I wrote this one-shot for one of my fantastic, loyal reviewers. I thought it was a perfect idea for the boys that I love to write about. I absolutely love them. Thank you and Enjoy!
Thunder shook the creaky wooden building that stood in Manhattan. Then there was a flash of light that light up a large bedroom filled with boys who sat awake in their beds, silent, as one of them lay on one bed, shivering, coughing and sneezing like mad. As the small kid slept, he called out in a mutter for his brothers, who were unable to save him. Powerless to take away the sickness from the young, blond boy who couldn't have been more than fourteen.
"Jack, he's still not back." One of the boys spoke, softly, to another who was sitting against the window at the end of the room. The older boy looked over at his friend. His green eyes couldn't have been more worried as he heard these words.
"We can't go out and look for him tonight, JoJo." Jack responded, his voice dead and upset, but stern. "It's rainin' too hard and I won't have another one of ya gettin' this sick." The boy who was about sixteen spoke. "Hopefully Race'll be back by mornin'." He sighed.
The smaller boy, JoJo, about the same age as the boy on the bed, slowly nodded and turned to walk away. All the boys looked sad at the news but they all turned to head to bed. That's when the door to the room flew open.
A tall, skinny, blond, fifteen year old walked through the door, a large cigar dangling from his lips as he smoked it. He was soaked to the bone and was trying to stop himself from shivering with the chill of the rain. He dragged in a trail of freezing liquid behind him as he rapidly walked through the room. The entire ensemble of boys were silent as he went to a particular bunk and lifted up the thin mattress, pulling out an old deck of cards. Then, like he didn't notice anything else in the room, he looked over to the boy on the bed, the love and hopelessness clearly seen in his bright, blue eyes. With one last sad glance in the kid's direction, the boy was in and out like he'd never even been there. He walked straight over to the window, opening it to let himself out before shoving the thing shut behind him as he hastily walked back out into the pouring down rain.
It took Jack a moment to process what had just happened. He looked around at all the boys' shocked faces and did the only thing he could think to do. "Get ta bed boys." He ordered, watching for only a second as the kids wanted to argue, but opted against it. Then he went to the window and opened the thing up, following the smoking teen down the fire escape.
"Racetrack!" Jack screamed as loud as he could, trying his best to be heard over the rain. He'd made it down to the ground and the other boy wasn't too far ahead of him.
Jack saw Race hesitate. He saw him think about stopping before he sped up his pace. The boy was persistent. Jack had to give him that. But there were a few things Race was not. And one of them was; he was not faster than Jack. So the older boy simply ran up to him, ignoring the rain that soaked him to the bone when he stepped out into it. He caught the younger kid by the wrist and forced him to turn around, not expecting what he was about to see.
The younger boy's cigar was still present on his lips and he was smoking it like always. But the smoke was coming out faster than normal. Race's beautiful blue eyes were now red and puffy, dark circles outlining them sadly. His posture wasn't his usual carefree, confident stride. He was slumped over, possibly from the cold that he refused to try and escape. The fifteen year old was a mess.
"Race what the hell do ya think you're doin'?" He spoke so the kid could hear him over the rain.
The boy may have looked like he shouldn't be able to stand, but his voice held his natural, Italian, perfectly sarcastic tone. "Out for a stroll." He shot back, like it was okay.
Jack glared at him, holding the Italian's arm tighter when he tried to pull away to leave. "You tell me where the hell you're goin' right this damn minute, Higgins. Or I'll soak ya so bad ya won't be sellin' for a week." He threatened, pulling Race closer to him, showing the boy the rank he pulled over him while also hiding the fact that he so desperately wanted to drag him inside and hold him until he warmed up again and his eyes had their laughter back.
Race scoffed and shook his head, looking around before meeting Jack's furious eyes again. "I'm goin' ta the first bar that'll let me in. I'll go all the way ta Brooklyn if I have ta." He spoke, confidently, but Jack shook his head too.
Jack wasn't stupid. He'd known this boy for too long. He knew what Race was going to do and he'd be damned if he let it happen. "You get your ass back into that lodging house and you sleep just like everyone else!" Jack ordered. "You've been gone for two days, kid!" He screamed, his worry acting out in a way of anger, unintentionally. "We didn't know if ya were hurt or in the Refuge or-" Jack cut himself off. He rested his free hand on his hip as he held onto his friend. "Or worse." He finished, finally.
Race tried to jerk his hand out of the older boy's grasp, but there was another thing Race was not. He was not stronger than Jack. "Let me go!" He demanded as he pulled at his arm, still, knowing he had no chance of escaping Jack's grasp. "I have ta do this, Jack!"
Now the kid was beginning to sound like something Jack never thought he'd hear from the boy. Race was beginning to sound desperate and... guilty. Right in that moment everything seemed to click in the leaders mind. He let go of the boy's wrist but before the blond could take off, he took his face in his hands, forcing the smoker to look him dead in the eyes.
"What happened ta Crutchie was not your fault." Jack said, sternly, emphasizing every word. The boy tried to look away as tears made themselves present in his eyes, but Jack made him face towards him again, sadly. "He doesn't blame ya, I don't blame ya, it is not your fault, Race." He assured.
Race tried to pull away from his friend but was unable. Jack held him still and so he gave in, looking up at the older kid. "I wasn't fast enough ta stop it!" Race cried. "You gave me one job, and I failed!" He finally admitted. His tears fell as he recalled the events that lead them to this moment. "I let it happen. I let those damn bastards throw him into the river and I barely made it to him before he drown..." Race told, again, and Jack looked at the ground as he heard it once more.
"That's not your fault, Race." He said again, his voice trying to make the boy believe it. "Yeah, I asked ya ta look after Crutchie." Race tried to pull away again but resulted in him getting dragged back to Jack so they were only inches apart and the older boy was shielding him from the worst of the rain. "But the Delanceys strike when you least expect it. And if it wasn't Crutchie it would've been you."
"It should've been me!" Race finally succeeded in wrenching his arm out of his friend's grasp. He backed away enough to look up at Jack's shocked, heartbroken face. "Crutchie is up there, dying!" He screamed, the tears coming out full now as he pointed up at the window they'd just crawled out of. "Because I wasn't fast enough to save him!"
"And you somehow think running off to bars and smokin' your cigars are gonna help that?!" Jack screamed back, slowly stepping closer to his friend who only took another step back. He tried so hard to stop thinking about what the other boy had just said. Dying.
"You know damn well what I'm doin', Jack!" Race shot back.
"Yeah I know what you're doin'!" Jack sighed and tried to control his outbursts. He took a deep breath and spoke loudly but was no longer shouting at the boy, "How do ya think you're gonna help him if you're locked up in the Refuge for gambling?" He challenged his friend. "Or when you're out on the streets starvin' ta death 'cause ya ain't eaten in a week?" He pointed up to their home. "Crutchie needs you right now, Race. He's been callin for you in his sleep and every time he opens his eyes he asks for me and then you." Jack told him and then finally got close enough to the other boy to hold him still by the shoulders. "You get your ass up there and tell him it's gonna be ok. Because he's gonna make it!" Jack wasn't sure who he was trying to convince right then, but his voice broke as he screamed those last words.
Race's chin fell down to his chest in sadness. Tears fell from his eyes, blending with the rain that soaked them. After a few moments, he finally nodded his head and let Jack pull him into his side, slipping out of his flannel and holding it above their heads as they walked back through the rain to the lodging house.
Race walked out of the bathroom, now mostly dried off. His hair was still soaked but his clothes, well, his pants and one of Jack's old shirts, were dry. His rung out his soaked cap in his hand as he made his way through the bunks of the bedroom. He saw a few of the boys still awake, watching him silently, wanting to say something, but not quite knowing what. He saw Jack, now redressed, sitting up with Crutchie in his lap, running a hand through the young crips hair as the boy lay still.
The poor, sick boy was no longer asleep. He laid his head back on Jack's chest and his eyes were drooping but the kid looked like he was trying to keep himself awake. He let Jack tangle his arms around him and run a hand through his damp hair as he shivered and pressed himself further into his brother's embrace for warmth even though sweat was bedded on his forehead. When Jack looked over to Race, so did Crutchie.
"Race!" He called out in a raspy whisper that just about broke Jack and Race. The sick boy gestured with his hand, lazily, for the Italian to come closer. So he did.
"Hey Crutch." Race pulled a wooden chair over to his friend's bedside and grabbed the kid's hand when he extended it, holding it carefully in his. "How ya feelin'?" He asked in a whisper, putting his free hand up to the boy's forehead, brushing away the damp, blond hair and feeling his temperature before letting his arm fall to his side.
"Better now that you're back here, Race." Crutchie replied with a small smile. "You've been gone for days." He added, the worry etching into his sick voice.
Race nodded his head and looked down at the boy's hand that he held in his. "I know, kid... and I'm sorry about that." He apologized, not able to look into the gimp's eyes. "It won't happen again."
"Damm right it won't happen again." Jack scoffed, softly and Crutchie smiled as the older boy continued to run a hand through his hair.
"It wasn't your fault, Race." Crutchie squeezed his hand as the Italian tried to argue. "I'll be ok. It wasn't your fault."
Race wiped away the tears that threatened to fall from his eyes as he heard those words from the younger newsie. He gave the boy a teary smile as he laughed a little. "Do you know what today is, Crutch?" When the younger boy didn't respond right away, Race continued. "Today's the day that ya found me all by myself on the streets, shiverin' in the garbage." He explained, hardly looking up at the sick kid.
Crutchie smiled and squeezed Race's hand again. "That was a good day." He sighed and snuggled further into Jack as his eyes started slipping closed. "A woman gave me a whole quarter that day." He remembered, joking that that had been the reason that day had been so memorable.
Race scoffed and lightly punched the younger boy in the arm. "You... you pulled me outta that bin and ya dragged me here because I had ta meet the famous Jack Kelly." He laughed as he recalled the day that his life had been changed. "Then ya found out I was sick and Jack told ya he didn't think I'd make it."
Jack was silent as he listened to the story that he'd lived through. The poor kid had only been seven years old and none of the newsies thought he'd make it. But here he stood. As cocky and sarcastic as ever. "You was the only one that believed I would make it. So ya gave me half of your earnings everyday so's I could eat and ya brought me water every time ya could and ya told me that your crutch wasn't gonna stop ya from helpin' out a new brother." By the end of this, Race's tears began to fall. He clutched onto the little boy's hand and nodded his head. "And ya didn't even know me yet."
Crutchie squeezed his friend's hand again and smiled. "But I knew we was gonna be brother. And brother are there for each other. No matter what." The sick boy said. He let out a few coughs and Jack frowned down at him.
"Alright kid." He sighed, "Time ta get some sleep." Jack didn't move from his position, but Race made a move to get up before Crutchie tightened his hold on his hand.
"Race..." The fading boy mumbled as his eyes began to fall closed. "Stay." His voice was getting softer and softer every minute. And Race found he couldn't say no to that sweet little boy who had saved his life so many years ago and told him flat out that he'd make it.
"Of course, kid." He nodded. He sat back down and brushed Crutchie's damp hair out of his face and rubbed the boy's forehead, noticing his big brother smiling down on them. As Crutchie began to fall into sleep, Race leaned down to the boy's forehead and pressed a light, brotherly kiss to it. "You're gonna be ok, kid." He whispered. Then he sat on the edge of the bed, by the other boy's head. He let Jack put an arm around him as they both looked onto the boy with so much love in their eyes. "You're gonna be okay, brother."
And there they slept. Watching over the boy that brought them so much hope. They sat there with him for two day before Crutchie got up and started limping around again. They stayed in the lodging house for a week before the boy went out selling again. They helped him around the streets when he started hawking headlines again. And then they watched him as he became himself all over again. Because, after all, that's what brothers are for.
Thank you so much to Teeloganroryflan for the request! I love them! Keep them coming! If you've got a request I will do everything I can do to bring it to life! I love writing for you guys so your wish is my command! Give me some characters or a scene or both and I'll see what I can do with them. Feel free to just leave them in the reviews. I'm also open to PMs.
I hope this lived up to what you imagined it would be Teeloganroryflan! Thank you so much for reviewing my stories! I love ya!
Make sure to check out my other stories! Please go read and review them! Thank you!
As always, thanks for reading! Make sure to tell me what you liked, what you didn't, what you'd change and what you'd improve by leaving me a review! Love ya fansies!