Author's Notes: Almost exactly three years ago, an individual with the screen name "CCCCCCC" emailed me and asked be to please write a story to explain what happened in the time between when Ponyboy fainted and when he woke up in the presence of Soda. Also, I was asked to write what went on "while they're at the hospital with him, and how they all work together to make him better." Always the review junkie, I accepted immediately. It's extremely difficult to say no to a reviewer. About a month later, I had two chapters written and posted, and promptly got a ferocious case of writer's block. Frustrated, I moved on to other stories and other fandoms, leaving 'Between' in Limbo Land.
I've been reading and writing fanfiction (the majority of it, thank god, is not posted on this site- it's that bad.) since I was nine. I know the most infuriatingly annoying thing for a reader is when you finally find a good story, and it's left uncompleted. You never get to know what would have happened or how the story would have ended, because it's still locked up inside the author's head. When I started writing fanfiction, I pledged that I would never let that happen to one of my stories. Unfortunately, it did.
I've always meant to finish it, but it wasn't until recently that I found time. I reread the book, rewatched the movie, and sat down at my little old computer (seriously. It's a clunker.), only to find myself face to face with another problem. I hated my story. My writing style has changed, and (hopefully!) gotten better during my three-year hiatus. I couldn't get through three words before wincing in pain. Now thoroughly inspired, I completely rewrote the two chapters I had already had written and finished a third. Ta da!
There are some people that I seriously need to thank. Everybody who reviewed 'Between' in the three years since I wrote it made me smile. Especially the few people who reviewed or emailed me recently, hoping I'd pick up where I left off. Thank you all so much! Here's a short list of you all: Juniorvarsity, Zuzu-petals, Kimmerkay, True-Slytherin-Gurl, DrunkoffofSoda, DreaminboutDal, Fuddyduddy, Narlae Nat Vanya, MissLKid, Naria4, LTdaQT, Anigrl20, Sodapop Allerdyce, Latinagal, Spikes-luvr-4ever, IndiaArlie, Sissy, El Church, Cassie, Lizzy Halliwell, MarLyG Riddle, Lisa, DarkElixer66, Fanficfan, Stealth67, Blame it on the Government, Mii Genuise, Griffins95, WitchyBitch, Suckers Love, Joce, GerryGirl, Karlei Shaynner, and Phaerie-Mage1313.
Okay, this AN has gone on for much too long. (I feel like one of those actresses accepting their Acadamy Awards who go rambling on and on until the music starts and the presenters have to drag them off the stage.) Oh, and if you've already read the first two chapters before, you should probably read them again, because I changed quite a bit!
To quote myself three years ago: "You already all know how it begins, and you know how it ends. Well, here are all the little fleshy bits in between."
Disclaimer: I do not own The Outsiders.
The shots rang out into the cold night air. They echoed through the deserted alleys, the empty sidewalks, and the bare streets. They rose into the sky, filling the night with loud sharpness, the unmistakable sound of life being taken. The streetlamps above, their glimmering eyes whirring softly as they burned, flickered as though in response to the shouts still lingering in the air. Footsteps rang out on the pavement, thickly muffled by the cold depths of the concrete.
New shouts cut through the air like a knife; from far away came the screams of terror from mothers, husbands and children woken to the sounds of gunshots. Silence, deafening silence. Sirens roared, incessant and insistent, shattering the eye of the storm. Police radios stuttered with static, a deep and continuous hum that faded into the background simply and easily. Lights, blue and red, everywhere, lighting every shadow and chasing every darkness. Life was bathed in the unearthly glow, the unnatural sun of a primary colored crime scene.
A group of teenage boys, watching and running and gasping for breath, were quite suddenly still. The breath still tore from their throats, their chests still heaving up and down, the beads of sweat still slipping from their foreheads, but they were frozen. Their eyes, wide with disbelief and dark with stunned realization, stared at the still form lying in the middle of the road.
In the middle of the street, surrounded by the police and the ambulance and the world, a crumpled form lay with crimson blood streaming from his chest. It pooled around his cooling body, a red sea spreading in every direction. The young man lay dead under the streetlamps.
In the group of teenage boys, the one that seemed the youngest swayed as if drunk. His face was pale and marked with blood and bruises, and one of the older boys slowly turned as the younger made a small choking sound as his breath suddenly caught in his throat.
"Glory, look at the kid!"
The boy fainted, his legs crumpling and his head falling limply to the wet grass. The other four teenagers were no longer still. They crowded around the fallen boy as one, refusing to glance at the still figure lying bloody and broken in the road. Their faces were hidden by shadow, shadows that could not be reached by the streetlamps or emergency vehicles, shadows that were as much inside as out.
-- Soda's Point of View --
We couldn't die. We were young, we were together, and we were invincible. Adults could die, sure, stupid people as well. Socs could die, and dumb greasers who went out looking for death every day could die as well.
But us, our gang, my brothers, we weren't supposed to be able to die. We couldn't.
But here we were. Johnny was dead. Snuffed out in the hospital. At least he wasn't home. He hates his home, and I know why he does, we all know why he does. Did. He did hate his home and he did hate his parents. Johnny will never do anything again. Johnny was gone, and now Dally was too.
Dead, lying on the pavement, his chest all shot up and bleeding. Dallas Winston had checked out. Deceased, dead, departed, done for, expired, extinct, lifeless, mortified, perished, passed away. Stiff. Wasted. Gone.
You know, its funny how many words there are for something as simple as a person no longer being alive.
Beside me, Steve choked out a sob, and he moved to run to Dally. No, they wouldn't let him near him. It would only make things worse. There was nothing we could do for him. I was detached, numb, my thoughts were clear in my head, but it didn't feel like I was making them. They just sort of appeared there, kinda like magic. Somehow, I caught Steve by the shoulders and by reflex born of sleeping beside Pony while he had nightmares, managed to calmly whisper reassuring things. Hell, I wish somebody would do the same for me right now. This was all a bad dream, soon I would wake up, and Pony would call me crazy and say he thought he was the one who had nightmares...
"Glory, look at the kid!" It was Two-Bit's voice. I knew that. But it didn't sound like him; it sounded...scared.
There were only two people that Two-Bit called 'Kid'. Johnny, and... Ponyboy. My little brother.
The calm feeling was gone.
Before I knew what I was doing, my knees were stinging from crashing to the grass beside Pony. The world went silent. My vision narrowed itself down to only my brother. Everything else I was oblivious to. My hand was on his face, shaking it gently as if he were only asleep, and I could easily wake him. He looked like shit. My insides twisted and bit each other painfully as I stroked his bruised and battered cheek, avoiding the places where it was raw and bloody. He hadn't looked like my grinning, smart kid brother since...well, since he'd gotten back from that good-for-nuthin' church. He was different, in shock somehow...he wasn't himself, not by a longshot. I never should have convinced Darry to let him go and fight in the rumble. I had just wanted him to think about something else, something other than that blasted church. He'd looked so hopeful, I couldn't bear to have Darry disappoint him.
But now I knew. One of those deep insights, ya dig? Darry had been right all along. He hadn't just been overprotective by not letting Pony fight; he had been doing the right thing. Going to a rumble, when you're not in tip-top shape, can be suicide.
No way Pony had been ready for a fight. As much as we tried to watch his back, we'd been distracted, and some Socs had gotten to him. It had been wishful thinking, you could never control what happened in a rumble. Ponyboy had been kicked in the head. Hard. I had landed all over that Soc, but it hadn't helped Pony any. Next thing I know, my little brother walks into the house pale as a ghost, too frightened to have anyone touch him or talk to him.
"...Johnny... he's dead..."
And Dallas was on the run. "He's gonna blow up. He couldn't take it..." And here we were.
My hand was shaking. I couldn't take my eyes off my little brother; I couldn't accept what was happening to my world. It seemed to be crumbling down around me. Johnny, Dally, not Pony too, oh please God, not Pony too.
There was a hand on my shoulder. I knew it was Steve, it was one of those things you can just tell, without having to put any conscious thought into it at all. I looked up as Darry's solid, reassuring presence knelt down on the other side of Ponyboy. No... Superman was breaking. His brow was furrowed, his teeth clenched, and tears were running down his face, making clear tracks through the blood, sweat and mud. My own breath rattled harshly in my chest, and I swiped my hand across my eyes and cheeks. It came away streaked with the same mess I saw on Darry's face. Hell, I was crying too.
Darry picked up Pony's hand from where it lay limp on the damp grass. He held it in his slightly larger one, seeming almost to cling to it for comfort. He looked so young, and for the first time in as long as I could remember, I saw him as what he really was. A youth, like us, forced to become an adult. He was only a kid. He looked so young...
Suddenly, with a deafening crash, the sound of the world cruelly reasserted itself around him. I blinked, wanting it all to go away again. Leave me alone, please...a tear dripped from my nose onto Pony's cheek, and I brushed it away gently. More tears came, obscuring my vision. Somewhere, from deep inside, came the thought 'greasers don't cry'. Fuck that. Hell yeah, they do. Nobody can go through as much pain as I am feeling right now, and not bawl their eyes out. Shoot, if they did, they would be dead inside. And the only greasers I know that follow that mantra I have no urge to be. When something bad happens, if you don't cry and you bottle it up deep inside, your mind breaks, and you do something stupid. Like Dallas Winston.
The sirens roared in my ears. They got louder as an ambulance added it's own noise to the mix. In case you don't know, a police siren sounds different then an ambulance siren. I knew now. The flashing red light blinded me, and I was forced to flinch away momentarily, and take my eyes off my little brother. Go away, go away, can't you tell I just want Pony to live? Oh wait, doctors. They helped, right? The paramedics in their blue jackets pushed through the police towards us. I forced myself to look up, and through the bright lights. There were a few paramedics crouched on the street. What were they doing? Oh God. Dally. Dally was dead.
There were hands on my shoulders, pulling me away. I knew at once that they weren't my friends, I could dimly hear Steve shouting as he tried to shove them off of me. I started to struggle; I could feel tears running down my face uncontrollably. Then someone grabbed me from behind and pulled me away from the grasping arms. I stopped struggling, and realized that I was sobbing. Steve wrapped an arm around my shoulders, his face too dark for me to see. I saw Pony being strapped to a stretcher, and knew the paramedics wouldn't let me near him. I turned back to Steve, and he pulled me into a hug. I sobbed into his shoulder like a baby. I truly didn't give a damn. Steve patted me awkwardly on the back, but didn't say anything. There was nothing to say, and emotions had never really been his thing.
Why was everything falling to pieces?
-- Darry's Point of View --
Confused. Scared. Worried. Nervous. Concerned. Sick.
I'm way too young to be a parent.
When my parents died, I thought I could handle taking care of my two little brothers. How hard could it be? They were both at school all day, so all I'd have to do was feed them and pay the bills. My parents did it easily enough.
How horribly wrong I was. Hospital, funeral, heating, water, electricity, taxes... the bills just stacked up. Money was needed. A lot of it. My summer job, working construction became my full time career. Not one I'd have chosen voluntarily, but it was passable. But it wasn't enough. I got a second job. Still not enough.
At first I was never home. I realize now, that by throwing myself headlong into my responsibilities as an 'adult', I was trying desperately to ignore my pain at my parents' death and my disappointment at the sudden halting crash all my dreams and aspirations had come to. I'd never go to collage, never have a future, and never, ever get to leave Tulsa, Oklahoma. But by burying my own pain in those first few months, I missed what was happening at home.
Ponyboy had always been the most introspective of the three of us. He took the death of our parents hard, and he was so young...He needed someone to comfort him. I was never there. Sodapop was. A rift grew between Pony and me. It had been there before, I guess, but now it was worse. This was different then the run-of-the-mill animosity brothers sometimes shared. Pony and I had never been that close. Now there was a gulf between us. Soda told me in those early nights, when I'd get home past midnight and Pony would already be asleep, and we'd stay up talking, that Pony thought I hated him. I didn't think he was serious. I was wrong.
But I'd had other things to worry about. The gang needed somewhere to crash, as our various home lives took a turn for the worse. Johnny's dad became more violent, and consequently his mother became more drunk. Two-Bit's mom became even more lenient, never once thinking she was being a bad mother. Steve got tired of his dad beating him up. Dally went to jail. Them hanging out at our place was fine, but they tended to eat abhorrent amounts of food. And food cost money. Money that I didn't have.
Then Soda dropped out of high school. He got a job at the DX gas station, a job that Steve helped him get. It made me feel like I had failed, somehow. I couldn't pay the bills by myself; so Soda had to sacrifice his own future to help me. I'd let down my parents, I couldn't handle the responsibility, and I was a joke.
My last chance was Pony. I hadn't failed him yet; he still had a future. If he continued to get good grades, he could get a scholarship to collage, and get out of here. Leave the streets, leave the gangs, and leave Tulsa. But I'd already made a huge mistake. I hadn't listened to Soda earlier on, and Pony and I no longer understood each other. My encouragement for him at school seemed to him like what he was doing now wasn't good enough, and that it could never be enough for me no matter how hard he tried.
But the biggest mistake I had made was hitting Pony. My parents would never have thought I was capable of doing something so over the line. The line was no longer even in sight. Ponyboy ran away. I tried to stop him, but I couldn't have. When Ponyboy wants to run, he can run. Which, in our part of town, is a highly valuable talent. It's saved his neck more times then I can count on one hand. But when Pony ran away, he got into the wrong place at the wrong time.
The result was that the youngest two members of our gang had to hide out in an old church in Windrixville to avoid a murder rap. Which led to the fire. The fire that killed Johnny, and in an indirect way, killed Dally.
And it was all my fault. Chain reactions are a bitch.
Oh, Dally. Lying on the cold pavement, his eyes staring up at the night sky. Dead. Oh God, this wasn't right. I was sobbing, harsh dry sobs that wracked my body and tore the breath from my lungs. I heard Steve let out a wordless cry of pain, but Soda held him back, comforting him.
And that's when I heard Two-Bit's yell.
"Glory, look at the kid!"
It was hard to tear myself away from the scene in front of me. I tried, but it seemed to be burning itself onto the back of my eyes. Then, in my peripheral vision, something moved, was falling, was on the ground...
I forced my eyes away, and saw Soda on his knees beside Pony. Pony, who was limp on the grass with his eyes closed. Pony, who had fainted.
I dropped to my knees on Pony's other side. I watched, feeling broken inside, as Soda, pale and shaking, stroked the face of our unconscious brother. He was crying, just as I was, and at that moment I wanted nothing more then to have Mom and Dad here to hold us all together. They would hug us, kiss the top our heads, and make everything okay again.
Mom, Dad, I'm failing you both so horribly. I'm so sorry. I don't want to have to be strong anymore.
I picked up Pony's hand from where it lay on the grass, clutching it like a lifeline. Steve was beside Soda, his hand on his shoulder, offering support. God damn, but he needed it right now. Hell, I do too.
Two-Bit stood beside me with his face drawn and his eyes full of panic. His hands were shoved deep in his blue jeans' pockets, but I saw his shoulders shaking.
This is all my fault, it was me who caused all this. It was me who hit my little brother, hit him so hard he was pushed back against the door. It was me. This is all because of me.
I closed my eyes briefly. This was too much, way two much. Too many people hurt; too many dying. I raised my hand to run it through my hair and noted with a detached sense of being that it shook like a leaf.
Too young, we were all too young. Soda had tears running down his face and was slightly rocking back and forth, clutching Pony's hand in his. Why us?
People were shouting, there was mass hysteria...passerby, witnesses, the fuzz... Nobody actually cared about the dead man. He was a hood, a criminal, a menace to society. He had pulled his gun on the police, who were sworn to serve and protect. The bastard deserved what he got. They didn't care why he had done what he had done. All they cared about was that their peace and quiet was disturbed, and that for a few seconds, their safety just might have been in jeopardy. Police cars had their lights flashing blue and red, the sirens roaring in my ears. A different siren joined the booming noise, the constant whir of the ambulance siren. I glanced up from my brother's pale face to search for the ambulance, and saw it rushing down the street towards us. Some of the street was being blocked off by the fuzz with yellow tape. In the center of the blocked off area, a dark shape. Dally.
The ambulance doors swung open and paramedics in their dark blue uniforms jumped out and pressed through the police. When they reached us they started pulling Steve and Two-Bit away first, then tried to move Soda and me. I didn't want to leave my littlest brother; couldn't they see he was only a kid? I was his guardian; I had failed him so far. I wasn't going to leave him now.
But the doctors were persistent. Cold, serious, professional and persistent. You could tell taking care of a couple of Greasers wasn't high on their scale of importance. There were other, more worth-while things they could be doing with their time. They pulled me away and snatched my hand out of my brother's. They shoved me with white-gloved hands to the side away from where they were trying to bring a stretcher in for Pony. They had gotten me to move forcibly, but only because I refused to give social services a reason for taking my brothers away. That meant not interfering with their 'care'. I could so punch one of those paramedics right now...The blood would rush from his nose as he crumpled to the ground...
But it would only make things worse. For a moment, my control slipped, and my hand twitched. But then it passed, and I was under control again. Mostly.
They were having no such luck with Soda. My little brother refused - just flatly refused - to leave Pony. Soda was struggling with the paramedics, fighting them. I wanted to help him, but I couldn't, he was too far away. But Steve was closer, and he knew that his best friend was fighting a loosing battle. Then Steve was there, pulling him back, his arm around my brother's shoulders.
Soda had tears running down his face, and he was shaking even more than I was. Steve looked at him for a second before pulling him quickly into a hug. My younger brother started bawling onto his best friend's shoulder. It made me want to do the same. But I didn't have anybody's shoulder to lean on.
I turned around and punched a tree as hard as I could. A gasp escaped my throat as my hand met the unresisting wood and came out the loser. I held up my hand in front of my face. My knuckles were badly bruised and blood streamed down my knuckles from where they came into contact with the rough bark. But I didn't care. Somehow, it even made me feel slightly better. That's right, world. I'll mutilate myself. You don't have to bother. You're busy enough as it is, anyhow. I stared at the dark sky, where stars were just starting to come out.
Why did life have to be this so damn hard?
-- To Be Continued --