A/N: Okay, so this is the final chapter of this story. I just wanted to thank a moment to thank everyone who has read this the entire time. Even if you haven't always commented, I've appreciated your interests. For those of you who do comment, thank you! Anyway, you really don't care about what I have to say. Just enjoy!
Marissa Atwood walked into her three bedroom, traditional, suburban home outside of Charleston her last afternoon of law school totally obvious and on cloud nine. She could not wait to see her husband. Today was a day to celebrate.
They had married the spring of their senior year of college, immediately after graduation, in a small, intimate ceremony in the Cohen's backyard. It was understated, simplistic, everything Marissa had ever wanted. Soon after, due to Ryan's job, they relocated to South Carolina where she had entered law school and he had supported them. Three years later, they were still going strong.
Lost in thoughts as she pondered her life and the amazing transformation it had undergone since the day she first met the obnoxious, arrogant, rude, self-absorbed, wealthy Ryan Atwood and then fell in the love with the man he had become, her Ryan, she never noticed someone creeping up behind her as she made her way to the kitchen to sit her bags down and look for a snack.
"You know, you really shouldn't hide your spare key underneath the only flower pot you have on your front porch," the voice teased her. "That is a little suspicious."
Whirling around, clutching her chest, her eyes wide from fright and shock, Marissa took in a face she hadn't seen in over a year. At first she was just pleasantly surprised to see him, but then annoyance overrode every other emotion and she shoved him away.
"What the hell, Seth," Marissa yelled at the amused, childish young man of 24 before her. "You do not sneak up on someone like that!"
Snickering, he replied, "Why not? You have to admit that I got you good."
She just stared at him for a moment unsure of what to say. Finally his goofy, innocent smile won her over and she returned one. "What are you doing here," she asked confused. "Ryan didn't tell me you were stopping by." Walking towards the fridge, she pulled it open and turned to him. "Can I get you something to eat or drink?"
"Whatever you're having will be great," he responded nonchalantly. "I'll raid your cupboards later to see what you'll need to stock up on for me and make a list."
"How long are you going to be here," she queried slightly nervous as she handed him two bottles of water, an unopened bag of pretzels, and a couple of apples, preferring to let him do the carrying and leading the way into the family room before plopping down on the couch, feet up, head resting back on a generous supply of pillows. Seth settled for the chair beside her. Sure, it was nice to see Seth, but she didn't know if she could put up with him for a lengthy period of time…especially now. "Ryan never mentioned you were coming for a visit."
"Oh, he doesn't know," Seth waved her off while biting down into his apple and handing the other to Marissa who joined him. "I wanted to keep it as a surprise."
"But what about work," she trailed off as he started to interrupt her.
"Gramps had another of those 'oh so secret business trips' to go on, so he gave me two weeks off. You know," Seth said seriously as he sat back in his chair and started to relax. "I think they're his illegal trips."
"Talking to a lawyer here, Seth," Marissa attempted to stop him.
"Not yet," he mocked. "You haven't passed your bar exam yet."
Standing up, she moved away from him back towards the kitchen. When he went to join her, he motioned for him to remain seated. "Stay here. I'll be right back. I'm going to go change and grab some more snacks."
"More snacks," Seth pondered out loud, "what are you, eating for two?"
Ignoring his question, Marissa just replied calmly. "Ryan called me earlier. He's out scouting at a local school, so he'll be late, but he's picking up takeout on his way home. It'll be a while before we eat, and I know how hungry you get. Be back in a few."
Grabbing her bags, she made her way up the stairs towards the bedroom she shared with her husband knowing that Seth had merely shook his head to show that he had heard her, opened the bag of pretzels before stealing the couch from her, and flipping on the tv to watch some ridiculously cheesy, super-hero cartoon.
She walked into her room, letting her bags drop to the floor lazily. She was exhausted and had wanted nothing more than to relax all afternoon in bed by herself before spending the night, in bed, with her husband. They needed to enjoy the less hectic moments in their life right now while they could, because things were about to change drastically.
Although she had had all intentions of really changing her clothes and putting away the contents of her bags quickly before joining Seth, once Marissa's head hit her pillow, she was out. Twenty minutes later, Seth rambled upstairs, calling out for her softly, not wanting to wake her if she was asleep. He might be the same selfish, spoiled Seth, but he had grown up as well, too, and somewhere along the way he had become more considerate of other people. Stepping into the room he saw that his suspicions had been correct. Stretched out across the bed, hair spread against her pillow, breathing shallow, shoes still on, Marissa was fast asleep as her hands rested peacefully against her stomach, heightening Seth's suspicions.
Now, Seth might be slightly more considerate of other people, but he was still extremely curious and nosey, so, as quietly as he could, he moved to the bags Marissa had attempted to keep him from paying attention to and rummaged through them finding some very incriminating purchases.
Smirking to himself, Seth made his way back downstairs to where he knew Ryan's office was and got online. It might be early for her to be online, but he was going to risk it and her rage blackouts. He had to share his news with someone; it was already bubbling up inside of him threatening to spill out, and he knew Marissa would never forgive him if he told Ryan before she had a chance. Plus, there was no way in hell he was going to stay there for the full two weeks of his vacation. Not only did he know that they would want some alone time to celebrate and plan, but he was also not staying with her for fourteen days. Summer still might have a temper, but she, at least, was running on an even keel. Logging on to AIM he saw she was on and sighed a breath of relief. It was time for Seth to work his Cohen magic and get an invite to stay in Hawaii for two weeks.
Ryan arrived home a few hours later to find his house dark, silent, and eerily unfamiliar; something just seemed different. Searching through the rooms, take out still in hand, he found the reason soon enough. Seth was secluded in his office playing video games by himself, surprisingly on mute. Knocking softly on the doorframe, Ryan walked into the room, a smile already on his face, and put the food down before enveloping his best friend in a welcoming hug.
"Long time, no see, man," Ryan's voice rang out loudly in the small office full of sports memorabilia and trophies. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm on my way to paradise; I'm on vacation, but I figured I'd stop by here for a night and see my two favorite newlyweds."
"Seth," Ryan rolled his eyes, "we've been married for almost three years already. I don't think we qualify as newlyweds anymore."
"Fine," the curly headed man conceded, "you'll just have to be my favorite married from now on, and before you even ask," he cut Ryan off, "your better half is upstairs asleep on your ridiculously big bed."
"Not all of us still sleep in our twin beds from when we were little kids, Seth," Ryan teased as he went to move out of the room. "Could you take the food and set it up outside on the patio while I go and wake Marissa up?"
"Sure, no problem, but I'm not promising that there will be any food left when you two eventually find your way down here." Seth's threats fell on deaf ears as Ryan was already out the door and down the hall towards the stairs which would take him to his slumbering wife.
Pushing their door open, he found her resting peacefully just as Seth had a few hours prior, but unlike Seth he paid no attention to the bags on the floor and made his way directly to Marissa. Crawling up on the bed with her, he laid down so that his body was pressed up against hers and softly stroked the side of her soft, glowing face, running his finger up and down her jaw and slowly over her lips. It only took her a moment to stir, but instead of rising to sit up, she merely repositioned them so that her head could rest on his chest and went to go back to sleep. Ryan's gentle laughter finally made her open his eyes.
"What time is it," she asked slowly, her mind still partially lost to her dreams.
"Almost eight," he answered as he wrapped his arms around her drawing her closer to him and kissing her bare shoulder. "You've been asleep for several hours, but luckily Seth found a way to occupy himself."
By her reaction, it was obvious that she had completely forgotten about their guest and sat up directly in bed before attempting to scramble off of it. "I can't believe I left him down there by himself," she chastised herself out loud. "What kind of host does that make me?"
Reaching out for her, Ryan brought her back to him and tenderly made her lay back down, putting his arms around her once again. "Seth was fine. I found him playing video games in my office when I got home before I gave him the food to set up."
"You gave Seth the food," Marissa shot back incredulously. "Ryan, I'm hungry!"
He noticed the annoyed edge in her voice but shrugged it off, assuming she was just starving. Letting go of her, he watched as she quickly got up and stripped off her clothes, her back to him and threw on a comfy pair of shorts and one of his baggy t-shirts. Her body was definitely a sight for sore eyes for him; he had been extremely busy with work the past month, traveling for most of it, and they had barely seen each other, let alone been intimate. Although he was glad to see Seth, his presence did present a small problem. Ryan wanted his wife as soon as he possibly could have her, and he knew that Seth would want to ramble and reminisce the night away, reliving old, fond memories and catching up.
Startling him out of his thoughts, Marissa's voice brought him back to reality. "Are you going to stay in bed all night and ignore your best friend or are you going to change and come down with me?"
Shooting her a look of agony, he climbed out of bed and made his way to his drawers, relishing the feeling of his wife's hands on him as she slowly unbuttoned his shirt while he searched for something to wear. "You know this is far from what I had planned on doing tonight."
"Trust me," Marissa sighed as she empathized with him, "this is definitely not what I had planned either."
Smiling at the thought that Marissa had something organized for them, Ryan turned around and finally noticed the bags on the floor. "Hey, what's in those," he asked innocently, slipping his dress shirt off in favor of a wifebeater.
"I'll show you later," Marissa dismissed, distracting him from the packages by taking his pants off for him. It took only a few more seconds for Ryan to finish changing, and once he had, he took his wife's hand in his and they made their way back down the stairs to spend the evening with Seth.
"So did Mom and Dad send you any pictures of Jules from his birthday trip to Disneyland," Seth asked as he munched away on the French takeout Ryan had brought home.
"They left some," Marissa answered only to continue when she saw Seth's bewildered expression. "They stopped by for the weekend on their way home to California from Florida. Ryan and Sandy went golfing at Augusta National, Caleb got them in I think, and I took your Mom on architectural tours of the city. Jules went with the boys as their honorary caddie. It was amazing to see them again. It had been a while, and talking on line or on the phone is just not the same as in person."
"When was the last time you saw them," Ryan turned the conversation back to Seth. He preferred when he talked for then he didn't feel as guilty about zoning out and focusing upon his hand creeping up his wife's leg instead of their discussion.
"Christmas, but I might stop by for a day or two on my way home from Hawaii."
Looking up from their plates, this got both Ryan and Marissa's attention.
"Hawaii," they pondered together out loud. "Hawaii as in where Summer….your very ex-girlfriend lives?"
After graduation, Seth and Summer had broken up. Her father had opened his own high end clinic for the stars in Maui and Summer went with him despite Seth's protests and promises that they had a future. Summer wanted an engagement; Seth wanted things to remain the same. At first they had been bitter towards each other, not speaking, but eventually their lives, separately, fell into place and they had begun to mend what had been broken between them, although Ryan and Marissa did not know about this.
Nonchalantly, Seth replied while lifting up his bottle of beer, "yeah, we've been friends again now for well over a year. Once we got over the hard feelings, we realized that we were better friends than we were a couple. She's happy with her life; I'm happy with mine. We talk, email, even give each other relationship advice. It works for us. And yes, I'm going to go and see her. I've never been to Hawaii before, so she's going to give me the official local's tour guide."
"And there's no chance you'll rekindle the spark," Marissa asked curious. She had always hoped that their best friends would reunite, but after Summer went through with relocating to Hawaii and became a successful buyer for a high end department store and Seth moved to New York to head a new division of the Newport Group for his grandfather, she had thought this idea was hopeless. Perhaps not…..
"Hell no," Seth laughed. "I am staying away from that fire. In fact, I'm going to insist that Doctor Roberts come out with us every night just so that we don't get drunk and nostalgic for the old times and end up doing something we'd regret later."
The two marrieds laughed at their single friend.
"You know, ever since I quit dating his daughter, Neil and I, surprisingly, get along much better. I've even gotten him to read some of the classic comics."
"When do you have time to talk to Neil Roberts," Ryan inquired. "We're best friends and sometimes, Mr. Jetsetter, we go weeks without talking."
"Hawaii time online works for me. But," Seth added, completely changing the subject, "speaking of my jet setting, you'll never guess who I ran into a few days ago in DC."
Bluntly, Marissa asked, "why were you in DC?"
"Special errand for Gramps….with a senator," Ryan and Marissa both rolled their eyes for Caleb Nichol would never change. "And anyway, while I was waiting in line at Starbucks for a jolt of caffeinated energy, I saw your Mom," Seth finished as he motioned towards Ryan. "She was getting breakfast for Mike and surprising him at his office where he was working on some big case. Are they ever going to get married?"
"They're taking it slow," Marissa mocking explained. "I think after both of their last experiences with marriage, they're a little scared and it just doesn't seem that important to them."
The couple had had some rocky portions in their relationship early on, especially during the trial for Dan and Trey where Dawn continually battled her alcoholism, but, through it all, Mike stuck by her and helped her though it. The day before her ex-husband and son were sentenced to life in prison without parole was the day Dawn Atwood had taken her last drink. Soon after, she moved to LA with Mike, and then a year later, Mike got promoted to the FBI headquarters in DC and she moved with him to the east coast. They had been going strong ever since.
"I think that's the right idea, not to get married," Seth reasoned out loud, bobbing his head up and down at his own idea.
"You'd have to go on a date first before you'd considered marriage," Marissa teased him.
Defensively, Seth yelled out, "I go on dates."
"Dates with your hand, Seth, don't count."
Seth was embarrassed by Ryan's comment, his face turning a deep shade of red, while Marissa rolled her eyes at her husband's ribbing of his best friend, feeling more and more like a teenager again as the night went on.
"Well as much fun as this has been," Seth said as he stood up from the table and surveyed it to make sure he hadn't left any food, "I have an early flight tomorrow and I need my beauty sleep." As Marissa stood up to show him to his room, he motioned her back down into her seat. "I know my way around this place; I've stayed here before. Sit out here with your husband, enjoy the beautiful night….just keep it down. We don't need you two waking the neighbors." And with that, he disappeared into the house while only his laughter could be heard floating on the heavy, night air.
Turning to his wife, Ryan could see that despite her nap she was still tired. Worried about her even though she had kept the lupus pretty much under control since she had been diagnosed by letting Ryan help her lower her stress level, he always watched for warning signs of it flaring up.
"Why don't you go up and get ready for bed. I'll clean this up," Ryan offered as he motioned towards the dishes and packages from dinner.
Sighing gratefully, Marissa stood up without a word, kissed him softly, and then smiled seductively back at him as she made her way towards the house.
He would have to clean up quickly. He knew what that smile meant.
Walking into their bedroom, he realized right away why Marissa had kept her shopping bags a secret from him: she did have a surprise planned for them. The room was covered in candles, all of them, he noticed, either blue or pink, and there were flowers throughout the room, again, in her contrasting color scheme, and then there was Marissa in a blue and pink barely there nightgown. She took his breath away, but, unfortunately, she was completely absorbed with the book she was reading….the title of which Ryan never even noticed.
Hearing him enter the room, Marissa turned towards him and motioned for him to join her bed. He did not need invited twice. Stripping his clothes off hastily, it was their custom to sleep in the nude, he crawled under the covers of their bed, the central air of the house making the comforters a necessity.
"I bought you a new book, too," Marissa said distractedly, pointing her hand towards his nightstand and not looking up from her own book. "I thought we could read this together."
"Sure," Ryan shrugged her off not even turning to look at his copy. "but not tonight. I've missed you."
Slightly frustrated at how he was not catching any of the signs she had been putting out for him, declining anything alcoholic at dinner, complaining she was tired, the color scheme of her seduction techniques, the book she was pretending to read in order for him to see the title, Marissa spoke up again, her tone irritated. "I missed you, too, Ryan, but you could at least look at the gift. It wouldn't kill you to at least pretend you appreciate it."
"Marissa," Ryan whined, "we haven't been together….together for over a month for various reasons….mainly my work, but still…." His voice trailed off; his meaning implied.
Giving up, Marissa decided to pull out the big guns.
"I know, I know," she agreed with him, sitting up in bed and tossing her book aside. Hot, she pushed the covers off of her legs and Ryan noticed, even more, just how sexy her new lingerie was. "It's just….I haven't felt very attractive lately. I've put on some weight."
"Marissa, don't be ridiculous," Ryan dismissed her cares, completely shocked that this was what was bothering her. She looked amazing, never better Ryan thought. "You haven't put on any weight."
"Yes, I have," she insisted, taking his hand and pulling it towards her stomach. At first he seemed to protest her actions, knowing that she wanted him to agree with her that she had put on weight but also knowing that admitting that…if it were true….would be disastrous for their evening and, potentially, their relationship for the next few weeks, but eventually he gave in. Slowly, Marissa saw realization start to wash over his face, and as the idea started to form in his mind, Ryan's eyes moved around the room quickly as if re-examining everything she had set up so carefully.
Staring up at her with wonder and awe in his sparkling eyes, Ryan's voice emotionally rang out, "are you saying what I think you're saying?"
"What I'm saying," Marissa giggled, scooting back down in the bed after sliding her gown off of her body, "is that I missed my husband and he better take advantage of the situation while I'm still relatively attractive and not swollen, moody, and eating 24 hours a day."
"That'll be hot as hell," Ryan said as he gently climbed on top of her, resting his body on his knees and lowering his face towards hers, but before she could kiss him, he dropped his lips to her abdomen instead and kissed it softly. With tears in her eyes, Marissa watched as her husband, the sports coach, silently watched her stomach rise and fall with every breath she took, his vision transfixed upon the tiny bump starting to form. Slowly, he moved his hands to it and delicately caressed her abdomen, the love he felt for her and their unborn child she was carrying evident in his eyes. Finally, they connected again, blue on blue as their bodies came together out of love, joy, and celebration for the life they had created as one.
Finally, after a dinner of chicken cordon blue, Marissa and Ryan realized their fate….together.