Disclaimer: Still don't own The OC. Sigh.

Author's Note: I know, I know. I should be working on my other project. But I got a bit stuck and this story was therapeutic. Best will continue. Promise.

That said…this is my Christmas gift to my wonderbeta, crashcmb. I offered to write a Ryan centric story and she humbly accepted. And then, I made her actually HELP me write it, and then I made her beta it. (Wow, what a friend am I.)

We started this story before the Chrismukkah episode, when Lindsay's character was less developed and her relationship with the Cohens was not really established. We changed things a bit after Chrismukkah, but obviously, given the most recent episode, our take on the progression of all the various relationships during winter break was a bit different than Josh's. Darn TV reality.

Anyway, hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.

It's all very self-indulgent.


Six Days After Christmas

By crashcmb and muchtvs.


Day one started the day after Chrismukkah.

Seth was grumbling, Sandy had a Chinese take-out indigestion hangover, complete with a pounding migraine, and Kirsten was pondering the return of an ugly-ass vase, compliments of a client whose name Ryan couldn't recall.

Of the three Cohens, Ryan felt the worse for Kirsten.

Sure, it was one fucking-ugly vase, but she wasn't really in the position to get rid of it.

The Cohen household was already one vase short.

"This sucks," Seth argued.

Too loud for Sandy, the poor man cringed in pain.

"I don't understand why I have to go. I hate the Emersons. Dad hates the Emersons." Seth pointed at his mother, "You go, you're the only one that likes them. Them and their stinky dog and the demon-seed twins."

"Seth," Kirsten tried half-hearted to slow him down, "the twins are older now. You haven't seen them for two years. I'm sure they are much better behaved."

"Yeah, you know what Mom? I seriously doubt that, ok? Evil grows stronger with time and good nutrition. Am I right Dad?"

"I don't know Seth," Sandy held his head, "I don't care. Just please stop talking."

"You're useless," Seth complained.

"Yes I am," Sandy agreed. "And so is arguing with your mother. So give it up and go pack."

"Ok, so, let's say I concede to this terribly unfair decision and go passively like a lamb to the slaughter. Explain to me again why Ryan doesn't have to experience the House of Hell."

The mention of his name snapped Ryan's head up. He looked back and forth between Sandy and Kirsten, praying that neither of them changed their position on the matter.

"Ryan doesn't know the Emersons, Seth. It's not fair to ask him to spend four days with perfect strangers."

"Plus," Sandy held a finger up even though his head lay flat on the kitchen counter, "Ryan has to valet at the Petersons' party on the 27th, right kid?"

"Yeah, right," Ryan nodded eagerly in agreement.

"And, need I remind you Seth," Kirsten continued her husband's train of thought, "that had you volunteered when Mrs. Peterson called a month ago, you too, would be free of this trip. But you said 'no, Ryan said 'yes', and now you need to go pack four pairs of clean underwear."

"Oh God," Seth groaned in disgust, flung his head back. "My life completely blows."

Not as much as that vase, thought Ryan.


She called as Ryan sat on Seth's bed, watching him throw wrinkled clothing into a duffel bag, listening to him bitch, rant, vex.

"Ryan," Kirsten came into the room, smiling, her hand holding the phone out in his direction. "Lindsay's on the line for you."

He blushed slightly, tried to suppress a shy grin, and accepted the cordless from Kirsten with his head down. He muttered a soft, "Excuse me," and left the room, his right hand protectively shielding the receiver.

He didn't say hello until he was out on the patio, away from everyone, alone with her.

"Hi," she couldn't see his smile, and he couldn't hide it any longer.

"Oh good, I got a hold of you. I have a favor to ask."

Fast. She spoke so fast. Quicker than any girl he had ever dated. Faster even than Summer. She never stopped to see if he was listening, never bothered to make sure he was paying attention to her. Lindsay seemed to always just assume he was with her, in both mind and spirit.

She was right. He always was.

"Yeah, uh, sure, I mean yeah. Um, what do you need?" Stumbling. Real smooth, Ryan. Moron

"Oooookkkaaay," she reacted to his mismanaged words. "Are you alright? You sound off."

"Yes, I mean no, I mean, yeah, I'm good." He paused, cursed at his sudden decent into stupid, assured her, "Everything's great. What did you need?"

"Well," she resumed her off to the races pace, "I managed to snag our next Physics project. And half of it is research based, and I figured, if you aren't doing anything with our time off, maybe with could get a jump start so all we would have left is the lab portion when we go back in January. I've got a monster English Lit. paper due January 15th, so less Physics would be a good thing."


"Is that a yes or a no?" She had a way of asking him something while actually telling him the answer.

She wanted a yes.

He gave it to her.

"Sure, sounds great. When do you want to get together?" Tonight? Tonight works for me.

"Tomorrow? The library is open, I checked. I can catch the bus and be there by nine. My stupid car is on the fritz again. My mom promised me she would take it in, but she has to work all week, so, you know, it's all city transport for lucky me."

"No," Ryan reflexively answered.

"No….you can't go tomorrow?"

He shook his head. "No, not no, I mean, yes, I can meet you, but I'll pick you up, don't take the bus."

"Ok, well, thanks. Eight thirty? I'll buy us coffee on the way."

"I don't know," he finally was easing back into his old confidence. He teased her playfully, "If I'm getting up that early to go to the library during Christmas vacation, I'm thinking you owe me a full blown breakfast."

"Fine," she taunted back. "Just make sure your lazy ass picks me up by eight o'clock."

"You're on," he answered, hung up on that note. It was fun getting the last word.

He walked back into the house.

The entire kitchen emitted a warm glow, white Christmas lights still hung all around, twinkling. Kirsten had several candles lit, their aroma permeating every room. This is how he always imagined Christmas would feel, in a real home, with a real family.

Upstairs, he could still hear Seth yelling periodic complaints down the stairway.

"Ryan honey," Kirsten opened up the fridge, "I stopped at the grocery store today and loaded up on all of your favorites. Make sure you eat something substantial while we're gone, ok? And go to sleep at a decent hour. You have all the numbers, right? Rancho Palos Verde is only an hour away. Call if you need anything."

She closed the fridge door and asked him, "Are you ok with this? Us leaving you alone? Maybe you should come. Seth is exaggerating; the Emersons are not that bad. Ok, their dog does smell a little bit, but everything else he said, pure hyperbole. Trish is one of my best friends. She would love you. She grew up in Newport, but she's no Newpsie.I just don't know if it's fair to run out on you like this. Maybe with everything that has happened you should come with us."

Panicked that Kirsten's misguided guilt might force him to go, Ryan quickly told her, "I'll be fine. I'm going to get some studying done and catch up on some sleep."

On her way out of the kitchen, she kissed him on the cheek. "Ok, well, you'll call everyday, right?"

He nodded, smiled, in his head told Kirsten, "I love you."

As he settled the cordless back on its' cradle, it rang.

Ryan glanced at the caller ID, pressed the talk button.

"Don't hang up on me again Atwood," Lindsay threatened. "You really don't want to piss me off during the Christmas season."


End of part 1