Episode #350

Previously ...
- Jason and Kelsey prepared for their senior pairs skating test.
- Lauren hinted to Trevor that she would be okay if something were to happen between him and Alex.
- Claire admitted to Tim that she had dated someone while he was presumed dead but did not reveal that it was Ryan. Later, Tim learned that Ryan had been revealed as his half-brother.


Paula and Bill Fisher step into the arena where they have spent so many hours in the past decade and a half. The lobby is bustling with activity, thanks to the test session taking place today; all over the place, skaters are stretching, putting on their skates, and conferring with their coaches.

As Paula watches the younger skaters, here for their first sets of tests, she thinks back to the days when this was all new to them. Every test, every local competition, every show was an enormous deal when Jason was a young skater. Over time, these events have become more routine--until now.

Today, Jason is taking his final test, his senior pairs test. Paula always assumed that he and Courtney would be taking it together, sharing this experience as a culmination of their career together.

How did the years go by? Paula wonders. Now it's only--

"Mrs. Fisher! Mr. Fisher!"

She turns around and sees Alex Marshall approaching her and Bill.

"Hi, Alex," Bill says.

Alex offers a wave in response and tucks his hands into his coat pockets. "It's freezing out by the ice."

"It is ice," Paula says with a chuckle.

"Yeah, I'm totally not used to it." He points somewhere toward the other end of the rink. "Jason and Kelsey are down there, getting ready."

Paula spots them, walking through their program off the ice as Sandy stands nearby.

"We should go sit down," she says. She starts for the bleachers on the other side of the ice, but stops when she sees Lauren Brooks entering the building.

"Lauren!" Paula calls out, waving a hand. Lauren spots them and hurries over to join them.

"Are you guys nervous?" she asks the Fishers.

"More than I'd care to admit," Bill says.

Paula nods in agreement. "I'm about a step away from the old days, when I'd have to hide in the bathroom while they were competing."

Lauren and Alex share a laugh, but Bill interrupts by saying, "You have no idea how serious she is!"

"Come on," Paula says, leading the way to the bleachers. "Let's grab some seats."

Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Jason and Kelsey step out of their finishing pose.

"All right, you guys look great," Sandy tells them. "There's nothing in this program you can't handle."

Kelsey adjusts her pristine, white skating dress one last time. "The warm-up felt really good."

"It looked awesome," Sandy says.

"We can do this," Jason says, grabbing Kelsey's hand and squeezing it. They watch in silence as the skater on the ice finishes her program with a final spin. The music ends, and now it's their turn.


Claire Fisher descends the stairs and heads for the kitchen. The scant rest she managed to get last night is quickly wearing off, and even the shower she just took isn't enough to revive her. Climbing back into bed isn't much of an option, though; there are important things to be done today. Besides, she doubts she would sleep any better than she did during the night, upstairs in that twin bed, knowing Tim was asleep downstairs.

When she enters the kitchen, she finds her husband's wheelchair pulled up to the kitchen table. A plate of eggs and bacon sits before him, but he doesn't seem especially interested in the food.

"Morning," Claire says. Her voice seems to startle Tim, who looks as though he never expected another person to enter the room.

"Hey," he says quietly, mulling over the untouched plate of food. "My mom made some breakfast before she and Dad went to the rink. There's a lot left, if you're hungry."

"Oh, thanks." Sure enough, Paula made plenty, but heavy food isn't particularly appealing to Claire right now. She thinks she might be able to stomach a yogurt and some coffee, but that's it.

She moves to the refrigerator as she asks, "How're you feeling?"

"Fine. Terrific. Horrible." He cracks a smile. "I never thought I could simultaneously be so thankful to be alive and so miserable about it."

"There's nothing to be miserable about," she says, even though she knows exactly where he is coming from.

She is wondering whether she should get into the specifics, but Tim beats her to it.

"I can't comprehend how I just missed four years," he says. "Or that I have this brother I never knew about, and it's Ryan Moriani, of all people."

"He isn't the man we thought he was. Your parents explained that to you." She can't help herself, but as soon as the words have left her mouth, she feels a heavy shot of guilt stream through her veins.

Tim keeps his lips pursed tightly. Claire rummages through the refrigerator until she locates the yogurt.

"How do you know he's changed?" Tim asks suddenly. She nearly drops the yogurt.

"He might not have raped you, but he lied to you about it for so many years," he says. "And I'm convinced his father had something to do with me being held in that place. Ryan was probably in on it, too."

"That's ridiculous," she says, but Tim voicing the thought aloud sets it winding through her mind like a clip of footage being looped over and over. She busies herself with opening the yogurt and getting herself a spoon.

Again, Tim is the one to break the silence. "When my parents told me about Ryan, the first thing I thought about was that it had to be terrible for you. But you're defending him, and you seem to be okay with him being part of this family."

"Like your parents said, Ryan isn't the horrible person we took him for."

"It's one thing to believe that he isn't a rapist," Tim says, "but it's another thing entirely to believe that he's a good person. I never expected you to stand up for him this way. What happened that helped you smooth things over with him?"

Even though it isn't an accusation, it might as well be. Claire gulps as she struggles for a response.


Doing a program before judges and an audience is never the same as doing it in practice. In all his years of skating, Jason has never gotten to the point where he feels relaxed while waiting for his music to begin. Once it starts, he is usually fine, but right now, frozen with Kelsey in their starting pose, he has to concentrate as hard as he can to keep his body from shaking.

The first notes of their music, and an instant later, they begin. The music, from the score of the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean," thunders through the arena. Jason and Kelsey step into their first maneuver, a pair spin. Jason breathes a sigh of relief when they exit it successfully. One element down.

He reaches for Kelsey's hand as they approach their first lift. His fingers slip, but before he has the chance to panic, their hands make the connection. He doubts anyone else noticed, but it makes him realize how tense he is.

Relax, he tells himself as he prepares to hoist her into the lift. He draws a deep breath and offers Kelsey what might be the most forced smile he has ever attempted.

Kelsey springs up, and their arms lock as she hits her pose. Jason's feet turn on the ice--one, two, three times--and he sets her down. They glide smoothly out of the lift, and this time, he manages a more relaxed smile. Kelsey quickly lifts her eyebrows at him; he's sure that she can feel how tense he is, and it is her way of reminding him to stay calm and breathe.

They separate as they power down the ice toward the side-by-side triple toe loops. The jump felt fine in the warm-up, and Jason has been doing it for long enough that he has a good sense of how to control it. But as they head straight down the ice, his legs feel wobbly.

He and Kelsey turn backward simultaneously. He reaches his left foot back, but it all feels wrong. His body springs upward, and he forces it to complete the rotation, but even as he hangs in the air, he knows how this is going to end.

A moment later, his backside hits the ice--hard.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Kelsey gliding smoothly out of her own jump.

Jason scrambles to his feet and links up with her to continue the program. As much as he tells himself to put that jump out of his mind, he can't, and he skates the rest of the program in what feels like a sticky haze.


The tension in the stands is no less overwhelming than it is on the ice. Lauren sits with the Fishers and Alex, watching as Jason struggles through the program. The first few elements look fine, but after he falls on the triple toe--the one jump that she has learned to distinguish from all the others--his focus clearly starts to wander. By the time the music ends, Lauren is amazed that he made it to the end of the program without another major error.

"What do you think?" she asks Paula and Bill. They have years more experience gauging this sort of thing than she does.

Paula's expression is grim. "They didn't even ask to see the triple toe again. Usually, if it's close, they'll ask for a retry on an element."

Lauren's hopes sink. She knows how much Jason has been looking forward to this test, so for it to have gone so disappointingly ... she can only imagine how he must feel.

"I should probably give him some time with Sandy, huh?" she asks.

"Probably a good idea," Bill says.

"Why don't we go get a cup of coffee while we wait, Bill?" Paula suggests. "Do you two want anything?"

"No, thanks," Lauren and Alex answer, one voice on top of the other. Bill and Paula rise and leave the bleachers.

"I feel so bad for Jason," Lauren says to Alex.

"Yeah. This is gonna crush him. They've been practicing so hard."

They watch in silence as the next team takes the ice and begins their routine.

"Hey, Alex, listen," Lauren says. "I've been meaning to talk to you about something."

She can tell that this announcement alarms Alex.

"What about?" he asks, his attempt at remaining cool not very successful.

"Just ... stuff." She pauses to gather her resolve; this is as awkward as she's imagined it might be. "You know I'm not, like, still mad at you or anything, right? I'm not gonna go around being bitter forever."

Alex seems taken aback by this but manages to say, "Thanks. It means a lot to hear that from you."

"I'm happy with Jason," she says, "and I think what happened was ... you know, a really important learning experience for both of us."

Alex agrees with a nod.

"I want you to be happy, too," Lauren continues. "With whoever it is that makes you happy." She hopes that Alex gets the drift of what she is saying.

"Thanks. I mean, I really appreciate it, but ..."


"I probably shouldn't drag you into this."

"You cannot do that!" she chides. "That's such a conversational faux pas."

Alex doesn't speak for a long time, long enough for the pair on the ice to complete a lift and a spin. But Lauren doesn't push; she knows that he will say more when and if he is ready.

"It's really awesome of you to be so supportive," he finally says, "but I don't think you have to worry about that anymore."

"What? Why?"

Alex remains focused on the program in progress. "Your brother and I--I really don't think anything is gonna happen there."

"Has he been acting weird? 'Cause I think he was worried about what I'd think," she says. "Don't worry, I talked to him about it, too. He knows I'm okay with it."

"It's not that."

She has to wait several seconds for further explanation.

"Trevor and I aren't as compatible as I thought," Alex says. "We have--we have some really different values, it turns out."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't wanna say anything bad about him to you. He can tell you more if he wants. But I don't think there's much chance of anything happening with us now."

Lauren isn't sure what changed or what she should say, but one thing is apparent: whatever happened, it has disappointed Alex enormously.


Claire doesn't know how to respond. Tim must sense her hesitation, because he adds, "Did something happen to really convince you that he's changed?"

She is about to croak out an answer--though she's still not certain what it is--when her cell phone cries out. She reaches for her pocket and, sure enough, it's the call she has been expecting since yesterday.

"Hang on a sec," she tells Tim as she hurries out of the room.

The ringing continues until she reaches the living room, when she finally answers it. "Hey."

Ryan's voice comes as a shock to her senses. "Hey. Do you have a minute to talk?"

"Uh ..." She glances toward the kitchen; Tim's focus has returned to his food. "Yeah, really quickly."

"What's going on?" he asks immediately. She can tell that he has been waiting for an update on the situation, since they all decided it would be best if he not be present when Tim arrived home. Now the question bursts out of him like air from a freshly popped balloon.

"Things are kind of quiet right now," she says. "Bill and Paula went to the rink to watch Jason skate, and Travis is staying at his friend's for a while."

"How's Tim?"

Hearing Ryan mention the situation is like a jolt to her nerves, and she takes a moment to calm them before explaining, "Good. He's doing okay. He's ... well, you'll see."

"When will my mom and Bill be back?"

"Within an hour or so. Why?"

"I'm coming over this afternoon, then," Ryan says.

She knew this was coming, but the mere mention of all three of them under the same roof sends her head spinning.

As if reading her mind, Ryan adds, "It has to happen eventually, Claire."

"I know ..." She draws a deep breath and exhales slowly. "I know."

"I guess I'll see you later on," he says.

"All right."

"And Claire?"

She pauses, her finger poised to end the call. "Yeah?"

"I love you."

The words are on her lips, but she can't bring herself to say them. With one eye on the kitchen, she nods to herself. "I'll see you later."

She tucks the phone back into her pocket and returns to the kitchen. Tim looks up from his breakfast as soon as she re-enters the room.

"Who was that?" he asks casually.

"Work. They just wanted to check on me." She forces a smile. "How do you feel about getting some fresh air?"

He sets down his fork. "I'd love to. What do you have in mind?"

"I was thinking about a stroll around the block," she says. "I'll push."

Tim backs the wheelchair away from the table. "Deal. Let's roll."


Jason sits in the otherwise empty dressing room, his head in his hands. His skates are unlaced, but he hasn't yet managed to remove them from his feet. When the door opens, he can't bring himself to look up.

However, he can't ignore Kelsey's voice.

"Jason," she says softly. "How're you doing?"

"Shitty, to say the least."

"It happens. You can't have a perfect skate every time."

He keeps his eyes focused downward, on the rubber flooring. "I know that. But of all times to fall apart ..."

"You didn't fall apart," Kelsey counters. "You fell on a jump. That's not, like, some unbelievably ridiculous mistake."

"I'm really sorry, Kels," he says, finally raising his gaze.

"Jason, it happens. It's part of skating as a team. It could've just as easily been me who fell out there."

Before Jason can respond, the door opens again. Jason cringes; he hopes it isn't some other skater looking to make chit-chat. Thankfully, it isn't.

Sandy surveys the pair, trying to get a feel for their moods, before she steps fully into the room and lets the door swing closed. Jason immediately focuses on the papers in her hand. He doesn't think he even wants to see what the judges had to say about that performance.

"I've got papers, if you want to see them," Sandy says. After so many years, she knows how Jason can be in a situation like this, and she also knows not to push him too hard.

Kelsey, however, accepts the papers from Sandy. Jason watches as she studies them--and as her expression morphs into one of astonishment.

"What?" he asks, rising from the bench.

Kelsey quickly masks whatever her emotions are, though, and she quietly hands him the papers. It takes only a second for him to see what shocked Kelsey, but several more for him to comprehend it.

As he expected, he didn't pass ... but Kelsey did.

"Whoa," he says, genuinely stunned. "Kels. Congratulations."

"Thanks. Jason, I'm sorry. I really wish--"

"Like you said, it happens."

"I'm surprised, too," Sandy chimes in. "Not that you didn't deserve this, Kelsey, but it's odd that they'd fail one partner but pass the other on a senior test."

"Well, I messed up, not her," Jason says.

"You'll get this test," Sandy says. "You can try again next month if you like."

"Yeah, Jason. We can do it again at the next test," Kelsey says.

"I know, I know." Jason sits back down on the bench and begins removing his skates, but as much as he wants to be happy for Kelsey, he can't help but be upset about the outcome of this test.


How will this setback affect Jason's skating career?
Should Alex give up hope for himself and Trevor?
Will Tim ever accept Ryan as his brother?
Will Ryan accept Tim being alive?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to join the discussion!

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