Home by planet p

Disclaimer I don't own the Pretender or any of its characters.

Author's Note Some text is repeated from other stories, though it originally came from this story! Please don't report!

Warnings M/M (slash), incest, language.

A guide to recurring Original Characters (and name changes):

Poni, also Chelsea (e.g. from The day job; Once more, for science etc), and Holly (e.g. from Alternate Reality, or Monica's World);

Theresa, also Amanda (e.g. from The day job, Once more, for science etc);

Hyacinth, also Ignacia (from The day job; Once more, for science etc), Lupe (e.g. from Finding Bobby: Book of Monsters and Geniuses), and Perfecta (e.g. from Alternate Reality, or Monica's World).

Ignore this if you want!

It could have been just another business card. An easy shell white, expensive crisp texture, neat gold lettering. Except that it wasn't.

Ethan was carsick. If a card could think, this one would pout and think, Aww… Bleary carsick eyes watched the card. The gold words shifted sharply upon the card, jumpy. Ethan read the words in his head. Where's my Betty? He flipped the card, annoyed. He squinted down at a short sequence of numbers in confusion.

"It's a postal code," Jarod informed him from eyeing the road ahead of him. "Nebraska," he added.

Ethan keyed in the words postal code and then the code and sat back, eyeing the screen. Ethan leant into the laptop and made a face.

Misery NB

The word stared back with an ill satisfaction.

He returned to the search engine and typed in Misery, Nebraska. An index of search results listed themselves down the browser window in order of relevance. He clicked one of the links.

It was a tourism website. The website described Misery as a small farming community.

Ethan pressed the back icon and scrolled down the multitude of listings until he came upon a website of interest. He clicked on the link and frowned at the archiving of an article dated back in the middle late 1970s.

Opposite him, Jarod slipped into a seat.

"What is this about?"

Jarod's eyes found Ethan quickly.

Ethan watched him, his eyes hard, demanding an answer.

It would be no use to try to dodge this. "The card. It's a message."

Ethan laughed shortly.

"Ethan, he knew things," Jarod began.

Ethan did not know what he meant. His toffee eyes said so.

Jarod pulled the laptop around and peered into the screen. He shut his mouth. He said nothing.

"Who?" Ethan asked, uncomfortable. The road ran away behind them.

"I think," Jarod said carefully, "I think it's from Alex."

Ethan made a noise in his throat that might have been laughter.

Alex was dead.

If the tourism website had mentioned dumpy Ethan thought that they would have at least been honest. The road sign announcing the town limits boasted a population of 800. Jarod, of course, had visited before.

Ethan diverted his eyes to the side window and caught sight of the back of the sign. It read: Goodbye to Misery! Welcome to Happiness! F*ck yeah!

To the Driver: PEDAL TO THE METAL!

He laughed silently.

The woman behind the counter squealed as her eyes landed on Jarod. "Agent Cross!" she yelped.

Ethan grimaced in distaste.

Jarod fixed an agreeable look to his face.

"Poni!" the woman chimed, hopeful and embarrassed.

Jarod nodded. "Poni," he repeated. He extended a hand.

Poni hurriedly reached out her own hand and they shook hands.

"It's, ah, it's Jarod actually."

"Oh," Poni said. She shifted behind her counter and then she smiled. "Unofficial business?" she said in a low, knowing voice.

"Ah-" Jarod grinned. "Yeah."

Poni nodded.

Cutter's had been renovated sometime between Jarod's first visit and this second visit. It now featured a second shop-sized room outfitted with tables.

Jarod had taken a table roughly in the middle of the second room.

Ethan sat and wondered if it was possible to be carsick when one was not actually in a car.

Poni arrived with their coffee and promised to be back with their sandwiches.

Jarod nodded and thanked her.

"We were in school together, actually," Poni mentioned, trying very hard to make it a mere passing comment.

Jarod looked into her face.

Poni smiled and bobbed a little. Ethan prayed that she didn't jump up and down on the spot. "Same grade!" she chimed, just as if it were a happy coincidence.

Ethan did not laugh, as much as he found the woman ill-mannered.

Jarod nodded. "I did not know that."

Poni snickered girlishly, or was that supposed some manner of giggle?

Ethan spotted an old woman eyeing them out of the corner of his eye. She took a seat at a table toward the farthest end of the room and by the window. From there she could watch their table, but what made Ethan most uncomfortable was that she could watch him.

Poni gasped and bobbed forward again. "Sunny!" She hurried away to attend the old woman.

Sunny watched her approach and then she frowned semi-critically. "Cute," she said blankly.

Poni bit her lip.

"I know who he is!" Sunny admonished with an almost smile. She tossed her head. "Coffee?"

Sunny tilted her head and fixed Poni with a look. Of course!

Poni crunched up her nose and hurried away again.

"Honey?" Sunny called her back.

Poni turned, blushing, and toddled back to the table.

Sunny pressed a note into her hand. "If Marvin stops in later on today just you treat him a coffee and one of those things from the-" she waved in indication of the cakes and other baked things, "there." Sunny shot her a sharp look. "Don't you be telling him any names now girl." She grinned. "Keep the change or shout yourself a piece of cake, slim thing you."

Poni beamed. She turned on the spot. "You like it?"

Sunny shook her head.

Poni strolled away to make Sunny that coffee.

Sunny settled back in her chair and smiled when she caught Ethan watching her.

"Marvin!" Poni's flighty voice announced in acute horror.

Sunny's eyes got big and she planted her hands over her mouth and slid a little lower in her chair. When she realized that wasn't going to work, she sat up straight and arranged her face into seeming unawareness.

There was some grumbling from the other room.

"You know what?" Poni cried. "It's on the house."

"It's what?"

"It's on the house," Poni said uncertainly.

Marvin hmmed. "What's that for then, girly?"

Poni half-winced at this address and gave two thumbs up. "Customer loyalty!" she chimed.

"Customer loyalty, 'ey?"

Poni smiled. "How about a nice piece of cake with your coffee?" she suggested.

Marvin looked at her with narrowed eyes.

"Go on," Poni encouraged in her best gentle voice.

Marvin tapped on the glass in indication of his choice.

"You just find yourself a table and I'll bring it out to you," Poni told him kindly.

Marvin was, at Ethan's best estimate, Sunny's age, and somewhat overweight. Marvin's little eyes scanned the room and then came to a rest upon Sunny, appearing for all the world as though she were thinking fondly upon a matter of some consideration.

Jarod frowned uncomfortably.

Marvin made a beeline for Sunny's table. "I sit here, ma'am?" he asked in what might have been an attempt at politeness.

Sunny suddenly and inexplicably looked up and noticed him standing there. "Marvin?" she said.

Marvin sat down and grinned. "You don't mind, ma'am?" he said cunningly.

Sunny opened her mouth. "No," she said, saving the breath she had been holding for a long explanation of her disapproval. She shook her head.

Poni nearly dropped the two coffee cups when she saw which table Marvin had chosen. She bobbed as though drawing courage and walked calmly to the table. She placed Sunny's coffee down in front of her. "Here you are."

"Thank you, honey," Sunny replied.

"Marvin," Poni said.

Marvin watched her as she placed his coffee down at the table, waiting to see if she spilled it into the saucer. When she did not he said, "You should get yourself a pretty piece of cake there, Sunny. 'S on the house." He turned and regarded Poni. "Ain't that right enough, girly? Regulars on the house?"

Poni smiled painfully. "Yes, sir."

Marvin grinned.

"Ah." Sunny's voice wavered. "I think I'll pass. I'm watching my waist," she said, placing a hand on her stomach.

Marvin looked at her but did not discern that she had been making any sort of ridicule against his condition. He chuckled. "Nonsense, woman!"

Poni stared at her, her eyes pleading.

Sunny sighed. "Oh, alright!" she burst, sending a smile in Marvin's direction as though to infer that he had convinced her. "The pineapple one."

Poni nodded and spun away from the table. Her eyes looked like saucers as she hurried across the room.

Ethan doubted that she even remembered that Jarod and he were also present in the room as she rushed past. He picked a corner off his sandwich and popped the piece of crust into his mouth with a grin.

Ethan and Jarod finished their sandwiches. Jarod stopped at the counter on the way out. Ethan paused, annoyed. "You were great," Jarod said. "Have a good day."

Poni laughed falteringly. "Nice try, but I don't think so." She smiled. "Thanks all the same," she said, and waved her fingers at Ethan.

Jarod grinned.

"Come again soon!" she called, leaning over the counter.

Jarod looked around at Ethan.

Ethan frowned, annoyed.

Jarod laughed.

Ethan crossed his arms. He knew what Jarod was thinking and he didn't think so. Poni did not have a thing for him.

The pair took a walk around town. Later they drove out to the lake out past the town limits that was in actual fact a dam.

Ethan stared at the two picnic tables, the plate announcing that some kid had drowned herself in the lake back in the 50s, a couple of signs. "Prime tourist attraction, this is!" he declared.

Jarod shot him a look.

Ethan looked away from him and trudged off toward the pier. "Dumb dumpy bumpkin village!"

Jarod drove out to the nearest neighbouring town, a good 50 minutes. When he returned to Misery it was past dark. He booked a motel room at the one motel in town and sat down with his laptop.

Jarod frowned and glanced across the room to where Ethan was sleeping. He shut his laptop and rubbed his face, tired. He lay back on his bed and stared up at the ceiling.

It wasn't really right, dragging Ethan to this place.

The little girl screamed. The stuffed penguin grew steadily closer. He landed with a flop and a dull thud behind the little girl. She spun abruptly and stooped to snatch the penguin.

Lyle smiled, patted her nose.

"Is he scared, daddy?" the little girl asked, dropping her three-year-old chin onto the stuffed penguin squashed to her chest.

Lyle looked at the sky for a moment, considering. "Nah," he said, only pretend serious.

The little girl made a face. She threw the penguin into the air and screamed, and then she smiled.

The little girl sat in the corner, knees drawn to her chest. Her penguin lay on the floor across the room. She gazed at the stuffed animal with her too big brown eyes, but did not move.

She seemed to come to a decision and pushed herself to her feet and ran to the penguin and snatched him up and squashed him. She ran the rest of the way to the bed and pulled herself up and crawled across the mattress.

"Sydney's scared," she said, hugging Lyle. "Daddy, don't. Please stop, daddy."

If, by this point, you are worried – Do not read on!!! Thanks for reading!