Episode #333

Previously ...
- Courtney and Josh went on their first date. Later, both seemed enthusiastic about how it had gone.
- Trevor took Alex to his secret spot out by the river to celebrate Alex's publishing deal. The tension between them became overwhelming, and Alex interrupted it by saying that they should head home.
- Ryan returned home from the morgue and told Claire that the body was Stan's. Claire was relieved that Stan was dead, but Ryan felt conflicted over having lost his biological father, despite all the misery that Stan caused.


Courtney Chase turns the key to lock the driver's door of her Toyota Corolla. She puts her keys in her purse and gives her reflection in the car's window a final once-over. When Josh called earlier to ask if she wanted to come over and watch a movie, she'd been hanging around her parents' house in her workout clothes. She took a quick shower and put together an outfit that she now hopes looks impressive without making it seem that she's trying too hard.

It's too late to change anything now, so she pushes a loose strand of dark hair out of her face and approaches the front door. The house looks like it came from the same mold that created every house she ever attended a party at during college: decent enough, but desperately in need of a paint job and some landscaping work.

She rings the doorbell, and a split-second later, hears a voice from inside yell out, "Come in!"

She turns the tarnished doorknob and steps inside the house. The entryway opens directly into the living room, and she sees Josh and his roommate sitting on the couch, backs to her. Their attention is focused on the large flatscreen television and a racing video game.

Josh pauses the game and swivels around. "Hey, Courtney. We're just hangin' out, nothing big. Come sit down."

"Cool," she says, crossing the living room to join them. A distinctive smell greets her nostrils, and a second later, she sees the pipe sitting on the table.

Josh sees that she has noticed. His face shows the briefest flash of embarrassment, like a child who has been caught eating too much candy. "We were just kicking back with a little weed. Hope you don't mind."

"No, it's fine." It doesn't bother her; she was around enough pot during college. She just didn't expect to walk in and find them smoking.

"We have more, if you want any," Scotty offers, looking at her for the first time since she came in.

"No, it's okay," Courtney says. She sets her purse on the couch beside her as Josh and Scotty resume their game.

"We rented a bunch of DVDs this afternoon," Josh says, nodding his head toward the coffee table without removing his eyes from the TV screen. "You can look through them and see what you wanna watch. This game is gonna be done in, like, two minutes."

Courtney reaches for the stack of movies and flips through them. Master and Commander doesn't look too appealing to her, and Mystic River seems far too heavy for a quiet summer evening. But she thinks she can handle 50 First Dates.

Josh glances over again as she studies the DVD case. "You okay with that?" he asks.

"Yeah," she says, looking up. "I'm always up for a little Adam Sandler."

"Sweet. A girl after my own heart."

Josh turns his attention back to the TV, but it is a second too late: Scotty's car has edged him out.

"Eat that!" Scotty says triumphantly, dropping his controller onto the floor. "I win again."

Scotty stands, grabbing an empty plate from the table, and heads into what Courtney presumes is the kitchen.

"Here, gimme that," Josh says to her, reaching for the DVD. She hands it to him, and he goes over to the elaborate setup of entertainment equipment. He opens the tray and places the disc in it, but before he closes it, he turns back to Courtney.

"I'm really glad you could come over," he says, grinning. "I had a really good time with you the other day."

She feels a smile tugging at her lips and is unable to control it, not that she particularly wants to. "I had a good time, too."


"Can you believe it?" Alex Marshall asks, one leg tucked underneath him on the sofa. He reaches out to take the can of soda from Dylan Carrington.

"It's pretty incredible," Dylan says. He takes a seat beside Alex. "And Jason kept the whole thing a secret from you, huh?"

"Yeah, so I get this call from Vision Publishing totally out of nowhere. I guess Jason didn't want to get my hopes up, which I kind of appreciate, but I was completely confused."

Dylan smiles and stretches his fingers to touch Alex's cheek. "Well, I'm really happy for you. I know this is a big deal for you."

"Huge deal." Alex takes a sip of the soda. "I was gonna tell you right away, but I kept getting some weird service message when I called you."

Eyes wide with annoyance, Dylan reaches into his pocket. "Look what I got--or had to get, I should say."

"New phone?"

"I dropped mine in the parking lot at the rink, and it totally stopped working, so I had to go in and get a replacement. It's like the one you have, isn't it?"

As far as Alex can tell, it is the same model. "I think so, yeah. You had to pay for a totally new phone?"

"Yeah, but whatever. I'll live." Dylan hoists his feet onto the coffee table. "Oh, and on top of it, skating's been completely sucky these last few weeks. I think Sandy's really starting to get pissed off."

"I remember Courtney telling me that it goes through phases," Alex says. "You're really on for a while, and then you can be off for no real reason. You guys'll get back into your rhythm eventually."

"I hope you're right," Dylan says through a huff. He doesn't sound like he has any real faith in Alex's reassurance, though.

His face brightens as it moves closer to Alex's. "I really am happy for you," Dylan says as he plants a quick kiss on Alex's lips. "You're gonna be all rich and famous."

"Someone still has to buy the book, but it's a step in the right direction, definitely."

"I just wish we would've been able to celebrate sooner."

The tone in Dylan's voice is familiar, his not-so-subtle segue into fooling around. But he doesn't make an overt move, so neither does Alex.

More words hit Alex's brain, and as soon as it crosses his mind that he shouldn't say them out loud, they're out there, darting off his tongue and past his lips before he can do anything to hold them back.

"Trevor was really excited, too."

Dylan's features harden. The flirty young man from seconds ago has vanished.

Alex feels an urgent need to backpedal. "I had to tell someone, and Jason already knew."

"So it had to be Trevor, of all people." Disgust flashes brightly in Dylan's eyes. "I can't believe you, Alex."


"He's gone. Finally, he's gone," Claire Fisher says to Bill and Paula, who sit next to each other across the table. Her relief is palpable, written all over her face, visible in the weary slump of her shoulders.

"It was really him?" Paula asks, seemingly unable to comprehend the fact that Stan Lincoln is really dead. After their last--their final--confrontation, she felt as if she'd finally cast away the shadow that had been hovering over her for years. She'd said what she wanted to say. As unnatural as the circumstances are, there is something fitting about the way this chapter of her life has concluded and come full circle.

"Ryan identified the body." Claire lowers her head, recalling her argument with Ryan. She understands his conflicting emotions over Stan's sudden death, but she knows she was right not to back down from letting him know that Stan deserved this.

"How is Ryan?" Paula asked, looking up from her untouched coffee to Claire.

"A wreck," she says, still somewhat resentful of the way he shunted her away earlier. "There was nothing I could say to him that he wanted to hear. If it were up to me, there'd be a parade instead of a funeral. I know exactly what I'm supposed to feel, but Ryan's still struggling to sort out his own emotions."

Bill feels like an outsider listening to the conversation. He feels cut off from this all. Stan once trashed his life, but not in the same way he affected these women. To these two, Stan Lincoln is a part of their darkest secrets--ones that have gnawed at them for years. For him, there is only the relief that comes with knowing that the fear is over. The future is what matters now, and he hopes they can move on. He and Paula, Claire and Ryan ...

"Ryan's been placed in a tough spot. The man has had more parents than he can shake a stick at, but he's never had that love and support that every child is supposed to be born into. Give him time."

Bill's words surprise both Claire and Paula. Even Bill seems to realize for the first time the sympathy he feels for Ryan Moriani, of all people. Paula's illegitimate son. And his stepson.

"I'm going to go check on Travis," Claire says, standing. "Go watch some cartoons or something to take my mind off of this for a bit."

Bill gives her a comforting smile, and she leaves the two of them alone. Paula's painfully silent, keeping everything to herself as if afraid to discuss the situation with him.

"We can talk about this, Paula. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable about telling me what's on your mind. I want to know what you're feeling. I know you once cared for him ..."

"It's not Stanley." Paula takes a drink and swallows down a gulp of the steaming coffee. "I've made my peace with the man he's become--the man he became. I'm not sad about that. It's Ryan I'm worried about. I don't want him to bear this burden alone."

Bill finds it amazing how deeply Paula cares for Ryan already--as much as she would care for any of their children together. As painful as it has been to face the truth they'd buried for far too long, and as much as he once resented Ryan, they have faced up to it and dealt with it. They can deal with anything.

Paula's lip trembles as she looks to her husband. He rubs her shoulder gently, and she leans her head to his chest.

"Ryan will be just fine, Paula," Bill reassures her. "You're his only good parent. Out of the lot of them, you're the best parent Ryan's ever had. As long as you're there for him, he will be just fine."


The lights have all been turned out, but the television and the lingering radiance of the sun through the window wash the living room in a calm, comfortable glow.

Courtney and Josh sit side-by-side on the couch. Since the movie began, Josh's arm has found its way around Courtney's shoulders, and in the last few minutes, her head has come to rest on his shoulder.

"How are you feeling about this movie?" Josh asks.

She can tell what he's getting at. "You can go ahead and make fun of it. I won't be too offended."

He laughs. "Good, 'cuz it's kinda shitty."

"Besides," she says, raising her head to look at him, "I'm not the one who rented it."

"Touché ... although maybe I can pin this one on Scotty."

Despite their complaints, they fall back into silence and refocus on the movie. Courtney sets her head back on Josh's shoulder, more aware of that contact--and his thumb moving slowly along her bare upper arm--than she is of anything happening on the screen.

"I got a question for you," he says suddenly.


"Did it bug you when you came in and we'd been smoking?"

The question catches Courtney slightly off-guard; she figured that she had reacted comfortably enough that it wouldn't be an issue. But Josh sounds concerned, and it makes her wonder if she somehow gave the impression that it disturbed her.

"No, it's not a big deal," she says. "I mean, as long as you're not doing lines in the bathroom or whatever--"

"Definitely not that hardcore," Josh says. "But you never know how people feel about a little casual weed, so I figured I'd ask."

"I appreciate it."

She can somehow feel him looking down at her, so she lifts her eyes again.

"You know, we really don't have to watch the rest of this crappy movie," he says, the tiniest grin playing on his lips.

"Oh, really?" She feels the same thing happening to her mouth, and a rush of energy shoots through her.

Josh's hand moves to the back of her head to guide her face toward his, but she stretches her neck herself. A moment later, their lips meet for the first time. Courtney feels his breath upon hers, his tongue flicking against hers, and his hands moving through her hair and over her back.

By the time the movie ends and the credits roll up the screen, she hardly has any idea what it was about.


The words trip out of Alex's mouth, their rhythm broken and awkward. "Trevor was such a big help to me when I was trying to finish the book. He deserved to know it's getting published!"

Dylan's lips part, but they close again before he can say anything; his eyelids follow suit, drawing closed for several seconds. He appears to be concentrating, forcing himself to hold back.

When he does speak, his tone is calmer, though by no means cheery. "I think I want a pop, after all," he says, removing his feet from the coffee table and then rising from the couch.

He leaves the room without another word. Alex settles back into the sofa and sighs. This is getting ridiculous. Far too much of the time he spends with Dylan winds up like this: tight, tense, more like a job than a relationship.

And then there was the time he spent with Trevor at the river ...

Alex forces his mind not to go there now. This is getting too complicated; the two issues should be totally separate, shouldn't they?

His thoughts receive a welcome interruption from the familiar double-beep of his phone. He picks it up from the couch and reads the screen, which tells him what he already knows from the beeping:

New text message received

With his thumb, he clicks the button that opens the message. It appears on his screen, and his mind goes into overdrive trying to figure out who it could be from.

hey sexy, im gonna b in kb next week!
we should get 2gether, last time was fun! :)

He scrolls down to see who it's from, but as he hits the button, he realizes why he has no idea who sent the message.

It isn't for him.

His phone is on the coffee table; the one in his hand, the one that was on the couch, is Dylan's.


Alex's stomach sinks as he closes the message and puts the phone back where he found it.


Should Alex confront Dylan about the message?
Do Courtney and Josh have a future ahead of them?
Are the Fishers ready to accept Ryan fully as a member of the family?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to share your thoughts!

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