"Are You Willing to Fight?"
"Hey, kid, you okay?"
Lucy looked up wearily and shrugged. She was too tired to tell Steve not to call her kid. Instead she just said, "Sure." She watched as both boys' eyebrows went up in alarm. They looked at her for several minutes as if waiting for an explanation. She felt too tired to even know where to begin.
She and Two-Bit had stood in the living room for about a half an hour before finally going to bed. Neither of them had slept very much, if at all. She had finally fallen asleep around four o'clock and only a few hours later Two-Bit had shaken her awake. Both of them were quiet, which was unusual.
"We're working on a car," Soda said finally. "Come on back and explain."
Lucy nodded slowly. "I'm okay," she said finally. "Just tired."
"No one is ever "just tired" when they look like that," Steve said, leading the way to the car they were working on. He slid underneath it instantly. "Talk." Soda bent over the hood and asked for a tool which Lucy handed him instantly.
"When Two-Bit and I got home last night-"
"Don't tell me you fought," Steve said instantly.
"Let her talk," Soda scolded him.
Lucy sighed. She had to just say it quickly and get it over with. "My dad was there."
Soda's head immediately turned to her, his brown eyes round and wide. Steve went to sit up and hit his head. He fell back on his back swearing then pushed himself out and sat up. Rubbing his head, Steve said, "You serious?" She nodded, unable to form more words.
"What did he want?" Soda asked carefully.
"He wanted to reconnect," Lucy said. "That ain't gonna happen."
"Damn right!" Steve said furiously. "He messed up real big. He can't just show up! You two are doing fine without him!"
Soda shook his head. "You tell him off?"
"Two-Bit hit him," Lucy reported, knowing full well that her pride was showing in her voice. In front of many other people, she'd be worried about presenting this information. She'd worry that she'd have to leap to her brother's defense. But this was Soda and Steve.
"That's our boy!" Steve nodded in satisfaction.
"I hope it hurt," Soda growled
"Well his big response was "nice punch"." Lucy crossed her arms over her chest, weariness being replaced by anger. "He doesn't take this seriously, not really. He wants us to think he does. Besides…" She hesitated. "There's something he ain't telling us."
"What do you mean?" Soda asked.
"You should have seen him. Two-Bit asked how much he wanted from us, how far he wanted in, I guess."
"And?" Soda's brow creased worryingly. "Better not be much."
"Who cares if it is?" Steve shook his head. "They don't have to give him any of it."
"He just said he wanted us back in his life." Lucy bit her lip. "He took too long to say it. He wants something. He's here for a reason, more than just hugging and making up. He wants something he knows we won't want him to have."
"I say you just avoid him," Steve said. He rolled back under the car and got back to work as he spoke.
Lucy rolled her eyes. "You think that isn't the plan? But he knows where we live. He lost his key enough times before that he knows how to break in."
Soda crossed his arms. "So the moment he breaks in, you call the fuzz."
Lucy sighed. "I don't want it to go that far. I just want him to go."
The bell in the shop rang as the door opened and Steve grunted, "I'm working. One of you go."
"I'll get it." Lucy turned and walked back in. She froze in her tracks and set her jaw. "Scott," she said, loud enough for the boys to hear. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to see you, without your brother." Scott leaned against the wall, smiling at her. He looked so at home that it made Lucy want to hit him.
"Why?" she demanded. "Why talk to me without Two-Bit?"
Scott looked puzzled for a moment. "Ah," he said finally. "Two-Bit is your brother then?"
She felt a fresh wave of irritation wash over her. "He's had that nickname forever, even when you were around."
"Hmm. I don't remember it."
"Figures," she muttered.
"What are you doing here?" Steve came around to one side of her, Soda to the other. She couldn't honestly say that she wasn't grateful to have them there. They managed to look dangerous and threatening in a way that she never could.
"I wanted to talk to my daughter." Scott's voice was cool but Lucy could see through it. He was irritated now. "Without the interruption and negativity that seems to be around her brother."
"You hear that Soda?" Steve gave a cool smirk. "He wants to be in a place to talk to her without negativity and interruption."
"He's gonna be disappointed for sure," Soda replied.
Scott's eyes hardened with fury for a moment before he regained control. But it was a moment that sent Lucy back to memories of hiding away from him when he was drunk and angry. She had been nine when he left but she remembered him vividly. She couldn't forget no matter how badly she wanted to. "That's fine," he said, trying to sound relaxed. "Lucy, listen. I have to admit, I'm concerned."
Lucy scoffed. "You? You're concerned? About me?"
"That's right. Are you working here?"
"No, that's just why I have the shirt and I'm here." The sarcasm dripped from her voice, making her feel somewhat satisfied. When he had left she had never used sarcasm, especially not to him.
"You're sixteen," he said gently.
"A fact that you didn't know until last night," Lucy interrupted.
"I admit I haven't been the best father," he went on. "But Lucy this is no way for you to be living."
She felt as if the ground had begun to shake. She didn't like where this was going. "What does that mean?" she managed to say, hoping that she didn't sound near as shaken as she felt. But she could tell that she had when a smirk slid onto his face.
"I want you to come live with me, as you should."
The ground seemed to disappear out from under her and she was falling. "What?"
"She ain't going nowhere!" Soda roared defensively.
"You are, though," Steve growled, moving forward. Lucy grabbed his wrist to stop him. She wasn't completely sure why but she thought it was because she wanted to know just how much trouble they were in.
"She will if that's what's best for her," Scott said evenly. "And it is. I can support you. You're having to help your brother."
"No I'm not!" she said indignantly. "My paycheck helps but he was doing fine before I got this job! He's a much better guardian than you ever were!"
"And how long has he been doing it? It won't be long before it starts to wear at him. You're taking the possibility of life away from him."
There it was again, the sensation of falling. She hadn't thought of that. How had she not thought of that? I'll be eighteen in two years, she thought desperately. Two years. Then he can do whatever… But she couldn't make the falling feeling go away.
Beside her, Soda's body had tightened and his jaw had set. His gaze was set on Scott with a fury that she had never seen in him. "Get out," he growled in a low voice. "You ain't got the sense of a billy goat. You ain't got a clue. Get out now."
Then it registered. Those words of holding Two-Bit from something wouldn't just hurt her. Soda was in the same situation. He had been for a year now. It was a fear that had to plague Sodapop when it came to Darry.
Soda moved past her and pushed the door open. "Go."
Scott eyed him. "This is the company that my children keep," he murmured to himself. "Interesting. Although I can't say it's impressive." He moved out the door and Soda let it slam shut behind him.
Steve met his eye. "Are you okay, buddy?"
"Who the hell does that guy think he is?" Soda snarled. "Trying to guilt her into agreeing?" He turned his gaze to Lucy, brown eyes burning indignantly. "Don't you believe him. Two-Bit would hate it if you left. You're all you two got."
She managed a nod and a few words, although she had no idea what she said. Looking back, it was probably "I know". But she wasn't so sure. Two-Bit might end up dropping out this next semester, it was the only way he'd be able to work full time.
"Kid, he's right," Steve said. "Your dad's just… He's an idiot. He's trying to make trouble."
"He probably thinks he's right," Soda said bitterly. "I think he really thinks he should take her away but it's completely selfish. He ain't trying to help, he's trying to feel like less of a failure."
Lucy leaned against the counter, wishing that she'd land already. "I don't want to go," she managed.
"Of course you don't," Steve said, cocking an eyebrow at her. "You'd be a fool to."
"But…" She looked between them. "Could he make me?"
Silence fell between the three of them. "No," Soda finally said, although it was obvious that he wasn't so sure. "No, of course not."
Lucy buried her face in her hands, overcome by fear of losing everything that she had finally gained.
Two-Bit pulled his keys out of his pocket as he headed to his car. Work had gone well. Honestly he liked his job. It was something that he was good at and he liked doing. Thankfully, it had taken his mind off of his father. But once he saw his father standing beside his car, the tension and stress and anger all rushed back at once. "What do you want?" he asked, stopping in his tracks.
"Why is this how my children keep greeting me?" Scott pondered.
"We don't like you," Two-Bit told him. Scott's words clicked into place and he fixed him with a disbelieving look. "Did you go talk to her?"
"How did you know where to go?To talk to her or me?"
"The neighbor. Regina's always been forthcoming with information."
Two-Bit groaned internally and made a note to talk to her about that. "What do you want Scott?"
"You two use my first name more than my coworkers."
"Because we don't like you," Two-Bit repeated. "See, it's a show of disrespect. Now what do you want?"
Scott caught his eye and held his gaze. "I want to take your sister back with me. To Lawton."
Two-Bit stared at him, the words swimming around his head. While in the state, Lawton wasn't exactly close. He opened his mouth but no words came out. Feeling unbalanced, he leaned against a nearby truck. He thought absently that it was his boss's truck he was leaning against. "You can't," he finally managed.
"I can. I'm her father."
"I'm her guardian."
"You're nineteen," Scott told him. "Keith, you can't handle this."
Two-Bit's jaw tightened. "Don't you tell me what I can and can't do. You've spent too much time doing that to me in the past. I can do whatever the hell I set my mind to. I ain't useless and I ain't a kid. I ain't someone who throws in the towel. You ain't got no clue what we have been through this year."
"Isn't that enough of a sign?" Scott's voice was even and persuading, much like Two-Bit had always imagined the devil must sound like. "You've had a hard time with this."
"Nothing worth anything is easy!" Two-Bit was almost surprised at the words coming out of his mouth but he believed them, something that also surprised him. "This is worth it! She is worth it! You cannot take her away from me!"
"Now you're telling me what I can and can't do." Scott's eyes were sparkling with something near amusement.
Two-Bit glared at him, feeling fury and a range of curse words flowing through his body. The sick freak was amused by his horror at the idea. He was amused because he knew that he could drag this to court and neither of them really knew which way it would go.
Lucy could be taken from him.
"You don't want her," Two-Bit said. "You don't. You just want to look like a father who's worth a damn. But you don't want her. You want the image. Is it so you can pick up a woman? Maybe more than one woman. After all, I've heard they like the single fathers."
"Is it something you've put into practice? Are you trying to use her yourself?"
"No!" Two-Bit took a step forward, pointing a shaking finger at his father. As he looked at his shaking limb, his mind flashed back to driving to the hospital with his sister. They had both been shaking despite the fact that they both usually had steady hands. Now he was shaking again. "Don't you dare make it sound as if I'm being selfish!"
"Aren't you? What can you offer her?" Scott took a step towards him. "She's working at 16, Keith. With me, she'd never have to work. Besides, what kind of influences does she have? You and those greasers she works with? I wouldn't be surprised if you told me that they're your friends. That's how she got the job isn't it? In which case, how many others does she spend time with?"
Two-Bit's eyes narrowed. "Don't you drag them into this. And don't you make it sound as if she got that job through anyone's pity. She worked for that. You don't know how hard of a time she's had lately and-"
"That's it exactly."
"Uprooting her isn't the answer!" Two-Bit shook his head, dimly aware of the panic beginning to grow inside him. His father was not backing down. "You can't take her!"
Scott threw him a sickly pitying smile. "I am not changing my mind. The question here is are you going to cause a problem? And, if you are, are you willing to fight?"
Two-Bit stared at him for a moment then shook his head, gray eyes stormy. "Haven't you heard?" he hissed lowly. "I'm a greaser. I'm always up for a fight."
Scott eyed him for a moment. "Well. Then have it your way. You better be ready for this. It will be a hell of a fight, Keith. And I intend to win."
"Don't count on it." Two-Bit shoved passed him and opened his car door.
He looked over his shoulder.
"Be ready. It won't be cheap." Scott turned and walked away.
Two-Bit threw himself into the car, chest heaving. This couldn't be happening and yet, here they were. He was about to do everything he could to keep his sister but he didn't know where to even begin, much less how it would end. The only thing he did know was that his father was right. This was going to cost him a lot of money that he didn't have. But his broken little family was worth it, even if it put him in a lifetime of debt.