Title: A New Day Dawning
Fandom: Newsies, Musical-verse with a borrowed Movie-verse Spot
Pairing: Jack/Crutchie... with a little detour or two ^_~
Rating: NC-17, but only in chapter 4. The rest of the story is a pretty tame PG-13.
Word Count: Chapter 1 - 5,325; Whole Story - ~35,000
Warnings: Slash, angst, reference to rape, spoilers

Summary: [Musical-Verse] Anyone who'd ever been in the same room with them knew how Crutchie felt about Jack. And after Crutchie's arrest, how Jack felt about Crutchie was equally obvious. Unfortunately for them, however, the only ones who didn't know those things... were Jack and Crutchie. Jack/Crutchie, post-musical.

Disclaimer: Neither the musical, the movie nor the boys belong to me. If they did they'd be soulfully staring into each others eyes and singing duets about running away together. *pause* *blinkblink* Huh. Look at that... they do. *eg* :D ((Newsies, the movie, was written by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White with music by Alan Menken and was adapted for the stage by Harvey Fierstein and Alan Menken.))

11/6/11: I've been fighting with this thing for the better part of a month. That's not a whole lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but considering that most of the month was fighting with the last few scenes... it was plenty long enough. :-P Anyway, I've been fighting ficcing for Newsies for a damned long time and I've been obsessed with the movie since it first came out. That being said, it was Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Jeremy Jordan as Crutchie (no, that's not a misspell - they changed it for the musical ^_^) and Jack that finally broke down my resistance. They. Are. Amazing. OMG.

The one thing I will say, though, is that this musical blasted my carefully tended 'ships for this movie all to hell. I'm a Jack/Spot girl. Always have been, always will be. There's a little room for Jack/Davey... but not even much for that. So, the fact that the Jack/Crutchie thing walloped me hard enough to want to fic for it was a bit of a shock to me. And really... Spot was almost a nonexistent character in the new musical. So, to compensate for the new 'ship, I, uh... may have borrowed Spot whole and complete out of the movie-verse. O_o;;; Other than that and the occasional nod to Newsies that were in the movie but not the musical, this fic is solely based of the musical-verse and is mostly set after canon ends. So, if you haven't seen it, spoilers abound. Sorry, Denton. ;)

Yikes. Babble. I'll shut up now. O_o;;;

A New Day Dawning
by Renee-chan

"Jack! Wait for me! Jack! Help!"

Jack came awake all at once, shaking and shivering, holding tight to the fire escape railing. It wasn't the first time. Those desperate cries had haunted his sleep for days. He lurched to his feet, started pacing angrily back and forth. Why hadn't he told Crutchie to stay away from the strike line? Why hadn't he insisted the other boy stay where it was safe? Why hadn't he guessed that it could turn so wrong so quickly? Why?

If he had been the one to pay the price of his ignorance, Jack Kelly could have handled that, but the thought of anyone, much less a friend, suffering in his place... The very thought made him feel ill. Yet, at the same time, a small treacherous voice inside him whispered that if it had been David or Mush or Racetrack - or anyone fucking else but Crutchie - he'd be handling this catastrophe much better. As it was, though, he was a mess.

Finally giving up sleep as useless, Jack climbed down from the rooftops and made his way to Irving Hall. It was early, still, by vaudeville standards. Medda would probably just be finishing up her last show and, while it might not be entirely welcome, hers was the only company he could even stand these days. It was better than being alone with those nightmares of Crutchie's voice screaming in his head. Actually, anything was better than attempting sleep, again.

The doorman let him in with a nod and Jack barely grunted in reply. Moving silently, he went backstage to where he'd started working on Medda's new backdrop, picked up a brush and started mindlessly painting. He didn't think he had it in him to create anything beautiful after what had happened in the yard, seemed incapable of drawing anything but those biting political cartoons that Medda was so impressed by. Still, he'd promised. And if there was one thing Jack Kelly wasn't, it was an oath breaker. You kept your fucking promises. Your honor was all you had in this world that they couldn't take away from you. That they couldn't... take...

With an angry growl, Jack threw down his paintbrush. Another of those damned useless cartoons. At least he'd done this one on the back of the canvas where it wouldn't ruin what little he'd managed on the front. Santa Fe. His paradise on Earth. He'd told no one about that... no one but Crutchie. Crutchie was safe. Crutchie wouldn't judge, wouldn't condemn. He didn't have it in him and he'd been with Jack too long. And he hadn't judged, had even hinted that if Jack were to go, Crutchie would follow... or die trying. And wasn't that just the problem? Wherever Jack went, Crutchie always fucking followed and then when someone got hurt - because someone invariably did - it was always Crutchie, not Jack. Damn it. Jack sat down hard on the floor, head in his hands and breathing heavy. He had to do something to fix this... but what?

Medda found him like that an hour later, sat down beside him and wrapped him in her arms, didn't say a word until he pulled away. Once he did, she said, "Oh, Jack... I wish I could do something to help. I truly do." At least she didn't make false promises, didn't tell comforting lies. She didn't tell him it would all be OK. She didn't tell him it wasn't his fault. She just wished she could help. And Jack wanted nothing more than to tell her that she could, but she... wait.

Jack reached out a hand, fingered the suspension harness that Medda still had strapped around her body from her last performance. She looked at him, eyes wide but accepting of that soft caress, certain he had something else in mind and ready to oblige him if that was what he needed to distract him from his pain. It wasn't. Medda was like a sister to him and he'd never take advantage of her that way. But this... he slid his finger back under the harness with a slightly crazed smile, "So, Medda... maybe there is somethin' you can do. You think this thing would take my weight?"

An hour later, Jack was lowering himself from the roof of the Refuge by a pink and lavender stage harness, cursing the fact that it looked so conspicuous against the darker colors he usually favored wearing. Still, he didn't care. He'd make himself look ten times more a fool for a chance to break Crutchie out of here. The other boy was small, far smaller than he was. Surely the harness would hold both of them. And if not, he would find some way to get them back up one at a time. Either way, Jack was not leaving here without his friend.

It took him a few attempts to find the correct window, but he finally located the room Crutchie was in around the back of the building on the top floor. Good. There would be fewer people to spot what he was doing and it would be easier to get them back on the roof from there. Jack lowered himself to the window and peered into the room, tried to make out Crutchie's shape among the few he could see in the dim light of the single candle. Unable to spot him, Jack finally resorted to tapping on the window.

One of the smaller crouched forms straightened and turned toward him. For a moment, blind hope tricked Jack into thinking it was Crutchie, but it became obvious in a single step that it wasn't. As the figure approached and Jack got a closer view, he relaxed. This might not be Crutchie, but it was someone he knew, at least. The baby-faced Newsie smiled at him from behind the bars as he opened the window and tossed him a wink, said, "Heya, Jack."

Jack smiled, reached out to take the younger boy's hand, "Heya, Ten Pin."

Before Jack had a chance to say another word, the boy's smile slipped and he asked hesitantly, "You, uh... you here for Crutchie?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm here for Crutchie. That a problem, kid?" Jack said.

Ten Pin shrugged, "Not for me, it ain't, Jack. We all want him outta here as much as you do, but... eh. Hang on a minute. Lemme go talk to him."

As the other boy walked away, Jack clung to the bars on the window, tried to see where he was going, tried to at least get a glimpse of his friend to see if he was all right. He had to be all right. If Ten Pin was going to talk to him, he had to be all right. He had to be. So what did the other boy's hesitation mean? Fuck. Jack banged his head softly against the bars. What could possibly be wrong, now?

The soft hand that landed on his shoulder felt like a branding iron. He knew it wasn't, knew that a human hand couldn't possibly be that hot, but he'd been so cold lately that it was still an apt comparison. Crutchie winced away from it, tried to burrow deeper under the single, threadbare blanket he'd been given when he got here. The hand came again, this time accompanied by a voice, "Crutchie. Up and at 'em. You got a visitor."

Ten Pin. Crutchie didn't know the other boy well, but he knew him well enough to know that for all his youth, he was a hard character. He was far too at home here in the Refuge, was probably heading straight for a life of real crime when he grew into his attitude. Still, he'd been kind to Crutchie since he got here. Ten Pin was the one who'd gotten the blanket for him, made sure he kept it. Still, even the dangling idea of Ten Pin's continued protection, even the promise of a visitor, wasn't getting Crutchie out of this bed. He shook his head, pulled the blanket higher.

Ten Pin sighed, pulled the blanket back down and leaned in close to whisper, "It's Jack, you numbskull. He's come to get you outta here. We should all be so lucky. Now, come on. Rise and shine."

The smaller boy grabbed Crutchie's arm then, pulled him into a sitting position and Crutchie couldn't help it, he let out a small cry of pain. Ten Pin swore and dropped him back to the bed, "Christ, Crutchie! What the hell is the matter with you?"

Crutchie would have answered, should have answered, wanted to answer, but he was too busy curling around the sudden burning pain in his hip and crippled leg. It had been like this for days, ever since Snyder had dumped him in here. The cops... well. They hadn't exactly been gentle during his arrest and the Delanceys had been even less so just before it. And now he was one solid muscle cramp from the middle of his back all the way down to his foot. Moving any part of himself, even slowly... it hurt. G-d, it hurt so badly. Another whimper escaped his throat and he cut it off viciously. He wasn't helpless, wasn't just a crip. He was a Newsie. He was Jack's Newsie, and he was better than this. So, instead of wasting his breath on answering, Crutchie just dug his thumbs into the ball of iron currently masquerading as his right thigh, resolutely ignored the pain that produced as he tried to loosen this newest cramp. Jack's friend, Medda, had done this for him before and it had helped... but it was harder to do it for yourself. Crutchie'd been trying for days with just as little success. Still, he had to do something. He couldn't just give up.

Understanding that he wasn't going to get a useful answer out of the older boy, Ten Pin left his side. Crutchie just kept working at his thigh, That's right. Go tell Jack. Tell him I can't get outta bed. Tell him how useless I am. Then he'll leave me here, go on his merry way... leave me to be a burden on someone else. He should. I deserve it.

Moments later, another warm hand joined Crutchie's on his thigh and he'd been so wrapped up in his own bitter thoughts that he almost jumped off the bed in surprise at that touch. A second hand gently pried Crutchie's own hands loose from his leg, pushed them up and out of the way as the first hand took their place. Crutchie turned to look as both of those larger hands wrapped around his thigh, started slowly rubbing, applying the gentlest of pressures as they rubbed. That felt better, more like when Medda did it. Crutchie followed the line of those arms up to strong shoulders and a face he knew well. He let out a small moan, then, and turned his face into the pillow as it started to burn with shame. Still, he couldn't help but whisper the name in acknowledgement, "Jack..."

The other boy nodded, continued to work on Crutchie's leg. The silence was almost more than Crutchie could bear. Jack was upset. That much was obvious. He was upset and he was angry. And why wouldn't he be? Crutchie had let him down, had gotten caught and now that Jack was going through the trouble to arrange this rescue, Crutchie couldn't even get that right. The blood slowly drained from Crutchie's face as an even worse thought took hold: He was going to get Jack caught and that was unforgivable.

Even though the cramp in his leg was finally starting to relax a little, Crutchie forced himself to push Jack's hands away. Jack just turned to him, one eyebrow raised, "What...? Crutchie... what's wrong?"

Crutchie just shook his head, disbelieving. He dredged a smile up from somewhere and pasted it firmly onto his face, "Jack, you gotta get out of here. You're gonna get yourself arrested. That what you want, Jack?" When Jack looked like he might protest, Crutchie reached a hand up and punched him in the arm, "Jack! I'm fine. I just... I just don't think I can go with you, OK? I'll be fine here. Honest. You got things to do - important things. I'll just get in the way like this."

Jack stared down at him for a few minutes, face unreadable. Crutchie watched him, heart beating hard in his throat, waiting for the condemning words. Jack turned away from him, met Ten Pin's eyes. Ten Pin nodded and started shooing the other boys away from Crutchie's bed. Oh G-d... Jack didn't want an audience for whatever it was he was going to say. Was it going to be that bad?

Once they were alone, Jack picked up Crutchie's bad leg and placed it in his lap. Silently, he went back to work on the hard knots currently keeping that leg in a permanent cramp. When he felt Crutchie begin to relax, Jack also relaxed, said quietly, "What's the matter wit' you, Crutchie? This ain't like you. You may have a bum leg, but you ain't a crip. So what the hell all of a sudden?"

Crutchie winced, turned his face away. Jack was right. He wasn't like a lot of the other cripples on the street. He was good at what he did because he was good at it. He pushed at least 400 papes a week, more sometimes, all on his own. He had regular customers, real upper crusters, who only bought from him. They trusted him, liked him, talked to him when they bought their papers, sometimes gave him a little extra to buy a treat with near the holidays. Crutchie loved it, loved having that genuine connection with people, just loved people, in general. Most of them didn't even notice he was a crip. And that was the point. He was a good Newsie because he was a good Newsie - one of the best besides Jack - but the other Newsies didn't know, didn't notice, didn't care. They thought he sold so many papes because he was a crip, because he inspired pity.

Crutchie hated it. He hated that pity, had no use for it, went out of his way to keep a smile on his face and a positive attitude in his heart just to keep it at bay. But this week... these last few days... today... even he had to admit he was deserving of pity. Pity... and nothing more.

Jack had kept his silence, waiting for Crutchie to put the words together, sensing that he needed the time. He turned now, lifted an eyebrow in query. Crutchie sighed, slowly pushed himself up to a half sitting position, most of his weight resting on his arms. Thanks to Jack's ministrations, he could do that much without his leg screaming. Jack paused, gave Crutchie his full attention. Crutchie pulled his leg out of Jack's hands, swung the other one around so that he could sit on the side of the bed, winced when the new position pulled at the bruises on his back and stomach. He hunched over, one hand braced on his bad leg and said quietly, "Jack... most days, you're right. I ain't a crip. I'm just a Newsie. But today..." His breath caught, but he continued, "Today, Jack? Today, I'm a crip."

In the silence that followed that statement, Jack asked, "Crutchie... what happened?"

Crutchie smiled, started reflexively rubbing at his leg as it started to cramp again, "Oscar and Morris... they..." He shrugged. He didn't need to say it. Jack would understand. Oscar and Morris Delancey had it in for all the Newsies, but they had it in for Jack, in particular. And anyone who knew Jack knew that if you hurt one of his friends it was as good as hurting him - better, even. And Jack was nigh untouchable. The Delanceys had tried. But Crutchie... Jesus, having Crutchie at their mercy with no Jack nearby to help? How they'd gloated... Crutchie shuddered, pushed the memory away. He didn't want to think about it. It had happened. It was done. Crutchie was ready to move on, move past it, but his dratted leg didn't seem to be getting the message. But just because he was trying to move on didn't mean he was fool enough to put himself in Oscar and Morris' faces again so soon, not when he couldn't fight back or get away. He refused to be that albatross around his friend's neck. The Refuge might not be a picnic, but even Jack had to admit that it was one of the safest places in the city for a boy who couldn't fend for himself - especially when all the other boys in the Refuge knew that that boy was a close friend of Jack Kelley. They would take care of Crutchie just on the off chance that it might earn them Jack's favor. More pity. And Crutchie hated it, well-intentioned though it might be... but that didn't mean he wouldn't use it. For now. So he looked up at Jack, smiled brightly and said, "It's OK, Jack. It's really OK. You... do what you need to do. I'll be safe here. You don't gotta worry about me."

Jack looked like he wanted to say more but after opening and closing his mouth once or twice without saying a word, he pushed himself off the bed, hands clenched, turned away, and kept his silence. Crutchie couldn't stand it, couldn't stand for their meeting to end like this. He reached for his crutch, tried to push himself to his feet, but his bad leg wouldn't support his weight, immediately cramped up again in protest when he tried. He landed hard on the bed, drew in a sharp breath as quietly as he could in the hopes that Jack wouldn't notice. Vain hope.

Jack smiled softly down at him, shook his head. Crutchie could hear the "Idiot..." as clearly as if Jack had actually uttered it. Jack sat back down, pulled Crutchie's leg back into his lap and went back to work. As his friend's touch started to tease the pain back out of his leg, Crutchie let himself droop over, let himself rest for a minute on Jack's shoulder. Jack reached a hand up to briefly ruffle his hair, then went back to work. And as Crutchie sat there, curled against Jack's side as his friend patiently worked the cramps out of his leg again, he started to smile. Jack noticed, eventually, snorted and said, "What?"

Crutchie let out a soft laugh as he reached out and tugged gently at one of the pink, beribboned straps crisscrossing Jack's chest. Jack blushed but said nothing. Crutchie smiled wider, snapped the strap and said, "Something you want to tell me, Jack? Medda finally dragging you into vaudeville?"

Jack blushed harder, ducked his head and muttered, "Well how the hell else was I supposed to get down here from the roof?"

Crutchie laughed, dropped his head back down onto Jack's shoulder. Secretly, he loved his friend like this, all the bluster and bravado stripped away, just doing whatever he could to help a friend no matter how embarrassing it was. It made him seem softer, more like who he truly was than like the brash, tough Newsie who ran Manhattan. He loved it even more because Crutchie knew that he was the only one permitted to see this side of Jack Kelley. It made him feel special, needed. Crutchie yawned, snuggled a little closer. This was nice. Nice... He barely noticed when Jack gently pushed him down onto the bed and covered him with that tattered, old blanket. But it would have taken the divine touch of Morpheus himself for Crutchie to miss the soft kiss his friend dropped onto his forehead before he left. It warmed him long into the night and for many days to come.

They'd won. They'd won. Jack stood on the headline platform with Joe Pulitzer and Teddy Roosevelt and just drank it all in. He couldn't believe it. He was standing next to two of the most important men in New York... and the Newsies had really won. Jack had struck a bargain with Joe that even he couldn't argue with and he'd done more than that. Much more. It felt good. It felt beyond good. And it gave him closure. He'd done what he needed to do here. He was free to go, to be his own man, somewhere where his past wouldn't brand him like it did here. G-d, how he wanted that...

In the midst of his musing, in the midst of his awe, a loud whistle cut through the air. And there was only one thing that that whistle could mean: the bulls. No! Not after all their hard work! It wasn't fair! Jack should have known he couldn't trust those hob-knobbing, hoity-toity upper crusters. He moved to leap over the railing and slide down the ladder but a familiar laugh stopped him short before he could. Jack froze with his hands clutching the railing. That laugh... it couldn't be...

When Jack looked down from the platform, a twinkling pair of hazel eyes met his from under a fall of light brown hair. Crutchie. Jack was so relieved then that he ended up clutching the railing just to keep his balance. There were other boys milling around Crutchie, Newsies Jack recognized from the Refuge, friends long gone, but none of them mattered. He watched from above, heart filled with pride as Crutchie snapped handcuffs on Warden Snyder and gave him a firm shove in the direction of the police wagon. That was the Crutchie Jack remembered. Not the Crutchie from the Refuge who had reminded him so forcefully of that broken-backed, defeated old horse he'd seen from the rooftop that night he'd told Crutchie about Santa Fe.

With a wild whoop, Jack swung himself over the railing and slid down the ladder, raced over to his friend. He took just one moment to look down into Crutchie's smiling eyes before grabbing him into a hug so tight that it lifted the smaller boy off his feet. Taking advantage of the moment, Jack swung them around in a wild dance of abandon, happy beyond words to have his friend back.

The Governor was the one who broke the moment by offering Jack a ride - inside the carriage this time - to anywhere he'd want to go. Yes. Yes, that was the last piece. Jack lowered Crutchie back to the ground, made sure the other boy had his feet under him before letting go. He gave his friend a reassuring smile before turning back to the Governor, "How about dropping me at the train yards?"

The crowd went silent around him, confused. Of course... they'd all expected that he'd be staying, didn't they? Crutchie was the only one who knew about Santa Fe. A small hand clutched at his sleeve and Jack reached out to absently pat it but he kept his eyes locked on Governor Roosevelt's. The older man slowly nodded, said, "If that's where you truly wish to go, then, of course."

Jack nodded, then turned to look at Crutchie, eyebrow lifted. If they were both riding, then the other boy couldn't complain of charity, of pity, could he? He... Jack froze, caught by the look of shocked betrayal that was resting on Crutchie's face before his friend wiped it away. Wait... wait, that wasn't right...

Crutchie backed away from him, a bright smile on his face that didn't match the look in his eyes. He sheepishly ducked his head, offered Jack a small wave and said quietly, "I'll be out to ride that palomino someday. You just wait."

Wait... wait... that wasn't... wait... Jack reached out a hand to his friend but Crutchie had already backed away and been swallowed by the crowd. Damn it! Jack tried to follow, tried to get his attention, but he was surrounded by well-wishers and he couldn't see where the other boy had gone. As the crowd started pushing him towards the carriage out front, all good intentions, Jack again heard that echo in his head...

"Jack! Wait for me! Jack! Help!"

Crutchie sat down hard on the loading dock, felt like the wind had been knocked out of him for good. He'd thought... somehow he'd thought... no. No, it didn't matter what he'd thought. Crutchie or Santa Fe? Crutchie knew Jack, he should have known which the other boy would pick, but somehow it had still come as a surprise. And now... he would have followed Jack anywhere. He would have. But Jack was going someplace where Crutchie couldn't follow. New York was all he knew. Being a Newsie was all he knew. Jack was strong. He could start over in a place like Santa Fe, build a new life for himself, ruggedly wrest it from the land from the back of a horse. Crutchie... Crutchie couldn't do that. Here in New York, among his regular customers, at his regular selling spot, supported by his friends, Crutchie could maintain the illusion that he was somehow more than any other crip on the street. In Santa Fe? In spite of Jack's rosy view of the place, in Santa Fe that was all he would be - Jack's crippled friend from New York. What good could he possibly be there? None. So, Crutchie couldn't follow Jack to Santa Fe, no matter how much he might want to. He wouldn't be that albatross, not ever again.

A gentle hand gripped his shoulder and Crutchie looked up to find Spot Conlon staring down at him, blue eyes soft and understanding. Crutchie looked away first. Spot laughed, settled in next to him, stretched his legs out, "Well, that sure wasn't expected, was it?"

Crutchie shook his head and said, "I hoped he might stay, but he always planned to go. I should have known he would. Jack keeps his word."

Spot leaned forward, braced his elbows on his knees, "Yeah. Jack keeps his word, keeps his promises. But didn't he make promises to the rest of us, too? To see this thing through? What kind of leader bolts at the first sign that things are improving? He should be stayin' here, makin' sure this thing is real before he takes off."

Crutchie tensed, bristled up in immediate defense of his friend, "And who looks out for Jack, huh? Who looks out to make sure he's happy? No one. Ain't no one been looking out for him ever since we met. So who can blame him for looking out for himself?"

Spot just smirked, slowly rose from the dock. When he looked back and met Crutchie's eyes, the smirk widened, "Who looks after Jack? Crutchie... all this time I thought that was your job."

Crutchie stared up at the Brooklyn Newsie, mouth parted on words that he suddenly couldn't force past his lips. Crutchie look after Jack? The very idea was preposterous. Crutchie couldn't even look after himself, much less anyone else! And someone like Jack didn't need someone like Crutchie to look after him.

Spot laughed, crouched down by Crutchie and patted his knee, "What? Didn't you know?"

Crutchie shook his head, clutched his crutch to him a little tighter. He finally got out, "You're crazy." When Spot laughed again, Crutchie said, "No, really. You're completely... batshit... crazy. I don't look after Jack. He looks after me." That's right. Jack looked after Crutchie. Jack had always looked after Crutchie. And now Jack was leaving. Crutchie shut his mouth before he had a chance to babble any of that to Spot. Spot didn't like to be reminded of how Jack had looked after and protected Crutchie when they'd been younger, because he'd looked after and protected Spot, too. And Spot did not like to be reminded of the fact that he'd once needed that protection, because he sure as hell didn't need it, now.

Blissfully ignorant of the thoughts in Crutchie's head, Spot just smiled and ruffled the other boy's cap as he stood back up. He said, "Thought you didn't need anyone to look after you, Crutchie. All this time, you've seemed to do just fine on your own." He waved a hand over Crutchie's protests, "How 'bout we just call it this way - you look out for each other. Like friends do. That sound about right?" When Crutchie tentatively nodded, Spot smiled again, "Good. Then as a friend... what the hell are you doin' sittin' on your ass over here? Shouldn't you be knockin' some sense into that stubborn block of his?"

A commotion on the other side of the crowd prevented Crutchie from answering. He stood to try to see what it was but he was too short to get a decent view. Spot climbed up onto the loading dock and the smile that overtook his face at what he saw was knowing and proud, if a little melancholy. He muttered under his breath, "Atta boy, Jack. I knew you weren't no coward." Spot turned to look back at Crutchie, an unreadable expression on his face, "Looks like you get a second chance on this one." Spot's expression softened and something indefinably sad filled the depths of his eyes, "Don't fuck it up. You won't get a third."

Sadly, Spot didn't need to explain more than that. On the surface, the leaders of Brooklyn's and Manhattan's Newsies were the best of friends, respectful of each other's power and drawn to each other like the Earth and the sun. But that was only half the story... and it wasn't even the relevant half. Crutchie knew better. He'd been there. He'd been there when Spot screwed up his own second chance. Spot and Jack were both still more than sore over it, but neither could keep from prodding at the wound. That fight had destroyed what little remained of Crutchie's childhood, had forced him to choose between the two best friends he'd ever had. He was only glad that the strike had at least gotten them talking, again. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

Crutchie started pushing his way back through the crowd and when they saw who was coming, the Newsies parted ways to let him through. He pushed his way through to the front of the crowd and got ready to thank Jack for coming to his sense... only to be stopped in his efforts before he even started them. Katherine Plumb- Pulitzer. Jesus - Katherine Pulitzer was the one whose words had kept Jack from leaving. Eloquent and graceful and beautiful and smart and perfect... and she'd done what Crutchie hadn't had the courage to do. And now she was smiling up at Jack and he was smiling down at her... and that encounter ended as any good romantic encounter should - with Jack dipping Katherine into a prolonged, romantic kiss. But as the other boys erupted in cheers, Crutchie... couldn't. He couldn't help the feeling that that reunion should have been his, not Katherine's, that like Spot had said, he should have been the one to convince Jack to stay. But that was even more ridiculous than Spot's lunacy earlier. Crutchie should just be happy. It didn't matter why Jack stayed only that he'd stayed. Crutchie would tell himself that until he believed it. And so, when Jack finally raised happy, dark eyes to meet his, Crutchie had a beaming smile all set in place and waiting for him. Jack smiled back, small and relieved. Good. That was how it should be. Jack was home and Jack was happy and Crutchie hadn't lost him for good.

...so why did it feel like he had?


I feel there should be some chibi-silliness after this chapter, but it's really late (even later than it should be thanks to Daylight Savings Time :-P) and I have to be up in four hours. Ugh. Perhaps tomorrow I will indulge. Crutchie, at the very least, has a hell of a lot of pent-up stuff to say to me and I'd like to give him the chance. ^_~

Questions, comments, zucchini bread?