Disclaimer: I don’t own anything. How sad for me!
Summary: Seth begins to doubt his friendship with Ryan.
A/N: I can't thank you all enough for the lovely support I've received. You all are so kind. :)
I hope this chapter doesn't disappoint. This story seems to have taken on a life of its own. Isn't that always the way? *wink*
This is not betaed. I make a ton of mistakes and they are all my own.
Ryan breathed deeply savoring the nicotine as the smoke burned its way into his lungs. He was leaning against the wall when the paramedics carried Trey out on the stretcher. He watched him being loaded in to the ambulance. He watched as they closed the door. He watched as the ambulance drove away with sirens blaring. The only movement was repeated drags on his cigarette.
He realized he wasn’t alone when he felt hands touching his body. He felt crowded as hands covered him and questions were being fired in his direction.
“Ryan, are you alright?”
“You’re bleeding. We need to get you checked out.”
“Please talk to us. Please tell us where you’re hurt.”
He opened his eyes slowly and watched as Sandy and Kirsten managed to blur together in front of him. He briefly wondered why they were so concerned now. They didn’t seem that upset before. He also wished they’d slow the fuck down because he couldn’t keep up with all their questions. They should be happy…relieved even…
Something must be wrong with Seth, he decided. His gaze traveled past Sandy and Kirsten and slowly settled on Seth who was standing behind them wide eyed and shuffling. There was blood on his shirt and his arms. It was a staunch contrast to the normally pale and flawless skin.
Had Seth been hurt? What had he missed? Had he failed yet again?
“You hurt?” Ryan asked as he pointed his cigarette in Seth’s general direction. Sandy couldn’t stop his gaze was traveling to Ryan’s bloodied hands. He was sure he could see the bones of the knuckles. Sandy was also trying to process why the first words Ryan had spoken after announcing that he’d just beaten his bother into a bloody pulp was a question directed as Seth’s wellbeing. He was still trying to piece together exactly what had happened here. As much as he hated to say it, if it had to happen, he was just glad the two boys were together.
Seth stopped shuffling briefly to study his clothes. There was blood on his tee shirt. His mouth opened and closed several times as he noticed the dried blood on his arms.
“It’s not my blood,” Seth whispered as he lifted his gaze back to Ryan’s. Ryan seemed satisfied with this answer and offered a weak nod before Seth added, “It’s yours.”
“Oh.” The brief acknowledgment was followed by an even more casual shrug.
Well, that was better than the alternative, Ryan decided.
Everyone seemed lost in their own thoughts as Ryan pulled another cigarette out of the pack and used the end of the one he was currently smoking to light it. Kirsten reached for the pack, but Ryan jerked away. All three of the Cohens’ involuntarily stepped back as if waiting for a nuclear meltdown to ensue.
“I didn’t steal these,” he growled as he pulled the cigarette to his lips. He had paid for them with his own money. They could ask the store clerk if they didn’t believe him.
“I…I know that, sweetie,” she stammered. “It’s just…smoking isn’t good for you…” Ryan’s mouth fell open as he stared at her. Seth decided the whole scene looked like something out of a Clint Eastwood movie. There was a silent face off between Ryan and his parents. The cigarette was somehow managing to desperately cling to Ryan’s lower lip as his mouth hung open.
“Ryan,” Sandy said gently, “We really need to get you checked out. You could be hurt.”
“You’re not fine,” Sandy pressed. “It looks like you took a nasty blow to the head.”
“The guy hit him with the gun,” Seth offered. Ryan’s cold glare froze any more explanations in his throat.
“His name is Trey,” Ryan snapped. Seth raised his hands in defeat.
“Fine, Trey hit him with a gun.”
“Thank you,” Ryan said with a satisfied nod. Sandy and Kirsten shared another worried glance which didn’t go unnoticed by Ryan. “I said I was fine.”
Once again, the differences between Chino and Newport never ceased to amaze him. If this was Chino, no one would have looked twice. Ryan couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. He wasn’t sure if this little incident even made his top three.
“We’re going to need to get your statement,” Detective Riley stated as he walked outside of the store. Finally, someone who knew how this shit was supposed to work! Ryan stood up straighter, took a long drag from the cigarette, and dropped it the ground before grinding it out underneath his heel.
“I’m ready,” Ryan said with a nod.
“Whoa,” Detective Riley said with a bit of confusion in his voice. “What are you even doing here?” He paused to glare at Sandy and Kirsten before redirecting his attention back to Ryan. “I was planning on going over to see you at the hospital,” he said pointedly after throwing another cold glance in Sandy’s direction.
“I don’t want to see Trey,” Ryan growled defiantly.
Seth suddenly felt like he was in the twilight zone. Nothing of this was making any sense! Ryan wasn’t making any sense! His parents weren’t…doing anything!
What the fuck was going on?
“Kid, I don’t give a shit who you see while you’re there,” Riley snapped as he rested his thumb on the shiny, gold badge that hung on his belt. “I’m saying that you’re hurt and you need a doctor.”
“This wouldn’t require a doctor in Chino,” Ryan mumbled as he reached for his cigarettes.
“Well, this isn’t Chino. This is Newport. So either you let these people take you to the hospital or I’m going to drive you there in a squad car.” Detective Riley jerked his thumb towards one of the many police cars that were lined up in front of the store.
Seth was about to tell this useless cop where to go and how fast to get there, until Ryan cocked his head to the side and studied the man quietly. Sandy also seemed to stand a little taller at this newcomer’s harsh treatment of Ryan.
“You’re a detective. You don’t have a squad car, at least not with the flashy lights,” Ryan mused.
“I’ll borrow one,” Riley responded flatly. Ryan and the detective regarded each other silently and Seth prayed to Jesus, Moses, whoever the hell might be listening…that Ryan wouldn’t do anything stupid. It wasn’t a secret that Ryan hated cops. All of the sudden Ryan nodded, walked past the shocked group, and leaned against the side of the Land Rover. Seth found himself wondering if Ryan had needed someone to take control, like Ryan always seemed to do. But why would Ryan need that? He was always in control…
“Thank you,” Kirsten murmured as she reached out to shake the detective’s hand, took Seth’s keys, and rushed over to drive Ryan to the hospital.
“I wonder if she’s still going to thank me after she sees that video,” Riley muttered. Sandy felt something in his gut, perhaps anger, perhaps the need to protect his family… He wasn’t sure.
“Ryan’s a good kid,” Sandy said defensively. The seasoned detective had been around the block once or twice in his day and he didn’t have the heart to tell this guy that it wasn’t the kid he was necessarily worried about. The small display of parenting he had just witnessed didn’t exactly impress him, but once again, he’d been around the proverbial block enough that it wasn’t his place to judge parenting techniques.
“He’s a good kid with a death wish,” Riley muttered while shaking his head. “You didn’t see what happened here today.”
“I did,” Seth said meekly. Sandy spun around as if suddenly remembering that Seth was still standing behind him.
“You didn’t want to go to the hospital?” Sandy asked as he reached for Seth’s arm to pull him closer.
“I figured I could go ahead and give my statement,” Seth murmured with a shrug. “Maybe talking about it will help; will make it everything seem real or hopefully a little less real.”
“Kid, I’m not a therapist. I’m a detective.”
“Well then I guess you’ll just have to do,” Seth snapped. He felt his dad’s hand tighten on his arm. He wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be taken as supportive or ‘shut the hell up now’. “I’m sorry,” Seth muttered. “I guess I’m not used to having a gun shoved in my face.”
Sandy was forced to watch as a little more of his son’s innocence disappeared right before his eyes. God, he wished he could protect his children from this, from what the world was really like.
“I’m just glad you and Ryan were together,” Sandy said as he released Seth’s arm and patted his back.
“We weren’t together. We actually had a huge fight last night. I was in the store when the guy…I mean Trey…came in and pulled the gun. Ryan came in after that,” Seth explained. He closed his eyes as he remembered the all consuming fear that crushed his very soul when he saw the man pulling a gun out of his tattered jacket. Sad to say, his pathetic life actually flashed before his eyes and by flash, it honestly only took about two seconds to cover the whole thing and most of those two seconds started after Ryan’s arrival in Newport.
“Wait, you mean Ryan willingly came into the store AFTER the gun had already been pulled?” Sandy asked, his voice mirroring the muddy confusion in his mind.
“I think you’re stealing my thunder,” Detective Riley interjected. “Come on, we need to sit down and talk. The manager’s office is in the back.” The detective started walking back through the store with Sandy trailing on his heels. Both of them stopped when they realized Seth was still standing outside holding the glass door.
“I think it would be better if we did this outside,” Sandy stated as he studied the frightened expression of his son. He could have kicked himself for not thinking about Seth’s obvious discomfort with this store sooner. Sometimes he was so damn blind. He just couldn’t see the forest through the trees.
“Not a problem,” Detective Riley stated. “We can talk outside.”
The interview was actually brief. Sandy was expecting a lot more, but Riley seemed to understand that Seth was rattled enough. They covered the story twice and Seth soon leaned against his father. He was past the point of caring how it looked that a teenage boy was all but cowering against his father’s side. If Seth hadn’t needed him so badly, Sandy would have seriously considering passing out. He was the adult though and his son needed him. After hearing Seth recount what happened, after hearing that Ryan had gotten the Trey’s attention and then attacked him after a moment of confusion…
The whole event was hard to process.
“I think that’s all I need,” Detective Riley stated as he closed the notepad he’d been scribbling on. “I’ve got your card, Mr. Cohen, should I need anything else. I will be dropping by to talk to Ryan.”
“I’m sure he’ll be expecting you,” Sandy responded as he reached out to shake the other man’s hand. “One more thing,” Sandy added as he tried to sound casual as possible. He was Ryan and Seth’s attorney after all. He should see all the evidence in question. It was his job to be thorough. “I’d like to view the video.”
“I think that’s a good idea.” Obviously the detective agreed that as their attorney, Sandy should view the security video. “I think you need to see exactly what happened.”
“I told you what happened!” Seth spat. Sandy wrapped his arm around Seth’s shoulders and squeezed him gently.
“How about I come down to the station later? I think Seth and I should be getting over to the hospital anyway,” Sandy explained as he handed Seth the keys to the BMW. “Why don’t you go sit in the car and relax?”
Relax? Seth felt anything but fucking relaxed. In fact, he didn’t see relaxation anytime in his near future. Even in his turmoil, he knew his dad was trying.
“Sure,” he muttered before grabbing the keys and stalking towards the car. He slammed the door a little louder than necessary. Frankly, he wasn’t even sure why he was agitated or annoyed. All of his nerves were frayed and he felt like his senses were in overdrive. For the first time in his life Seth felt like doing two things. Punching someone in the face…didn’t really matter who and sobbing into his father’s chest like a little bitch. Ironically enough, neither of those two things required talking which was typically his favorite thing.
“Is there something on that video that Seth didn’t tell you?” Sandy asked after Seth all but slammed the car door.
“Not exactly,” Riley mused. “Seth went through a horribly traumatic event. The details are going to be hazy. In your line of work, I’m sure that’s nothing you didn’t know.” Sandy nodded and hoped the man would continue. He knew there had to be something else.
“I suppose you can just watch it yourself or get the details from Ryan,” Riley stated with a shrug.
“Get the details from Ryan,” Sandy said with a hollow laugh. “Easier said than done unfortunately.”
“Sounds like a personal problem,” Riley commented dryly. He was about to tell this guy to try parenting for a change.
“Yeah, thanks again for your help.”
Sandy kept glancing at Seth would was staring blankly out the window. His normally animated features were dull and lifeless, his skin was pale… The kid just seemed lost.
“You did good today,” Sandy said finally as he reached out and patted Seth’s leg. “I’m proud of you.”
“Proud of me? You’re fucking proud of me? Are you fucking nuts?” Seth ranted. His features weren’t so lifeless now. “I didn’t do anything! I stood there like a damn deer caught with his pants down!” It had gotten to the point that Seth barely even knew what he was saying and if he didn’t know, his father didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Sandy knew that there wasn’t anything he could say to make this better no matter how badly he wished there was.
“I think we should go home,” Sandy stated gently. “You are obviously stressed out and well within your right to be…”
“I want to see Ryan.” Seth crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the seat.
“Seth, you’re upset. Ryan is going to be upset and probably in a great deal of pain when the adrenaline wears off.”
“Dad, you’re not helping.” Picturing Ryan in pain was enough to make Seth want to vomit all over the car.
Sandy knew he wasn’t helping. Unfortunately he didn’t know what he could do to help. He had no idea what they would walk in to at the hospital and if Ryan’s little display outside of the convenient store was any inclination, it wasn’t going to be pretty. Ryan was probably a bigger disaster than Seth.
Admitting defeat, Sandy sighed deeply.
“Tell me what I can do to help you.”
“Let me see Ryan.”
Sandy shook his head. If Seth expected Ryan to have some magical explanation for all this, he knew Seth was going to be horribly disappointed. Ryan wasn’t going to have an answer. Ryan was most likely going to throw Seth out of his room if his past hospital experiences were anything to go by.
“Please dad,” Seth whispered as he brought pale, trembling hands up to rub his eyes. It was a request than Sandy couldn’t refuse.
“Just…just don’t expect too much.”
Upon arrival to the emergency room, Sandy immediately asked to be taken to Ryan’s room. The registration clerk checked the computer before pressing a button and allowing them to enter. Sandy found Kirsten pacing a hole in hallway. She looked frazzled, worried, and completely exhausted. She managed to stop her pacing long enough to wrap her arms around Seth and lean over to kiss her husband.
“How is he? Have they taken him for tests?” Sandy questioned as he tried to come up for an explanation as to why she was in the hallway and not in his room. He hoped he’d been able to keep the fear out of his voice. Ryan had obviously been more injured than he had originally let on. That shouldn’t have come as any great shock to him.
“Well, they let me in the room and then he threw me out when the doctor came to do his examination. He didn’t want me to come back in after.” She offered futile shrug and Sandy tried to reassure her. They always seemed to flying blind when it came to Ryan.
“And you left?” Seth’s cried as he stared at his mother in shock. “You actually left him in there!”
“Seth, honey, calm down. He didn’t want me in the room with him.”
“What if I had pulled that? Would you have left?”
Kirsten stopped, placed her hands on her hips, and tried to think of an explanation that wouldn’t piss off her son further. As much as she hated to say it, wild horses couldn’t have dragged her away from Seth. What had made her leave Ryan?
“That’s what I thought,” he snarled before reached for the door handle of the room.
“Seth…wait,” Sandy said as he reached for Seth’s hand. “Son, I think we need to leave Ryan alone.” Sandy didn’t know if Seth could handle Ryan’s rejection right now and frankly, he didn’t know if Ryan had anything left to give. Seth was barely hanging on and Ryan was obviously closing himself off from the world.
“Just because YOU want to leave him alone doesn’t mean I have to,” Seth barked. Several nurses had stopped to study the heated conversation between the two parents and the distraught teenager.
“Seth, you’re making a scene,” Kirsten soothed in her best motherly voice. “You don’t us to get thrown out, do you? We all have to remain calm right now.”
“Calm? You want me to be calm? Dad wants me to relax too. You both are out of your fucking minds!”
Seth’s voice was near breaking point and several orderlies started walking in their direction. Sandy and Kirsten both reached for Seth, but he twisted away opening his mouth to scream at anyone who dared to touch him…
Everyone stopped as the door to room 23 flew open and Ryan appeared on the other side dressed in nothing but a pair of jeans and a scowl.
Without warning or hesitation, he reached for Seth and yanked him into the room.
Sandy and Kirsten soon found themselves staring at a closed door.
Ryan had been angry. He wasn’t even angry at the Cohen’s. He was just fucking angry. He had asked Kirsten to leave because he didn’t want her to see him like this. He still couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
Then he had heard Seth. He had heard the pain and confusion in his voice and he heard Sandy and Kirsten fucking it all to hell and back. He finally decided that people from Newport really were clueless.
“Thanks man,” Seth said weakly after Ryan had slammed the door on the shocked faces of Sandy and Kirsten. He was actually surprised they hadn’t come racing in after them.
There might be hope for them after all.
Seth was studying him quietly, categorizing each injury, each bruise, each busted knuckle…
“Just don’t, okay?”
Ryan almost regretted his decision about intervening on Seth’s behalf. Seth had a way of idolizing things, but Ryan knew the truth. He wasn’t a hero. He wasn’t anything special. He didn’t have any answers. He didn’t have any solutions. Hell, most of the time he was fucking problem.
Seth leaned against the wall finally defeated; finally allowing the days events to wash over him like a wave breaking over the rocks. He saw the white tile floor rushing up to meet him. Two hands grabbed him, jerked him forward, and deposited him on the bed. He had barely even registered what happened before Ryan’s face came into view.
“Wait, you’re supposed to be…”
Not even sure why he was doing it, Ryan helped Seth lean against the wall so his feet were sticking across the cot. Ryan eased himself on the other side and adopted a similar position so they were both sitting on the sorry excuse for a bed.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Seth murmured without opening his eyes. This whole not talking thing was starting to get to him. He had always had a way with words and now everything either sounded woefully inadequate or not worth saying.
“Sometimes there isn’t anything to say,” Ryan responded with a shrug. Even that small motion caused pain to go shooting down his arm. He was glad Seth was all but passing out when he reached for him earlier because he hadn’t been able to stop the pain from reaching his eyes.
“This fucking sucks,” Seth admitted eventually.
“I know.” For some reason, Seth was comforted by that. Ryan didn’t make excuses and didn’t tell him how to feel. He just was there and right now that meant more to Seth than anything else in the world.
They lapsed into silence which soon lingered into soft snores. The emergency room physician entered the room about ten minutes later with Sandy and Kirsten in tow. They all stopped short at the scene in front of them.
Ryan was sitting up straight with his head tilted back sleeping quietly and Seth had managed to fall asleep with his head barely touching Ryan’s shoulder.
“Ryan always seems to know what he needs,” Kirsten mused softly. She silently thanked God that Sandy had insisted they leave the boys alone for a few minutes. Sandy was kicking himself because yet again, Ryan had done what he couldn’t.
“Well, this is all very touching, but we’re going to have to wake them up because genius here pulled out his IV when he got out of bed,” the physician muttered. Kirsten and Sandy’s eyes widened in horror at the sight of a few drops of blood leaking out of Ryan’s arm. He had pulled it out so he could get to Seth. Naturally the kid wouldn’t opt to just take the whole IV pole with him. That would have made far too much sense.
Ryan’s eyes were already open and glaring at the doctor. He motioned for Kirsten to take his place as he eased out of bed.
“Give us a new room,” Ryan ordered albeit quietly.
“What’s wrong with this room?” Sandy asked as he tried to follow Ryan’s skewed logic.
“Maybe I’m the only one that thinks Seth needs to rest,” Ryan returned flatly. “Trust me; he’s going to have problems sleeping for awhile so I suggest you let him rest while he can.” The fact that he managed to sleep through this exchange was enough to convince Sandy.
“We don’t have rooms for people to just sleep in,” the doctor responded. Ryan was already in the hall. He didn’t seem fazed by the fact that he was shirtless. This was a side of Ryan that Sandy had little experience with and frankly, this Ryan scared him a bit.
“Then check him in as a fucking patient,” Ryan growled. “I think he qualifies after the shit he’s been through. Anyway, I think Caleb Nichols gives enough to this hospital to warrant a second room.”
Sandy had follow Ryan into the hall just in time to see the doctor blanch at the mention of Caleb’s name. Sandy figured it was about time Caleb did something good even if it was without his knowledge.
The doctor motioned for Ryan to follow him to a vacant room. Catching movement behind him, Ryan spun around and saw Sandy following him.
“Don’t,” he stated as he raised his hands. “I’ll be fine. You need to stay with Seth.”
“Ryan,” Sandy pleaded, “Someone should be with you.” Just what the hell was this kid trying to pull? How many sacrifices was he going to make in one night?
“Seth needs you…both you and Kirsten.”
Admitting defeat yet again, Sandy decided Ryan obviously was perfectly willing to make yet another sacrifice.
And Sandy, yet again, let him.