Thanks once again to melanie39 for all her help.

Thanks to all you kind reviewers...I love ya all.

Disclaimer - I own nothing.

Come Undone

Chapter 24

Ryan had made his way to his smoking place; it was behind a large tree at the back of the yard and out of view from the house. He could smoke here and not attract the attention of the kids in the house. The dappled light that filtered through the leaves was perfect for reflecting, the pile of cigarette butts told the tale. If he couldn't sleep he'd come out here, during the day when he wanted a quite few minutes away from the house, this was where he came.

He felt so stupid, why had he never thought that Danny would be leaving here. It was dumb; he knew this place was only a stopgap for people to get back on their feet. He just couldn't shake the feelings he was having about Danny leaving. As a child the move from Fresno had been waved in front of his nose like a magical carrot. Chino had been portrayed as a clean slate, a place where things would be better, and a place where nothing bad would ever happen again. Yeah, what a crock of shit that was. If anything it was worse…at least he had learnt to read his father's moods. The seemingly endless stream of drifters and spongers that replaced him were not so easy to judge and he'd had the fucking bruises to prove it. One thing Chino had taught him was that life wasn't a bowl of cherries and never would be.

What if Danny went on to have the same shit as he did? Becky seemed a million miles from what Dawn was like but what the hell did he know? Dawn could be charming and charismatic when she wanted to be, she had fooled enough Social Services people with her fine acting skills, and that was the problem. Fifty percent of the time she was together, she was fun, she was a great mom. A mom that made you laugh, a mom that made cookies for you when you came home from school. It was the other fifty percent that had made his life shit.

Dawn was always influenced by whoever was in her life at the time. If the bloke was a useless piece of crap then that's what Dawn became. It was like she leeched the bad qualities from the men by osmosis… that was the polite way of putting it…in reality she let whoever she was banging control her life because she was too weak and needy to do anything else. The few decent men she hooked up with had made such a difference to the Atwood house atmosphere but it never lasted…Mom had been drawn to the seedier side of life and it always seemed to win. The upshot was that Dawn had stood by whilst a series of men had used Trey and himself as punch bags because having someone in her bed obviously had priority over keeping them out of harm's way.

He wanted more than anything to protect Danny. He would not let history repeat itself. Ryan turned over the card he held in his hand. He wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve and gave a loud sniff. Danny couldn't become another statistic. Ryan wouldn't let it happen.

He looked at the battered card.

He wondered if Sandy had felt this way when he had handed him this card…. If he saw the same fear and uncertainty in him that day as he now saw in Danny?

Ryan thought about what would have happened to him if he hadn't rung Sandy that day. He'd probably be on the streets or more likely back in jail, carrying on the Atwood family tradition. The thing was, he couldn't explain why he had rung Sandy. The more he thought about it, the more it didn't make sense. He had slept rough before, hell he knew that if he'd rung Theresa back later that night when she had gotten home she would have sorted something out. Why had he rung Sandy that day?

He rested his head against the tree trunk and inhaled the smoke deeply into his lungs. Why wasn't anything ever simple in life?

Ryan had the feeling he was being watched; he looked up and saw Jenks staring at him from the branch overhead. Ryan reached out with his hand and the cat casually got up and nimbly climbed down the boughs and landed with a thump at his side. Ryan rubbed the cat under his chin; Jenks started purring like an engine and rolled over on his back for his tummy to be tickled.

"You don't know how lucky you are cat, you don't have to think beyond your next meal, sleep and tom cat-ing around. That's quite a life you've got there. I don't suppose you fancy trading places?"

Ryan jumped as Missy's voice broke the silence.

"You do know he's not going to answer you?"

"Hey!" Ryan kept his head bowed and concentrated on stroking Jenks.

"They're waiting for the cab…Danny is a little upset that you haven't been to see him off."

Ryan shut his eyes briefly. He could do this.

"Missy…I don't want to...I mean in front of people…" Ryan looked up.

Missy saw his red rimmed eyes and understood.

"I'll bring him out?"

"Thanks."

"You O.K?"

"Honestly…." Ryan's voice was shaky again, heralding the onset of more tears. "No."

Melissa knelt down and kissed him on the forehead.

"I'll go get him."

A few minutes later Danny stood in front of Ryan, uncertainty in his eyes.

"Don't you like me anymore?" he asked in the direct way kids have.

"God no Danny…it's not that …I just…. look sit down."

Danny sat and looked at Ryan with a confused expression on his face.

Ryan took a deep breath.

"I know we haven't known each other long but I'm going to miss having you around, I mean that…. Before you go I want you to have something and I want you to promise me that no matter what, you will keep this and call me if you need to." Ryan handed Danny Sandy's card. He'd written his extension in the pool house, his mobile and his name on the back. "If anyone gives you any reason to feel uncomfortable or hurts you in any way…promise you'll ring me… O.K?"

Danny nodded solemnly.

"I mean it, any time day or night... even if it's for a chat or someone is giving you grief at school…anything. Don't bottle stuff up Danny."

"But I don't want to go to stupid Madison, I want to stay here and help you fix this place, I want to stay here."

"I know you do kid, but sometimes we all have to do things we don't want."

Danny started crying, his sobs intensified and soon Danny was trying to catch his breath. Ryan pulled him in for a hug. Ryan remembered that first morning they had met and the days following. He had loved having the kid around, they had fallen into a natural friendship. Ryan supposed that it worked a bit like the dynamic he and Seth had where Ryan just tended to listen to the constant flow of words. Danny had gradually opened up to him and let slip things about his own father that had made Ryan's blood run cold. He'd thanked God that Becky had had the strength to do what his own mother hadn't and had gotten Danny away from the harm but Ryan knew that the memories stayed with you every waking moment. He wished so much that Danny would go on to have the happy life he deserved…so that maybe in time the good things would out weigh the bad memories, if that was possible.

Ryan spoke softly to Danny as the little boy clung to him.

"Don't let anyone ever put you down you hear me? Don't let anyone ever tell you that you'll amount to nothing Danny…. You can be whoever and whatever you want in life and don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise."

Danny pulled away still listening intently.

"Do you understand me? Don't become a shadow…be who you want to be."

Ryan knew this was probably going over the young boy's head but this was his only shot, he'd probably never hear from this kid again so he hoped that somehow this would sink in.

They both heard Sarah call out that the cab was here.

"Can you come with us?" Danny said quietly, clutching at straws.

Ryan shook his head; he helped the boy up and looked over to where Sarah and Missy stood.

"You better go now." Ryan gave him a weak smile. "Jeez Danny, you got me to cry. I'll cut you a deal; I won't tell anyone if you don't. Deal?"

Ryan wiped his eyes and Danny followed suit. Danny threw himself at Ryan's knees and hugged.

"I'm going to miss you. You take care." Ryan gently pushed him away. "You gotta go on maneuvres now soldier."

Sara held out her hand to Danny. He gave one last look at Ryan then walked to the house. Ryan laced his hands behind his head and let out a shaky sigh. Missy enveloped him in a hug, Ryan wrapped his arms around her and squeezed.

"Missy, I need to borrow the car…there is something I need to do."

Missy whispered in his ear.

"It's about time Ryan...tell them."


Ryan sat on the patio watching the ocean for a while before he picked up his phone and dialled.

"Hello…Sandy Cohen."

Ryan took a deep breath.

"Sandy, it's me…I think we need to talk."

"Ryan…is everything alright?"

Ryan paused before answering.

"No Sandy it isn't…. it hasn't been for a long time."

That hadn't been as difficult to say as he'd thought.

"Where are you…I'll come and get you?"

"I'm at your house…I mean at the house." Ryan sighed. "Sandy, I'm at home."

Sandy was waiting out front for Kirsten to arrive. He had to stop himself from rushing inside. His instincts told him that Kirsten needed to be here, this was the first time Ryan had reached out to him voluntarily and Sandy couldn't help but hope that this might be the turning point.

Kirsten screeched up in her car. She got out and slammed the door shut.

"Sandy, what's going on? How is he?" Kirsten was breathless as if she hadn't exhaled since leaving The Newport Group.

"I don't know Kirsten, I haven't been in yet. I was waiting for you."

Kirsten looked distraught.

"You don't think he wants to tell us that he's not coming back."

Sandy frowned…he hadn't thought of that scenario. He couldn't explain it but he felt that from Ryan's few seemingly ominous words over the phone that this was not something to worry about but there was only one way to find out. Sandy held out his hand and they both went into the house with some sense of trepidation.

They found Ryan sat at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee in his hands. He looked up as they entered the room. Sandy saw the same kid as he did that day in juvie, the haunted look was there, the tension in his body but there was one difference…. Sandy tried to put his finger on it, then it came to him…the attitude was missing. The piss and vinegar that Ryan had displayed at that first meeting and several times since was absent…instead a scared kid sat in its place.

The atmosphere in the room was charged, unspoken words seemed to float and dance in the air. Sandy let the kid gather his thoughts. Kirsten started to question Ryan but Sandy cut her off with a look and shook his head. Ryan seemed to be trying to figure out how to start the conversation and Sandy knew that it was important that he did, that he was the one to speak first.

Sandy watched Ryan as he sat with his hands cupped around his coffee, he was staring intently at it…then he took a deep breath before he spoke…his voice quiet and scratchy belying his nerves.

"I officially have no family now, Mom told me this week that she didn't want to see me anymore and Trey…well, Trey and me came to an understanding at Thanksgiving that it would be best if we severed ties. That's my family for you; we aren't exactly the Brady Bunch. The thing is I've always been used to being alone…even when there were people around me, I felt happy alone. I never needed anyone before. I don't let people in because I think what's the point? They aren't going to be around for long anyway…so what's the point? I don't like people interfering in my life…. I've always thought that that was the one thing I had control over…but I was wrong. I've learnt that I've never had control, that was a fucking illusion…my life has control over me. So what I guess I'm trying to say is sorry. I'm sorry that I take and give you nothing in return. You've let me into your lives, your home and I keep pushing you away because of my stubborn pride."

Ryan raised his eyes from his cup and looked at the Cohens.

"I realized today that I didn't have to do everything myself anymore, that you wouldn't have me here unless you didn't want me here. You've shown me that so many times and I kept questioning it. I guess I really need to work on my trust issues but I don't know how."

Sandy was so tempted to stop this, Ryan seemed so vulnerable sat there bearing his soul, his hands were shaking and twin rivers of tears were snaking their way down his cheeks. This must be torture for a kid like Ryan.

"The thing I realized more than anything today was I can't deal with what my father did... I'm not sure that I ever will. I feel dirty, ashamed. I've hated him more as the years have gone on but most of all I think I hate myself…. The bottom line is he abused us …he abused me and I can't handle it."

Sandy reached out and clung onto Kirsten's hand. He could see that she was trying to keep it together for Ryan's sake.

"I've tried to ignore how I feel, to lock this shit away but it's always there just under the surface and I don't want to have to deal with it anymore."

Ryan took and angry swipe at the tears on his face.

"I think I might be heading for the nut house…I can't seem to stop crying like a fucking baby recently…. I really need your help…if you're still willing to give it. I need you."

Sandy watched as Ryan looked from him to Kirsten as if after all he had said, he still expected them to turn him away.

"Oh kid!"

Sandy descended on him and hugged him, Kirsten was not far behind. Sandy doubted that he could breathe they squeezed so tight but Ryan didn't seem to mind.

There was a slightly awkward silence when they all broke away and wiped their eyes. Sandy lightened the mood.

"And Kirsten's not even a hugger."

Ryan gave a grateful laugh.

"Can I just say one more thing?"

Kirsten and Sandy waited with baited breath as to what the further revelation would be.

"Dr Green is a prick…. can I see someone else?" Ryan hoped that they wouldn't still make him see the odious bastard.

Sandy laughed.

"You're right Ryan. Dr Green IS a prick…we promise this time to find someone that you at least get on with."

The look of relief on Ryan's face was a picture…probably the same look Sandy suspected that Dr Green would have when they terminated his services.

It had been a long struggle but they seemed to have turned a corner.


Four months later

Ryan felt better than he had in years. O.K he hadn't exactly turned into Pollyanna overnight, he was still prone to his moods…he still liked to 'brood' as Seth called it but he was more relaxed. His probation had finished and he really felt like this was a fresh start. He no longer looked for hidden meaning in every word spoken to him and he was more open with the Cohens. He was still a very private person but he was trying.

Missy was still in his life. She was working full time at the refuge now. Once Kirsten had found out the true nature of the place she had thrown herself into a whirlwind of activity. There didn't seem to be a month that went by that didn't have a fundraiser for the place. Sandy had set up a trust ensuring that the shelter would have funding for many years to come. Sarah was so pleased that for once she didn't have to worry about the money side of things and she was even in negotiations to purchase another property in the next town and planned to open a shelter there.

Ryan still did all the maintenance around the place even though they could now afford to hire professionals. It was the one place Missy and he could be alone. The Cohens had kept the 'blinds up one foot on the floor at all times rule' at the house but here they had privacy. They thought that they were discreet but as they made their way out to the shed one afternoon they realized that maybe they hadn't been quite so stealth after all. The front of the shed now had a plaque on the door saying 'The Love Shack'. On opening the door they had found that someone had reorganized the place. It now held a single fold out bed and curtains had been tacked at the windows. A large bowl of condoms sat on the workbench with a notice to 'be safe' pinned on the wall. Ryan suspected Sarah…he also suspected that Missy talked too much and his continual pleas for just one more time without a condom had been discussed at length. Damn women and their need to gossip…but the place was an improvement and they didn't have to worry about removing each other's splinters anymore.

Ryan's new therapist was a definite improvement. The guy was informal and didn't put pressure on him. Sometimes the session would just involve going for a walk along the beach and having a general chat. Ryan liked him and was gradually opening up. He still hadn't broached the subject of his father yet but baby steps…and he still had a world full of shit regarding his mother to get through so he had time.

Things were good.


Missy laughed as Ryan checked through the bags on his bed for the third time in 20 minutes.

"The stuff hasn't changed since the last time you checked."

Ryan shot her a look.

"I just want everything to be perfect." Ryan responded, wondering if his gift ideas were going to go down well.

Missy wandered over and out her arms around his neck.

"It will be, although I'm not sure who's more excited about this visit you, Danny or Becky?"

"Becky?" Ryan raised his eyebrow.

"Don't act so innocent…you know that girl has such a crush on you. Why do you think I'm here...you need a chaperone to stop her jumping your bones. I think she's looking for a new daddy for Danny and I think she has her sights on you!"

Missy laughed at the look of horror on Ryan's face.

"You are SO easy to wind up but she does have a crush on you."

"That's because I'm so irresistible."

" Big headed much?"

"Hey, watch it or I might trade you in for a different model." Ryan winked at her.

"Keep talking like that and you won't be seeing any action for a long time mister."

Ryan pulled her into him and tightened his grip around her waist.

"Is that so?" He started to kiss her, Missy responded immediately. Ryan pressed himself against her, letting her know that he was feeling a certain amount of joy in the pant area.

Missy pulled away.

"Ryan, stop that! The house is full of Cohens and they'll have a fit if they catch us at it again and second, your guests will be here soon!"

Ryan looked at his watch.

"We have about eighteen minutes by my watch." He pulled her towards the bathroom. "If we're quick?"

"And who said romance was dead." Missy quipped.

Ryan pulled her into the bathroom and slammed the door.

Yup, things were definitely good for a change.

Fin

Sniff...that's it...the end. What am I going to do now? Thanks to everyone who has kept me going with the great comments and ego massaging. I love you all. big kisses all round