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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Lighthouse Park

"Timmy thinks we should just feed her to Fluffy."
Tabitha glanced up at the living doll from where she was hovered over the unconscious Stephanie Crane.
"Nonsense dollface," she waved her hands in the air, "This girl is useful to us!"
"She tried to kill Timmy!" he protested.
Stephanie stirred, slowly opening her eyes.
"Quick," Tabitha hissed, "Back in doll mode!"
Timmy sighed.
"Where am I?" Stephanie asked woozily, looking up at Tabitha.
"You're in the park dear," Tabitha told her, "You passed out. Must have been the heat!"

Stephanie sat up, rubbing her head, "I don't remember passing out-" suddenly her gaze locked on Timmy, who sat rather innocently on the bench. "THAT DOLL!"
Tabitha looked questioningly at her, "That's Timmy."
"THE DOLL WAS ALIVE!" Stephanie shrieked.
Tabitha laughed, "Oh, horsefeathers!"
"No, he's really alive!" Stephanie insisted, standing up and backing away unsteadily, "I saw him…I HEARD him!"
"Timmy is nothing more than plastic," Tabitha shook him for good measure, "See?"
Stephanie scanned the ground for the letter opener, hoping for some defense.
"Are you looking for this?" Tabitha waved the silver blade in the air.
"Give me that!" Stephanie lunged for it.
"No, no," Tabitha said nervously, "I think I'd better hold on to it for a while. Wouldn't want you to…hurt someone."
Stephanie had a wild look in her eye, "I'd get away from that doll if I were you. He's alive!"
"I assure you that he isn't!"
"Just…stab him with the letter opener," Stephanie pleaded desperately, "Just to make sure."
Tabitha sighed and poked Timmy lightly with the letter opener.
"See?" she asked lightly, "Nothing!"

Stephanie lunged for the doll and grabbed the letter opener out of Tabitha's hand, stabbing Timmy with all of her might.
"OWWWWW!" Timmy yowled, snatching the letter opener from the startled Stephanie.
"Oh my…" Tabitha exclaimed worriedly.
Timmy poked Stephanie in the stomach with the letter opener, "How do YOU like it? Huh? Huh?"
Stephanie fainted again.
"Oh dear," Tabitha sighed, "Timmy, I think we're done for!"




Book Café

Sheridan sipped her coffee slowly, reading the newspaper, and trying VERY hard to keep from staring across the table at Luis.
"What do you keep looking at?" his voice was laced with amusement.
Apparently, she hadn't been trying hard enough. She coughed to cover her embarrassment, "Ah…I'm looking at those muffins over there. They look really good, don't they?"
Luis smirked, just enough to let her know that he knew she was lying. But he turned around and looked at the muffins anyway, "Yep, they look good."
They were silent for a moment, neither knowing quite what to say.

Finally Luis broke the silence, "How hard do you think Hank is going to take the news?"
"News?" Sheridan asked blankly, still gazing at him.
Luis couldn't help but laugh, "You know…about us…"
"Oh!" she shook he head, embarrassed to be caught staring again, "I think he'll get over it…eventually."
"Well, just as long as you're sure that he's not the one you've been pining after and you're just settling for me-"
"Luis," she said bluntly, "Let's think really REALLY hard about this. You…or Hank. Well, I just can't seem to decide-"
He laughed at the expression on her face, "You could have just said so."
"If I wanted to be with Hank, I'd be with Hank. I want to be with you."
Luis smiled at her.
"Now," Sheridan put down her coffee with a smirk, "Are you going to let me kiss you in front of all these people?"
"If you insist…" Luis laughed.
And then they leaned across the table and shared their first public kiss.

As fate would have it, the kiss did not last long.
"BWAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"
Luis and Sheridan pulled apart, turning their heads to the source of the interruption.
Julian was standing in front of them, coffee soaking his shirt, jaw hanging open.
"What do you think you are DOING?!" he crowed in horror, making no attempt to mop up the coffee off of his shirt.




Crane Mansion

Ivy opened the door to her son's room, expecting to find Ethan. What she saw instead, was Gwen, still sitting on the bed, foot propped up by pillows, screaming her head off.
"Gwen!" Ivy exclaimed, "What on earth is going on?"
Gwen took a deep breath, "IVY! I HAVE BEEN SITTING IN HERE SINCE LAST NIGHT!"
Ivy frowned, "Why?"
"Why? WHY?! Because they LEFT me here! And I can't get up without help because of this damn ankle!"
"Well…" Ivy sighed, "I'd help you up if I could, but…"
For the first time, Gwen took notice of her future mother-in-law's appearance, "What happened to you?!"
Ivy sighed, "Long story. Anyhow, if Ethan comes home, I'll be sure to tell him to come get you."
And with that she hobbled out of the room, shutting the door behind her to muffle Gwen's screams.

"William?" she called as she made her way slowly back downstairs, "William, where are you?"
William poked his head out of Julian's study, "I'm in Father's study, Mother."
Ivy scowled, "What are you doing in there?"
"I'm unleashing chaos."
She smiled brightly, "Well, then. Don't let me stop you. Carry on!"




Lopez-Fitzgerald Residence

Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald stood in front of the mirror, twirling the bridesmaid's dress in front of her.
"Theresa, I know I've told you this before, but…You've lost your mind," Whitney Russell, ever the voice of reason, said from behind her.
"But it's fate Whit! The wedding's been postponed!"
"Yeah, because Gwen broke her ankle!" Whitney argued, "It wasn't fate, it was clumsiness!"
"No Whit, it was fate. Fate is on my side. Fate will make sure I get Ethan. Fate won't let me down. Fate-"
"STOP WITH THE FATE TALK!" Whitney exploded, "I get it! It's fate! YOU DON'T HAVE TO KEEP SAYING IT!"
Theresa sighed dreamily and gazed into the mirror once more, picturing herself marrying Ethan.
"Well…" Whitney sighed, "ONE good thing has come from the wedding being postponed."
"More time to get Ethan to admit his feelings for me?"
"No," Whitney shook her head, "More time for you to think up a good way to tell your brother that you're in the wedding party."

Theresa's happy expression fell. She had forgotten ALL about Luis and his probable reaction to hear that she'd been working for the Cranes all along. And that she was the maid of honor in Ethan's wedding!
"I won't BE in the wedding party Whit," Theresa gushed, "I'll be the bride!"
Whitney just shook her head and sighed.




Crane Mansion

Ethan, still muttering to himself about Sam Bennett, stormed into the mansion, kicking things out of his way.
"No one will get in the way of my family's happiness…" he grumbled, as he hurried into his father's study. After they had shared some quality time together at the hospital, Julian had disappeared off somewhere.
"Father, are you in here-" Ethan began, pushing the door open. What he found made his jaw drop.

Ethan stood gaping into the room, "MOTHER! WILLIAM! What are you doing?!"
Ivy glanced up guiltily from where she had been standing in front of Julian's safe, sifting through all of his papers. William had been leaning back in Julian's chair, carefully and painstakingly dumping brandy all over the desk.
"Ethan!" Ivy exclaimed, rushing over, "Um…someone broke into the mansion and trashed Julian's study! We're just trying to clean up!"
"Someone broke into the mansion?" Ethan bought the lie, "This is all Chief Bennett's fault! If he had afforded our family the protection we deserve-"
"ETHAN!" Ivy interrupted, "Not now, please. Gwen is upstairs. She needs your help."
"Oh my god!" Ethan slapped himself in the forehead, "Gwen! I forgot all about her!"
"Don't worry, Mother and I will be going out for a picnic later," William piped up.
Ethan froze and turned to face them once more, "Mother, why have you been spending so much time with William lately?"
Ivy looked flustered, "Well…I'm making up for lost time!"
Ethan looked as though he were about to cry, "You're neglecting me!"

William shrugged, "She's been neglecting me for a long time, and you don't see me crying over it!"
Ethan regarded his brother with a venomous stare, "YOU'RE TAKING AWAY MY MOTHERLY LOVE!"
"Huh?"
Before William could think of anything else to say, Ethan had tackled him, and the two began fighting right on the floor of Julian's study.
"ETHAN! WILLIAM! STOP!" Ivy shrieked, watching them as they rolled across the floor, knocking over everything in their wake.
Julian's desk was the final casualty. As the great structure tumbled to the ground, the drawers burst open, contents spilling across the rug.
"What the hell is this?!" Ethan and William both snapped at the same time, forgetting their brawl temporarily. Ivy bit her lip when she saw what they were both looking at. The Luis mask.





Book Café

"What does it LOOK like we're doing, Julian?" Sheridan snapped crossly to her brother, who was standing in front of them with his jaw hanging open.
"But…but…" Julian sputtered, waving his hands in the air, "But Sheridan!"
"WHAT?!" she snapped, more than slightly irritated at his interruption.
Julian grabbed her arm and dragged her over towards him, where he whispered harshly into her ear, "I thought you said he was using you!"
Sheridan stiffened, turning her gaze back to Luis, who was sitting back in his chair, watching the two of them with an annoyed expression.
"Just…think about what you're doing," Julian harrumphed, releasing Sheridan's arm and stepping away.

Sheridan took an unsteady step towards Luis, who stood up in concern, "Are you all right? What the hell did he just say to you?"
"Don't touch me," she said coldly, backing away from him.
Luis looked baffled, "Sheridan? What's going on?"
"I can't believe I was so stupid! To do this to myself all over again!"
"Do what? What are you talking about?" Luis demanded, his face a mask of bewilderment.
Tears began to blur her vision, and Sheridan feared that if she didn't get away from him soon she'd break down right then and there, and she was determined not to do that.
"Sheridan," he said softly, "Tell me."
She shook her head fiercely, turning and hurrying out of the Book Café. As she swung open the door and bolted out, her head down, she crashed right into someone.
"Sorry," she muttered without even looking up, determined not to lose control of her emotions in front of Luis.
"Sheridan! What happened to you?!"
She groaned as she recognized Ethan's voice. This was *not* something she wanted to get into right now…

"Aunt Sheridan?" William was right behind him.
"Sheridan?" Ivy was standing behind the two of them.
"Why are you crying?" Ethan pressed on, staring at her worriedly.
"I'm NOT crying," she insisted, refusing to look over her shoulder at Luis, who was still standing there, "I've got something in my eye."
Ethan and William exchanged skeptical looks.
Julian emerged from the bathroom, throwing a flirtatious look in Beth's direction, and headed towards the door, not noticing the group that had gathered there.
"JULIAN!" Ivy screamed, causing everyone in the room's head to snap up.
Julian jumped, "What? What?"
"Father, how could you?" Ethan said coldly, staring at him.
"How could I what?" Julian smiled innocently.
William stepped right up in front of Julian, "Ethan and I know EVERYTHING."
"Everything? Everything about what?"
"About this," Ivy piped up, holding up the Luis mask.
"YOU!" Julian exploded, "YOU SWORE THAT YOU WOULD NEVER TELL ABOUT THAT!"
"How could I help it if they stumbled across it by accident?" Ivy shot back.
"BY ACCIDENT?!" Julian's eyes were bugging out of his head, and his voice had taken on a shrill, panicked tone, "How can anyone stumble upon the contents of a LOCKED drawer by ACCIDENT?!"
Ivy shifted uncomfortably. William coughed into his hand. Ethan glanced down at the floor.
"Well?" Julian demanded.
"Um…" Ethan hesitated, "The…uh…"
"The desk sort of fell over," William piped up.
"Sort of fell over? HOW COULD THAT HAVE HAPPENED-"
"Ethan and I were fighting, and-"

Sheridan, not able to stand any more of their bickering, stepped right into the middle of things and snatched the mask out of Ivy's hand, "EXCUSE ME, but would any of you care to tell me exactly what this is about? WHY do you have a mask of Luis's face?"
"It was in Father's desk," William said, glaring at Julian.
Sheridan whirled to face Julian, furious, "tell me what this is all about. RIGHT NOW."
"Ah…" Julian scrunched his face up into an odd expression, "I…was…ah…thinking about how funny it would be for you to…ah…dress up as Luis for Halloween!"
"Why in god's name would I want to do that?"
"Because…ah…it would make people laugh. So I had a mask made up for you. I was planning on giving it to you in a few weeks, as…ah…a surprise."
"JULIAN!" Ivy growled, "I am not going to stand here while you lie straight faced to your sister. Tell her the truth right now!"
Julian glanced from Ivy's furious face to Ethan's, to William's, and finally to Sheridan's.
"OH ALL RIGHT!" he finally spat out, raising one eyebrow almost off of his head.
Everyone stared at him expectantly.
Finally, he sighed, "I have to tell you NOW?"
"YES!" Sheridan shouted.
"Fine," Julian sighed, and then his voice dropped to a whisper, "IhiredsomeonetopretendtobeLuissoyouwouldthinkhewasusingyou."
Sheridan raised an eyebrow, "Julian, you're gonna have to speak up."
Julian heaved a long-suffering sigh, "I HIRED SOMEONE TO PRETEND TO BE LUIS SO YOU WOULD THINK HE WAS USING YOU!"
There was dead silence in the Book Café, and Julian finally realized just how loudly he had spoken.

But Sheridan wasn't concerning herself with the reactions of those around her. She was staring at Luis, who looked angry and yet still a little confused, and she felt all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Of course he was confused. He'd honestly had no idea what she'd been talking about that whole time…
"This whole time…" she whispered, "Luis and I could have been together this whole time…"
And that was when she punched her brother with all of her might.
Everyone gasped as Julian hit the floor like a ton of bricks.




Tabitha Lennox Residence

Stephanie groaned as she came to, taking notice of her surroundings as they slowly came into focus. An unusually decorated room…a fireplace with a screen that looked uncannily like the NBC peacock in front of it…and a doll sitting on the couch.
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" she screamed, vaulting off the couch and throwing the doll across the room.
Timmy hit the wall with a thud and stood up shakily, rubbing his head, "Why do you always have to hurt Timmy?"
"Don't faint again!" Tabitha yelled from across the room, hurrying over to the suddenly weak-looking Stephanie.
"Who are you?" Stephanie whispered to her.
Tabitha sighed, "I am a witch who has lost her powers. This is Timmy, my doll. I brought him to life some time ago. And YOU are the girl who is going to help me get my powers back."
Stephanie shook her head, "Nuh uh. This is not happening. Elizabeth was right…I should have been taking my medication…"
"Medication?" Tabitha queried.
"I have some problems," Stephanie giggled, "And WITCHES AND TALKING DOLLS DO NOT EXIST!"
"Timmy is insulted that you don't think he's real, especially after you stabbed him with a letter opener," Timmy piped up from his hiding place behind the sofa.
"This is all a dream…" Stephanie's face had gone ghastly pale, "Any minute now I'm going to wake up and be in the cramped little room I used to share with Sara back in boarding school….any minute now…"

Suddenly a horrific red light exploded into the room, and the grumblings of many terrible voices were heard.
"What's that?!" Stephanie shrieked in terror.
"Our friends in the basement are angry," Tabitha said solemnly.
"Timmy's afraid!" the doll squealed.
Stephanie shook her head, "I am out of here."
She fled through the front door.




The Wharf

Amanda stood, looking out over the water, whistling cheerily. As she heard footsteps behind her, she whirled, coming face to face with Noah.
"Hello!" she said brightly, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Hello," he responded, his tone flat.
She stepped back and regarded his disheveled appearance, "What happened to you?"
Noah shrugged, "Minor car accident."
"Oh my god! Are you all right?"
"Just fine, and it's funny you ask."
Amanda cocked her head to one side, "And why is that?"
"You're the one who caused it."
"Me?!" she exclaimed with a startled expression, "I really don't know how that's possible, considering I haven't even seen you all day-"
"I stumbled across your little sign."
"Ohhh," Amanda bit her lip, trying to conceal her amusement, "I see."
"And I suppose, since it wasn't exactly posed as a question, that I will be having dinner with you tonight."
"Yes you will."
"You don't give up, do you?"
Amanda smirked, "We Cranes are persistent."
"So I see."
"Oh come on. I'm sure you don't mind."
Noah laughed, "You're right. I don't mind."
"Good. Then you can buy me lunch."

Noah sighed, "Everything we do together is focused around food!"
"Considering we met over a blueberry muffin, that's not exactly a bad thing. It brings…tradition to the relationship."
"Where is this tradition going to lead us when we both gain about a hundred pounds?"
"Plan on seeing me that much, huh?" Amanda was beaming.
Noah huffed, "I like to plan for all possibilities."
"Well I suppose it wouldn't be TOO much of a sacrifice to include a walk along the beach as part of this new tradition," Amanda said with mock reluctance.
"Just make sure we don't walk anywhere near my mother's kitchen. I hear she's making pea soup pie today."
Amanda grimaced, "PEA SOUP PIE?!"
"To go along with her tomato soup cake."
"And you complain about going out to eat?"
Noah grinned and took her arm, "Who ever said I was complaining?"
They headed down the wharf together.

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