A/N: Thanks for the reviews guys! I hope everyone is doing alright! I managed to churn out another chapter for you all, this ones a bit longer. Hope you don't mind.
~"Goodnight, Spot," she said and pressed her lips to the corner of his mouth in a chaste kiss, untangling her limbs from his and lying down to sleep.~
Rois got out of bed that morning and began to dress. In the midst of tying up one of her new dresses, a pair of warm hands batted hers away and took over for her. "Mornin," he mumbled, finishing the last tie. When she turned back to him he was already walking away. He grabbed his shirt off the dresser and clipped on his suspenders. When he was done, Rois already had his hat in hand, the brim hanging off her outstretched index finger. He grunted and took the hat, shoving it on his head and walking out the door to take his customary place on the chair in the kitchen.
With an exaggerated roll of her eyes, she followed him down the stairs. She made the bread that morning as usual, giving each Newsie a slice on their way out the door. Spot stayed by her side in the kitchen, in his usual seat. He spoke no words, just watched her work. When the last Newsie had left she turned to see him stand. He chewed on his lip bottom lip as he approached her. His movements were slow, calculated.
Rois was sure he was overthinking everything from the night before and suddenly she felt nervous as he stood in front of her. His jaw clenched and then unclenched as he tilted his head towards her, lips pressed into a thin line. "You wanna come?" He asked quietly, suddenly.
Her eyes widened. "Selling?"
She smiled suddenly and looped her arm around his. "I'd love ta."
His body seemed to relax. He patted her hand on his arm and pulled her just a bit tighter to his body before he led her out the door. The boys cheered, laughing loudly as Spot escorted her into The Eagle's gates. He glared frostily for every extra ten cents his boys had to pay, anger bubbling in his chest.
Rois's fingers thrummed against his skin, jarring him from his thoughts. "Stop glaring. You're making the boys nervous," she murmured in an aside, her lips dangerously close to his ear. He raised an eyebrow at her but she only shrugged at him, dropping her hands from him to stand against the selling cart as if she'd done nothing.
He sold his papers in little over half the time it usually took with her help, and he was the best newsie in Brooklyn without her. Together, they were a rather formidable team. She played along with any headline, any lie he chose to tell and did so convincingly. In between, she joked and laughed and danced around him, comfortable in his presence and assured in knowing he'd keep her safe.
After selling time, as the Brooklyn boys scattered around their borough, Finch came running into Brooklyn territory. He was tall for a boy his age, with short blonde hair who wore a patched up vest over his dingy striped undershirt. For the most part, he was a Manhattan newsie, but he was known to deliver messages to Spot for Jack when the usual birdies weren't around. As Spot and Rois were walking back to the lodging house, they caught sight of him.
The large dark and ugly purple bruising around his jaw and forehead were more than enough to catch Rois's attention. "Finch?" Spot questioned, catching sight of the limping boy. "What are you doing here?"
"Strike," he coughed, catching his breath as Spot helped him to stand and ushered him inside.
Rois moved a chair for Spot to drop the Manhattan newsie into. "What happened?" she reached out, her hands hovering around his injuries with hesitance. When he refused to answer she rolled her eyes.
"Dollface, go find Czech," Spot told her. She looked at him sharply, but he didn't take his words back. Her eyes narrowed when he jerked his head towards the door, but she complied nonetheless.
When she came back to the lodging house, Czech in tow. Finch had been moved to an upstairs room to give him and Spot privacy from the other Brooklyn boys. Czech was allowed in when she was not. Pacing angrily across the bottom of the stairs, her fingers tapped incessantly on her bicep until the Manhattan newsie was in front of her.
With a small pained smile the newsie boy thanked her for bringing him to the lodging house.
"Oh don't you pay any mind. Are you a'right?"
"I'm alright," he assured her. Then he grinned, his split lip began bleeding again, and he bowed slightly. "Milady," he tipped his hat and he left the room. With concerned eyes, she followed his exit.
When she turned back, looking at the doorway he'd come from. Spot was leaning against the doorframe, twirling that gold-tipped cane around in his hand- a nervous habit that usually came off as more intimidating than anything else. The boys thought him angry. She knew different. She met his eyes from the bottom of the stairs, but he said nothing, and then disappeared inside the room. Pick warned her off of bothering him, sounding small and concerned. She scoffed, brushing him off as she marched up the stairs.
Spot didn't scare her.
"What happened?" she demanded, pushing the door open and cornering him in their room.
His brows furrowed in annoyance, but he didn't turn to look at her. His right hand fingers tapped along his suspenders as he thought. Rather than snap or yell at her, he ignored her presence and with it, her question, entirely.
"Spot," she prompted, stepping towards him. He waved her off, moving to turn away, but she was quick enough to grab onto his arm and prevent him from moving. "What's happened? Tell me!"
"It's none a' your business!" he rounded, tearing his arm from her loose-fingered grip.
"Is too, ya bastard," she snapped, placing her hands on her hips. "Now tell me. I'm a part a' this now."
His eyes blazed. A muscle jumped in his jaw as he clenched his teeth. Anyone else would have run for the hills, but she met his gaze with harsh determination and unyielding persistence. Spot wasn't used to taking orders, and he'd be damned if he was going to start now. "Just cause I kissed ya doesn't make ya my goil."
She scoffed at him. He couldn't use that against her. He couldn't have faked their nights on the docks, their midnight conversations. She knew she meant as much to him as he meant to her. She knew it. "Yer lying," she told him.
He nearly growled and rolled his eyes, throwing his cane to the ground as he turned from her. She stepped after him, her hands reaching out and tugging at his arm, urging him to turn back to her. "Spot, please. I wanna help. Lemme help ya."
He shook his head and sighed. Somehow, he found it wasn't within him to refuse her this. She was involved because she was involved with him. She was affected because it affected him. Him and her brother. Whether she was a newsie or not, she was a part of this. He growled and shook his head, clenched and unclenched his fist multiple times, but eventually said, "Manhattan went through with the strike," he said. "Tore up some papes… stopped da scabba's…"
"What happened to 'em?" she asked in concern. "Finch was all beat up."
Spot shook his head and slashed a hand through the air as if to bad away the words. "E's fine. Czech looked 'im ovar. Was just some bruises," he told her, avoiding her question. There was something else, she could tell, that was bothering him. He didn't look her in the eye, his thoughts seemed far away. He looked, dare she say it, worried.
"Spot?" Her head tilted to the side as she stepped closer to him. He offered no resistance to her touch. Her grip on his arm loosened, drifting down to hold his hand. "What's really wrong?" she stepped closer as he shook his head. "There's something else."
He swallowed, Adam's apple bobbing slightly as he spoke. "The bulls caught Crutchie." His words were solemn; his blue eyes drifting downwards to their interwoven hands. "They'll take 'im to the refuge. 'E…" He shook his head with what was almost a growl, squeezing her hand without thought. "Crutchie's a good kid… e' won't make it in there."
She licked her lip for a moment. "Have you…" she began curiously. "Were…" she breathed, swallowed, started again: "You've been there?"
He nodded. Not a soul in the room but she and him, she looked at him with those big green eyes, her hand cool and calloused in his. He knew so much about her— her fears, her troubles, what made her laugh or smile. He knew she'd never breathe a word of the things he told her. He felt maybe he could tell her this, maybe he could let her in… just a little bit further. "When I was younger," he nodded slightly.
She didn't say anything, just moved a bit closer, held onto him a bit tighter.
"It's— it's a 'orrible place," he told her. "Rats everywhere, four boys to a bed, the foods rotted if ya can get any at all and they worked us all day." He swallowed, his voice becoming thick. "Beat us, over and over, and, well, sometimes… when I was in there some of the boys- they didn't come back. I don't… it..."
"If you don't want to talk about it," she began, looping her arms around his waist in a loose hug, linking their bodies together. He wished he hated it. He wished he wanted her to go away, but the warmth of her body against his, the cool touch of her skin was more comforting than any word the nuns had ever given him. He placed his hand on her waist and took what comfort she offered. "It's okay," she assured him, her voice low and spoken slowly, "there's things I don't like to talk about either."
"Like?" he asked quietly, bowing his head to be closer to hers.
"Like the crossing," she supplied, her eyebrows drifting down into a concerned furrow as she frowned. There was a long pause before she continued to speak. "It was dark, wet, stuck inside with all those people." She sighed and squeezed him a bit tighter. "We had to pee in buckets… stunk up the whole place. And the water was rough. Boat was always rocking back and forth and people were always getting sick in the corners. Some of us died…" her voice caught. "They tossed their bodies overboard." she told him all without meeting his eyes. Then, she looked up. "That's 'ow my mother died."
"Mine's dead too," he offered shortly, his voice soft as he ran his fingers over the ties in her dress he'd done up that morning and back down. "My father killed 'er."
She wished that surprised her, but it didn't, so she didn't say anything. She knew there was nothing she could say to make it better. She fitted her head on his shoulder and held him tightly. Her breath fanned against his neck in soft slow breaths. Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around her as well, dipping his head down into her hair. She smelled like flour and ink— like fresh bread and freshly printed newspapers.
He couldn't remember the last time someone had hugged him like she did- all kindness and care and firm touches, warmth. His heart did a fluttery thing in his chest, which he promptly ignored. With a deep breath, he closed his eyes and pressed a discrete kiss to her hair. She smiled against his neck.