Chapter 1- Setup for something new
A/N 'The OC' does not belong to me, none of the characters from Orange County belong to me, nor their companies, schools etc. The character that will be introduced a little later will seem similar to the 'phantom of the opera'. A brief explanation, he is my own character and is the son of the 'phantom of the opera', so just in case I cross any boundaries there, anything similar to the phantom belongs to either Gaston Leroux, or Etienne De Mendes. Finally, the concept of the character "Araylen" whom you meet right away, is taken from 'Buffy the Vampire slayer', so I think that covers all the credit where credit is due also thank you to Egan for lending me the use of Ammon for a while.
The solid crunch of one car impacting another, followed by the screeching of once well oiled brakes skidding wildly out of control. A moment later, a heart sickening crunch of metal on trees and the explosion of glass as a window exploded out of its frame. These were the sounds that woke Ryan Atwood from his weekend sleep.
He roused himself slowly at first, thinking perhaps it was only the remnants of some nightmare were he was once again with Trey, once again stealing cars for nothing but kicks and because it was his brother. These dreamlike thoughts came to a swift and dramatic conclude of reality when he heard a car door open and a women's frantic cry of "Oh my God!!"
He ran from the pool house and sprinted up and around the side, coming to the front yard just as Kirsten, Sandy and Seth emerged out of the front door, all of them still in their pyjamas.
Out front was a scene from a twisted action movie, many of their neighbour's peering out their front doors, or gathering at the ends of their walkways. Julie and Jimmy cooper came over to join Kirsten and Sandy at the end of their drive, all of them, save Julie, hovering close by to see if there was anything that could be done to help.
Carry Branson, their neighbour from down the street was standing beside her car, with it's right front bumper crushed in, metal demolished and paint chipped, looking horrified, but she wasn't looking at her car.
For several moments no one could figure out what exactly she was looking at, Ryan however remembered the crunch of metal, the screech of desperate tires. He looked around and spotted the other wreck a split second before everyone else.
The entire drivers side of the small compact car was dented in and from were he stood both a passenger and the driver were slumped in their seats unconscious.
It only took about two terrifying seconds before Sandy was on his cell phone, thrusting it into Kirsten's hands, and running full tilt towards the wrecked car. Jimmy, Ryan, Seth and several other neighbour hood men in tow.
Jimmy tried the handle of the driver's side but it was either locked or stuck fast. "It's locked." He reported shaking his head.
"Move" Ryan said stiffly and shrugged off his sweater.
Their small party did as the young man ordered and backed up to protect themselves against the crunching sound of shattering glass, as Ryan wrapped his warm black sweater around his hand and arm and broke the window, reaching in he undid the latch but immediately saw another obstacle.
"I think he's stuck under the dash" he observed as Sandy and Jimmy pulled him away.
"That happens sometimes." Jimmy said quickly as he got in and on his knees to see what they could do. He let out a low whistle through his teeth and stepped back.
"He's real tall Sandyhe's crunched in there pretty good" the younger man said.
Sandy shook his head. "Seth, Ryan go to the other side and see what you can do about getting the passenger out." He ordered.
Both boys, followed their fathers instructions and ran around to the other side to find out what they could do. Thankfully with a littler direction from Jimmy, and the fact that he had been thrown clear of most of the crunched metal, it took almost nothing for them to get him out and to the road where Kirsten laid out a blanket for them to put him on.
The crew of men who had been working to free the taller of the two men had only just gotten him out, when the fire and ambulance crews arrived on site.
"Who are our victims?" One of the paramedics asked Sandy and Jimmy, as they struggled the taller man to the road as well.
"We don't know." The lawyer said shaking his head in emphatic over-excitement.
The paramedic nodded and patted them both down as his partner worked to stabilize their necks and get basic vitals. "Probably brothers." He commented as he read the name.
"Both of the family name of Keith" he said shrugging.
Sandy nodded his head and watched as the paramedics secured the men into the back of the ambulance, trying to wake them using ice, gently slapping them, and calling their names quite loudly. He never actually heard their names but he hoped they would be ok.
Once the ambulance had left, Sandy went inside, since Carry had discreetly left only her card with her name and number on it, he secured a tow truck and took care of all the details that he could in accordance with their pastel green Jetty now completely destroyed in the ditch opposite their house.
Sandy and Kirsten walked back inside the house to the foyer where Ryan and Seth stood looking worried, nervous and confused. "How are they?" Ryan asked.
Kirsten forced a smile "Unconscious but stable it seems" she said touching both their faces, kissing both of them on the cheek before disappearing into the kitchen.
Sandy too forced a smile and patted both their shoulders, one hand each. "Hang tight men-and maybe don't drive anywhere today, for your mother's sake." He said and headed out towards his office area of the house.
The boys nodded and looked at each other, standing there for several minutes completely lost in their thoughts, not sure of what to do or what to say.
"So you wanna?" Seth offered.
"It's for the best" Ryan agreed closing his eyes and nodding his head.
Several hours later found Seth and Ryan deeply involved in a complex war video game. "LeftLEFT LEFT! LEFT LEFT!" Seth cried out successively louder, then let out a deep groan of annoyance and frustration as Ryan failed to negotiate the appropriate turn.
"Saved by the bell" an amused Ryan said as the phone rang.
"Hello" a voice, quiet and tired sounding responded.
"I am attempting to contact a Sanford Cohen" the voice continued in it's laconic manner.
"Hang on" the boy replied, not thinking anything of it.
He got up and went into the kitchen, where as luck would have it, Sandy was making a sandwich. "For you" Ryan mouthed, holding the phone out in his direction.
Licking his thumb and putting down his knife and the bread, he wiped his hands on a nearby towel and took the phone. "Hello?" a pause.
"Yes this is Sandy Cohen." Followed by another pause.
"Oh" he said and his face grew soft and a little grave, touched with excitement.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I do." He said and quickly jotted something down.
"I would be honoured to do that, and I'll bring all the information you might need as well." He said and nodded his head.
"Ok, I'll be there soon" he said and hung up the phone.
He grabbed his coat and made for the door, like a bird taking off after spotting a hovering hawk.
"Dad?" Seth asked, coming in from the side room as his father ran past.
"That was Mr. Araylen Keith." He said, pre-empting any questions the boys might have about his mysterious phone call.
"Who now?" Seth asked, but Ryan understood.
"Keith" he muttered, then snapped his fingers as the recognition clicked in his head.
"One of the guys from this morning?" He asked, shocked and marginally confused.
Sandy nodded his head. "Yeah, he's awake and relatively unharmed, he wants to know who crashed into him, all the details about it, he's looking for a lawyer and he also would like to know about his car." He said and then smiled.
"Just the chance I wanted to start up with my pro-bono work again" he said and nodded as he disappeared out the door.
"Valid questions" Seth said as his dead disappeared down the road at a surprisingly record speed.
Just as his tail lights completely disappeared, Kirsten appeared down the stairs, fully dressed and coiffed. "Where's he going so fast?" She asked curiously, the obvious slight nervousness coming through in her voice.
"He's going to the hospital" Seth said nonchalantly pouring himself a bowl of cereal.
"What?!" She demanded in shock.
Seth was ignoring the matter at hand and the emotions that went along with them, the ones that applied to other people anywaysas always, so Ryan stepped in. "One of the accident victims woke up and called to ask about his car and stuff." The tall blonde boy explained patiently.
"Oh." She said, sipping her coffee in contemplative thought.
"Yeah" he said nodding his head.
"No use dwelling on it" Seth said and went into the video game room without another word of thought.
"He's handling this well" Kirsten joked. Ryan gave her his head smile and followed Seth back to their video game and being yelled at.
Sandy arrived at the hospital in due time, went to the reception desk and through the regular procedure of checking himself in and explaining why he was there and who he was there to talk to.
She waved him through with relatively no hassle considering his wife had basically built much of the hospital.
He walked to the room and took a deep breath, putting a neutral smile on his face he wrapped softly on the door, and walked in as the familiar soft, tired sounding voice bid him to do so.
"Sandy Cohen" he said with his smile in place, forcing himself not to have any reaction to the man sitting in the chair.
It was obviously the passenger, the shorter long haired man was seated in the chair for visitors, and he had it pulled up to the side of the bed of the taller man.
The shorter man had long honey brown hair, stained pink from the blood that had been badly washed out of it. His head had a bandage on the back above his scarred up slightly pointed ear. His arm was tightly bound up in a blue vinyl sling. His pale, decently featured face was cut and scratched from where the passenger window had exploded on impact with the tree, imploded obviously into his flesh. "Araylen Keith." He said, extending the slim hand, the only hand he had to offer.
Sandy shook it and stepped forward. "I woke to find a card among my rings and other affects." He said with a smiling, gently squeezing the ankle of the tall man in the bed.
He nodded slowly and smiled, he tood awkwardly for a few moments until Araylen. Carefully took a breath and pulled himself up, he sat quickly on Ammon's bed before the pain in his legs could strike him.
He gestured to his once occupied seat and Sandy sat, clicking open his briefcase, carefully making as little sound as he could so as not to disturb any sore heads that might be in occurrence because of the obvious.
"I had your car towed, the woman who hit you left her information, but not much else." He explained handing him a folder with his papers in it.
"I greatly appreciate that" Araylen nodded and fervently scrubbed his face, pausing a moment before going back to vigorously rub at his red, swollen eyes with a frustrated sigh.
His silver e yes were blood shot to the point of almost looking like pink-eye, his face was set with lines and wrinkles and he looked very old. He looked though that he probably would, under normal circumstances, look very strong, handsome and young. He had a wisdom in his eyes that Sandy had only ever seen in the eyes of dying old men. The wisdom that comes with learning too many gruesome things the hard way, learning things about life that no one would wish upon their worst enemy.
Araylen blinked several times and cleared his throat, he had been alternating between fits of calm, and sobbing his heart out all morning and he had called this man to A) Find out information, and B) find some way to maintain his composure.
"You ok?" Sandy asked after a moment.
"Ah." Araylen said and put his hand once more on Ammon's ankle, stroking his fingers across the roughened flesh.
"Yes, I uh...require prescription eyeglasses, conspicuously and annoyingly missing from my personal affects upon waking" he explained with a soft smile.
That might explain why the man was always slightly squinting and looking a little to his left, since Sandy had come in...
"My wife-she took yours and your brothers bags from your car..." he began slowly.
"No offense meant, she only wanted to avoid the risk of..."
"It getting damaged or stolen" Araylen said, finishing his interrupted sentence.
Sandy nodded "Exactly" he said and smiled at the other man, removing from his breast pocket the small square case that Araylen's spare glasses were kept in.
"So my wife...being my wife, told me to bring these, assuming that yours were probably damaged irreparably in the crash" he explained and passed them to him.
Gratefully the man took them and unfolded the plastic silver frames and slipped them on his face, immediately his pupils dilated and a smile touched his soft pink lips. "Thank you" he said with a reflexive, less pained sigh.
He looked back now, very closely examining the wounds on the other mans head and face, without touching them. Tears sprung once more to his eyes but he focussed on his guest and smiled at the brown haired lawyer.
Sandy smiled back, noticing the tears and looked at the other bed. "So...how's your brother doing?" he asked gently.
Araylen smiled and blinked back the tears, pursing his lips to hold back the tide of pain that was brewing in his heart. "He is not my brother" he managed through a tight throat.
"Oh...I'm sorry...I just assumed..." Sandy said, trailing off a little confused.
"He...he is my husband" he managed to choke out and three tears broke through and trickled down his face.
Sandy went silent and laid a large hand on the shaking shoulder, sitting in silence for several minutes, Araylen finally managed to stop crying. "Forgive me" he managed and took in a deep, shuddering breath to once again stem the tide.
He had cried already several times but had not yet actually allowed himself to feel the whole of the situation. He wanted to take care of all the details that went along with it first, before he let himself panic about the situation itself.
"No no," Sandy said and shook his head. "I think I'd be doing a lot worse then you are if it were Kirsten." He explained gently.
"Your wife?" he asked and nodded along with him.
Sandy smiled and patted his shoulder before taking his hand back in his lap.
"I would like to thank you Mr. Cohen, and hire you as my ...our lawyer..." he said with a small nod and the only smile he could muster.
"Sandy, please and it's my pleasure, if you need anything, anything at all don't hesitate to call." he said standing up and once more extending his hand and shaking Araylen's again.
Araylen nodded and his eyes fluttered closed as he suddenly felt drained once more, either the medicine, stress or a combination of them both.
"I'll call you when I know anything about anything" Sandy said as he backed towards the door and slowly opened it.
Araylen curled up into Ammon's strong, lean side and cuddled up, he nodded in Sandy's general direction as once more, the small man began to cry over his ailing husband.
Several days later saw the Cohen residence settling back down into some semblance of a normal day. There were of course, a few reminders of the happenings of the past. The bags, tucked off into the side of the entrance way, neatly zipped up and stacked, waiting for a direction to travel in.
This coupled with Kirsten's constant fussing over them, she had created care packages and packed a bag for each man, sending Sandy over with them when he had some of the legal paperwork for Araylen to sign against Carry for her actions.
On this warm afternoon, Sandy was on the phone to Jimmy, talking to him about the rising stock market and monetary ventures, warning him about this and that and more or less debating him about what he should be doing-the usual.
Kirsten was sitting outside by the pool, sipping tea and reading a business magazine in which the Newport Group was strongly featured. Ryan and Seth having just arrived home from wherever it is they were collectively supposed to be, goofing off somewhere no doubt, were settling down to enjoy some video games.
The house and most of the surrounding neighbourhood having seemingly all but forgotten the happenings of the past, and the close brush with death and loss of life and limb it had suffered.
All this, was broken up by a timid knock at the door. Seeing as he was on the phone, and there were two teenage boys in the house, Sandy thought nothing of as he pulled open the door, still talking, he stopped mid-sentence and almost dropped the phone. "Jimmy...I'll have to call you back" he said shocked as he saw who stood on the other side of his door.
"Araylen" He greeted the man quietly.
Araylen stood and smiled at him weakly. "I..rather embarrassing as it is, I have no where to go." he explained with a sigh, tears welling into his eyes, as he fought to keep his composure to the very best of his ability.
"Well come on in and give us the song and dance" Sandy said making a sweeping motion to allow the other man into his home.
"Thank you" he said and sighed softly as he entered into the house.
"I know it must be terribly injurious to you and your wife Sandy, but...I just need to make a few phone calls, to our bank in Brigham county...to my children, to our friends." he said with a sigh, shaking his head.
"Primarily to our bank in Brigham." he said and sighed once more, shaking his head.
"Money issues?" Sandy asked carefully as he led him through the kitchen room and through the living room and towards the patio door.
"Sort of...I cannot get our insurance card to work and I am unsure as to how to engineer anything else." he explained in brief as they approached the semi frosted glass door.
As the two men emerged through to the patio, Kirsten looked up, seeing his damaged condition and the soft gaze with which Sandy was talking to him, she realized that this must be Araylen. "Oh my goodness." she said and smoothed out her hair.
"Lady Cohen...I am sorry for my injuring intrusion and fully intend to compensate you in full for any cost I might happen to be to you." He said bowing as best he could over her hand, he kissed it ever so gently.
Totally taken aback for a moment, Kirsten fully accepted his words and smiled at him, a blush filling her high, pale cheekbones. "No worries." she said, patting his hand with gentle fingers.
"Would you like some, coffee? A bagel?" she offered with a nervous, jittery sweep of her hand.
"As gracious as your offer is, and as much as I would appreciate it...I cannot for the interference of my medication." he explained with a weak, exhausted smile.
"Ah" she said and sat down, gesturing for the two men to do the same thing, which following procedure they did.
"As I have said already to Sandy," Araylen began.
"I'll get it" Sandy said remembering the point of his strange acquaintances visit, Sandy got up and jogged to get the phone, quickly jogging back to hand it to the young man.
"Thank you" Araylen said, biting his lip he looked at the other couple nervously, not wanting to say something.
"We'll just be in the kitchen if you need anything. Press talk and dial the number" Kirsten said as she and Sandy headed quickly back into the kitchen, pulling the door tightly shut behind them.
Araylen smiled and nodded at them until they disappeared and then he hit the corresponding button and dialled.
His first phone call went to Norah's house. "Hello?" came the slight accent as the phone was picked up.
"Norah..." he began but held his tongue in check fully expecting her panicked interruption.
"WHERE. IN THE HELL. HAVE YOU BEEN?!" She roared at the top of her fairly exponential lung capacity.
"We get back from the country, fully expecting you to be there and Malcolm is on the doorstep freaking out, he can't find Ammon's life presence anywhere, but somehow, magically, mystically, he knows that somehow, Ammon is in pain. HOW THE HELL DOES THAT WORK?" The blonde ranted.
"Are you finished?" He asked almost, almost amused.
"Yes. Quite." she answered, in the same tone.
"Well...it is a rather long story, but in short we got lost and ended up down a street where we got hit at excessive speeds by a rather large jelly bean purple hummer." he said simply, and paused, trying to crack his injured shoulder without causing himself too much pain.
"WHAT?!" She screeched and there was a thud as s he dropped the phone. Her tone of voice was panic stricken terror combined with a wave of nausea.
"Ammon was near run through with a large portion of the car and his lower half was crushed almost literally by the weight of the car." he began to explain, calming himself down.
" 'K well, most of the boys are still out in the boonies, but I'll go and get 'em myself...we'll be on our way as soon as we possibly can. No longer then two days-at the most." she said.
"Thank you...for some reason our insurance card refused to work and so I had to use all of our paper money to pay for this hospital bill, never mind the ever encroaching debts I seem to be amassing, as I am not in the hospital anymore, my bill is no longer due, but Ammon is going to be there for quite some time and I am...completely adrift at what it is I am supposed to be doing." he said all in once breath.
Norah listened lovingly and quietly "Where exactly are you?" she asked softly.
"A place by the name of Newport beach." Came the sad, tearful reply.
"Ok I'll go get Aaron and his credit cards and massive rich boy bank account and we'll be there soon ok?" she said calmly.
"Thank you Norah. Thank you and...I need you" he whispered.
In her typical manner she said nothing, but he could imagine her comforting, warm smile as the phone hung up, echoing in his pointed ear with a desolate, empty, abandoning click.
A sigh broke through his lips, and before he could lose his mind he called his bank. "Hello?" he asked as the phone was picked up.
"Hello, thank you for calling Brigham County first branch bank...all of our lines are currently busy but if you hold, one of our operators will be with you as soon as one is available." the cheery voice called to him, but it may as well have been laughing.
He hung up the phone and put it on the table, a sigh broke through his lips and for a moment, he thought that was all that was coming.
All of a sudden it hit him all at once and his knees collapsed out from under him and he fell to the ground sobbing hysterically.
Hearing it Kirsten peered around the corner and came over to him, quiet as a church mouse. "Did you get everything you needed?" she asked in a soft voice, so gentle he could hardly hear it over his sobs.
"No" he choked out and his body was racked with sobs as he curled himself into a fetal position and cried.
"I am so afraid he is going to die." the man sobbed, his boding shaking with the dry, heaving sobs.
"Kirsten knelt and patted his arm, fingers curling around his lower arm muscles in comfort, hugging him as tightly as she dared due to his dislocated shoulder. "I know, but I can assure you we have the best doctors here in Newport...you can get everything you need and Sandy and I will help you with all the problems in the meantime." she said slowly, carefully.
"I know, and I am in no position to argue with you, nor do I have any intention to do so, as I know that I require help, at least until my friends and family arrive from our home." The man said with a sigh.
Kirsten held him for a few minutes until he had calmed down a little and then they moved to a sitting position, braced up against the back of the couch. He took a deep calming breath and looked at her with a sad smile. "Thank you for tolerating my lack of composure, and thank you for allowing me the chance to grieve and so forth." he whispered.
"No problem, and if you don't want me to tell my husband," she winked at him to finish her sentence.
The moment was broken as the phone rang a few times, broken by someone picking it up in the kitchen extension.
Kirsten helped him gently to his feet and handed him several tissues stroking his long hair as he calmed himself down, doing everything she could to try and be of service to this gentle man who's very presence seemed to bring gentility to their home.
There came a soft knock on the door and Araylen and Kirsten turned to it, once again the moment was neatly broken by Sandy as he offered a smile. "That was the garage." he said with a forced cheery tone in his voice.
"Oh yes?" Araylen asked with a lifted brow, a measure of calm, confusion came into his voice.
"Yeah, they have it all fixed up and are ready for somebody to get it." he said
Araylen smiled, but it was rather bittersweet. "Yet another bill I am going to have to pay." he said shaking his head.
"I suppose that I shall just go to the hospital for now, I intend to inquire if I can stay with Ammon for part of his stay, at least until Aaron arrives with bank information or money." He said deep in thought, slipping his glasses off his face in thought.
"You're out?" Kirsten asked gently.
"Yes, as far as the scheme of things goes, my injuries are nothing, they simply wanted to insure that A) my head was alright, only in pain and cut not impeded by any internal damage that could not be located, and B) because they wanted to make sure that I was mentally stable after escaping such a horrendous crash." he explained, glad to have something to keep his mind off of his troubles.
Kirsten put a hand on his arm. "Araylen, you are more then welcome to come and stay here with us, it would be no trouble and I would much rather think of you here with us then in a hotel all alone somewhere." she said softly.
Araylen nodded. "Thank you, for your kind offer" he said with a sigh.
"I love Ammon, and I would love to stay with him all the time, but quite frankly I think my heart is already full to bursting with the emotional investment it takes to watch him lavish in so much pain...to see his face, smell his smell, touch his body and not have him respond." already, tears had begun working their way down his face.
"It is just too much for me." the librarian said with a sigh.
"It's ok." she said and took his arm gently steering him towards the kitchen.
"We would be more then happy to have you here." she flourished.
Sandy followed her. "More then happy, you know, it might even do the boys some good to have a teacher in the house-they might actually learn something." the lawyer said with a wink at his wife.
A flurry of business followed, settling Araylen into the pool house, displacing Ryan was a minor side effect but Ryan was only too complacent. Araylen had claimed that the couch was more then enough accommodation for him, but Kirsten insisted that he take the bed considering his health. Towels, sheets, pillows, his bags, everything he could possibly need to make his stay a comfortable one was put into place, they ate their evening meal in two shifts, adults and the boys when they eventually trickled in again, and then unanimously decided that bed would be a good place to go, agreeing to start fresh in the morning.
Araylen slept heavily throughout the night, all the doors to the pool-house thrown open to allow the outside air into him, creeping moonlight fed his skin and nourished his soul.
He woke before the sun rose fully into the sky, he slid out of his sleeping skin and stretched his arms into the air, and allowed himself to feel ever so slightly better.
He walked to a nearby tree that sat in the yard, and sat down closing his eyes in retrospective thought. He spoke gently to the tree, asking it to tell him everything it knew.
He was told stories of love "Dude, that could be...my grandma!" of woe "I'm a mess, not a mother" of laughter. "Zach! How are you buddy? So good to see you!" of pain and sadness comparable to his own. "She's suing for sole custody..." Through the anecdotes he began to feel very comfortable at the Cohen's.
He stood up and now, fully awake, walked into the dark and silent house. His sharp and pointed ears pricked and he heard the sounds of a house slowly waking from it's silent slumber.
The light snores of teenage boys, asleep but not in the deepest stages of sleep. The ruffling of sheets and soft mumble of voices as Kirsten and Sandy began to wake up.
Araylen didn't want to be rude or presumptuous so he sat att he table, thinking, his hands folded neatly, the fingers tumbling and kneading with his thoughts.
As thoughts of Ammon pierced his focussed, but slowly unravelling mind Araylen got up to pace, trying to rid himself of the thoughts that shook his control.
He took note of a book as he entered the living room, laying abandoned by the arm of the couch, he walked over and picked it up, fingers soothing over the glossy cover "Cavalier and Clay?" He muttered aloud to himself.
A brow lifted and he sung onto the sofa, cracked the book open and immediately became all absorbed in the story.
Ryan, unused to sleeping anywhere but the pool-house was the first one to actually get up and out of bed-or so he thought.
Woken, thankfully, not by the crush of cars or Seth's incoherent babble but by someone running water in a different part of the house, causing it to rush through the walls in a roaring sound.
He headed down stairs towards the kitchen and went about making coffee, pouring himself a bowl of his favourite cereal in the process. He turned around and almost dropped the bowl in shock.