This is only my second fanfic – the first was also Outsiders, a very short alternate ending. After reading other fanfics, I felt inspired to try something different, something that has a storyline and keeps growing and changing. I have written only the first chapter, set three years prior to the book.

Please, if you read it, review! Don't be like I used to be and think, meh, someone else will review it. What if every reader on thought like that? Nobody would ever get any reviews! So please, good, bad and the ugly, I want it all. You have an opinion – give it to me.

This story is like me. If I don't get any good, healthy food, I stop going, sit alone in a corner and get forgotten about. If this story doesn't get any good, honest reviews, it will also sit alone in a little corner of fanfic and get forgotten about. See? You want more of this? Or have any ideas or hopes where this could lead? Ummm… and if you think of a better title? :P Tell me.

Disclaimer: Though I would love to own them all, none of the Outsiders are mine. The girl on the couch, however, has come straight out of my head and not S.E. Hinton's. Yes, the girl has a name, but it hasn't come up in the story yet, so therefore I am not telling you yet. :)

Unconscious on the Couch – that's where we met her. Chapter One: Johnny Found Himself

Three years prior to the book

(Pony's POV)

"Dinner's ready," Soda sang proudly, and plonked a large plate of something green onto the table infront of the TV. Two-Bit dragged his eyes from the screen and rolled them dramatically when he saw the food.

"Tell me you didn't just serve up salad!" He groaned. "I'll pass out, I swear."

Soda grinned mischievously and pointed a finger at me and Two-bit.

"Come now, boys – Darry specifically told me that the meal had to include compulsory green things to keep us big and strong." He slid a spatula under a lump of the green stuff and tipped it onto my plate.

"Oh, glory, Soda," I chuckled. "I ain't eating this."

Darry stood up from the pile of bills at his desk to come and see what the fuss was about. He prodded the lump with my fork and held it up to eye level, inspecting it warily.

He looked at Soda in disbelief.

"Pancakes."

Steve leaned over my shoulder and raised his eyebrows.

"Lordy, Sodapop – your first attempt at cooking a meal… I mean, no one expected it to be gourmet, but…"

"Green pancakes?" Two-Bit cut him off, still horrified, staring in shock at the lump dangling from the fork. Soda's eyes were wide, as if he couldn't believe that we were put off by the mere colour of our food.

"I don't believe it. Pony," he looked at me desperately. "Pony, you'll try it, won't you?"

I shook my head profusely and leaned away, as far back into the couch as I could get.

"No way in heck, Soda! Like I said, I ain't eating green---" but he had already twisted off a part of the lump and pulled open my jaw.

"Open wide!" he dropped the piece onto my tongue and sat back, waiting for my reaction, like a criminal waiting for his sentence at a court case. The gang watched on interestedly as I chewed reluctantly, grimacing, then swallowed.

I grinned, running my tongue over my lips.

"You know, that wasn't half bad!"

Steve, Two-Bit and Darry laughed with relief that we weren't going hungry, and Sodapop beamed as they dished out their own helpings of the lumpy green mess.

"I sure hope Johnny and Dally come soon. I asked them to come tonight," Soda stared at the front door anxiously. "They won't want to miss out."

Two-Bit snorted.

"Yup, this is momentous. They'd be crushed if they missed out on your green pancakes," he said dryly.

Soda took him seriously and was about to put their servings aside, when the front door crashed open, smacking into the wall.

"Jesus, Dally, be careful, will you? I don't wanna have to get that door fixed again…" Darry trailed off, and he got to his feet as his irritated expression turned into one of concern. "Dallas… what's going on?"

I spun around to face him, and saw Dally's grim face and the motionless body he held in his arms. The girl's head flopped limply over his elbow, her neck twisted at an unnatural angle. Johnny stood by Dally's side.

"Clear the couch," he said softly. None of us moved, and I could see Steve's mouth frozen mid-chew. "Clear the couch!" Johnny repeated, close to screaming. We leapt to our feet without hesitation, hurriedly stacking the plates and cutlery with a loud clatter and brushing the green crumbs off the suede. Anything that got Johnny hollering like that was worth panicking about. Darry was flustered.

"Dally…" he rubbed the back of his neck, shaking his head. "Why the heck did you bring her here? I'm no doctor, and we ain't exactly ---"

"Darrel. Darrel, Darrel, Darrel." Dally chewed on his gum, rolling his eyes. "I don't give an ass about the girl – this is the kid's doin'…" He nodded his head at Johnny, who blushed and shrugged his jacket over his shoulders. "Begged me to drive her all the way up to the hospital – don't even know the broad!" Dally grunted, and shifted the body in his arms. "Look, can I put her on the couch or not?"

Darry didn't reply, and Johnny stepped forward.

"Please, Darry. Try and fix her," he spoke softly, without making eye contact. "For me." I was confused. What did he mean, for him? Why did this girl mean so much to Johnny? He glanced up from the floor. Darry saw the earnest in his eyes and sighed.

"Soda, Two-Bit, go get everything from the medicine drawer - Steve, you're in charge of the blankets and towels – Pony and Johnny, come help us here," Darry ordered us tersely, and I could tell he was struggling to keep his calm.

He held the girl's legs, and Dally her arms while Johnny entwined his gentle fingers through her hair to support her rolling head. I placed my hands on the small of the girl's back, to stop her from collapsing as we lowered her slowly onto the couch, and jumped when she let out a pained whimper.

"She's half conscious," Dally said flatly. It was then that I realised he really wasn't worried or panicked like the rest of us. Dallas Winston was too hard and cold to feel anything for this girl. His statement wasn't even a warning, just an observation. Steve re-entered the room before I could comment, laden with a bundle of towels and a thick blanket.

"What happened to her? And how'd she get this wet?" he queried, picking at her sodden shirt and glancing at Johnny and Dally in turn. "She's gonna freeze!" He handed me a towel and patted the water droplets clinging to her cheeks.

Johnny sat down on the arm of the sofa and looked at the girl worriedly.

"We found her… at the fountain ---" he said slowly.

"Inthe fountain," Dally corrected boredly. "There was an older guy – a drunk - holding her under. Just kept screaming how worthless she was, that she should just go and die…" he swallowed, and I wondered if he was really as unfeeling as he told us. "Think it was her dad."

"What'd you do?" I jumped again at Two-Bit's voice. I hadn't noticed him come to stand beside me.

"Take a guess, stupid," Dally said harshly. "You're s'posed to be the wiseass here."

Two-Bit's usually dancing eyes turned fiery and he lunged at Dally over the couch, grabbing a handful of his shirt and swinging a punch. With surprising strength, Johnny held back his fist and shoved him across the room and into the wall.

"Look!" he cried angrily. "If you're more interested in windin' each other up than saving this poor kid's life, you can go settle this outside!" Johnny's voice got louder and higher, and he choked on his words. He gulped, and I saw him take a quivering breath. "You can go." He repeated quietly, closing his eyes.

Now I understood.

Johnny, whose father beat him and mother pretended he didn't exist, had found himself, lying on the couch in front of him. Another kid going through the same heartache and pain and abuse. Only, ten-fold. This girl's dad had tried to kill her. I guess Two-Bit saw that too. He ran his fingers through his greased back hair and stared at his feet in shame as he walked back to us.

"I'm sorry," he raised his head to look directly at Johnny, who met his gaze with a steadiness we rarely witnessed. "I am truly sorry. Tell me what I can do to help, I'll do it."

We knew he that he meant it. It was clear when Two-Bit's apologies were from the heart. There was no humorous grin hidden behind his serious face. Johnny nodded.

Dally spat breath, and glared at us.

"Ain't my kid." He turned on his heel and kicked open the front door, lighting up a fag as he stormed onto the dark-lit street. I was shocked. As much as I knew Dally hated apologizing, I woulda thought he could do it for Johnny. He was his pet, his kid brother, and Dally took care of anyone that gave him a hard time – except when it was himself. I could see Johnny was close to tears, and I wrapped an arm around him. Dally leaving was as bad as screaming in Johnny's face that he didn't care if he was being abused or not.

Suddenly the issue of the unconscious girl on the sofa became personal to all of us. Soda snapped us into action first.

"Darry," he said hoarsely. "Whata we gotta do?"

Darry blinked and knelt beside the girl, gingerly feeling her head for injuries. I realised that just minutes ago, he had been inspecting a green pancake – that seemed so trivial now – this girl was on death's door. Darry took a deep breath and sat back on his heels, biting his lip. He looked uncomfortable.

"There are cuts… all over her scalp…" he parted her hair in different places, where blood seeped out of gashes and onto his fingertips. He withdrew them like he had been burned. "I… I can't do this…" he said grimly. "I'm sorry, Johnny." He rolled the girl's head carefully to one side, and I jumped, for the third time that night, as she sucked in a tight breath and began to cough.

"Come on, Darry! You're doin' something right!" Johnny murmured. Darry looked at him, as if begging for instructions. The girl's thin frame shook with each racking cough, and Darry's twitchy hands hovered over her uncertainly.

"I – I should roll her over," He said, hesitating before he did so. The girl spluttered and I slipped the towel under her mouth as she brought up water. She sucked in another hissing breath and her eyelids fluttered open. Glancing at all of us, her blue eyes were more pleading than fearful. She parted her lips and moved them silently.

"She's trying to say something!" Steve exclaimed, and Johnny lowered his ear to the girl's mouth. Her lips moved again and this time her hands flew to the neckline of her shirt. Johnny finished listening and grabbed the scissors from in amongst the bandages that Soda and Two-Bit had found in the medicine drawer, and swiftly cut away the girl's shirt.

"Johnny?" Two-Bit was confused, and knowing him, could probably only think of one reason for taking off a girl's shirt. He leaned closer to see what was happening, and cussed under his breath. Around the base of the girl's throat was a leather belt, pulled so tight across her windpipe that it had dug into her skin and left fiery red welts. Johnny fumbled with the buckle, but with his shaking fingers it seemed to be taking forever, and the girl was going blue. I realised Johnny was crying, and knelt beside him. I lifted his cold hands gently from the belt and gave them a reassuring squeeze. Two-Bit took over, and in moments had the loosened the loop enough to lift it over the girl's head. She gasped in deep lungfuls of air, and gave a shaky laugh of relief, smiling weakly.

Then her eyes rolled into her skull and her head flopped limply onto her shoulder.