Beta: beachtree, you are so lovely! Thank you for all the help! Any changes or grammatical errors in this story are mine and mine alone!
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own the characters, not even the beloved Ryan Atwood. The OC universe and all of its characters were created by Josh Schwartz and owned by him as well. Don't sue me Josh! I mean it! No copyright infringement intended!
A/N: This will be a multi-chapter, futuristic Ryan and Lindsay story. I understand that Lindsay wasn't a popular character, but I always enjoyed her relationship with Ryan and there are so few fics written about them that I decided to write one myself. The Lindsay in my story becomes very mature so even if someone didn't like her on the show, they may still like her in this story, especially by the end. This is a hurt/comfort story so be prepared for some sick!Ryan and some angst. Ryan and Lindsay's relationship in this story becomes more so like best friends with feelings for each other than lovers, but a romantic story may development. Sandy, Seth, Luke, Kirsten, and some other characters will appear in here. Ryan and Lindsay are each 26 years old in this story. You will find out what's wrong with Ryan in Ch. 2, I promise! The first chapter is 100% from Lindsay's point of view. The story really starts to pick up in Ch. 2, which is from Ryan's point of view mostly, but please bare with me on Ch. 1! You will learn what Lindsay has been up to these past ten years, see how much she's matured, learn her impressions of Ryan, and towards the end of the chapter Ryan and Sandy will both make appearances!
Please R/R if you can because any feedback can help me improve the story as I go along. Thanks!
"This is the third and final call for all passengers boarding flight 42B bound for San Francisco, CA. Please proceed to gate 13 immediately with your boarding pass. I repeat: this is the last call for all passengers boarding flight 42B bound for San Francisco. The captain will order for the doors of the aircraft to close in approximately ten minutes. Thank you," the ticket agent announces in a monotone voice over the intercom.
Relieved that I didn't miss my flight, I stand up from where I have been seated for the past hour while waiting to board my flight at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. I suppose I was so immersed in reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment that I didn't hear the ticket agent make his first two announcements. Luckily, I only have one small carry-on bag, so the short walk to gate 13 shouldn't be too cumbersome.
As I approach the point where Concourse E and F split, the sight of the McDonald's located on my right hand side makes me slightly nauseous. I still wish I didn't purchase my breakfast there this morning. The Egg McMuffin and parfait have not settled well in my stomach, and I'll definitely need to run several miles tonight after I arrive in Berkeley if I'm going to burn off all of those calories. I don't suspect I'll be eating fast food again anytime soon.
Finally arriving at my departure gate, I hand over my boarding pass to the disinterested ticket agent. I take a deep breath and exhale. California, here I come… again.
My flight arrives at the San Francisco International Airport at around four in the evening. After I claim my luggage, I head to a nearby bus station and wait. About ten minutes later, a shuttle arrives to take me to Berkeley. A nice, older gentleman helps me load my luggage into the back, and I look for an unoccupied seat near the front.
After sitting down to rest my aching feet, I peer through the glass window to my right –my mind drifting to memories of my last visit to California. A wave of nostalgia and sadness overwhelms my emotions. After all, the last time I was in this state, I attended the funeral of Caleb Nichol, the father I never got the chance to really know.
For years, my mom kept her affair a secret, but in this very state, about 400 miles south of here I learned that I was the illegitimate daughter of the richest man in Newport Beach. I was sixteen at the time.
I remember how his money hadn't fazed me in the least. After all, I've never been one for material things. All I had wanted at the time was a father who loved me for me. I guess when he ordered that DNA test, it really hurt me. I had feared that if I wasn't his biological daughter, he would not want to get to know me. Of course it did turn out that I was his biological daughter, but after the DNA test, nothing to me was the same.
Despite all that, by the time Caleb passed away, it was still my fault I never got to know him as well as I would have liked. I had the chance and he did apologize to me, but instead, I went to Chicago with my mom because at the time, I felt she needed me. Looking back, if I would have known that Caleb didn't have much time to live, I may not have left. I guess it's one of many regrets that I'll carry for the rest of my life.
Strangely enough, I remember that back then, it wasn't leaving Caleb Nichol behind that brought me any tears. Instead, it was leaving my first real boyfriend, Ryan Atwood. To this day I don't think I've dated anybody as sweet as him. I guess leaving him would be my biggest regret.
It hurt me to leave him, and I still remember the look of disappointment etched in his sad dark blue eyes when we hugged for the last time.
I remember his slumped shoulders and his defeated posture, yet he still remained so understanding. He told me how much he understood the importance of family, and he let me go even though it broke his heart.
As I recall the times I spent with this boy, and as I recall those rare but delicate times he opened up to me about his difficult childhood, I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. He treated me so well, but in turn, I broke his heart, and I'll never forgive myself for it.
I wonder whatever happened to Ryan. He tried to keep in touch with me for the entire year following my departure from Newport, but I made a terrible mistake—a colossal mistake, and since then I've wished I could take it back, but I can't.
"Hell-o?" Ryan used his characteristic inflection to answer his cell.
"Hey," I greeted him softly, my tone laced with anxiety, which he picked up on during the conversation.
"Lindsay… hey. It's great to hear from you. How've you been?"
"I've been doing pretty well… just busy with school projects, band, and club meetings. How about you?"
"It's been a tough year, but I'm okay." He paused for several seconds before filling the silence again. "So how's your mom doing? Tell her I said 'hi' if you get the chance."
"She's good. She's been working a lot lately, but she seems happier. I'll definitely let her know you asked for her. She's still very fond of you."
There was another awkward silence until Ryan finally asked, "So… um. Did you get the letter I sent a couple of months ago? It's been a while since I heard from you."
"I did... and… I know. I'm sorry. Your letter was so sweet. You're such a good friend. It's just…"
"Lindsay, what's wrong? It seems like something is bothering you."
"… Ryan… we… we need to talk."
The line remained silent for a few moments and I thought we may have disconnected.
"Ryan? Are you still there?"
"Yeah," he sighed. "Sorry. What's up? What do you wanna talk about?"
"I'm seeing someone now… I mean… I'm dating someone. We've been dating for a few weeks now and I really like him. His name is Derrick."
From the tone of his voice, I could tell he was genuinely happy for me, which made me feel even more guilty for what I was about to say.
"There's something else though. I.… I don't think we should talk to each other anymore. It's too hard to keep doing this…"
"... Writing each other letters, e-mails… talking on the phone. I care about you. I care about you a lot, it's just… I'm with someone else now, and I thought I could handle a long distance friendship with you, but…"
"But…" his voice quieted to almost a whisper.
"I can't," I said, my voice shaking. It hurt every fiber in my body to tell him that.
What I wanted to tell him was that I still had feelings for him and that talking to him made me feel guilty since I knew I cared about him more than the guy I was dating, but I lost my courage.
Instead I said, "I hope you understand. I'm so sorry, Ryan. I never meant to hurt you."
"So that means…" he trailed off without finishing his thought. He sounded so sad.
"It means goodbye… at least for now," I said, now crying.
"...s' okay. I get it."
" I'll miss talking to you… a lot." I paused to gather my emotions before continuing. "Take care of yourself… okay? You deserve happiness. You're a wonderful guy, Ryan Atwood."
He said his goodbyes and since then we haven't talked.
That phone conversation has haunted me for years.
I really cared for Ryan deeply during the time I knew him. In fact, I think I was in the beginning stages of falling in love with him. Despite all that, I thought at the time that it would be easier for the both of us if we stopped communicating. It turns out that it wasn't.
Now here I am ten years later, wistfully remembering the short time I spent with him in this state.
I remember how much I hated California, and without Ryan and my mom, I doubt I would have even lasted as long as I did at Harbor.
The shuttle comes to an abrupt halt, interrupting my trip down memory lane.
I guess this is it. This is my home now. As much as I think I dislike California after my experience in Newport, I owe it to myself to give Berkeley a chance. After all, it's located in a completely different part of the state and since this is my first time here, I have no valid reason to believe I can't learn to enjoy it.
Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness
And cleanliness is godliness, and god is empty just like me
The proverbial descant of the Smashing Pumpkins song Zero blares from my alarm clock, waking me up. Yawning and stretching my arms over my head, I allow the rhythm of the drums and base to arouse me. I routinely play classical music on my iPod before going to sleep, but I need something more upbeat like Smashing Pumpkins to jolt me awake in the mornings.
Finally bringing myself to hop out of bed, my eyes catch sight of the large, plush nose and pair of beady eyes and goofy glasses staring back at me from across the floor next to my bed post. For a minute there, I can't control my laughter. I can't believe I still wear my Freudian slippers. I guess they give me some sort of comfort. After all, I've had them since the ninth grade. They represent something familiar—an amenity to hold on to, I guess.
I head to the bathroom to shower and brush my teeth. This is the start of yet another day, and the mundane routine somehow relaxes me.
To my astonishment, the next few weeks fly by quickly. I learn that Berkeley is nothing like Newport Beach—or at least what I remember of it. The people here actually seem real and for the most part, they are friendly. I guess it is also possible that since I am older and more mature now, I interact with people much differently than I did during the short time I spent in Newport.
It doesn't take me long to settle into my new lifestyle. I live in a lovely condo close to UC Berkeley, where I begin law school in a few weeks. I prepare a healthy breakfast every morning before leaving for work, and when I return home in the evenings, I usually go for a jog. I haven't socialized much since arriving in town, but I figured there is plenty of time for that once I begin school.
I've been enjoying my time this summer working as an administrative assistant for Joseph E. Tomasik. He is the sole P.A. for the firm and is an expert in personal injury law and insurance claims. He has been very gracious in teaching me aspects of the business I otherwise may not have gotten the chance to ever know. I'm not completely sure that personal injury law is the field I want to go into, since it wouldn't really be utilizing my dual master's degree in psychology and sociology, but I'm always grateful for any added experience.
The day of orientation finally arrives, and I'm feeling a little bit anxious because I really want to make a good impression on my classmates and professors. I need to look sharp but not overdressed. By the time I finish searching for an outfit, my closet looks like 'Taz' from Looney Tunes paid a visit.
I'll pick up the scattered blouses, skirts, and pairs of slacks tonight when I get back though I'm not looking forward to it.
I finally decide on business casual attire—a knee high black skirt, slit on the left side with a charming light blue blouse and two-inch heeled black pumps. My hair is down, extending past my shoulders and I am carrying a simple black leather purse that I bought from TJ Maxx last week. Nothing in my wardrobe is high end or expensive, really, but hopefully that won't matter.
When I arrive at the orientation, an overwhelming feeling of nervousness causes butterflies to form in the pit of my stomach. All around me, I am surrounded by young men and women much like me, on their way to becoming professionals, but why do I suddenly feel so shy?
Swallowing hard, I decide to keep to myself. I find a spot in the back of the lecture hall. Hopefully this way I can remain inconspicuous.
The Dean silences the body of students in the room and begins to speak. I nearly fall asleep during the lengthy speech, but the mentioning of a certain familiar name jolts my focus.
"And now Professor Sanford Cohen has a few words for you all," the Dean finishes.
Could it be the Sandy Cohen I knew all those years ago in Newport? I knew he was a lawyer after all, and I knew he had graduated from UC Berkeley.
Could it be the husband of my biological half-sister, Kirsten Cohen? The sister I have failed miserably to keep in touch with? Granted, she hasn't kept in touch with me either. It's understandable, I guess, given our significant age difference. We really didn't have much in common, anyways.
More importantly, though, could this Sanford Cohen be the same man who was Ryan's legal guardian?
Wow, I must be hearing things.
Perhaps losing my mind?
Sure enough, the once familiar, up-tempo voice of Sandy Cohen snaps me out of my daydream as he begins his speech. Indeed it is him.
I cannot believe this. He is actually going to be one of my law professors!
A fury of emotions envelope my body with paralyzing intensity I have not felt for quite a while. I'm not sure I'm ready for this. Of all the things to expect, Sandy Cohen being one of my law professors was not one of them. This means that it may only be a matter of time before I run into Ryan.
What a small world.
Perhaps Ryan doesn't even live in Berkeley, though. After all, by now he is probably working on his own somewhere across the country. I wonder if he became an architect, or if he changed career goals like I did. I used to want to be a scientific researcher until I fell in love with political science, psychology, and sociology during my first semester in college.
The Ryan I remember was very intelligent and a hard worker. I bet he's very successful in whatever field he decided to pursue. Still, the knowledge that Sandy Cohen can put me back in touch with him simultaneously unnerves and excites me.
I take in Sandy's appearance. He looks much older than I remember him, but that is to be expected. He is now well into his fifties, after all. He is a bit heavier than I remember, but not by much. Several gray hairs are now visible on his thick, black hair and he still wears it in the same style as before. His bushy eye brows and honest blue eyes still convey wisdom and compassion. I always liked Sandy.
I cannot help but wonder what Ryan looks like now. He's probably buff and handsome as usual. For whatever reason, he and I had never had any pictures taken together, but I still vividly remember what he looked like.
I remember how much I loved it when he would wrap his strong, warm arms around me. I remember squeezing his well-developed biceps and smoothing over his shaggy, dark blond bangs that often covered his beautiful deep blue eyes.
I remember the way those very eyes would take my breath away, and each time I met the intensity of his gaze, I'd find myself lost in the ocean of his heart.
His eyes were like a gateway into his pure and honest soul, and whenever he'd look at me, I could feel an unexplainable connection.
He always made me feel safe—protected.
It was a feeling I hadn't been able to put into words at the time, and quite frankly I still can't. It's as if he could see right through me, but to my relief I could tell he was enchanted by what he saw.
I also remember how those mysterious eyes of his would light up and twinkle every time he smiled. Yes, that smile—the one I adored so much—the smile that had the power to break down my inhibitions… and when he'd half-smile, I'd get all giddy and lightheaded… like a kid turned loose in a candy store.
I remember his jokes and his thoughtful and charming personality. Around others he had an unwavering intensity and brooding sensuality like no other, but around me he often expressed his more relaxed, playful—sometimes even goofy side.
I had tried to prevent myself from thinking about him all these years because it hurt so much to know that I had ruined everything when I left and that I could never have him again, but just the memory of his existence still makes my body weak.
Sandy has just finished his speech; of course I was so caught up in a day dream about my once sweet boyfriend from Chino that I really have no idea what Sandy just talked about. Tonight there is a dinner conference for all the first year law students. Perhaps there I'll get to re-introduce myself to Sandy.
I'm here sitting on my bed in my room reading The Fox by D.W. Lawrence. I guess thinking about Ryan put me in the mood for romance novels. The thing is… I have barely gotten through the second chapter though I have been sitting here for hours. Examining the bottom of the faded page of the novel, I see about thirty red dots. Wow. So I have regressed to this habit again? I guess thinking about Ryan always does that to me too.
I put the novel away, realizing that no matter how hard I try, I won't be able to read it today. I am just far too nervous.
What if I see Ryan today?
I push that thought to the back of my mind. How ridiculous am I being right now? How childish I am!
Good thing these are my internal thoughts and nobody else knows about them. I am twenty-six years old for crying out loud, and I'm acting like I'm still in high school!
Ryan is probably off somewhere working in another state anyways. What makes me so sure he would want to live close to the Cohens after high school and college? Then again, he did tell me he always dreamed about feeling accepted and loved by them since he'd never had a real family before. I really hope it all worked out for him. The thought of him never being exposed to a real family before the Cohens makes my heart ache.
Gosh, I am driving myself crazy thinking about this!
Glancing down at my watch I see that it is already five o' clock. It's time for me to get ready anyway. The dinner meeting is at half past seven.
I park my car and approach the Center Library of UC Berkeley, where the dinner conference is to be held. It is a quarter past seven according to my watch, although the time on the watch runs a little fast, so it must really be just ten past the hour. I can't stop checking the time. I really want to make a good impression on my peers and punctuality is a must.
I can't remember the last time I felt this nervous!
Actually I can.
It was that night ten years ago when I gathered the courage to knock on Ryan's pool house door and tell him how I really felt about him. I told him how I marked my book up with all those little red dots. I think my stomach was about to revolt. That's how nervous I was! Thank goodness Ryan was so sweet, and his kiss replaced my nerves with happy butterflies and a special feeling of worth that I'd never experienced before.
It's funny how I can take standardized exams at ease, give presentations in front of large groups of people, and compete in mock trial without getting nervous, but when I think about what I'd say to Ryan if I saw him today, I'm terrified. No other guy has ever had this impact on me, but then again, not one of the guys I dated in college or afterward can even come close to being as good as Ryan in my book.
Wow. I really am pathetic. For all I know, he could have changed. Realistically speaking, Ryan is a stranger to me now. I better just focus on this conference and see if I can learn something to enhance my skills as a future attorney.
"Hey, is anyone sitting here?" I ask a girl who is seated at one of the tables in the conference center.
"My boyfriend will be here soon, but nobody else is sitting here. You are welcome to though," she answers me. "I'm Beth Jacobs by the way," she holds out her hand to greet me as she introduces herself. I shake her hand firmly.
"Thank you. I'm Lindsay Gardener," I reply.
"Nice to meet you," she responds. "So where are you from? Where did you do your undergrad?"
"Oh.… um. I'm from Chicago, but I finished my bachelor's degrees at Yale and I got a dual master's degree at University of Chicago. How about you?"
"Well I'm from here. I got a BS in biochemistry at UC Berkeley. What were your degrees in?"
"At Yale, I studied political science, and at the University of Chicago I got a dual master's degree in psychology and sociology," I answer.
"Wow, you have a diverse background. So what kind of law are you interested in?"
"Um, well. I'm not sure yet, but I worked over the summer for a firm specializing in injury law so maybe I'll go into that. We'll see. You?"
"I want to do patent law. My dad is a patent lawyer, and I love biotechnology and research and development. I didn't want to be a researcher so I figured I'd just follow in his footsteps and still get to work within that field," she says.
"That's very cool. So do you know anything about tonight's speaker?" I ask, curious.
"Yeah, he's supposed to be a big time attorney general from California or something like that."
"Very nice," I reply. A tall guy with dark hair and eyes approaches the table and Beth stands up to kiss him lightly on the lips. I guess this is her boyfriend.
"Lindsay, this is my boyfriend, Dean. He's working on a PhD in electrical engineering here at Berkeley. Dean, this is Lindsay," she introduces us.
The two get into a pretty in-depth political discussion, and I decide I am not in the mood to socialize anymore, so I just listen and try to take in the atmosphere around me. It's a rather professional environment and the people here don't seem that judgmental. I greatly enjoyed my time at Yale, and while I thought I would hate California, I am beginning to realize that I could very well end up enjoying UC Berkeley.
The waiter finally places our dinners before us. We had a choice between filet mignon and sword fish, and I chose the sword fish. I'm trying to stay away from red meat no matter how good it tastes, and I figured fish is the better choice health wise. High cholesterol runs in my family, and I want to keep on the safe side as I get older.
I excuse myself to go to the restroom so that I can wash my hands before touching my dinner.
As I'm walking back to my table, I see Kirsten Cohen walk into the conference room holding Sandy Cohen's hand. My eyes follow their movements until they finally sit down at a table reserved for professors and their families near the back. There are a few other people seated around them, but from a distance I cannot make out who they are.
I begin eating, and the presentation begins. The speaker is fairly engaging, but my mind keeps drifting to other thoughts.
I cannot bring myself to stop eyeballing the area where Sandy and Kirsten are seated. A number of students are seated in front of them, blocking my view, but finally a couple of them get up, probably to use the restroom, and I am better able to catch a glimpse of the other people at the Cohen table.
My eyes catch sight of a thin young man seated next to Sandy, but I don't recognize him at first. Trying to make out who he is, the revelation finally dawns on me, and my entire body goes numb.
Concern is the first emotion that manifests itself as I recognize Ryan from across the room. He has certainly changed a lot since I knew him—physically at least. He is not the buff boy I remember dating. Instead he is very slender, and the weight loss is especially noticeable in his face, making his strong jaw line and other facial features seem more prominent.
His dark blond hair is much shorter than I remember, and he no longer sports the shaggy bangs, but his eyes haven't changed a bit. Those deep blue eyes are just as gorgeous and mesmerizing as ever, but they are tainted with sadness. In many ways, I find him even more beautiful now, but I can't help but feel disturbed by his slight build. He's too thin, and something in my gut keeps telling me that something is wrong.
I keep fidgeting with my napkin while switching glances from the guest speaker and then back to Ryan again, hoping that nobody notices my ogling. The speaker finally finishes, and my eyes are now fixated on Ryan. I feel guilty for staring so openly, and I really hope he doesn't turn in my direction because I don't think I would be able to tear my eyes away.
I see him pop a couple of pills into his mouth and swallow them down with a few sips of water. Curious, I try to find the source of the pills and notice two prescription bottles resting on the table in front of him. As if he knows someone might be watching and see them, he quickly places the bottles into his pocket and reaches for something down to his side. I crane my neck to try to get a glimpse of whatever it is, but I am unable to see anything until he finally stands up.
"It's a cane!" I gasp quietly, hoping nobody around my table hears me.
My face must look ghostly pale right now, because I feel the blood draining as he limps across the room towards my table. The closer he gets, the more I feel my stomach clench. I can feel tears gathering in the corners of my eyes.
So my intuition was right all along. Something's very, very wrong.
"Please don't notice me. Please don't notice me," I keep repeating to myself as he continues to walk in my direction.
I assume he's trying to leave the room because the exit is located on the side of the room where I'm seated. I suddenly wish I would have sat down somewhere else. Perhaps I can duck my head and not be noticed. The only problem is… I can't stop staring at the seemingly painful way he limps across the room, guided by his cane.
"Oh my God, Ryan!" I whisper to myself.
What could have happened to him? Was he in an accident? Does he have some sort of illness? There are so many possibilities, and suddenly I want to know everything. I want to help him. The urge gets the better of me, and I impulsively stand up.
Too bad my timing is off. By the time I stand up, I accidently drop my purse and it collides with the carpeted floor. I kneel back down and reach both of my hands out to pick it up, but when I stand up again, I trip over my heel, and land flat on my butt. As I fall, my arm accidentally knocks something over and I hear another loud thump shortly after.
"Oh… crap," I mutter quietly to myself.
I realize that the object I knocked over is Ryan's cane and that loud thumping noise was him toppling over.
"Fuck!" I hear him grunt quietly, obviously hurting.
I look up from my eyelashes, keeping my head down so nobody can see my face, and I notice him grabbing his right leg. He begins rubbing it gently.
His grimace doesn't go unnoticed, and he bites down on his bottom lip, squeezing his eyes shut. I think I see a couple of tears escape from the corners of his eyes, but I'm not sure. He looks like he's in excruciating pain despite the familiar mask he tries to put in place, and I wish I could help him up, but my nerves get the better of me and I stay frozen in my kneeling position. He remains seated on the carpet, rubbing his leg with both hands- the tension never leaving his face.
By now, the room has become silent. Every direction I turn, I see people gawking at us, and I begin to feel nauseous on top of everything. Now I'm really afraid to move as I feel myself begin to break out in a cold sweat.
This is so embarrassing.
Sandy is making his way over to Ryan, but Kirsten is nowhere in sight. Perhaps she's in the restroom? I saw her get up shortly before Ryan took his pills, but I haven't seen her since.
That's right, but why was he taking them? What were they for? Why does he have a cane?
All of these questions come rushing back to me, and a surge of panic overtakes me. Focusing my attention back on Ryan and away from the crowd of nosy onlookers, I feel tears beginning to form.
I hurt him. I can't believe it. I managed to hurt him.
Guilt and sadness conflict with my excitement to see him, and I get a bizarre feeling of déjà vu, remembering the time Ryan and I first met.
Yes, I see the irony in all of this, but when Ryan accidently spilled his coffee on me and dropped my tampons and elbowed me, it was all an accident… well…
"Six accidents," I chuckle silently at the fond memory.
It was mostly my fault anyway since I left him little room to maneuver around me. Back then the only thing that was hurt was my pride, and even that had little to do with Ryan and everything to do with the preppy, snooty Harbor kids I had encountered earlier that morning.
Now ten years later, even if unintentional, I have managed to hurt him physically in addition to possibly damaging his pride far worse than my chagrin over a couple of spilled tampons and a coffee stain on my shirt.
Greatly frustrated with myself, I decide that I had better get out of here before I cause anyone, including myself more pain or embarrassment.
"Miss, are you alright?" Sandy Cohen's voice snaps me out of my trance.
He squeezes my left shoulder and offers a hand to help me up. Humiliated, I refuse to make eye contact with him and instead keep my head down since I don't want anyone to recognize me. I open my mouth to answer him, but since no words come out, I close it again.
When I finally get back on my feet, I impulsively lift my gaze slightly, and that's when I see two astonished dark blue eyes looking back at me.
"Lindsay?" Ryan inquires— a shocked expression on his face.