Sequel to The Aftermath. I own nothing. R&R.

No Goodbye.

Ryan doesn't know how he got here, doesn't remember making the choices that led him to be sitting in the hard plastic chair. Watching a closed door. Waiting.

Harsh lights over head force him to squint in an effort to fight off a dull headache, a headache that has been present since he left the sanctity of the pool house. How long had it been since he was there? The minutes had run into hours and days so quickly that time had passed him like a blur.

Tracing the scab across the back of his knuckle gingerly Ryan finally looks up as the door opens. A man approaches, he seems older then Ryan remembered. Ryan watches the man walk towards him, he looked surprised as he saw Ryan sitting in the chair. Now he smiles.

The man pulls up a plastic chair on the other side of a plexiglass barrier and places a hand up against the glass. Ryan mirrors the movement instinctively, observing how his finger's are nearly as long as his Father's now. How he must have grown so much in the seven years it has been since he saw the man.

Steven Atwood reaches for the hard black plastic phone and Ryan once again copies the movement. The earpiece pressed firmly against the side of his head, afraid to miss any of the words that might be said.

The family he has left never mentioned the boy's real father. Ryan knows that they were scared to know what the man might have been like. Afraid that he had abused Ryan but equally afraid that Ryan loved him. That when Steven was released from prison that Ryan would return to him.

Steven is talking now, words spill from his mouth in a torrent. He tells his boy all the feelings that he is experiencing, almost afraid that the man in front of him will disappear. Shocked that the man here now was the small boy he left behind.

For the first time in weeks a smile forms on Ryan's face. A special smile reserved for times of pure joy, like the joy of seeing his Father. Like the joy of hearing the words of love pour from his Father's lips.

Finally Steven stops talking and looks at Ryan. Really looks. The man can see his son hasn't slept recently, that he could use a hot meal and a hotter shower. Steven looks at the cut and swollen hand and asks

" Ryno?"

Ryan's mother was always jealous of these two. They shared a secret language, one made up of looks, laughs and one worded answers. Dawn was jealous of the giggles that only came from her youngest child when he was playing with his Dad. Finally when the opportunity came to break up the secret club, Dawn jumped. Steven was sent to prison and Dawn moved her boy's hundreds of miles away.

Ryan sighs deeply and rubs his free hand across his face; he shakes his head and exhales sharply.

" We'll fix it." Steven states giving a small smile of reassurance.

Letters were shared between these two frequently. Letters that Ryan had never told anyone about, not even Seth his most recent confidant. The letters made Ryan feel free, with a pen and a paper once a week Ryan would unload his burdens and his Father would reply succinctly with always the right words needed.

" Can't be fixed." Ryan finally says speaking for the first time. The words compound the emotions he feels and the feelings of betrayal he feels are fused with those of guilt.

Guilt that he grieves for the loss of a family that was never his. Grieves for the loss of a father when his own sits before him.

" Everything can be fixed. We'll fix it together. "

Sixteen more months if Steven behaves himself. Ryan wants to scream that, to demand how his Father can fix anything from the inside of a concrete and barbed wire fortress.

" You need to call Sandy, Ryno. You need to call him and tell him where you are." The next words are so hard for the Father to say to the Son. " You need to go back. To give them one more chance."

How can he go back to being the boy in the pool house? How can he go back to the stares in the school corridors and the looks of horror on the faces of the Newport neupsies.

" I'm not strong enough." Ryan surprises himself by saying it out loud.

The Father looks at the Son. The Son looks at the Father. No words are exchanged. Ryan kisses his hand and presses it against the glass Steven does the same. They sit in silence, watching each other's eyes.

Finally Ryan puts down the phone gently as his Father stands and his head falls into his hands as his Father is escorted from the room. He will go back. His Father will stay here.

The man leaves the room. He doesn't turn around, not being able to show his boy the tears on his cheeks. He leaves.

No goodbye.


Coming soon the final part.