Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of The OC. They all belong to Josh Schwartz.

A/N: This story is AU and takes place six months after "A Deal With the Devil" ended.

Also, I'm not following what happened on the show; for example, Ryan is not dating Marissa (I'm just not comfortable writing her character and I don't think I do a very good job when I do write her,) and the "Thanksgiving visit" with Trey never happened.

As with Kirsten, I'm probably not writing Trey the way he was portrayed on the show. I also don't know much about his background so I'll be creating my own take on the "Atwood brothers" and their past. To be honest, I really didn't watch much of the show, so I hope you'll grant me a little creative freedom as I write my own Ryan/Trey scenario. :-)

A quick note to those loyal reviewers from my last story : Even though there's a small jump in time with this story, it doesn't mean the issues Ryan faced in "A Deal With the Devil" will be swept under the rug. My sole reason for starting this third part was because I didn't want the previous story to become repetitive (an ever so incessant fear of mine) and I just felt it was time to freshen things up a bit and send Ryan on another "angst-filled adventure". ;-)

My goal is to tie this story with "To Be Seventeen" and "A Deal With the Devil" and bring everything to a "hopefully" satisfying conclusion. :-)

And as always, I appreciate the feedback and reviews. It helps me continue writing. :-)

Prologue

Ryan sits impatiently in the car and glances down at his watch.

Eleven thirteen, Ryan thinks to himself as he looks back up and peers at the small, dark house, then gazes up at the full moon. My curfew is midnight... I don't want Sandy and Kirsten to worry...

Ryan pulls his jacket collar up over the back of his neck, trying to ward off the chill from the unseasonably cool, early March night. He runs his hand over the soft leather of his sleeve, recalling when Kirsten gave him the jacket on Christmas morning. She bought me so many things, Ryan thinks to himself, remembering how strange it felt to be showered with gifts. They all did...

Ryan again looks at the house; a typical, small rambler with overgrown shrubs and patchy lawn due to years of drought and neglect. With the help of a dim, flickering streetlight, he notices the peeling paint and boarded up front window and concludes he is not in the "good" part of town.

What on earth could he be doing in there?

Ryan digs his hand in his jacket pocket and searches for his cell phone. He lets out a plaintive sigh as his hand comes up empty, realizing he's still not used to carrying a phone. I must have left it in my bedroom... so much for calling Sandy to let him know I may be late...

Ryan continues to sit impatiently as he places his right arm through the open, passenger-side window and strums his fingers on the outside of the car. It's been a little over six months since his father abducted him; a terrifying experience that has left an indelible scar on both his mind and body... a constant reminder of his torment. And although he has made great strides with trying to overcome the ordeal, it hasn't been easy. Still suffering from horrific nightmares followed by long bouts of insomnia, he continues to see Dr. Evans at least once a week. I can talk to him about anything and it stays between us, Ryan thinks to himself, remembering the psychologist's promise of doctor-patient privilege. Dr. Evans has kept his word. He's a man of integrity... like Sandy.

Ryan glances back down at his watch and sees it's now eleven sixteen.

What in the world could be taking him so long?

Ryan gets out of the car and slowly makes his way towards the small, dilapidated house. He immediately tucks his fists inside his jacket pockets and scrunches his shoulders upwards as he adamantly tries to ward off the chilly, March breeze.

Ryan steps up to the front door and raises his fist to knock. He immediately takes a step back as the unlatched door slowly creaks open. Peeking his head inside, he tentatively whispers, "Hey... are you in here?"

Ryan steps into the unlit foyer and quickly decides to leave the front door open. Using the moonlight to guide him, Ryan slowly makes his may through a small sitting area and into the kitchen.

Stepping into the kitchen, Ryan's senses are immediately assaulted by the smell of day-old food and second-hand smoke. Feeling around on the wall with his hand, Ryan locates the lightswitch and flicks it on. He glances down at the half-eaten take-out pepperoni pizza, still oozing grease onto its cardboard serving tray with cans of beer scattered upon the table and ashtrays piled high with cigarette butts. Ryan suddenly jumps as he spies a small rodent... a gray mouse, skittering across the stained, unswept linoleum floor.

It's just a mouse...

Ryan immediately turns his attention to the muffled voices he hears coming from down the hall. He begins to slowly walk towards the sound and sees a thin ray of light emanating through the open crack in the door. "Come on, man... I really gotta get home," Ryan pleads, the frustration etched in his voice. "I don't want to get grounded..."

"Make any sudden move and I'll slit your throat."

Ryan freezes in his tracks as he feels the sharp, ice-cold blade of a knife dig into the front of his neck. He feels his heart pounding out of his chest as the large, ominous figure stands closely behind him; the stench of the man's acrid breath causing his stomach to churn.

"Now walk."

Ryan swallows the bile rising in his throat as fear and anxiety course through his body. He does as he's told and walks into the small room; the room where the voices were coming from.

"Look at what I found lurkin' around the house..."

Trey's head darts up in surprise, then a grimace quickly forms upon his face as he angrily throws a wad of money down on the bed in frustration.

"Dammit Ry... I told you to wait in the car!"