Disclaimer: Neither the characters from Fox's The O.C. nor Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit are mine. I'm not making a profit, not trying to infringe on anyone's copyright, and I have nothing worth suing for.
Note: The text for The Velveteen Rabbit can be found here.
The Velveteen Rabbit
When Seth was very little, his mom used to give him a bath every night and tuck him into bed. He would wriggle over to the middle of the mattress, squirming in anticipation as she chose a book from the bookshelf that was carved to look like a boat. She'd tease him, saying things like, "Hmm, how about Little Brown Bear tonight?", even though she knew he was a too big for baby books. Inevitably, though, she'd settle on something good. He loved to cuddle up next to her, shivering gleefully at wild things or giggling his way through "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" even though his tongue always got stuck somewhere between "horrible" and "no".
The best nights were when she pulled out The Velveteen Rabbit. He'd gotten it for Christmas, and it had come with a soft brown stuffed rabbit for Seth to sleep with. Seth would cuddle the rabbit to his side just like his mom cuddled him and listen wide-eyed to the Rabbit's adventures. He always had to hide his face when the Rabbit was thrown out to be burned, and he always held his breath until the fairy appeared from the flower.
And when the Rabbit became Real, really Real for ever and ever, he always let his breath out with a cheer.
Time passed, and Seth's mom got a promotion. Suddenly she didn't have time to read to him at night anymore, and really, he was big enough to take a bath and get to bed on his own, wasn't he, so Mom could get ready for her dinner party?
He started going to school. All the kids around him seemed to have been born with some knowledge that he hadn't been given. They giggled over jokes he didn't understand and had rules about what was cool and what wasn't that he could never quite figure out. None of these kids ever seemed confused or unsure of what to say. Somehow, they always knew how to get the good kind of laughs, the ones that made people want to get closer to you. All Seth ever got were the laughs that hurt, the ones that pushed him away and made him even more tongue-tied than ever.
At home, his dad had started to be around more than his mom, which was strange. Seth loved his dad, but it used to be that Dad was always at the office and that Mom made it a point to be home in time to cook dinner. Now his dad still went to the office, but if anyone was likely to be home at dinner, it was his dad. Seth kind of wished his dad would stay at the office more, too, because every time his dad asked about how school was going and what friends Seth was making, Seth got the feeling that he was disappointed in Seth's answers.
One Christmas, he got a Nintendo and spent the next few months trying to rescue Princess Toadstool from the evil King of the Koopas. In the Mushroom Kingdom, no one cared that he he wasn't even hip enough to hold his jeans up, like Summer Roberts had said said in math class one day. It also didn't matter that the Mushroom Kingdom wasn't a real place, because Seth had finally come to understand why he felt happier playing with that Nintendo than he did any with any of the kids he saw at school.
Seth wasn't Real, either.
He was like the Rabbit in the story his mother read to him when he was little. On the surface, he looked just like any other rabbit hopping around the field, but when you got close, it was clear that something was missing. The kids he'd grown up with at school and in his parents' "social circle" saw that from the start. They were Real, filled with the confidence that came from never doubting that they belonged, and they sensed his difference and turned on him. More like a pack of wolves than a herd of rabbits, he thought as he got older, but the analogy still worked.
Even to his own parents, he wasn't Real. He wasn't the charming Prince of Newport Beach that his mother wanted, or the adventurous rebel that his dad thought he should be. He was a mystery to them, and sometimes he suspected that they wished they could send him back to the factory for a refund. Sometimes, he thought that he didn't show up on their radar at all.
He tried to tell himself that it didn't matter. His life wasn't bad; he had a home and food and money to spend, and he wasn't so spoiled to those things that he couldn't appreciate that many people didn't have them. His parents didn't hate him or abuse him. He only had a few more years before college, and he thought maybe there, in the world outside Newport Beach, he might find a way to be Real. Until then, he had his games and his boat and his map of the Pacific to keep him company. He would survive.
Then one night his dad brought Ryan home. Ryan was Real in a way that made all the kids Seth knew seem like nothing more than wind-up toys. More importantly, Ryan looked at Seth as if he thought Seth were Real, and for a few hours, Seth believed it, too. Somehow, with Ryan it was easy to find the words that had never come before. It was easy to walk into a party he'd never have been invited to on his own. It wasn't so easy getting beaten up, but when Ryan had jumped in and tried to help him, Seth had counted every bruise worth the pain, if only because he wasn't suffering it alone.
After Ryan left, Seth hid his face in his pillow, his chest as tight as if he were holding his breath. Something would happen, he told himself. His father would feel guilty and bring Ryan back, or Seth would go down to Chino and hang out with Ryan. Something. He didn't know what, yet, but he was sure he would see Ryan again.
He hoped he would see Ryan again.
He needed to see Ryan again.
He wanted to be made Real.