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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open

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The other David leaves, and David is alone with the monster again.

There's so many masks now, and all at once. Usually there was just-- One or two at a time. Three or four, he supposes, if he counts Dvd and Divad. Four already seems like a lot, but now there's-- Ten? Eleven including Ptonomy.

Eleven masks at once seems-- Excessive.

Dvd walks by and takes the seat the other David left. He looks at David intensely, but doesn't say anything. But Dvd was never really-- Much of a talker.

"I talk," Dvd says, offended. "I just wait til I've got something to say."

"I've got plenty to say," Kerry says, drawing David's attention. "Tell Amy I need my exercise stuff back."

David hesitates, but-- It seems like when he listens to Kerry, so does everyone else? Or at least they look where he's looking. "Uh, Amy?"

"Yes?" Amy says, expectant.

The Amy mask. Was she a mask before? Was she always a mask? Maybe there were five masks all along. Or maybe the whole world was always the monster from the very beginning.

"Kerry wants her exercise stuff?" David says, unsure what that means.

"Oh!" Cary says. "Divad used to work with printouts. Could you please ask Amy for printouts?"

"Printouts?" David echoes, unsure about that, too.

"And we need to tell them about the dreams," Cary continues. He frowns. "But it might be-- Difficult to ask David to relay them."

"They were his dreams," Kerry says, annoyed. "Why aren't you relaying?" she asks David. "You're supposed to relay."

"I think we're going too fast for him," Cary says. "I'm sorry, David, we'll try to keep things simple. Just ask Amy for the printouts. Oh, but I don't have a pen. Not being able to make astral constructs is rather limiting." He pauses, expectant, then gives a small huff. "Just ask for the printouts."

"Cary wants printouts?" David relays, thoroughly bewildered.

"I've already sent the request to Doctor Orwell," Amy tells Cary.

"Oh, wonderful," Cary says, relieved. "Tell Amy thank you," he tells David.

"Um. Thank you," David tells Amy. "From-- That was from Cary."

Eleven masks talking to each other, making him talk to them. All this relaying-- What's the point? They're all the monster, it doesn't need him to talk to itself.

"Is he-- Coming back soon?" David asks. "The other David?" He doesn't think he can get through all this without him. Without feeling how he feels. Without him, David just feels like himself, and there's nothing good about that.

He misses Amahl. He misses his treatments. Amahl's medication always helped him. Maybe-- Maybe Melanie-- Or is she a mask? She's probably a mask. Why would the whole world be the monster except Melanie?

'I need my medication,' he thinks at Melanie, desperately. But she doesn't seem to hear him. Why doesn't she hear him? Does that mean she is a mask? No, the monster always heard his thoughts. Wait then-- Does that means-- She isn't a mask? But she's a mutant, a mind reader. But the other David said they're a mutant after all, and the crown-- She's not wearing a crown. Maybe she's just ignoring him? Maybe she hates him. She probably just hates him. Of course she hates him.

"David," Syd says.

David startles. "Um. Uh. Yes?" Syd. Is Syd a mask? But she said-- She's not his Syd. She's not Melanie's daughter. But it's her, it's Syd.

"Is there something you'd like to have here in the lab?" Syd asks. "Something that would help you feel safe and comfortable?"

Amahl, David thinks, but doesn't say.

"You were in Farouk's lab for months, right?" Syd continues. "I know you need to feel safe. Was there-- Something you liked to eat, or-- Something you held or looked at?"

"No," David says, softly. He ate what he was given. Though at the beginning, Amahl still-- He let David have things-- à la David--

There was-- Lenny's care package. Amahl probably wouldn't like him eating all that candy, but-- "Lenny, um-- Gave me Twizzlers?"

Except Lenny's a mask, too. Isn't she?

"Oh hey, all your stuff," Lenny says. "You want that back, right?"

David nods.

"Someone's gonna bring that up soon," Lenny tells him. "Special delivery." She winks at him. "Oh hey, Ames, speaking of boxes--"

"Oh!" Amy says, and smiles, excited. "David, we have all your things from college, remember? Your clothes and books. Would you like to see them?"

David gives her an uncertain look. Wasn't that a trick? Is this a trick?

"Once we get everything set up here, we can go through them together, okay?" Amy says.

David just nods. If she is the monster, he doesn't want to upset her. Whatever the monster wants to do, it's fine. It's not like any of this is up to him. It's not like any of this is real, even if the other David said it was. Maybe he was tricked, too. That’s what the monster does to David, any David.

"Fascinating as all this is," Clark says, annoyed, "the real world actually does need my attention."

"Clark," Syd says, a little sternly.

"Stay, please," Amy says.

Clark gives an impatient huff. "I came here to talk to David and Cary. Actual David."

"You did?" Cary says, surprised.

"You came here to spend time with mutants," Syd counters. "To make yourself part of the group. You can't do that if you keep leaving."

Clark glares at her for that, but for whatever reason, it seems to mean something to him. He sighs but stays put.

"If you'd like to discuss the future of humankind, that's a topic of great interest to me," Oliver says, breaking what David thought was some kind of meditative state.

Clark gives Oliver a skeptical look. "You're a little out of date."

"Really?" Oliver says, with friendly challenge. "I wasn't aware that basic humanity was a recent concept."

Kerry laughs. “Good one.”

"Then talk to me," Melanie says, a gleam in her eyes. "I'm very up to date."

Clark gives a long suffering sigh. "Why did I help resurrect you two?"

"I don't think we were ever actually dead," Oliver points out. "Perhaps a little frostbite?"

Lenny suddenly stands up. "Gotta go help David. You got this one?"

"Go," Amy says. "We'll be fine."

Lenny pauses, giving David a long look, then walks out of the lab.

Oh. She meant the other David.

"What's, um-- What are they doing?" David asks, once she's gone. He doesn't like the other David being out of sight. What if the monster is hurting him?

"They're talking," Amy says. "Melanie, you had sessions with David, right?"

"Of course," Melanie says. "Every day."

"Perhaps you should have a session now," Oliver suggests. "Since you're both here."

That gets everyone's attention.

"That's a great idea," Amy says. "David, what do you think? Would that help you feel better? Talking to Melanie about how you feel?"

"Um. Maybe?" David says. His sessions with Melanie were usually pretty upsetting. It was Amahl who helped him feel better. But he doesn't want to upset the monster. "Okay."

"Perhaps if we went somewhere private," Melanie says.

"I'm afraid that's not an option at the moment," Oliver says. "But this is a safe environment."

"Safe?" Melanie says, disbelieving.

"David needs your help," Syd tells Melanie. "You could at least ask him how he's feeling."

Melanie gives her another doubtful look, but turns to David. "David, sweetie. How are you feeling?"

David gives a nervous swallow. He doesn't know what to say. What's the right thing to say? What if he gets it wrong and then-- He always gets things wrong. And then the monster will stop being nice and start hurting him again. And he'll deserve it but--

His eyes are suddenly damp, and his chin trembles. He wishes the other David would come back. He wishes they could just--

"David," Melanie says, worried. She turns and reaches for him, then-- Stops, confused. Then she shakes off whatever stopped her, and pulls him into her arms and holds him.

David goes still. Now he's confused. Melanie never hugs him. Only Amahl hugs him, and sometimes Syd. Melanie said it would be wrong for her to hug him. Why is she hugging him? Is it because she's not really Melanie?

Melanie pulls back and looks at him. "I can't hear your thoughts right now. My powers-- They're not working. So I need you to talk to me, okay?"

David stares at her. "Are you-- Melanie?" he asks, voice small.

Melanie gives him a pitying look. "I'm Melanie, David. I promise I'm really Melanie. I've known you ever since Amahl found you in the hospital. We spent every day together for months. You're like-- A son to me." And then she falters again, and shakes off her confusion again.

David doesn't understand. "No, you're-- You don't feel that way about me. You don't."

"Of course I do," Melanie says. "I came here to save you, to bring you home."

"It wasn't real," David says, tears spilling out now. Nothing's real. "The lab wasn't real, it was just a trick."

"No, David, this is the trick," Melanie says. "This whole ridiculous story. Did they tell it to you? That-- This is supposed to be our real life? I'm supposed to be married to him!" She points at Oliver. "I've never heard anything so absurd."

Oliver's eyebrows rise high. So do Syd's.

David turns away, wounded but unable to explain why.

"David," Melanie says, gentler, apologetic.

"Stop lying to me," David says, through his tears.

"David," Syd says, intervening. "What was your relationship with Melanie like, when you were with Amahl?"

"You know," David protests, but-- She doesn't. Not if she's the wrong Syd.

"Tell me again," Syd says, with brief, small smile.

David rubs at his eyes, wipes at his face with his sleeve. "I'm her patient. Just that." He takes a shaky breath and turns to Melanie. "You told me. You said-- You had to keep a professional distance."

"That's true, but-- Only at the beginning," Melanie protests. "And then-- As you grew closer to Amahl and Syd-- Of course we grew closer, too."

"No," David insists. Even if it was just a dream, he knows what he remembers.

Melanie goes still. "You don't remember-- Me hugging you? Holding you, when you cried after our sessions?"

"Amahl held me," David tells her. Why is she trying to take that away? Only the monster would do something so cruel. She must be a mask. "Leave me alone."

"David," Melanie says, and she seems hurt and confused but she couldn't be, not for real. She's not real.

"Leave me alone!" David yells, and huddles away from her.

Amy stands up and holds out her hand. "Melanie?"

Melanie takes takes Amy's hand and lets herself be led away. They speak quietly together, and then Amy comes back.

"I think it's time we got the rest of this room ready," Amy tells them. She looks around the sitting area. "Dvd, can you stay with David?"

"Got it," Dvd says.

Divad, Oliver, Clark, and Syd all leave the sofa, and then after a pause, so do Cary and Kerry. Once they're gone, David calms a little, but still feels miserable. He looks over the back of the sofa and watches things being brought in: cots, chairs, a big round table, stacks of boxes.

"Hey, got any blankets yet?" Dvd calls.

"Working on it," Divad calls back.

Dvd shifts impatiently until Divad brings over a blanket. Dvd takes it, shakes it out, and then hands it to David.

"You had a shock," Dvd tells him. "Gotta stay warm."

David doesn't know what to say to that. But at least this is familiar, Dvd taking care of him and being kinda gruff about it. David pulls the blanket around himself. It does help a little.

"Thanks," he murmurs.

They sit quietly together as the room bustles with movement and noise. The warmth of the blanket makes him a little drowsy. And somehow, despite everything-- Having Dvd watching over him alone-- Feels safe.

"Wanna lie down?" Dvd asks. "It's okay. I won't let anyone hurt you."

David shifts on the sofa and lies down, and tugs the blanket over his legs. He tucks one arm under his head to keep the spikes of the crown from pressing in.

But he's not quite ready to close his eyes. He looks at Dvd, needing-- Something.

Dvd looks out past David, thoughtful. Then he gets up and-- Sits on the edge of the coffee table, his knees just inches from David's hand.

"I missed you," Dvd says, softly but with so much feeling. "David."

David's heart clenches. He looks at Dvd and feels so much need and-- So much fear. Dvd was the mask that-- That he loved. That he thought loved him. But he had so many awful nightmares, and Melanie said--

He doesn't want to think about Melanie.

"Is it okay if-- I touch you?" Dvd asks. "Just your arm."

David stares at him for a long moment, then nods. Dvd folds back one corner of the blanket, exposing David's elbow. And Dvd rests his hand on it.

They both take sharp breaths in, even though-- It's just touch, through the fabric of David's sleeve. No shared feelings except-- What they feel themselves.

Whatever that is. Could the monster love him? Syd and Amahl both thought-- Maybe it did. That the monster-- Protected him. Cared for him. That it only hurt him-- Because he needed to be hurt.

But David doesn't know what to think about anything.

"I'm sorry," Dvd says, heartfelt. "I just--" But then he runs out of words. There's just-- Feeling in his eyes, so much and so familiar.

"Dvd, we were hoping David could-- Oh," Amy says. She leans over the sofa. "I think a nap's a good idea."

Kerry appears next to Amy. "You're gonna nap? C'mon, we need you to relay."

"Kerry," Cary chides.

"No, this sucks," Kerry says. "Oliver finally made it so he can hear us and he's useless."

"Kerry!" Cary chides, a little angry this time.

"Sorry," Kerry says. "Sorry, David. But can you just-- Tell Amy we need two beds, not one? We can't share without a body. Tell her two, okay?"

"David?" Amy says. “Are you listening to the Karies?"

David nods. "Kerry says-- Two beds."

"Thank you, David," Cary says, then guides Kerry away. "Perhaps Oliver can figure out how to make us some pens."

"Cary wants pens," David relays, and then decides he is very much done relaying.

"Just rest, okay?" Amy says. She walks away, and then a moment later, the lights over the sitting area go out. There's still light in the rest of the room, and from the window, but-- David feels a little calmer. Amy comes back with a pillow, and he lowers his arm so she she can slip it under his head. Then she's gone again.

David looks at Dvd, silhouetted by the window. And David feels-- Such an intense longing for him. For the way-- Dvd held him, loved him. He can't feel Dvd loving him, even though he's right there, even though David could just reach out and--

But he doesn't. None of that was real. And if it was real-- He still doesn't know which real it was.

He watches Dvd even as his eyes fall shut. And when he's almost all the way asleep, he reaches out, just a little.