I gazed at my calendar sadly, staring at the little red dot I had marked for the twenty-third of September. Johnny and Dally's death anniversary. It was less than a week away, and it had been all I was thinking about. No one else seemed to be, though. Two-Bit had been getting boozed up a little more often than usual, and Steve's temper was a bit worse, but I feel like I'm the only one who really cares. It made me mad, to be honest. Why was everyone ignoring it?

A tear slipped down my cheek involuntarily, and even though I was home alone, I brushed it away quickly. Greasers don't cry. Neither do guys in the first place. But once I started, I couldn't stop. In a vain attempt to distract myself, I tried to straighten up the living room a bit. But I swear I kept seeing the letters 'JC' everywhere…the pattern on the pillows, the trees and clouds outside the window, and even the holes in the sponge I was using. I really am going crazy, I thought.

I decided to stop cleaning and went to my room. I had to dig through my drawers for a while, but I finally found what I was looking for: Johnny's letter. I brought it to the living room and just stared at it for the longest time. Six months ago, I felt like I had fully recovered from the incident, but now that their death anniversary was just around the corner, I was starting to go back to square one…or at least become depressed again.

"BOO!" I nearly jumped out of my skin, but even before I turned around, I knew who it was. I gritted my teeth, sure I wouldn't get out of this situation with a cool temper. I really wasn't in the mood.

I turned around slowly. "Can I help you, Two-Bit?" I snapped.

Two-Bit shook his head and laughed. "Oh, Ponyboy, you should have seen your face." He made an exaggerated terrified face and cracked up.

Normally, that kind of comment would only sort of annoy me, but I was feeling terrible, and Two-Bit's jokes were the last ting I needed. All I needed was a friend who would take me seriously…like Johnny…

"Well, aren't we kind?" I muttered sarcastically.

Two-Bit laughed as though he thought I didn't mind. "You are so pathetic."

I jumped up, furious, but Two-Bit still thought I was kidding. "Oh, no! I am so scared! A little boy is going to beat me up! Whatever will I do?"

I quickly flashed back to when Dally was sarcastically afraid of Cherry's threat to call the cops, which made me feel even worse, if that was possible.

"Knock it off!" I screamed. Two-Bit stepped back. At least he realized I was serious now. But he still laughed.

"Golly, Pony, just chill! I was only joking!" He jabbed me in the arm.

I was about ready to pop. "Well, you know what I think, Two-Bit? I think you should stop joking around for once in your life!"

I put the letter on the coffee table and grabbed my coat.

"Where are you going?" a stunned Two-Bit asked.

"I'm going to the cemetery," I said coolly. And although I wasn't allowed out of the house anywhere alone, I ran off to the graveyard, just managing to hold back tears—tears of frustration and of grief. Two-Bit was still standing at the door, in disbelief.

I was still frustrated when I walked over to Johnny's grave. Somehow, the sight of it calmed me down. I sat down next to it and started meditating. It may have seemed weird, but I had done it before, and when I meditated while sitting right next to Johnny's (and my parents') gravestones, it feels like I can hear their voices deep inside me.

"Why is Two-Bit being so frustrating?" I asked Johnny. "Why is he being extra obnoxious now? Is it possible for him to take anything seriously?"

He just doesn't know how to deal with it, the voice inside me that sounded like Johnny said. It's his way of bein' sad, that's all, Pone.

I sighed. "I just need someone to take me seriously, that's all. No one seems to anymore."

Soda takes you seriously, Johnny replied.

"Maybe he does, but he also joins in with Steve and Two-Bit in teasing me. I know it's good-natured, but that's not the point."

I know it isn't, Johnny comforted. But still, just remember that they still care about you and they don't want you to be upset.

"Why am I upset?" I wondered. "I felt fine about everything that happened not long ago. Why am I still crying over the fact that you're dead? Why can't I just get over it?"

You won't, not really. You'll always have good days and bad days. It's just how things are. But even on your bad days, remember that you won't be alone.

I tried to change the subject. "Am I too sensitive? Do I need to toughen up? Why did I get so mad at Two-Bit for no good reason?"

It wasn't for no good reason, Johnny reminded me. He gave you a hard time. But you know he didn't mean to call you pathetic. He doesn't want you to change. Don't you remember what happened at the grocery store with the Socs all those months ago? Just forget what Dally said; I think it's pretty obvious that no one agrees with him. I mean, look at me. I'm worse than you, but I did fine because I have the gang. So do you. And remember this, too: Maybe they're the different ones, not us, eh?"

I managed a smile. "I guess you're right." I paused for a moment. "I'm still mad at Two-Bit, though."

That's OK, Johnny reassured me. He's sorry though.

"He is?" I asked. "How do you know?"

Because I just feel these things. He saw the letter after you left, and he feels really guilty about it. He does get things, you know.

I nodded. "Yeah, I know." I had one last question. "Johnny, are you happier now? Now that you're dead, I mean?" I blushed right away. It seemed like such a stupid question, but Johnny answered it anyway.

Yeah, I am. Your parents look after me now. They look after you, too, just like I do.

I nodded. "Thanks, Johnny," I said. "I feel better now."

That's good. Also, Pony, you don't have to be right next to my dead body to contact me. I'm always here to talk to you. Stay gold, Ponyboy.

I grinned. As I walked out of the graveyard, I saw Two-Bit waiting outside the entrance. "Ponyboy…I'm sorry I teased you," he began. "I know you're upset. But we all are, even if we don't act like it. They were our friends, too, remember?"

I looked at him gravely. "You sure don't act like it."

Two-Bit shrugged. "I guess not. But we can, if you want us to. I guess none of us were sure if you did, so we didn't bring anything up." We began walking home.

"OK. Thanks, Two-Bit." My voice was shaking. I didn't want to talk anymore, so we just walked in silence. But as tears started involuntarily dripping down my face for the second time today, I began to walk slightly behind him so he wouldn't make any comments or scold me.

Two-Bit stopped walking and turned to face me. He looked me in the eye. "Pony, it's OK for you to cry. No one else is around. And anyway, you have every reason to. All any of us really care about is that you don't turn into Dallas. As long as you're not trying to hide how you feel, we don't have any problem with what those feelings are. You are who you are."

I looked up at him and offered a small smile. "Thanks, Two-Bit." We walked home.

A/N: So how was that? Was Ponyboy in character? (I am ashamed to admit, there was a little bit of self-injection in Ponyboy into this fic, so he may be a little OOC…) Was Johnny too wise? Like, kind of Soda-ish? Was there anything else you noticed? Leave comments!

One more note: I figured the date for Johnny and Dally's death anniversary was between September 22-25, since that would be about two weeks before Soda's birthday, which is supposed to be October 8. (On the day of the rumble: "I'll be seventeen in a couple of weeks.") So…yeah. Just to offer some explanation there.