Episode #363

Previously ...
- In the wake of their failed Senior pairs test, Dylan got rough with Courtney, but Jason intervened. Later, Dylan made a fool of himself when the judges overheard him insulting them.
- Diane helped Sarah with her investigation of Julian's wife, but they got more than bargained for when confronted by an angry Rottweiler.
- Tim admitted to Bill that he knows about Claire and Ryan's relationship. He worried that his love for Claire won't be enough to sustain their marriage now.


Courtney Chase tries to wipe the weariness from her being as she enters the busy restaurant. She has been dreading her conversation with Sandy for days, and now that it's over, she feels drained, utterly wiped out. On the bright side, though, the painful talk is now in the past, so she can relax.

She locates Josh Taylor easily, despite the dense dinner crowd, and slides into the booth, across from him. She sees that he has already ordered a beer.

"How'd it go?" he asks.

"About the way I expected," Courtney says glumly. "How was your day?"

"Nothing special. Work's been a total bitch the last couple days. They've got me floating around, doing odds and ends on all these different projects."

"Ick." Courtney picks up the familiar menu, and her attention leaps to the usual spots. "I am starving." They lapse into an easy silence as she peruses the menu; apparently Josh already knows what he wants.

He takes a long sip from his beer--some local microbrew; Courtney can never tell the difference, despite Josh's efforts to tutor her--and, when he sets it down, keeps both hands cupped around the bottle.

"Am I supposed to take the hint and figure out that you don't wanna talk about your chat with Sandy?" he asks.

She lowers the menu and lifts her eyes. "No. It's not some huge secret."

"So that's it? You and Dylan are done?"

"Yep. Sandy refuses to work with him anymore--not that I blame her. I have absolutely zero interest in skating with him after the way he went off at the test."

"Good," Josh says, diverting his gaze in a search for their server. "And what now?"

"He'll go back to Alaska, I guess. I doubt he'll be able to find another partner--"

"I meant for you," Josh cuts in. "What are you gonna do about skating now?"


Tension holds them together like a rope stretched to its limit, forming the taut sides of a triangle. The three corners are still, each of them a set of eyes held in a motionless body: Sarah, Diane, and the Rottweiler, frozen on the St. Johns' back lawn.

"You wouldn't happen to have a steak in your purse, would you?" Sarah asks as quietly as she can, moving nothing but her lips. She swears that she can hear the dog's breathing grow louder and heavier with every syllable that she speaks.

"Must've left it on my nightstand," Diane mutters. She swivels her head carefully but keeps one eye on the dog. "Do we make a break for it?"

"I don't know. Maybe we can just bolt ..."

The dog lets out a thunderous bark that stabs at every fiber in Sarah's body.

"Or not." She glances toward the house to be sure that they haven't attracted any attention from inside. So far, so good, from what she can tell.

"We've got to do something," Diane says. As if challenging them, the dog takes a few slow but confident steps toward the women.

Sarah risks a sideways glance at Diane. "You go first. Back up slowly. A few steps at a time."

For several seconds, Diane does nothing. Then she moves her high heels backward over the lawn, one at a time, in the most delicate steps she has probably ever taken. The Rottweiler lets out another bark.

"You first," Diane says. The desperation in her voice is clear, and it takes Sarah by surprise.

Sarah hesitates but takes a few steps herself. The dog makes no move, but its intent stare is a more than ample warning to her: Watch your step, lady.

She takes a few more steps and, when she pauses again, realizes that she isn't far from the gate. Her muscles relax ever so slightly.

"I'll open the gate," Sarah says. "Then you can make a run for it."

"All right," Diane agrees uncertainly. Sarah shuffles her feet backward and, suddenly, the gate is right behind her. The Rottweiler's stare remains unbroken as Sarah reaches behind her, rotating her head only as much as absolutely necessary, and fumbles with the lock.

"Come on!" Diane hisses.

Sarah's fingers dance confusedly for a few more seconds before she feels the click for which she's been waiting. A wave of relief stands at the ready inside her body, ready to take over; for now, though, the adrenaline pumps even harder. She spins around, yanks the gate open, and goes flying out of the backyard.

"Hurry!" she yells out, amidst a flurry of ferocious barks. Without anything to hold it open, the gate swings shut behind her.

"Sarah!" Diane has abandoned all pretense of being calm and quiet now. "I can't get the damn thing open."

Sarah hears the metallic chaos as Diane's nervous fingers grapple with the lock.

"It's gonna eat me!"

"It's not going to eat you," Sarah says. She grabs onto the top of the fence and hoists herself up, planning to get the lock for Diane--but she finds that the Rottweiler practically has Diane pressed against the gate now. After a second of thinking, Sarah tells her, "Climb over it."

"I am not climbing a fence. These are Manolos!"

"If you wanna live to wear them another day, you're gonna have to climb. Besides, it'll just be the soles."

"These are beautiful soles!" Diane snaps. "And very expensive."

"So take them off and throw them over to me! Come on, Diane."

After a moment of hesitation, Diane removes the shoes and hurls them in Sarah's general direction. Sarah lets them sit on the lawn; they can gather them later. For now, she grabs Diane's hands and assists her with the climbing.

The dog lets out another storm of barks.

"Just a little more," Sarah encourages her friend. She hopes that Diane won't glance backward and freak out: the dog is jumping up now, its teeth gripping the bottom of her skirt.

Finally Sarah is able to give a strong pull, and in a final move, hoists Diane over the fence. The women practically go tumbling to the ground as the Rottweiler's battle cries intensify. The barking is not enough to muffle the sharp tearing of fabric, but Sarah hopes that Diane hasn't heard it.

"Let's get the hell out of here," Diane gasps as she struggles for balance. She gathers her shoes from the lawn and runs in the direction of Sarah's car.

Sarah has to suppress a laugh when she sees the bite mark cutting into the bottom hem of Diane's skirt.


Jason Fisher drops down onto the sofa of his parents' home, the same comfortable sofa on which he spent many afternoons halfheartedly paying attention to his homework while stealing glances at the television. It's supremely comforting that he is able to come back and sit in the same spot--especially since he can now do it without the books in his lap.

He opens up one of several takeout Chinese containers spread over the coffee table. He didn't realize how crazy he and Tim had gone with the ordering until he picked up the food. Not that he's complaining.

"What the hell is this?" he asks, peering at the carton's mysterious purple contents. "Is it even food?"

Tim takes the container. "It's eggplant!"

"Sorry. I don't eat stuff that looks like I could find it in a sewer."

Tim shrugs and scoops some of the eggplant onto his plate. "Lauren's busy tonight?" he asks as he hunts for a different container.

"Her parents are in town for a few days," Jason says, "so they wanted to hang out with her and her brother."

"Seems reasonable."

"Yeah. They, like, travel nonstop. Lauren said it's almost weird to have them in the house now."

Tim locates the object of his search--fried rice--and loads it onto his plate. "Well, I'm glad they wanted to have some family time. Gives me the chance to hang out with my little bro."

"I'm missed doing this," Jason says. "Just hanging out like we did when we were younger."

"You could still hang out with Molly and Sarah."

Jason casts a dubious look at him. "In between bouts of them trying to kill each other?"

"They seemed okay at the wedding," Tim says, tasting some of the sweet-and-sour pork.

With a reluctant nod, Jason agrees. "That was a big surprise. Consider yourself lucky that you missed out on all the drama."

"You have no idea how weird it was to come back and find out that Brent was divorced from Sarah and ready to marry Molly." The look on Tim's face is one that Jason has seen periodically since Tim's return. Tim looks lost, as if he's trying to gain his bearing in a world that moved on without him.

"It was pretty weird for all of us," Jason says. "But it was totally the best thing that could've happened."

He can tell that his brother is still trapped inside his mind, grappling with reality.

"It's bizarre how so many things changed that I'd taken for granted," Tim says finally. "I never could've expected this whole Ryan thing. I never even thought that there was something going on with Molly and Brent, or that you and Courtney'd split up and skate with different partners."

"That might've been for the best, too."

"Do you really believe that?"

Jason reaches for another takeout carton. "After all the stuff that happened with me and her and Alex and Lauren? Yeah. There was no way Court and I were gonna see eye-to-eye on that. She didn't even care about understanding my side of it."

"Did you care about understanding hers?"

Jason's response turns to sputtering. "I--It's way more complicated than that."

"All I'm saying is, when I talked to her at the wedding, she seemed like she'd matured a lot," Tim says. "Maybe now that some time has passed, you guys can start to patch things up."


Courtney flicks her finger against the menu's laminated corner. Josh's question is one that she is not keen to answer; it was the primary cause of her trepidation about meeting with Sandy earlier.

"Find someone to skate with, I guess," she says, her words buried in the folds of a thick sigh. "It'd be stupid not to, considering how close I am."

"You've put way too much time and energy into this," Josh agrees.

She nods, the weariness returning to her body. The idea of training with someone new, figuring out the timing and the body rhythm and all those other little things--not to mention the thought of searching for a new partner--is almost enough to make her throw in the towel for good.

"What do you say we do something that'll get your mind off all this crap?" Josh proposes.

"Like what?"

"Scotty's going to this party tonight, and it's supposed to be awesome. They're getting two kegs and everything." His eager eyes await her answer.

"I'm not really in the mood," Courtney says.

Josh takes another gulp of his beer while he waits for her to supply an adequate excuse. When all she offers is a shrug, he gives what she has come to recognize as a typical Josh response: head cocked to the side, an incredulous expression on his face, as if he's telling her to deliver the punch line already.

"I don't feel like partying," she explains. "I've got all this stuff to think about ... Can't we just, like, get a movie and takeout?"

"We've done that the last two Fridays!"

"There's nothing wrong with relaxing."

"No, but ..." She doesn't expect him to go there, but he does: "Don't you ever wanna do anything fun?"

The menu drops from her hands. "What, so now I'm not fun? I've had a really busy week--"

"So have I!" he interrupts. "We can get a movie any night. But I spend all week in that friggin' office, and on the weekends, I wanna let loose. What's so bad about that?"

"Nothing," she huffs, and when her pulse keeps pounding, she picks up her purse and scrambles out of the booth. "You know what? If I'm so boring, go by yourself."


"No, seriously. I'd hate to hold you back from living the high life."

Josh challenges her with a stare, but she has no intention of caving.

"Have a nice night," she says, walking off before he can get in another word.


"You want any more of this?" Jason asks, digging his fork into the container of orange chicken.

Tim's eyes go wide as he shakes his head. "No way. I don't know how you're still eating."

Shrugging, Jason grabs a final bite and closes the carton. "Okay, I'm done. For now."

Tim takes a couple of deep breaths and pats his stomach. "I think we might've overdone it a little."

"There's no such thing as overdoing it when it comes to Chinese," Jason says. Nevertheless, he closes up the rest of the cartons. "I'll get these outta here."

"Let me help," Tim says, slowly rising from the couch.

"No, I've got it. Relax." Jason gathers up the containers and, though he appears to be struggling to get a hold on the last few, flashes his brother an expression telling him not to think about getting up. As Jason shuffles out of the room, the doorbell rings.

"I'll get that," Tim says. Again he pulls himself to his feet; it takes him a few moments to gather his balance, but he makes his way to the door quickly enough.

When he opens it, Sarah and Diane nearly fall inside the house. The women look exhausted, almost ragged.

"Don't even start," Sarah warns him as soon as she sees his puzzled expression.

"What happened to you two?"

"We had a little run-in with a beast from Hell," Diane says, shaking her head. "Last time I ever help your sister out, I'll tell you that."

Sarah laughs. "Please. You know you can't resist an adventure."

"I can if it's gonna cost me any more designer skirts!" Diane says, but she cracks a grin anyway.

"Are the girls upstairs?" Sarah asks.

"Yeah," Tim says. "From the sounds of it, Travis hasn't been torturing them too much. Hey, if you guys are hungry, we have a ton of leftover Chinese. Jason just brought it into the kitchen--"

Sarah lights up. "Jason's here? I'm gonna go say hi." She hurries into the kitchen.

Once she goes, Tim returns to the sofa. As much as he hates to admit it, even a short time on his feet still wears him out.

"It's good to see you walking around," Diane says.

He sighs. "A little bit at a time. I wish I could be done with the stupid wheelchair and the physical therapy already, but it takes time."

"Be patient. You're making good progress." She pauses--it looks like hesitation to Tim--and her countenance softens. "It's so amazing to walk into this house and have you here, like nothing ever happened ... Just to be able to bring Sam over to hang out with her dad."

"It's amazing to me, too, believe me."

A strange but tranquil quiet comes over them, and Tim isn't sure what to say next. Diane moves toward the stairs.

"I'm gonna go check on Sam," she says.

Tim nods.

Diane steps up onto the first stair but then pauses again. "It's good to have you back."

He smiles warmly and relaxes into the couch as she heads up the stairs.


Is another round in the works for Jason and Courtney?
Will Sarah find the evidence she needs for Julian's case?
Will Diane ruin more clothes, if push comes to shove?
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