Disclaimer- I own nothing to do with the OC. Apart from a copy of the Season 1 box-set, he he!

Sandy jogged up to Seth's room when he heard Kirsten yell.

The sight that met him was Kirsten, fuming, kneeled down on the floor next to Seth's bed, looking underneath it, Trey next to her, but further underneath, and Seth standing tapping his mothers back, repeating again and again the same question:

"Mum, what does that word mean? Mum, what does that word mean? Mum, what does that word mean? Mum, what does that word mean? Mum, what does that word mean…"

Sandy smiled to himself, it may be hectic, but this was the kind of family life he had always dreamed of- three kids, close in age, and him and Kirsten really mucking in. Don't get the guy wrong he loved Seth and Kirsten more than anything, but there had always seemed like there was something missing. Looks like he'd found it. Now he just had to talk Kirsten round…

"SANDY! A little help?"

Sandy snapped out of his daydream, quickly, he crawled under the bed with Ryan, causing Trey to start back out from beneath it and leaving Kirsten free to distract Seth from his questioning with the offer of milk and cookies.

Trey unwillingly followed when Kirsten grabbed his hand, in a rather snappy manner, to take him downstairs too.

This left Sandy and Ryan alone under the bed.

Ryan allowed his deep blue eye's to catch Sandy's brown ones for a moment before they flashed back down to his hands. He noticed that Sandy's eyes were very nice eyes, and weren't bloodshot from drugs and booze. That was something Ryan didn't see very often in grown-ups eyes.

"Hey kid, don't be scared, OK? There is nothing, nothing to be scared of here, all right? Kirsten and me will never, ever hurt you. Now why don't we crawl out from under here and go get us some milk and cookies before my greedy son and your greedy brother eat them all, eh?"

Ryan looked up into Sandy's eyes again. Sandy was right, he wouldn't hurt Ryan, Ryan could see it in his eyes. But he wasn't so sure about Kirsten; she had seemed stern and angry when Ryan had met her. But, Ryan decided that he was pretty hungry, and so long as he kept near Sandy he would be all right, besides, he didn't want to leave Trey alone with Kirsten for too long.

Slowly but surely, Ryan crawled out from beneath the bed, and Sandy crawled out with him. As soon as they were both standing straight, Ryan clutched Sandy's trouser leg like a security blanket. The two of them walked downstairs together, Ryan's blonde head peeping out from behind Sandy.

They entered the kitchen, where Seth was talking far too fast to make out exactly what he was saying and Trey was perched nervously on the edge of a chair, sipping at a glass of milk as though it may be poisoned. Kirsten was sitting at the head of the table, still looking a little peeved, but less so than before. If Sandy hadn't known her better, he would have sworn she was warming to Trey, Seth at least certainly seemed to adore having another kid around to talk to.

Sandy poured Ryan out a glass of milk and sat down next to his wife. Ryan followed him, still clutching his trouser leg and watching as Sandy placed the milk on the table.

"Hey kiddo, take a seat."

Ryan just looked at Sandy helplessly. The only other spare seat was on the other side of Kirsten, an awfully long way from Trey or Sandy, and an awfully close way from Kirsten. So Ryan didn't sit down, he just tiptoed and reached up at the glass on the table.

"Whoa kid…"

Sandy started too late, as the glass came crashing down on the floor in front of Ryan, spilling milk and fragments of glass anywhere.

Ryan froze and quickly lifted his arms to shield him from his inevitable punishment. But none came. Instead, Kirsten jumped to her feet to grab a mop and bucket, whilst shushing Trey, who had also been startled by the noise. In the Atwood house, smashing glass could mean only one thing.

Sandy too reacted quickly, scooping up a petrified Ryan from the middle of the smashed up glass before the poor little fellow cut his feet. Ryan tensed at this but decided not to struggle. In the long run, that usually just made it worse, he had learnt from experience.

"Hey buddy, you have to be careful with glass stuff OK? Tell you what, tomorrow we'll go shopping and get you a nice plastic kitchen set, Hey?"

Ryan just looked at Sandy, terrified and helpless. Why was this man patronising him not hitting him? Something wasn't right, why was he holding on to him with a soft touch, not painful grip?

Ryan didn't know, but he didn't like it, it made him nervous. Something wasn't right. He was scared a lot. He looked down all that way to Trey, who also looked petrified, sitting nervously on his chair. It was a long way down, and Ryan had always hated heights.

Then Kirsten bustled back in with a mop and bucket.

"Hey sweetie, I'll do that," Sandy offered. Kirsten looked up, and before she could reply, a scared stiff little boy was passed into her arms.

Ryan looked up at her with big deep blue eyes. They were nice eyes, Kirsten thought, sweet, but they were worryingly wise for such a young boy. Ryan gulped. He was scared of Kirsten. Then again, he was scared of heights, and it was a long way to fall. Ryan decided that there was nothing scarier than heights, so instead of struggling clung onto Kirsten for dear life in case he fell.

Kirsten returned his tight little white-knuckle grip with a soft hug and a chin on his head. Maybe this kid wasn't too bad after all. This wasn't his fault, she thought, as she rubbed his tense little back and felt his heart beating ten-to-the-dozen underneath his rib cage. Somebody had obviously done some terrible things to this little boy and his brother, and Kirsten certainly wasn't going to let them get away with it. Trey and Ryan, she decided, were not going back to Fresno…

Please reply! Merry Christmas!