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The Other Kind of Roommate

Present Day


a part of The Other Kind of Roommate, by Tartra.


Tartra holds sovereignty over Present Day, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

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Present Day is a part of The Other Kind of Roommate.

17 Characters Here

Alexander Stall [105] The Host of this mental fun-fest.
Xander [103] The other roommate.
Gwendolyn Stewart [95] A romance novelist with empathic abilities.
Stephanie March [58] The cold-hearted Agent on Gwen's case.
Osono "Ozzie" Wallace [25] Loner on the run with a hot attitude.
Rudy Quin [15] Probably shouldn't be an A-3. In fact, why is he in the Agency at all?
Salvatore Robinson [5] Taxi driver.
Tommy McConaugh [3] A paranoid taxi driver.
Brie [3] A loser with a suit.
Noel [1] The Lead Agent on Osono's case.(Deceased)

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((This thread has been moved from Footsteps of Ghosts. It is the continuation of a three year effort and is the beautiful baby child of Tartra and Ten. D'awwwwww!))


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"Just shut up..."

Definitely. Xander was definitely going to listen if Alex asked for the seventh time. But at least he'd stopped trying to kill him. He'd worn himself out, what with all the exhausting ass-kicking taking its toll. But that only went so far. His voice was still going strong, the little bastard. He'd screamed for twelve hours, fourteen minutes and six or seven seconds - not that Alex had been counting or anything - and he still had enough breath to bitch at him for another three. Days, that was. Xander bitched for days. And for what? Coffee?

It's not just fucking coffee, you asshole. It's Starbucks. Alex's mistake. Again. The only fucking thing I ever ask you for, you cheap son of a bitch.

He'd seriously considered just handing himself in. Sure, the Agents had already more or less explained that getting the guy out would involve a saw, a drill, a chisel, his left temple and a grave, but it was starting to sound pretty good given the alternative.

I swear to God, the first chance I get, I'm grabbing a knife and stabbing you in the throat. You owe me.

Yeah, Alex owed him a coffee and a soul. They were in the mail, or something.

You think I won't wait? I can wait, you bastard - I can wait all fucking night.

Of course he could. Xander didn't sleep. Yet another surprise Alex had stumbled on.

I want my latte!

"Shut up," Alex said again.

The screaming started. At least the neighbours couldn't hear that.

His place was a mess. It usually was, but now it was dangerous to walk around. Glass was everywhere. Alex had told himself he should've never bought that mirror. Now there were shards of it stuck under his skin from when Xander had thrown his fist against it. He would've taken them out by now, except that his 'friend' was watching. Halfway through picking it out with tweezers, his hand would magically spasm, and then he'd have a field day trying to stitch his finger back on instead of just slapping a band-aid on it. That was fine. It barely hurt now. He was just worried about the mess.

The table? Smashed in two. Alex had landed on it with his hip. The chairs? Shattered. He'd been thrown against them, taking the blow with the exact center of his gut. The desk was gone, the shelves had cracked, the dresser was busted... He'd be picking splinters out of his clothes for weeks, if he was given that kind of privilege. Sometimes, it was easier to take a few pricks than try to dodge any of Xander's attacks.

You got lucky.

Alex agreed. There was a certain threshold of control Xander couldn't cross, and he'd made it halfway there simply trying to get back to Starbucks. That'd kept him from doing any permanent damage. It hadn't stopped him completely. Alex had overpowered him - it was his body anyway - it's shared - and, for some reason, he'd thought that was a good thing. He should've drawn it out, made sure the guy was too tired to take control of his arm and start beating him with it. He felt bruises along the side of his jaw. They were the least of his worries. His toe might've been broken.

Don't forget the bottles. There's bottles fuckin' everywhere.

If Alex drank, Xander went away. Or something. He shut up, at least. It was practically the only time he'd get any sleep, but he had to fight for that, too. Whatever it was that happened, Xander hated it. He'd struggle almost as fiercely as he did for his coffee if it meant getting away from any form of alcohol that could've been around. Naturally, he'd been getting better at it. Alex hadn't had a drop in days. It also meant he hadn't slept in days.

You wanna sleep?

Caffeine would keep him awake.

One thing, Xander spat. One fucking thing is all I'm asking for.

His jaw really did hurt. He must look terrible by now.

"Shut up, Xander."

He got up. His feet responded. That was a relief. That meant he didn't have to stab himself on the bottles that'd been smashed just to make his life more difficult. He hunched over what was left of the mirror, over the one piece that hadn't exploded when it'd been ripped from the wall and slammed to the ground. It worked, mostly. He had to keep turning his head if he wanted to see another part of it, but it worked. He counted that as a point for his side.

Alex's face was mostly intact. His head was roughly oval and the punches had been at the side of it, so for the most part, he looked alive. There were circles under his eyes, though. His skin should've been darker, more olive. That probably had to do with the fact that he hadn't gone out since the Starbucks incident. He could barely remember what the sun looked like.

It's yellow, it's round -

"It's a figure of speech."

It's bullshit, is what it is.

Brown eyes, brown hair, cut short and kind'f choppy. He'd done it himself. He didn't trust Xander around barbers. Around anyone, frankly, but especially not people with shit that went snip-snip. It was fine. It was acceptable. He'd learned not to be picky about a lot of things anymore, especially not about how he looked. So long as he didn't come off as deranged, half-starved or completely insane, he was great. Plus, he was in good shape. Xander wanted to make sure whatever punch he threw hit hard, so Alex was on a very strict work-out schedule that, to this day, he'd never missed out on. That was the only thing Xander was good for, keeping him alive.

I'm taking this body once you're fuckin' out.

That meant Xander had to keep him away from the Agents. At a very early age, Alex had learned to run. As equally early, he'd found out about his special talent. Aside from the crazy demon in his head, he meant.

Someone's coming. About the noise. I'll scream.

"I'll make you coffee."

I don't want it.

"Just shut up. Please? For once."

Bitch, let's see you make me.

Alex's arms twitched again. Xander was still too tired. He could feel the little guy get even angrier and sink deeper into the back of his mind - or wherever he was - and sulk. Good. That was something that'd keep him quiet. He'd need the silence to come up with another excuse for why the sounds of the apocalypse had been streaming out of his apartment for the last hour and a half.

"Xander, I'm serious."

Xander didn't say anything.

The third and final thing Alex had learned when he was young: no answer was almost as horrible as getting one.

Fantastic. Just... fantastic.


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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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Yeah. That about summed it up.


Alex felt his mouth twitching. Xander, stop.

I'm sorry, I can't hear when you say it in your head. Wanna talk a little louder and share it with the class?

Alex ignored him. He'd pay for it later. Right now, it was time to focus.

"Ah... No. No, it's fine. Everything's fine. I was just - uh..."


"Yeah. I mean - I was renovating."

Like a fag.

"Parents... coming... stopping by... You know how it is," Alex said. "Gotta keep the place clean, right?"

I bought it, at least.

Had he seen this girl - woman, sorry - before? Just about everyone in this building had come by to scream at him at one point or another. Their faces blurred together after a while and he couldn't guess at anyone's name on this floor. She could've moved in yesterday or been here for years. Well - if it was years, that wouldn't make much of a difference. He'd only been in this room for two months, and he was lucky if he got to stay another week. Paying extra on his rent (minus the deposits, which were gone by now) was only going to take him so far. He'd started looking for a new place. He'd put in a few offers, too. Based on their proximity to Starbucks, he'd done a pretty good job of narrowing his choices down. It was a tie between two a few blocks apart.


Stop it.

Should he say something else? It wasn't like he'd been expecting her to vanish, but she wasn't moving yet. Not that he'd given her time to reply. People didn't go away half a second after a lame-ass answer, especially not when they were freaked enough to want to call the cops. So, what? More explanation? Yeah, that'd work. 'Hi, thanks for coming over to make sure I wasn't getting killed. Sorry for making so much noise, but I'll be sure to keep it down the next time my psychopathic brain-buddy decides to beat the shit out'f me. No, don't call the cops and don't call the nuthouse. I'm great. I'm golden. Go away.'

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaa -

Alex knew what Xander was trying to do. Seriously, stop it.


Great. He wanted to negotiate. Well, at least this meant he wasn't in such a pissy mood anymore. Maybe Alex'd get the mirror chips out of his hand after all. But he wanted to do it now? Right now?

Xander sensed the panic. He very smoothly replied, Fuck yes.

He'd been putting up with this for years. He knew almost everything there was to know about what Xander could or couldn't do. The only thing he had never been sure of was whether the guy could read Alex's thoughts or not. Emotions, definitely. If Alex started thinking about how much his toe hurt -

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Or if he started thinking about how long it'd been since he'd seen the sky -

Holy shit, man. The sun's not that great. Stop crying about it.

Or if he remembered how long it'd been since he'd had a civil conversation -


He didn't know. Maybe Xander could hear his thoughts or maybe it really was only feelings he picked up on. The fact of the matter was that, when Alex needed to directly, clearly communicate with the guy, the only thing he'd ever respond to were spoken words.

"I'll be right back," Alex said. Then he pulled his head back into his room and closed the door.

No, he wasn't being creepy. It was all his head. His crazy, crowded head.

So - that's a 'yes' to Starbucks?

"Are you gonna shut the fuck up?"

Oooh. That's gonna cost you a Swiss Chalet.

"Swiss Chalet is garbage," Alex muttered. "I'm not -"


"Just shut up," Alex hissed. "Five minutes - five tiny minutes - is all I need."

Two minutes.

"Just keep it together until she's gone," Alex said. "You think you can manage that?"

Don't get that shitty chicken sauce. Get the gravy. Mmm, gravy.

There was not going to be any Swiss Chalet.


"Let's call it a 'maybe'," Alex mumbled. He opened the door again, casually smiling, which he already knew had come out as a wince. "Hi. I'm fine. I'll keep it down. Is that it?"


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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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"Yeah." She'd already turned away. "I'll remember that."


She was leaving. Unbelievable. Alex didn't have to fight her.

You'd've lost, pussy.

Problem solved. Crisis averted. Okay. Wow. This was the first time in a long time he'd thought 'fantastic' and actually meant it. Now if he could fix up his apartment, maybe glue his face back together - her voice had changed completely when she'd taken a good look at him - then figure out what he was going to do about this mess...

Crags' is gonna kill you. Xander started gloating. I can't feel pain.

'Renovating' or not, this place looked like a bomb had gone off. He was up shit's creek if anyone came in here, let alone the man who'd already expressed his severe disinterest in putting up with anymore complaints.

We wouldn't have that problem if you'd let me split his head in two.

That was enough of that. If nothing else, Alex was getting some sleep.

"He's hurting me!"

His eyes popped open. He immediately jumped back and threw himself against the door, slamming it shut.

"You're an asshole," he spat when he was inside. "You're an incredible asshole and I can't believe -"

You gettin' take-out again tonight? I'm off Chinese for a little while. Swiss Chalet?

"You're out of your mind!"

That's the plan, Xander said. Once I get rid of you, anyway.

"This is my body and I am not going to tell you again," Alex snapped. "Shut up, stop taking over, and - I am not joking - I'll run outside and drown myself in vodka if you don't... just..."

Behave myself?

First she wanted to call the cops. Then she wanted to call the landlord. Now it sounded like she was going to be keeping an eye on him - or ear or whatever - and what had just come out of his mouth, with a special thanks to Xander, you're welcome, was about as high on the worst possible things that could've been said on any list anywhere.

Rrrrrrrrrrr -

"If you get me killed, you die, too! You ever think of that, genius?"

You don't know that for sure, Xander sang. But then, at once, the voice in his head grew serious. Well - as serious as it got, anyway. You think she's an Agent?

"Of course not," Alex said. "She's just pissed that you attacked me over coffee."

So, about dinner...

"... Well..." He wasn't paranoid. He knew what an Agent was like. They were meaner. Fiercer. They didn't check up on people and then walk away. "You don't... think...?"

Gettin' hungry.

"If you can't feel pain, you can't feel hunger. Is she an Agent or not?"

He hated depending on the guy, but Xander was much more perceptive than he'd ever be. The last few times he'd run into them, he'd thought they were cops or detectives or private eyes or something. He'd recognized them and he was proud of that, but the threat of who they were hadn't dawned on him until Xander took over and attacked. He'd saved Alex's life twice that way. It was stuff like that that made Alex think he wasn't hated as much as a certain someone insisted.

Are you being sentimental again?

"Just tell me what you think."


No. He would've been edgier if she was. Alex was safe. There was no reason for him to panic.


Oh - for fuck's sake, Xander!

AH, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA! Let's get Italian.


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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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Alex finally admitted it: he was paranoid. For the next several hours, he'd been quietly pulling the remains of his room into order again, dragging everything that was broken, which was all of it, into a pile that he'd let Xander throw out the window. He'd moved the dumpster under the window for that specific reason. He'd also moved onto one of the higher floors for it, too. If he was perfectly honest with himself, he'd realize he got as much a kick out of throwing giant hunks of table, dresser, shelf and whatever else that'd been destroyed out the window to explode as it hit the ground as Xander did, but that'd mean pointing out a common interest between them. No thank you. It was needlessly destructive anyway, and someone could get hurt.


So Alex stopped dragging things around - quietly, which was another concept the other guy couldn't grasp - and went back over to his bed, where he'd left the box of pizza they'd eventually agreed on. Half pepperoni, half Hawaiian, as usual. As he picked up the nasty fruit-covered slice, he felt his mouth start reaching for it. Good. Let Xander have it. So long as he didn't have to taste it, Alex didn't care.

Back to being paranoid.

He'd done everything in his power to stay silent since that woman'd left. He -


Anyway, he'd kept every answer he said out loud short, frank, and under his breath. For a while, he'd almost considered duct taping his mouth, but he thought better of it at the last second, especially when Xander started getting giddy.

Should've done it. Should still do it. More.

Xander could talk and chew. It was one more piece of evidence that this was not his body.

What's-her-face. What'd'ya think?

Alex couldn't talk and chew. This was his body and his mouth was full. The most he could manage was a bland, "Huh."




Paranoid again. Very, very paranoid.

"Whuh -" He started choking. Xander was delighted to punch him in the chest. "Thanks. I guess."


"Hold on," Alex whispered. "She's 'interesting'?"

Sure. More.

"You've never said that before."


"Can you make up your mind? Should I worried about her or not? I'm being hunted, Xander. I need to know when there's something wrong."

Put food in my face or I'll kick your ass again. Fair enough. Alex ended up taking another bite of the... ugh... pineapple. She's interesting. Yeah, he got that. Let's go talk to her.



Xander's sudden silence immediately began gnawing at him. He tried holding off for a minute, failed miserably, then asked as softly as he possibly good, "Alright, fine. Why do you want to talk to her?"

She's hot.

"Right, well, that's not good enough."

Is for me.

And before Alex could get another word out, Xander took over completely, restraining himself just long enough to finish his slice, jam another in his mouth, pick up the half-empty pizza box and run out the door. And, of course, he left it wide open, because apparently he couldn't wait to get Alex kicked out on his ass -

You wouldn't have this problem if you'd just gotten me a latte.

Alex started fighting back. He forced himself to feel his fingers, forced them to do what he - and only he - told them, but the only thing that got him was another slap on the side of his throat.

Trust me, Xander said, less than reassuringly. She digs us anyway. You hear her bangin' on the walls earlier?

"Banging on the walls after you screamed 'rape'? Nice job, by the way," Alex said.

He was in front of her door, now. He was in front of the door with a crazy guy in his head and a pizza box in his hand. He couldn't stress enough what a bad situation this was. And then Xander started knocking.

"She's not answering."

Yeah - probably 'cause she's not the Flash. Give her more than a second to figure out I'm here.

"You're - you - you wanna talk to her? You? With your mouth - with my mouth?" This had never once been a good thing. "What... What're you even gonna say?"

"I'm gonna give her pizza," Xander said with Alex's voice. "Bitches love pizza."

"'Bitches' do not like pizza," Alex spat. "And don't say that -"

"Shhhhhh. Relax."

Despite himself, he did. For a moment. Then he panicked again and demanded, "You're really doing this because you think she's hot? This is really necessary?"

"Maybe I'm just making friends with my neighbours."

"You don't make friends -"

"Yeah, and whose fault is that?" Alex could feel himself frowning. "Just stay out of this. 'You think you can manage that?'"

... He didn't really have a choice.

"Big smile, bitch-boy," Xander said. "We've gotta make a good impression."


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"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 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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Character Portrait: Alexander Stall Character Portrait: Xander
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Ha, ha. That's cute.

Yeah. She'd make a great neighbour. He'd be sure -

"I'm on break," Xander said, practically glowing. "Plus, I felt like there was something more important I needed to do than fix my justifiably smashed apartment."

"Smashed because I'm renovating it," Alex added.

No, no, no, no, no. I told you specifically that we were gonna talk to her and you said no. Keep your trap shut before I break it in two.

What was he going for? What was playing at now? There was no way Xander was actually interested in this girl - well, not no way, because she was pretty - smokin' hot - but Alex feared for her life if he was. And if he wasn't, that was even worse, because it meant he'd got the scent of something and wasn't sharing. If Xander would just let him into his head - don't try to be witty, 'cause I can tell when you're trying and it's fucking annoying - then maybe Alex could reasonably or rationally or convincingly explain that not everyone needed to die and maybe, if there really was a threat, all they had to do was leave.

Pshht. Fuck that.

So he was trying to kill her? Something was wrong? Was she -

Calm down, pennywhistle. How the hell was that an insult? I got this. Just be nice.

Of course. Because it was Alex who had that problem with people.

"Anyway, I was thinking about earlier, about how noisy I was this morning... Well - most mornings," Xander said, "and I realized I haven't been an easy person to live beside." He stopped, winced, then gave a small shrug. "I don't normally do this. Hell - I'm yelled at all the time and I never care, but I felt like today was... too much. It was a stupid argument, I should've gotten my latte and this would've all been avoided, and it wasn't fair that I made you put up with the very, very frequent mistakes of my roommate."

HO. LEE. SHIT. Xander! Dammit! He didn't live with anyone, remember?

Not for long, anyway.

"My roommate -"

"- left a little while ago," Xander cut in. "He's pissy about something - yet again - so now was the only chance I've had to come over here. Believe me. I've killing myself realizing how bad I've been. All because of a latte. One simple latte that could've easily been picked up."

Okay, that was enough.

"In fact, I came down here to bring you a peace-offering." Xander somehow drew attention to the box without moving an inch. "But you know what? That's not good enough. I can't honestly believe a simple slice of - do you like Hawaiian? Stupid question, everyone does. Anyway, I think I can do a little more than that."


"Tomorrow morning, let's head over to Starbucks -"


"- it's not a date. I'm not trying to flirt with you or make you uncomfortable -"

He was making Alex uncomfortable!

"I swear to you, I'll remove my roommate's ass from his body if he decides to try something stupid - like... I don't know, somehow keep me from showing up, but I'm right beside you so feel free to come over and make sure he's not messing around." Xander smiled again, less brilliantly, more sincerely. "I'd honoured if you'd join me at Starbucks."

Oh. OH. Do you see that? Do you see what that is? It's a silver platter, you son of a bitch, and I am handing her to you on it. Don't fuck this up. This is impossible to fuck up, but I know you'll try.

Xander let go of his control. He must've been tired. That'd been happening more and more lately. Not that he was complaining, but Alex had to make sure he wasn't hoarding energy for one last, violent grab for complete ownership. ... And now Alex was standing stupidly in the hallway with a box of pizza and a blank look on his face.

"Uh..." Smooth. "Shut up. I mean - yeah! Yeah, so - uh... Just... tell me what you're - uh... you know - your schedule? Just - uh... Well, you know where I am! I'll be there... tomorrow..."

Let's bounce! Feed me!

"Uh..." Alex's hand started digging at the box. "... Bye."


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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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Character Portrait: Alexander Stall Character Portrait: Xander
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"I can't believe that worked."

I told you.

He couldn't believe she was still... alive.

I'm a nice guy.

Alex slowly walked back to his apartment, leaving the pizza box open long enough for Xander to grab what was left. The guy seemed much happier and much more complacent. Yes to coffee? Sharing pizza? If he didn't know any better, he'd think there'd been a connection.

Whoa there, cowboy.

"I was kidding. I don't think you're even capable of seeing other people as 'persons'."


Alex stopped walking before he walked through the door. He knew what was happening. Xander was still excited, but it was on a completely different level than before.

An Agent. It had to be.

Go. It's fine. I got this.

This was where Xander shined. There was a loose balance between them now, a sharing of control and a bond of trust that would never, ever exist between them at any other time. It was too much effort for his 'roommate' to take over completely, so a very light steering would be enough until he was forced to break off his chain. And Alex was more than happy to let him. He didn't have the reflexes to take on an Agent.

Shit. Shit. The second he'd left the door open -

I was inviting them.


They've been on our ass all week. Figured I'd let 'em in so we could talk.

Oh God. Oh God. Oh-god-oh-god-oh-god.

Shut up.

Xander still had to time to shove the last bit of his food in his mouth, before brazenly striding inside and slamming the door shut. He tossed the box to one corner and brushed his hands on Alex's pants. Then he quickly scanned the room, looking for something Alex knew he'd never pick up on first.

Oh yeah. He's still here.


Rookie mistake.


Xander didn't answer. He attacked. It wasn't until he saw his fingers wrap around a throat that he admit there really was someone else in this apartment. They weren't invisible, they weren't cloaked, they'd simply been standing there and that had been enough to hide from plain sight. They were like ghosts. Horrible ghosts, ones with guns. The worst kind.

Oh boy. They're prepared.

Agents almost always wore masks of some kind. Simple ones, just enough to keep themselves mysterious. They had to blend in, after all. But this guy... His entire head was covered. It was like some steel wool ski mask with plastic, oval eye holes. Xander moved too fast for the Agent to react. That was the rookie mistake. Everyone new to Alex's 'case' always underestimated what he could do. They would watch him for months, studying his habits, making note of his work-outs and his otherwise unimpressive lifestyles. He got the feeling some of them didn't believe what Xander could do. That made Alex feel a little better. It was as if the playing field was leveled.

It took all of two seconds for Xander to hurl the Agent to the ground. When he was down there, Xander grabbed the stupid mask and ripped it off his face. Alex hated this part. The Agent immediately began sobbing. If he didn't believe the rumours surrounding Alex's powers, he sure as hell guessed what was coming now.

He wanted to close his eyes. The whole point was to keep them open.

The dryness began. It burned. He wanted to blink and clear them again, but Xander kept them focused. The Agent kept sobbing and flailing his head around, trying to keep from making contact. Xander punched him in the throat, then grabbed the Agent's chin and held it still. For one solitary fraction of a second, their eyes locked. They stared into the depths of each other's soul and a bridge was formed between them. A second was all it needed. The Agent was foaming and convulsing an instant later.

Xander smiled, then stood up.

"You're... you're not killing him?"

Not that he wanted the Agent to die, but if anyone needed to be permanently stamped out, it was one of them.

Just a seizure. That alright with you?

"But... why?"

Hope what's-her-face - damn, didn't get her name - doesn't mind the noise again. Do we have rope? Or a chain or something?

He knew they did. Xander started walking in that the direction, then passed the buck onto Alex because he, once more, was tired.

"Are you trying to keep him here? As bait?" That'd happened before. "Didn't you learn anything last time?"

That I'm incredibly awesome and can take down twelve guys in six minutes? Yeah, I got that. It wasn't a subtle lesson. He shrugged. I'll kill him eventually, Xander said, like he was talking about doing the recycling. But not yet. I've got some questions I wanna ask him.

"You're gonna interrogate him?" That was worse than killing him!

Yeah. Problem?


I'll keep it quiet. Your little girlfriend won't hear a thing.

"As far as I'm concerned, she's your girlfriend, and we're not playing host to someone else -"

Thought you wanted another roommate.

"Not an Agent!"

Shhh! She's probably sleeping by now.

Alex steadied himself. He took in three deep breaths, grabbed the rope from under the sink, then turned back and walked towards the Agent. The man was barely breathing. His eyes had rolled back into his head and his tongue had fallen out, raking against his teeth.

Awww. They're so cute when they're frothing. Tie him to the chair, will ya?

"Which one?"

The one I didn't smash against your skull.

Fair enough. Alex lifted the man up and dragged him onto the chair, not bothering to be careful as he juggled him and the wobbly, slightly splintered thing in his arms. With an ease more practised than he was comfortable with, Alex tied the man up around the feet, the thighs, the chest, and then the wrists. He wasn't getting out of that.

We're gonna have to wait for him to wake up.

"Will he?"


"I'm going to bed," Alex muttered. "Scream if you hear him moving."

Will do.

And with that, Alex crawled under his covers, closing the door on another fucked up day.

At least he was getting a latte tomorrow. He kind of liked those.


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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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He'd been asleep for the entire night. He'd been tired. Even if Xander had tried to get him up, his basic needs has won out in the end. But now he was awake. He sat up slowly, wondering if he'd slept his full eight hours or if something else had caught his attention. He decided on the second one, then turned to check on their guest.

The Agent was still there. That surprised him. He'd never seen one in the daylight so closely before. They were people after all. Huh.

Get up, get dressed. Let's get started.

Right. Alex kicked off his blankets and started getting ready. Bathroom break, brush teeth, floss teeth - Xander's thing - and then wash his face: the four major steps of any morning routine. When he was done that, he crossed to the other side of the room to fumble with his dresser. After a few minutes of fighting it, he wrenched one of the drawers open. Blue shirt today. Laundry tomorrow, he supposed. Breakfast was after he finished getting dressed.

Alex looked over at the agent as he absently pulled his shirt on. "Think we should make him something?"

What - like... food?

"Maybe," he said. "I don't think we should starve him."

Yeah. Don't want him bein' uncomfortable.

He made the Agent breakfast. He had to get rid of the eggs anyway. They were almost expired because he never used them. Xander just liked the look of them in the fridge.

He's breathing, right?

Like he cared. He wanted to get close enough to hit the guy some more. Alex could see perfectly well from where he was that, yes, the Agent was still alive. But he kept Xander happy and took the long way around the pile of broken furniture to get close enough to reach out and slap the intruder in the face.

"Wake up," Xander said.

The Agent muttered something.

"Think they've started looking for him?"

They sent him here to die.

"You think?"

Come on, man. They send their best forces after us on a daily basis. Why the hell would they start dripping shit on us now after I've kicked their ass so many times? He must've been scouting or something.

"So they found us," Alex said.

Don't worry about it.

"Well, since you asked so nicely..."

Two eggs for Alex, two eggs for the Agent, and half a pack of bacon for Xander because he didn't know what cholesterol was. After choking down his food and somehow managing not to burn himself with the stupid oil, he heard a voice from behind him, weakly calling out.

"I didn't think you existed," the Agent said. "I thought this was some... hazing."

"Yeah, well, you fucked it up anyway," Xander said. "You like bacon? I'm making bacon."

"I like bacon," the Agent said.

"Alex will make you some bacon. Hey - let's bring some over to that other chick. If there's any left, I mean."

Right. Her. The coffee thing. He was tempted to try to play sick somehow. If Xander started screaming, all the better. He'd wince until she left. But knowing that the Agents knew where he was... He wasn't surprised. More like he was annoyed. Getting out of this place for a while, making sure there was only one of them, was probably a good idea.

"Are you... gonna kill me?"

"Probably," Xander said, barely waiting for the meat to cook before he threw it on a plate with the Agent's eggs. He brought it to the man and sat down on a stable pile of debris, then lazily shoveled his half of the food into his mouth. "Probably later, though. I've got a date first."

"You said it wasn't a date," Alex muttered.

"You're so lost with the basics of the female mind," Xander said. Then, to their new friend, "We've got this neighbour we apparently pissed off last night."


"You nosy bastard," Xander said. "That's none of your damn business. I'm gonna eat your bacon now. You deserve this." He hacked down the rest of it. "You can have the shitty eggs, though. They're runny. Again."

"You're..." The Agent looked woozy. He was blinking a lot and his eyes were half-lidded. He took his time testing the rope wrapped around him. Xander kept close watch over that, likely assuming Alex couldn't manage that, either. When the man was satisfied he was trapped, he went back to asking, "You're gonna leave me here? Unattended?"

"Hey, don't worry," Xander said. "I'll be back in a few hours. Then we can have a nice chat."

"I guess..." This was awkward. Alex didn't know what to say. "Are - uh... eggs going to be enough?"

"It's more than I could've asked for," the Agent said. He frowned at them. "There's two of you."

"Look at that," Xander said. "He's not a rookie after all." He got up again, carrying the plate back to the kitchen.

"You didn't give me the eggs," the Agent noted.

"Yeah. Changed my mind about that. You'll be fine. Want water?" Xander got him water. "Drink up!"

More than a little ran down his face. Before the Agent could even ask to have it wiped off, however, Xander looked at Alex's watch and headed off to the door.

"Wait -" Xander stopped. "There's no point in killing me. They're on their way here now. They have tracers."

Alex tensed.

"So you think you're useful?" Xander snorted. "Buddy, if I was afraid of your colleagues, I'd be living in a cave, not the center of a city. Sit tight. I'll be back for you soon."

She better be awake.

If she wasn't, his stomping down the hall and his pounding on her door would change that.


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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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Character Portrait: Alexander Stall Character Portrait: Xander
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"No renovating. I promise."

Xander was completely relaxed. Alex couldn't figure it out. There was an Agent tied up in his apartment with more Agents on the way, and some crazy mask he could only assume had been designed specifically to counter his abilities. Yet the guy was brushing all of it off, swapping jokes, like a jokey joke-maker. He walked in, completely carefree, giving the woman a friendly smile and nod of his head as he passed her.

"This is nice," Xander said, heading towards the loveseat. "Much better than my place, even before the construction."

He'd have to re-buy every stick of furniture he had.

Why's your jaw all... 'clicky'?

"It locks a little," Alex muttered. "That's your handiwork."

Oh, right. You should get that fixed.

"I tried. You said it'd give me more reason to shut my stupid face."

Hasn't worked. Might as well fix it.

Those eggs had been terrible. Maybe they'd expired after all. The bacon had been the only good part of what he'd eaten this morning. He hated when Xander was right.

"If you wanted, I thought maybe... well - if you haven't had breakfast yet, we could always pick something up," Alex said. "Just something small. You've probably already eaten - I mean, I have, but it was... bad. So if you've got room left..."

Should he offer to pay? Maybe he should pay.

Maybe you should ask her name, dipshit.

... Oh yeah.

"What's your name?" That came out blunt. He'd practically blurted it out. "Uh... I should've asked that before I said anything else. I'm Alex. Alexander, technically, but I'm stuck with the first half."

That's a nice TV. We should get that TV. And this couch.


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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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Everybody loves bacon.

He sounded really proud of himself.

Alex gave her a smile when he passed her, too. It wasn't as... well - charming as Xander's, big surprise, but he thought it was friendly and that was all that mattered. He was happy to be out in the hall first. Even though he'd closed it and locked it, he was sure he'd turn and discover his door had been kicked open or something. That'd be an easy way to discover the mess, though. Not so easy explaining why, out of every room in this building, someone went after his. He'd have to go through a hundred hoops explaining why he had better stuff to steal than anyone else.

Oh, I disagree.


"Whatever you took, put it back," Alex mumbled.


It was like living with a child, if that child was emotionally unbalanced, cartoonishly narcissistic, and leaning heavily on psychopathic tendencies.

"Put it back," Alex hissed. "What was it? When did you take anything?"

Should've been watching.

"Xander -"

Just some paper. Found a little notepad 'tucked away' and I stole a sheet or two.

"So you didn't just steal something," Alex snapped. "You're vandalizing, too."

Maybe I needed some paper. Y'know, to take notes on all the 'spooky Agent activities'.

What spooky activities?

Alex heard thumping coming from his room.

Damn. He's escaping.

His throat almost closed up. Either he was escaping or he was in the middle of being rescued. Neither of those options were good.

Oh well. At least we know they've got anti-seizure masks.

"So Gwen," Xander said, before Alex could get another word out. "I can't figure out why someone like you would be living in a place like this. We're - I'm only here because it's cheap. Your place's is loaded up like a palace. What's the story on that?"

More thumping. These damn walls were too thin. No wonder everyone was screaming at them all the time.

"But - uh... Let's walk and talk," Alex said. "Like... now. Ish. The - uh... My roommate's noisy in the morning. He -"

"Can someone hear me?"

I'm gonna break that guy's face, Xander said. I can't believe I gave him water, the ungrateful prick.

"Yeah, let's go now. He's always like that," Alex said. "He jokes. A lot. Inappropriately. Uh... so... ignore him."

Thump, thump, thump.


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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" 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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"He and I have a..." Xander bobbed his head to one side, then the other, before coming up with, "strained relationship. I didn't ask to live with him. I was actually - for obvious reasons, like the ones you just heard - trying to get him to move out, but the bastard won't go 'cause the place's in mommy and daddy's name."

"Which makes sense," Alex added, "because if he owns it, it's a little dumb to think he'd be the one to move. That's why I've been trying to find somewhere else to live. Far, far away from my roommate."

"My roommate's a jerk," Xander said, very pleasantly speaking for both of them.

And a giant douche.

Xander was still speaking for both of them.

It didn't take long for them to reach the lobby. The apartment building was squat and there was no one else around. They made it down in record time, and by the time they had, Alex was feeling a lot better about his day. He loosened up and tried to be less stiff, which in his opinion was perfect timing, because she looked really freaked out by what'd been happening up there. Not just the Agent rattling around - gagging him would've been smart, but Xander 'didn't believe in those' - but the whole... inner/outer monologue thing. He'd either been getting too comfortable around her or he'd been by himself for too long to remember not to be so careless. In either case, he had to keep his voice down when he was talking to Xander.

Or don't talk to me. I like that one.

"As far as having a place to come back to tonight," Alex said, "I think I'll find a motel. I've got some people who like to check in on me every now and then and they... lately..."

It was another one.

Unbelievable. There were two.

Keep walking.

The Agents were standing formally beside the apartment door - on the inside, rather than out where they belonged. They might've turned to look at him the second he'd come down, but they were wearing sunglasses. He couldn't tell what they were looking at, but both their heads turned as he drew closer. He couldn't help puffing himself up a bit, taking in a deep breath and then making sure he was between them and Gwen. He went further than that, too, and kept her as out of sight as he could.

Hell - he talked to himself in the middle of the hallway. It wasn't like she didn't already know he was creepy.

"I may have to take you up on the 'long nap'," Xander chirped. "A whole several classes? That's impressive." He grinned. "I'll have to hire you as my bodyguard one of these days."

They're the same as the mask.


The glasses. Their glasses. They're too shiny. It's the same as the eyes in that mask our buddy was wearing.


Can't be a field test. These guys look professional. They must've already known the mask worked before they sent the rookie out.

"What are they doing here?" He was smart enough to keep the last few words of that quiet. "It's broad daylight. They can't attack."

Hasn't stopped 'em before.

"It hasn't stopped you before," Alex said, softly. "I'm walking with an innocent civilian. They won't try anything."

And if they do? 'Cause they will.

"Then I'll take care of it."


"Hey - they're my powers. Just because you're the one using them all the time doesn't mean I didn't spend a few years without you practising with them. Alone."

You let me know how it pays off.

"I -"

Coffee. And pay attention to the lady. You're fuckin' weird.

Alex turned and smiled at Gwen again, hoping she'd pick up on the apology buried in there. Then, finally reaching the building's entrance, he opened the door and waited carefully for her to go first. Xander took the opportunity to beam and wave at the Agents. One started to wave back. The other very slowly lowered the first's arm.

Ah, crap. It's that one again.

"The waving one?"

You think I'm psycho. You passed out the last three times I fought him.

"How'd that go?"

He's alive, isn't he? Xander sounded bitter. Whatever.

"Careful in the room, guys," he shouted at the Agents. "I'm renovating. Wouldn't want you two getting hurt.


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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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"Believe me, you don't have to know where I am to get me to come for coffee. I guarantee I'll find you like I'm possessed," Alex said.

You idiot. Learn the damn game.

What game?

"But if I do decide to hide in the mountains, you'll be the first to know which cave."

Oh. They were flirting.

Yeah, stupid.

Alex took a moment to appreciate the outside. He never minded being cooped up while he was actually in there, but the minute he felt a breeze across his face, an enormous weight lifted off of him. He was back in the real world with real and normal people. It wasn't so early that the sidewalks were bare, but he felt like a lot of people were sleeping in today. They were missing out. The weather was fantastic.

"I can't remember the last time I walked around like this," he said.

You haven't walked anywhere. If you had, you'd be at Starbucks by now.

About that.

"I don't know how much time you have on you," Alex said, "but if you're not in a rush, we can go to some other place for coffee -"


"It's a little farther than Starbucks -"

You son of a bitch.

"- but I like the feel of it more. It's... ambient, I guess. And it smells better. And it's got better food, which is always a plus," he finished.

Don't go to sleep tonight. In fact, don't ever go to sleep again.

"And we can always swing by Starbucks on the way back."

Too. Fucking. Late.

Alex was just trying to be nice. ... No, he wasn't explaining himself. Starbucks sucked. It was too noisy. He wanted to go somewhere he could hear himself think. Himself think, not the addict pounding at his ears.

"It's up to you. It's not much more expensive, but it's a little more of a sit-down place. We can talk. But Starbucks is fine -"


La, la, la, he wasn't listening. He was waiting for Gwen's answer.


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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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Tell her -

"Coffee is practically the only thing that gives me peace of mind," Alex admitted. "I don't really like the taste. I don't like the jitters I get afterwards. But if it means I get to shut off a whole half of my brain - even for an hour - then I'll live with it."

Awwww. You're breakin' my heart. Now tell her -

"I mean - it's fine. And you're fine - uh... You should be okay for the place. It's nothing too special, just nicer," Alex said. "Look at me: jeans and a t-shirt. You've got nothing to worry about."

I feel like I should be crying about how horrible you are. This is pathetic on an entirely new level.

To be completely sure she didn't overhear - he was trying to be quiet, but it seemed as though she had sharper ears than what he was used to, and the last thing he needed to do was scare her off by snapping at Xander - he rubbed a hand over his mouth and muttered into his palm, "I'm doing it on purpose."

Great! That makes me feel better.

"We don't know who she is. So far, this is just coffee. I don't want her getting too close when there's Agents around. They could be watching us and -"

"Gwen, would you excuse me for a moment?" Xander smiled again, but it was tighter than before. "I have to kick my ass for being retarded and neglecting your lovely company. Don't worry - it'll only take a second. I've had a lot of practise."

"What -"

But Xander marched off before Alex could fight back, leaving the poor girl standing there as he walked ahead and turned quickly into an alley they would've passed.

Okay. I'm gonna spell this out for you.

"If I say 'no', the answer's 'no', you idiot. You're not as strong as you think you are," Alex said. "I'm not letting you put someone else in danger just because you're feeling frisky."

'Frisky'? Did you actually just say 'frisky'? Oh God. I was kidding about you being retarded - mostly - but I think I figured out why it sucks being stuck with you.

"Listen," Alex told him. "I'll negotiate. Find out who she is, make sure she's not someone we should be concerned about, promise me she's not going end up dead, then... maybe... whatever you want to do -"

That's it? After all the bitching, that's what you want out'f me? Holy fuck, man. Try to keep up.

"You were trying to make sure she was safe? That's funny," Alex said. "The whole time I was talking to her, I kept feeling my eyes getting pulled to her ass."

I was multi-tasking!

"Bullshit," Alex snapped. "Gwen's nice - whatever - but that's only piling on the reasons for why -"

Spare me.

That meant they had a deal.

"Okay," Alex said. "Good. I'm glad we had this talk. Can we go back to Gwen now and try to think up some way to keep her from running off in terror?"

Sure thing, friend. Just a sec. And then Alex's fist flew into his face. There we go.

"Did you break my nose?"


"Am I bleeding?"

... No?

"I hate you so much," Alex muttered, giving his soon-to-be-prominent-bruise a gentle pat, making sure everything was intact, and then casually, calmly, returning to the woman he'd left in the dust. "I'm really, really sorry about that. I know I've been acting beyond weird..."

He had nothing to finish that. Xander stayed perfectly quiet, enjoying himself for an agonizing length of time, before swooping in to rescue him with, "I'm an actor. I'm nothing special yet, but I'm hoping to get this great part I'm gonna audition for. I'm trying out the method acting thing. You like it?"

I might actually lose the will to have sex with her if she believes that, Xander said.

"Then why didn't you tell her something she would believe?"

I dunno. Too much work? I mean - come on, you randomly walked off to punch yourself in the face. What the hell kind of story am I supposed to have for that?

Hated him. Loathed him. So very, very much.