Fandom: The OC
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything related to the OC. How sad for me!
Summary: Seth begins to doubt his friendship with Ryan.
A/N: This was written for Brandy’s 15 minute challenge. I was supposed to use a sentence prompt, but it didn’t fit with the story I wrote. It’s rather odd because the quote gave me the idea for the story, but later didn’t fit. Go figure…
This is not betaed. I make a ton of mistakes and they are all my own.
I promise I know where this is going! I hope I do. I think I do. Eh, to hell with it...
It was late in the evening when Ryan opened his eyes. He hadn’t intended on falling asleep, but after his “discussion” with Detective Riley and his constant struggle to hide just how much pain he was in, he was exhausted. It seemed like his body was continuously aching. The idea of going inside and facing the Cohens excited him about as much as being stuck in an elevator with Julie Cooper-Nichol. Although he knew sooner or later they’d come looking for him, looking for some type of reassurance that he was okay, and they weren’t the worst foster parents around. Ryan knew he could give them that. Hell, he owed them that much and more. If people in Newport knew anything, it was how to save face.
He pushed himself up, his hands throbbing, and ambled into the bathroom to wash his face. The bruise on his cheek was beginning to fade to a sickly yellow color. He was always told that you can’t tell how old an injury is by the color of the bruise. Ryan never believed that. He could look at an injury and usually pinpoint within a day how old it was. That was a talent he could credit to his mother’s many boyfriends.
The cold water felt good against his heated skin. It didn’t take him long to work out that he had a fever. It took him even less time to realize that he wasn’t going to do a damn thing about it. He refused to bother Sandy and Kirsten with anymore of his petty problems. It was his fault that their only son almost got shot. Sure, he wasn’t the one holding the gun. Ryan would have given anything for the armed criminal to be anyone but Trey. He figured he should count himself lucky that the Cohen’s didn’t put all of his stuff out on the street. He still wasn’t sure why they continued to let him stay after everything he’d put them through. It was a different crisis every month with him around.
“Suck it up, Atwood,” he growled as he stared at his reflection. He took several deep breaths, swallowing the pain and burying it deep within himself, before turning and wandering towards the house.
Several take-out containers littered the kitchen table. The Cohen’s had obviously already had dinner.
“You’re awake,” Kirsten stated as she walked into the kitchen carrying an empty wine glass. “Seth wanted us to wake you, but we thought you should rest.”
“Thanks,” Ryan said for lack of anything better to say. She smiled and refilled her glass.
“There’s leftovers in the fridge if you’re hungry,” she offered as an afterthought. The smell of food was enough to make Ryan want to run back to the relative safety of the pool house.
“I’m fine. Thanks though.” Kirsten nodded, apparently pleased, before leaning against the kitchen counter, her fingers casually tracing the rim of the expensive glass. She wanted to say something, that much was obvious, and Ryan resisted the urge to groan. The last thing he wanted was to discuss how he was feeling. He’d have done anything to keep the conversation away from himself.
“So you’re doing okay then?” she began, her voice rising as if she was broaching an uncomfortable subject.
“Fine,” he repeated as he studied her quietly. “What is it? What’s wrong?” Ryan asked. Kirsten raised her head, her eyes wide. Had she been that obvious? She took a second to look at Ryan, really looked, and she decided he looked okay. He was a bit flushed, but he had just woken up from a nap. His bruises were fading, the skin on his knuckles was still frayed, but that would heal with time. He was a tough kid. She knew he’d bounce back. It was apparent he was well on his way to recovery both mentally and physically.
“It’s Seth,” she said as she pressed her fingers against her forehead.
“What’s wrong with him?” Ryan asked, his voice immediately concerned. Why the hell had he taken that blasted nap? He normally wasn’t that self-centered. He knew he should have checked on Seth after breakfast, but he was too consumed with trying to look normal rather than checking to see if his best friend was okay.
“All of this,” Kirsten began as she waved her hand in the air dramatically. “He’s just not used to it. He won’t take Summer’s telephone calls. He won’t talk to Sandy or me. He’s just not himself.”
“He went through a traumatic experience,” Ryan said as he rubbed a battered hand down his arm. The words ‘traumatic experience’ was something Ryan never thought he’d say.
“With your…history,” she stammered with a fake, sheepish smile, “maybe you could talk to him? Normally he’d come to us, but…” Ryan resisted the urge to inform her that Seth hadn’t been coming to her or Sandy for years, but he knew that wouldn’t solve anything. It was common knowledge that every parent wanted to think that they knew everything about their child. Well, his parents didn’t give a damn, but normal parents really prided themselves on that.
“I’ll talk to him,” Ryan offered with a reassuring smile. Being there for Seth was something he was good at it. If anything, it was a hell of a lot better than the alternative.
“Thank you,” she said visibly relieved. “I know he’ll listen to you.” She picked up her wine glass, patted him on the shoulder, and wandered towards the living room where Sandy was watching the game.
Ryan searched through cabinets, grabbed a bag of chips and two sodas out of the fridge, before walking up the stairs towards Seth’s bedroom. He paused as the sounds of Boys II Men filtered through the door.
“Predictable,” Ryan sighed before knocking twice.
“Go away!” Seth yelled. His voice was muffled, but the anger and annoyance was clearly there despite his garbled tone.
There was a brief pause before the music was turned off and a much clearer voice that was closer to the door hesitantly replied, “What do you want?”
“I brought snacks.”
“You know it.” The door slowly opened and a brown eye appeared through the crack. Ryan held out the bag of chips and a can of Mountain Dew.
“You may enter,” Seth said dramatically as he pushed the door aside, snatched the soda from Ryan’s hand, and plopped on the bed. Ryan leaned against the wall and slowly lowered himself to the floor. Seth was too busy munching away to notice the small wince when Ryan made contact with the floor.
“So what’s up?” Ryan asked as he gingerly popped the tab on his own drink. Despite his proclivity for finding fights, he actually hated having busted knuckles. Every time he moved his fingers his hands hurt. It was annoying after awhile.
“Nothing,” Seth sighed as he leaned back against the pillows. He suddenly found his sock covered feet interesting as he silently studied the movements of his toes. Ryan sipped his soda, his eyes gazing at the poster-covered walls. He’d wait. He was good at that too.
It was a full two minutes before Seth cracked. “I just can’t handle this shit!” he muttered angrily, his hands fisting the sheets in frustration. “I had a gun in my face! A freaking gun, Ryan! Sure, I like the video games. I dream of being a super hero, but a real gun? Not cool, man.” His body shivered as he thought about the encounter in the gas station. Frankly, save Ryan, it had been all he’d thought about since it happened. He knew he wasn’t what you called street wise, and for once, he was happy about that.
“I can’t get it out of my head,” he continued, the previous anger replaced by exhaustion. “I keep replaying it in my mind. All I wanted was a fucking soda, and I ended up with a gun in my face.”
“I’m sorry,” Ryan said honestly as he met Seth’s gaze.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
Ryan shrugged. “Someone should be sorry.” He meant it too. “Things happen that no one can explain. It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it fair. That should have never happened to you.” If that had come from his parents, Seth would have been on his feet screaming, but coming from Ryan… That meant it was the truth, didn’t it? Ryan wouldn’t lie to him. If he could trust anything, he could trust that – and yes, it brought him comfort.
“How’d you stay so calm in there? In true Atwood fashion, you were in complete control.”
Ryan laughed, the first time he had laughed in days, and it was shrouded in dark irony. It sounded strange. “I was scared out of my fucking mind.”
“You sure didn’t act like it. Kid Chino to the rescue again!”
“Seth,” Ryan said as he dropped his head to rest on his knees. “I’m not a hero, okay? I’m just a stupid teenager. In situations like that, you do what has to be done. I did what I thought had to be done.” If he did the right thing, he’d never know. Hell, he never knew if he was doing the right thing. He felt like he was stumbling through life grasping at whatever straws he could find.
“Hm,” Seth mused softly as he scratched his chin. “Sounds like a super hero to me.”
“You’re not going to leave this alone, are you?”
“Nope!” Seth replied with a grin as he bent down to retrieve his sketch pad from underneath the bed. “I feel another episode of Atomic County coming on.” Ryan rolled his eyes and used the wall as leverage to help him stand. Ryan didn't try to hide the expression of pain that crossed his face. Seth was already engrossed in preparing another graphic novel masterpiece.
“I’m going to head to bed,” Ryan stated as he opened the door.
“Night,” Seth replied without looking up. He was feverishly drawing away, his eyes darting maniacally around the page, and Ryan smiled. This was the therapy that Seth needed. This was a way for him to cope with happened, to get it down on paper, deal with it, and move on.
“For being a stupid teenager, you don’t do half bad.” Ryan was down the stairs and Seth’s soft spoken words never graced his ears. If they had, that reassurance would have gone a long to way to stop an injured, brooding teenager from spiraling further out of reach.