Okay, so I'm trying to make Pony look like a nut, but not so much of a nut that he can't recover himself.

Pony didn't feel different. At least, not in the way one would expect to feel different after being hurled through time and space. In fact he felt markedly…similar. He lifted his head just in time to see Soda aim a sharp punch at Two-Bit, presumably because of his commentary. Ponyboy stood and completed the circle, with no one blocking his path should he decide to turn and flee.

For the moment, Pony disregarded the two ghosts who stood before him, one looking worried and the other marginally disgusted. Probably because of what was now covering Two-Bit's shoes.

Pony lifted his hand to his face, and just for a moment he allowed himself to hide behind them. Hesitantly, he pushed his right hand further up, into his hair and felt for the scar he knew should be there.

It was. Just as it had the day before, the scar he earned from the rumble sat roughly four inches above his right ear.

Darry misinterpreted his searching hands, "Did they getcha' in the head, Ponyboy?" he asked the question gruffly, in a way that would've made Pony angry only months before. His tone used to make Pony inwardly hurl accusations at Darry, but now it only reminded Pony that Darry, for all his brains, had difficulty expressing his emotions.

Still, Pony did not answer him. Instead he subtly flexed his arms, the muscles he had grown accustomed to in the recent months remained just as the scar did. "Whoa!" Two-Bit exclaimed, "Hot damn, Ponyboy! Since when did you get muscles like superman?"

The gang broke out in chatter, admiring Pony's impressive figure. What the hell? Soda thought. He was damn near positive those hadn't been there yesterday. Not that Pony had been a wimp by any means but he sure as hell hadn't been packin' heat like that. Darry seemed to be considering the same thing, his confusion palpable.

Steve flexed his own muscles then eyed the kid. There was no fucking way the kid had outgrown him in a matter of days.

Dallas noticed Steve's comparison and let out a bark of laughter, "Hey, looks like the kid's shot up some inches to while I was in the cooler. You been liftin' weights Ponyboy?"

Pony looked up at Johnny and Dally, finally acknowledging them. The gang seemed to take his mystified expression as residual reactions left over from being jumped.

They're here, Ponyboy thought, they stood in front of him, looking for all the world just as they had mere months ago. "Hold shit," he muttered under his breath. This isn't real. It can't be happening. Things like this like this…they just don't happen, not to greasers, not to me.

"Ponyboy?" Pony was snapped out of his musings by Johnny's tentative questioning. The gang, even Dally, looked rather concerned. Pony realized they must have been asking him if he was alright.

Ponyboy fought the insane urge to laugh like a maniac, he fought it and he quickly lost. The laughter slipped, uncontrolled from his lips, "Concerned." He said it so quietly that the gang had to struggle to make out the soft word, "You came back from the dead," Ponyboy said louder, "and you're concerned about me?"

"Back from the dead?" Dallas repeated, "Kid, I know the cooler ain't a place you go for vacation but it ain't that bad."

"Yes," Darry interjected, not wanting Pony to get any bright ideas from Dallas Winston, "it is."

Dallas rolled his eyes.

"This can't be real," Pony said again and Two-Bit eyed him warily.

"Ponyboy, how hard did those damn socs hit ya'? We're gonna find those dirty fuckers and make them regret the day they were born!" Two-Bit promised and the rest of the gang nodded assuredly.

Pony, however, barely registered what Two-Bit said.

Another time and place perhaps he would've marveled at how Two-Bit's voice was remarkably clear, as though he'd yet to touch a drop of alcohol that day. His heart might've stuck in his throat when he realized that Soda was nodding emphatically, showing Ponyboy more emotion than it has in months. And Steve, who was normally spoiling for a fight only nodded along with everyone else, his temper cooled somewhat.

Instead Ponyboy just looked at Johnny and Dallas and his thoughts repeated themselves, this can't be happening, but in a flash of brilliance he knew how he could confirm it, confirm if this was a bitter dream or wonderful reality.

Abruptly his head snapped up and his eyes collided with Darry's. "I gotta' go," he muttered, both declaring and asking for permission at the same time.

Darry blinked, completely unaccustomed to Ponyboy's actions. It wasn't his request but the way he asked it, the way he spoke directly to Darry and disregarded everyone else as if they weren't of any consequence. Usually when Ponyboy asked Darry for anything he angled his body and almost seemed to be asking anyone else in the vicinity as well as Darry. Like Ponyboy was appealing to them to help persuade Darry. Now, he appealed only to Darry.

The rest of the gang just stared at him looking cautious and concerned. Ponyboy knew he must sound ludicrous but he was also decently positive that he wasn't crazy. In fact, of all of them, he was the sanest. He was. Sodapop was a ghost of a person, Two-Bit was too drunk to be sane and Steve was the very definition of madness. Johnny and Dally were dead so they didn't count. Besides, if he died Ponyboy was pretty sure that he wouldn't stay sane for long.

"Except Darry," he amended out loud, "Darry's always been the sanest, I guess," he said as he backed away. The gang blinked at Pony's sudden assertion.

"Yeah," Two-Bit replied to Pony's vocal thoughts, "but I'll tell you what kid, before today you had a real shot at that title," this, of course, earned him another punch from Sodapop.

"Pony," Darry stepped forward, and Pony knew this was his only chance. He had to go now if he wanted to confirm or disprove what the hell he thought was going on.

Ponyboy turned and bolted, knowing that none of them had a prayer of catching him, "I gotta' go check something!" he called over his shoulder, "I'll meet you at home!"

"Ponyboy Michael Curtis you get your ass back here!" Darry hollered, but Ponyboy knew what he really meant was 'Ponyboy Michael Curtis I'm worried you've lost it and I don't want you running around on your own out there!'

But Ponyboy had to do this. If he was wrong and this was all a cruel dream then he would wake up and continue to desperately miss what he had been given a small taste of here. But if he was right…well if he was right he sure as all hell wasn't gonna give up his chance. And if he was right, boy, would he have some explain' to do.


"Ponyboy Michael Curtis!"

"Hey! Be careful!"

"Sodapop! Don't tell him to be careful, tell him to get his ass back here!"

"Wait up, Ponyboy!"

"Kid! You're gonna…hurt yourself or some shit…what the fuck?"

"Goddamn that kid can run! Wait; is that what he does in track?"

(A/N guess who said what…)

The boys watched as Pony disappeared, "Well," Two-Bit said, "he's finally cracked!"

Soda and Darry each gave him a hard punch to the arm while Johnny glared.

"What are we supposed to do now?" Steve asked, each member of the gang instinctively looking to Darry.

Darry, still unbelievably pissed, calmed himself enough to think of a plan, "Well, he said he'd meet us at home. So Johnny, you, Soda and Steve go back to our place and wait for him. Dally, Two-Bit, we're gonna get in our cars and drive around and see if we can spot him," Darry finished firmly.

Dallas grumbled something about having already had plans and Ponyboy's god awful timing, but they had all seen the look in the kid's eye. Not insane, that wasn't the right word for it, but something…something wasn't right.

"Hey," Two-Bit said suddenly, "I had planned on gettin' boozed up tonight, can I still—?"

"No!" several voices answered.

"Alright, alright!"