Ok, this is the final chapter! This story is now ILLUSTRATED as a special treat for all my faithful reviewers! Please check out outsiderfanfiction (all one word) DOT blogspot DOT com for illustrations of this story! Please leave comments so I know people are checking them out. As long as I know people are interested, I'll keep posting drawings and paintings.

I will probably post a summary chapter for this story in a few weeks- wanted to let everyone know so you don't mistake it for an update! This is really the end.

I do not own "So Far Away" by Staind... the song that inspired the other 52 chapters of this "one-shot".

Thank you ALL so much!


Dally took off his work gloves and wiped the sweat off his forhead with the sleeve of his shirt. He closed up the door of the barn and leaned on the split rail fence, looking around at all the signs of spring beginning to take root in the once barren landscape. Little buds on the trees were starting to form on the tips of the branches, and soon the trees would flower. All the grass was turning greener and everything was new again. It was the first time he had noticed spring.

He had just finished working in the barn with the horses. He was heading back to the house for dinner. He felt refreshed, content and alive.

Things are good, he thought.

Today he had worked alone. Johnny had been at school. Tom had taken a trip to a town a few hours away to pick up a horse for boarding. And Will... well, Will was out on a date with a lady friend of his that had apparently had her eye on him for several months.

Will would never really get over Emily, but having Johnny come into his life had finally started the healing process. That's what Wendy felt, anyway. She said Johnny had helped them all start to heal.

Dally had noticed on his walks through the woods that the family gravesite was now being cared for. Leaves were raked, flowers were occasionally lain in front of the stones... Wendy, Will and Grandma Cade were honoring the memories of their loved ones now instead of trying to surpress them. Wendy even talked about Christopher now and then. Will had started to talk about Emily.

So many things had changed.

Grandma Cade had finally won The Church Battle, as Johnny called it. Johnny had watched it go on from the moment that Grandma had met Dally. He'd always wanted to tell her she was wasting her time with it, and The School Battle too, but he never did. Eventually, it became rather clear that Dally and Grandma enjoyed these battles so Johnny just left them alone.

But after the whole mess that happened with Robert and Maria, Johnny hadn't heard a peep out of either one of them about school or church.

So he was very surprised one Sunday, to the point of almost falling down the stairs, to see Dally dressed in his suit, waiting at the door.

"It's about time, Johnny! What took you so long?" Dally had looked crankier than usual.

Johnny's eyes were wide. Was he going to church? Johnny didn't realize he was staring until Dally glared at him.

"Shut up and get in the car!" Dally barked.

Johnny blinked. "But I didn't say anything!"

The old Johnny would have cringed and lowered his head. Not any more. Dally had almost grinned, and then stopped himself and lowered his eyebrows instead. "You were thinkin' too loud!" he said as he opened the door and stormed off towards the car.

Grandma Cade came into the livingroom, her shawl wrapped elegantly around her shoulders. A slight smile was visible on her lips, and she held her head high as she passed through the room. She glanced at Johnny who was still standing on the stairwell.

"I haven't heard you guys talk about him going to church for... weeks! How'd you do it?" he asked, his expression still full of disbelief.

Grandma chuckled as she made her way out the front door. "Johnny... I don't think it was me. That took a power far greater than anything I posess."

Dally joined the family on occasional Sundays for church after that day. He went a little more regularly after he decided no one was going to force him go. He never explained to anyone why he'd decided to tag along with them and no one, to his relief, ever asked.

Dally chuckled at the memory. Good old Grandma Cade, he thought.

Grandma Cade had said her goodbyes one early morning a few weeks after the Church Battle Victory, and she swept off to her home in Florida. She said she didn't like drawn out goodbyes and she'd be back in a few months anyway. And with that, she was gone, leaving Johnny and Dally standing gaping mouthed on the front porch holding their bowls of cereal.

Wendy came out on the porch, her arms folded and shaking her head. "She'll be back all right. With about as much warning as she gave that she was leaving. She'll show up one day when the house is a complete disaster tell me how she doesn't know why she ever left in the first place because the place just falls apart without her." She threw up her hands and kept right on talking as she went back inside.

Johnny and Dally watched as the screen door slammed behind her. Both of them knew that Wendy's house was never a "disaster". She kept things just right and always found time to make their lunches, wash their clothes and give them both a kiss goodbye and a hug when they came home every day, which Dally still pretended to find irritating.

Dally looked towards the house. Johnny was sitting on the front porch as he did every evening doing his homework and waiting for Dally to come back to the house for dinner. He was really wrapped up in something tonight. He sat on the top step, hunched over a stack of papers, reading intently.

Johnny had adjusted perfectly to his new life. He had a nice girlfriend, he was doing well in school and he and Will had gotten past whatever resentment Johnny had harbored the first few weeks after learning the truth about his past. And what really helped Johnny settle in was that he had gotten to keep a little piece of Tulsa with him when Dally had decided to stay.

Tim Shepard the Cat, who was now only being refered to as Timmy, ran along the split rail fence next to Dally as Dally began to make his way back to the house. When he ran out of fence, he meowed loudly and Dally leaned over so he could climb up on his shoulders and ride the rest of the way. Even Timmy had changed. He'd stopped hissing at people after a few weeks and had turned into a very nice cat.

But of all the changes and adjustments that had been made, it was Dally who had changed the most. Back in Tulsa, and when he had first come to Virginia, Dally had spent so much time and energy worrying about Johnny that he had completely overlooked the fact that it was he who was lost. He was the one who was lonely and searching and afraid. And he had become so accustomed to that way of life that when it started to go away, he had a hard time letting go. For a long time after the gang left, there was something eating at him. Something... scaring him. But he could never really put his finger on it.

Sometimes he went so far as to think that if he just went back to Tulsa on his own, then at least he wouldn't be caught by surprise one morning... a morning he was convinced would come when he would wake up in his ratty old room in Buck's Tavern to find that it had all been a dream. Or worse, when the family began to realize that they really didn't want a hoodlum living in their house and they asked him to leave. That scared him a little. But he could handle it if they sent him back to Tulsa. Heck, he thought. That would make things a lot easier. But why?

He'd behaved himself for the most part while he had been sick that first week, but he was Dallas Winston for Pete's sake! How long could he keep that up? After he felt better, he had tested their patience a few times... pushed things a little. He'd started out small- swearing here and there, a smoke or two in his room...He found that they were firm with him, but patient. And Wendy... it about killed him to see any kind of disappointment in those damn Cade eyes. That scared him a little too... that he would be a disappointment to them. But it didn't stop his need to test them.

One night, he'd stayed out (purposely) well past when he said he'd be home. He came strolling into the kitchen at a ridiculous hour and found Wendy awake, sitting up at the table. She just looked at him and went off to bed. He had felt awful.

In the morning, he came downstairs early while she was making breakfast.

"Sorry," he mumbled as he sat down at the table.

She looked at him sternly for a moment. "I worry about you. I wish you wouldn't make me worry like that," she said looking at him with those big, sad eyes. Her expression softened after a moment as she handed him a plate of eggs and kissed his forhead. "I love you. Now eat."

Dally didn't say anything, but he could barely get his breakfast down that morning.

The turning point came for him the next day. He was still feeling bad about upsetting Wendy. He'd stayed up all night thinking that maybe it was time to go. Maybe he'd just get in the car and head back to Tulsa. So he'd gotten up very early, and he just sat in the T-Bird, keys in the ignition, staring at the steering wheel until the sun came up.

Johnny and Coal had come bounding outside for their morning walk and caught Dally sitting there. Johnny ran up and hopped into the passenger seat and started talking a mile a minute about all the things he was going to do that day and asking if Dally wanted to come and what he was doing, and on and on. Then he just stopped and turned towards Dally, that look of admiration in his eyes that Dally caught every now and then. "I'm really glad you decided to stay, Dal," he said, then looked down at his shoes. "So's Wendy and Tom. They told me so last night while you were outside."

And then things suddenly became totally clear. The only person Dally had ever cared really deeply about was Johnny and suddenly, that was changing. He was starting to care very deeply about this whole family. He actually... loved them. He could feel his wall crumbling. The facade of tough, emotionless courage that he had built a reputation on was going away and he felt incredibly vulnerable. That was it.

But somehow, as soon as that was made clear to him, it didn't seem as scary anymore. This family loved him right back with all his faults and flaws, regardless of his past. The way Johnny always had. They were glad he was here. They wanted him to stay.

He looked over at Johnny and for once, the look of admiration was written on Dally's face instead. Johnny had always been the gang's pet- the one that needed to be protected, sheltered. But all along, Johnny had been the stronger one, not Dally. Dally knew that if he had been the one who'd had to adjust to all that Johnny had, well... he didn't know what would have happened, but he knew he couldn't have done it. It had taken forever for him just to get used to the fact that when Wendy told him she loved him everyday, she really meant it.

Dally laughed and threw an arm over Johnny's shoulders.

"What's so funny?" Johnny asked.

"Nothing. You. I don't know." Dally shook his head and stared at the steering wheel.

"Me?" Johnny folded his arms and looked at Dally. "Dal, are you feelin' all right? You been actin'... I don't know... weird lately."

Dally looked out the window towards the house. He thought for a moment and took a deep breath. "Yeah," he said and looked at Johnny, grinning. "Yeah, kid. I'm doin' okay."

Johnny wiggled out from under Dally's arm and hopped over the door of the car. Coal barked, excited to start the day.

"I still think you're crazy," Johnny said. "When you're done sitting in your car, I'm going riding... maybe you can try to keep up this time."

Dally cocked an eyebrow in classic Two-Bit fasion, and flashed Johnny one of his 'you're-in-big-trouble' grins. Then he launched himself out of the car and chased Johnny and Coal all the way to the barn.

And after that day, things were different. Dally would always remember that day as the day he grew up. He still had some adjusting to do, but this was his life now and he loved it.

He missed parts of Tulsa. But only a few. Five to be exact. He and Johnny talked to the gang at least two or three times a week. Pony was already planning a visit within the next few weeks.

Yes, he thought again, looking off towards the house. Things are very good.

This is my life, it's not what it was before,
all of these feelings I've shared.
And these are my dreams that I've never lived before.
Somebody shake me 'cause I
I must be sleeping.

Now that we're here, it's so far away
all the struggle we thought was in vain.
All the mistakes, one life contained, they all finally start to go away.
Now that we're here, it's so far away, and i feel like i can face the day.
I can forgive, and I'm not ashamed
to be the person that I am today.

These are my words that I've never said before:
I think I'm doing okay.
And this is the smile that I've never shown before.
Somebody shake me 'cause I
I must be sleeping.

I'm so afraid of waking, please don't shake me
afraid of waking please don't shake me...

Dally wandered up to the front porch where Johnny was still working on what appeared to be homework.

Tim Shepard the Cat jumped off Dally's shoulders and scurried up a tree when he saw Coal.

Dally surprised Johnny a little when he sat down beside him. He was very preoccupied with something.

"Hey, kid!" Dally said ruffling his hair. He put his elbows on his knees and gazed off into the distance that Johnny seemed so mezmerized by. "Great sunset, huh?" Dally asked.

Johnny turned and looked at him in surprise- almost shocked.

Dally returned his gaze with one of confusion.

And then Johnny's face broke into a grin. His eyes were glowing. "Yeah," he said, nodding, still looking at Dally with a strange, almost sad, but relieved expression. "It is a great sunset."

Dally looked at him perplexed. "What's with you?"

Johnny chuckled and shook his head. "Nothing."

"What's all this, homework?" Dally asked pointing to the stack of papers beside Johnny.

Johnny paused for a moment. "No," he said shaking his head. Johnny picked up the stack and looked at it, before he very hesitantly handed it over to Dally. "I think you should take a look at this."

Dally's brow wrinkled as he took the stack of papers from Johnny. He was awfully hungry, but he thumbed through the stack absently anyhow, not really looking.

"Do I gotta read all this now?"

Johnny laughed. "No. Whenever. After dinner. I'm gonna go wash up. I'm starved."

"Yeah, me too!" Dally agreed. "I'll be in in a minute. I have to get ol' Timmy down from the apple tree again," he said standing up.

Johnny headed into the house and Dally started to put the papers back into the envelope that they'd come in so they wouldn't blow away in the soft breeze. A small folded piece of paper inside the envelope was preventing the stack from sliding in easily. He pulled it out and inserted the other papers. The breeze blew the small paper off the table and when Dally picked it up, he saw that it was a note from Ponyboy.

"Here it is," the note said. "Let me know what you think. If you want me to change the names, I will. Dally's probably going to kill me."

That was all it said. Now he was a little curious. He pulled the papers back out of the envelope again.

He would later be thankful that someone had left the porch light on. He would be reading well into the night.

He flipped over the cover page and began to read...

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind. Paul Newman and a ride home."

The End