Episode #521

- Brent showed Claire a photo of the mysterious Mr. Clayton, but she did not recognize him. She thought it might help to show Tim the photo.
- Diane gave Tim a copy of Ryan’s manuscript to read.
- Ryan called Danielle for advice on accepting criticism about his writing. She offered it but then abruptly backed off when things grew too serious.
- Courtney convinced Alex not to shut the door on Seth just yet.
- Jason agreed to have Happy Hour drinks with Sabrina so that they could work on the arena’s holiday schedule.


“It’s just amazing,” Jason Fisher says, “in ways you’d never expect. Every little new thing she does is like--such a discovery.”

“I can imagine,” Sabrina Gage says as she nods along enthusiastically.

They sit at the bar of the casual downtown eatery, both nursing their second drinks of the evening. After Tim cancelled his plans to meet Jason for an after-work drink, the woman calling herself Sabrina was all too happy to step up to the plate and join her boss for the occasion. She suggested that they use the time to work on the arena’s winter schedule, but, as she expected, distractions and side conversations have overtaken them.

“She laughed for the first time the other day,” Jason says. “It was the funniest little squeal. And I think she was really surprised by it. It’s the kind of thing you would never expect to be a big deal until it happens.”

He pauses and takes a sip of his drink. “Sorry. Everything is baby, baby, baby for us these days. I’m sure it’s not nearly as interesting to you.”

Shannon dismisses his concern with a flip of her hand. Sure, there are things she would rather hear and think about than his and Courtney’s adventures in first-time parenting, but simply being with Jason goes a long way. And there is something so charming and magical about the way he discusses his daughter.

“I really don’t mind at all,” she says casually.

Jason references the mess of a schedule that has been sitting between them, ignored, for a good fifteen or twenty minutes. “We should probably try to get somewhere with this.”

They study the schedule quietly for a few moments. It takes all of Shannon’s energy to focus on it instead of on Jason. They are close enough that she can smell him--a hint of soap lingers on him, mixes with his natural scent. All she wants to do is close the gap between them, throw him up against the bar and let him know that it is really her.

Suddenly, he draws away.

“I’m gonna go use the restroom before we get back into this,” he says.

“Good idea.” She watches him walk away and then, inspired, dumps his barely depleted drink into a nearby potted plant. When the bartender glances over again, she pushes the empty glass toward him. “Could he have another one, please? Make it a double.”


When Claire Fisher lets Tim into the apartment, he appears as though he has no idea how he wound up here.

“Everything okay?” she asks as Tim removes his coat.

“Yeah. I, um--yeah. Weird afternoon, that’s all.” He looks around the apartment. “Is Travis home?”

She shakes her head. “No. He went to Landon’s after practice. He said they had a project to work on, and honestly, he’s been so pleasant lately that I barely care if he was lying. Is that bad?”

Tim comes out of his stupor enough to laugh. “Probably, but I feel the same way. If lying about a project to go to a friend’s on a school night is the biggest problem with him, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Claire hangs up his coat for him as she says, “Thanks for coming over. I wanted to run something by you, and it’s… not something I could have done over the phone.”

“All right. Shoot.”

She goes to her purse and pulls out an envelope. Inside it is a copy of the photograph that Brent pulled from the security camera in Chicago--the photo that allegedly shows their mysterious Mr. Clayton. Too bad neither of them has any idea who he is. She hopes that Tim might change their luck.

“We found something,” she says, “Brent and I. Well, he found it. I thought you might be able to help us with it.”

“Is it something about Clayton?”

“Very much so.” She removes the photo from the envelope. “This is, as best we can tell, our man. Brent found it on a security camera at a realtor’s office in Chicago. The realtor told him that this is the man she has met as Mr. Clayton.”

“Wow.” Tim takes the photo and studies it.


Without breaking his hard stare upon the photo, he slowly shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t--I have no idea who this is.”

“Dammit.” She knew this was a long shot, but she wanted so badly to believe that it might pan out. “I thought maybe seeing him would bring back some memory. We don’t know for sure that you were in a coma the whole time you were at the clinic, and if he was supposed to be Tom Clayton’s father…”

“I wish I recognized him. But I don’t.”

“Thanks for taking a look.” She takes a sigh, hoping to expel her frustrations with it, to no avail. “This is such a dead end. Ugh.”


“It’s not your fault. Unless you are Mr. Clayton.” She finds herself unable to resist a crack. “Then again, you were his son.”

“You’d think I’d be more useful, then.”

Claire holds onto the photo. “So what’s bothering you?” she asks. “You walked in here looking a million miles away.”

“I got my hands on a copy of Ryan’s manuscript this afternoon.”

“Oh. Wow. Have you--”

“I’ve been reading it for the last few hours. I came here straight from the office. I have probably a hundred pages or so left.”

“Is it bad?” Claire does not know how to feel about this book. It does feel exploitative, after everything Ryan and his fathers put them through, and yet she doubts there is anything new or shocking in it. They should be able to ignore it, but it is apparently not that easy.

“That’s the thing,” Tim says. “I sort of… understand where Ryan is coming from.”


As she approaches her destination, Danielle Taylor is relieved to spot Ryan Moriani’s car in the driveway. She knows that she should have called in advance, but that seemed as if it might dilute the impact of her visit--and also seemed far too intimidating. Somehow it feels easier to drive over and see him in person.

She parks her car and makes her way to the front door. When Ryan answers the doorbell, he takes a shocked step backward at the sight of her.


“We need to talk,” she says. “Or I need to talk, and--I hardly know. Can I come in?”

Ryan does not move from his post in the doorway.

“Is everything all right?” she asks, not sure what to make of this reception.

“I don’t think this is a good idea, you being here,” he says.

“That’s what I want to talk about. Can I please come in?” And then it occurs to her: maybe he has someone else here. “Unless I’m interrupting something…”

“No, no.” With that, he steps aside. “Here, come in.”

An unexpected sense of relief floods her system. He leads her into the living room. She takes in the house as they go. For as much as she has heard about this place, particularly in the wake of Nick’s shooting, she has never seen it firsthand. There is nothing overtly strange or scary about the house, and yet an air of creepiness sits over it. Maybe because she knows what happened here, or maybe because Ryan is so nonchalant about inhabiting a place where he shot his own father.

Which gives her some misgivings about what she came here to do… and yet, it is not enough to make her turn back.

“Can I get you something?” he asks, turning to the bar in the corner and then immediately back to her. “Um, water, I guess?”

“I’m fine. But thank you.”

They hover around the sofa and chairs, neither of them making the move to sit. Danielle feels that it would somehow be inappropriate, given the magnitude of what she came here to do.

“I’m sorry about the other day,” she says. “I didn’t mean to end our conversation so abruptly.”

A smile appears on his face, but there is something obnoxious, something passive-aggressive, about it. “Yes, you did.”

“Okay. In the moment, I did. But it was wrong, and I’m sorry for that. It’s just--”

“Things got too deep. I understand. I appreciate all you’ve done for me, but it’s clear that this is too complicated for us to be friends or--” He doesn’t need to voice the other option for both of them to hear it. “I got the message, loud and clear. Though it would be a lot easier to keep my distance if you wouldn’t show up at my house like this.”

She feels a physical pain, somewhere deep inside her and yet impossible to pinpoint--her stomach? Her chest?--at the declaration. But there is also a sense of relief: she could still turn back, go home, remove herself from the situation once and for all. She is still not sure why she came here… but that physical pain tells her that she has to do this.

“Stop making this so hard for me,” she says, trying to make it come across lighthearted even though it feels anything but.

Ryan pauses and, blessedly, has nothing to say.

“I need to stop this back-and-forth.” She tries her hardest to look him dead in the eyes as she speaks. “I know it’s going to be difficult, and my family isn’t going to be thrilled about it--and I certainly can’t blame them for that--but I felt really awful about ending our conversation the other day. Because I do care about you.”

He seems genuinely shocked. “Really?”

“Yes. I do. And I want you to be my friend, or--” She doesn’t have to vocalize it, either.

“I was not expecting that,” Ryan says, wide-eyed with surprise.

“You thought I drove all the way over here to tell you off?”

“I’ve had a strange year.”

She can feel some of the tension between them lifting and vanishing, though she is certain that it is about to be replaced by an uncertainty of another kind. No matter: she feels that she did something that she had to do, even if she will now have to face Brent and Molly about it. But, for the moment, she would prefer not to think about that.

“What do you say to an actual, in-public dinner?” she proposes.


At a small table outside the hole-in-the-wall café, Alex Marshall and Seth Ashby sit, finishing their coffees and picking at a piece of pumpkin bread that Seth purchased and then offered to let Alex share.

“I’m glad you called,” Seth says. “I’d wanted to, but it didn’t seem right.”

“Yeah.” Alex is still not exactly sure what he is doing here, sharing conversation and a snack with Seth so soon after their blowout, but his talk with Courtney earlier inspired him. Perhaps he was a little harsh in his reaction to their dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Ashby.

“As long as we’re on the same page,” Alex says. “I think that’s what’s most important.”

Seth nods eagerly. He drains the remainder of his coffee and tosses the cup into a nearby trash receptacle.

“Wanna walk?” he asks, picking up what is left of the pumpkin bread.

Alex agrees, so they stand and make their way down the street and away from the café. The November air has a definite bite to it, and Alex pulls the collar of his fleece jacket over his chin and mouth.

“I’ve missed having you around,” Seth says, out of nowhere.

The sentiment makes Alex smile. Seth has rarely been even that forthcoming with his emotions; so much of it has been a guessing game for Alex. Even this relatively simple expression seems like a grand gesture now, in light of the civil conversation they have just had.

“So we’ll just take things slowly,” Alex says, sipping at the last of his coffee.

“You’re sure you’re okay with that?”


Seth shrugs. “You’re all Mr. Relationship. I didn’t think you’d be okay with making things more casual.”

“It was my idea!”

“I guess,” Seth says through a chuckle.

They pause at a streetcorner to wait for the light to turn and the crosswalk signal to change.

“I think it’s the only way this is going to work,” Alex says. “Take time to figure out where you are and what you want your life to be. I don’t want to cut you out of my life, but I can’t let things get as serious as they were getting. At least not yet.”

They resume walking. Downtown is full of life all around them: early holiday shoppers, people rushing to and from dinner, people simply trying to make it home from work.

“Where are we even walking?” Seth asks.

“Nowhere in particular,” Alex says. “That’s the point.”


The autumn air comes as a shock to Shannon as she steps out of the restaurant. She ties her scarf tightly around her neck and holds open the door for Jason, who walks behind her.

“Wow,” he says to no one in particular as his feet hit the sidewalk.

“It’s freezing, right?”

“And I am much tipsier than I thought.” He fumbles with the zipper of his North Face coat and leaves it half-zipped. “I only had, like, three drinks. Which is probably too much for Happy Hour, but still…”

“You’re tired from dealing with the baby these days. Your tolerance is down.” Shannon shrugs it off. She managed to pass off a double as his third drink as well, so it is no wonder that he is feeling the effects of the alcohol. 

“I guess. At least we got the schedule figured out.”

“See? Productive outing.” Shannon slowly leads the way to the parking lot. “Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” But as they round the brick dividing wall into the lot, Jason stops to reconsider that. “Maybe I’ll call a cab, just to be safe.”

“I could give you a ride.”

His face twists up with uncertainty. “Courtney’s gonna kill me.”

“For being responsible and not driving drunk?”

He doesn’t bother to vocalize a response. Still, Shannon is delighted by what she knows must be going through his head: Courtney is going to be annoyed that he went out for drinks with another woman instead of going home to her and the baby. Excellent.

Jason returns to working on his coat’s zipper. When his fingers do not prove successful at getting it unstuck, Shannon reaches for it.

“Here. Let me.” She fiddles with the zipper until it lets go of the jacket’s material and slides the rest of the way up. “There you go.”

She can’t resist: she touches a hand to his cheek. She tries to make the movement as playful as she can, but she is sure that the touch lingers an instant too long. Good thing he’s too drunk to notice, she figures.

“I’m happy to give you a ride,” she offers again.

Jason is still contemplating the option when they hear a shout from down the block:


Shannon sees Alex and Seth walking toward them and tries to conceal her annoyance.

“Didn’t expect to see the two of you together,” Jason says, looking them over suspiciously.

“We just had coffee. Did you guys get that schedule done?” Seth asks, pointedly returning Jason’s skepticism.

Jason nods insistently. “Yep. Very productive.” He turns to Alex: “Are you headed back to the apartment soon? I don’t know if I should drive.”

“I’ll give you a ride,” Alex says.

Shannon’s irritation mounts. “I really don’t mind. And it’s rude to interrupt Alex and Seth’s date.”

Alex pulls out his keys. “Don’t worry about it. Seth, call me later in the week.”

The four say their goodbyes. Shannon’s insides burn with fury at the convenient derailment of her plan. This was supposed to be her first step toward driving a wedge between Jason and Courtney.

As Alex and Jason take off down the street, Seth turns to Shannon. “You guys had that much to drink while you worked on the schedule?”

“I guess we got carried away. We were having a good time.” She is happy to leave the implications hanging. “What about you and Alex? I thought you were on the outs.”

“Want to get another drink? I could use some help sorting it all out.”

She looks down the block, where Jason and Alex are about to round a corner and disappear. Burying her anger at her ruined plan, she smiles at Seth. “That sounds good.”


Claire does not even know how to respond to Tim’s declaration. He understands where Ryan is coming from?

Tim must see her confusion, because he quickly follows with, “That doesn’t mean I forgive him. Or condone what he did. But it all makes sense, somehow, when you read it this way.”

“Of course it makes sense. He was desperate to hold onto the life he’d built, and he tried to do it without any regard for the people he claimed to care about.”

“Like I said, this doesn’t change any of that,” Tim says. “But it makes me just want to… I don’t know… let go of it all. Be done with it.”

“We are done with it.”

Tim does not respond. As far as Claire is concerned, Ryan is part of her past. Seeing him a few weeks ago did not dredge up sentimental memories; it made her sad that someone she once cared so much about is now such a stranger, but it also made her angry that he was always a stranger--even when she was ready to give her life to him, he was capable of hiding terrible things from her, of hurting the people they both loved just to get what he wanted.

“It’s given me a sense of closure, I guess,” he finally says. “I feel bad for Ryan. Or maybe I’m just grateful it isn’t me.”

Claire takes a seat on the couch. “What do you mean?”

He hangs his head. “You remember how I tried to bargain with Nick so that he’d say Ryan was the one who had me kidnapped? It was stupid, and I was desperate, but it wasn’t that far off from what Ryan eventually did…”

“It never went that far.”

“But who knows what could have happened if it hadn’t come out when it did?”

They ponder that possibility in silence. Claire would like to think that things are more black and white than that--that Tim is a good man at his core, and that Ryan is somehow worse, capable of things neither of them could ever do. She knows, however, that the truth is far murkier.

Tim seats himself beside her. “As much as I want to hate him, reading this just makes me feel bad for him. And it makes me want to move on. For good.”

She sees him gazing at the photo of Mr. Clayton in her hand. He can’t mean…

“We’re getting close,” she says. “This photo--it’s only a matter of time before we figure out who Clayton is. And once we do, we’ll know who sent you to that clinic. We’ll know who helped Nick fake his death so that he could try to kill all of us. We need to know.”

Tim blanches. Apparently he thinks otherwise.

“Tim, someone is still out there. Someone who has it out for our family,” Claire insists. How does he not see how urgent this is? “Think about how different things might be if this person--whoever he is--if he’d never interfered in our lives. You wouldn’t have gone missing from that pier. We might still be…”

She doesn’t have to say it. Tim looks up at her and smiles sweetly.

“We don’t know that. A lot of other things could have happened,” he says.

“But that’s always the case. You have to take that risk in life in order to experience anything good at all.”

Their eyes lock. She hopes that he can see how serious she is about this quest. She has to know who is behind all this; she does not think that she could just go back to her regular life--whatever that is--without finding out who it is and why he has done all this.

“Yeah,” Tim says, lost in thought.

He swallows hard. Claire becomes aware that their eyes are still hooked onto one another. Something about the moment feels so familiar, so comfortable, and suddenly she believes that it might be possible to go back to their normal lives. That the last few years never happened, that Tim never went missing, that she didn’t have to make the decision to end their marriage.

When they come together, their mouths pressed into one another and their fingers grasping at buttons and zippers, it is familiar and comfortable, and Claire can feel herself escaping into the past, or perhaps rewriting it in a way that she did not think was possible.


What will become of Tim and Claire’s relationship now?
Will Danielle and Ryan be able to move forward together?
Will Shannon ramp up her efforts to land Jason?
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