I took this down a while ago to fix it up. I did a while back and just let it sit.

Figured I'd repost today. This should make Calla Lily Rose especially happy, since she's been on me to get this back.

This goes along with my "20" series.

SE Hinton owns the Outsiders.


1. Sentry.

"If you're gonna leave just do it already," an 11-year-old Two-Bit tells his pa. He holds an arm out and his sister Karen runs to him, shielding her face against his side. Two-Bit thinks it's one of the most serious days in his life and he hates it.

"Oh no, Keith, don't say that," his ma cries, watching Kevin Mathews stuff his remaining few belongings in a shoddy suitcase. Not that their pa really needs the suitcase; he's been coming and going for so long it doesn't matter. The suitcase's just for show. A final goodbye.

Kevin gives Keith a long look before turning to his wife. "I'll call you." Then he walks out the door, leaving his family to watch it slam.

"Now, why'd you have to go and say that?" ma asks, her face tired, arms propped against her side.

"I didn't make him leave," Two-Bit says. "And neither did you."


2. Detective.

Soda can't stop moving. He dashes around the back yard, peering under the porch. Dallas watches him with an odd frown, puffing away on a smoke. "Easy, Soda," Dal says. "He'll turn up."

"Oh man, my mom's gonna kill me," Soda moans. He cups his hands and yells, "Ponyboy! Hide and Seek's over."

"Get your ass out here!" That's Dallas.

"Come out come out, wherever you are…" Two-Bit sings.

Bored, the kid had asked multiple friends and his brothers if they had wanted to play hide and seek. Apparently, many had nodded yes, none had meant it. He hid, no one searched. An hour later, Dallas finally got wise.

Two-Bit surveys the Curtis's yard, wondering where the kid could have gone when something catches his eye. The next-door neighbor's yard resembles a junk store: a busted truck on the front lawn, a stove, a refrigerator, a bicycle—

Two-Bit squints at the refrigerator and then takes off for the yard. He doesn't know why but something tells him the kid's crawled and got locked inside. Soda follows and they rip the door open. Ponyboy tumbles out, his cheeks flushed, gasping for air.

"Hell! I'm a regular Sherlock Holmes," Two-Bit crows, jumping out of the way as Soda pulls Pony to his feet.

"You found me!" Ponyboy croaks with happiness, oblivious to his predicament. Soda nods in relief.

Dallas waltzes up. "Kid," he says. "Before you go crawling into tight spaces, make sure you can get out."


3. Sports Commentator.

Soda and Steve are wrestling in the front yard. "And they're off," Two-Bit begins. "White Lightning gets Greaser McGoo in an arm lock—"

"Two-Bit!" Steve barks. "Why'd I get that shitty ass name?" Soda laughs and then resumes his fighting skills. Sneakers mar the front lawn, green grass getting ripped to shreds.

"Because you're shitty," Two-Bit replies and then is off again. "But wait! Greaser McGoo escapes the arm lock and shoves – shoves? Really Steve? – White Lightning to the ground." Two-Bit screeches as Steve knocks Soda off his feet. Then Soda topples Steve.

"And McGoo's down, in the mud like the filth that he is!"

Steve utters another curse. Two-Bit glances at the house as Ponyboy walks down the porch steps, holding a cup of water. Pony stands next to Two-Bit watching the fight with large green eyes.

"You want in on this kidlet?"

Pony grins and tosses his cup full of water on top of Steve. "And the fight's been stopped!" Two-Bit screams. "By the Kid – a glass of ice water to clean the greaser off."

Steve writhes, a string of curses flying past his lips. Sodapop, dying of laughter, rolls around on his back, holding his stomach.

15-year old Darry bounds out of the house, looking angry. "Knock it off with the cursing," he tells them all. "Mom's gonna throw a fit." To make his point, he nudges the youngest. "Inside, Ponyboy."

"And here he is," Two-Bit interjects. "Darry Curtis, better known as Superman, ready to knock someone's block off." The nickname comes easily, Two-Bit unaware that it will stick for the rest of Darry's life.

Darry rolls his eyes. "It's gonna be yours if you don't shut up."

As Darry walks back inside, Ponyboy in tow, Soda sits up and cocks his head. "Superman, huh?"


4. Travel Planner.

Two-Bit listens to Johnny explain his recent black eye. The boy's legs bouncing a mile a minute, his long fingers intertwined.

"So you ran into a door, Johnnycake?" Two-Bit muses. "Don't think I've heard that one before." Johnny sighs and Two-Bit pats his leg.

"You can crash at my place. Only payment is eatin my ma's cookin which is a sacrifice in and of its self."

"That's okay, Two-Bit. I oughta go home anyways."

"I hear Alaska's nice this time of year."

Johnny just smiles at Two-Bit with those sad eyes.


5. Grief Counselor.

"Kid, you okay?"

"Go away Two-Bit."

"You can't disrespect your elders like that, c'mon let me in."

There's a shuffle from behind the door and then Ponyboy swings it open. The kid's face is tearstained, eyes pink. Two-Bit enters the bedroom, plopping down on the bed. Ponyboy sits on the floor.

Two-Bit stares at his hands. He's uncomfortable, unsure of what to do or say. But he needs to be here right now.

"I'm real, real sorry, Ponyboy." Ponyboy sniffs and Two-Bit hopes he doesn't start crying again. "If you need anything just let me know and I'll…I'll steal it."

That gets him a smile. Two-Bit slides off the bed, sitting on the ground next to the kid. "I hear Darry's keepin you."

Pony wipes his eyes, his face pinched. "Yeah, I'm sure he'll regret it in a month."

"Nah. You and Soda clean up nice, you don't eat too much and sure know how to cook a mean chocolate cake. I'd say you're safe." Two-Bit squeezes Pony's arm. "Hell, I'd keep you."

And Two-Bit really means it.


6. Lawyer.

"I'm a lawyer," he tells her, showing the briefcase he just recently swiped.

She cocks an eyebrow, flooring Two-Bit. That's his job. "Really? By the looks of your clothes I'd say you belonged in the gutter."

Two-Bit clutches his chest. "You really cut me to the core, sweetheart, you know that?"

"I think you handle that all on your own." She smirks, ashing her cigarette. "So, what do you practice?"

"Animal law."

"I don't really want to know what that means." The girl wipes her lanky hair out of her face, staring at him. She's cute, and if he squints just right she could be blonde, so he figures he'll give her a chance.

"Yep, at the firm of Whogivesashit."

She laughs and extends a hand. "I'm Kathy."

"The name's Baron Chesterfield the fifth, Animal Lawyer."


7. Confessor.


"What, Two-Bit?" Darry smears a hand down his face, not really having the time or focus to carry on a conversation at the moment. He searches the kitchen for a spoon.

Finding what Darry needs, Two-Bit grabs one up. "Here." Darry takes it, setting it in the bowl of soup on the counter. Two-Bit knows that soup's meant for one person in particular. It's late at night – the dark's never been so sad.

"Darry," Two-Bit tries again. He feels the tears coming on fast and loose and doesn't want to cry in front of Superman but doesn't think he can help it. The guilt's been eating away at him the past few days and Two-Bit thinks he'll go crazy if he doesn't say anything.

He feels like a fraud, a liar, keeping something like this from his best friends.

"It's my fault."

Forgetting the soup, Darry gawks. "What is?"

"That the kid's sick. He had a fever before the rumble and I kept my trap shut, thinking he'd be fine, good as gold." Two-Bit coughs, but a sob interjects. "It's all my fault – I didn't say jack shit and he's lying in there..."

Darry sits him down at the table, letting his friend wipe his eyes. "It's not your fault, Two-Bit. I knew he wasn't in great shape and I still let him fight." Darry clears his throat, suddenly looking incredibly young. "He'll be okay, though."

"You sure you don't want to hit me, Dar? Maybe just a quick suckerpunch?"

"Now is that supposed to make me feel better or you?" Darry smiles, socking his friend's arm lightly. "Don't worry. I'm sure I'll get another chance some day. Pony's too good at wrapping you around his finger."

"I know," Two-Bit says with a sigh. "That's what scares me."


8. Interviewer.

"Where are you going?"

"To a movie."

"Appropriate content?"

"I—I think so. Something with singing…dancing…"

"There're no clowns in it, correct?"

"Clowns? I don't—"

"Keith!" his sister snaps, running down the hall. "Leave him alone." Karen links her arm through a guy who looks suspiciously too much like James Dean for Two-Bit's taste.

Two-Bit smirks. "Hell, it's your very first date, Karen. Thought I'd pass along some ol' Two-Bit wisdom. Now just where is my camera?"

"You can keep your wisdom to yourself, jackass." Now it's Karen's time to smirk. "Besides, it may be my first date, but it ain't my first time."

Both Two-Bit and Karen's date blink.


9. Babysitter.

In his biology class, while staring at Sadie Hendrick's boobs, Two-Bit hears that there's a knockdown drag out fight in the hallway, with Ponyboy Curtis on the receiving end. Two-Bit bolts.

More and more, Ponyboy's mouth goes unchecked; the kid just says whatever smartass comment is on his mind. He does it well too, without flair, just simple sureness that whatever he says is the truth. Two-Bit's proud of the kid's sass but knows he can't always be there to look out for him.

And it's not like Pony's a slouch of a fighter. He can hold his own, but catching him off guard ain't a fair fight.

Two-Bit arrives in time to see Ponyboy get slammed into a locker. Dazed, Pony steadies himself before getting in a nice right hook. Two-Bit jumps into the fray, throwing a few punches and then finally sending the Soc to the floor.

Pony's wiping his mouth on his sleeve. "What'd you do kid?" Two-Bit asks, knowing he's gonna get a harsh lecture from Darry. "What'd you say?"

"I didn't say nothin, Two-Bit," Pony snaps, hands shaking as onlookers begin to disperse. He bends over, picking up the recently released yearbook from the floor. "He was doin this to Johnny's picture."

When Two-Bit flips to the page where Johnny's photo is listed, among the myriad of other C-names, there's a big red RIP scribbled across their late friend.


10. Nurse Maid.

"So how'd you earn this?"

"Goddamn Evie." Steve takes the ice pack Two-Bit hands him."You got any aspirin, man?"

Hunting around, Two-Bit finds a bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet next to two condoms that aren't his. He doesn't want to know which woman in his household they belong to. Shaking off the thought, he pours four into Steve's hand.

"You call her fat again, Steve?"

Steve smirks from behind his black eye. "She asked if I ever wanted to get married one day." Two-Bit groans, knowing the rest of the story isn't going to end happily.

"So, I told her, sure, one day I'd want to get married and that whenever she got married, I'd send a nice wedding present her way if I got invited to the wedding."

Two-Bit laughs. "Steve, you're going to hell."

"Two-Bit, that crazy broad wants to get married, to me."

"Yeah, believe me, she could do better."

"Jesus Christ." Steve hangs his head. "I ain't ready for this bullshit." He dry swallows the aspirin and stretches out on Two-Bit's couch.

Two-Bit tosses Steve a blanket. "At least she's blonde."

Steve smiles. "Not really."


11. Bouncer.

"Ma. Was it him again?"

His ma laughs, an angry sad sound. She pulls out a sauce pan and dumps a few cans of chicken noodle soup in it. Sighing, she faces her son. "Yes, Keith. And I know he said it wouldn't happen again and stupid me, I believed him."

Reaching out, she hugs Two-Bit. "But no more. I know now."

Two-Bit eyes her split lip. "Where does he live?" She hesitates and Two-Bit raises his voice. "Ma, tell me."

Resigned, she gives him the address. "Don't get into trouble, Keith. I ain't got bail money for you."


12. News Reporter.

Two-Bit clambers into the house. "Is the kid here?"

Darry ironing a shirt, before his big date, shrugs. "No – he's still at the dance."

Two-Bit hooks his hands in his back pockets. "I was afraid you'd say that."

Earlier that night, Two-Bit caught wind of something going down at the high school, involving one Angela Shepard and a busted beer bottle. Two-Bit tells this to Darry.

"Shit," Darry swears, shaking out his shirt and putting it on. His date already out of his head, Darry's ready to go hunt Pony down.

Then the door opens and Ponyboy slinks in. The right side of his face is bruised, his lip cut, but other than that he's fine. Pony's eyes brush to Two-Bit and he grins. "Oh give me a break. You already know?"

Two-Bit holds up his hands. "Didn't you ever hear of not killing the messenger?"

"Pony, are you okay?" Darry asks.

"Sure," Pony replies.

Darry's jaw is tight. "Pony, I want you to stop hanging around with those kids. They're gonna get you into trouble."

Two-Bit loops an arm around Pony's neck before the kid can rebut. "Yeah, start hanging around with me some more. I'll teach you things you've never dreamed of." Darry rolls his eyes.

"You know how to hotwire a car, Two-Bit?"

Two-Bit think he'll bust a gut laughing and swears he'll never see Darry as surprised as he does right then.


13. Cheerleader

Two-Bit glances around the stands anxiously. They're not there and he doesn't know what to do. It's Pony's final track meet – a college scout in the stands – and the kid's brothers are nowhere to be found.

But despite and not knowing this, Ponyboy kicks the track's ass and comes in first. Two-Bit screeches, fists pumping, voice hoarse, alienating those around him. He hugs the kid on the field, swinging him around.

Pony doesn't say anything about the two who are MIA, instead letting Two-Bit give the interview to the newspaper about his all-star "brother".

"The name's Pinocchio Curtis," he tells the retreating reporter. Ponyboy laughs and gives him a shove.

While Pony's caught up in his track team and the press and shiny trophies, Two-Bit leaves Ponyboy, sneaking off when he sees a familiar truck screech into the parking lot. Darry barrels out meeting Two-Bit in the middle of the field.

Darry's speechless. "You're late," Two-Bit says, his chest tight and he suddenly realizes he's upset.

"Shit," Darry keeps saying. "I forgot. I can't believe I forgot."


14. Designated Driver

How he got roped into this he doesn't know. But suddenly Two-Bit's the responsible one, driving Steve around town after a night of bar hopping. Fresh from his most recent break-up with Evie, Steve's crowing in the backseat and Two-Bit's wishing he would have left him at Bar #2.

"There are two things you don't get sentimental about in life when it gets old and you give it away," Steve slurs. "A car and a woman."

"Hell," Two-Bit reminds him. "You're going to hell."

Steve tries to light a cigarette and can't focus. "I miss her man. She was so nice."

"I know you do, buddy. Now shut the fuck up."


15. Chef

"No, Two-Bit, not that—" The words die in her throat and Darry's girlfriend stifles a laugh as meringue flies everywhere. Her voice is soft. "You shut the beaters off before you take them out of the bowl."

"I thought gravity had a reason," Two-Bit muses, licking a bit of meringue from his arm.

"You really don't have to help me," Jane says.

"Oh yes he does." Ponyboy darts in the room. Two-Bit watches him; he's nearly as tall as Soda but skinnier. Only a few months left at home and he's off to college, leaving Two-Bit without a conscience. Because if he wants to admit, Ponyboy makes him a decent person.

Everyone's a bit worried by this change and acting odd. Two-Bit would never say this but it's almost as if Darry's filling the absence left by Ponyboy with Jane. Because Darry, who never was serious before, already has a steady girlfriend. Soda's taking the kid out to movies and Steve's congenial when Two-Bit knows all he really wants to do is give Ponyboy shit on an almost constant basis.

"You see, he figures if he helps you cook, he gets to eat some," Ponyboy explains.

Jane's dark eyes smile. "Is that so?"

Two-Bit grins. "It's the law of the land, I say, I do declare."

Then Pony calls Two-Bit Foghorn Leghorn and Two-Bit whacks him with a spatula as Jane makes a hasty exit.


16. Actor

Ponyboy shows up at Two-Bit's apartment. Surprised, Two-Bit lets him in. "What're you doing back, kiddo?"

"Darry told me about your mom."

"So you came back just for me?"

"Yeah, of course." Pony stares at Two-Bit strangely, his friend who's been a ghost at the Curtis house as of late. "I'm sorry, Two-Bit."

"Yeah," Two-Bit says, sitting on his couch. "Too much hard living." His voice is flat.

"Is she gonna be ok? What're you gonna do?"

Two-Bit shrugs, trying to affect indifference. "Karen's moving back in with her kid. We'll take care of ma." He shakes away the memory of finding his ma slumped on the ground, unmoving. He never felt as alone sitting at the hospital, waiting for news.

Pony bites his lip, face pale against his bright green eyes. He sits next to his friend. "You don't have to talk to me, but you can."

Two-Bit laughs into his hands, willing his face not to crack. "Glory, when did you grow up so fast?"

"We all grow up, Two-Bit."

"I know. That's the hard part."


17. Architect.

Kathy sips her coffee as Two-Bit stutters. "So I was thinking…that maybe we could…get a place."

Always cool, (which is why Two-Bit loves her) Kathy raises that perfect eyebrow. "As in together?"

Exasperated, Two-Bit laughs. "Yes, you know that's what I mean. Jesus, Kath, break my balls." He's never done this sort of serious planning before and she's not making it easy.

"You know, I enjoy watching you sweat." She smiles, lips closed, for fear of showing her one crooked tooth she hates. "But, I really think we should do it. I'd really like someone to share the rent with." She laughs, seeing Two-Bit's mortified face.

"I'm kidding! You know I'm your girl."

Two-Bit begins talking like John Wayne. "You got that right, little lady…"

Then Kathy brushes her hair away from her face and Two-Bit realizes something he's been in denial about for a few years. She's not a blonde and Two-Bit doesn't give a shit.


18. Savior

The phone call wakes Kathy and Two-Bit at four in the morning.

The car accident's bad, Darry tells Two-Bit. So bad in fact that they need Two-Bit to come to the hospital to see if he's a blood match. Two-Bit scrambles out of bed, almost out the door without shoes, when Kathy stops him.

It's like a veritable family reunion when they enter the waiting room. They're all there: Darry, Jane, Soda, Steve and Evie, even Two-Bit's sister with her son. Two-Bit really wants Darry to start tossing the football around, saying it's a joke but it's all too serious to be. Darry looks like he's going to fall over where he stands.

The nurses make Two-Bit go in some white room where they draw his blood, patch him up and send him right back out to wait along with the rest of them. Pony's blood type is rare and so far no one in the waiting room matches. He needs a transfusion if he wants another shot.

In a low voice, away from the others, Steve tells Two-Bit what happened. Ponyboy had hitched a ride home for Thanksgiving with his college roommate so Darry or Soda didn't have to come pick him up. "To make a long story short," Steve says, "it was too dark and the roads were too icy. Craig wrapped his fucking car around a tree. Split his head open." Two-Bit winces.

Darry keeps pacing the waiting room while Soda sits like a zombie, silently staring into space. Karen's kid starts to cry until Steve tells her to shut him up and they begin arguing. Kathy hushes Karen and they go to the cafeteria for coffee. Evie begins filing her nails until Steve tells her to knock that the fuck off too.

It's a disturbing mess and Two-Bit nearly jumps out of his skin until the doctor comes out. He looks at Two-Bit. "You're a match."

Soda covers his face. Darry manages a brief, not needed, thank you before his voice catches and he excuses himself from the room.

The rest happens fast: they take his blood, a lot more, until Two-Bit feels woozy and then they whisk the blood away. The nurse gives Two-Bit some juice and a cookie. He tells her to keep it and goes back to the waiting room.

Eventually the girls go home but the four of them stay. Two-Bit thinks about Ponyboy, sweaty palms wrapped together, praying to God it's not over for the kid. It can't be. A car crash no less, just like his parents.

When the sun rises, the doctor comes back out and gives the news. The transfusion worked, Pony's alive; he's unconscious but alive.


19. Executioner

When they bring the kid home it's like the fuckin pope's in town – or at least that's how Steve describes it to Two-Bit. Two-Bit shakes his head, not in the mood.

"Give it a rest, Steve." And Steve actually has the grace to look abashed.

Ponyboy is told to stay in bed and he does so for about one week until Two-Bit gets a surprise one bright, sunny morning. Pony's lacing up his sneakers. He's pale and the right side of his face is still bruised.

"What're you doing?"

"What does it look like?"

The kid's snippy, Two-Bit'll give him that. "You're supposed to be resting."

"Well, thanks mom, but I'm fine." Ponyboy glares at his friend, sick of being cooped up and fussed upon.

Two-Bit fixes his eyes on the 18-year old, who looks all of five-years old at the moment. "If you think you're going running you can forget it."

"I'll only be gone an hour. Don't tell Darry."

Two-Bit blocks the door, remembering Darry's past threat of a clean right to his jaw and knows he'll never be that stupid again. "You tryin to get me killed, Ponyboy? Shoot, I thought you liked me."

Pony rolls his eyes. When Two-Bit's silent, Ponyboy sighs, says in a serious tone, "I'll just go when you leave."

"Well, you can wait until Darry gets home then." Two-Bit grabs Ponyboy's arm, drags him across the room and locks him in the one room that latches from the outside: the hall closet.

"This is bullshit," Ponyboy says from behind the door. "C'mon, Two-Bit let me out." His voice sounds tired and Two-Bit tries to be a hard-ass for once.

Two-Bit sits on the floor, resting his back against the door. "And after all I done for you, you go and argue with me."

Two-Bit feels Ponyboy smile on the other side. "Sure, bring that up."

"Hey, I gave you that blood, don't make me take it away."

"I guess I owe you then." There's a soft laugh from the closet.

"You sure do. You'll owe me as long as you live." Which, Two-Bit hopes, is an incredibly long time.


20. Student

"I'm going back to school," Two-Bit announces.

Soda looks up from flipping the burgers. "Didn't you just graduate high school?"

"Hardy har," Two-Bit gives Soda a shove and the spatula lands on the grass.

"You're lying," Steve says, walking up with Evie. Evie dangles a big sparkly thing from her left hand and Two-Bit face palms.

"Aw, say it ain't so, Stevie!"

Steve laughs as Evie curses Two-Bit out. "What're you doin to me, Steve?" Two-Bit hisses, glancing over his shoulder at Kathy who's learning how to throw a football from Darry. "Now Kathy's gonna want one."

"It'll make you hon-est," Evie sing-songs.

Two-Bit cocks a brow. "Apparently so. Steve tells me you're not a real blonde."

As Evie turns her wrath to Steve, Two-Bit darts out of the way, joining Ponyboy on the front porch. The kid's smoking and reading a book. "I believe you, Two-Bit," Pony says without looking up.

"Thanks, kid."

"What're you goin back for?"

"Make some real money; get Kathy a bigger ring than Evie."

Grinning, Pony shakes his head. "No, what major?"

"Just trade school. Learn something useful. Maybe how to fix broken wires or something."

"You mean like an electrician?"

Two-Bit finger guns Ponyboy. "You see, that's why I need you around. You give me all these bright ideas." He slaps his leg. "An electrician it is."


Pardon typos.