It's late at night, and me and Pony are hanging out in the vacant lot. I've seen a lot more of the kid lately, what with Johnny gone and Soda and Darry always working. The hospital bills started coming in last week, and even though Ponykid wasn't in the hospital that long, they're pretty steep. Those two have had to pick up a lot of shifts so they can cover them, which means Ponyboy's alone a lot. There ain't no sense in being alone, though, not when you got friends around, so yeah, he and I have been hanging out a lot lately.

It's pretty nice, I gotta admit. I like Steve, but damn he can get high strung, and the other Curtis boys are busy and working and besides, it's nice to talk to Pony 'cause he's so smart. He don't never use his head, but he's book-smart, you know? I'm getting pretty old for school, even though I ain't passed yet, so I can't graduate. I suppose it'd make sense for me to drop out, but I like school, even if I ain't no good at it. Pony is, though, and sometimes he tells me about stuff he's learning, and I gotta tell you, it makes a lot more sense when he explains it, which I guess don't say much for the teaching staff at my school, but there it is.

So there we are, lying flat on our backs in the middle of the lot, and he says, "Two-bit, you ever think about the stars?"

"Not really," I say. And it's true. I ain't never really given stars much thought. Don't know why I'd need to. "Why d'ya ask, Pony?"

And then Pony turns his head to face me, and he gives me this real hard look. I'm not sure how to explain it. It's like he is trying to see through my skull or something, almost like x-ray vision. He's giving me this look and then he just stops and sighs, real deep. He turns back at the stars again and shrugs, and even though he's playing it down, I can see he's disappointed.

He's quiet for a moment, then he says, "It's nothin'. Johnny and I used to talk about the stars, is all."

And I don't know what to say, so I say, "Oh," like the stupid guy I am. And then there's silence, and it's strange, 'cause it's awkward, and I ain't never felt awkward around the kid before. It's quiet for too long, and the moment seems to stretch and stretch until I can't take it no more and I say, "Well, why'd you talk about them?"

Pony makes this funny, scrunched up face, and even though he'd never believe it, he looks just like Sodapop. He sits up. "I guess 'cause they're pretty." Even though I can't see him real good, I can tell he's embarrassed. He says it like he's ashamed.

And I don't know, maybe if I was smarter, I'd know what to say. But I ain't smart, so I don't say nothing and eventually, Pony lies back down. And as we lay there, side by side but somehow a million miles apart, I can't help but think that both of us were wishing I was Johnny Cade.

Disclaimer: I do not own The Outsiders.

A/N: Read this book for the first time a few months ago and was absolutely blown away by it. Never written for it before, so any and all feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!