A/N: Yes, this is ANOTHER new story. LOL I imagine that after many of you read this first chapter, you will have questions, especially about how this situation has come to be. All will be explained as the tale unfolds, so just be patient. With that said, I hope everyone enjoys this first post.

Charlynn

Chapter One

It hadn't been an overly stressful day nor was there anything special about it. The simple fact was that Ryan Atwood always looked forward to going home, to seeing his wife, to spending time with her. They had been married for nine years and together without any breaks since the end of their junior year of high school. Sure, there had been issues, but they had worked through them together, and, at this point in his life, 32 years old with an amazing job as a architect, the only thing he had ever felt he was good at, a lifestyle he couldn't have even dreamt of before he had moved to Newport, and the most wonderful woman as his wife, Ryan could safely say his life was almost perfect. It was just missing one thing, but they were working on that.

With flowers in his hand, a pastel hued blend of the simplest, most aromatic spring buds, he pushed open the front door of their home, a big, bright, and cheerful house that was comfortable for just the two of them but could very easily fit a couple other inhabitants, and went in search of his wife. He knew she was home. Her car was in the driveway, and she had mentioned to him that morning while they had eaten breakfast together that she was planning on working from home. That was often the case; her hours were flexible, and many of the tasks she had to perform for her job could easily be carried out in their home office. Unfortunately, the house was silent, which was a strange occurrence in itself, so Ryan could not depend upon sound to guide him to his wife.

After putting down his briefcase in the foyer and tossing his suit jacket over the banister of the staircase, he began his search. Although he did peak into the more formal rooms of the house, the living and dining rooms, they rarely used those spaces, only reserving them for company or when their family came down to San Diego to visit, so he did not expect her to be in them. Next, he checked the study, but she wasn't there either, so he moved his way towards the back of the house where the rooms they used more were located. She wasn't in the kitchen, but as soon as he wandered into the family room, the afternoon rays of the setting sun sending beams of light through the floor to ceiling windows that looked out into their backyard, he saw her. The sight of her, his wife, his Marissa, took his breath away and brought a wide, ridiculously happy smile to his face.

She had pushed the furniture aside, providing herself with ample room to move and dance around to the music that was streaming into her ears through headphones. Dozens of demo CDs were strewn across their coffee table, appearing to the untrained eye to be in no particular order, but Ryan knew, somehow, someway, they were organized according to which merited signing, were worthy of being watched and kept track of, or which were absolutely horrendous, never to be even considered again to his wife, that her mess of undiscovered music made perfect sense to her. Her penchant for controlled chaos, for cluttered order was just one more thing that made her Marissa, that made him love her.

Her hair was loose, slightly curly, and streaming out behind her as she spun in crazed, exuberant circles around the room, for the all world looking like a playful, innocent little girl. He loved when she wore her hair down, when she let it cascade down her back. There was something about tangling his hand in her long, silky strands of chestnut brown hair and pulling her into his body for a long, slow, sensual kiss that absolutely drove him wild with longing. It was the best feeling in the world. Dressed simply in an adorable white sundress, feet free of shoes, Ryan found his eyes roaming his wife's body, observing her as closely as possible, and wondering if she had anything on underneath the simple dress. Approaching her quickly, all ideas of self-restraint and patience leaving his mind, he knew he was probably going to startle her, but he couldn't help himself; he needed to feel her in his arms and he needed to feel her now.

In one swift motion, he slid his hands up her dress and pulled her body back into his so that her back was pressed up against his strong torso and his face could bury itself in the soft, delicate, creamy smooth skin of her shoulder, breathing in her subtle scent, a mixture of her apple shampoo, cocoa butter lotion, and Chanel No. 5 perfume. That smell, Marissa's smell, was the closest thing to heaven that Ryan could imagine. She had jumped at the first touch of his hands, hers automatically reaching down to stop his upward progression, but as soon as her body recognized the slightly calloused skin of his fingers, the slight tickle of his hair as it brushed against her bare neck, and the fevered desire of his lips upon her clavicle, without even looking, she clasped his hands in hers and guided them to her free and already aroused breasts, her dress being pulled up by their movements.

Quickly, she let go of his hands to reach up to her head and take off her headphones, tossing them aside and not caring where they landed. Sighing, she leaned her body into Ryan's, letting his weight support her own, and simply enjoyed the feelings of passion his touches were invoking in her body.

"I was hoping you'd come home early today," she admitted as he turned her around in his arms and proceeded to take her dress completely off of her body. It was merely tossed aside carelessly just as her headphones were. As they continued to talk, interrupting their words briefly for soft, teasing kisses full of promise that more was to come, Marissa slowly unbuttoned his shirt.

"Oh really," Ryan asked, a smug smirk on his face, "and why's that?"

"Because it's time."

He was confused. "Time for what?"

"You know," Marissa answered, "time…TIME." Looking at her, Ryan realized she was blushing and biting her lip, as if, almost fifteen years after their first time making love, she was still slightly shy and embarrassed. Her eyes silently pleaded with him to understand, but, when he could only stare at her with questions in his eyes, she finally elaborated, dropping her eyes and subconsciously playing with his belt. "Time to make a baby," she whispered.

As soon as her eyes looked back up to meet his, her beautiful sapphire orbs of deep blue full of love, faith, and hope, Ryan could not take it any longer. Too overcome with the emotions coursing through his body, the same emotions that were reflected back to him in his wife's glowing eyes, he needed to feel connected with her, so he crashed his body into hers, his lips into hers, mingling their tongues together in an endless embrace of mutual devotion, passion, and promise. It was his way of telling her that he wanted this, too, that he was ready and wanting to make a baby with her, and he knew, as she returned his kiss, that she understood his silent form of communication.

Pulling away breathlessly, Marissa smiled up at him, her gorgeous face beaming with anticipation. "Finish getting undressed," she instructed him playfully. "I'm going to put some music on."

Mere seconds later, they were in each others arms again, arms encircling, chests pressed together, mouths joined in a never-ending expression of their ardor and commitment. Falling to the floor, the plush carpet of their family room serving as their bed, Ryan slowly, tenderly, sweetly made love to his wife, both of them hoping that perhaps that time their actions were finally making the baby they craved so much.

The room was in shadows, the amber and crimson of the twilight cloaking their bodies in a warm radiance as the pleasantly exhausted lovers lay in each others arms, content smiles on both of their faces. Ryan, on his stomach, rested with his head cradled against Marissa's breasts, his face looking towards hers, his left hand joined tightly with her right, as his right on rested idly on the flat, seductively toned expanse of her lower abdomen, his fingers gently tickling her skin every few minutes, her left hand sliding effortlessly, soothingly through his shaggy, tousled blonde locks. The scene was almost flawless, but there was just one thing that disturbed the seamless moment in the young couple's lives: the music Marissa had put on, another demo CD, was terrible.

Chuckling, Ryan asked her, "could you have picked a worse CD for us to listen to?"

"I know; I'm sorry," Marissa acknowledged giggling with him, "but if we just made a baby while they played, I don't care how bad they are, they're getting a record deal."

"Their first CD could be entitled 'Conception Classics'," Ryan suggested making Marissa laugh even harder. After a moment, their mirth died down, and he looked up at her with dreams in his eyes. "Do you really think we did it, that we finally made a baby this time?"

"Well," Marissa answered, an encouraging smile on her face, "maybe. Everything was just right for us. I'm ovulating, my temperature was where it's supposed to be, and you know we definitely have the process down to an art."

Impatiently, he queried, "how long will we have to wait to find out?"

"A couple of weeks." Suddenly, Ryan jumped up, standing over Marissa, and looked down at her. "Hey," she complained playfully, "what are you….," but her words were cut off as he swiftly picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder, patting her round, firm derrière affectionately as he made his way towards the front of the house and the stairs that would take them to their bedroom.

Amongst her peels of laughter, he retorted boldly, "I figured our chances would only improve with lots of practice."

Marissa had no arguments.

-+-

Never had a day seemed to go so slow. It was exactly two weeks later, and Ryan and Marissa had planned to take a home pregnancy test together that evening after Ryan got home from work, but it felt as if the day was never ending, as if he would never get to leave, as if he would be trapped in his tiny, bland office forever. It had been hard to contain themselves from trying the test early. One night Marissa would be the voice of reason, and then the next night, Ryan was the one holding her back. At that point, he didn't know why he just didn't go home early; it wasn't as if he was getting anything accomplished. Since 9:00 that morning he had been sitting at his desk staring straight across the room at the clock that hung opposite him, ignoring his work, skipping lunch, and refusing to take any calls. The only thing that was keeping him there was knowing that if Marissa was pregnant like they hoped, he needed to save all his vacation and sick time for doctors' appointments and for after the baby was born.

Startling him out of his revelry, his intercom buzzed. "What Nancy," he barked at his secretary when he put her through.

"I'm sorry to bother you, sir," she began only to have Ryan interrupt her.

"Then why are you? I thought I told you I didn't want to be disturbed today, that means no phone calls and no meetings."

"I know, sir," she agreed, her tone apologetic, "but the person would not take no for an answer. The insisted they needed to speak with you in person, and that if I didn't buzz you, they'd have me fired."

"This better be worth it," Ryan threatened, realizing he was being an ass to his secretary but was too caught up in other thoughts to regret it.

"I think it will be, Mr. Atwood."

"Fine then," he finally agreed, "let them in." Ryan didn't even bother to look up at the door when he heard it being pushed open.

"I'm really not interrupting something important, am I," a sweet, tentative, nervous voice asked. He knew that voice. That voice was the most beautiful sound in the world. A smile was on his face before he even could snap his head up to lock gazes with Marissa. "I just couldn't wait any longer."

Striding across the room quickly, he took her in his arms for a tight, intimate hug, burying his face in her neck and kissing it softly. Pulling away, he asked, "what…here?"

"I guess," Marissa answered, shrugging her shoulders and laughing. "I know it's weird, but we'll be discreet. I have the test in my purse, and we'll just sneak off and go to the bathroom."

"You know," Ryan teased her, "I was going to be home in less than hour."

"Hey, I was patient. I waited hours to come here. You have no idea how many times I got in my car today to come over, to surprise you, but I kept talking myself out of it. Needless to say, I didn't get any work done."

Smirking, he agreed with her. "Same here."

Shyly, she questioned him. "So, do you mind….you know….if we do this here?"

"Mind," Ryan repeated, taking her hand in his and leading her towards the door of his office. "It's the best offer I've had in two weeks."

"Two weeks," Marissa complained, "what was so great two weeks ago?"

"Your offer to try and make this baby."

"That was a good night….and morning," she giggled in concurrence as they walked out of the room.

As they passed by Nancy's desk, a suddenly cheerful and gracious Ryan turned to his secretary and spoke kindly to her. "I'll be back in a few minutes, Nancy, if anyone asks for me. Hold down the fort." Too consumed with his wife and what they were about to do, he missed his secretary's amused smirk and quiet laughter, turning the corner to head to his floor's restrooms.

"Okay," Marissa instructed when they came to a stop in front of the women's bathroom, "I'll go in first, check to make sure no one else is in there, and then, if it's safe, I'll signal for you to come in. Just make sure you lock the door after you join me."

With a far away look on his face and still holding Marissa closely to him, Ryan mused, "do you know what this reminds me of?" Continuing without waiting for her to answer, he whispered in her ear, "Six years ago, you, me, and the cloak closet at Seth and Summer's wedding…"

Marissa chuckled. "That is going to have to wait until we get home. I was so loud that day, we should have been caught, and there's no way I'm doing…that here. Could you imagine what people would say if someone heard us?!"

"I would guess that I'd get a lot of 'way to go, man's' from some very jealous co-workers."

Rolling her eyes, Marissa simply dismissed his comments and ignored his cheeky grin, slipping into the bathroom without another word said between them. A moment later, she signaled for Ryan to enter with her. As per her order, he locked the door and turned around to see her already attempting to open the box. Unfortunately, her hands were shaking so badly, she couldn't.

"Here," he commanded, "give me that."

"I don't know what's wrong with me," Marissa explained. "I'm just so excited. Something just feels different this time, like we actually did it, like we actually made a baby."

Getting into the spirit, Ryan asked her, "so, Mom, what do you think? Did we make a little girl or a little boy two weeks ago?"

Her face broke into a breathtaking smile. "A little girl," she gushed, "who I can dress up, play with her hair, take her to dance and gymnastic classes, shop with."

"Well, I think it's a little boy," Ryan taunted, handing her the test and pushing her into a stall as he followed her, "a little boy I can do guy stuff with."

"Guy stuff? Ryan, what are you talking about?"

"You know," he answered, "grill steaks, drink beer, work on cars, watch sports."

"Yeah, that'll happen right away," Marissa laughed, kissing him quickly, rewarding him for his adorable nature. "You're too damn cute."

"Ugh," he whined at the compliment, "just pee on the stick already."

"And then, you shoot that to hell."

Shaking his head at her antics, Ryan watched as Marissa took the test, unable to keep the anticipation and hope he was feeling out of his gaze. This wasn't the first time they had done this, taken a home pregnancy test; hell, at this point, they were practically experts, but neither of them had ever been this sure, this positive that Marissa was carrying their baby inside of her. That confidence had to mean something.

They merely stood there, in each others arms, as the seconds ticked by. At one moment it would seem as if the test would never be ready to read, their eagerness getting the better of them, but then, at other moments, when the fear of failure and the haunting memories of their past, negative experiences would flash through their minds, time seemed to slip past in a blink of an eye. Eventually though, whether they wanted the results or not, whether they wanted to hide in their blissfully happy ignorance and believe in the best, time was up and the answer to their question was sitting right in front of them a few feet away. All they had to do was pick it up and look at it and they would know.

"Are you ready," Ryan said so softly Marissa could barely hear him. She could only manage to shake her head no. "Neither am I," he agreed with her, "but do you want me to look anyway?" This time, she responded with a positive shake of her head. Cupping her face gently in his hands, he kissed her. "I love you." In those three little, magical words he tried to tell her that everything would be alright, that they would be okay whether or not she was pregnant, that he would be ecstatic if she was but, if she wasn't, they'd simply try again and again until they succeeded.

"I love you, too," she finally whispered back to him. With her words of commitment and love ringing in his mind, Ryan moved away from his wife and picked up the pregnancy test, glancing at it only momentarily.

He knew by the soft sob that escaped Marissa's lips that she knew the answer already, that there was no need to turn around and say the words that would only hurt her even more. After four years of trying, after all their careful planning, they still weren't going to have a baby. Marissa was not pregnant.

Pulling her into his side and letting her bury her face in his chest, they left the office together. Ryan could feel her tears of pain and sorrow drenching his suit jacket and seeping through to his button up Oxford shirt, but none of it mattered to him. If her silent moans and wet tears afforded her any comfort at all, Ryan would let Marissa cry on his shoulder for as long as she could. Driving home in just one car and leaving the worry of picking up the other car another day, he never thought about the fact that he left the work he had been intending to start that weekend in his office, he didn't remember that he had told Nancy he would be back in a few minutes when he had left with Marissa, and suddenly he wished that the day had not gone by so quickly.

-+-

Their trip home may have only been fifteen minutes, but it was miserable. However, no matter how terrible it felt to sit in the car together with the knowledge that they had failed, yet again, to make a baby together, it was even scarier to confront the room just down the hall from their own that they had already designated as the nursery. So they sat there, in the driveway, the car turned off, in silence for what might have been hours; neither of them looked at a clock for it only served as a reminder that their chances were slipping by, that they were not getting any younger, and that, someday, the opportunity to have a baby would pass them by.

Eventually though, Ryan realized that they had to go inside no matter how much they both wanted to just simply hide from the rest of the world. Without saying a word, he opened his door and walked around the car to the passenger side, picking Marissa up, and carrying her inside. The outside world was dark and so was their house, but it was comforting, self-reflective, so Ryan didn't bother to turn any lights on. Instead, he simply carried his wife up the stairs to their bedroom, undressed her gently, and put her in bed. Stripping off his own clothes, he quickly joined her under the covers needing to feel close to her, wanting to offer her comfort and receive it back.

"Are you hungry," he asked her softly, running his left hand in a soothing pattern along the small of her back. Normally when they were spooned together naked in bed, he would run his hand across her stomach, but he knew touching her there would only remind her of the fact that it was empty. "I could make you something to eat, anything you want," Ryan offered, "or, if you'd prefer, I can order in something. Your choice."

Her absolute silence served as the no he was expecting.

"What about a hot bubble bath," he pushed, wanting to elicit some form of response from her. "It might help you relax, and then, afterwards, when you're done, I'll give you a back massage."

Still, Marissa said and did nothing.

"Or maybe we could just spend the night in bed, holding each other," Ryan suggested. Turning her over in his arms, he looked deeply into her pain filled eyes, holding her gaze for as long as he could before blinking. "I just want to feel you close tonight."

Leaning closer to her, he dropped his face and started trailing fervent, healing kisses down her neck and onto her chest, letting his hands roam her body freely as he pulled her to him even tighter, needing to be as close to her as possible. So lost in his attentions, he never realized that Marissa was not responding to his touch until she roughly pushed him away.

"Not tonight, Ryan," she caustically. Turning over so that her back was to him, she left him puzzled for a moment before he merely leaned into her body, once again, and kissed down the back of her neck and all the way down her spine. "I said no!"

Her vehemence caught him off guard. "But…," Ryan stammered, unsure of what to say, "this is what we always do after we…."

"After we what," she screamed, standing up from their bed and reaching for her silk robe that was always positioned in the chair next to her nightstand, "after we find out there's no baby?"

He stood up and reached out his arms for her, but she pushed him aside. "Yeah," Ryan finally answered her, "we always," he swallowed thickly, "make love after we find out there's no baby."

"Well we're not tonight; there's no point in having sex right now."

"No point," he questioned her, "when have we ever needed a point or a reason to make love besides wanting to be with each other?"

Setting her face in an angry stare, Marissa glared at him before turning her back and walking out of the room. "If we can't make a baby, then sleeping together right now would be pointless. I'm going to do some work. Don't bother coming after me."

And, with that, she left Ryan standing there….alone. Although he knew it was her pain talking, it still didn't make him feel any better. Never in their relationship had anything she'd ever said or done hurt him as badly as her last comment had. Putting a pair of pajama pants and wife beater on, he climbed back into their bed, knowing he would be sleeping alone, that she would either work all night or sleep somewhere else. Not only was he hurting because there was no baby, but he was now worried about what their lack of ability to conceive a child would do to their relationship. Would they be able to survive if they couldn't get pregnant? It was obvious to Ryan that Marissa blamed him for their fertility problems. If only he knew her actions stemmed from the complete opposite motivation. She blamed herself.