Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of The OC. They all belong to Josh Schwartz.
A/N: This takes place, early season one, after Kirsten gets Ryan released from juvie and the Cohen's become Ryan's legal guardians. This story is AU, and I've written Dawn as she was portrayed in "The Pilot" episode. I'm also trying my hand at developing some of my own characters. Just minor roles to hopefully help convey my story.
Sandy walks back down the hallway and notices Kirsten and Seth standing outside Ryan's room. "Why aren't you with Ryan?" he asks, concerned something is wrong.
"Dr. Morrision is examining him," Seth answers as he fidgets nervously, worried his friend has suffered a setback.
"Where's Dawn?" Kirsten asks, keeping her arms wrapped tightly around herself as she remembers the woman being uncontrollable, assaulting her own son. "Is she going to come back here and upset Ryan again? Because, I really don't think he'd be able to take it... I don't think any of us would be able to take it."
"I don't think Dawn will be bothering Ryan or us anytime soon," Sandy assures his wife. "Where's Mrs. Forrester?" he asks, looking around for the social worker.
"She's with a nurse," Kirsten replies. "I guess Dawn pushed her pretty hard into the wall so they're making sure her shoulder is alright."
"Great," Sandy sighs under his breath as he runs his fingers through his hair. This is just what we need... the social worker getting injured on the job, Sandy thinks to himself.
"So, Ryan should be able to come home with us, right Dad?" Seth asks, desperate to hear some good news. "The social worker saw how crazy Dawn is..."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Sandy states soberly.
"What do you mean?" Kirsten asks, confused by her husband's statement.
"What I mean is that Mrs. Forrester just got a dose of the 'Dawn Atwood' I first met," Sandy explains. "I wouldn't be surprised if she's hesitant to let Ryan come back home with us. I allowed the boy to return to Chino with her... I sent that kid back to live in one of the most toxic environments on the planet."
"Honey, we were all fooled by Dawn's little charade," Kirsten says, trying to remain optimistic. "Mrs. Forrester heard what Ryan told us... she knows how far Dawn was willing to go to get her son back."
Dr. Morrison opens the door and sees the Cohen family standing in a tight circle, clearly concerned about their newest family member.
"Dr. Morrison, how is he?" Sandy asks urgently, hoping the boy hasn't suffered any major setbacks.
"He's doing remarkably well," Anne replies with a smile, happy to give the family a little good news. "I believe he's ready to go home. I'll go check on Mrs. Forrester. I'm sure she's made her decision by now," Anne says as she starts walking down the hallway.
"Excuse me, are you the Cohen's?"
Sandy, Kirsten and Seth immediately turn around and see a middle-aged man wearing a rumpled, dark brown suit standing before them.
"Yes, can we help you?" Sandy asks, trying to remain polite.
"Hi, I'm looking for my nephew... Ryan Atwood?" Lenny says, unsure how the family will react to his presence. "Name's Lenny... I'm Dawn's brother," he states, extending his hand to Sandy.
"My apologies... I wasn't aware Ryan had an uncle," Sandy says as he hesitantly shakes the man's hand.
"That popular, eh..." Lenny retorts, hoping to break the tension in the air. "Listen, I'm not here to cause any trouble. I just wanna see my nephew. Then I'll take my sister back home... I take it she's still here?" Lenny asks as he looks around the hallway. "The nurse at the front desk told me she put on quite a show."
Sandy sighs as he finds himself uncomfortable with the man's request. "I'm sorry, but..."
"I understand," Lenny interrupts, realizing this family is protecting his nephew. "Honestly, I didn't come here to make trouble... I'm not here to try to take Ryan from you... shit, I can't even keep a fuckin' goldfish alive," Lenny states with a chuckle, trying to get his point across. "Um... sorry ma'am," he says sheepishly, apologizing to Kirsten for his foul language. "I tell ya what... I'll leave the door open. You can stay right here in the hallway and listen to our conversation," Lenny proposes. "I ain't got nothin' to hide. Please... I just wanna see my nephew."
Sandy sighs as he scratches the top of his head, contemplating the man's simple request. "Alright, but you will leave the door open. If you upset that boy in any way, I'll personally come in and..."
"Thank you," Lenny says quickly, not wanting to hear the man's threat. He already has a pretty good idea what Sandy Cohen will do to him if he does anything to upset the boy.
Lenny opens the door and steps into the room. He clears his throat and takes a deep breath to calm his nerves. "Hey kiddo..."
"Uncle Lenny?" Ryan asks as he sits up in bed, surprised to see his uncle.
"Wow, look at you... all grown up," Lenny says as he observes his nephew, realizing it's been too many years since he's seen the boy.
"How did you know I was here?" Ryan asks, confused by his uncle's impromptu visit.
"I... well, I uh..." Lenny stammers, hoping his nephew won't get upset with what he has to say. "I feel responsible for you being here... in this place... the hospital."
Ryan remains silent, not really sure what to say to the man he hasn't seen since his father got arrested.
"Your mom came to me a little while ago... she wanted to find you so I uh... I helped her find you," Lenny confesses. "I'm really sorry kid. I truly thought she was tryin' to get her act together, ya know?"
"Don't feel bad, Uncle Lenny. I think she gave that impression to a lot of people," Ryan explains in hopes of making his uncle feel better.
"Thanks, kid. Oh, here... I brought you a little somethin'," Lenny says as he hands Ryan a small brown paper bag. "Sorry, I didn't have time to wrap it."
Ryan takes the small bag from his uncle and smiles. "You didn't have to bring me anything."
"It's not much," Lenny explains as he watches his nephew open the bag.
Ryan reaches into the bag and pulls out a small object wrapped in tissue paper. He removes the tissue paper and discovers a Matchbox car; a metallic dark blue Dodge Viper RT/10 with silver racing stripes and black interior.
"I know you're a little too old for those now," Lenny explains, hoping his nephew likes the gift.
"No, it's great. Thanks," Ryan says as a smile slowly appears on his face. "I remember... me and Trey used to race these down our driveway."
"Yeah, both you boys really loved collecting those cars," Lenny says as he sits down in the chair next to Ryan's bed. "Listen kid... you stick with the Cohen's, you hear me? You stay in school and work hard... you work damn hard," Lenny says, knowing his nephew has a real chance at a future. "Who knows, maybe you'll be able to afford the real thing someday."
"I think I'd have to start playing the lottery," Ryan states as he places the car on the side table.
"If you win the lottery, you'll be able to buy me a car, too," Lenny says with a playful grin.
"You do realize it's really not the cost of the car that's the problem," Ryan explains to his uncle, "but it's the cost of the insurance. And the insurance on a car like that would be astronomical."
"You always were the smart one," Lenny says as he folds his arms across his chest, preparing himself for what he wants to tell his nephew next.
Sandy smiles to himself as he listens to Ryan's logic with the prospect of ever owning a Dodge Viper. The kid is smart, Sandy thinks to himself.
"Ryan... I know I haven't been around for you, Trey or your mom the past nine years..."
"It's okay, Uncle Lenny... you haven't missed much..."
"Please... hear me out, kid," Lenny says, his voice ladened with guilt. "When your dad got arrested... well, that was all my fault," Lenny confesses as he stands up and starts pacing around the small room. "I remember that night like it was yesterday. Your mother hired me to follow your dad... she had it in her head that he was cheatin' on her." Lenny sighs as he struggles to tell his nephew what happened next. "It was a Friday night... I followed your dad thinkin' he'd be goin' over to some broad's house..."
"Uncle Lenny, it's okay..." Ryan says, noting how distraught his uncle appears to be. "You don't have to explain..."
"No, I do have to explain... I followed your dad," Lenny continues, wanting desperately after nine years, to get this off his chest. "Frank pulled into a gas station, so I parked alongside the curb and waited for him to fill up." Lenny groans as he rubs his tired eyes. "Turned out your dad wasn't there to buy gas... he went there to rob the place... I watched him rob the fuckin' gas station."
"But, how was my dad's robbing the gas station and getting arrested your fault?" Ryan asks, not understanding his uncle's logic.
"It's no secret that I never really liked your dad. I know he beat on your mom... probably laid his hands on both of you boys..." Lenny says soberly, remembering how violent Frank Atwood could become just after a couple of drinks. "I called the police. I gave them an anonymous tip," Lenny confesses. "There must've been a squad car in the area, because your dad was nabbed just a few blocks away." Lenny lets out a sigh and looks over at his nephew. "That's why it's been nine years since I've seen you. I couldn't face your mother... I couldn't face you boys... I basically sent your dad to prison."
"My dad sent himself to prison when he made the decision to rob that gas station," Ryan explains, hoping his uncle will look at it from a different perspective. "You did the right thing... turning him in. Who knows what would have happened if he robbed a second place. Someone could have been hurt or maybe even killed."
Lenny smiles as he listens to his nephew's words. For a boy who's only sixteen, he seems mature beyond his years. "Thanks... I appreciate that, kid."
Lenny shuffles his feet a bit as he tries to come up with the courage to bring up one last topic with his nephew. "So, I was wonderin'... ya know... maybe when you're feelin' better... maybe you and me, we could go out to lunch sometime... my treat," Lenny offers, hoping his nephew will be open to the possibility of getting together. "That is, if it's okay with the Cohen's and you can tear yourself away from all of those hot Newport babes," Lenny says with a wink.
"Sure, that sounds great," Ryan replies with a chuckle, remembering how funny his uncle can be and interested in getting to know him better.
"Alright then," Lenny says as he starts walking towards the doorway. He stops suddenly and turns back towards Ryan. "Say, that doctor of yours... she's hot... even with the glasses," Lenny tells his nephew. "Do ya think she would be interested in a guy like me? I mean, we're from two different worlds. I didn't see a ring on her finger... so I was thinkin' of maybe askin' her out."
"You'll never know until you ask," Ryan replies, thinking if Mrs. Forrester lets him return to Newport with the Cohen's, he'll get up the nerve and ask Marissa out on a date. "What's the worse that can happen?"
Lenny smiles warmly at his nephew, happy that he decided to make the effort to see him. "You take care, kid. I'll keep in touch."
Sandy, Kirsten and Seth quickly step back as Lenny emerges from Ryan's room.
"Thanks. I really appreciate you lettin' me see Ryan," Lenny tells the family. "Now, I believe it's time for me to take my sister home."
"It was good to meet you," Sandy says earnestly as he shakes Lenny's hand.
"Take good care of my nephew. He's a good kid," Lenny says as he starts walking down the hall to find Dawn. And, I'll take care of my sister, he thinks to himself. Something I should have done years ago...
"Are we going to allow Ryan's uncle to visit him?" Kirsten quietly asks her husband, wanting to accommodate the boy's family, but still feeling burned by his mother's deception.
"I think we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Sandy replies as he sees Mrs. Forrester, Dr. Morrison, Judy and Melanie approach them. He sighs when he notices the social worker has her left arm in a sling.
"Mrs. Forrester, I'm so sorry that you were..."
"Mr. Cohen, it's alright," Jolene interrupts. "It's just a badly bruised shoulder... I won't be heading off to the gym to lift weights any time soon... but I'll survive."
"Mrs. Forrester, I feel we've been very cooperative..." Sandy points out, becoming impatient for a decision to be made.
"Relax, Mr. Cohen. I've made my decision," Jolene asserts to the concerned father. "After witnessing the events over the last couple of hours, I feel that if I sent Ryan to a group home, he would most likely just run away. The boy is in desperate need of a home environment that will offer him not only structure and stability, but also a feeling of belonging. He needs people who actually care about him."
"We do care about him," Kirsten says, hoping the social worker hasn't found another foster family for Ryan.
"And I whole-heartedly agree," Jolene states with a smile. "You all clearly care deeply for the boy... I can see it. Dr. Morrison, Judy and Melanie can see it. Now, all that's left is for Ryan to see it."
"He knows we care about him," Kirsten states defensively.
"No, he doesn't... not really," Jolene explains calmly. "Ryan doesn't trust people... even people as caring and generous as you. This is going to be an uphill battle. Ryan is sixteen years old. He's been through more than most of us could ever imagine. It's going to take more than a home-cooked meal and a hug to help this boy."
"So what do you suggest we do?" Sandy asks, willing to do whatever it takes to help Ryan.
"I strongly feel that Ryan would benefit from counseling," Jolene explains. "Here are the names of a couple of psychologists in the Newport area... they specialize in helping kids, especially teens," Jolene says as she hands the list to Sandy.
"We'll see to it that Ryan gets counseling... you have my word," Sandy says as he takes the list of doctors from Jolene.
"Well then, it's settled," Anne says, happy with Jolene's decision. "The Cohen's can take Ryan home."
"Yes!" Seth proclaims as he pumps his fists, feeling exhilarated.
"Mr. Cohen, I'll finish writing my final report tonight and send you a copy for your files," Jolene says as she returns the Child Services file Sandy lent her just a few hours ago. "Now, I have a tired husband, two rambunctious kids and a cranky mother-in-law waiting for me at home," Jolene says with a tired sigh. "Let me know in a couple of months how Ryan is doing. I've become quite fond of the boy, so I'll be checking up on him periodically."
"Thank you, Mrs. Forrester," Sandy says earnestly. "We'll keep in touch."
"Well, why don't we tell Ryan the good news," Anne announces as she and the nurses start walking into Ryan's room.
Ryan becomes alarmed and quickly sits up in bed as he watches six people enter the tiny room. He finds himself wondering how they will all fit comfortably into such a small area.
"So, Ryan... what do you say we get you released so the Cohen's can take you back home," Anne says smiling.
"Really? That's great," Ryan says, relieved he doesn't have to go to a group home.
"It's imperative that you get plenty of rest," Anne explains to Ryan. "Even though you'll start to feel much better in the next few days, you need to take it easy."
"I'll see to it he doesn't exert himself," Seth assures the doctor. "That's something I know a lot about."
"Mr. and Mrs. Cohen, make sure Ryan finishes all of the antibiotic. And, only give him the cough syrup at night. It can be habit-forming, but it will help him sleep. During the day, give him an over-the-counter cough syrup if he needs it," Anne explains to Sandy and Kirsten. "After a week, I suggest you bring him to your family doctor for a check-up."
"Everything's going to be alright, now," Kirsten says with a big smile as she sits down on the bed next to Ryan. "Now, let's get you home. Do you need any help? I think your clothes are around here somewhere," Kirsten says as she looks around the room.
"Um... Mom... he needs air... let him breathe..." Seth states as he watches Kirsten begin to hover.
"Sweetheart, he's right. We don't want his oxygen level to drop," Sandy adds, worried the kid might suffocate from too much attention.
"Mrs. Cohen, there are still a few things we need to do before Ryan can go home," Anne explains, smiling at the mother's exuberance. "Judy and Melanie are here to remove his IV and unhook him from the monitor. They can also help him get dressed."
Kirsten peers over at the two pretty nurses standing at the foot of the bed. Ryan peeks around Kirsten's shoulder and gives a coy smile at the nurses who have been taking care of him. Melanie smiles back and sends him a playful wink as Judy holds her hand up and gives him a flirtatious wave with her fingers, wishing the boy was a couple of years older or, at least, out of high school.
"Why don't you and your family go over to the pharmacy by the main entrance and fill these prescriptions," Anne says as she hands the scrips to Kirsten. "When you return, Ryan should be ready to leave."
"Come on, honey... let's give Ryan some privacy," Sandy says as he holds his hand out for his wife. "The sooner we get those prescriptions filled, the sooner we can all go home."
"I don't believe it," Seth says as he and his parents start walking over to the pharmacy. "I don't know how he does it!"
"Does what?" Sandy asks, confused by his son's comment.
"Ryan! I don't know he does it! The guy's dressed in a drab green 'haute couture' hospital gown with tubes stuck up his nose, and he still gets the girls!"
"Well, son... looks like you've just discovered Ryan's secret," Sandy says teasingly as he places his hand on Seth's shoulder and squeezes it affectionately.
"Ha ha, Dad... real funny," Seth says mockingly as they continue to walk down the hall. "Let's just get the prescriptions and bring Ryan home."
"That's an excellent idea," Sandy says as he places his arms around Seth and Kirsten. "Let's bring Ryan home."
"Rise and shine, sleepyhead," Seth whispers as he quietly tiptoes into the poolhouse.
"Seth? What time is it?" Ryan asks groggily, relieved to be out of the hospital and back home with the Cohen's.
"It's almost noon," Seth replies as he partially cracks open a blind just to let in enough light to see where to safely walk.
"Noon! How long have I been asleep?"
"Sixteen hours, forty-seven minutes and..." Seth quickly glances down at his watch... "Twenty-three seconds. Here, I brought you something hot to drink. Should help your throat."
"Is that coffee?" Ryan asks, rubbing his eyes as he sits up in bed. "I could sure use some."
"Nope, sorry friend... the Kirsten said no coffee until you start eating regularly. This here is herbal tea," Seth says as he places the cup down on the side table next to Ryan's bed. "It's 'minty'."
Ryan crinkles his nose at the thought of herbal tea, but his throat is raw so he decides to take a small sip.
"How is it?" Seth asks curiously.
"Minty," Ryan replies.
Seth looks around the room and notices Ryan's gray hoodie has fallen off the chair onto the floor.
"What are you doing?" Ryan asks as he watches his friend pick his clothes up off the floor and move his shoes into the corner.
"Straightening up," Seth replies, happy with the clear path he's created. "Wouldn't want you tripping and falling down on your way to the bathroom."
"Did you sleep in here last night?" Ryan asks, noticing a pillow and blanket strewn across the couch.
"No, I wanted to but mom wouldn't let me. She says I snore," Seth explains, disappointed he couldn't stay with his friend through the night. "Mom slept on the couch."
Ryan feels touched that Kirsten spent the night sleeping on the couch. He knows his own mother would never have done that.
"Oh, here... before I forget," Seth says as he takes the cd out of his pocket. "I promised Marissa I would give this to you."
Ryan takes the cd and smiles. "Tell her thanks," Ryan says as he places the cd down next to the cup of tea.
"Dude, you're not going to be sick forever. I think you'll be able to thank her yourself."
Ryan slowly sits up in bed, not understanding why he still feels so tired after getting so much sleep.
"So, the doctor said you need to take it easy... rest and relaxation, Ryan... those were her exact words," Seth tells his still pale-looking friend. "And, you're in luck because when it comes to rest and relaxation, I am your 'go-to' guy. After lunch... or in your case, brunch... we can partake in a nice quiet round of PGA golf on the playstation. If that's too exciting for you, I ran down to the video store this morning and rented Mel Brook's 'Silent Movie'. It sounded quiet. In fact, the clerk told me only one word is spoken in the entire film... the perfect Ryan Atwood movie!" Seth proclaims, proud of his ingenuity.
"That sounds great, Seth," Ryan says as he sits on the edge of the bed and takes another sip of the tea, appreciating how the warm liquid soothes his sore throat.
"And after dinner, I thought we could all sit down and play a family-fun game of Monopoly," Seth continues, feeling himself on a roll. "But, I have to warn you, I'm always the shoe. I don't know why... I just am. It just always seemed fitting. Oh, and mom is always the iron... I think it makes her feel more... I don't know... domestic," Seth explains, remembering playing the game with his parents before video games took over his free time. "And dad's always the cannon. I haven't figured that one out yet," Seth ponders as he places his finger on his lower lip. "Maybe it has to do with power or maybe it's some Freudian thing... That, my friend, means you can be the car! It's perfect!"
"Seth, whenever I play Monopoly, it seems I spend most of the game in jail. I can never get past that stupid cop."
"No problem... because I always land in the 'just visiting' spot. At least now I'll actually have someone to visit."
A soft knock on the door interrupts the boy's conversation. "Good morning... or should I say good afternoon," Kirsten says quietly as she peeks her head into the room. "I thought I saw some movement in here... how are you feeling?" Kirsten asks as she walks over to the bed and sits down next to Ryan.
"I'm feeling better," Ryan replies, happy that his headache is gone and he's not coughing so much.
"That's good to hear," Kirsten says as she hands Ryan the antibiotics and a glass of water. "Take a pill and then I'll take your temperature."
"I don't think I have a fever anymore," Ryan says, not wanting Kirsten to fuss over him. "You don't need to take my temperature."
"I'll decide when you don't need to have your temperature taken. Now open wide," Kirsten commands as she places the thermometer in Ryan's mouth.
"She's in the zone, kid," Sandy says as he steps into the poolhouse. "You won't win... just do what she says."
Ryan tries to take the thermometer out of his mouth to reply to Sandy but finds his action quickly quashed by Kirsten's swift hands. "Wait for the beeping sound," she instructs.
"Hah! This is a first," Seth states laughing. "Ryan finally wants to say something and you want him to keep quiet."
"He can talk all he wants," Kirsten explains as she places the back of her hand on Ryan's forehead to see if he feels warm, "after the beep." Kirsten removes the thermometer and reads the result. "Your temperature is still slightly elevated so why don't you come into the kitchen and have something to eat, then you can take some ibuprofen."
"I'm really not that hungry," Ryan says as he watches Kirsten get up to leave.
"You need to eat something," Kirsten instructs. "How about some toast with butter and a small glass of orange juice."
"Alright," Ryan says, knowing there's no use in arguing as he recalls Sandy's words of wisdom a couple of minutes ago.
"Seth, why don't you go help your mother in the kitchen," Sandy tells his son. "I need to speak with Ryan alone."
"Sure, no problem... I'll make sure mom doesn't burn the toast," Seth says as he walks back to the main house.
Sandy sits down on the bed next to Ryan and places his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Ryan, I want you to know..."
"What's going to happen to my mom?" Ryan interrupts, concerned she may be in legal trouble after her behavior at the hospital.
"Well, your mother assaulted both you and the social worker," Sandy explains to the worried boy. "But, Mrs. Forrester is not pressing charges and neither are we. I made it clear to your mother that she needs to get help and your uncle has decided to make sure she gets the help she needs."
Ryan lowers his head, feeling ashamed for everything that has happened over the past few days, but relieved his mother won't be arrested.
"I don't want you to worry about your mother," Sandy explains calmly. "She needs to take responsibility for herself and you need to concentrate on getting well. We're here for you... me, Kirsten and Seth. We're a family."
"It'll be alright, kid," Sandy says as he gives a gentle squeeze to Ryan's shoulder. "Trust me... everything's going to be alright."
Ryan watches Sandy leave the poolhouse and sighs. I can do this, he thinks to himself. The Cohen's are good people... I can trust them. Maybe, for once, everything will be alright.
This was my second fanfic and I had a lot of fun writing it. I appreciate all the feedback and reviews. Thank you for reading!