Yes there is a lot of drama haha but that's what I like :D And extra long yay, enjoy!

Sandy hardly slept, just dozing on and off for the hour. He got up before the alarm went off and headed downstairs.

He had been distressed to see Ryan in so much pain and still was. He hadn't expected it to be this bad when the doctors had mentioned possible severe pain.

Sandy turned on the coffee machine and grabbed a bagel –he was starving! There was 5 minutes before he was supposed to wake Ryan and he wanted to give him the longest chance of rest that he could. He scoffed half the bagel and poured his coffee, taking a sip of the scalding liquid. Finally he made his way outside and over to the pool house in the growing dawn.

He opened the door silently, hoping to find Ryan had gotten at least some sleep. He didn't know at first whether to be pleased or concerned. Ryan was sleeping but very fitfully. The covers had wrapped tight around his torso and legs and he was tossing and flinching every few seconds. His breathing was quick – it was obvious he was having a bad dream. Sandy didn't know the half of it.

AJ was after him, he already felt like he'd had the beating of a lifetime, didn't even remember what he'd done wrong. Usually AJ stopped when he was really beat, got sick of it. He didn't know how but he was up and stumbling/running away but AJ was always right behind him, just about to grab him. He felt like he'd fallen off a building, was finding it hard to breathe. Suddenly he tripped and fell hard, another stab from his ribs. And AJ was on top of him grabbing at him, standing over him and kicking him. Again and again, over and over, shit, please stop, why won't he stop? He's gonna kill me, he's finally gonna do it. Ryan's mind raced, he knew this had been coming, he was terrified and made a final, desperate lurch away, he saw a huge boot swinging towards his face and… BAM!

He hit the floor in a blaze of agony.

Sandy had only been in the room seconds, watching Ryan before he jerked off the bed and hit the floor with a heavy thud. He rushed over to help the boy, worried if he'd further injured himself, but recoiled when Ryan jolted up on one arm and his eyes locked on Sandy's with pure panic and terror. It stole the breath from Sandy's lungs to be looked at like that, to see that terrible enormity of emotion in someone. He'd never imagined, never known it was possible, it was like this kid was staring into the face of death. He expected to see him leap up and run for his life. But he just stayed there, sprawled on the ground, sheets still twisted around him, balanced on one arm, breathing heavily, frozen.

And that's how Ryan felt, frozen. He couldn't move, couldn't think, all he knew was fear and the fact that everything was about to end.

Sandy was frozen to, he was so shocked by what he'd seen that he didn't have a clue what to do, this was big… big and terrible.

After a couple seconds however, he snapped out of it and went into damage control. Talking had had some success the previous night.

"Ryan… your ok Ryan, I'm not gonna hurt you, try and calm down." He spoke very slowly and softly.

Ryan was still frozen, the words breezed over him like thin air.

Sandy crouched down to make himself less threatening. "Ryan you had a nightmare, you're safe now." He kept trying.

Still nothing.

He ventured "You're not at home, no one's hurting you… you're safe Ryan."

Finally he felt the terror ebbing, and the claws it had on him reducing their pressure. He let out a long shaky breath, eyes still glued to Sandy's but some awareness beginning to enter them. The meaning of Sandy's words registered deep in his mind and precariously kindled a longing for it to be true.

What was happening? A dream? Where was he? Who was this guy? He felt like he'd never be able to move again, he was still stuck, trapped.

Sandy noticed the slight change in Ryan's air. Though hardly perceptible, he was glad to see the raw terror lessen at least a fraction. "You hear me Ryan? Listen to my voice. Everything's alright, you got in some trouble last night but everything's taken care of for now, you got some bad injuries and you have to be careful but you're ok, you're safe." Sandy tried to reassure the boy. He seemed to react, if only slightly, to his voice.

Good god what had this kid been through to get to this state? He dreaded to imagine what the nightmare must've been; something not far from reality Sandy shuddered to think. Again he felt the telltale pressure behind his eyes at the terrible things he knew this boy must have suffered through. He was certain he didn't want to know but at the same time he had to know, he had to help this kid who didn't deserve the hell that life had given him. He deserved all the help and kindness in the world after what he must've been through. But Sandy couldn't dwell on that now, he had to keep getting through to Ryan to pull him back from whatever abyss he'd fallen into.

Sandy's words flowed over him now like water, washing away the horror of his dream. He hoped this was real, not another dream he'd wake up from and find himself back where he just came from. He held onto Sandy's words like a life raft. 'Safe' that word never failed to pull at him, he could only dream of safe and even that rarely happened. '…trouble last night' now that rung a bell. All at once he felt the pain of his injuries like a freight train had just hit him. He dropped his head, breaking eye contact for the first time and sagged with the pain. Yep this was reality. Everything was clearer now, clearer than it had felt in a long time, he guessed the drugs were to blame for that. He remembered it all, AJ, hospital, this guy and his card, Trey's drugs, calling…Sandy… God he felt stupid all of a sudden. He realized the extent of this latest freak out. What the hell was wrong with him? Spazzing out over some lame dream, creeping out the one guy who had seemed to help. That was just his luck, screwing it all up just as something had seemed to go alright. This guy was about to call some psych people, or just chuck him out for being too fucked up. He was so tired!

Sandy was relieved to see the spell seem to break and Ryan return to himself, even though it meant the pain too. He really was worried about further harm he may have done himself, he'd already been so hurt.

"Ryan, you back with me kid?"

Crap thought Ryan, here it comes… he looked up, embarrassed, trying to hide the surging pain.

Sandy took that as a response. "Good to have you back" he gave a half smile, hoping to look confident and reassuring, not feeling it so much deep down.

"How are you feeling?"

He received a blank look.

Ryan didn't want to stuff things up anymore, silence was usually the best option.

Sandy was patient, not sure what was going through the kid's mind. "Did you hurt yourself anymore? Your ribs? Your head?" he asked carefully.

Ryan took a second, it seemed alright to answer "I'm fine…" he said quietly "sorry" he added.

Sandy had well and truly picked up on how self conscious Ryan was and could imagine how he felt now he'd recovered somewhat from the dream.

"Ryan you don't need to be sorry, really, I'm just concerned about you. You haven't done anything wrong." He said sincerely

"Are you sure nothing's worse off than before?" he pressed

Ryan was silent a moment than replied carefully "I don't think so… hurts the same."

Sandy was surprised but pleased he'd admitted the pain was still there, it seemed like a step, though it was obvious he would still be in pain.

Sandy debated what to do but ultimately knew "Can I help you up?" he ventured. Ryan hadn't moved and clearly wouldn't have huge success on his own.

Ryan's eyes widened slightly at the suggestion and he took a moment to process. Sandy waited for him to respond. When it had been a bit too long, Sandy stood slowly and moved slightly closer, putting an arm out. Ryan looked at it warily before finally giving a small nod.

Sandy moved closer and Ryan tried to push himself up. Sandy put an arm round his lower waist, avoiding his ribs and helped him up onto the bed. Sandy noticed the cringes of pain though Ryan tried to avoid them.

When he was safely on the bed Sandy took a few steps back, knowing by now Ryan needed space.

"I get that you aren't gonna want to talk about what just happened right now," Sandy started and Ryan avoided his eyes, not responding "but eventually I hope we can discuss it, even just a little bit." Sandy finished. He didn't expect an answer and didn't get one but wanted to let Ryan know he wasn't going to ignore him or what had happened.

"I'm gonna grab another icepack and I'll be back in a minute." Sandy said softly, taking one that had fallen on the ground and retreating slowly.

Ryan sat there, trying to work through the last few minutes. Shit he was sore. He'd jarred his whole body falling out of bed and now everything was on fire again. He tried to think through it. This guy hadn't yelled at him for being stupid, had come just to check on him in the first place. He couldn't believe this was real; he'd actually been taken away from Chino, AJ… Trey. He remembered the feeling of resignation last night, knowing he was headed back to AJ after another trip to hospital, knowing AJ would be furious, knowing he might not survive the night. He shuddered remembering the horrible dream he'd barely recovered from. He compared that to his present situation. Sitting in a huge, comfortable bed, in an amazing room, he noted as he looked around for the first time- it was enormous! With this strange guy who'd practically saved him and was now bringing him freaking icepacks! None of it made sense, how did he score this?

Suddenly Ryan's heart sunk. There had to be a catch. Of course there was. You never got anything for nothing. Was this some messed up trick and everything was about to be ripped away? Did this guy want something? Ryan started freaking out thinking about what his agenda might be. Stuff like this only happened in movies or something, it wasn't reality. He tried to calm down, his heart had sped up worrying about what might be going on. He tried to tap into his usually logical, practical side. He'd avoided AJ, pretty much anything had to be better than facing him. There wasn't much he could do now with hardly being able to move and all. He didn't have to trust this Sandy guy but he had to play this out, wasn't much else he could do.

He snapped his head up as Sandy entered the room again. He eyed him warily as he was handed the icepack. Sandy again retreated a distance.

"I just gotta ask you a few questions to check your concussion." Sandy said.

Ryan continued looking at him.

"Ok number one, what's your name?"

"Ryan." He replied dryly.

"What day and year is it?"

Ryan took a second, he actually didn't know, was it Wednesday when he'd ended up in hospital the first time? His head hurt trying to work out the days from there.

Sandy saw him struggling. "Try for month and year." He offered.

After a moment Ryan answered "August 2003."

"Good." Sandy nodded "And where do you live?"

Ryan paused on that one, not knowing what he should say. He opted for simply "Chino."

"Ok Ryan, well done. Do you need anything?" He asked.

Ryan shook his head automatically.

"Alright, try and get some more sleep now, in a couple hours you can have some more panadol." Sandy said gently. He moved to close most of the curtains as the sun was getting brighter, then with one final look at Ryan, who was still sitting up, he left, closing the door behind him.

Ryan stared at the door for a couple minutes after he'd gone. He couldn't shake a feeling he'd had almost since he'd met this guy. It was stupid he knew but Sandy seemed different. Sure he was still waiting for the other shoe to drop but he couldn't help feeling like maybe he was ok. He wished he didn't, it would be easier in the end, but he'd helped him so far, no one had done this much for him before. He knew he'd felt better when Sandy had come last night. Maybe… Ryan tried to stop thinking about it. Pushed it away and carefully lay down. He rested the icepack on his head and tried to sleep again hoping to god he was dream free this time.


Sandy sat at the kitchen counter thinking about the last several hours. He was in somewhat over his head but glimpsing parts of the real Ryan which were never far under the surface, try as Ryan did to hide them, Sandy knew he wouldn't have done anything different. There was a heavy sadness about the kid, at least Sandy felt it when he was around him, but there was also light and life and a real good kid underneath, it was undeniable. Now he was involved, there was no way he could let the boy slip away, back to the abuse he'd suffered. Ryan hadn't even mentioned it but it was obvious the kid was traumatized by it. Sandy would help him, help him work through it and come out the other side.

He was getting ahead of himself. What about Kirsten, he'd almost forgotten about her in all this. He knew she wouldn't warm to the whole situation at all. There would be huge convincing to be done. It wasn't that she was a cold person, she just wasn't used to this side of life, the side Ryan came from, the side Sandy was much more familiar with. He was sure she'd come around if he could get past her initial shock.

Right on cue, he heard Kirsten coming down the stairs into the kitchen, early for a Saturday.

"Morning honey." He greeted her.

"Morning… what are you up so early for? I was surprised to find you out of bed." Kirsten replied.

Here we go thought Sandy. "Yea I actually have to talk to you about something."

Kirsten looked slightly suspicious.

"I want you to try and keep an open mind, ok honey?"

"Just tell me Sandy." Kirsten said, apprehensively.

He got up to pour his wife a cup of coffee before returning to the bench and beginning the explanation.

"Remember the boy I found out cold in Chino on the side of the road and got to the hospital?"

Kirsten just nodded her head trying to guess where this was going.

"His name is Ryan. I gave him my card when I talked to him the next day and told him he could call me if he needed to."

"Ok…" Kirsten acknowledged, that's just the sort of thing Sandy would do, she thought. He can't help everyone though.

"Last night he called." Sandy revealed.

Kirsten did a double take, not expecting that, how had she not known?

"In the middle of the night he called saying he was in trouble."

"Sandy you didn't…" she didn't know exactly what she was asking.

"I went to Chino to help him." He replied.

"Sandy! That's ridiculous! Why couldn't you call the police? Why couldn't his parents take care of him?" She fired at him.

"Honey open mind, please." He implored "I saw his mother that second day at the hospital, she basically threatened him for being in hospital, she a nasty piece of work and I have very strong suspicions he's abused at home, in fact I'm certain. He was scared Kirsten, he's just a kid. I'm surprised he called because he doesn't seem like the type to ask for help, so I knew he must've really needed it last night."

Kirsten held her tongue for now. She remembered feeling horrified when Sandy had described his injuries days ago and imagining Seth in a similar position. "So what happened?" She asked, trying to remain calm.

Sandy continued "He said he'd taken something…"

Kirsten began to roll her eyes.

"Just wait honey." Sandy pleaded. "It turns out his brother had forced him to go with him and a group of young guys to a house. This kid was barely out of hospital from serious injuries. From what I could gather, Ryan was used as a distraction before the group ransacked the house for drugs. Ryan tried to get away but his brother attacked him and forced him to swallow a pill."

A look of horror crossed Kirsten's face as she imagined what the events described.

"He eventually got away but he was scared and in pain and disoriented and had no one to turn to, all of this coupled with his injuries put him in serious danger, it's lucky the whole thing didn't end in tragedy."

Kirsten was speechless, absorbing the magnitude of the situation.

Sandy went on "I finally got to him and he was in bad shape, I took him to the hospital, despite him pleading me not to, I think it ended badly at home when he got out the first time…" Sandy remarked regretfully. "Now remember the open mind part?"

"That's still coming?" Kirsten asked, anxious.

"I convinced the hospital to let me take him home as an acting guardian." Sandy dropped the bombshell.

Kirsten was stunned. She opened and closed her mouth a couple times before she managed to get out "Sandy you can't… what about… how…?"

"Honey, calm down, please think about this. He has no one, he's seriously injured and needs rest. He's exhausted and his home right now would be a disaster for him, he's genuinely afraid. He didn't ask to come here, he didn't even understand the idea of it but this kid needs a break. Imagine if Seth was in the same situation." Sandy finished with his strongest argument. Kirsten would do anything for Seth and he knew it would drive home the connection of a young man in need of help.

And Kirsten did stop and think. She felt for the boy- Ryan. She couldn't imagine his life Sandy had painted. She thought of Seth ever going through anything like that and felt horrified. But this was a total stranger, they didn't know anything about him, she wasn't sure they should be getting involved in such a complex and unpleasant situation. He was here. In the pool house she assumed. Right outside. She could hardly turn away a desperate, hurting young man when he was right here. She knew she couldn't.

"Sandy…" She breathed out, perturbed. "Well what are we going to do now?" She challenged him.

Success! Thought Sandy. He'd gotten over the first hump.