1Title: Desert

Rating/Warnings: Not much to speak of

Disclaimers: I own nothing in relation to the O.C.All mistakes are mine.

Summary: Brandywine LJ Hiatus Challenge, This was my first idea, but I just couldn't get it right. I chopped it down and this is what is left. Once again, my sentence was His pain was like a desert,

Desert

His pain was like a desert, a barren wasteland, devoid of all hope. The worst part was that he brought it on himself. His whole life he had blamed others for his mistakes. He was just a product of the Atwood bad luck. When he got caught shoplifting at ten, it wasn't his fault. His mother was too drunk to provide for him and Ryan. When he started getting drunk and stoned at thirteen, it wasn't his fault. He needed something to forget his crummy home life. When at sixteen he started staying out all night, it wasn't his fault. He had to stay out of the way of his mom's boyfriends. Even getting arrested that night, he blamed Ryan. If he hadn't hesitated and got in the car when he told him to, they would have escaped the cops. But this, this was all his fault. He had been the one to screw up.

He should have never gotten involved with Jess. He knew she was trouble the moment he laid eyes on her. When you had been around as much as he had, you could spot the users a mile away. However, he had just gotten out of prison, and she was ready and willing. Still he should have never let it go further than a one night stand. He still didn't know why he let her manipulate him the way she did. He guessed they both just enjoyed using each other.

He had made the biggest mistake of his life by attacking Marissa. She had been nothing but nice to him, and look how he had repaid her. He could blame it on the booze and drugs all he wanted, but he knew the truth. He had heard those same excuses his whole life growing up. He saw his mother get the crap knocked out of her time and time again, and she always justified each guy's actions by saying they never really meant to hurt her. He had always said that he'd never use violence against a woman. He knew he was better than that. He had kept his promise until that night on the beach.

What had made it all unforgivable was that she was his baby brother's girlfriend. He had always known that Ryan would do anything for him. Hell, look at what he did do for him. Ryan would never be a criminal. He was too soft, it wasn't in him. But he had still talked him into helping steal that car. Even from prison he had managed to guilt him into doing his dirty work for him.

He had always thought of Ryan as the proverbial kicked puppy. No matter what you did to him, he just kept coming back for more. You only had to see the way he had cleaned up after their mother all those years to figure that out. The woman could let every bum in the state beat the hell out him, and blame him for it. Yet all it took was one moment of praise from her about him being the good one, or the smart one, and he would forget all about his eye being swollen shut, or that everything he ate tasted like the blood from his busted lip.

Sometimes, he had gotten sick of Ryan looking up at him with those sad eyes of his, like he could actually fix their crappy lives. When they were little, he tried. He really did. He had taken more than his share of the beatings to spare Ryan. He had stolen food so they would have enough to eat, when their mom couldn't be bothered with such trivial matters. He had tried to teach him how to survive in Chino. But all he had ever managed to do was hurt him and betray his faith in him.

Ryan had even let him in his fancy new life and tried to help him start over. He had forgiven him for stealing that stupid egg, and even helped throw him a birthday party. He had trusted him with his girlfriend, and look at how he repaid him. His brother's love was the one good thing in his life. In one night within a few short minutes, with the flash of a gun, the pounding of fists, and the raising of his arm to deliver a fateful blow, he had destroyed it.

He deserved this life, he thought as he lay in the hospital bed. The room was cold and sterile. He could hear the nurses and doctors coming in and out and what they said, but he was unable to respond. He was a spectator in his life. If you could call this existence a life. He didn't care. He might be only twenty-one, but there really was nothing for him to live for anymore. There was no point in trying to wake up.

Then one day he heard his brother's voice. He said that he was sorry. That he wanted to make things right between the two of them. That if he just woke up, they could still be brothers. Ryan told him he was the only family he had left, and asked him not to leave him alone.

His pain was like a desert, but there was an oasis in sight.