AN: Thanks for reviewing- onward we go!

                                                                                                                                                           

            "But Jaaaaack…we've been walking for hours…my feet hurt…can't we take a break?"

            "No. We's going to da tracks, Spot."

            "But that's so far away!"

            "Yeah, well, suck it up and get ovah it. We've only been walking for a half hour, ya wimp!"

            I never thought I'd get away with calling Spot Conlon a wimp right to his face, but here I was. He'd been doing nothing but whining ever since we left with our papers. It was like I was walking around with a first day newsie, just getting used to the physical demands.

            "Why are we going to da tracks, Jack?" Les asked.

            "Cause I'm goin' ta check on Dutchy."

            "Why?"

            "Cause those gamblers down dere are gonna chew him up and spit him out if someone ain't there ta help."

            Boy…was I ever wrong.

            Dutchy was actually running a poker game in the middle of a horse race, and occasionally looking up to see how his horse was doing. And he was winning both.

            "That's a straight against two of a kind! Pay up, boys!" he said, and various grumbles were heard as the men threw change down on the makeshift table and walked away. Dutchy began to count his earnings, smiling even bigger when he looked up and saw that his horse had finished first.

            I had to be dreaming. Dutchy never gambled with us- he said it would be the death of us to gamble our lives away. And here he was, suddenly able to pay rent for the next week.

            I didn't even bother to climb up and talk to him. I turned on my heels and stalked away, heading back toward Manhattan.

            And on the way, I found Mush.

            "Mush, are you okay? What happened?" I asked. He had a black eye and his shirt sleeve was ripped.

            "It ain't none of your business, Cowboy. Why don't you jest scram?"

            He walked away, and I looked in the alley he had come out of- both of the Delancey brothers lay there, moaning and nursing various wounds. And just who happened to be walking out of the alley at that moment? Skittery.

            He was beaten up pretty bad. But that's not what scared me. What scared me was that he looked close to tears.

            "Skittery?"

            "They came afta me, Jack, I swear. I didn't start nothin'!"

            "Are you okay?"

            He sniffed and looked at the ground. "Yeah, I guess. I was jest scared."

            He suddenly broke down into tears and fell against me, and I just let him cry on my shoulder for a minute. I had to figure out what this was. Skittery never cried. Never. And he never got beat up this bad, either.

            "Look, it's gonna be okay. I…I'll buy you extra dessert at Tibby's today, alright?"

            He sniffed again and nodded, grabbing his papers from the ground and walking away, wiping the tears off his face.

            "Come on, Spot. We've got papes to sell."

            He groaned and grumbled all morning, and come time for lunch, I was ready for a break.

            But I didn't get one, cause I walked into Tibby's, and Mush greeted me with a huge smile.

            Everyone was back to normal.

            And no one seemed to remember how they were acting that whole morning.

            At least it's over…

                                                                                                                                                           

AN: But, Jack, it isn't over. No, it's far from over…we've still got two more days to torture you with!