Disclaimer: Disney owns Newsies.
Author's Note: Chapter one of a short three-part fluff piece.
They were hopeless at this. The two of them had been out for hours, and at this point, there were sure they had exhausted every single store and vendor in New York. It was dark now; they were disconcerted by the sudden disappearance of the plentiful sunshine from when they began their undertaking. Mush and Kid Blink walked out of Solomona & Hart's bookstore, defeated and tired. It didn't make sense, how fatigued they were: they were young newsboys - they walked around all day, every day. But it was something about walking in search of something that drained all their usual youthful, boundless energy. Even Blink was sighing from lethargy. Their legs were heavy, sore; they could barely lift their feet off the ground.
All the boys of the Newsboy Lodging House had enthusiastically agreed on chipping in to buy Kloppman, the house Superintendent, a Christmas gift this year. This was the first time any of them were attempting to get Kloppman a gift. A real, substantial gift. Not a half-chewed cigar, or a stolen pen, or a piece of worn paper with a scribbled "Mary Krismus." Mush had figured that they had accomplished the hard part: gathering enough money to afford a decent present. He hadn't anticipated how difficult it would be to find the decent present. After hours of thinking and looking, Mush was beginning to regret volunteering himself and Blink for the task.
Other people seemed to be having more luck. Mush gazed forlornly at each passerby carrying bulky bags, presumably filled to the brim with gifts and other holiday treats. He scratched at his temple in frustration: even with all the boys contributing for a gift, they could hardly afford anything as nice as what these other people were carrying.
"Maybe we should call it a day, huh?" Blink asked. The shops were closing early, on account of the fact that it was Christmas Eve; everyone was eager to rush home and spend the evening with their families.
Mush nodded regrettably. So much for their surprise for Kloppman. He was kicking himself for putting this off to the last day, but they had all been scrimmaging for cents to the last minute. Maybe next year, Mush thought with a dejected sigh.
They proceeded back towards the Lodging House in silence, both boys obviously disappointed. Mush couldn't help but keep harping on what they should have done. They should have planned, as a group, what kind of gift to get for Kloppman. But somewhere in the back of Mush's mind, he knew that none of the other newsboys at the Lodging House had a clue either. They were more familiar with what to give each other - after all, they were all around the same age and were more in touch with what kids desired - but what would be considered a good present for someone elderly like Kloppman, who had seen and experienced far more of life than any of them? And considering that this was the first year the boys were getting a present for the old man, they all, Mush especially, wanted to get him something that would make him genuinely happy.
They stopped walking. Mush and Blink saw it at the same time.
"Hey, what about that place?"
"We didn't look there - "
The two boys unknowingly pointed to the same small shop. They looked at each other, and chuckled.
"All right," Blink said, clapping his hands together hopefully, "let's give it a try."
For some odd reason - maybe it was because they somehow felt as though they'd been given another chance - Mush felt the same inexplicable, perhaps foolish, dash of hope. Maybe, just maybe, they'd be able to find something after all. One last shop. One last chance.
The storefront was unassuming, humble, its two narrow windows modestly decorated. The shop was sandwiched between a bakery and a pharmacy. Its lights shone brightly from inside, though, and there was a certain inviting quality about it.
The boys took three steps in the store's direction when a stream of people filed out the door. Both thought the same thing: the shop was about to close. They hurried their steps to a jog, hoping they'd have a couple of minutes, at least. Blink reached the door first and in his desperation, jerked the door open with a dramatic gesture. He stopped short. Mush hadn't been paying attention and his face nearly collided with Blink's shoulder. He sent his friend a curious glance. Blink's mouth had dropped open and he had a rather dumb look on him. Mush followed his gaze and upon setting eyes on the scene before him, he, in turn, stared in awe.
The shop had appeared small from the outside, but it was an illusion. What the shop did not have in width, it made up in height. Three floors were filled with toys and books and carved wooden figures and glass cases filled with crystal and porcelain figurines. The upper floors were set up as balconies and built-in shelves lined all the walls around them. Hanging from the ceiling was a modest chandelier, but somehow it glimmered extraordinarily. On the ground floor were magnificent displays of craftsmanship - various dolls, stuffed animals, wooden train sets - set atop round tabletops. Though the storefront barely indicated that it was aware of the holidays, the inside shone with flashes of reds and greens.
"Shut the door! You're letting in an awful draft!" admonished a voice, breaking through both boys' glazed states of admiration.
Mush immediately shuffled inside, pushing Blink forward, and shut the door behind him. They looked in the direction the voice had come from and their eyes landed squarely on a group of four girls crowding around a table elaborately decorated with a miniature Christmas tree on top. The group wore identical expressions of haughty disapproval, but they quickly changed when Mush and Blink stepped inside, muttering an apology for leaving the door open.
The girls lowered their voices and tried to hide behind thinly veiled smiles, but their interest was obvious. Mush and Blink immediately began searching through the merchandise, bypassing the gossiping girls. Any other day, Mush would certainly have taken it upon himself to strike a casual conversation, but this was no time to dally.
"This place is huge," Mush said in wonder.
"Yeah," Blink agreed, his voice conveying his contained excitement. He turned to his friend. "You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
Mush confirmed with a curt nod. "Split up." Though day had started casually, with Mush and Blink glossing over and meandering through stores, they became more and more methodical after perusing through each store - towards the end of the day, of course, when they began running out of time.
Something must have caught Blink's attention, as he straight away headed for the stairs to the second level.
Methodically, Mush turned to start from the left side of the store where several Christmas wreaths and decors were placed, twinkling and waiting to be purchased. Kloppman loved putting up holiday decorations. Maybe he could use a few more, Mush thought optimistically. He got sidetracked, however, when he spotted a rather elaborately whittled toy train set on display. He had never had toys of his own before. Mush bent over to take a closer look, studying the detailed curves and nooks in fascination, running his hands along the smoothly carved wooden tracks. A sudden movement to his left jogged him back to reality. He jerkily straightened and cleared his throat.
It was one of the girls from before. She nervously twirled a strand of dark blond hair around her finger as she slowly rounded the table, seemingly interested in the train set. Her attention, however, was squarely on Mush; her blue-green eyes flickered up, meeting his eyes for the briefest of seconds, then she coyly avoided his gaze through her lashes.
Mush smiled politely. He was familiar with this dance. And he would have been lying if he said he wasn't tempted to ask for her name, but -
Kloppman. Must get gift for Kloppman.
Mush balled his fists and launched himself towards the Christmas decor section, leaving the girl in a state of flabbergasted confusion. He managed, with quite some difficulty and self-restraint, to convince himself that he had no time for such distractions like a pretty girl. Mush quickly looked through stacks of decorations, trying to get his mind off of her. He was eliminating many products solely based on their price, and he was starting to think there was nothing the boys could get Kloppman within their budget. Mush paused and sighed. He rubbed at his eyes - they were tired. But he continued on. He couldn't let Kloppman down - even though he was completely unaware of what the boys were trying to prepare for him - and he couldn't let his friends down either. They were counting on Mush and Blink.
He sure hoped Blink was having more luck.
"Bless y - " Mush began automatically, but stopped to look to his right, towards the direction where the sound had come. There was nothing there but a red velvet curtain. His dark brows snapped together in vexation. The curtain just sneezed. Mush shook his head. The curtain just what? He thought he was hearing things, but just then, the curtain sprung to life with a ripple of movement.
There it was again. There was someone, something, hidden behind it. With an impulsive curiosity, Mush approached the curtain slowly, his hand extended, carefully reaching for the edge of the fabric. His fingers curled around the luscious velvet material and he began to pull it back.
Mush didn't notice the other set of fingers emerging from behind the curtain.