*I don't own The Outsiders.

Warning: Language, violence, and innuendos, but hey, it is rated T for a reason. Oh, and no slash.

He fell flat on my ass when the bottle hit him square in the cheek. He could already tell it cut him good. He felt the blood already running down his face; it was thicker and stickier than the beer that stung the cut. He furiously blinked the tears out of his eyes, and tried to shake most of the beer out of his hair.

Goddamn, it stung like a bitch.

"Steve!" He could hear Soda calling my name, but was too distracted by a fist connecting with my nose. He swore to God if this fucker broke his nose again, he was going to make him suffer.

He glanced at Jim Rogers; he's had it out for Steve ever since he stole Evie right out under his nose. Generally, Steve didn't steal other guys' skirts, but Evie has always been different. Her short black hair, big brown eyes, and wicked grin were well worth it…along with her other expertise.

Rogers didn't do well with competition. Steve would've backed off if Evie were actually happy in their relationship. Who the heck is he kidding? Evie would have told Steve to fuck off if she were actually happy. They were long over; he just…sped up the breaking up process.

Steve had barely any time to process what was in front of him, so he certainly didn't have the time to throw a good punch. Struggling to get his barons, Steve lashed out wildly, and was pleasantly surprised when he actually landed a decent hit in Rogers' face.

It had been a while since Steve Randle had gotten into a good fight, but this wasn't how he wanted it. He was spending a nice night out with his buddies and his girlfriend, and this asshole was throwing him around like a rag doll. All it did was piss Steve off. In the end, Steve knew he'd get the better of Rogers, he always did. He just needed half a second to get a grip on the situation. Man, why was Soda all the way over there? Where the hell was the rest of the gang? Not that he'd admit it; he kind of wished one of them would step in for a second, just so he could get the beer out of his eyes.

Though it felt like more than forty seconds since Rogers had broken the beer bottle on Steve's face, one of the gang did intercept, just not who Steve had expected or even wished would help him out.

Ponyboy Curtis, Steve's best buddy's little brother. The kid was fourteen and small for his age. If it wasn't for his brothers' reputations as tough fighters, the kid would've been picked on a lot more. Intelligent and a bit scrawny never mixed well in high school, especially in this Soc eat Greaser world.

But, there he was, flinging himself into the scuffle. He tackled Rogers to the ground with a thud. Darry would've been proud if he were there. Steve blinked the last of the beer out of his face, and quickly swiped the back of his sleeve over his cheek, grimacing as it turned red. Great, there goes a shirt he really couldn't afford to throw out.

Steve snapped back into focus, surprised to see Ponyboy already had Rogers pinned, and was belting him right in the face. As Rogers went to retaliate, Steve grabbed him, yanking him upright, and hit him hard enough to cause Rogers' head to snap sideways.

Ponyboy knew enough to back off now. It was the way it was supposed to be, buddies stepped in if they had to, you only backed up until the other person got back on their feet, but if they couldn't, you made sure to finish the job. But, in most cases, you backed off once your buddy was up again, and let them prove to everyone that they could take on their opponent. In all honesty, it would've been a huge blow to Steve's ego if Pony ended up finishing Rogers off before he even got a real hit in.

Not only would Steve's pride be bruised, but his reputation would've taken a blow too, and that just wouldn't do. If fourteen year old, Ponyboy Curtis, a skinny bean-pole of a kid, could take on seventeen year old Jimmy Rogers, but Steve Randle couldn't, well then, people would talk. Word would get around, and Steve would be the butt of the joke for awhile. At least until he proved himself in another fight.

You lose one fight, and it takes a dozen to build up your rep again. Steve was not going to do that. He wasn't going to let all those other beatings go to waste, because Rogers was a jealous asshole who didn't know how to treat a lady.

It wasn't only about Steve's reputation, but the fact that Rogers liked to get handsie with Evie when she didn't want it. Steve had seen the way he manhandled her when they were together, and didn't like it. Sure, Steve pushed a few boundaries with a girl, but when they walk away in a huff from you, then you went way too far and should've known it a lot earlier to quit it.

It was slightly funny to see Rogers' face after Steve punched him in the gut hard enough for the air to rush out of his lungs. It was even funnier to Steve to watch him huddle on the ground when he kicked his ribs.

Steve turned, leaving him there, thinking the fight was done for now. Soda was already walking up to him, babbling about Steve's face, but Steve ignored him. He could hear Evie squawking too. Thank God it was Rogers who threw the first punch, or Steve would be hearing shit from Evie for the next week. But, hey, it was her angry ex, now Steve would be treated like a king for a week instead. Steve internally grinned at the thought….what would he do with a guilt ridden girlfriend who would want to make it up to him? He had a few ideas.

He heard a commotion behind him, and watched as Soda's eyes widened and flashed to whatever was going on behind him. Two-Bit was closing in, pushing through the cluster of people. Steve really hated crowds, it made him antsy, all the extra energy swirling around him.

He glanced behind him to see that Rogers actually got up, and was going for a cheap move. A switch in hand, he was going to lunge at Steve from behind—a real cheap move. Ponyboy, again, had intercepted, dodged a thrust of the switch, and grabbed Rogers by the hand. You could hear his wrist crack as Pony forced his hand to twist, trying to get the blade to drop. It fell to the pavement, clattering, red on the blade.

Blood from where? Did the kid break his wrists or just crack it? Steve wondered.

It was Soda this time who stepped in before Steve. No surprise there, Soda seemed to move at the speed of light when someone so much as looked wrong at his baby brother. Steve rolled his eyes as Soda took a swing. Pony could've handled it for himself.

It was one of the reasons Steve couldn't stand Ponyboy. Everyone stuck up for him, hell, even he did! All the kid did for himself was school work, but when it came to things that would save his ass now, he didn't have a clue. His brothers never let him get real roughed up; only in rumbles did he really fight. Sure, Ponyboy could handle himself, but he wasn't the best, far from it actually. He could be a real good fighter if his brothers let him get a little roughed up by someone outside the gang once in a while.

They babied him. He was the baby of the gang, but the kid needed to grow a pair sometime.

Tonight, however, Steve couldn't complain, because a stab wound ain't any fun, and neither is fighting with beer burning your retinas. Plus, Pony did handle himself pretty well. He was certainly the last one Steve expected out of the gang to help him out. Steve supposed he'd have to thank the kid for helping him out, even if he didn't want to.

Ponyboy was Steve's buddy, but not his friend. You'd think you couldn't be buddies without being friends first, but that wasn't really true. Ponyboy was like that annoying little bug that flies around your ear, tickling it and buzzing near it. Steve didn't like being near him, he followed the gang around, trying to act older than he really is. He took up a lot of Soda's time too, which Steve didn't particularly like—it meant that a portion of his schedule had to revolve around Ponyboy's, just so he could hang out with his best buddy. Steve didn't even know much besides the obvious about Pony, that and whatever Soda would talk to him about. Steve didn't even talk to Ponyboy directly much, unless it was some smartass comment about whatever the kid was talking about, usually some god awful book one of his old teachers made him read.

Either way, Ponyboy was not Steve's friend. They did not talk to one another for the most part, and didn't really enjoy hanging out together, but they put up with one another for Soda's sake and the rest of the gang's sake as well.

However, Ponyboy was Steve's buddy. That was just proven when Pony jumped into the fight to defend him. If something was wrong with Steve, Pony would be there for him, and vice versa. They looked out for each other, made sure to cover each other's asses when needed. It was a simple relationship—they played nice with one another, bitched at one another when left alone (which was rare), but they'd risk their lives for one another, because in the end they gave a shit. Of course, both would say it was for Soda that they'd make sure the other was fine, but they both saw qualities in one another that they could respect, though they tended to focus more on the negative qualities.

Yeah, they were buddies, but far from friends.

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