Hi guys! This is a oneshot request from Bexlynne that was originally posted on my Tumblr, and now I'm posting it here!
"Anythin' over there?" Jack called to Specs, who shook his head.
"No, I don' see any sign of him."
Jack sighed and gestured for the small group of Newsies to follow him to the next street, which most of them did without question.
Race, however, trailed behind the group, his stomach burning with shame and anxiety as the same words repeated themselves over and over inside his head. It's all my fault. It's all my fault. It's all my fault. It's all my-
"Jack, get over here quick! I found 'im!" Finch suddenly called. Jack immediately raced over to the small alley where Finch was standing, but Race stood rooted to the spot. He doesn't need me. This is all my fault anyway. I should just leave. I should-
"Race, come on!" JoJo yelled, rushing past Race. Race snapped out of his trance and jogged over to where Jack and the other boys were standing, unsure of what exactly he would see but certain it wouldn't be pleasant.
3 Hours Earlier
Race sat on his bunk at the lodging house, staring at the empty bed across from him. It belonged to Romeo, but Romeo had yet to make an appearance that night. Race knew that the likely explanation for Romeo's absence was that he had a date which he had forgotten to tell Race about, but Race still worried. Romeo was the little brother he had never had, and he felt protective of him.
Just as Race was about to give up on waiting for Romeo and go to bed, the door the lodging house dormitory swung open and Romeo walked in, stumbling slightly as he made his way over to his bed.
Race observed Romeo suspiciously as Romeo sat down heavily on his bed, slowly wrestling his shoes off before flopping dramatically across the bed and running a hand through his already messy hair.
Race considered Romeo for a moment longer, before finally speaking. "Where ya been, kid?"
"Havin' a good time," Romeo answered after a moment, his speech slightly slurred.
It was then that Race realized that Romeo's breath reeked of alcohol. "You've been drinkin', haven't ya?"
Romeo giggled and nodded, still not sitting up to look at Race. "Felt good," he mumbled.
Race took a deep breath, anger coursing through his veins even as he tried to remain calm. "Ya can't just go out and get drunk on a Monday night, kid," he said, his voice hard.
"Why not? Start the week off right," Romeo responded a stupid grin on his face.
That was all it took for Race to nearly explode with anger. "I'll tell ya why not," he hissed. "Because if you keep goin' like this you're gonna end up just like your old man."
Romeo sat straight up, his smile gone and his slightly unfocused eyes blazing with fury. "The hell you mean, Racetrack?" he spat.
"I mean exactly what I said," Race responded, fixing Romeo with a look that would have made anyone else quiver in fear. "You keep goin' out and gettin' drunk like this, you're gonna end up a no-good drunk. Just like your Pa."
Romeo stood, angrier than Race had ever seen him. "My Pa wasn't a no-good drunk!" he yelled, causing a few other Newsies to sit up in bed to see what all the commotion was.
Glancing around at all the startled looks on the others' faces, Romeo lowered his voice. "My Pa loved me," he said quietly.
Race scoffed, still fuming. "Yeah, and that's why he left you and your Ma when you was six," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Romeo's eyes widened with hurt and Race immediately wished he could take back what he had just said, but it was too late.
Romeo drew in a deep breath, his anger reignited by Race's comment. He stood glaring at Race for a minute, before speaking in a dangerously soft voice. "At least my Pa wasn't a scumbag who beat on his own kid for fun."
With that Romeo turned, picked up his shoes, and stalked out of the lodging house, slamming the door behind him. Race stared after him, numb with shock.
About an hour later, Jack finally returned to the lodging house after his date with Katherine, looking as happy as ever as he crept through the bunk room towards the door to the roof.
Race remained where he was, lying down on his bunk with tears trickling down his cheek, not wanting to disturb Jack's happiness with news of what an idiot he had been. Unfortunately Specs, always the peacemaker, got out of bed and quickly caught up to Jack, tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention.
Specs and Jack conversed in low voices for quite some time, until at last Jack sighed heavily and nodded, before quickly making his way around the bunk room and tapping certain newsies on the shoulder to wake them up and then whispering something in their ear.
Finally, Jack came over to Race, but he didn't tap him on the shoulder. Instead, he simply leaned close to his ear and whispered, "Come on Race. We'se gonna go find your brother."
When Race finally summoned the courage to enter the alley where Romeo was, his stomach turned at what he saw.
Romeo was sitting slumped against one of the walls of a building in the alley, his breathing shallow. One of his legs was stretched out in front of him at an odd angle, and he was clutching his left arm to his chest. Bruises and cuts covered his face, and one of his eyes was swollen shut.
Jack was crouched beside him, trying to get him to wake up. Everyone who was crowded in the alley seemed to be holding their breath as they watched, Race included.
Finally, Romeo slowly began to come to, his eyes opening until they were small slits.
"Heya, kid," Jack said softly. "We'se gonna get ya back home, okay?"
Romeo let out a soft hum in response, his eyes already slipping back shut. Before he could full pass out again, however, Specs spoke up. "Who did this to ya, Rome?"
Romeo opened his mouth and mumbled something that might have been "Delancys", but his speech was so slurred and incoherent that no one was completely sure what he had said.
Jack gave Romeo a small smile, patting him gently on the shoulder. "Okay, kid. Don' worry about anythin' else for now, okay? We'se got ya."
With that Jack carefully hoisted Romeo up into his arms, careful not to touch his injured leg or arm too much. Slowly, he began the trek back to the lodging house with Romeo slumped against him, the other newsies (including Race) following close behind.
The Next Morning
Race was seated next to Romeo's bed, holding Romeo's limp hand tightly. The previous night had been a whirlwind of activity - settling Romeo into bed, Jack running to Katherine's to ask her to call a doctor, the doctor coming and giving them the news that in addition to all of his visible injuries, Romeo had also sustained multiple bruised ribs and a concussion. Race was glad of this time alone with his brother, though a voice in the back of his head was still whispering that he should leave, that the last person Romeo would want to see when he woke up was Race.
Race looked down at Romeo's sleeping form, covered in bandages and bruises, his chest slowly rising and falling. He took a deep breath and began speaking, feeling slightly silly as he did so.
"Um… heya, Rome," he started. "I dunno if you can hear me, but if ya can I'd just like you ta know that I didn' mean all those awful things I said 'bout you and your Pa. I was just worried about ya, an' I didn't think about what I said at all." Here Race paused, looking down at Romeo's hand and blinking back tears.
"I forgive ya, Race," a soft voice said, and Race's head shot up in surprise.
Romeo was lying in bed with his eyes open, giving Race a soft smile. He looked tired, but he was awake and alive.
Race let out a sound that was half laugh, half sob. "You don' hafta forgive me, kid. It's my fault. If I hadn't made ya mad you wouldn't have left and ya wouldn't have been jumped and-"
"That stuff ain't your fault," Romeo interrupted. "If anythin' it's my fault, for goin' out drinkin' an' bein' an idiot." Romeo paused here, a look of shame on his face as he looked down at his hands. "'Sides, I said some pretty nasty stuff, too."
"It ain't your fault, Rome," Race said stubbornly, and Romeo looked back up at him with a small smile.
"If it ain't your fault an' it ain't mine, then I guess it ain't either of our faults," he said. "So do ya promise ta stop beating yourself up over it?"
Race chuckled, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. "Only if you do the same, ya idiot," he replied.
"Deal," Romeo said, spitting into his good hand and holding it out to Race.
Race shook his head before repeating the gesture and giving Romeo's hand a gentle shake. "Deal, kid."
A/N: Please review and tell me what you thought! Also, I'm hoping to update some of my multi-chapter stories this week, but I'm sick right now and I feel pretty crappy so I can't promise anything. Anyway, see ya!