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Give Me Love - Part Three

Kirsten was surprised to see Summer hurrying across the parking lot towards the hospital, same as she and Sandy were, but the girl had mentioned talking to Ryan somewhat regularly, so she assumed he had called her once he knew her dad was calling them. "Summer!" she called.

Summer stopped and turned, smiling widely. "I know the baby's early, but Chino sounded so happy on the phone, so she must be okay, right?" she said.

"Right," Kirsten said, giving the girl a hug. "He called you?"

"Caleb called us," Sandy put in, frowning.

"Caleb?" Summer said. "As in Kirsten's scary dad?"

"My dad is not scary," Kirsten protested.

"Well, I appreciate the defense, Kiki," Caleb said as he approached. "The boy needed food," he added, holding up a bag of takeout.

"Why were you with Ryan?" Sandy asked.

"We ran into each other by chance yesterday, and he asked me to meet with him today. Pure chance everything happened while we were having lunch," Caleb said, leading the way towards the elevator.

"Why would he ask to meet with you?" Sandy pressed.

"I don't know all the details, but apparently he's been miserable. He wanted to call you and beg you to let him go home to Newport and he wanted me to talk him out of it," Caleb said. "I didn't. I told him when the baby was born, he should ask for help getting custody and then both of them could go home to Newport. We were talking when one of his coworkers came running in and told him they'd gotten a call looking for him because the girl was being taken to the hospital. I drove him here, and by the time we arrived, she'd been taken up for an emergency c-section, and then... he had a daughter. Beautiful little girl. She's in the NICU, but doing well so far."

"And you just... stuck around?" Sandy asked.

"He was terrified. And since what happened is she apparently let someone named Eddie into their home while Ryan was out..."

"She let that piece of shit into the house?" Summer said, furious.

"You know who that is?" Caleb asked.

"Ryan told me, he needed to tell someone," Summer said.

"He should have told us," Sandy said. "Whatever it is..."

"You would have insisted he go back to Newport," Summer said. "Right that minute, screw the fact that he had a baby on the way. I told him he should, but I didn't push him about it. I told him to get custody after the baby's born and come home. That he could agree with. So he called me."

"From what he said, he and the girl got into a fight last night after she failed to pick him up from the construction site, and failed to answer either her cell phone or the house phone. He ended up working fourteen hours then walking four miles home in the dark only to find she was having a baby shower. They argued, and he called me to ask me to meet with him today."

"She has a name, Caleb," Sandy said.

"She doesn't deserve one with how she's been treating Ryan," Summer snapped. "Besides maybe 'bitch'."

"I agree," Caleb said as the elevator doors opened to the sight of Ryan talking to a police officer.

"Ryan," Sandy said.

Ryan turned, smiling shakily. "Hey," he said.

"If you're questioning him..." Sandy began.

"He was just filling me in on the latest," Ryan said. "Theresa woke up from surgery, admitted she let someone she knew was dangerous and violent into our home less than 48 hours after we kicked him out for slamming my head into a door frame. She admitted she had sworn to me she wouldn't let Eddie near her or the baby because he was dangerous. She admitted she knew I meant it when I said I would take the baby and never let Theresa see her again, and she still did it. I no longer care what happens to her. But I want my daughter with me, Sandy. If you guys don't want both of us, fine, I can figure it out. But my daughter is going to be with me."

"Of course we want both of you," Kirsten said, pulling him into a hug.

"We did fax the police report and witness statements to the number you gave us, Mr. Nichols," the officer said. "And called to verify they received them. I doubt there will be much issue with your grandson getting custody."

"Thank you," Caleb said. As the officer left, Caleb turned to the rest of the group, seeing everyone but Ryan had a stunned expression on their face. "What?"

"He called Ryan your grandson and you didn't correct him," Sandy said.

"Well, I may have realized I was a little too harsh on the boy," Caleb said.

"He also offered me a paid internship at the Newport Group," Ryan put in.

"Who are you and what have you done to my dad?" Kirsten said.

"Yeah, imagine my surprise when I ask him to talk me out of calling you and begging you top let me come home to Newport, and instead he tells me I should call you. And he offers me a job, too. And then he insists on driving me here, and calls me his grandson, calls Lucy his great-granddaughter..."

"Lucy?" Sandy asked. "Is that her name?"

"Yeah," Ryan said. "Yeah it is."

"It's a beautiful name," Kirsten said.

~~~

That evening, once the NICU staff told Ryan he wouldn't be able to visit again until the next day, Kirsten tried to convince Ryan to go back to Newport for the night, but he refused, not wanting to be that far away in case anything happened. They compromised by getting him a hotel room closer to the hospital, but insisted on going with him to pack some of his things.

Kirsten was not thrilled to see the neighborhood Ryan had been living in, half the houses covered in graffiti, rusted appliances and cars on lawns, people eyeing their car. But Ryan and Theresa's house itself was nice, with a mostly clean yard.

"Her stupid friends parked on the lawn, tore up the grass," Ryan commented as they went up the front walk. "I worked hard on my days off to get it looking nice, and... Whatever, not my problem anymore."

"It's a nice little house," Kirsten offered.

"It's rundown with a leaky roof," Ryan corrected. The police had told them the house was cleared, all evidence had been collected, and it was fine for them to go pack up some of Ryan's things. They hadn't mentioned the pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Ryan froze for a moment when he saw it, until he felt Sandy's hand on his shoulder.

"You okay, kid?"

"Yeah," Ryan said. "I was in this kitchen less than 12 hours ago," he said. "I was mad at Theresa, but... everything was fine. When Caleb agreed that I should go home to Newport, I decided I was gonna talk to her tonight, ask for primary custody, give her liberal visitation... now, I don't want her to ever be near Lucy again."

"That's understandable," Sandy said. "But not exactly fair."

"Fair?" Ryan asked. "She almost killed Lucy because she couldn't just keep her promise."

"You don't get to tell her who she can be friends with..."

"She's the one who kicked him out of the house!" Ryan protested. "And I do get a say who comes near my child! My vulnerable, innocent, child that who almost died this morning!"

"What is going on in here?" Kirsten asked as she and Summer came in from the living room.

"He's defending Theresa," Ryan said.

"I'm not, I'm just saying that... Lucy is going to want to know her mother. She'll need a mother figure..."

"She'll have her grandma!" Ryan said, gesturing to Kirsten. "When she gets older, Summer already called dibs on helping her if she wants to go shopping for girly stuff. She'll have women in her life who can help her with any of that stuff, but Theresa will not be one of them. I won't let her."

"You may not get a say."

"Lucky for me, Caleb agrees with me about that, and I know he told his lawyer to make sure it goes my way," Ryan said. "So I think I do get a say. I'm the only one who does. When Lucy's older, if she really wants to meet Theresa, I'll make it happen. But not when she's little, and vulnerable, and... just no."

"Okay, let's just calm down," Kirsten said, walking over and taking Ryan's arm to get him out of the kitchen. "Where's your room and the baby's things?"

"This way," Ryan said, leading the group down the short hallway. Theresa's room was on on side, next to the living room, and Ryan's was on the other side, with the bathroom between him and the kitchen. He wasn't surprised that his door was wide open and what was obviously the baby shower gifts had been dumped on his bed for him to deal with. The rest of the baby things they had purchased so far, or been gifted by Kirsten, were neatly folded and put away.

"How nice of them to put it away neatly," Ryan muttered sarcastically. "Most of the baby stuff is in the dresser or tucked under the crib in boxes," he said louder. "I'll figure out this crap and then pack some of my stuff."

"I'll help," Summer said, moving to the bed to start sorting through the baby shower items that had clearly just been tossed there. "Oh, hey, ugly 'mommy's princess' onesie, we can toss that, right?" she said.

Ryan bit his lip, trying not to laugh. "Yes, that can go in the trash, or floor, or toilet... whatever."

"And 'mommy's ballerina'... they do realize newborns can't dance, right?" Summer said.

"I don't know, Seth used to boogie down in his high chair," Kirsten said.

"I'll bet he had more rhythm back then," Summer mused.

"Oh, definitely," Kirsten agreed, glancing over at the two teenagers and smiling as she saw Ryan clearly trying not to laugh. "This is adorable," she added, turning with a red onesie that read 'I'm acute baby', with a picture of an acute angle on it.

"I couldn't resist," Ryan admitted with a grin. There's a bunch of geeky ones in there. Math puns, Science puns, Star Trek..."

"The badass is a geek," Summer teased.

"Yeah, well, Theresa kept looking at all those princess and angel ones and I just... I said fuck that."

Sandy frowned. "You should get in the habit of watching your language..."

"Yes, because she has supper hearing and can hear me right now," Ryan said dryly. "I kept from calling the assholes at the Newpsie parties assholes, I think I can keep from swearing in front of my daughter."

"Where you swearing this much in private last year?" Sandy asked.

"Did you hear me swearing last year? No? Then what's your problem?"

"Opposite corners," Kirsten said. "Sandy, help me carry these out," she added, shoving a box into his arms.

"Sorry," Ryan whispered to Summer.

"Not you're fault he's being an ass," Summer replied.

"I think he's mad I called you instead of him."

"They got here the same time as me," Summer said.

"Yeah. But I called you. Not him."

Summer sighed, bumping her shoulder against his, then grimacing. "Mommy's Little Turkey... what the fuck?" she asked.

"Due date was Thanksgiving," Ryan said, shrugging.

"Seriously, who would want to call their child a turkey?" Summer pressed.

Ryan shook his head, lips pressed in a thin line as he tried not to laugh, though just as quickly, that line broke and a sob slipped out.

~~~

"What is wrong with you?" Kirsten asked as soon as they were on the porch, even as she kept moving towards the car. "You're snapping at him over every little thing."

"He needs to be realistic..."

"I think he is," Kirsten said. "I also think he's angry, and scared, and you are not helping. Let him be furious at Theresa. I am very sure that by the time we can move Lucy anywhere else, he will go talk to Theresa. Maybe they can come to some sort of agreement. But for now, shut up and let him be angry."

Sandy nodded, surprised by the anger in his wife's voice. "I just want him to be the best father he can be."

"I know. But criticizing him before he can even start trying to be a father? What good will that do besides make him angrier? At least on little stuff, which for the moment includes swearing, let him make the mistake before you scold him for it."

"Aren't you the one always tell the boys not to say certain words?"

"Yes, but I don't say it like they've done something horrible by saying the word," Kirsten said. "Why are you snapping at him, Sandy?"

"Why didn't he call us?" Sandy asked. "He called Summer of all people..."

"My dad was calling us, so he called his friend," Kirsten said, closing the car door as she turned towards him.

"He should have been the one calling us."

Kirsten sighed. "Can you at least try not to scold him for the rest of the day?" she asked, turning sharply on her heels and going back inside. They had barely set foot back inside when they heard the muffled, choked, sobs from Ryan's room. When they got there, he was already regaining control, but he was crouched beside the bed with his head was bowed and Summer's arm around his shoulders. "Honey?" Kirsten asked.

"I'm fine," Ryan said, taking a big, gulping breath. "I'm fine."

"No, you're not," Sandy said, earning a look from both Kirsten and Summer. "You're sixteen, and your life has completely changed again, and I'm making things harder on you. I just don't want you making decisions you'll regret later."

"I know," Ryan said, taking a shuddering breath. "I know that. And I know I need to talk to Tee. I've known her too long to just... But this..." he said, gesturing at the pile of onesies tossed on the floor. "Every single one of those either says 'Mommy's little' whatever, or it implies I'm an idiot and need labels for where the head and arms go. All I have done since I found out about Lucy was try to be the best dad I could. I don't think Theresa has a clue about changing diapers, or... or checking the temp for a bottle... and her response to even the idea of breastfeeding? To complain that it would make her boobs sag. Forget it's good for our kid's immune system, Theresa may not be perky afterwards. Notice anything about all the baby stuff? It's all in my room, the guy who has been and would have continued, to work full time, eight hour shifts five or six days a week for the rest of his life so he could take care of his kid. But I was also expected to be the one getting up in the middle of the night when she cried. And you know what? I don't mind, I don't... what bothers me is there was no discussion, we started getting baby stuff, and she put it in here. She gets a baby shower and forgets I exist for at least ten hours considering when she left work yesterday, and I still get all the baby stuff tossed in my room. She thought I was working today, and she made it so that I'd have to clean off the bed before I could sleep. And god help me if I'd thrown these on the floor and she'd seen, I know she would have been pissed. Because unless I do exactly what she wants, I'm unreasonable. I'm bullying the pregnant girl. She's two years older than me, and she's pretty much given up nothing, but I'm unreasonable if I don't cater to her every whim."

"No, you're not," Sandy said.

"You know it... it's almost exactly 48 hours since we kicked Eddie out. Since he slammed my head into that door frame, there's still blood on it, for god's sake. Since Theresa told him to get out and not come back. Since I closed and locked the front door behind him, and sat down in front of it, shaking, and told her that was the reason I never wanted Eddie here, because he hurts her, and he hurts me, and he would hurt Lucy... and she apologized, and she promised Eddie wouldn't come near her or Lucy. It took her 36 hours to break that promise, because what does it matter? She just made it to me. I don't matter."

"Yes, you do," Summer said.

"Not to her. I gave up graduating high school. I gave up a home where I was safe. I gave up a family that actually loved me. All for her and Lucy, and she couldn't even give up an abusive piece of shit," Ryan said. "And I know I need to watch my language around Lucy, Sandy. And I know I shouldn't bad mouth Theresa in front of her. Why do you think I'm doing it now, where she can't possibly hear it? I need to get it out, I need to be angry, where she doesn't see, because when I have her in my arms, I need to be her happy smiling daddy who loves her and will always make her world safe. I can't be that if I have to keep this anger inside all the time. That's how Dawn and Frank became the parents they were, they held it in until it bubbled over and we all got the yelling, and hitting, and hating. It was always worse in between the yelling because I knew it was building, and when it hit critical mass they would explode and there was nowhere safe. I don't want that for my little girl."

"You're right," Sandy said, crouching in front of him. "And I'm sorry. And if you need to see someone, a therapist, you know we'll..."

"No. No, I'm not talking about this with a stranger," Ryan said, shaking his head and wiping at his eyes. "I'm fine."

"If ever you're not fine, you can talk to us," Kirsten said, interrupting Sandy before he could ruin the moment.

"Okay, sure," Ryan said, taking a deep breath.

"Why don't you go ahead and pack your things?" Kirsten suggested. "We can take the boxes out while you do that..."

"The crib..." Ryan began.

"Is an ugly piece of crap," Summer said. "Sorry, chino, but... yeah."

Ryan tried to glare, but ended up laughing, nudging her shoulder with his. "Yeah, it is," he acknowledged. "The boxes are sorta holding the thing together," he added.

"We'll get you a new one," Kirsten said. "Did you have a car seat or carrier yet?"

Ryan shook his head. "I was saving for one, because I wanted a really good one so she'd be safe."

"We'll take care of that, too. Stroller?"

"In the corner," Ryan said, nodding at a collapsible one. "It's kinda like the crib, piece of crap."

"Okay so crib, car seat, stroller," Kirsten said. "Easy enough. Do you have an preferences about what they look like? We can get them for you in the next few days so they can be all ready."

"Not pink," Ryan said. "Only rule I've had when getting stuff, no pink. At least not pale pink... dark is fine... but I am not gonna play into that stupid 'girl's must be girly' shit. If she wants to be girly when she gets old enough to show some preference? I will buy her all the lace and frills and pale pink I can. Until then?"

"No pink," Kirsten said, smiling. "We can do that."

"Thanks," Ryan said, pushing himself to his feet. "We should get this done, I wanna check on Lucy before I go to the hotel for the night. I know I can't go in to see her, but I wanna look through the window one more time."

"Of course," Kirsten said. "Sandy, let's get these boxes."

"Yeah," Sandy agreed.

When they left, Summer turned to Ryan. "You should tell them what Eddie tried to do. You don't have to mention why, suggest it was a dominance thing or something, but... maybe if they knew that part Sandy would understand better why you're so angry."

"And then they insist on pressing charges, and counseling, and... I can't," Ryan said. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna put it all on your shoulders to keep me sane," he added.

"Hey, no, that's not where this is coming from," Summer said firmly. "I just want you to be okay." She hesitated a moment. "I didn't tell him it was you, and I didn't give details so even if he figures it out, he won't know... everything... but I... I went to my dad for advice."

"You what?"

"I told him I had a friend in a bad situation, and that we both knew what he should do to get out, but he couldn't because people were counting on him."

"Summer..."

"He said sometimes you can't do anything until someone decides to directly ask for help. But that if my friend asked me, I could come to him for help. But he told me if I thought my friend was in imminent danger, I could come to him and he would find a way to help. So you... you can count on both of us."

"Thanks," Ryan said.

"Are you mad I went to him?"

"No. I shouldn't have been putting all this on your shoulders, I know that," Ryan said.

"Come on, let's get your stuff."

~~~

It took some effort, but he convinced the Cohens and Summer to head back to Newport for the night before he went to check on Lucy. As much as he wanted to see Lucy, he knew he would be able to do that no matter what time of night, but regular visiting hours were ending soon, so instead he asked at the nurse's desk for Theresa's room number.

When he got there, Eva and Arturo had arrived from Atlanta and were fussing over her. He watched them from the doorway, feeling like he was about to burn all his Chino bridges in one go, until Theresa spotted him.

"Ry..." she said softly.

"There you are, man, I thought you ditched my sister," Arturo said with a grin. "There's some weird thing going on, the doctor's won't let any of us see the baby..."

"I told them not to," Ryan said.

"What?" Eva asked.

"Actually, I just said not to let Theresa see her, I'll tell them you guys are okay."

"What are you talking about?" Eva asked.

"You can't..." Theresa began.

"You promised me, 36 hours before this happened, you promised me that you wouldn't let Eddie near you or our daughter. And then you let him in the house. And look what happened."

"It was a mistake," Arturo said. "How was she suppose to know Eddie would..."

"Because he slammed my head into a door frame and pinned me to the floor the night before last?" Ryan snapped. "Because he would have raped me if she hadn't gotten home?" he added, feeling both guilty and satisfied to see the flash of horror in Eva's eyes and guilty in Arturo's. "Because she walked in, and saw me on the floor, terrified, bleeding... and then she promised me. No Eddie. Never. And all it took was 36 hours before she broke that promise, and it almost killed my baby girl. Because neither of us mean a damn thing to her."

"That's not fair..." Theresa said.

"Not fair? You basically told Eddie if he came and lived with us, and helped with bills, he could fuck me whenever he wanted. You offered me to him on a silver platter, and you had the nerve to act like it was a good thing. You knew what he was like. You knew and you didn't care."

"I thought he was different with you..."

"Even if he was, he's a jealous asshole, do you really think he wouldn't have gotten upset about how much time I spent taking care of the baby? Do you think I'd want him in bed with me when my daughter was right there in the room? He likes making sex painful, it's a game to him. I... that's not something a baby should hear. How did you think it would play out, Tee?"

"I don't know."

"I'll tell you how. He would have done something to hurt my little girl, and I would have killed him. Then I would have gone to jail, and you would have ended up like Dawn, because that baby means nothing to you."

"That's not true!"

"Then explain why all, literally all, of the baby stuff was in my room. Not a thing, not even all those stupid 'mommy's little' things from that stupid baby shower were in your room. They were dumped on my bed. Explain why I was going to be working eight hours a day, then coming home and taking care of the baby while you did... whatever. Explain why all of your money goes to fun things and all of mine goes to bills, and food, and baby stuff. Explain why you let Eddie in the house knowing how violent he is."

"Theresa, is all this true?" Eva asked.

"I just... Ryan's better at that stuff, he's a natural..."

"I don't even mind the baby stuff," Ryan said. "I was happy to take care of her. And I still am. I'm thrilled to take care of her, at home, in Newport."

"What?" Theresa said.

"If you haven't been contacted yet, I'm sure you will soon," Ryan said. "I'm suing for full custody."

"No!"

"You put her in danger, she's in the NICU," Ryan said. "You hurt her, and that... that is so far from acceptable. I'm willing to talk about visitation, supervised for now, but I'm going to get custody."

"I'm her mother!"

"And I'm her father. Be glad I'm offering visitation, because earlier I wasn't. Earlier I was saying you would never see her again. Push me too hard on this? And I'll go back to that plan," Ryan concluded before turning and walking out.

"Ry..." Arturo began, following him.

"Don't," Ryan said. "You've been my friend for years, 'Turo, don't make me hate you." He shook his head. "I have to do what's best for my daughter."

"By taking her from her mother?"

"Did you hear anything I said in there?" Ryan asked. "I would have been better off without Dawn."

"You woulda been in foster care..."

"Yeah, and that would have been better than a mother who just couldn't bother to be a mother."

"Better the pervs than your mother?" Arturo asked sarcastically.

"That happened anyway," Ryan said. "Her dealers, Eddie... you."

"What the hell, Ry?" Arturo asked, hurt. "I wasn't..."

"I was fourteen, you were eighteen, that alone... add in that you had just gotten me away from those guys at the party and I wasn't thinking straight because I was upset... you took advantage and you know it."

"I gave you the chance to say no, you kissed me the second time."

"I was confused, and I just... you knew I was upset, you knew I felt like I wasn't good enough for anyone to love me, and you used that to get what you wanted. Just like everyone else."

"That's not fair."

"Maybe not, you were gentler about it than Eddie ever was, that time at least."

"Come on, Ry..."

"Don't play the wounded party, 'Turo, because I'm done being the bad guy for standing up for myself. And now it's not just me, it's my daughter. I have to do right by her, and Theresa's not... I can't trust her."

"She loves you, she always did."

"I deserve better than the kinda love that pimps me out to an abusive ex," Ryan said. "All it took was a year with people who actually care about me before I figured that out." He shook his head. "A lawyer will be in touch. I'll tell him that I'll allow supervised visitation, but for now, that's it," he said, turning away again and leaving Arturo in the hallway. As he turned towards the stairs, wanting a few moments of quiet before returning to the NICU, he didn't notice Caleb in the other part of the hall, towards the elevator, a pained, and furious, look on his face.

To Be Continued...

So... yeah.

On a cheerful note, this is the 'Acute Baby' onesie... I sorta created a pinterest board full of onesies I imagined Lucy having at one point or another during her babyhood... lol

Date: 2017-06-03 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cailleachbheur.livejournal.com
Another great update! I'll comment more later, when I'm not quite so slammed with work.

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