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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Harmony Hospital

"Sheridan," Luis said softly as they headed into the brightly lit hospital, "Are you all right?"
Sheridan shrugged morosely, "I've always despised my brother…but at the same time, I don't want him to die."
"Tell me again why I'm here," Paloma grumbled from behind them.
"You're here," Luis snapped, "Because I have no idea what you'd get into if I left you at the house by yourself."
Paloma feigned indignance," ME?!"
"Paloma, just let it go, all right?" Luis sounded impatient, "You can go to the cafeteria and get something to eat if you want."
"Oh goody," she muttered, "Wake me up at three in the morning to send me to the hospital cafeteria for food. Isn't THAT something to live for."
"You can just ask the person behind the desk where the cafeteria is," Luis said tiredly, pointing to an old woman who looked hopelessly bored.
The woman reminded Paloma of the horrid old Ruth Green who worked at the hospital in Bwizville, and she shuddered, "No thanks. I think I'll find it on my own."
"But you've never—"
"I know my way around hospitals. Trust me," with a wave of her hand, Paloma flounced off down a corridor.

Luis sighed and took Sheridan's hand as they headed in the opposite direction, where a large group of people were gathered outside of Julian's hospital room, looking worried.




About ten minutes into her trip, Paloma began to wish that she hadn't been so damn stubborn and had just stopped to ask the old woman for help.
"I have been a candy striper for three years," she muttered as she wandered aimlessly down one corridor after another, "you'd think that the layout of hospitals would come naturally to me by now."
Finally, she spotted a sign that proudly proclaimed that the cafeteria had relocated to the third floor. With a groan she headed for the stairwell, trudging grimly up the metal steps.

The cafeteria was large and brightly lit, but empty, save for one lone candy striper who looked to be about her age. As Paloma headed up to the counter and ordered a cup of hot chocolate, she looked sympathetically at the bored girl.
"I feel your pain," she said with a grim nod, taking her hot chocolate and heading towards a table.
"It's not so bad," the girl replied, "It's better than staying home."
"If you look at it that way," Paloma shrugged.
"Either way, I'm ignored, so…"
"Join the club," Paloma grumbled, "Seriously. There should be some sort of forgotten children brigade."
The girl sighed and stuck out her hand, "Jessica Bennett."
"Paloma Lopez-Fitzgerald."
Jessica looked startled, "As in Miguel's sister?"
"Ah, at last someone mentions long-lost Miguel. Yes, he's my brother."
Jessica frowned, "Funny, no one's ever mentioned you."
"Big surprise."
"Oh god," Jessica groaned, glancing over Paloma's shoulder.
"What's wrong?"
"He's back," Jessica sighed and made her way back over to the counter.
Paloma turned and found herself face-to-face with William Crane.

"Well," she said with an amused grin, "I see I'm not the only one you've been harassing. That thought is somewhat comforting."
William looked confused, "Harassing? What are you talking about?"
Jessica returned with a huge tray, piled high with stale pastries and several cups of steaming liquid, "You have no idea how much all this stuff is killing me," she groaned, passing the tray off to William. "Next time you come back and order all this food, bring a gurney to take it all back up with you."
With a sigh, Jessica shuffled away.
"That's some appetite," Paloma remarked, staring at the towering tray.
"It's for everyone upstairs. No one else seems to be able to tear themselves away from the incredible drama of watching Julian's heart monitor."
"How many times have you made that poor girl prepare that amount of food?"
William shrugged, "About four. Everyone needs caffeine."
"So that's what she was complaining about? You weren't just annoying her?"
William stared at her as if she were crazy, "Why would I be annoying her?"
"You are a rebel and all."
He smirked, "I save my pestering all for you."
She rolled her eyes, "I'm honored."
"As well you should be. We rebels are very selective of who we bother."

She sighed, "Shouldn't you be…oh, I don’t know…skateboarding through the ER right about now?"
He rolled his eyes, "Don't you EVER tire of that joke?"
"Don't you ever tire of that baseball cap?"
"Don't YOU ever tire of picking on me?"
"Don't YOU ever tire of bothering me?"
They crossed their arms and glared at each other.
"You know," Paloma sighed melodramatically, "I was awakened in the middle of a peaceful slumber and summoned here to the hospital, only to have to suffer through YET ANOTHER confrontation with you. Good god, how many times do I have to meet you in one day?!"
"Well don't think that I get all warm and fuzzy inside when I see you coming," William harrumphed, "I've had to put up with you just as much as you've had to put up with me. And YOU don't have the added charm of being a rebel."
"If that's a charm, I'd HATE to see what your bad qualities are."
William sighed, "I am going back to my father's side. I'd hate for him to…pass on while I was down here wasting my time with you."
"And you just seem SO terrified about that happening."
William shrugged helplessly, "I actually feel pretty bad. I've made it my life's goal to torture the guy."
"And a few other innocent bystanders along the way, right?"
William sighed, "I am leaving."

He turned and headed towards the stairs, delicately balancing the tray.
"Need help?" Paloma finally offered, watching his shaky progress.
"No thanks," he responded wryly, "I've seen how you are with liquids."
"Just because you were the unfortunate recipient of a glass of punch does not mean that I'm not capable of carrying a few drinks up the stairs," Paloma huffed.
"I'd rather not take that chance."
Paloma narrowed her eyes and stalked towards him, "DO NOT treat me like I'm some helpless petite little dewdrop. I am perfectly capable—"
"FINE!" William finally snapped, gesturing to the tray, "If it will make you happy to carry a cup of coffee, than by all means, carry a cup of coffee."
"Thank you," she replied in a sarcastic tone, snatching two cups off of the tray and stalking towards the stairwell.
William heaved a heavy sigh and followed after her.




"Is he really going to die?"
Eve was taken aback by the concern in Ivy's voice. Perhaps the other woman didn't hate Julian quite as much as she claimed to…
"There's no way to tell," Eve finally said, "We've pumped his stomach. Now we just have to wait and see what happens."
"Aunt Sheridan's here," Amanda said suddenly, hurrying over and embracing her aunt.
"Is he all right?" Sheridan asked, her tone uncertain.
"They don't know," Amanda sighed, "He was poisoned."
"Poisoned?!"
"By who?" Luis asked from behind her.
Amanda glanced questioningly over at Ivy, who looked rather numb. Finally she shook her head, "I don't know."
"Where's Ethan?" Sheridan suddenly asked, realizing who was missing from the group.
Amanda shrugged again, "Probably out with Theresa, AGAIN. No one can reach him."
Sheridan noticed Luis tense out of the corner of her eye, "Ah…I'm sure we'll hear from him soon."
"Stephanie is roaming the halls," Amanda sighed, "She couldn't care less what happens here. And William just went to get everyone coffee."
Luis groaned, "He went to the cafeteria?"
"Yeah, why?" Amanda queried.
Sheridan and Luis exchanged glances. This was not a good sign.

"…so you see, we made it all the way here without any mishaps," Paloma's voice drifted from down the hall.
"You shouldn't have to be so proud of that accomplishment," William retorted, "I've made this trip four times already. And with the WHOLE tray, not just two coffee cups."
"Yes, well if you would have LET me carry something else, perhaps you wouldn't still be so smug. But no, you have to be a big, stubborn, too-macho-for-your-own-good REBEL!"
"I am a rebel," William declared, "But I don't see your point."
"My POINT is—"
They turned a corner and came face to face with Luis and Sheridan.
Paloma cringed, "Do NOT even say it Sheridan, just DON'T."
Sheridan regarded her innocently, "What?"
"Yes, what?" William asked, his curiosity piqued.
Paloma shifted nervously, "Ah…she was about to make fun of your baseball cap. I wanted to stop her because…ah…I wanted to make fun of it first."
William touched the hat on top of his head, "You've already been there, done that, MANY times. And this is only the first day we've known each other."
"And hopefully it's the last."
"Yeah, you can say that again."
They glared at each other.

"Can I get that coffee?" Amanda finally broke their silent war, plucking one of the cups out of Paloma's hand. Ivy followed suit, and William finally set the tray down on a nearby table.
"Damn Grace Bennett," Julian suddenly said from where he lay.
Everyone jumped and whirled around to find him lying prone on the bed, his eyes wide open and a pained grimace on his face.
"Julian," Ivy attempted to sound disappointed, "You pulled through. What a pity."
"Sorry to disappoint you DEAR but I wasn't planning on leaving this earth without making that evil woman PAY for that vile disgrace she calls a cake."
Ivy rolled her eyes, "Oh please Julian, it's your own damn fault for eating it!"
"How was I supposed to know it would damn near kill me?!"
"Actually—" Eve interceded.
Ivy cut her off, "I mean, HONESTLY Julian, after that fiasco of a dinner party, how could you even fathom eating that cake?!"
"I was hungry, and your oh so charming daughter decided it would be amusing to give the cook the night off. So I was rummaging about in the kitchen, and I discovered one lonely piece of tomato soup cake."
Ivy glanced questioningly over at Amanda, who shrugged.
"Stephanie," she mouthed.

Julian heaved a sigh, "But I've pulled through, we Cranes never give up. So when can I get out of here?"
"We're keeping you at least overnight for observation," Eve said firmly.
Julian leered at her, "Oooh, something to look forward to."
Ivy whacked him, hard, "For heaven's sake Julian, do you have to be so crass as to hit on her right in front of me?"
Julian pretended to pout, "But my sweet—"
Ivy glared at him and he shut his mouth.

Luis looked suspicious, "I thought you said he was poisoned."
Amanda laughed nervously, "Ah…yes…I meant food poisoning. You know, I guess the tomato soup cake went bad, or something."
"Something like that," Ivy piped up with a fake grin.
"Ivy," Eve whispered warningly, "What are you doing?"
"Can't we just drop this whole poisoning thing?" Ivy pleaded, "Julian is going to be fine…I see no reason to ruin my poor daughter's life over this—"
"Ivy, there is no way that I can just—"
"Don't forget the dirt I have on you."
Eve glared at her, "Of course I won't forget. You won't LET me forget."
"So you won't mention the poisoning?"
Eve sighed, "Do I have a choice?"
"Not at all."
"Then I suppose we WILL be dropping this whole poisoning business."
Ivy grinned, "Glad we understand each other."

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