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Thread: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

  1. #1
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    Post Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    Imitation of Life


    ~1~


    “She’s here, Papa! She’s here!”

    Luis wore a smile on his face for his four year-old son’s sake, but his shoulders felt tense underneath Pilar’s soothing hands.

    “Mi hijo,” Pilar called over her shoulder to her young grandson as he roared past her and Luis, straight for the front door, “no running in the house.”

    “He’s excited,” Paloma said with a gentle smile, pulling the edge of one of the curtains back to catch a glimpse of the newest arrival to their Thanksgiving festivities herself.

    “That boy loves his mama,” Martin agreed, joining his youngest daughter at the window to watch the little blond whirlwind throw his arms around Sheridan’s waist as soon as she emerged from her car and gaze up at her adoringly, already chattering non-stop.

    “Martin,” Pilar implored her husband. “Go. Before he talks her ear off.”

    “Come on, Pilar,” Martin slid his arms around his wife’s waist from behind, pressing a kiss to the top of her dark hair. “I’m sure Sheridan doesn’t mind. It’s been a long time.”

    Luis finally ended his silence, standing up and leaving the room before coming face to face with his past.

    “Too long.”


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



    ~2~




    As a guest to the Lopez-Fitzgerald home, Sheridan wasn’t allowed to partake in the preparations for dinner, but she didn’t mind so much—not when she got to spend the time drinking in the beautiful sight of her son.

    Grabbing her smooth hand in his much smaller fist, Marty had immediately pulled her down the hall to his bedroom as soon as the required awkward greetings were out of the way, intent on showing off the latest gift that had arrived in the mail from his uncle Miguel just days ago—a model motorcycle.

    “Papa help me put it together,” Marty told her proudly, unabashed love for Luis shining in his blue eyes.

    Sheridan tried to speak around the sudden painful lump that lodged in her throat, but she could only manage a tremulous smile.

    Thankfully, Marty was none the wiser to her emotional state, launching into an excited detailing of his cousin Maria’s new kitten, hardly stopping for breath until he made a pleading request. “…but I told Maria puppies are better, and she said ‘how do I know’ since I don’t got one, and I told her ‘they just are’, and you have to get me one. Please, Mama.”

    Sheridan blinked rapidly, still processing the rush of her young son’s words, when Martin’s voice at the door made her turn.

    “Marty,” Martin chided sternly, “you know what your papa said.”

    “But Mama could keep it at her house,” Marty rationalized. “Then I could see her everyday.” Childish hope echoed in his voice, and he crawled into Sheridan’s lap, sliding his slender arms around her neck as he tucked his golden head beneath her chin.

    Sheridan smiled tightly at the look of sympathy Martin bestowed on her and dropped a kiss on Marty’s warm, silky crown. “Listen to your papa,” she murmured softly. “He knows best.”

    “Listen to your mama,” Martin answered when Marty looked to him for help.

    “Okay,” Marty sighed melodramatically, causing both adults to smile slightly.

    “Come on,” Martin held his hand out. “Your abuela sent me to tell you it’s almost time for the Thanksgiving turkey.”

    “Do I get to use the big knife this year, Grandpa?” Marty’s eyes gleamed at the thought of being one of the men of the house, just like Papa and Grandpa.

    Sheridan answered for Martin, causing him to chuckle and Marty to whine disappointedly.

    “Absolutely not.”




    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



    ~3~






    Sheridan’s brow furrowed at the extra place settings at the table.

    Paloma bustled around the table, carefully arranging silverware next to the plates. “For Theresa, Little Ethan, and Jane—IF they come.”

    “And the other two?” Sheridan questioned as the sounds of happy laughter filtered in from the living room, only her son’s recognizable to her.

    “Kay and Maria,” Paloma smiled. “Excuse me, Sheridan.”

    From the other room a young voice squealed, “Aunt Paloma! I brought Samantha with me!”

    “Mama, mama,” Marty appeared at her side, grabbing her by the hand. “Maria’s here. And she brought her kitten with her.”

    “Go,” Pilar told her warmly. “I’m almost finished here.”

    Marty relinquished Sheridan’s hand as soon as they entered the living room, racing to the sofa where Maria and Samantha held court.

    Samantha’s green eyes regarded Marty coolly as he plucked her from Maria’s arms before she started daintily licking one black paw in complete boredom.

    “So this is the Samantha I’ve heard so much about,” Martin eyed the regal little feline. “I thought she was a girlfriend of yours.”

    “Grandpa,” Marty rolled his eyes, causing the females in the room to laugh, “girls are yucky. Except for Mama,” he hurriedly amended. “And Aunt Paloma and Abuela and Kay,” he added in a panic, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. “And Maria,” he reluctantly admitted. “Okay. Just girlfriends are yucky.”

    “Just girlfriends,” Martin agreed with a chuckle.

    “Sheridan,” Kay smiled. “It’s good to see you.”

    “Thanks,” Sheridan returned Kay’s smile with a warm one of her own. “It’s good to see you.” Then she nodded to the black-curled child practically stuck to her son’s side. “She’s beautiful.”

    “A beautiful handful,” Kay laughed.

    The two sat in companionable silence for several moments just enjoying watching their children with Paloma and Martin.

    Finally Kay spoke again. “She won’t admit it to anyone, but she loves Marty.”

    Sheridan had to agree. “It looks like the feeling’s mutual, although I think Marty’s a little jealous about Samantha.”

    “She was a present from Tabitha,” Kay replied. “And I’m think *I’M* a little jealous OF Samantha. Maria loves that cat more than she does me.”

    Sheridan’s eyes twinkled but her tone was filled with understanding. “Somehow I doubt that’s true.”








    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~4~








    Arms wrapped tightly around her middle for warmth, Pilar joined her son in the backyard, where he sat at the barren picnic table, his elbows resting on his knees and his head in his hands. “Come inside, Luis. Dinner’s ready.”

    His voice was muffled when he answered her. “I don’t know if I can, Mama.”

    The pain in her son’s voice tore at Pilar’s heart, but he was being stubborn, and she told him as such. “You can’t avoid each other forever, mi hijo. I don’t know how you’ve done it this long. Sheridan is Marty’s mother, and…”

    “And she left him,” Luis cut in sharply. “I searched the ends of the earth for our boy so that I could bring him home to her, and how did she respond?” he asked, voice rising in anger. “She left him. And she left me.”

    “I can’t pretend to understand Sheridan’s reasons for leaving, Luis,” Pilar said, “but anybody can see that she loves that child dearly.”

    “Not enough,” Luis wouldn’t be convinced. “Not enough to stay.”

    “Maybe,” Pilar faltered, “maybe she loved him so much she couldn’t stay.” She raised a hand to her son’s face, frowning at the tears Luis refused to cry, the hurt he refused to let go of. “Come inside when you’re ready.”

    Luis watched her go, wondering when that would be.





    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~5~





    Martin sat at the head of the table, looking upon the spread his wife and daughter had prepared with a proud smile. “I know I say this every year, but you’ve outdone yourself this year, Pilar.”

    “I DID help, Papa,” Paloma pretended to be offended.

    “She didn’t even burn the rolls!” Marty exclaimed, setting off laughter around the room, Maria’s being especially infectious.

    “Marty,” Sheridan admonished between bouts of laughter.

    “But she always burns the rolls,” Marty replied, unperturbed.

    “I do,” Paloma admitted with a giggle. “Mama made the rolls this year, Papa.”

    “I knew it,” Martin grinned to himself.

    “Papa!” Paloma tried to shame her father, to no avail.

    “Grandpa,” Maria spoke up, raising herself up on her knees, “I want to say grace this year. Can I?”

    “May I?” Kay corrected her daughter. “Maria, sit down.”

    “May I?” Maria asked, clasping her hands in front of herself, and batting her baby blues at her grandfather.

    Kay rolled her eyes and nudged Maria again, until she sat back down in her seat, her feet dangling over the chair’s edge.

    “Yes, Maria,” Martin bestowed the honor upon his eldest granddaughter. “You may.”

    “Yay!” Maria squealed, clapping her hands excitedly.

    “Wait,” Marty cried, “we can’t say grace without Papa.”

    Sheridan stared at the empty plate in front of her, guilt making it difficult to look into the eyes of the people around her, Luis’s family.

    “Mi hijo,” Pilar began uncomfortably, “I don’t think…”

    A door opened and shut, and the sensation of cool autumn air whispering against her cheeks had Sheridan raising her head.

    “Am I too late?” Luis’s dark eyes burned into Sheridan’s soul, stealing her breath.

    “No, Papa,” Marty beamed, patting the vacant seat beside him, “you’re just in time.”





    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    489

    Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    ~6~





    “More mashed tatatoes, please,” Marty asked around a mouthful of food, holding up his plate.

    “Ew, Marty!” Maria scrunched up her nose. “You’re gross.”

    “Maria!” Kay exclaimed in exasperation, shooting an apologetic look Sheridan’s way. “Apologize to your cousin. He’s not gross.”

    “But talking with your mouth full is,” Paloma scolded.

    “Sowwy,” Marty shrugged, his mouth only slightly less full. He lifted his plate again, looking at Luis pointedly.

    Sheridan hid her smile behind her napkin as Luis inspected their son’s plate.

    Luis took the plate from Marty and set it back down in front of him. “Finish your peas, first.”

    “But Papa,” Marty whined.

    Luis meant business. “Finish your peas.”

    “Yes, Papa,” Marty pouted.

    “Then you can have some more mashed potatoes,” Sheridan told him, searching out Luis’s eyes to make sure she hadn’t overstepped any boundaries.

    Luis gave a small nod of his head in answer.

    Once she had her answer, Sheridan averted her eyes, uncomfortable under Luis’s watchful gaze. She’d thought he wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of her once they’d come face to face again, but it seemed he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her, and his scrutiny was unnerving.

    “Abuela,” Marty turned his attention to Pilar, “why doesn’t aunt Theresa want to spend Thanksgiving with us?”

    Pilar looked stricken, her eyes and her smile sad. “It isn’t that she doesn’t *want* to spend Thanksgiving with us, Marty…” she trailed off when she felt the comfort of Martin’s hand on her shoulder.

    “She wants to spend it with Little Ethan and Jane,” Paloma finished for her mother.

    Marty seemed to accept Paloma’s answer and returned to his previous abandoned activity, pushing the tiny green peas that littered his plate around with his fork.

    “Marty,” Luis gently chastised, covering the small hand with his much larger one. “Stop playing with your food.”

    On the other side of Sheridan, Maria giggled, covering her mouth with both of her hands at her mother’s own warning look.

    His fork confiscated, Marty’s attention shifted back to Sheridan, and he studied her with serious blue eyes, his fingers absently pulling at his dinner roll. “My aunt Theresa is married to a bad man. He’s a Crane.”

    “Por favor,” Pilar muttered under her breath. “Luis,” she warned.

    The clatter of silverware ceased as all eyes were drawn to Luis and Sheridan, and Marty, who continued on with no intervention from his father.

    “Papa says all Cranes are bad,” Marty informed Sheridan, not noticing, in his childish innocence, the wounded look in her blue eyes. “Right, Papa?”

    “Maria,” Kay stood up, scooping her protesting daughter from her chair and setting her down with a slight groan, “why don’t we go check on Samantha in the living room?”

    “You said I could have pie,” Maria whined as Kay tugged her away from the table.

    “Later,” Kay hissed.

    Paloma lifted her napkin from her lap and placed it on the table in front of her. “I’ll…I’m gonna…in there,” she finished awkwardly.

    “Mi hijo,” Pilar choked out in an overly bright voice, desperately trying to cut through the tension that seemed to suck all of the oxygen out of the room, “more mashed potatoes?” When it seemed her offer fell on deaf ears, she looked to Martin for help.

    Martin responded by standing up and crossing the small distance to Marty’s side. Cupping his hands under the boy’s arms, he lifted him up and onto his hip. “Up you go. That’s enough.”

    “But Grandpa,” Marty frowned. “I don’t wanna. I want to stay with Mama and Papa.”

    “Not right now,” Martin replied. “Pilar?”

    Pilar hesitated for the briefest of seconds.

    “It’s okay, Pilar,” Sheridan finally spoke. “I think it’s best if Luis and I have this conversation alone.”

    “She’s right, Mama,” Luis agreed.

    “Please,” Pilar implored them both before she left. “Don’t say something in anger that you’ll regret later.”

    “It’s really too bad,” Sheridan turned to Luis with tears in her eyes as soon as they were alone.

    Luis opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t force the words out, her very nearness twisting his emotions and making it difficult for him to think and react clearly.

    “She’s a few years too late.”




    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~7~






    Finally, Luis reacted on instinct alone, a hand reaching out, fingertips making contact with her smooth skin for one heart-stopping moment before Sheridan withdrew from him as if burned. “I didn’t mean…”

    Shaking her head at his ill-attempt at dishonesty, Sheridan simply said, “You did. And I am. I am a bad person. I’m a Crane.”

    The urge to cup her chin in his hands and steady its trembling surprised and angered Luis. He held onto his anger because he knew, if he didn’t, the tenderness would be his undoing. “The Cranes hurt everything they touch. They’re poison.”

    A tear spilled from one of Sheridan’s eyes, slipping down her cheek unchecked. She stared straight ahead, unable to meet Luis’s eyes. “What about Marty?”

    “Marty’s a Lopez-Fitzgerald.” Luis’s chair scraped harshly against the floor as he got up, turning his back on Sheridan and the pain he knew he’d inflicted.

    Sheridan’s broken whisper still reached Luis’s ears. “I’m his mother.”

    “His biological mother,” Luis whirled around to face her, forcing his eyes to be hard and unforgiving. “But in every way that counts?” he steeled himself to her soft sobs. “You’re not his mother. You never were.”




    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~






    ~8~





    Sheridan pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, trying to stem the flow of her tears, but it was no use. Luis’s words hurt her, to the very core. When she removed her hands and reached for her forgotten glass of water to ease the ache in her throat, there were black mascara smudges on them, and she stared at them because there was nowhere else safe to look. Her voice was rough around the edges, wobbly, when she finally replied to Luis’s charge. “I never got the chance to be his mother.”

    “Don’t,” Luis warned. “Don’t blame Beth. You got a second chance. *I* gave you a second chance. You threw it away. You threw our son, and me, away like we were yesterday’s trash.”

    Sheridan saw red at the mention of Beth and her mind briefly revisited the months of agony when no one, not even Luis, had believed in her and the strong bond she had felt whenever she and Marty crossed paths. She latched onto the anger those memories dredged up and took strength from it, drying her tears with her sleeve and drawing herself up to stand in front of Luis, to meet him face on. “I do blame Beth. Luis, she cost me so much. She put me through hell,” she grit out.

    “And you never forgave me for that,” Luis snapped back, stalking across the room and putting distance between them. He braced his forearms against the wall, hanging his head. “I destroyed your faith in me.” His hands clenched and unclenched in fists until he finally slapped his palms against the wall in frustration. “By the time I brought Marty back to you, I was too ***damn late.”

    “Luis,” Sheridan tried to speak, but Luis wouldn’t let her.

    “No,” Luis cut her off. “No. It WAS too late. For God’s sake, Sheridan,” he growled. “You were at the altar. Ready to marry *him.* Ready to play mommy to his kid. How do you think that made me feel?”

    “The same way it made me feel to find out you’d moved on with Beth,” Sheridan hit him where it hurt. “Luis, I thought you were dead. And Christopher and James…they kept me going when I wanted to give up. Don’t you see, Luis?” she pleaded thickly, her emotions getting the better of her again. “I thought I’d lost you and that I’d never see my baby again, and I had no one else. No one. I was drowning, and I needed someone to cling to, someone to care for again. I never loved him, Luis.”

    “If that’s true, tell me something,” Luis demanded.

    With only the slightest hesitation, Sheridan nodded.

    “Why weren’t you the one to call off the wedding?”





    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~9~







    Softly, Sheridan pressed, “Would knowing why change things between us?”

    Luis looked at her for a long moment, unable to muster a response to her question. It was a simple question with a difficult answer, and the truth was, he didn’t know the answer. He searched his mind and his heart, but he didn’t want to listen to what his heart was telling him. His heart had only served to hurt him so far.

    The hope in Sheridan’s eyes slowly died as Luis’s silence stretched on, and she hung her head, unwilling to let him see how much his non-answer had upset her.

    The need to comfort her welled up within Luis again, even stronger than before. His fingertips skated across Sheridan’s chin before his palm curled around her jaw, and her name left his lips on a soft sigh. “Sheridan.”

    For a brief moment, Sheridan allowed herself to pretend that Luis still loved her, and his gesture was more than just a gesture of kindness from a good man. She nuzzled his palm, pressing her lips to his warm skin, as her eyes burned with tears once again.

    Unable to stop himself, Luis brought his other hand up to cup Sheridan’s face and his thumbs gently brushed the evidence of her tears from her eyes, his concern growing when the action only seemed to generate more. “Don’t,” he tried to hush her. “Dammit,” he cursed as he folded her into his embrace, hugging his arms loosely about her.

    “Luis,” Sheridan cried softly into his shoulder.

    Luis stroked her hair awkwardly at first, then with growing confidence. ‘Shh,” he soothed, lapsing into a role he knew by heart—that of her protector. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

    Sheridan clung to him and pretended to believe the lie.








    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



    ~10~





    “Luis, your mother’s a lifesaver.”

    Sheridan stiffened and removed herself from Luis’s embrace as Hank burst through the door, shattering the illusion she wanted so much to believe in. She wiped her tears away with a discreet hand.

    Luis’s arms dropped to his sides, and he closed his eyes at the sensation of regret that washed over him; Hank’s timing had never been the best. “Hank,” Luis finally spoke. “What are you doing here?”

    “Nice to see you too, old friend,” Hank grinned, his brown eyes dancing playfully as he drew Luis in for a brotherly hug. He released Luis and gathered Sheridan’s hands in his own, giving them a warm squeeze. “Some welcome, huh?” he winked at Sheridan before leaning forward to press a kiss to her cheek. “Hey, Beautiful.”

    “Hank,” Sheridan answered with a genuine smile.

    “You know I didn’t mean it that way,” Luis protested. “I’m just surprised to see you.”

    “Not as surprised as Sam,” Hank chuckled. “You should have seen his face when I showed up on his doorstep. If I didn’t know better, he’d almost forgotten what I looked like.”

    “It’s been long enough,” Luis fell quickly into their old routine. “I thought you were off traveling the world.”

    “You mean bumming around?” Hank kidded, encouraged by the slight smile on Luis’s face. “That stuff gets old after a while,” he said, casting a glance in Sheridan’s direction. At her imperceptible nod, he continued, “Besides, don’t go accusing me of being a sentimental sap, but the holidays are for families.”

    “Hank,” Sheridan questioned with twinkling eyes, “where is your family?”

    “In the living room with everyone else,” Hank answered matter-of-factly. “It’s a long story. Let’s just say Jessica’s no Martha Stewart, and the fire department arrived just in the nick of time.”

    Luis’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

    “I hope everyone’s alright,” Sheridan said sincerely.

    “They’re fine,” Hank waved off her concern. “Noah’s pretty handy with a fire extinguisher.”

    Sheridan stifled a laugh at the mental image.

    “Lucky for everyone involved,” Luis was unable to resist smirking.

    “Lucky was Sam remembering Pilar’s invitation to come along with Kay and Maria for dinner,” Hank replied. “I shudder to think what was on the menu at Tabitha’s house.”

    Sheridan was unable to resist laughing at that comment.

    Luis found himself equally powerless.

    Maybe Hank’s timing wasn’t so bad, after all.







    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    489

    Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    ~11~






    With four new additions at the dinner table, there weren’t enough seats, even with the extra settings for Theresa, Little Ethan, and Jane, who remained notably absent.

    Planting himself in Sheridan’s lap, Marty quickly found the perfect solution to the dilemma and enjoyed sampling pumpkin and pecan pie from the warmth and security of her embrace.

    Watching them both, Luis couldn’t help but feel cheated of the family they could have been. He reluctantly tore his gaze away from the bittersweet sight when he realized Hank was speaking to him.

    “Sam tells me you’ve been catching some night classes over in Castleton.”

    “Luis is going to be a lawyer,” Paloma joined the conversation mid-stream, great pride for her brother in her eyes and smile.

    Sheridan turned surprised eyes to Luis, resting her cheek against Marty’s silky blond head.

    “That’s great, Man,” Hank congratulated heartily. “It looks like your dream’s finally coming true.”

    Only part of it, Luis thought to himself with a half-hearted smile. The other part of his dream seemed as unattainable as the stars that burned in the far-off sky.

    “For as long as I can remember,” Hank reminisced fondly, “this guy dreamed of being a hotshot attorney. It was all he could ever talk about at career day. When I grow up…”

    Luis rolled his eyes at his longtime buddy. Not much had changed about Hank over the years; he still possessed a propensity for exaggeration.

    “What about you, Uncle Hank?” Maria piped up. “What did you wanna be when you growed up?”

    “A circus clown, of course,” Hank replied with nary a twitch of his lips. His dancing brown eyes, however, gave him away.

    Maria giggled when Marty cried, “Bozo!”

    “Bozo the Clown,” Hank pretended to be deep into consideration. “Has a nice, catchy ring to it.”

    “I never knew you were so ambitious, Uncle Hank,” Jessica found herself joining in the children’s silliness.

    “Don’t encourage him anymore,” Sam warned, helpless to keep his own smile at bay. After a moment of welcome shared mirth with his family and friends, Sam sobered, turning to his attention once again to Luis, “Seriously, Luis. I’m proud of you. We’re all proud of you at the station, down to the newest rookie.”

    Noah rolled his eyes and ducked his head to hide the sheepish grin on his face at the arm Sam threw around his shoulders. “Dad.”

    Searching out Kay’s twinkling eyes with his own, Hank heaved a mock-disappointed sigh, “That leaves me and you as the lone black sheep in the family.”

    “I won’t let you down, Uncle Hank,” Kay vowed.

    “Good to know,” Hank took her answer in stride, chuckling at the expressions worn on each and every member of the Lopez-Fitzgerald family’s faces. “I just wanted to say thank you again, Pilar, for making us refugees feel so at home.”

    “Uncle Hank,” Jessica blushed.

    “You’re welcome,” Pilar replied warmly.

    “Thanksgiving is for friends and family,” Martin lifted his glass in a toast.

    “To friends and family,” everyone around the table echoed.

    His eyes on Sheridan again, Luis wondered, not for the first time, where she fit in.








    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~




    ~12~





    “My tummy hurts,” Marty whined as Sheridan steered him to the living room couch, her hands resting gently on his small shoulders.

    “I warned you about that third piece of pie,” Sheridan’s response was faintly reproachful. She took a seat amongst the sea of plush cushions, opening her arms to her son.

    Marty cuddled into her embrace unhesitatingly, tucking his rumpled blond head beneath her chin. “But it was the last piece,” he refuted with just a trace of stubbornness in his tone.

    “That doesn’t mean you had to eat it,” Sheridan laughed softly, stroking a hand through Marty silky strands.

    “But I did,” Marty insisted. “Maria had three pieces.”

    Pausing in her task of picking up Maria’s scattered toys and placing them in the oversized bag hanging from her shoulder, Kay had to comment. “Maria has a bottomless pit for a stomach. She just eats and eats and eats…” She smiled at the grin her words elicited.

    “Like someone else I used to know,” Noah mused, giving his sister’s dark hair a playful tug as he passed her en route to the armchair across from Sheridan. Collapsing into it, he clutched his own stomach with a groan, proclaiming, “I’m full.”

    “You should be,” Kay snorted, remembering all the food she’d watched her brother consume within the past hour.

    “Pilar’s a great cook,” Noah shrugged.

    “You’re such a man,” Kay shook her head, oblivious to the amused stares of Sheridan and Marty. Giving Noah’s hair a sisterly tussle, she tucked the overflowing bag next to his chair. “Where’s my daughter?”

    “Outside with Dad,” Noah sighed in answer. “Something about taking Samantha for a walk.”

    “Good,” Kay stated, relieved. Noticing Sheridan’s questioning look, she told her, “Samantha’s not house-trained yet.”

    Marty lifted his head to peer into Sheridan’s eyes. “What’s that mean, Mama?”

    Before Sheridan could answer, Noah interjected, in language Marty had no trouble understanding, “Samantha’s not potty-trained.”

    “Somebody’s been spending too much time at the Youth Center,” Kay muttered under her breath, not bothering to hide her smirk.

    “Luis needed somebody to pick up the slack,” Noah defended himself. “And the kids aren’t so bad once you get used to them.”

    “Right,” Kay replied skeptically, settling on couch beside Sheridan and Marty. She yanked playfully at one of Marty’s shoestrings, delighting in the boy’s indignant response. “Fess up. Whose mom are you dating?”

    “I like kids,” Noah persisted. “I like Maria. And Marty,” he said, mindful of little ears attuned to the conversation. “Marty’s not too bad.”

    Marty hid his bashful smile in the crease of Sheridan’s neck, his small fingers toying with the silver charm bracelet around her wrist.

    “Come on, Noah,” Kay rolled her eyes. “This is me you’re talking to. It’s not a crime, you know. Dating someone. You haven’t been interested in another girl since…” she trailed off, finally remembering Sheridan’s presence in the room and the potential for awkwardness the conversation held. “Sorry. I’ll just…shut my big mouth now.”

    Silence reigned for several moments, until Noah shattered it with an admission not so revolutionary to the room’s other occupants. “It’s not easy. Getting over someone.”

    Sometimes, Sheridan knew, it was next to impossible.





    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~




    ~13~





    “She’s something, isn’t she?” Hank nodded toward his littlest niece with a grin.

    In a far corner of the yard, Maria was clapping and congratulating Samantha on a job well done—“a good potty”—while Sam looked on, greatly amused.

    “She is,” Luis agreed with a smile of his own. For the briefest of seconds, he longed again to possess the simple, pure perception of a child, where joy could be found in the smallest of things. Maybe then, his life and the key to his happiness wouldn’t be so complicated.

    “You’re getting serious on me again, Man,” Hank declared in a nagging voice.

    “Hank,” Luis warned.

    Unruffled, Hank stuffed his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket for warmth and stomped the heels of his shoes against the hard ground. “Do you want to talk about it? Things looked pretty intense between you and Sheridan earlier.”

    “When you interrupted,” Luis voiced a reminder as they sat side by side on the picnic table bench.

    “Yeah,” Hank feigned a sheepish shrug, “I’ve been told I have a knack for that. I prefer to think of it as a talent. Interruptions aren’t always bad.”

    “Not always,” Luis echoed with a smirk.

    “If I hadn’t announced myself at that precise moment,” Hank continued, “who knows what kind of crazy things you might have done.” Giving Luis a sideways glance, he offered up his own predictions in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Hell, you might have kissed her. Or worse yet, admitted you never stopped loving her.”

    “Hank,” Luis sighed heavily. “It’s not that easy.”

    “I know,” Hank gave an answering sigh. “It’s complicated. I get it.”

    “No, you don’t,” Luis insisted, his frustration showing itself in the frown he wore. “I can’t let Marty get hurt. If there’s even a chance…”

    Seeing Sam and Maria approach, Hank stood and placed a firm hand on Luis’s shoulder, his brown eyes devoid of any humor as he spoke, “You’re only fooling yourself with that excuse, Luis. Nobody else. Make it simple. Don’t let her leave without telling her.”

    “What? Are you a shrink now?” Luis rose, preparing to say his goodbyes to Sam, Maria, and his good-intentioned, albeit annoying, friend.

    The twinkle returned to Hank’s eyes as he rebounded with a reply that brought a smile back to Luis’s face, “I moonlight on the holidays. The first consultation’s free. There’s no way you could afford my hourly rates.”

    Luis chuckled as they shared a brotherly parting embrace. “Don’t quit your day job.”

    “What day job?” Hank grinned, lifting a hand in goodbye.

    “Hank,” Luis called.

    “Yeah?” Hank hung back.

    “Take care,” Luis told him, uncertain of the next time they would cross paths.

    “Always.”






    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~







    ~14~





    Goodbyes were said—some more reluctant than others—and a peaceful calm descended upon the Lopez-Fitzgerald abode.

    Outside, the sky promised snow, and Luis knew the wintry weather would delight his son.

    Martin stoked the fire while Paloma arranged pillows and blankets in front of it.

    Luis turned from the window when he heard his sister’s surprised squeal just in time to see Marty’s blond head peeking from the mountainous pile, his smile mischievous and bright.

    “Marty!” Paloma held a hand over her racing heart. “You scared me.”

    Marty giggled at the good-natured tousling his aunt gave his hair.

    “Come here,” Paloma patted the place beside her, hugging the little boy close as he crawled near.

    “Martin,” Pilar’s muffled voice was heard from the kitchen.

    “Help your papa keep an eye on that fire for me,” Martin instructed as he departed the room.

    “Okay, Grandpa,” Marty promised, disengaging himself from Paloma’s side and standing watch over the fire as pledged.

    “Don’t let it go out,” Paloma teased, scooting closer and helping Marty add small twigs to the crackling fire. Orange embers glowed in the dim lighting of the living room and the reflections of the flames danced in the boy’s lively blue eyes.

    Watching the two of them together made Luis’s heart swell with affection, but his vigilant nature made him warn, “Don’t get too close.” His mother’s softly exhaled “Dios Mio” behind him had Luis smiling.

    “Hot chocolate, mi hijo,” Pilar held out the sweet offering as an enticement. “Come,” she indicated the sofa. “Sit. And be careful. It’s hot,” she cautioned as Marty scampered toward her, wrapping greedy little hands around the mug, his earlier tummy ache all but forgotten.

    “For you,” Martin stood in front of the fire once more, presenting Paloma with her own mug.

    “Thank you, Papa,” Paloma smiled, bringing the steaming mug to her lips and blowing across it gently.

    “Luis,” Sheridan appeared before him, a tentative smile on her lips as she held a matching mug out to him. “Hot chocolate?”

    Luis looked into her blue eyes so much like their son’s and gratefully accepted her gift, and the possibility that Hank may have been right as he felt his pulse quicken at her fleeting touch. “Thanks.”

    “You’re welcome,” Sheridan murmured, her eyes searching his, wondering at the imperceptible difference in his eyes, his voice, his entire demeanor. “Luis?” she softly entreated.

    “Mama!” Marty’s excited exclamation dispelled the moment, garnering everyone’s attention as they followed his pointed finger to the scene outside.

    Luis watched the smile on Sheridan’s face grow, traveling all the way to her bright blue eyes, and he was taken by the identical joy in the voices of the two people he held most dear to his heart.

    “Look, Luis,” Sheridan’s hand unconsciously sought out Luis’s larger hand and held on. “It’s snowing. Isn’t it beautiful?”

    Luis eyes fell upon their entwined hands, and his voice dropped to a gentle whisper. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”





    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~








    ~15~








    “Yeah,” Luis’s voice sounded gruff as he carefully untangled their clasped hands and fixed his gaze on the softly falling flakes outside. “The snow is beautiful.”

    Sheridan frowned at his perceived efforts to rid himself of her touch and puzzled again over the abrupt change in his behavior. She felt a pang of sadness at her inability to read him and wondered if this was all they had left, if this was all they would remain to each other: past acquaintances, almost strangers, who shared a child.

    “Mama!” Marty bounded to her side, his small hand tugging eagerly at her sleeve. “Can we make a snowman?”

    “You silly boy,” Paloma captured him in her arms from behind, tickling his tummy and making him giggle. “There’s not enough snow for a snowman.”

    “But there will be,” Marty cried between shrieks of laughter and bouts of squirming. “Tell her papa,” Marty insisted stubbornly.

    His son’s pleas finally reached Luis’s ears, and his response was stern and not at all the one the boy had been hoping for, “Tomorrow.”

    Marty’s young face fell in disappointment, tears springing to his blue eyes. “But Papa,” he pouted.

    Paloma sobered, hugging her arms about the child loosely for comfort. Tomorrow, Paloma knew, could never be as wonderful as today. It just wouldn’t be the same.

    Beside Luis, Sheridan hung her head in guilt and turned away, unable to bear witness to the heartbreaking scene unfolding even as she ached to take Marty in her arms and whisper promises that weren’t hers to make.

    Ignoring Marty’s forlorn expression, Luis instead sought out his mother’s sympathetic face. “Mama.”

    “Mi hijo,” Pilar took Marty’s slender shoulders in her hands.

    “No, Abuela,” Marty tried to push her hands away, and he squirmed to get down when she scooped him up into her arms.

    “Marty,” Luis spoke warningly.

    “Mama!” Tears rolled down Marty’s face as he reached for Sheridan.

    The slight, silent shaking of Sheridan’s shoulders was the only indication she heard Marty’s plaintive wails as Pilar disappeared down the hall, carrying the child away.

    “Luis,” Martin stepped forward to confront his son as Paloma placed a tentative hand on Sheridan’s arm. “Son, this is crazy. At least allow them a proper goodbye.”

    “Stay out of this,” Luis advised his father. “I’m his father.”

    “And Sheridan’s his mother,” Martin snapped, his patience with their stubbornness having run out. Softening his tone, he continued, “What harm can a few more hours do?”

    A few more hours, Luis wanted to shout. A few more hours would only raise Marty’s hopes, making the fall that much harder and that much more painful to recover from when Sheridan did what she always did after these visits—left them both behind. No. It was easier this way, like ripping off a bandage—more immediately painful but better than prolonging the inevitable. And if it made him the bad guy, he was okay with that because he didn’t want to taint his son’s love for his mother. “Sheridan,” he finally spoke, “I think you should leave now.”

    “Luis,” Paloma made one final attempt to protest, but her brother’s heavy sigh and Sheridan’s soft whisper stopped her.

    “Don’t. Don’t,” Sheridan gave Paloma’s hand on her arm a grateful squeeze. “Luis is right. I,” she fought to speak over the lump in her throat, “I should be going. Tell Marty…tell Marty I love him, okay. Tell him I’m sorry, but I just can’t stay. Do that for me?”

    “Si,” Paloma nodded her dark head vigorously as she pulled Sheridan into a brief but tight hug. “I will tell him,” she promised.

    “Sheridan,” Martin stepped forward, his own words faltering as he strove to make sense of things the way they were. He finally settled for a somber “Take care.”

    “Thank you,” Sheridan gave him a trembling smile as she gathered her purse and the rest of her things in her arms. “Give Pilar my love.”

    Luis held his breath until the sound of her car’s engine faded in the distance, Marty’s soft cries the only remaining sound in the too-silent house.

    “I don’t understand you,” Paloma shook her head sadly as she regarded her brother with disillusioned dark eyes. “Either one of you.”








    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    ~16~






    “What was that?” Martin demanded when he and Luis were alone. “I know you’re not that cold, Son. Driving her away is not the answer.”

    Luis crossed his arms over his middle defensively. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    “I’m not blind,” Martin countered. “And I’m not stupid. That little scene you just pulled…”

    “It wasn’t a scene,” Luis interjected. “It’s the way things are. It’s the way they have to be.” He tried to shrug, appear unaffected by his own words, but he couldn’t hide the pain or unrest in his eyes.

    “Would you listen to yourself?” Martin asked incredulously, pacing the confines of the living room restlessly. “You’re succeeding where Alistair failed.”

    Luis’s face was dark, unreadable as Martin continued to rail at him.

    “How many times, Luis, did he try to keep you and Sheridan apart? How many secrets, lies, evil plans?” Martin’s hands moved agitatedly, speaking for him. “You went to hell and back to be with her, to love her, many times over, only to let your own pigheadedness do you in. You’re doing Alistair’s dirty work for him, Luis. You’re pushing her away and hurting everybody in the process, especially that little boy in there.”

    Luis felt a crushing ache in his chest at the minutes old memory of his son, inconsolable over Sheridan’s leaving. Shaking the image from his mind, he reminded himself that what he was doing was for Marty’s own good. Then he reminded his father. “I’m doing this FOR Marty.”

    “You’re not doing any of this for Marty, Luis,” Martin wouldn’t be convinced. “You’re doing this for you because you’re hurt and angry and too scared to take one last chance.”

    “What if I’m all out of last chances?” Luis ventured, the weight of his feelings finally dragging him down and showing in the minute wavering and tiredness of his voice.

    “Then I’d say you have a lonely life ahead of you.”







    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~






    ~17~







    Sheridan stared at her hands on the steering wheel, her knuckles white, her fingers clenched painfully. She stared at her hands and remembered the scene in Pilar’s living room, the images playing like a mocking slideshow in her mind.

    If she weren’t living it or feeling it, she wouldn’t believe it possible to hurt so much and still be breathing.

    The snow fell faster now outside her window. Harmony was disappearing beneath a flurry of whiteness. But the Bed and Breakfast loomed before her, looking warm and inviting.

    She needed the cold; maybe the numbness would save her.

    She stared at her hands again, her eyes drawn to the finger where his ring once rested, and felt a sob rise in her throat along with astonishment over the fact that she had any tears left.

    Her hands left the steering wheel to cradle her head, and for a brief moment she wallowed in the enormity of her grief and the choices that had led her to this place in time. In this cold car, all alone as Thanksgiving Day winded down.

    She hadn’t deserved them. But had she deserved this?




    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~






    ~18~






    Marty’s eyelashes curled against his tear-dampened cheeks, thick and dark, his full mouth plumped into a pout even in sleep.

    Pilar’s eyes fell on the silver frame clutched close to his heart and a soft sigh fell from her lips, “Mi hijo.” She feathered her fingers tenderly through the sweaty blond strands against her grandson’s forehead, wanting to soothe his sadness away. “Your papa loves you. Very much,” she punctuated her words with a kiss to Marty’s temple.

    “You know I do, Mama.” Luis stepped into the darkened room.

    “I know,” Pilar answered with a solemn whisper, torn between wanting to comfort her son and wanting to reprimand him for the way he’d handled things with Sheridan earlier. She remained silent, the best she could offer in the circumstances, instead letting Luis speak.

    “I DO love him, Mama. You know that,” Luis seemed to seek her reassurance on this statement, and at the nod of her head, continued, “More than my own life. I’d do anything for him—anything to keep him safe and from getting hurt. Sheridan hurts him, Mama. Every time she walks out of that door…”

    And you, Pilar thought, studying her son’s profile in the soft light provided by the lamp at Marty’s bedside. Luis wore his pain like a heavy winter coat, his shoulders slumped under its weight. His eyes were dull, his jaw set in an unhappy, hard line.

    “Each time is harder than the last,” Luis rubbed a tired hand across his face. “Each goodbye is more painful. But the longer she’s here, the more time she spends with him…it makes it that much more difficult to watch her walk away, to watch him watch her walk away,” the admission seemed to tumble from Luis’s mouth as he crept closer to the bed. Kneeling at its side and dwarfing Marty’s small hands with his larger ones, he coaxed the silver frame from the tiny fingers and reached beyond his mother to place it on the bedside table. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bear to see that disappointment in his eyes again as he watched her walk out on him. So I did what I did. And it nearly killed me when he looked at ME with that expression. But he still loves her and that makes it okay. ”

    “Oh, Luis.” One look at Luis’s glittering, moist eyes and Pilar cupped a palm around his cheek, tears coming to her own eyes. “It doesn’t make it okay.” She brushed the fingertips of her other hand gently across his cheek, both relieved and saddened that there finally appeared to be a breach in the dam and wetness met her touch.

    “What can I do, Mama?” Luis asked a broken man’s question. “To make things okay?”

    Pilar pulled him into a fierce hug as Sheridan’s sad blue eyes stared at Luis from the silver-framed photograph behind her. “Ask her, Luis. Ask her to stay.”









    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~19~






    She’d sat there, unmoving, her blue eyes frozen on her barren hands for almost an hour before the knock startled her.

    A face stared back at her from the window, its features blurred but familiar to her, even hidden in shadows.

    Frigid air stole through the window as it lowered, and a chill swept down Sheridan’s spine, making her shiver as she gasped in surprise. “Julian!” She rubbed briskly at her arms and regarded her brother questioningly. “Where did you come from? I thought you were at the Mansion.”

    Julian didn’t tell her that he’d been standing there, watching her, wanting to offer comfort he didn’t know how to give, for the last five minutes or more. In fact, he didn’t answer her question at all. He simply said, “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s cold out here, Sister Dear. Mother was getting worried.”

    For the first time, Sheridan noticed her mother, huddled against the cold and waiting on the Bed and Breakfast’s front steps. Fumbling for her purse in the passenger seat, Sheridan withdrew a small silver key and placed it in Julian’s gloved hands. “Take Mother inside. I’ll just be a few more minutes.”

    Julian turned the key over in his hands, fingering the tiny numbers engraved there. He pocketed the key and cast concerned eyes upon his sister. “Sheridan…is everything okay? Did something happen at the Lopez-Fitzgerald house?”

    “Nothing happened,” Sheridan lied. “Nothing. I’m fine, Julian. Really.” Julian still looked skeptical, so Sheridan relented. “Well, not really. But I will be. I always am,” she said tearfully when Julian, in a move shocking and uncharacteristic of him, cupped a palm around her trembling chin.

    “I’ll order us some hot chocolate.” Julian let his hand drop awkwardly from Sheridan’s face. “You loved it as a child, claimed it always made you feel better.”

    “Julian,” Sheridan grabbed her brother’s hand when he turned to leave, ready to stop him, the scene in Pilar’s living room still fresh in her mind. But Julian, she knew, was unaware, and she didn’t want to turn away the kind but misguided gesture so she bit her tongue.

    “Yes?” Julian raised a brow in curious expectation. He clung to the fingers that so tightly squeezed his own.

    Sheridan’s response was simple but heartfelt, conveying her appreciation for the baby steps Julian was taking in repairing their long-damaged relationship as brother and sister. “Thank you.”

    “You’re welcome,” Julian gave her hand a fond if embarrassed pat. “Don’t be too long.”

    “I won’t,” Sheridan promised. “I just…give me a minute, okay?”

    Julian nodded and turned to go, snowflakes swirling around the dark figure he made as he climbed the Bed and Breakfast’s steps and took their mother by the arm. Only when Sheridan had sent a reassuring wave her way did she allow herself to be led inside.

    With a sigh, Sheridan rolled the car’s window back up, took the key from the car’s ignition, and reached for her purse again, only to feel her heart clench painfully again. There, at her fingertips’ end, lay a silver compact, THE silver compact.

    It was just another reminder that she’d never, ever get over loving and losing Luis. No matter how far or how fast, she couldn’t run from the truth, and her hand in making things the way they were.

    She put the compact back inside her purse and stepped outside into the wintry coldness, her head bent against the wind.








    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~






    ~20~






    “Luis.”

    Luis’s eyes fluttered open at Paloma’s faint whisper.

    Paloma stood in the doorway to Marty’s bedroom, looking impossibly young in her red and green oversized flannel pajamas. Her hair was loose, flowing, and her feet bare. Her brown eyes welled with remorse as she approached him hesitantly, her movements silent in an effort not to wake her sleeping nephew.

    Marty sighed and rolled over away from Luis, curling into a protective ball.

    Luis reached to tuck the blankets Marty’s move had dislodged back around his shoulders, stilling when the boy whimpered in his sleep.

    “Mama.”

    Luis sighed heavily and his shoulders slumped.

    Guilt weighed heavily on Paloma’s heart at the sight and apologies spilled from her lips as she padded the short distance across the room to wrap her arms around her brother’s neck. “I’m sorry, Luis. I’m so sorry. I know you love Marty. I know you’re only doing what you think is best for him.”

    For a brief moment, Luis hugged her back, then he released her, holding her at arm’s length. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “You were right. You and Papa.”

    “Luis,” Paloma interrupted, confusion making her frown. “I don’t understand.”

    Careful not to disturb Marty, Luis stood up and moved to stand in front of the window, tracing a finger over the glittering crystals etched on the pane. “I’m scared, Paloma.”

    The quiet admission stunned Paloma. Never had she known her brother to be scared, of anything or anyone. She mirrored Luis’s position at the window, touching Luis’s arm with a timid hand. “Luis?” His eyes dark and intense, Luis answered her, though Paloma wasn’t really sure he was aware of her presence in the room anymore.

    “Failure. Not giving Marty the family he deserves. Rejection,” he said, his mouth twisted and grim. “Will I be enough? For her to stay?”

    “You’re enough,” Paloma cried, gripping his forearm tightly. “You’ve always been enough. Can’t you see that? She loves you. You both love Marty. That’s enough.” Paloma knew her words were naïve, but she believed them, fiercely in this case.

    Cognizant again of her presence, Luis told her, “Alistair won’t make it easy.”

    “Love isn’t easy, Luis,” Paloma replied, a little exasperated. “So there’ll be obstacles.”

    “Obstacles?” Luis’s brows rose. “Attempted murder is not your average obstacle.”

    “Well, neither is your stubbornness,” Paloma retorted, taking Luis’s hands in hers and forcing him to look at her. “Luis, do you still love Sheridan?”

    “What kind of question is that?” Luis hedged, looking away uncomfortably. “I can’t believe I’m getting advice about love from my little sister.”

    “Stop avoiding the question,” Paloma scolded. “Do…you…still…love…her?”

    His answer, when it came, was so soft, Paloma almost didn’t hear it. “Yes. Yeah, I still love her. I never stopped. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

    Unable to contain her inner joy, Paloma grinned, hugging her brother hard.

    “Paloma,” Luis forced out with what little air he had left in his lungs.

    “Luis, those obstacles don’t stand a chance.”






    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    ~21~






    She’d been mistaken, thinking herself alone.

    One perfunctory turn of a silver key, one twist of a knob, revealed differently.

    Sheridan gripped her mother’s hand tightly as she glanced around the rented room in disbelief.

    Leaning casually against the mantle above the fireplace, Fox greeted her with his all-too familiar smirk. “Aunt Sheridan.”

    Fancy rose from the velvet ottoman, her hands clasped in front of her, her expression more sober, but her eyes just as kind. “I hope you don’t mind that we’re here.”

    “It’s a little late. But it’s still Thanksgiving,” Ivy appeared at Fancy’s side, nursing a steaming mug of cocoa.

    “And Thanksgiving is for families,” Julian said, walking in behind Sheridan and removing his gloves, one at a time, and placing them inside the deep pockets of his long gray overcoat.

    Tears again welled in Sheridan’s blue eyes, but this time of the grateful, touched variety. Without thinking, she whirled around and wrapped her arms around Julian’s neck, squeezing hard. With her smooth, damp cheek against his cold cheek, she whispered in his ear, “Thank you.”

    Julian’s arms came up to link around Sheridan’s waist almost stiffly, and he lifted a hand to her back, patting awkwardly. He accepted his sister’s thanks with blushing cheeks and cleared his throat embarrassedly before holding her at arms’ length, his heart hammering inside his ribcage. “Your hot chocolate’s probably getting cold.”

    “Here,” Katherine held out the ceramic mug. “Not too hot. Not cold. Perfect.”

    Taking the mug, Sheridan lifted it to her lips, taking a sip. Finding her voice again, she murmured, “I can’t believe you’re all here. What happened to Thanksgiving at the Mansion?”

    “That mausoleum?” Fox scoffed.

    “It wasn’t festive enough,” Fancy pouted slightly.

    “Thanksgiving’s never festive enough for you,” Fox teased. “There weren’t any presents,” he told Sheridan, grinning and dodging the annoyed swat Fancy tried to give him.

    “No presents,” Ivy agreed. “But there was an over-abundance of pie. Sheridan, would you like some?”

    “Oh, Aunt Sheridan, it was just divine,” Fancy sighed rapturously.

    “Geez,” Fox rolled his eyes good-naturedly at his sister. “We’re talking about pie here. Not sex.”

    “Fox!” Fancy cried out indignantly.

    The siblings argued, but unlike Sheridan’s altercations with Luis throughout the day, there was no real malice in their words, their actions not borne of hurt or pain. She found herself smiling, watching them, and she accepted the offered pie and their unspoken comfort.

    The little room and the warmth within chased away all but the last vestiges of cold.

    There was only one person capable of doing that.




    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~22~





    Firelight danced across Paloma’s features as she contemplated her next move. Finally, releasing her bottom lip from her teeth’s stronghold, she gave up, muttering, “I can’t believe you’re here, playing checkers with me, when you should be out there, searching for Sheridan and telling her that you love her.”

    “Paloma,” Luis spoke warningly, nodding at the checkerboard.

    “Luis,” Paloma lifted her brows at her brother.

    “It’s your move,” Luis reminded her, fixing his eyes on the checkerboard in front of him.

    “No,” Paloma nudged a checker forward. “I believe it’s yours,” she said, her earlier divided focus now concentrated solely on her brother and his seeming nonchalance whenever she mentioned Sheridan. It was as if their conversation in Marty’s bedroom only an hour before had never happened. “Luis, por favor,” Paloma clamped a hand around his wrist when it hovered over the checkerboard. “How can you be so stubborn?”

    Luis gently removed Paloma’s hand from his wrist and leaned back, his arms casually wrapped about his middle as he regarded her. “I don’t have to search for her because I know exactly where she is. She’s at the Bed and Breakfast.”

    “And you’re still here?!” Paloma exclaimed incredulously, covering her face with her hands.

    Luis’s lips twitched at her muffled ‘Dios Mio!’ She sounded just like Mama.

    “Men,” Paloma dropped her hands back to her lap. “You’re all so dumb. The smart thing to do…”

    Luis cut her off before she could finish. “…is stay here. Sheridan doesn’t want to see me tonight, Paloma. Not after…not after I…” This time, he couldn’t finish, but unlike Paloma he just couldn’t find the words. No matter his intentions earlier, the result hadn’t been anything but painful for all involved.

    “You hurt her,” Paloma conceded. “You’ve hurt each other,” she elaborated. “You can change all that tonight.”

    “Paloma,” Luis groused. “It’s not that…”

    “…easy,” Paloma jumped in. “I know. It won’t happen in a day. It might take the rest of your lives. But it’s the rest of your lives, Luis. Together. Forever. Do you really want to wait to start forever tomorrow?”

    Luis shook his head, unfolding his arms and pushing himself to a standing position. “I can’t believe this. Now you’re starting to sound like Theresa.”

    Paloma stood up to match her brother’s stance and glowered at him, opening her mouth to respond when another voice, lilting and familiar, beat her to it.

    “Is that really so bad?”










    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~





    ~23~





    Inside the Bed and Breakfast, Fox and Fancy were still competing in the verbal Olympics, with Ivy acting as their exasperated referee and Julian looking on with an expression of mild amusement.

    Sheridan curled her arms about her middle protectively and moved from the warm glow of the window, her boots clomping as she traveled down the porch steps and into the frozen wonderland beyond. She lifted her eyes to the sky, blinking as she felt tiny snowflakes melting against her lashes on contact. She tensed when she heard movement behind her, only relaxing when her mother’s familiar voice reached her ears.

    “Sheridan Crane,” Katherine gently chastised. “You’ll catch your death of cold.”

    Sheridan accepted the heavy quilt Katherine draped over her shoulders with an indulgent smile. Holding one end of the quilt up, she invited Katherine to join her in its cocoon of warmth.

    Slipping an arm behind Sheridan’s waist, Katherine pressed her lips to Sheridan’s temple then followed her suit, lifting her own eyes to the heavens with a smile on her face. “It is beautiful, isn’t it?”

    Silence reigned on the pair, comfortable silence. Snowflakes floated down from the midnight sky like sparkling jewels, and their warm breath formed faint clouds in the chilly air in front of them. The rest of the world seemed to drift away, leaving them in such utter stillness and solitude, neither desired to create a disturbance, not for several long minutes, minutes of holding each other.

    Sheridan’s words, when they finally came, brought an end to the illusion. Her pain was thick and hovered, ghostly, over her shoulders. “I can’t stay, Mother.”

    Choosing to be obtuse, Katherine tightened her arm around her daughter’s waist. “Boston’s not that far.”

    “Boston’s not far enough,” Sheridan murmured.

    “Sheridan,” Katherine could not keep the panic from her voice as she turned Sheridan in her arms, holding her captive. Sheridan’s blue eyes when they finally met hers glittered like sapphires. “Oh, Sheridan, no. What happened tonight? Did Luis say something, do something?”

    “Luis isn’t the problem,” Sheridan shook her head. “I’m the problem. I’ve caused him and his family nothing but pain and misery from the moment we met.”

    “Sheridan, that’s not true,” Katherine objected. “Alistair’s given them nothing but pain and misery. Not you. You’ve given them life and love and Marty. That little boy is the greatest gift…Listen to me,” she implored her daughter. “The one thing Luis and I agree upon besides our love for you is that that child is precious and worth all the tears and anger and heartache.”

    Sheridan’s lips trembled and her eyes closed as she thought again of her sweet little boy’s tears at their parting, and she felt her heart clench painfully at the choices that had led them to this point, her choices. She chose to ‘move on’ with Chris when the pain of Luis’s absence beside her was too much to bear. She chose to mother a son that was not her own, when it seemed she’d never again hold Marty close to her heart. She chose to accept Chris’s proposal when she didn’t want to wear any man’s ring but Luis’s. She chose…. “Marty deserves more than me disrupting his life on holidays and birthdays. I’m not fit to be his mother. I’m not fit to be a mother at all.”

    Katherine grasped Sheridan’s hands tightly in her own. “It wasn’t your fault.”

    “It’s all my fault,” Sheridan shrank from her mother’s touch, seeking the bitter cold again, the quilt falling to the snow below. “Everything.”

    “It wasn’t your fault,” Katherine insisted. “Sometimes things just happen without reason or blame.”

    “No,” Sheridan wouldn’t be persuaded. “No, Mother, you’re wrong.”

    “Sheridan, don’t. Don’t say it,” Katherine cried, clutching her daughter’s shoulders, desperately wanting to shake some sense into her. She dropped her hands in dismay when her efforts proved fruitless.

    “The blame rests on me. I killed my baby.”







    ~24~







    “Theresa?” Luis blinked in disbelief.

    “I know it’s late,” Theresa spoke apologetically, looking uncertain. “But technically, it IS still Thanksgiving.”

    The uncharacteristic tentativeness did him in, finally spurring him into action as he moved to take his little sister into his arms. “Mama will be so happy you’re here.”

    Luis’s hug was tight and fierce, making Theresa squeak as she asked, “Mama? What about my big brother?”

    Luis held her at arms’ length, meeting her eyes as he solemnly told her, “You know I’m always happy to see you.” He pulled her back into his arms for another quick hug, kissing the top of her glossy dark head. “You’re my little sister.”

    Theresa giggled girlishly. “That wasn’t always the case. Right, Paloma?”

    “Si,” Paloma smiled back. “Always, Luis?” she teased, walking into her sister’s open arms. “I can’t believe you’re here. Don’t tell me. Your Prince Charming finally made it to the castle and slayed the Dragon.”

    “Not quite,” Theresa’s dark eyes danced as she watched Luis roll his eyes. “Not unless Julian Crane fits your description.”

    “Julian?” Luis remarked with interest. “I have to hear this.”

    “There’s nothing to hear really,” Theresa shrugged, her eyes still sparkling. “Except that I needed Alistair gone, and Julian arranged for it to happen.”

    Luis’s brows climbed to his hairline.

    “Don’t worry, Luis. It was all perfectly legal, no criminal investigations need to be launched,” Theresa smiled. “Thanks to a little ‘emergency’ engineered by Julian and Fox at one of Crane’s overseas offices, my husband will be very busy for at least the next few days, and I decided it was the perfect time to pay my family a visit. Sorry we’re so late.”

    “Wait a minute,” Paloma dark eyes peered over Theresa’s shoulder. “The kids are with you?”

    “Outside in the car,” Theresa nodded. “Jane fell asleep on the way over here, and I told Little Ethan to wait a few minutes. Just in case.”

    “Just in case?” Luis questioned her when Paloma had gone, not even bothering to throw a coat on over her pajamas. “Theresa, you’re always welcome here, you know that. We love you.”

    Theresa squeezed the hand that Luis offered her, tears brimming in her eyes. “I know. I do. It’s just…I know how you feel about Alistair and Ethan and the rest of the Cranes, and I know you think I should divorce him and try my luck winning custody of Little Ethan and Jane in court, but I can’t do it, Luis. I can’t leave my children in that house. I’ve seen what it can do. I won’t,” she vowed, one crystal tear slipping down her cheek as Luis gave her hand a gentle tug, wrapping his arms protectively around her again.

    “Shh,” Luis soothed, stroking her hair, the gesture comforting. “It’s okay. We’ll find a way. Soon,” he promised, kissing her forehead as he gently brushed away the evidence of her tears. “You’ll all be home,” he pledged, smiling as Little Ethan burst through the front door, Paloma trailing behind him holding a sleepy, tousled haired Jane, at the same moment their parents emerged from deep within the house, and an exultant ‘Dios Mio!’ escaped from his mother’s lips.

    Home where they belonged.




    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~




    ~25~



    “I killed my baby,” the painful words escaped Sheridan’s mouth a second time. “My baby died because of me. I killed him.”

    “Sheridan, no,” Katherine clasped her daughter’s chilled hand and held on. “The doctors explained to you. The pregnancy wasn’t viable. Nothing you could have done would have changed things. The miscarriage wasn’t your fault.”

    “You’re wrong,” Sheridan wrenched her hand from her mother’s grasp and whirled around, once again shutting her and her words of reason out.

    Katherine’s hands hovered over Sheridan’s shoulders, frozen and uncertain. She felt powerless, unable to prevent her daughter from hurtling down the train wreck of emotion she was on.

    “He died because of me. Because I was stupid and selfish and so desperate for affection I didn’t think of anyone else or their feelings. Only mine. He died because…I didn’t love him like a mother should.” Sheridan’s shoulders slumped and her voice dropped to a ragged whisper that Katherine had to strain her ears to hear. “Deep down I resented him. My own child,” she faced her mother again, a broken woman. “I resented him for coming between me and my chance at happiness with Luis. How could I ask Luis to accept and love another man’s child? A constant reminder of my weakness and lack of faith? I…I couldn’t. God help me, I couldn’t, and instead of accepting responsibility for my own choices, my own actions, I blamed an innocent child—my child.”

    Katherine remained silent while Sheridan took a shuddering breath, visibly trembling as she spoke her next words, her blue eyes filled with shame.

    “I didn’t cry when I lost him. I didn’t scream at God. I…I felt…relief. The guilt and the tears came later. But my life wasn’t over, the last link between me and Chris was gone, and all I could feel was this overwhelming sense of relief,” Sheridan whispered softly. “What kind of person does that make me? What kind of mother? Marty deserves better. My sweet, sweet little boy deserves better. Luis is right. I DO hurt everything and everyone I touch. Just like Father. I’m poison. You’re better off without me. All of you.”

    The depth of her daughter’s self-loathing shattered Katherine, and she wept silent tears for the fragile heart laid bare for her, the little girl who’d herself deserved so much more than the mother that had abandoned her to the monster on the hill. “Don’t. Don’t you ever say such a thing again. You are a good mother. A good, decent person, Sheridan. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise,” she hissed vehemently, cradling Sheridan’s tear-stricken face between her hands. “You are a good mother. You’re not poison. You’re not evil. You’re not anything like him. Sheridan, look at me,” Katherine pleaded. “You’re good and kind and everything Alistair Crane is not. Don’t you forget that. You’re human, and because of that, I love you even more. I don’t want to hear anymore of this nonsense about my being better off without you because it just isn’t true.” She opened her arms, and Sheridan crumbled into them. “My life is better for you having been in it. Marty’s life is better.”

    Sheridan hugged her mother tighter, desperately wanting one thing.

    To believe.







    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    ~26~






    Like his parents, Marty had a nose for excitement and a knack for searching it out, even if he was, in this case, a couple of hours late to the party. Trudging into the living room, bleary-eyed and sleep-softened, he still shot Luis an accusing look when he discovered his cousins had arrived and he hadn’t been awakened. “Papa,” he grumped.

    Luis held a finger to his lips, shushing any further protestations Marty might make.

    Beside her brother on the sofa, Theresa smiled at her little nephew and reached out a beckoning hand.

    Marty climbed over Little Ethan’s prone body, stumbling over the socked foot peeking out from beneath the bed of blankets scattered on the living room floor, and went willingly into Theresa’s open arms, snuggling against her sleepily. “I knew you’d come,” he yawned, rubbing at his eyes with his small fists.

    “Of course,” Theresa murmured against Marty’s golden brow, her lips curved into a smile as she teased him with a little tidbit gleaned from her brother’s lips. “Too bad I missed out on Mama’s pie though. That Hank. He’s such a pig.”

    Luis hid his smile at the guilty expression Marty tried to hide as he nodded his head beneath Theresa’s chin, strands of his blond hair sticking up in every direction.

    “Maria too,” Marty ventured.

    “Maria too,” Theresa agreed, meeting her brother’s laughing eyes as she smoothed her hands down Marty’s flannel-covered back and up again. She tickled her nails across the nape of the little boy’s neck soothingly as she pressed her cheek against his silky crown.

    Marty relaxed even more in her arms, his growing legs stretching out across Theresa’s lap and his bare feet coming to rest against Luis’s jean-clad thigh. Sighing softly, he twirled his fingers around the necklace around Theresa’s neck. “Did Jane get to come too?”

    “Tucked her in with Aunt Paloma an hour ago,” Luis answered the question in the affirmative, relieved to find the ice was melting between them when the comment earned a small grin.

    “You tucked Aunt Paloma in?”

    “What? You saying she’s too big to be tucked in?” Luis tugged playfully at one of Marty’s toes, capturing the small feet in his hands when they tried to squirm away.

    “Your papa used to tuck me and Miguel and Paloma in all the time,” Theresa divulged, casting a fond look at her big brother as she revisited the bittersweet memories of her childhood.

    “What about Grandpa?” Marty frowned, his forehead crinkling in confusion just before a jaw-cracking yawn had him blinking sleep-heavy lids.

    “Grandpa,” Theresa paused to mull over her response, “Grandpa loved us, but he couldn’t be with us, so Luis tucked us in every night with a kiss from Grandpa and a promise that he would come back and one day we’d all be a family.”

    Silence fell upon them, the only sounds in the dimly lit living room the crackling fire and Little Ethan’s soft snores while Marty seemed to consider Theresa’s words, his responding question breaking and opening up Luis’s heart again.

    “Aunt Theresa, does she not love us enough? Is that why we’re not a family?”


    ~*~*~*~*~*~

  7. #7

    Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    UA,
    Please write more of this soon. It's such a great story. Really looking forward to reading more of this. please continue this soon and if possible, complete it too.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: Imitation of Life (Sheridan and Luis)

    Skimmed over this quickly for mistakes, but I'm not perfect.

    This is for shuisforever121 and all the others who wouldn't let me forget this fic, lol. As if I could...oh, the angst...I'm such a sucker for it.

    I'll do my best to finish this up in a timely fashion, but keep in mind I'm in my last, extremely BUSY semester so time of the free variety to do actual fun things is enormously limited so...just saying.

    Hope you enjoy the new chapters.

    Until next time.














    ~27~




    Her tears had been many, but they were dry now.

    Her face was solemn, her eyes full of a new determination.

    The heavy door creaked shut behind her, and the glowing candlelight flickered in the draft the movement created.

    The click-clack of her boots sounded loud to her own ears, but nary a soul stirred as she traveled the long aisle.

    The church was empty, and yet she could feel them all around her, the ghosts of her past, the faint memories of the miracle her life in Harmony had been for too short a while.

    She could hear the faint echo of Luis’s “I love you” within these hallowed halls, and she could picture their friends and family seated before them with smiles on their faces, patiently waiting for them to pledge to love and honor each other for a lifetime.

    They’d come so close to having it all, so many times, and she’d clung to those bittersweet memories fiercely as she’d lived, drifted along really, in a pale imitation of life ever since.

    She couldn’t do that anymore, she decided, as she lifted her face and prayed to God and his angels for the strength to do what needed to be done.

    It was time to love them enough to let them go.




    ~*~*~*~*~*~



    ~28~





    “Uncle Luis!” Maria burst through the front door, pulling Jane by the hand along with her, both girls rosy cheeked and breathless with giggles. “We need a nose for our snowman, and Little Ethan wants your help to make him a police man just like you and my grandpa.”

    Jane pulled her hand free to push her blond hair behind her shoulders. Bouncing on the balls of her feet, she left a melting puddle of snow and ice in her wake.

    “Jane,” Theresa deftly sidestepped her brother to reach her daughter’s side. “You’re making a mess.”

    Her voice lowering to a stage whisper, Jane tugged at the layers of clothes her abuela and her mother had armed her with before even allowing her to set foot in the winter wonderland that had sparkled and beckoned with the morning’s dawning, “I gotta go to the baffroom, Mama.”

    Smiling as his sister steered a waddling Jane in the right direction, Luis returned his attention back to Maria when he heard her pointedly clear her throat and whine his name. “You want to borrow my badge?”

    “Uh huh,” Maria nodded with serious blue eyes.

    Do you promise to bring it back? I can’t catch the bad guys without it,” Luis told her.

    “Uncle Luis,” Maria threw her arms up in exasperation then settled them on her small hips and struck a pose reminiscent of her mother.

    “Okay,” Luis relented with a grin. “Go back outside. I’ll bring it to you. Hey, Maria?” he called when Maria paused in front of the fireplace to snatch a protesting Samantha into her arms. “Have you seen Marty? Is he outside helping with the snowman?”

    “Nope,” Maria answered him with a shrug of her thin shoulders, dark curls bouncing behind her as she marched back outside. “Don’t forget, Uncle Luis.”

    “I won’t,” Luis promised, letting the curtains fall back into place as he turned to leave in search of his young son. “Mama,” he pushed the door to the kitchen open, “have you seen…Mama? What is she doing here?”

    Lifting her chin proudly and standing tall, Katherine Crane commanded his attention. “I’m here to keep you from making a terrible mistake.”

    Luis looked to his mother, but she refused to meet his eyes, staring instead at an undefined point somewhere over Katherine’s shoulder. Looking back to Katherine, he waited for her to continue, and after a brief pause, she did.

    “Sheridan wouldn’t listen. My only hope is that you will.”




    ~*~*~*~*~*~



    ~29~





    “This seat taken?”

    Attempting to hide her embarrassment with an overly bright smile, Sheridan hastily wiped at her eyes and stood up to accept the bear hug Hank pulled her into. “Hank, what are you doing here?”

    “Forget that,” Hank held her at arms length, searching her watery blue eyes. “The question is, what are *you* doing here? I ran into your niece at the luggage check-in. It looked like she had everything she owned and then some packed up and ready to go. Like she’s leaving Harmony forever,” he laughed. His laughter faded at the serious, somber expression she wore.

    Sheridan bit her lip, busying her fingers with the soft leather of Hank’s collar then moving on to the woolen fringe of the scarf around his neck. “We’re going to catch some of the sales in New York before, before…” her voice wavered slightly before she carried on, shying away from his worried brown eyes. “She was really sweet, Hank. She offered to help me find a place to start over and to get me settled in, and I needed the friendly face so far from ho—so far away from Harmony.”

    Hank followed her to the cushioned chairs below, running a disbelieving hand through his hair as he cut her a glance from the corner of his eyes. “So this is it? You’re really leaving this time?”

    “I am,” Sheridan whispered softly, leaning companionably against his solid form and taking comfort in the arm he tossed about her shoulders. “Marty and Luis,” she paused, taking a long, shuddery breath, “they deserve so much better than me, Hank.”

    “Are you kidding, Beautiful?” Hank murmured against her temple as he held her close and let her cry on his shoulder. “You’re the best damn thing that’s ever happened to them.”




    ~*~*~*~*~*~


    ~30~



    “Do you know why Sheridan didn’t call off the wedding, Luis?”

    They were outside, the children’s cheerful laughter swirling around them with the snowflakes.

    Luis buried his hands in his pockets, hunching his shoulders against the sharp hint of winter in the air, and wished he’d made allowances for the weather before he’d agreed to come out here. “It doesn’t matter,” he shrugged. “She still chose him, no matter what her reasons.”

    The bitterness of his misunderstanding made Katherine’s heart ache, and she silently asked her daughter’s forgiveness for what she found it necessary to reveal to him. “You’re wrong, Luis. She didn’t choose Chris. She chose the baby.”

    “James wasn’t a baby, and he wasn’t her son,” Luis whirled on her, daring her to pretend otherwise.

    “Not James, Luis,” Katherine didn’t back down. “The baby she carried—Chris’s baby.” When he said nothing in response, she pressed on. “She was so worried of failing him like she’d failed Marty…”

    Luis cut in, his words insistent and at direct odds with the claims he himself had made in the past, “She didn’t fail Marty, at least not on her own. I’m just as responsible, just as much to blame.”

    If Katherine was surprised, she hid it well, clasping her gloved hands together and holding them in front of her. “She chose the baby, Luis, and a life with Chris and James even though her heart wanted something different. Even though,” she held Luis’s gaze with hers, “her heart wanted you and the son you’d brought home to her. She felt it was the only choice she could make.”

    The echoes of Maria’s and Little Ethan’s happy squeals welcoming Martin, Sam, and Noah back drifted to them on the wind, and the conversation stuttered to a brief stop before Luis picked it back up with an emotion-laden response.

    “It wasn’t her only choice.”

    Stepping in close to him and looking deeply into his glittering dark eyes, Katherine softly implored him to see things through her daughter’s eyes, to understand. “She couldn’t burden you with the irrevocable evidence of her weakness.”

    “It was a baby,” Luis’s jaw tightened. “Her baby. I would have…” he broke off, closing his eyes tightly before continuing in a low, passionate whisper that rang of truth, “I would have loved that baby just because it was hers.”

    “Even while you wished it were yours too?” Katherine smiled sadly.

    Luis shook his head, putting some distance back between them and turning his back on her. “You can’t fault me for wishing Chris had never happened.” The comment hung heavily in the air between, the realization that, indirectly, he’d just wished an innocent child’s existence away shaking Luis to his very core and making his throat grow tight with regret for the way he’d let his own hurt feelings blind him to Sheridan’s pain. He held on to the hand Katherine offered him, shivering at her cool kiss to his cheek.

    “There’s still time,” she whispered, opening his palm and placing a piece of paper into his hand. “Don’t waste it.”

    The soft crunch of her boots in the snow gradually faded away, replaced by the forlorn little voice he’d sought to hear the entire day.

    “Papa? What’s that in your hand?” Marty’s blue eyes were big and round and expectant. “Papa?” Marty repeated worriedly when still his father didn’t answer.

    “Give this to your abuela,” Luis tucked the paper into Marty’s red mittens and pressed a kiss to the little boy’s furrowed brow.

    “Luis, can you give us a hand? Luis?” Paloma jumped out of her brother’s way as he swept past her, Jessica, and Kay and their mountains of shopping bags, digging the keys to his jeep out of his pants pocket without a backwards glance to them. “Luis!” Turning to Marty, Paloma wondered aloud what was behind her brother’s strange behavior while Kay carefully took the piece of paper from Marty’s hands. “Marty? What was that all about? Where’s your Papa going in such a hurry? Kay, por favor, what does the paper say?”

    Kay frowned, trying to make sense of the numbers she read. “It looks like…”

    “Let me see that,” Jessica snatched the paper from her sister’s hands. “It’s a flight number.”

    “Why would Luis be going to the airport?” The scowl directed at Jessica froze on Kay’s face, to be quickly replaced with an expression much like the one of dawning comprehension on Paloma’s own.

    “Sheridan.”


    ~*~*~*~*~*~
























    Thanks so much for reading!!!

    Feedback is much appreciated and loved--it's what keeps me going.
    Last edited by UAgirl; 5.28.07 at 9:41 PM.

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