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Disclaimer: We all know who owns 'em, and it certainly isn't me. Also, I have to apologize to KB and Danielle :-) for this - I just couldn't resist. I'm coming down off a stress high (flute recital today...), so I'm in a bit of a strange mood....

Pretender Payback
by KB

Jarod heaved a sigh of relief and slipped under the hot water. Taking a breath, he put his head under the full force and enjoyed the feeling of the water on his back. However, glancing aside as he stepped from under the pressure, he stared at the female figure sitting on a chair in the small room.

"What do you…Are you…Why did…"

"Oh, for…Jarod, calm down. I only want to talk."

"Couldn’t you have given me a little warning?" He looked about for the other omnipresent members of the group but, as the light stayed on, he found himself, surprisingly, believing her.

"Like the little warning you give people before you spring surprises on them? Hey, at least I waited until you were coming in out of the pool. A few more minutes and…"

"Okay, I get the idea! Now, what do you want?"

"I have an offer for you."

Jarod’s narrowed as he turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. The writer handed him a towel, trying to keep her eyes politely averted, but couldn’t help glancing over - once...or twice.

"You want to make a deal?"

"If that’s the way you want to think of it, yes."

"No deal."

The writer laughed. "Wouldn’t it be advantageous to wait and hear the conditions I’ve got to offer you?"

He snorted but didn’t reply.

"Okay, it’s this. I want you to work with us. Be a part of our group. We’ve discovered how useful Kyle and the others are for getting characteristics right, and we want you to have the same opportunities. You know," she continued conversationally, swinging one leg over the other and hugging her knee, "there are a lot of people disputing over the best way to portray you in their stories. And there are some real shockers out there, believe me." She shook her head and laughed.

"And what do I get out of this?" He asked, coldness edging his tones, but the writer could tell that he was intrigued.

"Simple. We don’t torture you with our presence, in quite the same way. I mean, you’re at our beck and call when we need a hand…"

Jarod looked at her, curiosity written all over his face. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Remember the rating." Jarod scowled and turned away to look in the mirror.

The writer came to stand behind him, her head appearing over his shoulder, although she did not share his height.

"And then, of course, you can help us torture the others. I mean, you’ve always wanted a chance for revenge. I’m offering you the best chance you’ve had in years."

He stared at his reflection for several seconds. Then slowly, he began to laugh. Finally he turned back to the writer, waiting patiently at his elbow.

"Okay, let’s do it."

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