What if Dallas didn't leave the movie theater?

The movie theater was quiet. We were one of the only ones there. Sitting up front, we were staring at the screen, when Dallas came up to the girl in the row in front of us. He had just been bugging her, but had stalked off after she told him to get lost.

Dallas handed the girls a coke each, sat down next to the red-head, and said, "I thought that might cool you off."

The red-head threw the coke in his face and said, "Maybe that'll cool you off, greaser. When you learn to talk and act decent, I might cool off, too."

Instead of that scaring him, it only pushed him further. "Fiery, huh? That's just the way I like 'em."

He started touching her, putting his arms around her. She was getting scared. She tried pushing him off, but he wouldn't budge. I sat there, dumbly, not doing anything to stop her. The girl with brown hair stood up and tugged at the red-head's arm.

"Come on, Cherry. We're going home." She said.

Cherry was able to get up and they started walking off quickly. Dallas started to follow, but Johnny said, "No. Leave 'em alone, Dally."

Dallas looked at him, confused. He was startled because Johnny usually never said a word to anyone. He especially didn't tell anyone what to do, especially when that person was his hero.

Dallas sat back down, mad at the world. He didn't belt Johnny, like he would have if it had been me, or Darry, or any of the gang. He didn't hit Johnny because he was the gang's pet, and no one could hit him.

We sat there, watching the movie, when, suddenly, a hand came down on my shoulder, and one of Johnny's. Then a deep voice said, "All right, greasers, you've had it."

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Johnny's skin had turned as white as snow's and he was starting to shake. I looked up, and saw Two-Bit's comical grin looking down at me.

"Sorry, kid. I guess I forgot." He said to Johnny, ruffling his hair.

Johnny smiled weakly.

"Hey, man. What are you doing here? I thought you was gonna go get stoned or somethin'." Dallas said.

"Well, I got halfway there, and decided to join y'all before I forgot where you were."

Two-Bit sat down between Dallas and me, then said, "Man, movies are boring. You want to go hunt some action."

Dallas said, "Sure." So we made our way down town, stopping at several different shops along the way. Two-BIt had to steal something each time he entered a store. By the time we were headed home, he had three packs of Kools, and a bag of chew.

We were almost to Two-Bit's house, when a car came up from behind us. I got scared, but tried not to show it. I try to act tough when I'm with the gang.

The car was full of Socs. They were all bigger than me, and I had nothing to fight them off with. Luckily, Dallas and Two-Bit are good fighters, but Johnny and I aren't very big.

One of the Socs, a big blonde guy wearing a red madras shirt said, "Hey, greasers. What you doin' out so late?"

Two-Bit cursed them, then said, "We ain't gotta answer to you for anything."

Four other Socs piled out. I knew we were outnumbered. Even if there had been four Socs, we would have been. I'm not the best fighter, and while Johnny is strong, he's not very good at it, either.

The Socs lunged at us, and we fought back as hard as we could. Two-Bit got one of the bigger guys, and he was fairing pretty well. Dallas had two on him, but he still landed more punches than the others. Johnny wasn't doing too great. One was hitting him, and he got a few kicks and punches in, but he was still losing. I was punched in the face about a dozen times before I heard Dallas yell, "All right, nobody move."

We all froze. Dallas was holding a black gun in his hands and pointing it at each Soc. They all were frozen, wondering if he was really gonna shoot them.

"I suggest y'all get back in your car before somebody gets hurt." He wore a dangerous grin. He was frightening them, and he was loving it.

"O-okay, man. We don't want any trouble." The Soc with the green sweater on said. They all started backing into their cars, one eye on Dallas.

When they drove off, Two-Bit and Dallas laughed.

"Man, that was fun. We should do that more often." Two-Bit said.

I was on the ground, glaring at Dallas. Why was he carrying a heater?

We walked off toward home again, and I asked, "Why you got a heater, Dally?"

"Geez, kid. It's okay. I ain't plannin' on killin' anyone. I just thought it'd help in an emergency. I didn't want you and Johnny to get your heads bashed in, and Two-Bit and I couldn't fight that many guys off, so I figured it'd be an appropriate time for it to make an appearance."

"Oh, okay."

When we got to Two-Bit's house, Johnny said, "Two-Bit, do you mind letting me stay over tonight?"

"Sure, kid. Anytime you want to, you can." They walked into his house and closed the door. I waved before walking on.

Dallas followed me part of the way. He looked at me closely and said, "You okay, kid? You look like you got a bad beating."

"It ain't that bad. I'll be all right." I was touched by his concern.

Dallas left after that. I was close to home, so no one would have jumped me. If they tried, it wouldn't have mattered. I could get home before they did anything.

I walked inside, and Darry got to his feet.

"Where were you? It's one o'clock in the morning! We've been worried sick."

"Um, well, we went to the movies and then we got jumped." I said, scared of the way he was yelling at me. He was madder than usual.

"Are you okay, Pony?" Sodapop asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"What were you thinking? You should have been home hours ago. What took you so long? If you had headed home sooner, you never would have gotten jumped. Why can't you ever think? Use your head, for crying out loud!"

I was near tears. I had gotten jumped, and he didn't even care.

"Darry, calm down." Soda tried. Darry turned to face him and yelled, "You keep your trap shut! I'm sick of you stickin' up for him!"

He should never yell at Soda. No one should ever yell at my brother. I hollered, "Don't you yell at him!"

Darry wheeled around and slapped me across the face, knocking me against the door.

We all froze. No one in my family had hit me before. Soda's eyes were huge, and Darry was staring at his now-red hand. He looked up at me and said, "Pony. . ."

I turned and ran out of the house. I heard Darry yell after me, "Pony! I didn't mean to!" I ran on. I kept on running, until I ran(literally) into someone.

"Hey, what's the big idea, pal?" A familiar voice said. He took a swing at me, but I got out of the way.

"Ponyboy? Is that you?" It was Dallas.

"Yeah, it's me." I said through tears.

"What happened? You don't normally cry. Is someone after you?" He looked over my shoulder, his fists clenched and ready to fight whoever it was.

"No, Darry hit me."

"What!" He said, shocked.

"He got mad at me because I was late coming home, and he hit me. I couldn't stay there. I can take him yelling at me, but hitting me was the last straw." I said, wiping my eyes.

"It's okay, kid. I'm sure he didn't mean it."

"That's just it! He did! He meant it! He doesn't care about me! He never has, at least since Mom and Dad died. He can't stand me. If that's how he feels, then I don't give a hang about him, either." The tears were flowing freely now.

"Come here, kid." Dallas said. He gave me a one-arm hug and said, "Darry cares about you, kid. I'm serious. He always has and always will. Me, I've never had anyone to care about me. I've always been on my own. Sure I've had you guys, but it ain't much. You have two older brothers who love you and take care of you. You need to appreciate it. Come on, I'll take you home."

He helped me up, and I tried to stop my tears. It was embarrassing crying in front of Dall like that, but I don't think he cared.

We walked home in silence, until Dallas said, "You ready?"

"Yeah. I guess so."

When we walked inside, Darry was pacing the floors and Soda looked like he had been crying. My cheek throbbed when I saw Darry.

Darry looked at me, and Sodapop stood up.

Dallas spoke for me. "He ran into me a few minutes ago. I think he's ready to come home now." I stood behind him, hiding from Darry.

Dallas turned and started to walk off, but then said, "Darry, you ever lay a hand on him again, and I'll beat the crap outta you. He's a good kid. It wasn't his fault he was late comin' home." Then he turned to me, "Put some ice on that bump on your head. You look like you got a golf ball comin' outta your forehead."

Then Dallas stalked out of our house, leaving the three of us alone.

Soda came to me, giving me a big bear hug. "I was so worried about you." He whispered next to my ear. I hugged him back, trying to hide the emotions. As much as I loved Sodapop, I wanted something other than a hug from him. I wanted Darry's love more than anything else.

Soda let me go, and I looked at Darry. He was standing there, watching me. I noticed there was something odd about his face. Then I knew what it was. It was tears. Darry, my big, brave brother, was crying.

"What is it?" I asked, worried.

"Ponyboy. . .I'm so sorry. I never meant to hit you. I love you, just the same as I love Soda. I just was worried about you. Please forgive me." He stood there, helpless and alone.

I ran into his arm, and squeezed him around the waist. "I love you, Darry." I said into his shirt.

"I know. . .I love you, too, kiddo."

Sodapop came over and joined the group hug. We all stood there, crying, hugging, and loving each other. It was the closest we'd ever been in a long time.