A Twisted Vacation

Ponyboy and Soda decide to convince Darry to take them to a hotel in Kansas for winter break. A vacation away from such a dangerous place like Tulsa and with your best friends sound tuff, right? However, some escaped mental patients just so happen to be on the lose. They just so happen to want revenge!


11. Unexpected Twists

Kitten's POV

I followed not that far behind Dally and Jade as Zeus led us throughout the woods. I wanted to make sure that nobody was going to sneak up behind us. Others found it difficult to believe, but I wasn't afraid of rarely anything. Ghosts, witches, zombies...scary movies, haunted houses, spiders...nope, it took a hell of a lot to scare me. Unfortunately, Jocelyn's kidnapping did just that; I was one of the two members who had the job of remaining as calm as possible in any kind of situation. Darry was the other member, but I could tell that he was just as afraid as the rest of the gang. I knew that it hurt him to see Johnny cry so much, but since he was Superman, he didn't want to stress any of us out anymore by letting his own nervousness slip out. I came from a Soc family, but I transformed myself into my dream self; the first ever female greaser in Tulsa. Vinny came from New York with Dally shortly after, and Cassidy was way too young to know what a greaser even was. Jocelyn obviously wasn't born yet, but when I got the hang of being who I wanted to be, I began to know by heart when somebody was lying, and it was as if I could feel whatever emotion they were feeling.

My parents never wanted me. No, I wasn't a mistake, but after I first came into this world, my folks treated me like I wasn't ever there. When I was old enough to walk on my own and go to the bathroom, that was it. I had to start bathing myself at such a young age, so there were times when I accidentally made the water too hot or too cold. I also had to eat whatever edible things I could get my hands on. My parents always wanted children, but the thing is they never wanted a daughter...they only wanted sons. So after I became a preteen, they had my two of my four little brothers. Another one came shortly after the twins' became four months, and my last kid brother arrived when I turned thirteen. Here I am, fourteen and still neglected by my own parents and little brothers. Half of me still doesn't give a hang, but as for my other half, I question why I must have such a heartless home life. I mean, I know my home life isn't as terrible as the Cade's or the Winston's, but my folks and kid brothers don't ever treat me like I'm there.

Whenever I go back to my house on Soc territory, I always leave at night so it's too dark and too late to be possibly jumped. My parents and little brothers would be asleep too, so they wouldn't possibly hear me climbing through my bedroom window. Walking through the front door was overrated.

Man, it seems just like yesterday I was that little girl who was forced to dress up in frilly dresses and have my hair curled or neatly braided. I had to suck up all of the bright rainbows that were painted all over my pink walls, and I had to make sure that I took my girly shoes off before I entered my own bedroom so I wouldn't get the clean white carpet all filthy. But not long after I became a full blooded teenager, I took charge of my own bedroom and turned it into what I called my lounge. All of the girly rainbows were turned into flames of fire, and the pink paint was replaced with black on two of the walls, and a light brown replaced the other two walls. As for my white carpet, I didn't give a crap about dirtying it up with some mud stains, but all of that was pretty much accidental. Even though I rarely went to my own house, I might as well know that my lounge expressed my greasy tomboy personality without me having to be there.

All of those frilly girly clothes: the revealing dresses, painful high heels, flowing skirts, and itchy sweaters were all gone, and I replaced them with my true clothes: jean and leather jackets, worn out jeans, dirty boots and tennis shoes, not too short shorts, and plain T-shirts. I've always admired the greasers more, so going against my selfish family might've seemed pathetic in some others eyes, but I couldn't have felt prouder. I became known for being the first ever female greaser in Tulsa, I came in handy in rumbles, and thanks to the gang, I felt like I got what I always wanted. A true family...even though we got on each others nerves quite often.

"Hey, Kitten!" Dally's practically hollered at the top of his lungs, which had me instantly snapping out of my thoughts.

I gazed up from looking at the snowy ground, and I noticed that Dally was looking at me from over his shoulder.

"Dally!" Jade somewhat gently nudged him in the ribs. "Shush! What are you tryin' to do? Do you actually want an escaped mental patient to come after us?"

Nonetheless, Dally rolled his eyes and didn't answer her. I often wonder how in the hell how somebody like Dallas Winston became such a close friend of mine. Not only that, but how come Dallas Winston and I got along at least enough to be friends while Valerie Winston and I always hated each others guts? I guess that would just remain a mystery.

"Hurry it up, Andrews!" Dally addressed me by my last name again, as if Jade never told him to hush it. "You don't want to get your ass kidnapped, do you?"

I stubbornly crossed my arms over my chest. "I walk at my own damn pace, Winston!" I then rolled my eyes. "And I ain't even that far behind, so you can do me a damn favor and get off my back!"

Dally stopped in his tracks and shot himself around, glaring away at me. "If you keep that smartass attitude up with me, you better start thinkin' about what you'll be sayin' to God, because you're goin' to meet him today!"

I rolled my eyes, obviously unfazed. "Says the king of smartasses himself!" I grew a small satisfied smirk, knowing that Dally had a point about me. I was a smartass, but that was commonly built into every greaser known by man. The Cade's might not seem like they can get attitudes, but you have to dig pretty deep to get there, especially with Johnny. I'm pretty sure he only gave people attitude when they messed with his kid sisters.

Before I could go on thinking, I was too busy looking back down at the ground to notice Dally stomp his way over to me until he was walking only a few inches behind me. That's when I felt a pair of arms fly around my waist, and just before I thought that I was going to burst out in a stream of cuss words, I realized that it was Dally who had me.

"Dally!" I practically screamed with annoyance as he flung me to rest over his shoulder.

He rolled his eyes and began to carry me like a sack of potatoes. "If you want to play the smartass game with me, then you'll have to keep up to actually stay in the game!"

Jade placed her hand that wasn't holding Zeus' leash on her hip, and she studied Dally and I with a look that said, "I obviously saw somethin' like this coming."

"Really, Dally?" Jade raised her eyebrows. "She has her own legs! She was doin' fine!"

Dally stopped walking when he was right beside her again, but he still kept me slung over his shoulder. "By stayin' further back to the point where she could look down at one moment, and then look up to realize we were gone from staying close?" Again, Dally rolled his eyes, this time being out of disbelief.

"Winston, you're not my damn bodyguard!" I exclaimed, prompting my elbow up against one of his shoulder blades so I could at least see Jade and Zeus.

"Oh, that's funny," Dally mockingly snickered. "I'd focus on our situation before goin' on and saying something like that to me, Andrews."

I cursed under my breath. "Just put me the hell down, Dally! I can walk on my own!"

"Well, you're apparently not fast enough in my book!" informed the irritated looking Dally. "Now how about you do me a favor and shut the hell up with all of your complaining? The last thing any of us need is another damn kidnapping, but yours can result in your ass getting gutted since you're fourteen!"

"Gee, thanks for noticing." I sarcastically sighed, rolling my eyes in spite of my own annoyance.

Using his free hand, Dally did a face-palm, mumbling about every poisoned word imaginable through his gritting teeth.

At first, I thought that he was going to finally shut himself up, but I was proven wrong when he opened his mouth again. Nonetheless, before he could get a single word out, Jade beat him to it.

"Hey," She sounded like she fiercely wanted to change the subject, and I honestly couldn't blame her. "Do either of you want some M&M's? Or a piece of gum?"

Dally raised an eyebrow at her as she dug one of her hands into her jackets pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag that had a some M&M's and few packs of different flavors of gum resting inside it.

"...I think I'm good." Dally flatly said when Jade opened the plastic bag and offered it for him to take.

I rolled my eyes at Dally's uncaring tone, but ignored him this time and spoke to Jade. "Nah, I'm not hungry either, Jade. But thanks anyway."

Jade innocently blinked, hesitating for a few seconds before she finally shrugged and dug some of her fingers into her small plastic bag. "Suit yourselves then." She popped some of the M&M's into her mouth before she reclosed the bag and tucked it away into her pocket again.

Dally continued to look at her with his eyebrow cocked, but then he finally rolled his eyes and started to walk by her side again. I remained slung over his shoulder, which had me glowing redder than the devil from my mixture of irritation and some rare humiliation. It wasn't exactly a tuff scene with somebody like Dallas Winston carrying a fourteen-year-old the way that he was, but I honestly knew that no matter how much I blabbered on about how I wanted Dally to put me down, he would probably keep me flung over his shoulder to just eat away at me.

Zeus was still on his hunting path, smelling the fresh snow and softly growling under his breath.

I quietly sighed to myself as I decided to rest my eyes shut. As much as I didn't want Dally to carry me, his leather jacket was pretty comfortable to lean against. Besides, I couldn't really catch any sleep last night thanks to Vinny going on and on about how much she hated how Dally treated her like she was come bitchy little kid. I tuned her out greatly not far along a little passed midnight.

"Are you sure this dog knows where he's going?" groaned Dally, keeping his glazing eyes on the big dog as we walked. "We've been walkin' for about fifteen minutes and he still hasn't led us to anything or anybody suspicious or important."

I cracked my slimly sore eyes open a little. Almost instantly, Jade froze in her tracks, stomping one of her feet down before she turned around and gave Dally this look that said, "I'm goin' to freakin' slice you to ribbons if you dare say that again!" Her eyes were like to huge saucers, swarming with warning, and her light pink lips were straight.

"Dally, this dog of mine has been in my family since he was a scrawny little pup. He can pick up any scent from a mile away with his keen tracking ability, and he's one hell of a tuff protector and hunter. What do you think he did for me, my parents, and my kid sister anyway? He protected us and our house day and night, and my old man often took me out with him to hunt rabbits, squirrels, and whatever other animals with Zeus." Jade stopped talking for a moment so she could quietly catch her breath. Afterwards, she crossed her free arm over her chest and went on speaking. "No, we didn't use guns or knives or anythin' like that when we went hunting..." She simply shrugged. "All my dad and I needed was Zeus' sneak attack antics, freakin' fast speed, and his excessively pointy teeth."

Dally bit down on his bottom lip, having this look on his face that I knew by heart. He obviously wasn't interested in all that Jade was saying, but I knew Dally like I knew the rest of the gang, and I had all of them down like the back of my hand. Just because Dally wasn't interested in what Jade was sharing, that didn't mean that he wasn't interested in the type of female that she was. He thought that she was an okay and tuff "broad," but it didn't surprise me that he didn't give a hang about everything Jade was trying to explain to him. Dally usually never cared to listen to others explanations, minus the Cade's when Johnny talks about what's been going on back at their pathetic excuse of a home with their bitchy folks. Dally couldn't full me; nobody could get passed me. Dally must've been interested in Jade somehow.

"Wow, that's fantastic, Jade." Dally uncaringly rolled his eyes, talking with a sarcastic tone. "Now if we actually do run into one of those escaped mental patients out here, we won't have to worry about what we can possibly cook up for dinner tonight thanks to your dog and his hunting." Dally jerked his head a little, motioning over to Zeus, who still had his nose berried in the plush snow, sniffing away.

Jade's eyes narrowed, and her cheeks began to grow bright red. I could tell that it wasn't because of the nippy breeze either.

"Stick a damn cork in it, Dally!" Sparks of fire began to twinkle in her eyes. I could tell that she was trying her best not to snap though. "This ain't no time for your sarcastic smartass remarks, okay? It's pretty damn obvious that none of us are cannibals, so you don't have to freaking fool around about such a ridiculous topic like that either!"

"Okay, you don't have to blow a damn casket! It was just a joke, so you can lay off of me, all right?" Dally spoke "a little" too harshly, and that only made Jade's face grow surprisingly a tiny bit redder. She wasn't like any other female who tangoed with Dally; she actually stood her ground and refused to allow anybody to knock her down.

"Winston, with the timing that we're in, that so-called joke will be funny when hell freezes over!" I pointed out, knowing that I was raising my voice to make it evenly sassy to the eldest Winston's.

Without hesitating, I felt one of Dally's hands grasp the back of my jacket. Then he somewhat roughly yanked me, making it hard enough so I could almost fall back and land out of his arms, but he released my jacket and sent me now slung over his shoulder all over again. Heavily, I quietly panted to myself, catching my breath from the startled gasp that escaped my lips when Dally unexpectedly somewhat jerked me like that.

"You better watch it before I actually do decide to drop you on your ass, Andrews!" Dally viciously warned, hissing his words like a snake that was getting ready to strike.

I began to rub the sides of my head, feeling this gigantic headache beginning to come on. "Well you do realize that I can walk on my own, right?"

"Not fast enough." Dally shook his head. "Like I said a little earlier, the last thing we need is another kidnapping."

As I shook my head a few soft times to myself and rolled my eyes, I couldn't help but notice that Jade was strangely smirking about something all of the sudden.

"Dally, why don't you just admit that you're nice enough to make sure that your friends are all right?" Jade raised an eyebrow, still smirking.

Dally instantly pointed a finger at her. "You better watch it, Thomas!" He snarled, addressing Jade by her last name. "I'm never nice!"

"Well, it sure as hell doesn't seem like that in my eyes." Jade stuffed her free hand into her jeans pocket and shrugged.

Dally ran his free hand through his hair and went on grumbling every word in the book under his breath. "Then you just might want to have your eyes removed and replaced! I ain't nice one bit and that's freaking that!" He impatiently bellowed, but that didn't have Jade narrowing her eyes or growing red. She surprisingly went on smirking a little, so if Dallas Winston of all people couldn't yank out any fury or irritation, I could tell that it must take a hell of a lot to get Jade to snap.

Suddenly, Jade narrowed her eyes a little, and she tilted her head some. Her eyes scanned Dally slowly; studying him from the bottom of his shoes, to the top of his greasy, almost white hair.

The oldest Winston cocked an eyebrow, slowly walking by Jade's side as we began to follow Zeus again.

Within every few seconds, Jade would peek over at Dally with the same slimly confused flooding eyes.

I watched with sort of confused eyes myself, having my elbow carefully pressed against one of Dally's shoulder blades so I could lean my head up and watch what was going on. My red bangs dangled in front of my green eyes a bit, but I simply puffed them away every time they fell in my vision.

"Okay, why in the hell do you keep starin' at me like that?" Dally shattered the silence with a somewhat soft, but impatient and concerned mixed voice.

"Oh...I'm just wondering..." Jade stepped over a branch that had broken off from one of the showy covered trees. She then folded her hands still grasping Zeus' leash as she grinned a little, and she fixed her eyes back on Dally. "How did you and such a complete badass like Timothy Shepard become good friends?"

Dally rolled his eyes. "First off, if you ever call him by his real name, he's just like Vinny. He'll blow up like a damn bomb and beat the livin' shit out of you." He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "And secondly, I wouldn't call us good friends. We met in the cooler, I was just twelve and he was almost thirteen. As we grew up, we only went on slashing each others tires and starting fights with each other to the point where we cut our faces with our rings, and we'd shatter each others ribs."

"But there were also times where they helped each others asses out." I snickered quietly at my own words. "Like those times when they teamed up to bang up on the same Soc at the same time in different rumbles. Or what 'bout those times you guys tried bailing each other out of the cooler, Dally?"

"What the hell are you talkin' about, Kitten?" demanded Dally. "I could never attempt bailing him out because the fuzz know me like their own damn reflections! And whenever I was thrown into the cooler, Tim went hunting for that slut Sylvia!"

I cursed under my breath. "I still can't believe you bothered goin' out with her, even after she flirted with Johnny and Steve stepped in before she could try anything else."

Jade's eyes went wide a little, and I could've sworn that I heard her take in a startled, but soft breath to herself. Nonetheless, she kept her glossy and confused eyes on Zeus, who was wagging his tail like mad with him still leading the way, his nose remaining planted in the cold snow.

"Stop bein' such a smartass, Andrews!" demanded Dallas, his eyes sharply narrowed and his lips were now peeled back to reveal his slightly grinding teeth.

"What in the hell are you talkin' about, Winston?" I challenged, making my voice evenly loud as Dally's, but mine was also full of confusion. "Even you know that all I'm doin' is stating facts! Sylvia was a no-good skank who went around with pretty much any guy that she could get her hands on! What do you think she did whenever you were thrown into the cooler, because she sure as hell never cried or got worried!"

Dally's face instantly began to go red.

I don't see why he got so damn overprotective over some slut like Sylvia. No matter how many times they dumped each others asses and got back together shortly after, Dally seemed to bite down that remaining hate towards her, but Sylvia still went ahead and flirted with other guys when he wasn't around. When Dally got tossed into jail, where was Sylvia? In some other boy's bed, along with many more lined up for her to visit afterwards. Though, maybe Dally was protective because he knew that having Sylvia as his first girlfriend was a mistake. He knew how much she cheated on him, but he continued to go back to her no matter how many times they cursed and dumped each other.

A slight pout swiped across my face, but I made sure to burry it into Dally's comfortable leather jacket so nobody would notice. As much as I hated having a soft side, I knew that everybody honestly did...and I truly did feel sorry for Dally about everything, even Sylvia. He deserved better than some two-timing wannabe like her, even though he could get quite bitchy at times.

"Does Shepard have a girlfriend?" Jade suddenly questioned about ten seconds into Dally cursing under his breath.

"Which one?" Dally grew a smartass smirk. "With a wiseass like Angela, you can never be too sure."

I couldn't help myself to quietly chuckle at that, but I knew that Angela was definitely not gay or bisexual. She just started dating this one middle-class boy that was new to mine, Ponyboy, Two-Bit, and Johnny's high school. Vinny always ditched and vandalized the school whenever she bothered to come, and Angela would get detentions continuously for PDA with this middle-class boyfriend of hers. He's usually always let off the hook though since he's a new student. Anyway, the Shepard's and I got along on and off, except for Curly and I. We seemed to get along pretty much all of the time.

Jade rolled her eyes. "I'm talkin' about Tim, smartass!" She grinned widely, meaning that she was somewhat playing around. "Does he have a girlfriend?"

Dally raised an eyebrow, no longer smirking. "Um...I believe he told me 'bout some blonde broad that he began to go out with around last Halloween." Dally hesitated and nodded a couple of times. "Yeah, her name is Delilah or somethin' like that. Some broad that works at the Dingo, and Tim just so happened to fetch a meal there after one of our common fights."

"Well Delilah's lucky!" Jade giggled, tucking some of her hair behind her earring pierced ear. "Tim may not be that special guy that I have my eyes on, but I must admit that he's pretty damn cute!"

I could've sworn I felt my jaw fall straight down to the ground. Tim Shepard? Cute? In my mind, Timothy Shepard was far along from being cute. That made him sound like some small and innocent little boy, and he was nowhere near those terms. I'm not saying that Tim isn't a good-looking guy, but I wouldn't describe his looks with the word 'cute.' Definitely not my type of guy either. I already made the mistake of going out with the bitch Jesse Sheldon, and I came so close to almost agreeing to dating a Shepard's gang member. Thank God I didn't, because I might've been good friends with some smartass boys, but the apple of my eye wasn't rebellious like Timothy Shepard and Dallas Winston.

"Are you..." Dally spoke up, his eyes now huge. I could've sworn his face was beginning to go red all over again. It looked like he was angry about something, but instead of going on with whatever he wanted to say, he began to cuss under his breath. His big eyes narrowed sharply, and he began to slimly grind his teeth.

"Serious?" Jade raised an eyebrow, and Dally gave a slight nod. "Yeah, I'm bein' serious." Jade grew another grin. "Why are you takin' it like it's such a big deal? Plenty of girls probably think that Tim's good-looking."

Just as I was about to open my mouth and say that I didn't see Tim as a "cutie," I could've sworn I felt one of Dally's hands tightly grip at the bottom of one of my legs.

"Dallas Christopher Winston!" I forced his hand away from the bottom of my leg, holding the pain out of my voice since I never knew how sharp Dally's fingernails were.

"Sorry!" Dally apologized, but not in the best convincing tone. He still sounded pretty annoyed about something, but I didn't know what it could've been at first.

"Man, Dally, what's gotten into you?" Jade crossed her free arm over her stomach as her eyes confusedly narrowed. You could tell by the sound of her voice that she was somewhat surprised in how Dally just paid no attention to how he was accidentally squeezing the bottom of one of my legs.

The oldest Winston ran his free hand through his hair. "Nothin' has gotten into me...I'm fine." He was speaking through his slightly gritting teeth, and he went on with his mumbled cursing after his reply.

I opened my mouth to command Dally to answer why he grabbed my leg like that if he was fine, but then that's when it hit me. My emerald green eyes that were narrowed decided to grow, and my lips pulled up into a small smirk. I was starting to pick up exactly why Dally reacted the way that he did towards Jade's comment on how she thought that Tim was handsome.

Nevertheless, I didn't say anything, and Jade only shrugged and didn't bother to talk after getting Dally's response. Instead, we only kept walking, following Zeus with every step we took.

"I think I've carried you long enough." Dally moaned a little, breaking the silence after about two more minutes passed. Half of him was careful when he swung me back forward, and he sat me down on the ground again. It sure felt better being able to have my own feet touching the ground.

Dally gave my shoulder a small, but a bit of a rough pat. "Don't be so damn slow anymore, Andrews."

"Gee, thanks." I sarcastically muttered, stretching a little before I stuffed my hands into my jackets pockets.

I wasn't slow; I was the fastest female on the track team. I just liked saving my energy, no matter how much that got on Dally's nerves. Pretty much everything and everybody could annoy the living crap out of him after quite some time.

"Can a day go by without you unleashing your smartass side?" Dally rolled his eyes, but just as I was about to open my mouth and reply with a no, I heard a sudden sound coming from not far back. Dally and Jade must've heard it too, because they instantly froze up in their tracks and flashed themselves around. It sounded like a small twig was stepped on and cracked in half.

"What in the world was-" I whispered, but I was cut off when the sound of soft footsteps began to come from the distance.

"Shush!" harshly hushed Dally.

Zeus came in front of Jade and stood between Dally and I. Warningly, he growled like a bear and got down in his pouncing position. Then his sharp claws slowly dragged through some of the snow, as if he was stretching his toes, and his dark lips tugged back to reveal his very pointy and deadly teeth.

Slowly, I noticed Dally reach into his jeans pocket from the corner of my eye, and within a couple of seconds, he pulled out one of his blades from his knife collection.

"Please don't tell me that I'm the only one who heard those noises." Jade quietly spoke as I checked my pockets for my blood red handled switchblade, but I must've accidentally left it in mine and Vinny's room. I honestly wanted to curse myself out with each breath I had stored up in my lungs, but it was obvious that idea was one of the worst ones in history in a time like that.

"No...you're not..." Dally began to breathe pretty hard, but every breath was silent at the same time. Protectiveness was locked tightly in his eyes, and he had his bottom teeth warningly stroking against his upper lip. He would never admit it unless you were a Cade, but he was eager to protect Jade, Zeus, and I no matter what the cost could've been. I couldn't blame Dally either. He and Vinny faced plenty of gang rivals, sex offenders, vicious drug dealers, and deadly alcoholics back in New York. Unfortunately, Darry was right about how none of that compared to escaped mental patients. They really didn't have the wires in their brains connected up properly, so they can develop thirsts for the craziest things. Kidnapping and murdering are only two of the many options mental patients could have running through their very slow and confused minds. Hell, they could possibly be cannibals for all we know.

I was more curious than anything though. Why would these escaped mental patients want to target the gang and I the most? I mean, Cassidy was telling the truth about some shadowy figure showing themselves around her and only her. Not only that, but what about the mysterious phone call that Vinny and I got not long back? These escaped psychos weren't just hunting innocent kids, teenagers, and adults...but they seemed to be mainly focused on me and the rest of the gang for some unknown reason.

I gently ran my thumbs around my knuckles as I clenched them tight enough for the bright redness from the chilly breeze to go whiter than sheets. Whether I had a weapon or not, I was always prepared for a fight. Always. I might've been a girl, but that didn't mean that I didn't know how to kick some ass when I needed to.

Suddenly, the soft sound of another small twig snapping filled the cool air.

Zeus' growling was only picking up, and his flappy eyes perked up as his dark eyes narrowed.

I could tell by the type of girl that Jade was that she wasn't afraid to fight for self-defense either.

Jadelyn tightly gripped Zeus' leash some more. "Should we make a run for it?" She whispered.

"No," Dally shook his head and brought his blade up to his chest, holding it out in front of him. "Whoever it is, they're gettin' too close now. Just stay behind me and stay cool."

From the corner of my eye, I gave Dally a small look that said, "How in the hell can somebody stay cool in a time like this?"

Nonetheless, I didn't bother to open my mouth and say anything that I could just tell that I was only going to regret.

Just as another pair of footsteps sounded like they were getting even closer, I held my clenched fists out in front of me and tried walking towards where the noise was coming from.

"Behind me, Kitten!" Dally grabbed a rough hold of my arm to stop me, and I rolled my eyes to myself when I stepped back.

Dally then turned his attention over to Jade. "Can you shut that damn mutt up?" He motioned towards the snarling Zeus.

Almost instantly, Jade's face went redder than the devil's. "He ain't a damn mutt, Dally!" She tugged on Zeus' leash a bit to pull him back, but she couldn't get him to back down completely.

Dally rolled his eyes and mumbled out an "Whatever" before he turned his attention back into the direction where we heard all of the noises coming from.

I continued keeping my fists up, just in case. I might've obeyed Dally's command to stay behind him with Jade, but that didn't mean that I was going to listen to him if we seriously did have to pick up a fight. Dally had his blade, Jade had Zeus, and I had my fists. Fair fight if you ask me.

More footsteps came, followed by more twigs cracking, but Jade, Dally, Zeus, and I remained where we were. The noises were getting closer and closer, but finally, our waiting ended up paying off. The figure was now standing inches away from me, Jade, Dally, and Zeus. To our surprise though, it wasn't some escaped mental patient like we figured. Instead, it was...

"Ashton Fisher?" I lowered my fists and narrowed my eyes at the very pale teenager with the cold eyes and shagged up blonde hair. If he lived in Tulsa or atleast took a trip there, I could tell that when everybody first laid their eyes on him, he would instantly be labeled a hood. I honestly thought of some hoodlum whenever I looked at Ashton. Something about him just wasn't right, but I knew on the inside that no matter how much I didn't like him, I had to talk to him about something that was bugging me. That Jill seemed to be pretty close with him, but what was really tugging at my chain was the fact that Jill has been trying to spend as much time as possible with Ponyboy. It really made my ears go hot.

Zeus instantly began howling like tomorrow didn't exist. Venom was in each of his loud barks, and he went on trying to harshly pull away from Jadelyn's grip so he could charge towards Ashton. Nonetheless, the vampire lookin' teenager didn't seem to mind. His cold looking eyes were simply studying Zeus, as if he was listening to Jade's soft demands for him to stop it and lay down.

"More like Ashton Shitter." Dally mumbled, rolling his eyes as he tucked his blade away again.

Ashton raised his pale blonde eyebrows and fixed his eyes on Dally. "I'm guessin' Shady is gone now, huh?...What'd I do to deserve that new nickname?"

"Don't pretend you don't know!" hissed the oldest Winston. "You treated our friend Johnny like he was a worthless freaking liar! 'Bout his own baby sister, too!" Dally then grew a small mocking grin. "You even treated my sister like shit on the side! You raised your voice to her like she was some bitch! Nobody talks to my kid sister or any of my friends like that, you hear me?"

"Look," Ashton took in a deep breath and let it out. "It's not like I had a choice. Utopia and her old man wanted me to keep these escaped mental patients a secret, so I had to try something in order to draw you people away from findin' out." He stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Nonetheless, that was a complete waste of time."

Jade narrowed her eyes. "I'm not goin' to lie, you hear? You were a complete jackass in there...but as for right now, what are you doin' out here?" She kept tugging at Zeus' leash until he finally stopped his mad howling and attempts at charging towards Ashton. "Why did you follow us into the woods during this serious matter?"

Ashton hesitated, taking a couple of seconds to gaze up at the sky before he pulled out a cigarette from one of his pockets.

As he placed it between his lips, he stuffed his hand into his other pocket, but came out with nothing. "Damn it! I forgot my light in my room!" He picked his cigarette back up with his middle and pointer fingers. "Do any of you have a lighter?"

"...I do." I knew that Dally wasn't going to dare lighting Ashton's weed for him, so I knew that I was the only one who actually had a lighter. If Jade did, she wasn't going to light up Ashton's cancer stick either. Even though I didn't smoke, I still carried a lighter.

I reached into one of my jeans pockets and flipped out my blue lighter, coolly striking its flame. I kept my eyes on it as it burned for a few quick seconds, but it wasn't long before I fixed my attention back on Ashton.

"If you want to light your cigarette," I stated. "Then you have to come here."

Ashton still had his cigarette between his lips, slowly studying how Jade, Zeus, and Dally looked, as if he didn't hear me.

Nonetheless, just as he slowly began to approach me, Zeus went off like a wild bomb again and madly tried getting away from Jade's grip on his leash.

"Zeus! No!" Jade ordered, tugging at him to get him to stop. "Bad dog! Sit down! Now!"

Almost instantly, Zeus' dangerous howls and vicious barks came to an end, and he began to whimper as he sat down by Jade's legs.

Ashton then lowered his head, deciding to light the top of his cigarette by continuing to hold it between his lips.

When he was done, I instantly got the flame to go out, and I stuffed my lighter back into my pocket.

"Now that you got your cancer stick, would you care to answer our question?" I asked, hooking my thumbs into my jackets pockets. "Why'd you come following Dallas, Jade, Zeus, and I out here?"

Ashton looked at me with his bluish/greenish, icy eyes as he took in a deep drag of his cigarette. His pale cheeks began to go bright pink a little when he went on holding the smoke in for a couple of extra seconds.

Finally, he softly blew out the puff of smoke from his lips and talked. "Funny you should be the one to ask, redhead..."

I narrowed my eyes a little. "The name is Kitten...and why is it funny?"

Ashton took another drag of his cigarette, blowing out close to a perfect smoke ring up at the sky before he looked at me again.

"Because," He stated, shrugging simply a couple of hesitant seconds later. "I came out here to talk to you about something."

Dally's lips went straight, and he raised his eyebrows. "And what exactly would that talk be about, Shitty Shady?"

Jade rolled her eyes at his wordplay, and I took no hesitation to "gently" nudge him in the ribs. Quite ironic if you ask me; here I wanted to talk to Ashton about Jill sooner or later, and now Ashton came following after me, Jade, Dally, and Zeus because he wanted to chat with me about something.

"Nothin' bad, so I think you can cut the freakin' nicknames, if you would please!" Ashton somewhat hissed, this glazing look of warning now locked in his eyes.

Dally instantly growled like a junkyard dog and he held up a clenched fist. "Oh, I'll tell you what you can go and freakin' cut!"

"Dallas!" I gave him another "soft" nudge, this one being a bit more "softer" than the previous one.

"Would you stop that?" demanded Dally, rubbing where I kept nudging him in the ribs.

I rolled my emerald eyes. "You can quit the smartass attitude for now, Dal!" I fixed my attention back on Ashton again. "I have to chat with him 'bout something, too."

Ashton raised his eyebrows almost instantly, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he took in another deep breath of his cancer stick.

Dally and Jade exchanged their expressions. Jade's eyebrow was cocked with confusion swarming around in her eyes, and she was busy petting the panting Zeus' head in order to keep him calm. As for Dally, his face was beginning to go bright red, and dead warning was starting to glow like fire in his eyes. With his teeth clenched a little, he began to quietly cuss under his breath, which had me rolling my eyes.

"...Fine, Andrews." Dally softly groaned, still rubbing where I nudged him. He then turned his attention over to Ashton, and warningly, he pointed a finger at him. "But you two aren't goin' to be out of our sight, you hear?" He motioned towards Jade, and then he pointed at himself. "And if you even think about sayin' or doin' anything to her that she doesn't approve up, be prepared to die from drowning in the nearest lake!"

Strangely still remaining all cool and calm, Ashton blew out another cloud of smoke from his lips. "I'm not goin' to hurt her..." He softly spoke, strangely remaining that calm looking vampire teenager.

"You better not..." snarled Dally, continuing to give Ashton his beating red scowl before he hesitantly turned his head to see Jade again. "Let's start havin' that dog of yours lead us 'round to wherever we're going again."

Jade softly nodded a few times at him, right before she glanced down at Zeus and gently tugged at his leash.

Almost instantly, Zeus berried his nose into the snow again and wagged his tail madly, already beginning to lead us through the woods some more.

Dally and Jade took turns looking over their shoulders every couple of passing seconds, considering they went walking ahead a bit so Ashton and I could keep our conversation to ourselves. Wonder what Ashton needed to chat with me about...

Cassidy's POV

I don't think I've ever ran so fast before in my entire life. Jocelyn couldn't have been gone...she just couldn't have been kidnapped...but she was. I knew Johnny better than anybody in the entire gang, and that well includes Ponyboy, Dally, Vinny, and Kitten. He wouldn't ever lie about anything, especially something like this. Salty tears were bursting out of him like a waterfall, and I've never seen him pour out his heart so much before in our entire lives. Not even when our freaking old man belted us, or when our sleazy mother chased us out of the house with a broom, swashing it at us as we ran, and her voice cursed us out. I swear, her voice was just like long fingernails scraping harshly against a board, and that's when she's surprisingly not high or drunk.

I didn't know where I was going, but at the same time, I didn't give a piece of crap. I just wanted to get away from Johnny at the time; I still have a hard time believing that he and Dally didn't believe me about the shadowy figure with the evil, glowing red eyes that kept showing itself to only me. If Johnnycake listened, we would've had a high chance of being able to convince the rest of the gang to pack their things back up so we could quickly take back off to Tulsa. Unfortunately, everybody had to suffer paying the price by realizing that I was right since sweet, innocent, adorable, young Jocelyn was kidnapped...we were going to get her back...no matter what was comin' our way, we were going to get her back, safe and sound. Like Dally said when I took Jocelyn to visit him in the hospital with Two-Bit and Ponyboy, we had to fight and win that rumble between us and the Socs for Johnny. Right now, I say that we got to play this dangerous "game" and find Jocelyn for her.

I must've carelessly bolted around what felt like the entire hotel, but I knew that was impossible. My heart was pounding harder and harder with each leap it made, and my chest felt like it was about to burst open from hurting so much. My face was burning hot, my forehead dripping with sweat, and salty tears remained in the corners of my eyes as I forced myself to keep running.

Nonetheless, it wasn't much longer before I felt like if I didn't stop running to give myself a break, my legs were going to shut down on me, and I was going to collapse in tired pain. My sides were aching even more than all of those times when Johnny mercilessly tickled the life out of me, mainly to get me to wake up. My speed was just as fast as Ponyboy's speed and Kitten's too, but my whole body felt like it was somehow in pain from running for so long.

Tiredly, I rested my back against the bright yellow painted wall that had little designs of light pink flowers detailed in it.

Almost instantly, my trembling legs gave in with a mixture of pain and relief, and I slid down the wall until I was sitting directly against the wall. The shiny wooden floor was cold, but I was too busy holding myself and whimpering softly like a helpless puppy to care. My sides, my chest, and my legs were killing me, and my same heart that's been with me for twelve straight years was trying to catch up with my sharp breaths. I couldn't take in any deep breaths without feeling pain strike throughout my whole chest, targeting my ribs, neck, and sides at the most. I might've been young, but now I know that I never ran that fast before in my whole twelve years of life.

I could've sworn that it felt like I couldn't hear anything expect the loud and tense beats of my heart roaring in my chest. My deep breaths seemed to be tuned out, replaced with puppy whimpers of sorrow and soft moans of pain.

However, it wasn't long before I suddenly heard someone call out, "Cassidy, there you are!"

My hazel, tearful eyes shot huge, knowing that voice by heart. Without a moment of hesitation, I flashed my attention down towards the direction I just came from. Sodapop was coming my way from the end of the hallway, looking just as exhausted as I actually felt. He was panting away with his face glowing red; and I could tell that he was trying to send me one of his full, movie-star handsome smiles to show me that he was relieved.

My heart felt like it instantly took the biggest leap yet; and a soft, startled gasp escaped from my lips. I knew the gang better than I knew who I was supposed to be at heart, so I understood in the first place that somebody from the gang was going to come looking for me at some point. But I wasn't ready to deal with any lectures after I talked to Johnnycake the way that I did.

Soda confusedly narrowed his eyes, and he picked up his walking pace a bit. As I rapidly breathed, each breath soft and like a nervous puppy squeak, I forced myself to get back up from the floor. My feet were sore enough to the point where it felt like I was wearing high heels instead of tennis shoes, and my legs almost instantly began to tremble underneath me. I was sore as hell, trying my best to gulp down the forming lumps in my throat as the tears grew saltier in the edges of my eyes. My stomach felt as if it dropped straight to the floor when I made myself dash all over again, giving myself no mercy when running down the next hallway.

"What the...Cassidy! Come back 'er!" I heard Soda's voice traveling from not as far back as it should've been. Continuing to run like my life depended on it, I took a quick gaze over my shoulder to realize that Sodapop was right on my tail, racing after me faster than I've ever seen him run before. I thought that Ponyboy was the most athletic one in the Curtis' family tree, but Soda must've been working out a lot more or something. His speed was definitely improving.

"Little C, come on! Please stop running!" begged the madly panting Sodapop Curtis, but he was still moving his legs quickly after me.

The exact moment I picked up my nickname fly out of Soda's mouth like that, I couldn't help myself to have my tears begin to slowly drip down my hot face. Like when Jocelyn was first born and Johnnycake gave her the nickname 'Little Joce,' Johnny just so happened to label me with 'Little C.' It was supposed to stand for Little Cade, but after my mom slurred out that my name was going to be Cassidy on the day that I was born, Johnny decided that 'Little C' could be used to label me Little Cade or Little Cassidy. But at that time, it honestly made me feel a tingle of pain in my heart.

I could've sworn that my ribs were about to crack from so much stiff pain only growing more unbearable by the minute. Unfortunately though, I was too fed up on how Soda called me Little C that my mind seemed to forget about me trying to go on with a bolting run, and my legs grew relieved as they changed to a light, but quick jogging speed. However, that so-called quick speed didn't compare to Soda's dash.

"I got you, Cassidy!" My dark eyes instantly went as wide as saucers as I felt Soda's arms wrap around me from behind.

"Aw, come on, Sodapop!" I whined like some little child, miserably trying to wiggle myself free like mad. "Let me go!"

Soda shook his head, right before he carefully spun me around and swiped me up into his arms, hanging me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "Not a chance, Little C! You had me and the rest of the gang worried sick, especially Johnny!"

I clenched my eyes shut, trying desperately to hold the rest of my steaming tears back after I heard Soda say my nickname again. Not only that, but I honestly felt horrible enough, so when Pepsi-Cola brought up me worrying the whole gang even more, that added much more guilt to my heart...especially because I know that I hurt my own brother.

My tears were beating me up with no mercy, beginning to slip down my face faster and faster, but no matter how sore my throat was beginning to feel from me trying to choke them down, I went on heavily with my attempts. Unfortunately, I was miserably failing, and with each pump my heart made, my sniffles began to leak out of me.

Soda instantly froze up. "...Cassidy?" His voice was soft and full of that Sodapop Curtis comfort. "...Are you crying?"

So much for keeping it to myself. I really wanted to keep Soda, Johnny, and the rest of the gang safe from getting anymore worried about anything, considering Jocelyn was already kidnapped and the escaped mental patients who took her were still hunting all of us and God knows who else down.

"...So what if I am?" I sniffled softly as I wiped away as many of my tears as I could. "It doesn't matter...I cry a lot back in Tulsa, remember?"

I heard Soda sigh shortly after I said that to answer his question. He then carefully held me in his arms, no longer having me hanging over his shoulder since he gently brought me back. His soft brown eyes met mine. I swear, our eyes looked exactly alike, same color and all...but I'm afraid that what is contained in our eyes is what makes Pepsi-Cola and I different. His eyes were full of life, dazzling with joy nearly 24/7 and a major thirst for partying every second of every day. As for my eyes, they were usually full of plead and sorrow, but also relief from having such tuff friends like the gang and a golden older brother. My eyes matched Johnny and Jocelyn's, but Soda's eyes were all his own.

"Cassidy, Cassidy, Cassidy..." Soda shook his head a couple of soft times, right before he carefully sat me back down on my feet. "Sometimes I worry about you." He ran his hands through his hair.

I sniffled a little more. "How come?" I tried to raise an eyebrow, but I was too busy focusing on Pepsi-Cola and cleaning my tears away with my sleeves.

Soda stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Well, you know that you can turn to anybody in the gang to talk to about anything, but you choose to keep all of your emotions to yourself. Do you have any idea how unhealthy that is?"

I crossed my arms over my chest, pouting. "It's not like it's that big of a deal, Soda-"

"It's a huge deal, Little C!" the middle Curtis cut me off with a bit of eagerness in his tone. "Holding your emotions in only causes stress to build up, and I should know! I felt that way exactly when Ponyboy and Johnny ran away to that old abandoned church! And what 'bout Darry? He had to say good-bye to college, get a good paying job, and start paying the bills while he took care of Pony and I on the side! He became an adult too fast ever since the deaths of our parents!"

I gulped down a baseball sized lump that was trying to grow more in the center of my throat. It hurt. "Soda, haven't you ever considered that I actually want to prevent you and the rest of the gang from growing worried over me? I don't tell you all what runs through my mind for a reason! I don't want any of you to get stressed over my own problems!" Flashbacks from when Ashton attempted to seduce me began to flood into my mind. I honestly felt like I was about to gag from feeling so lightheaded and ill to my stomach at the thought of me getting possibly raped, but I didn't. I didn't want to tell anybody about what Ashton said and tried doing to me.

Soda raised an eyebrow. "Is that so?" He innocently asked, and I nodded eagerly. "Well you didn't seem to have any trouble exposing how you felt back in the feasting hall with Johnny. In front of everyone, too."

That tingle of pain in my heart began to tug repeatedly at me, each small pull rougher than the last. Just thinking about the loud tone that I used and such foul language at my own brother had my ears glowing red from both shame and embarrassment.

"...Soda..." I barely could say his name; I practically had to choke it out. "...I don't have the slightest idea over what came over me. I swear, something inside of me...just...I don't know...it was like this giant mutated monster was clawing at this steel chain, and it took control over me somehow." I shamefully closed my eyes and sighed. "I feel lousy enough about it."

Soda hesitated, allowing a few moments of silence to pass by before he understandingly nodded. Then he hooked a comforting arm around me and held me close to his side. "And how do you think Johnnycake felt when you said all of that stuff to him? You know how strict he is whenever a single cuss word flies out of your mouth, too."

I felt terrible to a whole new level. Other than the gang, Johnnycake and Little Joce were all that I had in my life. Ever since the first day I came into this world, Johnny somehow found a way to keep me bathed, clothed, fed, and he promised me a golden life because I had his love...and his love never failed. I promised Jocelyn the exact same thing when she took her first breath of life. Her life would've been golden, but not because of our alcoholic old man and/or our drug-addict mother...but because of me and Johnny, two caring and loving older siblings. Unfortunately, Jocelyn was now missing, and Johnny was hurt enough with facing the fact that she was kidnapped by the escaped psychopaths. My poisoned mouth really didn't help the cause there, and what really got me humiliated up the wall was that I hollered everything with rage, as if I was a real monster, and it was in front of everybody. I probably embarrassed Johnnycake to death, too.

I felt Soda gently brush my bangs away from dangling in front of my face with his fingertips. After he tucked them behind my ear, he started to wipe away some of my tears by caringly stroking them off of my red cheeks with his thumb. Blood related or not, everybody in the gang were as close as actual brothers and sisters.



I nervously bit down on my thumbnail. "Do you think that...Johnnycake hates me now?" My voice cracked a little at the end.

Soda's eyes shot huge. "What?" He gasped, obviously taken off guard. "Little C, where is the world did you get that thought from? Johnny would never hate you! You're his little sister and he loves you more than he loves himself!"

I sighed to myself. "Do I really need to go into more possible detail about how crappy I treated him?" I raised my shoulders, feeling my bottom lip begin to quiver some.

"Little C, listen to me..." Soda softly commanded in the sweetest voice possible. He gently touched my chin with two of his fingers and led my eyes to his. "I've been through 'nough arguments with Ponyboy and Darry both, and they've been through plenty of disagreements themselves. I'm afraid that it's part of life to have fights with other people, whether they're friends, family, or sometimes even strangers, you dig?" He waited patiently for me to respond, but since I didn't want to say anything at the moment, I hesitantly nodded. Soda offered me a small smile and went on with what he had to say. "By how Darry, Ponyboy, and I act today, I bet nobody would look at us and immediately say that we hate each other somehow just because we're brothers." He took a moment to probably think about something before he sighed softly. "I still hate that night when Darry smacked Ponyboy...but Pony and Darry regret that it happened, too. The three of us got passed that though, right?" Again he waited patiently, and I nodded my head. Soda's movie-star handsome grin spread some more, and he caringly stroked my hair. "Trust me, Little C...arguments happen, but no matter what is said or done in your life, Johnny will always love and care for you just as much as you love and care for him."

I took in every word that came from the middle Curtis' mouth and digested it fully. Johnny and I rarely fought, but Soda had a point about my cursing. Whenever I cussed, Johnny tried to remain calm and not blow up at me, but he did get quite strict. But...it was because he wanted me to grow up without carrying on anything from our folks. No drinking, no cussing, and no smoking; Johnny was even quitting cancer sticks for me to know for sure that there's no point behind it. Actually, nobody from the gang seemed to smoke much anymore, except for Dally and Vinny.

"...If he doesn't hate me...do you think he'll be mad at me atleast?" I sniffled a little more after asking my question. Hastily, I went on wiping away my hot tears from wetting my bright red cheeks.

"Well, Little C, I don't think I ever saw Johnnycake get mad before. But I can promise you that if I ever did, you'd be the last person on earth he would take his anger out on, whether he got upset at you or not." Sodapop gave my shoulder a couple of assuring pats; followed by gentle, caring squeeze. "He loves you a lot...and nothing will ever change that."

Like I would do whenever I was feeling heartbroken around Johnny, I buried my face into Soda's chest and continued to softly cry from my guilt eating away at me.

"Shh...it's okay, Little C...let it out...everythin' is goin' to be all right...we're goin' to get Little Joce back and then we're goin' to hightail it back to Tulsa...we're going to be fine..." Soda soothingly hushed me as he caringly wrapped me up in a Sodapop Curtis famous hug.

After a couple of more passing seconds, I turned my head over and kept resting myself against Sodapop. I admire how comforting he was towards anybody at anytime you needed him; he wasn't too quiet for his own good, and he never blew up over the smallest things. He was understanding, and just like the rest of the gang, he wouldn't stop until he helped you with whatever your issue was.

"...I really do love him, Soda." I sniffled.

Soda softly nodded a few times. "Yeah, I know you do, Cassidy. You love him just like Darry, Ponyboy, and I love each other." He gave me a wide smile to help me cheer up. Soda's smiles could brighten up almost everybody's day. "Same goes for Two-Bit and Karen, and even Dallas and Vinny!"

I honestly was always curious over Vinny and Dally's relationship. The two of them were practically always at each others throats, cursing each other out like tomorrow didn't exist and getting into some pretty rough wrestling matches with each other. I don't think I've actually ever seen them get along, and they only truly helped each other out whenever they were busy in a rumble or slashing some rivals tires. Other than all of that, Dally made sure that no boys made eyes at his sister, especially Two-Bit since I think he's had something for Vinny for over a year or so. But Vinny never bothered to do anything else for Dally.

Two-Bit and eight-year-old Karen got along on and off, considering Karen is at the stage where she always asks questions and complains about every order that she gets. Not only that, but she always asks questions, especially the old "Why? Why?" whenever Two-Bit or Mrs. Mathews answered one of her questions. Still, Two-Bit loved her, always telling her adventurous stories and cracking jokes, but not without helping her in the bathtub almost every night and tickling the daylights out of her every morning. I swear, Karen was just like her brother, having his wisecracking personality and goofy laugh that could have almost anyone grinning.

Johnny might've been a quiet boy, but if there was one main person he could've turned into quite the chatterbox with, it was me. We Cade's weren't exactly the same though; Johnny was the shy and sensitive one, and I was the carefree and risk taking one. Complete opposite personalities, but we were still siblings who stuck together no matter what. Whenever our old man and woman wanted to get drunk and high, Johnny would make sure that I was holding Jocelyn as he instructed me to hide in our secret hiding place. Johnny only joined us in hiding if our parents weren't looking for one of us to bash around...Johnny did a lot for Jocelyn and I.

Finally, I opened my mouth again and decided to shatter the silence. "Do you think Johnny will ever forgive me, Soda?" I leaned off from him and wiped away more of my running tears.

"Of course he'll forgive you, Little C." Soda gently grasped my shoulders and gave them a reassuring squeeze. He stared directly into my eyes, which were beginning to drain from the remains of my salty tears. "But now since you know how horrible you acted, and you feel very lousy with yourself, I think that right now is as good as time as any to go apologize to him."

I bit down on my bottom lip. "Do you think he'll want to see me?"

Soda flashed that wide, movie-star handsome smile of his. "You have no idea how relieved he'll be when he lays his eyes on you, Cassidy."

A small grin almost instantly twitched up on my mouth. Sodapop Patrick Curtis did have that special charm on him.

"Johnny should be in the room that he's been sharing with you, Dally, and Jocelyn." stated Sodapop, sounding proud as he caringly stroked one of his hands down my hair. "In the meantime, I think that I should go track down Darry and tell him that I found you and that you're with Johnnycake. How does that sound?"

I took in a deep, but soft breath to myself, thinking Soda's question through for a moment before I nodded. It might've not seemed like a lot to have to think through, but it was harder for me than others would've looked at it.

"Yeah...that sounds good to me." A few more tears rolled down my face, but I continued to smile a little. "Thanks, Pepsi-Cola."

Soda's handsome smile grew even handsomer, if that was even possible. What was like all of his pearly white teeth were exposed, and he chuckled as he gave me another hug. "Don't mention it, Little C. That's what friends are for."

I connected my arms around him and returned my part of the hug, but we parted again after a couple of seconds.

"Now let's get you to the seventh floor so you can talk to Johnny. I need to find Darry, too."

Still smiling a little, I only nodded a few soft times. After that, Soda hooked a friendly arm around me and held me close to his side as the two of us began our way quietly back in the direction where we previously bolted like the devil himself was on our tails.

Johnny's POV

Salty tears were overfilling my red-rimmed eyes as I sat there, cross legged on mine and Cassidy's double bed. In one of my hands, I held one of Jocelyn's toy rings, and in my other, I was holding her first ever teddy bear that she got from the hospital shortly after she took her first breath of life. Ever since Jocelyn first learned how to open her eyes, all that she wanted by her side nearly 24/7 was that teddy bear. I had to give it to her if I wanted her to get through a successful nap; I had to give it to her whenever I changed her diaper; and I even had to let her see it to get her through her bath time. Jocelyn loved that teddy bear like mad, but holding it in my hands without holding her or having her looking up at me with those big eyes from my lap had me remembering the truth...and the truth hurts. Jocelyn was missing...she was kidnapped...and it was too late to change that. All I could do now was team up with the gang and track down these escaped mental patients so we can save my youngest sister before these psychopaths strike again.

I gazed at the old teddy bear, blinking away the blurriness from my hot tears as I took in how different the teddy bear looked now, compared to how it looked on the first day Jocelyn realized that she had it. The brown fur that used to be perfectly soft and smooth was now all matted together, covered with dry saliva and colored markers since I left Two-Bit, Ponyboy, and Steve in charge of babysitting Jocelyn one day...and let's just say that she discovered art by coloring on herself, her teddy bear, and some of the Curtis' living room wall. As for the teddy bear's eyes, there used to be two shiny black buttons, but now there was only one. I could see that I was going to have to sew up its tail again, too, considering some white stuffing was peeking out from a small rip. One of its ears were also all chewed up, crusty with more dry saliva. As for its other ear, it was somewhat ripped off, so I had to also sew that back on.

I held the teddy bear close to my chest, picturing Jocelyn still resting in the wooden crib as I closed my tearful eyes. Instantly, I could feel my hot teardrops beginning to trace down my bright red face, but I wasn't crying as hard and painful as I was earlier. I actually still would've been shedding like a waterfall if it wasn't for my broken heart feeling too cried out. I never knew somebody could run out of teardrops, especially in a horrifying moment like the one the gang and I was facing.

As I reopened my eyes, reality struck me again. Jocelyn wasn't in the crib anymore, she was kidnapped.

I softly sighed to myself, right before I wiped away as many of my tears as I could with my jean jackets sleeves.

The pain tingled in my heart, shattering me harder by every passing minute. Nevertheless, I knew that sitting there and crying all by myself wasn't going to bring Jocelyn back. Dally, Kitten, and Jade followed Zeus into the woods, and Soda went off God knows how long to track Cassidy down. As for the rest of the gang, we were each split up, searching the hotel for clues as to where these escaped mental patients went and who they could possibly be.

I said something about searching mine, Cassidy, Jocelyn, and Dally's room for clues before I headed up here by myself. Vinny coolly offered to come with me, but I shook my head and told her that I would be fine searching by myself. I honestly wanted to be alone because I knew how rough Vinny could get whenever somebody cried. She was almost raped, I know that by heart...but she could still get quite a hard and mean attitude when it dealt with what she figured was others challenging her with her past, and your present. In other words, if you cry over something, she believes that she went through worse and will criticize you by going on and on about her past. I don't hate Vinny though. I dig that she went through a hell of a lot, but I sometimes wish that she could lay off and stop trying to pull at other peoples chains.

"Don't worry, Jocelyn..." I mumbled under my breath, choking down the sore pains that were telling me to cry some more, but I couldn't. "Don't worry, wherever you are...I promise that you'll be back in my arms very, very soon...please be safe...I love you so much."

I knew that I had to get a hold of myself and start searching around for anything mysterious or out of place. Jocelyn was my baby sister who was taken here...and if there was one main thing you never wanted to mess with in my life, it was my kid sisters. Believe me, if I could switch places with Jocelyn, I would with a simple snap of my fingers.

I sighed softly, right before I stood up from where I was sitting and decided to check the most obvious spot in the room to search for anything suspicious. The wooden crib. Jocelyn was still sleeping when I quickly returned to find her no longer in the crib, so there just had to be something in there.

Studying hard with my eyes, I scanned the crib, leaning over to examine how nothing looked any different than how I left it. The only thing that I could tell was different was that Jocelyn wasn't sitting in it playing or taking a nap anymore. Other than that, everything looked the same and as normal as some crib could be.

"Man..." I sighed again and tossed Jocelyn's teething ring that I was holding into the crib so I could run a hand through my hair...but that's when I realized something. My innocent dark eyes blasted wide, and I quickly snapped my attention back down into the wooden crib. When I first unpacked Jocelyn's toys and supplies with the help of Cassidy, we both made sure to place Jocelyn's most favorite toys into the wooden crib. Some of her teething rings, her lifetime teddy bear, and a few more newer teddy bears that Dally "bought" for her back in Tulsa...but now, nothing was in the crib, except for its soft blanket.

My eyes narrowed with a mixture of confusion and concern as I quickly swiped up the wrinkled up blanket to see if Jocelyn's toys were somehow underneath it. Nevertheless, none of them were. It was like they all suddenly vanished, as if they were never there to begin with.

"How in the..." I shut myself up, too confused and too caught off guard to finish.

I slowly took my eyes off from the crib and tried to think...how and better yet why would Jocelyn's favorite toys be missing with her? Kidnappers wouldn't want anything to do with toys. Jocelyn's weren't valuable enough to steal to make money either; they were covered with dry drool and more colored marks.

I cocked an eyebrow as I gazed down at my feet. I found it strange and painfully earthshattering to not see Jocelyn sitting somewhere on the floor, especially close to me or Cassidy...but Cassidy was a furious mess with me. I can't say that she's wrong though...I shouldn't have hesitated to listen to her when she swore to Dally and I that she did see that shadowy figure with glowing red eyes quite a few times. She is my kid sister, but I should've used my head with that fact in order to tell me that she was tellin' the truth. I'm not saying that Cassidy would ever lie about something gigantic like that; she would never lie to me or anybody in the gang. I'm just saying that I never imagined something like this happening to the gang and I, especially on our first ever vacation together.

I wanted to sit back down so I could have possibly an easier time sorting this question and it's lame possibilities that I could come up with out. But I just couldn't. I already found one clue, and something inside of me was saying that I had to keep searching. Nevertheless, it wasn't long before my dark eyes locked on something else that was probably another obvious spot to search for anything out of place. The trash bag that I packed Jocelyn's bottles, clothes, some other toys, diapers, and other changing supplies in. I could've sworn by just looking at it that I was getting this part of my heart tugged on; it was like something inside of me was eager for me to see inside Jocelyn's trash bag.

With my eyes still drowning in confusion and now extra concern, I began my way slowly over to where Jocelyn's bag was resting. With every step I took, it was as if that tug on my heart was getting pulled on a little harder. That's when my thoughts began to swarm all over the place, causing my heart to pick up the pace and for my eyes to go wide. I began to wonder what if one of the escaped mental patients put something unpleasant for me, Cassidy, and/or Dally to discover inside of Jocelyn's bag...like a dead body or something. I was hoping for once that I had been hanging out with Dally and Vinny too much.

I nervously bit down on my bottom lip and reached into my one of my jeans pockets. Within seconds, I had my switchblade flipped out. God, I sure wish that I had company right about now.

My hands nervously trembled a bit as I slowly dragged my feet across the carpeted floor. The last time I remember trembling like this was when I was jumped by 'em Socs...I don't remember much of that fight. All I remember was that Bob Soc that I had no choice to kill was the main one with 'em rings; he sliced my face up and surprisingly left me with just one scar. I remember laying down in the grass, too busy choking down my tears and exposing my fear to beg for mercy. The other Socs were laughing and pointing, cheering Bob on as he straddled me and beat the living daylights out of me. The next thing I knew, I began to come to, hearing the sound of Cassidy's tearful cries for everybody in the gang. Soda was down on his knees and holding me close in seconds, while the very pale Ponyboy consoled Cassidy and the nervous Darry was busy trying to calm Jocelyn down. Steve was holding my only jean jacket, which was covered with a slash of a rusty red color. I didn't know it then, but I know by heart now that it was my blood. Two-Bit's eyes were huge, and his mouth was gaping open, speechless for once. And lastly, Dally and Vinny looked greenly sick at the sight of the beaten-up me, and they were cursing to death. Just like the scar on my face, I'm afraid that memory would never go away.

Just as I finally made it over to Jocelyn's bag, I took a couple of quiet seconds to just stand there and look at it with my nervous eyes.

Slightly biting down on my tongue, I sunk in a deep breath and quietly let it out. My heart was wildly pumping in my chest, but I knew that I had to know if anything suspicious was wrong with the garbage bag that I had packed all of Jocelyn's needs in.

Quickly, I nudged the black bag with my foot, right before I took no hesitation to bring it back. I didn't feel anything strange, so I finally forced myself to get down on my knees. Still clenching my switchblade in one of my hands, I stuck my other hand towards the bag and hesitantly grabbed its opening with my fingertips. Then I hesitated a little more, gulping down a forming lump that was in the middle of my throat before I finally pulled the garage bag open and fixed my eyes on what was inside.

Much to my relief, there wasn't any dead bodies, blood, or anything like that to have me jump. I guess that I have been spending too much time with the Winston's. Nevertheless, my eyes still shot huge at what I truly realized what suspiciously came to my attention. Most of Jocelyn's clothes and diapers, along with a couple of her baby bottles and other changing supplies were gone. But...what could some escaped mental patients want with baby supplies? Why did they bother to take along most of Jocelyn's stuff when they kidnapped her?

Suddenly, I heard a few soft knocks coming from the opened doorway, followed by a female voice softly saying, "Excuse me..."

My dark eyes drained from my curiousness and shot gigantic with fear. A jumpy yelp escaped from my mouth, and when I tried to shoot myself up from the floor, I ended up banging the top of my head on the nightstand.

"Oh my god!" The female voice exclaimed, now startled and worried at the same time. "Are you okay?"

I knew that voice...

"Yeah, I'm alright..." I groaned in a little pain as I rubbed my head with my free hand. "I'm just a bit clumsy is all."

As I turned my helpless puppy eyes over towards the door, I noticed that I was right. There standing in the open doorway was Utopia; nervousness was exposed all over that silky face of hers, but it all quickly vanished when I told her that I was okay.

She released a sigh that I could tell was full of relief. "Good...man, that hit looked like it blew pretty painfully though." Again, Utopia looked unsure, as if she was debating whether or not she should've believed me about me feeling alright or not.

"Trust me, Utopia," I kept my eyes on her as I quickly reclosed my switchblade and slipped it back into my pocket. "I've been through worse than just bein' clumsy and hittin' my head. It's really nothing." I then sat down Jocelyn's teddy bear on the nightstand, not being able to help myself to look at it as I arranged its paws to help it sit without falling over. I could feel the hotness of more tears trying to form in the edges of my eyes, but I quickly blinked them away and held down my sniffles with all my might.

I was trying my hardest to hide my misery, but when I peeked back over at Utopia, I could tell that I was failing miserably. Her eyes that still reminded me of two dark pieces of chocolate were beginning to grow glossy with sorrow, and a puppy dog like pout slipped across her face. Not only did she catch me trying to disguise my true feelings, but only God knows whether or not she understood that the teddy bear was Jocelyn's. Something inside of me was tellin' me that she did somehow though.

"Look," Utopia sighed again, but this time was out of her sudden sadness. "I hope I'm not interrupting you with anything...but I just wanted to swing by and apologize."

I confusedly cocked an eyebrow at her. "Apologize?"

Utopia bit down on her bottom lip a little and hesitantly nodded.

"...Excuse me for asking, but...why do you want to apologize? I mean...I don't recall you doin' anything wrong." I couldn't help myself to pause every few moments so I could study how uncomfortable Mr. Roberts' daughter suddenly looked. It was like somethin' was eating away at her on the inside; since I went through a lot at home with my kid sisters, I seemed to have picked up this feeling that trigged inside of me almost whenever somebody had something heavily weighing down on their minds.

"Actually, I did...and I'm not proud of just sittin' back and lettin' it happen." Utopia shared with me, innocently blinking a couple of times. "If you say no, I'll understand...but would you mind if I come in?"

I couldn't help myself to keep one of my eyebrows curiously raised. What could have Utopia done to have her feel so dang unsettled? She seemed too sweet and gentle in my eyes to hurt a fly...and by sticking to some jerk like that Ashton Fisher, I can't say that I'm surprised. She was probably too nervous to break up with him or somethin' like that. Again, can't say that I'm surprised. I wasn't such a fan of Ashton, and the gang and I have only known him for a couple of days.

"Sure..." I softly spoke up as Utopia looked like she was about to speak up to say something else. "Sure, Utopia, you can come in." I then gently plopped myself down onto the bed that Cassidy and I were sharing, gazing back at Utopia as I softly patted a spot beside me.

A kind of cute smile tugged at the edges of Utopia's mouth, and it exposed itself to the point where most of her gloriously white teeth could be seen.

The sorrow drowned away from her glowing eyes as she entered the room and made sure that she softly shut the door behind her. After that, she practically had a small spring of joy in every step she took towards mine and Cassidy's bed. That is, until she seated herself next to me like a proper young gal and made eye-contact with me. Almost instantly, her grin disappeared from her face, and she bit down on her thumbnail. As for her other arm, it was resting across her flat stomach.

I could tell that something was definitely eating away at her, but that didn't take away how I felt whenever I looked at her. I usually was always terrified of the opposite gender, especially after that time when Sylvia tried sweet-talking me and even seducing me right in school. It was one heck of a major relief when Steve stepped in and told her to back the hell off. But I could tell that Utopia wasn't like that; actually, she was quite distant, but at the same time, she had that bright and bubbly personality that I was positive any guy would fall for almost instantly.

"So..." I decided to shatter the silence, feeling this knot beginning to form in the pit of my stomach. "What did you come to apologize over?"

Utopia took in a deep, but soft breath. "About what happened downstairs in the feasting hall..." She released the breath quietly. "You know...I'm just sorry about all of that horrible stuff Ashton said to you. He shouldn't have called you a liar and said all of that other crap."

I rolled my eyes around a bit, obviously growing uncomfortable a little then myself.

"Oh..." I rubbed at the back of my neck. "Well...that's okay, Utopia. It's not your fault he said all of that."

"Yeah, I know it's not," She shook her head. "But I still feel guilty because I didn't stop him from makin' such a huge idiot out of himself in front of everybody again."

"Again?" My eyes grew a little with realization in that single word. "What do you mean, he's made an idiot out of himself again?"

Utopia rolled her eyes. "Believe me, Ashton never used to be like this. Before we started goin' out, he wasn't this tough lookin' guy with a gangster look and a smart mouth. He used to be better than that, but something just suddenly changed inside of him."

I needed a moment to catch her full response, and then I had to try to find a way to ask what new question was on my mind without it sounding like I was trying to invade her life. I've only known her for a couple of days, but something inside of me was giving me this feeling that there must've been some other reason behind why she was dating somebody like Ashton. They were complete opposites...but Utopia just said that he never used to be who he was today. If that's the case, then why did he transform himself into somebody else? Not only that, but why did he treat others so horribly, even his own girlfriend? Yeah, I paid attention to how he blamed Utopia and Mr. Roberts for his lying, and how he raised his voice to them, too.

Finally, just as I found enough courage to open my mouth, I was cut off before I could get a word out.

Utopia's eyes were now clamped shut, and she had her hands locked over her mouth because she unexpectedly began to cough. Quite hard, too...and I mean hard. I don't think I've even coughed that hard after I was kicked in the stomach or the chest by my old man, and he wore boots with steel toes often.

I wanted to ask Utopia if she was okay, but I was too caught off guard from her suddenly coughing out of no where to get a single word out.

Suddenly, it sounded like to me that Utopia was beginning to choke on saliva, which had my eyes blasting wider than saucers.

"Utopia!" I kept repeating her name with more and more worry sinking into my tone each time. "Utopia! What's wrong? Please answer me!" I was practically feeling like I was about to get down on my knees and beg for her to say something. However, all she did was quickly shake her head, still coughing pretty roughly as she reached one of her hands into her pocket and pulled out a white hankie that had "Mr. R" printed on it in gold letters. Her father must've gave that to her, the "Mr. R" most likely standing for Mr. Roberts.

Finally, Utopia's coughing began to soften, and I heard her take down giant gulps of air, savoring each one more than the last as she dabbed her lips with the white hankie. I could've sworn that her ribs looked like they were poking straight out from her skin since she was taking in such big breaths.

My dark eyes remained huge, and my heart quickly pounced in my chest from me being so startled like that. Nevertheless, just as I thought that I couldn't grow anymore startled than what I already was, I was instantly proven wrong when I noticed that Utopia was beginning to wipe off some type of red liquid that was suddenly bathing her hands. Around her lips, some specks of the exact same shade of red remained.

"Utopia..." I grasped a huge, but quiet breath, feeling like I was too scared to let it out. "Are you...were you just..." I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of my own question. "Were you just...coughin' up...blood?" I've seen enough blood in my life to know exactly how it was, from its wet touch to its dark red color.

Quickly, Mr. Roberts' daughter hid her lips behind the no longer white, but dotted red hankie.

"...It's nothin' to be scared over, Jonathan..." She stated softly with complete honesty, but I could tell by the tears that were beginning to form in the corners of her eyes that she was terrified of it. Either that, or she was nervous over how I would see her now...probably both, actually.

I crossed my arms. "You can call me Johnny for short..." I nervously bit down on my tongue. "...I know it's probably none of my business...but I never saw anyone cough roughly like that and end up haking up blood in my entire sixteen years of life."

Utopia looked at me, keeping herself quiet for a few moments as she hesitantly took her father's hankie down from covering up her hurtful frown.

Still remaining silent, she went on staring directly at me as she stuffed the reddened hankie back into her pocket where it was previously.

I saw the outline of the top of her tongue poke along around her cheeks. She was probably trying to get the taste of blood out of her mouth.

"Yeah..." That was the first word that Utopia used to break the stillness.

I only looked at her, not bothering to say anything else. Besides, I was too scared to say another word, and my heart seemed like it was only increasing its speed by the minute.

"Utopia..." I nervously fiddled around with my fingernails, not being able to hold my main question back any longer. "Why did you just cough up blood like that?"

All I got at first was silence.

When I peeked over at Utopia, I saw that she had her hands on her shoulders, and the salty tears were growing in her eyes more and more.

Finally, I heard her voice crack out, "I have stomach ulcers."

Almost instantly, I could've sworn that I felt like my eyes were about to pop clear out of my head. Stomach ulcers...by what I remember from my health class that I was slowly getting better in, stomach ulcers were painful sores that formed in the lining of the stomach and/or the small intestine. I've seen pictures of them, and man, they're gross to a whole new level. If not treated, they can become fatal, too...and one of the side effects of stomach ulcers were coughing up blood.

"Oh my god..." I closed my eyes in order to prevent any new tears to begin forming. "Utopia...I'm so, so sorry to hear that..."

Then out of nowhere, I heard Utopia seem to let out one final big; but soft breath, right before she fell straight back onto the bed.

My eyes shot back open, and I took no hesitation to quickly spin myself around on the plush bed.

"Utopia! Utopia, are you alright?" My worry was beginning to grow too extreme for me to handle.

When all I got in response was a couple of quieter, but deeper breaths from her somewhat hanging open mouth, I decided to take a gentle grip of her shoulders and shake her a little.

Utopia's dark hazel eyes were cracked open, staring directly up at me after she heard my voice talking to her yet again.

"Don't worry, Johnny..." She suddenly sounded very tired. "This happens a lot...sleepy spells sometimes strike at me out of nowhere..."

"Well, what should I do?" I was eager to find a way to get her some type of help. "Do you want me to go fetch your old man or something?"

A slight grin cracked across Utopia's face, and she tiredly chuckled. "No, Johnny...trust me, I'm fine...this isn't the first time this has happened to me."

I brought my thumb up to my lips and bit down on my thumbnail a bit. No matter how worried I was remaining about all of this, I was trying my hardest to hold my trembling back completely. I was surprisingly doing it better than I thought I would.

"Well..." I secretly took down a gulp to help clear my throat. "I don't mind if you lay here."

"...Oh, Johnny..." Utopia reopened her eyes a little after she rested them shut. "...Can you...come 'er for a second?"

Hesitantly, I took my thumbnail away from my teeth and took a couple of short seconds to think about what Utopia just asked me to do. It was like when I was in the hospital, thinking I was going to die within a matter of seconds...and I told Ponyboy, "Stay gold, Ponyboy...stay gold." I still wonder how such a miracle rang throughout the air and came my way, but sixteen years isn't long enough to live.

"Sure, Utopia..." I carefully shifted myself into a different position so I could cautiously lower myself down.

Finally, I was in a good enough position, and I lowered my face until it was inches away from Utopia's. I just figured that she was going to tell me something, but I was proven wrong when all I got at first was the sound of her taking in and letting out deep, soft breaths. After that, I examined her tired grin, still waiting patiently for her to do or say something to explain why she asked me to lean forward.

Nonetheless, I was cut off guard, left completely motionless when Utopia forced herself to sit up a little so she could unexpectedly wrap her arms around my back and place her soft lips against mine. My dark eyes were just like two marbles, all glassy; but what shocked me more than the kiss was the fact that...I actually was enjoying it. No, I never had my first kiss before until now...but I was actually allowing my lips to be placed against a girl's who was already dating somebody. My heart felt like it was beating clear through my shirt, and I could've sworn that I could taste a little bit of blood from Utopia's mouth...but for some reason, I couldn't find anything to actually care about it. My face was hotter than ever before, my cheeks smeared with dead redness, but when Utopia kept her lips against mine...I didn't bother to use my head more than I should have. Instead, I began to run my hands gently through her silky hair, and I kept our lips together. Since this was my first kiss, I had no idea how long it should've been.

However, it wasn't long before I paid attention to how the door just flew open...but it was too late for Utopia and I to end our kiss.

"Oh my god!" A startled voice exclaimed out, which had me and Utopia instantly startled to the point where we practically jumped out of each others arms.

Utopia looked just as red and startled as me, and our eyes were gigantic. Did that...really just...no...no, it couldn't have...it just couldn't have happened! Utopia had a boyfriend and I wasn't the dating type!

"Johnny!" That exact same stunned voice then bellowed out my name.

When I fixed my huge eyes over towards the direction of the now open door, I couldn't help my wide eyes to overflow with new fear.

"No...no..." I mumbled to myself, locking my hands over my mouth and shaking my head a few quick times. "This isn't what it seems like!"

Utopia eagerly nodded her head with agreement, but the person in the doorway still looked at us with that shocked expression that said "Unbelievable!"

There in the open doorway stood Little C...my Cassidy. Her eyes were widened and glassy, as if she had just witnessed a shooting, and her jaw seemed to have dropped straight down to the floor when she first saw me and Utopia.

Crap, crap, crap! This is not going to be pretty!

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