Disclaimer: Fox owns The O.C., I'm just sorry I'm laying the drama on so thick. :)

Author's Note: I'm sorry sweet reviewers, I almost suck as badly as Marissa (no offense to any fans of her, she just annoys the crap outta me) Anyway, came back from London, it was superb, but spent the last 2 weeks working off all the money I spent over there. Who in their right mind can resist shopping in London? Sorry I missed running into you Kim. Seriously, I can't even thank any of you enough for leaving such great reviews, and sticking by this story. I've just been having some moments where I had no clue where I was going with this again. I think I'm back on track again. Also, to whomever nominated me for the Citrus Awards, you rule! I've never been nominated for anything, so yeah, this is me being very happy! Read on…

Lost In Babylon

Ch 17

I dreamed that the world was crumbling down
We sat on my back porch and watched it
I dreamed that the buildings all fell down
We sat on my back porch and watched it

In my head I heard the sound
Like fifteen strangers dancing
But oh how I want you to know me
Oh how I want you to know me
Oh how I wish I was somebody else, baby
Oh how I wish you could own me

Busted – Matchbox twenty

We eat our dinner in a pleasant silence, except for the few times I snort too loudly at how cute Seth looks when he tries to steal some glances at me.

"What are you looking at punk?" I finally catch him in the act, his fork nowhere near his pretty lips. He quirks his eyebrow mockingly, and mouths "Punk?" at me. This sets me off, I try to stifle the laughter but it's no good and some of my water tries to make its escape through my nostrils. Not very ladylike, trust me. But it doesn't matter, since he can't seem to stop smirking at me.

"Quit it, I'm trying to eat." Seth shrugs, and goes on eating his dinner. It's my turn to stare a little, and I can see how it's such an easy act to get lost in. I love this, I can't stop myself, but being content isn't as hard as I had made it out to be. Although my pessimistic side is still covered with enough scars to prove me wrong, I can't be bothered this minute. All of that is too hazy to affect me anyway, and I won't let it be enough to tear me away from this easiness. My crumbs are starting to look less and less dismal these days, and I might end up with something worth mentioning.

"I'm still her mother!"

It starts to echo in my brain, sneaking up on me in that freaky feline way of that woman. The picture won't leave me either now. Her dark eyes, her pearly teeth winking back at me in the tightest smile I have ever seen. A lady fit for a frame, but never a mother. Not a mother I'd want anyway. It won't leave me for some reason. You'd think I cared about her or something. But I don't, I don't! My skin feels tighter in a way, like the thought of her is slowly suffocating me, I swallow the food in my mouth to occupy my mind with something mundane. It doesn't work…

"Now who's the one staring?" I blink once…twice, and then finally smile. I guess it wasn't a good one, because he looks worried when I meet his gaze. "What's wrong?" I realize I hate that question, even coming from his perfect mouth I hate the accusation in it, the way it ends up to be such a self-fulfilling prophecy.

He's up already, on his feet, coming towards me like the good concerned husband he is. And I can't deal with it, with the endless concern. With the never-ending caring that is always expected of him. I want to swap roles, he can be the pitiable nutter for a bit and I'll be someone better. I sit back in my seat very quickly, and Seth stops in his tracks when he sees me recoil.

"Nothing." That should be enough…enough to erase the implication of fault, it really should be but that stubborn silly boy won't let things just be what they are. He takes my hands in his, and turns them so the palms are facing up. He looks at them, and so do I. I blink harder this time. It seems they are bleeding, how odd. I must have dug my fingernails into the flesh.

I must have, but I thought I was feeling good. He mutters something to me, but I can't hear him, I can't believe I made myself bleed… that I hadn't noticed. I hadn't even meant to. Seth guides me to the bathroom, seating me on the edge of the bathtub like some floppy sedated doll while I continue to stiffly ponder the fact that I didn't even do this on purpose.

"Maybe Marian was right…" Seth just puts that out there, let's it helplessly dangle in the air, and I don't know whether to respond or not. He looks up from his task of disinfecting my hands, and finishes his sentence in a low careful whisper. "I should probably call Van Dale." I want to protest but he interrupts me, "It hasn't been the easiest few days for you, I know that sweetie."

A jagged lump forms in my throat when he shoots me an understanding look. I really don't want him to understand these ugly things; fierce as he might have convinced himself he is I want him to stay beautiful and oblivious. "I think we need to at least consider consulting with someone about what happened today." I nod like the good little doll I am. Sure, whatever you say hubby, you were bound to send me away. You were bound to open your eyes one of these days.

I'm astounded that Seth can't see how bitter I am on the inside right now. But I guess I am either too cowardly or too complacent to ever turn myself inside out, and show him what's eating at me.

He seems like the naïve type though, a boy who had a neat little world before I came along with my trail of crumbs and debris. I stare at him again, harder this time, hoping to catch some of his darker moments. Maybe I'm wrong about him. Maybe he has demons too.

We went to the hospital today, maybe I should be worried but I can't be bothered to care. I can't care about much lately. Or I'll care too much and my head will start to pound. Maybe I should be worried, I'm just not sure. It was an "informal" meeting, as Daddy kept telling the shrink. I think Daddy was trying to convince them both. She was very quiet today, at first she didn't even want to come. I have a feeling Mom and Dad aren't telling me everything, I feel like I'm being left in the dark. The shrink asked me a lot of questions, and then all of a sudden asked them both to leave. I was afraid they'd leave me behind, I don't know why…I know it doesn't make any sense, but it could have been so easy for them. They could just drive off and leave me. I bet she has been trying to convince Daddy to do just that. Like that fairytale with the house made out of candy and the breadcrumbs scattered in the forest. I wish I'd have someone to get lost with so I wouldn't be so alone when he finally gives in to her.

Seth pats my knee, snapping me away from whatever rabbit hole I crawled in, and I focus my faraway gaze back on him again. This is a more pleasant view anyway, and I try for a smile again…I abandon it halfway through and carefully cover his hand with mine. "Tell me a story," I must be receding in age, because I feel the need to be pampered and tucked in.

"What do you want to hear?" There I go again, not being able to voice my wishes…my wants. My mouth feels dry, but before I can formulate any kind of pathetic response we are interrupted by a knock. Marian peeks in her head, and offers a timid smile, "There's a young lady here to see you," and she retreats as fast as she can. I purse my lips as I watch Seth get up from his crouching position in front of me. I don't feel like being sociable but it seems it is an inescapable fate in this little world, so after a few seconds I begrudgingly decide to follow him out anyway.

"Is everything okay? I heard about Shannon's visit…God I mean what was she thinking?"
Seth looks annoyed and shrugs, "Who told you?" I step out to see the lanky girl looking rather amused. I'm a little surprised to see her here by herself. All that tall confidence and without that tough boy of hers, I'm sure I'm witnessing a rarity. She doesn't notice me as she breathes an exaggerated and comical sigh. "I talked to my mom, who else would know everyone's business." Seth is being rude, and grunts once. The girl seems tougher today though, and ignores him altogether. "Anyway, how is Summer?"

"She's fine." Both of them jump up a little at my intrusion, and I give them a slow indulgent nod. "Hey." I say confidently, and hold my freshly bandaged hands behind my back. I don't look at Seth because I'd like to avoid being sent off like some child for at least a few more minutes. The girl returns my greeting with a smile, and she seems a lot shakier than she was just now. Her name pops into my mind, and I'm glad for it.

"You came to see me Marissa?" I almost instantly witness the surge of confidence in her fresh face, and I admit it's a little bracing so I turn back to my husband. He's polite enough to return the grin Marissa sends him, and I want to hug him for it.

"We're gonna talk okay so…" I hope he understands from my tone that I'm fine now, but I still nod for good measure. He kisses my cheek, but I wish he'd kiss my mouth instead. "I'll go see what my brother is doing then. I know when I'm not wanted." Seth winks at us before he turns away and I feel like I can go on for now.

I grab Marissa by the hand, smoothly decide not to notice how she sort of stops to stare at my madness torn hands, and drag us to my bedroom. I feel like she could be that perfect unbiased person I've been looking for, much like her sturdy protector Ryan. Maybe she could give me those little insights that might help me out. She smiles uncertainly, and perhaps for a moment I do feel guilty for using this trusting girl. But wouldn't she want me to remember her as well, the past that I shared with her? Wouldn't she want her friend back? I swiftly condone my actions and give her a saccharine grin of my own.

"We've been friends for a long time right?" I can't believe my own brazen, but I can't think of any other angle to get started. "Since forever." Marissa sounds wistful when she agrees, and I hope I'm not missing out on anything too good. Marissa looks wretched and before I know it she puts her arm around me, whispers soft apologies while calling me 'Sum' a few times. I don't know how she knew that would feel so nice, maybe this sunny place just breeds mind readers. Or maybe they're all the only ones who really knew me. I wish I were part of that gang.

"I hate her for coming back." I repeat myself a few more times with even more conviction and find that I'm sobbing now. I guess I lost whatever hold I had on myself, and I sob a little louder at that pitiable fact. I look up at her, and her makeup is sliding down her face in sympathy. "Don't cry…" I croak softly and swipe a wrist along my cheek, but I don't mean it at all because I love that she cares. I love that I have an ally in this girl.

"Do you remember when she left?" I gaze up at her as we compose ourselves, and I watch her nod. "I remember you tried so hard not to cry. And that you kept saying you knew she must've really hated you to go through with it. But you never would tell me why, or explained any of it, Sum." Chewing on my bottom lip, I just close my eyes for a second. No images come up though, too much action has probably fried my mind cause I can't picture any of it.

"Did you like her?" Marissa looks awkward again, but perhaps it's her second nature like mine is being oblivious. "Shannon was…well I don't know…" Her face is burning up so I scramble up a laugh from some deep dark, very fake place within myself. "Never mind, it's not fair of me to ask you that." I reassure her sweetly, I always do, since sane people are so damn fragile to begin with. "I don't want to talk about her anymore." Her inability burns me, and I'm certain that our delicate alliance won't survive the night. I glance back at Marissa, her large doe-like eyes; maybe I should cut her some slack…maybe she needs this more than I do.

"One more thing though, I don't mean to lay any of this on you, but I would like to know."
She nods, but looks frightful as well. "When did I become like this?" I didn't think it was possible but I've made the poor girl in an even more difficult position. It's hard to care though. So hard, and I don't do difficulty any longer, at least that's what I'm telling myself.

"I don't know, really Sum. God, I must sound like such a bad friend, but no one knew." "Someone had to know?!" I'm too loud, too whatever because she's clamming up and it's getting harder to ignore my throbbing hands. I soothe her once more with a coy little look, "who knew? There had to be someone right? You were my best friend right Marissa, since forever right? You should know out of all people."

Her mascara is slithering down her cheeks again, but there's no gratitude left in this non-operational mind of mine. Fuck it, there's no kindness left for people who act like they knew me, loved me once upon a time, and don't have a helping hand to extend as I'm lost in this fog.

"I didn't…I didn't." She repeats herself painfully, which makes me grind my teeth a little harder together. "The doctors thought you were just being a teenager, that's what we all thought. You were into parties, maybe a little more than the rest of us. I don't know Sum. You were being you, but your parents took you to see some doctors. I guess that was in middle school."

"Oh…" I stammer like some retard, and stare at my bandaged hands.

"They didn't know what it was, did they? They still don't…" I declare in a whisper, and I meet Marissa's gaze again. She nods. Why'd she have to do that for?

"I'm not the one you should be talking with though, I don't know what to tell you." I get this heavy feeling that this girl won't give a damn about anything that isn't about her. That she doesn't know because she didn't care enough, because she wasn't the victim…the star for once. I laugh sardonically, "Sure." My affection for her is waning, and in a way I hope she realizes it as well.

"Your mom left, you lost your dad on top of that. The only other person who knew the whole story. Of course your situation was rare, unpredictable."I wish she'd stop to speaking, I wish I could wipe this hateful smile from my lips. "And you were so good at pretending to be perfect, you fooled everyone." She gets my attention with that, and my insides flip-flop a little. "Even Cohen?" I ask without any hesitation.

"No," Marissa says too quickly, too desperately for my tastes. "I think you were as honest as you'd let yourself be with him. Remember things were messed up for you when you met Seth." For some reason I know she doesn't mean that literally, on some level I remember my cruelty to him and I squirm a little on the inside. "And when it got serious, your father made you break up with him. So when you lost your dad and you were left all by yourself." Marissa tries to pull me into some half-assed embrace, a weird ironic apology on her part for perhaps not being there either. For being lost in her own world when I was losing mine, so I wiggle out of her reach. I'm venomous and my tone is sharp. "So when did we get married?" My hands are pounding, but I'm too upset to really pay it mind.

Things feel like they're about to get ugly, and what can I say about it. No room for indignation here, I always ask for these things. Seek them out. And now I can feel her words getting under my skin, her stinging insinuations sticking out from underneath those damn hooded eyes. I avoid them again, because she frightens me with her brand of reality. I can hear the air hiss with everything that's being left unsaid all of which I don't want to believe. He didn't marry me out of pity. Poor Summer, poor me and my messed up life. My messed up head, I'd hate him if he took pity on me. I'd hate him forever. I'd hate myself even more.

"Why did he ask me? Why did he, when we were so young…right? Right!"

"You know why, he adores you Sum, he has forever. A lot of things were going on then. Your dad had just passed away and you were living in that big house by yourself. Your mother was nowhere to be found. Seth wanted to be there for you, for you to be together."

"Don't patronize me, please, treat me like you would your oldest friend." I know that's an evil thing to say, but I'm past the point of caring. I don't allow myself to even register the pained look she gives me, and merely arch my brow. Before she has a chance to speak though, the door opens and there is the honest man himself. The man has a keen sense of interruption as we both turn to look at him. He mutters something about Ryan not being there, and quickly goes silent as he watches the tense pair of us.

Carefree daring, my mind muses confidently and my mouth obeys like the foolish thing it is. I direct my earlier question at him, "Why did you marry me? Honestly!" I lower my voice considerably, biting my lip a little. "What did my…mother have to do with any of it?"

I hardly even notice Marissa excusing herself, and nor do I think does Seth. I know I'm an ungrateful wench, he nurtures me, protects me and yet I can't see beyond this moment where he's keeping things from me again. Perhaps it's not fair that I expect so much from him, when in reality no one has helped me except for this sweet boy. But he's supposed to be the one reliable thing, and now the faiths are testing me by making me question my rock.

He sits down carefully at the spot Marissa just vacated. "I love you." Seth's voice goes hoarse, and I notice for the first time today how bloodshot his eyes are. I can't stand the sight of his fatigue.

Yet I can't say it back, the words stick to the back of my throat. I purse my lips instead, "Remember your promise…" and I know that might not be playing fair, but I don't want to be fair right now. Right this minute all that's crossing my mind is a parade of vengeful hurtful thoughts.

"I wasn't okay," I want to be laughing at my use of past tense, but it's more pitiful than funny when you stand still and think about it. "I know I was keeping a lot from you, but you had to know on some level. That I was bipolar or manic or whatever disease they are labelling me with right now. You had to know." Salt on his wounds, I know that's exactly what I'm doing but it's my only way out of this maze. In my mind I'm kissing him, apologizing for my mean spirited ways, but that's just not how things pan out. In my mind he would've married me for love, and there would be no doubt. But I also know that things aren't always trustworthy in that head of mine.

"You want me to say that I shouldn't have tried. Is that it Summer? You want me to admit I was wrong for falling in love with you?" Seth fumes, and I wish my head and heart would have a cease-fire so I could be clear about things for once. I shake my head. "I want to know you married me for me. That you loved me, and that this wasn't you just trying to save the girl you never had. That it wasn't about anyone else but us." I smooth my hair back with aching hands, and then look up at him again. "I don't want to be saved by you. There's no need for you to earn your happiness like that. You had me all along."

"Yeah," Seth nods a little as well, but he doesn't say he knows, I wish he'd say he knew that all along. I'm afraid that he doesn't believe me, and then how in hell can I believe?

"All I admit to is being stubborn enough to try and hold you for as long as I could. I hate that you are always the one who gets hurt." He's lying again, since I can feel the waves of pain coming from him I can hardly see myself as a victim that way. I want to stop this conversation, but my brain is commanding me to more stupidity. "You still haven't told me what my mom had to do with it? Why do you look so guilty?"

Seth looks away from me, and my insides tumble fiercely, as if I can smell misery in the air. "Don't be like that," I'm whispering for some reason, "Make me understand." I tightly press my lips together when his pretty eyes lock onto me, and maybe I'm lying…maybe I don't want to understand how shaky everything can get from one moment to the next.