Episode #371

Previously ...
- Molly cautioned Claire to make a choice between Tim or Ryan because of love, not obligation.
- Tim visited Brent with the intention of finding a link between Ryan and Salvatore Domingo, the doctor who looked after Tim in the Vermont clinic.
- Dylan informed Alex that he is leaving town--and that Trevor got him to retract the plagiarism charge by threatening him with a knife!
- When Jennie surprised him with a romantic setup, Matt finally set the record straight between them.
- After receiving a call from his brother, Sarah went to see Matt in hopes of convincing him to give Jake a chance. They were surprised when the moment turned heavy, and they were once again drawn together ...


"Ryan! It's me! Open up!"

Claire Fisher's hand delivers a final pound to the loft's steel door. Still hearing nothing from inside, she glances around the hallway, first left and then right. there are only two units up here, so the chance of being seen--let alone recognized--is slim, but that knowledge is little comfort. She cannot shake the sense that she is doing something wrong by being here.

All at once, she hears the clicking of the door's bolts and the rumble of it sliding open. She tries desperately to focus, to prepare for this.

"What's going on?" Ryan Moriani asks. Alarm is evident in the creases on his face. "Are you okay?"

"No--yes. I'm fine. I need to talk to you."

The possibility of an emergency now erased, Ryan's demeanor transforms. The creases vanish, or rather, shift downward, drooping with disappointment. Seeing his this way, so unhappy to see her, gives Claire pause. Every bit of impetus she felt after meeting with Molly rushes out of her being.

"I want to apologize. I need to." Her attempts to catch his eye are in vain. "For comparing you to Stan."

"You can't take it back. Obviously you said it for a reason."

He wanders into the living room, his back to her. Claire remains frozen in the doorway.

"It was in the heat of the moment," she says, though it sounds like a weak defense, even after all her rationalizing. She can only imagine how flimsy it sounds to Ryan.

She steps through the doorway, and her shoes thump loudly against the loft's wood floor. "I did not mean that, Ryan. I was so frustrated and so lost. I still am. Maybe it was my way of justifying my choice to be with Tim. But it was unfair, and it was untrue."

Ryan's gaze flashes toward her for only an instant before diverting itself again. He sinks into the leather armchair that she knows is his favorite item in the whole place.

"You've apologized," he says. "Now you can go."

"I don't want this to be some kind of hit-and-run apology. I've been unfair to you for months. Ever since Tim came back, I've expected you to sit back and deal with it. That was wrong."

Silence dominates the loft. Claire hopes that he will move, give her a sign, something.

"Why are you telling me this?" he finally asks.

Her words feel like both a burden and a relief as they slide past her lips. "Because I miss you and I can't stand to see you like this. I love you."

Now, at last, he looks at her and speaks at the same time.

"Claire, you are the only one with the power to straighten this out."


Matt Gray wouldn't have admitted that he wanted this to happen. In fact, for weeks--months--he has worked to convince himself that it shouldn't. Every time his mind has wandered to thoughts of Sarah or his hand has wandered toward the phone, he reminds himself that as powerful as their connection might be, it isn't worth the heartache and the up-and-down.

But now, with her face mere inches from his and her lips practically reaching out for his, his resolve vanishes.

"I missed you," he hears himself say. His voice is little more than a whisper, and he doesn't even know why he says it; it seems appropriate, even necessary, right now.

Sarah's mouth curls with that grin he knows so well. He moves toward her, certain that he is finally ready to throw his concerns to the wind and go with this, baggage and all.

And then comes the knocking on the door.

It isn't just a knock. It is something closer to pounding, something with a sense of urgency behind it.

Matt freezes, and Sarah steps backward.

"I, uh, I should see who that is," he says. He moves swiftly for the door, his head too much a swamp to process what is going on.

As soon as he opens the door, Jennie Burkle virtually hurls herself into the apartment and right at him. She lands against his chest.

"Jennie, what are you doing?" He doesn't have the patience for this. He gave her the time to absorb his rejection earlier; he waited patiently, talked it out with her, until she took off in a flurry of tears. Now he is feeling much less charitable. He turns his head back to Sarah, who holds her lips together tightly.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I just--I didn't know where else to go." Her voice is shaky, and now that he has the chance to look at her face, he sees that the tearstains are not the ones that she left with earlier, but fresh ones. The beginnings of a bruise hover around her left eye.

"What happened?"

"My dad. I got home, and he could tell I was upset, so I told him a little bit about what happened ..." She closes her eyes for an instant, as if seeking shelter behind the lids. "He was drunk and got all mad at me. He told me I wouldn't have so many problems if I wasn't such a stupid slut."

Matt examines the bruise. "Did he hit you?"

"He threw his boot at me." Her eyes shift toward Sarah, only momentarily, and then land back on Matt. "It was horrible, and I'm so sorry to come back here and bother you, but I didn't know where else to go."

"It's okay," Matt says with a sigh. "You can hang out here."

Gratitude fills her expression. "Thanks."

He leads her over to the couch. "Let me get you some ice for that eye," he says.

Sarah catches him before he can duck into the kitchen.

"I should get out of here," she says quietly. "This isn't any of my business."

Matt nods, and Sarah heads for the door. She opens it, but before she can leave, Matt says, "Thanks for coming by."

Sarah makes her exit, and Matt heads to the kitchen for some ice. He returns with it to find Jennie shaking her head.

"I'm so stupid," she says.

"You're not stupid. Here, put this on that bruise." He holds the ice to her face and waits for her to take hold of it. When she finally does, her hand grazes his, and her eyes seize on him.

"You really are a knight in shining armor," she says, reaching out to touch his face.


The night sky looks ominously black to Alex Marshall as he parks his car and makes his way to the Brooks' front door. What was supposed to be a peaceful, low-key evening--the first of many, he had hoped--has been marred by a decidedly dark turn of events. His encounter with Dylan at the supermarket keeps playing and rewinding itself over and over in his head, even as he rings the doorbell.

Trevor wears a broad smile as he opens the door. "What'd you get?" he asks, indicating the grocery bag in Alex's hand.

Alex ignores the question. He doesn't have the stomach to beat around the bush right now.

"I hear that you forgot to tell me a little detail," Alex says, "of how you convinced Dylan to drop his phony allegation."

Trevor's face goes blank behind the perfectly bronzed tan.

"A knife? Trevor, are you insane?"

"I knew you would freak out!" Trevor says, an unexpected edge to his voice.

"Uh, yeah. People being threatend at knifepoint kinda freaks me out."

Trevor's gaze looks past Alex, over his shoulder and out into the night. "It's not like I went after him with a damn chainsaw."

"Last I checked, they could both get you arrested."

They stand frozen now, not making eye contact. Alex gets the impression that it is up to him to break the stalemate.

"You should've just told me," he says, softer now. "I'd rather not hear stuff like that secondhand, you know?"

"I know." Trevor taps his foot against the open door. "It was just, like, a scare tactic. I figured he wouldn't cave as soon as I said, 'Please.' It's not like I was planning to cut out his heart or something."

"Gee, that's reassuring."

"Seriously, Alex, I'm sorry. It was retarded. It's just that I wanted to make sure he didn't screw you over with the publisher ..."

"That," Alex says, "is oddly one of the sweetest things anyone's ever said to me." He leans closer and presses his forehead against Trevor's. "No more threatening people--even total assholes--with knives, please?"

"Fine. If you insist."

"I do." Alex allows the restored calm a moment to settle. "Now come on. I've got some oatmeal cookie ice cream that's gonna melt if we don't get to work on it."

Trevor steps aside, and Alex enters the house.

"Just don't hog it," Trevor says with a chuckle, "or I might cut you."

Alex turns to close the door behind him and catches a final glimpse of the sky, streaks of blue and white standing out against the blackness.


As she steps through the front door of the apartment, Molly Taylor has the same thought that she has every night when she arrives home. It is a thought that, for a time, would creep into her days and linger over her like a particularly vivid nightmare often does. Lately, however, it has seemed less pressing, and she suddenly understands how her parents could have talked about replacing the living room carpet for the last 20 years without ever doing it.

Every night, when she arrives home from work, the thought still seems urgent and altogether necessary: This place needs redecorating. It made sense, financially and geographically, for them to move into Brent's place after the wedding. Molly's things have been relegated to the purgatory of storage, and at least until this baby comes, she is fairly certain that Brent's pre-marriage decor will remain the backdrop to their lives.

Pushing aside the immediacy and the brainstorms and the visions of sitting on the same sofa when she is 75, Molly removes her coat and shoes. She finds Brent in the kitchen, in the midst of something that looks suspiciously like cooking.

"I threw those chicken breasts in the oven. You know, the ones with the ... seasoning," he says.

She simply nods, relieved not to have to worry about dinner and grateful to whatever grocery decided to do everything the actual heating for them.

Brent gives her a kiss and asks, "How was your day?"

"Work-wise? Excellent. Camille's getting really serious about opening a second store in Seattle. How about you?"

"Entertaining, although it would've been a lot funnier if I didn't have to deal with the fallout. Try explaining to a woman worried about prowlers why she found an officer urinating on her lawn."

"No way!"

"I couldn't make it up if I tried." Brent peeks quickly at the progress of their dinner. "I had a surprise visitor today, too."


"Your brother. Has Ryan said anything to you at work--?"

Molly opens the refrigerator and locates a bottle of water. "As a matter of fact, yes. And not only that: I met Claire for a drink after work, and she's ... well, they're all a mess, it seems like."

"This thing was bound to blow up sooner or later," Brent says. "Tim is convinced that Ryan has some connection to Dr. Domingo."

"That's ridiculous!" The thought hits Molly like a ton of bricks; it has been a long time since she even considered her half-brother in that way. "It doesn't even make sense."

"It might explain why Stan had that information on him when he was killed."

Sipping her water, Molly flips through the pile of mail on the counter, though none of it registers. "That's just stupid. Ryan couldn't have planned all that."

Brent's silence tells her that he doesn't agree. She keeps her eyes on the mail.

"Well, Tim wants answers," he finally says. "He thinks figuring out what was going on at that clinic is the key to getting his life with Claire back on track."

"Maybe it is," Molly concedes, "but not because of Ryan."

She looks at her husband just in time to see a note of cockiness bleed into his expression.

"We're going to get the truth out of Domingo," Brent says. "We're going to offer him a deal--and if he takes it, we'll know exactly what happened to Tim."


The noise downstairs fades away as Claire climbs the staircase. Travis was more than happy to stay focused on his video game, and Paula and Bill let Claire break away with a minimum of conversation. Maybe they could tell that something is distracting her. Regardless, it's a good thing; she fears that if this were prolonged even a minute more, she might lose her resolve to do it.

She finds Tim in their room. His eyes are pointed toward the TV, but he appears to have too little energy to focus. She recognizes the situation: since his return, he spends most nights this way, too drained to do much of anything.

"Hey," she says, stepping into the room.

He shoots her a look that makes her feel like an intruder in her own bedroom.

"Tim, we need to talk."

She half-expects him to beg off by saying that he's too tired, but of course he doesn't. How typical, she reflects. Even when he's exhausted, he is willing to try his best for her and the kids--even when he is furious with her, as he has been since their encounter with Ryan the other night.

"I am so sorry about this," she says, paused awkwardly near the door. "I should have been honest with you from the beginning."

"I was more than willing to give you space, but you insisted you didn't need it. I was prepared for you to have moved on--but with Ryan Moriani, of all people?"

"A lot has happened. A lot has changed," she says firmly. "But I should have been up front with you. I shouldn't have been so stupid as to think I could make this work ..."

Tim stares grimly at her but says nothing.

"That's why I'm going to be honest now," she says. With that, it feels as if someone has dropped a bomb into the middle of the room.

She feels tears stinging her eyes, and for the briefest moment, she considers not doing this at all. But all that will accomplish is to land them back here again, still miserable, still confused, only with even less chance of recovering.

If there even is a chance of that now.

"I'm not ready to make a decision," she says. "I need time. I need ..." She doesn't know how to finish the thought.

Tim sits up, the harsh expression gone now. He wasn't expecting it to go like this.

"I'm moving out. For the time being--'til I figure out ..." She waits for him to give her a cue.

"Where are you going to stay? And the kids--Travis's birthday is coming up."

She raises a hand, a sign for him to stop. Running into her son and her in-laws downstairs was almost enough to stop her from doing this. She can't think about all those other factors right now.

"I'm so sorry," she says, tasting a tear as it rolls into her mouth. "I have to do this, Tim."

And as much as she wants it to, his desperate, silent protest can't even convince her to change her mind.


Will having some space help Claire to make her choice?
Will Domingo accept the deal and spill the truth?
Was it wise of Alex to forgive Trevor so easily?
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