A/N: This story was written on specific request from fan fiction-er, Hexanna, and is, therefore, dedicated to that very person! I hope that she (and everyone else who reads this story) enjoys it! It is short and focuses most of all on the emotional affect of something traumatic in the Artful Dodger's life rather than on the experience itself. I hope it proves satisfactory to all you readers (reviews always welcome!) And, just a note: the flashback is in italics to help you discern between things happening now and memories of the past - anyways, I hope it all makes sense! (BTW, those of you who are interested in the last chapter of my story "Fagin: The Dangerous Type", I should be finally sitting down and writing and posting the last chapter soon! I REALLY apologize for the long wait!) Now, read on!

The Dodger's Painful Secret

Jack Dawkins raced through the London streets like a hunted rabbit. He lifted one hand to his top hat as he felt a breeze tug at it. His other hand was clutched against his side, holding a loaf of bread between his greatcoat and his heaving side. Gasping for air, he turned the corner and relaxed into the shadows of an alleyway. He glanced around the corner, checking to see if she had followed. Yes, that's right "she." The Artful Dodger had run not because of the traps, an unhappy pickpocket victim, or anything of that sort; he had taken off because of a woman. She hadn't said a word, hadn't even make a sign that she remotely noticed his presence. He hadn't really noticed her either - well, not at first anyway. There had been a small glance - searching to see if anything that she had on her person could possibly benefit him - but nothing more. He strutted past her in his usual manner. She continued to examine the goods outside a produce shop. Gently, her hand had brushed against his arm as he walked by. An accidental touch on the part of the woman, but that didn't matter. This was when he started running. It was like his nightmare all over again - only, when it had happened, it wasn't just a nightmare, it was as real as life could get.

Tears now ran down the Dodger's face. He shivered at the memory. It terrified him! She had seemed common enough. He saw all sorts of her type walking around London all the time. He knew their occupation and never thought much of it. They had nothing to do with him. They weren't his concern.

He shook his head, trying to keep from reliving it all - something he couldn't seem to stop doing. He could see it in his mind all over again. Could feel the surprise and the terror…

He'd been walking down a street, grinning widely, still basking in the pride that a particularly good pick pocketing job had afforded him. The contents of his greatcoat pocket chinked softly as he relished the unusually sunny appearance of London.

The past few days had been gray with autumn's clouds. Drizzles had been prevalent and that crispness in the air that autumn was so well known for was not lacking. But that day had been different. Summer seemed to have come back for one final farewell. The gray clouds, while still in the sky, were parted in many places where sun rays poured down like heaven itself. He'd heard the cry of one of Fagin's other boys on his right. Glancing in that direction, he'd nodded, smirking at his friend and often work partner, Charley Bates, who was laughing lightly and softly tapping one of his own coat pockets with his hand. He had apparently been having a good work day, too. The Dodger had returned his attention to the people that crowded London's smoggy streets. Vendors yelled, children ran, and businessmen looked detained just like any other day.

Suddenly, a hand had darted from his left and grabbed his shoulder, turning him to face her.

"Hello there young gentleman!" said the woman who belonged to the hand which had gripped him. "A hard-working man like yourself would certainly enjoy a fresh red apple on a day like this." She pulled one from a bag on her arm and held it aloft. She'd winked at him as she said the words "hard-working" causing him to look cautiously at her - she'd known his occupation.

She was a lady in her late twenties, he'd guessed. She'd worn a patched and faded but nonetheless clean dress and would have been pretty had it not been for her thin, sallow complexion that was obviously the result of malnutrition clashing hard with makeup that was attempting to make her look healthier.

"No thanks," he'd said shortly, trying to walk in the other direction. Her hand had again prevented him as she grabbed his arm and pulled him a little more out of the street bustle that was about them.

"Come! Let's sit a while and bask in the sun! Over here just out of all the crowd!" She had tugged him further out of the city commotion, smiling. There had been an odd light in her eye, almost hungering.

He'd tried to get away; he really had…

The yell of an angry shop keeper nearby echoed in the distance and he jumped as he was brought back to the present, out of his disturbing thoughts. Distractedly, his eyes darted swiftly around the alleyway, searching every corner. He jumped to the left, then to the right. He heard the sound of echoing footsteps. His heart beat faster. He couldn't run; his feet wouldn't move; he was frozen in place.

A figure burst out of the shadows of an adjoining alley about 100 yards away and finally he could move. He backed toward the wall of an apartment behind him. The figure let out a small yell and trotted towards him, gasping.

"'Ello Dodge!"

It was Charley. The Dodger sighed with relief, sweat sliding from under his had and down his forehead. He lifted one arm up and wiped the tears and sweat from his face before turning to look at Charley.

"'Ey Dodge, you'll never guess what 'append! I 'ad my 'and in this gentlemen's pocket," he paused and gasped for air, still exhausted from his sudden sprint. "And - and this vendor nearby," he was laughing now, "see, 'e thought 'e saw something suspicious and-" Charley paused yet again, only this time, it was to look at his friend. The Dodger's face was pale and wax-like, eyes wide yet secretive. "What's the matter with you?" a look of concern crossed the usually jovial face of Master Bates.

"N-nothing'," the Dodger said slowly. "You were sayin'."

Charley glanced at Dodge one more time, looking for assurance, no doubt, that his friend was okay, before continuing with his story.

Dodger hardly heard any of it. He was plunged once more into the memory of that day. Those hungering eyes, those groping fingers, her hot, yet, arctic body against his…

"And then, and then - oh, this is the best part!" Charley was laughing once more. But, seeing the look on the Dodger's face, he stopped abruptly and looked hard at the Dodger.

"Something, now something is going on Jack Dawkins. You 'ardly sleep anymore - I see you lying awake all the time. Sometimes, you sit up all of a sudden in the middle of the night like something frightening woke you up. You don't seem to enjoy poker 'alf as much as you used to. You don't seem to enjoy anything anymore… Why?" Charley looked hopelessly at the Dodger, searching for some sort of answer in his friend's eyes.

Why? The question echoed in the Artful Dodger's head. Charley didn't understand the pain that the answer to that question held. He shivered. He couldn't tell him - no matter what.

Finding no words, the Artful Dodger shook his head shortly. He then turned and walked away, leaving Master Bates to stand alone in the alleyway, story half finished, question unanswered.

The Dodger walked back into the busy streets. A small shower started and dimmed the marks on his face left by tears and sweat. The iciness of the raindrops seemed to clear his head. At times like these, he wondered if it was all bearable. Could one live with the memory of an experience like this? It all felt much like the autumn weather that was about him. At times, the sunlight of his old life enjoyments would burst from between the clouds that often pelted down feelings of fear and dishonor. But most of the time, it was just clouds and chilling memories.

Pushing his many disturbing thoughts out of his head, he focused anew on what he'd spent most of his life doing. First, he sighted a woman with a beaded handbag. Quickly, he decided that another individual - a gentleman - would be a better target. Catching a glimpse of something shiny hanging out of the pocket of a nearby vendor, he made for it. Lowering his hand into the man's pocket, he grinned slowly - focusing on picking pockets made all the difference.

Late in the evening, the Artful Dodger sat in a chair at the rough-hewn table that sat in Fagin's den. Cards were held in his hand and his eyes drifted around the table from face to face of all his playing mates. The game was five card draw - his favorite and his best. Laying his cards down on the table, he allowed a smirk to cross his face, though he didn't care half as much as he appeared to. Expectantly, he reached both hands forward, ready to scoop the money from the middle of the table into his waiting pockets.

"Wait!" grunted Bill Sikes harshly. He, too, wore a smirk, only his was broader and held more pride.

The Artful Dodger watched as Bill, as if in slow motion, laid his cards down before them all. His face fell and Bill's became all the more self-satisfied.

All those at the table stared in shock. Everyone but Bill seemed fixed in place.

Bill laughed in triumph, scooped up his winnings, got up, and left.

No one - not even Bill Sikes - thought that a day would come when the Dodger was defeated. The winning was close - the Dodger had a straight flush and Bill had a royal straight flush. But even the close game was not a consolation - he had lost. The room felt heavy. The many worshipers of Jack Dawkins now seemed lost and confused.

The Dodger made his way toward the stairs that led to where he slept. He heard Charley cry, "You'll get 'em next time, Dodge! You always do!" but it didn't matter to him. He'd lost fair and square.

He sat down on his bed and stared out a small window. A downpour beat against the panes and the darkness outside seemed impenetrable.

His eyes felt wet and there was a lump in his throat, but he couldn't cry. All his tears were spent. He had done all he could. He tried to live life like it had never happened to him, but it had. He couldn't even win a stupid old game of poker anymore. She'd done it to him. She'd wrecked his life. Those hungering eyes seemed to look at him once again and he wanted to yell, but he didn't. He'd always been a fighter - he always would be. He knew life would go on. He'd been through rough times before. He'd always gotten back up on his feet. No matter how many questions were asked, no matter how difficult things were, he knew he'd never tell anybody. He knew he would move on. But, no matter how hard he tried, he knew that life would never be the same.

A/N: In case none of you got what the bad experience was, he was raped. I didn't really want to go into detail on all that and I hope that it is still satisfactory to Hexanna! Anyways, please review!