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These next few chapters will somewhat be skipping ahead in time. They'll basically be montages of scenes, because in general things won't get interesting until Lucy is home from the hospital, because I can only right so many scenes of Ryan spending as much time as possible sitting next to Lucy's incubator. But there's little bits and pieces that need to be shown (First time Ryan holds Lucy, Ryan's first night back in Newport, Marissa and Julie finding out Ryan's back, trying to get Seth back, first day back at Harbor, etc). So this chapter and the next one, and possibly one more after that, will basically be montages of a couple weeks worth of events, showing only major things that are important in the grand scheme.


Give Me Love - Part Four

By the time Caleb made it back to the NICU, Ryan was standing outside the window, watching Lucy sleep with a small smile on his face.

"She really is a beautiful girl," Caleb said.

"Yeah, she is," Ryan agreed.

"She's lucky to have you."

"If I don't screw her up."

"Do you love her?"

"Of course," Ryan replied.

"Would you ever let anyone hurt her?"

"Never."

"Would you protect her if you knew a friend had taken advantage of her?" Caleb finished, watching Ryan's reaction closely and seeing him tense up.

"Yeah," he whispered.

"Then you won't screw her up," Caleb said. He had been going to ask, going to find out if he had heard correctly, but the pain that had been in that one word answer was enough to dissuade him. He wanted to know more so he could protect the boy, and asking would only cause more pain. It didn't matter now, anyway. Ryan would soon be back in Newport, safe from these people who had been so callous towards him. If it ever became an issue in Newport, Caleb would deal with it then. For now, it didn't matter. "Anything you want the custody lawyer to put in the offer to the girl's family?"

"Supervised visitation for Theresa, her mother, and her brother. Only supervised for now. And if they are discovered to be spending time with Eddie, that stops immediately."

"I'll let him know."

"Thank you."

~~~

Ryan had stayed in cheap motels before, but the hotel Kirsten and Sandy had insisted on getting him a room at was nicer than the any of the others. He didn't worry about jamming a chair under the door before he laid down on the clean bed and fell into an exhausted sleep, punctuated by the occasional jolt awake. The next morning, he went to the diner next door, only slightly surprised to see the Cohens and Caleb were already there.

"We were going to bring something up to you if you didn't appear soon," Kirsten said as he slid in next to Caleb. "How'd you sleep?"

"Not bad," Ryan replied.

"We called and checked on Lucy already..." Sandy began.

"So did I," Ryan admitted. "When I woke up at 3am and couldn't sleep until I checked. They said she's doing good."

"She is," Caleb said. "We wanted to delay you going over there for a bit, though," he added.

"Why?" Ryan asked, tensing up.

"Nothing bad," Kirsten said. "The custody Lawyer dad hired is taking the first draft of an agreement over first thing. We don't want you there if Theresa and her family take it badly."

"No reason to risk a scene," Caleb said.

"What does it say?" Ryan asked.

"Exactly what you asked for," Caleb said. "Full legal, physical, and medical custody to you, with Sandy and Kirsten having guardianship until you're eighteen if necessary. Supervised visits only, for her and her entire family, and always at your, or Sandy and Kirsten's, discretion."

"Meaning...?" Ryan asked.

"I thought you were smart?" Caleb said lightly. "If any of you decide to end the visits entirely, you have the right to do so and they have no recourse. The lawyer said they'll most likely push back against several of the provisions, like that last one, and possibly they'll want legal custody to be joint, but this gives room to negotiate. We allow them to argue us out of one or two things, we look flexible. And that looks good in court." Before they could say anything else, Caleb frowned. "That's the lawyer," he said, waving the man over. "What happened?" he asked.

The lawyer shook his head, setting down the agreement. "Theresa Diaz signed it," he said. "Her mother protested, but she's over eighteen, so there was nothing the woman could do about it."

"She signed it? As is?" Ryan asked, surprised.

"Paulo, this is my grandson, the father of the infant in question," Caleb said.

"She hesitated, but her brother was there and he whispered something in her ear, at which point she signed," Paulo explained. "Congratulations."

"Thanks," Ryan said.

"I'll send the check by this evening," Caleb added.

"Why would she do that?" Kirsten asked. "I'm glad she did, but... why would she essentially sign away all rights to her child? I can't imagine..."

"I told you, she doesn't care about either of us," Ryan said, turning and looking out the window towards the hospital. "I'm not hungry, I'm gonna go see if I can get in to see Lucy," he said, getting up and hurrying out.

"I just can't understand how a mother could sign away her child," Kirsten

~~~

When Ryan got to the NICU, he was told the doctor was doing rounds inside so he would need to wait a little while before he could go in, but he could look through the window. When he rounded the corner, he saw Arturo standing outside the glass.

"What did you say to Theresa?" Ryan asked.

"I told her we'd both hurt you more than enough," Arturo said. "You know I didn't... I was trying to cheer you up that night," he said quietly.

"And the other times?" Ryan countered. "When you were drunk, or stoned..."

Arturo looked away. "Tee's gonna join me and Mama in Atlanta," he said. "So I guess you don't really have to worry about visitation much."

"She has the Cohens address, if you guys get me yours, I can send pictures sometimes."

"Appreciate it."

"Does Eva hate me?"

"Not as much as she hates me and Tee for what we did to you and let Eddie do... she overheard you and me in the hall, and she's pissed. Especially about me. I shoulda known better, you were just a baby..."

"Good, you deserve it."

"Yeah, I've gotten it all around. Some guy came by right after you left, told me if I ever went near you again he'd have me killed."

"What?" Ryan asked. "Who?"

"I don't know, some old guy in a suit."

Ryan considered Caleb's choice of words the previous night and wondered how much the man had heard. "So you decide hanging around my daughter first thing in the morning is a good idea?" he finally said.

"Old people sleep later?"

"If it's who I think it was, he was probably awake before me."

"Shit," Arturo said. "I'll just... go."

"Yeah, you should," Ryan agreed.

~~~

It was another few days before Ryan actually had the chance to hold Lucy. They had decided to see how she did with a bottle, see if they could remove her feeding tube, and thought the best way to test it was with her in the arms of someone she already responded to. Ryan had made sure to take an extra long shower that morning, scrubbing all the dirt out of every nook and cranny, then worn some of the completely clean 'Newport' clothes he had kept in the back of his closet at the Chino house, not wanting to take the chance of anything getting Lucy sick. Sandy and Kirsten were there, and he knew they took pictures of him holding Lucy, since they gave him the prints the day after, but at the time he only had eyes for his daughter.

She seemed even smaller once she was positioned in his arms, head nestled in the crook of his elbow and body easily supported by his forearm. While he waited for the nurse to get a bottle, he rested his free hand on Lucy's chest, just enough to feel the ever so slight up and down movement of her breaths, the rhythmic thumps of her heartbeat, and her tiny arms wrapped around his hand, holding him there as she looked up at him with wide brown eyes. "Hi, Lucy," he whispered. "I love you so much, lots of people do, and I can't wait to take you home with me..."

The nurse finally came with the bottle, helping him free his hand so he could take it and hold it for Lucy. For a moment, the infant seemed to be scowling, and Ryan absently wondered if that's what his scowl looked like, they she seemed to realize there was something in the bottle and a quiet suckling sound could be just barely be heard amidst the sounds of the running equipment. Ryan smiled again, because Lucy was like him, a fighter, a survivor. No matter what, she would be okay because she was her daddy's daughter.

~~~

Lucy was transferred to HOAG when she was 9 days old, and Ryan was relieved to find the staff there were more willing to work with the rules so he could spend more time with her. They did restrict him to daytime visits only, insisting he go home to sleep after the regular visiting hours were over, but otherwise no one seemed to mind if he stayed the entire day. The sun was just barely going down when Sandy pulled the range rover into the Cohen driveway, and Ryan had a sense of deja vu as he caught sight of the house again, although this time the apprehension he had felt the first time was replaced with relief.

Sandy put an arm around Ryan's shoulders as they went inside, finding the house empty. They found Kirsten in the pool house, making the bed, and Ryan suddenly felt every minute of the last 5 months of full time construction work catching up with him. "I am so glad to be home," he admitted.

"Are you hungry?" Kirsten asked. "We can order in..."

"Right now I really just want to sleep in my own bed," Ryan admitted slowly sitting down.

"There's food in the fridge if you get hungry, and I unpacked most of your things that we packed up at the house," Kirsten said. "Lucy's things are all in the corner for now, since we don't have all the furniture set up yet."

"Okay," Ryan said, glancing over. "I'll see you guys in the morning," he said.

"Sleep well," Kirsten said.

Ryan waited until they left, then got up and walked around, just enjoying the feel of being back in the pool house. He checked the kitchenette and finding plenty of snacks foods and bottles of water and juice, along with some baby bottles ready and waiting in the cabinets. Wandering to the bathroom, he found new towels, soft and fluffy compared to the rough and scratchy ones he'd had in Chino, as well as new bottles of the shampoos and body wash he had preferred when he was here before. There was also a new tooth brush and toothpaste, as well as a pack of razors.

Back in the main room, his clothes were folded and tucked away into the wicker shelves, along with extra sets of sheets for the bed. Over in the corner, he found the boxes of things for Lucy, ranging from onesies to baby blankets, from stuffed animals to baby books. The box with the new crib Kirsten had bought was also there, along with bedding for it, and the carrier and stroller were lined up along the wall.

Ryan took a deep breath, looking back towards the bed, and considering getting something done before he slept. Instead, he closed the pool house blinds, then changed into a pair of sweats and a wife beater and got into bed, settling down into the familiar softness of the futon with a content sigh.

~~~

Sandy was up with the sun, planning on going surfing for the first time in weeks, but when he got to the kitchen he saw the doors to the pool house wide open and Ryan moving around inside. He grabbed coffee for both of them, then headed outside, raising an eyebrow at the site of the crib all set up next to the futon. Everything still in packaging had been opened, and the extra sets of bedding were folded neatly on the bed, as were most of the clothes, seemingly organized into piles.

"You've been busy," Sandy said, holding out one of the cups of coffee.

Ryan looked up gratefully accepting the coffee and taking a gulp before replying. "I know I have a while yet before she comes home, but... I wanna have everything ready by then."

"And the piles?" Sandy asked.

"Size. Unless she grows a lot between now and when she's released... I think I need to get some smaller ones," Ryan said. "Even the newborn ones are way too big... she's so tiny."

"I know. We'll wait until it's a little closer. The Nurses can probably tells us if there's a certain size," Sandy said.

"Yeah," Ryan agreed, starting to put the piles back in the boxes that had held them, starting with the larger sizes.

"You've got time to get this stuff done."

"I know," Ryan said. "But if I'm going to be back at school..."

"We talked to Dr. Kim yesterday, and they did hold both yours and Seth's spots when we paid for tuition this year. So you can start back next week with everyone else."

"Okay..."

"You have to finish high school Ryan," Sandy said. "That's non-negotiable."

"I know," Ryan said. "I just hate the idea of being away from her that long."

"She'll be fine, Kirsten and I..."

"Have jobs," Ryan said. "Which means some stranger is going to be taking care of Lucy."

"No," Kirsten said from the doorway. "I already talked to dad, for the most part, I will stay home for the first few weeks or months, and when the Lucy's doctors say it's okay, I can take her with me most days. Dad's actually starting a daycare at the office so we can have Lucy there. That way I can check on her through out the day, and you can either pick her up after school, or visit with her for a little while if you take the internship dad offered you."

"You don't really wanna work for Caleb, do you kid?" Sandy asked. "See him everyday..."

"Get experience in the field I want to go into?" Ryan countered. "Have something relevant, other than 'worked construction' to put on a resume? Get to work inside an air conditioned building instead of out in the sun? No stupid kids I go to school with mocking me for working as a waiter? And now knowing I can be in the same building as my daughter? Yeah, I'm taking the internship. It's money I can use to take care of her..."

"We're going to..." Sandy began.

"You shouldn't have to," Ryan said. "I'm her father. I know I need you guys to pay for the hospital bills, there's no possible way I can pay for those, but day to day? That's on me."

"I will argue on that," Kirsten said. "Since you're a minor, and in our custody, Lucy is technically in our custody. Yes, you are her father, and you are responsible for her. But we will cover the majority of the expenses. Hospital bills, doctor bills for check ups, food, diapers... you can use your paycheck to get her things you want her to have, or put it towards a car, or in savings for later."

"But..."

"But nothing," Kirsten said. "It does not make you irresponsible or any less of a father to let us help you. It makes you realistic about what you can and can not do. And we have a responsibility to both of you, especially while we are technically her guardians."

Ryan nodded reluctantly. "Okay."

"Kiki! Are you actually home for once?" Julie's voice rang out from the patio doors. "Why on earth are you... oh."

"Oh my God, Ryan!" Marissa cried, running over to through her arms around him.

Ryan hesitated a moment, then out his arms around her, too. "Hey, Marissa," he said.

"What are you doing here? Are you back?"

"Dad didn't tell you guys?" Kirsten asked, surprised.

"Cal knows?" Julie replied. "He didn't say a word. Of course he's practically been gone from sun up to sundown lately, just like the two of you."

"You are back, aren't you?" Marissa said, clearly excited. "I can't believe it!"

"Did you decide being a grown up was too hard?" Julie asked snidely.

"I decided my kid deserves a happy life, and that's not in Chino with Theresa," Ryan replied.

"What?" Marissa asked.

Julie frowned, then her eyes locked on the crib. "You're seriously letting him bring it here?" she asked Kirsten. "Kiki, think of your reputation..."

"I'm more concerned with my granddaughter's well being," Kirsten countered.

"It's a long story," Ryan told Marissa. "But the baby was born 10 days ago..."

"Isn't that early?"

"Yeah, about 3 months early. But she's doing really good, yesterday they transferred her to HOAG, so... no reason for me to stay in Chino anymore..."

"What about Theresa?"

"Signed away her rights and moving to Atlanta," Ryan said.

"Oh my god... I can't believe it... I'm so glad you're back, though!"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm pretty happy to be back," Ryan acknowledged.

"Do you have a picture? Of the baby?"

"Yeah, yeah," Ryan said, grabbing a small stack from the night stand. "They took them day before last, when I first got to hold her. You can't really see her in the first one, she's way too small, and Kirsten couldn't get any closer 'cause of the NICU rules. But they had a nurse take the others."

"Ryan... she's beautiful," Marissa said.

"She is," Julie agreed, surprising them both when they looked up to see her hovering over Ryan's other shoulder. "Healthy?"

"So far. Lungs are good, she's taking a bottle, she's alert and aware of people talking to her..."

"Every time Ryan walked in to see her, the second he said anything she turned towards him and started waving her hand around until she could grab his finger," Sandy said.

"What's her name?" Julie asked.

"Lucy," Ryan supplied.

"Lucy?" Julie asked. "Is that short for..."

"Nope, just Lucy," Ryan said.

"Does she have a middle name?"

"Yes, but whether I tell you or not depends on whether you're going to subtly insult it like you did her first," Ryan countered. "Insult me all you want, Julie. Call me trash. Call me stupid because the condom broke and Theresa got pregnant. Call me a con artist, or a car thief, or any other insult you can come up with. I don't care. But don't insult my daughter, that I care about, that I will get pissed about."

"I'm sorry," Julie said, sounding halfway sincere. "I promise, I'll be nice about the baby. About Lucy."

"Thank you," Ryan said. "Her middle name's Eva, after Theresa's mother. I wanted her to have something from Theresa's side, even if there's very little contact."

"I don't know anything about babies, but... is there anything you could suggest that I could get as gift for her?" Marissa asked, looking at the picture.

"You can never go wrong with clothes," Julie said.

"She's got a ton of clothes already," Ryan said, gesturing at the boxes.

"You have no idea how many clothes a little girl can go through," Julie said. "I swear, I couldn't have saved Marissa's if I wanted to because the damage she did to them. I think one headband survived in good enough condition I could have used it for Kaitlin."

"No way," Marissa protested.

"The others were stained from food and... other things... or torn. Maris, you once managed to stain just the lace of a dress. Not the lining, that was fine, but the lace was horribly stained a bright green. I never figured that one out."

Marissa made a protesting sound, while Ryan tried not to laugh. "Considering the fact that I wore Trey's hand me downs pretty much my whole life... I think Lucy will survive if she has strained peas on the front of a onesie," he said, shrugging.

"Kiki, you can not let this boy that poor sweet little girl in rags," Julie protested.

"Ryan will do just fine," Kirsten said. "Especially since I will be doing my duty as a way too young grandmother, by getting her more clothes when needed."

"Well, don't forget party dresses," Julie said.

"She's a baby," Ryan said. "I don't think she needs one party dress, let alone multiple dresses."

"But she will! Quickest way to dispel whispering will be to show her off as soon as possible. And I saw how quick you were to get those pictures, and once you knew I was interested, you gladly showed them to me, too," Julie said. "You want to show her off."

"Can't really argue with that," he admitted.

"So, you want her to look so adorable and perfect that no one can fault you for keeping her, or think bad of you."

"Who are you and what have you done with Julie Cooper-Nichols?" Sandy asked.

"That's uncalled for," Julie said.

"You are being suspiciously nice, mom," Marissa said. "Last year weren't you trying to make Ryan look bad and get rid of him?"

"I won't lie, I'm not... thrilled... you're back, Ryan. But I haven't seen Kirsten in this good of a mood in months. The only explanation is that you being back is the cause."

"Now if we can just get Seth back and complete the happy picture," Sandy said.

To Be Continued...

Everyone loves Ryan now! lol... Honestly, I can't see Julie hating on someone who has such adoration on their face when it comes to their child. Plus, as she said, Kirsten is happy and that's gonna make an impact. And Marissa isn't being hostile to her! From the moment Ryan appears, Marissa is cheerful! That's gonna make a difference, too. And hey, she knows babies are hard to handle, and she knows Marissa will not want to deal with a crying, needy, baby interrupting time with Ryan, so she isn't concerned about R/M getting back together/lasting long if they do...

As for Marissa... I have a plan with her. And as a warning, there will almost definitely be a little R/M in this... but she is not the one he will ultimately end up with in this universe. I know who it will be, and it's not Marissa.
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