This is a one-shot taking place post-book.

Thank you so, so much to whatcoloristhesky who beta read this for me so that Steve's not a candyass.

I don't own The Outsiders. That amazing piece of literature that I'm so obsessed with belongs to S.E. Hinton.

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"I can't believe you actually did that," Soda exclaimed. His gaze went from Ponyboy to Two-Bit to Steve, all of whom where grinning.

"Darry deserved it," Two-Bit said with a little laugh, indicating the balloons and streamers that covered the living room.

"He's gonna kill you," Soda said, taking a look above him at the "CONGRATULATIONS" sign that decorated the room. In a messy scrawl, Two-Bit had taken a permanent marker and added "Mr. Dating Machine" to the bottom right hand corner.

Ponyboy put his hands in front of him in surrender. "That was Two-Bit's idea. I don't want to die yet."

Soda glanced at the front window out of the corner of his eye, hearing the roar of Darry's truck as he pulled up outside the house.

"Think we should hide?" Two-Bit asked, making his way towards the back of the large armchair in front of the television. "People usually pop out and shout during surprise parties, don't they?"

"It's not a party," Steve snorted. "But sure, Two-Bit, you go ahead and hide. I'm sure Darry does real good when people jump out at him. Especially after they've filled his house with shit that he's going to have to clea—"

He broke off as the front steps creaked.

"Show time," Two-Bit murmured, giving the closest balloon a light punch, just as the front door swung open.

Darry took a step inside, and then froze in place, his eyes going wide as he took in the scene. His eyes scanned the room, finally pausing on the enormous "CONGRATULATIONS" sign that was spread from one wall to another. A look of confusion crossed his face.

"What the hell?" He looked between the boys, finally settling on Two-Bit, who wasn't even attempting to keep a straight face. "What's this?"

The room was silent in response as Darry glanced back at the sign, mouthing the words "Mr. Dating Machine".

A look of recognition dawned on his face, followed by one of irritation and a hint of amusement. Upon seeing Darry's expression, Two-Bit burst into laughter, which Steve, Ponyboy, and eventually Sodapop, joined in on.

Darry silently looked between them for a few seconds before shaking his head. He pushed a balloon out of his way before trudging down the hallway, towards the bathroom. Over his shoulder, he called, "I'm taking a shower. This better be cleaned up by the time I'm done."

"A cold shower?" Two-Bit returned, hooting with laughter. Darry swore under his breath, continuing down the hall as if Two-Bit hadn't said anything.

Soda rolled his eyes, giving Two-Bit a half-hearted shove. "He hasn't even gone on the date yet, Two-Bit."

"That don't mean he ain't—"

Ponyboy grimaced, knowing the conversation was headed in a painful direction. Reaching up to take a hold of one of the streamers, he cut in, "I bet Darry'd miss his date to kick our heads in if we don't clean this stuff up."

"I bet Superman'll kick our heads in anyway 'cause Two-Bit's such a dumbass," Steve muttered, plopping down on the couch.

"Smartass," Two-Bit corrected.

"How many times did your mother drop you on your head?"

"Will you both just shut up and help me?" Ponyboy demanded, interrupting their banter as he ripped another handful of streamers from the wall.

Two-Bit sighed and took a seat in the armchair in front of the TV. "Soda's not doin' nothing. Tell him to do something."

Ponyboy looked imploringly at Sodapop, who just shook his head. "I just got home from work, Pone. I'm gonna go get changed."

"Thanks," Pony said sarcastically, watching Soda make his way towards their room. As neither Two-Bit nor Steve moved, he picked up a pillow and threw it at Steve, hitting him squarely in the face. Firmly, he said, "I'm not cleaning this up by myself."

"You tell him, kid."

"I'm talking to you, too, Two-Bit."

"Sure," Two-Bit said absently. He stood up and, for a brief moment, Ponyboy thought that he was actually going to help. He let out an exasperated cry as Two-Bit simply walked over to the television, turned it on, and returned to his seat. Two-Bit frowned at the screen. "Andy Griffith," he murmured distastefully.

Sighing in defeat, Ponyboy hurriedly ripped the last few streamers off the wall before starting in on the balloons. They'd been easy to lift, being in such small packages, and Two-Bit had gone a little overboard. It'd be surprising if the store had any supply of balloons left. Subtlety wasn't one of Two-Bit's strengths.

Ponyboy slowly looked down the hall, hearing the shower turn off. Darry hadn't looked too angry with the balloons, streamers, and sign, but Pony wouldn't put it past him to ground him for not cleaning it up. "Shit," he swore under his breath, cursing himself for ever going along with Two-Bit and Steve. Two-Bit could be persuasive when he wanted to be, and, even after knowing him for years, Pony still wasn't smart enough to refuse. Well, actually, he had refused. Ponyboy had just taken it back when Steve had said, "Told you the kid wouldn't do it. Pay up, Two-Bit." He figured that, more than anything, it'd be worth it to go along with the plan so that Steve would lose the bet that he and Two-Bit had made. Ponyboy couldn't help but get some satisfaction out of pissing Steve off.

The door down the hall opened and Darry emerged with a towel wrapped around his waist. He glanced down the hall, shooting the three of them a warning look before heading towards his room. As soon as they heard his bedroom door snap shut, Steve started snickering. "Nice going, Two-Bit."

"Shoot, Steve. Darry was just flexing his muscles 'cause he wanted to practice it out for us before he does it for the ladies."

"I don't think that was it," Ponyboy cut in, giving up on cleaning. He knew that there wasn't a chance he'd get rid of everything by the time Darry was done getting dressed. "It was supposed to look threatening."

"Maybe that's why the girls keep trying to slap you, huh Two-Bit? You think they're trying to impress you when really they're telling you to back off before they start wailing on you," Steve suggested, smirking. "You're not as smooth as you think you are."

Two-Bit shook his head. "Go find Kathy. She sure as hell didn't have a problem with me when we went to Buck's last Satu—" He broke off as he heard laughter coming from the hall. He looked up to find Soda leaning against the door frame, arms crossed.

"Did you guys move at all?" Sodapop asked, grinning.

Two-Bit mock glared at him. "I got up and turned the TV on."

"A shining moment," Steve added sarcastically.

Soda glanced around the room, seeing that there hadn't been much of a change since he'd left; the sign, as well as the majority of the balloons, were still in place. He looked at his younger brother, who was standing sullenly and biting his lip in irritation. "C'mon," he began, taking one corner of the large sign and indicating Pony to do the same. Together, they tore it down as Soda said, "You know, you don't gotta give Darry such a hard time about this date."

"It don't bother him," Steve defended. "'Sides, Evie's being real pissy and I ain't in the mood to deal with her, so we ain't got anything better to do."

"It ain't like he's never been on a date before."

"This is his first one in a while," Steve reasoned. "Might as well do something with it."

"That better not be your excuse," Darry's voice said from the doorway.

The four of them looked up. Sneering, Steve stood up, muttering something about his car needing a wash. He was out the door before anyone had had the chance to move.

Cackling, Two-Bit followed suit. With a, "Make sure you're being safe," to Darry, he departed.

The three Curtis boys stared at the place where Steve and Two-Bit had disappeared, Darry and Ponyboy scowling while Soda fought back a smile. Slowly, Darry turned to face the other two.

"Soda?" he asked, indicating the remainder of the decorations.

With an apologetic look at Pony, Soda said, "It ain't mine. I just got here before you did."

Darry spun around, gazing down at Ponyboy. "Yours?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

"…Some of it."

For a few seconds, Ponyboy was under the impression that Darry was going to start yelling. However, he couldn't mask his surprise as Darry's face split into a grin.

"I wonder what they'll do to you on your first date." With that, he turned around and headed into the kitchen, leaving a dumbfounded Ponyboy to think his words over.

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A/N Please review if you have a second ^_^