A/N: I have returned to this fandom, and I don't know if that gets cheers out of you or something else. Regardless, this is the longest I have written for the fandom, and I must say I am quite proud of it, despite the fact of its oddness. I tend to hate what is written below, so the fact I wrote it is rather surprising, but I blame the song I was listening to while writing the entire thing.

Warnings: Graphic imagery, slight cannibalism (if you count cutting yourself and drinking your own blood cannibalism), possible OOCness, slight bloodplay, shounen-ai towards the end. Read at your own risk: this is rated M for a reason.

Pairing: Dally/Ponyboy. If you're a fan of the pairing, you may see Johnny/Ponyboy hints.

Note: This takes place after the book/movie, except the only one who died is Johnny, so Dally is still alive.

After all of the rambling, please enjoy!

The cutting was his escape, when someone else could have been his escape all along

My room was dark, the lights switched off, and the curtains blocking the sunlight from entering. It was perfect for what I was about to do, a ritual that I had begun... how long ago was it now? It had been at least six months since I started this daily ritual in the unforgiving darkness of my room. The bed's sheets were rumpled—both Soda and I were too lazy to make the bed on some days, and today had been one of those days. I stared at myself in the mirror—dead, soulless eyes stared back at me, my usually kept hair going in all directions. I hadn't greased it in what seemed like years, but in reality, it had been only a few months. My face was pale, and I knew that I was unnaturally skinny. I never ate as much as I used to, and I tended to stay in the house, so the usual tan that I had was replaced with pallid, sickly looking white.

My clothes were torn and tattered in places. I may have well been wearing rags, yet that suited me just fine. My shirt was a simple gray hue—three sizes too big, but as well as being too big, it was littered with holes and dried blood from my daily ritual. I wore black sweatpants, which were also covered in holes and dried blood, yet the blood was less obvious then on my shirt. I went into the drawer and took out a simple picture—so simple, yet it caused me so much more pain than anything else.

It was my best friend in the simple photograph, flashing a smile at the camera as it captured a moment in a time. It captured the essence of a young boy who later would be shattered and die at the hands of wounds he sustained saving innocent young children. My trembling fingers traced him; his happy smile, his kind-of-but-not-really awkward stance, his hands shoved into his jean pockets, and the heel of his shoe digging into the dirt under it. Looking at this particular photo, people would think that we were happy, and honestly, we were happy. We may not have been rich like those snobby Socs on the other side of town, but we had our sense of happiness that money couldn't buy. We were all close with each other, because we depended on each other to survive. We weren't like those snobby rich kids who got everything handed to them on a silver platter. We had to fend for ourselves, and depend on one another for that survival.

One night had changed everything. One simple mistake had caused the simple lives we were living to spiral downwards into hell. Yes, it had been because of that night the Socs didn't beat up on us as often, but if I had it my way, I would make it so that one night didn't happen. I would prefer that things had stayed the way they were and the Socs beat up on us the way they used to, instead of losing my best friend.

Johnny and I had done everything together. It had been six months, and I still refused to believe that he was gone forever. On the days that I left my room and watched our old television in the living room, I would perk up whenever the door opened, but it always turned out to be someone other than him. The first time it happened, it started my downward spiral. I had run to my room, shut the door, and took out what would become my new best friend. Its cold steel was unforgiving, and it gave me the sick satisfaction I needed.

I would run the bitterly cold steel over my skin, but although the pain had made me want to pull away, I continued. I continued running the steel across my arm until blood pulsed out of the slash I made. At first, I was repulsed by the sight, but after a while, I realized that I liked the sight of the blood. I liked the crimson liquid running down my arm and onto the floor; I adored the smell of it. In a sick, almost cannibalistic way, I attached my mouth to the large cut and drank my own blood. The sickest part of it, I realized, was that I loved it. I loved the tangy, metallic taste of the substance in my mouth.

This had become my daily ritual, and something I was about to do at this moment. I took my new best friend out of my night table drawer—it was wrapped in a black cloth so that my older brother didn't suspect anything. I unwrapped the cloth from around it, and the knife flashed to life. It was stained crimson with my blood, yet it was a sight that I enjoyed. I looked at my arms, littered with scars so much to the point that I had no idea what part of my arms weren't scarred. I found one small patch that was clean, yet with a small smirk playing on my lips, I knew it wouldn't last long. I hovered the knife over the unscarred part of my arm, and my twisted mind compared it to a person getting ready to penetrate their partner. "Oh, I'll penetrate you so hard." I whispered, a grin playing on my lips.

I placed the knife against my skin, and my mind loved the pain of the action. I ran the knife up and down the unscarred skin gently at first, but then I ran it harder. I stopped after two minutes, and I stared at the mess I had made. Blood covered my arm and dripped onto the floor, so I set the knife on the dresser and took out some toilet paper which I also kept in the night table drawers. I ripped off a huge handful and began cleaning the crimson substance off my arms. I did this for a few minutes before the cannibalistic side of me kicked in, and I lowered my mouth against the cut. I sucked the blood out of it as it continued pulsing out of the wound, a feral smirk on my face as the familiar, tangy, metallic taste invaded my taste buds. I loved it. I adored it.

The wound stopped bleeding all too soon, and I sighed, wiping the substance from my lips. I cleaned up the mess I had made until it looked like nothing happened, and I stuffed the bloody toilet paper in the bottom drawer, locking it afterwards. I stuffed the key in my pocket, covering my arms with long sleeves as I went out into the living room. I still came out for supper, but I didn't eat much. I was sure my brothers noticed it, but they never said anything about it.

A month had passed since I scarred the last part of my arms. I was littered in them now, yet instead of being ashamed of them, I loved looking at them. I would be reminded of the tangy, metallic taste of blood, which always caused me to lick my lips like a hungry animal. It was summer now, so I was often warm from wearing long sleeves, yet it wasn't too unbearable. Of course, I got questions from the other members of the gang as to why I was wearing them, but I would always shrug my shoulders and they wouldn't question me further. I knew that one particular member suspected I was wearing them for a reason, but he never said anything either.

He was one of the toughest hoods that I knew—hell, it would be safe to say that he was one of the toughest hoods that anyone knew. He grew up in New York, so because of that, he had grown up far too early, as well as become a tough, mean hood. I was thankful that he was on our side rather than with another gang, because he could easily beat the shit out of any of us. I know that even my oldest brother would have trouble in a fight against him, and that's saying something, because he's one of the strongest guys I know.

His name? His name is Dallas Winston.

I came out of my room after finishing another daily ritual, yet I cursed inwardly whenever Dally asked me "Why the fuck do ya have blood dripping outta your mouth, kid?"

I racked my mind for a response, yet nothing came to mind as he stood up and walked towards me. His icy depths stared at me for a few seconds before he went into the room I shared with Soda, and he flicked the lights on. I knew I cleaned up enough so that he wouldn't suspect anything, but I mentally cursed whenever I realized I forgot to lock the bottom drawer. He knelt down and opened the bottom drawer, and his eyes widened as he stared at the bloody toilet paper stuffed in it. It was almost overflowing now, and with a slow turn of his head, he stared at me, his face deadpan. "Kid. What the fuck is this!" I couldn't think of anything to say. I felt the emotions drain from my body as he continued staring at me with raw anger in his eyes. "I asked you a question, Pone! What the hell is this?"

"Just what it looks like." I muttered emotionlessly, my eyes staring at the floor. "If you go in the top drawer, there should be something wrapped in black cloth. Unwrap it and look at it." I figured that if he found the red toilet paper, I may as well come clean about the entire situation.

Dally looked at me with disbelief in his eyes, but he opened the top drawer and unwrapped my best friend. For what felt like an eternity (but was only two minutes in reality), he stared at the bloodstained knife, his features changing from deadpan, to shock, to raw anger. "What the fuck, Ponyboy? How long have you been doing this to yourself?"

"Three months." I murmured quietly, yet I was shocked whenever Dally gripped my arm and dragged me out of my room. "H-Hey! What are you doing?"

"I'm showing this ta your brothers." he hissed angrily as he continued dragging me, and shoved me on the couch. "Darrel, Sodapop! Get your asses out into the living room, now!"

It was just my luck that both of them happened to be home, since they both had gotten the day off for some reason. My oldest brother, Darry, came into the room first, his eyebrow raised in confusion, followed by Soda. He looked more concerned than Darry, but both of them generally shared the same emotion—confusion. "What's this about, Dally?" my oldest brother asked, drying his hands on a dish towel.

"Look at this." Dally snarled, raising my best friend into view. At first, the two of them simply stared at the knife, before they realized how much blood was stained onto the steel surface. Soda put his hands to his mouth in shock and looked like he was about to get sick, while Darry's eyes were as wide as saucers. "This knife is stained with your baby brother's blood. Go to your room, Soda, and look in the bottom drawer. Bring out what you find."

Soda stared at me with disbelief in his eyes before he went into our room. I heard him scream before he ran back out, my red toilet paper in his hands. "T-The drawer is f-full of t-these!" he stammered, his face going ashen. "Honey, please… don't tell me this is your blood…"

"It is his blood. He's been doin' this ta himself for, what was it, three months?" Dally hissed at me, and I curled into the couch. "I only knew 'bout it because he forgot ta lock the drawer that held all of those."

"Fuck!" Darry screamed, causing me to flinch and bury myself deeper in the couch. "Ponyboy Michael Curtis, look at me!" I slowly turned my head to stare into the angry eyes of my oldest brother. "Why have you been doing this to yourself?" I didn't answer for a few minutes, and he walked over to me, his larger frame towering over me. "I asked you why, Ponyboy, and I expect you to answer me!"

"I was hurt!" I screamed, and all three of them stared at me. "Johnny's gone forever! My best friend will never come back! I did this to make myself forget about the pain of never seeing him again, at least for a few minutes!"

"We all miss 'em, kid." Dally said after a few minutes, but his voice was dangerously low. "All of us honor his memory by sticking together, but what do you do? You lock yourself in your room and cut yourself. I'm surprised you ain't dead with all of the blood ya lost." He walked over to me and yanked up my sleeves, a loud snarl ripping through his lips when he saw all of the scars. "You call this honoring your best friend? Johnny would hate to see ya like this, you fuckin' idiot!"

Tears pooled into my gray-green eyes when I realized that Dally was right. Johnny would hate to see me in this kind of state—I knew that it would downright destroy him if he saw what kind of injuries I had inflicted on myself. "I'm sorry! What do you want me to do about this; I can't take the scars away! The damage is already done, there's nothing I can do about it!"

"Get help, honey. Don't do this anymore." Soda whispered brokenly, moving over to me and wrapping his arms around my small frame. "Please, don't do this again. We'll get you the help you need."

I buried my face into my older brother's chest and cried my heart out. Through my sobbing, I heard Dally cursing angrily and Darry mutter that he would call the hospital.

For the next few months, I got help. I was stuck in the hospital for a while, and then I went to a psychologist. I was put on antidepressants, because the psychologist told me that it was depression that led me to cut myself so severely in the first place. She never batted an eye whenever I told her of my sick fetish of drinking the blood that came out of the cuts, but instead told me that sometimes someone who was depressed would go to extreme measures such as that.

The gang didn't look at me the same as they used to for a while. It was as if they avoided talking about Johnny because they thought it would set me off, but after a while, they realized that the antidepressants were working. Everything seemed to go back to normal, but everyone made sure that was a fair distance away from sharp objects. I couldn't blame them for it. I heard that Soda was paranoid for a while after he realized I cut myself so severely in our room, and he had to sleep in the same bed as Darry for a while until he was comfortable sleeping in our room again. I had also heard that the other members of the gang could only think about how if they hadn't found out earlier, I could have died, which disturbed their sleep for a few weeks.

I felt bad about it, and I wished that I never put them through so much pain. I couldn't take back the past, so the best I could do was reassure them that with the frequent visits to the psychologist and the antidepressants I was on, it wouldn't happen again. I knew that at first, they didn't believe me, but I knew now that they did.

It was winter now, and I was wrapped in a blanket, watching our old television. The door banged open, and Dally walked in, shaking snow out of his hair. "Jesus Christ, it's fuckin' cold."

"It is winter." I retorted smartly, and the older hood flipped me off in good humor before he slammed the door and sat next to me on the couch. "What brings you here, Dal?"

"I wanted ta check up on ya, kid." he replied, casually snaking an arm around my shoulders. I wasn't as skinny as I was a few months ago, but I wasn't a normal weight yet either. "How are ya feelin'? Eatin' right? Not goin' near sharp objects?"

"I'm feeling fine, yes, I'm eating right, and no, I'm not going near sharp objects." I replied, rolling my eyes. Those three questions were common since I had finished my last sessions with the psychologist, but I knew I had brought it onto myself.

"Glad ta hear it, kid." he drawled, stretching his arms before resting one on my shoulders again. "Ya gave me the scare of my life when I found that drawer full of bloody toilet paper. Ya have no idea how easily ya coulda killed yourself." I studied his face, and surprise coursed through me whenever I noticed that his face was pale. "Ya know how hard that'd be? Johnny dyin' because of savin' little brats, and you dyin' because you cut yourself to death." His grip tightened on my shoulder, and the surprised coursed stronger through me. This was a side of the hood that none of us had ever saw before.

"I'm sorry." I murmured, deciding to chance death and lean against the hood. I thought it would be impossible, but I was even more surprised when he let me do it. He rested his chin on the top of my head, and I felt happy. Safe. Secure. They were odd feelings to feel around someone such as Dallas Winston, but hey, stranger things have happened.

"Nah, don't apologize." he muttered in response, his free hand running up and down my arm. "I guess ya felt ya had no other option, but ya know now, huh?"

"I know now." I replied, a smile tugging on the corners of my lips. As I felt the usually cold, mean, tough hood bury his face into my hair and press his lips against it, I realized something that I should have realized earlier. Instead of cutting being my escape, Dally could be my escape.

I guess it was never too late to learn.

Ending A/N: The ending may or may not be random, but I wanted something cute at the end. I will update BoB soon, I just to revive my muse. Thank you for being patient with me, and I hope you enjoyed this little number.