Summary: The first time Ryan gets grounded.
This takes place early Season 1.
A/N: This idea struck me the other night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I decided to write it up this afternoon when I had a bit of free time. Stupid thing ended up being eleven pages…
There's a bit of mush in this because, as you all will learn, I'm a sap. :)
“I said I don’t want to go,” Ryan grumbled as he reached out to grab his biology book from Seth. Seth backed away and started carelessly tossing the textbook in the air causing papers that had been haphazardly stuck between the pages to drift to the floor.
“Dude, it’s a party! Why wouldn’t you want to go? Ryan, one day you’re going to wake up and be an old man. Do you really want to have all these regrets?” Seth questioned with a lopsided grin. He knew he was getting to him. Pretty soon Ryan would give up and agree to go just to get him out of the pool house.
“I don’t think I’m going to regret missing a party at Holly’s,” Ryan responded flatly. He reached for the book again and Seth backed up a couple of feet. “If you don’t give me that book, I swear to God…”
“Temper, temper! You know what you need, don’t you? You need to relax! You need…to go to a party! Beautiful girls, plenty of alcohol, people begging to be punched…”
Ryan pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to ten. Opening his eyes, he saw Seth staring back at him with a silly, half smirk on his lips. He knew he was wearing him down. He closed his eyes and tried counting to twenty. Nope, Seth was still standing there.
“If I go, will you please give me my book back?”
“You promise you’ll go?” Seth asked as he waved the textbook in front of Ryan’s face. Ryan knew he could just have easily punched Seth in the arm to get his book back. For some reason punching Seth didn’t hold quite the enjoyment as punching Trey did. It was probably because Seth would nearly cry whereas Trey would tackle him to the floor.
“Yeah, whatever. I’ll go.”
Seth all but squealed with delight before dropping the book on the floor and collapsing in the chair. “So we’ve got to figure out a way that I can talk to Summer…”
“Seth, I need to study before I go anywhere.”
“This is important, Ryan! We’re talking about planets aligning, the moon being at its optimal…”
“Seth!” Ryan barked as he grabbed the book off the floor, “I’ve got to study which means you need to get out.” He jerked his thumb towards the door to emphasize his point and this time Seth seemed to take the hint. “You need to tell your parents about tonight,” he added as an afterthought before Seth closed the door to the pool house.
“You boys have a good time,” Kirsten stated with a smile as her fingers lazily stroked the stem of her wine glass. Ryan eyed her carefully trying to see if that was a heartfelt statement. He still couldn’t figure her out, but she seemed nice enough. Even on her worst day, Ryan figured she would still be a hell of a lot better than Dawn.
“Be home by midnight,” Sandy added as he came into the kitchen and wrapped his arm around Kirsten’s waist. Ryan hoped the shocked feeling didn’t reach his eyes. He didn’t think he’d ever had a curfew before. He’d been gone for days in the past and Dawn never seemed to notice, if she did, she didn’t bring it up except to ask if he’d managed to make some money while he was out and then demand that he make her dinner.
“Midnight?” Seth spluttered. “Things are just getting going by midnight! You can’t expect us to leave when things are just starting to…”
“I can and do expect you both home by midnight,” Sandy interrupted with a stern glance directed at both boys.
“Dad, you’re seriously curbing my teenage…”
“This isn’t a democracy, Seth. Home. Midnight.”
Ryan grabbed the keys off the counter, Seth’s arm, and started lugging him towards the door.
“Dude, I was just starting to wear him down!” Seth commented with a sly smile.
“You were also starting to get on my nerves.”
“I’m going to have to educate you on the ways to speak to the parents to get what you want. I can’t have you going all ‘good son’ on me all the time. You’re going to make me look bad.”
Ryan rolled his eyes as he started the SUV, and Seth continued rambling about how lying wasn’t actually lying unless you got caught. Guilt by omission apparently didn’t exist in Seth’s world.
Holly’s party ended up being exactly what Ryan had expected. Cocaine was laid out on the table like it was a freaking party favor. Alcohol seemed to flow like a river from the kitchen. Random pills were scattered across the counter like it was a pharmacy.
He had tried talking to Marissa, but she seemed content to have a one way conversation with the Vodka bottle that was loosely hanging in her hand. Luke’s heated glare stopped him from across the room and he decided he’d be better off outside.
He wasn’t looking for a fight. He found Seth standing outside staring across the beach at a small group of girls that were talking loudly and giggling. It was easy to spot Summer in the crowd.
“Did you talk to her?” Ryan asked as he gestured towards Summer who was currently telling a story while wildly animating actions with her hands.
Seth nodded, closed his eyes, and brought a bottle of tequila up to his lips.
“Whoa,” Ryan said as he reached for the bottle. “What the hell are you doing? You’re going to make yourself sick.” Seth jerked away, and glared at him as he sucked the amber liquid into his throat. Since he wasn’t choking on it, it was pretty obvious he’d been drinking for awhile. Ryan knew he shouldn’t have left him alone.
Pulling the bottle away, he dragged his arm across his mouth trying to catch any remaining drops of liquor that were clinging to his lips. His defiant expression basically dared Ryan to try and stop him.
Ryan decided to try a different tactic. “It obviously didn’t go well with Summer.”
“She told me to get lost,” Seth wailed pathetically. “Said I wasn’t worth scraping her heels on whatever the fuck that means.”
“So this is why you’re drinking yourself into oblivion?”
“Oh this?” Seth asked as he tried to gesture with the bottle, but ended up spilling half the contents on his shirt. “This is liquid bravado, man. I’m going to talk to her after I can’t feel anything that way I won’t feel it when she knocks me on my ass.”
“This is not one of your finest plans,” Ryan said with a groan. He knew he should have stood his ground and stayed at home. If he ever got caught at a party like this it would be one way ticket back to Juvie.
“Neither was the model home, but that worked out in the end.”
Ryan rolled his eyes, and stopped as Marissa came stumbling out of the house and ended up spilling the entire contents of her purse on the floor. He reached down, collected her lipstick, wallet, flask, and money and stuffed it back inside the designer pocketbook.
“Here,” he said as he handed her the purse. She made several attempts to grab it before her long fingers finally wrapped around the gold handles. “Maybe you should slow down…”
Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she glared at him. He knew what was coming before she said it.
“I don’t need someone else telling me what to do,” she snapped before weaving through the crowd towards the beach.
“Good job,” Seth said with a laugh. He tilted the bottle up and enjoyed a few more leisurely sips before adding, “Apparently I’m not the only one who sucks with the ladies tonight.”
“Your parents are going to have your head for this,” Ryan commented as he leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. Seth offered a casual shrug as if that was the farthest thing from his mind. Who knows? Maybe his parents wouldn’t care. They seemed pretty cool so far. Kirsten definitely wasn’t happy after the first drinking episode, but maybe that was just because he was with Ryan.
“If they even notice,” Seth said with a wink. “I’m very good at stealth.” Ryan snorted and reached out to grab Seth’s arm before he went toppling off the stairs.
So much for stealth…
“Are you sure about that whole stealth thing?” Ryan asked with a smirk. “I’m pretty sure duck doesn’t mean lean into her fist as it connects with your face.”
“I can’t believe she hit me,” Seth muttered as he leaned against the window. The cool glass felt good against his burning skin.
“You tried to kiss her in front of everybody!” Ryan blurted out as he tried to stop laughing.
“It wasn’t my fault! It was the tequila talking…or acting…or whatever.”
Ryan glanced at the clock which read 11:55pm. He was actually glad the incident had taken place with Summer when it did because it allowed them about a half hour to get home. He had to pull over twice to Seth could throw up. He knew Seth was going to be hating life in the morning.
“Your phone…” Ryan glanced over at Seth who was drooling against the window and shook his shoulder a few times. “Your phone is vibrating,” Ryan stated after Seth jerked awake and glared at him. Seth managed to pull his phone out of pocket after nearly having to take his pants off the progress. There was NO way Ryan was going to be able to hide this. He already decided he was going to have to leave Seth in the pool house. Maybe that would give him time to think of a creative excuse to why Seth looked and smelled like he spent the night in a liquor cabinet.
“Lo?” Seth’s face scrunched into a scowl before handing the phone to Ryan. “It’s for you.” He tossed the phone towards Ryan and it ended up on the floor next to the brake peddle.
“Thanks a lot,” Ryan grumbled as he reached for the phone and brought it to his ear. He was pulling into the driveway as Marissa’s panicked; drunken voice came loudly through the receiver.
“Ryan! Oh my god! I can’t stay here! You have to come get me! You’re not going to believe this…”
“Marissa, calm down. You need to calm down.” He tried to soothe her as he parked the SUV and opened the door. Seth had somehow managed to fall back asleep in the period of two seconds.
“Ryan, please,” she begged as she started crying, “Please come get me. I can’t stay here and I know I’m too drunk to drive.” She sounded absolutely pathetic and due to the tears, he was powerless to say no. He figured that the fact that she had admitted that she was too drunk to drive was something. It was better than her trying to do it on her own and ending up wrapped around a tree.
“Okay,” he said he raked his hand down his face. “Let me get Seth inside and I’ll be back to pick you up.”
“Thank you,” she sniffed. “Thank you so much.”
He closed the phone and glanced at Seth who hadn’t moved. He walked around to the passenger side door and opened it. He hadn’t realized how much Seth was been leaning against the door until he came tumbling out.
“Shit,” he grumbled as he grabbed Seth around the chest and tried to shake him awake.
“Seth, wake up.”
“Seth, we’re home.
“Seth, Summer’s here and she’s naked.”
“I’m so going to kick your ass for this in the morning.”
He would have tossed him over his shoulder, but sending all the alcohol towards his mouth was never a good idea. He’d made that mistake once with Trey. It wasn’t pretty.
He carried Seth into the pool house and glanced at the bed. He was definitely going to be kicking some serious ass come morning. He dropped Seth into bed, tugged off his shoes, and tossed the blanket over his shoulders. As an afterthought, he grabbed the trash can and set it next to the bed.
“If you puke in my bed, I swear that I’m going to beat your face in.”
Ryan rolled his eyes and started for the door.
“Where goin’?” Seth’s muddled question caught him off guard. Of course NOW he would wake up. God knows he couldn’t wake up long enough to walk from the car to the pool house… That would be asking WAY too much.
“I’m going back to pick up Marissa. Something happened at the party.”
“S’ after midnight.”
Ryan glanced at the clock which read 12:10am and shrugged.
The Cohen’s were probably only worried about Seth anyway and Ryan had seen to it that Seth got home okay. That’s what was important, right?
“Don’t worry about it. You need to…”
Seth’s loud snores echoed across the room and Ryan could only shake his head.
Ryan carried Marissa into her house just like he’d carried Seth over an hour before. He arrived at the party just in time to witness a screaming match between Marissa and Luke. Apparently she had caught him making out with a girl in the bathroom. Keeping with the Atwood luck, Luke was less than happy to see Ryan and even less pleased when Marissa announced that Ryan was taking her home.
In retrospect, Ryan wondered if she had called him just to piss Luke off. Still, Luke made a calculated error when he grabbed Marissa’s arm to try to keep her from leaving. Ryan didn’t even realize he’d punched him until he saw Luke lying on the floor with his hands covering his nose.
He was going to have to watch himself where Marissa was concerned.
She had thanked him several times, called him her savior, and tried to kiss him after he laid her in bed. He briefly wondered where she found the energy since she hadn’t been able to get out of the car without doing a face plant in the driveway. She had asked him to stay with her, he refused, she cried, and he ended up staying until she was asleep. It had taken her longer than it took Seth.
It was almost 3:00am before he was striding across the Cohen’s pool deck.
His hand froze on the doorknob when he heard Sandy’s stern voice behind him.
He turned around and saw Sandy start to stand up. Ryan hadn’t even noticed him sitting him in the chair when he’d walked up. He’d been too lost in his thoughts about Marissa to notice the man sitting there silently studying him while sipping a cup of coffee. He had been to preoccupied to notice the relieved expression that crossed Sandy’s normally patient features.
“It’s three in the morning,” Sandy commented as he started walking towards Ryan who was still too stunned to speak. “You broke curfew. Actually not only did you break it, you basically did a tap dance across it while loudly singing ‘Take this curfew and shove it’.” Ryan could hear the frustration in his voice and he knew how frustration was handled in his past life.
This was completely unfamiliar territory and Ryan had stepped off the stairs to the ground. He didn’t know what consequences would ensue because of this little escapade and frankly, he was shocked that anyone had even noticed he was missing. He also knew that Sandy looked pissed. He knew what happened in Chino when AJ was ticked off.
He closed his eyes and forced his arms to remain at his sides. He wouldn’t fight Sandy and he would damn well take what he deserved. He hoped it would count for something that he was willing to take his punishment like a man.
Ryan nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a comforting hand on his shoulder which slid to rest at the base of his neck. He swallowed several times before slowly opening his eyes. He saw only compassion and concern staring back at him.
“I’m not going to hit you,” Sandy said suddenly. Ryan flinched again as if Sandy had suddenly revealed some deep, dark secret that he’d been vainly attempting to keep hidden.
“I’m not afraid of you.” The words were spoken out of habit. He had made that statement to so many nameless men in his past.
In truth, he wasn’t afraid of Sandy. He was afraid of himself. He was afraid because he knew he wouldn’t hit back, he wouldn’t defend himself. He was afraid because for once, he actually cared.
“I never said you were,” Sandy said gently. “You’ll never get hit in this house. I want you to know that. I need you to know that.”
It was noncommittal at best, but Sandy took what he could get. He had time to show this kid who had squirmed his way into his heart what it meant to be part of a family, what it meant to be loved.
“Why don’t you come and sit down?” He gestured towards the table next to the pool and Ryan followed him silently.
Sandy’s hand didn’t leave Ryan’s shoulder until he was safely deposited in a chair.
“So tell me about tonight?” Sandy asked casually. It was a double edged sword and Ryan knew it.
“Seth is in the pool house. He’s safe and was home on time if that’s what you’re worried about,” Ryan blurted out. He kicked himself for not mentioning it earlier. Of course Sandy was worried about Seth! That should have been the first thing that Ryan told him.
“I saw you carrying Seth inside,” Sandy returned slowly as if he was choosing his words carefully. Ryan’s eyes studied the man quietly as if trying to uncover any hidden anger or frustration. He kept coming up empty. “He smelled like the bottom of a tequila bottle by the way.”
“He had a bit to drink tonight,” Ryan commented as he kept one eye on Sandy and tried to keep his hands from nervously strumming the table.
“A bit?” Sandy laughed. “I think he had more than ‘a bit’.”
“Sandy, I’m really sorry…”
“You don’t control him, Ryan. You didn’t make him drink, did you?”
Ryan shrugged and now had both eyes glued to the ground. He still felt responsible despite Sandy’s attempt to reassure him.
“I need you to get this, kid,” Sandy stated as he reached out and tapped Ryan’s knee for emphasis and to make sure he was listening. What he didn’t know was that Ryan clung to each word that he said like it was a piece of hidden truth spoken just for him. “You are not responsible for Seth. I’m sure you told him to stop and he didn’t listen.” Ryan nodded slowly after Sandy paused for a response. “Even if you hadn’t told him to stop, which we both know you did, you’re still not responsible for him. You’re in charge of Ryan and that’s it.” Sandy paused and seemed satisfied that Ryan had actually heard everything he said, even if they both knew it would take awhile for him to process and actually believe it.
“Now tell me about Marissa.”
Ryan’s eyes widened and he jerked up to look at Sandy.
“I saw you carrying her inside her house,” he explained. “I went into the pool house to check on Seth after you left and his phone was ringing. I answered it and it was Marissa asking if you were on your way.”
“Why did you let me leave?” Ryan asked softly. If Sandy had witnessed him carrying Seth to the pool house and obviously saw him leaving, why hadn’t he stopped him sooner?
“I thought you had forgotten something in the car. Trust me kid, if I knew you were leaving again, I would have stopped you.”
The fact that Sandy hadn’t even thought that Ryan would be breaking the rules and avoiding curfew cut him like a knife right through his chest. Sandy had expected to be obeyed and Ryan felt like he had all but given him the finger. He felt like he had thrown Sandy’s trust right back in his face.
“Why’d you leave?” Sandy asked as he attempted to get Ryan talking again. The kid had visibly paled and he was concerned Ryan was going to pass out on him.
“Marissa needed a ride home,” Ryan explained even though the reason sounded horribly stupid now. “She was upset when she called and she knew she was too drunk to drive… I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You could have got me.”
“You should have gotten me,” Sandy amended as he gave Ryan a level glance. “You also should have gotten me when you couldn’t get Seth out of the car. It’s not your job to cover for him or to carry him out of the damn car when he’s too drunk to walk.”
Ryan wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say. This was all so new to him. His own mother didn’t want be bothered when he broke his arm at school or when Trey was so sick he couldn’t get off the bedroom floor…
“Things are different now,” Sandy said gently as he reached for Ryan’s hand and squeezed it. It was a tender gesture, but it had the desired effect as Ryan’s eyes slowly came back into focus.
“Thank you,” Ryan whispered as he leaned back in the chair and sighed.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Sandy said with a chuckle. “You’re about to find out what consequences are like in this house.” Sandy regretted the words the second they left his mouth.
Ryan visibly paled again and could feel his chest tighten almost instantly. Was Sandy lying to him all along? Surely this wasn’t just some type of sick joke…
“Ryan, Jesus kid, look at me,” Sandy said as he reached out to grab Ryan’s shoulders. The chair fell backwards and Ryan jerked to his feet and retreated towards the wall of the house. Feeling all of two inches tall, Sandy knew that it was going to take more than one conversation to soothe the fears that had taken years to instill in the brain of this fragile child.
“Ryan, come here,” Sandy stated as he kept both his arms at his side. “Ryan, come here,” he repeated and nearly rejoiced when Ryan took a small step towards him. He pointed to a spot in front of him and continued to wait as Ryan eyed him cautiously. After several minutes, Ryan sighed and walked the remaining steps to stand in front of Sandy with his eyes cast towards the ground and his shoulders trembling.
Two strong arms wrapped around him and if he hadn’t have closed his mouth which was wide open from shock, he would have been eating Sandy’s sweater. He didn’t return the hug. He wasn’t ready for that yet…
He didn’t pull away though.
“No one is going to hit you, Ryan. Not in this house,” Sandy explained gently. “You are grounded though. That is what I was going to tell you earlier. You’re grounded for one week for breaking curfew.” He still had his arms around Ryan as he explained his punishment to him. Sandy briefly wondered if Ryan had ever been punished out of love, out of the desire to keep him out of harm's way.
“I want you to be safe, Ryan. We make rules to keep both you and Seth safe. When you break the rules, there are consequences so in the future; hopefully, you’ll listen to me because I only want what’s best for you.”
He felt a bit silly explaining all this to his teenage foster son, but when he felt Ryan nod against his shoulder, he figured this was probably the first time the kid ever heard this little speech. Sandy figured he said this to Seth when he was two and probably ten times a year thereafter.
“So no more late night hero stuff, okay?” Sandy said with a smile when he felt Ryan starting to pull away.
“Okay Sandy,” Ryan murmured with a nod. “Sorry about all this.”
“It happened. You know what your punishment is and it’s over,” Sandy explained with a smile. “You’ve got a clean slate now. Although I have a feeling Seth is going to be feeling it in the morning. It should be fun to watch.”
Ryan offered a mischievous, yet care free smile, and Sandy instantly decided he could get used to that.
“Good night, kid.”
Sandy watched as Ryan walked into the pool house and dropped onto the couch that was in the corner. He knew from the moment he saw Ryan carrying Seth into the pool house and when he later saw Ryan lugging Marissa into her house that this was far from over.
He had somehow managed to adopt the kid with the hero complex.
He also knew that he could have done a lot worse.
“Dude, I think I’m dying,” Seth grumbled as he stumbled into the pool house and collapsed on the end of the bed.
“You’ll be fine,” Ryan commented with little compassion as he turned the page of the textbook he was reading.
“Dad said you were grounded,” Seth commented as he managed to open one eye to look at Ryan. He neglected to mention that he was also grounded for one week for his drunken endeavor.
“So why are you smiling?”
“I’m not sure,” Ryan said after considering it for a moment. He smiled again before starting to study the diagram on the next page.
“You’re still smiling.”
“I guess I am.”
“You’re weird,” Seth said with a sigh. “I guess I’m going to have to tell dad that he’s losing his touch.”