Acquiescense [The O.C., Ryan, PG-13] 1/1 (12/01)

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Joined: 12/01/03 20:00

Acquiescense [The O.C., Ryan, PG-13] 1/1 (12/01)

Post by shelbecat » 12/01/03 08:13

Summary: Ryan spends his first Christmas with the Cohens.
Author's Note: This is my first O.C. fic, and my first attempt at writing the second-person POV. I wasn't sure of Ryan's age but I went with 17.
Disclaimer: I don't own them silly! Maybe when Fox is finished with them...


For Pinar, who believes.

You never knew what it meant to have a family. Sure you were born into one, almost everyone is, but having a mother and father doesn't always a family make. At least not in your case.

You grew up wondering if this was all you were ever going to get. A father that left before you formed a solid memory to do time in a prison you would never visit. A brother that saw work as a fool's way of making money and turned to petty crime before he hit 13. And a mother… a mother that never deserved the title as she ignored you more often than she paid you attention and you were sadly, almost glad for that fact.

You never thought it would be that very family that gave you your new life.

The car, the accident, the night in jail while your brother was booked on charges longer than your arm and you waited, wondering if you would ever see the light of day, or him, again—it was supposed to be something you forgot, an event you repressed so forcibly that it would take an earthquake to shake it from your depths. Instead it became your defining moment, the time when your world spun on its axis and selected a new path for you to follow; one that wasn't paved with hardship.

The Cohens—Sandy, Kirsten, Seth—by all intents and purposes, three people who you were never supposed to meet. From the first moment you laid eyes on your new lawyer you were defensive, wary of anyone who would swoop down from his Newport Beach mansion to grace the filth of juvenile detention. He was persistent, sincere, you could see that from his opening words, but yet you didn't care to know him. After a lifetime of teaching yourself never to care, you didn't think you knew how to accept the kindness of a stranger.

But he would teach you.

Opening his home, and heart, to a kid who'd never crossed the proverbial tracks, you made sure every wall was in place as you timidly accepted his hospitality. It wasn't an open invitation to share in their lives, the night spent in their home was the product of pity cleverly disguised as caring; you were as sure of that fact as you were of your mother's boyfriend kicking your ass when he found out you hadn't spent the night shivering on some street corner. You didn't belong in a place where the carpet was cleaner than your socks and as you lowered yourself to the bed, you couldn't imagine how you would ever fall asleep on sheets thicker than the towels you were used to.

You were snoring before your head hit the pillow.

Trying to capture every change your life embarked on as you at first resisted their kindness then reluctantly, if tentatively, accepted it, you realized quickly that this was not an adventure you could mark with dates, times, and milestones. It was fluid, surging, the whirlwind of Orange County picking you up against your will and flinging you, kicking and screaming, into the mold of one who was supposed to belong. It mattered none that you always felt you didn't.

The place was nice enough, the people friendly, if shallow, and you made friends fairly soon… well, after a rough start, but still, after five months, you could honestly say you didn't totally not belong.

Then came the holidays.

Thanksgiving was mild compared to Christmas. Sharing your first holiday meal of Chinese take-out on your self-proclaimed step-brother's floor, with a girlfriend who would have only used you as a rebellion against her parents six months prior sitting by your side, you couldn't help but lower the wall against actually liking it there a fraction. Things felt good, safe, normal. You'd seen your past that day and realized you hated it, your future was lying before you, mixed with the Moo Shoo Pork and Vegetarian Spring Rolls and even though you knew you'd never learn how to properly hold chopsticks, you honestly felt like you belonged.

You sort of forgot about December.

It normally wasn't a month you liked to think about, your mother had always done a good job of drinking her way through it and with a brother who was happy for the freedom no parental supervision provided, you were pretty much left alone to welcome the demons yourself.

The first fittingly marked the anniversary of your father's first arrest, it was a Monday, you were four. He came back on the fifth, a year had passed, you remember it was raining. The twelfth was only a short week later but that was all you had before he was gone again, this time for a 15-year stint. Your Mom drank herself stupid until Christmas.

When you were eight, her boyfriend beat you senseless on December fifteenth. Three years later, it was a different guy with the same moves; you landed in the hospital on December twentieth. The month of all demons was surprisingly kind to you that year, you turned 12 in the hospital—December 25th arriving without celebration but thankfully also absent of pain. After that, every other birthday seemed painful in comparison.

Until this year, this year it was supposed to be glorious, at least that's the position Seth took. 'Think of it dude, you get, like, twice the gifts!' He just wasn't capable of understanding what the day meant to you; how could he when his life had been graced with ease while yours was painted with heartache?

Hating him was never something you wanted to do.

Fake snow tinged your windows when you woke to the slightly crisp, if still warm, Christmas morning. The main house was silent, your new family sleeping off the rich egg nog they'd used to celebrate the night before. You opened the door of the pool house to greet your seventeenth birthday alone—fitting since you'd spent the last three in the same manner.

Taking a seat by the side of the pool, you sighed into your hands as you stared out at the sun rising over the masterful Pacific. You were supposed to be happy today, you already knew you had more to celebrate this year than any before, yet the memory of a carton of cigarettes as last year's gift made it a little hard to open your heart to the possibility of this birthday turning out on the up side.

You should have known better.

"Ryan! Man, get up!"

You turned to see Seth bounding towards the pool house, completely oblivious to you sitting outside. You let him run, amused by his confusion when he saw your bed lying empty. When he turned, his face was panicked, as if he thought that every time you weren't where he expected it meant you'd left; that this was the day you'd chosen to depart the life you still very clearly felt didn't belong to you.

You didn't have to heart to tell him he was so close to the truth.

"Dude!" he called as he saw you skulking in the shadows.

The stone floor was chilled from the pre-dawn temperatures and you winced when you saw his bare feet dancing across the surface.

"What are you doing out here? You are wasting valuable present-preview time… the spread's all ready!"

You squinted your eyes as you tried to imagine what he could be talking about.

"The spread?"

"Oh my God. Come on man." You didn't resist as he grabbed your arm and pulled you stumbling behind him towards the house. "You don't understand, Santa Claus," he paused to do air quotes beside his head before latching onto you again, "has already been here. There's a whole pile of unwrapped gifts…"

You didn't hear another word as he skidded to a stop beside the 10 foot tree adorning the main foyer. Where a mountain of wrapped gifts had lain for weeks, the stack larger than all the gifts you'd ever received in your entire life piled together, there was now the addition of a sleigh full of unwrapped offerings, doubtlessly the 'Santa Claus' loot Seth referred to.


His voice was laced with awe as he waded into the sea of overkill. You stood on the edge of the madness, unable to even touch the smallest of gifts as your eyes bugged at what was so obviously a gesture to make you feel welcome.

You'd never felt more like you didn't belong.

"Oh this one has got to be yours."

You were vaguely aware of Seth speaking before a package came flying towards your face and you barely caught it from crashing to the floor. It was an XBox, the super-sized, all the options included version and your only thought was 'what a waste' as you couldn't imagine any household needing two gaming consoles; let alone someone actually purchasing one for you.

"Seth! I thought I told you to wait."

You looked up as Sandy emerged from the master suite just down the hallway. Kirsten was following behind, their faces beaming as they fed off Seth's excitement and then turned to await your reaction.

"I uh…" You held up the game awkwardly, unable to form thoughts, let alone words, of thanks.

"We hope you like it," Kirsten offered warmly.

You think you managed a small smile.

You laid the gift back against the spread as Sandy passed near you, then stopped to place a hand firmly on your shoulder.

"Think she went overboard?"

His voice was light and you managed an appreciative, if nervous, chuckle.

"Wait 'til you see your cake."

Your breath caught as you knew they hadn't forgotten that today marked the birth of more than one person. Your eyes blinked closed as you realized you'd almost hoped they had.

"Happy Birthday Ryan."

It was Kirsten, standing before you expectantly as you slowly brought her into focus.

"Yeah, happy birthday dude. Can we give him his birthday gifts first?"

"Seth," Sandy admonished.

"What! It's better than waiting for you to open your annual new housecoat from Mom."


This time is was Kirsten, turning to look at the son who actually belonged to her before glancing back and smiling at you softly.

"How about it? You ready for a birthday present?"

You shrugged as you fought to unstick your tongue from the roof of your mouth. "You didn't have to…"

"Yeah, yeah," Seth droned, hopping over what looked suspiciously like a new surfboard wrapped in snowman decorated paper before bounding towards the stairs. "Let's go birthday boy!"

"Did he find some sugar already?" Sandy mused, pushing you before him towards the marble-coated staircase.

You moved robotically, smiling outwardly to signal your joy while inside you felt your heart freezing another degree with every step. Showing thanks for gestures only recently beyond your comprehension was perhaps more difficult than accepting the tokens themselves.

You were always afraid they'd think you didn't want it.

New clothes, a book bag, shoes, a watch, a new Discman—of course you wanted it, you wanted it all. You had taken so much from them, each gift a new reminder that they really did accept you as part of their house, but you still couldn't let yourself take the welcome for granted. No matter how long you lived there, you didn't think you'd ever feel like you deserved any of it. You stole a car, you got arrested, you got in a fight, you burned down a house, you got arrested, you got in a fight, you got in a fight, you got in a fight… since coming here, what had you done to actually thank them?

Swallowing thickly, you looked up to see that Seth was bouncing from foot to foot outside a door in the upper hallway. Kirsten was standing beside him, beaming as she watched you slow your pace. Sandy pushed you forward the last few feet, finally releasing his hold when he was sure you weren't going to bolt.

"Wha…" you mumbled, staring from face to face as you wondered if your present was too large to carry down the stairs. You hoped to God it wasn't.

"Go ahead man, open it."

"Open…" You looked at the door you were all crowded around, then back at Seth hesitantly. "The door?"

"Naw, the imaginary fridge sitting right there. Yes the door!"

In your confusion you think you managed a satisfactory scowl.

Placing your hand on the doorknob, you turned it slowly before letting the weight of the door fall open. The interior was fuzzy, the sun yet too weak to penetrate the black curtains shading the windows. You squinted as you tried to make out what you were looking for, stepping inside slowly as the unfamiliar surroundings tested you.

You were shocked when light suddenly flooded the room.

The walls were a deep maroon, almost black in their richness. Thick white molding set a stark contrast, chasing a path around the perimeter that was cut only by the double bed and matching desk against one wall. Heavy black swag containing miniature while swirls hung from the window, the pattern matching the bedspread perfectly. Books lined a shelf near the closet, a bureau sat against the far wall. Your feet sunk into thick grey carpet as you took one step further inside and wondered what you were supposed to be looking for.

Then your eyes caught the significance and you faltered.

There, on the desk, was the stack of school books you'd brought home the week before. Your book bag rested on the floor, a jacket you'd worn only yesterday was draped across the chair. There was a picture frame on the desk of you, Seth, and Marissa taken on Thanksgiving, the three of you crowding to fit into the lens held by her outstretched hand. By its side sat the alarm clock you hadn't missed when you woke up before its set time on this day full of too many surprises.

"I don't… I mean…"

It was yours, that fact was so glaringly obvious, yet you couldn't comprehend what it meant as you turned to see the three shining faces of your benefactors standing in the doorway.

"You like it? Mom made me promise not to tell, dude. I nearly died, I swear to God."

Seth prattled around you as he took in the finished product for the first time. You smiled at his enthusiasm, the gesture still tentative as you realized two people were waiting for your reaction.

"You really didn't…"

Complete sentences weren't your friend as your voice trailed off once again.

"We thought it was time you had your own room, in the house, with us." You swore you heard a quiver in Kirsten's voice as she spoke while Sandy held her close.

"You want me to live in your house?"

Even after everything they'd done for you, it didn't make sense that there were people who actually wanted you around.

"Ryan," Kirsten said softly.

"You already live in our house," Sandy added. "We want you to live in our home."

An ache surged into your heart, threatening to make you cry in front of them as you turned quickly to look at Seth testing the remote control belonging to your new television. The room was still foreign but there was a comfort to it. People that had once never known you existed, had opened their hearts, and now their home, to you—the kid from Chino that a part of you still thought lived there.

You didn't—you didn't live in the nightmare world of alcohol and abuse, you didn't have people ready to beat you if you stepped one inch over the imaginary line. You lived in the world surrounding you now, the one with riches and joys, the one with people that cared if you were happy on your birthday.

"I don't know what to say." You managed to mumble the words as a pathetic attempt at thanks, then winced at their lameness and bit your lip for strength. "Thank you."

You saw the relief wash over her face moments before Kirsten engulfed you in a hug. Sandy followed, crushing his wife to your body.

"Group hug!" Seth piled into the foray, pushing the breath from your body as you heard Kirsten laugh contagiously and joined in softly.

"I think we should get to celebrating the other holiday, don't you think?" Sandy stepped back first, smiling at Seth as visions of video games danced through his head.

"I get to hand out the gifts!" You stumbled a little as Seth released his hold and flew towards the doorway.

Still with her hands resting on your shoulders, Kirsten was the last to release her hold on you, smiling angelically as she stepped back to join her family.

"We hope you like it."

You could only nod, praying that your smile was enough to show them you already did. Moving behind her, you took one last look around your new room before flicking the light switch and closing the door. Following the trio as they descended down the stairs, you hung back as they moved towards the tree, watching them interact easily with each other. Seth picked up a particularly large package and reached to hand it to his father, pausing when he saw you standing a few feet behind. He tilted his head, his parents both turning to look your way, the smiles spreading across all of their faces an open invitation to join them in the celebrating.

You did, rushing the final steps towards them as you felt their acceptance tether you to this world. The sounds of laughter mixed with exclamations of surprise swirled around your head and you paused with your own gift in hand as your new life took shape before you. Sitting there, watching them, the feeling of never fitting in dissipated once and for all and in an instant blessed with stirring clarity, you realized that you finally knew what it meant to have a family.

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Acquiescense [The O.C., Ryan, PG-13] 1/1 (12/01)

Post by Alien Stalker » 12/15/03 06:44

How nice. Very Christmas-sy, if I may say so.

I particularly like this sentence because I think it sums up the entire situation Ryan's in pretty well:
You didn't belong in a place where the carpet was cleaner than your socks and as you lowered yourself to the bed, you couldn't imagine how you would ever fall asleep on sheets thicker than the towels you were used to.
I think you catch the confusion and the uncertainty with which Ryan is facing his new life very well. That attempt by the Cohens to make him feel like he belong while every other expensive gift he gets just manages to drive him further into a state of feeling lost and like he doesn't belong... I like it a lot. I also like Sandy catching onto little things like asking Ryan whether he thought Kirsten had exaggerated with the XBox - it's so Sandy. He has a sensibility of his own.

Very nice. I like it. Thanks for posting.

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