A/N: Hello to all of my amazing readers! Okay, a bit of info before you read this: in this story Ryan is already back at school and the whole dean thing didn't happen. Things are out of order and may happen quicker than on the show but I don't care. It's my story and I pretty much make it all up as I go along. So if you read something and think 'Hey, that's not right!' Yes it is, in my world. So just go with it, it will make the story that much more enjoyable.

This is set during the last scene of episode 3x04 "The Last Waltz".

This story is my baby, I've been working on it for months and months and months, so I'm very protective of it. I hope you come love it as much as I have in the time spent writing it.

This is dedicated to one of my newest and best friends Brook (AKA MarissaDavis on fanfiction) because she is the person I can have chats with about pointless details of the show for hours at a time. Also, because she's just pure awesomeness.

Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the OC. I'm just a crazed fan with dreams.

And now, I will stop bugging you with my incessant rambling and get on to the story. Enjoy!

-OC-

He needed to protect her. It was an instinct, almost animalistic. The constant need to make sure that no more harm came upon her wasn't an option; it was just how things worked. Ryan Atwood kept thinking about this as he parked the car in the Cohen's driveway and made his way toward the pool house.

But sometimes he needed to let her protect herself. He knew this, he understood it. But that didn't mean he had to like it. Finally reaching his destination he paused. He didn't remember leaving the lights on, but maybe he had. He entered the already lit pool house to find one Marissa Cooper sitting on his bed.

She smiled and waved slightly. "Hey."

He slid his jacket off, her smile contagious. "Hey."

She stood up and walked over to him. "So, I just wanted to tell you how important it was for me to go to the school dance."

Ryan nodded. "I know."

"ButI spent the whole time wishing you were there." She shrugged slightly and let her hands rest on his shoulders. "My life just doesn't work without you."

He smiled. "And it always goes so smooth when we're together." He joked.

Marissa laughed. The two soon joined lips, grinning as they pulled away.

"Thanks."

"So I'll make you a deal." She stated. "Whatever song comes on the radio next will be our song, okay?"

Ryan nodded slowly. "Okay."

Marissa leaned down and turned the boom box on. A loud rap song immediately poured out of the speakers, causing both of them to burst into laughter.

"Oh yeah! I like it, definitely us." He grinned.

Marissa giggled. "No!" she pressed another button and the melody of Youth Group's Forever Young began to fill the room.

She looked towards Ryan, who shrugged, as if to say 'not bad'. Accepting the hand he was holding out, he led her outside near the pool and they moved into a close embrace, dancing together slowly and enjoying being in each other's arms.

"I love you." He said quietly.

Marissa let out a relaxed breath. "I love you too."

He looked into her eyes. "Do you wanna maybe spend the night?"

She smiled, nodding her head slowly. "Yeah."

And so she did.

-OC-

"Good morning Pimp Daddy." Seth said dryly as Ryan crept into the kitchen the next morning. "Don't worry, mom and dad left early for a weekend away. I covered for you."

"What are you talking about?" Ryan asked, playing dumb.

Seth let out a chuckle. "Please, you don't lie well Ryan. Just grab breakfast and get back to your woman. Summer's coming over later so we can all see a movie."

Ryan frowned, dropping the act. "They really didn't suspect anything?"

"I told them you were up late finishing homework." He glanced down at the newspaper in front of him. "If they ask, you know everything there is to know about the Civil War because you just finished a paper on it. Oh, and after the movie we're meeting with Taylor to discuss our attack for Operation Free Marissa."

Ryan nodded. "Sounds good."

"Great, the movie starts at one so we're going to leave here a little before then."

"We'll be ready." He grabbed the tray now filled with cereal, bagels, and coffee and headed back towards the door. "And thanks Seth."

"No problem-o good buddy."

"So, Seth's onto us." Ryan announced as he walked back into the pool house.

His girlfriend sat up in bed, the sheet covering her naked chest. "What about Sandy and Kirsten?"

He sat the tray down in her lap and climbed back into bed next to her. "They left early. Seth covered."

Marissa nodded, taking a sip from one of the coffee mugs. "Thank god." She leaned over and pressed a sweet kiss to his lips, smiling. "Good morning."

"Mmm, yes it is." He grinned. "So apparently we're seeing a movie with Seth and Summer and then meeting with Taylor to discuss the plan to get you back at Harbor."

"I don't know." She sighed. "I mean, do I really have a chance? I'd hate to waste everybody's time and effort on a lost cause."

"Hey, you're not wasting anybody's time. We're doing this because we want you back and we want everyone to know that you had a reason for doing what you did." He wrapped his arms around her and dropped a kiss on top of her head. "It'll all work out, I promise."

"Okay." She looked up at him and grinned.

"What? Did I cheer you up?" he teased.

Marissa giggled. "Kind of. I think I'm ready for round three."

"You mean four. Or maybe it was five…" he trailed off. "Shower?"

She nodded. "Shower."

-OC-

"I just don't understand the point! I mean, why did the pirates even need to hijack an airplane in the first place?" Summer asked a few hours later as the Fantastic Four walked out of the movie theater.

Seth let out a frustrated sigh. "Because they needed to get the pilot's ID so they could sneak into the airport and get the code for the safe at the bank which is where the treasure map was being hidden."

"But why would they keep a treasure map in a bank?"

"Oh my god." Marissa held her hands out. "It was just a movie."

"But I need you to explain it to me, Cohen. I mean, really, who keeps a map in a bank?"

"Look, I see Taylor." Ryan pointed to a booth at the diner, happy to have an excuse to cut the arguing couple off.

"Hi guys!" The redhead chirped as Summer sat down next to her. Ryan and Marissa slid into the seat across from them and Seth pulled a chair to the end of the table.

After giving the waitress their orders, Taylor began. "Okay, so I would like to thank you all for attending the first meeting for Operation Free Marissa." She said excitedly. "I cannot tell you how excited I am to be involved in this plan. I mean, when Seth and Summer approached me I was a bit unsure, I will admit. But I think that my mother is wrong and that you, Marissa, should be welcomed back at Harbor with open arms." She paused. "With one simple condition."

The group frowned.

"Okay I'll bite. What do you want Taylor?" Marissa finally spoke up.

"I want social chair. If you return to school I don't want to have that taken away from me." Taylor said firmly. "That's my offer, take it or leave it."

The blonde shrugged. "You can have social chair. I just want to graduate with my friends."

Taylor's eyes went wide. "Really? You mean it." She had expected Marissa to put up much more of a fight than this.

"Sure. I kind of have a lot on my plate anyway." Marissa replied and then added, "I promise."

"Well, I appreciate it. But just in case I need you to sign this contract, stating that if I help and you do, in fact, get readmitted to Harbor you and all of your friends will not try and remove me from my current position." She pulled a piece of paper from her bag and slid it across the table to Marissa, along with a pen. "Just sign your name and write the date."

Marissa rolled her eyes. "Fine." She scribbled her name on the dotted line and passed it back to Taylor.

"Alright, now if you three can sign here as witnesses…" the paper was passed around the table for everyone to sign before Taylor smiled.

"Okay then, consider me the official campaign manager of Operation Free Marissa." She pulled a clipboard and a stack of folders from her bag, handing each person a specific colored folder with their name printed neatly on the front in big, bold lettering.

"Red for Summer, green for Seth, blue for Ryan, purple for Marissa, and yellow for myself. Now, inside each folder is a bulleted guideline of the goals we each need to accomplish and when we need the tasks completed." Taylor explained. "Seth, you, Summer and I are going to set up a table during lunch and free period for the petition. Also, we're each going to get a sheet for signatures and campaign separately. I will have the fliers and buttons made by tomorrow so we can all start passing them out. Marissa, you need to talk to your new friends at Newport Union and see if they can help out. Give them some fliers and buttons to distribute. The more people we tell, the more chance we have of gaining a crowd to follow us."

"Summer, you're very good at retail. After school tomorrow you and Marissa will head to the malls and see if you can get any support there; Seth, the comic stores; Ryan, the gyms and I will see if I can get any other local business to lend some support. Also, talk to your parents. Get them to talk to their friends and co-workers. Summer, I know your dad works at the hospital, that's a lot of people. Marissa, your mother is practically the center of everything in this town; she can help spread the word. Seth and Ryan, I know your parents are big around here too."

Summer raised her hand. "Um, just a quick question: What are we going to do with all of these people?"

"Rally of course!" Taylor said excitedly. "The merchandise we leave will keep us in everyone's mind. If we hang fliers around town it will show that local businesses support Marissa as well as schools so that not just kids want Marissa back at Harbor, but the whole community. And I'm going to snoop around the office a bit Monday and see what else I can dig up." She set her hands down on the table. "I really think we can do this. Just campaign harder than you've ever campaigned before!"

"Aye, aye, Captain Taylor." Seth raised his arm in salute, which Taylor smiled at.

"That's the spirit! Now I'll need all of you to check in with me tomorrow morning before school so I can give you your supplies. Marissa, I'll give Ryan your share so he can bring it to you at lunch. The board meeting for your re-admittance is only a month away and we have a lot to do before then."

"Sounds good." Marissa said.

"Alright, well, I should go. I have so much to do and very little time in which to do it." She scooted out from the booth. "I shall see you four later."

"Thanks Taylor. You're a really good friend."

Taylor put her hand to her heart, clearly overwhelmed. "Oh my, Summer, you- you consider me a friend?"

Summer nodded. "Well, yeah. I mean, you're helping us out and not just anybody does that."

"Oh! I've always wanted friends! Yay!" Summer's eyes went wide as Taylor threw her arms around her excitedly. "This is good, this is really amazing." She moved to hug the remaining three, each making the same face as Summer previously had, surprised at the level of excitement and awkwardness.

"Okay, well, I'll see you later," she headed off towards the door but turned back to happily add, "friends!"

Summer and Seth raised their arms to wave slightly, while Ryan and Marissa forced smiles.

"We just became friends with Taylor Townsend." Seth stated, as if to make himself believe it.

Summer sighed. "What did we just get ourselves into?"

"God only knows." Marissa laughed. "Okay, what's next?"

"Well it's only eight; we still have like three and a half hours until curfew." Summer replied.

They all went quiet for a minute before Seth spoke up.

"Anyone feel like going for a dip?"

-OC-

"Hello boys!" Summer twirled around to display her bathing suit as she and Marissa exited the main house, now both in bikinis.

"Let's do something fun." Ryan said coming up and wrapping his arms around Marissa from behind. "You still have fun, right?"

Marissa's eyes glimmered in awe that he still remembered their first date. "I don't know." She said, playing a long and pouting.

"What if you don't have a choice?" he whispered.

"What does that mean?" she laughed.

"What the hell are they doing?" Summer muttered quietly from the edge of the hot tub.

Seth shrugged. "Who knows?" They both looked over as Marissa began to shriek with laughter while Ryan tried to throw her in the pool. He finally stopped, only to have Marissa start pushing him.

"I'm taking you with me!" he shouted as they fell into the pool screaming.

The two brunettes watched in fascination as their blonde friends began to play in the pool, dunking and splashing one another repeatedly. A few minutes later they climbed out and Ryan grabbed a few towels sitting out on one of the deck chairs.

"You've got goose bumps." he said teasingly.

"I know! Towel?" She grinned as he wrapped the towel around her shoulders and rubbed the lengths of her arms in attempt to warm her.

"You want a sweatshirt?"

Marissa giggled. "Can I borrow one of your tank tops so I can look as cool as you?"

"Oh yeah?" he grabbed the towel around her and pulled her close so that their foreheads and noses were touching. "You want to go back in the pool?"

They laughed.

"You know this didn't exactly end right the last time." She said finally.

He let out a breath, looking into her eyes. "Yeah, well there seem to be no crazy diner workers to stop us now. You feel like trying again?"

She nodded, her eyes sparkling as Ryan leaned in to kiss her. He let his lips linger for a bit, both of them savoring the moment.

Marissa smiled up at Ryan, the lust and love and passion clear in both their eyes. Without so much as a single word, they joined hands and headed to the pool house, never once breaking eye contact.

"Um, okay. That wasn't weird at all." Seth said awkwardly once the pool house doors slammed shut.

Summer smiled. "They're in love, leave them alone. Besides, they need this. After all they've been through recently they deserve it."

"Do you want to deserve it too?" he asked hopefully.

She laughed. "Hang on." She walked over to her bag and pulled out her cell phone, dialing home. "Hi, Mima? Yeah, it's Summer, si! Can you tell my dad and Julie that Marissa and I are staying the night with her friend Casey, from Newport Union? We both have our phones." She paused while the housekeeper repeated the message to her. "Great. Thanks Mima!" she tossed the phone back in her purse and turned to smile at her boyfriend. "Now we're both covered."

"Very nice." He said admiringly.

Summer laughed. "Come on." She grabbed his hand and dragged him inside.

-OC-

A few days later the group was lead to the Bait Shop by Summer, who had insisted they come. They were only sitting down for a minute before the bomb dropped.

"Thank you all for coming out tonight. I'd like to welcome you to The Bait Shop's very first karaoke night!" The audience roared with applause and the emcee continued speaking. "So if anyone feels brave please sign up at the table near the entrance. Have a great night everybody!"

Summer turned to her best friend, eyes going wide. "Marissa-"

"No." The blonde cut her off immediately. "Don't say one word."

"But-"

"No."

"What's she talking about?" Seth asked.

"Marissa has a hidden talent." Summer blurted.

"Summer please!" she pleaded. "You're exaggerating!"

Summer ignored her. "She can sing."

"No, I can't!" Marissa said quickly. "I'm really bad and I do NOT want to go up there."

"Coop, you have a gift! You need to get over the damn stage fright and just enjoy it!"

"Summer we've fought about this since we were kids!"

"And now I'm ending the fight! I signed you up a few days ago anyway." The brunette admitted.

Marissa froze. "Summer!" she shouted. "Oh my god, you have to go cross my name off the list! You know I can't do this!"

"No, you think you can't do this. I know you can."

"Sum-"

"Coop, end of discussion. You're doing this. I picked out one of your favorite songs and you could do this in your sleep."

Marissa let out a nervous sigh and turned around, facing her boyfriend.

"Hey, I don't really know what all of this is about but relax." He said softly. "You'll be fine. If you need to, just focus on me. It won't be the first time I've heard you sing."

"What?" her mouth dropped open. "When-"

"You sing in the shower sometimes." He told her. "And when you're studying or doing something else that doesn't require much concentration, and sometimes when you first wake up. You don't think I can hear you or maybe you don't realize you're doing it, but I listen." He looked up at her sincerely. "You're really good. Just go up there and pretend you're at home doing something meaningless."

"Up next we have Marissa Cooper singing 'Why Can't I?' by Liz Phair." the emcee announced into the microphone.

"Sing to me." Ryan said quietly. He gave her a quick but firm kiss for luck and turned her to face the stage, giving her a gentle push.

On her way up she passed Summer, who grabbed her hands and gave them a squeeze. "Go get 'em Coop."

Finally making it up the few stairs that lead to the stage Marissa took her place in front of the microphone and gulped. The faint notes of the music began to fill the room and she closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath and trying to relax. She finally found Ryan in the center of the room and locked eyes with him.

"Get a load of me, get a load of you, walkin' down the street, and I hardly know you. It's just like we were meant to be." She sang softly. "Holding hands with you when we're out at night, got a girlfriend, you say it isn't right. And I've got someone waiting too. What if this is just the beginning? We're already wet, and we're gonna go swimming. Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you? Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you? It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it, so tell me: Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you?"

The club was almost completely silent at this point, all staring in amazement at the blonde with the big voice. She, however, only focused on one person, her eyes never leaving his.

"Isn't this the best part of breaking' up? Finding someone else you can't get enough of? Someone who wants to be with you too? It's an itch we know we are gonna scratch, gonna take a while for this egg to hatch, but wouldn't it be beautiful? Here we go, we're at the beginning, we haven't yet, but my heads spinning… Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you? Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you? It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it, so tell me: Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you?"

"Wow. She's really good." Seth mumbled.

"She's amazing." Ryan said faintly. Sure, he had heard her sing quietly to herself, but this was the first time he had ever really heard her voice.

"High enough for you to make me wonder, where it's going, high enough for you to pull me under,

something's growing, out of this that we can control, baby I am dying."

The tempo when up and Marissa continued to sing, a lot more comfortable on stage, almost as if she were in a trance. And in her own way, she was. At that moment Marissa felt as if she and Ryan were the only two people in the world, the music surrounding them and creating a whirlwind.

"Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you? Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you? Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you? Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you? It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it, so tell me: Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you….. whenever I think about you... whenever I think about you?"

The song slowly faded and Marissa was soon snapped back into reality as the boisterous applause filled the club. Giving a quiet "Thank you" into the microphone, the red-faced teenager hurried off stage and into the arms of her prince.

"You were amazing." He mumbled into her hair as she hugged him tightly.

"Thanks." She whispered back. "It was all because of you."

Ryan stood there in shock as she eventually pulled away and moved to Summer.

"Oh my god Coop, you're a rock star!" The brunette shouted happily.

"Not bad, I'd even go as far as saying pretty good." Seth acknowledged.

Marissa smiled. "Thanks guys."

-OC-

"You know, I think this was one of your best ideas yet Cohen." Summer said fifteen minutes later as they walked along the beach. "Celebratory black-and-white milkshakes in honor of Coop's breakout performance!"

"And only performance." Marissa added. "That was a onetime thing."

"I figured you'd say that." Summer nodded. "Which is why I videotaped it."

Marissa gasped. "Summer!" she handed Ryan her milkshake and ran over to attack her best friend. Seth grabbed Summer's plastic cup just in time and stood back with his brother as the two girls roughhoused, laughing like hyenas the entire time.

"You thinking the same thing I am?" Ryan muttered finally.

Seth shrugged. "If you're thinking this would be ten times better if they were in a mud pit and naked, then yeah."

The blonde rolled his eyes and shook his head. He nodded towards the ocean, causing Seth's eyes to go wide.

"Dude, you're a genius." Tossing their cups into a nearby wastebasket the boys began to slowly walk over to the spot where Marissa and Summer were carrying on.

Ryan glanced at Seth. "One."

Seth grinned. "Two."

"THREE!"

"EEEEK!" The girls yelped in surprise as they were swept up in their boyfriend's arms, eyes going wide with fear as they headed towards the water.

"Cohen, no! Put me down! Now!"

"Ryan, I'm serious! Let me go! That water is freezing!"

The boys laughed and picked up the pace, now running down the beach full speed as the girls let out shrieks. Finally reaching the water the guys ran into the ocean and tossed the girls as far as they could, causing them to land with a SPLAT in the water.

They popped up from below the surface a few seconds later and looked at each other before grinning and jumping on top of them.

"Summer what are you- AH!"

"Marissa, now just remember that- OOF!" Ryan and Seth resurfaced a moment later and grinned wickedly. "Oh it's on!"

-OC-

"I cannot believe we were in there for an hour and a half!" Summer laughed later that night. "My fingers are like prunes!"

"The Nana has smoother skin that I do right now." Seth said disgustedly. "Speaking of The Nana- Ryan, guess who's coming for graduation?"

Ryan suddenly looked apprehensive. "Really?"

"Oh yeah, Aunt Hailey too. It should be a hoot. And because we only have one spare room, they get to be bunk buddies. Hey Summer, Marissa, could we hide out at your places by any chance?"

"Sorry Cohen, I don't mess with The Nana." Summer said firmly.

Marissa was quick to agree. "Yeah, I'm all for escaping family but The Nana is an exception."

"The Nana is always an exception. She's The Nana. You can hear the capitalization when you say her name. It's like saying Colonel or Doctor, you can just tell she's more important than everyone else."

"She scares me sometimes." Ryan admitted, causing the girls to laugh.

"Hey, buddy, I'm right there with you. One time she decided I needed to know about the Birds and the Bees, said my dad was waiting too long to explain it to me. Let me tell you, it was the worst three hours of my life. I went to school the next day and couldn't look anyone in the eye."

Summer giggled. "How old were you?"

Seth shrugged. "Seven."

"Your Nana told you about sex when you were seven?" Marissa gasped.

Seth nodded solemnly. "Before that I still believed in the stork. Needless to say, I made sure to stay far away from her for the next few visits."

-OC-

Monday rolled around much faster than any of them had wanted, and before they knew it the school day was coming to an end. Ryan was heading over to meet Marissa, who had just pulled up, when Taylor appeared.

"Hey guys. Can I talk to you about something?" she asked quietly.

Marissa got out of the car and walked over to them. "Hey Taylor. What's up?"

For once in her life Taylor looked as if she didn't want to say something. She finally took a deep breath and blurted it out.

"I'm worried about Seth and Summer. I saw them earlier and it looked like they were in a pretty heated argument."

Ryan and Marissa looked at each other for a minute before busting out laughing.

Taylor frowned. "What is so funny? This is serious!"

"Taylor, they argue 24/7." Marissa finally said. "Seriously, it's like an everyday thing."

"But they really seemed mad. I mean, they acted like they might break up."

"They always do. It's just how they work. They fight over stupid things and make-up by the end of the day."

"Unless it's bad, then it takes them a few days to admit they're wrong." Ryan added. "But it never lasts. We've all come to find it kind of amusing."

"Oh, remember when he forgot their anniversary?" Marissa asked excitedly. "And he said he didn't forget and that she had gotten the date wrong? They spent a week and a half arguing about that."

"Or when he tried to cook dinner for her and forgot she was allergic to paprika so they ended up in the emergency room?" Ryan added.

"Oh, oh! What about the time when he tried to surprise her with a romantic night in and almost set the house on fire?" Marissa laughed.

"That one party where he tried to dance with her and ended up breaking her toe?"

"The time she almost broke Captain Oats when she used him as a weapon?"

"When he got gum stuck in her hair?"

"When they tried to install surround sound but ended up knocking the power out so she missed a new episode of The Valley?"

"The time she tried to teach him to roller-skate and they took down that group of senior citizens?"

"When they tried to cook dinner together and ended up with food poisoning!" By now Ryan and Marissa were near hysterics. "See Taylor? It's nothing to freak out about."

Ryan nodded. "The only time you need to worry is when it results to violence."

Taylor gasped. "He hits her?" She couldn't believe it! Seth was such a nice guy! Never did she imagine him hurting women!

The blonde couple dissolved into giggles again. "Seth? Are you kidding? He couldn't hurt her if she had both hands tied behind her back and was blindfolded."

"Summer will kick his ass." Ryan said bluntly.

Marissa nodded. "She has rage issues."

"Oh." Taylor looked down embarrassedly. "Well, that makes more sense. Sorry to bother you guys."

"Hey, no problem. I really appreciate everything you're doing for me."

"Yeah, thanks Taylor."

She smiled. "Not a problem at all. I should go, plenty to do…"

"Yeah, us too." Marissa pointed to the car. "We're on our way to hand out fliers."

"Excellent. I'll see you both later.

-OC-

The next few weeks flew by and the five friends worked harder than they ever imagined they would. They spent so much time explaining Marissa's story to so many people, it became like a script. The good news was they were learning to rattle it off pretty quick, and they were covering a lot of ground.

"Hey!" Marissa jumped a bit as her boyfriend's arms wrapped around her from behind. She was at her locker after last period, gathering her things before she headed to the parking lot to meet him.

"Hi. What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to whisk you away." He replied kissing her.

"Mmm, you're awfully chipper." She mused.

He shrugged. "Well, things are looking up. The board meeting is tomorrow and when all of those people show up… I have a good feeling about this."

She put her arms around his neck. "Really?"

"Mhmm, and I'm very excited to have my girl back at Harbor." He said as he leaned in closer.

She smiled. "And why is that?"

"I don't like having you so far away. It makes kissing you in between classes harder." He kissed her again as if proving his point. "And I like to be close so I can protect you from any danger that happens to arise."

Marissa laughed. "Oh yeah, the evil locker creatures are pretty scary."

"Exactly." She let out a shriek of surprise as he swept her up into his arms.

"Ryan put me down! Seriously, people are staring at us."

He shrugged. "Kid Chino has to do what he has to do."

"I'm heavy, I could hurt you!"

"Please. I lift weights that are heavier than you. Your purse, on the other hand…"

"Hey!" she gave him a playful smack on the arm, causing him to laugh.

"I'm not going to put you down so you might as well stop fighting it."

She let out a sigh, knowing he was right.

"Marissa? Are you alright?" A passing teacher stopped in alarm, seeing one of his students being carried out to the parking lot.

Marissa smiled embarrassedly. "Hi Mr. Shelton; I'm fine, thanks, just… getting a lift home."

The tiny bald man nodded. "Alright then… see you tomorrow."

"Right, bye." Marissa called after him. "Ryan, oh my god! That was one of my teachers!"

"Cool. What does he teach?"

She rolled her eyes and smacked him again. "Civics, but that's so not the point!"

"Well what is the point?" finally reaching his car he gently lowered her back to the ground.

"The point is I was embarrassed!"

"Well you won't be going to school here much longer anyway."

"Still!"

He frowned. "I'm sorry." He said sincerely. "Let me make it up to you."

She giggled as he pressed another kiss to her lips.

"Okay, I'm not as mad." He kissed her again. "Really not as mad." He leaned in to kiss her a third time. "Okay, you're forgiven." She laughed.

"Hey Cooper!" the two pulled away from yet another kiss to see Casey waving from the backseat of a jeep, Johnny at the wheel and Chili riding shotgun. "What's with the PDA?"

Marissa laughed. "You're just jealous!"

"I know I am!" Everyone stopped and looked at Chili, who held up his hands in defense. "Of him, not her! Jeez!"

"Dude, seriously? Just stop." Johnny said shaking his head.

Casey rolled her eyes. "We're gonna go catch a movie, you guys wanna come?"

"I'll share my popcorn with you!" Chili added.

"If you want to go with them it's cool." Ryan lied.

Marissa smiled. "And miss out on this amazing afternoon you have planned? I don't think so." She glanced over at the jeep. "Sorry guys, maybe another time."

"That's cool." Johnny nodded.

"Yeah, have fun making out with your boyfriend!" Casey added.

Chili frowned. "I'm hurt, Marissa! I really am!"

"I'll buy you some gummy bears to help with the pain." Casey told him, as if he were a child.

"Excuse me? You think candy can heal a broken heart? I'm sorry but it's not that simple!" Chili said indignantly as they drove off. "But I can still have them, right?"

Marissa rolled her eyes and turned back to Ryan. "Alright, let's go."

"I really only have pizza and movies back at the pool house." He admitted once they were on their way.

She laughed. "That sounds perfect." It was the perfect way to relax before the big even that tomorrow brought.

-OC-

Before long, though, the day arrived and the Fantastic Four was gathered in the pool house nervously about to leave for the school.

"Dad says we need to get moving." Seth informed them as he closed the door.

Marissa nodded. "I guess we should go."

"Just remember that we're all behind you, no matter what Coop." Summer told her firmly.

"I know Sum, thanks. Really, thank all of you guys. The fact that you put all of this effort into the whole thing amazes me. You're the best friends ever."

"Aww." Seth opened his arms. "Group hug!" he yelled, as if he were a girl. "Ohmygod I love you guys so much!"

The group laughed.

"Cohen!" Summer cried smacking his arm.

"What?"

"Let's go, before we're late and Taylor kills us all." Ryan said wanting to head off the argument before it started.

"Good idea." Marissa agreed. "Let's do it."

-OC-

"Okay, so you all are aware of the plan?" Taylor asked the group as they stood outside the Harbor School.

Seth rolled his eyes. "Yeah Taylor, we know. You went over it about twenty times."

"And made us have dress rehearsals." Summer added.

"Okay, I was just checking." She held out her hands excitedly. "This is it! Operation Free Marissa is either sink or float. It's now or never. We can't back down. This is our one shot. It's time for all of our hard work to-"

"Taylor we get it!"

"Right! Okay, well let's do this. I'll meet you guys inside." She smiled encouragingly. "Good luck!"

The four nodded and headed into the board room inside where the meeting was being held. Taking their places in the front row, with the parents surrounding them, they made it just in time.

Judge Jim Mercer called for quiet and began. "Good evening, thank you all for coming. As you know we're here to discuss the critical matter of Marissa Cooper's justification for why she should be re-admitted as a student at The Harbor School. Miss Townsend, you are speaking on behalf of the parents association, would you care to open?"

Taylor's mom stood up. "Thank you judge Mercer, as I'm sure you all know Marissa Cooper shota boy in the back, and as head of the parents association and an active member in this community, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this is in not what the public wants."

"You don't know what the public wants." Summer said standing up.

Judge Mercer frowned. "Young lady, sit down."

Summer ignored him. "You have no clue what anyone in this town thinks but yourself."

"I think I have a much clearer idea than you." Veronica snapped.

Seth rose from his chair as well. "Did you ask them?"

Veronica glared at him. "What?"

"I said, did you ask the town what they think?" he repeated. "Or did you just assume?"

"She shot someone, how can anyone think that there is a somewhat dignified reason for that?" She asked harshly.

"Well, unlike you, some people decided to hear her out and let her explain herself." Ryan said joining his friends.

Judge Mercer glanced at him. "And how do you know this young man?"

Summer shrugged. "We have proof."

Seth moved over and opened the door and Taylor marched in, followed by a huge crowd of at least fifty people.

"Judge Mercer I'm Taylor Townsend, part of this organization to campaign for our classmate return to Harbor." She gestured to the crowd behind her. "And all of these people have heard Marissa Cooper's side of the story and agree with us when we say that we understand that what she did was bad, but she had a justified reason for doing it."

"Taylor sit down and shut up!" her mother yelled.

"She was saving someone's life," Taylor went on, "And while yes, a gun is not the answer, it was a desperate time that called for desperate measures. If it had not been for her shooting that boy," she pointed to Ryan. "Then Ryan Atwood would be dead right now. So really, it was heroic. She was in a threatening situation and saw the life of someone she loved put in danger. She did what she had to do and acted on instinct, as would any of us. I have a petition here with over a thousand signatures of people who agree with us when we say that Marissa deserves a second chance."

Judge Mercer sighed. Clearly the typical order of things just wasn't going to happen tonight. "Marissa, do you have anything to say?"

"You're letting her defend herself?" Veronica let out a harsh laugh. "Come on, let's be realistic here!"

"Mom, shut up!" The room went silent and all heads turned to Taylor.

Her mother glared at her. "What did you just say to me?"

"I said shut up. Marissa deserves to a chance to explain what happened, so be quiet and let her talk." She glanced at Marissa and smiled slightly. "Go ahead."

The blonde nodded nervously and moved to the front of the room to face her community. "I know what I did was wrong. And I accept full responsibility for my actions. But I will not apologize for saving someone's life. I love Ryan," She said simply. "with all my heart. And just as he does for me, and just as anyone does for someone they love, I couldn't stand there and watch him suffer. I walked in and Trey and Ryan were fighting. But then Trey got the upper hand and started to choke him. He was going to kill him." She took a deep breath. "I saw the gun on the floor and did the first thing that came to mind. I picked it up, aimed, and shot. I know what I did was wrong. Violence is not the answer. But I can't stand up here and say that I regret doing it, because I don't. If I was put in the same position I'd do it all over again exactly the same. So I guess I'm sorry that the situation occurred. I'm sorry that Trey had a gun. I'm sorry that he felt he had to pull it and I'm sorry that I upset people. But I'm not sorry I did it. I saved my boyfriend's life and I won't apologize for that." She shrugged. "I hope you take that into consideration."

The room began to buzz for a moment before the judge stood up and held up his hands for quiet.

"We will…take a short recess while the board discuses the issue at hand and will reconvene in one hour to announce the verdict." He declared.

A few minutes later everyone was back outside in the parking lot, seeing as it was the one place they could all fit. People sat down on the sidewalk in small groups, some left to grab a cup of coffee, and others sat in their cars listening to the radio.

"You know even if I don't get back into school, I think we still kind of won." Marissa announced. "I mean, at least now everybody knows my side of the story and a lot more people accept me and are moving past what I did."

"You cannot seriously be considering this!" Veronica shouted back in the board room. "She shot a boy, for God's sake!

"Veronica, please lower your voice." Jim said tiredly. "Let's just sit down and talk about this rationally, like adults."

"Adults my ass! I will not sit here and let you put not only my child, but every other parent's, in danger by being around a criminal!"

"Veronica, be quiet!" Dr. Kim exclaimed. The room went silent as she stood from her chair. "I am sick and tired of this. You come in here every month and you shout about how you're right and everyone else is wrong. Well here it is- you're mean. You're a bully and we all know it! And it's about time you listened and showed other people a little respect!"

Taylor glanced down at her watch. "Okay," She said nervously. "It's time." She turned to the mass of people. "Everyone, it's time! This is it." They all made their way back into the board room where the council sat waiting. After everyone had taken their seat, Judge Mercer rose.

"The board has reached its verdict." He announced finally. "And with only one dissenting vote, we have decided to let Marissa Cooper be re-admitted to The Harbor School."

The room erupted into cheers as everyone jumped to their feet in celebration.

"We did it!" Summer yelled as she began hugging everyone.

"I'm back!" Marissa exclaimed, close to tears. "Oh my god, I get to come back. I get to be with you guys again!"

"We're so thrilled Coop!"

"Congratulations." Ryan said swiftly moving to kiss her. Marissa grinned, oblivious to the people around them.

"You are amazing." She said once they'd broken apart. "Thank you for doing this."

Ryan shook his head. "Don't mention it."

"I love you, you know that?"

He smiled. "I know. I love you too."

She pressed another kiss to his lips and the turned to Taylor. "And Taylor, I owe you. This is all you."

"Oh, it was my pleasure." Taylor said blushing a bit. "And you owe me nothing. I have social chair, that's all I've ever wanted. Besides friends, that is."

"Well, now you have both." Summer said popping up beside her. "And we're having a celebratory sleep over."

"Maybe we could arrange that for five." Seth said as he walked over. "Mom and dad just gave me the green light with a promise of no sexual acts of any kind occurring." He looked pointedly at Ryan and Marissa. "We can camp out in the pool house, if Ryan's okay with it."

Ryan nodded. "Sure."

"Oh, Taylor, you should bring a guy! That way you won't be left out." Summer said excitedly.

Taylor grinned. "Well, there is this one guy. His name is Sung Ho and we're hanging out. I don't know…"

"Call him." The brunette urged.

"Okay, I'll do it!"

"Nice. So we'll all meet in the pool house in an hour." Seth decided. "Sound good?"

The small group went their separate ways and headed for home.

"Oh, hi honey. Are you going somewhere?" Julie asked walking in to Marissa's room to find her packing a duffle bag.

"Um, yeah, actually. I was going to go over and stay at the Cohen's tonight. We're having this big sleepover thing in the pool house: Seth, Ryan, Summer, me, Taylor, and some guy she's bringing."

Julie frowned. "Marissa…"

"I swear, mom, Seth asked his parents and they said it was okay. Nothing is going to happen."

Julie sighed and studied her daughter for a minute. "Okay." She said finally. "But be good."

Marissa smiled and hugged her mother. "I promise."

"I love you sweetheart." The redhead said soothingly. "I'm so glad you're back at school where you belong."

"Me too." Her daughter soon pulled away and grabbed her bags. "And I love you too!" she called as she headed out the door.

-OC-

"Hey Coop!" Summer grinned as Marissa made her way into the Cohen's kitchen a few minutes later. "Everything is set up outside and Taylor is on her way."

"Sounds good. I'll just go set these in the pool house."

"Okay. We're all going to head in at about eight." The brunette said looking at her directly.

Marissa nodded slowly. "Okay…"

"And it's seven thirty now." Summer went on. "And so we won't be in there for thirty more minutes."

"I got it, Sum."

"Which means that anything that happens in the next half hour in there will be unknown to everyone else." Seeing her best friend still not get the hint she let out an exasperated sigh. "Ryan is in the pool house waiting for you." She whispered. "You have half an hour before we join you. GO!"

Marissa's eyes went wide as she finally got the message. "Right! Well, I think I left something back at the house. I'll go get it and be back." She said quickly.

Summer nodded. "Right. I'll be here with everyone else. And we'll be in the pool house in half an hour- exactly."

"Okay. I'll see you." She opened the back door and scurried towards the pool house which had all of the shades drawn, and knocked once before the door opened just enough for her to slide in.

She was immediately attacked by her boyfriend's lips. Dropping her bags on the floor, she wrapped her arms around Ryan's neck as he moved them towards the bed and climbed on top of her.

"I'm sorry this has to be quick." He said kissing along her neck. "But I wanted to celebrate you getting back into school and we're having this thing-"

"Ryan, it's okay." She cut him off. "I get it. Now kiss me."

Complying to her wish his lips crashed back onto hers and soon their tongues battled for dominance. Marissa's breath hitched as she felt him undo the button of her jeans. His wife beater was soon tossed half-hazardously across the room and not a minute later was joined by her top. She pushed his jeans down, both of them kicking off their shoes in sync. He helped her gently slide out of her jeans and soon all clothing was gone. For a moment they paused, just looking at each other in awe.

"You're beautiful." She blushed at the words she had let slip out.

He smiled lovingly. "You're gorgeous."

It was true they were far from the normal couple. They fought often and we're polar opposites. He was the rough, angry kid from Chino, and she was a Newport princess born and raised. But they worked. They balanced each other out. For every punch he wanted to throw, she had a kind word to calm him down. For every tear she shed, he had a shoulder for her to cry on. They were different, unique, and anything but ordinary. But the love that they shared overpowered it all. No matter what happened, or who appeared, or what obstacle life decided to throw at them next, they were in it together.

"I love you."

"I love you too." He smiled.

He would never get tired of hearing her say it. He never used to be this kind of person, the guy who said he loved someone and meant it. He was used to keeping to himself and just watching life go by. But not anymore. The Cohen's made sure that he felt happy and proud of his life. They made sure he didn't just watch life pass, but that he experienced it at its fullest. Marissa made sure that no matter what was going on or how bad it was, that he always had someone to turn to. That even if the worst happened, and at times he thought it had, he could always come to her. And even if she could do nothing to help, just the fact that she was there meant the world to him. She had become more than just a girlfriend over the years. She was his saving grace, his lover, his partner, his very best friend, and his entire world.

Ryan Atwood. Marissa looked up at his smiling face and thought of the future. Senior prom with Ryan; graduation with all of her friends and Ryan; college with Ryan; living with Ryan; marrying Ryan; having his children; creating a family and building a life with him. It was her fairytale romance, the kind she and Summer had dreamed of since they were little kids and watched countless Disney movies. It was always decided that Summer would be Belle from Beauty and The Beast and Marissa would be Sleeping Beauty.

It was kind of ironic. Summer had found her "beast" of sorts. But instead of being extremely hairy and mean, he was nerdy and sarcastic. But because of the never-ending love Summer had found for him, Seth was turning out to be the perfect prince. In a way, Marissa was like Sleeping Beauty. Her life had been a constant series of events planned by her mother: wear this, date him, do this, be this person. But Ryan, her Prince Charming, had come and woken her from her sleep. With him every day was a new adventure waiting to be conquered. Each new experience was like opening a gift on Christmas morning, but the magic got to last forever. He was her dream come true.

-OC-

When Summer led the group to the pool house at eight o'clock exactly, she knew the deed had been done. Ryan and Marissa were both sitting on the bed fully clothed, but the grins on their faces were obvious.

"Hi guys." She said eyeing her best friend.

"Thank you." Marissa mouthed at her.

She nodded. "Okay, so we brought snacks and Taylor and Sung Ho stopped at the Bait Shop and brought burgers and fries."

"Guys, this Sung Ho." Taylor said pointing to the Korean man standing next to her holding a sleeping bag and smiling.

"Hello. It is nice to meet you." He said; his accent informed everyone that he was obviously still a bit new to the English language. "I am very happy to meet some of Taylor's friends."

"Hi. I'm Marissa and this is Ryan."

"And this is his house?" The boy guessed.

Summer nodded. "This is part of the main house that we were just in. But yeah, this is where Ryan lives."

"The main house." He repeated. "With the eyebrow man and his wife?"

"Yeah."

"And we are here to celebrate school." He added.

"We're celebrating the fact that Marissa," Taylor pointed to the blonde. "Got back into school. Harbor, where I go, remember?"

"Ah." He nodded. "I am sorry for the confusion. I am still learning the English Taylor is teaching me. She is a very good teacher." He smiled at her lovingly.

"Oh, Sung Ho." Taylor blushed.

"She is my girlfriend." He said proudly.

"I- I am?" she redhead suddenly became flustered. "I- well yes, of course. I accept."

Seeing the panic come over her friend's face, Summer stood up. "We need drinks. Taylor, Marissa, come help me."

"Sure."

"Yeah, okay."

After the girls walked out, Seth and Ryan glanced at each other and then back at Sung Ho, who was still smiling.

"So." Seth said finally. "How about them sports?"

"Oh my god, oh my god!" Taylor waved her hands around nervously and began to pace through the kitchen.

"Okay, Taylor, calm down. It's okay."

"What? No, Summer, it is not okay! The exact opposite, in fact! I've never had a boyfriend before!"

"Here," Marissa passed the girl a paper bag, which she began breathing into heavily. "Just breath, you're fine."

"What am I going to do?" Taylor asked speaking into the bag.

"Well you like him don't you?" Taylor nodded. "Then you be his girlfriend! Seriously, Taylor, it's not that big a deal. I mean, you've been on dates right? And you said that you liked him, not to mention the fact that he is completely in love with you."

"Is he? You think so?"

Summer nodded. "Totally! Have you seen the way he looks at you? He's so far gone its crazy."

"Sums right," Marissa spoke up. "He's totally in love with you."

"But what if I'm not a good girlfriend? What if he thinks he made a mistake?"

"He won't."

"He wouldn't have asked if he wasn't sure." Summer added. "Just accept it. He likes you- a lot."

Taylor set the bag down on the table. "You really think he likes me?"

Summer rolled her eyes. "I think he's already started picking out names for your kids."

The girls returned to the pool house to find Ryan still on the bed, his eyes closed, while Seth and Sung Ho were deep in conversation.

"And in issue 127 when Yoki defeats Makayazu? A classic!"

Sung Ho nodded vigorously. "I have first edition."

Seth gasped. "No way."

"Yah way."

"No way! That's impossible!"

"My cousin is editor."

"Your cousin is Jiao Long?" Seth looked as if he might pass out. "Oh sweet Moses."

"Cohen, what the hell are you guys talking about?" Summer asked as the girls returned to their places and setting the drinks down.

"His cousin is the editor of the greatest Korean comic book known to man!" Seeing the girl's blank faces, he continued. "Yoki Takamori? With his fearless sidekick, Feng the fire dragon? Oh my god, how can you not know about Yoki?"

"Um, some of us prefer the real world to story books, Cohen."

"It is a timeless struggle of good versus evil, Summer!"

The brunette rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Coop, I'm painting your toenails."

"Okay. But I'm not moving." Marissa said from her place next to Ryan, who's eyes were now open again at the return of somewhat interesting human beings.

"Perfect, that means I can stay right here." At the foot of the bed Summer picked up a bottle of bright orange polish and unscrewed the lid. "Now I'm doing serious work here guys, so no hanky-panky or Chino will be sleeping on what will look like Nickelodeon sheets."

"Oh, Summer I'll paint yours!" Taylor picked up a green bottle and set to work on Summer's toes.

"Why do you do that anyway?" Ryan spoke up.

Marissa looked at him. "What?"

"Paint your nails. Why bother?"

"Well, we like to look nice for our guys." She giggled.

Ryan laughed. "Seriously, I mean it's not like we'll think you're less attractive if your nails are a certain color. Why go through the hassle?"

"Because it's fun to us, Chino. Girls enjoy making themselves beautiful. And it's like painting on a really tiny canvas."

"That you get to wear around and show off to everyone." Taylor added. "It's just one of the fun things about being a girl."

For the rest of the night the group of six enjoyed the relaxed celebration. They watched a few movies, played a few games, listened to music, and just hung out. Around one a.m. though, Summer was woke from her slumber.

"Ugh, what the hell Chino? I'm trying to sleep!" she whispered harshly.

"Sorry, but I need your help." Ryan replied quietly.

Summer glared at him. "With what?! It can't wait until morning?"

"No, now get up and help me."

She sighed. "This better be good."

-OC-

"Morning guys!" Kirsten said happily as the group of teenagers entered the kitchen. "Did you have fun last night?"

"Yeah, it was cool. Thanks mom." They sat down and began pouring coffee and juice and fixing the bagels Kirsten had set out.

"Yeah, thanks Mrs. Cohen."

"Well, anything for a celebration. Where are Ryan and Marissa?"

"Oh, they're still asleep." Summer reported. "I don't think they've been able to sleep well lately because they've been so stressed about the trial."

Kirsten glanced out the window and saw that one of the blinds had been left open. Summer was right, she could see them both lying on the bed, arms wrapped around each other, fast asleep. "Well, that's understandable. Hopefully now they can both catch up on their rest."

"What time did the rest of you kids finally hit the hay?" Sandy asked walking in.

Seth rolled his eyes. "Seriously dad, don't say hit the hay."

"My apologies son. What time did you rad dudes zonk out?"

"Oh my god." He put his head in his hands. "It's too early to deal with this."

Sandy laughed. "Well I hope you had fun because this won't be an every week kind of thing."

"Totally Mr. C, we understand. This was a special occasion."

While everyone else began eating bagels and pouring coffee, Ryan and Marissa were beginning to stir awake back in the pool house.

"Ah, last one's up." She observed groggily.

Ryan let out a yawn and glanced at the clock. "Oh man, ten a.m. already?"

"Great. That means we have to get up." She gave him a soft kiss before rolling out of the bed and walking towards the bathroom, only to stop a few steps away from the door.

"What in the hell?" she glanced down at her feet.

"What's wrong?" Ryan called, still not moving.

"Something's on my toes!" She sat down on one of the chairs and lifted her feet for closer inspection. "Someone wrote on them!" Sure enough, there was now one dark blue letter painted on each toe. Marissa started at her baby toe on the left foot and read her way across. "P-R-O-M-W…I-T-H-M-E?" A tiny question mark had been squished on the end of the last letter. She frowned. "What?" And then it hit her. Senior prom was only a few weeks away. "Ryan?"

Her boyfriend laughed and made his way over to her. "Marissa Cooper, will you go to prom with me?"

Her mouth dropped open in surprise. "You did this?"

He shrugged. "Summer did the actual painting part, but yeah, the idea was mine. She wasn't exactly thrilled to be woke up in the middle of the night, though."

Marissa grinned and hugged him tightly. "Yes, of course I'll go to prom with you!" she said happily. "You didn't have to go to all this trouble! You could have just asked me!"

"Yeah, but last year I kind of messed things up, so I'm making sure that I do everything right this time." He mumbled. "And I promise that I will not bail at the last minute."

"Ryan, it's all in the past." She said brushing it off. "And for the record, even though the beginning of prom last year wasn't the best the end made it all worth it."

"Still- I'm going to make sure that this is the best prom night ever, for both of us."

Marissa grinned. "You're too perfect for me sometimes."

"I do what I can." He said smoothly, causing them both to crack up.

"Oh good, you're up. I was just coming to wake you guys." Summer said poking her head in. She grinned. "She noticed, didn't she?"

Ryan laughed. "Yeah. Thanks for helping me."

"Yeah, thanks Sum."

"Anything for you Coop. You know that. Now come on, bagels are hot off the toaster!"

-OC-

"Summer! Marissa! Taylor! The boys are here!" The girls glanced in the mirror a final time, checking their teeth for lipstick stains and giving their hair the final touch. It was prom night and the girls had spent the entire day getting ready at Summer's house. Now the guys had arrived and the parents were downstairs waiting eagerly for pictures.

"Okay, I'll go first." Taylor said bravely. They had already decided early on that they should go down separately, both for the pictures and guys, and that Summer would go last because it was her house.

Taylor made her way down the steps in a bright red gown. It had a pleated bust line with criss-cross gold rhinestone trimming the outline empire waist, and a low back with criss-cross straps. Seeing her mother at the foot of the stairs made her grin, and as Sung Ho made his way over to take her arm despite all of the camera flashes, the smile only grew.

"You look like a goddess." He said seriously.

Taylor giggled. "Thank you. You look very nice too."

Marissa came down next in a short strapless printed dress. It was dark purple with a black velvet burnout flower over-lay and scattered glitter, giving her an enchanted look with her hair pinned up.

"Wow." Ryan let out a breath as he met her at the foot of the steps. "You look amazing."

"And you look so handsome! I don't think I've ever seen you in a tux!" she stepped back to look at him, nodding her approval. "I like it."

Summer descended the stairs last in a beautiful royal blue A-line prom dress, the halter top with a gold diamond trim, and a Chiffon back train bow tie.

"Well Cohen, what do you think?"

Seth merely shook his head as he walked up to her. "For once, I have no words. You're stunning, Summer, absolutely stunning."

She grinned. "Thanks. You don't look so bad yourself."

The next half hour composed of pictures in every combination imaginable. The couples, obviously, in several different poses; Ryan and Seth; Ryan and Seth and Sung Ho; Seth and Sung Ho; The three girls; Summer and Marissa; Marissa and Taylor; Summer and Taylor; Ryan and Summer; Seth and Marissa; individual shots; a few outside; pictures with parents; okay, now with other people's parents…

"Dad, do we really need a picture of me and Julie together on prom night?" Seth asked finally.

Sandy sighed impatiently. "Seth, this is your senior prom. It only happens once."

"Thank god."

"Just let me have my fun, please? We're almost done. I just need one with you and Dr. Roberts, and then Taylor's mom-"

"Sandy, honey, I think that's enough." Kirsten said gently pulling the camera from her husband's grip. "They're going to be late."

"Just a few more!"

"We have plenty. I think that picture you took of Seth getting ready to take his pre-prom shower earlier proves it."

Sandy looked at her defensively. "I didn't get him naked; I just wanted a picture of his pre-prom shower musk."

"Okay, leaving now." Seth moved to hug his mother. "See you tomorrow mom."

"Okay honey, be good."

Since The Harbor School had raised enough money to have its senior prom at a fancy hotel an hour or so away, everyone had agreed it would be easier for them to just rent out rooms at the hotel and pack overnight bags. Though the parents knew they were basically allowing their kids a night full of inappropriate activities, they also knew that there would be alcohol snuck in, among other things. And they would rather just go ahead and let the kids have their night of fun and not worry about drunk driving and car wrecks than give them a curfew.

Hugs and handshakes were passed around respectfully before the group of young adults made their way to the awaiting limousine parked outside.

"Free at last!" Seth cried victoriously once they'd waved out the window (Sandy had gotten his camera back and was going wild) and drove away.

"Too bad they cleaned the car out." Ryan said, gesturing to the empty bar.

"I got it covered!" Summer dug into her duffel bag she had insisted on riding with and pulled out a bottle of Champaign. "I knew my dad would have them take out the alcohol." She explained.

Marissa smiled. "That's great Sum, but what about-"

"Glasses?" Taylor smiled and began pulling thin flutes from her bag. "They're plastic, but whatever." They passed the bottle around and filled up each of the glasses before holding them up while Summer spoke.

"To the best prom ever- Let's try and stay sober long enough to enjoy it!"

"Here, here!"

"Cheers!"

"Frasier!"

"Seth!"

"What? It was catchy."

-OC-

After an amazing dinner at The Arches the limousine finally came to a stop in front of Mon Cherie Hotel. The group quickly exited the driver and handed in their tickets before stepping into the ballroom in awe. Taylor and her committee had done an amazing job. Going with the theme of 'A Night of a Thousand Dreams' light blue tablecloths covered each table set for ten, fairy lights strung across the room in every direction, and what looked to be fake clouds dangled from the ceiling along with tons of silver stars and moons. The backdrop for photography was stationed near the entrance, where couples took turns getting their picture taken amidst the night sky. A long table filled with food and drink confiscated the far wall, and a DJ could be seen mixing music a ways off from the dance floor, which was already drawing a large crowd.

"We really did good." Summer said surveying the room.

"Yeah, you did awesome Taylor." Marissa agreed as she looked around.

"Marissa, you helped too! We all did this together."

"Taylor, shall we dance?" Sung Ho gave a tiny bow and offered her his arm, which Taylor accepted.

"Yes, of course. We'll see you guys out there." She grinned and gave a small wave as they headed off.

"What about you guys? Headed off to the dance floor?" Marissa asked glancing at her best friend.

The brunette shook her head. "I have to take Cohen outside and show him something." She said quickly.

Marissa crinkled her nose in disgust. "Okay, thanks for the info."

Ryan nodded, wincing at the thought. "We'll see you later."

"Sounds good Chino!"

The blondes watched her drag Seth off, the smile on his face obvious. Marissa turned to her boyfriend. "So do you need some punch before I make you dance?"

"I think it might help." He wrapped an arm around her waist and steered them off towards the punch table.

"Okay, so here's the plan." Summer said once she and Seth were out in the hallway.

"Oh, I think I know the plan Summer. I think I know the plan exactly."

She dodged his lips and frowned. "No! Not right now Cohen! I'm serious, get off of me!"

He pulled away. "What? I thought you brought me here to make out!"

"No moron! I brought you out here so we can make Marissa and Ryan prom queen and king."

Seth's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "What? Why would we do that?"

"Because she's my best friend and this would make her happy. And the only way she'd enjoy it is if Ryan is king with her. Now I know Atwood is against all of this cheesy stuff, but I also know if it makes Coop happy he'll do it."

"But I thought your dream was to be prom queen."

She smiled, touched that he still remembered. "It was. But you gave that to me last year, now it's her turn."

"Oh, my girl is so sweet." He cooed. "Wait a second, how are we going rig the votes if they aren't even on the ballad? They weren't nominated."

Summer was already a step ahead of him. "That's why we're going to remove all of the votes in the box and replace them with these." She pulled a thick wad of small papers from her purse. "These are the same people that are on the ballads now, but Marissa and Ryan's names are added on. I made them the other night and Taylor helped me fill them out. We put in a bunch of votes for other people, but Marissa and Ryan will still win by a long shot."

"But won't they notice?"

"How could they? We used a bunch of different pens and pencils and varied the checkmarks so they looked different."

"You really did think of everything." He said clearly impressed by not only her wit, but her kindness as well.

"She's my best friend, Cohen. And she's been through so much hell this year, she deserves this."

Seth nodded and put his game face on. "Okay then, let's go rig some votes."

"Follow my lead." Summer raised the hem of her dress gently and ran to the lobby where the voting table sat, two teachers behind it.

"Ohmygod, Mr. Reiner! Ms. Herman! Someone is out back throwing up. I think they're drunk."

They sighed and the man stood up. "I'll go check it out. You can stay here Marian."

"Did she say someone? I think she meant some people!" Seth said quickly. "It's a whole group. You probably both need to go, vomit everywhere and I think they're passing out in it."

The teacher's eyes went wide. "My goodness! Never in all my years of teaching have I ever-"

"I can watch the table for you." Summer cut in. "Really, I don't mind. You should probably hurry though, they looked like they might be harassing some of the hotel guests and that screams lawsuit."

"Good lord, Paul, go! I'm right behind you!" The teachers quickly hurried off, leaving Seth and Summer alone at the table. It took no time to remove the old ballads and replace them with Summer's fake ones. They each took half of the ballads and flushed them away in the nearby bathrooms to dispose of any Seth went to find another teacher to alert them that Mr. Reiner and Ms. Herman had apparently run off from their positions, and that Summer had stayed at the table to guard the votes because it would be wrong to allow the students access to rig them.

"What are we going to do when Reiner and Herman tell them about us?" Seth asked as they made their way back inside.

Summer rolled her eyes. "Please, Reiner can't see worth anything and Herman is nearly deaf; they're both old as the hills. We'll just say that it must have been someone that looked like us and that we were with Taylor and Sung Ho the entire time. Taylor's in on the plan so she'll back us up."

"You know, I have to tell you Summer, this is probably one of the most awesome things you've ever done." He said with admiration.

She smiled up at him. "Thanks Cohen. Now come on, let's dance!"

"Finally decided to join us?" Marissa laughed as they found their friends on the dance floor. To everyone's surprise, Ryan was dancing too. Granted, he was no Mark Ballas, but he was actually moving and that was a big accomplishment.

"Yeah well, she couldn't keep her hands off of me." Seth shouted to be heard above the music, but Summer heard him well enough to smack him upside the head at his comment. "Ow!"

Hours went by and the six friends continued to have the time of their lives. They got their pictures taken and danced quite a bit, taking brakes often to rest their feet, snack, and talk with their classmates.

"Excuse me!" Taylor finally got up on stage, Sung Ho trailing behind her, and tapped the microphone. "Excuse me! Hi. Okay, so, it is now the moment you have all been waiting for- it's time to crown prom royalty. The Harbor School's senior prom king and queen are…." she opened the envelope in her hand and grinned after reading its contents. "Oh my god, Ryan Atwood and Marissa Cooper!" The crowd seemed just as confused as Ryan and Marissa looked, but began to cheer anyway as a spotlight fell on the couple.

"What? Our name wasn't on the balled!" she whispered to Summer.

Her best friend raised her hands in a 'what can you do?' sort of way and shook her head in amazement. "Apparently it was. Now go on up there Coop, everyone's waiting!"

"Ryan? Marissa?" Taylor called playfully into the microphone. "Get up here!"

Realizing they had no choice but to comply with the public, the two blondes made their way onstage; Ryan looking extremely uncomfortable and Marissa slightly embarrassed, but happy.

"I'm so glad I thought to bring this." Seth muttered as he held the video camera up above his head to film Taylor placing a tiara upon Marissa's blonde locks and Sung Ho setting a crown on Ryan's head.

"And now, the king and queen will have their spotlight dance." Taylor announced. She nodded to the DJ she had talked to earlier, who returned a thumbs up and pressed play, emitting a soft melody to fill the room.

Let's dance in style let's dance for a while,
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies,

Hoping for the best but expecting the worst,
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

Marissa and Ryan's eyes went wide, their gaze immediately moving to Seth and Summer in the crowd, who suddenly seemed fascinated with the table centerpieces. They turned to see Taylor and Sung Ho also distracted by the punch bowl.

"We've been set up." She whispered, remembering back to when she had told Summer about her and Ryan's dance outside the pool house during a sleepover.

He nodded. "I think you're right." Seth had questioned him at length a few days after the occurrence as well.

She smiled slightly. "But since we're already up here…"

"And we already have the crowns..." he finished. "Why not?"

Marissa grinned as he took her in his arms, resting their foreheads against each other and staring into each other's eyes as they began to sway to the music.

Let us die on let us live forever,
Don't have the power but we never say never,
Sitting in the sandpit life is a short trip,
Music's for the sad man

Can you imagine when this race is run,
Turning up our faces into the sun,
Praising our leaders getting in tune,
Music's played by the mad man

"Great idea Summer." Taylor complimented as she and Sung Ho approached the brunette couple. "That was a really sweet thing you did for her."

They glanced toward the stage where Ryan and Marissa seemed unaware of the rest of the world, completely enthralled in each other.

"Yeah, it is pretty cool." Summer said proudly.

Forever young, I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever,
Forever young, I want to be forever young,
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, forever…

The song continued to play for another few minutes before the chords began to fade and eventually stopped all together. Ryan and Marissa got down from the stage and walked over to their friends, removing their crowns in the process.

"What? Put those back on!" Summer demanded once they'd approached them.

"Thanks, but no." Ryan said.

"Well, you at least have to save them."

"Fine, we'll save them." Marissa pulled her best friend into a tight hug. "I don't know what you did and I'm not going to ask. But thank you. This means a lot to me."

"Oh, you're so welcome Coop. You totally deserve your chance to be a queen."

Ryan nodded at Seth. "Yeah, thanks. It means a lot to her."

"I was just an accomplice." He replied easily. "But yeah, no problem."

The DJ's smooth voice suddenly rang throughout the speakers. "Alright Harbor, it's that time you've been dreading. So grab your honey and hold on tight, because this is the last song. Have a safe night everybody."

Couples all throughout the ballroom began to migrate towards the dance floor, eager but sad for their last dance in high school as Maroon 5's 'She Will Be Loved' began to play.

After the last note had faded the Harbor senior class began to trickle out of the ballroom and up to their hotel rooms. Deciding that it would be much more fun to just hang out with each other, the group did not attend Holly's after prom party up in the penthouse suit and instead chose to change into their swimsuits and sneak out to the pool.

After playing for about an hour or so only Ryan and Marissa were left in the pool while the others sat around chatting. Suddenly, Summer froze.

"Guys, listen! Do you hear that?"

The group in the pool fell silent as they strained to listen.

"Ohmygod, someone's coming!" Marissa whispered.

Taylor went pale. "If we get caught we'll be in so much trouble!"

"Shut up, everybody just shut up!" Ryan demanded urgently. "They're coming this way. Seth, Summer, go over and hide behind that plant. Taylor, Sung Ho go hide behind the bar- go!" Once the others had gone he wrapped his arms around Marissa and pulled her to a corner of the pool just as a security guard entered. "Hold your breath." He whispered. Not a second later they were both submerged underwater, Ryan's hands holding them both down. They opened their eyes, still below the surface, and glanced at each other. He looked up and could barely see the large security guard looking around and waving a flashlight.

"Hello?!" he called out, his voice echoing. "Come on out!" Still receiving no answer he walked around, waving his flashlight. A few minutes later after finding nothing, he nodded. "That's right. Nobody messes with Gary aka The Sniper." He chuckled to himself and sauntered back to his desk.

Ryan and Marissa's heads immediately emerged from the pool, both of them sputtering and gasping for breath. The others came out from their hiding places as well.

"Are you guys okay?" Summer asked seeing them both pant.

"I'm fine." Marissa said nodding. "Just catching up on the oxygen."

"Same here; I'm good." Ryan answered.

"Here," Seth leaned down and held out his arm to pull Ryan from the pool and Summer did the same for Marissa while Sung Ho and Taylor passed out towels.

"So I think maybe we should take it easy for the rest of the night." Taylor said once they were all relatively dry.

Summer pointed at her. "That is a good idea. Movie in our room?"

"Sounds good Sum."

"Cool. I brought that movie Prom Night."

"Cohen that is so lame… but very appropriate. God job."

Once the movie ended the couples ended the night with another round of champagne and headed to their individual rooms.

"Cohen I'm sad." Summer announced once it was only she and her boyfriend left in the room.

Seth rolled over to face her. "Why is that Summer, my dear?"

She sighed. "Because everything's happening! I mean, Coop got back in and we took our class picture, we're at prom, next we'll get our yearbooks and college letters will come and graduation, and then we'll all go off and be alone and miserable!"

"My girlfriend: the optimist." Seth muttered. "Summer, we're not going to be alone and miserable. Sure, we don't exactly know what the future holds but we'll deal with it together. Hey," he forced her to look him in the eye. "I promise you I won't let anything tear the four of us apart."

"You swear on Captain Oats' grave?"

"The Captain shall never die, but yes, I swear."

She smiled and hugged him, letting her head lay on his chest. "Thanks Cohen. I love you."

"I love you too. It's like I said: it's you and me, and Ryan and Marissa- we're in it together."

-OC-

The next morning the six were dropped off at the Cohen residence where the parents were once again gathered, this time to celebrate their homecoming. Seth groaned as the limousine pulled to a stop.

"Please, for the love of god, put it away!" He begged as he stepped out, only to be greeted with Sandy and his camera once again.

"How was it?" his father asked as he continued to snap pictures.

"It was good dad."

The group settled in to the Cohen's living room while the kids told about their night, the parts that wouldn't get them in trouble at least, but soon people started to head home until only Julie and Marissa remained.

"I think we should go." Julie said standing up.

"You're welcome to stay for dinner." Kirsten offered. "We're ordering Thai."

"Thank you but maybe another time. I want to spend some time with Marissa." She politely declined. "Honey, are you ready to go?"

Marissa frowned from her spot in Ryan's arms. "Are you sure we can't stay mom?"

"Sweetie I feel like I never get to see you anymore. And Kaitlyn is growing up too…. I was hoping we could spend the day together."

Her daughter did her best not to sigh. "Okay. Just let me grab my bag."

"I'll help you." Ryan volunteered. He followed her into the hallway where her duffle bag was and pulled her close.

"Thank you for the perfect prom." She mumbled into his shoulder. "And the after party wasn't too bad either, especially once we got rid of everybody else."

Ryan chuckled. "Anytime." He leaned in and kissed her softly. "Love you."

"Love you too. I'll call you later." She promised as everyone made their way into the hallway. With one last wave over her shoulder the door was shut behind them.

"So…" Seth glanced around the hallway. "I'm gonna go upstairs. Gotta fill Captain Oats in on everything."

"I'll be in the pool house." Ryan said quickly, also making an exit.

Sandy and Kirsten looked at each other.

"Well, I guess they'll fill us in later." Sandy said finally.

-OC-

The next morning Ryan woke up to find a note taped to the pool house door.

Hey baby!

Sorry about yesterday, but mom was desperate to spend "quality time" with me and Kaitlyn. But I'm making it up to you today so don't make plans with your other girlfriend! I'll pick you up at one, (Yes, I am picking YOU up for once- get over it) and the rest is a surprise.

Love,

Riss

Sure enough, Marissa was true to her word, pulling her convertible into the Cohen's driveway promptly at 1:02. Ryan waved as he pulled the pool house door closed behind him and climbed into the car.

"Hey." He leaned over the gearshift to kiss her.

She smiled. "Hey. So are you ready for my surprise?"

"Should I be scared?"

Marissa laughed. "No, it's not that bad." They soon arrived at the deserted beach where she took his hand and led him to the lifeguard stand. It wasn't anything huge, just a simple picnic basket sitting on a blanket but to Ryan it was perfect.

"Do you like it?" she held her hands out as if to make the display more appealing.

Ryan grinned. "I love it." He sat down on the blanket and pulled her into his lap. "You didn't have to do this though."

"I wanted to. Besides, it's not all for you. I did this because I'm selfish and like to have you all to myself."

"Well you don't hear me complaining." They chuckled and kissed happily for a few minutes before Marissa reluctantly pulled away, much to her boyfriend's protest.

"Hey." He said, frowning at the loss of contact. "Where'd you go?"

"I'm hungry." She dug into the picnic basket and pulled out two Cokes and a plastic container of mac-n-cheese. "It's not much but it's all I can cook." She said pulling out a single fork and digging in.

He watched her eat for a minute before finally asking, "Where's mine?"

Marissa turned and held a forkful of food to his mouth, which he gladly accepted. "Thank you." He swallowed another bite and took a drink of his coke. "So how was spending time with Julie and Kaitlyn?"

"Not bad, actually. We went shopping-"

"Surprising."

"-and went out to eat. Mostly though, we just talked."

He wrapped his arms around her tightly and buried his head in the crook of her neck. "Anything interesting come up?"

"Well, we talked about you."

His head snapped up. "Really?"

"Mhmm. My mom said that she was worried about me at first because we've been spending so much time together. But then she realized that maybe you're not so bad for me after all. She said that I seem happier now than I have in a long time and that you might just be the reason." She glanced up to meet his eyes. "She knows I'm in safe hands and she trusts you. She's happy for us."

"So after almost three years in Newport I finally won over Julie Cooper?" he let out a laugh. "Wow."

"It seems kind of impossible." She agreed. "But let's take our victories as they come." She moved him so that he was now on his back with her on top of him in his arms. She was just leaning in when her phone went off.

"Why am I not surprised?" she muttered, climbing off of her boyfriend and retrieving her phone from her purse. Ryan sat up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and letting his head rest on her shoulder.

"Hello? Hey mom, yeah I'm with Ryan. We're down at the beach, why? What's up?" she paused, listening to her mother's response. "Okay, yeah, we'll be there soon. Bye."

"What's up?"

Marissa sighed. "We have to go. Apparently everyone is gathered in the Cohen's living room. Something's going on and they need to talk to us all immediately." She shrugged. "It didn't sound like anything bad but I don't know."

"I guess we have to go."

"Yeah, maybe it won't take long and we can sneak out to the pool house afterwards."

Ryan stood up and grabbed her hand. "Sounds good."

The couple walked in to the Cohen's house a few minutes later to find Seth and Summer sitting on one couch, Sandy, Kirsten, Neil and Julie on another.

"Hey." Marissa said slowly. "What's going on?"

"Sit down honey." Julie said pointing to the couch.

Ryan and Marissa did as they were told and glanced at their friends, who looked just as nervous and confused as they did.

"What happened?" Seth asked. "Who died?"

"Nobody died." Sandy said firmly. "But we got these today." Wordlessly each parent set down a medium-sized envelope on the coffee table. Two of them were from Brown, two from Berkley, all of them giving no hints to the contents.

"We figured you would want to open them together." Neil added.

The kids stared at the letters, none of them moving.

"Well…" Kirsten smiled nervously. "Who wants to go first?"

Still no answers.

"Guys?"

"We can't just open them dad." Seth responded. "Our futures are in those envelopes. We get in, everything works out. We don't…." he trailed off.

"Let's just do it together." Summer finally said. She grabbed her letter. "On three we open them. Like a band-aid, you just do it. Okay?"

Her friends nodded and picked up an envelope. Seth and Marissa looked at theirs as if they were bombs that could explode in their hands at any moment.

"One…" Summer counted. "Two… Three!"

The room went silent as the four envelopes were ripped open and each owner read the letter's contents.

Dear Miss Roberts,

We are pleased to inform you…

Dear Mr. Cohen,

It is with great pleasure…

Dear Mr. Atwood,

We look forward to seeing you this fall…

Dear Miss Cooper,

We are happy to notify you of your acceptance to the University of California, Berkley…

They each slowly looked up at one another, their faces blank, and then traded letters with each other.

"Well?" Julie practically screamed.

"What do they say?" Sandy pried.

Summer let out a small breath. "We all got in."

Kirsten gasped. "You what?"

Marissa let out a small laugh. "We all got in. Oh my god we're going to college!"

Summer screamed, which seemed to snap everyone else back into reality. They all let out cheers and cries of joy, hugging and kissing and shaking hands and patting the back of everyone around.

"You did good kid!" Sandy said as he pulled Ryan into a manly hug.

"I'm so proud of you baby!" Julie said tearfully.

"You're going to do amazing." Neil promised his daughter.

"I love you so much!" Kirsten wept on Seth's shoulder.

"This calls for a celebration!" Sandy declared. "Tonight we're all having dinner at The Arches- no discussion. Seven o'clock, the kids can take one car and Kirsten and I can give you two a lift." He said to Julie and Neil. He grinned. "My two college boys! And girls!" he added quickly.

The girls chuckled. "Thanks Sandy."

"Yeah, thanks Mr. C."

He nodded. "Okay, go on. We know you're dying to run off by yourselves, so go ahead. Be here and ready to go by six thirty though, okay?"

Shouts of confirmation were heard as the teenagers ran off- Seth and Summer heading for the stairs and Ryan and Marissa to the pool house.

Ryan scooped his girlfriend up in his arms once they were safely locked in the pool house.

"We're going to Berkley." He said happily.

"We're going to Berkley." She repeated. "I'm so excited!" she paused, an idea popping into her mind.

"What?" he sat her down on the bed, moving to face her. "What are you thinking?"

"I know you're not big on change." She started. "But I do have an idea."

"You know I'm always open to suggestions when they're from you." He said honestly.

She smiled. "Okay, here it is: I don't think we should live in the dorms at Berkley. I think we should get an apartment. Together."

"You want to live together?" He asked stupidly.

"It's a big step, so if you're not ready I understand." She sighed. "But I love you and I don't like being away from you. What do you say?"

"I say… that you're a genius and I love you too."

Marissa giggled as he started placing kisses on her neck. "So you're saying yes? We're moving in together?"

"I'm saying that there is no one in the world I would rather live with and that college is going to a blast. I'm saying hell yes." He laughed.

-OC-

"Cohen! We're going to college!" Summer shouted, flopping down on the bed excitedly. "We're both going to Brown and we're going to be geniuses together! Can you say Power Couple?"

"I know, I'm so excited." He said genuinely.

"Think about it- we'll be known everywhere: Seth and Summer- Brown Students Extraordinaire. We'll be like Bill and Hilary! Ohmygod! We're going to be the Sandy and Kirsten Cohen of the east!" she sighed happily. "College is going to rule."

"Yeah, and we won't have to worry about curfews or sneaking out because we'll be grown-ass adults!" Seth added. "Four AM? Yeah, we'll be partying. With the dancing dirty and drinking and trash talk!" he paused. And then added quietly, "Except that I doubt we'll be out all night because we fall asleep at like midnight and we'll have to stay well rested for school."

"Yeah, and we'll have to study." she agreed. "But it was a nice theory."

His head snapped up. "The weekend! On the weekend we shall be party animals!"

"Totally!"

"And we'll do whatever the hell we want!" he went on.

She nodded. "Right on Cohen!"

"And-"

"Seth, please stop yelling!"

The brunette scowled. "Is it time for college yet?

-OC-

"You guys! Yearbooks are here!" Summer said excitedly rushing up to her friends, who were currently sitting outside at a table eating lunch.

Marissa smiled. "Awesome!"

"Yeah, and I picked ours up for us." She handed each of them a thick yearbook and they spent the next several minutes looking through them.

"Look Cohen, you're actually in this one more than once!" Summer pointed to a picture of him sitting in history class.

"And there's Ryan and Marissa." Seth said pointing to a page filled with couples. Ryan and Marissa's picture was of the pair holding hands, walking down the halls. Seth and Summer were on that page as well, sitting on the couch in the lounge drinking coffee together.

"We need to write our messages in them." Summer declared.

Ryan frowned. "Right now?"

"Hell yes Chino. No time like the present! Besides, we're graduating next week! We don't have much time!"

It took them the entire lunch hour to write out messages to each person, but under Summer's watchful eye it got done.

Marissa,

Okay, so it turns out you're actually pretty cool. You're a lot more like me than I thought, and that's pretty awesome. I'm glad you've been here and helped me with everything, especially in the beginning. We would never have come this far if it wasn't for you.

-Seth

PS- We should look up Alex sometime, think of how much fun we'd have!

Chino

You know I love you. Your moving here has changed everything and it's because of you that we all get our happily ever after! Take care of Coop for me, if I find out otherwise I will HUNT YOU DOWN AND- Summer, calm down. Right, thanks Cohen.

Lots of love and stuff and sorry I messed up your yearbook!

-Summer

Summer

Thanks for keeping Seth in line all these years. You've really changed since I first met you and I like who you've become. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're not capable, because you are. And don't forget us once you're off saving the world.

-Ryan

Seth,

Thank you for always being your sarcastic, nerdy self. I never thought I'd say it, but you're actually pretty funny and a really amazing guy. I'm sorry it took me so long to see that. Take care of Summer for me next year, she needs you. Thanks for being there for me and making me laugh.

-Marissa

Ryan aka Kid Chino,

Holy crap dude, we made it. If you would have told me four years ago that I'd graduate with the love of my life, a new friend, and a brother, I would probably have asked what meds you were on. You changed everything by coming here and, because of it all our lives took a turn for the better. For that alone I will always have your back. Just send the signal; the Ironist and Little Miss Vixen are only a plane ride away. Take care of Cosmo Girl and remember: Fantastic Four Unite!
Your bro from another hoe,

Seth

MARISSA ANN COOPER!

I love you more than words can say! You have always been and will always be my best friend in the world! You are going to dominate at Berkley! No matter what happens remember that you can call me any time day or night and I will be there for you Coop! Brown is only a plane ride away and I can be back in a few hours if you need me. Just remember to name your first kid after a certain season….

Hugs kisses and the secret BFF handshake from fourth grade,

Summer

Seth,

Thanks for backing me all these years. It's been crazy but you've kept me grounded and made the ride entertaining. You and Summer will do great at Brown and I have no doubt that you'll be calling me non-stop to tell me about it. I'm here if you need anything, just don't go overboard like I know you will.

-Ryan

Sum,

Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're not good enough. I've known you since we were little and you are the best friend a girl could have. Thanks for being there for me; I will always have your back. Go out there and show the world that they haven't seen anything until they've seen what Summer Roberts is capable of. Always remember that friendships come and go, but sisters are forever- You're my family Sum, you always will be!

xoxo, Your Cooper Scooper

My Beautiful Summer,

You are the blood that runs through my veins; you are what keeps me going. I know I've made some mistakes in the past and I know I'll make plenty in the future, but no matter how much I mess up know that I will always, always love you. I have since we were ten years old and I won't stop even when we're one hundred. You brighten my day and you shine with every fiber in your being. You are my angel and I love you more than even I can describe.

Love forever

Seth

Cohen,

A lot has changed over the years. I've gotten to know you and realize what an amazing person you are and how lucky I am to be with you. We may argue a lot but at the end of the day my heart will always be yours. I guess opposites really do attract. Thank you for being there when I'm up and catching me when I fall. I can't wait to go East with you and start our snow bunny adventure. We'll show them how kids from the OC do it! Oh, not like that. Okay, gross…..

I love you,

Summer

Marissa,

I've never been good with words, but I'll give it a shot for you: Our relationship has been crazy. In three years we've been through a lot more than most people deal with in a lifetime. But I think the fact that even after everything that's happened we're still together, means something. You changed my life for the better and I can't wait to start our future together.

Love Ryan

Ryan,

I think it's safe to say that nobody ever quite pictured the end of senior year like this. But when you came to Newport you changed my life, even if you didn't mean to. From that first moment at the end of the Cohen's driveway there's been something about you that draws me in. It hasn't been easy but as long as I'm with you, it's all worth it. I will love you until the end of time.

Love, Riss

-OC-

The days to follow passed quickly. Since the Fab Four was part of the senior class that did extremely well on their SAT and state-required exams they were exempted from finals, therefore allowing them to spend all their free time together. Summer and Marissa went dress shopping for graduation, while Ryan and Seth had endless video game wars and the parents planned a party for after the ceremony. Before long it was the senior's last day of high school and some of the students were getting nostalgic.

"Seriously guys, I can't believe this is our last day at Harbor!" Summer cried. She and the others were walking around the school aimlessly. Since they were seniors the only real reason they had to show up was for a few assemblies and graduation practice; the time in between was left to themselves, so long as they didn't disrupt any of the other students or staff.

"I can't believe we're graduating tomorrow." Marissa replied.

"I can't believe I'm going to Brown with Summer."

Ryan was the last to add, "I can't believe I'm going to college at all."

His friends paused for a moment before the girls nodded their agreement.

"I can remember my first day as a freshman." Summer recalled. "It was so scary. I think I changed my outfit ten times that morning."

"Oh, remember when we got lost and were late to homeroom?" Marissa asked. "We ended up in the gym somehow."

"I remember hiding Captain Oats in my backpack." Seth put in. "Yeah, freshman year was hell."

"It really was."

"But you know what? Despite everything that's happened, I think I'm gonna miss this place." Marissa decided.

"It was definitely better than my old high school." Ryan spoke up. "And I met some pretty cool people here."

Marissa grinned and leaned closer to him. "Aw, like us?"

"Maybe." He chuckled and pressed a kiss to her lips.

"Oh, Cohen, look!" Summer stopped suddenly in the student lounge. "This is where you embarrassed yourself in front of the entire school! Well, one of the places anyway."

Seth glanced at the coffee cart fondly. "Yeah, but I think it was worth it."

"Definitely." She stood up on her tip-toes to kiss him quickly.

"We should probably go. I promised Sandy I'd help move a few things around for the party tomorrow." Ryan said as the bell rang.

Marissa glanced up at him. "Mind if I tag along?"

"If you want, but it might be a little boring."

"Nah, I like talking to Sandy. Plus it's really sexy when I see your muscles in action." She said quietly.

Once at the Cohen house the couples split up, Ryan and Marissa heading for backyard with Sandy while Seth and Summer headed upstairs to his room.

"So, I know we're supposed to wait until after the thing tomorrow to exchange presents but I can't wait." She announced sitting down on his bed. "I want to give you yours now."

Seth smiled. "You know me too well, my dear. I was feeling the same way." He walked over to the dresser and removed a thin blue velvet box.

Summer grinned, knowing it was obviously jewelry. She was pleased to see her suspicions confirmed when she opened the box and found a gold locket resting on a delicate chain.

"Open it." He urged.

Inside he had placed a picture of the two of them outside the school ground, their arms wrapped tightly around each other.

"Cohen, it's beautiful." Her voice was breathless. "I don't know what to say."

"That's a first. OW!"

She laughed. "I didn't hit you that hard, you big baby. Don't ruin the moment."

"Sorry."

She shook her head and pulled an envelope from her purse.

Seth held up the contents. "You got me a picture of Stan Lee?"

"He's like, your hero, right?"

"He's created some of the best comics known to man. So yes, I'm a huge fan. Why?"

Summer shrugged. "My dad knows a guy who knows a guy whose cousin is friends with the niece of the man who cleans the gutters of his secretary or something. See the date on the back?"

"Yeah…"

"That's the date you're meeting him for lunch."

Seth gasped. "You did not get me a man-date with Stan Lee."

"I thought you said you liked him!"

"Summer, I'm not mad. God no! This is the best thing you ever could have done. I love it. I love you."

Summer grinned, happy that all of the begging she had done with her father had paid off. "I love you too Cohen."

-OC-

The next morning came all too soon and before they knew it, they were officially high school graduates. It was a beautiful sunny day, nice and cool outside, and the ceremony had gone extremely smooth; no one had tripped or embarrassed themselves, and Taylor's speech was a hit. It was later that afternoon that everyone was scatted about the Cohen's house celebrating the huge milestone that had just occurred.

"If I could have everyone's attention for just a second," Sandy called finally. "I had to take a minute and say a little something about these kids. I think I can speak for everyone else here tonight when I tell you four that we really could not be any more proud of you than we are right now. It's been… hectic, to say the least, but we've overcome it. Because we're family and that's what families do. So, congrats." He held up his glass as the rest of the room echoed his well wishes and took sips of their own drinks.

"I cannot believe high school is over!" Summer exclaimed sadly. She and Seth each passed a faux-hito to their friends before sitting down next to them.

"Yeah, it's crazy." Marissa agreed. "I mean, think about it: when we started as freshmen, none of us even knew who Ryan was."

"And I barely knew life outside of Chino existed." He added.

"We've come a long way." Seth nodded. "Can't say I'll miss Harbor though. It was kind of hell until things changed."

"Everything has changed." Summer echoed. "For the better."

-OC-

"Guess who!" Ryan smiled as he felt his girlfriend cover his eyes from behind.

"Seth, I've told you before, this game is not cute." he teased.

Marissa laughed. "Very funny- not. You better be nice to me or you won't get your present."

This perked him up. "Really?"

"Yeah, I figure since the party is basically over anyway, why not exchange gifts now?"

"Okay, mine's in the pool house." He grabbed her hand. "Come on."

Once inside the pool house he headed over to his dresser and pulled out a medium sized bag with tissue paper sticking out of it. "Happy Graduation."

"No, no, no." she waved the bag away and handed him a medium sized box. "Me first. You always get to give your present first, it's my turn."

He smiled. "Okay." He pulled the bright paper off, tossing it carelessly to the floor and opened the box to reveal a silver picture frame. Inside was a picture of the two of them at the slumber party they had to celebrate her re-admittance to Harbor. They were both staring at each other and it was obvious that neither had noticed a picture was being taken, probably by Summer.

"It's great. I love it. Thank you." He pulled the frame out to get a closer look and frowned when he felt something stuck to the back. He flipped it over and his eyes went wide. "Are you kidding me?"

Marissa grinned. "Nope. You and me, July 16th."

"I can't believe you got me Journey tickets." He said, still taken aback. "Fifth row? How in the hell did you manage this?"

"I'll never reveal my secrets." She replied mysteriously. "Don't worry about it, my mom knows a guy."

"Well, my gift is going to suck after this." He said sadly.

"Let's see it first." Marissa dug into the bag and pulled out a small red velvet box. Opening it to examine its contents she found a silver charm bracelet with five delicate charms dangling from it: A capitol letter M, for her name obviously; A palm tree, representing the tiki hut at the beach; a water float to represent the lifeguard stand; a heart that explained itself; and a car because they first met at the end of a driveway.

"I can definitely exchange it." He said, thinking her silence was a bad sign.

"Exchange it? You aren't exchanging anything." She said finally. "Ryan this is the most romantic and most meaningful present I've ever gotten. It's perfect."

"So you like it? Because you don't have to lie to me, I don't care if you want to send it back."

"I would not give this back for anything." She stated firmly. "In fact, I'm never taking it off. Wait, will it be okay if I get it wet?"

He frowned. "Um…"

"Well, I can call and ask. If not then I'm only taking it off to shower. That's it."

"You don't have to do that-" he started only to have her interrupt again.

"I want to. Ryan this is the most beautiful bracelet in the world and the fact that you put so much thought into it only makes it better." She smiled. "I promise I love it, a lot." She picked the bracelet up and held it out to him. "Help me put it on?"

Ryan took the jewelry from her and clasped it around her right wrist that she held out.

"Perfect fit." She said happily. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. I love you Riss."

"I love you too Ryan." Neither could control their grins as their lips met in a loving kiss.

"I'm so excited about our future together." She whispered as they finally broke apart. "Just so we're clear, I really think this is going to be a good thing. I'm in it for the long haul."

Ryan smiled softly. "Good, because I don't plan on letting you go."

-OC-

Okay, so this is really long but I've been working on it for months and months. It really is my baby! It started out as a short alternate ending to the first scene and snowballed into 47 pages! Reviews are love. And I love you all!