A/n: This is possibly the only Fagin/Dodger fic you'll ever see. That means you'll really want to read this. Also, please don't be offended by any prejudice expressed in the fic; people in the late 19th/early20th century were generally very closed-minded, very hypocritical. It's inevitable that little urchins would've picked up the more not-so-great mannerisms of society, as impressionable as they are. :3
The ending of this fictakes after the musical version.
Constructive criticism is loved, more than anything.
Oliver is sort of, kind of, a little bit, cute. Dodger likes impressing him with stories and tricks, and it's easy to do (because everything impresses that kid). Oliver is shy and so unfathomably clean, while Dodger's hands seem permanently smudged, and he scratches his head every other minute, because those lice won't quit their biting and their crawling. Oliver is naïve and full of immature wonder, while Dodger prides himself with his worldly wisdom. It's how one gets by in a situation like his: knowing exactly how presumed "gentlemen" really are, knowing what exactly men want boys for, knowing what kind of handkerchief is the most expensive. Dodger knows he lives well despite the cold, the sneers of normal people, the lice. Oliver doesn't know anything like this. Despite his good nature and affection for the new boy, Dodger finds himself competing with Oliver, quietly; he finds himself envious whenever Oliver wins.
Dodger can remember when he first met Fagin. He was, he thinks with pride, the first boy Fagin acquired. And that merited all sorts of celebration, no doubt.
It had been snowing when he'd first seen Fagin. Out of sheer desperation, Jack had rose from the corner of the back alley he'd been sitting in for the past three days. He held his only short blanket tightly around himself, ignoring how it stank, how it was soiled with his vomit, his everything else. He walked into the strange bright winter day and stood stock still, too jittery to move, watching the warm people shove around him and cast disgusted glances. Encouraged by fever, he stared back blankly.
It had been Fagin who'd bumped into him; Fagin, wearing a ridiculous, tall hat. But needing warmth, that dark green hat looked like a way out of the cold. And with ease, Jack had plucked it off his head, and fallen back into the alley onto his bottom, hugging the hat.
He had woken in a different place, where no snow could reach. A new, thin blanket had been thrown over him. And to his left was the hollow face of the Once-Hatted Man. "A beautiful steal, boy," he had said, in a heavy accent. Jack had just looked at him, taking in that red, limp hair, the stubble, and the crazed look that would frighten any normal boy, but somehow meant Protection to him. "And quite a dodge. Professional, are you?"
Jack's lips curved slightly at the corners; he nodded just to meet the man halfway.
"What's your name?"
Jack had spoken in the breathless, swoony voice of one deeply in love. Or in the throes of a fever. But the answer came: "Jack Dawkins."
"Time for you to sleep, Jack. You are my...accomplice, now," he said, as if it was a normal thing. Before he disappeared to some other part of his dark lair, he produced that dusty green hat. "You can keep it, boy. You have a quite a talent, I can see it already."
His first night in Fagin's strange home, Jack had fallen asleep clutching the hat once more. He had been eleven years old.
A few months later, Jack had friends. Fagin had more accomplices. Food was scarce, but somehow, it didn't matter that Jack went to sleep with a growling stomach. He had Fagin hitting him playfully and telling him the hat looked dashing on him, he had younger boys to tease and teach, and he knew he was still the favorite.
"Artful Dodger," Fagin said one day, as if it was an epiphany. Jack had returned before all the other boys, spilling wallets, handkerchiefs, and loose money onto the floor. "That's your name."
"You old idiot, Fagin," Jack said, though the nickname made his stomach jump with pleasure, "You've gone mad if you want to call me that."
But Fagin did call him Dodger, when he wasn't referring to him as "my dear" or "brat." And then Jack called himself the Artful Dodger, because every gentleman ought to have a title. His was a respectable one.
A Jew. That was what Fagin was. And whenever he talked to Dodger, he would look at Fagin with an expression of rapt fascination, and succeed in annoying the hell out of him. Jewish people were supposed to be unfit for society, and he supposed Fagin was, but he wasn't so bad. When Fagin would knock off Dodger's hat, and when Dodger would punch and kick at him, he felt like he was sure noble married couples must: Perfectly content to do this always, floaty with something. Something.
One night, Fagin touched the nape of his neck gently, and Dodger worked up the courage to hug him goodnight. He wrapped his arms roughly around Fagin's lower back and pressed his face against his stomach, not caring how bad he smelled, or how worn and dirty his clothes were. His hat was bumped off to the floor, and he realized how unmannerly he was acting. He pulled back and looked up at Fagin's grinning face. "I love you too, Dodger," he said in that ridiculous accent.
Dodger thought, Yes. That is what I mean.
Oliver falls asleep early one night, after taking a couple drinks of whiskey. He's been slouching for sometime, against Dodger, before his head falls onto Dodger's lap. Dodger sits still, with practiced dignification, as Charley stifles laughs and pokes at Oliver. "Be civil to the shrimp, you wanker," Dodger says, feeling very grown up. Charley laughs some more and runs off to bother more responsive persons.
Fagin sits in his ratty, grand chair. He eyes them both, before deciding Oliver is more interesting. But Dodger watches Fagin, hopefully, in case he decides to talk. Fagin doesn't make conversation like he usually does; he instead smiles and says, "Such a little dear."
Dodger shrugs and says, so Fagin remembers whose lap the little dear's head is on, "Bit of a lah-di-dah, he is."
"But we can change that," Fagin states, and puffs on his pipe thoughtfully.
Dodger, though not much bigger than Oliver, picks him up and carries him to his sleeping place. Then he goes to Fagin, and, with a faltering smile, shakes his hand. "'Night, Fagin." He tilts his head so his hat falls back into place, walks away, and lays in his place under the stairs.
Hours later he's still awake (whether from Charley's kicking or his ceaseless thoughts, he isn't sure), and he crawls out from under the stairs in time to see Bill Sikes leave, and Fagin flop back into his chair. His eyes close, and he doesn't see Dodger coming. But when Dodger pulls a blanket over him, one of his sunken eyes open, and he cracks a smile at him. "Oh, Love, how good you are to me."
"A genelman's got to give back to the generous provider," Dodger says offhandedly. He leans over and gives Fagin a teasing peck on his smudged forehead. Fagin catches his hand, presses a kiss to it. Dodger's heart begins to mend.
Oliver is gone; Dodger knows where. Lah-di-dah with all the luck. Dodger sits very still, alone, and wonders why it had not happened to him. He had never been the jealous type, until he brought in Oliver; until now: now, when he thought he'd have Fagin to himself, as it was before. And Oliver isn't coming back. Nancy is gone. Bill Sikes is gone. And Fagin? Fagin is...
Oh. There is that familiar, heavy step. Fagin approaches. He looks like a lonely old man; Dodger wonders what Oliver did to make him so smitten (and in such a short amount of time! What about Dodger? What about him?).
"Now if I ran away and forgot all about you, would you be acting this way, Fagin?" he asks, knowing his eyes are lined with red.
"Not now, Dodger."
Dodger pushes up the sleeves of his coat, his eyes stinging.
"Dodger, you think I'm such a villain, don't you?"
He pinches the bridge of his nose, something he observed a gentleman do that one time he sneaked into a theater, right at a particularly heartfelt reunion scene taking place on the stage. "I know you are, Fagin."
"What a jealous boy you are."
Dodger tilts his hat over his eyes. Fagin can decide for himself whether he's planning on crying or sleeping.
"Jack Dawkins," that voice says, mangling the name slightly with that accent. A Jew, slimy, filthy, cast-out, lecherous old man. How dare he use his name.
Dodger shakes his head; his lips press together. His nose begins to run.
But Fagin only pulls hard on his wrist, and like a submissive rag doll, Dodger lets himself be pulled up, and away from the stale confinements that he's called Home all the important part of his life. He emerges from the dark, and is guided through the innocent day.