Episode #332

Previously ...
- Sarah gathered the entire family so that she could give Molly and Brent her blessing to be together. They were skeptical, but Sarah assured them that she was being genuine in her wish to move on with her life.
- Diane called Alex in to meet with her and told him that Vision wants to publish his novel. Alex met Trevor for a drink, but when Alex told him the good news, Trevor suggested they do something more exciting.
- Ryan received a call from the police, who asked him to come to the morgue to identify a body.


The afternoon sun burns hot in the sky above King's Bay as Sarah Fisher maneuvers her SUV along the residential streets. Fed up with squinting, she reaches to the glove compartment and retrieves her sunglasses.

Today's events seem surreal to her, more a projection of her imagination than an actual set of fresh memories. She has pictured so many different scenarios in which she tells Molly and Brent to be together--most of them ending with the suggestion that they should go to hell, too--that she can hardly believe that this afternoon actually happened. And not only did it happen, but it was calm and polite. It wasn't at all the telling-off she has so often envisioned.

As she steers the Jeep Liberty onto Farmington Road, it hits her that she isn't entirely pleased at having given them her blessing. She knows that it was necessary, and she does feel relieved to have the burden removed from her shoulders, but something lingers. Part of her was hoping that maybe they would hear what she had to say and realize that they were being ridiculous, that it is in poor taste for them to have a relationship. But they didn't, and she didn't do anything more than give them her approval ... well, maybe her lack of disapproval is more fitting.

Regardless, it's done. She got the whole family together, and she said what she needed to say. Now if only Matt will accept this as proof that she has moved on and wants to be with him ...

She ponders the thought, looping it through her head, as she continues driving. Only when her cell phone lets out a sharp ring does she realize that she has become caught on this one point.

She answers the phone just as it rings again, and the noise is cut short. "Hello?" she asks, not recognizing the number on the display.

"Could I speak with Sarah Fisher, please?" asks the male voice on the other end.

"This is Sarah."

"Oh, wonderful. My name is Julian St. John, and my attorney referred me to you ..."

The conversation goes on for a few minutes longer, as Julian explains that he is in need of a private investigator, and they ascertain that neither of them has anything lined up this afternoon. Seconds after hanging up the phone, Sarah swings the car onto Highway 202, and she is on the way downtown to meet with her potential new client.


A clearing finally comes into view, some twenty yards in the distance. For Alex Marshall, it is a welcome break from the dense patch of trees through which Trevor Brooks has been leading him--in nearly total silence--for at least five minutes.

Trevor pushes his way through the last of the trees, and Alex follows. They step out into the clearing that Alex recognized, but instead of being an open patch of land, as he expected, the land stops abruptly no more than ten feet ahead.

"I thought you were gonna drag me to an amusement park or something," Alex says, eyeing the cliff warily.

"We'll save that for another day. But today is special." Trevor steps right up to the ledge and gazes outward. "I've never brought anyone here before."

"I would imagine that the hour-long drive doesn't help that much."

"It's just ... it's nice to get away, you know? Like, really away from everything."

Silence washes over them as Trevor continues to stare at the rocky wall across from them and the wooded area beyond it. It looks almost identical to the area where he and Alex are now standing.

"C'mere," Trevor says, motioning for Alex to come closer. "Look at this."

Alex approaches the edge tentatively; he has always had a mild fear of heights, and a strange drop-off does not seem especially appealing. As he comes up beside Trevor, though, he realizes that twenty feet or so below is a river.

"Beautiful, huh?"

Trevor looks to him for approval, and Alex nods. It is beautiful, and in a way that is unlike the things he is accustomed to describing as beautiful. Nothing here has been constructed or planned; the beauty comes from the pure chance of nature.

"I started coming out here when I was a senior in high school," Trevor says. "I hated school, didn't really have friends who were anything more than acquaintances ... everything with my parents and my sister felt weird because I was finding out all this stuff about myself that I couldn't share with them. This was the one really genuine thing I knew."

"So you'd just drive all the way out here by yourself?"

"Yeah, once a week, maybe more. I'd tell my parents I was going out with friends and come out here instead. It was the only place I could really be alone with my thoughts and not worry about anyone or anything else."

Alex gazes down into the water, lying still under the summer sky, flecked with bars and splotches of sun. Despite the intimidating drop, he can see why Trevor would find the solitude of this place so appealing.

"So why'd you bring me out here?" he asks, glancing over at Trevor. "If this is your special private spot ..."

"I thought it was something you'd appreciate. There aren't many people I know who would really understand how cool it is to have a place like this." His hands move to his waist. "Besides, I think you could use a little thrill after the good news about your book."

Alex watches Trevor's fingers curl under the bottom of his shirt. "What do you mean?"

"You've gotta try this," Trevor says, and in one slick motion, he peels off his t-shirt, leaving him in a pair of cargo shorts and flip-flops. Alex can't help but stare at the long, lithe torso in front of him, sculpted to a degree that seems like it would and should be impossible to achieve.

Before Alex has the chance to ask what he has to try, Trevor kicks off his flip-flops and leaps off the cliff. Alex watches in half-horror as Trevor plummets, feet first, toward the water; an instant later, he hits it with a crash and is floating in the river.

"Come on!" he shouts up to Alex. "Jump!"

The height, which a few moments ago was starting to look less threatening to Alex, now seems terrifying. He glances back and forth between Trevor, bobbing in the water with a smile stretched across his face, and the river's surface, which seems impossibly, dangerously far away.

"I can't," he calls out. "I hate heights!"

"It's worth it!" Trevor yells back.

Alex breathes in deeply through his nose. It could be fun; it looks incredible. But his body doesn't seem willing to make accomodations for that, and his heart is threatening him with a full-out explosion if he even dares jump.

And yet, after another look at Trevor, who is motioning encouragingly, Alex removes his own shirt and tosses it onto the rocks at his feet.

He takes another deep breath, and the pounding in his chest grows louder, more intense. His eyes drift back down to the water.

"Come on, Alex!"

He closes his eyes and swings his arms behind him in preparation, and then, before he can stop them, his feet spring him into the air, off solid ground, and he is rushing toward the water.


Ryan Moriani's footsteps are heavy in the doorway as he steps into his deserted loft. Not just his steps -- his whole body feels weighed down, as the initial shock of the entire day evaporates along with the nervous energy and adrenaline that have been keeping him going until now.

The curtains are still drawn closed, as they've been since last evening. Ryan intends to keep it that way. He's already seen the harsh light of day, and there's something comforting about being alone and closed off from the rest of the world right now.

As he sinks into the first chair he happens upon, his mind races back to the sight of his father, his real father, Stan Lincoln, lying dead as a fish on stark white bed. Was he supposed to be relieved? Saddened? Angered? At the time, he didn't know what to think, so he simply said, "That's him."

A single bullet to the forehead had been the end of the man who had haunted Ryan his entire life.

Ryan senses another presence in the room, and before she can even knock, he turns to the door to find Claire. Her eyes widen. "Ryan--"

"It was him," Ryan affirms.

Claire carefully crosses the room and kneels near him, reaching her hand out to his own. "Thank God," she says, finally allowing herself to exhale. "Thank God this nightmare is finally over."

"Please, Claire. I know this is for the best, but he was my father," Ryan says, genuinely pained by the loss he has suffered, despite knowing the man isn't worthy of his emotion.

"Since when did he become a father to you? Fathers are supposed to love their children, or at least have some shred of caring or concern. Stan's never given you anything close to that! He left you, and then when he thought he had something to gain from it, he came back into your life so he could use you!" Claire snapped, angered by Ryan's remorse. "He used both of us ..."

"I know he's despicable. That doesn't change anything, Claire. I'm still a part of him. I may not be anything like he was, thankfully, but Stan's the reason I'm here today, isn't he?"

Claire stands and turns away from him, not wanting to be reminded that this man she loves bears a slight but inescapable resemblance to his father.

"You can grieve for him all you want, but I'm not going to pretend Stan was something he wasn't. I'm happy he's gone, and I'll be happier every day that I don't have to worry about him going after me or the people I love," Claire says, intensity in her eyes. "I only wish you would have taken me with you to see his dead body on that table."

"Can you please leave?" Ryan's voice asks several seconds later, in a low tone Claire barely recognizes. "It's been a long day, and I need some time alone right now to deal with all this."

To Claire, the request feels like a slap in the face. She shouldn't just leave, but what else can she do? He doesn't want her here, and she doesn't want to be here now.

Ryan doesn't look at her when she walks out the door. He only continues to wonder how he can explain feeling sorry for Stan after everything he's done, and why he felt so guilty as he stared down at his father's tragic corpse.


"So as much as it might hurt me to do this, I have to. I have to let go of the past so that we can all move forward. That's why I wanted to say this in front of the whole family, so everyone knows that I'm serious and that I really mean it. I want to give you my blessing to be together."

Her sister's words ring in Molly Fisher's ears over and over again, drowning out the sound of the television. Brent Taylor sits beside her, contemplative silence buzzing between them. They've said very few words to each other, mainly just short-lived attempts at casual conversation, since leaving her parents' house earlier; the enormity of what Sarah said to them is too great.

Molly wants nothing more than to curl up in his arms and let out more than six years of frustration, tension and, despite the strong front she's shown her family since the fashion show, the lingering guilt that's stabbed her subconscious before sleep and in the wake of every encounter with Brent. He seems to sense the conflict within her and reaches across, places a hand on her knee.

"Hey," he says steadily. She turns her head but doesn't meet his gaze. "Mol, it's over."

"Do you honestly believe that?" she asks, perhaps with a little more accusatorily than she intended.

"Yeah." A pause. "Yeah, I do."

"I wish I could. I mean, I want to. It's just..."

"It's just what? Molly, what's the matter?"

Molly swallows hard and places a hand over his. "I hope she means it. If she wasn't being sincere ..." She bites back the rest of what she was going to say, inhales sharply again.

"She was telling the truth, Molly. She gave us her blessing, and she can't take it back now."

"Do you think she'll really be okay seeing us together and being in the same place as us?"

"Listen," he says, turning and placing a hand on each shoulder, "we shouldn't even be worrying about this now."

He levels his gaze with hers and focuses and then slides his right hand along her shoulder and finds the nap of her neck, gently massaging her earlobe. She takes a deep breath, closes her eyes momentarily. When she opens them, he says softly: "We're okay. I love you. That's all that matters."

The TV drones on in the background, nearly forgotten. She clasps her hand around his wrist.

"Yeah," she says at last and allows her lips to curl upward into a half-smile. "You're right."

"I know," he says and leans forward, pressing his lips against hers--softly at first, then more intensely.

"I love you, Brent," she says when he pulls away. "I love you so much."


The coffee house is brimming with activity. Sarah sits at a table close to the door, an iced mocha in front of her. The cobwebs of today's events and their possible ramifications linger in her head. She sips her coffee and tries to shift into professional mode.

She watches the door as a few customers come and go. Finally, an African-American man in his early thirties comes through the door. He is wearing a pale blue dress shirt and a pair of white slacks, and he looks utterly unaffected by the heat outside.

His eyes search the room for a brief moment before they settle on Sarah. Then his lips soften into a smile, and he approaches her.

"Sarah, I take it?" he asks, extending a hand to her.

"Yeah. Nice to meet you." She rises halfway and shakes his hand, finding his grip to be firm, almost uncomfortably so.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, too," Julian says as he takes a seat across from her. "And thank you for agreeing to meet on such short notice."

"Oh, no problem. I didn't have anything scheduled for the afternoon, so it's lucky you called when you did."

"I suppose so." Julian folds his hands on the table. "How do we begin, exactly?"

Sarah takes another sip of her drink. "Why don't you tell me a bit about why you're looking for an investigator?"

Julian draws his lips together. He seems to be thinking, perhaps even strategizing, and the silence lingers for several seconds before he says anything.

"It's a personal matter," he begins, his voice now a bit quieter, though no less crisp. "My wife and I have been having ... marital troubles, I suppose you could say, for some time now. To be honest, I'm nearly at the end of my rope."

Sarah nods, urging him to go on.

He takes a deep breath and casts his eyes down momentarily before continuing. "I have reason to believe she's been seeing another man, and I would like to know for sure."

"Of course."

"If she is--well, I wouldn't be nearly as willing to invest any more energy in this marriage. We have a young son, and as much as I dislike the idea of putting him through something like this, it would be even worse to continue a marriage that isn't working properly."

"I understand completely. I've had a few cases like this before, so it's definitely something I would feel comfortable handling."

"My attorney--Mr. Kieta--recommended you highly."

"I've worked with a few of his clients before," Sarah says. "We've developed a pretty comfortable working relationship."

Julian separates his hands and places his palms flat on the table. "I'm glad to hear that, because it's important that this situation be resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible."


"See? That was pretty cool, huh?"

"Yeah," Alex agrees, leaning back on his elbows. The rocky surface of the river bank is rough against his skin, but he stays like that anyway, the sun beating down on his bare torso and his soaked shorts.

"You get, like, this huge rush when you're racing toward the water," he says, "and there's nothing you can do to stop yourself."

"Exactly," Trevor says. "It's totally ... freeing, cheesy as that sounds."

"I seriously thought I was gonna die. I hate heights." Alex manages a laugh at himself.

"Well, you're alive, and you seem to be glad you did it."

Alex glances over at Trevor, who is lying in a similar position, stretched out across the rocks. His feet are just inches from where the water is lapping up toward them, crashing gently against the banks and then falling away.

Alex catches himself staring at Trevor's long, tanned legs, covered with a light dusting of brown hair and stray droplets of water. He swallows hard and forces himself to look up at Trevor's face.

"I am glad I did it," he says. "And I'm glad you brought me out here."

Trevor's left shoulder rises and falls in a lazy shrug. "I thought you'd appreciate it."

"I do." Alex stares across the river, up at the landing from which they jumped. He draws a long, slow breath in through his nose. "I never would've thought of coming to a place like this, but it's, like, the perfect setting to absorb this thing about my book getting published."

For a few seconds, there is nothing but silence between them. Finally Trevor speaks: "Like I said, I thought you would be able to appreciate it out here. I don't know many people who would."

Alex looks over to offer a smile and finds Trevor's gaze resting on him. For an instant, it seems as though Trevor is going to avert his eyes, but instead he leaves them there, focused right on Alex.

"You seem to pick up on stuff like that about me better than I do myself," Alex says. His chest feels heavy, his breathing labored.

Trevor turns toward Alex and props himself up on one elbow. "I think we get each other pretty well."

"Yeah." Alex's eyes go back to the wall of rock across the river. "I think we do, too."

He can see Trevor's bare flesh out of the corner of his eye.

"Alex." Trevor's voice is huskier now, and Alex can almost hear the smirk in Trevor's voice.

Sure enough, when he turns his head back in Trevor's direction, there is that conspiratorial look, as if the two of them are acknowledging a joke that no one else knows.

"What?" Alex asks, even though he's pretty sure he doesn't need Trevor to provide the answer. He rolls onto his side, one arm beneath him on the rock.

Trevor's grin broadens, and the tiniest chuckle escapes through his nose.

Alex realizes he is holding his breath. He has to swallow again, even harder this time, as Trevor's face--a day's worth of stubble lining his jaw, his chin, his upper lip--lingers just inches away from his own.

Oh, God. What about Lauren? And Dylan?

In one swift motion, Alex snaps to a sitting position.

"We should probably get going," he says, doing his best to hold his voice stable. "We don't wanna hit too much traffic going back into town."

Trevor's incredulous pause stands out against the silence like a blaring siren, and for a moment, Alex thinks Trevor isn't going to let this go. But he, too, sits up straight.

"Yeah, you're right," Trevor says, his tone once more even and normal.


Was Alex right to halt the situation with Trevor?
What did you make of Ryan's reaction to Claire?
What might come of Sarah working with Julian?
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