Jim shut his eyes tight, waiting for the attack, but it never came.
"Aw…come on kid! Scare a body to death!" Recognizing the voice, he opened his eyes.
"P-Ponyboy." he said, relief causing him to stutter. Pony put his blade away, regarding him skeptically.
"What are you doing out here? It's almost midnight."
"Uh…" Jim glanced over his shoulder, then back at Ponyboy. "I…kinda…made Dallas a little mad." He took the hand Pony offered, and the latter helped him to his feet, looking skeptical.
"How?" Jim didn't say anything for a moment. He didn't like Dallas, but he liked the sympathetic smiles and reassuring lectures he got from his father's friends even less. So he changed the subject.
"If it's really all that late, why are you our here in the dark all by yourself?" Ponyboy held up a long, narrow object. It was a flashlight.
"I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd take a walk. Batteries died on me. I was just on my way home when some punk kid jumped me."
"Who?" Pony gave him a look. "Oh."
"It's not safe to be out here at night." he said, and Jim avoided his gaze. "…Dallas just needs some time to cool down, I'll bet. Tell you what. I've got to drop by the high school tomorrow morning. I can give you a ride if you'd like." Jim thought for a moment, then nodded. "And since you're already halfway to my house, I've been having some trouble with my truck., Think you can come take a look?"
"Okay." Without another word, Ponyboy led Jim to his house and let him in. He went straight to the garage and popped the hood of Pony's old blue pickup truck, just like Ponyboy knew he would. In all honesty, he liked Jim. He was a good kid, like his mother had been. He liked Dallas, too, but even though he'd known him since he was twelve, Pony didn't understand him. Dallas had been devastated after he'd left Sara. Still, nobody knew why he'd left her. And for a long time after he'd been born, Jim was all Dallas ever wanted to talk about. But that had been nearly eight years ago, and Dallas had changed. After tinkering under the hood for awhile, Jim told Pony to start it up. It ran like it was brand new. Ponyboy whistled.
"You just saved me a trip to the DX." he chuckled as he shut off the engine. "Thanks." Jim shrugged, but he was smiling.
"You're welcome." They went back inside, and while washed the oil from his hands, Ponyboy pulled out an extra blanket and a pillow off his bed and laid them on the couch. Jim sat down and groaned as he sunk into the cushions. He was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open.
"You know you're welcome here is Dally's ever pesterin' you." Pony said from the kitchen, "Or if you ever just need a place to stay." He waited for a response, but none came. He peeked into the living room. Jim had already fallen asleep.
Dallas hurled an empty bottle at the kitchen wall. His curses were mingled with the sound of shattering glass. He reached next for a lamp that sat on the table, and threw that too. He hadn't been this angry in a long, long time. In fact, the last time had been way back in his teens, when he and Sara had had their first fight. He was mad at everyone. Mad at Sara for leaving him alone in the world with their teenage son. Mad at himself for leaving her. Mad at her mother for pushing him to it. And oh yes, he was especially mad at Jim. Since when did he mouth off like that? He'd never done that as a child. Back then, all Dallas had to do was give him a look and the kid practically fell to tears. He'd been a good kid. But now he was a rebellious, resentful teenager with an attitude that was going to get him into a lot of trouble real quick, and a smart mouth.
"…just like me." Dallas suddenly stopped throwing things. The anger drained out of his system, like the maniacal grief had so long ago, the night he'd been shot. The night he thought he'd lost Johnny. "Sara." Her name fell from his lips, and all the self-control he had left vanished. He sank to his knees, seeing no reason to put it off any longer. Sara. Her long brown hair, her startling blue eyes, her bell-like laugh. Her beautiful smile. The way she fit so perfectly in his arms. Memories of her ran through his mind, and he shut his eyes tight as the tears began to fall.
He'd met Sara in a run-down diner when he'd first moved to Tulsa. He'd just come back from a short 'business' trip to New York, and still had a bad taste in his mouth from his dealings there. Now, every waitress Dallas had ever met was always up-beat, trying to 'turn his frown upside-down'. It annoyed him to no end, and he constantly insulted every waitress he met. The day he'd met her, he'd called one of her co-workers a fat-legged cow. He'd made her cry, and since he wasn't totally heartless, he'd felt bad enough anyway. But the next thing he knew was that a brunette in a sunny-yellow dress was suddenly leaning over the table to glare at him eye-to-eye.
"Listen, buster! I don't know who you think you are! But you've got no right to treat anyone like that! So either grow up and apologize to her, or you can just get out of here and find somewhere else to throw your money and your insults around!" Dallas raised his eyebrows in surprise, then smirked.
"You're a gutsy gal. Alright, say I go and talk to your manager about this little threat?" She hadn't answered him. Instead, she'd poured half a pot of hot coffee in his lap. He flew out of his seat, swearing until he was blue in the face, but by the time he'd turned to scream at her, she was back in the kitchen, and the manager had come out to escort Dallas to the door while the patrons of the diner laughed heartily at his misfortune. It had been humiliating.
He couldn't stay away.
So the next day, he'd gone back with a single rose, and had found the waitress he'd offended. He'd apologized, and had even flirted with her, and all was forgiven. When he went to leave, he'd looked around for Sara, but he didn't see her. For a long time, he wondered if she'd moved away or something.
"Sara, please…" he whimpered now, on his knees, in a run-down, ratty house that he didn't even own. He'd promised to be her everything. He'd promised that there would be no one else, that he was hers and she was his, for better or for worse, until death parted them from each other's embrace. He'd abandon her. And now, now that he finally realized that she was all he wanted, all that kept him going, it was too late. She was gone.
And to make matters worse, he'd just thrown their only child, her baby, out of his house, in the middle of the night, in a neighborhood where teenagers got in gang fights. What he'd give to have that locket. The memories she held close to her heart, of Jim as a newborn, their first Christmas together, their third anniversary, when he'd taken her and Jim sailing around Montressor. He could remember the angelic glow that Crescentia's light had given her. How Jim used to run to him everyday when he came home from work and hug his leg. He remembered feeling happy, for the first time in his life. Where could that locket have possibly ended up? It wasn't like Sara to misplace it. She'd have always kept it close, no matter what.
He just happened to glance at the wall behind the door, and noticed that there was a spot where the plaster was cracked. He let his head rest in his hands as he realized that that was probably where Jim's head had been when he'd shoved him into the wall. Grief consumed him anew, and he gave into it.
He'd do better, he promised her now. He would do everything he could to make up for everything he'd done wrong. He'd take care of their son, his last piece of her. He wouldn't be like his own father, who'd abandon him as a teenager, or like Johnny's parents either. He would make things right, and this he swore to her.
True to his word, Ponyboy drove Jim to school the next morning. He felt a little guilty, because Pony was always doing things for him. Most of his clothes were hand-me-downs from Ponyboy, who was the only one in the gang that hadn't married yet. Ponyboy had also offered to help him with his homework if he ever needed any. Just like everyone else, Ponyboy was willing to help. Jim suspected they felt bad he was Dallas' son, mostly. If it had been any other kid in his situation, Jim would have acted the same way. But he felt awkward, taking advantage of their hospitality. After Ponyboy dropped him off, Jim watched from the side of the building until he pulled out of the parking lot and left. Then he left, heading towards Sam's house. Every now and again, he'd go to class, but for the most part, he'd been skipping school since day one. His teachers didn't seem to notice. Or if they did, they just didn't care. He was a greaser, after all. One less hood for them to have to put up with during the day.
Sam didn't go to school. She had been home schooled since she could walk, and as a result, she'd gotten her diploma three years early. She was smart, she was resourceful…and she was bound to be home on a school day. As luck would have it, she was actually still in bed, asleep, when he started tossing rocks at her windowsill.
"Sam!" he called up to her window. "Hey! Yo, Sammy!" He waited as the window slid open. She poked her head out, squinting at him. She just looked at him for a moment.
"Hawkins, don't you have school?" she finally spat. He grinned.
"Nah. Self-motivated holiday." She smiled, then disappeared from the window. He leaned against the shell of a burnt-out card until she came downstairs, pulling a hoodie over her worn-out jersey. She was still in her pajamas, but she hadn't touched her hair, and there wasn't so much as a single trace of makeup. Most of the time, she liked to look her best, but Sam had her moments where she quite frankly didn't care. He loved that about her.
"Morning." she said sleepily, and he kissed her forehead.
"Morning." He pulled her into a hug, and she played with his hair, accidentally touching a bump on the back of his head. He winced, and she frowned.
"What's wrong?" He shrugged, not wanting to tell her.
"I hit my head under a desk." She tenderly felt the bump.
"Okay…" she said, not believing him, but not pressing him, either. She smiled at him, and tugged at his earring instead. "What are we gonna do today?" He grinned.
"Come on, I'll show you." Sam followed him to a corner of the scrap yard. She'd often watched him while he worked on various projects. She had next to no idea what he was doing half the time, because her knowledge as far as mechanics went covered cars and the occasional household appliance. The things Jim made were…other-worldly. She'd seen him tinkering with rejected car parts and come up with a holograph projector. The week before, he'd managed to come up with a gizmo that hotwired cars just by plugging it into a cigarette lighter. The object that sat on the work table now, however, was much bigger than either of these. It was shaped like a surf-board, welded together out of different pieces of metal. There was a pressure switch near one end, and when he pressed on it, a triangular sail sprang up. It was made of a sort of material Sam had rarely ever seen before.
"Where did you get this?" she asked, gently tracing the glowing solar-cells with her fingers.
"Special order." he lied. He closed the sail and picked up the board. "Come on. There's something I want to show you."
"Where?" she asked as she followed him to the truck. He set the board carefully in the bed, then shut the tailgate.
"You'll see." After dashing back inside to exchanged her terrycloth shorts, jersey, and sandals for a pair of jeans, a tank top and a pair of boots, she climbed in the passenger's side, and he pulled out of the scrap yard. They drove until they had reached the city limits, where there wasn't much but empty fields and, further out, farmland. Jim unloaded the board and set it on the ground. He slid his foot under the foothold, and moved it around to test its strength, a habit he'd practiced since his childhood. Sam leaned against the truck, her arms crossed over her chest and a skeptical look on her face.
"What…are you doing?" she asked. He held out his hand. "No."
"Come on, Sam-"
"No. I don't know what that thing is, or what it does, but no." He gave a smile that sent shivers up her spine. She knew that look by now, the one that suggested adventure and thrilling experiences. And a near brush with death, if she knew him at all. Still, he held out his hand.
"Trust me, Sam. You'll love this." She hesitated. She took his hand.
In a flash of light and a sonic boom, they were off. Farmland and fields passed by them in flashes of greens and browns. The wind whipped her long hair around like a nest of snakes, and it stung her face and bare arms, but Sam didn't dare let go of his waist to hold it down or tie it back. They were rising away from the ground. First they were barely above the ground, then over a fence, and then above the trees.
Higher and higher they went, and Sam gripped his waist with white knuckles. When he turned back to look at her, she smiled.
"This is crazy!" She screamed to be heard over the sound of the wind rushing in their ears. He smirked.
"This is nothing!" he turned back around, focusing on controlling the surfer. Had he glanced at her again, he would have seen the smile leave her lips. Sam looked down below them, and gripped him tighter. It was such a long way down. Suddenly, they leveled out. She looked anxiously at Jim as he dropped the solar sail and turned around, embracing her. They fell. They were falling, plummeting towards the ground. Jim moved the board so that they were spinning as well. Sam was totally freaking out. She wanted to scream, but when she opened her mouth to do so, he pressed their lips together. Adrenaline poured through her system, both from the fall, and from Jim, and she felt light-headed. She was upside-down. She was falling. She was flying. He was holding her close, caressing her face with one hand. She felt his breath on her cheek as he kissed her, and she closed her eyes.
Then he suddenly let go of her, turning back around and pulling up the sail again. Her stomach lurched, and she grabbed onto him as the skimmed just above the ground. He narrowly avoided a tree, then totaled someone's mailbox. Envelopes went flying everywhere, and a very cross man was shouting obscenities from his lawn. Sam gripped Jim's arm.
"Again." she said. "Do it again!" Jim smiled, and tilted the board upwards again.
By the time they stopped, school had just let out. Jim drove Sam back to her house, and they put the surfer in the shed.
"That was amazing!" she said as she hugged him around his neck. "I've never done anything like that before! Where did you learn how to do that?"
"Where I'm from, there's not much worth doing." Jim explained as he picked up his backpack from her back porch. "Montressor's a mining planet. Nothing but dirt as far as the eye can see. But there are a ton of cliffs and canyons, and those make for some pretty awesome surfing routes." He gave her a quick kiss. "I'd better go. My dad's been…well, I'd better go." Sam groaned.
"One of these days, Jim Hawkins, you are mine after sunset." she teased him, and he blushed.
"Yeah, yeah. Catch ya later, Sammy." She kissed him back, and the teasing light left her eyes.
As he walked home, Jim thought more about her. She didn't know that his last name wasn't Hawkins anymore, because he hadn't told her. Just like he hadn't told her who his dad was. But for that, he had a very good reason. As it turned out, Samantha's mother was one of Dallas' least-favorite women, to put it nicely. Her mother's maiden name Angela Sheppard, sister to Timothy Sheppard. As far as he understood, Dallas and Tim had been friends a long time ago. They were both greasers, and sure, they'd' gotten in their fair share of fights, but Dallas had crossed a line when he'd dated Angela. And had cheated on her. Several times. As a result, Tim and Dallas hadn't been on speaking terms since, and that had been almost nineteen years ago. Angela had gotten married, had Sam, had her husband run out on her, and then had dumped her wayward daughter with one of her ex-husbands relatives before taking of to who-knew-where. Sam called him Uncle Jake, but whether or not he was really her uncle, Jim had no idea. And she'd heard quite a bit about old Dallas Winston from her mama before she was even knee-high. She hated him, considered him the scum of the earth. Jim wasn't too excited about confessing his relation to the hood. He had to come clean sooner or later. Hopefully…it would be later. Way later.
Unsure of whether or not he should go home, Jim stopped by the DX, which was usually where Gauge and Rontamel went after school. If Dallas was still mad, he'd probably be better off staying out in the park or the lot over night. Still, Pony had said only that Dallas had needed to cool off. There was a chance he'd be okay now. He'd been at the DX for maybe half an hour when Dallas walked up.
"Jim." Hearing his name, Jim winced, but turned to his father. Dallas didn't look mad. In fact, with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders slouched, he looked a little out of place. Jim walked over to him.
"Uh…hi." It sounded lame, but Jim couldn't think of anything else to say. He saw something in his father's eyes that he wasn't used to seeing. He couldn't name it.
"I…I was…" Dallas mumbled, then cleared his throat. "I can't…I shouldn't have…I'm sorry. What I did last night…I'm sorry." Jim just stared at him, no idea what to say. Dally didn't apologize, to anyone. Dallas ran his hands through his hair anxiously. "We, uh…we need to talk. You and me. If you wanna hang around here, that's fine. Just, uh…come home, alright? Tonight." Jim was finally able to move his head enough to nod. "Ok…uh, see you then kid." Dallas walked away, and Jim went back to the DX just as Steve's mustang started spouting smoke rings from the exhaust pipe.
"Ah, Gauge! What did you do?" Steve laughed, and as the rest of their company gathered around to fix whatever had gone wrong, Jim stood off to the side in silence, more or less stunned.
Dallas had spent the better part of the day cleaning up his house. The cigarette butts and broken glass, which the night before had gotten a great deal more plentiful, were gone. He hadn't gone out of his way to get a vacuum cleaner or anything of that matter, but he'd put things back where they had originally been when he'd moved into the dump. Which wasn't saying much. The tiny two-bedroom house he was renting had been in pathetic shape for years. Usually buck rented it to anyone hiding from the law, or sometimes used it as collateral for a debt he couldn't pay off. A few times, some of Buck's big city friends had threatened to throw Dallas out so that they could take it. The idea was so absurd, he'd laughed until his sides ached. The house was worth about as much as Buck. Nothing but a roof over your head. The foundation was questionable at best, the electricity and water worked only half the time, the front door was the only one with a lock on it, in the winter it was freezing cold and in the summer unbearably hot. It was four walls and a roof. Enough said.
And even this shabby excuse for a house was out of his price range. Before the kid had gotten there, he'd made his money by playing poker, and thanks to Tim Sheppard and his gang, he'd always been able to make enough to pay the rent. However, they eventually got wise to Dallas, and figured out he didn't play fair. He'd been dogging Tim ever since. And after the court had found enough evidence on him to put him away for a very, very long time, Dallas had fallen way behind on his rent. By some miracle, Buck hadn't had the sense to ask where Dallas had been for the past several months. He didn't come asking for rent until he was short on cash himself, and as a result, Dallas hardly paid on time. He never seemed to forget how much was owed him, however, which meant Dallas needed money. But now he had a minor living with him, and he was out on parole, and he'd nearly been put back in jail twice now. So his usual illegal poker games wouldn't work, even if Tim wasn't ready to shoot him. That left two options. Saddle bronc, and the Slash J. Dallas was pretty good in rodeos, and he made decent money off riding, but there weren't going to be any rodeos for quite awhile. That left his part-time job as a jockey. Whenever the Slash J's professionals couldn't make a race, Dallas would show up to replace them.
And when the phone rang, who else could it possibly be but Buck, asking that Dallas cover for the Slash J that night. Dallas looked at the clock. If he left right then, he would make it in time.
"Buck, I can't. I've got plans tonight."
"Look, tell your dame date's off!" Dallas rolled his eyes.
"It's not like that, I-"
"This is a big race! Huge! And India Man's got a ton of money on it. He's won almost ever race this season, but his rider just pulled out. This is gonna be big, Dally. Big!"
"Buck, I'm busy." Dallas said again. "I'm not gonna do-"
"You owe me six months rent, Winston." Buck's voice implied that there was no argument to be made. "Be there, two hours." He hung up, and Dallas groaned. He wanted to be there when Jim got home. But Buck was right. If India Man had won several races already, chances were there would be a fair amount on his name that night. He felt the back of his neck and swore under his breath.
A/N: Usually, my page-per-chapter goal is five pages, but this one ended at four and a half. Details in this chapter were sketchy as well, and I'll probably take it down and re-do it later. For now, though, this is the third chapter to Second Chances.
Reviews appreciated greatly! If anyone has any ideas, or questions about the characters, or anything, review and tell me. It'd be a HUGE help.