SE Hinton owns the Outsiders.

This crazy story is over! Oh, lordy.

Last chapter everyone. Thanks to all who took their time to read, review and stick with this long, odd story. I really appreciate it. It's been the trippiest trip I've ever typed up. But I enjoyed it all. And I hope you did too.

*

XXI. Of Memos Past and Present

Fate's kiss causes all the monitors in the room to go off.

It's late and Darry Curtis, asleep in the chair, jumps a mile as the alarms sound. It takes him a moment to realize the situation and then he begins to holler for help.

Instantly, the room is flooded with nurses and Chris Meigs.

"You should go," a nurse tells Darry. Darry refuses to budge; instead he's prodded into a corner where he wills his legs not to give out and prays like he's never done before.

The heart monitor's once darting line is now straight. Chris swears. "C'mon, Ponyboy!" The nurse injects Ponyboy with the medicine to restart a heart as Chris begins CPR. Ponyboy's chest rises artificially.

Fate waves at me. "That'll be all Everett. Remember what you have to do and best say your goodbyes." I nod. Iris touches Darry Curtis on his shoulder before vanishing, simultaneously flooding him with despair and hope.

Darry visibly pales, his handsome face crumpling.

I cross the room, a ghost in the midst of chaos. Ponyboy, a still figure on the bed, is getting what he wanted. I rest next to him. "You know," I say. "You certainly put up a good fight."

"I've got something!" the nurse cries.

Straightening up from CPR, Chris wipes his hair out of his eyes, examining the monitor. "He's in V-Tach," Chris says. Pony's heart is beating awkwardly. Chris holds his hand out and a nurse passes him the defibrillator. As she does this, I reach out and give the paddles a light tap. I'll fix everything.

Ponyboy's gown is cut open; the paddles rested against his chest and Chris asks, "Let's get a normal rhythm here. Ready?"

"Ready," the nurse says, flipping the switch.

As soon as she does this and Chris shocks Ponyboy, the machine short-circuits, causing a plethora of sparks to explode into the air. Smoke rises from the defibrillator, Ponyboy's chest red and burned. The nurse shrieks.

"Shut it off!" Chris hollers, holding the paddles away from Ponyboy. The stench of burned hair fills the room; I wrinkle my nose. It reminds me all too much of the electric chair of memos past.

Darry's eyes are wide and angry; he doesn't have to be a doctor to know something didn't go right. "What's happening?" When no one answers him, he yells, "Someone tell me what's happening!"

With shaky hands, Chris grasps Ponyboy's wrist, feeling for a pulse. His mouth is drawn in a thin white line.

"I don't know what happened…" the nurse says hysterically, evaluating the paddles. "I just don't know…."

Chris shakes Pony's wrist. "Ponyboy?"

Ponyboy is still. I kneel next to him and pat his hand. "I hope you got what you wanted. I won't be seeing you for a while. You're a formidable opponent who I've come to like." I put my hat back on, swallowing the lump in my throat. The act is bittersweet. I'll miss our chats.

"It's because you see without fear," I tell him, hoping he'll remember this. "That's why you live."

There's a long beat and then Ponyboy begins to cough. Chris stumbles backwards, caught off guard, knocking the tray of utensils onto the floor. Ponyboy's green eyes open. Ponyboy rolls onto his side, stretching cords and wires all around him. He reaches an arm out.

"Darry…"

Darry's a strong man but seeing this, hearing his brother speak, he nearly falls over. "Oh, Jesus Christ," Darry whispers. Then, he has the kid before anyone can pull him away.

Smiling, I rise. "You'll grow up with a strong heartbeat," I tell Ponyboy. But he doesn't hear me; he can't anymore.

*

It's three in the morning but Darry wakes Sodapop despite this. "Soda," he whispers, shaking his middle brother. "Sodapop."

Soda twitches. "What? Darry, what?" He twists on the bed, thinking the worst. "Pony—is he—"

Darry's beaming; something Sodapop has hardly ever seen before. "Ponyboy's awake. He's talking…he's fine."

Soda stares at Darry for a moment and then begins to cry.

*

I yawn, feeling soft golden sunlight on my face. I feel puzzled as to what's happened; my memory dark. I yawn again, rolling onto my side. When I open my eyes, I see Sodapop. He's sitting next to me, holding my hand.

I smile. "Soda, you're awake."

"So are you, kiddo." He rests his elbow on the edge of my bed. "I had to see the good news for myself. How are you feeling?"

"Good." I frown. "You're okay though, right?" As I say this, it all floods me: Everett, the woman, the rumble, the talks, the kiss.

Soda laughs, but it sounds sad. "I'm fine, honey." He runs a hand through his hair. "Glory, you scared me, Ponyboy. You really scared the shit out of us. I didn't think we'd be taking you home. And when—when I thought of how it would be without you…it was just…just black…I couldn't breathe."

That's how I felt, I think, remembering Sodapop on the field at the farm.

Soda sits with me until he falls asleep in the chair. I stare at the cracked ceiling, feeling like I've been away for so long. I touch my chest, the beat keeps going.

*

"Are you sure?" Darry asks, looking down at me with a confused expression.

Chris looks just as confused. "It's what the tests say. And I don't want to argue with them." He checks his notes once more. "It appears that uh, the uh, electric current generatedfrom the faulty defibrillator damaged the heart wall. But the ensuing scar tissue it created sealed the hole in Pony's heart. No more murmur."

I'm quiet, sitting in bed, recalling flashes of a woman with dark hair. Darry rubs my back. "I don't believe it. Are you sure you feel okay?" he asks me.

"I'm fine, Dar."

In fact, I feel better than normal; whole, sturdy. This scares me a bit, wondering what else Everett corrected in me. The minute I get home, I'm heading to the track. That's the final test; whether I can run or not.

Chris seems to read my mind. "You're here for another day or two, kiddo. You still need to rest."

I shift anxiously, crossing my arms. I don't think I can wait that long.

*

"Well, well," Two-Bit drawls, "Check out the invalid."

I laugh. "You're just jealous because you don't get all the Jell-O you can eat."

"I brought you a present," Two-Bit says, tossing me a brown paper bag. I give him a look and he rolls his eyes. "It's not porn, kid. Though lord knows I could use it." He grins and plops on the edge of my bed. "Open it."

From the paper bag, I pull out On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Two-Bit coughs, embarrassed. "I, uh, I thought it looked interesting."

"It's great," I tell him, smiling. "Thanks a lot."

He reaches over to ruffle my hair. "We missed you, kid."

I watch the door. Darry's gone to get Sodapop discharged and between filling out the forms and Soda and Steve's mischief I figure they'll be a while.

"Two-Bit," I begin. "Do you still want to steal a wheelchair?"

Two-Bit's gray eyes narrow. "What exactly do you have in mind?"

*

"Here, fresh air, kid," Two-Bit says, stopping the wheelchair. We're on the south side of the hospital, in a small secluded alley lined with dumpsters. Two-Bit glances up the side of the brick building to my room on the fifth floor. "Take a breath and let's get you back before your—"

I hop out of the wheelchair, relieved to feel ground beneath my feet. I have on my same clothes from the night of the rumble with Skelter. I refused to be wheeled out in a gown.

"Whoa, whoa," Two-Bit hisses. "Who said anything about getting out of that?"

"Ah, c'mon Two-Bit."

"Ponyboy Curtis, sit your ass back down." Two-Bit bats the wheelchair against my knees. "Just because you're in the hospital don't make it right to take advantage of me. Although many have tried."

"Let's race, Two-Bit," I tell him. "Just from here to here." I gesture from our spot to the dumpster about 400 yards away.

Two-Bit looks flabbergasted. "Let's race? Kid, you're still in the hospital, you got the shit shocked out of you, it's goddamn 40 degrees out and you want to race? Jesus Christ on the cross are you nuts?"

I must look pretty pitiful because Two-Bit sends the wheelchair flying. It smashes into the wall. "Fine, what the hell." He points at me. "I'm listening to you for once. Don't make me regret it."

I nod, readying my stance. "I won't."

Two-Bit gets into an awkward sprint position. He's not much of a match but when I couldn't run, anyone could beat me, even Two-Bit Mathews. Two-Bit counts to three and we take off. It's as easy as I remember; my chest doesn't hurt, no harsh breath. I just move my legs and go.

I reach the dumpster, turning to see Two-Bit racing up behind me. He's grinning from ear to ear, realizing what I was trying to do, even if he doesn't understand why. "You got it, kiddo!" he screeches, grabbing me up. "Glory, you got it!"

I'm so relieved I begin laughing. Two-Bit's cathartic. He gets me even when he doesn't.

"What're you two doing out here?" A voice snaps. Two-Bit sets me down. It's an orderly, propping the back door open and glaring at us. He notices the hospital band on my wrist and his eyes widen. "Are you a patient?"

Guiltily, I slink behind Two-Bit who affects mock superiority. "We're dumpster racing, sir. The finals are next week and we'd appreciate it if you give us room."

I laugh into my fist as the orderly scowls once more. He slams the door shut, leaving us alone. "Dumpster racing huh?" I ask Two-Bit.

He nods thoughtfully. "Think I'm onto something?"

*

Darry opens the door, holding up the papers. "You've been discharged."

"You mean I've been sprung, Dar?" To prove my point, I jump out of bed, already dressed in my jeans and t-shirt.

Darry looks amused but also wary. He holds a hand up. "Take it easy. If not for you, for me, kiddo."

I smile crookedly. "Sure, Darry."

Leaning down, Darry picks up my duffel bag. I grab the book Two-Bit got me. Something passing by the door catches my eye and I blanch. "Pony?" Darry asks, seeing me start.

Without answering, I dash out the door. Walking down the hall, her back towards me is a woman with long black hair. I make a move but a hand catches my elbow. "What is it?" Darry asks.

I shake it off. "Nothing, Dar. Nothing."

*

Home is quiet. Soda complains about not being able to work and flail around like his normal self for a whole week but Steve and I manage to keep him entertained.

I can tell Darry doesn't trust Chris Meigs's test results and I feel my brother's eyes on me, watching for the slightest pain or wince.

And there's no Everett.

At first I relish the silence in my head, hardly missing Everett and his strange foreboding warnings. I keep expecting him to show up when I sleep or cause me to pass out and wake up with another strange dream in my head. But it doesn't happen.

I'm left with resentment, unanswered questions. I shouldn't care but I do.

I'm very thankful. Soda's fine, my heart's steady. I just don't understand why it feels as if something's missing.

*

I wake up on the couch, next to Darry. He turns to me, his face highlighted by the yellowish glow of the TV. "What time is it?" I ask.

"Midnight."

"What're you still doing up?" I yawn, stretching my arms. "Ain't you got work tomorrow?"

"I got sucked into this stupid show." Darry gestures at the TV. Then instead of telling me to go to bed, Darry leans back into the couch. "Want to watch it with me?"

Surprised, I grin. "Sure." We sit watching the movie until a commercial comes on.

"Ponyboy…" Darry begins. "Who's Everett?"

"What?" My stomach twists into a knot.

"You kept saying that name in your sleep." He gives me a funny smile.

"I don't really know," I say slowly. "Just someone from a dream. I'm always running. I'm always lost in it."

Darry wraps an arm around me. "Well, when you can't run anymore, I'll always find you."

*

"You miss him don't you?" Iris asks.

"Who?" I turn away from the window, wishing I could see him. But he's alive; we know why he's special. There's no more need for me.

"Oh, don't be daft, Everett. You know who. The child."

"He never heard the reason," I murmur, hating the fact that Ponyboy Curtis's memories linger within me. Usually after a week, the subject leaves my concern.

"He'll remember, carry on," Iris reassures.

"I know. He was just so…different."

"And he always will be," Iris foretells without saying anything more. She smiles, her face lit up. A giggle bubbles from her lips. "I did such a good thing with him."

Laughing, I sit beside her. "Iris, you sure have no shame for flattering yourself." I take her cool hand. "When did you know you would save him?"

Her black eyes blink at me. "When he agreed with me." Iris's mouth turns up. "It takes much…an extremely strong person to accept their Fate."

Reaching out, Iris removes my Fedora. "You wear this very well, Everett." Iris runs her fingers along the felt brim. She raises her arm above her, the hat sticking straight out like a torch. Then, with a graceful flip of her hand she tosses it into the goldness above her.

It disappears like lightning.

I kiss her hand. "Thank you, Iris."

*

"You should be happy…." I mutter through grit teeth. "So why aren't you?" My legs pump with heavy strides.

Great, now I'm talking to myself. I take a breath and push through the last mile of my ten. I've tried running the track but couldn't be constrained to one area. Instead I wind up running through the town like an idiot. Once I even think I pass the DX and I swear I see Soda and Darry outside talking.

Now, on the side of the highway, the cars whiz by. I'm not sure where I'm going.

I didn't think I'd be this caught up with my escape from death, I should be grateful, call myself lucky and forget about it. But I have to know. I remember my mother's words from the dream Everett showed me. He loves to learn…to know.

I sigh, so wrapped up in my thoughts that I trip over my feet. I hit the ground and roll down into the ditch laden with trees and dirt. Pulling myself up, I sit back on my heels, resting my palms in the leaves beneath me. I touch something fuzzy.

Tentatively, I get a firmer grasp on what I'm touching and unearth it. I feel my eyes widen; it's a hat exactly like Everett wore. I turn it over, inspecting it when a white rolled up piece of paper falls from the brim. With seized breath, I unroll it and read: It's because you see without fear. That's why you live.

My fist enfolds the piece of paper and I sit back in the leaves watching the sun set into gold. I smile, touching my chest. I'll give the hat to Two-Bit but the memo is just for me.

Before I can stand, a truck pulls up on the curb beside me, kicking out gravel and dust. The engine idles for a moment and then the heavy passenger side door swings open. "Hey, kiddo."

A familiar hand reaches down to me and I take it.

It pulls me home.

*

Pardon typos.

Special thanks to Calla for medical advice in all things heart-related. And yes, it's not just a FF plot. It can really happen. I learn new things every day.

Thank you for reading!! Please review.