Pony's POV:

For a second, I almost didn't recognize Two-Bit. The sideburns that he had so treasured had dissolved into the week-old growth of auburn hair and the hair on his head had been sun bleached practically blond. He'd also let it grow out to just above his shoulders.

He looked tired, I though, older somehow. He looked a lot like Darry did when he used to roof houses; flat out exhausted. But, somewhere deep inside, his eyes still danced like the Two-Bit I remembered.

"How you been Two-Bit?" I asked him as he caught me in a swift bear hug.

"Oh, you know," He shrugged, half a grin on his face. "Just working a lot, trying to save up some money."

Soda started cracking up form the kitchen. "Never thought I'd see the day when Keith Matthews would be holding down a steady job."

"Yeah, yeah get your jollies," Two-Bit said good-naturedly. "I guess I just finally realized that it was about time to stop dicking around and do something with my life."

"What exactly did you do?" Soda asked, as Two-Bit's post cards had always been pretty vague.

And then the twinkle in his eyes was back again, full force. "Saved up enough money to buy the dump you work in," He laughed.

Soda and I were both silent.

"You what?" I cried.

Two-Bit threw his head back and let out a giant, roaring laugh. "Well, I was working on the oil rig--like I told y'all--when the foreman on the site asked me if I'd rather work in the shop fixing all the machines," He told us excitedly. "And they offered to train me, and the pay was better, so I agreed and the rest is history."

Soda's mouth was hanging open. "So… so you're my… my boss?" He asked bewilderedly.

Two-Bit stopped laughing and paused to think about it for a minute. "I guess I am," He grinned and messed up Soda's hair. "C'mon, I want to head down there and check out what needs to be done."

Soda jumped off the counter in the kitchen and started bouncing up and down excitedly. "This is gonna be the best!" He cried, then turned to me. "Ain't it Pony? Ain't it gonna be the best ever?"

I smile, half heartedly, and nodded.

"You want to come with?" Two-Bit asked holding the door open and Soda bounded past him.

"He can't," I heard Darry's deep, rugged voice growl from behind me.

"Why not?" Soda demanded. Lately, he'd been ticking up for me when Darry started in on me.

"Because I told him to clean the bathroom yesterday and he didn't do it," Darry declared.

Soda and Two-Bit both looked at me.

"I did too!" I cried. "I did it right after you told me to!"

"Well you didn't do it good enough," Darry barked. "So you're gonna stay here and do it again, got it?"

Soda's eyes were fiery with rage. He tugged at the ring in his ear that he'd gotten a few months earlier to piss Darry off, a habit he'd developed only recently.

"I'm his big brother and I say he gets to come," Soda announced definitely, as if his word was law.

"Well I'm his biggest brother and I say he's not," Darry said sardonically.

Soda looked about ready to fly off the handle. I caught Two-Bit's eye, plainly telling him to just get Soda out of the house before a real fight broke out.

"Come on pal," Two-Bit said slinging his arm around Soda's shoulder. "I'll buy you and ice cream on the way."

Suddenly Soda looked torn between helping me and going to get a free ice cream. In the end, the ice cream won out and Two-Bit led him out the door with a sympathetic glance towards me.

I blew past Darry, heading for the bathroom. I was really getting sick of him going on these power trips of his. It seemed that he'd been throwing his weight around a lot lately, and I wasn't sure how much more of it I could take.

Thank you, everyone, for your reviews. As those of you who read my wok regularly know, reviews just inspire me to get my chapters out quicker… so REVIEW! Also, I'm looking for someone to beta… other than that keep your eyes open for more chapters coming very soon. J Hannie