The spare office was practically unfurnished, but it had most of the equipment they needed. It was good enough.

“So what are you here for?” Alex asked.

Josie looked down at their hands. It gave Alex time to study their expression carefully, the downturn of the corner of their mouth, the way they rubbed their thumbs together. “I’ve been seeing things,” they said quietly.

“Like what, exactly?”

“There’s a… dark presence in my life. I’m the only one who can see it.” They turned their head to look at a corner of the room.

Alex turned his own head to follow their line of gaze. He was certain there was nothing there, just the darkness where the walls met… not even a spiderweb. But this was Josie, and he cared and was trying to try, dammit. So he kept looking, squinting. “What do you see?”

“It’s…” As they paused, Alex couldn’t help himself looking back at them, watching their tongue roll over their dry lips. “It’s a monster.”

He turned to the corner again, studying it, trying to imagine what kind of monster Josie was imagining in that space. Was it long and slim, like a wet noodle against the wall? Was it huge and hulking, with arms that could crush? Was trying to picture it running the risk of Alex himself being Silly?

As if they already knew the question, they answered: “It is whatever size it needs to be. It follows me everywhere, and it knows everything about me.”

“I’m so sorry.” Alex awkwardly put a hand on their shoulder, trying to offer some sort of solace. They leaned into it, and he found that his hand was cupping their cheek.

‘Why didn’t they tell us about this sooner?’ Xander interjected.

Alex frowned, surprised by how bitter his other half was being. ‘They’re going through a lot. We don’t know what’s happening with them.’

‘Yeah, I know, but it sucks. Hey, so why are you being the more considerate one, suddenly?’

‘I don’t know, maybe because I don’t feel entitled to everything in their life?’

‘Oh, right, it’s because you’re making up excuses to not be involved.’

‘I am not! I’m trying to respect them!’

‘Respect? You think constantly abandoning them to deal with their own apparently literal nightmare demons is respect?’

“What are you thinking about?” Josie asked, breaking him out of his reverie.

Alex touched his own face reflexively and realized he was bright red. ‘I’ve really got to stop having arguments with myself in the middle of my work,’ he thought. Xander stuck his tongue out in response.