For Diva5256

Pairing/Character: No specific pairing (although Kandy can be together) Focusing on Cohens+1 but other characters can pop up.

Prefered length : Any

Scenario Plot: Ryan gets into a dangerous situation thanks to trying to help someone he shouldn't (can be character of your choice). Either Sandy, Kirsten or Seth saves him and it makes Kandy address their absentee parenting over the last few weeks.

Ratings: Fairly low

Smut: Not this time

Specifics : I want lots of Cohens+1 bonding and possibly some Ryan based H/C Knight-Errant

Ryan emerged from the bathroom sleepy-eyed and damp-haired in his jeans and his socks. With one hand shielding his face from the sunlight, he groped for a wicker basket. Snagging a wifebeater, he started to fumble languidly with the armholes when he heard the poolhouse door slide open behind him. Instantly alert, he shimmied into the shirt, spinning around at the same time.

"Ah. Just you," he observed, as Seth shambled inside, stumbling over the ottoman. His mouth crinkled with amusement, Ryan sat down to pull on his boots.

With a morose wave, Seth flopped onto the bed. He crossed his hands over his chest and stared up at the ceiling. "The clowns will eat you," his wrinkled t-shirt cautioned.

Almost a full minute passed with no sound. Ryan's brows creased into an anxious question. "Um . . . Seth?" he prompted at last. "What's going on? I said 'just you' and you said . . . nothing. No retort, no quip, no snap back. Nothing. Are you okay?"

Seth heaved a deep, dramatic sigh. "I don't know, Ryan," he replied. He paused, puffed out his cheeks and exhaled heavily. "Am I okay? Are you okay? Are we okay? And by 'we' incidentally, I mean the entire foursquare Cohen-slash-Atwood clan."

"The . . . clan." Ryan squinted dubiously. "Seth?"

"Also you do understand that I'm using 'okay' in all senses of the word: psychic, emotional, psychological, spiritual. Cosmically okay, so to speak."

With a relieved chuckle, Ryan resumed tying his bootlaces. "So this is just your annual post-holiday depression then, right?"

"No, Ryan, no it's not." Seth rolled onto his stomach, cradling his head on a squashed pillow. "True, Chrismukkah is over. And that, of course, is always profoundly sad in the whole no-more-bright-shiny presents kind of way, but this . . . this is deeper."

"Ah. Something about Summer then." Ryan pressed his palms together and propped them under his chin, nodding sagely. "Go ahead. I'll hear it."

Animation brightened Seth's face, and he looked up eagerly. "Excellent. So, first of all, dude, this not about Summer--"

Ryan's silent, skeptical frown cut him off.

"It's not!" Seth insisted. He clambered to a sitting position. Even his curls seemed to bristle with hurt indignation. "I'll have you know, I do think about things other than Summer."

"True," Ryan agreed, ticking the items off on his fingers. "Graphic novels. Japanese cinema. Indie rock groups."

"You mock, my man Atwood, but I, the Ironist, am not deceived. Don't even pretend you haven't been, well, worried too. Or at least concerned."

His gaze plummeting, Ryan buffed the scuffed toe of one boot. "Concerned?" he echoed vaguely. "What about?"

"About Mom and Dad."

"Your parents are fine, Seth." The words sounded clipped, almost automatic, as if Ryan had anticipated Seth's answer. "They're both really busy and . . ."

"And preoccupied and distant and doing things that don't make a whole lot of sense considering who they are," Seth concluded. "Or who I thought they were anyway. Also, and you must have noticed this too, the Kirsten and the Sanford? Have pretty much been ignoring us lately."

"Seth come on," Ryan protested. "What about when we were choosing colleges? All your dad's advice? Enlisting his friend from Berkeley to come down here?"

"Pimping his alma mater isn't paying attention to us, dude. Besides, that was, like, months ago."

"Well still . . . we all spent a lot of time together during Chrismukkah."

Seth swung out his fist. At the last moment, he thought better of connecting with Ryan's shoulder and instead pounded the air in a sketchy power salute. "Exactly!" he proclaimed. "Way to make my point for me, Ryan. Mom and Dad hung around during Chrismukkah. But that, as everyone knows, is the universal season to visit estranged relatives, exchange hardy 'hail fellow, well mets' . . ."

"Hail fellow well-met?"

"Shakespeare. I think. Anyway, so not important. The thing is, people get together over the holidays because that's what they're supposed to do. Then it's back to business as usual. Well, my friend, Chrismukkah is over, and in Casa Cohen, business as usual means . . . business. And Mom and Dad? Gone again. Just like that." Seth snapped his fingers—twice, since the first time produced just a dull "pfff." "Vanished into the alternate universe of their appointment calendars."

Frowning, Ryan ran his thumb around the ridged edge of his watch. "That's not true," he demurred. "We see them at breakfast . . . well, sometimes. And we all had dinner together--"

"Chrismukkah gatherings don't count, remember," Seth cautioned.

"Okay, fine. Forget Chrismukkah. We had dinner together just . . . it was just . . ." Ryan's voice trailed off uncertainly.

"Ha! And I repeat, ha! There's no 'just' if you can't even remember the last time, dude. Seriously, Dad's all wrapped up in the Newport Group, like he's trying to salvage the Titanic or something. And Mom . . . She's running a dating service, Ryan! A freaking dating service! With Julie Cooper-Nichol-almost Cooper! First she tries cooking and now this. What did they do at Suriak? Stepford-wive her or something?"

A shadow flickered across Ryan's face. "Your mom's keeping herself occupied, Seth. That's important for somebody who's trying not to . . ."

"Drink, Ryan. Got it. I don't want Mom checking out the alcohol content of the cough syrup either. But if she's not going back to the Newport Group—and by the way, why the hell isn't she?"

"Don't know," Ryan confessed. His voice sounded distant. Crossing the room to get a sweater, he added over his shoulder, "But I'm sure she has her reasons."

"Then why hasn't she told us about them? Wait, you know why? That would be because Mom and Dad don't talk to us."

Ryan squirmed uncomfortably. "You're exaggerating, Seth."

"Not this time, bro," Seth insisted. "Or at least not so much. Anyway, if Mom does want a different job, shouldn't she be doing something, I don't know, Kirsten Cohen-y? Like . . . hell, opening an art gallery or working for the city planning commission or . . . something. You know, with substance. But a dating service? Come on, that is pure, unadulterated Julie Cooper- Nichol-almost Cooper."

"I know," Ryan sighed.

"And since when is Mom joined at the hip to Julie anyway?"

Ducking his head, Ryan hunched one shoulder. "They're friends," he mumbled. "They got really close because of your grandfather, I guess."

There was a pause as Seth smoothed out the comforter next to him. He glanced furtively at Ryan, who was twisting his watchband, letting the links bite into his skin. "I don't think she knows, man," he said at last.


"Mom. I don't think she knows Julie had anything to do with the cops arresting you for shooting Trey. I mean I didn't tell her. No way you would. And Dad—I don't think he wanted to risk upsetting her when she first got back from rehab. It was a lot, you know, for her to face all at once. And then . . . well, it was kinda too late."

"I didn't mean . . ." Ryan flushed. "Look, it doesn't matter."

"Sure it does. Ryan, you can't believe Mom would just be all right with Julie if she knew."

"No, I know. It's okay. " Ryan's voice wavered slightly. "That's not what we were talking about anyway." He snapped his watchband back on his wrist, an audible cue to change the subject, and Seth nodded tersely.

"Right. So. Back to the topic at hand: the mystery of the absentee landlord parents. What do you think, Joe Hardy?"

"Joe Hardy?" Ryan grimaced with disgust. "Please. I would definitely be Frank. And as for your parents being busy, Seth . . . we can't really complain. It's not like we're around the house much either."

"Ah, so true," Seth conceded, nodding until his curls bobbed. "But that is as it should be, because we, buddy, are in the prime of teenage-hood, our salad days if you will, when we sow our wild oats, cut loose, hit our sexual peak--"

Ryan flinched and held up a restraining hand. "Seth? Don't say sexual peak. Seriously."

"Fine. But see, Ryan, the thing is, Mom and Dad don't even seem to care that we're not around or even what we're doing lately." Seth buried his face in the pillow, muffling his next words. "They're supposed to care."

In the process of pulling on a blue sweater, Ryan paused to peer over its neck. "This really bothers you, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, it does." Seth produced a faint, abashed grin, but his eyes were bereft. "Okay, I know it totally makes me sound like I'm five, but—I miss them, man. The way they were when you first got here, remember? All overprotective and in our business and hovering and making us check in like every hour when we went anywhere? Hey, it was annoying as hell, but it was just . . . right."

"No, I get that, but . . ." Ryan swallowed. Recalling Sandy aborting conversations so he could rush to the office, Kirsten abandoning family dinners in order to visit Julie, all the curtailed greetings and goodbyes, he finished weakly, "Maybe they don't realize how you feel." At Seth's incisive stare, he amended, "All right, how we feel. But Seth, it's not like we're little kids. I mean, next year we're gonna be gone anyway."

Seth rocked forward eagerly. "Yeah but no," he argued. "See, that's exactly why this year should . . . shit, it should matter, Ryan. Mom and Dad should be hanging around, giving us useless advice, telling embarrassing stories about their college days, warning us about the dangers of random hook-ups and blowing off classes. Instead they're MIA. Or AWOL. Or, I don't know—some stupid acronym for just not around." Seth plucked miserably at the pillowcase. "Maybe it's not as bad for you, dude. You at least talk to Dad at the Newport Group offices."

"Not as much as you'd think." Lowering his eyes, Ryan busied himself hitching up his sleeves. "Mostly I just work with Matt." Despite his best efforts, disappointment seeped into his voice. "I suppose that makes sense though. My internship was his idea, really, not Sandy's."

"So you and dad don't hang out together either?"

Ryan's mouth curled in a small, mirthless grin. "It's a job, Seth. We don't hang out at all. Your dad's in his office, and I'm doing grunt work for Matt. Trust me, you're not missing any quality time there."

"Okay, that should totally make me feel better. But you know what? It doesn't." Glumly, Seth kneaded the pillow between his hands. "Quality time," he muttered. At the sound of his own words, he sat up, a slow smile tugging at his mouth until it fell into the craters of his dimples. "Ryan? Eureka!" Bounding to his feet on top of the bed, Seth bounced triumphantly. "Eufreakingreka! Quality time is exactly what we need. And we—by which I mean you and I, buddy—are going to demand just that."

A particularly exuberant jump pitched Seth over, arms flailing. Ryan caught him just before he hit the ground. "So what did you have in mind?" he asked wryly. "All of us gathered in your hospital room while you recover from breaking your neck?"

Seth straightened his bathrobe with ruffled dignity. "Nothing that drastic. But thanks for the save, by the way. No, just a family night, Seth-Ryan style. Dinner—our choice; videos--also our choice. Maybe thumb through some course catalogues together. Make lists of stuff we'll need next year when we're far, far away. You know, tug the old heartstrings. Remind Mom and Dad just what they'll miss without us here." Eyes sparkling, Seth smoothed his disheveled hair into place. "Summer and Marissa are doing that spa thing with Kaitlin after school today, right?"

Ryan nodded. "They're staying the weekend. Marissa is trying to make up for neglecting Kaitlin. And Summer--"

"Loves the whole cucumber and seaweed wrap experience," Seth concluded. "Yeah, I know. When I was at her place once she tried . . . Right, TMI. Not something I want to relive anyway. So the point is, I'm a free agent tonight. You?"

"I've got to work until six-thirty. But after that, yeah."

"Okay, then. Okay." His brow furrowing thoughtfully, Seth tapped his fingers together. "So I'll take care of ordering the food, selecting the movies, creating the appropriate bonding ambiance. You, RA, can simply show up. You want to write that down, or do you think you'll remember?"

"Yeah, I think I've got it," Ryan answered dryly. "But what about your parents, Seth? They might already have plans."

Seth gave his head a decisive shake. "If they do, they'll just have to cancel them. Let's go, Ryan. I'm about to perform my signature role, the persuasive, not-too-proud-to-beg son. You get to play the silent, supportive brother. Can you handle that?" Ryan shot Seth a quick, sideways glare. "Yeah, only no, that's not it. A little more wounded puppy, a little less threatening I-can-wound-you. Work on it, dude."

With a bow, Seth held the pool house door open, until Ryan, rolling his eyes, started across the patio.

In the kitchen, Sandy was slathering cream cheese on a bagel while Kirsten sipped coffee and entered notes in her PDA.

"Oh look, Ryan." Seth stopped short inside the doorway, clutching his chest with extravagant surprise. "Faintly familiar-looking people in our very own house. Sir, madam, allow me to introduce myself. Seth Cohen. Seth Ezekiel Cohen, actually. And you, sir, are . . .?"

"Your father," Sandy replied, shaking open the newspaper. He raised his eyebrows above the top of the front page "What's this about, Seth?"

"About?" Seth widened his eyes innocently. "Why, nothing father. Ryan and I just think it's quite pleasant to see you both here this morning. For a change."

When neither parent responded, Seth scowled. He filched the bagel from his father's hand and danced out of reach.

"Hey!" Sandy protested. "Schmear your own, son."

"You want your bagel back? Fine. I'll return it, unbitten. But first, mon pere, Ryan and I have a list of demands. Well, one demand anyway. Do as we ask and no harm will come to the bagel. Until you eat it, I mean."

"Seth! Ryan, what is he talking about?"

Shaking his head, Ryan held up his hands and retreated a step. "Don't ask me. I'm playing the silent, supportive part."

"The . . . what?"

Ryan held a finger to his lips, and gestured toward Seth with his other hand.

Sandy groaned. "Fine. Seth, explain yourself. Now."

"Okay." Grinning, Seth plopped down at the counter. He patted the stool next to him, waiting until Ryan sat down before he continued. "Here's the deal, Dad. Mom? Hey, Mom! Attention here, please! You need to be part of this too."

Kirsten frowned, pushed a button on her PDA, and checked her watch. "Hmm?" she murmured vaguely. "Oh, good morning boys. You both have a great day. I have to run. Julie says she finished designing our website last night and I'm a little worried about what she has planned." Draining the last of her coffee, she locked her briefcase and picked up her jacket.

"Wait! And what? No!" Seth protested. "You are not running out of here to look at some website design. "Sit, woman!"

"Seth," Ryan hissed, jabbing an elbow into his ribs as Sandy slammed the newspaper down on the table.

"I mean," Seth amended sweetly, "please give us a moment of your time, mother dear."

"Better," Sandy growled.

Arching her brows quizzically, Kirsten set down her briefcase. "I'm listening," she announced, her voice clipped and business-like.

"Good. Right. So . . ." His confidence failing under his parents' impatient stares, Seth leaned over to Ryan. "Tell them, dude," he whispered.

"Me?" Ryan protested. "I'm silent and supportive, remember?"

"Yeah, well, I decided you deserve a bigger role. Go ahead. You can do it, Snoopy."

Ryan glared, then sighed and nodded. "Seth . . . Seth and I, that is . . . would like you both to join us for a family dinner tonight. And a video afterwards."

He stopped. Kirsten and Sandy swiveled to face Seth, waiting expectantly.

"Right. What he said," Seth confirmed. He plastered on an ingratiating cheek-to-cheek smile. "Just the four of us. No interruptions, no distractions. Quality family time. Remember that, guys?"

Sandy's eyes widened with obvious surprise. "That's it?" he demanded. "That's all? You're holding my bagel hostage for a family dinner?"

"Of course not," Seth replied indignantly. "That would be . . . I . . . well, yeah, I guess so."

Her cool demeanor melting, Kirsten leaned down to kiss Ryan's cheek. "It's a lovely idea, sweetie." She turned to kiss Seth. "Both of you. But could I take a rain check? Julie and I are hosting a cocktail party for new clients at the country club tomorrow, and we have some last-minute details to go over tonight."

"And the contracting companies are submitting their bids today," Sandy added. "I want to review them this evening. But hey, guys, it sounds terrific. We'll do it real soon."

He reached for his bagel, but Seth passed it behind his back to Ryan, scowling furiously. "No! Tonight!" he argued. "Ryan and I are available tonight! Mom, Dad—come on. It's almost February. Which means almost March, which means almost spring, which means almost summer, which means almost August. Which, may I remind you, is when we'll be leaving for college."

Kirsten and Sandy exchanged startled looks.

"College," Seth repeated, elongating the word. "In other cities. Other states even. Perchance—dare I say it?—other time zones."

"Perchance, Seth?" Ryan whispered, handing back the bagel.

His eyes never leaving his parents, Seth leaned close to answer. "Shakespeare," he murmured. "Which you would know if you'd read more, buddy."

Peering at Kirsten over the boys' heads, Sandy smiled ruefully. "They will be gone before we know it, sweetheart," he observed. "I guess reviewing the bids could wait until tomorrow."

"And I suppose Julie can handle things at the club on her own," Kirsten mused. "All right, boys. What time would you like us?"

"Seven-thirty?" Ryan suggested after a glance at Seth. "So I'll have time to get home and get changed?"

Seth beamed. "Sounds like a plan." He rubbed his hands together gleefully. "So, I'm thinking maybe Chinese. Or Cambodian. Or pizza. And for the movie . . ."

"No Star Wars, no Lord of the Rings, no Spiderman or Batman," Kirsten warned. "And no Japanese anime, Seth. Not if you expect me to stay awake."

"Mother, please." Seth pouted, looking hurt. "For your information, tonight I plan to screen a classic."

Sandy raised his eyebrows. "Ah, a classic. That sounds intriguing. What do you have in mind? Citizen Kane? Casablanca?"

"No, but you're close, Dad. Tonight," Seth announced, "we will be watching . . . wait for it . . . the original version of King Kong."

"Um . . . Seth, how is that close?" Ryan asked.

Seth draped an arm over Ryan's shoulder. "Think, man," he urged. Kane . . . Casa . . . King Kong? K-k-k-k? They all start with the same sound."

Rolling his eyes, Sandy snatched his bagel back from Seth. "I don't think alliterative titles is a film genre, son. And it's Citizen Kane anyway. But I wouldn't mind seeing the original King Kong. I do have a thing for sexy blondes."

"Dad!" Seth yelped, as Sandy dropped a kiss on Kirsten's forehead.

"What? I'm just approving your choice, son. Right now, though, I do have to get to the office. Ryan remember, Matt's expecting you right after school. That proposal you two have been working on is due tomorrow."

"I know," Ryan replied. "I'll be there."

Kirsten straightened her jacket. "I have to run too before Julie launches our website without my approval or changes the company name again." She picked up her briefcase and brushed a hasty kiss on each boy's cheek. "See you tonight," she murmured, and followed Sandy out the door.

The kitchen settled into momentary silence. Seth held up Ryan's wrist and glanced at his watch. "Hmm . . . six minutes with all four of us in the same space at the same time talking to each other. I'd say that's a record for this month."

"They agreed to the dinner, Seth," Ryan pointed out as he pulled a box of cereal from the cupboard.

"True, that they did," Seth conceded. "And a memorable occasion it will be. Operation Restore Our Family Ties is underway." He popped a handful of Captain Crunch into his mouth. "I' jus' goes to roove . . ." he mumbled around his mouthful.

"Seth, that's disgusting. Chew. Swallow. Then talk."

Obediently, Seth finished eating before he continued. "It just goes to prove my theory," he declared, giving his own chest a self-satisfied pat. "United, Ryan? We are unstoppable."

Ryan frowned quizzically. "And divided . . .?"

"No, no "divided"!" Seth wagged a warning finger. "No negative thinking! Tonight everything goes according to plan. It's simple. It's doable. It involves no lying, no road trips, no girlfriends or evil deans or needy surfers or tattooed guys looking for a fight. And just so we're clear, what exactly is your part again, dude?"

"Um . . ." Ryan hedged, teasing. Seth glowered and he grinned. "Be here?"

"Exactly. Here and—this is important—on time."

"Here and on time," Ryan repeated. He tossed a piece of cereal in the air and caught it in his mouth. When he finished chewing, he crossed his heart and held up two fingers. "Absolutely. No problem, Seth. Just like you said . . . tonight everything goes according to plan. Hey, what could go wrong anyway?"