Rating: PG 13 Maybe even R
Summary: Ryan's Dad comes to Newport.
S4 with spoilers up to My Two Dads
Thank you to chazper for beta duties.
A reminder that I give credit to brandywine421's hurting Ryan fic: http://brandywine421.livejournal.com/369537.html for kick starting my muse all those months ago.
When Ryan entered the kitchen followed by Taylor later the same morning, Sandy’s head was bent in concentration as he tried to schmear the perfect consistency of cream cheese on his sesame bagel. Kirsten was leaning against the counter sipping her coffee, but she immediately set the coffee cup not so gently on the granite and let her hands fly to her hips. She tapped her foot impatiently, trying to find an expression that would show her displeasure with Ryan and yet not scare off Taylor.
“Good Morning, Ryan. Taylor.” Kirsten’s voice was clipped, sending Ryan’s innards into a series of back flips.
He had been so distracted with Sandy’s talk and the call he made to his father that Ryan had forgotten that Taylor shadowing him from the pool house would probably clue the Cohens in on his overnight visit. The color rushed to his face and he ducked his head, mumbling, “G’morning.” Turning his back to Kirsten, he pulled out two mugs from the cabinet, trying to act nonchalant, like there was nothing amiss in Taylor trailing him from his bedroom to the kitchen so early in the morning. He handed Taylor a steaming cup of coffee before sliding onto one of the stools. She slipped into the stool beside him and squeezed his knee to show her support.
He immediately noticed that Kirsten wasn’t finished. Her mouth was open, her lips ready to form the words that would scold him. Ryan wished she would wait until after Taylor left; he really wasn’t in the mood for another verbal smackdown in front of his girlfriend. Then he detected Sandy smirking under his heavy bangs and Ryan felt like he was going to break under the pressure, but Taylor cracked first. The flood began.
“Sandy, Kirsten, I’m so sorry. I know Ryan was grounded, and it all started because of me. I should have reminded him to call and let you know where he was or better yet,” she said, reacting to Kirsten’s dubious look, “Not entice him to stay out all night. I’m just not used to checking in anymore, you know? It’s not like Veronica was ever very concerned about my whereabouts, and while Julie’s a doll, I don’t quite check in to her on a daily basis. It wasn’t fair to worry you. But really, I only came over last night to keep Ryan company for a bit and… and….” Finally running out of steam, Taylor gulped a large breathe of air.
Ryan scrutinized the picture of him and Seth on the coffee mug, a present to Kirsten for her birthday, hoping that he would become the incredible shrinking teenager.
“The important thing right now, is not to focus on our indiscretions, but on helping Ryan reunite with his father. It’s not going to be easy for him to meet the man after all these years.” As Taylor found her groove the torrent of words ran one right after another, barely leaving anyone time to keep up with her marathon of words.
“It’s a momentous occasion. It’s no secret that Ryan has a troubled history with his dad and this is bound to —“
Ryan always hated being the center of attention. He hated it more when people talked about him as if wasn’t even in the room. While he loved Taylor and was excited by her and stimulated by her, he didn’t want to hear her talk anymore about this topic.
“Taylor. We got it.” His voice was abrupt and he hated sounding mad, but sometimes the only way to get Taylor to stop was to show some force. “Sandy, Kirsten. I’m sorry. About everything.” He glanced at the clock, and with relief, noticed it was getting late. “My shift starts in twenty minutes and I don’t want to be late. Can we talk about all of this tonight at dinner?”
“We have a lot to talk about, Ryan.” Thankfully, Kirsten didn’t sound annoyed anymore, but the dejected tone in her voice didn’t assuage Ryan’s guilt at all. “My afternoon is free,” she started.
He ducked his head. “I already made plans to meet my dad after my shift is over. I’ll be home for dinner though.”
“That’s fine,” Kirsten said doing her best to mask any emotion.
Sandy did his best to shy away from the counter island, but Kirsten tightly held on to his hand. He watched Ryan and Taylor retreat from the kitchen, biting his lip hard. He thought it would stop the water that threatened to emerge from the corner of his eyes.
The kitchen felt empty as soon as Ryan and Taylor left it, even though Kirsten and Sandy were still standing in it. She loved how the kids and their friends filled a room, even when they were breaking the rules. It gave life to the house and while it frustrated her that Seth and Ryan could still behave like irresponsible teenagers, she was glad she could still get away with mothering them. She knew it wouldn’t last very long.
Sandy stuffed the last bite of his bagel in his mouth and brought his empty plate to the sink.
“I don’t trust Frank Atwood,” he said. Kirsten could barely understand his words, because he was talking with his mouth full.
“Sandy,” she chastised, “Swallow before you talk.” She rolled her eyes. Every once in a while her husband’s behavior reminded her that her job as a mother would never be done, no matter how old the boys were.
“I don’t trust Frank Atwood,” he repeated sullenly. Sandy turned on the water and rinsed the plate before loading it in the dishwasher. “The way he skulked into town asking questions of Julie. He just showed up at our door thinking Ryan would embrace his return. If he really cared for Ryan, he would have been more careful of how Ryan might react. After the way he treated Ryan as a boy, why should we embrace his father’s return?”
Kirsten went to Sandy’s side and uncurled Sandy’s finger from the sponge he was gripping the life out of.
“Our job is to be here for Ryan. He seems to want to reunite with Frank.”
Kirsten shrugged. “I don’t know, hon. But we’ve always helped Ryan stay connected to his first family.” She brushed a strand of Sandy’s unruly hair behind his ears. “It never changed the fact that we’re his family too. One doesn’t cancel out the other. You will always be Ryan’s father in ways Frank could never be. Maybe Ryan needs to reconnect with Frank so he can lay some demons from his childhood to rest. Our job is to be there for him.”
“Our job is to protect him.” Sandy pushed away from the sink, propelling him backwards into the island counter, the edge catching him in the small of his back with a twinge of pain. “We have to look out for him. We failed him so many times since he’s moved in with us—“
“Sandy, this is no time to rehash all our failures. It’s part of being a parent. We don’t always make the right choices.”
“Oliver? For weeks Ryan was trying to tell us the kid was unbalanced and we were treating Ryan like he was the problem. Theresa’s pregnancy? We let a sixteen-year-old kid move out of his home and try and make it on his own.” Sandy started to tick off the incidences one by one on his fingers. “Trey? We were so engrossed in our own marital drama that we didn’t even see how unsettled Trey was and how it was affecting Ryan. Dawn?”
“Sandy, enough!” Kirsten’s voice was loud and sharp. She gripped the end of the counter until her finger turned white, feeling the heat rising to the tips of her ears. “The list goes on and on. We can add my drinking and how I treated Ryan at the Intervention or how we ignored him and Seth both when I got out of rehab. But it won’t help. Ryan knows we love him. Ryan knows we’re not perfect.
“We were totally out of our element when we took Ryan in. We did the best that we could. For all the mistakes we made, we also gave him a safe place to live filled with love and acceptance and a family and home life that was devoid of violence. Ryan knows this. He knows that he has a place in our family forever. I understand you’re feeling threatened by Frank’s coming to town—“
Sandy’s eyes blazed. “I. Am. Not. Jealous,” he said through clenched teeth. He wasn’t sure why he and Kirsten were fighting. Yet it felt good somehow. The shouting and the arguing felt cathartic. “I am not some child or jealous lover.”
“I didn’t say you were! But I know where you’re coming from. Just because I encouraged Ryan to reconnect with Dawn, do you think I didn’t hate every moment she was in our house?”
“It’s not the same.” Sandy’s voice dropped to a whisper. “There’s something off about the way Frank approached this whole thing. We have to be on top of this. We have to make sure that Ryan’s not hurt by him. I don’t know if the kid can take another hit. We could lose him for good this time.”
Kirsten laid a hand on Sandy’s shoulder. “Julie promised she’d do some snooping. You have your calls in to the Bullit and his parole officer. We’ll all work to protect Ryan.” She folded her husband into a tight embrace and nestled her face into his shoulder, breathing in the scent of Old Spice and mint-flavored toothpaste. “You,” she said pointedly, “Are in dire need of a surf. You don’t have a court date until this afternoon. Go for a bit. Unwind. It’ll benefit your clients and your family.”
With a heavy sigh, Sandy ran his hands through his hair. “That sounds like a good idea.” He started to head for their room, but stopped and turned back to Kirsten. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t take this out on you.”
Lifting her brows playfully, Kirsten answered, “I’ll give you a pass this time.”
Ryan wiped his hand on the top of his jeans for the umpteenth time since leaving work. He couldn’t stop his hands from getting clammy and sweaty, no matter how cool it was in the restaurant or in the car. The mall was a comfortable temperature, but Ryan felt uncomfortably hot. He tugged at the collar of his black tee, and berated himself for not changing after his shift.
Frank should have arrived ten minutes ago. Ryan had decided it was best to meet in an open and public space. Even though he did want to meet with his father and talk to him, he was still wary of the man. Was he in touch with Trey? Had he looked up Dawn since he got out? Had jail changed him? What were Frank’s plans now that he was out? How was Ryan going to fit into those plans?
He wished he could find something to block the questions tumbling in his head. An iPod loaded with Seth’s music would come in handy. Ryan looked at his watch again. The minute hand had barely moved a fraction of an inch. He sighed, wishing he could make time move faster. Sinking into an empty bench, Ryan tried to relax. Instead, he dug his phone out of his pocket and flipped it open. No messages. No missed calls. Would his father show?
He started to come up with a contingency plan. If his father didn’t show up by six thirty, Ryan would go back home. If he sensed the Cohens weren’t too mad about the night before maybe Taylor would come over. Unconsciously, he raised his thumb to his mouth and chewed on the corner of his fingernail.
“Your mother was always trying to get you to keep your fingers out of your mouth. Guess it never worked.”
Ryan’s heart skipped a beat when he heard Frank’s voice break into his nervous thoughts. Slowly, he brought his hand back down to his lap.