Author's note: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This is a giftfic for the awesome LuckyLadybug, who loves Simon Oakland's portrayal of Lt. Schrank as much as I do, if not more. This ficlit was largely inspired by the Rockapella song "Give." Also, there are a couple cameos of characters from other fandoms set in New York City; kudos to anyone who can recognize them.
A mild snow shower was descending upon Manhattan—certainly not out of the ordinary on Christmas Eve morning, but still an inconvenience for Lieutenant Schrank, who was out on patrol around the Upper West Side. He grumbled to himself as he walked the sidewalks. Krupke had taken their patrol car in order to get to TriBeCa; due to several officers in that area going on leave, Krupke, along with officers from other precincts, had been covering the TriBeCa beat. Schrank didn't envy them; sure, TriBeCa was swanky and far glitzier than the Upper West Side was, but Schrank knew that one particular back alley of TriBeCa was a favorite snowball fight battleground. The last thing Schrank needed was to try to traverse that.
"One side, Pops!" a voice yelled from behind him.
Schrank let out what was halfway between an exclamation and a roar as a teenage girl with rainbow-colored hair zoomed by on rollerblades. In addition to her reckless blading, she had no helmet.
"Hey, you, get back here!" he yelled.
"Aww, nuts! A copper!" the girl exclaimed, her eyes widening as she realized who Schrank was.
She sped off down the street, using light poles to help her swing around the corners. Schrank kept up the chase valiantly for some time until she outdistanced him.
"Crazy kid…" he muttered. "Go on, get yourself in the hospital after you crash on those things!"
At least she didn't seem to be brawling with the street gangs. Even the day before Christmas, he had seen them go at it; he had broken up one fight not too long ago.
Grumbling, he continued down the street, ignoring the bustling crowds around him. It was after he turned the next corner that he saw a familiar face—Maria Nunez. She wasn't alone; she was surrounded by a group of kids, all of them standing outside a small antique shop called The Second Time Around, singing "Silent Night"—or trying to, at least. A few of the children could be heard singing "Noche de Paz" instead, more comfortable with singing in Spanish. In front of the singing crowd was a small bucket; generous passersby were tossing money in there—there seemed to have been quite a bit. A sign beside the bucket read, "Please Give to the Little Hearts Day Care Center."
For a moment, Schrank seemed surprised to see Maria so chipper, singing Christmas carols with a smile on her face; it was such a switch from the broken, weeping girl who had screamed at him to stay away from the body of her beloved. Of course, Schrank hadn't seen her since she had given her statement after that horrible incident; quite some time had passed since then, and he should have expected that she would've either gotten worse or made progress. Thankfully, it seemed that she had chosen the latter.
The lieutenant had decided to make a quick, unobtrusive exit and had been ready to do so when he saw a blonde teenager approaching the bucket with a dollar bill in her hand, placing her hand in. Schrank's eagle eye saw that the girl's hand was stuffed full of bills when she withdrew it.
Shrank inwardly swore at the girl's brazen actions; he quickly caught up to her as she tried to slip away, grabbing her wrist. Maria and the children stopped singing at this sudden occurrence, Maria's eyes widening, first as she recognized the lieutenant, and second as she realized that she and the children had been robbed.
"Hey!" the blonde thief exclaimed. "Hey, let me go!"
"How about you letting go of the money you snatched from those kids?" Schrank shot back.
The blonde girl's eyes widened, and she let the stolen bills drop from her hand as she tried to pull away.
"Oh, no you don't," Schrank said, using his free hand to pull the handcuffs out of his pocket. "I've had it with hoodlums causing trouble 365 days out of the year! You commit a crime on Christmas Eve, you can stay in juvenile hall on Christmas Eve!"
"Please, Lieutenant," Maria said, stepping forward. "You can let her go; I do not wish to press charges."
Schrank rolled his eyes in exasperation, but let the thief go; she bolted down the street and was out of sight within seconds. He then picked up the money she had dropped and handed it back to Maria.
"Here's this back," he said, gruffly.
Maria managed another smile, and the kids issued a mix of "Thank you!" and "Gracias!" as they beamed up at him.
Schrank gave them a half-hearted wave as he assured them it was nothing. Desperate to change the subject, he now addressed Maria.
"So… what's all this about?"
"There is a new day care center in our neighborhood; it's a new facility that was built from an old shop that wasn't in use," Maria explained. "This way, the ladies of the house could do a little work to pick up some extra money. However… we used up all a lot of money refurbishing the place; the children really could use some newer toys to play with and books to read. I had been doing a few odd jobs here and there to help, but it didn't amount to very much money.
"Then I had the idea of teaching the children to sing some Christmas carols, so we've been doing this all week, trying to raise the money so that the children can get the new toys and books ready and waiting for them when they return after Christmas. We have been doing very well here; there are a lot of generous people around, especially during this time of year. …We even had Anybodys helping out earlier this week; you wouldn't have believed it, even if you had seen it."
"You got that right…" Schrank murmured.
True, ever since that horrible night, activity between the Jets and the Sharks had ceased. Though it had been too much to hope for that they would've all gotten along, the fact that Anybodys had been willing to lend a hand was more than Schrank would've ever expected from them. And he wasn't going to let himself expect any more from them, either; his inherent cynicism would see to that.
He was about to head off on his way, resuming his patrol, when he paused.
"You do realize, of course, you need a permit to gather like this and ask for money, right?"
"I… have a permit," Maria said, her smile fading as she pulled a piece of paper from her pocket. "I applied for it and waited until it was in my hands before I started this, believe me. But…"
Schrank winced internally, and he held out his hand for the paper. Maria slowly handed it over. The lieutenant glanced over it, sighing as he shook his head.
"Lieutenant…" Maria began.
"This permit isn't for this street," he said, flatly.
"I know that, Lieutenant; all this week, we were singing there, in the place that had been allotted to us, but… We did not make all that much money there. I knew that this street was so much busier, especially on Christmas Eve; I thought that if we stood here and sang for a few hours, it wouldn't hurt anyone…"
Schrank massaged the bridge of his nose as Maria indicated the bucketful of money in front of them.
"You have seen the results for yourself," Maria finished.
"Yeah, I have," Schrank said. "And I can also see that you're all standing right in front of this antique shop—which doesn't seem to have any customers inside of it, probably because they can't get past you!"
"Oh, Lieutenant, have a heart—it's Christmas Eve; if we stay here for just a couple more hours, we will have more than enough to get the children the new toys and books!" Maria pleaded.
"Look, it's not up to me!" Schrank said, hating to be put into the position of seemingly playing the bad guy again. "You were granted a permit to be in one particular place for a reason; I understand that you need to raise money for these kids, but who knows how much business this place has lost because of your staying here?"
"No one inside has said anything…"
"Probably because they don't even realize what's been happening to 'em," Schrank said, heading inside the little antique shop.
It soon became clear why the owners of the shop didn't seem to have noticed the carolers outside; a dark-haired young man was playfully holding a sprig of mistletoe over his head as he flirted with a young redheaded girl behind the counter, who seemed to be both flattered and amused.
Schrank cleared his throat ever so slightly.
"Can I help you?" the redhead behind the counter ask. "We have all sorts of things here; are you looking for anything in particular?"
"Ah, no; I'm Lieutenant Schrank, 21st Precinct."
"Whoa!" the young man said, his eyes going wide. "Look, if this is about that time the Purple Dragons tried to bust this place up and then got clobbered, I just wanna say I only hit back in self-defense. She can attest to that!"
The young lady facepalmed as Schrank rolled his eyes. Ah, the Purple Dragons; he had crossed paths with some of their younger recruits. Just like all the other street gangs, they never seemed to take a day off.
"This isn't about the Purple Dragons, though if you have something to say about them, I'd like to know—"
"Uh, did I say Purple Dragons? What I meant was… uh… Well, that is to say…"
"How about you just drop it before you dig yourself in any deeper?" Schrank asked, with a very forced smile.
Schrank turned to the redhead behind the counter, whose look seemed to offer a silent apology for her boyfriend's big mouth.
"Is there anything I can help you with, Lieutenant?" she asked.
"I was just wondering if you were aware of the junior choir that's assembled outside of your shop."
"The what?" she asked. She looked through the frosted glass door and blinked in surprised. "Oh, I didn't even notice…"
Schrank cast a glance at the young man with the mistletoe in his hand.
"I figured…" he said, trying not to roll his eyes again. "They have a permit to stand around and sing, but not on this street—they knew they could get more money here."
"No problem; I'm sure we can shoo the little tykes along to where they need to be," the young man said, clapping a hand on Schrank's shoulder. "After all, the law is the law, and we must obey it, right?"
"You're not fooling anyone," Schrank informed him, and the young man decided to prudently retreat to a back room before Schrank could start glaring at him to remove his hand from his shoulder.
The redhead behind the counter cleared her throat now and went with Schrank outside. Maria was still standing there with the children, silently waiting to hear what their fate would be. But the redhead took one look at the children and the sign, and she smiled.
"I think it's just fine, Lieutenant; you were able to get inside, so I expect anyone else who wants to would be able to, as well. I mean, it's Christmas Eve, after all, and they aren't doing any harm…"
"Yeah, I know how it is," Schrank said, rolling his eyes. "'Tis the season for dropped charges."
The redhead smiled and wished them all Merry Christmas before heading back inside her shop. Schrank now turned back to Maria.
"Look, it's true that she doesn't mind you being here, but your permit is still not valid here! This isn't something arbitrary, you know; there has to be some amount of sanity and order around here, and…"
Schrank trailed off, seeing the wide eyes of all the children staring up at him, and Maria standing there innocently. For that moment, it would've been so easy to forget the horrors that Maria had seen and see her as someone just trying to raise money for this local project her neighborhood had started. Schrank wasn't sure whether Maria was just trying to be charitable, or whether she wanted to save these children from the things she had seen. Either way, he only now realized just how admirable her actions were, though he could never bring himself to actually say it.
"…And I don't have time for this," the lieutenant finished, flatly. "I gotta get back on patrol. But you'd better keep these ankle-biters in line!"
Maria smiled again as Schrank headed off.
The children echoed her sentiments.
Schrank responded with another half-hearted wave as the carolers launched into "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." Some members of the passing crowd stopped to listen and to add to the donations; Schrank even saw the antique shop owner and her boyfriend step outside with money they had obviously pulled from the register.
And the lieutenant, once again thinking things that he would never say out loud, was realizing just how impressed he was with Maria.
This train of thought soon halted as he saw the same crazy rollerblader from earlier careen down the street, zipping right past him. Running behind her, yelling for her to wait up, was the same blonde thief. Schrank just stared at them for a moment with an unreadable expression, not even surprised that they seemed to know each other, before picking up the chase once again.
Even on Christmas, his work was never done. But the sound of the carolers made it just a bit more bearable.