Title: All About Family
Rating: PG 13 (Rish in some chapters)
Summary: Ryan's Dad comes to Newport.
S4 with spoilers up to My Two Dads
Thank you to chazper for beta duties. She really made this chapter come together and many of the words are hers too! (The good ones usually.) But mistakes are all mine.
A reminder that I give credit to brandywine421's Hurting Ryan Fic for kick starting my muse all those months ago.
Julie was pulling the car out of her spot in the mall’s parking lot when she spotted Frank unlocking the door to a nondescript dark blue sedan. He seemed to be having trouble with the lock, as he was jiggling the key around, and then banging the top of the car in frustration when the door wouldn’t give. She slowly inched her car along, hoping to study Frank’s behavior unobtrusively. Anything that might give her a clue to Frank’s real motivation for coming to Newport to find Ryan.
“Mom? Mom? What’s with the snail’s pace?”
Julie started and slammed on the breaks. ‘So much for unobtrusive,’ she thought. “Kaitlin, you scared me,” she breathed.
Kaitlin quirked her brows. “You were totally zoned out. What’s the deal?” She looked around the lot, trying to spot someone familiar, but didn’t see anyone. There was no one worthy of Newpsie gossip. Just the drab assortment of shoppers lugging packages to their cars.
From the corner of her eye, Julie spotted Frank finally get into his car.
“I just have a lot on my mind. I’m sorry.”
“Whatever,” Kaitlin shrugged and slumped down into the front seat. Julie had changed after she and Jimmy had split up the first time and since Marissa’s death Julie had practically spiraled out of control. She didn’t expect Julie to ever be normal or regular again.
Relieved that Kaitlin didn’t press, Julie went back to concentrating on Frank. In her rearview mirror, she noticed him getting into his car and pulling out of his spot. She slowed down on impulse, letting him get ahead of her, and followed him out of the lot.
“Mom, you’re going the wrong way,” Kaitlin complained when Julie made a right turn at the intersection that usually put them back on the freeway.
“I have to run an errand in this direction.” Julie quickly covered.
Falling back into the plush leather seat, Kaitlin crossed her arms and stuck out her lower lip. “Couldn’t you have done that before picking me up? I wanted to hang out with my friends some more. You’re the one who insisted it was time to go.”
“What you wanted to do was light up another joint or make out again with Joe or Chris or whoever the flavor of the week is.” The words spilled out of Julie’s mouth before she could think about what she was saying or how they would damage her daughter. She caught Kaitlin’s horrified look from the corner of her eye, but she couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to assuage her moody teenager. It was too difficult following Frank’s nondescript car while keeping a few car lengths behind so they wouldn’t be spotted.
Yet, Marissa wouldn’t want her to push away Kaitlin in the name of saving Ryan.
“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for. I only remembered about ... this … errand as I was pulling out. I’ll make it up to you.”
“Vermonty Python. Rocky Road. A banana split if you want!” Julie assured with a smile.
Kaitlin grinned. “Well then, you better concentrate on the road again. The car you’re following just made a right into that parking lot.”
Laughing sheepishly, Julie turned into a spot and put the car in park. She let the engine idle and waited to see what Frank would do next.
“Who is this guy, anyway?” Kaitlin asked, following Julie’s gaze. “He doesn’t look your type. He’s driving a low-rent car. His clothes aren’t….” She let her voice trail off when she realized Julie was chewing her lip in concentration and wasn’t willing to be distracted anymore.
Julie watched as Frank got of his car and approached a middle-aged man with a receding hairline. The stranger was unremarkable, wearing faded blue jeans and a dark blue polo shirt. He had a small gut that hung over his belt and skin too pale for someone who lived in Southern California. The man was leaning in to Frank and the two were in an obviously heated discussion. His hands were flailing in the air, emphasizing his points by practically jabbing Frank’s chest with his finger.
Julie couldn’t read their lips or hear what the conversation was about, but the stranger calmed down as Frank calmly responded to him without rising to the bait.
“Hey, Earth to Mom,” Kaitlin broke in. “Who is that guy?”
Letting herself look away for just a moment, Julie answered, “That’s Frank Atwood. He’s Ryan’s dad.”
“So you see, Ryan, this whole smoking out Summer thing isn’t working out quite as I expected.” They had just pulled into the circular driveway in front of the Cohen’s house and Seth was climbing out of the front seat of Ryan’s jeep. He stopped at the hood of the car and faced his brother. “I don’t give her enough credit sometimes. She is after all, the one who scored higher than me on the SATs and —“
Ryan cut Seth off. “And she’s playing your game, but better than you.”
“Yes!” Seth slammed the flat of his hand on the hood of the car. “Yes, she’s doing it better than me.” Looking around surreptitiously to make sure they were alone, Seth leaned over the hood of the car so that he was closer to Ryan. “If I can’t figure something out soon,” he said in a hushed voice, “I’m going to have to inform the parents about the impending nuptials.” Seth scratched the back of his head. “I don’t think they’re going to be fans of the idea.”
“On the bright side, they might just be distracted enough by this morning to let this one go over their head.”
Seth shifted, so that most of his weight was on the hood of the car. “What do you mean? Because of your dad being back in town?”
Leaning his elbows on the car so he was facing Seth, Ryan shook his head. “No. But that’ll also keep them occupied for a little while. No, this morning — early this morning — Taylor followed me in the kitchen from the pool house. The Kirsten was definitely displeased.”
“It seems like when we were in high school the parents didn’t bat an eyelash about us taking girls into our room. You think we were just more stealth back in the day?”
Ryan shrugged. “Maybe. But the only thing I can think of that will get me out of the coming lecture is distracting them with news of seeing my dad.”
Seth chewed his lip and stared down at his hands thoughtfully. He slowly brought up his eyes to meet Ryan’s gaze. “So, um, how was that? Want to talk about it?”
Shifting from tired foot to tired foot, Ryan shrugged his shoulders. “It was weird. I don’t know what I was expecting. He didn’t do or say anything exactly. I just got weirded out and left.” He didn’t even know if it was Frank who made him uncomfortable or the turmoil he felt every time he thought about Marissa.
“How did Frank take it?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t wait for his reaction. I just walked and walked and eventually found you in the comic book shop.”
Seth nodded his head, weighing Ryan’s words carefully. “I’m glad you found me.” He was about to say more, but the front door opened and Sandy came out.
“Oh. Good. Ryan you’re home.”
Seth swung around to face his father. “Hello Father. Good afternoon. How are you this good day?”
Sandy eyed Seth suspiciously and walked up to the car that was parked in front of Ryan’s jeep. He scrutinized the Range Rover, but seeing nothing, he asked, “What did you do?” He looked over the care more carefully. “It doesn’t look damaged.”
“Father, you wound me.” Seth’s hands flew up to his heart. “Can’t a son simply greet his father?”
Rolling his eyes, Sandy answered, “Seth, I know when you’re trying to hide something from me. But right now, I need to talk to Ryan. Alone,” His voice changed abruptly as he turned his attention to Ryan.
Wanting to get Sandy away quickly before Seth admitted to his engagement with Summer, Ryan came around from the driver’s side of his jeep to meet Sandy halfway. “Sure thing. Want to talk inside?” He sounded confident and self assured, but his stomach was in knots.
As he followed Sandy into the office, Ryan watched his foster father’s rigid walk. Sandy had come out of the house in a short and brusque manner. This wasn’t for a talk about future plans or a good natured probe about his dating life. Sandy was in a foul mood and he was about to take it out on Ryan.
“Sit down, Ryan.”
Ryan wanted to play the part of the belligerent teenager and refuse Sandy; to insist on taking his reprimand standing. Instead, he sat down in one the soft upholstered chairs across from Sandy’s executive brown leather chair. For a moment there was silence, as Sandy put his hands together and seemed to collect his thoughts.
“About this morning—“
“I know, Sandy. I’m sorry. It was disrespectful of me to have Taylor over and it won’t happen again.” Ryan was hoping to take the wind out of Sandy’s sails, but instead it seemed to bring on a gust of stormy weather instead.
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking,” Sandy snapped. Even to Sandy’s own ears the words sounded terse and harsh, but it wasn’t the first time Ryan had heard him this way. He had used that tone often enough with Seth. And Ryan was his son too. Not Frank’s, he thought grimly. Ryan had to know that
“Sorry,” muttered Ryan and he bowed his head in contrition. He wasn’t ready for the torrent of words that sailed out of Sandy’s mouth.
“I know that Kirsten and I are no longer legally responsible for you, but we both feel a moral responsibility to you. We’re your family and for all intent and purpose your parents. Despite the fact that the world makes you out to be an adult at eighteen, you’re just a kid. I know what it was like at that age and frankly, watching both you and Seth, your behavior has confirmed both of you still have some growing up to do.”
Swallowing, Ryan nodded.
“It’s not only that you had a female guest in your room and then flaunted it in front of us. You did it when you were grounded.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t invite Taylor over. She just showed up in the pool house. I should have told her to leave…” Ryan tilted his head hoping to convey that knowing look between two guys. “It’s just hard to tell her to go when she gets like that.”
“That’s not an excuse, Ryan.”
“Next time, you better try harder.”
“Okay. I will.” Ryan wanted this to end.
“The grounding still stands.”
“Yeah. Okay. That’s fine.” It wasn’t. Ryan knew he would feel ridiculous explaining this to Taylor. Even if she had intimated the night before that it was sweet that Kirsten and Sandy still cared enough to ground him.
“You need to follow the rules, Ryan. I know you’ll be on your own next year. But Berkley will still have rules to follow. You’ll have a job and a boss. There are always rules. Family is a lot more forgiving than a boss or a girlfriend or a college. Am I getting my point across?”
“Yes. Yes. You are.”
Ryan waited for Sandy to ask him about meeting Frank, but he didn’t. Sandy just sat quietly not quite dismissing Ryan, but waiting for something. Waiting for Ryan to offer the details of his afternoon meet and greet? The only vibe he could pick up was of anger and suddenly, Ryan wondered if Sandy was angry at him or at Frank?
“I saw Frank,” he finally broke the silence. Sandy didn’t respond, but Ryan could see the desire in his eyes. Even so, he waited for Sandy to ask him how it was. To his surprise, Sandy didn’t take the bait. Ryan tapped the arm of his chair waiting for the leading questions, but they didn’t come. “Well, if there’s nothing else,” Ryan said, getting up. “I’ll be in my room until dinner.”
He walked out of the office with a backwards glance trying to mask how hurt he felt by Sandy’s silence. Maybe, Ryan thought, he was wrong. Maybe Sandy didn’t care that Frank was back after all.