Episode #460

- Lauren and Josh pitched their ideas to executives from the Poppin' Lips company, who seemed receptive but strongly implied that a drug hook-up would seal the deal. Josh planned to put them in touch with a dealer, but Lauren strongly objected. Josh seemed to agree with her, but in private, he made the phone call anyway.
- Jason and Courtney shared their first kiss in years, and they continued to grow closer while working together at the arena.
- Alex declined to hang out with Trevor, planning to work on his writing, but then Seth showed up at his apartment. They went for coffee, and Trevor found them together.


All around Lauren Brooks, it is business as usual at the advertising agency. Several simultaneous phone calls compete for air space; someone walks past her with an oversized board bearing a mock-up ad. Lauren feels frozen in the midst of it all as she stands in her cubicle, hands pressed onto her desk, waiting.

The moment that she sees her boss pass by on the way to her office, Lauren lifts her hands, but her feet do not follow suit. She feels glued to the spot. Susan has been out of the office all day long, and Lauren's nerves seem to have petrified while waiting. Can she really go in there and confess to Susan that she is the reason that Willis will not score the Poppin' Lips account?

Doing it herself has to be better than waiting for Susan to find out about it on her own, she reasons as she compels her feet to take her to Susan's office.

Lauren knocks meekly on the open door, and Susan looks up, a radiant smile on her face.

"Come in, come in," Susan says, exhibiting a rare display of excitement. "How did you feel about the dinner?"

"They… seemed very into our proposal."

That part is the truth, and it is also easy to tell. Now Lauren has to force herself to tell Susan the more difficult part: that they would have had the account if she had gone along with the executives' request for a drug hook-up. Again she questions her choice to refuse to allow Josh to help them out, but she knows that she does not want to build a career on that sort of thing.

"Excellent!" Susan exclaims.

Lauren swallows hard and pushes the words out. "Susan, there's something I need to tell you."

"Oh?" Susan hovers her open purse, waiting, watching.

Lauren's throat tightens.

"I, uh… well, I'm pretty sure I know what their decision is going to be."

Susan's smile melts back into its more familiar cousin, a difficult-to-read straight line.

"They really did seem to like our ideas," Lauren says, "but I think I have a good idea of what they're going to decide, and I thought I should tell you first."

"There's no need, Lauren. I already know."

"You do?"

"Brandon Barnes phoned me this morning. He said they cannot wait to begin doing business with us!"

The news is so unexpected that it takes Lauren a long moment to process it, and even when she does, she is sure that she misheard.

"Wait, we got the account?"

"Unofficially. Nothing has been signed yet, of course. But we'll straighten all that out soon enough." Susan's beaming smile returns. "I knew that my faith in you and Josh wasn't misplaced."

"I guess not," Lauren says, trying to figure out how this could even be possible.


The office is quiet and calm--a strong contrast to the frustration and anxiety inside Jason Fisher as he files away the small stack of resumes of people he interviewed as potential replacements for Ryan.

Courtney Chase stands by her own desk, packing up her bag for the night.

"We'll find someone," she says. "Better that we take our time and find the right person than rushing to hire someone just because we need a body."

Jason closes the filing cabinet and allows her words of wisdom a moment to sink in. He knows that she is right, but the absence of a real businessperson has left a lot of things hanging in the air. All their forward motion, which not so long ago made this endeavor feel like a state-of-the-art bullet train, has hit a wall, and now it feels more like a broken-down old trolley clacking along on rusted tracks.

"I just want to feel it's right when I bring someone in, you know?" he says, as if needing to justify his decision not to hire any of the people he has interviewed so far. "I don't want to be told that, yeah, my ideas are good, but actually, here are ten totally different things we should be doing. I know what I want this place to be--I just need the people to help me do it."

Courtney offers a smile, ostensibly meant to calm him, though all it does is send a completely different type of current through Jason.

"Well, you've got me," she says, "whatever good I might be, and Sabrina is really doing a nice job. We'll find someone."

He accepts her reassurance silently and finishes packing his things.

"Do you want to go grab something to eat?" he asks.

Courtney looks at him sideways, a little mischievous. "Like… a date?"

"I guess. Sure." He laughs an uncomfortable little laugh. The lack of definition between them has been making him nuts, but issues with work and, more recently, the situation at Claire and Ryan's wedding and all the fallout have taken priority.

"So is it a date every time we eat together, or are some of them 'business lunches,' or just friends hanging out?" Courtney asks. There is a playful quality to her voice, but Jason knows that she is serious underneath it all.

The only thing that he can do is shrug.

"I don't have a clue," he admits.

"Me neither. But it's driving me crazy, Jason. This… thing between us--where is it going?"


Alex Marshall jams his finger into the doorbell and then waits, helpless, for some kind of response. He has called Trevor several times since yesterday afternoon, when Trevor found Alex huddled over a table at the coffee shop with Seth. Trevor has not answered his calls or returned his messages, so Alex has decided to corner him. He knows that Trevor is here; his car is parked in its usual spot in the driveway.

He rings the doorbell again, but as soon as he does so, he spots Trevor peeking out one of the side windows. At the sight of him, Trevor withdraws back into hiding.

"Open up! Trevor, come on!" he calls through the door.

"I'm not in the mood!" comes the terse response.

"Please! We need to talk!" Alex feels like a lunatic standing out here, screaming into the house, but he has no other option. He needs to make Trevor understand that there is nothing improper about his friendship with Seth.

Nothing happens for several seconds, enough time to make Alex wonder if he might be able to break in through the back door. Just as he realizes how insane that idea is, he hears the locks sliding. Trevor opens the door.

"Let me talk. When I saw Seth in Portland, he was mad about the book--because he was engaged, and he didn't want his fiancée to know," Alex says in a rush. "We argued, I didn't hear from him for a while, and then he turned up at my place while you were in New York. He wanted to apologize and invite me to the wedding. I put the invitation away and didn't even consider going. But then I kept thinking it would be good for closure, and you went back to New York, right before Christmas, so I went to the wedding."

He watches Trevor take all this in, process it. Alex can only hope that the facts are enough to exonerate him.

"He's married, then?" Trevor asks.

Alex realizes how bad this sounds. "He ran out on the wedding. He's a mess, Trevor. He made me leave the church with him, and he just wanted to talk and talk--"

"He made you leave the church?"

"He needed help."

"I just don't get why you wouldn't tell me about any of this," Trevor says.

"Because I know how it all sounds. It kept compounding and getting worse, and all I wanted to do was have it be over."

Trevor stares past him, toward some random point out in the street. Alex tries desperately to make eye contact, but Trevor will not oblige.

"For argument's sake, let's say that's true," Trevor says, "and you do want this to be over. Why is he here now? Why were you having coffee instead of telling him to hit the road?"

"He was a friend once. A good friend."

"I know. I read the book."

The simple statement, said with such pointed aggression, takes the wind out of Alex's lungs. He knows how this must look to Trevor, and with each second that passes, he becomes less certain that he has any way of digging his way out of it.

"I can believe that nothing has happened between you guys," Trevor says, "but that doesn't make it a whole lot easier to take. I don't like feeling like an outsider in your life."

Alex didn't want to get into this, but he knows he has an ace up his sleeve, something to level the playing field. "That's how I felt when that video came on the TV at Christmas. There was this whole part of your life that you'd kept from me, too. And we got past that."

"Yeah." Trevor's voice softens suddenly, and Alex's hopes rise.

"But maybe," Trevor continues, "that's why you forgave me so quickly. Not because you really were over it, but because you felt guilty about keeping your own secrets."

Alex doesn't want to consider that possibility.

"If I wanted to be with Seth, I would've used that whole thing as an excuse to break up with you and go after him, wouldn't I?" Alex says.

Trevor shakes his head. "I don't know. This is all getting way too abstract. Like, we both kept secrets. We're even there. But don't you get why this one bothers me so much?"

"I am not cheating on you! I thought you said you believed me about that."

"I said I believe that nothing's happened," Trevor says. "But I did read that book, Alex. I know what Seth meant to you. And if he's here, and he's single, and you feel like you can't tell me any of that…"

Alex sees his point, and suddenly, all argument is drained from him. They could keep going in circles for hours, but it keeps coming back to this point. It is not one that Alex particularly wants to consider, but he understands exactly what Trevor is feeling now.

"So, what now?" he asks, trying to be hopeful even if it is illogical.

"I'm not sure. I need some time to think. I'll get in touch with you when I'm ready to talk, okay?"

All Alex can do is nod as Trevor closes the door on him.


There was a time when Lauren felt out of place in her business suits in Josh's neighborhood. While it is far from a slum, the area is old and ungentrified, and there are neighbors whom she suspects of doing little but sitting on their porches all day long. She has long hoped that Josh would move someplace a little nicer, but since they began dating, she has grown more accustomed to the area. This evening, her haste in bounding from her car to the front door has little to do with the neighborhood and everything to do with the questions pounding on her brain.

Thankfully, he answers the door after her first knock.

"We got the account. They picked Willis," she says, her tone flat.

"I knew we would! I told you to just have faith, didn't I?"

Josh reaches for her, but Lauren backs away.

"You did it, didn't you?" she says, fixing a stare on him that threatens bodily harm if he so much as glances away. "You went behind my back and hooked them up with… whatever they wanted."

"What are you talking about?"

She can see the lie in his exaggerated expression. He isn't the least bit surprised; he knew they were going to get the account.

"So? What did you tell them?" she demands. "That I'm some old-fashioned bore who isn't cool enough to help them out? Did they know you lied to me?"

"I told them I didn't want you to get involved in anything, just in case. I was looking out for you!"

She would like to believe the sentiment, but she has a feeling that it is merely incidental.

"I know I shouldn't be surprised," she says. "It didn't bother you at all that they were asking us to get coke for them. You didn't give a crap about my feelings on it."

"That's not true! I just wanted to make sure that we got this account. This is going to be the thing that makes our careers."

"Too bad it's also going to be the thing that ruins… whatever we have going here." She flaps her hand between the two of them, as the proper word fails her. Relationship? This was never a real relationship if Josh felt so comfortable lying to her face and maneuvering behind her back.

"You don't mean that," he says.

"I can't trust you! Why should I trust anything you say, ever?"

"Because! This is different." Even Josh seems to realize what a feeble argument that is. He drops his head, takes a deep breath, and looks up again with a much more sincere face. "I'm sorry. I really, really am. I want this account so bad that I guess I let my head get away from me. I got stupid."

"No kidding."

She folds her arms across her body, putting a barrier between them just in case he makes a move.

"We're gonna have to work together on this," he says.

"Then we'll do it as professionally as possible. I should've known better than to think this could work."

She crosses back through the open door.

"Why'd you come over here if you already knew?" Josh asks as she goes.

She pauses on the stone path and turns back to him. "Because I needed to see it for myself. You've had me thinking you were someone else. I needed to see that the guy I thought I was falling for really is the jerk I thought he was in the first place."

That parting shot doesn't feel nearly as good as Lauren had hoped it would, but she hopes Josh feels the affect as she storms back to her car.


Courtney might as well have cast a spell over the office. Jason's brain refuses to supply his mouth with an adequate response, and from what he can tell, Courtney is just as stunned at having asked for a clear definition of their situation.

Finally she is the one to break the silence: "I don't mean to be pushy--"

"No. Don't apologize." Her few words seem to have broken the trance, and now Jason's thoughts come tumbling out in the least organized fashion possible. "This has been great lately, hanging out with you, working together. It's--you're--I don't know what to call it, but it feels good. It feels right."

Her smile reemerges, this time with a certain glow to it.

"I want to be with you," he says. "Not sure what to call it, exactly, but I want you to know that's how I feel."

"Good. Me, too."

She takes a few steps closer to him.

"I just worry, that's all," he continues, not even sure where all this is coming from anymore. "We were friends for so much of our lives, and then things got more serious and we lost that, and it's taken so long for us to be friends again. I don't want to lose it again."

Courtney nods as her hands reach out and take his. She knots their fingers together, a move that Jason remembers from years ago, when they were just kids. Have they really missed all this time?

"This isn't just a line," he says, "but I don't want to screw up our friendship."

"Me neither… but maybe we weren't meant to be just friends."

There is something deeper, more full-bodied, about her voice, and it is driving him nuts. Still, he manages to look her straight in the eye:

"Maybe we just need to take it slow."

She pauses, then: "Yeah."

"I don't want you to take this as a rejection," he says, "because--no. Not even close. I want to be with you."

"Okay. So we take it slow." She drops their handhold and backs away from him, only a few inches, but enough for him to miss her already.

"You know, go on dates, see how things pan out," Jason says, desperately trying to justify this now. It all made so much sense when he thought it, but with Courtney in front of him right now, it sounds like the stupidest idea in the world.

"So we don't get in over our heads," she says, helping him out.

"Exactly. We can see how it goes, make sure we're both feeling the same way. Take it slow."

"Yeah. Slow."

The silence resurfaces, creeping over them like a drifting fog. Jason steals a look at her, and she steals one at him. He wants to believe that this can work. If they just take their time and make sure everything is right--

And then she is on him, and he is powerless to resist. She has his body pressed against the file cabinet and his mouth pressed against hers, and all Jason can do is breathe her in. His hands fly over her, never resting or stopping, desperate to make up for lost time.

Then she spins him around, and with their mouths still mashed together, she lowers herself backward onto his desk. In a flash, she has his pants around his knees and his boxers lowered to some not-so-comfortable spot in the middle of his thighs, but he is too busy yanking up her skirt to care.


Will Jason and Courtney finally get back together?
Can Alex save his relationship with Trevor?
Should Lauren give up on Josh for good?
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