Ponyboy POV

I walk down the streets of my home town that I haven't been to in more than a year. It feels so good to be home. Being in the war and seeing people die every day, it was horrible.

I had felt so alone when my only buddy was killed, nobody was there. Those were the times when I wished that I had Soda's arm to chase away the nightmares or his charisma, Darry's muscles, Two-Bit's wise crackin', or Steve's unspoken concern or him being an ass to me.

I miss everything about Tulsa, well almost everything. I know now that the pointless fighting between Greasers and Socs is pathetic. Fighting just doesn't matter; hurting people is the worst feeling in the world.

I killed so many people, watched the enemy and my friends' bodies falling, landing carelessly on the hard ground. I would trip over them and fall in blood. I would dodge bullets, anything to survive and try to come back home in anything but a wooden box.

Tears are starting to well as images flash through my mind.

People say that the war makes you tougher, that it makes you get used to the small other horrors of the world, but it doesn't. It made me feel vulnerable, weak, and like rotting food inside.

I push down the feelings of guilt, despair, horror, and depression and think about seeing the gang again.

I feel bad about worrying them by not sending letters, but when you go MIA, it gets kind of hard to write.

I was in a prison camp for a while, but U.S. troops came and got everybody out. That's why I'm coming home, with only two gunshot wounds in my abdomen and a scar over my right eye. Not too bad compared to what other soldiers are bringing home.

Again, images of that God forsaken war flash through my mind.

Even at nineteen, I still got my head in the clouds, daydreamin' and stuff. Always annoyed the shit out of Darry, I think chuckling at the thought.

The gang always says that I'm different and that I'm going places. I guess I am, other soldiers coped by drinking and drugs. I never saw the point. I wanted to come home to Soda and Darry unchanged, I know that that isn't possible because seeing people die and killing them changes someone. I've seen people die before, like Johnny and Dallas, but never by my own hand. I think coming home an alcoholic or a druggie would be easier for them to fix, instead of an emotionally disturbed person, but then again I could never do things the easy way.

I'm anxious about seeing my friends and what is left of my family.

I mean what if they moved on? What if they don't care? What if I'm like a passing memory swept away by the spring breeze from their minds? These questions float in my head, annoying me even more.

I reposition my bag on my left shoulder and soon I'm rounding the corner of our street. I haven't even been telling my feet where to go, I guess they already knew.

In a few minutes, I'm standing in front of our old, small house, the yellow paint chipping off and the door is simple. It may seem to somebody passing on the street like a poor person house, crappy and dumpy looking, but to me right now it was a palace.

I walk up to the door debating whether to knock or walk in. Then, I remember knocking in our house always brings disaster, so I decide to walk in. Before I do, I look in the window and see Darry, Soda, Steve and Two-Bit all gathered around the kitchen table playing cards.

Darry hasn't changed too much; still muscular, but his face looks like it has aged, way past his current age of twenty-five. He isn't smiling or laughing, his body language screams worry and sadness.

Steve still looks the same, but he also looks depressed. At the age of twenty-two, he put on some more muscles; I guess he wanted to catch up to Dare.

Two-Bit is the same as Steve except for some reason his sideburns are standing out to me more than they did before. A beer right beside him, still same old Two-bit, even being twenty-three, hasn't matured him.

Finally, Sodapop, he is still the most handsome person I know, even though everything about his facial features is worried and depressed. He also has more muscles, hair isn't greased back. His eyes which are usually lively and dancing are dulled, like someone put a veil in front of them. Like Darry, he has aged way beyond his twenty-two years.

My heart aches to have them say something to me, hold me, anything… just to feel human again and forget the past year of torture that I've been through.

I take a deep breath and open the door.

"Hey Tim, don't slam the door and I got to talk to you. I don't like what you're doing in this neighborhood. You want to do that shit go do it your own neck of the woods." Darry says not looking up from his cards.

I don't say anything; it feels so good to hear his voice.

I look at them and see Steve trying to pull an ace out of his shoe.

"Hey Steve quit trying to pull that ace out of your shoe. I don't think my brothers would appreciate you cheating in their house." I say.

Sodapop's head turns around to look at me, as well as Steve and Two-Bit's. Darry looks up sharply from his hand.

I stare at them and they do the same to me. A few moments pass; staring and awkward silence.

"Ponyboy!" Soda yells breaking the silence and runs to pull me into a hug.

Within seconds I'm in his embrace and I can't help bawling a little. It's just so good to be home.

"When the letters stopped we thought the worst, Pone. We thought…" Soda says through a strained voice, that tells me he is bawling too.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry that I didn't write and to worry ya'll." I reply.

"There is nothing to be sorry for Pony, its okay. You're home now and that's all that matters." Darry says wrapping his arms around us, his voice is shaking.

"Darry, you bawlin' too?" I ask clinging to both of them.

"No." He replies, but his voice deceives him.

"Liar." I say.

We all chuckle at that.

I notice Two-Bit is grinning, like he just lifted a car and nobody noticed. Then Steve is smirking, but if you look at his eyes they show the same joy everybody else's does.

"Come on guys join in the hug." Soda says.

"I thought that you would've never asked." Two-Bit says joining in.

Steve remains standing, "You too Stevie." Sodapop tells him.

"Hugs aren't my thing." He says.

"You haven't seen the kid or had anyone to argue with for a whole year, so for God sake join the damn hug." Soda remarks.

Steve rolls his eyes, but joins in.

We break apart and we stare at each other, Soda smiles his movie star smile and I can't help but smile back. I stop though and look down.

Soda not missing a beat, "Pone what's wrong?"

"Nothin' it just feels weird to smile." I tell him.

"You'll be alright now Lil' Colt. Don't worry it'll get better." He reassures me.

I nod my head.

"Well, since Steve was cheating we have to start a new game." Darry says.

"Yeah, thanks kid." Steve says sarcasm dripping from his voice.

"No problem Steve, anytime." I reply smirking.

"Smart ass." Steve mumbles.

"Already back to their old antics." Soda muses.

We all laugh again and even though it's kind of foreign, it feels good.

They all sit down at the table, Two-Bit shuffling the cards.

"Pony, you wanna play?" Darry asks me.

They look at me waiting for my answer.

I pull up a chair, "I'd love to Dare."

They smile at my response.

It's going to be hard adjusting to everything, but I think I can do it just fine.

Two-Bit deals out the hands and I pick up my cards.

In my hand I see a four of a kind.

That's all that I need… four of a kind. I think smiling.