A/N: Okay, so this little story comes with quite a few warnings. First of all, I don't even know if I like it. I like the idea of it, but writing Ryan and Marissa in high school is not my forte. I'm 21, a senior in college, and high school seems so long ago. Plus, I was never your typical high school student anyway. I was like the 80 year old yenta trapped in a high schooler's body and life. Trust me, so not Newport cool. LOL Secondly, it's sappy and has straigns of 'happily ever after' which is so over used, but I wanted to see this story in writing...perhaps I should have just asked someone else to pen it though. Finally, there is some ambiguity here, because I just didn't want to have to handle some of the issues that came up on the show. If you have questions, ask, and I'll be glad to answer them for you. Well, I've rambled long enough...and probably scared you all away. Hehe! Without further ado, here it is; do with it what you will, and, if it's possible, enjoy!

Charlynn

Turning the Tables – A One Shot

So this is senior prom? This is what you hear about your whole life, the event to set as the benchmark to your high school career, the night that's supposed to be the best night of your life? Boy, I got screwed.

I'm here, surrounded by a bunch of people I really don't like and who don't like me, with an old friend from my childhood, someone I really don't understand anymore…and she's a mom. I'm at my freaking senior prom with a MILF, but I've been there, done that, and it really did not turn out too well. To top it all off, she just keeps rambling on about some guy, like I actually give a shit. Perhaps she should have been Seth's date. While she talked on and on about this older, mystery guy, Seth could have blathered on about Summer, a match made in self-absorbed heaven if you ask me.

I should have known better though, after all, asking her to be my date was Seth's idea in the first place. Will I ever learn not to take his advice? It NEVER gets me anywhere. I should have just stayed home, skipped this clichéd event, and lounged in the poolhouse all night, at least that way I wouldn't have to see her with him, see how badly he treats her, how miserable she is, how lost she seems.

What the hell is wrong with me? I dumped her; I, Ryan Atwood, dumped her, Marissa Cooper, but now, while I'm dancing, badly, with another woman, all I can think about is my ex-girlfriend. She's everywhere. If I close my eyes, I see her standing, all alone, abandoned, isn't that the theme of our lives, with a saddened smile on her face looking…amazing, but as soon as I open them back up to escape her haunting vision, my eyes immediately seek out her form. I am an addict and she's my drug of choice.

I can't do anything about it though. We're finished…over…done with, forever, but…. Would it be so bad just to talk to her? It's not like Theresa would miss me. She could just keep talking to herself and it would be no different than how it is now with me standing a few inches away from her. But no, I can't. She's here with someone else, even though he's not even paying attention to her. He's off somewhere, in a dark corner, drinking or snorting something instead of taking advantage of the fact that he's probably the luckiest man on the face of the earth, being here with her. Wait…did I just say that…well think that? Get a grip, man; this cannot happen again. You've tried, multiple times, and things just never work out. Yeah, maybe because you never talked to her, never completely let her in, overreacted and pushed her away when she did nothing to deserve it. No, even if I wanted to…be with her again, make things right, fix what I broke, actually apologize, it's not like she would take me back. She's with someone else now, because I let her go, running right into his arms.

God, what time is it? Is it ridiculous night even close to being over yet? 9:00, you've got to be kidding me! Well, maybe just a small, innocent conversation wouldn't be so bad…

This wasn't how tonight was supposed to be. I was supposed to be with him…with the only guy I could ever picture myself with in the future, the only one I ever truly wanted to be with. I was supposed to meet him at his house, showing up early so I could surprise him when he's getting ready, slipping my arms around his waist and holding his body, the only thing that makes me feel safe, close to mine. He was supposed to turn around, see me in my dress, and, just like always, never quite figure out what to say to express what he thought, stumbling over his words and giving up to flash me a happy, cheesy grin before kissing me. I'd wait around while he finished getting dressed, teasing him, sneaking peeks at his body as he moved around, comfortable in his own personal oasis that is the poolhouse, and he'd catch me as he returned those gazes, making me blush. Then, together, holding hands, we'd go outside to see the parents, to meet our friends, getting out pictures taken but not even listening to instructions for we would be too lost in each other.

He'd insist we drive separately, holding my hand the entire time, so that we would have an escape vehicle to leave the boring dance early. There though, I'd playfully beg him to dance with me, and, of course, he'd give in; he always gave in, and we would end up in a secluded corner, ignored and tolerated by the other students as we barely moved, our bodies pushed as close as possible, his lips only leaving mine to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. When no one was watching, too absorbed in their own worlds, we'd make our getaway, finding someplace quiet, private to be alone together, making love all night long, eventually falling asleep in each others arms.

Yeah, I know, it's corny and passé, but it's my fantasy, and we were Ryan and Marissa; when we were together and working, we were that perfect of a couple. Sure, those ideal moments were brief and few and far between, but I lived for them. I still do, a small part of me, the only part that has any hope left, waiting for the day when we get back together. I know it's not going to happen, that he's moved on, finally realized that he can do so much better than me, but if I give up that dream, I'll have nothing left. I just wish that somehow I'd be able to pull it together, make myself a better person, his equal, so then I would deserve him and those few and far between, flawless moments of bliss.

But for now, he's happy…right. At least, I think he's happy, and he doesn't need me going up to him, just to talk, to ruin his night. He deserves one of those magical prom nights I've always heard about and fantasized about, and he's with Theresa. No matter how much it pains me to admit it, they've always had a connection, and she understands him. She's stable, strong, mature, confident, everything I'm not and everything Ryan deserves. She makes him happy…but, if he really was happy, why does he look so depressed, lost even?

Quit it, Marissa; quit watching your ex. He's moved on, he's finally past you and the mess you call a life. Let him be. Just turn around, pretend to be interested in watching other people dance and enjoy their senior prom, and leave Ryan alone. In fact, maybe you should go and find your date, you know, Volchok, or…maybe just stay. It's probably better not to know what he's doing anyway.

"Don't you think you should save some of that punch for people who are actually dancing," a quiet, shy voice teased her from behind, making Marissa turn around in surprise, a wide, gracious smile immediately enhancing the splendor of her already glowing face.

"Hey."

"Hey." They just stayed there, rooted in their spots and silent, unsure of themselves, unsure of the situation, and unsure of what to say. How did you do this, talk to your ex on prom night, especially when you weren't quite sure that's what you wanted them to be. "So," Ryan eventually spoke up, grinning nervously at her, breaking the silence which had fallen between them, "where's your date?"

"I don't know….off on his own, probably doing something illegal. Where's yours," Marissa returned the question back to him, noticing his amused expression at her flip comment about Volchok.

"Oh, well, my date is off on the phone with her current…boyfriend…friend…something, I really don't know what he is, but I do know I'm sick of hearing about him." Rolling his eyes and moving closer to her so he was standing by her side, his arm barely grazing against hers, he continued. "Prom hasn't exactly been what I thought it would be like."

Laughing, Marissa agreed with him. "You could say that again!"

"I mean," Ryan started, turning to look into her eyes, amazed by what he saw in them, feeling himself getting lost, once again, in their profound, emotional, honest sapphire blue depths, "even last year, with everything that was going on was better than tonight."

A dreamy expression, nostalgic and longing, covered Marissa's face as her mind floated back to that magical night the year before, a change that did not go unnoticed by Ryan. "Yeah….last year was pretty amazing, wasn't it….well, at least, after you eventually showed up." Needing to lighten the mood, she playfully bumped her hips against his, having to close her eyes briefly as her body was suddenly filled with waves of desire, berating herself for forgetting that there was no such thing as a lighthearted touch, a simple, friendly embrace between her and Ryan. "And not even wearing a tux," she eventually continued after giving herself a moment to regain control of her feelings. "I have to say this year you definitely look more prom appropriate, but I'm not quite sure if I like it."

"Oh, thanks a lot, Marissa," Ryan joked with her, missing the meaning of her statement, "way to give a guy a compliment."

"No, that's not it," she protested, yelling silently to herself when she once again connected their bodies together by reaching out to grasp his hand, an innocent gesture meant to gain his attention. "You….you're just Ryan, unpretentious, simple, comfortable, and, for some reason, no matter how many times I see you dressed up, I can't get used to it. In my mind, you should just always be in a basic pair of jeans and a t-shirt, your clothes matching your personality." Seeing him watching her intently, she gestured towards his outfit, attempting to, once again, hide the importance of her words. "Come on, you have to admit it; you hate wearing that and are counting down the minutes until you can change?"

Nodding his head, he agreed with her. "When you're right, you're right."

"Thank you."

"But you," he began emphatically, letting his eyes finally roam her body unapologetically, "you were made to wear clothes like this. I mean, you look great in anything, but when you wear a dress like the one you have on tonight….it's like…you're like, I don't know,….well you leave me speechless."

It was Marissa's undoing. She had been trying to remain aloof, emotionally closed off, acting like she was merely his friend, but no one had told her anything about her appearance that night, no one had complimented her and made her feel as if her careful consideration and work had mattered, and to hear her first compliment, especially such an amazing one, from Ryan, it broke through the wall she had built around her heart, tears welling in her eyes before she could turn away from his piercing gaze.

"Hey," he said concerned, turning her back to look at him, "did I say something wrong?"

"No," she answered him, smiling brightly as she spoke, "not at all. It was just…exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you."

"Come on," Ryan suggested, nodding towards the door that would take them outside. "What do you say we get out of here for a few minutes, get some fresh air?" Surprising her, he put his hand out for her to grasp.

"I'd like that," she admitted, slipping her hand into his and feeling her heart leap at the touch of his skin against hers. It just felt so right, like her hand belonged with his.

It only took a moment for them to make their way through the crowd of teenagers, escaping into the fresh, relaxing night air, the only illumination outside coming from the moon and the soft, white lights streamed throughout the decorative trees of the campus. It looked like prom night the year before; the only difference was they were acquaintances and Ryan was not coming to hold her close and sweep her off her feet. This time they were just two friends going for a walk, sharing a pleasant, easy conversation.

"So, what do you want to do," Marissa asked him, gesturing to the wooden benches peppering the lawn. "Do you want to sit….or we could stand? I don't care; either option works for me."

"It's prom, Marissa," Ryan teased her, making her blush. "That means we're supposed to dance." And just like that, everything for Marissa was right in the world again. She was back in Ryan's arms, and he wasn't just holding her like an old pal or a new acquaintance; his arms were wrapped around her tightly, drawing her body into his, his face finding its way to the side of hers, his breath warm and familiar against her cheek, his gentle words lulling her into a sense of comfort and peace. "Is this okay," he questioned quietly, not wanting to make her feel uncomfortable.

"Almost," she replied, surprising him when she enclosed her arms around his neck, pulling him even closer, and buried her face into his chest, taking in his essence and instantly feeling at home. "There, that's perfect."

She didn't know what she was doing; she didn't know what they were doing, but for the first time in months, her life made sense, and she wasn't going to argue with that, even if it only lasted for a few minutes. She needed this, she needed to feel this close to Ryan, and she was not going to question her feelings or her instincts any longer. As the first song finished and another one began, they just kept on dancing slowly in each arms, totally oblivious to the fact that the music's tempo was much too quick and upbeat for their motions. The minutes past by at a dizzying pace; neither noticing how long they had been away from their dates or the rest of the world, and even though she didn't want to ruin the moment, Marissa could not remain quiet any longer. She had to tell him how she felt.

"I've missed you," she choked out, her voice merely a raspy whisper as she fought against her emotions, attempting to keep them at bay, "so much."

He pulled away from her, moving his hands to cup her face delicately so she would look at him. Smoothing away her hair, he stared into her eyes for what seemed like forever, searching their depths for reassurance, needing to know that she had no doubts about what she had just told him. Finally, leaning his forehead against hers, refusing to break their eye contact, he spoke. "I've missed you, too."

Slowly yet sure of himself, he joined their lips together, merely meeting them once and locking their embrace, refusing to pull away or break their connection, savoring her taste, her flavor, her nearness, forgetting to breathe and not caring about the lack of it, a lone, silent tear of thanks and joy trickling down Marissa's beautiful face. It wasn't lustful or greedy, but honest, forgiving, and tender, and for that moment when they were finally one again, the world stopped and the only thing that existed was Ryan AND Marissa.

"Well, isn't this just precious," a taunting, spiteful, frigid voice sounded off behind them, breaking the two completely infatuated teenagers apart. His tone was steady, barely showing any emotion, but Marissa knew that was when he was at his most dangerous.

"I'm….um….I…."

"You're what, Marissa," he interrupted her, fed up with her stuttering. "You're sorry? Wow, that really makes me feel better. Thanks."

"No, that's not what I was going to say, Volchok" she answered him, a cool defiantness entering her eyes, "because I'm not sorry. Maybe what I did was wrong and maybe I should be sorry, but I can't apologize for something I don't regret."

"So, you're back to calling me Volchok and taking orders, again, from little bitch, here," he sneered at her, pulling a cigarette out and lighting it before continuing. "What happened to Kevin? I do believe that's….yeah….that's definitely what you screamed last night when I was fucking your brains out."

She shuddered at his crude words, but refused to break in front of him. If she showed weakness, if she backed down, he would win. Before she could say anything to defend herself though, Ryan had turned to face her, gently taking her hands in his.

"Why don't you go to the car; I'll be right there."

"But Ryan….," she tried to protest, only to be silenced by his smile and caring gaze.

"I promise, just two minutes. I just want to go inside, grab our things, and tell Theresa that I'm leaving. I at least owe her that much." When she was still hesitant to leave him, he spoke up once more. "And I promise I won't do anything you wouldn't approve of."

Realizing that meant he wouldn't fight Volchok, no matter what, she did what he asked, turning away and walking towards the parking lot, refusing to let go of his hand though until she absolutely had to. He watched her leave, his eyes never straying from her form until she disappeared from his sight, before turning back around to face the angry man behind him. "It's funny, Volchok," he started, smirking at him as if he had not a care in the world, "how the tables have turned. Not even a week ago I saw you on the pier full on making out with some random girl, cheating on Marissa. I didn't even have to tell her about it, and she cheated on you all on her own, not out of vengeance or hurt or pain or cruelty, but because she never cared about you in the first place." Walking off, he spoke once more, not even bothering to turn his head as he said his final words. "See you around, Volchok."

And with that, Ryan left, doing just what he said and going back into the school to retrieve his and Marissa's things before saying goodbye to an old friend he no longer felt a connection with, completely oblivious to the enemy he had turned his back on and the plan he was spinning not out of revenge but from greed.

"What is this," Ryan asked, laughing as he climbed into the driver's side of the Range Rover, stunned pleasure transforming his face into a smile.

"This," Marissa answered with a wide, teasing grin on her face, turning to look at him, "is Aerosmith's Greatest Hits. They might not be as corny as Journey, but they're known to record a sappy ballad every once in a while, and I thought this could be a music compromise for us."

"I see," Ryan laughed as he started the vehicle, taking Marissa's hand in his as he drove out of the parking lot, "but I have one question for you. Where did you get this CD, because I know it wasn't in this car?"

"I borrowed it."

"You borrowed it," he questioned her, rolling his eyes.

"Yeah, from a friend," she expanded her answer, attempting to appear innocent. When he just turned to look at her, disbelief in his eyes, she protested weakly. "What?"

"We have the same friends, all two of them," he pointed out, "and neither Seth nor Summer listen to Aerosmith. Where did you really get the CD?"

"It's…..on loan." Laughing, she continued. "I was just minding my own business, walking to the car, when I saw that someone had left their window down. Curious, I approached the vehicle, peered inside, and noticed their CD case out on the seat. I didn't see you coming yet, so I took a peak, saw this, and decided we could put it to better use."

"So, you stole it," Ryan accused her playfully.

"No," she argued, "I borrowed it, like I said. I'm going to return it….the next time I see the car, which will probably be graduation. I'll just stick a note on it, thanking the owners for their generosity in letting us use it, of course keeping the confession anonymous, and leave it on the hood of their car for them to find when they go to leave."

"Well, as long as you leave a note," he mocked her, chuckling when she stuck her tongue out at him. "So," he asked changing the subject, "what do you want to do; where do you want to go? The diner's probably open or we could go to the beach."

"If you don't mind, I think I'd prefer to be alone….with you, just the two of us, so maybe not the diner."

"That sounds good to me," Ryan agreed with her, bringing her hand up and kissing it softly. They were quiet for a moment as they both thought of what they could do. Finally, stopping at a red light, he turned to her, noticing the far off expression on her face. "Hey, what are you thinking about?"

"I just….do you know what I wish we could do?" Not waiting for his answer, she just pushed on, explaining herself. "I wish my Dad's boat was still around so we could take it out on the harbor tonight, just you, me, the ocean, and the stars. There's something so peaceful, so soothing about the sea at night."

Ryan was silent as he thought about what she said even after they pulled away from the intersection. Suddenly excited, he spoke up. "I have an idea. It might not be your Dad's yacht, but it's better than nothing." With one last glance at Marissa to see her smile at him out of anticipation and curiosity, he sped off down the road, their destination known only to him.

"I can't believe you thought of this," Marissa exclaimed breathlessly, turning around in Ryan's arms to delicately trace his face with her index finger before settling back into his embrace. "This is perfect."

"I can't believe Seth never repainted this boat," Ryan pointed out, laughing. "You do realize that we're sailing in the 'Gimme Sex' right now, don't you?"

"I don't even want to know how his boat came to have that name," Marissa giggled. "It has to be a disturbing story, and right now, I don't want anything to spoil this moment."

They were floating along in the balmy May breeze just off the coast of the Cohen's small, private beach, the fresh, sea air and melodic waves the only sounds besides their hushed, warm voices. Still dressed in their prom finest, neither Ryan nor Marissa cared if they ruined their dress clothes, for they were alone on the ocean, the starry sky their canopy of dreams.

"Ryan," Marissa said softly, breaking through the stillness of the night.

"Hmm," he responded, so relaxed with her in his arms, his eyes were closed.

"You do know that I never stopped caring, right, that I never stopped loving you." Sniffling to keep her tears at bay, her words and tone snapping Ryan's eyes open, she pushed on, unable to shove their issues aside any longer and needing to talk to him about their past and what had gone wrong between them. "It wasn't even about you by the time we broke up."

"You mean when I broke up with you….on the phone," he interrupted her. She could tell by his voice that he was blaming himself, that he was bitter and regretful; the tightening of his embrace showing her that he was afraid of the conversation they were starting and fearing that he would loose her.

"At this point," she admitted, sighing, "does it really matter who broke up with whom or how you did it? What's important is that we talk about why it happened in the first place."

"You're right," Ryan agreed, kissing her neck tenderly, "and when I told you that night that it wasn't about Trey or Johnny, I was lying. For me, it was always about them, but, of course, I couldn't talk about it. I never can."

"You're talking to me now," Marissa pointed out, "and perhaps it's a good thing that we're doing this in the middle of the ocean." Giggling, she continued, "Because, this way, neither of us can run away."

He joined in her laughter, lightly tickling her, needing to keep their mood light even if their words were heavy. "You think you're cute, don't you?"

"Absolutely adorable," she shot back at him, making him laugh again. After a moment, she spoke up. "But in all seriousness, I meant what I said; it wasn't about you. I was just….lost in my own pain and grief, too wrapped up in feeling guilty to see anything else. You know," she realized, "it was sort of like I was punishing myself. I might not have been responsible for Johnny's death in the eyes of the law, but that didn't make me feel any less to blame."

"But why," Ryan asked her. "I never understood why you would feel like it was your fault he died. It's not like you were the one drinking, and you tried to help him."

"Yeah, but I was the reason he was drunk and up on that cliff in the first place," she revealed, turning in his arms to look at him before she continued to explain. "Do you remember telling me I needed to choose once and for all who I wanted?" He nodded to show that he did. "Well, as you know, I chose you, but I never took the time to talk to Johnny about it. I merely wrote him this blunt, cold note telling him that I loved you, only you, and that I could never feel that way about him and then went to fix things with you as quickly as I could." When he went to argue with her, she stopped him, putting a single finger to his lip. "I know what you're going to say, and you're right, I didn't make him do what he did, but that still didn't mean I didn't feel guilty, just like I know you felt guilty when Theresa came back to town after Eddie beat her because you didn't stop her from going home to Chino. Neither of us did anything wrong in those situations, but you can't tell me you didn't blame yourself….just like I did."

"You're right, again," Ryan conceded, shaking his head in disbelief. "It is so scary sometimes how alike we are, but, what you said makes sense, and, now that I know how you felt, your actions don't seem so confusing any longer, but we still wouldn't have been in that situation if I would have been there for you….," he swallowed thickly, gaining control over his emotions, "about Trey."

"Why wouldn't you," she asked him, expanding upon her question when he looked at her slightly confused. "Why wouldn't you talk to me about him? I know that you cared, that you weren't just dismissing me, although, back then, it felt like that sometimes, but I still don't understand."

Ryan snorted, fed up with himself. "Do you want the blunt truth," he offered her, carrying on even before she could respond. "I was a coward. It hurt too much to think about what he did to you, what you had to do to save my life, and feeling that way made me angry, angry that I couldn't help you, that I couldn't even help myself, so I ignored it and everything you were going through trying to forget it even happened in the first place."

"But that's just it," Marissa pointed out gently, not wanting to hurt him, "neither of us are strong enough to deal with this on our own, but when we're together, you and I vs. the world, we're stronger, capable of fighting those who try to hurt us and pull us down. You can't save me and I can't save you, but we can save each other….together, as one, but we can't do this unless we talk to each other, let each other in all the way, no secrets, like we are now."

"That's what I want," Ryan agreed with her, "I just don't know how to do it."

"Do you trust me?"

"What," he asked her confused.

"Do you trust me," Marissa repeated, moving his right hand to cover her heart and doing the same with her own hand to his chest.

Closing his eyes to take the moment in, Ryan didn't respond until he reopened his eyes and linked their gazes together. "More than I trust myself."

"Then trust that I love you, that I'm never going to stop, that I won't leave you, no matter what, and that I won't judge you. You're my Ryan, nothing is going to change that. You'll never be able to disappoint me, so you don't have to be afraid to let me in, to depend upon me. I already depend upon you. Okay?"

"Okay," he agreed, shaking his head up and down rapidly, his eyes shut tight to contain his emotions. Leaning in, he rested his forehead against hers, needing to feel her near him. After getting his feelings under control, he whispered almost inaudible, "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"What am I not sorry for," he returned quickly, pulling away from her to look into her eyes, taking her face into his hands and cupping it delicately. "I did so many things wrong while we were together, and then when I pulled away from you, turning to other people, you have no idea what I said….how bitter and cruel I was, how wrong I treated you and what he had shared together."

"It's not like I was completely innocent when we were broken up, Ryan," she shared, trying to get him to lighten up on himself, "and to be honest with you, I don't want to focus upon what we said or did when we were apart. People always say and do things after a break up that they don't mean, but that doesn't mean we should beat ourselves up forever because of them."

"Yeah, but I did some things….."

"Ryan," she stopped him by interrupting what he was going to say, "you really don't have to tell me about that; it's not going to change how I feel about you, but," she amended when he went to argue with her, "if it will prove to you that I don't care about the past, we'll each tell each other the worst thing we did while we were apart. Okay, and I'll go first." Sighing, she spoke slowly; her embarrassment and shame making her blush deeply and turn her gaze away from his. "I did a lot of things I'm not proud of when I was with Volchok, but the worst thing was something I always swore to myself I'd never do, something that I said I'd never stoop low enough to even consider; I did cocaine….more than once."

"Did he force you," Ryan asked, instantly feeling his animosity for Volchok rising again.

"No, he didn't force me; he barely even pressured me. I knew he had it, that he used it, and one night, he offered it to me. He said something, but I was so lost, I never even heard what he said. I just saw this escape in front of me, something that was going to be stronger than the alcohol that was no longer really helping me forget my pain, and I gave in."

"But what….what would you push you that far," Ryan wondered out loud, wanting more information.

"Does it really matter," she questioned him. "What's done is done, and it was so stupid. I wish, more than anything I could go back to that night and take it back, but I can't. The only thing I can do is learn from my mistakes and try not to do it again." Laughing ruefully at herself, she pointed out, "I doubt anything you did was worse than that."

"I cheated on you," Ryan blurted out, making her jump back in surprise, recoiling from his grasp as soon as the painful words left his lips. "I mean….I didn't sleep with her or even kiss her for that matter before we broke up, but I talked to her about our relationship, telling her things I had no business talking anyone but you, and, when we were away together looking for Johnny's Dad, I played strip poker with her, knowing that she was flirting with me the entire time and not minding it, even flirting back with her." Roughly, he rubbed his face as if he wanted to scrub off his guilt and shame. "I knew it was wrong then, and you have no idea how much I regret what I did that weekend and after we broke up, because I had no business being with someone else when it was only out of spite towards you while I was trying to hurt you as much as I could out of….I don't know, some sick form of payback because your friendship with Johnny. Now do you see why I have to tell you about everything I did wrong when we were apart?"

"No, I don't," Marissa answered him, shocking Ryan in the process. "I won't lie to you, what you told me hurts; it hurts more than I can even say, but, like I said, no matter what you do, I can't stop loving you. You're a part of me, always have been since the moment I met you."

"I don't deserve you," he whispered huskily, pulling her body into his and wrapping his arms around her tightly, burying his head in her shoulder.

"Yes you do, Ryan," she said softly, "and you deserve so much more than me, but I'm hoping," she laughed, pushing his head up so he would look at her, "that you'll settle for me anyway."

"If getting to be with you is settling," Ryan teased her, "I plan on settling for the rest of my life." As she smiled back at him, he leaned in and kissed her lightly, his lips barely dancing across hers. "You're all I've ever wanted."

Letting her hands embrace his face tenderly, Marissa rejoined their mouths together, once again, their kiss passionate, loving, a promise of their future as a couple, and as it continued, neither of them ever wanting to break away, the little boat continued to float along with the waves back towards the shore, the stars a thousands jewels in the sky shining just for them.

"So, do you want to spend the night," Marissa asked coyly, giggling as Ryan tried, unsuccessfully to take her lips in another seductive kiss, his body pressed into hers outside of the door to Summer's house.

"What happened to taking things slowly, getting to know one another again as we date," Ryan teased her, already moving towards the door, his hands placed low on her hips.

"I never said we were going to do anything like that," Marissa laughed at his presumptuous manner, "but it's prom night, we're young, and we should not be going to bed early. Besides, I'm hungry and you're the only one who can satisfy my craving."

"Just what are you alluding to, Miss Cooper?"

"I've been wanting one of your grilled cheese sandwiches so badly lately, I think I dreamt about them last night," she admitted with a grin plastered on her face as she unlocked the door and they moved inside together. Leading him up the stairs, she continued to talk. "I thought you could cook while I served as your assistant, and then we'd go back up into my room and watch movies all night long until we fall asleep."

"Sounds like a plan," Ryan agreed, "but I have one stipulation, no sad movies."

Smiling at him, Marissa responded, "you read my mind, and, hey, in exchange for cooking, I'll let you pick what we watch."

"Too bad you're guaranteed to like them, too, since I'll be choosing from your selection."

"It's the gesture that counts," she pointed out playfully, getting her pajamas out of her dresser, turning around for him to unzip her dress.

"And what am I supposed to wear," he inquired, looking down at the formal outfit he still had on from prom.

She merely rolled her eyes. "Please, like you don't have on a pair of boxers and a wife beater under that suit," she pointed out sarcastically. As she watched him strip off his clothes, she smirked when she saw that she was right, slipping on her own pajamas, a loose, comfortable, big, and baggy t-shirt she had stolen from Ryan while they were still dating and had never returned after they broke up. Both changed and cozy, he joined their hands together and pulled her after him down the hallway towards the stairs as they made their way to the kitchen.

"So, what are your plans for tomorrow," he questioned her.

"Well, let me see," she mused. "I'll probably sleep in really late as one should the morning after prom, help Summer recover from her hangover, because, out of everyone, I do have the most experience there, and then,"she continued in a mock begrudging tone, "I guess I'll spend time with you."

"What would you say if I told you I had a better idea?"

"I'd say you better share, Mister."

Rounding the corner into the kitchen, he moved towards the fridge to pull out supplies for their sandwiches while she got the utensils out that he would need to man the grill. Once they had everything the sandwiches would require, they moved together outside onto the patio, Ryan finally answering her once he started working.

"I was thinking we could take a road trip this weekend, just you and me. Think about it," he suggested, "we're basically done with school. Next week will be nothing but getting our yearbooks, graduation practice, and skipping classes, and we deserve this."

"And you don't think Sandy and Kirsten would care," she asked getting excited.

Sighing, he answered, "I really don't think they'll even notice I'm gone."

"What, Ryan, what do you mean?"

"It's nothing," he answered, correcting himself when he saw she was about to protest. "Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow; we'll have quite a bit of time to kill in the car on our way up to where we're going, so it will give us something to talk about."

"Better," she praised him teasingly, kissing his cheek. "Now tell me where we're going."

"I was thinking Berkley," Ryan answered, turning to see her reaction. "I know that your trip there during the prospective student weekend didn't go that well and neither did mine, but that's not what it would be like for us there. First of all, we'd be together, not avoiding each other, dancing around our past, or making small talk when we accidentally were in the same place. We wouldn't live on campus but in an apartment together, and we wouldn't be stuck with annoying freshman buddies. Plus, we need to explore the city. It has more to offer than the school itself."

"Do we need to book a hotel," she asked, smiling at him, her willingness to go and enthusiasm making him return her grin.

"Nope."

"I know you didn't already book a room, so where are we going to stay?"

"I thought we'd do this cheaply, so we won't have to worry about asking anyone for money," he suggested. "All we'll need is gas money, because we can pack our food and we're going to go camping."

"Camping," she repeated, disbelieving his suggestion. "You want me to go camping….and I doubt you're planning on doing it in a mall this time."

"No mall," he concurred, "but that was a good night, probably the only time I've ever had fun in a mall."

"Oh no," Marisa disagreed with him, slipping behind his body and wrapping her arms around his waist, letting her hands slide under his wife beater, her fingers tickling his well-developed abdomen, "I know for a fact we had fun at the mall several other times….but that was probably because we were all alone, no Seth, no Summer, just you, me, some dressing rooms, and some very naughty behavior."

"We should go shopping more often," Ryan realized out loud, twisting his head to give her a quick, desire filled kiss, "but for now, our snack is ready." Turning back around, he removed their sandwiches, putting them on the plate Marissa had brought out with her, turning off the grill, and going back in the house with her, their free hands, once again, linked together. She stopped and grabbed drinks as they passed by the fridge on their way back upstairs. "And what about your Mom," he asked her, "will she be cool with us going off this weekend by ourselves?"

"Yeah, I don't think she'll mind," Marissa answered him, her eyes twinkling with mischief "but even if she did, when has my Mom ever stopped me from doing something, especially when it came to you?"

"So then I guess we're going to Berkley," Ryan said, excited. Roguishly, he added, "since we'll be leaving early tomorrow morning, maybe we should go to bed early, skip the movies."

Marissa smiled at him, chuckling at his audacity. Catching him off guard, she yelled, already sprinting up the stairs. "Race you for the pillows."

And just like that, they disappeared down the hallway, her feminine giggles and his booming laugh echoing throughout the empty house. They were together again, having fun, moving forward, growing together, and nothing this time was going to pull them apart, not the petty arguments they were bound to get into over whose turn it was to take out the garbage when they lived together, not the numerous third parties who, in college, would try, unsuccessfully, to turn their heads away from the other, and not the cell phone loudly ringing inside of the Range Rover where no one could hear it as the terrified after prom partiers called for Ryan's help. Somehow, they had gotten the perfect senior prom, with their own form of magic, after all, and that was something that could not be wasted. As one book closed in their lives as they said goodbye to high school, to their innocence, to their childhood, another opened full of new adventures and challenges they would face together….as a couple.