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The Pretender: The Mermaid Tale (ensemble)

slodwick organized picfor1000. I was assigned this picture:

Title: The Mermaid Tale
Author: voleuse
Fandom: The Pretender
Characters: Ensemble
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Coughing is nothing like forgiveness.
Notes: Post-series, no spoilers

i. The child already silent had nothing to lose

Jarod had never been a fan of cigarettes, but he had learned how to smoke them before he was twelve. Nobody gave them to him, nobody even suggested he try, but when they asked him to deconstruct a bank robbery scenario, he found himself staring at a photo of a suspicious security guard. The man held a cigarette between his thumb and his forefinger, and his head bowed as he flicked ashes to the sidewalk.

He gazed at the photo while Sydney argued with someone on the overlooking level. He mimed the gesture as he traversed possible routes, and that night after Sydney went home, he snuck into the office and found the box of French cigarettes leaning behind a stack of reference books. They weren't right, exactly--the security guard had smoked another brand, Jarod thought--but they had to be close enough.

Sydney carried his lighter in his jacket pocket. Jarod considered the desk a moment, then pulled open the second drawer on the right. He extracted a matchbox, reveled in the scrape of the match against the grainy side.

It took him a couple of minutes to understand the process, and then he smoked until he felt like vomiting.

The next morning, Sydney gave him an extensive lecture on controlled substances, but Jarod had the answers the people upstairs had wanted.

ii. Two baptisms proved nothing

Lyle fumbled as he inhaled smoke, his cigarette slipping between his fingers. He felt ridiculous clutching it like Marlene Dietrich, and maybe he'd rather risk burning his palm on the embers.

Parker paused outside his door, and he collected himself, let the cigarette slide from his fingers into the ashtray as if he didn't care, as if it were trash. "Is there something you need from me?" he asked, and he expected her answer, anticipated the next three answers.

Her eyes lingered on the wisp of smoke rising from his desk. "The only thing I need from you is--" She paused mid-sentence, stopped completely. "Filthy habit, Lyle," she purred.

He blinked, and she stalked forward, lifted the cigarette from its place, to her own lips. She twisted it against her thumb, flicked the ashes with ease. She ground it into the ashtray, and by the time he blinked again, she was walking away.

He didn't realize a file was missing until later that afternoon.

iii. Leaving my hands empty and useless

Broots caught Debbie smoking in the backyard. It was an accident--he wouldn't have found her if he hadn't noticed they were running low on ice cream. He called down the hallway, asked if she wanted him to buy an extra pint of Häagen-Dazs during his lunch break the next day, instead of waiting until the weekend grocery run. When she didn't answer, he knocked on her door, found her bedroom empty, the radio blaring.

He looked out her window, and she was leaning against a tree, smoke pluming from her hand. "Debbie!"

Even through the glass, she must have heard him, because she flinched.

He didn't wait for her to react further. He turned his back, strode towards the back door, feeling ten feet tall and heartbroken. She met him halfway, cigarette disposed, but he could smell the smoke around her like a wreath.

"Where did you get that?" he asked. "What were you thinking? You're just a kid!"

She lifted her chin, and her eyes were all defiance. "This came in the mailbox," she said, and that's when he noticed the manila envelope in her left hand, the flap torn open.

He took it, flipped it over. The postmark was smeared, but it was addressed to her. He slid the contents of the envelope out. Surveillance photographs of Debbie, a dozen of them.

"I found half a pack in the locker room," she muttered, "at school."

He heard her, but only just.

iv. There is no plug to pull

Sydney only smoked in private, and never when he wanted to smoke. He kept one pack of Gitanes Brunes in the glove compartment of his car, and every evening at nine-thirty he shook one loose from the packaging.

The cost of import wasn't much, not compared to the expenses he incurred on a daily basis. Even the subterfuge, as it were, was nothing--an innocuous box shipped to his office, a dozen packets concealed on his bookshelf.

Every evening, he opened the window of his study and watched the lights of airplanes, blinking across the sky. He clutched the cigarette with one hand, and with the other, he extracted Jacob's lighter from his jacket pocket.

He lit it, thumb flicking slowly behind the flame, and he breathed in the smoke, watched it burn to ash.

v. in the mermaid tale beauty only learned silence

Parker knew smoking looked like a nervous habit. People smirked when her fingers trembled, in the moment before she lit up. She knew they turned their eyes away when she let out that low sigh of smoke, right after.

She waited for the disdain, wanted it. It was the most honesty she got from day to day, and it allowed her to judge those who used her, and those who hadn't yet. She kept a detailed list.

Every night, when she wasn't crammed into a plane seat or running down a godforsaken alley, she poured herself a glass of wine and set it on her coffee table. She shuffled through newspaper clippings and coded memos and used an old cereal bowl for an ash tray.

There was a line between driven and pathetic, but on most days, she didn't care where she fell on the continuum. On most days, she wanted to believe one more day would make the difference, and they'd finally let her go.

Every night, she drank the glass before dinner, and if it had been a bad day, she drank it while she made dinner. When it had been a bad day, she boiled angel hair pasta, leaned against the stove and watched the noodles writhe. She poured herself another glass, and remembered everything she had wanted to say.

She waited for her phone to ring and, sometimes, it did.


A/N: Title, summary, and headings adapted from Hannah Leah's Strange Threats of Water Turned Up in Her Cards.

Linked on picfor1000.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 25th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
catching up on my comments...
Thank you!
Feb. 29th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)
Very, very cool! Very in-character for all of them!
Mar. 25th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
catching up on my comments...
Thank you so much!
Feb. 29th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
Nicely done! Got everyones characteristics to the tee.
Mar. 25th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
catching up on my comments...
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.
Feb. 29th, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
Oh, *lovely*. Sharp, smoky (heh) atmosphere, and look at all the *people* you included!

Pretender fic. YAY.
Mar. 25th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
*g* Thank you!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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