Playlist: Let it Die by Feist :: Love Burns by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club :: I Want you Back by The Kooks :: Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie

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He'd always been the one to get her out of things, and he'd learnt to accept it. He wasn't sure what she would have had to deal with if he hadn't been around to flex his hero complex. But this time, he wasn't sure he could save her. The eyes, innocent when he'd first met her, stared up at him out of a hollowed face. She'd aged since the top of the hill; curving cheekbones now gaunt, neck sinewy and slender. He knew he should get help, knew he needed to call someone, find someone… Anyone. Instead, she asked him to stay. He was as powerless now as he had always been, and remained kneeling beside her, cradling her feather light body, watching the life sink from her like the ocean drowning the sun. He brushed her hair back, oblivious to anything but this time, this space, this horrible, neverending moment he was caught in. Then she was gone, motionless, a beautiful, inanimate object left in his arms. Ryan held her, brought her closer, as if his life could be transferred, make her eyes dance again, the lips curve. It was like watching himself in a movie, seeing himself from high above, holding her, wondering how this could be happening, how she could have been so alive, and then…

Ryan held her closer, willed the rubbery arms to hold him back, ignored the tears that ran down his cheeks, over hers. He screamed, hoarsely, knowing no one would scream back, knowing noise and raw pain could not create a force strong enough to bring her back to him.

He wasn't sure how the police got there, or the ambulance, or how he came to be sitting in the hospital. He vaguely remembered someone wearing bright clothing prising Marissa out of his arms, pulling her away, replacing her with a blanket. He was wrapped, hustled into an Ambulance, driven away from the bed she was laid on and the black bag they were zipping over her. The ride back along the road, back to Newport, was nothing but a blur of having his pulse checked, a torch shone into his eyes, a gloved hand holding his trembling one. Then they were at the hospital, and he'd started shouting her name, unable to believe it had happened, that the moment on the road in the dark was anything more than a dream, a nightmare.

He'd taken swings at walls, not noticing the blood that came to the surface on his knuckles. Orderlies in white uniforms came to him, grabbing at his arms. He swung blindly at them, wanting to displace the anger, the futility he felt. He should be with her, saving her. Instead he was being hustled into an examination room, told to take his shirt off, pushed down to sit on a bed.

With a cry of desperation, Ryan pushed at the unfamiliar faces and made it back out to the corridor. Another orderly ran at him, ended up on the ground from a well placed punch. Through blinding tears, Ryan punched the next figure that came at him, continued on without a destination in mind. He knew he needed out, needed to see be seeing her off at the airport. Needed for her to be on a plane, headed to the Greek Islands, away from Volchok, away from Newport and that part of the road. Instead, she was probably headed for the basement, for cutting, examining, dissection. For rough hands to touch her slender frame and not know how much it meant to other people.

Another figure came towards him, and he vaguely recognised the dark hair before his fist connected and he, too, was on the ground. Ryan took a swing before he heard the voice, felt grateful for the familiar sound.

"Ryan, its Kirsten. It's okay, honey, it's me." Somehow, miraculously, she'd stepped under his fist, come in to wrap her arms around him. Her words fell, comforting, on his ear as her head nestled next to his. Slowly, he lowered his bleeding hands and enfolded her in them, letting his head drop to her shoulder, feeling his naked fear and grief dampened by her very presence.

Sandy slowly lifted himself up off the floor and looked at Ryan, clinging to Kirsten, bloodying the back of her white jumper. He steadied himself on the wall, rubbing a hand along his jaw. He knew the kid had a good right hook, but he'd never before experienced it first hand.

Kirsten was still holding onto Ryan, and his hands hadn't loosened from the death clutch he had her in. Sandy caught sight of the tear tracks down Ryan's cheeks, couldn't begin to imagine what he was feeling. Marissa Cooper had been Ryan's introduction to Newport, sharing a cigarette with him at the bottom of the drive while Sandy had smoothed the way for Ryan to be allowed into the house. Now Kirsten, the original reluctant party of the arrangement, was hugging her adopted son to her. Sandy had been slugged and Marissa… Marissa was somewhere darker.

Slowly, slowly, Ryan released his grip on Kirsten long enough for her to lead him into the examination room he was in before. She sat on the bed beside him, an arm around him, her free hand holding both of his. He was clinging to her as if she was a lifeline and, without her, he might just drift away. Sandy was watching them from the doorway, still softly rubbing the bruise he could feel already forming on his jaw.

"Dad…?" Seth's voice made him turn, look down the hallway. Loping towards him, Seth's eyes were questioning. Sandy had told him only that Ryan was in an accident and that they were all at the hospital. Looking past him, Seth could see Ryan wasn't up to visitors. His eyes met Kirsten's, teary blue meeting questioning brown before he retreated with Sandy into the hallway.

"What happened? What's wrong?" Seth's voice was bordering on panic tinged and his eyes related dread mingled with uncertainty.

"Ryan was driving Marissa-."

"I know, I know that." Seth interrupted him, wanting him to get to the main story. Sandy didn't blame him for it; he would also want to know exactly what happened without the requisite padding, but he needed the build up to ease himself into telling Seth what he didn't quite yet believe himself.

"Something happened, we don't know what, that caused Ryan to crash. He seems okay…" Sandy paused, knowing he was explaining only the physical and not touching on the mental. He didn't even want to start to consider how this had affected Ryan's emotional state, but he knew he and Kirsten would have to, to decide how to deal with it. How they could be there for Ryan.

"Marissa?" Seth immediately jumped to the next logical conclusion. Through Ryan's time with them, Marissa had been someone whom he had fought tooth and nail for. Even when they both claimed there was nothing between them, and they were seeing other people, there was always something there, some invisible thread that had bound them together.

"She… she died, Seth. They found Ryan holding onto her. He'd carried her away from the car, but her injuries… and the shock…" Sandy bit his lip, closing his eyes a little as he pulled his son to him. He knew Seth and Marissa had barely spoken, if at all, before Ryan had moved here. But he knew she'd been there all of Seth's life; next door, at his school, as Ryan's girlfriend, as his girlfriend's best friend. She was a constant in all their lives, had become related through marriage, had used their house as a base when she needed a time out from her family. Sandy thought of the waste of life; she'd followed a wayward path more than once, but she was smart enough to realise when she was in too deep, resourceful enough to pull herself out. And now… Now she didn't have the chance to realise it was too far, that she should come back to them. Now she was going to be a constant only in their memories.

To everyone looking on, it might be just another day at the hospital; in the hallway, a father hugging his son. In an exam room, a mother providing some sort of solace for her son. In the morgue, just another body rolling in.