A/N: I downloaded the long version of the movie (took four freakin' hours, but I did it!) which made my inspiration even stronger. The beginning scene itself was enough to make inspiration get stronger times a thousand. Now I feel really dumb for not noticing the hints for these guys before. I'm sorry that I left such a mean cliffhanger last chapter, but I hope this chapter makes up for my evil doings in the previous one.

Thanks to spiritmind675, JessieMundaiFan, minato4ever, spicygurl, Jasmine James, and Sharpee for reviewing the previous chapter.

Warning: Shounen-ai which may (or may not) develop into Yaoi later on, depending on my mood and how far this goes. Also, OOCness may make itself present in this, but I hope it's not very much. I haven't read the book in nearly a year, so I'm just going from what I remember. The dream I had helped quite a bit, though. The movie also helps a lot.

This chapter shows why angst in a genre in this story. Some parts are kind of sad.

Pairing: Dally/Pony, though side pairings may show up later.


Silent Moon VII: Always my Protector

All my memories seemed to flash before my eyes. I guess it was true, what they said about dying. You saw all your memories flash before your eyes, all of the good times and all of the bad times. I had more good times than bad thanks to a hood with ice blue eyes who stuck his middle finger to the world and I loved him for it. Every little thing that he's done for me this past year was enough to make me die happy. I didn't want to leave my brothers and the gang behind, but it seemed that fate had other plans in store for me. As long as it kept Dallas in this world, then I could take whatever fate threw at me. I just prayed with all my heart that it spared the one I loved. I didn't want all of our memories to vanish into the wind like smoke…it would be a fate worse than death to me. I wanted him to always cherish our memories, to think of all the happy times we had together. The times we laughed, the times we cuddled up and talked, the times when we would watch random movies at the movie house, the times when we would simply walk in silence, no words needing to be spoken, I wanted him to remember all of those times for me because soon I felt like that I wouldn't be here to share those times with him. It was a thought that pained me, but I had no choice in what fate handed me, did I?

I whispered the name of the one person I wanted to see, the only person who made me feel like this. "Dally…"

"Ponyboy?" A voice spoke softly, shock mixed with sadness in the tone. "How you feelin' kiddo?"

I averted my gaze over to the side of the bed where my older brother Soda was staring at me with eyes filled with sadness and pain. His hand was gripping mine almost as if I would disappear if he let my hand go. I wanted to touch him, to wipe away the sadness, the tears in his eyes, but I could do nothing but watch those tears slide down his cheeks. "I…feel like…crap." I managed to whisper, causing my older brother to chuckle sadly. "Don't…feel bad…Soda. Stop…cryin'."

Soda buried his head into the bed and sobbed lightly into the white sheets. "How can I not cry, Pony? You're my little brother, and you could be dyin'! I can't do anything but watch you slip away…I want to do something, anything to make you stay with us, but I can't!" His sobs became louder and I wished I could stroke his hair or do something to reassure him. With great difficulty, I reached out and stroked Soda's messy dark brown hair. "I don't want to lose you honey. I don't…especially not because of that hood. I know you love him, but…"

"You…knew?" I gasped out, causing Soda to grip my hand tighter as I fought to take in more air. "How…?"

My brother laughed sadly as he looked up at me and wiped his eyes. "It was so obvious honey. The way you and Dal always hung around together, the way he would always protect ya, and…it was just so obvious that you guys cared about each other, almost like you were brothers. I watched you guys and saw that brotherly care go into something deeper, something that no one could possibly steal away from you. You had fallen in love with Dallas Winston, kiddo, and I bet my life that he returns those feelings. When I told him that you might die, he ran. None of us know where he went."

My eyes widened in shock and fear. Dally ran away? That was exactly what he did when Johnny died, but that meant…no. He couldn't…he wouldn't. Dal couldn't try to kill himself again like he did last time. I wouldn't let him! It became harder to breathe and Soda told me to calm down while stroking my hair. I vaguely saw someone come into the room, but I didn't realize who it was until I heard the unmistakeable voice of my oldest brother speaking soothing words. After I had calmed myself down as best as I could, I looked over and sure enough, Darry was there with his arm around Soda and a sad smile on his face.

"How you doing kid brother?" he asked me, reaching over and stroking my blonde hair. "Don't go scaring us like that, okay?" I nodded meekly as my brother continued to talk. "What got you so worked up?"

"Dally…I need…to see him." I whispered painfully as I clutched the bedsheets tighter. "I…have to…tell him…something…"

"That you love him, right?" Darry asked, a small smile coming onto his face when he looked at my face (which I'm guessing looked shocked). "Kid brother, I'd have to be blind if I didn't notice how you and Dally gravitate towards each other. It's almost like you balance each other out. You keep Dallas from doing stupid things, like stealing and going after girls, and Dally gives you more motivation to stay in school and something to strive for at the end of the day. You're like two pieces of a puzzle, incomplete without the other."

"Nice comparison, Dar." Soda complimented and I thought about it. Dally and I did complete each other. When I hung around with him, he didn't do as many illegal things. Sure, he would rob the odd store while we were walking, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. When I was in school, I pushed myself to do even better when Dal told me that he was impressed with how smart I was one day. Darry was obviously happy about this, but I had never told him the real reason why. Now I knew that he had probably figured it out way before Dal or I had, Soda as well. I vaguely wondered if the other members of the gang had noticed.

"I see that the blonde monkey woke up." Two-Bit's voice came into the room and the atmosphere seemed to lighten with his happy attitude. "Golly Pony, you sure look like shit. Did you get run over by a bus?"

I laughed, which hurt, but at that moment I didn't really care. It was nice to see that Two-Bit was still the same wisecracker even though I was like this. A few minutes later I saw Steve saunter in and sit down one of the chairs away from my bed. I figured that he was probably here because Soda was. Why else would Steve Randle be in my hospital room? Surely not of his own will. I smiled a little as Two-Bit started to crack jokes about how Dal was actin' like a runaway, but inside I was worried as hell. What if he did something stupid? What if he put my efforts to save his life in vain? So many "what ifs" swam into my mind that I couldn't stop them all. I felt tears prick into the back of my eyes, eventually spilling over. If Dal had done something stupid and died…

"Honey, shh, it's okay." I heard Soda's voice soothe me as his hand once again gripped mine. I felt comforting fingers run through my hair, and I eventually calmed down. Soda still whispered comforting words to me while Darry kept running his fingers through my hair, Steve and Two-Bit remaining quiet. I guess they knew it was a brotherly moment and didn't want to interrupt.

A doctor walked into the room, eyeing us before looking at me. "Ponyboy, was the one you were moaning for in your sleep Dallas Winston?" I nodded vigorously. "He's sitting in the waiting room right now, smoking a cigarette. I swear he never learns that you're not supposed to smoke a lot in hospitals."

"Dally…Dally is here?" I gasped out as I sat up. He was so close that I just had to see him. Darry pushed me back down onto the bed gently and I looked at Soda pleadingly. "Soda…can you…get Dally in here…? Please…"

"Stay right here honey." Soda told me as he ran out of the room. I laid my head on the pillow and closed my eyes. Dally was here…he was coming. That thought comforted me so much that I felt sleep beginning to poke at me, but I was instantly jerked awake at the sound of his voice, the voice I wanted to hear so badly.

"Pony…?" Dally whispered and I looked over at him. He looked like he'd been crying, something that surprised me. I didn't think Dal ever cried. I reached out to him and he gripped my hand. "How ya feelin' kid?"

"Better…now that…you're here." I replied in a quiet tone as Dally sat in the chair closest to my bed. The others took the hint and left the room, leaving us alone. "You didn't…do something…stupid, did you?"

"…I wanted ta." The hood admitted, gripping my hand tighter when my eyes went wide with panic. "I didn't though, 'cause I heard your voice tellin' me not ta do something that I knew ya wouldn't want me ta do." Dally sighed heavily and I swore I could see tears prickling in his icy blue eyes. "Pony, you can't die. I can't lose both you and Johnny in the same night. I can't…"

For the first time in my life, I saw tears slide down Dally's face. I was shocked to the core because I thought Dal was one of those hoods who couldn't cry even if he wanted to, but seeing him right now crying in front of me proved that theory wrong. I reached out and gently wiped away the tears hiding in the hood's eyes. "Don't cry…Dally. It's weird…seein' you cry. It's a…good weird…though." I smiled as Dally grinned at what I said. "But…can you promise me this?"

The hood wiped at his eyes, looking embarrassed. I guess that it was the first time he had ever cried in front of someone. Dal gripped my hand tighter as he said "Always kid."

I smiled and returned the pressure as strong as I could. "Promise me…that you won't…die if I do." I was briefly surprised to see the look of pain flash across Dally's face, but I continued. "Someone…needs to remember…all of our memories. If I die…you have to remember them. You're the…only one who could." I used my free hand to run my fingers through the hood's hair. "Promise me…that. It's all…I ask."

"Dammit kid, you're actin' like you're on your deathbed!" Dal exclaimed as he grabbed me and crushed me to his chest. "You ain't dyin' on me, ya hear? Yer never gonna die on me. I said I'd protect ya, so I'm gonna. I'm gonna protect ya from this and whatever else this fuckin' world wants ta throw at ya. I'll always protect ya, Pone. Always and forever till the day I'm dead. Never forget that kid."

I buried my face in Dally's shoulder, feeling more comfortable than I had in a long time. The feeling of being so safe, so warm, so loved was a feeling that I never wanted to go away. I felt wetness on my neck so I once again ran my fingers through the hood's hair to reassure him that everything was gonna be alright. It was strange, me comforting him. It was usually the other way around. I loved being able to soothe the one I loved like this. Now I could truly die happy.

"I should have told ya this earlier kid…" Dally whispered against my neck, sending shivers up my spine. "I should have told ya what I'm gonna tell ya ages ago. You do somethin' ta me that no one else has ever been able ta do. When I'm with ya, I feel like I can stop bein' the tough hood. It feels like I can be myself around ya and ya won't do anythin' about it. Those times we've hung out together this past year were the best memories of my life. I can't thank ya enough for that, Pony…and I love ya. More than I thought I could ever love a person. So don't ya dare die on me. Don't. you. dare."

I felt truly content at the words Dal spoke. He loved me, just as much as I loved him. I smiled and buried my face in his neck, but at the same time, I could feel my strength slowly slipping. I fought to stay awake 'cause I couldn't fall asleep, not now. There were still so many things I had to tell him…too many things…

As much as I fought it, I fell into the blissful nothingness of sleep.

The darkness of my mind was strange, almost comforting. I guess this is what everyone saw as their life was about to slip away. Once again, all of my memories flashed before my eyes…mainly memories of this past year. All of the good times Dal and I had, the time Darry hit me, the time at the church, Johnny…all of those memories were oddly soothing to me. I knew that my soul would always remember these memories, even though my body wouldn't exist anymore. My oldest brother was right, Dally and I had something that no one could take away from us, not even Death himself.

I saw the white light before I felt it pulling me into its depths. I guess this was the end, this was goodbye…I still hadn't told Dally all I wanted to tell him, but I told him the most important things…I guess that was good enough.

Just before I was enveloped into the white light, I felt something pulling me back. I was confused…wasn't this the end? The pull became even stronger on my arm and soon enough, I was pulled out of the white light and back into the black nothingness of my mind. I vaguely wondered what was going on until my eyes opened against my will. I wanted to sleep some more…

I grudgingly opened my eyes to see the whole gang staring at me with an emotion that could be best described as relief. Soda looked like he'd been cryin' a lot for some reason, and the others save for Steve looked like they were close to what Soda had done, even Darry which surprised me. What in the world had happened that everyone was gonna cry about it?

"Kid, if you ever pull a stunt like that again I'm gonna kill ya!" I heard the hood's voice scold me and when I looked over, I saw a few tears hiding in his eyes. True to form he wasn't showing them, but I could tell that it was taking a lot of effort for him to hold them back. "We lost ya for a few minutes there!" He grabbed me and held me close to his chest. "Don't ever do that again."

I…died? So that's what was going on when I had fallen asleep. Fate had tried to take me, but something, or someone had pulled me out of the white light before it had completely engulfed me. I guess for the few seconds (or minutes) I was in it, I was…dead. It was a scary thought, but it didn't take me and that was all I cared about. I was here with the one I loved, my family, and my friends, so that was all that really mattered.

"This wouldn't be happenin' if the moron didn't take a bullet—" I heard someone start to say, but whoever it was shut up after Dally said "Shut the fuck up or I'll beat yer head in where ya stand, Randle."

That shut him up pretty fast, but it didn't surprise me. If Dallas Winston threatened you like that, you'd better do as he said or you'd really get a beating. I smiled 'cause I felt like I had for the past year. Safe, protected, and loved. It was a feelin' that would never get old 'cause it was a feelin' that I always cherished.

That night, Dal had "convinced" the hospital staff to let him sleep with me. He climbed into the hospital bed as I cuddled up to him and I eventually drifted off to sleep. The last thing I heard was Dally whispering "I love ya Pone…more than ya can imagine, and I'll protect ya from death. I give ya my word."

A word that I knew he would never break.

Wow, my longest chapter yet! A little over three thousand words. I hope that this made up for the mean cliffhanger I left last chapter. I started typing this up at 4 in the morning, didn't stop until 5, then started typing it again when I got up at 2 and never finished until now, which is 3 in the afternoon. Four hours this chapter took.