Specs had named quite a few of the boys. In fact, pretty much all of the nicknames had been thought of by him. Rather, he'd remembered the old newsies and given out their names.
He could still remember the sound of his brother's bones breaking, and Racetrack screaming. He would never forget the sight of his only remaining family member's body lifeless under the hooves of a horse. All Racetrack had wanted to do was help, get a few extra pennies, but the racehorse was too strong. And Specs had been left all alone in the world when he was only six. Of course, Slinger had taken him in, but that didn't erase the fact that Racetrack was gone. So when they'd found another boy living at the tracks, Specs had immediately started calling him Race, and had brought him to Manhattan before Brooklyn could claim him.
When their Sniper left for the war, and never came back, Specs was the one who started calling the new kid who could shoot his slingshot like Spot Conlon Sniper. It wasn't enough to remember the ones they'd lost, Specs believed. Maybe they weren't coming back, maybe they couldn't be replaced, but maybe the ones who came could be used to help heal that ache that the loss left in him. So every time a new kid came, Specs remembered the boys that had left, and thought long and hard before naming them.
Only Jack ever figured out what was happening, and him only because he had arrived just before the original Romeo had been killed by a gang and the first Finch left them for the factories. He picked up on the pattern then, but never brought it up again after Specs explained why he'd named Race Race, and Sniper Sniper. Jack knew better than to mess with the only way Specs knew how to cope. He left the subject alone. At least, he did until Crutchie came along, and Spec immediately chose the name, first asking the small boy if it was okay with him.
"Why "Crutchie"? What's that story?" Jack had asked, looking concerned. He couldn't remember a previous Crutchie, and if he couldn't, nobody else would. Jack and Specs were, after all, the ones who had been there the longest.
"He was the one who first took me an' my brother in." Specs had turned away to hide the tears. "He brought us here, when I was four and Racetrack was eight, and showed us how to sell together, and then one day, he was gone. Slinger said he run home, but I think the Spider got him. He looked just like that boy, and smiled all the time." Jack hadn't brought it up again. Ever. He understood the pain. He understood the reasons. So Jack left the names alone after that, and never told anybody else about them.
Specs could never forget how much Jack had understood, and how he'd listened, and that was why he had tears in his eyes as he looked at the boy in front of him. His first new boy as leader. The first addition since Jack's soaking. He knew everybody would understand the name this time. He knew they would start to piece together all his names. But he also knew he had to do it.
"We'se gonna call you Cowboy, okay?" He could feel and hear his voice break and shake, and could see tears and understanding come to all the newsies' faces, and he watched them react, but he knew he'd done the right thing. Cowboy was one of them, now, and since they knew about the names, maybe there would always be a Cowboy. Maybe there would always be a Race, a Sniper, a Romeo, a Finch. Maybe all the heroes would live on. Maybe the newsies would always have the heroes around to protect them, and maybe they would always have somebody to look up to, somebody to carry on the tradition. And with a Cowboy around, how could anything go wrong? After all...their Cowboy had always been there, always protecting and watching, their Cowboy had made life good.
This was written super quickly based off a conversation I had on Tumblr. I would really appreciate any feedback on how I can change it to make it better, because I know it can be.