A/N: I know that the beginning of the story isn't the most interesting one in the world, but I wanted to begin the story a bit mundanely, like S.E. Hinton did The Outsiders. It doesn't have the best grammar or story-writing, either, because I wanted it to be a bit more realistic. It said in the book that even though Johnny was really skilled at understanding things, he wasn't very book-smart. Seeing as it's in his point-of-view, I figured I'd let that show. Plus, not all of us speak like Stephen King or Lewis Carroll. We can only be so skilled, haha. Anyway, criticism and reviews are always welcome!

The gang was hanging out at the Curtis house. Well, the gang minus one, I should say. Ponyboy was out somewhere, watching some movie, I think Soda said. I wondered how he could lone something like that without so much as a second thought. Things weren't very safe for us greasers in neutral territory. I guess he was pretty brave for being thirteen. Fourteen, I corrected myself. Turned last month, and got pretty touchy when you called him thirteen.

Or maybe he didn't do it out of courage. Maybe he just wasn't thinking. Darry always ragged on him about how he wasn't ever thinking.

Other than Two-Bit giving Dally a noogie (which didn't go without punishment), not much had happened today. I mean, Soda cheated Steve out of a buck over poker, Darry commented on something interesting in the newspaper, and Dally beat the daylights out of Two-Bit, but that pretty much happens every day. Nothing new. That was probably why everyone was so quick to jump up when Darry said, "Pony's movie should be ending soon. Maybe we should go pick him up and walk him home."

So, we left the house, Darry in the front and Two-Bit bringing up the rear. Usually, Two-Bit would be in the front, trying to challenge Darry for his position. Dally liked to hang in the back, though, and I always walked behind Dally, which usually landed me in the back. I knew Two-Bit wanted me in between him and Dal, because he knew I was the only person on earth Dally wouldn't knock over to get at him.

The theater was quite a bit away, but none of us really minded. We all liked walking. On slow days like these, we always took a walk. Sometimes we even took one on the more exciting days. I wondered why we liked it so much.

I used to walk alone all the time. Not anymore, though, not since what happened in the lot. Ponyboy walked around by his lonesome a lot, too. I got a sudden pang of worry, the kind I always did when Pony might get hurt. I might have been a chicken little, but I always felt like it was my obligation to look after Ponyboy. I thought we all did, even Steve to an extent. Maybe that was because he was the youngest.

Slowly, the grimy slums of the east began to clear up. It wasn't too nice, not as nice as the west, but it was a heck of a lot better than the east. Neutral territory was where all the middle-class people lived, a rare place to see greasers and Socs unless they were hitting up the town or something. I supposed that was why we got so many funny looks. After realizing how nicely those people were dressed, though, I knew better.

"Man," Steve muttered, "this is Soc-city today. I bet the only reason we haven't been jumped yet is 'cause we're walking in a pack."

That got everyone a little worried, I bet, mainly because it was true. We'd been eyed by a bunch of madras-wearing jerks in mustangs so far. I'd bet that the biggest reason why they kept on going was because of Darry and his Superman self, not because we were in a pack. If that was true, how would a small, greased-up, barely-teenager look in their ugly eyes?

Like lunch, I thought bitterly.

That was when we heard the screaming. Ponyboy's screaming. "SODA, DARRY, HELP! SODA! HEL-"

We all froze in place as soon as it started. When his voice cut off suddenly, we all feared the worst. Next thing I knew, we were all running in high-gear. Feet slapping against the ground, arms flapping by our sides, long greasy hair flying behind us…we must have looked a wreck, but we didn't care. All that mattered was getting to Ponyboy. Even Steve, who could barely stand the kid, was determined to help him.

Ponyboy had started screaming again. Or, at least he was trying to. It sounded like the Socs were trying to keep him quiet, which they probably were. He was still calling names, mainly Darry and Soda, but Two-Bit got mixed in a couple times. He even screamed for Dally and Steve, and he didn't like either much. I wasn't surprised not to hear my name. I just wasn't someone to go to for help.


All I could think of was that day when those Socs had jumped me in the lot. I knew I wasn't going to ever be able to put that behind me. That event had left a scar from my temple to my cheekbone and a scar on my spirit. They were the same. Neither would ever go away. I couldn't get that day out of my mind…


And I knew that I could never let that happen to a kid as bright and golden as Ponyboy. People might like to call me spineless, but I always had Ponyboy's back. Always.

As we turned the corner, we saw the Socs that had him pinned to the ground. They looked at us with shock, as if surprised that hoods like us would bother coming to protect some scrawny little kid. Ponyboy had his eyes squeezed shut, trying to fight and get away from the Socs. He looked terrified, and he was bleeding like a stuck pig. Then, I was looking at the Socs, and suddenly I felt a way that I hadn't felt in a long time: like I could rip their heads off.

Me, Two-Bit, Steve, and Dally rushed them. Soda followed us for a moment, then turned back to help Darry check up on Pony. Even though I knew I was too scrawny and small to do it, all I wanted to do was hurt those Socs for hurting Pony. You didn't do that to a kid. God, you just didn't.

They disappeared in that fancy mustang of theirs. "Yeah!" Two-Bit yelled after them, already scooping up rocks. "Not so tough when you're the ones outnumbered, huh!" Steve was right with Two-Bit with the teasing, and I was pretty sure Dally beat his record for the quality and quantity of Nasty Things Said to Socs. I was dead quiet, though. Not because I was scared.

One of my rocks went soaring right through the back window of that pretty little mustang. It disappeared around the corner, screeching all the way.

"Woo, Johnny!" Two-Bit cried, breaking out into a grin. "Way to aim!" He scooped me into the air and spun me in circles till I was almost too dizzy to keep my balance when he set me back down. Dally's congratulatory clap on the back and Steve nudging me in the side didn't help matters.

When we finally got back to the others, Pony asked us if we caught them. Two-Bit was glad for the excuse for more name calling. Ponyboy was pale and pretty shaky, but we all knew he'd be fine after he calmed down a bit. He was already changing the subject as if it were nothing, asking about Dally being out of jail. (Dally lied horribly, saying he got out on good behavior. I didn't know how exactly he got out so early, but Dallas Winston never had good behavior. Ever.)

Things took a natural course of events from there. Darry ragged on Pony for not thinking, Soda stood up for Pony, Darry backed off after making a point that he wasn't backing off because Soda told him to, while Pony just watched quietly. That always seemed to be the way their fights went. Next thing I knew, Pony was volunteering me for movie night.

Yep. Pony would be just fine. I smiled at the kid. He looked at me and looked surprised that I was actually smiling. (I admit, I don't do it as much as I should.) He seemed to get my point though, that I was glad he was alright and didn't end up like me.

All that blood was coming from a cut he had in almost the exact same place as I did, maybe a bit lower.

It didn't look like it would leave a scar.

Thank god.