AN: I'm surprising myself by posting this but we're all in lockdown with nothing to do! So naturally I'm getting emotional about this stupid show and trying to clear out my drafts. Hope everyone is safe and sane x

Trigger warning for some discussion of abuse below.

Summer tells her Johnny is in love with her.

Ryan doesn't say it but she knows he thinks it too.

She figures Seth also agrees, with all his side-eyes and smirks.

And as much as she doesn't want to admit it, she knows they are all right.

Johnny's head tilts on to her shoulder. She raises her hand, pushes his head away with a solitary finger.

Better.

And then back his head slumps. Leaning against her.

She wonders if it means anything. Is this wrong? Would Ryan see it as wrong?

She called him, asked him to join her tonight. He didn't pick up.

She knows he is busy. She understands. But right now, sitting on a foreign couch with Johnny's head against her shoulder, she really misses him.

He steps inside the poolhouse and their eyes connect. It's a gaping distance and an unprecedented yearning.

He tries to hide it but she sees the sadness in the corner of his eyes.

He sits opposite her, takes her hand into his and looks at her softly. She knows this is him trying to understand. To not simply be angry about Johnny but seeking a way out of this new debacle.

"I don't," she stresses, looking him in the eye.

He swallows, eyes diverting down and head nodding.

"I don't love him," Marissa repeats.

He looks back at her despondently.

"He gets you," Ryan states. "You can talk to him."

"Ryan, that's -"

"True, isn't it?"

Marissa observes him. Their hands have parted now and the inch of space between them feels like miles.

Reluctantly, she nods.

"That doesn't mean I am in love with him," Marissa points out.

Ryan nods slowly, conceding that's a fair point.

"Hypothetically," Ryan starts slowly. "If you weren't with me, would you…" His voice trails off, suddenly overwhelmed.

"Ryan. No. It's not, it's really not like that," Marissa affirms, voice fiercely defiant.

"I know, I know, I'm sorry," Ryan murmurs, embarrassed that he even asked. Marissa leans closer, right hand touching his cheek and forcing him to look her in the eye.

"I love you," she tells him and he feels his throat catch. He tilts his forehead on to hers, takes a minute to just rest it there, eyes shut.

His knuckles brush her cheek, lips pressing lightly together.

"I know I don't say it enough, but you know I love you too, right?"

Marissa smiles, her eyes lighting up, "I do."

"Good," he states, his smile matching hers. He looks down for a moment and she wonders what he's thinking.

She's surprised at what he says next.

"This thing with Trey, I know that it's not an easy thing to live with. I thought that if we just ignored it, it would be fine. We would move on eventually. But that's not really working for us."

"I just, I try to put him behind me and I can't seem to do it. Not properly. I don't know why."

He takes a look at her fearful face, so sad and heartbroken, and it renders him completely defenseless.

"Come here," he says, drawing her into a hug. She complies readily and she thinks to herself, why did they not do this earlier?

He presses a kiss into her hair.

"It will get better eventually, I promise."

"How do you know that?" she whispers back.

"Because…" She feels his voice shake, and can sense his discomfort in speaking. She moves herself apart, takes a moment to observe him.

"Ryan?" she prompts cautiously.

She thinks he's about to speak, and then he blinks, shakes his head slightly.

"Time always helps," he says with a weak smile. She wonders what he had been about to say, yet lets it slide. Now was not the time to push him.

"But I think you're right. This, not talking about any of it, it's not helping," he continues.

"It's not helping me. I don't want to force this on you. Make things harder than they already are."

"I can't be happy if you're not," he says firmly. "I've never tried the talking thing. Maybe it's time I do."

Marissa's looking at him with eyes wide open, a glimmer of tears shining but a smile on her face. He can't define the expression but it feels like he said something right. Finally.

"It's not going to be easy, and you're probably going to have to be ridiculously patient with me. But I'm not going to let Trey come between us, okay?"

"Okay," she replies back confidently. She kisses him properly this time. Her hands in his hair, his tongue against hers, hands riding up her shirt.

Johnny couldn't be further from both their minds.

. . .

She wakes at dawn and finds the bed empty beside her. She sits up and sees Ryan sitting outside by the pool, dressed in his wife beater and sweats.

From afar, he looks pensive. Despondent even.

Putting on his previously discarded shirt, she approaches him.

"Hey," she gently calls out. His eyes flicker over towards her, absorbing her presence but not giving much away.

"What are you doing up?" She asks.

"I couldn't go back to sleep," he answers. She's afraid that he's still upset about Johnny. She thought they had left things in a good place.

But the more she watches him, the less certain she grows. She has not seen him like this before. The closest she has come was right after the shooting. He used to seem like a ghost.

"When we were talking before, I told you it would get better," he says.

"Yeah," Marissa returns. She isn't sure where this is going but she gives him time. Lets him think his words over.

"I want to be honest with you. I want to try.".

"I want that too."

Ryan nods, and takes a deep breath.

"Growing up, my dad wasn't exactly a very nice man," he begins. His eyes stare into the pool, watching the ripples in the water. "He could be really violent. With my mom, with Trey, with me, even."

His eyes go towards Marissa, checking for the expression on her face. She looks grief stricken.

"I probably had it the best out of the three of us. The thing that really stuck with me was when he used to hit my mom. I couldn't get the image out of my head, for a long time."

"Ryan, I'm so sorry," he hears Marissa say, voice hoarse and deep. He realises she's crying. "You shouldn't have had to go through that."

She reaches for his hand, tentatively, with a world of caution. He hesitates for a moment but then he feels the warmth of her skin and lets himself take comfort in the proximity. He leans into her and her arms wrap around him, holding him close.

"I wish you didn't have to go through that," she whispers into his ear again, and squeezes him tighter.

They say nothing for a long while. They watch the sunrise, his head resting on her shoulder.

"It's better now," he tells her. "It does get better."

He lifts his head, turns to face her, "That's what I was trying to say."

"Thank you for telling me."

She lightly kisses his cheek, and brushes his hair to the side.

"Thank you for listening."

"Always," she promises.