[by mondie]

[started: Feb. 17, 2003]

[finished: April 27, 2003]

[disclaimer: I don't own the newsies or Kloppman, yada yada yada. If you don't know which characters are Disney's and which are my own, I'd be happy to enlighten you. But, really, if you don't know which characters are in the movie and which aren't, you have NOT watched the movie enough times. Shame, shame.]

[chapter 10: promise]

[chapter written: April 27, 2003]

We all bleed the same way as you do

-Good Charlotte, "Hold On"


            Kid Blink and Cowboy seemed to be in the midst of an argument. Mush lay silent, still; he was more frozen with fear than out of any sly eavesdropping motive. Kid Blink was the one doing most of the arguing, his whisper frenzied and out of control. Mush had to smile, though he couldn't quite make out the words—Kid had always been such a passionate person. But why the hell did Cowboy bring Kid if he's just gonna soak me? Mush wondered. Is he planning some sorta scare-the-hell thing outta me by soaking Kid too, while I watch? Kid's harsh whisper had suddenly been caught off, and replaced by a meditative silence. Though Mush's back was still to the duo and he couldn't see what was happening, he could imagine Jack impatiently covering Blink's mouth to keep him quiet. It was a strange reaction, but the mental picture brought back such a sense of nostalgia that Mush felt the corners of his mouth tug upwards. He immediately sought control over his mouth. He couldn't alert anyone to the fact that he was awake.

            A figure walked toward the bed stealthily, and Mush felt his muscles tense up. The figure continued, walking around the side of the bed so that he was looking into Mush's face. "Aw," Cowboy's voice called sarcastically. "'E looks like such an angel when 'e sleeps." Underneath the covers, Mush's right hand clenched into a fist instinctively. However, he worked hard at keeping his face stoic and immovable.

            Suddenly a stinging blow rained against his shoulders. He sat bolt upright—he couldn't help himself. A small yell of panic escaped him, too. He hadn't been expecting Jack to do that. Not with Blink standing there—Blink, unlike Mush, rather liked fighting. He would soak a kid for merely looking at him a second too long. Who knew what would happen when he witnessed Jack hitting Mush?

            The blond boy didn't even seem fazed, though. He leaned against the doorframe, looking almost bored. The moonlight played with the shadows of his face, and Mush hoped fervently that the apathetic look covering his face was a trick of the lighting.

            "C'mere, Blink," Jack called suddenly.

            Sighing as though it was the biggest, hardest chore in the world, Blink shoved himself from the doorway and slowly wandered over. Mush suddenly understood. Blink was pretending not to care so that he could wallop Jack good when his guard was down.

            Jack looked down at Mush again, and Mush stared back, wondering what in the hell was going on with Cowboy, why he was stalling. Indeed, he even implored Jack with this very question. "What da hell you doin', huh? If yer gonna soak me, jus' get it over with." He felt like looking at Blink and winking, showing that he understood Blink's little game. But he didn't dare break eye contact with Cowboy and messing up the ploy.

            Cowboy suddenly smirked, a trademark tilt of the lip he'd copied from Spot Conlon, the tough street kid leader of Brooklyn. Turning to Blink ferociously, he kissed him firmly.

            Mush gaped, and waited for Blink to smack Cowboy, to demand an explanation as to why he'd been torturing the both of them when obviously he was the same way they were, and to demand he stop, to remind him that he belonged with Mush, and Mush alone. But instead, Blink's hand caressed Jack's neck, and the kiss became sloppy and loud and entirely, utterly wrong.

            At least, that's how Mush saw it.

            Tears pricked at his eyes, and he couldn't help but stare at the horrifying scene. His eyes couldn't leave the grotesque display, and his heart felt as though it'd been sawed open and left, vulnerable, to hang in the breeze.


            Racetrack and Snitch had watched Jack hauling Blink from the lodging house, identical grins decorating their jack-o-lantern faces. Cowboy had taken to doing this every night, dragging Blink out to soak him. He had explained that someone in Harlem had told him that this was the only way to make the … wrong boys right again.

            Night had fallen since then, and Race calculated that he supposed it was at least midnight. Jack still hadn't resurfaced with Blink. The lodging house was filled with the sleeping sighs of discontented boys, and Snitch had already lost all his money to Racetrack three hours ago in a rather one-sided game of poker.

            "Hey," Race suddenly said, as Snitch let out a large yawn. "You know wheah Mush is at, right?"

            Snitch smiled at this, too. "Yeah," he said slowly. "But Cowboy said we ain't allowed ta touch 'im."

            Race rolled his eyes. "When have we eveh listened to Cowboy?" he asked, his voice dripping with disdain. He had never fully accepted that others thought of Jack as the Manhattan leader, since he'd been selling for two months longer than Cowboy and thought himself a more able leader. "Besides, why should Jack get all da fun a' soakin' da queers?"

            Snitch laughed quietly, careful not to wake the young newsie who was sleeping in the bunk next to them. "Yeah."

            "So. Ya wanna go soak him?" It wasn't a question, not really. And Race's eyelids drooped as he added, "I mean, it is da right thing ta do." He looked at Snitch through his eyelashes, creating a sort of barred protection for himself.

            Snitch stared at him, trying to read the Italian boy's thoughts. "Right," he finally agreed, scratching at his head. "You get real weird late at night, Race."

            Race laughed and boxed Snitch about his head. "I know," he agreed. "Now, c'mon."

            The boys slid on their boots and, laughing gleefully to themselves, slipped down the staircase into the darkened lobby, then out into the bright moonlight of the full moon.


            "You heah that?" Jack asked suddenly, drawing away from Blink. "I think I heard a door open. Go keep whoeveh it is away from here, Blink."

            Blink shrugged and obeyed, shutting the door softly behind him and walking swiftly down the hall to the front door.

            Jack looked down at Mush, a sadistic smile playing his lips. "Now that I got him outta the way…" he mumbled, and Mush couldn't tell whether he'd meant for Mush to hear it or not.

            Jack suddenly scrambled on top of Mush in the bed, pinning his shoulders to the thick mattress. Mush stared up at him, too shocked to yell for help. Jack messed with his belt, finally producing a switchblade. He held the knife to Mush's throat, then smiled. "Get on da ground, ya bum."

            Mush slid off the bed, careful to avoid the blade. He sat on the ground next to the bed cautiously. The floorboards were cold.

            "Take off yer clothes. And then lie on yer stomach."

            Mush stared with horror at Cowboy, his heart a bottomless pit that suddenly filled with thousands of fluttering butterflies. "What?" he whispered.

            "You heard me. Now obey me," Cowboy said, with a calculated articulation and atrociousness. He smirked, and Mush understood. He knew what he was doing. Had he too woken when Mush had screamed that night of washday, that fateful day that had changed everything? Or… Mush winced as a thought briefed into his mind, and he tried to chase it away. It danced around the outskirts of his mind, however, until he acknowledged it… Maybe Blink told him all I said dat night.

            "Well? Whaddya waitin' for? Didn't ya heah me, huh?"

            Mush gulped, then slowly pulled at the thin pants which were all he was wearing. His hands were shaking. Cowboy's eyes were shadowed by the vague lighting, and appeared much larger and darker than he knew they in truth were. In fact, they seemed to Mush to look the same as his had in the nightmare he'd just had, the one with himself having only a skull. And now, with the knife held so loosely in his hand, and his smile so calm and seductively destructive, Mush found himself shocked and terrified of the boy with such power.

            He'd been wrong to compare his father to Racetrack.

            Cowboy was a much more accurate portrayal.


            "What're you doin' here, Blink?" Snitch was so confused, he forgot to sound menacing. "How'd you find out about this place?" Suddenly realizing his flaw, he dropped his voice an octave and growled, "Queer."

            "Leave 'im alone, Snitch," Racetrack said.

            Two heads swiveled in his direction, looking identically shocked.

            "But… Race, he's…" Snitch started.

            "C'mon. We don't care about him." Racetrack looked glumly determined. He glanced at Blink indifferently. "Where's Jack?"


            Jack covered Mush, his breathing heavy as his hands roamed the defeated boy's bare back. He looked at the hasty, frenzied dark curls, tightly coiled, that covered Mush's head. And the longer he looked at the curls, they more easily they shifted. The curls lengthened, became looser and auburn-colored until they were reddish-orange and hung to the nape of his honey-colored neck. The tone of the skin shifted, too, becoming lighter, paler, the tone of a ghost. There were scabs healing on Mush's back, from stones that had been shoved into the youthful flesh during one of his recent beatings. The scabs faded slightly, losing the brick-red tint and now seeming a dark brown—merely freckles, sprinkled here and there.

            Jack's hands wrapped around Mush's thin torso, his fingers settling in the grooves between Mush's abs. But he didn't feel the abs. The muscles were still painted a purplish-black, reminiscent of Racetrack's relentless fists, and Mush was squirming in protest, yowling like a drenched cat. Fearing the noise, Jack lifted one of his own hands and cupped it over Mush's insanely loud mouth. His arm was snaking directly up Mush's body now, and as Mush attempted to roll out from under him, he felt the raised, scratchy blood of the wound on Mush's chest.

            The hair suddenly was dark and short curls now, the freckles turned back to scabs. The skin took on its golden hue. Jack stared with hatred at the boy who had reappeared.

            It ain't Pinhead.

            The thought erupted through his brain for a moment, causing him to pause. Then he drove himself into Mush all the harder, enjoying the sick groaning wails coming from Mush's bruised body.

            But it'll do.


            "Answer me, idiot!" Racetrack shouted to Blink. "Wheah's Jack?"

            Blink appeared to be considering his options, then he shrugged. "Upstairs," he finally said. "I'll show you."

            "Is he with Mush?"

            Blink nodded.

            Race scowled. "Shit."

            Snitch stared in disbelief at Racetrack, unable to comprehend the total switch of attitudes that the boy had gone through. But Race and Blink had taken to the stairs, and he was being left behind. He hurried to catch up.


            Pretend. Pretend this isn't happening.

            Be a man.

            Goddammit, be a man!


            "Holy shit! You fucking son of a bitch!" Racetrack cried, standing in the doorway.

            "Shit!" Jack scrambled off Mush, and Mush, brushing away silent tears, slowly hid himself from view, kneeling behind the bed as he pulled his thin pants back on.

            "Oh, my God," Snitch said. He could only stare at Cowboy. "Jack?"

            Blink, too, was staring at Jack as if he were an alien. "What da hell were ya doing?"

            For the first time in his life, Jack Kelly was at a loss for words. He'd calculated everything so carefully. Except, of course, the possibility that Blink would come back upstairs so soon.

            And bring two boys with him.

            With a battle cry, Snitch hurled himself across the room, his hands stretching across Jack's throat before Jack had time to block him. Jack gagged and gasped, turning various shades of colors, before passing out. Snitch looked vaguely proud of himself.

            Mush slowly pulled himself to his feet, forcing his eyes to Blink's face. The sight of his beautiful friend was enough to cause the tears to well up again, but Mush was still too distraught by the kiss Blink had shared with Cowboy to go flying recklessly into his arms.

            Blink seemed a bit bashful, and wouldn't meet Mush's eyes. By dropping them, he noticed the dark word spelled out in the skin stretching across Mush's chest. He gaped. "Sinner?"

            Racetrack looked over, too, and whistled. "Wow, Mush," he said, almost jokingly. "That shoah looks purty now." He turned to Blink and said, conversationally, "It didn' look so good right afta I carved it, though."

            Blink looked at him, his eyebrows arched. "You put that on Mush?"

            Race laughed a little. "Has 'e seen yer wrist?"

            Wordlessly, Blink shook his head, then crossed the room to Mush. Mush stared at him cautiously, unsure of this stranger in his best friend's body. Kid Blink began rolling up the sleeve of his shirt.

            The crusty blood dried all up his lower arm at first revolted Mush, then he looked closer. Six letters were etched there, though not with the precision Racetrack had used for Mush's chest. S-I-N-N-E-R.

            "This is what I'd cut in my wrist at nights," Blink whispered, staring at the raised red letters. "I wrote the S that night I was awake, on washday, when you first had the nightmares about yer dad. The first N came that time you caught me doing it, the night Pie and you talked on the roof. The other letters came at different points, but no one was awake for those nights." He looked downcast, angry, as he added, "I reopened the letters whenever they'd start to heal." He finally raised his eye to implore Mush's face. "I didn' wanna be wit' Cowboy, Mush." His whisper was soft, but focused. "I wanted ta be wit' you. But… I know that you ain't…" He fell silent, then looked away again.

            Mush looked at him, then laughed at the absurdity. "I love you, Kid," he murmured, then pulled Blink to him for a long-postponed kiss.

            Snitch, still standing near the unconscious body of Jack, stared at Racetrack. "I'se confused, Race. Do you hate queers or not?"

            Racetrack shook his head. "Nope."

            Snitch looked like he'd been betrayed. "But… but…"

            "I wrote that in Mush's chest as a sort of signal," Race explained. "I had to be tough, because of my company at the time. But at the same time, I was sending a message to Blink, if Blink had only found Mush. I'd found out about the word the day before, and in a way, I was giving my blessing to the two of them." He thought a moment. "Though it was a little evil of me, huh?"

            Snitch stared at Racetrack. "So it's okay that they're …" He didn't even finish the thought, just looked pointedly at Kid Blink and Mush, who had moved from kissing while standing to lying on Mush's bed, a tangled mess of limbs and dancing hands.

            "Yeah," Race answered. "And it's okay that yer the same way, too."

            Snitch stared at him.

            A soft chuckle from Kid Blink, who raised his head for just a moment. "No more pretendin', Snitch."

            Snitch's face flushed, and the sudden embarrassed tilt of his head made Racetrack laugh. "C'mon, ya queer," he called. "Let's get Cowboy outta heah."

            It took a while for the two boys to drag Cowboy out of the house, and when it was finally accomplished, Blink flung himself against Mush in an exaggerated movement. "I thought they'd never leave," he complained.

            "It's okay," Mush answered. "We got forever, Blink."

            A more pure, more sentimental, more perfect kiss could not have followed. Capturing Blink's lips, Mush eagerly teased the boy with his tongue. The kiss lasted much longer than either thought possible.

            "You think we'll ever be accepted?" Blink asked quietly, softly kissing Mush's throat.

            Mush smiled down at him. "Who cares?" he answered. "We don't need anyone but us."

            "So no more pretending for us, either?"

            "No more pretending."

            And how nice, to know that this promise would be one that would be kept.

[the end]

[end notes: I FINALLY FINISHED ANOTHER STORY! *dance* I'd still love reviews and feedback, and I will post an author's note hopefully next week, with the final batch of shoutouts and thank-you's. Check back for it—it's gonna be a blast. ^_^ Just wait til you see what I've got planned… Seriously, you guys, you all ROCK and I'm so glad for all the reviews you've given me. MUAH!]


geometrygal ][ Well, it wasn't by Saturday, but it is here fairly quickly (at least for me ^_^), especially considering that I had prom this weekend. Hoo ha! Any end reactions? ^^

hilaRyB ][ Yus, Pinhead *does* have sexy red curls. I could show you a picture of what Pin's curls look like, but … we don't talk on AIM. *sweatdrop* He's based off a real-life boy, I told you that, right? And he has quite the sexy hair. ^_^ Okay, the fact that the name "Old Kloppy" made you think of "Mad Eye Moody" is so strange, I can't even tell you. *laughs* Especially since the two names are not really alike at all… *hands you a tshirt that says "PFR!" in many places* HEY, I had Pinhead talking about Picasso there! *BEAM* Then I realized that Picasso was ::ahem:: later than that. -_-;; So I had to change it. *laughs* But oh well, it turned out okay anyhow. Yeah, the dead!mush dream was really a kinda strange thing… came from nowhere, really. O_O It was gonna have all sorts of literary purposes… but I threw them out. Now I just think it's kinda cool imagery. *laughs* Ah, it's great fun to be me. Erm… sorry 'bout killing Pinny? *looks sheepish* God, I swear, I'm never killing anyone again. Everybody is so MAD at me. *hides from newsie!authors carrying torches and waving machetes* LOL… okay, so I'll still write about killing newsies off. It's all I can seem to do. *points to various shelves on which are stacked manuals on the correct ways to kill newsies* I didn't even think anyone would care that much! He's an OC, not even a movie!newsie! O_O You're my favorite too, Hil! *giggles* You cracketh me upeth, goil. Mucho love, and thanks for the awesome reviews time and time again.

studentnumber24601 ][ I keep forgetting that most of you guys haven't read my fics in which I kill off multiple people all at the same time and such. ^_^;; You have no idea how incredibly morbid I can be! LOLOL. Thanks for the review 24! Mucho luffles and huggles and snuffles and such.

The Omniscient Bookseller ][ Oh, c'mon. Just tell me you didn't see that coming. I know you did. CALL OFF THE SHUNNING NEWSIES! I can't take their shunning! And really, I even TOLD y'all there'd be a death. I didn't kill Racey. So be happy. *glare* LOL Luffle you doll!

Stage ][ *attacks Jack too* Joik. Oh, and Pinhead definitely is NOT screechy annoying redhaired child in the beginning of Newsies who everyone wants to punch in the frickin' face. No no no. Hey, just so you know, I think it cut off your chapter 10 review. In any case, Specs!muse didn't get to say what he wanted to. ^_^ Thanks for the reviews though! I luffle you Stage! O_O AND YOU UPDATED PAPER ANGELS! *hands you awards and various newsies*

Keza: Queen of Procrastination ][ Nope, I didn't kill off Pie. I also didn't include him in the end. *looks slightly confused* Sorry, don't know how he slipped through… if I write an epilogue, I'll shove him in there. *nods* He'll get married to his beautiful girl, Molly. *cheeky grin* Yus, I do believe I have a tendency to kill off characters named Charlie. O_o Thanks for the wondrous review, Kezzles dahlink! And yes, I definitely DO enjoy the cackling with delight when everyone else is distraught over my plot turns. It's my favey-davey part of the day. ^_^

Sparkle Kelly Conlon ][ Thank you Estee! And Blink… and Jack… and Mush… well, I guess I made it all work out. Somehow. You should've read the first draft of this chapter, it was quite bloody and morbid and deaths were everywhere. I thought I'd get in trouble for that one, though, with all the readers. So I changed it. ^_^;; Thanks for the reviews hun! You're super wonderful. We've got to talk again sometime soon!

Shortie ][ YAY FOR SWEET VALLEY! I lurve random!pie. I enjoy how I can make him say various things and it fits for him. *dances* He's very handy for plot twists, that boy is. Mrs. Djilian never knew Cowboy, and she doesn't know him at all by his real name. The only way she recognizes Cowboy is by the other boys' talking of him. So she has to call him Cowboy, because she doesn't know him by any other name. *nod* It was weird that you picked up on Snitch being fast (taking track lessons from Swifty) cuz originally, that WAS Swifty. I put him in that role the first draft of chapter 9, then decided that it wasn't Swifty, but Itey, then I decided it wasn't Itey, but Snitch. I had to go over that chapter with a fine comb, trying to make sure I didn't leave random names everywhere. *sweatdrop* LOL! I LURVE YOU SHORTIE AND YOUR RANDOMNESS! It's such fun. ^_^

Hotshot ][ Heh heh. Don'tcha just hate it when I make you think? *grins* Thanks for the reviews dear.

rumor ][ I AM NOT MORBID BEYOND MORBID! Jack: Yes, you are. Oh. Guess I am, then. Sorry 'bout that. Short short review, I apologize, but I gotta get to work in 3 minutes and I'm not dressed yet. O_O EEP! I luffle you Rumor, and you are the awesomest awesome awesome person in the world!

Thumbsucker Snitch ][ *Mondie hates Jack too* I don't know when it happened, I just realized one day that I really can't stand the kid. O_O Poor Jack. Poor Snitchy, I apologize for making him so … him in the story. But see, he was really just scared… yup. ^_^ Luffles to Lute!

misprint ][ Actually, I don't know how disappointed you were in me a chapter ago, because… I didn't get the review. ff.net must've ate it again. That's why you didn't get a shoutout, either. *kicks ff.net in the metaphorical shins* Aren't you proud of me though, for not sending you thirty emails insisting that you review? I'm trying to get better! But yeah, I didn't get a review for chapter 8. You can check my review bank. *points at link* I DO NOT MUCK UP MY STORIES! Jack: Yes, you do. Oh. Guess I do, then. Sorry. ^_^ I luffle you Misers, and don't hate me too much, cuz I'd die! Talk to Connor about me lately? ^_^;;;;;

Sparker ][ *curtsy* Thank you muchly-mushly! I heart you!

Ali ][ Oh, you might be disappointed by the time you get to this review… ^_^ The cute Mushy/Blink slashiness dies down some, eh? Hehehe! But thank you doll!

Lee ][ No, NOW it's over. ^_^ Thanks for the review! Sorry I made you so upset over Pinhead. I love the kid, too.

for the second-to-last time… end of shoutouts!]