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Gwendolyn Stewart

A romance novelist with empathic abilities.

0 · 1,056 views · located in Present Day

a character in “The Other Kind of Roommate”, as played by Ten

Description

Name: Gwendolyn Stewart
Age: 25
Gender: Female
Bio: A romance novelist who has experienced moderate success and she is busy trying to write the next big thing to wow her fans and her publisher. A typical shut-in with nosy tendencies, she also possesses some empathic ability that she cannot control.

So begins...

Gwendolyn Stewart's Story

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#, as written by Ten
Gwen sat down smoothly at her computer with the nice warm cup of coffee she'd just finished brewing, breathing out a pleasant sigh as the warm aroma filled her nose. Gently, she swiped away the dust on the keyboard of her laptop, the black squares and white letters gleaming up at her like new through the cloud of gray particles. The screen shone at her with it's own inner light, a stark, mechanical brightness compared to the warm glow of the sun drifting through her window. Upon it there was a blank document, the small cursor blinking and waiting for her hands to fill the page with words.

Excitement coursed through her veins as her bright blue eyes regarded the screen with a familiar look of determination, her hands settling upon the keyboard like spiders poised and ready to attack. A romance novelist, Gwen Stewart had experienced success not only in the small circles of the genre but beyond to the mainstream. Not the typical trash that others wrote, there was something unique about her series of books that touched the hearts of not only romantics but those who were more interested in more cerebral plots. The Nightshade series of books were her first books ever published and had instantly boosted her to higher status within the written world. Of course, there were those who didn't like her writing and she wasn't exactly famous at all, compared to others who had become household names, but she'd reached success and gone beyond the expected formula of the genre she had chosen, touching in the fantasy and the horror as well.

It had been several months since she'd published the last book of the series and now her editor was looking at her, expecting her to dish out something just as fantastic. For 6 months after however, Gwen found herself sort of burnt out on the old success. After staying with the series for 5 long novels, she found it hard to break away from those familiar characters and the world they called home. But it was done and the story had reached a final conclusion. If she continued it, it would only be dragging it on needlessly. And besides that, she was a bit tired with it and needed something new to focus on now. Something fresh.

It was easier said than done however and she struggled to find the Muse that would vault her into that pleasurable world of writing again. Part of it was the shadow of Nightshade hanging over her still, but it was also the pressure of her publicist waiting with open arms and a "Gimme! Gimme!" expression on his face. For months she remained silent, sidestepping his calls politely with promises that the idea would come to her eventually and finally it had. At the beginning of this week, she'd felt a tickling inside of her, an idea that started to form. For the past few days, she'd avoided her computer or even thinking about it as she played with the idea and let the story develop, characters fleshing out in her mind and growing more solid. Now, she was ready to start, unable to hold it off any longer.

With her hands on the keyboard like this, it felt so good, like shaking hands or greeting an old friend. Her fingers tapped upon the keys wildly, the spiders' legs dancing with a light mechanical clicking sound, only pausing once or twice in the frantic beat to press the backspace when she wanted to alter a path. She didn't even stop when she took a sip of her coffee, working with one hand busily flying across the keyboard making up for the lost companion but unable to stop the flow.

"His heart pounded heavily in his chest as he watched her she jogging along the winding path. Sunlight glistened upon her blonde hair turning it into burnished gold that flickered and winked as she passed in and out of the shade of the trees that lined the path. Her muscles bunched within her calves and shoulders as she bounded upon the crumbling asphalt, her sneakers barely making a sound except for a light tap to account for her lithe frame. Other runners and bikers had passed by every day as he read upon the bench, but he'd paid them no mind. Nothing but shadows surrounded him, vague concepts of flesh and bone and blood. But she'd been different. She'd--"

Gwen jumped in her seat as a loud and heavy crash came from next door, her heart trying to break through her chest with a battering ram as her bright blue gaze stared wide eyed at the wall to her right, her body rigid and frozen as she stared and waited for another sound. Slowly she calmed herself and shook her head in distaste and turned back to her computer, biting her plush full lips for a moment before settling back into the groove. Several moments later however she was interrupted again by the sounds from her neighbors house, breaking glass heard muffled through the walls and the voice of her neighbor saying something unintelligible in an angry tone.

Groaning, she ran her hands through her long, wavy brown hair trying to return to her work while the Muse still tickled inside her mind and the words still flowed from her fingers. But ignoring the racket from next door was a lot harder than she thought and she found herself slowing until her fingers were no longer moving, just waiting for the damned idiot to shut up. Finally, she just sat supporting her chin in her palm staring at the words upon the screen and occasionally casting an annoyed glare at the wall separating her apartment from the man who lived next door. With a bitter sigh, she picked up her coffee cup and started to drink the still heated liquid when another large bang and a yell startled her. Except this time when she jumped, she was holding something and hot coffee splashed upon her keyboard and laptop screen.

"Shit!" she said in dismay as she set the coffee mug aside and hurriedly tried to clean it up, her hands moving frantically to pick up an old sweater close by and starting to dab the keys to pick up the moisture. It was only a few seconds later when the liquid seeped below the keys and deeper into the computer, that the screen suddenly went blank before her eyes. "No! Nonononononononono!" her efforts became more frantic as she tried to restore the computer to health and failed miserably. With an exasperated breath she sat back in her seat and looked at the darkened screen in despair. It was only then that she became aware that the sounds from next door had died down and she gritted her straight teeth angrily. Now? NOW he decided to be quiet? After it didn't matter any more and a whole 6 pages were lost???

Rising from her seat, she walked into her bedroom and put on a blue, close-fitting sweatshirt over her white tank top, and then with determination in her eyes and her chin set stubbornly she left her own apartment and stalked over to the door next to hers in the dimly lit hallway. Pounding against it as hard as she could with the side of her fist, she waited for him to answer. After several moments of silence she pounded some more even harder this time, muttering under her breath. "Come on, you fucker," she whispered through gritted teeth before pounding impatiently again, seemingly taking some of her anger out upon his door.

When the door opened, she didn't even wait to look at him before vaulting right into her rant. "Listen, I don't know what problem you're having and I'm sure they have medication for it but you need to..." Her voice dwindled and the rage blazing within her eyes faded as she got a look at his face. "Jesus..." she murmured, her gaze fluttering over the swollen bruises. It only occurred to her then that the sounds she heard could have been from a struggle. "What happened?" Casting a furtive look beyond him to the room she couldn't see because of his body obscuring her vision, she whispered, "Do you want me to call the police?"

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Immediately something tingled on her skin as the man, her neighbor, began to speak, the words coming out in a broken uneven mess as if he were using them for the first time with another person around and searching frantically for the appropriate tone. What would otherwise seem like a man caught off guard by her beauty and thus been amusing to watch, instead made her feel suspicious, especially with the excuse he came up with. Something just didn't feel right here but she couldn't put her finger on what exactly was wrong with the situation.

Even as she waited patiently and more of his story was revealed, her eyes widened and then narrowed at different parts, skepticism painted upon every smooth feature as it bloomed into being upon her face. Thinking over the noises she'd heard, she was still trying to search her memory for any other voices because she was almost certain now that he wasn't in there alone and was covering someone else's ass. This suspicion was confirmed a moment later when he excused himself for a moment and then retreated back into his room, quickly closing the door behind himself. Nosy as she was, Gwen moved her head closer to the door and heard his voice, muffled through the wood, whispering angrily at someone. The other person might have been too quiet for her to hear, but the tingling started up in the silence between his words, so bad that she scratched her forearm light and quick to get rid of the vibrational itch.

As she heard the door knob turn she stepped back into her spot about a foot or so from the door as his face reappeared in the space between door and frame and he uttered a curt, succinct explanation that urged her to leave. However, despite how weird this was and the feeling in her gut, Gwen was still pissed off by what he'd made her do to her computer. He'd basically stolen a blissful 90 minutes of her morning and destroyed her laptop. The least she could do was return a bit of the favor and waste some of his time. If there were people in there beating on him who might be angered by the delay she was creating, all the better.

Folding her arms and lightly scratching her arm again, she gave him a level look. "Renovating, huh?" she said with doubt dripping from her voice. "Is that how you got that black eye? Or did that happen before you decided to break shit and knock down walls for mommy and daddy's visit? Does Arthur Crags know about this? If you haven't told the landlord what you're doing, you can get your ass sued. I'm not saying I'm a snitch, but just letting you know, it means more than a simple eviction if you're caught doing work on these apartments without permission." A light shown in her eye then, hinting at her plan to give the landlord a call after she was done here, even though she doubted her neighbor was really renovating at all. Even if he was, Mr. Crags was not the type of man to allow that in his building and it filled her with a sense of delight to imagine him coming up here blustering and angry, shouting abuse at this man who'd wrecked her morning.

With a sigh her eyes left him and she looked at the floor for a moment before training her eyes upon him again. "Look, if you're going to be doing any more "renovating" I'd appreciate you letting me know so that I don't end up wasting my time. I'm very busy and I don't have the patience to come over here to reprimand you every time I need to get something done. So just cut the shit out and let people know before you decide it's "hammer time" or to give yourself punching lessons or whatever. Other people live here besides you."

She took a breath and from the look on his face she could tell he was practically dying for her to leave and she'd finally run out of things to say. Gwen gave him one more warning look and turned to walk back to her apartment.

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#, as written by Ten
Back in her apartment, Gwen closed the door with a silent sigh and stood for a few moments just staring into space, her mind still thinking over the strange meeting. Shaking herself out of it, she walked straight to her phone and picked it up, starting to dial the landlord's number to tattle on the freak that lived next door. She stopped mid-button push when she heard the man next door yelp about someone hurting him, her eyes going wide as she looked at the wall that separated them. As his door slammed shut, her finger moved of it's own accord to turn the phone off. Moving quickly and silently, she walked over to the wall and bit her lip as she pressed her face against it, listening intently to the muffled conversation. Again, she thought she could hear him talking angrily to someone, but she could not hear the other person. Where there should have been a response, there was silence and it made her shiver involuntarily every time he paused.

Even as thin as the walls were, she could only hear an occasional word and couldn't make much sense of the half-heard conversation he was having with himself. What she did happen to hear was a tad unsettling and she began to think that maybe he was in there by himself. That the reason she couldn't hear anybody else was because nobody else was talking. At least not for her ears. Her mind started to buzz with the possibilities, even as her body shivered at every silence and she strained to catch every word of his lonely conversation.

"Rrrrraaaaaaaape!" his voice yelled clear as day through the wall, making Gwen's eyebrows furrow in irritation. Ugh! The stupid asshole! He was obviously messing with her. With an angry thump of her wrist on the wall, she shook her head and walked away, washing her hands of the incident and the man's continued insanity.

Washing out her dishes from this morning's coffee, she tried to forget about the stupid man and his "renovating", eventually needing to turn on her television to distract herself and stop eavesdropping. Making herself up some homemade fried rice and chicken for dinner, she sat down to eat and watch mind-numbing reality shows. After a while, she looked forlornly at her dead laptop and realized she really should be getting back to work on her new book. But she dragged her feet about it, still feeling disheartened from losing the brilliance she'd typed up this morning, and began washing the dishes from dinner and cleaning the kitchen before she finally sat down at her desk with a notepad and a pencil.

After a few moments of sitting in silence, staring at the thin blue lines on white background, she glanced over at the wall between her and her neighbor. Walking over, she put her head against the wall briefly, before shaking her head and mumbling to herself, walking back towards her desk. But instead of sitting down, she walked over to her easy chair and began to scoot it near the wall, struggling to keep it quiet as she set it in front of the windows on the adjacent wall. She sat in it for several moments, tapping her pencil on the notepad in her lap and finally got up to scoot it over to the wall of her neighbor's apartment, pressing the back of the chair against it.

Settling down in her seat, she listened quietly for anything, but after a few moments, began to scrawl quickly upon the page in front of her.

"Was it mental illness? Were there really two people over there, but only physically one? Had her neighbor been possessed by demons? She didn't know, but could not shake the feeling that something terrible was happening to Mr.--"

It was only then that she paused and realized that she didn't know the man's name and had failed to give him hers. Late into the night, she continued to write, occasionally looking at the wall or stopping her busy hand when she thought she heard something. Every small sound caused her to pause, her ears hanging over the stillness, drinking it all in, waiting for more to be said and more ideas for her new plot to be revealed.

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#, as written by Ten
"He sat alone in his dark and wrecked apartment, filled with grief after she'd gone, yearning for human contact but afraid of what his other side might do. He'd barely restrained it and kept it in check as it was. And if she knew, she would no doubt shun him and deny him the desires of his heart. He couldn't take that kind of rejection, and it was quite possible it would send the other personality into a rage. So, he stayed, in the dark alone, pining for her from afar never to let her know his true feelings lest he reveal his other side. Little did he realize that she had noticed him and was hanging on his every whispered word through the barrier that separated them, eager to be let into his world, to be shown his true and dark side. If only she knew that the darkness that possessed his soul would consume..."

Gwen's hand slowed as she heard his voice beyond the wall and her body froze to listen, needlessly shushing the dripping of her faucet as she tried to hang on his every word, only hearing about half of them. What was he talking about now? She stayed perfectly still, finding that it worked better than wasting her time getting up and pressing herself to the wall every time, usually causing her to miss something by the time her ear was in place and it didn't make much difference with the sound anyways.

"... you make up your mind? Should I be worried about...? I'm being hunted...." She leaned back inch by inch getting as close to the wall as she could without moving too much or making too much soft noises with her clothes to cover his voice. And her eyes widened at that last part. Hunted? Was he an escaped mental patient? Who was after him? Already her mind was working on ways to incorporate this into the character she'd created, Mr. Steven Diaz and his other, evil side Mordeth. She was busily writing down the ideas before they left her, hearing even less of the conversation above the scratching of her pencil across the paper.

So, you're being hunted by...an evil doctor who works at the insane asylum you were admitted to. But instead of helping patients, he's actually into the occult and using the bodies of his patients to house demons. All of them have died because of the stress the other worldly spirits put upon their bodies. Except you, Mr. Diaz.
Her internal dialogue intoned as she wrote, a small smile curving on her lips as the ideas flowed from her fingers.

When she heard the door in the next apartment open, she stopped, at first unsure of what exactly that noise had been having not heard the door shut behind him. Breaking her rule, she got up on her knees on the chair's cushion, facing the wall, her cheek pressed against it and listening intently. But she couldn't hear anything. Had he fallen? Had he left? What was going on? Where had her Muse gone?

When the knock came against her door, she jumped and stared at it as if it were an alien creature she'd never seen before. Shaking her head she quickly jumped up and ran to the door, her eye instantly fitting snugly against the peep hole. Seeing the distorted form of her neighbor standing before it, she quickly ducked her head below the tiny hole, her hand covering her mouth to stop her from choking aloud. She stood like that, huddled against her door for several moments, hearing his characteristic murmuring on the other side, before she peeked up into the hole again, pressing her lips together anxiously.

For several moments, she contemplated pretending she wasn't here, but there was another part of her that was eager to figure out why he was here. She'd already decided when she'd started writing that if he didn't leave his apartment by tomorrow night, she was going to go over there again and introduce herself. Possibly follow him if he ever did leave and stalk him for a bit. For her writing of course. Now, it would seem he was making the first move and she wouldn't have to. To deny the opportunity to speak with him face to face again, after the inspiration he'd given her the first time would be foolish.

Clearing her throat, she stepped back from the door and adjusted herself, considering putting on her sweatshirt again, but decided against it. She didn't look too bad, just sort of casual in her white tank top and weathered jeans, both snugly fitting her thin curves. Adjusting her long, wavy hair on her shoulders, she stepped forward and opened the door. Blue eyes blinked in a bit of surprise as her gaze took him in for a third time and she got a better look at his full body this time. Trailing down, she quirked an eyebrow as she saw the pizza box, her eyes zooming back up to his face in a bored fashion. "More renovating?" she asked with a quirk of her lips, referring to her previous rant where she'd asked him to tell her when he'd be banging around in the future.

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When he spoke, Gwen tried to act normal and set herself at ease, even though she felt slightly guilty from eavesdropping on him all evening and anxious that he somehow knew about it. But as he continued to talk, she realized that wasn't the problem. There was something...different about the way he spoke to her now as opposed to when they'd talked earlier. He was full of confidence and every word came out smooth and quick, seemingly unhindered by a need for appearances or trying to impress her. He just was. The way he held himself now had a certain magnetism that both drew her in and repelled her. But she couldn't deny, he was acting completely different from the way he had before and it put her on edge.

So, her eyes watched him closely making note of every small flicker of emotion on his face and trying to ignore the feeling pacing in her gut. Even as closely as she was watching and listening to him, it still came as a surprise to her when he mentioned his roommate. Wha? was all she could think as she stared at him a bit wide eyed, blinking a few times to shake the surprised look from her face. As he went on, she tried to get her mind working again and blushed as several realizations hit her.

Of course! It all made sense now! There WAS someone else in there with him, someone temperamental and snobby it seemed. THAT was probably why he was acting differently now. He didn't have the other guy hanging over him ready to start another argument. Letting out a small sigh, she shook her head and focused back on the man standing in front of her, feeling for all the world like a complete idiot for all the stupid assumptions she'd made. But still, when she looked up into his brown eyes, she couldn't shake that feeling from before, even as she chided herself for being silly. It's over now. Let it go. There's no mystery and he's not hiding a split personality, so just cut it out. As she continued to listen to him however, she couldn't help searching his eyes looking for that "other thing" as her intuition whispered at her shoulder, it could be a cover-up. Afterall, you've been listening all day and haven't heard one peep of someone else.

When he mentioned the pizza, her eyes drifted back down to the box and returned to his face without moving her head and she couldn't help the smile tugging at the corner of her lips as he invited her to Starbucks with him. No, of course, of course it wasn't a date. That would definitely be too forward. Just a friendly, "I'm sorry my roommate and I argue too loud and violent" coffee. Of course.

She'd already decided to say yes, when the uneasy feeling that had been coursing through her suddenly vanished and she looked up at him to see the man who had answered the door just a few hours ago. Her smile slowly faded as his uncertain speech came tumbling out and the suspicious look was back on her face. Instantly, she covered it up and filled the silence between them with polite niceties.

"Sure," she said, her hand drifting out and opening the lid of the pizza box. "I'll be there. And if you don't show, I'll just come and beat your roommate's ass for you." Her oceanic gaze twinkled suggestively, even as her tone hinted at a playful jab at his masculinity, and she reached into the box and took out a slice of pineapple pizza. "Thanks," she said motioning with the pizza and taking a bite of it as she stepped back and closed the door, locking it behind herself.

Immediately, her eye went to the peep hole and she watched him from it, idly eating the "peace offering".

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Her open eye blinked and the smile touching her lips spread as she finished chewing the bite of pizza, hearing his muffled words and seeing his lips move to form them. It filled her with a wave of triumph to see him talk to himself, but at the same time she couldn't help clicking her tongue in amusement at how cute he was. So amazed that he got the girl to say yes to a date with him. Too bad she had ulterior motives about the whole thing. He wasn't a bad guy, just too weird for her tastes. She'd humor him for as long as it benefited her and her new book.

As he turned away she did as well, walking into her kitchen and putting the pizza away for later, humming to herself pleasantly until she realized she was doing it and told herself to stop. With a sigh, she glanced into her living room at the empty loveseat near the wall and the pad of paper she'd been using and turned out the light before heading to her bedroom down the short hallway.

Relaxed and calm, she got herself ready for bed, brushing her teeth and washing her face, then slipping her jeans off and burrowing under the covers of her queen-sized bed. Rolling over once, she thought she heard a thump come from next door, but she stayed still and listened, silence filling the air before she let out a breath and laid back down. Later on as she was floating above sleep, she thought she heard a muffled yell from his apartment, but it wasn't loud enough to rouse her from the sleep that was pulling her under quickly.

As she drifted off to dreamland, her thoughts ran over the events of the day and she was placed within the fantasy world of her Nightshade books. Except it was more like a nightmare. All of her characters were there but the things they said and the way everything was playing out was like a campy, poorly made, family-themed, fantasy movie. Horrified, she tried to get the "actors" to play their parts right, but they insisted it was the way they had been written. At one point she came upon the faceless director sitting in his little fold-up chair and in a rage she began choking him to death while muttering every curse she could think of and several that didn't make conscious sense.

Morning light started to peek over the horizon, turning the sky a light purple and dimly illuminating her room, before she was finally roused from deep slumber, having been completely oblivious to any more noise from the apartment next door. Shaking her head clear of the dream she'd had, she stretched and moaned sleepily before her eyes popped open and she hopped from bed, running the length of her apartment to the wall between her and her neighbor. Breathing heavily, she tucked her hair behind her ears and put her head against it to see if he was up yet and if anything, what he had to say to himself this morning.

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At first it was hard to get back into the mode she was in yesterday, her breathing coming out noisily before she calmed it and her restless body stopped moving, every little twitch of her limbs making a sound that inhibited her hearing anything from the next room. So, it took a little while for her to adjust to being able to catch anything. Immediately she could already tell he was stirring within, hearing that familiar voice muffled and seemingly conversing with empty air. Her little snort of victory was cut short when she heard the voice of another and she gasped, her blue eyes blinking wide as she listened to the conversation of the two men.

Again, the words drifted to her with whatever syllables were emphasized, leaving the rest sliding past like someone mumbling half their sentences. Her brows furrowed as she stepped away from the wall, frowning to herself and feeling a bit dismayed by this discovery. I guess...someone else really does live there with him. Ignoring the uneasy feeling and doubt that continued to pester her, she wandered away from the wall, rushing to get ready for the day.

In the bathroom, she went about her morning routine, jumping in the shower and washing up quickly, her long hair that reached to the middle of her back taking about 3 minutes longer than the rest of her body did. Stepping from the bathroom, a fuzzy, sky blue towel wrapped around her body, she proceeded to the bedroom and got into her clothes. Looking through her closet she debated with herself for several minutes about what would be appropriate. In his own words, it wasn't a date, so nothing fancy; she moved half the hangers off to the side, eliminating them from consideration. But she felt it wasn't exactly casual either; again, the row of clothes was halved and shoved aside, leaving at least 30 shirts, pants and skirts to be weighed in this situation. She wanted to look nice enough to keep his interest but not overly provocative to accidentally scare him off.

Finally, she selected a clean white, button-up blouse and a black skirt that ended above her knees with a flowing hem. It was a nice outfit, classy, but not something she'd wear to dinner or anything. More like office chique. And she would wear the skirt without tights, emphasizing the informality of it. Removing her towel, she slipped into some thin black panties and bra before pulling on the skirt. Shirtless, she walked into the bathroom and tied up her still damp hair, finishing the rest of her hygiene ritual. With her makeup on--modest, and practically nude, with just a hint of eyeliner and blush--she went back to the bedroom and put on her shirt.

Just as she'd finished buttoning the last button, leaving the dip of her cleavage hinted at in the opening, she heard the knock on her door. Walking over to the main room, she opened it and smiled at him. "Hi, I'm almost ready," she said pleasantly, not overly friendly, her blue eyes looking him over quickly. "Come on in. I'll be just a minute." She opened the door wider to admit him, gesturing out loosely with her arm to indicate the main room. "Make yourself at home. Although--no 'renovating', please." The quirky smile came easily to her lips at their shared joke and it lit up her eyes to an almost frosted blue.

The door to the apartment opened up into an open space comprised of the living room and dining room/kitchen area. Off to the left against the far wall was a medium sized entertainment center, a burgundy colored wood with a 20" television sitting in the middle. Facing it, in the middle of the floor and seated on a darkly colored rug was a tan, velvet couch, still in pretty nice shape. Then in the middle of the room directly across from the door was a comfortable writing desk, facing the windows against that wall, the curtains a dark red color, matching well with the wood of the entertainment center. And off to the left, the room was split in two by an island counter top, behind it on the same wall as the door, a kitchen set with oven, stovetop, sink, and a modest metal refrigerator. On the other side of the counter was a small table, big enough for two and two chairs at either end of it. And against the right wall was still pressed her large, beige loveseat, the notepad having been picked up and tucked away earlier. In the living room area against the left wall was a door that led to the bathroom, and the wall cut off, leading down a short hallway with a door against the wall leading into her bedroom.

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After he passed the threshold, she closed the door and left him, walking down the hallway to her bedroom where she kept her jewelry and shoes. Despite her laid-back demeanor, she was a little nervous having him in her house, this strange man she barely knew. Slipping on her black sandal high-heels, she picked out some short, silver dangling earrings, small and modest, and left her hair up in a bun as she left the room. Walking back into the main room, she was still putting on one of her earrings as he asked the question about breakfast.

She made a mental note to herself that his voice had changed again to that more wobbly, uncertain tone and she began to wonder if the change was intentional or was it really a manifestation of this separate personality. Was he playing some sort of game to unsettle her? Only then did it occur to Gwen to wonder what he wanted. She knew what she was getting out of talking and being around him...but he'd been the one to start it. Was it just that she was another pair of pants to get into or was he after something more? Why go through all the trouble of adopting different tones and seemingly different personalities just to get her in bed? If that was his intent, he was sucking at it, because if it weren't for her own desire to study him, she would not have even considered talking to him again, let alone invite him into her house and go on a pseudo-date with him.

"Really?" she asked as she walked into the bathroom and left the door open so she could talk to him. "The bacon smelled good from over here." Looking in the mirror she pretended to put on some lip gloss and surreptitiously watched him from the reflection. "I may get something to eat at the coffee shop. Depends on what they offer. It's been a while since I've been out to eat anywhere." Finished with the facade of applying lip gloss, she looked at herself once more in the mirror and left the room, leaving the door slightly ajar.

Approaching the counter with a sauntering gait, she smiled to herself as he revealed his name. So "Steven" was really Alex. All at once, she found herself growing fond of it, moreso than the name she'd chosen for his character and internally snapped her fingers when she realized she couldn't use it for him. Well, maybe a character in the future sometime would bear his namesake. Picking her purse up off the counter, she opened it and made sure her wallet and keys were inside. "My name is Gwen," she said as she looped the strap over her shoulder, her eyes meeting his with a smile. "Alright, let's go." Opening the door, she offered him to go out first.

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Closing her door and locking it, she felt a chill run through her as she heard him murmur to himself, carrying on a conversation right while she was standing less than a foot away from him! And she wasn't even saying anything. Clearing her throat, she tried to ignore him as she pulled and turned the handle testing whether it was really locked, giving him plenty of time to knock off the creepy shit before she stood up straight and turned to him. At the first thumps, her eyes widened and immediately zoomed past him to look at his door just a few feet down the hall.

Before she could say anything about it however, that smooth suave voice came slithering out quickly, sufficiently distracting her as she once again looked at him. "Well, I..." she started, casting another glance at his door before deciding to ignore it. Gwen's attention was so divided that she found herself talking to him as if she wanted him to know things about her, forgetting momentarily, in her curiosity, that she may want to hold things back lest this psycho project of hers backfire. "I grew up in this neighborhood, just a few blocks from here. Moved away for a bit in a beach house by the sea but I...missed it...here..." Her voice trailed off as she once again found herself staring at his door as more thumping emitted from the room beyond.

The nervous voice was back as he urged her to walk with him. Obviously he'd heard the sounds too and was attempting to distract her from it. Ignoring the feeling in her gut and a little voice inside that kept screaming to her words like "kidnapper", "rapist" and "body found in a ditch off the side of the road with unidentifiable features", she nodded and tried her best to ignore the sounds too as she started to walk beside him. However, she could not help the wild look she gave him when she heard the voice speak from within the room as they were passing by his door.

Instantly, she identified it as the voice she'd heard speak before, and slowly nodded after he spoke, giving him a sideways look as more thumps came from his apartment. In a way, it...kind of made sense; his roommate was the noisy one who had a bad temper and a messed up sense of humor and here he was, making noise and poorly delivered jokes. Walking ever further into this lion's den, she cast one more glance at the apartment door and sighed before proceeding further down the hallway towards the stairs. As they descended, she glanced at him furtively with a wry twist of her mouth and decided to test the waters.

"Last night you said something about your roommate not allowing you to meet me today," she said casually, a small smile on her lips. "What'd you do to get him to let you leave? Tie him up and gag him?" As they made it to the first landing, she stopped and looked at him directly. "I've taken several Women's defense classes. I know Taijitsu." She waited a few beats, staring at him with a her shoulder held back confidently, a small measure of threat in the way her blue eyes regarded him. "I could have handled him so he wouldn't wake up for hours," she said finally. "Now you just gotta hope there's an apartment left for you to come home to." Again, that suggestive smile flashed on her face before she turned and went down the rest of the stairs.

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As he spoke, the voice changed again in the middle of conversation, almost imperceptibly, his other more nervous side seeming to grow more at ease and blending well with the first. A similar change came over Gwen as he continued to talk, not feeling so freaked out by the switch in tones, but growing more curious about it the longer they spent time together. At first of course, she'd thought that his "roommate" had been an excuse to cover up his embarrassing tendency, or in some esoteric way referring to his other personality like it was a real person. But that had changed when she'd heard the other man speak. And now, Alex's explanation seemed to cover all the things that had originally been making her nervous. It still felt kind of odd, but she decided to believe him for now. It was a conscious decision.

"Now you see why I don't have a roommate," she said, casting him a look over her shoulder. "With my tolerance for loud noises, I'd be the jerk-ish roommate."

Stepping down on the ground floor, Gwen looked at him when he said he was thinking about checking into a motel and she cocked an eyebrow at him at first. In her mind, flashed the part of her story where "Steven" was being hunted by the mad Dr. Fain. She remembered now that he was the one who had inspired that part and found herself wondering who might be after him. Had he done something bad? Was he hiding something important? Or was he just insane and needing to be institutionalized? Her train of thought was only broken as his voice trailed off and she looked around to find the cause of his alarm.

Immediately her eyes zeroed in on the two men with sunglasses, the hair on the back of her neck standing up as their heads slowly moved to follow them as they walked towards the doors. But she kept from looking at them directly, instead opting to watch Alex. At his suggestion of her being his body guard, she found herself smiling weakly, thinking that possibly he was asking for her aid somehow. And then things just kept getting weirder as he started to murmur lowly to himself. Openly, Gwen watched him as he conversed with himself, casting glances at the men with sunglasses and her skin tingling with every pause in dialogue. Still, it wasn't like he didn't realize it was odd on some level, his low tone again making it hard to hear everything he said. From what she could gather, he seemed to be worried about a present danger, focused on the men who watched him.

It was a unique thing and she had to consciously stop her mouth from hanging open as she continued to stare while they walked along. The doubt that had assailed her before, in her apartment, left her now as she actually watched him, realizing that it was something he couldn't control. Or rather, speaking aloud was necessary in some way. She wasn't a psychologist so she didn't know about this split personality type thing, or whatever else this was, but it was fascinating to watch. Finally he seemed to realize that he was doing it and gave her a deprecatory grin, opening the front doors for her like a gentleman.

Without casting another glance behind her, she smirked a little and walked past him, barely hearing him call back after the guards once she was outside in the open morning air. God, they'd make a great pair; she must be insane to stay around him just for the study of his disorder. She stood on the sidewalk waiting for him, adjusting her purse strap briefly as he stepped from the building himself. "You'll have to tell me where you'll be staying," she said casually, placing a coy smile on her lips. "Just in case I need a coffee buddy in the future." It wasn't the most subtle invitation, but she didn't want to lose track of him. Not yet anyway.

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His response was not what she expected but she took it in stride, realizing that with his disorder, and his obvious awareness of it, plus whatever was after him, he probably didn't associate with people that much. Well, except for neighbors coming and screaming at him or his roommate kicking him around the apartment. Gwen's ears picked up the slight difference in his voice when he quickly added the next part and she smiled easily at him, wondering if this was the split personality she was seeing. One seemed to be much more of a smooth talker than the other, who let his insecurities get in the way.

However it seemed to be the insecure one who did most of the talking now and a small smile formed on her lips as he offered to take her somewhere else. She found herself paying close attention to the subtleties of his tone of voice and his little idiosyncrasies. There were small things, like his addition of going to Starbucks afterward that made her feel like she was only hearing half of the conversation again. That, and the tingling on her skin that seemed to occur whenever he paused or took a breath.

She laughed a little and cocked an eyebrow at him. "You must really like coffee, huh?" she asked, humor and daylight shining in her sky blue eyes. "Getting into arguments with your roommate over a latte; acting like a man possessed when you need your fix; and now, after we stop at this other place to get coffee, we'll stop to get more on our way back." She shook her head a little and looked at the street around her, but the grin did not leave her face.

For a moment longer she considered his offer, wondering how best to pursue him. Finally, she turned back to him, the coquette look back on her face as she spoke. "I don't have too much going on," she said lazily. "I suppose we could go to this other place, if you think I'm dressed appropriate for it." If it was a fancy place, she didn't think her outfit fit, but she'd let him decide. Also, she wanted to draw his attention to her body and see how he reacted. It was a dangerous game she played, hoping that if he did become attracted to her, that when it came time to cut ties, he didn't react badly. Afterall, she'd encountered the stalker type before, and not only was it annoying, it was terrifying as well. Needless to say, she did not want a repeat of the experience but found herself walking the razor's edge with this guy.

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His answers kept on surprising her, especially that bit about the coffee. Mentally, she made a note to herself to add that to her character--God, what must it be like to have someone else always talking in your head and talking for you? She could imagine if there was anything she could do to get a moment's peace in that situation, she'd do it too, even if it was something she hated. Coffee seemed really simple though and she started to think of other things her character Steven could use to keep Mordeth from rising from the depths. Inside her chest her heart did a little jump of joy as she felt the story and the character flesh themselves out more and more before her eyes. This next novel would knock ALL of their socks off!

His response to her however was not what she expected. His eyes traveled down her form in a quick, casual way, and although his eyes did flicker down to her backside a few times, his overall manner was one of moderate interest. Inwardly, she snapped her fingers in regret. This guy'll be harder to crack than I thought. Hopefully he's not gay. Still, outwardly, she tried not to show too much of her dismay but rather set her shoulders in such a way to seem like she was satisfied with his response and that was all she'd been looking for. He wasn't going to make her look like a foolish, flirty schoolgirl.

Just as she was growing more use to his quiet conversations with himself and the alterations of tone and personality, things got weird again. First he switched to talking behind his hand to his other personality, and she looked away awkwardly and scratched at the hair on the nape of her neck idly, trying to ignore the things he was saying. God, unbelievable! She was standing right here, hell-O! In a way she understood his need to talk to this thing aloud, but seriously, come on! Common decency and having enough of a backbone to just tell the damned thing to shut up until they could confer privately. Didn't that facilitate survival better when he was more discreet about it? Then again, looking around, she was the only one who could really hear him, and in normal everyday circumstances and temporary encounters, nobody probably noticed. Anybody who stayed with him past 5 minutes would, however.

It was both extremely awkward for her to hear the half-mumbled sentences about her but not addressed to her when he was standing less than two feet away. But at the same time, it was an interesting study of the dynamic between them. All the while, she found herself making short lists in her mind about things to add to her character to better help flesh him out and--

The smooth talker was back suddenly and drawing her attention to him, and she gave him a modest and polite look before her brow furrowed and she found herself blinking at his back. Leaning a little to the side, she watched him walk a small distance away and disappear into an alley. Glancing around as a woman passed her walking her small dog, Gwen smiled uncertainly at her and tried not to feel offended that she'd been abandoned.

Alright, so little Mr. Crazy wanted to play hard to get? Fine, she could do that too. Afterall, she was a woman. Gently, she unbuttoned one of the buttons on her shirt, allowing the dip to move even further down just above where her bra met in the middle. With both hands, she pushed her breasts up a little, the soft cushioned mounds of her B cups looking more full in the bra she was wearing and given ample air from how open her shirt was. Then, reaching up behind her head, she pulled out the barrette that held her bun in place. Her hair having dried almost completely now, unfurled over her shoulders as she tossed her head lightly from side to side, shaking the long locks out. The ends curled with the spiral of the bun still and nestled beautifully on her shoulders, the light brown shining with dark streaks in the morning light. Just to give him a few things to look at but which he wouldn't be allowed to touch. It was the hint and the promise of being easy, but he would find her more difficult than that and definitely come back for more.

As he emerged from the alley, she looked around boredly, her hips set in such a way to articulate her irritation, but she kept the false emotion from her face, looking him over coolly. Her eyes stopped for a moment at the new redness on his face, but she quickly looked away as if uninterested. At his new excuse, she started to dig into her purse again, ignoring him, but inwardly rolling her eyes at the lame-ass story. An actor? Please. What next?

"I'm really happy for you," she said in a tone that said exactly the opposite, cold as ice as she closed her purse and adjusted the strap on her shoulder. "If you're done messing around, can we please go? I'm kind of hungry now." Reaching her hand up, she tucked some of her hair behind her ear and the movement caused the opening in her shirt to open a little wider for a brief moment as she sighed wearily.

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Immediately, he seemed to change, his voice coming out in a more certain tone but it was not the other one, she could tell that right away. Even though she'd come to identify Alex, the insecure one, as the main personality, she did find herself much more attracted to the other side of him, the one that spoke quick and was more self-assured. Now that Alex was taking on the attributes of the other, she found she liked him a lot better and responded to the assertive tone in his voice. Shaking her head inwardly, she had to take a deep breath, chiding herself. This is just a project. He means nothing. Don't get attached.

Walking along beside him, she smiled wryly at his observation about the pencil. His courtship skills were really clumsy and he was kind of dorky, but she couldn't help being flattered by his interest, even though it probably had more to do with her cleavage than anything else. Her eyes looked at him sharply as the other added his own questions in that silky smooth voice, her blue gaze flashing with amusement. Well, now, he did seem more open now at least and she decided to reward him with her own show of empathy as well, keeping it a bit in reserve as compared to before.

The last comment he made however made the smile fade from her lips a little bit and she looked down at the ground. All this time, she'd been aloof and nervous, hoping to get into his good graces with a bit of flirtatious banter while waiting for him to respond and act accordingly. If she continued that way, it would lead them down a certain path or at least leave him expecting such an end. She had to keep it reserved and act modest, not seduce him. However, she really didn't want to tell him too much about herself, just in case he did end up growing more attached and also...because she didn't trust herself from not considering this a real date. There was also the chance that if she kept herself too distant that he would 1. possibly lose interest or 2. get wise to her game.

Taking in a deep breath, she smiled again and said, "No, I'm not an artist. I'm a writer. Romance novels mostly, but nothing too trashy or fluffy." She shrugged casually as they walked along, the curve of her breasts bouncing a little with the movement. "I haven't had too much fame yet, but hope to gain some notoriety with this new idea I'm working on. And no, no men at the moment. Not that there isn't the occasional interest expressed." Her eyes regarded him from under long lashes, but the look was brief and she turned to face ahead of them with an amused grin.

Now for phase two. "What about you?" she asked, expressing actual curiosity she felt. "Any women currently in your life? I'm sure your roommate probably makes it difficult to get close to anyone, right?" There was the slightest emphasis on the way she said the word 'roommate' that made it stand out and hinted at her usage of it as a codeword for their friend, the smooth talker. "What's his name, by the way?"

Just then, a ringing of a bicycle bell could be heard right behind them, followed immediately by the wasp-ish buzzing of tires growing louder and bearing down upon them. They'd been given enough warning easily, but instead of smoothly stepping out of the way of the bicyclist, she jerked back and into her companion, uttering a tiny gasp as the cyclist whizzed by, swerving around trashcans and over raised sidewalk. Gently, her arm had slithered it's way around the crook of his elbow and she left it there even after the cyclist had passed by and she was no longer startled. As they walked, she pressed close but not smotheringly so, her arm linked loosely in his and her breast occasionally rubbing against him as they walked. Her face was open and her manner was casual as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

She hoped to fluster him a bit with the gesture and get him to lower his guard as she launched into her next question, "Is he talking to you right now? What does he say?" It was oh, so risky, but she knew he wasn't stupid. He had to have realized she knew there was something going on and even at the risk of freaking him out by revealing her knowledge of it, she hoped he was smart enough to handle it without being a complete spaz. Also, she wondered if he would be truthful with her about his "Mordeth" personality. They'd just met and she wouldn't blame him if he did try and cover it up with that actor story again, but if he thought her that much a threat, she had to know so she could try and convince him otherwise. Her story depended on this interaction.

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Oh, my God! It worked! While she'd waited for him to respond, her heart had been locked in her throat and she'd wondered worriedly if he'd get mad at her for bringing it up. Not only was he not mad and not spazzing out, he was TELLING her! A warmth began to fill her immediately then, a certain conspiratory feeling as if she were special. Here was this man who had a secret, something he struggled with daily to hide from other people as an unnamed foe hunted him and he was sharing it with her! He'd let some of his walls down and allowed her to peek inside, and no one else.

The feeling was short-lived however as he stopped short, and the silence left her with that prickling on her skin like an electric current was firing along every nerve and he spoke again...but not to her. His defensive tone told her that possibly the other, this Xander, was upset with him and it was confirmed a moment later with his question about her. He was suspicious now that she'd gotten Alex to reveal their secret to her and she couldn't help but feel irritated by him getting in the way. God! Paranoid much? How ironic...

Then he was speaking to her again, that smoother, confident voice coming out from those same lips, the change rippling through his whole body and turning him into stone. Rubbing against him was a bit awkward like this and she felt herself start to tense a bit in response, especially at the anger that leaked into his voice, making her swallow hard. All of a sudden, despite knowing Alex was the real one, the main personality, she realized Xander was the controlling one. HE was the insane, temperamental roommate who beat him up over an addiction to coffee and she felt overcome with the desire to appease him while also wanting to get Alex back out here and speaking with her like normal. There was a sense of danger that emanated from his body, even as he relaxed and flashed that charm-filled smile at her.

Then it was Alex again and he hurried past a murmured apology to change the subject. A feeling of loneliness descended upon her then realizing that the moment was gone, that his trust in her was only felt by one of them and probably non-existent now because of the dominance of the other. By his quick change in subject she knew he didn't want to discuss it anymore, and that pushing him further right now would only make him more suspicious. But she couldn't help feeling offended by his delusion.

With a heavy sigh, she stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, still holding his arm and bringing him to a stop as well and she looked up into his eyes seriously. "Do you think I'm retarded?" she asked, a little bit of anger entering her voice, but she kept it low and restrained. "You do realize that you talk to yourself all the time and that you change frequently, right? I mean, I appreciate you trying to hide it, but really, I'm right here. I'm not blind and I'm not fucking stupid." A fat man passed them by and looked at her, his attention drawn by her tone and her curse, and she took a deep breath and sighed as she looked back at Alex or Xander or whoever the fuck he was right now. "Look, it's kind of insulting to hear you voice your suspicions while I can hear you, but not being able to say anything because you're not even talking to me when you say it. Don't I get a chance to defend myself or is this whole...coffee thing a way to see if I'm a spy or something? Once you're satisfied either way, that's it? It's over?"

After they'd stopped, she'd let go of his arm and they stood facing each other. She paused and stepped forward, looking down at his hands as she reached out and held them in her own. Her brow furrowed a bit as she saw the cuts on his hand but she did not say anything about that. Looking up into his eyes then, she spoke with confidence, her tone moving smoothly. "I'm just a girl," she said calmly, her eyes looking at him levelly and filled with that frosted, icy blue again. "Who wants to like you. But I have to be frank with you; you're freaking my shit out." She continued to watch him then, wondering how he would react.

All she wanted was for him to be honest with her and give her some sort of explanation that would set her mind at ease. Also, it was a bit of an exercise for her to see if the promise of some kind of relationship and being given an ultimatum would help sway him to open up again. There was a lightness to her body, even as she stood steady and waited for an answer; a readiness to just walk away if he refused. Now that it was all out in the open, there was no way to deny it had happened and she wasn't going to pretend he hadn't admitted he shared a head with someone just so that she could continue to share his company. She'd observed him enough to get a handle on the secretive dynamic between the two and although she desired more interaction, it wasn't worth it if they were going to play games and repeat everything he'd already done so far. She wanted more and she wanted it to be real.

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Finally, getting some straight answers, she thought to herself as he began to speak, her body no longer tense and ready to high-tail it out of there. Granted it wasn't what she expected--was it ever?--but she found herself growing more satisfied as he went on. It brought up more questions of course and she blushed a bit to find that she'd attracted the attention of his other personality but overall, he was being truthful with her and she could feel it. Something else she could feel was that familiar tingling on her skin like a thousand ants marching all over her body and it made her shudder a little as the urge to itch came over her. And he just kept on surprising her.

Being notified that the other was upset was a little unnerving, but she expected it to be like something she'd seen in movies; Alex would wait for the other to talk silently in his head and he would verbally translate for him. That was not the case and she found herself growing tense again as Xander himself came out to address her angrily. Of course, he'd spoken to her before, but the rage and emotion that rippled through him seemed to fill the air and wrap around her like a large, thickly muscled and coiling snake. Gwen was submerged in the electric sparking energy of his words, his hackles almost visibly raised as he paced in front of her. Tremulously, she gripped the strap of her purse tightly and stood rigidly unable to give in to the fight or flight response that fought a war inside her. She was completely rooted in place.

Some of it wasn't addressed to her but still with the added sensation of this...thing's emotion assaulting her, it felt like she was right in the passenger seat, taking the brunt of it. And her eyes opened wide as Alex's voice came through just as emotionally charged to respond to him. No more murmuring behind his hand or slipping off to an alley to punch himself privately. This was real and it was happening right here in front of God and everybody. And it was exactly what she'd asked for. The thought was not a comfort.

As Xander actually talked to her, threatening to hurt himself-or rather, Alex-, she felt like she wanted to cry, her cool and confident demeanor cracked and overwhelmed. She didn't know how to react to this and with the added psychic stress of it, she felt especially vulnerable. Like every word directed at her was a club and he was beating her down with it. Alex pleaded with him to consider the public aspect of their little fit, and that was the first time since he started that she remembered where she was. Drawing her eyes away from him was like turning her head in a tightened noose, the push and pull of his magnetism making it physically difficult to look at anything else. So, her eyes flickered around but there was nobody near them at the moment and she quickly returned her attention to him, riveted once again by the spell he cast.

When Alex spoke to her again, telling her he was going to leave, she tried to nod her head but merely trembled, the exertion of having taken a look around seemingly drained her. Xander once again spat out a few last words and she flinched, her skin roiling like tumultuous waves as they came from between his sneering lips.

And then it was gone. Suddenly, the distant sounds of the city buzzing and moving around them seemed loud, and she found herself breathing a little heavier as she looked in their vicinity and swayed on her feet. What the fuck had just happened? Was that something normal for people to experience when Xander was out and angry? With the return of her freedom of mobility and the dark cast of violent emotion dissipating like mist on the wind, she found herself returned to normal as well, the timidity leaving her and she calmed quickly.

Clearing her throat, she adjusted her purse strap and looked around awkwardly before returning her gaze once more to Alex. But she still remembered what she'd felt, everything she'd heard them both say and sympathy filled her eyes in response to what he said to her now, his voice uncertain and seemingly afraid. She didn't know what it was like for him, but she imagined he must be extremely embarrassed by his-their-outburst. And it had been her fault because she'd asked for answers from him.

Realizing that he really was going to leave, she cast one more quick look around and bit her lip before bridging the physical gap between them, reaching forward to grasp his hand. "Wait...please," she said her voice quivering a little more than she liked. "I'm...so so sorry... I didn't mean to... I'm too nosy." She looked away from him then and tucked her hair behind her ear, wetting her lips with her tongue before continuing. "I still want to come with you." All thoughts of her book had left her mind; now she only wanted to correct her error. "It's on me. Anything you-he-want. And I promise, not to pry again. Just...let me get this for you. You'll never see me again after, I swear." Her blue eyes had turned a deeper shade than before and they searched his face worriedly. "Please?" she asked, a small awkward smile flashing on her face briefly.

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It took him a few minutes to decide and think it over, obviously still paranoid by her behavior before, but finally when he agreed, she smiled brightly and nodded, uttering a small amused "Hm," when he mentioned cheering up Xander. It was something private that they shared now this knowledge of his other self and she felt strangely attached to him because of it. After all, they'd both suffered Xander's insane ranting now and she had a better understanding of where Alex was coming from having to live with it day in and day out.

Then his tone grew more grave and for a moment her expression became serious. At his warning and explanation of his situation, her eyes narrowed a bit, but she nodded in understanding. Well, that's unsettling, isn't it? she thought a little nervously. After seeing and feeling Xander explode over a minor irritation however, it did not surprise her and she did not feel too worried. "Okay," she said casting a quick look at her shoes which were black, sandal heels, the bottoms flat and wider than regular high-heel pumps. Not necessarily running shoes but they were manageable and her skirt was loose enough around the bottom to facilitate longer strides.

If anything should happen, she would be alright, and the thought of such filled her with a small hint of adrenaline. Being with him was a bit like being in a movie or something, not that she was eager by any means, but the possibility of things happening was exhilarating. Nothing ever happened around or to her. She'd had a freak stalking her for a while at one point, but the worst she'd gotten was that he kept on showing up everywhere she went and left her semi-threatening and intimate gifts. It had been scary at the time but after he got several warnings from police, he seemed to go away and the situation was resolved. Hardly anything worth reading about or seeing in theaters.

So, more than the possible drama and action being around him presented, Gwen felt herself drawn to Alex himself. The more he talked the more at ease he became, his voice coming out with the calm resignation of one who was used to living within constant threat and sharing a body and mind with someone he didn't apparently like. Even though she'd pushed her desire to write him as a character for her book out of her mind, she couldn't help feeling that familiar fascination with how they worked together within the same form. Based on what he said, the other was "away" or asleep or something right now, and she searched herself mentally and found the feeling of energy she usually felt in his pause and silences was absent. How very interesting...

At his offering of trust in her, she smiled gratefully and blushed a little, his smile even though not as practiced and without the dashing flair that Xander had, still made her feel warm and she automatically returned it. "Believe me," she said with a wry grin. "I seriously considered sprinting home for a moment there."

Again, she started walking with him and she found herself hesitating, unsure of how to move on. Deciding to not ask him too many questions right now, she thought it would be better to offer him some information about herself. "This neighborhood has really changed since I last lived here," she said as they walked together, her eyes wandering around idly. "All the old shops and restaurants my mother use to take me to have shut down or been replaced. They were old though so it's no biggy, but I moved back here because I didn't like where I was living and wanted to return to familiar ground. I come back and they've renovated it to the point I don't recognize it anymore." She smiled at him and shrugged. "Funny how things like that work."

Feeling so relaxed around him she only experienced a little trepidation when addressing him with a question. "What made you move to this part of the city?" She wanted to ask where he came from but decided against it. She would let him lead with what he wanted to reveal this time and keep herself as non-intrusive as possible. "Let me see if I can guess," she said with a knowing smile. "The proximity to coffee shops, right?" Playfully, she nudged him with her elbow before shyly tucking her hair again, most of it falling over one shoulder in spiraled swirls. "Do you mind if I ask you...what you do for a living? I mean, you'd make a great actor, within the roles you've already chosen of course, and you've got quite the drama queen on your hands. But I know that's not what you really do, is it?"

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Talking with him like this, Gwen could almost forget about his inner companion. Without the other looming over him, Alex turned into a normal man, unremarkable, but funny and somewhat easy-going. Occasionally, Xander was mentioned or referenced and she couldn't help notice when he was, but it hardly seemed to effect the flow of conversation. All-in-all besides that one thing, Alex was a pretty alright guy. She found it funny because at first she'd thought he was a freak or something with his constant fluctuation of personality and had found his bumbling insecure tone to be somewhat annoying, like he wasn't being sincere all the time. Now, she was seeing that he wasn't really like that at all and was growing fond of his occasional verbal blunder.

The abrupt address to the other in the middle of conversation caused her to blink for a moment, but she found herself smirking as he apologized and explained himself briefly. It would be a wonderful quality for her character to have; the girl in her story might find it endearing, like she did--stop it! Quit studying him! She shook her head a little and focused back on him as he started speaking again, listening with interest to how he and the other apparently chose the apartment they lived in now. Seeing the scar he pointed out, her eyebrows rose a little and she hissed a little in chagrin. "Wow," she murmured. "The guy doesn't mess around." And she clicked her tongue a little while shaking her head.

As he got into how he and the other made money her brows furrowed a little, not understanding but assuming the most extreme. Was he like a hit-man or assassin or something? She bit her tongue however as he started talking about her writing. Guilt filled her to realize how truthful and open he'd been with her and this whole time she'd done nothing but let him assume things that weren't true about her own intentions. All at once, she found herself wanting to tell him about her book but she struggled against it fiercely. No! If she told him that she was writing a novel based on him and Xander it would only make him paranoid again. She wasn't even after that information anymore - mostly - it didn't seem fair to bring it up and have her be punished for spying. Not now after they'd been getting along so well and she was really starting to like him and get to know him.

"Well," she said taking a pause to think over her words, while looking at the ground in front of her feet. "The idea I'm working on right now... I have a feeling it will be a big hit. It's kind of..." She waved her hand loosely in the air, anxiously searching for how to describe it so he wouldn't know it was about him. "..a psychological thriller type thing. Has some drama and occult stuff thrown in and...uh, a chance meeting and unlikely romance."

She nodded quickly, the words coming out in uneven bursts as she thought of what to say right before she said it. Looking at him, she smiled a bit nervously, hoping he didn't notice the change in her demeanor. "It's a different direction than I've gone before. A bit more modern setting and...close to real life. Not mine!--of course..."

A blush dusted her cheeks and she cleared her throat before she was finally able to regain her composure. "I'm not sure it's anything you'd be interested in," she said shaking her head and laughing lightly. "You think Xander would like to write? What about, I wonder."

Even though the awkwardness had passed, she couldn't help cursing herself inwardly for how flustered she'd let herself get. She should have known he'd ask about her latest thing when she'd told him she was a novelist--it was one of the most common questions and she should have been ready for it. Not only had she acted really dumb, but also a little suspicious. Hopefully, neither he nor Xander noticed.

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His surprise at the subject matter she described was understandable. It surprised herself as well, but she couldn't help but feel drawn to the drama that was his daily life. As much as she felt like she was in an action film of some kind, just from brushing shoulders with him, she could only imagine what it must be like to actually be him. It was pure gold as far as a plot-line went.

"Um, well, I was inspired," she said casually with a shrug and a smile to herself. At his next comment she couldn't help but laugh nervously, thinking how wonderfully he'd nailed it on the head. Maybe he wouldn't be offended. It wasn't exactly about him and with many different concepts thrown in. Besides, she kind of wanted him to know about it, for him not to discover it later and be mad at her. She hadn't stolen his life story or anything, so it wasn't anything legal that she was afraid of -- as if he'd go to court and tell people she'd stolen the idea about a guy in his head from him. But he had inspired her, and she felt a strange desire for his input on it. What would be the harm?

"Sure," she said with a nod and a smile at him, rolling her eyes at Xander's comment. "Maybe when I've got something written up, I'll show it to you." Then she fell silent as the other interrupted again, Gwen automatically picking up on the little things that told her there had been a change. It wasn't an absolute or dramatic change, but small posture differences and the tone of voice. It was odd how easy it was for her to notice these things, because it was the same voice and the same man, but she just knew when the two switched places inside, the transition moving smoothly through him like someone blinking or bending over to pick something up.

In the midst of their discussion when Alex turned to her to explain about the coffee shop, she nodded silently. It wasn't someplace she'd been before, but then again, coffee shops weren't exactly her thing. Gwen wasn't a complete shut-in, and liked to go out occasionally to be around people without being with people, but mostly she was an introvert. Something about crowds of people wore her down practically to a physical level. There was always a lot going on when there were people all around and she got the strange feeling she was a part of a thousand conversations all at once. Shut up in her apartment, she was alone and found some peace.

And then the pair's dialogue drew her attention abruptly, especially Xander's mention of an "Agent". What did he mean? An Agent of what? CIA? FBI? Was Alex a part of the X-Files or something? Hm, that'd be interesting... Even as his words put her on alert, she did not feel scared but found herself looking around, her eyes searching the faces of everyone who stood nearby. As she looked around, he fell silent again with his occasional muttering and she felt the familiar vibrations upon her skin that told her Xander was talking to him inside.

At Alex's last words, Gwen looked at him as they walked along at a quicker pace and she cocked her eyebrow. "Are you sure it's such a good idea to still do this coffee thing?" she asked, her tone surprising her by how calm she sounded. "I mean, if there's people these...Agents or whatever, always following you and ready to kill you and now they know where you live... It just seems like a really big risk is all. All for a cup of Joe."

She didn't understand why the guy didn't just get a coffee maker. Granted, she did know there was a difference between professionally made coffee and the store bought, do-it-at-home stuff. But if it meant their lives... If she had a coffee addict in her head and had to move around a lot because people wanted her dead and were looking for her, a coffee maker would be the first thing she'd spend her money on in a new place.

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Of course, Xander had something to say about that. So defensive about his little habit. She couldn't help the smirk that adopted her face as she nodded and listened to him start to rant, only to be interrupted again by his other half. There was more argument between them, her flesh rippling in the silence and Alex's voice filled with an impatient air as he explained things to himself. She took the moment to cast another glance around, still looking for anybody who fit the look of the men who'd been in the apartment lobby, but so far nobody set off any flags for her.

When Alex turned back to her she gave him a small smile, the confidence and energy in his voice doing the job to make her feel reassured. And then they were back to talking again. It was a bit odd, like listening to someone talk on the phone, but from what she could gather, Alex seemed to expect Xander to take over and fight if they encountered anyone dangerous - which Alex also seemed to expect - but the other was worn out apparently.

Then the tone of the discussion changed as Alex looked down an alley they passed and she felt a chill run through her when her own eyes strayed down the darkened hall of brick. When he started to prepare himself a few steps later, her heart increased it's pace more than it already had and her blue eyes went wide when he started to say he was going to go down there. Gripping her purse strap in her hands as if clinging to it like a shield, she shook her head and said, "Please, don't..." But it fell on deaf ears. She wanted to believe he could handle himself, but he seemed unprepared. From his discussion with Xander, it seemed the other did a lot of the fighting and now he was going off to do something without Xander's help.

Again, he urged her to stay where she was and left, casting a look back at her before disappearing down the alley. Worriedly, she stood there, looking at the street around her like an abandoned child, everything and everyone full of hidden threat. Turning back towards the alley, she started to take a step forward but stopped and bit her lip. How the fuck could she help if she followed? All she would do is endanger the both of them. But still, it killed her inside not to know if he was okay or not. She hadn't realized how much she cared before, but she did now. She didn't want him to get hurt.

Looking across the street at the coffee shop, she started to walk towards the corner obediently, but whimpered and stopped, turning back to where he left her and stomping her foot lightly in irritation while looking at the alley worriedly. Alright, she'd just wait for him here. She was far enough away that if anything happened she could probably make a run for it and get out of harms way, but close enough to be there for him if... If what? God, she was so pathetic.

Standing there she stared at the mouth of the alley, not able to see into it from here, and focused on it, chanting in her head, Please, Alex, be alright, please. He hadn't been gone for more than a few minutes when suddenly she felt her vision blur and a wave of vertigo swept over her. Breathing heavily, she swayed on her feet and stumbled towards a nearby lamp post and leaned upon it for support. It lasted only a few moments it seemed but it felt like she'd been lost in that dizzy haze forever, before finally she stood up straight and let go of the lamp. That was weird... Her brow furrowed as she looked down at herself, smoothing her shirt and outfit and adjusting her purse strap. She seemed fine. Maybe she was just light-headed because she hadn't eaten anything yet this morning. Yes...that was probably it.

In the midst of the spell, she'd forgotten almost completely about Alex, so when she looked up and saw him striding from the alley, dusting himself off, her eyes lit up and relief washed over her. With a sense of abandon she let her purse strap fall down her shoulder as she took a few steps forward and dropped the thing on the ground as she progressed into a run. Parked cars next to the sidewalk and the front doors of shops and building faces, bodies of anonymous strangers flew past in a blur. All she saw was him and she ran to him, her breasts swaying with every gliding step she took, her hair blowing out in wavy strands behind her. When their bodies collided, it was like she instantly melted to him, even as their chests pounded together with the impact. Her slender arms wrapped around his neck in embrace and her lips sought his with a feverish intensity, pressing together bruisingly close, his lips and tongue dancing with hers just as passionately, her breasts smothered against his hardened form...

Blinking, Gwen adjusted the strap on her shoulder and shook away the thought that had filled her mind upon seeing him, a light blush pinkening her cheeks and a breath of relief escaping between her plush lips. He was okay. That was good. She waited for him there as he approached and she looked at him with a fire in her eyes. "Don't ever leave me like that again!" her voice was angrier than she intended and she sounded a bit like a wife, but she didn't care. She'd been worried. And here he was, safe as could be. There was a slight limp that wasn't there before, she noticed but she didn't want to get any more personal than she already had by reprimanding him. Cooing over him like she was his girlfriend or something would be just plain foolish.

"I'm glad you're okay though," she said in a calmer voice. "Is everything alright now? Did you kill somebody?" For the last sentence, her voice lowered somewhat and she looked around to make sure nobody could overhear her. Without her seeming to notice, a bright ribbon of red streamed from her right nostril flowing warmly down to her lips. Only when she licked her lips and tasted the slightly metallic liquid did she realize and reached a hand up to stop the flow of blood, her other hand digging into her purse to find a napkin.

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Gwen could not remember the last time she'd gotten a nosebleed. She'd had a couple before, but none like this. There didn't seem to be a cause for it that she could discern and it flowed madly down her lips like a raging storm, as her fingers pinched her nose and her hand rifled through her purse. Nothing but a bit of touch-up makeup, her wallet, keys and a tampon or two were inside the tiny little bag, but she could have sworn she'd had tissues in there at some point.

"Shit!" she murmured as she gave up her search, becoming aware of Alex's frantic tone. It was merely an embarrassment and slightly unsettling for her - and possibly a wardrobe malfunction if any of it got onto her crisp white blouse - but he seemed genuinely worried about her. And all the while, the little buzz on her skin told her Xander was in there chattering away. In the midst of her miniature chaos, she gave him an appreciative look, her eyebrows bouncing when he exclaimed in triumph about paper. Yes, at least it would be something. As the page came crumpled from his pocket, she smiled through the river of gore and held out her hand for it. "God, thank you!" she mumbled as she began to open the page up and smooth it out one-handedly, folding it before pressing it to her nose. Immediately the white sheet blossomed with a scarlet flower, the capillaries of the paper filling up with each drop that continued to pulse from her beating heart.

"It's okay," she said slightly muffled through her new mask of paper. "I'll be fine, I just need to find a bathroom." At his suggestion of the restaurant she nodded and began to lead the way across the street, stopping only to check if any cars were coming by. It was somewhat embarrassing walking around like this, but even moreso when they entered through the front doors of the establishment. She didn't let it bother her too much though and tried to keep it discreet.

Turning to Alex she smiled reassuringly at him through the paper veil and said, "Listen, I'll be just a minute. You go ahead and order something for me. I'll pay you back when I'm done dealing with--" she waved a finger in a circular motion to indicate her face and the bleeding hole in it and laughed a little nervously. "Yeah." With one more glance at him she left his side and went looking for the restroom. Weaving through the tables she barely looked around the place before following a sign into a secluded hallway tucked near the back.

Once inside, she instantly went to the sink where a tissue box sat and she took a few from it with a breath of resignation. God, she must have made a really good impression. He probably thought she was like some nervous, overly excitable kid or something who got nosebleeds from sitting too close to the screen in movie theaters. Taking the paper away from her face, she let it lie on the counter by the sink and replaced it with the tissue. The flow seemed to be settling now, but still she waited a few more minutes, tipping her head back gently.

Finally when it stopped, she found herself sniffling as she pulled the tissue away. Experimentally, she blew her nose and was surprised that there was no sign left of the horrible tragedy. Well, except on the rest of my face, she thought wryly as her eyes looked into the mirror. She looked like something from a horror movie. Jesus, what had happened? And right after she'd had that dizzy spell too. Were they related? And Alex had said something to Xander... Or had he been talking about something else?

"Hm," she murmured with a shake of her head, setting the mystery aside for now. Turning on the sink, she wetted a paper towel and cleaned her face up, and tossed everything away into the waist basket in the corner. Then she finished by washing her hands and her eyes finally fell upon Alex's savior paper.

Her mouth curved into a curious twist as she regarded it and slowly picked it up, unfolding it and looking over it intently. What did Alex write notes on? With a smile on her lips, she focused in on the crinkled paper, a dark red blob mirrored on both sides of the crease where she'd held it to her nose, the liquid drying now but blurring a lot of the words. Quietly, she read aloud to herself, trying to decipher the code of broken text through blood and mountains of wrinkled paper.

"He sat alone in....wrecked apartment fill-ed....after she'd gone yearn....-ontact but afraid of...." Slowly as she'd read, the smile had faded from her face and now her voice dwindled to nothing as she stared at the page in her hands, finally recognizing her scribbling scrawl through the pattern of wrinkles.

"Holy shit!" she exclaimed in angered shock. "You motherfucker!"