Categories > Books > Outsiders > Tender is the Night

Holding Out for a Hero

by A_Sideways_Smile 0 reviews

When Dally picks Ellie up from work, the two have a run-in with a car full of socs.

Category: Outsiders - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2007-07-09 - Updated: 2007-07-09 - 5710 words

Disclaimer: We don't own The Outsiders by SE Hinton or "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler. Enjoy!

Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?

Dally had been leaning against the window of the grocery store for almost twenty minutes and she was finishing her work as slowly as possible. She was still pissed at him for dragging her into the lion's den and for the looks and conversations she'd gotten from Steve.

Steve let himself into her room and lectured her for damn near an hour after all that fuss at the Curtises, hardly letting her get a word in edgewise. Dally could wait until the sun set and came back up for all she cared. He should have just taken her home that night instead of encouraging her to stay with him at Buck's. He knew better even if she didn't. That thought made her even angier because she had known better. Should have known better, anyway.

"Ellie, your friend's waiting outside," Joe said, nodding toward the window. "I think he's been here a while, too."

She turned back to the front window as Dally stared coldly at her. She could tell his patience had been thoroughly tested by the way he was giving her a piercing glare.

"I'll see you later, kiddo," Joe said, taking the mop from her.

She walked slowly to the back of the store, grabbing her jacket from a hook in the small break room and taking her time walking out the front door.

Dally stood in the middle of the sidewalk, glaring at her like he wanted to set her on fire. Ellie smiled and crossed her arms coolly, standing him off as she asked innocently, "What?"

He was still pissed at her for walking out and breaking it off with him in front of everyone when he was trying to get them off of their backs for dating in the first place. He hated that he ran after her the way he did.

"Stupid broad," he muttered, turning and walking off without her.

They were like fire and ice and Ellie knew it, but she ran to catch up with his long strides anyway.

"You can be pissed all you want, Dallas. But you don't have anybody to blame but yourself. You're the one who made this all so difficult," she said sharply as she caught up to him.

He stopped suddenly, whipping around and towering over her in the middle of the sidewalk. His eyes were as icy as ever and as a shiver traveled down her spine, she backed up a step.

"I didn't ask you to come to Buck's that night. You came all by your lonesome. Remember that? I'm tryin' to have a little fun and you're worried about the world finding out you ain't as innocent as everyone thinks you are," he said, keeping his tone low but harsh.

Ellie watched as an old couple walked around them, giving them both looks, the woman shaking her head disapprovingly as they walked away. She hated those looks; they rubbed on her nerves like sandpaper at times. It certainly wasn't helping her mood now.

"I wanted to go home and you wouldn't walk me back. Remember that? I didn't want to stay the night," she hissed. "You were the one-"

He cut her off by grabbing her arm and pulling her up against him. She stopped struggling when she saw the Camaro slowing in the street and pulling up to the curb. Three sets of eyes looking their way and one cocky smile aimed right at her. Fear gripped her and she clung closer to Dally. Looking up at him, she could tell he was playing it cool, though she could see the fire burning in his eyes. This wasn't going to be good.

"Hey Frankenstein," the lean, dark-haired boy called to her from the passenger seat. He was the one Two-Bit called Richard that day in the cafeteria; the one that gave her her new nickname.

Dally stiffened but remained cool, taking a long drag on his cigarette. He was waiting.

"Let's just go," she pleaded quietly. She gripped a handful of his shirt with white knuckles.

He didn't say anything, but Michael did. "Your boyfriend gets free rides to the police station, right, Frankie?"

"You're gonna get a ride to the hospital, Holden. That one'll be on me," Dally growled, pulling his cigarette from between his lips and flicking it toward the car. It sailed through the open window, rolling down Richard's varsity jacket and landing in his lap. He panicked, letting loose a high-pitched squeal as he scrambled to get out of the car before his pants caught on fire.

"Let's go, Dally," she pleaded again, trying to pull him away as the driver's door opened and the other two boys climbed out of the car. "Please?"

He ignored her, loosening her grip on his shirt. He pushed her behind him, away from the curb and toward the dark store windows that lined Front Street.

"Dally," she begged, "don't."

She should have known he wouldn't have listened. Instead, he lunged at Richard first, clutching his jacket in one hand and smashing his other hand into the center of his face. Blood poured out of his nose on contact, and he stumbled backward, falling into the shorter, blonder soc behind him.

"Get him, David," Richard ordered, wincing as the blood seeped through his fingers.

David stepped up, but even from Ellie's lack of fighting experience, she could see him hesitate. Suddenly this soc wasn't so cocky when it was one on one. It wasn't like the football field with pads and helmets and referrees calling penalties when things got too rough.

David hesitated and Dally saw it too. A small grin crossed his face as he grabbed David by a fistful of his clean-cut blond hair and a fistful of madras. He flung him back towards the store, and David hit the bricks beneath the store window beside Ellie with a dull sound and crumpled to the ground.

Ellie watched as Michael made his way onto the sidewalk, in no real hurry to help his friends but eager to start a fight of his own. He gave her a sickening wink as Dally spun around to face him. They both wanted the fight and Ellie found herself praying that Dally kept the upper hand. She didn't want both of them to end up in the hosptital over this.

Michael swung the first punch haphazardly, ready to get the fight going. Dally was smarter than that and easily dodged it. Before Michael could realign himself, Dallas swung, hitting him square in the jaw. It only swayed him slightly, and he recovered, getting a solid punch in. It knocked Dally back but not down.

She watched them deliver punch after punch, forgetting about the other two boys until they started to close in on Dally from behind. They had backed off for most of the fight, letting the other two duke it out until they saw Dally was gaining ground on Michael. It was only a fair fight if they were winning.

"Dallas!" she shrieked.

Richard clasped his hands together, bringing them down on the back of Dally's neck. He fell forward and was pushed into the side of the Camaro. The three of them pinned him there, swinging punches and beating him bloody. Ellie had never known Dallas to lose a fight to anyone but Tim Shepard, and she wasn't prepared to break any records.

Sprinting toward the fight, she leapt onto Michael's back and grabbed two handfuls of his hair, pulling him backward and off of Dally. She tried to remember all the little tips the guys had given her from time to time about fighting, but everything was going so fast, anything she previously knew seemed to fly right out of her head.

Michael pried her fingers out of his hair and swung blindly, but he connected hard with her nose. Ellie hit the ground and tried to scramble back to her feet. Michael was on top of her in seconds. Taking a handful of her hair, he yanked her halfway up before he dropped her.

Michael was suddenly on the ground beside her, with Dally beating the hell out of him. She watched, dumbfounded and with slight relief as he beat Michael senseless. Richard was still holding his bleeding nose, watching helplessly as David tried to pick himself off of the ground. In the commotion of pulling Michael's hair like her life depended on it, Dally had taken David's feet out from underneath him and introducing his head to the cement, and by the painful look on Richard's face, it looked like Dally had socked him in the nose once again.

Now, they could only watch while Dally lay into their buddy.

Two arms slipped under hers, startling her and pulling her to her feet. She turned to find it was Joe.

"Are you okay?" he asked, fatherly concern in his voice as he noticed the steady stream of blood running from her nose. "I heard all the commotion when I was leaving-"

Sirens pierced the air and Ellie saw the flashing lights closing in. She tried to slip away from Joe, but he held her firm as officers bolted from two cruisers.

"Dallas," she shouted as she watched them run over to the fight. One of them raised his night stick, shouting over the ruckus before he brought it down across the back of Dally's shoulders. He rolled off of Michael with a painful grimace on his face before two officers cuffed his hands behind his back and pulled him just as roughly to his feet.

She shrugged Joe off of her and dashed toward the officers dragging him away. As she caught up to them, a third officer grabbed her and pulled her to a stop.

"Whoa, there," he said. "Where are you going?"

"Let go," she demanded, stomping on his instep and running toward the cruiser they were loading Dally into when he let go.

The car door slammed with Dally on the inside. One of the officers that drug him away grabbed her before she could pull the door back open. She tried to shrug him away but to no avail. Dally gave her a cocky smile and a wink through the blood still streaming down his face. She gave him a helpless look and headed back toward the sidewalk with the other boys, the officer's hand on the back of her neck as a guide.

Where's the streetwise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?

Officer James McCoy rubbed his eyes tiredly. It had already been a long day, and breaking up a fight and grilling a bunch of teenagers for the real story wasn't what he needed. Especially when he already knew there was something else going on that no one was saying. Once again, he was pulling Dallas Winston off Michael Holden, with Ellie O'Hare falling into the picture somewhere. Something was certainly going on. He could tell by the way she lied to him when she was in the hospital. She was trying to protect somebody through that apologetic half-smile she gave each time she said she couldn't remember what happened.

Everyone was trying to speak at once back at the curb, and every time Ellie tried to open her mouth, one of the boys gave her a hot look. McCoy waited for a few minutes. He watched the scene unfold as his partner, Warner, tried to follow the finger-pointing amidst the shouting.

"That hood started it," one of them shouted over the others. He was pointed toward the cruiser Dallas was sitting in. "He flicked a lit cigarette into the car and when I got out so I wouldn't catch on fire, he punched me for no reason!"

"He did not!" Ellie exclaimed, stomping her foot down and trying without success to get the blood to stop streaming out of her nose with the back of her hand. "Y'all were the ones who pulled up and started yelling at us. You guys think you can just-"

McCoy caught the glare Michael was giving her. She must have seen it too because she shut her mouth and diverted her eyes to the sidewalk, her fingers clamping down on the bridge of her nose. A few seconds later one of them shifted, knocking her shoulder and nearly toppling her off of the curb and into the street. She regained her balance almost as quickly as she lost it and stood a little further from the boys.

"Hey, watch it now. You hear me?" McCoy warned. He looked at Ellie and nodded, trying to encourage her to continue. "What happened?"

She just looked at him the way she did at the hospital. A blank stare followed by a shrug of the shoulders. McCoy looked at her for a long minute before looking at the three boys who were all on the wrong side of town. He knew he wasn't going to get anything out of her in front of them.

Leaning toward Warner, McCoy said quietly, "I'm gonna talk to her alone."

He nodded, and McCoy put a hand on Ellie's shoulder and directed her toward the second squad car. She leaned her back against the side and after a few seconds, looked up at him with defiance in her eyes. All the kids on that side of town tried that look, but it didn't fit so well on her. She didn't have enough practice.

"Why don't you tell me what really happened?" McCoy suggested.

She shrugged and wiped more blood from her nose, spreading it across her cheek and the back of her hand. He pulled out a clean handkerchief and offered it to her. She took it and pressed it gently above her lip, still not looking at him.

"You going to let those boys tell the story?" he asked.

"Who cares who tells the story?" she asked, feigning confidence. "You're just gonna believe them and arrest Dally." Her gaze was set firmly on a spot between the edge of the sidewalk and the Camaro parked on the street as she spoke.

"Now, that just depends on the truth," McCoy reasoned. She was silent and didn't even appear to have heard him.

With a sigh, he looked back toward the sidewalk and saw all three socs staring daggers at her and a half a dozen more bystanders looking between all of them. When he turned back, he noticed her gaze had shifted to the second squad car. Dallas Winston was staring at her with a look in his eye that sent chills down McCoy's spine.

"Who hit you?" he asked.

Pivoting slightly on her heel, enough to break eye contact with Dallas, she opened her mouth but nothing came out. He wondered if she recognized him from the hospital or if she was just naturally inclined to keep her trap shut like this around police.

"Dallas did, didn't he?" he asked, waiting for the reaction.

Her eyes narrowed and she pulled the reddened handkerchief from her face and said assuredly, "No, he didn't."

"You sure about that? He was the only one swinging punches when we got here," he said. He added, almost as an afterthought, "That's why he's sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser and the other boys aren't."

"Dallas didn't hit me." She emphasized each word, her voice quiet yet confident in her reply.

"Who did? Was it Michael Holden?"

She didn't say anything, nor did she give him any sign that he was right or wrong. As much as he wanted answers, McCoy realized the less than ideal situation this was if that were the case. She seemed caught between a rock and hard place.

"In the past month, I have pulled Dallas offa that boy twice. Both times you end up in that picture somewhere, and both times you've been hurt," he told her, using a no-nonsense tone. "What's going on?"

He wasn't surprised when his question was met with complete silence from her.

Isn't there a white knight
Upon a fiery steed?

As the Camaro pulled away from the curb, Ellie felt her face flushing in anger. Dallas was cuffed, in the back of a cruiser, and those boys were free to joyride all across the state if they so pleased. Michael was right; a free ride to the police station for Dally and nothing more than a warning for him and his friends.

Joe helped her get her nose to stop bleeding. From his unprofessional analysis, he decided it wasn't broken, though Ellie silently disagreed, wanting nothing more than ice and aspirin. It felt like her entire face was swelling and probably bruising at the same time. Just another thing for them to make fun of me, she thought as she perched herself on the window sill of a closed up furniture store next to Joe. He offered to wait in case she needed a ride home.

She tapped her foot impatiently and watched the officers fill out their paper work and talk amongst each other, glancing between her and Dally every so often.

Finally, Officer McCoy made his way over to them as the other officers drove away with Dallas still smirking in the back of their car over his bloodied knuckles.

"I think we've got everything we need for right now," he said slowly, as if he was still debating something.

"Can I go home, then?" she asked, standing up.

"My partner and I are going to drop you off," he told her. He didn't seem to miss the nervous look that crossed her face as he said that.

"I can drive her," Joe offered kindly, standing up beside her. He was the closest thing she had to a father, and she suddenly wondered if he knew how much his kindness meant to her.

"That's all right, Mr. Thompson," McCoy replied, dismissing him with a wave of the hand. "Her parents are probably wondering where she is by now, and we can explain this whole misunderstanding for her."

The scoff Joe Thompson gave at the mention of her parents was quieted by Ellie's own plea. "That's really not necessary," she assured him.

"I'm seeing to it myself that you are getting home safe and sound, Ellie," McCoy said, leaving no room open for discussion as he gently took her arm and opened the car door for her. "Thank you for the help, Joe. Tell Margie I said hello."

He's gotta be stong and he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight.

McCoy sat in the passenger seat in front of Ellie as Officer Warner navigated his way through the streets.

"Your address, Ellie?" McCoy asked tiredly.

There was a hesitation behind him. Turning around in his seat to look at her, she raised her chin slightly, if not defiantly. "719 St. Louis-"

He couldn't help the amused smile that crossed his face. "I don't mean your friends' address," he told her. She immediately dropped her eyes to her lap. "I knew Mr. and Mrs. Curtis well," he explained.

After questioning Ellie in the hospital, with her mother sitting angrily beside her, he thought to look into files on Ella O'Hare. He wasn't familiar with her, unlike most of the other teenagers on the East side. He knew her mother quite well, though. She had been one of those teenagers, in trouble at any given moment until she finally dropped out of high school. McCoy was surprised to find Ellie didn't have a record, considering who her mother and friends were. Sure, the Curtis boys were nice enough, but even the two eldest boys had had their own run-ins with the law, as minor as those may have been.

When he found Ellie had no record at the police station, he decided to check with Children's Services in North Tulsa. There was no shortage of information, but most of it dated back to one report eight years ago that put her mother in the hospital and led to a full inquiry by the state that had eventually been dropped. There wasn't much after that, just a few complaints called in that were never followed up.

"Address?" he asked again, though he remembered it from the files. He wanted to see if she would lie again.

"387 Boston Street," she said quietly. McCoy sat straight in his seat. Good girl.

The car was silent until Ellie finally spoke up again. "How much trouble is Dally in?"

Warner scoff from the driver's seat. "You ever seen that boy's record?"

McCoy ignored his partner and turned around in his seat to look at her. "He's in good enough trouble. Won't know for sure until he sees the judge in the morning. Depends on a lot of things. It could be a few days, could be a week. Could be longer if those boys press charges, but I don't think they've got much ground to stand on considering they didn't have much reason to be on this side of town."

As they turned onto her street, McCoy tried to reassure her. "You don't have to be so worried about this, Ella. You didn't do anything wrong tonight."

"Sure," she muttered.

"'Cept hangin' around people like Dallas Winston," Warner added, quieting down when McCoy shot him a look.

Ellie sighed when she saw Jimmy's truck parked in the driveway. She knew it didn't matter if she didn't do anything or not, the police had escorted her home. Jimmy was going to be pissed.

As the cruiser pulled up and stopped along the curb, Ellie tried to make a quick dash to the front door without the officers, but McCoy was out of the car and walking along side her.

"You really don't have to explain it them," she told him again, her pace slowing beside him.

He gave her a look and proceeded to the porch where he knocked on the front door. Ellie hung her head as she heard Jimmy's heavy foot steps on the otherside. This stupid policeman had no idea what he had just done.

The door flung open and a tall, lean man stood in the doorway. His gray eyes squinted in the fading light and he reeked of booze. He looked beyond upset to see a member of the Tulsa Police Department and his teenaged stepdaughter on his front stoop.

"Yeah?" he asked, looking hard at McCoy.

"Excuse me, Mr. O'Hare-" McCoy began.

"Merchant," Jimmy grumbled. He looked past McCoy and at Ellie who was staring at her shoes. "Wha'd she do?".

McCoy stood a little straighter and began, "There was a public disturbance out on Front Street that her friend ended up a part of. She got a bit of trouble herself, but we just wanted to see that she got home in once piece."

"Get the hell in here," Jimmy grunted, swinging the door open just enough for her to squeeze through. "Now she's getting in trouble with the fuckin' cops," he muttered.

McCoy didn't fail to notice how slow her steps were or how Jimmy glared at her with as much contempt as the boys back on the street seemed to.

"But like I said, she isn't in any trouble. We just brought her home so she didn't have to walk in the dark," McCoy reiterated.

"Thanks," she muttered as she walked inside, trying to make a dash for her bedroom before McCoy left her alone with Jimmy. With the door only open wide enough for McCoy to see him, Jimmy reached out and caught her arm just above the elbow and held her in a vise grip that nearly drew tears to her eyes.

She listened to their conversation, McCoy oblivious that Jimmy even had a hold of her the way he did. When she tried to pry his fingers from her arm, he tightened his grip and Ellie gritted her teeth and tried to not scream.

He finally shut the door and with a grip still on her arm, he stared at her with glassy eyes. Nothing happened until he heard the car door slam outside, and the cruiser pull away from the curb and disappear down the street. Once it was gone, he pushed her back into the wall roughly.

"What the fuck was that?" he demanded.

"Nothing. He told you I wasn't in no trouble. So lay off," she said flatly, hoping she sounded braver than she felt. Ellie stuck her neck out too far at times, fighting back at the wrong times.

"Lay off? You're getting brought home by the fuckin' police and getting in trouble left and right. I ain't gonna fuckin' put up with that, you little shit," he said, finally letting go of her arm but keeping her cornered against the wall.

Ellie gasped when he finally let go. She cradled it with her hand, trying to bend it and ignore the sharp pains when she did.

"I ain't havin' none of that. You hear me?"

"I didn't do nothing," she told him, trying to squeeze past him.

He blocked her path and shoved her back into the wall. "You get in trouble again and you're out of this house. I don't give a shit where you go, you just ain't gonna be here."

"That ain't for you to decide," she snapped, tired of being pushed around. First by Dally and the socs, then the cops and Jimmy. "You ain't nothing."

She could see him steaming before her and thought it would be better to get away from him. Taking a step to the left, she tried to go around him, but he grabbed her and pushed her so hard into the wall the few picture frames hanging there rattled and she winced.

"Now you listen to me," he said in a low, harsh voice. "I ain't your daddy, but I'm the closest thing you got so you're gonna do me the respect and start treatin' me like I am."

His fist hit the wall beside her head, not even inches away. She flinched at the sound in spite of herself.

He still blocked her path, towering over her and waiting for the smart aleck come back, but Ellie didn't give open her mouth. She didn't want to know how her nose was going to be feeling in the morning if she pushed him any further.

"Get the hell outta my sight," he said, stepping away and heading for the ice box.

She stared at him for a few solitary seconds before she headed down the hallway, slamming the bathroom door and locking it.

Breathing heavily she stared at her battered face in the mirror. Her nose was swollen slightly, and underneath her eyes, the skin was puffy and tender. There were smears of blood across both cheeks and all over her hands from her nose. Running water in the sink, she soaked McCoy's handkerchief in the water, scrubbing to get the red out of it. She felt as terrible as she looked and yet, all she could think about was Dally getting sent to jail and the socs getting off with nothing more than a warning to stay out of trouble.

He's gotta be sure and it's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life.

By the time the front door slammed shut, Ellie was already lowering herself down from her window. She wasn't itching to listen to Jimmy give her mother some stupid story over something that wasn't even her fault to begin with. Even as she was pulling her window shut, she could already hear the yelling begin.

Glancing across the yard, she squinted in the falling darkness. Her first instinct was to walk over to Pony's, but she knew that wasn't a good idea. Not when Michael was brave enough to drive over onto their side of town and start something with Dallas in the middle of a public street. And not when she knew there would be a bunch of people around to make a fuss over it all.

Not in the mood to brave the walk, she turned and walked toward Steve's house.

Tapping on the dark window, she was afraid he wasn't home. It wasn't very late, and he could very well still be hanging out with Soda or out on a date with Evie.

Raising a tentative hand, she knocked a little louder and let loose a sigh when his bedroom light flicked on. She braced herself as he flicked the curtains back and lifted the window quickly when he saw her standing there.

"Ellie?" he asked. "Christ, are you okay?"

"Yeah, can I come in?" she asked, resting her hands on the window sill.

Pushing the window up further, he helped her through the window and into his bedroom. Once inside, she stood awkwardly, waiting for him to start in on her.

He sat on the edge of his bed, looking her over and asked, "What the hell happened to you?"

Leaning against the wall, she eased herself down the floor and rested her head against the wall beneath the window sill.

"Listen, Steve," she said, closing her eyes. "I don't need another lecture right now."

She opened her eyes when she heard the bed squeak and felt Steve sit down beside her. "What happened?" He gestured to her nose. "That ain't from Jimmy, is it?"

She tried to smile, but it hurt her nose and made her eyes water. He remembered the last guy who took his anger out on her. It had been a long time ago, and though it was worse for her mother, it had been hard enough on her, Steve remembered. "I'm sure he wanted to when the cops dropped me off."

"You kiddin' me? What happened that the cops had to bring you home?"

"Dally picked me up from work tonight and-"

"Did that asshole do that to you?" Steve demanded, standing up suddenly and looking as though he was ready to rip Dally's head off, no questions asked.

"Cool it, Steve," Ellie said, grabbing his arm to keep him seated. "Dally picked me up from work and we ran into a few socs. They thought it'd be a good idea to gang up on him, and I guess I just got a little too close."

"Yeah, I'd say you got a little too close. Wha'd you do? Jump into it?"

She just looked at him with a wary expression.

"You jumped into the middle of it? Shit, El, you ain't bigger'n a minute, and you're jumpin' in the middle of a fight with Dally and a bunch of football players?"

"They all ganged up on Dal. What was I supposed to do?" she asked. "I ain't seen him lose a fight like that and I wasn't about to let him go down and have them decide to gang up on me once they finished with him."

"Shit," he sighed, surveying the damage. "Who were they? Was it Holden?"

Ellie nodded slowly. "Him and a couple other guys. The guys from the cafeteria the other day."

Steve nodded. "What about Dally? How's he?"

"They arrested him, and then thought it'd be a great idea to bring me home and walk me to my door."

"Yeah, they're some swell guys, ain't they?" he said sarcastically as he rose to his feet. "I'm gonna see if we got any ice. Might help with the swelling some."

"Thanks, Steve," she said softly as he stepped out into the hallway.

A couple of minutes later he came back into the room and Ellie tossed the old car magazine she was blindly flipping through back to its place on the floor. She furrowed her brow when he offered her a bottle of Pepsi.

"What? No ice?" she sassed good-naturedly.

"No. My old man musta used it all. That'll work 'bout the same. It's cold enough," he said.

She pressed it against her face gently and gave him a crooked smile.

"Thanks, Stevie," she said.

"No problem, kid," he replied, tossing his pillow off the bed at her feet. "You can use my pillow. You do want to stay, don't you?"

She nodded and situated her makeshift bed on the floor beside his bed and stretched out, still holding the cold Pepsi bottle against her nose. Things were quiet for a few minutes after Steve shut the lights out and flopped down across his bed.

"They fightin' over this?" he asked about her parents.

"Probably. I didn't want to stick around to hear what all Jimmy was gonna tell my mom," she said quietly. "He'll make up some bullshit story and she'll probably believe it."

"Yeah, well, most of 'em ain't good for nothing," he said, low and bitter. "Guess most of us know that, though."

"Guess so," she affirmed. "You sure you don't mind if I stay here tonight, Steve?"

He turned on his side and looked over the edge of the bed at her. "You know I don't care. You haven't stayed over in a while. How come you didn't walk over to Pony and Soda's?"

She squirmed under the blanket, hating to admit just how scared all of this was making her. "They came all the way over to Front Street to find us."

"You think they were looking for you?"

Ellie shrugged up at him, unsure if they were looking for her, for Dally or for both of them. "I think it woulda been an awfully big coincidence if that weren't the case. Especially after what Dally pulled, comin' into the school and everything."

Steve was silent for a moment before he said, "Ellie, you just gotta tell us and you know we'll have it out with them. Just say the word, kiddo."

"I know," she said quietly, staring up at the dark ceiling, feeling her eyes misting and thanking all that was holy that it was dark. "But I don't wanna have to visit all of you in jail."

I'm holding out for a hero
'Til the end of the night.
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