"Look for the dream that keeps coming back. It is your destiny."
Jack nervously turned his hat in his hands as he stood in front of the building. Mentally, he berated himself; hadn't he, Jack Kelly, faced the most powerful man in the city, perhaps the world, just seven years ago? Why, then, couldn't he face this one person?
He pulled out the scrap of paper with the address, remembering the look Clara had given him before handing it to him. Silent support and respect, she trusted him to do the right thing and damn it, he would. Despite the fact that this was the most terrifying thing he'd ever encountered. Taking a deep breath, he started up the steps as he remembered the advice Crutchy had given him.
A small smile pulled up the corner of his mouth as his oldest friend came to mind. Large brown eyes and that goofy grin he always wore were instantly at the forefront of his mind. How odd it was that while everything around him had changed, Crutchy was the one constant. The crippled boy had grown up in every way, with the exception of his twisted foot that had always given him trouble but despite his physical changes he had stayed on at the Lodging House, unable to find a job that would hire him with his disability.
Kloppman, however, did not see him as a handicap and had given Crutchy the job of the front desk bookkeeper while he kept up the rooms. Of course, he was getting on in years but Jack was positive that he'd make sure Crutchy had a secure job if anything ever changed.
It was Crutchy, of all people, who Jack had always kept contact with. No matter how far he went or how many times he moved around, he always wrote to tell him where he was. It was also Crutchy who had forwarded the letter Sophie had sent to Race and it was Crutchy who had, quite by accident, been the catalyst to the ending of David and Jack's friendship.
Jack would never blame Crutchy. He was old enough to take responsibilities for the actions he'd taken as a young man. That was the whole reason he was here now; to right the wrongs of his past. He couldn't make things better with her; luckily there was someone he could make things better with.
"She's shy, Jack. Take ya time, these last few months have been hard on her, ya know?" Crutchy had told him, his smile sympathetic as he added, rather sheepishly, "I'd have kept her here. Da least I could do, but they frowned on having girls in the boy's lodging house."
"I undahstand, Crutchy. Thanks, though I'm a little mad ya nevah mentioned this ta me in ya lettahs." He'd told him, securing his hat on his head as he watched a few young boys run up the stairs. It was strange to be back at the Lodging House after so many years.
Crutchy had shrugged, "She asked me not ta. Ya nevah betray ya family, Jack."
Jack couldn't remember the last time he'd been around a family; perhaps it was seven years ago with the Jacobs'. Perhaps Sophie and her father were considered a family, although they had argued more than anyone Jack had ever known. "Well, I guess I'll find out?" He had replied, his stomach tightening with fear. What if she didn't want him?
"I wish I could go with ya." Crutchy had said, apologetically, "But, Kloppman let me off yestahday because my foot ached. I can't take anothah day off."
Jack had nodded, patted him on the shoulder before heading towards the doors, "Wish me luck."
He'd stopped by the Renwick's to get the address and now here he was. Unable to bring himself to take a step inside and meet his future-what he hoped was his future. It was time to take matters into his hands and give her what she needed. What she deserved.
Squaring his shoulders, he opened the door and crossed the foyer to the desk that stood off to the side. The place was neatly kept and eerily quiet for the time of day.
"Hello." A tall, middle aged, blonde woman at the counter greeted, her gaze fast taking in his clean pants, pressed shirt and jacket. Clara had insisted he needed to dress nice if he was going to get the girl. Scott had allowed her to pick from his clothes because, fortunately, they were similarly built.
"Uh, hi. I'm Jack Kelly? I'm here to see-"
Her eyes widened as she abruptly cut him off, "Mr. Kelly! It's wonderful to see you. I hadn't realized…you're here sooner than I expected. Hang on one moment. I'll go get her."
She moved around the counter and hurried up the stairs. Jack watched her apprehensively, hoping that was a good sign. He was beginning to wish he had accepted Clara's many offerings to come along. But, no, this was something he had to do on his own.
It took longer than he thought it would but eventually they appeared at the top of the staircase. For a moment, he was stunned by her. His gaze was on her and her alone, the woman from the counter might as well have been nonexistent.
Immediately, his thoughts were taken back to the spring of nineteen hundred. For quite a few months his relationship with Sarah had been, at best, stale and although neither of them had broached the subject it was obvious he wasn't the only one who thought so. Their fire, seemingly so hot and brilliant at the time of the strike, was suddenly a candle who's wax was melted down, the wick sputtering out and just barely holding on.
With the disillusionment heavy in his heart that something's are not meant to last, Jack purchased a train ticket with the money he'd saved up back when he thought he might marry Sarah. The train ticket was tucked into his pocket and the back of his mind as he continued to sell papers every day, putting off the inevitable with the smallest of excuses.
Until one evening when things had taken a radical shift from the ordinary. He'd met up with Crutchy at Tibby's and together they pooled their money and bought a meal to share. Afterwards, they sat there and talked about the headlines, the boys, and other inane subjects. It was just as the sun was hanging low in the sky that she walked in.
She had paused in the doorway, her blue eyes doing a quick scan of the restaurant before locking onto them. Jack had seen her first from his seat in the booth, facing the door as Crutchy sat across from him, his back to the girl who'd just blown Jack out of the water.
With a confidence that was not prevalent in most girls she walked towards them. Jack was positive she only had eyes for him, would have staked his life on it in the second before they moved from his to Crutchy and her gaze softened in a way that made his entire body hum with suppressed jealousy.
"Crutchy." She had greeted, stopping directly beside their booth and smiling brilliantly at the boy.
The surprise was plain on Crutchy's face, "How'd ya know I was here?"
She laughed, her eyes sparkling and her hair a shining halo of dark blonde in the light of the setting sun as Jack fell in love with this stranger, "The boys at the Lodgin' House said I might find ya here." Her Irish accent was soft, lilting as she addressed Crutchy and ignored Jack.
Crutchy sighed, "Well, ya found me. Is anythin' wrong?"
She shook her head, "Nah, ma wanted me ta check on ya. Says ya've been too busy ta see ya ol' aunt and cousin."
"Lillian, this is my friend Jack. Jack, this is my cousin Lily." Crutchy introduced and finally, Lily turned those blue eyes back on him.
He smiled, "Nice ta meetcha."
Lillian answered with a smile of her own before she turned back to her cousin, "Ya best visit tomorrah, she'll be wantin' ta see ya. No excuses and I mean it!" She wagged her finger at him before she leaned over to hug him, "Need ta be goin'. Not righ' for a girl ta be out past dark."
A worried look had passed over Crutchy's face and Jack saw his opportunity, "How about I walk her home? Just ta be safe?" Jack suggested his eyes on his friend.
The relief was palpable as he nodded, "Don't worry, Lily. Jack's a good guy. He'll get ya home."
Jack wondered even now how Crutchy could forgive him for what he'd done. How he could possibly still consider him a friend after all the dust had settled. Perhaps he always knew that Jack would come back and do the right thing one day.
Once they left the restaurant, it wasn't hard for Jack to seduce the beautiful Lily. Often times he found himself outside the apartment where she lived with her mother and it was only a couple weeks after their meeting that she let him in. The relationship was so sudden, coming upon him like a speeding train, that he didn't even think about the impact his actions would have; on Sarah or on David. Jack had taken what he wanted without thought and when it got back to David, which it inevitably did because Jack had been too love-struck to keep it a secret and most of the newsies were incurable gossips, he wasn't prepared for the encounter.
He was walking towards his selling spot, smiling at the memory of that very morning when Lily was lying beside him, tucked against his side as the early morning light streamed through the window of her tiny bedroom. Her mother had no idea he'd stayed the night, much less that Lily was serious about him. They had been whispering to each other, kissing and laughing as they laid there blissfully unaware how short their time together would be.
"I love lookin' inta your eyes." She had murmured to him, her blue eyes gazing into his brown ones. "Such a pretty hazel…" Leaning in, she kissed each of his eyelids.
When she pulled back, her face serious, he found himself reaching out and tickling her side. Just like he knew she would, she screamed with laughter and had struggled to get away from the endless tickling. After a minute, the tickling turned to stroking and kissing which in turn led to the predictable outcome. Later, he'd kissed her goodbye and headed to the Distribution center.
It had been a few days since he'd seen David, who had been too busy to come by as he finished up his schooling and worked part of the week at a hotel. His life was moving much faster than Jack's and sometimes he felt like his friend was leaving him behind.
But, when Jack arrived at his spot, he was surprised to see David there with a thunderous look in his eyes. Without a word, The Walking Mouth had thrown a punch at the Cowboy. They had ended up being pulled apart by a couple of men from the bakery they had been fighting in front of and sent away. David had stalked angrily away and Jack didn't follow; he knew the reason behind the sudden scuffle.
It was as if at that moment he heard a loud train whistle, reminding him of the ticket he'd kept on him these last few weeks. He ran back to the Lodging House and counted out the money he'd saved. Tucking it all into his pocket, he left a note to Crutchy and headed back to the building he'd been at just that morning.
"Come with me to Santa Fe." He'd asked the question as soon as she opened the door.
She stared at him in surprise for a moment, and then let him in silently. Jack stood there anxiously waiting for her answer.
It was the answer he didn't want to hear. Jack Kelly had been rejected. Rejected by the woman he had just fought about with his best friend. Like that, his life in New York seemed far away. Gone was the strike, the years of being a newsie, and the few, brief weeks with Lily. He was on the next train west within mere hours of the fight and he didn't let himself think about anything until the city had fallen far behind him, along with the heart she'd broken.
"Mr. Kelly?" The woman's voice brought him out of his bittersweet memories and his eyes met the girl he'd been waiting to see since he'd gotten the letter in Chicago.
Slowly, he got down on one knee and he gazed into eyes he knew very well. The eyes alone would have told him who she belonged to, "Hello, Hazel." For a moment, he nearly choked on the words, almost unable to believe this was happening to him as he met his little girl for the first time, "I'm ya...ya father."
A/N: There you have it. Jack's story. Please review?
Joker is Poker with a J~
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Everything you DO recognize belong to their respective owners.