A/N: Sarah and Spot because there's something irresistible about this pairing. Opposites attract; give it a chance. I also love the opportunity to develop Sarah into a three-dimensional character with a strong mind because I believe that's what she deserves.
Disclaimer: I don't own.
The first time Sarah Jacobs met Spot Conlon she thought she was in love. It was the time of the Newsboys Strike and she was absolutely smitten with Jack Kelly. She barely acknowledged Spot when Jack introduced them; all she remembered was the abrasive pierce of his eyes in her peripherals. Her gaze had been trained on Jack all day.
Sarah knew now that she never loved Jack Kelly. She had been girlish and boystruck and dizzy all the time. She blushed when he kissed her hand and imagined what their children would look like.
The second time Sarah Jacobs met Spot Conlon was at the rally. Jack escorted her, but he had run off with her brother early in the evening; so Sarah was left alone at her table, sipping her water and trying to enjoy the music. She sat ramrod straight and patted her perfectly styled curls. A rose among thorns. The orchestra was just diving into an energetic tune when Sarah felt a body slide into the seat beside hers.
"Sarah Jacobs," the boy smiled. Sarah recognized him vaguely, but was more than happy to see a familiar face in the sea of strangers. "Spot Conlon, leader of Brooklyn," he added as if reading her thoughts. "I believe we were introduced at a diner a few weeks ago."
Sarah nodded to this; she now remembered meeting Spot at Tibby's. She had been excited when Jack asked her out for lunch, and her mood was only slightly dampened when she realized that it wasn't a private affair. "How do you do, Mr. Conlon?" she inquired politely.
Spot rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "What's a pretty girl like you doing here alone, eh? You look like you could use some company."
"Well, Jack Kelly escorted me this evening, but he is currently managing business with my brother, David."
"David? Mouth? He's your brother?" Spot squinted and leaned forward, much too close for what was appropriate. She shifted away in her seat, but he moved closer. Sarah felt him stare not at her but into her, and with this thought her stomach performed a curious flip flop.
After a few beats too long, Sarah found herself staring back at Conlon. His eyes were brighter than any she had ever seen, almost abrasive. They were much more beautiful than Jack's warm, trusting brown eyes.
With this revelation Sarah snapped out of her entrancement and cleared her throat, looking toward the pit where the band was playing.
Spot didn't seem to be bothered by the exchange. "Now I see it," he said. "You and your brother. You's got the same eyes. Pretty eyes," he added. "Real pretty."
Sarah felt a blush color her cheeks. She imagined complimenting Spot on his own eyes, cool and intelligent and beautiful. But just as she was entertaining the thought, Jack returned to the table and she saw no more of Spot. Jack filled her world, her concentration. She didn't even notice Spot's departure from their table, but she did remember the way his eyes felt on her face.
Their tryst lasted longer than anyone expected, and by the end it was no surprise when Sarah opened a door to find Jack touching her brother as he never did her, whispering tender proclamations that she had never heard. When she broke it off that same night, Jack pretended to be upset but she knew he was relieved inside. She was, too. She had spent so many days dreaming of what her life could be like now that she had forgotten that she was supposed to be living it. Sarah was not content with being a dreamer, as Jack was. She preferred to live in the present, not a could-be.
The third time Sarah met Spot Conlon they were alone. The meeting occurred in one of the dingier bars in Conlon's territory. Sarah had one of the most overwhelming days in her short years. She has stumbled across her lover and her brother sharing secret passions, and later terminated her relationship with the man she thought she was going to marry. She knew she needed nothing more to get good and drunk. Contrary to popular belief, Sarah had been drunk before, most often on her own terms as a form of stress relief. She told her parents that she was walking to clear her head, but neglected to mention that the walk ended in a Brooklyn pub where they didn't note your sex before they served the beer.
Sarah was just downing her first bourbon at the bar when she felt the air temperature plummet to her left. There he was, leaning on the scratched wood like he owned the place. Hell, for all Sarah knew, maybe he did. He owned everything else in Brooklyn, that was for sure.
"Sarah Jacobs," he smirked, eyeing her up and down. She shivered, unaccustomed to such a gesture. Jack had never looked at her that way. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Sarah tipped back the last of her drink and signaled for another. Spot gestured for himself as well and soon enough a couple drinks were thrown down on the bar in front of them.
She should have demanded more respect or averted her eyes before answering Brooklyn. She was a respectably young woman, after all. But that night Sarah held no intentions of being a lady, seeing as how she was getting drunk and all.
"I caught him with someone else," she sighed eventually.
Spot shrugged apathetically, studying the woodwork in front of him. He took a sip of his drink. This was no surprise.
"I mean, I know I don't give him exactly what he's looking for. But he never asked. He never told me what he needed."
Now Conlon glanced over. "You shouldn't have to ask. It ain't your job."
Sarah rolled her eyes. Her whole life was devoted to serving boys.
"Really, Jacobs." Sarah's stomach twisted when he spoke her name, but she dismissed it as the alcohol she was rapidly consuming. "The real question is, did he make you happy?"
"Of course," she answered automatically. But when Spot glanced at her skeptically, she wavered. "He was all I ever wanted... A charming man to take care of me someday."
"Someday," Conlon noted. "But what about today? If he ain't making you happy now, it ain't gonna get better from here."
Sarah hung her head. She had spent so long dreaming about the future in order to distract herself from the disappointments of the present. But it wasn't her fault-she had always been told that a man married a woman and she gave him children and cared for the family. No one had ever mentioned the fleeting passions of her youth, the men who might not become her husbands, or the fluttering heat she felt in her belly when Jack kissed her on the fire escape (never mind that he was probably kissing her brother there now, the traitorous bastards).
Actually, she felt that heat when Spot looked at her, which he was doing right now. Never before had Sarah felt this way. A rosy flush rose to her tipsy cheeks, and Spot shifted on his barstool.
Spot studied her. "Maybe," he said. "Maybe the problem is that you don't know what you want, so he could never give it to you."
"He never touched me," Sarah whispered, then mentally chastised herself for admitting such a thing. Ladies did not speak of such taboos. But hell-Sarah was getting drunk at a bar in Brooklyn. She was no lady, at least not tonight.
At her words, Spot leaned in closer to her. Whether this was conscious Sarah did not know, though she didn't mind the proximity.
"If I were Jack," Spot breathed into her ear, "I wouldn't have been able to keep my hands off a dame like you."
Sarah's blush deepened, and Spot ordered them more drinks. She hadn't noticed that their glasses were empty.
They drank more, and the alcohol warmed both Sarah's cheeks and Spot's steely eyes. Spot was loosened up now, and Sarah was more than a little tipsy. Her shoes were lying on the floor, her stocking-clad feet in plain sight. Her hair was freed from its usual knotted confines, and the chestnut strands curled gently over her shoulders. She felt beautiful. And when Spot told her as much she just laughed, and freely at that.
Somehow, Spot ended up on the stool right next to hers. Somehow, his shoulder brushed hers and rested there, heat practically pulsating on the contact. And somehow, Spot's voice was in her ear, whispering, "Where didn't Jacky-boy touch, you, Jacobs?" and, "I know what you want better than you do." He's right, she thought as his hand spread across her waist, his thumb brushing her ribcage. He's right, she thought as he paid their tab and she slipped on her shoes. She had never felt so alive as when she left the bar with Spot Conlon. Here was her now, here was her present. This was about what she wanted, not about what Mama said was right or the dreams she'd had as a child. This was living, she thought as Spot whisked her back to the Brooklyn lodging house, to his private attic room over the bunks. This is life, as he gripped her waist and kissed her neck. Never before had she been touched in such a way.
Here was where he should have proclaimed his love for her, whispering romantic nothings as Jack and David had, as lovers had for centuries. But Sarah was not a stupid girl, and she knew that this boy only wanted one thing. She was perfectly willing to give it to him, as she thought that this was what she wanted too. This ultimate togetherness was what she had never been able to give to Jack.
When Spot kissed her lips, pushing her against one rough wall, he tasted curiously of cinnamon. Sarah loved the way he kissed her; passionately, roughly, honestly. There was no fear of insult, of indecency; no hidden truth. Sarah valued this new level of honesty, and when Spot's wandering hands moved farther south than Jack's ever had she couldn't help but gasp into his mouth.
Sarah vaguely heard Spot's vain attempt at being a gentleman, something about escorting her home. She knew what she wanted now-a night for herself, one night were she could feel pleasure and lust and euphoria and not love, before she spent the rest of her life giving children to some man she had to love. So she simply rolled her eyes and pulled Spot onto his cot for another kiss.
And the next morning she regretted nothing. She awoke cradled in Spot's arms, his chest pressed protectively against her back. She smiled at his deep, vulnerable breathing. This was a side of the King of Brooklyn that no one but a woman could ever see. Slowly, she worked out of his embrace, donned her forgotten dress, and snuck down the stairs to the stirring streets.
It took her most of the morning to walk home, in which time she contemplated her night in Brooklyn. She was no longer a virgin. This should have shocked her, but it seemed to be a passive thought. And when she thought of her loss, she shivered with delight. Spot Conlon's reputation among the girls of New York was certainly deserved. Sarah was only disappointed that she would probably never experience such passion after she married-she doubted any man could make her feel as Spot did because she herself had never felt the abandon, the lust she had last night. And she never would again, she thought wryly.
Spot Conlon had uprooted her from everything she ever knew and abused her virtue, and she had loved every second of it. Sarah felt that finally in her life she had lived for herself. For once she hadn't thought about becoming a good Jewish housewife, or pleasing her family, or trying to love Jack. For once she had made her own decision-a bad decision-and she was happy. Spot Conlon had shown Sarah how to control the life she was living, and now that she understood exactly how she wanted to live-with no man to rule her, no pins in her hair or rules in her book-she was content to do exactly the opposite for the rest of her life.
When Sarah got home, she told her mother that she had spent the night at Ellie's, down the block. It didn't hurt her now that her mother hadn't noticed her absence as she would have the boys'. Esther looked at her curiously, then rushed forward and felt her face. When she inquired how Sarah was feeling, Sarah told her honestly that she had never felt better. Esther nodded. "I can tell," she said. "That's what's worrying me."
The fourth time Sarah Jacobs met Spot Conlon, he barely looked her way. David had invited her along to an official meeting between Manhattan and Brooklyn, figuring she'd soften Conlon's words. Sarah knew that this was folly, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to see Spot. David had gradually picked up more ambassadorial responsibilities as he and Jack grew closer. Sarah noted the tandem in the relationships, political and romantic, though she was sure no one else did.
That day David took her to Tibby's and her stomach fluttered because he was seated in a booth, an untouched sarsaparilla on the table in front of him. She barely listened to the political jargon of what Harlem was thinking intruding on Midtown like that and so what Sheepshead's in Brooklyn, Race's been selling there since before you ever thought of being a newsie and do you really want to be the one to kick him out? Instead she chose to train her focus on Spot, his bright eyes and glowing skin. He would make a horrible husband, she thought. He was too pushy and aggressive and not nearly patient enough. Their night had been full of realization and passion, but there was no more story to be written between them. And Sarah was fine with that.
After an hour of bickering, there had been no actual agreements or progress between the boroughs, and Sarah was ready to leave. But just as she was rising from the booth, Spot caught her eye, and smirked. The expression was full of lust and remembrance, and Sarah was sure that her own mirrored it. Their story was finished, but they didn't have to be. And as Sarah left the diner, nodding absently to her brother's complaints of the boy she didn't love, the one with whom she had traded her virtue for some secondhand, pick-pocketed knowledge, she was happy.