Chapter 1: Moving Day

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Author's Note: This is my first AU and I'm not entirely sure where I want to go with this. It was just an idea that came to me when I was watching the first season again. This picks up after The Girlfriend, but during the time between the The Gamble and The Girlfriend, Ryan's mom was looking for a place to get settled in Newport. Luke and Marissa never broke up, and Seth has made no progress with Summer. Please R/R!

"It really is gonna be different this time, Ry," Dawn assured her son in a tone that pleaded for forgiveness for all the times it hadn't been different and he'd had to take care of her when it should have been the other way around.

He nodded and she wondered if he was listening to her at all. His mind seemed to be back at the Cohens, with Seth and Marissa. He had looked heartbroken as he'd walked away from them and it pained her to see that her son had grown to love strangers so quickly.

"A.J. and I are done for good."

Ryan raised an eyebrow at her, but didn't say anything. She pulled up to the house she'd told him about, the house in the numbered streets of Newport. "So, what do you think?"

There was no furniture scattered across the lawn and the house looked well kept. A few bushes lined the front porch and the mailbox looked like it'd only been hit by a car a couple times. "I think it's great, Mom," Ryan replied, reciting what he knew she needed to hear. Dawn embraced him. "I've gotta go call Seth. He made me promise to call as soon as we got here."

Up until the previous night, Ryan had been staying with the Cohens. He had started a job at the Crab Shack, which he was glad he would be able to keep. Donny had taken him to some parties and they had been blissfully familiar. They were the kind of people that Ryan knew how to handle. Cotillion had been a nightmare. He had initially been paired with Anna, a girl from Pittsburgh, and she was cool, but Summer had somehow talked Marissa into pairing Anna with Seth and her with Ryan.

Ryan didn't feel right being with Summer, knowing that Seth had been in love with her for years. At first, Seth had glanced over at them every few seconds, warning Ryan with his eyes. But luckily Seth and Anna were really hitting it off and Seth was distracted by his conversation with her. Summer wasn't quite as bad as he had thought she would be. She'd opened up to him a little bit, and he might even consider her a friend at this point. In a weird and twisted sort of way.

When the phone rang at the Cohen's house, Seth practically jumped on it to answer it. He'd been crushed that Ryan would no longer be living with them but he was thrilled that he was staying in Newport. "Hello?"

"Hey Seth, it's-"

"Ryan! Hey. So you're there? How's your mom? 'Cause you know if things aren't going well…"

Ryan rolled his eyes. He'd been gone for fifteen minutes. "It's good so far."

Seth tried to hide the disappointment in his voice, knowing it was selfish. "Good."

"So have you talked to Anna since Cotillion?"

"Yeah, actually we're going to Comicon together this weekend. Do you wanna come?"

"I should stay here and help my mom get settled. When do you guys start school?"

"And by you guys, you must mean 'we'…"

"We?"

"My dad thinks you should go to Harbor. He said it would better prepare you for college than Newport Union."

"College? Seth, I'm not going to college. And I'm not going to Harbor. I can't afford that."

"You have to go to Harbor. And my parents are going to pay for it."

"I can't let them do that."

"Okay, you try and tell my dad that." Knowing that he couldn't win this argument, Seth handed the phone off to Sandy mouthing, It's Ryan.

"Hey kid."

"Hey, listen about Harbor, I appreciate it, but…"

"If you go to Harbor, you'll probably be able to get some really good scholarships for college. They have really high average for SAT scores, and yours are already so high, having Harbor on your transcript might just be the extra push you need."

"I'm not going to college," Ryan insisted.

Sandy sighed. Ryan couldn't see his own potential, and Sandy wasn't about to let him throw away his dream, even if he didn't even realize he had a dream yet. "Would you do it for Seth?"

Ryan thought about his first night in Newport and it tugged at his heart. "Seth doesn't need me."

"He says he's going to go to Newport Union if you don't go to Harbor. So please Ryan, as a personal favor to Kirsten and I, and most of all to Seth, please let us do this."

Ryan sighed. "Okay."

"Okay?" Sandy was surprised that it had been that easy.

"Yeah. When do I need to register?" He was already wondering why he'd agreed to this. He wasn't looking forward to seeing Luke and Marissa together, but he figured he'd get over it soon.

Sandy smiled on the other end of the line. "Next Monday. I'll swing by and pick you up."

"Okay."

"Bye, Ryan."

Ryan bit his lip nervously. "Hey Sandy?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks," Ryan said so softly that Sandy had to strain to hear him.

Dawn knocked on the door to Ryan's bedroom. "Ry?"

"Yeah?"

She walked into his room and stood beside the bed. "I don't know if the Cohens talked to you about this, but they want you to go to Harbor."

"Yeah, I know."

"And I think you should." She sat down beside him. "I know you have dreams Ry, and I don't want you to throw away the chance to make them come true." She ran her hand through his hair, and it was the first time in a long time that she'd acted like a mother. "You're the smart one you know."

Ryan forced a half smile. "Okay."

A silence hung in the air and Dawn wondered if Ryan was angry with her, and if he wished he was back with the Cohens. She certainly wouldn't blame him if that was the case. "So, I just went and met our neighbors. There's a girl about your age."

"Hmm," Ryan mumbled without interest. He was still in the brooding phase over Marissa.

"She's going to be going to Harbor too, and since we only have one car and I'm going to need it to go to work, she's going to drive you to and from school."

"Okay." He'd stopped listening and was getting lost in his thoughts about Marissa. When he saw her and Luke leave Caleb's birthday party, his hands roaming over her body as she giggled with delight, he had felt like he'd been punched in the gut. Maybe I should have just taken Gabrielle up on her offer last night, he thought. They had had a heavy make out session in the pool house, but the moment she'd reached for the buckle on his belt, he stopped her and said they should get back to the party.

"Sometime before school starts, go over there and say hello."

"Okay."

"Ryan, are you even listening to me?"

"What? Sorry Mom, I was just thinking."

Dawn smiled tenderly. "I know you've got a lot on your mind. I'll leave you alone. I've got to do some job hunting."

She left, shutting the door behind her and Ryan flopped down on the bed. He wondered if things really would be different this time, but the Cohens had assured him that if it didn't work out, he was welcome back with them. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang, and Ryan glanced out the window.

He opened the door to find Seth nervously tapping his foot. "We've got a major crisis on our hands. I need your help."

"Seth, I think you need more help than I could possibly give you." He opened the door for Seth to come in.

"Oh, so you're funny now?" Ryan only smirked at him. "I'm glad my pain amuses you. Anyway, Anna and I are going to Comicon together, just the two of us."

"How romantic," Ryan replied dryly, as the two sat down on the extremely ugly, but comfortable couch in the living room.

"I know, isn't it? But here's the thing: I've never even been on a date with a girl and we're going to be spending the night together in a hotel room!"

"Are you guys even dating?" Ryan inquired. He'd quickly learned that Seth tended to jump to conclusions.

"I'm not sure. We haven't really talked about it, we've just been spending a lot of time together and…oh no. What if she just likes me as a friend? That's probably all it is to her, and I'm freaking out over nothing."

"Just relax and see how this weekend goes."

"Relax? Ryan, do you know me at all?"

He gave a small smile. "It'll be fine."

"You know what? You're right. I'll just be all cool about it and let Anna make the first move." They sat in silence for a brief moment, but Seth soon broke the silence. "So that shark movie is playing at the IMAX tonight."

Ryan surprised both of them when he broke into a full out grin. "I've been wanting to see that."

Seth noticed that Ryan was trying to stop himself from laughing. "Fine, I'll just go by myself and give your ticket to Chester."

Ryan laughed. He hadn't felt this good in years. Something about the Cohens helped him to forget everything that had gone horribly wrong in his life. He was beginning to think that maybe they could be trusted.