25

Time passed quickly as Theresa tried to regain stability within her life. As the weeks passed, Theresa and Fox spent time rebuilding the foundation of their friendship. As each day was taken slowly, they transformed into firm building blocks that would inevitably lead to the creation of a lasting relationship. With the support of her family and Fox continually by her side, Theresa resumed her education at Harmony's local community college. Although she still did not have custody of her child, Theresa did not waste her time dwelling in sorrow. Fox reassured her that he would help her regain custody, and Theresa was confident that Fox would not let her down. After all, Theresa was tired of the emotional cell she had been trapped in for so long. There was no reason to return to that realm of despair.

While Theresa was immersing herself in her studies, Fox was immersing himself in the pages of the Harmony Classifieds. He could have easily taken his assistant position at Crane Industries. However with no one remotely likeable to assist and rather than be subject to his grandfather's constant ragging, Fox found it pertinent that he look elsewhere for a job. Although finding a new job was high on Fox's priority list, it was not the first priority. Returning Ethan Martin to his mother was the most important goal Fox was determined to accomplish. He reasoned that if Julian and Rebecca could obtain custody through manipulation and blackmail, that he would do the exact same to them. He hated having to play by their rules, but Fox knew that he had something they lacked- skill.

In a somewhat covert operation, Fox sought feverishly for something that would prompt Rebecca to order Julian to return custody of Ethan Martin to Theresa. The task he undertook was presumed to be simple. Rebecca surely had done things in her past that were frowned upon. However, Rebecca seemed to know how to cover her tracks well, and Fox was having a hard time finding a trail. Although it was frustrating at times, Fox continued his search knowing that there had to be something to bring the manipulative money-hungry harlot to her inevitable demise.

One day after an exhausting round of interviews, Fox sought solace in roaming the Crane grounds. The threat of impending rain restricted Fox's wandering indoors. Hands in pockets, Fox walked the Crane hallways, his eyes settling on objects that boasted of richness. As Fox strolled down the hallway his eye caught a bright glimmer within a darkened room. Curious, Fox peeked within the crack of the slightly ajar door. With his hand searching the wall for the light switch, Fox entered the room. The flick of the switch bathed the room in light, and Fox realized where the glimmer's origination. The room Fox had entered contained nothing but more overly expensive artifacts. "It all means absolutely nothing," Fox scoffed as he stared at the possessions surrounding him. Wealth and privilege could not warm the hardened hearts of the Crane family. Money polluted their emotions, but Fox was lucky enough to find love that would save him from the poison. Just as Fox was about to leave the room, one particular object caught his eye. It was so out of place in the room that Fox wondered how it had gotten there in the first place. A tape, with no indication of what it contained, stuck out from underneath the cushions of the sofa in the middle of the room. The tape was wedged in a manner that suggested an attempt of being hidden. Although the tape was overshadowed by the richness surrounding it, its simplicity stuck out like a sore thumb.

As Fox turned the tape over in his hands, Fox wondered what its content contained. The mystery of the tape compelled Fox to watch it. As he rushed into his room, he overheard Julian and Rebecca heading towards his direction.

"Oh pookie, I can't find it anywhere!" Rebecca said despairingly.

"Where did you put it last?" Julian asked stopping to check his reflection in one of the framed mirrors.

Fox heard Rebecca huff and rolled his eyes. "I don't remember!" Rebecca whined. "It's the only tape I have that we could record over."

"My dear," Julian chuckled. "We can always get another tape." He suggested.

"But I wanted to record over that particular one!" Rebecca cried.

"Why? Is there incriminating evidence on it?" Julian chuckled evilly.

Rebecca laughed nervously. "No, pookie." She said slowly as she tugged on his costume. Sighing she pulled Julian closer. "Look, we don't have to record our little rendezvous this time. Next time I'll put on your favorite costume and we can record it then."

"The French maid one?" Julian raised his eyebrow.

"Anything you want," Rebecca said leading Julian by the collar.

"Mm, I like the way you think." Julian said as he enthusiastically followed her.

Fox felt his stomach churn with nausea. The thought of Julian and Rebecca recording their sexual escapes on video was enough to make a person retch. Recovering quickly from the wave of nausea, Fox quickly walked to his room and looked at the tape. "Perhaps this is what she was looking for," Fox ruminated. "She sounded intent on recording over it. I wonder" Fox slipped the tape into his VCR and settled back. "This better not be her and another man making a home-made video," Fox thought as he felt the urge to vomit return.

To Fox's surprise an event he had not had the chance to witness personally unfolded before his eyes. It was the night his father Julian Crane had been shot and supposed dead. Fox watched with surprise as he heard a gunshot and saw the body of his father. Fox became even more baffled when he saw the angry heaving figure of his half-brother Ethan as he held a gun still pointed at its target in his hands. Rewinding the tape, Fox replayed the scene continuously.

The media coverage through which Fox received the news of his father's "murder" ran through his mind. Fox remembered reading the events that occurred shortly afterward- Theresa's confession, her trial, her sentence of death, and later finding out that she was alive and so was Julian. Fox scratched his chin contemplating the information jumbled in his mind.

Rebecca was intent on erasing information on a tape. The tape found in one of the Crane rooms contained information pointing to Ethan appearing to be the person guilty of firing the gun at Julian, yet Theresa confessed to the crime. If this is the tape Rebecca was looking for....

The infamously known melody of Mission Impossible, the ring tone of Fox's cell, jolted him out of his thoughts. "Hello?" He answered.

"Fox," Theresa said cheerfully.

"Hey, Theresa" Fox said rubbing his head. "What's up?"

"I need a break from studying," Theresa sighed.

Fox smiled. "What'd you have in mind?"

"Well," Theresa said slowly. "I thought I could come over to see you. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to you much since school's kept me busy."

"Aw, you miss me." Fox said playfully.

Theresa laughed. "Yes, Fox, I missed you."

"I knew you couldn't stay away from my sexiness for long." Fox grinned.

"Fox," Theresa said giggling. "You devil."

"Oh c'mon Theresa," Fox teased. "Admit it. You think I'm hot and sexy."

"I think it's the other way around," Theresa replied.

"Well, you are hot." Fox agreed.

"Okay, Fox," Theresa laughed. "Can I come over or not?"

"Hmm," Fox said pausing. "Why can't I just come over there?"

"Because," Theresa said in a lower voice. "Paloma already has a guest."

"Really?" Fox said intrigued. "Who?"

"Well, Noah Bennett came back into town," Theresa divulged. "And, he happened to stop by our house to say by. Paloma was smitten once she got a look."

"Sam Bennett's son huh?" Fox said.

"Yup," Theresa said.

"If Paloma was smitten, he must be a good looking guy." Fox wondered aloud.

"Yeah," Theresa said. "Noah's a handsome guy."

"Really?" Fox said raising his eyebrows.

"Oh yeah," Theresa said hoping to render Fox slightly jealous. "He's tall, and he's got dark brown hair, and gorgeous hazel eyes. And you should see the guy without his shirt on."

"Excuse me?" Fox said. "You've seen the guy without his shirt on?"

"Plenty of times," Theresa exaggerated. "And- oh never mind." Theresa trailed off.

"And what?" Fox asked.

"I was just going to say that his shirt is not the only thing Noah's ever taken off in front of me." She said mischievously.

Fox's jaw nearly dropped to the floor. "Theresa!" He said. "I can't believe you're telling me" He was interrupted by the sound of Theresa's contagious laughter. "You sound jealous," She joked. "I was only kidding, Fox. Noah's a good looking guy, but you're much more hot and sexy."

Fox chuckled. "Thanks for the reassurance."

"So, can I come over?" Theresa asked again. "Please? I don't want to interfere with Paloma and her date."

"Of course," Fox said. "I'll whip us a snack or something."

"Great," Theresa replied. "Maybe we can watch a movie to. I'll see you in a bit, handsome."

"All right, bye beautiful." Fox said hanging up his cell. As Fox stood up, he resolved to tell Theresa about the tape. The last time Fox hid something from Theresa, she ended up extremely hurt and Fox was not about to make the mistake again. "Now to make a special snack for my special lady," Fox said aloud as he hurried towards the kitchen. After preparing his famous fruit salad á la Fox, he brought the snack, two wine glasses, a bottle of wine, and a blanket up to his room. After arranging the mini picnic on the floor, he went in search of scented candles. Once he strategically placed them around the room, Fox pulled out a soothing jazz CD mix out of his collection. As soon as the music began playing, Fox heard the doorbell. Hurrying to meet his guest of honor, Fox bounded down the steps to greet Theresa.

"Ah, there he is," Theresa said smiling.

"Hello, love," Fox said wrapping Theresa in a warm embrace. "I've got a little surprise for you,"

"A surprise?" Theresa grinned. "What kind of surprise?"

"You'll see." Fox said as he picked Theresa up in his arms and walked up the steps. Once Fox reached his bedroom, he instructed Theresa to close her eyes. As soon as she did, Fox placed her down gently and led her inside the candle-lit room. Eyes still closed, Theresa absorbed the smell of the scented candles along with the relaxing melody flowing from the CD. "Fox," Theresa gasped. "What have you got up your sleeve?"

"Open your eyes and you shall see." Fox whispered in her ear.

Theresa's eyes swept over the romantic setup and sighed with awe. "Fox," She said wrapping her arms around him. "It's perfect."

"Glad you like it," Fox smiled as he tenderly placed a kiss upon Theresa's forehead.

"I love it," Theresa said kissing him softly on the lips.

"I made something especially for you," Fox said as he guided Theresa over to the mini picnic and gestured towards a covered bowl.

"What it is?" Theresa asked taking a seat on the floor.

"Voila!" Fox said as he swiped the cover off quickly.

"Fruit a la Fox!" Theresa said smiling. "Mm,"

"You remember?" Fox grinned.

"Of course I remember!" Theresa said playfully nudging him with her elbow. "'Course there were some things about that night I'd like to forget,"

"Yeah, you were a little on edge because of the fire at my Aunt Sheridan's cottage." Fox said as he prepared Theresa a plate.

"It's not just that," Theresa said as Fox placed a napkin in her lap. "Our special little midnight snack was ruined by your father and"

Fox frowned. "Don't remind me." He said wrinkling his nose.

Theresa smiled. "Well, we don't have to worry about them ruining this now do we?" She asked as she leaned in to kiss Fox on the cheek.

"Thankfully, no," Fox said as he picked up a fork and fed Theresa his tasty creation.

"Yummy," Theresa replied. "My compliments to the chef," She said as she raised her wine glass. As Theresa's eyes swept the room, she noticed a tape sticking out of the VCR. "Oh!" She said getting up. "Is this the video you picked out for us to watch?"

"Huh?" Fox asked. "Video?"

"This," Theresa said taking the video out of the VCR. "I hope it's Gone with the Wind. I love that movie."

"Oh, um, Theresa," Fox said taking the video out of her hands. "It's not." He said frowning.

"Then what kind of movie is it?" Theresa questioned as she crossed her arms. "Fox, what's wrong? What's on that tape?"

Rather than explain what was on the video, Fox popped it into the VCR and allowed Theresa to see for herself. She gasped as the familiar images played before her. "Oh my God," She said covering her mouth. "Where did you get that?"

"I found it in one of the rooms." Fox replied scratching the back of his neck. "I overheard Rebecca talking to Julian about recording over a certain tape she couldn't find, and I have reason to believe it's this one."

"That bitch." Theresa said angrily. "I saw this tape before, Fox." Theresa explained. "That's the reason why I confessed to shooting your father. I was trying to protect Ethan because I believed he did it. I later found out that Ethan didn't do it, and I believe that Rebecca and your mother set me up. They were trying to get rid of me, and they knew I would go to the extreme for Ethan."

Fox grinned, for he had finally found what he was looking for. "Theresa, you're getting your son back."

"What?" Theresa asked baffled at the sudden turn of the conversation.

"This tape is going to be our ticket to getting custody returned to you."

--

"Oh pookie!" Rebecca squealed. "You were so wonderful."

"Thank you my dear," Julian said as he began to get dressed. "As much as I would love to stay, there is some business I must attend to."

"But pookie," Rebecca protested.

"No buts my darling," Julian said brushing his suit off. "I must go,"

When Julian left, Rebecca got dressed. For a long time she had tried to get revenge on Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald. Many of her attempts had failed miserably, but ever since custody had been taken away from Theresa, Rebecca wallowed in the satisfaction she received from Theresa's devastation. The only action left that she had to take was having custody given to Gwen and Ethan. Rebecca knew that Theresa would suffer even more if she knew that Gwen was going to take away her role as mother. As Rebecca strutted the hallways like a proud peacock, the appearance of Fox and Theresa crossing her path immediately soured her good mood.

"I'd wipe that look off your face Rebecca." Fox said smiling mischievously.

"Excuse me?" Rebecca huffed. "What look?"

"That gloating look." Fox narrowed his eyes. "You must think your something don't you? You've manipulated your way into the Crane family, and took away Theresa's son"

Rebecca laughed evilly. "That's what that little wench deserves. Ethan Martin is my son for now, but he'll be Gwen's once custody is transferred to them."

"What?" Theresa asked in disbelief. "You"

"Watch it Theresa." Rebecca crossed her arms. "I could have you removed from these grounds and have you put into jail."

"Go ahead, Rebecca" Theresa said evenly. "But you know, I wouldn't be making any threats if I were you."

"Ha!" Rebecca scoffed. "You have nothing to fight me with. I won, Theresa. You're getting exactly what you deserve."

Fox began chuckling. "It's funny you say that, Becs because in a few moments you're going to get exactly what you deserve."

"What are you talking about?" Rebecca asked warily as her feathers of pride began descending.

"I know you and Ivy set me up when Julian was shot. I know you manipulated me into thinking Ethan did it. You knew I would do anything for Ethan, and that tape led me to believe it was true. But we all know it wasn't, and I know you and Ivy were behind it."

"Tape?" Rebecca said nervously. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"Then what's this?" Fox asked pulling out the tape and dangling in her face.

"Where did you get that?" Rebecca narrowed her eyes.

"Found it." Fox replied simply. "And you know, if this gets out, we can destroy you." He said menacingly.

"You're bluffing." Rebecca huffed. "That tape doesn't have anything that will destroy me."

"Don't be so cocky." Theresa replied. "Follow us and you can see for yourself." As Theresa and Fox headed towards a room with a VCR Rebecca followed behind warily as she tried to concoct a plan to take the tape and destroy it. When the got to the room, Theresa placed the tape in the VCR and gestured for Rebecca to sit. Fox stood by the door preventing Rebecca from escaping. To Rebecca's dismay, Fox and Theresa were telling the truth. As Rebecca watched the scene playing before her, she felt as though she were literally watching her demise.

"You see, Becs?" Theresa replied smirking as she took out the tape and held it. "We weren't bluffing."

Rebecca jumped off the bed and lunged at Theresa. "Give me that tape!" She squealed as she tried to grasp the tape.

Fox quickly separated the two and grabbed the undamaged tape. "Don't even try," He warned Rebecca as she eyed the tape greedily.

"How does it feel Rebecca?" Theresa asked prodding her with her vengeful stare. "How does it feel to know that you're going to end up with absolutely nothing?"

"What do you want Theresa," Rebecca asked rolling her eyes. "You know what I want," Theresa said. "I want my son back."

"It's simple." Fox interjected. "You give Theresa's son back or else this tape gets out and you lose everything. So what's it going to be Rebecca?"

--

The rain plastered window reflected the tears plastered on Theresa's flushed cheeks. "Theresa," She heard a muffled voice call. "Theresa, please open the door,"

"No. Leave me alone." Theresa sniffled as her gaze remained focused on the drizzling rain.

Fox sighed at Theresa's muffled refusal. "How long has she been like this?" He asked Paloma who shrugged. "Awhile. Noah and I were going to go out, and I went to tell Theresa. When I got to the door I heard her crying. I tried to get her to unlock the door, but"

"Well, you and Noah go on. I'll take care of Theresa." Fox said as he turned back to the door and rapped on it softly.

"But" Paloma protested. "I'm her sister. I can't just leave her like this."

"I'm her fiancé. I think I can handle it." Fox said smiling reassuringly. "Go on."

Paloma sighed. "All right," She said pointing to Fox warningly. "But you better take good care of her or else."

"Yes ma'm." Fox saluted as Paloma rolled her eyes. "Watch it Crane." She said as she left to return to Noah.

Fox chuckled and shook his head. "Theresa," He called again. "C'mon beautiful. Open up. Please?"

"No," Theresa responded. "I want to be alone."

"You shouldn't have to be alone, Theresa. I can help you through this." Fox called through the door as he leaned his forehead against it. "Please, Theresa. Let me help you." He pleaded as he closed his eyes. As Fox waited, he heard a soft click and felt the hard ground beneath him meet with his chin. "Ouch!" He cried. He hadn't expected Theresa to open the door, and as a result he ended up falling to the floor.

"Oh, Fox. I'm sorry!" Theresa cried as she helped him up.

"It's okay," Fox said moving his jaw around. "My chin broke the fall,"

Theresa smiled despite the tears still pooling in her eyes. "Your poor chin."

"Theresa," Fox said softly as he wiped the tears that escaped the corner of her eyes. "You know I hate to see you cry."

"I can't help it." Theresa said standing up and walking to her nightstand. She picked up the picture of Ethan Martin and stroked it tenderly. "You know how sensitive I am when it comes to my son."

"I know," Fox said coming up behind her and placing his hands comfortingly on her shoulders. "I know."

Theresa leaned back and relished the feeling of security that Fox gave her whenever he was near. She gazed down at her engagement ring and sighed. "I wish Ethan Martin were here," She said tearfully. "I miss him."

"Theresa," Fox said turning Theresa towards him. "You're going to see him again."

Theresa sighed. "But it's so hard."

Fox chuckled as he turned Theresa to face him. "I didn't know you were going to take this first day of school thing so hard. Theresa, Ethan Martin will be back in a few hours. He'll be fine."

"But I can't help but worry." Theresa said throwing her hands up in the air.

"No one's ever going to take him away again, okay? Don't worry! He's fine. He's probably having the time of his life finger painting or something."

Theresa played with the buttons of Fox's shirt. "I guess you're right," She mumbled.

"Of course I'm right." Fox said leaning his forehead against Theresa's. "No one's going to take him away ever again." He repeated reassuringly. "It's been six months since that ordeal with Rebecca. We've got to keep moving forward."

Theresa nodded knowing that the worst was behind them. Six months ago, Rebecca had vehemently refused to give into Theresa's request, and as a result she paid the consequences. As Rebecca met her downfall, she pulled Ivy down with her. The two cold-hearted women received so much ridicule and revulsion and sought relief on the island of St. Lisa's. The two women owned nothing except the clothes they wore to the island, and nothing was heard from them ever since. Shortly afterward Julian willingly returned custody of Ethan Martin back to Theresa and revisited his old habits of chasing younger women.

Once Ethan Martin returned home, Theresa resumed her studies, Fox resumed his job at the Book Café, and Paloma and Noah continued dating. Three months later Fox had proposed and the couple was scheduled to marry in December- the month they first met.

As Theresa stared into the eyes of the man she was going to marry, she finally felt at peace. There once had been a time when Theresa felt as though she had lost everything. She had been lonely and confused on her journey, but the conflicts that forced her to search for what she had lost were finally resolved. She had her son, a true sense of the woman she was, and the love of a man who never left her side. For the first time in a long time, Theresa was truly happy. The search for all things lost had finally reached its end.