Fandom: The Black Tapes Podcast
Pairing: Alex Regan/Amalia Chenkova
Summary: The part of her that’s still conscious and struggling protests. The other parts just laugh.
Warnings: (Imagined) violence and brief suicidal ideation.
Living stacked on top of each other in Alex’s one-bedroom apartment, it doesn’t take Amalia long to realize that Alex isn’t sleeping. She’s taken the couch to sleep on, leaving Alex her bedroom, but she’s woken most nights by Alex at her laptop at the kitchen table, her face illuminated by the neon glow of the screen. Even with the careful application of concealer, it’s impossible for Alex to entirely hide the black-and-purple bruises under her eyes, or the way her speech slurs slightly when she answers a question, or the sluggish way she moves as though she’s deep underwater.
As herself, Amalia worries about her friend.
(As the Other, she thinks yes
She tries to ignore that. It works. Some of the time.)
“Come here,” she suggests one night, patting the couch beside her. Alex tapes a moment to respond, as it always does, but she looks up from her laptop at Amalia with heavy-lidded eyes. “Uh- sure, okay.”
When she sits down, Amalia takes the blanket from around her shoulders and wraps it around Alex’s instead. Ignoring the other woman’s soft protests, she pulls her down beside her, head balanced on her knee. “You don’t sleep, Alexandra,” she says simply. She can feel the denial rising in Alex’s chest, so she rests a hand on the crown of her head and strokes gently with her fingers. “Hush,” she says. “Let me put you to sleep. Like I used to, right?”
Alex huffs a tiny laugh. “I don’t remember much about sleeping,” she says, but she acquiesces and doesn’t struggle anymore. Amalia moves her hand through Alex’s hair, gently undoing neglected tangles and massaging the scalp underneath. Her sense memory of tangled limbs and fingers in her hair is at war with the Other’s endless hunger for all things chaotic and grisly. Inside her it cheers: yes! snap! snap! snap! Another instinct- she’s lost count of which ones belong to her and which she owes to the foreign consciousnesses living in her skull- says No. Leave be. There are plans for her. She doesn’t know which instinct is keeping Alex alive, whether her own love and fierce protectiveness is even close to enough. The part of her that’s still conscious and struggling protests. The other parts just laugh.
She watches like an outside observer as the hand that is and isn’t hers trembles over Alex’s neck. She imagines Alex’s eyes- those clever, piercing eyes- turned towards her, rendered forever sightless and opaque. She can feel the pulse beating through Alex’s body, now slow and relaxed as the other woman falls asleep. It’s a contrast to her own heart, which is now constantly racing, as though it’s trying to reach a finish line she doesn’t recognize. In her more defeated moments, she hopes that her heart will finally burst and end it, leaving the Other untethered and useless. When she’s more prepared to fight, she scorns herself for thinking it. Isn’t it better to stay alive and fight this battle herself, rather than bowing out and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up?
She’s tried to say it to Alex innumerable times, mouth open over the breakfast table: there’s something wrong with me. It’s inside me, all the time. I’m not safe for you. But every time, she closes her mouth without speaking. Part of it, she knows, is the Other puppeting her larynx and refusing to allow her to spoil its plans. Another- she hates to admit, but knows she must- is her own pure selfishness and fear. She knows that, no matter how Alex would react to news of the Other, it would put an end to this idyll of living side-by-side, of Alex’s warm, solid form resting against her like it is now. It would put an end to her residence in the apartment altogether, and probably result in her being tied to a bed somewhere while priests lash her with Bible verses and holy water. She wants to delay that, play house a little while longer. She wants to rest, maybe even as much as Alex does, and forget the disaster looming over her.
(That isn’t the Other speaking. That’s her, and she knows it.)
Alex is fully immersed in sleep now. Amalia dares to lower her head and press a kiss to Alex’s forehead, battling back the urge to sink her teeth into Alex’s scalp. In earlier, happier days, she might have done it just to hear Alex squeal with surprise and delight and then bite her back. They’ve long since passed that point. She may fantasize about the two of them living side by side, curling around each other at night and laughing together over breakfast, but the last vestiges of that dream have already slid away from her. Now, it’s just a war to keep the Other from invading the last unclaimed territories of her mind, of seeing the collage of memories and hopes for the future and turning them against her. She won’t let that happen.
She thinks, anyway. She thinks she’s strong enough.
But she’s been wrong before.
(That’s how you got into this mess, isn’t it?)