Down A Rabbit Hole We Go – Chapter 11

Disclaimer: I do not own the OC or any of its characters.

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It was 2 AM and Haley couldn't sleep. She couldn't get over the thought of her baby brother sleeping in the next room. She had so many questions. She opened the doors to the balcony that ran along the length of the back of the house. Ryan's room and another guest room all had similar doors that opened onto the same balcony. She felt to cool breeze coming off the ocean below and inhaled deeply. A faint smell of cigarette smoke tickled her nose and she stepped out onto the balcony. Ryan was sitting in one of the rockers on the far end in the dark. Haley could see the soft glow of the ember on the tip of the cigarette as he took a long drag. She watched as he leaned back, exhaled, and then relaxed into the rocker. She grinned mischievously and reached for the light switch outside her door. When the whole balcony lit up, Ryan nearly jumped out of his chair. "Busted!" Haley chided, before moving to sit in the empty rocker beside him.

Ryan glared at her briefly, but it held little heat. Haley almost felt sorry for startling him. "What are you doing out here?" she asked.

"Couldn't sleep," Ryan muttered, taking another puff of the cigarette.

"Must be pretty overwhelming, huh?" Haley asked, then clarified at Ryan's questioning look. "Suddenly being brought home…to this…" she motioned around her.

Ryan just shrugged.

"Do the bruises on your face have anything to do with Dad's change of heart?"

Ryan nodded and took another drag off the cigarette.

Haley waited, but Ryan didn't continue. "You get into some kind of gang trouble or something?" She'd heard things and knew Chino could be a rough place.

Ryan actually laughed at that. "I got arrested" he commented just to see how she'd respond.

"So, I'm not the only Nichol that's been in jail," Haley replied.

Ryan's eyes widened at that comment.

"It's a long story and Dad got me out of it anyway," she blew it off, more interested in her baby brother's story than sharing her own. She looked pointedly at Ryan.

"My brother, Trey, picked me up in a stolen car and then rolled through a stop sign." Ryan commented.

"That doesn't explain all the bruises, kiddo. What? Did you resist arrest? Did the cops do that too you?"

"No. I had these before the cops stopped us." Ryan took another drag of his cigarette. "My mom's boyfriend" he added quietly.

"Ouch" Haley could sympathize. She'd had a few boyfriends that liked to punch first and ask questions later.

"Yeah, Caleb…Dad…had him arrested, but I'm sure he'll be out in a few months, if not sooner, and my mom will be right back with him if she's not already shacked up with some other loser."

"I'm sorry, Kid," and Haley genuinely was.

Ryan shrugged, "Story of my life." Then he looked at her curiously. "I'm surprised your not mad."

"About what?" Haley questioned.

"About your dad…our dad…having another kid that he never told you about. Kirsten was."

"Oh, I was at first, especially when I realized how old you were and that dad must have cheated on my mom," Haley confided. "But then I remembered the years just before my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She was drinking a lot and always fighting with dad. She even kicked him out of the house…more than once. But after she was diagnosed, they seemed to settle down. And when she relapsed, it nearly killed dad. I could tell how much losing her was hurting him. Knowing that he genuinely loved her…it helped. Besides," Haley suddenly grinned, "there's a part of me that's glad to know that Dad's not perfect. Only Kirsten gets to hold that title now."

"Kirsten seems nice. She's just concerned about her family. I can't blame her," Ryan added.

"Yeah, well. She can't blame you either. If anyone has a right to be angry it's you. I can't believe dad kept you a secret, even after mom died. I mean, you could have been living here, being spoiled rotten, not living in Chino with a mom that…" Haley stopped suddenly; afraid she might offend Ryan.

"It's ok. My mom's a mess. She has been since Frank, Trey's dad, got arrested again. Drinking, drugs, one bad choice of men after another…"

"So where is she now?" Haley asked. "Is she still in the picture?" Haley honestly hoped she wasn't from what little she'd heard about her.

"She told me that if I left with Dad, I could forget about ever coming back to her. She said she never wanted to see me again." Ryan leaned forward and snuffed the flame on his slowly dwindling cigarette out on the bottom of his boot.

"I'm sorry, Kid," Haley commented again. "But hey, you're here now and you're safe. Unless dad catches you smoking. He's hated smoking since mom's cancer, even though the doctor's said it wasn't smoking related. Besides, I can think of a better way to settle both our nerves. Come on," Haley stood and motioned for Ryan to follow.

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Caleb was having trouble sleeping. On the one hand, he was so glad to have Ryan finally home and to not be keeping secrets from his daughters anymore. On the other hand, he knew that he had a lot of work to do in his relationship to Ryan. He never dreamed that things could be as bad as they were, and Ryan wouldn't tell him. He thought the boy trusted him, but he realized that he'd been blind. Perhaps even willingly blind in order to protect himself. He'd failed in so many ways. He only hoped he could be the father Ryan needed now that he had him home with him.

He threw the bed covers back, knowing that sleep wasn't coming anytime soon. He donned his robe and headed downstairs toward his study. On the way, he heard laughter coming from the kitchen. "What on earth?" he muttered as he rounded the corner. To his surprise, Haley and Ryan were sitting at the bar with huge bowls of ice cream topped with syrup and who knows what else.

"Dad!" Haley exclaimed.

"Did we wake you?" Ryan asked quietly.

"No…no…" Caleb waived off Ryan's concern. "I guess you two couldn't sleep either." Caleb surmised. "Is there any more of that?" he asked, before heading to the freezer.

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Disclaimer: Smoking is bad for you. I don't recommend it, but it fits with Ryan's character, at least initially.