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22 April 2016 @ 09:35 am
The Boy From Chino (The OC; Ryan/Kirsten)  
TITLE: The Boy From Chino
CHAPTER 4: The Guardian
FANDOM: The OC
PAIRING: Ryan/Kirsten
SPOILERS: Season 1 (AU)
RATING: PG
SUMMARY:


*****

Ryan carefully folded the cash his mother handed him and stashed it in his back pocket, resigning himself to the role of Kirsten's guardian for the remainder of the evening.

He could easily just put her in a cab with the money and bid her goodnight, but he knew that was not an option. Not with her. Not with an hour between the bar and her home, when she could easily succumb to car sickness. And then, what? She'd be stuck with an irate or even furious cab driver, and liable for any cleaning costs?

He could also use Kirsten's phone to call Julie or Seth. But somehow that wasn't an option either. He wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to see Julie again, nor did he want to involve Seth in this anymore than he already was.

The more rational but wry side of his brain kicked in and told him that he could justify it however he wanted - the truth was, he wanted to make sure that Kirsten was settled in before he left her to her own devices.

So he sighed; he squared his shoulders and made his way over to the end of the bar, leaning an elbow on it as he bent slightly in an attempt to capture her gaze. A hand reached out, just barely touching the middle of her back. "Kirsten?"

Her response was slow. He kicked himself again for not being more vigilant over her consumption, even with that rational side reminding him that it wasn't his duty.

Her blue eyes swam back into focus, still bleary but a bit more aware. Her lips parted in a smile, and she looked as happy to see him then as she did at the start of the evening. "Hi."

"Hey," he chuckled slightly, allowing his hand to land fully on her back. He watched her visibly jump at the touch, though she didn't move away. If anything, it almost felt as though she leaned into him, just slightly. "What do you think about calling it a night?"

"What time is it?" she slurred, turning her right wrist to check a watch that wasn't there. She frowned and let her hand fall heavily into her lap.

"About two," he told her. "We gotta close up shop."

Kirsten looked around, almost in confusion, and peered down into her empty glass as she asked him in a soft voice, "How many have I had?"

And he replied in an equally tender voice, "I don't know. A lot, I think."

"Oh..." Her head dipped and for a moment Ryan feared she lost her battle with consciousness, until it came up again and he saw the remorse in her expression. "Ryan, I'm so--"

He cut her off with a shake of his head. "Don't worry about it. Here..." He reached for her hand and grasped it, putting light pressure on it as he asked her, "Can you stand?"

"I think so."

She tightened her hand around his and he gripped her upper arm to help steady her as she rose on wobbly legs. All at once, the number of drinks she'd had hit her and she swayed forward. Ryan caught her by the waist just before she toppled over.

"Whoa, careful." He chuckled uneasily as he tried to brace her, avoiding her gaze as he felt her craning her neck, staring up at him.

He knew that his mother, too, was watching him since this interaction began; and so began the valiant effort to look as though none of this troubled him at all. Not having an arm around Kirsten's waist, not having her face inches away peering up at him, nor having her alcohol-tainted breath on his face. This was all just... fine and dandy.

"Easy, easy."

Another stumble and he seemed to have helped Kirsten find her footing. She was leaning on him heavily, was practically a limp rag doll in his arms. He glimpsed down at her to find her searching his face, and for just a moment he felt as if time slowed; he forgot where he was. He forgot the watchful eye of his mother, forgot the circumstances surrounding his current position.

His hand reached up of its own volition, noting the unkempt nature of her hair and badly wanting to smooth it down. Mere inches from touching the messy waves at the crown of her head, though, he stopped himself. His hand dropped back to his side and time started to tick away once more.

Ryan came back to himself then and almost cursed at his stupidity. And he made damn sure not to meet Dawn's eyes or he'd give everything away. Instead, he cleared his throat. He gripped Kirsten firmly by the upper arms and made himself take a step back, asking, "You okay now?"

And something in Kirsten had shifted too. Her eyes were still bleary, breath still heavy with alcohol, gait unsteady. But something in her expression had changed. After a beat or two, she nodded. "Yeah, I-I think so."

He nodded back, "Good," and averted his gaze. "We should get you home."

"Yeah, probably a good idea."

"Where are your keys?"

"Why?"

"I'm gonna drive you back to Newport."

"But--"

"I've got cab fare to get myself home," he told her, side-eying his mother, who suddenly feigned interest in the deposit slip.

To Kirsten, he held out a hand expectantly, voice a bit more firm. "C'mon. Keys."

Without another word, she handed them over, and managed to sling her purse over her shoulder as he escorted her out. As they left, he asked his mother, "You alright locking up by yourself?"

"Yeah, I'm good." She met his eyes and what he saw there gave him a sense of foreboding. Something clicked. That was confirmed when she added, "I'll see you in the morning, kid. We'll talk then."

Ryan inwardly cursed himself again for the moment of vulnerability and grit his teeth. "Great," he lied, and continued leading a very unsteady Kirsten to the door.

Once outside, he felt her eyes on him again and he clenched his jaw. He wouldn't make the same mistake he made in front of his mother. This was just about getting her home safely.

Using her key fob, he unlocked her SUV and opened the passenger side door for her. "Do you need anything before we hit the road?" he asked. "Some water? Maybe a... bucket?" He winced.

Kirsten smiled, swaying on her feet before she climbed in as she told him, "No bucket needed. And I always keep a bottle of water in the car."

"Alright."

He waited until she was buckled in before shutting the door, and he took the long way around the car, using the extra few seconds to collect himself.

An hour car ride with an inebriated Kirsten, when he'd already let his defenses down enough to show some affection. Yeah, this had "success" written all over it.

**

Luckily, he had fared better than he originally thought. Kirsten ended up falling asleep on the drive back to Newport, and Ryan was able to escape any potential awkwardness or questions stirred by their brief moment back at Sunrise. He listened to a repeat of some sort of NPR game show just for the distraction, though his eyes strayed to the blonde in the passenger seat every few minutes of the ride.

Back at the Cohen manor, all the lights were dark when Ryan reached the top of the driveway. Once the SUV was parked, he pocketed the keys as he went around to get Kirsten. Upon opening the passenger side door and noting she hadn't stirred, he shook her shoulder gently.

"Kirsten..."

She didn't move. Same when he tried again, and then a third time. He planted his fists on his hips briefly, sighing heavily as he wondered if he would need to carry her into the house.

He leaned into the car and reached for the latch on her seatbelt, unbuckling her. He was just about to lift her up when her eyes flew open and met his.

"Ryan..."

Her hand came out and cupped his face, her limbs still limp from the amount of alcohol in her system. His nerve endings snapped to attention under her touch, and he tried for a friendly smile as he told her, "Hey, you're home."

"I am?" She lifted her head off the back of the seat and looked around, as if needing to adjust to her surroundings.

Her hand slipped from his face then and he caught it within his own as it fell. "Yeah, you are. Can you walk?" he asked, and as his thumb skated across her knuckles her gaze snapped back to his.

He tried to ignore the sharply drawn breath he heard from the blonde and gave her hand a squeeze, inciting her to climb out of the car.

"Easy, easy..." He repeated his line from earlier as he braced her, allowing her to grip his hand as he led her to the wrought-iron front door.

"You know I've been this drunk before," she told him, leaning against one of the heavy stone columns at the front of the house. "I know how to get myself inside."

"Maybe, but I just want to make sure." He held up the keys, dangling them in front of her. "Which one gets us inside, by the way?"

Kirsten smirked and snatched them from his hand. He watched her attempt to concentrate on the keys in her hand, wondering if the furrowed brow was an attempt to see only one set of them rather than two or three.

Once it was located, she held it up between two fingers and told him, "Here."

With a nod, he took them from her again and unlocked the door, swinging it open before holding out a hand. "C'mon."

She shot him a look that once again told him she could handle herself; but not two seconds later, she was grimacing and nearly green as she breathed, "Oh no..."

And then all at once she was rushing off into the darkness of the house and Ryan was following after her, concerned with the look on her face. Moonlight cast large blocks of light down what was clearly the hallway to her bedroom. Inside, he found her in the attached bathroom, emptying her stomach into the toilet.

Ryan grimaced, leaning one shoulder on the door frame as he listened to Kirsten's retching. He plucked a couple of tissues from the box on the sink as she spit the last vestiges of her illness into the bowl. As she began to straighten, he went to her side holding out the tissues. "You okay?" he asked reflexively.

"Yeah," she muttered, her voice a bit strained as she took the tissues from him. With one, she wiped her mouth, and used the other to blow her nose. Both were then wadded up and tossed into the nearby wastebasket. "Much better."

He couldn't help the face he made, and hoped it was dark enough that Kirsten wouldn't see. "It is?"

"Yeah," she chuckled, and her shoulder ghosted against his as she moved past him, back into her bedroom. "I'd much rather do that than deal with nausea." At the foot of the bed, she turned to him, and he caught her arched brow in the light of the moon coming through the french doors. "Y'ever been nauseated?"

"Yeah." He nodded. "It's, uh... pretty unpleasant."

She nodded back, with a half-smile. "Exactly."

Ryan watched her toe off her shoes, flicking his eyes back to hers when she continued.

"I'd rather deal with a minute's-worth of puking than an hour's-worth of nausea."

He shrugged facially, folding his arms. "Guess you've got a point."

"Besides," she chuckled, leaning over to brace herself on the hope chest at the foot of her bed - one shoe was being particularly stubborn, and she clearly didn't have the equilibrium at this point to deal with it gracefully. "Not like I haven't done this before."

Again, Ryan fought not to mention her habits. Instead, he landed on a simple, "Right."

She met his eyes, and for a moment neither of them said anything. He half wondered if Kirsten was waiting for him to make another accusation, but he remained quiet, just watching her from the bathroom doorway.

After a moment, she ducked her head, and his eyes followed the movement of her graceful fingers, tucking hair behind her ear. "Thank you for bringing me home," she murmured. "You certainly didn't have to."

"Yeah I did," he said softly, and almost surprised himself with how tender the words sounded.

It surprised Kirsten as well. Her head snapped up and she stared, looking more sober than he'd seen her look all night. Another beat of silence passed before she asked, almost cautiously, "You did?"

He nodded. Then, fearing she couldn't see him in the shadows, he took a few steps forward, his arms still folded across his chest. "Kirsten, whether you believe me or not, I want you to know that I..." He bit back a thousand unspoken words and finished, "I care about you." He met her eyes and confessed, "I always have."

Her drawn breath was audible in the suddenly too-quiet room. He wasn't sure if the reaction was positive or negative, so he kept plowing forward. "When I first met you, I cared. When you threw me out of your house, I cared. When I came back and then burned down your model home - hell, even when you came to visit me in jail and then refused to see me again - I cared. I barely knew you, you barely knew me, and still I haven't stopped caring about you."

Kirsten stood, slowly, and Ryan was unable to move as she came toward him. "Even with my... issues?" She crooked a brow that said everything.

He nodded. "Especially with that. I... want to help you. If you want help. And if you don't, I'll still care about you."

She was close now - so incredibly, wonderfully, dangerously close. He wondered what he'd just gotten himself into when she stretched up on her toes and planted a kiss on him - on his cheek, but not exactly far from his lips.

When she pulled back, she smiled and laid a hand on his cheek. "Thank you, Ryan."

He returned the smile and forced himself not to touch her hand. "You're welcome." He then nodded toward her bed. "Get some sleep, now. I should head home."

"How will you--"

He reached into his pocket, pulling up the wad of cash his mother had given him. "I have cab fare, remember?"

"Oh. Right."

He made himself take a step back - back toward the hallway, back toward safety. "So I'll, uh... I'll see you..." He didn't want to say 'tomorrow' or 'next week' and make it seem like an expectation. So instead, he awkwardly finished with, "Next time?"

If it came across as awkward or nervous, Kirsten didn't let on to it. She smiled and repeated, "Next time."

Then when she moved toward her bed, Ryan turned on his heel and headed back down the hallway, back to the front door and then out into the crisp night air. He inhaled deeply to center himself and slow his heartbeat.

Being that close to Kirsten, that open with her, was dangerous.

But as he reached for his phone to call a cab, he knew that was nothing compared to the dangerous conversation he knew he'd have to have in the morning with his mother.


TBC


{x-posted to rystenlove}
 
 
 
thekiller00thekiller00 on April 22nd, 2016 03:39 pm (UTC)
Another great chapter. You could see how nervous Ryan was that something else would happen while Kirsten was drunk instead of just a kiss on the cheek.
(no subject) - dahlia34563 on November 17th, 2016 02:27 am (UTC) (Expand)