Dedicated to my good friend ghostwolf, who wanted to see a chapter about James and Centipede.
Centipede chewed on the end of is cigar, wishing for the thousandth time that he could light it in the house. But no. For one thing, Mrs. Ladybug didn’t want the smell of smoke getting into the curtains and furniture, but the ban on indoor smoking was mainly due to James.
“I don’t want James breathing that smoke,” Mrs. Ladybug had told him not long after the family had moved into the peach pit.
“It’s bad for children and goodness knows it won’t do much for your health either, Centipede. Smoke outside if you must, but not around James.”
Easy for Mrs. Ladybug to say; she and the other members of the family were currently out of the house. Yeah, they were working while Centipede was able to take the Friday off, but for some reason, the public schools had decided to close. In other words, Centipede was the one who got to be with James for the windy November day.
It wasn’t that he minded, of course. But, well…
“Just my luck that we gotta stay inside,” the tall bug muttered, slumping down in a chair. Several of James’s classmates had come down with colds and while the kid didn’t have any symptoms (at least none that Centipede could see), Miss Spider had insisted that James stay inside that day.
“Aw, c’mon, Angel Fangs,” Centipede had protested before Miss Spider had left. “Jimmy’s fine and it’s not like a little wind is gonna hurt him. Besides, what am I supposed ta do with him inside all day?”
“That is up to the two of you,” Miss Spider had answered. “But it’s too cold and windy to stay outside for long. Besides, it will be nice for the two of you to do something quiet together.” To Centipede’s surprise, she had reached out and gently grasped one of his hands. “Bond with your boy, Centipede. He needs you to be more than friend.” And off she had gone, before Centipede could protest anymore.
Centipede sighed, shaking his head. He cared about the kid and loved spending time with Jimmy just a much as any of the others. It was just, well, he wasn’t all that good at being a parent.
Yeah, he knew what Miss Spider meant. For Pete’s sake, they had legally adopted Jimmy! And while he wouldn’t give the kid up for anything, he knew he was better at being a friend to the boy than a parental figure. Mr. Grasshopper was more a father to the boy than he was; Centipede was good at playing around with the kid and loved going to the park with him, but the idea of him being a parent was kind of ridiculous. He wasn’t cut out to do that! He didn’t obsess over Jimmy, he didn’t worry over him every second of the day, he didn’t wonder…
Come to think of it, where was Jimmy?
“Kid?” Centipede poked his head into the kitchen, wondering if Jimmy was sitting at the table drawing or something. But no, the room was empty.
Great, just great. Miss Spider hadn’t even been gone an hour and already he couldn’t find the kid. Well, he doubted Jimmy had gone outside; the wind had picked up some and there weren’t any other kids outside that he could see.
'Guess he’s upstairs.' Obviously, Centipede thought as he headed up the staircase. Unless the kid managed to vanish into thin air this morning, he was probably in his room. Might as well go see if he was alright.
The door of Jimmy’s room was open a bit and Centipede could see the light from the kid’s bedside lamp spilling out into the hall. Most likely, Jimmy was reading or drawing, but it wouldn’t hurt to find out.
“Hey, kid,” Centipede greeted, pushing the door open a bit.
“Hi, Centipede,” came the eager reply. The small boy was seated on the carpeted floor, a large plastic cylinder next to him. In both the container and spread out in front of James was a large collection of Lego blocks, which Centipede knew could keep most kids Jimmy’s age entertained for hours. Currently, there was no major Lego masterpiece.
“Watcha building, buddy?” Knowing the kid, he was probably going build a miniature version of the Great Wall of China or something.
“I’m not sure yet,” James replied, glancing down at his building materials. “Maybe a house.”
“A house?” Centipede asked, raising an eyebrow. “Just a house, kiddo? How ‘bout a mansion?”
“A mansion?” James asked, looking up at his tall guardian with curious eyes.
“Yeah. Ya know, lotsa rooms, a big staircase, maybe an indoor pool, and, uh…”
“A stable in the backyard?”
“Hey, yeah!” Centipede agreed. “Great idea, Jimmy! People with mansions usually have horses! Huh, guess they’d need a big yard too.”
“What about a garden?”
“Sure, gotta have one of those.” Centipede was so caught up in constructing this vision that he wasn’t even aware that he had sat down next to James. Now he picked up a blue colored lego and eyed it carefully. “Huh, might need a moat ta keep the place safe.”
“Will you help me build it, Centipede?” James asked now, his brown eyes pleading Centipede to do just that. Centipede ruffled the kid’s hair, grinning.
“You betcha, Jimmy. You an’ me, kid, we’re gonna build the best Lego mansion in history. Right?”
“Alright, let’s get started.”
“There, I think we’re done.”
“Yeah, pretty good, huh?”
The so-called mansion had slightly uneven walls in varying colors, a mismatched roof that, had it been applied to a real house, would’ve offered a shower every time it rained, a semi-circle of blue that served as the moat and what looked like a half-pitched tint with a few tiny plastic horses stuffed inside. But both James and Centipede didn’t seem to notice the flaws. In fact, Centipede doubted any building team could’ve constructed anything finer.
“Yep, it’s a place fit for a king, eh, Jimmy?” Any other remarks Centipede could make about the pair’s finished product was cut off by James flinging his arms around him and clinging to him.
“It’s the best, Centipede! Thank you!”
“Aww, c’mon, kid,” Centipede said, wrapping a few of his arms around the boy despite being a little embarrassed at the sudden display of affection. “Besides, ya did a lot of it yerself.”
James glanced up at him with bright eyes.
“But it was your idea and you helped me a lot too.”
“Guess if anyone wants to interview us, we’ll have to share the credit.”
James giggled a bit, which just broadened Centipede’s grin.
'He looks so happy…I made him so happy.'
“Can we build something else?”
“Uh, how about we have lunch first, buddy. It’ already 12:30.”
Together, the pair headed downstairs, already planning their next big construction. James had proposed a forest and already Centipede could see big trees, deep rives, and deep, dark caves. This was gonna be fun!
'Ya know, the tall bug thought, if this is the kind of “something quiet” parents do with their kids, guess I’m not that bad at being a parent after all.'
Maybe they should take their lunch upstairs. He and his boy- he and his son- had a forest to build together.