Episode #374

Previously ...
- Claire admitted to Ryan that she still loves him. He responded that she is the only one able to sort out the between them and Tim, so Claire made the difficult decision to move out of the Fisher house to gain some perspective.
- Sarah implored Brent to help Matt fight the rape charges.
- Matt's brother, Jake, came to King's Bay and posted Matt's bail.


All things Star Wars adorn the Fishers' dining room: balloons featuring R2D2; napkins stamped with the glowering likeness of Anakin Skywalker; and the paper banner strung across one wall with the words "Happy Birthday!" artfully dodging sets of dualing light sabers. Even the cake, currently hidden in the refrigerator, bears a print of Yoda, looking uncharacteristically unaware of his imminent fate.

As she pries apart the Storm Trooper-laden plates, Claire Fisher says, "The distance is nice. I needed it more than I realized. It's a relief to leave the hospital and feel like I can actually relax."

"I can imagine," Paula says, as she distributes plastic forks around the table.

"It would help if I didn't feel like such a horrible mother."

Paula pauses, a fork in hand. "You're here now, aren't you? Your son's birthday is not going to be any less special because you go back to a hotel to sleep tonight."

Claire responds with a grudging nod and sets out the plates in silence.

"How has Tim been?" she asks once she is finished. "We've only spoken about the kids, and it's ... like doing business. Has he seemed okay?"

"I don't think that he's especially pleased with the situation, but he's been putting up a strong front. Between the kids and his therapy, he's been busy."

Claire takes the smallest bit of pleasure in that knowledge. She knows how important it is to Tim to be productive and to feel like he is living a full life, without being a burden on anyone else. She only wishes that she could be around for him to lean on, but that isn't possible right now. Not until she sorts out this mess.

"Paula," she says suddenly. "I know how hard it must be for you to be caught right in the middle of this."

"It isn't the easiest position I've ever been in, no."

"I want to make sure that we're--that you don't resent me for doing this to your sons."


Sarah Fisher softly swings the shopping bag dangling from her left hand as she walks. The mall is busy today, with what seems to be an overabundance of teenagers who are focused on everything but watching where they walk.

"Good thing I was able to find something so quickly," Sarah says to the woman walking beside her. "I don't know if I can dodge many more kids who are too busy text-messaging to notice that they're walking right into me."

Mia Davich widens her eyes. "Girl, you haven't seen anything 'til you've tried shopping on the East Coast."

"I bet." Sarah hangs wide to sidestep a potential collision and then falls back into step alongside Mia. "Thanks for coming out with me. I was not at all in the mood to shop for a birthday present."

"I'm sure your nephew'll love it," Mia says. "Besides, it's good to give Jake and Matt some time alone."

"Maybe something positive will come out of this situation after all."

They walk in silence for a few seconds, the mall's buzz enveloping them.

"I want you to know that I'm available if you ever wanna talk. I know this whole thing has to be tough on you," Mia says, her tone invitingly genuine. "I can tell that you're needing somebody to talk to."

"Thanks, Mia. We're going to get through this. I just have to find a way to crack Jennie's story."

"Matt's lucky that you've got his back." Mia pauses in her tracks. "Mind if I look in here for a second?"

Sarah glances into the bath-and-body shop and decides that she'd rather sit this one out. "No, go ahead. I've got a call that I need to make."

"All right, I'll just be a couple of minutes." Mia ducks into the store, and Sarah navigates her way to an open bench. She flips open her phone and punches in the number. Please, she thinks, have something that can help me.


Paula does not even hesitate in responding. Her features soften into a reassuring smile, and her voice is equally comforting.

"Of course not, dear," she tells Claire. "You didn't create this situation. No one expects you to be able to turn your emotions on and off like a light switch ... even if you expect it of yourself."

Her fears allayed, Claire moves the pizza boxes to the center of the table.

"Thank you for being so understanding, as always," she says. "I only hope that Tim and Ryan are the same way."

"They'd better be!"

The front door opens, and in a burst, chatter and action fill the house. Travis and his friends gravitate toward the food, and the pizza and chips find themselves threatened by the hungry stares of a pack of ten-year-old boys.

"There's my birthday boy!" Claire says, wrapping her arms around Travis, who keeps glancing at his buddies out of the corner of his eye. She releases him quickly enough and asks, "How was the movie?"

"It was so awesome!" Travis exclaims, and he launches into an explanation of names and places and empires that Claire would understand equally as well if it were in a completely different language. Soon his friends chime in, and Claire loses his attention to the group.

"I think what they mean is that it was very loud and very fast," Bill says, stepping to her side. "And some of the most wretched dialogue I've heard in a long, long time."

"You're just too old to appreciate it," Jason teases his father. "I liked it fine."

"You're also functioning on approximately the same level as these kids," Bill chides back.

"Thanks for taking them," Claire says. "I don't know if I could've handled it." She looks around, through the thicket of boys now annihiliating the food. "Where's Tim?"

Jason seems equally confounded. "He came in with us. Maybe he ran upstairs."

Claire slips away and finds her husband in the living room--along with Diane, Samantha, and Tori.

"You girls made it just in time for food," Claire tells them.

Sam perks up immediately. "Cake?"

"Not for a little while. There's pizza right now, though."

Claire catches Tim studying her warily, and she has visions of him giving her the cold shoulder for the entire party.

But the next thing he says surprises her: "Diane, why don't you take the girls in there? They're gonna need some help fighting for that food." Diane takes the hint and herds the girls into the dining room. Silence absorbs Claire and Tim, but she can only handle a few excruciating seconds of it.

"Can you believe he's ten?" she says.

Tim's stony visage lasts only an instant longer. "I know. Unbelievable. When did we get so old?"

That elicits a laugh from Claire, and she feels herself relaxing. Maybe this won't be as bad as she expected. The doorbell rings, and she motions for Tim to stay put. She hurries to the door and opens it to find Ryan, a sizable present in his hands.

Claire looks at him, then to Tim, and back at Ryan. Like some cruel cosmic joke, she truly is caught in the middle.


Sarah's leg vibrates against the bench, excitement generating an electric buzz through her veins.

"Thank you so much," she says into the cell phone. "I'll swing by as soon as I can to have a look at it." She concludes the conversation and tucks the phone back into her purse just as Mia exits the bath-and-body shop.

"What'd you get?" Sarah asks, rising from the bench and gathering her things.

"Just some lip balm. I've been needing a new tube of it for weeks." Mia throws a glance back toward the store. "Well, that and some pretty unbelievable pick-up lines."

"You got hit on while shopping for lip balm?"

"Big time. This guy came over and started making small talk, and a minute later he's telling me how fine I am and wanting me to have coffee with him."

"Smooth operator," Sarah says as they walk away from the store. "Too forward for you?"

"Yeah ..." Mia seems to get lost in the unspoken part of her answer for a moment. "Are you ready to get out of here?"

"Yep. I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who did some digging into the Burkles' background, and I think we might have something that can help Matt."

Mia breathes a very audible sigh of relief. "Thank the Lord." Suddenly her manner changes, and she grabs Sarah's arm. "There he is! That's the guy."

Sarah feels herself being pulled aside, behind a cluster of people. Once they are hidden, Mia points with her index finger to indicate her not-so-subtle suitor.

Sarah recognizes the man immediately: it is Julian St. John.


Claire can see Ryan measuring his reaction to her, taking consideration of Tim's presence. Finally he steps into the house and says, without any greeting at all, "Where are we putting presents?"

"There's a table in the dining room," Claire says. "Your mother's taken charge of that area."

"Sounds good." Ryan casts another glance at his half-brother. "Hi, Tim."

As much as she doesn't want to, Claire can hear the sneering in his voice, the arrogance that always used to bother her so much about Ryan. It is as if he is beaming Tim a telepathic message: The playing field's a little more even now, huh?

"I'm sure Travis will be glad to see you," Claire says, hoping to usher Ryan away from her husband.

"Do you think we could go outside for a minute and talk?" Ryan asks.

Tim is quick to cut in: "Leave her alone. Give her some space."

"She can make up her own mind."

"Yes, I can," Claire interjects, grabbing Ryan by the arm. "Now get in there."

"I'll grab you later," he says. She doesn't bother responding; she hopes that it will prove an easy way of defusing the situation for the moment.

Before Ryan can make it out of the living room, though, Tim steps into his path.

"Hey, brother," he says, "I wouldn't be so smug if I were you."

"Why's that?"

"I know you had something to do with that clinic where I was being kept. I'm going to find a way to get Domingo to talk--and then this family will be able to piece itself back together, without you in the picture."

A flash of something dark--rage? guilt?--passes over Ryan's face, and Claire fears that he is going to deck Tim. She jumps between them.

"This is not the time or the place," she says firmly, this time yanking Ryan away from Tim and steering him toward the party.

Ryan's eyes freeze on hers. "You know he's totally off-base."

She refrains from responding, though she isn't exactly sure why.

"Let's get that present in there," she says, leading Ryan into the dining room. She fires a final warning look at Tim as they go.


Will Tim and Ryan make it through the party without causing a scene?
What's going on with Julian?
Visit the Footprints Forum to discuss this episode!

Next Episode