A/N: Hello again! Trust me I have so many good reasons for not updating til now. Wow has my life been fucking wild since the last chapter. Hopefully the next one will come sooner and without so much excitement in between. Anyway, I hope you enjoy! We're roughly halfway through the movie and maybe 1/3 or 1/4 through this fic at this point.
The next several days are hard. Manhattan newsies hold strong, but alone. The local kids from other newspapers strike with them, but most of the others in outside boroughs continue business as usual. Without Brooklyn's endorsement, Cowboy would have to lead his meager revolution on only conviction and David's words.
Denton proves faithful to his own word, observing and interviewing the newsies every morning the strike dragged on. Naturally, Georgia makes certain to be present for every quote and note, just in case one of the boys says anything unhelpful. Then, once Denton takes his leave for the day, she and Kentucky move on to school. Neither newsgirl is sure how to take their teacher's praise about their newfound dedication to academia—it feels almost like a betrayal to carrying the banner.
When not in Greeley Square or at school, Kentucky spreads the word to the child workers in other professions. Sidling up to windows of the laundry girls, waiting at lunch-spots of the factory kids, and whispering to Eliza's girls like Birds, she distributes the gospel of the youth strike into the nooks and crannies of the city. Georgia does similarly, but with the actual Birds.
Most of the approached kids and teenagers admire the effort but are understandably worried about making ends meet. Kentucky's boutique friend, Danielle, and delivery cyclist friend, James, bring up another good issue to her: as children in abusive homes, going to work is a solace and integral to their daily safety. They already don't have the means to get out of their situations, what will they do without a safe place to go daily plus zero money, especially if the strike goals don't work out afterwards?
Eliza and Cupcake, leader of Queens, end up taking point on that issue. Knowing all the underground of New York like the back of her hand, Eliza recommends several anonymous joints kids can duck for a spell, and where to avoid scams and traps. Some places, she mentions, will even pay kids in food for illegal or risky errands. Cupcake, out of all the other borough leaders, is the most fired up to strike with Manhattan—if she wasn't in charge of her own group of newsies whose lives lean on her, she'd have been involved in a heartbeat, but is waiting on Brooklyn like everyone else until then—and immediately offers to help hide or house any striking kids in need.
Thankfully, Kloppman couldn't have been more understanding and encouraging during this time of pennilessness either. He kicks no one out of the Lodging House nor mentions a word about it, just lets the boys keep staying as more and more of them stop being able to pay. It may have helped that, the day after her drunken failure, Kentucky sauntered home from Sheepshead with $3.13 in her pocket and put it all on her and everyone's boarding for the week.
At the time, the superintendent agreed to keep her donation anonymous. By the end of the week, however, a fresh pink carnation and a buttery croissant appear on her dresser. Irrationally fearing they are from her illicit, bowler-hatted gentleman caller, she approaches the accompanying note cautiously. Her muscles untense and heart warms when instead she finds Racetrack's chicken-scratch and all her boys' signatures: "Thanks for the beds, Duchess." The pastry dwindles to crumbs in moments, and she tucks the carnation into the ribbon of her bowler.
As they gather for a night out, none of them mention the flower in Kentucky's hat, likely on Race's orders. After almost a decade of friendship, he knows that having acknowledged her donation at all is more attention than she cares for. She makes sure though, when Georgia compliments it, that she replies loud enough for them to hear. "Thank you. Isn't it lovely? What a lucky girl I am to have boys like these."
To help leadership morale as it sunk in that they were alone in their protest, Jack organizes a party for the older Manhattan newsies at a basement bar in the Bowery. The barkeep, Dominic, befriended Jack in incarceration before aging out of the Refuge, so sneakily lets them in after closing. The caveat being that they need to trash the place by the end of the night so that it looks like a robbery, thus Dom can't get in trouble for product loss. Such an opportunity to let out their frustrations is a bonus to the newsies. Kloppman even gives them the curfew pass despite knowing they'll be out much later than allowed.
Unlike their travel to Hell's Kitchen what now seems like so long ago, the group walks quietly towards their destination. David and Georgia agreed that everyone should attempt to be upstanding citizens outside of strike hours, just in case. So, they speak in low tones under the streetlights. Mush and Kentucky lighten the mood by making up inappropriate limericks about the Delancey brothers. At one point they have Boots laughing so hard he cries.
"Hey, chuckleheads, look sharp," Jack calls. He steps down into the garden-level stairs of their destination. They crowd onto the steps as Dom unlocks the bar for them.
"Welcome, newsies. Jacky, gimme a hand wit da curtains." The barkeep and the cowboy go around to the few windows facing up at the street, drawing the dark curtains and hanging a second layer as well. "If anybody comes knockin', I got an exit out da back."
The teens spread out, filling the small space. Snoddy, Pie Eater, and Jake the Oyster push a couple tables together so that Dutchy and Itey can deal out cards for them all. Bumlets and Swifty the Rake hover over the phonograph sitting against the wall, choosing from the selection of song cylinders for background tunes. Skittery and Snitch slump into bar seats, ready for Dom to work his liquid magic on their moods. In the corner booth, Boots and David save a spot for Jack. At the nearest table over, Racetrack, Kid Blink, and Mush mark their territory with their caps and vests, then follow the girls to the counter, leaning against the polished wood while Georgia and Kentucky let themselves behind it.
"Alrighty, bar wench, gimme a triple of da good stuff!" Race nods his cigar toward the top shelf.
Kentucky scoffs at him. "I'd tell ya to get it yourself, but you can't reach it!" Earning a laugh from the guys, she turns her back to them to inspect Dom's stores. She grabs a bottle of mid-tier vodka and one of tequila, a handful of lime wedges, and the sugar bowl. With her bounty, she walks back around the bar and towards the table they marked. "Sorry, this is a self-service-only wench, boys."
"Yeah right!" They all call after her. She laughs and throws one of her limes at them.
"I'm great at mixing drinks," Georgia offers. "What'll it be?"
"Thank you, Belle! Finally someone 'round here wit some manners," Mush gushes dramatically.
"Why, you are too kind, sir," she drawls, exaggerating her accent. She mixes some wine and syrups for herself, then a gin concoction for Mush and fruity rum beverage for Bumlets. By then, Dom returns to his station and gets whiskey, beer, and the rest of the drinks for the guys. The only newsie who doesn't order alcohol is David, though Jack pours him a beer and pushes it towards him anyway.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, eh Davey?"
Pink spreads on David's cheeks. "I've, er, never really drank before."
Over his own stein, Boots' eyebrows raise and he looks pointedly away, while Jack tries not to choke chuckling. To David's embarrassment, this is also the moment Race saunters back over and loudly repeats the admission to Kentucky. She whispers—not quietly—back, "Pfft, straight lil rube like him? Hell, I'm flabbergasted he swears."
"Alright alright, stop bullyin' Mouth. 'Specially if youse gonna use them hoity-toity words dat only he knows anyways. If we's all can't play, no one can," Jack teases. The color in David's cheeks darkens.
"Ah c'mon, youse knows we're just messin' 'round." Race twirls his whiskey, eyeing the blushing boy's beer. "Go on, though, it'll loosen ya right up."
Loosening his collar, David accepts his mug and takes an admirable swig. For a moment he looks repulsed, but by the end of his swallow, his expression softens into a look that clearly says, "oh, this isn't so bad." The newsies cheer and all begin their libation. Unlike other times the older newskids party, inebriating just for fun, tonight they drink like they need it. Desperate to relax and pretend, for a few hours, that they aren't trying to lead an economic revolt. They knock back glass after glass at twice the speed they normally would; quickly their voices rise in volume and the floor starts to get sticky with spilled drinks.
Uproarious laughter fills the bar. "Youse did not! Youse madman!" Swifty guffaws at Kid Blink's mischievous childhood story of how he lost his left eye. The newsie in question just raises his hands up and leans back in his chair. The laughs rise again as he nearly falls backward onto the ground. David, who could only be described as utterly sloshed at this point, isn't even making sounds anymore, his body just shakes with silent hysterics.
"Alright, alright, let's keep the ruckus down," Jack calls halfheartedly. He can't keep his own silly grin dampened though.
"I can't even imagine y'all as tots," Georgia smiles, slumping her head in her hand. "Mostly cuz y'all still act like children! Ha!"
Everyone laughs and throws napkins at her, and David and Jack pout good-naturedly. "Aw, you shoulda seen Boots here as a lil guttersnipe, he was smaller than Les is now." Jack noogies his younger friend.
"Hey now, youse didn't used to be so big an' tough yaself, Cowboy," Skittery smirks over his glass. "All stick limbs an' a head shorta. Youse an' Kentucky coulda been twins, she was just da same."
Georgia and David turn to Kentucky with raised eyebrows. "Pish posh," the brunette drawls, "I was taller than him an' twice as handsome!" She slams back the rest of a beer—she didn't know whose—while everyone argues over who had been the cutest kid. It's decided near-unanimously that Mush takes the title, the only hold-out being Race. Kentucky rolls her eyes at him then gets up. "Mama needs another drink. Who wants?" Several boys raise their empty glasses at her. "Okay wiseguys, I only got two arms."
"And dat is what a bartenda is for." Dom swoops in, offering her his arm. She tips her bowler to him and the two away to the counter together. Race rolls his eyes, and Blink uses his good one to follow them across the room.
"Duchess, please!" Mush calls out, swinging around in his chair. "When will ya lemme make an honest woman outta ya? My proposals grow dry an' my heart weary!"
At opposite ends of the room, Kentucky and Georgia both scoff. "Darlin' I ain't been honest a day in my life an' I ain't gonna start any time soon!"
Still unused to the group dynamics when it comes to the newsgirls, David leans—heavily, without control of his weight—toward Georgia. He tries and fails to whisper. "Pssssst, Anna! Is Mush in love with Kentucky? Who is she in love with?"
The surrounding boys try not to snicker, letting David think he's being discreet. Georgia has to fix her tongue between her teeth before she can answer without laughing. "No, Mush isn't in love with Kentucky. They just play around like that. Kentucky isn't in love with anyone, she's just a hussy." No one can contain themselves at that one, but David doesn't seem to notice. His eyes are dilated upon Georgia.
"Are you in love with anyone?"
Her face burn scarlet and her stomach leaps into her throat, obstructing any possible answer. Before she can compose her thudding heart to respond, sweet innocent Jake the Oyster who hadn't even been paying attention until this moment, tactless with gin, connects an association out loud from his card game. "I guess it's ya off-season wit that Staten Island Cody, eh?"
Everyone turns to him, startled. Jack and Race avert their eyes and takes a giant gulp from their cups. Kentucky considers dropping a bottle on the ground just to divert attention. David whispers loudly again, "Who's Cody?"
Attempting to force casualness again, the newsboys restart idle and inane conversations. Georgia takes a moment to get a grip, then turns to lock eyes with David again. She holds his gaze with purpose. She must regain control. "I'm not in love with anyone. Are you?"
He doesn't—can't—answer. He just continues to stare into her gaze, and smiles. Their eye contact only breaks when Kentucky and Dom return with drinks, and Georgia looks down. She knocks back one of the fresh shots before she can even realize she does it. Kentucky wags her eyebrows at her, tilting a shot down her own throat. The tipsy minds of the newsies around them are successfully distracted by the new beverages, and Jack engages David in a conversation about Sarah. He asks if she's asked after him since their last meeting, what she said, what kind of things she likes, what kind of people she likes.
Raucousness impends in only a matter of time. At this point, everyone is officially drunk—David and Boots nearly sloppily so. Race gets shot down unanimously when he suggests strip poker, but in his outraged rebuttal he says, "Aw c'mon youse cowards, I dare ya!" and the room alights around him. In unison they all declare themselves willing and eager participants in a game of Truth Or Dare. The boy situated at the outer tables pull in. Even older and less intoxicated Dom appears excited. Not even ten minutes in, Swifty the Rake has performed a jig on the bar, Boots chooses to shower with a rabid sewer rat rather than either Mister Pulitzer or Warden Snyder, and Snitch pretends to hock papes to everyone in the room. Out of the eighteen teenagers in the room, he only "sells" four papers.
"Aw, youse guys are all misers!" He complains, slumping back into his chair. Everyone claps nonetheless, and the turn moves on to Racetrack. "Truth or dare, Race?"
"Normally I would choose Dare, but after dat pitiful display I don't trust youse sense of creativity." He squints over his half-ashed cigar like an aged professor.
"Screw you, Higgins. Tell the truth: would youse ratha flash da nuns or sing a song in one-na Medda's corsets?"
The air moistens with spit drinks. Kentucky just about falls off her chair she's laughing so hysterically and the cigar nearly falls from Race's lip. He saves it between his fingers, licking his lips and blinking rapidly. "Well," he starts, voice an octave higher before he clears his throat, "naturally I's would flash d'ose dear old nuns. Poor women have been deprived for fars too long, if youse know what I mean." A resounding reaction of "Sick!" "Scandalous!" and "Slut!" filled the room, only encouraging Race's self-satisfaction. He looks to his left, zeroing in on the target of the next question. "Okay, Duchess," he pats Kentucky's knee, "Truth or Dare?"
"Aw, you're killin' me, Anthony," she pouts. "Truth?"
"Nah-ah-ah!" Dutchy waggles his finger at her. "Youse already chosen Truth t'ree times already. Ya gotta get a Dare now, dem's da rules." He's backed up by the group when she tries to argue this so-called rule.
A silent, combative conversation happens betwixt the eyes of Racetrack and Kentucky. In the end, Race smirks and shrugs off her indignation. "I's dare ya to lay one on Dom ova here." He clasps a hand on the barkeep's shoulder.
She rolls her eyes at the rowdy oooh's that sound from the group, and looks to the recipient in question. "Dominic, do you consent to gettin' one laid upon?"
Dom raises his brow. "Well I mean if youse absolutely must," he grins devilishly. He leans across Race to pull her in by the nape of her neck. They lock lips over the darer's lap, who exclaims his displeasure at this development.
When she finally detaches from the older boy and his now swollen lip, she steals Race's cigar on her way back. "That's what you get," she smiles, flipping her hair over her shoulder and taking a fat puff. "Alrighty then. Georgia, my love, Truth or Dare?" Unlike her friend, Georgia is not out of Truths and asks for one. "Whom'st was yer first kiss?"
"Oh, easy, that was Jack."
"You're a scoundrel!" David barks over the excitement around them. The exposed past-smoochers only laugh at him. "Why are you laughing at me? I'm not okay with this!"
"It was a long time ago, Davey," Jack grins over his drink.
"And not even romantic," Georgia assures, giggling at the memory of their awkward young faces smushing in some semblance of a kiss in her first year as a New York resident. "For one brief second, we wondered if we were interested in bein' more than friends. I don't even think I was even a newsie yet? There could not've been lessuva spark. Nowhere near as sparky as he an' Sarah."
Seemingly assuaged, David slumps back in his seat. He tries not to throw dangerous looks at Jack, who sports a little grin at the mention of his crush. The group goes through another round, daring Bumlets to stand on his head for three minutes, getting the nasty details of a date gone wrong for Snoddy, and getting Itey to drink a full pint of a monstrous concoction of every weird thing they could find behind the bar. By the time they circle back around to Georgia's third turn, Boots, David, Swifty, Bumlets, and Itey have all resigned themselves to booths on the other side of the room, passed out (or in Itey's case, emptying his stomach into a bucket). Everyone else agrees to finish the round then move on to another activity.
"So wassit gonna be, barkeep?" Georgia hiccups after completing her dare to spin in circles twenty times then try to serve herself a drink. Half of her shirt now sports half a shot of vodka, but she mostly succeeded.
"Truth," Dom declares, spreading out his bare arms in a welcoming gesture. Sometime ago his shirt had been dared away and replaced with wearing someone else's suspenders like a necktie.
"What was the Refuge really like?"
A beat passes. Kentucky, Race, and Mush each take a sizable drink from their cups. Eyes dart from Georgia to Dom to Jack. Jack fixes his own to the floor, jaw clenching. Dom clears his throat. "Not great. Da warden, Sneider, is a messed up son of a bitch. Feeds da kids scraps, keeps 'em dirty, real quick wit' a switch if one acts up."
"Well, we know Crutchy's prob'ly doin' okay then. Kid's an angel," Skittery offers in an rare display of positivity. Jack knocks back the rest of his beer and slams the stein down, muttering that he's going to go refill. When he steps away from the table, Kentucky turns to Dom.
"What happens to girls in the Refuge?" Everyone looks at her, surprised, except for Georgia. That newsgirl's expression closes, and she watches Dom carefully for his answer.
"Uh, I dunno really. There's a goils' wing, but I never saw it. I heard though dat afta the century turns, they gonna make a special lady prison instead, 'cause da nuns were worried 'bout their modesties or whateva."
Kentucky and Georgia exchange a severe glance, mouths set. The latter opts to finish off her own drink and join Jack at the bar for a refill. Too drunk to realize the air of discomfort, Jake the Oyster tries to tease the former. "Pfft, Kentucky d'youse know da word 'modesty'?" Jack and Georgia return and immediately wish they hadn't.
The brunette glares at him. He is not close enough friends with her to joke like that. However, Kid Blink snorts into his bottle, "No, she does not."
"Hey man—" Race starts in on Blink, but the cycloptic boy cuts him off: "C'mon, even we dunno who all she comes back wit' marks from. And you," he points at Kentucky, "don't want us to."
Through grit teeth, she says, "I think you've had enough, Louis." At the rare use of his real name, he raises his hands up in surrender. She swipes his released drink from him and downs it, ignoring her friends' befuddled gazes.
"Alright ya children," Jack sits back down and nudges Jake over to the designated drunk corner, "one more round of drinks then it's time to blow." Everyone murmurs their agreement. "Da game is dead, somebody suggest somethin' else."
"What's da plan fer tomorrow, Cowboy?" Racetrack puts out the ashy butt of his cigar.
"Same as yesterday. We show those fuckin' World rats what we're made of."
"I'll drink to dat."
Another chorus of approval. Everyone cheers to that, then Jack and Dom rise to lead the teens in some healthy destruction. Rousing their resting friends in the corner, soon the bar fills with the sounds of breaking glass and toppling tables and youthful chaos. The newsies' spirits lift, and the newsies lift some spirits on their way out the back. The Manhattan leader shakes the bartender's hand before herding his cohorts back to the Lodging House.
"Go get some sleep, ya knuckleheads. C'mon, Mouth, you can come bunk wit' us."
Before David can slur his acquiesce, Kentucky pulls him over and wraps one arm around his shoulder and the other around Georgia's. "Y'know Davey, the boys' floor's sooo crowded an' smelly. I gots my own room that I usually share with Belle here, but I'm actually steppin' out fer the night an' would hate to leave our Belle all alone by herself. A gentleman like you would hate that too, I'm sure. D'you think you can possibly fix this for me, Davey?"
While Georgia turns scarlet at her blatant manipulation of the drunk boy, David nods vigorously. "I can totally fix this. I'll stay with her an' keep her comp'ny an' not at all smelly."
"Thank you so much, Mouth, I knew I could trust you." Kentucky pushes them together in front of her, herself away from the group. "See you in the mornin', doll." She winks at Georgia then slips into the darkness. Only Jack, who'd watched the exchange with tongue in cheek, and Kid Blink, trailing at the caboose of their clumsy line, notice her depart.
She doesn't walk but a few streets over, close to Greeley Square. Carefully climbing a fire escape up to a third-story window, she taps on the glass with her nails. When there's no answer, she raps with her knuckles instead. After a moment, the window slides up. The sleep-tussled resident smirks, remarking that he's surprised to see her here this late. She moves him out of her way so that she can slip into his room. "I'm drunk an' I'm mad at my friends an' I'm helpin' a girlfriend out. Just take off yer fuckin' clothes an' don't talk, Morris."
Back at the Lodging House, Georgia struggles with removing her own clothes. Though David is nearly passed out again on the bed (which took him a minute of chivalrous indignation to get in, after the newsgirl had to profusely assure him that it's okay that there's only one bed, they can share just fine, no one is sleeping on the cold hard floor), she can't help blushing at the thought of changing into her sleepwear in front of him. She tells herself to get a grip; this is not the first nor probably fiftieth time she's changed in front of one of the boys. Determined not to peek over her shoulder at him, she shirks off her daywear and hurriedly pulls on the nightdress she always keeps at Kentucky's.
She lays her glasses on the dresser then very gently slips into bed next to him. She wonders if she should lay toward him or away from him. Before she can decide, David rolls over, facing her, eyes closed but with a little tender smile on his face. His face is so much closer than she anticipated. "G'night, Anna," he sighs, moving even closer yet, and kissing her right on the mouth. He takes her breath away with him when he pulls back and smushes his cheeks into the pillow.
A/N: Shorter than I love to provide, but hope you liked it. As always, please let me know in the reviews if you have any constructive criticism! Also, I've updated my Shoplook so now there's fashion sets for our newsgirls! Here's the link to my profile (without the spaces, of course): www. shoplook. io/profile/kyliekay