Not with it
A grubby hand just missed the open pocket of a rich young gentleman. Charley stood watching from where he was leaning on a sign post as the Artful Dodger's hand missed yet another pocket. Not quite so artful.
Pulling himself up off the sign post, Charley walked casually toward his friend. When he saw Dodger make another not-so-swift attempt, Charley decided it was best that he help him out. He pretended to trip over and "accidentally" knocks a woman's basket of shopping to the floor. The woman gasped then glared at Charley, who put on an apologetic face and began collecting the items off the floor helpfully.
While Charley acted out his little scene, Dodger had the opportunity to finally fish out the woman's purse. As soon as he had what he wanted he strolled away from the accident and over to the sign post where he waited for Charley.
Not long after did Charley rejoin his mate, a roll of bread in his pocket which the woman will never notice disappeared from her basket.
"Wassup with chu t'day?" Said Charley quietly. Dodger just shrugged. He had been really down lately and not sure why. It was beginning to be quite noticeable to those who kept an eye on him, like Charley, Fagin and Nancy. They could see it in his eyes; they were often glazed over and glassy, as though he wasn't really with them at all. In fact, he was in his own little bubble. You tried speaking to him and it takes him a few moments to process and reply, if he could ever be bothered to do that! Dodger had never been a slow person. Indeed, to be good in a life of crime you need to be very think-on-your-feet and Dodger was among the best at his trade. Just not today. Just not now.
It worried Charley to see Dodger like this. He'd seen it in him yesterday, but it hadn't affected his pick pocketing skills… And today he really wasn't with it. He kept missing pockets and was starting to run high risks of being caught. Too high… Charley felt it would be safer for them all if Dodger took the day off. But he knew too well that Dodger would never admit defeat and retire to the den so soon.
"'ere." Said Dodger, slipping the purse into Charley's hand. "Chu were the one that really got it… not me."
Charley looked at the purse. It was heavy and bulging… Then he looked at Dodger's profile staring into space and he thought of something.
But before he had so much as opened his mouth, a group of fellow pickpockets from the gang appeared from what seemed like nowhere. But Charley was used to most members of the gang doing that sort of thing.
The group was none other than Charley's other good friend Eddie, an alert looking Henry and a fed up looking James.
"Aint 'avin' a lotta luck in our area." Muttered James, "This bit any good?" When Dodger made no attempt to respond, Charley said;
"Yeah but ya gotta be quick."
"Well, we're up fur the challenge!" Said Eddie, grinning and rubbing his hands together.
"Will it be too obvious if we're all round 'ere…?" pointed out Henry.
"Oh nah, don't worry!" interjected Charley, seeing his chance, "Me an' Dodge were just 'bout t' go off t' another spot weren't we?"
Dodger was a few seconds behind in the conversation, having tuned out without even trying. After an awkward pause he said;
Charley just rolled his eyes and managed to disguise his concern using his usual method – laugh or smile it off. Then he steered his friend off down a side ally.
"See ya!" that was more to Eddie than any of the others but they didn't need to know that. He liked Eddie as when it wasn't him and Dodger playing to fool for the gang, it was him and Eddie.
"Where we goin'?" asked Dodger when he finally realised that they were moving away from the busy pickpocket perfect areas.
"Well, chu really aint with it at the moment," began Charley, "an' I dunno what it is that's makin' ya seem so… distant… but I aint like it so I'm gunna change it. I'm gunna treat cha. See if I can lift ya spirits!"
Dodger smiled at his friend's intentions, but it was still rather half hearted. He wasn't sure how much of a difference Charley would be able to make.
"So where's we goin'?"
"Pick any restaurant."
"Pick any restaurant."
"'Cause we're gunna eat in one! Like, what else chu su'pose t' do in there?"
"What 'bouts money?"
Charley took out the purse and gave it a jingle rather than bring it out in the open. He knew he wasn't the only person in his line of work. A smile crept its way onto the Artful Dodger's face.
The sound of Dodger's laugh filled Charley's ears. It may sound stupid, but it was his favourite sound in the world. It meant that everything would be ok, that the person he cares most about was happy and that Charley "still had it".
The Dodger had been laughing heartily at one of Charley's jokes. They were sitting in a cheap pub, drinking beer and eating a plate of bangers and mash each.
It wasn't their first choice of location but the boys had spent quite some time standing in front of the really posh and expensive restaurants with their mouths open and tongues handing out, rather like dogs. When they both finally snapped out of it, they realised they had to be a bit realistic. No restaurant owner would let two dirty street urchins in so they could stink out the place and scare all the wealthy customers away, even if the boys did have the money.
So they had ended up here. It was still near luxury to the boys anyway. The thing that was most appealing about it was that it wasn't one of their locals. It was new and different from what they'd grown up near. The people were new, the place was new, the food was new, the drink was new… well, as new as cheap alcohol ever gets. But it just meant it felt a little more special to be there.
The change of scenery and a belly full of food had done Dodger wonders. With every mouthful, the Artful seemed to get closer and closer to his normal self. Charley had always had a theory that food was therapy!
He took another spoonful of mash as his friend across the table tried to control himself. Then he felt a hand hold his. Charley quickly looked up at Dodger, who still had laughter on his lips.
"We're in the corner of a pub where no-one knows us…" He whispered, barely audible above the noise, "We might as well enjoy it."
Charley glowed. He had managed to cheer up Dodge and he was being appreciated for it! He raised his mug and chinked it with his friend's. Then they both downed the rest in one.
The rest of the day went by blissfully slow. The boys did things that they'd never done before. They strolled the quieter streets in no rush. They stopped to gaze at shop windows and watch street entertainers. They dipped their cut and bruised feet into the cool water of the Thames. They bought some sweets when they got peckish later on. And they even lay of the grass in the park just talking without the fear of being overheard by someone they knew.
But the pleasant, sunny day had to come to an end. The boys hadn't really noticed how late it was getting as they'd been enjoying themselves too much. Reluctantly, they both agreed that they should probably stop stargazing and head back home.
They were in no hurry though as they wandered the dark streets of Victorian London. They still laughed, joked and talked to their hearts content.
The temperature had dropped considerably and Charley especially was feeling it. Dodger noticed the other boy shiver.
"Take this." He said, handing over his blue jacket, "Chu need it more than I do." Charley looked at it, but didn't take it.
"Bu' it's yours!" He knew how much Dodger's blazer and top hat meant to him.
"I know." Answered Dodger. "An' I want chu t' be warm." So he helped Charley's skinny arms into the jacket. Charley was grateful for it, as he was already slightly warmer.
"Thanks." He said in such a sweet voice that it made Dodger swell with pride. It felt good to do something nice for someone else for once. There was a pause.
"Ya know," said Dodger, suddenly, "This 'as been one of the best days of me entire life!"
"Mine too, Jack." Agreed Charley. Jack had noticed how Charley had started to switch to using his real name when they were alone. He didn't mind though, so long as only Charley did it.
"An' all this is down t' you." Jack stood right in front of Charley, making him stop in the middle of the deserted and familiar street. "I can't really fink of a good enough way t' repay ya for what chu've done… but I 'ope this is som'in'…"
Jack leaned in slowly as Charley held his breathe, hardly daring to believe what was happening. Jack kissed Charley, putting his hands around his waist and pulling him in gently.
Charley reached up and put his arms around Jack's neck. It was like nothing he'd ever experienced, even though he had kissed Jack before. It was sweet, slow and romantic.
He thought vaguely how it was like something out of a cheesy play. The couple standing there in the middle of a deserted ally, kissing, the street lights shining on them so that they could be seen only as dark silhouettes in the foggy starry night.
All too soon, the special moment was over. The angle of the street light meant that a shadow was cast on both boys' faces but the both knew that the other was smiling.
Charley felt a little disappointed when the mood changed and sensed that Jack was now biting his lip.
"Fagin'll 'ave it in for us." His voice was a whisper and cracking slightly.
"I don't care." Charley said, truthfully. He was not afraid of getting into a bit of trouble with the old man, as he'd been in it plenty of times before. He knew that Jack wasn't scared of a sticky situation either, but he was very conscious of his reputation as the "favourite".
"We've been out for ages. We aint got no stuff t' give 'im. We aint been with the other boys…" Charley sighed and looked at his friend.
"Well, lets get this earnin'-ya-keep lecture over an' done with, eh?" And Charley took hold of the Artful Dodger's hand and lead him back to the den.
It was only when they reached the door that they dropped hands. They both knew that today had been like an amazing dream. But also that no-one else could ever know about it.
Fluffy. But I like fluffy. Where they too out of character? It was a bit about another side of the two but I hope it was still realistic! Please, please review! And BroadwayBabez98 – I didn't know whether the "All just a dream…?" was ok so I did this one too! Hope everyone liked it!