Slightly shorter author's note: I don't own The Outsiders or Desperado by The Eagles. This is the last chapter. I had started to write one about all the guys, what they were up to, but it felt kind of forced and arbitrary, like I was pulling futures out of a hat. The only things set in stone were that Darry and Sarah got married and that Two-Bit was finally marrying Kathy (probably because of the tattoo, lol).
Epilogue: Part Two
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
The Harley hugged the road as the lone rider leaned into the sharp curve. The wind whipped through his hair; his helmet attached to the back of the bike - his wife would bitch him out if she knew he wasn't wearing it.
It was so surreal out here – like he was driving through another world. Everything was so green and bright and alive that it almost hurt his eyes to look at it. Growing up, he'd been surrounded by cold and concrete. Later, he'd been consumed by trash and dust. Both places had suffocated him, trapped him. He never noticed it until later, until he'd finally gotten out of there.
The plan had been to head back to New York, to entrench himself in the crime and danger he'd grown up with. He'd tried to capture that back in Tulsa, but that was small time kid's stuff compared to New York. He was going to reconnect with old friends – hard-bitten bastards who made the Curtis gang look about as menacing as a pack of kittens. From day one, he'd been pegged as a no-good hoodlum – from his parents to his friends to his teachers to cops – all the way down the line, everyone saying he wasn't going to amount to nothing. He'd show them – show them just how deep he could sink, just how low he could get before he was swallowed whole, spit back out in a prison jumpsuit or a body bag.
Needless to say, the whole New York City crime spree idea wasn't the best plan in the world and certainly not a real tragedy when it didn't work out the way he hoped. Somehow he'd found himself stranded in a steel town in Pennsylvania. New York was only a few hours from where he was, but Buck's T-Bird was a broken-down piece of shit and he was completely tapped out and couldn't afford air for the tires, let alone the overhaul of the engine the damn thing needed.
He could have stolen the money for repairs, but the last thing he needed was to wind up locked up in Bumblefuck, Pennsylvania before he even crossed into Jersey. He needed money and he needed it fast. He was only going to stay a week, two tops, he'd told himself. He just needed to make some quick cash to fix up the car and get his ass to New York.
He found himself working at the local steel mill, not exactly his first choice but definitely the easiest place to get a job. The steel mill was always hiring temp workers and transients to help with the load. He was surprised to find himself enjoying it. He had never worked an honest day in his life and you couldn't get much more honest than hauling tons of steel all day. It wasn't long before two weeks stretched into three and then four and then months had gone by. The money was good. Not as good as it had been with Shepard, but those days were long gone.
Working in a steel mill had its dangers, and on more than one occasion he found himself in the local emergency room nursing an injury. It was during his first trip there that he crossed paths with Donna, an ER nurse who he tried unsuccessfully to antagonize. Something about him and nurses - he never met one he didn't try to piss off. Donna, though … man, she either had the toughest skin of anyone he'd known, or she was a master at hiding her anger. She didn't crack, not once. It became a challenge to him after that. He liked challenges.
It was on his third trip to the ER that he was certain he had finally pissed her off enough for her to notice him. It wasn't an angry expression or a heated word that tipped him off, though. No, it was huge, wide bore needle that had been jabbed without warning, Norman Bates-style into his ass cheek. His startled scream alerted several doctors and nurses who came running to the room, shocked to find him hopping around, bare-assed, as his nurse hung onto a chair, doubled-over with laughter.
He asked her out the next day and she shocked the hell out of him by saying yes.
And now they had kids - two of them - a boy and a girl. The girl was a troublemaker, like her dad. Someone out there had a fucked up sense of humor, saddling Dallas Winston with a miniature version of himself, granted one in pigtails and pink frilly clothes. His son, well his son wasn't like either him or Donna. Somehow they'd wound up with a little Ponyboy Curtis clone, studious and daydreamy, always staring off into space as though he saw something out there that normal people couldn't see. Well, he never did figure out how to have a conversation with Ponyboy Curtis, and he was having a bitch of a time figuring out how to relate to his own kid. He hoped to have it figured out by the time the kid turned eighteen.
He shook his head and grinned slyly, wondering what his seventeen year old self would think of the man he'd become. Hell, he still couldn't believe it himself.
He came to a crossroads and stopped. Pulling over to the side of the road, he turned off the engine and pulled out a cigarette. It was going to be dark soon, the sun sliding toward the horizon, edging everything in gold. He tilted his face toward the sky. If you close your eyes, he thought to himself, you can actually feel the sun set. The warmth slowly faded, replaced with a serene coolness, calming the wildness inside him - softening his hard edges.
He pulled out a folded piece of paper from his battered leather jacket. Yellowed and brittle with age, the letter was still wrinkled in spots from when he had carelessly tossed it aside. He could still remember how his hands shook after he'd finally retrieved it from the corner of the jail cell. How nervous he'd been as he tried to flatten it out, tried to repair the damage he'd done.
He didn't need to read the letter to remember what it said - he'd memorized it years ago. But looking at it grounded him; the careful, thoughtful handwriting reminded him that he could be a good person, that he didn't need to be consumed with hate and anger.
There's still lots of good in this world, he read. Tell Dally, I don't think he knows.
A warm smile spread across his face as he gazed at the setting sun. Johnny, man, I know.
Carefully, reverently, he folded the letter and placed it back in his jacket. Tossing aside his cigarette, he started up the motorcycle.
Looking at the crossroads, he weighed his options. He made a few quick calculations in his head and, decision made, turned left. He'd call his wife to explain as soon as he came across a pay phone - she'd understand.
The road opened up before him. A surge of excitement welled up inside of him and he finally understood what it meant to be gold. It only took ten years, but sometimes, he figured, these things take time.
As long as his luck held out, he should be in Oklahoma by tomorrow night …
A/N - Thank you so much to everyone who has read this and reviewed it over the years. I had a great time writing it and made so many friends because of it. I really wished I could have properly ended it, but I think that this at least wraps thing up. After all, nothing better than the image of Dally riding off into the sunset on the back of a Harley.