Categories > Books > Outsiders > Tender is the Night

A Matter of Trust

by A_Sideways_Smile 0 reviews

The boys slowly but surely discover Ellie and Dally's relationship. How is everyone going to react with the news?

Category: Outsiders - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Published: 2007-06-27 - Updated: 2007-06-27 - 5232 words

Disclaimer: We don't own SE Hinton's The Outsiders or Billy Joel's "A Matter of Trust."

Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began
With a passionate start.

She drug her feet as she walked to Darry's truck. All week long, Ellie managed to avoid being alone with Darry, for fear that he would start lecturing her about getting involved with Dallas. She thanked her lucky stars that Darry wasn't one to gossip, so at least she could count on him not spreading the word. Once everyone found out, there was sure to be sparks. She knew how they were, and she was pretty certain she knew exactly how they would react.

Soda would be dumbfounded, Pony and Johnny would be confused as all get out, while Two-Bit would think it were all hilarious. Darry would be concerned, but it would certainly be Steve that blew a gasket over the whole thing.

When they were all hanging out in those few days, she made sure to sit far enough away from Dally so he didn't try any funny business. Two-Bit was still trying to drag a story out of her about her wrinkled clothes, despite everyone else seemingly losing interest. She could handle that if he was the only one grilling her about it. Besides, he didn't know anything was going on, he was just looking to give her a hard time. It was Darry she was more concerned about avoiding. He actually knew something.

She was careful to avoid the slightest eye contact with him, though she caught a couple of glances during the week. She wasn't sure what he was thinking, but there was something in those glances that wasn't exactly understanding. It seemed that he was trying to send her a life line. It was like a lifesaver being thrown to someone drowning. He was trying to pull her out before she got too deep.

Too late, she thought quietly to herself that week, each time Dally would pick her up from work and walk her home. The kisses underneath her window and the invitations to stay at Buck's another night would only leave Darry's knowing glance etched in her mind. She already knew she was well over her head with Dallas. She didn't need anyone else telling her that same thing.

The only thing she could hope for was that she could tread this uncharted water fast enough and that some tidal wave didn't come out of nowhere and drown her completely. She knew she was over her head, she usually was, but at least this time she could still see the distant shoreline. Before long, she knew, she would be stranded. She may have been innocent when it came to some things, but living on the east side kept her from being entirely naïve. She knew boys like Dallas Winston were sharks, and she was easy enough prey.

Ellie prided herself in her flawless excuses in the past few days, getting herself out of the Curtis house and away from Darry. She had been quite successful with these dodges for three whole days. Her biggest failure came Saturday morning.

Soda had managed to get the day off at the DX while Steve had only the morning off, following what sounded like a wild drag race the night before. Soda didn't need the morning to recover from a hangover like Steve most likely did, but Soda was using the excuse that it was a late birthday present to himself. He offered to make it a double celebration for Ellie's 15th birthday, which had already come and gone, but she passed. The last thing she wanted was to be in such a wild crowd with Dally when the others- namely Steve- found out they were dating. She politely declined the invitation on account of an early morning at work. It wasn't until the last moment when she realized their day off would mean judgment day for her.

Climbing into the cab of the truck, she managed a tight, awkward smile as she shut the door. He said nothing as he pulled away from the curb and turned toward Joe's Grocery.

Ellie stared at the worn threads on her sneakers, knowing there would be a hole there before long. Darry quietly maneuvered his way along the early morning streets. Though she wasn't looking at him, she could feel his glances, and she knew the worst was yet to come.

They were stopped at the traffic light at Pickett and Front when Darry finally tossed an arm over the seat and looked at her. "Ellie, are you gonna explain to me what I saw the other day?"

She met his stare and became flustered for words. "I...well, I...uh. It's just that..." She took a deep breath and sighed helplessly. "What's there to say?"

"Well, for one," Darry said, watching for the light to turn green, "why you were kissin' Dallas Winston in my kitchen?"

Ellie knew for a fact that she would be less embarrassed if it had been her own mother walking in on her and Dally kissing. The light turned green and as soon as the truck started moving again and Ellie thought about jumping.

She stammered for more words before saying softly, "There's nothin' I can say. It's not like I can tell you that you saw it all wrong."

He was quiet as he pulled in front of the grocery store. He gave her a helpless look, and she wondered if he was thinking if his parents would have jumped into the the middle of this. Ellie decided they would have, but she was as clueless as Darry seemed to be on what their reaction would have been. "Dally? Why him?"

She met his gaze with a confused look. Opening her mouth, she was surprised when the words wouldn't come. In her mind, she had plenty of reasons for dating Dally. In her mind, there was romance and adventure. In her mind, it was like one of those forbidden romances she saw in the movies, the ones no one ever understood. But just like the movies, Ellie kept feeling that it wasn't real. She had her own doubts and Dally was no prince. She furrowed her brow as she tried to find a reason she could tell Darry. Defeated, she leaned back in the seat. "I don't know. It just happened."

Darry stared hard at the steering wheel. "Just...promise me somethin', El."

Even before the words came, she knew she should have jumped back at Pickett and Front.

"Just...don' let him treat you like he treats...well, everybody else." He stopped staring at the steering wheel long enough to glance at her before turning his attention to his hands. Boy, was he glad he didn't have a little sister, even if considered her as much. "Don't let you into anything."

She wanted to crawl under her seat and die.

Incoherent rambling spilled from her mouth as she nodded and climbed out of the car. That wasn't the way she wanted her morning to start.

And they may not want it to end,
But it will, it's just a question of when.

Steve was leaning under the hood of Buck's T-Bird when he heard a car pull up and a door slam shut.

"How's it goin', man?" Steve asked as Tim Shepard approached him. He nodded a hello to Rick Bradley behind the wheel of his beloved Skylark. He was greeted in return with an upraised middle finger. Evie's brother sure hated him. The feeling was mutual.

"Buck wanted me to pick up his car. You almost finished with it?" he asked, offering a good, solid handshake.

Steve nodded. "Yeah, just finishing up with it now." He had been surprised Buck had brought his Thunderbird all the way out to their DX when there were closer garages to his roadhouse. Buck grinned that crazy, toothless grin of his and told Steve he only took his baby to the best. Steve didn't give a shit for modesty and had simply nodded in agreement.

As he continued working under the hood, he called out to Tim, "How come Dally was drivin' your car the other day?"

Tim shrugged, leaning back on the car beside Buck's, the one Larry had let Steve store behind his garage while he spent all summer fixing it up. Looked like it would take all fall, too, much to Steve's chagrin.

"That broad that's always with you boys stayed at Buck's, and she was late for school."

Steve nearly slammed his head against the hood of the car. "Ellie?" he asked, incredulously.

"Yeah," he replied.

Cleaning his hands on a rag, Steve's eyes narrowed. "Why was she at Buck's?"

Tim shrugged indifferently. "How the hell should I know? I ain't got time to keep tabs on your gang when I've got Curly to worry about. Why's anybody go to Buck's?" Tim found himself amused with the angry look on Steve's face. The kid was pretty angry all the time, but he looked close to putting his fist through something. Or someone. "You know as well as I do what goes down at Buck's. Now, if you want details, you'll have to ask her or Dal. I don't know nothin' about that."

Steve clenched a wrench in one hand and his rag in the other. No wonder she had been acting so strange Monday morning. Pointing a defiant finger in Tim's face, he said, "Ellie ain't like that." After a moment's thought, he muttered to himself, "I'm gonna fucking kill Dally."

Tim grinned at his last comment. "Well, now. It sounds like you ain't so sure what Ellie's like." Steve turned his attention back to him, looking ready to knock somebody's block off but hesitant to start with Tim Shepard's.

"That's all I know, Randle. Can you just hurry up here? I got places to be."

I've lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire,
The more you get burned.

After Tim left the DX with Buck's car, a pack of cigarettes and a Pepsi, paying only for the car, Steve stewed in his anger until the garage closed. He headed home for a quick shower before he met Soda for their double date with the girls, hoping he could get his mind off of the thought of Ellie and Dally. It made his fists each time his mind wondered onto the topic in the last few hours.

By the time he was leaving his house, he couldn't take it anymore. He stopped in front of Ellie's window, rapping on the glass harder than he meant to. He needed to talk some sense into the girl. When there was no answer, he quietly raised the window halfway and glanced through the curtain only to find an empty room.

He hesitated for a moment before he made his way to the front door. He was greeted by her unpleasant stepdad.

"Is Ellie home?" he asked, with as much politeness as his east-side upbringing could muster.

Jimmy shrugged drunkenly. "I ain't got a clue," he grunted, annoyed with Steve for interrupting his evening of drinking at home.

Steve still stood on the doorstep, wondering if Jimmy would even check for him, when Abigail walked into the living room.

"Hello, Steve," she said.

"Ms. O'Hare, is Ellie home tonight?" he asked, ignoring the grunt Jimmy gave when he didn't call her by her married name.

"I'll go check, but I ain't seen her all afternoon. Said she was studying at Ponyboy's," Abigail replied, heading down the hallway.

"You her boyfriend?" Jimmy asked, leaning his weight onto the frame of the door to keep from falling over, Steve expected. "An; she's Mrs. Merchant now. Got it?"

He shook his head, keeping his eyes trained just over Jimmy's shoulder. "No, sir. Just a friend."

"'Friend', huh?" He chuckled. Steve ignored the comment. He was just surprised Jimmy didn't have a bottle of rum clamped tight in his fist. It would have fit the image of the drunken stepfather perfectly. The picture Steve always imagined those nights Ellie slept on the floor of his room or on the couch at Soda's. She always shrugged it off, saying things could be worse, but Steve knew it bothered her. The way his own dad acted toward him was different, but he figured he felt about the same as Ellie did after it happened, which wasn't great.

"She's got an awful lot of 'friends,' ain't that right?" Jimmy asked with another chuckle that grated like sandpaper across Steve's already shot nerves. He felt his fists ball up once more, and thanked God the second he saw Abigail round the corner.

"She must be gone, she didn't answer her door," she told him, glancing from Jimmy to Steve. She gave him a small, almost apologetic smile, one that looked so much more sincere coming from Ellie whenever the fuzz or some manager of some restaurant wanted to hassle the gang. A lot of things looked a lot more sincere on Ellie than on Abby, that was for sure.

"Thanks, Mrs. Merchant," he said, emphasizing her name as he made eye contact with Jimmy. Turning around and walking down the small, concrete path to the sidewalk, he cringed at the sound of the door banging shut as Jimmy slammed it. He was a shitty guy to talk to. It must be shittier to live with him.

He shouldn't have been quite so surprised when he walked over to Soda's and found no signs of Ellie.

"She was here earlier," Johnny told him through a bite of sandwich as he, Two-Bit, Darry and Pony played cards. "Dal picked her up and took her home. Said she needed to study."

Noticing the look on Steve's face, Two-Bit cocked an eyebrow. He realized it had been her excuse each time she was in a rush to leave anytime the gang was hanging out the last few days. "She's been doin' an awful lot of studying, hasn't she?" Steve simply nodded.

His sister Lucy liked to pull these little white lies about studying or chores to get out of being grilled about something. Like when he saw her hanging around that little scumbag from down the street- Mark Something-Or-Other. He asked her about it and suddenly it was like she had every test from every class she had ever taken to study for. Yeah, he knew that 'studying' routine pretty well.

Steve noticed that Two-Bit was catching on, but he didn't seem to know exactly what he was catching on to. Steve would have blurted it out right then, but he didn't know much more than what Tim had told him, which hadn't been much at all. He would wait until he talked to Ellie or until Dally gave him reason enough to smash a fist into his face. Which ever came first.

"Maybe she's had a lot of tests to study for lately?" Pony offered in her defense as Soda hollered for Steve to hurry up or the girls would be mad that they were late.

"Just stick to playing your cards, kid," Steve replied sharply. Ellie shouldn't need any defense; there shouldn't be anything for her to defend.

I can't offer you proof,
But you're gonna face
A moment of truth.

Johnny hiked the football back to Dally. He looked for an open man and finally spotted Two-Bit near the make shift end zone. Steve easily tackled him before he could catch the ball.

"Easy, man," Two-Bit said, climbing to his feet.

He shrugged. He hadn't hit Two-Bit all that hard. Not hard enough to make him fall like a sack of potatoes the way he did. Steve couldn't help it if he did tackle him that hard, anyway. He was still pissed about what he found out the day before and the lack of explanations because he never did find Ellie.

Evie made it clear to him that she was pissed when he kept scanning the kids at the Dingo instead of paying attention to her. She made it crystal clear when she sat on the other side of Soda and Sandy after he kept scanning the rows for Ellie's brown head to bob past. Evie's cold shoulder had done nothing but worsen his mood.

"You plannin' on going out for the team at ol' Will Rogers, Stevie?" Dally asked with a laugh, catching the ball when Soda pitched it to him.

When Johnny hiked the ball a second time, Steve ignored the fact that he was supposed to be covering Two-Bit and headed straight for Dallas. Shoving past a confused Ponyboy, he watched as Dally passed the ball to Two-Bit, who was standing well within the end zone. This time, it wasn't the football he was after. With all his strength, he launched his body into Dally's, knocking the breath clean out of both of them.

Dally tried to pull himself off the ground, but Steve wasn't finished. Pinning him to the ground with a knee to the chest, Steve growled, "Stay the hell away from her."

"Huh?" he asked betweens gasps for breath.

Finally Soda and Two-Bit had Steve by the arms, hauling him off Dally.

"What the fuck, man?" Dally snarled.

"You heard me," he said as he shrugged Soda and Two-Bit off of him and started to walk away.

"Fuckin' crazy," Dally muttered. That was reason enough for Steve.

He turned on his heel, and strode up to Dally before anyone could do anything. Without a moment's hesitation he landed a heavy right hook into Dally's unsuspecting jaw.

This time it took Two-Bit and Soda to hold Dally back as Steve walked away. He wouldn't mind a good fight, but that wasn't what he was after at the moment. He still needed to have a talk with Ellie before he tore Dally's head off in a fight.

You just recover when another belief is betrayed
So break my heart if you must,
It's a matter of trust.

Ellie sat on her bed with her knees up to her chest, trying to focus on her homework for English when she heard a rapping on her windowpane. She was starting to wish those excuses to work on homework or to study that she had been handing out so freely had been true. The papers and books were piling up on her desk. She climbed off the bed and threw open her curtains. She couldn't hide the surprise on her face when she found Steve, standing outside. It had been Dally who had become a regular at her window, not him.

Opening the window for him, he easily lifted himself into her room.

"Steve," she said, trying to hide the shock and disappointment in her voice, "what're you doing here?"

Shutting the window behind him, he leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. She knew whatever he was doing there wasn't going to be good. He looked pissed.

"Sit down, Ellie." It was more of a command than a suggestion. She sat slowly. "We gotta talk."

"About what?" she asked. Even if she had an idea about the topic he wanted to peruse with her, she had already decided that the only way out of this was to play dumb.

"I think you know what I wanna talk about," he said simply, cocking an eyebrow.

She just shrugged and gave him a dumb smile. "No, I-"

"You think I'm an idiot or something?" he demanded. She shook her head, the surprise on her face genuine. "Well, I ain't. I know something's going on with you and Dally." She furrowed her brow in mock confusion, and he scowled at her. "I ran into Shepard yesterday."

She couldn't help the defeat she felt, and she knew Steve could see it too. "Oh," she said softly, suddenly finding the floor very interesting.

"What are you thinking, El?" he scolded, sitting on the bed beside her. "I mean, Dally? Anybody but Dally."

"He ain't so bad," she said, feeling like a child. Steve scoffed and she finally glanced back at him, long enough to shoot him an evil look.

"I mean it, Ella," he said seriously. "Anybody but Dallas Winston." He put both hands on his face and fell back on her bed. "Dallas Winston. Jesus Christ."

Standing up, Ellie faced Steve as he lay with his hands covering his face. "I don't get it. Dally's s'posed to be your buddy, but you make him sound like an awful guy. If he's such a bad guy, why are you even friends with him?"

Steve looked at her from between his fingers. "Dally's my buddy. But that don't mean I want him datin' you."

She crossed her arms. "And you suddenly have such a big say in who I'm dating? Since when?" Ellie challenged.

Sitting up, he studied the defiant look on her face. He crossed the room, grabbing her by the upper arms and holding her at arms length. "Since always."

She crinkled her face in annoyance. She hated it when he treated her as though she were only seven. "Woulda been nice if someone told me about that."

Giving her a shake, he released her arms and ran his hands through his hair, frustrated. "Anybody but Dal," he repeated. "Hell, even Curly Shepard would be better for you than Dally. At least he's scared enough of us that he'd be good to you."

"Curly?" she asked in disgust. Shaking her head, she was determined not to be thrown off by Steve's suggestions of possible boyfriends and got back to the point. "Who ever said Dally wasn't good to me?"

Steve stopped his pacing long enough to give her a look as though to tell her she were stupid. "You're kidding me, right?" She didn't answer, so he continued. "Like you said, I'm Dally's buddy. Guys talk, you know that much."

Sinking onto the bed, she rested her elbow on her knee and placed her head in her palm. "Yeah, I know. I've been there."

"Fine, so you know guys talk. You ain't got a clue about some of the things I've heard Dal say about his girls." Again, he took a seat next to Ellie. When he didn't continue, she glanced at him only to find him staring at her with an expression on his face that she couldn't seem to read. "You ain't sleeping with him, are you?"

Try as she might, she couldn't help the horrified groan that escaped her lips as she buried her face in both of her hands. "Oh, my God." The only thing she could think of at that moment was the story she heard from Ponyboy about Steve's talk with Johnny about girls. She didn't need a similar talk coming from him about boys.

"Ellie, your clothes were all wrinkled and you stayed the night at Buck's with him. Tell me ain't sleeping with him," Steve repeated, his tone the closest to pleading she had ever heard.

As the blushing crept up her cheeks, she moaned from between her hands, "No, I ain't!"

They were silent for a few moments as Steve tried to think of a way to reason with her and Ellie tried not to die of embarrassment.

"I'm just looking out for you," he said, punching her lightly in the shoulder, trying to lighten the mood.

She was ready to tell him to mind his own business when there was a knock on her window. Ellie groaned audible. As if things couldn't get more awkward. She walked slowly over to the window, opening it just as hesitantly.

Dally peered up at her, rubbing his jaw. "How the hell does Steve know?"

"What happened to you?" she asked, ignoring his question as she saw the bruise darkening on his cheek.

"Fucking Steve, man," he said, dropping his hand, showing her the damage.

Steve flipped the curtain back at the sound of his name.

"What're you doin' here?" Dally sneered.

Steve glanced between Ellie's blushing face and Dally's bruising one. "Nothing," he said, pissed that he wasn't getting through to her at all. He climbed out of the window and pushed past Dally.

Some love is just a lie of the soul
A constant battle for the ultimate state of control.

"Hey, Steve," Johnny said cautiously, perched on the couch next to Ponyboy as Steve stormed into the house. Darry glanced up from his armchair before going back to reading the paper.

"Hey, guys," he said distractedly, walking into the kitchen, where Two-Bit was plundering through the open refrigerator.

"Steve!" Soda yelled as he walked out of the bathroom. He punched his shoulder, but stopped smiling for a moment. "You gonna start another fight?"

"Long as Dal ain't here," he replied, knowing full and well where Dally was at that moment. He fought the urge to shudder.

Soda grinned again. "Nah, he ain't here."

"Then I ain't gonna start a fight," he said, falling onto the couch.

"What was all that about?" Johnny hazarded, hoping Steve wouldn't get the urge to clean his clock the way he did Dally.

Steve chewed on his bottom lip, wondering how he was going to say what he wanted to say. He tapped his foot impatiently on the worn coffee table for a moment. "I gotta tell you guys something."

Two-Bit leaned back on the arm of the couch as Soda flopped down on the floor with a Pepsi in his hand. "What is it?"

"I ran into Shepard today. You know how Buck brought in his T-Bird to get worked on?" he asked Soda. Soda nodded and took a gulp of his pop.

"Do you remember last week when Dally drove Ellie to Tim's Bel Air?" They all nodded except for Darry, who joined the conversation by lowering his newspaper. No one must have filled him in.

"Well, Tim came to pick up Buck's car, and I asked him why Dally borrowed his car the other day. He said it was 'cause Ellie was running late to school and Buck's car was in the shop." Steve hoped they could deduce the rest, but they all stared at him in silence. He hesitated in saying it aloud. If he said it out loud, that made it that much truer. "He had to borrow Tim's car because Ellie had stayed the night at Buck's."

Soda coughed through his mouthful of Pepsi, and Two-Bit let out a low whistle. "What?" Soda asked in disbelief. "What's Ellie doin' staying the night with Dally? At Buck's?"

Steve raised a telling eyebrow, and Soda lost his grin. "Oh."

" you guys think they' know?" Two-Bit asked, grinning from ear to ear and bucking his hips crudely.

"What?" Pony asked, looking a little lost as he glanced at each of his brothers.

Soda chuckled, ignoring Pony's question. "No way. Ellie wouldn't. Would she?"

Two-Bit shrugged. "I don't know, but two of them have been awfully friendly lately. I took her home the other night and Dal hitched a ride, too. I knew something was up with them."

Pony eyed his older brothers. "She wouldn't what?" He wasn't ignorant to what they were implying, but he liked to think he knew Ellie better than that.

Steve nudged Pony roughly in the arm, ignoring his question as well. "Did you know she was dating Dally?" he accused.

Pony shook his head vigorously. "No." He was silent for a moment. "But I guess it ain't really our business, is it?"

Steve nudged him again. "Hell yes, it's our business!" He looked up at Darry who had been silent the entire time. He eyed him carefully, expecting a bigger reaction from him. "Did you know about this?"

He shrugged. Soda reached up and punched his shoulder. "You knew and you didn't tell us?"

Darry shrugged again and folded the newspaper. "Pony's right. It ain't any of our business."

Steve narrowed his gaze. "It is our business. And how long have you known?"

He sighed and tossed the paper on the coffee table. "About this time on Tuesday."

Pony narrowed his eyes at Darry too. "How'd you find out?"

Darry fidgeted in his chair, feeling about as uncomfortable as Ellie looked when he took her to work the day before. "After you guys were bugging her all afternoon, then went outside to play football...I walked in on them kissing."

"And you didn't say nothing?" Soda asked incredulously.

Two-Bit held up his hands, as if a new thought has just occurred to him. "Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that we can kiss Ellie now?"

"No," growled a voice from the door.

Some love is just a lie of the mind
It's make believe until it's only
A matter of time.

He looked over his shoulder to find Dally practically dragging Ellie through the front door and into the living room. She looked like a scared animal, ready to bolt the second he took his hand from around her waist. Her face was beet red, and she wouldn't look at any of them.

"Well," Dally said, giving her a small, rough push further into the living room. "Tell 'em."

Steve stood up quickly, ready to pummel Dally once more. Ellie glared over her shoulder at Dally. "I don't know how true it is anymore," she hissed.

Soda stood up from the floor and placed himself between Dally and Steve, just in case. They were both just as hot tempered as the other, and it was a wonder Steve walked away when he did, and Dallas, too. "What were you gonna tell us, Ellie?"

She still glared at Dally. He gestured to the guys and repeated, "Tell 'em. Call 'em off my case."

"Call us off?" Steve snapped. "What are we? Her guard dogs?"

"May as well be," he snapped back, gesturing to his bruised jaw.

"Guys," Ellie said, cutting them off. "Stop it. This isn't a big deal."

"It isn't?" Steve and Dally asked in unison.

"Will both of you just cut it out?" she snapped.

"No," Dally replied, leaning against the wall by the front door. He directed his attention to the rest of the guys, focusing mostly on Ponyboy. After all, he was her best friend. Maybe he could get the other guys to leave them alone. "We're dating. We ain't sneaking around no more. If you guys don't like it, tough."

Steve looked like he was ready to go for Dally's throat, but Ellie cut in. "Dallas, stop being such a jerk."

He shook his head, a smile on his face. She stormed past to him and yanked the door open.

"Then I don't know if we're datin' anymore." The cocky smile faded from his lips as she started out the door. She paused for a moment and spun around on her heel to face at a smirking Steve. "And wipe that smug look offa your face, Steve Randle. This ain't because of you."

They could hear her stomp off the porch as Dally tried, as coolly as he could, to rush after her.

The cold remains of what began
With a passionate start,
But that can't happen to us
'Cause it's always been a matter of trust.
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