Missing Scenes From The Chrismukk-Huh? Author:
Disclaimer: The OC Universe, with all its assorted characters, belongs to Josh Schwartz, et. al. (even if they no longer seem to want them.) No copyright or trademark infringement is intended, nor is any money being made.
A/N: Unbeta'd -- all mistakes are mine!
Spoilers: Through "The Chrismukk-Huh?"
Warning: Cavities possible. It's Christmas/Chrismukkuh – 'Tis the Season to be Sweet.
Summary: Kirsten wasn't as unaffected by Ryan's fall as it may have appeared on the show. (Almost) All Kirsten/Ryan, All the Time.
Part 1 – Fallen Bodies
Was it wrong to be intimidated by a piece of meat?
Kirsten hurried down the hall, tracking the delivery guy as he headed toward the front door. He'd been indifferent to her anxiety, seeming a lot more interested in the weather than in her ham-based consternation.
"It's really a Virginia ham?" she asked for the second time, as though being sure of its pedigree would somehow make it more user-friendly.
The guy stopped with his hand on the doorknob, turning back to her with his patience wearing thin, "Look, lady, it's exactly what you ordered. Now if you don't mind, I've got six more deliveries before lunch – I've really got to go before all hell breaks loose out there."
"Sorry," she apologized, letting him escape. She followed him out onto the stoop, where his preoccupation with the weather started to make more sense.
As he turned around on their driveway, she took note of the rapidly darkening sky and increasingly gusty wind with gathering unease. The front was moving in faster than she'd anticipated. Probably faster than Ryan had expected, too.
If he didn't finish up soon, she was going to call him inside. She knew he wanted to finish for Seth – she understood Ryan's nature well enough to know he wouldn't be thinking of his own safety. He'd be thinking of Seth's utter fixation with lights and reindeer. It's what Ryan did.
Pulling out her cookbooks, she did her best to make friends with the ham, fairly satisfied by the time she'd placed it in the roasting pan, complete with cloves, honey, and fresh oranges. What didn't make her happy was that Ryan hadn't come back inside.
One glance out the window told her it was time to bring him in. Past time, probably. Seth would just have to do without his reindeer this year, if Ryan wasn't finished on the roof. Despite her playful chiding earlier, she really didn't want Ryan's safety put at stake.
Smiling to herself as she washed her hands, she anticipated Ryan's certain protests, planning her counter-argument. He might not fully appreciate her caution, but she could count on him to listen to her concerns. He'd do more than that – he'd humor her, even if he privately thought she was being silly.
What's more, Ryan wouldn't whine – it simply wasn't his style. And as for Seth's near-certain moaning? She'd make sure she caught the brunt of it – that it wouldn't fall on Ryan. She'd make it clear she grounded Cupid and Vixen this year.
"Ryan?" she called out as she opened the back door.
One glance at the fallen ladder and two sprawled bodies sent her straight into panic mode.
"Oh my God! Ryan! Taylor!"
Kirsten could feel the blood draining from her face as terror grabbed her with its icy fingers, pulling her into a world where thought and action moved down separate paths.
She scrambled on leaden legs to where the teens were stretched out on the patio, her heart beating so hard she could barely breathe. She shoved the fallen ladder out of her way, suddenly hating rooftop reindeer with all her heart.
Her every instinct was to gather Ryan up into her arms and hold him tight, but something held her back. Something always held her back when it came to Ryan.
Through the fear-induced fog swirling inside her head, reason fought its way to the surface. She closed her eyes, pressing her eyelids tight against her cheeks.
Oh, dear God – she'd almost made a huge mistake. She could have jostled his head and spine by lifting him into her arms. Ironic, that her inherit hesitation might have saved him from further harm.
Kneeling close beside him, she gently palmed his face. It was hard for her to form words, but she managed to strangle out a few, "Honey? Ryan? Can you hear me?"
Some part of her reasoning seemed to be in denial, insisting that this was a terrible dream. That she would wake up any moment.
This Ryan was far too pale to be real… to be her Ryan. Her Ryan wouldn't be lying deathly still like this on the patio, face up with his eyes closed.
She groaned as she ran her fingertips lightly across Dream-Ryan's face and through his hair. Dream-Ryan's skin felt cool, and the shadow of stubble etched across his cheek prickled. Dream-Ryan's dark blond hair slid between her fingers soft, thick, and yielding. Dream-Ryan smelled like soap and shampoo and a hint of musk.
Except there was no Dream-Ryan, because there was no dream…
"Ryan! Sweetheart! Wake up, Ryan!" Desperation clothed each word.
While he remained unnaturally still, she felt her own body start to quiver.
"Please, no…" she whispered, fervently hoping that the God she'd once worshipped lived. That he/she was listening to her prayers. Not that she believed in miracles… just that in her desperation she followed where her heart led.
"Please, God, please, no, no, no, no, no, don't take him… Please, please, please…"
She could feel hot tears running down her cheeks as she stared helplessly at her son's unmoving body.
It was only then she noticed… something.
A motion? Oh, please…
She'd almost missed it – the soft rise and fall of his chest. Anxiously she blinked her eyes, trying to clear her vision, only daring to breathe again when she saw his chest rise a second time.
"Thank you, God," she whispered, before leaning over to kiss Ryan's forehead. "Ryan? Sweetheart? Talk to me!"
He remained chillingly unresponsive.
She tore herself away from Ryan to check on Taylor, sending up another sincere thank you to her long-forgotten God when she confirmed the girl was breathing, too. Wiping Taylor's hair back from her face, she coaxed, "Taylor? Honey? Can you hear me? Can you speak?"
But Taylor did not react.
Sucking in her breath sharply, Kirsten sprang to her feet, cursing herself for the time she'd wasted. Why on earth hadn't she been on the phone instantly? Why wasn't she thinking clearly, when clear thinking was so critical right now?
"I'll be right back," she assured the unconscious teens, hoping they might be able to hear her even if they couldn't speak. That they would understand she wasn't leaving them alone.
She rushed into the kitchen, lifting the hands-free unit from its base and dialing 911 with shaking fingers. Heading back outside, she crossed into the den as the EMS dispatcher picked up. Resolutely holding herself together, she described what had happened, giving the dispatcher her address and listening to the instructions he gave her.
Grabbing two throws off the sofa, she tucked them under her arm and darted back out the door. She carefully covered up first Taylor and then Ryan, certain that was the order that Ryan would have wanted. It was a small thing, she knew, but right now she'd do anything to feel a little closer to Ryan. To feel like she'd met her any one of her son's wishes
She sank slowly back down onto the patio, positioning herself between the teenagers, careful not to disturb their bodies. As she waited for the ambulance to arrive, unwanted horrors clawed their way through her head, each one more unwelcome than the last.
There could be serious injuries to both or either of the teenagers – anything from concussions to brain damage and/or spinal injury. And in her darkest recesses, she understood there was yet another possibility. One she could not name.
She fought to keep herself together, knowing she couldn't go down any of those twisted paths right now. She had to stay strong and focused. Her son needed her. So did Taylor.
She gently stroked Ryan's hair, whispering softly to both the teenagers.
"Ryan, sweetie, you're going to be okay, you hear me? I need you to know that love you so much – that we all love you. And that everything's going to be fine. I'm here with you, and I'm not leaving until you're okay. And Taylor? Honey? You're going to be fine, too. Don't worry – we'll take care of you, I promise."
Please, God, let the words be true.
Part 2 – In the Emergency Room
Kirsten paced the emergency waiting room, anxious for news about Ryan and Taylor.
She'd finally managed to get hold Sandy, and he'd assured her that he'd locate Seth and that they'd both meet her at the hospital. She was a little disappointed he wasn't coming straight there – she could have honestly done with some comfort right now. She felt helpless, trapped outside the treatment center, on the wrong side of the doors.
The kids had been whisked off for a barrage of tests almost as soon as they reached the emergency room, but so far no one had been able or willing to tell her anything. All she could do was wait… and pray for a Chrismukkuh miracle.
She'd spent the first several minutes after the kids had been hustled away filling out forms, and answering the medical history questions the intake personnel bombarded her with as best she could.
It was understandable that she wouldn't have all the information they wanted for Taylor, but it troubled her when she didn't know crucial information about Ryan's medical history. Sandy could probably answer some of the questions that she couldn't, but it was frustrating that she didn't know for certain whether Ryan was allergic to any drugs, or whether he'd had any surgeries.
Honestly, for as many bruises and scrapes as Ryan had suffered over the years he'd lived with them, he'd only been treated in the hospital twice before that she could remember – the day he'd passed out in the hospital after Trey was shot, and the night after the accident that had claimed Marissa's life.
Sandy had been the one filling out forms both those times. She hadn't even been there the first time – she'd been drying out in Suriak. The second time, Julie's need had been overwhelming, and Ryan had been all about pushing her away. He'd pushed them all away that night, his frustration evident when Sandy had refused to go.
She scrunched her eyes together, upset with herself. Honestly, what type of mother was she? How could she love Ryan as much as she did, and yet know so little about him? What did that say about her? What did it say about her relationship with Ryan?
She let her head fall back, sighing unhappily. Okay – when this was over, she'd have a discussion about all things Ryan/medical-related with Sandy, to be followed up if necessary with further questions for Ryan. She'd never be caught short like this again.
Not that she ever wanted to have to go through this type of emergency again.
No sooner had that last thought crossed through her head than had the assault started. Memories of her last horrible night at the hospital slammed her hard and fast, causing her drop heavily into a chair, clutching at the armrests to maintain her balance.
A wave of nausea passed over her as she reconsidered her position. She'd take the emergency room a thousand times over, rather than ever have to face what Julie had faced that evening.
A movement across the room caught her attention, making her look up. When she saw Ryan's doctor standing quietly in the doorway looking very serious, she froze.
Please just give us another chance to be a family, she prayed
She braced herself as she stood up, moving on shaking legs toward Dr. Lynn Hartford.
The doctor placed a steadying hand on Kirsten's shoulder, catching her eyes and holding them. Her voice was steely, "A fifteen foot fall onto a concrete patio is a recipe for tragedy, Mrs. Cohen. I see entirely too many of these accidents. Too many bodies broken beyond repair. Your son's fortunate just to be alive. So is his young friend."
Kirsten nodded, her eyes filling up with tears. "It's my fault – I shouldn't have asked him to go up on the roof."
Dr. Hartford's face and voice stayed firm, but she squeezed Kirsten's shoulder sympathetically, "You should have been holding the ladder – or someone should have been holding it for him. For both of them. Will you promise me, right now, that you're never going to let your son climb on ladders unsupervised again?"
Sucking in her breath, Kirsten nodded once more, ducking her head as she strangled a choked "I promise."
It took her another moment to recognize the import of the doctor's words.
Looking up to find Dr. Hartford's expression turned thoughtful, she asked softly, "Again? Are you saying he's going to be able to climb again? Does that mean that he'd going to be okay? That they're going to be okay?"
Kirsten's hopes rose, as Dr. Hartford offered her a smile.
Her eyes softening, the woman answered, "Let me just say this – you're a lucky family, Mrs. Cohen. Or given the Season, maybe a blessed one."
Kirsten had the sensation of being light and heavy at the same time, not understanding how that was even possible. How could she feel like she was soaring, even as her body betrayed her by collapsing?
Easing Kirsten down into a seat, Dr. Hartford sat next to her, explaining in great detail the various tests they'd run on Ryan and Taylor, together with their findings.
Kirsten listened intently as Dr. Hartford reduced the complex medical jargon to words she could understand. The woman's words felt like life-renewing raindrops, splashing cool and clean, soaking deep into her heart.
If Kirsten had trusted herself to stand, she might have spun the doctor in circles across the room. She settled for gathering Dr. Hartford's hands between her own, and thanking her from the heart.
Part 3 – By Ryan's Bed (After Seth, Sandy, and Summer Leave the Hospital to Save the Ham and Find Victoria Townsend)
"Wake up, Ryan." Kirsten scooted her chair closer to his hospital bed, sticking her hand through the bars so she could hold his.
The near-giddiness she'd experienced when Doctor Hartford first assured her Ryan was going to be fine had dissipated as the hours had passed and he'd remained unconscious.
She wished now she hadn't been so quick to send Sandy and Seth away so soon after they'd arrived. Maybe all of them surrounding Ryan until he awakened would have been a better plan.
Face it – she wasn't nearly as verbal as Seth or Sandy – they might have been more company for Ryan. And Taylor, she reminded herself, looking across the room at the 'sleeping' girl.
She sighed. Seth and Sandy always had communicated far better with Ryan than she had – they didn't have the history she had. They hadn't rejected him, or failed him like she had.
Yeah, Ryan would have probably preferred them here – so what had she done? Sent them home to rescue that stupid ham! She shook her head, amazed now that she'd been so blasted concerned about it.
Honestly, even if the thing cooked to a crisp, who cared? She hadn't liked its looks, anyway. Unless – could leaving it roasting unattended lead to burning down the house?
"I knew there was a good reason I never took up cooking before," she groused under her breath, wondering if it wasn't high time she went back to take-out.
She squeezed Ryan's hand, "You wouldn't mind take-out, would you? If I promise no Mexican on the rotation? What do you say? Is it a deal?"
Ryan's hand was still inside her own, as he lay motionless and mute.
A shuffle of bed sheets drew her attention to Taylor, but there was only a small wiggle of one hand. Taylor's face stayed impassive. Kirsten would check on her in a minute – she'd already run over there the first time she'd heard movement, and the second, and the third… Each time the girl continued to 'sleep', unresponsive to any of Kirsten's pleas for her to wake up.
Kirsten sighed. At least Taylor had started making a number of small movements, as though she might be coming out of her haze.
Ryan, on the other hand, hadn't stirred except to breathe.
"Please wake up, honey," she whispered to her son, growing more worried as Ryan remained eerily still.
If he was really okay, like the doctors kept telling her, why wasn't he waking up? Why wasn't he making any movement at all?
She felt doubt settling in, seeping into all her low-lying places. Doubt about Ryan's welfare, doubt about herself… and doubt about her whole relationship with Ryan.
She'd always let Ryan take far too many chances – she'd never really protected him from danger. Not like she'd always protected Seth.
That was going to change, she decided. No more double standards, whether Ryan liked it or not.
Like climbing around on the roof, for heaven's sake. Why on earth had she allowed him up there in the first place? She knew he didn't like heights, even though he'd insisted that their roof wasn't all that high. Next year, she was hiring someone to do the lights, no matter how loudly Ryan protested.
She sat back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest and dropping her head back against the wall despondently.
Right now, she'd love to hear Ryan protesting. She'd love to hear him say anything at all.
Part 4 – December 25th, 5:45am, at the Hospital
Kirsten heard a small electric whine, opening her eyes to see Ryan's bed rising so that the boy was propelled up into a sitting position. His light was on low, spilling across his face and highlighting the shy smile he gave her. She lifted her head from the reclining visitor's chair where she'd been sleeping.
"Merry Christmas, honey," she said softly, throwing the cotton blanket she'd been huddled under aside and sitting up.
His smile quirked a little, "Uh, Kirsten? Shouldn't you be at home?"
She ignored his question, asking one of her own instead, "Have you been awake long?"
He shook his head, "A few minutes, maybe." His voice took on a hint of wonder, "You really stayed all night, didn't you? I thought I'd just dreamed that you were here – I think I had a lot of dreams…"
She smiled as she stood and crossed to stand beside his bed, fussing with his sheets and plumping his pillows as she explained, "Sandy and I drew straws, and I won."
Ryan rolled his eyes, "Right. 'Cause everyone want to spend Christmas Eve in the hospital."
Shrugging, Kirsten confessed, "Okay – we didn't draw straws. The truth is, I kicked everyone out so you could get some sleep."
She brushed her hand along his arm, unable to resist assuring herself he was really there, alive, awake, and in one piece. When he glanced up at her questioningly, she covered, "Would you like something to drink, honey? Some water? Or some juice?"
"Maybe some water," he allowed, visibly relaxing.
He took the cup from her hands, sipping deeply before handing it back to her. "Tastes good. Hospitals always smell like disinfectant – guess I kinda expect the water to taste like chemicals, too."
She hated that he mentioned how hospitals smelled so casually, like he'd been inside them too frequently for her liking. She added that slip to the growing list of things she wanted to discuss with him once they got home. His past, their families, their future, Marissa's letter, her stint at Suriak and her struggle to keep from sliding… the list was getting longer by the hour.
She set the cup on his tray, as she offered, "Sandy tried to talk me into letting him take over for me, but I finally convinced him he seriously needed to take Seth home."
Ryan frowned a little, rubbing his upper arm, "Was Seth poking me in the arm last night, or did I dream that?"
Kirsten tilted her head, "Afraid that wasn't a dream. He was convinced you'd drift back into a coma if he didn't keep you awake. And Sandy was almost as bad – every time you'd close your eyes, he'd start talking to you."
Ryan's eyes slid to a half-closed position as he yawned. Shaking his head a little like he was trying to shake off sleep, the boy confessed, "As great as it was to have everyone here last night, at the end I just wanted to get some rest – which is weird considering I guess I was out most of the day. But anyway, thanks for sending people home. Especially Seth and Sandy."
She reached for his hand, squeezing it a moment before letting go, "Sandy never stood a chance, you know. Like I was ever gonna let him stay instead of me. Ha!"
The boy spoke hesitantly, "But Kirsten, …uh, it is Christmas – I mean, Chrismukkuh. You really should have gone home, too. I would have been okay."
She couldn't imagine leaving him here alone when she didn't have to. And to her surprise and delight, last night he'd seemed genuinely touched by and receptive to most of their attention. He'd let her be a 'mom'.
Tilting her head, she responded, "I wanted to be with you."
"They woke me up every couple of hours, asking stupid questions. You must not have gotten much sleep."
Kirsten remembered each time the nurses woke her son, checking his pupil response, vital signs, and short-term memory. She'd celebrated silently each time he'd responded correctly with his name, his birthday, the month, the place, and/or the year.
"You were out so much longer than Taylor – Dr. Hartford just wanted to watch you overnight." She shrugged, "As for your nurses waking me up? I was just thankful I didn't have anyone shining a light in my eyes, or asking me my age."
Ryan chuckled. "It wasn't much fun." He bit his lip before adding softly, "I'm… I'm glad you stayed with me."
"Me, too," she whispered, turning to the side so he wouldn't see her swipe at her eyes.
She turned back to him, her smile back on her face, "Sandy's coming soon – Dr. Hartford promised they'd cut you loose as soon as she sees you this morning, and Sandy promised he'd be here to drive us home. We've got lots of Chrismukkuh presents at the house that won't open themselves, you know."
The relief etched across the boy's face was genuine, "Home sounds great."
"And Chrismukkuh? Are you ready for your presents?" She tilted her head, arching her eyebrows expectantly.
He didn't answer right away, ducking his head instead. He brought one hand up to his mouth, his thumb and forefinger rubbing against his lips. When he did look up, he looked at her through his eyelashes first, his hand frozen at his mouth. When he raised his head fully, his eyes were deep blue pools, unmasked and guileless.
His hand fell slowly to his lap while he spoke, "Honestly, Kirsten? Being with you guys? It's all I want."
He sucked his lips between his teeth as he finished speaking, looking up at her uncertainly.
She felt tears gathering as she absorbed such unexpected words. She blinked rapidly, determined she wouldn't embarrass him by crying.
"Back at you," she whispered, leaning across the bedrail and kissing him gently on the forehead.
Ryan's eyes closed tight, and stayed that way, while a soft flush filtered its way across his cheeks.
"I'm… I'm kind of sleepy," the boy said unconvincingly, keeping his eyes shut.
She took the opportunity to dry her eyes with her fingers. Ryan nestled back into his pillows, unable to get comfortable, keeping his eyes closed all the while.
Clearly, the teenager had ventured into uncharted waters, and needed an escape. Luckily, she had a life-preserver handy.
She schooled her face into a mock-stern expression, "That's too bad, Ryan, because there's something else I want to talk about – a behavior that's gonna have to change."
The teenager's eyes opened and his eyebrows shot up, but he looked far more relieved to be leaving choppy emotional waters than worried about what she might say to him.
She continued, realizing as she spoke that she was only half-joking, "From now on, there will be no climbing on high ladders for you, young man. Is that clear?"
Ryan appeared to be aiming for a contrite expression, but gave up on the effort, grinning and snorting softly instead.
"Yes, ma'am," he scoffed, his eyes twinkling. "I've learned my lesson, 'Mom'."
She knew he was mocking her, but she liked the way 'Mom' sounded coming from his lips. She liked it a lot.
Taking her own chance, she waded right back into the water, "Do you have any idea how much I love you, Ryan Atwood?"
His ears turned a little rosy, but he still managed to look at her as he responded, "Enough to spend the night in a hospital chair?"
Kirsten laughed, "And then some. Face it, Ryan – you're stuck with me for the long haul. It's part of my 'Mom' shtick."
One corner of his mouth turned up, "Good shtick."
She tilted her head, "Really? You mean that?"
Ryan ducked his head, looking up at her through his eyelashes. "It kinda works for me."
Kirsten felt her eyes watering again as she whispered, "Yeah?"
He raised his face, a warm smile spreading all the way to his eyes as he nodded. "Yeah."
She smiled back for a long second while she fought internally. Did she dare act on her instinct?
Or did she hold back, maintaining distance like she had yesterday when she'd found him? Or more fairly, when he'd finally awakened? When all reason for caution had passed?
Wasn't daring nothing perhaps the biggest risk of all?
Impulsively, she motioned for Ryan to scoot over a little while she lowered the bedrail nearest her. His eyebrows wrinkled in surprise, but he obeyed. When he inched over, she perched next to him, sliding an arm around his waist.
When he looked sideways at her, curiosity camped out on his face, she smiled reassuringly back at him. Hugging him lightly, she leaned her head toward his, asking softly, "So, is this a good time to mention I'd really like for you to stay in one of the guest rooms for a few days?"
She could feel him suck in his breath. He looked away from her, toying with his wrist band as he questioned warily, "I thought everything was good – is there some reason to worry? Something you haven't mentioned?"
Kirsten shook her head, knowing that her uncharacteristic contact had probably set off all of his alarms. And in all honesty, there was no justification for asking Ryan to leave the pool house – except that she wanted him inside their house. She'd feel better just sharing the same roof with him for awhile.
She took his hand into hers, pressing her fingers between his and rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb. She focused on his hand, her eyes studying his fingers as she spoke.
"Nothing's wrong, Ryan. It's just… I was so frightened yesterday – I could have lost you."
She turned toward him, hoping to catch his eyes, but his face was still averted.
She continued speaking, "For right now, I just want you closer. It doesn't make sense, I know, but I can't help it. It's simply how I feel. Could you humor me – just for the next few days? Please?"
She squeezed his hand until he turned back toward her, his eyes conflicted. After only a moment, he ducked his head.
She prompted, "Ryan?"
He looked back up, the barest hint of a smile touching his lips. He leaned into her, "Okay, but then I get to go back to the pool house, right?"
Sure she must be glowing, Kirsten nodded happily, "I promise."
He rewarded her with one of his little half-smiles – the kind that always made her melt.
She touched his head with her own, cajoling softly, "Unless you'd like to claim one of the suites inside as your own…"
She laughed out loud when he shot her a death glare similar to the ones he usually reserved for Seth. She unwound her arm from his waist, bumping him in mock-indignation with her elbow.
"Don't push it," he warned dryly, before his glare dissolved into a rueful grin.
Standing up and holding up her hands in surrender, she capitulated, "Okay! Stay inside for the next few days, and then it's back to the pool house, I promise."
Ryan snorted, sinking back against his pillows, one hand unsuccessfully stifling a wide yawn. His eyelids drooped as he asked a little sleepily, "And you swear there'll be no blowing up air mattresses involved?"
Kirsten grinned at the fast-slumping teenager, "Absolutely no air mattress, guaranteed. You'll get a fully functional guest suite."
"'Kay," he mumbled, his eyes slowly closing as he allowed his head to sink back further into the pillows.
She straightened the sheets across his waist, running her fingers through his hair a final time before stepping back a half step and watching the tiny smile that played across his lips.
Kirsten listened as Ryan's breathing slowed and deepened, sitting back down in her chair when she was certain he was sleeping. The hospital noises were picking up outside their door – she was certain that their remaining respite would be brief.
She closed her own eyes, savoring every moment of the pre-dawn conversation with her son. She promised herself it was just the beginning of a future filled with Kirsten/Ryan time.
She then made another promise, to a God she'd abandoned long ago, but who (thank that same God) had not abandoned her.
She promised she'd make the most of this new chance. That she'd dare to stop holding back. That she'd dare to love openly. That she'd dare to ask questions and demand answers and say 'no'. That she'd dare to be unreasonable. That she'd dare to let her weaknesses be exposed.
She'd just experienced the power of such daring…
"Merry Chrismukkuh," she whispered, faith in the miraculous restored.