Chapter 18 (THE LAST ONE)

"Hey, Pony?" Soda begins uncomfortably.

"Yeah?" I say lazily, watching the others smoke and finally giving in. "Hey, can I have one?"

"I thought you didn't smoke anymore." Soda says accusingly.

"Sometimes I still smoke, just to calm my nerves…"

"You must've smoked a lot." Two-Bit grins at me. I look away.

"Not really."

"I wouldn't either, if I were you." Johnny says quietly, staring at my shoulders. The rest of the gang looks between us before Dally says.

"Alright, Johnny, what do you know that we don't know?"

"The cigarette burns," Johnny asks me, "what happened?"

"Got caught smoking. Burned out the entire pack on me."

"Thought so. What did you do?"

I smirk and say, "I swiped another pack and picked up smoking again, for about two weeks."

"Why?" Johnny asks incredulously. I blow a smoke ring and say forcefully,

"Screw him, that's why." Soda looks at me again,

"I was going to ask you something, before we got off on this tangent."

"What?" I lean forward and look at him intently.

"When…Lilc's attorney asked about having both of us…you really freaked out. I saw you shaking and sweating and muttering something."

"He can't have you." I say forcefully. "I won't let him. I can barely stand he might get me. He won't have you."

"I could protect you, if we were together." Soda argues. I shake my head,

"You don't understand, Soda."

"Make me understand." I look at him for a moment before leaning back.

"You probably already know most people would consider you good-looking." He looks a bit skeptical, but he nods, so I continue. I look at him meaningfully, "So imagine how much money he could make off of you. How much…" I swallow before saying the vile words, "pleasure he could get out of you." I continue, even though most of them look like they're going to be sick. "Soda, you're so full of life and energy and spirit. It would be his idea of fun to turn you into a broken, lifeless, cowering animal. The training, that's the fun part for him. After that, you sort of stop being amusing. When you stop entertaining, he'll kill you." I fall silent then.

"Is that why he ran you into that tree?" Dally asks in a hard voice, "He stopped being interested with you?"

"No, I wasn't fully trained yet. I still had awhile to go before completion. He likes the training and he likes it to last and be a challenge, but he got annoyed with me."

"Nice job, kid." Dallas returns. I smile and Darry announces as he stands,

"Alright, let's get this over with."

We walk back into the courtroom full of apprehension. I sit in my seat as the jurors file in. We go through the motions and then Judge Smithens addresses the panel of jurors. "What is your decision?" One of the jurors stands and declares,

"Guilty, your honor." Judge Smithens nods and says immediately,

"I hereby sentence Hugh Lilc to at least fifteen years in prison." Cheering goes up, but that ends when Mr. Lilc roars and flips the desk over in anger. In one stride he is next to me and he swings his arm to the other side of my body, pulling the chain to my throat in rage before anybody can react.

With the pain pulling at my neck painfully and cutting off air, I yelp and dig at my neck wildly, clawing in an attempt to free myself. His foot slams into the back of my knees and sends me crashing to the floor. I am on my hands and knees, his foot pressing against my back and his chain pulling tighter at my neck. The police are trying to get him off, but they don't want to risk me getting hurt. He has a hostage; he has some power. I feel him cross his hands over each other to encircle my neck completely. "Step back!" He yells at the cops wildly. They don't move. He swings his arms, my head going with them, into a wall. He swings over and over and blood pours down my nose. I hear Soda screaming hysterically,

"Do something! Do something!" I'm trying to get loose. I fight against the restraints and say the words in the voice I had become accustomed. The low, begging, sniveling voice. The broken one without life but with complete needing.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Please stop. Please stop." He sneers at me,

"Shut up." Finally, I suppose the cops come up with an idea, because suddenly I can breathe well again. I rub at my neck for a moment before being crushed by a sobbing Soda and then entrapped in a rib-crunching hug by Darry. I say in a joking voice,

"Can't…breathe." They release me sheepishly and the gang saunters over.

"You're bleeding all over the carpet, kid." Dallas says roughly, handing me a rag. I take it and say automatically,

"Sorry." I hold it to my nose for a moment. "At least it isn't broke." I offer dully. They grunt and we walk out of the courtroom. I look at Darry for a minute and say,

"So…what now?"

AN: So, obviously I've decided to do a sequel. It's going to be called Adjustment. This one will be from Darry's POV about helping a broken Ponyboy and fixing his relationship with Soda, as well as stress with his job and bills and some gang drama. Maybe some Johnny abuse trauma. I might throw in a girlfriend, but i don't want to turn this into a soap opera. Tell me what you think. Thanx. Meg aka Unknown Brilliance.