: It went like thisDisclaimer
: I do not own these characters, they belong to Disney and associates. I am writing this for fun and not for profit. All characters portrayed in this fic are over 18. Rating
: Grinding, perhaps dubious consent (I think it's pretty consensual, but it's not under the best of circumstances)Summary
: David's eyes were molten. His mouth was drawn into a severe line, gashing through the pink of his cheeks like a knife wound, like it didn't belong. Jack's years on the street had trained him to notice David's hands balled into fists at his sides, skin stretched tight and sallow across his knuckles; but something else entirely trained him to notice the way David's wrists curved out smoothly, the skin of his thumb smooth, clean, soft. Author’s Notes
: This was written a while ago, and archived elsewhere, but with the news that Newsies might be going to Broadway
I wanted to update my Newsies fics :).
x posted to newsies
David's eyes were molten. His mouth was drawn into a severe line, gashing through the pink of his cheeks like a knife wound, like it didn't belong. Jack's years on the street had trained him to notice David's hands balled into fists at his sides, skin stretched tight and sallow across his knuckles; but something else entirely trained him to notice the way David's wrists curved out smoothly, the skin of his thumb smooth, clean, soft.
"You didn't want to hurt her?" David's voice was thin, barely more than a hiss, and it cut into Jack like a razor. "You thought you were doing what was right
?" David was taking a step forward, growing in fury, his foot falling harsh and loud on the pavement, echoing through the empty alley. "Say it again, Jack. Bullshit me again."
Jack kept his hands open, palms turned out and close to his side. Because, fuck it, he didn't want this; pain didn't sit well in David's eyes, it was heavy and dark like it didn't belong, and Jack had put it there. "I couldn't do anything else, David," his tongue felt heavy and stony in his mouth, but his voice sounded furious and piercing even to his own ears. He was stupid, so stupid.
David studied him quietly, feverishly, angry heat radiating from every inch of his body. "You couldn't." The disdain was clear like acid in his voice, burning through Jack's defenses, but of course he was right; there had been other options, other ways that this could have played out, and Jack had ignored them all. And now he was paying the price.
Jack swallowed, and wished, for what seemed like the millionth time, that he hadn't done any of it. That he hadn't changed, that he hadn't allowed himself to accept that change. That he hadn't hurt Sarah. That he hadn't met David. He rubbed his nose and lifted his jaw because he had to have something, and his chin was sharp like a knife. "Davy--," he said, and David's eyes turned dangerous, so Jack folded his hands like leaves into each other because this would hurt. "David." And he looked for anything, anything, but David was no less impenetrable, arms crossed against his chest like steel bars, "You gotta understand."
David shook his head. "Not this time, Sullivan."
It was the tone of his voice that shattered Jack, as easily as a wineglass, the cool impassivity, the contained fury. "Please," Jack said, and was instantly embarrassed by the desperation in his voice, by the whole goddamn situation. "I didn't mean-- I couldn't do it anymore, Davy, I--" he trailed off, looking helplessly at a scuff mark on his shoe, at how the bricks were cracking beneath his feet, and he felt as though he was sinking into them like quicksand, like the crack was just the beginning, and came up to over Jack's head. A flaw in the foundation.
David laughed at him, a harsh, penetrating, high-pitched laugh. It hit Jack in the gut, like a punch, and it was all he could do not to double over, it was all he could do not to gasp for breath. "You couldn't do it, huh," David said, and the laugh was still there, in his voice like a wound, and Jack cringed because he couldn't bear the thought that he had hurt David as much as David was hurting him. "So you left her the night before your wedding, left us-- her waiting at the altar, didn't even bother saying goodbye." Jack couldn't look up. David was pacing, now, his feet falling fast and loud.
"David," Jack said without even realizing that he had opened his mouth, and David spun on him so fast that Jack bit his tongue, tasted copper.
"What'd you think you were gonna keep running and nobody would even notice you were gone? It doesn't work that way, Jack." David's voice was fast and rushed, like the words were spilling out of him, like they would never stop spilling. "You make commitments, you can't just leave
. You're not a newsie running from the Refuge anymore." Jack felt himself sinking under the weight of David's anger, the weight of his mistakes and the things that he wished could have been different. And, "You're a coward running away from what's good for you," and that was just enough to pull Jack up, the rope thrown into the quicksand bricks that Jack held onto, because:
"I'm not," Jack said softly, and abruptly David stopped pacing.
"You're not what
?" Each word was carefully leveled and placed, hissing and deadly, and David's hair was mussed, spread behind his ears, like he was a cobra, hood pulled back.
"Running from what's--" Jack looked up at David, at the blue eyes stretched tight, darker than Jack had ever seen them, dangerous. "I'm not--" he sighed, tried to think of what to say, or how to say it; but he knew, he had always known what it was, he was just chickenshit. "She's not what's good for me."
David made a small furious noise, and his eyes widened, bulged almost, fists tightening and rising above his hips. "You're blaming it on her," he said, not a question, and Jack had never heard him angrier, except for maybe when Jack abandoned the strike.
"No, Davy," he said and he had never been in a fight like this, so delicate and so deadly, and the stakes were as high as they had ever been. "It's not her fault, but she's not-- I mean, she's never been--" and he trailed off because what was there to say that wouldn't give the whole game away, bit the inside of his mouth.
"What?" David asked, and now he was taking a couple of steps forward, up in Jack's face, his hands still balled at his side. Jack stumbled back, but didn't raise his fists. "Never been what?" David's voice was thick and harsh, like he was on the verge of something. "Never been pretty enough? Never been kind or generous enough? Never loved you
enough?" David's hair was falling over his face, unruly, but he didn't seem to care, didn't even brush it out of his eyes. "She gave you everything she had, Francis. She couldn't have given you anything else. What, did you find another girl? Run away from the one who loved you for one who was a little more free
Jack felt something hot and tense, like anger, settle into his stomach, and back against his ribs, rising up like bile in his throat. "How could you think
that, Davy," and this time, he was taking the steps towards David, but David didn't retreat and they were standing nearly chin to chin.
"What the hell was I supposed to think, Jack?" Something was breaking, shattering in the back of David's eyes, and they weren't molten anymore, they were aflame, burning. He was yelling, straight into Jack's face, his breath hot against Jack's cheek, "What, was I supposed to think that you had to save a god damn kitten and that was why you missed your own god damn wedding? Why wasn't she enough, Jack?" There was another question in there, buried, and David's voice cracked harshly, and he pushed forward, against Jack, pressing them chest to chest, shoulder to shoulder. "Why weren't--"
"She ain't you, David," Jack said, and then moved that fraction of an inch more, and was pressing his lips against David's, hard, chins banging, bruising.
But David's lips were gone in a second, and David fell back, jumped back, hand rising up against his mouth, and Jack staggered forward, then stepped back, ducking his head, and pushing a hand through his hair. He was still angry, but now with himself, and his lips tasted like sweat and cinnamon. David was panting raggedly like he had just run a mile, and Jack was too ashamed to look up at him. "What was--" David trailed off, but Jack could hear the silence in the back of his throat, and that was what hurt. "Jack, I--"
Jack nodded, still looking at the ground. "Look, I should get going," he said. "Been nice talking to you, Davy." He took a couple of steps backward, turned around, and then paused. "Thanks," he said, and looked back at David, who was still holding a hand to his mouth, his eyes, for once, unreadable.
Jack went back to the Lodging House. It wasn't like there was anywhere else to go. A year ago he had packed his bags, thinking he'd never return, and now here he was, and it was the same crowd, the same noise, the same clutter and dust.
The room fell silent when Jack walked in, though, and that was different.
The crowd parted easily to let him through, and that was also different.
"Hey Kloppman," Jack said, leaning on the front desk, tried to keep his tone easy and light. The room was quiet, every boy straining to hear what their absent leader would say, what he was here for. Jack put on his most charming grin, toothy and full, the kind he wore when he was peddling to women. "Got room for one more runaway?"
Kloppman was silent for several long, tense moments, and Jack felt terrified, thought that maybe he didn't have anywhere anymore, maybe he'd be on his own for real. "I was hoping I'd never see you again, boy," Kloppman finally said, and Jack dropped his head, took the weight of the gazes of the boys in the room on his own back. "I thought that you'd've made it out, if nobody else did. I thought you did make it out." Kloppman sounded very old, suddenly, and Jack was flooded with shame, waves of hot and cold shuddering up and down his arms.
"Yeah, well, I didn't."
Jack kept his head bowed, but he could feel
Kloppman looking at him like only he knew how to. "You can stay."
And Jack looked up, smiled even though it felt like the smile would break his face into two even pieces, and he tried to pretend that he wasn't shattering. "Thanks."
A hand clapped heavily on his back. "Never thought I'd see you here again, Jackie boy," and there was Racetrack, grinning at him, but there was a question behind the grin that wouldn't be asked now.
"Never thought I'd be here again," Jack said, and pulled Racetrack against his side. "I guess I gotta be what I am, huh Race." He laughed, and then the spell was broken, and Jack was swarmed by the boys in the lobby, a mass of hands clasping against his back, and hugs, all of them chattering excitedly. And Jack let them come, let them swell and break over him.
But even in the crowd, Jack was alone.
Racetrack was still watching him, long and slow; Jack could feel the heavy gaze settling on the indents of his shoulders, and when he glanced back at him, Racetrack tried to smile but it didn't quite reach his eyes. And Jack looked at Crutchy who was beaming and waving at him, but who now wore a brace on his good leg; at Mush who looked much older, more weathered and more sad since Jack had seen him last, and that Blink was nowhere to be found, and maybe that had something to do with it; at how they all looked so much more tired, Boots and Snitch and Itey, all of them; at Specs who had a deep scar down the side of his face that hadn't been there before. And he thought that maybe they had all grown up and left him behind, because Jack still felt like the Jack of a year ago.
"I'm glad to be back," he said, and if it wasn't exactly true, well it was a good lie.
It was late, and Racetrack was watching him again, curiously. The others were asleep, warm in their beds, worn from the day, but Race was awake, of course Race was awake, he hadn't asked Jack questions that couldn't be answered yet. For his part, Jack made a valiant attempt at ignoring him, turned the other way, tried to fall asleep, but he could feel the weight of Racetrack's look even against his back, so finally he gave up and flipped over. "Whaddya want, Race," he said, and allowed the irritation to be evident in his whispered voice.
Race shifted in his bed, the springs creaking, leaned against the wall. "I can't help but feel like we've got a bit of catching up to do."
Jack turned his head. The moonlight was behind Race, leaving his face and eyes in shadow. "We couldn't catch up in the morning?"
"You know we couldn't."
Jack sighed, and scrubbed his palms over his eyes, because he did know. "All right, Race," he said pulling himself up on his elbows. "What do you wanna know?"
"What do I wanna know?" Though he couldn't see it, Jack could hear the smile on Race's lips. There was a pause. "What are you doing here, Jack?"
Jack laughed, even though it really wasn't funny. "What, didn't you miss me?"
"You were gonna get out." Racetrack's voice was dead serious now, not even a trace of a smile. "Last I heard, you were gonna get married to a pretty girl. Gonna get an education, gonna get mentored by Denton. You were going places, Jack. Do you know how many boys here would do anything for that kind of life?"
Jack stared at the slats of the ceiling, traced the line of them with his eyes. "Being a newsie is what I'm good at, Race. Can't do nothing else. Took me a year to figure it out but--"
"Bullshit," Race said, and Jack heard him shift again, "You know me, Jack. I can read a bluff a mile away, and I know your tells. Why'd you leave?"
Jack sighed and pulled a hand down his cheek, the stubble scratching at the palm of his hand, the underside of his finger. "I couldn't marry Sarah," he said finally. He looked anywhere but at Race. "Things between Sarah and me they've-- well, they've never been exactly right, but I didn't know how to-- I mean, I couldn't-- And then it was the night before we were s'posed to get married, and I realized that I wasn't the sort of guy who could ever marry her. So I bummed on the streets for a couple of days. Came here. Didn't know where else to go."
Racetrack was silent for a long time, long enough that Jack wondered if he had fallen asleep, but when he glanced over, Race was staring out of the window pensively.
Jack cleared his throat. "Guys like me can't catch that kind of a break without something going wrong, huh." He waited, but Race still didn't say anything. "I thought that maybe this'd be it, and I wouldn't want to leave anymore. I thought I could be happy with her, forget about Santa Fe." He laughed. "I didn't."
"You don't even know what you're running to anymore, do you?" Racetrack had turned to face Jack, something indefinable teasing around the sharp edges of his voice.
"I don't got
anything to run to anymore, Race. There's a difference." With that, he turned away from Race, rolling onto his side, and pretended to sleep. It wasn't for a long time that he heard Race settling in, bedsprings creaking relentlessly. And it wasn't for a long time after that that Jack was finally able to fall into his own sleep, the rays of dawn creeping unbidden into their room.
It didn't take Jack long to fall back into his old schedule. He spent his nights in the Refuge, and his days peddling papes. He turned his fair share; he may have been gone for a while, but he hadn't gotten soft. He wasn't the best newsie in New York for nothing. Some evenings he played cards with Race, and some he and the others roamed the streets aimlessly. Sometimes he went out on town, watched Medda sing, and others he stayed in and slept. It was like old times.
He was miserable.
Everything felt wrong. He was selling useless news to useless people. He missed Davey.
Which was stupid. He had lasted seventeen mostly happy years without David, he could certainly last now. But things had changed. Jack
had changed. And now, it was like-- missing David was like he was missing an arm or something. David was supposed to always be there. And now David wasn't
always there, and that smarted like a bitch. Now Jack was left with just himself, and he was sick of himself.
He had to get out of New York, away from its history, and his memories. He had to get away from David, from his mistakes. So he put aside every spare cent he earned. There was nothing anymore, absolutely nothing, to hold him in New York. It was clear running between the Lodging House and Santa Fe.
He was going to get out.
The first time he saw David, it went like this:
Usually they missed each other when they went to buy their papes, probably by design; but maybe today David came in earlier than usual, or Jack slept in more than normal, because there was that familiar curly head, shining like a fucking halo, and Jack felt a little out of breath. "Hey Davy," Jack said, masking his tension like cloth around his eyes, relaxing his mouth, "Haven't seen you around these parts much."
David looked shocked but only for a fraction of a second, and it passed so quickly that Jack half-doubted he saw it, and then he was composed, eyes blank like a wall. "I don't get my papes so early, anymore," he said, his voice cool, "Gotta take care of chores in the morning." He paused, bit his lip, and Jack saw the first hint of David's discomposure, in the way his curls fell into eyes like a little boy, hands pulling nervously at one another, at the smooth cotton of his undershirt, and he looked lost and miserable, his eyes echoing like emptiness. "How have you been, Jack?"
Jack didn't know how to answer. "Surviving," he said, but that wasn't really true. He shrugged.
David looked away.
"I miss you, David," Jack said, and that was true. "Got-- kinda used to having you around. Throws a guy for a loop, to-- you know."
David nodded. "I know."
Jack hesitated, uncomfortable, scuffed his feet a little. "So," he said, "Don't see Les around. Kid already get his papes?"
David stiffened. "Les doesn't sell anymore."
"That's great," Jack said, and he meant it. Les' eyes were still open, he had no place roaming the streets of New York, he had no place in the newsie life. "Your dad get his job back?"
David looked up at Jack, sighed, looked down. His shoulders were so tight Jack thought he might break. "If I turn at least 900 papes a week, with Mom and Sarah working at the factory, we make enough to survive. So Les can go to school."
For the first time, Jack noticed the circles cut under David's eyes, the way his cheekbones pulled down, and the chapped, tight line of his mouth. He wanted to touch him, throw an arm around his shoulder, rumple his hair, but instead he stuck his hands in his pockets. "You're selling 900 papes, Davy? All by yourself? Do you--"
"No," David interrupted, turning his head away, "You do what you gotta do. For family." He paused. "And... it's David."
Jack felt suddenly winded, his ribs sharp against his lungs. He felt desperation biting hotly against the back of his throat. "Please," he said in a low voice. "Please David, tell me what to do." He was ashamed. Of this hit to his pride, of everything he had done. That he had kissed Sarah at the end of the strike. That he couldn't make everything how it had been. That he had to ask David for help.
David looked at him, and his eyes opened for a moment, and there were worlds behind the blue, swirling like nebulae. "Get out of my way," he said, and pushed past. He looked at Jack as he was leaving, but looked quickly away again.
The pile of money under Jack's pillow was growing; he was so close to Santa Fe he could almost taste the sticky heat and dirt. He was gonna make it this time.
The second time he saw David went like this:
They crossed paths selling papes. Jack hadn't seen him in a while, but he had heard about him from the other boys at the Lodging House. David was becoming something of a legend in the newsie world; he had gotten better at selling papes, at persuading, and even conniving to the most unwilling of customers. And Jack could see it now, in the hard edges around David's eyes and mouth, and wondered whether it was out of necessity or because he had--well, because he had grown up. "Jack," David said, with a nod. His eyebrows were furrowed, and he looked at Jack so fiercely, so deeply that Jack had to look away, glance down.
"Sorry Davey," he said with a crooked smile. "Won't trespass on your ground no more." He stepped to the side, but David put his hand on Jack's arm, heavy and slightly damp, and Jack tried very hard to ignore the heat sinking through the fabric of his thin undershirt, but it hit straight down into the bone, burning like fire.
"Meet me," David said quietly, leaning in, "The alley on Spring at 10:00." And then he was gone, walking away as though he hadn't said anything. And Jack put a hand up against the crook of his shoulder, remembering how David's breath felt against his ear and neck.
Racetrack didn't comment when Jack left the Lodging House at 9:40, but he sure as hell noticed.
The third time he saw David went like this:
David was waiting for him.
"Am I late?"
"Yeah," David said, "It doesn't matter." And there were lines, deep around his mouth like he was mad at something Jack said, but Jack hadn't even said
anything yet, and that was just not fair.
They were silent for a few moments that felt like a few lifetimes, and Jack looked at David, then his shoes, then back up. "So, Davey, why'd you--"
There wasn't any warning, David just took two steps forward, and hit Jack. Square in the jaw. Jack staggered backwards. "Don't call me Davey." David said, and his voice was dead calm, detached almost, as though he didn't even care, as though he didn't even notice, and Jack thought that maybe that was worse than the smarting in his jaw and the blood in his mouth.
"Sorry," Jack said, and then shook his head because he was sick
of this. "No I ain't. Davey."
David let out a little strangled noise, and swung, but this time Jack was ready, caught his fist. David may have grown up, his fists may have gotten bigger and his swings tighter, and maybe Jack even softened, a little bit, but David was still no match. David yanked his wrist free, swung with his other hand, and Jack just barely managed to block it.
"Davey," he said. "Stop it."
David advanced, his calm shell shattering, and that was better kind of. "Don't. Call. Me. Davey."
"This ain't you," Jack said, and held David's wrists against his chest. "David, stop, this ain't you."
David struggled mightily against his grip. "You don't know me, Sullivan," his voice was rising both in volume and pitch, soaring above their heads. "You're gone now, you chose to leave, and you aren't allowed to call me Davey.
Jack thought that maybe this hurt more than any punch, at least he would know what to do with that hurt, and David, as though reading his mind, got his hands free, spread on either side of Jack, and he grappled a tight hold on his arms, pushed harshly till Jackâ€™s back was against the cold brick wall. And there was a moment where Jack squeezed his eyes shut, prepared to be hit, and David's arms were on his shoulders, and then suddenly.
Lip to lip, teeth against teeth, and David's tongue was twining into his mouth. Jack's eyes flew open. David was looking at him, a challenge, and Jack stared back, and then grabbed at David's hips, and spun him around, crashing him against the wall, dug his fingers in to make sure he was really feeling David pressed against him. He was kissing David, and David was kissing him, and this wasn't what should have happened. David should have hit him, left him bleeding in the street all righteous anger and blood on his knuckles. But David was snaking a hand up Jack's shirt, digging another hand into his arm hard enough to bruise.
And Jack hands were on David's face then, up through the unruly mop of curls, and down his neck and shoulders and waist and feeling, he had to feel everything, and it wasn't enough
that it was just with his fingertips. Jack broke the kiss and pressed his lips and tongue against everything, against the curve of David's neck, and his jaw line, down grazing teeth against his collar bone, and then up against the shell of his ear, and David arched off the wall, his hips colliding against Jack's, and oh. Oh
This was new.
Sparks went off blindingly behind Jack's eyes, and David moaned, loud and low. Jack couldn't help it, he started grinding his hips against David's, hard, and David pressed back, made a keening noise in the back of his throat, and the air was hot with passion and need and desire and oh god, the friction, and he kissed David as hard as he could.
And then David pushed away from him, eyes wide as saucers, panting raggedly, flushed, and Jack took a step towards him, but David backed off like a scared animal. "I gotta go, Jack," he said, but didn't leave. Jack pressed a hand to his mouth, and looked almost dreamily at the red on his fingertips. And he looked up and David was looking at his fingers in abject horror, and Jack felt something cold and milky like fear settle into the pit of his stomach.
"Davey, it ain't nothing," he said.
David's eyes were so open, so fucking open, and bright, and Jack felt like he was falling into them. "I can't," David said. "I mean, I don't--" he sucked in a breath through his teeth. "What do you want?" He was toying with the frayed edges of his undershirt, picking at loose threads.
Jack felt a sudden irrational wave of anger sweep through him. "You're the one who told me to come tonight, Davy. You tell me." He couldn't help the aggression creeping unbidden into his tone, or even the hurt behind that. But David. He looked like a scared kid standing there, with his hands pulled together in front of him, his shirt rumpled, his lips were swollen, his cheeks were red. But he had been kissing back. Damn it, Jack hadn't been doing anything wrong. He hadn't done anything to put that look behind David's eyes. It wasn't his fault.
"I had to see you," David paused, broke eye contact, and stared at the building behind Jack instead, but Jack could still see the emotion working down and through his face, tightening his eyes and sharpening his cheekbones. "I didn't know why or-- what I was going to say, but I thought that maybe-- maybe things would--" he trailed off.
Jack took a step forward, and almost unconsciously David's eyes refocused, and he lurched away. Jack held out his hand. "Maybe we can make things better. The way they're supposed to be."
David looked at him, and he didn't look angry, he didn't look scared, he just looked sad. "No," he said, "We can't." And he turned and walked away.
Jack staggered forward, "Davey!" he said, and his voice pulled raggedly through his throat, like sandpaper. But David didn't turn around, not even to tell him off, and Jack was left, alone, in the alley.
It was time, Jack decided. Time to get serious. He couldn't have anything to tie him back, anything to stop him from getting away. He was so close-- so close to Santa Fe. So close to everything he had ever wanted. He had to leave it all behind. He tried to forget the past year, the sweat, the blood, Sarah, Denton, the Jacobs. And he almost succeeded.
But there was David. There was always David.
He haunted Jack's fucking dreams. And how wrong was that? Because Jack woke up sweating, panting in the middle of the night, David's name falling off of his lips, that he couldn't seem to shake the feeling of David's hips pressed up against his, and the taste of copper, toothpaste that he didn't use. And he was sick of it. Davey had no right to take him over. Jack didn't need nobody besides himself to survive, and only David could make him feel so goddamn helpless, so...
It didn't matter, anyway. None of it mattered. Not how he felt, not how David felt. Jack had to push it, all of it, out of his mind. He had to be single minded in his goal. He had to think of Santa Fe, and its freedom, and starting over or-- Or he wouldn't be able to leave.
That was the pathetic truth. He had to trick himself into leaving the city that abused and neglected him, and how fucked up was that? But the stakes were too high. There was too much to stay for.
When he stopped selling as well, stopped saving as much, well, he wasn't exactly surprised. And yet he couldn't get his numbers up, couldn't speed up the turtle-like growth of coins underneath his pillow anymore than he could keep himself from thinking about David. About David's lips, and the way his back had rippled and tensed under Jack's fingers. About how vulnerable he had felt pressing against Jack, little moans rumbling through his chest, completely unguarded.
He pushed it out of his mind.
He was so close to finally getting away. For good this time.
The fourth time he saw David went like this:
When Jack saw Davy selling papes, he passed him without a word, his eyes focused on his shoes, trying not to breathe. He didn't care if that made him a coward. His hands shook slightly, itching as he passed David, and that heat next to the back of his knuckles like an electric current. And he heard David suck in a quick, shaky breath and "Jack," very quietly, almost sighed. And even though it felt like there were knives in his gut, he didn't glance up at David, didn't even act like he had heard.
He tried to tell himself that it would have hurt more to have looked, but somehow he didn't quite believe it.
"Davey came by here looking for you." Racetrack. Stupid smug, knowing look. Stupid smug knowing tone. Stupid smug, knowing Race.
Jack sighed, put his bag of coins down on the mattress next to him. He had taken to counting it every night before he went to sleep. Kept him focused. "Yeah, well, what'd he want?"
"I don't know," Race said, and then gave Jack a look that meant he did know, really, and Jack focused on counting the cracks in the wall, documenting the exact way that the paint was chipping. "It's kind of funny," Race said. "You were here before Davy came, I saw you in the bathroom. Can't have been ten minutes before."
Jack turned and stared at Race working very hard to fix his face into passivity. "What of it Race? You think I ran into the alley behind in just my pants?" As a matter of fact he had.
"Ain't saying nothing," Race said, "Just thought it was funny is all."
"Ha ha," Jack said, and turned over, counted his coins again, and a third time, and tried to stop thinking about how he had seen David's shadow stooping as he walked away from the Lodging House, like he had actually wanted to see Jack.
Like he was actually hurt because he didn't.
It was time.
Jack had the money that he needed, all stored safely under his pillow. He had counted it over and over, and figured it till the numbers swirled in his head, and he had enough for the ticket, and a little bit extra to get him started. He didn't say goodbye to anyone except Race and Kloppman. It would have been too hard to explain to the others. Kloppman clapped him on the shoulder, and told him to keep safe. Racetrack didn't say anything at all, but pulled him into a fierce hug, sharp shoulders burrowing into Jack's arms.
And Jack took his money and went to the train station, and-- sat.
The ticket booth was right there, and a train came and then another and another, and Jack sat. Maybe the next one, he thought. And then maybe the one after that. The trains rumbled past him, and the crowds crashed and scattered, and Jack could barely breathe. It got darker and darker, the sun flamed its way out of the sky, and Jack still sat.
It was here. It was time. He had wanted this since before he could remember, it was all he had ever
wanted, and all he had to do was buy the ticket, and he couldn't
He scrubbed a hand through his hair in frustration. This was beyond insane. He wasn't some lovesick teenage girl. He was Jack Kelly, best damn newsie in New York. He didn't need nobody, and nobody needed him. He always got what he wanted, and he never had anyone to leave behind. But he couldn't buy the ticket. He couldn't buy the stupid, goddamn ticket. He was never going to buy that ticket, even though the money was hot in his pocket. He was too much of a coward, and it didn't matter anyway. Santa Fe, New York, he couldn't run from who he was.
And so he stood in irritation, and turned straight into David.
The fifth time he saw David went like this:
Davy looked panicked, flushed, eyes a little too wide, so close, Jack could see how his eyelashes clumped together and his hands were on David's shoulders, where they had flown in surprise, and now he let go, hands hot like he touched fire, took a step back and-- there was a ticket in David's hand. "Hi Davey."
"Hi-- hi Jack."
Jack paused, then carefully: "What're you doing here?"
"I-- going to Santa Fe, I think.â€ Well, at least he had the grace to look abashed. Jack tried not to notice how his hands still burned, or how David's eyes glistened in the moonlight. "I thought that you had-- that you'd gone--" David looked slightly panicked, even at the thought. "Race told me, and I couldn't-- I mean, I thought you'd be long gone by now, and I just had to--" he trailed off, mumbling incoherently.
"You was going to... are you out of your mind?"
David looked up at him now, his eyes wide and open and fierce. "I couldn't let you leave me. Not before I told you that I understand. I understand why you-- why you did the things you did, and I forgive you, and I figured some things out, too. I understand now."
"Yeah, Davy, you understand." Jack grabbed David's shoulders in something like anger. "You sure understand. And your family, they'd've understood too when Les would've had to drop out of school to support his family at eleven. Or maybe Sarah could've worked her fingers to the bone at the factory, your mother could have taken up double shifts, maybe that'd be better." David looked unapologetic, his curls falling over his forehead, and his mouth a smooth curve, and Jack tried not to think about how beautiful David was, tried to hold onto his anger, but it was falling away like raindrops, and it was no use. Jack let go, hands dropping limply at his side, turned away and crossed them across his chest. "Jesus, I'm not worth that David. I don't got nothing to leave behind, I don't got nothing to give you."
Jack listened to the sound of David's breath behind him, still quick and nervous, and then David's hand fell on his back, in between Jack's shoulders, soft and gentle. "I'm glad you didn't leave, Jack," he said, and he sounded like he meant it, his voice low and fierce. "I'm really glad. But if you had left, believe that I would be on that train without a second thought." David paused, his hand still resting warm on Jack's spine. "And that it would be worth it to get to you."
Jack was suddenly finding it difficult to breathe. "Davey," he said, and that was all he could say, but David seemed to understand.
"I told you, I figured some things out." Jack could hear the smile in David's voice, and he smiled too, looked up at the moon, and thought about Santa Fe.
He felt the little bag of money in his pocket, felt David's hand on his back, and made a quick decision. "Let's get out of here."
And when he turned around, David kissed him, and Jack was home.