Sequel to Darker.
I never planned for a sequel, but the thought came to me a couple of days before I updated the last chapter of Darker. And then some people asked for it, and I thought... okay, I can try and see what happens. This is the result, or at least, the first chapter. I might not be able to update that quickly, but I'll try to update once a week. Can't promise anything, though.
I hope you'll like it. Here we go...
Chapter One - The meeting
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1966
The unfamiliar voice wakes me up from my daze, and I glance up, bewildered.
My fingers are stiff. It's the first that I notice, the first part I start to move when I try to bend them, to clench my fists. I feel the cold wet underneath them. I blink in the light snowfall. My jeans are soaked now, and I'm not really sure how much time that has gone by. I can't even think straight. But when the man in front of me kneels down, I'm suddenly more alert, jerk away and put up my hand between us.
"No!" I wail, using my legs and other arm to push myself backwards. Away from him.
"Calm down," the man says. "You're hurt."
"George," a female voice says, "can't you see the boy is scared?"
Scared? That's what I am. I am scared. There's a tightness in my chest that hasn't gone away yet, even since he left what feels like hours ago.
But he left. He can't be here. I saw him walk away.
I drop my hand, finally realizing it's not him. It's not Henry. The man, and woman, in front of me are older, and I suddenly feel ridiculous, laying here, in the snow, wet and cold, like a little kid. I'm a greaser, ain't I?
"I - I ain't scared," I stutter, curl myself up a bit more. But truth is, I want to run and hide. I want Soda. I close my eyes for a moment, but open them again with the next sound.
"You're bleedin', honey," the woman says while putting a hand on her husband's, I think, shoulder. They both eye me with concern.
I still feel the taste in my mouth. The pain is more than dull, and I reach up to touch my face. Even without a mirror, I can tell my lip is split and my nose is swollen, but at least I don't think it's broken. "I'm fine," I avoid them, looking away. The movement makes my eyes fall on a small headstone, and I shudder. Matthew Gaines. He doesn't exist anymore. It's not him under there, it's not even Henry under there, it's his brother, Luke, and Henry... Henry is somewhere else, alive, breathing, still a threat.
I know you can keep a secret.
"Where do you live?" George asks me. I turn my eyes to him instead, meeting a pair of gray, friendly eyes. "You want us to drive you home to your parents?"
I want to tell him yes. But that's impossible. Instead, I shake my head, slowly.
"N-no. They are here."
"Here?" The old lady searches with her gaze over the cemetery, and I watch her, not sure what she's looking after. "It's no one else here," she tells me after a short moment. I feel myself relax. If no one else is here, Henry isn't either. I struggle to get up on my feet, and when I stand, the man does too, but they keep the distance I made between us. They watch me like I'm a hunted animal. I guess they just notice my appearence. I hug my arms around my body, because the cold finally gets me. I shiver. I need a smoke.
"Are you sure your parents are here?" George says while I light one I found in my pocket. I have to struggle with the lighter, my fingers protesting against the action, but I finally succeed and inhale, fast, fiercely.
The wife's eyes seem disapproving all of the sudden, afraid almost, whispers something in George's ear, frantically clasping his arm. He protests, talking low, but not low enough for me not to hear him. "We can't just leave a hurt kid-"
"I'm okay," I hurry to say. "It's not... it's no big deal." I bite my lip, feel it sting. It's dark, and late. It will be a big deal when I get home. "I have to go."
And I do. I hear the man shout something after me, but then I start running. It's not easy, my whole body feels numb, the snow is slippery, I lose my cigarette when I drop it, but at least I get away from them. I run past my parents' grave and through the gates, don't stop until I stand at the bus station, and then I put my hands to my knees, catching my breath. Trying to. I'm breathless, but I'm a runner. I shouldn't be.
"The hell, Pony!" Someone grabs me, jerking me up from the bench I sit on to wait for the bus. I try to shove him away, but he keeps my arm in a firm grip. "What happened?" The voice breaks with concern, a smooth hand touching my face. I turn away.
"What happened, Pony? You're bleedin'!" He shakes me slightly, forces me to face him again by dropping my arm and place both his hands at my temples.
I know you can keep a secret.
Is that a statement? A threat? I don't know.
"It's... it's nothin' Soda, I'm fine! Let go!" He does.
A dark shadow turns up behind him, and I take a deep drag of air, until I recognize Two-Bit. His car stands parked on the curb, headlights still on and the passenger door wide open.
"Damn, kid, I should've followed ya," Two-Bit says, looking miserable. I can't stand the way they both stare at me. I put my gaze down, stare at the ground.
"Pony, what happened?" Soda repeats for the third time. "Who did this?" He takes my arm again, and I let him.
"It was-" It was Henry. He's still alive, Soda. It was his brother, his goddamn brother who pretend to be him in the crash, and he drove, he drove the car, that's how they did it, 'cause he was dying anyway... "-he..." ...he told me, but why did he? He said
I know you can keep a secret.
What does it mean? That he hope I won't tell? That he knows I won't tell? But I don't keep secrets anymore.
He doesn't know that.
I look up. "It was a Soc." I inspect my lie in my head, if it will work, if taking the easy way out until I understand everything is the right thing to do. And he did said - he did say he wouldn't come after us. He did say he would leave town. I don't trust him. Of course I don't.
"Yeah. He - he jumped me. Can we go home now?"
Steve and Johnny sit in our couch, looking up as we enter, but Soda drags me past them to the bathroom, tells me to sit down on the toilet lid. Then he grabs my chin, turns my face up to the light. Gentle he presses a finger to my nose.
"Does it hurt?"
It does. "A little."
"I don't think it's broken. Just bruised." He examines the wound on my mouth, tells me to open up, checking my teeth. "You'll be fine," he finally gives his verdict. I close my mouth again.
Soda sits down on the edge to the bathtube. "So why did you went there by yourself? We told you not to." He sounds disappointed. "What if that brother had show up?"
I stare down at my hands, still clad in the mittens Soda brought with him when they picked me up. The ride home wasn't enough to warm me up. "He didn't. And I just wanted to see them." He opens his mouth but I come first. "I promise I won't do it again."
"You better," he tells me sternly. "Gosh, Pony, you have to stop pulling the things you do."
I know that. "Where's Darry?" I change the subject.
"Still at work. He called. He'll be late home today."
"Will you tell him?"
He's silent for a moment. Then, "No. Not that you went to the cemetery. But you have to tell him about the damn Soc. You can't keep that a secret." He points at my face. He rises and pulls me up, stands me in front of the sink. I take off my shirt and the mittens, turn the tap to lukewarm water. Then he help me wash off the blood, muttering about stupid Socs who can't leave a thirteen year old alone.
But I can keep other secrets, Soda. To protect you. I think that's why. Keep the secret, and he will leave us alone.
Lawton, Oklahoma, 1966
The boy knows.
He grips the steering wheel tighter, whitening his knuckles, thinking of slamming his forhead into the windscreen, because the kid fucking knows.
He can claim himself to be many things, but smart is not one of them. He's aware of that. Luke was always the one with the brain, not that it helped him in the end, and he was the one who told him the importance of keeping his mouth shut afterwards. That was the plan. He can't believe he was so stupid. Not sticking to plans should've taught him some in the past, but apparently, he'll never learn. And now the boy knows.
Because he fucking told him.
Because he couldn't see the difference between a three year old who had a lot to lose, and a thirteen year old, who has already lost.
There's a sign along the road, and he hits the brakes, makes a turn to the left. He'll fix this.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1966
The ground is covered in white. No. It's beyond covered, it's hidden, deep buried in a layer of several feet. I dig with my bare hands. I need to see their grave.
I reach the stone, but it's not theirs. It's his. His name teases me.
I read his name. Over and over. Luke Morgan. Not Matthew Gaines. Not Henry.
I stand in the church. It's a funeral.
Soda steps up next to me, holds my hand. "You have to tell me," he says. He turns his face against me. Blood drips from his mouth.
"He'll kill you if I do," I say.
"He'll kill me if you don't."
Lawton, Oklahoma 1966
The apartment is little and dirty, only one room and a bathroom, no balcony, but he takes it. He digs into his wallet, finds the money to pay for rent and one months deposition, hands it to the landlord who grins toothless and blinks before he hurries away. It's not until he already has gotten the keys and tries to settle in he discovers the cockroaches in the bathtube.
He doesn't really care.
Instead, he turns the tap to the sink, to wash his face in cold water. It's too late to regret anything. He meets his own blue eyes in the cracked mirror above the sink, frowning slightly. It should be so easy, start a new life a long way from Oklahoma as Luke Morgan, with no criminal record, maybe even head abroad if necessary. A week after the accident, at the funeral of Matthew Gaines, he knew they had succeeded. No one could even imagine they didn't bury Henry Morgan. But they did, some way. He's Luke now.
His hands grips the yellow by age porcelain while he dips his head, letting the water drip down. He's Luke, but he doesn't feel like him. All his memories still linger to him, eating him. He grits his teeth. He could have escaped from himself if it wasn't for the boy. Remembering that afternoon, at the cemetery, the first time he saw him, makes him still surprised. It was something familiar about the boy who stood by Luke's grave, a resemble in the hair, the eyes, but not until he told him his name he understood who he was. Ponyboy Curtis.
The little three year old has grown big.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1956
He runs into Darrel Curtis two years after his release. Literally runs into him, dropping his vodka bottle. It breaks as it hits the concrete.
"Can't you fuckin' look out?" he snaps, even if it was himself who turned around the corner too fast. He reaches down, but hesitates a few inches over the broken glass, startled by the voice.
He stretches himself up again, stares into the eyes of a friend he hasn't seen in over ten years. Not since his trial.
"God," Darrel Curtis says. "It's been forever. How are you?" He sounds unsure. And all Henry can feel is hate. He hates him. The rage builds up within him, and he clenches his fists, prepares to shove them hard into the body in front of him, smash the face, destroy him, when Darrel's eyes flicker down to his left for a short moment. Henry follows his gaze. A little boy stands with his small hand in Darrel's, wide-eyed. That makes him wake up, take a step back.
"I have to go," Henry says, turns around.
"Hey!" Darrel shouts. So he stops, for a second. "Come by Don's tonight? At nine?"
He narrows his eyes, back still turned to his former friend. "Maybe." He leaves without another word. He doesn't owe Darrel anything.
He never intended to, but in the end, he finds himself outside the lively bar at nightfall anyway. He doesn't know why. The door pushes open, letting out a drunk man, and Henry catches it before it's closed again.
The bar is smoky. He has to brush past a lot of people, and he hates every single touch. He has his reasons. When he finally has passed through, his whole body feels like it's burning. He orders a beer, shouts to the bartender over the noise from the jukebox, from people talking and laughing, and before he gets it, a hand lands on his shoulder. He jerks.
"Yeah." The beer is placed by his hand, and he slaps some dollar bills on the counter. The bitter drink tastes good. Darrel sits down next to him, orders a beer as well.
"I'm glad we ran into each other," Darrel says. "I've wanted to talk to ya."
Henry doesn't answer.
"I'm sorry," Darrel says, not looking at him. "For everythin'."
It doesn't help. Not a bit. He still hates him, but it's not raging like earlier today. It's in control. If he plays his cards right, he can regain the control. Maybe hurt Darrel, the way he hurt him. He's good at acting. He has acted since he got out, pretending nothing happened in there.
"No need," he says, force himself to smile. Darrel seems relaxed beside him. Henry notices the wedding ring, remembers the little boy.
"So," he says. "You're married?"
He can see the fucking glow the other man gets in his eyes. "Yeah. To Anne."
Anne. The bitch he stood him up for. Then he mentions the kid.
"I saw your little boy."
"Actually, I've got three." Darrel shines with pride. "Darrel junior, Sodapop and Ponyboy. It was Soda who was with me today."
Henry can't help but burst out into laughter. "You're kiddin' me."
"You know me," Darrel grins, not taking offense. "But I like my boys names. It was my idea."
Henry studies him, thinking of how happy the man seems. Wife. Kids. Life in freedom. God, he wants to destroy that.
"Want to come home for dinner sometime? We could barbeque," Darrel says.
Henry grips his beer glass, feels the cold surface against his palm. "Sure. I'd like that."
So... what do you think?
Beta-read by Every'Piece'Has'A'Purpose, thank you so much! :)
I don't own it - S.E Hinton does!