"Free As Fishes..."
...In Which Crutchie Is Somebody Else's Hero For Once.
Manhattan, Summer 1890
The seven-year-old known to his fellow newsies as 'Crutchie' had finished selling his load of papes early that day—second time that week, so he was trying to figure out how many more he could safely afford to purchase in the morning. He supposed he could've asked some of the older boys for advice, but he didn't really want to. He was the youngest, newest newsie at the lodge house at the moment, and his bum leg made even these rough-and-tumble boys treat him differently.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate that they cared for him—honestly, after so long being on his own, he had to admit a part of him liked knowing there were people who cared if he was okay. It was just...these boys who'd basically saved him from a crippled street orphan's fate had quickly become his heroes, but there was no one who'd ever look up to a crip like him that way.
The tow-headed boy tried to push the self-pitying thoughts away and return to the matter at hand, when too-familiar words caught his attention.
"Hey, kid! You can't stop here—get on home!"
It took the limping boy a couple of heartbeats to realize that the policeman's shout was no longer aimed at him—like Bruiser had told him on his first day, the simple newsie bag was his free pass to go anywhere he pleased in the city without looking like a homeless waif.
The same could not be said of the pitiable figure shrinking away from the officer: a girl of no more than six with thin, black hair and wide, grey-ish blue eyes. Crutchie recognized the look in her eyes all too well—wanting to obey, but unable to. Apparently, the policemen knew what it meant as well.
"If you don't have a home, you have one choice—go to one of the factories, or go to jail. You can't just stay a freeloader on the streets."
Afterwards, Crutchie never could say what possessed him to interfere, other than a deep sense that a matter of weeks ago, he'd been in the same situation. He decided to do for this girl exactly what Bruiser had done for him (thankfully, this was not an officer he knew, so the man wouldn't know him, either).
"Jus' a moment, Officer!" he called, limping up as fast as he could, "She got a home—I swears!" Both turned to regard him with nearly identical expressions of surprise, but the young boy wasn't going to be frightened out of his plan. "Dat's my little sister, Officer, she jus' got a little lost. I'm gonna take her home now, if dat's okay?"
The man shrugged and walked away, and Crutchie held his free hand out to the dark-haired girl, who was still regarding him with that same half-surprised, half-frightened expression. "Hey, it's okay. Dey kept doin' de same to me, 'till I became a newsie. If you want, I betcha you could be one to. You'll get a home, an' a new family—it's da best life you can dream of. I mean, you don' have to if you don' want to, but if you got nowheres else..."
Crutchie knew he was rambling, but he just didn't want this girl to look so afraid—because he knew exactly how she was feeling. Slowly she reached out and took his offered hand without a word, and her expression lost some of its fear and gained a little wonder: the face of someone who'd just been rescued by their big brother.
So, yeah. This is my new story: an oc insert into Newsies that spans more than simply the events of the musical (because I always wondered about the everyday life of the characters), but I will eventually get to the strike, and even go a few years beyond. I hope you enjoy it!
As always: if you saw something you liked, or something you think I can fix/improve on for next time, don't hesitate to leave a review and let me know!