Title: Fathers Rating: PG 13 for the odd swear word.
Beta: None...so all the many, many mistakes are all mine even though I've checked about a million times. My brain has turned to mush I fear.
Disclaimer: I still don't own The OC, Ryan or Benjamin McKenzie.
Sentence: Can't find the original sentence. Opps but the jist was...' Ryan spends Fathers Day with both Frank and Sandy'.
The evening was growing chilly and the clouds gathered ominously in the sky overhead. Berkeley was throwing out one of its unexpected weather fronts.
And it fitted his mood perfectly.
Ryan stopped walking when the stitch in his side nagged him into slowing down. He sat down heavily on the sidewalk and rested his head against the rough wall of the mock Tudor mansion behind him.
He shut his eyes and rubbed at the band of tension that stretched across his forehead giving him a headache. Ryan wished he had some Advil but more than that he craved a large bottle of hard liquor. Vodka, whiskey, bourbon, hell he wasn't fussy, he just wanted the drink to obliterate the past few hours. He didn't often feel the need to get shit-faced but tonight was definitely one of those times when a little anaesthetic was needed. Ryan wondered if the occupants of the house behind him would mind if he knocked on the door and asked to raid their liquor cabinet. He was almost tempted to do just that, the worst they could do was call the police to have the freeloader evicted from their premises and to be honest that would be the perfect end to the perfect day.
Ryan shut his eyes, he thought that the complicated days were long behind him but it seemed that things were forever destined to turn into a big pile of crap when anything became remotely personal for him.
It had all started with an innocent phone call from Kirsten cheerfully booking his time, time away from his books and his studying. Excitedly telling him that Sandy was really looking forward to spending the day with 'his boys', should he be able to tear himself away from his angle poise lamp, a day that was apparently to be spent grilling vast quantities of meat and generally bonding.
He'd been too busy, to be honest, with a paper that was truly kicking his ass. Hadn't focused on what the day signified and blindly agreed to Kirsten's invitation, anything to get her off the phone so he could get back to slamming his head against his desk to try and gain inspiration, he had to compare eighteenth century French Baroque with English Baroque and it had been due in less than twelve hours from the time of 'the phone call'.
After he'd handed his paper in he'd taken time to just kick back. He'd sat in his room drinking beer, eating chips and blissfully watching mindless and unchallenging TV shows. His phone had disturbed him mid-Desperate Housewives. He guiltily pressed mute on the TV as he answered. It was his father asking how he was getting on then he chatted randomly about Julie and the baby. Ryan had a feeling that Frank was working up to something and then it came.
And his father wanted to spend the day with him.
It was the first time that Ryan had heard real emotion in his father's voice, an almost pleading tone underneath the blasé way he'd asked, as if he didn't really expect Ryan to agree.
He hadn't felt like watching TV after that. He didn't really know how to feel. Part of him was elated that he was finally having a 'normal' family moment with his father but another part of him felt strangely flat.
He'd made peace with his father now he was an adult but how did you suddenly become a father and son who spent the whole day together? At best the most time he'd spent with his dad was usually a three-hour stretch spent over dinner where they'd been buffeted by the safety net of other people.
Ryan had gone to bed and worried about it.
It wasn't until the next morning that he remembered the call from Kirsten and the true significance of it.
Two very different men and Ryan knew that each would take it the wrong way if he chose the other.
As if he wasn't getting enough stress from his courses now he had the added pressure of not wanting to disappoint.
He'd started to avoid phone calls, cutting himself off from having to make a decision either way.
Oddly it had been Julie - after witnessing Frank's increasing excitement and listening to a call from Kirsten - who'd realized what a mess Fathers Day was threatening to become for him and had came to his rescue with a seemingly perfect solution. She'd tactfully suggested to all that they might have a joint family day, Frank and her, himself, Sandy, Kirsten and Seth plus the babies.
Or so it had seemed at the time.
But he hadn't accounted for the intense rivalry… after months of gently simmering under the surface…finally boiling over between his father and Sandy.
Ryan squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his thumb and forefinger against the bridge of his nose as he thought about his day from hell.
Sandy and Frank had started antagonising each other from the very moment the doorbell had rung.
Little digs and forceful and cheerfully aimed jibes that to an untrained eye seemed like teasing camaraderie.
Ryan knew it wasn't.
He'd tried his best to keep them apart and at different parts of the garden at all times but they were like magnets destined to be pulled together over their competitiveness and the need to prove who could be the best father to him.
They were engaged in a fucked up game of one-upmanship, each retelling tales of inspiring milestones and happy days that they'd spent with him.
Sandy crowed about soccer matches, faux Bar Mitzvahs and graduation. Frank about first steps and first words.
Even Seth, normally the king of self-absorption, couldn't help but notice the growing tension and relinquishing his hold over the grill to sidle up to him, telling him to calm down as his jaw looked like it was trying to crack imaginary walnuts.
To say he was feeling 'tense' was a major understatement.
Both Julie and Kirsten were also doing their best to lighten the growing black cloud that hovered over the house but the two men were oblivious to anything other than their intense mistrust and dislike of each other.
He'd felt overwhelming and crippling embarrassment having to watch the train wreck play out in front of him, knowing that there was nothing he could do to stop it. He was an adult now so he shouldn't have felt so useless but he'd reverted back to an uncertain kid who didn't quite know how to handle the situation he now found himself in. He didn't want to have to take sides. Sandy had given him so much but Frank i was /i his father.
Things mellowed somewhat as they'd sat down for food, with Julie and Seth thankfully monopolising the conversation but drink had also flowed along with the conversation and in the time it took for the plates to be cleared things took a turn for the worse.
All it took was a smug comment from Sandy and a biting retort from Frank reminding Sandy just i who /i Ryan's real father was to finally ignite the blue touch paper. Everyone could only stand back and wait for the explosion.
He'd been disappointed at Sandy; He'd hoped that his usually dignified foster father would not have risen to the very obvious bait thrown by his father but he had.
He'd become uncharacteristically aggressive as he threw accusation after accusation at Frank. Sandy shouted excruciatingly detailed recriminations of abuse, neglect and prison sentences that could have only have come from official sources. He hadn't even been aware that Sandy had any real knowledge of what had gone on back then.
The looks on the faces of Kirsten, Julie and Seth nauseated him more than reliving his past and it made him want to curl up and die.
He'd yelled at them to both stop it but they were too fuelled by testosterone by then to listen.
By the time the fists started to fly he'd officially had enough.
He'd quietly walked away and that was why he was now sat on a sidewalk with a bastard of a headache and if the looks of pity were anything to go on, the overwhelming feeling that he could never face Seth, Kirsten or Julie ever again.
How dare Sandy bring up his past so publicly. Yeah, there was no denying that Frank would never win a father of the year award. He hadn't been a great dad growing up, drink and Dawn had been the main catalysts but they were all different people now. And Frank was doing the best he could, he controlled his drinking and his temper now…. punching Sandy not included…. he certainly treated Julie and his new son well. There was no way in hell that Julie would put up with him if he didn't treat them well.
He would never get his childhood back but Frank was trying and he was here, willing to spend time with him, wanting to spend time with him and for Ryan that had to be enough.
It was complicated.
It was an Atwood thing.
He wished he'd remembered to pick up his jacket on his way out. He pictured it hanging on the balustrade in the hall, car and room keys in its pocket. It was only when he stood at the door to his car that he realized his error but by then he was too worked up to go back inside…so he'd walked…and walked until his legs ached and the sky darkened.
He was just wondering where the hell he was and how the fuck he was going to get back to campus without his wallet - which was also in his jacket naturally - when a car pulled up in front of him.
"Oh honey…get in." Kirsten lent over and opened the door.
He hesitated, not sure whether he could cope with any more shit tonight. Kirsten seemed to know what he was thinking.
"Julie's taken Frank home and Sandy's driving around looking for you. I don't think I'll tell him I've found you yet. Give everyone a chance to calm down huh." Kirsten voice was soft and persuasive, plus he was cold and his headache was building. All he really wanted to do was crawl into his bed and sleep everything into oblivion.
Kirsten waited for him to buckle up before she turned the car around. They drove in silence for a long time before she finally spoke.
"I'm so sorry Ryan. Sandy's just protective." Kirsten paused before continuing. "Especially when it comes to your father. He just cares so much about you."
"So he shows it by telling personal stuff about my family in front of everyone?" He stared out the windscreen.
Kirsten winced. "That was wrong …I'm, I'm not making excuses, I just think he just finds it hard that…that you want Frank in your life after all he's done."
"What you really mean is you don't understand either." Ryan rubbed his eyes again.
"He's my father Kirsten." He said simply.
He could feel Kirsten look at him intently, clearly not understanding, before turning her attention back to the road. He wound down the window to get some fresh air.
He tried again.
"Things weren't easy for you and Caleb but you wanted him...needed him in your life no matter what…he was your Father." Ryan bit his lip as he tried to get his point across.
"But he never raised a hand to me. If those things Sandy said are true then I just don't understand how you can forgive Frank for that Ryan? I really want to know how you can." Kirsten reached out and held his hand.
He squeezed it tightly and sighed. "It's in the past Kirsten. I…I believe that people can change… do change. I'm not the same angry introverted kid I was all those years ago. Seth is confident now he has loads of friends. Summer isn't the shallow spoilt brat she was. Trey has turned it around and is working full time now."
"And you don't drink anymore." He added quietly. "We're all different people Kirsten. We change… we've got to believe that or what's the point in anything?"
He waited wondering if he'd gone too far but after his past had been broadcast he didn't think such boundaries were really necessary anymore.
They pulled into the drive.
"When did you become so wise?" Kirsten's voice broke. "Don't be too hard on Sandy Ryan, he just wants to keep you safe. We both do."
Her voice grew thick with emotion again.
"I…I think he's scared that Frank will take you away from him."
He grew exasperated,
"Who is it I turn to when I need advice? Who is it I ring when I feel low? Who do I visit in his office for lunch every week? Who do I ring when I've got news? It's not Frank I call...it's Sandy!"
He was so fed up with it all that his voice came out louder than he intended but he was intent on getting his point across to Kirsten and he was pissed at yet again having to justify his tentative relationship with his father.
Nope, he'd never trust Frank and he'd still be keeping a close eye on him no matter what Ryan said about his so called rehabilitation. Oh he'd make an effort now not to let his dislike show, he'd promised Ryan that tonight and he owed it to Ryan to try.
Sandy lay in bed unable to sleep.
He'd never trust Frank, he couldn't bring himself to even like the man let alone have any faith in him but he still basked in the glow of Ryan's loud statement that had carried through the open door to where he'd stood waiting for news.
"Frank may be my father but Sandy is…Sandy… is my dad Kirsten!"
They said eavesdroppers never heard well of themselves but he couldn't help but grin to himself.
One thing he knew for sure, he'd never let Frank hurt Ryan again.
Hoped you enjoyed.