Hello again! I'm back with a sequel to Brothers in All But Name, yay! This was partly inspired by yappingpuppy's suggestion that I write something about how Jack and Race met Crutchie, and partly inspired by me wanting to explore what I think would have happened if Crutchie met Jack and Race before he got his crutch. I hope you guys enjoy, and please review!
The sound of the morning bell ringing roused Jack from his restless sleep, and he sat up with a large yawn. All around him, other boys were doing the same as they prepared for another day of selling newspapers in the hot sun.
Jack looked over at the bed next to him, a fond smile on his face as he gazed at the form of his still-sleeping brother. It was moments like these that he counted his lucky stars they had managed to escape from the Refuge (relatively) unscathed a year earlier.
Reaching over, Jack poked Anthony repeatedly in the arm to wake him. "Hey Race, rise an' shine," he said, calling Anthony by the nickname he had received after only a few months of selling newspapers due to his love of selling near the Sheepshead Bay racetrack.
"Piss off, Kelly," Race groaned in reply, rolling over so that his back was facing Jack in an effort to ignore him.
Jack chuckled, swinging out of bed and pulling his shirt on in one fluid motion. "Come on Racer, time ta greet the day!"
Race groaned again but he obeyed Jack and sat up, giving himself a little shake in order to wake up before beginning his morning routine.
Jack looked out across the room at the boys who in the past year had become his closest friends, a grin creeping onto his face. He had never dreamed he would find a family when he and Anthony had begun selling newspapers, but he was certainly glad that they had.
Speaking of… Jack's grin faded slightly as he caught sight of the youngest and newest member of their family, a 10-year-old boy named Charlie with a mop of sandy blonde hair. The boy, who was normally a bundle of energy with a smile that could charm Joseph Pulitzer himself, looked to be almost asleep on his feet, swaying unsteadily as he clumsily buttoned his shirt.
Frowning in concern, Jack quickly crossed the crowded room and approached the boy, who he could now see looked somewhat feverish as well.
"Heya, Jack!" Charlie perked up upon seeing Jack, quickly transforming into his normal self. "Beautiful mornin', ain't it?"
Jack gave Charlie a small smile, nodding. "Yeah, I suppose it is. Listen, are ya feelin' okay? Only you looked a little sick just a minute ago."
Charlie shrugged, bending over and pulling on his boots. "I feel fine. I got a little headache, is all."
"Ya sure?" Jack asked, not satisfied with Charlie's response. He could tell when someone was pretending not to be sick in order to sell papers, it was something he had seen several times in the past year.
Charlie sighed heavily, fixing Jack with an annoyed look which startled Jack, he had never known Charlie to get annoyed in the few months he had known him. The kid was one of the most easy-going people Jack had ever met, that was partly why the other boys liked him so much. "I'se fine, Jack. Promise."
"Okay," Jack said after a moment, reluctantly turning away from Charlie and joining Race who was on his way out for the day.
"What was that about?" Race asked, stealing a glance at Charlie over his shoulder. He wasn't as close to him as Jack was, but he was still concerned.
"Nothin', just him bein' stubborn," Jack said, sighing tiredly. Sometimes he felt like he was 32 instead of 12.
Just as Jack and Race were about to exit the lodging house there was a loud thud behind them, and Jack turned to see Charlie in a heap on the floor.
"Kid! You okay? What happened?" Jack cried worriedly, hurrying over to Charlie with Race following close behind him.
"I'se fine," Charlie said softly, already trying to pick himself up. "My legs just kinda stopped workin' for a second."
"Well that ain't normal," Jack said, placing a hand on Charlie's forehead. As he had predicted, it was hot. "An' you'se got a fever."
"I can still sell," Charlie protested weakly as Jack picked him up and carried him to his bunk, but Race shook his head.
"You can, but you ain't gonna. Stay here an' rest up for the day, an' we'll see how you feel tomorrow."
"Race is right," Jack affirmed, pulling Charlie's boots off and pulling his blanket over him. "I'll spot ya enough so that you can stay here today, an' you can sell tomorrow."
"Okay," Charlie acquiesced, snuggling under the covers with a sleepy smile. "Thanks, Jack."
"Anytime, kid," Jack said softly, smiling down at Charlie as he drifted off. When he was certain the boy was asleep, Jack turned to Race. "If I sell for ya today, do ya mind stayin' ta look after him?"
"Not at all," Race said. "But I don't think he's that sick, an' won't that make extra work for you?"
"Maybe," Jack admitted. "But I wanna be sure he's okay."
As Race observed Jack gazing at Charlie, realization dawned. "Charlie reminds you of me when we first met, doesn't he?"
Jack hesitated for a moment at Race's unexpected question, then nodded. "A little." He fixed Race with a pleading look. "Just look after him for today, okay? I'll make it up to ya, I promise."
Race smiled at Jack, patting his arm reassuringly. "Don't worry, Jack. I got it."
Jack sighed in relief. "Thanks, Race. You won't regret it!"
"I better not!" Race laughingly called back as Jack hurried out of the door to begin work for the day.