Episode #312

Previously ...
- Jason apologized to Lauren for taking out his frustrations on her, and they sealed their reconciliation with a kiss.
- At Christmas dinner, Courtney encouraged Alex to get more serious in his relationship with Dylan.
- Molly hinted to Camille that she had a special evening planned.
- Hoping to weasel her way back into Sarah's good graces, Diane convinced Brian to allow her to use his apartment to spy on -- and photograph -- Molly and Brent together.


The room is dark, save for the colored lights wrapped around the Christmas tree and the pair of candles burning atop the dining room table. Outside, the winter evening has already gone black.

Molly Fisher shivers at the memory of the chilly outdoor air, which just a few minutes ago was biting at her face and hands. She pulls her legs closer to her body.

"I wish we could have spent the actual Christmas day like this," she says.

Brent Taylor, sitting mere inches away from her on the carpet, rubs his forefinger up and down her arm. "So do I. Not that it wasn't nice to spend the holiday with my family, but ... you know."

Molly feels a grin breaking forth on her face. "Yeah."

"I promise, next year we won't have to sneak around."

"I don't know how that's even possible," she says, eyes fixed upon the bubbles in the glass of champagne that she is holding. "It always seemed like there would come a time when it would be okay to tell everyone about us being together, but ... now I can't even imagine what that time would look like."

"I'm not sure, either," Brent admits, "but we'll find a way to make it happen. Molly--" He reaches a hand up her cheek and stares her right in the eye. "--This is all I need. It's all I want from life. I'm sure of that."

"So am I."

"Then that's it. If we're both sure about that, then the rest will fall into place."

Molly wants to believe that, but doomsday scenarios keep racing through her head, each depicting a more gruesome vision than the last. There is Sarah's reaction to consider ... and her parents' ... and as much as she would like to pretend that this love is strong enough to make those aspects of her life irrelevant, she can't. Nothing ever could be.

But right now, she cannot conceive of her relationships with her family and her relationship with Brent co-existing peacefully.

"Let's not worry about that now," Brent says. "Tonight is about us. It's our own private Christmas, away from the rest of the world."

She nods and tries to clear her head of all those other things for now.

Brent reaches over to the nearby Christmas tree and rests his hand on top of a small wrapped box. "Let's exchange presents now."

"All right," Molly says, unable to take her attention from the box underneath his palm. It couldn't be ...

"Close your eyes," he says, grinning broadly.

Molly's stomach twists itself into a knot, and she inhales sharply as she forces her eyes to close.


"This is so exciting!" Diane Bishop squeals, rubbing her hands together. "It's like Christmas!"

"Except with incriminating evidence instead of presents," Brian Hamilton says. He stares ahead into the dark night and the multitude of yellow and red lights decorating it.

Diane picks up her purse from the floor in front of the passenger's seat and withdraws the digital camera. "And Molly and Brent have no idea what's coming."

Brian takes his focus off the road for a split-second as he looks at Diane and says, "You know, you do this devious thing far too well. Remind me never to get on your bad side."

He contemplates that for a moment and then adds, "Well, I guess that's sort of where I was for a while, but I don't think you would've done something like this to me. This is like some kind of uber-bad side."

"These two deserve it."

Reserving comment, Brian keeps driving. He plans on having no part of this besides allowing Diane to be at his apartment. Whatever she sees and whatever she does with the camera are her business.

"Ugh," he groans as he hits the brakes. They come to a complete stop for a second before traffic begins to roll forward at a brisk 15 miles per hour.

"Come on, people, move!" Diane shouts in the general direction of all the cars ahead of them.

"There must be an accident or something."

"Oh, great. I need this like I need a hole in the head."

They sit in silence for a little while longer as the car slowly creeps forward.

Finally Diane slams her palms against the dash. "Come on! Let's move, people!"

"I don't think yelling is really gonna move this any faster," he says.

"You never know." She lets out an anguished sigh. "I just hope we're not missing anything good."


Dylan Carrington dangles his sock-covered feet off one end of the sofa and stares at the television.

"This chick is out of control," he comments snidely. "She is gonna get it."

"I'd like to smack her," Alex Marshall says. He glances down at Dylan, whose head is resting on Alex's shoulder, but Dylan is too focused on the TV to return the look.

"Oh, but she is gonna be such a bitch. You can tell already."

"You say that like it's a good thing."

"It is a good thing!" Dylan exclaims. This time he does take his eyes off the television, to throw Alex a look that's meant to ask if he is insane. "She comes from a long line of quality Real World bitches."

They watch for a short while in silence before Alex asks, "You think they're ever gonna stop making this show?"

"No way! It's, like, a mark of our generation."

"What do you wanna do for dinner?" Alex asks. He doesn't think he is capable of sitting through the rest of this train wreck of a show without some conversation.

Dylan contemplates the question for a moment before lifting his head. "Let's go someplace nice."

Alex makes a face. The thought of getting dressed up tonight ...

"It'll be fun," Dylan says. "And we could use some quality time. I go to Nationals next week, and we're not gonna see each other for, like, eight days."

"I'm gonna be severely lacking in social direction," Alex says. He intends it as a joke -- and it is one -- but there is a kernel of truth: He can't fathom how he would spend his free time if not for Dylan. These days, this more or less is his social life.

Dylan's face lights up. "Hey! Do you have anything actually scheduled for next week?"

"Not really ..."

"Come with us! You can totally still get a plane ticket, and I'll feel good having you there to cheer us on--"

"I don't know," Alex says. "It's eight days."

"So? It'll be good for us."

"And you'll be busy most of the time with practices and events and making sure you're rested."

"There's a ton of downtime at these things," Dylan says insistently. "Seriously."

The whole thing sounds a bit too spontaneous to Alex; he already has something of a vision of what his week will look like, and throwing out those plans seems rash.

"I'm getting close to finishing my damn novel," Alex says. "If I really buckle down while you're away--"

"Write it while I'm busy doing skating stuff. There you go -- best of both worlds!"

"I don't know," Alex hedges. "I don't even know if I can afford to just spring for a random plane trip to Atlanta."

Dylan narrows his gaze at him. "It won't be that expensive, Alex."

"It could be a month's rent. I consider that expensive." The topic is beginning to annoy Alex now, and he hopes that his tone conveys that. "It's nice of you to invite me, Dylan, but I don't think it's gonna work."

"Oh, come on." Dylan sits up straight and smacks his hands against the couch. "Alex ..."

Not knowing what else to say, Alex simply shrugs. "I'm sorry," he manages.

"So that's it? You're done considering it?"

"Yeah," Alex says, with slight hesitance.

"I can't believe you!" Dylan stares at him incredulously and then springs to his feet. "Seriously, Alex, if this relationship was important to you, you'd come with me!"

"Don't you think that's a little melodramatic?" Alex asks, trying to comprehend how this has even escalated into an argument.

"No!" Dylan's eyes linger hard on Alex for several seconds, as if expecting a sudden change of heart. When it doesn't come, Dylan grabs his coat from a nearby chair and pulls it on.

"You're leaving?"

"I'm certainly not gonna sit here if you don't want me around," Dylan says, slipping his shoes on hurriedly.

"I never said--"

"You don't need to say it." Dylan yanks the door open, shoots one more disappointed look back at Alex, and leaves.

Alex stares at the closed door, struggling to figure out what just happened. He has a momentary impulse to leap up and chase after Dylan, but he brushes it aside and instead sinks deeper into the couch with a heavy sigh.


"You've gotta try these," Lauren Brooks insists. She stretches her arm across the table, pushing her hand toward Jason Fisher's mouth.

"My dad owns this place. Don't you think I know what they taste like?" he asks, turning his cheek to the onion ring.

"Not necessarily. Have you tried every single thing on the menu?"

"Of course," Jason says, rolling his eyes around to indicate that even he doesn't buy the lie.

Lauren pushes the onion ring closer to his face. "Come on, eat it!"

"I don't even like onion rings!"

"You'll like these ones."

He stares critically at it for a few seconds and then takes it tentatively from her. Slowly he takes a bite.

"Gross," he says as soon as he's chewed it enough to force it down his throat.

Lauren looks both offended and shocked. "What, you don't like it?"

He shakes his head emphatically.

"What's wrong with it?" She grabs the rest of it back from him and promptly takes a bite.

"It's all ... onion-y." He uses the napkin to wipe his mouth in the hope that it might erase the taste, but that doesn't work, so he takes a sip of his beer.

"You're a weird one," Lauren says, eyeing him critically as she finishes off the onion ring.

He flaps his tongue around his mouth, still able to taste the onion. "So hey, Sandy thinks she might have another audition lined up for me."

"Oh yeah? Is she gonna throw you to the wolves again?"

Jason shudders at the memory of his audition with Hannah Geller. "No! Apparently this girl is completely normal and actually has good skating credentials."

"That's what you think," Lauren says ominously. "Do you have the audition set up yet?"

"No. And she works up in Whistler, I guess, and she told Sandy it'd be hard to find time to come down here in the next few weeks, so I get to take a trip up there to audition."

"I'm jealous! I would kill to go up there for a few days this time of year and do some skiing."

He hesitates before throwing out a suggestion: "You know, you could ..."

"What, just randomly go up there to ski? I don't even go to movies alone!"

"No, I mean ... come up with me. If I'm going up there for the audition, I might as well have something to do besides turn around and drive back."

"Really?" She seems to wait for some sign that he is serious, and when he nods, she launches right into it: "We could make a weekend of it and get a really nice condo and hit the slopes, spend some time in the hot tub, the whole winter getaway."

Excitement swells within Jason. This is sounding pretty damn nice.

"I think we've got a plan here," he says. Hoping that it's an okay thing to do, he reaches his hand out and takes one of hers in it.

A smile lights up her face. "Sounds like we do. And I can't wait."


Brent's fingers wrap around Molly's hand and turn it over so that her palm is facing up. She waits, her body tight with anticipation, as his touch lingers.

"Merry Christmas," he says, almost whispers. She feels the small box in her palm.

Slowly she opens her eyes and looks down. There it is -- a tiny, square box, covered in sleek, plain gold paper.

"Come on, open it," Brent encourages.

Drawing a deep breath, Molly pulls the paper apart at the tape. As soon she unfolds the tiny flaps of wrapping, her suspicions are confirmed: It's a jewelry box.

"Oh my God," she says in a rush of breath.

Her fingers tremble as she removes the wrapping and flips open the box.

"Do you like them?" Brent asks expectantly.

Molly's eyes freeze on the pair of earrings for a long moment. Diamonds. Wow. They're ... not what she was expecting. But beautiful.

"I love them," she says, finally allowing her eyes to meet Brent's. "They're gorgeous. Thank you, Brent."

Instinctively she leans forward and wraps her arms around him. She was foolish to let her mind get ahead of her like that. Of course it wouldn't have been a ring -- how could they take a step like that when they haven't even been able to tell people that they're together?

She studies the earrings, sparkling under the lights of the Christmas tree. "You didn't have to do this," she says. "This is ..."

"I remembered you looking at them when we were shopping a few weeks ago."

"They're beautiful, Brent. I--" She glances at the earrings again and then places the box on the floor so that she can take Brent's hands. "Thank you."


The car has barely stopped moving before Diane flings open her door and jumps out.

"Which one is it?" she asks, frantically scanning the windows of the opposite buildings.

Brian turns the car off and steps out the driver's side. "That one," he says, indicating Brent's second-floor apartment with his forefinger.

"Dammit, it's dark! They'd better be here."

As he locks the car and pockets his keys, Brian says, "Maybe they forgot to plan their schedules around your diabolical plot to ruin their lives."

"Don't jinx me!" Diane says, already halfway up the stairs to Brian's apartment. "Come on, maybe we can see something from your place."

With a groan, Brian trudges up the stairs after her. She practically bounces in place as she waits for him to unlock the apartment, and as soon as he turns the key in the door, Diane pushes it open and springs inside.

Diane holds her crossed fingers aloft as she searches for Brent's apartment through Brian's window. "Please be in there, you two clowns ..."

Brian moves to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. He is pulling out a Diet Coke when he hears Diane's exclamation: "Ah-ha!"

"Sitting ducks!" he hears Diane call out. "Brian, come look at this."

Despite himself, he moves across the apartment and joins her at the window.

"Oh, jeez," he says. "You, my friend, are a lucky girl."

"This is better than The Simple Life," Diane says. She snatches the can of soda from Brian's hand, takes a sip, and hands it back to him.

Brian watches, dumbstruck at her luck, as Diane lifts the camera and snaps a series of photos. Through the window and then on the camera's screen, he sees a duplicate image: Brent placing earrings on Molly.

"You amaze me," Brian says, shaking his head.

"I amaze myself," she says. She holds up the camera and then pauses. "Perfect."

Her finger clicks the camera's button again as Brent and Molly come together for a kiss.


Is Diane's scheme going to run as smoothly as she hopes?
Can Molly and Brent's secret romance weather this impending storm?
What's in store for Jason and Lauren on their getaway to Whistler?
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