A/N: Hi, guys. This is my first story, and I'm pretty excited about it. I really like to write, and I'm hoping you enjoy this as well. Please, if you feel like anything could use work or have an idea about the story line, either send me a message or leave a review. I will accept flames, though I hope I don't get any. lol. Anyway, on with the show, as it were. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: S.E. Hinton owns the Outsiders. Garth Brooks owns the song.

Ch. 1 - Standing Outside the Fire

We call them cool

Those hearts who have no scars to show

The ones that never do let go

And risk the tables being turned

We call them fools

Who have to dance within the flames

Who chance the sorrow and the shame

That always comes with getting burned

But you got to be tough when consumed by desire

Cause it's not enough just to stand outside the fire

Soda's P.O.V.

Seventeen candles stared back at me as I drew in a breath to blow 'em out. Something caught my eye, though, and I let out a sigh instead. I looked over the cake, over the candles, over the celebration, and I saw four pairs of eyes looking at me. But it wasn't the eyes themselves that caught my eye; it was a glimmer in each. Each pair held hope and I instinctively knew that hope was for me.

I'm seventeen today, and I can hardly believe I made it here. This last year has be the roughest I've known, and that's saying a lot, I guess, coming from a greaser. But I'm here, and I'm whole, and despite a few tough breaks, bumps, and bruises, I'm loved.

I looked at Ponyboy, so tall and so strong, no longer my "baby brother" but nearing an equal. Don't tell him that though, he still thinks I can whoop him good, and I probably still can, but the day is nearing when the fight will be fair. He's a little down and out these days, but he's bright and he's quick, and despite the hell these last few months have put him through, he's a good kid. He'll be fine. God, I love that kid. So much sometimes it hurts.

Next to Pony stood my buddy Steve, and I'll admit, the placement surprised me. Steve always ragged on me for bringing the kid along, but I guess tragedy has a way of bringing out the better sides of people and helpin' you get over things you used to think were important. We might fight and bicker and wrestle a hell of a lot, but Steve's my best friend, and he always will be. He'd fight to the death for me, and I for him, just like a brother, but he was also strong in other ways. When Pony was gone and everything happened with Sandy, I don't know what I'd have done without him. He kept telling me everything would be okay. And when he said it, I felt like it might maybe happen. Maybe. Just so long as he kept sayin' it.

Darry stood tall and strong, like the rock he always thought he had to be. Only a handful of times in my life had I seen him break, and they were all in the last 12 months. He's so sure, I thought as he smiled my way. He's so sure that everything will work out for me. He's so sure that we'll have the lives we've always wanted. I only wish I could be so sure...

"Glory, Sodapop, what the hell are you waitin' for, the cows to come home? Quick, somebody call the fire department; Soda's goin' to bring them cows back!" Two-bit cackled from my left. Good ole Two-bit, I thought, as I sucked in another breath. What would we do without that laugh and those damn jokes? We'd go crazy, but we'd do it in peace, that's what.

I finally sputtered out that breath and put out all the candles at once, pointlessly wishing with all my might for things to be normal again. Stevie hit the lights and the chocolate cake in front of me made my mouth water. I guess this is it, I thought. This is my life now; no Johnny, no Dally, no Sandy. But I've got these guys, my brothers and my best friends, and I'm holdin' on to them for all I'm worth.

Maybe I'm tryin' too hard, but there's gotta be hope. I just know it.