Episode #321

Previously ...
- Matt continued to recover from the injuries he suffered in the car accident caused by Sarah.
- Molly and Brent wondered what will become of their relationship after it became known in such unpleasant circumstances.
- Trevor helped Alex proofread his novel and brainstorm an ending. The two got into a deeper conversation about Alex's relationship in college. When Jason walked into the apartment, though, he found them in a compromising position.


Jason Fisher stands frozen in the open doorway of the apartment. On the couch, shirtless and looking like a deer in headlights, is Lauren's brother. Standing over him is Alex, who jumps back a good five feet as soon as he sees his roommate.

Jason makes eye contact with Alex, then Trevor, and then Alex again. He feels a slight grin curling the edges of his lips.

"So, uh, how are you guys doin'?"

Alex does look slightly relieved--but only slightly--by Jason's casual demeanor. Still, when he speaks, his words are a rush, as if the entire building might explode if he doesn't cover everything that could possibly need to be said in the next twenty seconds.

"What are you doing home? How was your trip? I mean--this isn't what it looks like. We were reading over my book, and I tripped, and--"

"Dude, calm down," Jason says. Truth be told, he is more surprised by the scene than he is letting on, but there's no need to make this any more uncomfortable for any of them.

Trevor holds up a drenched shirt with a big, brown mark spread over its middle. "Alex just tripped and spilled his coffee. I didn't wanna burn to death, so ..." He gestures at his bare torso.

Jason holds up one hand and flips it casually. "Whatever. That's good enough for me."

He still isn't entirely convinced that what he walked in on was so innocent, but there's no use forcing the issue right now. Especially not once Alex forcefully maneuvers the conversation elsewhere.

"So how'd the trip go?" Alex asks. "And the audition? Is it gonna work out?"

"Actually, the audition was awesome. This girl, Kelsey, she's gonna come down here pretty soon so we can start training."

"Excellent. Did you get to do some good skiing?"

"Er ... not so much." He looks at Trevor. "Your sister sprained her ankle pretty badly during what was probably one of the most ridiculous vacation disasters ever. So no, we didn't get to ski. But we hung out, and yeah ... it was really nice."

Jason catches the little look that Alex shoots his way, but he brushes it off. They'll get to that later, when Trevor isn't here.

"Hey, have you heard from Dylan?" he asks Alex. "I'm curious to know how he and Courtney did."

Alex shakes his head. "Not a word."

"I can check online, I guess. Meanwhile, I've gotta get all this crap put away."

"You need a hand with anything?" Alex asks.

"Uh ... yeah, that'd be nice, actually. Let's run down to the car real quick."

The young men head out of the apartment, Alex assuring Trevor that they'll be right back and Jason relieved to have escaped the awkward tension of the situation. He and Alex definitely have some talking to do later.


The sleepy gray of the overcast day seeps in through the hospital room's pair of windows, cloaking the room in a dim haze. Normally, Sarah Fisher would turn on the lights, but the pall comes as a welcome change from the fluorescent glow to which she has become accustomed. She has definitely spent too much time sitting in this room lately.

She pulls the zipper of the duffel bag closed. She has to force it a little, but it eventually obliges.

She sets the bag on the bed. "All set."

"I'm almost there," Matt Gray says. He looks up at her as he finishes tying one of his sneakers. "God, it's gonna be nice to be outta this place."

"I have to say, I don't think I'll miss coming here to visit you." She flashes him a warning glance in jest. "Just don't go pushing yourself so hard that you wind up back here in a week."

"I'll take it easy," he says. She lifts a skeptical eyebrow. "I promise," he adds.

"Good. Besides, I really don't think Victoria would enjoy having to come visit you here anymore. She doesn't seem too entertained by this place."

"What, I'm not enough of an attraction?"

"Apparently not," Sarah teases, "although you might be for some people." She leans in and gives him a quick kiss on the lips.

As soon as she feels that familiar surge of excitement at merely having contact with him, she also feels something that has become all too regular since Matt landed in the hospital.

"I'm so sorry you had to go through this," she says.

"It happens. I'm fine, aren't I?"

She surveys him. He does look pretty healthy, despite the tired circles underneath his eyes and the general stiffness of his body.

"If I'd just been more careful--"

"Sarah. We've been over this. Accidents happen."

She sighs deeply and takes both of his hands in hers. "I could've lost you, Matt. Victoria and I both could have. Every time I think about the accident, all I can think is, what if I was driving a little faster? What if I'd hit you at a different angle?"

"Don't think about that stuff. There's no point," he says, but she can see the considerations flickering behind his eyes.

"There is a point. It's made me realize how much I need you in my life, and how easily I could lose you. Or you could lose me, for that matter."

Now it is his turn to sigh. "Sarah ..."

"I just want to get to the point where everything is normal and settled and happy, you know? It's like it's always just out of reach."

"We'll get there. We're getting there."

"Maybe," she says slowly. This has been eating away at her ever since the initial shock of Matt's injury wore off. They can't live like this forever, not with so many things up in the air.

She looks past him, over his shoulder, as she says, "I almost called your brother right after the accident."

Immediately she feels his hands break free of hers. "What? Why would you do that?"

"Because I thought if--if anything happened, if things didn't turn out okay, I thought he should have a last chance to see you, to make things right. But I figured you might not be ready for that, and then it turned out you were okay ..."

"I'm glad you didn't," he says, now staring away from her.

"Why? Haven't you thought about getting in touch with him? It's been more than a decade, Matt."

He is silent for what feels like a very long time before saying, "I don't want to."

"But why not? Think about how quickly something could happen, something that could make it impossible for you to ever see him or talk to him again--"

"I don't want to," Matt repeats, more insistently. "Look, you of all people should understand this. You're not planning on 'getting over' your problems with Molly any time soon, are you?"

She hadn't looked at it that way yet.

"It's not time," he says plainly. "Now come on. Let's get the hell outta here."

Sarah takes a moment to gather herself and put the conversation behind her, then nods.

Matt lowers himself carefully off the bed. "See, look how easygoing I'm being."

"Thanks for humoring me." She hoists the duffel bag over her shoulder and heads for the door, with Matt following her.


Molly Fisher raises her hand to the door, but before she can knock, the hand freezes. She inhales sharply. Is this a wise thing to do, dropping in on Brent like this?

Regardless, it has to be done. So she allows her hand to go through with the knock.

From the inside of the office, she hears the call: "Come in!"

She turns the doorknob carefully and opens the door in the same manner, peeking her head through the crack.

Brent smiles. "Hey!"

Molly opens the door fully and steps inside. "Hi. I, uh, I was passing by on my way back from a meeting, so I thought I would drop in and say hi."

"Well, good, I'm glad you did." He rises from his chair and comes around to meet her on the other side of the desk. But as soon as he gets close to her, Molly feels it--exactly what she was worried about.

She can see the awkward pause in Brent's movement. He starts to close in for a kiss, but clearly thoughts of everything that has happened recently give him pause, because he stops halfway and settles for a wider smile.

"So ... how are you holding up?" he asks, leaning back against the desk. "I'm sorry I've been so out of touch the last few days. Things have been nuts around here."

"No, I understand, I've been really busy, too. We're starting to get things ready for the show, so it's absolute chaos at work."

"The good kind of chaos, though? That's still what you want to be doing, right?"

"Oh yeah, of course. It's fun. It's just--crazy."

This isn't right. It isn't normal, not for her and Brent. It feels like small talk, like she's catching up with a friend she hasn't seen in a while. This is exactly how she was worried things might be once Sarah and the rest of her family found out that she and Brent have been together all this time.

Before she can figure out a way to address the weirdness, or decide if she even should address it, the phone rings.

Brent holds up a finger to tell her to hold on a moment and then picks up the receiver. "Brent Taylor."

She watches him as he listens, watches as his expression changes: first it's routine business, just taking care of a call, but as the seconds go on, he lifts his weight off the desk, clutches the phone tighter, and his face tightens.

"All right," he says, looking ready to bolt from the room, "I'll be there in a second."

He hangs up the phone hurriedly. "Hey, Mol, I'm sorry--something huge just came up, and I need to go check on it."

"No problem. Go ahead. I need to get back to the office anyway."

"All right." There's that moment of awkward indecision again. This time he grasps her hand quickly. "We'll catch up later, okay?"

Molly nods and watches him rush from the office. This had better be temporary. It has to be.


The neighborhood is almost eerily quiet; the dim day seems to have driven everyone inside. As Trevor's car moves down the street toward his family's house, he looks for signs of life but sees little. One garage door is open, and a full pile of clutter--outdoor tools, boxes, all sorts of things--rests in the middle of the garage, but there are no people visible to indicate that anything is being done about the mess.

Trevor parks in the Brooks' driveway and enters the house. As usual, his parents' SUVs are gone, so they must both be out. But Lauren's car is in the driveway, so--

"Hey!" she calls down from the upstairs landing almost as soon as Trevor takes off his shoes.

He looks up to see his grinning sister, who bounces down the stairs in a sweatsuit. "Hey! What's up?"

"Nothing much, just unpacking all my crap. What've you been up to?"

Trevor figures that subject is best left untouched. "Enh, same, running errands. So how was the trip?"

He can already tell from her overall perkiness that the response is going to be positive, so he is surprised when she speaks.

"Kind of a disaster," she says. "Jason's audition went well, but then on the way to the lodge, we got lost, and before we could figure out where we were, the car broke down, so we had to walk, and I twisted my ankle because I'm retarded and tripped in this ditch, so Jason had to help me hobble to this trashy motel ..." She is nearly out of breath by the time she hits that point of the story.

"Jeez. Not quite the relaxing skiing weekend you imagined, huh?"

She shrugs. "Well, it got better."

He knew it. She looks too happy for it to have been a horrible trip.

"I assume that means things went well with you and Jason," Trevor says, unable to keep a slight smirk off his face.

"Yeah ..." Lauren clasps her hands together and stares off dreamily at the ceiling. "This was really good for us, Trev. Before the trip, I was wondering if things were ever gonna go anywhere."

"But now everything's good?" Of course it is. If Lauren's demeanor weren't enough to tell him that, then he could have guessed it from the way Jason talked about the trip earlier.

"Everything's great, yeah."

"Good. You look really ... happy."

"I am." She smiles a little wider, and it somehow turns into a giggle. "Come on, I was about to start looking at stuff for dinner. You can help."

"Oh, gee, what an honor." He begins to remove his coat but thinks better of it. "Let me run upstairs and change. I'll be down in a sec."

"Okay." She heads for the kitchen, and Trevor darts up the stairs.

Only once he is in his room, with the door closed, does he take off the coat. The coffee stain is still very visible on his shirt. Should be a pain in the ass to get out, he thinks as he tosses it into the hamper. He's just thankful he didn't have to explain it to his sister.


Jason presses the familiar sequence of buttons. The oven's display tells him that it is now pre-heating. He folds his arms to wait, even though he knows very well that the pre-heating will take longer than he is willing to stand here waiting for it.

Across the small kitchen, Alex stands before the open refrigerator, contemplating his choice of beverage.

"Having a tough time over there?" Jason asks.

Alex moves his hand back and forth between two shelves. "Beer or Coke? Beer or Coke?"

"Beer. Pretend it's been a tough day. You need it to kick back."

"It's actually been a pretty good day."

"Then you're celebrating. Works either way." Jason tips back his own beer and drinks down a healthy gulp of the amber liquid. "So, uh, can I ask you a question?"

Alex looks at him nervously but nods. "Sure."

"I didn't want to push the issue while Trevor was here, but now that he's gone," Jason says, "is there something going on there?"

"I swear, it was just spilled coffee."

"I believe you about that. But it doesn't necessarily answer the question."

"Nothing is going on," Alex says. "We're just friends. He's helped me out a ton with my book."

Jason glances at the oven, but the pre-heating light has yet to turn off. "Maybe I should rephrase: Would you like there to be something going on?"

Alex grabs a beer from the refrigerator, opens it, and takes a long sip. "I don't know," he says finally, seeming disappointed in himself for voicing the thought. "Maybe. I mean--I enjoy spending time with him, yeah. And we click really well."

He pauses, and Jason thinks he is about to clam up, but then comes the crucial addition: "Maybe better than Dylan and I click, even."

"So I take it you've thought about this, huh?"

"Yeah. Things have been kinda crappy with Dylan lately, too, so that doesn't help."

Jason leans against the wall beside the oven. "Are you having doubts about that whole thing now?"

Alex takes another sip of his beer before answering with a sheepish nod. "It's weird, I like hanging out with him, and I know it's a good experience for me, but sometimes I wonder ... Why? Like, it doesn't feel like it's headed anywhere, so what's the point?"

"Because it has been good for you. I think just being with Dylan has made you a lot more comfortable with yourself. Maybe you don't even notice it, but it's a huge change. Do you really think that you'd have been comfortable having a conversation like this with me a year and a half ago?"

"Good point."

Another glance at the oven. Damn light is still on. "But if it's not working anymore, there's nothing wrong with ending it. It's probably fairer to both of you in the long run."

"Yeah," Alex says, nodding slowly, as if working the thought through his mind. "I don't know, it's not even like I necessarily have a chance with Trevor."

"You don't know that."

"Well, no, but--seems like he's pretty experienced with this stuff."

"So is Dylan."

"True." Alex lifts his chin in Jason's direction. "It's done heating."

"Ooh." Jason grabs the frozen pizza from the counter and slides it into the oven. "Twenty minutes to dinner."

"Good, I'm starving."

Alex wanders out of the kitchen and into the open space where they've put a table and chairs. Jason follows him and takes a seat.

"I think you could have a shot with Trevor," Jason says.

Alex shrugs. "Maybe. It's--that shouldn't even be an issue right now, I guess. I have to deal with the Dylan thing first."

"You really think it's run its course?"

"It feels like it. We need to talk, see how things are when he gets back from Nationals ... but yeah, I'm starting to feel that way."

"Then follow your instincts, buddy," Jason says. "I'm starting to feel like they're the only thing we can trust when it comes to this stuff."


Should Alex break things off with Dylan and pursue Trevor?
How would Lauren react to her brother hooking up with her ex?
Can Molly and Brent settle into a normal relationship now?
And should Sarah just let the issue of Matt's past go?
Speak your mind in the Footprints Forum!

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