A/N: My friend Mary and I are writing this together! We own nothing but our own characters!

Ryan Atwood and Sandy Cohen stood on the concrete pavement outside of the Chino Juvenile Detention Center, waiting for the arrival of Ryan's mother.

"My office will contact you to remind you the date for your hearing," Sandy said, setting his briefcase next to him.

"I'll remember," Ryan murmured.

All of a sudden, the brakes of a car screeched and a large, white, beat up old car pulled up in front of them. Ryan sighed as his mother emerged out of the car, a cigarette in one hand and a pair of sunglasses in the other.

"Unbelievable. What kind of family I got, huh? What the hell did I do to deserve this family, you wanna tell me that?" She screamed coldly, flailing her arms as though to emphasize her point. Sandy clasped his hands together tightly before taking a step towards the seething woman.

"Hello, Mrs. Atwood? I'm Sandy Cohen, Ryan's attorney."

"You should've let him rot in there," she responded, looking at Ryan pointedly as she took a drag of her cigarette. "Just like his dad did. Just like his brother's gonna."

All of a sudden, a small blonde girl popped her head out of the car. "Ryan!" She cried, extending her arms out to him. She reached her arm over and unlocked the car door before throwing it open and sprinting towards him.

"Dammit, Lena!" Dawn spat. "I told you to stay in the car."

"Elena," he said softly, enveloping the little girl in his arms. She smiled as she embraced him, clearly elated to see him. "Um, Mr. Cohen." Ryan cleared his throat, "This is..this is my little sister, Elena."

His features softened as he looked down at the little girl. "Nice to meet you," he smiled warmly, taking the little girls hand. "I'm Sandy."

"You too," she giggled.

"We have to go," Dawn interrupted, rolling her eyes.

Ryan and Sandy exchanged glances as the woman slipped her sunglasses on and climbed into the old, beat up car. The engine roared to life as she screamed, "let's go! Now! I don't have all God damn day."

Elena climbed into the backseat but before Ryan was able to, Sandy stopped him.

"Hey," He said softly as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a business card and pen. "I'm gonna give you my card - my home number. Y'know, if you need somebody. If things get to be too much, call me."

He furrowed his eyebrows as he looked down at the card, clearly taken back. Before he was able to respond, Dawn honked the horn and shouted. "Let's go!"

He quickly shoved the piece of paper into his pocket and yelled back, "alright!" before climbing into the car and driving off.

Five minutes later, Ryan, Elena and Dawn walked through the front door of the dingy, old house that reeked of smoke, booze and old take-out. AJ was sprawled out on the couch as usual, puffing away on a cigarette and watching a college basketball game while Dawn practically bolted to the liquor cabinet and Elena disappeared into her room. Ryan stood by the front door, looking at his mother expectantly, almost as though he was waiting for her to berate him yet again. She pulled out a bottle of scotch and a glass, pouring herself some.

"I can't do this anymore, Ryan." She said, letting out a shaky breath before downing her glass.

"I'm sorry, mom." He responded, his eyes glued to the floor.

"I want you out of my house. I want you out!"

"B-but mom," he stammered. "Where am I gonna go?"

"You heard your mother, man." AJ piped up from his spot on the couch. "Get your stuff and get out."

"Hey, this isn't your house, man." Ryan retorted

"Ryan?" A small voice came from the hallway leading into the living room. "What's going on?"

"Elena, go back into your room!" Dawn demanded, taking another swig of her scotch.

"What are you, a tough guy now?" AJ said, standing up and taking a step towards Ryan.

"AJ, don't." Dawn pleaded. "Ryan, just get out."

"Why don't you worry about your own kids, AJ? Instead of freeloading off my mom?"

Before Ryan even knew what was happening, AJ's fist connected with his jaw. Ryan failed to get a clear shot at AJ and fell back against the recliner as AJ continued to punch him.

"Stop it!" Elena cried out, running towards AJ and pounding her fists against his back as he continued to hit Ryan. Ryan collapsed to the ground, his face covered with blood. AJ reached back and slapped Elena square in the face causing Dawn to fall to her knees, sobbing as her two children lay on the ground. AJ stood up and stumbled into the kitchen, pouring a glass of scotch and downing it.

Elena crawled over to Ryan and pulled a blanket off of the couch, dabbing at his face with it as a tear slipped down her cheek.

"Are you okay?" She sobbed, looking down at her older brother.

"Shh," he whispered soothingly, brushing away her tears with the pad of his thumb. "I'm fine. Just..help me up?"

"Yeah," Elena sniffled, reaching her arm out and slowly helping him to his feet. He didn't even look in the direction of his so-called mother - he simply limped into his bedroom and pulled a duffle bag out, throwing whatever he could fit into it.

"Ry..Ryan," Elena sobbed as she stepped into his room. "You're not going, are you?"

"I have to, Lena." He said, taking a step towards his little sister.

"You can't!" She cried. "I hate it here. I hate..them. Let me come with you. Please."

Ryan paused before whispering, "pack your bag and meet me by the front door in two minutes."

Elena stopped crying almost instantly and bolted into her room while Ryan slung his bag over his shoulder and walked into the living room. AJ had resumed his spot on the couch while Dawn was sitting at the kitchen counter, puffing away on a cigarette. Elena emerged from her bedroom, a sleeping bag in one arm and a suitcase in the other.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Their mother slurred, taking a step towards them.

"I'm going with Ryan," she said, taking a hold of his hand.

"No, you're not. You're a child."

"So, what?" Ryan began. "You're just going to wait another six years and then kick her out? You aren't a mother to her and you never have been."

"Watch it," Dawn warned.

"I want to go." Elena said calmly.

"I don't give a shit what you want," Dawn said as she stumbled over to the kitchen table. She paused, as though she was considering it, before finally saying. "Fine. Go ahead. You want to take her? Be my guest. But when you realize just how much shit I go through on a day to day basis…how hard it is to be a parent..don't come crawling back to me, okay? Got it?" She hiccupped.

"Got it," Ryan said coldly, narrowing his eyes at his mother. "Let's go, Lena." He whispered, taking his little sisters hand. With that, they walked out the front door and out of their mother's life.

Roughly a half hour later, Elena found herself sitting on the hot pavement as her brother dialed the number of countless people, asking - no, pleading for a place to crash. Seven phone calls and five dollars later, nothing.

"Look, man, I just..I need a place to stay," he said into the phone, the desperation evident in his voice. He listened to the person on the other end speak before taking the phone and throwing it against the hook. He pounded his fists on the booth out of frustration, causing Elena to flinch.

"Ryan, stop it." She said, her voice cracking. She stood up, slowly walked towards him and wrapped her arms around his waist in an attempt to calm him down - something that usually worked.

"I'm sorry." He said quietly.

"It's not your fault." She responded.

Suddenly, realization hit him like a ton of bricks. He reached his hand into his back pocket and pulled out the small, crumbled up business card. He knew the odds of a public defender of all people taking him in were probably slim to none but there was something about Sandy that made Ryan believe otherwise.