A/N: Here's another one shot that can be entered into the competition. If you like it, keep it in mind when it comes time to vote. Again, I tried to do something different, something that I've never done before. We'll see what you think of it. Just to let you know, I'm changing history a little bit here. Thanks and enjoy!


Party Favors

OCFF#17: By the Pricking of My Thumbs.

Even in Newport, the one year wedding anniversary mark wasn't that special, but, then again, most women weren't married to Caleb Nichol. Walking down the stairs on her husband's arm that evening, all their guests smiling or smirking at them from below, Julie Cooper Nichol almost shuddered with revulsion. It was all such a farce.

Everything in her life was an illusion, including the party her husband was throwing that evening to ring in the close of their first year of marriage together. Her relationship with her oldest child had never recovered from the year before, and, though Marissa was on Caleb's other arm as they made their grand entrance into the celebration, Julie knew that her daughter wanted to be there perhaps even less than she did. But she was needed to keep up the facade that they were all one big happy family despite the fact that everyone who had gathered to celebrate with them that evening knew otherwise.

They all knew that her marriage was a failure and that it would never last to see its second anniversary. In fact, the party was even being held a week before her marriage would actually turn a year old, and Julie knew exactly why. It was a ruse, a distraction orchestrated by her husband to try and trip her up, but she wasn't that naive, and she certainly wasn't that easily fooled. She knew what he was up to behind closed doors with his fleet of Armani wearing lawyers, and she'd be damned if she allowed him to get away with it.

If Caleb Nichol thought he was going to divorce her, leaving her and her two teenage children penniless again, he had another thing coming. She had worked too damn hard and for too damn long to just give in now, and she certainly hadn't suffered through eleven months and twenty-three days of sharing a bed with a man she practically despised for nothing. If it was the last thing she did, she would make sure that her husband set her and her two girls up for life financially before she ever let him leave her, no matter what means of action she had to take to achieve such a goal.

After all, while she might like to pretend that she belonged in Newport Beach, underneath all her fine, expensive clothes, blinding jewelry, and perfectly prepared countenance, she was still just a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and, when push came to shove, she could fight as dirty as anyone else... including her dearly beloved, perhaps soon to be departed, husband. Be it through blackmail, bribery, or even something a little more sinister, she would make sure that she got what was coming to her. All she had to do was find a private moment to have a little chat with her secretive spouse, and, when she got that moment, Caleb better look out.

Sandy Cohen was pissed.

Normally a jovial man, he wasn't used to feeling such ire, but, if anyone deserved it, it certainly was his father-in-law. Over the years, they had often clashed with each other. Their ideas on life and business and even family were vastly different, and, as two men with equally as strong opinions, when they came to blows, often their war of worlds would spin out of control and veer into dangerous territory. But never before had he hated Caleb Nichol as much as he did in that moment.

Watching him come down the quite impressive if not garishly tasteless staircase with his wife of one year and his step-daughter on his arms, the lawyer had to grit his teeth and fist his hands in his pockets to keep from attacking him then and there. After all the low ball, underhanded, even down right evil things the older man had pulled, his latest stunt was just the last straw.

They both knew that Kirsten had been battling her own inner demons recently, but, instead of being supportive towards his daughter, instead of showing her how much he loved and respected her no matter what, instead of trying to help her, Caleb had pulled his usual crap. He had gotten high and mighty with Kirsten, insulting and yelling at her which only raised her defenses and made her declare more fervently that she didn't have a drinking problem. She was now angry and vindictive, and there was absolutely no talking to her about getting help. She believed that all her problems revolved around her father, and, even though Sandy suspected that many of them might have started with the businessman, he also knew that his wife needed to deal with her issues on her own and separate them from those that had with her dad.

But that was easier said than done. Now, whenever he brought up the idea of rehab, she flatly refused to listen to him, transferring her rage from her father and directing it onto him. Their marriage was falling apart before their very eyes, the boys were lost, not knowing what state their family would be in from day to day, and, on top of everything else, Sandy suspected that his father-in-law was up to something quite sinister again. Last spring, it had been sabotaging the restaurant, and, this year, he had a feeling his plans had something to do with his marriage. Whatever it was, Sandy was determined to get answers when he met with the older man in private later that evening - answers and a little revenge, too, perhaps.

Summer watched her best friend as she made her way into the party with her mom and her step-dad, and, immediately, she knew that something was wrong. Shifting the weight from one hip to another, she repositioned her body in a more comfortable stance, needing all her attention and focus to be solely directed towards Marissa. Whatever it was that was going on with the blonde, it had been bothering her now for several weeks, and, if she did nothing else that evening, she was going to figure out exactly what was wrong.

Marissa was defensive, almost insecurely so. She avoided eye contact with everyone, shied away from all physical proximity with men, and was more secretive than usual. At first, the bubbly brunette had assumed that her best friend had turned back to the bottle. After all, in the past, that assumption would have been perfectly understandable and, in all likelihood, right. But Summer knew that Marissa wouldn't do that to Chino, especially with his brother hanging around and bringing back all the bad memories he had from his childhood, so it had to be something else.

And, then, almost like those new outfit inspirations she received at night when she was sleeping, the answer hit her. She saw how uncomfortable the blonde was around her step-father, how she was practically itching to get as far away from him as she possibly could as quickly as she could, and how, when she glanced at the older man, there was a fire of hatred burning inside her otherwise kind and gentle blue irises. Caleb had hurt her best friend, hurt her the worst way any woman could possibly be hurt, and, before the party was over, she was going to make sure he knew that she was on to him, and she would do it in a way he would never forget.

He wasn't supposed to be at this party. Everyone thought he was in Hawaii, starting his life over again and making a new start, but how could he stay away? Everything, everyone he loved was in Newport, and wasn't it fitting that he be there to witness his wife celebrating her one year anniversary with her second husband?

It was supposed to be him up there on those steps, a smiling Julie at his side, his arm casually draped across his oldest daughter's shoulders, but, instead, Caleb Nichol had that honor, and nothing had ever hurt or burned Jimmy Cooper more than the sight of the man he absolutely detested having everything he was supposed to have himself. Not only had he ruined his second chance at a good life in Orange County by sabotaging the restaurant he tried to open with Sandy Cohen, he had also taken over his role with his family, making Jimmy practically irrelevant.

There was nothing else he wanted more in the world than to make the older man feel just once what he experienced everyday - unnecessary, unneeded, unrespected, and, before the night was over, he was going to make sure that the sorry son of a bitch who had ruined his life knew exactly what he thought of him.

She was drunk.

She was drunk, and she knew it, and it was no one's fault but her damn father's.

Kirsten was so sick and tired... of everything. She just wanted the pain, and the depression, and the desperation to cease, and, in her muddled brain, there was only one way to accomplish that. She had to get rid of the person who had made her feel that way practically her whole life, and, once he was gone, all her problems would disappear.

Her family would go back to being a happy family, the boys wouldn't constantly be timid and nervous around her, and Sandy would fall in love with her all over again. It would be perfect. All she had to do was confront her father...

It was an odd feeling, going from thinking you had one of the happiest, most secure families around to one that was teetering dangerously on the brink of destruction. His parents' relationship was falling apart, and he wasn't even sure why, but Seth knew exactly who to blame - his grandfather. No matter what, every problem in the Cohen household always seemed to come down Caleb Nichol, and, to be blunt, he was sick of it.

Someone needed to teach the old man a lesson, someone needed to tell him, show him even, that he couldn't go around doing and saying whatever he damn well pleased. There were consequences for every action, and most of the time those consequences affected those around you more than they actually affected you. This was something he had learned the hard way through his own actions, and it infuriated him that his grandfather didn't know it yet or simply ignored it.

By pushing his Mom away for years, by favoring Hayley despite the fact that she was just a screw up, no matter how cool of a screw up she might have been, and by never once really supporting her or complimenting her, Caleb had managed to turn his previously strong and self-assured daughter into a..., well, a drunk. The drinking was tearing his Dad apart, was making Ryan feel uncomfortable and edgy, two very bad things in connection with Kid Chino, and, to be frank, scaring the living daylights out of him.

But he wasn't going to sit back and simply allow things to continue as they had been going. He was practically a man now, and men took care of their loved ones, no matter what. So, with that in mind, Seth promised himself that he would take care of his Mom, and his Dad, and Ryan that evening. As soon as he could get a private moment with his grandfather, he was going to tell him exactly what he thought of him and his selfish, destructive ways, and it would be one conversation Caleb Nichol would never forget.

She was broke.

She was high.

She was broke, high, and desperate, and she knew that her Dad wouldn't voluntarily give her any more money, money that she very desperately needed. So, sneaking onto the grounds of her father's new home, Hayley resolutely decided that she would get what she needed however she could. While her actions might have to be drastic, when had she ever played it safe?

Besides, Caleb Nichol was old. He had lived his life, he had prospered, he had spread his seed, and he had made his legend. People would remember him after he passed away, but, at that point in her life, no one would remember her for anything more but a party girl and a disappointment. What she needed was a second chance, and you couldn't get a second chance in life without cold hard cash and a lot of it. So, she would get it... one way or another... and she was going to get it that night.

He should have never come to Newport. He knew it was a bad decision, but when Sandy had suggested it, when his oh so fine car was sitting right there on the curb waiting for him to climb inside and ride, in the lap of luxury, back to the sweet, plush life his little brother had managed to land for himself, who was Trey to argue with that logic? But things had gotten out of hand, and, now, he needed to leave... as of yesterday. To make matters worse, he knew that his secret was no longer that. Someone else knew about what he had done to Marissa, and, if it was up to the old bastard, Trey knew he would fry.

Caleb Nichol had more money than god, but, for some damn reason, he had to go poking his high and mighty nose into his business, figuring out what had gone down on the beach a few weeks ago. Time was running out. If the cops didn't get to him soon, then Trey had no doubt that Mr. Nichol would handle him himself, and, if nothing else, he was survivor. He wasn't going down without a fight, and, lucky for him, he was pretty good when the odds were in his favor or the rules were tossed out the window.

What he needed was to run, but, before he could do that, he needed two things. One, he needed Caleb Nichol off his goddamned back, and, two, he needed money. Pretty conveniently, though, he was going to be able to get both things at once. All he had to do was pay the old man a visit when he was alone, and, just as he had slipped in earlier that evening without anyone spotting him, he'd slip off the property in just the same way, and no one would be any the wiser that he had even been there. In and out, clean and simple. He had a feeling things were about to start looking up for him again.

Everything was falling apart.

While she wasn't sure if her Mom knew it or not, Caleb was going to divorce her before they hit the real mark of their one year anniversary, rendering them poor and homeless once again, and Marissa knew that her Mom wouldn't be able to handle that. While Julie Cooper Nichol might have grown up in Riverside, she had changed over the years, and, as it was said, it was impossible to go back to you used to be.

If only she could have warned her mother, maybe the redhead would have been able to figure something out, but, as always, Caleb had been one step ahead of her. Just as he had blackmailed her into living with him a year before, he was blackmailing her now. In exchange for keeping her secret about Trey, her step-father had demanded that she do the same for him. He wouldn't tell anyone that her boyfriend's brother had tried to rape her a few weeks back as long as she didn't tell anyone that he and his lawyers had already drawn up the paperwork to deprive her Mom of the money she deserved for marrying and then staying with him in the first place.

The terrible, cruel, heartless man had taken the most terrifying night of her life and used it against her, rendering her almost powerless... but not quite. If nothing else, she was Julie Cooper's daughter, and, when she was pushed into a corner, she been taught how to fight back. At that point, what else did she have to lose anyway? It was one evil against another, and, at least with the one she had planned, only one person would suffer.

Before that evening, Ryan had been confused. One minute, his relationship with Marissa was going great, and, the next, everything felt wrong and off between them. It had angered him, even saddened him, but no more. By sitting back, excluding himself from the party's festivities as he always did, he had been able to observe his girlfriend, and what he had seen answered all his questions.

He didn't know what and he didn't know how, but he sure as hell knew who. One way or another, Caleb Nichol had turned the vibrant, fun, beautiful girl he was in love with into a shadow of her former self. He was controlling her, holding something over her head, but no more. Ryan had sat back and allowed the old man to hurt too many people he loved too many times already, and he wasn't going to allow him to do it again.

Marching into the mansion's study, he mentally prepared himself for what he was going to do. While he had never killed anyone himself in the past, he had seen people die before. It wasn't pretty, but he also knew it was sometimes necessary... just as it was now. There were defining moments in every man's life, and Ryan realized that he was about to experience one of his own. Two years ago, he never would have sacrificed his own happiness for someone else's, but that's what moving to Newport, what meeting the Cohens, and being truly loved by someone had given him - the courage to do what was right, no matter how wrong it might be. Unfortunately, there was only one problem.

Caleb Nichol was already dead. He had been murdered.