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Return of the Prodigals
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Return of the Prodigals
by Twig

Hotchkiss Mansion

As she danced with Bradley Hotchkiss, Kay tried to imagine that she was dancing with Miguel. That it was his strong arms that were holding her so close. And yet, as the song went on, she began to realize that she didn't WANT him to be Miguel. She was enjoying Bradley for Bradley. A quick glance over at Simone caused Kay to breathe with relief. Simone was resting her head on Joshua's shoulder, gazing into space with a dreamy expression. Thank god she was over Chad…keeping him away from Whitney had proven to be quite a hardship.
"You never told me your name," Bradley whispered softly.
"Kay," she whispered back, completely entranced.
"Kay…" he smiled, "have you seen Elizabeth Crane around?"
Kay pulled back abruptly, staring at him with an annoyed expression. "ELIZABETH?! You were only dancing with me because you wanted to see if I knew Elizabeth?!"
Bradley stared at her as if she'd suddenly revealed that she had a third eye, "Did I SAY that?"
"You didn't have to," Kay said bitterly and stomped off.

Bradley shook his head slowly. His attention was distracted momentarily by the sight of Ivy Crane stumbling into the estate. Her hair was messed up and her nose was bright red. She sneezed loudly, wobbling her way weakly towards where Ethan was standing and talking to Theresa.
"Joshua!" he yelled, causing Joshua to leap away from Simone and hurry over.
"I see it," Joshua snickered.
They exchanged glances.
"Let's do it."

Ivy sneezed explosively, silently damning Julian with each step that she took. She had almost reached Ethan—
"ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRG!"
Ivy glanced up in terror as Joshua and Bradley descended on her, rope in hand.




Paloma, bored, sat by herself on a barstool, watching the couples dance. She didn't care if it WAS fate, Theresa and Ethan were making her want to barf. The only thing remotely amusing about the whole situation to her was that Rebecca Hotchkiss was sprawled unconscious in the courtyard, and people were merely stepping over her.
"Yes well, I always was easy to amuse," she muttered, grabbing her soda and gulping it down.
"So now you're talking to yourself. I knew that your sanity was in question," a familiar voice came from behind her.
She turned and found herself facing Mr. Rebel, William Crane himself.
"Did the stain come out?" she asked sweetly.
He looked pointedly at the large pink blotch on the front of his shirt, "Does it LOOK like the stain came out?"
"Well since according to you, I can't see where I'm going, I guess I wouldn't know."
William narrowed his eyes, "Are you persistently this rude, or is it just a bad day?"
"You're calling me rude?" Paloma harrumphed, "Amazing. Absolutely amazing. YOU are the one who took an attitude."
"I—"
Paloma held up her hand, "You are a rebel. I got that the first time, no need to repeat yourself."
William glared at her, "Do you have something against rebels?"

She crossed her arms, "I have nothing against rebels in general. YOU, on the other hand—"
William reached over the bar and grabbed a glass of water, dumping it over Paloma's head. She screeched and leaped to her feet.
"WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!"
"Now we're even," he said smugly, turning and walking away into the crowd.
Paloma, drenched, stared after him in shock. For once, she was completely speechless, as she brushed a clump of wet hair out of her eyes.
"What happened to you?" Stephanie asked as she hurried over with a napkin.
Paloma snatched the napkin out of her hand, "that oh so charming REBEL over there decided that pouring water over my head was amusing."
"My brother did that?"
Paloma shook her head rapidly, sending drops of water flying, "YES, your brother."
Stephanie shrugged, "What can I say? He's a rebel."

"He's rude," she said bluntly.
"He's just a rebel."
"He's RUDE."
"Well—"
"And…" Paloma waved her hands in the air, "What's he rebelling against, anyway?!"
"Um…"
Paloma paced in a circle, constantly wiping at her now-ruined dress.
"Now you're scaring me," Stephanie inched away.
"I’M scaring YOU? You're the one who wants to murder your father!"
Stephanie shrugged innocently, "Do you blame me?"
"He seems like a nice man."
"He's never cared about me. I've been ignored all of my life…" Stephanie said sadly.
"Join the club."
"No one will ever love me," Stephanie's eyes were filling up.
"Don't worry, no one will ever love me either," Paloma grumbled, "But I'm not crying over it."

A ringing noise interrupted them.
"That's mine," Paloma reached into her purse and pulled out a cell phone.
"I thought the Lopez-Fitzgeralds were poor," Stephanie said, confused.
Paloma shrugged, "Living away from home has its advantages."
She punched the power button on the phone, "Hello?"
"How's life in Harmony?" Sara's voice filtered over the line.
Paloma brightened, "Sara!"
Stephanie frowned slightly and inched away.
"So what's going on?" Sara said lightly, "Any big events? Any unexpected developments at the wedding? Or is life in small-town Harmony just as dull and eventless as life in Bwizville?"
Paloma coughed, "Actually…"
"You're kidding, right? Did something good happen?"
Paloma laughed, "Would you believe that my long-lost brother Antonio showed up and whisked away the bride from the groom who was about to cancel the wedding because he's in love with my sister?"
Sara was silent for a moment, "Well."
Paloma laughed, "Yes, that was pretty much my reaction as well. We're all at the wedding reception now."
"There's still a reception?"
"Yes, but the mother of the bride is passed out on the dance floor. No one is paying her any attention."
"Sounds like my kind of place. When can I move in?"
Paloma chuckled, "You'd like it here."
"So, any charming members of the male species lining up to whisk you away on a white horse?"
Paloma's mind wandered briefly to William, and then she admonished herself for thinking of him. Why on earth…?
"No, no one special."
"Give it time."
Paloma shot a glance in the direction of her sister, who was gazing dreamily up at Ethan Crane, "Ah…I think that in this place, remaining single is the way to go."

"Even such a perfect town must have it's faults. So when are you coming home? Or have you decided to abandon your old life and stay amongst America's Most Dysfunctional?"
Paloma sighed, "Two weeks, Sara. I'm here for two weeks. Two very LONG weeks."
"Do I take this to mean that your family isn't as happy and charming as the Partridge Family?"
Paloma choked on her soda, "Far from it. Believe me."
"AHHHHHH!!"
Everyone turned their heads just in time to see Joshua and Bradley Hotchkiss drag a bound and gagged Ivy Crane across the estate.
"Sara?" Paloma said into the phone, "I gotta go. Things just got interesting."





Julian staggered through the gates of the Hotchkiss Estate, his clothes in tatters and mud on his face.
"I swear…" he griped to himself, shaking his fist, "When I find that damn Lopez-Fitzgerald girl…"
He was almost bowled over as Bradley and Joshua raced past him, dragging something through the mud behind them.
Julian gave a start as he recognized just what was being dragged.
"IVY!"
Groaning at his luck, Julian took off in pursuit.

Bradley and Joshua, panting for air, finally let go of the ropes, letting Ivy come to rest in the mud. She let out a squeak of annoyance and flailed around, trying to get free of the ropes around her wrists and ankles.
"IVY!"
Suddenly Julian was crouching in front of her, helping her to untie the ropes. As soon as she was free, she staggered to her feet, coated in mud and leaves.
"This is all YOUR fault," she said bitterly, glaring at him.
Julian blinked, "MY fault?! I just got here!"
She suddenly noticed his state, "Julian, what on earth happened to you?"
Julian scowled, "Father released the guard dogs on me…said something about it teaching me a lesson. Dare I ask what happened to you?"
Ivy wiped in disgust at her face, only smearing the excess mud around, "Those two EVIL boys decided it would be funny to tie me up."
Julian glanced over at Joshua and Bradley, who regarded him with innocent smiles.
He shuddered, "They were responsible for that food fight."
"Glad to see there's nothing wrong with your memory."

Julian looked over at the two Hotchkiss boys again, but to his dismay, they were no longer standing there. He scanned the crowd of people for any sign of them, but it was as if they had vanished into thin air.
He gulped nervously. This could NOT be a good sign.




Hotchkiss Estate

Amanda peered around a bush, watching as her parents engaged in an amusing struggle involving mud. Confident that they were occupied, she turned to face Noah, who was regarding her with a somewhat shell-shocked expression.
"You look like someone dumped a bucket of cold water on you," Amanda smiled, "What's the matter?"
Noah blinked, "I'm still attempting to wrap my brain around what happened at the wedding."
"Ah yes, intellectualism isn't your strong front."
"I'm offended by that."
"And I'm just kidding," Amanda grinned, kissing him lightly for good measure, "You're smarter than my brother Ethan…of course, that's not saying much—"
Noah pushed her lightly, "You're real funny."
Amanda smiled innocently, "Yes, I've been told. Anyhow, moving on to more important things. No one will notice if we slip away from this party and attempt to uncover the secret of why my mother reacted so strongly to meeting you, and as to why your father practically popped an artery over meeting me."
"You never give up, do you?"
"Aren't you glad I didn’t?" she pretended to pout, "Of course…I could have just kept going instead of eating that muffin of yours, and I never had to pursue you…"
"Well, we can't have that. Despite all of my objections, I must admit that you've gotten to me."
She smirked, "Glad I've at least had success in one area."

Noah glanced towards the exit, "Are we just going to stand around here talking all day and squander our opportunity, or are we going to go find some answers?"
"And I thought I was the only one who took charge of things. Lead the way, Romeo."
They headed towards the gates.




"You know what," Paloma finally said in disgust, tossing her napkin on the floor, "I'm so sick of this!"
Stephanie eyed her nervously, "Sick of what?"
"These damn parties! The wedding never even happened, but does anyone CARE?! Besides that poor woman lying on the ground over there, I mean?"
"Oh, that's Rebecca. Don't worry, no one likes her," Stephanie shrugged.
"My big sister is acting like an overgrown puppy dog and slobbering all over your brother. My one brother is missing in action, I have a pretty good idea where my OTHER brother is, although I don't think he'd like me revealing that information to anyone, and my oldest brother who has been gone forever shows up to…to…run away with Gwen. AND NO ONE IS PAYING ANY ATTENTION TO ME!"
Stephanie inched further away, "Well…I think I'll go see if I can't sneak up on my parents. You have fun." She hurried off.
"Maybe if you weren't so whiny, people would pay more attention to you," a voice piped up from behind her.
Paloma whirled to face him, "Don't you have anything better to do than hang around here and antagonize me?!"
William pretended to be wounded, "And here I was coming over to be nice."
"Thank you for your consideration," Paloma retorted, "But if this is what you consider being nice, I'd rather have a tooth pulled."

William shook his head and grinned at her, "If you'd rather be by yourself—"
"Better than being seen with you. I might give off the impression that I consort with rebels," she pretended to be horrified at the thought.
"You're not even going to give me a chance to talk, are you?"
"Believe me, I've heard all I want to hear out of you."
"But I—"
"Am a rebel," she cut in, "I KNOW. I have eyes, and I can see that damn baseball cap. But just because you're a rebel doesn't mean that you're worth my time."
William was speechless.
"I can tell that you're lacking a sufficiently witty comeback, so allow me to continue," Paloma punctuated her words by poking his chest with her finger, "If you so much as LOOK at that glass of water over there with any intention other than drinking it, so help me god—"
William held his hands up in the air, "Just because I'm a rebel doesn't mean I can't be reasonable. The only reason I dumped the water on you was because you dumped the punch on me."
"Did you ever consider, even for a second, that the punch incident was an ACCIDENT?! Or were you just too caught up in your 'I am a rebel' routine to notice?!"
"Underneath this rebel shell, I could be the guy of your dreams," he smirked at her, anticipating that it would set her off.
Paloma snorted, "Oh yeah, I'll bet. What would we do, ride off into the sunset on your skateboard?"

She never noticed Luis walk up behind them until he cleared his throat.
"Um, Paloma, are you ready to leave?"
"Gladly," she said with relief.
"Come on, I'll drive you home. Looks like…" he gritted his teeth, "Theresa isn't going anywhere for a while."
"Yes well, one can't imagine why."
William sighed, "Are you this difficult to EVERYONE?"
"Difficult?! ME?! I have a cynical but realistic outlook on life. You exist under this unusual fantasy notion that you are a rebel simply because you wear a backwards baseball cap!"
"Rebels don't like cynics."
"REBELS ARE CYNICS!"
William blinked, "Well what are you waiting for? Get out of here!"
"My feet can't carry me away fast enough," she turned her back on him with a huff.
He turned around as well so they were back to back, arms crossed, "Fine."
"FINE!"
"FINE!"
"I'm leaving now!"
"GOOD!"
Paloma finally gave in and stomped off, not noticing Luis' horrified expression as he followed her.





Lopez-Fitzgerald House

Once they had arrived home, Paloma busied herself in the kitchen with a batch of brownies, occasionally putting her ear to the door and listening in on her brother and Sheridan. And she had to admit, what she heard them saying was NOT giving her a good feeling…
"What do you MEAN they're acting just like we acted?" Sheridan squeaked.
"I'm telling you Sheridan, you should have seen them both going at it. They were arguing in true Crane-Lopez-Fitzgerald fashion."
Sheridan smiled, "Nothing can be worse than how we were when we first met."
Luis shook his head slowly, "Give them time and I think they could show us up. But I am NOT letting my little sister get involved with a Crane—"
"Luis, Theresa is already involved with a Crane, YOU'RE already involved with a Crane, your brother just ran off with a Hotchkiss, Miguel is already involved with a Crane—"
"He's WHAT?!"
Sheridan bit her lip, "Ah…he and Elizabeth are friends. Moving on…"
"How long have they known each other?!"
"A little while…but I doubt its anything serious…" she laughed nervously.
Luis buried his head in his hands, "I don't believe this…"

"I wouldn't worry, if I were you," Sheridan said with a small smile, "Theresa and Ethan may be beyond hope, and you can't do anything about Antonio and Gwen, and Paloma and William…well…I'll reserve judgement on them, but Miguel and Elizabeth don't see like the types to get involved in anything—"




"You WHAT?!" Elizabeth gaped at old man Lucius.
"I used to live in that old mental institution," Luicus said earnestly, "Ayup…they never had anything good to eat…"
Miguel stretched his hand over towards the door.
"HANDLE's broken," Lucius said loudly and suddenly, startling him, "The only way out is if I stop the car and let you out."
"What are you going to do?" Elizabeth asked nervously.
"I'm driving you to the crazy house, just like I said I would," Lucius said, sounding wounded that she would even ask.
"You know what?" Elizabeth said brightly, "I…um…I changed my mind. I don't really want to go anymore. So you could just let us off here—"
"No, no, NO!" Lucius shook his head firmly, "You never can tell what might happen on these old back roads." His voice dropped to a whisper, "The mad roam these streets…"
Miguel shook his head slowly, "Did you roam these streets?"
"Me?" Lucius scoffed, "Naw. I was content to take the job the offered me. Figured that so long as I only had contact with the dead, I couldn't hurt anyone."
"You see what you got us into?" Elizabeth hissed to Miguel, "Next time, listen to me!"
Miguel shrugged, "How was I supposed to know?"

"You could have LISTENED to me, for starters."
"Look, Elizabeth, I don't want to argue with you. I just want to figure out how to get out of this!"
"Face it, we're doomed."
"I'm beginning to agree."
Suddenly, the hearse screeched to a stop.
"Are we in Bwizville?" Elizabeth asked hopefully.
"Nope," Lucius spat out the window.
"Then…" Miguel glanced out the window into the rapidly darkening sky, "Where are we?"
Lucius grinned at them, "The morgue."

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