Love & Fear – An Outsiders Fanfiction
Disclaimer: I do not own The Outsiders or any of the characters therein. They belong to S.E. Hinton. I am writing this purely out of love for the characters and the story that captured my heart many years ago. No profit is being gained. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
To my brother, who was my Darry, although I don't think he knows it.
"Dally, you best watch yourself with your bluffin' cause I can take you, ya know."
I was surprised to hear Darry so light hearted and joking. But I guess after the week that he's had, a couple beers and a game of poker with the gang was just what he was looking for.
"Sure, big man, whatever you say. I ain't scared of you. Hell, I ain't scared of no one!" Dally mouthed off with a grin, and out of the corner of my eye I could see Johnny looking at Dally with that admiring look he always gave. I still don't understand it. I mean, I know Dally's tough, but everyone's afraid of something.
Soda read my thoughts, as usual.
"Heck, Dal, everyone's afraida someone."
Dally took a swig of his beer, and folded, "Nope, not me. But who you afraid of Sodapop?" Dally had a grin on his face that just dared Soda to admit that he was afraid of someone. But just as I thought, Soda doesn't care what anyone thinks.
"Tim Shepard scares me some, that's for sure. I mean, I'd never back down from a fight with 'im, but that guy is somethin' else." Sodapop didn't have no problem meeting Dally's look.
"What 'bout you, Stevie?" Soda asked.
Steve looked up, surprised. "Uh, I gotta go with Sodapop on this one. Shepard is one messed up guy." Steve took a couple more swigs. I gather it was for bravery, cuz then he mumbled into his beer, "And you know, Dally's a bit crazier than the rest of us." To cover up he shot a grin at Dally. Dally just leaned back in his chair and looked like the cat who ate the canary.
"You best be afraid, cause I am the baddest hood this town has ever seen."
"I wouldn't say that's anything to brag about Dally." Two-bit laughed, tossing his cards at Dally's head.
"Oh yeah, like you're the tough stuff, you joker. Who you afraid of?" Dally asked, tossing the card back at Two-bit, but hitting me. I stuck my tongue out at him. He stuck his tongue out back.
"I think a coupla the Brumly boys are right on dangerous," Two-bit said, "they's a special kinda crazy."
"Well kid?" Two-bit said, looking at me.
I couldn't help but notice the lump that was in my throat. Who was I afraid of? They'd all admited it, except for Dally so far, so why not me?
Just as I was about to open my mouth, Soda jumped in.
"Leave him alone, he ain't got nothin' to prove to y'all hoods." The arguments went up before he even finised his sentence.
"Soda, it's fine. The rest of the gang answered, I will too." I could see Darry looking at me, worried or something, even though his face really showed nothing. Why were my brothers always treating me like a baby?
"I'm afraid of some of the socs. They're bigger than me. But then, everyone's bigger than me." I added. I wished they all didn't look so serious.
"I know what you mean, Pone." Johnny gave me a grin. Of course he knew. He was as small as I was. I was glad to have someone ease the tension of the moment.
Suddenly I noticed everyone lookin' at Johnny. Well, lookin' without meaning to look, like up through their eyelashes.
"Johnny, you don't gotta..." I started. But I never got to finish, cause Johnny's voice said quietly,
"My old man. I'm afraid of him."
The room fell silent for a minute, all of us thinkin' about how rough he had it at home, and feelin' silly for our own fears. Thankfully Dallas broke the silence.
"What about you, Superman, who're you afraid of?"
Aw, hell. I stared down at my fingers, wanting to chew on my nails. Darry wasn't afraid of nothing or no one. Just one more way we were different.
"What?" I looked up, thinking he was calling me or going to yell at me for something. Why was the gang lookin' at me like that?
Darry was staring right at me. What? The gang all seemed real interested in their cards all of a sudden.
"That's who I'm afraid of." Darry said, his voice solid, sure.
Me? Why would Darry, who wasn't afraid of anything, be afraid of me?
"Ok, if none of y'all are gonna lay down your cards, I guess all this money is mine!" Two-bit crowed. This brought the gang back to the poker table in full force, and I took the opportunity to sneak outside for a cigarette.
I crouched down against the side of the house, hoping for some semblance of privacy incase others were smoking. I tend to think I'm smart enough, most times, but now I felt so lost I didn't know which way was up. All I could think, over and over, was that Darry must have been joking, making fun at my expense. There's a reason Darry's called Superman, he's strong and nothin' can touch him. Well, except for maybe Soda.
As I sat there smoking my cigarette, and trying to puzzle out the whole scene, I heard steps on the front porch. I peered around the side of the house. Aw, hell. It was Darry and Soda. Why'd they have to be out here now?
Soda was smoking and I couldn't really tell you why Darry was out there 'cept to make me nervous.
"Ponyboy, huh? You reckon he knows what you meant?"
"I don't know. Do you know what I mean?"
"I think I do, Darry. But help me out."
I saw my biggest brother reach into his back pocket and pull something out. "Remember this?" Darry asked, showing Sodapop the folded blue card he had in his hand.
The folded blue card? I crept out further from where I was hiding to take a closer look. It couldn't be. It had to be a coincidence.
Soda's eyes went wide. "You still got that Darry?"
Darry closed his eyes, sighed and then started to look around. I ducked back behind the siding before he could see me. But he still seemed to look right at me when he said,
"I carry it with me every day. Since the day you showed it to me."
"Hell Darry, Pony would kill me if he knew I showed it to you."
And that's when my stomach fell out of my body, and I leapt out from the side of the house, hollering, all at once.
"Sodapop Curtis! What do you mean givin' that to him?" I wished my voice hadn't caught in my throat like that.
"Ponyboy, I just thought he should see it. You were up all night trying to write it."
My brothers could at least have the decency to look surprised to see me. All of a sudden I wanted to hide again, remembering what that card was.
It was only a couple months after Mom and Dad died, the beginning of June, and school was nearing the end of the year, the time of year they give you silly things to do cause the teachers don't wanna work too hard. So they had us working on my worst nightmare. Father's Day cards. I mean, hell, we were in 8th grade, not 3rd, was there nothing better they could give us to do?
But I knew that I wouldn't have been so angry if my Dad hadn't died months before. This was our first Father's Day without him, and if Mother's Day was any indication, we were all three gonna be a wreck. I just wanted to ignore the whole day, to tell the truth. How could the teacher not know this, not understand?
But by that point I knew that nobody paid attention to nobody but themselves, so I set down to the card. Well, the first card. The first one I wrote to my Dad, telling him how much I missed him and wished him and Mom were still here. I left that one at their tombstone when we went to visit on Father's Day. The one I left on Mother's Day was still there, under the rock where I'd left it.
The second card I wrote that day was in Darry's hand. I never gave it to him, but there it was all the same. I shut my eyes and put my hands over my ears like a 7 year old trying to shut out all the things in my head, and trying to shut out my brothers looking at me like I was a hurt foal they didn't know what to do with.
Try as I might, the words I wrote where there in my head. Well, at least the last version. I must have wrote that damn card 20 times staying up all night trying to find the right words. And this is what was left:
I know this day is hard for all of us. I'm sorry it's like that. I know it's hard for you, taking care of me and Soda. Well, taking care of me, let's be honest. I know you didn't expect to be raising a 13 year old kid, to be buying groceries and making sure I go to bed on time. Making sure I do my homework, and don't smoke too much.
Being there when I wake up at night wishing to death, crying for, Mom and Dad.
I guess this card just seemed appropriate. A way to say thank you.
Um, happy Father's Day.
Love your littlest brother,
I unplugged my ears to find Darry reading the card outloud in front of me. Where had Soda gone? I needed Soda. He was that space between me and Darry and gosh I needed that space right now.
I must have been rocking back and forth on my feet, cause Darry put his hands on my shoulders to still me.
"Why are you crying, baby?"
I was crying? I put my hand up to my face and felt the tears on my cheeks. I guess he was right.
"I don't know, Darry. I'm sorry."
Why was I crying? It was just a card. No big deal. I mean, yeah, I had stayed up trying to find the right words. Darry had hollered at me the next morning for over sleeping, and I had gone back and crumpled it up, tossing it across the room. I guess Soda must have picked it up and read it. Given it to Darry. But Darry didn't like me, but then why was he afraid of me? And he carried my card in his pocket? Everyday? I felt the most confused I had felt since the days after my parents died.
Darry didn't give a hang about me, but then why was he carrying my card in his pocket?
And why were his eyes watery?
Before I knew it, Darry had pulled me into a hug, and as I cried into his T-shirt I couldn't help but think about how much taller he was than me. I don't know what came over me, but I said, muffled into his chest:
"I hope I'm as big as you when I'm 20, Darry."
It felt like the world was shaking all of a sudden. Was Darry shaking? I pulled back. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."
"Oh Ponyboy! Don't you see! That's exactly why I said what I said. Why I'm afraid of you."
I just kept shaking my head, my eyes squeezed shut. Darry wasn't afraid of nothing. He couldn't be! If Darry was afraid, well hell, I was never gonna be as brave as he was.
Taking my hand Darry lead me over to the steps, and sat me down on them in front of him, him sitting behind me. Maybe it was easier for Darry to talk without people seeing his eyes like it was for me.
"Ponyboy, honey. You are my biggest fear. It's only 6 months since Mom and Dad died, and now I have you and Soda to look after. And it's different with Soda, he's more grown, he had our parents around longer than you. I know you don't want to hear it, Pony, but you're 13, you're still a baby in a lot of ways." I couldn't help but make a face at that. "When they died I realized that the littlest thing I did wrong could affect you forever. That's real scary Ponyboy."
"Was it my card that made you think that way? I'm sorry if it scared you" I said quietly, leaning my head back against him. I was proving his point, despite myself. Trying to be grown up was hard sometimes.
"Don't be sorry, Pony. And it wasn't just the card. It was lots of stuff. Like," he paused as if he wasn't sure whether to go on, "like one day I came home early from work not too long after, well after. I saw you in my room, tring on one of my shirts. It was so big on you, but you were trying to look so tough, standing there in my room. And I guess I realized then just how much you were watching me."
I think I wanted to die right then. He saw me? I turned slightly and buried my head against his leg and groaned.
Darry caught me by the chin and lifted my face up to look at him. I tried to look everywhere but at him.
"Look at me Ponyboy" he said firmly. And do I did. He had that way about his voice.
"There's no need to be embarrassed. I'm honoured. I'm just afraid that I won't do right by you."
"You're doing ok, Darry." I said, with a try at a grin. Darry reached over and ruffled my hair. I decided to let him.
"It's time for you to go to bed, little man."
I sighed. "All right, Darry."
As I opened the door to go inside, I turned back. "Will you come check on me later?"
"Wild horses couldn't tear me away, little buddy."