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.

Chapter One

"Rise and shine, sleepyhead!" Seth announces as he barges into the poolhouse and starts opening up the blinds.

"Seth?" Ryan mumbles as he quickly grabs a pillow and shields his eyes to block the intruding sunlight. "What time is it?"

"It is exactly six thirty-two in the a.m., my dear friend," Seth states with such exuberance, Ryan finds himself using the pillow to shield his ears as well as his eyes.

"Seth, you do realize it's Saturday. It's okay to sleep in a little later. Before you know it..." Ryan says yawning, as he makes an attempt to go back to sleep, "school will be starting."

"Ah... yes, Ryan. School. That is a word that should be used most sparingly," Seth instructs as he briskly walks over to the dresser and starts pulling out Ryan's clothes.

"Seth! What the hell are you doing?" Ryan asks, exasperated by his new friend's abounding energy at such an ungodly early hour.

"Clothes, Ryan. Clothes... as in, you need to get dressed. The world awaits you, my good friend. There are bagels to schmear, playstation to play and... oh, I almost forgot, chicks to ogle down at the pier."

"I don't believe you just said you want to 'ogle chicks'," Ryan states, more to himself than to Seth.

"'Ogling' is a lost art form, Ryan. It's quite tragic, come to think of it."

Ryan shakes his head as he tries to make sense of the animated teenager flitting about before him. "Why don't you just tell me the real reason you want to go down to the pier, huh? Maybe because Summer might be there?"

Seth gasps as he attempts to look surprised. "You think Summer might be at the pier? You know... you may be onto something," Seth ponders as he places his index finger strategically upon his lower lip. "Summer could be hanging around the pier... or maybe not. I guess we'll just have to go down there and see for ourselves. You know, there's a good chance that Marissa will be..." Seth stops talking when he hears a knock on the poolhouse door.

"Hello?" Sandy asks as he steps into the poolhouse holding a cup of hot coffee in his hand.

Doesn't anyone sleep past seven in this house? Ryan asks himself.

"Oh, hey, thanks Dad," Seth declares as he tries to take the cup of coffee from his father's hand. "You didn't have to bring my coffee out to me."

"You're right, I didn't," Sandy states as he pulls the cup away from his son. "I brought the coffee out for Ryan. Your coffee is waiting for you, freshly brewed and piping hot, in the kitchen. I'd like a few moments alone with Ryan, if you don't mind."

"Fine," Seth says, pouting slightly. "I can get my own coffee."

Sandy watches his son leave the poolhouse, then sets the coffee down on the side table and sits down on the bed next to Ryan. "Did you sleep okay, kid?"

"Yeah, I actually slept pretty well," Ryan replies, wrapping his arm around his ribcage to minimize the discomfort he feels as he tries to sit up in bed.

Sandy looks around the poolhouse and notices clothes strewn across the floor. "What happened?"

"It was Seth," Ryan says as he slowly makes his way out of the bed to retrieve his pants so he's not clad only in his underwear. "If you didn't come in when you did, I seriously thought Seth was going to start dressing me himself."

Sandy smiles. "Well, Seth is pretty excited that you're going to be staying with us now." Sandy watches Ryan as he lumbers slowly over to the dresser. He notices the boy wince in pain as he bends down to pick the clothes up off the floor. "Ryan, are you okay?" Sandy asks with concern.

"I'm fine," Ryan replies as he silently berates himself for letting on that he's in pain.

"Uh huh," Sandy says, not believing the teenager. "Come here, let me take a look at you."

"I'm alright, Mr. Cohen. Really... it's nothing."

"Ryan, don't argue with me. Come here," Sandy orders, concerned that Ryan might be hiding an injury. "And, please, call me Sandy."

Ryan reluctantly walks over to Sandy and sits down on the bed next to him.

Sandy places his hands on Ryan's waist, then slowly pulls his undershirt up to his chest. "Ryan... my god! What happened?"

"It's nothing Mr. Coh... Sandy... I just got a couple of bruised ribs from getting into that fight in juvie."

"Did the staff doctor take a look at you?" Sandy asks as he continues to take in the extent of bruising on the left side of Ryan's ribcage.

"Yeah, he did," Ryan replies. "It's just some bruised ribs, Sandy. They'll heal on their own. It's not that big of a deal... really, it's nothing I haven't dealt with before."

Sandy cringes as he listens to Ryan's nonchalant account of his injury and downplay the discomfort he must be experiencing. "Well, this is something Dr. Grayson will need to take a look at."

"Dr. Grayson?"

"Yes, he's our family doctor," Sandy replies as he pulls Ryan's undershirt back down around his waist. "We need to make an appointment for you... for a physical."

"A physical?"

"Yes, Ryan... a physical. We need to make sure all of your vaccinations are up-to-date before school starts." Sandy observes Ryan's panicked expression and adds, "It's not a big deal, Ryan. Kirsten can go with you or if you prefer, I can."

"I just don't like doctors," Ryan states quietly with his head lowered.

"Nobody likes going to the doctor," Sandy tells the worried boy. "They're just one of life's necessary evils... kind of like lawyers," Sandy states with a grin, hoping the bewildered teen will find the humor in his statement.

Ryan smiles briefly to humor his new guardian, then decides to try a different approach. "I don't have medical insurance, Sandy. I can't afford to go to a doctor," Ryan reasons.

"You're now our dependent, Ryan, so you are covered under our medical insurance," Sandy explains. "Kirsten and I are responsible for you and your well-being."


"No buts, Ryan. You're going to the doctor," Sandy states firmly. "It probably won't be for another couple of weeks. This time of year, it can take a little longer to get an appointment." Sandy places his hand on Ryan's shoulder and tries to make eye contact with the stubborn, independent teenager. "Since you received medical attention when you were at juvenile hall, we'll keep an eye on your ribs and you will tell me if your injury gets worse. Have I made myself clear?"

As Ryan realizes he's not going to win the "doctor" battle, he glances over at the cup of coffee Sandy brought him. This is a first, Ryan thinks to himself as he takes a welcome sip of the bitter brew. Nobody's ever brought me a cup of coffee before. "You didn't kick Seth out of the poolhouse just to tell me about a doctor's appointment," Ryan says as he sets the cup of coffee back down on the table. "Is there something else you want to talk to me about?"

"Yeah, I just want to let you know that I did try to find your mother," Sandy states, trying to choose his words carefully. "Even though Kirsten and I are now your legal guardians, I can still continue to look for Dawn."

"No, it's okay... "

"Ryan... "

"I don't want you to keep looking for her," Ryan says. "Believe me, you're better off not finding her."

Sandy notes a hint of pain in the boy's voice. Even though Ryan says he doesn't want his mother found, Sandy knows how much it must hurt the kid that she abandoned him in the first place.

"Good morning..." Kirsten says quietly as she opens the door and peeks her head inside the poolhouse.

Ryan quickly grabs the bedspread and places it over his lap as he makes a mental note to start wearing sleep pants to bed. He remembers being told he could stay in the poolhouse so he would have privacy, but so far, the poolhouse has been more like Grand Central Station during morning rushhour than a quiet, secluded hideaway.

"I just want to let you know that breakfast is ready... I made eggs, bacon, pancakes, and waffles with fresh blueberries and honeydew melon," Kirsten announces.

"Wow, honey, what's the occasion?" Sandy asks with a wide grin, knowing she did all that meal preparation for Ryan's first official breakfast as part of the family.

Kirsten smiles and shakes her head. "Just come over and eat before it all gets cold," Kirsten replies as she closes the door and walks back to the main house.

"Well, kid, I hope you're hungry," Sandy states as he stands up and starts walking towards the door. "I'll let you get dressed in peace. Come on over when you're ready." Sandy stops in the doorway as he notices Ryan still looking a little shell-shocked. "It'll be alright, kid. Trust me... everything will be alright."

Ryan watches Sandy leave and looks around the poolhouse. It all feels surreal... as if this really isn't happening to him. Ryan grabs the only pair of pants he owns and slowly walks into to the bathroom. After he gets dressed and brushes his teeth, he turns on the faucet and splashes cold water onto his face. I can do this, he thinks to himself. The Cohen's are good people... I can trust them. Ryan grabs the towel, wipes his face dry and sighs deeply. "Maybe the "Atwood luck" has finally changed," he says as he stares at himself in the mirror. "Maybe Sandy is right."

Maybe, for once, everything will be alright.