July 12th, 1906.
Les Jacobs ran as fast as he could to Newsies Square. He was already late, having slept in and packing a few slices of bread his mama made for some of the little newsies in his bag.
Instead of relaxing or getting a better paid job, he was selling papers. His brother Davey had grown out of it, as had most of the newsies. Some were married, some had children. Some even managed to get a full time job or gone to college.
Les' life hadn't changed that drastically. He quit school, feeling as though supporting his family was more important. He wasn't any good at school. Not like David. He preferred selling papers, winning the hearts of pretty ladies and having fun.
But his appearance had changed. He was taller, towering over his father and brother. He was a gangly teenager, skinnier too, and his dark curls were more wild. He even had a bit of scruff on his chin, something even Davey had trouble growing, which he gloated about.
That was not his only accomplishment. He was now second in command in leading the Lower Manhattan Newsies, with his good friend Boots. After Jack and Katherine tied the knot, the boys were honored with taking charge of their little family. Les had even been gifted with Davey's old hat.
Les hunched over, gasping for air. One thing about the Jacobs, was that they weren't really in shape. He cursed that part of him that hated running.
A firm tap on his shoulder jolted Les from his internal monologue. He turned his head to a tall boy with hazel eyes and messy brown hair. Barney Peanuts, commonly just called BP stood just a foot shorter than Les, despite being the same age.
"Where have ya been?" BP exclaimed, clearly irritated from lack of sleep. "Boots an' I had to wrangle all the littles out of their beds by ourselves! An' y'know Puddles has been havin' trouble sleeping, what with his folks an' all."
"Barney, let me explain-" But Les was cut off.
"Don't 'Barney' me, Les!" BP grabbed ahold of Les' shoulders. "We needed you!"
"Getoffame!" Les kicked at his friend's shin. Not too hard, but enough to prove a point. "An' let me explain. I was runnin' late because I slept in and-"
"Oh that's a shocker." Coffee Bean, who had been overhearing the conversation, poked behind BP. "What was it this time, Les? Some bird seduce you in the night?"
Les turned a bright crimson. "Knock it off boys. I wasn't- there is no bird. Not as of late. An' to be honest, Sarah's youngest has been keepin' me up all'a night."
"That's what you get for stayin' with your sis instead of us." BP shrugged.
"I also...my ma made a new loaf of bread." The two newsies eyes lit up at the mention of food. "I was thinkin' we could share this time. It ain't much. I didn't even have time to butter it but-"
"Hand it over!" Coffee Bean said eagerly, waving over the littler newsies.
A tornado of kids whirled through the square, pushing against each other as they tried to snatch a slice of fresh homemade bread.
"ey, now. There's enough for everyone." Les said, handing each of them a slice.
"Fank ya Mister Les!" Piper chirped, happily devouring her share of the bread.
"Hey, Chip took a bigger piece!" Herron complained. "An' so did Bucky!"
"Don't go tellin' tales..." Boots said, walking over and ruffling the little boy's auburn curls. "Nice o' ya to finally show up, Les." He took a slice of bread and gulped it down. "S' time to go sellin' kids."
"Papes for the Newsies!" Morris Delancey said behind the circulation desk. He had taken on the role of his uncle, and wasn't exactly thrilled. "Line up boys."
"An' girls!" Piper reminded, frowning but getting in line.
Les laughed, finding his way to the front of the line and greeting the grumpy man at the counter.
"Ayo Morris!" Les grinned cheekily. "Ya miss me? How's the ladyfriend?"
"That ladyfriend is now my fianceé." Morris said with gritted teeth.
"Really? I'm impressed." Les clicked his tongue. "How d'ya do that? Did you threaten her? Or give her a shit ton of money?"
"Les, cut it out-" Boots warned.
"Did she realize she's gonna have to stare atcha ugly mug all the time?" Les pressed on, smirking as he slapped down his coins. "I'll take the usual, sweetheart."
Morris gritted his teeth. "Fifty papes for Les. Next."
After Boots had received his papers, he jogged by Les. "You really shouldn't egg him on."
"I can't help it! It's in my nature."
"Whatever you say, Les."
Les laughed. "So, what's the headline? I missed it."
Boots looked grim. "Some factory worker died in Ostelic." He pointed at the front page of the paper.
Les brightened. "That's great!"
"She was murdered."
"Even better!" Les hummed, kicking a rock. "What? I'm sure she was old or somethin'."
"She was twenty." Boots replied. "An' ain't no one 'pose to die that young. But anyway, Puddles is sellin' with us."
"Yes! That kid's a real natural. But where is he?"
"I'm here!" Puddles piped from behind the two older boys. I've been here the whole time!"
Puddles was a small kid, especially for his age. He had inky black hair that covered his dark sunken eyes. He wore clothes that were much too large for him, and was incredibly skinny.
"Sorry shortstop, but you're as tall as a grasshopper." Les teased, helping Puddles on his back. "Where to, kid? Usual place?"
"Yup, yup yup!" Puddles sang.
"Aight squirt." Les had grown a brotherly sense of protection over the kid, despite him only being a newsie for a short time, he settled into the routine very nicely.
As the hours ticked by, the boys legs were aching and their throats were dry from yelling the headlines all day. Puddles had the advantage, being young but Les and Boots had their charisma, making them the perfect team.
"I'd like a newspaper please." A deep voice said from behind Les, but he recognized it immediately.
"Davey!" Les whirled around, slapping his brother playfully with his hat. "What are you doin' here?"
"Actually I was on a date with someone." Davey said.
"Gosh, a date? My brother? Dating a real girl?" Les gasped, leaning against Boots' shoulder. "I'm impressed. She didn't run away screaming afterwards?"
"Very funny." Davey said dryly.
"Are ya gonna buy a paper or are you going to stand there?" Puddles demanded, holding out his hand. "I ain't got all day. My girl's waitin' on me."
"Your girl?" Les and Boots asked in disbelief.
"You heard me. Now pay up, mist'ah." Puddles said, tapping his foot.
"No problem." Davey laughed, handing the boys a nickel each, then taking his paper. "I gotta run back to Columbia. It was nice seein' you guys."
"You too, Dave." Les tipped his hat. "See ya soon!"
"Hey, how many papes ya got?" Boots asked. "Because Puddles is gettin' a lil' cranky." He picked up the small boy, who seemed to be trying his hardest to stay awake.
"I got a few left. Wanna stop by Jacobi's and split somethin'?"