Race woke in the dead of night to a familiar weight on the end of his bed. Why Smalls was doing her weird cat thing and sitting by his feet in the middle of the night, he didn't know. He propped himself up on his elbows, straining to see her petite form in the dimly lit bunkroom. She blinked at him, which he could only tell because the glint of her eyes briefly disappeared.
"What's- ya okay?" Race whispered, not really sure what she was doing.
"Yep." She didn’t say anything else to add onto that, which confused Race even more.
He had met Smalls in the refuge about six months ago. She was the only person bold enough to interact with him, and one thing had led to another until Race got soaked half to death defending her – she was tiny, and he had learned from his big brother, what could he say? Jack rubbed off on you – and she called him an idiot and then followed him home when the boys had finally managed to stage a jailbreak.
His shoulder still hurt, sometimes, but he wouldn't dare mention it to anyone. Jack would worry, and Crutchie would start worrying for both him and Jack, because Jack being worried was worrying of its own right, and then the whole of the Manhattan group would be able to sense that something was going on, and that just wasn't productive. Plus, it wasn't that bad. If it was a leg, maybe, but he didn't often have to put much weight on his right arm. The bag he carried his papes in went over his left shoulder, anyway, so it didn't cause any trouble and so it wasn't worth mentioning to anyone.
Sometimes he still got that scary buzzing feeling, tangling like a string in his ribs and making him breathe a little faster for some unknown reason. He usually ignored it, but sometimes it just came for no good reason and wouldn't leave. That's how he had felt just before going to bed. He knew he could go to Jack if he wanted to talk about it, that Jack would understand and maybe even help somehow, but he had figured he should start by just going to sleep and waiting to see if the buzzing was still there when he woke up.
As Race stared bemusedly at Smalls, the feeling came rushing back, screaming somethingiswrongsomethingiswrongsomethingiswrong into the back of his mind. If something was wrong, why couldn't he figure out what it was? If he knew what was causing this, maybe he could make it go away. But lucky him, that wasn't the case.
"Y'sure?" Race asked after a minute, shifting so that he was mostly holding his torso up with his left arm.
"I dunno, are you?" She retorted just as quietly, but there was an edge of deadpan sarcasm to the words nonetheless.
That simple comeback almost sent Race's mind spiraling again, because he didn't like lying. Well, he kind of survived off of lying, but that was just business. Lying to his friends was a different story. And even though Smalls had been right there with him when this all started, – he'd never dealt with buzzing like this before the refuge – he wasn't keen on trying to explain it to her. She was a good friend, in her own way, but she was generally pretty aloof and abrasive, especially when it came to... feelings, and all that stuff.
She'd actually gotten into an argument about emotions with Romeo once, which had been kind of funny, especially since Mush kept chiming in to back Ro up. The memory shook Race free of the tingling spike that was poking at his lungs. He didn't know if Smalls actually expected an answer or if that had just been a snarky comeback, but he still responded, maybe a little defensively.
"I's fine," he muttered. It was a lie, and he didn't like that, but he was too tired for this. It was the middle of the night, for crying out loud.
"It's kinda cold, ain't it?"
The fact that Smalls actually spoke again – she didn't talk a whole lot and often left conversations hanging as soon as she possibly could – as well as the subject change startled Race, and he blinked.
"I guess," he said cautiously. Winter had caught them by surprise this year, thankfully not the coldest Race had felt, but pretty cold even still. "Ya chilly?"
There was a slight rustling of fabric that Race thought might have been Smalls shrugging.
"A bit," she replied noncommittally. Then, after another bout of silence so long that Race had laid back down and shut his eyes again, "Mind if I get under here with ya?"
Race jerked upright again, then sat completely still for a few seconds because he Did Not want to wake up Albert, who slept on the bunk above him. Cranky Albo was no fun, or maybe too much fun if Race was in the mood to mess with him.
Once he was sure his sudden movement hasn't roused his friend, he squinted in the dark to try and see Smalls better, and whispered a very eloquent, "Huh?"
Smalls audibly rolled her eyes. He didn't know how he could tell, but she managed it somehow. "I admit it," she said, "I'm cold. Can I get under your blanket with ya?"
"Are you- ain't that... weird?"
"What, 'cause I'm a girl?"
Race scoffed before he could remember how late it was, and hoped again that nobody would wake up. "No!" He crossed his arms, feeling the cold a little bit himself. "Just in general."
"Nah," she said. "Not weird."
To be entirely fair, the idea of sharing a bed wasn't totally foreign to Race, it just wasn't expected. He and Crutchie had used to sleep together when they were little, and nowadays the younger newsies still often doubled up. It made sense, especially in colder weather. The lodging house wasn't particularly well insulated, and their blankets were thin and worn. So he shrugged, wondering if Smalls could hear the movement the way he had, and scooted over.
"Yeah, come on," he hissed, and Smalls quickly slid on next to him.
She was tiny, thus her nickname, but Race was still a bit surprised at how little space she took up. He was actually almost about to fall asleep, but-
"Hey," he whisper-yelped. "Get your cold feet offa me!" She'd brushed her foot against his ankle where his own sock had slipped down, and geez she was freezing.
Smalls snickered. "Sorry."
"Why ain't ya wearin' socks?!"
"Who wears socks to bed?" Smalls asked indignantly.
"Anyone who wants ta, oh I dunno, stay warm!"
"Weird," Smalls shot back, then fell silent, this time for good. Her breathing evened out and Race fell asleep shortly afterwards, the buzzing all but forgotten.
Hours later, he opened his eyes blearily to dim early-morning light and Smalls slipping out of the bed. She held something in her hand as she made her way over to the window, and Race blinked twice before recognizing it as his cigar. She must've slipped it out from under his pillow.
"All that," he muttered, only half-awake, "For a smoke?"
Smalls smirked at him and climbed onto the window ledge, pulling a match from her pocket to light the cigar. Race snorted, then rolled back over to take advantage of any more sleep he could get before the distribution bell rang.