Kevin watched the boy who had led him to the deck run off, and a twinge of pain that had nothing to do with his burns rushed through him. The boy was putting himself in danger to save this 'Joshua', and so was Jimmy, muttering to himself all the way. And yet he himself stood on the deck, safe and sound, scenes from only moments ago playing through his mind.
He had felt elation first. For only a split second, but he had done it. He had accomplished the one goal that had eluded him for so long. Anything Kevin White put his mind to, he could do, but this one thing had caused him no end of trouble.
There were students aboard The Golden Thrush with extraordinary power. Some, like him, had influence within the outside world, potential to change things for the better with the proper education, but others had power of a different sort. Abilities only ever dreamt of by normal people, only ever seen in dreams and fiction. And some lucky few had both. Jimmy was one of these people. Kevin was not.
For all of his intelligence, all of his determination, he was still just a normal person. All the ambition in the world wouldn't change that. But Kevin refused to believe there was something not in his reach.
He knew the dangers of unchecked ambition - the recipe for turning well-meaning people into villains in most stories - but was confident that he could keep himself in check.
Fire had always fascinated him, and there were those already with the ability to manipulate it aboard The Golden Thrush, so Kevin had decided that pyrokinesis would be the ability he would develop out of thin air. "Spontaneous combustion," he had joked to himself. There was only one pyrokinetic on the ship at the time, though, and she refused to teach Kevin, telling him it wasn't something that could be learned.
So he had tried on his own. He had done research, practiced, meditated, and all to no avail. For the longest time, no results, and Kevin shut himself in because of it, dedicating every moment of his free time to the pursuit of developing this ability.
Then Piper angered him.
Something happened, some reaction to the intense feeling, and suddenly Kevin's wildest dreams came true. The small flame from his lighter erupted into a jet of flame. But Kevin quickly realized it was completely out of control. His ire was mirrored in the wildness of the flame, and fear quickly replaced his feelings of accomplishment as his room transformed into a blazing inferno.
Then, he blacked out. The next thing he remembered was being led to the deck by the young boy who had just ran back in to the fire. The fire Kevin himself had caused. He had put all these people in danger. He really had become a villain.
"No," he said, and though his voice was quiet, it was so stern that those standing near him started and turned to look at him. The young man they saw could not have been more different from the confused individual Benny had run into belowdecks.
He ran off after the other two boys, Benny's robe billowing behind him like a cape. Looking back on the incident, Kevin would have enjoyed the symbolism; this moment would determine whether he wore the metaphorical effects of a hero or a villain.
* * *
Benny, of course, did not listen. Joshua was not only a child, and blind, and nearly helpless, but he was also his friend, and Benny would not let him come to harm in this fire, even if it meant he took the harm upon himself. He didn't know where this bravery had come from, but that was the furthest thing from his mind at the moment.
"Benny!" Jimmy yelled, exasperation pulling lines across his face as he chased after the younger boy. He had no idea when the bellboy had developed a sprinter's legs, but he could tell that if he didn't catch him soon, he would be putting himself in danger. Already the smoke above their heads was thickening.
Luckily, Joshua was not staying in a room far from the deck. Unluckily, Kevin's room was a mere floor or two below, and the fire was most intense right by Joshua's quarters. In fact, as Benny skidded to a halt at the end of the hall, he could see it was almost entirely engulfed in flames.
Benny's courage faltered for a moment, and the time it took for him to gulp and brace himself for the heat allowed Jimmy to nearly catch up. By the time Benny had pulled his shirt over his mouth and started toward the flame, Jimmy was only a few feet behind him.
"Benny! Don't even think about it! You'll be cooked!" Seeing Benny continue toward the licking flames, Jimmy cursed under his breath and dove at the boy, tackling him to the ground. Benny struggled with surprising strength to get free, but Jimmy managed to keep him under control.
That is, until an intense wave of fear washed over Jimmy, completely paralyzing him. He was confused for a moment as to what was going on until he felt a hint of familiarity in the feeling. It was Joshua! He was projecting his fear into his surroundings, and Jimmy had picked it up like a satellite dish. The feeling subsided suddenly, and he was elated to find out that Joshua was still alive, but Benny had slipped out of his grasp while Jimmy had been incapacitated, and was now scrambling toward the fire.
"Benny!" Jimmy yelled as the young boy reached the flames and ran right into them. He flinched and looked slightly away, but a strange flash of light caught the corner of his eyes, and when he looked back, he saw Benny sprinting through an arched corridor of safety in the middle of the fire.
Confusion wracked his brain once more (did Benny possess an ability that he didn't know about?) until he heard a grunt of exertion and turned to see Kevin standing behind him, arms stretched out toward the fire and a look of immense concentration on his face.
"Thank you!" Jimmy said, too surprised to form a more coherent sentence.
"Go... with him," Kevin managed, gritting his teeth. It was clear that maintaining the hole in the fire was taking a lot out of him.
Jimmy sprang to his feet and dashed after Benny. He found Joshua's room, and noticed that the door had apparently been kicked in, or run right through. He never would have guessed Benny would have had the strength to do such a thing, but then again, he never would have guessed he would have run into a fire either.
Looking into the room, which was filled with flame but not nearly as badly as the hallway, he spotted Benny walking toward him, little Joshua lying limply in his arms. He knew why the fear had subsided now, and it was clear that Benny's strength was fading; he was only barely managing to lift the other boy, and his eyes looked exhausted.
"Let's get out of here!" Jimmy yelled above the roar of the flames, taking Joshua from the younger boy and putting him over his shoulder. He then grabbed Benny's hand and pulled him from the room.
Reaching the edge of the fire, he sent Benny ahead of him and turned to Kevin.
"Let's go. I don't hear anyone else in there."
Kevin paused for a moment and then shook his head and jerked it toward the wall behind him. Looking to where Kevin had gestured, Jimmy spotted a sign that pointed the opposite way and read "Engine Room". He nodded solemnly at Kevin and clasped his shoulder.
"I'll send help when I get him to safety," Jimmy said.
He understood what Kevin was doing; the ship had sails, but there were also engines on board in case the wind was not cooperating, or for emergencies. If the fire reached the engine room, and lit the fuel... The results could be disastrous. Jimmy knew that Kevin intended to try and hold the fire back, and so he took off for the deck, Joshua still over his shoulder.
But what he didn't know was that Kevin had only realized the ability to control the flame moments before, and wouldn't be able to hold his own for much longer.
I hope your help comes soon, Kevin thought grimly. I'd rather not be made a martyr.