"I hope you're not afraid of heights, Banjo…"
The bear paled a little under his fur. Not the most encouraging words the shortsighted mole could've given him. Standing atop the unsteady crow's nest of the crashed Salty Hippo was hard enough.
"I'm not!" Kazooie trilled. Banjo could feel her bouncing up and down in his backpack with excitement. "Tell me how to fly, worm-muncher! And it better be easy!"
"Easy enough even for you, chicken-legs!"
Banjo's thoughts drifted elsewhere as Bottles kept talking. He was sure the mole had Kazooie's full attention, for once, and she'd give him the details later.
His gaze traveled the length of Treasure Trove Cove, from its sandy beaches up and around the massive arc that loomed over their heads and bathed them in its humungous shadow. Earlier, Kazooie had expressed a desire to circle that arc in the air if they would finally learn how to fly in this world ("plus, we wouldn't see that stupid shark anymore, right??"). Banjo was not too keen in sharing that experience, though.
…Guess I've got no choice, though…
"Here's some red feathers to help you into the air, Banjo." Bottles' nasally voice and the dumping of the said feathers into his arms woke him from his trance. A few of them curled about in the air, landing all over his fur, and a more mischievous one landed on his black leathery nose, threatening to spark a sneeze.
"Alright!" Luckily, Kazooie snatched it and the rest of them up in a feverish grab. "Let's-try-it-Banjo-right-now!"
"Slow down, Kaz, geez!" Banjo grumbled, waiting for her to stop bouncing. He smiled sheepishly Bottles' way. "…what do we do again? Sorry, I kinda spaced out."
Bottles smirked knowingly. "I figured." He waved his paw over towards a pad on the ground, a blue pad with the image of more red feathers, a common motif, Banjo began to notice. "Just step on there and jump. Really easy. Go on, give it a try!"
"Yeah, go, do it, NOW!"
Banjo bit his lip. That was a little more high-pitched of a shout than he had hoped. How embarrassing. Still, Kazooie shut up nice and quickly, so he let it go and proceeded to stare at the Flight Pad like an acrophobic stares at a roller coaster.
"…Banjo, just DO IT!"
"I WILL! Don't PUSH me, Kazooie!"
"What are you, scared??"
"Yes. That's exactly what I am."
"You big baby."
Ignoring Kazooie at this point, Banjo inched onto the pad as if tiptoeing into cold water. One foot tapped the pad, then came down more firmly after the initial chill. Okay. So far so good. Then came the other foot. Banjo subtly noticed the touch of metal beneath his feet, somewhat foreign to his dirt-trained padded paws.
Banjo stood erect on the pad, as if waiting for something to happen. He knew the next step, but was too stiff to carry it out.
He felt Kazooie tap a wing impatiently on his shoulder.
"…and then we jump. Remember?"
"I-I-I got it, I got it…!" Banjo bent slightly at the knees, taking his time.
"Come on, I'm gettin' old, here."
"Just hang on aaaaaAAAWHOOOOOAAAA!"
"AW, YEAH, BABY!"
It took SO much less force than Banjo had anticipated for them to take off. Maybe the pad had given them the extra boost. Oh well, who cares, they were in the air, and Kazooie was loving it.
"Yes!!! Ahahaha, YES! This is awesome!"
Not so much.
His eyes had clamped shut the second they left the safety of the ground, and he didn't dare open them now. Even so, he could TELL they were going FAST; at the peak of their launch, Kazooie leaned and physically forced him into a curved, almost diving position, allowing her to sweep them into a swift glide. The wind battered his face and tore through his fur, clothes, and especially his poor ears. Kazooie's trilling right behind his head was not helping this factor at all.
There was a reason why bears had never flown before, and Banjo now knew why. Suspended helplessly in the air, terrified out of his mind, and not knowing what else to do, he screamed his throat sore.
"Hey, shaddap!" Kazooie called to him over the noise, and a solid peck on the head got him to stop wailing. "Ain't this great!?"
"Not at all!" Banjo caterwauled.
"Hey, why don't you try opening your eyes??" she oh-so-helpfully suggested. "The view's terrific!"
"ARE YOU CRAZY!?"
"Only a little bit! Do it, Banjo, it'll help, trust me!"
Well… okay, MAYBE if it helped make this go by easier. To be honest, Banjo wanted nothing more than to collapse on the sweet ground and never leave it ever again for the rest of his life. But if Kazooie had her way (which she usually did), he was going to have to expect more flights in the near future, especially if the adventure called for it.
Hoping he wouldn't regret it, Banjo fluttered his eyes open.
…and he didn't.
The view WAS fantastic. So much, he was growing emotional. They were a ways off the island, so high and far they could see the island in its entirety in one glance. So small the arc looked, suspended by smooth-looking beaches. So miniscule, the treasure chests and giant clams and palm trees. The Salty Hippo that they were standing on minutes ago looked like a toy boat from here.
They flew above the pristine sea water, their shadow in the gleaming sun riding over the waves. Somewhere under the surface, Snacker was watching them and grumbling in disdain over his lost meal.
The thought had only fleetingly crossed Banjo's mind, along with everything else. His physical discomfort had disappeared. All of his attention was focused on the spectacle before him. Never, in his insignificant existence in an insignificant forest, had he ever seen such… brilliance. It was awe-inspiring, to understate, and much of his breath was stolen away in the wind.
"Uh, wha?" He almost forgot Kazooie was right there on top of him.
"Got a little spacey again, didya?" She smirked.
"…y…yeah. Sorry. W-what's up?"
"Bottle Boy said you gotta steer with me to make this work," she explained. "So come on, let's practice."
Though his limbs were shaking, Banjo did his best copy his partner's positioning, straightening his legs back and stretching out his arms.
"Okay… now, turn this way! Slowly…!"
Fleetingly, Banjo shut his eyes, prayed, and tilted to his right. He instantly felt the shift in weight, and wind changing and Kazooie's wings brushing over his own limbs. It took much effort to prevent himself from trying to compensate for their loss of balance, only to spiral out of control. That at least he remembered from sheer physics.
And when they straightened out, their flight path had turned to point at the island. Success!
Kazooie laughed in triumph. And this time Banjo joined in with her.
They circled the arc, once in one direction, and again the other way, practicing their turns until they became second nature. The duo worked in perfect sync, communicating to each other when to turn and riding the breezes in smooth glides. The sailing wind wasn't bothering Banjo anymore. Heck, flying probably wouldn't be the same without it.
Very briefly, he realized that right now, if none of this ever happened, he'd probably still be in bed right now. It was mind-boggling, realizing how much he'd been missing out on while he overslept.
"Ack!" The bear moaned at another peck. "S-sorry…!"
"Focus, man! We gotta land somehow!"
Banjo looked down (surprised by how easy it was now), surveying the ground for an appropriate landing spot. Bottles was waving them down atop the Salty Hippo.
"There!" Banjo decided. "Let's land near Bottles!"
"Alright! Now, loosen up and swing your legs forward…!"
A little uneasy, Banjo did as he was told. Kazooie was rapidly flapping her wings behind him, slowing their descent considerably as he waited for contact. Finally, his feet firmly planted themselves on the planked wood, and he only fell forward to his knees from their momentum. They'll have to start slowing down sooner next time.
"Welcome back down to earth," Bottles cheerfully greeted, snickering at his own joke. "So? How was it?"
Banjo didn't answer right away, and Kazooie waited with him. Very slowly, he stood on shaky knees, taking a moment to let his equilibrium settle. When at last he shook sense into himself, he gave the mole a lopsided grin.
"That was… kinda fun, actually," he replied, breathless.
"You're darn right it was!" Kazooie trilled most happily, then gasped and pointed over her partner's shoulder. "Come on, Banjo, there's a big chest over there, in the wall! It might hold a Jiggy!"
"…that's high up…" In spite of himself, Banjo smirked. "Looks like the only way to get there is by flying."
"That's my POINT, fuzzball!"
"Have fun, you two! Remember to watch your feather count!"
"Yeah, yeah…" They watched Bottles bury back into his molehill (on a ship? …whatever) before stepping back on the Flight Pad.
"You ready, Kaz?"
"You kidding me, Banjo??"
The bear bent his knees… and…