At the DiMera mansion, Chad and Abigail discussed the outcome of Ben's final appeal. Chad had trouble feeling bad for Ben after everything that had happened in the past, but Abigail felt bad for Ciara -- and couldn't help wondering, as a reporter, if Ben really was about to be executed for a crime someone else had committed.
Changing the subject, Chad complained to Abigail about a vague text message that Stefano had sent earlier. "[He] said that he would deal with Kristen, but he didn't say how or when...[and, since then], he's just gone radio silent," Chad summarized while staring expectantly at the screen of a tablet computer. "Knowing Stefano, he's [simply] gonna reach out in some cryptic way to Kristen -- send her an email or something, just like he did with you. [After all], if he wasn't [willing to] meet you face to face, what makes you think that he would [agree to meet with] her?" Abigail reasoned.
"I don't know -- it depends on how bad he wants those shares, [I guess]. For all I know, he's meeting with her as we speak," Chad argued with a hint of jealousy.
At the Salem Inn, Kristen laughed off the idea that Steve Johnson was actually Stefano DiMera. "[This isn't] a joke -- [trust me], I am your father!" Stefano maintained, shaking Kristen in an effort to get the revelation to sink in. "Right -- and I am Dr. Marlena Evans!" Kristen countered while pulling away from Stefano. "[Now], get the hell out, [or] I will call security, [because] I don't [want] to hear any more of your nonsense!" Kristen continued, pointing Stefano toward the hotel room door. "Why is this 'nonsense'? If you can come back as Nicole Walker, why can't I come back as Steve Johnson?" Stefano argued, staying put.
"[So], I'm supposed to believe that this is Stefano in a Steve Johnson disguise?" Kristen summarized with a dismissive laugh, alluding to the fact that Stefano and Steve had never exactly shared the same body type. "[This is] more than a 'disguise'; thanks to Dr. Rolf, it's a reality," Stefano stressed. "Yeah, well, Rolf is good at the masks, but --" Kristen began to argue. "I'm not wearing a mask," Stefano insisted. "What is it, then -- plastic surgery? [Because] it's not just the face; it's your -- it's your whole body..." Kristen reiterated. "Rolf was able to transplant my consciousness into Steve Johnson's body," Stefano explained.
"Oh, my God -- [now] I have heard it all!" Kristen declared between fits of hysterical laughter. "[Look, Rolf] is a brilliant scientist, but I am not gonna believe that he found a way to take my father's essence and put it into this body [unless you show me] some kind of proof!" Kristen continued. "I understand [your skepticism -- and], believe me, this vessel was not my first choice -- [but]...the Phoenix has risen," Stefano maintained while fetching something from a jacket pocket -- the one-of-a-kind phoenix ring that Kristen had seen many times before.
"So, you have my father's ring, [and] you got one eye fixed -- what proof is that? [After all], you could have stolen that ring from Kate, and it is common knowledge that Steve Johnson got one of his eyes fixed, courtesy of [a] DiMera tech company, [so] you could have gotten the other one done, as well," Kristen dismissively argued before again pointing Stefano toward the hotel room door. "I'm not leaving," Stefano insisted. "[Then] I'm gonna call security!" Kristen decided, reaching for the desk phone. "Why is it so hard for you to believe [this when it] was your idea?" Stefano wondered, causing Kristen to freeze in shock.
"Remember taking me to Nashville?" Stefano continued. "If you are referring to me taking my father to Nashville...what about it?" Kristen snapped. "You asked Rolf to save my life -- Stefano's life -- [so] he got me out of that fire --" Stefano explained. "If that is true, then why didn't he tell me?" Kristen argued. "I forbade him to tell you, [because] you had already mourned my death once, [and] if I had tried to reach out to you again, and [then] Rolf's treatment [had ultimately] failed, you would have had to have gone through that again, [and] I couldn't do that to you," Stefano clarified.
"After the fire, I was in terrible shape, [and] a great deal of pain, and my future was uncertain, [and] it took all of Rolf's abilities not only to keep me alive but to find a suitable host --" Stefano continued. "[But]...why Steve Johnson?" Kristen wondered. "There were many factors involved, but what is important is [that] the transformation was difficult [and] complicated, and it was touch and go for quite a while," Stefano stressed. "So, you just...you disappeared to recover?" Kristen assumed. "Yes -- [and] even after Rolf finished his work, it took several months before I was strong enough to start formulating a plan [to return]," Stefano elaborated.
"[And] that's when I heard about what had happened to you and my new grandchild... Kristen, my darling girl, it broke my heart," Stefano continued. "I lost my baby, and I almost went to prison for murder... I have never felt so alone!" Kristen tearfully summarized. "I wish I could have been there for you, [but] I just couldn't [then]...but I am here now," Stefano stressed. "This year has been hell..." Kristen admitted. "I know -- [that's why you] cloistered yourself away in a convent," Stefano replied. "I just felt so lost," Kristen explained. "Like me, you needed to heal," Stefano reasoned.
"Like the phoenix, we have both risen from the ashes again and again, and we're always stronger for it, eh?" Stefano summarized. "I just don't know what to believe anymore... Is this really possible?" Kristen mused. "How would I know all of this if I wasn't Stefano? [Look], I can tell you every detail of what went on in that warehouse, behind the door marked 'S.D.' -- [but] you know me better than anyone [else does, so I think you already] know the answer in your heart, [Kristen] -- la mia bellissima figlia," Stefano stressed. "You used to say that to me when I was a little girl -- 'my beautiful daughter,'" Kristen recalled, surprised.
"You are still my little girl," Stefano soothingly assured Kristen, who broke down and seized a hug, ready to believe the story.
Meanwhile, Abigail approached the door to Kristen's hotel room. "Okay, Stefano -- if you're in there, let's have a look at you..." Abigail muttered.
At the Brady Pub, Kate took a seat at the bar, opened a laptop, and loaded a search engine. "Okay, Evan Frears -- let's see what we can find out about you..." Kate muttered.
"Aren't you supposed to be working?" Roman asked a short time later, joining Kate at the bar. "I am working -- on saving our grandson's marriage!" Kate replied.
"Why are you getting involved in this?" Roman wondered. "Because they need my help -- that's why! [Look], Will and Sonny love each other, [and] I know they have a lot to overcome -- I mean, they have to get through this whole tragic event that tore them apart -- [but] I think they will...[as long as] this interloper -- this little hustler -- is out of the picture!" Kate explained.
"How do you know this guy's a 'hustler'?" Roman argued. "Because Sonny attracts them!" Kate reasoned. "So, anyway, I -- I Googled 'Evan Frears,' and I found around a thousand of them, [so] I just have to keep at it 'til I find out which one he is, and then I'll see what he's been up to... [Actually, on second thought], you were the commissioner, so what you can do is help me out and do a background check on Evan --" Kate continued, drawing an objection from Roman. "Come on -- do it for me, and do it for Will!" Kate begged Roman.
"Wonder what that's all about..." Hattie muttered with a hint of jealousy while watching Roman and Kate from the other side of the pub.
"I am not about to interfere in Will's relationship with Sonny," Roman insisted, annoying Kate. "I am trying to protect Sonny from a guy who might be a predator -- and we both know Sonny isn't a very good judge of character!" Kate stressed. "What if this Evan guy is just a nice, normal guy, and the reason you haven't been able to find anything is because there's nothing to find?" Roman suggested, further annoying Kate.
"How we doin' over here?" Hattie began while approaching Roman and Kate. "Well, we're having a private conversation..." Kate pointedly replied. "Any word on He Who Shall Not Be Named?" Hattie whispered, ignoring Kate's hint. "Did you discuss the, uh, Stefano situation with Hattie?" Roman asked Kate, looking a bit annoyed. "Oh -- I probably shouldn't have said anything, huh?" Hattie innocently acknowledged, drawing a forced smile from Kate. "I simply told her that the police were looking for him, and that they had questioned me -- that's it," Kate explained to Roman.
"I was just so excited about the cops catching up with Count Chocula --" Hattie began to clarify. "They haven't caught up with him yet," Roman stressed. "[But] they will, and then, when they do, I've got a few things that I want to say [to him], like, 'Hey, thanks a lot for turning me into Marlena, and all of this Marlena stuff --'" Hattie continued. "Yes, he would be wise to stay away [from you] -- far, far away, as a matter of fact," Roman diplomatically agreed. "I should say so!" Hattie threateningly confirmed.
"I thought that we agreed to keep quiet about all of this!" Kate reminded Hattie after Roman stepped into the kitchen. "I know, [but] I just got so excited about [our] secret mission," Hattie whispered. "A 'secret mission' has to remain a secret!" Kate pointed out. "[Yeah], but I guess I was gettin' kind of afraid -- [you know], that Stefano, uh, would come after me... [See], Patch -- [wait], can I still call him 'Patch' now that he doesn't have that thing? [Anyway], he told me that I should move out of John and Marlena's because Stefano might come after me [if I didn't]," Hattie explained. "Because he's going after Marlena, and you look like her," Kate realized.
"Why else would I leave the lap of luxury for this dump?" Hattie summarized -- just as Roman called out for help from the kitchen. "That's the reason," Kate guessed as Hattie rushed off to Roman's aid.
Chad entered the pub a short time later, just as Kate finished sending Stefano a text message about Hattie's earlier blunder. "I need your help," Chad began, joining Kate at the bar.
At Statesville, Will took advantage of Ben's temporary absence from their shared cell, happy to have some privacy to read the note that Kate had delivered on Arianna's behalf earlier that day.
"Dear Daddy Will, I wish you could come to my recital tonight. I was going to surprise you with the song from Frozen that you helped me learn last year. I've been making Mommy crazy, playing it over and over, but like you said, 'practice makes perfect'...and you were right, because I'm so gonna nail it. Mommy said she'd make you a recording so you and your friends could listen there, too. I hope you're okay. Daddy Sonny and I really miss you a lot. We hope you can come home soon. Love, Ari," Will read silently, hearing Arianna's voice the whole time. "I miss you, too, Peanut..." Will whispered, sighing heavily and fighting back tears of despair.
Will attached some tape to a drawing that had been included with Arianna's note -- a drawing of Will, Sonny, and Arianna, together as a family once again. "I swear, Ari, if there was a way I could come home, I -- I would...but after what I did to your grandmother, I'm exactly where I belong," Will muttered with a heavy sigh of regret while taping the drawing to a wall of the cell, right next to the top bunk.
Meanwhile, Clyde tried to convince Ben to go along with a plan for them to break out of the prison together. "I am dead serious [about this]. You lost your last appeal, [so] you're a dead man walkin', [and Ciara] hasn't been able to [get Victor and Xander to admit to framin' you so far, so] what makes you think she can [get through to them now]? The way I see it, you only got two choices -- you face the rest of your days in here, waitin' for a lethal injection...or you spend the rest of your life outside, [livin' happily ever after] with Ciara... It's your call, [but] if you're smart -- and I know you are -- you'll let me start workin' on plan B," Clyde reasoned.
"I'm not ready for this 'plan B' -- especially not coming from you," Ben insisted. "You prefer plan D -- as in death penalty?" Clyde countered. "A few days ago, you called me 'a rat' for protecting an innocent man --" Ben began to remind Clyde. "'Cause you pissed me off [when] you chose to protect that sap Will Horton instead of your own flesh and blood!" Clyde explained. "Will Horton is a better person than you'll ever be!" Ben argued. "Probably so...but you're my son, and I'm not gonna sit back and watch them kill you! I gotta do somethin'!" Clyde maintained, surprising Ben with a hint of genuine emotion.
"I still believe Ciara can pull this off, [because Victor's] defenses are down [since the stroke, and] --" Ben tried to reason. "Stroke or no stroke, he's not gonna suddenly cough up a murder confession! If Victor Kiriakis is responsible for killing Jordan, he's gonna take that secret with him to the grave!" Clyde predicted. "You don't know that --" Ben tried to protest. "I do know that...and I know you're crazy for taking the risk [when we could just] leave all this behind [and] find a place without an extradition treaty -- just a place in the sun for you to spend the rest of your life with Ciara!" Clyde countered.
"Come on -- what do you say?" Clyde prodded Ben expectantly -- just as Will entered the visitor's lounge and demanded to know what was going on.
"We're having a private conversation, and you better stay out of it, or --" Clyde began to warn. "What, you'll try and kill me again?" Will dismissively countered before gesturing to a nearby guard. "If you try that again, you'll just end up back in solitary --" Will continued. "So, that's the way you want to play it, Horton?" Clyde snapped, scowling at Will. "Dad, relax -- that's enough," Ben interjected. "You're not worth it -- especially now," Clyde said to Will after some thought. "Think about what I said," Clyde urged Ben before shoving past Will and exiting the visitor's lounge.
"I gotta say, I was a little surprised to see you chatting up your dad --" Will admitted to Ben. "After the whole stabbing thing?" Ben concluded for Will, who nodded in response.
"Doesn't make much sense, I know -- [but] he came by to offer his own...unique brand of comfort... [See], Ciara was here earlier -- [she] came to tell me that [my last appeal] was denied...[which means] they're setting a date for my execution," Ben numbly explained. "I'm so sorry... [Well], is there something that can be done?" Will replied. "Honestly, man...it's time to pray for a miracle," Ben admitted with a sigh of defeat.
"Thank you for still believing in me, Will -- you are the one thing that made all of this tolerable," Ben stressed while trying to shake Will's hand. "No! [I mean], to think that you are innocent, and you're facing the death penalty, and I killed somebody, and I get to live? That's not right! That's not fair!" Will protested, ignoring Ben's physical expression of gratitude. "Will, you don't need to --" Ben began to respond. "No, I'm serious -- I wish I could trade places with you! You don't deserve this! If anybody deserves to die for their crime, it's me!" Will maintained.
At the hospital, Xander tried to talk Victor out of confessing to Ciara. "I can't torture my granddaughter anymore. She has to know everything," Victor insisted, annoying Xander.
"We did send an innocent man to prison --" Victor began to admit. "Before you say another word, I want to call my mom and have her record this conversation, because they are not gonna overturn Ben's conviction without a recorded confession," Ciara interjected, producing a cell phone. "You're not calling anyone," Xander protested, glaring at Ciara threateningly.
"Xander!" Victor warned. "I don't know what you're trying to do here, old man, but we didn't kill Jordan!" Xander countered. "Of course you did, Xander -- my grandfather literally just admitted that you sent an innocent man to prison!" Ciara argued. "Yes...but he wasn't talking about Ben Weston," Xander tiredly clarified, leaving Ciara stunned and confused.
"When you heard us discussing someone who didn't belong in prison, we weren't talking about Ben Weston; [we were talking about] Will Horton," Victor explained, leaving Ciara even more stunned and confused. "Are you saying that the two of you killed Adrienne?" Ciara wondered after recovering from the repeated shocks. "Of course not!" Victor clarified. "We would never!" Xander insisted.
"[Then]...who did kill Adrienne?" Ciara demanded to know. "It doesn't matter -- [the] point is [that] you've been barking up the wrong tree for months," Xander replied. "I can't believe I wasted all this time chasing after you [two] when you had nothing to do with what happened to Ben..." Ciara mused with a shake of the head. "[So], you will drop all of this [now]?" Xander asked hopefully. "How the hell am I supposed to drop this?" Ciara asked incredulously. "You know we didn't kill Jordan. There's nothing left to pursue," Xander reasoned with a shrug. "So...what, I'm just supposed to forget about what you told me about Will?" Ciara countered with a scoff.
"If Will is innocent, he does not belong in prison!" Ciara stressed. "Just stay out of it," Victor demanded. "Like hell I [will] -- you need to come clean, [because] Will should be set free so that he can spend time with Sonny, [and] Ari, [and] the rest of his family!" Ciara argued. "I'm never gonna do that," Victor insisted. "Fine -- if you won't tell anyone, then I will," Ciara decided before starting to leave Victor's room.
Victor stopped Ciara and shared the rest of the story. "I know [this is all] upsetting to hear, [but at least now] you understand, don't you? You understand that you can't breathe a word of this to another living soul?" Victor asked at the end of the tale. "But what about Will? I mean, you have to understand what's at stake here, right?" Ciara replied. "You have to promise me you won't say anything to anyone," Victor maintained.
"I'm sorry, Grandpa, but I don't -- I don't think I can make that promise," Ciara admitted before rushing off, ignoring Victor and Xander's protests.
Abigail discovers Kristen with "Steve"
At Julie's Place, Julie wondered aloud to Gabi and Eli if she should check on J.J. "But he wouldn't be suspicious if you dropped in," Julie said to Eli. Julie asked Eli to go in her place. "I can't say no to you, Grandma," Eli said.
After Eli left, Julie said, "This gives us a chance to have a little girl talk." Julie told Gabi that she wanted to let go "of all those things that hurt us in the past, and we should focus on the future." Julie referred to Gabi as Eli's future. "I certainly hope so," Gabi said. Julie asked Gabi if she and Eli had discussed taking their relationship to the next level. When Gabi noted that there was no rush to get married, Julie countered that life was short.
"Nobody knows that better than me. Stefan's heart. The pacemaker. It gave me more time. I'm so grateful, but I will say this, if you know what you want, why should you wait for it?" Julie asked. Gabi said she wanted to commit to Eli, but she did not believe Eli was over his hurt from Lani. "It's going to be a long time before he is willing to marry someone again," Gabi said.
In the Horton living room, Jennifer worked on a piece for the newspaper as Jack walked in. Jack and Jennifer discussed how happy they were that J.J. appeared to look healthier. "I'm almost done writing my first article post coma," Jennifer said. Confused, Jack noted that he had not assigned any story to Jennifer.
"Usually, I write what I want. Is that a problem?" Jennifer asked. Jack explained that he was looking forward to having Jennifer back at the paper, and he asked about the article. "It's a personal piece about how I nearly died when Rolf threw me off that balcony," Jennifer explained. Jack read through the article. "Solid piece," Jack said when he was done editing it. Jennifer asked Jack why he had cut out all references to Stefano.
"You cannot prove that Stefano is protecting Rolf," Jack explained. Jennifer commented that Jack had removed all mentions of the flash drive from the story. "I don't think it's essential to the story," Jack said. Shocked, Jennifer noted that the flash drive was Rolf's motivation for throwing her off the balcony. "Speculation!" Jack added. Jennifer asked Jack why he had ripped out the heart of her story.
"I'm afraid that if I publish this story, I could get my wife killed," Jack said. Jack explained that he had spent a year holding a vigil at Jennifer's bedside, and he still could not believe that he had a second chance with her. "I am afraid to publish an article that will make you a target of Stefano DiMera or Dr. Rolf," Jack said. Jack told Jennifer he could not live without her.
"Nobody likes a rewrite. Especially you, if I recall. So, because you said it so nicely, I am gonna take another pass at it," Jennifer said. After Jennifer finished the second draft, she handed it back to Jack. "I took most of your edits, and I just changed the ending a little bit," Jennifer said. Jack reviewed the changes.
Jack read aloud from the article, "I hope one day the person or people responsible for what happened to me will be brought to justice. But I come away from what happened, grateful for the second chance that I have been given. And for my friends and family who never gave up hope. My recovery is a gift, one that wouldn't have been possible if not for the undying support of my children and the man who loves me, Jack Deveraux." Jennifer beamed at Jack as he told her that it was perfect.
J.J. returned home to his loft apartment and found Lani hanging a picture in the living room. When Lani commented that she had not realized that J.J. had moved into Eli's old loft apartment, J.J. explained that Eli had offered him and Haley the space when Eli had moved out.
"After he moved in with Gabi," Lani said with a sigh. Lani admitted that it was difficult to stay in the apartment where she had lived with Eli. "I still can't believe Gabi made you dump him at the altar," J.J. said with a shake of his head. "And I still can't do anything about it," Lani said. J.J. pressed Lani for more details. J.J. reminded Lani that they had been partners once and that he would always have her back.
"This has to stay between us. Seriously, J.J., if it gets out, someone could die," Lani said. Before J.J. could respond, Eli knocked on the door. J.J. told Lani to hide in the back while he talked to Eli. After Lani was hidden away, J.J. opened the front door. J.J. lied and said he had been about to get in the shower.
"You're good?" Eli asked. "Just tired. Let's catch up another time," J.J. said. Eli asked to enter, but J.J. said no. With a sigh, Eli explained that Julie had asked him to check on J.J. and that he was not comfortable leaving right away. "[Julie] didn't need to do that," J.J. said.
"Maybe she did, because to me, it seems like something is up with you," Eli said. J.J. reiterated that he was just tired, but Eli ignored him and walked into the apartment. "I just want to make sure," Eli said. From the next room, Lani eavesdropped as Eli complimented J.J. on his new decor. J.J. admitted that Haley had decorated the apartment.
"I appreciate you stopping by, but tell Julie I'm fine," J.J. said quietly. "Are you?" Eli asked. When J.J. firmly stated that he was fine, Eli noted that it was obvious that J.J. wanted him to leave. "It's not what you think," J.J. said. Eli argued that he knew that J.J. was hurting over the loss of Haley.
"What I went through last year wasn't as bad as a tenth of that, but I know how I felt when Lani left me. And I never thought that losing the woman I love could hurt so much," Eli said. Eli noted that he was happy J.J. had taken over the lease on the loft, because he had not been able to live there after his breakup with Lani.
"She wouldn't have walked out on you unless she had a good reason," J.J. said. Eli said Lani had told him she did not love him, and J.J. countered that he did not believe that was true. "I'm happy with Gabi, but it still eats at me. The questions," Eli said. J.J. suggested that Lani had acted in an effort to protect Eli and that she might still love him.
"Why would you say that? Why are you taking Lani's side in this?" Eli asked. J.J. stressed that he was not taking sides. "I just know that Lani loved you with all her heart. There has to be some bigger reason why she ran out on you," J.J. said. When J.J. asked Eli if he loved Gabi as much as he had loved Lani, Eli said he did not believe anyone could love two people the same way.
"I thought we were built to go the distance. Then, like that, it was gone. Like it never even meant anything," Eli said. "Sounds like you got some unresolved feelings, man. Maybe you're not as over Lani as you think," J.J. said. Eli disagreed.
After Eli left, Lani emerged from her hiding place. "[Eli] still cares for you," J.J. said. Lani countered that she had blown up Eli's love for her when she had left him. "Gabi forced you. He doesn't know that," J.J. said. J.J. argued that Eli deserved to know what kind of person Gabi truly was before he got more serious with her.
"Gabi may have saved my life once, but I can't sit back and watch her destroy yours," J.J. said. "She already has," Lani complained. J.J. urged Lani to tell Eli the truth. Reluctantly, Lani told J.J. about Gabi's control of Julie's pacemaker. "She threatened to kill Julie if you didn't walk away from Eli?" J.J. asked. "That is what Gabi has over me. Julie's life," Lani confirmed.
When Eli returned to Julie's Place, he informed Julie and Gabi that he had talked to J.J. and that he was fine. "Hopefully, he is starting to heal," Gabi said. "He's trying," Eli said. While Gabi stepped into the back office to make a phone call for work, Julie advised Eli not to let his past relationship keep him from moving on with his life. "If you have a chance at happiness, go for it," Julie said. Eli asked Julie if she could get him a bottle of Champagne and clear the restaurant so that he and Gabi could have privacy. Julie gasped. "I'd love to!" Julie said.
After Julie cleared the room and set up a table for Eli and Gabi, she told Eli that she was proud of him. "All I want is wonderful things for you and Gabi. I owe her my life, and I love her, too," Julie said. Eli kissed Julie, and she left. When Gabi returned from the back office, she asked Eli why he appeared to be nervous. "I'm just excited," Eli said.
"Maybe we were both on the rebound after you lost Stefan, and Lani left me, but I feel like what we have has really grown into something special," Eli said. Eli told Gabi that he loved her strength and passion. "I don't want to lose you. Ever," Eli said as he got down on one knee. "I don't have a ring, but I don't want to wait. Gabi Hernandez, will you marry me?" Eli asked. Elated, Gabi said yes and jumped into Eli's arms.
At the Salem Inn, a tearful Kristen shouted that she did not know whether to believe that "Steve" was actually Stefano. "You know me better than anyone. You do. And like the Phoenix, we have both risen from the ashes again and again, and we are both stronger for it. We can do this together, Kristen. What do you say? La mia bellissima figlia," Stefano said. Weeping, Kristen noted that Stefano had called her that as a child.
"My beautiful daughter," Kristen said. "You are still my little girl," Stefano stressed. Kristen asked Stefano if he was real. "You know the answer in your heart," Stefano said softly. Kristen sobbed in Stefano's arms.
In the hallway outside the hotel room, Abigail knocked on the door. "Kristen! I need to see you," Abigail shouted. Abigail said she would not leave until she spoke to Kristen. "Is your father in there with you, Kristen?" Abigail asked. Inside the room, Stefano grimaced in frustration. Abigail asked to speak to Stefano "for the sake of the family." Stefano put on his eyepatch and switched into his "Steve" alter ego. "Steve" opened the door.
"Uncle Steve, what are you doing here?" Abigail asked. "Steve" explained that Hope had tracked him down to assist her in the search for Stefano. "So, you're looking for Stefano, too?" Abigail asked. "Who better to know his whereabouts than his beloved daughter?" "Steve" said. Abigail's face fell. "Steve" noted that Abigail appeared to be disappointed.
"Did you think Stefano would be here?" "Steve" asked. "Yes. I did," Abigail admitted. When Kristen asked why, Abigail explained that Stefano had texted Chad to say that he wanted to speak with Kristen in a face-to-face meeting. "I guess that didn't happen," Abigail said. "Actually, it did," Kristen countered. "Steve" frowned. Kristen said that Stefano had been in her room.
"You just missed him," Kristen teased. "That's a damn shame," "Steve" said. Abigail asked about the stock. Kristen said she had turned down Stefano's request. "As much as I love my father, I just wasn't sure I could trust him," Kristen said. "Steve" said he understood Kristen's reluctance to trust her father after his long absence.
"If he wants your stock, he's going to get it one way or another," "Steve" added. "That's so funny. Stefano said that exact thing to Chad," Abigail commented. "Steve" asked Abigail if she was looking for Stefano to talk to him about the stock. "No, my main focus is to ask him about Dr. Rolf," Abigail explained. Abigail asked Kristen if she knew where to find Stefano.
"Of course, I do," Kristen said as she looked at "Steve." Kristen lied and said that Stefano had left the country. "Did he say anything about Dr. Rolf or why Dr. Rolf left the country?" Abigail asked. Kristen said she did not know why her father would have been involved with Jennifer's assault. Abigail disagreed. Abigail explained that Rolf had wanted the flash drive that Jennifer had obtained, and Rolf had dedicated his life to serving Stefano.
"If I can find that connection, then even Chad is going to be done with him. For good this time," Abigail explained. "Steve" urged Abigail to tread lightly with Stefano. "I'm not afraid of him," Abigail said. "Steve" noted that he needed to focus on Kristen. When Kristen said she had told "Steve" everything, "Steve" countered that he could haul Kristen down to the police station for Hope to question her.
After Abigail left, Stefano flipped up his eyepatch and made a face at Kristen as she laughed. "What the hell was that?" Stefano growled. Kristen said she had been having fun. "It's time you realized that I am a force to be reckoned with, Father," Kristen said playfully.
"Are you threatening me, daughter?" Stefano asked. Kristen told Stefano that she would not cross him unless he interfered in her plans to reunite with Brady. Stefano said he felt the same way about Marlena. "Then you'll help me?" Kristen asked. "When it comes to our hearts' desires, perhaps we can help each other," Stefano said.
At the Brady Pub, Chad offered to buy Kate's shares of DiMera stock. Chad explained that he was eager to push Gabi out of the family business. "Since Kristen won't agree to sell me her shares, I was hoping you would," Chad said. Kate declined the offer. "There's no reason for you to have that stock unless you're not being honest with me," Chad said. Chad asked Kate if she had an agenda with Gabi.
"Why would I be working here if I was scheming with Gabi to keep you out of DiMera?" Kate asked. Chad argued that he did not know why Kate was working at the pub, and he suggested that her job was a cover for a shady scheme. Kate thought about Stefano.
"I haven't been completely honest with you," Kate admitted. Kate reminded Chad that she had loved Andre, and that she did not want to part with his shares. "It's all I really have left of him," Kate said. When Chad noted that stock shares were terrible keepsakes, Kate countered that the stock was a symbol of the company she had run with Andre. "That meant a lot to me," Kate said.
"Didn't he leave you my father's ring?" Chad asked. Kate thought about when she had given Stefano his ring back. Kate lied and said she had misplaced the ring. "The ring, that's Stefano's. But these stocks? They belonged to Andre," Kate said. Chad told Kate that her sentimentality was as weird as when Anna had run around town with Tony's urn.
"I think now I understand a lot better where she was coming from," Kate said. Chad reminded Kate that she and Andre were not soulmates like Tony and Anna. "Andre, he screwed you over. Replaced you at the company. I'm supposed to believe he was that important to you?" Chad asked.
"What other reason would there be?" Kate asked. "Abigail was onto something. I think you've always had an agenda when it comes to DiMera," Chad said. Kate scoffed at the notion, and she commented that Abigail was fond of conspiracy theories. Kate welcomed an investigation. "[Abigail] is not going to find anything," Kate said.
Abigail walked in and told Chad that she had gone to visit Kristen in her hotel room. "Was my father there?" Chad asked. "No, but Steve was," Abigail told Chad. Abigail explained that Steve had been there to question Kristen, and Kristen had admitted to meeting with Stefano. Abigail added that Kristen had turned down Stefano's request to sell her stock.
"Where is he now?" Chad asked. "[Stefano's] gone. He left. He's leaving the country, maybe for good this time," Abigail explained. Abigail suggested that she and Chad go home and talk. "Your father loves you. Remember that," Kate said. "Then why is he showing himself to Kristen and not me?" Chad responded. With a sigh, Chad left with Abigail.
When Chad and Abigail returned to their bedroom at the DiMera mansion, Chad told his wife that she was right about Kate. "People don't get sentimental about shares. Even Kate," Abigail said. Abigail suggested that Kate was working with Stefano. Chad lamented that his father continued to play games with him.
Eli shocks Abe with information about Lani
Stefano went to the police station in search of Gina but found Rafe first, prompting another performance as Steve, who was quick to seize a hug from an old friend.
"I heard you were back in town [because of Stefano]. It's funny -- you and I were the last ones to see that bastard alive... I still can't believe he managed to bribe his way out of that cell in Prague," Rafe mused. "It's not really a surprise, though, huh? Stefano's always got another trick up his sleeve," Stefano reasoned. "Eh, I don't know -- I think the old guy's getting sloppy. [I mean], coming back to town, leaving evidence around everywhere... Honestly, I think the old dude's losing his edge," Rafe argued. "Hope told me that the two of you couldn't make anything out of that evidence, [though, so] maybe it's time to let the big boys take a shot," Stefano countered.
Rafe forced a laugh and watched with a hint of confusion as Stefano rushed off to Hope's office -- where Gina was playing solitaire and smoking a cigarette. "I just saw your, uh, boyfriend --" Stefano began. "He is not my 'boyfriend' -- I can do better than that!" Gina insisted with a scoff of indignation. "Hmm. What are you doing?" Stefano continued. "I am bored out of my mind -- [so much so that] I am playing American cards, for God's sake!" Gina complained. "You should be grateful you don't have to wear this nasty thing over one eye," Stefano countered while moving Steve's eye patch up a few inches.
"Oh, poor Stefano..." Gina sarcastically mused before starting to take another drag from the cigarette. "I thought you gave up that filthy habit," Stefano admitted while seizing the cigarette and putting it out in an ashtray. "I did -- except when I am bored [or] stressed, and right now..." Gina explained while retrieving a can of air freshener and spraying it around the room. "Sorry for the cigarette -- I know how you do hate it -- [but] I am extremely [bored and] stressed [right now]," Gina concluded with a shrug. "Is that why you summoned me here?" Stefano wondered, drawing a nod of confirmation from Gina.
"We agreed, from day one, [that] our goal was to separate and split up John and Marlena...[but] you, my dear friend, have not kept up your end of the bargain, [so] I have decided that I must take matters into my own hands -- [and] kill your beloved Marlena," Gina explained, shrugging again. "You want to kill Marlena?" Stefano repeated between fits of hysterical laughter. "I have racked my brain, [and] I see no alternative. [Now], perhaps I will call her and invite her to meet me at [the Bistro] for lunch or a drink, then lure her onto the balcony [and] give her a little push, [just] like I did with Jennifer..." Gina reasoned.
"Yes -- that shall work, do you not think?" Gina concluded before reaching for a nearby cell phone. "I will kill you before I allow you to lay one hand on Marlena," Stefano vowed, grabbing Gina's extended hand and squeezing it tightly enough to cause pain. "Hmm. At least I finally have your attention, Steffy," Gina countered, grinning mischievously. "[So], you were just trying to get a rise out of me," Stefano realized. "Not funny," Stefano insisted while releasing Gina's hand. "I thought it was," Gina argued. "[Now, listen] -- I need you to work with me to separate her from John, and I am done waiting!" Gina stressed.
"[Well], my efforts to regain control of DiMera are on hold, anyway, [because] Kristen is more stubborn than I thought [and] refuses to give me her shares, [so] --" Stefano began to concede. "You have had contact with her?" Gina assumed. "I met with her last night," Stefano confirmed. "What were you thinking? She could expose both of us!" Gina protested. "She wouldn't do that -- she is my darling daughter, [and] I trust her," Stefano assured Gina. "Yes, well, I do not share that same trust," Gina grumbled. "She's already provided cover for us -- she told Abigail Deveraux that Stefano had fled the country!" Stefano bragged, changing Gina's mood at once.
"Now we have more breathing room to devise a new plan for John and Marlena," Stefano pointed out. "Finally!" Gina declared, getting excited. "And, in this moment, I just came up with one..." Stefano continued after some thought, flashing a wicked grin. "Well?" Gina impatiently prodded Stefano. "Just as you would only have a chance with John if Marlena was dead, the same is true for [me] -- as long as John is alive, I will never win [Marlena -- so]...the best solution is for both John and Marlena to die," Stefano reasoned. "You are completely out of your bloody mind!" Gina snapped. "Relax, Princess -- let me explain..." Stefano countered.
"Brilliant!" Gina declared after Stefano finished elaborating. "However...it shall be tricky to execute...[and] if we should fail --" Gina began to warn. "We will not fail -- we can't. I have faith that we will succeed. [And] you know, better than anyone, what I'm capable of," Stefano dismissively countered. "Indeed," Gina conceded before agreeing to go along with Stefano's plan.
At the Evans-Black townhouse, Marlena awoke with a start after a nightmare in which a masked Stefano had managed to initiate a private dance between the two of them in a dilapidated ballroom. "We've got a new security system -- it's called 'Steven Johnson' -- [and that means that] Stefano's not getting in [here]," John assured Marlena before reluctantly admitting that Stefano might still be in Salem. Marlena wasn't happy to hear that Hope had crashed John's search of Rolf's hideout, but John suggested that it was time to cut Hope some slack. "She has worked overtime to make sure that I am safe from Stefano," Marlena grudgingly conceded.
Meanwhile, Stefano and Gina approached the Evans-Black townhouse, ready to put their plan in motion.
At the hospital, Kayla greeted Julie, who had practically been forced to schedule an early checkup because Victor's stroke had left Doug even more concerned than usual. "[It is always] disconcerting when someone has a stroke who is as invincible as Victor --" Kayla began to acknowledge. "No -- Doug has been this way ever since my heart attack. [I mean], that was a year ago, and I feel fine [now, but] Doug still worries, as though I could drop dead at any moment," Julie clarified, managing a laugh but sounding somewhat annoyed.
"[Anyway], how are you doing -- [you know], since Steve came back?" Julie asked, ready to change the subject. "It hasn't been easy," Kayla replied. "The colossal nerve of him -- just to waltz into the New Year's Eve party with no warning! [And] I don't understand Hope's part in this, [either -- I mean], how could she just trot him out like that?" Julie continued. "I have trouble with that, too...but I know that she wouldn't do anything to hurt me, [so I guess she just] needed Steve for this important case," Kayla reasoned with a shrug. "Still, she should have had a thought for your feelings, [and] Doug and I agree -- this is not at all like her!" Julie stressed.
Julie probed for more details about what Steve had been like since returning to Salem, prompting Kayla to talk about the mystery woman. "I wouldn't mind knowing who Steve's mystery woman is...but, more importantly, I would rather he just find Stefano [then] go back to wherever he came from. [You know], when Joey and I came back [years ago], Steve and I were already divorced, [and] it was for the same reason -- because he abandoned us -- and he spent a long time trying to convince me that he would never do that again, and that is the only reason that we remarried," Kayla grumbled.
"Well, I don't see how he could forget a promise like that..." Julie mused. "I don't, either...[but] I don't care, because I am with Justin now, and I am happy!" Kayla insisted. "Well, if you mean that, [then] maybe you could take a page from Eli's book -- [he's] finally over Lani [and has] proposed to Gabi, [and] what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, if you get my drift..." Julie advised. "Justin and I are a long way from getting married...but I do like the idea of letting go of the past..." Kayla replied.
At the DiMera mansion, Gabi awoke with a start after a nightmare in which Eli had gotten back together with Lani. The horror only intensified when Gabi discovered that Eli's side of the bed was empty. "It was just a dream," Gabi -- who, in the nightmare, had caught Eli making out with Lani in the study -- reasoned while reaching for a nearby cell phone. "But if Eli is in there with Lani, [then] I am going to blow Julie's heart to smithereens!" Gabi vowed while storming off to the study -- which, as it turned out, was hiding only a sweet note from Eli, who was running errands.
While passing through Horton Town Square, Abe spotted Eli, who had just emerged from a nearby jewelry store and was admiring a diamond ring. "Nice ring. [So], you're going to propose?" Abe called out. "I already did," Eli clarified. "I had no idea you [and Gabi] were talking marriage," Abe admitted. "We weren't -- it was a spur-of-the-moment type [of] thing; that's why I didn't have the ring [then]," Eli elaborated. "Seems like history repeating itself -- [I mean], you proposed to Lani in the same way," Abe mused. "I guess you're right...[but] this time, you know, I think things will turn out a whole lot differently," Eli countered.
"I'm sorry if I sounded bitter -- Lani's your daughter," Eli backpedaled. "And I love her dearly...but I [still] don't understand what drove her to break up with you the way she did," Abe admitted. "Neither do I -- [and, you know], I was hoping to get some answers while she was in town, but all I got --" Eli began to complain. "Whoa, slow down -- are you saying that Lani's here?" Abe asked incredulously. "[She came back on New Year's Eve...but] she left last night -- I mean, as far as I know... [Look], I'm sorry, Abe -- I just assumed you knew," Eli replied. "I didn't have the slightest idea," Abe admitted, clearly hurt.
"Maybe she was too busy vandalizing store windows..." Eli mused before telling Abe about what Lani had done to the town square's Gabi Chic store. "Why would she do something like that?" Abe wondered. "I think I'll let her explain that one to you," Eli decided. "Can you tell me where to find her?" Abe asked hopefully. "I wish I could, [but] I have no idea..." Eli apologetically replied. "Maybe she went back to the convent --" Eli continued. "Convent?" Abe repeated. "You don't know about that, either?" Eli realized. "[Apparently], my daughter has been keeping me totally in the dark," Abe admitted with a sigh.
"Where is this...convent?" Abe wondered. "Rome," Eli clarified. "She told me she was living with her mother in Miami!" Abe protested. "How long has this been going on?" Abe continued after recovering from the latest shock. "I have no idea, but...probably several months or so -- she was getting ready to take her final vows," Eli revealed, shocking Abe yet again. "This does not make sense!" Abe insisted. "Nothing Lani has done in the past year or so has made any sense. No offense, but I am looking forward to being with a woman who doesn't keep any secrets -- and, speaking of Gabi, I'd like to get back to her now," Eli countered.
"I wish you the best," Abe stressed. "Thanks, Abe. Hopefully you get some answers from Lani, [because] I sure as hell never did," Eli replied before rushing off.
At J.J.'s loft apartment, Lani emerged from the guest bedroom and somewhat teasingly noted that someone had spent the previous night pacing the floor. "Sorry if I kept you up," J.J. replied. "No, it's okay -- uh, actually, I couldn't sleep, either," Lani clarified. "Somebody has to stop Gabi from hurting anyone else -- [and] I think that 'somebody' has to be me," J.J. declared before starting to rush off.
"If you go barging into the DiMera house [and start] accusing Gabi [of tampering with Julie's pacemaker], she will know that you heard it from me, [and] she'll pull out her phone, and she'll make good on her threat to make Julie's heart explode!" Lani warned, stopping J.J. "If [Gabi] does that, her life is over!" J.J. argued. "Probably -- but then it's still too late for Julie," Lani countered, and J.J. conceded the point.
"[But] I can't just sit back and let [Gabi] get her way!" J.J. insisted. "This is exactly why I didn't want to tell you anything -- I knew you would try to fix it! [And, look], I want to fix it, [too, but] we have to play it carefully!" Lani maintained. "I can't believe that you've lived with this for over a year... [You know, Gabi] really is a monster!" J.J. declared with a shake of the head. "Yeah, she is," Lani agreed with a scowl.
"[Look], I know how scared you are for Julie, [and] so am I, but you can't live like this anymore, [so]...there has to be a way to stop [Gabi] from making good on those threats," J.J. reasoned. "[And] I may know how..." J.J. continued after some thought -- but Lani's cell phone rang just then, interrupting the conversation. "It's my dad... I can't take it," Lani muttered before sending the call to voicemail.
"Go on," Lani prodded J.J. "Gabi thinks that she and I are on good terms, [so] I could get friendlier with her, and she won't get suspicious...[and, in the process], I might be able to get my hands on her phone [and] try to disable this stupid app --" J.J. reasoned. "I thought of that, too, [but] Gabi is way too smart not to put that thing on other devices," Lani argued. "Yeah, but messing it up on her phone would be a start, and maybe there's a way to disable the whole system [from there]," J.J. countered. "[But] we are not some tech geeks, [so] we wouldn't even know where to begin!" Lani pointed out. "I have to at least try!" J.J. maintained.
"And how are you supposed to get her phone? I'm sure she watches that thing like a hawk!" Lani warned. "I'm gonna need a distraction -- a big one," J.J. conceded. "And I think I know someone who can make that happen..." Lani realized after some thought. "Kristen? That's your idea of a distraction? Are you nuts?" J.J. snapped after hearing Lani's idea. "I know how you feel about her, but [she] has been an amazing friend to me, and she knows everything that Gabi has put me through. She will help me," Lani stressed. "No -- not Kristen! You're not changing my mind [about this]!" J.J. insisted.
"Even if I told you that Gabi can't afford to mess with her?" Lani countered, confusing J.J. "Look, Kristen has shares of DiMera stock that Gabi wants so bad that she can taste it," Lani explained. "Let me just call her [and] ask for help --" Lani continued. "Do whatever you want, [but] I'm not waiting on Kristen -- I can do this on my own," J.J. maintained before rushing off, ignoring Lani's protests.
At the DiMera mansion, Gabi received an unexpected visit from Rafe, who was pleased to hear the big news. "[So]...I am looking for someone to walk me down the aisle -- you available?" Gabi wondered. "I would be honored to," Rafe stressed. "You are more of a father than a brother, [after all] -- how many messes have you gotten me out of?" Gabi mused. "A billion?" Rafe guessed. "And how many times have I thanked you?" Gabi continued. "Never! [But] I don't need you to thank me; [I just need] you to have a happy marriage [and] provide a great home for Arianna, [because] she needs that right now," Rafe replied.
"I haven't been the perfect mother --" Gabi acknowledged. "You've had a rough year," Rafe reasoned, dismissing the concern -- just as Gabi's cell phone chimed. "Wait --" Gabi tried to protest as Rafe, who was closer to the device, helpfully reached for it. "Radio waves detected -- routine test in progress," Rafe read aloud as Gabi squirmed. "That is a crazy app notification! What is that?" Rafe continued. "I can't talk about [it -- it's]...this new project for DiMera [that's] hush-hush!" Gabi snapped while snatching the cell phone. "You grabbed it out of my hand like it was life or death..." Rafe curiously mused. "You're not far off," Gabi vaguely replied.
Rafe was clearly concerned but didn't get a chance to question Gabi's cryptic remark because Eli entered the study just then. "If someone [had] told me a year ago [that] I'd be this happy [one day], I would have told them they were lying, [but now]... Nothing could change my mind about marrying your sister," Eli stressed after Rafe offered a few words of support about the engagement.
After Rafe left, Gabi probed for details about Eli's earlier errands, prompting another proposal.
Rafe ran into Abe in the town square and seized the opportunity to apologize for having failed to provide an update on Stefano's case recently. "Don't worry about it -- I'm getting used to being kept in the dark..." Abe grumbled, confusing Rafe. "I shouldn't have said anything -- [trust me], it's got nothing to do with you..." Abe backpedaled.
"[Anyway, tell me] about the new evidence from the hideout," Abe continued. "I...haven't heard about any new evidence..." Rafe admitted, getting even more confused. "You haven't? Well, John found another cigar there last night, [and] he thought that it meant that Stefano was still around, [but] Hope disagrees -- [she says] that her team missed it during the original search," Abe explained. "I led that team, [and] we went over that place with a magnifying glass, and there is no way, had there been a cigar there, that I would not have found it...[which means that] Hope's throwing me under the bus, [and] I need to find out why," Rafe declared.
After Rafe rushed off, Abe dialed Lani's cell phone number again. "I can't keep putting this off..." Lani muttered before answering the call. "I want the truth, Lani -- now," Abe demanded.
Rafe stormed into the police station in search of Hope and was surprised to discover that her office reeked of smoke -- and that a pack of cigarettes was hidden in one of her desk drawers.
At the hospital, Kayla finished running Julie's tests -- and saw something concerning in the results. Meanwhile, J.J. entered the DiMera mansion and found Eli and Gabi in the study, discussing good news between kisses. "What good news?" J.J. wondered. "Ever heard of knocking?" Eli snapped. "What good news?" J.J. repeated. "Gabi and I are getting married," Eli revealed. "You can't do that, man," J.J. advised, confusing Eli.
Stefano and Gina put a deadly plan in motion
At the hospital, Kayla examined Julie's test results and determined that something was wrong with the pacemaker.
"But...it's chugging along just fine, as far as I can tell," Julie argued. "I think you're right -- I think it is working properly...[but] the battery is very low," Kayla clarified. "Already? [But] that surgeon told me it would be years before we had to change it!" Julie protested. "[A pacemaker's battery should be good for] at least five years...and that's what's odd -- for some reason, yours is losing its charge," Kayla elaborated. "I'm gonna call your cardiologist, and we're gonna figure [out what's going on, but]...I have to be honest -- I have never seen this before," Kayla continued, shrugging apologetically.
At J.J.'s loft apartment, Lani continued a phone conversation with Abe -- and grudgingly confirmed everything that Eli had revealed earlier, implying that the part about being at a convent in Rome was still true. Abe sensed that there was much more to the story than even Eli knew, but Lani dodged each of Abe's questions -- then abruptly ended the call with a look of relief when Kristen knocked on the apartment door.
"Thank you for getting here so quickly," Lani began after letting Kristen in. "Looks like you found a place in Salem that's under the radar," Kristen observed while looking around the apartment. "Yeah -- J.J. offered his place to me...which used to be mine and Eli's," Lani clarified with a hint of discomfort. "Beggars can't be choosers," Kristen reasoned with an apologetic shrug. "[So, has J.J.], um...gone to work already?" Kristen continued while looking around the place again, clearly hoping to avoid another encounter with J.J. "Actually, he just bolted out of here on a mission -- to save Julie's life," Lani revealed with a sigh.
"You told J.J. everything?" Kristen asked. "The last thing I wanted to do was to get [him] involved, but ever since this whole thing started, I have just felt so alone -- I mean, everyone in Salem thinks that I am just this...this terrible person who left Eli at the altar -- but [J.J.] has been so kind to me, [and...well], it just slipped out," Lani replied.
"J.J. was the only person that you could confide in? [I mean], what am I -- just chopped liver?" Kristen grumbled. "[You told me recently that] you wouldn't help me, and I have barely heard from you [since then]," Lani pointed out. "[True] -- and I am sorry... [Look, it's just that] things have gotten a little busy -- you know, I started a new job at Basic Black, and...my father...[well], he asked me for my shares..." Kristen explained. "[Then] it's true -- Stefano's back in town? Did you see him?" Lani wondered. "Well, uh...sort of..." Kristen stammered, shrugging. "What does that mean?" Lani asked.
"You don't want to know," Kristen insisted. "Actually --" Lani tried to protest. "The point is [that] I did not give him my shares -- [because] I'm using all my leverage to help you!" Kristen continued. "If you want to help me... [Look, J.J.] raced over to the DiMera mansion [earlier, and it seems like he's determined to] try to disable that app --" Lani replied. "How? [I mean], he doesn't know what he's doing!" Kristen protested. "I know...[and] I tried to tell him that, but once he makes up his mind --" Lani began to explain. "There's no stopping him," Kristen knowingly concluded.
"I was hoping that you could go over there and create some sort of distraction...[or], if he's been caught, give him a cover --" Lani requested. "I am the last person that J.J. is gonna accept help from! [And] what if he tries to shoot me again? [Look], I'd prefer not to wind up on the wrong end of [a] gun!" Kristen protested. "You don't have to worry -- [it's] not like he's gonna try that again," Lani dismissively insisted. "Can I get that in writing?" Kristen skeptically countered. "He was on drugs [and] out of his mind with grief [then, but he has since gone] to rehab, and he is on the mend [now]," Lani maintained.
"I will never forgive myself if anything happens to J.J.!" Lani stressed. "Okay...but don't count on any miracles," Kristen replied before rushing off.
At the DiMera mansion, J.J. carefully clarified that Lani was the reason that Eli couldn't marry Gabi. "Lani? What are you talking about? What does she have to do with me marrying Gabi?" Eli wondered. "After our conversation yesterday, do you [really] have to ask?" J.J. countered. "What conversation? [I mean, I already] know that you two met last night, but...what, exactly, did you talk about?" Gabi demanded to know, eyeing J.J. and Eli suspiciously. "Different stuff -- just...life...[and] love... [For starters], I asked Eli if he was sure [that] his feelings [for] Lani were over," J.J. revealed.
"Of course he's sure -- [she] dumped him at the altar and broke his heart!" Gabi spat. "That's exactly what I said," Eli stressed. "I don't understand why you're asking this now!" Gabi continued. "It's been a long time [since Lani left Eli...but when I saw her] in Italy, it became obvious to me that she wishes she could have made a different choice...[and] my life would be over right now if it wasn't for her, [so] I felt like I owed it to her to at least tell [him how she feels]," J.J. reasoned. "I saved your life, too -- [and] this is how you're gonna thank me?" Gabi snapped.
"[Actually]...you should thank J.J., [because he] made me realize how much I wanted to propose to you," Eli informed Gabi, who quickly backpedaled. "You never stop surprising me, Gabi," J.J. admitted with a shake of the head. "In a good way, I hope," Gabi replied. "I came to see Abigail --" J.J. evasively continued. "She's not here," Gabi revealed. "That's okay -- I can wait," J.J. insisted. "Well, um, since you're here, um, there's...there's something I wanted to ask you -- since you're the one that prompted me to pop the question to Gabi, I was hoping you'd be my best man," Eli said to J.J.
Before J.J. could respond, Eli received a phone call from someone. "This means a lot to Eli, [so] I hope you say yes," Gabi said to J.J. after Eli answered the call and rushed out of the study. "Do you love him?" J.J. asked. "Of course I love him -- why else would I have accepted his proposal?" Gabi replied. "Lani took your husband from you, [so]...maybe you want to take the man who was going to be hers," J.J. reasoned with a shrug. "That's an awful thing to say!" Gabi protested. "Is it true?" J.J. wondered. "No!" Gabi insisted.
"[And] you really think we can all be one big, happy family?" J.J. continued. "If you're talking about Abigail --" Gabi began to respond. "I'm talking about Julie, actually -- [I mean], she's a part of my family, [and] she's going to be a part of yours now, [too], and you two are always at each other's throats," J.J. clarified. "Not anymore -- [I mean], ever since I gave her Stefan's heart, we've been the best of friends," Gabi argued. "You two are getting along better these days -- [I just] hope it lasts..." J.J. mused.
"[Anyway], I don't want to keep you --" J.J. began to stress after spotting Gabi's cell phone on the desk -- but Kristen burst into the study just then and breathlessly announced that some Basic Black contracts needed to be signed right away, before a deal fell through. "Hello, J.J.," Kristen cautiously added. "Don't worry -- I'm not gonna try to play God and make you pay for what you did [again]," J.J. promised. "I appreciate that...[and] I want you to know that I would do anything to make up for what I did -- you know, for both of us to have our lives back, the way they were before that awful night..." Kristen replied.
"Oh, dear..." Kristen grumbled after rummaging through a purse. "You're gonna have to come with me, [Gabi] -- I must have left the contracts at the office," Kristen continued. "[But] I'm celebrating an engagement to Eli --" Gabi tried to protest. "Oh? Well, congrats, I guess...[but] this can't wait," Kristen insisted before dragging Gabi out of the study -- and exchanging a look with J.J. in the process.
As soon as the coast was clear, J.J. grabbed Gabi's cell phone, which was locked but was easy enough to break into, since the most obvious password -- Arianna's birth date -- turned out to be the correct one. The alert that had popped up during Julie's earlier tests had not yet been dismissed, so J.J. was able to use that to figure out which app needed to be disabled -- but it, too, required a password, and J.J. wasn't able to log into it with Arianna's birth date, Gabi's birth date, or Rafe's birth date. "To be continued..." J.J. muttered while taking a picture of the app's login screen with his own cell phone, not wanting to risk any more failed login attempts.
Eli returned just as J.J. turned off Gabi's cell phone and placed it back on the desk. "What are you doing?" Eli asked curiously. "I was just about to leave Abigail a note [because] I decided not to wait [around for her...but] I'm just gonna text her [instead]," J.J. coolly replied before starting to leave. "Wait a minute," Eli called out, stopping J.J., who squirmed a bit while waiting for Eli to continue. "You never answered my question -- will you be my best man?" Eli repeated, drawing a sigh of relief from J.J. "If that's what you want, I'll do it," J.J. agreed with a forced smile, seeing no easy way out of the predicament.
At Basic Black, Kristen admitted to having misled Gabi earlier. "[There is no deal -- I just] needed to speak to you in private, [and] I couldn't risk Chad overhearing," Kristen explained. "So, this was all a ruse?" Gabi snapped. "Stop being so melodramatic and listen -- my father reached out to me [and asked] me to sell him my DiMera shares, [but] I refused, [because] as much as he might pressure me, I ultimately would like to turn them over to you," Kristen continued. "When?" Gabi demanded to know. "When I get what I want. You have Eli's ring on your finger? [Well], as soon as I have Brady's on mine, you will be richly rewarded," Kristen replied.
While passing through Horton Town Square, Julie ran into Abe, who was still upset about what had happened with Lani earlier. "Please don't take this personally, but...[given] your daughter's history of hurting the people she is supposed to care about the most, I'm afraid it was just a matter of time before she hurt you, too," Julie reasoned after hearing the whole story. "I know what you think of my daughter, [and] you have every right to be angry with her, [but] all that matters to me is her well-being, [and] I'm just terribly worried about her," Abe fretted. "I understand -- believe me, I do -- 'cause, right now, I feel the same way about Hope," Julie replied.
"How she could have just brought Steve back to Salem without giving Kayla some warning -- it's just so insensitive..." Julie continued. "I get the feeling that Kayla's not the only one Hope's been insensitive to..." Abe mused. "Well, I was surprised when she turned down Doug's and my offer to move in with us -- [she] insisted on staying with John [instead, and] I was hurt..." Julie admitted. "I spoke to Rafe [earlier, and] I don't think you're the only one [that's] concerned about Hope," Abe revealed. "I had no idea that Hope's erratic behavior had spilled over to her work!" Julie stressed after Abe elaborated.
Shortly after Julie rushed off, Abe received a phone call from Lani, who was desperate for a distraction from troubling thoughts about what might be happening at the DiMera mansion. "I am so sorry that I hung up on you earlier...[and I am] so sorry [that] I didn't see you before I left town...[and, well, I am just] really sorry about so many things --" Lani stressed. "Well, I do appreciate that...[but] I don't want your apology -- [I just want to know] what's going on with you, [and] when I'm going to see you again," Abe countered. "I pray that I will be able to come home [one day and] give everyone the answers that they need," Lani replied.
While eating lunch at the Brady Pub, Kayla spotted Rafe, who was looking for Roman. "He's out," Kayla reported. "Damn!" Rafe grumbled. "Is everything okay?" Kayla wondered. "No..." Rafe hesitantly admitted before telling Kayla about all the weird things that Hope had done at work lately. "A couple of months ago, I had this patient who tried to sneak some cigarettes into the hospital -- I mean, he was on oxygen, no less -- so I confiscated the cigarettes, [and] then I came here [and] told Roman and Hope the whole story...[and then the cigarettes vanished]," Kayla recalled after seeing the pack of cigarettes that Rafe had found in Hope's office.
"It didn't even occur to me that [Hope] could have taken them, because she doesn't smoke...[but] now, in hindsight, maybe that's not such a ludicrous idea," Kayla continued. "I know Hope's been under a lot of stress lately, but I find it hard to believe she would start smoking [just to cope with stress]..." Rafe mused. "I've been hearing all kinds of things [lately] that are hard to believe about Hope..." Kayla hesitantly admitted before informing Rafe that Hope had apparently been trying to steal John away from Marlena recently. "[That] does not sound like the Hope that I know! This is serious!" Rafe declared, stunned.
"Do you think it's possible that Hope's behavior is the sign of some sort of medical or psychiatric problem?" Rafe wondered. "Well, I suppose...but the issues she's having aren't [indicative of any] illness I can think of," Kayla replied. "Well, then, I guess I'll just have to do more investigating...[and] I would suggest that we keep this between ourselves [in the meantime]," Rafe continued, and Kayla agreed.
After Kayla headed back to the hospital, Rafe dialed a phone number and asked someone for help.
At the Evans-Black townhouse, John tried to comfort Marlena, who was still on edge as a result of what had happened earlier. "[You simply] had yourself a bad dream 'cause you're under a lot of stress right now," John reasoned. "I just can't shake this uneasy feeling that someone or something is going to come between us," Marlena maintained. "Nobody's gonna come between us -- not Hope, and certainly not Stefano DiMera," John insisted before giving Marlena a kiss -- just as Gina and Stefano entered the townhouse, pretending to be Hope and Steve.
"Busted!" John conceded with a laugh after pulling away from Marlena, who wasn't quite as amused. "We didn't scare you two lovebirds, did we?" Stefano asked teasingly. "You couldn't scare us -- we just didn't hear your key in the lock," Marlena dismissively replied. "That's because Steve didn't need to use it. You really shouldn't leave your doors unlocked. Anyone could walk in," Gina stressed. "Like you!" Marlena summarized with a hint of annoyance. "Like Stefano DiMera," Stefano clarified.
"Eh...you know, partner, I'm beginning to think all this business about Stefano being here in town's a bunch of bull. [I mean], he contacts Chad [only] by text, [and he] sends Doc all these mysterious gifts with a card signed with an 'S'...[but] nobody's seen the guy. [And] I don't put a lot of stock in Celeste and her 'psychic ability,' but she even said he wasn't here," John argued. "No -- what she said was [that] he was here...but [also] wasn't...and I'm afraid that Hope and I are here with proof positive that she was right," Stefano countered.
"Kristen told Abigail that [Stefano] came to visit her last night," Stefano continued. "Stefano told [Kristen] he was leaving the country...[and] an ISA operative spotted [him] in Prague this morning," Gina elaborated. "Oh, come on, guys -- [that] doesn't make any sense! [I mean], Kristen is in town, Chad is in town, Doc is here -- why would [Stefano] leave now?" John argued. "He's probably trying to get his ducks in a row before he comes back to claim what is his," Stefano reasoned. "I'm not his," Marlena stressed.
"I had this registered in your name -- [you know], for your own protection," Gina revealed while producing a gun and offering it to Marlena. "I don't want your gun. [Look], if Stefano comes anywhere near me -- which I doubt -- John will help me," Marlena insisted. "No, Marlena -- he won't," Stefano confidently declared, confusing Marlena -- and John, who was quick to object. "[John], what I meant was...you can't protect 'Doc'...because you won't be in Salem -- [see], I need you to come with me to Europe [so we can] stop Stefano in his tracks," Stefano carefully clarified.
"I don't want to leave Doc," John decided, annoying Stefano and Gina, who both tried to stay calm. "You won't have to -- I'll go with you," Marlena offered, pleasing John but further annoying Stefano and Gina, the latter of whom blurted out an objection. "Excuse me? Are you trying to tell me when and if I can leave Salem with my husband?" Marlena snapped. "Of course not...[but, given] Stefano's sick, inexplicable obsession with you, why would you run straight into that danger?" Gina reasoned.
"I think she's right," John grudgingly admitted to Marlena after some thought. "Okay," Marlena grudgingly agreed before offering to help John pack.
"Dear God, they are terribly codependent!" Gina complained to Stefano once the coast was clear. "For a moment there, I thought we were going to have to fall back on plan A -- killing Marlena!" Gina continued. "No one is dying -- remember the plan!" Stefano snapped. "Yes, yes, I shall...[but] this must work!" Gina grumbled. "You need to have patience. Good things come to those who wait. When this is all over, Marlena will think John is dead, John will think Marlena is dead, and we will both have exactly what we want," Stefano promised.
Later, John and Marlena shared an emotional goodbye -- which Stefano and Gina tiredly cut short, both insisting that there was no time to waste.
John rushed off with Stefano, leaving Marlena alone with Gina, who flashed a wicked grin and declared that everything was going to be just fine.
Brady sets out to prove to Kristen that he's over her
At the nurses' station of the hospital, a lovestruck Justin said goodbye to Kayla as he dropped her off for work. When Kayla mentioned checking on Victor, Sonny walked over and announced that Victor was in a terrible mood. "Like more than usual," Sonny said. Kayla left to evaluate her patient. Sonny started to leave, but Justin stopped him in order to hand over Will's divorce papers.
"I didn't think it was going to happen this fast," Sonny said. "I know this is not easy, so just take your time and sign them when you are good and ready," Justin said. "I think I want to handle this another way," Sonny said.
Victor sat in his bed at the hospital and texted Xander about Ciara. Frustrated, Maggie took Victor's phone away and reminded him that the doctor had ordered Victor to rest. Maggie looked at the phone and asked Victor why he and Xander needed to talk to Ciara urgently. Victor grumbled that he needed to talk about Titan business.
"You're retired. In case you haven't noticed, you're in the hospital!" Maggie argued. Kayla walked in and asked what was wrong. "He refuses to disconnect," Maggie complained. Kayla looked at Victor's blood pressure, and she warned Victor to calm down or else he would not be released. Kayla turned to Maggie and told her that she was going to meet with Sarah and Eric.
After Kayla left, Maggie admitted to Victor that she was worried about Mackenzie. Victor assured Maggie that the baby would be fine. "After everything that has happened to this family, she has to be," Victor counseled.
In the Kiriakis mansion living room, Ciara thought about Victor's confession. Xander walked in. "I need to know if you're going to keep your mouth shut about what Victor told you," Xander asked. Ciara ordered Xander to stay away from her. Xander urged Ciara to keep the secret, but Ciara said she could not let Will suffer in prison. Xander warned Ciara again that he would not let her tell the truth.
"Anybody home?" Sara called out as she walked into the living room with MackenIe. Xander's glower fell away, and he grinned. Sarah asked if everything was okay. Xander said he was excited to have Sarah and Mackenzie back home. As Xander rushed over to fuss over the baby, Ciara announced that she needed to leave.
"We haven't finished our conversation," Xander said through gritted teeth. "I'm sure you'd much rather catch up with Sarah," Ciara said. With a nod, Ciara walked out. Xander told Sarah how much he had missed her and Mackenzie. Sarah started to apologize for keeping Xander away, but Xander assured her that he understood and did not want to cause her any additional stress.
"[Mackenzie] is more beautiful than ever. Just like her mom," Xander whispered. Sarah told Xander about her appointment at the hospital. Xander lamented that he could not be with Sarah to support her. "I understand why I have to stay away. From both of you," Xander said. Xander promised to move out of the mansion as Eric had requested.
"I'll miss you both terribly, but I have to do what is right," Xander said. "No! I don't want you to leave," Sarah said. Sarah promised she would convince Eric that it would help Mackenzie to have Xander around. Sarah kissed Xander's cheek, and she left for the hospital with Mackenzie.
When Ciara arrived at the hospital, she talked to Justin in the hallway. "I'm really sorry I couldn't have done more for Ben. Unfortunately, the only thing that is going to save him is if Victor or Xander confess, and they both still insist they had nothing to do with Jordan's death," Justin said. "Because they didn't," Ciara confirmed. Confused, Justin asked for an explanation.
"Didn't you hear [Victor and Xander] admit that they sent an innocent man to prison?" Justin asked. Ciara admitted that she had overheard a confession, but it had been a misunderstanding. "I wanted to save Ben so badly, I guess I heard what I wanted to hear," Ciara said. Justin asked Ciara if she believed Ben had killed Jordan. Ciara stressed that she still believed Ben was innocent, but she knew that Victor and Xander were innocent of Jordan's murder, as well.
Justin spotted Maggie walking down the hallway, and he called out to her. "How is Uncle Vic doing?" Justin asked. Maggie told Justin about Victor's blood pressure. Maggie then remembered that she had Sonny's scarf in her bag, and she handed it to Justin. Justin told Maggie that Sonny was visiting Will in prison. Ciara's eyes went wide as she listened.
"It's possible that they are signing their divorce papers as we speak," Justin said. "So, there is no hope for their marriage?" Maggie asked. Justin explained that Will believed the damage to his marriage was too great because of Adrienne's death. Overcome, Ciara turned away so that Maggie and Justin could not see the guilt on her face. After Justin left, Maggie asked Ciara if she was okay.
"It's awful, but I am happy grandpa is going to be okay," Ciara said. Maggie told Ciara that Victor was anxious to talk to her about Titan business. "Maybe you could put his mind at ease, and maybe he could finally relax," Maggie said. Ciara said she needed to run an urgent errand first.
Down the hallway in Victor's room, Victor asked Xander if Ciara had promised to keep the secret about Will. Xander confessed that he had not secured a promise before Ciara had run out of the mansion. "Right now, I'm more concerned about Mackenzie," Xander said.
"It just kills me that [Eric] gets to be a part of [Mackenzie's] life, and I don't," Xander complained. Xander told Victor that Sarah might let him stay in the mansion, after all. "At least there is still hope," Xander said. "Of course, there is hope. I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Maggie. Everything is going to be fine," Victor said. With a groan, Victor lamented that Xander had been unable to secure a promise from Ciara.
"You shouldn't have said anything to her in the first place," Xander shot back. "I didn't have any choice," Victor argued. Xander warned Victor that they might lose everything if Ciara told Will the truth. "You better pray that she is going to keep quiet, because if she doesn't, all hell is going to break loose," Xander said.
In prison, Will met with Adrienne in the recreation room. "Rolf brought you back! Just like he did for me!" Will said excitedly. "Why'd you do it? Why did you kill me?" Adrienne asked. As Will stepped toward Adrienne, she disappeared then reappeared behind him. "Justin and I were finally married. We were happy," Adrienne said. Adrienne yelled at Will for destroying all their lives. Will startled awake from his nightmare.
As Nicole prepared to leave Eric's apartment for work, he returned home from Boston. "I thought you'd be at work," Eric said. Nicole asked about Mackenzie. "Mickey has finished her first round of chemo, and so far, she is tolerating it well," Eric said. Eric added that the doctor had given him and Sarah permission to return to Salem so that Mackenzie could continue treatments at home.
"So, all three of you are back?" Nicole asked. "We have a meeting with Kayla to go over our options," Eric said. Nicole asked Eric if he was home for good. When Eric said yes, Nicole offered to move out. Eric told Nicole to stay because he still had a room at the pub.
"I will probably spend most of my time at the hospital, anyway," Eric said. Eric said he had stopped by to pick up some things. Eric asked about Holly. Nicole updated Eric about how Holly had progressed in school, and she told him that Holly had loved Eric's Christmas gift. After an awkward goodbye, Nicole left for work.
At the Basic Black offices, Brady asked Kristen about her conversation with Gabi. "I told her three was a crowd," Kristen said. Brady agreed. "Then you'll tell the bad news to Nicole?" Kristen asked. Brady laughed and said he had meant Kristen. Brady stressed that he loved Nicole. "I don't believe that for one minute," Kristen said.
"I know you don't like it, but you are going to have to accept it because Nicole and I are back together," Brady lied. Kristen told Brady that she did not believe him. Kristen nestled up close to Brady, and he was visibly uncomfortable. "I'm the woman you still want, and you'll never find the kind of passion for anyone that you have for me," Kristen whispered as she leaned in to kiss Brady. Nicole walked in and cleared her throat.
"Are you sure about that?" Brady asked Kristen. Brady marched over to Nicole and kissed her passionately. Brady looked over at Kristen to make sure she was watching him, and he pushed Nicole against the wall and wrapped her leg around his waist. As Brady nibbled at Nicole's neck, she looked over Brady's shoulder and smiled at Kristen. Kristen stewed silently. After a deep breath, Kristen returned to her desk. Nicole pulled Brady onto a desk and called out his name.
"Enough! Get your hands off of him, or I swear!" Kristen shouted. "Or what? What are you going to do to me, bitch?" Nicole yelled back. Brady asked Nicole to give him a moment alone with Kristen. Brady kissed Nicole, and she reluctantly left the office. "You want to work here? You're going to have to deal with it. I'm in love with Nicole, and that isn't going to change," Brady said. Kristen told Brady that she did not believe him.
"You're just using her to push me away, and she is using you because she lost Eric and can't stand to be alone," Kristen argued. As Kristen approached Brady, he backed away. Kristen walked behind Brady and caressed his shoulders. Brady fidgeted.
"We both know that what you have with Nicole doesn't come close to the connection that we have," Kristen whispered in Brady's ear. Brady jerked away from Kristen's touch. "Our what?" Brady asked. Kristen showed her bracelet to Brady and asked him if he remembered it. "You gave this to me when our baby was born. And I thought it was going to be the best day of our lives. It turned out to be the worst," Kristen said. Kristen told Brady that it was time to talk about their baby.
In the prison recreation room, Sonny met with Will. Sonny handed Will the divorce papers. "You could've just signed them and given them to Justin," Will said. "I felt that we owed it to each other to sit down face to face, look each other in the eyes, and agree that ending our marriage is the right thing to do," Sonny said. Sonny asked Will if he was certain that he wanted a divorce.
"Of course, this isn't what I want, but like you said, our marriage was over the day that I killed you mother. So, I got to let you go now," Will said. When Sonny objected, Will shouted that Sonny needed to let him go. Will told Sonny about his dream of Adrienne. "Adrienne is gone, and she is not coming back, and I can't undo it," Will said. Will took the divorce papers out of the envelope and signed them.
"I can't do it!" Sonny said as he pushed the papers away. Will begged Sonny to sign. "Is it going to be easier for Ari?" Sonny asked. "Nothing is going to change my mind!" Will shouted. Taken aback, Sonny picked up the pen and signed the papers. When Sonny was done, Will shoved the papers back in the envelope and told Sonny he did not need to do anything else except say goodbye.
"We're done here," Will called out to the guard. "Goodbye, Sonny," Will whispered. Without a word, Sonny got up and walked out. Alone, Will violently shoved the envelope off the table and grabbed his hair in frustration. As Will sniffled, Ciara walked in. Ciara noticed the envelope, and she asked Will if those were his divorce papers. Will nodded yes.
"Well you can't sign them," Ciara said. Will said it was too late. Ciara begged Will not to file the papers. "Sonny is never going to get past the fact that I killed his mother," Will said. "That's the thing, Will. You didn't," Ciara countered. Confused, Will asked Ciara what she was talking about. "You're innocent. You did not kill Adrienne," Ciara said.
Sonny texted his father and met him in the park. Sonny told Justin that he and Will had signed the divorce papers. "Our marriage is legally and officially over," Sonny said. Heartbroken, Sonny cried in his father's arms.
In Kayla's office at the hospital, she greeted Eric, Sarah, and Mackenzie. Kayla informed the parents that she would set up a call with Dr. Hirsch in Boston. Right on cue, Dr. Hirsch called. Kayla's smile fell away, and she promised to call the doctor back. Eric asked if Mackenzie needed to return to Boston.
"I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there is not going to be a treatment. Mackenzie's numbers came in, and the chemo is not working," Kayla said. "We knew there were no guarantees, but Mickey seemed to be responding so well," Sarah said. Kayla explained that the numbers proved otherwise. Sarah asked about a bone marrow transplant. "It's her best hope at this point," Kayla confirmed.
"Our best hope at a match for Mackenzie is a full sibling," Sarah said. "But she doesn't have that," Eric pointed out. Kayla offered to test Eric and Sarah immediately to see if they were a match. While Kayla left to retrieve supplies for a blood draw, Sarah told Eric that they were likely not a match for Mackenzie. "But we will hope," Sarah added. "And we will pray," Eric agreed.
After Kayla took blood from Sarah and Eric, she urged them to go home and rest. Sarah asked to see Maggie instead. Kayla left to track down Maggie for Sarah and drop off the blood samples. Eric offered to take Mackenzie home to his place for a nap. Eric's scooped up the baby and said, "It's going to be okay."
Sarah paced Kayla's office as she waited for Maggie. When Maggie walked in, she said, "I heard about the baby. I'm so sorry." Sarah confessed that she was scared to lose her daughter. Maggie vowed to stand by Sarah.
After Eric arrived at the pub with Mackenzie, Nicole walked in. "She's so beautiful. Those rosy cheeks! You would never know what she is going through," Nicole said as she smiled at Mackenzie. Nicole noticed the tears welling in Eric's eyes, and she asked him what was wrong. "The chemo is not working," Eric said. Eric admitted he was keeping his emotions in check for Sarah's sake.
"You're always so strong for everyone, but you don't have to be that way with me," Nicole said. Nicole hugged Eric. After a moment, they parted and stared into one another's eyes. Eric then hugged Nicole.