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why do we do this to ourselves?

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Jack couldn't help but feel incredibly tense as he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, headed towards the docks. Tension, he'd found, was an emotion strongly associated with Spot Conlon. To the other guys, he made tension through his intimidation. The rumours that he'd beaten people up on a ride at Coney had flown around for years, and they were founded in Conlon's very real soaking ability. But as Jack reached the docks and spotted (hah) him, he knew it wasn't that tension that he got when he was with Spot, particularly not when they were alone. Oh, no. It was a very different kind, and one that Jack had been keeping to himself for years because of the risk associated with it.

"Conlon," he called out with a wave and a grin as he walked towards him, spitting on his hand and holding it out.

Spot was sitting crosslegged on a crate, idly watching some of his boys attempting to fish the waters with a fishing line fashioned out of old bootlaces. What a waste. When he heard approaching boots on wood, he didn't bother turning to look until Jack was right near him. He knew his footsteps anywhere. Finally, he turned his head with a lazy smile to face his friend. Enemy. Ally. Whatever he was. "Kelly," he greeted cordially with a spit and shake of his own, firmly ignoring the fact that he'd almost felt a bolt of electricity go through him the moment they touched. That wasn't unusual with Jack. Not these days. "You're late, y'know. It's past noon."

Jack grinned, shrugging. He let himself regard Spot for a second longer than he'd let himself with anyone else- he knew that if Spot noticed (and there was no doubt he did), he never commented. "Had a fight to break up on my way over here. Only been a few minutes." Everything in him wanted to take a step closer to Conlon, to close the distance between them. That was the usual now, though, and something that couldn't be said out loud. He'd never gotten verbal confirmation that Spot was feeling this too (or that he was even like that )- but the tension between them all but confirmed it. Instead, he moved on to business. "So, Staten's been givin' you trouble?"

Spot all but rolled his eyes at Jack. "Not here." He pushed himself off the crate, glancing around before leading the way along the docks, dodging workers hauling cargo until they reached a more secluded section. It was all but hidden from the main docks by a few twists and turns and that was how he liked it. He didn't usually bother conducting business in private, but more recently he preferred to be alone with Jack. And it wasn't because he was uncomfortable with people seeing how they interacted now. And it wasn't because he liked having Jack to himself for a little while. He settled himself on the wooden planks, gesturing for Jack to join him. "He keeps sendin' his boys over."

Jack was used to the routine. They'd meet, and whoevers turf they were on (usually Spot's, since he insisted) would lead the other to a secluded place. And that's when Jack swore he could feel the distance between them, and the thickness in the air when they spoke, and every single pause or glance held a kind of strength he hadn't even known they could hold before. It was a feeling that he'd only been getting with Spot, and it'd been increasingly rapidly, much to Jack's stress. The leader of Brooklyn, he reminded himself. What a controversy that would be. Jack had long mastered not getting caught with guys, but that was besides the point. This put so much more risk on the table. He settled beside Spot, frowning. "Sendin' em over? What, to sell? The fuck's he thinkin'?"

Spot didn't need to glance between them to know exactly how many inches away Jack was sitting (three). He wanted to, though. He wanted to close the gap. He wasn't the type to seek any kind of affectionate contact with people. But when Jack was around, he felt magnetised. Forcing himself to relax, he reached up and dragged his hat off, pushing his hair back. "He's trying to start shit. He's been doin' it all week, and they keep comin' over, sellin' and then they start fights. And he claims he don't know shit about it." Spot scowled. "But he's sending his biggest guys."

Jack looked, watching Spot's hands running through his hair, the way it fell and the look on his face as he started to scowl. "He's tryina start shit with Brooklyn? What reasons he got?" Brooklyn and Manhattan had been easy allies for a while. 'Accidentally' crossing a bridge was hard to pass off- though apparently, that concept was foreign to Staten Island newsies. And plus, there was the unspoken fact between the two of them that Brooklyn and Manhattan being allies made it easier for the both of them to have their times like these. Because even though he couldn't actually do anything, the ridiculous amount of tension and feelings he got around Spot was dizzying enough to be completely worth it. "What's he tryina pull? He knows Manhattan n' Queens'll side with you, n' the Bronxs too far away to even matter. He just tryina get his kids soaked?"

Spot glanced over at Jack, his fierce expression softening a bit as he did. "I don't know. Maybe he's tryna piss me off bad enough I'll do somethin' that'll make the other boroughs feel sorry for 'em. Or hate us. Same difference." For a long moment he was silent, turning his cap over in his hands. The tweed was worn and grubby, but he didn't mind any. "I'm plenty tempted by it. The Bronx can't do shit and Queens don't care all much about Staten except when he's trying to piss them off." And you'll side with me whatever I do. He didn't bother adding that. Spot dropped his hands by his sides; just enough so one lightly brushed Jack's leg. That's all you'll ever get. It was infuriating to sit here side by side with the guy he'd loved so long and not be able to hold his hand proper or kiss him, and for a moment the unfairness of it all took his breath away so it was all he could do to glare miserably at the wooden planks.

Jack watched Spot's hands, turning the hat over and over in his hands. He frowned. "Don't take their bait. Like you said, that's just what he wants." Jack didn't mention the shudder that ran down his back when Spot's arm brushed his leg, and continued speaking. "I'd just finish the fights he starts, n' finish 'em real good. Put Red an' your muscle sellin near the bridge for a few days, show 'em what's what if they start the fights. He's a coward, the moment his boys start bein' properly beat he'll back off. But you can't be blamed for finishin' fights when he started em." Jack shifted, and their hands were only about an inch away now. Jack was itching to move it that final inch, to take Spot's hand, or to grab him and fiercely kiss him and show him how much he felt for him- but instead he just left his hand an inch away.

Spot swallowed hard. He was struggling to just focus on what Jack was saying. It was good advice, after all. But he kept getting distracted by the fact that there was only an inch between them now. Sometimes he really hated how hyperaware he always was of Jack in his space, especially the fact he didn't really want him to leave it. "Yeah," he mumbled eventually, fighting to drag his attention back to the actual conversation. Get a fucking hold of yourself. "He's such a shit leader. Imagine gettin your boys hurt just so you can have a bit of pity." He was tired by the politics, sometimes. And he had an awful suspicion he'd feel a lot better if he could rest his head on Jack's shoulder for a little while, sit quietly with him like that with their sides pressed close and their fingers laced. But that wasn't going to happen.

Jack nodded in agreement, rolling his eyes. "Never seen him make a smart move in his life." And it was true.  Staten was a fucking idiot. Jack sat quietly for a few seconds. The issue had been sorted fairly quickly- and no surprise. Jack knew Spot didn't need him to make a decision on an issue between Brooklyn and Staten Island. But that didn't mean that Jack wasn't thankful Spot'd called for a meeting, because now he was only an inch away and Jack could pretend that they coud be even closer. Or we could actually be closer. The coast was clear, they were alone, and the tension between them was almost unbearable. Jack turned to Spot. "Why do we do this to ourselves?" he asked, shaking his head with a small laugh. He wasn't sure what came over him- he knew why they did, it was illegal, they were leaders of boroughs, all of the shit that could go down if they were caught - but what could happen if they didn't was intoxicating, and Jack had been wondering about it for years .

Spot felt every muscle in his body go taut when Jack spoke, and he kept his eyes focused straight down. Don't move. Don't look at him. Don't give him any sign. It was as though the tension between them had both broken and amped up to the max. "Do what?" he replied in a clipped, strained voice. He could feel Jack's eyes on him. He wanted to meet his eyes, see the truth there and not be scared of it any more. But he didn't trust himself with it. So instead he sat perfectly still, barely daring to even breathe.

Jack looked at Spot, raising an eyebrow that he couldn't see anyways because Spot's eyes were fixed on the ground. The way he'd tensed up, looked away, the strain in his voice. He knew what Jack meant- there was no way he didn't, the tension had always been two sided. Jack took a deep breath, and he reached, taking Spot's hand in his own. "Not this," he said quietly as he interlaced their fingers, looking intensely at Spot and praying that this didn't go completely wrong.

Flinching involuntarily when Jack's hand took his, Spot had to physically force himself not to jerk away. Every part of him was screaming DANGER and he wasn't one to ignore his instincts. But at the same time- he felt like he was on fire. This was all he'd ever wanted. Slowly he looked up, gaze going from his feet to their hands to Jack's face. He had the most beautiful eyes. And Spot could see that same terror and longing and hope he felt reflected in them, and that was enough to make him gently lace their fingers together, taking in a shaky breath. "You know why," he muttered. His mouth was dry.

When Spot laced their fingers together, Jack felt like he could explode. Something as simple as this was what he'd stayed up many a late night wondering about, and he'd done it, he'd actually done it and it felt amazing. "I know why," he repeated, "but I hate it. It's the worst. I can't stop thinking about you ," he half whispered, giving Spot possibly the most intense look he'd ever given anyone.

Spot let out his breath between his teeth, relaxing for what felt like the first time in years. So it was all out on the table now. He wasn't being choked by this secret any more. He squeezed Jack's hand. "I can't... me either," he admitted eventually. "I can't fuckin' concentrate when you're around. And every time you go home it hurts." The last part was spoken quietly, since it was still embarrassing to say, but there was a vulnerable edge to Spot's tone and he didn't know if he resented it or not. He was inclined towards the or not .

Spot had said it back. Finally, the heavy feeling on his chest dissipated, leaving Jack feeling light. "I hate goin' home," he admitted back. "Well, not the home bit. I hate leavin' you." And it was the truth- he adored his boys and all of that, it wasn't where he was that was the problem (unless you were talking New York, but that was a whole different story.) It was the lack of Spot that was the problem. The vulnerability in Spot's voice made Jack edge closer to him, putting a hand on the side of his face. It felt right there. They were alone, and they were holding hands and talking and a rush of adrenaline ran through Jack, probably both from how wrong what they were doing was, but also how damn fucking right it was.

Spot closed his eyes for a brief moment, finding himself leaning into Jack's touch without even meaning to. It was like all the tension and stress had just drained away. Like there was nothing else. Then he looked up again, at the guy he trusted more than anyone, and tried a small smile. "I can never decide if you're brave or an idiot or both," he said quietly. "And I can't decide if I'm about to be stupid. But I don't really care." With that, he carefully curled his fingers around the back of Jack's neck, pulling him down gently into a kiss. It was stupid, maybe, but he could have sworn he felt a bolt of electricity run through him as their lips touched. And it felt perfect.

Jack laughed, grinning as if he was about to say something back- when Spot continued talking about being stupid, and then he was softly pulling Jack down and then their lips met, and holy shit, there were fireworks. Explosions and bolts of electricity and all of that. It felt perfect and right and like he was meant to kiss Spot. God, that was sappy and dumb, but so was Jack. Especially after so long wondering and imagining what it would be like to kiss Spot, to be able to actually show him that he loved him. And fuck, Spot might be right and this might be stupid- but that was put out of his mind right now in favour for pulling himself closer to Spot, his thumb running over his cheek as they kissed.

Spot leaned into it hard. He let the joy and relief and fear and shock wash over him, and when it faded he was still kissing Jack, his Jack. They belonged to their boroughs, but they'd always belonged a little bit to each other as well. The hand on his cheek, warm and reassuring and the brush of lashes against his cheek; it was intoxicating, and if he wasn't as disciplined as he was, he mightn't have drawn away when he did. But it was too dangerous. If they were caught kissing here, anywhere, not only would they both lose their leadership but they could go to jail if they weren't beaten to death first. So he leaned back reluctantly, dropping his hand to Jack's chest to stop him from following. He looked just as windblown as Spot felt. Fuck, he was beautiful, and there was nothing he wanted to do more than kiss those lips again. But at least the tension had broken, replaced by this understanding they shared.

Jack kept his eyes closed for just a few seconds, the feeling of Spot's hand on his chest still sending that same exciting current through him. He opened his eyes, looking at Spot and taking every detail of his expression that he could remember. He wanted to be kissing Spot again, but he knew exactly why Spot pulled away. He sighed quietly, taking his hand from Spot's cheek and letting it rest on Spot's knee, unable to let go of finally being able to touch him, even if just for now. It had been building for so long, and now Jack just looked at Spot, shaking his head with a small smile. "Bein' brave means you gotta be an idiot sometimes- but you're doin' it 'cause it's whats right." And sure, maybe this was idiotic, but it was right , and that's what mattered.

Spot snorted. "Look at you, givin' advice. Like you're so wise." His attempt at sounding gruff completely failed, the affection shining through in a way he'd never let it, and he couldn't even bring himself to care. Not when Jack was looking at him with that smile. God. It felt like they could just sit in this moment forever- he wished they could just sit in this moment forever. But they were always on borrowed time, him and Jack, and today was no different. This was big, and they had important things to sort out. "Hey," he said more quietly, trailing his hand down his arm to take his hand again. "You know we can't never be open 'bout this." He knew Jack knew. But when he said it out loud, it felt more like something they were facing together. "Whatever this is."

"Had a lotta time to think about this," he laughed, Spot's affectionate tone making his heart swell a bit. His teasing, the way he was looking at him, the feeling of Spot's lips still lingering on his, it was the small details that he hadn't expected that made everything feel like he was floating. Jack squeezed Spot's hand when their fingers were laced together again, nodding. "Yeah, I know. It's just between us" Whatever this is. What even was it? Was there even words for this? Jack shrugged, frowning. "It's whatever we want it to be. N' I want ya to know I'm sweet on you," he finally said the words out loud, after them being true for years. He was sweet on Spot Conlon, and if the world couldn't know then at least he could.

A slow smile spread across Spot's lips. "Sweet on me," he repeated, almost rolling his eyes. "Course you'd find the sappiest way to say it." Nobody in Brooklyn was sweet on anyone- they had girls, but you didn't go about telling people how you felt about them. He wondered if the Manhattan newsies did things differently. Clearly they did, if Jack was saying stuff like that. But hell, if it didn't make his heartbeat pick up. "I'm sweet on you too. And Christ, I wanna see you more than this. In places more private than this. I been holdin' out on you years, Kelly." He'd dreamed so long of being able to lie quietly for hours with Jack, tangled up in each other and talking quietly between kisses.

"You're sayin' that like you didn't grin the moment I said it," he teased, greatly enjoying Spot's smile and revelling in the fact that Spot said it back. And he'd been holding out on him for years, god, if that didn't make the years of wondering and what ifs so worth it. Jack nodded. "Me too," he agreed quietly, pulling Spot in a little closer. "Come have a meetin' with me at the theatre sometime. Medda's. She's right in the Bowery, she don't care 'bout this shit. We'll tell em all it's over somethin' serious," he half suggested and half asked. The amount he saw Spot now wasn't enough, it wasn't before and it wasn't going to be nearly close now.

Spot (after slugging him in the shoulder for the teasing) hesitated, weighing the options in his head. He didn't like spending time away from Brooklyn at the best of times. But Jack was offering proper privacy, somewhere safe. And there were so many things he wanted to learn about Jack- his favourite food, what he talked like when he was tired, the pitch of his moans- that he just couldn't here. "Okay," he agreed after another moment, and ran his thumb over Jack's knuckles with a little smile. And then, after glancing around and pausing for a moment to listen out for anyone nearby, he shifted closer and leaned his head on his shoulder. Like he wasn't going to take this excuse.

Jack smiled, clearly calmed by Spot saying okay and then resting his head on his shoulder. He leaned his head on Spot's, glad beyond words that they could finally sit like this, that he could finally hold Spot's hand and let Spot know how he feels. How he feels about Spot. Maybe it was a bit quick considering that everything had just properly happened, but he'd been feeling this for years, so if anything it felt like making up for lost time. "I love you," he said quietly, letting himself close his eyes and just be alone with Spot for a minute.

Spot was just about the happiest he'd ever been when he heard Jack's next words and promptly froze. I love you . That was what wives and husbands said to each other in private. It was what you said when you were writing a love letter or proposing. And never in a hundred years could he ever have imagined that anybody, let alone Jack Kelly, would say it to him. But when the shock melted away, he found it replaced by a glow of happiness that spread to the tip of his toes. And really, they'd been something for years now. Just something unspoken. And now he could change that, and he wanted to, so he murmured, "I love you too," and didn't care how foolish it made him sound. "I don't want you to go home."

Jack really didn't want to go home either. He wanted to stay like this with Spot forever- or he wanted to go somewhere private, and be alone with Spot. Being away  from him, however, was the exact opposite of what he wanted. Not only that, but he had to leave soon- he had a few more things to sort out in Manhattan today, and he was sure Spot had other things to do. But that didn't make it any easier. "I don't want to either," he sighed. "But you're gonna see me again soon, aight?" With that, he slowly sat up more. Speaking of him having to leave, the time was coming soon. "An' now we both have somethin' to look forward to."

"Wait," Spot said sharply, following Jack up. Instead of saying anything else, he took his face in both hands and pulled him in to kiss him again; he found himself trying to commit the feeling to memory. He didn't want to let go, not when he'd just gotten all he'd ever wanted. And Jack's lips were soft, and his face was warm, and kissing him brought everything into alignment in a hundred different ways and Spot had never felt safer with anyone. And for a fleeting moment, he wondered what it would be like to run away from their responsibilities,  just look out for each other. Sleep under real stars. Hold each other properly. But like I said, the moment was fleeting. So eventually he did pull away, stroking a thumb across Jack's cheek and looking at him steadily. "I love you."

Jack turned around, being pulled into another kiss. He hadn't realised he'd missed it already until he was doing it again. Kissing him felt natural. Meant to be. All that sappy shit. It was so, so difficult to not pull Spot onto his lap and kiss him over and over, cover him in kisses and quietly tell him about all the nights he'd spent dreaming of him. If Spot had spent even half of those thinking about Jack, he'd consider himself lucky. When Spot pulled away, Jack looked at Spot again, smiling at him soft and gentle. "I love you too," he said, promises of more and the future laced in the words. Seperating himself from Spot then was probably the hardest thing he'd done in months, and he already felt the urge to wrap his arms around Spot's waist and cling. "Tell me when you wanna meet next," he said, daring taking a step closer than a friend probably should be. "Make it soon, yeah?"

Spot nodded curtly, not shifting his gaze from Jack's face. He knew his stare put people off, and he usually liked it, but right now he just wanted to remember this moment without weirding him out. "Soon," he repeated, then sighed. "Yeah. Aight." He went to kiss him one last time and promptly became aware of just how tall Jack was. Fucker. He had to get up onto his toes to reach, and pull him down for a quick kiss. It hurt to let go. "This week, though."

Jack leaned down when Spot stood on his toes, giving him another sweet kiss. He couldn't help but press a kiss onto Spot's forehead with a smile. A week. He could do a week. "I'm gonna miss you," he admitted quietly. Now it felt like there was an entire flood of things he could finally tell Spot. He glanced back to where they'd come from earlier. "I gotta go now." Pause, and then quietly, "Love you, Spot." It was difficult actually getting up and heading in the direction when all he wanted to do was kiss Spot over and over again, but somehow Jack found the self control to.

"Love you too." Spot watched him go, heart twisting sharply. On one hand, he'd never missed Jack more. But this felt like hope, and he had a tangible promise that they'd see each other soon and that he felt the same. And he was light as air. Pulling his cap low over his eyes to hide the happiness he suspected was there, he waited until the other leader had disappeared before turning and slamming a fist hard into a wooden crate by him. God, he was excited for whatever was coming next.