Chapter: One shot
Rating: Pretty tame
Beta: melanie39 who cleaned up my tenses beautifully because I suck!
Disclaimer: I still don't own The OC, Ryan or Benjamin McKenzie.
Story: Very much an AU set in and after season 4.
Julie stretches, a slow contented movement that starts in her toes and ends at the tips of her fingers. She watches as he gets dressed. He's not remotely self-conscious and grins at her as he pulls his jeans up over his hips and uses his hand to tuck himself safely away from the zipper as he zips up. His head disappears as he pulls a tee over his head, his hair bristling with static. Next are his socks. He crawls on hands and knees retrieving the twin tubes of black cotton from where they'd landed. He sits on the bed with his back to her as he shoves his feet into scuffed black boots and pulls the laces up tight. She reaches out and snakes a hand out under his tee and strokes the hot skin she finds there. He turns and lifts an eyebrow at her and once again gives her one of his slow smiles.
"I've got to get going, Julie. Sandy's grilling swordfish tonight."
She smiles back and once again arches her back, the sheet falling away from her chest. Hell, she might have had a baby twelve months ago but her tits are still firm and she sees his eyes leave her face and travel downwards.
Ryan shakes his head and crawls upwards, kissing her on the lips. He looks at her as he pushes a lock of hair from away from her face and tucks it behind her ear.
"See you tomorrow?"
He asks even though they both know that he doesn't need to, and then he leaps off the bed and is out of the door. Julie hears his car door slam a couple of minutes later and the growl of the engine as he drives off.
Julie turns and picks up a gilt photo frame off her night stand and stares at the picture. Her daughter is smiling straight at the camera with her mortarboard askew. She looks happy. Julie knows she should feel guilty. Once again she's stolen something that her daughter held dear but this time it feels different. Luke was a power trip, a purely sexual act of a woman who knew she could. With Ryan it's different.
She needs him.
And it isn't about sex.
Okay, so she's just spent two hours having her body bent into shapes she never thought possible but strangely, with Ryan, it really isn't about the sex.
She actually feels safe with him, comfortable.
For once in her life she doesn't have to be anything other than herself. He won't let her be anything but her real self. He won't let her be the tight assed Newpsie she's become just to blend in.
Ryan makes her feel vulnerable and it's kind of nice. He can see behind her act into her heart, at the hidden sadness in her eyes. He knows how she feels because she sees the same mirrored in his eyes when she looks at him.
They both share something that no one else can really understand and it's what brought them together.
It is the shared loss that they cling onto because if they let it go, they let her go and neither of them is prepared to do that yet. Oh, everyone thinks that enough time has passed. Marissa has become a sad memory, at most, for a lot of people but the pain is still intense, still so very sharp that sometimes she feels her skin will split in two. And she knows that Ryan still feels it too. Sometimes they just hold each other tightly and the silence between them speaks volumes.
They'd both come to the conclusion long ago that it was best for everyone to think that they'd moved on. Too much grief made people feel uncomfortable, made them think you were losing your mind, so they both showed a different face to their families and friends because they didn't understand. They couldn't understand.
She doesn't know what she'd have done without Ryan. She stares at her daughter's photo and feels her eyes sting with tears.
She'd felt so alone when she lost her but Ryan made her realize she wasn't. Knowing she wasn't the only one set on a course of self-destruction helped. They chose different routes but they were both heading in the same direction, she'd just chosen tablets instead of getting beaten in a cage.
When Marissa had died she'd poured all her energy into gathering as much information as she could on the bastard that had killed her, knowing in her heart that Ryan could be the only one to meet out the vengeance she'd needed. Things hadn't quite gone the way she'd planned but just knowing Ryan was hurting as much as she was had been a strange comfort to her.
Then the anger had seeped away and had been replaced by a numbing confusion and a deep, deep sadness that nothing would shift. She'd known that Ryan had felt the same and they had fallen into a pattern of meeting up and to talk about Marissa.
One day she'd hit rock bottom. A song had come on the radio bringing with it a sharp memory of a five-year-old Marissa dancing in the bathroom, her hair covered in a froth of tiny bubbles as she sang into a shampoo bottle. That night she'd sat on her bed clutching a bottle of pills. She wasn't sure why, all she knew was she didn't want to go on feeling like she did. Ryan had turned up just as she was shaking the little white tablets into the palm of her hand, bringing a quart of ice cream and an understanding look. It seemed to her that Ryan always knew when she needed him most and for once in her life she found herself relying on a man without worrying whether he'd turn out to be an asshole.
They'd slept together for the first time that night.
It had been a natural progression, she supposed. They had come to rely on each other for so much that sex didn't seem that much of a big deal to them. It was something they both needed, a closeness born out of grief that others couldn't see, and it went way beyond simple sexual gratification. They clung to each other afterwards, their breathing in sync, as they each silently fought their demons.
It became the norm. Ryan would turn up, they would talk, and they would end up in bed together. It was cheaper than therapy and no one suspected a thing. Around other people their masks slid back into place and because they each continued with their conventional relationships, her with Frank, sometimes Bullit, and Ryan with Taylor, no one thought their relationship was odd. Sandy and Kirsten were just pleased that the old Ryan was finally back.
Julie pulls the sheet tightly around herself as a tap at the door signals that her son has woken from his afternoon nap. She places the photo back on the table and holds out her hands to receive a bundle of baby powder scented warmth. She nuzzles her face in the thick folds of his neck and kisses it, making him laugh. He is a precious gift and she is going to make sure he grows up healthy and happy. She'll do things differently this time. Gone is the need to distance herself from her children, she doesn't want to miss a moment of this childhood.
This baby is special. Born out of sadness and hope.
If anyone has noticed her baby is quiet and overly contemplative for one so small no one mentions it. And maybe they think they recognize some of his many enigmatic expressions and his quick temper. If they do then it can safely be put down to the latent genes of his 'father'.
Julie hugs her son tight. She smiles and claps her baby's hands together, watching as he chuckles back in glee.
Her son is so very precious.
She stares at Marissa's photo once more and remembers back to the heated argument in which her angry sixteen-year-old daughter had shouted that she wished she'd been the one that Ryan had gotten pregnant because Ryan would've made a great father. At the time Julie had been horrified but it seems that her daughter had been right about so many things regarding Ryan.
This baby was meant to be. Maybe with a different Cooper for a mother but he was meant to be.
One thing Julie knows for sure is that the right Atwood has fathered her child. No one will ever know but she hopes that Marissa would understand.