"Hey, Jack," Racetrack said, shuffling a worn deck of cards between his hands. "Wanna play?"
Jack ignored him, bent intently over his drawing.
"Hey! Jack!" Race said, flicking the older boy's cap over his eyes. "Ya playin' or not?"
Jack brushed him off. "Leave me alone," he said irritably. "Or I'll soak ya."
Race laughed. "Yeah, right," he said, oblivious to the strange mood his friend was in. "C'mon, do somethin' fun for once. You'se always scribblin' on bits a' paper these days. Ya usta do stuff with us, but you'se been boring ever since ya got back from the Refuge."
"Race," Lou said in a warning tone, sensing the beginnings of an argument. "Drop it."
He was too late. Jack pushed back his chair and shoved Race in the chest. "Hey, watch it!" Race shouted, shoving him back. Without warning, Jack tackled the Italian to the ground.
"Jack!" Lou shouted, getting to his feet. Ignoring the older boy, Jack managed to get on top of his smaller friend, and he got a few good punches in before a large hand grabbed him by the back of the shirt and yanked him off.
It was Butch. "Whaddaya think you're doin'? he demanded. When he didn't get an answer, he gave both boys a shake. "Huh?" They both had their eyes fastened on the floor, but Jack seemed to be sitting uneasily. Butch noticed and pounced on it. "Jack," he said in a low voice.
Jack tensed up. All the boys in the Lodge House knew that when Butch was being loud, it was time for fun. When his voice got quiet, like it was now, that was when you had to shape up and listen.
His guilty look just confirmed Butch's suspicions. "Let's you an' me take a walk," the leader said, jerking his head toward the door. He let go of Jack's arm, waiting for the younger boy to follow him.
Jack did, a rapidly growing feeling of unease settling in his stomach. Butch led him down the stairs and outside into a back alley. Jack was torn between being scared and wondering what was going on.
"Look," Butch said, leaning back the brick wall at his back. "I don't know what's goin' on with ya, Jack, but you leave the other boys out of it. They ain't done nothin' ta you. If ya wanna fight someone, ya come fight me."
Jack scowled. "Sounds like a trick," he said.
Butch ran a hand through his wild dark hair, pushing it back out of his eyes. "Are ya scared?"
That did the trick. All Jack's pent up frustration finally burst forth, and he took a wild swing at Butch. The big sixteen-year-old caught it easily and turned him to the side, but that didn't slow Jack down. "Race says I'se been borin' ever since the Refuge, but he don't get it!" he burst out. Another punch, with his left this time. "I know more things 'bout the world now, things the other boys don't know, and they'se just make fun of me for it!" He went on throwing punch after punch, all of them easily deflected by Butch.
The kid wasn't backing down, so Butch pushed him roughly against the wall, pinning him there until he stopped struggling. "You'se right," he told him. "Ya do know things the othah boys don't. You'se only ten, Jack, but you'se had experiences even us oldah boys ain't had."
Jack had to catch his breath before answering. He was worn out, and Butch wasn't even breaking a sweat. "I know," he said finally. "That's why I draw. It gets all the extry stuff outta my head and on the paper where I'se can see it. Helps me think."
Butch released his hold on Jack completely, trusting that the boy wouldn't fly off the handle again. "What's the deal with your pitchas, anyway?" he asked.
Jack scuffed his toe against the cobblestones. "My ma liked 'em," he mumbled. "She liked it when I'd make pitchas for her. Said it made her feel special. Afta she died -before I found you guys- I lived on the streets, an' I couldn't make any pitchas there."
"I'll tell ya what, kid," Butch said, coming to a decision. "Ya know how ta get up on the roof, right?" When Jack nodded, the leader pressed on. "Why don't ya go up there ta make your pitchas? The other boys won't bother ya up there."
Jack wiped his nose with his sleeve. "They won't listen ta me," he said.
Butch shook his head with a grin, crouching down in front of the little boy. "They listen ta ya more'n ya think, Jack," he said. "You'se got the makin's of a leader."
Jack smiled slightly in return. Darting forward, he threw his arms around Butch's neck in a fierce hug. "Thank ya, Butch," he said.
Surprised, Butch hugged him back. "Aw, you're welcome, kid," he said. Then he ruffled the younger boy's hair. "C'mon, let's head in. Even hangin' with that wild bunch beats freezin' our butts off out here." Straightening up, he hoisted Jack onto his shoulders and started for the door.
Jack grinned. "Ya think Race'd be up for a poker game?" he asked.
Butch laughed. "Yeah, kid, I think so."
(A/N): Hey everybody! I hope you enjoyed this little Jack and Butch oneshot. For those of you not familiar with my other stories, Butch was the Manhattan leader when Jack and the boys were younger, and Lou was his second-in-command. This oneshot was actually requested in a review on one of my other stories, A Regular Little Romeo (which you should definitely check out if you haven't already!), by Marcelle of ValandMarcelle. You should go check out their stories, they're amazing!
Don't forget to drop me a review! I love getting those. Tell me what you liked/disliked, and any other thoughts you may have had. :) I also love getting requests, so please don't be shy!
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