A/N: Sorry folks. Work has been crayayzy and I just haven't been able to write much lately but I got off work early today so I forced myself to sit down and knock this out.
Chapter Thirty Three
Dr. Morgan waits patiently for Ryan to settle as she takes her seat and opens her notebook to take notes throughout the session. He stands uncomfortably, studying the room as if it were the first time he's been in it. He slowly walks forward once he seems satisfied with the surroundings and takes a seat in a chair near the window.
"Would you like something to drink, Ryan?", she asks.
Ryan shakes his head.
"All right. Shall we get started?", she asks encouragingly.
He takes a breath and blows it out as he nods.
Dr. Morgan smiles and says, "You set the pace, Ryan. Anything you want to talk about is what we'll talk about. All right?" She takes note that he hasn't taken off his hoodie. "If you don't like any turns in the conversation we can stop and talk about something else if you like. Would you like to take your jacket off? It might get a bit warm in here."
"No", Ryan says quickly as he shoves his hand into his pocket to seek out the shell. "Um...that's ok. I'm ok."
Erin encourages Ryan to begin once again, "Is anything specific on your mind today, Ryan?"
Ryan shakes his head. "Not really."
Dr. Morgan smiles again and tries to draw him out. "I was surprised to see Mr. Nichol with you. He's quite different than I imagined. His face seems....softer in person....."
Ryan snorts. He shakes his head in amusement. Softer....He never thought he'd hear Caleb Nichol described in that way.
"He seems so intimidating on tv and in the newspapers. You hear stories...", she says, glad to see Ryan relax a bit and settle into the seat more comfortably.
"Yeah, he was pretty scary when I first met him. He didn't like me very much", Ryan shares.
"You get on well now, it seems", Dr. Morgan says.
Ryan gives a small smile and nods. "He's been really great since.....". His smile fades and he trails off.
"Since...", Dr. Morgan encourages.
Ryan sighs and rubs the shell in his pocket. "Since all this stuff with my dad went down." He shifts and changes direction. "He's helping my brother. Said he's got a job lined up for him when he gets out and if he gets his GED. He said Trey's working on that now", he says as he looks up at her and smiles proudly.
"That's good, Ryan. I'm glad he's got some extra support", Dr. Morgan says and waits to see if he'll continue.
"Yeah, maybe now I won't....",he starts but stops and frowns.
Dr. Morgan prompts him to finish his thought. "Maybe now you won't what, Ryan?"
"I....I keep having these dreams. Kind of a weird combination of when we were kids and more recent.....when my dad had me...", he shifts in his seat again and looks up at her, not really wanting to get into it but that's why he's here. Besides, Agent Cook seems to think talking to her helps and the Cohens are paying good money for him to come here. He promised them he'd try and if Mr. Nichol could suck it up and give it a shot when his wife died then he could, too.
"Tell me about them", Dr. Morgan requests gently.
He's quiet a moment and then stands and walks to the window and looks out at the cloudless blue sky. He takes a deep breath and in a quiet voice he says, "I start dreaming about......what happened...but lately Trey's there with me and it's all mixed up. We're either locked in a closet or a basement, like when we were kids. Sometimes we're little and sometimes we're grown, like now....and....", his voice gets shaky and he wraps his arms around himself. "it jumps around...sometimes I can't tell....it's always so dark and I can't...I don't realize when or where until I'm reaching around in the dark and my hand finds someone and I realize I'm in the basement with Joe. I go to turn him over and then suddenly it's not so dark and I can see his face. Only it's not his face. It's Trey....it's Trey's dead body there in the basement with me."
"And you think that Mr. Nichol's reaching out to Trey will ease these dreams?", Dr. Morgan asks, trying to figure out the connection between their conversation about Caleb ties in with Trey and his dreams.
Ryan turns around. "Well, yeah. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know what it means. He's locked up in a cell and I'm afraid something will happen to him in there but now....Mr. Nichol is watching out for him."
"What else could it mean? Your dream."
Ryan's brow furrows in question.
"Dreams don't always have to be so literal. I'm sure that fear is very real for you and does play a part but what other ways could you lose Trey, other than death?"
"You mean the Cohens, right?", Ryan asks. "You think I'm afraid of losing him because they're pushing him out."
Dr. Morgan asks, "Is that what you think? That the Cohens are pushing him out?"
Ryan sighs. "Well, yeah. They don't like him. They don't want him around. "
"Why do you think that is?"
Ryan rolls his eyes. "Look, I know they have legitimate reasons. He's gotten himself into a lot of trouble and they think he's gotten me into a lot of trouble."
"I can think for myself. I chose to help him on Thanksgiving", he says. "They can't put it all on Trey."
"Did you really feel you had a choice, Ryan?" He averts his eyes and doesn't answer. "Let me ask you this, would you have put Trey in that position? Would you have asked him to risk so much for you?", Dr. Morgan asks.
He looks at her, eyes flashing. "That's not a fair question. I'm not in jail. I'm not getting beat up and threatened. I'm not afraid that someone's gonna shank me", Ryan says, annoyed. "I don't know what I'd do."
"You're right, Ryan. That wasn't a fair question" she says, deciding to back off of that train of questioning. "Let's get back to my original question about why the Cohens don't want Trey around. Let's talk about Kirsten in particular. It's with her that you're feeling the most tension, correct?", she asks.
Ryan eyes her for a moment and then nods. "Yeah", he says as he retakes his seat.
"Why do you think that is? There's not as much strain between you and Sandy but he's got his concerns about Trey as well. So what I'm asking is, what makes Kirsten different? Why is it harder for you to forgive her position?"
He shifts in his seat as he ponders his answer. "I don't know. I guess it's because Sandy's the one that brought me home? He didn't just see a criminal in a jumpsuit when he met me. So I guess I feel like he's not just judging Trey by that alone. I know he's worried because he cares about me. He doesn't want me to get hurt. My family doesn't have the best track record."
"But you don't think that Kirsten is coming from the same place?"
Ryan looks up at her and says, "No...that's not what I mean. I know she cares about me. I...I don't want you to think Kirsten's....she.....she doesn't know him.......she.....". He trails off.
"She didn't know you at first, either. How did she respond to you when Sandy brought you home?", Dr. Morgan asks, although she already knows the answer. She's heard it from Kirsten's point of view but wants to find out what Ryan has picked up on and how he dissected it.
"Like you said, she didn't know me. She was just trying to protect Seth", he says again.
"From who she thought I was. She didn't know me. It's different now", he says again defensively, his mind flashing to the look of disappointment on her face when he'd finally been forced to tell them all what he did on Thanksgiving. "Her husband brought home some kid he picked up from jail. I don't blame her". He shifts in his seat and meets her eyes.
"How did you feel being in her house?"
He sighs and says, "She was polite and made sure I had what I needed but I could tell she didn't want me there...and then Seth and I got into a fight on the beach and she blamed me for it. She couldn't get me out of there fast enough after that". He looks down at his hands and studies the shell held tightly within it.
Dr. Morgan catches a glimpse of the object in his hand but can't make out what it is. She watches as his grip loosens and his thumb begins to run across the surface. "Then you came back", she says, a statement more than a question.
Ryan gives a soft snort. "Yeah. Sandy brought me back because I had nowhere else to go. I overheard them talking. She kept saying that I couldn't stay".
"What changed? How did they come to be your guardians?", she asks.
Ryan eyed her, knowing she knew the answer to that already.
She smiles back. "Humor me".
"They found my mom and then.....she ditched me again. I guess she felt sorry for me", Ryan says with a shrug.
"And now?", Dr. Morgan presses.
"It's different now. She knows me. We're.....she says I'm family now", Ryan says.
Dr. Morgan takes note of the slightly unsure tone, making a note that Kirsten's reaction to Trey is igniting some unresolved insecurities. "So, when you first came she was protecting her son from what she mistakenly perceived as a threat", she says carefully. "And now she sees Trey as the threat and you are....?", she prompts, trying to get him to see the correlation. Trying to get him to see that he is now in Seth's role and that Kirsten is trying to protect him, but Ryan misses it completely.
He nods slowly and frowns. "And now I'm bringing the threat into their lives. If they let Trey come around and see me when he gets out then he'll be around Seth, too. Of course they want to protect him." He shakes his head, now feeling guilty for getting mad at her for trying to protect her own son.
Dr. Morgan asks, "Only Seth?"
"No......me, too. They want me to stay out of trouble", Ryan answers.
"Is that the only reason?"
Ryan sighs. "No. I told you. I know they care about me and after......everything that's happened they're freaked out that something else might happen. Something bad. Atwoods don't seem to bring them anything but trouble."
"Does that include you?"
Ryan meets her eyes briefly and then looks away. Of course he causes trouble. It's been one thing after another.
"Ryan?", Dr. Morgan prompts.
Ryan sighs. "Sometimes it seems like all I've done is make trouble."
Ryan looks at her with a raised eyebrow. "Other than burning down a house and getting into fights and dragging them all into my family bullshit and sending everyone into therapy?", he says flatly. He looks away. Shaking his head, he stands and starts to pace. He doesn't blame the Cohens for not wanting to risk another round with Trey but he can't cut him off. Not even for them. Not even after everything they've done for him. His thoughts drift back to what he was thinking about in Caleb's office, about how he and Trey were already drifting apart before they got arrested and how much bigger the gap seems to be now that he's living in Newport. While all of the events that took place with his dad has brought up so much from his past, at the same time it's pushed him more firmly into this new life of his and, as bad as his old life was, the thought of losing it altogether scares the hell out of him. He is who he is because of how he grew up. Who is he without all of that? Who is he in Newport, other than that kid from Chino that burned down a house? And now the kid whose dad tried to kill him.
"Ryan?", Dr. Morgan asks, trying to draw him out at the emotions playing across his face.
He shows no sign of having heard her as his thoughts keep swirling. Trey's locked up and the Cohens are worried about Seth and, yeah, worried about him, too, and yet here he is just thinking of himself. He's worried about losing Trey because he's afraid to lose that last tie to who he used to be when he doesn't quite know where he fits here. God, is he really that selfish? He gives a disgusted snort and makes his way to the window again. They paid his medical bills and are paying for this therapy on top of all they paid out to his psycho of a dad and in return he's been a complete ass to them just for wanting to keep their kid safe.
"Ryan?", Dr. Morgan asks again. "Talk to me. What are you thinking?"
His voice is soft when he replies. "Why do they put up with me?"
"Because they love you", Dr. Morgan states simply.
Outside, Caleb Nichol sits leafing through magazines and occasionally checking in with his office. Agent Cook left some time ago to pick up lunch for himself and the doctor. Caleb's eyes drift to the door, wondering how things are going.
"Seth?", Caleb says as he rises and meets the source.
"What are you doing here?", Seth asks as he steps further into the room.
"I came with Ryan, to offer a little support", Caleb answers, gesturing for Seth to sit down.
"Oh", Seth says. A frown settling on his face. "He said he wanted to come alone. I guess he just didn't want us".
Caleb smiles softly. "I don't think Ryan knows what he wants or needs right now". He pats Seth's leg. "He came to see me before his appointment and then I offered to accompany him and take him to lunch after."
"What did he want to talk to you about?", Seth asks, wondering what Ryan would want to talk about with his grandpa that he wouldn't talk with him about.
Caleb pondered how much he should share. He would hate for Ryan to feel that he's broken his trust. "His brother has apparently broken off all contact. Ryan was concerned. I reassured him that all was well. As well as could be expected anyway."
Seth nodded slowly, still wondering why Ryan would go to Caleb and not mention anything to him. He knows why he wouldn't go to his parents. The tension was still pretty palpable between them. Especially between his mom and Ryan after Trey left.
Reading the questions on Seth's face, Caleb says, "He knows all of you have concerns about Trey. Your parents more so than you but, still, I think he feels Trey is a safe subject with me. I think he just needs a friendly ear....", he narrows his eyes with a hint of amusement as Seth's eyebrows raise at the thought of Caleb being a friendly ear...."someone that he feels isn't going to be happy at the distance".
"I wouldn't be happy about it. I know he's made some bad calls and fallen in with some bad people but I kinda like Trey. Their life was so different growing up...... I know he's not all bad and I know how important he is to Ryan", Seth says.
"I know that, son, and I think Ryan knows that as well but I think he's still feeling his way through. He's been through a lot. His relationship with his brother is changing. He has this new life and he doesn't know how to fit it all together. Hopefully, Dr. Morgan can help him sort it all out. In the meantime, we need to be patient and just be there when he seeks us out."
Seth studies Caleb's face and sees nothing but sincerity. A huge grin breaks out on his face. He's seen his grandpa warming to Ryan during this whole ordeal but he didn't realize just how much until now. Impulsively, he leans over and gives Caleb a hug.
Caleb stiffens a bit, caught off guard but relaxes when he hears Seth's soft, "thanks, Grandpa".
Caleb pulls away after a moment and clears his throat. "Yes, well. Ryan's a good kid. I only wish I'd seen it sooner. We'll help him, Seth. We'll help him piece everything together. He's a Cohen and a Nichol now. We look after our own. That includes Trey by extension. It'll all work out, Seth. Mark my words."
They both hear the closing of a door and turn to see Ryan standing there, watching with an unreadable expression on his face. Dr. Morgan standing behind him, with a small smile gracing her face. They'd stepped out just in time to hear the last half of the exchange. She's happy Ryan heard it. She is, quite frankly, amazed at Caleb's insight into what Ryan might be struggling with. His ordeal with his father had undoubtedly shaken his already unsteady footing in Newport and within the Cohens lives. The culture shock of his transition to Newport alone would have been difficult and it's clear that there are many unresolved issues there as it is. The Cohens, while having their hearts in the right place in bringing Ryan into their home, have left many questions unanswered for Ryan, forcing him to come to his own conclusions and navigate the uncertain waters on his own.
She was under no illusions that he'd take her words that they love him at face value. Normally she wouldn't venture such a statement without him reaching that conclusion himself but the words were out of her mouth before she knew it. She normally has better control but something about this boy couldn't stop her from telling him what he needed to hear and, judging from her early sessions with Sandy and Kirsten, along with this brief glimpse of Caleb Nichol, she was sure it was true. Mr. Nichol seemed to have an excellent grasp of what might be going through Ryan's head and his going the extra mile for Trey is bound to go a long way in showing that he doesn't have to sacrifice one family for the other. There may be obstacles with Sandy, Kirsten and Trey but Caleb Nichol just might be the bridge that leads them all to a tenable place.
She tried to get Ryan to verbalize the root of his weary question in the session's closing minutes, but he'd pretty much shut down. He had studied her face after her statement, as if to ascertain some hidden motive. Some therapist trick to get him to reveal something. She's certain he knows that they care for him but it's clear that he's unsure of just where that line ends.
Ryan stands motionless. He was surprised to hear Caleb's words echoing some of his own thoughts inside with Dr. Morgan, about not knowing where he fits. Hearing Caleb and Seth discussing his relationship with Trey and knowing that Caleb has taken steps to encourage Trey to work toward something has eased the knot in his stomach somewhat. He still feels like he's floundering a bit, especially with recently feeling like Trey had cut the line and cast him adrift, but Caleb is tossing them both a line, keeping them connected.
Caleb and Seth are up on their feet now and approach Ryan.
"Hey", Seth says.
"All done?", Caleb asks. He casts a look at Dr. Morgan and she gives a smile and a nod, answering the question in his eyes and indicating that the session went relatively well. Not quite as well as she'd have liked but their timely entrance into the waiting area may have just ensured that they ended on a more positive note than inside. She knows there is a lot of ground to cover. They haven't even begun to touch the surface with the traumatic experience he's just gone through with his biological father but there's time for that. Right now Ryan needs to accept his place in the Cohens lives. She needs to help him repair the foundation there so that he has the support he'll need when they finally delve into the subject of his physical and emotional trauma at his father's hands.
"Hey", Ryan says softly. "What are you doing here?", he asks Seth.
"Uh, just in the neighborhood?", he says with a smile. "I, uh, just thought you might want some company on the way home but I see that grandpa has it covered so I'll just....."
Ryan smiles. "We were going to do lunch. You wanna come?"
Seth smiles widely and nods.
"All right. I'll see you next time, Ryan", Dr. Morgan says. "If you need to talk before our next session, you have my number. Any time, Ryan", she says firmly.
Ryan ducks his head and smiles softly. "Yeah. Thanks."
Caleb puts an arm over each boy's shoulder and steers them toward the door. "Shall we?"
Any lingering tension from the session drains from Ryan's shoulders as they exit the room.
Dr. Morgan looks on with a smile on her face and then shakes her head. So that was Caleb Nichol. She never would have guessed.
Lunch is subdued but relaxed. Seth yammering on about a new comic while Ryan eats half of his lunch. Not as much as Caleb would like but better than nothing. Kirsten has told him that he hasn't been eating well and that along with his trouble sleeping has her worried. Ryan catches him looking and he raises his eyebrows in question. Caleb just smiles and gives him a pointed look as he shifts his eyes from the food and back to Ryan, who rolls his eyes but picks up his burger and takes another bite, giving a look that says, "happy now?".
Seth smirks at the interaction between the two. Marveling at the effect Ryan has had on his Grandpa, and vice versa, now that he's accepted him in their lives. He always felt Caleb was disappointed in him. Sure he taught him how to sail but when Seth showed no interest in sports or in the family business he didn't seem to have time for him anymore. "Hey Grandpa?", Seth ventures.
"Do you think, uh, we could all go sailing sometime? We haven't been in a while and it might be fun for Ryan to get out on the water in something bigger than the Summer Breeze", he asks chewing on his lip.
Caleb sees the uncertainty on his grandson's face and feels a pang of guilt. He stopped spending time alone with the boy some time ago. No time like the present to remedy that. "Of course. That's a fine idea, Seth", he says. Turning to Ryan he says, "What do you say, Ryan? Up for a sail this weekend?"
Ryan nods and smiles. "Yeah, that'd be cool."
Seth's face breaks out into a big genuine smile for the second time since Caleb has seen today. Hell, since he's seen in a long time.
"All right, then. We'll make a day of it. I'll call have the boat checked over and make sure it's fully stocked. We'll need to run it by your parents first", he says to Seth.
Ryan's smile falters at the mention of them. "You think they'll let me? I've been kind of a jerk to them lately and I know they're worried...."
Caleb pats him on the shoulder. "They're worried that you're not sleeping and eating right. I don't think they'll object to a relaxing sail on the water", he says assuredly. "..but it might not hurt to sit down and talk with them. Try to clear the air, hmmm?", he suggests.
Ryan nods and sighs. "Yeah". He owes them that much. He'll apologize when he gets home. Wiping his mouth with his napkin he suggests that they head home. Suddenly he's very tired and feels like he could actually sleep.
Caleb drives them back to the Newport Group offices and drops Ryan and Seth off at the car.
Ryan extends his hand to shake and says, "Thanks, Mr. Nichol".
Caleb stares at the hand a moment before taking it and uttering a "you're welcome" but a frown forms on his face at the formality as Ryan and Seth get into the car and drive away. Mr. Nichol. It's the way Ryan always addresses him but suddenly it feels completely wrong. Kirsten and Sandy love him like a son. Seth loves him like a brother. That would make Ryan, in essence, his grandson. A year ago he would be appalled at the suggestion. Hell, a few months ago he would have been appalled at the suggestion but he meant it earlier when he said that Ryan was a Cohen and a Nichol. Maybe it was about time they all thought about making it official. One thing is for certain. He won't stand for this "Mr. Nichol" nonsense.
A/N: Once again, I had written a bunch of this a while ago but then when I restarted I erased a bunch and it went in a different direction. I didn't bother re-reading the previous chapters like I normally do so I hope it falls in line and hope it's ok. I just needed to get my ass in gear and get something posted.