Author's Note: This story is mostly the episode 'The Power of Love' with an added scene that is my fiction. Written June 2005.

The Power of Mom

Ryan poured himself a bowl of cereal, and thought the same thing he thought every morning. That he was happy. Happy to be included in a family, and accepted as a part of that family for who he was. The phone rang and he answered, "Cohen residence."

It was Seth on the other end. He said, "Cough twice if you're alone."

Ryan said, "I'm alone. Where are you?"

"Well remember last night when I said I was going to bed?"

"Yeah, didn't happen huh?"

"It did, just not there."

Ryan heard a noise on the stairs he said, "Seth, your parents are here and awake."

"I know dude, that's why you have to cover for me."

"Let me think about that…..No."

"Ryan come on, in the end it will just be hurting my parents to tell them, you know how they worry. Okay gotta go, bye."

Seth hung up to Ryan's protest. Ryan glared at the phone and then hug it up. He sighed and finished up his cereal. As soon as he saw Sandy coming into the room Ryan said, "See you tonight. I've got to get to school."

Sandy said, "Need a ride?"

"No, I think I'll take my bike."

"You sure? I could give both you boys a ride today."

Kirsten walked in and said, "Where's Seth?"

Ryan said, "He went to school early."

"Seth?"

Ryan nodded feeling uncomfortable and said, "He had to finish a report."

Sandy said, "Report? On what?"

Ryan looked right at Sandy and said as quickly as he could, "The history of agriculture in twentieth century California."

Ryan hated lying. He knew he wasn't good at it, and it always made his stomach feel uneasy.

Kirsten said, "That's specific."

Ryan quickly started to walk away towards the front door as he said, "I've got to go to school."

After he past Sandy, Sandy said, "Hey kid, I've been lied to by the best, and I've got to say, you're not that good."

Ryan turned to look at Sandy and felt even worse. Sandy said, "He snuck out to see his girlfriend didn't he?"

Kirsten gave a laugh of disbelief at the notion, and Ryan gave her an apologetic look. Kirsten said, "Wait. He didn't. Did he?"

Ryan gave a slight nod and then looked down. Sandy said, "Alright, go to school. Tell Seth that I expect both of you to come straight home from school, and we'll be talking about this."

Ryan felt his stomach twist. He nodded and turned to leave as quickly as he could. He berated himself for getting caught up in Seth's problems, but then a few blocks down the road, he realized he would do the same thing again if given the same choices, because Seth was in effect his brother. In the year and a half he had known Seth, Seth had been much more of a brother to him then his real brother ever had, so he would lie for Seth again if he thought it was what Seth wanted. And he knew for sure that Seth would do the same for him.

After school both boys did come straight home from school. Ryan was nervous, but Seth seemed to think the whole thing was amusing. Before they went in the front door Ryan said, "How can you keep joking about it?"

"Have you learned nothing of me this past year Ryan? Joking is what I do. It's what makes me the me we all know and love."

"Yeah, but your parents seemed pretty pissed. Aren't you worried about what they're gonna do?"

Seth gave Ryan a look. He said, "Like what?"

Ryan shrugged and didn't comment. Seth put a hand on the doorknob and said, "So they ground us. It will suck for a few days, and then it will be over. It's not the end of the world."

Seth patted Ryan on the shoulder and said, "You'll be fine. Just take my lead."

Seth opened the door and as soon as he shut it behind him he heard his father yell, "Seth Ezekiel! Kitchen! Now! And bring Mr. History of Agriculture with you."

Both boys walked slowly into the kitchen to find Sandy and Kirsten waiting for them. Ryan was nervous and it showed. Seth on the other hand was not. Sandy said, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Seth looked over at Ryan as if expecting an answer. Ryan realized Seth was looking at him, and looked back at Seth motioning with his head to look back at Sandy. Seth looked over at his father, and realized Sandy had been talking to him. He said, "Oh….. I'm sorry, and it was totally an accident and not intentional. We fell asleep watching TV."

Sandy said, "You're both grounded. No going out. No phones, no TV, and no video games."

Seth gave a halfhearted fist in the air and silently mouthed "Yes!" as Sandy was talking.

Sandy gave Seth an extra glare and said, "Don't be a smart ass. Do you know what this weekend is?"

Seth nodded, "It's your twentieth anniversary."

Sandy just stared at Seth for a second not believing that his son had remembered that, when he himself had forgotten until Kirsten reminded him that morning. He said, "That's right, it is. And we want to go away for the weekend to celebrate, and if we can't trust you to stay by yourselves, then your going to spend the weekend with your Grandfather and Julie Cooper."

Seth and Ryan shared a very nervous look at that announcement. Seth said, "You can trust us."

And at the same time Ryan said, "No more lying."

Sandy nodded and said, "Good. Now go do your homework."

Both boys went in separate directions to go to their rooms. Once they were gone Sandy turned to Kirsten and said, "Nothing like a little Julie Cooper to strike fear in the hearts of children everywhere."

Kirsten gave him an indulgent smile and said, "I'm very impressed."

That night at dinner Seth was quieter then usual. Ryan was usually fairly quiet, so that didn't seem out of place, but he didn't make much eye contact during the meal which was unusual. Sandy and Kirsten talked about their weekend plans. After dinner both Ryan and Seth went back to their rooms without being told. Sandy was impressed at the attitude change. As Sandy and Kirsten were cleaning up the dinner dishes the doorbell rang. Kirsten went to get it. It was Lindsay, the sister she only recently found out she had. Kirsten smiled and said, "Hi Lindsay, come on in. What brings you here?"

Lindsay said, "Ryan said we could study together tonight. Is he here?"

Kirsten said, "He's here, but I'm sorry to say, he's grounded."

Lindsay didn't know what to say to that. "Oh…."

Kirsten took pity on the girl's obvious discomfort and said, "Well, I guess it would be okay for a little while as long as you're studying."

Lindsay gave her a big smile and said, "Thanks Kirsten. That's really nice of you."

Lindsay went out to the pool house and said hi to Ryan. He was surprised that the Cohens had let her in to see him, but he was happy about it too. They started studying, but about ten minutes into it there was more kissing then studying going on.

Upstairs Seth had called Alex and asked her if she wanted company for the night again. She had agreed, and he decided to sneak out the window.

Downstairs in the living room Sandy and Kirsten were sitting down to watch some TV when Sandy said, "Maybe we're not handling things the right way with Seth and Ryan."

"Are you having post grounding guilt?"

"Not exactly. I just think that it's hard to be a good influence on your kids when they're not here to influence. I think we should make them come down and watch some TV with us."

Kirsten rolled her eyes and said, "You're such a convincing hard ass, but when it comes down to it you're a big softie."

Sandy smiled and pointed out what they were watching, "Come on Honey, the news will be punishment enough."

Sandy got up and went to get Seth while Kirsten went to get Ryan and Lindsay. Sandy opened Seth's bedroom door saying, "I know I sent you up here to start serving time but….."

Sandy stopped dead in his tracks and said, "You've got to be kidding me."

Seth was halfway out the window. Seth gave his dad an embarrassed smile and a wave. Sandy pointed at him and said, "Get your ass back in this room right now."

Seth climbed back in the room and stood there not knowing what to say. Sandy went over and shut the window. He crossed his arms and looked at Seth as he said, "You're grounded and you're sneaking out. Is that about right?"

Seth said, "It's not what you're thinking Dad, I was….."

Sandy held his hand up, "No. I don't want to hear it. I was about to invite you downstairs, but now you're staying in your room. I'm going to come and check on you every half an hour tonight, and if you aren't in your room, there's going to be hell to pay."

Seth opened his mouth and Sandy leaned down a little so they were eye to eye as he said, "You don't want to push me right now."

Seth closed his mouth and nodded as he backed up and sat down on his bed. Sandy walked out of the room and almost slammed the door, but kept himself in check as he left.

Kirsten walked out to the pool house and knocked on the door as she walked in. She said, "Hey do you…."

Kirsten stopped short at the scene in front of her. There was her new 'son' Ryan, shirtless on the bed with her newly found sister under him. They were obviously in the middle of a serious make out session, which appeared to be leading to more. Kirsten said, "…Oh My God!"

Kirsten shut the door, and walked back into the living room. She sat down on the couch, not knowing what to do or say. A few seconds later, a very embarrassed looking Lindsay ran by her saying, "I have to go home. I'm sorry."

A couple of minutes after that Sandy came and sat beside her on the couch. They looked at each other. Sandy said, "Seth was sneaking out the window again."

Kirsten said, "Ryan was half naked and making out with Lindsay on his bed."

Sandy and Kirsten both looked away from each other and just sat on the couch staring at the TV without really noticing what was on anymore. A few minutes later they looked at each other again. Sandy said, "Ryan and Lindsay?"

Kirsten said, "Seth was sneaking out again?"

They were quite for a few minutes again and then Sandy patted Kirsten's knee. He said, "I've already talked to Seth. I'll go talk to Ryan."

Kirsten gave him an absent minded nod, and continued to try and soak in what had just occurred. Sandy, suddenly tired, got up and walked out to the pool house. He knocked and waited for Ryan to say, "Come in."

Sandy went in and sat down in a cushioned chair that was beside the bed. A fully dressed and very nervous looking Ryan was sitting on the edge of his bed. Sandy leaned forward in the chair and looked at Ryan as he said, "I thought you two were just friends."

Ryan nodded and looked down. "We were, I mean we are, but……It just turned into something else."

"So why didn't you tell us?"

"Kirsten just found out Lindsay was her sister, and I didn't want to upset her even more."

Sandy nodded and said, "And why didn't you at least tell me?"

Ryan didn't have an answer to that and gave Sandy an honest 'I don't know' shrug. Sandy said, "Maybe because I told you it wasn't a good idea, and you didn't want me to try and talk you out of it?"

Ryan looked back down and slowly nodded his head. "Maybe."

Sandy sighed. "Ryan, you're a part of this family now. You have to be able to trust us, and tell us what's going on in your life. Even if it means telling us things we maybe don't want to hear. But lying to us so that you can avoid talking about tough issues is never going to be okay."

Ryan looked up, "You're right. I'm sorry."

Sandy looked away for a minute and said, "You know, we haven't really talked about this since you've been back home, but…… after what happened with Teresa…… and now that you're with Lindsay…..I think maybe we should talk about girls."

Ryan looked at Sandy with horror. Sandy looked back at Ryan and said, "Did you and Teresa use condoms?"

Ryan's face turned an interesting shade of red as he stuttered, "N…No….Not really."

"Why not?"

Ryan shrugged. Sandy said, "You're gonna have to do better then that. I'm sure you know how and why to use them, so why didn't you?"

Ryan wanted to disappear. He mumbled, "We didn't have any, and…… at the time….. it….. we….. she thought it would be safe."

Sandy shook his head. He said, "It's never a hundred percent safe even with a condom."

Ryan had nothing to say. Sandy said, "Okay, you need to promise me that you'll use a condom every time from now on. If you need money for some, or want me to go with you to buy some, just let me know."

Ryan couldn't think of a worse scenario then him and Sandy going shopping together to buy condoms. Ryan nodded and said, "I will from now on. I swear."

Sandy nodded and patted Ryan's knee as he got up to leave. When he got to the door he turned and said, "Oh, and for my sanity, and Kirsten's, learn to lock your door."

Ryan nodded. "Yeah, sorry about that."

Sandy left and Ryan flopped back on the bed and groaned in embarrassment.

That night neither of the boys slept very well. Ryan was up first and made coffee. Shortly after Seth came in. Seth said, "Hey."

"Hey."

"So how was your night? Mine kind of sucked."

"Mine too."

Seth said, "I called Alex and told her I would be coming over, and as I was sneaking out the window, Dad walked in and caught me."

Ryan sipped his coffee and then said, "Your mom walked in on me and Lindsay making out, and your dad offered to go shopping with me to buy condoms."

Seth looked surprised, and after a few seconds of silence he said, "You win."

Ryan gave Seth an unamused smile and said, "Great."

Both of them were quite for a few minutes. Seth said, "Hey you can cook right?"

"Yeah I guess."

"I have an idea."

Half an hour later Sandy and Kirsten came down to get breakfast. As they walked Kirsten said, "I just don't think we should leave them alone this weekend."

Sandy said, "Oh come on Honey, we deserve some time away."

Once they walked in the kitchen they saw both boys, and three different kinds of pancakes spread out on the counter. Seth started. "Hey, how about some breakfast? We made pancakes. There's blueberry, strawberry, and chocolate chip."

Sandy gave both boys a look and said, "Nice try, but it's too little too late. You're both in serious trouble here."

Ryan looked to Kirsten and said, "I wanted to tell you about Lindsay but…."

Kirsten cut in with, "But you were too busy studying. I saw."

Seth looked to his dad and said, "About the window…."

Sandy said, "Let me guess, you were doing chin ups."

Ryan took a deep breath and said, "You trusted us, and we lied to you. There's no excuse."

Seth nodded in agreement and added, "So whatever punishment you come up with, we're fine with it."

Ryan nodded too. Sandy said, "I don't think the two of you realize how badly you've screwed up. I want both of you to come straight home after school."

Ryan and Seth both nodded and headed off to school. Once they were out of the room Kirsten said, "We can't go."

Sandy said, "At least give me the day to work on this."

Kirsten didn't respond and headed off to work. Sandy thought about it, and came up with a plan.

Later in the day during his lunch hour, Sandy decided to go to 'The Bait Shop' because he knew Alex worked there. He ended up talking to her about helping him to keep an eye on Seth.

After school Ryan waited out front for Seth for about ten minutes, and when he didn't show up, he road his bike home, thinking Seth must have already headed that way. Seth was on his skateboard going the other direction. He went straight to Alex's apartment. He knocked on the door. Alex opened it and Seth kissed her. She broke off the kiss and said, "Seth what are we doing?"

"Kissing."

Alex led Seth over to the couch and they both sat down. She said, "No I mean in the larger sense."

"Um….. dating?"

"But really our relationship isn't leading to anything. We don't have anything in common."

"What? Where is this coming from? I thought you liked me because I was different from the usual guys you hang out with."

"I don't know… I just think….. Aren't you supposed to be grounded?"

"Yeah, but so what."

Alex got mad. "So what? You don't know how lucky you are to have a dad who cares about you. Not all of us are that lucky."

Seth looked confused for a minute and then put his head in his hands and said, "My dad came to see you today didn't he."

Alex looked away and said, "Yeah."

Seth groaned and said, "That's so embarrassing."

"No, actually I think it's nice."

"Nice? She thinks it's nice. Great."

Alex stood up and headed for the door. Seth sighed as he got up to follow her, "So I guess you're going to need some space now."

"I think that would be best."

"Right."

Alex shut Seth out and locked the door. Seth stood there looking at the door for a minute. "Just great."

Seth moped back to his skateboard and headed for home. The closer he got to home, the angrier he got. He thought, 'How dare Dad talk to Alex behind my back. Our relationship is none of his business. Now I'm without a girlfriend again, and you can bet Summer's still having a great time being Mrs. Zach the water polo playing, comic book reading, buff guy.'

Seth decided not to go home, basically because he was angry and wanted to prove to his parents that he didn't have to.

Ryan came home to an empty house. He wasn't sure what was going on with Seth, but he hoped he got home soon. He went to the pool house and started his homework.

Two hours later Kirsten arrived home. She went to look for Seth in his room but found it empty. She went to the pool house and walked in the open door. Ryan said, "Hey."

"Is Seth in here with you?"

"No."

"Do you know where he is."

Ryan didn't really want Seth to be in more trouble, but he didn't want to lie again, and he had no clue what was going on, because Seth hadn't called him the way he usually did. He said, "Sorry, I don't."

"Did he come home with you?"

Ryan shook his head no. Kirsten nodded. "Okay."

Kirsten walked into the house and called Sandy. Sandy was on his way home and answered his cell phone. Kirsten said, "Seth's not at home. Have you heard from him?"

"No."

Kirsten sighed and said, "Not again."

Sandy said, "Is Ryan there?"

"Yes. He doesn't know where Seth is either."

"I'll be home in a few minuets and we'll figure it out."

"Okay. Bye."

By the time Sandy got home Kirsten was in a state of anxiety. Sandy gave her a hug and said, "Did you try his cell?"

Ryan who was in the kitchen now listening to Kirsten vent said, "He's not answering."

Kirsten said, "Maybe we should call the police. What if something has happened to him."

Sandy said, "Let's not over react. He's only a few hours late, let's give it another hour before we do anything drastic."

Kirsten nodded and said, "Okay. I guess we should order some dinner while we wait."

Sandy nodded and said, "Good idea."

Dinner was quiet and tense. As soon as he was done Ryan excused himself and took refuge in the pool house. Kirsten took her wine outside to sit by the pool. Sandy looked at the clock again, and decided he would have to follow through with his threat to have the boys stay with Caleb. He thought about just making Seth stay over their since Ryan had come home, but then he decided they would both end up over there anyway, because they spent most of their time together. Ten minutes later he went out to find his wife.

Sandy went over and sat beside her on a lawn chair. "The car is all gassed up and ready to go tomorrow."

"You can't be serious."

"I am. I just talked to Caleb about taking the boys, and I talked to Alex today. She's a character, but she seems like a nice enough kid."

"Is that why Seth's not home yet?"

Sandy gave her a surprised look as she directed her anger at him. She looked away and continued, "I'm not letting them stay with Julie Cooper, but they can't be left alone."

"Honey, they're teenagers. They like girls."

"One of which happens to be my sister."

"So what? We're gonna forbid them?"

Kirsten turned to him and glared, "Not you. You wouldn't forbid them anything; you're too busy being their best friend. I'm the one who has to enforce all the rules."

Sandy was at a loss. He knew Kirsten was worried about Seth, but this seemed to be over the top. He said, "I've never done more grounding then I have in the past twenty four hours."

Kirsten sniped, "Who's the one who let Seth run off to Portland?"

Sandy got mad himself, "We're gonna talk about THIS now?"

"And who went up there and told him he could stay?"

"It's a good thing I did! If you had gone up there to drag him home, we might have lost him forever."

Kirsten said with exasperation, "But that's why this is happening! Because he thinks he can do whatever he wants, and you'll just keep me from coming down on him!"

Sandy said with exasperation of his own, "You think I can stop you from coming down on someone?!"

Kirsten was too angry to think straight and said, "Right. And I should find it adorable that you forgot our anniversary!"

Sandy took a deep breath before saying something hurtful back. He said with a calm he didn't feel, "Could we please talk about this later?"

Kirsten looked away already regretting what she had said. "We have all weekend. I canceled our reservations."

Sandy took a drink of his beer and got up and walked in the house.

Kirsten stayed in the lawn chair and thought about things. She hated fighting with Sandy, but ever since Seth ran away over the summer, they were fighting more often. Kirsten knew it was because they had different views on how to deal with Seth now that he was starting to rebel. She sat and thought about things for about half an hour before getting up and going to find her husband.

She found him in the living room flipping channels. She took the remote and turned off the TV. She said, "I'm sorry."

"Me too."

She looked down for a second and then looked back up at Sandy. She said, "I love you."

"I know. I love you too."

"Do you remember when Seth was six and he broke my mom's vase."

Sandy gave a little chuckle and said, "I haven't thought about that in a while, but yeah, I remember. You were pissed."

"Do you remember the fight we had?"

Sandy got serious and nodded. "You wanted to spank him, because you had already told him three times not to play with it."

Kirsten nodded. "But we both decided that would be wrong, and instead we wouldn't let him watch his favorite show for the next three days."

"Poor little guy cried all three days about that."

Kirsten took both of Sandy's hands in hers and said, "Sandy, I know that you're against it, and I know that you think Seth is basically an adult at seventeen, but….."

Sandy kept quite letting Kirsten gather her thoughts. "I think we need to prove to Seth in no uncertain terms that while he's living here, he needs to follow our rules."

Sandy looked at her for a few seconds. Then he said, "Please don't tell me this is going where I think it's going."

Kirsten said, "You've already grounded him twice, and it's done no good. He's out there running around, probably just to prove to us that he can."

"Honey, I see kids every day in juvie who could tell you horror stories about what their parents did to them to keep them in line. I wont be one of those parents. I get kids away from those parents!"

Kirsten gripped his hands harder and said, "No. You see kids who never knew love from their parents. Do you really think Seth has any doubt in his mind that we love him?"

Sandy looked down and said, "No."

"And I'm not asking you to do it, I'm asking you to be there to back me up while I do it."

Sandy looked at his wife with awe. He said, "Are we both talking about the same thing here? You are actually considering spanking our son?"

"No. I've decided to, and I would really like your support."

Sandy just shook his head with disbelief. Kirsten said, "We've talked about this before Sandy. My dad spanked me when I was little. It's not a horrible thing. It won't make Seth run off again, but hopefully it will make him stay in his room when he's grounded."

At that moment Seth, trying hard to be stealth, opened the front door. He immediately saw his parents on the couch and tried to sneak back out, but Kirsten saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. She said, "Seth!"

He smiled at them both and walked in the door shutting it behind him. He put his skateboard in the coat closet, and said, "Hi."

Kirsten gave Sandy a questioning look. Sandy reluctantly gave her a slight nod. She nodded back and turned to Seth as she said, "Where the hell have you been?"

Seth said, "Let's see, I went to see Alex first. I think you have a secret admirer Dad. And then I went to my favorite comic book store, you know, the one with the big Spiderman out front, but they didn't have the new volume of….."

Kirsten cut him off by standing up and yelling, "You go to your room right now!"

Seth raised his eyebrows and then looked to his Dad who wouldn't make eye contact. Seth said, "Ooookaaaaayyyyy."

Seth quietly went up to his room. Kirsten said to Sandy, "I've been worried sick over him for the past two hours, and he's been to the comic book store."

Sandy nodded and said, "Maybe you're right. I'm up for trying it anyway."

Kirsten nodded and they both headed up to Seth's room. Kirsten walked in without knocking. They found Seth lying on his back on his bed, holding Captain Oats. He quickly put the toy horse back on the nightstand, sat up, and swung his legs over to the edge of the bed. Kirsten went and sat next to Seth on the bed. Sandy closed the bedroom door behind him and stood with his back leaning against it.

Kirsten took one of Seth's hands in hers and said, "I was really worried about you tonight. I thought maybe something had happened."

Seth did feel guilty about that. "Sorry."

"Your father told you to come right home after school. What happened?"

"I went to see Alex and she told me about…."

Kirsten interrupted, "No, I don't want to know what you did after your visit with her. Why did you go to see her in the first place instead of coming home?"

"Well…… Um…… Because I wanted to?"

"That is unacceptable."

Seth didn't quite know what to say. "Sorry."

"That isn't good enough."

Seth shrugged and said; "I don't know what else you want me to say."

Kirsten sighed and said, "You know that I love you Seth, but lately your behavior has been getting worse. It stops tonight."

Seth nodded and was about to apologize again when his mother pulled his arm so hard he actually fell across her lap. He started to get up, but then he felt the same hand that had pulled him over, on his back holding him down. His chest was resting on the bed, and his feet were touching the floor. Seth gave a nervous laugh and said, "What's going…."

That was as far as he got before Kirsten raised her arm high, and brought her hand down with a dull sounding smack on the right side of Seth's butt. Seth jumped a little and said, "Hey!!"

She smacked him again on the left back pocket of the brown corduroy pants, and he said, "Mom?!"

Kirsten smacked him again on the right, and Seth seriously tried to get up. He almost succeeded, but Kirsten paused in the spanking, and put extra force and concentration into keeping him where he was. Then when she was sure he was still in place she smacked him again on the left. Seth looked over his shoulder to Sandy and said, "Dad?!!!"

Sandy just sadly shook his head no. Seth turned back to the comforter that was a few inches from his nose. He simply couldn't believe what was happening to him. As he felt another swat, his mind raced to try and understand this new turn of events. By the sixth smack he yelled, "What the hell Mom?"

Kirsten said with a calm she didn't feel, "You were grounded, *smack* and you didn't come home from school *smack* like you were told. *Smack* Seems pretty self explanatory *smack* to me." *Smack, smack.*

Seth tried to tell himself it didn't hurt. He thought, 'This can't hurt. *Ow* It's Mom for Christ sake! *Ow* Maybe if it were Dad. *Ow* But NOT Mom! *Ow, Ow!*'

The last 'ow' slipped out before Seth could hold it back. He sounded desperate as he said; "I got it Mom. I swear! OW! Damn. I'm really sorry, and it won't happen again! Ow! Mom! Mom!!!"

Kirsten just kept spanking, and didn't respond. A few seconds later Seth took a raged breath. His voice was so quiet Kirsten almost couldn't hear him, and he didn't succeed in keeping his voice level as he said, "Mom, Please. Please stop. I'm sorry."

Kirsten heard his voice crack on the word 'sorry' and decided he'd had enough. She brought her hand down one more time, and then let go of him with the other hand. He lay there for just a second not knowing if it was over. Kirsten patted his back, and he immediately got up. He stood and backed away from her bumping into his nightstand, and knocking over Captain Oats. He gave her a look full of hurt feelings, and she could see that a couple of tears had gone down his cheeks. She hadn't exactly felt bad while doing it, but she felt guilty now. He looked down and she said, "Oh Seth, I…..I'm….."

Sandy knew exactly what his wife was about to say. Before she could apologize he stepped further into the room and said, "Kirsten."

She looked over at him. He said, "Can I speak with you in our room please?"

She felt her own tears starting and just nodded and got up. Sandy turned to Seth and said in a strong tone, "Stay in your room."

Seth didn't respond. Sandy and Kirsten walked out and shut the door behind them. Seth rubbed his butt not believing it could hurt so much. He picked up Captain Oats off the floor and flopped onto his bed, stomach side down. He looked at Captain Oats and said, "This has not been a good day."

As he said it, he felt himself start to cry.

As soon as the door was closed Sandy took Kirsten's hand and led them down the hall to their room. By the time he had their door shut, Kirsten was all out crying. He led her over to their bed. He sat down and put his back against the headboard. He pulled her to him, and she curled up beside him and rested her head on his chest as she continued to cry. He put his arms around her and waited. A few minutes later in between sniffs she was able to get out, "He hates me now."

"No he doesn't."

"You were right. I….. I shouldn't have done it."

Sandy shook his head, and rubbed his hand up and down her arm. He said, "We don't know that yet. Let's wait a few days and see if his behavior changes. If it does, then you did the right thing."

Kirsten sounded unsure. She said, "Maybe."

Sandy could tell she wasn't openly crying anymore, so he decided to make the point he had wanted to make as soon as he realized she was about to apologize. "But I do have one suggestion to making your plan work."

She sat up a little so she could look at him. "What's that?"

"Don't apologize, and don't let him make you feel guilty about what you did. If he knows you feel guilty about it, he'll use that against you later."

Kirsten lay her head back down and thought about that for a few minutes.

Ryan was about to get ready for bed, but wanted to check and see if Seth had made it home first. He went into the kitchen and then the living room and found them both empty. He wandered up the stairs and saw that Seth's door was closed. That usually meant he was home, so he knocked softly. He heard someone moving around inside for quite a few seconds before Seth's voice said, "Come in."

Ryan went in and said, "Hey, you really had your parents worried tonight. Where were…."

Ryan took a good look at the top of Seth's head. Seth was sitting on the side of his bed, and hadn't looked at him since he came in. That was unusual, but something about the atmosphere in the room felt wrong to him. He said, "You okay? Did something happen?"

Seth had been expecting his parents, and didn't know what to say to Ryan. On the one hand, he didn't want Ryan to know, but on the other, Seth was never one to keep his embarrassing moments to himself. He looked up at Ryan and said, "No, and yes."

Ryan could tell that Seth had been crying. Ryan hated dealing with emotions. He hid most of his under anger, which was his most relied on emotion, and was never quite sure what to do when Seth was upset about something. Ryan took a deep breath and slowly walked over to the bed. He sat down beside Seth and said, "Wanna talk about it?"

Seth shook his head no and said, "Not really, but….."

"But you can't keep it to yourself."

Seth nodded. Ryan waited. "I… My mom…. She was really angry."

Ryan nodded and said, "That's because she was so worried about you. I think she ate about two bites of dinner. She kept saying that maybe they should call the cops to find out if something had happened to you."

Seth looked over at Ryan with surprise and said, "Really?"

Ryan gave Seth a 'don't be stupid' look. "Yes really."

Seth looked back down at his feet and said, "Because when I saw her she seemed to mostly be angry. Over the top angry."

Ryan wasn't sure if that was a movie reference or not, but decided it probably wasn't. He said, "Whatever she said, it must have been pretty bad to upset you so much."

"She didn't really say that much."

"Your dad?"

"I don't think he said anything at all."

Ryan was confused, "Then why were you….. I mean I can tell that you've been….."

As Ryan tried to think of a nice way to put it, Seth said, "Crying?"

Ryan nodded.

"My mom kind of …."

Seth tapered off and mumbled, and Ryan couldn't understand what he had said. "What was that?"

Seth took a deep breath and said, "She spanked me Ryan. She pulled me over her lap and spanked me like I was five."

Ryan didn't have any clue what to say to that. His mind raced, and kept flashing back to the times when his mother's boyfriend used to beat him up. He put an arm around Seth's shoulders and said, "I'm sorry."

Now that he had started, Seth couldn't stop. He said, "It was so embarrassing that I just want to hide under my blankets, but that wasn't even the worst part! Not only did she spank me, but it really hurt. My mom Ryan! It was my mom and it hurt. Then I cried like a girl."

Ryan squeezed Seth's shoulder and said, "Getting hit hurts Seth. Doesn't matter who's doing the hitting."

"But it was my MOM."

"Yeah, I got that part."

Seth shook his head as if Ryan didn't understand. "Not my dad, Ryan, because then I could maybe say that he's a big guy, bigger then me, so of course it hurt. No, it had to be my mom, so that my humiliation could be complete."

They were quiet for a few seconds and then Seth said, "And I guess really that's not the worst part either."

"Something is worse?"

"Yeah."

Ryan took a deep breath waiting. Seth said, "The absolute worst part is that I deserved it."

Ryan's mind raced again, and he couldn't remember a time when he had thought the same after getting slapped around. Seth said, "I was such a jerk. I didn't take either of them seriously when they grounded me. I didn't come home tonight just to be mean and make them worry."

Seth shook his head again and said, "Today sucks."

Ryan gave Seth's shoulder one more squeeze, and then took his arm off Seth's shoulders as he stood up. He said, "I agree. I'm gonna go to bed, and hope that tomorrow is better."

Ryan started to walk towards the door, and Seth said, "Hey Ryan?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for not laughing at me."

Ryan gave Seth a serious look. "I don't think it's funny."

Seth nodded, and Ryan opened the door to find Kirsten on the other side about to knock. She was startled and said, "Oh! Ryan, what are you doing up here?"

Ryan looked closely at Kirsten and could tell she had been crying too, even though she had redone her makeup. He wasn't sure how he would feel when he saw her next after what Seth had told him, but now he just felt bad for her too. He gave her a genuine smile and said, "I just was checking to see if Seth was home before I headed to bed."

Kirsten wasn't sure what Seth might have told him and she just nodded. Ryan surprised her by giving her a quick hug before saying, "Good night."

Kirsten watched Ryan walk down the hall, and then she went into her son's room. She saw Seth sitting there looking sad. She walked over and took the spot Ryan had just vacated. She put her arm around Seth's shoulders and said, "How are you doing?"

Seth turned and pulled his mom into a tight hug. He was close to tears again as he said, "I'm so sorry Mom. I can't even tell you how sorry. I swear I'm going to take it seriously when you guys ground me from now on."

Kirsten rubbed his back and said in a soothing voice, "It's okay Seth. I know you're sorry, and I believe that you'll be more serious about being grounded from now on. I love you."

"So you're not mad anymore?"

"No. I'm not mad. But you are still grounded."

Seth nodded and felt better. They sat that way for a few minutes until Sandy came in and said, "Everyone okay in here?"

Kirsten looked over and nodded.

Seth let go of his mom, and looked up at his dad. "I'm sorry I didn't come home tonight."

Sandy went over and sat on the other side of Seth. He put his arm around Seth and half way around Kirsten too. He said, "Apology accepted. And I have to say; I like your new attitude. I think it's very mature of you son."

Seth gave Sandy an 'are you insane' look and said, "You're calling me mature after I just got spanked? I think something's off there."

Sandy laughed and stood back up along with Kirsten. Sandy said, "Go to bed Seth. We'll see you in the morning."

"Good night."

As he got to the door Sandy couldn't help himself. He turned around and said, "You know Seth, I don't think you should call your mom a WASP anymore."

Seth gave him a confused look and Sandy said, "Now that you know she stings."

Seth glared and said, "It's not funny Dad."

Sandy shrugged and said, "It's a little bit funny."

Kirsten punched Sandy's arm and said, "And you wonder why your son is always joking at inappropriate times."

Sandy smiled unrepentantly and said, "No I don't. I know where he gets it. It's a Cohen family trait. I'm afraid you're stuck with it in both of us."

Kirsten shook her head and went out. Sandy smiled at Seth and said, "Night."

After his parents left Seth decided maybe it was a little bit funny.

The next morning was officially Sandy and Kirsten's twentieth wedding anniversary. Sandy woke up first, and decided to let Kirsten sleep in after such an emotional night. He snuck out of the room without waking her up and went to make some coffee. He found Ryan already up and drinking some coffee. Sandy said, "You're up early today."

"Couldn't sleep."

"Wanna talk about it?"

Ryan looked down and shook his head no. Sandy thought about it and went to sit beside him at the kitchen table. Sandy sipped his coffee and said, "Seth came home last night."

Ryan nodded. "Yeah. I went to see him before I went to bed."

Sandy nodded too. They sat quietly together for a while. Sandy said again, "You sure you don't want to talk about it Ryan. You know we're here for you whenever you have a problem."

Ryan shook his head. "I don't want to burden you with my issues. You have plenty of your own to deal with, and I owe you too much already."

Ryan wasn't sure why, but Sandy looked kind of angry. Sandy said, "You owe us nothing Ryan, and if you have something on your mind, I want you to tell me. In fact I think we've gone over that more then once. So tell me about it whether you want to or not."

Ryan sighed and looked down at his half empty coffee as he said, "Last night I talked to Seth and he told me what happened."

Sandy waited for more, but nothing was forthcoming. After a while he said, "And did that bother you, or make you angry?"

Ryan shrugged and said, "It brought up old memories, and made me have nightmares."

Ryan took a glance up at Sandy to see his reaction. Sandy looked sad and said, "I'm sorry."

Ryan tried blowing it off. "It's fine. It happens sometimes, but it's no big deal."

"It is a big deal Ryan. Maybe telling me about it would help."

"I don't think so."

"Do you equate what we did to Seth with what happened to you?"

Ryan looked surprised and said, "Not at all." Ryan gave Sandy a lopsided grin and said, "Don't remind me that I said this, but I think you show remarkable patients with both of us. That's still not something I'm used to."

At that point Seth came in. Sandy waved him over and said, "Come and sit with us."

Seth got some coffee too and sat down. Sandy said, "How are you this morning?"

Seth shrugged. "Better I guess. Not in pain anymore anyway."

Sandy said, "I'm glad. But…." Sandy looked at both of them to make sure he had their attention, "…..thanks to the two of you, my wedding anniversary plans are ruined."

That made both boys feel much worse then they had seconds ago. Seth said, "I'm really sorry about that Dad. You guys could go out for the night anyway. Trust me when I say, I'm not sneaking out ever again."

Ryan nodded and said, "Yeah, you could go out to a nice dinner. We'll be fine."

Sandy smiled and said, "I was hoping you would help me with a surprise."

Because it was a Saturday, the day was pretty mellow. Even with both boys still grounded the day didn't seem all that bad to anyone. Close to dinner time Sandy said to Kirsten, "Go put on something nice. I just called the Arches, and we have a reservation for tonight."

Kirsten looked over at the boys who were both doing homework at the kitchen table. She said, "You know we can't."

The doorbell rang and Sandy said, "Ah, but you're wrong about that. I've hired babysitters."

Sandy went to answer the door and a few seconds later two policemen walked in. Sandy said, "A couple of the guys from the station offered to watch the boys for us while we go out."

Kirsten looked unsure, but after a minutes hesitation she went to go put on a dress.

Dinner was nice, and Kirsten and Sandy seemed to reconnect in a way they hadn't since Seth had run off to Portland. Then as they were finishing desert the two policemen who were supposed to be watching Seth and Ryan came in. Kirsten looked up at them and said, "Oh no…."

Sandy said, "Don't tell me you lost them."

One of the police officers said, "I'm sorry Sandy. They were out of our site for just a few seconds, and then they were gone."

Sandy sighed and asked their waiter for the check. Soon they all got into the police car to go look for the two boys. Sandy said, "I think I have an idea of where they might be."

Fifteen minutes later they pulled up in front of The Bait Shop. Kirsten walked in first, and a huge crowd of people yelled, "Surprise!"

Kirsten was shocked. She looked around and quickly spotted Seth and Ryan who were smiling and waving at her. Kirsten turned to Sandy and said, "You did this?"

Sandy smiled and kissed her. He said, "Happy twentieth sweetheart."