All of the Manhattan Newsies knew that there was one person you went to if you were feeling homesick, or lonely, or just plain sad.
Crutchie was always there for everyone with a smile and a joke, some advice or maybe even a story, and asking absolutely nothing in return for that, claiming he’s just happy to be there for everyone
And he was happy to do so, because his friends were his family, and he can’t stand to see someone hurt or sad.
But sometimes it’s too much, all the stress and worry from caring from his friends combined with his own problems, and he just wants everyone to go away for a while so he can pull himself back together.
Usually he can, finds a nice part of the lodging house where nobody is and allows himself to break down for a moment before he can rejoin the others.
But then there’s a day a couple of weeks after the strike is over when everything just falls apart.
Crutchie’s been tripped three times by some young snot-nosed brats as he’s hawking papes, and he’s still sore from the fight with the coppers and the Delanceys so each time is more painful than the last.
And then he winds up not selling a lot of his papes, and even though it’s easier on him than it woulda been before the strike, he still barely has enough to pay for his night at the lodging house.
And if that wasn’t enough, he’s practically chased home by some punks wanting to rob him of what little money he does have and he stumbles into the lodging house a good half an hour late, practically shaking and knowing he needs to find a quiet spot as soon as possible.
“‘Ey Crutchie!” Jack yells cheerfully across the room, and Crutchie practically winces because he loves Jack but now was not the time.
Jack gets closer and looks at him and Crutchie can see his face fall and his brows furrow and oh please no please he can’t have Jack worrying about him or fighting his own battles, he should be able to-
“Are you alrigh’?” Jack asks, and Crutchie winces again because too late.
“‘M fine.” he lies and tries to hobble away, but Jack easily follows him.
“No, yer not. What’s going on? You can tell me.” he says, and that sentence makes Crutchie stop and look at him.
“I really can’t.” he says. “I can’t tell ya what’s wrong, Jack, because it’s stuff I’ve gotta deal with myself.”
“No ya don’t-”
“YES I DO.”
The volume of his shout even surprises him, but he can’t help but continue, anger and shame fueling him. “I have to deal with this all by myself, Jack Kelly, because I’ve always had to deal with folks trippin’ me cause they think it’s funny, or givin’ me the evil eye or lookin’ at me funnily or tryin’ ta mug me cause I’ve got my gimp leg and they think I’m easy pickins. It happens all the damn time, and I can fight my own goddamn battles, alright? I don’t need your help, I’m not some helpless lil thing!”
There’s absolute silence when he’s done with his rant, and the stunned look on Jack’s- no, on everyone’s face- make Crutchie feel even worse.
“‘m sorry.” he says, wanting their sad, sorry looks to go away, the fact that he had put those looks there making him feel even worse. “‘m sorry, I didn’t-’m sorry, ‘m so so-”
Jack hugs him then, and Crutchie wants to cry.
“Don’t be sorry.” Jack says. “Ya betta not be sorry, because I’m the one who should be apologizin’, okay? You’s always been there for us, an’ I guess I neva thought you might just need someone too. So’s I’m sorry Crutch. Ya definitely don’t need us fightin’ your battles for ya, an’ even tho’ we’ll neva know how bad it is for ya, jus’ know that we are here if ya need us.”
There’s a chorus of ‘yeah’s from the other newsies, and Crutchie does begin to cry, leaning on Jack for support and letting the taller boy try and comfort him.