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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Crane Mansion

Pilar pushed the door to the kitchen open nervously, uncertain of what to expect.
"Mr. Crane? Mrs. Crane? Can I help you with anything-"
She froze when she saw the condition of the room, and the condition of the two people standing in front of her.
"Dios mio!" Pilar exclaimed, her eyes wide.
Ivy and Julian stood stiffly in front of her, barely recognizable under a thick coating of a mysterious, foul-smelling green substance, which was also splattered all over the walls and ceiling.
"Pilar?" Ivy asked, her voice squeaking, "Is that you? I can't see anything."
Julian didn't say a word…simply stood very, very still.
Ever stoic, Pilar grabbed two towels and handed them to Ivy and Julian, who proceeded to wipe the green ooze off of their faces.
"What happened?" Pilar asked finally.
Ivy, a stunned look on her face, finally snapped to attention, "Ask JULIAN."
Julian glared at her, "It's all Ivy's fault."
Ivy stomped her foot, "Julian, I wasn't the one making a pea soup pie!"
Pilar fought the urge to gag, "Pea soup pie?"
"It was Ivy's idea."

Ivy looked appalled, "It was NOT my idea Julian, don't you even go there!"
"YOU HAD THE RECIPE WRITTEN DOWN!"
"YOU WERE THE ONE WHO MADE ME CALL GRACE!"
Pilar shook her head, holding her hands up, "Dios mio…calm down! You called Grace Bennett for recipes?"
Julian and Ivy nodded glumly, looking like punished children.
Pilar stood very still for a moment, before finally saying, "WHY?!"
Julian and Ivy both hung their heads, uncertain as how to reply.
After a moment, Pilar checked her watch, "You two have less than fifteen minutes to get cleaned up. Go…shower or something, I'll clean up this mess."
Ivy sighed, "Pilar, you don't have to-"
"SHOO!" Pilar erupted, "Before you blow something else up!"
She and Julian fled.




Gwen, still on crutches, but finally free from the confines of Ethan's room, made her way slowly into the Crane mansion, followed closely by her three brothers, who were all dressed up in suits and ties.
"Gwen!" William said, his voice sounding less than enthusiastic, "You're early."
"Only by five minutes," Gwen pouted, "Is Ethan here?"
"He's in his room getting ready," William shrugged, looking unusual in his jacket, tie, and backward baseball cap.
"Oh," Gwen looked at the daunting staircase and shook her head, unwilling to make the same mistake twice, "William, these are my brothers…Gabriel, Joshua, and Bradley. Gabriel is fifteen, and Joshua and Bradley are twins, both seventeen."
"I think he can figure out that we're twins," Joshua said in an irritated tone, gesturing to the identical appearance of himself and Bradley.
Gwen shrugged and hobbled towards the living room, her brothers following sullenly.




Luis sighed as he and Sheridan reached the door to the Crane Mansion.
"We can always turn back…" he said hopefully, "Go back to the cottage, watch a movie…" he ran his hands down her arms.
Sheridan smiled, "Luis, as tempting as that sounds, we're here already. Come on…we don't have to stay that long."
Sighing, he followed as she led the way into the mansion.

William, who was sitting in the living room, jumped up as they entered, "Sheridan! Luis! Come on in…Gwen and her brothers are already in the dining room."
"Gwen's brothers are here?" Sheridan asked, startled.
"Oh god…" Luis muttered under his breath, earning an elbow in the stomach.
They followed the rebellious William into the dining room, where Gwen was sitting at a table with three boys.
"Hi Sheridan, hi Luis," Gwen said brightly. She pointed to the younger of the three boys, who was sitting next to her, "This is Gabriel. He's fifteen. Joshua and Bradley are seventeen."
"Hi," Sheridan said politely.
"Hi," Luis echoed, looking less than thrilled.
"Hi," Gabriel finally said, earning glares from his two brothers, who didn't say a word.

"Friendly bunch," Luis whispered into Sheridan's ear.
"God, Luis, stop it," she whispered back, trying to fight back laughter.
Pilar hurried in, looking nervous. Globs of pea soup were stuck to her arms.
"Mama?" Luis asked, startled, "What happened? Why are you still here?"
Pilar simply shook her head at him, "Mr. and Mrs. Crane will be out with dinner shortly." Then she hurried off.
Ethan strolled down the stairs, "Gwen!" he said, pronouncing her name Gwinn, as he always did.
"HI ETHAN!" she said cheerily, reaching over and grabbing his hand so he could kiss her without her having to stand up. "Ethan, darling, I brought my brothers with me. My mother said that they should meet your sisters…"
Ethan sighed and sat down, "Fine with me Gwen." Under his breath he added, "At least this way our families will still get that business deal they wanted."
Amanda suddenly pushed her way into the room, dragging Noah behind her.
"HI EVERYONE!" she said brightly, grinning pointedly at Luis and Sheridan.
Noah, slightly embarrassed, waved hello.
Amanda sat down next to Luis, pulling Noah down into the chair next to her.
"At least you aren't pulling a gun on me," she said with a smirk, "We're making progress."
Luis narrowed his eyes, "Just don't try and kill me, and I won't have to do anything drastic."
Amanda raised her eyebrows, "Who, me?"
Next to her, Noah chuckled.

Elizabeth and Stephanie slowly walked into the room, looking around rather nervously.
"Hello sisters," William said with an evil grin.
"Elizabeth, Stephanie, come sit over here!" Gwen called, gesturing to two empty seats by the three Hotchkiss boys.
Elizabeth sighed, "As if this couldn't get any worse."
She and Stephanie obediently took their seats.
"Who are we waiting for?" Ethan piped up.
"Mother and Father," William responded with a Cheshire grin, pointing to the two empty seats at opposite ends of the table.
"Stop looking so nervous!" Amanda poked Noah in the side, "Nothing bad is going to happen!"
Noah shrugged, unable to hide his pensive expression, "I can't help it. I don't want your mother to faint again-"
"She's already met you, she won't have that reaction again. Besides, think of the delicious meal you're about to have! Nothing of Grace Bennett's on the menu…" Amanda grinned at him.
"That is the only thing that is keeping me here, you realize that?" Noah chuckled.
"That and me, right?"
"Of course," he laughed and kissed her hand.

"Hello everyone!" Ivy said from the doorway, looking more than slightly nervous, but managing to keep a grin plastered to her face.
"Bet you all believed we'd screw up this dinner thing," Julian piped up from behind her.
They had both showered and changed into evening wear, neither of them bearing the mark of their earlier culinary disaster.
"So you actually managed to cook?" William sounded impressed. He hadn't been expecting much.
"Oh yes," Ivy said with a nervous laugh, "We've got appetizers, soups, main courses, and even deserts!"
William pushed back his chair, looking at them strangely with his big blue eyes, "REALLY?!"
"Yes really son," Julian said merrily, shoving Ivy towards the kitchen, "Now we'll just go bring everything in-"




As soon as they were out of the view of the people waiting in the dining room, Ivy turned to Julian, a panicked look on her face.
"What are we going to DO?!"
Julian, with a disgusted expression, pointed towards the food that was waiting on the freshly cleaned table, "We serve them…THAT."
"But…but…"
Julian sighed, "Ivy, if the Bennetts can survive off of it…I suppose we can, for one night. But I'll admit, even that hideous place the Lobster Shed-"
"SHACK," Ivy corrected.
"SHACK," Julian parroted, "Even there is seeming like a delightful cuisine in comparison to this…this…MESS!"

"HEY! What's going on in there?! We're HUNGRY!" William's voice floated through the doors.
Ivy heaved a sigh, "Well, off to our doom."
She picked up the plate of stewed diced pears in onion sauce with poppy seed crust. Julian grabbed the plate of broiled chicken with strawberry-mango-grape glaze.
Then, exchanging one last look, they turned and headed into the kitchen.




Outside the Crane Mansion

Theresa stood on the porch, hand on the doorknob. In a moment, she would be walking right into her dream world…a dinner party at the Cranes. And she would be Ethan's date…
"Oh Ethan," she whispered, "It's fate!"
As she pushed open the door, she heard something that brought her crashing back down to reality. Her brother's voice.
"What's Luis doing here?" she said out loud, horrified.
Then Gwen's voice drifted out, as she droned on about the wedding.
"Oh my god," Theresa whispered, turning and bolting from the mansion, slamming the door behind her.
Then she ran far, far away from the Crane Mansion.




Ivy took a deep breath and pranced out into the dining room, grinning widely. She held the plate up with a flourish, and put it down on the table, releasing a relieved breath of air. Julian followed suit, giving his family a toothy grin.
"Well, I'm hungry-" Noah started, in an attempt to be friendly.
Ivy sat down and studied the plate in front of her with trepidation.
Gwen was the first to move, leaning over with a serving spoon and digging into the stewed diced pears. After a moment, Sheridan went for the chicken.
"This looks very nice," Gwen said appreciatively, after she had piled the appetizers on her plate. "What is it?"
Ivy and Julian glanced at each other from the opposite ends of the table.
Gwen looked puzzled at their lack of response, but that was soon forgotten as she busied herself with her napkin.
After everyone had filled up their plates, Julian and Ivy included, albeit reluctantly, those in attendance at the Crane family dinner party dug in.
Gwen bit into the pears and grimaced, but forced herself to swallow politely.
"It's…ah…good," she said finally, reaching for something to drink. What she found was a passion fruit milkshake made with real goat's milk. Not thinking clearly, she gulped down the thick orange-pink liquid, gagging as she did so.
"Oh…my…god," Noah said suddenly, looking down at his plate in horror, then looking up as Amanda gulped down a forkful of chicken.
"BLEHHHHHH!!" Amanda, who was not shy at all, spit the chicken out into her napkin.
"This…this…" Noah looked like he was traumatized for life, "THIS IS MY MOTHER'S RECIPE!"
Sheridan, who fortunately hadn't yet taken a bite of anything, glanced first at her plate, and then at Luis. Simultaneously, they pushed their plates across the table, far, far away.

Joshua and Bradley exchanged bored glances. Gabriel, trying very hard to be a gentleman, bit into the chicken, carefully keeping his face neutral as he chewed.
Ivy's forced smile slowly faded from her face, as did Julian's. She glared at him as he withdrew a flask from his pocket and gulped down some liquor when he thought no one was looking.
"JULIAN!" she snapped, and he looked up guiltily, shoving the flask back into his jacket.
Ethan, oblivious to his surroundings as usual, chewed merrily away, taking a few breaks to gulp down a healthy swig of passion fruit goat's milk milkshake.
Gwen was looking at him with disgust, "How can you eat that?!"
Ethan paused, a forkful of stewed diced pears inches from his lips, "What's wrong?" His gaze fell on the commotion all around him, and then focused back down at the food. With a sigh, he put his fork down.
"Well," Ivy said abruptly, standing up, "I'd say that's enough of the appetizers. Who's ready for the main dish?"
No one said a word.

With a self conscious smile, Ivy picked up one of the plates and headed back towards the kitchen, kicking Julian in the shin as she walked by. With a start, he leapt up, grabbed the other plate, and followed her through the doors.

"Well," Julian said hesitantly as soon as they were in private, "That could have gone worse."
Ivy glared at him, "Oh and do tell JULIAN, how could that have been worse?!"
"It could have degenerated into utter and complete chaos!"
"Julian, we haven't served the main dish yet. There is still time for chaos."
Julian sighed and moved towards the plate which held the unappealing pickled ham with lime sauce, "Ivy, it's not too late for that pizza-"
Shaking her head with determination, Ivy snatched the plate off the table, stomping into the dining room with it. With a sigh, Julian grabbed the side dishes: broccoli and okra drizzled in peach cream, and artificial cherry-flavored baked potatoes.
"This should be interesting," he muttered, pausing to take another drink from his flask for courage.




"I'm leaving," Noah declared, standing up and tossing his napkin onto the table.
"You can't leave!" Amanda squalled, grabbing his hand and pulling him back down.
He looked on in dismay as Ivy and Julian came back into view, both holding large plates of unidentifiable substances, "Amanda…LOOK at that stuff! I've had to eat that all my life! I recognize all of these-"
"And you think I have a preoccupation with food?" Amanda deadpanned.
Noah sighed and sat back down.

"And I thought your cooking was bad," Luis said dryly, his eyes widening with horror as he saw what was on the plate heading towards them.
"At least I know you'll never make fun of my scrambled eggs again," Sheridan said with a smirk.
Luis picked up the glass of thick pinkish-orange liquid, "What is this stuff supposed to be?"
"Some sort of fruit-flavored milkshake," Sheridan grimaced, "I wouldn't touch it if I were you…one of Gwen's brothers just had a sip and…"
She gestured to Joshua, who was gagging loudly.
"I am a rebel," William declared, for no reason whatsoever.
"William," Luis said in an annoyed tone, "If you're such a rebel then why are you delighting in torturing other people, just like everyone else in your family?"
William paused, thinking for a moment.
Amanda answered for him, "BECAUSE, Officer Lopez-Fitzgerald, we are delighting in torturing our OWN family, as well as you."
"No one escapes," William added with a grin.
"AND," Amanda continued with a knowing smirk, "I happen to know for a fact that most of my plans turn out rather well in the end."
Sheridan blushed and cast her gaze downward.
"But…" Amanda sighed, "All good things must come to an end. So I suppose, that while Mother and Father are busily serving us this DELICIOUS looking concoction, I will focus all of my energy on torturing my halfwit brother, Ethan."
"Don't torture Ethan-" Sheridan attempted.

"Here," Ivy said flatly, slamming the plate down in the center of the table. Everyone paused in their quibbling and stared out at the creation. A ham…coated entirely in an unusual, translucent, gelatinous green goo.
"What is that?" Gwen asked nervously.
"A pickled ham with lime sauce," Ivy grumbled, snapping her fingers at Julian, who hurried over with the side dishes.
"I present cherry-flavored baked potatoes," Julian attempted to smile, "And steamed okra and broccoli drizzled in a succulent peach cream."

The guests at the table exchanged horrified glances.
William coughed loudly, "Ah, Mother, Father, perhaps we could try this dinner thing another time. Gwen was just saying that she had to leave-"
"No I wasn't," Gwen interrupted stupidly, staring at him with a confused expression.
"Ah…" William tried again, "It's past Stephanie's bedtime."
Stephanie, relieved, moved to stand up, but was foiled by Gwen.
"I'm sure there's no problem with her staying up a little later tonight!"
Stephanie sighed and sat back down, burying her face in her hands.
Ivy sat down with a huff, "I SPENT ALL DAY COOKING, AND YOU'D DAMN WELL BETTER SIT HERE AND EAT IT!"
There was a moment of shocked silence. Even Julian looked a bit stunned.
Then, without another word, everyone picked up their forks and reached for their plates.
Ivy smirked and brushed a strand of hair out of her eye, shooting a smug look in Julian's direction.




"Who's ready for desert?" Amanda said after a moment, as everyone poked unhappily at their food with their forks.
Noah shook his head slowly, "I wouldn't do that if I were you…"
Amanda scoffed at him, "Noah, please. Who could screw up desert?"
Elizabeth and Stephanie exchanged horrified glances.
Stephanie shuddered, "This is not happening…"
"I can't deal with this again…" Elizabeth whispered.
Ivy stood up with a faux smile, "Well…desert it is."
"If you don't mind," Luis said politely, "We should be going."
Sheridan shot him a questioning look.
"You're leaving?" Ivy asked, looking somewhat sad.
"We'll have desert another time," Sheridan said finally, forcing herself to smile at her family. "Good night everyone."
"Night Sheridan, night Luis," Amanda said with a wink.
"Good night Aunt Sheridan," Elizabeth and Stephanie chimed in.
William tipped his baseball cap in their direction.
Ethan waved, "Good night Sheridan!"

Luis took Sheridan's hand and began to lead her with some urgency towards the door.
"Luis," she hissed as soon as they were out of earshot, "What are you doing?"
Luis' expression was grave, "Sheridan, you do NOT want to see what's going to be coming out of that kitchen in a minute, trust me."
"How do you know that it's going to be bad?"
"That entire meal has 'Grace Bennett' written all over it. And if she did the appetizers and the main course, odds are that we're going to get her desert as well. Feel free to go back in there if you find pea soup pie and tomato soup cake irresistibly appealing."
Sheridan grimaced, "Ah…on second thought…"
Luis shot her a killer grin, "We could always go for ice cream-"
Sheridan cut him off mid-sentence by pulling him into an intoxicating kiss.
"Or not," he laughed as she pulled back.
Then, still holding hands, they continued across the Crane Estate towards the cottage.




Ivy stood in the kitchen, regarding the desert attempts, which sat ominously on the counter.
"Julian," she sighed, "They are going to kill us when they see this, you do realize that."
Julian shrugged, "They can just add it to the list. One more reason to hate the Cranes."
"Julian, they ARE Cranes."
He grimaced, "Damn…"
"Even Sheridan and Luis left early-"
"They WHAT?!" Julian looked a bit too panicked at her last comment.
"They just left…I don't think they wanted to see what the desert was," Ivy shrugged, "And why are YOU so upset about it?"
Julian shifted nervously, "Ah…I wanted to talk to Sheridan about something. I suppose it can wait until tomorrow."
"We have enough problems right now Julian, without you harassing your poor sister."
Julian shot her a withering glare, "Ivy, I wasn't going to HARASS Sheridan. I just wanted to discuss something of…importance with her."
Ivy narrowed her eyes, noticing that Julian looked decidedly unhappy about the recent turn of events.

With a heavy sigh, Julian picked up the tomato soup cake, "Here goes nothing."
Ivy grabbed the pea soup pie that had caused so many problems, vowing to return for the orange sherbet with bacon-flavored whipped cream, and the lobster-flavored Jell-O.
Then they made their way out into the dining room.

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