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29 March 2016 @ 04:23 pm
The Boy From Chino (The OC; Ryan/Kirsten)  
TITLE: The Boy From Chino
CHAPTER 3: The Return
FANDOM: The OC
PAIRING: Ryan/Kirsten
SPOILERS: Season 1 (AU)
RATING: PG
SUMMARY:


*****

Ryan drove in silence for the hour-long trek to Newport. None of the stations seemed to play anything good anymore, and NPR always made him feel like taking a nap at the wheel. So instead, he opted for silence.

But after awhile with his thoughts, he almost would have preferred the crappy pop music or boring talk-radio shows. He’d done nothing but think about Kirsten... about his brief time with her... and it got his stomach churning.

The smile on her face when they first met five years ago and the way she had tightly clasped her hands in front of her almost nervously. How angry she’d been when she had seen the bruises on his face and her son’s the morning after that party, not to mention the way she held herself away from him physically in the kitchen when he was first asked to leave.

”It’s nothing personal.”

Of course it had been personal. He was shaking up her pristine life and she didn’t want to let him in. And then when Sandy had to bring him back... when his mother had actually abandoned him... she had tried to hide her irritation and failed. Ryan had seen the look in her eyes.

Whenever they were in proximity, she wrung her hands nervously. Her eyes would flit to him cautiously, as if he would pounce on her at any moment. Or maybe it was the other way around.

There was, of course, that near-miss collision his final night in the Cohen house. The energy that swirled around him had made him dizzy, thrown him off momentarily, and it had shown in his face. He knew it had. Luckily, Kirsten had been just as easy to read. They had thrown uneasy glances at one another while she had gone to the fridge. The banter between them had been awkward and laced with... something... before they sat down to eat.

Then there was the look. He remembered it well. Sandy and Seth had been teasing her about her cooking abilities -- or from the sounds of it, the lack thereof -- and Ryan had been unable to help his amusement. His eyes moved from them to her, and that was when she looked up at him through her lashes, pure flirtation in her expression with only a lit candle separating them.

The duration of that dinner had made things all the more confusing for him. Once in awhile, his foot would accidentally bump Kirsten’s. The first time it happened, she had gasped loudly, garnering the attention of the Cohen men. Ryan had silently mouthed an apology as he watched her explain away that she thought she had seen a spider.

When it happened again, she shot him another look through her lashes. The third time was purposeful to get her reaction, and that time she had thrown a soft, but stern glare at him. He had resigned himself then, deeming her impossible to read.

The last words he had said to Kirsten before the model home fiasco were in regards to the scale model she had built and left sitting on the counter.

”Good luck with it. It looks perfect.”

He had meant every syllable, and could tell that Kirsten picked up as much just by the sad look in her eyes. But that had been it. Not long after that, everything had quite literally gone up in flames, and the NBPD were carting him off to the juvenile detention center.

Now here he was again, entering the gated community he had been a brief part of so long ago, winding down the road toward the end of the cul de sac where the Cohen manor loomed. He glimpsed at the edge of the Cooper driveway, almost able to see a ghost of Marissa standing there.

Then he pulled up the steep drive of the Cohens and threw the car in park, grabbing the envelope of cash out of the glove box as he climbed out of the car. He shielded his eyes against the midday sun as he stared up at the familiar stucco and Mexican roof tiles, and then he steeled himself as he stepped up and rang the bell.

An answer didn't come quickly... or at all. He spotted the heavy wrought-iron knocker and tried that, though he knew in the back of his mind the bell should have been loud enough. Again, nothing.

He blew a puff of air through his lips and threw a glance down at the envelope, as if accusing it for leading him here. Then, he turned and began to head down the front stairs.

That was when he heard a voice. A voice five years in his past, calling out, "Coming! Hang on a sec, sorry!" and he wheeled around just as the door opened and a mop of dark brown curls appeared.

He raised his brows. "Seth?"

It was the Cohen boy in the flesh. The gawky, awkward kid who momentarily seemed to hero-worship him. The gawky, awkward kid who was now a gawky, awkward man, gaping at him from the front door.

"Ryan?"

Another glance fell to the envelope at his side and Ryan had no idea where to start. "So, funny story..." or "I know it's been five years, but..."

He finally settled on, "Uh..."

"How the hell are you, man?!" Seth took him by surprise by stepping outside and reaching out for a handshake, which quickly became a hug. It reminded Ryan very much of the first time he left the Cohen home. Minus Seth's black eye.

"I'm good," he chuckled, patting Seth's back before he stepped away. "I know this is weird, but--"

"Why do you have a huge envelope of money with you?"

"Uh, that's actually why I'm here." He held it out to him. "Kirsten, she--"

That's when Seth caught the label on the envelope with the bar's name and address. "Oh."

He watched a series of expressions cross Seth's face -- realization, disappointment, and some faint anger. He didn't know what else to say to it, so he replied, "Yeah."

Seth sighed. "Didn't know, uh... didn't know you frequented 'Sunrise.'"

Ryan gave a sympathetic half-frown, familiar with the thoughts probably churning through Seth's head at the moment. "Yeah, I work there. It's my mom's place."

At that, Seth lifted his gaze. "It is?"

"Yeah."

"I thought, when we met, you said she was--"

"Yeah, she was. She, uh... she got help."

"Oh. Good for her." Seth glanced back into the house and again Ryan could read his mind; could practically hear the wish creeping its way into the silence. "Other people aren't quite as ambitious."

"Is she here?"

"Yeah. Sleeping." After a moment, he shrugged and amended, "Or, well... passed out is more like it."

Ryan quirked a brow, folding his arms. "How's she doing?"

He shrugged again, gesturing to him. "You've clearly seen her. Take a guess."

He nodded. "Yeah. When I, uh... when I went to introduce her to my mom and she mentioned her name was no longer Cohen, I kinda figured maybe things weren't going real great."

"Yeah, well," Seth glanced down, voice softening. "It's of her own making." After a moment, he glanced up. He shrugged and told him, "We tried. My dad tried to talk to her on his own and it didn't help. I tried talking to her and it didn't help." Chuckling mirthlessly, he added, "Hell, we had two interventions and it didn't make a difference. Nothing got through to her. She didn't think it was a problem. Probably still doesn't."

Ryan looked down at the ground. "So your parents split."

Seth nodded. "Yeah. My dad just couldn't take it anymore. I mean, they had already been having their ups and downs before this, but when he made her choose, she chose the liquor."

"Right."

Narrowing his eyes a bit, Seth asked, "She told you?"

Ryan nodded. Granted, Kirsten hadn't been quite as nonchalant as her son, but the point was still made. "She said she chose wrong."

Seth huffed, planting his hands on his hips. "Right, yeah. Pity that knowing she made the wrong choice didn't make her wanna change at all."

Ryan swallowed. "I don't know that it's that easy." Off Seth's look, he shrugged. "I mean... I watched my mom struggle with this all my life. When she finally did decide to get help, it wasn't a quick fix. And... even though she probably would never admit it, I think occasionally owning the bar is tough on her. Because of the addiction."

"I just don't get what else it would take to make her wanna change. I mean, if me and my dad aren't good enough reasons--"

"She has to want it too, though. Trust me."

Seth nodded. "I guess in that case, I shouldn't hold my breath." He looked down at the envelope again and thumbed through the cash.

Ryan just watched, contemplating saying something else but falling short on what else could be said. He'd been in Seth's place before, had felt the same frustration. He didn't know what else he could say that wouldn't come across as overly-sage or trite.

All he could think to say was, "She'll come around."

"Yeah. Maybe." Seth didn't sound convinced. He held up the envelope and raised a brow. "Thanks for bringing this all the way out here. You probably could've just hung onto it."

Ryan shook his head. "Would've have felt right about it."

Seth shrugged. "Well, or you could've given it back next time she comes by." Ruefully, he sighed and turned toward the house. "She'll be back. I'm sure of it."


*****

Those were the last words Seth said to him before they parted ways again. He had taken the money into the house and Ryan had gone back down the driveway to his car, spending the trip back in silence yet again. His interaction with Seth stayed with him longer after he returned home.

"We had two interventions and it didn't make a difference. Nothing got through to her."

A week after that, Ryan continued to play the conversation over and over in his head. And though Seth sounded positive that Kirsten would return to Sunrise, Ryan had yet to lay eyes on her. He was beginning to think that maybe she had had a change of heart.

It had been nearly two weeks by the time he heard his mother telling him, "Kirsten's here."

He was in the kitchen, chatting with Ernesto and a couple of the cooks. But those two words were enough to get him to drop the conversation and push his way through the swinging doors.

When he met eyes with her, she straightened up and gave him a smile, along with a small wave. He couldn't help but return the smile, noting how lively she seemed.

"I was beginning to think I'd seen the last of you," he teased, slipping behind the bar and leaning on the mahogany surface.

Kirsten chuckled and folded her arms on the bar top, leaning toward him. A twinkle lit her eyes as she tilted her head, and if Ryan didn't know better he'd think it was flirtation. "Eager to get rid of me?"

"Not in the slightest." He was pretty positive his tone was heavy with flirtation but was powerless to stop it. "It's always good to see you." The way they parted nearly two weeks prior came back to him, and he ducked his head. "Kirsten, I'm--"

"I'm sorry," she broke in, drawing his gaze back up to hers. Her hand reached out and clasped his wrist. "I shouldn't have stormed off the way I did last time, it was childish."

His brows flicked upward, eyes cemented on where her touch lingered, singeing his nerve endings. "Uh... actually, I'm the one who should apologize. For saying what I said to you." After a moment's hesitation, he covered her hand with his, another shock riddling his system. "I was way outta line."

"But not exactly far off the mark." Her eyes too drifted to where they touched, and when they met his again he saw another glimmer of that fire he'd seen so many years ago.

It momentarily took his breath away. And he didn't know how to follow-up her remark, so he just raised his eyebrows and asked, "Will you stick around?"

Her slow blink and smile was enough to keep his heart soaring, and she murmured, "Of course."

**

For the rest of the evening, he volleyed between serving customers and chatting with Kirsten. He made sure to steer clear of any mention of her 'bad habit,' and instead updated her a bit on what he'd been up to aside from his family life.

"Valedictorian?" she repeated with a surprised look.

He grinned and held out his arms. "What can I say? I was never big into parties, and Chino is filled with partiers. Wasn't hard to grab the valedictorian spot." Off her look, he chuckled. "Trust me, Kirsten, it's way less impressive than it sounds. My only competition was a stoner who was way too into Doctor Who."

Kirsten laughed, though she wagged a finger playfully and told him, "Hey, don't knock Doctor Who. Especially 'classic Who,' my father watched that all the time on PBS. Tom Baker was his favorite."

Now it was Ryan's turn to act surprised. "Wait a minute, am I hearing that correctly? You're a nerd?"

She giggled -- downright giggled -- and shoved his shoulder half-heartedly. "Oh hush. I was merely unable to escape my father's unrelenting PBS viewing from time to time."

He rolled his eyes and grinned. "Uh-huh..."

**

The rest of the night passed quickly -- and unbeknownst to Ryan, Kirsten's drinks piled up just as quickly. By the time they had hit 'last call,' she was nearly seven drinks deep, and past 'impaired' territory. Ryan had been careful not to say anything this time, though as he watched her struggle to keep her head up, he began to regret that decision.

"How come you let her have so much?" he grumbled to his mother, watching her nudge one of their regulars who was napping (passed out) on the bartop.

She gave him a look - part confusion, part defensive. "What are you getting pissy with me for? You're the one that's been gabbing with her all night."

He sighed. "You know that she's got a problem. You're the owner, you should've..." He trailed off, at a loss for a solution before he finally shrugged and said, "Cut her off at some point."

Dawn tilted her head at her son. A beat passed in which she glanced to the barely-conscious Kirsten, then to her son, and back again. "Look, kid. I get that you've got some... unresolved something with this woman."

Before Ryan could open his mouth, she held up a hand.

"I'm not asking," she clarified, "And I don't need to know. But whatever it is, you've gotta understand... she's a grown woman." With a wry half-smirk, she added, "If I cut off every patron's supply because I thought they had an alcohol issue, our doors would've closed here years ago."

Ryan couldn't help but return the smirk at that. "Yeah. I know. But..." He trailed off again, turning over his shoulder to watch Kirsten drain the last of her seventh (or maybe even eighth) drink. He turned back to his mother to find her smiling at him, one hand leaning on the bar while the other rested on her hip.

"But she's special," she offered.

Defeat was in his tone as he replied, "Yeah," and folded his arms.

The ding of their cash register tore his eyes away from Kirsten a moment later, and he gave a confused look to Dawn as she handed him some money.

"Then get her home safe in a cab. It's on me."

And he sighed, glancing over at Kirsten one more time.


TBC




{x-posted to rystenlove}
 
 
 
thekiller00thekiller00 on April 2nd, 2016 04:42 am (UTC)
Hurray! Kirsten and Ryan goodness. It's been awhile. How have you been?
a.: newport | by candlelightregalish on April 7th, 2016 05:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks!! Yes it has been awhile, lol! I have been doing great - not as much fic-writing time these last couple years, I miss it.

Hope you've been well too!! :)
thekiller00thekiller00 on April 7th, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC)
I have been well.