A/N: Hey guys! As always, thanks so much for reading this! It means the world to me :)

Disclaimer: I do not own The Outsiders. SE Hinton does.

Killing Me Slowly

"C'mon little man! Wake up, time for school." Darry shakes me.

Groaning, I roll away from the touch into Soda's unoccupied spot and snuggle deeper underneath the blankets.

"Ponyboy, get up, let's go." He walks out of the room, turning on the light as he goes. I sigh and pull the comforter over my head, trying to fall back asleep. I'm not a morning person- never was, probably never will be. The bed dips down as a sudden weight bounces on it.

"Is someone being a bad little boy and not waking up?" Soda finds me easily and starts tickling me. I'm instantly out of my sleepy state and soon feel another weight on the bed.

"Oh, no! Not Darry too!" I think.

Another pair of hands pull down the blankets and join in the tickling. Sure enough, it's Dare.

"G-guys! I'm up, I'm up!" I stammer out between laughs. Our war is cut short as we all run out of breath. Darry leaves the room smiling and Sodapop follows…dancing. Dancing? What is wrong with my brother?

Smiling, I sit up and plod to the bathroom.

"Hurry up Pone! You're gonna be late!" Fun-Darry is gone once again as he calls from the living room.

"I'm comin', I'm comin'."

Two-Bit picks me up from school and we drive to the DX. I barely see Steve- his legs hanging out from under a car. Sodapop waves from inside, his feet propped up on the counter. A bunch of girls are surrounding him.

"Hey Pony!" he calls when Two-Bit and I get inside, "Hey Two-Bit!"

"Hello Sodapop!" Two-Bit throws on a fake British accent and pulls out a beer from the cooler. He pops the lid and gulps about half of it down, flipping Soda the money happily.

My brother shrugs off the girls and throws his arm around my shoulder.

"What's up little brother?" he flashes his award-winning smile. Thankfully, the girls leave- giggling and smiling- whispering to each other as if they just kissed him or something.

"Not much." I give him my best fake smile. I don't feel too hot. A bit nauseous, actually. We have a big track meet coming up, its probably just nerves. No way am I telling Soda about it though, he'll demand I go home and rest.

Some big guy walks in looking mad.

"Oh boy. I gotta go help him, see you guys later." Soda walks to the man and follows him out, the little bell jingling as the door closes.

Two-Bit flicks his finger toward them and walks out as well. With a sigh, I force myself forward and follow like a little puppy- like Johnny used to do with Dallas.

Back at home, my stomachache isn't any better. I flop onto the couch and lay there, staring up at the ceiling.

A loud slam makes me jump. Darry walks in the door and tosses his work belt on the ground. A car outside starts and drives away- Two-Bit. I guess I fell asleep.

I must not look so great because Darry's face fills with concern when he sees me, "How you feeling little man?" he crouches next to me and puts the back of his hand on my forehead. His hand is cold and I squirm away.

"I'm fine." I give him a small glare.

"You sure Pony? You feel kinda hot." He disappears for a moment before returning with the thermometer in his hand.

"Darry, don't make me." I mutter. I hate thermometers, I'm not sure why, its just one of those things.

"C'mon, open up." He pushes me up and sits on the couch where my head was.

Groaning, I do what he says and allow him to stick the stupid thing in my mouth. I lean on my brother's shoulder and wait for the beep. When it goes off, he reads it out loud.

"98.9. Hmm, I guess you're not sick then." He trails off, not realizing I just plopped my head in his lap. Darry starts to stand but notices my head. He gives me a funny look. I haven't laid in his lap in years.

I read his expression, "Just a little tired, that's all. I'm fine." Soon though, my statement is changed.

I bolt up off of his lap and run to the bathroom, flipping up the toilet seat just in time to throw up my lunch. Darry appears in the doorway, bends down toward me, grabs a damp towel and wipes my mouth off. Thanks Dare.

"Something tells me you're not okay." He pulls me into his lap and pushes my head down on his shoulder.

"Yeah." I mumble, blinking sleepily.

Thankfully he makes no move to take me anywhere so I yawn and slowly float into a dreamless sleep.

When I wake up, I'm laying on the couch wrapped up in a couple blankets. The room is dark except for a bright light emanating from the TV. I roll onto my back and look across to a dark figure. When it stands, I know immediately its Sodapop. I can tell by his thin frame and the way he rushes over to me.

"Hey little colt, lets go to bed." he pushes the hair out of my face.

When I nod, he shuts off the television and comes back to me. Soda holds out his hand and helps me up, trailing behind to our room. Once in bed, he pulls me to him, rubbing my stomach like Mom used to. Sodapop's breath warms my neck as he murmurs an old song Darry used to sing all the time. I suppress a tiny chuckle despite the circumstances. In a few moments, I'm asleep, Soda's voice playing over and over in my head.

In the morning, I wake up really early- 3 AM- but I'm not tired anymore. Wriggling out of Soda's grip, I wander to the bathroom to take a shower. There's this small, stabbing pain in my stomach and I crumple to the floor yelping when I pull my shirt off. Lying there, the pain only worsens. I try curling up to make it go away but it isn't working. What was once small, now feels as if my whole stomach is on fire. Fire. No, don't think fire, think…under a lamp. Tears prick at my eyes and soon I'm sobbing on the bathroom floor. Darry comes walking in sleepily, scratching the hair on his chest. Thank goodness. When he sees me, his eyes fling open.

"Ponyboy? What's wrong?" he bends down by me and rubs my back. When I don't say anything he asks again, "Can you tell me what's wrong?"

"M-m-my s-stomach hurts!" I scream out the 'hurts' part and grip my legs tighter.

Sighing, he sticks his arm under my legs and the other on my back, rolls me into him, and stands up. I grip his shirt with my hand and stuff my face into his chest. Darry carries me to the couch and goes to get a couple aspirins and a glass of water. I take a deep, shuddering breath and quit crying, you just don't in front of Dare. He puts the aspirin in my mouth and holds the glass to my lips. I drink it greedily, the cold water running down my throat.

"You feel better Pone?" I nod, yawning, "Whelp, you got school today bud, you going?" he smiles; it doesn't completely reach his eyes.

I shrug. I don't really want to miss, but an excuse to lay around all day is great too.

"Gooooood morning world!" Soda hollers down the hall.

"Mornin Soda." Darry calls back, rolling his eyes.

I pick up my book from the side table and flip to a random page. I've read it a ton of times already. It's Gone with the Wind. Darry smiles when he sees me reading it.

"Must not be too sick, you're still reading." He laughs at his own joke.

I smile back, Darry doesn't laugh that often anymore, and so when he does it makes my heart swell up.

Soda pops in wearing his DX shirt and pajama pants. I half hear him ask what's for breakfast, too immersed in the book to pay any attention. I'm on the page that the Southern gentlemen ride into sure death because they're gallant. The one Johnny loved.

"Mr. Ponyboy Michael Curtis. You have got to stop reading that book. Its gonna fall apart and I don't think Johnny would like that very much." Two-Bit appears in my vision and ruffles my hair happily.

"Aw, shut up." I punch his arm playfully.

He grins. Two-Bit walks over to the TV and flips it on, turning it to Mickey just like I knew he would.

Steve and him bicker over something stupid before ending up on the ground. Two-Bit's using him as a mattress, laughing at his favorite mouse on the television screen.

"What're you doing about school Pone?" Darry calls from the dining room table, breaking me out of the south.

"I'm gonna stay here." I mumble.

"Two-Bit, can you watch him?"

"Course, not like I gotta job or anything." He laughs before turning back to the screen, eyes lighting back up.

"Darry, I'll be fine." I assure him, rolling my eyes a little.

"Sure Pone, but Two-Bit'll keep you company. Okay?" he tries to reason with me as he pulls on his work belt. "Soda, Steve hurry up!"

"Mhm." I rest my head on the back of the couch as Darry runs outside. Steve follows, slamming the door more so than necessary. Sodapop comes over to me, kisses my forehead- which he only ever does if I'm upset or sick- and goes with them, glancing back with a sympathetic smile.

Two-Bit randomly starts laughing like a hyena. I roll my eyes- him and that mouse.

"Two-Bit? Could we, uh, could we go see Johnny and Dallas?" I ask hesitantly. I don't know why I want to, the words just kinda flowed out of my mouth.

He gives me a funny look but nods once Mickey's over.

I get dressed real quick, ignoring the small burn in my stomach and we head off. Two-Bit insists on driving us, but I really just want to walk. Its only about five miles away.

Easily finding Johnny and Dally- there was a single half-dead flower on each, I crouch down beside them. Two-Bit gets the idea and backs off, wandering aimlessly.

"Hi Johnny. Hi Dal." I pick up Johnny's flower and play with the weeping petals. "We all still miss you guys so much." I place the flower back down and turn to Dallas. "Even you Dally." Picking at the grass, I blink back a small stinging in my eyes. "So something's up. I'm not sure what it is, I know you two won't be able to help, but I needed to vent to someone- well, someones. But anyway, something's wrong. I can feel it. Like that day you two died, I told Two-Bit something awful was going to happen and it did. I think it's about me. I've felt kinda out of it the past week. I've tried to keep it from the gang, but they're catching on. The weird thing is though, is that there's this small little burn in my stomach that doesn't go away. At all." A single tear rolls down my cheek as I continue to talk to the lifeless rocks, wishing I could confide in Johnny again. "If you can do anything to change whatever this bad feeling is…" I let the thought drift off. Something wet hits my arm. I look above me- no Two-Bit- and wipe my face, nothing except for a small trail of tears. More water hits my arms and my brain registers that it's raining. Two-Bit appears behind the gravestones and looks at me sadly.

"Sorry kiddo, we gotta go. Don't want you to get sick, it's pretty chilly out. Winter's comin'" He holds out his hand to help me up.

"Thanks." I whisper, smiling weakly.

Naturally, the bus just drove off, so we have to trek it back. A rumble of thunder growls in the sky and I try not to flinch. Thunderstorms terrify me. It's like me not being a morning person- always have and probably always will.

Two-Bit starts running to avoid the storm. I trail right behind, the burn in my stomach growing with each smack of foot on pavement. Once we get home I strip off my soaked shirt and flop onto the couch, wrapping the blankets from last night around me.

Please Johnny, Dally. Please don't let anything bad happen.

A/N: Yes? No? Thoughts? That's what that little box below is for! Thanks again!