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Title: the ships have come to carry you home
Fandom: The OC
Pairing: Ryan/Marissa
Word Count: 1,457
Rating: T [some strong language]
Warnings: Spoilers for The OC through 3x25, "The Graduates", and the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine! "Into the West" was written by Annie Lennox, Fran Walsh, and Howard Shore.
Summary: “I’m just scared. About what’ll happen to us if we have to go our separate ways.”
Notes: This fic probably won't make much sense if you haven't heard "Into the West", which you can listen to here. This is for my claim at lover100 (Table B, Prompt #31 - music) and for the Pile of Books challenge at 5_prompts (Prompt #4 - Away, thought the prince. Far away.)

The conversation between Summer and Marissa about having watched The Lord of the Rings with the boys occurs in "The Day After Tomorrow" (Episode 3x20), and this fic is set somewhere between "The Perfect Storm" (Episode 3x05) and "The Game Plan" (Episode 3x08). If Marissa's fears about her future are premature in their placement, mea culpa; I went through the beginning of the season fairly fast and it all gets a bit jumbled together. I'm taking a bit of artistic license timing-wise.

So many thanks to my dearest Caitlin for putting up with my insanity, fic after fic. You're the best, love!

November 6th, 2005

“They’re gay, Cohen.”

“They are not gay!” Seth is protesting, jerking a thumb at the television screen as Arwen rushes to kiss Aragorn.

“Maybe he’s not, but the short ones totally are.”

“Hobbits, Summer, hobbits, and they aren’t—!”

“Straight men don’t care that much about a piece of jewelry, Cohen!” Summer snaps. She throws some of the remaining popcorn at him and soon they’re laughing and kissing, missing the end of the movie entirely.

Marissa rolls her eyes as she sits nestled against Ryan, his arm around her shoulder and her head resting on his chest. The rhythm of his breathing had fascinated her somewhat more than the movie.

She’d spent the movie’s three-and-a-half hour runtime tracing her fingers in circles against his t-shirt, taking in the feel of his muscles, the warmth of his skin. She knows by now when her fingers brush against the scar on his stomach—a cigarette burn from an old boyfriend of his mother’s, he’d explained that night in the beach hut. She knows by now that her fingers brushing his skin make him shiver, just like she does when he strokes his fingers through her hair, just as he’s doing now. She shifts so she’s pressed closer to Ryan, flicking her gaze up to his face and catching a brief smile as he wraps his arms tighter around her.

No one has made any move to turn off the DVD—Seth and Summer are still embroiled in their popcorn fight, and Ryan seems loath to relinquish his hold on Marissa, which she’s perfectly fine with. She closes her eyes and listens to Seth and Summer’s squeals and giggles, but the faint strains of the song over the credits catch her ear and beg her to listen.

“Across the sea, a pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home… 

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water—all souls pass…

Her breath is hitching in her chest and before she knows it, her vision is blurring with tears. She’s disentangling herself from Ryan and tripping around the couch, out of the living room, and into the kitchen, where she braces herself against the counter, pressing her palms hard into the marble top and letting out a sob.

She hears footsteps crossing the threshold of the kitchen, and suddenly Ryan’s there, wrapping his arms back around her as if he never wants to let her go again, and she wants to resist, doesn’t want to be such a wreck in front of him (it’s not like he hasn’t seen you be a wreck before, that nasty voice in her head reminds her). Instead, she finds herself wrapping her arms around him, sniffing and sobbing and squeezing him tighter.

Minutes later, the storm of her tears has lulled and she’s been soothed by the feel of Ryan’s hands rubbing circles on her back. She doesn’t let go of him, but she looks up at him with reddened eyes and whispers a sorry.

He shakes his head, a dismissal, brushing his lips against hers and whispering, “What happened? You were fine one minute and then—”

She swallows, feeling stupid, but knowing that he won’t judge. “That stupid song,” she says, finally releasing one of her arms from its hold so she can use the heel of her hand to banish the tears from her eyes. “And the end… he just leaves. Gets on a ship and takes off. Like my dad—like you almost did—”

“I’m still here,” Ryan reminds her softly, but she shakes her head.

“But you could’ve left.” The tears are returning, unbidden, and she blinks them back. “And when college starts…”

“… which is still a while away…”

“Not enough of one. Ryan, I’m…” She bites her lip, looking away and then burying her face in his shoulder again. “I’m just scared. About what’ll happen to us if we have to go our separate ways.”

“You won’t lose me,” Ryan’s whispering into her ear. “You didn’t lose me to that boat, and you won’t lose me after this.”

She lifts her head to look into his eyes, to see if he’s sure, and there’s enough certainty in his eyes to make her believe it.

She presses her forehead to his and lets another kiss take the doubts away.

***

May 21st, 2006

He’d never thought she would be the one to leave.

She’d hated the thought of him leaving on that boat, hated it so much she’d come to the dock and told him just what she thought. Her words had been enough to make him run from the boat, away from that version of his future, to find her in that diner.

“Ryan…?”

“Look, um… I don’t know what my future is… but I know it’s with you. Here. Not on some boat in the middle of the ocean.”

(If he thinks on it enough, he can still feel her hands tugging at his jacket, pulling him down to sit next to her. If he thinks on it enough, he can pretend his arm is still around her and not draped over the back of an empty chair.)

He’d never thought she would be the one to leave, but still she’d decided Greece was her best option, that she’d take the time to figure herself out on that boat of her father’s, to decide what her options were. He knew the temptation to just sail away and forget it all, and he couldn’t judge—hadn’t.

Three days. Three damn days. Time enough for the bruises on his stomach and chest (from the seatbelt, from the impact) to start discoloring. Time enough for the acrid smells of gasoline and fire to have left his nose. Time enough for arrangements to have been made. Time enough for Jimmy to fly out and ask Sandy and him if they could be among the pallbearers.

Not enough time. That is all he can think. Three days has not been enough to erase the feeling of her body in his arms, as cold and heavy and nearly lifeless as it had been in Tijuana. Three years with Marissa was not enough time. Twelve hours of their graduation day, her last day alive, had not been enough time. A year on a boat, that might not have been enough time for her to work things out.

This morning, he’d borrowed the Cohens’ car and taken off. He’d never had any intention of going to the funeral. He’d felt the life go out of her body, had been there for her last breaths—why did he need to see her laid out in a casket? What would be the fucking point of that?

Instead, he’d found himself driving the same route they had that day. This time, there is no Volchok; this time, the passenger seat is empty, although if he looks out the corner of his eye he pretends he can still see her there. (He’d done the same with the Coopers’ driveway; surely if he concentrates hard enough, he’ll see her there, waiting. She’d always waited for him.)

He is sitting in the airport, watching the outgoing planes coming from near and far (she's gone away, he thinks, far away), and then the incoming planes, watching weary travelers being reunited with their loved ones, the way some part of him thinks he’ll be reunited with her now, because he has made it here, to the place they were supposed to be.

She was so afraid, he thinks. That day in the kitchen, she’d been so afraid of what would happen to them. His reassurances, when he looks back at them, seem empty now. Hindsight: forever 20/20.

He holds the image in his mind: her in his arms on the Cohens’ couch, before she got up and ran. He’d sat, dumbfounded, for a moment or two before he’d run after her.

In the back of his mind, he can still hear the music.

“We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
 

And you’ll be here in my arms
Just sleeping…”

It’s bullshit, he realizes. All of it. She was right to be upset by that fucking song. He won’t see her again—they’re burying her today, and the only remnants of her will be a CD, a sweatshirt, a few photos already showing signs of age.

He’d held her in his arms and she hadn’t been sleeping.

He still fucking wishes she’d only been sleeping.

He can still see her tearing herself from his arms, can still see her running away.

That seems like a good idea, he thinks. Running.

And for the next six months, that is exactly what he does.
 

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