Episode #408

Previously ...
- Trevor received phone calls from a man who wanted money from him, but he hung up and ignored a later call. When Alex inquired about who had called, Trevor dodged the subject.
- Jason and Courtney successfully skated their final pairs test. Afterward, Jason pondered his situation with Lauren, and Courtney urged him to take definitive action.
- The receptionist at Willis left a message on Lauren's desk from Jason, asking her to meet him at Windmills if she had any hope of working on their relationship. But Josh intercepted the message and pocketed it.


The office has fallen into a quiet evening haze, as the handful of remaining employees toil away with whatever energy they have left from a long day of work. Lauren Brooks taps away at her computer's keyboard, wishing that she could go on autopilot to complete these final bits of work.

"You're still here?" asks a voice from behind her.

She turns to find Josh Taylor, in his coat, car keys in hand.

"I could ask the same of you," Lauren says.

"I had to sit in on that meeting this afternoon -- which, by the way, was mind-numbingly boring, so if they try to give you any 'opportunities' like that, run away screaming. I just had a couple of things to finish up."

Lauren takes her hands away from the computer and places them on her face. "Trevor and I spent way too long at lunch," she moans. "This stuff is never going to get done."

"Is it important?"

"It's not not important." She spins back around and stares blankly at the computer screen.

"Let me phrase that another way: does it have to get done tonight, or can it wait 'til morning?"

"I wanted to have it all done before I went home tonight--"

"--but it won't kill you to cut out for the night and get back to it in the morning when you're all refreshed." He pauses long enough to take her silence as confirmation. "You wanna go grab a drink and something to eat?"

"I don't know..." Another glance at the computer. "I really should hang around and get this stuff done."

"You'd be doing me a favor," Josh says, "because I'm not going to go sit at a restaurant alone, and I'm not in the mood to do my lame-ass version of cooking, so what's going to happen is that I'll stop for fast food on the way, and then my cholesterol is going to be shot, and then I'm going to have to call you in the middle of the night when I'm having a heart attack and need some someone to take me to the hospital--"

"You make it sound so appealing that I couldn't possibly resist." Lauren begins to shut down her computer. "But you're right. Food sounds much better than any more time in front of this screen."

A grin spreads over Josh's face as Lauren gathers her things.


Jason Fisher shifts in his seat at the restaurant's bar. He has never felt particularly comfortable in this place; it has always seemed a bit stuffy, a bit too upscale for him. He only came here because he hoped, in some corner of his mind, that an elegant setting might impress Lauren or soften her attitude toward him. As he checks his watch again, though, he sees that the possibility of her turning up at all is extremely remote.

For a day that was going so well -- his and Courtney's test should have been enough to carry his spirit for days, really -- this one has certainly taken a nosedive in its evening hours. Jason came here nervous, uncertain, but full of hope. Now that he is sitting here, casting glances at the door several times a minute, all he feels is anguish.

When he glances at the door this time, however, an unexpected sight meets his eye.

He raises his arm in the air, and a moment later, Tim and Diane spot him. They move past the maitre'd and in his direction.

Tim gives his younger brother a handshake and a clap on the back. "What are you doing here?"

"Not much of anything," Jason says, casting another rueful look around the restaurant. "Did you guys just get off work?"

"Yeah. Did you get my message? Congratulations on your test."

"Thanks." Jason pauses to take a sip of his microbrew. "I meant to call you back, but I've been a little... preoccupied."

Tim leans an elbow on the bar. "What's going on?"

"More nonsense with Lauren. Nothing I really feel like talking about right now, to be honest."

"Would you mind if we joined you for a little?" Tim asks.

"I don't wanna keep you guys--"

"We were stupid and didn't make a reservation," Diane pipes in, "so we're going to be waiting a while anyway."

"Then pull up a couple of seats," Jason says.

They do, and after Tim flags down the bartender and places a drink order for himself and Diane, Jason continues: "I'm glad I ran into you, actually, because I've got a favor I've been meaning to ask you."


The concession stand looms before Trevor Brooks and Alex Marshall, an overwhelming selection of snacks, sodas, and inflated prices. Trevor's eyes move from item to item, trying to make his decision before--


Alex leads him up to the register and launches into it immediately: "Can we two medium diet Cokes, a box of Sour Patch Kids, and..." He turns to Trevor. "What do you want?"

"I can't decide between popcorn and Raisinets," Trevor says, talking low and out of the side of his mouth as the teenager behind the counter stares at him.

"Get both," Alex suggests.

"That's a horrible idea. Which means I'm going to do it."

They complete their order, collect their snacks, and make their way toward the theatre. Trevor is scrounging in his pocket for his ticket when, in his other pocket, his cell phone goes off.

His body tenses immediately. He doesn't want to deal with this now, especially not in Alex's presence. Oh well, he figures, I can just ignore it and turn it off now.

He is about to do just that when he sees the display: "Wes cell."

"It's my agent," he tells Alex. "Let me take this really fast. Can you go grab seats?" Alex consents and goes into the theatre.

Trevor answers the call. "Hey, Wes. What's going on?"

"I'm hoping you'll be able to tell me," Wes says, his voice distorted by the background noise that indicates that he is driving. "I got a call at my office today for you -- some guy named Cliff who says he knows you."

Trevor swallows hard. "What'd he want?"

"He said he'd been trying to get in touch with you because you owe him money. Said you haven't been taking his calls. Do you know this guy, Trevor?"

"Cliff? Um..."

"Sounded like sort of a sleaze, to tell the truth."

Trevor does his best to fake a moment of recognition. "Oh yeah! Cliff! Yeah, I know him from when I was in New York. I don't know him very well, though--and I definitely don't owe him money."

"Could be some crazy trying to drain money out of you," Wes's voice crackles through the phone. "Or obsessed with you."

"Nah. I'll get in touch with him and get this cleared up."

"Be careful, Trevor."

"I will." But as he ends the call, shuts his phone, and joins Alex in the theatre, all Trevor can think is that he knows what Cliff is up to--and that he has to stop him immediately.


The downtown streets are busy with traffic, both automotive and pedestrian, as the city crawls home at the end of the workday. Josh holds the door for Lauren as they turn into the restaurant, its warmth a welcome reprieve from the chilly gusts of wind out on the street.

They seat themselves at the bar and order drinks. As Lauren peruses the food menu, she notices Josh casting broad glances around the restaurant, as if searching for something that he does not see.

"What are you doing?" she asks.

"I just realized that Courtney might be working tonight," Josh says.

"Yeah--Oh, crap!" The recollection smacks Lauren like a brick to the head, and she wonders how she failed to remember until now. "She and Jason took their test today. Maybe I should call him and see how it went."

The bartender sets down their drinks, and Josh picks his up before saying, "Your phone hasn't magically charged itself, has it?"

"Good point."

"It can wait until tomorrow, then. Right?"

"Yeah. Of course." Lauren sips her drink as she continues to scan the menu. "I'm so hungry that I can't even focus on one thing long enough to make a decision."

"I feel the same way," Josh says, leaning in to peek at her menu. His shoulder comes to rest against hers, and the contact does nothing to help Lauren focus on her order.

Abruptly he breaks away, and Lauren turns to see him looking at a spot a few feet away -- where Courtney is delivering an order to a table. Josh waits until she is looking in their direction and flags her down.

"What are you doing?" Lauren mutters, her teeth gritted.

"Just being friendly."

Courtney approaches them, looking more than a little wary. "Hey, guys."

"Hey," Lauren says, trying to appear friendly to the point that she feels acutely uncomfortable. Suddenly Josh's presence beside her feels like an indictment.

"We just remembered that you had your test today," Josh says. "How'd it go?"

"Really well. We passed."

"That's amazing! Congratulations!" Lauren says. She truly is happy: she knows how hard both Courtney and Jason have worked to reach this point, how much agony they went through along the way. And she feels a genuine pang of loss for her friendship with Courtney. For as close as they once were, a congratulatory hug now seems awkward and out of the question.

"Thanks," Courtney says, remaining tight-lipped. "Look, I've got a lot of tables to cover right now."

They say a hasty farewell, but as Courtney turns to leave, she adds, "You probably should have bothered to give your boyfriend a call to ask him how it went. Unless he's already been replaced without even being notified."

Her words sting Lauren, who immediately places a few inches between herself and Josh.


Despite his grim mood, Jason nearly laughs when Tim turns to him and asks, totally unaware, "What kind of favor?"

"It's actually kind of ridiculous," Jason says. "I agreed to do this... thing. And it'd be a lot less painful if you would do it with me."

"This is starting to sound kind of illegal. And maybe kinky," Diane says.

Jason laughs and shakes his head. "It's really not that bad. Actually, um, you're gonna kill me, but Ryan asked me to do this thing--"

"Whoa, whoa." Tim sits up straight and holds up his palms in defense. "Doing you a favor is one thing. Doing Ryan a favor is completely different."

"It's not for Ryan. Believe me, I wouldn't be doing it then. It's for his stepmother."


"Yeah. She's holding a charity event, and she needs some guys to help with it." Jason pauses for another drink of his beer. "To participate in it."

"What is it, a charity synchronized swimming performance?" Diane asks.

"Might as well be. It's a, uh, bachelor auction."

It's a good thing that Diane doesn't have a drink yet, because if she did, Jason is pretty sure that she would be spitting it everywhere right now.

While she recovers, Tim asks, "You mean one of those things where you go onstage and a bunch of women bid ridiculous amounts of money for you?"

"Yeah. Pretty ridiculous, I know," Jason says.

"I'm not sure what part of 'women paying money to spend time with you' is all that awful," Tim says with a laugh, as the bartender delivers his and Diane's drinks.

Diane takes her martini as she elbows Tim in the side. "What makes you so sure I'm going to let you do it?"

"C'mon, it sounds fun," Tim says. "Although I'm not so sure that the bit about 'He was presumed dead and held captive in a creepy clinic for a few years' is going to entice a lot of buyers."

"Katherine will appreciate you even doing it, I'm sure," Jason says. "Ryan said she's trying to put on a big event to impress people and make up for how badly Nick humiliated her."

Tim's eyes grow wide. "Then I'm definitely in."

Diane stops him with a hand on the arm. "She was stupid enough to marry him."

"He's hurt a lot of people," Tim counters, "and ruined a lot of lives. She had no way of knowing everything that he was up to."

Jason takes a sip of beer and finds that it is the last in the bottle. "You'll do it, then?"

"Yeah. Count me in."

"Thank you! This will make it so much easier." Jason sets down the empty bottle on the bar and shoots another look at the door, then at his watch. He already knows what he will -- or, more accurately, will not -- see.

"I should get going," he says, rising from his seat before Tim or Diane can protest. "You guys enjoy your dinner."

After some hasty goodbyes, he throws down some cash to cover his bar tab and leaves the restaurant. As he passes through the front door and out onto the street, he still doesn't see her. He expected that this moment would be a lot more painful, a lot more difficult to swallow, but all he feels is a general numbness overtaking his body. It really is, he realizes, over for good.


Is this truly the end of Jason and Lauren?
Will Tim regret agreeing to participate in the auction?
Who is Cliff, and how will Trevor deal with him?
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