Hey guys, so I've just watched The O.C for the first time and I'm hooked. I love the bonds between Ryan and his adoptive family so I decided to explore that a bit more here. I hope I've managed to keep everyone quite in character, I would love reviews and feedback. Enjoy!
Ryan enters the kitchen, Sandy is sitting at the counter and Kirsten had the phone in her hand to call the takeaway.
'Hey Sweetie, we thought we would order Thai for dinner. What would you like?' Kirsten asked, handing him the menu.
'Oh … uhhhm. I don't mind really, just whatever is easiest,' Ryan mumbles, averting his gaze from the menu in Kirsten's hand to the spot of floor at her feet.
Kirsten looks at his hunched shoulders and defensive stance and it breaks her heart. That he still stands just out of arms reach for fear of being punched. That he can't bring himself to look them in the eye. That he's so used to being told he's an inconvenience he feels like he can't choose what he would like to eat.
'Hmm, well what sort of things do you like, sweetie? Noodles, rice, curry?' Kirsten prompts gently. Ryan has been staying with them for two weeks and so far has eaten everything put in front of him without indicating any preference or enjoyment of anything specific. Like it's a novelty for him to be sitting at a dining room table with a full plate of food in front of him. Kirsten remembers it probably is a novelty for him. Certainly a huge step up from his former 'home' environment. If you could call it a home at all.
'Uhhm, I guess noodles are good. We never really ate Thai in Chino,' Ryan responds, still not quite meeting her eye.
'Ok, well how about a Pad Thai? Its noodles with shrimp, vegetables, egg and sauce?' Kirsten suggests.
'Yeah that sounds good…thanks,' Ryan mumbles, shuffling off to the den where Seth is on his playstation.
Kirsten sighs sadly, and phones the order in.
'You're doing great honey,' Sandy says, coming up behind her and putting his hands on her shoulders.
'Am I? He won't even tell me what food he likes,' Kirsten says, turning into Sandy's embrace.
'We'll get there. Remember what his social worker said? Once he starts to settle in and get used to our routine he'll start to open up a bit more.'
Kirsten knows that Sandy has read much more of Ryans file than she has. She understands Sandy had needed to know the information to aid Ryans court case but she feels that her reading it is an invasion of his privacy. If Ryan wants her to know about his past he will tell her. What had been made painfully clear, however, was that Ryan's upbringing was very chaotic. Father in jail, alcoholic mother. His mom bringing home a string of violent, alcoholic boyfriends, seemingly content to watch them knock her sons around from a young age. Indifferent and uncaring to Ryan's suffering.
The social worker had seemed happy that the Cohen household would provide Ryan with the stability he needed, that he fit in so seamlessly with Seth and had already started making friends with the neighbours. She also reassured them that Ryan would start to trust them and open up as he got to know them better. With that, however, came the caveat that he may start to disclose some of the abuse he had received. Kirsten wasn't sure she wanted to know. But she knew she would be there for him, listen. She couldn't change what had happened but she could change what happened next, show him a brighter, happier future. Give him the love and affection that had so obviously been lacking, that he shied away from because he didn't know what it was.
'Thank you, Sandy,' Kirsten murmured, nuzzling into his shoulder.
'What for, honey?' Sandy wrapped his arms around her.
'For deciding that his family weren't good enough for him. For getting him out of there and bringing him home.'
'Thank you for letting him stay.
They sat around the table eating dinner. Seth and Sandy were bouncing off each other, in their usual comedy double act. After a particularly bad joke, Kirsten caught Ryan glancing at her. She rolled her eyes and received a small, tentative smile in return. Kirsten noticed Ryan had cleared his plate so he must have liked it. She wondered if he would tell them if he didn't like something, or if he would just eat it anyway to avoid feeling like an inconvenience.
After dinner he helped clear the table, and started filling the dishwasher. Kirsten wondered where he had learned his manners, because it clearly wasn't from his mother. Her musings were suddenly shattered as three things happened simultaneously. Ryan stood up from the dishwasher, Sandy went to clap him affectionately on the shoulder like he did with Seth, and the glass Kirsten was holding slipped from her grip and fell to the floor with a resounding smash.
Ryan whipped round, his elbow catching Sandy on the way past. He arms were in front of him in a defensive stance, his chest rapidly rising and falling as his breathing quickened. His eyes darted around wildly, looking for the source of danger.
'Its ok Ryan, I just dropped my glass. It was an accident,' Kirsten said gently, slowly raising her hands towards him.
Almost as soon as it happened, it was over. Ryan's cheeks flushed red and he jerkily lowered his arms.
'I…uh…I... Sorry…' Ryan muttered, and with that he made a beeline out the back door towards the pool house.
'Well that was …uhhm…awkward,' Seth stated the obvious, looking uncomfortable.
'He… he can't think I'd …' Sandy looked shocked and heartbroken.
'No of course not honey. I'll go talk to him,' Kirsten replied gently, touching his hand and rubbing Seths shoulder on the way past.
She walked over to the pool house and knocked gently on the door. Ryan was standing with his arms wrapped tightly round his chest, his breathing still rapid. His wet, glassy eyes were unfocused and far away.
'Ryan, is it ok if I come in?' Kirsten asked gently.
He snapped out of his reverie and nodded jerkily, turning away from her whilst quickly rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands. She knew better than to try and approach him while he was obviously so anxious, so instead she stayed at a distance, giving him space.
'Its ok sweetie,' Kirsten reassured him softly. 'Just try and take some deep breaths.'
He paced up and down, his breathing starting to even out. He sat down on the edge of his bed and put his head in his shaking hands.
'Ryan are you ok?' Kirsten asked, sitting down in the chair opposite him.
'Yeah I'm … I'm fine. I just got a fright…Sorry,' Ryan muttered. He took his head out of his hands but kept his head down and couldn't seem to bring himself to look at her.
Kirsten rose slowly and carefully out of the chair and moved to sit next to Ryan on the bed.
'Its ok sweetie, it was an accident,' Kirsten reassured him.
The strength of Ryans reaction triggered Kirstens motherly intuition and she felt sure there was more to this than a broken wine glass. The Cohens had very quickly realised that Ryan wasn't one for talking, but would give them nuggets of information when he felt ready to. She let the silence sit for a few moments, giving Ryan time to process his emotions and compose himself. She was just thinking she should maybe go back into the house to give him space when Ryan started to speak.
'When … when my mom got …angry… she would start smashing things. Plates, bowls, glasses. Then her boyfriend would kick my ass,' Ryan explained in a monotone, impassive. He still wouldn't look at Kirsten, his eyes fixed determinedly on a spot on the floor.
Kirsten didn't know what broke her heart more – the things that had happened to Ryan or the matter of fact way he talked about them. Like they were just a normal everyday occurrence. The way he had seemed unmoved and uncaring at the bruises he had picked up in juvie. The way he wore them as if it was something he was used to.
'Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry,' Kirsten murmured. She gently put her hand on his back – he tensed at her touch but she counted it as a good sign that he didn't throw her hand off.
'Ryan, I promise none of us will ever lay a finger on you.' She gently started rubbing circles on his back and she could feel him start to relax.
'I know, its just … you know… bad memories. Sorry,' Ryan mumbled to the floor
'Its ok honey, none of this is your fault. You don't need to apologise.'
'Could you please tell Sandy that I know he … he wouldn't…?'
Kirsten caught movement in her peripheral vision and looked up to see Sandy standing just outside the door. She nodded at him to come in and Ryan noticed him, his cheeks flushing red again.
'Hey kid, are you ok?' Sandy asked lightly, settling himself in the chair Kirsten had just vacated.
'Ryan just got a bit of a fright,' Kirsten explained gently.
'I'm …fine. Glass breaking was always a bad sign in my moms house. Sorry, I know you wouldn't … you know,' Ryan mumbled, not managing to bring himself to look Sandy in the eye.
'It's ok Ryan, you'll get there. These things take time,' Sandy reassured him.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Kirsten noticed Ryan stealing covert glances at each of them before looking back on the floor. He looked confused, like he was trying to work something out. There was something else, she was sure of it. She just needed him to tell her what it was.
'Is there something else bothering you, sweetie?' Kirsten prompted gently.
'You're not angry,' Ryan stated to his feet, confused.
'Why would we be angry?' Sandy asked, surprised.
'I … I don't know.'
Another few moments of silence, then …
'My mom always used to be angry. Everything was always my fault.'
Kirsten and Sandy looked at each other sadly. He was so used to being shouted at he just expected it. So broken and hurt that he just assumed something was his fault and expected the wrath.
'Its just a broken glass Ryan. It was an accident. None of this is your fault, kid,' Sandy reassured him, coming to sit on his other side and putting his hand on his shoulder.
'Honestly,' Kirsten promised gently.
Ryan looked up, finally looking her in the eye. He must have seen the truth there because he nodded.
'Thanks you guys,' he mumbled.
'No problem kid, its what we're here for,' Sandy said earnestly.
'Sweetie, why don't we all sit down and do something together tonight? We could watch a film or play a board game?' Kirsten suggested.
'Uhhm… yeah sure, I guess. I'll maybe just go have a shower first,' Ryan stood up.
'Ok kid, just come across when you're ready,' Sandy said, gently touching him on the shoulder without even thinking. Sandy inwardly cursed – he would really need to be careful about touch if it made Ryan anxious. However, he didn't even flinch this time, instead giving them both a smile then going into the bathroom.
They walked back over to the house to find Seth in the tv room.
'Mom, Dad, is Ryan ok?' He asked nervously.
'He's fine, Sweetie, he just got a bit of a fright when I dropped the glass,' Kirsten said, sitting down next to him and putting her arm round him.
'Is this what you meant when you said it might take a while for him to get used to us? That it might take a while for him to get used to us not, y'know … kick his ass?'
He looked at Sandy, who nodded sadly.
'That's so sad,' Seth looked stricken. 'Is there anything I can do?'
'Just be there for him. You kids seem like you're getting on pretty well, right?' Sandy said.
'Are you kidding me? He's like the brother I always wanted.'
'Since when did you want a brother?' Kirsten asked, surprised.
'Uhhm… gee, I don't know, since the day Dad brought Ryan home from Chino? Duuh!' Seth explained, rolling his eyes.
This got chuckles from both Kirsten and Sandy.
'Mom, can I ask you something?'
'Of course you can, sweetie.'
'What happened the day after Casino night when Ryan's mom left? Was she just gone?'
Kirsten wasn't sure how to respond. She wanted to keep Seth safe, protect him from the uglier details of the situation. But he was growing up and had coped well with everything else that had happened so far. She looked at Sandy for guidance and he nodded his head encouragingly.
'She … she was on her way out when I ran into her. She just said she felt like she wasn't a very good mom and she thought Ryan would be better off here, with us,' she explained.
'So she was just going to walk out on him? That's awful, how could anyone do that?' Seth pondered
'I know son, but he's got us now,' Sandy said.
'Oh Seth, I'm sorry for how things were … how I was when Ryan first came here. I thought I needed to protect you but I was wrong. You're dealing with this all so well, I'm so proud of you,' Kirsten said, stroking his hair.
'Yeah about that, just for the record I'm sorry I said its just as well you weren't his mom. And thanks busting him out of juvie and bringing him home. You're the best mom ever.'
'Thanks honey, I love you.'
'I love you too mom. Hey Dad, how does it feel to be bested by mom? She managed to get him out of juvie, they wouldn't even let you do that. You're supposed to be the lawyer right?' Seth teased.
'Hey, any more cheek from you and I'll be sending you to juvie,' Sandy playfully smacked the back of Seths head.
'Go ahead, mom will just come and bust me out again,' Seth joked back.
Kirsten heard the back door open and Ryan come shuffling over.
'Hey kid, come and join us,' Sandy called, settling himself onto the other sofa.
Ryan came in, gave them a tentative smile and settled himself onto the sofa next to Sandy.
We'll get there, Kirsten told herself. Even if it takes a while we'll get there.