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31 March 2012 @ 04:42 pm
Best Forgotten, Part 36. Fin?  
Really, no April Fool's joke. This could be the end. I actually have part of another chapter written (actually written last summer before my old computer died, taking most of the ending I had planned with it). But for those of you who are ready for this epic to be over, feel free to read it as complete. I may add more to the story--at least finish the chapter I started--if I feel that old "unwind-by-writing-some-OC" impulse, but I'm not going to promise that it will appear next month.

So until, well, whenever, thanks for sticking with this. Oh yes, and that all-important Disclaimer: Thanks for the (unwitting) loan of the characters, Josh. I know they're not mine. But the situation, melodrama, and mistakes certainly are.

Best Forgotten 36

When Lucy opened the door of Ryan’s room, the first thing Sandy and Kirsten saw was Seth, rocking back and forth, babbling contentedly as Dr. Baldrich examined a monitor beside him. They could only hear his last words—“And that, my man Atwood, is why I would make an amazing doctor. Seriously, think about it. If you just subtract the blood and major ick factor, I could be an outstanding something-ologist, right?” Beyond their son, though, they managed to glimpse Ryan. Almost hidden by the doctor, he was slumped back, collapsed against the pillow. A film of sweat glossed his brow, and his skin looked flaccid and drained. Even so, he was his shaking his head wryly, an indulgent half-frown tipping into a smile on his face.

Seth, Sandy thought gratefully. Thank God he can get through to Ryan.

Then, abrupt as a blackout, Ryan’s smile vanished when he caught sight of the Cohens. He swallowed uncertainly, appearing to struggle for words, or control, or air.

Seth broke off in consternation when Ryan’s expression changed. He spun around, scowling, only to relax again when he recognized his parents and Lucy.

“Hey! I didn’t hear the door open. Although yeah, silent door. But anyway you’re back!” he exclaimed. “Well, obviously you know that but yeah, you’re back. So . . . good. That’s good, right?”

“I’d say so,” Sandy answered, ignoring the question Seth was trying to ask. “And by the way, son, what you saying about being a doctor? That was a joke, right? Did we spoil the punch line?”

Grinning at Seth’s indignant protest, Sandy strode forward to reclaim his spot next to the bed. His hand automatically settled on Ryan’s shoulder, massaging it gently, and he leaned down, pitching his voice low. “You’re looking better, kid. Nice to see you smile,” he confided, before looking up to demand, “How is he doing, doctor? Well enough to go home today?”

From her spot next to Kirsten, who still lingered in the doorway, Lucy supplied a swift translation. She listened to Dr. Baldrich’s reply, a long stream of Spanish to quick for Seth to follow. Then she nodded and turned to the Cohens. “Dr. Baldrich says that, considering the drugs he was given and the emotional trauma he suffered, Ryan is doing quite well--” She held up a finger, puncturing Seth’s jubilant “Yes!” “But,” she added gravely, “he feels he does not have enough background on Ryan’s case and he is concerned about releasing him prematurely. Without his real records, we do not know: he still might suffer complications—side effects from the drugs. Dr. Baldrich does not know that it would be safe for Ryan to travel yet, certainly not without medical supervision.”

Ryan paled, breathing hard, his hands clenching into fists as he listened. “I want to go home,” he blurted. The words were barely even a whisper, ragged and almost inaudible, but the Cohens all heard them clearly. They heard Ryan’s desperate longing too.

“You will, kid,” Sandy promised. “Believe me, we’re getting you out of here.” He kneaded Ryan’s shoulder again, his touch and tone both reassuring, but the face he raised to Lucy had settled into grim, determined lines. “We can get Ryan’s real medical records faxed here, the ones we have anyway--”

“Sandy wait!” Kirsten’s voice, urgent and unexpected, silenced Sandy, and he glanced back at her in surprise. She had moved closer to Lucy, gripping her hand, gazing at her with a kind of fierce pleading. “You said, ‘not without medical supervision,’ Lucy. Well, what if you came with us? It’s not a long trip, and you’re a nurse. You could look after Ryan. Would that be enough to get him released right away?”

“I . . . do not know,” Lucy replied, dazed. “Perhaps it might, but . . .”

“No buts!” Seth protested. He practically danced in place, beating a triumphant tattoo on his thigh. “That’s a brilliant idea, Mom! You’ll do it, won’t you Lucy? You’ll come with us?”

Lucy glanced at Ryan. He wasn’t looking at her, wasn’t looking at anyone at all. His eyes were downcast, lost beneath the fringe of his lashes, but Lucy felt that she could read them anyway. She saw the hectic red spots flame on his pale cheeks, a line of white where his teeth caught his lower lip, biting down hard, the way his whole body tensed, rigid with helpless waiting. Whatever objection she meant to express disappeared.

She didn’t even hear what Kirsten was saying about “expenses” and “signing waivers.”

“All right,” she said slowly. “If my service will satisfy the clinic so that they will release Ryan now, I will go with you.”

Ryan released a long, shuddering, laden breath, tipping his head back against the pillow, opening his tight fist. He lifted his eyes, a bottomless ocean blue, and a smile ghosted across his face. “Thank you,” he mouthed silently. At the same time, Kirsten said the same words aloud, and Seth erupted into a jubilant whoop.

“You hear that, dude? Lucy said yes! ’s coming with!” He pounded the mattress next to Ryan’s legs, bursting into exultant song. “California here we come!”

Sandy chuckled, noting Dr. Baldrich’s baffled concern. “Calm down, son,” he urged. “And watch what you’re doing before you hit Ryan.”

“Oh!—oh, right,” Seth agreed, shuffling away from the bed but still grinning widely as his father continued.

“Will you explain this to the doctor, Lucy? I think he believes that we’ve all lost our minds.”

Chuckling, Lucy nodded and turned to Dr. Baldrich. Her lilting Spanish filled the room like a song. As she spoke, Sandy glanced around at his family, his gaze finally settling on Ryan’s flushed face, upturned and eager. For the first time since they had found him, it seemed to Sandy that he looked like himself—not the wary, watchful Ryan Atwood who still too often seemed to walk a tightrope in their lives, but the candid, artless teen that he and Kirsten sometimes glimpsed in his rare, spontaneous smiles or, more often, in playful moments with Seth.

It made Sandy’s heart swell to see that boy appear again. Impulsively, he leaned down and rubbed his cheek against Ryan’s hair.

“Yeah, and now the doctor knows that we’ve gone crazy,” Seth chided. “Seriously, dad, pull yourself together. Some of us hate to have our hair messed up, you know.”

Ryan shook his head, blushing. “’s all right. Don’t . . . mind, Sandy” he murmured.

Sandy laughed and nuzzled Ryan’s forehead again. “See? Ryan doesn’t care. That’s just you, Seth. But . . . ” With a reluctant sigh, Sandy straightened up and shook back his own rumpled hair. Even so, he continued to knead Ryan’s neck; he couldn’t bring himself to break contact completely. “I suppose I should come with you while you make the arrangements, Lucy. You’ll need me to facilitate all the paperwork—at least to sign Ryan’s release.”

“This is true,” Lucy conceded. “But it will perhaps take some time to reach that point.” Her voice warm with understanding, she inclined her head, nodding toward Sandy’s hand, still resting on Ryan’s shoulder. “Why don’t you remain with your family for now? Dr. Baldrich and I can attend to matters first. I will send for you when I need you.”

“You’re sure?”

“Very much sure, yes.” Moving swiftly, Lucy crossed to Ryan’s bed, cupped his cheek and smiled down at him. “You, young man, I will see again very soon,” she said.

Before she could step back, Ryan reached up and covered her hand with his own. This time he was able to find his voice, but it was thick, layered with feeling when he spoke.

“Thank you, Lucy,” he said quietly.

“It is my very great pleasure, Ryan Atwood.” Smiling again, Lucy touched one finger to Ryan’s lips, then turned, took Dr. Baldrich’s arm, and walked to the door.

It opened with a sound like a breath, exhaling again when it closed behind them.

In the instant of silence, the comparative emptiness of the room, it suddenly became apparent that all this time, Kirsten had remained apart. She stood alone, several long steps from Ryan’s bed where Sandy and Seth were huddled, her hands clasped, compulsively twisting her wedding ring.

“Soooo,” Seth said. It took him three seconds to complete the word and he glanced from anxiously from Ryan to his mother and back again. “It’s just us. You, me, Mom, Dad, all together again . . . But that’s okay now, isn’t it Ryan?”

Ryan bit his lip. He glanced up and then down again as he nodded. “Yes,” he said, his voice both raw and shy. “I’m . . . sorry, Kirsten. About—before.”

Beaming, Sandy returned to his post beside the bed and leaned down to ruffle Ryan’s hair fondly. “Nothing to be sorry about, kid.” He turned to Kirsten who lingered behind him, an anxious crease between his brows belying his hearty tone. “Isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

“Yes,” Kirsten agreed. Her tone almost exactly echoed Ryan’s and her smile, still flickering and uncertain, slipped. For an instant it evaporated completely, but she took a deep breath, recovered it, and stepped forward. Reaching out, she touched Ryan’s cheek, waiting until he looked up at her before she spoke. “I don’t blame you for—anything—and I don’t want you to blame yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong, Ryan.”

“But your father--” Ryan began.

He swallowed, his mouth struggling to shape the words, but before he could finish, Kirsten reached down, her fingertips brushing his lips, shushing him. “It’s all right,” she said softly. “We don’t have to talk about him Ryan. Not now or ever. And you never have to apologize for any of this.” Before he could respond, Kirsten chuckled unexpectedly. “Of course I will expect an apology the next time an entire batch of cookies that Rosa baked for my committee meeting disappears.”

“Um, Mom?” Seth’s hand inches into the air. “That was mostly—well, almost all—me. Ryan settled for licking the bowl.”

Kirsten’s eyebrows arched quizzically. “And the next time a vase if mine winds up broken because of, what did you call it? A mysterious, localized minor earthquake?”

“Yeah. Also me.”

Sandy sighed and kneaded Ryan’s shoulder. “Why am I not surprised?”

Ryan risked a smile before he flushed, serious again. “It’s just—with Gabrielle, I know I shouldn’t have, Kirsten--”

She shook her head. “Shh,” she urged. “It doesn’t matter. What you did may have been a mistake, Ryan, but it was hardly a crime. And Gabrielle is a grown woman. Considering her behavior, yours was understandable.”

“Definitely understandable,” Seth interjected. “She was hot.” His cheeks creased with a goofy, dreamy grin, but it faded rapidly under his mother’s frown.

“There, you see Ryan. Seth would have done the same thing if he’d had the opportunity. Although that would be unlikely.”

“Hey!” Seth objected.

Ryan’s elusive smile reappeared only to flicker out again, a flame deprived of oxygen. “Not the same . . .” he murmured. “I’m not Seth.”

“No you’re not.” Kirsten’s hand strayed to Ryan’s hair, gently stroking it off his forehead. She appeared unaware of the gesture. “We don’t expect you to be, sweetie.”

“We don’t even want that, kid,” Sandy added. “One Seth Cohen is more than enough for any family. Maybe for all of southern California.”

Seth’s mouth popped open, closed into a scowl, then puckered sideways as he shrugged. “Okay, I guess that might be true. I’m going to take that as a tribute to my unique personality.”

Grinning, Sandy reached across the bed to ruffle Seth’s hair. “You do that, son.” His gaze returned to Ryan, who was watching the whole exchange, his head slightly cocked, his eyes both bemused and grateful. With his free hand, Sandy ruffled Ryan’s hair too. “Personally,” he confided, “I like having someone in the family to balance Seth’s—exuberance.”

“So do I,” Kirsten said softly. She inclined her head toward the chair beside Ryan’s bed. “May I?” she asked.

Ryan’s lips parted, only to close again. He nodded, swallowing hard, lying so still that he hardly seemed to breathe. Only his eyes moved, following Kirsten, tracking each movement she made as she sat, hitched her chair closer and, slowly and silently, pushed back a fold of sheet. Reaching underneath, she uncovered Ryan’s hand. It lay near the edge of the bed, curled into a loose fist. Ryan watched, his gaze still wondering, as Kirsten traced the line of his knuckles, gently easing his fingers open until she could lace her own through his.

She didn’t risk any pressure, just let her hand rest there, warm and trusting, not even allowing herself to look at Ryan’s face, until he made a small, wordless sound, and she felt the tense begin to drain from his body. Then, with a sigh, Kirsten relaxed too. Unconsciously, silently she began to move her forefinger. It swooped gracefully, slowly, tracing shapes on Ryan’s palm—loops and curves that spelled out his name. He peered up, startled. Cocking his head, he watched Kirsten’s face, her faint, tender smile as her finger continued to glide, shy against his skin. It lifted, returned to its starting spot near his thumb, and lowered to begin again, still forming a soft, cursive “Ryan”.

Slowly, the swirls started to make sense to him. They shaped themselves into those four familiar, letters, those two small, essential syllables.

It was his name, the one he had not known he needed until his identity was denied him for so long.

A wondering smile lit Ryan’s eyes.

Kirsten was claiming him. She was giving him back his name.

TBC or FIN: take your pick
chazperchazper on April 13th, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Maybe . . . And I'm flattered that you'd like more!