“Just shut up…”

“Just shut up…”

Definitely. Xander would definitely listen if Alex asked him for a seventh time. At least the prick quit trying to kill him, worn out with all that exhaustive ass-kicking. Xander’s voice was still going strong, though. After seven hours, fourteen minutes and thirty-six seconds – not that Alex had counted or anything – he had enough mental energy to bitch for another three. Days. Three more days of in-head screeching because Alex didn’t get him coffee.

It’s not just fucking coffee, you asshole, Xander helpfully explained. It’s Pequods. The only fucking thing I ask you for, you cheap son of a bitch.

Alex had considered handing himself in. Yes, the Agents more or less explained that getting the guy out involved hammers, chisels, a drill, his left temple and a grave, but it sounded pretty okay when the other choice was this. Besides, wherever they dragged him had to be nicer than his apartment. An asylum, maybe. Some place with lights.

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 dick. I can wait all fucking night.

Xander didn’t sleep. Yet another surprise Alex learned to live with.

I want my latté!

“Shut up,” he muttered.

The screeching started again. At least the neighbours couldn’t hear that. Everything else he guessed fell under the building’s No Questions pledge. Their room was a cramped bachelor with a bed wedged into the bathroom. Alex wasn’t paying what he paid for décor.

They did expect some furniture back though, including homey pieces like the mirror. The shards of it scattered everywhere made walking dangerous. Other chunks stuck under his skin from where Xander threw his fist against the glass. He would’ve taken them out, except with his ‘friend’ watching, if Alex dove in with tweezers, his hand could magically spasm and there’d be a field day of stitching his finger on instead of just slapping a bandage over it. Fine. The cuts barely hurt. He was more pissed he had to go dumpster diving.

Their latest table had been smashed in two. Alex had landed on it with his hip. The chairs he lifted from that thrift store? Destroyed. He’d been thrown through them. He took the hit with the centre of his gut, like he did with the desk from the curb – gone – and the IKEA shelves – shattered – and the dresser, which was the closest thing this place had to an original appliance and was also now cracked. He would be picking splinters from his clothes for weeks, provided he got the privilege. Sometimes accepting this shit was better than trying to survive Xander’s stupid wrath. Too bad the Agents didn’t see it that way. On the other hand, if they did, apparently Alex would have a knife in his throat.

First chance.

Xander’s control ran off a shrinking pool of energy. He needed to pace himself when he took over, so walking and breathing – anything minor – were left to Alex. Not fights. Xander handled fights. The number of Agents after him had dropped from armies to two main people. It felt cozy enough to rent for a while instead of moving twice a month, but lately…

Alex didn’t get it. Suddenly new Agent swarms appeared every other day. Hours ago, that afternoon, he found a cluster lurking half a block from the north Pequods coffee land. The struggle to turn around and go the hell home was why Xander didn’t have the strength to leave permanent damage. But his foot hurt. He’d kicked a streetlight. Was it worth it?

– won’t fucking let me kill Agents, won’t fucking go outside –

Yes. Completely. His basic sense of safety was on the line. Xander not getting his precious drinks was just a bonus. Fuck you. It still cost Alex his sleep. He hadn’t rested in days ‘cause of the anxiety. Why new Agents? Why now? How could they not have given up?

Maybe they were there to get lattés. It’s where I’d go, which was what I was doing until you ran like a little bitch. They didn’t know how many – Four. You ran because of four. I have shit with more effort than it takes to snap four Agents in half.

Yeah, well…

“Shut up.”

One thing, Xander spat. One thing is what I’m asking for.

His jaw hurt. Alex got off his bed. His feet responded. Finally, good news. Ignoring the sharp throb of pain humming from the right one, it meant Xander let go. He felt awful but the awfulness belonged to him. This was Alex’s body – it’s shared. Xander was the psycho he’d invented after a six-years-young nervous breakdown.

Alright. Time to check the damage. Shuffling, limping, he wandered to the last clump of mirror clinging to the frame. Alex had to keep turning his head if he wanted to see another part of it, but it worked. He was mostly intact. Bruises stretched from his neck to his ear, but the oval shape his face was there. So were circles under his eyes. He’d have to wait to tell if those came from the fight or being tired. Or maybe he was sick. His skin seemed pale. Normally he hovered on dark olive. Or else it was a daylight thing. Since the Agent swarms started, Alex stayed in so much that he barely remembered what sun looked like.

It’s yellow, it’s round –

“It’s a figure of speech.”

It’s bullshit, is what it is.

Black hair, brown eyes, cut short and kind of choppy. He did it himself. He didn’t trust Xander around barbers. Around anyone, frankly, but especially not people with scissors. Instead he used to not being picky. If he didn’t look deranged or like a serial killer, then great. Plus he stayed in shape. Xander kept him on a strict work-out schedule. His own face stood as proof of how hard he could hit.

I’m taking this body the second you’re gone.

Then Xander had to keep him alive. Alex knew how to run but sometimes there were pits he fell into, and he needed the little bastard to dig him out of those. Xander hadn’t failed yet. How could he? When he got sick of punching, stabbing or kicking everyone, there was always the ‘advantage’. Alex didn’t know what to call it. ‘Killing people with seizures I make with my eyes’ seemed like a mouthful.

Someone’s coming.

Agents?

No. Xander sounded bored. So…

Shit. Neighbours. Someone coming about the noise.

“Stay quiet,” Alex said quickly, “and I’ll get you coffee.”

Nah, I don’t want it now.

Liar.

“Just shut up, okay? Please? For once.”

Bitch, let’s see you make me.

His arms twitched to kick his ass again. Nothing happened. Xander was still tired. Alex felt him sink to a corner of his mind – or wherever he went – to sulk. Good. Stay. That would stop this from turning more horrible than it had to. Right now, he needed an excuse for why the apocalypse had gone off for half a day. Any chance there’d be brownie points for not stretching it to a full day this time?

“I’m serious,” he warned.

Xander didn’t say anything.

The third and last fact Alex had learned: no answer was almost always worse than getting one.

Fantastic. Just… fantastic.

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