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It's the end of November, isn't it? That means I'm due to post more of this apparently endless saga. I've had very little time to write, though. (How did we manage to produce so much fic--weekly updates, even daily ones--back when The O.C. was airing? The days must have had more hours--27 at least. That's all I can figure.)

In any case, this is just a snippet. It doesn't deserve to be called a chapter so I won't.

(Insert disclaimers here. You know them.)

Here's Part of Best Forgotten, Part 32

Ryan stared blankly at Sandy. His gaze appeared bruised blue and almost feral, shrouded beneath a film of confusion. He shook his head, choking sounds of panicked denial.

“Hey there, kid,” Sandy said. His voice trembled, suffused with relief and joy. “We’ve been waiting for you. Welcome back.” Beaming, he reached up to stroke Ryan’s forehead, brushing back damp strands of hair, circling carefully around a discolored spot just above his eye.

Instantly Ryan stiffened. “No--” he gasped. “No.” Another word caught in his throat. It emerged, thick and slurred on a serrated breath.

Sandy, listening closely, couldn’t be sure, but the raw syllable sounded like “Trick.”

Or maybe “Quit.”

Either way, anguished desperation raged behind Ryan’s eyes.

It wasn’t the reaction Sandy expected.

Seth didn’t anticipate it either. “Dad?” he stammered. All the excitement drained from his face and he stumbled backwards. His mouth worked as he swallowed. “Why is he acting like that? Doesn’t he know us?”

“Just . . . give him time, son,” Sandy replied. His voice thinned as he spoke, stretching for surety. “Remember what Lucy said? That Ryan would be confused with he first woke up?” Sandy mustered a swift, shaky smile. He nodded quick assurance at Seth before he shifted even closer to the bed, bending down until his forehead touched Ryan’s. Pressing one palm firmly against each ravaged cheek, he stroked the boy’s temples. “Shhh, shhh, kid. It’s all right. Ryan, no, listen to me,” he crooned. “Listen. It’s Sandy. You’re all right, okay? You’re all right.”

“No!” Ryan panted, his chest heaving with each broken word. “Trick. Won’t--”

Sandy’s heart clenched. He felt the boy recoil, as if trying to sink inside the bed, anything to escape his grasp. He glanced down, seeing Ryan’s hands fist. They clawed the sheets, his legs thrashing beneath them as his eyes darted, wide and wild, around the room.

The monitors beeped an alarm, and Seth jumped.

“What’s wrong?” he demanded. “What’s happening? Should we call someone? Dad?”

Sandy didn’t answer. Instead, he clasped Ryan tighter, forcing the boy’s fearful gaze back to him. “Look at me, Ryan,” he ordered. “Come on, kid. Look at me.” For a few moments, he said nothing else. He just held Ryan still, willing him to settle, riveting his attention with the force of his eyes, clear and tender and honest. They smiled, silently reassuring, until slowly, warily Ryan started to relax. When Sandy spoke again, his tone was low, measured and insistent.

“That’s better,” he said. Without releasing Ryan, Sandy relaxed his grip and leaned back slightly so the boy could see him better. “Now let’s try this again, okay? Look at me, Ryan. It’s Sandy. I’m here. I know you’ve—I know you’ve been through hell. But it’s over now. Trust me, it’s--” Sandy’s voice broke. He shook his head, his lips crimping tightly, before he continued. “It’s over. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. This isn’t a trick, kid. It’s not drugs. You’re not hallucinating, you’re not delirious. It’s me, Sandy. I’m here. Lucy called me and I came. I’m here with you now and I’m going to take you home.”

Sandy stopped and waited. Across the bed Seth opened his mouth, then clamped it closed again. He held his breath and waited too.

A glimmer of light, almost wonder, flickered across Ryan’s face. It seemed to shred the gray shroud dimming his vision, to tame the ferocity and terror lurking there. He licked his lips, his fists opening. “Lu—Lucy . . .?” His voice slid over her name, as if it were one sure thing that he recognized. “Call?”

“That’s right. You asked her to call me, remember? She did, Ryan. I’m here.”

Ryan’s forehead puckered. He frowned quizzically, the expression of a child painstakingly piecing a puzzle together. “Here . . . hospital? Sandy . . .?”

“That’s right, kid. Sandy.” With one hand, Sandy reached up and ruffled Ryan’s matted hair. His smile widened, warm with paternal tenderness. Then he cupped the boy’s cheek again, tapping it playfully. “You could do worse, right?” he teased.

Ryan blinked. Doubt and confusion and, finally, joy chased each other across his face. “Sandy,” he said again. This time the name floated on a long, cleansing breath. Ryan squeezed his eyes shut for an moment. When he opened them again, they flashed, anxiety instantly replaced with relief when they registered Sandy still there, still beaming down at him. With a sigh that dispelled any lingering doubt, Ryan relaxed. The fraught tension in his muscles eased and instinctively, he nestled closer, letting his cheek rest in the curve of Sandy’s palm. “Feel . . . real,” he murmured.

All around Ryan, the monitors, recognizing normal reactions, returned to a dull, unperturbed drone.

Watching in unaccustomed silence, Seth shimmied quietly, thrilled by the change in Ryan’s mood, but Sandy’s brows knit with momentary confusion. He wasn’t sure what the boy meant. Was he saying that he finally believed Sandy was real, realizing at last that his hand was solid, that he wasn’t an illusion?

Or did Ryan mean that he felt real, that after so many days of disorientation and despair, of desperate struggle to maintain his identity, he felt like himself again?

It didn’t matter. Either way the kid was right.

Sandy grinned. “Damn right, kid,” he said fervently.

“Me too!” Seth blurted. Unable to wait any longer, he bounced on his toes and launched himself forward, waving an arm to catch Ryan’s attention. His dimples danced, and his untidy curls bobbed impatiently. “Over here, bro!” he cried. “Also real!”

Ryan peered past the frantic hand to locate his friend’s flushed, glowing face. His eyes narrowed, puzzled, then widened into mingled surprise and uncertainty. “Seth?” he ventured. He seemed to struggle with the word, as if it stuck thick on his tongue, but Seth didn’t notice.

“Got it on the first try, dude!” Seth crowed. “See, Dad? Take that! Told you I’m unforgettable!--Damn, Ryan, it’s good to see you again.” Unable to maneuver a hug, Seth settled for plopping onto the edge of the bed, making a loose fist and bopping his knuckles against Ryan’s arm.

Watching a smile flicker faintly in the corners of Ryan’s mouth, Sandy chuckled indulgently. At the same time, though, he lifted a restraining hand. “Slow down, son,” he urged, but Seth continued, oblivious.

“So . . . really, really, really sorry it took us so long to get here, Ryan. It’s not like we haven’t been trying—I mean, seriously, none of us ever believed you just took off. We’ve been searching for you all along.” Babbling happily, Seth stretched out his legs, tapping the toes of his sneakers together as he made himself comfortable on the bed. “But it hasn’t been easy. First we had to sort out all these false leads and track you to Mexico. But when we finally got here? Cozumel?” Seth scowled disparagingly. “Not as easy to navigate as you would expect, considering the size of the place. And we actually had to come to this damn clinic twice. The first time--”

“Seth!” Sandy inclined his head, indicating Ryan’s wan face, his bewildered expression. He lowered his voice, continuing softly. “Take a breath, all right? Give Ryan a chance to process everything.”

“Oh,” Seth paused, abashed. “Oh, okay, epic story. Got it. Plenty of time for the details about Lucy, saboteur, Sandy Cohen, forger, and The Kirsten, prizefighter, when we get home.” He nudged Ryan’s sheet-covered leg with his foot. “The point is, we made it and we’re all here now, right? The Cohen plus one clan, reunited. You and me and Dad and Mom . . . Mom?’ Seth came to a stunned, abrupt stop. He peered across the room, meeting his father’s equally startled gaze. For the first time since Ryan eyes opened, their attention shifted from him and they became aware of Kirsten’s absence.

“She's gone. Why would she leave, Dad?” Seth demanded. “She was here a minute ago. Really, Ryan—Mom was right here with us when you started to wake up.”

Sandy’s brow furrowed. “I think . . .” he recalled hesitantly, “I’m not sure—did she say something about Lucy?”

Concerned, both Seth and Sandy glanced towards the door, as if Kirsten might suddenly materialize. They didn’t see Ryan pale, stiffening, or hear the lost sound of his harsh, broken breath.



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
another cliffie? go you!
real rollercoaster, hope so painful
Dec. 3rd, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
It's a mini cliffy though, right? After all, Ryan is finally awake, and reunited with Sandy and Seth at least.

Anyway, more soon (I hope.)
Dec. 1st, 2011 04:43 am (UTC)
Thanks for the timely "snippet." I had to laugh at the ref to the timeless trek to and around Cozumel... despite its size. Yes, I know I gave you the size in square "barely miles!"

Sometimes less is more, or at least plenty. If you were most definitely time-challenged (how about those 27-hour days?), you focused on what's most important, which is just how emotionally and physically tapped out and compromised Ryan would be in the midst of such an ordeal and with who-knows-what actual Dr. Killer and counteractive cocktails in his system with both cumulative and immediate effects. Consciousness is a big step in the right direction, but in addition to the emotional damage and whatever he's contending with physically from the goon squad, there has to be some sensitive meds interacting and doing a number on him. Everyone's come a long way (in a very, very, very overly long time!), but there's no quick fix. You've captured and conveyed Ryan's confusion, wariness, pain, disbelief and desperation vividly. That initial reconnection is painful for both Ryan and Sandy in different ways, and unexpected. By incorporating and juxtaposing the internal and external with both perspectives, you make the gradual realizations that much more engrossing.

I like how prominently the link between Ryan and Lucy is even if she's not literally present in the tangible way Ryan's become accustomed to. She would be absolutely essential for him and his world now. In this new hell that has become his only reality, she's his life line. On the other hand, just the mention of Kirsten's name has to conjure up all things Caleb, Nichol, deep-seeded doubts and hurt and unleash a whole torrent for a very overloaded, overwhelmed and compromised Ryan. Ouch. And once again, "they" don't see what the impact on Ryan is. Deja vu all over again from the previous chapter?

Thanks and happy holidays!
Dec. 3rd, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
Deja vu indeed, beach (even though I didn't do it deliberately. I only realized that it snuck in there after I posted.)

Love that you recognize the Ryan-Lucy bond even though she's not with him at the moment. You're right. He needs her now. And Kirsten did go to find her so . . .

Happy holidays to you too!
Dec. 1st, 2011 05:32 am (UTC)
Seeing another "snippet" or chapter always makes me happy.
Dec. 3rd, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, zbysko. II'm relieved that you were satisfied with this bit of the story.
Dec. 1st, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
I'm really happy that you haven't given up on this story! Thank you for sharing it with us :)
Dec. 3rd, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome!
Dec. 3rd, 2011 07:03 am (UTC)
Awesome chapter. :D Or part of a chapter. Can't wait for more.
Dec. 3rd, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
Awesome? I'm flattered. And I'll try to update soon, but with Christmas coming . . . well, as I said, I'll try.

Thanks so much for reading.
Dec. 8th, 2011 05:48 am (UTC)
:) yay!
Dec. 15th, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked this mini-installment!
Dec. 10th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
Gah! My heart breaks yet again for poor confused, betrayed, drug addled, frightened and abandonned Ryan.

I hope you can carve 10 minutes out of your busy life to add more to this (happily) never-ending tale.
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
Hee. 10 minutes will be about all--look how long it took me to reply to this comment! But maybe after Christmas? Our winter break stretches to Jan. 9 this year, so there should be a few spare minutes tucked in there somewhere.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful holiday!
Dec. 15th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
I'm barely reading all of the prompts that oc gambit's got going on....writing? totally out of the question.
Jan. 2nd, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)

I'm always late for the good things. I've been trapped in a t/ment snow globe. I smashed my way out,because I.

'REFUSE'to miss any of this 'awesome' writing thanks chaz now you know why I'm sooo late to this party.*hugs*
Jan. 8th, 2012 10:51 pm (UTC)
You're welcome any time, jassy! Besides, look how late I am replying. Sorry about that--I got caught up in all the errands and work that I didn't do before New Year's. And speaking of that, I wish you a wonderful 2012!
Jan. 22nd, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)
Poor confused Ryan. Where's Lucy to reassure him? Scurries to the next part..
Jan. 31st, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry I didn't scurry to answer this mel. But I'm so pleased you're still reading!
Mar. 11th, 2012 01:15 am (UTC)
erm....talk about late to the party- every time I start catching up on this, it seems like something ELSE happens! Poor addled, terrified, barely-believing Ryan. You write him so well. I do so love this tale- pls continue as long as you wish. ; )

And for now, I have time to read at least one more chapter. How *did* we have so much time to banter, chat, squeeeee, and even write about The OC back when?
Mar. 25th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
As you can tell by this late reply, I'm late to the party too! But I'm flattered that you're still reading. It doesn't matter when! As for time, I'm convinced there must have been extra hours in the day back in the OC glory years. Otherwise, how did we keep up?
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )