Ryan's eyes grew wide as Saida relayed to him and Sophie between sobs exactly what Mrs. Gordon had told her. He had always thought that the Gordon siblings looked so much alike, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized they did favor their father - the one mutual parent they had. The entire situation did explain why the Gordons had been so quick to send Saida away once she started showing the smallest sign of being a troublemaker.

"How does this happen?" Saida cried. "How do you neglect a child just because her mother wasn't the most moral person in the world? I never saw that coming, ever. I more expected them to have no explanation at all than to tell me something like that."

Sophie looked at Johnny with worry written all over her face. Johnny didn't know what to say; he was just as shocked as Saida. To know that such a big family secret had been kept - no, not just kept but merely swept under the rug, it seemed - for so long, until it was forced to come out … it made him wonder what else his parents were hiding from him.

"It doesn't matter," Johnny said. "None of that matters, Saida. Look at me."

She looked at him, sniffling and trying to control her tears.

"You don't need them. You have me and Sophie, Britton and the new baby. You have Ryan. We are your family, and we're not going anywhere. Do you hear me?"

"I hear you," she replied quietly. "Listen, I don't think I'm going to stay for dinner. Ryan, can you take me home?"

"Of course." He squeezed her hand while she said goodbye to her brother and sister-in-law. She hugged Britton extra tight, and it was of course the little girl who was finally able to pull a small smile from Saida.

Her smile faded once they were in the car, and she didn't so much as look at Ryan as they drove back to her apartment. Concern swelled up in his chest as he thought of her backsliding right back to where she was, triggered by this latest confession from her parents. He didn't quite know how to broach the subject though without offending her.

The parking spot closest to her apartment door was open, so Ryan carefully glided the car between the yellow lines and shut off the ignition. Saida didn't make a move, so neither did he.

"Do you want me to come up?" he asked.

"Why wouldn't you?"

"You were just sitting there. That usual precedes an awkward goodbye followed by some alone time."

The smile Britton had pulled out of her once again showed itself, albeit briefly. "I don't want to be alone right now. Please, stay."

That's when he realized it. She wasn't thinking of backsliding into the dancing or the cocaine or anything like that, but she was too hurt to reach out. She needed him to pull her to him.
Once in the apartment, Saida kicked off her shoes and turned on the television. Ryan pushed off his own shoes and sat with her on the couch, putting his arm around her and holding her as close as possible. Acting on an urge to shield her from anything else that might come against her, he put his other arm around her as well and set his chin over her shoulder.

"I won't leave you, Saida, I promise. No matter what happens, you're always going to have me. I love you."

She sighed. "I love you, too, Ryan."

He kissed her gently, but she put more pressure into it. Ryan reacted in kind and soon felt the salty taste of tears on his lips. He took hold of her arms so that he could gently push her back and look her in the eye.

"Saida, please don't cry."

"Ryan, I can't be okay right now, not just sitting here. I believe you when I say that you're always going to be with me, but I need to feel it right now, too. I need to be close to you and touch you and kiss you and know that you're real and that as long as you're in my life, I won't be alone. Please."

He let out a deep breath, dropping his hands from her arms down to her hands. She leaned in again, and this time he didn't stop her when the tears continued to fall as he kissed her.

Sophie waited about a week before convincing Saida to have a girls' night in with her. Johnny took Ryan out to a pool hall so the girls stayed home with Britton. They were stocked up on junk food and chick flicks, which they figured would entertain them for at least a few hours.

After Britton went to bed, they started the first movie. It was one they had both seen before, so Sophie took the opportunity to talk to her sister-in-law about everything that had happened.

"I mean, you seem like you're feeling better, but are you?" Sophie asked.

Saida shrugged. "Ryan's been so good about making sure I'm never alone, and that's what I want. Work is going okay. I'm just trying to focus on what I have right in front of me and not so much on what I've done before or what's happened to me before. It's just life."

"But?" Sophie prompted.

"I want to know who she is," Saida blurted out after a few seconds. "I want to know who my mother is and why she let me go live with another woman and why she didn't want me. I want to know if I look like her at all. I want to know why she turned out the way she did. I just have so many questions. I don't want to go looking for them though; we all know how well that worked out last time."

"Then you've got to just accept that things are the way they are. Maybe your father will come around one day, but I wouldn't count on it."

"I know. I just wish they would have told me all of this sooner."

"You can't go back, Saida; you of all people should know that. Knowing sooner wouldn't have changed the fact that it still happened."

Saida sighed and nodded. "Yes, you're right. I just have to keep going forward."
"Exactly. So I have a question for you?"

"All right."

"I know it's a few months away, but do you think you would want to throw my baby shower?"
Saida grinned and hugged Sophie to her. "Of course I will!"

The girls had both fallen asleep when Johnny and Ryan came through the door. Saida startled awake first, frowning when they headed straight for the kitchen and not stopping to say hello.

"Damn it, Johnny, you guys promised us you wouldn't be drunk tonight," she said. Then she saw the bloody paper towel Ryan was holding up to his nose, and the ice Johnny was handing him to put on his lip. "What the hell happened? Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine," Ryan said, slumping into the chair. He checked the paper towel to see the bleeding from his nose had stopped. Saida wet down another paper towel with warm water and began to clean the blood from his face. "Just got in a little spat, that's all."

"This doesn't look little," she frowned. "What happened, John?"

"It really was nothing," Ryan assured her.

"I asked Johnny. I know you'll sugarcoat it," she replied.

Johnny sighed. "Some of the guys at the pool table next to us were talking about the girls at Rave. Ryan wasn't drunk, but he was fairly buzzed. When they started talking about you, he dealt with it for a couple of minutes, then told them to lay off. I think they kept talking about you just to irritate him, but it worked. I went to the bathroom and when I came back out, the bouncer was hauling Ryan out."

"How's the other guy?" Saida asked.

"You mean the other two," Johnny corrected. "There were three of them, and the bouncer told me that two of them were in it with Ryan."

"Then I guess you got off easy with a bloody nose and a busted lip. Let me see." She gently lifted the ice from his lip. "Yeah, that's going to smart for a couple of days. Do you want to stick around or do you want to go home?"

"Let's just go back to your place," Ryan told her. "I'm sorry about this, John."

Johnny shook his head. "Don't worry about it, man. You two be safe going home. Make sure you take care of him, Saida."

"I will." She kissed her brother on the cheek and hugged Sophie before following Ryan out to the car.

He let her drive, and she gave him his time to be silent. She had needed it many times before, and maybe now he just needed to think some things through.

It didn't hurt that she had the time to think as well. After San Francisco, she had believed what Ryan said - that her dancing experience wasn't going to follow her forever. They had tried successfully to put the whole thing out of their minds and just try to start this new life, but it always came back up to bite them. With Saida's parents, with Brock, with the guys at the pool hall tonight. Saida so desperately wanted to continue believing that her past wouldn't haunt her forever, but there was no getting around it.

The two of them entered the apartment silently. Ryan went straight for the bed, and Saida retrieved some pain killers and a bottle of water.

"Here, take these," she instructed him.

Ryan sat up to do what he was told. He laid back down on his stomach, bunching up the pillow under his head. "I'm sorry I got in the fight."

Saida sighed and kicked off her shoes before crawling into the bed next to her boyfriend. She ran her hand over his back and through his hair until he turned to face her.

"You didn't say it was okay."

She smiled. "Ryan, I'm not at all mad that you got in that fight. Do you think I would be in bed with you right now if I was?"

"Fair enough." He sighed and reached out to throw an arm over her stomach. "I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but I think you were right. Maybe this is going to follow us for awhile."

"I was thinking the same thing." She closed her eyes as tears burned the back of her eyes. "I'm sorry, Ryan."

"You don't have to be sorry. We're past it."

"I know. But I owe you an apology for what happened tonight. Don't get me wrong - I'm not freaking out about it or anything. It would be just the same as if something like that happened between me and Kayla."

"Yeah." He pulled her closer, nuzzling into her neck. "I can't blame you, though. It isn't my girl's fault that she's as sexy as they come and good at what she does."

Saida giggled as he kissed her. "I think you're still a little bit drunk."

"Maybe," Ryan agreed.

"Well no hanky-panky for you. Between your nose and your lip, one little bump and you'll start bleeding again."

He frowned but kissed her again. "All right, fine. I'll just lay here and fall asleep with you."

"Is that really so bad?"

"It's all I really want to do anyway," he whispered, just before sleep overtook him.

Ryan sighed as he watched Johnny clean up his station. They were getting ready to pick up the girls for a night out on the town, but Ryan had admitted to Johnny he was getting a little worried about Saida.

"So, tell me what's up?"

"I don't know. Since that night I got in a fight, she's been so uneasy. She doesn't want to go out very often, and when we do, she always rushes it so we can get back home."

"Have you talked to her about it?"

Ryan shook his head. "Not really. I just … I don't want to push her if it's just a weird thing she's going through, you know? But it's been three weeks since the fight. I think that Saida thinks if anyone sees us together, I'll be embarrassed or someone will call her out on her dancing and I'll leave her because it's too much. Her birthday's coming up at the end of the month, and I'm thinking about doing something big. Something to show her I'm really committed."

Johnny raised his brow. "Yeah? What did you have in mind?"

He pulled out the small, black box and handed it over to Johnny. "Normally I'd go to your dad for this, but I don't think he'd care. You're the one who has to give me permission to propose to Saida."

"This is really nice," Johnny breathed. "I guess I didn't realize you and Saida had talked about marriage before."

"Well, we haven't, actually. I don't want to push her to set a date or anything, I just really want her to know I'm in it for the long haul."

"Ryan, has she even made up her mind about staying in Wichita?"

"We haven't talked about it since before she found out everything with your parents. I guess I just figured that since she was trying to hard to focus on the here and now, leaving wasn't an issue anymore."

Johnny nodded. "Look, Ryan, I'm all for you and Saida dating. Hell, I'd be proud to call you my brother if the two of you did tie the knot. I think you need to remember that Saida just lost two family members, you just ended an engagement not that long ago - and not on the best of terms. You two haven't been together long."

"But I love her. I know that sounds naive, to think that love is just going to make it all okay, but it's really all Saida and I have right now. It's really all that's we've ever been able to fall back on. I don't mean this to sound so bad, but any guy who didn't love Saida would have walked away a long time ago."

"I think any other guy wouldn't have even bother to start something in the first place," Johnny said. "I don't necessarily think it's the best idea, but if you really think this is what's best for you and Saida, then I'm behind you guys."

Ryan grinned. "Thanks, Johnny."

They shared a quick man-hug before Johnny locked up the shop and they headed to pick up the girls.

Saida waited until a few days later when Ryan had a later portrait session at the studio and called Rena. She didn't think she would want to leave Kansas, but she wanted more information.

"I thought you'd never call!" Rena exclaimed. "How are you since San Francisco?"

"Things have been somewhat hectic, but I'm sticking through it. How's the road?"

"Not too bad. I've got some downtime back in Los Angeles for the next couple weeks, so it's been nice to sleep in my own bed and just have some peace and quiet. Have you given any more thought to coming on the road with me?"

"I don't know, Rena. Things are finally kind of leveling out here, but I'm always so tempted to just get away and start over."

"You can't run from your problems," Rena told her. "I know you know that, especially now, but I feel like you need to hear it. Would I love to have you out here with me? Absolutely. But you've got to do what's best for you, Saida. Ryan seems like an amazing guy, and I know how much you missed your brother and his family while you were in California."

"You're right. And, I don't feel trapped here so much like I did before."

"I think that you're afraid things are going to fall apart because they kind of always have for you. That's not necessarily your fault, but you have to understand, too, that bad things are going to happen. That's just life."

"Right again," Saida sighed. "I guess because of what's happened before, every time I see the bad start coming, I just want to turn and run the other way."

"Well, I think I would encourage you to stay in Kansas," Rena said. "I think you've been looking for stability, and a routine and as normal a life as possible. I don't think you'll get that if you come out here."

Saida nodded. "I guess it's decided then."

"You know what you're doing, you just needed someone to talk it over with you," Rena said. "Keep in touch, okay? And if you ever do need the out, I promise I'll make sure there's a spot open for you."

"Thanks, Rena. I'll talk to you soon."

Saida hung up the phone feeling more positive than she had in three weeks. Rena was right; she just needed to talk it out with someone. Rena had given her sound, unbiased advice, and that had been the most helpful of anything anyone had said to her.

Deciding maybe she was ready to talk to Ryan about things being a little more routine, she headed for the kitchen to start cooking.

Ryan knocked on the door of Saida's apartment, concerned as to why it was locked. Usually, she left the door open when she knew he was coming. When she answered the door wearing a pretty cotton dress, freshly applied makeup and her hair curled, though, he knew something was up.

"Sorry for locking it," Saida smiled. "I just wanted to make sure I knew when you got here. Come on in."

Ryan dropped his messenger bag at the door and kicked off his shoes. Saida graced him with a hug and a kiss and led him to the candlelight dinner she had set up in the kitchen.

"Wow, Saida. This is great. It smells wonderful," he assured her.

"Good, I'm glad you think so. Sit down."

He did as she requested and was soon served with a plate full of delicious food. Saida sat a beer in front of him, then sat down with her own plate and a glass of wine.

"Are we celebrating something? Did I miss an anniversary?" Ryan asked.

Saida chuckled. "No. I just thought we would have a nice sit-down dinner, just the two of us."
"Okay," Ryan drawled. "That doesn't sound like the Saida I know. What gives?"

She sighed, setting her fork on the table next to her plate. "I talked to Rena today, about taking that job with the touring company."

Ryan set his fork down as well. "Oh. So this is you trying to put me in a good mood?"

"Well, yes, but not because of what you might think. I've decided to stay here, Ryan. I love being with you and being so close to Johnny and Sophie. I've been looking for a routine for a very long time - well, maybe not a routine, but some sense of normalcy. I have that here, so why would I leave?"

Ryan shook his head, but grinned. "I swear, if you ever scare me like that again …"

"I have more, you know," she smiled. "I was thinking, my lease is up next month. Maybe we could, you know, look at a new place together? Or I could move in to your place? If you think it's a terrible idea, then we can wait."

It was the first time she had suggested some progression in their relationship, and without any prompting from Ryan. It made his heart swell; she really did want to stay.

"Saida, I think that would be a great idea."

She clapped her hands in excitement before coming around the table to kiss him. They talked about the new decision on their living arrangements over their dinner, and spent the rest of the evening cuddling on the couch.

A/N: I think this story is going to end up having a sequel. I've had a couple more ideas, but if I tried to get them into this particular story, it would never end. I really want to finish other stories before starting new ones though, so I'll try and wrap up some loose ends and leave just a few small ones for the sequel. Thanks for reading!