Disclaimer: I don't own anything OC related.
AN: For BonnieD who wanted Sandy to hit Ryan. Hope it's up to par.

This follows Ryan beating the hell out of Oliver in the cafeteria. Ryan didn't leave the poolhouse after his grounding.


"All people start to
come apart, finally
and there it is
just empty ashtrays in a room
or wisps of hair on a comb
in the dissolving moonlight…"
-Bukowski

He had told her what he wanted her to do. It didn't take much convincing, just a figure written on a check. She hadn't questioned him again.

"Gracias, Rosa," Caleb Nichols smiled as he handed her the check.

She nodded silently and slipped the check into her purse.

He slipped off his Rolex and handed it to her. She pursed her lips and dropped it in with the check. It was a deal.


Sandy was exhausted. He had gone out after work for drinks and had to call a taxi to bring him home. Kirsten was sure to be pissed.

He just had so much on his mind and he needed some alcohol to clear his head. Seth wasn't talking to him. Ryan wasn't talking to anyone, he was sequestered in the poolhouse. And Kirsten, well, she was still his rock.

Ryan was turning out to be more of a problem child than he had anticipated. He loved the kid, he'd grown to love him and that's what made the situation so much worse. Something had happened, something had triggered the kid's anger and violence. Something about this Oliver kid was turning the quiet, humble boy he loved into the violent aggressive man in the poolhouse. Sandy had never met Ryan's father, he'd only seen the files, but he didn't want Ryan's emotional crisis to spiral out of control. He didn't want Ryan to turn out like his real father. But Ryan wasn't accepting his place in Sandy's family either.

So Sandy had tried to drink away his problems but they were right back at the front of his mind when he walked into the house. Kirsten wasn't home, her car was missing and Seth must have been out with Summer.

Sandy sat down at the counter and sighed. He was really drunk. He absently reached over and grabbed the phone and dialed for his messages. The numbers blurred.

"First new message…Sandy? It's Kirsten. I'm missing some of my jewelry, the rings and bracelets that I keep in the back of the closet? I'm just checking to see if you moved it or maybe took it to get it cleaned? Just give me a call on my cell, I'll be working late at the office…"

Sandy wouldn't touch her jewelry or move it. That was interesting. She must have misplaced it.

"Next new message…It's Caleb. I just wanted to let you know that I lost my watch over there. It's rather expensive and I'd appreciate it if you could set it aside for me. Thanks."

"Next new message…Hi, Cohens. It's Summer. I'm just looking for Seth, I'll try his cell…"

Sandy put the phone back down. The lights were on in the poolhouse and he decided to try to talk to the kid again. Ryan had attacked Oliver the day before and refused to talk about it. Something was causing Ryan to act out and he needed to know what it was. He needed to help Ryan.

Sandy staggered across the patio and took a moment outside the door to compose himself. He didn't want Ryan to know he was drunk but he didn't think he could sleep if he didn't at least try to talk to him. He needed to find out what was setting Ryan off.

He knocked on the door but didn't expect an answer. He stepped inside. The door to the bathroom was closed and he could hear the shower.

Sandy decided to wait. He sat down on Ryan's unmade bed. His foot bumped into something and he leaned over to see what it was. A shoebox. He didn't want to open it but he didn't think that he would be able to rest without seeing inside. It wasn't a shoebox from any of Ryan's shoes, it was size six. Kirsten's size. He pulled the top off. It was glittering with Kirsten's jewelry. Cash. Two watches.

He had done so much for Ryan. He had taken him in. Given him love and encouragement. A good education. Shelter.

And this was his reward? Ryan was a thief. He was stealing from them. He was hurting innocent kids.

Sandy couldn't believe he'd been this wrong.

"Sandy? Hey…" Ryan stepped out of the bathroom in sweatpants and his trademark wife beater.

"Ryan. What's this?"

Ryan's blue eyes betrayed nothing. Sandy couldn't read him. If he could read him then maybe this wouldn't have happened. "It looks like a shoebox. Where'd you get it?" Ryan asked.

"Don't lie to me."

Ryan was confused. "I'm not…"

"I can't believe you'd steal from us, from Kirsten…"

"I would never steal from you. What are you talking about?"

"I found it, Ryan. I found all the missing things under your bed…"

"Sandy's there's nothing under my bed, I use the shelves…" Ryan started.

Sandy stood up. He wouldn't let this kid lie to him again. "Sit down."

"Sandy…"

"Sit the hell down."

Ryan winced at his tone and obeyed. He was trembling.

"Has all this meant nothing? Were you just waiting until we trusted you to turn on us?"

"No, Sandy, I swear, I don't know what…" Ryan started, confused.

"If you needed money…"

"I don't, I didn't steal anything…"

"Shut up," Sandy snapped. He would listen to lies. He had his proof.

Ryan was silent and pale.

Sandy paced the floor. He wished he hadn't drunk so much but he was sober now. Ryan was a criminal. He had exposed his son and his wife to a criminal.

"Sandy, I swear to you…"

Sandy slapped him. He had never hit Seth. He had never hit a child. But Ryan was not a child. Sandy had to make him stop lying. His hand hurt.

Ryan was stunned. His cheek was red.

"I take you into my home and you take advantage of me…"

"No…" Ryan whispered. He had tears in his eyes.

"Tell me the truth."

"I am not stealing…"

Sandy couldn't believe that Ryan was still denying it. He had found the jewelry under Ryan's bed. And he still lied.

"I would never…"

"You attacked an innocent kid and you're stealing…"

"I didn't…"

Sandy hadn't registered his hand slapping Ryan again. He wouldn't apologize until he had the truth. He couldn't face him anymore. Looking at Ryan was looking at his own failure. His failure to protect his family. "I want you to go."

"What?" Ryan whispered. His nose was bleeding slightly.

"I want you out of my house. Get your shoes and go. Everything else is mine. Consider it rent." Sandy kept his voice steady and even.

Ryan was frozen. His blue eyes were dazed with disbelief.

Sandy grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him to his feet.

Ryan reacted, stepping back and raising his hands defensively.

"Get your shit and go."

Ryan slowly grabbed his shoes and stuffed his feet into them.

Sandy watched him, tense with anger and betrayal.

Ryan was trembling. He looked genuinely confused. His face was streaked with silent tears. He turned to face Sandy. "I would never do anything to intentionally hurt your family…"

"Stealing's not hurting them? Kirsten's family heirlooms? You don't think that hurts her?" He snapped.

"I didn't take anything…" Ryan said, emotion in his voice.

Sandy grabbed him by the arm, squeezing painfully. Ryan didn't pull away.

"If you come near my family again…" Sandy started and Ryan tried to pull away.

"Sandy…" Ryan whispered and Sandy punched him, releasing him in a heap on the floor.

Ryan coughed on the blood from his lip but he was on his feet and out the door before Sandy could finish his threat.


He walked. He'd reached the beach before he realized it. Now he carried his shoes in his hand and he walked down the beach.

It was beautiful. The waves were calming.

He hated himself. He had a ball of disgust in the pit of his stomach and it was spreading to every part of him. All people were flawed, he was just cursed to bring out the worst in people. Sandy and his family were good people and his presence had soured them.

He didn't take the jewelry. He didn't steal anything.

He didn't lie.

He should've said anything to make Sandy believe him…but Sandy had hit him.

Ryan had driven Sandy Cohen to violence.

He deserved his solitude.

He'd never believed his mother when she told him that he was the reason that her boyfriends turned on them…he'd thought that she just had bad taste in men. But now he knew differently. It really was all his fault.

He walked.

Seth thought he was insane with jealousy. Marissa wanted to be with Oliver and he couldn't save her. Sandy and Kirsten thought he was a thief. He didn't know what hurt more, they all hurt. And he didn't know who he was anymore.

So he'd walk.

He listened to the oceans and tried to figure out what they were whispering to him. And he walked.


When Seth woke up, police were everywhere. He managed to keep his cool while he rushed downstairs. His first thought was that Ryan had killed Oliver or something like that but when he saw his mother…he knew that something was really wrong. "What happened? Mom?"

"Sit down, Seth." Kirsten was exhausted. Sandy had finally fallen asleep in the guest room. Security was fingerprinting the rest of the house.

"Mom, what's going on?"

"Sandy found some missing things in Ryan's room," She said evenly. She didn't believe it. Ryan wouldn't steal from him. Sandy was wrong. He had to be. She was so angry at her husband but she knew that when he came to his fucking senses that he'd be more angry at himself.

"Mom…"

"Sandy thinks Ryan stole them. I disagree. So I called the police," Kirsten stated.

"You called the police? Where's Ryan? What missing things?" Seth was confused and on the verge of panic.

"Ryan is not here. There was some jewelry taken from my closet…"

"Ryan's never even been in your room…" Seth murmured.

"That's what I said. Your father overreacted but we're going to sort everything out…" She said.

"He didn't do it…he couldn't…he doesn't even take money from me, Mom…I mean…he's upset about Oliver but…"

"He wouldn't steal from us."

"Where is he?" Seth lowered his voice. "Is he in jail?"

"No. I don't know where he is."

Seth's eyes were dark with confusion. "What?"

"Your father asked him to leave." Kirsten sighed heavily. She had cried for hours before she called the police. She was tired. But her son needed her.

"Mom…"

"We'll find him. This is all a big mistake."

"He wouldn't…I don't believe it…"


It was a week before the police returned with their results. Sandy had been burying himself in his work, rarely showing his face at home before midnight. Seth and Kirsten had been painfully silent, devastated by the loss of Ryan and the traumatic way he was sent away. They didn't believe he was a thief but they couldn't convince Sandy.

Kirsten and Sandy were in the dining room with the detectives.

"There were only four sets of prints in the master bedroom. Both of yours, your son, Seth and Rosa Martinez. Seth's were mainly found around the entranceway," The detective said slowly. "Mr. Atwood's prints were only found in the main rooms, the poolhouse and your son's bedroom. The only prints on the shoebox were Mr. Cohen's and Mrs. Martinez. We investigated further…the only prints on the money and jewelry itself are Mrs. Martinez's…"

"Rosa has worked for us 15 years…" Kirsten muttered, stunned.

"Can we talk to her?" The detective asked.

"Oh god…what have I done…" Sandy whispered.

"She's outside watering the plants," Kirsten told the officers. They exited in search of the housekeeper.

"Sandy, you made a mistake…" She started.

"I…I just couldn't…oh God…I have to find him…I have to apologize…the things I said…none of them were true…"

"The police will find him…"

"If they find him…he's violated his probation…I have to…" Sandy was inconsolable.

Seth rushed in. "Something's happened…"

"Seth, what…" Kirsten gasped.

"Oliver tried to kill Marissa, right in the schoolyard…he shot himself, he's dead, but Ryan was right, the kid was crazy, he confessed everything…" Seth said quickly, hysterical.

"Seth, slow down…" Kirsten urged.

"Oliver's dead. He spilled his guts in front of the whole school…he made up his girlfriend to get Marissa to trust him, he antagonized Ryan into the fight so he'd get in trouble…Ryan was trying to protect her and I didn't believe him…"

"Seth, it's not your fault," Kirsten said.

The detective stepped in with a grim expression.

"Yes?" Kirsten sighed.

"Mrs. Martinez is coming with us. She took a bribe from someone to take the items and plant them."

Seth sat down and let out a shaky breath.

"Okay. Let's go find our kid," Kirsten said.


He'd walked into the tents a few days earlier. Surfer kids. Chasing the biggest wave and living off cheap pot and hot dogs. They'd taken him in. He thought that he must have been sleepwalking because he barely remembered the girls dragging him off the beach, giving him a bath and putting him to bed.

He'd been traveling with them since. They didn't ask questions and he didn't offer anything. There was a shared fear of cops and the mutual trust that can only come between strangers.

He didn't surf but he had swum out to help a couple of the surfers that got disoriented and struggled. The kids trusted him.

They called him 'Silent Bob.' Bobby for short.

He'd been out of Newport for 2 weeks before Karin approached him.

Karin was his current tent mate. She always smelled like suntan oil.

"Bobby, take a walk with me."

He shrugged and they stepped away from the gathered tents. He rarely spoke so he just walked beside her and waited for her to enlighten him.

"I was on the boardwalk today and I saw this flyer on one of the poles…" She pulled a piece of paper out of the waistband of her shorts.

Ryan took it from her. It was a picture of him at Chrismukkah. Cropped directly from the Christmas card because he'd never let them take any other photos of him.

Missing: Ryan Atwood
We made a mistake. Come home.
Please call if spotted: 595-555-5995.
Reward if found

Karin lit a cigarette as she let out a sigh. She passed the cigarette to him and he inhaled deeply before realizing it was a joint. He'd been mildly stoned since he moved into the tents though.

"It doesn't seem like a police search, man…maybe…"

"It's not my home."

"But your parents…"

"They're not my parents." He hit the joint again. He exhaled and appreciated the way the smoke seemed to calm his nerves. He turned and kissed her, crumpling the paper in his hand.

"Bobby…" She started.

"Thank everyone for me, okay?" He turned. He walked away.

As long as he could still walk away, he'd be okay.


"Sandy? Sandy, I'm going out."

"What?" Sandy asked.

She didn't want to tell him. He hadn't slept in days and he'd just taken a doctor prescribed sedative.

"I'll be back. Sleep."

He relaxed against the pillow. She closed the door.

They'd found a kid matching Ryan's description in a hospital down the coast. The kid had no ID. and was dehydrated, exhausted and suffering from exposure. They said he hadn't eaten in days and that he was unresponsive.

Ryan was just a quiet kid. Unresponsive to them could mean that he didn't want to talk to them.

She drove like a woman possessed. And she was.

Ryan was a good kid, she didn't doubt him, she never doubted him. She loved her husband but he got blinded by his protectiveness of his family. She'd make it right again.

She knew something had happened between her husband and Ryan. There had been blood in the poolhouse.

She wouldn't consider either scenario. Ryan wouldn't hurt Sandy and Sandy would never hit a child. Especially not Ryan. He'd been on the wrong end of too many fists. Sandy wouldn't do it. He wasn't capable.

She parked, hours later, at the hospital. An officer met her in the lobby.

"Where? Is he awake? Is he okay?"

"He hasn't woken up, Mrs. Cohen. It might not be him," The officer warned.

"I have to see him."

The officer took her to a private room.

And it was Ryan. He was thin and his face was sunken. His skin was dark brown from the sun.

"Mrs. Cohen?" The officer called.

"It's him. I want to see his doctors. I want to take him home."

The officer nodded and disappeared.

She touched his cheek gently. It was warm. His breathing was steady. He was alive.

"Ryan? Ryan, everything's going to be okay, now…" She would make him believe it. If he'd wake up.

He didn't respond. He was sleeping. She let him rest. She hoped that he'd have calm dreams.


"Ryan."

He opened his eyes and blinked at her. He hoped he was dreaming. He didn't ask her here. She wasn't here. He was dreaming. He was tired.

"How do you feel?" She touched his arm and he flinched involuntarily. He wasn't dreaming. Her face was drawn with worry. "Ryan, Rosa took the jewelry. My father paid her," She said slowly. "And its time for you to come home."

He shook his head.

"I don't care what Sandy said to you. It's my house and its your home."

He wouldn't look at her. It wasn't her decision. Sandy had brought him home, Sandy was the one that wanted him there. He didn't want him around Kirsten or Seth. He was so fucking tired.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there. I know that you would never do anything like that…"

"I can't go back."

"Yes, you can. We'll figure everything out, we'll work it out," She said urgently.

"I can't…" He closed his eyes. He didn't want to cry but he was too tired to stop the tears.

He had nowhere to go. He didn't fit anywhere. He was meant to be alone.

"Ryan, I am not your mother. But I want to take care of you. I love you. I want to take you home."

"I…"

"Home. I'll take care of everything. I promise."

He met her gaze.

He had nowhere to go. He'd go with her. There was nowhere else. He'd figure it out.


Kirsten was worried. Ryan hadn't spoken and the closer they got to Newport, the more he had pushed himself into the corner of the seat.

"Ryan, everything's going to be okay."

He shook his head slightly. He looked so tired, so sad. He was so hurt.

"I'm going to call the house and let them know…"

"He doesn't know you found me?" Ryan whispered. Kirsten realized that Ryan was frightened. Something was seriously wrong. "Kirsten, I won't go back…he said…"

"I don't care what he said…"

Ryan had his eyes closed tightly and he was shaking his head. He was shaking.

"Ryan, I wanted to come for you alone. Sandy's beside himself, he made a horrible mistake and…"

"Please stop the car, Kirsten…" His eyes were searching for an exit that didn't lead to the freeway.

"Listen, Ryan." She took his hand and he froze. "Do you trust me?"

"Kirsten…" His voice was a whisper.

"I will keep Sandy away from you until you're ready. I promise." She hoped he believed her. He'd had so many promises broken but she knew that if she could get him home that she could fix this.

He deflated. He was trembling and she thought that he was about to shatter into pieces.

"Honey, we all make mistakes. I don't want to make excuses for Sandy but I love him and I love you. You did nothing wrong."

Ryan didn't react.

"Please, say something."

"I don't want to do this. Sandy doesn't want me here. Seth doesn't…"

"Oliver Trask killed himself. He admitted everything. Seth made a mistake and…"

"Is Marissa okay?"

"Yes, Ryan, she's fine. I think a lot of people owe you an apology…"

"I don't want apologies…I want…I wanted trust…I trusted Seth…I trusted Sandy but to them…I'll always be a criminal…"

"Stop, that's not true…"

"Sandy said that he didn't want me to come near his family…"

"Sandy was wrong. He was confused and…"

"He didn't believe me…" Ryan whispered. "I'd never lie to him…and he didn't believe me…"

"Ryan…"

"I'm only here because of you," He said suddenly. "You have always made it clear how you felt and you still came for me…"

"What? How I felt?"

"I mean, you've never trusted me, you've never hidden that fact, but Seth and Sandy…"

"Ryan, I love you. I trust you. I'd trust you with my life…I'm sorry if I didn't show it…"

Ryan had his eyes closed. "You should call them."

Kirsten sighed. She opened her phone and dialed home.

"Hello?"

"Seth. Can I talk to your father?"

"He's asleep, he freaked out when you didn't come home and I made him take a pill."

"I'm bringing Ryan home. I don't want your father to see him right away…"

"Is he okay?"

"He needs to rest."

"Can I see him?"

"Not right away."

Seth was silent. She knew how devastated he was. He needed to see Ryan. But she had no idea how Ryan was actually going to react once he was back.

"I'll tell Dad. Are you guys hungry? I'll order dinner."

"Good idea. Thank you."