She understood now; understood why parents could get so frantic. Up until now, Miss Spider had never fully understood why mothers, both human and otherwise, panicked when their children went missing. She could easily sympathize with their worry, especially given a bug’s perilous position, but had never felt that sheer terror no parent wants to feel when their child is nowhere to be found. Although she had to admit she was considerably less frightened than a mother whose child had disappeared from an open space rather than a hollow piece of fruit.
After all, aboard the peach, it wasn’t as though James could have gone very far.
Despite the darkness of the peach, Miss Spider could still see very well. As far as she could tell, she was still close to her web, but not that close to where any of the others were sleeping. Despite her worry, Miss Spider didn’t want to rouse the other bugs. No sense in causing more panic and possibly scaring James, wherever he was.
'James, where are you?'
She had settled the boy into bed not long after night had fallen and had retreated into her pipe just as James fell asleep. She wasn’t sure how long she slept for; all she knew was that she had woken up, leaned down to check on James and found her web empty.
She doubted he had gone outside; Centipede was at the helm and most likely would’ve captured the boy’s attention, keeping the little boy up with him in order to keep himself amused. Due to the absence of voices up above, Miss Spider knew James had to have retreated into the peach.
Why in the world had the boy gotten up? Had he had a bad dream? Was he feeling alright? And if something was bothering him, why hadn’t James come to her?
Miss Spider paused, a little confused. Why would James come to her if he was scared or feeling sick?
'Because I care for him.' Well, yes, that was true. She, like all the others, cared deeply for the little boy and wanted to keep him safe and happy.
Yes, but does James know that?
Did he? Miss Spider wondered if she had done anything that would stop James from alerting her or any of the others if something was bothering him. She didn’t think so; so why wouldn’t their young friend seek their advice if-
'Because children go to their parents when they’re upset.'
Was that it? Did James not trust her enough as a parental figure? Then again, why would he? The only other caretakers he had known after his mother and father died were Spiker and Sponge. And while he clearly knew that no one on the peach would harm him, it must still be a little hard for him to trust new adults.
'Oh, my poor little James.'
Rounding a corner, Miss Spider finally spotted the small figure. Breathing a sigh of relief, she paused for a moment, noting that he was slumped against one of the walls. He looked like he had fallen asleep, but otherwise seemed fine. Still, who knew what thoughts were going through his head, even as he dreamed?
Walking over to him, Miss Spider laid a hand on James’s shoulder, giving the boy a very gentle shake.
“James,” she whispered. “James.”
The boy stirred and blinked sleepily as he looked up at her.
“Miss Spider?” he asked, still in a daze.
“Are you alright?” James nodded slowly, rubbing at his eyes.
“What are you doing down here?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Why did you not come to me?” Miss Spider asked, trying to keep her voice as soft as possible so as not frighten him. However, the small boy averted his eyes.
“I don’t know,” he whispered, sounding like a child who had been lost for a very long time.
“Oh, James.” Miss Spider drew the boy close to her; James, clearly exhausted, rested his head against her shoulder.
“James, you can come to any of us whenever you like We care about you and we all want you to be happy. You do know that, yes?
James gave a half-hearted nod; clearly there was something that was preventing him from confiding in her.
“Please, James, tell me what is wrong,” Miss Spider begged him.
“I… I was starting to fall asleep and I started thinking of my aunts and how they told me no one would ever want me around.”
“Well, now, that is not true and you know that, don’t you?”
“I know,” the little boy replied softly.
“And you know we will never let them hurt you again, right?”
“But what if they really do come after me when we get to New York?” James blurted out. “What if they take me back with them? What if they-”
“James, James,” Miss Spider soothed, rubbing his back “That will not happen. I promise you that neither I nor any of the others will ever let your aunts harm you again.”
“But how?” the boy whimpered, his brown eyes wide with fear. “They said I have to stay with them because I don’t have any other family.”
“And that is where they are wrong, James. We are a family now and we all love you very much.”
“You do?” James’s eyes were wide as he met Miss Spider’s gaze.
“Of course we do.” Miss Spider brushed a few strands of hair off the boy’s forehead. “You are the most precious thing in our lives. And no matter what, we are going to take of you. You believe me, yes?”
To her relief, a small smile broke out over the boy’s face and he nodded.
“Then trust us when you are scared or unsure. We’ll always be there to help you.”
James nestled against her shoulder again and Miss Spider held him close.
“I love you, Miss Spider,” he whispered.
“And I love you, James. More than anything. Now come, it is past your bedtime.” Miss Spider half-led, half-carried the small boy back to her web. As she was lying him back down, James whispered,
“When is my bedtime?” Miss Spider picked up the thicker blanket she had woven together that afternoon and tucked it firmly around James.
“Let’s start with when it’s dark for now. We can work out a time when we get to New York.”
“Okay,” James murmured, already falling back asleep. Miss Spider kissed his forehead and stroked his cheek.
“Sweet dreams, my sweet boy.” James’s eyes were closed, but he smiled slightly again and one of his hands lightly clutched at Miss Spider’s wrist as sleep re-claimed him. Miss Spider stayed with him for a few minutes, watching him sleep.
'He is ours now. He trusts us now.'
Miss Spider smiled at the sleeping boy.
'His parents were so lucky. And now, so are we.'