Episode #405

Previously ...
- Paula and Bill forgave Jason for the scene he made on Christmas, but they wondered if his relationship with Lauren might have deeper problems than Josh's interference.
- Brent was angry at Josh for getting into a fight with Jason on Christmas. Josh tried to defend himself, to no avail.
- Ryan reluctantly agreed to be part of Katherine's charity bachelor auction.


The roar of the television competes with the buzz of conversation in the Fishers' living room. Family members are spread through the room, but they seem to orbit around the spread of munchies on the coffee table.

A scream of agony escapes from Matt Gray's mouth, but the excited cheers from the rest of the room drown him out.

Sarah Fisher Gray leans over to her husband. "Are you sure that you want to watch this whole game with a room full of Seahawks fans?" she asks.

Matt tears his eyes from the TV screen. He seems to recover quickly from this latest setback as he slaps a cocky grin on his face.

"It'll just make it sweeter when my Steelers pull through," he says.

"That is not going to happen!" Bill interjects.

As he and his son-in-law spar playfully, Sarah shifts her attention to the entryway that bridges the living room and dining room. Her younger brother leans against the wall, munching on a handful of Doritos.

"I'm going to go get another drink," Sarah says to Matt. She checks his beer, sees that it is mostly full, and crosses the room toward Jason. She has to sidestep Tori, who sits on the floor amidst a slew of toys, dolls, and other distractions from the game on TV.

As she walks past Jason on her way to the kitchen, Sarah pulls him along with her. After throwing her a confused look, he complies, and they step into the relative quiet of the kitchen.

"Take it from someone who has wrecked her share of family gatherings by causing a scene," she says. "Life goes on. You apologized, they accepted. Shit happens, right?"


"Then what's with the wallflower act?" she asks. "Mom said you worked things out with her and Dad."

"No, I'm fine with Mom and Dad now." He concentrates on refilling his glass, which Sarah notes is already more than half-full. "Things are just weird lately."

In that instant, the true issue dawns on Sarah: "So this is about Lauren."

Jason nods glumly. "It's a mess. I made a total mess of everything."

"She's still mad at you?"

"She's barely talking to me. Every time I do manage to get a hold of her, it's like... she's totally noncommittal. It's driving me crazy."

Sarah grasps for something to say, but it feels as though time is moving too fast for her to get a handle on anything helpful. "You guys can't stay in limbo forever," she finally says, aware that it isn't the most insightful advice one could offer.

"That's what I've been telling myself," Jason says. "And I've been so busy getting ready for my test with Courtney..."

"It's only going to get worse," Sarah blurts out. "I mean, if you don't step up and get a decision out of her."

Instead of looking optimistic at the possibility of a final verdict about his relationship, Jason looks terrified.

Sarah softens her voice. "Come on. Give her a call. Tell her that you guys need to meet up and sort this out for good."

Jason hesitates for a moment, then bobs his head in agreement. "You're right. I need to."

As Sarah tries her hardest to maintain an encouraging facade, she hopes that she hasn't just walked her brother into complete devastation.


The game goes to commercial, and Josh Taylor springs off the couch.

"I'm going to get that other bowl of nuts," he says as he picks up a now-empty bowl from the table.

"Keep it with almonds!" his sister-in-law calls after him. Molly leans over to Brent and says, "I think he picked all the almonds out of the last batch."

"I don't really think he hates them that much," Brent says with a quizzical look.

They watch the next multimillion-dollar commercial in silence--and nearly make it all the way to the end of the 30-second spot before a wail sounds from the bedroom.

"I'll go check on them," Brent says, already halfway off the couch.

"No, I'll do it," Molly insists. "It's my turn."

She exits, and a moment later, Josh returns with the new bowl of nuts.

"Thanks for inviting me over for this," Josh says. "Now that Scotty's, uh, moved out--"

"Gone to prison, you mean?"

Josh smirks. "Yeah. That's really weird." He scoops up a handful of nuts and chomps on them before saying, "No, seriously. That house kinda creeps me out now. It's good to get out."

Such a candid, polite speech from his brother takes Brent by surprise. He had his doubts about having Josh over; since the debacle at the Fishers' on Christmas, he hasn't wanted to see much of his younger sibling. But this gives him hope that Josh might have taken something away from that incident and might be changing his attitude for the better.

"Besides," Josh says, "it's good to see those two runts. They're getting huge."

"Yeah," Brent agrees. "It's amazing."

"I'm glad I'm around to see them growing up. I can't believe Danielle hasn't even seen them yet."

"She promised that she'd come visit as soon as she could," Brent says. "She's been traveling forever, it seems like."

"Dad said she went to see Melanie and Tom, and then she'll be back in San Diego."

Brent shrugs. He doesn't know what to believe about their sister; since her singing career fizzled, it seems that she has been all over the place, never stopping long enough to set down roots anywhere.

"It would be nice if she came to see the twins." He is unable to keep a touch of annoyance out of his voice.

"She'll get around to it, but yeah, it is kind of weird."

"Yeah," Brent says, and he cannot help but wonder if there is something more to Danielle's traveling that makes it take such precedence in her life.


Jason paces the upstairs halfway of his parents' house as he clutches his cell phone. He stares down at the screen, his finger hovering over the "send" button. Finally he presses it, and he lifts the phone to his ear.

It rings once... twice...


Lauren Brooks pulls the fleece blanket closer to her chin. The football game isn't of much interest to her, Trevor, or Alex Marshall, but the day is enough of an event to keep them planted in front of the television for a few hours, equipped with snacks galore.

"It's freezing in here," Lauren mutters, glancing out the window at the gray day outside.

"I'm not turning the heat up to, like, 80," Trevor says.

Alex glances between the siblings. They have been bickering over the temperature all day long, and he figures that it is wisest to stay out of their little spat.

"Just put on more clothes," Trevor tells Lauren.

"What am I going to do, put on a parka?"

"You can have my old Polo sweater. It's so warm. It's on my bed, if you want it."

Lauren grumbles her consent, which might or might not include a thank-you, and climbs out from underneath her blanket. She is on her way out of the room when her cell phone cries out.

She stops and picks it up. Recently, her first instinct has become not to answer the call, but to check the caller ID before even thinking about answering. Seeing that it is Jason, her finger automatically goes to the button on the side of the phone--and, as she pushes it, she exchanges a guilty look with Alex.

She takes the phone with her as she leaves the room, as if taking away the evidence will somehow make Alex forget what she just did.


The ringing cuts off abruptly, and an instant later, the automated female voice informs him that he has reached Lauren's voicemail. Jason's mind whips into a frenzy as he tries to decide what to say--what he should say, what he can say--in his message.

But when the beep sounds and gives him the go-ahead, he simply flips his phone shut. He stuffs it in his pocket and heads back downstairs.


Molly finds Caleb in his crib, screaming what sounds like his scream of hunger.

"You just ate," she says to the infant as she hoists him into her arms. Every time she picks up one of the babies, she swears that they have grown bigger than the last time.

After she rocks him for a minute or so, he quiets down, and she moves to place him in the crib again. As soon as she leans over, the wailing kicks up again.

"All right, you can come into the other room with me," she says, as if Caleb might enjoy the verbal surrender. She sways him lightly in her arms as she carries him back into the living room.

Molly gets settled on the couch and glances at the game just long enough to know that the score hasn't changed. That's about as far as her interest in football extends. She reaches for a handful of the nut mixture but freezes with her hand over the bowl.

"Where are the almonds?" she says, studying the bowl to be sure that she hasn't missed something.

Josh shrugs. "I dunno."

"There were almonds in this," Molly insists.

"I'm not that anal. I really don't care about almonds--"

"I could swear I put them in there!" she says. Brent and Josh stare at Molly as though she has two heads.

She stands again and lugs Caleb into the kitchen. "Are you trying to mess with my head, Josh?"

Josh, following her with the bowl of nuts, stops in the doorway. "No. Seriously, I didn't touch it. I just got the bowl and started eating."

Molly opens the cabinet and finds what she was convinced she wouldn't: the package of almonds, untouched and unopened, next to the other containers of nuts and bits that she put into the mixture.

"I must have forgotten about them," she says, pulling the canister from the cupboard.

"You're losing it," Josh teases as they make their way back to the living room.

Molly trails behind him, rocking her son and trying to figure out how she could have been so convinced that she did something that she obviously never did.


Jason tucks his phone back into the pocket of his jeans as he returns to the living room. Now Matt is the one smiling, and the rest of the family--primarily Bill, though--appear dejected. Jason checks the score and sees that the Steelers are now in the lead. He finds a seat and settles in to watch the game, and although he is vaguely concerned that the Seahawks will not be able to turn the game around, he is much more preoccupied with thoughts of Lauren and what kind of move he should attempt next.

When the first half concludes and the halftime show begins, the viewers scatter. Ryan and Claire go to get more food, Sarah moves over to chat with Paula, and Bill and Matt continue sparring about the game. Jason hangs back from the scene, chiming in every now and then to defend the Seahawks along with his father.

As Claire and Ryan return from the kitchen, Ryan stops next to Jason.

"There's something that I've, uh, been hoping to talk to you about," he says.

The declaration takes Jason by surprise. It is no secret that he is far from Ryan's biggest fan; they tend to do their best to avoid each other at family gatherings like this one. He isn't even sure how to respond to his older half-brother's attempt to spark a conversation.

"What's up?" Jason finally asks, as casually as he can manage.

Ryan seems to be grasping at thin air as he searches for words. At last he says, "Let me cut to the chase: I have a favor to ask of you."

"All right..." Now Jason is on the defensive. Claire offers him a reassuring smile, as if to promise that it isn't anything objectionable and that he should at least hear Ryan out.

"My father's wife--Katherine--is holding a charity event, and she's recruited me to help out with it," Ryan says. "More like guilted me into helping out, actually."

Jason's response is immediate: "I'm really busy right now. Courtney and I have our skating test coming up, and I'm coaching, like, six days a week--"

"It won't be an enormous time commitment, I promise. In fact, all that would be required of you would be one night, for the event itself, and a sort of orientation a few nights beforehand. Well, and another night sometime afterward, but most of that is up to you."

Jason glances around, hoping for some kind of escape, but all he finds are several pairs of eyes on him and Ryan. You people are no help, he thinks.

"It should be fun, in a ridiculous way," Ryan continues.

"What do you mean?"

"The event is a, well, it's a bachelor auction."

"You mean where--you want me to get up on a stage and be auctioned off to--who? Some crazy old lady?"

"There's no way of predicting who will bid on you, but if you're really that concerned about it, we can always try to plant someone who can buy you." Ryan pauses, as if to let this information sink in, before adding, "You don't have to do it for me. Do it for Katherine. She's trying to get out of the hole that my father dug for her."

"It'll be for a good cause," Claire chimes in.

Every bit of instinct in Jason's body is screaming for him to refuse, but all he sees from around the room are encouraging faces, practically pleading with him to agree. He tries to strengthen his resolve, but then he focuses on his mother, whom he disappointed so horribly at Christmas...

He drops his head to his chest in a show of defeat, and the others applaud. As they shout reassurances that it won't be so bad, Jason makes his way to the couch and sits down. He knows that, as much as he would like to find one, there is no way out of this.


Will Jason regret agreeing to participate in the auction?
Can Lauren and Jason still give their relationship a go?
What was going on with Molly?
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