A/N: An idea I had while suffering from the same sickness.

Warnings: This will get AU, but not normal AU, if you know what I mean. I'll eventually altar the universe we live in and do plot stuff not conceivable in today's world, though I PROMISE it is not very far fetched at all (ie Pony will not be summoning demons and Darry will not have the power to turn blue). Still give this a shot; it is perfectly believable once you get up to there. The only big AU warning is that Soda's got asthma.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.


"C'mon, get up, lazybones!" Darry called. "Both of you! Breakfast is ready, let's go, let's go!"

Darry heard Pony groan loudly and could just imagine him rolling over to put his head under the pillow and try for some more sleep. He heard nothing at all out of Soda. That was nothing new. At their house, Pony was always the first one awake but was the last to get out of bed. Soda had trouble sleeping due to the asthma; if he slept lying down he'd end up with incredibly pained breathing while if he slept propped up on several pillows a painful back was what he suffered through. A painful back was always better than lack of breath, however, and sitting up was how Sodapop forced himself to sleep every night.

Darry put each of the plates on their subsequent places at the table and went to wake his brothers.

He leaned against the doorframe and watched the two of them. There was no doubt Pony was awake; he could see the tension in his arm as he held the pillow over his head, trying to block out sound and light. Soda was absolutely dead to the world. "Pony," Darry called. The pillow jammed itself harder onto Pony's head. "Pony, get up, you're going to be late for school."

Pony groaned and discarded the pillow, sitting up and rubbing eyes that were adorned by dark rings underneath. "Can't I skip school today, Darry?" Pony said in a voice Darry couldn't help but describe as whiny. "Soda had a real bad night; I couldn't get any sleep."

"You shoulda got me," said Darry, sitting on Soda's side of the bed. "But you can't skip school. What kind of guardian would I be if I let you skip every time a brother or a friend wasn't feeling too hot?"

Pony whined slightly but stood up and went to get breakfast. Darry started to shake Soda awake. Years of lack of sleep caused by pain or coughing – not to mention less oxygen intake than most people – had made Soda into someone who could sleep through absolutely anything. "Soda," he called softly. "Time to get up, little buddy."

Soda groaned softly and coughed. "Heard you had a bad night," Darry murmured, rubbing his arm soothingly. "You up for going to work today?"

Inwardly, Darry had a constant battle going on in his head, and it came to the forefront at times like this. He knew they desperately needed Soda's paycheck, particularly with the expensive medicines they had to buy, but he wished he could just let Soda quit. He wasn't well enough to work; there was no doubt in his mind about that, but any days off cost them dearly.

"Yeah, I'll be fine, Dare," Soda said. Darry was so proud of him. Before their parents had died, Soda had skipped school frequently not just for boredom, but also for his health. As soon as they died, he, like Darry, had stepped up to try and get Pony through college.

"Kay. Breakfast is ready. Get up before it gets cold." Darry exited the bedroom, leaving Soda to concentrate on willing his body to leave the peaceful blackness of slumber and rejoin the waking world. He rubbed his chest, wincing slightly as his breaths caused his lungs to sting. He had always had worse problems than most in regards to his chest pain, but in return, severe blocking of the airways was less common than for the majority for Sodapop.

He stood up slowly to prevent sudden severe pain or coughing, something he had learned to do after years of experience. It was as though life were in slow motion for him; and while he was used to it, it hurt to see everyone around him so active and joyful when he, himself, could not be.

Breakfast was fairly quiet with two of three Curtis brothers still struggling with the effects of sleep. Darry tried valiantly to keep up his own one-sided conversation, though the responses he got were, at best, single word answers. Looking at the two of them, he decided that they seemed to have had far less sleep than normal. "Okay, why did you get to bed so late last night? Soda, you knew Pony had school."

Soda looked up, almost confused for a moment before realizing what Darry meant. "We got to bed in good time, Darry," he said. "You think I'd let Pony get to sleep too late when he has a pop quiz first period? Nah, he just had a nightmare."

Darry's eyes turned quickly to his youngest brother. "You did?"

Pony looked downwards, seemingly slightly embarrassed. "It's nothing," he said. "It wasn't as bad as usual. And then Soda kept me awake coughing all night!"

"Don't try to pin this on Soda," Darry said. "And how the hell did you know you have a pop quiz today?"

"Two-Bit told me," said Soda, "and I told Pony. Two-Bit knows everything that happens."

"I know," said Darry exasperatedly. "But why the hell did you tell Pony? It's supposed to be a pop quiz! Not to mention the fact that Two-Bit probably got the information through theft."

"Yeah," said Soda. "There's a drawer in the office where all the teachers write down the dates for a pop quiz. Apparently you have to have a certain amount per class per term."

Darry was shaking his head, staring at Soda incredulously. "That doesn't mean you can go telling him!" he cried. "Ain't you got no morals, Soda?"

That last part stung slightly. "Darry, it's just a pop quiz; it's not like they count towards anything. And I didn't do the actual stealing; I just told him!"

Darry stared at Sodapop for a moment before turning to Pony. "How long have you know about this?"

Pony seemed slightly frightened. "About a week, I guess…"

"Well, that's a week of study time you had. I want no less than an A. And you," he turned back to Soda, "if I find out you've been helping him cheat again… well let's just say I won't be impressed. Now come on; we're going to be late for work."

Darry stood up and went to put his dishes in the sink. Pony and Soda stared at each other incredulously behind his back. Pony stood up abruptly, passing his oldest brother to put his dishes in the sink. "Don't you accuse him of cheating," he said bitterly, walking off to gather his things for school.

People accusing Soda of cheating rankled Pony even more than people saying he was dumb. It had been right before he dropped out, right after their parents had died, that Soda brought home an all correct pop quiz marked with a spiky red "F". Darry had phoned the teacher in question, wishing to ask why Soda had scored so low when every answer was clearly marked with a tick. The teacher had told Darry that it was clear Soda had cheated, since he clearly did not have the brains to get an all correct test that he hadn't even known was coming. He had demanded Darry come and see him about Soda's "desperation" and "lack of moral grounds". Darry had almost agreed with the accusations, until he asked what the test was about. It was a test for health class, on the effects and treatment of asthma.

Soda never went back to school, and Darry never saw the teacher. Pony still remembered hearing Soda cry that night when he thought he was asleep. It didn't matter what his family said; that they knew he deserved an A and the teacher was off his rocker. It didn't matter what they said because Soda already knew he knew his stuff. He lived it. He had lived it for years. All that had mattered to him at that point was a grade he knew he would never obtain in any other test. That hundred per cent mark…


A/N: Poor Soda...

Reviews are always apprieciated... hint hint...