Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters or the premise behind "The O.C."

AN: This is just a little something I started after I saw the 2nd episode of "The O.C." with the spoilers for the reappearance of Ryan's mother. It's AU after "The Model Home" since it doesn't gel with the new eppies. Let me know if I should continue, I just wanted to post it here to see what people thought. Review if you like it, review if you don't, or don't review if you don't feel like it. This was just to purge my mind of Ryan's sad, blue eyes.

"…Why do you always find me in the places when I'm coming down…"
--3EB

Ryan Atwood is lost again. The past few weeks have been dramatic to say the least, but he managed to keep his emotions in check. First, he was arrested when his brother convinced him to help steal a car. His mother, irate at his arrest, kicked him out. He was taken in by his public defender, Sandy Cohen, who kindly gave him a place to stay when he found out that his mother had left town. Ryan panicked and ran away to avoid foster care and was arrested again after the place where he was hiding burned down. Sandy and Kirsten had located his mother and she had accepted him back into her 'home'.

Ryan sits in the unlit apartment, listening to the rats explore the wall. After several days of his mother's company, she had made up with an old boyfriend who promptly beat Ryan into unconsciousness and skipped town with her. He's been in this empty apartment for three days. The power was turned off the night before and after his misadventure with candles during his runaway from the Cohens, he doesn't want to try it again here.

He doesn't know what he is going to do. All he has left are the clothes on his back and a change of clothes. He has no money, no food, and no family left to turn to. He doesn't want to call the Cohens for help, they've already done more than his own family ever did for him.

Ryan slowly gets to his feet, cradling his injured arm against his bruised side. He's supposed to call Seth tonight to check in. He has just enough money for the payphone. He pulls his bag over his shoulder and prepares to leave the apartment for the last time. He can't stay here anymore. He has to move on.

Ryan sets his bag down by the payphone and dials the Cohen's number.

"Cohen residence?"

"Mrs. Cohen?" Ryan asks, his voice hoarse from disuse.

"Ryan? How are you?"

"Fine. I promised Seth that I'd call him tonight…" Ryan answers.

"Where are you calling from, this isn't the number you gave us…" Kirsten asks, looking at the caller i.d.

"I'm at a payphone…"

"Is everything okay?"

"Fine, it's fine. Is Seth home?"

Mrs. Cohen senses something in the teenager's voice. "Hold on and I'll get him…" She finds her son sitting beside her husband in the den. "Seth? It's Ryan…"

Seth takes the phone and disappears. "Ryan?"

"Hey, Seth…"

"I tried to call your house today and they said the number had been disconnected. What's going on?" Seth asks, worried about the lack of contact from his friend.

Ryan hesitates. "I guess Mom forgot to pay the bill…"

"What's up, Ryan?"

"I was just checking in. I won't be able to call for a while…"

"Why? What aren't you telling me, Ryan? Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, it's fine, but I think we're going to be moving…"

"Where?"

"I don't know yet," Ryan replies.

"How can you not know where you're moving to? Ryan…"

"I don't know, Seth…I just won't be able to call for a while…"

"Did she leave again, Ryan?"

"No…" Ryan is struggling to think of an excuse.

"Ryan."

"Seth, it's cool. Everything's fine…"

"You swear? Swear to me, Ryan…"

"Everything's fine."

"Why don't I believe you?" Seth asks, knowing that something is wrong now by Ryan's evasive answers.

"Seth. I'll give you a call as soon as I'm settled in somewhere…"

"Where are you going to go, Ryan?"

Ryan sighs. "I don't know."

"But your mom…she left again, didn't she?"

"Yeah, Seth. She's gone," Ryan admits.

"Damn, Ryan. Damn…let me go tell my dad…"

"No. Seth, I can't go into foster care, I won't. I'll be fine…"

"But what are you going to do?" Seth whispers, his father walking by his bedroom.

"I'll figure something out, Seth."

"When did she leave? What happened?" Seth asks, worried.

"A couple of days ago. I stayed in the apartment until they turned the power off. I'm going to see if I can crash at a shelter or something tonight…"

"Let me ask Mom if you can stay over, like a sleepover or something…" Seth suggests.

"You know they'd ask too many questions, Seth, just let it go. I'll be fine…" Ryan sighs.

"Ryan. Have you ever seen those shelters? You really think you'll be okay there?"

Sandy is standing outside Seth's door, his attention caught by his son's words.

"I don't know what else to do, Seth. Your dad will put me in a group home somewhere and I…I've been there before and I refuse to go back. I'd rather try it on my on…I'm sure I can lie and get a job somewhere as soon as I get better…" Ryan says, exhausted. He leans heavily against the payphone.

"Better, Ryan? What do you mean when you get better?" Seth asks, alarmed.

"It's nothing, I just got…I got into a fight. I'm sure I can get something in construction, I just need to let my arm heal so I can use it…"

"You can't use your arm?"

"It's just a sprain, Seth, stop worrying so much…" Ryan scolds.

"What do you expect me to do? You tell me your mom left again and that you're hurt?" Seth replies. He turns around and finds his worried father standing in the entrance to his room.

"I don't want you to worry, Seth. I'll call you as soon as I get settled somewhere, okay?"

"Ryan, wait…" Seth starts, but his father takes the phone away.

"I'll call you in a few days," Ryan starts.

"Ryan?" Sandy asks, speaking into the phone.

"Damn…" Ryan curses.

"I overheard Seth on the phone. You want to tell me what's going on or do I have to grill Seth for the information?" Sandy asks, patiently.

"Nothing's going on, Mr. Cohen…Seth just got a little worried when he found out that my mom didn't pay the phone bill so our phone's disconnected…" Ryan lies.

"Ryan. Don't lie to me."

"I'm not…" Ryan sighs, frustrated.

"Did your mom leave, Ryan?"

"Look, Mr. Cohen, I have to go. Tell Seth that I'll call him in a few days. Don't worry about me, I'm fine…" Ryan hangs up, stopping all discussion. He's out of change and is ready to move on. He ignores the ringing payphone as he limps down the street.

Sandy turns around, hanging up the phone.

"Dad, why did you do that?" Seth asks, coldly. "You should know that he's not going to ask you for help, you tried to shove him into a foster home last time. I could've found out where he was, I could've…"

"What did he say, Seth?" Sandy asks, seriously.

"He's fine," Seth replies.

"I heard you, Seth. Did his mom leave again?"

"Why are you asking me if you already know?" Seth retorts.

"Seth. This is serious. You know how serious this is. Seth?" Sandy is stern.

"His mother left a few days ago. He says he's going to try and crash tonight in a shelter. He thinks he can get a job working construction but…he said he's hurt, Dad. He said he got into a fight and that he can't use his arm. How is he going to get a job like that?"

Sandy is torn. "Let me talk to your mother."

"Dad. He sounded…he didn't sound like himself…" Seth sighs.

"Let me talk to your mother and then we'll call the shelters. We'll find him, Seth…" Sandy says, leaving with a concerned look on his face.

Seth picks up the phone and calls his neighbor, Marissa. He was never friends with her in the past but they bonded over Ryan's friendship. She cares about Ryan a lot and Seth knows that she will help him find Ryan.

"Mrs. Cooper? Can I speak to Marissa?"

"This is Marissa. Who's this?" Marissa answers, curious.

"Marissa, its Seth."

"Seth? Is everything okay?"

"Not really. When's the last time you talked to Ryan?"

"He called, like, a week ago, why, what's going on?"

"His mom left again and he's…he's not thinking straight."

"Where is he?"

"He called me from a payphone, he wasn't even going to tell me, I had to make him tell me."

"But you don't know where he is?"

"I know where the apartment that he just deserted is…"

"Meet me in the driveway."

"What?"

"Well, we have to find him, right?"

"Oh. Okay."

""We'll find him, Seth. We have to."

***

Seth sneaks out of the house and meets Marissa in the driveway. They drive around Chino, looking for signs of Ryan until 2am to no avail. When Seth gets home, his father has had no luck from his phone calls to the shelters. Kirsten convinces Sandy not to call the police because they realize that Ryan will only be further discouraged by their involvement.

Marissa and Seth continue their search for the next few days, but there is no sign of Ryan.

Ryan has joined up with several other homeless kids on the streets. They have nothing to steal from each other, but they share shelter and whatever scarce food they may find. Many of the girls make money prostituting themselves and Ryan is a 'watcher' for them, standing by in case someone gets violent with them. A week after his initial call to Seth, he decides to call his friend again to ease the neurotic teenager's mind.

Ryan is tired and dirty. He's only had sink baths since leaving his abandoned apartment. Hunger has become a constant companion for him, reminding him that he is still alive. Ryan carries his bag from the abandoned warehouse where he has been sleeping for the past week and walks to a payphone.

He dials the number and crosses his fingers that Seth will answer.

"Cohen residence?"

"Can I speak to Seth?" Ryan asks, recognizing the housekeeper's voice.

"Hold please…"

Ryan lights a cigarette, stolen from a local store, and inhales deeply. Cigarettes are his only pleasure these days.

"Hello?"

"Hey, man."

"Where the hell are you, Ryan?" Seth snaps, immediately.

"Seth, what's up?" Ryan sighs.

"I've been looking for you for days, man…"

"I told you that I'm okay…"

"Ryan, shut the hell up and tell me where you are. I'm serious. Marissa and I are worried as hell…"

"You told Marissa? What are you thinking, man?"

"I'm thinking that my best friend is living on the streets because he's too stubborn to tell me where he is," Seth responds.

"Listen, Seth, I appreciate your concern…"

"Are you okay, Ryan? Really?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. I'm totally and completely okay. Okay?"

"I don't believe you. How's your arm?"

"Fine. It doesn't even hurt anymore."

"So you got a construction job?"

"No…listen, Seth, I just wanted to tell you that I'm alright. I knew you'd be worried…"

"Ryan. Don't freak out or anything, but I'm really worried about you. Tell me where you are so Marissa and I can come by and see you."

Ryan hesitates. He is in no condition to be seen by Seth or Marissa.

"You don't want us to see you?" Seth asks. "Ryan?"

"It's not that simple, Seth…"

"Dad didn't call the cops, Ryan. He didn't report you missing. He's worried. He wants you to come here and stay with us," Seth states, hoping that Ryan will relent.

"Seth, look, I'm not his responsibility…" Ryan starts. "I appreciate all that he's done for me but…"

"Ryan, dude, come on. You sound awful…"

"Seth. I don't need a lecture…"

"Yes, you do. Come on, Ryan. Just tell me where you are so I can see for myself that you're okay. Please?"

Ryan hesitates.

"Ryan?"

"Okay, Seth."

"Do you need anything?"

"No. I'm okay, Seth, I promise."

"I'll get Marissa to bring me over, what's the address?"

"I don't have an address, Seth. Why don't you meet me on the corner of Harris and Anderson? I'll be by the payphone," Ryan agrees, reluctantly. He has never had a friend that was concerned about his well being like Seth. He appreciates the friendship and doesn't want to lose it no matter how fucked up he is right now.

Seth hangs up the phone and goes into the den.

"Who was that, Seth?" Kirsten asks.

Seth hesitates. "Ryan."

"Ryan? Did he tell you where he is? Is he okay?" Kirsten asks, immediately.

"I'm going to go find out," Seth says, quietly.

"Where's he staying?" Sandy asks, stepping out from the kitchen.

"I don't think he's staying…anywhere," Seth replies, quietly.

"You want to borrow the car?" Sandy asks, after a beat.

"Sandy?" Kirsten asks, surprised.

"He won't come with me, Kirsten, but he might come with Seth. He's been on the streets for a week, Kirsten…"

"Let's all go. If we go together, and all three of us ask him to come home, maybe…" Kirsten suggests.

"What do you think, Seth?"

"Let me talk to him, first. Let me see if I can talk some sense into him…" Seth suggests. He leaves to call Marissa.

Marissa and Seth pull up to the corner and Seth hops out, glancing around for Ryan.

"Hey," Ryan says, stepping out of the shadows.

"Hey. You look…rough," Seth replies, embracing him in a stiff hug.

"Thanks," Ryan smiles slightly.

"Get in, Ryan," Marissa calls from the window. Ryan climbs inside her parent's s.u.v. and Seth gets into the backseat.

"Hey, Marissa."

"I shouldn't even be talking to you after this stunt. What the hell are you thinking?" Marissa starts once she is driving again.

"Sorry," Ryan replies.

"You look like hell," Marissa says, quietly.

"Don't either of you have anything good to say?" Ryan teases. He is genuinely glad to see his friends.

"No," Seth and Marissa say in unison.

"Where have you been staying?" Marissa asks.

"I hooked up with some kids that crash in this abandoned warehouse back there. It's not so bad. It keeps the rain out," Ryan answers, honestly.

"Can we buy you dinner?" Seth asks.

"I'm fine, but thanks," Ryan answers, quietly.

"When's the last time you ate?" Marissa questions. "You've lost weight. Your eyes are all sunken…"

"I'm okay, Marissa…where are we going?" Ryan asks, suddenly aware of his surroundings.

"My parents are out of town, I thought you could get cleaned up and do some laundry at my house," Marissa replies, innocently.

"Am I being kidnapped?" Ryan asks, leaning back in the seat, resigned.

"No. You're being rescued," Seth replies.

"Come on, guys, really…" Ryan protests.

"No pressure. My parents are gone, we can talk without any pesky grown-ups getting in our face and you can get cleaned up. And no matter what you say, I'm going to make you eat something," Marissa says, slowing down to turn into the neighborhood.

"I should have asked before I got into the car," Ryan sighs, frustrated.

"Seth said that you had been in foster care before. What happened to you that would make you live on the street before you'd do it again?" Marissa questions.

"I'm sixteen years old, guys. I'm not going to get adopted. I'm not going to graduate…"

"Why not?" Seth interrupts.

"I'll get moved around to different schools. I'll have to get a job, those foster parents…the ones I had before, they always made the older kids support themselves. I'm better off on my own," Ryan replies, flatly as Marissa pulls up to her house. "Do your parents know I'm here, Seth?"

"No. I told them I was going to meet you, but they don't know that you're here."

"But you want me to talk to them, don't you, Seth? You want me to go crawling to them, begging for charity," Ryan snaps, sarcastically.

"No, Ryan. I want you to realize that you need help," Seth replies, slowly.

"Sorry. I'm just…I'm a little fucked up right now," Ryan apologizes, seeing Seth's stricken expression.

"Let's just chill out, guys," Marissa says.

"Can I really grab a shower?" Ryan asks, suddenly, stepping into Marissa's house.

"Sure, go ahead."

Ryan willingly accepts the offer.

Marissa sits down in the kitchen with Seth. "Do you think he'll listen to you?"

"I don't know. Are you going to take him back to that warehouse?" Seth responds.

"Hopefully, I won't have to. I'm expecting to be awed by your persuasive skills."

"Well, my dad is a lawyer," Seth smirks. Marissa smiles.

Ryan scrubs himself until he feels normal again and steps out of the shower. He pulls on his jeans and looks at himself in the mirror. He is thinner. His hair is longer and shaggier and even though he lives in California, his skin is pale. His arm is still swollen and bruised and although he would never admit it to Seth, he thinks that some of his ribs are cracked. He runs his hands through his hair and returns to Seth and Marissa.

They stop talking as he walks into the room.

"What's up, guys?" Ryan asks, quietly.

"Why don't you tell us," Marissa replies.

Ryan sighs, sitting down across the table from them. "What do you want to know?"

"What happened to your mom?" Marissa asks, gently.

"She left. A couple of nights ago. She sent me to the store for some cigarettes and when I came back, Harrison, one of her old boyfriends was there. Harrison has never liked me. I woke up and everything was gone."

"You woke up? You mean, the next day?" Seth asks, curiously.

"Nah, I mean, Harrison knocked me out and when I woke up, they were gone. I stayed there until the power got shut off. That's when I called you," Ryan replies, honestly.

"So, where've you been?" Seth asks.

"I met up with some kids. They stick together, avoiding the cops and social services. The guys, they steal to make money, and the girls, well…they turn tricks."

"What? How old are they?" Marissa gasps.

"The youngest is like, 12, I think. The oldest girl is one of the other's sister, she's sixteen. Since I'm a little out of commission, I was one of the 'watchers'. I follow the girls on their dates and step in if stuff gets violent," Ryan admits. "Those kids…I mean, I know it's wrong, I know it's a shitty way to live, but…"

"You think that's better than a foster home, Ryan? Being a prostitute?" Marissa questions, pale.

"The way they explained it to me, at least turning tricks, they get to choose who's on top of them. Unlike a foster home, where they have no choice. I didn't hear any stories that made me reconsider my decision," Ryan says quietly.

"Foster care isn't an option anymore, Ryan. My parents, they want you to come and stay with us," Seth says.

Ryan is silent.

"Ryan? You can't go back out there. It's killing you," Marissa says, urgently, taking his hand.

Ryan still doesn't speak. His mind is working too fast for him to form words.

"Ryan. Just talk to my Dad. Or my Mom. Let them tell you themselves, so you'll believe it…" Seth starts.

"I believe you, Seth, it's not that…" Ryan sighs.

"Then what is it?" Seth asks.

Marissa squeezes his hand. "Ryan, you're so tired. You look like you haven't slept in days. If the Cohens want to help you, let them help you."

"I…I don't know…" Ryan glances at them both. "I don't know what to do. I've hit rock bottom and…it's like…I keep thinking that it can't get any worse…but it always does…"

"Ryan, why don't you eat something? Relax. God, man, you're stressing us out, here," Marissa says.

"Sorry…" Ryan doesn't smile.

"That was a joke, I think," Seth states.

"Sorry," Ryan replies.

"Will you talk to my parents, Ryan?" Seth asks, quietly.

"I don't have much choice, do I?" Ryan whispers.

"Ryan…" Marissa scolds.

"Sorry. Yes, Seth. I'll talk to them, but I can't make any promises. They're not my family, I'm not their responsibility…" Ryan says, his eyes glazed.

Seth glances at Marissa, worriedly, but leaves to talk to his parents.

"Ryan. Relax, okay? Just relax," Marissa stands up and kneels beside him. "It's okay. It's going to be okay." She is worried because Ryan has started to tremble.

"Can I get something to drink? Something with some alcohol in it?" Ryan asks, quietly. Marissa nods, going into the kitchen.

"Dad?" Seth calls, stepping into his house.

"Seth. You're back already? How's Ryan?" Kirsten asks, immediately. Sandy joins her by the door.

"He's at Marissa's. Her parents are gone so we brought him back here…" Seth's face is tight with concern. "He said he's willing to talk to you guys…"

"You told him that we want him to stay here, Seth?" Sandy asks.

"Yeah, but all I could get him to commit to was to talk to you guys…" Seth replies.

"Is he okay?" Kirsten questions, putting a hand on her son's shoulder.

"I don't know. You…he told us about what he's been doing the last few days…" Seth stammers. "Can you just talk to him?"

Sandy and Kirsten glance at each other. "We'll be over in a few minutes, Seth. Make sure he stays there, okay?"

Seth nods, returning to Marissa's house.

Ryan is sitting on the patio, leaning over with his head in his hands, smoking a cigarette. Marissa has a hand on his back, comforting him. A half-empty bottle of vodka sits between them.

"Everything okay?" Seth asks, concerned.

"He asked for a drink and now…he won't say anything…" Marissa tells Seth, clearly controlling her panic.

"I'm thinking…" Ryan mutters, his eyes still glazed with defeat. The alcohol stopped his shaking, however and steadied his nerves. He knows that he can't last on the street. He doesn't want to live the next two years of his life living in filth and hiding from the police. He doesn't want to be a statistic, even though he already is.

"Ryan. Look at me. It's going to be okay," Marissa says, soothingly, cupping his chin and making him meet her eyes.

"You promise?" He counters.

"My parents are coming over to talk to you," Seth states.

Ryan takes another long pull off the bottle of vodka and hands it back to Marissa. She takes it inside to keep the Cohen's from seeing it.

"Ryan. Will you stay?" Seth asks.

"I don't know yet. What else am I going to do? I don't have any money. I only have one change of clothes to my name and no skills. What else can I do? Go to a group home? Keep living on a street and digging through dumpsters?" Ryan sighs, lighting a fresh cigarette. "I don't know what to do. I don't know anything anymore…"

Seth is silent, waiting.

"Have you ever been to a foster home, man? What am I talking about, of course not," Ryan starts. "I had to go when I was ten, I was in the system for a year until my Mom got herself together again. You're nothing to those people. I was a kid, a human being, but to them, I was a check. I got shifted around about ten, eleven times and it never got better. I learned to fend for myself, that I had no one that I could depend on except myself. I watched the kids my age take beatings and disappear and I always wanted to go with them wherever they went…now…I just don't know what to do."

"Ryan, my parents…they're good people…they want to help…" Seth starts. He stops as Sandy walks out with Marissa.

"Ryan, we'll be inside," Marissa smiles, reassuringly as she pulls Seth inside her house.

"Ryan," Sandy says, relieved.

"Hey, Mr. Cohen," Ryan replies, glancing up.

"How are you doing?"

"Well, according to Seth and Marissa, I look like hell," Ryan replies.

"You want to talk about it?" Sandy asks, sitting down in a chair close to Ryan.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Cohen," Ryan whispers. "I just…I didn't know what to do. I don't know what to do."

"Kirsten and I want you to come and stay with us. I'm your lawyer, I can get…what?" Sandy stops, seeing the pained expression on the teenager's face.

Ryan doesn't speak.

"Ryan. You can't live your life this way. You're only sixteen…"

"I know, Mr. Cohen," Ryan replies. He doesn't meet the older man's eyes. "She's not coming back this time."

"What happened? What did she say when she left, Ryan?" Sandy asks, gently.

"She didn't say anything. Her…" Ryan stands up, uncomfortable. "Her boyfriend knocked me out and when I came to, they were just…gone."

Sandy is quiet. "He knocked you out. Did he hurt you? Seth mentioned that your arm…"

"I'm okay," Ryan replies, immediately.

"Ryan."

"He hurt me, okay? My fucking arm is still sore as hell, it's swollen, but dammit, what am I supposed to do? Go to the hospital with no insurance so they can turn me over to social services? I'd rather die than go back into the system…"

"Okay, Ryan. Okay. Sit down. It's okay. I'm just here to talk to you," Sandy says, calmly.

Ryan runs his hands through his hair, struggling to keep his emotions under control. "I'm just so tired of all this bullshit…I don't know…god…" He sits down again.

"What do you want to do?" Sandy asks after a long pause.

"That's just it, Mr. Cohen. It doesn't matter what I want to do. I'm all out of options. It's like I've hit this brick wall…" Ryan loses his voice. He sighs. "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to relax. Let us take care of you. You're exhausted. You're stressed out. Come home, we'll get you something to eat and you can get some rest and we'll figure out everything else when you're ready," Sandy says, slowly.

Ryan hesitates.

"Ryan. Where else are you going to go?" Sandy asks, quietly.

Ryan nods slowly. "Where else am I going to go? Okay, Mr. Cohen. Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah," Ryan sighs. Seth yells from inside the Cooper house, happy and eavesdropping with Marissa.

"Let's go. Kirsten is waiting to see you for herself," Sandy smiles, putting a hand on Ryan's shoulder.

Ryan flinches as he touches his sore arm. Seth and Marissa step outside.

"Give me a call, Ryan, once you get settled in," Marissa says, embracing him before he leaves with Sandy and Seth.

Ryan follows Sandy into the house, followed closely by Seth.

"I'll go get the pool house ready for you," Seth says, sensing that his mother and father want to talk to Ryan.

"Ryan, thank god you're okay…" Kirsten embraces him. Sandy notices the flash of pain on Ryan's face when Kirsten hugs him.

"I'm okay," Ryan says, quietly.

"You sure? You don't look okay…" Kirsten glances at Sandy, worriedly. "Let me take a look at you…"

"I'm fine…"

"What about your arm?" Sandy asks, quietly.

"It'll be fine…" Ryan starts, stopping when he sees Sandy's scolding glance.

"Kirsten used to be a nurse. Just let her take a look," Sandy urges.

Ryan doesn't protest. He takes off his jacket and they can see his damaged arm.

"Take your shirt off, Ryan. I promise I won't get fresh," Kirsten smiles, trying to calm the boy.

Ryan obeys, silently, pulling off his t-shirt revealing his bruised chest and arm.

"When did this happen?" Kirsten asks, watching him carefully to gauge the amount of pain he's in as she examines him.

"Last week."

"And it's still this swollen?" Kirsten continues.

"Yeah. It's probably just some bruised ribs…"

"Your arm…it might be broken, Ryan," She says, quietly. She takes his good hand and places it on his upper arm. "Feel that? You need to see a doctor."

"Mom?" Seth enters, confused. His face pales, seeing his friend's condition.

"Can it wait until tomorrow? I mean, what's one more day going to hurt?" Ryan asks, quietly, replacing his shirt swiftly.

"Okay, Ryan. We'll let you slide on that one. Why don't you go on down to the pool house and we'll bring you some dinner in a few minutes, okay?" Sandy offers.

Seth follows Ryan to the pool house. "Ryan?"

"Yeah?" Ryan turns.

"Are you alright? I mean, really?" Seth asks, concerned.

"No. I'm not. But I'm getting there. I'm going to crash, Seth. I'm really tired," Ryan replies, honestly.

"You promise you're not going to run away again?"

"Yeah. I don't have the energy." Ryan holds the door to the pool house open for Seth. "You coming in?"

"I thought you were going to bed," Seth replies, confused.

"Yeah, but you can hang out until I pass out, if you want," Ryan replies. "I think your parents are coming down with some food anyway, right?"

"Yeah," Seth replies, following him into the pool house.

"And Seth?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks, man. I mean it," Ryan says, quietly, lying down on the bed.

"I'm just glad you're okay," Seth replies. "Ryan?" His friend doesn't reply and Seth realizes that he has fallen asleep.

Seth closes the door behind a while later, running into his mother.

"He's sleeping. He fell asleep, like mid-sentence," Seth says, Kirsten turning and walking with him back to the main house.

"Are you okay, Seth?" Kirsten asks, sensing that her son is still upset.

"He was out there two weeks, Mom. Did you look in his eyes? It's like he's not even there. I'm worried about him. Marissa said that he was shaking. Why would he be shaking?" Seth admits.

"He's safe now. We'll take care of him. Sandy's got him an appointment with Dr. Gregson tomorrow to get his arm checked out. He just needs a little time to recover, to get his bearings again. He'll be okay, Seth. You're a good friend to him," Kirsten says.

"Then why couldn't he come to me for help?" Seth replies.

"He did, Seth. It just took him a little time. He accepted your help when he really needed it. It's all going to work out, Seth."

Seth returns to the pool house early the next morning and finds Ryan sleeping in the same position. He sets up his playstation and prepares to keep watch over his exhausted friend.

Sandy comes down around noon and tells Seth to help his mother with lunch. Ryan's doctor appointment is at one and Sandy wants to talk to him first.

Sandy places a hand on Ryan's intact arm, gently but Ryan jolts awake with a gasp, sitting up quickly.

"Ryan, It's me…"

"Mr. Cohen…hey," Ryan recovers.

"I didn't mean to scare you…"

"I'm just jumpy, I guess. Ready to bolt from the cops…sorry, bad joke," Ryan sighs, running a hand through his hair.

"You want to talk about it?"

"Not really. It's over now," Ryan replies.

"Kirsten and Seth are making you some lunch and you've got a doctor's appointment at one to get your arm checked out," Sandy says, quietly.

"Okay. Thanks."

"Ryan…"

"No, it's okay, Mr. Cohen. I'm just really tired, I'm really okay. It's just going to take me a while to get back to normal," Ryan says before Mr. Cohen can ask anything.

"Normal? What's normal for you, Ryan?"

"Ask me in a week or so and I guess I'll let you know," Ryan replies, calmly. "I'll meet you at the house in a few minutes."

"Ryan. Everything is going to work out, okay?"

"Okay," Ryan replies, standing up and stretching.

Sandy leaves the quiet teenager and goes to the main house. Ryan enters around 20 minutes later, looking only slightly better than the night before. His skin is still pale and Kirsten notices that he is trembling. She doesn't want to embarrass him but glances at Sandy to alert him.

Ryan managed to avoid the meals Marissa and Kirsten tried to make him eat the night before. He hasn't eaten in two days and a wave of nausea assaults him as he forces himself to eat the sandwich that she sets in front of him.

"Ryan, are you alright?" Sandy asks, seeing a flash of pain on Ryan's face as he puts down his sandwich.

"Yeah…I'll be right back," Ryan says, bolting for the bathroom, suddenly. The few bites of food had caused his stomach to revolt and he vomits in the toilet. He knew he shouldn't try and eat something solid after having nothing in his stomach for an extended period. He should have told the Cohens but he doesn't want to admit that he has been without food.

"Ryan?" Kirsten calls, worriedly, from outside the bathroom.

Ryan gathers himself and opens the door. "Sorry. I…I haven't eaten in a few days and the food, it made me sick…" He explains, quickly, afraid that if he doesn't start talking to his self-appointed guardians, he never will.

Kirsten accepts his confession with a nod. "Okay. How about some soup? We can start with that, okay?"

Ryan nods.

"It's okay, Ryan. Thanks for telling me. You have any suggestions on what you want?" Kirsten asks, gently.

"How about some coffee? Or juice, maybe?" Ryan asks, seeing her disapproving look when he mentioned coffee.

"You're probably dehydrated, that's why I frowned on the coffee," Kirsten says, leading him back into the kitchen.

"Everything okay?" Sandy asks, raising his eyebrows.

"Fine," Kirsten says. "Come on, Ryan, let's find you something to eat." She hands him a bottle of fruit juice. Sandy glares at Seth, stopping him from questioning.

"So you get to meet Dr. Gregson today," Sandy announces.

"Should I be worried?" Ryan asks, raising an eyebrow.

"She's our family doctor, you'll like her. She's really pretty," Seth smiles.

"Seth. She's also a great doctor," Kirsten adds. "How about chicken noodle soup?"

"Sounds good," Ryan replies. Kirsten turns away and starts preparing the canned soup for him.

"Marissa called for you earlier, Ryan. I told her that you'd call her when you woke up," Seth says.