Disclaimer: We don't own anything OC related.
AN: Joey and I have been musing over the scene with Ryan in the water for days now and somehow along the way...this story came out. Here's the teaser. More to come.
God, it was so cold; he couldn't stop shivering. They'd shoved him in a holding cell for the night, still in his soaked clothes from the accident. The two beds had already been claimed by a couple of older men so he settled for the corner, leaning his weight heavily against the wall and sliding down onto the concrete floor. He lethargically pulled his knees into his chest, wrapped his arms around his legs and did his best to create warmth.
Kirsten. She was still unconscious when the ambulance had taken her away. He hoped he had found her in time; she had to have been in that water for a good twenty minutes; it had felt like so much longer.
He had begged the officers for information on her condition, but either they were ignoring him, or they couldn't understand him. He couldn't tell. Everything was blurry and he couldn't judge or react fast enough despite his best efforts. He knew they heard him ask for his lawyer, the larger officer behind the desk had grunted and nodded, handing Ryan a piece of paper to write down his attorney's name, but he'd elected to tell them instead, spelling out "Cohen" to avoid any "misunderstandings." But Ryan knew Sandy had to go to Kirsten first. He'd come eventually, Ryan told himself. Sandy would come and save him from this hell.
And he could wait for him…as long as Kirsten was okay. If she wasn't okay…if she wasn't okay…. He wouldn't think about that. He was too cold to process the guilt to think about that.
She'd be okay. She had to be okay.
She lifted the wine glass to her lips, savoring the sweet scent of the rich merlot before tipping the glass back and letting it flow across her tongue. It felt strange drinking in the bedroom – or at least drinking in the bedroom alone. She shrugged it off as best she could and focused on staring out the window, tracing the rim of the glass with her finger.
She hadn't wanted to go to work, so she didn't. It used to be that she couldn't last an hour without worrying about work but lately, she was finding that she cared less and less about her career responsibilities.
Her Dad was on top of the world again, the smiling spokesman of the Newport Group with his pride and joy, Julie Cooper, on his arm as CEO at every event and in every photo shoot. Sandy had quipped that Julie Cooper should never be given an executive name that starts with the word "chief;" the world was barely large enough for her ego as it was.
Kirsten had begun to hate going to the office – seeing the way people looked at her, like she was second best. Why else would Julie be heading the corporation after only a few months of marriage when Kirsten had been busting her ass to run that company for years? It had become crystal clear that no matter what she did or how hard she worked or what extraordinary profits she turned, she would never be good enough for her father.
She wished she could hate him more.
But he was her father and he was trying to save his marriage.
At least they called it a marriage. Kirsten knew the truth. Jimmy had confided in her a few weeks back. She was well aware of the fact that Julie had been fucking Jimmy for the past three months. But Jimmy had begged her not to tell Caleb, so she didn't. She didn't tell a soul. Instead, she stayed home from work. She drank wine in the bedroom and stared out the window. Hating her father was actually getting easier.
She couldn't look Julie in the face anymore. The smirk on her face, the hypocritical mask that she wore was too much for Kirsten and she'd have to fight not to gag or throw a punch or do something exceedingly dramatic with another vase.
It was all too much. She couldn't go to work.
Staying home wasn't much better. Sandy was never home. He was trying to get his fledging law office off the ground and she rarely saw him before midnight. Every night she sat up and waited for him, reading a book but unable to focus on the blurry words and lengthy sentences. He'd stroll in with heavy eyelids and messy hair, methodically strip down to his boxers and crawl into bed beside her, too tired, worn or simply uninterested to carry on a conversation.
She couldn't be mad, or allow herself to feel unwanted. Sandy had lost his job because of her father. He had to do what he had to do, and even though things were rough in the upstart, he was happy. He deserved it. He shouldn't be stuck at home with Kirsten and her misery anyway.
Seth had settled back into Newport, finally. He seemed happy for the few moments she got to spend with him in the morning. He babble on about being friends with Summer and about dating a spitfire named Alex. Back to normal after his absence.
And Ryan was happy, too. He'd started dating Kirsten's new sister, Lindsay. Or he'd been dating, she wasn't really sure. But they were good together. Lindsay probably would have never accepted her place in their strange family if Ryan hadn't been here to help her through. They were a nice couple.
Kirsten saw Ryan and Lindsay more than the rest of her family. Ryan was almost always home – cooking for Lindsay or studying with her in the poolhouse. It was nice to see Ryan acting like a normal teenager instead of an adult.
She knew he was worried about her, though.
Last night, after polishing off a near-full bottle of wine, she'd fallen asleep on the patio. Much to her surprise, she'd awakened in her bed. Sandy hadn't come home yet, so she knew that Ryan had to be the one who'd carried her inside.
He hadn't mentioned it to her yet and for that she was grateful. She didn't want to have to explain herself to him; she didn't want him to think he had to take care of her.
She didn't want him to tell on her either. It sounded childish and immature but Kirsten felt like she was a seven-year-old child who had been sneaking cookies from the cookie jar. It was accepted, but also forbidden. She knew she was drinking more than she ever had in the past, but she wasn't in trouble. She was just "down." She'd come back up. She just needed some time to come to terms with the changing dynamics in her life.
She stopped her finger, suddenly aware of the echoing hum coming off of the crystal. She finished the last sip, this time swallowing quickly, not allowing the rich liquid to dance across her taste buds before swallowing. She reached over for the bottle, pulled out the cork and refilled her glass.
"Ryan?" Lindsay said his name quietly when he walked through the door leading into the kitchen.
"Yeah?" he asked skeptically, pulling up beside her and linking his hands together on the counter, pulling at his fingers. He looked nervous, like he knew he was preparing for a lecture or something. He hadn't done anything wrong, though. He'd just put Kirsten to bed again.
"Does she always drink…this much?" Lindsay asked. She was falling in love with Ryan and she hated seeing the way he instantly looked up at her – a flash of hurt crossing his face. She liked Kirsten a lot; Lindsay thought she was a great mother and a great woman. But over the past couple of weeks, more often than not, Kirsten had been drunk before nine pm and Lindsay could see that it was affecting Ryan. She hated watching him try to deal with it. She hated watching Kirsten deal with it.
"No," he answered quietly, his eyes flickering around the room as he spoke. "Only lately. She's been pretty upset about…things. She'll be better when Sandy's around more," he finished slowly, nodding at the end in satisfaction, like he'd just convinced himself.
Lindsay sighed and leaned into him, their shoulders touching, trading warmth and comfort. "You…it really bothers you, doesn't it? To see her drink?" she asked, reaching over and pulling his hands apart, lacing her fingers through his.
Eventually, he turned into her, pulling her into his arms.
"I don't like seeing her like that," he said into the top of her head. She smiled when his breath warmed her scalp. "She's…she's always been so strong."
"So, drinking…it makes her weak?" Lindsay mumbled, trying to grasp where Ryan's stance was on this matter.
"No, no, not like that. It's just…she shouldn't have to drink to get by, you know? It's like a crutch or something."
Lindsay nodded, her cheek brushing against the soft cotton of his wife beater. He was always so soft – so comfortable.
"My mom…she drank a lot…constantly, actually. I can only remember a few times when she was completely sober. And I know that Kirsten's nothing like my mother, but anything that reminds me of that time in my life…it bothers me, I guess," he finished in a whisper, like the recollection alone had drained him of all emotional strength.
Lindsay tightened her grip around his waist in silent understanding. "Have you told Sandy?"
"She…she swears she's fine. I can't tell on her. She'll tell him when she's ready."
"Caleb?" Julie called, dropping her bag on the table with a thump.
"In the office, JuJu," he answered from his office.
She walked toward the room and he immediately turned in his chair, setting down his newspaper and walking over. He placed a hand on the small of her back and laid a kiss on her cheek. "Where've you been all day? You missed the board meeting and we were supposed to have dinner together --"
"I was at the doctors," she interrupted.
His face was immediately lined with worry. "Is everything all right?"
Julie did her best to swallow the butterflies that were fumbling in her stomach and climbing up into her throat. "Well," she said quietly, looking up to meet his eyes, "I have some news. Hopefully…it's good news."
He showed signs of a faint smile, but fear of the unknown was obviously holding him back. He waited patiently for her to continue.
"I…I'm pregnant," she blurted out finally. The words seemed to echo off the four walls of the large office, causing the statement to play over and over again in Julie's head. She shut her eyes tight, waiting for Caleb to say something, but he didn't. She was relieved that his hand was still on her back but realized that could easily be because he was having some sort of stroke that was rendering him immobile.
She pried her eyes open slowly, lifting her gaze to search his face, but found she couldn't quite read his expression. It looked at first like surprise, and then maybe confusion, he appeared to settle on…nothing. He was completely blank.
"You're pregnant," he repeated, staring past Julie.
His hand slipped off her back and the butterflies began to flutter up a storm.
"I know, I'm a little old to be thinking about having more kids" Julie rushed out, rambling through her panic, "but I'd love to have your baby, Cal --"
"It's not mine," he stated flatly.
"What?" she yelled immediately, placing her hands on her hips. He didn't know about her fling with Jimmy, they'd made sure of that, she'd made Jimmy swear not to tell anyone, especially not Kirsten or Sandy. There was no way Caleb could know, so she was damn well going to be pissed off by his accusations.
"It's not mine," he reiterated, finally meeting her eyes. "Which begs the question, who have you been seeing?" His voice was even but the anger in his understated expression crystal clear.
"I…how the hell do you know it's not yours?" Julie shot back incredulously.
"I had a vasectomy after the…whole Lindsay accident. And again I ask, who have you been seeing?"
Julie felt a rush of heat surge through her body, and she prayed her make-up was preventing her face from turning crimson.
How could she not have known? He was old; of course he'd have had a vasectomy. It was, like, mandatory after 60 or something….
"I haven't been seeing anyone else, Cal," she answered defensively. Lying just came so naturally to her. Sometimes she even found it difficult to tell the truth.
"Liar. I think you should leave. I'll have Sandy contact your lawyer in the morning," he said flatly, turning his back and walking back toward his desk.
"Caleb, it's…," Julie tried to stall, but she couldn't even think up an excuse. That never happened. This certainly was not supposed to happen.
"Don't lie to me anymore, Julie. Don't. Just get out," he said, picking up the phone and starting to dial.
Julie huffed loudly, spinning on her heel and storming out the door.