A/N: Aaaand I'm back. I apologize for my absence, for awhile I thought I'd have to discontinue the story, but I now have more free time to write, so I'm trying to get this going again.
I realized I haven't been posting a disclaimer for most of the chapters. I don't own anything that originated from neither The Outsiders nor Treasure Planet. I own all of my original characters, as well as the storyline/plot for Second Chances.
Jim glanced at Dallas as his dad tossed his car keys at the coffee table, then dropped onto the couch. He hadn't said a word the entire way home. He waited anxiously, wondering what his dad was going to do, and wishing he'd just get it over with. Dallas lit a cigarette, leaned his head back and closed his eyes as he took a drag from it. For a while, he was quiet. Then he looked at Jim, his expression unreadable.
"What on earth were you thinking?" The same calm tone he'd used at school. He really just didn't know. Jim felt the back of his neck.
"It's...a long story."
"Well, they suspended you for a month. You've got some time to kill." Jim winced. Dallas put out his cigarette, shaking his head slowly. "Don't tell me you didn't see that coming."
"Sorry ain't gonna do any good." Dallas looked him in the eye. He actually didn't seem mad. "You wanna tell me what happened now?" Jim sighed, and began to explain why the fight had started. He really hoped Dally wouldn't snap on him. To his surprise, his dad just grinned at him.
"So the next thing I know, someone snuck up behind me and Mickey and dumped their tray on us. I...don't really remember what happened after that."
"Let me give you a hint. Your principal was sitting with his leg up on the desk and a bag of ice on his knee." Jim smiled sheepishly.
"I, uh...got carried away." Dallas laughed.
"No kidding." Jim looked at him, puzzled.
"So you're not mad?"
"Well...look. Those Socs were messing with y'all first. One thing I don't expect you to do is just take crap like that. You did alright. But why didn't you wait 'till after school? Y'all could'a jumped them in the parking lot." Jim paused, realizing that would have actually been very effective. "You're not stupid. You knew what was gonna happen, the Socs got off free, and you and the guys get to pay for it."
"A whole month?"
"You drew blood, kid." Dallas chuckled. Jim smiled, just relieved not to be in trouble with his dad. Dallas shook his head as he stood up. "You're still grounded, anyway. And now that you ain't in school, I ain't got much of a choice but to keep an eye on you myself." Jim's smile disappeared. "I'm gonna talk to Buck, see if I can bring you with me."
"Aw, what?" Jim groaned. "I don't want to be around a bunch of horses all day."
"You probably should have thought of that before you got yourself suspended." Jim slapped a palm over his eyes.
Trisha Hawkins let her front door slam behind her as she let out an irritated growl. She'd just met with her attorney, who had reluctantly informed her that, though their case had been accepted, they wouldn't be in court for four months. Trisha had wanted to go now.
"You told me there was enough evidence to get in by the end of the month." she'd reminded him sharply. He shook his head.
"No, I said there could be. Apparently, I was wrong."
"Well why is it going to take so long? That man has a criminal record a mile long, there can't seriously be a chance he'd keep my nephew under these circumstances."
"Actually, there is." She'd stared at him.
"Mr. Winston has been on parole for several months, and so far he hasn't violated it. He's paying rent, he's got a steady job, he's clean." Seeing her icy expression, he hastily added, "For now." Trisha had pressed every possibility, but there was nothing they could do now but wait. Trisha had gone home.
She wished Dallas would just see the sense in surrendering her nephew. She'd heard about his trip to the hospital. Surely even someone like Dallas could see that his kid was in danger there. Then again, Trisha was assuming, as she had been told, that it had been a simple grudge attack. But who knew for sure what was really going on? His father had, after abandoning his son and his wife, taken the child under his wing simply to get the sympathy of the jury so that he could get out of jail. She knew that. But what had Dallas done to get himself in jail in the first place, she wondered? His attorney was tight-lipped. What if there was more going on than he'd let on? Dallas could be involved in any number of illegal activities, and if he were, then Jim was in danger. Even worse was the possibility that Jim was the one that could be involved in shady business. It honestly wouldn't surprise her. Like father, like son, after all. If Sara had known where her son would be after-
Trisha winced, her eyes closing tightly. She leaned against the door to her bathroom and pressed a palm to her face. She avoided thinking of her sister. In order to keep her life together, she had to push Sara out of her mind altogether. For years, it had been easy. They weren't as close as most siblings were, but they kept in touch. They visited occasionally. Trisha was the more successful of the two of them, and while Sara was stuck with running an Inn to support herself and her son, Trisha had had hardly any trouble with money at all. She'd never meant to give the impression that she was gloating about it, but it seemed that she never knew the right thing to say, and when awkward silences fell between she and her sister, her job was usually the first thing she jumped to. She enjoyed what she did; she worked in a physical health facility and helped physical therapy patients. It paid more than well.
The tears were flowing freely now. Giving up, Trisha sat down on the foot of her bed, her head in her hands. She missed her sister so much. She could remember the day she'd answered the phone. She'd had the day off, and was at home, watching TV and attempting to cook. Sara was always sending her recipes, encouraging her to practice with her culinary skill(or lack thereof), and she had finally gotten around to it. The phone had rang, and she'd picked it up.
"Hello?" she said into the phone, her attention focused more on the movie she was watching.
"Yeah, who is this?" she asked, not recognizing the voice. It was quiet and soft, almost a whisper. The caller drew a breath that shook in his throat.
"I, I'm so sorry, I…" he stuttered, and let out a strangled sob. She recognized the hysterics.
"Delbert?" she quipped, rather annoyed. Why Sara put up with the well-to-do astronomer was beyond her. He was the walking definition of 'geek'. "What is it?"
"Y-your sister." he's practically moaned, and Trisha froze.
"Sara? What, what is it, what's happened?" she asked, but Delbert was crying so hard he couldn't answer. Trisha felt afraid. What was wrong? "Delbert, can you hear me? What happened? Is Jim alright? Delbert!" His sobbing was suddenly cut off, and another voice came on the line.
"I'm sorry, he's been going to pieces like that all day." This voice was more controlled, demure, but soft, with a crisp British accent.
"Who is this?" Trisha snapped.
"I'm Delbert's wife, Amelia." Delbert was married? Trisha pushed the thought aside for now.
"What happened to my sister?" she demanded. There was a pause.
"I'm afraid she's passed away."
"…what?" Trisha whispered. She felt cold. No, her sister couldn't be…no. Delbert wasn't crying, he was probably laughing. There was no way he could be married, this had to be a prank call. "You think this is funny?!" she shouted into the receiver. "What kind of sick joke is this?!"
"This isn't a joke, Miss Hawkins." Amelia said gently. "I'm sorry. But your sister has died of Scarlet Fever." Trisha thought the signal was going bad, but she realized she was shaking so hard the phone was jumping in her hand. She slowly sank to her knees, dropping it. No, no, no, no…not Sara, no…
Trisha looked up, and her eyes landed on a picture frame sitting on her dresser. It was a picture of her and her sister, when they'd been in high school. Sara was the quiet one, the social butterfly. Trisha had been the loud, animated cheerleader. The picture was of them together, sitting under a tree in their front yard. They were glaring daggers at each other. Trisha remembered taking it. They'd been so angry with each other, though she couldn't remember now why. Their father had surprised them by taking the picture. It was an old camera, one that had a flashbulb on the top. Surprised, they'd turned to him. He'd shaken the camera at them.
"One of these days you two will wish you'd gotten along!" he'd shouted with a grin, and immediately they'd laughed right along with him, transgressions forgotten. Trisha loved the picture, because if you knew what you were looking for, you could see the traces of surprise. She remembered their fathers words and held the picture close to her chest.
"Oh, Sara, I'm so sorry…" she whispered, and bowed her head. She was ashamed of how she'd acted at her funeral. She hadn't really known how to cope. She hadn't wanted to embarrass Jim, but she had acted and spoken without thinking. She'd been distant from him ever since he'd been born, and she wanted to make up for it. She wanted to give him a good home. She knew he'd had to stop attending the Interstellar Academy, and she knew he probably hadn't taken that well. She could sell her home, move closer so he could take his classes there. She could more than support them both. She could give him what Dallas couldn't.
She had to at least try.
"I don't think-"
"He won't cause any trouble." Dallas interrupted. "I'll keep an eye on him. He's a good kid." Mat hesitated.
"Then how come he's suspended?" Dallas could have kicked himself. Mat shook his head. "Dallas, I don't know. I mean, I know he's probably ok, but if anything happened, I'd be responsible. And I don't mean if he did something. We've got a couple new hired hands, and I'm supposed to be watching them. If they make a mistake, I'll bet they'd be willing to blame it on anything or anyone. I don't want to take that chance."
"He'll just hang around outside then."
"Sorry." Mat shook his head.
"Then I'll leave him in my car with the windows down." Dallas said sarcastically. "I don't have any other options. I can't leave him at home all day, and he can't stay with anyone." Mat thought for a moment, then sighed.
"I guess he can stay in my office…" he said slowly. "As long as he doesn't touch anything." Relived, Dallas shook his head.
"He won't. Thank you." Mat shrugged.
"I know how it is. My wife walked out on me and my kids." He grinned at Dallas. "I had six-year old triplets." Dallas stared at him. He briefly imagined having three kids to hold onto instead of just Jim.
"Oh, lord." Mat just laughed.
"They're worth it. Every bit of it."
"How old are they now?"
"All twenty-three and moved out now." he said with a sigh. "I miss 'em."
"Girls." He picked up a picture sitting on his desk, of three young women in blue and gold caps and gowns. "When they graduated, I didn't know how I'd manage without them." Mat shrugged. "They come and visit every once in awhile. You know, when they need money or clean clothes." He added with a grin. Dallas tried to imagine that. Jim wasn't that far from graduating. "What about you? What happened with yours? Your wife."
"I…we divorced. She died a few months back, and now…" Mat nodded.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Hey, it can get hard at times, but it all works out eventually." Dallas put the picture down.
"Yeah, I hope so." he said, and shook Mat's hand. "Thanks again."
"You're welcome. See you two tomorrow."
Dallas walked out to his car, unbuttoning his work shirt as he went. He still had to pick Jim up from Sodapop's house, but there wasn't any rush. Jim and Rontamel got along okay, and Elise hadn't seemed to mind when he'd basically dumped him on her hands. He wasn't paying attention, otherwise he might have noticed the footsteps behind him. He opened the car door, only to have something slam it shut from behind. Startled, he turned around, one hand going for the blade in his back pocket. He relaxed when he recognized his company.
"Tim." Tim Sheppard nodded.
"Dallas." Dallas stood up straighter. For a moment, neither said anything. Finally Tim pulled a comb from his pocket and ran it through his hair, looking in the window of Dallas' car as he did. "Got your message. Socs giving ya trouble?"
"You could say that." Dallas thought quickly. He'd wanted to make those trust-fund brats pay for what they'd done to his son. He still did. But with Trisha and her lawyer breathing down his neck, looking for any excuse to take Jim, he had his back against a wall. Still, he'd asked for Timothy's help, and it was apparent he might get it. "What took you so long?" Dallas asked. Tim smirked.
"Me and Curly been in Vegas."
"I thought they banned you from Vegas."
"Well, me, yeah, but not Curly."
"I'm gonna guess they have now." Tim just grinned.
"Not a bad run, though. You should'a come." Dallas had a feeling this was Tim's way of taunting him, making him think he'd have made a killing if only he'd been invited. Now Dallas smirked.
"I've been busy."
"Yeah, I'll say." He nodded towards the employee overshirt Dallas was still holding. "Since when do you work here?"
"Thought I might as well act like I was goin' straight." Tim frowned.
"Wait a minute. They had you locked up nice and pretty last time I heard, what happened?" Dallas shrugged. Instead, he asked a question of his own.
"If you were in Vegas, how did you know I needed your help?"
"My niece heard you. Passed it on to me last night." Dallas was surprised.
"Angela's." Dallas whistled, and Tim snickered. "You've got no idea. So what's with the Southside gutter trash?" Dallas leaned against his car, and Tim moved beside him. He explained about the race, and also about how he'd taken care of things afterward. Tim threw his head back and laughed. "So what'd ya need me for? Even Socs ain't stupid enough to mess with you twice." Dallas set his jaw, remembering the drive to the hospital.
"They didn't. Not exactly." He turned to Tim. "They went after my kid." Tim started to say something, then stopped. He looked at Dallas carefully.
"Your kid. The boy. Sara's little boy?" Dallas nodded slowly. "You two get back together?"
"She's dead." Dallas said flatly. Tim stared at him. He seemed to be having a hard time finding something to say, so Dallas started talking to fill the dead air. He told him what happened and about how badly he wanted to fix them for ganging up on Jim. His mouth worked independently of his mind. As he was talking trash about the Soc boys, he was also thinking about her.
Of course Timothy felt the loss of Sara. He'd known her, talked to her. He'd heard about her for months after the scene at the dinner. It was driving him nuts, the way Dallas carried on about what he was going to do when he ran into her again. Finally, it got to him, and he made a bet with Dallas that he'd never find this mystery girl, and that if he did he'd either be chicken and run away from her or he'd go weak at the knees. Which had set Dallas' temper off as well.
They were in Tim's uncle's car, a sleek black mustang, cruising down the street when Dallas spotted a familiar brunette. It had been a long time since she'd humiliated him, but he knew her face.
"Why?" Tim asked, irritated. He'd been following the car that belonged to some guy that owed him money, and he was reluctant to stop.
"Man, just pull over." Dallas snapped.
"What, don't tell me you spotted that Cade boy-"
"It's her." Tim pulled over, and they got out of the car. Tim lit a cigarette, looking at the cluster of people Dallas had his eyes glued to.
"You're kidding, right? There's gotta be, like, five. Which one?" She was sitting on the hood of someone's car, laughing. Her whole face lit up when she laughed. Instead of the yellow dress he'd seen her in at the diner, she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with her hair was down. Dallas didn't answer Tim, he just started walking. He remembered how she'd embarrassed him, and he'd thought about what he was going to say to her. He was going to make her pay. When he walked up to her, her friends stopped talking. She looked at them, puzzled, then turned to Dallas.
"Um…can we help you?" He leered at her.
"Lose your job, sunshine?" Sunshine? Okay, where had that come from? He'd been going to say something else. She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Not recently, no. I'm sorry, do I know you?" Dallas just stared at her. He'd had girls pretend not to remember him before. It didn't bother him. But she wasn't pretending. She really didn't know who he was. He opened his mouth to say something sarcastic, but the girl standing next to her coughed,
"Grease." He turned his attention to her.
"Got that right, sweetie." he laughed. "You ain't never seen a greaser like me. Livin' on the Southside, I bet you gals don't get out much." He was drowning. What was the matter with him? No cutting remarks? Why did he keep stopping himself from cussing at them? Just a couple Socy girls and their well-to-do friends.
Now her eyes lit up in recognition.
"Oh, I do know you." She got off the car and got in his face. "You're that thug from Linda's café."
"And you're the coffee chick." What's the matter with you?! She nodded smugly.
"I heard you were back the day after, but that doesn't make you any less of a jerk. What, did you come to try and bully me again? Nothing better to do than verbally abuse girls?" Dallas was at a loss for words.
"Excuse my friends here," Timothy spoke up, leaning on Dallas shoulder as he smoked his cigarette. Dallas had forgotten he was there. "He was having a rough day, otherwise I'm sure…he'd have been a bit nicer to ya." The girl ignored him completely. Instead she jabbed a finger at Dallas.
"If you know what's good for you, you'll get in your car and beat it, hood."
"Dallas." he finally managed to say. She just looked at him.
"My name…it's Dallas Winston." Her face softened a little. "I…I just wanted to, uh…apologize." Everyone was staring at him now, but he didn't care.
"Oh." she said softly, and pushed a strand of hair away from her eyes. "I'm Sara Hawkins."
"Sara." he repeated, and smiled. "Um…don't suppose you'd be busy this Friday?" She smiled coyly back.
"I guess I am now."
When they got back in the car, Tim couldn't contain himself any longer. Relentlessly, he taunted Dallas, belittling him for the rest of the night. For some reason, Dallas didn't seem to mind. Actually, Tim doubted whether he was hearing any of it. He kept fiddling with the little piece of paper Sara had given him, with her phone number on it. Tim had run into them that weekend, as well. Sara was sitting in the passenger's seat of a car Dallas had borrowed, and they were at some drive-in movie. He'd overheard her call him 'Austin' by mistake, and had pointed it out, much to her embarrassment.
"Tim?" Dallas said, interrupting his loud, barking laugh. He grinned at Dallas.
"Beat it." He'd taken the hint. He saw them together a lot after that. And in time, it became a rare thing to see Dallas by himself at all. He hadn't been surprised at all to hear when they eloped.
"He alright?" Tim asked.
"Yeah," Dallas said, coming out of his daze. "Fine now."
"Stop by next week. I'll see what I can do."
"I'll be there." Dallas started to get in his car.
"Hey, Winston." He turned. "I'm sorry. About her." As Dallas nodded, he added, "But don't think I'll take pity on you the next time I see you! You still owe me!"
"Get over it, you filthy greaser." Dallas laughed.
Jim was sitting on the front porch steps with Rontamel's dad when he got to the Curtis' house. Jim walked out to meet Dally, and Soda waved at them before going back inside. Jim climbed in wordlessly, leaning his head against the window. Dallas frowned.
"What's the matter with you?" he asked, and Jim looked up.
"Huh? Oh, nothing. Just thinking."
"Don't hurt yourself." Jim rolled his eyes.
"Rontamel…I dunno, he just…he's acting weird."
"Quiet. It was like talking to a brick wall." He shook his head. "Probably just finals or something." Dallas didn't say anything. When they got home, Dallas started putting his stuff away, but Jim lingered by the door. "Did you ask about me coming with you?" he asked.
"Yeah, Mat didn't like the idea at first, but…he says if you stay in his office and stay out of trouble, you'll be fine." Jim nodded. "I thought you didn't want to go."
"Yeah, well…" Jim wearily rubbed his eyes. "Night Dallas."
"You're going to bed?" Dallas checked the clock. "It's barely seven." Jim just shrugged.
"Might as well, I guess. I'm getting you up when I do tomorrow, okay?"
"G'night kid." Jim rolled his eyes.
"Dallas, I'm sixteen. I'm not a kid anymore."
"You can say that when you're twenty and you'll still be a kid."
"Dad." Jim groaned, smiling. Dallas laughed. It actually didn't bother him. For the most part, things were okay between them. Jim wondered how much longer it would last. He hoped things would get better, but the impending court date, Aunt Trisha, and the visit from the social worker were still hanging over his head like a dark cloud.
At least he'd get to spend a little more time with Dallas in the meantime. He was kind of curious to see what Dallas did all day, but seeing how he was going to be confined to a room by himself, his enthusiasm lessened. On one hand, it was a good thing. He'd been skittish around horses for as long as he could remember, and he doubted Dallas knew that. On the other, he was probably going to be bored to death. Good thing he still had his school library books.
Jim climbed out his window and sat on the roof outside. It was chilly, but the sky was clear, and he could see a few stars. Nothing like back on Montressor, where when the sun went down there weren't street lights to block them out. He tilted his head back against the windowsill, looking up at the sky. He remembered what it felt like on the Legacy, seeing the stars and feeling like he could reach out and touch them, ethereal winds blowing through his hair. Nothing holding him back. True freedom. Jim closed his eyes. He couldn't help feeling that familiar sense of longing, missing that freedom. Somewhere deep inside, he felt something that could only be described as homesickness. Which was ridiculous, because he was home. But not quite. He opened his eyes, and spotted a star that was slightly brighter than the rest. He remembered seeing the stars from Montressor, and feeling the same way, even then. What could it possibly mean? He wondered. I wish I knew. I wish I knew where I belonged. He didn't feel right here. Maybe it was Dallas. Then again, maybe it was just Tulsa. He couldn't put his finger on it.
That night, Rontamel hadn't just been quiet, distant. He'd been cold. When Jim had tried to joke about having an unexpected vacation, Ronto had shot back that if Jim hadn't started throwing punches they wouldn't have gotten in trouble. He'd let it go, but it kept happening. Finally he said something Jim couldn't ignore. He'd accidentally knocked a picture frame off a bookshelf in Rontamel's room, and the glass had cracked.
"I'm sor-" Jim started, but Ronto cut him off.
"You know, I'm starting to see why Dally can't stand you." Jim bristled.
"Watch it, Curtis."
"Or what? You're gonna go cry to your daddy? Go ahead, I'm sure he'd love to hear it." he snapped back, then winced. "Man…I'm sorry."
"Whatever." Jim had gone to sit out on the porch, and Rontamel hadn't come after him. He was still there when Soda got off work, and they hung out until Dallas showed up. Now Jim was wondering if Rontamel was seeing something he didn't. As far as he knew, he and Dallas were doing okay. They were at least trying. Rontamel's mood just didn't make sense.
The cool breeze finally chased Jim back inside, and he curled up on his bed, with his mother's locket in his hand. He'd disappointed her over and over again, ever since Dallas left. He'd finally straightened up, but he often wondered if it had been in time. He'd only had his mother for a matter of months after coming home. Sometimes she seemed to have been gone longer than she really had because of that. He fell asleep with her locket next to his heart.