Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of Disney and are only used for fan related purposes.
Who Am I?
Jack Kelly really hated winter.
While Race took his turn in the cockeyed cot that was just the right height for the short Irish boy, Jack laid awake in his bunk, trying not to think about the fact that David had slept in it last night. He was currently snoring away in Race's borrowed bed; the snores made Jack feel a little better—they meant that David was still alive.
And the frying pan was stowed away beneath Race's bunk in case Jack got up the nerve to try knocking David's identity back into his head.
It was quiet in the bunkroom, the only sound really out of place being David's snuffles. Too quiet, in fact, which was probably another reason why Jack couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned, beat up his pillow a couple of times, pretended that the linens were just as damp yesterday, and tried his damndest to figure out what to do next. The silence in the room was almost deafening and Jack was tempted to break out in song like David had, but he doubted the Manhattan boys' loyalty towards him didn't extend to vaudeville tunes at two o'clock in the morning.
The reason behind the quiet was apparent very early the next day.
New York City had been blanketed with snow overnight. The city was at a standstill, at least two, maybe three feet of snow covering everything, making it pristine and white. The snow created a hush over the normally hustling and bustling city, a sweet silence that would've been even sweeter if it wasn't for the fact that, when they tried to push the exits open, they couldn't.
And, even worse for Jack Kelly, when he went searching for the superintendent in his office, he realized that Kloppman must have been caught out when the blizzard started last night. Kloppman still wasn't there; he couldn't help Jack figure out what was wrong with David. Who knew where he was or how long the snow would keep him from returning?
The newsboys were snowed in. Kloppman was snowed out.
And Jack was beginning to run out of options.
It took two days to dig them out. In that time, David occupied the boys trapped in the lodging house by telling stories that all seemed to feature a dashing, brave, handsome cowboy called Jack Kelly as the hero. He told the story of Jack escaping the Refuge on the back of Teddy Roosevelt's carriage so many times that only Tumbler was listening by that second evening, even if David managed to embellish the tale so masterfully that Jack was beginning to remember it differently—and he'd been there!
The Children's Aid Society sent a couple of their volunteers over to make sure the boys got something to eat and the city went ahead and spared a copper or two to make sure the blizzard didn't give them any ideas. With the winter storm putting New York out of commission, lodging fare was discounted until they could get out and make their sales.
Ordinarily, Jack would take the weather with a grain of salt, maybe sleep past dawn for a change and try to win pennies off of some of the younger boys, hustling them at poker. But not with David stuck in the same bunkroom as him. By the morning of the third day, when Kloppman's wrinkly face appeared to announce that the snow had cleared enough for them to leave, even Jack Kelly was beginning to doubt which Jack Kelly was which.
It took him a few seconds to register Kloppman's reappearance. The two days where the Manhattan newsies were snowed in was probably the longest stretch of time Jack could remember not seeing the old superintendent at his post. When he remembered how desperate he was to talk to Kloppman, he had hopped down from his top bunk and raced over to David—who drew the short straw and was taking his rightful turn in the half-sized, crooked bunk in the back—before Kloppman had successfully woken up Boots yet.
By the time Kloppman made his rounds and headed back to his office to start getting caught up on his ledgers, he found Jack and a very sleepy, very cranky David Jacobs waiting for him at his desk. He took one look at the two boys, figured rightly that something was up, and indicated that they should take a seat.
And then he listened as Jack told him what had happened. About the horse and the ice and the icicle that cracked David on his head. About how David went home as David but came back to the distribution center as Jack. About the bandana, the vest, the rope belt and an affinity for Santa Fe. About the smoking, the drinking, the goo-goo eyes at Sarah Jacobs and how, deep down, Jack and Sarah suspected David was still David but how, so far as Jack had tried, nothing could bring David back.
With a sheepish expression, Jack told him everything except, maybe, Racetrack's plan and the stolen frying pan.
Kloppman listened intently, nodding at the right parts and offering no commentary until Jack, his voice hoarse, his eyes tired and his charming smile uncharacteristically missing, simply said, "Can ya help him, Kloppman? Can ya tell me what to do to make him better?"
Kloppman stroked his chin and peered down his nose so that he was looking at David critically. Then, with an air of authority about him, he said, "So, did ya try hitting him over the head again yet?"
And poor Cowboy realized that he had just run out of options.
"Did you know that, in Santa Fe, the sun is bigger than here?"
Jack was walking with David. It was pointless trying to sell newspapers when the snow was keeping most of the customers away still, but Jack knew the two boys had to get out of the Newsboys Lodging House before some of the other boys throttled them. After the last few days being cooped up with two Jack Kelly's, he doubted they would care which one they went after, if only to get David to shut up.
He was beginning to wish he'd left David behind. The rate he was going, having Kid Blink or Pie Eater throttle David, they' d be doing him a favor.
"Did you know that, in Santa Fe, there are horses for every man?"
"Oh, yeah, so long as you don't court 'em, Jack. I think that's gotta be illegal there."
David went on as if he hadn't heard Jack. "Did you know—"
Jack huffed. David Jacobs going on and on about Santa Fe was making Jack want to live in New York for the rest of life and moving out west had always been his dream! "Listen, if you're gonna tell me one more thing about New Mexico, so help me God, I will soak you."
"Ah, so you think you're Spot Conlon now?" David said, giving Jack a short shove in his upper arm. Jack barely budged. "C'mon," he goaded, "I could take ya."
Jack just rolled his eyes and bit his tongue. But that was it. He couldn't take it anymore.
He was going to have to give up.
Jack would have to bring David back to his family and pray Sarah believed him when he told her that he did everything he could do—and, he added guiltily, thinking of the frying pan still hiding out under Race's bunk, a few things he probably shouldn't have. Who knows? Maybe he could convince Sarah to cover her long hair up with a newsboy cap, wear knickers instead of a skirt and call herself Harold. She could sleep in the back bunk and Jack wouldn't have to worry about what David would be up to at night.
Hell, he'd seen worse try to pass themselves off as newsboys... but he doubted Mrs. Jacobs would be too keen on the idea. And it probably wouldn't be so smart having Sarah that close to him and a hundred other boys, either.
But that didn't mean that he was going to be stuck with David any longer. He had to bring him home. It had been four days now and David wasn't getting any better. Maybe David's parents could find a doctor to take a look at his head, or—
That's when Jack saw it. Whether he did it purposely or not, Jack had led the two of them right back to the same street—Mulberry Street—where this all started. Up ahead he saw the same overhang as before, with countless glittering icicles clinging to the edge. They looked prime to fall, courtesy of the sunlight that had melted enough snow to thaw most of the city out.
And Jack wondered how hard he would have to hit the wall to make an icicle drop.
Grabbing a protesting David by the sleeve, Jack positioned him right underneath the least lethal looking icicle. When David tried to ask him what he was doing—"Have ya lost your mind, pal?"—Jack ignored him as he started an assault on the brick wall that had the few scarce passersby scurrying by as if building-violence was catching. No matter, nothing Jack did—not punching, not kicking, not even cursing at it—sent a single icicle crashing down on top of David's head.
There was a good chance Jack had lost his mind because, despite David smirking and laughing at him, he wasn't prepared to give up again. It was like when he went scab during the strike: it was a good idea at the time, just like giving up, but when he thought better about it, he had to work even harder to pretend he never tried to quit. Jack saw a rock, icy and slick, and decided that he would help the icicles on their way.
The toss was beautiful. It had height, a beautiful arc, it just about touched the icicle directly above David... but it didn't.
The rock fell back to the ground, right behind David who'd been too busy teasing Jack to notice where the rock had dropped to. The loud crash of the rock against the cobbles was unexpected and he spooked, jumping back in a skittish way as he realized what had happened. With a stormy expression on his face that actually made Jack a little leery—and a little impressed—David made a move forward to confront Jack for throwing stones at him when—
"Oh, shit! Dave, you okay?"
—David's feet slipped on a patch of ice neither boy had seen. His legs gave out from underneath him and, with a thump that shook the street and made one, stunted icicle on the far end of the overhang smash nowhere near them, David hit the ground. Hard. His eyes closed and Jack threw himself down to his knees and David's side, hardly daring to breathe.
He was just about to pass out from lack of oxygen when he heard a muttered groan, realized that David had managed to smack his head again and still not have cracked it like an egg, and allowed himself to use his lungs again. Jack exhaled and, with one shaky finger, poked David in the arm.
David opened his eyes. They dazed but alert.
He was okay.
Jack had one question for David: "Who are ya?"
He couldn't help himself. Excited and perhaps a bit wary, Jack picked David up by the front of his shirt and gave him a shake. "Tell me: who the hell do ya think you are?"
"Damn it," Jack cried, letting go of David, "that didn't work, either! I thought it would've, too!"
"Ow!" David fell backwards against the dirt and groaned so loudly that Jack felt a twinge of guilt in the pit of his belly. To bad he was too busy feeling sorry for himself and his own misfortunes to even care at that point. "Hey, Jack—"
"Hush up, I'm trying to fix ya!"
"Jack, what is going on?"
"I told ya be—wait? What'd ya say?"
"What is going on here? What happened? Why am I… oh, my… on the ground? Why does my… mm… my head hurt so bad?" David's fingers started to reach for the back of his throbbing head when they brushed against the knotted piece of red fabric he was still wearing around his neck. He froze, fingering the material, before he pulled the edge out so that he could what was there. His eyes widened and he just about choked. "Am I wearing a bandana?"
For the first time in days, Jack grinned. He really grinned, like his mouth was splitting in two from being stretched so wide. And, while this whole affair made him hate winter all the more, he wouldn't say a word against a bit of ice properly placed.
Because, you see, a patch of ice might've gotten him into this mess to begin with, but, wouldn't you know, it was another patch that got him out.
"I thought I was who?"
"Hey, think of it this way, Davey. You could've been Race." Jack found his smile impossible to remove now that David was David again. "And that reminds me." He stuck out his palm. "You owe me two bits. Oh, and a dollar for Skittery's hat. Pay up."
David just cradled his aching head in his hands. Unconsciousness had had to better than that.
End Note: Well, that was that. I started this fic during one of the worst winters the East Coast has seen in ages and I finish it on Mother's Day in May, when it was 70+ degrees out this weekend in New Jersey. Gotta love it ;)
Thank you to everyone who gave this little humor fic a shot. I had a ball playing with the characterization of Jack - he's still my favorite character and I'm seriously considering giving him a starring role in a multi-chaptered story once I finish Red. He's just too much fun to play with... and poor David. At least he finally got his memory back (even if he lost quite a few brain cells in the process :P)
-- stress, 05.08.11