Disclaimer: I don't own The Outsiders.

A/N: Becasue Tim's not an asshole, seriously. Deds to somebluedecember, like always. :P


You look like you just took the beating of your life.

Technically, you did. But you're not going to admit that to anyone.

Especially when the person who just beat the crap out of you and held you down with a broken bottle at your throat was your little, shithead brother.

Fuck him.

You've locked the door so that Angela can't get in, even though she's calling your name from outside the door. You can hear the cracks in her voice, but you don't want her pity. You don't need it.

You turn on the sink, letting the water run until it's hot. Cupping your hands, you try to pool as much water before you splash it onto your face. It burns your skin, seeps into your eyes and stings the cuts. There's an itch in your throat, your arms are on fire and your head is pounding to the beat of Angela's knocks.

"Tim! Let me in!"

It kills you to ignore your sister, but you can't face her now. You can still hear her screams during those few moments when you were lying on your back, one slip away from having your throat cut.

"Get off him, Curly. Now!"

The jagged edge of the bottle had been resting on your neck, but you could already feel blood seeping out. You didn't break your gaze with him. You had lost – you could admit that. He had you on your back with a bottle at your throat – the same bottle you smashed his head with not minutes ago. But you could tell that he was barely staying conscious. His breathing was ragged, his arm was quivering and his eyes looked similar to an untamed animal in a zoo. There was blood dripping from his chin onto your shirt, but you were too fucking exhausted to do anything except lie there and hope he didn't take your head off – literally.

He lessened his grip on the bottle, but it was still in a lethal position.

"Curly," Angela pleaded. She was your only chance to come out of this fight not severely maimed. "Stop."

You watched him closely, wondering if he was going to let his guard down so that you could make a move - as desperate as that might have been. Eyeing him, you tried to read his expression but you couldn't tell what he was thinking. You made a fist when he finally released the bottle, but he punched you dead center in the face before you could do anything.

You groaned; fucking hell that hurt. Even though he was weak and tired as hell, he still had packed a punch and your nose was broken for sure.

Looking into the mirror, you gingerly touch your crooked nose. You were right; it's broken again.

Your face is a mess, but at this moment you really couldn't give a shit. You wipe the remaining blood off with the wet towel and open the door, eager to go straight to bed.

Angela's waiting outside the bathroom, sitting down on the ground, her knees tucked into her chest and her arms wrapped around them. Her head is bent down, but she looks up as soon as you open the door. Her eyes are red and the thick eyeliner that she wears is smudged around the edges of her eyes. She looks distressed and worried.

"Tim, we have to go out and get Curly – he's going to die out there. It's cold and he didn't take a jacket." She sniffs, trying hard to stop crying. "Tim, he's your fucking brother!"

"Don't curse, Angel," you say, ignoring everything else that she said.

"Tim –"

"Look, if you fucking care about him that much, then you go out and look for the little shithead!" She freezes. You've never yelled at her, even when she admitted that she might have gotten pregnant.

OOOOO

The smell of something delicious catches your attention and you decide that it's about time to get up and start the day. Angela is in the kitchen – ever since she started taking that Home Ec class at the beginning of the year she's been cooking nonstop – pulling something out of the oven.

She turns around. "Hey. You don't mind waiting a few minutes, do you? These need to cool."

"What are they?" you ask. You peer over her shoulder. They look like …

"Cinnamon rolls. I found a recipe and picked up some ingredients yesterday afternoon when me and Tracy went to the grocery store after school." Tracy's one of Angela's friends from Home Ec class. She might be Angela's age, but she still looks good – and she cooks a really good chocolate cake too.

"I've been thinking about possibly going to Oklahoma City and bringing Curly some. They don't serve good food in prison, do they?"

"Not good compared to yours, Angel. How're ya going to get there?"

She gives you a long, hard look. "I was thinking maybe we could go down there together one weekend."

You decide it's been a few minutes and pick up a roll from the pan. Before you take a bite, you answer. "I'm busy on the weekends, Angel. I've got gang stuff, ya know?"

"You haven't been there to see him once. Have you even talked to him?"

"Yeah, remember two weeks after he got sent in? You were making a fuss about how I shouldn't talk to him." Damn, this cinnamon roll is good. You grab a couple more on a plate and sit down at the table.

"I mean since then." She goes to the fridge and pours a cup of milk and hands it to you. "Don't you think that you should talk to him, or write a letter or something?"

Technically, you should. After all, it was your mistake that got him in there in the first place. You're not stupid or ignorant enough to deny that. But, you have to admit, this way Curly will really man up – maybe enough for him to really get involved in the gang after he gets let out – and you don't have to spend five years in jail for something so trivial.

And you never sent him a letter or called him while he was in juvie. Why should you start now?

Angela doesn't press for an answer and begins washing the dishes. When she's halfway done – and you're on your third cinnamon roll – she turns around.

"Tim."

You stare at her. You hope she doesn't bring up the Curly subject again, especially since you just talked about it.

She's leaning on the counter, hands gripping the edges. She's biting her lip and not meeting your gaze. She's hiding something.

"Angela. What's going on?"

She gulps. "I … uh …"

"Spit it out, Angela."

"I'm late."

That doesn't make any sense to you. "What do you mean you're late?"

She takes a deep breath. "I mean, I'm late. I might be …" She drops off.

You sit up straight and take a long look at her. "Angela," you start. "Tell me you're not talking about what I think you're talking about."

"It's true."

"Fuck."

She doesn't say anything.

Might as well get to the bottom of this while you can. "Who?"

She looks down at her shoes and mumbles something unintelligible.

You drop the roll on your plate, stand up and walk over to her. Tilting her chin so that she's facing you – she lets her eyes wander off to the side – you repeat the question.

"Who?"

She takes a deep breath. "Jimmy."

Oh fuck, seriously? One of the gang? And Jimmy, of all people? You voice these questions while she stares back down at her shoes.

"We've … um …"

"Spit it out, Angela." You sigh and lean on the counter.

"We've been … kind of dating for the past couple months. It wasn't a hook-up or nothin'," she reasons.

"Doesn't change the fact that you're going to be a mom in nine months. Jesus Christ, Angela. What were you thinking?"

She shrugs and then turns to you, meeting your gaze for the first time since she brought this whole subject up.

"What am I gonna to do, Tim?"

It takes all of your will power to not yell at her. She's acting just like Curly – lost, confused, can't do anything by herself. You grab what's left of the roll and walk down the hallway.

"Get married like everyone else. Maybe you can tell Curly that when you visit him."

OOOOO

What a fucking idiot.

That's what you're thinking while you sit in the courtroom waiting to see your brother get shipped off to the reformatory.

You had gotten in a fight with Dallas Winston the night before and were nursing a couple cracked ribs. All because the asshole slashed your tires. So when you woke up on Saturday morning – even though you've been out of school for a while, you still think Saturdays should be easy and laid-back – you had a list of things that you did not particularly want or plan to do.

It was even worse when you turned on the radio on your way to the courthouse and heard the breaking news about some Soc kid being found, stabbed in the park. At first you didn't care, but then hearing that two kids – both involved in Dallas' little gang – were missing as well, it was just one more thing that had to be placed on your radar.

The door opens and he's led in, followed by two police officers. He looks around and catches your eye and all you can think is about how this is one more thing that you just don't have the time for today.

You sit there, arms crossed, and listen to the court proceedings. You feel a little pride in your brother when they list the numerous offenses – even if most of them are pretty stupid. The judge hands him a six-month sentence, and slams the gavel. Instantly, you're up and moving out of the courtroom. You have to meet with both Dallas and your gang about that murder, get some new tires, and make sure that Angela's safe – especially since it's around the block that the Socs are out for blood.

Curly's a good kid. But he's locked up for the next six months and no one can do anything about it. And you have other shit to deal with right now.

OOOOO

A couple months later, Angela comes home in tears. Sitting up – you were taking such a nice nap, too – you pat the couch seat next to you and she sits down, leaning her head on your shoulder.

"I went down to the reformatory to see Curly today, but he's in solitary. They told me to leave, but I managed to overhear them talking. Apparently his roommate got jumped, and he died, and Curly got in the middle of it to protect him or something, and …"

She rambles on, and you quietly listen. All the while, you think about how even though he might make some stupid mistakes, he's still a good judge of character.

OOOOO

"Sam."

He's very laid back. You've known Sam since you were kids - before you even thought about forming a gang. He's been by your side through jail, fights, and dealings gone wrong. He's always the last person to throw a punch. Very easygoing, you know he won't be offended when you ask him to step down.

"For Curly?" he asks.

You nod. "He's doin' a year for me at state. I think it's about time that I rewarded some of his loyalty."

Sam shrugs his shoulders. "Okay. Let me know if you need anything. By the way, have you talked to him?"

You shake your head. "Not since he went in."

Sam stares at you with a focus that is so unlike him. "You sure he's gonna be the same person when he comes out?"

"Why wouldn't he be?"

"I dunno, man. People change when they go to jail – real jail – for a long time. He might be a different guy."

You light up two cigarettes and hand one to him. "It's Curly. He's sticking it out. He's always wanted a real job in the gang. He'll take it. I'm sure."

"He's done good. Even before he got sent in."

"Yeah, but he fucked up a lot, too. Now he's taking a whole year like a man. I'm proud of him."

OOOOO

You had been so pissed when he hadn't show up.

You remember feeling foolish in front of your gang. They stood there, waiting for Curly, waiting for your second-in-command, waiting for your little brother. When he didn't come, the boys not only saw Curly ignoring your direct orders, but they saw a gang leader who couldn't even keep track of his own right-hand man.

So you bottled in that anger. Made sure that none was taken out on any of the boys; it's not their fault that Curly was being a fucking drama queen. By the time you were driving home, you were thinking, He'd better have a damn good reason.

The lights were on, the music was playing softly, and his car was in the driveway. Heart pounding, you slowly walked up to the steps, anger just pulsing through your veins. You peeked through the window before you let yourself in.

And there he was.

He was lying there on the couch – his makeshift bed – smoking a goddamn cigarette. He was chill, relaxing like he had all the time in the world. You busted in through the door, startling him. You were so fucking angry that you could barely see straight.

"Curly!"

"Shit, Tim. Give me a little notice, will ya?" He caught his cigarette. "Fuck, man."

You were pissed as hell and he wasn't even paying attention to you. You tried to remain calm, but it was so fucking hard. Angrily, you grabbed the smoke and tossed it out the window.

"Where were you tonight?"

He didn't answer and you struggled to contain your anger. "You weren't there so we couldn't finish all of the cars, asshole. You're lucky we managed to pull of a win. Do you know how much we would have lost? You dumbass, I pay for all of your shit and you don't even bother to pull you own weight. You're a fuckin' little shit, Curly. You can't even remember one fuckin' order –"

"You can't order me around."

You fell silent. The fact that he talked back to you, telling you that you didn't have any control over him, shows how much he changed.

At first, you had thought that this was just some schoolgirl drama shit. After all, he did spend a year in prison, something probably had happened. You just didn't expect it to have had this much of an effect.

You chose your next words carefully.

"What did you say, Curly?"

You said it as much softness as you could without losing your position. You didn't want him to change – as fucking annoying as he was; he was still your brother. He wasn't supposed to be taller than you. He wasn't supposed to grow up. He wasn't supposed to leave the shelter that you have kept him under for so fucking long.

You wanted him to stop and think. You wanted him to take it back. You wanted him to take a smack on the head for being stupid so that you could get on with your life.

He was eerily quiet, looking down at his shoes. But his hands were clenched in fists, and you could tell that he was also trying to keep control of himself.

You took a step forward, willing to give him one chance. You wanted to give him just one more fucking chance to stop the change and go back to how it had always been.

"What did you say Curly?"

Still nothing.

"I asked you a quest -" He stood up … taller than you.

"I ain't a kid no more, Tim. Don't order me around like one."

Shit. He may have been taller than you, but he was still definitely a kid. You could see it in his eyes. He still had that innocent look that even a year in the state prison couldn't take away. He was never going to be as strong, as rough, as emotionless as you.

"You ain't a kid no more, my ass. You will always be a kid, 'cause you can't live without me. You're always gonna need me to clean up your shit, just like now." Because in the end, you were going to have to clean up whatever fucked-up mess he ended up making. He would have his fun - acting all cool, back talking to you in front of the gang, ignoring direct orders - but in the end, it was going to be left to you to make sure the Shepard name wasn't tarnished.

He narrowed his eyebrows. "No way. I don't need your help. What happened a year ago? Huh, Tim? Who told me to shut up and to keep that money?"

God, was he still on about that? The year was over. You had spent a year in the reformatory – state prison probably wasn't that much different.

You had made a mistake. You had told him that on the phone so long ago. Why couldn't he get it through his thick skull?

And if you had gone to jail, it would have been for much longer. You've taken the heat for Curly's mistakes – from other gang leaders, your mom, and the old lady down the street. That's what brothers do; they protect each other, they stand up for each other, they take the rap so that the other is safe.

"I did. And everything worked out fine, didn't it?"

"Fine? I spent a fuckin' year in Oklahoma City!"

"Better one year for you than five years for me."

His eyes grew wide and for a moment you saw the rage of a tamed animal let free. You didn't even expect it, so you didn't see it coming.

It took you a moment to realize that he had fucking punched you. And then, Curly wasn't your brother – he was just another guy who had decided to cross you. Another kid who had been in over his head. Another loser who had thought he could win.

OOOOO

Holding the ice on your broken nose, you sit down on your bed.

It smarts something awful, and you debate feigning sleep when Angela walks into the room, sniffling.

"Tim." She sniffles. "He's still our brother, you know."

No, he's not.