Set during the summer between S2 and S3, Ryan and Marissa are trying to deal with the aftermath of the shooting. Ryan has shut down and avoids the topic completely, not having discussed that night with Marissa or anyone else for that matter. When Marissa finally reaches a breaking point of needing to be comforted and needing to talk about the shooting, she calls Ryan out of his behavior lately. Although he resists at first, Ryan finally is able to let down some of his walls and comfort and talk to Marissa. Essentially lead this emotional break through to Ryan and Marissa's first time making love.

A World All Their Own

She knew it had been a bad idea to let Summer drive her over to the Cohens'; she should have gone home and got her own car so that she was prepared for anything. Hell, it had been a bad idea to ambush Ryan in the first place, but after two months of this….this limbo that they were in, she couldn't handle it anymore and she needed some answers, whether those answers would break her heart or not.

Summer knew that she had been extremely down lately and things were rocky, at best, with Ryan, so she had organized a whole 'girls' day out.' They had started off their morning with short stacks at the diner, followed by mornings at the spa where they had manis, pedis, and massages, lunch at the club, and then a whole day of retail therapy at South Coast, and even though Marissa had tried to be her usual lively self, she failed….miserably. Summer had said she was the worst companion she'd ever had, so she, within a matter of minutes, convinced her it was a good idea to show up at the Cohens', unannounced, to see Ryan and finally discuss their issues once and for all, giving him no warning to run away or get out of the talk. So she had, and now she was driving in her car going after him. Looking back, she knew she had gone about it all wrong.

She hadn't even knocked when she'd gotten there; she had just opened up the door to the poolhouse and walked right in, planted her feet, hands on hips, and glared at him with unwavering eyes, speaking loudly and forcefully, getting right to the point without even so much as a 'hello, how are you.' He had been brooding, as always it seemed.

"Look Ryan," she had started impatiently, "we obviously need to talk. What is going on with you? I mean, ever since that night you won't talk to me, you won't look at me, you won't touch me….are you trying to break up with me without making an effort, because I'm not leaving that easily! I know that I shot your brother, but I'm not sorry about it, because in the process of hurting him, I saved your life, and whether you believe me or not, you're the most important person in my life. Now, talk to me, please!"

She should have known he was going to bolt as soon as she turned her back. His eyes, which had only focused on her for a moment when she had suddenly appeared, stared at the ceiling the whole time she talked to him. His body, which had been calmly laying on the bed before she arrived, was nervously pacing back and forth across the length of the poolhouse while she ranted. His breathing, which had been shallow and relaxed before the confrontation began, was ragged and forced. All in all, he was close to a panic attack. As she watched him move like a caged animal in his own room all because of her presence, she couldn't keep her composure any longer and her contrived anger dissipated and was replaced with only fear for them and pain for him and what he was going through. She broke down in sobs, collapsing onto the floor and hugging her legs to her body as she rocked herself back and forth in an effort to stem the ever flowing tears and cries coming forth from her shattered heart.

That had been the last straw. The next thing she knew, he had disappeared out of the door without saying anything so quickly her heavy heart and mind hadn't even had the chance to process the idea that he was, once again, running away from her and their problems. She did, however, catch the expression on his face before he left. It was one of utter apprehension and terror. Somehow she had gotten up off of the floor and chased after him but he was long gone in the Range Rover and she was stuck there without a vehicle to go after him. After calling a cab to take her back to her house to get her car, she had sat down on the front stoop of the Cohen house and contemplated where she should look for him and what she should say that time.

For some reason she knew that he wouldn't go to their usual haunts; he wouldn't be at the Diner, at the lifeguard stand, or at the pier. He was going somewhere to hurt himself, and it was up to her somehow to break through the torture he was putting himself through…for what reason she had no idea. Perhaps he blamed himself for Trey getting shot, because he had dated her in the first place. If he had never let her into his life again, Trey would have never attacked her, he wouldn't have felt obligated to defend her, and she wouldn't have shot his only brother. She knew that he would break up with her eventually, but right now all she wanted to do was help comfort him a little, help take the burden off of his shoulders, show him that it was her fault and her fault alone for Trey being in the coma.

Her mind worked furiously as she rode in the cab to her house, formulating a plan of action, deciding on what she would say and how she would say it. She was so lost in thought that the cab driver had to tell her three times that she was home before she even noticed. Once she did, she jumped out of the cab, paid him, and then immediately sped off in her own car to the one place she knew Ryan would be, trying to figure out how she would ever get him to leave. He shouldn't be there; she couldn't be there. Secretly, in the back of her mind, she was hoping that he wasn't there, but she knew he was, and as she parked her car behind the Range Rover, she saw him just sitting there in front of the door, on his knees, head buried in his hands. Taking a deep breath, she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car, walking slowly but confidently towards him.

He never heard her approach and he never felt her body slide down beside his until she placed her soft, warm, gentle hand in one of his and squeezed it, his complete oblivion showing her just how hurt he was. She was surprised when he looked up at her, and she could have sworn that she saw gratitude and tenderness flash across his eyes momentarily before the anguish once again replaced it. They sat there, hand in hand, for what seemed like hours to Marissa, and as painful as it was for her to be there, to see the door that she had walked through that night to see Trey choking the life out of Ryan, she knew that she had to be here with him in that moment, that if she left, he would be lost to her forever, so she remained. Somehow facing this place again, Trey's apartment, was like a catharsis, and the strength and pride it was giving her for standing up to her demons slowly started to push away some of the sorrow and grief she felt. Lost in thought as to how this was possible, she was startled when she heard Ryan's raspy and hushed voice.

"I'm sorry," he said so quietly she could barely hear him.

"What," she asked him incredulous that he was apologizing to her.

He stood up, never letting go of her hand and pulled her up with him. Leaning in slowly, he kissed her lips tenderly and then pulled her close to him, holding her so tightly she wasn't sure if she could breath but she didn't mind.

"You shouldn't be here," he said, once again worrying about her instead of himself. "Come on, let's go."

They walked down the stairs together, hands still entwined, and he turned to her and with hope in his eyes, asked her to take a walk with him. She nodded her head yes and they set off towards the sea together. Unlike previous times, they did not go to the lifeguard stand and they didn't just find a secluded spot on the beach to sit and talk. Instead they made their underneath the pier where Ryan sat down and pulled Marissa down so that she was sitting between his legs. He held her close to him, his arms tightly encircled around her waist, and as they talked, her absent mindedly moved his fingers lazily against the exposed skin of her stomach, drawing little circles and calming her.

"Thank you," he said with a clear voice.

She turned her head to look up at him, shocked that he was thanking her. "For what?"

"For so much."

She went to interrupt him, but he just put a finger up to her lips and asked her with his eyes to let him speak. She smiled up at him and settled back into his arms showing him that she was ready to hear whatever he had to say.

"First of all, I haven't said anything yet, but thank you for saving my life. I just can't believe that you would do that for me, shoot someone to save….me."

When he said this, as if his life was not worth her effort, tears started to stream down her cheeks, but she let him talk without interrupting him, knowing that it was what he needed.

"Thank you for not giving up on me these last two months. You should have, I realized that while I was pushing you and everyone else away, but until you came to me today at Trey's apartment, I wasn't sure if I could let you in, if I could talk to you about this. Thank for that, too, for coming to me."

He paused for a moment to recollect his thoughts while hers raged inside of her mind as she contemplated everything he had said to her.

"I thought you would hate me, that you would blame me for putting you in a position where you would have to shoot someone. I mean, let's face it, you would have never been attacked if it wasn't for me. Trey was my brother, whom you would have never met if I hadn't of introduced you. You would have never helped him find a job or spent a weekend watching out for him if I hadn't of gone to Miami, if I hadn't of asked you to help him. You wouldn't of had to save my life if I hadn't of reacted the way I did and fought Trey. None of this should have ever happened to you, and for that, I'm so sorry."

"After everything that I had put you through, I was positive that you were going to leave me, and I thought that if I pushed you away, if I didn't open up and let down my last defense, you wouldn't be able to hurt me as badly when you did eventually leave me, because there was no way that I thought you would ever be able to trust me or love me again. And I couldn't look at you, because I thought you would look away from me, and I couldn't touch you in fear that you would pull away from my hands, and if you would have done that, it would have killed me."

After he was silent for a moment, Marissa turned her body around so that she could look him in the eyes, his gorgeous, crystal clear eyes, and took his face in her hands and held it so close to hers that she could rest her forehead against his.

"I listened to you without interrupting to protest to anything you said, and trust me, there was plenty I disagreed with, so now it's your turn to do the same for me."

He gave her his trademark half grin and wrapped his arms around her waist to show her that he would listen just as she had for him.

"I have never once blamed you for what Trey did to me or for having to shoot him to save your life, nor have I or will I ever regret that decision. You are the most important person in my life, and I will do anything to keep you in it and safe."

Before she could continue, her voice cracked with emotion and she started to cry, but she let the tears fall, knowing that there was no way she would be able to stop them.

"What Trey did to me was the worst possible thing a man can do to a woman, but he did it, not you, and we don't know what would have happened if you hadn't of introduced him to me. The world is a small place, and he somehow could have tried to rape me some other way, some other time, some other place. You cannot control what your brother does; you are not his keeper."

She was quiet for a moment before continuing, not sure if she should say the next part to him or not, but knowing that there needed to be full disclosure between them so that they could grow as a couple from this experience instead of regressing, she decided she had to tell him.

"If anything, you save me that night," she continued. "As he was holding me down and ripping at my clothes and my skin, after the last bit of my strength had been spent trying to fight him off, all I could think about was you, how I couldn't let this happen, that it would hurt you too much, that you would never be able to look at me the same way if I let him hurt me like that, and the thought of you gave me one last surge of strength to reach for that piece of driftwood and hit him over the head. I just never wanted you to think I was tainted; I wanted to make sure that when we do make love that you aren't disgusted by me."

Finally, she could not speak any longer and collapsed into his waiting arms, sobbing into his strong and supportive chest, but he wouldn't let her remain there. He pulled her off of him and kissed her passionately, trying to infuse that one kiss with all the love and desire that he felt for her. Breathless, they pulled away from each other and she settled back into his arms.

"I could never think of you like that, even if he would have….raped you." She shuttered against him when he said those words, but he continued talking anyway. "You have no idea how beautiful I find you today. The knowledge that you survived what he did to you, that you are stronger because of it, that you saved my life in the face of danger despite what the consequences could have been for you, just makes me love and want you even more."

She sat up and maneuvered her body so that she was sitting in his lap and wrapped her long, slender, tanned legs around his waist, leaning in so that their chests were pressed up against each others and kissed him tenderly.

"Ryan?"

"Hm," he asked, his eyes closed as he was savoring the taste of her lips on his, the scent of her hair as it fell and made a cocoon around him, the feel of her body against his.

Timidly, she asked, "Can we save the rest of our talk for later? I just….I just need to feel you close to me right now."

His eyes remained closed as he smiled at her. "I won't let you go, ever, I promise," he said as he pulled her closer to him."

She laughed softly and whispered into his ear, "Closer," causing his eyes to flutter open in shock. As he stared into her eyes, he saw that they were filled with a level of love, passion, and lust that he'd never seen in them before.

"Are you sure," he asked forcefully, wanting to make sure that he was not misreading the situation or about to do something that would only hurt her further. Her answer was simple but straightforward, and it was the last word they would share for some time.

"Please."

What followed was not candles and rose petals, soft music and champagne, but it was real, it was right, it was theirs. They took their time, lost in their own little world underneath the pier. Slowly, painstakingly slowly, Marissa thought, Ryan unbuttoned each clasp on her shirt, and in between each release that revealed more and more of her body, he kissed her newly exposed skin gently. Slipping the shirt off of her shoulders, she then moved in to him, sliding her hands up his shirt and running her fingers across his toned, taunt abdomen before removing his shirt and gingerly setting it down to their side. She was surprised when he did not have a wife beater on underneath his t-shirt, but then realized that she had never been this intimate with him during the summer before and that it was too hot to wear two shirts.

Stunning her, he wrapped his arms around her and changed their position so that she was laying down on her back in the sand as he settled above her, hovering and supporting himself with his hands so that the weight of his body was not on hers. He searched her eyes to make sure that she was comfortable with their position, and when he saw that nothing had altered in her gaze, he leaned down and started to trail fervent kisses along her collar bone, slowly letting his lips trail down to her breasts as he kissed her through the fabric of her bra. Letting the shock waves of pleasure roll across her body, Marissa relaxed underneath his touch and closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of his lips upon her skin which had moved from her breasts to her stomach all the way down to the waistband of her low rise shorts. Stopping only briefly to unhook her shorts and slide them down her legs, he once again resumed his assault with his lips on her senses, starting this time with her top of her foot and making his way slowly up her body until he once again took her lips in his.

She opened her mouth for him, taking him in even deeper and letting their tongues dance together in ecstasy while her hands fumbled down to his waist and unbuttoned his pants and pushed them down along with his boxers, leaving him naked. Settling back down into the sand, she almost complained out loud when he took his mouth away from hers until she felt his hands on her breasts, unhooking her bra and slowly easing it off of her shoulders. His lips seemed to find every surface of her breasts as he kissed them tenderly, holding first the left one and then the right one in his hand and massaging it as his mouth teased the other. Her hips bucked when she felt him first kiss her areolas and then lick her nipples, arousing them so much they hurt. As he continued to pleasure her with his mouth, his hands slid down to her boyshorts and he massaged her through the fabric before teasingly pulling them off her already hot body as perspiration covered them.

The air was thick and sticky, the humidity reaching levels that could only be described as suffocating, and there was no breeze to break the monotonous oppression of late July day, but as the two people underneath the pier joined their bodies into one, the heat of the afternoon only seemed to increase their passion for each other.

Marissa did not think she could take his mischievous and taunting foreplay much longer; she wanted to feel him inside of her, but instead of granting her wish, he just increased her want by softly placing kisses on her soft core and then letting his tongue slide into her and gently massaging her while his thumb stroked her clit. Just as she felt she was about to orgasm, he suddenly stopped and once again she found his lips assaulting hers, taking her mouth over and over again, building her passion for him to even higher levels. As they continued to kiss feverishly, she was taken by surprise when she felt two of his fingers slide into her and move in a rhythmic motion over and over again as he stimulated her senses even more. Once again, he quit what he was doing right before she was about to orgasm, only to pull her up with his body so that she was again straddling his waist as he sat on his knees, never breaking the dance their tongues had been engrossed in for what seemed like only seconds yet hours at the same time for Marissa. Startling her and yet finally giving her the release she had been waiting for, begging, he slowly entered her.

Their bodies, entwined together tightly, skin on skin, sticking together as their sweet sweat mingled as one, rocked together slowly and gently at first but soon their passion escalated and their pace quickened until the point where they completely lost sense of their surroundings and focused only on each other. Their eyes open and gazing lovingly into each others, they climaxed together, she shuddering and squeezing, he pulsating and trembling, as they once again joined their lips as one in a fervent and tender embrace. She didn't know how long they stayed like that, softly kissing and holding each other while he remained inside of her, but if she could have, they would have stayed like that forever. She had never felt so close, so connected to another person in her life, and she knew in that moment that they would be able to make it through the pain and suffering Trey had brought to their lives.

Eventually, they laid down in the sand together, not caring that their damp and sweltering bodies were being covered by tiny, white granules, and wrapped their limbs around each other and held one another as close as possible, her head on his chest. After a few minutes had passed, he tilted her head up so that he could look into her eyes and kissed her swollen and delicious lips softly before speaking with a clear and strong voice.

"I love you. I love you more than I have ever loved another person in my life, more than I ever thought was possible, more than I could ever love anyone else."

She lifted her body up slightly so that she could kiss him just as he kissed her and then with a smirk on her face she replied, "Thank you."

Laughing he pulled her back into his arms and they settled back down and watched as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

"I love you, too," she whispered to him. "You're my world." He pulled her closer and she laughed softly to herself.

"What," he asked, thrilled to hear her laugh again.

Without any self-consciousness or self-doubt, she replied, "I just never want to leave here; I never want to go home…ever. Can't we just stay here for the rest of our lives?"

Standing up and pulling her up with him, he joined their naked bodies together again as he wrapped his strong arms around her slender waist. "Then we won't," he said without a second thought. "Tonight, it is about you and me, whatever the consequences are tomorrow. We'll go back and raid the cars, taking any blankets we can find, call and have takeout delivered, and spend the night here under the stars." She smiled up at him and went to kiss him, but he surprised her when he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder before running towards the ocean. "But for now, we're going swimming."

And they did just that, they went swimming, making love again in the water, a thoroughly enjoyable experience, they went and got their blankets and food, and they spent the night, underneath the stars, wrapped in each others arms making love again and again until they fell asleep completely happy, completely at peace, completely, head over heals in love.