Episode #475

- During a chance run-in, Ryan told Claire that he is moving out of the loft for financial reasons.
- Diane set her sights on her next big project: convincing Ryan to publish his account of Nick’s “murder.”
- Alex was upset with Jason and Courtney after finding out that they were considering hiring Seth at the arena.
- Sabrina urged Courtney to consider terminating her pregnancy.


Growing up, the holidays were always a mixed bag for Alex Marshall. He wanted to believe in the magic of the season, just like any other kid--maybe moreso, because he hoped that Christmas might have the power to transform his life. But each year brought new disappointment, an even greater awareness that reality was not something to be altered by some snow on the ground or hoofbeats on the roof.

That all changed when he met the Chases. Don and Helen welcomed him into their home; Courtney became as much a sister as a close friend. Even before his mother’s passing, Alex found Christmas to be very different once the Chase family came into his life.

This year, however, he approaches their front door with trepidation. The purity of the holiday has been tainted by his recent falling-out with Courtney and Jason over their having hired Seth at the rink. He has not spoken to Court since her parents extended the invitation for him to join them, and he fears that the lingering animosity between them will turn this holiday into one of the disappointments from his youth.

Helen answers the door and greets him with an enveloping hug.

“It’s so good to see you,” she says, ushering him into the house.

Alex enters cautiously, shifting his eyes for a sign of Courtney. “How have you been? How are you keeping busy these days?”

“It feels like this attic project is taking years! But it will be worth it when Don has a studio of his own to paint in.”

As if on cue, Don appears in the hallway. The men exchange handshakes and hugs.

“Thanks for having me,” he says to both of them.

“We’re always thrilled to have you,” Helen says. “It’s been much too long… though I’m sure there are other ways you might like to spend your holiday.”

“Trevor and I are… not working. And that has nothing to do with today. I want to enjoy spending Christmas with you guys.”

They lead him into the living room, where Courtney is waiting. She sits on the big, cushy sofa, a glass of what appears to be sparkling water clutched between her hands. Judging by the way that she meets his eyes the instant he enters, he guesses that she is as anxious over this meeting as he is.

He raises a hand in a meek wave. “Merry Christmas.”

The gesture seems to surprise Courtney, but she responds in kind. “Merry Christmas.”

After a few moments of chatter, Don and Helen shuffle off to the kitchen to resume work on dinner.

“So.” Alex folds his arms, but it does nothing to stifle the awkwardness.

“I’m surprised you came,” she says, spite pooling at the edge of her words.

“Christmas with your family is special. I wouldn’t want to lose that.” And now… time to swallow his pride. “Especially not over some dumb fight.”

“You didn’t seem to think it was so dumb when you found Seth in the office.”

“I overreacted. Maybe.” He still is not sure how he feels about the whole situation; time has allowed him to calm down and see Jason and Courtney’s side of the issue a bit more clearly, though he still wishes they had turned Seth away as soon as they realized who he was.

“I’m sorry we didn’t tell you,” she says. “It was stupid.”

He cracks a tiny grin. “Little bit, yeah.” He stops there, not wanting to voice his thoughts about Seth: that he planned this, that he wanted to drive a wedge between Alex and his closest friends.

“Can you forgive me?” she asks.

“If you can forgive me for throwing a fit, yeah. It’s Christmas. I’m not wasting this on fighting.”

“Do you think you can forgive Jason, too?”

He nods. “I have to, anyway. It’s getting really awkward creeping around the apartment.”

She springs up from the sofa and throws her arms around his neck. “I’m really glad we’re not in a fight anymore.”

“Me, too,” Alex says.

“No, seriously.” She looks him directly in the eye, and the volume of her voice drops a few notches. “There’s something I really, really need to talk to you about.”


Christmas is already in full swing at the Fishers’, where the children and grandchildren have long since arrived and familiarized themselves with the appetizers and drinks. Jason concludes a conversation with Sarah--like talking to an automated operator, he decides; it’s a slow recitation of the expected elements and nothing more--and, at a loss as to how or if he can do anything to help one sister, he moves along to the other one.

“Mom tells me I owe you some congratulations,” he says as he sidles up beside Molly.

She receives the sentiment with a warm smile. “Thanks. I’m still a little in shock.”

“Why? Camille loved you.”

“Which is why I’m going to try my hardest not to screw this up.” She drinks from her glass of white wine. “Big year in business for the Fisher kids, hmm?”

“No joke. Okay, any time you feel out of place being in control there, think about the fact that I am in charge of an entire business. Me.”

“Scary thought.”

“I know!”

“You seem to be doing all right, though.”

“Blind luck so far, I swear.” It still amazes him that the arena project is even in motion, let alone going relatively well. He is sure that, any day, someone will figure out what a fraud he is--a child playing a grown-up’s game--and put a stop to the whole thing. “I’ve got a lot of good help.”

“Like Courtney?” she asks, with a sly, sideways smirk that tells him she has been talking to someone else.

“I’m gonna kill Tim.” He glances across the room at his brother, engaged in conversation with Matt, and catches his eye long enough to make a joking threat of dragging his finger along his throat. Well, half-joking.

“I had a feeling you guys would find your way back to each other,” Molly says. “Why all the secrecy? Why aren’t you spending Christmas together?”

“Because we haven’t ‘found our way back to each other’ or whatever. We’re just… I don’t know.”

“Sleeping together?”

“No!” He wants to offer further protest, except that she is right. They are exes, friends, and coworkers, but at the moment, the only way to define the relationship is sleeping together. He hates that it makes it sound tawdrier than it is.

“Okay, kind of,” he admits.

“That’s all you want?”

“I don’t know. She’s Courtney. We’d probably be married by now if not for that whole Alex-and-Lauren thing way back when.”

“So you want more than this,” Molly says, clearly trying to lead him to something.

“If I knew what I wanted, I’d be in much better shape than I am, believe me.”

After a thoughtful sip of wine, she says, “Look at it another way. If Courtney were to start dating another guy right now, how would you feel?”

For some reason, it pains him, maybe embarrasses him, to admit it: “I’d hate it.”

“Then there’s your answer, don’t you think?”

He makes a face at her. “Stop being so… wise.”

“Tell her how you feel,” Molly says.

“It’s not that easy. She’s… I’m not sure she feels the same way.”

“You’ll never know if you don’t try, will you?”

As much as he would like to brush off the advice, Jason knows that she is right. He throws another goofy face at her, but Molly just stares at him, a silent challenge to do what he knows he must.


Across the room, Paula navigates her way over to Claire. Though she has been a staple of family gatherings and, more directly, a part of the family for many years now, Claire appears awkward and uncomfortable today. Her posture is tight, shoulders crunched up toward her ears, and her eyes shift constantly, as if preparing to react to a sudden assault at any instant.

“No one should be so unhappy at Christmas,” Paula says as she settles by her former daughter-in-law’s side.

The pronouncement catches Claire off-guard, and a moment later, a plastic smile forms on her mouth.

“No, no, I’m thrilled to be here,” she says. “It was really nice of you and Bill to invite me.”

“We’re always glad to have you… but it was actually Tim who suggested we invite you.”

“Oh.” Clearly this is the first Claire has heard of that.

“He thought that it would be good for both Travis and Samantha to have their mothers here, especially after the year we’ve all had.”

Claire’s head bobs in agreement. “Of course. Diane’s coming, then?”

“She’s supposed to,” Paula says.

“It was good of Tim to suggest this,” Claire says. “It means a lot to be able to spend the day with Travis.” She glances around for a glimpse of her son, who has, of course, vanished upstairs with his cousins. “I just hope this isn’t uncomfortable for you.”

“Honey, we passed ‘uncomfortable’ several years ago. There’s very little that could surprise me at this point.”

Paula offers what she hopes is a calming smile. Claire does her best to return an appreciative look, though there is still something strained about her.

“I’m so sorry for everything that’s happened,” she says, the words spilling out like water through a broken dam. “I was awful to Tim… and then I let Ryan put everyone in so much danger…”

“We’ve been through this. You are not responsible for Ryan’s actions. As for Tim… Bill and I have just as much to make up to him. We aren’t in any position to judge.”

“Thank you,” Claire says, and she leans in for a hug. For the first time, she seems to relax genuinely.

But when they part, Paula can see that there is something else tugging at Claire’s mind.

“I saw Ryan,” she finally says. “Ran into him while I was getting gas.”

Now it is Paula’s turn to act. She does her best to seem moderately interested but not too desperate for information; she does not want to give away the fact that she went after him--saw him, talked to him, in fact--on Thanksgiving. If any of them knew that she had done that…

Claire does not seem to take note of her dilemma as she continues: “He looked… not good. Not like Ryan. His car was a mess, he was a mess. And he said he’s moving out of the loft. He can’t afford it.”

The puzzle pieces inside Paula’s head shift into place. That’s why he was playing poker in that seedy bar--not very successfully, from what she witnessed.

“I know I shouldn’t care, and I don’t, really,” Claire says, “but it’s still strange to see, you know? I feel like I should do something, or at least be worried about him.”

“There isn’t anything wrong with worrying about someone, even if that person did terrible, terrible things,” Paula says. “Especially if that person is someone you once cared a great deal about.”

Claire nods along, but Paula intends the words as much for herself as for Claire.


Diane Bishop takes a moment to compose herself before knocking on the door. She smoothes her coat and uses her compact to check her makeup and hair. Though her overriding reason for dressing up today was to spend Christmas at the Fishers’, she needs to look her best for this: together, intimidating, like she has something to offer. The day is carefully chosen, too. What better day to propose a deal to Ryan than a day when he is sure to be feeling his lowest?

Her curled fist knocks on the door one, two, three times. For several seconds, she hears nothing. She saw his car outside, so she knows that he is here, but she hopes he is not going to pull that whole I’m too depressed to answer the door routine. She is not in the mood today.

Then come the footsteps, quickly, and the heavy door slides open. Ryan takes a step backward at the sight of her.

“What are you doing here?” he asks. It is as much an accusation as a question.

“I need to speak to you.” She does not hesitate to push her way inside.

“What is this, some scheme to help me get Claire back--which would benefit you because it’d keep her away from Tim, of course? I hate to break it to you, but I think that ship has sailed.”

“Yeah. Right off the edge of the world.” She makes no secret of appraising him. He is a mess: unshaven, hair messy, clothes unpressed and probably unwashed. “But I do like the way you think, in theory.”

“Whatever it is, I’m not in the mood. I’m busy,” he says, waiting by the door for her to take the not-so-subtle hint and get lost.

“I can see that.” The boxes spread throughout the half-empty loft are no surprise to her. She expected to find the place in such a state, given her recent research. “How would you feel about being able to hold onto this place?”

She can see Ryan struggling to conceal his interest. “What do you mean?”

“As I said, I need to speak to you. I have a proposal for you.”

He removes his hand from the handle of the heavy, metal door.

“You’ve been through an incredible experience,” Diane says, speaking the words just as she rehearsed them earlier. “Some of it was a result of mistakes that you made… other parts were because of circumstance, times when you were as much a victim as anyone else. Why should you go down as the villain in this whole thing?”

“What are you getting at?”

“You deserve to have your side of the story immortalized. You shouldn’t have to live the rest of your life being seen as the bad guy.” Diane has to swallow the objections rising up within her; this guy is slime, the way that he set up Tim to take the fall for a murder he committed. But she learned long ago to disconnect her personal feelings from work, and this could be big business. “I’m ready to offer you a very lucrative contract to write your account of the story--shooting Nick, covering it up, having him turn up alive, all of it.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I did mention that there could be a great, great deal of money involved, didn’t I? Your advance might even be enough to help you keep this place.”

He swallows hard, looking unsteady on his feet. “I’m selling the loft.”

“That seems difficult, considering that the bank is foreclosing on it.”

That stops him dead in his tracks. She had a feeling that he would deny it, try to cling to whatever scraps of pride he has left, and having the not-so-secret knowledge tossed in his face might be just the thing to knock him off-kilter enough to accept her offer.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he protests weakly.

She waves a hand dismissively. “Okay, whatever. Don’t try and bullshit a bullshitter, Ryan. You need cash. I can offer you that. But more importantly, you need a life--and this is your last chance to do that. Tell your side of the story before history is set in stone.”

She can see the gears turning and clanging inside his head as he processes the offer. It is a no-lose situation, isn’t it? She allows her lips to curl ever so slightly, knowing that he is about to take the bait.

“Get out,” he says suddenly.

Now it is her turn to be thrown off-balance. “What?”

“Get out. I’m not listening to this.” He grabs her by the arm and moves her forcefully toward the door. “I can’t do that to my--to the Fishers, not after all I’ve done to them.”

“God, Ryan. Scruples are so played out. Do you really think the Fishers care what you do anymore?”

She hopes that will be it, the final twist of the knife that gets him to submit, but instead he reaches for the door’s handle. She has to jump backward to avoid being hit by the sliding mass of metal.

As the door slams in her face, Diane tries to make sense of what has just taken place. He’s turning her down? How does that make any sense whatsoever?

“Merry Christmas! I hope your guilt is enough to buy you a new home!” she hollers through the door as she backtracks down the hallway.


“You’re pregnant?!”

“Shh! Shut up!” Courtney swats her hands at Alex, as if she might be capable of batting his words out of the air.

“Oh. My. God.” Alex drops onto the sofa where Courtney was seated moments ago. “How far along are you?”

“Almost three months.” She sets down her glass and pulls her sweater against her stomach. There is not much to be seen, given the sweater’s bulk and the lack of growth in her stomach thus far. Still, she is mesmerized by the act, by the possibility of what is growing inside her.

“Have you told anyone yet?”

“No,” she says hurriedly. Then she backtracks. “Well, Lauren. And Sabrina sort of found out.”

“But not Jason.”

She can see him judging her, probably making decisions about what kind of parent she might be based upon how she has handled this so far.

“You’ve got to tell him,” Alex urges.

She clutches the glass of sparkling water between her palms. “I don’t know if I can. This was supposed to be casual… fun. This was not supposed to happen. Maybe it shouldn’t.”

She cannot even bring herself to say it; mercifully, Alex reads the unspoken words buzzing between them.

“No! Court.” He searches her eyes for some insight, some hint of what he is supposed to say. “Look, as far as I’m concerned, you have the right to do whatever you want regarding this pregnancy. But if you… choose not to have it, you have to be ready to cope with that decision for the rest of your life. You have to really not want to have it. And I don’t know if that’s the case here.”

“Yeah, but…” Whatever protests she thinks of offering are so feeble that she cannot believe she has even considered ending this pregnancy at all. She doesn’t want to.

“You need to tell him,” Alex says, “even if it’s weird. Even if it isn’t what you planned. Then you can make a decision that has nothing to do with whatever weird stage this relationship is in.”

Courtney takes in what he is saying. It is the same thing that she has wanted to say to herself since practically the moment she found out about the baby, but she has come up with a million ways of talking herself out of it or around it.

She sets her glass back on the side table. “I have to go see him.”

Alex is on his feet again. “Now?”

“I can’t afford to lose my nerve.”

She moves past him, out of the room, and to the foyer, where she wriggles into a coat.

“Mom, Dad, I’m going out really quickly,” she calls out. Then, to Alex, she says, “Keep them occupied. I’ll deal with them when I get back.”

“Going out?” Helen asks as she and Don appear in the foyer.

“I have to take care of something. At the Fishers’.”

“Let her go,” Alex tells them.

Courtney opens the door--but she makes it only half a step before she nearly runs face-first into Jason.

“I was just coming to see you,” she says. The words twist around her tongue, thick and graceless.

“I was… just coming to see you.” Jason looks her over, looks at Alex and Don and Helen behind her. “Hey, everyone.” He glances between them and Courtney again. “Could we have a minute alone?”

“No. They might as well be here,” she says, clutching his hand. There is something about the contact--warm, soothing, familiar--that makes her realize that this is the right thing to do. That fills her with a resolve she did not know seconds ago.

“I know things have been weird between us, and I know we still need to figure it all out,” she says, “but there’s something you need to know. It doesn’t have to affect what we decide about us, but you need to know.”

She stares him in the eye and squeezes his hand. This is it.

“I’m pregnant,” she says.

Jason’s face is a blank before her. She can hear, can feel, her parents’ surprise behind her, but Jason is a stone wall, pale and expressionless.

“I’m not asking you to do anything but be aware,” she says, scrambling again. “Help me make a decision. That’s all.”

She waits. This is even worse than she imagined. Is there anything she can say that can wipe that blankness from his face and get him to show something--anything?

“We’re having a baby?” he asks, and a smile threatens to overtake his whole face. “You and me. We’re having a baby?”

“We’re having a baby,” she says, unable to keep the faintest hint of a squeal from her voice.

She feels Jason’s arms slide around her waist and pull her close. She feels his lips press against hers. More than anything, she feels, for the first time since she learned about the baby, that this is exactly how it was supposed to be.


Will Courtney and Jason get their act together now?
Should Ryan accept Diane’s proposal?
Will Paula be able to put Ryan out of her mind?
Discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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