At this point, Darry knew Two-Bit was just laughing for the sake of laughing. For the pure pleasure of mocking. Darry quietly sipped his coffee, waiting for the guy to tire of the fake forced laughter. Luckily for him, it was Dally who tired of it.

"You be quiet," Dally muttered, swatting Two-Bit across the head. "It wasn't even funny."

Two-Bit pouted. "Then you're not seeing it the way I am. Darry finds kid, Darry saves kid, kid leaves, Darry is stuck with the bill."

"Yes," Darry grumbled. "I can so see how that can be hilarious."

"Did the punk steal any of your stuff?" Dally asked as he took a swing of his coffee.

"I looked around but I didn't notice anything missing. From what I could gather the kid came in and then just collapsed on my couch."

"And aside from the tv and the silverware, you really don't have anything worth stealing."

"Two-Bit, I will hit you…"

"What about the cops?" Dally piped up, leaning over to grab yet another packet of sugar. He added the empty packet to his now growing pile of pink paper. "They have you in the system now?"

"I've always been in the system," Darry said to him, eyeing the pile. "By the way, I think I just got diabetes from watching you drink that."

Dally mixed his sweet coffee with deliberate vigor. "Har-har. You know what I mean. Because they suspect you for beating the kid-"

"They don't," Darry insisted. He frowned. "At least, I don't think they do. I was too busy worrying about the kid."

"Oooh…" Two-Bit grinned, leaning forward on his elbows eagerly. "Worried, were you? Did that kid…" He slyly patted Darry's arm. "…pulled a few of your heartstrings? Ignited the motherly instincts?"

Lighting up a cigarette, Dally muttered, "Knock it off, you moron. The point I'm trying to make, Darry, is that you tried to do a good deed and it bit you in the ass."

"Oh yeah?" Darry raised an eyebrow at the young man. "What would've you done, if you found some beaten kid on your couch?"

"Throw his ass out to the curb," he said without emotion. "If he wanted a home, he should go to the orphanage."

Darry grimaced into his coffee, hearing the cold tone in Dally's voice. They all knew the vague details of Dally's life- the hardships he went through. One would think because of that, it would've made the young man more sympathetic to others like him. It didn't.

Two-Bit made a whistling noise. "Woo, that's cold. Remind me to never crash at your place."

"Well," Darry stood. He threw a few coins on the table. "I gotta get home. I've got homework to do."

"You coming to my rodeo tonight?"

"Yeah, maybe," he threw over his shoulder as he pulled on his jacket. "If I get done on time. Don't hold your breath."

He quickly said his good-byes and left the little coffee shop. Darry's cold words were still ringing in his ears and he too wondered if this was all worth the trouble. After all, the kid came into his apartment, violated his space, wasted his time and his money. The young man only had his scholarship to rely on; his other expenses had to come out of his own pocket. His scholarship didn't even cover books or health insurance.

Huffing, Darry pushed those thoughts out of his head. He had homework to focus on.

He sighed. He didn't understand the damn book. To him, it was all just a giant romance and he didn't care much for Ashley's character. Darry saw the movie (he thought it was okay) and thankfully it helped him with following the book, but overall, he just didn't get it. Scarlett O'Hara was too much of a rich girl for him to feel any sympathy for her.

For a good deal of his walk towards his apartment he muttered such things to himself. He silently went over the symbolism, the words of the book, the personality of the characters; he was so deep in thought that he didn't registered the sight of a young boy scouring through trashcans until a few moments later.

He blinked and quickly backtracked. His eyes went wide at the sight of the kid, who was too busy looking through the trash to notice him.

It was that kid. The same one from the previous night. If the clothes weren't a dead giveaway, then the still swollen face was. The kid had one eye open and it surprised Darry to see, from this distance, on how incredibly green that eye was. Both of his eyes, if his other wasn't swollen shut.

He looked awful. His cheeks were red and Darry suddenly remembered the kid had a fever last night. The antibiotics the doctors gave him, weren't they working?

Suddenly, the kid seemed to finally sense someone was watching him. He looked up and fixed that green eye on Darry. It went wide.

"Hey-" Darry muttered.

The kid bolted. Darry reached out to grab him but the kid went right under his arm, dodged his hand and ran for it. Darry ran right after him, unsure why he was following him or what he'll do if he caught him.

Damn he's fast, Darry thought wildly as the kid placed distance between them. He willed himself faster. The kid suddenly took a wild right turn into the park by diving through some large bushes. Darry simply jumped over these plants but when he landed, he realized he lost track of the kid.

"Damn," he huffed, looking around. There were a lot of trees and a playground somewhere off in the distance, but the kid was nowhere to be seen. "Damn," he said again. No wonder the police called the kid a Greaser. He turned to leave when the sound of a wheeze caught his attention.

Quietly, Darry followed that sound.

The kid was crouched down behind one particularly large tree, a hand to his chest. His eye was screwed shut, tears streaming down his face as he fought to control his breathing. Darry noted the rattling sound of each breath and winced. The kid was really sick.

Slowly Darry placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. The moment he laid his hand on the shoulder, the boy's bloodshot eye flew open and he tried to run for it. Darry grabbed him, wrapping an arm around the kid's chest. He fought.

"Whoa! Calm down! I'm not going to hurt you! Calm down…calm down…"

The kid stilled, though obviously not to his own choice. His face was down, tears streaked across his cheeks while his chest made that awful rattling noise. Darry laid a hand across his brow, feeling it. It was hot.

He found himself in a predicament. He couldn't take the kid to the hospital, he'll just disappear again. He couldn't just leave the kid here, the boy needed medical treatment and from the way Darry could feel his ribs, food.

Darry knew what was the obvious choice here was and he wanted to moan out loud. Wasn't it just a few moments ago he was declaring that he wanted nothing more to do with this kid? He had a ton of homework to do!

"Shit," he murmured. "Kid, get up. C'mon, get up."

The kid fought again but Darry was easily stronger and much taller than him. "I'm not going to hurt you, stop that. C'mon, this way…"

Awkwardly with one hand around the kid's arm, the other around his torso, Darry half-dragged the boy down the street towards his apartment. The boy barely gave any resistance, if any, at this point and Darry didn't know if it was because he was too sick or he just given up. Either way, he wasn't going to complain; it made it easier to move him.

A few people gave him questioning looks though none made an effort to stop him to ask, "What's a six-foot man doing, dragging a young beaten boy down the street?"

A few minutes later he got to his apartment, literally carrying the boy up the stairs. The warmness of his apartment was a great welcome as he brought the boy to the couch.

He set the boy down, his large green eye staring at him hesitantly. Darry turned to go to the kitchen and at that moment, the boy shot up from the couch and ran for the door.

Darry swung around, hooking his arm underneath the kid's torso, effectively lifting him off his feet and threw him back down on the couch. When the kid tried to get up again, Darry decided he had enough.

"Sit!" He hissed, pointing threateningly at the kid. "Do not move."

Eye wide, the kid stilled, his hands clenching the fabric.

Crap, Darry mentally cursed. He didn't mean to scare him. He sighed and stalked to the kitchen. There, he took out a container filled with leftover beef stew, dumped it in a pot and began heating it on the stove. While that heated, he went to his cabinet where he got some aspirin and a glass of water.

He came back to the kid, who thankfully did not move, and shoved the glass and aspirin into his hands. "Take that," he commanded.

The kid's green eye darted between his hand and his face. Slowly he took the medicine and water from him. Darry didn't leave until he saw the boy hesitantly swallow down the aspirin. Satisfied, he stalked back to the kitchen.

A few minutes later the smell of beef filled the apartment and it didn't take a genius to see the boy was drooling. A little smug, Darry brought the stew to the kid, along with a few cut slices of bread. "Don't eat too fast," Darry said, placing the bowl down in front of him.

The boy didn't touch it.

He looked like he wanted to, very much so. Darry waited for him to make a movement and all the kid did was stare at the bowl with this look of wanting. "Aren't you going to eat?"

The boy glared at him. "I'm not a prostitute."

"What?"

"I don't do those kind of things," the boy said to him, his eye darkening. "If you want that kind of service, there's plenty of guys on 7th street who are willing-"

"Whoa, stop right there," Darry held up his hands and backed away. "I'm not asking you to do anything you don't want to do."

Another glare. "I didn't want to come here."

"Yes, but I'm not asking you to do that. I'm…" Darry fought the shudder that threatened to overtake him. "…I'm not like that."

The boy frowned, eyeing the bowl suspiciously. "Then why are you feeding me?"

Darry crossed his arms, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable in his own skin. "Aren't you hungry?"

"…yeah…"

"Eat then," Darry needed to get away from that green eye, the one still staring at him. "If you think that's all I want from you, you can leave."

The bowl of soup was way too inviting just to leave. "What do you want from me?"

"I want you to eat!"

The boy looked unsure if he should believe him or not. Slowly he picked up the spoon and brought it to his mouth. The next scoop wasn't so hesitant. The third scoop went in without restraint.

Darry watched the scene long enough to ensure the boy wasn't going to choke and went back into the kitchen. He searched the drawers for his old ice bag, the one he used back in high school for his knee. He found it, filled it with ice and went back to the boy.

He was pleased to note when he came back, he saw the kid scraping the remnants of the bowl with the last bit of bread. "Here," he said, passing over the ice bag. "Put this on your eye."

When he didn't take it, Darry huffed out frustrated, "Jesus Christ kid, I don't want that from you. Just take the damn bag!"

The boy took it, and carefully placed it on his face. That green eye stared uneasily back.

Uncomfortable, Darry went back to the kitchen to wash the dish the kid eaten out of. For the two minutes he was by the sink, he wondered what he should do now. Should he call the officials, the police, the welfare office?

Once the dishes were dried and put away, Darry went back to the living room. Thankfully, the kid hadn't move. He dutifully kept the icepack over his eye, looking miserable.

He was also filthy.

Darry eyed the dirty clothes, the mud stained shoes and the streak of dirt across the boy's cheek. He remembered that it rained last night and wondered if the kid had been caught in it. Without a word, Darry crossed over to his linen closet and pulled out a few clean towels. He tossed them to the kid and said, "The bathroom's over there. Hand me your clothes so I can-"

The boy stood suddenly. He threw the icepack to the ground and said, "I told you, I am not doing any of that!"

Darry gritted his teeth. Was he still going on about that? "And I told YOU, I don't want it!"

"That's what they all say!" The kid shot back. "The food, the medicine, the icepack…in the end, they all want the same thing."

Darry had enough. He tried to do a good deed and like Dally had said, it bit him in the ass. He wasn't about to stand here and be accused by some… brat of wrongdoings. Hadn't he already proven more than once that he had no intention of harming the kid?

He almost ripped the door off its hinges when he wrung it opened. "Get out," He spat. "If you believe I'm so malice then you can leave."

The green eye narrowed at him. "Gladly," he said.

Once the kid was out the door, Darry slammed it shut. He was furious. He'd never felt so mad in his life.

And yet at the same time, he felt sick.

His hands were shaking. Darry rubbed them together to stop them. He hadn't felt so sick since that time when someone had accused him of plagiarizing.

This was worse.

It scared him to think that young boy had been exposed to such things. That it messed him up so badly now he couldn't accept a kind gesture without thinking it came with a price tag.

Of course it didn't help Darry practically kidnapped him from the park, took him to his apartment and yelled at him.

Darry rolled his eyes. "Damn me to hell," he hissed, opening the door. He looked out, hoping to see the kid. The streets were empty except for the occasional car.

()

A/N: This chapter changed so many times. It took many different paths that would've changed the fic dramatically, in terms of length, plot, and characterization. I hope you guys liked it! R/R!