The gang reads

Chapter 9

Chapter Nine

A/N: I do not own the Outsiders

"Alright. Chapter Eight," Steve sighed.

The nurses wouldn't let us see Johnny. He was in critical condition. No visitors. But Two-Bit wouldn't take no for an answer. That was his buddy in there and he aimed to see him.

"Good job, Two-Bit." Soda said, patting him on the back.

"Like the essay said, my buddy was in there." Two-Bit said and smiled. If anyone looked close enough, they'd have seen that the smile hadn't gone up to his eyes.

We both begged and pleaded, but we were getting nowhere until the doctor found out what was going on.

"Whoo! You're gonna see Johnny." Steve cheered, trying to keep the mood from going into a pit of despair.

"Let them go in," he said to the nurse. "He's been asking for them. It can't hurt now."

Soda stiffened as Steve read this. He'd known Johnny was in bad shape, but he hadn't known just how bad. If the doctor was giving up, he knew it had to be bad.

Two-Bit didn't notice the expression in his voice. It's true, I thought numbly, he is dying. We went in, practically on tiptoe, because the quietness of the hospital scared us.

"Nice one kid," Tim shook his head at the statement. He was the only one who was still unaware of the extent of the damage Johnny had sustained.

Johnny was lying still, with his eyes closed, but when Two-Bit said, "Hey, Johnnykid," he opened them and looked at us, trying to grin. "Hey, y'all."

"Should he have been talking?" Darry muttered to Soda. "Wouldn't it have been better if he saved his strength?"

"Dar, I don't know." Soda whispered back. "Besides that, the fact that he talked at all with the pain he probably was in is amazing."

The nurse, who was pulling the shades open, smiled and said, "So he can talk after all." Two-Bit looked around. "They treatin' you okay, kid?" "Don't…"—Johnny gasped—"don't let me put enough grease on my hair."

"Oh, the torture!" Tim cried, but stopped when he saw the grim looks on the others' faces.

"Don't talk," Two-Bit said, pulling up a chair, "just listen. We'll bring you some hair grease next time.

If only there'd been a next time, Two-Bit thought. He was kicking himself for not going with Dally and Pony when they went to the hospital. At least they got to say goodbye.

We're having the big rumble tonight." Johnny's huge black eyes widened a little, but he didn't say anything. "It's too bad you and Dally can't be in it.

At this, everyone smirked at the memory of Dally running up to the group before the rumble. It just seemed like a Dally thing to do.

It's the first big rumble we've had—not counting the time we whipped Shepard's outfit."

"I'll let it slide, only because you're talking to the kid," Tim growled. He hated any reminder of his gang's loss to the Curtis gang.

"He came by," Johnny said. "Tim Shepard?"

"No, the milkman," Tim said sarcastically. "Of course I came by you idiot."

"I was surprised." Two-Bit said in his defense.

Johnny nodded. "Came to see Dally." Tim and Dallas had always been buddies. "Did you know you got your name in the paper for being a hero?" Johnny almost grinned as he nodded. "Tuff enough," he managed, and by the way his eyes were glowing, I figured Southern gentlemen had nothing on Johnny Cade.

"Which means that Johnny's better than Soda," Steve said with a smug grin.

"Read, Randle." Tim growled. He was annoyed by the constant interruptions.

I could see that even a few words were tiring him out; he was as pale as the pillow and looked awful. Two-Bit pretended not to notice. "You want anything besides hair grease, kid?" Johnny barely nodded. "The book"—he looked at me—"can you get another one?" Two-Bit looked at me too.

"Err? Why?" Soda asked. Everyone but Two-Bit and Pony shrugged.

I hadn't told him about Gone with the Wind.

"Ah." Soda smirked. "

"He wants a copy of Gone with the Wind so I can read it to him," I explained. "You want to run down to the drugstore and get one?" "Okay," Two-Bit said cheerfully. "Don't y'all run off."

You idiot, why didn't you stay, or taken less time in that store? That broad could have waited another two hours, or even another day, Two-Bit thought. Had he known that that would have been the last time he would see Johnny alive, he'd have stayed longer.

"Don't beat yourself up, Two-Bit," Ponyboy whispered to him. "I was the one to ask."

"But I was the one to leave, kid." Two-Bit pointed out. "You went back to him."

I sat down in Two-Bit's chair and tried to think of something to say. "Dally's gonna be okay," I said finally. "And Darry and me, we're okay now."

Darry smiled, though it was a tight one. While he was happy that his relationship with his brother had improved, he was beating himself up by not staying home with Pony. Maybe then, he could have seen Johnny too.

I knew Johnny knew what I meant. We had always been close buddies, and those lonely days in the church strengthened our friendship. He tried to smile again, and then suddenly went white and closed his eyes tight. "Johnny!" I said, alarmed. "Are you okay?" He nodded, keeping his eyes closed. "Yeah, it just hurts sometimes. It usually don't…I can't feel anything below the middle of my back."

Soda grimaced as Steve read that. He felt bad that he hadn't gone and seen Johnny after work. Heck, five minutes would have been enough. But work had gone on later than normal—a lot more broads needed work done on their cars for some reason—and Soda only had enough time to get home and eat.

He lay breathing heavily for a moment. "I'm pretty bad off, ain't I, Pony?" "You'll be okay," I said with fake cheerfulness.

"Good friend, Pony." Two-Bit muttered. "Better than me, at least."

"Stop it Two-Bit. At least you told off his mother."

"You gotta be. We couldn't get along without you." The truth of that last statement hit me. We couldn't get along without him. We needed Johnny as much as he needed the gang. And for the same reason. "I won't be able to walk again," Johnny started, then faltered. "Not even on crutches. Busted my back."

I wish that's all he had to worry about, Steve thought as he read. Sure, he'd be stuck in that house of his, but at least he'd be alive.

"You'll be okay," I repeated firmly. Don't start crying, I commanded myself, don't start crying, you'll scare Johnny. "You want to know something, Ponyboy? I'm scared stiff. I used to talk about killing myself…" He drew a quivering breath. "I don't want to die now. it ain't long enough. Sixteen years ain't long enough. I wouldn't mind it so much if there wasn't so much stuff I ain't done yet. It's not fair.

Ain't that the truth, Soda thought. It wasn't fair that Johnny had died at such a young age, and it wasn't fair that before that he'd been so miserable that he thought of killing himself.

You know what? That time we were in Windrixville was the only time I've been away from our neighborhood."

"Like his folks would take him anywhere if they were sober," Soda muttered. "They were almost always drunk anyway, or his dad was at least."

"You ain't gonna die," I said, trying to hold my voice down. "And don't get juiced up, cause the doc won't let us see you no more if you do." Sixteen years on the streets and you can learn a lot. But all the wrong things, not the things you want to learn. Sixteen years on the street and you see a lot. But all the wrong sights, not the sights you want to see. Johnny closed his eyes and rested quietly for a minute. Years of living on the East Side teaches you how to shut off your emotions. If you didn't, you would explode. You learn to cool it.

Darry and Soda glanced at their little brother, and then looked at each other. How many times had there been a miscommunication between the three of them just because they didn't know how to talk to each other? Emotions could be used against you, but it's what helped keep their family together as well.

A nurse appeared in the doorway. "Johnny," she said quietly, "your mother's here to see you."

"What the fuck?" Soda sputtered. Darry was so shocked at that line that he didn't even tell Soda off for swearing.

"You're joking, right?" Tim asked Steve. Although he didn't know Johnny well (or at all) he'd heard enough from Dally to know how much Johnny hated his parents and vice versa.

Johnny opened his eyes. At first they were wide with surprise, then they darkened. "I don't want to see her," he said firmly.

"This essay's full of surprises," Steve muttered. First Johnny's mother actually wanted to see her son, and then Johnny refusing to see his mother. Johnny yearned for her love when he was alive. It was a shame that he realized what she really was too late.

"She's your mother."

"Don't remind us," Pony muttered.

"I said I don't want to see her." His voice was rising. "She's probably come to tell me all the trouble I'm causing her and about how glad her and the old man'll be when I'm dead. Well, tell her to leave me alone. For once"—his voice broke—"for once just to leave me alone."

Everyone was shocked by Johnny's speech. He'd always stuck up for his parents, even though he knew they were worthless pieces of garbage who didn't deserve to have a great kid like Johnny.

He was struggling to sit up, but he suddenly gasped, went whiter than the pillowcase, and passed out cold. The nurse hurried me out the door. "I was afraid something like this would happen if he saw anyone."

"She's blaming you?" Soda asked, looking at Pony. "She's the idiot who told him his harpy of a mother wanted to see him."

"Harpy, Soda?" Steve asked him.

"Work with me," Soda replied. He didn't want to admit that he'd read one or two of Pony's books when he worked the cash register at the DX. He just wanted to see what his brothers got out of it.

I ran into Two-Bit who was coming in. "You can't see him now," the nurse said, so Two-Bit handed her the book. "Make sure he can see it when he comes around." She took it and closed the door behind her. Two-Bit looked at the door a long time.

Why didn't I get there faster? Two-Bit thought again.

"I wish it was any one of us except Johnny," he said, and his voice was serious for once. "We could get along without anyone but Johnny." Turning abruptly, he said, "Let's go see Dallas."

The room seemed stifling with all the tension. The two members who they missed more than anything were Dally and Johnny and those were the two who were mentioned back to back.

As we walked out into the hall, we saw Johnny's mother.

"Pleasant," Steve snorted.

I knew her.

"Regrettably," Pony muttered.

She was a little woman, with straight black hair and big black eyes like Johnny's.

"Wha…you…" Soda was speechless.

"Keep reading Steve." Pony told him.

But that was as far as the resemblance went.

"Much better," Soda said with a nod. Pony just shook his head at his brother's antics.

Johnnycake's eyes were fearful and sensitive; her's were cheap and hard. As we passed her she was saying, "But I have a right to see him.

"No you don't. Seeing as you didn't do anything for him when he was alive," Two-Bit glared at the essay.

He's my son.

"Not by his choice," Steve growled.

"Steve, calm down. I actually want this essay intact," Pony said when he noticed how tight Steve's hands were becoming.

"Some people should not be parents," Darry shook his head. He remembered something his father used to tell him: You need a license to drive a car, but any idiot can be a parent.

After all the trouble—

Steve had to stop reading for a minute due to all the shouting that occurred after that line. It sounded as if a bomb had gone off.

"TROUBLE?" Soda yelled incredulously. "What trouble? Beating him at every chance and generally ignoring him counts as trouble? If that's the case, then they should be saints!"

"Pepsi-Cola, calm down!" Darry hollered. "It ain't gonna change anything that happened with you yellin'."

"Can we go and teach those two a lesson?" Steve asked, his eyes hard. Even Two-Bit, who was usually easy going in nature, had a frown on his face.

"No, you can't. They'll get their due someday." Pony said. Steve frowned, but picked up the book and continued reading.

After all the trouble his father and I've gone to raise him, this is our reward! He'd rather see those no-count hoodlums than his own folks…"

"And with good reason!" Tim said, nodding his head. "Anyone with a brain would rather see Two-Bit and the kid than that foul woman."

"Don't hold back Tim, tell us how you really feel." Pony smirked.

"Cheeky kid," Tim muttered.

She saw us and gave us such a look of hatred that I almost backed up.

"Good. Don't get too close to her."

Everyone looked at Darry with shock. Soda saying that, they'd expect. Tim they counted on. But Darry?

"What? They'd had their water cut off a few days before this. She must have reeked."

"She kinda did." Pony admitted. "But I didn't want to embarrass her and put it in there."

"It was your fault.

"You didn't listen to her, did ya Pon?" Soda asked his little brother.

"I think she was drunk," Pony said in response. "So, no I didn't."

Always running around in the middle of the night getting jailed and heaven knows what else…"

"I think she confused you with Dally," Tim smirked. "He's the one who had the record of the greaser community."

I thought she was going to cuss us out. I really did. Two-Bit's eyes got narrow and I was afraid he was gonna start something. I don't like to hear women get sworn at, even if they did deserve it.

"Go Two-Bit!" Soda cheered. "Tell off that harpy!"

"Okay, we're gonna talk and you're gonna tell me why you keep calling her a harpy," Darry smirked. "And you're right, Pony. Women at least shouldn't get sworn at." Neither should you, Darry thought looking at Pony.

"No wonder he hates your guts," Two-Bit snapped.

Two-Bit was hailed like a hero by the people in the room who hadn't heard it.

"Two-Bit, I'm buying you a drink at Buck's later. Remind me, alright?" Steve said, smiling. He'd promised himself that he'd buy a drink for whoever managed to tell that woman off.

He was going to tell her off real god, but I shoved him along. I felt sick. No wonder Johnny didn't want to see her. No wonder he stayed overnight at Two-Bit's or at our house, and slept in the vacant lot in good weather. I remembered my mother…beautiful and golden, like Soda, and wise and firm, like Darry.

"See, Darry? I'm better!" Soda said.

"Huh?" Pony, Tim, Two-Bit and Steve asked.

"An argument we had after Pony was born," Darry said, then looked at Soda. "I can't believe you still remember that!"

"How is Soda better?" Two-Bit asked.

"I'm golden; it even says so. Written proof," Soda said with a smirk.

"But wouldn't it be better to be wise?" Pony asked innocently. He smirked as Soda's face fell.

"You cruel brother," Soda shook his head and then proceeded to tickle Pony.

"Say it! Say that I'm better!"

Pony was able to last a few minutes, but had to give in.

"Information under torture. Doesn't count." Darry said, shaking his head. Steve proceeded to read.

"Oh, lordy!" There was a catch in Two-Bit's voice and he was closer to tears than I'd ever seen him. "He has to live with that."

"Kid, why'd you have to notice that?" Two-Bit whined. "I mean, you—"

"Yes, I know." Pony interrupted. "I notice everything. Now, stop mentioning it!"

We hurried to the elevator to get to the next floor. I hoped the nurse would have enough sense not to let Johnny's mother see him. It would kill him.

It only saved him mere hours, was the thought of everyone in the room.

Dally was arguing with one of the nurses when we came in. He grinned at us. "Man, am I glad to see you! These—hospital people won't let me smoke, and I want out!" We sat down , grinning at each other. Dally was his usual mean, ornery self. He was okay.

"I actually think he was nicer," Pony muttered to Two-Bit.

"He was worried about Johnny," Two-Bit muttered back. "Of course he was nicer."

"Shepard came by to see me a while ago." "That's what Johnny said. What'd he want?" "Said he saw my picture in the paper and couldn't believe it didn't have 'Wanted Dead or Alive' under it.

"So true. When I saw that, I nearly choked." Tim said, smirking. "How'd no one try to arrest him anyway?"

"Would you want to be the cop who arrested a hero?" Pony asked. "There was no mention of Dally's record, so the public would have probably have backed Dally instead of the cop."

He mostly came in to rub it in about the rumble. Man, I hate not bein' in that."

"He had to show up," Tim shook his head. "That…" He then proceeded to call Dally a series of unprintable words. Pony moved next to Steve so that Darry would be unable to clasp his hands over his ears.

Only last week Tim Shepard had cracked three of Dally's ribs. But Dally and Tim Shepard had always been buddies; no matter how they fought, they were two of a kind and they knew it.

"Naw. I think Dallas was crazier." Tim chuckled.

Dally was grinning at me. "Kid, you scared the devil outa me the other day. I thought I'd killed you." "Me?" I said, puzzled. "Why?" "When you jumped out of that church. I meant to hit you just hard enough to knock you down and put out the fire, but when you dropped like a ton of lead I thought I'd aimed too high and broke your neck." He thought for a minute. "I'm glad I didn't, though."

"We are too," Soda and Darry nodded their heads.

"What might have happened if Dally had accidently killed the kid?" Steve whispered to Two-Bit.

"Darry would have pummeled him within an inch of his life, taken a break to let Soda have a chance, and then both of them would have disposed of the body."

"I'll bet," I said, with a grin. I'd never liked Dally—but then, for the first time, I felt like he was my buddy. And all because he was glad he hadn't killed me.

"You are a strange kid," Two-Bit shook his head.

Dally looked out the window. "Uh…" –he sounded very casual—"how's the kid?" "We just left him," Two-Bit said, and I could tell that he was debating whether to tell Dally the truth or not. "I don't know about stuff like this…but…well, he seemed pretty bad to me. He passed out cold before we left him." Dally's jaw line went white as he swore between clenched teeth. "Two-Bit, you still got that fancy black-handled switch?"

"Random." Soda blinked.

Pony however was mentally kicking himself for not seeing how much Johnny's condition had affected Dally.

"Yeah." "Give it here."

"Wow. He needed a blade," Steve whistled. "Umm? Why did he need a blade?"

Two-Bit reached into his black pocket for his prize possession. It was a jet-handled switchblade, ten inches long, that would flash open at a mere breath. It was the reward of two hours of walking aimlessly around a hardware store to divert suspicion. He kept it razor sharp. As far as I knew, he had never pulled it on anyone; he used his plain pocketknife when he needed a blade. But it was his showpiece, his pride and joy—every time he ran into a new hood he pulled it out and showed off with it. Dally knew how much that knife meant to Two-Bit, and if he needed a blade bad enough to ask for it, well, he needed a blade. That was all there was to it.

Pony shot a glare to every person in the room; daring them to mention how much he noticed.

Two-Bit handed it over to Dally without a moment's hesitation. "We gotta win that fight tonight," Dally said. His voice was hard. "We gotta get even with the Socs. For Johnny." He put the switch under his pillow and lay back, staring at the ceiling. We left. We knew better than to talk to Dally when his eyes were blazing and he was in a mood like that.

"We'd be the ones missing the rumble instead if we'd stayed," Pony muttered.

We decided to catch a bus home. I just didn't feel much like walking or trying to hitch a ride. Two-Bit left me sitting on the bench at the bus stop while he went to a gas station to buy some cigarettes. I was sick to my stomach and sort of groggy. I was nearly asleep when I felt someone's hand on my forehead. I almost jumped out of my skin. Two-Bit was looking down at me worriedly. "You feel okay? You're awful hot."

Something began to clear up for Darry. A memory of the night of the rumble. Two-Bit had come in blathering about Pony being sick before hand, but he couldn't' have. Could he?

"I'm alright," I said, and when he looked at me as if he didn't believe me, I got a little panicky. "Don't tell Darry, okay? Come on, Two-Bit, be a buddy. I'll be well by tonight. I'll take a bunch of aspirins." "All right," Two-Bit said reluctantly. "But Darry'll kill me if you're really sick and go ahead and fight anyway."

"A fourteen year old with a fever managed to convince you to lie to his brother," Steve muttered to Two-Bit. "Man, you're a good friend."

Darry was currently looking at Pony with an expression of half shock, half disappointment. A fight shouldn't come before one's personal health.

"I'm okay," I said, getting a little angry. "And if you keep your mouth shut, Darry won't know a thing."

"That's what you think," Two-Bit smirked. Pony rolled his eyes.

"You know somethin'?" Two-Bit said as we were riding home on the bus. "You'd think you could get away murder, living with your big brother and all, but Darry's stricter with you than your folks were, ain't he?" "Yeah," I said, "but they'd raised two boys before me. Darry hasn't."

"And I wonder every day how they managed it," Darry shook his head.

"You know, the only thing that keeps Darry from bein' a Soc is us." "I know," I said. I had known it for a long time. In spite of not having much money, the only reason Darry couldn't be a Soc was us. The gang. Me and Soda. Darry was too smart to be a greaser. I don't know how I knew, I just did. And I was kind of sorry.

"While I'm treating this as a complement, don't be sorry Pony," Darry said. "I'd rather be a greaser and have the gang, Soda and you than be a Soc and be by myself."

I was silent most of the way home. I was thinking about the rumble. I had a sick feeling in my stomach and it wasn't from being ill. It was the same kind of helplessness I'd felt that night Darry yelled at me for going to sleep in the lot. I had the same deathly fear that something was going to happen that none of us could stop. As we got off the bus, I finally said it. "Tonight—I don't like it one bit."

Soda raised an eyebrow, "So, you're psychic now Pon?"

"Shut it, Soda."

Two-Bit pretended not to understand. "I never knew you to play chicken in a rumble before. Not even when you was a little kid."

"Low blow," Steve whistled. "He's got the Curtis temper after all."

I knew he was trying to make me mad, but I took the bait anyway. "I ain't chicken, Two-Bit Matthew, and you know it," I said angrily. "Ain't I a Curtis, same as Soda and Darry?"

"Well, there was that one guy Mom kept hanging around with…" Soda trailed off after Pony hit him with a pillow.

"Idiot," Darry chuckled.

Two-Bit couldn't deny this, so I went on: "I mean, I got an awful feeling something's gonna happen." "Somethin' is gonna happen. We're gonna stomp the Soc's guts, that's what."

"Both of you were right," Tim stared in shock. "How often does that happen?"

"Once every two years." Pony replied. "When I was twelve, we both were right as well."

"Eh?"

"When I was studying the Civil War, Two-Bit was helping me study. We couldn't agree on an answer so we looked it up. Turns out we were both right."

Two-Bit knew what I meant, but doggedly pretended not to. He seemed to feel that if you said something was alright , it immediately was, no matter what. He's been that way all his life, and I don't expect he'll change. Sodapop would have understood, and we would have tried to figure it out together, but Two-Bit just ain't Soda. Not by a long shot.

"Glory! I don't think the world could handle two Sodas!" Steve cried.

"I'm kinda partial to just one myself." Pony chuckled.

"One's plenty." Darry said, draping an arm around Soda's shoulders.

Cherry Valance was sitting there in her Corvette by the vacant lot when we came by. Her long hair was pinned up, and in daylight she was even better looking.

"That even possible?" Two-Bit chuckled as Pony burned bright red.

That Sting Ray was one tuff car. A bright red one. It was cool. "Hi Ponyboy," she said. "Hi, Two-Bit." Two-Bit stopped. Apparently Cherry had shown up there before during the week Johnny and I had spent in Windrixville.

"Dally already told you that," Steve looked at Pony in shock. "You already forgot about that."

"Er…um…keep reading," was all Pony had to say.

Darry and Soda smirked at their brother's discomfort.

"What's up with the big-times?" She tightened the strings on her ski jacket. "They play your way. No weapons, fair deal. Your rules." "You sure?" She nodded. "Randy told me. He knows for sure." Two-Bit turned and started home. "Thanks, Cherry." "Ponyboy, stay a minute," Cherry said.

"Oooh!" Two-Bit said, waggling his eyebrows. "What'd you and Cherry do?" Pony hid his face in his hands, and started to mutter something.

"Eh? What's he saying?" Tim asked.

"God you gave him brains which he does not use. You gave him a mouth and he never shuts up," Steve said. He could hear it better than anyone else cause he was so close to Pony.

I stopped and went back to her car. "Randy's not going to show up at the rumble." "Yeah," I said. "I know." "He's not scared. He's just sick of fighting. Bob…" She swallowed, then went on quietly. "Bob was his best buddy. Since grade school." I thought of Soda and Steve.

"Should we be insulted?" Soda asked.

"No."

"Good."

What if one of them saw the other killed? Would that make them stop fighting? No, I thought, maybe it would make Soda stop, but not Steve. He'd go on hating and fighting. Maybe that was what Bob would have done if it had been Randy instead of him.

"You know us so well," Steve smirked. If he saw Soda get killed, he'd fight to the death trying to avenge his buddy.

"How's Johnny?" "Not so good," I said. "Will you go and see him?" She shook her head. "No. I couldn't."

"Why not?" Soda demanded. "It's her boyfriend who's the reason he's in there."

Steve started to chuckle.

"What?"

"Why not?" I demanded. It was the least she could do. It was her boyfriend who had caused it all…

"That's what," Steve said smirking. Soda looked pleased that he thought along the same lines as his little brother.

and then I stopped. Her boyfriend… "I couldn't," she said in a quiet, desperate voice. "He killed Bob. Oh, maybe Bob asked for it. I know he did. But I could never look at the person who killed him. You only knew his bad side.

"He had a good one?" Tim blurted out.

"Tim, you've just seen two examples of good Socs," Pony said.

"Yeah, but that guy was evil! Evil, I tell you."

He could be sweet sometimes, and friendly. But when he got drunk…it was that part of him that beat up Johnny.

"You know, I could have lived my whole life without knowing Johnny wasn't even given the respect of being jumped while the jumpers were sober," Pony muttered.

"Kid, that didn't make any sense," Two-Bit said. "I've never been more proud."

I knew it was Bob when you told me the story. He was so proud of his rings. Why do people see liquor to boys? Why? I know there's a law against it, but kids get it anyway. I can' t go see Johnny. I know I'm too young to be in love and all that, but Bob was something special. He wasn't just any boy. He had something that made people follow him, something that marked him different, maybe a little better, than the crowd. Do you know what I mean?"

"Not a clue," Tim smirked

I did. Cherry saw the same things in Dallas.

The group paused for a moment and then shuddered. The thought of Dally with a Soc was something no one wanted to picture.

That was why she was afraid to see him, afraid of loving him. I knew what she meant all right. But she also meant she wouldn't go see Johnny because he had killed Bob. "That's okay," I said sharply.

Soda looked at Pony in surprise; never had he heard his brother show his temper towards a girl.

"What'd I tell ya?" Steve asked. "Curtis temper."

It wasn't Johnny's fault that Bob was a booze-hound and Cherry went for boys who were bound for trouble.

"I like this side of the kid," Two-Bit whispered to Tim.

"Me too," Tim whispered back. The world was back to normal; Socs were being insulted.

"I wouldn't want you to see him. You're a traitor to your own kind and not loyal to us. Do you think your spying for us makes up for the fact that you're sitting there in a Corvette while my bother drops out of school to get a job? Don't you ever feel sorry for us. Don't you ever try to give us handouts and then feel high and mighty about it."

Tim's smirk became more pronounced. The kid couldn't tell him off for thinking badly of Socs, he did so himself.

I started to turn and walk off, but something in Cherry's face made me stop. I was ashamed

"Damn it," Tim muttered. He knew it was gonna go back to making the Socs seem human again.

I can't stand to see girls cry. She wasn't crying, but she was close to it. "I wasn't trying to give you charity, Ponyboy. I only wanted to help. I liked you from the start…the way you talked. You're a nice kid, Ponyboy. Do you realize how scarce nice kids are nowadays? Wouldn't you try to help me if you could?'

"Yes," said Darry, Soda, Steve, and Two-Bit. It was so obvious that even Tim had to grin a little.

I would. I'd help her and Randy both, if I could.

"Pony, we just said that." Soda said with a smirk. "You don't need to say it again."

"Oh, be quiet."

"Hey," I said suddenly, "can you see the sunset real good from the West Side?"

"Random," Steve muttered.

She blinked, startled, then smiled. "Real good."

"What's so great about sunsets?" Tim muttered.

"If you have to ask, you'll never know," Pony smirked.

"You can see it good from the East Side, too, "I said quietly. "Thanks, Ponyboy." She smiled through her tears. "You dig okay."

"Oooh!"

"Shut it Two-Bit," Pony muttered. He still had some feelings for Cherry, which made it awkward whenever he saw her.

She had green eyes.

Soda burst out laughing. "I thought you didn't like people with green eyes?" he asked.

"Yeah, yeah. Get yer jollies," Pony muttered.

I went on, walking home slowly.

"And that's the end of the chapter." Steve said. "Two-Bit, it's your turn."

Two-Bit grabbed the book and flipped the page. He grinned a grin so big that Ponyboy thought his face would split.

"It's the rumble!"

A/N: Another Chapter! I shall try to get chapter ten up by next week Tuesday. If I don't, remind me. I've got exams coming up and so writing's not high on my list of things to do.

Oh, yeah. REVIEW!

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