Seeing Past the Trees
Uncharacteristically, Jack was awake before Kloppman came in. He woke up, blinking, feeling rather warmer than usual and noticing that the room was lighter that it normally was. He blinked again, opened his eyes, saw it, blinked again and it was still there, reaching from the window to the floor: a single wide ray of sunlight. Jack felt a slight skip of bubbles in his stomach and smiled.
During the trip to Weasel's, Jack managed to convince Race to swap routes with him – or rather, managed to buy Race's route off him for two bits and a promise to cover any losses Race might have on the track. And it wasn't really fair, in Jack's opinion, that he didn't simply have Central Park as his standard route, but Race did have it first, and Jack would never, ever admit it, but Race was kind of scary. Hence, having to bribe him.
"Why d'you want it anyway? Got a girl or something?" Race had asked, and Jack had just shrugged.
He'd never taken Sarah to Central Park, mostly because their relationship had stretched all of two weeks of looking at each other after the strike, and then three weeks of avoiding each other, before David finally had told Jack to suck it up, Sarah was engaged and could he please stop slinking about outside, he was still welcome in the Jacob's home. There'd never been any talk of it since, so of course he hadn't taken Sarah to Central Park. It hadn't been spring then, either.
But now it was, first really warm day of the year, and Jack was willing to bet that David had never seen Central Park on the first day of spring – David was far too sensible and focused to take time to do silly things like running around and climbing trees in Central Park.
But Jack wasn't. And the least he could do, as David's friend, was share it with him.
Even if it meant getting teased about his love life in the line for papes.
"What's this about a girl?" David asked when he arrived, overhearing Blink's rather lewd comment about the park at night. Jack just grinned at him and threw an arm around him, leaning slightly on him. David smiled up at him, all close and looking slightly pink from having run and Jack felt the bubbling feeling he'd had that morning resurfacing.
"But why are we going to Central Park? It's not a better route than our usual," David said, even though they'd managed to sell most of their papes already, and Jack felt torn between the familiar annoyance at David's sensibleness and amusement.
"'Cause it's spring, Davey, and you gotta enjoy it. A month or two, the weather'll be baking and it won't be the same." Jack expected David to argue, possibly even balk and demand that they return to their regular route, but he didn't. Instead he said, "oh," and grinned almost shyly at Jack.
Jack decided that the bubbles in his stomach were entirely due to it being spring.
The park looked just as gloriously green as Jack remembered it from last spring. It wasn't that he hadn't passed it since then – he'd eaten at a diner nearby just two weeks ago – but it just looked different when the sun was out like this. Jack didn't usually go all sappy about anything, but the park just appealed to the kid in him – and who could say no, when faced with an opportunity to climb trees and roll around on the grass, even if they weren't children.
Beside him, David was staring at the trees. "Uh, Jack?" he said.
"Yeah?" Jack couldn't help the grin on his face; the weather was mild, the trees were swaying gently, he could smell the park and David was a warm presence beside him – it was spring, finally! He turned to David, who was looking at him expectantly.
"Jack?" David said again, and it occurred to Jack that David had asked him something.
"Are we going in, or are you just going to stand here marvelling at the trees all day?" David smirked at him, and prompted by unknown forces took off into the park. Jack grinned, and took chase. It didn't take too long before he caught David – or rather knocked into him and wrestled him to the ground. David put up a good fight – a much better fight than Jack'd expected, managing to pin Jack twice during the scuffle – but Jack was stronger and used to scrabbling in the streets and David ended up underneath him panting, crying "uncle".
David, flushed red, with specks of mud on his clothes, out of breath and near tears of laughter was strangely alluring. He was warm under Jack and comfortable, and Jack decided that that didn't mean anything. He grinned back at David, and pretended to consider whether to accept Jack's defeat or not. Then David squirmed underneath him and Jack rolled off him fast. They lay next to each other, David still panting slightly (which made Jack smile, half mockingly, half fondly), watching the sun through the trees. Next to Jack, there was a small group of snowbells, and little further down the path three siblings were playing some form of tag, watched by their amused mother. Jack watched them for a few moments, laughing as the smallest one managed to skip away just in time for the two older siblings to knock into each other. Next to him, David sat up.
"So, this is where you bring girls?" he asked, and Jack felt something cold sneaking into his otherwise warm body.
"What?" Jack exclaimed, trying to ignore the sudden skip of his heart. He felt confused, like something was going on that he didn't quite understand, but it could be good. Or terrible. He carefully didn't look at David.
"Race was talking about you trading routes with him for a date earlier. I just assumed it was something you'd done before." When Jack glanced over, he noticed that David studiously wasn't looking at him either. He blinked and considered his options, before finally deciding on the truth.
"I never brought a girl here," he said, and that earned him a quick grin from David. He grinned back, relieved, even as he felt strangely disappointed that things had gone back to normal. He took David's offered hand and got up.
"Anyway, if you were trying to woo a girl, I'd hope you'd at least pick her flowers."
"I don't hafta woo girls, Davey, they fall at my feet," Jack said, standard answer he'd give any of the other newsies, as he tried to squash the sudden urge to pick flowers for David.
"Really." And it wasn't fair that David could be sarcastic and collected, when Jack was still slightly dizzy from the weather, the park and David. And it wasn't really unusual for him to want to touch David, or to want to look at David, that had been going on almost from the moment David had smiled at Medda's performance, but now – it was dizzying.
And David was staring at him, waiting for a come-back.
Jack didn't have one. He just stood, looking back at David.
They stared at each other for a few moments, and Jack felt it again, that confused feeling of something about to happen.
And then it started to rain. David broke the stare to look up, and Jack felt the disappointment again.
"We've got to get out of the rain," David said, rather unnecessarily in Jack's opinion, and took Jack's arm, trying to drag him out of the park. Jack took a breath, glanced around.
"Wait a sec," he said and bent down, picking the flowers and trying not to panic. He could feel David staring at him, and the bubbles in his stomach intensified as his heart sped up. He wondered briefly if he was going to be sick, but he was never sick, not even after he'd gotten beat up by the Delancey's a year back, and why did this seem harder than that?
"I'm not a girl, Jack," David said, looking at the flowers in Jack's hand.
"I know," Jack said, searching for the words to explain, "I'm..., I know that, Davey, I just, I'm glad...I like...it doesn't matter," and that was a lie, because of course it mattered, but David was looking at him with that half smile on his face, and his hand was covering Jack's hand, the one holding the flowers.
"I like you," David said, and Jack felt even warmer than he had earlier when they'd been tousling; warmer even, than when he'd woken up and discovered the ray of sun.
"Yeah, me too," he said, stupidly, but before he could clarify, David kissed him.
It was still raining, but Jack didn't care, and the boys could tease him about girls until they were blue in the face, because this was, it was, it was better and it was David.
David pulled back, and Jack grinned at him. "Yeah," he said, and David smiled like he understood.
Uncharacteristically, Jack was awake before Kloppman came in. He woke up, blinking, feeling rather warmer than usual. He blinked again, opened his eyes, saw it, blinked again and it was still there, reaching from the window to the floor: a single wide ray of sunlight. Jack thought about David, felt a slight skip of bubbles in his stomach and smiled.