Um...did anyone else forget that I didn't finish this story? Haha

Well...here's the end. I had a lot of fun with this story and I appreciate all the support you guys gave me!

Thanks so much for reading and for all you guys do to make me feel awesome :)

So...here we go...

Enjoy. :)

.

.

Ponyboy burst into a fit of laughter as a cloud of white powder filled the kitchen. Sodapop stood frozen for a moment, looking down at the flower bag that had slipped from his hands. It took a second for him to comprehend what had happened.

"You think that's funny, huh?" Sodapop asked, turning around. Ponyboy nodded through his laughter. Sodapop leaned down and scooped up a handful of flower, silencing Ponyboy quickly.

"Don't you dare," Ponyboy said, backing up. Sodapop smiled wickedly at him.

"Sodapop!"

But it was too late. Ponyboy was hit in the face by Sodapop's flower ball. He coughed and rubbed the powder out of his eyes before grinning.

"You're gonna regret that."

Sodapop laughed and turned quickly, moving to run from the kitchen. Instead, he slipped on the flower covering the floor and lost his footing, crashing into the ground.

When Darry got home an hour later, he found both of them sitting in the kitchen, covered in flower, talking and laughing. He wanted to be mad- - he really did, because the flower was everywhere- - but he couldn't. It had been so long since he'd seen Sodapop and Ponyboy having fun together.

Darry knew that it would take a long time before things were ever really okay again. There would still be times when Sodapop lost control of his anger and would yell at someone. There would still be times when Ponyboy would hang around Darry, afraid to be out of his sight.

But Darry couldn't ask for anything better.

Because he had both his brothers. They were alive and they were safe. Darry understood how close he had been to losing them forever. He would never be so careless again.

XxX

"Darry, I don't want to."

"C'mon, Pone. You can do it."

"Darry!" Ponyboy whined.

Darry sighed and put a hand on his shoulder. He wasn't sure if it was the heat outside or Ponyboy's intense fear of going into the backyard that was making the boy sweat, but either way, Darry could feel the dampness through his shirt.

"You've been talking to that therapist about it, right?" Darry asked.

"Kind of," Ponyboy muttered.

Darry raised an eyebrow. "So you're saying I'm sending you five days a week to a therapist who doesn't talk about your problems?"

"Aw, Darry," Ponyboy moaned, smearing his face with his hands. "'Course we talk about it, but we've never actually talked about me going into the backyard."

"Do you trust me, Ponyboy?"

He threw his hands up in exasperation. "Not really!"

"Ponyboy," Darry said sternly. Ponyboy sighed and ran a hand back through his hair.

"Yeah, I trust you, Dar. Of course I do."

"Then trust me." Darry stuck his hand out, waiting patiently. "Nothing is gonna happen."

Ponyboy hesitated and looked down at Darry's hand before shaking his head, taking a step back. "I can't do it. I can't."

Darry let his arm fall to his side. "Ponyboy, you're never going to get over this unless you can face your fears and realize it's not gonna happen again. I won't make you do this today, but you need to realize that as long as you tell yourself you can't do it, you won't be able to."

Ponyboy silently watched him walk away. He let out a breath and stared into the backyard. He knew Darry was right, but he wasn't ready to face it.

XxX

A hand on his shoulder brought him to reality and he stumbled backwards. Someone grabbed him to steady him.

"Take it easy, Pone."

Ponyboy blew out a breath and looked at his friend. "You scared me."

"Clearly," Two-Bit said, letting him go. "What're you doing out here?"

Ponyboy frowned. It was one of those rare moments when Two-Bit was serious, though Ponyboy couldn't figure out why. "I was just…"

But Ponyboy couldn't explain. Darry had tried taking him into the backyard three days ago, and every night since then Ponyboy had tried to venture back there himself, but would always get stuck in the side yard. Darry thought he could do it, but Ponyboy was starting to think he was wrong.

"Trying to go into the backyard?" Two-Bit offered. Ponyboy nodded and looked down. "Why?"

"I dunno," Ponyboy mumbled, kicking a rock by his foot. "Darry said…"

"Darry says a lot of stuff," Two-Bit said. "Don't do it for him. Do it for you. Go when you're ready."

"What if I'm never ready?" Ponyboy asked. "What if I'll never be able to go into the backyard?"

"Well, then we'll have Darry move someplace without a backyard," Two-Bit laughed, ruffling Ponyboy's hair. "You'll be ready for it one day, Ponyboy. And when that day comes, we'll all be here for you."

Ponyboy sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I don't like when you're serious. You know that, right?"

Two-Bit cracked a smile and nudged him in the ribs. "I know. I like to keep you on your toes."

XxX

"Please," Ponyboy begged, pulling against the hand dragging him. "I won't do it no more. Please."

"Actions have consequences, Ponyboy," Robert said. He pushed the backdoor open and dragged Ponyboy out. The hole that he had made Ponyboy dig the last time was only half full with dirt now. Still, he threw Ponyboy forward and gave him the shovel.

"Dig," He demanded. Ponyboy held the shovel with shaking hands. He didn't move.

"Dig, damn it!" Robert backhanded Ponyboy across the face, sending him a view steps over. Ponyboy bit back tears and rubbed his cheek before doing as he was told. When he was done, Robert grabbed the shovel from him and pushed him into the hole.

"Lay down," He said. The tears spilled over Ponyboy's eyes.

"Please," He begged again. Robert moved to hit him with the shovel. Ponyboy raised his hands in surrender and laid down, trying to hold back his sobs as Robert started piling dirt over him.

The whole time Robert was rambling, talking about how much of a problem Ponyboy was. Ponyboy tried not to let it get to him. Robert is drunk, he told himself, he doesn't mean it.

It still hurt, though.

Robert gave Ponyboy a straw and started to cover his face. Ponyboy closed his eyes.

"Ponyboy!"

He let out a strangled gasp as his eyes opened. His pupils moved around wildly in the dark, trying to grasp the sudden change of atmosphere.

"It's okay," Sodapop said, stroking his hair gently. "You're okay."

Ponyboy sank back into his pillows and shoved his palms into his eyes, breathing hard. He felt Sodapop sit down on the bed next to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

"I told Darry," Sodapop was muttering to himself. "Told him you weren't ready to back there."

Ponyboy moved his hands and looked at him. "Soda."

"Yeah," Sodapop said softly. "Are you okay?"

"What time is it?" Ponyboy asked, pushing himself up into a sitting position.

"Around midnight."

Ponyboy looked down at his hands and took a deep breath. "I'm fine, Soda. Just tired."

Sodapop patted his shoulder. "Let's go back to sleep."

Ponyboy nodded and laid down, but he had no intentions of going back to sleep. He waited until he heard the soft breathing of his brother next to him before rolling out of bed. He knew what he needed to do and if he ever was going to do it, it was going to be now.

Quietly, Ponyboy slid on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt before leaving the room. In a daze, he walked through the hall and into the living room. He didn't bother with shoes or a coat. He knew if he stopped now, he would never start again. So he yanked open the front door and stepped outside.

To this day, Ponyboy still isn't sure why he didn't go out the backdoor. Nevertheless, he made his way around the house in the dark. He hesitated at the side yard, like he always did, and took a deep breath.

Then he stepped into the backyard.

"Dig, damn it!"

Ponyboy sucked in a large breath and took another step.

"C'mon, kid. Stay with me. Open your eyes."

Ponyboy felt tears running down his cheeks. He took another step and sank to his knees, running his fingers over the grass.

Someone pumped his chest. Hard.

"C'mon, kid," They muttered desperately. Ponyboy started into a fit of coughing, gasping for air.

"J-Jacob?" He asked weakly.

"Yeah. Shit, Ponyboy. Are you okay?"

Ponyboy closed his eyes and slammed his fist into the ground. Everything swirled inside him. Robert had hit him, called him names, made him feel worthless. He was the reason Ponyboy couldn't sleep at night. The reason Ponyboy hated the dark. He had taken him outside when he was drunk and buried him alive.

Robert had ruined his life.

He felt a sob build up inside of him and he leaned forward onto his hands. A strangled scream escaped his throat.

"I hate you," he whispered, choking back another sob. "I hate what you've made me become."

The sky above him groaned softly as clouds continued to float by, and he cursed them. Tears were falling down his cheeks and his body shook from both the cold and the rage he had stored up inside him. He yelled at the wind. Everything he felt towards Robert, towards that house he stayed in, finally made its way out of him. He sobbed the remaining heartbreak away until he fell asleep nearly twenty minutes later.

He woke to the feeling of someone carrying him. Above him, light blue was slowly seeping into the dark sky.

"Darry?" He asked groggily, recognizing the strong hold of his older brother's arms. "What're you doing?"

"What're you doing, kiddo? It's freezing out here."

"I don't…" Ponyboy started, trying to get his head together. "I was in the backyard."

"I know."

"No, Darry," Ponyboy prodded sleepily. "I was in the backyard."

"I know, kiddo," Darry said gently. "I'm real proud of you. You faced your fears."

"And came out alive," Ponyboy mumbled.

"And came out alive," Darry agreed, sighing to himself. "I wish you would have faced your fears during the day, though. You're gonna catch pneumonia."

Ponyboy smiled and leaned against Darry's shoulder. "You worry a lot."

Darry kicked the door open and shut it behind him. "You kind of give me a lot of reasons to, kid."

Ponyboy laughed and closed his eyes. "I'll work on it."

"I'm sure you will," Darry said, his voice light with sarcasm.

"Dar," Ponyboy tugged on his arm, wiggling from his grasp. "Don't wake Sodapop, 'kay? He's tired."

"You're tired, Ponyboy." Darry set him down and put a hand on his back, leading him down the hall. "Here, you can sleep in my room."

He opened the door and gently pushed Ponyboy inside. "Go get under the covers. I'm gonna grab a few more blankets."

Ponyboy did as he was told and crawled into bed. He snuggled close to a pillow that smelled like Darry and found an odd sense of comfort in that. Taking in a deep breath, he closed his eyes. Darry was back only a moment later, piling on a few blankets while muttering to himself. Ponyboy smiled and drifted off to sleep, feeling- - for the first time in a long time- - content.

XxX

Darry knew. He knew that things would never be the way they were before. He knew that he had messed up, but he was finally beginning to accept it. Things were still rough, but they were better. Ponyboy laughed now. Sodapop's eyes danced the way they used to. And Darry…well, he had plastered over the hole in the wall, and in turn, the hole in his chest was finally beginning to fill.

No one was perfectly fine, but they were getting better. That was all Darry could ask for. It would take therapy, patience, love, and time before both his brothers were all right again. Darry was willing to wait. He was willing to do whatever he could to make things okay.

He had spent six and a half months without the most important people in his life. One hundred and ninety-five days fighting to get them back. Four thousand six hundred and eighty hours regretting his choice to be so stupid. Sixteen million eight hundred and forty eight thousand seconds realizing what he lost.

He had to let it go. Sure, there were days he still felt guilty- - days when Ponyboy would wake up crying or Sodapop would go tense- - but Darry had learned to live with his mistake. And while he'll never forget what he did, he began to understand it, because it taught him how strong long can be. It brought his family closer together.

Even though time has passed, they won't forget. Six and a half months of secrets, pain, loneliness, and heartbreak. They're all moving on, but everyone still remembers those one hundred and ninety-five days that had separated them. The days that had broken them. The days that had made them appreciate each other and reminded them what it really meant to be a family.

They were the days that changed everything.

XxX

"Ponyboy, there's something you haven't told me," Amanda said slowly. Ponyboy looked at his therapist curiously.

"What?"

"Darry sounds very protective of you and Sodapop."

Ponyboy nodded. "Yeah, he is."

"So, what exactly did he do to get you boys taken away?"

"That," Ponyboy laughed, rubbing his eyes, "Is an entirely different story."