Chapter One: Destruction

Basic Jargon:

Summary: New storyline after The Shake Up, season four. A car accident takes the life of Taylor and Ryan's young daughter. They both have different ways of dealing with their grief. Taylor, fed up with Ryan's inability to look at her, heads to France and Ryan tries to put his life together in a way he couldn't after Marissa's death. With some much needed therapy, reflection, and eventual interaction, they may be able to pull themselves in the right direction.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: Another new fanfic. It's not like I have three more that I need to work on updating or anything. This was just another idea that kept coming into my head that I felt the need to write out. Hopefully you like it, hopefully you review. The first two sections of this story are Taylor and Ryan's sides of therapy sessions and the lyrics that break up this chapter are from A Bad Dream by Keane.

I was fighting

But I just feel too tired

To be fighting

Guess I'm not the fighting kind

March 30, 2009

Paris, France

What am I supposed to say here? Am I supposed to admit something? Tell you that I think I should have stayed. Because I can't. I can't say that. I wish I thought that, you know? I really wish I did, but I don't. I would have drowned in Berkeley and not even Ryan, not even everyone's favorite knight in shining armor could have saved me.

Do I really think that? Of course I do. Of course I think that. It's better here. Paris is better for grieving. It's easier to get lost here. It's easier to lose yourself here and right now, that's what I want to do. I want to lose myself.

I'm twenty-one. In the states I'm barely legally allowed to buy a drink and yet I've had this life. This big, complicated life, with a mother who can't seem to decide whether she loves me or Cabo and a makeshift family and this guy. This perfect, great guy. Not perfect. No one is perfect and Ryan, well he has his moments of stupidity, but I mean, I think he was the right guy for me. Might have been the right guy for me. Could have been the right guy for me. I don't even know anymore. He quit talking. We quit talking and it's so hard to live under that scrutiny. That's not the type of scrutiny that you should be faced with from your spouse.

Not spouse. I didn't mean spouse. We weren't married. He asked me once, but I couldn't say yes. I barely knew him. I guess that's not true. I knew him. I liked him. I stalked him. I loved him. I thought we belonged together, but not like that. We'd barely dated. We'd been together a few months and it all just happened so fast.

I mean, it was New Year's Eve and we spent the whole day looking for Summer's missing pregnancy test and it never even crossed my mind. We were supposed to do everything but, but somehow we forgot the but. And I never even thought that we should use a condom because I had been a tad screwy my birth control since I'd gotten back from France and I mean, a tad screwy and totally screwy aren't the same thing either, so I guess I thought. I guess, I didn't think and then I told him and he did that noble thing, that I got the milk for free, but now I guess I should buy the cow because she's carrying my illegitimate bastard child thing. And I don't have a lot of self-respect, but I have more self-respect than that. I'm stronger than that.

I found the ring in his dresser drawer a few days before it happened. It was beautiful. It was so perfect and I don't know when he would have asked, re-popped the question so to speak, but I would have said yes. And then, it all sort of fell apart.

She was so pretty and I may not be perfect and Ryan may not be perfect, but she was perfect. Aurelia was perfect; blonde, beautiful, happy. She was so happy and I loved holding her at night. I loved the way she laughed, the way she smiled, the way I could make her smile. The way I could protect her from so much, but I didn't do my job. I failed. I failed her as a mother.

I should have seen him. I should have known he was going to run that light. I should have been overly cautious. Mothers are supposed to be overly cautious. When the light turns green for them and they don't think anyone is going to do anything stupid, they're supposed to slow down anyway. It's the least I could have done. I should have been the slowest, most cautious driver in the world for her. She deserved that. Ryan would have done that for her. He's overly paranoid when he drives, has been since before she was born, has been since Marissa died. We always had this arrangement. If it was far and I drove there then he'd drive back and vice-versa. I should have driven there. If I drove there he would have driven back and then maybe he would have saw the car or slammed the brakes faster or been more cautious or gotten caught at another light or left a minute earlier or later. I don't know. All I know is that if it had been different, then maybe I wouldn't feel like I killed my daughter.

I know. I know. It's not my fault. That's what everyone says, even Ryan said that, but that's not how I feel. She was seventeen months old. She could walk and say a few words and she'd giggle when we laughed and she was so perfect. She had her whole life ahead of her and I was driving. I was driving the car that took her life. How can I not feel like it's my fault?

She had him wrapped around her finger. Ryan was such a great dad and when she died I feel like I shattered all the dreams he had. She was his world. She was my world too and really, what are you supposed to talk about? What are you supposed say when your world crashes and burns? We couldn't talk. He couldn't look at me. We wandered around that town hoping and praying we wouldn't have to cross paths. I'd work late. He'd work late. I'd stay on campus when I knew he was going home. He'd do the same.

You want the truth? The truth is I couldn't breathe there. In Berkley everyone would console me. Everyone knew. People would bring you things. Crap. Cards. Baskets. They'd bake you pies and bring you dinner, but what's the point of having dinner sitting in front of you if you can't eat? What's the point of going to class if you can't think? What's the point of trying to go on with your life some place where you can't breathe?

So yeah. I came here to the City of Light. A place I actually kind of know well and I'm trying to heal. Trying to move on with my life, because if I dwell on the past, if I think of my friends, my family, Ryan, they lead me to thinking about tiny coffins. Here I can think about baguettes and peach tortes and crème brûlée and it's all superficial, very superficial, extremely superficial, but it's one step forward.

And yes, I may be back to watching Bloodbath 4 every night before I go to sleep and I may be avoiding some very important things, but I'm trying. At least, I'm trying to try. What should I be doing?

Wouldn't mind it

if you were by my side

But you're long gone,

yeah you're long gone now.

April 1, 2009

Berkley, California

I let her go. I didn't mean to let her go. I didn't tell her to go. I just couldn't look at her. It's not because I blame her. I don't blame her.

Okay. If I'm being honest about how I feel, how I'm feeling, maybe a little, maybe I blame her a little. I'm not trying to blame her. It's just not something I can control. It's subconscious and it's not her fault. It's not her fault and it's not my fault and I don't blame her anymore than I blame myself.

I shouldn't have rushed. My mom was in Reno for a couple of days and we went there to meet her. She'd never met her - my mom, she'd never met Aurelia and so we were doing that thing, that family vacation thing. It's rare that I actually know where she is, so it was nice, and she got along with Taylor. Don't ask me how. I don't know; but they wanted to get coffee. They wanted to go out for one final drink. There was this coffee shop on the corner and the whole thing would have taken ten, twenty, thirty minutes tops, but I wanted to go home. Classes started the next day and I just wanted to go home. Who knew how many times we'd have to stop on the way back because of the baby, who knew if she'd even sleep that night. I was trying to do the most logical thing. But if I hadn't, if I hadn't had done the logical thing, if I had just sat there and smiled and drank my coffee and held my daughter, maybe we wouldn't have been at that exact stop light at that exact time. Maybe it would have been someone else's tragedy.

I knew she was leaving. I could tell she was leaving. She was tired of it. She was tired of me ignoring her. She was tired of us dancing around the issues. She was tired of me not looking at her. I tried to look at her. I did. I tried, but they had the same eyes. Taylor has these unique eyes, they're amber. How many people do you know with amber eyes? And Aurelia had them too. My blonde hair and Taylor's eyes. And every time I looked at her, every time I tried to talk to her I felt like I had blood on my hands.

Do you know what it's like? Do you know what it's like to look at someone and see a seventeen-month-old staring back at you? It'll drive you insane, drive you to tears. When I was eighteen and Marissa died I didn't think I'd get over it. I carried her. I held her in my arms, I felt the life drain from her body, but life went on. I tried to prevent it from going on, tried to get the shit knocked out of me, tried to ignore my family, tried to go on without them, but it was them that saved me.

I never thought anything could be worse than that, but sitting with Taylor in that hospital room, holding her hand, telling her that it would be okay, that it had to be okay. That was worse. That was about a million times worse than when Marissa died and when they told us, when they told us there was nothing they could do, that was about a billion times worse.

I held Taylor when she broke down in tears. I held Taylor when we put our daughter into the ground. I held her until I couldn't look at her anymore. I held her until she retreated into the one room I can't go into. When Marissa died I ran away. I left the Cohen's. I retreated into my own little world, but when Aurelia died, I couldn't leave. I couldn't retreat. I needed them. I needed Taylor too, but it's hard to expect something from someone you can't talk to, someone you can't look at. So she left. She did what I did a few years ago, except, she really left. She didn't become distant like I became distant. No. She left the continent so she couldn't become distant like that.

Do I love her? Of course I love her. I've loved her since she stalked me in a groundhog costume and I've wanted to marry her for over a year. I've wanted to put a ring on her finger for the longest time, but I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be perfect the way our trip to Vegas wasn't. I wanted it to be perfect the way our life seemed to be, but nothing's perfect and I should have asked. Don't ask me why I was going to wait until Valentine's Day, I don't know. It just seemed clichéd enough. Not that that would have helped. How could it help if I couldn't even look at her? It's not like a ring could have changed that. Could it?

The point is, I knew she was leaving, I just hoped she'd say goodbye. Would that have been too much to ask for?

And I'm thinking about those days,

And I'm thinking about those days.

Taylor fainted at the sight of blood. She had told him that when they were still in the rubble of her former bedroom. He just wasn't sure where she'd seen blood, he'd managed to hide his from her well. This wasn't supposed to be how it went. He was supposed to reconcile with Taylor and the two of them were supposed to talk about what the future held for them or do something that released tension under her covers. They weren't supposed to be in the hospital. There wasn't supposed to have been an earthquake. Seth wasn't supposed to have given him blood. Pancakes and Veronica weren't supposed to have matching casts. Kirsten wasn't supposed to have fallen, she wasn't supposed to lose her baby. He wasn't supposed to wake up to hear all this and he certainly wasn't supposed to wake up to hear that Taylor had passed out and was in a room like his somewhere else in the hospital.

"Hey." He greeted, entering her room quietly.

"Hi." She replied softly. It looked as though she had been crying.

"Are you okay?" He asked as he sat down in the chair next to her bed.

"Yeah. I'm fine. Peachy really, peachy keen." She tried to fake her usual enthusiasm. "Shouldn't I be asking you that? I mean you're the one that lied about being hurt."

"I'm fine. I'm not the one that fainted at random and looks like she's been crying."

"Nothing. It's just – this whole day. This is not how I thought the day would go. Poor Kirsten. Poor Sandy. Poor person who died. I shot my mom in the foot with a flare gun. That's not how this was supposed to go. It's all just been a bad dream."

"Tell me about it." He added, giving up his seat and sitting on the side of her bed instead, "But it'll be okay. I'm sure everything will be okay in the end." She looked like she was going to start crying again. "Whose blood did you see anyway?"

"What?" She asked confused.

"You faint when you see blood."

"Oh." She sighed. "No one's."

"Then why did you …?"

"You covered me during the earthquake. Protected me from the earthquake and it was all very noble, but your weight and the cupboard's weight, it was a lot of weight.

"And that caused you to faint hours later?"

"Kind of. They did some tests when you were out of it." Taylor shook her head. "The pressure. I don't know. There was trauma or something."

"What does that mean?"

She bit her lip. "You know how Summer thought she was pregnant on New Year's." Ryan nodded. "Well – I didn't think I was pregnant, but I kind of am."

"Excuse me?"

"You knocked me up and when you protected me from the earthquake the pressure was almost too much for the impenetrable fortress of my womb. I don't know. Something like that." Taylor sighed. "I didn't hear much past the 'You're pregnant Ms. Townsend' thing."

"You're pregnant?"

"I guess I am." Taylor inhaled sharply.

"You're pregnant?"

"Please don't ask that again." She shook her head. "I wish I had a different answer, but I don't."

"And the baby's fine?"

"Yeah." She sighed, "But I on the other hand am not. If anyone asks about the fainting, when I left my mom's room I ran into a guy who cut himself on some glass in the earthquake and was bleeding, okay?"

"This is not a happy day and as such, it's not a day for happy news. Not that this is happy." She paused. "But to some people it would be worth congratulations or that whole cute talk thing and I can't handle that right now. Could you? Plus, Sandy and Kirsten lost a child tonight. We just can't bring it up."

"I understand." Ryan took a deep breath. "But I could think of much worse news." He squeezed her hand tight and a smile almost cracked through her closed lips.