Episode #457

- A coworker caught Lauren and Josh kissing in the break room of their office.
- Ryan pleaded with Claire for forgiveness, but she refused to hear him out and moved out of the loft.
- Tim and Diane argued over his continued concern for Claire.


Lauren Brooks has spent the whole day living in fear. After she and Josh were caught making out in the kitchen, Lauren has been tiptoeing around the office, trying to stay as under-the-radar as she possibly can, in hopes that her diminished presence might make the whole thing a non-issue. She has no idea if Flora, the lady from Payroll, even told anyone about catching Lauren and Josh together, but her silence seems like too much to hope for.

Now Lauren hunches over her desk, mechanically taping receipts to blank sheets of paper as she prepares her expense report. The task is a welcome one in terms of how simple and straightforward it is, but it also affords her ample opportunity to be distracted by her own worries. Then again, maybe there is nothing to worry about; they have never been explicitly warned about becoming involved with coworkers. But why have she and Josh spent months observing an unspoken contract of sneakiness, of carefully moderating their behavior on company time and of hiding their relationship from everyone at Willis?

She can answer her own question: Because we knew we shouldn't have been doing it.

So now what? If Flora does tell someone about what she saw, and if word does get out, will Lauren have to choose between her job and Josh? Will she even be given the chance to make that choice?

She goes back to organizing her expense report. The office has mostly cleared out already, and Lauren is ready to get out of here, too. As soon as this is done, she can head home and put this day behind her. She picks up the pace, but she only makes it through two more receipts before she becomes aware of a presence lingering above her.


She looks up and sees Sonya, their boss's assistant, standing over her desk.

"Susan asked if I'd come get you and bring you into her office," Sonya says.

Lauren takes a moment to gather herself before responding.

"Susan wants to see me? What about?"

Sonya offers an abbreviated little shrug. "I'm not sure. She just asked me to bring you to her office."

"All right…" Lauren tries her best to smile as she stands, organizes the receipts and papers on her desk, and then follows Sonya across the office floor to Susan Johnson's corner office.

"Susan will be with you in just a moment," Sonya says as she opens the door and steps aside, letting Lauren enter the room.

Sonya closes the door, and then Lauren is alone in the massive office.

Or not.

"Oh, God," Josh Taylor says. Lauren turns, startled, and sees him sitting in a high-backed chair near Susan's oversized desk. "They got you, too?"


Tim Fisher turns the key and carefully, almost hesitantly, opens the front door. This morning, he thought it was wildly impractical that he and Diane took separate cars to work. However, in light of their argument at the office, he is now grateful that he did not have to endure that uncomfortable trip home in a car together. Diane was able to leave on her own and pick up Samantha from her grandparents', and Tim could stay later to finish up some work. And to avoid having to face Diane at home, where whatever restraint she managed to display at the office will most assuredly not be on display.

Now, however, that moment is upon him. He enters the condo and finds Diane in the kitchen, putting takeout containers into the refrigerator.

"Where's Sam?" he asks as he sets his keys on the counter.

"In her room reading. We got teriyaki for dinner. There's some left if you want it."

Diane closes the fridge and breezes past him, presumably toward the bedroom. Tim places a hand in front of her to stop her.

"We're not doing this," he says.

"Doing what? I've had a long day. I want to get undressed."

"This freeze-out thing. We're not going to walk around being all tight-lipped and cold to each other."

Diane's hands plant on her hips. "What am I supposed to do, then? Have a screaming match with my daughter in the next room?"

"I didn't say that." Tim takes a peek down the hallway to make sure that Samantha is still in her room. "But she's a smart kid. She'll be able to tell that something is wrong."

"Then what do you suggest?"

"That we talk about this. Figure it out. There's obviously a lot of unspoken stuff going on here."

"Yeah. You're right." She looks him straight in the eyes. "So let's get it out there: are you still in love with Claire?"

The question throws Tim off-kilter. He knew it might be in there, somewhere, but he didn't expect it to come out so bluntly and so quickly.

"I'll always love Claire," he answers carefully. He has never lied about that, and he will not do it now.

Diane's head nods, like a scientist seeing the exact results that she expected from mixing two chemicals together. "Okay, that's fair. I get that. Maybe the real question is: are you ever going to love me as much as you love her? Is there any chance of that happening, ever?"

Her initial reaction filled him with relief, but this new turn blows that relief away and replaces it with something that Tim can only identify as panic. He watches the toe of Diane's Manolo Blahnik tap up and down. Each tick against the floor makes his heart race a little faster and the room seem a little hotter.

"There's no right answer," she says. "All I want is the truth."

She is remarkably calm. In another person, it might look like premature resignation to the answer that she knows is coming, but in Diane, it looks like just the thing that Tim has come to love about her: her bluntness, her ability to cut through the garbage and see the world for exactly what it is. There was a time when Tim did not appreciate that; he wanted to believe the best about the world in all situations. Since his return from that clinic, though, with that chunk of years missing from his personal timeline, he has come to see the value in Diane's view of things.

That is why he owes her the same raw honesty now.

"I don't know," he says, already reaching out to console her. He can only imagine what the statement must feel like. Diane backs away from him.

"I wish I could give you a better answer than that," he says, "but I just don't know."

A clammy silence falls over them. Tim takes in the condo around him, the place he has called home for some time now. He and Diane never made an official decision to move in together; it just happened after weeks of him spending the night turned into months, and it afforded them the opportunity to be a family with Samantha. Now, however, he wonders if he has ever really moved in at all. He feels like an intruder in Diane's home after what he just admitted to her. He's not at home in his own home, and that tells him a great deal.

They stand there, between the kitchen and the living room, neither of them sure what to say or do next. At last, Tim looks her in the eye. If she can take his honesty, then he can take hers.

"So where does this leave us?"

"I don't know," she says. Apparently it is the mantra of the night.


This place looks different to Ryan Moriani. Not long ago, the unfinished floors and walls represented all the potential of this project. It was not only a business venture, but a chance for him to bond with his brother and to prove himself to his new family. Now, as he walks uncertainly down the upstairs hallway, all he can see is incompleteness--things started but left unfinished, perhaps permanently.

He allows himself a moment to pause outside the office, and then he crosses through the open doorway. He finds Jason at his desk, attention fixed on the computer monitor, and that new assistant, Sabrina, on the phone. Sabrina spots Ryan immediately and offers an awkward acknowledgement of his presence: not a wave, not even a nod of the head, but a widening of the eyes that says, This is as much as you're getting out of me. Clearly Jason has filled her in.

Wordlessly, Ryan approaches his brother's desk. Only when he is beside the desk does Jason finally notice him.

"Glad to see you're still in," Ryan says. "I was worried you'd have left for the night."

"We're going to be done in a few minutes." Jason returns his focus to the computer and continues typing.

Ryan lingers there awkwardly for several seconds. "How are things going? Did you get that plexiglass situation under control?"

"We're sticking with the old vendor on that."

The straightforwardness of Jason's statement crushes Ryan. There is no warmth, not even a show of interest. Just facts, stated in as few words as possible.

"Listen, Jason, I need just a few minutes to talk to you."

Another agonizing moment of typing and ignoring follows, and then Jason turns abruptly to Ryan. He opens his mouth as if to speak but stops.

"Outside," Jason says, and like that, he is on his feet and headed out of the office. Ryan follows.

Once they are in the hallway, Jason turns around sharply. "I don't want you here."

"I understand that, I do," Ryan says. "But I need you to understand why I did what I did. I didn't set out to hurt Tim. I was trying to protect all of you, Claire, the kids… things spiraled out of control."

"Little bit of an understatement there, don't you think?"

Ryan cannot argue with that. He knows that what he did was so vile that he should not expect forgiveness from any of the Fishers, but he has to try. They are good people.

"I know you aren't ready to give me a second chance as a brother," he says, "but how about as a business partner? A strictly professional relationship. Let me get back in here and prove myself to you."

He sees Jason's face soften. He is considering the offer. Ryan knows that Jason needs him here--he cannot handle the business aspects of this alone. If he will only let Ryan back in on a professional level, maybe he can come to forgive him, with time.

"We had a good arrangement going here, Jason. Being able to work with you--to finally have a brother--it was one of the greatest opportunities I've ever had. I'd hate to think that I've lost that, too."

Please, Ryan thinks while he awaits some response. If he can just convince Jason to give him some chance, then--

"It meant that much to you to have a brother?" Jason asks.


"Then maybe you should've considered that before you framed my brother for a murder you committed. Or thought you committed. Whatever."

"I made a mistake in the heat of the moment, and it kept getting worse and worse. And then my father's maid was killed, and I knew I didn't do that, so I genuinely thought Tim might have…"

"Might have what? Bought into your shit, the way the rest of us did?" Jason shakes his head and pushes past Ryan, back toward the office door. "I don't know how I'm ever going to make this up to my brother, all the months of doubting him and standing by you, but it sure as hell won't be by going back into business with you."

Jason takes a decisive step into the office and closes the door behind him. Ryan doesn't move; he can't. He was holding out hope for this. If Jason had been willing to give him another chance, then maybe the other Fishers could have been convinced, too. But this is just as big a rejection as he received from Claire. All he wants to do is go back in time, to the moment he pulled that trigger, and stop himself. Except Nick knew that Ryan had ratted him out to the authorities, and he had no compunction about spreading the word around to his colleagues. Ryan and the Fishers never would have been safe…

He looks again at the closed door, and at the unfinished walls and the bare concrete floor. Not long ago, this place held so much potential. It would have been something that he and his brother did together, something tangible to prove that they truly were close. Now Ryan does not even have a brother, for all intents and purposes, and this is not a place full of potential; it is a place without hope, a reminder of all the progress that has been squandered. And he has no one to blame but himself.


Lauren looks at Josh, sitting in front of their boss's desk, and knows that the jig is up.

"They're totally going to fire us, aren't they?" she asks, though she is certain enough of it that there is no need for an answer.

"Fire us? There's no company policy against fraternizing or whatever. They can't fire us."

"I think they can do whatever they want."

"And then we can sue their asses." Josh rises from his seat. "Maybe she just feels like she has to address it."

"She's not going to 'address' it, Josh. She's going to fire us. Or, like, reprimand us, which might be even worse, because then we'll have to come back here tomorrow and everyone will know that we got in trouble, and--"

"Brooks! Pull yourself together!"

Josh's outburst is enough to quiet Lauren for the moment, but it does nothing to help her emotional state.

"We screwed up. We shouldn't have been acting like that at work," she finally says.

"This is all that Flora chick's fault," Josh counters. "She's just bitter because some of us are actually getting some action."

"That's not fair. We shouldn't have brought our personal lives to work. We've been so careful… How did we screw up?"

"Because of my brother! Look, I can deflect this. I'll tell her what's going on with Brent, and how under normal circumstances we'd never do something like that--none of these people had any idea we were dating, right? We've done a good job hiding it."

"Until now."

Josh advances toward Lauren, and she instinctively backs away. It's bad enough that they got caught together once. She won't have Susan finding them like that again.

"It's not going to work," she tells Josh, and she can feel her spirit sink as she accepts that. They made their completely inappropriate bed, and now they will have to lie in it.

"You're right." Josh's quick agreement surprises her, until he continues: "Just deny it, okay? It's that hag Flora's word against ours."

Before Lauren can respond, the door opens, and Susan Johnson steps into the room. She is, as always, the picture of professionalism without appearing stuffy or old-fashioned. And, also as always, her face is a difficult book to read. She is not prone to overt displays of emotion, and while that has probably contributed to her success in business, it makes Lauren even more nervous right now.

"Please, have a seat," Susan says as she makes her way behind the desk and into her own chair. "I have something very important to discuss with you both."

Lauren catches Josh throwing her a sideways look. She tries to avoid it as she shuffles over to the desk and seats herself.

"I have to admit," Susan begins, folding her hands atop the desk, "that I wasn't entirely sure that I was ready to do this, but after thinking it over, I believe that this is the right course of action."

"Susan," Lauren blurts out, "if you'll give me a moment to explain--"

"Lauren, don't be so rude!" Josh interrupts. "Let the woman speak."

Lauren avoids glancing at Josh, or even acknowledging him. "Josh and I know why you called us in here, and if I could just say a few words, I think you'll understand where we're both coming from--"

"She doesn't know what she's talking about," Josh says.

Susan's face crinkles ever so slightly. Confusion? Amusement? Lauren isn't sure.

"I'm not sure how either of you could know what I'm about to discuss," Susan says, "because I haven't shared it with anyone but Sonya, and I know that she knows better than to spread confidential information."

Lauren doesn't know why Susan would expect them to be unaware. "Well, we were there."

Josh manages to catch Lauren's eye, and the look he throws her has one distinct message: Shut up.

"You were where?" Susan asks.

The force of the revelation jolts Lauren, and she sits as far back as her chair will allow. Susan doesn't know? This isn't about what Flora saw in the kitchen?

With a laugh, Josh says, "I think she means, we're here, and we're ready to be let in on whatever it is that you wanted to discuss."

"Very well," Susan says. "As you both know, we've been eyeing Poppin' Lips, the lip gloss line for young girls, for some time. They're now expanding into a full range of beauty products for preteens, so they've decided to switch firms. We're among their top choices."

Finally Lauren is able to take Josh's advice and shut up. Wherever this is headed, it is not what she expected.

"After some consideration, I've decided that the two of you are ready to take on a bigger role. We've all been impressed with the work you've done on the Objection campaigns, and we feel that you would be the perfect team to pursue Poppin' Lips for us and, with any luck, develop and execute their advertising campaign."

Lauren finally allows her fear of being fired to take a tentative seat on the backburner. "You want us to manage the account?"

"You do have to convince them to choose us first," Susan says, "but I have faith that you and Josh are more than capable of that."

"Damn right," Josh says, beaming. Lauren can tell that any worries about Flora spilling her guts are long-gone from his mind.

"So that's all this was about?" Lauren asks. She can't resist finding out for sure. "Flora didn't--?"

Josh cuts her off: "Flora from Payroll? What are you rambling about, Lauren?" He laughs and maintains that genial salesman's smile the whole time.

"I'm not sure what Flora from Payroll has to do with any of this," Susan says.

"Absolutely nothing," Josh says firmly as he reaches across the desk to shake Susan's hand. "Thank you for this opportunity."

"Yes, thank you." Lauren follows suit and extends her hand.

As they shake, Susan looks her in the eye: "I'm sure you'll both make me proud."


The summer sun has finally slid low enough to call it nighttime, and a gentle Pacific Northwest breeze lilts through the air. Tim holds his cell phone to his ear and listens to the ringing on the other end as he paces back and forth in the parking lot. There is a click, and then he hears her voice.


"Claire. It's me."

"Hi. What's going on? Is everything okay?"

He decides to sidestep that question. "I have an idea I want to run by you."


"I've got a bunch of vacation time saved up at work," he says. "I was thinking I could take Travis and Samantha on a trip before school starts. To New York, maybe. Someplace exciting."

There is mostly silence on the other end. He can sense Claire trying to formulate a response, so he takes the baton and keeps going.

"It'd be a good change of pace for them. Maybe getting away for a little while will give Travis some perspective. It can't hurt."

He knows that he is acting on pure impulse at this point, but it feels necessary. He hopes that Claire will understand that.

"I guess so," she says. "Where is this coming from?"

"It's an idea I had. Like I said, it'd be good for the kids, don't you think?"

"And what about you?"

He had considered driving over to his parents' house and having this discussion with her in person. It seemed appropriate for this kind of big declaration. On the other hand, it seemed totally inappropriate given what just happened between him and Diane. The last thing he wanted to do was make it look like he was running straight to Claire. So he opted for the phone, and now, he is grateful for the choice.

"What about me? I'm fine," he says. "I want to do something with the kids."

"You've asked Diane? She's all right with it?"

"She thinks it's a great idea." His attempt at sounding casual sounds flat to his own ears.

Thankfully, Claire does not say anything else, though something about her tone gives Tim the impression that she knows precisely what is going on.

"If you think it's best, I won't disagree," she says. "As long as we get Travis in to see a psychologist as soon as you get back."

"It'll give you some time to ask around and find the right person."


"Then I'll run it by Travis when I pick him up from Landon's in the morning," he says. "I'm sure Sam will be onboard."

"Okay. Just let me know what you decide."

"Thanks, Claire."

"Maybe you're right and this will help with Travis," she says, though she sounds less than sure of that. "I hope this trip turns out to be good for all of you."

"So do I," he says, sighing heavily as he kicks a pebble over the pavement.


Will Tim's trip give him and Diane a chance to heal?
Can Lauren and Josh successfully land this account together?
Will Ryan ever be part of the Fisher family again?
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