Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of The OC. They all belong to Josh Schwartz.

A/N: This takes place post-Oliver, Ryan and Marissa did not get back together, and Seth did not run off to Portland. This story is AU and I've taken liberties with some of the characters including Theresa and Kirsten. Be easy on me, this is my first story.

Chapter 8

Kirsten concentrates on the road as the rain steadily hits the windshield of the Land Rover. She's thankful her father didn't bring up the subject of "that boy" again, or the fact that she was taking the afternoon off to visit Ryan. She didn't think she could handle another argument. After they accomplished the work they needed to get done, she quickly left the Newport Group for the day.

The hypnotic rhythm of the windshield wipers lull Kirsten deep into thought as she continues driving north on CA-55. She thinks about Ryan and how much she misses him. If someone had told her a year ago how she feels about Ryan today, she would have laughed and thought the person crazy. But after witnessing Ryan's mother abandoning him a second time, seeing the confused expression on his face and the deep hurt in his eyes, Kirsten's heart melted and she no longer saw a juvenile delinquent. She saw only a lost boy desperately in need of a home and family, with two parents who could offer stability, guidance and love.

Kirsten merges onto CA-91E as the rain turns into a heavy downpour. She had planned on taking Riverside Drive over to the construction site where Ryan works, but decides to go straight over to the Diaz's house instead. There's no way anyone would be working outside in this weather, Kirsten thinks to herself.

Ryan grabs the wrench and carefully tightens the pipefitting under the bathroom sink. He had promised Eva he would fix a few things around the house when he got the chance. Since the foreman told him not to come into work because of the bad weather, he decided to come through on his word.

Ryan sets the wrench down and sits up. He starts rubbing the kink out of his right shoulder when he hears a light knock on the front door. As he slowly gets up off the floor to go see who it is, he quickly recalls the last time he answered the front door. It can't be Eddie, Ryan thinks to himself. This knocking is too soft and polite.

Kirsten stands on the front porch, umbrella in hand, hoping someone will be home. Just as she begins to think she should have probably called first, the front door opens and she sees Ryan standing before her. He's dressed in faded blue jeans and a wifebeater smudged with what looks like oil or grease. He's barefoot and his hair is venturing out in all sorts of interesting directions. Then she sees it...the bruise under his eye. There's a sudden catch in her breath as she experiences a flashback to the first time she met him. She will never get used to seeing him battered and bruised.

"Oh, my god, Ryan...your eye!" Kirsten steps into the house and gently places her hand on Ryan's cheek. She instinctively begins checking him over, looking for any other signs of injury.

"Kirsten, I'm fine. It's nothing," Ryan replies as he takes her hand to reassure her that he's alright. He had forgotten all about his black eye. Since the swelling had gone down, he was no longer in pain. But Eddie's handiwork would be visible for quite some time.

"Honey, what happened?" Kirsten is still not convinced he's alright. She knows from past experience that Ryan tends to downplay any pain he may be in, whether it be physical, emotional, or both.

"I wasn't fighting, Kirsten. I promise."

"Oh, honey, I didn't mean to imply that you were in a fight." Kirsten suddenly feels a twinge of guilt. She knows Ryan would only engage in a fight if he was provoked or if he was trying to protect someone. "How did you get hurt?" Kirsten asks, as she diligently continues to look him over.

"Eddie came to the house yesterday morning. Guess he wasn't too happy to see me here." Ryan takes the wet umbrella and shopping bag from Kirsten and guides her into the living room.

"I thought Eddie hurt Theresa," Kirsten states, somewhat confused as to why Ryan is the one sporting a black eye.

"He did hurt Theresa. That's why she's not home right now," Ryan explains. "Eva took her to the doctor for a routine check-up, just to make sure she's alright and all..."

Kirsten gives Ryan a warm, comforting smile, but finds her attempt to placate him fall short.

"What brings you out here, Kirsten. Is everything alright? Is Seth okay?"

"Everything's fine, Ryan." Kirsten sees the concerned look on his face. "I have some things for the baby...and the nana sent you and Theresa a baby gift."

"The nana sent us a baby gift?" Ryan can't help but smile. He's touched that a woman he met briefly four months ago would take the time to send a gift.

"So, Ryan, I...we were hoping that you and Theresa could come over to the house tomorrow for dinner." Kirsten takes a seat on the couch as Ryan places the baby gifts on the coffee table.

"Tomorrow? For dinner?"

"I promise I won't cook," Kirsten quickly assures him. "Sandy will 'man' the grill, you and Theresa can make the salad, and I'll..." Kirsten tries to think of something everyone would allow her to do. "I'll set the table."

"And, what will Seth do?" Ryan asks, even though he has a pretty good idea what the answer will be.

"Seth will supervise," Kirsten states with utmost certainty. "He's probably already making a pie chart listing the specific duties for all dinner participants as we speak."

Ryan laughs. He knows Kirsten is probably not far from the truth.

Kirsten relishes the smile on Ryan's face. She knows he doesn't smile all that often, but when he does, his smile lights up the room.

"We need to have a family dinner, honey. It's way overdue." Kirsten watches Ryan intently. She now, more than ever, wants him to move back home with them, but she knows she can't push him. He needs to make the decision himself.

"I'm not all that sure Seth would want me...us to come over for dinner." Ryan sits down on the couch next to Kirsten but doesn't look at her. He stares at a small scratch on the coffee table instead. "He seemed pretty mad at me when I left. He wouldn't even say 'good-bye' when I was trying to...you know...make sure everything was okay between us."

"I know, honey. And Seth feels really bad about that now." Kirsten takes Ryan's hand in hers and wills him to look at her. "He said he called you yesterday morning but you haven't called him back. Did you get his voice message?"

"Voice message? No, I didn't get any message. If I had, I would've called him back."

"That's what I told Seth, that you probably just didn't get his message," Kirsten states, relieved that Ryan isn't upset with or avoiding Seth. "Honey, have you given any more thought to moving back in with us? Sandy and I feel you and Theresa would be a lot safer living with us in Newport."

"I haven't talked to Theresa about it yet. So much has happened in the past 24 hours. Maybe we could all talk about it tomorrow evening."

"Talk about what tomorrow evening," Theresa inquires as she walks into the living room. She stops, dead in her tracks, when she sees Kirsten sitting on the couch next to Ryan. "Mrs. Cohen...hi...um...what are you doing here?"

"Theresa! Where are your manners?" Eva chastises her daughter. "Hola, Kirsten. Bienvenido!" Eva walks over to Kirsten, arms outstretched, offering a friendly hug.

"Hello, Eva. It's so nice to see you." Kirsten stands up and gives Eva a polite, but warm, hug. Then she turns and looks at Eva's daughter. "Theresa, it's good to see you again."

"It's nice to see you again too, Mrs. Cohen." Theresa begins to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"Please, call me Kirsten. After all, we're going to be family soon." Kirsten states with a forced smile as she looks directly at Theresa's baby bump.

Eva is touched by Kirsten's use of the word "family". Even though Ryan is not Kirsten's biological child, she senses that Kirsten, like herself, has developed a deep, motherly love for the boy.

"What do we need to talk about tomorrow evening?" Theresa inquires again, hoping this time for a straight answer.

"Kirsten and Sandy have invited us to dinner tomorrow night," Ryan states. He senses tension between Theresa and Kirsten, but is at a loss as to why there would be any hostility between them.

"Dinner tomorrow? Ryan, don't you have to work?" Theresa asks. "I'm not sure if it's possible..."

"It'll be fine, Theresa. I'm not due back to work until Wednesday afternoon," Ryan replies.

"Wednesday afternoon?" Theresa asks, confused as to why he has so much time off.

"Theresa, I think it's supposed to continue raining through tonight and tomorrow," Eva explains. "You know Ryan doesn't work when the weather is this bad."

"Plus, I had asked for time off over two weeks ago to visit Trey this Wednesday morning. Remember?" Ryan stands up, walks over to Theresa and places his hand on her shoulder. "It actually works out perfect to go to the Cohen's tomorrow for dinner."

Kirsten smiles. She senses that Ryan truly wants to visit with them. Maybe he misses us as much as we miss him.

"Alright, we'll go to dinner. But, you said we need to talk about something. What is it? What's going on, Ryan?" Theresa realizes there's no getting out of dinner at the Cohen's. But, she desperately wants to know what, other than Sandy's grilled swordfish and Seth's incessant banter, she'll be in for.

"Sandy and Kirsten think that..." Ryan glances over at Kirsten, then to Eva. "They feel it might be better if we lived with them for awhile...that it would be safer for you and the baby."

"Move in with the Cohen's?" Theresa fights the panic that begins to form in her chest. "And, you were going to tell me this when...tomorrow during dinner? Were you all planning on ganging up on me so I wouldn't be able to say 'no'?"

"Theresa! That's enough!" Eva exclaims. "I don't think anyone is planning on 'ganging up' on you."

"How long have you known about this, Ryan?" Theresa asks, fighting to keep her voice calm.

"Sandy mentioned it to me last night when I talked to him about getting a restraining order," Ryan replies.

"You know, sweetheart, the Cohen's may be right." Eva takes her daughter's hand and caresses it gently. "Serving Eddie with a restraining order may only make him angrier...more violent. You would be safer living with the Cohen's right now. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for the baby...for Ryan."

"But, what about you, mom. What are you going to do?"

"Sweetheart, don't worry about me. I'll be fine." Eva gives Theresa a warm hug. "I got my job back and will be starting work next Monday. Plus, Arturo is here. He can help me if I need anything."

Theresa begins to feel like a caged animal as she senses all eyes upon her.

"Theresa, you and Ryan don't have to make a decision right this moment," Kirsten states emphatically. "We can discuss it more tomorrow evening."

"Fine. We can talk about it more tomorrow." Theresa knows she's going to lose this battle. She doesn't stand a chance of winning against the great, all-powerful Kirsten Cohen.

"Sweetheart, you must be tired. Maybe you should lie down for a bit." Eva takes her daughter's hand and starts leading her down the hallway.

Ryan watches Eva and Theresa leave, then turns to Kirsten. "Sorry about that. Theresa's just been really upset lately with everything that has happened with Eddie."

"Honey, it's alright. I remember being an emotional basketcase when I was pregnant with Seth." Kirsten smiles at the memory as she gently brushes the unruly bangs off Ryan's forehead. "I really should start heading back home. It looks like the rain has let up a bit."

"Thanks again for the baby gifts, Kirsten."

"Oh, you're very welcome." Kirsten wraps her arms around Ryan, wishing she didn't have to let him go. "I love you so much. I'll see you tomorrow."

Kirsten walks back to her car with a lilt in her step and a satisfied smile on her face. She accomplished everything she wanted to do during her visit with Ryan, and more. And now she has a new ally. With Eva Diaz on their side, Theresa will have to agree to move in with them.

Soon, Ryan will be home, Kirsten thinks to herself. With us, where he belongs.