Choose life. Choose facebook, twitter, instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently. And choose watching history repeat itself. Choose your future. Choose reality TV, slutshaming, revenge porn. Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work, and choose the same for your kids, only worse. And smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen and then…
take a deep breath.
You’re an addict. So be addicted. Just be addicted to something else. Choose the ones you love, choose your future, choose life.
Welp. @watchmestaand inspired an angsty fic. Whoops.
Jack was known for over thinking, especially when Crutchie was sick. He’d panic the second the boy got a fever, but it was always gone in a few days. He was always fine.
That’s what Jack kept telling himself as he watched the fever climb higher and higher, and Crutchie slip more and more out of it.
He was gonna be okay. He always was.
“Hey, Kelly! Where’s your shadow? Leg still got him down?”
Jack took his papers and glared at Oscar. “Shut up.”
“Oh, I made him mad,” Oscar chuckled. “It ain’t my fault you’re so dependent on some dumb cr-”
And that’s how Jack managed to get in a fight before even being awake for an hour. He left with a black eye, but he’d argue that he hurt Oscar worse.
Selling without Crutchie felt wrong somehow. He didn’t sell with Crutchie everyday, but still. Not even having him come up every once in awhile and brag that he’d already sold ten of his papes was just strange.
Jack normally sold with a partner, even if it wasn’t Crutchie, but lately, he’d been selling alone. The other guys offered, but he refused. He probably got more pity this way, anyway. With the lack of sleep and the shiner, Jack looked a mess, which meant more money.
Going back to the lodging house was never fun, but Jack always made a beeline over. He rarely went up on the roof anymore, since he spent every second by Crutchie’s side as he slipped in and out of consciousness, holding his hand the whole time.
“…Jack?” Crutchie’s eyes fluttered half-open every now and again.
Jack sighed and rubbed circles on Crutchie’s palm with his thumb. “Yeah, you are.”
Sometimes, Crutchie asked if he’d get better soon, and Jack never knew how to respond. But, most of the time, he just fell back into a feverish sleep.
No one could stand to see Jack like this. He only got a few hours of sleep each night, if he was lucky. He was uncharacteristically quiet. It was uncomfortable for everyone.
“You’re wearing it wrong.”
Jack turned to see Katherine standing in the doorway. “What?”
Katherine smiled softly at the brown hat on Jack’s head. “You’ve got it on the wrong way.” She flipped the hat backwards and rested her hand on Jack’s shoulder.
“Whoops, you’re right,” Jack smirked. “Crutchie hates it when people turn his hat forwards. He says it feels better backwards.”
Katherine bit her lip. “Take a break, Jack.”
Jack looked at her as if she’d just spoken a foreign language. “Ace, I-”
“Take. A. Break.” She repeated. “Go draw, do something that makes you happy.”
“Being with Crutchie makes me happy,” Jack argued. “I can’t leave him.”
“I’ll stay with him tonight.” Katherine said, pulling up a chair next to Jack’s. “You need some rest.”
“So do you.” Jack replied half-heartedly.
“I don’t have papers to sell tomorrow at the crack of dawn,” Katherine shot back. “Come on, Jack.”
Jack sighed. “Not all night. I’ll just…take a walk or somethin’.”
Katherine echoed his sigh. “Fine. I’ll stay with him, okay?”
“Fine.” Jack squeezed Crutchie’s hand one more time before reluctantly leaving. He hurried down the stairs and looked around. He had a nice amount of money, he realized as he stuck his hand in his pocket filled with a few coins. All those pity sales. He thought. Maybe I’ll treat myself.
Now, Katherine was getting worried. Jack said he was just going on a walk, but it’d been at least a couple hours. As much as she wanted Jack to rest, she also didn’t want him doing anything stupid.
“Hey, Racetrack?” Katherine looked over at the boy in the bunk across from Crutchie’s. “Can you take over Crutchie duty for a second? I’ve got to make sure Jack isn’t being an idiot.”
“I don’t think we’re talkin’ about the same Jack,” Race smirked. “The one I know is always an idiot.”
Katherine let herself chuckle. “Go easy on him right now.”
“I can watch him, no problem.” Race said, taking Katherine’s chair as his own.
“No smoking,” Katherine said before she left. “He’s coughing enough on his own.”
With that, she left on her pursuit of Jack, but he didn’t take long to find. The second she stepped out of the Lodging House, she saw a figure sat right by the door, slumped over.
Katherine frowned. “Jack?”
Jack jumped and straightened up slightly. “Katherine? There some…news on Crutchie?”
Katherine kneeled next to him, crinkling her nose at the stench of alcohol. “Jack, what have you been doing?”
“Relaxin’, jus’ like ya told me to,” Jack sighed. “It ain’t workin’.”
Katherine rolled her eyes. “I didn’t tell you to go out and get drunk, I told you to get some rest.”
“An’ maybe I needed a lil help gettin’ the rest, huh?” Jack replied, swaying. “I was sleepin’ ‘fore you came here, you stopped me from-from restin’.”
Katherine pinched the bridge of her nose. “Jack. You’re a mess.”
“Thanks.” Jack stuck out his tongue at her.
“I mean it, Jack,” Katherine was clearly holding back anger. “Look at yourself. You’re sitting out here with a black eye and reeking of alcohol. This isn’t going to help Crutchie at all.”
“Well, yeah, no joke,” Jack grumbled. “This is how my dad ended up when-when my ma got sick, right? An’ Snyder always told me I’m gonna be a deadbeat jus’ like my father.” He took another swig from the bottle sitting next to him. “I’m jus’…I’m jus’ carryin’ on the family legacy.”
“Jack.” Katherine’s voice was sharp. “The last time you lost Crutchie, you shut down the news circulation for the entire-”
“The las’ time I lost Crutchie, I sold out my brothers and nearly bailed on all you’se to go to Santa Fe,” Jack cut in, trying to make eye contact with Katherine but not being able to focus. “You, you’re the one who wrote that paper, huh? Snyder-Snyder, he was right about me, so’s the damn Delancey’s.”
“Jack, Snyder was a sick and twisted man who knows how to dig into your worst insecurities.” Katherine said.
“If I can’t help Crutchie, if he don’t make it…” Jack trailed off and buried his head in his hands.
“If Crutchie doesn’t make it, he’s going to need you there, 100%.” Katherine retorted. “But, he wouldn’t give up on you this easy. So why are you giving up on him?”
“I don’t…I don’t know, Kath,” Jack groaned. She waited for him to continue, but he didn’t.
“Crutchie would want you to take care of yourself.” Katherine said. “Do you know what he’d say if he saw you like this?”
“He’d probably be real upset.” Jack mumbled.
“He’d give you a hug, say he’s there for you, then punch you in the arm and tell you to pull yourself together.” Katherine replied. “So, that’s what I’m doing.”
With that, Katherine pulled Jack into a hug, which ended up being mostly one-sided as Jack just fell onto Katherine’s shoulder. “You don’t have to be alone, Jack,” She whispered. “We all want to help you through this. We’re all devastated too.”
Jack nodded. “Thank you.”
“Of course.” She took his hands and helped him stand up slowly. Then, she punched his arm playfully, throwing him off balance. “Now, come on. You can spend the night at my house and clean up tomorrow.”
“I don’ wan’ your dad to see me like this,” Jack pouted. “He hates me enough. He’ll fire me.”
“Lucky for you, he’s on a business trip,” Katherine smirked. She put her arm around Jack. “Let’s get you to bed or you’ll hate yourself tomorrow.”
“I already hate m’self,” Jack slurred grouchily. “But fine. For Crutchie.”
“That’s the spirit,” Katherine chuckled. “You guys are gonna be okay.”
I visited my Pop-Pop in a rehabilitation center and he allowed me to take his portrait. He hasn’t been home in 3 months after he simply sat down one night and couldn’t get back on his feet. He’s been struggling with his lungs and heart, and we thought we were going to lose him a few days after he was hospitalized. He’s fighting for our sake; his body may be failing him but he’s never lost his edge, and demanded that grilled cheese he’s proudly holding in the second image to replace the egg salad the hospital gave him as part of the strict diet they have him on. He also checked himself out of this rehab center yesterday morning although he can barely walk, let alone drive, because he was sick of not being home with his family. Every time I see him he holds my hand and looks me in the eye and tells me to remember my worth and to never settle. It’s an honor to be his granddaughter.