A/N: Ok, ok...
Blame becomming a Yr 10 on this lack of updates. There is TOO MUCH COURSEWORK, DAMMIT. Also a sudden and worrying obsession with Robin Hood.
But still...updates! Which I have provided for you. Please read!!!
The cold wind whistled around the nooks and crannys of London, whipping up lace and tatters all together, piercing both common and upper-class alike. The wind was not prejudiced. It howled about the houses of Petonville, before screaming past Saffron Hill. It scatted urchins, chilled business men and nipped thieves. It stopped for no-one.
It was, perhaps, most hardly felt in a house in Spittlefields. There it rattled the rafters, swept around the dusty eaves and smashed in window panes. It ruffled the bed clothes, rippled the soup, and flicked open the book in Lettie Hackdown's lap, where she sat perched on her favourite spot to read, in the tiny window seat, where the window faced out into the city. Lettie had already decorated this seat with dusty velvet cushions, piles of battered books and several laces and ribbons, which she was absent-mindedly twisting into her hair.
The Artful Dodger picked up the poker from the side of the fireplace and rapped it sharply on the floorboards, breaking Lettie out of her reverie, "Lettie! Get your head out of the clouds, lass!"
"It's not in the clouds, it's in the Orient, or India, or one of those far-off places that isn't quite so cold," Lettie argued, wrapping her shawl around her form. This was hardly an improvement, as the shawl, though surely designed to intrigue, was not notably warming, "I hate winter. Business is awful in the winter."
"Funny," Dodger remarked dryly, slumping back in his chair, "You would think more people would want for warming up in the winter."
"I meant pick-pocketing, you pig!" Lettie shrieked, throwing a cushion at the boy's head.
"Brat," he returned.
Charlie Bates, his cap pulled down over his ears and his hands jammed deep inside his pockets, emerged from the boys' bedroom just in time to grab Lettie around the waist and pull her away from punching Dodger in the face, "Fighty little thing, isn't she Dodger?"
"Terribly so," Dodger nodded gravely, "Fighty and flighty. It's an awful thing in a lass, that."
"Fightiness or flightiness?"
"Both, I should wager."
"Fightiness isn't even a word, stupids!" Lettie shouted from her position on the floor, "Let me up!"
Dodger bent down and complied, with much hand-waving and bowing as he did so. The girl scowled, and promptly drove her foot into Master Dawkins' ankle.
"ARGH! You little –"
Sucking his teeth and rubbing his hands from the cold, Fagin managed to hobble his way into the room, "Tush tush. Dark nights for dark business. I believe I shall go out tonight, my dears. Just down to the Three Cripples, nowhere far. I trust you three shall stay here and mind the house tonight? There's an ill wind blowing around."
"Aye, and it's making the whole of London feel just how ill it is," Charlie growled, irritably pulling a loose thread on his jacket and watching with somewhat morbid fascination as half of the left sleeve unravelled daintily before his eyes.
Lettie folded her arms sulkily, and flounced back to her seat, "I don't fancy sitting with those two stupids," She grumbled, "I want to go out."
"You'll stay here," Fagin snapped, reaching into his pocket and tossing a bottle of gin to Dodger, who caught it easily with a grin, "Drink up, drink up, my dears. Eat, drinks, be merry, for tomorrow we die."
"Cheerful, ain't he?" Charlie muttered, raising an eyebrow at Fagin's retreating back, "Wassamatter with him?"
Dodger shrugged, sitting down at the table and setting the gin bottle on the surface contentedly. Lettie looked darkly at the bottle.
"No, you ain't having more than one tumbler-full of gin, no, we ain't getting drunk, no, we ain't doing anything stupid."
Two hours, and several bottles of gin later, the world, the house, the room and Dodger had all started blurring together, so Lettie's entire sight consisted of one big mass of colour. Sitting on the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of gin and letting her feet swing from the table, Lettie couldn't quite understand why she was laughing so hard - except for the fact that it felt so nice to laugh like this, with tears pouring down her face and her stomach ached from laughter.
"I….I t-think you're drunk, Lettie."
Lettie swayed, "Master Dawkins, I will have you know that I'm n-not so think as you drunk I am. I'm completely and utterly….sober. Yes."
"You are so too drunk!" Dodger fell into one of the kitchen chairs, "You sway when you're drunk."
"Well," Lettie sniffed, "I may be swaying, but I am swaying with dignity! And how would you know what I look like when I'm drunk? I do not get drunk. Never. Ever."
"I've seen you drunk," Dodger said smugly, resting his chin against the back of the chair and peered up at her.
He really did have the loveliest brown eyes.
"When? You've b-been….spying on me!"
"I have n-not!" The boy exclaimed indignantly, "I d-didn't mean to see you and that….that…..person. Scumbag. Louse. Wha's his name?"
"Tom?" Lettie hiccupped, giggling. A little part of her wondered why she was calling Tom a scumbag and a louse when she was courting him, but she pushed it out of her mind.
"Thank you. You two. Your twelfth birthday. You were drunk."
Lettie scowled, attempting to kick him, "Tha's none of your business if I get drunk or not. Tom was looking after me."
"He won't l-look after you," Dodger managed to stagger to his feet, pulling Lettie up with him, "The truth about him is…..is…..is…..You're drunk."
Lettie spluttered, taking another healthy swig of gin, "Amn't. You're drunkerer."
"Are so," Lettie nodded imperiously, snatching the bottle of gin Dodger held in his hands and tipping a fair amount down his throat, causing the boy to splutter and choke, "See, you are drunk." She watched in amusement as the Artful continued to cough, until it was too much for her, and she doubled up in a giggling fit.
"Shuttup. You're drunkerer than me, anyhows."
"And we're both drunkerer than Charlie," Lettie nodded at the boy, who was now slumped, comatose, on the settee, one hand trailing along the ground and the other curled around a large bottle of something that didn't look like gin.
"Yes," Dodger slurred, attempting to fix Lettie with a serious look, and missing her face. He tried again, "Do you really care for him, Lettie?"
Lettie frowned. That was a bit of a change of topic.
"Who? Ch-Ch-Charlie?" She tittered at her own joke.
"No, silly!" Dodger folded his arms, "You know. Thingy. Scumbag. Louse."
"Yes! Do you care for him?"
Lettie made a face, sticking her tongue out of the corner of her mouth. Truth be told, she had never really thought about it like that….
"I dunno. Maybe. S'none of your business."
Dodger pushed his brown hair back from his eyes (his hat already upended and kicked into a corner of the kitchen) and stuck his hands in his pockets, "I'm responsible for you, silly," He told her, "I'm….I'm meant to look after you, remember?"
Lettie ignored the nagging suspicion that, seeing as Fagin had told Dodger to look after her when she was seven, the instruction probably didn't apply anymore, and sat down heavily on the floor with a bump, fanning herself lightly with her hand. She blinked up at the boy for a second, before grabbing his hand and pulling him down after her, shuffling out the way as he almost fell on top of her.
"You're sweet," She informed him matter-of-factly, "Y'know, I do like you, Dodge," She hiccupped, "I wouldn't mind courtin' you yourself."
A small part of her mind that had not been completely affected by the gin screamed that this was not a good thing to say.
"If…if you weren't such a….such a silly, anyways," She added hastily, leaning her head against his shoulder.
"Right," Dodger mumbled, putting an arm around her waist, "M'too. If it weren't for Scumbag, I'd have had you years ago."
Lettie made a confused face. She was sure that the statement probably had sexual undertones of which she'd usually be offended by…
"Mister Dawkins, I'm not sure I've had enough gin to allow for that kind of talk!" She protested firmly, raising her bottle and taking a hearty swig, "Cheers."
"Cheers," Dodger echoed, "Y'know, I reckon I've seen more of you than Scumbag has. I saw you when you were wearing that…" He gestured slightly, "Ridiculous purple thing. All lacy 'n stuff. Not that you didn't look very attractive in it."
The girl frowned. Definitely not enough gin to listen to this.
"Well," Lettie said, "No-one was supposed to see me like that….but I s'pose as you're so sweet, I'll forgive you."
Dodger yawned, stretching out like a cat and resting his head on the floor, sprawling on his back, " 'M tired. All that gin's givin' me a…a…headache."
"I told you!" Lettie giggled triumphantly, leaning over the boy and poking him in the chest, "I told you that you were drunker….drunkerer than me!"
Dodger blinked slowly, propping himself up by his elbows so their heads almost bashed together, "I…I think," He muttered slowly, "I'm going to kiss you now."
"I think you'd better."
Dodger nodded uncertainly, placing one hand at the back of Lettie's neck and pulling her down towards him, kissing her slowly, lazily. Instead of shock and a slight amount of terror, all he could decipher out of the mess of feeling was a sense of tired contentedness, and the taste of gin and heat.
Lettie's head hurt.
It wasn't possible to have both a sharp and dull pain, as she knew from reading countless novels where the suffering hero was either suffering from a terrible illness (dull pain) or stabbed through the stomach (sharp pain), but that was what she felt. The girl let out a pained, high whine, before closing her eyes and drawing the coverlet over her head again. The sweet, warmth of the blanket enveloped her, pulling her back into the seductive oblivion of sleep…
"Good MORNING Lettie! It's a BEAUTIFUL morning!!"
Expletives that would make a sailor blush came pouring out of Lettie's mouth as Cordelia bent over her and ruffled her hair in a very vigorous manner. From the little Lettie could see of the girl through her one, red and bleary, open eye, Cordelia was beaming in a way which suggested that she did not have a hangover.
"There's one bubble I can't wait to burst," Lettie snarled into her pillow.
"Didn't you have a very good evening, Let?"
Lettie frowned, thinking back. What she could remember of the evening consisted mostly of drinking gin and stopping Charlie from jumping out the window.
"As far as I can remember…" She mumbled, "mostly it was…."
Another memory floated into her mind, unbidden. Lettie promptly chocked into her pillow, "Lawks!"
Cordelia frowned, "What's the matter?"
The smaller girl clutched her head, groaning, "Oh, I'm going to die…."
The miserable groans of the girl was interrupted by a series of curses tumbling head-over-heels out of Charlie's mouth as he staggered into the room, looking grey faced and wobbly legged. The worse for wear boy promptly blushed a bright shade of red at the sight of Cordelia, who smiled back at him, and Dodger, who had managed to stumble, if not stagger, behind him, crashed into Charlie, who seemed to have frozen in one place, causing him to topple to the floor.
"Watch where you're stopping!" Dodger looked up from his current position on the floor at Lettie, and turned the same bright colour that made Charlie look pale by comparison.
As Charlie began to mumble out a greeting to Cordelia, Lettie sprung to her feet, managing to sway only slightly, and ran out the door, pausing only to grab Dodger by the scruff off the neck and haul him out into the kitchen. Dimly realising that she was only wearing a nightdress, Lettie passed over this little inconvenient fact, and scowled furiously at him.
"Alright, Dodge, let's get one thing straight here. Do you remember anything that happened last night?"
Dodger's ears flushed scarlet, "Well…."
Lettie's hand shot out and grabbed Dodger by the front of his shirt, pulling him down to face her, "I don't think you understood what I just said, Dodger. Do you remember anything that happened last night?"
"No," Dodger looked relieved, "Nope, nothing. Absolutely not. Nothing in the slightest."
A/N: Ok, not as much as I would have liked. But must flee! Bye bye.