AN: I know, I'm supposed to be working on "You Were A Newsie". I apologize for the lack of updates on that; it's not writer's block this time, luckily. I have tons of great ideas for that. It's just that the past few weeks have been hell for me- we've been visiting colleges, and it's just been hectic and frustrating. Oh well.
Disclaimer: I don't own newsies. Even if I did, our activities would not even be proper for internet archiving. So there. And I don't own the Eagles (my absolute favorite music group ever!), and I don't own this song, one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, properly named "The Sad Café".
This is a one shot, and SLASH people, so if you don't like it, don't read it. Simple enough. It's Specs/Dutchy, rated for strong language, based a few years after the group of tightly-knit newsies kinda "broke apart", as usually has to happen with good friends. It's half depressing, half happy…kinda weird.
And if you hadn't figured it out yet, the "Sad Café" is the name for Tibby's in this fic. You'll see why.
I cringed as my boss screamed at me, and I tore myself away from the roaring machine to turn around and face him. His face was less than an inch from mine, but he still had to scream to be heard over the constant, thunderous drone of the machinery.
"You didn't meet your quota this week!"
"You raised it by two thousand pieces! That's impossible, sir!"
"Impossible, my ass! If you don't make quota this week, you're no longer going to be employed here, do you understand me?!"
I scowled, but nodded fiercely and turned back to my work. My hands were throbbing with a constant, dull pain from working with the hot metal, but I couldn't stop working. Not right now. I still had thirty minutes on the clock before I got to go home.
Not that home was any better.
I was out of there the second that my watch hit eleven o'clock, and I quickly left the warehouse, my ears slowly adjusting to the quieter atmosphere outside of that hell hole. Rain was just beginning to fall, leaving my blonde hair plastered to my face and my clothes dripping wet as I stepped into my apartment building.
Out in the shining night
The rain was softly falling
The tracks that ran down the boulevard
Had all been washed away
Things didn't used to be like this. Life used to be happy, full of something that resembled a life, a light that seemed as if it would never fade. Life was full of music, laughter, friendship…maybe even love. If only I'd said something when I had the chance.
Yeah. I was alone now, probably would be forever. And I wouldn't doubt it one bit if I heard he had a happy wife, a few kids, a house with a yard, a white picket fence, and a little puppy…he was that type of guy. Naturally lucky. Naturally attractive, and happy.
Unlike me. The bum who went to his apartment alone every night and got drunk, eventually passing out on the couch and going to work every morning with a hangover.
Out of the silver light
The past came softly calling
And I remembered the times we spent
Inside the Sad Café
I jumped over a couple of drunks on the staircase and walked up to my door, taking out the key and accidentally dropping it to the grime-covered floor.
"Fuck." I snapped, leaning over to pick it up- then I caught sight of something odd. I picked up an unmarked white envelope that was half stuck under my door, and I put it under my arm as I unlocked the door and stepped inside. I practically tripped over Jay, the stray cat who'd moved in without my permission last year who I'd affectionately named after Specs- well, after his real name. Like they say, first crushes never really fade. Especially if there haven't been any real crushes since then, I guess.
I threw my ripped up jacket down on a chair and took another look at the mysterious envelope, wondering if I should open it or just throw it away. Logic would say to not trust any blank envelopes in the slums of New York City, but then again, I was never known for being very logical. My curiosity got the better of me, and I tore open the envelope.
Inside was a thin strip of paper, and in fancy script written on it was what could only be a riddle.
"Meet me at midnight inside the Sad Café."
I read the paper again, absolutely in shock. The Sad Café…that's what the newsies started calling Tibby's when our small group began to split up. Because that's where we always had the goodbye parties. So only other newsies from the Manhattan lodging house in that short period of time would know about the nickname.
One of the other newsies wanted me to meet him in Tibby's at midnight.
This had to be some kind of a cruel joke. A joke by someone who knew how much those times meant to me, those times when we would wake up singing and dancing, those times when the trials and troubles of the world didn't matter as long as the headlines sold the papers.
But I'd never told anyone. No one knew. No one except the newsies.
Another huge hurdle? Tibby's had closed a few years back. The place was a dirty, disgusting, rat-ridden abandoned building where druggies did their deals.
Oh, it seemed like a holy place
Protected by amazing grace
And we would sing right out loud
The things we could not say
I stood there for at least ten minutes, my mind torn in two. Half of my mind was telling me to stay home and drink my troubles away, even though I knew everything would be the same in the morning. The other part of my mind was screaming at me to go, even if it meant digging up meaningless past events, even if it meant sending me further into depression than I'd ever been previously, nothing else mattered, just fuck the world and fuck the logic and go!
If I was going to get there by midnight, I'd have to go now.
So what did I do?
Anyone who knew anything about me would already know the answer to that. Of course I went. I guess that even after all this some of my natural optimism shone through.
We thought we could change this world
With words like "love" and "freedom"
We were part of the lonely crowd
Inside the Sad Café
We thought we were unstoppable. We thought that since we could bring Pulitzer to his knees, we could do anything. God, that was a sweet time. But as with all good times, it had to end.
It started with Jack. We all knew his relationship with Sarah wouldn't last long, but none of us expected him to split for Santa Fe just a month after the day he promised he'd never leave us. And soon after that, David and Les went back to school.
The next to go was Racetrack. He got a real job down at the tracks, but I don't know what he's actually doing there. Last I heard, he was doing pretty good.
Mush and Blink disappeared one morning. Literally. As in, we woke up and their bunks were empty, all their stuff gone. But laying on Blink's bed was a postcard with the word "California" on the front in big bold letters. That didn't leave much to the imagination- I should've seen it coming, with all the money they'd been saving.
Crutchy died about a year after the strike. We all knew it would happen, that the disease wasn't going to just take his leg. We all knew he'd end up six feet under before he was twenty. We just never guessed it would be so soon. That was the biggest blow to the lodging house yet.
And one by one, the rest of them left. Itey took a job as an Italian translator for some company working with immigrants. Skittery decided to just go travel- no idea where he was going or how to get there, he just went. It only took Snitch a day to take off after him. And it wasn't long before Specs walked out that door and headed for Chicago by train.
After that, I had no reason to stay, and unlike Snitch, I didn't have the guts to chase him down. So I took up a job at a factory and turned into the hopeless drunk I am. And I haven't heard from a single one of the guys since.
We had so many dreams. We thought that we couldn't be beaten.
It ended up that it didn't take a man or a corporation to beat us down and tear us apart.
All it took was time.
Oh, expecting to fly
We would meet on that beautiful shore
In the sweet by and by
I walked out of the building once again, jumping over the same drunks and letting the rain soak me once again. I headed down the streets that I usually avoided due to the fact that I didn't want to remember the good times, past the distribution center and down the streets that I used to dance in without a care in the world. Now I trudged down them, without a single ounce of energy in my body left to dance with.
I fingered the crumpled paper in my pocket, wondering which one of the newsies could possibly have the money and the time to hunt me down and invite me to a midnight rendezvous. Also wondering why they had waited so long, and why they even cared in the first place.
Maybe one of them had moved back to New York City. Maybe I wouldn't have to be so much alone anymore, but that was probably hopeful thinking.
As I approached Tibby's, I wondered if I had gone insane. I was sure that the last time I had walked past this place…maybe a month ago, at most…it had been a dingy, abandoned building. But as I looked in the darkened windows, I saw booths and tables and chairs all set up as they had been. Everything was the same, down to the flooring, the wallpaper, hell, even the ceiling fan that Bumlets had taken a spin on. And as I looked closer through the glass in the door, I saw a faint light, and I realized that it was a candle lit on one of the middle tables. A table that had a rose on it, two full place settings, a pure white tablecloth and two menus set out on it.
This was getting crazy.
So, of course, I took a deep breath and walked inside.
Some of their dreams came true
Some just passed away
And some of them stayed behind
Inside the Sad Café
The smell of meat cooking washed over me, a scent that I had been familiar with- but I hadn't set foot in here since I left the lodging house. I looked around cautiously- everything was as it had once been, down to the last piece of silverwear. My breath caught in my throat as the memories came flooding back, and I choke back the tears that threatened to take hold.
I spun around, and leaning by the door was a shadowy figure, tall and lean with curly, flyaway hair. And as soon as I saw the reflection of the candlelight on his glasses, I knew exactly who it was.
The clouds rolled in
And hid that shore
Now that Glory Train
It don't stop here no more
"Specs?" I whispered, not believing my eyes. It couldn't be him. There was absolutely no way in hell he would've come back here.
"You like the remodeling?" he asked, stepping forward into the light and looking around the small restaurant. He hadn't changed much in looks- he was just as stunning as ever. I couldn't bring myself to look away from him, and I just nodded, swallowing hard.
"But you…and this…" I stuttered, and Specs smiled shyly, making my body flood with a warmth that I hadn't felt for years.
"I knew I shouldn't have left. You still can't form a coherent sentence."
That certainly snapped me back to reality. He had left. Without even saying goodbye. And before I knew what I was doing, I slapped him across the face. He lifted his hand to his face, standing shock still, and then he smiled again and shook his head.
"Okay. I deserved that."
"You didn't even say goodbye, you bastard."
He bit his lip nervously. "I know. And you have every right to hate me."
"Damn right I do."
An uncomfortable silence fell, but he didn't let it last long.
"I bought this place."
It was just like him, to change the subject, but I went right along with it. "You bought it?"
"Yeah. I mean…I was a cook in Chicago, and I was doing pretty good there, but…" he sighed, leaning against the back of a chair. "Nothing seemed right, you know? And I couldn't forget…I couldn't forget you."
Now I look at the years gone by
And wonder at the powers that be
I don't know why fortune smiles on some
And lets the rest go free
I snorted. "You're just on a pity trip."
He stepped closer to me, something that I wasn't quite used to anymore unless the other guy was planning to hit me, and I practically leaped backward. Specs looked at me with those huge brown eyes, hurt and obviously confused.
"I'm sorry. It's just that…it's been so long. Things have changed. You wouldn't understand." I gushed out, turning away from him. He laid a hand on my shoulder and I stiffened, but didn't pull away this time.
"Dutchy…I know it's seemed like a long time. But I can't even tell you how sorry I am. I've missed you more than anything. Nothing has come along in my life…not even the money…that's been able to replace you. Nothing."
I turned around to face him. "Why did you come back? I mean, really?"
"Because I'm hopelessly in love with you. Always have been."
Maybe the time has drawn
The faces I recall
But things in this life change very slowly
If they ever change at all
There's no use in askin' why
It just turned out that way
I couldn't help it; the tears began to fall when he said that to me. It's what I had cried over for so many years in my bed in the lodging house. It was what I had prayed to God for. It was what I had been denied all this time. And now, it was right here in front of me. And I didn't know what to say.
"Please tell me all this wasn't for nothing." Specs said, his voice cracking on the words. "I mean, I've found some of the other guys, and they wanna come back. Have a reunion or something. But...if I can't have you, then none of it's worth it."
I searched his expression for any sign he was lying, any sign that he had changed too much to be trusted. And I found nothing except surrender.
"Dutchy…I'm never gonna leave you. Never."
Once again, I was struck speechless. I had to be dreaming.
So meet me at midnight, baby
Inside the Sad Café
Slowly, hesitantly, Specs moved forward, less than a few inches from me now. He slid his arm around my waist, and I could feel all the tension melt away from both of us as his lips met mine. His sweet scent was like a pleasant fog, and he ran a hand through my still-damp hair, tilting my head just right for an amazing kiss that negated all other happenings. And quite suddenly, I realized that I couldn't be dreaming.
Even dreams couldn't end up this perfect.
Why don't you meet me at midnight, baby
Inside the Sad Café
AN: Well, I don't really like the way it turned out, but I wrote it during a financial aid information session at IU University. And all of you should go out and buy an Eagles CD with this song on it, "The Sad Café". Cause it's a gorgeous song.
Now…I'm gonna get to work on my other fic…