Close calls are reinforcing moments, in so many ways. There is no one to patch him up. There is only a literal voice in his head that bitterly curses him for every bullet scrape or narrow escape from Recovery agents, because Alex wouldn’t goddamn listen half the time. Alex calls him paranoid for the fifth time and only then does Zeta hear the insult and respond.
He responds in ways that Alex would not have understood years ago. But drowning in his head comes in two flavors: madness and something he wanted to call boiling hunger.
Zeta consumes him. Mind, body and what’s left of his soul.
During those moments, there is no line between them. There are no boundaries. Alex is granted clarity and vision into what constitutes AI thought and feeling. They don’t feel with bodies—gasping bursts of anger, headaches born from tears, fear that stops breath—but they feel in ways that go beyond a single moment or words to define them.
There are no words for what Zeta feels. Alex merely knows. He knows everything in those moments and tries to hold onto that knowledge, before it slips away, along with Zeta in retreat.
But what Alex feels is real. Or as real as anything gets for him anymore.
Hot fingers drag over his thighs, sinking into his pelvic bone, crushing and real—but it’s not real. But there are nails on his arms, his shoulder blades, digging deep into his muscles and he’s left on the brink of belief in impossibilities.
He comes on the breath of someone else’s name—always someone else. Sometimes Carrie, sometimes Allison, sometimes Zeta himself.
Zeta wants to feel that—what Alex feels, what Alex is. That’s clear enough. It makes sense. Zeta is a creature literally born from loss. His madness is partially brought on by a perpetual sense of being incomplete.
When he feels Alex—digs in deep, feeling straight through Alex, through every nerve, feels Alex dig just as deeply into Zeta—he feels whole, Zeta tells him. Just for a brief moment, they are whole.
It’s the only thing Alex can offer the AI, and for whatever dangers Zeta brought into his life, Alex owes him.
Zeta had been made for him, like a weapon or tool or another addition to his armor. It was because of Alex that he had been carved and shaped and born, even if Alex hadn’t been the one holding the knife.
If that had not broken them, it certainly had bound them together.
Alex allows Zeta to consume him, because in some ways, he needs this, too.
AIs don’t know how to love.
Alex figures that, sometimes, people don’t either.
Possession is nine-tenths of passion, he decides.