Title: Breaking The Cycle.
Beta: ctoan, Just want to say that Ctoan did a fab job with cleaning this up. So a lot of this chapter is hers!
Disclaimer: I don't own The OC.
Breaking The Cycle
"Mr Atwood…I'm sorry…"
Missy watched Ryan as he froze. He'd just lived through the cops arriving at his door, saying the same words about her the day before; hearing those words again, about the little boy he loved so much, must have been devastating for him. (or something like that)
The wailing woman on the chair interrupted, her voice high pitched and whiny. "It wasn't our fault! One minute he was in his room and the next he was gone," she howled.
The policewoman looked at her with thinly veiled distaste. "Please, Mrs. Fischer." The policewoman said clearly exasperated. "Can I speak to Mr. Atwood and …sorry I didn't catch your name?"
"Melissa Simpson," Missy answered.
"I want to speak to Mr. Atwood and Ms. Simpson alone if you don't mind. Could you both kindly wait outside please?"
Missy watched the two women leave and shut the door reluctantly behind them.
"Where's Danny?" The words were out of Ryan's mouth before the door had clicked shut.
"Let's start this again, shall we? I'm Officer Sanchez. As far as we can tell, Danny has run away. There was an incident shortly before the last time anyone saw him…several of the older boys – for lack of a better phrase –'ganged up' on him and a fight broke out. They were all reprimanded and sent to their rooms to await punishment." She paused, and shook her head and looked at her notebook. "It (there was an extra space here before It) was approximately an hour later when Mrs. Fischer went to check on Danny that she found his room empty."
"What!" Ryan burst out. "What sort of a place is this? Firstly, out of sheer incompetence, they let some kids tell him that his mother has died. They then let him be bullied – probably by the same kids – and then they sent him to his room to be punished? What the fuck is going on? What kind of assholes do they have running this place?"
"Ryan," Missy warned. Ryan in a pissed mood was usually a bad combination around the police. Luckily, Officer Sanchez seemed to agree with his sentiments. She raised her eyebrow and pursed her lips in what Missy could only assume was a look of solidarity as to the statement that the staff in the place were indeed assholes.
"We are taking this extremely seriously. We have patrol cars out looking for him at the moment. We're concerned for him; the poor kid is in a vulnerable state and shouldn't be wandering by himself in a neighbourhood he doesn't know. That leads me to my next question; do you have any idea where he'd be going? Anyone he'd turn to?"
"A few months ago I'd have said me, but…" Ryan trailed off.
Missy knew how much it had hurt Ryan when Becky had turned him away. He'd confided in her that he'd been worried that Becky would try to turn Danny against him.
Ryan shook his head and started talking again, but he was really just thinking out loud. "Even if he wanted to find me in Newport, he couldn't get on a bus by himself, could he?" He refocused his attention on the police officer. "I know he's gone on playdates with kids from school, but other than that…"
"There's the refuge." Missy suggested. "He lived there for a while, but if he'd turned up then Sarah would have called me."
"We'll check it out." Officer Sanchez made a note to contact his teachers at school and to send a car to the refuge. She asked for the address.
Missy kept her eye on Ryan. She knew he wouldn't let this go until Danny was found and his brain was working overtime, trying to think of places Danny could have gone.
"Have you checked his old house? He was happy there and he knows the area around there better."
"Good thinking. We'll get a car over there." The officer got her radio out and started to make requests to her colleagues.
(you were missing a carriage return here)
Ryan turned to Missy and took her hands in his.
"Can I ask you something? Can you go back to the refuge, in case he shows up there?"
"What are you going to do?" Missy asked, knowing the answer before he said it.
"I'm going to go look for him. We used to go to the park near his old house and there are several stores that he liked going to…maybe he just needed to be somewhere familiar and he's gone there."
Missy nodded. (I pulled this up) "I'll call Sandy for you, tell him what's going on?" She knew that Ryan would not risk calling himself in case he got instructions to go straight home.
"Thanks." Ryan gave her a small grateful smile.
They left their details with the police before going outside where she could catch a cab. As they were waiting for her cab to show up, she caught him giving the home a malevolent stare. She knew that if anything happened to Danny whilst he was out on the streets, he would come back here and personally raise merry hell. She knew he had once been a quiet, shy kid all alone on the streets of Chino.
Ryan had been driving all night, looking for Danny any place he could think of. He knew all too well what could happen to a quiet, shy kid all alone on the streets of Chino. At 3am, his phone rang for what was probably the twentieth time. He glanced at the screen and saw his home number. He'd taken calls from Missy, the police, and Becky's mother but had ignored all calls from home. This time he decided to answer.
Sandy's voice spoke softly but firmly in his ear telling him in no uncertain terms to come home.
"I'm ten minutes away…"
Sandy gave a sigh of his own the other end of the line.
"I'll put the coffee on."
"I couldn't find him." Ryan hated the sound of defeat and fatigue he heard in his own voice.
"I know kid, the police are still out there looking. They'll find him I know they will. He'll be fine."
Ryan couldn't muster up enough energy to answer the lie he heard in Sandy's voice. He shut his cell and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. He'd been everywhere he'd ever taken Danny and some places that he just tried whilst clutching at straws - like all the churches in the area, and all the public libraries and malls. He'd driven around the streets for hours, looking for the sight of the small blond boy.
He didn't want to give up but he was so tired, the previous days worry over Missy and now this had finally sapped all his reserves. It had taken one inadvertent game of chicken with a truck to bring him to his senses to call it a day. It was only the adrenalin still running through his body after that event that was keeping him awake for the drive home, that and the thought that he had almost ended up in the morgue like Becky- and the knowledge that he was probably only still alive by the virtue of the excellent reflexes of the other driver as his were clearly shot to fuck.
Ryan parked the car and shut off the engine. He rested his head on the back of the seat, he shut his eyes briefly and thought of a young kid out on his own for the past fourteen hours, a kid who was devastated at the loss of his mother and a kid who probably thought he had no-one to turn to.
"Okay, does this ten minutes seem like it's been almost an hour?" Seth was sitting curled up on the sofa in the den with his hair stuck up on end and his pyjamas creased. He had tried to go to sleep earlier and managed a full and not so refreshing ninety minutes before he'd woken up and padded down to find that Ryan was still missing in action.
Sandy looked at his watch again. Okay so Ryan's ten minutes had now stretched to forty-five and even allowing for a slight discrepancy in Ryan's estimation that was way too long to wait. His phone was going straight to voice mail and everyone was now getting twitchy.
"Look we're not achieving anything us all waiting up for him, why don't you both go back to bed and I'll wait up." Sandy rested his hand on Seth's shoulder and squeezed. He saw Kirsten about to argue but then she looked at Seth and realised that if she did then there was no way that Seth would go up on his own without a fight.
"Come on Seth."
Kirsten watched as Seth got up and although he reluctantly made for the stairs he didn't argue. She was surprised that he didn't make a fuss; he had really grown up the past few months. Kirsten turned as she heard his door close; she was just about to make her way rather sneakily back into the den when something caught her eye outside. She looked through the glass of the door and saw the shadowy outline of her SUV, the car that Ryan had been driving.
Kirsten gently opened the car door and watched Ryan as he breathed deeply obviously sound asleep. She jumped as she felt an arm around her shoulders.
"I guess he was too tired to make it into the house. It's been a rough 48 hours for him." Sandy voiced the relief she felt at seeing him home safe and sound.
Kirsten reached forward and gently shook Ryan's shoulder; he gave a groan and slowly opened his eyes.
"Hey." Kirsten smiled.
"I fell asleep?" Ryan questioned as he rubbed at his eyes.
"Snoring like a pig." Sandy confirmed.
"Any news?" Ryan yawned, unbuckled, got out the car and stretched.
"Sorry kid." Sandy shook his head. "What do you say to crawling into bed for a few hours then continuing with the search in the morning. I'll join you?"
"Yeah, that would be great."
They both shepherded him through the house and out to the pool house.
And with that he shut the door. Kirsten had to stop her mom instinct when she saw him lie down on the bed fully clothed through the glass and just pull the covers around him. Now was not the time to tell him to get undressed for bed and by the looks of him he'd just gone straight back to sleep anyway.
They both crept away and made their way to their room.
"That Ryan home? He okay?" They heard Seth call down the stairs.
"Yes Seth." Sandy called back.
"Good…night then." Seth mumbled.
"Night son." Sandy shut the door and started to undress as Kirsten made for the bathroom. Sleep could come for all of them now. The house had its full contingent of people.
Ryan awoke in a tangle, the sheets wrapped tightly around his boots. The pool house was bathed in the dim light of the beginnings of the dawn. Something nagged at Ryan, a fractured picture in a dream that he couldn't quite capture but he knew that it was important.
He kicked the sheets off and sat up. His mouth had the gummy quality of having gone to bed without cleaning his teeth and he thought that he might feel better after a shower and a quick freshen up. He made his way to the bathroom and grabbed his toothbrush started to clean his teeth, he reached over and turned on the shower. As he brushed he stared into the mirror trying to conjure up what was nagging his subconscious. He spat the white minty foam from his mouth and rinsed, pissed at himself when he couldn't grasp what he'd dreamed about. He wasn't even sure it was important to remember but something was nagging in his brain.
Ryan went and got some clean clothes from his laundry and took a moment to gaze out the window at the sun coming up. A blinding eureka flashed in his head as he looked out at the surrounding vista.
He rushed through the house, grabbing the car keys as he went.
He knew where Danny was.
The door slammed behind him, waking the household. All Sandy found when he went to investigate was an empty hot running shower and a spare parking spot.
Ryan drove at a pace, glad that at this time of the morning there was not much traffic on the road. The drive to Chino usually took just over an hour – he made it in forty.
The house in front of him was still. He parked and made his way out back. He looked at his handiwork and knew he was right, he could just sense it, that and the fact that the rope had been pulled up. Ryan grabbed at a branch and used his arms to haul himself upwards, thank god for his weights; he'd never been good at climbing trees so he relied on strength.
Ryan collapsed in a heap on the rough wooden floor and rolled to his knees. He looked over at the corner of the hut and smiled.
"Soldier, you really scared the shit outta us!"
A blur of smallness flew at him and hugged.
"You're not supposed to swear in front of me." Danny half laughed, half sobbed.
Ryan hugged back, feeling the same level of relief flood his body as he had when Missy had walked through the door those many hours ago.
"Mom died Ryan…I didn't know where to go." Danny's simple statement broke Ryan's heart.
"I know kid, I know." He didn't know what else to say. 'It will be all right' was so far off the mark and he hated when people said shit like that at a time like this. So he let Danny cry, soaking his shirt as he did so with snot and tears and just rubbed at his back.
"I knew you'd come here." Danny pulled away eventually and looked at him with red-rimmed eyes.
He wished that he'd made the connection earlier. Danny must have sat waiting in the tree house for hours for him, safe with the all consuming faith that children had that Ryan would not let him down. Ryan kicked himself that it had taken him so long to think of this place. Of course Danny wouldn't have felt confident enough to knock at the door of the refuge – the one place that he knew well and of course he'd make his way to the one place that seemed safe to a child. The police had come and checked the house but there was no reason for them to conduct a search of the yard. He'd only made the connection through a broken fragment of a dream and the image of the tree outside the pool house. If he'd slept for longer and other things had filtered into his brain then god knows how long Danny would have sat up here waiting.
"I don't wanna go back to that place. I want to live with you…they're mean there." Danny started to cry again.
"Hey, you don't have to go back there I promise. Your Grandma is here to take you to home to live with her. You love it there don't you?"
Ryan knew that the boy and his grandma had a close relationship. He was always full of 'grandma did that' and 'grandma did this' stories after they had been on visits. And part of the reason Becky had moved back to Chino after they'd made the move out to Wisconsin was that Becky was jealous of the easy relationship between her mother and her son.
Danny hiccupped and nodded.
"Really? I don't have to go back to that place. Jimmy Nash and Pablo Rodriguez are real nasty to me."
Danny lowered his voice and his lip quivered as he whispered the next sentence.
"They told me that mom killed herself to get away from me. That I was a whiny little brat and that's why she did it."
Danny's big blue eyes bored into Ryan's, as he seemed to ask for confirmation that this was true.
"NO! No Danny, that's not true. Your mom had an accident in her car."
Ryan could see the confusion in his eyes as he tried to grasp this new piece of information.
"I wouldn't lie to you Danny. It was an accident. She loved you and missed you so much."
"But why did she send me away?" His voice pleaded for answers.
Ryan shut his eyes and tried to think of a way to explain the situation to a kid. Ryan knew how he'd felt at being put into care all those years ago; it was only as an adult that he'd truly understood why. But as a kid no matter what anyone said he'd just felt abandoned by his mom.
"She didn't send you away Danny. She wanted you back home with her so much. Sometimes grown ups think they are doing things to help but they don't always get things right. The people that took you away thought that your mom needed a …"
Ryan grasped for the right words now so he didn't confuse the hell out of the boy more.
"…They thought your mom needed a holiday after all the bad stuff that happened with Mike so they sent you away so she could have a rest. Your mom didn't want you to go but the other grown-ups thought they knew best. Do you understand?"
Danny paused then finally nodded.
"Your mom loved you very much and she would have never left you there. Uncle Sandy and your mom argued with those people and they won. You were going to go home but then your mom had the stupid accident. I'm sorry Danny…so sorry."
Danny started to cry again. Ryan hugged him against his chest once more.
"Just think of this that your mom was so happy because she knew you were going home."
Ryan held Danny's head in his hands and made him look into his face.
"She was so happy before she died. Always remember that Danny. When ever you feel sad or lonely…remember that your mom was so happy because she was going to see you again." Ryan said slowly so the words would sink in. Danny buried his head again into Ryan chest and Ryan could feel his breathing even out as his chest stopped heaving. He could feel the boy's body start to relax into him as tiredness overtook him.
"She was happy Danny." Ryan whispered into his hair.
Ryan shut his eyes and hugged. He hoped that Danny would always see Becky smiling as he thought of her. He certainly never wanted Danny to picture her as he did… sad, lonely and bitter – drunk behind a wheel of a car, probably dying in the search for more drink to stave off having to face reality for a few hours more.
It was strange to think of Becky like that, she hadn't always been that way, when he'd spent time with her he'd seen flashes of the carefree girl she'd once been but circumstances made her change. It made him understand Dawn more now; it was the choices she'd made in her life that had dragged her down. She wasn't a bad person; she just didn't have the strength to fight her way to a better life. As horrible as it seemed maybe Becky dying had freed Danny from the path that Ryan's childhood had taken. He'd go and live with his grandma in a stabling environment; he'd have a chance to grow up away from the hurt and drama that would have surely followed Becky around as it had his mother. That cycle would now be broken for Danny.
Ryan let Danny drift off to sleep completely before he fished his phone out of his pocket.
His first call was to Officer Sanchez.
His was to second to Sandy. Ryan knew that his calm voice belied the real ass chewing he'd get when he returned home.
And his third was to Missy who flew out of the house and was with him before he could finish what he was saying. She hauled her way into the tree house pretty much in the same way as he'd done.
"If I climb down can you hand him to me and we can get him into a proper bed, he must be exhausted and he's freezing from being out here all night."
He smiled at her.
"He's going to be okay."
Two months later
Danny had settled well in Wisconsin. He loved his grandma, he loved his new school, and he had made lots of new friends - he even had a girlfriend. Ryan had laughed at this as Mrs Roberts told him all about it on the phone one evening. Ryan had called to put the finishing touches to his and Missy's travel arraignments. Ryan had grown close to Becky's mom in the past few months. They had both worked as a tag team to help Danny get through the loss of his mother and it finally seemed like the hurt was dissipating for him. She was good for Danny, strict but fair and that was what he needed.
Ryan pulled up outside the refuge and waited for Missy to come out. If he went inside, they'd never get away and it was a long road trip across country. He was looking forward to seeing Danny again.
Missy came out pulling a little case on wheels. Ryan got out the car and heaved it into the trunk.
"What have you got in here…bricks?" he joked.
Missy didn't laugh.
He thought that the idea of two weeks away from work on a road trip with many motel stops on the way would make her at least the tiniest bit happy.
"Hey, you okay?"
She turned to him and frowned. "No…I'm late."
Ryan looked at his watch. "I said I'd be here at eight and it's two minutes to, so I'd say you were right on time."
Missy rolled her eyes. "No Ryan…I'm late."
"Huh?" Ryan furrowed his brow. Missy almost screamed as she saw the cogs whirring slowly in his brain.
"A week late to be precise."
Missy saw the last cog slide into place.
"What…but…what…how?" Ryan spluttered.
Missy sighed but had to smile at the sight of her boyfriend staring at her like a guppy.
"How? Well, Ryan, let me begin … you remember a few weeks ago you got that glint in your eye? We'd both just gotten over that vomiting bug and you said 'to hell with using a condom' even though I asked…."