Play Pretend
by Melanie-Anne

He was smiling as he opened the front door to his house and stepped inside. His smile faded, his instincts kicking in, as he realized the house shouldn't have been this dark. He'd left the porch light on, as well as a lamp in the living room.

The scent of cigarette smoke lingered in the air, a brand he was familiar with, one he'd breathed in almost every day for four years. He tensed even more and wished he hadn't allowed himself to become so careless, to have been lulled into believing this was really his life.

("You're a pretender too," she had once told him. "We both are. We pretend all the time.")

He let the door swing closed. If he was going to die, this was a fitting place; a community built on secrets and lies, much like everything else in his life. No wonder he'd adapted so well; secrets and lies were part of his DNA.

A lamp in the corner flickered on, bathing the room in warm light. She was sitting on an armchair, her legs crossed, a gun leveled on him. She was smiling, her lips curved in a cruel, red line.

He feigned non-surprise, leaning nonchalantly against the closed door. "Hello, Parker."

Her smile widened fractionally before disappearing completely. She flicked the gun onto safety then laid it on the coffee table. "Interesting life you have here," she paused, "Mike."

He held her gaze, then lifted a shoulder unapologetically. No doubt she knew the real Mike Delfino was long dead and buried. Lyle had always been good covering his tracks, but the Centre had ways of finding out everything. He wasn't really worried; if the Centre wanted to kill him he'd already be dead.

"It's good to see you again, Sis."

"Is it?" She stood, and he could see she had changed in the months he'd been gone. She was thinner, harder, and there was an edge to her that was new.

He liked it.

"Your girlfriend not spending the night? You're losing your touch."

He moved towards her, a moth to a flame, and wasn't sure which of them would end up burned. "Susan?"

"She's not your usual taste. Don't tell me you're turning into Jarod now, drawn to the helpless damsel in distress."

He stopped and narrowed his eyes at her. "She's just a friend, Parker." He lowered his voice. "Don't compare me to Jarod. We're nothing alike."

She walked past him into the kitchen, and went straight for the cupboard holding the liquor with a casualness that suggested this was not the first time she had been in his house. Again, he cursed himself for not being on guard.

("Jarod's going to end up insane, you know." She glanced at him through a haze of cigarette smoke.


"One of these days he's going to forget he's just pretending.")

"Can you see yourself here forever, Lyle?" She poured a drink for each of them, then handed him a glass. "When you get tired of this, then what?"

The alcohol burned down his throat. He emptied his glass, then put it down on the counter. "I'm bored."

She nodded, moving towards him until their hips touched. "So am I."

"Our mother was here. Did you know that?"

Her hand froze midway between the counter and her mouth. She stared at Lyle, unblinking, until he took the glass from her fingers and placed it next to his. Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips and she cleared her throat before speaking. "Doing - doing what?"

"Rescuing children. What else would she be doing?"


He nodded in the direction of the street but kept his eyes on her, conscious of the way her pulse throbbed in her neck, of the warmth of her hip against his. "Lynette."

"Is she a threat?"

"No." His blood hummed in his veins, a sensation he recognized. One felt either during sex or a kill. Neither really an option when it came to his sister.

("The prophecies are true," she said. They were in their father's office. The man they'd believed to be their father. Mr. Parker. Another lie.

"Of course they're true." He stood at the window and looked out at the ocean. Somewhere out there, their not-father was.

"We're the future of the centre, Lyle. You and I.")

Lyle didn't believe in God or heaven and hell. He knew the good guys didn't always win, and he didn't really care. Mike Delfino would not be standing in his kitchen thinking about taking his sister to bed, but Lyle was not Mike Delfino, and he was glad.

He slipped an arm around Parker's waist and pulled her closer. Lowering his mouth to her neck, he tasted smoke and sweat and something that was uniquely, familiarly, Parker.

"When are you coming back?" she asked.

"When I get tired of the game."

"Bastard." She pushed him away. "And in the meantime, are you going to fuck little Susan?"

He chuckled. "Jealous, Sis?"

"Your talents are wasted in this town. We - the Centre needs you. Raines is on his way out. You could have everything, and yet here you are, fixing drains."

He grabbed her wrist, rougher than before. She smiled, and he thought, so that's how she wants to play it. She put her free hand to the back of his neck and pulled his head to hears, their mouths crashing together.

The phone rang. Cursing, Lyle pulled away and answered it. "Delfino."

"Mike, it's Susan! I just wanted to, you know, I had a really great time tonight."

His eyes were on Parker. "I had a great time too."

"Well, that's great. Umm, anyway, it's Julie's birthday this weekend, and we were thinking of taking her out with a couple of friends. Only Carl's coming along, and, umm, I was wondering-"

"I'd love to join you." His grip on Parker's wrist tightened as she tried to pull away.

"Great. Well, I guess I'll see you then."

"Sure. Goodnight." He hung up without waiting for her response.

Parker laughed and pulled herself free. "When you're tired of playing pretend, you know where to find me."

She returned to the living room, tucked her gun in its holster, and picked up her jacket.



"Goodnight, Parker."

She said nothing as she slipped out the back door and disappeared into the night.

Lyle finished Parker's drink, then sat in the chair she'd occupied earlier. One of these days Jarod was sure to show up - a housewife committing suicide out of the blue, of course Jarod would come running - and Lyle would be waiting.

Once Jarod was dead, Lyle could go home and everything would fall into place.

Just as the prophecy had predicted.


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