Author's Note: Hey there. If you love Ponyboy as much as I do, you're probably glaring at me and saying, "How could you kill him?! You better not have killed him!" Well...you'll see. Sorry ;_;

Let me know what you think, of course. This is dedicated to my brother, since he has always been sort of like my Darry. They're not exactly the same, but you get the idea. He's my big brother and he's always been there for me. Anyway, I won't keep you. On with the story!

White Flag

By: Angel Wings-008

"Why did you do it?"

Darry's hand was clutching mine in a vice-like grip as I lay motionless on my back, chest rising and falling, eyes growing heavier and heavier with fatigue. Rest...desperately, I wanted to rest, but there were so many things more important than that. My brothers were sure as heck one of them, as many sleepless nights as they had probably spent on account of me. They'd always sacrificed for me, whether it was convenient for them or not (mostly it wasn't, I was sure). So of course I'd do the same, whenever, wherever, whatever they needed. Darry had to know that, right? If given another shot, this would have happened anyway, 'cause my decision would be just the same. I had no regrets.

Yes...no regrets at all, even as my eyes began to slowly drift shut. Darry, Soda...

No. I snapped myself awake as best I could, knowing that giving up was not an option. Sleep couldn't come for me just now, not yet, but glory, was I tired. My eyes might close of their own accord, whether they were told to or not. Would they ever open again if they did? Suddenly, I wasn't sure, and a secret corner of my mind wondered if they would be more green or gray in death. Did it matter? Which would I prefer these days?

My own morbid thoughts should have scared me, but they didn't. Maybe the pain had grown so bad, it didn't matter anymore. It should be a big deal to me. It would be to anyone else, but my life hung by a thread, so what did I care? Just a little bit further, and I would never feel anything again. Just a little bit more, and the agony wouldn't exist at all. Was this how it had been for Johnny? I didn't want to die, but at the same time, I felt peace. I didn't want to die, but I knew that if it my life was lost, the gain might be more than the loss. I could see it...could see it so clearly, it was as real as Tulsa had ever been.

Johnny was alive, his dark eyes bright and happy. His body wasn't a patchwork of scars. He didn't slink around like a lost, kicked puppy. He never had to worry about where he was going to sleep, or what he was going to eat for dinner that night. He had a peaceful home; his parents loved him deeply. He didn't have to wish for a world without Greasers and Socs, because now that world belonged to him for as long as he wished it to. Happiness, contentment...that was what he had wherever he was now, and that was right and good, because Johnny deserved all of it and more.

And Dally...old Dallas was there too, wasn't he? I could picture him smiling with his arm around Johnny...one of those rare, genuine smiles I wanted to draw in a picture to keep for myself. He didn't need hatred, didn't know disappointment. His old man gave a hang. He wasn't hardened and cruel, and he had no heater to use for a good bluff. His eyes weren't bitter, they were simply a brilliant blue. That was what heaven was, wasn't it? That was where they were, I knew: heaven. There wasn't a single doubt in my mind that both of them would have made it there together. Were they coming home to greet me? Their voices rang out in the distance, closer and closer, screaming my name.

Shaking off weariness as best I could, I focused on Darry, trying and failing to keep up his calm facade. His shoulders were trembling almost imperceptibly, and though he might have appeared unaffected to some, his distress was plain to see, at least for me. Especially if you were looking at his eyes. They were two hot embers burning away at his face, sunken as they were, haunted and ringed with black. At another time, I might have been awed at the contrast it put on the way the same blue-green orbs looked when they were frigid and cold. Although, I couldn't honestly say they were ever cold for real. That was just the way Darry wanted them to look to people on the outside.

"Why?" Darry choked, seeking an answer once more. His voice sounded hoarse, as if he'd been screaming for hours on end. Or maybe it was as if he were about to cry. I couldn't be sure. Couldn't remember the last time he'd cried in front of me.

Confusion set in, and as smart as I supposedly was, the words couldn't come to me, wouldn't, even if my life had depended on the answer I gave. Ironically, Darry's probably did. The guilt was eating him alive. But, he shouldn't need to wonder about my reason. Not in a case like this. The answer to his question should have been obvious, although as a result, now I had one to ask too: 'Why not? Why wouldn't I do this for you?'

Instead I forced a smile to my lips; all of my muscles seemed to be numb, so it was tougher work than it should have been. Moving them proved harder still, but I managed, all the same. Least I could do. Far as I was concerned, nothing would ever be enough to repay him for being the best older brother a guy could have. God only knew my gratitude had never shown before. Mostly he just got an eyeroll and a silent 'Shut it, Darry.'

"Because I love ya', stupid." That was better. Much better.

I was prepared for the smile that flashed across his lips, although it only lasted for a fraction of a second. What I wasn't expecting was that look of utter defeat...that horrible, heartbreaking look on his face.

My first thought was to reach out and smooth the wrinkles from his forehead. Take him by the shoulders and shake him. To order him to be happy, tell him not to worry about his kid brother the way he always did. It would never work. Darry wouldn't listen, but I wanted to try. This wasn't fair. It wasn't fair. He deserved to have everything he wanted, and as long as I was around, he would never achieve the dreams he'd given up. My presence was dragging him down, and it broke my failing heart.

At this rate, I might not be around for much longer anyhow. Thinking about it as a benefit to Darry almost made dying okay. Not a very tuff thing to say even if it was to myself, but being 'tuff' didn't seem to matter so much anymore. My brother had surrendered his life to the times, and all for my sake. Why then, shouldn't mine be sacrificed for his? That was the way things should be. I'd hold up the white flag, and hold it proudly if it meant he could walk away unscathed.

Come take me if you have to, death, 'cause I'm not afraid.

Darry lifted his other arm and placed his palm on top of my hand. He wasn't just holding it now, he was cradling it, and before I could react, he bowed his head as a sob escaped his lips.

"I'm sorry, Pone. God, I'm sorry. I should have seen it coming. I should have...you shouldn't have..." He broke off as his voice cracked, and when he raised his head to gaze into my eyes, there were tears rolling freely down his cheeks.

"Don't apologize, Dar. It was my fault. Please don't blame yourself. P-Please." My voice sounded weak...so weak, it surprised me for a moment. I was sure he hadn't heard me, but somehow he did. That was good. The strength to repeat the words just wasn't in me.

"Quit talkin', kiddo. Save what little energy you have," Darry cried, attempting to control himself and reach some sort of calm. He would. I knew he'd be okay. Darry was my Superman. Darry could do anything.

The world was getting hazy, now. Distorted, and dim. Even his face was hard to see, despite the fact that it was inches from mine. His features were blurred, running together, and I could still make out the tear streaks he tried to rub off on his shirtsleeve, but he was still my invincible big brother to me.

He had never made it to college, never had a chance to chase his dreams. He broke his back to keep two ordinary jobs in this ordinary town, barely made enough money for us to live together in our ordinary house. Each and every day was another struggle to sustain our less-than-ordinary life, and still, if I was asked to name the most successful person I'd ever met, you know what I'd say? It would still be Darry. My answer would always be Darry. Guess I looked up to him a whole lot more than ever crossed my mind before. It was better that my death was for him, in the end. Maybe people thought it was a little bit sad, but if I had to die someday, might as well have a choice in the where and how.

Darry was my Superman, but even Superman needed a tourniquet sometimes.

My body felt heavy. So heavy...couldn't even find the will to grip Darry's fingers back any longer. Every ounce of power left in me was being used to keep my chest rising and falling, even though it was a battle that couldn't be won. Wouldn't be rising at all for very much longer. I wasn't sure how I knew that for certain, but I did.

"Darry, I'm sorry. I love you guys. Make sure Soda knows that too." Oh, Soda. My final wish was to see him again. Just one little wish. A wish that he could have just another second or two to walk straight up to me and hold me in his arms, but my fight was over. My time had come. This heart of mine wouldn't allow me to stay awake any longer, no matter how I fought the sleep that threatened to overtake me. I supposed that either way, I would be sleeping. Peacefully...maybe forever and beyond.

"Don't you give up on me, Pony! I love you too much, don't you dare! I can't lose you too. I won't! Oh God, don't...open your eyes!" He sounded so anguished that for a moment, I tried to do as he asked, but the effort was pointless. My eyelids wouldn't budge. I was going to miss them, but they'd be all right without me. Wouldn't they? My gang was strong. My brothers were strong. I wasn't the pet, like Johnny. They'd get along fine without me.

Almost out of nowhere, my mind drifted back to the question I'd ignored only minutes before. A question so much the same, and yet so different from the one I'd once thought I knew the answer to. Green, or gray? Green...or gray? My outlook was so different now, the me of six months ago wouldn't have believed it.

My new hope was that they'd be green. Green, like Darry's eyes.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

...what? You wanna know what happened, you say? Or, what happens to Pony, perhaps? Is he with Johnny and Dally in paradise, or home sweet Tulsa with his gang? Will you ever find out? Will I leave this as a one-shot? Will the damn author (me ^_^) stop asking rhetorical questions and answer some of them?

Maybe. Review? ;D