Episode #436

- Seth told Alex of his doubts about getting married. Alex urged him to speak with Miriam; later, Seth returned and said that he had called it off. He and Alex took off together.
- Jason and Ryan finalized the transaction in which Jason became majority owner of the skating rink. Ryan advised Jason to surround himself with coworkers whom he can trust.


The hotel room looks like any other: generic print on the bedspread; formica countertops; bathroom to the left of the door. To Alex Marshall, however, it is so much more. To be in a hotel room with Seth, locked away from the world with no one aware of their whereabouts, is exhilirating and terrifying all at once.

"And she didn't try to change your mind?" Alex asks. Their conversation has been stop-and-start since they left the church, alternately breaking through the wall of tension and being swept behind it.

"She wasn't thrilled," Seth says as he examines the room. "But who wants to marry someone who isn't sure he wants to get married?"

From what he knows of Miriam Frost, Alex imagines her to be exactly that type, but he does not say that. Instead he opens the dresser and pulls out the television on a sliding board. They could use the background noise.

"Do you think this will affect your job at all?" he asks.

"Miriam's dad is reasonable. And I've been there long enough to have proven myself." Still, Seth's words are tempered by a shadowy hint of worry.

"What if you decide to want to go back? Will you plan another big wedding, or--"

"I don't know!" Seth snaps. "Jesus, will you stop with the questions?"

Alex turns to face him. What is he supposed to do? Pretend they didn't just run away from Seth's wedding? Pretend it isn't ten thousand kinds of awkward being here?

"I thought you wanted someone to talk to," he says.

"I don't need someone reminding me what a shithead I'm being."

Alex stares at him for a moment longer, then sets down the remote control.

"Fine. Then I don't need to be here," he says, and he moves for the door.


Jason Fisher sits back as the waiter sets the impressively presented plate of lamb chops in front of him. He thanks the waiter, and only then does he re-focus on Courtney Chase.

"This looks great," he says. Courtney nods in agreement, and they begin to eat their dinner in the same sort of on-and-off silence that has been with them since he picked her up.

Out of the blue, Courtney sets down her knife and fork.

"So... what's going on?" she asks, eye contact unflinching.

Jason shrugs and continues chewing. Long and deliberate. He has no idea why he is so nervous over something so straightforward.

"You just felt like going out for a fancy dinner with your ex?" She seems to be teasing him in hopes of getting him to spit it out.

"You're more than an ex. Don't you think?" He feels a new kind of awkwardness seeping over them and hastens to add, "I mean, we're back to being good friends. Right?"

"Right. Definitely."

He takes a deep breath and decides to stop before he takes another time-wasting bite. Fork held in mid-air, he begins, "Court, I--"


He doesn't need to look to know what has happened, but he does anyway. There it is: his forkful of food, splashed on his dress shirt.

Courtney's gasp is cut short by a giggle.

"What?" he challenges, though he can feel a grin on his own face. "You like the way that lamb is going across my shirt?"

She simply laughs at him for another few seconds. "Sorry."

"No, I'm a doofus." He touches his napkin to his shirt but isn't able to do much about the inevitable stain.

"We could get some club soda," she suggests.

"Forget it. I don't need to look like more of an idiot. I'll just button my jacket." He does just that, but hiding the stain does little to conceal his embarrassment.

"All right, look," he says, placing his hands on the table. "I asked you to dinner because I wanted to ask you something."

"We've established that much." Courtney moves forward in her seat and smiles expectantly. "So what is it?"


"Alex. Wait."

Despite his better instincts, Alex does exactly that. There is a sudden sincerity, a pleading, to Seth's voice that causes him to stop with his fingers on the door handle.

"Thanks for coming with me," Seth says to Alex's back. "I don't know if I could've left the wedding on my own."

"Well, you did it," Alex says, and he pushes down on the handle.

"I did it because of you."

Seth sounds desperate, vulnerable in a way that Alex scarcely remembers him ever being.

Alex lets go of the handle and whips around. "Not because of me. Because of what I represent. Maybe you really are confused, or maybe getting married just scares you."

He takes in the sight of Seth, his crisp tuxedo a sad contrast with the drab furnishings. Everything he wanted as a confused, terrified 18-year-old is now here in front of him, raw as an open wound and pleading for him to stay.

"I didn't want to leave," Seth says. "School, I mean."

He sits down on the bed. And Alex leans against the door, rapt.

"But when I went home for winter break and hung out with my buddies from high school, it was like--like going back to a different world, this totally comfortable place. And I knew I could never mix that with... what we had."

"You couldn't even tell me you were transferring?"

"I couldn't open myself back up to that. It's not like I stopped thinking about it--about you."

Alex cannot do anything but nod. In writing his novel, this is exactly how he crafted the character based upon Seth. He always expected that he felt more sympathy for the fictional version because he had the chance to go inside his head--but hearing Seth say it now, Alex feels just as much compassion as he did for his own creation.

"When I messed around with that other guy, way later, I was only able to do it because it was so... physical. We weren't even friends, really. I think we could both just sense that we had this thing in common," Seth says. "We would finish and not really talk, and then we'd hang out a couple days later and it would happen again."

Seth leans back on his elbows, his weight denting the neatly made bed.

"But with you, it was different," he continues. "We lived together, and we were friends, and you always wanted to talk and stuff."

A painful rush of embarrassment for his overeager younger self burns Alex's stomach.

"I was too needy," he says.

"No. I mean, for where I was at the time, probably. But it's not like I thought you were psycho."

A hint of laughter between them cracks the stony seriousness of the conversation. Alex can feel himself relax ever-so-slightly, and he takes a few steps away from the door.

"It was hard for me, too," Seth says. "I'm really sorry I did that to you. It was super-shitty. But I think it hurt me just as much."


Jason watches Courtney across the table for a quiet moment.

"This project with the rink," he says, the rehearsed words evacuating his brain, "I'm going to need a lot of help--and I was wondering if you'd like to come aboard."


He cannot make much of her reaction, not even when she adds, "Wow. I wasn't expecting that."

"You're not upset, are you?"

She is quick to shake her head. "Why would I be?"

"I was worried that you'd be insulted I was asking you to work for me. Like I was flaunting the money or something."

"Seriously? You think I'm that attached to waitressing?"

They share a laugh, and for the first time tonight, Jason feels that the tension has been broken.

"So, what do you say?" he asks.

She hesitates only a split-second in answering, but to Jason it feels like an unbearably long wait.

"I'm game, but you'll have to tell me more about it," she says.

"How about I ramble and you try to decode? Because that's about as far as I am."

"That sounds promising."

"This is why I need you! Someone who actually knows skating and can stand to listen to me for hours on end."

"I'm just warning you," Courtney says. "If this involves carrying around plates of chicken fingers, I'm out."


Seth's admission draws Alex even closer to the bed where he reclines. He looks up at Alex earnestly.

"I thought about you a lot," Seth says. "There were times I was so close to picking up the phone, but I told myself I shouldn't. I convinced myself I was..."

"Just horny."

Seth nods and cracks the tiniest smile. It is exactly how Alex has rationalized Seth's behavior all along.

Alex feels a question pushing at his lips, the same question that has been pulsing on his brain all along. And now he asks:

"So what do you want me to do now?"

Seth looks back at him, surprised, as if he never expected to face something so direct. Then again, why should he expect anything else? Alex always let him get away with it: no questions, no explanations. Neat and clean.

But not anymore.

"What do you expect me to do, Seth? Absolve you? Tell you that you were right all along, that you really are straight and that it's okay for you to marry Miriam?"

"Will you stop putting words in my mouth?"

"Kind of hard, when that's all I've ever been able to get out of you!" Alex fires back. It feels good, at least as good as it felt to write about it. "You never told me anything about what you're thinking or feeling."

"I'm telling you now!" Seth bolts upright, gets right in Alex's face. "Stop acting like this is supposed to be so easy for me!"

"Like what is supposed to be so easy?"

Alex is almost certain that he knows what Seth is talking about, but he needs to hear him say it.

Seth can't. He backs away, sits down on the bed.

"You can't leave," he says with his head in his hands.

"Go to sleep," Alex says. He grabs a pillow from the bed and lies down on the floor. Seth hits the lights, but even in the dark, Alex can feel Seth watching him anyway.

Eventually the intensity of Seth's stare fades away, and Alex lies there awake in the dark.


Will Alex finally be able to close the door on Seth?
Will Jason and Courtney have a good working relationship?
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