*See chapter one for warnings and disclaimers.

Responses to reviews:

redrose2310: Prettyboy...hmm, that has a nice ring to it and it's remarkable how closely related it is to Ponyboy...coincidence? LoL, but anyway, Darry and Soda's reactions will be interesting, to say the least; glad you're looking forward to it, though I can't say that Dally and Two-Bit are (I am so corny). Thank you, you're always one of the first people to review a new chapter! (

Silent Dirge: Ah, another faithful reviewer, something for which I can't thank you enough. It's always good to hear from you, no matter what you say; blunt and direct is good, as long as it's not hurtful, which you're not. Oh, yes, please update your fics as much as possible (though I probably shouldn't talk considering my own lack of updates)!

Pam: *squeals* Thank you! I'm so flattered! I definitely do my best to express things the way I imagine them myself, and it's good to know that I've been at least somewhat successful. ( Hope you enjoy the chapter!

Mr.Liz: *blows kisses* Thank you, thank you, you're too kind...but I love you for it! You know just how to give me a boost of confidence, and I'm so flattered that I have to give you something back. *gives Mr.Liz chocolate for being one of the best reviewers ever! *

CrazeLilDreamer: Joy, joy! *grins* Yours is contagious: I'm so glad that you're so happy to see an update, and I hope this one will make you ecstatic! You know, at this point, I'm not even sure who Pony's going to choose (he's kind of picky), and I mean, what a decision: Two-Bit or Dally? He'll be able to handle either though; he's feistier than he gets credit for usually. So sorry to make you wait, but here it is, chapter seven! Thanks for adding me!

killslay: Oh, the possibilities...the endless possibilities. A rumble? Maybe...and yeah, Ponyboy's looking towards a future of tough times. As for Darry and Pony, well, I think there's too little about the good parts of their relationship, and that's how I picture that they interact. Two-Bit? He's unpredictable, so you never know...

seraphim9: You have no idea how excited I am to see a review from you; you are a constant reassurance that this story is a success, so thank you! So sorry I take so long to update, but I don't like posting short chapters, and I like to make sure everything is as good as possible. Pony with Dally? *grins as well* I don't know, we'll have to see who Pony chooses. Thanks!

Savage Damsel: Ha ha, your review made me laugh, but don't beat yourself up – the important thing is that you eventually did see it was updated, read it and reviewed. What more can an author ask for? A threesome? Hmm, I hadn't really considered it; that wasn't the original thought, and I doubt if this story will turn out that way, but it's an interesting possibility for future plots. Hmm... But anyway, here's the update and I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much!

Black_Cat03: Oh, believe me I was tempted, but I figured Ponyboy was stressed enough without a fight between his "suitors". And the Socs, evil bunch that they are, are never predictable...you'll just have to wait and see. Thanks for reviewing!

darkeri-chan: I absolutely know what you mean! I get that feeling when reading books and when watching movies - a character will just do something so stupid that I can't even look. Ha ha. Thanks for the review!

Chibi-Neko-Luva: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Okay, now that that's out of my system, let me just say what a wonderful review that was! ( I'm so giddy right now, especially with the mention of your story – sounds yummy. I will definitely check that out. Hope you enjoy the chapter!

eclipsed: Wow! I'm blushing...one of the best stories you've read? I'm so flattered, thank you! And thanks for specifying which parts you like, because then it means I can concentrate on those particular aspects. Thanks a lot for the suggestions (it's nice to be nudged in the right direction) and no problem about mentioning Tashue!

Cloudburst2000: Wow, I just have to award you the title of longest review ever. It's absolutely fantastic that you're willing to give that much insight; frankly, I was astounded, and incredibly pleased. Thanks so much for sharing your opinion and I really hope you enjoy the new chapter!

An Admirer: That thought really does hold appeal, doesn't it? Personally, I love the pairing (obviously) – it's so unusual, but has so much potential. Hmm, I'll have to think about it though, because Two-Bit would be a good match too. Decisions, decisions...Thanks for reviewing!

Also, my thanks go out to GrimBloodBath, reader, Dreams of Magic, Death Goddess Assassin, Cole, Humans Suck, Mische, LadyJessy, Cappy, Drea, Elsie, Two-BitGortez, GerryGirl and Aslan. Your reviews rock, guys!

Chapter Seven: Confessions and Revelations

Ponyboy sighed. Again. But really, what else was there to do when he was sandwiched between two greasers that were intent on him spilling his guts, forgoing the new, improved attitudes they'd both adopted after realising they liked him...that way? He was sure that at one point, not long ago even, he had liked them too, but with tempestuous eyes glaring at him from both directions, he was finding himself at a loss as to why.

Patience is a virtue, Pony reminded himself, fighting not to snap. His temper had been increasingly short lately; probably due to the surplus of anxiety he was dealing with, as well as insecurity, shame, attempts at keeping things from his annoyingly overprotective brothers, and exchanges with stubborn, infuriating greasers that...

Right. Patience. He could do that; he was a patient person, according to Sodapop; inherited from his mother. He just needed to take his mind off the causes of his irritation.

One...two...three....

Counting should work; it calmed the mind – a type of meditation, almost...

He could still feel eyes boring into the back of his skull – Dallas really needed to learn the concept of subtlety – and if they didn't spit whatever they wanted to say out he was going to explode. That just wouldn't do, however; remember, he told himself, exercise patience, composure...

Fuck patience.

"What is your problem?" he snapped finally, irritated.

Grey eyes studied him coolly, patient and grim for once as they waited for either the tirade to begin or his companion to interfere. A glance towards the lean figure and cold eyes, and an alternative was eliminated. It appeared Dally was willing to wait this one too. Option number one, then.

And, inevitably...

"Glory, what in the Almighty universe is the matter with you? You're both makin' my fuckin' head spin!" A comely flush coloured high cheekbones as Ponyboy's jaw clenched in frustration.

'Spitfire.' Thought Two-Bit in slight wonder, musing in wonder at the length of time it had taken for him to figure that out. He'd always seemed so...timid. However, he was a redhead Two-Bit reminded himself, and redheads were never predictable.

And, watching said redhead traverse the same length of pavement repetitively, back and forth, hands stuffed into his back pockets, he decided pacing was apparently the favourable alternative for the aforementioned spitfire now.

"Damn, why do y'all insist on bein' so difficult? Jesus, y'all aren't even listenin', are ya?"

Fairly colourful language for a fourteen year-old, but Two-Bit was sure that another few years of his influence and Pony's curses would be as impressive as a sailor's. Guaranteed, considering the fiery redhead temper. In reflection, he couldn't fathom as to why he'd always been attracted to blondes, but he didn't let the thought concern him overmuch; he was presently concentrating all his desires on a knockout redhead with a body to match.

'Amen to that.' He thought with a grin, good humour restored, as he lounged back in his seat, admiring the cling of cotton and denim to firm flesh and the fall of ginger silk across heated orbs.

Which, coincidentally, just happened to glance his way, locking on what he was sure was the goofiest grin ever to see the light of day plastered across his face. It possibly lacked a certain delicacy in the way of sensitivity, if clenching fists were any indication. And Two-Bit was positive that it couldn't be healthy the way Pony's eyes were sparking.

"And what are you laughin' at, ya clown! Don't think you can fuck around with me, ya filthy greasers - I ain't one of yer blondes, Two-Bit. Fess up, both'a ya."

The rusty-haired greaser instantly sobered, and surprisingly intense eyes bored into ardent green orbs, and a ball of anxiety uncurled in Ponyboy's gut. Two-Bit's voice was temperate, but the customary cheer was displaced.

"And why exactly are we fessin' up again, Curtis? I may be close to rip- roarin' drunk right about now, but I'm pretty damn sure it's you that's got a pretty pack a'Socs on yer tail, Ponyboy."

Pony cringed visibly, and the green irises regained a bit more grey, fervent anger dying out a bit, replaced by dread. Teeth worried at his bottom lip, and he couldn't seem to find a place for his hands. Eventually he settled for running long fingers repeatedly through his hair, hoping to emit some of the famous greaser coolness. Wincing as he pulled through a snag in the ginger strands, he smiled weakly, hoping to worm his way out an answer.

No luck: the grey eyes were unmoved and Dally's were even less promising, a sheet of the thickest ice intimidating in its impenetrability.

Why did stubbornness have to be an inherent greaser trait, Pony thought miserably; couldn't they just back down for once?

"No."

Ah, he'd said that aloud? He was definitely in trouble if he couldn't control what he said anymore - if he wasn't careful, his two "suitors" might actually get the information they were seeking. Not a good thing, especially since he wasn't even sure which greaser had responded, and it was a truly bad sign if, of all people, he couldn't tell Two-Bit and Dally apart.

"Fine." he said wearily, conceding defeat.

Two pairs of eyebrows shot up at that, and the two greasers glanced at each other warily before regarding him with identical expressions of distrust.

"Fine?" snarled Dally, "it ain't never that easy, kid."

"Leastways, not if you're gonna tell the truth." interrupted Two-Bit perceptively, flashing him a trademark grin. The smile, though, seemed strained, and for once didn't reach his eyes.

"So, Pony, you'd best be starting that story now, unless you'd rather just, you know, head back to yer place. Soda'll get ya to spill."

The auburn-haired boy froze, mind registering only one word: Soda. Soda, Soda, SODA!

"No!" he cried, "please don't. You won't talk to Sodapop, will ya, Dal?" He turned pleading eyes on Dally, who nearly winced at the appeal in the cloudy green orbs. "Please? You said..."

"Yeah, yeah, kid, I know. I ain't gonna say nothin'." Dallas nodded towards Two-Bit, whose stance was relaxed but attentive.

"Ya might have a bit more trouble convincin' Matthews though, kid. Might wanna start talkin'."

Ponyboy chanced a look at Two-Bit, who stared back steadily, and he read the intent there easily enough. Shoot, he thought, rolling his eyes heavenwards, this aughta be interesting.

"Whaddya wanna know?" The composed, compliant approach was definitely the way to go, no matter that he was shaking inside. He couldn't take the risk of them spilling anything to his brothers; God knew Darry and Soda were already suspicious enough.

"Well, for starters, kid, maybe you should tell me what exactly happened when ya got jumped. Ya were pretty damn quiet when ya came in."

Ponyboy took a deep breath. He'd known the subject would be broached, but he still wasn't quite prepared for the rush of feelings it would bring with it. He didn't know what his problem was; it wasn't as though anything had actually happened. And if nothing had happened, then there was nothing to tell. Plain and simple. He could do this.

"I, uh..."

Another deep breath. He could do this, he'd just have to skirt around the subject a bit, be careful with what he said. Two-Bit didn't have to know everything, not what hadn't actually happened, not when he would just be disgusted by Pony's weakness. He just had to sound confident, assured, like a real greaser. He'd been jumped, yes, but he hadn't sustained any real injuries, not like Johnny had. It was nothing, he told himself, they barely touched me. He hadn't even been frightened.

Which was, of course, why he hadn't been able to sleep and was becoming increasingly jumpy. Right.

Pony cleared his throat, and tried to make his voice come out calm and collected. He was a greaser; he was tough.

"They chased me. I ran to the lot, 'cause I figured somebody'd be there, but it was empty. I got cornered, and one tackled me. I fought back, but the guy was almost as big as Darry. You know, the one with the dark hair?"

Damn, but he sounded like a little kid. His voice was shaking, and he was practically hugging himself. He forced his arms, wrapped around his middle, away from his body, and shoved his hands angrily into his back pockets. Mentally berating himself, he nearly missed Two-Bit's words.

"You mean the giant? He's the one that beat on ya?"

Ponyboy raised uncertain eyes to look at his companions. He took in quickly Dally's appearance, but spared little thought to his reaction; he knew instinctively that he didn't want to think about Dallas just yet – they'd gone too far, too fast, and the confusion, as well as the hurt, was still fresh. Instead, he studied Two-Bit, who seemed uncharacteristically incensed; Pony couldn't figure out at whom his ire was directed.

"Not exactly...it's not like it was that bad, Two-Bit," He stammered, "I'm fine, seriously, I -"

"Finish the story, kid."

The youngest Curtis froze, his only response to glare hotly at the tow- headed speaker that had just spoken, and hoping fervently that Two-Bit would be more considerate and wouldn't press the issue.

No such luck.

"Not finished, Red? Spill, kid. We said we wouldn't do anythin' to the damn Socs fer now, but spit it out."

Ponyboy took a moment to collect himself, trying to think of a way to present the situation to the rusty-haired greaser without angering him further, but found that he couldn't even put into words the happenings of that day. He had no idea of the cause – what exactly had provoked the Socs - and after it had happened, he had done his best to push it to the back of his mind, so it was returning in a jumble of confused images and feelings in vivid detail. It hurt to think about it; he could feel their hands again, his bruises seemed fresh, the cuts newly inflicted, and the words sounded loudly in his ears.

'Will ya spread them for me, greaser?'

A minute shudder tore through his lean frame, and he pressed his lips instinctively together to prevent a whimper from escaping.

"They, uh, well... he – the one guy, the one that hit me," Ponyboy began shakily, conscious of Two-Bit's eyes on him, "he was sayin' stuff, talkin' about my legs and my face." He looked up at the elder greaser. "Kinda stuff I heard you say before, Two-Bit, 'bout girls, but then, he...he..."

He trailed off, his apprehension evident, gaze seeking out Dally's beseechingly, but the tow-headed greaser had his back turned, and his posture was stiff with anger. He turned back to the muscular figure lounging in a seat and his expression was almost desperate.

"Glory, he...he kissed me." His friend sat up abruptly at that, and Ponyboy watched him warily, tears threatening to fall as he backed up a few steps, long arms once again wrapped protectively around his middle. Two- Bit simply sat rigidly, face impassive and stone grey eyes glittering dangerously.

"Yeah, he kissed me, and," Pony continued; his voice suddenly became very small and he seemed even younger than fourteen, "he touched me."

The words were barely a whisper, but Two-Bit heard them clearly, and felt a ball of rage that had been growing steadily in the pit of his stomach since Johnny was attacked unfurl. He jumped up, struggling not to yell, cognisant of the fact that he'd probably scare the hell out of his...his what? His fellow greaser, his friend, his – he blanched at the thought - love-interest?

He wasn't entirely sure what exactly Ponyboy meant to him right now, but he knew that he'd better tread very carefully henceforth. Rape, even attempted rape, could seriously damage a person's psyche, he knew. He'd seen it nearly happen to a girl once, at Buck Merrill's place, and she'd been hysterical after he'd pried the hood off of her; wouldn't let anyone touch her at all.

Let everyone think that he was just a dumb hood, but he wasn't stupid when it came to people; people craved laughter, relief, he sensed that instinctively and sought to fulfil that need. He found that with Ponyboy, though, he desired to take a different approach - to soothe instead of joke, to caress instead of wrestle.

He didn't dare; however, with the way he'd been acting earlier. Damn, but he regretted kissing the kid. Not for lack of desire, naturally, but he had been aware he was pushing certain limits; Ponyboy was only fourteen, after all, even if he was a mature fourteen, as he claimed. His main concern at the time had been how he was going to make it out of the situation with all his limbs intact if the other Curtis boys found out about his 'indiscretions'.

Now, though, he was preoccupied with the manner in which he should behave with the young redhead. All he found himself wanting to do when in Pony's presence was ravish him senseless, but it didn't seem as though that was in the cards. He had been dealt an unusually harsh hand and he was going to suffer for his desires, he could tell. If it wasn't bruises resulting from unfriendly encounters with overprotective brothers, it was going to be the perhaps less bearable pain of unfulfilled desire. He was a young, virile greaser whom couldn't turn off his hormones, which boded for trouble if he was looking for a serious relationship.

So it was a good thing he wasn't.

He wasn't, right?

Two-Bit sighed heavily, and tried to focus, to put things into perspective. He was horny in a bad way, that was true, and he wanted Ponyboy, but the common sense that most people were unaware he possessed ascertained the impossibility of that desire quickly. He could not have him, Ponyboy was hurting, and the Socs had in it for the youngest Curtis.

The notion, once processed in organised thought, made him angry. Fury – at himself, Pony, the Socs – predominated over his emotions, blocking out any lingering hurt, lust or compassion.

"They touched you?" he spat with venom, "They had the fuckin' balls to-to maul you...to fuckin' grope you, is that what yer tellin' me? Jesus fuck, Ponyboy, why in hell didn't ya say somethin'?"

His voice rose steadily with the entirety of his anger. Pony's eyes widened frightfully and Dally took a protective step forward.

"Calm the fuck down, Matthews." He said with barely controlled frustration, jaw tight with the effort of restrain. If possible, Ponyboy's eyes widened further with alarm as they flitted nervously between the two greasers, sensing the developing tension.

Oh God, he thought desperately, he hates me; I knew he would! He gazed at the two greasers tearfully, gasping when he heard the next words.

"Calm down...what the fuck are you talkin' about? I woulda thought you'd be out pounding some West Side trash...what changed? Don't tell me ya had a go at him too, Dallas, like one of them damn Socy bastards?" Two-Bit demanded, swallowing reflexively at the ill-mannered gibe. His rugged countenance twisted, a myriad of emotions passing in the beat of a second – disbelief, indignation, anger, impassiveness – as green-grey eyes dropped shamefully and Dally remained silent and the truth sunk in. He forced out a bark of strained laughter.

"Well, well, here I was thinkin' that you were okay, Dal. Fuck all, I musta been drinkin' more than I thought, 'cause it sure don't seem like you're all that great of a guy, Winston." His tone was biting and Ponyboy winced even though the words weren't directed at him.

Dally's eyes narrowed threateningly in a manner that would have sent others running for the hills, but Two-Bit didn't budge, standing motionless as Dallas faced him in a decidedly confrontational way that was becoming distressingly familiar.

"Hate to remind ya, Matthews, but it was you that had your tongue down his throat when I got here. You should learn t'keep your hands to yourself."

"What, like you, Dal?" he shot back mockingly. He was unprepared for the fist that sent him sprawling to the ground, but recovered quickly enough, springing to his feet and launching himself at Dally, knocking him over. The wrestling was rather brutal and dwindled down in intensity gradually. Having successfully relieved a great amount of tension, they climbed to their feet, considering each other warily before coming to the same conclusion at the exact same time:

Ponyboy was gone.

And in a lot somewhere in the east side of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a young boy with slender legs and narrow shoulders let himself be rocked gently by his companion, only slightly older with dark skin and melting brown eyes, reminiscent to those of a puppy. The tanned boy stroked auburn locks soothingly, muttering reassuring nonsense as his distraught friend choked out the details of his many lust-driven encounters. And when the ginger- haired boy sobbed out that he felt alone, dirty and unloved, the dark- skinned boy knew exactly what to say, because over the years he had learned to reassure himself with the very same words.

Thanks for reading, guys, hope you enjoyed it! That little part right at the end with Johnny was for you, eclipsed, sorry it was so short!