Disclaimer: No, I don't own the O.C., blah, blah, blah. Normally this would be followed by a crude joke saying that if I did, I would be rich and not writing fan fiction, blah blah.

He sat beside the Cohen's deep crystal blue pool. He had never seen such a shade of water before in a pool, he thought lightly.

Soon he was to become a 'member' of said family, the Cohens, and he wasn't really sure what that meant. He still thought of them as 'the Cohens', himself excluded. After all, he was just Ryan Atwood, wasn't he? Charity case and shockwave to the illusion of a perfect world, which was quickly crumbling.

"Wow. He just beat the shit out of you and you didn't even fight back. You're definitely a Cohen."

"So, you're a Cohen now."

No, he definitely didn't know what that meant. He had been an Atwood all of his life, but he couldn't bring himself to care much beyond that he'd have to get into the habit of signing his name differently. He had never associated being an Atwood with anything, unlike the way Seth readily associated Cohenhood with various things, good and bad, though the general idea was certainly good.


He looked over his shoulder at Seth, standing awkwardly behind him a few feet away, as if afraid to intrude into his thoughts.

"Hey.", was his stoic reply.

Seth took it for the invitation it was, and sat down beside Ryan at the edge of the pool. Odd, that Seth would have such regard for Ryan's privacy in a place that was more his than it would ever be Ryan's.

He'd never had privacy like that before. His homes, ok, the places they'd lived, really, had never been this peaceful. They had been chaotic, and small. If Trey wasn't barging in on him, then it was the boyfriend of the month, or his mother, or someone like a neighbor wanting something like a roll of toilet paper. Where he came from people didn't have time for private thoughts, they were too busy trying not to drown in the here and now.

"So, whatcha doing?"

Somehow it managed being a gentle inquiry and a cliché teenage question at the same time. He wondered how Seth did it.

"Nothin much." he replied, playing the game.

"Ah. The favorite pastime of the general population." Seth replied melodramatically, throwing his hands up in gesticulation.

A small smile crept onto Ryan's lips.

"So, is this 'nothing much' as in 'nothing whatsoever', or 'nothing much', as in 'pondering deep philosophical thoughts'?"

He chuckled, unable to stop the sound issuing forth from his lips, and, he realized, not wanting to.

"The second one." he replied seriously.

"Ah, excusable, then." Seth said, with a sincere tone.

They sat in comfortable silence, and Ryan pondered that, soon, they would be brothers in every legal sense.

Seth had wanted him to stay for overly selfish reasons, the prime one being his loneliness.

He had been desperate for a friend, Ryan recalled, so desperate, in fact, that he had befriended the first potential convict his father had brought home. Which had just happened to be Ryan. He wondered what had happened, if any specific events could be said to have triggered Seth's unpopularity. He knew that his friend had been different from the start, but he wondered if there was more to it than that.

Of course, he didn't go for all of that "I'm young and I enjoy acting dumb", bullshit that all of these rich kids seemed to pull. That illusion that Marissa was caught up in. It really didn't suit her. She was different. Of course, he didn't really want to dwell on that for fear of where he'd end up.

And, thinking of himself, his brother, his 'buddies', hell, the world, he supposed that rich kids weren't the only ones caught in the illusion.

"Are they the good kind of thoughts?" Seth's voice interrupted his foray into psychology.

Glancing sideways at his friend, he shrugged.

"Sort of."

"Uh huh."

This was really turning into a monocyclic conversation, not that either of them really minded. Ryan and Seth were two different personalities from two worlds, that, hell, couldn't be more different. They just happened to share an understanding that neither of them could understand. As if any of that made any sense.

Seth had wanted Ryan to stay out of selfish reasons, but to be fair, selfish reasons were also why Ryan had wanted (somewhat shamefully) to stay. They had plenty of room, he would never be hungry, there were no violent boyfriends ready to beat the tar out of him, and he knew that this was a stable place where he could work hard and get his life back on track.

And maybe he had been a little lonely, too. Perhaps that was why he and Seth got along so well, that, despite the obvious differences, they had at least that much in common.

Ryan was stoic, with haunted eyes that had the ability to become as indifferent as chips of ice. It had taken him a long time to perfect that look. He could never wash away all of the things he'd seen with those eyes, too many things he'd rather forget. He moved about the world as if he expected bad things to be thrown at him, and he would meet them with that icy stare.

Seth was ever animated, with lively, innocent eyes that had never known just how truly cruel life can be. He was enthusiastic, with a bounce back kind of attitude saying that he would not give up easily. So soundly portrayed in his fruitless pursuit of Summer. Though holding this energy and spirit, Seth was socially awkward, with a shy streak that made him into something of a social stigma. Not to mention his individuality.

Seth had never known any friends, to Ryan's knowledge.

Ryan had had countless 'buddies', that had quickly vanished when the clutch came in.

And now, they shared a confidence that was starting to go beyond words. He had never understood anyone so well or so fast. Except, maybe…Marissa, he thought with a small flush.

"Seth?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yeah?" was the casual but soft reply.

"Remember what you said about being a Cohen?"

Seth grinned.

"I said several things, actually."

Ryan nodded, while Seth waited patiently.

"Where I come from, surnames don't mean much of anything." he paused, uncomfortable with the personal subject.

"I guess…I never thought that something like that could be important, tie you to your family…" he trailed off, upset that he'd said so much and at the direction of what he had been saying.

"I'm sorry, Seth, I didn't mean it like that."

Seth looked at him, startled, and more than a little concerned.

"Why, Ryan? Why is it wrong for you to mean it like that?"

"Because." Ryan said softly.

"You and your parents aren't my family, and even if my real one doesn't give a shit, it still feels like a betrayal, and I already owe you all so much…"he stopped, for he had somehow spilled out too many feelings in too short a time period.

"Well," said Seth sharply, causing Ryan to jump a little in surprise.

"I don't see how you've got a choice in the matter, Bro." he said, accentuating the last word through both volume and a pat on the back.

"I have wanted all my life to have a brother, and now you come along…there's no way you're getting out of this contract, Mr. Cohen."

Ryan laughed. That having done the trick, Seth grinned, and pushed himself to his feet.

"Come on, they told me to come get you 'cause dinner's ready, and if we stay out here any longer, my mom may drag us in by our ears."

Ryan noted Seth's possessive way of referring to Kirsten. He was sure that Seth had been close to just saying 'mom', but Ryan wasn't really ready for that, yet. He mentally thanked him.

"Ok." he replied.

"You know," Seth said as they walked towards the house.

"One of these days I'm going to start squeezing sentences out of you."

Laughter could be heard coming from the yard.