It was almost a relief when the whole Chrismukkah season was over, and the New Year had begun. With the start of the New Year, things slowly got better in the Cohen house.
By Christmas Day, Ryan was actually able to sit in the living room with the Christmas tree on without his sunglasses, but he still got frequent headaches. But slowly over time, the daily headaches did diminish until one night he realized he hadn't felt that familiar dull ache all day.
His speech too gradually returned to normal. There were still some problems when Ryan was tired or aggravated, but on the whole, he was finally able to speak 'not stupid' as he put it.
His other injuries were also healing. Not as fast as Ryan would have liked, but he was healing, nonetheless.
As with his health, his relationship with Seth was improving – slowly. Kirsten and Sandy were happy to see that both boys were learning from the accident. Seth did his best at keeping his promise to always try to have Ryan's back and not let Ryan do it all by himself. Ryan did his best to, well, not always do it all and to let Seth have his back.
The first time Kirsten and Sandy noticed was shortly after Ryan returned to school. They found him hunched over some books at the kitchen table one morning, studying for some test he claimed not to be ready for. They watched as Seth wordlessly placed a cup of coffee next to Ryan, and Ryan only grunted a response. Then Seth got out a glass of orange juice and Ryan's medications. He placed the orange juice next to the cup of coffee and bumped Ryan's shoulder to give him his pills. Again, Ryan barely acknowledged Seth as he popped the pills into his mouth and chugged the orange juice before turning his attention back to his books. Kirsten was about to say something about Ryan needing to eat but stopped as she watched Seth smearing cream cheese on a bagel. Again, this was placed next to Ryan wordlessly before Seth started making his own breakfast.
There were other changes as well, not so subtle changes. The first was around Sandy and Kirsten's anniversary, when Kirsten had called to ask the boys to polish the good silver. Rosa was away visiting her new granddaughter, and Kirsten was planning a special dinner for two. She was stuck working late and returned home to find only half of the silver polished. She immediately knew which one of them finished his chore and immediately went looking for the one who hadn't.
She found them both in Ryan's room playing Grand Theft Auto. One look at Kirsten's face and Ryan couldn't hide his smirk. He started to laugh as Kirsten dragged a slightly stunned Seth out of the bedroom and back into the kitchen.
As she lectured Seth about doing what he was told, she caught sight of Ryan standing in the doorway, smiling. She told him to go back to his room as he would be playing Play Station alone until Seth finished polishing the silver as well as washing the fine china. As he turned to leave, he saw her wink and smile, and Kirsten could hear him laughing all the way back to his room.
After that, it seemed like Ryan no longer felt the need to hide when he was annoyed at Seth. That fact took both Sandy and Kirsten by surprise at dinner one night when Seth continued to go on and on about Summer. Apparently Seth failed to notice Ryan's glare, until Ryan finally threw some Moo Shoo Pork at Seth, hitting him squarely in the face.
Kirsten tried to sound stern as she attempted to lecture Ryan about throwing his food, but really couldn't stop laughing long enough to sound all that serious. Sandy just laughed as Ryan just shrugged his shoulders and gave a very half-hearted 'sorry'. And Seth quickly changed the subject.
Of course, there were the low times, too - like when Ryan woke up with a fever of 102 – only two weeks after the doctor discontinued his antibiotic therapy. He wasn't happy when Kirsten decided to by-pass calling the doctor and drove him straight to the emergency room, not even giving Ryan the chance to change out of his pajamas. He was even madder when it turned out to be nothing very serious, but still required two shots, that did not go into his arm.
Plenty of bed rest and some brooding time later, Ryan was better. Soon though it was Seth's turn to be sick. He had expected to be carted off to the hospital as well and was mildly surprised when Kirsten just told him to go back to bed - she'd call the doctor when the office opened.
Questioning why only led to Sandy's explanation of Ryan's compromised immune system and some serious gloomy looks from Ryan that it seemed only Kirsten saw. Kirsten quickly ordered Seth into the car, pajamas and all and brought him over to the emergency room. She was actually impressed with Seth as he dropped his pants and demanded the same shots as Ryan. Embarrassed, yes. Kirsten was definitely embarrassed but proud nonetheless.
It was actually nice the first time the two of them got in trouble together. It started out as a simple argument over what to do on a Friday night. Seth wanted to hang out in the arcade down at the mall. Ryan wanted to go see a movie. They left without solving their dispute. All they knew was that they were going out and were expected home by 11:00.
Sandy sat in the living room at midnight waiting for them to come home, ready with his lecture and to hand down his grounding. At 12:15 – 1 hour and 15 minutes late - they both came slinking in, and quickly explained that after grabbing a bite to eat, they decided to hang out at the arcade for a little bit and then catch the late movie. They didn't realize the time until after the movie was over. They were sorry. They should have called. It would never happen again, and all the other normal teenage babbling that a parent usually hears at times like that.
Sandy was silently proud of the fact neither boy was willing to back down from what they wanted and that they were actually able to compromise. Still, he warned them not to let it happen again and sent them off to bed. He made sure they were both in their rooms before he proudly told Kirsten what happened.
No one would ever say the accident was the best thing that ever happened to their family. Not at all. It was the worst, most God-awful nightmare they had ever had to deal with. But they did deal with it, and they survived. And just maybe they were all a little stronger for it.
Seth learned that it was time to started acting his age and be more responsible. And Ryan? He also learned to act his age and be less responsible.