Title: Life Uncommon
Fandom: The OC
Pairing: Ryan/Sandy, sort of. More gen than anything.
Warnings: Cross-gen, but not a lot of it.
Word Count: 1869
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters and I'm making no money off of this.
A/N: AU from the beginning of "The Gamble." For maudgonne, for her birthday. Sorry it's late.
His first night in juvie, Ryan tries to stay quiet. It’s a technique he’s developed after years of living with his mom and her boyfriends. Pretend you’re invisible, and if you’re lucky, you will be.
He misses Seth’s incessant banter. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to be around someone so talkative, but not with Seth. Seth talks of all the things he’s had bottled up inside from all the years he’s had no one to talk to but a plastic horse. Somehow, it’s not awkward or uncomfortable, listening to him, but endearing and comforting. Easy.
Ryan has never had that before with anyone, either.
The collar of his blue jumpsuit scratches at Ryan’s neck, but no matter how much he tries to make the sensation go away, it won’t. He sighs in frustration.
“Hey! You laughing at me?” a voice rings out. Ryan doesn’t even blink. Suddenly, his cellmate is in his face. “I said, are you laughing at me?”
“What?” Ryan mutters, scared and annoyed at the same time. “No.”
“Well, I think you were.” It’s almost funny; Ryan is fairly short for an almost-adult male, but this kid is tiny and scrawny, and not quite reaching his neck.
“Hey,” Ryan says as nicely as possible, “how about calming down, huh? I’m just going to sleep.”
This gets the kid (Ryan doesn’t know his name; they’d just grunted at each other in greeting when he was led in) all riled up. He feints left and punches Ryan’s right eye, which immediately feels like an elephant has trod on it, and he knows it’ll be a nice shiner in the morning. He punches back.
Immediately, he is thrown to the ground; the kid is surprisingly strong. “Fuck,” Ryan mumbles, pissed and confused and still a tiny bit scared. He tries to throw a few punches, but he knows when he’s overpowered. Like that night on the beach with the water polo players: Ryan might have been stronger than most of them, but he knew he’d lost that fight by sheer numbers. His side had consisted of himself and Seth, who wasn’t exactly helpful in a brawl.
This is like that, sort of, except that thankfully there’s only one guy beating him up. The little body he’d discounted at first has a lot of power in it.
When he’s sure he’s only got a few clumps of unbruised skin, the kid finally gets off him. Ryan grunts and pushes himself up onto the filthy cot he’s going to call home for the next few months as he’s told, “Don’t mess with me, fucker.”
There’s a whimper through the wall; it sounds familiar. “Luke?” Ryan asks, not sure he wants an answer.
“How do you live like this, Chino?” Luke whispers.
“Well, home isn’t like this, you know.”
Ryan snorts. Not only is Luke an asshole, he’s an idiot. “No. We may be poor, but I sleep in a bed. Without bars in front of it.”
“Oh. Sorry.” The apology startles Ryan. Since when is Luke remotely nice to him?
“I’m not after Marissa, you know,” he says. “She wanted to stay the night, but I told her to leave. I don’t steal other guys’ girlfriends.”
A pause. “She likes you, though.”
“I know. I’m sorry, man.” He doesn’t know why he’s apologizing to this arrogant jock asshole whose favorite pastime is picking on Seth; he just wants Luke off his back about Marissa. It’s not like he asked for the attention she gives him, her fascination with him. But sooner or later, she’ll realize that he’s not all that mysterious or “bad” and lose interest, he’s sure.
Silence on the other side of the wall.
“Why’d you tell the truth, man?” He’s genuinely curious. No one at home would have done that for him.
He can hear Luke’s heavy breathing. “I… I don’t know.”
“I’m not a liar, Chino. I couldn’t just stand there and let them think it was all you, as much as I wanted to.”
“Thanks,” Ryan says sarcastically. That sounds more like the Luke he punched in the diner, the Luke he hates.
“Hey, it’s the truth. You asked.”
“How do you fall asleep in here?”
“What makes you think I know?”
“Well, you’ve been to juvie before, right? I mean, Mr. Cohen took you home from there.”
“I didn’t sleep much that night,” Ryan admits. It feels funny to be telling someone this, especially since that someone is Luke. “I just… thought a lot. And I guess I fell asleep eventually, because I remember waking up, but it took a long time.”
“Great. Thanks. That’s really helpful.”
“Well, you asked.” Ryan smirks, knowing Luke can’t see him.
There’s another long silence, and finally Luke says, “Ryan?”
“Thank you.” It’s soft and quite unlike Luke, or at least unlike Ryan’s knowledge of him. He is taken aback.
“You’re welcome,” he replies, unsure what he’s being thanked for.
“I think I can sleep now,” Luke says, and Ryan replies, “Good night,” and the next thing he remembers is waking up with his cellmate standing over him.
Sandy comes to visit Ryan in the morning. It is just like their last meeting here, except Ryan trusts him now.
“You know I’d sign you out of here and take you home if I could,” Sandy says, “But after all the fights and the fire, Kirsten would have my head.”
“I know,” Ryan says. He’s not expecting anything. Not after all the damage he’s done.
“Seth wanted to come see you, but we both thought it would be better if he didn’t come here.” Sandy gestures around the room. Ryan thinks about how sheltered Seth is and wonders if he ever appreciates it. Or what he’d think of this place.
“I get it,” Ryan says a tad angrily. “You don’t have to do this for me. I know.” In one move, he is across the table and pressing Sandy’s mouth to his. His lawyer struggles and Ryan lets up.
“I’m sorry. I just thought –”
That was how his mother’s boyfriends had always wanted to be repaid for favors. A kiss here, a blowjob there. It didn’t occur to him beforehand that Sandy might be different.
Sandy looks at him. “What was that?”
“I –” Ryan’s mouth is dry. He can’t tell Sandy the truth. It’s too real. “I wanted to give you something back,” he says desperately. “For everything you’ve done. And I don’t have anything to give but me. I’m sorry.” His eyes are focused intensely on his hands, crossed on the table in front of him. Somehow, in between the kiss and the explanation, he’s made his way back to his seat across from Sandy, who probably hates him now. Great – the one person who’s given him a chance, and he alienates him.
“Ryan,” Sandy says gently, “Look at me.”
He doesn’t want to, but he guesses he has no choice, so he does. Sandy doesn’t look angry, as he’d expected. Instead, he looks… sad?
“I’m sorry,” Ryan says again.
Sandy says, “You don’t have to keep apologizing, but thank you. And you really don’t need to repay me. For anything. I want to help you, Ryan. Besides –” he grasps Ryan’s hand – “Seth’s never really had a friend before. I think you’re the first person his age who’s been willing to hang out with him since elementary school.”
“Seth’s cool,” Ryan says. “He talks a lot.”
Sandy smiles. “I know.” He pats Ryan’s shoulder as he stands up. “Look, kiddo, I’ll try to get you out of here as soon as I can. But try not to get into any more fights in the meantime, okay?” He indicates Ryan’s eye. There are no mirrors, but Ryan knows exactly what it looks like. He’s had enough black eyes to tell. “I’ll check in again in a couple days,” Sandy says.
“Okay.” Ryan responds automatically, pushing the chair back and standing up. “Thank you.”
Sandy doesn’t say anything, just smiles sadly at Ryan on his way out.
Ryan is eating lunch in the cafeteria with all the other delinquents when Luke’s parents come to take him home. He looks after the other boy longingly; if only that was him. But of course it isn’t. Ryan’s learned not to expect any breaks to come his way.
Luke looks back at him, the angry façade back in place. As though their talk the other night never happened. Ryan doesn’t really care. He just wants to get out of here.
A tall Hispanic boy looms over him, watching him watching Luke. “Is that your boyfriend, fag?”
Ryan barely reacts. “No.”
“Oh, yeah? Well, you know what? I think you’re lying.” The boy’s fists are balled up. Ryan’s cellmate is behind him.
“Gabe here told me what you said to him,” the Hispanic boy says.
“What did I say?”
“Don’t act all innocent with me. You know you came onto him. And that’s just not cool around here. We don’t like queers, fag. You know what we do to them?”
Ryan doesn’t want to know. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t gay; the boy will never believe him anyway. “What?”
“We knock some sense into ’em,” he’s told menacingly. Great. Another day, another fistfight.
Ryan stands and throws the first punch before the boy knows what’s hit him.
“Aw, you think you’re such tough stuff, huh? We’ll see about that, fag.” A circle of boys gathers around Ryan; they are all glaring at him and he almost groans aloud. Not this again.
Then they are attacking him from every side like a pack of rabid coyotes picking apart their prey. He is caught and he knows it. There is no point in trying to defend himself anymore.
When his nose crunches under someone’s hand, the original boy calls out, “Enough!” and everyone piles off. So that’s the way things work around here.
The next day, Ryan is surprised to be told he has a visitor. He’s even more surprised to see Seth and Kirsten waiting for him. Kirsten is standing a bit off to the side.
He sits and Seth starts talking immediately about the failed plan, Marissa… and then the boy who instigated the fight the day before starts hitting on Kirsten. Ryan isn’t about to let him get away with it. He gets in a few good punches and Kirsten, grateful, signs him out of juvie.
It feels strange, being at the Cohen house again, in their pool house. Ryan avoids Sandy as much as possible and spends his days playing video games with Seth and biking on the pier. Kirsten is slowly warming up to him, though she tries not to show it, and he respects her for that. All he can think about is how stupid of him it was to kiss Sandy. Sometimes Seth is talking to him and he’ll just space out. Seth usually calls him on it, and Ryan knows he’s curious, but he’ll never tell Seth. How could he? It wouldn’t make sense to him. It barely makes sense to Ryan.
It is weeks before he can look Sandy or Kirsten in the eye.