This idea hit me while I was writing a one-shot for my story Stand by Me and I thought it'd be fun to give this a whirl. I hope you guys like it and I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Chapter One

Before the Worst

April, 1968

"How are the bills?"

"How are they ever?"

Two-Bit sat down at the table across from Darry, watching him. "How are things with Ponyboy?"

"Good." Darry looked at him and nodded. "Very good actually. We fight a whole lot less. We don't always see eye to eye but we just discuss it now instead of hollering."

"Good. Finally you two have it together." Two-Bit grinned cheekily.

Darry rolled his eyes, chuckling. "Yeah, yeah. Hey, how about you? How are things with Lucy?"

"Don't turn this around on me!"

"Maybe next time you won't mock me and my family problems." Darry grinned at him as Two-Bit gave him a friendly glare. "Come out. Out with it. How are things with your sister?"

"Not good," Two-Bit finally replied, rolling his eyes.

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yeah, so am I."

Two-Bit's younger sister Lucy was fifteen-years-old and a real pain in the neck. All through their lives, they had been close. However, suddenly, that all changed. Last July, Lucy's best friend Tammy moved away. Two-Bit had tried to be there for her, thinking that she would need a friend. But, unfortunately, she didn't want Two-Bit around.

She started hanging around a different crowd. Two-Bit had never met them (she said he embarrassed her too much) but he didn't like the influence they had on her. She was unpleasant to be around over the past year.

Well, she was unpleasant towards Two-Bit anyway. She was all right with their mom. But Two-Bit didn't take it too personally. Their mom was near impossible to be angry at. He knew many people felt that way about him but he felt like it was much more prominent in his mother, especially when comparing their relationships with Lucy.

Oh, there were occasional times where things felt normal with Lucy, like earlier in the year when they had lost Dally and Johnny, but the moments didn't last long. He simply didn't understand it.

"It all started after Tammy left right?" Darry asked.

"Yeah."

"Maybe there's a boy involved or something."

Two-Bit's eyebrows raised instantly. "Oh, there better not be."

"That," Darry said, pointing at him, "is exactly why she wouldn't tell you."

Two-Bit scowled. "I'd be pleasant enough."

Darry cocked an eyebrow, a trick he'd picked up from Two-Bit himself. "Really? You're telling me that if Lucy brought home a hood you wouldn't threaten him with everything under the sun?"

Two-Bit shifted in his seat then sighed. "Yeah, alright. I see your point."

"Yeah, because it's a good one."

"But she'd tell mom right?"

Darry shrugged. "Maybe not."

Two-Bit sighed. "Boy, I never thought I'd be trying to get Lucy to talk to me. When we were kids, she'd never shut up."

"Sounds like someone else I know," said Steve's voice as the door slammed open then shut again. Two-Bit looked up as Soda and Steve walked in. Soda tossed his jacket at the couch, missed, then kicked off his shoes.

"Mail?" he asked, looking at Darry.

"Nothing for you, little buddy," Darry replied.

"Okay." Soda sprawled over the couch. "Where's Pony?"

"Doing homework," Darry answered.

Steve headed down the hall to the bathroom, calling over his shoulder. "Problems with Lucy?"

"Same old, same old," Two-Bit replied.

"Have you asked your mom about it?" Darry asked.

Two-Bit nodded. "She has no idea. Every time she tries to ask her, Lucy just says we don't have anything to talk about."

"Man, that's rough," Soda commented from the couch. Steve came back and looked at Soda. "Scoot over."

"No. Make me."

Steve rolled Soda off the couch then sat on the end nearest the door. Soda glared up at him but stayed where he was.

"How's she doing in school?" Darry asked.

"Fine." Two-Bit shrugged. "I see her grades a lot. Mom shows me."

"Do you think she's hiding something from him?" Soda asked Darry, pushing himself into a sitting position.

"It's possible," Darry said. "I already asked if Two-Bit thought there was a boy involved."

"Maybe she's getting into trouble," Steve suggested.

"Nah," Two-Bit said with a shake of the head. "I'd know about that. I mean, she's usually home on time and all. She never seems drunk or anything." He heaved a sigh. "Maybe she just really doesn't think we have anything to talk about."

A heavy silence fell in the room. Two-Bit forced a grin. "Anyway, I'm going to head home. Told Mom I'd make dinner tonight. She's working late."

"Good luck, man," Darry told him.

"Yeah, thanks man. Later ya'll." He walked out of the house and got in his car. It started without a problem for once and he was home within five minutes.

When he got home, Lucy was already there and their mom was already gone. He glanced at his sister, who was curled up on the couch with a book, and headed into the kitchen.

"I'm not hungry," she said immediately.

"Why? Because I'm cooking?"

"No. But that doesn't hurt. I don't know what you'll cook."

"Food," Two-Bit replied tersely. "Regular food. I was thinking mac and cheese. You okay with that, smart ass?"

She shrugged. "I told you. I'm not hungry."

Two-Bit slowly let out a breath and muttered, "You're not hungry. Okay then." Louder, he said, "Well, I'm cooking. You can have some later if you want." He started it up. "How was school?" He poked his head out of the kitchen.

She looked at him as if he had grown a new head. "Fine."

"You get that history paper back yet?"

"Yeah."

"Well, can I see it?"

"No."

"Why not?"

She merely shrugged. Two-Bit rolled his eyes and went back in the kitchen. It would be a miracle if they both made it through this dinner. "Hey," he called after a while as he poured some into a bowl. "Remember when you were about six years old and I took you to the park that one time? Mom was at work and Dad was taking a nap and we weren't supposed to leave the house. Boy, we got in so much trouble. Mrs. Curtis was there with the boys and lectured me for about ten minutes."

He poked his head out and saw Lucy cracking a grin as she said, "Yeah, I remember."

"Golly, I remember when we got home and Mrs. Curtis told Dad…" Two-Bit trailed off as he remembered. "Well, Dad didn't really care. Just told Mrs. Curtis to stay out of it. We weren't her kids. But Mom… now, Mom was mad." He took up his mom's high voice and said, "Anything could have happened! One of you could have gotten hurt! Don't you ever think?"

Lucy chuckled. "That didn't last long. It never did."

"Damn right. You sure you don't want dinner?"

She heaved a sigh. "Fine. I'll eat." He brought her a bowl and sat down and, unfortunately, the usual attitude was back on. Two-Bit didn't let it dampen his attitude though. He made jokes all through dinner and told long, drawn out stories.

Lucy went to bed about forty-five minutes later, probably because of him. Two-Bit shrugged his shoulders as she vanished down the hall and spread out on the couch.

He was asleep by the time his mom came home. She shook him awake gently. "Two-Bit… Come on, honey. You need to go to bed."

He slowly opened his eyes. "Hey Mom… How was work?"

"Oh, it was fine. How was your night?"

"Mmm, okay…" Two-Bit slowly sat up, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. "I almost made her laugh."

"Oh, honey…" His mom reached up and gently brushed his hair back. "You know, I don't know if you remember or not but when she was a baby, you were always trying to get a giggle out of her. And you were the first one to make her laugh. Do you remember that?"

Two-Bit shook his head slowly. "How'd I do it? Maybe it'll come in handy." He scratched the back of his head absentmindedly.

"You put on this little puppet show with her stuffed animals." She smiled and shook her head. "She just thought it was hysterical."

"Wish that would work now," Two-Bit muttered. He yawned. "Mom, do you want some dinner? I put some in the oven for you."

"Thanks, sweetie." She kissed his forehead. "Now, go get some sleep."

"Mmm, sounds like a plan to me…" He yawned and pushed himself to his feet. He swayed unsteadily for a minute before finding his balance.

"Good night, Two-Bit." She smiled after him as he went down the hall. Two-Bit waved over his shoulder as he turned into his room. He collapsed on the bed with a thud and was out like a light. If he had had any idea of what would come the next day, he wouldn't have slept near as well.