“You’ve been staring off into space all night, spill it,” Steph demanded.
“It’s been dead in here all night, what else do you expect me to do?” Jax grumbled.
“Well, seeing as how you already cleaned and reorganized your station twice, I guess, anything is better than watching your OCD kick in.”
“I do not have OCD.”
“About some things, yeah Jax, you do,” she laughed as she crossed the room to the mini fridge. “But don’t worry, I love you anyway. Juice?”
“As long as it isn’t one of those pretend juices that are really only about 10% juice and 90% sugar.”
“See, obsessed,” she remarked, pulling out too. “And no, it isn’t, I made sure to get 100% juice this time so as to not upset your delicate sensibilities.”
“Thanks, sis,” he replied, accepting the bottle and drinking it down gratefully. When he was done, he rinsed the bottle and put it in their recycling contained before dropping back into his chair. Silence stretched between them for several minutes as she unwrapped the other half of her sandwich and finished it, then tidied up their little break area.
“You’re not that little fat boy anymore,” she said after sitting in the chair beside him.
“What I meant is that you’re not eating your feelings anymore, you’ve grown out of that. You don’t need to count calories in everything you eat.”
“I wouldn’t say I’ve grown out of it,” Jax grumbled. “I just don’t waste my time on people who make me feel like shit or piss me off anymore.”
“I know, I’m just saying that it’s okay to relax a little, enjoy a dessert sometimes, or juice that isn’t one hundred percent juice.”
“Nothing wrong with being healthy, sis.”
“I’m not saying there is and I’m proud of you for all the weight you lost. You look amazing.”
“Thanks to all the hours in the gym and all the time I spent running.”
“I remember when you first started running around the block, you’d come in so red in the face, gasping and wheezing, that I was scared you were gonna have a heart attack or pass out.”
“It scared me too,” Jax admitted. “I think the thing that scared me most was that I hadn’t realized that I was too fat to be able to run anymore. I mean what kid doesn’t think they can run? I knew I’d gained a lot of weight, mom was always getting on my case about having to replace clothes before they’d gotten worn out, but it didn’t dawn on me that I wouldn’t be able to run.”
“And look how far you’ve come.”
“I know and I never wanna go back to that. Do you know how hard it was to get all that weight off?”
“I know it took years.” She replied. “I know there were times when you’d get upset and you’d start binge eating again and then you’d get mad at yourself and start starving yourself and spend all of your free time working out again and that scared me too because that wasn’t any healthier than going on a binge.”
“Yeah, I know and I don’t do that anymore. I make sure I eat, I’m just smart about it and when I get upset about shit I hit the gym or go hiking.”
“My point exactly,” she said, as she reached over and took one of his hands. “You’ve learned what triggers you and you’ve learned what to do to avoid falling into bad habits, so why don’t you let yourself enjoy things when you want them.”
“Who says I want them?”
“I do, especially when I find a fingerprint in my lemon meringue pie, you could have just taken a small slice you know.”
“I just wanted a taste.”
“So cut a small slice and enjoy a taste, it isn’t that big of a deal, you don’t have to hide it if you want something sweet.”
He ducked his head.
“Yeah, I know.”
“But you’re still ashamed about it.”
“I just remember raiding mom’s fridge or sneaking down to the kitchen to get into the leftovers and snacks in the middle of the night.”
“Well, you’re an adult now, you don’t have to sneak food, or hide when you eat something.”
“I’m working on it, okay, along with some other stuff.”
He shook his head, and Steph inched closer and brushed her brother’s hair back, got him to look up at her, and even give her a sad little smile.
“What’s wrong?” she asked gently.
“Danny kissed me the other night and ever since, I’ve been avoiding the hell outta him.”
“Because I don’t want to want…” Jax made a gesture with his hands, as words failed him.
“What, him?” You don’t want to want him? Why not, he seems like a great guy.”
“He is, he’s awesome, and it’s not so much that I don’t wanna want him, I’d love to have him in my bed, I just, I don’t want the rest of it, and we live too close to each other for anything casual to really work.”
Steph took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.
“Maybe it’s time you try actually connecting with someone again. It’s obvious you like him and it was pretty clear to me the other night that he was worried about you. He also doesn’t strike me as the type to cheat on someone, unlike Jason. I know you were really in to him, but he was an asshole and he didn’t deserve you.”
“If you listen to him tell it, I was the one who didn’t deserve him,” Jax grumbled bitterly. “Besides, no one wants a fat boyfriend.”
“You weren’t fat,” She said firmly. “You weren’t cut like you are now and yeah, you still had some extra weight on you but you weren’t fat and no one deserves to be cheated on.”
“I know that.”
“Then act like it!” she snapped. “Instead of putting yourself down and trying to justify that you somehow deserved it because you weren’t in perfect physical shape. He cheated because he was an asshole who didn’t have a loyal bone in his body, period, end of story. You can’t let it stop you from ever trying to have another relationship.”
“I just think a relationship complicates things,” Jax said.
“And I just I think it’s time you let shit go,” she said firmly. “If that’s a problem for you right now, then maybe you need to talk to someone again because clearly, you are not handling the past very well.”
“Do not tell me you’re handling things just fine,” she snapped, cutting him off. “Moving here was supposed to be a new start for you. How’s that going to work if you keep hanging on to every little issue. Newsflash, Jax, mom has moved on with her life, she doesn’t let assholes and bullies take advantage of her anymore or hurt her. I’ve moved on with my life, despite losing the man I’ve loved, I’ve managed to turn our dream into something real. Callum and Max are moving on with their lives, despite all the crap they went through with Kurt and the lawsuit, but you, you just insist on hanging on to everything that has ever hurt you and using it as an excuse to not even bother to TRY! You have so much potential, little brother, and you’re wasting it. You’re wasting a chance to be happy and that is a shame.”
“No, don’t sis me right now, I’m so disappointed in you I can’t even speak. Just, go home, and hide from Danny some more, Jax, since that seems to be the only thing you’re willing to work at.”
Clamping his jaw just, Jax grabbed his jacket and stalked out the door, the bells jangling angrily behind him.