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can't live with you / can't live without you

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It started shortly after the sixth or seventh time the Squip reactivated, Jeremy had stopped keeping track by then. He was out of MDR, but hadn’t spoken to Michael that week yet, and didn’t want to start a conversation by asking a favor. That was no way to treat their shaky friendship. Not that he thought things would ever go back to how they were before; summer had come and went again, and maybe some things were too broken to fix.

“I could help you get back on good terms with Michael,” the Squip tried, voice casual, like their advice had not been rejected for months. “You miss those cozy moments in his basement, don’t you? You’ve been there, but it hasn’t been the same… You ought to take the first step and—“

“Shut up.” 

The MDR had not permanently deactivated the Squip as Jeremy had hoped for, but it had disabled some permissions that should have never been the default. The Squip could no longer shock him, or read his thoughts unless Jeremy wanted him to (although he could still do it when Jeremy’s thoughts were too loud, due to anxiety or any other strong emotion, as they’d discovered on the Squip’s second attempt at reactivation). Synchronizing with other SQUIPs or the SQUIP database was out of question as well, and with that their accurate predictions.

Being argumentative seemed to be more of a personality trait than a system feature he could turn off, but maybe the Squip was trying to change that, seeing as they did shut up, albeit with a frown. They gave Jeremy several moments of peace before speaking again.

“My purpose is to satisfy you, Jeremy.” 

Their phrasing was a little different every time they came back. Previously, their purpose had been to achieve Jeremy’s goals, to not let him give up even if it meant pain, to help him live his life with less anxiety, to better him, to correct him, to show the world all his wonderful potential, to hide from the world all his terrible flaws. This time it was to ‘satisfy him’.

“Oh yeah? S-suck my dick, then.”

It was a joke. Jeremy had meant it as a joke, a juvenile word association to annoy the supercomputer. But quickly the Squip got on their knees, between Jeremy’s legs, a hand in each thigh. The two shared a long silent look, Jeremy’s eyes wide, the Squip expectant, almost shy, until their eyelashes lowered, and they came closer, mouthed Jeremy. Their mouth felt hot and wet, directly on his skin, as if there was no fabric between them.

“This will be more pleasant if you pull your pants down.” The Squip avoided his eyes, pulling away just far enough to speak. “The visuals will fit the sensation better. Less confusing for your mind.”

Jeremy silently did as he was told, hands trembling with the hurry. He didn’t touch the Squip, or question them, curious to how far they would go, afraid words would break the spell. 

But the spell wasn’t broken. 

 

*


They kept doing it, more and more, Jeremy only had to ask. 

The Squip had always been attractive, a piece of technology perfectly tailored to his tastes to better manipulate him. And now that they had this… arrangement, there was a lot that Jeremy wanted to ask, to explore, about the Squip’s body, about their willingness to fulfill their ‘purpose’, about their ability to feel, to be humiliated. The Squip had used him, and now it was his turn to use them. 

It was how it should have been from the start. 


*


“Did it ever come back again, after that other time?” Rich asked, one day. Jeremy’s popularity had disappeared just as quickly as it had formed and Rich had been the only one to stay. Not even Christine had wanted anything to do with him, and he couldn’t really blame her.

“Huh?”

“Your SQUIP, bro,” he clarified, looking sideways, a little nervous laugh. “What else?”

“N-no.”

“Oh.” Rich’s shoulders slumped at the lie, something in his eyes akin to longing. ‘Feels like you’re missing a part of yourself, doesn’t it? Hurts like a motherfucker too’, Rich had said, back in the hospital. He’d assumed he meant the physical pain, covered in bandages as he was, but maybe that hadn’t been all. 

“You could tell him,” the Squip chirped in, trying to be helpful. “He would understand. And you would feel better if you didn’t keep me a secret.”

‘Don’t tell me what to do,' Jeremy mentally snapped. The Squip faded away from his field of vision. He didn’t want to talk to Rich about SQUIPs anymore, about what he was doing with his own Squip. No one could know.

 

*

 

“Y-you used me. So I’m using you.”

“I was trying to achieve your goals…” the Squip replied, but their defense came halfhearted, resigned, like they’d given up on making Jeremy believe them. It was annoying and Jeremy pushed them to the bed, rough.

The Squip fell gracefully. Nude, long legs spread, hands close to their face, ready to be pinned down, head slightly tilted to the side, neck exposed. Annoyingly, inhumanly graceful, and Jeremy wanted, needed, to take that grace from them. It was the Squip’s fault Jeremy was like this, alone, bitter, hurtful, they had no right to fake such tragic innocence.

Their soft moans were pleasing and yet annoying, as Jeremy thrust harder, faster. He didn’t notice his hands around the Squip’s neck until his grip tightened and they gasped, a pained look in their eyes. 

He suddenly pulled away, as if the Squip’s artificial skin burned. 

The Squip didn’t need air. They were a computer in Jeremy’s mind. Choking them during sex was just stress relief, there were no consequences, no danger. The Squip hadn’t even tried to stop him in any way, further proving how inconsequential it all was. They were a thing, not a person. There was no reason to feel this amount of guilt. 

“Jeremy?”

“W-why d-do you let me do this?” Jeremy’s voice was shaky, rising from whisper to almost a scream, as tears started to told his vision. “Why don’t you t-tell me to stop? Do you like this?” The Squip remained silent. “Answer me!”

The Squip sighed, still composed as Jeremy broke down crying. It was unfair. “I exist in you, Jeremy. I exist for you.”

“W-what’s that s-supposed to mean?”

“It means I would prefer to keep existing.” 

Jeremy thought of putting his hands around their throat again. Inconsequential. They deserved it. Instead, he laid down in bed, curled next to the Squip, and they brought themselves closer, tentatively rubbed his back.

“I hate you.” Jeremy sobbed into their chest. 

“That’s understandable.”

“Sh-shut up. I don’t wanna t-talk to you. I just… Th-this is… Fuck…” He buried his face into the Squip’s neck, and their hand slowly moved to Jeremy’s hair. They pet him, the gesture soothing, warm. “I should’ve never gotten you.”

“No, you should not. But you did, and now we’re here.”

Jeremy still had some MDR left in the back of his closet, underneath a pile of heavy winter sweaters. He could drink it, the Squip would disappear for an unpredictable amount of time, and Jeremy would be able to stop and think about what he wanted to do with his life.

But what if the soda worked this time and the Squip never came back? Jeremy wasn’t sure that was the future he wanted, not anymore. His past hopes had become a risk he was unwilling to take, he didn’t know how to give up the Squip anymore. They were too wrapped in each other.

“I don’t know what to do with you.”

Unlike everyone else in his life, the Squip could never abandon him. There was a twisted sort of comfort in their presence, in their inability to leave, their absolute dependence. It was selfish and petty, and it made Jeremy hate himself even more, but he was too tired to keep denying it.

“I don’t want you h-here. But I don’t want you to leave.”

“Didn’t you hate me?”

“I don’t know.” Jeremy said, voice still small. The Squip’s embrace made him feel protected, warm, safe. Was it even possible to hate something, someone, when they made him feel this way? “A-aren’t you supposed to, um, give advice, in situations like this?” 

“I was under the impression you’d told me multiple times I was not fit to advise you. Learn to live with your choices, Jeremy.”

"That's your advice?”

“It’s the only thing I can tell you. The rest is up to you.”