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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Crane Mansion

Ethan glanced at the tuxedo that hung in the corner of his room. He was lying flat on his back on his bed, listening as his own voice came hypnotically through the speakers of the stereo.
"The wedding is in two days," the voice came over the tape spools, "You will not dump Gwen now. The wedding is in two days. You WILL marry Gwen. You WILL marry Gwen. You do not love Theresa. You love Gwen. You are going to marry Gwen. The wedding is in two days. You WILL marry Gwen."
"I WILL marry Gwen," Ethan said out loud, standing up with a sigh and switching off the tape recorder. He hoped the self-hypnosis was working, because he certainly was having his doubts about the wedding. And all of those doubts seemed to come in the form of a dark haired beauty named Theresa, who came under the guise as his friend but who was really everything his heart had ever desired.
"The self-hypnosis working?" Amanda smirked from the doorway.
Ethan jumped, "I didn't realize you were listening."
"You've got that damned thing playing so loud I can't help but hear."
"Mother and Father didn't hear, did they?" Ethan panicked.
"No, they're still locked in the study."
"Oh, good."
"YOU certainly don't seem convinced," Amanda sauntered further into the room, "Why do I have a feeling that you aren't going to go through with the wedding plans?"
"Of course I'm going through with the wedding plans. The wedding is in two days. I do not love Theresa. I WILL marry Gwen."
Amanda raised an eyebrow, "I'd say the tape is working. Good luck, brother dear. And try and get some sleep."
She snickered and headed out of his room.

Ethan sighed and flopped back down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Then he stared out the widow. Funny how all the stars seemed to spell Theresa's name.





Crane Mansion

Morning dawned bright and early, and it was the chirping of birds that finally roused Ivy from her sleep. She stirred slightly, wondering what on earth had happened to make her bed so lumpy. Keeping her eyes closed in a desperate attempt to steal a few more moments peace, she reached up with her fist and attempted to fluff the pillow up. Instead of encountering the soft pillow, her fists made contact with something harder, and there was a muffled "OOF!" that came from aforementioned object.
Ivy opened her eyes.
"WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD!?" She screamed, scrambling to her feet. She had been stretched out on top of Julian, who had been sleeping on the couch. At her outburst, Julian snapped awake, leaping away from her.
"Good god!" he yelled, "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!"
"Give YOU a heart attack?" Ivy said breathlessly, "I'M the one who nearly croaked!"
"In case you don't remember, DEAR, you relinquished the couch to me last night, and I was kind enough to offer to share it with you."
Ivy took a deep breath as the memories of the previous night's "incident" finally came back to her, "Yes, of course. I remember now."
Julian backed away from her, dusting himself off, "William better let us out of here today, or so help me god…"
"Of COURSE William will let us out. The wedding is tomorrow, and we've still got so many arrangements to make—"
"William ENJOYS torturing us, or haven't you realized that yet?!" Julian screamed.

Ivy sighed and moved towards the window, where faint slivers of light were pushing their way through the wooden boards.
"William!" she yelled, "William, come on. Enough is enough."
"LET US OUUUUUUUUT!" Julian howled from behind her.
Ivy swatted him, "Julian, let me handle this. WILLIAM!!!!!"
"Yes, that's handling it real well. WILLIAM, SON, STOP THIS RIDICULOUS CHARADE RIGHT NOW AND LET US OUT!"
Ivy glared at him, "and THAT'S any better?"
Suddenly, there was a clicking noise, and the door to the study slowly swung open.
Ivy and Julian turned to face their captor.
"Well, well, well," William was leaning against the doorframe, smirking at them, "Have you two learned anything from this experience?"
Ivy looked from Julian to William.
Julian looked from William to Ivy.
"THIS IS ALL HIS FAULT!"
"THIS IS ALL HER FAULT!"
William sighed at their simultaneous outbursts and he inched his way back towards the door, "If that's the way you insist—"
"No, no!" Julian said hastily, draping his arm over Ivy's shoulders, "We were just kidding, weren't we darling?"
After a pause, Ivy offered a false grin to her son, "Yes, Julian of course we were. William, you see, your father and I were just playing with you."
William eyed them skeptically.

"I'm serious!" Julian said finally, letting his arm slide off of Ivy's shoulders and instead grabbing her hand, "Your mother and I spent the entire night in here learning how to waltz!"
He dragged Ivy towards the center of the study, as they engaged in an exaggerated form of the dance.
"See?" Ivy asked brightly as Julian spun her around, "We bonded."
William finally sighed, "I don't believe you two, but I do have better things to do than sit around and babysit. Go finish finalizing the wedding plans."
Like chastised children, Ivy and Julian finally ventured out of the study.




Bwiz Road

"I don't see why we had to stay overnight," Paloma griped from the back seat of Luis' police cruiser. "We could have driven back to Harmony just as well last night straight from the party."
"We had to finish figuring out our plan," Luis said patiently, glancing over to where Sheridan was sleeping, her head resting against the car window.
"And swooping into the wedding with Sheridan in tow is what you consider a PLAN?!"
"Alistair Crane can't do anything to her in front of all those people. And if we make sure that a lot of people see her, then his lies will be publicly exposed. There will be no chance for him to ever hurt Sheridan again."
"I don't see why you don't just arrest the old grouch," Paloma grumbled, settling back into her seat and looking out the window.
"Alistair Crane can buy out just about any judge in the United States. This is the only way," Luis said through gritted teeth.
"And if it doesn't work?"
"It will."
"Glad someone's confident," Paloma sighed, "Sometimes I wonder about all of you…"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It MEANS, that between Theresa writing me letters about her dream to marry some guy she never met, from YOU writing me letters about this crazy relationship of yours, Miguel writing me these chokingly sappy letters about his girlfriend and their wonderful life, and Mama writing me letters about all the stress you guys are putting her through…I wonder if growing up away from you guys has allowed me to become the only sane Lopez-Fitzgerald around."
Luis cocked his head to one side, "Well…"

"I'm serious!" Paloma said with a laugh, "Am I the only one who is able to think rationally?!"
"There is nothing wrong with my thought process."
"Well you certainly are lacking something up there!" Paloma scoffed, "Sheridan here was run out of town because her father was trying to kill her, so you decide just to come back and march into plain view? What happened to sneaking home in the dead of night…all of that 007 espionage stuff?"
"I think…" Luis said delicately, "That you've been watching a few too many movies."
"Oh sure, blame the movies for lack of family involvement. Can I help it that none of you wanted anything to do with me all these years?"
Luis sighed. Apparently, this was going to be harder than he'd anticipated.
"Paloma," Sheridan piped up from where she was sitting, "leave your brother alone."
"Oh sure, take his side," Paloma pouted, "I thought you were sleeping!"
"I was," she laughed as Luis reached over and squeezed her hand as he kept the car heading down the bumpy road.
Paloma sighed, "Can YOU convince him that the best idea is to come up with some sort of imaginative, inventive, elusive plan to smuggle you back into Harmony?"
"Sorry to disappoint you Paloma, but I happen to agree that this is the best course of action."
"Two against one," Luis smiled into the rear view mirror.
Paloma stuck her tongue out at him, "I STILL think that—"
"Enough!" Sheridan interceded, "Please, I've had my share of arguments with ONE Lopez-Fitzgerald, and I have no desire to hear TWO of you going at it."
"Well what do you suppose we should talk about then?" Paloma asked in a bored tone, "Shall I tell you my life story? Do either of you CARE?"
"Go ahead," Sheridan urged.
Paloma laughed, "NOTHING. Nothing interesting has EVER happened to me. I live in this boring little town where the main source of amusement comes from the grumpy old lady in medical records and her senile old husband who wanders in from time to time and raises a fuss. I have one friend, Sara Witherspoon, and she seems to believe that Harmony is filled with mystery and intrigue and that my life will MIRACULOUSLY become interesting overnight by returning there."

Luis and Sheridan exchanged glances.
"Well…" Luis said finally, "Your friend isn't EXACTLY wrong about things…"
"Please," Paloma yawned, "I'm going from one dull small town to another. All that changes are the faces."
"What did you say your friend's name was again?" Sheridan asked suddenly.
"Sara," Paloma replied, "Sara Witherspoon."
Sheridan thought for a moment. There was something terribly familiar about that name…
Luis interrupted before she could figure out why the name sounded so familiar.
"Sheridan," he said softly, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes."
"Because, it could be dangerous, and I'm not sure how this is going to go down—"
"It doesn't matter," Sheridan said quietly, "I want to go home."
"Are you—"
"Luis! I'm sure!" she yelled.
He smiled at her, "Well, if you're positive…"
She groaned, "You…"
They continued down the long road heading back into Harmony.




Bennett Residence

"Once I get rid of Elizabeth, Miguel will be mine."
Simone sighed, "Here we go again. First Charity, now Elizabeth. Has it ever crossed your mind that you and Miguel just aren't meant to be?"
"I didn't go through all this trouble to get rid of my cousin just to have some little snob come and mess it all up!"
"Elizabeth is trying to be a friend to Miguel. She's trying to help him get Charity out of the mental institution…and rightly so, might I add."
"Charity was a freak. I just helped others to realize that."
"You manage to rationalize EVERYTHING, don't you?"
"All's fair in love and war, Simone. And I love Miguel, and I'm going to do everything I have to in order to be with him."
"I can't believe I've been listening to this for a year. A YEAR, Kay."
"And once Miguel and I are together you'll see I was right all along. Now you've got to help me get rid of Elizabeth."
Simone shook her head, "What are you planning? Poisonous snakes in her dresser drawers? An "accidental" overdose of your mother's sleeping pills?"
Kay shook her head slowly, "No, nothing so drastic."
"Glad to see you've still got some common sense."
"I was considering "accidentally" locking her in the back of a shipping truck that's headed across the border."
"THAT'S not drastic?" Simone's eyes bugged out of her head.
Kay shrugged, "She's the last obstacle in my path. Because as long as she suspects that I had something to do with Charity's institutionalization, there's a chance that she might tell Miguel. And that CANNOT happen."
Simone heaved a long-suffering sigh, "So this plan goes into motion when? At the wedding tomorrow?"
Kay smirked, "Perhaps…"




Bennett Residence

"Sam, I KNOW you aren't looking forward to the wedding tomorrow, but trust me, it will be fun!" Grace bubbled as she hovered over the stove, "Besides, I promised Ivy that I would bring some deserts."
"Isn't the party going to be catered?" Sam asked with a grimace.
Grace shrugged, "Well...yes, but I just thought a little home-cooked tomato-soup cake would do wonders!"
Sam sighed, "If it makes you happy, honey."
"Oh Sam," she grinned at him.
"Oh Grace," he replied, bored.
"I was wondering what I should wear...do you like the green dress I bought the other day, or should I get something new?"
"That IS new-"
"Oh, Sam, you know how I love to make a good impression on everyone-"
"Yes Grace, I know."
"Sam, have you heard from Luis lately?" Grace's tone was suddenly serious.
Sam let out a breath of air, "No...he went out of town to pick up his sister, that's all I know."
"I know he was really upset over Sheridan," Grace said somberly.
Sam heaved a sigh. Grace certainly had a knack for pointing out the obvious, "Yes Grace, he was very upset. But he'll get over it eventually. She was just a Crane."
"But he just looks so SAD all the time!" Grace persisted, "I know, as soon as he gets back, I'm going to make him a tomato soup cake. That should cheer him up!"
Sam sighed again.




Crane Mansion

Ethan paced his room nervously, wiping at the sweat on his brow, "I WILL marry Gwen…I WILL marry Gwen…" he muttered to himself.
"You're going to wear a track in that rug," Amanda sighed.
Ethan jumped, "Why do you always have to sneak up on me like that?!"
Amanda held up her hands, "Before you go getting all hostile, I only came up here to tell you that William has let Mother and Father out of the study. So I'd watch what I say, if I were you."
Ethan sighed, "I WILL marry Gwen."
"And you WILL give me a headache if you don't stop that. Bad enough that I had to listen to that stupid hypnosis tape of yours all night."
Ethan sighed and checked his watch, "There are sixteen hours to go until the wedding. Sixteen hours left to convince myself that—"
"That you're doing the right thing by dumping Miss Crutches-are-a-Lethal-Weapon," Amanda supplied merrily.
Ethan glared at her, "You are not helping me."
"Should I be?"
"You're my sister! You should be offering me moral support," Ethan said with a pout.
"I AM offering you moral support," Amanda was unable to contain her amusement, "By telling you what's best for you!"
He narrowed his eyes, "Don't you have people to…tie up, or whatever?"
"Touche, Ethan, touche. Actually, I have no plans of torturing anyone today. Noah and I are going to go out for a picnic on the beach."

"I am going over Theresa's house," Ethan declared.
Amanda threw her arms in the air, "If you REALLY intend to marry Gwen, don't you think you should steer clear of Theresa until the wedding is over?! Next thing you know, you'll be calling the whole thing off…"
"At least she won't be mean to me."
"Oh dear god, I think you're whining," Amanda began to laugh, "What's the matter, can't you take a little friendly sibling rivalry?"
"You never bother William," Ethan grumbled.
"William doesn't let himself be bothered," Amanda shot back, "I find it by far more entertaining to irk you…you get all flustered."
"I do not get flustered!" Ethan snapped, flustered.
"You just keep telling yourself that, brother dear. And have a WONDERFUL last day of freedom."
Amanda wiggled her fingers in the air and pranced away, leaving Ethan to pace his room alone once more.
"I will marry Theresa—er—Gwen…" he continued to pace.

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