Episode #402

Previously ...
- At the Fishers' Christmas celebration, a brawl broke out between Jason and Josh over Lauren.
- Lauren, angry at Jason, quickly went home. He followed her and apologized for his foolish actions--and showed her the ring that he planned to give to her.
- Claire and Tim clashed over how to deal with Travis listening to inappropriate music. Diane inserted herself into the argument to stand up for Tim.


Tim Fisher checks the clock on the microwave as he sips his beer. He is already well aware of the time, but keeping constant tabs on it seems like the only way to avoid going mad from hunger.

"Twenty seven minutes," he reports as Diane Bishop rejoins him in the strikingly contemporary kitchen of her condo.

"I always kind of hope they'll take, like, 32 minutes," Diane says as she picks up her own beer from the counter. "That way, I'm not really waiting any longer to eat, but I get the satisfaction of not paying."

"Pizza isn't that expensive."

"Oh, it has nothing to do with money. Just spite. They're so smug about being able to get here in under half-an-hour."

Tim laughs and drinks his beer. He assured his mother that he had enough to eat at the Christmas-dinner-gone-awry, but really, he just didn't want to compound her horror at what a disaster the party turned out to be. But he knew he would be starving later.

He maintains a steady gaze upon the clock. "Sam went to sleep okay?"

"Didn't even try to argue with me," Diane says. "When she knows there's pizza coming and still chooses to go to bed, you know she's really wiped."

"I think she gorged herself on cookies and cake at my parents' anyway," Tim says. "Do you think we should be trying to get her to eat better?"

"Nah. She's fine. She's a kid. She'll grow out of it."

"Twenty nine minutes," Tim announces, but no sooner does he say the words than there is a knock at the door.

"Dammit, foiled again," Diane grumbles. She goes to the door and pays the delivery girl with what, at least to Tim's stomach, feels like excruciating slowness.

She opens the pizza box, and the smell hits Tim's nostrils. He reaches for a piece.

"You know what? I have a better idea for this," she says, closing the box before he can grab a slice.

"It'd better involve me eating immediately."

"Follow me."

She turns, and Tim trails her like a dog after a scent.


After an uncomfortably long silence, Lauren Brooks looks up from the gift Jason Fisher holds between them and meets his weary gaze. For an instant, a surge of hope rises from the pit of Jason's stomach -- a desire to believe that the box possesses the power to overcome everything else that happened earlier with Josh -- but extinguishes when Lauren leans back against the doorframe and sighs.

"Take it," he hears himself say.

Her glare softens slightly, but she doesn't move.

"I know I screwed up. Can we just talk about this? Please?"

"We are talking about it," Lauren quips, although Jason hears a significant portion of tonight's anger already draining from her voice, replaced by an uneven vulnerability that he's only heard a handful of times. "I don't know if I can accept this right now."

"Look, I shouldn't have started stuff with Josh, and I feel like an asshole. I just freaked out, okay?"


He hadn't planned on getting into anything of this. "It's stupid, but I heard some stuff about you two from Alex and Courtney--"

"Courtney, of all people? What'd she say?"

"It's not important, Lauren."

"It is to me. What'd she say? Alex too."

"Well." He swallows. "They just noticed you hanging out with Josh at my parents' house and told me about a couple of times they suspected that Josh might, uh, have feelings for you."

"Like when?" She folds her arms across her chest. "This is ridiculous."

"You're right," he says and holds out the gift again. "None of it matters, Lauren. I came here tonight because I want you to be my wife."


Courtney Chase scoops up a handful of pretzels and, with her remaining free hand, rolls up the bag. She munches on the pretzels as she does this, and before she realizes it, her handful is gone and she is back in the bag for more.

"I can fix you something if you'd like," her mother says as she enters the kitchen in her robe and slippers.

Courtney freezes, like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar, and grins sheepishly. "No, I'm fine, thanks."

"Are you sure?" Helen asks as she pulls a pan from a cabinet. "I'm going to make myself an omelet. I can make two."

Courtney's willpower loses out. "Sure, yeah. Probably better if I eat something good instead of picking on snacks all night."

Helen gives a murmur of agreement. She finds the items that she needs in the fridge and brings them over to the stove.

"It's such a shame about dinner," she says. "Paula put so much work into everything, and then people wound up eating as quickly as they could and hurrying out."

"It did get pretty awkward."

"It did." Helen skillfully breaks the first egg. "I didn't know Jason had that sort of behavior in him."

Courtney leans her elbows on the island. "Neither did I, honestly. I've never seen him like that."

"He thinks that Josh has his eye on Lauren? Is that the problem?"

"It'd be impossible not to notice it. Josh is... something else."

Helen goes about cooking quietly for a moment before commenting, "Lauren certainly seemed to be paying attention to him, too."

"They work together."

"You think that's all?"

"Yeah." Courtney moves to the kitchen table. She pulls out a chair but doesn't sit immediately. "What reason would she have to be interested in him when she's got Jason?"

"These things don't always make much sense," Helen says. "And if Lauren does want to be with Josh--the sooner she figures that out, the better for everyone."

"Yeah," Courtney agrees as she sinks into the chair. "That would be much better for everyone."


"You were right. This is better," Tim says as he stretches his legs out in front of him.

"If there's one thing I know how to do well, it's lounging around," Diane says. They sit side-by-side on her queen-sized bed, their backs against the headboard. Tim has a pillow propped behind his head as he polishes off his fourth piece of pizza and watches the Saturday Night Live re-run on the TV.

Diane picks up the open pizza box, which now holds only a few uneaten slices. "Do you want any more? I'm so full that I can barely look at this thing."

After a moment of deliberation, followed by the realization that he would be insane to try and stuff himself any further, Tim waves away the box. Diane brings it back to the kitchen, and when she returns, it seems to Tim that she settles just a little bit closer to him than before.

"Not exactly how I pictured Christmas turning out," he says after a moment of quiet thought.

"You know what's funny?" Diane asks, her voice taking on that devious spark that means she is about to say something funny and/or inappropriate.

Tim takes the bait. "What?"

"Jason was the one kid who your mom wasn't worried about starting a fight. And look how that turned out."

"That is funny," he says, remembering Jason's fight with Josh Taylor in a slightly more humorous light. Maybe the whole family will be able to laugh at it in the future.

"On the plus side," he adds, "this might be the first family function in who-knows-how-many years where Sarah and Molly didn't attempt to kill each other."

He is pleased that the comment elicits a little laugh from Diane, and they lapse into an easy silence that is filled by the television. There is something in the air, however, that makes Tim feel not completely able to relax... and when Diane speaks again, out of the blue, it only intensifies.

"I could get used to this," she says.

Tim turns his head and finds her already looking at him. "To what?"

"Having all three of us under the same roof--you, me, and Sam. It's nice."

"Yeah, it is." He folds his hands together and flicks his thumbs against one another. It has been so long since he was in a situation like this; he truly believed that he would never have to face it again. But unless he is completely misreading the signals...

Diane puts a stop to the nervous activity. Her hand grabs one of his, squeezes it, brings it up to her face.

Her eyes lock onto his, asking for permission. This is his chance to back out--and for what? To moon over a dying marriage and a woman who's in love with another man?

He reaches out and pulls her closer. Diane seals the gap, and they kiss long and hard. Then Tim feels her lips move to his neck... her fingers undoing his shirt buttons... her mouth against his bare chest... her hand on the front of his pants.

He rolls over, shifting positions so that he is on top of her. His mouth closes in on the exposed skin of her clavicle, then her chest, as his inhibitions vanish. He needed this more than he realized.


Jason's eyes search his girlfriend's almost-blank expression, searching for some clue as to what she's thinking. Unable to glean one, he unwraps the present himself, opens its case and extends the ring toward her.

"This is for you. Merry Christmas."

She takes the box and shifts glances between Jason and the ring for several seconds.

"Will you marry me?" he asks, more for effect than the poignancy he originally thought would accompany the question. She remains wordless. "Lauren?"

She offers a meager smile and says, "I love you. And this ring is beautiful--"

His breath catches in his throat.

"--but I can't marry you."

Jason nods solemnly, but he needs to know the truth. "Because of what happened earlier? Or because Alex and Courtney were right about you and Josh?"

"This has nothing to do with Josh and everything to do with the fact that you don't trust me. The scene you made earlier proved as much. And more."

"I don't ... what else did it 'prove'?"

"That we don't have the mature relationship I thought we had." She hands the box back, clearly on the verge of tears. "Jason, I'm sorry. I can't marry you."

The door closes in his face before he can even think about blocking it. He hears what sounds like a sob coming from Lauren on the other side of the door, and he stands there for a long, torturous moment, thinking that she is about to change her mind.

It never happens. He shoves the ring box and the wrapping paper in his coat pockets, trying to block out their existence, and he trudges back down the driveway to the running car, where Alex's sad expression confirms that this really did happen.


Where can Jason and Lauren go from here?
How will Courtney react to this latest news?
Has Tim fully moved on from Claire?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to discuss!

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