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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Crane Cottage

Sheridan was once again trying to entertain herself with a magazine, and finding it a poor substitute for the great outdoors.
"Luis," she tried again, "Can we PLEASE go for a walk? Just on the grounds?"
"Sheridan," Luis said patiently, "There are people out to kill you. They are waiting for the right moment to pick you off. And I do not intend to give them any opportunities."
"So you'd rather I just go mad, cooped up in here with you?"
"At least you'd be alive."

Neither of them noticed the two figures crouched outside in the dusk shadows, peering in the front window.
"What do you see?" Amanda hissed to Ethan.
"They're both sitting on the couch," Ethan glumly replied, "And they're arguing."
"I don't believe a word of what you told me about him."
Ethan sighed, "Of course you don't."
"He's crazy about her! Anyone with half a brain can see that. I guess that's why you haven't noticed yet…"
Ethan glared murderously at her, "I could kill you and no one would ever find out. Father and Grandfather would cover it up."
"Charming family sentiments you've got going there, brother dear," Amanda chuckled.
"You bring out the worst in me."
"I was starting to be afraid you acted this dumb ALL the time."
Ethan sighed again, "Look. You dragged me out here to spy on them, and here we are. You've satisfied your curiosity, now can we PLEASE go back inside?"
"Why? You've got a date?"
"No," Ethan sounded offended, "Theresa is coming over to discuss the wedding plans with Gwen and I."
Amanda grinned, "Theresa, eh? Who's this Theresa person?"
Ethan shifted uncomfortably, "Uh…she's just…a friend…"
"Oh REALLY?" Amanda's face was split into a knowing grin.
"Yes really!" Ethan snapped.

Amanda stretched and stood up, "Fine. You wanna go back to the house so bad, we'll go."
"Great," Ethan muttered in relief, standing up and turning back towards the main house.
"Not so fast!" Amanda called.
"What now?" he groaned.
"We have to get those two together first. THEN you can go back to the mansion."
"And how do you suppose we're going to accomplish that? They hate each other!"
"No, they don't."
"Yes, they do!"
"Do not!"
"Do to!"
"Do not!"
"Do to!"
Amanda backed away, looking at him oddly, "Okay, that is the LAST time I am EVER getting into one of those conversations with you."
"Fine."
"NOW JUST HELP ME GET THEM TOGETHER SO I CAN GO GET SOME SLEEP!" she screamed.
Ethan jumped, "All right, all right!"
Suddenly, the front door exploded open, and Luis charged out, gun in hand. Amanda and Ethan quickly ducked behind a bush.

Luis peered suspiciously into the shadows as Sheridan came up behind him.
"What's going on?" she asked loudly.
"SHHH!" he shushed her, pushing her back towards the cottage.
"Is someone out there?" she persisted.
"Go back inside!" he snapped.
"But-"
"Sheridan, if someone IS out here, it is too dangerous for you to be out here. Please go back inside!"
"Luis, no one is out here. I am NOT in any danger! This is all in your head-"
Amanda stood up abruptly, "HI!"
Sheridan screamed and Luis swung his gun around in her direction.
Amanda jumped, "Whoa! You're not gonna greet me this way TWICE, now are you? I think this is approaching a world record!"
"What were you doing out there?" Luis asked her suspiciously.
"Taking a walk," Amanda informed him with a fake smile, as she brushed pine needles from her clothes, "I should be asking the same of you. Why were you parading outside with a gun? Hoping to pick off a few Cranes before anyone could notice?"
Luis rolled his eyes. Sheridan stepped between the two, "All right, enough. Amanda, what are you doing here?"
Amanda was rummaging through a closet, "You'll find out soon enough."

Ethan burst in, "Amanda, what are you doing to-"
Amanda rolled her eyes, "Sheridan, Luis, I mean this in the nicest way, but DON'T YOU EVER LOCK YOUR DOORS?! If there is a hitman after my aunt, don't you think he's going to try the front door?"
Luis scowled.
Ethan crossed his arms, "She's right Officer Lopez-Fitzgerald. Why aren't you taking better care of my aunt?"
Luis stepped right up in his face, "I am doing my job Ethan. If you have a problem with the way I am handling my job, then-"
"ENOUGH!" Amanda screamed again, "Ethan, I did not drag you out here so you could argue with Luis."
"You brought him out here?" Sheridan was confused, "Amanda what's going on?"
Amanda suddenly straightened up and backed away from the closet, holding whatever it was that she'd found as though it were priceless.
"Amanda…" Ethan sounded worried, "What are you up to?"
Amanda unwound a large coil of rope, "Luis, Sheridan, I'm really sorry to have to do this to you guys, but trust me, you'll thank me later."
Sheridan and Luis exchanged nervous glances.
"Ethan," Amanda ordered, "Hold them down!"
Luis had grabbed Sheridan's hand and they were slowly backing towards the door.
"Amanda," Sheridan said cautiously, "You're making me very nervous…"
Amanda and Ethan pounced.




Bennett House

Elizabeth sat perched on the couch, chatting easily with Simone and Kay, ignoring the fact that Kay was hardly speaking at all.
"So do you two have any other friends?" Elizabeth asked them, smiling ever so sweetly at Kay.
Kay glared back at her, "My friend Miguel should be here in a few minutes," she said in a low, deadly voice.
"Great! The more the merrier."
The door swung open and in walked a cheery-looking blonde.
"Oh great, the psycho is here," Kay muttered to Simone.
Elizabeth looked expectantly at both of them, "I highly doubt that this is Miguel, so why don't you introduce us?"
Kay shot her a murderous glare, "Elizabeth Crane this is my cousin Charity Standish."
"Hi!" Charity said brightly, smiling at them, "Miguel is coming in after he finishes helping Aunt Grace in the kitchen."
For the first time that evening, Kay smiled. The action did not go unnoticed by Elizabeth, who smiled evilly.
Charity and Elizabeth made small talk for a few minutes as they got to know each other.

A moment later, in walked the almost criminally handsome Miguel.
Charity stood up and hugged him, "Miguel, you have to meet Elizabeth. Elizabeth Crane, this is Miguel-"
"Lopez-Fitzgerald?" Elizabeth guessed.
Miguel looked surprised, "How'd you know?"
"I met your brother earlier. You look a lot like him."
"Oh," Miguel laughed, "That's right, he's staying with Sheridan."
Kay was frowning at their interaction, "Miguel!" she said suddenly, "Do we have softball practice tomorrow morning?"
Miguel paused, "I don't think so Kay. Charity and I were planning to go to the beach. Anyone else want to come?"
"Simone and I will go," Kay said quickly, smiling at Miguel.
"Great," Miguel smiled back, "I'll invite Reese too."
Kay's smile immediately vanished.
"Elizabeth, do you want to come with us?" Miguel asked her.
Elizabeth shrugged, "If you guys don't mind, yes I'd like that."
"We don't mind at all!" Charity insisted, "We'd love to have you come with us!"
"Okay then," Elizabeth was smiling. Then she caught sight of Kay's horrified expression, and she smiled even more. This was going to be fun.




Noah stood in "his" room, studying his reflection in the mirror. His clothes were fresh and pressed, and his hair was neatly combed back. Then he glanced at the clock. Six fifty-two.
"Here we go," he said to himself, and then hurried down the stairs, ran through the living room where his sister had accumulated a group of her friends, and then he was out the front door and sprinting down the street.




Crane Cottage

"This is all your fault."
Luis stared incredulously at Sheridan, "Your psychotic relatives come back into town and this is MY fault?"
Sheridan stared right back at him, which she kind of had to do, since they were tied together and their faces were mere centimeters apart. "If you can't fight off my niece and nephew, a lot of good you'd be against a hitman!"
"I wasn't expecting your niece and nephew to be a threat!"
"You pulled a gun on my niece twice!"
"Because she startled me!"
"So you weren't the least bit suspicious of her after that?"
Luis glared at her, "You WANTED me to be suspicious of your niece? Would you have believed me if I told you I was suspicious of your niece?"
She shifted uncomfortably, "Well, no, but…"
"But this is still my fault."
"YES!"
Luis rolled his eyes, "What purpose would Ethan and Amanda have for tying us together?"
"Now you expect me to read minds? All those years in boarding school can do a number on one's head! I guess the girl just snapped!"
"But what about Ethan? He's been home!"
"I DON'T KNOW!" Sheridan screamed right into Luis' ear, making him cringe.
Luis attempted to pull away from the ropes, which was, of course, impossible, "Why would they tie us together? There has to be a reason!"
"If there is a reason, I don't know anything about it, so STOP ASKING ME!"

Luis shifted again, tugging with all his might against the ropes, "Maybe we can roll over to the phone and call someone for help."
"How would we get the phone off the table?"
"We could bump into the table and knock the phone to the ground."
Sheridan sighed, "This isn't going to work."
"Let's just try. Or else we're going to be stuck like this for a long time."
Sheridan sighed again, "All right, we'll try."
Luis nodded, "Okay."
Then he pushed off, as he and Sheridan rolled slowly, painstakingly, across the living room floor.
"Do you hear music?" Sheridan asked suddenly, stopping their forward motion.
Luis cocked his head to one side, "Yeah. Sounds like tango music."
Sheridan glared at the radio, "Dammit Ethan!"
Luis sighed, "Let's just keep rolling."
They rolled onward towards the table.




Lobster Shack

Amanda checked her reflection in the mirror one last time, finally replacing the small compact into her purse and glancing up towards the door. As if on cue, in walked Noah, looking rather handsome.
Amanda grinned and waved, "HI NOAH!"
He looked somewhat startled, but made his way over to her table, "Uh, hi."
"How did the rest of your day go?"
He shrugged, "Fine, I guess. Nothing really interesting happened."
"I've had an adventurous past few hours."
Noah sighed, "Dare I ask what you've managed to get into?"
She smirked and nibbled on a piece of buttered bread, "Oh, nothing in particular. Just putting my two cents in here and there."
"Why does this not surprise me?"
Amanda grinned again and flagged down the waiter, "I don't know about you, but I'm starved."
"I spent the whole day avoiding my mother's cooking. Of course I'm hungry."

After they ordered, Noah studied her face intently. Amanda stared straight back at him, "Do I have something stuck to my nose?"
Noah leaned back, "No, I was just wondering something…"
"What were you wondering?"
"Do you know anybody named Ethan?"
Amanda spit out her water, "Excuse me?"
"Ethan. Who's Ethan?"
Wiping at her face with a napkin, Amanda shrugged, "He's my older brother. A real doofus. Why do you ask?"
"Ever since I've come to Harmony people have been saying that I look like him. I was just curious as to who he was."
Amanda squinted, "I guess around the eyes. But I don't see any great resemblance, thank god."
"I take it you don't like your brother."
"He's all right, but I wouldn't want to DATE him," Amanda laughed, "and as long as you are at least marginally more intelligent, I can deal with you."
He opened his mouth to say something when someone rushed up to the table.

"AMANDA!"
Amanda turned her head to see her mother standing there, mouth hanging open. William stood gloomily behind her, next to a smirking Julian.
"Hello Mother," Amanda said brightly.
Noah shook his head, "You're the flower lady."
"And you're Noah…BENNETT!"
Julian looked confused, "Am I missing something here? What flowers? What on earth is he talking about?!"
"You brought flowers to my house this morning," Noah was still staring at her.
"You brought flowers to his house?" Julian was glaring at his wife.
"Yes," Ivy said in a scared little voice, "I…uh…I brought them for Grace Bennett. I know how much she loves flowers."
Julian shuddered, "Lord knows if I were married to Grace, I'd stuff the flowers down her throat."
"Hey!" Noah exclaimed.
Amanda glared at her parents, "If you don't mind taking the family gathering elsewhere…I'm on a date."
"YOU CAN'T DATE HIM!" Ivy screamed, looking horrified.
Amanda and Noah regarded her with quizzical expressions.
Julian narrowed his eyes, "Why not, DARLING?"

Ivy shifted nervously, thinking about her own doomed relationship with Sam Bennett. It just wouldn't work. "Because…um…he's…well…ah…um…uh…eh…"
"Look at it this way mother," Amanda said jokingly, "When we're married, we'll look back on your reaction to seeing us together and just laugh and laugh."
"Married?" Ivy squeaked, and then she fainted dead away.




Elizabeth wandered down the darkened streets after leaving the Bennett residence, pondering the day's events. There was no doubt in her mind that Kay Bennett was a cruel, evil girl with nothing but hate in her heart. Elizabeth felt a smile spread across her face at the thought. Torturing that girl was going to be *so* much fun. Then her thoughts drifted to Miguel and Charity. They had both been so sweet to her. Miguel was so adorable…to bad he was taken, she thought with a note of disappointment. But if *she* couldn't have Miguel, she was going to do everything in her power to make sure that Kay didn't get him either. And that was going to be fun.
"Kay Bennett, you've met your match," she laughed into the night air.
Suddenly, her thoughts shifted to her sister. She had last seen the younger girl when she had left her in the Book Café…
"Oh god!" Elizabeth exclaimed, "Stephanie!"
She then hurried off in search of her missing sibling.




Book Café

"You know," Beth was staring at the bored girl sitting at the counter, "We do have to close up soon."
"Great," Stephanie muttered, dumping another packet of sugar into her coffee.
"You gonna drink that?" Beth asked her, glancing down with mild disgust at the cup of coffee, which now featured a prominent mound of sugar sticking up from out of the liquid.
Stephanie glanced down at the mug and grimaced, "I guess not."
"Why don't you head on home? I'm sure your folks are worried about you."
Stephanie chuckled with amusement at the thought, "Sure they are." She stood up and handed Beth a few dollars, "Thanks for the coffee."
Beth shrugged and took the money, "Try to have a pleasant evening."
Stephanie frowned for a moment, suddenly regarding the sharp silver knife that Beth had used earlier to cut a slice of pumpkin pie for a customer. Then she began to smile.




Elizabeth finally spotted her sister through the window of the Book Café, nervously recognizing the off-balance look in Stephanie's eye.
"Stephanie!" she called loudly as she hurried in the door.
Stephanie jumped, startled, as she slipped the knife into her purse, "Well, if it isn't Elizabeth. How nice of you to join us."
"I'm sorry," Elizabeth shrugged, "I lost track of time."
"I've been here since BREAKFAST!" Stephanie snapped. Beth sighed and returned to cleaning the counter.
"No one was stopping you from leaving!"
"Where was I gonna go? To the wharf? I hate the water. Home? I hate my parents. That doesn't leave me a lot of options."
Elizabeth sighed, "And you seemed like such a normal child."
"I can act all bubbly and happy if I want to," Stephanie was grinning wickedly.
"I know you can. And that's what scares me," Elizabeth admitted, "But there's no need for there to be a repeat of what happened at boarding school. I've been instructed to keep you away from sharp objects."
"You're a little late for that."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, "What now?"
"I've got a knife. I think I'm going to make Mother and Father realize what being neglected does to a child's mentality."
"Stephanie, there is no need to carve up our parents. Really."
Stephanie sighed and put the knife back on the counter, "Oh just go and ruin all my fun!"
"Go make some friends. Then you'll have fun."
"The only reason I came back was so I could see our idiot older brother get married and hopefully make a fool of himself at the ceremony."
"And here I was thinking that it was family love that lured you back."
Stephanie shrugged, "If they want to be mean to me, I can be mean back. Besides, I have this feeling that this wedding will be an event that no one will ever forget."
"You may be right, but in any case, it's late, and I would like to go home. Come on." Elizabeth grabbed Stephanie's hand and led her out of the Book Café.

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