*I don't own The Outsiders.


Darry shook his head and sighed, looking over Steve's face. "He did a number on you."

Steve scowled. Evie hung around in the corner of the bathroom, looking slightly out of place in the Curtis' home. A grimace adorned her features; she didn't like Steve fighting, and didn't like seeing her boyfriend cut up the way he was.

The gash in his cheek would need a few stitches, which was what Darry was currently doing. Steve cursed when Darry insisted on cleaning the cut with alcohol. "It already had beer in it, why do I need that shit in it too?" Steve argued.

Darry gave him a dirty look, "Quit your whining, there-"

"I do not whine."

Darry rolled his eyes, "There was a piece of glass I just pulled out off your face, and I'm putting the damn alcohol on it so you don't get an infection."

"Do you want an infection to eat your face away?" Pony asked from the doorway, causing Evie to snort.

Steve shot him the middle finger, "No one likes a smartass, Ponyboy."

"Really? Then why are you here?" Pony asked innocently. They could all hear Two-Bit hooting from the living room, and Soda telling both of them to quit their bickering. Steve bit back a rude comment, but only because Pony's older brother was sewing the hole in his face.

Soda came through, squeezing into the already cramped bathroom.

Darry glanced over and narrowed his eyes, "You hurt, Sodapop? You got blood on your shirt."

"What?" Soda looked bewildered at the red stain that was on his white t-shirt. It looked like it was fresh, unlike the other splotches that came from Steve earlier and had landed on the front of his shirt. Soda twisted to get a look at the stain. "I don't know, I didn't fight, it ain't from me."

"My arm," Pony said, pulling his black sleeve away from his forearm, you could see a shallow cut leading upwards into his sleeve. "Didn't dodge quick enough," he shrugged.

Darry paused his stitching for a second to look at Pony's arm, then began again, not wanting to accidently hurt Steve more. However, now he was anxious and wanted to go check Pony over. Sodapop already had in covered as he yanked Pony's sleeve up to get a better look at the cut.

Steve watched for a second before turning away. He mentally cursed himself when he felt guilt creeping into him. It wasn't his fault the kid was slow; it wasn't his fault the kid jumped into the fight in the first place. But, there it was, the feeling that it was all his fault. It's only a scratch; get a grip on it Randle.

Soda scolded Pony for not telling them about the cut sooner. "It needs to be cleaned up," Soda continued on.

Pony rolled his eyes, "What could I have been thinking? Hmmm, maybe the fact Steve has a hole in his face? Wow, who would've thought, that a hole in someone's face was more important than a superficial cut? I should've known better."

Soda glared slightly, not liking the way Pony was talking to him one bit.

"Watch that mouth, Pony," Darry warned, not caring much if his brother's arm was hurt anymore. If he could be a wise ass like that then he was fine. So, Darry tried to shove his worry away, and concentrate on getting a small, even line on Steve's face and not some monstrosity of a scar that would make Steve look like he was impersonating Frankenstein or something of that sort.

"Sorry," Pony mumbled.

Steve had a feeling Pony wasn't that sorry. Darry cut the thread and ordered Pony to step forward. "You know he's like the cliché definition of a teenager—filled with angst, slightly miserable at all times, rebels where he sees fit, and to top it off he does his fair share of brooding," Steve laughed carefully, aware of his tender stitches.

Pony scowled, "I'm an angst ridden teenager? Look at the drama you cause, and who exactly punched a hole in our wall two weeks ago, Randle?" Pony looked at him pointedly.

Steve rolled his eyes. "It ain't my fault I tend to be where the action is."

Pony looked at him incredulously, "Really? You practically look for it! And when you aren't, it kicks you right in the seat of your pants, or well this time, hits you in the face with a beer bottle," Pony snorted.

"Says the kid who can't stay out of trouble," Steve eyed him coolly.

Pony's face turned red from a mix of anger and maybe a tad bit of hurt. Johnny and Dally were taboo in this household; nobody was even allowed a conversation to turn towards "the accident," as everyone had begun calling it.

"Don't have anything to say to that do you?" Steve shot back.

Darry and Soda looked at Steve like they were going to back hand him right in the head, but they didn't have to. Pony swung his hand right into the back of Steve's head with a loud slap. "I'll show you what freaking trouble I can stir up, you stup-"

"Alright, I think that's enough for tonight, folks," Two-Bit cut in with a half nervous grin. He grabbed Pony by the shoulders and pulled him towards the bathroom door, "We got a lady in our presence, may I remind you," he smirked at Evie.

She sighed, "That was uncalled for, Stevie, just 'cause you're pissed don't mean you gotta bring it out on the runt."

"Now I'm a runt!" Pony yelped indignantly from the living room.

Evie shrugged, even though Ponyboy wouldn't be able to see her, "You shouldn't eavesdrop."

Pony didn't answer, knowing he already messed up by hitting Steve in front of her. His Mother would've sent him to his room with no supper for acting like that in front of a girl.

But, he was just so sick of Steve's taunts and everyone treating him like he was a no good hood that doesn't even have the sense God gave a goat. Between the Socs lately, and the snide comments about what happened those eight short weeks ago, Pony's stress and anger levels just kept building, he really wanted everyone to layoff. In order to get people to leave him alone, Pony decided he had to tell them to, because the subtle hints weren't working. So, who better to start with than Steve, the guy who had been taunting him practically since birth?

Steve scoffed, even his girlfriend stood up for the kid?

"Not cool, Steve," Soda mumbled.

Steve glared at the three of them, "What? You want me to be nice because he helped me out tonight? That's stupid, tonight didn't change anything. Sorry, Soda, but it really didn't. And, you can't treat him like a baby all of his life. He fucking fourteen years old let him stand up for himself. If he has a problem with me, then let him say something instead of dragging him away. It's stupid, you guys treat him like some doll made of glass, it disgusting."

Darry glared, "We're just looking out for him, Steve." Darry's tone made it real obvious that he didn't want nor like Steve's opinion on how he handled things.

"I ain't saying nothing to insult you, all I'm saying is y'all always standing up for him."

"So what's wrong with that?" Soda asked.

Steve glared, "The fact he's always going to depend on you. You gotta cut the umbilical cord sometime."

"Pony can stick up for himself just fine," Soda said defensively. "He helped you out well enough tonight to prove that."

"I ain't just talking about fighting, though he did well tonight, he could approve a couple things. You know he's used to fighting with someone by his side." Steve again skirted the edges of the forbidden topic.

Soda was getting really annoyed with Steve. It wasn't the first time Steve had commented that Soda and Darry did too much for Ponyboy, even if they didn't think so. Soda knew half the reason he was striking this conversation right now with Darry was because he was still pissed over the fight. He wanted an argument, and Pony was just there, so it was the easiest thing to start up. Just because Soda understood why Steve was arguing, didn't mean he liked it.

"Just, back off, alright?" Soda huffed. "We ain't going to agree with you and you know that, so just shut up would ya?"

Darry watched Steve and Soda hash it out, not stepping in unless he felt like he had to. Just because you didn't have your family watching your back, doesn't mean Pony doesn't deserve it either, Darry thought to himself. He knew Steve was a good kid at heart, but he had a weird way of showing it in Darry's opinion.

Pony appeared in the doorway, "Y'all wondered why I knew you were drunk that night in the living room, well I can tell you it's 'cause the walls are real thin, and I can hear everything, including the twenty minute conversation about if I'm independent enough," Pony glared at Steve. "How about y'all back off and worry about yourselves? I can take care of myself, and y'all talk about me like I'm some freaking five year old who can barely wipe the snot from my nose on my own. And," Pony looked pointedly at Steve, "I can fight just fine on my own, thank you. I don't need anyone helping me, I don't need Johnny to win a fight, I can fight my own battles." Pony didn't mention that he didn't like Steve questioning the way his brothers ran things in their home. Even though Pony agreed he didn't get enough freedom from his brothers, that didn't give Steve the right to question their authority over him, only he could do that. And, Steve sure as hell doesn't have the right to bring Johnny up, Pony thought, feeling more upset than he'd like to admit.

Darry sighed, breaking the staring contest between Steve and Pony; those two would probably never get along, at least not for a few more years. They were both passionate in their own ways, prideful, and stubborn, it was no surprise they butted heads a bit. One day they'd respect one another, and learn to quit the bullshit. "Give me that arm of yours, Pone, we gotta clean that up."

XXX

Evie had left the bathroom when things started to get heated, letting the boys battle out whatever they had to. She stepped out of the living room, past Two-Bit, and settled onto the porch. So much for my night out, she mused. I knew Jimmy was the biggest mistake of my life. She blew a smoke ring, watching the sky fade from oranges and pinks into blues. Soda's always talking about how Pony digs sunsets and books, I guess it's pretty, but Stevie's right, the kids needs to grow a pair. Though, Steve could've found a much better way of getting onto that topic. Evie agreed with Steve for the most part, but he sure wasn't eloquent in explaining his feeling. She knew that all too well. But, for him to bother at all meant he cared, she knew that as well, even though his timing really sucked.

"I dunno, Evie, I just can't stand him sometimes." Steve mumbled behind her, she hadn't even heard the porch door open.

She rolled her eyes at her boyfriend. She loved him, she really did, but he was so stupid sometimes. "He's your best friend's brother, I don't understand why you two can't get along."

"We just see things differently," Steve grumbled.

She shrugged, "Either way, he helped you out tonight." She flicked her ashes over the porch railing.

"I know," he glanced at her, rubbing the sides of her arms with his hands. She enjoyed the way his calloused hands felt on her skin.

"I agree with you that he ain't the toughest kid on the block, but you got to see that that just ain't who Ponyboy Curtis is. He's never going to be like everyone on this side of town, anyone with eyes can see that," Evie leaned against his chest.

"I know that," Steve snorted. "I'm just saying every Soc is out to get him. Yet, it's like he sits there oblivious to what's going on around him. It's going to catch up to him one of these days."

"You really think he doesn't notice," Evie laughed. "Please, there's enough talk going around for him to notice." She turned in his arms to face him, "He ain't stupid, and he'll never be as tough as nails. That's just the way it is."

"He's still got a few years before he ditches this place, what's he going to do? Have the gang watch his back? That's what I'm getting at."

"He watched your back tonight," Evie reminded him yet again. "That's what buddies do, idiot."

"I know that, but I was caught off guard."

"Which was stupid too," Evie mumbled. "Alright, alright, you want the kid tough enough to be able to handle himself if he's alone."

"Exactly."

"I don't know, it's the smartest choice for him, but I don't know if it's the right one," Evie cocked her head thoughtfully at him.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Steve asked. Why did girls have to talk in riddles?

Evie grinned, "Like everyone is trying to tell you! It ain't him to be some tough Greaser, though he is pretty intimidating when called for-"

Steve scoffed.

"He is to people who don't know him well," Evie continued. "Plus, the kid makes some weird friends, around here. I seen him talking to a couple Socs before school yesterday and it was obvious there wasn't any problem."

Steve knew who she was talking about. "Cherry Valance and Randy Anderson, plus two Socs from the track team, they won't do nothing to Pony."

"That's my point. Sure, some guys are out to get him, but he has more people than just the gang looking out for him. And, you don't give him enough credit either."

"Anything else?" Steve asked, bitterly.

"Yeah, he ain't never going to be a Dallas Winston, so stop pressing him to smarten up and blah, blah, blah, it ain't who he is and never will be so let it go!" Evie said, trying to get Steve to see what everyone else saw. They all knew Pony was still deep in the metaphorical pile of shit, but they didn't press him into sharpening his fighting skills, they just looked out for him, knowing that he'd never really want to fight those kids who have it out for him in the first place.

Steve nodded; even he knew Ponyboy Curtis could never be a Dallas Winston. Maybe Evie was right, Steve was fighting for a lost cause.

XXX (the next morning)

Steve hated mornings. Why is it so hard to get up? The side of his face seemed to throb with his heartbeat. He'd accidently slept on it during the night, and now it felt hot and sore, making Steve grumpier than usual.

He glared at the lump on the couch that was his Father. No one could say he really glared with hate, more like glared with a hate for the situation his Father created for himself. Things could be much better for Steve, if his Father were able to get his act together and quit drinking.

Steve had wasted the first ten years of his life hoping his Father would pull it together for him, he now knew it wasn't going to happen.

Steve made his way to the Curtis' place. He had to pick Soda up for work. He hoped his buddy was up and ready to go, he didn't want to be late again because of Soda. Steve never understands why Soda runs so late. He's up anyway, he just gets distracted by anything and everything, then looses something, all while trying to get out the door to work on time.

Some mornings Steve found his best buddy amusing. Soda got up earlier than he did, because for some strange reason Soda liked the mornings, yet he always was running late.

Sure enough, when Steve arrived, Soda was rushing around looking for his shoes and DX cap.

"Your hat is on the dresser!" Pony yelled from the bathroom.

"Shoes are near the back door where you left them yesterday," Darry grumbled. It annoyed him to no end that Soda couldn't just put things in one spot when he came home every day, so this wouldn't happen every time they tried to get out the door on time.

Steve shook his head and turned back onto the porch, "I'm waiting, Sodapop, you got two minutes and I'm leaving with or without you!"

"I'll be there in one!" Soda laughed.

Sure he will.

Pony stepped out onto the porch, wearing only pajama bottoms. The lucky kid didn't have work on Saturdays. He was getting ready for his morning smoke, which was no surprise; the kid smoked almost a pack a day.

Steve sighed, still feeling the guilt from last night as he eyed Ponyboy's arm. "Your arm is fine, right?"

"Yeah," Pony answered as he eyed Steve's face. "Your boss will probably make you cover that up."

"Why would he care, I work in the back," Steve responded.

"Do you want oil dripping into your stitches?" Pony looked at him as if he were stupid, which really grated on Steve's nerves.

They sat in silence, "One minute, my ass," Steve shook his head. "It's been five minutes, Sodapop, get a move on!"

Ponyboy chuckled.

"Yeah, you think it's funny that we're late all the time because he can't find his underpants in the morning," Steve groaned.

"Just a little bit," Pony motioned with his hands.

Steve sighed, "I didn't say thanks for helping me out last night," he said slowly.

Pony shrugged, "You would've done the same for me."

It was true. They were buddies.


The End.

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