Episode #388

Previously ...
- After Scotty's arrest, Josh promised Lauren that he had been unaware how involved his friend had been with drugs.
- Jason revealed to Alex that he was thinking of proposing marriage to Lauren.
- Ryan went to the Fishers' to explain how he pretended to work with Nick so that the police could bring down the drug ring. He was interrupted by Tim, who burst in with new information that he claimed would expose Ryan once and for all.


The arena's heavy door slams closed behind Jason Fisher as he steps out into the parking lot. He paces aimlessly for a few seconds, waiting for his cell phone to recapture the signal that the old building's thick concrete walls inhibit. When he sees that the phone once again has life, he checks his messages and then dials a familiar number.

Lauren Brooks answers after the first ring. "How's your day been?" she asks.

"Fine," Jason says, "even though I just got through with the lesson from hell." He glances around to be sure that he will not be overheard. "I tell this kid to pull her arms in tighter, and she's like, 'I don't want to.' If she doesn't want to listen, why is she bothering with lessons?!"

Lauren laughs at his overly frazzled recounting.

"Anyway, what'd you want to talk to me about?" Jason asks.

"How do you feel about Seattle?"

"Uh ... good?" Except the Starbucks-on-every-corner thing. That sorta freaks me out."

"Well, if I promise to strategically avoid a good 50% of those, how would you feel about spending a weekend there?"

The idea appeals immediately to Jason, so much so that he wonders why he didn't think of it: getting away for a weekend, just the two of them. "That sounds awesome. What made you think of it?"

"Don't go assuming I'm brilliant or anything," Lauren says. "I have to go for work. Objection is opening a second store there, and they want some people from Willis along to help coordinate. But there should be a fair amount of downtime, and it's Labor Day weekend, so I thought--"


There is a confused pause on the other end of the line. "What?"

"Sarah and Matt are having the wedding that weekend," Jason explains. "I just found out today, actually."

"Wow, that's soon." She pauses again, and when she resumes speaking, it is with a sputter. "If I had known, I would've tried to get out of this. But I don't know--"

"Don't make yourself nuts over it. It's work. You've gotta do it. I understand, and so will Sarah. She knows that it's short notice."

If he has managed to allay her concerns, it is only by a small margin. She sounds guilt-ridden as she says, "I wish I could get out of this, but it's such a big deal ..."

"Lauren, seriously, it's fine. This is life. Listen, I have to get back inside for my next lesson. Get back to work. I'll talk to you tonight." Before ending the call, he makes sure to add, "And thanks for inviting me. Love you."

"Love you, too," Lauren says as she hangs up.


"I know exactly what you're up to, and you're not going to get away with it."

Tim Fisher looks around the kitchen, at the faces whose attention his dramatic entrance has commanded. He expected that his mother and Sarah would be here, working on the wedding plans. Claire's presence, while unexpected, only makes this easier: she will hear the news sooner than he thought she would. But he did not anticipate Ryan being here. Now Tim will be able to relish his half-brother crumbling in defeat, exposed for all his deceit and for placing Tim's loved ones in so much danger.

Ryan sneers at Tim, challenging, "Is that right? I'm dying to hear what you have to say."

"Don't think you can lie your way out of this one," Tim says. "You've done more than your share of that, and it ends now."

"What in the world is going on?" Paula cries out.

When he looks to his mother, Tim experiences a wave of reluctance. He knows that Paula has come to care about Ryan, and learning about his true nature will crush her. But it is best for everyone to know the truth.

"I'm surprised you didn't say anything," Tim says to Sarah, "but I know that you've wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt." He focuses on Claire as he announces, "Diane told me that she and Sarah saw Ryan out with Nick, clearly up to something that he didn't want anyone to know about."

The news doesn't garner quite the reaction that Tim expected. Sarah's immediate response is to pronounce, "He asked me to trust him, and I'm glad I did."

Before Tim's shock can even register, Claire compounds it by adding, "He was only trying to help."

"Help?" Tim questions, feeling as though he has stepped into another universe of alternate logic. "He's having secret meetings with the man who kidnapped me! You call that helping?"

"You really should be sure to get the whole story next time," Ryan says. "Obviously you haven't heard that Nick is back behind bars because I helped the police bust a drug ring he was operating."

"Ryan just explained the whole story to us," Claire says, her expression toward Tim now softening. "It makes sense that you would be so concerned, but there's nothing to worry about."

Tim cannot even find words to react to what he has heard. He was so certain that his suspicions had finally been confirmed ...

"I can't say I blame you for rushing in here like that," Ryan says. "But what's that they say about glass houses and people who try to frame their own brothers?"

Tim freezes. There is no way that Ryan could know about--unless Nick told him--

The pieces fall into place, and the picture becomes a horrifying whole as Ryan continues, "While we're on the subject of uncovering the truth, isn't it about time everyone heard about how you tried to bargain with Nick to make me take the fall for your kidnapping?"


Lauren sets the telephone receiver back in its cradle. After finishing up the e-mail on which she was working when Jason called, she leaves her cubicle and walks a few units down. She catches Josh Taylor's attention as she leans against his cubicle's wall, and he turns away from the computer.

"What's up?" he asks, his eyes still as bleary as when he arrived at work this morning.

"You don't think there's any way to wiggle out of this Seattle trip, do you?"

"Not unless you're looking to stop working on the Objection campaign completely. Why?"

"Jason's sister is getting married that weekend," Lauren says.

"Sarah? Last time she got married, I was best man!" Josh cracks a grin. "There's a sentence I don't get to use nearly enough."

"I thought it'd be fun if Jason came along to Seattle, but he just called me back and said he can't go because of the wedding."

Josh leans back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head and propping his feet on the desk's edge. "Guess it'll just be you and me, kiddo."

"And a bunch of Objection executives," she reminds him.

"Enh. We'll blow them off and find something fun to do."

Lauren falls quiet for a moment. As soon as she found out about this trip, she included Jason in her vision of the weekend. Now, the idea of visiting another city with Josh as her primary companion strikes her as a potential catastrophe.

"It'll be fun," he says, as if sensing her doubts. "Besides, being a part of this could be a huge career opportunity for both of us."

She can't disagree with that, but her nod is still a reserved one. "Don't go getting us into trouble," Lauren says, her intent more serious than her grin suggests.


Ryan's revelation hangs in the air like the smoke of a bomb. A self-satisfied smirk rolls across his mouth, and the urge to deck him swells up suddenly and forcefully within Tim. But the eyes of his mother, his wife, and his sister, burning into him with disbelief, are more than enough to restrain his anger.

"Do you want to explain?" Ryan asks, though it sounds more like a taunt than a question. "Or should I?"

"I didn't know that Nick had arranged the kidnapping without you knowing about it," Tim says. The excuse--if it is even sturdy enough to serve as one--sounds hollow to his ears. "I thought it had to be you--since Stan knew--"

"So you made a deal with Nick that if he could prove that I was the one having you kept at that clinic, you wouldn't talked to the police about what you heard on the pier the night you disappeared." Ryan pauses just long enough to allow the women to comprehend the facts of the situation. "You were convinced that Nick and I were in on the kidnapping together and thought you could get him to sell me out so that everyone would know how evil I was, right?"

The only response Tim can manage is a wordless one. Ryan's explanation comes across as a condemnation, as for the first time, Tim sees his and Diane's plan with the objectivity that he has been trying to avoid. It really was horrible and underhanded--and if Ryan really is innocent, then Tim's actions are no better than those against which he thought he was fighting.

He looks to Claire, desperate for some sign that she will not take this as badly as he expects; their moment of eye contact propels her out of her chair.

"I need to go get some air," she says. Tim can hear the scorn in her voice, scratching at him for doing this to her. She slips out the sliding door to the backyard, and a moment later, Ryan follows, having received compassionate looks from both Paula and Sarah.

The door closes, sealing Tim in the room with his mother and sister.

"I'm sorry," he says, unable to bear the silence. It is the only thing that seems remotely appropriate to say.

Paula doesn't need to speak for him to understand what she is thinking: I raised you to be better than this. No matter how bad things seemed before, you've only made them worse now.

Tim knows that it is true.


As she steps into the backyard, Claire's mind races to process everything that has just happened. She knew that Tim was convinced of Ryan's duplicity and determined to prove it, but she never expected him to go to such manipulative lengths to do it.

She folds her arms in front of her as she hears the door opening and closing.

"I'm sorry you're having all of this thrown at you at once," Ryan says.

She doesn't turn to face him. Instead she remains focused on the far end of the yard. "How long have you known?"

The question seems to throw Ryan, whose response comes only after several false starts. "Known about what?"

"About what Tim did. Tried to do."

"A few weeks. Katherine was there when Tim and Diane went to see Nick, and she told me about it. That was when I realized that if I didn't do something to make sure Nick went down ..."

"... then it would've been you instead." Claire draws a deep breath and lets the air out slowly. "Aren't a lot more people than Nick going to get in trouble for this drug thing? What if one of them comes after you?"

"No one will know it was me," Ryan explains. "The only people who know that are you guys, the police, and me. To everyone who was involved with it, it'll look like I got caught and cut a deal, just like plenty of them will do."

The entire plan seems ill-conceived and reckless to Claire, but that fits Ryan's personality to the letter. He has always been impulsive and prone to take the most dramatic action possible to achieve what he wants. At least, after all this time, she knows that he isn't actually on Nick's side, that their whole relationship has not been a lie. Only now does she realize what an enormous burden that nagging suspicion has been.

She turns around and sees that he is still standing by the door, leaving a wide gap between them.

"I am sorry about Tim," he says. "I know you might not think I am, but I never wanted you to get hurt because of this."

Claire is quiet for a long moment. Finally she unfolds her arms and walks toward him.

"Thank you," she says, reaching out her arms. With uncertainty, Ryan steps into the embrace. The feel of his body against hers is more reassuring than she imagined it would be.

They stand there, in the late summer sun, holding one another. Claire tries her hardest to comprehend what is happening. After all this time, after all the agonizing over her decision, it has been made for her.


Are Claire and Ryan on the road to reconciliation?
What will Tim do now?
What is in store for Lauren and Josh during their trip?
Come to the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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