Episode #383

Previously ...
- Brian informed a displeased Diane of his plans to propose to Kelsey.
- Sarah accepted Matt's marriage proposal, and they agreed to marry soon.
- Ryan convinced Nick that he wanted to be a part of Nick's business dealings again. Though skeptical, Nick accepted his son back into the fold.
- After Dr. Domingo accepted the plea bargain, Nick was arrested for masterminding Tim's disappearance and captivity.


The restaurant is alive with the Happy Hour buzz of diners who are upscale enough to pretend that they are gathered for something more sophisticated than Happy Hour. As far as Ryan Moriani can tell, though, that is exactly what this is: the number of designer suits, ties, pearls, and diamonds is matched only by the number of glasses floating around the busy restaurant. And it is precisely what Ryan hoped for: the anonymity of a busy establishment.

The dark-haired man sits at a small table toward the restaurant's corner, a rocks glass clutched in his left hand. Across from him is his adoptive father, his face--as usual--a stony mask behind the prominent silver mustache.

"I wonder if I should be thanking you," Ryan says. "If Tim hadn't disappeared, I never would have had a chance with Claire."

Nick huffs into his own glass. "Don't be an idiot. It's much more complicated than that."

"You didn't want me anywhere near Claire. Getting her husband out of the picture certainly didn't help you in any way."

Since the news of Dr. Domingo's confession and Nick's subsequent arrest, the Fishers have been wild with speculation over Nick's motives for kidnapping Tim and spiriting him away. Now Ryan has the opportunity to question the man himself, but the elder Moriani shows no signs of opening up about the situation.

"Believe me," Nick says after a long quiet spell, "I did not fake a man's death to get you a girlfriend."

"Gee, thanks, Dad." Ryan lifts the glass to his lips but pauses. "But you admit that you knew about it, then?"

"I'm not admitting anything. I don't want to discuss it. I thought we were meeting to talk about work."

Work. The terminology sparks a chuckle that Ryan has to work hard to suppress. "Yeah."

"I'm just glad to get out of the house," Nick says. "I don't particularly feel like going anyplace these days, but that woman makes it almost unbearable for me to be in my own home."

"Well, you did sort of get her shot and have her house burned down. And now you've gone and gotten arrested, and she looks like an idiot in front of her friends. Can ya really blame her?"

Nick flashes him a sharp, warning look, and Ryan reminds himself to steer clear of any further digs at the man, no matter how tempting they might be. He is playing this far too well--and Nick is buying it far too easily--for him to blow things now.


The streets are thick with evening traffic, and the sidewalks are a reflection of that activity. As Sarah Fisher and Diane Bishop stroll down the block, they weave left and right to dodge pedestrians who are talking on cell phones and waiting at bus stops.

"You're gonna have a hell of a time booking a place on such short notice," Diane says.

Sarah knows that her friend is right, but she refuses to let facts dampen her enthusiasm. "We'll find someplace that will be just fine. What's most important is that we get married. It doesn't matter where."

"Be careful what you wish for," Diane warns with a raised eyebrow. "Hey, that's the plus side of it being your second marriage."


"You don't have to waste time checking availability on churches. And I don't have to worry about burning in hell for the dress I choose."

"There will be no exposed breasts at my wedding," Sarah says. "Just letting you know in advance."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Diane walks head-on at a baby stroller; the woman piloting it is busy on her cell phone and doesn't seem to notice the roadblock until Diane is directly in front of her. After an awkward moment in which Diane refuses to budge, the woman wheels the stroller around her and goes along her way.

Once they begin walking away, Sarah says, "It wouldn't have killed you to step out of her way."

"I managed to run around with a baby and still have some idea of what was going on around me. She can do it, too."

On any other day in any other week, Sarah might be annoyed by Diane's brash attitude. Not today, though. She is still riding the high of her engagement to Matt, and even the most abrasive aspects of Diane's personality bring a smile to her face right now.

Having arrived at their destination, Sarah reaches for the door and holds it open for Diane. They enter and survey the crowded room.

"There's a table for two," Diane points out.

But Sarah's attention has been captured by something else entirely: her half-brother, huddled over drinks with Nick Moriani.


Brian Hamilton savors the crisp summer air as he strides the handful of blocks from his office to the boutique where Kelsey works. He has had a refreshingly mellow few days of work following the release of Alex Marshall's book, and the serenity of downtown on an evening like this fills him with optimism.

He arrives at the Objection store but pauses outside, standing close enough to the large front window to avoid being trampled by passing pedestrians. The store has a healthy smattering but not an abundance of customers, for which he is grateful: he doesn't think that he could handle Kelsey being held up tonight.

As he spots her through the window, Brian feels the rush of nerves that he has managed to suppress the entire day. He allows them a single terrifying flourish, during which his stomach twists and his legs turn to overcooked spaghetti noodles--and then he wills the anxiety away as best he can.

Brian enters the store, and Kelsey looks up from the table of clothes that she has just finished re-folding.

"I have to take care of a couple of things in the back," she calls out over the Britney Spears-esque music that fills the store. "I'll be ready in a minute or two."

Brian nods his acceptance and holds up a hand to tell her not to rush. In truth, that is exactly what he hopes she will do, so that their evening can get underway. They'll begin with a satisfying dinner at Kelsey's favorite downtown bistro, and afterward, they'll enjoy a walk, perhaps along the water, calm and lazy like the summer evening itself.

And sometime during that walk, Brian will stop, and when Kelsey asks what he is doing, he will get down on one knee ...

The nerves flare up again, but he quells them by clutching the small box, hidden in his pocket, in the palm of his hand.


"Call me crazy," Diane says, "but isn't it kind of tacky for Ryan to be having a drink with the guy who just got arrested for kidnapping Tim?"

Sarah doesn't respond. Instead she fixes her glare on Ryan and Nick, as if examining them more closely will reveal the explanation for their meeting. She has done her best to be impartial about the conflict between her brothers, and she assumed that Nick's arrest would be the start of Tim accepting Ryan as part of their family. But this ...

With Diane leading the way, the women navigate their way to an open spot and place their orders. As they wait for their drinks to arrive, Diane leans in conspiratorially.

"I knew he was a scumbag all along," she says. "He tried to bribe me into giving up custody of Samantha!"

Sarah's attention is divided between Diane and the Moriani men as she responds, "He didn't want Claire to lose her."

"Yeah, but it was a big flashing neon sign that he'd do whatever it took to get what he wanted."

Now Sarah turns a critical eye on Diane. "And who does that remind us of?"

"I never had anyone kidnapped!" Diane counters, dismissing the comparison with a wave of her hand. "You have to admit that this makes Ryan look more than a little suspicious."

Sarah won't admit it, but given the way that she refuses to look Diane in the eye, she might as well.

Across the room, Nick is in the midst of reviewing some details--crucial details that Ryan really does want to absorb--when Ryan's attention is drawn away. Sure enough, the women whom he spotted out of the corner of his eye are exactly who he first thought they were: Sarah and Diane.

"Shit," he mutters, trying as nonchalantly as he can to hide his face.

Nick stops in midstream. "What?" A look around leads him to the women's table and produces a haughty, "Oh."

"Of all the restaurants in the city," Ryan says.

"So you are ashamed to be seen with me after all," Nick says with mock disappointment.

Ryan's cheeks go hot, but he maintains his cool. "I don't exactly want it getting back to the Fishers that I've been hanging out with you. Kind of a sore spot, you know?"

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps you should invite them over to join us."

Ryan's wordless response is a furious glare.

"I should get going," Nick says after a long pause. "This isn't going to be very productive, from what I can tell. Call me later so that I can explain the rest."

"Fine." Ryan sits in frustrated silence as Nick removes his wallet. As he opens it, Ryan's eye catches a flash of the credit cards, some cash, and a stray playing card. Nick slaps down a few dollars to cover his drink. He watches as his father leaves the restaurant, careful not to catch eyes with Sarah or Diane, but he is unsuccessful.

Time to face the music, he thinks, his body suddenly weary with defeat. How could I have been so stupid?


Brian taps his foot against the floor as he waits. He knows the sound must be irritating to other people, but he can't stop the nervous movement, so he taps as lightly as he can.

Come on, Kelsey, how much more stuff can there be for you to do?

He idly watches the other activity throughout the store. A cluster of teenage girls have commandeered a section in the back, and rarely do more than three seconds go by without an excited outburst from at least one of them. A much quieter, slightly older woman shoots irritated looks their way as she attempts to look through the clothing in peace. And on the other side of the store, a man in a backwards baseball cap--in his mid-twenties, Brian would guess--wanders aimlessly through the racks, giving no more than half a second's worth of attention to any single item.

Brian looks hopefully to the back room, but there is no sign of Kelsey. It has only been a few minutes, but according to his watch, her shift is over, and he doesn't know how much longer he can prolong this. But he isn't about to barge back there, so he continues waiting.

The man in the cap makes his way to the checkout counter, ambling as he goes. Brian notices that there is nothing in his hands; despite all that perusing, he didn't locate a single item to buy. Not surprising, considering he isn't exactly the store's target customer, but still.

When the man reaches the counter, the young woman working there--she is Kelsey's age, maybe a few years older at most--looks up from her magazine. The man says something to her, and though Brian can't make out their exact words, he does notice a glimmer of interest spring to life on the woman's face.

The man removes his wallet from his back pocket and holds it open, as though searching for something. He pulls out what looks to Brian like a playing card, then puts it back, folds up the wallet, and returns it to his pocket. In return, the woman reaches down below the counter and emerges with a small Objection gift bag, which she hands to the man.

Even if Brian weren't so nervous about the evening's plans, he would still be entranced by this bizarre performance taking place in front of him.

The man thanks the cashier and makes a quick exit from the story, passing very close to Brian on his way out. Now that he catches a better glimpse of the man's face, Brian wonders what in the world he was doing in this store.

Now that his distraction is over, Brian checks the entrance to the back room again: still no Kelsey. He tells himself to cool it; she's just finishing up some things and will be ready soon enough. He focuses on the gaggle of girls who are screeching about a bluish-gray top that Brian is fairly certain none of their mothers would want them to wear.

His attention is broken by the muffled sounds of a struggle. He turns to look out the store's window, where the man with the backwards hat has been grabbed by a pair of uniformed police officers. Brian is so drawn into the scene that he doesn't even notice Kelsey emerge from the back room until she is at his side.

"What's going on?" she asks.

"That guy's getting arrested, it looks like. He was just in here."

Once the police place the man in handcuffs, one of them holds onto him, and the other opens the door to the store. He strides confidently toward the counter and, having captured the cashier's full attention, holds up the gift bag that she handed to the man only a minute or two ago.

"What is this?" Kelsey murmurs to Brian. Both of them, like the other customers in the store, are still, their attention glued to the scene unfolding before them.

Brian doesn't have the opportunity to take a stab at an answer; it becomes clear as soon as the officer opens the gift bag and removes a small plastic baggie with what appears to be white powder in it.


As though sensing Sarah's razor-sharp stare, Ryan looks up from his glass and directly at the women. Sarah is sure that an instant of panic flashes across Ryan's face before he rises from his table and hurries toward her and Diane.

"Hey," he greets weakly. "How are you?"

"Fine." She glances past him, at the empty table where Nick was seated only a minute ago, leaving her questions--and accusations--unspoken.

"I'm all right. I'm ..." He trails off, and his shoulders sag under the weight of pretense. "Look, Sarah, this isn't what it looks like."

She shoots him a dubious look. "It's not?"

Ryan goes quiet, but his lips twitch with the false starts of a hundred explanations.

"Trust me on this," he finally says. "That's all I can say for now."

The cryptic remark earns a scowl from Diane.

"I'll catch up with you later, Sarah." Ryan's whole demeanor is tense, almost shifty. He returns to his table to leave a few dollars and makes a hasty exit from the restaurant.

Diane allows his exit to hang in the air, practically speaking for itself, while Sarah nervously folds her hands together.

Outside, Ryan no longer finds the evening air a comfort. There is a hint of humidity that makes his shirt feel stiff against his skin, and the lingering heat makes him wish for a refreshing breeze. He thought he could pull this off, but with Sarah--not to mention that bigmouth Diane--having seen him with Nick ...

It doesn't prove anything, he knows that, but it felt wrong. And if they report back to the rest of the Fishers, which they undoubtedly will, Ryan might as well be back where he was when he first found out he was Paula's son: on the outside. Without Claire.

Then again, if everything is going as planned, he might be able to head them off. He checks his watch and, noting the time, has to remind himself that it would be a bad idea to walk down Platz Street right now. He turns in the opposite direction and walks, trying with every step to restore a bit of his crumbled confidence.


What is going on at the Objection store?
Has Ryan unwittingly alienated himself from the Fishers?
Will Brian get around to proposing tonight?
Drop by the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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