Um, so, yeah. I'm not sure how I feel about this; I might delete it, but I thought...well, read it and see.

Sandy Cohen awoke, much too early, to the sound of his alarm clock's persistent whirring. Still half-asleep, he reached over and shut it off. Glancing at his wife to make sure she had slept through it—she had—he got out of bed and stumbled out into the hallway, heading for the bathroom. He took a long shower, enjoying the hot water. When he finished, he put his bathrobe on and walked back into his bedroom. As he got dressed, Sandy leaned over to look at the clock. Time to wake his wife. He sat on the bed while straightening his tie.

"Judy," he said softly, reaching out and rubbing her shoulder. "Time to wake up." She opened her dark eyes and looked at him sleepily.

"Okay, okay, I'm up." He smiled affectionately at her. "Why are you dressed, Sandy? You're not normally up this early."

"I know. I have a kid in Chino today. Normally, I would've complained, but allegedly she specifically requested me…" He grinned. "And, well, I have never been one to turn down a young lady's request."

"What does she look like?" asked Judith Cohen playfully, in mock worry.

"I have no idea. Her name's…I think it's Grace something. She doesn't have a record. That's all I know." Sandy leaned over and kissed his wife. "I'll see you later tonight, okay? I love you." She smiled.

"You, too."

He drove slightly absently on his way to jail. Why would a teenage girl ask for him in particular? Hell, how would a teenage girl without a record even know who he was?

"Sandy," said his friend and colleague John gratefully when he arrived. "Thank God you're here. I'm telling you, this girl is a piece of work."

"Rude, huh?" John shook his head.

"No, she actually has impeccable manners. She's just…I don't know, annoying, and she refuses to talk to anyone except you. Name's Grace Cooper, sixteen, arrested for shoplifting." He handed Sandy a file.

"Thanks, John." Wondering a bit about this girl, he walked into the room.

Grace Cooper was surprisingly attractive. It shouldn't have been surprising—pretty kids got into trouble just as easily as ugly ones—but it was. She was tall and thin, with long, curly blonde-brown hair and huge blue eyes that were the focal point of a heart-shaped face. Despite her obvious nervousness at having been arrested, she had a remarkable aura of calm about her.

"Hi," she said quickly. "I'm Grace Cooper. Nice to meet you."

"Sandy Cohen," he said.

"I know. I know it must be weird—my requesting you, and all, but my boyfriend—Ryan Atwood—he said you were a really good guy. So…you know…hi."

"Ryan," he nodded. "How is he?" Grace's smile faltered.

"He's okay, I guess. His mom…left, but he's staying with friends. He's better off with them; they're good people."

"Why are you not happy about it?" asked Sandy gently. He had liked Ryan Atwood, and if there was anything wrong with the kid's living situation, he wanted to know about it. Grace looked startled, but then she started to smile. She had a pretty smile.

"Oh, no, Mr. Cohen, nothing like that. It's just that the friend he's living with, Arturo, has a sister Ryan used to date. He's fine; I just get a little bit jealous, that's all."

"Well, I'm glad he's all right." Sandy frowned as he looked at her file. "Grace Cooper…if you don't mind my asking…your parents here are listed as Julie and Lance Baldwin. Is there a reason you don't share their name?" Grace leaned over and looked at the form, then frowned.

"Mom didn't fill it out properly," she said. "I mean, Lance is my dad, he's been my father my whole life, he was married to Mom when I was born, but…he's not my natural father. Cooper is my father's name. He and Mom were never married, but he's actually still my legal father." She shrugged. "It doesn't really matter. Mom and Lance aren't in any danger of, like, suing each other for custody. It works." Sandy didn't say anything, and the silence was rather uncomfortable for Grace, who rushed to continue. "According to Mom, she and Lance broke up like seventeen years ago, and she met this guy named James Cooper and they had an affair, but he didn't really want to marry her, and then she went back to Lance…but I'm the guy's daughter. It's actually kind of important to my mom; that's why she wouldn't let Lance adopt me, or let me call him Dad." Sandy studied the girl a little longer.

"Okay," he finally said. "Well, since this is your first offense, I can probably get you off with just probation, but I can't express upon you the seriousness of stealing. You can get in real trouble, you know, because it's wrong, and while the laws tend to be lenient on minors, you're sixteen, and you now have a record." Her face expressed a look of horror.

"You can't get it expunged, or…something?" Sandy was quite surprised at Grace's easy use of a word he hadn't expected many sixteen-year-olds to know—his own teenagers didn't—but then he remembered Ryan Atwood, whose record he had expunged, and whose obvious intelligence had startled him. Surely his girlfriend was equally smart.

"I probably can," he admitted. "I just kind of wanted to scare you, because breaking the law—it's no joke, Miss Cooper; it's wrong and there's punishment."

"I know," she said quickly. "It was wrong, and it was stupid." She shook her head. "Really stupid. And, hey—you can call me Grace, Mr. Cohen."

"Grace," Sandy said, shaking her hand. "It was nice to meet you. I hope I never see you again," he added with a grin.

"Me, too. At least…under these circumstances." Grace turned to go.

"Wait, Grace…" She turned and raised her eyebrows in question.

"Your address…you live pretty far away. Do you need a ride?" What the hell.

"Actually, um, that would be really good," she confessed. "Both my parents work, and…thanks, Mr. Cohen."

"No problem."

They drove in slightly awkward silence which was not broken when Grace, at Sandy's request, turned on the radio. Finally, though, they reached Grace's house, a small, reasonably well-kept one.

"Thanks," she said again as she got out of the car. He stayed in the driveway to make sure she got in all right, a habit he'd started when he first took girls on dates and had since learned was a wise one. A few seconds after she'd walked in, though, Grace came back out with a terrified look on her face.

"They're not here," she whispered. "Mom, and Lance, and my little brother and sister…Mr. Cohen, they're not here…" Sandy's heart broke at the sight of the girl, who'd been fairly composed up till now, suddenly frantic. He got out of the car; she was sitting on the steps now, looking shell-shocked.

"What am I supposed to do? Does she just—not want me anymore, or—" Grace passed Sandy the note her mom had left her.

Dear Grace, he read quietly as he sat beside her. I don't think this is going to work out any longer. I'm sorry to leave you like this, but I'm pregnant again, and four kids are too many for Lance and me to handle. Besides, I'm beginning to worry that you should know your father. He's a pretty good guy; I think you'll like him. Here's his address, okay? I love you. Mom.

What kind of a note was this to leave a sixteen year old girl? Sandy swore under his breath.

"Legally," he said quietly. "Legally, since he is your father, if we can't find your mother, you have to go to him. I'm sorry, Grace; it's not what anyone should have to do, but…"

"I don't want to find her," she said suddenly, her voice icy. "She just left a note in the house for me to find, along with all my stuff in my room? Helen's stuff is all gone, but mine's still there," Grace continued, starting to cry. "Everything is gone but me and mine…Mom and Lance don't want me; I don't want them."

"Well…then…" said Sandy helplessly. "I hope your father's family are ready for this. And that this is the correct address," he added in a mumble under his breath. He didn't want to worry the girl.

The second drive was even more awkward than the first, and much longer. The address Julie Baldwin had scribbled on her note was in Newport Beach, an extravagantly wealthy town a good forty-five minutes away, and every minute felt like an hour. Finally, they were there. A sinking feeling Sandy'd had the whole drive was confirmed when he saw that it was indeed a gated community. Luckily the guard was not what he should be, and let them through. They pulled up in front of one of the largest mansions either had ever seen.

"Wow," said Grace in a whisper. "This is where my father lives?" Sandy raised an eyebrow.

"I guess so," he said, and rang the doorbell. A pretty red-headed girl answered the door.

"Is this the James Cooper residence?" asked Sandy politely. She nodded. "Is Mr. Cooper home, then?"

"Mr. Cooper's at the office, but Mrs. Cooper's working from home; shall I get her?"

"Yes, please." A moment later, a very attractive blonde with neatly styled hair, blue eyes, and a slender figure came to the door.

"Kirsten Cooper," she said, frowning. "Do we…know you?"

"No," said Sandy honestly. "But…um, it's kind of complicated." He faltered a little, trying to decide where to begin. Mrs. Cooper looked uncomfortable about it, but good manners prevailed, and she invited them in.

"This is a nice house," he remarked, admiring the faultless sitting room into which the beautiful woman led them.

"Thank you," she said with a slight smile. "I designed it myself."

"You're an architect?" asked Grace suddenly. Mrs. Cooper turned, seeming to take notice of Grace for the first time.

"No, but I work in residential development at a real estate company, and I worked very closely with the architect for this particular house, since I was going to live in it." She smiled again, and gestured to a couch before sitting on an armchair herself. "Now, before you tell me what it is you're going to tell me, what are your names?" As the redheaded maid passed, Mrs. Cooper casually asked her to bring some ice water.

"I'm Sandy Cohen," said Sandy quickly, "and she…is the reason I'm here." He sighed and bit the bullet. "Her name is Grace Cooper.

"Oh," said Mrs. Cooper. She was clearly quite surprised. "Um…?" Sandy rushed to explain.

"Seventeen years ago, your husband was involved with a young woman from, uh…"

"Riverside," supplied Grace quietly.

"Right, Riverside…" Mrs. Cooper nodded.

"Julie something-or-other, her name was. They only went out for, gosh, it was…two, maybe three months? But then she got pregnant and…" Suddenly it hit her. "You're Jimmy's daughter, aren't you?" Grace nodded.

"Oh, wow," she said, clearly flustered. "Um, hi! I guess I'm your stepmother then, uh, my name is Kirsten Cooper, but…um…I told you that, didn't I? Call me Kirsten. Look, Grace, I'm so sorry we've never had any contact with you, but your mother…She just disappeared. One day she told Jimmy she was pregnant, and he told her he would be there for her, but it was too soon to get married, and then…" The maid showed up with the water, and Kirsten took a glass and downed it in one gulp. "She broke contact. She didn't tell Jimmy when she had the baby—you—and she never asked for child support or…anything, really. She just disappeared. I'm so sorry I didn't…know you." Kirsten looked at Grace's eyes, praying for her not to be upset.

"It's okay," she said quietly. "Mom can be like that sometimes."

"So…um, not that I'm not glad to meet you, and I'm sure Jimmy will be, too, but why are you here?" Grace wished that she could sink into her chair.

"Mom kind of…told me to leave. I was…out, and when I got back, the house was empty except for my stuff, and Mom left me a note telling me basically that she didn't want me anymore and I should try my luck with my father." Kirsten's face contorted with shock, and she instantly drew Grace into an awkward hug.

"I'm so sorry, honey," she said softly. "That's awful; I…How could anyone do that to her daughter?" Grace smiled bitterly.

"My mother is an amazingly selfish woman. Your husband made a good decision when he didn't marry her."

"He's not just my husband; he's your father," said Kirsten firmly. Grace responded with a rueful grin.

"You're very trusting, aren't you, Mrs. Cooper—Kirsten. Most women wouldn't take me on my word."

"You look like him," said Kirsten quietly. "And you look like her, too. And…" She laughed. "I guess I am trusting. Besides, I mean…I guess you need somewhere to stay," she finished awkwardly. "Cara, can you put fresh sheets in the guest room?"

"Which room, Mrs. Cooper?" asked the maid politely.

"Uh, the one with the big gable," she said distractedly. "That's right by Jimmy and my room, Grace, is that okay?"

"Yeah, sure, anything's fine, really. Thanks so much…Kirsten." Kirsten smiled.

"Of course, honey. Do you need help with any of your things?"

"No," said Sandy, breaking into the conversation. "I have it under control, Mrs. Cooper." Kirsten turned, as if she'd finally realized that he was there.

"Who are you, Mr. Cohen?" she asked curiously, giving him a funny look as she did so. Had she met him before?

"I'm Grace's attorney," he said. "She…got into some legal trouble; that's probably why her mother…" Kirsten frowned, not wanting to show her feelings, but a bit surprised at her own audacity at letting a "legally troubled" girl into her house just because she resembled both Jimmy and one of his old girlfriends.

"I'll go get her stuff now, okay?" he said with a glance at the two women. They nodded. He left and quickly came back with the two bags that Grace had packed.

"Cara?" she said with a gesture to the bags. The maid took both and headed for the stairs. Sandy stood again, and Kirsten immediately got up to walk him to the door. He stopped and regarded her carefully.

"Mrs. Cooper…this is gonna sound crazy…but your maiden name, it wasn't Nichol, was it?"

"Actually, yes, it is," she said, surprised. "Do I…know you?"

"You used to. At Berkeley," Sandy clarified. "I guess you don't remember, but we went to a movie once. Risky Business," he added with a chuckle. "I had a big crush on you back then, so it's been permanently imbedded in my mind." Kirsten smiled, flattered but a bit embarrassed.

"Oh, yeah, I do remember," she said after she thought about it. "You left the theatre singing that Bob Seger song, didn't you…you were good." She laughed. "That was…what, twenty years ago? When Jimmy and I broke up for the first time."

"There was a second time?"

"Obviously. When Jimmy impregnated Julie," she said with just a hit of wryness. "It's nice to see you again, Sandy. Sorry I didn't immediately remember." He smiled.

"Well, I've gotten older…"

"No, you still look the same," she said with a laugh. "You talk less, though."

"Naw, I don't. If you saw me on a more regular basis…" She laughed again, and he did, too.

"So what's happened to you? Are you married?"

"Yeah," he said, still staring a bit at Kirsten. "Her name's Judith. We have two boys, Jake is seventeen and Sam is fourteen. You?"

"Three," she said with a smile. "Jim is fifteen, and the twins—Victoria and Caleb—are thirteen." Sandy snapped his fingers in mock disappointment.

"You've got us beaten, then." She smiled.

"It really was nice to see you."

"Yeah. You, too. Wait—Kirsten—let me give you my number. For Grace," he explained, as he saw she was about to demur.

Obviously, if Sandy and Kirsten never got married, Seth wouldn't exist. And I figured that Marissa would have a different name, too. So review and tell me what you think, even if you hate it.