Summary; Written for the RBLH (RAINBOW BRIDGE LODGING HOUSE; WWW . GEOCITIES . COM / INSTITUEOFGRACE). After a disastrous fire sends Jack & Stress up to Rainbow Bridge, a cocky Canadian tries to put himself between the pair. Will it take whatever's at the end of the rainbow to keep them together? It just might.
Disclaimer; I do not own, nor stake any claim, to any of the original newsboy characters -- they are the property of Disney. The main characters Stress and Riley belong to me. Any other character, when noted, is property of their respective owner. The Rainbow Bridge Lodging House belongs to Dice & Iris.
Originally Posted: 08.01.02 – 08.05.02
Author's Note; Just like I have done with Cuts Like a Knife, Secrets Behind the Lies & Cowboys and Kisses (Sealed with a Kiss), I've decided to rewrite At the End of the Rainbow. This was a short piece, one of my first, at only 9,000+ words. I wrote it for the RBLH and it was rough, I'll tell ya, writing for a LH that wasn't BALH. But, that's OK. I liked it. Anywho, I went through the story, corrected the accent/dialect, as well as making the story flow better. I also cut it down – while it was originally 8 short chapters, I combined a few to make it a bit shorter (6 chapters). It works better for me this way. Enjoy! – Stress.
"Oh Jack," she whispered, brushing a light brown curl out of one of her golden eyes, "I ain't never been out of New York before. And now, look at us. We gotta go all the way up to Canada." She leaned up against the only other stowaway on the train to Canada, a boy of about seventeen. He had longish, sandy brown hair and eyes that were only a shade lighter. His trademark black cowboy hat was perched on top of his head and did well to hide his eyes; they were filled with worry.
He pulled the girl closer to him. It was cold on the storage cars at the end of the train and he wanted to make sure she didn't catch a chill.. "It'll be alright., Stressie. We'll only have to live in Canada for a couple of months while the Newsboy Home gets rebuilt. I mean, how much longer was Mrs. Cook gonna let all us boys bunk out at Bottle Alley? Especially when we have somewhere else to stay for cheap fare?
"I know you're right, Jack. And I know I should just be happy that we have pals up there to help us out, but it's gonna be so new. And I just can't stop thinking about all that we left behind." Stress shivered. It may have been a warm autumn night but the cold of the train was seeping through her thin off-white blouse.
Jack felt her shiver and began to rub her arms with his hands. "Don't worry, Stress. Everything'll be alright, you'll see." Words were all that he had to try to comfort the girl. He knew it was of no use but he told her not to worry all the same.
Stress leaned back in his embrace, feeling warmer at his continual touch, before her thoughts turned to that night. The fire. It had happened almost a month ago now; it had been about two weeks after the famed strike, maybe three.
"Cowboy? Cowboy, where the hell are ya?" Amidst the catcalls and ruckus, a small voice called through Irving Hall. It continued to be heard until one boy in particular answered. Jack.
He stood up and looked for the origin of the voice. "Snipes, is that you?" Hurriedly leaving his seat, Jack rushed to the side of the young newsboy. Stress watched as he went before climbing out of her own chair. She followed him close behind, stopping only when she saw Jack bent down beside Snipeshooter.
"Cowboy, listen. Something happened down the the loding house tonight. It… ya see.. it…" Snipes panted. He had ran all the way from the lodging house to Irving Hall; he was tired now and, along with the excitement of what had happened, he found it much harder to speak. He was huddled over, clutching a stitch in his side.
"Snipes, what happened?" Stress intercepted, kneeling down to look him in the eye. She patted him on the back, comfortingly, eagerly waiting for him to catch his breath.
He glanced over at Stress and nodded before calming down enough to speak. "Cowboy, there's been a fire an—"
"A fire?" interrupted Jack. He straightened his stance and nervously ran his newsprint stained hand through his thick brain hair. "Is everyone alright? Is anyone hurt?"
Snipes shook his head. "No one got hurt because they all got out in time. There was only three of us in there when it happened: me, Kloppy and Boots. But that ain't the problem, Cowboy. The lodging house – it's gone."
And so it was. "Gone," Stress sighed to herself. With one lit cigar left unintended, the lodging house was gone.
"Iris, Dice, I'm sorry but I can't just leave New York. I just can't. I hope you girls understand…" Her voice faltered as she was saying goodbyes. Facing her two friends as they readied themselves to catch the 5:15 to Niagara Falls, Stress found it very hard to see them off.
"Stress, don't worry. We understand and I hope to see you an' Jack soon." Iris removed her glasses and wiped tears out of her brown eyes as she smiled sadly at her fellow newsie. Now that the Manhattan Newsboys Lodging House was gone, a few of the newsies were heading to a place to stay until it was rebuilt. When Iris mentioned that she and Dice used to be a part of a lodging house up in Canada that had more than enough room for them all, Rac, Mush, Blink, Dutchy, Spot and Skittery all decided to head there for awhile.
But Stress refused to go, instead insisting that she and Jack stay together in New York at the Bottle Alley Lodging House. It was lonely, though, for both Jack and Stress, to be left behind in New York. After many hushed discussions under the moonlight, Jack finally convinced Stress to meet up with the rest of their friends at the--the--
"Jack?" murmured Stress, tilting her head back so that she could see his face..
"Mm-hmm…" He replied, playing with one of her stray curls. The motion of the train underneath was calming. If he ignored the reasons behind this ride he could almost imagine that he was heading off West instead of North.
"What's the name of the place that we're supposed to stay at when we get there?"
"Oh," he said, trying to remember what it was Iris had called the place in the letter she sent to the Bottle Alley Home. "I think it was called the Rainbow Bridge Lodgine House, or something like th— what?" Jack asked, interrupting his own sentence, when he heard her giggle.
"Nothing," she answered, though she continued to laugh quietly to herself. "It's just that I wonder what's at the end of the bridge then. A pot of gold, maybe? My pa always told me that there was a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow." Jack listened to her ramble and hid a smile in her hair. It was obvious to him that Stress was getting tired after riding the train for hours; she always got silly when she was tired.
"Whatever ya say, Stressie."
- - -
"Stress, Stress? Wake up, Stressie. C'mon, atta girl. I think we're here now. We gotta go." Jack whispered softly into her ear as he gently shook her awake.
"Hmm? What? Oh, it's just you, Jack." She sat up and stretched her arms out. "Are we in Canada yet?"
Jack prodded her in the back while wearing an amused grin. "Did you just ignore me or what? Now, hurry before one of these train conductors finds us." Jack picked up his bag and shouldered it. Then, grabbing Stress' bag in his left hand and Stress' hand in his right, he clambered out of the car. She followed daintily behind him.
Stopping briefly to make sure that no one was witnessing their escape from the train yards, he ran ahead to join a passing crowd, dragging Stress behind him.
Once the crowd passed, the pair of them found that they were standing on a street facing a large bridge. "I wonder if that there Bridge is the Rainbow Bridge?" Stress murmured as she held tightly to Jack's hand.
His only response was to increase the pressure of his grip on her hand.
"Did I just hear someone mention the Rainbow Bridge?"
They turned around abruptly. Both of them had heard the voice and looked to see who it was that was addressing them. There, leaning against a nearby building, stood a boy, maybe a year or two older than them. He was tall, just shy of six feet, with dark brown hair and grey eyes. He was wearing a faded blue shirt with black pants; they were shorter than one would normally wear and revealed sock-less feet and cracked dark boots, due to his height. He wore a black cap on top of his head, though he kept it tilted towards the left to make him appear cock-eyed. By his appearance, and self-assured nature, Stress decided he must be a newsie – or, at least, the Canadian version of one. Figuring that he'd probably be one to know where the Rainbow Bridge Lodging House was, Stress opened her mouth to ask him.
"Yeah, we did. Why? Ya heard of it?" Jack cut in, stepping forward and speaking to the boy. Stress shut her mouth and turned her head to glare at Jack. She didn't appreciate being cut off.
The boy continued to lean against the wall; the only parts of his body that were moving were his eyes and his smirk. "I think the little lady had something she wanted to say," he observed, noting the face Stress was making.
Jack ignored the comment, and Stress' murderous expression, instead choosing to repeat his question. "Have ya heard of it?"
The boy lost his smirk in favor of an amused smile. "I guess you could say that. It just so happens that a bunch of my friends live there." He stood up straight and walked over to them before pausing directly in front of Stress. "The name is Riley. Riley Dugan. And yours is?" he asked, his grey eyes shining.
Jack stepped in front of Stress and scowled. He didn't even try to hide his dislike. "Well, my name is Cowboy and this is my girl, Stress," he answered before removing his hands fro her grasp. He casually slung his arm over her shoulder before sneaking a peak at her face. Judging by the red tint in her cheeks, he knew that Riley's attention wasn't lost on her.
Riley didn't even flinch. His grin grew wider instead. "Nice to meet you, Stress, Cowboy. Like I was saying, a bunch of my friends live over the Bridge at the nearby lodging house. Just so happens that I was on my way to visit them. If that's where the two of you are heading, I'd be more than happy to lead the way. Eh? What do you say?"
Jack opened his mouth to decline Riley's offer. He didn't even get the chance before Stress jumped in.
"That would be great," Stress answered, before stepping out from under Jack's arm. His arm had gone tense and was weighing down on shoulder.
"Great." Riley grinned at the two of them. He raised his eyebrow as he watched Stress step away from Jack, eager to follow him to the House.
"Great," muttered Jack as he let his arm fall down to his side.