"I ain't gonna ask. You ask." Dally sat on the porch swing, shoving one foot against the floor and sending the wooden seat backwards.
Steve sat across from Dally, straddling the porch railing, his back up against a post. He shrugged, "You're the one who wants to know. Why do I gotta do it?"
"Taking turns and all that crap, right?" Dally gave a sarcastic grin, "just ask if he made a decision."
Shrugging, Steve slid off the porch railing. "Darry said he'd tell us when he'd decided."
"Well the race is in four days," Dally shoved the swing back again, rocking it a bit wildly, "and I gotta tell Gael if he needs to pick us up."
"Yeah, ok. I'll ask after dinner."
“Sorry kiddo, I gotta nix it. I've been hearing about some crazy stuff, and not just Socs. I can’t go, and we just can’t take that kind of risk. There will be other races.” Darry clapped Steve on the shoulder as he moved past him into the living room.
Steve stared after him a moment before spinning on his heel, annoyed, "We ain't gonna be in the races, Darry!” Steve huffed and followed the man into the living room where the other boys were waiting, “I don't understand!"
"Nothing to understand. You ain't going," Darry set the newspaper on the stand next to his chair, "so quit whining."
“There’s Socs everywhere , Dar!” Steve crossed his arms, “That’s just dumb !”
Johnny sat on one side of the couch, eyes darting back and forth between Darry and Steve, then over to Dallas, who had just come to stand in the doorway between kitchen and living room. Pony was curled up on the opposite corner of the couch, reading To Kill a Mockingbird, with Two-Bit in the middle of them, watching the goings on with a grin.
"They're ok, JohnnyKid," Soda plopped down between Two-Bit and Johnny, squishing around until he was only slightly sitting on Two-Bit's leg, and tossed an arm around the younger boy's shoulders, "You know how Darry gets."
Rolling his eyes, Darry reached over to ruffle Johnny's hair, giving Soda a look. " Darry can hear you."
Soda stuck out his tongue as soon as Darry turned around and Johnny giggled.
"Outta the way," Steve crossed the living room and kicked at Two Bit's foot, scowling when no one got up to let him on the couch,"move it, kid." He whacked at Pony's leg, but the boy ignored him.
"Park it," Darry pointed at the floor, "Pony's doing homework."
Scowling even harder, Steve dropped to the floor in front of Soda, drawing his knees to his chest. "But Darry, why can't we go?"
"Because I said so."
"Do you even know any other words?" Dally half snarled, crossing his arms and leaning hard against the door frame.
"How about 'no'?" Darry flicked the tv on and turned to face Dally.
Ignoring the soft snort from the couch, Two Bit wouldn't be laughing if it was something he wanted, Dally glared. "You can't tell me I can't go." And then he stood up straight, arms uncrossing, one fist clenching.
"Funny. Cuz I just did."
Dally stormed down the hallway. Nobody sent Dallas to his room. Mainly because up until a month ago, he didn't have a room, but that was besides the point. Darry couldn't just do that, treat him like he was Soda or Pony. He halted just outside the door, turned on his heel and looked back towards the living room.
And sucked in a startled breath. Darry was standing at the end of the hall, arms folded across his chest, watching.
"Keep moving," Darry didn't sound angry, just… immovable and Dally found his feet moving before he could stop them, "I’ll let you know when it’s time, kid."
"This is bull-" Dally snapped his mouth shut when Darry took a step down the hall, and he nearly jumped into the bedroom. He took another step inside and then jumped again when Darry's voice came from right behind him.
"I expect a better attitude from you than what I’ve been hearing, savvy?"
Dally nodded, unable to say anything, like he was nervous or something. His chest felt all weird and he couldn't help but look away from Darry. The man still didn't look mad, but he didn't look happy either and Dally was just… never gonna understand this man.
"Darry said no." Soda didn't turn from whatever his newest concoction was, but he sure didn't sound like he was planning to listen much to what Steve had to say.
"I know that. I was there." Steve leaned back against the counter next to the stove, and peered into the pot Soda was stirring.
"Then you should know it ain't gonna work," Soda reached around Steve to grab a bowl of flour, "you two trying to get Darry to murder ya?"
Steve kicked the cabinet behind him, "Course not."
"Dally's always pushing. I'm not sure why you are, when you know how it'll end."
"It'll end with watching a great race," Dally appeared in the doorway, a can of soda in one hand, "and me and Steve are gonna see it, with or without you."
"Without," Soda looked over his shoulder at Dally, "and you should think real hard 'bout what you're doin'. Pushing Superman ain't gonna win you no prizes."
"Two!" Steve waved his hand, trying to flag down the older boy. The old mower was loud but it did the job. Two-Bit waved back, shutting the machine down, and wiping his forehead with the back of his arm.
"You gonna finish this for me?" Two Bit called with a grin, heading across the small backyard and taking the glass of water when he got close.
Steve gave a quick shake of his head, 'Naw, man, that ain't my job." He swung a hand out at the yard, "Looks nice though."
"Thanks, kid." Two Bit finished the drink and handed the glass back, "Darry tell you to bring that out here?"
"Nope. Wanted to ask you something."
Two Bit shook his head, holding his hands up in front of him, "Oh no. I ain't getting involved with that. You and Dally can go down if you want, but I ain't."
"Aww, c'mon man." Steve heard the whine in his voice and he kicked the grass in frustration.
"Nope. Got enough troubles of my own without borrowing more," Two Bit gazed at Steve long enough he started to squirm, "why you pushing so hard anyway? You ain't stupid and I'm pretty sure you ain't crazy."
"Ain't stupid." Steve grumbled.
"Crazy then." Two Bit grinned, turning back towards the mower, "I gotta finish this, Steve-o."
"Afraid you'll have to do more than mow the lawn if'n you get caught?" Steve taunted at Two Bit's refusal, "How many days of chores he give you again?"
Two Bit swiped at Steve's head and the teen ducked away, laughing, "Only two and that's enough."
"Thought Curtis told you and Randle you couldn't go," Tim side eyed the teenager in his passenger seat as he pulled out of the Dairy Queen, "You just can't quit, can ya?"
Dally glared at the man. "Shut up," he slouched down in his seat, "I do what I want." Maybe taking a ride home from Shepard wasn't the best idea, but it beat walking.
"You told Darry this?" Tim gave half a grin, "and you're still here?"
"I don't gotta tell him everything," Dally muttered, "how do you know about it anyway?" He glared out the window, wondering why they were even talking about this, he'd just asked for a ride home.
"Who do you think told Darry about the possibility of Socs?" Tim elbowed Dally, and he snarled, shoving back as Tim added, "told Curly he wasn't going either."
Dally swore under his breath. At what point had Tim started to sound like Darry? He huffed in annoyance. "Bug off, man."
"My car, Winston. I can say whatever I want." Tim glanced at him and Dally had to bite his tongue. He crossed his arms and glared out the window, ignoring Tim until they were nearly home.
"Uh, Tim?" Dally sat up a bit and tried to look less annoyed, "You ain't… " he cleared his throat, hoping the words sounded hard and fierce, "you can't say nothing to Darry."
Tim gave a harsh laugh and that was not what Dally wanted to hear. They pulled onto Curtis's street, and Tim shrugged, "Maybe I will. Maybe I won't."
Dally glanced at Steve. Was Randle really gonna ask again? He'd told him not to bother, Curtis wasn't gonna change his mind. They'd just have to deal with the fallout later.
"If you're gonna ask me about that race again, don't." The man didn't even look up from where he sat at the table, going over Johnny's homework.
"But, what if Two Bit came with us?" Steve stepped into the kitchen, far enough away from Darry to be out of reach, but close enough to watch his face.
Darry snorted, and Dally figured it was cuz he was annoyed- Darry sure as heck wasn't laughing. No, Superman had shown them just how not funny it was a few nights ago. And sure, Dallas didn't care, but even he knew having Two Bit there would likely make things worse, not better. And Steve should've known it too. Besides, Two Bit had already turned Steve down, so Dally didn't know what the other boy's plan was.
"Darry?" Steve stepped further into the kitchen, glancing at Dally before coming closer, despite Dally shaking his head.
Darry took a deep breath, and slid his chair back, turning to look at Steve. The disapproval on his face made Dally wince and it wasn't even aimed at him. "What'd I say the last three times you asked me?"
Dally could tell Steve didn't want to answer that, but with Darry waiting, they both knew he didn't have a choice. "No."
"'Mm-hm. And what'd I tell both of you just yesterday?" Darry glanced over at Dally before looking back to Steve.
"I ain't even asking you nothin'," Dally grumbled into his bowl of cereal.
Darry ignored him, waiting on Steve.
Steve took a step back, watching Darry warily. "Quit asking, less we wanted trouble."
"Hmm. Do you want trouble?" Darry didn't stand up, but he crossed his arms and now Dally was even more happy that Darry wasn't focused on him.
Steve stepped back again, bumping into the counter, and he shook his head.
Darry looked over at Dallas once more, and then back to Steve. " Don't ask me again. Savvy?"
Steve nodded. "Yessir."
"You're just gonna get in trouble, Dally."
"Gotta get caught to get in trouble, kid. And I don't plan on doing that." Dallas walked a few feet ahead of Johnny, heading away from the Curtis house and its lord and master. Darry had just laid down the law again about the race. Steve had headed into the backyard with Soda, but Dally had needed to get out. He'd run into Johnny on his way, and the kid had been dogging his steps for the past few minutes, all quiet like until now.
Johnny shook his head and jogged to catch up to Dally, grabbing his arm to slow him down, "Darry will find out, Dal. You know he will."
Dallas wanted to snarl at the kid, but it was Johnny and he just couldn't. "It'll be fine, Johhnycake."
Johnny fell silent, walking along with Dallas until they reached the park. "Dally?"
Dallas dropped onto one of the swings and looked up at Johnny. "Yeah, kid?"
"I'll cover for ya, if ya need me too."
Johnny looked so dang eager, so dang willing , Dally nearly folded. Instead he shook his head, growling a bit, " Don't you dare ."
Johnny's look faded to one of confusion and Dally rolled his eyes. "I ain't having you get in trouble for me, Johnny Kid. If it goes downhill, I can take my licks. Ain't no reason for you to get involved."
"Said no . Now knock it off."
"Uh, Dally?" Steve swallowed nervously as he watched the bus leave. He looked around the QuikMart parking lot for the vehicle that Dallas had insisted would be there to pick them up. But when he looked over at the other boy, Dally looked just as confused as Steve was.
"So where is he?"
"How am I supposed to know, Randle? He said he'd be here." Dally kicked at the ground with a scuffed up shoe and pulled a cigarette from his pocket.
"Well he ain't."
"Oh really? Gee, thanks for that. Couldn't see for myself."
"Glory, Dally! Gael's your friend!" Steve stormed across the small parking lot and peered around the corner of the building, "He ain't there either."
Dally didn't answer, just swore under his breath. Gael was supposed to bring them the rest of the way to the race. Now what were they gonna do?
"Dally, what do we do?"
Hearing Steve echo his own concerns did nothing for Dallas. He had no idea what to do next. He'd never been ditched like this before. People ditched him all the time, sure, but they usually kept him around for the fun…or the trouble, whatever it happened to be.
Dally shrugged, his chest tightening a bit as he clenched a fist in frustration, "I'll give 'im a call, I guess."
"But what if he's not there? And then Jess may wanna know what's going on. And… and if he gets suspicious, he'll call Darry!" Steve looked horrified.
Dally shrugged. Steve wasn’t wrong, but what else did he expect Dally to do about it?
“We could start walking, I ain’t got no other ideas-”
“Winston! Hey!” the call came from a beat up black El Camino and Steve’s mouth dropped open. He knew Gael, sure, he’d seen him at the DX a bunch of times, he was Jess's kid, but he'd never seen the car before.
“Kantrell! Thought you’d bailed on me!” Dallas walked up to the vehicle, shaking hands with the red headed young man in the driver’s seat.
“Nah, man. Just running a bit late. Hey kid, you ready for this?” Gael looked over at Steve, leaning over to throw the passenger door open. Steve nodded and Gael grinned, “Well, c’mon then. Them races don’t wait!”
Steve loved drag races. They were loud and wild, the air filled with excitement and the smell of gasoline. It was grand . He'd gawked at every single car he could, and spent as much time talking to owners as they’d give him - but Dally had not. And Steve knew, he knew that Dally thrived on excitement even more than he did.
But tonight he’d barely looked at the cars and he'd spent the majority of their time here, sitting on the bleachers, smoking. And Steve wasn't exactly sure what the problem was, but he had an idea. Because he was doing his glory given best to ignore the same thing himself.
"C'mon, Dal, don't ya wanna see these cars?"
Dally shook his head, hunching his shoulders and blowing out a bit of smoke, "Nah."
"Alright man, but you're missing out!"
Yeah, he was pretty sure he knew what Dally's issue was, but he'd be danged if he was gonna miss out after what they'd pulled to get here.
Dally watched Steve go and tossed his cigarette on the next bleacher down. He stomped it out and stared at the cars that were lining up for the next race. It should've been more exciting. Usually was. It didn't make no sense, he'd wanted to come here, fought with Darry over it and now… he'd never say it, barely wanted to be thinking it…but he kind of, maybe… sorta…wanted to go home.
"What're you sitting around here for, Winston," Gael's voice preceded the twenty year old dropping onto the bleachers next to Dallas, "shouldn't you be out causing trouble?"
Dally felt his shoulders hunch again, and he forced himself to relax, though one hand fisted and he socked Gael in the arm. "I ain't seen no Socs, have you?"
The words didn't come out as sarcastic as he'd wanted them too and Gael grinned at him… grinned like he knew something Dally didn't.
"If I didn't know better," Gael stood back up and looked down at Dally like he was studying him, "I'd swear you were nervous."
Dally shot to his feet, hot anger flooding his veins. " Am not!"
Gael was still grinning, but he shook his head. "Course not, man."
Dallas jumped the two rows to the ground and looked back up at Gael. "C'mon, let's see if someone'll let me drive."
Gael laughed, coming down to stand next to Dally. "Slow down Knievel. Ain't nobody here gonna let a JD with no license drive their baby."
Dallas shot a glare at the redhead, and shoved him towards the track. "Watch how you talk to me, Kantrell."
"Truth hurts, huh?" Gael smirked, but headed towards the line of cars when Dally moved to shove him again.
"Shut up." Dallas growled as he headed for a bright red car and its bearded owner.
"Whoa there, kid," Gael grabbed Dally's arm and yanked him backwards, away from the six foot Soc and his jet black car, "You crazy, Winston? I ain't planning to bring your wrecked body back to Curtis!"
"Let go of me!" Dallas snapped, trying to pull free from the older boy's hold, "I can take him!"
Gael nodded, dragging Dallas further away. "Sure ya little hothead, you can take him. But you ain't. Not here."
Dallas grumbled under his breath as he was pulled further from the line of cars. When they were far enough, Gael let him go, but not without warning. "Do I gotta find Randle and bring you both home?"
Whirling on him, Dallas shook his head. "No!"
"Then stay away from Socs and angry racers, man."
Storming away from Gael, Dallas headed back towards the bleachers, one hand fiddling with the blade in his pocket, the other rubbing at his leg, before he jerked it away. He ran it through his hair instead, still grumbling. Kantrell couldn't just order him around like he was Darry or something. Wasn't even a year ago he and Gael were sitting in lockup together after a party at the bowling alley turned into a brawl.
Course, remembering the look on Jess's face and then Darry's when he'd come, he supposed they should've grown up at least a little since then.
Maybe one of them had, more so than the other. Trying to ignore the squirmy feeling in his chest for the billionth time, Dally flopped back onto the bleachers and watched the next line up.
"Dallas! What are you doing here? Thought Soda said you weren't coming?"
Turning towards the voice, Dally frowned. That sounded an awful lot like Danny, but what was Gael's kid brother doing here? The kid was Pony's age. And while Dally didn't know Jess as well as the others did, he knew adults and was pretty sure if it was a no for him and Steve…
"What're you doing here?"
"Same thing you are, watching the races!" That was Cyrus, Danny's best friend. Dally'd seen him at the DX and the bowling alley a bunch of times. He wasn't any older than Danny, possibly younger.
"I'm guessing you ain't supposed to be here." Dallas headed to where they stood near a hot dog stand, "how'd you even-"
"Danny! What the hell , kid!?"
Dally hadn't seen Gael in the last hour, but that was definitely him, and judging from his friend's response, Dally was right. Danny and Cy should not be here.
"Gael?!" Danny's green eyes went wide and he backed up as his older brother marched towards him. Dally wanted to laugh at the look on both kid's faces, but he backed away instead. He was not about to get in the middle of that, it was a little too similar to what he was trying to avoid .
"You can't just leave us here!" Steve looked from Gael to Danny and Cy, and over to Dallas, "How are we supposed to get home!?"
Dallas was wondering the same thing, his chest feeling squirmy again. Glory he hated that.
"I'll have to come back. Cuz I gotta bring these two knuckleheads home." Gael glared over at Danny and Cy where they sat on the bleachers, staring at the ground.
"You don't gotta…" Cy whispered without looking up.
Gael stepped closer, reaching out to whack the back of Cy's head, "I do . Hush up."
They'd have to call Darry if they planned on going home tonight. They'd waited for well over an hour and it was now after midnight, with no sign of Gael.
Dally wasn't sure why he hadn't returned, but he wasn't exactly in a hurry to call Darry either. He supposed that waiting till morning was an option. It involved sleeping outside, in a strange town and having to get back into the house. Without being missed from the previous night, or seen coming in, which seemed extremely unlikely. Darry wouldn't go looking for Steve first thing, he didn't always stay over, but since Dally lived there now, his presence would be missed soon as Soda or the kid woke up.
He wasn't quite ready to surrender to the firing squad though, not just yet. Few more minutes of waiting couldn't hurt and maybe one of them would think of something to get them out of this mess.
Steve grabbed hold of Dally's arm as a truck came around the corner and Dally just kept going. Walking right into the street like he didn't have a brain in his head at all . The truck came to a jolting stop and Steve swallowed hard, glancing at Dallas. He was expecting the older teen to snarl and knock his hand away. But Dally was staring at the road, white faced, as if he'd just come too.
"Hey, man. It's good. Everything's good." Steve removed his hand, grinning a little, despite his own nerves.
The other boy nodded, color slowly coming back, and Steve looked over at the truck that had stopped in the middle of the road.
And sucked in a startled breath himself, before common sense returned. The vehicle, complete with irate driver, was *not* Darry. It wasn't. But, glory!
"Ain't Darry." Steve barely heard Dallas's whisper and he nodded, though he knew Winston wasn't even looking at him.
"It ain't," he agreed, taking a step back anyway, "S-sorry, man!" Steve called out, backing up a few more steps as the driver came around the front of his truck, waving a hand and saying something about kids who shouldn't be out at night.
"Ain't no place for kids!" The truck driver yelled, pausing in front of the headlights and wiping his brow, "scared me half to death!"
Dallas suddenly came to life, moving forward with intent, "Back off, man!"
Steve grabbed at his brother's jacket, "Not the time, Dal!" He hissed the words and hoped Dallas would listen. Not that Dallas listened to anyone.
'Cept Darry. And he was the last person they needed right now.
Tugging at the collar of Dally's jacket, Steve gave a half wave at the man in the street, "We're going. Sorry!"
"Let go o' me!" Dallas pulled away from Steve as the two moved towards the sidewalk, the man in the street hollering something Steve didn't quite catch, but as he returned to his truck, Steve released his hold on Dallas with a shake of his head.
"You aiming to get more trouble than we already have!?"
Grumbling, Dally straightened his jacket and gave Steve a look that likely terrified most folks. But Steve was annoyed now. "Well?"
"No." It was a snarl and Steve had to fight not to smack him. If they ended up tussling in the streets, it'd go just as bad as Darry showing up right about now.
"Well, you're doing a bang up job! Who do you think they're gonna call if you beat up some trucker in the street?" Steve gave Dally a push onto the sidewalk, "The fuzz, that's who! And then it all goes downhill from there!" Steve flexed his hands for a moment, before stuffing them in his pockets.
"Keep your hands off me, man," Dally growled, but didn't retaliate further, and Steve shook his head.
"Don't be an idiot and I won't have too."
"Ain't neither," Dally mumbled. Steve sucked in a deep breath, he only ever heard Dally sounding kinda like Pony when he was fretting over something. Neither boy said anything more for a minute, Dally pacing a bit.
"Do you think… should we… Darry's gonna kill us, you know that right?" Steve dropped onto an old street bench and studied his shoes. He glanced at Dally a moment later and groaned. Dallas Winston, toughest guy this side of the Mississippi, had one hand tightly fisted, but the other was rubbing his thigh just enough to be noticeable.
"Dally?" Steve wasn't really sure what to say next, "do you think…?"
Dally's hand quit sliding and he threw a punch at the nearest telephone pole, before staring awfully hard at the ground. “Yeah,” he muttered, "Yeah, Randle."
The words were spoken softly, for Dallas anyway, and Steve sighed. So they were gonna call in their own destruction, which made both no sense and all the sense in the world. Soda had told them it was a dumb plan and Two-Bit had shook his head at Steve, asking if he was crazy or just plain stupid when he'd wanted the older boy to come with.
But Steve hadn't believed any of it, till this very moment. Well, that wasn't true. He'd known it was really unlikely to go off without any problems, but…calling Darry wasn't part of how he'd expected tonight to go. It was a sure fire way to bring their big brother's version of parental responsibility down on their heads. Or… elsewhere.
Leaning against the rickety back of the bench, one foot bouncing up and down on the cracked concrete, he glanced at Dally. "You gonna call?"
Dallas shook his head so hard, the hair on his forehead bounced. "Not me, man."
"We could walk back." It sounded like a question to his own ears and he wasn't exactly looking forward to a God knows how long trek through unfamiliar streets.
"I think Darry would toss us right off a bridge," Dallas walked to the bench and sat down slowly, "better if we get picked up."
"He's still gonna kill us," Steve mumbled the words, staring up at the sky, before turning slightly to look at his brother, "I'll call, but you gotta tell him it was your idea."
Dallas nodded, it was his idea, even though Steve had grabbed hold of it like a dog with a bone, and he was pretty sure Darry would know that. Superman always seemed to know. Their whole plan had been half baked at best, so he wasn't sure what they'd expected. Except, glory, he'd really wanted to watch the races. And maybe, maybe he'd been pushing, like Soda had said, but that thought made his chest all squirmy, so he pushed it away.
Steve stood up, digging around in his pocket for change, "I think we passed a phone on the corner, back that way."
Dallas nodded, but didn't move, "You go. I ain't plannin' to get yelled at 'fore he even gets here."
Steve frowned, "You're dreaming if you think I'm calling without you. He's gonna want to talk to us both and I ain't telling him you aren't there."
Dally huffed, still without getting up, and sat forward, dropping his head into his hands, "I don't want to."
Steve scoffed, reaching out to grab Dally's arm, "You think I do? C'mon."
The tug got Dally on his feet and he let himself be pulled for a few steps, before wrenching his arm out of Steve's hold, "I ain't Ponyboy!"
Steve ignored the ridiculous-ness of that and headed down the street. It only took a few minutes, and Steve grimaced when he looked at the receiver. This was gonna be bad. The Principal’s hubcaps bad. He shuddered, and then glanced behind him, making sure Dally wasn't lighting out. He dropped the coins in, punched the buttons and held his breath. He was half hoping that no one answered.
Walking home didn't seem all that bad at the moment. His half hearted prayer was not answered when the line picked up on the other end, Darry's voice coming through.
"Uh, hi….Uh…Darry.…It's… it's Steve." Steve's shoulders hunched and he sounded as miserable as Dally felt, "yeah, I'm ok… yeah, that's where we…." Steve nodded and leaned against the metal box, "I know. Yessir. No, we… the bus don't run this late…"
Steve nodded his head a few times, "Yeah, he's here." Dallas's head snapped up and Steve was sure he'd never, ever , seen Dally look quite this nervous before. He even took a step back and shook his head.
"Dal!" Steve reached for Dally's arm and pulled him forward, "He just wants to talk to you!"
Steve's fiercely whispered words seemed to shake Dally from whatever had a hold of him. He nodded once, then again, stepping forward slowly and taking the phone.
"I..uh, Darry….it's me," Dally was quiet a moment, his free hand fisting and then not, as he nodded, "yeah, I'm alright. Yeah….No, I won't…..I get it, Dar." He handed the phone back, chest all squirmy and immediately stuck his hands in his pockets.
"Hi Darry. Yessir…..We're in Davisville, on..."Steve looked around, trying to find a sign in the faded, flickering streetlight, "Orange St. There's a bench just down the way." Steve nodded again, watching Dally pace from the telephone to the street and back again, "we'll stay here. Yessir."
Steve hung up, turning to Dally, "C'mon, Darry will be here in a bit."
Dally nodded and followed Steve back to the bench. He continued to pace, even when Steve sat down.
"How bad you think this is gonna be?" Steve whispered after a minute.
Dally's shoulders hunched at the question and he made a noise that sounded remarkably like a whine. "It was nice knowing you, man."
"Uh, Randle….Randle!" Dally was staring at the lone set of headlights headed their way and Steve shot up from his slumped over position.
Dallas nodded. "Think so."
Steve got up and moved to stand next to Dallas. "You ready?"
The truck was closer now and Steve waved as it pulled near them.
Dally shook his head, one hand rubbing lightly on his pants before he stilled it, fisting it instead. "Not really."
The truck came to a stop and the passenger side door opened from within.
"Are you two all right?" Darry's voice was relatively calm, considering, and for that, Steve was grateful.
"Yessir," Steve answered, elbowing Dally when the teen just stood there, staring at their brother.
"Dallas, are you alright?" Darry's voice held a stern note now and Dally nodded, but didn't speak, "Good. Get in."
Dally shook his head, "You get in!" He grabbed Steve's arm and pushed him forward, trying to shove him towards the open door.
"Dallas," Darry's voice snapped, "get in here. Now."
Dallas's legs obeyed without conscious thought and when he hesitated as he sat on the seat, Darry took his arm and tugged him the rest of the way in.
Steve jumped at the order, but obeyed. He slid in next to Dallas and closed the door. He heard Darry take a deep breath and waited, expecting the yelling to start any minute.
But it didn't. Darry put the truck in drive and headed home. And he never said a word.
They were halfway home, or at least, Dally figured thereabouts, and Darry still hadn't said a thing. It was making him feel all sorts of crummy. It was just so… quiet . He almost wanted Darry to start shouting. Just so he could yell back.
"Darry?" Steve whispered from the other side of him and Dally couldn't help but slide a glance from Steve to Darry.
He felt Steve tense up and that he understood.
"You real mad?" Steve's voice was quiet still, but kind of…well, Dally wasn't really sure what it was.
"Do you think I should be?"
Glory, Dally hated when Darry did that. Answering questions with questions. His hand balled into a fist and he quickly jammed it under his leg. Part of him wanted to…. do something. But not that .
"Daa-aar!" Steve huffed, kicking lightly at the floorboard, "that ain't fair."
"Neither was the two of you doing exactly what I told you not to."
Dally sucked in a breath, surprised by how much Darry's words stung.
Steve seemed to feel the same. "Yeah, ok. You're real mad," he muttered, sliding down in his seat and crossing his arms.
Dally inched away from Steve, not wanting to get jabbed by his elbow, "Ain't no space in here!" The words tumbled out of him before he could stop them, and Darry set a hand on his knee.
"Enough, Dallas. Rest." It was an order if Dally'd ever heard one. He bristled, but what could he do about it? He was stuck in the truck with one angry big brother and one sulking younger brother.
He let out a yawn a moment later and slumped down a bit, as much as the shifter by his knees allowed. This sucked .
"Dallas, I don't bite."
What ?! Dally slid a glance at Darry, but the man was watching the road and didn't repeat himself. Did Darry think he was Johnny? Or Pony ? He didn't need nothing like that from Darry, or anybody else. He was Dallas Winston for crying out loud. He wasn't a baby, didn't need a shoulder to lean on, or a big brother…or kindness.
But holy heck he was tired. And the shifter was in the way when he slumped down. He just needed to sit closer to Darry so his legs weren't so scrunched up. And he slid closer still because it gave him a bit more room to stretch out. And he wasn't leaning against Darry's shoulder. He wasn't. But he stayed that way, stiff, for another few minutes until Darry's hand returned to his knee and squeezed gently.
He sagged a bit then, leaning just a bit more heavily on Darry. It was kinda awkward….but it wasn't awful.
"Inside, and go to bed. Both of you." Darry spoke quietly but firmly as they pulled into the driveway.
Steve nodded, groggy and trying to find the door handle in the dark.
"Not tonight?" Dally asked from where he still leaned lightly against Darry.
"Nope. What all of us need right now, is sleep."
Dally nodded against Darry's shoulder before sitting up slightly, "Dar?"
The passenger door opened and Steve got out, only slightly clumsily, "See you in the morning." He mumbled, heading inside.
Darry shut the truck off, tossing the keys in the ashtray. He shifted sideways to get a better look at the teen. "Dallas?"
Dally winced. Darry hadn't called either of them by anything but their full names since he'd picked them up, and it was wearing on what little emotion he had. "Uh… thanks."
Dally looked at the floor of the truck for a moment, and when Darry didn't respond, looked back up at the man. He wasn't even sure he knew what he wanted from Darry, but he found himself hoping Darry would call him Dally . Or Dal. Or little buddy.
He'd even settle for kid.
Something to make the squirmy, awful feeling in his chest just…. stop .
"Dallas," Dally held his breath, his chest tightening over the squirm, and Darry looked at him a moment longer before sighing softly, "C'mon. It's time for bed, kid."
And that was all Dally needed. He let out the breath he'd been holding, his chest loosening just enough, the squirmy feeling fading. He shifted upright, sliding across the seat to the door Steve had left open.
They were in trouble, and a heck of a lot of it, but Dally was home and right now, nothing else really mattered.