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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Harmony Hospital

"There you are," Paloma tried not to sound happy as she spotted William, leaning against the wall next to his father's hospital room.
"Since when did you care?" his voice was suspicious.
Paloma attempted to appear nonchalant, "I don't care at all. I was just wondering why you'd left me out there all by myself. I could have been mugged, for all you know."
"You went out there by yourself, I saw no reason to wait there until you finished your phone conversation."
"Aren't you a real knight in shining armor," she muttered.
William shrugged his shoulders, biting his tongue to keep from admitting that he'd stared out the window in the waiting room for more than ten minutes while she talked on the phone, just to make sure that nothing happened to her, and that he bolted back up the stairs to Julian's room as soon as he saw her heading into the hospital. It would do no good to have her find that out. Just give her more reason to gloat at him.
"Hello? Anyone in there?" Paloma rapped lightly on his head with her fist.

William jumped back and glared at her, "Why in the name of god do you keep pestering me?!"
"Because I'm bored and have absolutely nothing better to do with my time," she replied simply.
"To use your words, why don't you go find a tree to converse with?" he said with a withering glare.
Paloma feigned surprise, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I thought you WERE an inanimate object."
"I'm glad one of us is amused by you," he said dryly.
"Paloma, William," Sheridan said suddenly, hurrying up, "Come on, we're leaving."
"Why?" Paloma demanded.
Sheridan shrugged, "Julian is alive. William, Ivy is waiting downstairs with the limo."
"I'm honored."
Paloma rolled her eyes, "Oh give it up William. Your pathetic attempts at sarcasm are not impressing me."
"And your pathetic attempts to piss me off are not working."
"Paloma, let's go," Luis said from where he was standing.
She pretended to be disappointed, "Aw. And I was having SO much fun arguing with William."
"William was just leaving," Sheridan said quickly, "Weren't you, William?"
With a shrug, William meandered off, straightening his baseball cap on his head.




Bennett Residence

Noah glanced up from the papers he was studying as Kay ventured down into the basement.
"Hey bratface," he said affectionately as he quickly hid the papers behind him.
"Hey loser," she replied dully, attempting to glimpse the pages in his hands, "What've you got there?"
"Nothing," he said quickly, slipping them into his pocket.
Kay crossed her arms, "Don't lie to me."
Noah attempted to change the subject, "Where did…ah…evil boy go?"
"It's Bradley."
He shrugged, "Where is he?"
"He went home. It's like four in the morning."
"What ever happened to that Miguel guy? He used to hang around here all the time."
Kay sighed, "What do I care?"
"I thought you had a crush on him."
Kay thought back to Bradley's sweet kisses and smiled slowly, "Not anymore."
Noah shot her a knowing glance, "Well, I have to hand it to him for one thing."
"What's that?"
"He's certainly made you drop that horrible attitude you've been carrying around these past few weeks."

Kay's jaw dropped, "Attitude? ME?!"
"That has to be the funniest thing I've ever heard you say."
She shook her head, "I did NOT have an attitude, Noah. You came strolling in here and took over my room—"
"You tied our sister to a tree and let our cousin think that she was responsible."
Kay blinked, "You knew?"
Noah smirked, "All along."
She stood, speechless.
"I heard you crawl in the window every night to torture that poor girl. Good thing mom hasn't been needing any sleeping pills lately, or she might notice a depletion in her supply."
She shifted nervously, "Why…why didn't you rat on me?"
Noah leaned towards her and whispered, "Because frankly, that goody two shoes was REALLY getting on my nerves. Especially when she started talking in that frightening deep voice."
Kay raised an eyebrow, "Frightening deep voice? That's a new one."
"You've never heard it?"
"No…I've seen her conversing with trees and flying around in the back yard, but talking in a new voice is something I've yet to witness."

Noah shuddered, "Lucky you."
Kay shrugged, "Noah…what exactly ARE you doing down in the basement?"
"Nothing…nothing at all. I have to go out. I'll see you later."
He hurried off, leaving Kay standing there looking dumbfounded.




Harmony Hospital

"THERE you are!" Amanda hissed as Noah bolted through the emergency room doors, "I've been stalling for as long as I could!"
Noah wheezed from the effort it took for him to sprint over there, "I brought the papers."
Amanda snatched them from his hand and scrutinized them, "God…"
He grinned, "You do realize that we could use this to blackmail our parents into ANYTHING."
Amanda blinked, "I think you've been hanging around me for too long. You're starting to become evil."
"You can be very persuasive."
She leaned in close, "I know."
Noah tilted his head down slightly and closed the distance between them, pulling her into a soft kiss.
"Ahem."

Sheridan, Luis and Paloma were standing in front of them.
Amanda blinked up at them, startled.
"You're blocking the door," Sheridan said finally.
Noah glanced from the trio standing in front of him to the door that he was leaning against. "Sorry."
He and Amanda stepped out of the way.
As Luis and Sheridan headed out the door, Paloma hesitated only for a moment, catching Amanda's eye.
"I know," she mouthed, before turning and hurrying out the door.
Amanda gaped after her, "How…how could she know?"
"Know what?"
She shook of the involuntary shiver that crept slowly up her spine, "Nothing. She couldn't possibly know anything."
Wishing that she could ward off the sudden unease that had taken her over, Amanda once more turned her attention to the task at hand. Kissing Noah.




As the three of them crossed the parking lot, Paloma suddenly spotted a shadowy figure lurking behind one of the cars.
"Excuse me," she said with a smile to her brother, "I'll be right back."

Stephanie was huddled behind an ice-blue BMW, watching in quiet awe as an ambulance roared into the lot, sirens blaring.
"Hey," Paloma said from behind her.
Stephanie jumped, startled, whirling to face her.
"Looks like your plan worked," Paloma said with an amused grin.
Stephanie sighed and tossed her blond curls, "Not entirely. He didn't croak, did he?"
Paloma thought back tot he poison ivy incident, "There are fates worse than death."
The youngest Crane smiled at the thought, "I certainly hope so."
Paloma sighed, "Since I'm SURE that your family will not appreciate you riding home in the limo with them, would you like me to pester Luis into giving you a ride home?"
Stephanie weighed the options, "I suppose it's preferable to being left here."

As Paloma turned to get her brother or Sheridan's attention, she bumped right into William, who had been standing behind her.
"AHHH!"
"AHHH!"
Paloma recovered from the shock first, "WHAT are you doing?!"
"I thought you were some crazy person trying to murder my little sister! I was coming to help."
She rolled her eyes, "Please. I think you were just trying to scare me."
"I have better things to do with my time than waste it trying to scare you."
Paloma turned to Stephanie with a lopsided grin, "Looks like you don't need that ride home after all. Your brother can just carry you off on his skateboard."
"He's a rebel," Stephanie nodded, blond curls bouncing, giving her an angelic look that was only skin deep.
"YOU tried to murder Father," William narrowed his eyes at Stephanie.
She shrugged innocently, "Not like anyone particularly likes him, anyway."
"He's still our father."
"Now you sound like Ethan."
William sighed, "Stephanie, I may not like Father, but I wouldn't go so far as to KILL him. I always keep in mind that—"
"There are fates worse than death, yes I know," Stephanie cackled.
"THERE you are," Sheridan said suddenly from behind them, narrowing her eyes at Stephanie.
"Oh come on!" Stephanie threw her hands in the air, "Can't you all take a harmless prank?"
"Harmless is skateboarding down the railing. Poisoning a piece of tomato soup cake is NOT harmless," William huffed.
"As if it wasn't bad enough already," Luis muttered under his breath.

Paloma shot a wide smile in her brother's direction, "Luis, can we drive Stephanie home?"
"What about William?" Sheridan piped up.
Paloma shot a withering glare at the rebel, "He can stay."
Luis heaved a sigh, "You're killing me, you know that, right?"




Moments later Luis' black jeep was coasting down the road, the rather cramped back seat occupied by three pouting young adults. Stephanie and William each had window seats, and glared in opposite directions. Paloma, looking completely horrified, sat between them, trying her hardest not to look in William's direction.
"You know, you should be thanking me for this ride," she finally muttered, glaring at him.
William rolled his eyes, "Thank you, Your Highness."
She wrinkled up her nose, "You're so welcome, Your Rebelness."
Luis sighed again. This was going to be a long night.




"Oh Sam."
"Oh Grace."
Sam and Grace strolled, hand in hand, down the back roads of Harmony, gazing alternately at the sky and at each other.
"It's terrible what happened to Julian, Sam," Grace whimpered, "I feel responsible since it was my tomato soup cake that caused him to lapse into a coma."
"Don't feel responsible, my darling Grace. It's that Crane's own damn fault for eating it."
"Oh Sam."
"Oh Grace."




Somewhere in Harmony

"Could you roll down that window? It's hot in here," Paloma sighed.
William shook his head, "Nope. I'm cold."
Paloma turned to Stephanie with a hopeful expression, "Could YOU roll down that window?"
William locked eyes with his sister across the car interior, "if you do that, I'll tell Father all about your little plan to kill him."
Stephanie heaved a sigh, "Sorry Paloma. Looks like you'll have to suffer for a while longer."
"What else is new," she muttered under her breath.
"You act as though spending time with me is a BAD thing," William laughed, "I know there are plenty of girls who would be swooning into my arms."
"Then why don't you go bother them?! Why are you always hovering around me?" Paloma groaned.

Luis gritted his teeth as he turned into the driveway of the Crane Mansion.
"I swear to god…" he muttered as the jeep pulled to a stop.
Sheridan swatted at his arm, "Oh leave them alone."
"I think I am handling this quite well, given the circumstances."
"You mean the circumstance that I am completely, utterly, and hopelessly in love with you?" Sheridan asked teasingly.
A slow smile spread across his face, "How could I NOT melt after hearing something like that?"
"Well, if we go back to my cottage—"

"HEY! HELLO! We're still back here!" Paloma exploded suddenly breaking up the tender little moment.
"Then get out," Luis shot back, "We're here."
William let out a yell of relief and threw open the door, springing out of the Jeep. Paloma watched him go and heaved a sigh.
Stephanie managed a polite smile, "Well, I'm off to face my fate. Thanks for the ride! You guys have a nice evening."
She meandered off after her older brother.
Just as William and Stephanie had reached the doorstep, a hearse came roaring through the gates, swinging a wide turn in the circular driveway and just missing crashing into the Jeep.
"WHAT THE HELL?!" Luis screamed, leaping out of the car. Sheridan and Paloma followed on his heels.
The door to the hearse squeaked open, and Elizabeth poked her head out with a sheepish grin, "Sorry. I guess I need to work on my driving."
Luis sighed as he looked from Elizabeth to Sheridan, "Why does this not surprise me?"

Miguel clambered out of the hearse after Elizabeth, rubbing his head, "God, Elizabeth, you never told me that you were this horrible at driving—" His jaw fell when he saw his brother standing in front of him, arms crossed.
Charity squirmed out of the hearse and touched Miguel's arm, oblivious to everything. After a moment, another head popped out.
"This is the LAST time I EVER hitchhike," the girl said in a shaky tone, "If you ask me, you are ALL a bunch of damn psychos. I don't care if you ARE Paloma's brother—"
"SARA?!" Paloma exclaimed in shock.
Sara blinked, "PALOMA!?"
"I remember you," Luis said after a moment, returning his stunned gaze to his brother and Elizabeth Crane.
"Me too," Sheridan sighed, "The strange girl from the hospital reception party."
"Isn't it wonderful to get such a warm welcome," Sara shook her head, "Feel the love."
"Allow me to introduce you to William, the ever-so-charming resident rebel of this little town," Paloma said brightly, pointing to William, who tipped his hat.
Sara nodded a polite hello, glancing knowingly at Paloma, who glared back.
"And this…" Paloma continued, pointing to Stephanie, "Is Stephanie Crane. I think you'll actually like her, she's got a similar outlook on things as you and I—" Paloma's voice trailed off as she caught sight of the look on Sara's face.

Sara stood very still, her eyes locked with Stephanie's, who stood across the estate.
"You," Sara breathed, unconsciously touching the scar on her face.
"You," Stephanie echoed.
"You guys already know each other?" Paloma was confused.
"Oh my god!" Miguel suddenly exclaimed, "THAT'S the Sara you were talking about?!"
Elizabeth nodded grimly, "I'm afraid so."
"What's going on?" Luis asked.
No one answered him as their eyes remained riveted on the drama unfolding in front of them. Stephanie walked ever-so-slowly towards Sara, who stood rooted to her spot.

"I sense that something terrible is going to happen," Charity whispered.
Elizabeth glared at her, "I thought we solved that whole glowing-eyes-premonition business already!"
Miguel motioned for them to be quiet.
"Hello buddy," Stephanie smirked, coming to a stop a few feet away from Sara.
"Hey sis," Sara said weakly.
They began to circle each other like lions stalking their prey, eyes still locked, the tension surrounding them so thick that you could cut it with a knife.
"You know what?" Luis finally exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, "It is four-thirty in the morning, and I, for one, have had a long and exhausting day. So go ahead. Do whatever the hell you want. But I am not going to stand here and watch whatever this strange ritual is! Goodnight!"
"I'll join you," Sheridan said, a bit too quickly, and the two of them got into Luis' Jeep and sped away.
Paloma watched them go in disbelief, "Forgotten again…"




"You do realize," Sheridan said with a trace of amusement as Luis turned out of the Crane Estate, "that you just left two of your siblings to…shall we say 'consort' with Cranes?"
Luis sighed, "And you should remember this moment, because I can guarantee you that it will never happen again."
"So you say," she smiled as she leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I'm serious!"
"Sure you are," Sheridan chuckled, "First Ethan and Theresa and that…fiasco at the wedding…"
He shuddered, "Please don't remind me."
"Now you're allowing your youngest sister to spend time with my nephew William…Miguel and Elizabeth just took some sort of bizarre road trip…Officer Lopez-Fitzgerald, I do believe you're softening."
"I am NOT softening. I just didn't want to put up with it," he insisted with a laugh.
"Mmm hmm," Sheridan smirked, "I believe you."
With an amused sigh, Luis continued driving down the road.

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