.”
“Can you stop talking about boobs? Point is, Tasha’s fine.”
“Kay, good.” Casper murmured. Then he grinned. “Okay, NOW you can tell me about your awesome new wind powers.”
“… No.” James replied, folding his arms. “I just don’t feel like you’re really interested.”
“Oh, come on!” the other boy said playfully. “Did I hurt your feelings? Am I just a great big meanie?”
“Yes.” He folded his arms, gazing pointedly at the wall a few feet to the side of his friend and forcing back a smile. “Yes you are.”
“Well I’m sorry,” Casper teased, dipping into a mock bow. “Here. I’m now paying full attention to you and all of the awesome things you have to say. That better, baby boo?” The boy stepped forwards, then turned, and slumped down on the bed beside him.
“No,” James scowled, still refusing to look at the other boy, partly because he was barely managing to wrestle the grin off of his face. “But fine. I will tell you about my awesome wind pow-”
The pillow hit him in the side of the head, bowling him backwards against the sheets and drawing forth a cry of outrage. He glared over at Casper. The boy was holding the weapon in his lap, an innocent smile tugging at his lips.
“You okay, dude?” Casper asked, his concerned tone undershot slightly by the mischievous note he was making no attempt whatsoever to hide. “That came right out of nowhere. Of course, I had nothing to do with it cuz I’m just such a caring frien-”
James dipped into his newfound power to flick the other boy on the nose, as hard as he dared. Casper stopped mid-sentence as the gust of air hit his face, forcing its way into his mouth and puffing out his cheeks, his hair frizzing out in every conceivable direction. It was, without a doubt, the funniest thing James had ever seen. He would have tried to keep his laughter quiet, except that he was struggling to make any noise at all. He was laughing so hard that he couldn’t breathe.
“… You’re a dead man.” Casper murmured. Before James had a chance to recover from his giggles, let alone enough time to utter a response, the larger boy launched himself at him, wrapping his arms around him and picking him up. James, still giggling, tried to push the other boy off, but to no avail. Casper grappled firmly around James’ midsection and pulled himself off the bed, hoisting him up into the air… Then he stopped. “… Are you doing that?”
“Doing what?” James asked, the humor of the moment shifting to a slight confusion.
“Are you flying or something?” The freckled boy asked. “Cuz you’re really light. Like, really, really light.”
“Umm… no,” James replied, uncertain. “I’m not flying right now. You sure you’re not just kinda strong?”
“No, dude, I’m serious,” said Casper, shifting his grip to hold James with one arm, a hand braced against his stomach. Demonstratively, he extended the hand holding James up towards the ceiling. “See? You’re light enough I can hold you above my head with one hand. It’s not even hard. Have you weighed yourself since you started flying?”
“Yeah,” said James, worried. “I did it this morning. I came in at like, eighty two pounds. Kinda light, I guess, but that’s just cuz I’m short.”
“Scales in your bathroom?” Casper asked. Without waiting for an answer, he lowered James down from the ceiling, tucked him under an arm, and made his way towards the door.
“Yeah, they are… Are you gonna put me down?”
“Nope.” Casper proceeded out the door, through the short hallway, across the landing, and into the bathroom, carrying James under his arm the whole way. Once there, he slid the door shut with his heel, dumped James on the scales, and waited for the spring to stop compensating. Eventually, the dial stopped spinning, and the two boys stared at the number on the small plate.
“Okay,” James murmured. “So, I’ve lost a bit of weight. That’s a little weird.”
“James,” Casper whispered. “That’s not ‘a bit of weight’ you’ve lost, that’s fifty pounds. You weigh less than a four year old.”
“Okay, fine,” James admitted. “It’s a lot weird. Nothing I can’t fake, though. I’ll just sorta do… this.” He tapped into his flight, using it to press himself downwards against the scales. Immediately, the weight displayed began to shift, from thirty pounds to forty, then fifty, sixty. His legs felt the weight, as if he had a whole other person on his back. Seventy pounds, eighty. His knees started to shake slightly under the strain. “Okay,” he said, his voice a little tight. “Small problem. This is really heavy.”
“Wait,” Casper said, tilting his head slightly. “You can’t lift your own bodyweight? I guess you must’ve got weaker as well as lighter, huh? Hang on, try and lift me. See if it’s just you.”
James eased up on the pressure against the scales and nodded, slightly out of breath. He stepped off the scales, positioned himself behind the other boy, wrapped his arms around his middle, and pulled. Nothing. He pulled harder, throwing all of his might into lifting the other boy, his teeth beginning to clench at the effort. Casper didn’t budge.
“… Are you really trying?” Casper asked. “Cuz if you are, then that’s just sad.”
James didn’t answer. After a few more seconds, he gave up, his breathing heavy.
“Okay,” he panted, leaning himself against the wall. “So, ultra cool windy powers. But I’m lighter and weaker than my own kid sister. Hiding this is gonna be a chore.”
“How so?” Casper asked, curious.
“… Bex wrestles a lot,” James admitted, embarrassed. “She’s gonna kick my butt and I’m gonna have to pretend to pretend to lose.”
“That’s adorable,” Casper snorted. “Your sister’s gonna love it.”
“… Shut up.”
Their experiment done, the two made their way back to James’ room, ostensibly returning their attention to the television. In truth, however, James’ focus was elsewhere, the events of the evening tumbling through his head in an attempt at order. Casper doubtless felt the confusion, but kept his eyes fixed on the tv screen, waiting. Eventually, James spoke into the quiet, his knees hugged in tight against his chest.
“I… I kinda wanna help Tasha. Those guys who hurt her… the ones who are hurting kids… I wanna help with that.”
“… You sure?” In the corner of his eye, he saw the other boy turn slightly to face him.
“… No.” James sighed. “Not even a little. But I don’t like thinking about… about stuff like that happening. I wanna make it stop.”