Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of The OC. They all belong to Josh Schwartz.
A/N: Although I enjoyed the Pilot episode, I felt Sandy made two mistakes. First, as Ryan's lawyer and advocate, he should have never allowed Ryan to leave with Dawn. She was clearly unstable and possibly even drunk. Second, a simple phone call to Kirsten to give his wife a "head's up" would have been, at least, the courteous thing to do. It may not have changed Kirsten's initial view of Ryan, but it would have given her some time to prepare.
As a wife and mother, I know that if my husband brought home a kid just released from juvie without talking to me about it first, I would be quite upset. Not with the kid, but with my husband. ;-)
This is my little take on the moment when Sandy and Ryan are waiting outside juvie for Dawn; rewriting and casting a nicer light upon Kirsten.
Also, my son's name is Ryan, so I have quite an affinity for the name. :-)
The Little King
Sandy Cohen stands outside of juvenile hall in Chino. This is always an awkward moment; the time when the lawyer returns his young client back over to his parent or guardian. One never knows what to expect. But one thing Sandy has learned, these encounters are always filled with emotion; anger, sadness, fear and confusion... but mostly anger.
Sandy glances over at his young client, a sixteen-year-old named Ryan. He studies the boy closely; how he keeps his head lowered, eyes cast down towards the ground; his hands jammed into the pockets of his leather jacket, most likely formed into tight fists.
Sandy is puzzled by the quiet boy, but yet intrigued. He read the files from Child Services three times, trying to make sense of why a smart kid would do something so stupid as to steal a car.
Your brother, Trey. Definitely not the brightest, that one, Sandy thinks to himself. Trey may be dead set on enhancing his rap sheet, but my job is to see that you stay out of trouble.
Sandy hears the loud sound of a car approaching rapidly, the engine in dire need of a muffler. He watches in shock as the car jumps the curb before coming to a screeching halt. Instinctively, Sandy places his arm in front of Ryan and guides the boy back away from the curb.
"Seriously? What the fuck, Ryan!"
Sandy notices Ryan flinch when the woman gets out of her vehicle and violently slams the car door shut.
"Mrs. Atwood?" Sandy asks, taking in the woman's disheveled appearance. He then glances back at Ryan, noticing the boy take another step away but finding the wall of the building blocking any more chance of an escape.
"What the fuck did I do to deserve this, huh? First Trey, now you... Christ! I can't deal with this!"
"Mrs. Atwood, my name is Sandy Cohen. I'm Ryan's Public Defender..."
"Well, good for you," Dawn snarls sarcastically, ignoring the man's extended arm offering a polite handshake. "But you're wastin' your time. You should've just left him to rot in juvie. It won't be long before he joins his no-good father and loser brother in prison."
Sandy peers over at the boy, his head still lowered, looking embarrassed and ashamed by his mother's behavior.
"Get in the car, Ryan!"
Ryan hesitates for a moment, then begins to slowly make his way to the car.
"I said get in the fuckin' car! Hurry up! Christ, I don't got all day!"
Sandy watches Dawn stumble slightly when she tries to get back into her car. He could swear he smelled a faint odor of alcohol...
"Ryan, stop," Sandy orders. "Don't get into the car."
Ryan stops and looks at his lawyer in confusion. Should he obey his mother? Or should he do as his Public Defender asks...
"I said get in the goddamn fuckin' car!" Dawn screams, not caring who hears her. She wants to get home... she needs a drink.
"Ryan, go stand over there," Sandy says, nodding towards the wall of the building. "I'll handle this."
Ryan hesitantly walks away, keeping a wary eye on his lawyer as well as his mother.
"Mrs. Atwood, have you been drinking?" Sandy asks.
"Fuck you! I don't gotta tell you nothin'!" Dawn spits out. "I'm here to get my kid..."
"I'm afraid I can't let Ryan go home with you, not when you're like this."
"Not when I'm like this?" Dawn shrieks. "Well then tell me, Mister Conan or whatever the fuck your name is... just how the hell am I supposed to be, huh?"
Sandy is rendered speechless by the woman's attitude and string of profanities. He's encountered angry and upset parents in the past, but nothing like this.
"You think it's easy raisin' two boys alone?"
"No, of course I know it's not easy..."
"You're damn right it's not," Dawn interrupts, sneering at the man while she struggles to pull up her fallen bra strap.
"Mrs. Atwood, I'm truly sorry, but I can't let you take your son..."
"Fine! In fact, that's the best fuckin' news I've heard all day!" Dawn rejoices as she gets back into her car.
Dawn starts up the loud engine, then runs her hands through her unruly blond hair. She rolls down the passenger side window, then leans over and looks Sandy straight in the eye.
"You want him? You can have him!" Dawn announces. "I can't deal with this shit anymore!"
Sandy stands in a state of shock as he watches Dawn drive away with tires screeching. He notices a squad car pass by and waves, then points down the road signaling for the cop to follow Dawn. He can only hope the woman will get home in one piece and not leave a trail of destruction in her wake.
"Sorry about that," Ryan says quietly, feeling embarrassed by his mother's behavior. "My mom... she's kind of a train wreck. I wish you didn't have to see that."
"Well, I'm glad I did," Sandy says, hoping the boy won't feel responsible for his mother's inability to handle this situation calmly and maturely. "As your lawyer and advocate, I not only need to make sure you get a fair hearing in juvenile court, but I also need to make sure your safe. I didn't feel comfortable letting you go home with your mother."
"So, now what? Do I go have to go back to juvie?"
"No, I'll work something out," Sandy says, placing his hand on Ryan's back, guiding him down the sidewalk to his car. Sandy notices the boy flinch again and quickly removes his hand.
This isn't Seth, Sandy reminds himself. I need to give this boy his space.
Sandy thinks about the files he read as he walks back to his car with Ryan. All the medical records from visits to the ER; pictures of bruising, not only on the boy's body but also on his face. Page after page of x-rays showing hairline fractures and broken bones; doctor's reports... all stating the causes of the boy's injuries as "accidents".
Accidents... my foot. How many times can a kid fall off his bike, trip and fall, or stumble into a door before someone starts to ask the right questions... the tough questions.
"Here we are," Sandy says, taking his key fob out of his pocket to unlock his car.
"This is your car?" Ryan asks, having never been in a BMW before. "I didn't think you guys made that kind of money."
"We don't," Sandy says with a wide grin as he opens the passenger door for Ryan. "But my wife does."
Ryan allows a faint smile to creep up upon his face as he takes in the man's playful words and beaming grin.
"Why don't you wait here in my car," Sandy proposes, holding the door open for the boy. "I just need to make a quick phone call."
"Aren't you afraid I'm going to hot-wire it and drive away?" Ryan asks, not as a threat but as a test. He wants to learn more about this lawyer and "child advocate". He definitely finds himself intrigued with the man with warm blue eyes and big, bushy eyebrows.
Sandy hesitates a moment as he's taken off-guard by the boy's remark. He then relaxes and smiles, deciding not to take the bait.
"I trust you," Sandy states earnestly. "In fact, take my keys. You can turn on the engine and listen to some music while I make my call."
Ryan cocks an eyebrow in surprise. He didn't expect that response. He accepts the keys from Sandy and gets into the car, watching as the man walks several feet away to make his phone call. Not being in the mood to listen to music, Ryan tosses the keys on the dashboard, then stares out the window, needing to clear his mind... wanting to think about absolutely nothing.
"Hey, honey... it's me..."
"Sandy? Is everything alright?"
"Oh, yes... everything's fine, sweetheart," Sandy assures, realizing he usually doesn't call home in the middle of the afternoon. "Are you enjoying your day off?"
"Absolutely. My father has already called five times today and I've ignored every one of his messages. I needed this... some time off..."
"I'm glad to hear that, sweetheart..."
"What is it, Sandy? I can tell in your voice, you have something you want to talk about."
"How would you feel about having a houseguest... just for the weekend."
"A houseguest? Well, sure... is it someone we know?"
"He's a young client of mine," Sandy says, hoping his wife will keep an open mind. "To make a long story short, I just got him released from juvie..."
"Let me finish, honey," Sandy states firmly but with an understanding voice. "His mother came to pick him up, but I felt it wasn't safe for him to go home with her..."
"So you want us to take him?"
"It's just temporary, honey... just until I can make other living arrangements for the boy."
Sandy hears silence on the other end and decides to continue pleading his case.
"He's a good kid, Kirsten. He just made one stupid mistake."
"You really feel it's too dangerous for the boy to be returned to his mother?"
"Right now, yes. I'm going to call Karen in Social Services later and ask her to check out his home situation tomorrow. She owes me a favor."
"And what happens to the boy if it's determined it's not safe for him to go home?"
"Well then... I'll have to arrange for him to go into a group home," Sandy says with a heavy heart.
Sandy again hears silence but then detects a faint sigh.
"Tell me more about the boy."
"Well, he's sixteen and smart. Damn smart kid. You would like him..."
"Why was he in juvie?"
"He was caught trying to steal a car. But, I swear to God, it was his older brother that got him into trouble."
"You seem quite passionate about this."
"I am... if we could just give the kid a place to stay..."
"What's his name?"
"His name?" Sandy asks, slightly confused but then realizing he's making some headway. She wants to know the boy's name. Her interest has been piqued. "His name is 'Ryan'."
"The little king."
"The little what?"
"The name 'Ryan'. It's Irish for 'little king'."
"Okay, I guess I'll have to take your word on that," Sandy says, confused yet intrigued. "How do you know what his name means?"
"Do you remember when I was pregnant with Seth?"
"Yes, of course I do," Sandy replies cautiously, hoping it's not a trick question.
"We agreed that we would choose a name for our firstborn from the Old Testament."
"That's right, we agreed with 'Seth' for a boy and 'Sarah' for a girl," Sandy says.
"And you told me that if we had a second child, I could choose the name."
"That's right. I remember..."
"I've always loved the name 'Ryan'. Whether we had a boy or a girl, I wanted to name our second-born 'Ryan'."
"Sweetheart, why didn't you ever tell me?" Sandy asks.
"Well time... it just slipped away from us..."
Sandy detects a hint of sadness in his wife's voice as he realizes how much she has always wanted a second child, but as she said... time slipped away from them. What happened to the time?
"Do you think Ryan would be comfortable in one of the guest rooms upstairs? You know the boy better than I do."
Sandy glances back at his car and sees Ryan staring out the window, looking dejected and forlorn.
You could use a room in a castle right about now, Sandy thinks to himself. Little king...
"What about the pool house," Sandy counters. "I think Ryan would appreciate the privacy."
"The pool house? Okay, I'll have to put clean sheets on the bed. Does the boy have any of his belongings? Will he need pajamas? How about clean underwear or a change of clothes? What about a toothbrush. Do you know what he likes to eat? I can order out from Wong's or maybe we should do pizza..."
"Whoa... whoa, slow down, honey," Sandy says, trying to hold back his laughter. "Let's take this one step at a time."
"I'm sorry, it's just..."
"It's just what, sweetheart?"
"You said if he can't go home, the boy will have to go to a group home."
"Yes, honey... I'm afraid that's the way the system works."
"That just doesn't seem right..."
"No, it doesn't. But, it's the only thing we have..."
"Why do people have children, Sandy, but then... not want to take care of them?"
"That's a very good question, honey, but to be honest, I don't know," Sandy answers earnestly. He's seen so many kids, abused and unwanted. He's made it a point never to bring his work home with him... that is, until now.
"You seem to trust this boy... Ryan."
"Well, if you trust him, then I trust him too. Thank you for giving me a 'heads-up'."
"And thank you for being so understanding."
"You do know you'll owe me... big time."
Sandy's face lights up with a mile-wide smile. "I will gladly be at your beck-and-call, madam."
"I bet you will..."
Sandy wipes the giddy grin off his face as he ends his call and begins walking back to his car. He notices the boy eyeing him warily with a side glance, a look he's seen from too many kids who don't trust anyone but themselves.
And I don't blame you one bit...
"So, what happens now?" Ryan asks, watching his lawyer get into the driver's side seat. "Do I have to go back to juvie?"
"Nope, you're coming home with me," Sandy says, taking his keys off the dashboard and placing them in the ignition.
"And your wife is okay with this?" Ryan asks, the skepticism etched deep in his voice.
"Yes, she is." Sandy replies, looking directly at his young client. "I need you to trust me, Ryan. Everything will be alright."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Call it a gut feeling."
Sandy studies the wary teenager. His words mean very little, maybe even nothing, but it's all he has to offer the boy at the moment.
"Ryan, we'll work this all out," Sandy says, offering the boy a heartfelt smile. "I have a good feeling... everything's going to work out just fine."