It has been quite a while, and I am terribly sorry for that. It's been kind of hectic lately with summer work and what with the school year starting, I'm working my way back into the routine I've learned to hate. Now, enough with terribly lame and overused excuses! On to chapter thirteen of Alternate! You all know how cursed the number "13" is? Well, read this chappy and you'll know what I'm talking about. (hint: the 13th chapter is cursed to be seen by this writer and probably the readers as the worst.)

Disclaimer: I do not own 'The Outsiders'

Ponyboy POV two weeks later

I walked into the hospital room and saw Dally sitting in the seat, staring intently at Johnny. This is what he has been constantly doing over the past month. I sat down in the seat next to him. Dallas regarded me with a nod before turning back to Johnny.

"Hey, Johnnycake." I said. "There's not really a lot going on right now. Remember, before, when we had seen 'Gone with the wind'? That was some fun, huh? Mr.Syme has us reading the book, now... I couldn't take it from the school library but, I found another really good book... figured you'd like it"

I noticed then that Dallas was staring at me. I ignored his stare and dug through my backpack before pulling out the book 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

"It's called 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'" I told Johnny. "I could read it to you"

So, I started reading it to him, and reading and reading until I heard snoring and realized that Dallas had fallen asleep. I sighed, feeling suddenly very tired. I was about to drift off where I sat when I heard an unbroken beep. Flatline.

I shot up and was about to call a doctor or nurse or someone when a stream of them came into the room, holding all sorts of different equipment and set to work. One of the nurses saw me and yelled. "Someone get that kid out of here"

I felt a hand on my shoulder and I was being guided out of the crowded room. The last thing I heard before the door was closed was a doctor yelling "Shit, we're losing him!"

Johnny POV

I heard Ponyboy reading and, suddenly, the darkness around me got so much heavier. Unbearably heavy until I was suddenly in a tunnel. Behind me was more of the darkness, thick and full of the unknown... In front of me, there was a golden light. It was so warm and bright... I started walking towards it but stopped when I heard a familiar voice.

"Johnny?" I heard Mrs.Curtis say. She stepped closer, from where the golden light was coming from. She stopped at the halfway point, as if a barrier were stopping her. "Johnny, you shouldn't be here. Go back." She said.

I couldn't stop gaping. I couldn't believe it. Was I really here? Was she really here? Where was here?

Mrs.Curtis smiled gently. "This is what we on the other side like to call 'the crossroads.' It's true, though. No matter how inviting, you should stay away from the light. It isn't where you belong right now." She told me. I believed her. I didn't need to die right now. But, what did I have to live for? "You have your brothers." She piped up, as if reading my mind. I knew she meant the gang. "They need you as much as you need them. Everything will be better once you're back"

Very suddenly, Mr.Curtis ended up standing up next to her, and put an arm around her waist. "I'd listen to her, Johnny. Go back with your friends. You don't need to be hanging around here." He seemed to look past me for a second. "Johnny, go. You've stayed far too long as it is"

I nodded and felt a sudden pulling around my middle, pulling me away from them, away from the light, and into the darkness. I saw them getting smaller and smaller but, still, I heard them one last time as if they were right next to me.

"Tell them that we're proud of them." Mr.Curtis said.

"We're proud of all of them. You too, Johnny." Mrs.Curtis added.

That's when everything was silent.

Third Person POV

Dr.Stevenson walked out to Ponyboy and Dallas, his face grim. Dally had his jaw clenched and Ponyboy looked up from the spot on the floor and inhaled deeply from his cigarette.

"Boys, this is a hospital. I'm going to have to ask you to get rid of those." He said, gesturing to the cigarettes in both of their hands.

Ponyboy took one last drag before grinding it out under his heel. Dally put his out on the ashtray sitting on top of the table in the waiting room. They waited.

"Well, boys, I'm sorry but--"

"Doctor! Doctor!" A petite blonde nurse yelled, running towards him.

"What is it? I'm kind of in the middle of--"

"He's not dead! He pulled through at the last minute."

"That's impossible."

"I have the chart right here, sir." She said, handing it to him.

Dr.Michaels read over the chart, his face showing more astonishment as he continued to read. "Amazing. Well, boys," He said, looking at Pony and Dally. "It looks like your friend made it. I'm sure he'll be somewhat weakened by this. There's no way of telling what affect, if any, this will have on his recovery."

Angela POV two weeks later

'Well, here goes nothing,' I thought, looking up at the hospital building. It wasn't all that impressive. The windows were dingy and the brick and cement was faded and stained. There were dumpsters full of all sorts of trash, medical and otherwise, and there was a man in a tattered leather jacket and jeans outside asking passers-by for money.

"Get a job you fucking slob!" Someone said when he asked her for spare change. She turned her nose up at him and walked away, glancing disdainfully at me as she passed. I sneered at her and she walked away a lot quicker.

Yep, this was still the east side. I was still Angela Shepard. Socs were Socs that still belonged on the West side but came here for their sick kicks (though, I hadn't been jumped since the kidnapping) and the Greasers were still Greasers, victims of society. I sighed, digging in my pocket, and found a nickel. I put it in the cup the hobo outside was holding and he smiled at me; the teeth that hadn't already fallen out were rotted.

"Thank you, young lady. I may be able to feed my family tonight"

I just nodded, before going into the hospital. As I walked towards Johnny's room, I thought of what I had just done. I had helped another person; a person I had never met before... It had just seemed like the right thing to do, especially after the way that woman had talked to him. He was just trying to feed his family. I realized then that that was what Johnny had been doing. He protected me because he knew it was the right thing to do. He fought me when I told him not to because he knew he wouldn't forget it if he didn't watch over me.

I walked faster to the room, knowing a lot more about Johnny Cade than I had originally walking into the hospital. He wasn't a regular Greaser. He wasn't like my brothers or the people in their gang, or Dallas, or anybody. Johnny had compassion. He actually gave a shit about other people, even ones he hadn't grown up with since he was a kid... and I had the feeling that he was stronger than he let on.

I was at the door now, but almost didn't go in. I hadn't actually seen him since... well, I hadn't seen him for a while. Tim wasn't letting me out of the house until he was sure I was fine. He may act like a hood, but I'd be lying if I said he didn't care about me.

I took a deep breath and went inside. Dallas was dozing in the chair next to the bed, and he obviously hadn't been sleeping well these past nights. He had brown stubble growing on his jaw, and his hair was messy and unkempt. I walked around to the side of the bed, opposite from Dallas, and stood silently for a moment. Johnny didn't look too good, but he did look better than he had when he was first brought in. The bruises had faded, leaving his skin pale under the hospital lights. There were alot of machines surrounding him, but, the beeping of the EKG was consistent.

I licked my lips before speaking softly. "Hey, Johnny... um, I'm not sure what to say... I never really got to thank you for what you did, protecting me and all. You didn't have to try and keep me safe, and, you still did. You're different than the others, Johnny. It's a good thing, though. You're a good kid. . . . So, thanks, Johnny... for everything." Having finished what I came to say, I turned to walk out the door.

Dallas POV

I stayed "asleep" while Angela spoke. I could subtly hear, in the background of her thanks, Johnny's heartbeat quicken slightly. It must have meant something to him that Angel appreciated what he did for her.

Angela was right about Johnny, though. He wasn't like other greasers. He and Pony were alike in that way; if not in homelives, then, in attitudes. They saw the world a bit differently. But, something was going to change about them. They had to. People didn't have shit like this happen to them and not change somehow. It sure as hell changed me when I went through it. But, Johnny just might be stronger than me in that sense. Him and Pony, both. They were stronger than me because they could stay who they were no matter what shit life threw at them. I'm hoping it will stay that way.

"So, thanks, Johnny... for everything." She said before turning and leaving.

The door closed quietly and I opened my eyes. Looking back at Johnny, I saw something... almost different from before Angela had come in. When I saw him, he looked pale, sickly, weak... I was seeing him differently now. He was surviving. His face was paler than it had been, but, he wasn't paper-white. Just, as healthy as he could look, having been in the hospital bed for so long. He was still small, but, he was getting stronger everyday. The doc had told me that. They were going to take out the breathing tube tomorrow. He was surviving...

Okay, that was a horrible place to end it. In fact, the entire chapter sucked. But, yes, Johnny does visit the crossroads just before the Summerland. This is not, by any means, a supernatural fic. I just felt that it worked there. And, I have really wanted to put the senior Curtis' into a story, so, there you go. . ...Please, don't ask me to update faster, because, inspiration comes and goes with this story. So, yeah... R&R, please! I really am updating as fast as I can right now... Forgive me for the late update?