"Ponyboy, get your stuff together. Ya'll need to go." Darry picked up the papers on the kitchen counter and sifted through them. "You should've put all this away last night." Darry looked up to see that Pony wasn't even in the kitchen any longer and he had been talking to thin air. He sighed. "Ponyboy!" He called. He put his brothers math homework back in his folder and stuffed it in his bookbag. His English notebook still sat on the counter open and caught Darry's attention. An excellent drawing of a dog and a boy took up half a page next to some vocabulary notes. Darry flipped the page and saw another, then another similar drawing of a puppy. He smiled and wondered if a dog might be good medicine for his little brother. Maybe it would keep him occupied and out of trouble. Maybe a puppy even would be nice if he could keep it from pooping all over the new house.

"Hey, that's mine." Pony snatched the notebook out of his unsuspecting brothers hands. "I don't go looking through your stuff."

Darry ignored the annoyance in his brothers tone. "Have you been paying attention in English class or just drawing pictures?" Pony gave him a sour look and put the rest of his belongings in his backpack. Darry signed. "Why isn't your math book here?"

Pony peered into his backpack and groaned. "I don't know where it is." He walked back off to his room to find it.

"You need to pack up the night before. We don't have time for this every morning." Darry followed him into the boys room. Soda was sitting on the bed tying his shoelaces.

"I wanna go exploring with Nicky after school." Pony changed the subject.

"Exploring where?"

Pony shrugged. "He just said he wanted to show me around this place."

"You're supposed to come home and get your homework done first thing after school."

"C'mon Darry, I haven't had any fun since we got here."

"What? I'm not fun?" Darry joked. Soda rolled his eyes at the poor humor. "Fine, go with Nicky after school but you better be back by the time I get home from work.

Soda shot up. "If Pony don't have to come home after school than I'm going riding."

"No." Darry said plainly.

"That's not fair." Soda whined, reminding Darry more of a seven year old than a seventeen year old."Life aint fair." Darry reasoned. "You're not riding that horse before your homework's done. Not unless it's to get to and from school. I'm not bending on that rule." Darry said. Soda sulked. "You both need to leave, hurry up!"

"He's not gonna let me ride him." Pony says putting out his cigarette butt. Soda mounted Royal easily and scooted up to the front of the saddle as much as he could so Pony would have some room.

"He will if I'm on him too." Soda said, reaching down to help pull Pony up behind him. To Pony's surprise the horse doesn't make one sound of protest. "Put your arms around my waist and hold onto the saddle horn." Soda instructed. Pony obeyed silently. "Good." Soda flicked the reigns and they started moving.

Darry looked on from the front porch slightly concerned. Pony hadn't been on a horse since he was a little kid and only then with their father. "Hold on tight." He instructs "Don't fall off, Ponyboy."

"I've got him Darry, we're fine." Soda dismissed his brothers worry. "Not to fast, Sodapop." Darry warned as he got into the beat up truck.

Soda rolled his eyes. He watched Darry pull out and disappear down the road before he flicked the reigns harder and they sped up to a good trot.

The day was uneventful and school felt slow to both boys. Soda was more than relieved when fourth period rolled around and it was time for gym. He could finally work off some pent up energy. He buddied around with some guys he'd met from the soccer game at lunch. The kids weren't so bad here he figured. He missed Steve and Two-Bit though and wished he was at the DX more than anything.

Nicky rushed Pony out of the classroom the second the dismissing school bell rang. "C'mon, hurry up!" He hollered.

"What's the rush for?" Pony grabbed his backpack and worked on zipping it up as he ran after Nicky out of the school and towards town.

"Just to get out of here and on to something more exciting. Whadya wanna see first?"

"Where's the library?" Pony asked.

"The library?" Nicky scoffed. "I thought maybe we could start at the candy store. There aint nothing exciting about the old town library."

"Well they've got books there don't they?"

"Of course they have books. That's all they have."

"I wanna get a library card."

"Fine." Nicky sighed. "We'll get you a library card but then I need something sweet."

"Where are you two going." Soda trotted up beside them on Royal.

"To the library. You going home?" Pony asked.

"No, I'm gonna ride him to the lake and back."

"You don't even know where the lake is. We haven't been yet." Darry had promised to take them that weekend.

"I asked directions. It doesn't sound so hard to find." Soda shrugged. He figured he'd find it and then take advantage of the massive amount of surrounding land that was available to run Royal. Darry wouldn't be home until after five and what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

"Yeah well, get home before Darry gets there to find you missing." Pony read his mind.

Nicky showed Pony around the small town. They hit the library then the candy shop. Pony spent nearly a dollar of his allowance on junk including chocolate fudge that he was sure his brothers would appreciate sharing with him later. The bookstore, the little bagel shop, the pet store, the general grocer, the tiny movie theatre, and the saddlery which he was sure Soda would appreciate for all the bundles of supplies he could buy Royal. They ended at the ice-cream shop even though both were already full of sugar.

"We should probably head home soon." Pony said.

"C'mon, you haven't seen the park yet." Nicky never ran out of excitement.

"I really need some smokes." He had finished the last of his pack off during the lunch break. "Lets stop here at the gas station and I'll get some." Pony said. Nicky followed him apprehensively.

"How old are you?" The man behind the counter questioned when Pony threw down two packs of Kools and seventy-five cents.

"Old enough." Pony said. Nobody had ever cared when he bought smokes in Tulsa. The man didn't say anything but took the money and they left.

"Your brother's gonna smell that on you." Nicky pointed out as they walked towards the park and Pony lit one up and inhaled deeply.

"Who? Darry?" Pony said confused. "Darry knows I smoke. I've been smoking since I was twelve." He said like it was no big deal. Nicky's eyes widened. "You want one?" Pony shoved the pack over in his direction.

"No! Gavin would have my hide." Nicky said seriously. Pony just shrugged. They made their way to the park and climbed up onto the monkey bars. Pony sprawled out across them, finished his smoke and lit up another. "Whatdya think?" Nicky asked.

"Of what?"

"The town."

"It's nice." Pony said blowing out smoke. "Thanks for showing me."

"No problem." Nicky said proudly. "Anything for a buddy." Pony smiled at that. He'd only known Nicky for two days but he was already calling him a friend. "You wanna come over for dinner tonight?"

"I can't. I have to be home before Darry gets there. What time is it?" He asked absent mindedly.

"Ponyboy." A familiar voice called.

Pony looked over surprised, searching for a face. The first thing he saw was Darry's beat up old truck, pulling off to the side. "Ya'll need a ride?" Darry leaned out the window of the truck, looking at Pony in a way that indicated he wasn't asking.

"Sure." Nicky grinned, jumping up. Pony jumped down from the monkey bars and got into the bed of the truck after Nicky who patted the side of the old vehicle so Darry new they were ready to go.

"I'll see you at school tomorrow." Pony said goodbye as they reached Nicky's house and he jumped on out.

"See yah! Thanks Mr. Curtis!" He waved to Darry and ran into his house.

"Glory, I'm not that old am I?" Darry muttered at being addressed so formerly. He poked his head out of the truck window. "Ponyboy, come sit up here." He ordered and Pony climbed out of the bed and into the passengers seat next to his brother.

"Sorry." He muttered before Darry could say anything. "We were just about to leave the parkā€¦"

"Mhmm." Darry nodded as they started off for home. "You still wouldn't have made it though now would you have?"

"Guess not." Pony mumbled.

Darry sighed. "You'd forget your head if it wasn't attached to your body Ponyboy Curtis." But he didn't sound mad, not really anyways and so Pony was relieved. "How much homework do you have?"

"It's not to bad. I don't have anything to study for." They pulled into the driveway. Pony looked around quickly, hoping that Soda was home. Royal was in the pen running around which was a good sign.

"Get going on it then." Darry said as he opened the front door. "I'm gonna start dinner." He looked happy to see Soda at the table with his homework sprawled out before him.

"Hey, it's my two favorite brothers." Soda quipped, looking up from his notebook.

"You ought to be close to done with your work by now, huh?" Darry asked, searching in the ice box.

Soda frowned. "No, I have a lot tonight." It was the truth but it was also true that he had only just arrived home in time to put Royal in the pen and sit down at the table before Darry walked in the door. "How was work?" He changed the subject before Darry decided to question him.

"Fine I guess. What do you want for dinner, chicken or pork chops?"

"Chicken and potatoes." Soda said.

Darry made dinner while Soda made a half-hearted attempt at an essay. Pony was done with half of his own homework before Soda even had a paragraph. Dinner comes and goes, Darry writes a check for their first mortgage payment and Pony sprawls out on the couch with a book he checked out from the library that afternoon. Soda leaves his school books and grabs a jacket the second Darry agrees that his homework is satisfactory.

"You wanna come ride double again Pony?" Soda asks brightly as he opens the front door. Pony considers this. He's excited about his book but riding on the back of the horse to school that morning had been fun.

"Okay." Pony says, putting his book down on a cushion.

"Not to late." Darry says, looking up briefly at the two. He knew Soda would stay out all night with that horse if he let him.

"Sure Darry." Once they got outside Soda turned to Pony. "C'mon I want to show you what I found today."

"What'd you find." Pony asked curiously.

"Just c'mon I'll show you."