A little one shot…but it could be more. Just not sure if it's interesting enough... Let me know what you all think!

Please leave reviews…after all yesterday was my birthday! ;)

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Alchemy: SOLVE ET COAGULA — Separate and Join Together

XXXX

I don't tell my brothers about the letter.

Never mind the fact that it's addressed to a D. Curtis and not myself. The minute I pull the letter from the mailbox I feel something. Connectedness. A surety that I have never felt before makes me act. I smile and hope my older brother doesn't punish me for mail fraud.

My finger slides under the flap of the envelope. I bite back a curse as the sharp edge slices my finger and pull out the letter.

The handwriting is blocky and shaky. My smile, my anticipation fades and my stomach churns. I read the letter through once, my green eyes scanning the page in disbelief. Then, when I am done, I barely make it to the bathroom before throwing up over the toilet or "The Porcelain Throne," as Two-Bit calls it.

After my body is empty, I go into the living room again and retrieve the letter. I sit on our couch and stare at it, trying to memorize the 10 numbers. 918-751-7899.

I have always wondered about that night and now the answers have just fallen into my lap. Instead of feeling relief, I feel anger

I frown. I am always the last to know, the first to be sheltered from truth.

Pain…not so much.

I grip the letter tighter and think. My brain goes a mile a minute and I know if Darry were here he'd tell me to calm down and relax.

I want an explanation about why I have been kept in the dark. But I know what they'd say: Pone, you were too young; we didn't want to upset you… and a variety of other feeble excuses.

Yet, they are right. Things have been rough the last few months.

I just don't care.

I deserve to know since I am affected just as much as they are.

I wonder if Soda knows.

And as my anger swirls and is about to get the better of me, the front door swings open and my brother's walk in, accompanied by Steve. Hastily, I stick the letter under the couch cushion and manage a weak smile.

Soda grins at me as Darry asks: "Is your homework finished?" Soda rolls his eyes at me behind Darry's back.

But I can't laugh. I look down at my palms and break out into a light sweat. "Yes," I say so quietly and seriously that I startle myself. I raise a hand to my temple.

Darry stops. "Ok," he begins slowly.

Steve, who has plunked himself in front of the TV and is now flipping through TV stations, glances at me. "What's wrong, kid?" But his tone is not harsh, it's genuine.

"Nothing," I mumble and scowl at him, hating the fact that things are so out of whack these days.

Soda cocks his head and leans against the wall, his brown eyes dull and pained. "Pone, are you-"

"It's nothing, Soda," I repeat. "Absolutely nothing."

Darry, deciding not to press things, says, "Well, if you feel all right and since it's a Friday, go out and have some fun." He attempts a light-hearted chuckle. "Just remember to be home by 12."

I sit there a brief moment feeling the urge to scream aloud. Instead, I make up an excuse about being tired and go lay down in the bedroom I share with Sodapop.

That night, I dream about the phone number. Who it would call and what it would tell me. Dial tones murmur in my ear and an occasional "hello?" answers. I hang up and punch the numbers. Over and over again.

I toss and turn in between the sheets. And then - at three in the morning - I wake up screaming and crying. Soda, crouched over me, looks ready to cry as well. "Glory, you scared me," is all he can say.

"It's the worst one yet," Darry tells me, beads of sweat on his brow, his knuckles white from gripping my shoulders to shake me awake.

And why wouldn't it be. I have so much more to dream about and be afraid of these days.

The next morning I pick up the phone and I dial.

XXXX

The bar where I sit is a familiar one. It is loud, dark and smoky; the leather seats in my booth ripped and worn. But it is comforting. I'll catch hell for being here but now isn't the time for discretion.

I see him enter the bar. He is tall and wears a light sport coat with faded jeans. Nervous, he rubs his hands together and scans the bar. I sit where I should be and he approaches the dark corner.

"D-Darrel?" he stutters.

"No." I tilt my chin up. "I'm his brother. Ponyboy…" I resist the urge to wince as I realize I expect the man to know who I am. I grit my teeth and don't offer up any further explanation.

He exhales and slides across from me. "Oh. Yeah. Sure, sure." We are silent for a few moments until a waitress comes for our order. "Scotch," the man - Donald Parker - states. "You want one?" he asks me.

My fists clench under the table. "I'm 16." My head begins its easy descent into a dull throbbing.

"Oh. Yeah. Right, right," Donald intones absentmindedly. The waitress gives us both a look and disappears.

Donald slumps back against the booth, his face now weary. "Look. Kid…" His voice is soft and I blink. Donald is probably only 30 - old in my mind - but still young. "I wanted to tell you how sorry I am-" His voice cracks and he stares at his hands.

Suddenly, I don't feel as brave as I did when I called Donald Parker. Somehow I don't think I'll be able to listen to his apologies. And as the waitress drops the scotch on the table and Donald takes a long swig, my stomach somersaults and I burn inside.

I want to hurt him. Kill him. Because as I watch him take that drink, I know it was that drink which killed my parents nearly two years ago.

Donald notices my eyes and with a jolt he sets his drink back down. He has realized his mistake. The ice cubes rattle together, clinking in the glass. He traces its rim with shaky fingers. "Kid," he attempts, "don't look at me like that…"

His haunted eyes meet my own. He has come to beg my forgiveness but I've been saving that for a special occasion.

A few seconds pass and then he tries again. "I never meant for it to happen."

I finally find my voice. I am pleased that it does not shake, that he cannot hear the hurt beneath it. "But it did. It did happen. But not to you. To us." I clench my fists again.

I want to ask him how his time in jail went, why he's out and why he wrote that damn letter. Did he honestly expect Darry to meet him?

Giving up, he takes a long swallow of his scotch. I lean in close and point to his drink. "You know, that was what got you into trouble in the first place."

Donald's face crumbles and he smacks the tumbler down hard. A few drops of golden scotch spill out and bead down the table. "I can't win. With you, with myself."

I frown and scrutinize the scotch as if it were a foreign object. I can't understand why he wrote the letter; nothing's changed. He's still drinking. This isn't an apology it's an insult. "Did you really expect everything to go back to normal?"

No, a small voice inside of me says. And suddenly I don't think I'm talking about Donald Parker anymore.

"Eventually." Donald's voice drops and he reaches across to grab my wrist. "I really didn't see their car. Honest to God, I just came around the bend and flew into them. I didn't drink that much, just one or two-"

"Stop it. Shut up." My voice cracks and I try to wrench my wrist away but he won't let me.

Suddenly angry, he jerks my arm. "Isn't this what you wanted? To hear what happened, hear an apology? To meet the man who killed them?"

I explode. "I didn't know! No one told me it happened like this." Something wet drips down my face and spatters on the tabletop.

Donald's face changes. It mergers from anger into extreme guilt. His hand loosens, my wrist sliding limply from his grip. I ignore the red welts on my arm and wish I could disappear.

"Listen kid, you gotta listen. I was drunk. I own that…but I haven't had a drink since that night." Donald snorts and looks down at his half-drained scotch. "Well, except for tonight."

"Congratulations," I snap, knowing he's lying, "at least my parents were good for something. Kept you on the wagon." Then, I say what I have wanted to say ever since reading that letter: "You ruined everything. And I hate you for it. I really do."

It is worse to know that my parents have died because of some drunk behind the wheel. It had been so much easier to tolerate the fact that it wasn't anyone's fault …just dumb luck.

So much easier…

Threading his fingers through his blonde hair, Donald squints at me in the dim light. "I know you do. I just wanted to try and explain-I can't imagine how hard it must be. It's hard for me too. The nightmares and all…"

My vision blurs and I blink.

Nightmares? Oh buddy, let me tell you about nightmares.

The guy says he's doing this for me. But he's a liar. He's doing this for himself. Trying to clear his conscience. Well, I'm not a priest and I am not about to bless him. No way in hell.

I raise my face and clear my throat. "I don't need to know any more. A drunk killed my parents. Done. Over with. But, if the State takes me from my brothers because of you, you're going to have a lot of problems."

Donald takes a long, last look at the kid he has wrecked and stands up. He drops a couple of dollar bills on the table and says, "I'm sorry. Again." He walks out the door and I am alone.

Apart from running away to Windrixville, this was probably one of the stupidest things I have ever done in my life. I have tried to be strong for so long and has brought everything back. Mom and dad. Johnny and Dally. Gone. All gone.

I lower my face into my hands and sit there a long minute. I breathe in and exhale. Slow and deep. I dig my palms deeper into my eyes and try to control myself.

Something squeaks.

Lowering my hands, I see Darry sitting across from me. My brother looks ill, his hair sticking up in messy spikes, his blue eyes intense. Before I can say anything, he reaches across and grabs both my hands.

"I don't know how the hell you found out."

Amazed at his accusation, I draw back. Hastily, I dig around in my pockets and slap the letter on the table. In silence, I wait.

My brother hesitantly takes the crumpled piece of paper and reads it through. He pales and bites his lip, his jaw twitching.

"Darry," I ask when he's done, "why didn't you tell me?" My voice is strained as I try to control my fury.

Darry's eyes are cloudy and he struggles for the right words. "Pone…the cops weren't even sure what happened. They told me it was a hit and run and that was it. Then…right after Johnny and Dally…and your concussion…they found him. Parker."

I sit and wait.

Darry continues. "Honey, it wasn't the right time to tell you when you were so sick. And then…it never was the right time."

"Does Soda know?"

He falters and then says, "Yes."

The blood drains from my face and I nod slowly. "That's not fair," I say monotonously. It is childish to say but it's true. I can't decide who to be angrier with: Soda, the one who would tell me anything or Darry.

"Parker got paroled a month ago." Darry sighs with resignation. "I should have told you then…but with the accident…"

"Yeah, yeah, the accident," I say and sink lower into the booth. Brief memories flood me.

That day at the ranch should have been just like any other day but it wasn't. Soda had been in a hurry to ride and didn't fasten my saddle correctly. Neither one of us noticed until a few miles into the ride, a rabbit ran across the path, startling our horses. My horse whinnied and bucked, rearing up on its hind legs. The saddle flew off and I flew with it, hitting the ground with a sickening crack.

From then on it's a blank.

The only other thing I remember is Sodapop screaming: "Oh my god. He hit his head! He hit his head!"

When I woke up I was met with a shitty memory, a guilt-stricken Soda and a visit from the state.

So because of "unfortunate circumstances" as the state puts it, I'm very close to being slapped into a boy's home.

That and now this letter don't help me very much. Almost unconsciously, I scratch the side of my head where the scar from my accident is; Darry pales and watches me with anxious eyes.

Then, my composure fractures. "Did you think it wouldn't matter to me?" I plead, my voice high and squeaky. I resist the urge to slam Donald's scotch against the opposite wall.

"No. I knew it would matter to you. Too much even. You…" Darry speaks slowly, "…have handled so much. We – me and Soda – just wanted to-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Please, spare me."

Darry takes a shuddery breath. "Ponyboy, I know you're angry. I'm sorry. Soda and I both are."

It is silly and childish but I suddenly play connect the dots: Without Donald Parker my mom and dad would still be here, Johnny and Dally still walking and talking, and the goddamn state wouldn't be on my case.

It is then that I want very badly to cry. I have just met the man who has made my present. And it hits me hard.

"I can't be taken away, Darry," I say abruptly.

Darry wilts but rallies quickly. He needs to make me believe as well as his self. "Ponyboy," he says sternly. "You won't be. You absolutely will not be."

XXXX

One shot?

Hopefully not too melodramatic…

Note: This is a "what if" regarding how the parents died. From what I have read in the book they always refer to it as a "car accident/crash". I just wanted to see how maybe they'd react in different circumstances.

Thanks! Please review!