Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from "The Outsiders".

A huge "thank you" to bella1878, Modest Vanity, jkb, buzzbuzz16, sissy, Vampire-Slaying-Greaser-Gal, Lucky, Tashue, Starstruck, gryphongirl, Flamingo, and shadowed memory for reviewing my first story, "So You're Leaving". I had so much fun with that and I loved reading the reviews. So here's another, hope you enjoy it!!!


It had been all over the local news for weeks. Five teenagers murdered, the first two bodies found mutilated and strewn about in an abandoned warehouse near the riverbed, two more found decapitated in a field. One had been buried alive. Darry put down his coffee cup and stared pensively at the TV. Another day was beginning with a killer roaming the streets of his town. He was used to hearing about stuff like that happening in places like New York or L.A., but here? He stood up and turned off the television. I need to stop watching this, he thought. It was driving him nuts.

He walked down the hall and yelled into Pony's room that it was time to get up and get ready for school. Pony groaned and sat up. Soda was just getting out of the shower and Johnny was curled up asleep on the sofa. Nothing unusual about this day, Darry thought, looking around. Except that there's a murderer walking around out there that preys on teenage kids.

It had started out about 20 miles from the Curtis' house, but the last two had been much closer, and Darry couldn't help worrying over the idea that the killer had specifically targeted kids from low income families and runaways. But, then again, he reminded himself, weren't they the easiest targets? Most of them walked home from school, like Ponyboy. Some of them slept out in vacant lots to stay away from their parents like Johnny. A few could end up so liquored up by the end of the night that they barely knew what was going on, like Two-Bit.

Darry had started making sure that Pony was picked up from school if Steve or Two-bit were not there to walk him home, and Johnny was NOT allowed to sleep in the lot any more. Darry set out blankets and pillows for him every night if he decided not to sleep at home. There wasn't much he could do about the rest of the gang. They were too independent to take any orders from him. But luckily, he noticed, they were concerned enough for Ponyboy and Johnny that they stuck around most of the time anyway.

When the first murder happened, the whole gang saw it on the news and they all wondered if the Socs were involved somehow, even though the news casters stated that the event did not appear to be gang related. It seemed a bit extreme for them anyway, but maybe a group had finally decide to push the limits and see what they could get away with. Eventually, however, they were all finally convinced that this was the work of someone far more evil than even the Socs. Someone much more intelligent, too. Darry had never worried for his brothers more than he had right then.

Johnny and Ponyboy had tried not to act any different, but Darry could tell they were both scared to death. He tried to keep them away from the news, but still make them aware of how serious the whole thing was. They always found out the gory details from somewhere, though. In a way, it helped Darry. He never had to tell either one of them anything twice. They did exactly as they were told. Pony never complained once about being picked up from school. Johnny spent every night in their livingroom. And both boys pretty much stayed in the house once the sun went down.

One night, after he thought everyone was asleep, Pony crept out into the livingroom to talk to Johnny. Darry was awake and overheard most of what was said.

"Johnny?" Pony whispered. "You awake?"

"Yeah. What's wrong?"

There was a long pause.

"I dunno. I can't sleep. I'm a little creeped out... I guess."

There was another long pause.

"Yeah.... me too." Johnny said quietly.

"Do you think they'll ever catch him?"

"Sure," Johnny was trying to sound convincing and failing miserably. "Hey, don't worry about it, man. We'll be all right...."

"Yeah, I guess... I suppose the guy doesn't have much chance of catching us since none of us are alone much anymore. Boy, even Dal has been hanging around a lot more. It's like he's.... worried or something..."

"That's crazy," Johnny said. "Dally doesn't worry about anything! He's probably hoping to catch the guy messing with one of the gang so he can beat the tar out of him." The admiration in Johnny's voice was unmistakable.

Darry got up and walked quietly into the livingroom, unintentionally scaring the life out of both boys. They both sucked in their breath and jumped.

"Sorry, it's just me..."

Darry looked at the two boys sitting in the livingroom, and suddenly, his heart began to break. They looked so young, so scared. Why did there have to be people out there that would hurt them? People whose very existence frightened them so much that they couldn't sleep at night in a house full of people...

Johnny was sitting up at one end of the couch, his knees pulled into his chest. His big, black eyes betraying his fear in an otherwise stoic expression. Pony was at the other end, looking tired and nervous. Darry came and sat in between them. He put one hand on Johnny's shoulder and took Ponyboy under his other arm. Pony leaned into him, trembling slightly.

"Now listen, you two, " he said looking from one to the other. "You're safe here. Nobody is going to hurt you. Either one of you. I'm right there, " he pointed to his bedroom door. "I'm close enough to hear if you're in trouble, and I will kick any ass that tries to hurt you, you got that?"

The boys both laughed a little.

"It'll be OK. We're all keeping an eye out for eachother. And as for Dally, well, he's just as-"

At that moment, Dally came sauntering through the front door.

"Dally's just as what?" he asked curious.

"Just as... angry as the rest of us that this psycho isn't behind bars yet." Darry had thought better of finishing his original sentence which would have replaced "angry" with "worried". He knew Dally was scared for the kids. But he also knew Dally would never admit to it.

"That's right," Dally said, lighting up a cigarette. "If he tries anything where I can get to him I'll..." Dally went on about what he would do and then proceeded to cuss the guy out in a way that only Dallas could.

Johnny glanced knowingly at Ponyboy, and both of them listened in awe to Dallas ramble on.

"Dally! Take it outside," Darry warned, referring to the cigarette, but implying the dialog as well.

Dally shrugged and headed out to the porch.

Darry stood and turned to Ponyboy. "Now listen, kiddo. It's a school night and you need to get some sleep. Let's go."

He helped Pony up and nudged him down the hall to his room. Pony climbed into bed beside Soda who was dead to the world.

Darry pulled the blankets up around him. He leaned over and whispered to him so as not to wake Soda, "You're gonna be ok, Ponyboy. Go to sleep."

Darry went back to the living room. "You OK, Johnnycake?"

Johnny nodded.

"Looks like Dally's gonna stay tonight, too. He's keeping a good eye on you and Ponyboy..."

That much was true, Johnny thought. During the day time, Dally had been around a lot more. He usually didn't make an appearance before 3 or 4 in the afternoon, but lately he'd been showing up much earlier. He'd stop by the Curtis place if Johnny had stayed there, sometimes waking him up right after Ponyboy left for school to see if he wanted to "go hunt some action". A lot of times they'd walk over to the school and have lunch with Pony, and Dally would always try to get him to cut class. Johnny didn't like that because he knew Darry would be furious, but apparently, so did Pony because he always declined. At night Dally always asked Johnny where he was going to stay before he took off. A few time Johnny actually decided to sleep at home and Dally would always walk him there. Once, he took him back to Darry's when they showed up at his house and his parents were screaming at eachother. That time, Johnny had suggested that he just stay in the lot.

"One night's not going to hurt anything," he'd said.

Dally had grabbed his coat collar and growled, "You are NOT staying out here alone till they catch this guy, understand?" Then he softened his tone. "We don't want anything to happen to you, kid."

And on Friday nights and weekends, Dally had pretty much gone everywhere with Pony and Johnny if no one else was with them.

Maybe he is worried, Johnny thought for a minute. Then he almost laughed out loud. Dallas Winston wasn't afraid of anything. Darry had probably asked him to watch out for him and Ponyboy. Dally didn't worry, but he was loyal to the gang, and he'd help out if Darry asked him to.

"Hey, you go ahead and wake me up if you need anything, all right?" Darry said, breaking Johnny's train of thought.

"All right, Darry," he replied.

Darry ruffled his hair and headed off to bed.

Johnny was drifting off when he heard Dally come back in from the porch and plop down in the armchair across the room. Johnny relaxed a bit then.

Boy, Johnny thought. I sure wish they'd catch this guy.