"Dude. What are you doing in here? Aren't you going to come outside?" Seth asked, walking in and finding him alone in the kitchen.
"I was eating. Your mom said I had to finish this…" Ryan said, glaring at his still-heaping plate.
"Have you even touched it?"
"What's wrong with you? I mean, why won't you eat?"
"If I have stuff on my mind, I can't really eat. My stomach shuts down," Ryan admitted.
"Well, you better start trying, Mom's already ordered a scale for you, something she can monitor your weight. She thinks you're anorexic or something," Seth replied. "What else?"
"Grace wants to give me money."
"Yeah. Like, a trust fund. I really will be like everyone else in Newport for once," Ryan snorted.
"Yeah? That's awesome, man…but obviously you don't think so," Seth realized.
"I just don't know…I don't know anything right now. I mean, think about it…who has a more fucked up family situation than me? I live with you guys, that aren't even related to me and people already think I'm some kind of con artist that's mooching off you, what are people going to say when they find out I have a trust fund miraculously appearing out of nowhere?"
"So…you care what people think?" Seth asked.
"No…I just…I don't want her money. It's like…everything always comes down to money. In the old days, money defined us because we didn't have any…everything was a struggle…and now, it's like, I'd be happy just to know that Grace wanted me to be a member of her family, but if she throws money into the mix…I can't explain it. I'd just like one thing in my life to not be affected by money," he said, running out of words.
Seth was startled. "Man…"
"No, I'm sorry for unloading on you…" he glanced out of the window before scraping half the plate of food into the garbage disposal and sitting down again with the remnants of his breakfast.
"I can handle eating this. That was too much," Ryan said, looking at Seth with a flat expression on his face. All his earlier emotion was gone.
"Um…are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm going to eat this and then I'll be right out. I promise," Ryan smiled.
"Okay," Seth said slowly. "Because you just went on a little mini-rant and now…"
"I'm fine, Seth. Thanks for letting me 'rant', but I'm really okay. I swear," he promised.
"All right, man. We'll be outside."
Ryan nodded indifferently, taking a bite of eggs.
"I think you should talk to Ryan," Seth said, walking up to his parents on the patio. He'd left Ryan in the kitchen, but he didn't believe that his friend was really okay.
"Is he all right?" Kirsten asked.
"He says he is. But…he's a little off," Seth admitted.
"He's had a hard couple of days, Seth. And he's still got his surprise family around him…he's not going to be himself for a while," Sandy said.
"I know…but…when he talks to me, I don't know what to say. That's why I think you guys should talk to him. Before he…well, does something stupid."
"What? Like what?"
"I don't know. But he…I'm worried about him," Seth sighed, walking away.
"If Seth's worried about him…" Kirsten started.
"Then we should be, too. I'll talk to him," Sandy said, starting toward the house. Before he could get there, Ryan stepped out. "Hey, kid."
"Hey," Ryan gave him a polite smile.
"Yeah. Fine. What's up?" Ryan asked.
"Nothing, I'm just a little worried about you."
He rolled his eyes. "Everyone's worried about me. I swear I'm fine. Really. I'd be better if everyone would stop asking me that."
Sandy nodded but was studying him carefully.
"Ryan! Coming in the pool?" Corinne called.
"Is that okay?" Ryan asked Sandy.
"Go ahead," Sandy said.
Luke walked over as Ryan started toward the pool. "Everybody's still watching you like you're going to break, huh?"
"Yeah." Ryan pulled off his shirt and set it on one of the pool chairs.
"Damn, man, AJ put a number on you, didn't he?" Luke remarked, seeing Ryan's bruised side.
"Looks worse than it is," Ryan muttered, his cheeks reddening slightly. He took a deep breath and dove into the pool.
"I think I upset him," Grace was telling Kirsten and Sandy later that afternoon.
"What?" Sandy asked, turning his attention back to her.
"I talked to him about his trust fund…he said he had to think about it," Grace admitted.
"Grace, I doubt it's all your fault. With all this new information and the loss of his mother and the fact that I'm making him quit smoking…he's going to be a little grouchy," Kirsten said.
"Do you think I was wrong? Offering him the money? I mean…"
"Grace, you're just trying to treat him like you treat your other grandchildren. He'll come around," Sandy nodded.
Ryan had retreated to the poolhouse to change clothes before dinner and wasn't surprised when there was a knock on the door. He walked over and opened it to reveal Graham and Evan. "Hey."
"Hi. Can we talk to you a few minutes? Out of the madness?" Evan waved his hand at his squabbling children that were still in the pool.
"Sure," Ryan shrugged and they followed him inside.
"We know that these past few days have been a little…surprising for you," Graham started.
"And springing a bunch of family members on you might not have been the best plan for welcoming you into the family," Evan echoed.
"But we would like to get to know you better," Graham continued.
"If you're willing to give us a chance…" Evan finished.
Ryan's gaze flickered between them as they talked, amused. He turned his back on him and walked over to his shelves, grabbing a button down shirt to put on over his wife-beater.
"Oh. I guess that's a no…" Graham said, startled.
"No, no…I'm just…not big on the talking. Give me a few minutes to catch up to you guys, okay?" Ryan said, settling him down with a smirk.
"I still can't believe you're Dawn's kid…she never could shut up," Evan said. Graham nudged him, shaking his head.
"No, its fine, you can talk about her. I…I just don't equate the Dawn you knew to the Dawn I knew, if you can understand that. I think she changed a lot…" Ryan said slowly.
"True. From the things I've heard…and seen…it must have been hard for you growing up," Graham acknowledged as Ryan sat down on the bed across from them.
"She never talked about her childhood…she didn't really talk about much of anything to me or Trey that I remember…" Ryan admitted.
"You knew that she had a drug problem?" Evan asked.
Ryan shrugged. "Mom and Dad always used drugs. She tried to quit a few times…court ordered rehabilitation, but…nothing ever really stuck. We got by."
"Kirsten and Sandy…they seem to be good people," Evan nodded.
"They are. They've done a lot for me. Shown me how a real family works," Ryan said.
"Mom said that you might be willing to get to know us…" Graham started.
"Yeah. I mean, you guys live pretty far, but…it's sort of weird for me. I don't mind…getting to know you guys. You all seem very nice." He tilted his head. "I can't say that I see much of Dawn in any of you…but like I said…Dawn was different here."
"We knew her when she was a girl…not a mother."
Ryan was clearly uncomfortable.
"We'll be back out here in a few months, getting Brent moved into the dorm and everything…maybe we could see you?" Evan offered.
"That'd be nice," Ryan shrugged.
"And maybe you could keep an eye on him for me?" Evan winked.
Ryan relaxed slightly. "Maybe. He seems pretty straight-laced, he probably doesn't need a chaperone."
"Well, all alone in a strange state's going to be rough on him. After…after Dawn left us all those years ago…we're pretty wary about letting family go too far. When he told us he applied to UCLA, god, we had quite a few arguments," Evan smiled.
Graham leaned forward. "Ryan. You're not going to just walk away from us, you know. We're not like Dawn…we won't just forget about you and cut you loose. You're stuck with us now."
Ryan blinked, startled. "Oh. Well…okay."
"Don't listen to Graham. He's just needy for family. No kids of his own, he has to mooch off the rest of us," Evan grinned. "He's the most involved uncle that I've ever met."
"You didn't complain when I was always offering to baby-sit," Graham retorted, before returning his attention to Ryan. "But he's right. I try to be close to my nieces and nephews. If you ever need anything, to talk or just to bounce stuff off of…I'm always going to be here."
"Not a big talker," Graham smiled. "I keep hearing everyone say it but I still can't get used to it."
"Sorry. Seth usually fills up all the silences around here," Ryan muttered.
"Well, we better go round up the kids. You're staying for dinner?" Evan asked.
"I'm sort of grounded," Ryan admitted. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Good. See you later," Evan said, leading Graham from the poolhouse.
Ryan leaned back against his bed, trying to put his thoughts in order.
"He's asleep? Again?" Corinne sighed as Seth returned from the poolhouse. "Is he narcoleptic or something?"
"Sorry. I guess the lack of nicotine in his system is getting to him," Seth smirked.
"Damn. Did you try waking him up?" Lorraine asked.
"He seemed to be sleeping pretty well. He usually wakes up when I open the door, but he didn't move. He's pretty tired, guys," Seth apologized again.
"Who needs a shiny new cousin if he's not awake to play with?" Corinne sighed dramatically.
"Why don't we go out? If tonight's our last night, maybe we should make the best of it. Me and Cohen can show you guys the sights of Newport and then maybe Chino will be awake by the time we get back," Luke offered.
"Sounds like a plan. You think Dad will go for it?" Lorraine asked.
"We'll work on him, come on." Corinne winked at Luke and hurried inside.
"So. Is Chino really okay?" Luke asked Seth when they were alone.
"I don't know. I can't really tell anymore." He lowered his voice. "When he was going after AJ the other day…I've never seen him like that."
"His mom just died. Seeing someone that always hurt her…it had to be rough on him. I…I can't even fathom what his life was like growing up. I mean, did you see that apartment?" Luke asked.
"Yeah. I'm just glad he's home and safe with us."
"You didn't kick his ass for going to see his dad?" Luke questioned.
"Nah. I mean…like you said, it's hard for me to understand what his life was like before here. So I can't fault him for going to see him…he needed to do it. But I still can't tell if he's going to be okay. He's…quiet."
Luke nodded as the twins returned. "So? Are we 'go' for a tour?"
"Yep. As long as we're back in an hour. We have to go back to the hotel and pack before our flights tomorrow," Corinne smiled.
Ryan walked into the house and was surprised to find Sandy and Kirsten in the kitchen sharing a bowl of ice cream.
"Hey, kid. How're you feeling?" Sandy smiled at him.
"Better. Where is everyone?" Ryan asked.
"In the den watching CNN. We just snuck away for some drama-free time. Too much war and devastation's not good for us," Kirsten winked at him.
"Yeah, I get that." He sat down at the stool beside them.
"I hate to say it…but I'll be glad when it's just us again. Not that the Thompson's aren't nice and all…it's just been a long week," Ryan sighed.
"Have some ice cream," Kirsten said, sliding the bowl across to him.
"No thanks. I'm full of candy…" Ryan admitted. "Oral fixation's going straight to my hips," he joked.
Kirsten laughed and Sandy was clearly startled. "Are you saying that smoking is what helps you keep your girlish figure?"
"Shh…it's a secret," Ryan smirked.
Sandy reached over and patted him on the back, pulling him close. "Everything will settle down soon, kid."
"Thanks. For everything…I couldn't have made it through these past few days without you guys," Ryan said quietly.
"That's what we're here for," Sandy replied.
"We'll always be here," Kirsten smiled, squeezing her husband's hand.