A/N: Finally. An update for this one. This one gave me fits but here it is. I would have had this updated a couple of days ago, as I promised a few people, but it would only have been half as long and I decided that I really needed to get some Ryan in here after such a long wait. Anyway, The cases I mention within this story are true. I came across articles about current lawsuits in California and then some cases in other states and I decided to use them to explain why they're taking the allegations so seriously. Don't know how realistic it is since in most of the cases I came across that dealt with sexual abuse allegations against foster parents, the accusations were made by the foster children themselves. So I don't really know how they'd approach/deal with allegations made by outside sources, with no eyewitness reports or whatever but, eh, I felt like torturing Ryan some more. Poor guy. He really would need to be in a straightjacket with all of the trauma I keep heaping on him. lol. I'm just pulling a lot of this out of my ass so you'll just have to go with it even if it doesn't quite track. lol.

Mistakes? All mine. Every last one of them.

**************************************

Chapter Four

Luke sits in his room trying to quell the churning in his stomach. They were all questioned by a department investigator that arrived shortly after Mrs. Stark had left with Ryan, and asked repeatedly to search their minds for any instances where Carson's actions concerning Ryan could be misconstrued. They were also asked if Carson had ever acted inappropriately with any other minors, including his own children. Meredith was aghast at the suggestion. As angry as she was at him she knew he wasn't a pervert. She felt bad for her earlier reaction but still couldn't bring herself to say without a doubt that something couldn't have happened beyond her knowledge. The way the investigator phrased the questions had her second guessing Carson. She knew he'd never touch their children but Ryan wasn't theirs. He was an attractive teenage boy, as the investigator pointed out, but he was still a boy. She wanted to believe he'd never do such a thing but she didn't know what to think anymore. His affair with Michael had thoroughly thrown her off kilter.

Luke, Eric and Brad say that they've never seen anything inappropriate and vehemently deny that Carson had ever touched any of them either when the question is posed to them. Luke had nearly decked the guy for asking such a sick question and again tries to explain that it was just stupid rumors and gossip that set this whole thing in motion.

When the questioning is finally over they all retreat to their respective corners of the house. Each one reeling from the whole ordeal. Carson bearing the brunt of the anger and injustice of the situation. He takes it without protest, knowing that none of them would be going through any of this if he'd just been stronger and able to play the part of husband and father and not given in to his needs and wants with Michael.

The ringing of his cell phone breaks the silence in Luke's room. "Hello?", he says not looking at the display.

"Ward? What the hell is going on? Ryan's been here in the ER for hours and you're still not here. What happened? Why......", comes a barrage of questions from Summer.

"Wait....What?!", Luke says sitting up in alarm. "You're at the hospital? And Ryan's there?"

"Yeah, I'm candy-striping tonight and I saw him in the ER when I was bringing a wheelchair down for someone. I asked why he was here but they wouldn't tell me anything and I couldn't find any of you anywhere. I finally called my dad and had him see if he could find out anything. You didn't know?", Summer asks.

Luke sighs as he cradles the phone between his head and neck so he can put on his shoes. "Everything's all fucked up. I tried to call you. That bitch from social services came and took him away because of that shit Chip was saying at school today.....was he hurt? What was your dad able to find out?"

"No, he didn't look hurt but he's, like, strapped in and they....my dad said they were holding him for a 5585. That's a psyche evaluation", she whispered. "I can't go back there....I didn't see that you'd called. I can't have my phone on while I'm working."

"Fuck. I'm on my way. I'm going to call Mr. Cohen. This is so fucked."

************************************

Sandy's mind is reeling, wondering what could have happened in the short amount of time that he'd last seen Ryan. He had also answered a few questions and offered to stay while the rest of them were interviewed but Carson insisted that he go on home and see what he could do for Ryan. Sandy didn't argue. The defeated posture and desolation in Ryan's eyes had cut him to the quick. The poor kid had been through too much already and he didn't know how much more he could take.

Kirsten and Seth are silent for the duration of the ride aside from the nervous tapping Seth is doing on the seat. They insisted on coming once they learned that Ryan was in the hospital. Seth completely flipped out when he learned what happened but what surprised Sandy the most was how upset and worried Kirsten appears to be. He knew she liked the kid but he hadn't realized how much she's grown to care about him in the short time they've all known him.

************************

"Mrs. Stark?", Sandy says as he walks purposefully toward her. He left the others in the waiting area, having been prevented from going any further. Sandy managed to wield his lawyer status as a means of getting past.

Marilyn frowns. "Mr. Cohen. What are you doing here?"

"More importantly, what is Ryan doing here? Awaiting a psychiatric evaluation no less. That's what I'd like to know", Sandy asks pointedly.

"Mr. Cohen, I am under no obligation to relay any information to you. Ryan is a ward of the state of California. He is here for his own best interest. Now...."

"I am Ryan's lawyer. So why don't you tell me just how this is serving his best interests?", Sandy asks.

"As I understood it, you were representing Ryan in helping to facilitate his placement with the Wards and that your services were concluded once that occurred. That placement failed", Marilyn attempts.

"I will represent Ryan in any capacity he needs. His placement with the Wards has not failed. Or has Mr. Ward been found guilty before the investigation is even complete?"

Marilyn sighs and says, "Mr. Cohen, regardless of the outcome of the investigation Ryan will not be returning to the Ward household any time soon. That family is falling apart and the home is clearly an unstable environment. We do not feel that he should be in the middle of such turmoil. Their oldest son dragged him into a fight. He is the center of gossip and the pending divorce is already creating a negative atmosphere within the household."

"Marilyn, please. I need to see him. I shouldn't have let you take him without talking to him and preparing him for what was going on. Hasn't the kid been through enough?", Sandy pleads. "I don't want this to get ugly but I will file every motion I can think of. The state will have so many lawsuits......"

This sparks a reaction from Marilyn and she deflates. She takes a breath and says, "Mr. Cohen, I'm not doing this to hurt Ryan. I'm not trying to.......there are already lawsuits against the department. Which is why this is being taken so seriously. The whole system is under close scrutiny. I already skirted the rules in Ryan's case and look where that's gotten me. Perhaps it is all idle gossip but I can't just dismiss......"

Sandy holds up a hand, "Marilyn...I get it. I do. I'm not asking you to not do your job. I know it has to be looked into and I know you feel like things have blown up in your face. I'm sure you are under a lot of pressure but it's not fair for Ryan to be caught in the middle. What is he doing here? What happened?"

Marilyn sighs in defeat and motions for Sandy to sit. The lawsuits filed locally, along with some high profile national cases have the department skittish across the board. The lawsuits claim that social workers are deliberately keeping children in foster homes for personal gain despite their best interests. Some are even accused of manipulating children into confirming allegations they know to be false in order to keep them in the system and extorting money from the biological parents to have them returned. That particular lawsuit doesn't have any bearing on Ryan's situation but other recent cases in the national spotlight in which children were found to have been left in abusive foster homes, despite repeated calls from neighbors reporting suspected physical or sexual abuse, has the department on edge. One of the cases gaining public attention is a boy that was allegedly being sexually abused by a gay couple. Once the boy had aged out of foster care he brought a lawsuit against the state in which it occurred. Another resulted in the death of a child, again after several reports from neighbors and family were repeatedly ignored, and both had a ripple effect all the way down to schools and teachers being held responsible for not reporting suspicious injuries and behavior of the children in question. The intense scrutiny and fear of being charged with wrongdoing and being sued is most likely the cause for a couple of calls from teachers at Harbor, on top of the calls from concerned parents of students once the rumors started floating through the community. Hence the swift response by the California Department of Children and Family Services, unwilling to chance a child in their jurisdiction having the same fate befall them as did the children in these other cases, as well as opening themselves to further lawsuits.

Unfortunately, with Ryan and many other kids in foster care, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction and kids are being removed from decent homes in an overzealous attempt to prove they are doing their jobs.

After being removed from the Wards home, Ryan was more or less interrogated in an effort to get him to confirm wrongdoing by Carson. Marilyn hadn't handled that part but she was present and she had tried to be supportive of Ryan and deter the department investigator from taking such an aggressive tack but was largely unsuccessful. Ryan insisted that Carson never touched him but no one seemed to like that answer. He reacted badly to the aggressive questioning and became very uncomfortable and agitated the more they pushed and he stood and tried to leave the room. He was physically blocked from exiting and lashed out. Security was called when they couldn't seem to calm him and get him to retake his seat. Marilyn stepped into his line of sight and forced him to focus on her and had started to calm him but once the security guards entered the room he again tried to retreat. Against her protests, Ryan was physically restrained which sent things spiralling further out of control. At the hands on him, Ryan went into a full on panic. Struggling desperately to get free he flashed back to his assault. His strangled voice called out for them to stop. He begged them to please let him go. 911 is dialed and police and medical personnel appeared and there was a prick on his arm causing the fight to finally drain from him.

Marilyn gives Sandy a condensed accounting, keeping in mind that she is speaking to a lawyer. "Ryan didn't react well to the interview. He panicked and tried to leave. When he was stopped he reacted physically and had to be restrained. He was sedated and transported here. Once he awakens, they'll assess his mental state."

Sandy scoffs, "His mental state....what would your mental state be if you'd been put through half of what this kid has been through?"

"Look, Mr. Cohen, everyone here has a job to do and believe it or not we are all trying to do what's best for Ryan", Marilyn says tiredly. "No signs of physical or sexual abuse were found and once he comes out of sedation he'll have a psyche evaluation. I already have a placement lined up and as soon as ......"

Sandy's brow furrows. "Wait. No signs of abuse? What does that mean? What...."

Marilyn inwardly cringes. She hadn't meant to let that slip. She sighs and explains. "My superiors were alarmed by his violent reaction. They instructed me to have him examined for any physical signs of abuse, sexual or otherwise, once he was brought in...", she pauses, holding up a hand to stop the words she can see forming on Sandy's lips. "I reminded them of the assault Ryan had suffered while in the care of his mother but they insisted, threatening to pull me off of the case if I didn't comply. It was going to happen, Mr. Cohen. I figured at least this way I could have it done while he was under sedation. He was completely unaware. That's the best I could do."

Sandy studies her a moment and takes a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Stark. I know you're in a tough position. It's just....How much is this kid supposed to take?" He shakes his head and looks down the hall. "I want to see him."

"He's still under sedation. He won't know you're there", Marilyn starts. She stops when she sees Sandy's determined look and decides not to stand in his way. "Follow me. He's..restrained. They won't take them off until they determine he's not...dangerous. I know, Mr. Cohen. Don't say it. As I told you, he was combative. He struck my colleague and fought the officers and paramedics on scene. It's on his chart. He awoke from the original sedative and was, again, very combative and they had to sedate him further. Once he's awake and they see that he's calm they'll take them off."

Sandy shakes his head. "He won't be calm if he wakes up in restraints. That's probably why he was 'combative' when he woke up in the first place!", he says, voice raised. He closes his eyes and takes a calming breath, momentarily worried that he might have some fallout to deal with from the incident but then noting that Marilyn stated that she has a placement lined up, so it doesn't appear that anyone plans to try to haul the kid off to jail for assault or resisting the police officers. "Never mind. Just take me to him."

Marilyn leads him into the room and hangs back, allowing Sandy to approach the bed alone.

He steps alongside the bed and looks down, taken aback out how young and vulnerable Ryan looks. He reaches out and brushes the hair back as he gently lays his hand on his forehead. "Aw, kid", he whispers. "I'm going to get you out of here", he promises the unconscious boy.

**************************************

Assured that Ryan will remain asleep for while yet to come, Sandy returns to the waiting room.

"Dad?"..."Mr. Cohen?..."Sandy?"...voices ring out all at once as he enters. Sandy fills them in on what he knows. At the mention of Marilyn having found a placement for Ryan, Kirsten objects.

"No, Sandy. We can't let that happen. After everything he's been through he is not going to live with a bunch of strangers. I won't allow it", Kirsten states strongly.

"Kirsten, I agree with you but there may not be anything we can do about it right now. Marilyn didn't follow protocol with Carson. There's no way they're going to allow us to take him without following proper procedure. There are training classes and interviews and....", Sandy tries to explain.

"I don't care. There has to be some way, Sandy", she says with a frown, then grabs her phone from her purse.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm calling my father. He can pull some strings. He can threaten. He can blackmail. I don't care how he does it but Ryan is coming home with us when he leaves here", she says.

Sandy can't keep the smile from his face as he watches her face crinkle in determination. "Honey. I love that you want to bring him home but we can't do anything that might lead to him being taken from us down the road. Ryan's been jerked around enough. We need to do this right."

Kirsten closes her phone and clutches it tightly before turning pleading eyes to Sandy. "We can do both, can't we? I can have dad put some pressure on some people and we can agree to whatever process we need to do but can't we convince them to allow him to stay with us in the meantime. They can come every day if they need to, to make sure we're following through. I can get dad started on fitting the house with everything Ryan will need." She pauses as something passes across Sandy's face. "What?...What is it, Sandy?"

"I'm just worried. Ryan's been through so much and this...", he waves a hand to the surroundings. "We don't know what state of mind he's going to be when he awakens. It doesn't sound like he was too coherent when he first awoke. They had to sedate him again."

Seth steps up at that. "Of course he wasn't coherent! They had him drugged! What the hell do they expect?!", he exclaims incredulously. "Anyone would have reacted the same way with all the shit that's happened to him."

Sandy turns to Seth, seeing Luke's and Summer's equally angry and concerned faces. "Look, everyone. I just want you to be prepared if they do decide to keep him, for whatever reason. Right now, though, I want to get back to him. I don't want him to wake up with only Marilyn there. Maybe if he sees a friendly face he won't get quite so worked up when he wakes up again. I'll work on her while I'm back there, too."

Kirsten nods as the kids grumble at wanting to see Ryan. "Why don't the rest of you go on home. You're not going to be able to see him anyway. Your father and I will be here for him and we'll let you know as soon as we know something. Seth?....Call your grandfather and fill him in. See if he can start making arrangements for the changes we need to make to the house right away." She turns to Luke and asks, "Luke? Do you think you can go with him and help us figure out exactly what we need to do and maybe call your dad to see who he had do the work?"

Luke nods slowly. "Uh, sure, Mrs. Cohen", he says with a frown as he turns to Sandy. "This will just be temporary, right? If he can stay with you guys instead of a foster home, I mean. Just until they figure out that this is all bullshit, right? Ryan can come back and live with me and my dad when things settle down, can't he?" Luke was still pissed off at his dad but he knew he didn't want to leave Newport with his mom and the twins. His mom is talking about moving to Portland to be near her sister. He'll miss them but he has always been much closer with his dad, despite the recent revelations.

Sandy looks to him and takes in his hopeful expression. "It might be a little bit of a fight but he probably could....eventually. Carson could request a fair hearing once he's cleared...but...", he stops and sighs. "....if we do this I want it to be permanent", he says with a glance to Kirsten. At her soft smile and nod of consent, he continues. "I know you care about him, Luke, and I know your dad cares about him but my concern is Ryan. He's been bounced around enough. If he could go right back to you and Carson it would be different but that just doesn't look possible. It would take time and I don't think it would be fair for him to have to adjust to yet another home and then have to move again."

"Besides, dude, we're always hanging out together. Whether it's your house or ours. It'll just be reversed now. With him crashing at casa Cohen", Seth offers reassuringly.

Summer hooks her arm around Luke's and says, "yeah. You'll see him all the time, Ward. Now come on. We need to call Anna and tell her what's happening."

Luke stands motionless for a moment before slowly nodding in acceptance and allowing himself to be led away. His anger at his father renewing. Luke loves his brothers but they're a pain in the ass. Spoiled rotten and always stirring up shit. Ryan is cool. He's his age and he enjoys spending time with him. He can just be himself. Unlike when he was with his friends...the people he thought were his friends before his dad's affair came out, that is, with whom he always felt he had to put on a show. He always had to be "on". He had to be King Jock and, seeing Chip now leading the pack he realized he was also King Asshole because he was just like Chip. He may not be popular anymore but he likes who he is now and that is in large part due to Ryan. He knows Summer and Seth are right. They'll still spend a lot of time together if Ryan is allowed to live with the Cohens but it won't be the same and he doesn't know if he'll ever be able to forgive his dad for that.

Sandy watches them go, feeling bad for Luke but he'll get over it. Ryan is his concern. He turns to Kirsten and asks, "Are you sure about this?"

She smiles warmly and embraces him. "Yes", is all she says and he squeezes her tight.

*****************************************

Sandy speaks with the doctor who pulled Ryan's case and convinces him to allow him to sit with Ryan after explaining his situation in more detail. Conveying that Ryan doesn't know sign language and was probably quite disoriented and scared when he first awoke in the ER. He assures him that Ryan is not a threat to himself or to anyone but might need a familiar face to help ground him.

It's hours before Ryan stirs. Sandy hears a moan and hurries to the bedside so that Ryan will see a familiar face when he opens his eyes. Ryan's eyelids flutter and squint at the bright light of the room. Confused eyes finally adjust and focus on Sandy's face.

"Hey", he says softly.

Ryan blinks, then takes in his surroundings. He sucks in a breath and his eyes widen as he realizes where he is. He tries to move but his hands are held in place. His breathing quickens and he struggles harder.

Sandy places a hand on his shoulder trying to calm him but it panics him further. He pulls at the restraints frantically and yells out, "No!". Sandy reaches out and places his hand on Ryan's left cheek and Ryan instantly stills and presses himself into the bed, eyes clenched shut. Sandy can feel the tremors coursing through his body. He gently but firmly guides Ryan's face in his direction and gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze, patiently waiting for Ryan to open his eyes. Ryan is still breathing quickly but he slowly opens his eyes and looks at his face. He smiles and says, "You're ok. Everything is ok." He holds on for a beat to make sure Ryan is with him and then pulls back.

Ryan swallows and nods and works to get himself under control. His eyes fall on the restraints and he looks back up at Sandy.

"Do you remember what happened?", Sandy asks slowly to make sure Ryan can read his lips, knowing things might still be a bit foggy. He watches as Ryan tries to sort things out in his mind and once Ryan indicates that he does remember, he says,"they had to restrain you to keep you from fighting them...". He stops as he sees Ryan close his eyes tightly. "Hey", Sandy says, tapping his hand to get his focus. He pulls out his cell phone and texts the rest, then holds the phone so Ryan can read it. It's just temporary. Just until they can see you aren't a threat to the staff or to yourself. It's standard procedure. Just a precaution. All right?

Ryan sags back into the bed and closes his eyes again. Shit. He punched that DCFS guy.

Sandy texts and gently taps Ryan's hand. There's a slight flinch as he opens his eyes. Sandy shows him the screen . Mrs. Stark says that she has a placement for you but I want to try to work it out so that you can come stay with me and Kirsten. Would you like that, Ryan?

Ryan turns puzzled eyes to Sandy. There's a flutter of hope in his stomach but he pushes it down. Things don't ever work out the way he wants. This mess with the Wards is testament to that. He thought, for once, things might actually work out with them but as usual it all disappeared. They won't let him stay with the Cohens and even if they do it won't last. It never does. So he drops his eyes and shrugs.

Sandy frowns and taps his hand. When Ryan looks up he starts to ask what's wrong but there's movement behind him and he turns to see the doctor, who, unbeknown to Ryan and Sandy, has been watching the interaction. He heard Ryan struggling and came in ready to sedate him again if necessary. He was there when Ryan first awoke and they all tried to get Ryan to calm down but, seeing Sandy handle the situation so calmly, he realizes how scary it must have been for Ryan having so many strange faces and hands pawing at him, unable to hear the words they were all saying to try to soothe him. Especially considering his history, which he has only now had a chance to fully understand from his earlier talk with Mr. Cohen.

He clears his throat and then holds up a finger and excuses himself and abruptly turns and leaves the room, leaving a puzzled Sandy and Ryan. Sandy looks back at Ryan with raised eyebrows. Ryan shrugs his shoulders. Doctors are weird. A few moments later the doctor returns offering apologies and holds up a laptop that he borrowed from one of the nurses to help him communicate with Ryan. He walks up to shake Sandy's hand and then faces Ryan and says "hello", before setting the laptop on the bedside tray. He turns it on and waits for the wi-fi to connect, then he opens an IM screen and slides it up to Ryan. He takes a seat near the bed and starts typing into his blackberry, sending an IM to the open window. I'm Dr. Mark Ellison. You can call me Mark, Doctor, Dr. Ellison....whichever you prefer. He meets Ryan's eyes with a smile. At Ryan's nod he begins typing again. Do you mind if we talk for a bit now? He notices Ryan's eyes shoot to Sandy. Would you like your lawyer to stay?

Ryan frowns. Is Sandy still his lawyer? Is that why he's here? Is he in trouble for punching that guy and fighting the cops?

Sandy smiles at him and gestures to the keyboard. With a nod of approval from Dr. Ellison, he tells Ryan, I'm your lawyer as long as you need me to be. Ok, kid? I want to make sure your needs are being met and that you're not getting lost in the shuffle.

Ryan searches his face, trying to figure out his angle. He said he wants him to live with them but now it sounds like he's just doing his duty as a lawyer. Most lawyers probably wouldn't want to take him home but Sandy's not most lawyers. He stepped up for him and helped get Mrs. Stark to let him stay with the Wards. Now he says he wants him to stay with his family. Is it for Seth? And for how long, he wonders. It can't be just until they find someplace else for him because he said Mrs. Stark had already found a placement.

He starts as Dr. Ellison taps his hand. His face flushes in embarrassment at having apparently zoned out. He ducks his head a little and then meets the doctor's concerned gaze and reads his lips for the apology for startling him. The doctor then removes the restraints from Ryan's wrists and begins asking questions.

Do you know why you're here, Ryan?

He nods.

Can you tell me?

Ryan shifts uncomfortably and then types out, I freaked out.

Dr. Ellison smiles softly and asks, "Can you tell me why?"

Ryan chews his lip and frowns. They kept asking me the same questions. They weren't listening to me and it pissed me off.

Dr. Ellison asks him what it was he felt they weren't hearing.

That Mr. Ward never touched me. I'd answer their questions and they'd reword it but ask the same thing over and over again. They wouldn't believe me. He didn't touch me. He looks at the doctor and then to Sandy and says aloud, "He didn't. I swear."

Dr. Ellison watches as Sandy gently rests his hand on Ryan's shoulder and gives it a reassuring squeeze. He asks another question. All right, Ryan. What happened next?

Ryan sighs. I had enough. I wanted to leave. I didn't do anything wrong. So I told them I was done. I tried to leave the room. I don't know where I was going to go but I just wanted out and.....I guess I kind of panicked when they tried to stop me. They started coming at me and I....just wanted to get away. He again looks from Sandy to Dr. Ellison. I didn't hurt anyone bad, did I? I didn't mean to.....

Sandy doesn't know the answer to that so he looks to Dr. Ellison.

Basically a bloody nose and a split lip. A little ice and antiseptic and a butterfly bandage and they were good to go. He gives Ryan a moment to digest this before asking, can you tell me what was going through your mind when that was happening? Ryan looks to Sandy and he gives a nod of encouragement. Again, Dr. Ellison takes note of the interaction.

The basement. Mickey, is all Ryan types.

Sandy closes his eyes as he shifts his hand, which has been resting on Ryan's shoulder this whole time, and starts rubbing circles on his back in an effort to comfort.

Mickey. That's the man who assaulted you a few months ago?

Ryan nods but doesn't meet his eyes. All of those hands on me. I just wanted to get out. I didn't mean to hurt anyone. I swear. I just wanted to get out. His breathing picks up and he looks to Sandy. "Am I in trouble? Are they going to arrest me?", he asks fearfully.

Dr. Ellison taps the bed to get Ryan's attention and IMs, No, Ryan. No charges will be filed. Mrs. Stark explained things and the officer agreed to let it drop. Mr. Collins, the gentleman you punched? He obviously knows your situation and also isn't bringing charges.

Ryan sags in relief but then frowns and Sandy gives a squeeze of his shoulder and Ryan looks up at him.

"What is it, kid?"

He chews his lip and then types, Will you tell them I'm sorry? And that I appreciate them not throwing me in jail?.

He looks at Sandy with such open and earnest eyes that he momentarily gets lost in the blue orbs. His hand unconsciously drifts from his shoulder to gently brush along the back of Ryan's head. Admiration for this boy growing by the second.

Ryan's eyes widen slightly at the touch, given with a gentleness he doesn't think he's ever felt before, and studies Sandy's face and sees pure affection and he doesn't quite know what to do with that. He knows Carson cares for him and he often saw the concern and affection for him on his face but nothing quite like this.

Sandy gives a soft smile and answers, "I'll tell them, kid." The moment lingers a moment before Ryan nods in appreciation.

Dr. Ellison watches the exchange in fascination before tapping Ryan's hand to get his attention. Ryan startles at the touch and his head whips around.

"Sorry", he says with a smile. "I think that's enough for now, Ryan. I'll talk a little more with you later."

Ryan blinks and when his mind catches up he sighs in relief as Dr. Ellison saves the IM session for his report and gathers his things.

He indicates that he'd like to speak with Mr. Cohen outside and Sandy lets Ryan know that he'll be back.

Once outside, Dr. Ellison informs Sandy that DCFS had requested that Ryan be put on a 72 hour hold when he was brought in but he had refused, only agreeing to an 8 hour hold until the sedation could wear off and he could have an actual conversation with Ryan. He's dealt with kids like Ryan before, with disabilities or emotional trauma, and often times he felt that the hospital was being used more as a temporary housing for them when they can't find immediate placement for them. The need to sedate Ryan indicated a more serious case in this instance but he wasn't willing to commit to that time frame without some kind of personal interaction first.

"Marilyn said she already had a placement lined up and, despite my disagreement with some of her actions, I don't think she was being untruthful about that. The thing is, I don't want Ryan to go to that placement. My wife and I would like Ryan to stay with us but we aren't approved foster parents and haven't gone through the proper process", Sandy tries to explain. He doesn't want Ryan stuck in the hospital for 72 hours but he could use a little more time. "We don't want him to keep getting bounced around. He knows us. I think he's comfortable with us."

Dr. Ellison says, "You are very good with him. I hope it works out. For everyone. I need to make out my initial report and call Mrs. Stark. I'll extend the 8 hour hold to a 24 hour hold but I'm hesitant to go beyond that, Mr. Cohen. Not without needing to give an substantive reason, which would have to go in his records. He's clearly in need of further counseling but I don't see anything truly alarming in his reactions. I can put in a word with DCFS but I doubt that will mean much outside of my capacity here."

"Anything you can do, Dr. Ellison. I appreciate it", Sandy says and they part ways.

Sandy makes his way back to Kirsten. "Call your father. We don't have much time."

Kirsten raises her eyebrows.

"I don't want him to get carried away but if he can call in some favors I'll do the same and maybe that, along with Dr. Ellison, can help us hurry this along and keep Ryan from going to a new home. I know I shouldn't have gotten his hopes up but I already told Ryan that we want him to live with us", Sandy explains.

"How did he react?", Kirsten asks.

Sandy frowns. "I don't think he believed me or maybe he just doesn't have any faith that things will work out. He was.....pretty subdued. Indifferent to the idea."

"Well, you can't really blame him. I know things at the Wards are a mess but there's no denying how much Carson cares for him. Luke, too. It's such a shame that all of that was ripped away just when he was really settling in......But he seemed all right otherwise?", Kirsten inquires.

Sandy nods. "He was a little disoriented at first but he calmed pretty quickly. The doctor spoke with him and seems to feel that Ryan doesn't need to remain for further observation but he did agree to extend the hold for 24 hours so we could have some time to try to work something out. It's not much but it's better than nothing."

Kirsten grasps his hand and squeezes. "Between you and my dad, he couldn't have better people working for him. It's time things start going in Ryan's favor, honey. He'll come home with us. Mark my words", she states firmly, a force to be reckoned with in her own right.

Sandy smiles with a renewed hope as she calls Caleb.

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Kirsten goes home to update everyone and make sure things are getting done while Sandy decides to stay for the duration that Ryan will be there. Unwilling to leave until Ryan does, whether he goes home with them or not. He stays by Ryan's bed through the night, watching over him as he shifts restlessly, caught in bad dreams, ready to wake him if they seem too intense but he seems to quiet on his own. Once Ryan is awake he leaves to get coffee or something to eat but doesn't stay gone long. Ryan seems shocked every time Sandy walks back in. Sandy tells him that he'll be back each time he leaves the room but Ryan doesn't seem able to accept that it's true until Sandy follows through and comes through the door.

The morning is tense, when Marilyn comes by and asks Sandy to leave the room while she talks with Ryan. When she's finished Sandy pleads their case once again, letting her know that they're willing to jump through whatever hoops they need to in order to make it happen but Marilyn gives nothing away and he can't tell if he's having an impact on her decision or not.

Afternoon finds Sandy sitting by Ryan's bed, reading some legal papers for a client that he had his assistant bring over. Ryan is poking at his food and shooting furtive glances at Sandy, puzzled by his insistence on staying with him. No one's ever sat by his bedside for any length of time except when he was a kid and then it was Trey who watched over him. Carson checked on him every night when he was in the hospital that last time but he never stayed in his room overnight. Sandy occasionally looks up and catches him watching and he ducks his head. He just doesn't know what to make of it. He likes Sandy. He's nice and always makes him feel welcome when he's hanging out with Seth but he doesn't really understand why Sandy's still here. He was lucky enough to find one family that truly wanted to take him in, with the Wards, but now the Cohens, too? He's never had that kind of good luck in his whole life. There's got to be a catch.

Sandy surreptitiously watches Ryan as he tries to go over his papers. Catching him watching him in return. He sees the confusion on his face and watches as Ryan appears to be puzzling out some equation in his head. Something's not adding up for the kid and he has a feeling it's him. That's ok. They have time. He smiles to himself at the sudden firm belief that Ryan will be leaving this hospital with him. He feels it in his gut. The system isn't going to fail Ryan this time.