Sandy looked down at Ryan, who was curled up on his side, lying on the couch in front of the TV. The kid appeared to be fast asleep.
It figured that he'd be tired. That had been a major blow-up today. Sandy sighed.
He would have rather things had gone differently; would have rather that Ryan had allowed himself to be folded back into the family without a fight. But that wasn't Ryan's way.
Ryan was still, his eyes shut, but he could sense that Sandy was standing over him. Not in a bad way; he was just watching over him. Being protective.
That was not what he had thought would happen today; not by any stretch of the imagination. He'd figured that if he told Sandy why he'd left, Sandy would agree with him and let him leave. And when that didn't happen, he'd figured he could piss him off so bad that Sandy would kick him out. He hadn't thought of any scenario that could send Sandy into big-bad-daddy mode and get his ass spanked. Nope. Not in a million years.
But he was here, on the Cohens couch, lying on his side so it didn't make his ass hurt, waiting for Kirsten and Seth to get home. Home.
Sandy heard the front door open. He walked into the kitchen at the same time that Kirsten and Seth did.
"Hi, Sandy." Kirsten dropped a couple containers of takeout onto the counter and pecked her husband on the lips. "We have Thai."
Sandy was beaming. Seth cocked his head.
"Thai's great and all," he said, "but I'm not sure it's an occasion for explosive joy. Seriously, Dad, what's up?"
"Saw someone today," he said.
Kirsten was spooning noodles into dishes. "Who would that be?" she asked absently.
Ryan stepped into the kitchen. "Me?" he said quietly.
He watched as both Seth and Kirsten's eyes went wide. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sandy's grin broaden.
"Ryan!" Kirsten gasped, dropping the carton in her hand. "You're home!" She rushed towards him.
"Oh my God. Ryan? You're back?" Seth crossed the kitchen in seconds and the boys clasped hands. A second later, Kirsten's arms surrounded them both.
"I'm so glad you're all right!" Kirsten said. "We've been so worried about you, sweetheart." She tightened her grip.
"Wait. So Ryan, what happened? Where've you been? And how'd you get back? Please tell me you're not gonna leave again, 'cause this summer has sucked without you. I mean, seriously. You're not gonna leave again, right?" Seth spoke all of this squashed by his mother's hug between Kirsten and Ryan.
"Leave again?" Ryan said.
Sandy caught his eye from across the room. The look on his face clearly told him he'd better not even consider it. Ryan shook his head. "I'm not leaving again," he said.
Kirsten started suddenly. "You need a plate. Thai sound okay? If I would have known I would have cooked--"
"Thai's great," Ryan assured her.
"Yeah, Mom. You don't want to kill him on his first night back," Seth said.
"Oh, ha ha, Seth," Kirsten said.
"It's true, honey. You do have a tendency to create chaos in the kitchen," Sandy said helpfully.
Ryan took his plate and sat down at the table, wincing momentarily as his butt hit the seat. Kirsten saw the wince.
"Are you sure Thai's okay?" she asked as the rest of the family sat down.
"This is perfect," Ryan said. And the Thai was nice, too.