Author's Note: OK, this is my first ever Charles Dickens fic, so be kind. Also I know this first chapter is really long, but I felt it was necessary. It's kind of a bonus pilot, if you get me. In case you want to know this is based on my biased views of Oliver Twist as I've seen it in Oliver! (1968) with Jack Wild and Ron Moody, and also Oliver Twist with Andy Serkis, Robert Lindsay and Michael Kitchen. Dodger is the character most coloured by this and he is most definately Jack Wild in my head. In fact I haven't read the book but I'm going to as soon as possible! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and please review!
What They All Needed
Chapter 1 - The Boy
It was three days since Anne first saw him.
She had seen him leaning against some railings when she had been sent for bread by her stepfather. Something about him had caught her eye.
She kept glancing back at him as she stood in line outside the baker's.
At first it had only been idle curiosity, but then he noticed her looking at him. He caught her eye and she felt a shock, like fire and ice; like she had leapt out of a burning building and into freezing water, but her insides were still ablaze.
He half straightened up in an involuntary movement. His eyebrows were slightly knitted in a guarded expression of unsure appraisal, as though he was trying to judge if she was a threat. He looked like a wild animal, sensing if he ought to flee. He remained half held up on his elbows. Tense. Feral.
But not fleeing.
His curiosity was enough to keep him rooted to the spot.
But then an impatient woman nudged her and she lost eye contact with the boy.
"Do you mind? You are in the queue, ain'tcha?"
She glanced at the woman and then realised there was a considerable gap between her and the man in front.
When she looked back, the boy had gone.
She had felt oddly upset, as though he had broken some unspoken promise. A hollow feeling had enveloped her for the rest of the day.
The next morning she had found an excuse to run another errand on the same street, but though she looked for the boy he was nowhere to be seen.
Until she gave up looking.
She had turned to set out back home when she saw him sauntering out of an alley. She paused and watched him for a moment, until a passing cart threatened to run her down. She moved to the very railings he had been leaning on the day before and observed him.
He hadn't seen her this time. She saw him approach an elderly man in a fine coat and very white stockings. He glanced around as he tweaked the sleeves of his blue jacket a little higher up his wrists and approached the man. Standing almost back to back with him he looked up at the sky in an interested manner and -
His right hand, almost hidden from view behind him, had smoothly slipped into the man's pocket. She watched as he extracted a dark, leather wallet. Even from the other side of the street Anne could see it was crammed. As his hand came entirely free from the pocket she saw a pale blue handkerchief trailing from between the boy's middle and forefingers. He passed the wallet to his other hand and tucked it away inside his jacket while at the same time inspecting the handkerchief.
A moment later he turned to the gentleman and tapped him lightly on the arm. She didn't hear what he said but he held up the kerchief and pointed to the ground a few paces away. The man touched his pocket, took the kerchief and shook the boy's hand. The boy touched the brim of his black top hat respectfully and turned away.
At the entrance of another alley he took a last look round and finally spotted Anne. Again she felt the sensation - like being trapped in white-hot ice.
She had not taken her eyes from him during the entire episode, nor had she opened her mouth to let the man know he had been pick pocketed.
The boy stared at her a moment, his hand jerking unintentionally towards where she knew the wallet was concealed inside his jacket. Her eyes followed his hand and then flicked back to his face. She licked her lips uneasily as he looked at her, his eyes piercing though his expression was unreadable. Then, suddenly, he was gone. Vanished among the colourless shadows of the alley, like every other alley in London.
Anne could not explain why she hadn't cried out. It was as if it had never even occurred to her to say anything.
She told no one what she had seen.
And now she was walking along the same street on her way home. She wasn't sure how, but she seemed to be coming along this street every time she left her house. She reassured herself it was because it was near to her own street and led to anywhere worth going, but in her heart she knew it was a lie - there were shortcuts she hadn't used in three days and it wasn't coincidence.
And then she smelt it.
The bitter, acrid, intrusive smell of wood smoke.
Not tobacco, not even opium, though Anne had only smelt that once.
She looked up and just then people started to shout.
Smoke was piling into the clear air, air still crisp with the withered and dying grip of spring.
Smoke coming from her street.
She took off, her basket banging against her side, her skirt always in danger of tripping her but she had no time to hold it out of the way.
She arrived before anyone else, coming to her building from the back. Looking up she saw the smoke pouring out of an upstairs window. She tried the back door, but it was locked. Leaving her basket she set her feet and put her shoulder to the door. There was a dry sound of splintering, but the door remained closed. Taking a step back Anne picked up her skirt, raised a foot and kicked the door with all her might.
She almost fell over the threshold as the door gave way. Smoke billowed around her and she staggered back, trying not to inhale. She pulled off her shawl and, running to the water barrel beside the wall, doused it and wrapped it over her mouth and nose. Then she went in.
Instantly her eyes began to water, the stinging almost unbearable. But Anne was tough. She ran on and found the stairs, as yet untouched by the flames. She didn't understand where the smoke must be coming from. Surely it hadn't come down from an upper level? Didn't smoke rise? The smoke around Anne was rising and she rose with it, pounding up the stairs, flight by flight, in time with her pounding heart, until suddenly she couldn't go any higher. She smoke had gathered up here, with barely any ventilation to let it out, and she couldn't see a thing.
In the pitch black Anne called out for her stepfather, but she couldn't hear her own voice over the thundering of blood in her ears, strangely the only sound.
He must have got out. She told herself. He must have got out and now I have to get out, too.
Turning she began to run back down the stairs, but in the dark she couldn't see where she was going. Her right foot landed awkwardly on the edge of a step, her heel catching and her weight coming down entirely on the rest of her foot, which was falling through mid air. Her foot turned until her toes hit the vertical edge of the step below, pain shooting up from her hyper extended ankle. She let out a strangled cry and her knees buckled, tumbling her down the remainder of the stairs to the landing. Her shawl had slipped off in the scramble and she began to cough as she lay panting and clutching her bruised knees, curling up automatically in agony.
A moment later, she willed herself back to her feet and limped more carefully down the penultimate flight of stairs. There was heat rising to meet her, now, and more smoke, always more smoke. Her eyes were streaming and all she could see was a strange orange tinge to the smoke below her. She stepped on to the last set of stairs.
There was an ear-splitting crack, like someone had fired a gun beside Anne's head. And she was falling. Falling into black, and red, and orange, smoke, heat and flame. Her scream was cut short by the ground as it rushed up to meet her. There was fire and fumes and splinters of collapsing stairs all around her, and pain, pain in her knees, in her ankle, her bare arms which bore the brunt of the scorching heat and she raised them to protect her face as she half sat, half lay in the chaos.
Then there was more. She heard a wet crunch and something hot and moist was spattered over her face. A strange sensation came over her left calf and suddenly she felt nauseous.
But she didn't have the time or the will to find out what had happened. She heaved herself up, her hair loose and plastered to her face with sweat and the moist something. She could feel whatever it was trickling as she forced her way through fire and smoke towards where she somehow knew the back door was.
And miraculously, unbelievably, she was out. She staggered a few steps until she was out in fresher air and fell to her already bruised knees heaving and coughing, trying to wipe her eyes in between retches.
Swallowing down the taste of bile and soot, she tried to get her feet back under her and began to straighten up, the nausea suddenly acute again as she did so.
There was a noise, magnified by some unnatural trick of proximity so that she heard or sensed it even above the raging inferno behind her. She looked up.
He was standing, staring at her.
"You." she breathed.
He moved forwards even as the ground under her shifted and she fell into his arms as the terrible darkness closed about her.
Oooh! What's going to happen? Do you all know who the boy is? I hope so... So does anyone think they know what's going to happen next?
Please leave me a review! Good reviews get clouds and chocolate! Erm... yeah...
Love you all!