Ryan was getting more then a little concerned the next day when Sandy and Kirsten again went shopping for the dinner. It was being catered, so what more could they be shopping for? Sandy told him it was more then a birthday celebration. They were celebrating Ryan's birthday as well as being home, Seth being home and them being a family again. So Ryan knew it wasn't going to be a small celebration.

Ryan and Seth spent most of the afternoon playing PlayStation, watching as the caterers came in and out setting things up.

"This is crazy." Ryan muttered as he watched them hailing in trays and boxes and bags of food and other party supplies, "It is just like the ten of us, right?"

"What's so crazy about it?" Seth asked, "You were here for my birthday. You know what it's like."

"Yeah, and that was nuts. But this? This is insane." Ryan told him, waving his arms around at all the activity going on around them. "There is no reason for all this."

"Well, Mom and Dad think there is." Seth said, "So suck it up and enjoy. Besides, you get presents. Presents make everything worth while."

Ryan just shook his head. He was seventeen, not seven. "Seth," he told him, "I don't need presents. There isn't anything I need."

"Except money. Money is always good." Seth told him.

Even though that was true, Ryan just snapped, "I don't need money for my birthday. If I needed money, I'd go get a job."

"Well, no, Ryan, you wouldn't. Or I should say you couldn't." Seth teased, "See, I know that you're not allowed to get a job until next summer. So, just relax. Enjoy. Hey, I know what'll take your mind off all the excitement. Let's take the car for a spin."

"Take the car for a spin?" Ryan repeated slowly, since he couldn't believe Seth would actual suggest that, "Seth, don't you think we're in enough trouble. Do you really think it's such a good idea for us to go out?"

"Sure, come on," Seth told him, "The car looks great. We need to go show it off. Come on, Mom and Dad said they wanted you to act like a typical teenager, and what does a typical teenager do? Well, he defies his parents, so in a way, they have already given you the go ahead. Besides, they're still not home, which means once again, I am your official babysitter."

"I don't know, Seth." Ryan answered.

Seth threw up his arms in mock disgust, "When did Ryan Atwood go soft? Hum? When did he become afraid to take chances?"

"When he got grounded for two weeks longer then you!" Ryan told him, "I'd like to be able to drive the car sometime in my lifetime."

"Chicken." Seth continued to tease.

"Chicken? You know, I don't get you." Ryan said, "What's the difference between now and a few days ago when I went to Holly's? You were pissed then. Suddenly it's okay for me to not listen?"

"Well, this time it's about the car. Besides, we won't get caught." Seth tried to assure Ryan.

Ryan only made a face at Seth when they both heard Sandy say, "Hey, fellas. We're home. What's going on?"

They both just mumbled "nothing" in response. But since Sandy heard at least part of the conversation, he told them, "Oh, I thought I heard something about the car."

Again, Ryan just made a face at Seth, letting him figure out a way to explain their conversation to Sandy. He could have killed Seth when he said, "Ryan's trying to corrupt me. Force me to take him for a spin in the car."

"Seth..." Ryan warned, before Sandy told him, "Very funny, Seth. Come on, leave Ryan alone. He needs to rest up for tonight. Come help me with the tables and chairs."

"I can help." Ryan offered, since he really didn't want to go rest, again.

But Sandy just shook his head as he reminded Ryan, "No heavy lifting, remember?"

"Chairs aren't heavy." Ryan pointed out, "Really, I can do something."

"Yeah, Dad," Seth agreed, "It's for Ryan's birthday. Let him do something."

"Do something?" Sandy said, pretending to think about it, "Ok. You can rest."

"But I'm bored." Ryan actually whined.

But Sandy just told him, "Too bad. Come on, Seth, heavy lifting awaits."

"Thanks, bro." Seth said as he left with Sandy.

Ryan went to go find Kirsten, hoping that maybe there was something he could help her with, but she was locked in her bedroom, and told him that she didn't need him for anything and to go rest.

With nothing else to do, and unable to watch all the commotion taking place in his honor, Ryan went to his room. Sandy still had his cell phone, so he couldn't call Marissa. But at least he would be seeing her in a couple of hours.

He stared out the window for a while, watching as little white lights were being strung on just about anything that didn't move, and Sandy and Seth set chairs up around the long table. He watched as Kirsten came out of the bedroom and was obviously barking orders at them both. He laughed at Seth's mock salute, and the smack on the arm Kirsten gave him. He also watched them all laugh, and decided after a few minutes that he didn't want to just watch them, he wanted to go down and be with them.

"Hey," he said as he joined them on the patio, "So I can relax here, right? Just sit here in this lounger and get some sun, right?"

"Yeah, sure." Kirsten smiled at him, "I think some sun would be good for you. Just don't try to do anything. Do you need anything?"

"No, thanks." Ryan told her as he sat on the chaise lounge, "I'm good. I just wanted to, you know. Get some sun." He didn't know what else to say. He really just wanted to be with them and not alone in his room.

Both Kirsten and Sandy smiled. They had never known Ryan to just want to get some sun, so they knew what he meant, even if he still didn't know how to say it.

"That's fine." Sandy told him, "Just remember to let Seth do all the work. This time you be the brains, and let him be the brawn."

Ryan couldn't help but laugh when Seth glared at him and muttered, "Manual labor is not my thing." and then warned Ryan, "yeah, just stay there, but bark one order at me, and you just may find yourself wrapped in tiny white lights."

"Nah, I look better in colored lights." Ryan joked.

"You'd rather have colored lights?" Kirsten said, "I guess they would be more festive for a birthday. We can take down the white lights and get colored ones if you want."

As both Sandy and Seth moaned loudly, Ryan told her, "No, really. The white ones are fine. They're good. I like them. Really."

"Ok, if you're sure," Kirsten said, as Ryan, Seth and Sandy all nodded in agreement, "Well, then, I guess we could use the patio table for presents, and......"

"Presents?" Ryan interrupted, "Really, I don't need presents. There isn't anything I need."

"See, I told you." Seth told Sandy.

"Ryan, it's your birthday. Birthdays always mean presents." Kirsten said, and was speechless when Ryan mumbled, "Not always."

But Sandy just told him, "Well, in this house, birthdays mean presents, and white lights, and lots of food, and now the gruesome twosome. Lucky you. But if you'd rather, we can give you our present now, before everyone gets here."

"I thought that was the car." Ryan said, "I mean that was more than anything I ever... I mean that's more than enough."

"Well, yes, there is the car." Sandy said, "But that's for you and Seth both. No, this is something for you. For your room. It's in our room. Seth, help me with it."

"It's heavy, isn't it? That's why you need my help, you got him something heavy." Seth whined.

Ryan could only stand there with his arms folded and his mouth open for a minute before finally asking, "A computer? But I have the laptop. Why a computer?"

" Because it was Seth's old lap top. You'll need your own computer for school this year and next year in college." Kirsten told him.

"No, I can't..." Ryan started.

"Well, yes, I know you can't carry it upstairs," Sandy interrupted, "But don't worry, Seth and I can get it up the stairs. It's not that heavy."

"No, really, I can't." Ryan again tried to say.

"Ryan, stop." Kirsten finally told him, "Yes, you can. Come on, we have time before we all have to get ready. Let's bring it upstairs and set it up. I want to make sure it works."

Ryan couldn't help but stare at the computer that now sat on his desk as he tried to get ready for his big dinner celebration. Just when he thought Sandy and Kirsten couldn't do any more for him, they do something like this. And they thought nothing of it. No matter what they said, it was still hard to accept at times. Even with Caleb going bankrupt, they had made it clear that money was not a problem for them, so it wasn't the money they spent. It was more that they spent it on him, and the fact they wanted to spend it on him, in much the same way they spent it on Seth. It was still so strange to have people who wanted to do for him and not expect anything in return.

It was the sound of the doorbell that finally got Ryan moving as he quickly finished getting dressed. He knew he should be down there. It wasn't long before everyone was there, and Ryan awkwardly accepted their happy birthdays, their welcome homes and their gifts. Even Julie Cooper Nichol wished him well, in the fakest voice she could possibly ever muster.

Ryan was still just standing on the edge of the patio watching them all socialize with each other, as the caterers set up enough seafood to feed an army, when he heard "Hey" from behind him. He turned to see Marissa approaching him. She looked better, but still not the girl he left in May.

"Hey, how you doing?" he asked her.

"Pretty good." she smiled, "You look better. I hope you didn't get into too much trouble the other day."

"Nah, not too much." Ryan smiled, "So, if I can do anything, you know, call me."

"I just might." Marissa said, "Just to talk. Maybe go out sometime. I missed you."

"Yeah, I missed you, too." Ryan told her. It was strange how awkward Ryan suddenly found it to talk to Marrisa. With everything that they had gone through over the past year, it seemed like they had nothing left to say to each other. And with not knowing what else to say, Ryan reached over to give her a gentle hug, and was shocked when Marissa wrapped her arms around his neck and held him as tight as she could, and began to cry.

"Hey, it's okay. Sshh. I'm sorry." Ryan softly whispered as he held her.

Kirsten and Sandy could only look at them and then at each other. They both knew, there were bound to be a lot more talks and probably more then one fight, in their continued attempt to keep Ryan's White Knight complex in check, especially when it came to Marissa.

"Hey, dinner's ready!" Sandy finally said, and watched as Ryan and Marissa walked to the table, holding hands. They'd be such a cute couple, if Marissa wasn't always in need of being 'saved' as Seth called it, and Ryan wasn't always so willing to be her hero.

Dinner was actually fun, even with Julie and Caleb, definitely better then the last time they were all together, before the wedding. Well, better for everyone except the newlyweds.

"Oh, Kiki, this is wonderful!" Julie announced, "It's been so long since I've really enjoyed some fresh seafood. What with Caleb and his current situation, who could afford lobster now!"

"Gee, I'm sorry to hear that, Julie." Jimmy snidely said, "Wow, Hailey and I were just enjoying some great seafood in Hawaii. Had I known, I could have smuggled you some back in my suitcase."

"Shut up, Jimmy." she told him, "I don't need to hear about your trip, or your seafood, or your girlfriend!"

"There's no reason to be nasty about Hailey, Julie." Caleb snapped, "Just because you're mad at me."

"Mad? What makes you think I'm mad at you, Cal?" Julie snarked, "What, just because you went bankrupt, were arrested, and humiliated me in front of all of Newport! And now, I'm losing my dream house to those sharks you're paying to keep you out of jail, and what little money you had, you gave to my ex-husband to buy some useless restaurant so he and his girlfriend can go off to Hawaii and enjoy seafood, and I can't even get myself a good pedicure! But you think I'm mad?"

"More wine, Julie?" Kirsten said, before Sandy said, "Um, I think it might be present time!"

Ryan groaned and shook his head, "Um, no, we don't need. It's not present time." But Sandy looked at Kirsten and then at Julie and Caleb, before telling Ryan, "Oh, yeah. I'd definitely say it was present time."

Present time turned out to be both embarrassing for Ryan and yet interesting at the same time. He hated the idea that people would spend money on him, but some of the things he got were definitely interesting.

Caleb and Julie gave him a book on architecture and two hundred dollars in cash. Given Julie's recent rant, Ryan wondered how they could afford it.

Marissa gave him a picture frame, with a picture of the two of them at the wedding. It would have been a good picture, had they both not looked so sad. She also gave him tickets to a concert to see The Vines in LA, with a promise that it would be a lot better then the last time they went to a concert together, with Oliver.

Summer gave him a new game for the playstation, which Ryan found funny. It was called Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow, and it was the game Seth had wanted since it came out.

"Seth said you wanted that." Summer told him, and when Ryan smirked and said, "Oh, he did, did he?" Summer understood and smacked Seth.

"Cohen!" she yelled, "You said he wanted it. I can't believe you'd use Ryan's birthday to get something you wanted!" "Jerk." she added, as she hit him again.

"Hey, ouch. Summer!" Seth yelped, "He will want it. Once we play it, he'll see how great it is. I promise. Just stop with the rage black outs!"

"Ryan, I'm sorry. I should have known not to listen to Seth. I'll take it back, and get you something else. Like Grand Theft Auto, or something more your type." Summer apologized, and hit Seth again.

"No, really, this is great, Summer. Thanks." Ryan reassured her, "And you know, the best part about the game being mine, Seth can only play it when I say so, not whenever he wants."

The others laughed as Seth could only whine that it wasn't fair! Ryan was still laughing as he opened Jimmy and Hailey's present. It was more money, which he didn't feel very comfortable about and a set of keys. House keys.

As Ryan held up the keys and looked confused, Hailey explained, "The keys to the pool house. Jimmy and I have decided to make it more permanent and move in together so I figured you'd want the pool house back. So those are the keys. Just give me a couple of days to get the rest of my stuff out, and it's all yours again."

Ryan could only smile and say thanks as he put the keys back in the box. It would have been a really nice gift from Hailey, except for one thing. Ryan didn't want to move back into the pool house. He liked his room. It was his room, in the house, upstairs, next to Seth's room. Three of the walls were not made of glass, and no one referred to it as 'the room' the way they did with 'the pool house.' It was his room, and he liked it that way. But he figured if they expected him to move back into the pool house, then that's what he'd have to do. He was still staring at the keys, thinking about it when he noticed Kirsten's hand as she reached over and took the box.

"If you don't mind," she told him, "I think I'll hold onto these. We can talk about the pool house at a later date."

And since Ryan wasn't sure if Kirsten understood how he felt, or if she was trying to be parental again, he only shrugged and then smirked and said, "Yeah, okay."

Seth's gift was by far the most interesting as well as entertaining. He proudly announced that Ryan had saved the best for last as he presented him with a box. Of stuff. There were new posters for Ryan's room, of bands that Seth liked as well as the CD's that matched the posters. Seth also found a Mighty Mouse tee shirt with a matching Mighty Mouse key chain, which Seth thought was funny and Ryan did not. A box of condoms that Ryan quickly threw back into the box and glared at Seth. And a trucker hat.

"I thought you hated trucker hats?" he asked Seth.

"Only smelly dirty trucker hats that you win off the heads of angry trucker dudes in a smoke filled poker game!" Seth told him.

Both Seth and Ryan started to laugh, remembering Vegas until Kirsten said, "Excuse me? Angry trucker dudes? Smoke filled poker games? Is there something we should know about?"

"No, not really." Ryan told her, and Seth said, "Yeah, I mean what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

"Why?" Sandy asked, "What happened in Vegas?"

As they all looked to Ryan, waiting for an answer, Summer hit Seth and told him, "Way to go Cohen, getting him in trouble when all he was doing was trying to win the money to pay off your hoes!"

"Hoes! What hoes?" Kirsten said, as all eyes went from Ryan to Seth, waiting for one of them to answer.

"So, let me gets this straight," Sandy said, "While in Vegas you two got involved with angry trucker dudes, smoked filled poker games and hoes. This sounds like it's going to be one heck of a story, and I for one cannot wait to hear it."

"Now?" Ryan asked, "You really want to hear about it now?"

"If not now, then definitely later." Kirsten warned them both.

"Face it, Sanford," Caleb chuckled, "You were so busy in Vegas doing your best to ruin me that you didn't even know what your own boys were up to! They got away with something, let it go at that."

Ryan slipped the trucker hat back into the box, and figured the less said about it, the better. For both him and Seth.

Later in the evening, Ryan did attempt to give the money back to Caleb, thanking him but trying to tactfully tell him it wasn't necessary. Caleb was so sharp and nasty in his reply that he "wasn't so broke that he couldn't give his grandson some money on his birthday," that it took Ryan a minute to even realize that he, Caleb Nichol, had referred to Ryan as his grandson.

As Ryan mumbled a "thank you," and began to walk away, Caleb told him, "Just don't try to leave again. No one in your family can handle it very well."

And even though Ryan suspected Caleb meant well, he couldn't help but notice, it still sounded more like a threat than genuine concern.

The party broke up a few hours later, after cake and coffee and more talking and a lot of laughing. Ryan kissed Marissa good night and promised to call her as soon as he could, and thanked everyone for coming and for his gifts, and made his way up to his room, carrying the presents that he had received.

Seth came in a little while later, and laughed at the fact Ryan was actually wearing his Mighty Mouse tee shirt with his sweatpants.

"Hey, nice." Seth told him, "But I thought that would end up being mine by tomorrow."

"Yeah. You thought a lot of things would end up being yours by tomorrow." Ryan said, as he tossed him Summer's play station game.

"Trust me, bro," Seth told him, "You're going to love this game. So, you survived your first Cohen family birthday dinner. Not bad. Not good, but not bad, right?"

"No, Seth, not bad." Ryan said, as he smiled.

"Okay, then, I guess good night. And hey, you, me, play station, tomorrow, deal?" Seth said as he walked out of Ryan's room.

"Yeah, deal." Ryan told him.

Yeah, Ryan thought, play station, and Mighty Mouse tee shirts, and trucker hats, and new computers and...... parents.

Ryan found Kirsten and Sandy sitting together on a lounger by the pool drinking wine and talking.

"So, I just wanted to say good night, and thank you." He told them both, suddenly self conscious about what he really wanted to say.

"Good night, sweetie. We hope you had a good time." Kirsten said, and Sandy told him, "Good night, kid. Just think, you're off the hook now for a whole year."

"Yeah." Ryan said, "I mean, thanks. For everything. I'm, um, really glad to be home."

"You're welcome for everything." Kirsten told him, "And we're really glad you're home, too."

"Cause I can't wait to hear all about the angry trucker, the smoke filled poker game and the hoes." Sandy joked.

"I think I'm gonna let Seth tell that story." Ryan told him.

"I look forward to it. See you in the morning." Sandy said.

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, see you in the morning."

"And Ryan?" Sandy said, as he lifted his wine glass in the air, "Welcome home, son."

Ryan could only smile shyly and look down at his feet as he turned and walked back into the house. His home.


Fin. The End. That's all she's got, folks!!