Hello! I've been MIA for a bit, school has just been hell lately, but it's almost break and some inspiration has struck me! Here is Romeo's origin story, it's a long one! Enjoy!
The room was dark, cold, and smelled awful. Stephen lay on his bunk, trying unsuccessfully to get warm under the threadbare blanket he had been provided. Around him boys coughed and sniffled, the sudden cold snap having caused many of them to get sick. Suddenly the door to the room swung open, and a guard tossed a young boy into the room, quickly closing the door behind him. The boy lay on the floor where he had fallen for a moment, then slowly sat up, wincing slightly and rubbing his shoulder. Stephen watched him, his dark brown eyes burning with curiosity. The boy slowly stood, then looked around the room. Spotting Stephen, alone on his bunk, he slowly approached him. Stephen shrank back under his blanket, shying away from the beating he knew from experience was coming. The boy noticed, and stopped a few feet from the bed, a cautious expression on his face. "Easy, kid. I ain't gonna hurt ya." He gestured to the space on the bed next to Stephen. "Mind if I sit?" Stephen considered him for a moment, then gave a barely perceptible nod. The boy gave a small smile, then slowly lowered himself onto the bed, letting out a soft grunt as he did so. They sat in silence for a few minutes, then the boy turned to him. "Jack Kelly, you?" Stephen looked at him for a moment, before slowly shaking his head and pointing at his mouth. Jack's brow furrowed in confusion, and Stephen could tell he didn't understand. He pointed to his mouth again, then shook his head, making his movements much more exaggerated. Understanding dawned on Jack's face. "You can't talk, huh?" Stephen shook his head again, looking down at his lap, his cheeks burning. Though his time in the Refuge had long since stolen his voice, he was still embarrassed that he couldn't even hold a conversation with this boy, who had been much nicer to him than the other boys. Jack considered him for a minute longer before shrugging and lying down, pulling as much of the blanket as he could over himself while still leaving plenty for Stephen to sleep under. Stephen looked at him, stunned. The Refuge was something of a free for all, and most of the other boys would have stolen his blanket, seeing as how he couldn't complain about it. Not Jack. Following his lead, Stephen stretched out and lay down to sleep too, being careful not to disturb Jack, who had already drifted off.
Stephen let out a harsh cough, his eyes watering and his chest feeling as though it would break apart. Jack glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, concern flitting across his features. "You okay, kid? Been coughin' an awful lot lately." Stephen nodded, sniffing loudly. This triggered a long coughing fit, with Jack rubbing his back in between his shoulder blades and murmuring words of comfort. When he was finished, he leaned up Jack, thoroughly exhausted and breathing heavily. Jack hesitated, then placed his hand on Stephen's forehead. Stephen jumped slightly at the sudden touch, then relaxed when he realized it was just Jack. Jack sighed, resisting the urge to curse loudly when he felt how hot Stephen was. "You'se burnin' up, kid. How long ya been feelin' sick?" Stephen shrugged, and Jack sighed again but didn't push it. He helped Stephen to lie down, covering him as best he could with the threadbare blanket they shared before starting to stand. Stephen grabbed Jack's hand, his eyes asking a single question. Startled, Jack nodded, quickly sitting back down. "Okay, kid. I'll stay with ya." Stephen smiled sleepily, his eyes fluttering closed as he drifted off into a restless sleep with Jack holding his hand.
Jack stood frozen in front of the run-down old building, his heart hammering in his chest as he stared up at it. When he had been released a week ago he had sworn to himself he would never come back, yet here he was. His breathing became shallower and he almost turned and ran, but as he glanced down at the pile of blankets in his hands he thought of the little boy who desperately needed them and he took a step forward, eyeing the fire escape at the side of the building.
Stephen was lying in bed in a fever-induced dreamless sleep when a loud clanging noise startled him awake. Looking over at the window, he saw Jack standing there, a small grin on his face. Excitement building, he sat up and tried to stand but was suddenly racked by coughs. For at least a minute he sat there coughing, and when he was done he sat back, his chest burning and his head spinning. Looking at the window he saw that Jack was still standing there, though his grin had faded. More determined this time, Stephen slowly pushed himself to his feet and stumbled over to the window, ignoring the pointed glares and insults from the other boys. Wrenching it open Stephen took in the sight of Jack, who looked to him like a heroic prince preparing to climb a tower in a fairy tale. Offering him a small smile, Stephen leaned against the windowsill for support and looked at Jack expectantly. Jack opened his mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. "Here, I brought you some blankets. Gets pretty cold here at night, wanted to make sure you were warm enough." Stephen took the blankets quickly, the gratitude he could never speak shining in his eyes as he looked at Jack. Jack gazed at him a moment longer looking as if he wanted to say something, but he seemed to think better of it because he shook his head and turned away from the window, mumbling something about coming back the next week.
When Jack came back the next week Stephen was worse. Much worse. The blankets Jack brought hadn't done anything to lower his fever, and he now spent most of his time coughing or sleeping. He was too weak to get out of bed as well, and had earned more than a few beatings because of this. Jack took in the sight of him, lying pale and feverish on his bed, and felt sick. He didn't bother knocking on the window, because he knew it would only get him caught. He stood for a moment longer, thinking hard, before turning and running back the way he had come.
When Stephen woke up he was wrapped in soft blankets and lying on a soft mattress. I'm dead, he thought. I died in the Refuge and this is Heaven. He opened his eyes slowly, not sure what to expect. When he opened his eyes the room came into focus, and he looked around curiously. Wherever he was, it certainly didn't look like Heaven. He was lying on a bed in a small room lined with neatly made bunk beds. It looked to him like a much nicer version of the Refuge, which only confused him more. He was just about to get up and look around when a door on the other side of the room opened and a boy who looked to be a year or two older than him walked in. He stopped short when he saw that Stephen was awake, then his face split into a grin. "Well, well, well. Welcome back to the land of the livin', kid."
Stephen stood on his street corner, holding the paper out in front of him and batting his eyes flirtatiously at the woman standing in front of him. She considered him for a moment, before dropping a dime in his hand and taking the newspaper from him. Stephen turned to his selling partner, a boy named Race, and proudly held up the dime. Race chuckled, ruffling Stephen's hair as he pocketed the money. "Damn, kid. Guess we'll have ta start callin' you Romeo."
"Romeo!" Race yelled as he was dragged down the alley by one of the Delancies. Romeo watched, helplessly trapped by the other, as Race was shoved up against a wall. He watched as Race was punched in the face repeatedly, even when he started to bleed heavily. Romeo tried to break away and go find Jack, but he was held fast. It was only when Race was dropped to the ground and repeatedly kicked that something inside him broke. "Race!" he yelled, surprising even himself with the sudden shout. The Delancies stood frozen with shock for a split second, giving Race the upper hand he needed. He knocked them both the ground, grabbed Romeo tightly, then sprinted out of the alley. They ran for what felt like hours, until finally Race ducked into an alley, pulling Romeo with him. They crouched next to each other for a minute, breathing hard, before Race glanced at Romeo and burst into relieved laughter. Romeo sat quietly for a minute, before joining in. Both he and Race laughed until they were gasping for breath and wiping tears from their eyes. I've found my family, Romeo thought happily as he looked at Race. And my voice, a small voice in the back of his head added. Yes. And my voice.A/N: I view Romeo as really talkative and loud, so I kind of wanted to explore the complete opposite of that for his origin. Also, it has occured to me that I should explain the timeline here, so I shall. Basically, I view Jack as 17 in 1899 (that's canon, so yeah), Crutchie and Race as 16, and Romeo as 14 or 15. Jack became a Newsie in 1891 when he was 9, and his sister died in 1892 when he was 10. Race became a Newsie in 1890 at age 7. This story is Jack's first time in the Refuge, and he's 12 so it's 1894. Romeo is 10. Hopefully that makes sense.Please review and let me know what you think!