Episode #319

Previously ...
- Though their trip initially hit some rough spots, Jason and Lauren made love for the first time in Whistler.
- Matt remained in the hospital with a punctured lung after his car accident with Sarah.
- Alex and Dylan squabbled over Alex's desire to stay in King's Bay and work on his novel while Dylan traveled to Atlanta for Nationals. In Atlanta, Dylan decided to go out with an old acquaintance and forget about Alex for the night.


Paula Fisher looks up from her gardening at the sound of the sliding door opening. She looks up and sees her youngest son standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the deck.

"You're back!" she says, setting down her tools so that she can greet him with a hug. "What a nice surprise!"

Jason comes down the stairs to meet her at the foot of the deck. "I had to drop my skis off, so I thought I'd come in and say hello."

"Well, I'm glad you did." She takes in the sight of her son, looking so healthy and so grown-up.

"It's a beautiful day, isn't it? It's the first chance I've really had to get out in the garden this year."

"That must be really nice for you," Jason says.

"It is. So tell me, how was your trip? How was the audition?"

"The audition went really well. I think this is going to work out. Sandy needs to speak to this girl's coach, but I get the feeling that we have a new partner on our hands."

"Wonderful! And the rest of the trip?"

"That was good, too," Jason says, though he is suddenly much more reserved.

She can see the grin peeking through, waiting to burst out.

"I presume things went well with Lauren, then," Paula says.

"Yeah." His cheeks fill with crimson. "Really well, actually. I think we're ... together, or a couple, whatever. It was a really nice chance to get away, just the two of us."

"Oh, I'm so happy for you!"

"Thanks." Jason nods his head toward the open back door. "Listen, I got you a present. Let me run inside and get it."

"You shouldn't have!"

"Mom, I had to. I thought it would be a fun thing for you to have. Let me go grab it."

He hurries back up the stairs, across the deck, and into the house. A moment later, he emerges with something that is significantly larger than what Paula was expecting. She thought he would bring her a small box, something he could carry with one hand, but this--it's very large. It is probably half Jason's height, covered in a white plastic bag.

"What is it?" she asks, eyeing the gift cautiously.

"Go ahead, unwrap it!"

She reaches out tentatively and tugs at the plastic bag. It rips at the top and falls down the sides. Standing before her now, a green outfit and red shoes painted onto him, is a garden gnome.

"I thought it would be a fun thing to have out here in the garden," Jason says. "Kinda tacky, yeah, but it's funny."

"It's very ... interesting." Paula examines it some more. "But it's very cute, yes. Thank you, honey."

"My pleasure. And now it'll always be like there's someone out here to keep you company."

"This was very thoughtful of you. Why don't we go inside and I'll make you some lunch?"

"That sounds really nice," Jason says. "Here, let me move this for you. Where do you want to put it?"

Paula surveys the garden for a few seconds and then points to a spot toward the back, where the gnome won't get in the way. "Right there."

Jason carts the gnome to its assigned place and then returns to his mother's side.

"Wonderful," she says. "Now let's head inside and have something to eat."

Jason bounds back up the steps and into the house. Paula starts on the way but pauses at the edge of the deck. She can't quite describe it, but something feels very unsettling.

She turns back to look at the gnome. For an instant, she is sure that something is glowing in its eyes, but it fades quickly. It must be the sun's glare.

She takes a few more steps and then stops again. The feeling just won't go away.

Another glance at the gnome proves that nothing is amiss. It stands there, immobile in the springtime sun, in the midst of what will in a few weeks be a thriving garden.

She starts to turn around again, but--no. It can't be. She has to be going crazy.

But she swears that she sees the gnome wink at her.


Brent Taylor cups both his hands around the Coke can. They have been sitting like this for nearly half an hour, but he has gotten nowhere.

"Josh, there has to be a reason you up and left San Diego the way you did," Brent says. "Come on, you can talk to me."

His younger brother shoots him a stony look. "There's nothing to tell."

The more Josh denies it, the more Brent becomes convinced that there is something Josh isn't telling him. He is trying to think of another way to approach this when there is a knock on the door.

Brent hops to his feet, thankful for the break. When he opens the door, Sarah Fisher smiles at him.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," she says.

"Uh, no."

"Good. I was hoping we could talk."

"Come on in."

Sarah steps inside the apartment. Behind her is a beautiful sixteen-year-old, long blonde hair tumbling over her shoulders and clothing full of daring slits and see-through material.

"Hi, Tori," Brent says. "I can't believe how grown-up you look."

"Thanks," Tori responds. She flutters her eyelashes. Brent finds it hard to believe that, at one time, he thought she might have been his daughter.

Brent leads them over to the living area. "Sarah, you remember my brother, Josh. And Josh, this is Sarah's daughter, Tori."

Josh stands and shakes Sarah's hand. Tori extends hers, as well, but when Josh gets to her, Brent notices a moment of awkwardness between the two.

"Hi, Tori," Josh says.

Her cheeks darken as he takes her hand lightly. "Hi."

"Could we go in the kitchen and talk for a few minutes?" Sarah asks Brent.

"Yeah, of course. Will you two be okay out here?"

Josh nods. "Yep."

Tori mimics the nod.

Brent and Sarah head into the kitchen. He leans against the counter as he asks, "How is Matt doing?"

"Better. He's still in the hospital, but he's recovering as expected. He should be able to come home in a few days."

"Good." All at once, there are a million things Brent feels that he has to say. "Listen, Sarah--"

But before he can even start to spit out any of his thoughts, a loud laugh from the other room interrupts him. Simultaneously, he and Sarah peek through the cutout in the wall above the stove.

Josh and Tori sit facing each other, each with one leg curled up on the couch. Tori is laughing so hard that it looks like it might hurt.

"It's not that funny," Josh says. Brent notices that same cocky expression he has seen so often on his brother's face--dimples creased, blue eyes sparkling, lips pulled up in a confident grin.

"No, it's hysterical!" Tori says, calming her laughter. "Wow. I can't believe that."

Brent turns to look at Sarah and finds that she is already looking at him. Her eyes are wide, and Brent imagines that his are much the same.

Sarah nods toward the living room. "You don't think ..."

All Brent can do is shrug uncertainly and watch as the pair continues talking, oblivious to their audience.


Jason struggles to balance the luggage he is carrying while he unlocks the door to the apartment. As soon as the key turns in the lock, he flings the door open and drops the bags on the floor.


He looks up at the familiar voice speaking his name.


Bill steps out of the small kitchen. "Hi there."

"What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I, uh, I've been wanting to talk to you. I knew you'd be home from Canada soon, and I had some time to kill before I needed to be back at the restaurant, so ..."

"Oh. Well, what's up?"

Jason starts to pick up the bags to move them away from the door, and Bill hurries over.

"Here, let me help you with those," Bill says, already moving items with impressive speed. Once everything is in a pile behind the couch, Bill asks, "So tell me about your trip. How was it?"

Jason hesitates before answering. He can't quite put his finger on it, but there is something very strange about the way his father is acting.

"It was good, I guess," Jason says. "The audition went really well. But then we got lost trying to find the lodge, and before we could figure out where we were, my car broke down--"

"What are you doing out there?"

Jason pauses. It is Alex's voice. Suddenly Bill looks panicked.

Jason is about to respond when Alex calls out again.

"I have been waiting days for this! Don't waste any more time!"

Alex appears in the hallway, clad only in a form-fitting pair of boxer briefs. The wild grin on his face turns to shock when he spots Jason.

"Y-you're home," he stammers, swallowing hard.

Jason's eyes dart back and forth between his nearly naked roommate and his father, both of whom look guilty as sin. His breath halts in its tracks, clogging his throat, as his heart pounds so fast that it seems ripe for an explosion.

This can't be happening.


The entire room exists in a haze. Matt Gray is awake, but just enough to recognize that he is not asleep. A fog of grogginess smudges the line between the two worlds.

He hears the creaking sound, but only a few seconds later does he realize that it signifies the door opening. Turning to his left, he sees the door shutting behind a woman. He blinks, takes a deep breath, tries to focus.

"Matt," the woman says.

He recognizes her voice but cannot place it. "Hi," he says anyway.

"I heard about your accident. I needed to come see you."

The woman comes closer. Her shoes click against the floor, and the sound reverberates in the empty room. High heels, he guesses from the sharpness of the sound.

"It's so good to see you," she says. "I'm so glad you're okay."

He stares up at her. He wishes the fog would clear. Clarity is within his grasp yet far enough away to keep slipping off his fingertips, held off by the last vestiges of sleep and painkillers.

She reaches out to him, and the tips of long fingernails graze the side of his face. The touch feels good but distant, as if only able to reach him through a protective layer of numbness.

"Matt, I've missed you. And when I heard what had happened to you--it terrified me. I realized that I had to come see you right away."

He keeps staring at her. That voice, that face.

"Andrea," he says. It feels like more effort to speak than it should. His voice sounds rough, overly thick, not completely under his control.

She touches his face again. "Yes, it's me." She pauses and draws a deep breath. "Oh, Matt. It means so much to be here with you. To be near you again."

He wants to ask what she means, but he is sure that there is an explanation that he cannot remember at the moment.

She smiles at him. Something looks strange about it. Maybe it's the shapeless, gauzy appearance of the whole scene, the way her face seems to be moving behind a screen of some sort.

He is still considering it as she moves closer to him.

"Matt," she says again. "I've missed you so much."

Andrea leans closer, closer, and he keeps wondering, but he cannot place the strangeness. What seems different about her?

It hits him in that last moment. The white sparkle breaks through the haze and catches his eye. He sees it--the point, much too sharp for a normal person--and opens his mouth to scream.

But before he has the chance, the fang shoots through the flesh of his neck.


What's up with Paula's garden gnome?
How will Sarah fare as the parent of a teenager?
Are Josh and Tori headed for romance?
How will the Fishers cope with Bill's secret affair?
What is Vampire Andrea up to?

... And did you really fall for it?
Happy April Fool's Day!

That's right, this episode was a joke! None of this "counts"!
Episode #320 will pick up where the
real stories left off in #318.
Visit the Footprints Forum to sound off about this special installment!

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