Episode #317

Previously ...
- Paula and Ryan were having dinner when Molly called to tell them that Matt and Victoria were in the hospital. Claire informed the family that Victoria was fine, but Matt suffered a punctured lung.
- Ryan tried to support both his half-sisters, Sarah and Molly, in the fallout of the accident.
- Molly feared that she was responsible for the accident because Sarah had driven off in a frenzy after learning of Molly and Brent's relationship.
- After their car broke down and Lauren twisted her ankle, Jason and Lauren made their way to a dive of a motel and decided to spend the night there.


The darkness outside cloaks the motel's rural surroundings in black. Lauren Brooks knows that a dense covering of woods lies behind the motel, just outside the window, but she cannot make out much more than the occasional shadowy thrust of a branch.

The sound of a door opening startles her, and she steps back from the window.

"I found some ice for your ankle," Jason Fisher says. He bustles through the doorway with an armload of items. A bag of ice dangles from his left hand.

"I thought you were some psycho coming to chop me up," Lauren says. She moves to help him unload the cargo, but the first step sends a rush of pain darting through her leg.

"Sadly, I did not find any hatchets on my little adventure. But I did find ..." He dumps everything down on the small table and then picks up the items one-by-one to show them off: "Sandwiches and sodas, courtesy of that wacky little mini-mart at the gas station. Extra blankets, thanks to our pal Rae at the front desk. And, of course, your bag of ice."

He gestures for Lauren to sit down, so she perches on the edge of the double bed.

"This trip is a disaster," she says. "Well, except for your audition."

Jason brings her the ice. "We'll deal with the car first thing in the morning. We can be at the lodge by noon."

"Oh yeah, and I bet I'll be a joy up on the mountain, huh?"

"So your ankle is hurt. Big deal. We'll watch some movies, sit in the hot tub, go out to eat ... It'll be relaxing."

She isn't so sure of that, but she nods anyway.

"Try to relax," he says. "Ice that ankle before it gets any worse. Just watch some TV and hang out."

"TV's busted. The only things I could get to come in were Murphy Brown and the Jesus channel."

Jason picks up the remote and tries it himself, only to discover the exact results that Lauren described.

"Somehow I'm not surprised," he says. "Well, hey, take care of that ankle. I wanna jump in the shower."

She scoots herself up toward the head of the bed and props a pillow underneath her ankle. The ice sends a shock of cold through her body, but she forces herself to lean back and wait for it to subside.

Jason enters the bathroom and closes the door. The shower starts, and Lauren listens to the dull rush of water from behind the wall. The throbbing in her ankle lessens; she closes her eyes and realizes how exhausted she is from this grand adventure of a day.

The click of the bathroom door jars her from her rest. She opens her eyes to see Jason emerging from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist. The shower is still running in the background.

"Damn thing is ice cold," he says, eyes flaring with annoyance. "I'm gonna call downstairs and bitch a little."

She smiles as he moves for the phone. Though she tries to return to her half-awake rest, she can't help stealing glances at Jason. The lines of his torso and his legs seem a little more defined than she remembers them being, and the small white towel fits his body just snugly enough to make it impossible to keep her eyes closed.

She settles her head back against the headboard. This could be a long night.


Ryan Moriani leans his back against the wall. His eyes check the elevator, but none of the people coming from it are who he wants. He looks at his watch yet again and folds his arms, covered by the warmth of his leather jacket, against his chest.

He came down to the lobby nearly half an hour ago, when the rest of the Fishers left the hospital. Sarah is still upstairs, in Matt's room with Victoria, but the others went home. He can understand: The relief that came with finding out Victoria and Matt's conditions was very closely followed by exhaustion.

Nevertheless, he is still here, still waiting. Claire's shift ended about ten minutes ago, according to what Paula said. She should be down soon.

He waits several more minutes, hardly daring to move for fear of missing her, before the elevator dings and Claire steps off in a cluster of people.

The bunch disperses, heading in various directions. Claire starts for the door, but Ryan calls out her name. She pauses, momentarily unmoving but appearing ready to bolt at any moment.

"I need to talk to you," he says.

She doesn't answer but stares at him with dark, heavy eyes that seem completely unsure of what to do. He approaches her, able to lower his voice as he gets closer.

"I can't do this anymore," he says, and then, against his most basic instincts: "We need to resolve this."

He searches for the sigh of relief, the relaxing of the facial features, any sign that will be the kiss of death for their relationship. For him.

"Claire, watching Sarah go through what she did tonight--worried that she could lose Matt, that she'd never get to be with him again--it made me realize how badly we're wasting our time. There's no reason we shouldn't be together."

He feels like an idiot, like some schlub from a movie who's begging for a chance with a girl he'll never have. But it is exactly what he needs to say, what he should have said long ago.

She speaks before he has the chance to say anything else. "It's too complicated. It's too--God, Ryan, this is so hard."

"Why? Because we know that Tim and I are brothers? Finding that out didn't change anything-not him dying, not the way you and I feel about each other. Right?"

"Right," she says, though he wonders if she is telling the truth.

"You don't feel differently about me now, do you? I mean, really, truly, different. Those feelings you had for me when we walked into that courtroom are still there, aren't they?"

"Yes." She draws a deep breath. "Of course they are."

"Then that should be enough! That is enough!"

Her lips move and her head turns away from him, but he takes hold of her hands.

"Claire, please. We've lost so much time. Let's not do that anymore. Please."

There is so much more that he could say, that he feels he needs to say, but he cannot put any of it into words now. He hopes that the look they share can somehow convey at least a fraction of it.

The slightest hint of movement ... They draw closer, he's sure of it, and then linger inches apart. He should kiss her. But he doesn't want it to happen that way; he cannot bring himself to force it.

Still it happens. Ryan is certain that he hasn't moved and that Claire has brought her lips to his.

And as soon as it begins, it is over.

She pulls back, leaving him to linger there stupidly.

He thinks she is going to say something, but she closes her lips. Ryan opens his--

--and before he can say anything, she rushes off, through the automatic doors and away from him.


Molly Fisher sits on the couch, knees drawn up close to her chest. She is still wearing the same outfit that she wore to work today; as much as she would like to change into something more comfortable, the thought of doing anything but lazing around right now is too exhausting to bear.

"It sounds like he should be all right," she says. She hopes that it is true. Though on a logical level she knows that she did not cause the accident that landed Matt Gray in the hospital, she still somehow feels responsible.

"He will be. He just needs to take his time recovering," Brent Taylor says. He sits across from Molly, his legs stretched out over the footrest of his recliner and a bag of tortilla chips in his lap.

Molly gathers her long, dark hair in her hands, holds it up against the back of her head, and then lets it fall back down over her shoulders.

"I want to know where these magical pictures came from. It doesn't make sense."

"Yeah ...," Brent says. "I--God, who would do something like that?"

"I didn't really have a chance to ask Sarah, what with the slapping and the car accidents and all."

"I wish we'd at least been able to tell her ourselves. It was actually starting to seem like a less-than-impossible situation. And she seems to be doing well with Matt--"

The doorbell interrupts him. A sense of dread runs through Molly as she flashes back to earlier. She has had her fill of surprise visitors for the day.

Brent hoists himself out of the chair and answers the door.

"What are you doing here?" he asks.

Molly can't see who it is -- the door blocks her view -- but she can see Brent, and he looks genuinely shocked. She considers moving so that she could see, but she isn't sure that it would be appropriate.

"Surprised?" asks the male voice. It doesn't sound familiar to Molly. But its owner sounds triumphant, as if he knows that he has pulled off a successful shocker.

"Uh, yeah!" Brent says. "What are--come inside! What the hell are you doing here?"

Brent steps aside, and in comes a young man whom Molly instantly recognizes. His blond hair is spiked up fashionably, pieces jutting out in various directions; his skin is a deep bronze, a clear indicator of continual sun exposure; and his t-shirt and low-hanging jeans are the epitome of surfer style.

Josh Taylor surveys the apartment and catches sight of Molly.

"Oh, hey," he says.

"Hi," Molly says. She feels that she should ask more -- how he's been, that sort of thing -- but figures that Brent probably needs some more pressing questions answered first.

Brent grabs his brother's shoulders to square their gazes on each other. "Danielle called me about you. She and Dad have no idea where you are--"

"Dude, it's fine," Josh says. "I just needed to do something different. You know."

"So you took off and randomly turned up at my place?"

"No, I've got a plan."

Something about Josh's demeanor -- perhaps the confidence with which he responds to each of Brent's very concerned questions -- strikes Molly as amusing.

"What kind of plan?" Brent asks. He sounds more like a father than an older brother, more an authoritarian than an accomplice.

"I've got a job, bro. And a place to live. Remember my pal Scotty from high school?"

"Yeah ..."

Brent's tone makes Molly wonder if this Scotty character is some sort of serial rapist or axe-murderer.

"He's living up here now, and he could use a roommate to help out with rent, so I'm moving into his place."

"So you're just, what, living here now?" Brent asks. "For good?"

"That's what it looks like," Josh says, flashing his brother a cheesy smile. "Aren't you glad to have me around?"

"Of course I am," Brent says, but the look he shoots Molly suggests otherwise.


Lauren reaches behind her to fluff the pillow. This has to be at least the fifth time that it has flattened out so much that she can feel the mattress with the back of her head.

The bathroom door clicks and opens. Jason steps out, this time fully dressed, though in the same sweatshirt and jeans that he had on earlier.

He pats his hair dry with a towel. "We should've lugged some bags down here with us."

"Except you were too busy lugging me, remember?" Lauren says.

"And it was my pleasure." He tosses the towel over the back of a small, wooden chair. "How's the ankle feeling?"


It is actually sore, exceptionally so, but whining isn't going to make it any better. Nor will it help this entire miserable experience.

"Hey," he says, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Just tired."

Jason pulls one bare foot up onto the bed. "Sure about that?"

Her eyes flash to his, and the lying seems too exhausting to continue.

"I'm just in a crappy mood," she says. "We had this amazing trip planned, and now--" She gestures at the lifeless brown wallpaper and the utilitarian furniture. "--this."

"So what? We'll get a good story out of it. Look at it that way."

Lauren isn't sure how to respond. Jason closes his eyes, sighs, and stretches his body across the end of the bed. His arm rests just inches from Lauren's feet.

"Maybe you're right," she says.

"When am I not?"

That goofy grin breaks on his face, and despite her abysmal mood, it provokes the same kind of reaction in her.

"Hey, get up," Jason says. He springs to his feet.


"Get up. Just be careful with that ankle."

Lauren swings her legs tentatively over the side of the bed and tests her injured ankle. Jason toys with the alarm clock, clearly a refugee from the '80s.

A film of static noise buzzes in the air, dipping in volume and then surging again as Jason rolls through the dial.

He finally rests on a mellow-sounding tune, a man's raspy voice backed by acoustic guitar.

"This could work," he says. Reaching out for Lauren's hands, he pulls her to her feet and close to him.

It takes her a moment to realize what they are doing, but she falls into the rhythm of Jason's sway.

Just as she is starting to relax, a racket explodes. The acoustic guitar is replaced by thrashing guitars and pounding drums.

Jason lunges to change the station. They endure another thirty or so seconds of static before another station comes in. This time it is a quiet ballad backed by something that sounds like a saxophone. Lauren thinks it might be something her mother would listen to.

"If this busts out into heavy metal, I give up," Jason says. He slides a hand around to the small of her back and draws her into the slow rhythm of the song.

"Try to relax," he says, his voice a whisper, mere inches from her ear.

She tries, but her heart races. Feeling him this close to her, with the electric touch of his hand on that sensitive spot on her lower back, makes it impossible to achieve anything resembling relaxation.

The song ends, and after the briefest of interludes from a horribly cheesy DJ, a new song begins. Lauren recognizes this one and listens to the words as she follows Jason into the new, more distinct beat.

The song is slow, but there is something forceful, almost determined, about its beat. Each one, Lauren is sure, closes the slim distance between their bodies just a little bit more. She has no idea if this is what Jason intended, or if he feels the intensity that she feels, but being this close to him spurs something in her that has long been waiting to explode.

When the moonlight crawls along the street
Chasing away the summer heat
Footsteps outside somewhere below
The world revolves I let it go

She can feel the heat coming from his body, bridging the almost nonexistant gap between them. His hand grows firmer on her back, and she allows her fingers to touch his neck, grazing the bottom of his hairline.

We build our church above the street
We practice love between these sheets
The candy sweetness scent of you
It bathes my skin, I'm stained by you
And all I have to do is hold you
There's a racing in my heart
And I am barely touching you

Her eyes concentrate on his chin. A day's worth of light brown stubble hugs the contours of his jaw; she wants to feel it against her cheek. His touch moves along her back and rests on her hip.

Turn the lights down low
Take it off
Let me show
My love for you

When she looks up, his eyes are on hers. Whatever uncertainty she had about this flies out the window, gone forever. She can tell exactly what is going on, that they both want this. Jason's chest presses into hers as the distance between their faces closes.

Turn me on
Never stop
Wanna taste every drop
My love for you

She lowers herself backward onto the bed, sitting for only a moment before reclining fully onto her back. Jason hovers over her, his mouth against hers, in hers, as their hands move almost frantically over each others' bodies.

The moonlight plays upon your skin
A kiss that lingers takes me in
I fall asleep inside of you
There are no words
There's only truth

Jason's mouth leaves hers, and she reaches up to pull him back to her. But she feels his fingers working the button of her jeans, and she lies back down. He returns to her and their lips meet again, his hands sending powerful waves through her body.

She grips his shoulders and pulls him closer.

This scene contains lyrics from the Darren Hayes recording "Insatiable," from the album Spin. You can purchase the album here.


The night sky hangs over the cemetary like a protective mother. It crowds every inch of the air, every gravestone, and every blade of grass so closely that its dark presence cannot be avoided. To Ryan, the only thing missing is a dense covering of fog; that would complete the feeling that he is navigating his way through the set of a horror movie.

His foot hits a soggy spot in the grass, and he moves quickly -- and as silently as possible -- over the patch before he sinks into it. He slides behind a nearby tree.

Twenty or so yards in the distance, Claire steps through what looks to be equally mucky terrain. She doesn't appear to have heard Ryan, but he waits behind the tree anyway.

When he followed her from the hospital, he intended to catch up with her and continue their conversation, reach some sort of conclusion. But when she pulled up to the cemetary, Ryan realizes that he might be intruding on something very personal. He cannot bring himself to let her out of his sight, especially not in a setting like this, but neither can he approach her.

Once she gets far enough away, he moves again, taking careful steps on quick feet. He loses sight of Claire's figure -- only for a few seconds, probably, but it seems long enough to make him panic -- and when he spots her again, she has stopped.

Ryan pauses again. He sees no place to hide, so he remains in the open.

Claire bows her head. Though the words are indistinguishable, he can hear her voice, soft and somber but nevertheless an intrusion into the deathly stillness of the night.

He doesn't need to be any closer to know what she is doing: praying to Tim.

Still, he needs to hear her, needs to know what is going on. Tentatively he moves a few steps closer.

Claire pauses and lifts her head. Ryan darts behind a tall gravestone. She gives a quick, cursory glance behind her, barely even addressing the area where he is, before turning back to Tim's grave.

"I really thought this was a chance to move on," she says. "And I just felt like--like you would want that, especially if you could see how good he has been to me. We were both wrong about him ..."

Her words offer Ryan a hesitant confidence, something bordering on hope, but he forces himself to check it.

Claire's voice gets lower and thinner, and he misses some of what she is saying.

"... all I could think was that it was some kind of sign," she says, "a warning or something that I was getting too close to him or that I'd better reconsider. And it's strange, I don't know how else to explain it ..."

None of what Ryan hears surprises him, but now he knows that she is being genuine -- confessing, trying to explain, to this man who continues to play such an enormous role in both their lives, the one person to whom Ryan is sure Claire would be absolutely honest. Hearing it like this makes him understand, really for the first time, the enormity of this conflict for her.

To him, their shared connection to Tim has been something for them to work around, a complication to be worked through. But for Claire, it represents so much more than that. It is a commentary on the path of her life and the possibilities for her future, and he can understand why she sees it as something insurmountable -- or something that perhaps should not be overcome, whether or not that is possible.

But it should be overcome. He knows that. And he is going to convince her of it, somehow.

There she is.

What a moron, standing out here in the dark in a graveyard like this. It's like she wants to get it.

But not tonight. Ryan, reliable, obsessed puppy dog that he is, had to follow her, and now he has to stand there watching.

Good thing he spotted Ryan in the hospital's parking garage. Otherwise he might have made a move, done something stupid with his traitor of a son waiting in the wings to save the day.

It won't happen tonight. But it will, eventually. He just has to bide his time, lie low, and fit the pieces together. And when he does, they will all realize what a huge mistake it was to make him the scapegoat for all their problems.

In the darkness, behind one of the skeletal trees that litter the cemetary's grounds, Stan Lincoln grins to himself.


What does Stan have in store for Claire and everyone else?
Will Ryan and Claire be able to work things out?
Is this the beginning of a happy ending for Jason and Lauren?
And what kind of trouble could Josh's presence mean for Brent?
Visit the Footprints Forum to discuss this episode!

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