Author Note: The last chapter was supposed to be the last in my mind. Yet for some reason it didn't want to end where and how I wanted. It's either a very good or a very bad sign when the characters start thinking for themselves...
It kept bugging at me. I don't know why but it did.
Almost a week had gone past and the Curtis' had finally released me from their 'prison', allowing me to venture outside and actually return to my own home. Not that it mattered. I don't think my dad even realised I was gone.
Anyway, like I were saying, it had been a week. A week since Darry had uttered those words, words that only I seemed to find strange. Soda didn't even bat an eyelid.
"You're welcome, little bro."
Why? Why did he say that? Little bro. I'd have understood 'little buddy'. But bro?
Funny how a few words can get right under your skin, ain't it?
I slipped through the back door, quietly checking the house and finding it empty. Empty of everyone except the exact person I wanted to talk to. I walked into the living room and stood in front of his chair, staring at him. It was a few moments before Darry looked up, surprised at the expression on my face.
"Something wrong, Steve?" he asked.
"Did...did I say anything...stupid...while I was ill?"
He blinked, honestly confused.
"Did I maybe...say something I shouldn't have? Something...something I would probably have preferred you not to know?"
He gazed back at me for a few seconds, then I saw something click inside his head, understanding and realisation dawning in his eyes though he quickly tried to hide it.
"I dunno what you mean, Steve – "
"Shit, I did, didn't I? I told you! God damn it, I told you!"
I turned on my heel and was just about to go running for the door when a firm hand clamped around my wrist and Darry pulled me down to sit on the arm of his chair. I gazed hard at the wall, not meeting his eyes, strickened that my secret wasn't apparently so safe.
"It's okay, Steve," he told me soothingly.
Like hell it was.
"It's okay, Steve," I told him.
He was shifting agitatedly, avoiding my gaze, and I kept my grip on him just in case he made sudden break for it. Didn't seem too unlikely he would.
I sighed softly to myself, studying his face intently. How the hell was I supposed to console a kid who was obviously so embarrassed by the fact he had spilled to me his secret longing for a family that cared? How the heck was I supposed to convince him that he in fact had that family already, if he could just open his eyes and see it? If he could only look past his drunken dad, the broken home, the menial job with occasional cocky Soc customers, past all that to the friends who fought by him, who fed him, loved him, and who had to deal with Two-Bit annoying whinging 'cos I made him spend his cigarette money on OJ.
"Listen, Steve, it's okay."
"I can't believe I told you."
"Come, kiddo, does it really matter?"
"Yes!" he replied, frustrated, running his hand through his hair. "Because now you know what a pathetic, insecure little wimp I am."
"Quit that!" I admonished sternly. "What makes you think I think that?"
"Well, don't ya? Don't ya think it's just a little pathetic that Steve Randle is jealous? Jealous of Soda, not for his looks or his way with girls or his expertise on cars. But because he has the one thing I'll never get. A big brother like you."
I simply stared at him as he glared at me with teary eyes. He'd completely knocked me speechless. There was nothing I could think of to say to that, no words...
I stood up quickly, pulled him to his feet and wrapped my arms around him in a tight hug. The move shocked him so much he froze for a few moments then he struggled weakly against me, a half-assed attempt like he thought he'd oughta but didn't really want to.
"It is stupid, really, isn't it, Darry?" he asked me in quivering voice once he'd stopped fighting. "To hope for something that you'll never have."
"To be honest, buddy? I think what you've said is...well, yeah, stupid. And a little bit sad."
He started seriously trying to get away from me at that point so I tightened my hold on him to keep him still. He made have started this conversation but I was gonna finish it.
"You just don't see it, do you, Steve?"
"Take last week for example. Do ya honestly think I'd take in any ol' sick kid in from the street and patch 'em up?"
"And take the Shepard boys. Sure, they're good in a rumble but do I give them lifts to work or pick them up from school?"
"I really don't know where you're going with this, Dar."
"Take big step back and look at it, Steve. Who do you go to when ya need to vent? Soda. Why? 'Cos he's ya friend, yeah, ya best friend but is that all it is? Where's the place you most often eat breakfast? Well, I dunno really where ya are the rest of the time but I sure know ya spend a few mornings a week here. If ya want a night out anywhere doing anything, who's always up to go with you? Two-Bit. And then when he's lost all his money in a game of poker who's he gonna take with him to help him sneak in the Dingo? Ah ha, you. Ya seeing what I'm saying here, kid?"
He opened his mouth then closed it again, yet I could see the wheels turning in his head. I moved my hands to his shoulders and made him look at me.
"Bottom line, Steve. What do I do for Soda and Pony that I wouldn't do for you and Two-Bit? What would Soda do for Ponyboy that he wouldn't do for you? Ya don't need to be jealous of Soda 'cos he's got a brother, Steve. Ya got four of ya own right here."
He continued gazing at me for a moment, then suddenly let out a small smile, much to my relief.
"I never saw it all like that," he admitted, abashed, ducking his head. Then he glanced up at me. "Thanks, Dar."
"You're welcome, little bro."
That made him smile again then he looked away, biting his lip, before turning back to me with that old familiar smirk.
"Oh, and just for the record? I may spend most of my mornings here but, seriously, you Curtis boys have some weird eating habits. I don't think ya've ever served up a proper breakfast."
I made a 'pfft' noise and turned in the direction of the kitchen.
"I don't care what ya say, Stevo," I called over my shoulder. "Chocolate cake totally counts."
That's all folks!
Like I said earlier Chapter 3 was supposed to be it. Darry was supposed to say 'You're welcome, little buddy' at the end and that would be that. But somehow 'little buddy' didn't feel right, it didn't flow like I expected. So yeah, he called him 'little bro' and then Steve hijacked my keyboard because he desperately wanted to know why. They both may have been slightly OOC in this chapter but my opinion neither featured enough in the book and therefore we never got to see the 'real them' underneath the tough greaser act. Just glimpses, such as Steve's reaction after Dally got shot and Darry's tears when him and Soda go to get Pony from the hospital after the fire.
Anyhoo, I'll shut up now. Thanks for reading!