Episode #361

Previously ...
- Ryan struggled to find his place in the Fisher family in the wake of Tim's return.
- Tim and Claire were determined to resume their marriage as it was before his disappearance.
- Jennie told Sarah that she and Matt are now pursuing a relationship.


The elevator's doors part with a ding, and Ryan Moriani steps out onto the eighteenth floor of Winston Tower. The space occupied by Objection Designs is the epitome of sleek and modern, with crisp white walls and clean oak paneling as far as the eye can see. Despite his attendance at shareholders' meetings, Ryan hasn't actually visited the company's floor until now. He is somewhat relieved to find a much less outrageous atmosphere than he expected of a fashion design firm.

He proceeds uncertainly toward the receptionist. Ryan isn't even sure why he is here. Molly's phone call was scant on details, and when he pressed for them, she simply urged him harder to meet her at the office.

"I'm here to see Molly Fisher," Ryan tells the receptionist. He suddenly wonders if Molly is still using her maiden name at work. "Molly Taylor."

The receptionist smiles, clearly having faced this situation before. "I'll page her."

The young man presses a button and holds it down while he announces, "Molly, there's a gentleman here to see you."

Static buzzes on the line, but a second later, Molly's voice cuts in: "I'll be right there."

Ryan thanks the receptionist and steps back to wait. Mere seconds later, his sister appears from a hallway.

"Thanks for coming on such short notice," she says, giving Ryan a hug that takes him by surprise.

"No problem. I was worried something was wrong--"

"Oh, no, no. I didn't mean to scare you." She nods toward the hallway. "Come on back to my office so we can talk."

She pauses long enough to raise a hand at the receptionist. "Thanks, Hayden." The young man returns her smile.

"How've you been feeling?" Ryan asks as they walk. He hopes he won't have to find his own way out, because he's already lost in the maze of cubicles and corridors.

"You know, I feel fine during the days," Molly says, "but my stomach feels horrible in the mornings. And I've been so hungry at night these last few weeks."

"Guess things are going according to plan, then."

"I guess so. Except my clothes are really starting to not fit, and I hate that."

"Maybe you should design a maternity line," Ryan suggests jokingly. It sounds hopelessly corny to him, just the sort of stupid thing that comes out when he's nervous--whenever he's around any of the Fishers besides Paula, basically.

Nevertheless, Molly chuckles as she leads him into her office. The room is spacious, and it has a bit more personality than what he has seen elsewhere on the floor. A handful of designs, matted and framed, adorn one wall. Ryan vaguely recognizes a few of them from Objection's debut fashion show last summer.

"Have a seat," Molly says, doing so herself. Ryan settles into a chair across the desk from her. Directly in front of him, on the desk, is a sleek black frame bearing a photo of Molly and Brent from their wedding.

Molly opens up a pink tin that sits on the desk. "Want a cookie? They're oatmeal raisin."

"Sure," Ryan says after a slight hesitation. She hands him one.

"You make these?" he asks.

She shakes her head as she chews. "Nooo. Baking isn't really my thing. One of our interns made them."

"Baking's not your thing? I'd have thought--"

"I try, but I rarely succeed." Molly laughs as she finishes the cookie. "Wow, I scarfed that one down."

Ryan shrugs. "You can blame it on the baby."

"No, I'll save that for this one," she says as she takes another cookie. "Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering why I wanted you to come here."

"Yeah, kind of."

She leans forward. "You won't be sorry that you did. I've got some news that I think will make you very, very happy."


Tim Fisher pokes his fork into the mushy mound of noodles and sauce on his plate. It is lasagna only in the loosest sense of the term. Since returning to King's Bay, Tim has found that a lot of things have changed. Unfortunately, the hospital cafeteria's food is not one of those things.

"Sorry you have to be subjected to this," Claire says from across the table.

Tim shrugs. It isn't his ideal lunch date, but if it gives him the opportunity to steal a few moments with Claire during her workday, he can deal with it.

"Physical therapy went well?" she asks. Tim knows that he must look as though he just put in some major time at the gym, but the truth is, his PT sessions are almost embarrassingly mellow--not that they're easy for him.

"I never imagined that lifting my leg ten times would ever be such grueling activity," he says.

"At least you can do it."

"Hey, I'm in training. Gotta gear up for the main event: climbing stairs."

"Believe me, it's not all it's cracked up to be," Claire says with a smile. She lifts a forkful of lifeless salad to her mouth. "You're making good progress, though?"

"Yeah. If anything, they want to make sure I'm not doing too much too quickly." He sets down the plastic fork. "I just want to get back to normal."

"You will," Claire says, pausing before she adds, "not that we even know what normal is at this point."

"You've got that right. But we're going to find it, I swear. Once I get better, I can really be a father again--and a husband ..."

The comment pushes them into silence. It feels to Tim as though weeks and months of unspoken tension have been building inside an ever-expanding balloon, and now that he has given that balloon the tiniest prick, its contents are leaking out, slowly but steadily surrounding them like a thick fog.

Claire breaks the uncomfortable quiet spell. "Tim, we're just happy that you're safe and you're home. Everything else will fall into place."

He accepts that wordlessly. As much as he wants to believe it ...

"Can I ask you a question?" he asks suddenly.

He can tell that it catches Claire off-guard. She fidgets in an effort to conceal it, but Tim knows her well enough to know exactly what that means.

"That guy you were seeing," he says carefully. "What finally happened between the two of you?"


"Can I come in?" Matt asks when Sarah opens the door to her apartment.

She takes a step back, too stunned by his arrival to say much of anything. He seems to have taken her gesture as approval and passes by her into the living room.

Her immediate reaction is to wonder why he is here. Maybe he's ready to work things out. That's what Sarah might have thought a few days ago. Before she discovered that he's seeing someone else now ...

"I don't know what Jennie said to you the other day, but I thought I should talk to you. Clear things up between us."

"She didn't say anything to me that deserves an explanation," Sarah says earnestly. She knows she doesn't own Matt; she has no claim over him. Sure, her initial reaction to Matt and Jennie was horror, but maybe it was necessary for her to recognize that it really is over between the two of them. "You don't owe me anything."

"I just didn't want you to get the wrong impression."

Like what? Sarah thinks. Like the impression that she and Matt could ever have made this work in the first place? She should have known better. Their entire relationship started as one big mistake--why should it end any differently?

For as much as she's tried and manipulated the circumstances, she didn't get him. She couldn't get Brent, and she couldn't get Matt, either. "You're free to do whatever you want, with whoever you choose, Matt. You've made it clear to me, and I'm done chasing after you."

Matt's eyes fall downward, and he clamps up.

Before he can say anything to ease the mounting tension between them, Matt's phone begins to ring. He answers, and Sarah can't help but listen to his side of the conversation.

"Hi," he says, his tone guarded. She can tell it must be Jennie by the way Matt looks toward her, yet avoids her eyes at the same time. She pretends she's not paying attention to him. "I'll be right there," he promises, ending the call.

"Jennie?" Sarah guesses.

"Yeah," he says with a short nod. "She's having some sort of problem."

Sarah senses a slight irritation in his tone. "Sounds like it's not the first time."

He smiles, and Sarah's relieved that he didn't take offense to her careless remark.

Matt walks through the door, but pauses just outside. "We're not together or anything. Jennie and me," he says out of the blue.

Sarah doesn't know what she's expected to say, so she just nods absently until he's gone. Even though she has accepted that it's over between them, she can't describe how comforting it is to hear that from him.


Ryan holds his breath as he waits for Molly to go on. Possibilities rush through his brain: Does Molly need his help? Are Paula and Bill okay? Or ... did Claire say something that Molly thinks he should know?

The look on her face--excited, pleased--tells him that it is nothing so serious, but that does not stop him from wondering.

She finishes chewing before she asks, "Remember how I passed your name and resumé on to Julian St. John?"

"Yeah. I tried following up, but he never got back to me."

"That's because Julian is the only person who matters in Julian's world," Molly says. "But I brought it up with him again, and it turns out they're looking to replace someone over there."

Ryan's blood begins pumping a little faster. It's a familiar feeling, though his on-and-off job hunt has taught him that it's usually followed by a disappointing crash.

"Should I get in touch with him again?" he asks.

"That's why I wanted you to drop by. Julian has some free time this afternoon, and he'd like to meet with you."

Ryan's excitement surges and then flags as he looks down at his informal clothing. His sweater and slacks are nice enough, but a far cry from job interview attire.

Molly notices his reaction and assures him: "Don't worry, it's nothing formal. He just wants to meet you, chat a little bit, go over some of your past experience."

As the reality of the situation sinks in, Ryan leans back in his chair and exhales heavily. "Jeez. Wow, Molly, thanks. I really appreciate it."

"Just trying to be a good sister," she says, picking at the remains of her cookie. "I know the last couple of months haven't been easy for you ..."

"Yeah." Ryan's mind drifts to the familiar thoughts of Claire, of her with Tim. The stability he thought he'd found was ripped out from beneath him, proven to be nothing more than an illusion, and lately, he feels as though he is bumbling around in search of anything onto which he can grab.

"It is going to get easier," Molly says, as if reading his thoughts.

"I hope so," Ryan responds, though he wonders how losing Claire--letting go of her forever--ever could be easy.


Tim has promised himself countless times that he wouldn't do this, that he wouldn't put Claire on the spot this way. As soon as the question slips past his lips, that promise comes flooding back.

"I'm sorry. I know I told you I wouldn't push you about this," he says.

Her lips pursed tightly, Claire nods. Tim interprets it as a wordless prayer that he will stick to his vow.

"I'm sorry," he repeats, feeling the need to fill the silence. "I know what a nightmare this has to be for you."

Claire keeps her eyes down as she works through a few bites of her salad. Despair begins to overtake Tim. That was so stupid, he thinks. All I've done is make her really uncomfortable ...

When she speaks, her words are both abrupt and quiet: "I broke it off with him. That's it. I told him that I'm committed to my marriage, and that was the end of it."

"Thank you," he says, his love for this woman swelling as he imagines the sacrifice she has made to be with him.

Several seconds pass in awkward quiet. Tim tries to eat, but his stomach isn't interested--and the lasagna is no help.

"I should get going," he says, casting a quick glance at his watch. "My dad is probably downstairs already."

"All right. I need to get back to work, anyway."

Tim lifts his tray, but before he can pull his wheelchair back from the table, Claire reaches out and takes the tray from him. She does away with the remains of their lunches.

"Want me to walk you downstairs?" she asks.

"No, I'll be fine. I'm getting pretty good with this thing," he says, tapping the wheelchair's side. "I'll see you tonight."

She nods and bends down to give him a quick kiss. "Love you."

"Love you, too." He watches her head out of the cafeteria and down the corridor. Tim wheels his way over to the elevator and, after a relatively short wait, it arrives and opens its doors. He is surprised to find his father standing inside the elevator.

"I was just coming down to meet you," Tim says.

"I thought I'd come up and find you in the cafeteria," Bill says, "but apparently you're making things easy on me."

Tim rolls into the elevator, and the doors close. It begins moving downward with a faint hum.

"How's Claire?" Bill asks.

"Good." The word tumbles out of Tim's mouth, and a moment later, he asks, "Do you really think she can get over Ryan?"

Bill hesitates, looking to his son, then to the closed doors, and back to Tim.

"I heard them talking," Tim explains. "I know Ryan is the guy Claire was seeing before I came back."

The elevator settles in on the hospital's ground floor. The doors part, exposing the lobby.

"Claire loves you. I don't doubt that," Bill says.

"Neither do I." Tim allows Bill to exit the elevator before wheeling himself out. "But is that really enough?"

A sober expression on his face, Bill turns to his son. "It has to be. It's all any of us have got."


Are things really over between Claire and Ryan?
Can Tim be content with his marriage the way it is?
Is there hope for Sarah and Matt?
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