Without You

~James and the Giant Peach (c) Disney~

Miss Spider was unsure of what exactly had transpired to make James act so. She wasn't aware that she'd done anything to him, nor did the grasshopper at her side, looking as bewildered as she, both staring shell-shocked at the little boy curled into something reminiscent of a fetal position, shuddering violently.

The arachnid pulled her arms back silently, unsure. She didn't know if she'd…done anything to frighten James, but then again, perhaps she hadn't even taken notice…she exchanged a quick, uncertain glance with Mr. Grasshopper, the interior of the peach empty save for them, and the monocle-wearing insect only shrugged helplessly, gesturing weakly towards James. Miss Spider nodded slightly, slowly creeping forward, as to not startle the boy. "…..James?" she hedged, tentatively reaching out a gloved hand, before quickly retracting it. It had most likely been because of some flippant gesture that they were in this mess.

"Are you…alright, my dear boy?"Mr. Grasshopper inquired, taking a small step forward.

The child didn't seem to hear them, only curling further in on himself, the glass of water he'd brought for the arachnid, and coincidentally dropped, soaking his coat sleeve. He shivered once, prompting Miss Spider to move closer. The spider laid a gloved hand on the boy's shoulder, frowning when she noticed him flinch. "James…vat iz being wrong?" Why the usually cheerful child had receded into this terrified shell, she had no idea. The arachnid sent her taller companion a rather helpless look, only thankful that none of the others were below as well, although the earthworm could most likely still hear. She and the insect weren't really…friends, and at the most all they did was exchange word or two, but when concerning James, it was the lone was the exception.

Mr. Grasshopper took this initiative, kneeling before the boy as Miss Spider drew her arm back. "We cannot know what is ailing you, if you do not tell us, James," the insect said kindly, his accented voice lined a quiet sympathy. He had a hunch as to why the boy was acting this way, but he couldn't be sure…

The boy lifted his arm slightly, tentatively uncovering his small, black eyes as he gazed up at the tall bugs before him, dark orbs wide. "A-aren't you going to p-punish me?" he stammered instead, much to their alarm.

Both Mr. Grasshopper and Miss Spider reeled back in shock, gazing down at the child at their feet. The poor boy looked honestly confused of the fact that they wouldn't…punish him—the pair felt their hearts break at the realization. The old grasshopper offered a humorless chuckle, placing two of his four hands on the small boy's shoulders. "Poor lad…." He murmured, pausing, as if trying to find the correct words. "We wouldn't lay hand or antennae on you out of harm, James."

It was then that Miss Spider seemed to find her voice. "This we promise," she affirmed.

"What would make you think otherwise?" Mr. Grasshopper queried gently, lifting the boy into a sitting position against the wall. James twiddled him thumbs uncertainly for a moment, averting his gaze.

"Well…my aunts would become…mad, whenever I did something wrong…"

Understanding dawned on the two insects, and Miss Spider, suddenly and uncharacteristically, wrapped her long, gloved arms around the boy, keeping tears from welling up in her four eyes. Mr. Grasshopper laid a supportive hand on James' shoulder as well. "We vould never be hurting you, James. You know zat. You're aunts vill never lay a vinger on you again."

"Indeed," the old grasshopper agreed. "We wouldn't allow it."

"But what if—"

"We love you, James," the arachnid interrupted, as the boy pulled back from her embrace. "And we will always be zhere for you. Never forget zat."

They'd finally made it…or he had, anyway.

The Big Apple was as awe-inspiring as his travel book made it out to be—even more so, but there was no one to share the spectacle with. James had arrived in New York alone.

The entire time his aunts attempted to convince the police officer, the boy could only cower against the side of a nearby car, ashamed as he allowed his dreaded relatives coerce the lawman. How pathetic he was—shying away, while the two people he abhorred most got what they wanted—what of his adventures, the peril he faced? He'd conquered his fears with the help of his friends…but then again, they were no longer with him, as they'd promised.

A moment passed and his aunts were still trying to get him and the peach back. The police man remained dubious. But it was his peach—he'd been given the green…things, and he'd, accidentally, been the one to make it grow. And true, his friends were gone, but what would they have done in his place?

….well, Centipede would attempt to instate a bare-knuckled 'beat down', Mr. Grasshopper would dropkick both of his aunts to the next block, and Mrs. Ladybug would whack them soundly with her purse. Miss Spider would likely tie them with her web, and Earthworm…would cower behind her.

Reverting his gaze to his horrid aunts, the boy saw them suddenly lurch towards him, gnarled hands stretched towards him, and he panicked, climbing onto the car's hunter green hood. As they ordered him down, the anger and command clear in their shrill voices, memories from his time with them—on the horrid house on the hill—came rushing forth.

Upon first arriving, James had hoped to be met with sympathetic relatives, kind aunts who would play games with him and keep his mind of his parents' demise, but was instead met with Striker and Sponge. He remembered the awful tricks they played on him, if only to watch him cry. Reminding him of his parents' death at every open chance, and the work they piled on him, on the verge of child abuse, long past the fine line between strict discipline and slavery. But the most potent of memories were the beatings. Carrying his aunts' lemonade tray one warm, summer day and his shoelace had caught on a protruding nail jutting from the wood in the doorframe, sending both him and the tray flying. He'd sustained bruised ribs and a sprained wrist for the next week and a half.

But his friends…the giant bugs that he could no longer imagine life without, had accepted him easily, befriended him…cared for him, something he hadn't experienced since his parents had still been alive. A sort of warmth had enveloped him, one he now recognized as love. They'd been more of a family to him than his own aunts.

The sudden realization filled him with a sudden fury, coupled with an infallible courage he'd felt only with his friends.

His aunts were the cause of his misfortune, the bare, frigid room he'd been forced to sleep in, and the bouts of cold and flu he'd caught as a result. The frequent beatings that left him horribly bruised and battered, constantly demoralizing him, teasing and tormenting him. But no more. These pathetic old women could do nothing more to harm him…or so James thought.

With a sudden cry, the boy's aunts brandished a pair of axes from the fire truck behind them, swinging the deadly weapons in his direction.

The trill of the policeman's whistle rang in James' ears as he jumped onto the roof of the car, pressed against the peach, as the axes dug into the metal of the vehicle's hood, and the other smashing the windshield. In a detached sort of state, the boy was up alongside the enormous fruit as his aunts drew nearer, palms sweating as he gazed done at his turned-murderous relatives. He would need a miracle to get himself out of this…

"James! Up here!"

Bewildered, the boy craned his head upwards, momentarily forgetting his two axe-wielding aunts bellow him, to see a familiar green light descend from the heavens. The voices of his friends rang through the night, piercing the stunned silence with cheers and comforting calls. James couldn't keep the enormous grin from spreading across his face.

"Hey, buddy!"

"We are hereeeee!"

Indeed they were.

A/N: The idea from this oneshot came from watching this movie again, after about ten years, and I found it to be exceedingly amazing, despite several of the rather illogical things that occur. But one thing that came to mind while watching it, particularily the end whe James is telling everyone about what his aunts would do to him (allow him to starve, make him sleep in a tiny, freezing room, and lastly, beat him) made me think about how he would cope with the bugs, after being used to such constant abuse. And so this story was born; a look into the reality of what would've actually happened to James with all the trauma he was sure to have endured over the years.

Reviews would be greatly appreciated!