Lessons Learned

By Miniola

Author's Note: This started with an idea for a couple of newsies' first times at the Refuge... this is what I came up with, given the time restraint. Betaed by spiritsmelding, and Toxin.

1890 Mush

"What is your name, boy?" The unpleasant-looking man demanded. "How old are you?" A small child cinnamon complexion stood before him, sniffling slightly.

"M-Michael Meyers, sir," he replied in a small voice. "I'm seven." The man rolled his eyes, marking something down with his pen, before standing up and walking around the desk.

"Get in there with the rest of them."

Michael was led to a room crowded with other boys, and was directed to an empty bunk. He wondered why he had been brought there and sat down on the bed and leaning against the wall, shoulders hunched defensively. He hadn't done anything wrong.

At the train station, while with his mother and various other siblings, he had become separated from the rest of them. Getting onboard the train anyway, Michael had assumed he would find his mother, who had the tickets. Somebody hadn't liked that though, and now he was at the Refuge. His mother was probably miles and miles away. She wouldn't be able to afford to come back for him. She didn't know where he was now, at any rate, and neither had he known their destination.

Hunching down further into a ball, Michael peered out over his knees at the commotion the other boys were creating. He wasn't going to cry, not in front of them. His mother had told him that he too old to cry. If he didn't open his mouth, maybe he could stifle the tears.

After a couple of minutes, a young boy with floppy brown hair and an eye-patch came over to where Michael sat.

"What's your name?" Michael started at the stranger mutely.

"I'm Ryan. Can't you talk?" the boy asked after a moment. Michael nodded.

"Why aren't you?" Michael was surprised when Ryan sat down next to him on the bed.

"If I talk I might cry," he mumbled. Ryan frowned.

"Whatcha got to be so sad about?" he asked.

"I lost my ma." A tear began to leak out of the corner of Michael's eye, but he wiped it away furiously with the back of his hand.

"Oh." Ryan paused. "She die?" Michael shook his head vehemently.

"So, that's good, right? And I think it might be okay to cry, since you're sad." Michael didn't reply. "I've cried before."

"You've only got one eye," Michael pointed out, looking at the other boy with an interested gaze.

"Yeah," Ryan agreed, nodding. "My mama died." He didn't elaborate on the subject, and Michael shifted closer.

"I'm sorry," he said, forgetting momentarily about his own grief.

"S'okay. I got friends. You got friends?" Michael shook his head in response.

"No?" Ryan asked incredulously. "I'll be your friend, then." He looked around the room.

"It's lights out soon. My bunk's over there," Ryan pointed across a row of bunks. "If you don't feel like crying, maybe we can talk." He stood and started across the room.

"Thanks," Michael said softly. "Hey, Ryan?" Ryan paused.

"You could stay over here, and maybe if I just listen to you talk I'll feel better."

"We'll have to whisper." Ryan nodded, and sat back down on the bed.

That night, listening to Ryan, Michael was able to feel much better. Ryan made him laugh and forget about his worries. He had a good point; it was all okay, if you had a friend.

1897 Specs

It didn't hit Specs right away that they were being taken to the Refuge. Actually, nothing really penetrated his alcohol-fogged mind until that first strike from a bull, and then there was just complete pandemonium. The newsies had lost, though that was hardly a surprise, seeing as the bulls were a challenge when the boys weren't tanked.

In truth, it was really just a lock-up on the grounds that they were publicly intoxicated and they were causing a "disturbance". Specs scoffed at that. They were all drinking, but while Race and Blink had been singing rather loudly, he didn't think that anyone was really disturbed by it, and it certainly didn't warrant their unceremonious containment in the solitary confinement cells. They had become rather un-solitary in the process of having to fit ten guys into four cells.

Specs didn't mind that much though, stumbling into the tiny room. He hadn't had that much to drink, and was just on the furthest borderline of "tipsy". He was vaguely aware of how much the bruise on his jaw would fit in with his new hang-over. Bumlets staggered into the cell after him. Responsive, upright, and cursing vehemently; he wasn't too far gone. Dutchy on the other hand... Specs wasn't even sure he was conscious when he was thrown inside the cell. The door was slammed shut after him.

Bumlets caught the blonde before he hit the ground, and with the help of Specs, they were able to get him onto the bed. Specs leaned against the wall nearest to Dutchy, closing his eyes as Bumlets sank to the floor, propped up against the adjacent wall.

"Is it the booze, or did 'e get hit?" Specs asked, voice fighting the natural inclination to slur.

"Dunno," Bumlets murmured in response, holding his head in his hands. "Both?"

Specs knelt beside the bed, gazing at Dutchy intently. He needed to be woken up, just in case he had a concussion. The blonde looked so serene though, with his hair spread out like a halo. His breathing was deep and even. Dutchy had never been so still. Specs had thought of the blonde often, but he had never acted upon his feelings. He stretched out a hand to Dutchy's shoulder.

"He's beaut'ful." The Latino boy's contented sigh startled Specs out of actually touching the angel before him. Bumlets moved over to sit in front of Dutchy's head. He kissed Dutchy's cheek and took hold of the other hand.

"He denies it, but I tell 'im anyway," Bumlets continued, also trying to maintain normal speech. Specs didn't reply, feeling ashamed that he was witnessing such a moment between the couple. He hadn't known for sure that there was something between them, but had been suspected it for a while.

"You know I'm right," Bumlets nodded, staring at Specs with mildly accusing eyes. "S'okay." Specs couldn't really contradict that. He settled for silence, staring anywhere but at Bumlets and Dutchy's intertwined hands.

"He thinks you're beautiful too." Specs' gaze snapped to Bumlets, who was looking at the unconscious Dutchy with a small, sad smile. "He don't say anything, but I can tell."

Bumlets wasn't angry; it took a lot (or provocation and a little to drink) to get him really angry. He had just accepted the truth, it seemed. Specs stared at the floor. The words that Bumlets hadn't said, but that were clear in his eyes, echoed in his brain. He wants you, but all he has is me. He's all I ever wanted.

1895 Spot

They had taken his slingshot, the bastards, and if they thought he wasn't going to do anything about it, they were wrong. Snyder and his cohorts had semi-successfully busted a poker game and Spot had been ordered to help lay down fire, in an attempt to let the majority of the Brooklyn boys escape. The plan had worked for the most part, only leaving a few of newsies, Spot among them, arrested. Spot hadn't minded staying behind for the cause, and distract the bulls. That was his job, being one of the older, more influential newsies in Brooklyn.

While he aspired to more (Ringer was getting a bit too old to be the leader of the Brooklyn newsies), Spot didn't mind following orders from the higher up Brooklynites. It was all part of the plan to watch, wait, and listen. Taking orders from anyone else, well, that was a different matter entirely. He scowled at the floor as Snyder stalked past him, inspecting the silent boys in the bunkroom.

Once the older man had gone, Spot breathed a sigh of relief. The room was filled with voices once more, and no one paid him any mind as he made his way towards the door. Earlier, he had swiped a key from the Warden. Now it was his time to leave.

Spot was planning on taking leadership of the Brooklyn newsies, but there was no way he could implement his plan for power from inside the walls of the Refuge. It would take time of course, to gain the right people's trust and to work his way through the simple hierarchy through which Brooklyn was led. Give a boy a slingshot and a way of escaping jail, and he might amount to something, but Spot had more than a weapon and a key. He had the brains and the daring to overthrow Brooklyn.

With his determination, he would succeed. Spot rounded a corner, nearing Snyder's office. Outside, there stood a hat stand and a gold tipped cane caught his eye.

Spot stole it. Call it a reminder to Snyder to stay out of his way, or call it an assertion of power. It was his and Brooklyn was to follow.