Episode #520

- After Seth brought Alex to dinner with his parents and then pretended they were merely friends, Alex decided to re-evaluate the relationship.
- Diane told Tim that he could read Ryan’s manuscript--if Tim found her a co-author for the book.
- Sabrina flipped out when Josh tried to remove her sweater during sex. Later, alone in her car, she looked at the cuts on her arms that she wanted to keep hidden from him.


In the arena’s brand-new coffee shop, Jason Fisher waits in line with a handful of other customers. He recognizes them as parents of skaters who are currently on the ice practicing, and it gives him great pleasure to see them in here, enjoying the accommodations of the refurbished arena.

He exchanges brief words with one of the mothers as the line advances and shrinks, and when she steps to the side to pick up her order, Jason takes a moment to admire the shop. It looks just as he hoped: warm, a little worn, relaxed. He is examining the choice of wood for the cabinets when someone enters and steps into line behind him.

“Hey, man,” Seth Ashby says. Jason turns back to give him a polite smile, but even that feels strained.

Seth leans forward and quietly asks, “Is everything cool between us?”

The fact that he asked at all means that he has a good idea of the answer, Jason figures. The truth is that things are not cool--they are very uncomfortable, and Jason has been doing his best not to engage with that awkwardness.

The barista calls Jason forward, and he places his order. He moves to the side to wait, and Seth orders his drink. Then they are standing together again, incubating awkwardness between them.

“It’s a really weird position to be in, okay?” Jason says.

“So Alex told you.”

“He was suddenly at the apartment all the time and not at your place, so yeah, we noticed.” Jason makes sure there is no one within earshot. “I’m not trying to be an asshole, but Alex is a good friend. And honestly… he was probably right about it having been a mistake to hire you.”

Seth’s eyes widen. “Are you firing me?”

“No. That’s… no. You’re good at your job, and I’m sure that’d somehow be illegal, anyway.”

“Okay.” Seth does not seem too reassured. “It’s just felt really obvious the last few days that you, like, don’t want to deal with me at all.”

Jason feels a hot surge of shame fill his body. “Sorry. That’s totally unprofessional.” But… “But I’m going to lay out all my cards, Seth.”


The barista calls Jason’s drink, and he steps up to claim it before continuing his card-laying with Seth.

“I’m not sure how much I like you,” Jason says, grimacing at how harsh it sounds. “I trusted you because you were doing well at your job, and because you seemed to convince Alex that you deserved his trust. But now…”

“Whatever issues Alex and I are having--they have nothing to do with this. This is work, and seriously, I like you and Court and respect you guys, totally independent of the Alex thing.”

Jason feels like a jerk, but he knows this is necessary--if not for him, then for his best friend.

“Then stop hurting Alex,” he says. “Either by getting your shit together or by setting him free, I don’t care. But stop it.”

He decides that there is no more he can say, and he certainly doesn’t want to get into a debate, so he leaves Seth to wait for his drink alone.


When Josh Taylor walks by her cubicle for what has to be the twentieth time this afternoon, Lauren Brooks decides that enough is enough.

“Do you have something you want to talk about, or are you just creepily keeping tabs on me?” she calls out.

Josh stops in his tracks and backpedals to peek in at her.

“I have no reason to creepily keep tabs on you,” he says with a sneer. “I’m the one who didn’t take you back, remember?”

She tries to pretend that she can take it as a friendly jab, even though she is nowhere near ready for that. She is still very ashamed of having lied to Josh about her cancer scare, and she suppresses the all-too-frequent urge to ponder how their lives might be different if she had shown better judgment last year.

“Then you have something to say,” she declares flatly.

“Yeah.” He enters the cubicle and half-sits on an empty section of the L-shaped desk. “I’ve been thinking about that talk we had. About Sabrina.”

“Oh.” Lauren doesn’t know what to expect now. She thought that she at least got him to grasp that something is a little off with Sabrina, but if he dropped by to defend his potentially crazy friend-with-benefits--

“She flipped out last night,” he says. “Like, full-on, crazy-ass freakout.”

“Wow. How? I mean, what happened?” Lauren finds herself leaning forward in anticipation; this could be the first concrete lead on Sabrina’s attitude since Lauren agreed to help Courtney figure it all out.

“It was so weird. We were, like--” Josh cuts himself off, but it is enough to make Lauren picture things that she would prefer not to face. “She refused to take off her sweater. And seriously went off on me. Like, screaming, throwing shit, storming out.”

Lauren is not sure what to make of that. “Maybe she was having a fat day?”

“So? Who goes that crazy over feeling fat?”

“Okay, it’s once again clear how little you understand women…”

“Since you gave me such a chance to demonstrate that, huh?”

His comment zaps the air between them with a frosty chill.

“It does sound a little… excessive,” Lauren says, suddenly softer.

Josh seems to take her concession as a peace offering and slips back into their regular conversation. “It was nuts. Something’s up. I’m not calling her crazy ass again, that’s for sure.”

The declaration fills Lauren with an illogical joy, and yet it also makes her sad: this Sabrina situation has stimulated the first real, non-work discussion between them in months. If he is done with Sabrina, then she and Courtney have lost crucial access--and she has lost her only reason to talk to him.

“Don’t cut her off completely. Not yet,” she says.

“You want me to be a whore for your little Nancy Drew game?”

“Just don’t cut the tie completely. We might need it.” Lauren’s cheeks burn with the knowledge that she is saying this as much to help Courtney as, in some twisted way, to help herself. “And let me know if anything else weird happens.”

This is weird,” Josh says with a sigh, and for once, they are on the exact same page.


Tim Fisher hangs up the phone in his office. With the final name for his list confirmed, he gathers his portfolio of potential co-authors for Ryan’s book and makes his way to Diane Bishop’s office.

“Do you have something to show me?” she asks.

“Plenty.” Tim produces his list. “I’ve checked availability on all four of these. We can have whichever of them you like.”

“Good.” Diane takes the list from him. “Carlo Santoro?”

“He wrote a terrific essay that was published in GQ last May. His first book comes out in the spring--it’s a collection of fictionalized essays about working as a volunteer on the Obama campaign.”

Diane considers this and then shakes her head. “I am not putting ‘Moriani’ and ‘Santoro’ on a book jacket together. This is not a cookbook on secrets to a great carbonara sauce.”

“Okay,” Tim says, deciding not to pick a fight with her on the very first one.

“Evan Thomas,” she reads with an approving nod. “I liked what he did with that series on single fathers…”

“It was very good. He just co-authored another memoir, of a trucker who had to take his six-year-old on the road with him for a year after his wife died.”

Another agreeable, even interested, nod. “Who’s publishing that?”

“Red Road Books.”

“Oh, no. No, no, no. Hell no.” Diane springs into action, as if she was just shot out of a cannon. “I am not letting that miserable bitch Terri Bellamy think that I poached her talent. She’ll hold it over my head forever.”

Tim cannot suppress a sigh, but he manages to hold back the rest--namely, his desire to tell Diane to get over herself. Besides, he has two very qualified writers left, and Diane liking one of them is all it will take for him to get Ryan’s manuscript in his hands.

“You have got to be kidding me!” Diane exclaims with a disgusted groan.


“Johanna? That woman is a raving lunatic.”

“I thought you liked what she did with that book of nursing home profiles.”

“I did, but it wasn’t worth having to endure her craziness for months on end. I know you were dead and all back then, but take my word for it: she’s wacko. No way am I hiring Jo Siggs-Paque.”

Irritation flares within Tim. He busted his hump to find the most qualified, talented, available writers, and she goes through the list eliminating them for all sorts of frivolous reasons, like some kind of spoiled tyrant.

“I really think you should reconsider these,” he says, trying his best to appear calm, because he knows it is the only way to get through to her. “These are some of the best people out there. If you want anyone even remotely skilled--”

“Wait.” She holds up her index finger. “Who is Cassandra Ward?”

“She’s done a lot of magazine pieces. Mostly crime-related. My personal favorite is a piece on a murder investigation in Montana where the lead detective covered up the fact that he’d had an affair with the victim.”


Tim takes advantage of the vague interest by thrusting a copy of the article at Diane, who is busy reviewing the mini-resume he assembled for Cassandra Ward.

“Let’s bring her in,” she says. “She’ll meet with us, and if that goes well, we’ll have her meet with Ryan.”

“Great.” Tim doesn’t know if his standing up to Diane helped, or if she just grew bored of rejecting ideas, but he will take it. “I’ll get in touch. In the meantime…”

Diane stares at him for a long moment, then tosses a hefty stack of paper at him. “Knock yourself out.”

Tim has to look at the title page to be sure this is really it. Ryan’s manuscript.

“You’re an employee of this company,” Diane says, “regardless of your relation to the author. That means this book is confidential. No showing it to your parents, or your siblings, or Claire.”

“Understood.” He knows that he cannot share this with his family yet, but being able to vet it might give him a sense of having some control of this thing--private matters being made public, which never should have happened in the first place. “Thanks, Diane.”

“Thank you. Now go set up that meeting.”

He heads off to do just that, fully intending to do it as quickly as he can so he can dig into this book.


The baby’s cry fills the apartment, and almost as soon as it begins, Courtney Chase is on her feet, on her way to retrieve her infant daughter from the crib.

“That one totally means dirty diaper,” she tells Alex Marshall as she goes. Sure enough, when Courtney returns with a much calmer Sophie a few minutes later, she wears a self-satisfied smile. “Told you.”

“I’ve never met anyone so happy about detecting poop,” Alex says, “but you’re getting freakishly good at distinguishing between the different types of cries. Actually, you’re freakishly good at this whole mom thing.”

“You just caught me on a good day. I’ll be a disaster tomorrow, probably. You’ll regret spending so much time here.”

“Somehow I doubt that.” As convenient as it was for Alex to crash at Seth’s place, knowing there was a newborn here, the baby is actually much less stressful to him.

Courtney shifts Sophie in her arms and half-watches the Sex and the City rerun on TV. “Have you talked to Seth at all?”

“Nope. And I’m not sure I’m planning to.”

“Really? So that’s it?”

She asks the question in such a hard manner that Alex has no choice but to pause and consider his response. He hears the unspoken question underneath: You let Trevor go for this, and this is all the work you’re going to put into it?

“I just had this moment of clarity,” he tries to explain. “About how a relationship with Seth is going to be. He doesn’t want to be gay. He’s going to fight it every step of the way.”

“If I remember right, you were the same way once.”

As much as Alex would like to argue that point, he can’t. He was scared; Seth is probably scared, too.

“But what else can I do?” he asks.

“Help him. Support him. If he really can’t or won’t change, then that’s that. But I think you owe it to him--and really, yourself--to see it through.”

He has to admit that she has a point, even if he sort of hates it.

“I told you that you’re good at this mom thing,” he says as he pulls out his cell phone.


Back in the office, things feel predictably tense to Jason once Seth returns with his coffee. They talk and move as if they are part of a meticulously choreographed ballet, avoiding each other with remarkable grace.

Jason brings a severely marked-up spreadsheet to Sabrina Gage’s desk. “Can we go over this now?” he asks. “I’m supposed to meet my brother for a drink at 5:30, so I was going to cut out pretty soon.”

“Of course.” Sabrina slides her chair down to make room for Jason to pull up an extra one.

They sit together and review the holiday ice schedule, which is quickly proving to be a nightmare. For a few weeks, public demand for the ice surges, and while it’s a wave that can assist their business for months afterward, it also interferes with the regular skating and hockey ice time.

“I don’t want to lose all the PM figure skating time,” Jason says. “There are people who can’t do mornings.”

“Maybe we could do an afternoon session for the public, say from 12 to 4,” Sabrina says, “then have an hour or two for practice, and then promote, say, 6 to 9 as an evening activity. So it’s not all just one big block.”

“I was thinking of something like that, actually. We did it that way for a few years--God, probably like ten years ago.”

“When you and Courtney were training?”

The question catches Jason off-guard and forces him to recall the specifics of the time, something that he would rather not do, ever. “I was actually skating with someone else then.”

“Really? I thought you and Kelsey Barker didn’t skate together until--”

The sharp ring of Jason’s cell phone interrupts. Seeing that it is Tim, he excuses himself and takes the call in the hallway. A minute later, he returns to the desk.

“Tim can’t make it tonight,” he says, “so I guess we have time to work on this.”

Sabrina gets a deviously playful grin. “I’ll tell you what. How about you and I go get that drink instead? We can work on this schedule and relax a little.”

“I should probably get home to Courtney and Sophie…”

“She thought you’d be out with your brother, anyway,” Sabrina says. “And this does need to get done. Besides, I could use it. It’s been a hell of a week.”

Glancing over at Seth, who is quietly watching them, Jason decides it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to get out of the office.

“How does 322 sound?” he asks.


Will Jason get himself into trouble with Sabrina?
What should Alex and Seth do about their relationship?
Do Lauren and Josh have a chance of reuniting?
Come discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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