(Imagine a) Brown Leather Wallet by Shimmerwings
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Disclaimer: The main characters aren't mine, they're Disney's wonderful creations. Inspiration for this story came from a lovely, lovely slash writer named Lemon Drop, who wrote a lovely, lovely Jim/Blair fic called "The Joy of Cooking", which can be found here: http://slashcity.org/quercus/Sentinel/Joy.html
Notes: To date, this is my favorite thing I've written. Ahh, yes . . . not only is it in second person point of view, but it's also in present tense. Messes with your mind, it does.


Imagine you're standing at the window, watching vendors hawking too-salty popcorn and fat pickles and what looks like sausage, but smells like clammy socks from where you are. You lean forward slightly, bracing your arms against the sill, and stick your head and shoulders out. What you're trying to do is pick out the voices of the vendors, see if the man with the greasy hair really is selling socks, which would make you feel a lot better about the smell. From what you can hear, though, he's selling sausages; Italian sausages, he calls, stressing the Italian, like it would make them taste any better.

Imagine you pull your head back inside, ducking to make sure you don't bump into the raised window pane-- you've had that happen before-- your face twisted in a way that's not exactly disgust. After all, you've been in the same position, having to make a less than savory product seem worth buying. And you can remember days when you would have begged for a sock-sausage, give or take the Italian part, and would have savored it. Those days aren't so very far behind you, even if it seems like a lifetime ago.

Imagine you sigh and shut the window firmly. It clicks in protest, but doesn't say anything else as you grab your wallet-- the one that holds real money, you used to remind yourself daily. It's leather, brown, the corners beginning to wear. Imagine you hold its cracking surface to your nose, inhaling deeply like you also used to do daily, and sometimes more often. It smells like leather, predictably, but it also has the metallic, tangy scent of coins and even a few folded bills. If you breath deeply enough, you can catch whiffs of less tangible things-- freedom, mostly-- but you don't because you don't need that to strengthen you anymore. Haven't in years.

Imagine you tuck the wallet into the pocket of your pants, giving it a final pat, and straighten the folds of your shirt. Grey, because it looks good on you. Imagine you smile a bit at that thought, straight from your cocky youth. Out of habit, you reach to adjust the knot of a bandana that's no longer there. In your mind's eye, you can picture it: red, and crisp even when the rest of your clothes weren't; dreams weren't made of long johns and vests, after all. The bandana got lost years ago, but by the time it did, you didn't want it anymore; you found out that fingers on bared skin felt even better than dreams woven in cotton, and more secure.

Imagine you're smirking as you leave the tenement and step onto the street. It's been fifteen years since you were seventeen on these streets, and they're not cobbled anymore. Cars don't care much for cobble, so things have changed that way, although the vendors seem the same.

Imagine it's the vendors you're heading for, as you weave through the afternoon glut of workers on break with the ease of long practice. You're going to buy a bag of popcorn, maybe two if you see the young boy who reminds you of yourself at twelve, who's taken to hanging around your street because he knows a sucker when he sees one. It's a special day, and a beautiful one. You want to share your happiness with everyone, so you buy two bags even though you don't see Slick yet, wishing the woman a good afternoon as you hand her your money. She smiles and, you think, winks at your cheerful grin.

Imagine that the popcorn smells hot and too salty. You don't care for it, but David seems to, and you quickly learned that the salt tastes much better on his lips and tongue. Imagine that you picture the way he'll smile when he sees you, because of the popcorn, but mostly because he's happy to see you waiting for him at home.

Imagine you hear a voice say "Mr. Kelly!" just as you reach for the door into the tenement. You turn around, already smiling at Slick, another young boy with tousled hair and a sly grin and a bandana, although it's blue instead of red.

"Heya, Slick," you greet him. You've never asked his real name.

"Buy a pape?" he asks, exercising that sly grin even as you're reaching for your wallet. He knows suckers when he spots them, and you and David, both, are long-standing patrons of his.

"Sure thing, kid," you say, as you hand him a bright penny, and "So how's the headline?"

"Better'n some." He beams as he says it, enjoying your routine. "But not as good as the inside stories. That Kelly . . . pfew, what a reporter."

Imagine you smile widely, happy even though you never thought you'd be a reporter all those years ago when you were his age. But you knew headlines and catchy stories, so it was easy to make that transition when the time came. "I'm sure he tries," you reply, and mean it. Then you trade popcorn for paper, making a show of studying the headline you already know.

"Have a good day," he calls, already looking for the next sale, popcorn tucked carefully away.

"I am. I will," you say, then, more loudly: "Carryin' the Sun, Slick!" A different cry from the one you remember, but the same.

Imagine you're already inside before you hear his answer, climbing the stairs with thoughts focused on David. You don't call him Davey anymore, except when you want him to wrinkle his nose at you in annoyance.

Jacky-boy, he calls you then, in a laughing Brooklyn accent.

Imagine it has been about fifteen years since you met and fourteen since that first hesitant kiss. That's a lot longer than you ever thought you'd be with someone, and you try to celebrate the kiss each year as the closest to an anniversary you can get.

Imagine the window draws you toward it again, as soon as you enter your home. You can't help leaning against the glass, searching the streets for the first sign of your lover approaching, even though you know he probably won't be back for a while longer. Inactivity is foreign to you, though, and you're not used to being home from the press offices so early, so you step onto the fire escape. At a school, too far away to see from here-- imagine you've tried many times-- you know David is standing in front of a blackboard, chalk dust probably on his hands and maybe in his hair, as he dismisses his class. The students like him.

Imagine it's fourteen years ago, that you're still selling papers and David's still one of the students instead of the teacher. Imagine that you see him several times a week, but it never seems like enough anymore, and every time you see his face lit in a welcoming smile it seems like you come alive a little more.

Imagine realizing that you've fallen in love.

Imagine catching his eyes one day and realizing that he's fallen in love, too, and it's with you.

Imagine not being able to look away, and being thankful that no one else is around to see you blushing and stammering, as you lean forward like two kids who have never kissed before, suddenly nervous, until David grabs your shoulders-- imagine his hands feel hot and cold at the same time-- and brushes dry lips against your own. You wrap your arms around him, then, and his go around you. You feel your heart beating against his and with his, as you search his face. Then you're suddenly kissing him again, but this time it feels wonderful and right instead of awkward.

Imagine realizing that everything you want is in your arms.

Imagine a year later, standing in the kitchen of the Jacobs' home-- and your own home, they tell you often-- as Sarah smiles and cries and tells her family that she's engaged. You hug her and murmur congratulations in her ear, while Mr. Jacobs nods happily because her fiancé is a good young man, and a doctor, who had already asked his permission. Then it's David's turn to hug his sister and you smile, not believing you could ever be happier.

And imagine, not two months later, Sarah is married. You're grinning and slapping the groom on the back, glad that she's happy and that tonight you'll be moving into the Jacobs' home, at their insistence. Your home, now. Imagine the sudden lightening of your heart as you finally believe it, and look up to meet David's eyes across the room.

And imagine five months after that, Denton surprises you with a job offer at the Sun. He tells you that you've got a great eye for headlines, hardly surprising after years of working them. Smiling, he tells you that you're a bright kid and if the World doesn't realize your talent, well, at least the Sun does. He asks you to consider it, but you already know the answer. You've been thinking that you're too old to sell papes like you used to, even if you can still crank up the charm like any of the younger kids. You need a job, a real one, and Denton's offer is better than most, so you take it.

Imagine the first time you get paid; not much, but definitely more than you could make selling papers, and overwhelming in that fact. Imagine David laughing gently as he presents you with a brown leather wallet, stiff and new, to hold your new money in. You laugh and hug him hard, not ever wanting to let him go, because the gift is so like him; practical, but understanding and sweet.

Imagine carrying a brown leather wallet everywhere.

Then imagine two years later, David's father dies. Three men from the factory stop by and David answers the door. You're messing with some article ideas, not paying attention to the quiet murmurs, when you hear "We're sorry", then "Are you okay, son?" from the men, and look up sharply. You see David's stricken face and you're by his side instantly, looking to the men for information. "You Mayer's son, too?" they ask, and you shake your head, bewildered. David almost never cries, but he is now, and you don't understand until the oldest one looks at you with pity and says "His Pa is dead. Accident at the factory."

Imagine that it feels like losing your father all over again, reaching out for David as the men shut the door behind them. Imagine yourself cursing the fact that David will have to be the one to break the news to his mother, even as you use her absence to hold him and kiss his temple as he sobs. You cry, too.

And imagine working harder and longer, to help support the family you love. David works out an arrangement with the college he's attending on scholarship, allowing him to graduate early so he can start teaching. You're proud of him when he gets his first class, you're proud of Les for helping out his family like his brother did years ago at almost the same age, and you're proud of yourself, for the first time in years.

Imagine that you piece your life back together.

Imagine that five years pass, and it seems like they fly by and stretch out golden at the same time. Sarah has one, then two children, both girls. The oldest, Abigail, starts talking and learns to call you Uncle Cowboy, which makes you laugh. Then it makes you cry, when Sarah tells everyone that you've been family for years. Imagine finding a family after believing you never had one. And if anyone finds it strange that, amidst all the talk of children, neither you nor David have married or courted, they choose to ignore it.

Imagine, though, that Esther slowly gets sick. Sarah's husband, the doctor, does everything he can, but everyone knows it's only a matter of time before she dies. When she does, it hurts the same as Mayer's death, even though you knew it was coming. Imagine being held by David during the night, as you cry for the mother you finally had, and holding him, as he cries for the mother he'll never have again.

Imagine that soon after, Les leaves to enlist in the Army. You're not very surprised, but feel as worried as if he really is your younger brother. He reminds you that he is your brother when he hugs you goodbye, and whenever you get a letter from him.

Imagine moving off the fire escape, back inside. You straighten the rooms that have become your home. Your home with David, you remind yourself, and smile. Some things, like the quilts Esther had sewn and the books Mayer collected, remind you of the first day you stepped into the Jacobs' home, fifteen long years ago. Bits of crochet, that she insists on giving you and David, show Sarah's touch. The rest is your own, though.

Imagine sitting at the table, reading your articles in the Sun for mistakes, then imagine David coming through the door. You imagine his smile as he sees you, and his laughter as he places his own copy of the Sun on the table, next to yours. You grin at him, knowing that you're both suckers and loving it. Imagine that you stand and he comes into your arms like it's where he belongs, his face buried in the slope of your neck and your chin resting on curls that are dusted with chalk dust, you discover.

And imagine that you hold his hand like you're kids and feed him over-salted popcorn, while he laughs. Then you lick the salt from his lips, while he smiles and reciprocates. Imagine the taste of David's mouth is mostly salty, with a hint of sweetness that is probably from an apple he ate during lunch, and very warm and very welcoming. Imagine he has one hand in your hair, holding your mouth in place for kisses, and imagine he is running the other hand over your hip in little circles. Imagine whispering words in his ear that make him shiver, as you think of the evening to come.

Imagine it's 1914, and you've loved David Jacobs for fourteen years, and he loves you in return, and you can't imagine anything better.