A/N: Wow. I don't even know what to say. It's been almost a year now since I last updated. Maybe even exactly a year, possibly over. I have no idea. I'll be amazed if any of my faithful reviewers are even still with me. I have no excuse except for that I lost my love of the Newsies (gasp!) and never planned to finish this story. But, because of some of the amazingly encouraging and sweet (if not slightly threatening) reviews I received recently from a couple of you - as well as a sudden urge to listen once again to the Newsies soundtrack - I went back and re-read what I had written and once again fell in love with the characters and plot. I can't promise much as I'm currently involved in two musicals and about to graduate, but I shall try my very hardest to finish this story before the end of the summer. I really do love writing, and I especially love this story and the direction it's headed. So… hang with me! Don't let me quit again! Thanks again to all of those who reminded me that people besides me enjoy this story and want to see it completed. I needed to know that.
And now… I present to you, for the first time ever: Chapter Nine.
I walked over to where Mush and Bumlets had Shadow pinned to the ground. His dark eyes glared up at me. "You're a traitor," I whispered. "Look me in the eyes and call me a liar."
His eyes never left mine.
I paced around the first floor of the lodging house. Jack, Race, and Kid Blink sat on the couch in one of the corners, watching me. I glared at them before I started to pace back the other way. Race rolled his eyes, Kid looked away, and Jack sighed.
It had been two hours since we had returned to the lodging house, locked Shadow in a window-less room with a guard, and sent word to my brother that something had happened and he needed to get here. So why wasn't he?
"Shut up, Jack," I snapped. "He'll be here."
"Oookay." He backed away and returned to his seat on the shabby sofa.
Just then, the door slammed open, and I turned to find eyes eerily similar to mine flashing in the doorway.
"Took ya long enough," I said, walking up to him. "What'd ya do, take a bath first?"
"Shove off, Song," he snapped back with just as much venom. "You ain't got no idea what's goin' on in Brooklyn."
"And whose fault is that?" I snarled.
"Mine," he allowed without pause. "And dere ain't been a day I regretted it, so let's get down ta business, shall we?"
He stepped past me into the light, and I saw the bruises on his neck and eye had turned to a light greenish-yellow color. His eyes fell on Jack, who was looking at him as though he hadn't actually expected him to show. "Care ta explain why I'se here, Jacky-boy?"
Jack stood. "Well, Spot…" he paused, seemingly unsure how to continue."
"You'se here because Shadow showed up," Racetrack stepped in, walking past Jack and up to Spot. "And 'e almost beat da shit outta yer sistah for callin' 'im a traitor before we brought 'im back 'ere ta wait fer you and yer incredibly slow ass!"
Spot hadn't flinched despite Race's close proximity to his face, but when he had finished, Spot shoved him back a few feet and gave him a look that told him exactly how out of line that had been before he turned to me. "He touch you?"
I shook my head. He nodded and looked down at his cane, inspecting its brass top.
"Why'd you call 'im a traitor?"
"Cuz 'e is," I spat.
Spot's eyes narrowed. "Them's heavy words, Song. Shadow's always been my most trusted newsie-"
"But he ain't a newsie, is 'e, Spot?" I demanded, cutting him off. "Ya know… he used ta be my best friend before he got all buddy-buddy wit' Lynx and Wasp."
Spot turned to Kid Blink. "Bring 'im out 'ere."
A few moments later Mush and Bumlets led Shadow into the room. His dark eyes landed on me first, and I caught a hint of sadness in them before they left me to look at Spot. "Well, well," he drawled casually. "Look what the cat drug in."
"Makin' jokes probably ain't in yer best interest at da moment, Shadow," my brother responded just as casually.
Shadow nodded slowly. "So… you's all filled in, I see?"
Spot said nothing for a moment, proceeding to breathe onto the tip of his cane and polish it on his shirt with meticulous care. I watched, intrigued, having never seen him do such a thing before, and tried to decide what it meant.
Finally, just when I though the tension in the room was about to crush me, he spoke. "Shore, I hoid what they got to say." He looked up from his cane and met Shadow's eyes dead on. "Now I'm jist wonderin' what you's got ta say."
Shadow snorted. "My woid against hers?" he scoffed, jerking his head in my direction, eyes never leaving Spot. "I ain't stupid enough ta think you'd take it."
Spot frowned thoughtfully. "Alright."
"But," Shadow continued, a small smirk lifting the left side of his mouth. "I'd be interested in hearin' where our dear Song got her information." His dark eyes were suddenly focused on me again, and I found myself struggling to breathe. They were so deep and intense…
I tore my gaze from Shadow's to meet Spot's glittering eyes. "Well, what?"
"You heard 'im."
I narrowed my eyes. "I don't answer to traitors."
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Shadow shift at the name. Mush and Bumlets immediately tensed, ready to physically stop him should he try anything like earlier, but he didn't move again.
"Then answer to me," my brother's cold voice replied. "Where'd you hear that 'e was speakin' wit da enemy?"
I averted my gaze. "A reliable source."
"But it couldn't possibly have been Lynx 'imself, could it, dahlin'?"
I gritted my teeth at Shadow's insolent drawl, but didn't respect it with an answer or a glare. "Who's it gonna be, Spot? Me or him?"
Spot studied me for a moment, his sharp eyes boring into mine until I was sure he saw the answer in them. However, when he spoke, his words were not what I was expecting. "Ya got any food in dis dump Jacky-boy? I had to skip dinnah ta get 'ere befoah dark."
Jack blinked. "Uh… sure, Spot. We could probably find you something." He looked around the small audience in the room. "Boots… go get something for Spot ta eat."
Boots nodded and ran out of the room. Everyone else continued to stare. Spot leaned against his cane and glanced lazily around the room. "Ain't you fellas got nothin' bettah ta do?" The spectators shifted uncomfortably, but made no attempt to leave. Spot's eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. "Do I need to spell it out for ya, bums? Cheese it."
The room exploded with motion, and, in the end, only Jack, Race, Mush, and Bumlets remained. Spot nodded toward the later. "Let 'im go. He ain't gonna do nothin'."
Hesitantly, the two boys released their grip on Shadow's arms, which he proceeded to rub tenderly. "Got quite a grip there Meyers."
Mush just glared before following his friend out of the room. Spot sighed before walking over to a couch and sitting down. "I coulda done without dis, ya know, Song."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I spat sarcastically. "Next time a traitor threatens to strike me across the face I'll try to physically stop your brainless spies."
"I wouldn't have hit you," Shadow stated from my right. I could feel his eyes burning the side of my face. "I would never hurt you, Song."
I blinked back tears as I finally realized the truth in his words. I knew Shadow. How could I have believed the words of my enemy over my best friend?
"Dammit, how long does it take ta make a sandwich around here?" Spot irritated voice interrupted my thoughts.
"Spot…" I began, but he waved his hand, cutting me off.
"Yeah, I know. I was jist waitin' for ya ta figure it out."
I scowled. "Sorry to have wasted your time."
He chuckled. "Waste my time on you? Nevah. It was 'bout time I made a visit anyway." He stood and stretched. "But with the way things are in Brooklyn…" he trailed off, glancing at Shadow. "You could've told 'er, ya know."
Shadow glared. "Why do you think I came here?"
Spot nodded once and sighed. Then he turned back to me. "So we's established dat Shadow ain't a traitor."
I glowered. "Yeah, yeah. And I'se an idiot. Ya got a point?"
"Yeah, I do, ya mind letting me share it?"
The look I got for interrupting silenced anything else I had to say, so I simply nodded my answer.
"Good." Spot leaned against the wall and pulled out a cigarette, lighting it before he continued. "Ya see, we'se got a strategy in Brooklyn. And part of that strategy involves some complicated shit." He took a drag and slowly blew out the smoke before continuing. "Now, I ain't gonna tell you all of it. And you'll just have to deal wit' dat," he added as I began to protest, "but you gotta know dat in a war like dis one, someone's gotta have eyes on da enemy."
All at once, it clicked. I turned to Shadow who was watching me closely to see how I'd respond. "You playin' birdie, Shadow?"
He shrugged. "If that's what cha wanna call it, yeah."
"No shit." I laughed softly. "I nevah woulda pinned ya fer da type."
"Who bettah ta toin against me den my closest ally?" Spot cut in.
I began to put more pieces together, liking the idea more and more as I discovered it's tiny complexities. "So… you tell him what information to feed Lynx ta keep 'im happy, and den he tells you whatevah he knows from hangin' around wit' Lynx and dem?"
Shadow smiled and winked. "I knew you'd get it."
"Yeah, yeah. She's not as dumb as a stump," Spot drawled impatiently. "Now, here's what I wanna know." He turned, and I was suddenly smothered by his penetrating stare. "When did you get your little visit from Lynx and why didn't I know about it soonah?"
I stared down at my scuffed shoes, desperately trying to escape the ice of his gaze. "Uh… I dunno… a couple weeks ago?"
Spot coughed, the only indication I got that he was surprised. "Huh. So what'd 'e say ta you? Cuz Shadow only found out that you knew 'bout him woiken wit' Lynx yestahday."
I looked at Shadow. "Lynx tell you?"
Shadow nodded, eyes darkening with emotion. "He said you didn't want to believe it. That you were devastated." He rolled his shoulders and cleared his throat, looking away from me. "Took all I had ta act like it didn't mattah when all I wanted to do was run straight here and tell you it was all a lie."
"But that ain't important," Spot cut in. "What's important is why you didn't tell me you knew the last time I was here."
I was saved from answering by Boots returning with Spot's sandwich. It wasn't much; just a couple scraps of meat and some half-molded bread, but Spot took it with a mutter of gratitude and a nod of dismissal. Boots grinned at him before leaving the room.
I watched in silence as Spot tore the sandwich in half before looking toward the door and then back at the sandwich as if in invitation. A dirty boy about my size materialized from the shadows and gratefully took the offered food. He glanced at me from under thick eyelashes. "Heya, Song."
"Rat," I acknowledged, glad to see that Spot hadn't taken the possibly fatal chance of coming to Manhattan alone. "How's it rollin'?"
He shrugged. "Can't complain."
I turned back to Spot who was taking a bite of his half of the sandwich, but before I could say a word, my stomach growled angrily. My cheeks flushed, and I looked away, realizing that in all the excitement I had missed dinner once again.
"Yeah, 'coise I did, Spot," I lied. "Jist makin' a little less money here in 'Hattan, ya know? Gotta get used ta da people 'ere, figure out what dey wanna hear." I smiled sweetly and met his skeptical gaze. "I'll get da hang of it, easy."
His gaze lingered heavy and long enough for me to lose the fake smile. "You'se a rotten liah, Song. Always have been." He tossed the half-sandwich at me and I caught it out of reflex. "We'se gottah woik on that."
"Spot, I don't want it," I said, holding it out for him to take back. "Really, I'm fine."
"Eat the sandwich, Song. It ain't dat big of a deal."
"No! It's yours!" I insisted.
"And I gave it ta you, so eat it," he countered in that annoyingly sensible, calm voice that he used whenever he thought I was being an immense thorn in his side.
"Dammit, Spot," I choked out past the lump that had suddenly appeared in my throat. "Can't I ever do anything for you?"
I threw the sandwich at his feet, knowing full well the childishness of my actions, and then fled the room before the tears of embarrassment and frustration could escape.