The gang reads

Chapter 3

Chap. Three

A/n: I do not own the Outsiders

"Okay," Steve said, picking up the book. "Chapter Two."

"Dally was waiting for Johnny and me under the street light at the corner of Pickett and Sutton, and since we got there early, we had time to go over to the drug store in the shopping center and goof around. We bought Cokes and blew the straws at the waitresses and walked around eyeing things that were lying out in the open until the manager got wise to us and suggested we leave. He was too late, though; Dally walked out with two packages of Kools under his jacket."

"Who do you think taught me how to shoplift?" Two-Bit said, and was met with more pillows.

"Where do you guys keep getting all of these pillows?"

"The sofa," Pony said with a smirk

"Then we went across the street and down Sutton a little way to the Dingo. There are lots of drive-in's in town—the Socs go to The Way Out and to Rusty's, and the greasers go The Dingo and to Jay's. The Dingo is a pretty rough hangout; there's always a fight going on there and once a girl got shot. We walked around talking to all the greasers and hoods we knew, leaning in car windows or hopping into the back seats, and getting in on who was running away and who was in jail and who was going out with who, and who could whip who, and who stole what and when and why. We knew about everybody there."

"That's impressive, kid." Steve interrupted himself. "I only know about 50% of the Dingo's patrons."

"I'm impressed that you know such a big word, Stevie boy." Pony replied. The reading was paused as Darry and Soda had to separate the two greasers who were wrestling.

"There was a pretty good fight while we were there between a big twenty three year old greaser and a Mexican hitchhiker. We left when the switchblades came out, because the cops would be coming soon and nobody in his right mind wants to be around when the fuzz show."

"Dally actually decided not to add to his record?" Soda said, astonished.

"It's a sign of the apocalypse!" Two-Bit shouted.

"Shut up you two, and let Steve read," Darry called out, but a smile could be seen fighting its way on to his face.

"We crossed Sutton and cut around behind Spencer's Special, the discount house, and chased two junior high kids across a field for a few minutes, by then it was dark enough to sneak in over the back fence of the Nightly Double drive in movie. It was the biggest in town, and showed two movies every night, and on weekends four—you could say you were going to the Nightly Double and have time to go all over town."

"And you really did go all over town," Steve said.

"We all had the money to get in—it only costs a quarter if you're not in a car—but Dally hated to do anything the legal way. He liked to show that he didn't care whether there was a law or not. He went around trying to break laws. We went to the rows of seats in front of the concession stand to sit down. Nobody else was there except for two girls who were sitting down front. Dally eyed them coolly, then walked down the aisle and sat right behind them. I had a sick feeling that Dally was up to his usual tricks, and I was right. He started talking loud enough for the two girls to hear. He started out bad and got worse. Dallas could talk awful dirty if he wanted to and I guess he wanted to then."

"I remember Dallas's vocabulary. Remember threatening to wash his mouth out if he repeated any of it in front of Pony." Darry said, frowning. "Damnit! How do you do that to a dead guy?"

"I don't know, and Darry," Pony said, glaring at him. "I've heard worse from the Socs at school."

"I felt my ears get hot. Two-Bit or Steve or even Soda would have gone right along with him, just to see if they could embarrass the girls, but that kind of kicks just doesn't appeal to me. I sat there, struck dumb, and Johnny left hastily to get a Coke. I wouldn't have felt so embarrassed if they had been greasy girls—I might have even helped old Dallas. But those two girls weren't our kind. They were tuff-looking girls—dressed sharp and really good looking. They looked about sixteen or seventeen. One had short dark hair, and the other had long red hair."

"Pony, how are you a greaser if you get embarrassed over everything?"

This comment earned Two-Bit and Steve a pillow right in the face.

"Be careful Pony. Where there are Socy girls, their boyfriends aren't far behind." Darry said, and Soda remembered the events after this chapter. He looked at Darry and Pony, then looked at the two idiots that were his friends and then prayed that those two wouldn't bash Darry's head in for hitting Pony. Luckily for him, no one noticed anything.

"The redhead was getting mad, or scared. She sat up straight and she was chewing hard on her gum. The other one pretended not to hear Dally. Dally was getting impatient. He put his feet up on the back of the redhead's chair, winked at me, and beat his own record for saying something dirty. She turned around and gave him a cool glare. "Take your feet off my chair and shut your trap." Boy she was good-looking. I'd seen her before; she was a cheerleader at our school. I'd always thought she was stuck up."

"Man, that chick was cruising for a bruising. No one tells Dally what to do."

"Two-Bit, maybe we should focus on the more important issue."

"And what might that be, Soda?"

"Pony mentioned something about this redhead being good-looking?"

"OH SHUT UP AND LET THE MAN READ!" Pony shouted, his face as bright as a tomato and glaring at his brother and friend. He certainly was getting tired of the constant teasing.

"Dally merely looked at her and kept his feet where they were. "Who's gonna make me?" The other one turned around and watched us. "That's the greaser that jockeys for the Slash J sometimes," she said, as if we couldn't hear her. I had heard the same tone before. "Greaser…greaser…greaser." Oh yeah, I had heard that tone before too many times."

"I can't help but notice that it was only the redhead that was good looking. Pony's got a thing for redheads, Dar!"

Soda's last comment was heard over the mini-wrestling match he and Pony were having. Darry, with a grin on his face, marched over and broke it up.

"Thank you Darry." Steve said, and resumed reading.

"What are they doing in a drive- in without a car? I thought, and Dallas said, "I know you two. I've seen you around the rodeos." "It's a shame you can't ride bull half as good as you can talk it," the redhead said coolly and turned back around. That didn't bother Dally in the least."

"Did anything bother Dally?"

"Ohh, that girlfriend of Pony's has a smart mouth."

"Two-Bit, I mean it. One more word…"

"Good question Pon. I'm wondering the same thing," Darry said, glaring at the resident peanut gallery.

""You two barrel race, huh?" "You'd better leave us alone," the redhead said in a biting voice, "or I'll call the cops." "Oh, my my"—Dally looked bored—"you've got me scared to death. You ought to see my record sometime baby." He grinned slyly. "Guess what I've been in for?" "Please leave us alone," she said. "Why don't you be nice and leave us alone?""

"That threat never scares Dally."

"What has Dally been in for? I never knew."

"Any crime under the sun that's not murder or drugs."

"Dally grinned roguishly. "I'm never nice. Want a Coke?" She was mad by then. "I wouldn't drink it if I was starving in the desert. Get lost, hood!" Dally merely shrugged and strolled off. The girl looked at me. I was half-scared of her. I'm half-scared of all nice girls, especially Socs. "Are you going to start in on us?" I shook my head, wide-eyed. "No." Suddenly she smiled."

"How does one grin roguishly?"

"Pony, a girl scared you?" Two-Bit, again, was laughing so hard that he almost fell off of his seat.

"She argued with Dally, and won! Two-Bit, even you would have been afraid of her."

"She smiled at you? Pony, do you know what this means?" Soda interjected.

"That not all Socs are scum?"

"No, it's another sign of the apocalypse!"

Pony just rolled his eyes and motioned for Steve to continue to read.

"Gosh she was pretty. "You don't look the type. What's your name?" I wished she hadn't asked me that. I hate to tell people my name for the first time."

"Of course he doesn't look the type. He's Ponyboy Curtis." Two-Bit said, as if that explained everything. Darry and Soda, though, weren't paying attention to Two-Bit. They were looking at their little brother, as if he could explain everything. Pony on the other hand was thankful that his brothers hadn't started to tease him about Cherry again.

""Ponyboy Curtis." Then I waited for the "You're kidding!" or "That's your real name?" or one of the other remarks I usually get. Ponyboy's my real name and personally I like it."

"Wow, and here I always thought it was due to Soda's horse obsession that you were called Ponyboy."

"Shut it, Two-Bit."

"I've a brother named Sodapop, Two-Bit. What did you think my real name was?"

"Bob."

The reading was paused as Soda and Pony jumped onto Two-Bit and proceeded to wrestle with him. Darry took this time to go to the bathroom. When he came out, it was to his surprise that Tim Sheppard was standing in his living room.

"Tim, what the hell are you doing here?"

"Heard this is where all the cool cats are hanging out tonight. Plus, Buck's out of beer. Can I join you?"

"Sure."

"The redhead just smiled. "That's an original and lovely name." "My dad was an original person." I said. "I've got a brother named Sodapop, and it says so on his birth certificate.""

"Pony, you just agreed with yourself."

"Huh?" Tim, new to Two-Bit's stupidity, asked.

"Ignore him. If he gets out of line, we hit him with pillows. It's fun." Pony replied, and then whacked Two-Bit in the head with another pillow.

""My name's Sherri, but I'm called Cherry because of my hair. Cherry Valance." "I know," I said. "You're a cheerleader. We go to the same school." "You don't look old enough to be going to high school," the dark haired girl said. "I'm not. I got put up a year in grade school." Cherry was looking at me. "What's a nice, smart kid like you running around with trash like that for?" I felt myself stiffen. "I'm a grease, same as Dally. He's my buddy.""

"A Soc's actually complementing a greaser?" Tim asked.

"Shocking, isn't it?" Two-Bit agreed.

""I'm sorry, Ponyboy," she said softly. Then she said briskly, "Your brother Sodapop, does he work at a gasoline station? A DX, I think?" "Yeah." "Man, your brother is one doll. I might have guessed you were brothers—you look alike." I grinned with pride—I don't think I look one bit like Soda, but it's not every day I hear Socs telling me they think my brother is a doll."

"Oh no, here we go again!" Steve groaned, as Soda puffed his chest out in pride.

"Again, I must ask, huh?" Tim, who had missed the first chapter, asked.

"Don't ask, Tim. I don't get it either." Darry leaned over and whispered into Tim's ear.

""Didn't he used to ride in rodeos? Saddle bronc?" "Yeah. Dad made him quit after he tore a ligament, though. We still hang around rodeos a lot. I've seen you two barrel race. You're good." "Thanks," Cherry said, and the other girl, who was named Marcia, said, "How come we don't see your brother at school? He's not any older than sixteen or seventeen, is he?" I winced inside."

"That must have been painful."

Five sets of pillows found their way on to one Two-Bit Matthews. Tim chuckled.

"You were right kid. That is fun."

"I've told you I can't stand it that Soda dropped out. "He's a dropout," I said roughly. "Dropout" made me think of some poor dumb-looking hoodlum wandering the streets breaking out street lights—it didn't fit my happy-go-lucky brother at all. It fitted Dally perfectly, but you could hardly say it about Soda."

"So, it would fit me, then?" Tim said, and smirked as he watched Pony's face change emotions in record time.

"Relax kid; I'm just yanking your chain."

"Johnny came back then and sat down beside me. He looked around for Dally, then managed a shy "Hi" to the girls and tried to watch the movie. He was nervous though. Johnny was always nervous around strangers. Cherry looked at him, sizing him up like she had me. Then she smiled softly, and I knew she had sized him up right."

"How could you not like Johnny? Johnny's awesome!"

Despite the fact that they all agreed with Two-Bit, the poor greaser was met with several more pillows to the head, face and body.

"Dally came striding back with an armful of Cokes. He handed one to each of the girls and sat down beside Cherry. "This might cool you off." She gave him an incredulous look; and then she threw her Coke in his face. "That might cool you off, greaser. After you wash your mouth and learn how to talk and act decent, I might cool off, too." Dally wiped the Coke off his face with his sleeve and smiled dangerously. If I had been Cherry I would have beat it out of there. I knew that smile"

"Dun, dun, dunnnnn!"

It was Soda's turn to become acquainted with the pillows; a fact that Two-Bit exploited with delight.

"Pony's girlfriend is AWESOME!"

"That's it!"

Instead of pillows, Two-Bit was met with a really pissed off Curtis. Tim was almost knocked to the ground as the two greasers were engaged in an epic wrestling match that was only concluded when Darry broke the two apart.

""Fiery, huh? Well, that's the way I like 'em." He started to put his arm around her, but Johnny reached over and stopped him. "Leave her alone, Dally.""

The whole living room was silent. Everyone, except for Pony, was in shock. Two-Bit began to laugh. Ignoring the looks that everyone was giving him, he burst out with his (unwanted) opinion.

"How I wish I could have been there for that!"

Everyone else quickly caught on to what he was talking about and the whole living room exploded with laughter.

""Huh?" Dally was taken off guard. He stared at Johnny in disbelief. Johnny couldn't say "Boo" to a goose. Johnny gulped and got a little pale, but he said, "You heard me. Leave her alone." Dallas scowled for a second. If it had been me, or Two-Bit, or Soda or Steve, or anyone but Johnny, Dally would have flattened him without a moment's hesitation. You just didn't ell Dally Winston what to do."

"Why would you say Boo to a goose?"

Both Soda and Two-Bit (for good measure) got reacquainted with their good friends (the pillows.)

"One time, in a dime store, a guy told him to move over at the candy counter. Dally had turned around and belted him so hard it knocked a tooth loose. A complete stranger, too. But Johnny was the gang's pet, and Dally just couldn't hit him. He was Dally's pet, too. Dally got up and stalked off, his fist jammed in this pockets and a frown on his face. He didn't come back."

"I remember that incident. It was a Soc that told him to move." Tim said. "Dally was lucky not to have been the cause for a rumble."

Cherry sighed in relief. "Thanks. He had me scared to death." Johnny managed an admiring grin. "You sure didn't show it. Nobody talks to dally like that." She smiled. "From what I saw, you do." Johnny's ears got red.

"Just like Pony."

"I swear, Two-Bit…" Pony warned glaring at the older greaser.

"I was still staring at him. It had taken more than nerve for him to say what he'd said to Dally-Johnny worshiped the ground Dallas walked on, and I had never heard Johnny talk back to anyone, much less his hero."

There was silence from all six Greasers, remembering the thing that caused Dallas to break in the first place and had Johnny's unspoken hero-ship for him.

"Marcia grinned at us. She was a little smaller than Cherry. She was cute, but that Cherry Valance was a real looker. "Ya'll sit up here with us. You can protect us.""

Tim, Soda, Steve, and Two-Bit howled with laughter at the thought of Ponyboy and Johnny protecting two Socy girls from any tough hoods or their boyfriends. Darry could be seen trying hard not to laugh at his little brother's expense.

"Aw, shut up will ya." Pony remarked the blush once again spreading over his face.

"It's okay to like more than one girl Ponyboy." Two-Bit remarked.

The usual response to Two-Bit's stupid remarks, were thrown at Two-Bit's head, except it was only one pillow coming from Ponyboy.

"Johnny and I looked at each other. He grinned suddenly, raising his eyebrows so that they disappeared under his bangs. Would we ever have something to tell the boys! his eyes said plainly. We had picked up two girls, and classy ones at that. Not any greasey broads for us, but real Socs. Soda was going to flip when I told him."

"I'm still in shock that you and Johnny managed to pick up girls at all." Steve said, emphasizing the word 'managed'.

"Aw, you're just jealous that you can't get Socy girls." Ponyboy remarked.

"Stupid, smart ass kid." Steve mumbled.

""Okay," I said nonchalantly, "might as well." I sat between them, and Johnny sat next to Cherry. "How old are ya'll?" Marcia asked. "Fourteen." I said. "Sixteen," said Johnny. "That's funny," Marcia said, "I thought you were both…" "Sixteen," Cherry finished for her. I was grateful. Johnny looked fourteen and he knew it and it bugged him something awful."

"It wasn't Johnnycake's fault that he was small." Two-Bit said.

Two-Bit was, once again, pelted with pillows.

"Johnny grinned. "How come ya'll ain't scared of us like you were Dally?" Cherry sighed. "You two are too sweet to scare anybody. First of all, you didn't join in Dallas's dirty talk, and you made him leave us alone. And when we asked you to sit us here with us, you didn't act like it was an invitation to make out for the night. Besides that, I've heard about Dallas Winston, and he looked as hard as nails and twice as tough. And you two don't look mean.""

"Yeah, Pony, I told you. You look nice and non-violent and…" Two-Bit started listing off things.

"That's it." Pony growled.

He lunged at Two-Bit and another wrestling match was in progress. Darry and Tim managed to pull the two Greasers apart.

""Sure," I said tiredly. "we're young and innocent." "No," Cherry said slowly, looking at me carefully, "not innocent. You've seen too much to be innocent. Just not…dirty.""

Everybody was silent remembering what they all had seen; none of them would ever be innocent again.

"Steve, read on." Pony broke the memories that everyone was regaling.

""Dally's okay," Johnny said defensively, and I nodded. You take up for your buddies, no matter what they do. When you're a gang, you stick up for the members. If you don't stick up for them, stick together, make like brothers, it isn't a gang any more. It's a pack. A snarling, distrustful, bickering pack like the Socs in their social clubs or the street gangs in New York or the wolves in the timber. "He's tough, but he's a cool old guy.""

"Pony remember when I told you 'you never think'?" Darry questioned.

"Yeah?" Ponyboy asked, confused.

"I take it back, you think too much." Darry remarked.

"Yeah, well what do you think I do when I'm daydreaming?" Pony said.

Darry just smirked.

""He'd leave you alone if he knew you," I said, and that was true. When Steve's cousin from Kansas came down, Dally was decent to her and watched his swearing. We all did around the nice girls who were the cousinly type. I don't know how to explain it-we try to be nice to the girls we see once in a while, like cousins or the girls in class; but we still watch a nice girl go by on a street corner and say all kinds of lousy stuff about her. Don't ask me why. I don't know why."

"Glory kid, you remember that?" Steve asked astonished.

Ponyboy just shrugged his shoulders.

""Well," Marcia said with finality, "I'm glad he doesn't know us." "I kind of admire him," Cherry said softly, so only I heard, and then we settled down to watch the movie.

Two-Bit laughed, "A Soc, admiring Dally. Who would have thought the day would come."

Pillows were thrown.

"Oh, yeah, we found out why they were there without a car. They'd come with their boyfriends, but walked out on them when they found out the boys had brought some booze along. The boys had gotten angry and left. "I don't care if they did." Cherry sounded annoyed. "It's not my idea of a good time to sit in a drive-in and watch people get drunk."

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Two-Bit yelled at the book.

"You'd know if you didn't drink." Pony mumbled.

"What was that kid?" Two-Bit asked.

"Nothin'." Ponyboy replied innocently.

"You could tell by the way she said it that her idea of a good time was probably high-class, and probably expensive. They'd decided to stay and see the movie anyway. It was one of those beach-party movies with no plot and no acting but a lot of girls in bikinis and some swinging songs, so it was alright."

"Bikinis? Kid you got some hobby we don't know about?" Two-Bit teased.

"Two-Bit, do you ever shut up?" Pony asked, trying to hide his embarrassment.

"Nope. Deal with it." Two-Bit stated.

"We were all four sitting there in silence when a strong hand came down on Johnny's shoulder and another on mine and a deep voice said, "Okay, greasers, you've had it.""

Two-Bit started cracking up.

"What are ya laughing at, ya idiot?" Tim smacked Two-Bit with a pillow.

Pony just rolled his eyes.

"I almost jumped out of my skin. It was like having someone leap out from behind a door and yell "Boo!" at you. I looked fearfully over my shoulder and there was Two-Bit, grinning like a Chessy cat."

"I'm so funny right? I should be a comedian." Two-Bit said proudly.

"Whatever helps you sleep at night Two-Bit." Pony replied.

"Yeah Two-Bit, it was so funny, I forgot to laugh." Soda piped up.

""Glory, Two-Bit, scare us to death!" He was good at voice imitations and had sounded for all the world like a snarling Soc."

"Well somebody appreciates me." Two-Bit grinned at Ponyboy.

"Yeah, you're not too bad." Pony smiled back.

"Then I looked at Johnny. His eyes were shut and he was as white as a ghost. His breath was coming in smothered gasps. Two-Bit knew better than to scare Johnny like that. I guess he'd forgotten. He's kind of scatterbrained."

"Aw kid, that's just wrong. You compliment me and then bag on me." Two-Bit said, acting mad.

"Johnny opened his eyes and said weakly, "Hey, Two-Bit." Two-Bit messed up his hair. "Sorry, kid," he said, "I forgot.""

"Two-Bit don't get all pissy, even you admitted it." Ponyboy remarked hoping Two-Bit wasn't too mad at him.

"It's okay kid. I know I'm scatterbrained." Two-Bit smiled goofily.

"He climbed over the chair and plopped down beside Marcia. "Who's this, great-aunts?" "Great-grandmothers, twice removed," Cherry said smoothly.

"That pick up line works all the time." Two-Bit said.

Everyone rolled their eyes and threw pillows at Two-Bit's face.

I couldn't tell if Two-Bit was drunk or not. It's kind of hard to tell with him-he acts boozed up sometimes even when he's sober. He cocked one eyebrow up and the other down, which he always does when something puzzles him, or bothers him, or when he feels like saying something smart."

"Ponyboy's stalking me!" Two-Bit yelled.

"You idiot! I can't stalk you 'cause you're over here most of the time. Plus your life's interesting anyways." Pony replied, angrily.

"Oh yeah." Two-Bit agreed.

""Shoot, you're ninety-six if you're a day." "I'm a night," Marcia said brightly. Two-Bit stared at her admiringly. "Brother, you're a sharp one. Where'd you two ever get picked up by a couple of greasy hoods like Pony and Johnny?""

"Oh my Gosh! Another apocalypse! Two-Bit likes a Soc!" Soda yelled.

"Gimme one of those." Two-Bit grabbed a pillow from the sofa and threw it at Soda's face.

""We really picked them up," Marcia said. "We're really Arabian slave traders and we're thinking about shanghaiing them. They're worth ten camels apiece at least." "Five," Two-Bit disagreed. "They don't talk Arabian, I don't think. Say somethin' in Arabian, Johnnycake." "Aw, cut it out!" Johnny broke in. "Dally was bothering them and when he left they wanted us to sit with them to protect them. Against wisecracking greasers like you, probably." Two-Bit grinned, because Johnny didn't usually get sassy like that. We thought we were doing good if we could get him to talk at all. Incidentally, we don't mind being called greaser by another greaser. It's kind of playful then."

All the greasers laughed at the fact of Johnny getting mouthy.

"Wish I could've been there to hear that." Steve said.

""Hey where is ol' Dally, anyways?" "He went hunting some action-booze or dames or a fight. I hope he don't get jailed again. He just got out." "He'll probably find the fight," Two-Bit stated cheerfully. "That's why I came over. Mr. Timothy Shepard and Co. are looking for whoever so kindly slashed their car's tires, and since Mr. Curly Shepard spotted Dallas doing it…well…Does Dally have a blade?""

"'Mr. Timothy Shepard and Co.'?" Tim asked glaring at Two-Bit.

"It was a joke man, lighten up." Two-Bit punched Tim on the shoulder playfully.

Another wrestling match ensued and was separated.

""Not that I know of," I said. "I think he's got a piece of pipe, but he busted his blade this morning" "Good. Tim'll fight fair if Dally don't pull a blade on him. Dally shouldn't have any trouble." Cherry and Marcia were staring at us. "You don't believe in playing rough or anything, do you?""

"Socs, they don't understand anything. Just live in their perfect little world bubbles." Tim growled.

"Tim that's not true." Pony told him.

Tim and Ponyboy were both glaring at each other.

""A fair fight isn't rough," Two-Bit said. "Blades are rough. So are chains and heaters and pool sticks and rumbles. Skin fighting isn't rough. It blows off steam better than anything. There's nothing wrong with throwing a few punches. Socs are rough. They gang up on one or two, or they rumble each other with their social clubs. Us greasers usually stick together, but when we do fight among ourselves, it's a fair fight between two. And Dally deserves whatever he gets, 'cause slashed tires ain't no joke when you've got to work to pay for them. He got spotted, too, and that was his fault. Our one rule, besides Stick together, is Don't get caught. He might get beat up, he might not. Either way there's not going to be any blood feud between our outfit and Shepard's. If we needed them tomorrow they'd show. If Tim beats Dally's head in, and then tomorrow asks us for help in a rumble, we'll show. Dally was getting kicks. He got caught. He pays up. No sweat.""

"Whoa." Soda said.

"What?" Darry questioned.

"I just never thought the day would come when Two-Bit made sense for almost a whole minute." Soda said amazed.

Everyone laughed.

"See, I am a comedian." Two-Bit remarked.

He was ambushed with pillows, for what was surely not the last time.

""Yeah, boy," Cherry said sarcastically, "real simple." "Sure," Marcia said, unconcerned. "If he gets killed or something you just bury him. No sweat." "You dig okay, baby." Two-Bit grinned and lit a cigarette. "Anyone want a weed?""

"Looks like the kid wasn't the only one attracted to a Soc." Steve smirked.

"Shut up Randle. Nobody asked you." Two-Bit grumbled.

"I looked at Two-Bit admiringly. He sure put things into words good. Maybe he was still a junior at eighteen and a half, and maybe his sideburns were too long, and maybe he did get boozed up too much, but he sure understood things."

"Why do you keep doing that?" Two-Bit asked Ponyboy.

"What?" Pony questioned.

"You compliment me and then you insult me, that's screwed up man." Two-Bit said.

"I don't know, this was two years ago. How am I supposed to know?" Pony answered.

"Cherry and Marcia shook their heads at his offering of cigarettes, but Johnny and I reached for one. Johnny's color was back and his breathing was regular, but his hand was shaking ever so slightly. A cigarette would steady it. "Ponyboy, will you come with me to get some popcorn?" Cherry asked. I jumped up. "Sure. Ya'll want some?""

"A little eager there, were ya Pony?" Soda asked, smiling teasingly at his younger brother.

Ponyboy blushed and looked down at his feet.

"Soda lay off. I bet you would've done the same thing." Darry jumped in.

Pony looked at Darry; his eyes said 'Thanks'.

"Sorry, Pone." Soda apologized.

"It's alright." Pony said.

""I do," said Marcia. She was finishing the Coke Dally had given her. I realized then that Marcia and Cherry weren't alike. Cherry said she wouldn't drink Dally's Coke if she was starving, and she meant it. It was the principle of the thing. But Marcia saw no reason to throw away a perfectly good, free Coke."

"There ya go kid, thinkin' too much again." Steve remarked.

""Me too," said Two-Bit. He flipped me a fifty-cent piece. "Get Johnny some too. I'm buyin'," he added as Johnny started to reach into his jeans pocket. We went to the concession stand and, as usual, there was a line a mile ling, so we had to wait. Quite a few kids turned to look at us-you didn't see a kid grease and a Socy cheerleader together often. Cherry didn't seem to notice. "Your friend-the one with the sideburns-he's okay?" "He ain't dangerous like Dallas if that's what you mean. He's okay.""

"Sure kid, just ruined my rep in front of a Soc." Two-Bit said.

"No problem anytime. Plus Cherry didn't treat you any differently so why does it matter?" Ponyboy asked.

"It's the principle of the thing." Two-Bit said, holding his head up high and mighty.

Darry smacked his on the back of his head.

"Thanks." Pony remarked to Darry.

"That's what brothers are for." Darry told him.

"She smiled and her eyes showed that her mind was on something else. "Johnny… he's been hurt bad sometime hasn't he?" It was more of a statement than a question. "Hurt and scared." "It was the Socs," I said nervously, because there were plenty of Socs milling around and some of them were giving me funny looks, as if I shouldn't be with Cherry or something. And I don't like to talk about it either-Johnny getting beat up, I mean. But I started in, talking a little faster then I usually do because I don't like to think about it either." "It was almost four months ago. I had walked down to the DX station to get a bottle of pop and to see Steve and Soda, because they'll always buy me a couple of bottles and let me help work on the cars."

"Man and I thought I wasn't going to be mentioned in this chapter." Steve complained.

"I don't like to go on weekends because then there is usually a bunch of girls down there flirting with Soda-all kinds of girls, Socs too. I don't care too much for girls yet. Soda says I'll grow out of it. He did"

"Yep, and apparently it's red-heads and Socy girls." Two-Bit remarked.

Ponyboy just rolled his eyes and whacked Two-Bit in the face with a pillow.

"It was a warmish spring day with the sun shining bright, but it was getting chilly and dark by the time we started for home. We were walking because we had left Steve's car at the station. At the corner of our block there's a wide, open field where we play football and hang out, it's often a site for rumbles and fist fights. We were passing it, kicking rocks down the street and finishing our last bottles of Pepsi, when Steve noticed something lying on the ground. He picked it up. It was Johnny's blue-jeans jacket-the only jacket he had. "Looks like Johnny forgot his jacket," Steve said, slinging it over his shoulder to take it by Johnny's house. Suddenly he stopped and examined it more carefully. There was a stain the color of rust across the collar. He looked at the ground. There were some more stains on the grass. He looked up and across the field with a stricken expression on his face."

"God kid, you remember all sorts of stuff. I don't even remember all the details." Steve told Pony.

"It comes from reading." Ponyboy explained.

"I think we all heard a low moan and saw the dark motionless hump on the other side of the lot at the same time. Soda reached him first. Johnny was lying face down on the ground. Soda turned him over gently, and I nearly got sick. Someone had beaten him badly."

"Think we could still kick those Socs asses?" Soda asked angry at what the Socs did to Johnny.

"It'd be pointless, since the main person that did it is dead, Soda." Ponyboy pointed out.

"Oh…right." Soda said still wishing he could teach some Socs to not pick on people smaller than them.

"We were used to seeing Johnny banged up-his father clobbered him around a lot, and although it made us madder than heck, we couldn't do anything about it. But those beatings had been nothing like this. Johnny's face was cut up and bruised and swollen, and there was a wide gash from his temple to his cheekbone. He would carry that scar all his life. His white T-shirt was splattered with blood. I thought he might be dead; surely nobody could be beaten like that and live. Steve closed his eyes for a second and muffled a groan as he dropped on his knees beside Soda."

"Can we beat his parents up?" Soda questioned.

"Soda, fighting doesn't do any good. Just leave it, what happened happened." Pony said with a sigh.

"Man the kid got smarter." Two-Bit remarked.

"Didn't think that was possible." Steve chimed in.

Steve and Two-Bit got pillows thrown at them.

"Somehow the gang sensed what had happened. Two-Bit was suddenly there beside me, and for once his comical grin was gone and his dancing gray eyes were stormy. Darry had seen us from our porch and ran toward us, suddenly skidding to a halt. Dally was there, too, swearing under his breath, and turning away with a sick expression on his face. I wondered about it vaguely. Dally had seen people killed on the streets of New York's West Side. Why did he look sick now?"

"I was so stupid for not seeing how Dally saw Johnny as a little brother." Pony mumbled to himself.

""Johnny?" Soda lifted him up and held him against his shoulder. He gave the limp body a slight shake. "Hey, Johnnycake." Johnny didn't open his eyes, but there came a soft question. "Soda?" "Yeah, it's me," Sodapop said. "Don't talk. You're gonna be okay." "There was a whole bunch of them," Johnny went on, swallowing, ignoring Soda's command. "A blue Mustang full… I got so scared…" He tried to swear, but suddenly started crying, fighting to control himself, then sobbing all the more because he couldn't. I seen Johnny take a whipping with a two-by-four from his old man and never let out a whimper. That made it worse to see him break now. Soda just held him and pushed Johnny's hair back out of his eyes. "It's okay, Johnnycake, they're gone now. It's okay.""

"I really want to kick some Soc butt!" Soda yelled.

"Yeah, me too." Steve agreed.

"I'll help." Tim stated.

"Guys, just move on. Read the rest Steve." Pony said.

"Finally, between sobs, Johnny managed to gasp out his story. He had been hunting our football to practice a few kicks when a blue Mustang had pulled up beside the lot. There were four Socs in it. They had caught him and one of them had a lot if rings in his hand-that's what had cut Johnny up so badly. It wasn't just that they had beaten him half to death-he could take that. They had scared him. They had threatened him with everything under the sun. Johnny was high-strung anyway, a nervous wreck form getting belted every time he turned around and from hearing his parents fight all the time. Living in those conditions might have turned someone else rebellious and bitter; it was killing Johnny. He had never been a coward. He was a good man in a rumble. He stuck up for the gang and kept his mouth shut good around cops. But after the night of the beating, Johnny was jumpier than ever. I didn't think he'd ever he'd over it. Johnny never walked by himself after that. And Johnny, who was the most law-abiding of us, now carried in his back pocket a six-inch switchblade. He'd use it, too, if he ever got jumped again. They had scared him that much. He would kill the next person who jumped him. Nobody was ever going to beat him like that again. Not over his dead body…"

"Yeah, Johnnycake did stab him." Two-Bit stated.

"That's called foreshadowing Two-Bit, I did it on purpose." Ponyboy told the older greaser.

"Oh, that makes sense." Two-Bit reasoned.

"I had nearly forgotten that Cherry was listening to me. But when I came back to reality and looked at her, I was startled to find her as white as a sheet."

"Good she should be, it was her boyfriend that did it to him." Soda said.

"Pepsi-Cola, just take a chill pill." Darry remarked.

""All Socs aren't like that," she said. "You have to believe me, Ponyboy. Not all of us are like that." "Sure," I said. "That's like saying all you greasers are like Dallas Winston. I'll bet he's jumped a few people." I digested that. It was true. Dally had jumped people. He had told us stories about muggings in New York that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. But not all of us were that bad."

"I thought I told Dally not to tell you those stories." Darry said.

"Dar, just because you told him not to, doesn't mean he won't." Pony stated.

"Cherry no longer looked sick, only sad. "I'll bet you think the Socs have it made. The rich kids, the West-side Socs. I'll tell you something, Ponyboy, and it may come as a surprise. We have troubles you've never even heard of. You want to know something?" She looked me straight in the eye. "Things are rough all over.""

All the greasers, except Ponyboy, snorted in disbelief.

""I believe you," I said. "We'd better got back out there with the popcorn or Two-Bit'll think I ran off with his money.""

"You believe her kid?" Two-Bit asked incredulously.

Pony nodded and didn't say anything else on the subject.

"We went back and watched the movie through again. Marcia and Two-Bit were hitting it off fine. Both had the same scatterbrained sense of humor."

"I'm not the only one that's scatterbrained."

Nobody had to look to see the moron that said that, they just threw pillows. It was a much better way to shut him up.

"But Cherry and Johnny and I just sat there, looking at the movie and not talking, I quit worrying about everything and thought about how nice it was to sit with a girl without having to listen to her swear or to beat her off with a club. I knew Johnny liked it, too. He didn't talk to girls much. Once, while Dallas was in reform school, Sylvia had started hanging on to Johnny and sweet-talking him and Steve got a hold of her and told her of she tried any of her tricks with Johnny he's personally beat the tar out of her. Then he gave Johnny a lecture on girls and how a sneaking little broad like Sylvia would get him into a lot of trouble. As a result, Johnny never spoke to girls much, but whether that was because he was scared of Steve or because he was shy, I couldn't tell."

"Glory kid, do you remember everything?" Steve asked Ponyboy.

"No, not everything. Just almost everything." Pony smirked.

"Don't be cocky Ponyboy, it doesn't suit you." Darry warned.

"I got the same lecture from Two-Bit after we'd picked up couple of girls downtown one day."

"When did you pick up girls?" Steve asked.

Both older Curtis brothers stared at their youngest brother, hoping that he'd have answers.

Pony just shrugged and mumbled something.

Soda and Darry looked at each other shocked; neither of them had known he was into girls at fourteen.

"I thought it was funny, because girls are one subject even Darry thinks I use my head about. And it really had been funny, because Two-Bit was half-crocked when he gave me the lecture, and he told me some stories that about made me want to crawl under the floor or something."

"Two-Bit I thought I told you never to tell him any of that stuff." Darry said.

"I was drunk, I didn't remember." Two-Bit defended.

"You're always drunk, that doesn't count." Darry told him.

"Dang it…" Two-Bit said under his breath.

"Don't ever tell him that kind of stuff again. Ya hear?" Darry questioned.

"Yep, loud and clear." Two-Bit said.

"Darry, you do know that I hear that stuff all the time at school from Socs and Greasers, not just Two-Bit." Ponyboy reminded him.

Darry sighed, "I know and I can't do anything about them, but I can do something about Two-Bit."

"But he had been talking about girls like Sylvia and the girls he and Dally and the rest picked up at the drive-ins and downtown; he never said anything about Socy girls."

"See Darry, I didn't tell him everything, but I could give him another lesson." Two-Bit suggested.

Darry glared at Two-Bit.

"I'll take that as a 'no' then."

"So I figured it was all right to be sitting there with them. Even if they did have their own troubles. I really couldn't see what Socs would have to sweat about-good grades, good cars, good girls, madras and Mustangs and Corvairs-Man, I thought, if I had worries like that I'd consider myself lucky. I know better now."

"Well that's it. Who'd reading next?" Steve put the book down.

"I will!" Two-Bit shouted.

Darry, Soda, and Steve were about to protest when Ponyboy said, "Aw, just let him. Maybe he won't talk so much then.

"Yay!" Two-Bit yelled.

Two-Bit had pillows thrown at him and he just smiled.

Luplovell345: Okay finally done with the chapter. Please enjoy and we will update as soon as possible. Please review because they mean everything and are the motivation to keep writing. Thanks!

Ginnyrules27: Yay! With the much needed help of Luplovell345, another chapter has been added to this story. Summer has come, which means the story should be updated faster. Like my co-author said, please review, as they motivate us to reward our readers with new chapters.

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