Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of Disney and are only used for fan related purposes.

Window Pain

One year, that was all he gave them.

Within a year, before the anniversary of the strike that brought them together, the strike that brought the working kids of New York together, the strike that brought the newspaper giants to their knees… not even a year had passed and Jack Kelly was gone.

The rooftop seemed empty, the fire escape outside her window haunted, and sometimes Sarah imagined she saw his silhouette lurking past the gauzy curtains and she half-hoped he was there, waiting for her, watching her sleep, keeping her company the only way he knew how.

But he wasn't there.

Santa Fe, the dream or the place, she didn't know, it had swallowed him up, luring him like a moth to a flame. While Sarah was his girl, she was his mistress and in the end, Jack heeded her call over Sarah's simple voice. They shared close to one year of days, one year of nights and then Jack left, and Sarah was left behind to wonder and to think and to regret.

Perhaps, she thinks, it only hurts so bad because it could've been different. It didn't have to end that way.

He didn't have to go alone. She didn't have to be lonely.

Because, you see, Jack asked her to leave with him. It's a secret Sarah would take to her grave because she wouldn't dare admit that she knew he was going, that she could've stopped him, that she could've insisted he give up on a boyhood dream when he was now a man.

Not that she could. He asked her to go in that sad, puppy-dog way he had, when he blinked and bowed his head and pretended that he couldn't understand why she wouldn't want to follow along with his dreams—but what about her dreams? That was it, that had always been it. Wasn't she just as important? Wasn't her dreams as meaningful as his? Her dreams of getting married, of having a family, staying by her family, staying New York?

The sun was just as big, and Sarah Jacobs didn't need to go to Santa Fe to have everything she'd always wanted.

So Jack asked her as nice as he could, shrugged when she tried to explain why she had to stay, and decided to leave anyway. He packed whatever he thought was his—most of it wasn't, including Sarah's heart—and left without another word of goodbye. Here and gone again, that was Jack Kelly, gone for good and he left without ever once looking back.

There was no governor this time, talking a wayward boy into staying put. There was just pride and determination and a desire for something more.

Sarah hoped he got it, too. For his sake, and for hers.

The boys were all devastated, and she didn't blame them for their hurt. David felt betrayed, of course, especially since he never knew, and the local newsies cursed his name before stubbornly forgetting their former leader and friend. Les tried to be brave but there were tears to be shed when his hero disappeared. For days he waited down by the distribution center, blowing off lessons, ignoring Mama's lectures, all in the vain hope that some great carriage would come thundering down the way, bearing Jack, bringing the boy back home again.

But Jack never came back. Sometimes Sarah thought that Les was the last to give up on him, that when Les's ears perked up at the circulation bell only because there were papers to sell and not for any other reason, she knew that Jack was gone for good. She accepted that fact the evening he left her to her laundry, slinking away when she couldn't give up enough for him. Sarah accepted that Jack was going to leave her the first time he rode a carriage away, and she knew that the year he gave her was simply borrowed time until he finally headed out west.

She accepted that fact long before David did, and Les, too. So she treasured every moment she had with him and she tried to forget about Jack Kelly for everybody's sake.

Except that didn't stop her from sitting at her window pane, staring out into the crowded city, seeing countless faces but just not the one she hoped to find just outside on the fire escape.

It had been a year, but even Sarah couldn't stop hoping that he might return.

Author's Note: Just a little ficlet to keep me primed and ready for NaNoWriMo in a couple of days. I've been so busy plotting and planning, I haven't really had a lot of time to write so when the idea for this came, I ran with it. Nothing fancy, but I like the sentiment :)

- stress, 10.21.10