Steve's POV

Now I know what Soda went through. My poor best friend. Knowing what he went through, I'm glad he died. Not that I want him gone. I miss him more and more everyday. But this would have been too hard for him to live with. The memories. The death. The blood. The pain. How many friends did he lose here? To watch someone you care about die, like when Dallas died under the circle of light at the lot. How would he make it? The memories would be overwhelming for him. I wouldn't want poor Soda to have to live with this.

I sat down and started writing a letter. This time, it wasn't for Two-Bit. It was for Ponyboy and Darry.

Dear Darry and Pony,

For once our camp is quiet. It's probably the calming before a storm. I miss you all, but I know I did the right thing coming here.

Coming here, fighting for my country has shown me what Soda had to go through. And it helps a lot. I've made peace with his death here. I know what he went through, and I respect him even more for knowing how he served his country so well.

I hear stories from some of the other men about him. No one has had a bad thing to say about Soda. I'm glad. Soda was a great friend, and an even better person. Every time there's a story about him, I listen intently. Most of them say something about how Soda helped them through a hard time. How he comforted everyone, but didn't need comforting himself, though everyone knew he did. Soda was there for others, when no one was there for him.

The main thing I hear everyone talk about is how Sodapop would go on for hours about his two brothers. Every seemed to know you, they heard about you two so much. Soda had only stories about home to tell. And when he'd speak of home, every one heard the longing in his voice. One of the men, named Shawn, had shared a room with Soda for a while. He told me that Soda had cried at nights, missing his brothers. Shawn said how he noticed the weird way he slept: "Soda would reach his arm out, like someone was laying beside him. Always that arm stayed there. But no one was ever there, though he seemed to think there was."

I figure that meant that he was reaching for you, Pony. It saddens me to think of how much he missed you guys, and then he never got to see you again. But in a way, I'm glad he died. Because I think living with the memories of war would have killed Soda, or at least killed his spirit. Gone would be the laughing, reckless man we once knew. And in his place would be a sad, scared, human being, with memories of war haunting his every step.

I miss you guys. Tell Two-Bit Isaid hello.

Yours truly,

Steve Randle

I sat back and looked down at the letter I had written. I hope it helped them, because I know they had been grieving for a long time, too.


Two-Bit's POV

"Mom, you feelin' okay?" I asked as I stepped into her room. She had been sleeping early, but now she was awake. And yet, she still hadn't left her bed.

She smiled weakly when she saw me step toward her.

"I'm fine, honey. I was just thinking."

"About what?" I said as I sat down beside her. I realized this was different from me. I wouldn't usually be so serious. But then, people change when they get hit as hard as I have.

"About how I've destroyed you." My mother's usually laughing eyes looked at me, but they weren't laughing anymore.

"What are you talking about? You haven't destroyed me. You-"

She held up a hand to silence me.

"Yes, I have. I'm a horrible mother. I've turned you into an old man. You used to be joking all the time. You were happy. And just because I got a little disease, doesn't mean you should have stopped doing those things. You started working, and then you stopped laughing. You tookcare of me, and you stopped joking. I got worse, and you stopped going out. I don't deserve a son like you, and you don't deserve a mother as bad as me."

"Mom, stop talking like that. You're my mother. I couldn'tjust go out and party all the time when my mother was out of a job and sick. What kind of a person would I be if I left you like that? Mom, I'm not the same as I had been. But that's okay now. You have to grow up sometime. I'm 20 years oldnow. I'm out of school. I'm working. It wasn't like I was going to go to college. Instead of destroying me, you made me a better person."

"But I don't want a Keith. I want my Two-Bit."

I leaned over and kissed my mother's cheek. I knew she was regretting what's happened to me. But it wasn't her fault.

"Mom, it's not your fault. I made my decision. Besides, you have the same Two-Bit. He just grew up. Afterall, who wants to be a Keith, anyway? Horrible name, Mom. You could have done better." I grinned at her, and was pleased when I got a big smile in return.

"Now that's more like it. You need to get out more. I'm doing better. Go have fun. Talk to the Curtis boys. Do something for a change."

I squeezed her hand and then walked out the door. I did need to get out more. I missed hanging out with the gang. But since it was just me and Pony and Darry, I'd have to make do with them.

I'd be stopping in to see them more often.


Darry and I were sitting on the couch one afternoon, when someone came to the door. Who could that be? I wondered.

Darry got up and opened the door. I was surprised to see a man in uniform standing in our doorway.

He smiled at Darry. "You must be Darry." He said. How did he know Darry? I didn't know him.

"I'm Joshua Warren. I served in the war with your brother Sodapop." Josh said, saluting us.

"Come on in." Darry said in a voice that showed his shock.

Josh nodded, and came into the room. He stood, waiting until Darry sat down to sit also.

He looked over at me and smiled sadly. "You're Ponyboy, right? You look a lot like Sodapop."

"Yeah." I replied.

We were all silent a moment, then Darry spoke.

"So, Josh, what brings you to Tulsa?"

"I came to see you."

"Why?" I asked, confused as to what one of the soldiers that served with Soda would want with us.

"Well, your brother saved my life. One day, we were supposed to go into a Vietnamese camp. We weren't supposed to kill them, just take some hostage. What we hadn't realized was that it was a trap. They had been expecting us. And when we came upon them, they started firing at us. Except for your brother, no one was killed from our side. No one was taken capture. And that was because of your brother. Your brother was shot when he got in the way of a bullet meant for me. I ran out of the way, and he was left there, dead. I wanted to go back for him. And when I tried, I got shot in the leg.

"He pointed to the bandage on his left leg. "But I was pulled back by one of the other soldiers in our quadrant. The others got him after we returned with more men.

I was taken to a hospital. I stayed there for two months, and then I was sent home. It's taken me this long to get to you."

Josh withdrew something from inside his coat pocket.

"Soda was my best friend. Without him, I probably would have ended up as a deserter. Your brother was a special man, and I am a better person just for knowing him. We shared a tent. And one night, after our work was done for the day, we talked about the big question: What if I never make it home? Well, we decided that night that it was time to write a letter to our loved ones. I wrote to my girlfriend, my mom and dad, and my little brother. Soda wrote to you two. And we decided that if one of us was killed, that the other would deliver the letter to his family. We wrote our letters, and then exchanged them. They're both still sealed, but I don't plan on letting my family read the letter I wrote them."

He handed the letter to me, and I held it as though it were a piece of gold.

I looked back at Josh and he took something else out of his pocket. It was a black case, like something for a ring or necklace.

"I heard about you getting shot, Pony. About how you got beat up, just because you were for the war. I was given a purple heart because I was shot trying to get your brother's body. But you were shot because of what you believed. That's more deserving than what I did."

Josh took out his Purple Heart medal and gave it to me.

"I. . .I can't take this." I said.

"Soda never got a medal for what he did . . . because he hadn't been following orders. But because he wasn't following orders, six men, including me, are still alive. If you won't take it for yourself, at least take it for Soda."

I looked down at the medal. Soda deserved more than some medal for what he did. But it would be wrong of me to deny this man what he thought Soda deserved. So I accepted his offer.

Joshua nodded. "I know Soda deserved more than that, but that's all I can give."

"Thank you." Darry said, his voice strained with emotions.

"You're welcome." Joshua stood to leave, clicked his heels, and saluted us.

I gave him a salute in return, but his looked better.

"Thanks, Josh. It means a lot to us." I said as I stood to shake his hand. But he wouldn't hear of a hand shake. He gave me a hug instead.

"Your brother was the bravest soldier I knew. I just wish I could pay him back for saving my life." Tears were in Josh's eyes a he spoke.

"I know. But you must have been pretty brave, too." I said.

Josh smiled. "I doubt that, but I'd like to think so."

Darry stepped up and hugged Josh, too. "Thank you. For everything."

Both men were pretty choked up. Josh stepped out to leave.

"Bye, Josh!" I called.

"Bye, Ponyboy." He said, laughing when he said my name, as though he still couldn't believe he had met me. Me!

When the door closed behind Josh, I sat down on the couch, fingering the letter Soda had written for us.

Darry sat down beside me. "Open it." He said, still choked up.

I tried to, but I couldn't.

"I can't do this, Darry. You open it." I said as I shoved the letter at Darry. He took it and carefully tore open the envelope.

I sat closer to Darry, drinking it al in.

"Read it." I said, wanting Darry to read it out loud.

Darry cleared his throat, trying to will tears away. And then he began.

"Dear Darrel Shaynne and Ponyboy Michael,

I write this letter with great sadness. I don't know that I will die, but if you are reading this, than I must have died in the line of duty.

Life here is hard. But it's only hard because I am away from the two people I love most in the world, and that's you two. I miss you more and more every day. Every time I don't think I have a tear left to cry, another one falls. I'm homesick, but I'm doing okay.

Now comes the hard part. Enough small talk, because that'll come in other letters. This is the serious stuff, the stuff that I hate to write.

Ponyboy, be good to Darry. He works hard for us, and he'll need a little help with paying bills and stuff. Remember when he hits you, fights with you, he does it because he's scared. He loves you as much as I love you, and that's a whole lot.

You're a smart kid, Pony. I was dumb, and by your age, I was flunking most of my classes. But I've seen your good grades. You'll get to be so famous when you grow up. I just hate to think that I'll miss it. You've become a smart, thoughtful, tough man that I am proud to call my younger brother. I hate to think that you'll have to deal with another loss. I know how it killed you when Johnny and Dallas died.

I didn't mean to cause you any pain. I know you'll cry more tears than ever when I die, not to be too conceited. You've lost so many loved ones in your life. I'm sorry that I couldn't protect you from all the death in your life. I wanted to, but I felt the same pain as you did, and I needed someone too.

Lean on Darry. He needs to know he's needed. Go to him for advice. Tell him your troubles. He really does listen. Probablybetter than I do. He'll give you good advice. You won't need me to talk to, because you'll have Darry. He's a great brother, and he'll help you whenever you need him.

Ponyboy, I love you. A million times, I love you. Never, ever forget that. Don't cry over my death. I died doing a good thing. Please, don't join up like I did. Because if you were killed, Darry would die, too. Don't do that to Darry. Besides, war is a horrible place. One that I hope you never have to know. It would kill you to come here, even if you made it home alive. It's aready killing me, but I just keep thinking that one day I'll come home to you. But if you're reading this, you'll be coming home to me. I love you, little brother. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Darry, you're the greatest brother in the whole wide world. You sacrificed so much for me and Pony. I owe you my life. I'm sorry that I left you with all these bills to pay. I didn't mean for it to happen. I would never do anything to hurt you.

Take good care of Pony. Try not to yell at him so much. He looks up to you, and loves you as I love you. I hope you know that that's more than words can say. Pony will need your help now. He'll be alone, or at least feel that way. Give him time to come to you. It'll happen soon enough. He loves you, Darry, and begs for your love everyday. Please remember to give it to him.

Work will be hard, but you'll make it out okay. Don't be so hard on yourself for not going to college. You're smarter than anyone I know. You may not be what you want to be now, but you will some day. You can go to college later in life. You'll get a good job and be exactly who you want to be. I'll miss not getting to see the successful big brother you'll be. I wish I could be there, cheering you on the whole way. Know that I will be, but just from another place.

Life has been hard on you, Darry. It's been even harder on you than it has been on me and Pony. Pony's gentle, and these deaths have been hard on him. But you've had it rougher, because you try to hide your grief. Remember that it's okay to cry. No one will judge you, but, rather, respect you more for being able to show your emotions. Don't keep it all inside, because it'll kill you. Without me, you'll have only Pony left. Take good care of him, so you never lose him.

I love you, Darry. Never forget it. I love you more than anyone else in this world, as I do Pony. I love you both equally. Be good to Pony. Don't work so hard. And know that you are loved by me and Ponyboy.

I go to a better place now. I'll get to see Mom and Dad again, and even Dallas and Johnny. Up in Heaven, I'll get to ride Mickey Mouse whenever I want. And, Pony, I'll be up there, watching over you two and smoking my chocolate cigarette. Remember?

I love you both. Take care of Two-Bit and Steve. Don't let Steve do anything crazy. I know he'll take this hard.

All the love my heart can hold,

Sodapop Patrick Curtis"

The tears were flowing like a waterfall down both our faces. The letter brought a longing in my heart, but also a peace. Because now I knew what Soda had wanted. How did he know exactly the right things to say?

Darry took me in his arms and we cried for our brother. We both missed him, but the joy of getting to read that last letter helped ease the pain.

When our tears were spent, Darry held me out at arms length.

"We have to take care of each other, Pony. For Soda."

"We will." I said, trying to smile.

Darry hugged me again, and I hugged him back, squeezing tightly.

"It doesn't hurt so much anymore. The pain has ended." I said.

Darry smiled at my comment. We'd be okay, afterall.


Oh, gosh. I got tears running down my face now! Man, that was fun to write. I hope you liked it. I really enjoyed this. Thanks to all my readers, reviewers, everyone! I couldn't have done it without you. I appreciate everyone's help.

I hope this story can help the pain end for you, too.

With love and prayers,

Meghan


Here's a finale to the story! It's not much, just when Pony and Darry get the letter from Steve!

Darry's POV

I walked inside the house after a long day's work. I was wondering whatPony was up to.

I sotred through the mail in my hands and saw, among the bills, there was a letter from Steve.

"Hey, Pony!" I called. I knew he'd want to read it, too.

Pony came walking out of his room. I noticed he didn't walk very differently, like he had when his wound had been bothering him.

"Yeah?" He asked.

"We got a letter. It's from Steve."

"Oh, good. Open it." He said enthusiastically.

We sat down on the couch together, and I read the letter from Steve out loud.

I've made peace with his death here. I know what he went through, and I respect him even more for knowing how he served his country so well.

I hear stories from some of the other men about him. No one has had a bad thing to say about Soda. Every time there's a story about him, I listen intently. Most of them say something about how Soda helped them through a hard time. How he comforted everyone, but didn't need comforting himself, though everyone knew he did. Soda was there for others, when no one was there for him.

The main thing I hear everyone talk about is how Sodapop would go on for hours about his two brothers. Every seemed to know you, they heard about you two so much. Soda had only stories about home to tell. And when he'd speak of home, every one heard the longing in his voice. One of the men, named Shawn, had shared a room with Soda for a while. He told me that Soda had cried at nights, missing his brothers. Shawn said how he noticed the weird way he slept: "Soda would reach his arm out, like someone was laying beside him. Always that arm stayed there. But no one was ever there, though he seemed to think there was."

I figure that meant that he was reaching for you, Pony. It saddens me to think of how much he missed you guys, and then he never got to see you again. But in a way, I'm glad he died. Because I think living with the memories of war would have killed Soda, or at least killed his spirit. Gone would be the laughing, reckless man we once knew. And in his place would be a sad, scared, human being, with memories of war haunting his every step.

I looked up from his letter. Pony had tears in his eyes.

"He really was a great person, wasn't he, Darry?" He asked.

"Yes. . .yes, he was." I replied.

We smiled at each other, and I hugged Pony to my side. Though we already knew how great Soda was, it never hurt to hear it from someone else.

"I'm proud of him, Darry." Pony said.

"I am, too, kiddo. I am, too." I replied.