Author's Note: So...I'm completely obsessed with The Outsiders, and it distracted me from the full-length story I haven't finished yet. Probably starting to piss people off XD. I had to do this though, there aren't enough stories revolving around just Pony and Darry.
I am also using first person limited for the first time. I usually use third person limited, but I wanted to try something, a little experiment, if you will. Just to see if I could, and of course, I can. I'm just that awesome ;). Anyway, I only wish I owned The Outsiders. On with the story!
By: Angel Wings-008
Darry worked too hard. I knew that before, but watching him now, I began to see it in a way that put a cold feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.
I knew he wasn't invincible. We all liked to call him things like 'Superman' and 'Muscles' and in some ways, he would always be indestructible to me, but not because I was delusional or anything like that. Not anymore. Sure, my head was up in the clouds a lot; my mind drifted in and out of focus sometimes no matter what mood struck me. But, that didn't mean I couldn't see something when it was shoved right in front of my nose. Except about Johnny and Dally...I did deny that at first, and even now it was hard to talk about them, but cut a guy a break. Death took a whole lot more getting used to than anything else people might have learn to accept. I got along just fine on most days, but I missed my buddies, and my parents too. Just had to learn to live with it and move on, as much of a drag as that could be. Even if the pain was put behind you, that didn't make it sting any less...you just became a little numb after awhile.
That was why I couldn't pull my eyes away, even though it did hurt to see him so run-down. Darry looked old, battered, and worn...as he kicked off his shoes and flopped down into a chair in the corner, rubbing bloodshot eyes ringed with deep, dark circles, I knew I had to face facts. My brother was going to drive himself into an early grave. He was turning 21 next week, but sometimes, he looked ten years older than that to me. It was easier just to ignore it before and go about my business, but now that my attention was on him, his exhaustion was so obvious, someone might as well have taken a sledge hammer and bashed me over the head with it. How much did Darry hide from us, anyway? How much did he suffer when he was all alone in his room at night? Knowing him, he probably thought it was his job to suffer in silence.
Suddenly, I remembered that greeting someone was normally the right thing to do whenever they entered a room. Shoot, my head really was up in the clouds if I had to remind myself to say 'hi' to people.
"Hey, Darry," I said, looking up from my Algebra book, and straightening a bit from where I lay sprawled out on the couch. Hopefully my voice didn't sound too sad. It was kind of hard for me to hide my feelings sometimes.
His head shot up. He looked surprised that I was actually speaking to him. A twinge of guilt slithered its way into my heart. My mind hadn't really been here at all lately. Despite his surprise though, he did look pleased. I felt a little better. For a second, anyway.
"Hey, Pony. Homework tonight?" Darry asked, and he tried his best to smile, but it ended up just making him seem like he was in pain. His face reminded me of the time he got his foot caught in a bear trap down at the camp grounds mom and dad would take us to.
"Yeah, still have some make-up work. Just wanna get it all done to bring my grade up." I didn't give a hang about math, but Darry always liked to see that my homework was getting done, so I just went with it. On my last report card my grade in algebra had been a 'B' already, but he liked it better when he saw A's, and if that would give him one less thing to worry about, I would do it for him. I was starting to see how selfish my actions had been lately. We would still have disagreements from time to time because we were so different, but it wasn't fair for me to expect him to make all of the changes. I had to try too.
"Good. Keep that up. Might seem stupid to you now, but you'll need it someday," Darry replied, dragging his fingers through his hair. For a minute, he looked like he wanted to say more, but he kept his mouth shut. Just looked away as the moment passed, rubbing at his temple with one hand and reaching for some bills on the table with the other. I couldn't help but think how lonely he looked then; his eyes, which had once reminded me of blue-green ice, were as hard as two cold chunks of granite, but now I knew it wasn't because he didn't feel anything... it was because that was what he wanted us to think. He had to be strong. He had to be Superman. I wondered if Soda noticed too.
It kind of made me feel like bawling, but you didn't do that in front of a brother who was already stressed out anyway. Seeing me upset would probably make him feel worse. Besides, Darry tried his best, but he didn't really know how to deal with it whenever I started to cry.
"Darry...?" I couldn't let his feelings drop just like that without even trying to address them. Most of the time things turned out that way, because I figured he didn't want to talk about anything that serious with his kid brother, but I would have felt like a real jerk if I didn't try. Sodapop always listened when I needed to talk (not that I had been lately), and it was horrible to think Darry didn't have anyone to turn to. He didn't go to Soda with his troubles either, so it wasn't just me he kept in the dark. Maybe he didn't want to worry us at all, but it just wasn't right. Everyone needs somebody.
"Hmm?" His fingers ripped through the seal on an envelope, and he yanked the contents out of it in one swift motion.
"Are you, uh...feeling all right?" I tried not to blush as the words came out of my mouth, although the urge to look away was too powerful to ignore. I really didn't know why it was embarrassing to me, although normally, just coming out and asking Darry a question like that was completely out of the ordinary for the whole gang. Darry was just Darry. He was fine. No one ever questioned it, especially not me. I'd been spacing out more and more often lately too, and it made me feel awful. Some days, I would come home from school and not remember half of what I did or said. My sudden attentiveness probably had him wondering what the heck had gotten into me today.
Sure enough, when I looked back up at him, his expression was so perplexed, I almost laughed. Something stopped me, though. The guarded look in his eyes. There was nothing funny about that, and it came as a big surprise that his mask hadn't been this see-through from the start. "I'm fine."
"What are you doing for your birthday? You gonna go out with friends, or something?" I asked, trying to ignore the sick feeling that sent my stomach plummeting down somewhere near my knees. Soda and I had just been talking about making him a cake and maybe dinner on that night, just before he'd left for his shift at the DX station, but I didn't want to make Darry feel obligated to stay at home if he already had plans. He deserved to have fun every once in awhile just like the next guy.
For a second his face went blank and he just stared at me, as if he had no idea what I was talking about. Then his eyes flashed as it dawned on him, and he allowed himself to chuckle, just a little bit. I couldn't help but think it sounded bitter and harsh, but maybe that was just me. My imagination runs wild sometimes. If you wanna know the truth, I was wishing it was my imagination.
It wasn't. Already knew that, I suppose. "Working, kiddo. The world doesn't stop because I'm a year older." With a slight grimace, he pushed himself off of the chair and worked his way toward the kitchen, ruffling my hair the way he always did as he passed. "What do you want for dinner?"
Craning my neck, I turned around from my position on the couch to look at him; even from there, it was plain to see how tensed up his shoulders were, and his arms were all scratched from the bundles of roofing he carried day in and day out. Why hadn't my mind been where it should have been? Why hadn't I seen all of this before? I always knew that Darry never had time for anything but work, but it never seemed quite so real to me as it did right then. For the first time, it really hit me.
It just wasn't fair.
"I'll make it. You go sit down, Dar. There's a new project you're doing at work, right? Your hours have been longer," I said, dumping my books on the couch as I vaulted over it. I passed Darry where he had frozen just outside of the kitchen, and boy howdy, the sight almost made me want to laugh. His eyebrow was raised so high, I thought it would touch the ceiling.
"You hate dinner duty. Should I be taking your temperature, little buddy?"
Little buddy. It always made me smile when he called me that, and I couldn't stop one from coming now. I could feel it spread across my face, and that special sort of warmth that comes with happiness washed over me like rays of sunshine in the middle of the summertime. Made a guy happy just to be alive. Glory, that sounded corny...the guys would have my head if I ever said that around them. Those were my true feelings, though. I wasn't ashamed of them.
"Aw, lay off. I just feel like it today. Can't a guy do something nice for his brother for a change?"
Darry still looked skeptical, but he smiled at me, all the same. This time, it reached his eyes. For a moment, he wasn't Darry the parent. Darry the nag. Darry the hard-ass. He was just my brother, the way he use to be. "Now I know something is wrong with you. Come here, you little knuckle-head!"
"Hey...ah, cut it out! Darry!" Before I knew what was what, he had me in a headlock, and he was swinging me around so fast, the room spun. I was laughing so hard, it made my ribs smart somethin' awful...you know, that feeling you get when you laugh so much it hurts? Well it did, and in the very next second, I was screeching and squealing, squirming and struggling, but still I never wanted it to end, because that meant I was having the time of my life. It made me feel alive. Helped me 'Stay gold,' like Johnny wanted me to be. And, you know something? I thought that in those moments, Darry was gold too. What was laughter, but music? What was happiness, but the beauty of a sunset?
In spite of that, or maybe because of it, couldn't tell you which...I couldn't get these downtrodden thoughts out of my head.
My brother was already so burdened and tired, he no longer had a reason to remember his own birthday.
That night, as I watched him walk back into the other room...as I watched him collapse into that very same chair and drop his head into his hands (he always did that when he thought we weren't watching), I vowed to do something for him. What? Heck, I didn't know. But there must be something. There must be a way. I could use my head when I wanted to.
...besides. I lied before. It was just too hard for me to be numb to the fact that Johnny and Dally were gone now. Some days everything felt like it just might be okay again, but others, the pain and the loneliness hurt so bad I thought I would die along with them, and in the end, the gang had to deal with me being all silent and mopey. Especially Darry and Soda. I tried to stop it. Honest, I always did.
I tried so hard to stifle the sobs when they rose up in my throat to choke me. I tried so hard to stop my heart from shattering to pieces as I gazed up at the stars, longing for a pair of dark, expressive eyes to watch them with me. I tried so, so hard to give Soda the peaceful nights he needed, and to give Darry the peace of mind that always seemed to avoid him. I never made a sound, but that didn't matter. My 'everything's okay' act never fooled anyone. Couldn't even fool myself with such a thin facade.
I'm not depressed. That ain't it. I just wasn't the way I use to be; I wasn't quite whole, and that was nothing but a bother to them. Darry and Soda didn't deserve to see that side of me; the side that was empty, and dead. The least I could do was come up with a nice gift for my brother on his birthday. I had to get myself together, for their sakes if nothing else.
But what was I supposed to do? What did a fourteen-year-old greaser with no job have to offer anyone? Drawings? Poetry? Yeah, that was a real tuff gift to give to your big brother.
Well, at least Darry's birthday wasn't for another week. There had to be something he wanted, and I would find out what it was if it killed me.
Looking back on it now, saying that was probably what cursed it. After a week of grueling interrogation, killing myself almost seemed like an okay idea. No matter what subtle digging I tried to do, none of it ever yielded much success. Getting inside of Darry's head was like trying to drill your way through a brick wall with a spoon. Our conversations during my 'interrogation' period usually went something like this:
No, Ponyboy, I didn't lose it. My switchblade is right here.
Books? Sometimes I can't even hear myself think with all you punks around, let alone read a book. Just don't have the time, kiddo.
I haven't played football in months. What would I need cleats for?
What in the almighty universe has gotten into you? You've never asked me so many questions in your entire life, and I've never heard so many in mine!
I sighed to myself. Why was it that things always seemed so much easier in theory? Leaning against the doorway to the kitchen, I plucked a cigarette from my pocket and struck up a match, lighting the end and taking a few, deep puffs to calm my nerves. His birthday was tomorrow. This wasn't good.
"Ponyboy Curtis, what have I told you about smoking in the house?" Darry had just walked in after another long day of work, and he was glaring at me from the living room. I froze. Oops. I was so worried about my lack of gift, I'd forgotten one of the most important household rules.
Wordlessly, I ground the cigarette out on the leg of my blue jeans, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry, guess I forgot," I mumbled, suppressing a wince even before I'd finished the sentence. That sounded like a lame excuse, even to me. Maybe he'd let it pass?
No such luck. His eyes only narrowed even more, and he sighed as he shook his head in frustration. "There you go again, I forgot. That attitude is gonna get you hurt one of these days! Heck, it already has! I swear, you have a good on head on your shoulders kid, but you never, ever use it. You'd better wise up, Pony..." I didn't hear the rest. Suddenly, my heart was slamming an erratic rhythm inside of my chest; a cold sweat had broken out on my brow.
You'd better wise up, Pony...you get tough like me, and you don't get hurt. You look out for yourself, and nothing can touch you...
Those words were forever imprinted into my memory, and they hit me hard and fast every time they came back to me. This time was no exception. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe.
Abruptly, Darry stopped talking and gave me a funny look, although at that point, my mind hardly registered that he was there at all. All I could see was Dally breaking down in the car. Dally crying out in the hospital. Dally crumpling under the street-light, a small, triumphant smile spreading over his face as quickly as the blood-red splashes that fell from his wounds.
It was then that it occurred to me (Soda had said it before, but I didn't really get it until now)...any one of us could be Dallas Winston. His story was a perfect example of what happened to someone who had nobody...someone who wouldn't allow himself to believe in anything. When you were too cold or too tough, all it got you was a prison record, a closed-off heart, and a bad name. But, in spite of all of that, Dally hadn't been a bad guy. Deep down, maybe he hadn't wanted to be the way he was. When the only thing he'd allowed himself to love was no longer alive and there with him, he couldn't take it and ran himself into the ground as a result. Maybe in the end, that meant he hadn't been as heartless as he'd thought he was. He'd loved Johnny, and something told me that he'd loved all of us too.
Dally, who put himself on the line for two kids who were in way over their heads. Dally, whose jacket had saved my life. Dally, who rushed into a collapsing church to rescue his best friend. Dally, who said that he was glad he hadn't killed me, a strange sort of glimmer lighting up, and sparking a flame in the depths of his eyes.
I thought of all of those things and more, and I was sad for him all over again. I wished I'd been able to show him that sunset. Maybe then he would see. Maybe then he wouldn't have had to suffer.
Darry was shaking me now, his hand clamped hard on my shoulder. Oh god, Darry. He was like that too. Not nearly as bad as Dallas had been, and I knew he loved everyone in the gang something fierce (he showed it in his own way), but all the same, I could see Dallas in him. It was in his eyes when he said he was all right. It was in the way he moved after a long day's work. It was in the way he said, "You'd better wise up, Pony." It was in the way he sat all alone in that ratty old armchair; so rigid and still, and a whole world away from me.
"Pony!" He screamed my name, and I had no choice but to look up. His eyes weren't so closed-off now, although still, they looked wrong to me. They were wild, and they looked so scared... Was this what I did to him? Was this the way he felt every time I broke curfew? Every time I didn't get my work done? Every time I came home with a new bruise, and another story of a fight that could have been prevented if I'd just paid attention? Darry never got a break, and most of the reason for that was because of me.
I knew what had to be done now. Maybe it was too late for Dallas to see a sunset, but Darry was alive, and he was here with me.
Before I knew it, Darry's hand was gripped tight within mine and I was dragging him along behind me, straight out the screen door and down the stairs off the front porch. As usual, I wasn't using my head, but this wasn't something Darry could see using logic and reason, anyway.
"Where the heck are we going?" Darry asked, bewildered. I could tell without looking that he thought I'd lost my mind. Maybe I had. Before, just the thought of sharing a sunset with Darry had been awkward at the best of times. Now, I felt as if my life depended on seeing it with him.
There was no point in answering him, and though he was grumbling and mumbling under his breath, he said nothing. It was strange...Darry was always the one leading me along, and now, I was the one trying to lead him. Any of the guys who saw us probably would have cracked up at the sight. A fourteen-year-old kid dragging a big guy like Darry along by the hand. If positions were switched and I was seeing this, my laughter would have been the loudest.
Finally, we were at the lot; I still didn't know exactly where we were going, but deep down, I think I did. My heart was leading me, but that wasn't any different from the way I'd always been. Without hesitation, my feet guided me back to the spot where Johnnycake and I always use to sit together, gazing up at the midnight sky, the moon, the stars...the sunset too, when we were here early enough to see it. Letting go of Darry's hand, I closed my eyes for a moment and sighed. What if he didn't understand?
I had to try. For his sake, for Dally, and for Johnny.
Silently, I turned to face him. There must have been a pause of about five seconds, where no one said anything at all. Darry was silent and still; he seemed to understand that we were here for a reason, but you could tell from the confusion on his face that he hadn't the slightest idea what it was. Part of me wanted to just blurt out whatever came to mind...but that was never good to do with Darry. This time, I wanted to use my head before my answer came out wrong. This time, I wanted to pull myself out of those clouds, if only long enough to get Darry to see. Dallas...all I could think of was that Darry couldn't end up like Dallas. If that were to happen, I think I'd die too. My brother was different from me, but I knew the world would be just as bleak without him as it would be without Sodapop.
My eyes teared up, but I held back. No crying now...that would make things worse. Still, they must have been shimmering beneath my eyes, because Darry noticed, and his face changed quickly from confused, to concerned.
"What is it, Ponyboy? What's wrong, why are we here?"
"Look." One word, that was all. Nothing too flowery, or flashy. I just wanted him to see. More than anything, I needed him to see. Without a single word of complaint, Darry moved to stand beside me, following my finger to where the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen blanketed the skies.
Red, orange, blue, purple, yellow...so many different colors and hues that should have clashed, but instead, came together in a tapestry that was both harmonious, and glorious at once. Tiny specks of pure gold were sprinkled among every shade of every color the eye could see, as if it were melding, merging...holding them together. The sun was a distant, orange ball sinking beyond the horizon, and when it did hide itself from sight for yet another starlit night, it would take all color away with it as surely as if they had never been there at all.
It use to make me sad that such a heart-stopping sight didn't last longer. I would almost start bawling at the thought that I couldn't stand right here and watch it forever...but now, thanks to Robert Frost's poem, it made more sense to me. Nothing gold can stay. Maybe not. But should that mean that hope was lost? Should that mean it was impossible to keep some qualities that would forever stay gold? I had to find out. In that moment, my promise to Johnny increased twofold. I would keep that essence that some things were wondrous and new. I would stay gold, and pass Johnny's golden wish on to anyone I could. That was what it was, you know. Gold. Johnny was gold, and he always would be. Just like this sunset.
If I'd been close to tears before, the next sight that greeted me almost made me break down into sobs. Darry was frozen. Not in ice, like he usually was. He was frozen in awe.
Chunks of blue-green ice were transformed into melting pools of water as he gazed upon the sunset that I loved so much...he seemed to love it too, honest, he did. In his eyes, I saw things that hadn't been there for months...years, even. Amazement, wonder, serenity...and peace. Darry was almost never at peace. Slowly, he took it all in, his head moving slowly back and forth, from side to side...everywhere. He couldn't seem to get enough. It was unbelievable, but it was a happy moment for me. Maybe Darry could dig me okay after all.
After a minute or two, he turned his head to look at me, and this time, his mouth and his eyes were smiling. But, there were questions in his gaze as well. He didn't have to say them out loud for me to know what he wanted.
I opened my mouth to speak. At first, no words came out...I had to force them. There was a lump in my throat that was only growing, threatening to choke me.
"Johnny asked me to show one to Dally, but I...he..." My voice broke on the last word, and the tears I'd been holding back for so long escaped, rolling steadily down my cheeks. "He didn't live long enough. He never had a chance."
Darry just stood there, silently. Not the uncomfortable silence that sometimes stood between us. Instead, it seemed so intent on me...so understanding. His face was sympathetic, and soft somehow. Never thought that would be a word I'd use to describe Darry, but that was what came into my mind. In this moment, Darry was soft. Soft and warm.
"Don't...don't be like that, Darry. D-Don't be like Dallas. Don't be hard, and cold. Don't turn yourself off and stop believing in things that are still good in the world. Promise me...I c-can't see you die like him. I can't see you suffering all alone. I can't...I'll be good, all right? I'll do my homework, and I'll be home by curfew. I'll even go into a boy's home if you want, just don't...don't be like that..." I was sobbing now. I couldn't help it. It was a wonder he could make out the words that came out of my mouth at all, but from the way his eyes shimmered with tears of his own, he must have heard me loud and clear.
"Shh, hush baby. Come here, it's okay..." he murmured, in the softest, most gentle voice I'd ever heard him use before. Without hesitation, he pulled me into his arms, and there was no reason for me to resist. I just bawled. Buried my face into his shirt, and cried until I couldn't anymore. I don't think I had really broken down this way since my life had been turned upside down; since two friends that had once meant the world had been ripped from me. I did then. I think I was even talking too, but it was all nonsensical chatter that made no sense. Still, Darry said nothing. Just rubbed my back and rocked me, murmuring words that calmed me down, though what they were was a mystery. Whatever he said, I felt better. Maybe what they were didn't matter at all...it was the fact that he said them, and that they were just for me.
Darry kissed the side of my head and held me tighter still, if that was possible. But, in the very next instant, he separated slowly from me, holding me at arms length by both shoulders. The next words he spoke, I did remember. They were unforgettable, and my mind was clearing, too.
"Don't you worry about me, kiddo. I won't lie to you, it's hard sometimes, and I do get stressed out, but you know what? It doesn't matter. I'm happy with how things are."
"But Darry, you could have gone to college. You could have put me in a boy's home so you wouldn't have had to grow up. You could have..."
He chuckled. This time it didn't sound bitter, and harsh like the week before. Instead, it was amused, joyful like a pair of ringing bells. "Yeah, I could have, but you know something, Pony? There are more important things to me. I know you think I hate you sometimes, and that I wish I had stuck you in a boy's home, but that ain't true kid, you hear me? There are more important things to me than college and material items. Because, you know what? There's somethin' else I have right now that I could never live without."
"What's that?" I didn't understand. Darry could have everything if he wanted to. If I hadn't been dragging him down, he would be well on his way to living it up with the west side Socs.
He looked away for a moment, and it struck me that Darry could get embarrassed too. He wasn't use to showing such raw emotion. All the same though, he was back to gazing at me in an instant. He would never shy away from a fight, physical or mental. That was another thing I loved about Darry. Strongest guy I ever knew, in more ways than one. The embarrassment was a distant memory, and he opened his mouth to speak.
"For one thing, I'd never get to see that golden smile of yours again."
Golden smile...me? Soda had the dashing good looks and the heart-stopping grin that people loved to stare at. No one had ever said that to me before. Nevertheless, it made me feel good. Darry liked to see me smile? Who would have thought that?
"There it is," he said, laughing as he messed up my hair and punched me on the shoulder. I hadn't even realized it until now, but an ear-splitting grin had spread all the way across my face, and just because he'd said he loved to see me smile. Before I knew it, I was laughing too...a strange sound. We hadn't been hearing much of that around our place, lately.
Suddenly, the laughter faded, and Darry was solemn for a moment as he stood stark-still, looking at me. There was so much tenderness in his eyes, I thought that again, the tears would flow, and there would be nothing in the whole entire world that could stop me from crying. He loved me so much, didn't he? How could I have ever thought he hated me? Once again, just like that day in the hospital, I was astounded that anything about him had ever reminded me of ice.
"Nature's first green is gold...You've always been gold, Pony, from the day you were born."
My eyes widened in shock. I didn't know what to say. The fact that he knew the poem was surprising by itself (it made sense now that I thought about it. I'd found it in a book from Darry's room) but Darry just didn't talk like this. Not ever. Speech couldn't come to me even if I'd tried to force it, and he seemed to guess that himself. It didn't matter. He wasn't finished with me anyway.
He pressed on. "I just...I don't wanna see that fade, all right? I wish you would use your head more often, 'cause you're always getting yourself hurt, but more than anything, I don't want you to lose what makes you, you. When I think of someone destroying the person that you are...I wanna kill them, Pony. Destroy them. I just want you to understand that. And, I'm sorry. If it bothers you, I'll try to share my feelings more." He said the last part in such a small, uncertain tone, I almost bursted out laughing. But at the same time, it was touching. Darry was clearly uncomfortable with the idea of constantly sharing his emotions all the time, but still, he was willing to do it for me.
My brother seemed tense for a minute, but only just. Once more, he looked back at the fading sunset, and he relaxed again. This was it, wasn't it? My birthday wish for him, a gift if there ever was one. It wasn't much, but it was all I had to offer. Hopefully, such a 'gift' didn't make me look like too much of a pansy.
"Happy birthday, Darry. I did wanna give you something special, but, uh..."
"Shoot, kiddo. This is one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me. Thank you." Once again, he pulled me into a hug; once again, I went straight into his arms without a single thought. Everything was fine now...everything felt right.
"Just stay gold, Ponyboy. That's my wish for you."
D'aww...I'm fairly happy with how this turned out...you know, it's so easy for me to slip into Pony's mindset, it's almost creepy. But hey, I'm an absent-minded dreamer too. My friends tell me I'm just like him XD
Hope you enjoyed it. Reviews are lovely ;). And remember, everyone: stay gold.