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In the End

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In the End
by
Shuis112

Chapter 5
"And that's basically what I've done with my life in the past three years. What about you?" Ethan had just finished telling Sheridan what went on while she was gone. They were sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee. What had started out as a brief summary turned out to be a detailed description into everything that had happened. Sheridan enjoyed every minute of it, wishing she was there to see him get married, or open up his own firm, or just see him doing little things he did everyday.

"Wow, Ethan," she commented. "I never realized I had missed so much. As for what I did, it doesn't amount to much compared to you."

Ethan smiled and opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the ringing of the phone. "Ethan Crane speaking," he answered. "Oh, hi Miguel! Well, Theresa's not back from shopping yet, but we are coming. Whitney and Chad? I don't know yet. I'll call you back after I talk to Theresa. Is it okay if I bring an extra guest? It's a surprise. You'll find out at dinner. Ok, see you tonight! Bye!" Ethan chuckled to himself before hanging up the phone. He saw Sheridan staring at him expectantly and started to explain the situation. "That was Miguel. We're invited over to the Lopez-Fitzgeralds for dinner, and you're coming as a surprise guest."

Sheridan shook her head. Her face became rigid and her eyes cold. "I'm not going, Ethan. You and Theresa go without me. There's no way in hell I'm going."

Miguel hung up the phone and dialed Luis's number at the police station. "Hey, bro, wassup? I just called to ask if you and Beth are coming to dinner. No? Come on Luis, when was the last time I saw you and actually got to talk to you? Ethan's bringing a surprise guest over. Don't you want to see who it is? All right, I understand. Tell Beth I said hi. Okay, I will. Bye." Miguel hung up the phone, disappointed. What was so important with Beth that Luis couldn't come see his family? He shook his head, puzzled. Ever since Luis started going out with Beth, he seemed a little, well, detached from the rest of the world. Or maybe it was ever since Sheridan had left. Miguel sighed and started to venture into the kitchen, wondering who Ethan's surprise guest was.

Luis slowly set the phone back into its cradle. He hated having to disappoint anyone in his family, especially his mother. She always had these parties or dinners to bring people together, and was always disappointed when someone couldn't make it, especially a family member. Beth had declined the invitation because she was too busy, and Luis didn't feel right going without her. Luis pushed the phone aside and tried to get his mind on his work again. After flipping through the records of another drug lord, Luis gave up. He slammed the folder shut and muttered, "It's no use."

"Giving up already, are we, Detective?" Luis looked up to see Sam Bennett leaning against the frame of the doorway. "That doesn't sound like the Luis I know." Luis smiled at the brown-haired, brown-eyed, brawny Chief of Police.

"My mind's just not working today, Sam," Luis began. 'I can't concentrate on a simple mugging, forget any drug lords."

"Well, at least you can relax tonight, right? I'm sure some of Pilar's cooking will let you forget whatever's troubling you," Sam assured.

"It would, if I was going."

"Whoa, wait a minute. Are you telling me you're not going to your own house for dinner?" Sam questioned.

"Beth is busy, and my heart's just not into going without her. I'm sure everyone will understand. Hey, have fun. I hear Ethan's bringing a surprise guest," Luis said.

Sam looked at Luis in disbelief. "Ok, so I stand corrected. You're not going to your own house for dinner because your fiancées too busy, and your heart's just not into seeing your family or friends that love you and miss you." Luis thought about what Sam said.

"You know what, Sam? You're right. I do need to see my family and friends. I'm sure Beth will understand why I went without her. Besides, I wonder who Ethan is bringing." He smiled. Sam walked up to him and patted him on the back.

"Glad I could change your mind. Now, how about you put that file away and go home. I'm sure Pilar could use your help."

Ethan was about to ask Sheridan why she didn't want to go when the doorbell rang. "We're not finished yet," he said. He walked up to the door and looked through the peephole. Ethan grinned and swung the door open. Standing on the other side were Theresa and Whitney, their arms full of shopping bags.

"Hello, ladies," he said, greeting them and kissing Theresa. "How was shopping? Did you get enough clothes to last you until next week?" Ethan teased.

"Very funny, Ethan. Now help me carry these bags ins-" Theresa's jaw dropped along with her bags when she noticed Sheridan standing to one side, watching them. "Oh my god, Sheridan! When did you get here?" She ran up to Sheridan and hugged her tightly. Sheridan laughed at Theresa's reaction.

"Hi, Theresa, how are you?" she asked.

"I'm great! It's so good to see you again! It's been what, three years?" Theresa was genuinely happy to see her aunt-in-law. They were never really close, but Sheridan was one of the few Cranes on her side when Ethan chose to marry her over Gwen. She managed to keep Julian from stopping her and Ethan's wedding, and gave them moral support. Theresa would never forget that.

"So Whitney, are you and Chad coming to dinner? Miguel called and he wanted to know," Ethan asked, while helping Whitney with her bags.

"Count us in, Ethan," Whitney replied.

"Great! I'll call Miguel back and tell him we're all coming." He looked over at Sheridan as he said that last part. Sheridan stood there with her arms crossed and raised an eyebrow, as if to say, "Try me".

Theresa noticed the look that passed between them and said, "Why don't you go into the kitchen and call him, Ethan. I have to talk to Sheridan about something." Ethan nodded and left the room. "So, Sheridan," she started, and then decided to get right to the point. "You're coming with us, right?"

Sheridan stopped going through their bags and looked up. She didn't want to explain to Theresa why she wasn't going. The reason involved her brother, and she didn't want anyone except Ethan to know that Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald was keeping her from enjoying an evening out with friends. "Well, I really don't feel up to going out tonight, Theresa," she stated. "It was a long flight, and I just want to relax my first night back in Harmony."

Theresa could see that that wasn't the reason at all. Sheridan was a terrible liar; she would always shift uncomfortably when she wasn't telling the truth. Perhaps the real reason Sheridan didn't want to go was because she wasn't ready to face everyone. She had been gone a long three years, and everyone had moved on with their life in Harmony. Theresa thought some more, and just nodded. If Sheridan wasn't ready, she wasn't going to push her. Still, she wished she could come. "Are you sure, Sheridan? I mean, Mama will be so happy to see you. And so will Luis, and the Bennetts, andâ¦" Theresa stopped. So that was the real reason Sheridan didn't want to go. The pain in her eyes when she had mentioned Luis's name told her everything. Sheridan wasn't ready to face Luis.

"Well, I called Miguel and told him we were coming," Ethan said as he walked in from the kitchen. He noticed the seriousness on Theresa and Sheridan's faces. "Am I interrupting something? I'll go back inside if I am." "Oh, no, Ethan," Sheridan assured. "Theresa was just asking me why I wasn't going tonight." She wondered if Theresa could tell she was lying. Theresa could read people like a book. And the way she was staring at her made Sheridan feel like her cover had been opened.

"I wish you'd reconsider, Sheridan. Pilar will be very happy to see you, and so will everyone else."

Sheridan looked at her nephew adoringly. "Thank you for trying to change my mind, Ethan, but I'm really worn out. I think I'll sit this one in."

Ethan looked at Theresa and put his hands up in surrender. "I tried, Theresa. But tell us if you change your mind, will you Sheridan?" Sheridan smiled and nodded. "By the way, Miguel told me Pilar is disappointed because Luis couldn't make it." Theresa watched Sheridan's reaction out of the corner of her eye. Sheridan closed her eyes and sighed. When she opened them again, she looked annoyed. Ethan continued, unaware of what was going on. "He said he didn't want to go because Beth couldn't make it. That's two more empty chairs at the table."

Now it was Whitney's turn to monitor Sheridan's reaction. She too, could see the pain in Sheridan's eyes that was associated with Luis. Sheridan looked up sharply, as if surprised, then started thinking. A sad look of defeat crossed her face, but was replaced by a look of indifference. Whitney shook her head sadly. Everyone in Harmony had moved on and found happiness. Yet Sheridan had moved out of Harmony and lost her happiness.

Sheridan didn't know how to react. Luis had found someone else. He had found Beth. What did she expect? For him to wait for her to come back? No, Beth had been in his life since high school. She was just someone who had intervened. Luis belonged with Beth. As much as it hurt her to think it, Sheridan knew she was right. But it didn't matter. Why did she care what Luis did? He had hurt her one too many times, and she wasn't going to let it happen again. "Actually, Ethan," Sheridan said calmly. "I think I will go tonight. I miss Pilar a lot and would love to see everyone again." Inside, Sheridan was furious with herself. She had almost let a certain officer of the law ruin her evening. Sheridan made up her mind. She was going to go whether Luis was there or not.

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