I searched the top of the door frame for a key. Our parents kept them up there in case one of us locked ourselves in when we were little. I slowly traced the tip of my fingers until I hit something cold; the key. I breathed a sign of relief and took it off the door frame and unlocked the door. Pony was curled up in a ball with a pillow on each side of him. I laughed a little he must have been cold or something. I pulled the covers to his chin.

"Ok kiddo, good night." I ran my fingers through his hair, not really wanting to leave him. He couldn't hate me forever, no matter what happened. I needed sleep with work in the morning. I went back to bed, only to have some strange dream.

"Darry!" It was Soda's voice. There must have been an earth quake everything was shaking.

"Darry you gottta get up for a second!" His voice sounded panicky. My eyes shot open, it wasn't a dream. I rolled over and came face to face with Soda.

"What's wrong little buddy? You sick?" I asked; reaching up to see if he had a fever. It was two am in the morning.

"No!" He smacked my hand away. "Darry there's a cop at the door. Pony sort of left; he wants to talk to you."

I cussed under my breath and pulled my jeans on; not bothering with a shirt. Great I thought showing up at the door in jeans. The cops going to think we're white trash. I walked into the living room. There stood Pony in shorts and a t shirt his hair UN greased and his face dirty with tired eyes. I felt my blood rush. I was going to strangle this kid.

"Mr. Curtis; I'm sorry for waking you. Does he belong to you?" The officer nodded toward Pony.

"Yeah. He's my brother. What happened?" I asked not taking my glance off of Pony. This is what I worked for. My baby brother was sneaking out, going to wild parties and vandalizing things. He was a damn JD. I didn't raise him for that. I remember what the last cop said. I swallowed hard. The kid I loved like crazy and this is what he does. Where the hell did my baby brother go? This kid sure wasn't him.

The cop gave an UN easy laugh. "Found him on the park bench, asleep. He told me he couldn't sleep and decided to go for a run. He also said he snuck out and you were asleep. This isn't the best neighborhood so I brought him back."

"Thank you." I said.

"Anytime, and son, the next time you can't sleep, count sheep." He let himself out and when we heard the door slam to his car Pony started.


I held my hand up to shut him up. "Whatever it is; I don't want to hear it at all. So, just go to bed or burn the house down; what ever you want Pony." I went in my room and sat on my bed and did something I rarely ever do. I cried. I didn't know what else to do. It had gotten too far, to fast. Pony was on a scary path and I couldn't do anything. So I cried in my hands until I fell back to sleep. I felt someone stroking my hair. Who was touching me? I opened my eyes slightly and looked at the clock it read nine o'clock.

"SHIT!" I sat straight up nearly knocking into Pony. Then I wanted to kick myself for cussing in front of him.

"No buddy." He put his hands on my shoulders and made an attempt to push me back down. "It's raining you can't roof today. Soda was going to call you off but your boss called first." Pony explained. "Go back to sleep buddy. It's okay."

He never called me buddy before I was starting to wonder why he started now but he went right back to stroking my hair. The pressed his hand against my forehead.

"Ponyboy what on" I was quickly shut up by a thermometer being shoved in my mouth. Maybe he was playing doctor. Did he still play make believe? I tried to make my mind go back to when I was fourteen. No I thought, I didn't have time to play make believe. Well make believe that I was a pro athlete. Mom liked it when we played make believe, so I figured if he wanted to, I might as well let him. Who knows maybe he could be a doctor when he grows up. I had one heck of a headache that was for sure. Pony took the thermometer out of my mouth and looked at it.

"You don't have a fever." Pony announced. He looked at my sympathetically. "What's wrong with you if you don't have a fever? Exhaustion?" He asked still stroking my hair.

So he must not have been playing doctor. The stroking my hair and calling me buddy. Suddenly things snapped. He thought I was really sick and was attempting to take care of me. I guess he got the buddy thing off of me but he had to leave the little part out.

"I'm not sick." I smiled; he must be okay with me if he was willing to take care of me. He just sat back and starred at me like he was confused.

"Then why were you bawling all night?" He asked.

Oh, where did I begin to start this conversation? I sighed and leaned against the head board. "You scared me. You know you could literally scare me to death."

He looked down for a second then looked back up. His face wasn't soft and sympathetic anymore. It was hard, like Dally's. "Well you deserved it you made me scared!" He snapped.

"I made you scared? Scared of what?" I asked. I knew it was a matter of time before we would fight.


"I see. Well Ponyboy. You two pushed me to my wits end. I didn't exactly want to start raising my hand but I had to. You left me with no choice!"

"I'm not talking about that. I meant taking Soda away. You knew I would have nightmares! Who does that, you made him go back to his room. I'm happy I made you scared now you know how it feels!" He screamed.

"Pony, Ponyboy listen to me." I said softly. He looked at me on the verge of tears.

"Baby, I didn't take Soda away. You were only supposed to be in different rooms to think about everything. I wouldn't do that you Pony, I'm not that mean. I never want you to be scared either. Soda's been dropping off on the couch but not on purpose. Baby if you were scared you could went into his room. Or better yet you could have came and got me. Why didn't you?" I told him.

"I thought I would get in more trouble and that's the last thing I wanted. I figured you were too mad at me and you'd tell me to go back to bed." Pony sniffed. I could tell he was thinking about everything I just said.

I pulled Pony close to me and hugged him, stroking his hair. "Baby. I don't ever want you to be scared of me. No matter how mad I am it's not my job to scare you, it's my job to protect you."

"Darry?" Pony said from my chest. "I'm sorry I scared you." He sat a little bit.

"I wasn't sneaking out I know better than to sneak out with what happened the last time. I just couldn't read. I tried it before and it didn't work. I thought that if I ran. I would get tired. It worked"

"That's good to know its just damn it Pony" I was starting to tear up again. The last thing I wanted to do was be weak in front of my kid brother. I held my breathe in for a second

"All the crap you've been pulling lately. You wouldn't listen to me. Do you realize that you could have been jumped or killed? I wouldn't have known. No one would have!" I felt the tears slide down my faces.

"Darry, don't its okay." Pony put his arms around my neck and hugged me tight.

"With Soda a stern look or threatening to put the kid in his room is usually enough but when it comes time for you Pony I seem to just beat my head against the wall. You don't use your head all the time and you're so small, and young. You've got the only chance to make it out of here and you start acting like a hood. Ponyboy I felt like I was talking to Dally sometimes. You're becoming a hood, I can't deal with that. Ponyboy. I can't deal with you getting shot or stabbed. I couldn't live. You're scaring me." I started to cry hard into his hair. I couldn't even finish my words.

"I'll be good. I promise. Please don't cry Darry, I didn't mean to make you cry." He begged.

"How do I know Pony, huh?" I asked sharply.

Pony with his index finger drew a cross over his heart. Crossing your heart was something Soda and me would make him do so he wouldn't tell Mom and Dad things. Now we hadn't done this since I was twelve; but to him it was the ultimate promise. I pulled him in as tight as I could and recited the promise.

"Cross your heart and hope to die, stick a needle in your eye." I sucked air in to stop the crying.

"I'm sorry; I made you cry Darry." Pony said quietly.

"I know you are baby. It's okay."

"Have you been crying?" Soda asked as he poured himself a Pepsi as I prepared dinner.

I guess he noticed my eyes were still puffy and red from the morning. "Yeah" I said slowly.

"You alright; what happened? He said you were sick this morning, were you?" Soda asked biting down on his lip. He thought we had fought again.

"No, I wasn't sick, he heard me crying last night and figured I was. We talked this morning. I cried some more." I smiled. "he swore to me." I crossed my heart. "That he will be good."

Soda grinned. "What made you cry?"

"You two." I said slowly.

Soda stopped talking and starred at his feet. "More Pony than me, right?"

I nodded. "Come here." I extended my arm out and pulled him into a hug. "It's alright little buddy."

"You're my favorite BIG brother." Soda grinned at me.

I rolled my eyes and rubbed his hair. "Thanks."

"Hi Pony!" Soda cried as Pony walked into the room. "Haven't talked to you much lately how ya been?"

I shook my head you would think the he hadn't seen the kid in months. The night went on like usual after that, we ate dinner and they went out. I sat down to finish the rest of the bills and watched the news. I normally read the paper but the T.V is always going from the guys and I figure if it shuts things up I don't mind it, I'll read the paper but no one was here tonight so the TV was mine.

Pony and Soda came stomping in at eleven o clock. They were both grumbling about the new curfew.

"I don't want to hear it." I said and it shut them both up. Soda collapsed next to me deciding to use my lap for a pillow. I began to run my fingers through his hair. He looked worn out and deep in thought.

"Darry, what would you do if we smoked grass?" Soda asked suddenly. I starred down at him.

"I thought you were taught better than to ever do it." I tugged at his hair slightly. "I'd be extremely disappointed."

"Some kids do it. I got offered to. I said no." He told me.

"I'm proud of you."

"I wish I could say no to everything."

"What didn't you say no to?"

Soda went quite.

"He ran around the entire house fifty times" Pony blurted. "Pretty girls bat their eye lashes and that's what happens, he and Steve raced to get their numbers!" Pony laughed.

"I got their numbers, Soda said holding up his arm and reveling 3 sets of numbers.

"So what?" Pony stated.

I rubbed my eyes with my hand and laughed. "Your time will come little brother, your time will come. And I will have a full head of gray by then." I told Pony.

"You'll look funny." Soda said. Out of no where he lifted himself up and hugged me.

"What this for?" I asked as I hugged him back.

"Because I think the kids who smoked grass didn't have someone who cares. I do." Soda said

I swear this kid, just does something to you. I pulled him in tighter. Damn I loved him.

"I'm going to bed." He announced I released him so he could go to bed.

I was tired to I decided to turn in too. Soda gave another hug before he disappeared into his room. I was woken up with in an hour to the sound of screaming. I rolled off my bed, pushed off the floor and ran into the boy's room. Pony was screaming for someone to stop hurting him. He was crying and thrashing about. I hadn't seen it this bad in a really long time.

"Darry, I can't get him to wake up!" Soda cried.

I grabbed Pony by the shoulders and shook him once. His eyes shot open with terror inside. He huddled into a ball and began bawling. Soda quickly came to his aid but Pony just wouldn't stop crying.

"Come here Pony." I held him really close to me for a long time. "It's over kiddo; nothing is going to hurt now." I rubbed his back. He still wouldn't calm down.

"Hey Soda, put some coffee on and hot chocolate." I lifted Pony up he wouldn't let go for the life of me anyways. I brought him out to the living room and turned on some late night batman re runs. I sat in my chair with him on my lap and began to rock. Soda disappeared into the kitchen to go put the coffee on. This was going to be a long night.

"Calm down kid. Nothing is going to hurt you. I won't let it happen." I rocked him slowly and it was dead silent except for the TV which was turned down real low and some clattering in the kitchen.

"Darry?" Pony called.

I looked down at him. "Yeah?"

"I told you I hated you."

"Yeah, I know." I remember telling my parents I hated them but I always regretted and they knew I really didn't. I'd figure I'd hear it with Soda and Pony I just never thought it would hurt so much.

"I don't hate you." Pony stated.

"Well, that's good because I don't hate you either." I said even in my arms I could still feel him shaking like a leaf, tear paths on his cheeks were visible. "Close your eyes buddy, try to relax" I told him.

Pony put his head over my heart and shut his eyes as I rocked him back and forth. I felt my eye lids become heavy.

"I'm not going to make you cry no more." Pony said suddenly.

"I feel lousy." Soda yawned sitting on my arm rest. "Rather take the whipping again, then make you cry."

I rubbed my eyes awake. I hated the sound of whipping it made me feel more like a slave trader or something. "Let's just hope none of us have to do scenario again. Sodapop go to bed little buddy." I watched as he kept nodding off. I was waiting for him to fall face first into the floor. "Go on, Pony's fine." I pushed him off the arm chair gently to get him moving. Soda listened he walked slowly down the hall and fell asleep. As for Pony he was still shook up. We stayed there for a while, I tried to tell everything I could think of to help calm him but nothing worked.

"Come on Ponyboy, we both need sleep." I took him into the bathroom and found the bottle of sleep pills. I hated giving him these things; the last thing I wanted was for him to get some crazy addiction. I handed him two and a glass of water and watched him swallow them down. The pills worked pretty fast.

"No more crying Darry, we are both going to be good." He told me as I picked him up again.

"Alright." The pills worked pretty fast, his words were slurred and he wouldn't have been able to make it to the door. Pony rested his head on my shoulder and finally relaxed. I carried him down to the hall. I opened the door to his room and kicked a bunch of clothes out of the way.

"Darry?" Pony called from his sleep.


He lifted his head off my shoulder and opened his eyes. "I love you." Then boom, he was out like a light.

I laid him next to Soda and pulled the covers to his chin and gently ruffed his hair. "Right back at you kid." I said.