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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Crane Mansion

"HONK!!!"
Amanda sat straight up and glared at her younger brother, "William, what are you DOING?! Don't you realize that some of us need our beauty sleep?"
William pouted, "But sister dear, I was merely proving my rebel-ness."
"By blowing a horn in my ear?!"
William shrugged, "I just wanted to let you know that we're having a family dinner tonight. You, me, Mother, Father, Elizabeth, Stephanie, and Aunt Sheridan."
Amanda scowled, "They're actually spending time with us?"
"I insisted."
"Why in god's name did you do that?! I could have lived another day without having to be cooped up in that stuffy, pompous dining room listening to Julian and Ivy bicker."
"It's Mother and Father…not Julian and Ivy. We're supposed to be proper."
Amanda snorted loudly, "HA! Proper? YOU?! You're the one who keeps going on and on about how you're such a rebel!"
"I am a rebel."
"Oh PLEASE don't start that again. I'd like to indulge myself in the fantasy that I have a semi-normal family."
William shrugged again, "Just wanted to let you know."
"I can't go…I've got a date."
"Bring him along."

Amanda shook her head, "Oh god NO. He'd be frightened away. And you know MOTHER AND FATHER wouldn't approve of me dating a…what would they call it? A commoner?"
"Since when do you care what Julian and Ivy think?"
Amanda raised an eyebrow, "So much for proper, huh?"
William laughed.
"So tell them I'm TERRIBLY sorry I'll be missing the fun."
"There is one more thing…" William said with a smirk.
"Tell me before I kill you."
He held his hands up, "No need for drastic measures sister dear…I just thought you should know that I'm having Mother and Father COOK this meal."
Amanda nearly choked, "They're COOKING!?"
"Fraid so."
"Are you TRYING to poison us all?"
"That wouldn't be so bad."
She thought for a moment, "Actually, I see your point."
"So will you be attending?" he put on his best puppy dog face.

She sighed, "I suppose I don't have much choice, do I? Is it a big problem if I drag Noah along with me?"
"Of course not! The more uncomfortable this is for Mother and Father, the better! Sheridan is bringing Luis…"
Amanda grinned, "This could get fun."
"And you KNOW I won't let this evening end without getting in a few jabs at our brother…"
"Torture of Ethan? I'm all for it!" Amanda giggled, "I can never figure out how I'm related to that…that…doofus!"
"Well, I'm off to alert the rest of the family. You carry on with your plans…" William, laughing, hurried away.

Amanda shook her head, but slowly a smirk spread across her face. This could be verrrry interesting.




Ivy, exhausted from writing down Grace's very unappealing recipes, tossed the pen down onto the desk in Julian's study. She glanced at the stack of papers that contained the Tomato Soup Cake Queen's favorite dishes…
"Good god, what am I getting myself into?" she groaned. She glanced at the clock. Six-thirty-eight. "Oh…these can't be that hard to make. I'll just get in a little nap…" with a satisfied smirk, Ivy closed her eyes and let sleep overcome her.




The rumbling rocked the kitchen as a huge fireball exploded out of the oven, enveloping everything in it's path. Suddenly, there was just blackness and chokingly thick smoke everywhere. Ivy felt around in the darkness, reassuring herself that she was still alive.
"Julian?" she finally called, coughing as the smoke invaded her lungs. There was no reply to her plea.
"Julian, are you there? Julian! Answer me!" she was cut off by a series of dry, hacking coughs as she struggled for air. Suddenly paralyzed by fear, she strained to see through the darkness. She and Julian had been about to kiss when the oven had exploded...and now he was nowhere in sight.
"Please god," Ivy whimpered, "Let him be all right."
Through the smoke she could make out the sight of a prone form lying on the floor, and she knew without a doubt that it was Julian, and that he was dead.
"NOOOO!" she howled in despair, suddenly seeing, through the flames that licked at the kitchen walls, Grace's head, suspended amid the fire, cackling insanely.




Ivy sat straight up, gasping for air, her heart pounding.
"Good lord," she squeaked in horror, glancing reassuredly at her familiar surroundings. But what the HELL had that dream been all about?! The oven exploding and killing Julian?! Her actually CARING that he died?! Her being about to kiss him for god's sake! And then there was the matter of Grace's image, floating in the flames, laughing at her misfortune…WHAT THE HELL?!
"I need some serious help," Ivy said out loud, and then she glanced at her watch. "TEN THIRTY?!" she squalled, horrified, "I have to get started!"
And then she hurried out of the study and went in search of Julian.




Crane Cottage

Sheridan stood in the doorway to her bathroom, watching Luis with some fascination as he attempted to knot his tie.
"Only in America do people purposefully walk around with a noose around their necks…" she muttered to herself, but couldn't help but smile at him.
"Something funny?"
She smiled again, "Just marveling to myself that you seem determined to hang yourself with that thing."
"Trust me on the fact that I'd rather be hanging Julian or Alistair with it."
"Somehow, I could have guessed that."
"So who else is going to be at this dinner thing?" Luis asked when he had finished with his tie, turning to face her.
Sheridan shrugged, "Well, I just heard from William that Amanda is bringing Noah Bennett with her-"
"Your niece is dating Sam's son?!"
Sheridan shrugged, "It would appear that way."
Luis sighed, "This is getting stranger every day."
She grinned at him, "We Crane girls have a way of getting what we want…"
"And, at least in this case, I can't say that I mind," Luis replied with a smile, enfolding her in an embrace.
She smiled and relaxed into his arms, tilting her head up and kissing him sweetly.

"I love you Sheridan," Luis said suddenly, hugging her to him tightly.
"I love you too Luis," she said softly, "More than anything."
After a moment he took a deep breath and stood back, smiling at her, "Almost ready to go to that dinner?"
She sighed, "As ready as I'll ever be."




Crane Mansion

"No, no, NO! Grace said that you had to mix the tomato soup with the flour BEFORE you added the sugar! You're doing it wrong!"
Julian glared at his wife, "Fine Ivy, if you're so certain, then YOU make the tomato soup cake!"
Ivy flung an egg at him, which he batted away with a spatula. It splattered unceremoniously on the kitchen wall. "Julian," she said patiently, "I put YOU in charge of the tomato soup cake and the other deserts. I am TRYING to cook the main course!"
"As if it could be that difficult to cook pickled ham with lime sauce!"
Ivy glowered at him, "Julian, have YOU ever tried to cook a pickled ham with lime sauce?"
"Would I ever want to?" he shuddered, "I can't believe you're taking Grace Bennett's cooking advice."
"YOU TOLD ME TO CALL HER!"
Julian cringed, "And I'm fast regretting it."
He sighed as he looked down at the orange glop in front of him, "I never thought I'd see the day that I baked a tomato soup cake…"
"Oh get over it Julian. And FINISH making it already! Everyone is going to be here in less than an hour!"
Julian made a face at her and busied himself stirring the cake mix.

Ivy sniffed at the pickled ham she had just doused with lime sauce, and she wrinkled up her nose, "This smells worse than your hairpiece Julian."
Julian touched the top of his head self-consciously, "This is NOT a hairpiece!"
"Oh say whatever you want."
Julian leaned over and inhaled the scent of Ivy's dinner attempt, "BLEHH!!!! We're supposed to be EATING that?!"
Ivy crossed her arms, "Her family never seems to complain about her cooking choices!"
"You're talking about the BENNETTS!" Julian shuddered in horror, "They're all evil!"
"Julian, the Bennetts are not evil."
"Anyone who would call THAT food is evil," Julian said stubbornly, "Where is Cook?!"
"YOUR son paid him to take the day off."
"Remind me to ground him for this."

Ivy decided to leave the pickled ham with lime sauce to its own devices for a while, instead focusing on the appetizers: stewed diced pears in onion sauce with poppy seed crust, broiled chicken with strawberry-mango-grape glaze, and a salad consisting of various unusual vegetables with a most unappealing raw egg yolk dressing.
"Good god Julian, what are we doing?" she said finally, sighing with defeat.
Julian shrugged, "Damned if I know. We could just order a pizza-"
"Don't you think William would notice that?"
Julian glanced over at his charges, "AHHH!!"
He leapt over to the stove and turned it off, just as a thick, boiling green liquid oozed over the side of a pot.
"Julian, what the hell is THAT?!"
Julian grimaced, "Pea soup, for use in a pea soup pie."
"Pea soup pie?"
"YOU wrote the recipe down," he grumbled.
"YOU didn't have to use it!" she shot back.
He shrugged his shoulders in defeat, "We've always got the orange sherbet with the bacon-flavored whipped cream on top."
"Bacon flavored whipped cream?!"
"I didn't know it existed either," Julian sighed, "But it does, and we've got it."
Ivy cringed. This was much, MUCH worse than she'd anticipated.

Julian adjusted the towering chef's hat that he had on his head, and dusted some crumbs off of his apron that proclaimed: KISS THE COOK. Ivy shook her head in disgust, "You never give up, do you?"
He regarded her innocently, "What?"
With an irritated noise, she hurried over to the stove to observe a simmering pot of…of…broccoli and okra drizzled in peach cream and sesame seeds.
Julian wrinkled his nose and moved towards the oven with the tomato soup batter. As he opened the door, Ivy suddenly saw what he was doing.
"NOOO!" she screamed, vaulting in front of him.
Julian, startled, leapt backwards, the reddish orange batter sloshing over the edges of the pan, "What in god's name are you doing Ivy?"
Ivy laughed nervously, "Ah…nothing. I just had…ah…a leg cramp, that's all."
Julian shot her an odd look and proceeded towards the oven.
"STOPP!"
Julian scowled, "Ivy, I have to put the cake in the oven!"
"I'll do it," she said quickly, pushing him backwards and grabbing the pan out of his hands. More batter sloshed over onto the floor, and her shoes squelched as she stepped in it. Cringing, she opened the oven door and put the cake inside, breathing a sigh of relief when no huge fireball with Grace's face erupted from inside.
Julian had just shaken his head and gone back to tending to the passion fruit milkshakes made with goat's milk.

Suddenly she heard a strange noise emanating from somewhere in the kitchen. An ominous gurgling…Ivy and Julian looked on in horror as the green pea soup batter bubbled upward over the sides of the pot, suddenly exploding with a grotesque squelching noise and coating everything in the kitchen with a thick curtain of green sludge.




Crane Estate

Stephanie and Elizabeth sat in the gazebo, glaring at each other.
"I don't see why you had to say that you knew me last night," Stephanie griped, "Because of YOU I had to suffer through that hideous creation that Mrs. Bennett called dinner!"
Elizabeth shrugged, "You suffer, I suffer. I just don't see how that guy Miguel eats over there every night! He never even goes home!"
Stephanie smirked, "You like him, don't you?"
"ME?!" Elizabeth's eyes widened, "Not at all."
"I SAW the way you were looking at him," Stephanie teased, "You've got a thing for him!"
"Are you sure you were looking at me and not at that girl Kay?" Elizabeth snapped.
"The mean one? Trust me…she's got a thing for him too, but you are SO obvious!"
"I am not!" Elizabeth shouted, and then covered her mouth.
"So you admit it!" Stephanie grinned, "Elizabeth loves Miguel, Elizabeth loves Miguel…"
Elizabeth grabbed a twig off the ground and ran at her sister, "You stop that right now!"
Stephanie held her hands in the air, "HEY! No assault with blunt objects, remember?!"
Elizabeth sighed and dropped the twig, "He's got a girlfriend. I made a pact with myself a long time ago never to get in the way of a happy relationship."
"You've gotta be the only one in this family who would so something like THAT," Stephanie scoffed, "Besides, Charity tied her cousin up-"
"No she didn't! I think it was Kay!"

Stephanie shrugged, "In any case, I think you've got a chance."
"Look," Elizabeth glared at her, "If some time in the future, things work out that way, fine. But I am NOT going to go chasing after him like some love-starved kid."
"You ARE a love-starved kid," Stephanie's voice took on a dramatic tone, "We've been shunned by our family…never to experience the wonder of parental love…"
"You really are a psycho, you know that?" Elizabeth shook her head, "Did someone drop you on the head as a baby?"
Stephanie's response was to giggle insanely.
Elizabeth sighed, "Well…I hear that Mother and Father invited the Hotchkiss boys to dinner tonight so that we could be properly introduced."
Stephanie pouted, "I thought this was a FAMILY event…"
"Please, our family ALWAYS has ulterior motives."
Stephanie shrugged innocently, "We could always poison them-"
"NO! You've really got to stop with these homicidal urges! If you don't wanna date one of 'em, then don't, but don't KILL THEM!" Elizabeth exploded.
Stephanie sighed, "Do you make a habit of ruining my fun?"
"Trust me…I think we're going to have PLENTY of fun tonight, and you won't need any sharp objects to enjoy yourself…" Elizabeth laughed.




Bennett Residence

"Are you SURE you want me at this dinner? I remember your mother's reaction the first time she saw me-"
Amanda clamped a hand over Noah's mouth, "Noah Bennett, if I didn't want you to come to this dinner, I wouldn’t have invited you."
He shrugged, "I just don't want to cause any problems."
"On the other hand, I LIVE to cause problems."
"I noticed," Noah laughed, "Did your poor aunt ever forgive you for tying her up?"
Amanda smirked, "Somehow, I don't think she minded all that much."
"Well, she certainly didn't seem too upset when we showed up," Noah conceded.
"See? I always know what's best," Amanda laughed.
"You just haven't been proven wrong yet. But you will…someday," Noah teased.
"Yeah well, just look at it as a good way to escape your mother's cooking! My mother and father are cooking…and they would NEVER have the imaginations to cook up something as frightful as your mother's cuisine."
Noah shrugged, "I guess you've got a point there."
"You shouldn't even attempt to argue with me. I always win."
"Well…bringing up my mom's cooking is enough to scare away an army of Vikings. And believe me…I'm no Viking."
Amanda snickered, "Yeah, but you're cute anyway. So you'll come?"

"If I said no, would you leave me alone?"
"Of course not."
Noah shrugged, "Then yes, I'll be there."
"We have to be there in about an hour or so."
"No pressure at all, huh?"
"Get used to it," she laughed, giving him a quick peck on the cheek before hurrying out the door, long blond hair flying behind her.




Lopez-Fitzgerald Residence

Whitney rolled her eyes as she watched Theresa check her reflection in the mirror for the tenth time.
"Theresa," she said patiently, "WHY are you doing this to yourself?"
"I'm not doing anything Whit," Theresa said brightly, "Fate is guiding me!"
"You're going to break into the Crane mansion and crash a dinner party," Whitney said flatly, "Tell me Theresa, how exactly is that fate?"
"Ethan CALLED me to tell me all about the dinner. Obviously he wanted me to be there!"
"Did he actually ASK you to come to the dinner?" Whitney sighed.
"No," Theresa was still smiling, "But I know that's what he meant."
"I'm not even going to say it," Whitney replied with a sigh, "It's not like you listen to me anyway-"
Theresa glanced at the clock, "AHH! I've only got fifteen more minutes before the dinner starts!"
Whitney sighed again, "Well…I'm not going to stand around and watch you embarrass yourself. Call me tomorrow when you decide to wake up and face the facts."
"I'll call you tomorrow with good news Whit," Theresa bubbled, "Ethan is going to finally realize that he loves me tonight, I know that he will!"
Shaking her head in defeat, Whitney headed out the front door.

Holding a picture of Ethan to her heart, Theresa twirled in a circle in front of the mirror, thinking about all the good things fate had in store for her.

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