Episode #368

Previously ...
- Courtney and Josh argued over whether to go to a party or not. Later, Josh found himself stranded and in need of a ride. When Courtney didn't answer his calls, he tried Lauren, who came to his aid.
- Claire told Tim that she got held up at the hospital, but she was really late coming home because she had been with Ryan--who'd kissed her and asked if they might have a future, even with Tim being alive.


Morning sunlight falls through the sliding glass door of the Fishers' kitchen, bathing the room in gentle spring warmth. The sight and feel of it make Paula eager to get outside and into her garden. She knows that, like every year in the Northwest, this early burst of beautiful weather will give way to a several-week-long redux of rainy gloom before summer officially arrives.

She doesn't want to waste the opportunity to return to one of her favorite pastimes, so as she prepares breakfast, Paula busies herself with mental plans for this year's garden.

"Morning, Mom," comes the voice of her adult son as he joins her in the kitchen. Paula turns to see Tim, still in his t-shirt and pajama bottoms, padding into the kitchen. Lately he has looked more energetic, more like the old Tim, and she notices that he is walking and moving better, as well.

"Dad said you guys had a good time at Virginia's last night," he says.

"It was wonderful. Nice for us old folks to get out once in a while," she says with a smile. "How about you? Did you and Claire enjoy having the house to yourself?"

"Well, Claire got held up at the hospital, and she was so exhausted that she went to sleep pretty early, but she did enjoy dinner. Not a total loss, I guess."

"Of course not."

The doorbell's ring keeps Tim's response at bay, and instead he says, "I'll get that."

"No, no. I'll do it." She knows that he doesn't enjoy everyone treating him like an invalid, but he is still recovering and she'd prefer if he wouldn't over-exert himself. To stifle his protests, she tells him, "Keep an eye on the eggs and bacon."

Tim dutifully attends to the stove, and Paula hurries through the living room and to the front door.

"Ryan! What a wonderful surprise!" she exclaims at the sight of the visitor. She hugs her oldest son. "I'm just making some breakfast, if you'd like some."

"Sure," Ryan says, offering a grateful expression. "But I'm actually here to see Claire."

Paula shoots him an uneasy look.

"We saw each other last night, and things got a little weird," Ryan explains. "I want to make sure everything's okay, that's all."

"She's upstairs getting Travis organized for the day," Paula says after a brief hesitation. "Tim is in the kitchen."

"I'll make it quick. And then I'll have some of that breakfast--you know I can't say no to a home-cooked meal."

He comes inside and bustles upstairs, and Paula closes the front door. She stares after him with concern. The idea of Ryan and Claire spending time together, by themselves ... It makes the entire situation seem very tenuous all of a sudden.

Paula is so preoccupied with watching Ryan's ascent that she doesn't notice Tim ducking back inside the kitchen, having overheard their entire conversation.


The new Black Eyed Peas song starts up on Courtney Chase's iPod, and she is tempted to slow her run into a walk. That way, she will be able to hear more of the song before she reaches the spot where she agreed to meet Josh Taylor--the spot where, she has a feeling, he is already waiting.

In the name of a good workout, though, she continues running at the same pace, enjoying the comfortable warmth of the morning sun on her bare arms and legs. The song barely reaches its second verse by the time she arrives at the bench where, sure enough, Josh sits with a baseball cap slung low over his eyes.

"Hey," Courtney says, removing her ear buds and switching off the mp3 player.

Josh looks up slowly, as if in fear of the sun. "Hey."

She studies him, trying to get a read on what he wants. When last they parted, it was on less than positive terms, and she hasn't felt like dealing with him since. And when her cell phone rang twenty minutes ago, something--maybe the gorgeous weather, who knows?--inspired her to answer, even though the thought of speaking with Josh didn't thrill her.

"Thanks for meeting me," he says. "You, uh, having a good run?"

"Yeah. I figured I needed to get outside and enjoy the sun before it goes back into hiding."

"I'd be okay with it hiding for a little while longer," Josh says, and she can see him grinning under the bill of his cap. "I had kind of a rough night last night."

"I saw that you called."

Josh is silent, maybe waiting for her to offer an explanation for ignoring his calls. She doesn't.

"Anyway," he says, breaking the silence before it grows any more awkward, "I just--I felt like we needed to talk or something."

"Yeah. Probably."

"So ..." Josh turns the bill of his hat to the side, then forward again. "What's going on? What's our, like, status?"

Courtney folds her arms as she contemplates her response.


"You need to bring a change of clothes for after you get out of the pool."

"Those clothes are stupid!"

"Travis, you can take whatever clothes you want. But you're not running around in a wet swimsuit the entire day."

Ryan can hear Claire's conversation with her son as he climbs the stairs. He crosses the hallway and finds them in Travis's room--the room that, according to what Paula has told him, used to be Jason's. He pauses, unseen, outside the open door.

"I wanna bring my Huskies jersey," Travis insists.

"That's fine," Claire says, exhibiting a patience that Ryan envies. That and her sense of fairness--those are two things that Ryan has always admired in Claire, qualities that he wishes he could boast of having.

Finally he taps lightly on the door. It is enough to catch both his nephew's and Claire's attention. The look that covers Claire's face when she sees him is anything but pleased, and Ryan wonders just how much damage he did by kissing her last night.

"You going swimming today, kiddo?" Ryan asks Travis.

The boy nods and rifles through his dresser for the elusive Huskies jersey. "My friend Cory is having a pool party for his birthday."

"Very cool. You guys don't waste any time taking advantage of the sun, huh?"

Travis shakes his head and pulls the jersey from his drawer.

"Hey, Trav, why don't you run downstairs and see if Grandma has breakfast ready yet?" Claire says. "I need to talk to Uncle Ryan for a minute."

Not seeming particularly interested in the logistics of the situation, Travis drops the jersey on his bed and scrambles down the stairs. Claire waits until she hears him hit the bottom before she speaks.

"What are you doing here, Ryan?"

He sees her peeking past him, into the hallway, as if they are doing something criminal and could be caught at any instant.

"I didn't want to leave things the way they were last night," he says. The well-rehearsed words spill out eagerly. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."

Her eyes fall, as if searching the carpet for an answer. "Let's just put it behind us. Forget it ever happened."

He expected some sort of powerful reaction from her: anger or regret or maybe something more positive. But not this.

"I can't just forget about it," he says, "and neither can you."

"We can't keep having this conversation," she hisses, and then, lowering her voice: "This has to end."

"I don't want it to end! If anything, last night convinced me that I can't let go of this. That's not how it's supposed to be."

"It's how it has to be."

His hands go to her shoulders, gripping them as if holding on for dear life. "Claire, I need you! And I'm not giving up!"

Breaking free of his hold, she takes a step backward. There is something different about her expression now.

"Listen to yourself," Claire says. "I said no, and you just keep pushing, like it's going to change my mind. You sound like your father--you sound like Stan."


"I'm not sure," Courtney admits. As much as she has thought about her relationship with Josh and the possibility of a future with him over the last few days, she has little idea what to say now.

She settles for something factual, at least to begin: "It bugged me that you basically called me boring the other night."

"Sorry about that," Josh says. "I was having a shitty day, and I guess I took it out on you."

"I'm not okay with that."

She sees the turn in Josh, now that she has rejected his apology. His face turns hard, his pronounced cheekbones lowering in a tight glare.

"It's not like you're perfect," he says. "I called you, like, four times last night, and I left you a message, and you never bothered to call me back--even though I needed your help."

"Excuse me for not jumping into action the minute you snap your fingers, Josh."

"You could've at least acknowledged the fact that I called. I got ditched and needed a ride ... Thank God Lauren answered her phone, or I would've been stuck for God knows how long."

The mention of Lauren puts her over the top. An argument with Josh, she can handle; being told by another guy how much more reliable and forgiving Lauren is, however, is too much.

"You know what?" she says, sticking the buds back into her ears. "Forget this. It's not worth my time."

Finally Josh begins to stand. "Court--"

"It was fun while it lasted, Josh. See you around."

She turns her iPod back on and jogs away, leaving Josh to slump back down onto the bench. His loss.


"You sound like Stan."

Claire's words connect with Ryan's gut like a sucker punch. He takes a backward step of his own, distancing himself from her, from her accusation.

"That's not fair," he says.

"Neither is the position you're putting me in!"

He wants to respond that he isn't the one putting her in this position; he isn't the one who created the situation. But suddenly he doesn't have the energy to argue with her anymore.

"I am not like him. I am not like him!"

Spinning on his heels, Ryan flies from the room and down the stairs.

Tim hears the heavy footsteps clammering down the stairs, and that only increases his drive to figure out this situation. His mother tried to make it sound like Ryan merely dropped by for a visit, but Tim knows that it is much more than that. Something really is going on between Claire and Ryan.

He reaches the living room at the same time that Ryan hits the bottom of the staircase. The men both pause, and for a long moment, they stand frozen in a sort of silent, motionless battle.

Tim can tell that whatever happened has rattled Ryan, and he can only imagine what state Claire must be in right now.

"Stay away from her," Tim says.

Ryan scowls back at him, not doing a very good job of pretending that he has no idea what Tim is talking about.

"She's made it perfectly clear that that's what she wants," Ryan finally spits, shooting a glance toward the stairs. Tim turns to see that Claire is standing in the middle of the staircase, a look of terror on her face.

Ryan blows out of the house quickly, slamming the front door behind him. Claire seems ready to chase after him--like she would if Tim weren't standing here.

"I've had this all wrong," he says, staring at his wife as if seeing her for the first time. "I thought Ryan was the one chasing after you."

"It's not like that, Tim. I mean, it isn't what you think--"

"Apparently it doesn't matter what I think." He turns around, ready to retreat into the kitchen, but he can't leave it at that. "Did you think I would never find out about you two?"

"I promise, there is nothing going on with Ryan and me," Claire says, almost pleading.

Tim doesn't know how to respond to that. He believes her, at least on a literal level, but that doesn't make him feel any better about the situation.

"I need to take a shower," he says, pulling himself up the stairs and past her. "We have a busy day ahead of us."


Has Claire's decision been made for her?
Do Josh and Courtney have any chance of reconciling?
Come to the Footprints Forum to share your thoughts on this episode!

Next Episode