Episode #355

Previously ...
- Jason convinced Alex to join him at Molly's New Year's Eve party and suggested that Alex might find someone besides Trevor to kiss at midnight.
- Claire informed Ryan that she has chosen to commit to her marriage, so their relationship has to end.
- Upon hearing of Molly and Brent's party, Sarah insisted that Diane accompany her. Diane asked Brian to come with them, but Brian told her that he plans to spend the night on a date with Kelsey instead.


The main building of the country club stands proudly against the dark winter's sky. White holiday lights illuminate the exterior of the building, giving it a celebratory glow. Jason Fisher sticks his car keys into his pocket as he and Alex Marshall approach the building.

"This place is so nice," Alex says quietly, embarrassed at how awed he is by the place. As they drove down the long, well-lit driveway, he and Jason had the chance to look over the beautifully manicured golf course and the elegant but modern architecture of the other buildings.

"Seriously," Jason agrees. "I guess Molly's boss has been a member, like, forever, so she was able to hook them up with a room at the last minute."

They reach the entrance, and Alex opens one of the heavy doors. The warmth of the lobby is a welcome relief from the chilly evening. Both men have chosen to wear suit jackets, but those haven't been enough to ward off the icy December air.

The interior of the building is even more impressive than the grounds. Much like the exterior, there is a modern flair to the decor: sharp angles, generous use of glass, striking black trim. The atmosphere projects an elegance that Alex finds somewhat intimidating.

As if able to read his friend's mind, Jason whispers, "Chill. This is gonna be fun." With a laugh, he adds, "And we totally look like we belong here."

Alex catches a glimpse of them in a long, slender mirror mounted on one of the lobby's walls. Getting dressed for the night was something of a project; neither wanted to look too casual or too formal. Finally Jason settled on a black suit with a bold white-and-black striped shirt, untucked. Alex chose a black suit as well, but one with white pinstripes, and a plain white shirt underneath. After much debating, they both decided it would be okay to leave their collars unbuttoned. He has to agree with Jason: they do look good.

Jason spots a sign directing visitors to the various events taking place at the club tonight. The "Fisher/Taylor Party" is indicated as being down a hallway to the left, so Jason leads the way until they locate the private room where the party is being held.

"Jeez, your sister really knows how to stick to a theme," Alex says as they enter the room.

"Of course she does. It's Molly. This is a girl who used to take Polaroids of herself in a million different outfits before she could decide what to wear to school."

When the invitation called this party "A Black & White Affair," it wasn't exaggerating. The room is decked out in bold bursts of the two shades. Black tablecloths cover each of the round tables distributed throughout the room, as well as the long buffet tables against one wall. Clusters of balloons--black and white only, of course--are anchored throughout the room. The sea of guests coordinates perfectly with the rest of the decorations, and the bold contrast of white and black gives the room a vibrant feel.

A man in a crisp tuxedo, standing beside the door, greets them. He holds out a pair of white envelopes, and they each take one.

Jason opens his mouth to ask what they are for, but the man beats him to it.

"You're asked not to open these until instructed to do so," he says. His broad, friendly smile never shows any sign of fading.

Jason and Alex thank him and, holding the envelopes in their hands, proceed into the party. Jason was expecting something more along the lines of the Objection fashion show--a hall packed with hundreds of people--but this is a decidedly smaller gathering. They scan the crowd for familiar faces, and it doesn't take them long to locate some.

"There are my parents," Jason says. "Let's go say hi."

Before they can move, though, their eyes are caught by another pair entering the party: Lauren and Trevor.

Suddenly, Alex regrets his decision to come tonight.


At first, Tim Fisher doesn't even recognize the woman approaching him. She is clearly headed for him, he is sure of it, but he has no idea who it is.

"Tim! Hi!" she says, carefully holding what appears to be an apple martini as she walks.

Then it dawns on him: Courtney Chase. She's matured so much since he saw her last. When he disappeared, she was barely an adult, but now she carries herself with the confidence of a woman. She looks stunning, too, in a long, slender white dress that contrasts perfectly with her tanned skin and long, straight black hair.

"Hi," Tim says, turning his wheelchair to face her. Claire is engaged in conversation with another couple, and she glances quickly and waves to Courtney.

"It's so good to see you. I'm so happy that you're okay!" Courtney tells him.

He bobs his head appreciately. "Thanks, Courtney. I'm grateful to be back."

"How are you feeling? I mean--" It's clear that she doesn't want to mention the wheelchair explicitly, so he cuts in.

"Not great," he admits, "but I'm trying not to dwell on that too much. I'm lucky to be alive at all."

"It's pretty amazing that you can be so positive about this."

"Yeah, well, this whole situation is pretty amazing. And the fact that I get another chance with my family and my kids ..."

Courtney smiles as she runs her index finger over the rim of the martini glass. "They missed you so much. Especially Jason. He took it so hard when you disappeared."

"I know," Tim says. "And it sounds like you were really there for him."

She folds her arms and looks down awkwardly. "Yeah, well ..."

"I'm sorry things didn't work out between the two of you."

"He's happy with Lauren," Courtney says, and Tim thinks he sees a restrained eyeroll.

He tries to ignore it and asks, "Are your parents here?"

"No, actually, I came here with Brent's brother. Josh."

"Oh, wow. Good for you." Tim falls silent for a moment. "You know, I always thought you and Jason would wind up together. But I guess things change, huh?"

"Yeah," Courtney agrees, her expression turning melancholy. "They do. And sometimes they don't work out the way you hoped they would."


"Would you look at Courtney? She looks beautiful," Paula Fisher says to her husband.

Bill sits beside her at a table toward the center of the room. The rest of the seats, saved for their various children, are empty but bear the litter of occupation: purses and coats spread liberally over them.

Observing Courtney talking with their son, Bill comments, "We really need to get together with Don and Helen soon. It's been too long."

Paula nods in agreement as she takes another bite of the smoked salmon.

Ryan returns to the table, another drink in hand, and takes his seat. He sees that they are watching Tim and Courtney.

"Tim's looking so much better," Ryan says. "He looks like he's got a little bit of strength back this last week."

The Fishers agree through bites of food. The three lapse into silence as they watch Tim, so animated in his black suit but confined to his wheelchair.

"I know this can't be easy on you," Paula says, "but you're being a really good sport about it, Ryan."

Setting down his fork, Ryan sighs. "Not much I can do about it. Claire's chosen to be with him. I have to respect the fact that they're married."

Paula doesn't miss the appreciative look that this statement elicits from Bill. If nothing else, maybe this entire mess will help Bill fully accept Ryan as a member of the family. As for Paula, she senses that her son's feelings on the matter run much deeper than what he has said, but this is neither the time nor place to get into that.

Besides, she can tell that Ryan is eager to change the subject. He takes it upon himself to do so.

"Have either of you seen Molly?" he asks. "I was looking for her, but ..."

"I was, too," Bill says, "but I haven't seen her yet. Knowing Molly, she's probably so busy running around making sure that everything goes smoothly that she won't even get a chance to enjoy her own party."


At the sight of Trevor entering the room with his sister, Alex turns an accusatory eye on Jason.

"Molly invited him," Jason explains, holding up both of his hands defensively, before Alex can complain.

Suddenly regretting his decision to come tonight, Alex completes the thought. "Because he's one of their models. Of course."

"Dude, it'll be fine. I'm not gonna ditch you or anything. Besides, Courtney should be around here somewhere."

Alex isn't so sure that it will be okay, but he keeps his mouth shut and follows Jason over to the Brooks siblings.

"Do you have any idea what these are for?" Lauren asks Jason, holding up the envelope that she just received from the man at the door.

"Not a clue," he responds. "Guess we'll have to wait and find out."

Lauren shrugs and tucks the envelope into her purse. "You two look awfully sharp."

"So do you," Jason says, appraising Lauren in her black dress with white trim. "I might even call you ... 'hot.'"

Laughing, she shakes her head. "Gee, thanks."

The two meet for a brief kiss, and as they part, Jason says, "You look beautiful."

Lauren takes his hand as she turns to Alex.

"Do I have you to thank for dressing him so well?" she asks.

"We helped each other out," Alex says. "He doesn't do so bad on his own."

Trevor points to Jason's shirt. "I really like that shirt."

"Thanks," Jason says, but Trevor's focus has shifted to Alex. Alex senses that Trevor is seeking his approval, as if agreeing about the shirt would somehow mean that they agree about Dylan and their relationship and everything else.

Alex diverts his eyes from Trevor's.

Silence settles, coating the foursome in a thick awkwardness. Alex isn't sure how to break free of it, but thankfully, Lauren comes to the rescue.

"I feel like I stepped into some 1950s TV show," she says as she glances around the room.

Jason looks at her, puzzled. "Huh?"

"Because it's all black and white," she explains, drawing out each syllable as she laughs at him.

"Ohhh. Better work on your material, Conan. That wasn't so hot."

Lauren sticks her tongue out at him.

"Do you guys want anything to drink?" Jason offers Lauren and Trevor. Alex understands the implicit plan: they get a chance to slip away from the awkwardness.

The Brookses give their requests, and a moment later, Jason and Alex are headed for the bar. Jason's sigh of relief is audible.

"Oh, no," Alex says mockingly, "this won't be uncomfortable at all."


As they watch Jason and Alex walk away, Lauren turns to Trevor.

"Forgive my nosiness," she says, "but since it was blindingly obvious, would you mind filling me in on how things have gotten so bad between you and Alex?"

Trevor's attempt at throwing her off the track is weak, at best. "What do you mean?"

"He wouldn't even make eye contact with you!"

Trevor gives a halfhearted shrug and diverts his attention elsewhere, anywhere. He glances around the room, studying the party, suddenly very interested in the other attendees. She recognizes it as his usual escape strategy.

"I am not Mom and Dad," she tells him. "Talk to me."

"There's nothing to tell."

"You know, I tried to talk to Alex about it, and all he would say was that he had totally misread the situation, felt totally disappointed, that whole thing. So what's the deal?" She pauses long enough to allow him an opening to talk, but when he shows no sign of responding, she adds, "I'm not gonna let my own brother give me the run-around, too."

Trevor's gaze wanders up toward the ceiling as he stuffs his hands into the pockets of his black pants. "I guess I made a little ... error in judgment."

"How little?"

He hesitates, then says, "Not very. As in, gigantic."

She waits for him to explain further, but finally, she gives up and asks, "What'd you do?"

"Alex found out that Dylan had cheated on him," Trevor says, "so he went to talk to Dylan about it, and I guess Dylan totally flipped it around on him and accused him of cheating with me."

"He didn't, did he?" Lauren interrupts.

"No! He was actually, like, really considerate of the fact that he was still officially with Dylan and didn't think it was fair to do that to him."

"I'm waiting for the part where you screw up."

"Oh, it's coming. So, they had this huge fight and broke up, but I didn't know that it went down like that. I got a totally different version of the story, from Dylan."

He stops again, and Lauren has to prod him along with a roll of her hand. Her brother's tendency to volunteer only as much information as absolutely necessary has always irked her, but right now, she is about two steps away from shaking him silly.

Trevor sighs as he continues. "Dylan, being the ass that he apparently is, decided to screw with Alex's life. He called me and said he needed to talk, so I invited him over. And he gets there and he's all, 'Alex cheated on me, and he told me that you're his next conquest.'"

"You fell for that?"

A flash of anger flashes across Trevor's face, but he calms it and proceeds. "Like, it was stupid, but I kept remembering all these times where I felt like Alex and I were connecting, and then he backed off, and it seemed like it all could've been part of him screwing with me. And Dylan totally had me buying that he'd been cheated on and that he couldn't believe how horrible Alex was. We got a little drunk, and ..."

Now the real issue dawns on Lauren. Her mouth and eyes expand as wide as they can as she gasps.

"You didn't!"

"I know. I'm an ass."

"You're an idiot! No wonder he's so mad at you."

"I know." Trevor looks away again. "Seriously, Lauren, I know. I feel like shit about this. It was a retarded thing to do."

"Um, yeah."

"But it was an honest mistake. I really thought that the whole thing was some big game to Alex. And that hurt."

As much as Lauren would like to keep blasting him for doing something so stupid, she can see the remorse clearly in his expression. Even moreso, she can see the anguish--the type of pain that is only made possible by deep, deep feeling for someone.

"Basically, I totally screwed up any chance we had," Trevor says.

"Don't say that. Don't even think it."

"I don't really have much say in it, at this point."

"But you can," she tells him, confidence building in her voice. She wants to see her brother happy, and she wants the same for Alex. It's clear to her that, for them both to be so hurt over this, there have to be significant feelings there. "Don't give up on Alex yet. You can make this work."


By the time Sarah and Diane arrive, the party is in full swing. This is not a coincidence; Sarah's plan was for them to show up late enough that they could move around without bumping into Molly. Judging from the sheer density of the crowd, it doesn't look like that will be much of a problem.

"Welcome," the man by the door says as the two women enter the room. Sarah looks at him with confusion as he holds out a pair of white envelopes.

"What the hell is this?" Diane mutters, taking one of the envelopes.

"Every guest receives one," the man responds, his smile never wavering. "You're asked not to open them until given instructions."

Sarah takes the other envelope and, thanking the man, leads the way into the party.

Diane eyeballs her envelope as they walk. "What's this thing all about?"

"I'm sure Molly has some cute little surprise up her sleeve," Sarah says. "Hey, there's Ryan and my parents. Let's go say hi."

"Is he by the bar? 'Cause I'm gonna need a drink to deal with this."

"We'll deal with that in a second."

Diane somewhat reluctantly follows her friend over to where Ryan, Bill, and Paula are seated.

"Hey," Sarah greets her family. "How's everyone doing?"

"Honey! Hi!" Paula rises from her seat and hugs Sarah. "Hi, Diane. You both look great."

"Oh, thanks," Sarah says, while Diane mutters something appreciative. "I really like your hair, Mom."

"Claire helped me with it," Paula explains. "The party's beautiful, isn't it?"

Sarah has to admit, as much as Molly's need for grand spectacles irritates her, the room is very impressive.

"Do you guys have any idea what these are?" she asks her family, holding up the envelope.

"Not a clue. We haven't even seen Molly to be able to ask her," Ryan says.

"Well, I'm not waiting," Diane says. One of her freshly manicured nails slides under the envelope's sealed flap.

Paula begins to protest. "Diane, I don't know ..."

Diane shoots Paula a look, but before she can open the envelope, though, a familiar voice sounds over speakers that none of them had even noticed were in the room.

"Excuse me, everybody, could I have your attention?"

Sarah's attention snaps to the front of the room, where Molly has appeared in a long, body-hugging white dress. Brent stands by her side as she holds a wireless microphone.

"I'm sure you've all been wondering what those envelopes are for," Molly says. "Thanks for being so patient."

"Don't give us too much credit," Diane says under her breath, just loud enough for Sarah to hear.

Molly's voice reverberates slightly as she continues, "We'd like to ask you to go ahead and open them now."

The sounds of shuffling fill the room, as the guests pull out their envelopes and open them up.

Sarah pulls out the card, and even before she reads it, she has a bad feeling about this. And then she reads the message:

We'd like to thank you for joining us to ring in 2005.
There is no better night than New Year's for beginnings,
and we're so grateful that you are here to share in ours.
Tonight, among our friends and family, we begin our life together

as husband and wife.

A dull murmur rises from the crowd, eventually building into an excited roar. Sarah's pulse quickens as she watches Molly and Brent, clinging together as they observe the partygoers' reactions.

Behind Sarah, Paula's voice lets out an excited, "Oh my goodness!"

"We fibbed a little," Molly announces as the crowd quiets down. "Tonight isn't just an engagement party--it's our wedding."


Will Molly and Brent's surprise wedding go off without a hitch?
Will Sarah and Diane make it through the night without making a scene?
Will Trevor win Alex over with a midnight kiss?
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