Fever Dream

Mostly had this already written, finished it up tonight. Characters aren't mine. Um, enjoy?

David is one of those people. The ones who are always everywhere on time and that always keep their promises; never go back on their words. And, to David, as Jack well knows after nearly a year of working with him, work is one of those things that he takes very seriously. Sure, they have fun doing it most of the time, but at the end of the day, David's supporting his whole family. So, when David doesn't show up at the distribution center one morning, Jack knows something is very, very wrong.

He tosses his sixty cents down and sets to work, planning to get through his papes as quickly as possible so he can go see what's got his best friends attention.

David rolls over in his bed, and his mother's hand feels like ice against his burning skin. He sighs, but that only leads to another intense and seemingly never ending coughing fit. This blasted cold came out of nowhere.

"It'll be okay, David." She croons, brushing his hair from his face. "The doctor will be here soon."

She sounds confident that he'll get through this but he can hear the worry in her voice.

As it turns out, while newsies do sell papes, a good headline is certainly helpful. Not even Jack can come up with a clever way to spin 'Cold Front Continues;' There are limits to even his advertising powers. And, because, as the poor headline rather obviously states, it is cold in New York right now, most people have intelligently decided against wandering out into the harsh weather unless they absolutely need to. Those that are forced to do so, however, are not all that interested in buying a paper that tells them something they already know.

It takes him all day to sell his papers, and he still has near fifteen left. Unheard of for Jack Kelly. He returns the papes to the distribution center, and then hurries over to the Jacob's apartment.

He sneaks up the fire escape, like he always does. Knocks on David's window, but no answer comes.

"Davey…" He calls, a rather dragged out sound that couples with his skilled fumblings against the window lock. If he pushes on the right spot he can usually open it himself, as much as doing so usually annoys David.

However upon his entrance, he is not greeted by a rather irate best friend. Instead, a dignified looking man, looming over the form of a sleeping David, appears before him. Jack's first thought is for David's safety. His second is for his own, because the strange man goes thundering toward the door.

"Who is this hooligan barging in through the window? He's letting all of the cold air in!" This unfamiliar man booms, and Jack is amazed that David manages to sleep through it.

A moment later David's mother comes rushing into the room. "Oh, that's Jack. Don't mind him." She turns to smile at the boy who's practically become her third son. "Jack, dear, would you like some hot chocolate? And, please, do close the window."

He stares at her for a moment in utter bewilderment. "Uh, sure, ma'am." He nods and does as told, but she is already hustling back into the kitchen. "Somethin' wrong with Dave?" He supposes he's asking the strange man who is once again too close to David for his liking.

The man glares at him over the rims of his black framed glasses. "Yes. Not that you are of any apparent help in the matter."

Jack recoils, unprepared for the distaste this stranger has for him when he hasn't even explained why he's there, leaning over David like he's protecting a piece of meat. He repeats his question when Esther returns, brandishing a mug of delicious smelling hot chocolate, and thankfully she answers him.

"Yes, it seems. David's come down with a bad cough. Dr. Cohen is here to do what he can." She explains, offering him the warm drink. "Here you go, dear."

He eyes the doctor suspiciously. "He gonna be okay, Doc?"

Cohen ignores Jack's presence, but answers his question under the guise of explaining it to his patient's mother. "I believe he has pneumonia. It's quite serious, I'm afraid." The man motions to David. "If his fever stays up, it'll mean trouble. And I'd recommend that he not have any visitors." He glares pointedly at Jack.

"Is it catching?" Esther asks, quite concerned, and Jack can practically see Les and Sarah in the same state as David.

Dr. Cohen shakes his head, though. "Not at this point. The cold that came before the pneumonia, that would have been. But, David is even more susceptible to other infections since his body is working to fight this one. So, as I said, anyone who doesn't need to be here…" Another sharp look in Jack's direction. "Shouldn't be."

"Ya got somethin' ya wanna say t'me, Doc?" Jack inquires.

Luckily, Esther speaks before Dr. Cohen can. "Jack here is family, Dr. Cohen. He can stay if he'd like."

After one last final glare, the doctor seems to accept that the strange boy who would rather use a window as opposed to the door – how uncivilized, really? – isn't going to be put off by his disapproving stares. "Very well, then." He excuses himself, then, because he's done all he can.

"You can sit with him, if you'd like, Jack." Esther tells him, as she shuffles off after the doctor.

"Thanks." He answers, already moving to do just that.

David's facing away from him, resting rather fitfully on his side, it seems. He looks pale, well, paler than usual, and his forehead is covered with a damp rag. Jack takes a seat on the edge of the bed, watching intently for any sign that David is going to wake up.

"David." Jack whispers, a hand settling on his best friend's shoulder. He can feel the heat radiating off of the other boy and that's when it hits him that this is really serious. David is really sick. "Hey, c'mon, Davey." He's not really sure if David is supposed to be getting his rest or if waking him up is a good idea at all, but he doesn't like seeing his friend like this. He needs to hear an annoyed voice complaining about being woken up, just needs to hear David's voice.

"Mm, Jack?" David blinks up at him, eyes heavy with exhaustion. "What're ya doin' here?" He grumbles, but finds himself leaning into Jack's touch.

Jack smiles, fingers moving on instinct as they gently massage the warm skin of David's shoulder where his sleep shirt has ridden down a bit. "Jus' comin' to check up on ya, Dave. Since ya didn't show up ta keep me company while we was carryin' the Banner this mornin'."

David looks only slightly more than very confused by this news. "I… I didn't? What time is it?" He questions curiously, as he takes in the setting winter sun through his windows.

"S'late." Jack informs him. "You're real sick, okay? So jus' get some rest." He runs a hand over David's arm which seems to calm him a bit; at the very least David is still leaning into his touch.

They stay like that for a long moment, unmoving, but eventually David starts to drift off again. Jack moves to pull away, but the younger boy stirs, catching his arm before it can fully remove itself. "You, you're not leaving, are you?" He asks, voice hoarse with sleep and something else, something more unnerving.

Jack shrugs and ruffles Davey's hair. "Nah. Wouldn' dream of it."

But, after a while, David does fall asleep, and not even Jack extricating himself from the other boy's grip is enough to wake him. He has something to do.

With a determined nod to himself, he stands, exits the room and stops at the kitchen table, digging through his pockets to produce the handful of coins he'd collected from today's work and sets them down, not unlike David did on the day they first met.

No one's around to see his move, but he's kind of glad of that. He doesn't want them to turn him down.

He's back to David's side in seconds, and he finds that his hand is immediately recaptured once he gets close enough.

"'M not goin' anywhere, Davey." He promises, shifting to get comfortable since he knows he won't be moving anytime soon.

David's his family, and he's going to help out in whatever way he can for as long as he needs it.

It's a restless night in the Jacob's house. David tosses and turns with nightmares and night-sweats and mumbles about things Jack can't quite make out in the darkness. His skin is hot to the touch, and there's a coughing fit every so often that sounds like one of the most painful things Jack can think of.

So, yeah. He doesn't sleep much. No one does. But, early in the morning he sneaks out through the window and down the fire escape and makes his way back to the distribution center, hoping for a good headline so he can sell all his papes and get back to Davey as soon as possible.

'New York Fears Another Blizzard,' today's headline reads. Somewhat more interesting than more nonsense about the cold front, at least. And he definitely doesn't want another blizzard. The one back in February was bad enough and it probably won't help David any, either.

"Another blizzard on the horizon!" He calls out, walking the streets with the other newsies. They ask about Davey, but he shrugs them all off.

It takes him longer than usual, but, unlike yesterday, he manages to sell his portion.

Doctor Cohen is there again when Jack returns – once again via the window, though he closes it promptly behind him upon entering.

"You know, young man, there is this handy invention called a door. Most civilized folk tend to favor it." The man glowers at him, looking up from his examination on David.

Jack shrugs, and moves to sit on the opposite side of the bed – out of the doctor's way. "Yeah, well, I ain't much like them 'civilized folk'."

The man doesn't comment further, just continues to check on David.

"So, how is he, Doc?" Jack asks, after a few long moments of silence pass. David still looks hot and sleepless. "He doin' any better?"

"It's hard to say, at this point." Dr. Cohen says, the first time he's actually made to directly answer one of the boy's questions. "Your friend still has quite the fever and his coughing hasn't improved." He removes a vial of medicine from his bag, holds it out to Jack. "This is Pilocarpine*. I just gave him some, but he'll need a dose every few hours."

Jack nods, accepting the bottle. "That all ya can give 'im?"

"For now, yes." He quietly replies, trying not to wake his patient as he goes about gathering up his things. "If it gets worse, I'll prescribe him some pain medication and up the dosage on the Pilocarpine, but for now, we'll have to let everything run its course."

The younger nods, and watches as the Doctor takes his leave. "Davey, ya gotta make it through this, okay?" He says, once he's left alone with the younger boy.

"Mrngh?" David grumbles in reply, head shifting on his pillow. "You're back?"

"Right here," Jack smiles. "Ya gotta stay with me so we can run away ta Santa Fe someday, ya got that?" He says, allowing his hand to run through his best friend's messy hair.

David leans into his touch. "Mm, 'nything you say, Jack."

Jack's exhausted by the time he gets back to David's the next day. He bypasses David, who is tossing and turning in his sleep, but only long enough to deposit another handful of coins on the kitchen table. So far, no one has said anything about this contribution to the Jacob's family income, but they're offering him food and he's sleeping in the chair next to Dave's bed, so he's not really complaining.

"He any better today?" Jack asks of Sarah on his way back to David's room, breaking her out of her intense concentration on her sewing.

She shakes her head and frowns. "He kept calling for you this morning, and Dr. Cohen said his fever was worse."

Jack tries not to think of what that could mean for his best friend. David has to get better. There is no other option. If he loses David, his one reason for staying in New York will be gone.

"Davey," he croons, as he reclaims the chair beside the other boy's bed. His hand seeks out David's automatically and he squeezes lightly, relieved when the motion is reciprocated. "I'm here now, alright? So try an' get better for me."

Esther comes home some time later, and then Mayer and Les, too. They all check in on David, worry plainly exhibited on all of their faces, but none of them bother trying to get Jack to leave his side. Esther even sends Les in with two cups of hot soup; one for Jack, and one for Jack to help David eat.

"C'mon, Davey, just a little bit more, an' then ya can go back ta sleep." Jack implores of his bedridden friend, offering up a spoonful of warm broth.

"Nrrm," is the only response Jack gets for his efforts, but David complies with his request and eventually the soup is gone. Then comes a dose of Pilocarpine which, if it tastes anything like it smells, has to be pretty awful.

Once that's done and David starts to fall back into restless sleep, Jack tries to get comfortable. "Long day today, Davey," he says softly. "Crummy headline – 'Blizzard expected Friday'. Dunno how ta spin that one ta make folks buy it. I miss havin' ya with me out there, though."

David is, at least, comprehending this, as he squeezes Jack's hand lightly and mumbles something that sounds like "M'sorry. Miss you, too."

"Thanks, Dave," Jack whispers into the darkness of the room as his friend curls up against his chest. "But all ya gotta do is focus on gettin' better."

Sometime later, after Jack has fallen asleep, too, Esther comes in and drapes a blanket over Jack's shoulders. "We certainly don't need both of you two to be sick, do we?"

'Significant Snowfall Tomorrow,' today's headline reads and Jack has had just about enough of weather related news. He's barely turning a profit these days, which is certainly not a good thing since he's trying to help support five other people.

"Where's Dave been?" Racetrack asks him, when he goes to return his unsold papes.

Jack is itching to get back to David's side, but he answers all the same, "Sick. Real sick."

The other newsie offers him a sympathetic look in response. "Ya should stay with him for this snow, then. Looks like it's gonna be a bad one again."

"I am," he says. "If you're not goin' ta Spot's, make sure things are okay here?"

Race nods his agreement and then Jack is off, making his way back to where he belongs by David's side.

The snow comes with a vengeance even the newspapers hadn't predicted. The front doors (and windows that lead to fire escapes) are nearly buried overnight. Jack spends a while watching the streets below, eerie and quiet, even when people would normally be out.

"S'weird, Davey," he reports to the half-asleep figure cocooned in the bedcovers. "So empty out there."

"Jack?" David's sleep-thick and slightly hoarse voice mumbles out, and there's a note of something like distress in it.

"Right here," the elder says, quickly moving to claim a seat on the edge of the bed. "How ya feelin'?" His hand lands on David's forehead in what can translate to a rough estimate of how bad the fever is. It seems warmer than usual right now.

"Jack!" Panic this time, and he can see Dave's eyes moving frantically in his sleep. The younger boy starts flailing and Jack has to catch his arms. "Jack! Help! Stop them!"

"Davey! Davey, relax. What are ya talkin' about? What's wrong?"

"Hnng, the Delancy's! Stop them, Jack!"

He's back in that alleyway, Jack realizes, when his best friend kind of curls in on himself like he did when he took the hits from Weasel's two goons. Back in that alley where Jack let it all go on for too long, when he should have stepped in and stopped it the second those idiots had even thought about going after David.

"S'okay, Dave. You're okay. They can't get ya anymore." Jack assures the very distressed boy still writhing about beside him. He drags a hand through David's sweat-damp hair and tries to soothe him out of this clearly delirious state. "I won't let jerks like them anywhere near ya again, I swear ta ya, Davey."

As much as Jack attempts to help, it's a coughing fit that rouses David from his fever induced nightmare. That doesn't stop him from bolting upright enough to frantically attach himself to Jack's side. "…Jack." He gasps out somewhere in the midst of some serious painful sounding coughs.

"Right 'ere, Dave. You're alright, yeah?"

There's a slow nod against his shoulder but Jack isn't foolish enough to think that means David is ready to let go. He rubs circles on the other boy's back until he more or less falls asleep sitting up.

Once he settles Dave down again, he disappears long enough to get a fresh rag to try and held the fever.

If the delirium is any indication, it's setting up to be a very long day.

The next delirious mumblings come several hours later, in the middle of the night. The snow is still falling outside and Jack is most definitely not getting back out to sell any papes, so he gets comfortable. Leaning half on David's bed, he manages that.

"Dave?" He asks when he hears deep, rattling breaths from his best friend. They usually predict a coughing spell, so Jack is silently preparing himself for that. A brush of hand over Dave's forehead tells him the fever's not quite as bad as it was earlier. "Ya alright?"

The coughing doesn't come. At least not right away. First, he gets Dave kind of rolling toward him in his sleep, followed by a barely audible, "Mm, I love you," that Jack almost misses.

His eyes widen in shock – because, yeah, it's not like he doesn't care for Dave and it's not like newsies never get involved with each other (he thinks of Spot Conlon and Racetrack, for starters), but it's kind of an unwritten rule not to say things like that.

Anything further in terms of reaction gets abruptly cut off when a particularly violent coughing fit starts up. All he can even think to do at that point is try to help Dave sit up and get through it.

"Hurts," David croaks at him when the coughing starts to level off. "Jack…"

"Hold on a minute, Davey." Jack mumbles, grabbing the pain killers the Doc prescribed, as well as the Pilocarpine since it's just about time for another dose. He helps the other boy get both of those down and then follows it with a glass of cool water to help.

Dave offers him a weak smile as he lies back down. "Thanks."

"Just try ta get some more rest. I'll… I'll be right here with ya."

It's a long night, David wakes up more times than he has since this whole thing started, but they get through it.

Jack's exhausted, though, which kind of makes him glad he doesn't have to try to sell any papers today, as much as it probably hurts the Jacobs family income. It's still blizzarding and it doesn't appear to be letting up anytime soon.


He manages to force his head off of the edge of the bed enough to look up. It's Sarah. "Hm?"

"More soup, if you can get him to drink it. Mother says it might help his coughing, we all heard it all night long." She offers him the cup, and some food for himself and Jack tries not to worry about if they heard anything else.

"Thanks," he says, moving to wake David up again. He hates doing it, especially since the other boy finally seems to be resting peacefully, but it has to be done. "Daveeey," he croons, as he hears Sarah leave the room, pulling the door shut behind her, "Dave, c'mon."

"Hn, what?" He grumbles, but Jack sits on the edge of the bed, eventually convinces his friend to sit up and then slides up sort of behind him to keep him that way. "Don't want any," David argues when he realizes what Jack is attempting to get him to do.

Jack will not be so easily defeated. "Ya gotta, Davey. Ya gotta get better for me, right?"

David is silent for a moment, and Jack starts to think maybe he fell asleep half-leaning against him, but slowly he nods, reaching out for the soup. At least there are benefits to knowing David's in love with him, though he doesn't particularly enjoy manipulating that knowledge.

"Good, good," Jack says, when the soup is gone and David is looking a little less dreadful. He's watched David the whole time, making sure he's not about to start in on another horrid coughing fit, but he manages to get through without one – and Jack is impressed. "Drink some water and you can go back ta sleep, okay?"

Another mumbled agreement and within moments, David is attempting to return to his pillow. He doesn't let Jack get out of his way, first, so he ends up curling his arms around Jack's waist and holding tightly.

Jack doesn't know what to do in response. Get up? Get mad, or at least pretend to? Or he could be okay with this. Lay down next to Dave because he is just as exhausted and needs some decent sleep, claim that's his reason if anyone finds them. He opts for the latter option.

"Leggo of me a second, Davey," he whispers to his mostly sleeping friend, and luckily David is still lucid enough to comply. His hold on Jack loosens enough so that Jack can slide down and lay properly on the bed. Before his head has even hit the pillow he's sharing with David, arms are curled around him again.

"Jack," the other boy mumbles in his state of near-sleep, then there are some words that are nearly indistinguishable, but Jack is pretty sure it's some version of 'I love you' again, followed by a more understandable, "stay?"

He lets the arm that his pinned under David's too-warm weight drag lazily over the other boys back, lulling both of them to sleep. "Not getting' rid of me that easy."

The fever doesn't seem quite as bad the next time David wakes up. And he wakes up confused and panicked because he's sleeping all curled around Jack Kelly and how did that even happen? He's still kind of delirious when he sits up and tries to move away, and he very nearly goes toppling off of the bed, but the arm that jack has curled around him keeps him from falling.

"S'okay, Davey." Jack says, eyes still closed as he tries to ignore the sense of loss he feels when David moves away from him. "Jus' needed some sleep. Mm, I like wakin' up with you."

"With me?" Dave croaks out, voice still hoarse.

Jack opts not to tell him that he's shared beds with probably most of the newsies over the years – there are only so many beds in the lodging house. Instead, he grins and says, "An' here I thought ya liked me."

"Jack!" David snaps, edging on paranoia.

Jack ignores him and sits up enough to reach out a hand to gauge David's fever. "Mm, feels lots better. Good thing, too. Doubt the Doc could make it here again with all that snow." He lets his hand drag through David's curly black hair as he moves his hand away.

David's still looking kind of alarmed when Jack gets up to fetch the Pilocarpine. Better is good, but he's still got a fever and Jack's not letting this get worse again. He's just measuring out the dosage the Doc told him to give when the door creaks open.

It's Les, and he looks ecstatic to see David sitting up and looking a little less like death warmed over. "David!" He happy says, "Are you better now?"

"He's gettin' there," Jack assures the boy, who beams at him.

David is too busy grumbling about the awful medicine to reply to his brother's joyful reactions.

"Oh, I was s'posed to ask if you wanted anything to eat, Jack, but I'll tell Sarah that David's up, too." With that he disappears before either of them can say anything in response.

Jack reclaims the seat beside the bed, not daring to freak David out any further. "Relax, Dave."

"Relax?" David echoes, tries to whisper, and is, in fact, barely audible thanks to his current state of voice. "You want to relax when you're saying things like 'I thought you liked me' and 'I like waking up with you'? What if Les or Sarah or my parents had heard that?"

Jack leans in close, well aware that Les is probably on his way back with something David will actually be able to eat. "Earlier, when your fever was pretty bad off, ya were talkin' in your sleep. Said ya loved me."

David's response to this is cut off when Les returns with more soup for David and actual food for Jack. He looks like he wants to stay, but luckily for Jack and David, Mayer calls him back to the table.

"I… I said that?" David asks him, somewhat incredulous as he wordlessly accepts the bowl of hot soup.

"Twice. That was after ya started yellin' for me ta save ya from the Delancey brothers."

David frowns, looks alarmed, and stares intently down at his soup. "Well, I didn't mean it. I was delirious, Jack. I didn't mean it."

Jack gives up on giving David his space and moves to sit on the edge of the bed. He's not letting David back out of this. Not now. "Yeah, ya did."

"I didn't!" He says, as loudly as he dares.

"Did, too. Ya know how I know, Davey?" Jack asks, moving ever closer. "'Cause I mean it, too."

That stops David cold, and takes the wind out of the argument he had intended to continue. "You… what?"

He eyes the closed door quickly before he moves forward the last few inches and presses his lips against David's for the briefest of seconds. When David just kind of sits there in a state of shock, he moves forward again, opting for a longer kiss this time.

"Jack," David breathes out against his lips as arms curl around his shoulders. And David's kissing back.

They hear footsteps coming down the hall and towards the door that's keeping all this hidden, so they hastily separate just before the door opens.

"Everything okay in here, boys?" Mayer asks, also happy to see his son looking better. They both mutely nod and he leaves with a soft smile.

"Love you, too," Jack quietly mumbles, lightly gripping David's hand.

David is one of those people. The ones who are always everywhere on time and that always keep their promises; never go back on their words. And, to David, as Jack well knows after years of working with him, parctically living with him, and loving him, that entails a promise made in a state of near delirium involving Santa Fe. Sure, it's not quite running away, as they've pretty well told everyone who would care to know about it and how to reach them in New Mexico, but at the end of the day, there's a ranch with Jack's name on it, and people who don't really care what they do as long as they're decent workers and they keep to themselves. So, when David boards the train with him that snowy winter morning six years after their first kiss, the train that will take them to their home in Santa Fe, Jack knows that everything is finally right.

*I did research on pneumonia treatments in 1900 and somewhere I found Pilocarpine as a result. I am aware that it is no longer used for such a purpose and I can't find the thing that said it ever was, but I'm just going to accept it.