AUTHOR: Caroline (regalish)
FANDOM: The O.C.
PAIRING: Ryan/Kirsten (a.k.a. Rysten)
NOTES: I do express my own opinions of other pairings in here, but it is kept to a minimum.
WORD COUNT: ~2100
Deconstructing Camelot: Ryan & Kirsten as a contemporary Lancelot & Guinevere (The O.C.)
Ryan Atwood: The Loyal and Brave Knight
Ryan Atwood, a damaged soul, first came to Newport Beach after being thrown out of the house by his alcoholic mother, Dawn Atwood. His father, Frank, was in jail, as was his older brother, Trey. Ryan himself would have ended up there had it not been for his public defender, Sandy Cohen, whom Ryan called upon when he had nowhere else to go.
Ryan better expresses his feelings through action than he does through his words. He is known for getting into fist fights, and once accidentally started one of Kirsten's model homes on fire. He often finds himself in the midst of stormy relationships, and often feels the need to play "rescuer" to damsels in distress. He has a strong aptitude for physics and mathematics, hinting at a possible future career as an architect.
Ryan is loyal to those close to him, and loves almost to a fault, though he has a hard time saying the words. He is the protagonist of "The O.C.", the center around which the show revolves.
Kirsten Cohen: The Queen of the Manor
Kirsten Cohen, known as "The Queen of the Manor", is the daughter of real estate tycoon Caleb Nichol, the wife of public defender Sandy Cohen, and mother to Seth. Once considered an "Ice Queen," Kirsten has lived her entire life in Newport Beach, always under the thumb of her father, and always searching for his approval.
She often seems to live in a bubble, numb to the problems of others around her until Ryan Atwood came along. In her own words, Ryan rescued her from a lifetime of being the Ice Queen. It has been said that she is not a hugger, and yet at times (with Ryan, mainly) she is quite affectionate. She is a good mother and a very understanding wife, though she battles her own demons -- mainly her issues with her family, and her growing addiction to alcohol.
After hitting rock bottom following her father's death, Kirsten was admitted to a rehabilitation facility called Suriak and began the road to recovery with the help of Sandy, Seth, and Ryan. She gave up working at her father's company, The Newport Group, and instead started a small dating service business with her close friend, Julie Cooper.
And while Ryan is the center of the show, Kirsten is the heart and the soul.
Rysten: Royally-Complicated, Wholly Unconventional
Ryan and Kirsten had a very rocky start to their relationship, though it has grown to be something bigger than either of them ever expected. In the beginning, it was clear there was a physical attraction between Ryan and Kirsten. In the second episode of the series, "The Model Home," there is a moment where Ryan and Kirsten nearly collide in the kitchen, and some very visible sparks fly. This can never be acted upon, however, due to Ryan's age and Kirsten's marriage. But despite the hinderances, the attraction always simmers just beneath the surface.
They have the strongest chemistry of any two characters on the show. Even from the beginning they appeared to have an inexplicable but very real connection. The depth of their connection to each other didn't become evident until the season one closer, "The Ties That Bind." Ryan was about to leave Newport Beach for Chino, when he believed he'd gotten an ex-girlfriend pregnant. He and Kirsten say goodbye in a very touching scene in the Cohen kitchen, and share a long, warm embrace. The looks on both their faces (not to mention Sandy's) while this occurs speak volumes as to what they mean to each other. And, when Ryan has left, Kirsten is shown in the poolhouse taking the sheets off Ryan's bed and hugging them to herself before she completely breaks down in tears -- not even Sandy can comfort her through this loss. This is the most we've ever seen her cry during the four-year run of the show.
When their respective "worlds" seem to be crumbling around them, Ryan and Kirsten can always rely on each other. Often times Seth is too consumed with his own problems to really be of any help to Ryan, and Sandy is off trying to save the world too much to really be there when Kirsten needs him. Ryan and Kirsten can talk to each other as equals, not as adult and teen. Ryan also speaks to Kirsten much differently than he does with any other character -- very openly and eloquently. His eyes and his voice both soften when he talks to her, conveying the depth of his emotion for her. And though Ryan Atwood has never been known for expressing his feelings, specifically saying "I love you" (it took him forever to say it to Marissa, and to Taylor), it came out effortlessly with Kirsten in "The Dearly Departed." The family had been pleading with Kirsten to go to a rehabilitation center to get treated for her alcohol addiction, and Ryan (having witnessed alcoholism in his family firsthand) said softly, "I don't want to see that happen again to someone I love," after which he and Kirsten exchanged a prolonged and poignant stare.
Ryan and Kirsten don't often need to speak to be able to communicate with each other. Often times, they can just exchange a look (evidenced especially in season two's "The Way We Were" and "The New Era" as well as others), and it's as if they can read each other's thoughts. Not only can they say everything with just a look, they often don't even have to be in the same room (or city) to be able to read each other. In "The College Try," during a phone conversation, Ryan can tell instantly that Kirsten is keeping something from him, so (as mentioned before) he softened his voice and asked her sweetly to tell him what was going on, and she did (despite Sandy not wanting her to). They never keep things from each other.
Ryan, at times, is the only one that can get through to her. In the season two Chrismukkah episode, when Kirsten locked herself in her bedroom closet after learning a long-kept family secret, her own husband could not get her to come out. Ryan asked if he could try, and Sandy didn't sound optimistic that he could do it. All Ryan had to do was knock and say a few choice words, and Kirsten opened up the door for him, even telling him, "Don't tell Sandy I came out for you, okay?" And when the family was holding an intervention for Kirsten, she responded angrily to her sister Hailey and her husband Sandy. When Ryan stepped forward, she was initially upset with him until, yet again, he said a few choice words that -- evidenced by the look on her face -- got through to her.
Kirsten is also, often-times, the only one that can get through to Ryan. This is shown most prevalently in the second half of season three, starting at Ryan's eighteenth birthday. In "The Undertow" she comes in to the poolhouse to see how he's doing (and stands in the doorway watching him box for a bit), and tries to help him with his girl problems. She gently gives him advice and he says, "You're right. I can't argue with you."
They're extremely loyal to each other, almost to a fault. When Ryan barely knew Kirsten, after she had thrown him out of her home, he defended her honor in juvy ("The Gamble," season one) when one of the inmates was hitting on her -- he even took a beating for doing so. And when people are criticizing Ryan, Kirsten is the first to jump in and defend him ("The Rescue," season one). However, they both also have a strong loyalty to Sandy. Kirsten loves her husband despite his many faults and despite the frequent bumps in the road, she keeps working at the relationship. And Ryan looks up to Sandy because of the fact that he rescued him from a terrible life. Not to mention he has an intense loyalty to Seth, his best friend, which always keeps him and Kirsten just out of each other's reach.
I first became attracted to the pairing when I first started watching "The O.C." I saw nothing of value in the Ryan/Marissa dynamic (if it can be called that), and I thought the Sandy/Kirsten relationship was rather dull. From the first moment, I had been looking for that chemistry-filled ship to follow, and when the second episode of the series ("The Model Home") rolled around, I had found it. The moment Ryan and Kirsten nearly collided in the kitchen, I was hooked. The looks on their faces spoke volumes, and the tension was palpable and thick. Not to mention the flirtatious looks they exchanged over the dinner table in that very same episode were enough to set my television on fire. It was hopeless to resist loving them.
In season one, it became clear (through looks exchanged and certain things said) that Ryan was infatuated with Kirsten. At the end of season one, we saw a glimpse of Kirsten's feelings for Ryan during their hug and her subsequent crying jag in the poolhouse after he left. In season two, when Ryan returned there was a lovely balance of attraction between them -- the relationship started to deepen into feelings mutually shared for each other. There was even a hint of jealousy on Kirsten's part when Ryan dated Lindsay, who later turned out to be Kirsten's half-sister. The resemblance between them was even addressed verbally by Ryan, hinting at the possibility of a subconscious desire to be with Kirsten.
In season three, the tables appeared to turn between them. Whereas in the beginning it was Ryan's overt infatuation with Kirsten, Kirsten in season three started to show an infatuation with Ryan, needing to frequently be around him and spend time with him while her relationship with Sandy was on the rocks. In "The Dawn Patrol," she even offered to fly out of state with him to visit his mother, when things between her and Sandy were particularly bad.
The relationship is forbidden, which is what makes it oh-so-addictive. Ryan and Kirsten would have to break several rules to be together, which is a large part of why they're so appealing. It's mainly the chemistry that attracted me, though. These two people, who you normally would not even consider as a possible pairing, had a chemistry that just exploded off the screen. The initial spark hooked me, but it was the connection between them that sustained my interest in them. I also greatly enjoy the fact that when Kirsten and Sandy are having marital problems, she spends a lot more time around Ryan. Coincidence? Nope.
They're fiercely loyal to each other, they hug each other frequently though it's been said of both of them that they're not affectionate people; they watch each other leave a room and can have full conversations without ever speaking a word. Though the other relationships on the show have remained stagnant -- static and unchanging (Ryan and Marissa and their perpetually-annoying melodrama, and the constant up-and-down marriage of Sandy and Kirsten, one problem after another), the relationship between Ryan and Kirsten has grown and evolved into something deep, intense, and complex. They have the most unique relationship of any two characters on the show, which is why they should be shipped.
The Fandom Guide/Fic Recommendations:
Most Ryan/Kirsten (Rysten is the ship name) material can be found at my own LiveJournal community, rystenlove. There you will find fanfiction, icons, and more related to this dynamic and forbidden pairing.
My own fics (which can be found on both LiveJournal and FanFiction.net) -- Ratings vary:
All the Same
Five Times Ryan Heard Kirsten Say, "Don't Tell Sandy" (5 chapters)
Never In Doubt
Something To Believe In
The Bowling Alley Hero
The Break (work-in-progress)
The Dream Weavers (work-in-progress)
The First Step
The Quiet House
The Second Time Around (10 chapters + epilogue)
The Sleepless (work-in-progress)
The Span of a Week (5 chapters)
The Time Kirsten Heard Ryan Say, "I'll Tell Sandy" (sequel to "Five Times Ryan Heard Kirsten Say...")
The Worst Nightmare (2 chapters)
Other Rysten fics I highly recommend (ratings vary):
Just To Find You, by 28andoccrazy; (work-in-progress)
The House of Cards by Ged; (5 chapters)
The Only Way, by ladyvader2