A/N: So this is a bit of fluff that just popped into existence while I was sick (and wrote a looooot.)I don't own anything *sobs* The character of Fagin is based more on the musical version than the book.

"Coupla 'andkerchiefs, and these wallets... And a watch."

"'Ow much is that?" Charley Bates tilted his head to one side as Dodger stared hard at the goods piled up on the table, willing them to transform into something a little easier to understand.


Fagin entered the room then – silently. Neither of his protégées noticed him, and he stood for a moment in the doorway – watching the scene before him. He felt that familiar stab of guilt as he looked at the boys struggling with something so simple.

If only he, Fagin, could give them the information they needed – send them out into the world to create better futures. Well... He could. But he wouldn't. He needed his gang like they needed the shelter he had found them, the food he stole for them, the livelihood he created for them.

Despite his miserly reputation, Fagin had grown fond of all his gang – particularly of the Dodger and Charley, who (although he would never admit it) had become almost surrogate sons to the old man. He sometimes lay aware worrying about them, wondering how they got those bruises, those marks.

And yet on he smiled, laughed, joked, threatened his gang. His little gang. His little family.

Fagin coughed, and the boys turned around.

"You've got thirteen there, m'dears. Thirteen."
"Thanks Fagin," the boys chorused.

"Better go and pick those initials out of those wipes, heh, m'dears?" Fagin plucked a marked handkerchief from the pile. "One false move. Remember that m'dears. One false move."

One false move.

That evening, Fagin called his two favourite students to him, pulling a few handkerchiefs down from the pegs that held them.

"One." He slid the handkerchief over to Dodger. "Two." The next went to Charley, and so on, until Fagin had shown them all thirteen, and they lay, unblemished squares, on the grubby table. The thieves looked at each other.

"Um..." Charley looked confused.

"Jus' tryin' to 'elp, m'dears. Jus' tryin' to 'elp. You can't live 'ere forever after all..." Fagin masked the sorrow these words caused him with a cackle, screwing his eyes shut in mirth.

When he opened them again, the boys were having a silent conversation, which they stopped as soon as they were aware of their guardian's eyes upon them.

"Show us again, Fagin?" Dodger asked.

"Of course, m'dear," Fagin said.

He drew the handkerchiefs back to him, and began again.

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