Thank you all so much for reading my story. I truly enjoyed reading all your encouraging reviews. I am so sad that this is my last chapter! BUT I do intend to add several more chapters to "So You're Leaving" after this. I have a pretty involved story thought out for that so I will have something to keep me busy! So, I hope you all enjoy this last chapter and thank you again for all the reviews. They really mean a lot!
The man in the mask was getting closer. Johnny could hear his breathing, hear his footsteps pounding on the ground behind him.... closer... closer...Johnny couldn't make his legs move fast enough. It was as though he had weights tied to his feet. With each step, he got slower and slower, while his heart beat faster.
And then the man was upon him, dragging him to the ground. The cold blade of the knife was against his face, just below his eye.
It's just Ricky again, he told himself.
But it wasn't. Not this time. This time it was the real deal.
The man began to laugh. His breath smelled like whiskey. Johnny closed his eyes, but he could still see everything. He felt the onset of panic.
"It's all over for you greaser.... No one can help you now!"
Dally, Johnny thought.
The man laughed harder, and as though he had read Johnny's thoughts, he whispered, "Not this time!" and his voice rose. "Dally's not going to protect you anymore! He doesn't care what happens to you!"
Johnny struggled, but he couldn't get up. He lifted his head just far enough to see someone standing a few feet away. It was Dally.
Dally looked down at him. And then he turned and walked away.
Out of the corner of his eye, Johnny saw the knife rise high in the air.
"Dally!!" he tried to scream. But it came out as more of a whimper as he sat straight up on the couch, sweat dripping from his forehead, his whole body shaking.
"What?" came a voice from beside him.
Johnny jumped and turned to see Dally standing next to the couch. He let out his breath in relief, but his relief quickly turned to uneasyness. The last time Dally had spoken to him he'd been pretty angry. Johnny lowered his eyes. "N..nothing.." he replied quietly.
Dally turned carefully and sat down on the edge of the couch. He closed his eyes tightly for a moment, the only indication he gave that the movement had caused him extreme pain.
Johnny watched him cautiously. He didn't seem mad, but sometimes with Dally it was hard to tell. Usually, it was fairly obvious, but sometimes you didn't know until it was too late.
"Were you dreamin', kid?"
Johnny nodded, his big, black eyes filled with worry.
Dally looked back at him, trying to read his expression. Johnny didn't talk much, so most of the gang had pretty much figured out how to know what he was thinking by the look in his eyes.
"I ain't mad at you anymore." Dally said finally.
Johnny glanced at him.
They were both quiet for a moment.
"I... I'm sorry you got hurt and all... and .. that I made you mad." Johnny offered.
"Shoot, kid. This ain't anything," Dally grinned proudly. Johnny knew he meant it. Dally had been hurt far worse. "And, uh.. I shouldn't have been mad. You were just tryin' to keep Ponyboy out of trouble. That's cool... It took guts. I'd.. I'd have done the same thing. You're a brave kid, you dig?"
Johnny looked at him in surprise. His eyes glowed for a moment.
Dally shifted his weight uncomfortably and looked at his feet. "You, uh... you really need to get some sleep, kid, " he said, changing the subject. And he noticed that Johnny was still pretty shaken up. "You're gonna end up like Ponyboy. That kid hasn't slept through the night in a long time, according to Soda. What were you dreaming about?"
Johnny turned nervously towards the window. He's gone, now, he thought to himself. But that wasn't really the part of the dream that had bothered him the most.
"I was dreaming about some guy in a ski mask trying to kill me," Johnny sighed, stating it in a way that implied- what else would I be dreaming about?
Dally studied him. The problem with the gang learning how to read him was that when they got good at it, like Dally had, there was NOTHING he could hide from them. "What else?" Dally asked.
Johnny looked away from him. He paused a minute. Dally waited. "Uh... you... you were in the dream, too."
"Yeah? Did I kick his ---- ass like I should have if someone hadn't stepped in?" Dally asked, emphasizing the word 'someone' with a slight note of anger in his voice. He was not upset at Darry for stopping him anymore. He'd gotten over that, and he knew Darry was right. But Dally still wished he'd able to get in at least one good punch.
Johnny grinned slightly. "No," he said. He wished he could just stop there, but Dally was waiting for an answer. And besides, it felt better to be talking to someone. He was too worked up to go back to sleep. "You were walking away..."
"You mean, while the guy was trying to kill you?"
Johnny cringed. "Y-yeah. I mean, it's nothing, it was just a dream."
"That's right it was just a dream. Look at me-"
Johnny met his gaze.
Dally looked directly into his eyes with the expression he always wore when he really meant business. "That would never happen. I'd never turn my back on you, Johnnycake."
Johnny leaned back against the pillow. "I know," he said. And he believed it.
Dally got up and went into the kitchen. "Damn," Johnny heard him say.
He came back into the livingroom carrying two glassed with spoons in them, a bottle of milk, and a box of chocolate powder.
Johnny laughed. "No beer?"
"No!" Dally said, scowling. "And I hate this stuff, but these bums haven't been to the store in a week and this is all there is."
Johnny was inwardly relieved. He liked chocolate milk as much as Ponyboy and Soda. He didn't like beer. The last time Dally'd given him one to help him sleep, he hadn't even finished it. He was lucky it hadn't spilled all over the couch. And he never did figure out where it had gone, because in the morning, it wasn't in his hand anymore.
They made their drinks in silence. Then Dally sat down on the floor beside the couch. It took him a bit longer than usual to get comfortable, and even then he still felt the dull pain in his side.
"Did I ever tell you about the time back in New York when Charlie sneaked me into the theater to see this movie that I really wanted to see?" Dally asked. "It was a horror film. Man, I think I woke Charlie up every night for a month after that!"
Johnny looked at him. Dally had his back to him, as he was leaning up against the sofa, and Johnny figured that was a good thing. Had Dally seen the look of surprise on Johnny's face at his offer to share a story about his past that did not involve jail or a gang fight, he probably would have shut right up and not said another word. So Johnny just replied casually, "No, I.... never heard that story," and stirred his drink.
"Man, Charlie... THAT was a tough hood, let me tell you," Dally said and cursed Charlie good naturedly.
Johnny leaned back against the pillow and listened.
After a while, Dally started talking slower and slower until he stopped talking all together. His head had flopped back against the couch cushions and his mouth hung open, emitting only the sound of his breathing and an occasional snore.
"Dal?" Johnny grinned. He shook his head and leaned back against the pillow and closed his eyes. He felt better. And he figured he was probably through with the nightmares now.
When Darry found them in the morning, this time Johnny's glass was empty and Dally's was still full. He sighed and picked up both glasses and took them to the kitchen. He stared at the glasses, wondering why he even bothered. He knew that both of them would wake up in about an hour, wonder vaguely about where the glasses went and then go on about their day. Two-Bit would come over later and probably spill something on the carpet anyway and if he didn't, Pony, Soda or Steve would track mud all through the house from an afternoon football game.
Darry looked back into the livingroom and a big grin spread across his face. It was good to have things back to normal.