Episode #423

Previously ...
- Jason confided to Alex that he was considering taking Shannon's money and donating it to charity.
- Lauren and Josh went on their date--to a Kelly Clarkson concert.
- Trevor went to New York and paid off Cliff Burkett, who was blackmailing him over an adult video that Trevor made for him several years ago.
- Tim and Claire separately received the divorce papers.
- When Matt brought up the topic of having another child soon, Sarah was less than thrilled.


The morning sun beats down hard on the arena's parking lot. Even at this early hour, there is an intensity to the heat that makes Jason Fisher's rush even more of a challenge.

Equipment bag smacking against his back as he half-runs, he reaches the front doors. Even waiting for the automatic doors to slide open seems like far too long--he swears that they have become slower, more hesitant, since he first began coming here years ago.

Once they open, he shoots through them and into the arena. Mere seconds later, he is leaned over the railing that borders the ice.

"Carly!" he calls out. The ten-year-old girl skates over, folds her arms, and fires a very obvious glance at the clock.

"I'm really sorry," he says, his words running at the same pace that his feet were moments ago. "I screwed up setting my alarm, and--"

"My mom isn't paying for this."

He has to restrain himself from reaching out and throttling the kid. "Of course not. How about we do half-an-hour on Thursday to make up for this?"

"Fine." In a flurry of sparkly pink, Carly merges back into the intricate traffic of practicing skaters.

Jason makes his way to the coaches' room, where he finds Courtney and Sandy putting on their skates.

"Rough night last night?" Courtney asks.

"Rough morning. I overslept and missed my lesson with Carly Camden."

"I'm sure her mom will be after you to remind you what a huge mistake you made," Sandy says. "That was one student I wasn't too sad to hand off to you."

"Gee, thanks." Jason hurries to pull on his skates. "I told her I'd make it up to her on Thursday--"

"Aren't you booked up on Thursdays?" Sandy asks.

"On the early sessions, yeah. But I figure I'll stay for the 10:00 one--"

"Not gonna happen. They're cutting the later sessions. Not enough people showing up."

In spite of his hurry, Jason drops his laces. "How do they expect us to build a program that makes money if they don't give us enough time to actually get people on the ice?"

"That's management for you." Sandy finishes tying her own skates and stands.

"We take enough abuse from bratty little kids who think it's their birthright to go to the Olympics," Jason says. "We don't need a bunch of business people who don't even know skating making it harder for us to do our jobs."

"You're absolutely right," Sandy says, with a sigh that makes it clear that she is resigned to it.

Jason glances over to Courtney and finds her staring back at him, a strange look frozen on her face.

"What?" he asks, but it is unnecessary. He knows that look.

The little hint of a smile only confirms it: she has an idea.


Lauren Brooks clutches a hair clip between her teeth as she pours coffee into her travel mug. Once the mug is full, she transfers the clip back to her hand and blows on the steaming coffee.

Footsteps creak down the stairs, and several seconds later, her brother drags himself into the kitchen. His hair is splayed in every conceivable direction, and his eyelids are heavy with sleep.

"You're up early," Lauren comments as she hurries to add some milk to the coffee.

"Went to bed early." Trevor shrugs, yawns, and moves in slow motion to the pantry. "How was your, uh, concert?"

Lauren finds herself suppressing a smirk. "It was fun. Good. Kelly Clarkson is awesome."

"Yeah, because Kelly Clarkson is the one you were worried about."

She takes her time putting the lid on her mug and watches her reflection in the window as she puts up her hair.

"I had a really good time," she finally admits.

Trevor shakes a few boxes of cereal. "So this was more than some weird auction date, then?"

"Maybe. I don't know." Lauren busies herself with gathering her things. "I've got to get to work."

"Hmm, I wonder who'll be there," Trevor teases. He selects a box of Special K and is pouring a bowl when his cell phone erupts with a clip of the new Justin Timberlake song.

"Have a good day," he says to Lauren as she slips out. Then he answers the call.

"Hey, Wes, what's up?" he greets his agent.

Wes doesn't waste any time with a greeting. "We have problems. Big problems."


The staircase rattles under the weight of two pairs of very excited feet racing to the top. Tim Fisher stands in the living room with his father and calls out after Travis and Samantha:

"I don't want you guys up there staring at that screen all day!"

The stampeding ends, presumably as the kids reach the spare room that now serves as their spot in their grandparents' house.

"Try and see if you can get them outside," Tim says to Bill. "I hate the idea of them spending the whole summer playing video games."

"Don't worry," Bill says. "I'll just threaten to play with them. That should do the trick."

"I remember that move. It was one of your best."

"And I've had years to sharpen my skills. Do you have time for a cup of coffee before you head to the office?"

Tim consents, and they move to the kitchen, where there is a pot already waiting.

"How have things been?" Bill asks as he pours a cup for each of them.

"One of these days, my answer is going to be 'good' or 'normal' or one of those words."

"I take it that things aren't so good or normal, then."

Tim is quiet for a long moment before saying, "I got the divorce papers the other day."

"Already? Wow." Bill hands Tim a cup and takes a seat at the table. "Have you signed them yet?"

"I'm going to. Today. It's really just a formality at this point."

"That doesn't make it any easier to accept."

"No." Tim's response is clipped, and then he pauses for a long sip of coffee. "It's weird that everything Claire and I had boils down to some signatures on a couple pieces of paper."

"That isn't true. This might be how things turned out, but it doesn't invalidate all the positive aspects."

Tim cracks a bittersweet grin. "Why do you have to be so reasonable all the time?"

"It's what a father does. Just wait until those two get a little older." Bill lingers over his own cup. "Any updates on Nick Moriani?"

"Nothing worth repeating. The whole thing is starting to feel like a witchhunt--anyone with a motive is guilty until proven otherwise."

"Brent knows you aren't capable of something like that," Bill says, though his eyes seem to search for confirmation that what he has said is the truth.

Tim doesn't say anything, just sighs loudly.

"Haven't they considered the possibility that this shooting has nothing to do with any of you? For all we know, it could be a business deal gone bad..."

"Whatever it is, there's some factor that everyone must be overlooking," Tim says. "One thing that's right under our noses, that'll blow the whole thing wide open."


Sarah Gray stares through the film of smudges and fingerprints on the window beside her, down into the layers and layers of wispy clouds. The airplane's engines hum a persistent but calm lullaby, and she can feel herself growing sleepy, despite only having been awake for a few hours.

"Why couldn't we stay longer?" Tori asks from the seat beside Sarah. The question comes out of nowhere, as most of them do, and Sarah takes a moment to wake herself up before attempting an answer.

"Because Daddy and I have to get back to work."

"But it's fun hanging out with Uncle Jake and Aunt Mia."

"I know, but they're in Aruba for their honeymoon, anyway. It's time for us to get home."

Tori folds her arms in a silent pout.

"Hey, if you'd seen the hotel bill, you'd agree," Matt pipes in from the aisle seat.

Tori doesn't even bother responding. Sarah has no doubt that their daughter has already moved on and is busy formulating a brand-new, equally unanswerable query.

As for Sarah, she cannot resist the opportunity to piggyback on Matt's comment. She has noticed the little side glances that he has been throwing her way since the reception last night--or, more specifically, since Jake and Mia's announcement that they plan to conceive as soon as possible.

"It's a good thing both of us work, then, isn't it?" she says.

Matt looks confused. "Uh, yeah. I guess."

"I mean, with the hotel bill--"

"Yeah, I got that." He studies her, in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to read her expression and, therefore, her mind. Finally, in defeat, he asks: "Huh?"

"Just... considering what we talked about last night." She risks a glance down at Tori, who seems oblivious, and then continues over her head: "That thing you wanted to do."

Recognition dawns on Matt, but a new, informed surprise quickly takes its place. "You don't?"

"It's not that I don't. I do. But now? I'm finally working more, doing some cases I really like, and if I were to stop that momentum--"

"It'd only be a few months. We'd make it work."

Sarah leans across Tori's seat. "How many pregnant women do you see climbing trees with long-distance photography equipment?"

"Forty isn't that far off for me," Matt counters. "I don't want to be one of those old dads who can't do anything."

"Forty's not that old!" Sarah hisses. She turns back to the window but can feel Matt staring at her, waiting to renew the discussion and prove to her that he is right and she is wrong.

She won't give him the satisfaction. She keeps looking out the window, watching the miles of willowy clouds pass beneath them but too unsettled to doze off.


"Nothing," Courtney says, and she returns to tying her skates.

Jason leans toward her. The clock keeps ticking in his mind, but now it is a secondary concern. "No, what are you thinking?"

She ignores him and finishes tightening her laces. Sandy stands by, arms folded, clearly enjoying Jason's torment.

"It's just that, if you think about it," Courtney says, lifting her eyes to Jason's, "you really don't need to do any of this. Or you wouldn't, if you took that money."

Jason deflates at the introduction of this same, sore subject. "We've been over this. I'm not going to take Shannon's money just so I can sit on my ass and do nothing with my life."

"I didn't say you should." Courtney looks to Sandy, and some unspoken understanding seems to pass between the women.

"Then what are you--" And then it hits him. The idea seems crazy, totally outside the realm of possibility, even though he knows that it isn't... not technically.

"I couldn't." He looks from Courtney to Sandy and back again. "I wouldn't even know where to start."

"Just saying, it's something to think about," Courtney says. She stands and exits the room with Sandy, leaving Jason to contemplate an idea that, whether he believes it or not, is very much a possibility.


Trevor sets down the box of cereal. "What problems?"

"Well," Wes's voice crackles through the cell phone, "any morning that starts with a video called Backdoor Buddies on my desk can't be too good. Nevermind that one of my hottest clients is staring up at me from the cover."

Trevor's breath stops, and his mind goes into overdrive. Should he play dumb? Deny it all?

He opts for a more honest approach. The words come tumbling out. "Wes, it was right after I moved to New York, and I needed cash, and this guy offered me money to model--"

"Unless that jockstrap you're wearing is D&G, this ain't modeling," Wes says.

"It started out with pictures, and then it just sort of snowballed into more and more. And I thought maybe I wanted to act, and--I needed the money. That was really it."

"Why didn't you tell me about this earlier?"

"I was sort of hoping we'd never have to have this conversation," he says.

"This stuff always finds a way of getting out. At least if I'd known, we could have taken preemptive measures."


"Trevor, please, you're not the first model who was stupid enough to do porn. Now we've got to deal with this before it gets out. Obviously they want money--"

"He said that was it."

"What? Who said that?"

"Cliff. The guy who made the video." Trevor pushes away the bowl of cereal. He no longer has anything resembling an appetite. "I paid him five grand, and he agreed that was it."

"You paid him? Are you retarded?" Before Trevor can respond, Wes adds, "Don't answer that. Why would you take this guy's word about anything?"

"Because he promised. I don't know." All the embarrassment and anger swell up inside Trevor, and it takes all the willpower he possesses not to hurl the phone against the wall.

"Let me make some calls," Wes says. "In the meantime, whatever you do, do not talk to this Cliff guy. Got it?"

"Got it."

As Trevor ends the call and sets his phone on the counter, the rage boils up inside him again. Before he knows it, he is sweeping the bowl of cereal off the counter. Flakes fly everywhere; the bowl shatters against the floor.

The phone rings again. The song snippet seems more irritating now. Trevor silences it and then looks at the screen--it's Alex.

He lets the call go to voicemail as he stares down at the broken bowl and scattered cereal.


Will Wes be able to solve Trevor's problem?
Can Sarah and Matt come to an agreement?
What is the big idea that Courtney put in Jason's head?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to discuss!

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