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Keeping Pets

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"What the fuck?" Dally asked, as the kitten padded forward a few steps.

The kitten. In his room.

"What the fuck?" he asked Johnny again – tone harsh this time, rather than bewildered.

Johnny flinched away from Dally's tone. Johnny flinched from raised voices, even when they weren't aimed at him.

"I couldn't leave him out there, man," Johnny said, earnestly. "He was freezin', Dally, an' wet. Yellin' real loud."

The kitten made a pathetic little yowl, tottering forward another few, uncertain steps. 'Real loud' seemed pretty fuckin' unlikely for the half-drowned little thing – all bones under loose, straggly, light brown fur. It blinked up with big eyes that probably couldn't see more than a few inches in front of its nose at that age.

Its eyes weren't the same color as Johnny's – greeny-grey to Johnny's almost black – but they had exactly the same look in them. Trust Johnny to find the only fuckin' thing in the entire fuckin' state just a little bit more helpless than him.

"What the fuck are you gonna do with a kitten, Johnny?" You can't even look after yourself. "Your folks'd kill ya."

Johnny looked shifty – not meeting Dally's eyes and shuffling his feet – and no one had ever accused Dally of bein' real smart, but wasn't fuckin' stupid.

"You can't fucking leave it here, man! Jesus, Johnny, you crazy?"

"Why not?" Johnny was givin' him the big eyes, half-fearful, half-defiant in that way that made Dally fuckin' crazy. Want to shake him and tell him to toughen up kid, Christ. "You don't got no folks, Dally. I'd feed him and everything, and cats don't need much lookin' after, not like dogs."

Like a room like Dally's was any place for a pet, even if 'no pets' wasn't one of the only rules the asshole Dally rented the room from really insisted on, along with no dead bodies. That was about it, really.

"Don't be so fuckin' stupid," Dally said, harshly. "I can't keep a pet an' neither can you."

Johnny hunched in on himself and nodded. He picked the kitten up and cuddled it gently against his chest. It allowed it – not purring, but not struggling either.

"Right," Johnny said, softly. "It was stupid."


"Look, Johnny," he said, "you don't gotta kick it out on the street, or nothin'. You can take it to the Curtis's. They'll look after it."

They would, though fuck knew they couldn't really use another mouth to feed, even a tiny one. Dally was havin' trouble saying no to Johnny with a boatload of good reasons, though, and Darry was gonna have no fuckin' hope with Johnny plus Ponyboy and probably Soda as well.

Darry was maybe the toughest of the gang, next to Dally. Dally knew there was nothin' Darry wouldn't do for Soda and Pony, and mostly Dally thought of that as being no one he wouldn't kill if they threatened them, but he was pretty sure that also extended to not bein' able to deny them a half-drowned, half-starved kitten, too.

Johnny nodded, without looking up.

"Right," he said again, softly. "Sure. Pony'll like that."

Johnny rubbed his face against the kitten's fur, looking just as sad and neglected as the fuckin' kitten.

And that was the thing, wasn't it? That a kitten at the Curtis's wouldn't really be Johnny's. Pony wouldn't mean for it to be that way, but it would be, and Johnny wanted something that was his.

Johnny was doomed to be the baby forever – Dally wanted to fuckin' look out for him, ferchissakes, and Dally hadn't cared for anyone for as long as he could remember – and maybe he was sick of that, and wanted something to look after, to rely on him instead.

Dally shouldn't really be in the Curtis's gang. If you could even fuckin' call it a real gang. Dally had come to town, met Soda and Steve, seen their hair and their clothes and heard them speak, and figured them for a greaser gang and hung with them.

Later, he'd met Darry, and the others, and he'd met Pony and Johnny and he'd realized they weren't really a fuckin' gang at all – they were makeshift family for lost souls who wanted one.

And maybe Dally was a lost soul, but he didn't really wanna be found.

As soon as he'd met Johnny he oughta have gotten out of there – drifted downtown and joined Tim Shepard's gang. Any gang that had Johnny Cade in it was never gonna be a real tough gang. Never gonna be Dally's type of gang

But Dally had stayed.

It weren't like he'd really thought about it, or nothin', he'd just… stayed. He'd stayed when Johnny had got all beat up, too. Dally had stayed with him when he'd needed someone in the room to sleep that night – although fuck knows Dally'd been no use at the soothing, soft talk Soda had come up with to calm Johnny down – Dally's blood had been boiling behind his eyes with the need to lash out at someone, and he'd been too busy bitin' his tongue to keep that someone from bein' Johnny to say anything at all.

But he'd stayed with Johnny – let Johnny sleep in his bed while he'd stayed on the floor, smokin' – 'cos Johnny had asked him too, and Johnny didn't hardly ever ask for nothin'.

Dally'd kinda wanted to go out, leave Johnny sleeping and get a heater and find that blue mustang, but Johnny had been too afraid to be left sleeping on his own – or waking up on his own.

Dally had let Johnny stay the coupla nights after, too.

Johnny hadn't seemed to care that Dally had been no fuckin' use except for havin' a bed no Soc'd be in, and he now seemed to think that any goddam kitten livin' at Dally's would be his, in a way it wouldn't if it was at the Curtis's.

Dally stuffed his fists into his pockets.

"May as well stay here tonight, though, Johnnycakes," he said. "We'll take the stupid thing over to the Curtis's tomorrow."

He pulled some blankets out from under the bed and threw them, and a pillow, over to Johnny.

He might be a sucker, but no one got to sleep in Dallas Winston's bed unless they were puttin' out or bleedin' over it. And that last one was probably only Johnny.

Johnny smiled and got into the blankets, keeping the kitten snuggled up with him. The bruises from his run in with the Socs were still there on his cheek and his mouth was still a little swollen and pink with new, thin skin, and his lip split a little still when he smiled.

Dally scrubbed a hand through his hair as he got into bed and thought maybe they'd go down to the rodeo after the Curtis's and Johnny could help him scrub down some of the horses.

The kitten began to purr.