Title: Home Again
Rating: PG-13? For language.
Summary: Seth/Ryan. Slash. One-shot. This is how Season 2, Episode 1 would open if I ran The OC (however, see Disclaimer). My first fanfic; please be gentle.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. I just take them out, play with them awhile, and put them back when they get naughty.

Sandy turned at the unmistakable sound of high heels clicking down the dock, keeping a steadying hand centered on Kirsten's back.

"Hi, Summer. How ya doing? I'm glad you're here." He smiled at her while Kirsten nodded and went back to gazing out at the water.

"Hey, Sandy. Hi, Kirsten. I'm good. And I wouldn't miss this for anything. Cohen has some explaining to do. Assface. You can't break up with someone in a note! That is so eighth grade and..." Her voice trailed off as she noticed Kirsten's hand resting on someone's head. Someone crouched down at her side, someone who looked suspiciously like...

"Chino! When did you? What are you? How? Why haven't you?" Summer felt herself blushing more furiously with each stammer and shut her mouth with an almost audible snap. Get a grip, Roberts. You sound like Cohen, for God's sake.

Ryan sighed and stood up, Kirsten's hand falling to his back, mirroring Sandy's hand on her own back. He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes. Kirsten felt his tension and imagined it was a live wire burning through the three of them, connecting them.

Ryan opened his eyes reluctantly, squinting against the late afternoon sun. "Last night. Theresa's gone. With Eddie. To Atlanta. It wasn't... I tried... I couldn't...I didn't know..." A long pause and then, "Sandy called. I came home."

With each fractured sentence, Kirsten's hand rose higher up his back until she was gripping his shoulder. When she heard the word home, she pulled him to her—Sandy following as if caught in her gravity.

Summer's voice was soft. "Oh, Ryan, I'm sorry. I know you wanted to...make that work." She stepped closer, putting a tentative hand on his other shoulder, suddenly wanting—no, needing—the physical contact. Sandy smiled at her again and cocked an eyebrow, inviting her to join them. Summer smiled back and leaned in, thinking it couldn't really be considered a hug since Ryan was so rigid. Kirsten didn't seem to care, she just wanted him near her and Sandy wasn't letting Kirsten out of arm's reach either. After a moment, Summer said in a small voice, "I'll bet Cohen would have a field day with this."

That earned her a snort from Ryan. "Yeah, bet it's been pretty quiet around the house for the last two months. That must have been a big change."

Sandy smothered a yelp of laughter as they all moved back and created a little more space between them. "That's true. It's been very quiet. I guess a lot has changed this summer." His smile faded as he thought about the tense weeks he and Kirsten had endured, worrying about their boys, circling each other through the house, blaming themselves.

"Well it can change right back. Ryan's home now and Seth," Kirsten's voice broke a little and she took a deep breath before continuing determinedly, "Seth will be home again soon. And everything will be the same."

Except that it won't, thought Summer as she stepped further away. I've had enough of people saying they love me but leaving anyway. She pulled a mirror out of her purse and looked for flaws in her makeup.

Ryan moved in the opposite direction. He threw a quick look over his shoulder, shrugged, pulled out a cigarette, and lit it. He inhaled quickly, hoping the activity would help keep his shaking hands from being noticed. Things in Chino had gotten fucked up pretty quickly. Eddie realized he was going to lose Theresa when we showed up together at her mom's house. I still can't believe he actually signed up for anger management classes and went to a couple before coming by the house to apologize again. I was too tired from hauling bricks every day to really notice what was going on, and to be honest, it was nice that Theresa had something else to focus on. Before long, Eddie was there all the time. And then yesterday, I come home to find Theresa's mom giving me a guilty look and a note. A note, for fuck's sake, saying Theresa had decided to make a new start with Eddie. Saying she knew I didn't want to be with her. And even though it was true, Summer was right—telling me in a note sucked. Well, at least Theresa left me a note. Walking out of Seth's room with so much unsaid was the hardest thing I've ever done, until now. He stubbed out the cigarette and lit another.

Kirsten opened her mouth to scold Ryan about the cigarettes but then thought better of it. God knows she'd relied on her own vice to get through the last eight weeks. The blender was her new favorite kitchen appliance, whipping up fresh margs every night. She leaned her head over on Sandy's shoulder, willing Seth to get home now. Sandy smoothed her hair away from her face and pulled her in for a kiss.

Everyone started at the bleat of a horn, sounding to warn other boats at the entrance to the marina.

Seth moved about the deck, putting things away and readying himself for battle. Like a ninja warrior. He didn't imagine he'd be getting a very warm welcome on the dock. His father's voice had been very tightly controlled last night when Seth had finally called to say he was coming home. Sandy didn't ask many questions which was good because Seth wasn't sure what the answers were yet. He'd finally gotten a grip on why he'd had to leave. Not that he could do anything about it. But that didn't mean he'd figured out how to tell his parents. Who were apparently showing their grief at his long absence by macking all over his slip. Hey now, no sex on the dock. That is just so wrong. Oh, Summer. Wow, looks like she's working on a rage blackout. Well, no sex there either, I bet. In a way, my note was like a pre-emptive strike though, so it's like I'm turning her down for sex. Yeah, keep telling yourself that Seth. He can almost hear Ryan saying that last part. Ryan...Ryan? As the Summer Breeze eased into her slip, Seth hurriedly secured the ropes and then stepped onto the dock. He just stood there, looking at everyone, wondering who would lead the first assault.

Ryan's hands clenched into fists as he took one step forward and then another. Summer watched him with narrowed eyes and took a step back, considering. Kirsten burst into tears and crumpled into Sandy. Sandy held her up and looked over her shoulder, wondering just what Ryan meant to do with those fists. And thinking maybe a punch in the nose might knock some sense into his oldest son.

God, he looks taller. And look at his arms. He's so tan. Funny, I thought he'd be burnt to a crisp. Wow, his hair looks so much lighter...threads of copper running through his curls. Focus, Ryan. Keep walking. Breathe. When he was about six feet away, his eyes met Seth's. He grinned at Seth's worried look and then realized his hands were still clenched. He relaxed his fingers and was rewarded with a small smile. The next thing he knew Seth launched himself at Ryan.

Summer had to laugh; he looked just like the Tasmanian Devil, all whirling limbs and hair. She stopped laughing abruptly when she realized Ryan was hugging Seth tightly. He didn't look so rigid now; he was wrapped around Seth like two marshmallow peeps that have been left in the sun. Um, ew? What the hell? Well this explains a lot. "It's not you, Summer; you're one of the best things in my life. It's me." No shit, Cohen! Huh, that's actually pretty hot. Like "Interview With The Vampire," but with real, normal people I know. Not that Cohen is actually normal. And Chino can be pretty antisocial too. Oh, God – I'm doing it again! Cohen has, like, infected me or something. Assface. But still, I guess he's my assface. Or Chino's. Whatevs – it was totally hot.

Kirsten looked up at Summer's strangled laugh and saw Sandy staring over her shoulder his mouth hanging open. "Oh my God! Is he hurt?" She whirled around and tensed to spring, her mother bear instincts on full alert.

"Wait. Give them a minute," he said quietly. She stopped to actually look at the boys, feeling Sandy's hand rub small, soothing circles on her back. "Oh. What?" Kirsten stood very still.

Ryan had Seth wrapped in his arms, Seth's head resting on his shoulder. He was talking urgently to Seth, who kept nodding and smiling at whatever Ryan whispered into his ear. Seth's left hand was making small, soothing circles on Ryan's back while his right hand lay gently on Ryan's chest. Ryan gradually eased his grip on Seth enough to reach a hand up and run it through Seth's curls, still talking earnestly. He twisted a coppery curl around his finger almost lazily and Seth's hand moved up to smooth a slight frown off Ryan's face. He lifted his head off Ryan's shoulder and gently moved to his right so that their foreheads rested together. Ryan kept talking ... explaining ... babbling, really ... and Seth kept nodding. Finally, he closed his eyes and moved his mouth to Ryan's. Blissful silence ensued. Yep. That did the trick.

Kirsten blinked. Wait. Ryan is talking? Our Ryan who hasn't said more than 50 words since he got home? And Seth is...listening? Why are they still hugging? Seth needs a haircut. Ryan needs new pants. Oh. OH! Well. There's kissing too apparently. Okay, that's enough. Kirsten shrugged off Sandy's hand and started down the dock.

"Honey, wait!" Sandy grabbed her arm and Summer took a step towards her too, not sure what the light in her eyes meant.

"No, Sandy! I'm done."

Sandy interrupted, "Kirsten, he's our son." Pleading now, "They're both our boys, please just give..."

Kirsten cut him off, "I've been waiting 57 and a half days! It's my turn to hug him now."

Seth looked at Ryan as the footsteps approached. "Well, that was one way to break it to them. They probably could have done without the visual portion of our presentation though, huh?"

Ryan's laugh was swallowed in the general noise of Kirsten, Sandy, and Summer hugging him and Seth and talking all at once.