So I decided to write this because, as sincere as it was, I think it would have taken more than the apology from Seth to make everything ok after the Oliver situation. I originally planned this as a one shot but I went off on a bit of a tangent so I'll be adding a few more chapters. I'm not sure if this chapter is too waffle-y so I would love reviews and feedback. Thanks for reading!
The sun rose over Newport Beach, casting a golden glow over the poolhouse and sending rays of warmth through the cracks in the blinds. Ryan sighed and looked at his alarm clock – 5.45 am. He had tossed and turned all night, trying to find sleep that hadn't come. He had fallen into a doze in the early hours, only to jerk awake a short time later after a brief, confusing dream full of guns and screaming.
He knew he should feel vindicated that Oliver had been found out, happy that Marissa was ok. But he just felt empty, he couldn't take pleasure in what had happened. He had put all his energy and emotional investment into the situation, it had consumed his every waking moment. He had been so determined to uncover the truth that he hadn't stopped to think. Reality was starting to catch up with him, tying his stomach into a tight knot. He was suspended from school and child services might investigate and decide to take him away again. Despite his initial misgivings, he had found himself starting to enjoy harbour – he liked being able to actually learn rather than just survive, like he had at school in chino. And he was starting to settle into Newport beach, starting to feel at home. The thought of having to give it all up again sat round his chest like a tight band, crushing all the air out of his lungs. The worst bit was that he had upset the Cohens. He had seen Sandy and Kirsten angry before – at Caleb, at Julie, at each other. But this was the first time he had felt their anger turned on him. In a way he could deal with that, he had spent his whole life living around angry people. It was the disappointment that cut right through him. Like they thought he was something better, like they believed in him and his future and he had let them down. Ryan had spent most of his life being told he was a screw up, a waste of space. And he had screwed up again. How could the Cohens expect him to ever be anything more than that?
He wasn't sure how to come back from this, he wasn't sure what would happen next. He didn't have much experience to draw on. Talking about problems was a foreign concept to Ryan - growing up, anger meant pain. Someone was angry, they hit him, he made himself scare for a while. If he had a problem, he fixed it himself. If someone was causing him trouble he punched them. No one ever sat around talking about their feelings, but that was exactly what the Cohens expected him to do.
He had sensed that Sandy had wanted to talk to him last night, that there were words left unsaid. But when they got back from driving Marissa home Ryan had excused himself on the pretense of being tired and had gone straight to the pool house. He could see that Sandy wanted to object, make him sit down and hash it out. He had left the kitchen before him or Kirsten could stop him and thankfully so far they had left him alone. He didn't know what to say – he was still waiting for the axe to fall. Despite their assurances, he was still waiting for them to get fed up with him. Realise he wasn't who they thought he was, that he was beyond their help. Ask him to leave, send him back to Chino where he belonged.
He looked at the clock again – . Accepting the fact that his chances of sleeping were over, he pulled himself out of bed and started his daily fitness routine. He really wanted to go for a run on the beach but that would mean having to go and Sandy or Kirsten if he could go. He would also run the risk of bumping into Marissa. He wanted to be alone so the pool house floor would have to do. Sit ups, press ups, squats, planks. He kept going, pushing himself until he could feel the lactic acid burning through his muscles. He relished the pain, using it to push himself harder and distract him from the memories of the past few days. Eventually he flopped on the floor, panting and sweating, his mind uncontrollably flicking between olivers sneer, sandy and kirstens disappointment, Seths scepticism and Marissas terror. He then stood under the thundering shower, but even it couldn't wash away the emptiness inside him.
Ryan's morning workout had taken him to 8am. With a sigh he sloped over to his desk to start tackling the monster pile of homework Luke and Seth had been bringing home for him. He didn't know whether he would be going back to harbour, heck he didn't know if he would even be allowed to stay in Newport. But busting through school work would help him keep a sense of consistency and normalcy until he figured out what he was going to do next. Also, and he really hated to admit it to himself, he kind of liked school work and really didn't want to fall behind. Maybe if he worked hard enough on this homework, put his best into it, the Cohens might stop being angry at him. If he could show that he wanted to change and work harder, child services might decide he could stay here and leave him alone. Although if he was going to end up in a group home he could kiss goodbye to any chance of getting an education. Ryan had decided a long time ago that he wasn't ever going to go to a group home – if they had tried to make him, he would run away again, disappear properly. That was as true now as it had been last summer. No, he couldn't think like that. For today at least he was just going to focus on the here and now. And that meant trig, calculus, History, French and physics. He opened up the first book, read through the task and set to work.
A short time later there was a knock on the door and Sandy entered, stopping cautiously just inside the doorway.
'Hey kid, you not coming over for breakfast?' Sandy asked in a careful, measured tone.
"I'm not really hungry. Besides, I've got all this work to do…" Ryan said, not taking his eyes away from the book in front of him. He couldn't look at Sandy, he was scared of seeing the anger and disappointment in his eyes.
'C'mon kid, You didn't have any dinner when we got back last night. You need to eat at some point,' Sandy pointed out gently, looking concerned.
'I'm fine, honestly,' Ryan said, still not looking at him.
Ryan could tell Sandy wasn't convinced but thankfully he let it drop. Anxiety sat over his stomach like a dead weight, and he didn't think he would be able to eat anything even if we wanted to. Also, eating would mean having to sit in the house, with everyone giving him covert sideward glances when they thought he wasn't looking and asking him how he was feeling all the time. Right on cue …
'How are you, Ryan? How are you feeling? We didn't get a chance to talk last night,' Sandy asked him, moving into the pool house and sitting down on the bed.
Why did everyone want him to talk about his feelings all the time?
'I'm fine,' Ryan replied quickly, not even looking in Sandy's direction.
'Ryan, we can't just pretend yesterday didn't happen. Please talk to me,' Sandy prompted gently.
'Oliver's gone and Marissa is ok. What is there to talk about?' Ryan responded, not giving away any flicker of emotion. He really hoped Sandy would get the hint that he really didn't want to talk about it. Apparently he did because he dropped it and let the silence sit for a few minutes.
'Well you were right about Oliver,' Sandy said.
Ryan still said nothing. He didn't know what to say, he didn't know what Sandy wanted him to say. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Sandy watching him, waiting for a reaction.
'Look Ryan, even though you were right about him, its not about what he did. Its about the way you responded to it. You cant just take the law into your own hands like that.
'Yeah, right. I get it,' Ryan replied in a monotone. He'd had this lecture from Sandy a few days previously. Tell the adults, let them sort it out. Ryan had been used to being the adult and taking care of things for his whole life. He wasn't sure he could start trusting people now. He had trusted Seth and Marissa and they had both let him down, shown he was right to keep things to himself.
'Well what happened yesterday doesn't change what you did. So you still need our permission to go out. But maybe in a few days we might be able to do a plea deal and lift the sanctions for good behaviour,' Sandy said giving him a smile.
Ryan recognised Sandys peace offering but just nodded. Every time Sandy opened his mouth and started talking his heart skipped a beat. He was still waiting on those words that would seal his fate. Kirsten and I want you out.
'I'm going to go and See Dr Kim tomorrow and explain everything to her. See if we can do anything about getting your suspension lifted,' Sandy said as he stood up and headed towards the door.
'What? I mean … why would you want to do that?' Ryan asked, unable to stop the surprise breaking through his façade of indifference.
'Because I'm on your side kid. I care about you and I want what's best for you,' Sandy replied gently.
Ryan didn't have a reply to this so he just twitched his chin in an attempt at a nod. He didn't understand why they would want to keep helping him, the perpetual screw up. But for some inexplicable reason they did, even though he had messed up yet again. Sandy came over and clapped him on the shoulder then headed back over to the house.
As Sandy walked back over the patio to the lounge he sighed deeply. He could see that Ryan had put up an invisible barrier around himself and he wasn't letting anyone in right now. The same as he had done the first time Sandy had met him at juvie. Sandy recognised there was no point in trying to push him right now, he would just retreat further into himself. He just wanted Ryan to open up and talk to him, tell him what was going on inside his head.
He reflected on the unexpected wisdom from Seth yesterday – I think Ryan will come to you when he's ready. That was the hardest part – this wasn't something that he could fix immediately. He had to let Ryan work through things in his own time, and just hope he would open up when he was ready. Hopefully driving him to the hotel yesterday had been the first step in showing Ryan he could trust him when he needed help. Now it was just a waiting game.