And thus, my dear readers, the final chapter.
"Dr. Mink?" Darry asked. He was on Sutton, using the pay phone. Normally, he would have just used the landline at their home, but this wasn't a conversation that Darry was willing to let Ponyboy hear.
"It's Darrel Curtis."
"Darrel! Is everything okay?" he asked, his sincerity making Darry smile. Dr. Mink was one of the few doctors that ever showed greasers like them any genuine care at all.
"Well, nothing has gone wrong," Darry said. Nothing was 'okay' anymore. "I was wondering about a therapist for Pony. I…kind of have no idea what I am supposed to do about it," he admitted sheepishly.
"Ah. Well, see if you can get a hold of Ms. Hannah Baker. She is a friend of mine and I think that she would be more than willing."
"Alright. Thanks," Darry replied.
"You are very welcome. Let me know how it turns out."
Darry hung up and shoved his hands in his pockets. He started to walk back toward his house, glad that he didn't have work that day. It was a Sunday, and the boss gave him the day off. He knew that his boss was being nicer to him than he deserved, but he wasn't complaining. He didn't think that he was exactly ready to go back to work just yet.
He thought on everything that had happened. From signing the permission slip to that phone call not two minutes ago. He remembered many things in perfect clarity, and other times he tried to repress the memories. He wasn't ready to think too hard on that trip to the hospital just yet. He may be Superman, but he was still in his twenties.
He thought of the impossible mission to save his little brother, and he still couldn't believe that it had actually worked. The sheer impossibility of it made him almost laugh, were it not for the events that caused it to transpire and the consequences of them afterward. Never in his wildest dream could have imagined Steve hijacking a police car, or Two-Bit stealing a cop uniform, or himself getting tangled in up in it.
And then he thought of Ponyboy, and everything he went through. He sighed, wishing fiercely that his kid brother hadn't had to go through what he did. He wasn't the same anymore, not even remotely close.
Shaking the depressing thoughts from his head, Darry reached his house and quietly entered. Ponyboy was sitting on the couch with Soda sitting beside him. Two-Bit was lounged in a chair and Steve was sitting on the floor. Everyone looked up when he entered.
"Where ya been, Darry?" Soda asked, cocking his head to one side.
"Uh…I went to get some milk," Darry stated, thinking up the first excuse that came to his mind.
Two-Bit cocked an eyebrow. "Then where is the milk?"
Darry looked down at his empty hands. Shoot. "Um, they were out. I'll go back later."
Ponyboy looked at him quizzically, but didn't press the issue. He sunk further back into the couch. Soda noticed this and placed a cautious hand on his brother's shoulder. Ponyboy stiffened instinctively, sucking in a breath, and Soda sighed, pulling his hand away, turning his attention back to the television. It was just Hee-Haw re-runs.
Hank Williams appeared on screen, smiling his stupid grin. He could feel Ponyboy go rigid next to him and looked confused. Sure, Ponyboy had always hated Hank Williams, but never that much. With his first guitar chord, Ponyboy closed his eyes, gritting his teeth. He grabbed his crutches and pushed his way past Darry, going outside. Everyone in the room shared a confused glance before Darry turned and followed him.
"You okay, Pone?"
Ponyboy jumped a little, sniffling and quickly wiping his eyes. He shrugged, not wanting to verbally respond. Darry sat down next to him. "You know you can talk to us, right, Pony?"
He just shrugged again.
"What happened in there?" he asked, pressing him but knowing that if he didn't answer that question, Darry wouldn't press his brother any further.
"I hate Hank Williams," he stated quietly. A small smile tugged at the corner of Darry's lips.
"That's been true ever since you were seven, kiddo."
Ponyboy shrugged again. Darry sighed, knowing that was the most he was going to get out of his little brother. Just then, Sodapop came out and sat down on the other side of Pony.
"You okay, Pone?" he asked gently.
Ponyboy didn't answer, just stared at the cloudy sky. Finally he said, "He played Hank Williams…..all the time." His voice broke at "time" and he blinked back tears.
"Who?" Soda asked confused.
Ponyboy swallowed and took a shaky breath. Realization clicked with both brothers. Soda held his arms out a little. "Come 'ere," he said. Ponyboy scooted a little closer to him and let Soda hug him.
Darry swallowed thickly. "Hey, Ponyboy?" he asked.
Ponyboy pulled away and looked at his oldest brother.
"Dr. Mink suggested that you visit a woman named Dr. Hannah Baker. She's a psychologist, but um…well, Dr. Mink said he thought it would be good for you." Darry waited for his reaction. He wasn't entirely sure how his little brother would handle it.
Ponyboy nodded his head tiredly. "Okay."
"Okay?" Darry asked before he could stop himself. He had thought that the least his little brother would do would be to argue it.
Ponyboy shrugged. "Well, do you guys think it would help?"
Darry and Soda both shared a glance. This was the first time that Ponyboy had really asked for their opinion on something. Sure, he asked for advice from Soda, but to ask from both of them…they both nodded their heads. They honestly did think that it would help.
"Well, then its settled," Ponyboy said, sounding more resigned than anything. He looked at their confused expressions before shrugging and resuming looking at the sky.
"Just like that?" Soda asked. He really couldn't believe how easy that had been.
"Just like that," Ponyboy agreed.
Ponyboy sighed. "I owe my life to you guys. Dr. Mink too." He shrugged, grabbing his crutches and going back inside. He paused. "When?" he asked.
Darry understood what he meant. "I'm going to see if I can get you to see her tomorrow. If that's okay?"
Ponyboy shrugged once again and continued inside.
As it had turned out, Dr. Baker could get Ponyboy in the next day. Soda offered to take him and Darry let him, not knowing what state Ponyboy would come out of the meeting and that Soda would be better at comforting him. The ride to the place had been all but silent, neither of the brothers tried to make small talk, the quiet radio being the only thing filling the void.
Dr. Baker had greeted them with a warm, genuine smile. Soda waited in the small waiting room while Ponyboy followed the kind, dark-haired woman into a small office. Soda had occupied himself with anything he could get his hands on, from magazines to staring mindlessly at the television to standing up and stretching his legs and then repeating the process.
But never once did he leave that . Baker had warned both of them that, depending on how things went, it may take hours. And it did. The little clock on the far wall told Soda that nearly four hours had passed before Ponyboy came out.
Soda had done his best to prepare for the worst. Still, it shocked him when Ponyboy was led out of the room by Dr. Baker, his eyes red and swollen with tears that were still running down his cheeks. And yet, Dr. Baker was smiling gently, not mocking or triumphant, but the soft, reassuring smile that people give others who are grieving. Ponyboy quickly made his way over to Soda, wrapping his arms around his midsection and squeezing. Soda responded with an equally forceful hug. Ponyboy was trembling something fierce and Soda's arms tightened protectively around his brother.
They stayed like that silently for several minutes before Ponyboy pulled back, the tears had stopped but his eyes were still red. He gave Soda a small smile that reflected the one that Dr. Baker had been wearing not that long ago. Dr. Baker had been standing in the doorway, quietly watching the scene unfold. When Soda finally met eye contact with her, she waved him over.
He reluctantly obeyed. "I'll be right back Pony," he told his brother, who just nodded.
Dr. Baker greeted him with a warm handshake and led him into her office.
"I take it you must be Soda?" she asked with a knowing smile. There was something about her that made Soda like her.
"In regards to Ponyboy…" she began, "well, where to start?" she said, shaking her head. "Well, we have a long road ahead of us, but we made a little progress today."
Soda nodded. "Do you think it's helping, though?" he asked.
She sighed. "It's too early to tell, but yes. I think that it will." She seemed to really mean it, not just saying it so she could keep business like some other 'head doctors' Soda had heard about. There were a few moments of silence. "Have you gone to the police about what happened?"
Soda bit his lip. How much did she know? "We tried contacting them before, but…"
Dr. Baker looked like she only half-way understood what Soda was trying to tell her. "I really do think that taking him to the station would help. Give him a sense of security."
Soda nodded. "Okay. I'll see what Darry thinks. Darry's our older brother and also our guardian," Soda explained unnecessarily.
She nodded. "Of course." She looked down at her papers. "I believe that is it. You guys are free to go. Is the same time next week alright?"
"I think so." Soda stood up, shaking the woman's hand, and left the office.
Darry had agreed to take Ponyboy to the police. He and Soda had talked about it extensively before going to Ponyboy and asking his opinion.
"He's still out there, isn't he?" Ponyboy asked, his eyes slightly wide with fear at the prospect.
Darry nodded gravely. "Yeah, Lil' Colt. He is."
"Then let's go," Ponyboy said with a scary kind of determination. Darry and Soda both nodded once. That was all the answer they needed.
The room they were in was dimly lit, four concrete walls and one that was entirely mirror surrounding them. There were no windows and a single desk. It was eerily similar to that of an interrogation room, and both Darry and Soda had protested when they found out that it was. The officers had simply said that it was just because they had that room available.
The officer conducting the questioning was thin with a hint of a beard on his long face. His brown eyes were hardened by years of police investigations and crime fighting and his badge on his light blue uniform was brightly polished. Across from him sat Soda and Ponyboy, Darry offering to wait outside since only three people were permitted in the room for some reason.
"Ponyboy, can you describe the people that attacked you?" the man asked the youngest gently.
"Uh…" Ponyboy sighed, deep in thought. His face was carefully guarded, something that every greaser learned how to do one way or another. But Soda knew his kid brother better than anyone else. He had spent the best 14 years of his life with him. Soda could recognize the lingering pain in his eyes.
"It is okay if you don't remember. But any information that you can offer would be helpful," the man added, watching the youngest Curtis.
"I only really saw one of them," Ponyboy began. He was talking slowly, carefully. "White. Male…" he closed his eyes, trying to get a better picture. "Dark hair, probably black. Kinda tall." He swallowed. "Green eyes."
"Any idea how old he was?"
"Older than Darry. Younger than Dad," he said, opening his eyes and looking at his brother. The man was looking at me too.
"Late twenties, early thirties?" Soda guessed, looking at Pony. He nodded.
"I realize this is a long shot. You probably won't know the answer, but I need to ask anyway. Ponyboy, do you know the name of your attacker?"
Ponyboy closed his eyes for a moment, drawing a deep breath. He opened them again, his face still carefully masked. "I only know the first name. I think it was Mike."
The man's eyes grew huge and he simply stared at Ponyboy. "Mike? As in, M-I-K-E?"
Ponyboy looked uncertain for a moment, like he was afraid he gave the wrong answer. "Yeah," he said slowly.
The man stood up and raced out of the room. Ponyboy and Soda shared a brief glance. The man returned, slightly out of breath, with a folder in hand.
"Ponyboy, I need you to do something for me," he said, sitting back down. Soda wasn't sure what was coming, but he had a feeling that it wasn't going to be pleasant. He put a hand on his younger brother's shoulder. "I need you to look at a picture and tell me if it is the man that attacked you." Ponyboy's eyes widened slightly before he put his face back into that stone mask.
"Okay." Ponyboy agreed, nodding once. The man took out a picture and laid it out in front of Pony. The picture was on a man, fitting Pony's description almost perfect. Long, messy black hair, probably early thirties, around 6'6", bright green eyes. Soda heard Ponyboy draw a deep breath before quickly turning the picture over.
"Pone?" he asked, squeezing his shoulder.
"Yeah, that—that's him," Ponyboy nearly whispered. The man nodded and took the picture back. Soda locked gazes with the man and nodded to the door. He stood and nodded back.
"I'll be right back, Pone. Sit tight," he said, giving his brother's shoulder one last squeeze before following the man out.
"Why do you have that guy's picture?" Soda demanded immediately after the door had closed behind him.
"His name is Mikal Johaninson. He's been on the CSI's most wanted list for about two years."
Soda's stomach dropped. "Why?" he whispered, fearing that if he talked any louder tears would threatened. His baby brother had been in the hands of a CSI most wanted criminal.
"Do you really want to know?" the man asked, completely serious. Truthfully, no. He didn't want to know. But a part of him had to. Soda nodded.
"Johaninson has been wanted for 12 teenage boys' deaths. Each boy had been missing for two and a half weeks only to be found beaten to death on the side of a road. Every police force in the country has been looking for him. No one's been able to catch him."
Soda made a small noise in the back of my throat.
"Your brother is the only survivor of an attack by Johaninson and his buddies." The man said, dropping his voice. "Ponyboy must be quite the fighter."
"Yeah, he is." Soda sighed. Any one of those deaths could have been Pony's. He could have been death number 13.
Suddenly, Soda remembered something. He grabbed the man by his shoulders. He rambled off the group of numbers and letters that was the license plate. He looked at Soda like he'd lost his mind
Soda repeated it. "The license plate number. It's the license plate number for that…that Johaninson guy!" he shouted. The man stared at me for a moment.
"How do you know that?"
"When we first saw Ponyboy, Darry memorized the license plate number. That's how we knew where to find him!" Soda's mind was racing, everything beginning to click in place.
The man's eyes grew huge. "Cathy!" he barked, looking at the police women that happened to be walking by. She looked alarmed, instinctively reaching for her gun. Sheepishly, Soda let go of the man's shoulder. He wasn't paying any attention to Soda, however. He scribbled something down on a spare napkin.
"Yeah, Greg?" she asked calmly, sliding her gun back into its holster.
"Alert every police station in the country!"
The man opened his mouth to answer before coming up short. "What was the car?"
"Right." he said, turning back to Cathy. "White van with this license plate. Got it?" He gave her the napkin.
"Uh, sure. How urgent?"
"It's the license plate for Johaninson."
"Yes, I'm sure!"
ONE WEEK LATER:
Ponyboy was sitting outside again, watching the passing cars and birds with a renewed curiousity. He had found the outdoors much more interesting nowadays. For some reason, everything seemed more interesting, more…new. Like the world had been reborn when Ponyboy had been in the back of the van. Or maybe Ponyboy had.
Two-Bit walked out of the house, ruffling Ponyboy's hair as he passed. "See ya later, kid," he called over his shoulder as Ponyboy tried to fix his hair with his good arm. Steve followed, actually bothering to say bye to the kid as well. Both of them had been over a lot more lately, and staying for longer periods of time.
A few minutes after Steve, Darry came out, coughing.
"Soda, next time you might want to back off the Cayenne pepper!" he called. Ponyboy smiled. It was Soda's turn to cook dinner. He silently sat down next to Ponyboy.
"Hey," he greeted.
"Hey," Ponyboy replied.
"How are ya holding up?"
Ponyboy smiled. "I'm okay."
They sat in silence for several, very long minutes before Ponyboy broke it. "Can I ask you a question?"
Darry gave him an apprehensive look. "Sure," he said slowly.
Ponyboy was quiet for a moment. "Why did you guys do it?"
It took Darry a minute to realize what he was talking about. "'Cause we care about you, kiddo."
Ponyboy was shaking his head. "No, I mean…you don't regret anything?"
Darry sighed. "Ponyboy, I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. The biggest one was signing that permission slip. And it's the only thing that I've done regarding…what happened…that I regret, okay?"
Ponyboy was quiet for a long moment, letting that sink in. "Yeah. Okay." A long moment of silence passed before Ponyboy broke it.
"You know, everybody makes mistakes, Dar. You make mistakes, you live with the consequences, and life goes on."
Darry smiled. "Come on, Lil' Colt. Let's make sure that supper don't burn."
Please review. I know that lots of people normally don't review the last chapter, but I am just DYING to know one of more of the following: Favorite part? Favorite line? Any questions that you may have?
Also, there will NOT be a sequel. This is my final story for the Outsiders fandom and I bid it a bittersweet farewell. Any questions you have that I did not answer in this please ask in a review and if you have an account I will answer them through PM.
Thus concludes Mistakes. It was quite the ride, wasn't it?