A/N: Okay, bear with me, but I have to ramble for a few minutes. First of all, this idea is not mine. Originally, the inspiration for this story comes from the movie Love Actually, and the actual fic credit goes to Mel and Jess for asking for it months ago. Initially, I thought it was an impossible for task for me to conquer, but the more I thought about it, I realized I was approaching it from the wrong angle. It was possible. However, it is long - 21 pages long in fact, so it will have to be split up into two posts, but they are meant to be read as one entry. Secondly, I'm about to enter into a very stressful time period of school, finals are approaching, when I have TONS of work due, so I have no idea how often I'll be updating. I'll try to post as much as possible, but, and as much as I hate to admit this, school work must come first. Hope you all stick with me. Thanks and enjoy!


Seamless – A One Shot

A partner….A PARTNER, for the first time in his life, Ryan Atwood would have to work with someone else. Before, it had always been solo jobs. He had never had to worry about making small talk with someone or embarrassing himself. The crew members he worked with were professionals; nothing fazed them, but a partner, that was a whole different story. It had been assigned to him though, and unless he wanted to lose his job, which was a definite no, he would have to suck it up, put on his game face, and get through one week of what was sure to be pure torture. As soon as the week was over, he'd go back to working on his own, insist that he only have solo jobs. However, he realized, trying to find the positive aspect of the work week that awaited him, he got paid more when he was working with a partner. What he would make in the next five days was enough to pay his bills for a whole month, meaning he would have time to just….hang out, read, play video games, watch movies, think, three and half weeks of pure, lazy bliss.

He really didn't have anything else to do with his time anyway. With few aspirations and no idea of what he wanted to do with his life, he merely floated by, earning enough money through his part-time job to pay for his living expenses and reward himself with a few, meaningless perks like a good cut of steak or tickets at half court to watch his beloved Lakers. Six years ago when he had barely graduated from high school, he had just wanted to escape the curse of his family. Luckily, he had somehow avoided prison the first eighteen years of his life, but he knew, if he stayed in touch with his brother, that would change, in all likelihood, very quickly. So, with an old, beat up pickup, barely enough money to fill his gas tank once, and a duffle bag full of clothes, he had set out on his own.

Life for a while had been tough, finding work and cheap places to stay proving difficult with only a high school education and no references, but, eventually, he found a job working for a fruit farmer out in the middle of nowhere, taking care of his orchards. The work had been back breaking, hard labor, but being outside, working with his hands, his body had become toned, strong, and tanned. Plus, his room and board had been included with his salary, so he could save his money and stock it away. Although he had liked the solitary nature of the job, he had missed the comforts of the city, so packing up his truck, he had moved back to LA, and once again entered the job market, competing against thousands of other desperate people for a chance at a good life.

Eventually, he had found a position delivering packages and express mail. It had been monotonous, but it paid well, not to mention it had led him to finding his current job, which had been a dream come true. How it had happened had been really random and lucky. All he did was walk into a man's office for him to sign for a package. There must have been something about his appearance that he had liked, because he had signed him to a contract that day. Although Ryan had been skeptical about the work at first, he couldn't argue with the money, and who was he to turn down a good job that just fell into his lap. So, two weeks after he had turned in his notice, he had started working at his current job, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Four years later, as he pulled into his parking spot, the rain pouring from the angry, dark grey, March, Southern California sky cascading off his windshield with the quick, robotic motions of his wipers, he could safely say he had a good life. His apartment, though small, was outside of the city, on the beach, and comfortable. He had long gotten rid of the truck he had left home with and now drove a small, efficient, sleek car. It was nothing showy, but he liked it and it got him from place to place without any problems. Plus, he had made a few friends, finally staying in one place long enough to learn to socialize. True, he wouldn't be able to do this forever, but, while it lasted, he was going to enjoy every easy moment his job provided him with.

Grabbing his lunch and a book to read during breaks, Ryan ducked his head under his coat, pulling it over himself so as to block out the whipping rain. Once he was through the lobby and into the elevator, his mind automatically blocking out the annoying drone of the instrumental music, he shook out his leather jacket, attempting to get as much water off of it as possible, and held it in his arm as he waited for the doors to open on his floor. Here goes nothing, he sighed, taking a deep breath and walking into the studio where he was working. She's probably going to be hideous, he told himself, dreading having to work with a woman who turned his stomach. Why else wouldn't she get a job acting where her face could be seen? The thought that she wasn't in their field for fame and that she just wanted to remain anonymous and still earn a good living never occurred to Ryan.

His eyes moved around the bustling room quickly, trying to find the woman he would be working with for the next week. Everyone looked familiar, the usual crew and staff members moving around at a rapid pace attempting to get the set ready for the shoot that day. The only person in the entire studio he didn't recognize had their back to them, so it was impossible to see what they looked like. Taking in her appearance, he couldn't help but chuckle. She had on a yellow rain slicker with a matching hat and galoshes, making her look both adorable and completely innocent, two things he did expect a stand in for a nude scene in a film to be. Definitely couldn't be her then, he surmised, moving his way towards the director in an attempt to listen in on his directions to find out more about the day's shoot, his eyes constantly flicking back to the unsuspecting, childlike woman talking softly to herself in the middle of the room as she wrote things down in a little notebook.

"We have to get all the scenes done in the kitchen today," the director told his assistant, "so that means you need to get the lighting crew in there to make sure I have enough illumination to work with, because there's no natural light today. Have the prop guy set up the table before we begin. And make sure it's perfectly smooth; we don't need Ryan or Marissa getting splinters on the first take."

Ryan had just enough time to take notice to the name of his scene partner that day, Marissa, before the director started giving orders again.

"Let everyone know we're going in this order: the kitchen sink/counter scene will be first, followed by the montage against the fridge, and I want both of those finished before we break for lunch. Then we'll finish with the shots on the table and the scene on the floor." The director barely took a breath before he continued, searching around the room with his eyes as he continued to give orders to his assistant. "Where are my actors; why aren't they ready yet?" When his eyes fell across Ryan, he yelled, "Atwood, get your ass in gear. What are you doing just standing around looking pretty? Go change and get into makeup. And if you can manage to drag Cooper out of her notebook, take her with you." He pointed towards the woman in the yellow rain clothing still standing in the middle of the room before turning his back on Ryan and walking off with his assistant, his arms flailing and pointing to various things he either approved or disapproved of on set.

It took Ryan several minutes to process what the director had just said, for he had not been prepared to work with the woman who had caught his eye without even seeing her face. Just the way she held herself, how graceful and lustrous her body was, told him she was beautiful, and he had to work with her….naked. Shaking himself out of his stupor, he slowly approached her not wanting to startle the young woman.

"Miss Cooper," he said hesitantly at her side. When she didn't turn to look at him, he hesitantly reached out and touched her shoulder, saying her name again. "Miss Cooper….um….the director wants us to start getting ready."

"Oh, I'm sorry," she apologized hastily, whirling around so quickly he couldn't prepare himself mentally to see her, "I just….lost track of time I guess." Sticking out her hand shyly, she smiled at him. "I'm Marissa."

"Ryan," he returned her greeting and grin, attempting to notice every small detail, every nuance of her gorgeous face. Her lips were utterly kissable, screaming attraction to him, her eyes were perhaps the most captivating color of blue he had ever seen, changing effortlessly from deep sapphire to a whimsical green whenever the right light struck them, but what he found the most adorable were the dozens of tiny, golden freckles splayed across the delicate bridge of her petite nose and high cheekbones.

"I really don't how we're supposed to do this," she confessed, startling him from his private thoughts. "I've never worked with anyone before."

Wanting to put her at ease, he confessed, "neither have I. I've actually been really worried about today."

"Me, too," Marissa agreed, laughing softly. "I had this horrible dream last night that you would be this hideous actor who couldn't get a real acting job because no one could stand to look at him. Crazy right?"

"A little bit," Ryan agreed with her, too self-conscious to admit he had had the same fears.

"Oh, look at my manors," she blurted out, reaching up and pulling off her hat, giggling in the process. "I had this great idea on my drive here this morning, so as soon as I had a chance, I wrote it down, but, I forgot to take off my hat." Shaking out her long, blonde hair, the scent of peaches filled the air around them, suddenly making it difficult for Ryan to breathe. "But anyway," she continued after stuffing her hat in her coat pocket, "what were you saying to me when you walked up…other than your name. I remember that. It's Ryan."

"I was just telling you that the director wants us to get ready," he answered her, ushering her to walk in front of him as they made their way to the dressing…..or, to be more exact, undressing area….off to the side of the studio. "From the sounds of things, we're going to have a crazy day."

"At least they picked a good week," she smiled back at him before turning around, once again, to walk. "We won't be missing any good, spring weather while we're cooped up inside here for the next five days. I heard the weather report on the radio, and they're calling for rain all week long until the weekend."

"Good thing we're not filming outside then," Ryan joked. "Filming a beach scene this week would be a bitch."

"Sand is always a nightmare," she agreed, laughing at his comment, "but wet, cold sand would be worse." Realizing that they were about to part ways to get ready for the scene separately, she turned back to face him, suddenly blushing. "Well I guess I'll see you in a little bit. It was nice to meet you," she said as she put her hand out. It was obvious to Ryan that she was nervous…just as nervous as he was about working with someone else.

"It was nice to meet you, too," he agreed with her, returning her pleasantry and shaking her hand. Nodding his head towards his dressing area, he walked off, a smile on his face until his back was towards her and she could no longer see his expression.

I'm attracted to her, he silently complained to himself. I'm really attracted to her, and now I'm going to have to work with her all week…while we're both naked, knowing that I'll never actually be able to touch her, not as me, Ryan, and her as Marissa. Rubbing his hands roughly over his face, he sighed in frustration, swearing softly to himself. "Shit," he cursed, throwing his things down on his chair in his dressing area and pulling the curtain. Nervously, he asked himself, how the hell am I going to do this?

"Okay, people," Ryan heard the director call out as he walked into the studio Friday morning, "after today, you get your paychecks. However," his voice became serious, "this is also our most difficult scene to film, the bathroom scene. We'll be filming portions of it in a shower, too, so it's not going to be any dryer in here than it is outside."

Normally, the knowledge that he had to film a shower scene would set Ryan on edge, especially if he knew he was going to be doing it with a very hot woman that he wanted so badly he was having fantasies about her outside of work, but after the week they'd had so far, a shower scene just seemed par for the course. After their first day spent in the kitchen portion on the set, the next three days had been spent filming on a couch and the set's living room, a pool table and up against a wall, and a set of stairs, so, as it became apparent that their characters, Mac and Anne, were very untraditional when it came to their sexual rendezvous, he had been expecting a bathroom scene eventually. Now that it had arrived, Ryan knew that the only way he would be able to get through hour after hour of being in a scene, naked with water cascading down them, with Marissa was if he thought of himself as Mac and her as Anne. Otherwise, the boundaries he knew he needed to keep could very well be crossed.

"Hey you," Marissa called out to him as she crossed the set. Ryan realized that she must have been there early that day, because she had already removed her rain gear and was walking around ready to film in a big, terry cloth robe and slippers. "So I was thinking," she confessed, walking beside him as he made his way back towards his dressing area, "since this is our last day and all, maybe, instead of eating alone, we could go out and grab a bite to eat….together. I mean," she blushed before stumbling over her words, "if you don't want to….that's fine, too. It was just an idea, probably a silly one. You, no doubt, have much better things to do on your break than eat with a scatterbrained nerd who was so nervous about today's shoot they left their lunch on the top of their car this morning so it flew off somewhere and, no doubt, landed in a mud puddle. Although some wild animal will probably enjoy it, that still leaves me lunch-less. Plus, you probably remembered to put your lunch inside of your car today, so it would be a waste…."

"Marissa," Ryan interrupted her, turning to hold her by the shoulders to stop her mid-step and mid-ramble, "I'd love to have lunch with you."

"You would," she asked him incredulously. The simple nod of his head and a smile reassured her of his sincerity. "Well great," she returned his smile, her enthusiasm making Ryan wonder for just a moment if she perhaps wanted this lunch to turn into more. But that's crazy, Atwood, he chastised himself. She's so out of your league.

"What do you want….desire….crave," Ryan blushed as he couldn't seem to ask the question he wanted to without insinuating other, more base, activities than eating. "Where do you want to eat," he finally managed to inquire, so embarrassed by his mouth which seemed to have a mind of its own that he never noticed the spark of interest and hopeful curiosity that leapt into Marissa's eyes as he faltered with his words. "Since lunch was your idea, you should choose the restaurant."

Her answer took him by surprise. "I was thinking something hot and spicy."


"Sounds great," Marissa agreed, flashing him a dazzling smile before tilting her head towards his dressing area, "but, before we get in trouble, perhaps you should change. If we're going to go out….I mean, for lunch of course," she reddened at her own slip of the tongue, "then we better get started with the scene soon."

With one last small grin, was that slightly flirtatious, Ryan asked himself, she walked off, the easy, natural sway of her hips as she moved captivating him even further. We'll see how lunch goes, Ryan mused to himself as his confidence started to increase. Perhaps, he reasoned, if everything goes well and I don't embarrass myself too much, then I'll ask her out…maybe.

They had filmed the shower scene first, before lunch, so, as Ryan and Marissa were finishing up their day's work, her body was reclined back onto the vanity of the bathroom set while his was standing in front of her. Their instructions had been given, so they both knew exactly what they were to do, where they were to touch each other, and how they were supposed to move to synthesize the movements of sex. Unfortunately for Ryan because he was trying to work up the courage to ask Marissa out, their last scene together was extremely intimate. Stupid bastards did that on purpose, he silently complained to himself as he moved into position.

Reminding himself once again that it was Mac touching Anne, Ryan watched as Marissa lent her body towards the mirror, tossing her head back in acted pleasure before moving his right hand to her chest. Letting his fingers splay out around the soft, milky skin of her neck, he slowly trailed his hand down her chest, in between the cleavage of her aroused breasts, his fingers gently caressing her nipples before moving on, across her long, lean torso, and lower until it finally reached her legs which were tightly clasped together, pushing them open and moving his body in between them at the same time. Looking up into Marissa's face to make sure that he hadn't made her feel uncomfortable, he noticed that she looked as if she were about to giggle. Because they were allowed to talk during filming, he started to whisper to her as her hands wound around his body, starting high on his back and sliding down to cup his ass as he held her hips and thrust his body in a steady rhythm towards hers to synthesize making love.

"What's so funny," he asked, his voice slightly husky despite his attempt to sound casual. Even though his body was acting as Mac, his mind and words were Ryan speaking to Marissa, and having his mouth that close to her neck as he spoke softly into her ear made him painfully aware of how attracted he was to her. "You know, me seeing you giggling as we're in a scene like this one does nothing to make me feel relaxed and comfortable."

"I'm sorry," Marissa apologized despite being aware of the fact that Ryan was merely teasing her. "It's just….I'm ticklish. It took everything in me not to flinch and squirm when you were running your hand down me, but I knew the crew would get pissed because we'd just have to do another take."

"Yeah, I think everyone's ready for this week to be over, and the sooner we finish this scene, the quicker we all get to leave." As soon as the words left his mouth, Ryan suddenly became depressed. It was as if he realized that if he didn't do something and do it right away, those last few minutes he and Marissa had together as they filmed their final scene could very well be the very last time they saw each other. They were normally both solo workers, so to be assigned to another project together again in the future was highly unlikely, and, in that moment, Ryan realized that not seeing Marissa again was just not an option he had. But, before he said anything, he needed to make some more small talk, boost his confidence.

"So, can I ask you something," he changed the subject.

Laughing, she teased him, "it's not as if I could just walk away and not answer you."

Rolling his eyes at her mocking words, Ryan went ahead and asked his question. "Why are you always carrying around that small notebook? What do you write down in it?"

"Ideas," she told him, only continuing when his face showed his confusion. "I hope you've realized before now that this is not my calling in life, my ultimate goal. I write….I'm a writer, and I carry a notebook with me all the time in case I get a good idea so I can jot it down. Until I can get something published though and make a name for myself, this pays the bills. I mean, you can't tell me this is what you dreamt of being when you were a little boy."

"No," Ryan agreed with her, chuckling, "definitely not. I doubt I even knew there was such a job when I was younger. I just…fell into this job, and it pays well, so here I am. How did you get started doing this," he asked her.

"It's really rather stupid," Marissa admitted, smiling self-deprecatingly. "I got into this horrible, petty fight with my mom junior year of college, and I was determined that I would pay my own way from that point on, because I wanted nothing to do with her. Well, I had no job experience, so no one would hire me for anything normal. Then a friend of mine told me to try auditioning for modeling gigs. Instead of landing one of them, a director noticed me and offered me a job doing this. Three years later, here I am, independent from my mom just like I wanted and only working part time so that I can write the rest of the time. I really couldn't ask for a better job….well besides being a published, best selling author. What about you," she returned his question to him.

"Similar actually," Ryan said. "It was basically by accident. I moved around a lot, worked odd jobs, and then, when I moved here to LA, I got a job working for a delivery company, and, one day, when I brought a package to a set for a director, he offered me a contract, and I'm still here, four years later." As soon as he finished his story, Marissa started to laugh. "What's so funny?"

"Sorry, I just….I can't stop picturing you in one of those horrendous UPS uniforms, with the tight brown shorts and tucked in shirt, work boots, and socks. How did you ever get a job doing this dressed like that?"

"Oh, and how are you and your rain gear any sexier?" As they shared in their mirth, both of them laughing softly, their moment was interrupted by the director.

"And cut," he yelled out, breaking them out of their trance as both Ryan and Marissa snapped away from each other and reached for the robes that were being handed to them by on-set assistants. As soon as they had them on and the scene was wrapped, it was as if a wall was formed between them, both Ryan and Marissa unable to find a thing to say to each other, their obvious nerves taking over. Shuffling their feet, their hands pushed down into the pockets of their robes, both of them would watch each other until their gazes locked, only to look down in embarrassment, blushing a little bit more each time it occurred.

"So, I guess this is it," Marissa finally spoke up, having the courage to lock their eyes together. When Ryan only nodded his head in agreement, swallowing roughly out of apprehension, she pushed on. "Well, it was nice to meet you, but I should probably go and get changed, get out of here at a decent hour to try and beat the weekend traffic."

She waited a few more moments for Ryan to say or do something, but, when he didn't, she slowly turned around and started to walk off.

"Wait," Ryan called out, his voice stopping her dead in her tracks. Running after her, he gently turned her around to face him by taking hold of her hand. Keeping her soft, small hand in his larger, coarse one, he finally managed to ask her what he had wanted to since the moment he had laid eyes on her days before. "Would you maybe, sometime….don't feel like you have to say yes because we had lunch today or got along well this week, but sometime, anytime you're available, my schedule is very flexible, go out with me….on a date and not as friends?"

Tugging his hand gently, she pulled him into a quiet corner of the room so no one would interfere with or overhear their conversation. "It's about time you asked me out," she spoke up once they were in private. "I've been waiting all week for you to say something, and I was afraid you weren't going to."

"You could have always said something," Ryan pointed out.

Marissa smiled at him. "What, asking you out to lunch today wasn't enough of a sign that I liked you?"

He grinned sheepishly. "So, is that a yes? Will you go out with me?"

"On one stipulation," she bargained.


"I get to pick our itinerary."

Surprising Marissa, Ryan reached into her robe pocket, pulling out her pen. "You drive a hard bargain, Miss Cooper," he teased her, "but I'm desperate, so you have yourself a deal." Turning over the hand he was holding, he started writing on her palm. "Since you're organizing this date, our first one, I'll give you my number so you can call and let me know what time you want me to pick you up tomorrow night and where."

"Tomorrow night," she questioned, raising her eyebrows at his presumptuous nature. "What if I already had plans?"

"Then cancel," he replied nonchalantly, smirking at her. "You see, I need to reel you in and win you over as soon as possible before some other unsuspecting guy sees you in your yellow coat, hat, and galoshes and gets swept off his feet." Marissa started giggling softly until his actions stopped her mid-breath. Sliding the pen back into her pocket, Ryan lifted the hand he had just written his number on up to his lips and kissed it softly, leaning in to whisper nine more words to her. "Thank you," he began, pausing briefly to draw out the amount of time he would be standing so close to her, "for agreeing to go out with me."

With that, he turned away, smiled one last time at her, and walked into his dressing area to change his clothes and leave for the night, his mind and body completely focused upon Marissa.

As Ryan made his way to Marissa's door after having gotten briefly lost while trying to find her obscure, little ocean side cottage, there was just one thing he was hoping she wouldn't announce they were doing that night, but, of course, as his luck would insist, she smiled up at him, the pleasure she felt for the fresh camellias he had given her lighting up her beautiful face, and said very softly that they were perfect and that she would wear one in her hair when they went dancing. He had inwardly frozen, only forcing a contrived grin on his face to make her feel at ease, but, in reality, he was on edge. The brutal truth was he had never danced before not even at a cliché high school dance or a tacky, neighborhood wedding when he was a little boy, and here, on his very first date with a woman he knew he already really liked, he was going to embarrass himself and probably her as well in front of an entire club full of people. He had panicked for no reason though, because Marissa had promptly led him into her backyard, the trees strung with Chinese lanterns which gave the lush garden a soothing glow. Soft, slow music was playing in the background, and there was a tiny table for two set up off to the side where she had their dinner set up. They had spent their first week getting to know one another constantly surrounded with strangers, she had told him, so she wanted their first date to just be about them. After sharing the delicious meal she had prepared for them, they had danced the night away, talking the entire time as they got to know one another, and it became apparent to Ryan that it really didn't matter if you were trained to dance or not; with the right partner in your arms, moving your body in time with hers just became natural. Finally, late in the night, as he felt Marissa relaxing in his arms and becoming tired, they had said goodbye at her front door. She had given him her phone number since he was in charge of setting up their next date, and he had given her a delicate, light kiss on her cheek that spoke of a promise and trust neither of them had ever felt with another person before.

Just as their first date had gone, the ones to follow were perfect as well. Initially, they had agreed to one date a week, but after their second date, which had consisted of the classic date combination of dinner and movie, they had agreed to have one formal date every week where they would plan something special, taking turns picking what they would do, but then, during the rest of the week, they would do small, mundane things with each other like run errands or watch TV at night just so they could spend time together. As their time together increased, so did their physical embraces, but both were careful not to go too far. There seemed to be an unwritten rule between them that they wanted to take that aspect of their relationship slowly. Perhaps it was because of how they had met, the fact that within ten minutes of first meeting each other, they saw one another naked as they performed a wild sex scene in an on-set kitchen, or maybe they just wanted to ensure they had the emotional connection before giving that part of themselves to each other. Although neither were inexperienced, they had also never had a meaningful relationship before, and they were both looking to change that.

Their third date, Marissa's choice, had been one of Ryan's favorite. She had taken him to a small, almost private beach where they had a picnic and played in the water all afternoon. It had been simple fun, but seeing her like that, so vivacious and full of childlike enthusiasm and joy, had just made Ryan fall for her even more. For their fourth date, Ryan had taken her to a basketball game, sharing his passion for the Lakers with her. He was shocked when she not only understood the game but was well versed in their history, could recite statistics, and revealed that she had an extensive collection of team memorabilia. It was the one thing, her love of basketball, that she had left from her father. The next weekend she had taken him to a carnival where they had eaten junk food all night, rode simple, kid rides because they both wanted to hold hands and talk while they were on them, and he had spent a ridiculous amount of money to win her a giant Carebear that he had noticed her eyes light up at as soon she had seen it. Surprising Marissa, he had taken her to the mountains for their next date, and they had gone on a long 4-Wheeler ride through the wilderness, taking breaks to have lunch and go swimming in a picturesque lake. By the time they had gotten to their seventh date, they both knew that they were no longer casually dating. It was on that date that Ryan had realized he had already fallen in love with Marissa.

They had been dating for about a month and a half when Marissa had taken him to a cliff over looking the same semi-private beach they had gone swimming and had a picnic at before. It was at night though, so he had no idea what they were doing. What she had planned had been amazing though. There was a meteor shower that night, so they had built a small bonfire, cooked hotdogs and s'mores for their dinner, and had cuddled together in a sleeping bag watching the shooting stars for hours. Marissa had insisted that they each make one, big, important wish instead of many little ones. Although he never knew what she had wished for, he realized his wish had come true the next morning when he woke up sore and tired still on the cliff, a sleeping Marissa, content with a smile on her face, cocooned into his side, their arms wrapped around each other. True, they had not made love yet, but spending the night with Marissa, even if they were both fully clothed, was unlike anything he had ever done before. It was special.

Unfortunately, the next weekend had been Memorial Day, and Ryan knew that if he blew off his friends one more time, he might not have any friends left after the holiday weekend, so he had decided to take Marissa with him to the party they were throwing on the marina. Even though he had been nervous that she wouldn't like his friends or they would completely embarrass him in front of the woman he was falling for more and more every day, everything had gone perfectly, and, by the time, dusk had fallen and the fireworks had started, the two of them were able to sneak off to be by themselves, ignoring the visual spectacular of bursting colors to focus on each other instead, their bodies locked in a passionate embrace, their kisses fervent and amorous.

The next two dates were simple, pure fun. After Marissa took Ryan to a music festival the next weekend, he had sensed that she was feeling unsure and nervous. There were moments, like when they had been together under the boardwalk at the marina, when he could feel that she wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her, but there were other times when it became apparent that she was scared of something. Wanting to assure her that he wanted their relationship to go somewhere, that he was invested in their relationship for as long as she wanted him, he had taken a cue from her after the music festival and had taken her bowling. It had turned out to be a great idea, too, for they both had fun, spending the evening laughing and talking while they won the prize for the worst couple's score.

Their next date had made it harder for Ryan to push aside his feelings though. Marissa had taken them to a painting class for their eleventh date, and after three months of dating and nothing but over the clothes action, he found the experience highly erotic. It had been a couple's class where each person there was supposed to create an abstract piece of art that represented their partner and how they felt for them. To put it mildly, the assignment sent Ryan's mind into a tailspin of sexual fantasies and arousing visions. Unable to help himself, he had leaned over to Marissa and whispered in her ear, his voice low and dangerous with need and want, that he would prefer to use her naked body as his canvas. She had said nothing back, merely blushed as their eyes met, but he could see that, although the idea did not seem unappealing to her, there was still something holding her back. Then and there Ryan decided that if their relationship was going to work, they were going to have to have a talk. He could wait forever for her as long as he knew she wanted him to, but, first, he needed to hear those reassurances. So, for their next date, he had planned something private and intimate, the perfect setting for a very important discussion.

Everything was perfect. Ryan had been covertly watching cooking programs all week to try and learn how to make a decent meal, and he was pretty sure as he checked the oven one last time that he had succeeded. This cooking stuff really isn't too difficult, he realized. It just takes time and patience…and the proper incentive to spur you into attempting it. Proving to Marissa just how much he cared for her and making her feel at ease were definitely motivation enough for him. Hell, he would have taken cooking lessons if time had allowed for it.

He had set up their table outside on his deck that overlooked the ocean. Though he wasn't quite sure what he was doing, for decorating was not his forte, he had tried to create a romantic setting for them. He had white candles arranged around the deck and on top of the table, and they were lit to provide the only illumination they would have during their meal. There was even a bouquet of flowers waiting for Marissa on her chair, as a surprise, though this time he had opted for orchids. Instead of using his traditional paper plates so he wouldn't have to wash dishes, he had gone out and bought a small set of real china and crystal goblets for dinner. The wine, a fine, aged one the salesman had assured him was chilling, and their food was ready. The only thing that was missing was Marissa.

Just as he was going to make one last inspection of the deck to make sure that everything was in place just as he wanted it, his doorbell went off and he knew Marissa was there. Opening the door widely for her, he couldn't contain the smile that seemed to be a permanent resident on his face whenever she was around him. "Hey," he greeted her, all of a sudden nervous and unsure of his plan for the evening. Motioning for her to join him inside the apartment, he shut the door behind her as she walked in, stopping quickly when he saw that she was standing so close to him.

"Hey," she cooed back softly, her excitement for their date written plainly across her dazzling face.

He knew it was not how he wanted to start out the evening, but he couldn't help himself. Before even offering to take her bag and wrap from her, Ryan leaned in and kissed Marissa right there in the entryway of his apartment, too overcome by how he felt for her to not touch her, to not taste the decadent sweetness of her lips if only for a just a moment. Cupping her delicate jaw in his strong, powerful hands, he joined their mouths together in a slow, sensual embrace. What was meant to be a short kiss in greeting though turned into something much more as their bodies naturally found their way towards each other and Marissa's arms wrapped tightly around his waist drawing him in as close to her as possible. Finally, unable to last even one more second without breathing, Ryan pulled away from her lips, making sure to keep their bodies close together. Letting go of her face, he wrapped his arms around her waist as well, staring into her eyes as he spoke.

"Not that I'm complaining, in fact, it's quite the opposite, but please tell me what I did to deserve such a kiss so that I can repeat it at least once every half hour."

Marissa merely giggled at him, further stepping into the apartment. "If I told you that, it wouldn't be special anymore. I have to have some secrets in this relationship in order to keep you on your toes. Now," she changed the subject, turning back to look at him with a curious expression on her face, "whatever do you have planned for us tonight."

"Don't get excited," he immediately told her, moving to take her arm in his to lead her to the deck. "We're just having dinner here, but," he admitted as they walked outside, Marissa's audible gasp when she noticed all the work he had done for her and their date improving his confidence, "I did cook it myself."

"So that's what smells so great," she realized, taking his hand in hers and squeezing it appreciatively. "This is perfect, Ryan, thank you. We haven't had a private date in a while. I've missed this…just you and me." Kissing him softly, their eyes locked together the entire time, Ryan knew she was attempting to show him just how much his simple gesture meant to her. As she pulled away, there was a wide smile upon her glowing face. "Now, get back in that kitchen and bring me my food," she ordered playfully. "I'm starving!"

Moments later, Ryan returned to the table with their dinner, salad, lasagna, and garlic bread, exciting Marissa for she loved Italian food. Not wanting to dive into their serious conversation about their relationship too quickly, he had tried to not only set her at ease with talk of their families and their lives before they had met each other but also tried to show her that they could discuss anything with each other, that they were connected, that the relationship they had built was strong enough to survive anything. It seemed to work. By the time he was ready to serve dessert, they were both relaxed, slightly flirting with each other, and had moved their chairs right next to each other so that they could share small touches and embraces whenever they wanted to.

"I admit to cheating on the dessert," Ryan confessed as he set down her dish of Italian ice before her. "I knew how much you love your ice cream, so I really didn't want to ruin the most important part of the meal."

Kissing his cheek, Marissa smiled up at him appreciatively, joining their hands together to pull him back into his chair. Snuggling her body into the crook of his arm, resting her head on his shoulder, she started eating her dessert. "This is perfect, just how it is. I wouldn't want it any other way."

They ate in relative silence, her comments and reassurances making Ryan feel secure enough in what he was about to say that, as soon as they had finished their Italian ice, he had lifted her from her seat and pulled her with him to a chaise lounge he had set up on the deck, laying down first and then pulling her on top of him. He had expected her to simply lay down on his chest, so when she stopped first to kiss his throat before settling down in her favorite spot, her ear resting right over his heart so she could hear his heartbeat, he was surprised, pleasantly so. Holding her body close to his with his left hand which was resting across the small of her back, he let his right hand trail up and down her exposed skin, his fingers lightly leaving a trail of whispered promises of devotion and desire.

"So….," Ryan started, his tone soft and gentle, "I really don't know how to begin this or even how to say what I've been thinking, but….we've got to talk, Marissa." Her sigh of reluctant acceptance let him know she had been thinking the same thing. "We've been dating now for a few months, and even though I'll wait for as long as you need me to, I need to know that I'm waiting for something, that you eventually want this relationship to lead somewhere further than just dating."

"Oh, Ryan," Marissa lamented, her movement letting Ryan know she wanted him to move with her. As he repositioned himself so that he was sitting up, she climbed into his lap and tenderly cupped his jaw, kissing him lightly before continuing to talk. "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. My reluctance to take our relationship further has nothing to do with the depth of my feelings for you….I love you….it's just that with the way we met, I need to know that when we do eventually make love, it will be just you and me sharing that intimate moment together, that those characters we played for a week aren't somehow influencing our actions or tainting our feelings. I know it probably sounds stupid…."

"Wait," Ryan finally interrupted her, "go back for a second. What did you just say?"

"I was just explaining how I didn't want Anna or Mac to play any part when we make love for the first time."

"No," he argued with her, his eyes burning into hers. "What did you say before that?"

"I said I love you," she whispered, blushing slightly but never pulling her gaze from his. "I'm sorry….I guess I just thought you knew I felt like that about you. I know it should be something you say, but I had tried to show you through my actions, by opening up and telling you things about me that no one else knows."

Resting his forehead against hers, Ryan leaned in and kissed her frantically, desperately, as if he needed to feel her as close to him as possible. Pulling back finally when both of them were left with ragged breathing, he smiled at her slowly before talking. "You have showed me, you have, but I've been too worried that I was reading too much into our connection, that I was seeing what I wanted to see, because….I love you, too. God, Marissa, you have no idea how much I love you!"

Picking her up and cradling her carefully in his arms, without a word, he carried her back to his bedroom. Laying her gently on the bed, he joined her, merely resting beside her, his head propped up by his hand so he could look down and watch her face. Finally, he spoke again. "As for Anna, your character, the only thing I know about her was that she had a penchant for having sex in and on any place that wasn't a bed. When we're finally together, I'll be making love to you, to Marissa Cooper, the woman who has secret cookie jars stocked around her house so that when she's writing, she doesn't have to get up to have a snack, the woman who, although she doesn't know it, drools and snores slightly when she sleeps on her stomach,…."

"I do not," Marissa yelled, pushing against his chest playfully as if she wanted him to leave her alone, her actions only causing him to pull her even closer.

"You do, too," he insisted, laughing at her disbelieving and pouting face, leaning over to suck on her protruding lip and relishing in the fact that as soon as his lips touched hers, she melted in his arms, "and it's utterly adorable," he added when he finally pulled away from their embrace. "Don't you get it, Marissa," he added, continuing when she looked at him curiously, "I fell for you….for you and not your character….the moment I saw you standing there in that studio in your endearing rain coat, hat, and galoshes, completely oblivious to the rest of the world, long before I even found out you were the actress I would be working with. And I know that when you kiss me, when you look in my eyes and tell me how you feel, that you're talking to and thinking of Ryan not Mac. You just need to trust that I feel the same way."

"I do," she admitted, searching his eyes and trying to show him that she was telling the truth, "at this moment, I really do trust you, but," she continued, her voice and gaze lowering as if she was afraid of how he would act to what she was about to say, "I'm still not ready to do that….to make love yet."

"Hey, that's okay. Like I said, I can wait forever for you if I have to," Ryan assured her.

"Oh, I don't think we'll be waiting that long," she laughed. "There's just one more thing I want to do. We can do it for our lucky number thirteenth date."

"Please do not tell me you're superstitious."

"Quite the opposite in fact," Marissa admitted, sitting up and pulling Ryan with her. "I like to flaunt superstitions. But right now," she pushed him towards the bedroom door, "I want you to go and blow out those candles so your apartment doesn't accidentally catch on fire while I change. Do you care if I borrow something to sleep in?"

Ryan stopped moving, shocked. Turning around to look at her, he realized that she didn't want to make a big deal out of it, that she just wanted this progression in their relationship to be a natural one. Although they had spent the night together on the cliff when they had both inadvertently fallen asleep during the meteor shower, neither of them had ever stayed over at each others house. This was an important step in their relationship.

"Sure, help yourself," he said casually. "Just make sure you don't wear too much. I intend to keep you warm myself tonight."

Tiptoeing across the room playfully, she kissed him sweetly. "I won't," Marissa promised, making him smile. With one last kiss, she sent him on his way back towards the deck. "And don't take too long," she ordered, "I'm sleepy and I want to go to bed. I'll help you clean up in the morning." As he listened to her moving around in his bedroom, searching for something comfortable to wear to bed, he had no idea how significant, how extraordinary the plans were that she was organizing for their next date. If he did, he might have insisted they have their next date as soon as possible.

Marissa had asked Ryan to meet her at the park for their special, surprise date, and, although he had no idea what they were going to be doing, the idea that they would be spending it in a very public park never occurred to him. As he walked along, lost in thought, he never noticed Marissa standing off in the distance watching him. It wasn't until she had suddenly appeared at his side that his private thoughts were interrupted.

"Hey you," she said enthusiastically, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him in towards her for a quick kiss. "You're just in time," she continued after they pulled away, not even giving Ryan a chance to talk. He did, however, notice how stunning she looked. Dressed in a simple, long, strapless white sundress, her lightly tanned skin shimmering in the gentle, afternoon light, she was a vision for his hungry eyes. Her hair was partly pulled back, the loose strands curled into flowing waves, and her gorgeous face was free of makeup, letting her natural beauty shine through. Full of excitement and anticipation, her eyes were radiant and blazing with the love she felt for him, her cheeks pink and supple from pleasure. Luring him out of his trance, she took his hand in hers and led them through the park to a semi-private butterfly garden, but they were not alone. Instead, there he found three people waiting for them, two men, one looking somewhat official and stern, and the other, obviously, a part of a couple with the woman who was also there.

"What's going on," Ryan asked, turning to look at Marissa, his mystification plainly expressed on his handsome face. Lowering his voice, he pressed. "Who are these people, Marissa?"

"These people," she explained, moving them towards the couple, "are two of my best friends. Ryan, I'd like you to meet Mark Spence and Cynthia Nelson. We've all been friends since my freshman year of college. And this," she motioned towards the other man standing with them, "is Judge Krebs."

"I'm here to perform the ceremony," the judge shared, further confusing Ryan until he turned back to Marissa's friends.

"Oh, I get it, congratulations, man," he said as he reached his hand out to offer his best wishes to Mark. "So I take it Marissa and I are serving as your witnesses?"

"We're just going to….yeah," Cynthia explained, pointing towards the far end of the garden as the three strangers moved away from Ryan and Marissa to give them some privacy.

"I don't get it," Ryan complained as he turned towards Marissa. "What did I say wrong?"

"Mark and Cindy aren't getting married," Marissa told him gently, as if she didn't want to overwhelm him with information. "We are….well that is if you'll have me." Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a small ring box, opening it to reveal two matching yellow gold wedding bands. "Ryan Atwood, would you marry me?" Before he could even answer her though, she continued talking. "I know we've only known each other for a few months, but I love you and I know that you love me. Sure, there are a lot of reasons why we shouldn't get married, neither of us are what you would call financially secure, you have no idea what you want to do with your life long term, we both have messed up families, but all I know is that I'd rather sort through all of that as your wife, as Mr. and Mrs. Atwood, then by myself."

"But…how," Ryan asked, incredulous. "We don't even have a marriage license."

"The judge can fill that out for us after the ceremony," she explained. "We can either do it here if you have the proper paper work with you or we can meet him back at his office."

"And you really want to do this," Ryan asked her, completely astonished that the incredible, talented, intelligent, loving woman standing in front of him really wanted to spend the rest of her life with him….with him!

Her answer was simple, sweet, to the point. "I have never been so sure of anything else in my life." Taking a deep breath, she asked him again, the smile on her face so big it took Ryan's breath away, "Ryan Atwood, will you marry me?"

"Yes," he yelled out, picking her up and spinning her around in his arms as they both laughed joyously. Lowering her to the ground and kissing her softly, he whispered into her mouth softly, his words, this time, meant for only her to hear. "Yes, yes I will marry you, Marissa Cooper."

The ceremony itself seemed to pass by in a blur. Just by looking at Marissa, Ryan knew that she was feeling the same way he was: as if the world, for those few, short moments, was perfect, as if the sunshine filtering down through the canopy of tree leaves over their heads, as if the golden, azure, and amethyst butterflies fluttering around the garden, as if the sweet, enticing scent of the thousands of flowers surrounding them were all there just for their wedding, as if the beautiful day was created just for them. Ryan had never pictured his wedding before the moment when Marissa had asked him to marry her, he had never even considered the idea that he would ever get married, but as he stood with her in the quaint, picturesque park, their hands clasped tightly together as they became husband and wife, he knew that he could never ask for anything more for his wedding day. After all, he was getting the only thing he had ever really desired in his whole life: Marissa.

While they filled out the paperwork, Mark and Cindy waited for them, smug, confident, devious smiles on their faces. As soon as he and Marissa had paid and thanked the judge, he had left to file their marriage license to make their union official, leaving the newly wedded couple to figure out just exactly what their witnesses were up to.

"You two," Marissa teased them as they approached the other couple, "look like you swallowed the canary. Just what exactly are you up to?"

"Well," Mark began, winking at Ryan, "we know that this wedding was slightly spur of the moment."

"Yeah, just a little," Ryan agreed with him, moving so that Marissa was standing in front of him as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her body snugly into his.

"But you deserve a honeymoon anyway," Cynthia continued for her boyfriend, "and speaking of canaries, a little birdie told us that this wedding night was going to extra special."

"Yeah, because you're finally going to shag," Mark teased them, making Marissa blush and Ryan chuckle out of amusement and anticipation. Reassuringly, he placed a gentle kiss in the dip of Marissa's neck and softly massaged her hips with his fingertips.

"Mark," Cynthia reprimanded him, elbowing her boyfriend in his side roughly only making him laugh harder. "Anyway, ignore the pervert beside me and back to what I was saying. We got you a room at a very private, very romantic inn down the coast from here for the weekend."

"And we packed a bag for you, too," Mark revealed, "with everything you'll need in it. Toothbrushes, condoms, and Cindy got Marissa some sexy lingerie. Don't worry, Ryan, I didn't see even a thread of the fabric."

"You really didn't need to do this," Marissa chastised them playfully, a blissfully happy smile stretched across her shining face. "Just being here and standing up for us today was more than enough."

"But we really appreciate it," Ryan added onto her statement, holding his hand out for Mark to shake once again. "We'll have to get together sometime soon in the future, have dinner, our treat….to thank you for everything you've done for us today."

Separating themselves away from each other, Marissa moved to give Mark a friendly hug while Ryan did the same to Cynthia. After Marissa gave Cynthia a hug as well, Ryan took her hand in his as they started walking out of the park towards where their cars were parked.

"You guys can go ahead and take Ryan's car to the inn, and we'll make sure that Marissa's ends up back at her house," Mark instructed. "Just don't run off until we get your bag out of our car." After a few minutes of walking, they reached the parking lot, and the two couples separated, Ryan and Marissa walking towards his car and Mark and Cynthia going towards theirs.

"Thanks again," Marissa expressed her gratitude towards her best friends profusely as they handed her the bag they had packed for their weekend away through the car's window.

"It was no problem; don't worry about it," Cynthia dismissed. "Just enjoy yourselves."

Ryan and Marissa waved goodbye one last time as he went to start the car, but Mark's voice stopped them from leaving. "Hey, sorry about this, but, just out of curiosity, how did you two meet? Marissa, here, never told us that."

"Um…..we….uh," both Ryan and Marissa stumbled over their words unsure of how to explain how they had met, their apparent embarrassment raising Mark and Cynthia's interest and suspicions.

"Guess we just found our topic for dinner next week," Cynthia teased as Ryan and Marissa continued to avoid the other couple's eyes. With that, the unmarried couple walked away from the car, leaving the newlyweds to a moment of privacy.

Turning to Marissa, Ryan simply leaned in and kissed her ardently, leaving them both breathless and wanting more. "Just how far away exactly is this inn," he tantalized, a smile on his face, "because I have to tell you, I want you so much right now."

"I need you," she returned, kissing him one last time before settling her left hand high on his upper thigh, "so you better get us there as soon as you can."

Sharing one last glance full of desire and love, Ryan put the car into gear, pulling it out of the parking lot and unto the highway as he and Marissa started their first of many adventures together as husband and wife.

It was early evening by the time they reached the inn, dinner time, but Ryan had quickly dismissed the concierge's offer to show them to the dining room, insisting that, if they were hungry, they would order room service after they got settled into their room. Standing outside of their door, Ryan looked down the hallway to make sure no one was watching them as he lifted Marissa effortlessly into his arms, taking her mouth in a sweet, devoted kiss as he opened the door and carried her over the threshold, his mouth never leaving hers as they made their way towards the large, luxurious bed, only finally sitting her down once they were both standing in the middle of the room.

Words were not necessary; their bodies, minds, and hearts were in complete sync. Slowly, Ryan turned Marissa around, letting his lips fall to the back of her neck where he pushed her hair over her shoulder so his lips could have free access to the enchanting, heavenly scented, silky skin of her shoulders and back. Dancing his mouth down her spine, he stopped only when he reached the material of her dress, his hands moving to remove the impeding piece of clothing. Unzipping it, the dress fell to the floor in one single, fluid motion, leaving Marissa standing before him in nothing but her sheer, seductive lingerie and heals. He had never seen anything more beautiful in his life.

Before he could do anything else though, she turned around in his arms and slowly, painstakingly slowly, started to unbutton his crisp, white dress shirt, letting her hands and then tongue explore each piece of newly exposed tanned and toned flesh after every reveal. As soon as every clasp had been undone, she smoothly pushed the shirt off of his muscular frame, her hands tantalizing him as they moved from his shoulders down the rest of his arms until they came to rest on the waistline of his khaki dress pants. Before she removed them though, she lowered her body to gently place kisses along the edge of his boxers which were sticking out of the low slung pants, briefly stopping on her way up his body to dip her tongue into his navel. Once her mouth returned to his, she took his lips in a lustful, demanding kiss as her hands slipped down to unbutton and unzip his pants, recklessly pushing them to the floor as she suddenly was in a hurry to feel his naked body against hers.

As they continued to kiss, their tongues locked in a frenzied dance of yearning and adoration, they each slipped off their shoes and kicked them aside and their hands continued to wander and explore their partner's body. While Marissa's hands slipped inside of Ryan's boxers, eliciting a low, achingly erotic moan from his otherwise occupied lips, he removed her bra and tossed it aside, giving his hungry hands access to her ample and stimulated breasts. It wasn't enough though; it wasn't nearly enough.

Reaching for each others final piece of clothing at the same time, Ryan removed her thong as she pushed his boxers to the floor, their mouths never separating the entire time as their gaze, blue on blue, stayed locked together. Wrapping one of his arms around his wife's body to pull her closer, Ryan smiled into their embrace when he felt her hands reach behind him to cup his ass and draw him further towards her. Sliding his free hand down the front of her body, he slipped it between her legs and caressed her softly, his hands delicate and gentle yet screaming of a level of passion and want neither of them had ever experienced before.

Dragging his lips away from hers, he returned them to her glistening body to trail seductive, sensual kisses along her jaw line and up her neck until he reached her ear, sucking on it lightly until he whispered, "I love you, Marissa Atwood," making her melt into his arms until he could feel that he was completely supporting her body. "I'll love you forever."

Picking her up, he carried her over to their bed, laying her down on it gently before his body blanketed hers. Rejoining their lips, their tongues, their senses together as one, they once again began to explore their partner's bodies; this time, however, their actions were not of unsure lovers who were experiencing the beautiful phenomena of making love for the first time but as a husband and wife who were pledging their lives, bodies, minds, and hearts to each other, the nervous uneasiness completely dissolved away after Ryan had uttered those three, life-altering words.

Turning onto their sides, Ryan and Marissa laid facing each other, their bodies pressed so tightly together it was hard to tell where one of them began and the other ended, so as to make love their first time, neither one in control or submissive, as equal partners in every sense of the word. Entering her gently, Ryan waited until he knew they were both comfortable to move inside of Marissa, but what she did, how she told him she needed him to make love to her as much as he did, took his breath away.

Locking their eyes together, she pulled away from their kiss, her voice soft yet strong and confident at the same time. "I love you, too, Ryan Atwood, for as long as I live. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, growing old, growing together. I want you to be the father of my children, the grandfather to my grandchildren. I want you to come home to me and our bed every night, to be as close to you as we are right now forever." Rejoining their lips together in a tender, affirming kiss, Marissa pushed her body into Ryan's, taking him fully inside of her, her arms holding him tightly to her as they finally started to move in perfect symmetry physically and emotionally as one, as husband and wife.

Long into the night, they made love to one another, their bodies never not touching, as their affirmed their love, trust, and faith in each other, the shy, quiet man with the little boy charm and sweetness and the innocent, adorable woman with the childlike enthusiasm for life, a seamless, complete, ideal match.