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The Power of Speech

Hi, A little dark easter present for you all :D

Title: The Power of Speech chapter 4
Rating: I'm going to put it down from an M to a T for this chapter.
Summary: An AU where Ryan's father wasn't arrested and continued to beat Dawn and the boys. Ryan meets the Cohens through a different way.
Author's note: Okay, the Cohens aren't in just yet but they're in the next chapter. Also, there is some swearing in this chapter.

Okay, so I hope you enjoy. Previous chapters are here.

Chapter 4

Ryan leant his head against the cool glass of the window. He was sitting on the dainty, blue window seat that Mark and Lucy kept in their living room.

He watched intently at all the cars that flew past. Every time he’d see a blue car, he’d sit up a little straighter.

He’d been out of the hospital for a few weeks now, and the superficial bruises had faded to a murky yellow. His body still held his father’s scars but they were only noticeable when he didn’t wear a shirt or pants.

Since entering the group home, Ryan had felt like he was barely keeping his head on top of everything.

Lucy, Mark’s wife, had insisted that a therapist would come to see Ryan each day. She claimed he had ‘issues’ too deep for herself and Mark to help him with.

The therapist was easy to get around though. She was just some dumpy, old lady who was more concerned about getting her pay check each session than helping the fifteen year old blonde boy before her.

He’d just sit there, staring at her, letting her know who was in charge. She mostly just babbled on to herself, trying to avoid his glance.

The doctors had sent him home with some anti-depressants but Ryan refused to take them. His mom had once begun taking them and they’d always made her crash out on the couch in the afternoons. He did not need that right now, so he generally just dropped them in his pocket when no one was watching and then he would flush them down the toilet.

He’d felt so alone and he’d thought everyone had forgotten about him so he’d had a shock the day before when, out of nowhere, he got a letter in the post. Much to Ryan’s surprise, it turned out to be from Trey and not only that, but Trey was offering to take him out for lunch.

So now, Ryan sat on the dainty, blue window seat, looking our for his brother’s blue car. He felt like his skin was crawling and he just needed to get out of this place. There were five other children living in the house. The youngest was only a baby and he was by far the eldest.

The baby had a strong set of lungs and he’d hear her crying all night. Lucy had told him not to worry, she was a baby and babies were usually the first to be adopted.

The other children were all sullen. The next eldest from him was ten and he held it against Ryan that he was no longer the eldest in the house. He’d glare at Ryan whenever he walked past or entered a room.

But the opinion of a ten year old boy, really did not matter to Ryan. All he cared about was figuring out a way to get through the day in this place.

Running away sounded too dramatic and then he’d be forced to steer clear from the cops. That would take too much effort.

His last solution was Trey. At 18, Trey would be able to get custody, or at least Ryan thought that was so. He wouldn’t mind sleeping on Trey’s couch and he had a whole plan sorted where he could get a job at a restaurant and pay a little bit of the rent for Trey.

Really, what could Trey say no to?

He didn’t want to think about what he’d have to do if Trey said no.

He tried to keep himself distracted from the cars by fiddling with the man cuff that was on his wrist. Theresa had given it to him as an almost jokey birthday present but he’d never taken it off, unless of course he was in the shower.

A noise at the door way turned his attention to one of the younger children- Molly.

She was like him- quiet and untrusting. Out of all the children, she seemed to be the only one who even came close to understanding a little about what he’d been through even though she was so young.

She spoke as little as Ryan did and they could generally just sit next to each other, relishing in each other’s silence.

She came and sat down on the window seat next to him and he gave her a shy smile, before returning his gaze out of the window.

She followed his gaze with interest and every time Ryan would sit up a little higher when he spotted a car that could possibly belong to Trey, she would also.

After a little while, he felt something being shifted into his hands and he looked down.

In his hands lay a folded piece of paper. He unfolded it slowly, and he looked up briefly to see Molly watching him intently.

She was only 7, a little over half his age and yet she seemed so much older to him. She held a wise look in her eyes that made her look like she knew the world inside out.

Ryan had seen the scar on her arm, on his first night, when she had been hot and rolled her sleeves up. It had taken his breath away. When he’d been going through everything with his dad, he had always thought hat he was alone in the world.

He’d never seen any bruises or cuts on Theresa and he figured that he’d been chosen to go through all this torment in his life.

Seeing it on her arm had reminded him of how, when he was her age he would always have to remember to keep his scars covered.

His mom had always told him to keep them covered to fend off people that would try to take him and Trey away.

He returned his focus onto the piece of paper when he saw the picture that had been uncovered. He took in the image for a moment, his eyes fixed on the drawing.

It was like an extract from his childhood. A child sat on the floor, tears covering its face. A woman, drawn with a large bottle in her hand was to the side. An exclamation mark was drawn next to her circular mouth. Then, there was a man with a beard to the side. There was an exclamation mark by his mouth as well. Ryan looked up at Molly and noticed that she was suddenly looking anxious.

The sound of one of the other children calling Molly’s name reached his ears, and he folded the picture back up before putting it in his pocket. He took her hand in his and rubbed it lightly, giving her a reassuring smile.

She smiled back at him and got up from her perch, ready to leave the room.

The sound of a car horn from outside made her turn around and Ryan flushed with embarrassment when he realised it was Trey.

She gave him a sympathetic smile before running out of the room, to answer Diana’s calls.

He watched her leave and was about to say something, when the sound of Trey’s car horn returned him back to reality.

He stood up and waved at Trey through the window, trying to get him to stop beeping the horn. He could hear the baby crying, cranky from being woken up from her nap.

He hurried quickly out of the room before Lucy or Mark could tell him off.


It was quiet in the car, the two brothers sat in silence. Atwoods never liked to talk and when they were in the company of each other, they just wouldn’t.

Ryan kept sneaking glances at Trey. His brother looked nervous and kept running a shaking hand through his hair.

He wanted to ask where they were going out for lunch but words just didn’t seem appropriate right now.

He settled to staring out of the window and watching café after café go by.

Finally, Trey stopped the car. Ryan looked out of the window to see a seedy looking bar which he hadn’t seen before. He felt a slight twinge of panic when Trey got out of the car and reluctantly followed him out, too scared to ask what was going on.

As he caught him up, Trey suddenly turned around.

“You know, when your little social worker told me that you’d gone mute, I told her that she was fuckin’ loony and no Atwood would ever go that crazy. I guess you proved me wrong…” Trey continued his tirade as Ryan stared at him dumbly.

What was he talking about? Why would Mark and Lucy think he was a mute?

He thought back on the last few weeks. It wasn’t like he’d been purposely not talking, in fact there were many situations when he’d even thought of something to say. It just never felt right to say those things, something always happened to distract the person he wanted to talk to.

He was about to say something but Trey was talking too much, which was very much not like Trey at all. Ryan noticed again just how nervous Trey was.

He wanted to ask if he was okay but when he opened his mouth to interrupt him, he couldn’t seem to form the words.

He just stood back and let Trey’s words wash over him.

“Fuck Ryan… just tell me what happened.” Trey turned concerned brown eyes to him.

Ryan looked into his eyes and he noticed for the first time that his brother had their father’s eyes. He hadn’t noticed it before.

Suddenly, Ryan couldn’t bear the thought of living with him. He could see their dad in Trey so clearly and with the life Trey had had to live, he wouldn’t be surprised if he turned to alcohol.

Trey grew frustrated by his brother’s silence and turned away angrily.

“For fuck’s sake Ryan, they’ll put you in an insane asylum if you’re not careful.”

He began walking again and opened the door of the pub.

Ryan followed obediently. He felt his plans being crushed. Since he’d received his brother’s letter, all he could think about was leaving the group home and living with him, sharing an apartment with him and just being brothers.

Trey had helped him so much when he was younger.

He squinted at the darkness around him. All the men in the pub looked like old truckers, bandanas attached to their heads and a greying beard. Not to mention the eyes that tracked Ryan’s every movement as he followed Trey up to the bar.

Trey sat down and nodded at the bar man. “Two seven and sevens please Bill,” he pulled out a wad of cash from his pocket and the man nodded, surveying Ryan suspiciously before pouring out the drinks.

Truth be told, Ryan had never liked seven and sevens. Trey had always ordered it for him when they’d gone to bars and he’d always forced it down, trying to be polite.

The bar man thrust it into his hand and Ryan thanked him quietly.

It was quiet in the bar. All the men were having a contented cigarette and beer, they were just sitting quietly together.

For a brief moment, Ryan could see why Trey liked it here.

That was until one of the men came up behind Trey and whispered something in his ear.

Trey nodded grimly and, as if beckoning his dog, he gestured for Ryan to follow him. Ryan stood up haphazardly throwing a few dollars on the bar for Bill. The old man gave him a small, bare hint of a smile.

Ryan followed Trey out of the door and watched as the man indicated towards a rather fancy looking car across the road from them.

Ryan didn’t know how to react as the man also gave Trey some sort of crow bar type instrument. Nor did he know what to do when Trey brought out a bag that looked to be filled with some sort of power type thing and gave it to the man.

The man walked away and when he was out of sight, Trey seized Ryan by the arm and began whispering to him, a frenzied look in his eye.

“This is our chance to be free, kid. Fuck, look at that thing. We could pick it up, sell it, we could earn a fucking fortune.”

Ryan looked down and Trey shook his arm in frustration.

“Don’t tell me you want to live with those fuckers. Do you really want to be shunned back and forth between places every fucking month until your eighteen?” His voice turned nasty and Ryan stepped back, looking down nervously.

He could feel himself starting to tremble slightly but Trey didn’t seem to notice. He may have not liked the insecurity of living in the group home but it was so much better than dealing with situations like this every day.

Finally Trey let go of his arm and began swaggering over to the car.

“It’s your choice Ryan. Come with me and live a life of freedom or stay with your social workers and never know where you’ll be the following month.

The words ‘social worker’ he snarled disgustedly and Ryan felt himself turning red. He’d been planning the moment when he’d ask Trey if he could live with him for months but this? This he did not want. He couldn’t live with another Frank Atwood.

He began walking away in the opposite direction, away from his brother. Distantly, he heard his brother shouting and swearing after him but he didn’t turn back.

He didn’t turn around when he heard a window smashing, nor when he heard a car door opening and then slamming shut. He finally turned around when he heard a car driving away from him, the tyres squealing and the gravel spitting up from the road.

He had no idea where he was going, he’d barely been able to follow Trey’s long winded route from the group home to here. He merely kept walking.

He felt so empty inside, he had no one.

During all of his father’s beatings he’d think of Trey and how brave he was. When, in actual fact, Trey had practically turned into their father.

He wasn’t sure if it was just his paranoia but he swore he could hear the sound of a police car’s siren.

For Trey’s sake, he hoped that it wasn’t to do with him but in his heart he knew, Trey was doomed to go to jail. Whether it be now, for stealing a car, or later on in life for domestic abuse. Trey was going down whether he tried to help it or not.

He just hoped that he wouldn’t follow suit.



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 23rd, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
Wow, interesting twist at the end. I thought for sure that Ryan would be brow-beaten into joining Trey in his idiotic mission. I'm glad you chose to go a slightly different route, though, it's much more adventuresome and exciting for us readers. What will happen next?! How will the Cohens get Ryan? Hmmmmmm.

Mar. 24th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks Themus :)

I'm so happy that you're enjoying. I like to keep things unpredictable.
Mar. 23rd, 2008 08:46 pm (UTC)
Oh Phil

I'm liking this a whole lot!

Go Ryan for not getting sucked into Treys orbit.

Mar. 24th, 2008 01:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks Cheeky :)

How's the hand? *winces at thought of the hand*
Mar. 24th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
Dark and little? Nah! But it is Easter and this is a much appreciated present, so thank you for that!

I feel like you've really hit your stride with this chapter with so much intersecting that really brings Ryan's voice to life even more than before. Of course, the irony is that no one but we, the readers, and Ryan are witnesses to his introspection. This chapter also hints at your chosen title in new ways as well as you mention, and Ryan becomes aware of, the power of speech- or of silence- and how each are perceived.

The imagery at the beginning definitely tugs at the heart. There's something so distinctly Ryan in the way he's observant, vigilant, and equal parts guarded and hopeful as he watches for Trey from his perch at the window. Even as he's on the inside looking out, although somewhat differently than when he lived with Frank and Dawn, he's still in the symbolic, familiar position of a misplaced outsider looking in. Despite his wariness, he's still trying to mask a sort of innocent vulnerability, especially as his posture changes with the sighting of each blue car.

Your depiction of the interaction between Ryan and Molly is revealing on many levels. Ryan sees some of himself- both his former and current self- in the child who is a kindred spirit with her visible scar that hints at more, world-weary, knowing eyes, quiet demeanor, and gentle, but strong spirit. He doesn't seem to recognize that she has hopefully spared a longer sentence such as he has endured, and that she should be in a far safer and more secure environment. As much as he feels for her and treats her with kindness, sensitivity, patience and the acceptance she extends to him, he seems oblivious to how distressing his own plight is in comparison. While that whole exchange is carried out in silence, both of them are communicating throughout, and sharing feelings and a level of trust that they probably haven't demonstrated with anyone else.

I like how you incorporate the theme of silence and reinforce it by bringing it to the forefront even in subtly ways. Ryan obviously doesn't complain about the crying baby, since that would not only be completely contrary to his personality, but also because he's not expressing himself verbally. Still, it seems that Lucy feels the need to apologize for the baby, to reassure Ryan, or merely latches on to it as something she should be saying to Ryan, therefore using it as an opportunity to have something to say to him. What resonates the most however, is her statement that despite the baby's cries, she'll be gone soon, since she is a desirable candidate for adoption. What goes without saying is that quiet, silent even, Ryan is the oldest at fifteen- and will be the least likely to attract positive interest. Ouch.

It's not as if Ryan isn't used to being neglected and forgotten. He would have learned to prefer both to the various forms of abuse he endured at the hands of his family. Even this sort of "confinement" and dehumanizing, numeric status as property of the state rather than a person has him less objectified than he was with his family.

Although I wasn't certain in previous chapters if Ryan was completely mute, or just more withdrawn from the trauma while surrounded by unknowns and rotating groups of strangers whom he didn't fully understand and couldn't trust, Trey's first spoken words of the chapter in dialogue form set that straight. Suddenly, it makes sense why Trey wrote to him and why there was no phone conversation. Without providing one of the adults' perspectives to counter Ryan's, you've given a glimpse of what the collective belief is. No one has the time or enough investment to address Ryan's status or needs intensely, but they all have an impression of Ryan's reaction to what he's experienced.

Mar. 24th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
You raise an interesting point when you have Ryan surprised to hear Trey's words and what the prevailing opinion about him is. He's spent so much of his life in the shadows, basically controlled and conditioned to be as unobtrusive, invisible and quiet as possible, that he's probably always had an ongoing introspection that he's begun to confuse with actual external communication and interaction. As little more than Frank's prisoner, from what you've referenced, Ryan would have had few companions, would have faced more punishment for speaking out of turn, and that would have scarred him deeply and shaped him profoundly. He's a product of Frank's closed, volatile, controlled environment and that all translates far differently to the world Ryan finds himself in now, all while trying to process and cope with horrific images and events.

Trey really does treat Ryan like a puppy, and not just in the way he gestures to him, fully expecting him to follow. As in canon, there's that superficial connection and loyalty that comes from shared history and biology, but there's also that profound divide of two polar opposites and with an acknowledgement of those differences by both. There's also that realization and mistrust on Ryan's part as he sees the vicious cycle repeated in Trey. Seeing Frank in his eyes is just one powerful image that triggers Ryan's choice.

I'll admit I was very worried that Ryan would be dragged along by the scruff of his neck by Trey, especially if Trey thought Ryan wasn't capable of making a lucid decision. But I also thought Trey wanted to take care of himself, not Ryan. However, as relieved as I am that Ryan stood his moral ground and didn't follow in Trey's or Frank's footsteps, I'm concerned about the path he finds himself on now. He was already so alone and isolated as he seemed to be falling through the cracks. Now I have this image of Molly waiting for his return at the same window and of Ryan more lost and adrift than before. And you say Sandy is coming? I hope so!

Thanks again for this very compelling, insightful portrait. The characterization and imagery complement one another wonderfully. Probing Ryan's thought process and emotions is quite a challenge, but you've really risen to the occasion!
Mar. 24th, 2008 01:17 pm (UTC)
Hi, thanks for the amazingly long review :)

This chapter also hints at your chosen title Yay! I'm glad you noticed that. I was struggling to think up a title and then this one came to me when I was lying in bed. Ryan will realise later on essentially what the power of speech really is *nods* however cheesy that sounds :)

I brought in a bond between Ryan and Molly becasue then eventually when the Cohens do come in, Ryan will have to go through the stress of leaving her when he knows what it's like to be abandoned.

I feel that Trey, in canon, was drifting towards the dark side. So, I thought that if he was brought up by an even more harsh childhood that that would influence him to be even worse. He's the one that Ryan used to be able to depend upon but now Ryan can see that Trey is actually turning into their father. Leading into some angsty trust issues :D
I wanted to make the reader expect that Ryan would meet Sandy in the same way as he did in canon but I have chosen to bring Sandy in in a different way as you shall see in the next chapter.

Thanks again for the wonderful review.
Mar. 24th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
It doesn't sound cheesy to me, and I already like the references and the underlying theme about sound vs. silence and the effect of both- as well as just what it says about the various types of expression and communication. Our society is geared almost entirely to the spoken word and brief sound bytes. People have such short attention spans, limited powers of observation (Ryan is the rare exception), and pay attention to quick bytes without really stopping to consider anything other than what is quick and convenient. That means they're all too likely to pass judgement in error or miss so much that is important.

I really did like the interaction between Ryan and Molly since he just seems so utterly isolated and alone- and that seems to be the story of his life. He doesn't even have to speak to connect with someone, so it's all the more painful that he is desperate for human contact- and human contact that doesn't leave him feeling more worthless of invoke more insecurity or outright fear. Having him find another gentle, but old soul is like one positive in a sea of unknowns and negatives and it might give him some insight into himself too, something he's never had the luxury to stop and consider. Sadly, it could also mean that he might focus too much on wanting to help her, and again leading him to discount himself. He really needs to break that cycle somehow. And of course he'd feel guilt at leaving her behind, even if it was beyond his control and they would have been separated soon anyway. That's what makes him Ryan.

There's no doubt that Trey was already on the path, if not embroiled in the dark side. If he had an "impressive record" that began as a juvenile and had a list of priors when we met him in the pilot, I'd say he was there. The way he treated Ryan in canon left little doubt that he definitely was beyond self-serving and manipulative to borderline sociopathic. There were no boundaries as long as he got what he wanted and that meant immediate gratification with whatever casualties. Anyone who would compromise a younger sibling the way Trey historically did, from what we heard, would prey upon him, betray him, and then attempt to kill him any number of ways is definitely "dark." I think that, as in canon, Ryan could have a selective memory at times and emphasize the few times Trey had defended him because no one else had ever done anything to protect Ryan. The slightest hint of help would mean the world to Ryan- and Trey would count on that inflation. When Ryan looked at it more realistically, he'd see that Trey was the mythical big brother only rarely and maybe only when it suited him. The times Ryan was left on his own would have outweighed the exceptions vastly. And if Trey was the one Ryan thought he could trust, no matter how infrequently, then that betrayal and that parallel to Frank would certainly scar him. If this Trey didn't use Ryan to clean up his messes while risking his well-being, and didn't leave him to defend Dawn and himself, I'd guess he's still have much in common with canon Trey and Ryan would be struggling to figure out which image he had of him was closer to the truth. Once he'd made the same connection he did in canon, he'd want to distance himself, but he'd also be questioning everything he thought he remembered and believed previously. Ouch. So much for any foundation.

Thanks again!
Mar. 24th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
You surprised me as well. I thought this was the part where Ryan ends up in juvie and meeting Sandy. Nice twist!
Mar. 24th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
:) Thanks for the comment.

I like to leave things unpredictable.
Mar. 24th, 2008 05:53 am (UTC)
Thanks for the update. I look forward to reading more.
Mar. 24th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks fifimom :)
Mar. 24th, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
Oh. Wow. "Ryan looked into his eyes and he noticed for the first time that his brother had their father’s eyes. He hadn’t noticed it before."

That's...scary. Poor Ryan. Poor silent Ryan.
Mar. 25th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)

Just to let you know, I came across some of your stories the other day and they are really good.
Mar. 25th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
Just to let you know, I came across some of your stories the other day and they are really good

Yeah, I'm really bad at remembering to cross post to oc_fic. I'm figuring on finishing this series/collection/pile of sappy stuff and then posting it all at one shot.
Oh, and I don't post at fanfic any longer
Mar. 24th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
I was like Themus. I fully expected this chapter to end with a police chase and a wrecked stolen car. Very nice to see that you like to keep us all guessing.

It will be very interesting to see just how you do manage to introduce the Cohens.
Mar. 25th, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)
I was thinking of doing that but then thought that was a little too predictable and that's not how I wanted Ryan to meet Sandy.

Sandy's coming in the next chapter.

Thanks :)
Mar. 24th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
This is unpredictable and really really sad...I hope Ryan gets to meet the Cohens pretty soon!Loving it.
Mar. 25th, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks :)

Sandy is in the next chapter so not too long now. I'm really glad your liking it.
Apr. 1st, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Powerful chapter here, how Ryan is reminded of his father through Trey. I liked how Ryan hadn't realised he was mute himself, that it took Trey to point it out. Also liked little Molly, an interesting addition.

Edited at 2008-04-01 04:10 pm (UTC)
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