Katherine's apartment was abuzz with the chatter of busy newsies preparing for the Christmas dinner later on that night. Snow fell softly outside, blanketing the streets of New York City with an almost comforting feel. Jack, Davey and Katherine were hanging the rest of the shattered ornaments on the tree from where down on the ground Crutchie handed them up, while most others milled about, waiting for the Jacobs, Darcy and Bill to get here. Occasional hands sneaked a few candies from the bowl Katherine had set out, but for the most part they waited. Boots were shaken free of snow and placed at the doorstep, and hats were taken off. Finch and Jo Jo set empty bottles on the banister, and shot at them using their slingshots, while they taught Colin to do the very same. Mush, Henry and Race set about shaking different presents under the evergreen tree, trying to guess what was inside. The door was opened in a flurry of snow, and the Jacobs family entered. Davey turned to look, climbing down the ladder to help his brother, sister, father and mother carry the assorted presents and more food inside. Katherine rushed to greet them, smiling. Jack reached up to place the star on top of the tree, his ladder wobbling unsteadily. He frantically grabbed for something to hold onto, and unsuccessfully held onto the branches that were sticking out. With a great crash he lost his balance, and toppled to the floor.
"You couldn't 'ave picked someone else to land on, Jack?" Crutchie asked a bit grumpily. Jack lifted his head, first looking up at the tree to make sure it hadn't fallen over (no matter what Katherine had said, they couldn't put it up again if it had broken) and then to Crutchie's annoyed face which was now wondering why Jack didn't just get up.
"Sorry kid," Jack pushed himself up, righting himself. He extended a hand to Crutchie, who took it while standing up also. "Maybe you should go sit somewhere else."
"You think?" But Crutchie was smiling, convinced that nothing could ruin this perfect night. He limped off, settling in an armchair seated by the stairs.
Katherine hurried back from the kitchen, positively aglow in her soft yellow dress with a red and plaid collar. Her hair was pulled back out of her face with a bow, and she gave a small smile to Jack as he once again tried sticking the star on the top of the tree. Davey navigated his way through the room with a giant pile of colourfully clad boxes in his arms, stepping around newsies who were stretched out on the floor and placing his cargo underneath the tree. Race, Henry and Mush soon attacked those too, but sneaked away when they felt the disapproving look of Mrs. Jacobs.
"Alright," Katherine spoke above the hullabaloo, "Should we do presents first, or dinner?"
This was a hard decision. About half and half each called for both options. Jack finally jammed the star on the tip of the tree hoping he wouldn't go through the same nonsense next year and climbed down.
"Let's eat," he decided, and most others nodded. They had been waiting for this supposedly amazing feast all day ever since Davey and Les had been telling mouthwatering stories of their mother's cooking. The newsies piled into the kitchen, sitting at the two tables set out for them. Jack respectfully pulled out a chair for Katherine at the head of the larger table, and then started as if he had forgotten something.
"What 'bout Darcy and Bill?" He asked her, feeling inclined to know when they were coming since he did owe them something for helping out with the strike, after all.
"Oh, they'll be along later. They're having some fancy dinner with their fathers and co-workers. Don't worry."
Jack nodded. It figured that they would be doing something with their family since they were big names in New York. He started to sit down next to Katherine before he saw Colin and Crutchie making their way over to the table with a few of Mrs. Jacobs' fine china plates in each hand. Jack hurriedly jumped up, grabbing the plates from Crutchie, who looked at him askance.
"No matter what Katherine says, you ain't breakin' these plates, and we can't use 'em if you does." He carefully navigated the dishes of the Christmas turkey, stuffing and cranberries (seriously, where had Mrs. Jacobs found this food?!) to the table where the newsies dug in with gusto. They hadn't had a meal like this since last Thanksgiving. That had been an adventure, with Spot Conlon getting stuck up in the rafters, and Colin bringing a live turkey home to the Lodging House. Hopefully nothing like that would happen this year.
Thankfully, the newsies were on their best manners, having to be as they were under the watchful eye of Mrs. Jacobs. She scurried around like a mother hen, offering all the boys more to eat because, in her mind, they all could do with a little fattening up. Davey became more and more grumpy as his mother kept scooping more and more beans onto his plate, which he kept surreptitiously kept spooning up and passing them off to Albert, who, as he was engaged in a conversation with Elmer, hadn't noticed quite yet. Colin was experimentally flipping peas at Jack just to see how he would react, and then turning back to his food with angelic innocence as he shoved a whole forkful of turkey into his mouth, which earned him a reproving look from Mrs. Jacobs. Les was talking to Jo Jo and Finch about the finer arts of slingshot-ing, and do you think I'll have my own for Christmas so I can try throwing pebbles at the Delancey brothers? Finch only shrugged, preoccupied with the dinner and thinking about his own gifts he would like, and weather the other boys would like theirs that he made them. As was everyone else.
The clatter of utensils soon came with clearing of plates, some smothered burps and wiping their faces with napkins that, thankfully, had been provided for them. Jack looked over to Katherine, and with a smile, she stood up. Chairs were pushed back and the scraping of the wooden floor ensued as everyone got up to make their way to the living room, and the tree. Mush, Henry and Race were loudly saying that they knew what was in everyone's presents when the chatter died down as everyone settled in. Katherine stationed herself in the chair by the tree, and picked up one of the wrapped boxes.
"Colin, this one's for you. From Mrs. Jacobs." Colin scampered up, practically grabbing the box from Katherine's grasp and tearing open the paper. A navy blue sweater fell out of the paper, and Colin scowled.
"Clothing?" he said, disappointed. Katherine hid a smile. "Be grateful that you have a nice sweater, Colin. Some children don't even have clothes this time of year."
Colin nodded, sitting back down on the floor. "Thank you Mrs. Jacobs," he muttered.
"You're welcome, dear."
"Do I get anything else?"
Some scattered laughter, and Katherine cast her gaze over the assorted presents, reaching down. "Oh, this one too. Nope, that's for Les. Ah! Here you go."
The brown paper was once again thrown on the floor and discarded. Colin's face lit up in a grin. "A slingshot!" he exclaimed.
"That means I get one too, right?" Les piped up.
"Thanks!" Colin examined his very own slingshot proudly.
"No problem," Finch and Jo Jo said together, and then looked at each other.
More sweaters followed, with Race and Mush's being maroon and green, while Specs' was white and Finch and Jo Jo's were brown. Les received a striped black and grey sweater, and Davey got yet another red one. At this rate, he would have one for each year. He hoped his mother wouldn't do this when he was in his twenties or something like that. Jack's sweater was bright blue. He stared at it bemusedly, and then thanked Mrs. Jacobs, who smiled. One thing for sure, the sweater was sure to attract customers.
Along with the sweaters, Race got a brand new box of cigars, whereupon he promptly stuck one in his mouth happily. That had been from Specs, who in turn received a better pair of glasses. Mush got a new plaid vest, and Finch and Jo Jo each got new hats. Mrs. Jacobs gave her two sons new boots, and Jo Jo gave Les his own slingshot.
"Can we go practice throwing things at the Delanceys together?" Colin asked amid more laughter.
"Maybe tomorrow!" Les said, and Crutchie reached for his own present. He wasn't even surprised when he opened it and found a bright orange sweater inside. Unlike Colin, Crutchie actually liked his and was looking forward to wearing something warmer in the chilly months ahead. Jack also gave his friend a pair of his old boots, as Crutchie's own was becoming rather ragged. The other newsies grinned as Crutchie opened his present from them. It was a bow made out of ribbon that Katharine had loaned them, and had sloppily stitched together. Crutchie gave them a 'why would you give me this' look, but let them tie it to his crutch. He was already thinking of ways to slip out of the Lodging House and maybe throw it in the trash, but Crutchie suspected his fellow newsies would barricade the door again.
Jack was last, of course. He had already given Katharine his present, a silver necklace she was now wearing. Besides the sweater, he gained some brand new pants and a painting that all the newsies had contributed to. It was the New York skyline rising above a sky that he supposed was Santa Fe. He shook his head, smiling. The boys had all written their names on the frame, and Jack was very proud of them for thinking this up. After all, they had wanted to do something special.
Davey jumped up at once, anxious to eat dessert before his mother forced the sweater on him. The other boys had the same idea (about dessert, though, not the sweaters) and looked to Mrs. Jacobs for permission. They hustled into the kitchen for the treats as the door swung open to admit Bill and Darcy among a flurry of snow. Jack shook hands with them, and Katharine gave them each hugs.
"Just in time for dessert, then?" Bill asked with a smile, which Katharine returned. "Thanks for having us."
"Least we could do," Jack said, and Darcy and Bill went off in search of the food. Jack pulled Katharine aside. The dessert would wait.
"Yes, Jack?" Katharine asked with a small smile. Jack ducked his head.
"You still 'aven't given me a present," he said evenly, and Katharine nodded. She reached up, kissing him as he slowly drew her into an embrace. She slowly broke away, gazing lovingly into Jack's eyes.
"How was that?" came the teasingly sweet question, and the corners of Jack's mouth turned up.
He was about to say more when there was a great crash from the kitchen, and the clatter of plates and wood. Katharine and Jack peeked in to see Crutchie's chair knocked over, and Crutchie himself on the floor among a few shattered plates and smashed pies. The other newsies were standing up out of their chairs, looking down at the mess. Crutchie lifted his head slightly to peer around. He caught sight of Jack and Katharine in the doorway.
"Sorry?" he offered. Jack shook his head.
"I 'ope you saved some for the rest of us."