Ace of Hearts

By: Racetrack's Goil

Author's Note: Hey hey all! This story's been fading into the Newsie fanfiction background, which somewhat makes me sad. But recently I've gotten new readers who somehow find it, and their reviews has inspired me to re-write the entire thing. I've re-written this chapter for the third time...because, well, it sucked. Also, I think I'll be giving this a nudge or two so that new readers can find it and read it as well. At anyrate, I'll be re-writing the entire story. Blah, it's so embarassing to read it, especially the first few chapters!! Horrible dialogue, and Ace is such a bland character, and Spot so two-dimensional! But I guess that's a good thing in a way, because I think it means that I have improved. Yeah, fanfiction isn't good for originality, but it does allow you to improve your writing, and develop a writing style. Doncha think?

As you all may know, this story used to have a Casting Call, but was deleted because of it. But my readers have kindly allowed me to still use the characters, so I'd just like to say that every character except for Ace, Fire, Trek, Lil, and Swiper are not mine. I'll probably add more of my own characters so I'll probably be having a longer disclaimer soon.

Disclaimer: Ace, Fire, Trek, Lil, Swiper, Philip, Duke…mine. Everyone else…not mine. Belongs to Disney or to fanfiction members.

To New Readers: Hey!!! Come and join the ride; we've got cute plushies and happy Spot souveniers. Ace is not a Mary-Sue; she is a sadly flawed character with faults that make me sad. And Spot is not a nice person in this, although we all agree that he is perfect in his nastyness. Check out my profile for the pictures of her and other characters, and also for a video I made. There's a sequel up as well, so make sure you move onto that after this one. Tell me what you think; impressions, suggestions, criticisms, advice...anything! Every single review I have got has inspired me to write more, and I think the best way for any author to improve is to simply WRITE MORE. Therefore, see, reviews improvement.

Special thanks to pmochizuki and Elly, for all the support, advice, and suggestions they've given me throughout the making of this story.

If you've never been to an orphanage, you wouldn't know just how horrible it is. Yeah, you hear about how awful it is, but it really is worse from the inside. The kids are rotten, the rules painfully strict, and punishments are dealt out daily. Not only that, but the food tastes horrible, which is a major drawback for me. And you have to these stupid lessons about…well, just about everything from food to hair. How you sit, how you talk, how you act…and it wasn't even one of those ladies' schools you hear about and shudder at.

It doesn't help also, when the mistresses dislike you because you have a tendency to break everything in sight (NOT my fault) or because you're sarcastic (well…kinda my fault) or you seem to deliberately annoy them…(alright…whatever). My point is, orphanages ought to be banned. Or at least there should be some kind of law about how strict they can be.

And that's not gonna happen in a gazillion years.

So that's why I'm climbing ever so inconspicuously down my window in the middle of night, using the ivy that grew on the sides of the dull, grey-colored building: the second orphanage I had been in so far. The first orphanage I broke out of when I was fourteen, having stayed there from the age of ten. This second one I was caught in about a year and a half ago, when I was sixteen. This orphanage was the worst of them both.

You know how easily kids run away in books and such? It really doesn't work out that way. For example, at this moment my arms were feeling like they were going to peel out of my sockets. I'm terrified of heights, so I'm desperately staring at the vines, and that doesn't help either, because I now find myself gawking at a nasty-looking bug that's about to crawl over my hand. I hastily continued my way, hoping to death the vines wouldn't suddenly rip off the building, though a part of my mind told it wouldn't; I was too skinny and it was firmly rooted.

I suppose I should explain. I had been planning this escape for a week or so and, I must say, I am rather evilly brilliant. Yeah, I really am.

First of all, let me boast about our incredible head mistress. She's gaunt-faced, tall, and has arms skinnier than mine. Say hello to Mrs. Wilkins. She's obsessed with making our lives miserable. On top of it all, she has to be smart. Her room is right near the door and she has the sharpest ears I have ever known. Seriously. Her window is always open and her bed is right near it. One boy tried to escape and returned in an hour. She had caught him in two minutes and the rest of the fifty-eight minutes were spent on a lecture about what happens to 'ungrateful little wretches who try to sneak away.' The boy was forbidden any food for the whole day.

That had been her third catch of the week.

Anyway, a few days ago, I saw a letter written by her to a friend by the name of Hudson. It was replied and I managed to take a look at it. This Hudson character told her that her aunt was ill, but it was nothing serious.

Well, I made it serious. Copying Hudson's handwriting and address, I wrote a hoax letter, telling that the aunt had fallen 'critically sick' and that Mrs. Wilkins had to return back to her home in New Jersey.

Yeah, shame on me. But it served her right. Now I was on my wonderful way to freedom.

At that moment, my foot slipped and I nearly shrieked aloud. Thankfully, I was already near the ground and I landed clumsily but safely in an undignified sprawl. Since I couldn't climb down with my bag of belongings with me, I had tied a very long twine to it. I yanked it now and my sack went tumbling over the window sill. It landed snugly in my waiting arms and I ripped the twin away before slinging my sack over my back. For a brief moment I couldn't believe I did it. I turned and stared at the hated orphanage, gazing at its black outline in the night. I silently raised a fist in triumph and did a little dance of glee, right there on the street. Then I ran as quietly and as quickly as I could away.

A hysterical urge to laugh aloud bubbled over me. I clamped a hand over my mouth, but a little giggle of sheer joy at being free escaped me. I quickly swallowed it down and kept running. Things were going perfectly, no way was I going to ruin it now with laughing like a raving lunatic escaping from an asylum. Hehe.

I slowed my pace a little as I rounded the corner of the street. I grabbed my hat from my sack (they didn't let me wear it inside), gathered my dark hair together, and stuffed it underneath my hat. As I did, I thought over my situation while my heart pounded with excitement. I sobered down quickly enough when I forced myself to face the facts.

Okay, I escaped. All I had with me was these clothes, my hat, an old spare cloak in my bag, some food, and a few coins. If I didn't find a job soon, I'd starve and starving was never an option for me. But jobs…they were always the problem. People don't want girls to work for them, which really was annoying. I mean, we could work just as well as guys could! I could fool them, but only for a short time. I'd end up back on the streets and would meander around, trying to find yet another job. And it'd start over again.

I'm optimistic like that.

I sank down in an abandoned alley and drew out my money from my pocket. I fingered the coins. I only had enough money to eat for a couple of cheap meals. I returned it back to my pocket and then fished out the old cloak before wrapping it around me.

Nothing could be done tonight. I seriously doubted the mistresses at the orphanage would organize a search party for me. They never liked me anyway and, except for Wilkins, they were probably glad I had escaped. I smiled to myself, remembering the many times they tried to make me learn all the boring manners a proper 'lady' should have. Dullness galore, really.

I knew I needed to be up early tomorrow for a long and possibly futile search. So it was probably smart to get some rest while I could. The alley was an uncomfortable place to sleep in, but it was more or less dry, if not clean. Arranging my sack into a makeshift pillow, I curled up and fell asleep a lot faster than I expected.

The next day was bathed with sunlight. I winced and groaned, before sitting up dazedly. I felt my bones protest. Well, bones, suck it up. I very well couldn't bring my bed along with me, could I? I stretched and blinked at the bright light streaming into my alley. I reached for my bag and fished out the loaf of bread.

I felt a little more hopeful as I sat there, eating and watching some people pass by my alley. Surely some kind of small job could be found. I stood up, feeling my knee crack as I did so. I held my hat with my teeth as I reached back, twisted my hair up against my head, and then settled the hat firmly over. Making sure that any strands of hair had not escaped; I straightened and slung my bag over my shoulder before stepping out into the street.

It was quite crowded today. People were selling food, buying newspapers, and were basically bustling around and getting in each other's way. I managed to stay out of the most of the crowd and most people ignored the short, scrawny kid weaving past them. My face was by no means very feminine and I knew that as long as they did not look at me too long, I could fool them into thinking I was a boy.

I soon got out the majority of the crowd and stopped to take a look into a store window. A book store, I realized. I was not an avid reader, but I liked books to a certain extent. I was about to enter when I was nearly bowled over by a few rough guys who pushed past me. Caught off guard, I stumbled directly into the arms of one of their companions, who had been following them closely from behind. He swore and kept moving forward, while I desperately moved backwards.

It was awful.

"Out of da way, kid!" he snarled finally, practically throwing me down to one side near a food vendor before continuing after his friends. I hit the ground hard on my rear and then scrambled up, my face burning. I glared at their backs darkly and my mouth opened instinctively to shout at them, but just in time, I stopped myself and I snapped my mouth shut.

These were newsies and not only newsies, they were Brooklyn newsies. I only knew a little about them, but I knew enough to know that they don't take kindly to insults. I also knew they all had horrible tempers. And from what I heard, their leader was even worse. I didn't want trouble.

I exhaled sharply, my former good spirits gone, and shouldered my bag again. These newsies were rough, tough, rude, and annoying. My few encounters with them were never very good. But at least I hadn't knocked over the vendor. That would have been disastrous.

I was about to continue on my way, completely forgetting about the bookstore. I had barely taken a few steps when I felt someone grab the back of my collar and yank me backwards. I choked and then yelled, twisting to try and catch a glimpse of whoever was holding me.

It was a large man, someone I had never seen before. He looked like one of the people who sold at food vendors. Sure enough, he let go of my collar after he had dragged me back to the vendor that newsie had thrown me next to.

"Alrigh', ya little rat. Give da food back," he snapped, looking furious. I stared at him blankly.

"The what?"

"The apples! I know you have them!"

"Apples?" I repeated confusedly. What was going on?

"You stole them apples!"


"Stop repeatin' my words!"

I blinked stupidly, utterly at loss of what was happening. My eyes wandered around the street in a hopeless effort to seek help. My eyes caught a tall boy around my age, his arms folded across his broad chest, leaning against the wall of a store. I recognized him instantly as the Brooklynite who had pushed me down. He was looking right at me with dark eyes, smirking.

Did he have anything to do with this?


I turned back to the man who shook me roughly. "I-I-…," I trailed off and ended up simply shaking my head in denial. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the boy produce an apple and take a huge bite out of it. I glared at him and, with another smirk and a nod, he disappeared into the crowd.

Meanwhile, the large man had grabbed my bag and was beginning to empty it onto the street, still holding my arm so I couldn't get away. I shrieked in alarm and tried to stop him, but received a sharp slap for my troubles. Bread fell onto the dirty pavement, my old cloak landed softly above it, and a dirty wad of cloth followed. The cloth opened to reveal my few coins. The large man glared at me as he saw it and then shook out my sack again.

An apple innocently rolled out. I couldn't believe it. I nursed my cheek and looked at him, unable to decide whether to beg and yell.

"Look, I didn't-"

"Yeah, yeah. Where's da rest!"

"Listen, I didn't steal your precious apples! I don't know how those got in here!" I said desperately as my other arm scooped up my cloak before it got any dirtier. I picked up my money as well, my mind working at a furious pace.

The situation was obvious. Somehow, that boy must have stolen the apples and then, either out of cruelty or a strange sense of humor, had made sure I would fill his place as the culprit. In that short scuffle, and if he was good enough (which I was sure he probably was), he could have easily found a way to put one apple in my sack. Nice.

The large man gave me another glare before snatching the money out of my hands.


He tucked the wad of cloth into his pocket. "Dis should be enough," he said before releasing me with a rough push. I stumbled a few steps again and then stopped, staring at him. "But I didn't-"

"Get outta here!"

I gritted my teeth before grabbing my sack from his hand. Stuffing my cloak and the bread inside, I turned and stormed away, swearing under my breath.

Just wait till I found that boy. He was gonna pay. I don't know how, but he was going to pay.

I was in high bad temper. I kicked at harmless rocks, glared at passing people, and snarled at every newsie that passed by. They didn't notice though. I spent most of the morning entering shops and walking out of them. Things weren't looking too good. The only jobs I found were for 'experienced men' or 'for people who can take the responsibility.' Sure.

I walked out of a trinket store, frowning. It was nearly noon and it was hotter than ever. I reached into my bag for my bread and examined it. I sighed. Mud was practically caking on the surface. I wasn't that hungry yet. I sighed and threw it forcibly away. I'd go without lunch today.

"Hey, runt! Thanks for da entertainment!"

I looked up sharply to see the newsie. He was leaning against a tree in the same position as I had seen him before; his arms crossed, a smirk on his lips, and his eyes laughing at me and my distress.

"You!" I growled, throwing down my sack and walking right up to him. He was nearly full two heads taller than me. His smirk didn't disappear and he looked down at me, sneering.

"Yeah?" he drawled, leaning his face in close. I didn't flinch, though his breath stank.

"You conceited…selfish…stupid…excuse of a buffoon-," I was spouting every insult I knew when something crashed against my face, sending me flying backward to land heavily onto the ground. I groaned and the face of boy came into view, angry and glaring. I felt something wet trickle down the side of my mouth and touched it. My finger came away with blood. I stared, rather horrified.

He hit me. The newsie just backhanded me right in the face. I was officially mad.

"No talks to me like dat, ya bum," the boy said heatedly, clenching his fists and looking like he was about to swing again.

"Hey, I can call you anythin' I want," I hissed furiously, clenching my own fists.

He sneered again at me. "Loud-mouthed, ain't we?" His eyes traveled to the sack on the ground and he looked at me again. "Whaddaya have in dat sack of yours?"

"You aren't going to have it anyway," I shot back, taking a step backwards and grabbing it. I had lost my money, no way was I about to lose my cloak. It was something I had ever since I was small, after my brother had died. I wasn't about to give it up.

"As if you can stop me, ya little bum?" he snickered, taking a step closer. I smirked at him, sneering back.

"There you go, bum again. Honestly, you've really got a small vocabulary. To match your brain, hmm?"

Suddenly, he grabbed my sack and pulled it right out of my hands. Shrieking, I tried to snatch it back, but he held it just out of my reach. I saw his puzzlement at my shriek, which had sounded extremely feminine.

"Give. It. Back," I said as coldly as I could. It worked, for his attention was drawn from my shriek a few moments ago. It was then his turn to smirk as he lowered my sack a little.

"Why? Can't ya reach it? Or are ya too short?" He laughed, pushing me back with his other arm as I lunged for my sack.

The thin control I had over my temper broke. I gritted my teeth, drew back my fist, and punched him in the face. He wasn't expecting that and although he didn't stagger backwards or collapse right on the street, he stared at me and one arm automatically went to his jaw. Before he could recover, I reached for the sack and wrenched it out of his grasp.

He muttered something inaudible under this breath and then looked at me with murderous things in his eyes. I took a step back warily, wincing a little at the pain in my knuckles. He took a step towards me and I got ready to duck. I suppose I should have run, but my pride wouldn't let me. I was too angry…and perhaps a little stupid.

"You're gonna pay for dat!" He swung wildly, aiming for my head. I dodged, avoiding the blow. His other arm moved in quickly towards the other side of my face, but I managed to avoid that as well by ducking under his arm. My breathing was becoming faster already, and I knew I couldn't keep this up. I forced my mind to start working, but nothing came up.

Okay, maybe this was more than just a little stupid.

I was about to tell myself that I didn't give a rip about my pride, and to run, run, run as fast as I could, but before I knew it, he changed his tactics and grabbed my wrist with one, strong hand. I gawked at him in alarm and tried pulling away, but he ignored my yelling and soon had me in an awkward position with my captive arm twisted behind my back.

"Not so tough now, eh?" he snarled, pushing his weight forward nastily. "Dis is what ya get for messin' with me!"

"You're the one who-," I started heatedly, but lancing pains shot up my arm and I gasped, squeezing my eyes shut. I tried ineffectively to break free. Panic filled me then, as he increased his pressure on my arm twisted harder. My breath wooshed out ridiculously and I kicked backward, aiming for his shins. I might as well have kicked a tree trunk. I felt sweat trickle down my forehead as I gritted my teeth. My arm felt like it was going to rip out from my shoulder, and I wondered whether he was going to break it.

This was absurd.

Then came a voice, eerily quiet and calm, "Dat's enough."

My arm was suddenly and immediately released, and I nearly cried out with relief. It hung limp and useless at my side. I looked at it, blinking back tears of pain, and then straightened. I turned on my bully, and shoved him hard with my other arm, supremely furious. He was staring at something past me, but I didn't notice as I yelled things at him. He still did not respond, his mouth slightly open as he stared past my shoulder. I shoved at him futilely again, really, truly angry. "You jerk! You could have broken my arm! You nasty, sick, sadistic-"

"I said, dat's enough."

That voice again. I turned and stared. It belonged to an older boy of medium height, with a gray cabby hat on his head and a gold-topped cane in his hand. He stood before us with a relaxed manner, but I unconsciously caught my breath as he met my gaze evenly.

Cold grey eyes, like winter, yet with a tinge of light blue. Beautiful eyes, like clashing waves in the middle of the fiercest storm, but somehow dangerous. There was a ruthlessness to them that made me shiver. His lips suddenly curved upwards into a smirk and I tried not to blush as I realized that I had been caught staring. Then he saw the darkening bruise on my opponent's jaw and his eyes narrowed as if in amusement. I rubbed my injured arm unconsciously, feeling oddly defensive. He looked at me again for a long moment, and then turned to the Jerk.

"Well, Fire, you've come to pickin' on kids half yoah height, eh?"

Ridiculously, I felt a flash of annoyance at the reference about my height. Sure, I was short and scrawny. He didn't have to mention it, did he? Then again, I couldn't argue with the boy who most probably saved me from getting beaten up. I swallowed and flicked a look at the Jerk…Fire, he said?

"Oh, are you doin' here?" Fire mumbled, giving me a burning glare while avoiding the other boy's blue-grey gaze.

Spot? What kind of a name is that?

"'Cos if you are," continued the boy with the dangerous eyes, "After what I said to you yesterday, you're in big trouble." He spoke simply, as though he was talking about the weather, but the threat in those words held more meaning than if he had said more.

"I-I wasn't pickin' on 'im," Fire finally stammered, his face turning red. Liar. Spot, whoever he was, obviously saw straight through it, because those eyes flashed once.

"Yeah? Well, let's ask him. What do dey call you?" replied Spot, turning to me. I glanced at Fire, whose face turned a deeper shade of red.

"Ace. Who are you?" I asked bluntly. He looked at me (again) and ignored the question.

"'k, Ace, so what happen'd?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "He was bein' a real jerk."

He gave me a long stare, but I saw his lips press together, as if on the verge of laughter. At me? Wait, a second, who was he? And what was he doing, ordering me around and acting like he was suddenly in charge of everything? And laughing at me. I gave a sharp, impatient sigh and quickly explained what had happened without trying to sound like a whiny little tattle-tale, but it was hard when Spot was looking at me with that scrutinizing look and with Fire glaring daggers at me.

"But it's no big deal," I finished finally. It was true, anyhow. Somehow I was feeling mildly sorry for Fire, who was growing more and more red in the face with each passing minute. Am I strange to feel this way? But somehow I did, and although I was still angry, I didn't like the thought of being indebted to a stranger for help. I coughed nervously and Spot raised an eyebrow.

"Oh really?"


He snorted.

"Yeah, and what's dat big ol' shiner doing on his face, den?" he said, the corner of his mouth tugging upwards again. "Looks pretty serious to me."

Fire opened his mouth and then fell silent. He stared at the ground, his lips tightly pressed together and his face suddenly red with contained anger. He was looking at me with the corner of his eye. I tugged at my hat and wondered what to say.

"Well, yeah," I finally said lamely.

Spot then slowly smiled at us both and started fiddling with the top of that cane.

"Well, fights startin' all over Brooklyn ain't quite an unusual thing, but I won't be havin' dem involving one of my boys," Spot said. Then his smile vanished and his eyes hardened. "I don't want any of dis again, Fire, do ya hear?"

Fire didn't answer.

"I said," repeated Spot in a voice like stone, "Do ya hear me?"

"Yeah," mumbled Fire, his eyes flickering at me again. I uncomfortably shifted, feeling the hatred within that gaze. This was awful.

"And don't ever try to lie to me again, da both of ya," finished Spot, giving both me and Fire another Look. I wanted to protest, but I decided Spot wasn't quite the listening type. So I tugged at my hat and said, "Fine."

He looked at me and for a second, I swore he was laughing at me again, but the humor was gone when he turned back to the silent, obviously furious boy next to me.

"Now, Fire, git out out of here. Ace, how 'bout a talk."

I smothered a groan. Fire shot me a glare full of hate and then left without a word. He disappeared around the corner of the street, leaving me alone with Spot.

We stood there on the street, looking at each other. I didn't know what to think. This stranger had appeared out of nowhere, saved me from a beating, and was now trying to…what? Talk to me? About what? This Spot unnerved me, with those arrogant eyes that seemed to see right through me. He threw orders around like he expected them to be obeyed, and I unintentionally felt all my rebelliousness at the orphanage return. But I stayed where I was, and waited for him to speak.

He didn't speak. He simply began to walk towards me with slow, confident strides, and I wondered peevishly whether he was trying to intimidate me. Because he was intimidating, I found to my dismay, as I struggled not to step back warily. He stopped before me; his eyes alight with vague interest. Although he was not as tall as Fire, he was taller than me by a good couple of inches, and I had to tilt my head back slightly to meet his eyes.

"So, Ace, what brings ya t'Brooklyn?" Spot murmured in a suspiciously conversational manner. He sounded abnormally pleasant and friendly, and I narrowed my eyes at him.

"Lookin' for a job," I said cautiously, wondering what was going on behind that inscrutable gaze.

"Really now," he said in a curious tone that made me redden. I had to look away and in the silence that followed, felt again that he was somehow laughing at me.

This upset me. I did not like being laughed at, even from someone who had helped me out. I turned to him again, this stupid laughing stranger, and gave him my fiercest glare. "What is it?"

He seemed amused at my anger. "Fire is a blind fool," he said, almost to himself, and I blinked at the word 'blind'.

"What do you mean?"

"What I mean is," he drawled, "I think you'd look a whole lot prettier with your hair down."

I stared at him, feeling a sudden surge of immsense dislike. I truly disliked him completely in that moment, loathing the way he said those words, in a smug, expectant tone, as if he expected me to blush or giggle. He seemed very sure of himself. It was as though because he knew that I was a girl, he thought it was okay for him to go around acting like that. Flinging compliments around and trying to see my reactions. Blah.

"Take off yer hat," he said, in that same aggravating tone. "Let's see what shade's your hair."

"I shall do no such thing," I said, hating him.

"Take. Off. Yer. Hat," he repeated, emphasizing each word while his smile shrank. I crossed my arms defiantly and felt annoyed. Was the world full of unintelligent males today? Sure, he helped me, but he certainly had no authority over me. No way. I wasn't about to follow orders from anyone, especially from stormy-eyed, arrogant boys.

So I said in what I thought was admirably composed: "Why should I?"

"Take it off."

"No," I snapped stubbornly, backing up a little. His eyes narrowed, and that was the only warning I got before he suddenly lunged for my hat. I leaped back in alarm farther from his reach. Unfortunately, he had reflexes I hadn't accounted for and he grabbed my weaker arm, taking advantage of the injury. This made me so mad that I pummeled him with my free arm. He simply used his other hand to snatch my hat off my head and then pushed me away, laughing. My hair tumbled down. I swore at him and he simply smirked back, tossing the hat from one hand to the other playfully.

"You just had to do that, didn't you?" I snarled. I crossed my arms again. "It isn't anyof your business, but you just had to do that. Couldn't let a girl alone, right?"

"It ismy business to know things, sweetheart," Spot remarked, throwing the hat back to me. I bristled at the name and angrily jammed my hat onto my head, not bothering this time to hide my hair. I shoved my hands into my pockets and sulked. He raised his eyebrows and I scowled back, loathing him. He looked me up and down, as though taking in this new me, and I frowned at him in a dark, ugly way.

"I'm Spot Conlon," he finally introduced himself, quite casually, as if he had decided I wasn't a girl worth turning on his charms for. Somehow I felt vaguely offended. I cast him a suspicious look. I had the unpleasant feeling that if I was prettier, curvier, or girly-er, he would have gone after me in a second. He was a heartbreaker alright. He was too attractive to not be, and his manner too arrogant to not know it. But since, I thought, I wasn't all those things, he did the most horrid thing. He spat in his hand and extended it for a shake. I stared disgustedly at the offered, contaminated hand and then up at him.

"And…what, I'm supposed to put my hand in yours?"

He gave a laugh, so sarcastic that I inwardly regretted my sharp words.

"Well, doll, you don't have to, but-."

His contemptuous tone made me flush right up to my hairline. I spat in my hand and took his quickly. His manner was enough for me to change my mind. If anything, I did not want to come across as conceited. I simply would not stand for that. He gave his slow smile again and I gritted my teeth, flushing.

"Nice to meet you," he said, his voice still sarcastic.

Wait. Wait a second.

Spot…I heard that name before. Spot Conlon.

I frowned. "Did you say you're Spot Conlon?"

He grinned charmingly, looking strangely pleased. "Heard of me?"

"No," I snapped shortly and then peered closely up at him, "No…but yes. I just can't remember."

He smiled mysteriously and absentmindedly played with the cane slung through his belt. Then suddenly, it came to me.

I had heard of him in Queens! The one they were talking about…that Brooklyn leader or something of the sort. He was the leader! I looked at him in a new light...and with grudging respect. From all the tales I had heard of him, he was the most feared newsie in all of New York. He had never lost a fight, with his moves that were said to be the slickest in the entire city. Everyone respected him and admired him, therefore he had authority and power.

Apparently, my face had been horribly open as usual and Spot must have read everything that crossed my mind, because he gave a somewhat mocking bow.

"What, ya didn't know who the king of Brooklyn was?"

"No, not really," I threw at him sharply, feeling annoyed again at his arrogance. King of Brooklyn? Where's your blasted crown then? I nearly said it aloud, but stopped myself just in time. My new knowledge of him being who he was had forced me to rethink my words and actions towards him a little before speaking or doing them. I had been correct to assume he was dangerous.

I hesitated for a second and then asked, "How'd you know I was a girl?"

"Your lips, really," Spot said unexpectedly, throwing out the remark with a carelessness that made me shift.

I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or annoyed. Was he flirting? Or was he serious? I strongly suspected the latter, since he was looking at me with that same expectancy I had seen before. Again, he was waiting for a reaction, for me to giggle or blush or swoon. I suppose other girls would have just gone flirting back, especially to someone as good-looking as Spot was, but if I tried that, I'd probably end up sounding like an idiot. So I took care to frown at him in a grave, ugly way. His mouth twitched and thankfully, he changed the subject.

"Fire's always makin' trouble dese days and pickin' on one kid or another…he give ya dat?" Spot indicated to my mouth. I winced and reached up to find it still bleeding a little. "How's your arm? Alright?"

"Yeah," I replied, sounding slightly muffled because I was wiping my mouth again.

"Why'd ya try to cover for 'im?" was his next question and I paused before answering.

"I didn't try to cover for him. I just didn't want to...well, I just wanted to get it over with, I mean, and he didn't do me any harm anyway. Just made my mouth bleed a little, and hurt my arm, that was all…," I realized I was rambling so I shut up. Spot grinned at that and shook his head as if he pitied me.

"Lissen, in Brooklyn, you gotta be on your toes. It's a tough neighborhood; you gotta be careful," then he added, with that twist to his lips that indicated humor, "Dere are guys who won't be as nice as me and come to your rescue."

"I know." And you're wasting my time, I added silently, glancing at the sky that indicated it was soon lunch. What about that job? I was growing hungry, and I still had no money. And I didn't want to spend anymore time with him. He was…aggravating. In every way. Just the way he was. He must be the most irritating boy I had ever met.

"Dat's good, 'cos Fire ain't gonna forgive you."

"He's not going to forgive me?" I said hotly. "Huh, it should be the other way around!"

"He holds grudges."

"Oh, great," I sighed, rubbing my injured arm, "That's the last thing I want."

We kept walking, aimlessly, I thought, until he began again.

"You're lookin' for a job?"

"Yeah. But, for some brainless reason, they believe girls can't work."

"Dey can't."

"Excuse me?"

He shrugged. "Dey're no good at workin'. Especially in Brooklyn."

"Excuse me?" I am not a feminist. I just think chauvinistic men are beasts.

"Don't take offense now; I'm jus' tellin' da truth."

I didn't answer because I was simmering. Then I said very, very coldly, "Thank you for the advice. I need to be going now."

"Aw, don't be angry."

I bit my lip to keep myself from retorting. He gave a rough snort of laughter, as if he heard my unspoken words and found it funny that I had kept silent. We walked on, but as I studied the buildings and stores on my right, I sensed him thinking. Thinking? And then he started looking me over again, as if he were in the middle of a decision.

Then he said: "Why don't you try your hand at sellin' papes?"

"Huh?" I blinked, quick on my feet as usual.

I could see he hated repeating himself, because I saw a trace of annoyance flash across his face. But it disappeared soon enough. "I said, why don't you try sellin' papes."

"You mean be a newsie?"

He gave me a flat look and drawled, "Yes."

"You mean with you? With Brooklyn?"

"You're lookin' for a job, righ'?"

"Yeah, but-,"

"We already got a couple of girl newsies. And I think you can handle the job."

I tried not to simper when I said, "But I thought you said girls can't work."

He definitely looked annoyed now. I don't think he liked having his words returned, just like he didn't like repeating them. "Alright," he said pityingly, "You don't have to join us. It was a plain, simple offer."

I realized then that I was being stupid. I was hesitating when the job I might have been looking for was offered to me, and by the leader of Brooklyn of all the people! I looked up and peered at him. Those grey-blue eyes that had caught my attention were colder than ever, but I sensed he was not making fun of me, or playing with my feelings. He was serious, and for once didn't seem to be laughing at me.

"Thanks," I said in reply, giving him a tentative smile.

He didn't smile back. "Changed your mind?" he sneered nastily.

I just nodded, accepting his unpleasantness. He looked at me and then shrugged carelessly, rubbing his mouth with his thumb in a casual manner. My eyes were unconsciously drawn to the spot and he played with his cane, twirling it deftly before tapping it in a decisive manner on the ground.

"Well, I'm sure you know where da distribution center is."

I nodded again, but uncertainly. I suppose I had to go there, but that place didn't look at all very friendly to me, what with those huge guys who looked like they could tear me apart with their bare hands. Not a very pleasant thought. But I knew they wouldn't. I mean, if Spot had offered the job, surely they wouldn't interfere.

"Be dere first thing in da mornin'," he said and with that, walked off briskly without another word. He made a somewhat unimposing figure in the distance, as I stared after him. I felt ill at ease, as I watched him go. Somehow, I had an unpleasant feeling that I had made a complete fool out of myself.

I stood there helplessly for a moment, feeling a strange sense of unreality. So, that was the famed Spot Conlon. I was amazed at my good luck. Or was it good luck? I could still see that face, with its deceptively boyish features, yet with eyes that held more arrogance than I had ever seen in one person. I did not like him, I decided rather sourly. I did not like him at all, him or his smug demeanor…but I did appreciate the fact that he had helped me out.

Actually, this Spot Conlon had helped me twice already.

I debated with myself whether it had been a good idea or not to have accepted Spot's offer. I'm not stupid; I know that being a newsie was tough. I have heard stories about how long they sometimes go without food, or how hard it was to make a profit. But I was sick of running around and looking for jobs which never seemed to last very long. Spot Conlon offered security, in a sense. As long as I stayed on his good side, I figured, I would probably be able to stay with the Brooklyn newsies for some time.

I smiled wryly to myself. That would probably be harder than I thought.

Brooklynites were tough and, from all the stories, rather nasty. Both Spot and Fire had definitely proved those stories to be true. But I had also heard that the newsies only welcomed those who were similar to them. Then how was it that Spot offered to take me in? I certainly didn't consider myself tough, and I could not fight to save my life. But then, surely it wasn't all about fighting? Brains over brawn? I was not altogether unintelligent, although I was in many cases ignorant.

I tightened my jaw. Even if the Brooklynites were all jerks or Fire-clones, and they all tried to kick me out, I'd stick to the job anyway. Whatever they might try to do would not faze me. And as for Fire, who I was sure to meet up with again…well, I would think of some way to solve the problem. Maybe we could restart, although I doubted it. I was still angry at him, and he surely hated me now. At least I knew I had Spot on my side.

Spot. Again, why did he allow me to join his newsies?

Did he like me?

Blah. He was probably just amused and had invited me on a whim.

Me. A whim. How horrid.

Me. A newsie.

I nearly laughed outloud. Who would have guessed? My brother would have had a fit. I could imagine it all now.

"You what?"

"This guy came, saved me, and offered me to be a newsie. I accepted!"

"What were you thinking?!"

"Oh, shut up, you."

This is sad. I tugged my cloak closer around myself and frowned. If only he hadn't died in that freak fight. He was my only brother, a perfect brother, though a little too overprotective. He had been knifed during a fight with some street rat, years and years ago. He died in front of my eyes, just like that. If he had survived, I would not be here. I would not have been in the orphanage, in the first place, because he wouldn't have allowed me to go.

I shoved my memories back and returned to my situation.

I was a newsie and a Brooklyn newsie at that. Trouble was sure to ensue, but I felt oddly excited. So this was the next chapter of my life. I didn't know what to think of it. It was common knowledge (knowledge I heard from people who told it to me but didn't care) that being a newsie was one of the hardest jobs in New York. But it had its advantages: people to look out for you, and a routine that you got used to. I liked routines, as long as they weren't boring.

And I strongly doubted my life from here was going to be boring.

Author's Note: Yep, wrote this again three times. I'm editing the entire story now. BLAH, it sucks. So, what do you think?

Racetrack's Goil