Syd figures it out first: what really happened that night in her early days at Clockworks. She doesn't tell David because the realization is as embarrassing for her as it will be for him, but then she doesn't tell him for other reasons. Devious reasons.
It's not payback. It wasn't his fault. He thought he was crazy, not psychic, so how would he know that he was eavesdropping on her mind as she masturbated? How would he know that she shared the experience with him? He couldn't and he didn't.
It wasn't his fault. But she's still going to enjoy this.
It's hardest for him at night. He's so used to the constant noise of his thoughts -- of the thoughts of everyone around him -- that now he lies awake listening to the sheer silence. Every little noise stands out: the whisper of the air vents, someone walking down the hall, Syd's slow breathing, his own heartbeat.
It helps to watch her sleep. They have their own private room to share now and it helps to have her close, even if they can't hold each other, even if they can't lie together at night in a tangle of limbs the way he wants. Well, they can, sort of, in the white room. But no matter how long they stay in that place, eventually they have to come back to the real world.
The real world. He’s still figuring out what that even means.
But that’s okay. He has time now: time to figure out what’s real and what’s not, time to figure out who he is now that he’s alone in his own mind, now that he’s a mutant with superpowers and not sick. He’s not sick.
He’s not sick; his mind is quiet; Syd is here.
He breathes out. He closes his eyes.
She's up before him, as she's been for the past few days. She doesn't wake him, not when he needs the sleep, when he's still healing. He's peaceful, the lines smoothed from his face, all warm and soft. She can feel how warm he is even from her safe distance.
It's confusing, being able to touch him in the white room but not here. She has to stop herself from reaching for him, has to re-learn the instincts that have protected her all her life. And then she has to forget them again, and learn them again, and forget and learn.
She wants to touch him now, she wants it so much. She's addicted to their contact, to his body against hers, to their hands pressed together, fingers sliding between fingers. To the softness of his lips and the scratch of his stubble. To the hard heat of him inside her, spreading her open, reaching into her in ways she thought no one ever would.
She presses one hand against the sheets, her palm pushed flat. She drags her hand down and remembers dragging her hand down David's side, his back. He feels so alive when she touches him, even though it's all just an illusion, just signals. Impulses sent from nerve endings. Electricity in the brain.
She wants him. She want him here, in the flesh, for real. It's the one thing she can never have. She wants him anyway.
David is so powerful. There's so much he can do. They can't touch, but he can still give her what she needs. She knows he can.
David, she thinks, calling to him with her thoughts, projecting his name to him over and over, so he'll hear her in his dreams and come to her. David. David.
He's not sure how he knows. He's not sure if this is a dream at all. Maybe he's just remembering, maybe it's something he's making happen with his powers. Dreams, memories, astral planes, hallucinations, telepathy: he was never able to differentiate them and maybe he never will. It's all both real and unreal to him, it's all reality as he knows it.
He might not know what's happening, but he knows it's familiar.
It's Syd. He sees her beckoning him, dressed in black and orange, Clockworks-striped. She's dancing and he wants to dance with her.
He reaches for her, but she dances away from him, down the hall. He follows her through a door, and inside she's lying in her narrow bed, her head against the pillow, her hair in pigtails. She has her eyes closed and she must be having a bad dream, because she's restless, moaning in her sleep.
"Syd," he calls, reaching for her, opening himself wide, letting her in.
"David," she moans, and oh, oh, he feels--
She's not in pain, not remotely. He feels her hand--
He shouldn't be here, shouldn't see this. He can't look away, and then before he can, her eyes open and she's looking directly at him, and her hand is still touching herself and touching him, inside herself and inside him. She holds him with her eyes as her hand moves faster and faster, as her pleasure builds inside of her and spills into him, and she pulls him down into her until he's lying in her bed and her hand is between his legs and he's-- oh god, he's--
He jolts awake, body clenching with her orgasm even though he's still full of need. He's gasping and confused and his body doesn't know which way is up.
"David," she whispers, and he sees her, focuses on her. She's flushed, sated, her eyes sparkling in the morning light.
"David," she coos to him, laughter in her voice.
"That was--" he gasps, still scattered by her climax. "How did you--"
She gives a smug and private smile. "We did this before. Remember? Just after we met?"
He doesn't remember, he--
Oh. Oh. Ohhh.
"That was-- You-- I didn't--" He covers his hands with his face. He had no idea. Oh god, he had no idea. He thought he was crazy. He thought he'd made the whole thing up. "I'm so, so sorry," he says, utterly embarrassed at himself and on her behalf.
"I'm not," she says, still smug. He lowers his hands and she's so obviously delighted with herself, and that's when he realizes.
"You did that on purpose!"
"Damn right I did. And I'll do it again."
"Syd!" He stares at her, shocked, and then another wave of realization washes over him, and he smiles, too.
"I love the white room," she says, sobering. "I love everything we can do there. But I want more. Here."
"But," David begins, his brow furrowing, "we can't."
Syd gives him an extremely patient look. "David. We can. Maybe not in the usual way, but..." She sits up, shifts an inch closer to him. "You can control your powers now. We should find out what we can do with them."
Despite her confidence, she flashes shy, ducking her head to break eye contact. That makes David sit up, too, makes him shake off the last of his sleep and focus. It's not often that she lets herself be vulnerable, even around him. He realizes that it must have taken a lot for her to ask for this.
The thing about the white room is that it's safe for them. Not just because they can touch freely, but because it's only in their minds.
"I don't want to accidentally throw you around the room like a bunch of dishes," David admits, opening up in return. His powers have always been a wild thing, slipping out of his control and wreaking havoc. He doesn't know how much of that was the Shadow King and how much was himself. The Shadow King didn't leave the manual for David Haller behind when he drove away in Oliver's body.
"You won't," she says, like it's a fact instead of hope. "You can teleport, read minds, change the world just by thinking. You've passed all of Cary's tests--"
"You mean I'm a world-breaker," David says, frowning. He's never liked being called that, especially not by people who only see him as a powerful weapon. He wants to be useful, not used.
"Babe, I don't want you to break anything," Syd says, gently. Then she looks away again. "We don't have to, if you're not comfortable."
Even though she barely lets it show, he can feel how disappointed she is. She took a risk for both of them and he let her down because he was afraid.
"Wait," he says, because she's right. Because he wants this, too. Because he's tired of letting fear control him. "I want to. But I don't-- Where do we even start?"
When she smiles, it's like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. "Don't worry," she tells him. "I have plenty of ideas."
The first rule, the first mandatory thing she figured out as she turned the ideas over and over, is that they can't be naked. Not completely, not both of them at the same time, not if they're anywhere close to each other. There's too much risk of accidental contact, and even though it likely wouldn't be as horrendous a disaster as the first time they made contact -- or the second -- there's no doubt that it would kill the mood.
Besides, she wants them to have this experience in their own, actual bodies. That's half the point of all this.
The other half, well.
The thing about the white room is that it isn't their white room. It's his white room. David created it with his powers, and his powers are how they're able to access it and share it. It changes in response to David's mood, his thoughts, conscious or otherwise. For what she understands of the astral plane, the white room might literally be a part of him, an extension of his mind.
She loves being there and she loves being with him. But from the first time they used it, she's felt like there's so much him there that she gets lost; she gets so caught up in touching him, in being touched by him, that she loses control of herself.
She doesn't like that, losing control. Even to him.
It's not his fault. She knows he's not trying to control her or influence her. David has always been incredibly respectful of her boundaries. He's just trying to give her what they both need: a place where they can be fully intimate, where they can express their love physically, without restraint.
She does need what he gives her; it's just that she needs more.
David has never been fully present in the real world, never really understood it despite how hard he tries. Even without the Shadow King in his head, she doesn't think he'll ever know what's real and what's not, not in a mundane sense. That's fine; that's perfect, really. It means the real world is her space the way the white room is his. It's where she's in control, where she can be the one who gives to him.
How can they be intimate when they can't touch? When it's not enough to have layers of clothing between them, but at least several inches of air?
In Clockworks, he thought a lot about couples who can't touch. History is full of lovers separated by great distances, who poured their love onto paper and waited weeks or months for a reply. Even the most normal couple, with their perfect house and their two-point-three kids, must have times of travel, of temporary separation they must endure. Some even enjoy their yearning, finding intimacy with their voices, with shared stories, with toys.
Some couples aren't separated by distance, but by circumstances. There's emotional distance, sexual dissonance. There are countless disabilities that can make physical intimacy difficult or impossible. There are fears, phobias, other people with a discomfort like Syd.
In Clockworks, they watched as their reflections kissed. They brought their shadow puppets together on the wall. They held a strip of fabric between them as they walked through the halls. Unwittingly, they masturbated together. God, he can't believe he did that to her, to both of them. He can't believe she did it back to him. He can't believe--
"You'll find out," she says, being very mysterious about it. The cat who got the cream. "But first, I want to watch you."
She nods. "Clothes off, handsome."
David slides off the bed and takes a step back. Are they actually doing this? Apparently they are. It's ridiculous that he's nervous; they've been naked together lots of times; they've had epic marathon sex in the white room, in every position they could think of; they know every inch of each other's bodies, inside and out.
Except they've never actually seen each other naked. Except they shower and dress separately and never even slept in the same bed until a few days ago. Except the two times they've kissed knocked them both off their feet. Her waking him with her climax was the most genuinely intimate thing they've done outside of the white room, and he's still reeling from it. He doesn’t know why it should be so different but it is.
Before he can talk himself out of it, he strips down under her watchful gaze. She makes no move to copy him, still fully clothed in her black pajamas and gloves and socks. There's strips of bare skin between the ends of her sleeves and where her gloves start on her forearms. With her hair up in pigtails, he can see her neck and the v of the top of her chest. She looks him up and down, and she can see everything.
"Good," she says, apparently satisfied. "Now lie back down." He reaches to push back the covers, and she shakes her head. "On top."
He lies down, perched on the edge of the mattress, turned on his side to face her. He tucks one hand under the pillow, and grabs one corner with the other. She lies down, his mirror at the far side of the bed. He looks into her eyes and remembers to breathe.
"Touch yourself," she tells him, so calmly. "Take your time."
He swallows, nods once. He's not used to showing himself off like this. With Philly, with the others, he had to focus intently on his partner to drown out the voices, to stay present, to not get distracted by the sensations his mind subjected him to. It probably didn't make him a great lover, but at least he was an attentive one, when he could keep hold of his attention.
There are no distractions now, no noises in his quiet mind. There's just Syd, just himself, just his own hand wandering along his body. Her gaze is so intense that he can feel it on his skin. It's good, the way she watches him; he's surprised by how much he likes it. His arousal had ebbed after the shock of waking, but he can feel it creeping back.
"Lie on your back," she tells him, sitting up so she doesn't lose her view of him. "Spread your thighs. Touch inside them."
She's not asking much, but it all feels enormous. She already knows how to touch him, what he likes, but it's different this way. He wants to close his eyes and pretend his hand is hers, but he doesn't want to stop watching her watch him. He wants to kiss her so badly and he can't, and his yearning for her fills his chest until there's barely any room for his lungs.
“Syd,” he pleads, though he’s not even sure what he’s asking for. For more? To stop? To escape into the white room, where he doesn’t have to feel how much it hurts not to touch her?
God, it hurts. It’s always hurt, even though he knows they’ll never— He loves her and he can’t—
“David? David?” Her voice cuts through him, and he opens his eyes, meets her own.
“Sorry,” he mutters on reflex. He shouldn’t drift anymore, not now that his head is quiet. Not when he should be focused on her.
She hushes him, and if they were in the white room, he knows she would stroke his hair and hold him.
“Don’t be sorry,” she says instead. “Talk to me. Or show me. It won't hurt to show me?"
It won't, he knows that. He's not going to accidentally wreck the room or hurt Syd. The monster is gone and he doesn't have to be afraid of himself anymore. He knows.
He’s not sick; his mind is quiet; Syd is here.
He opens himself to her.
She feels him reaching for her, and she reaches back. His longing for her has overwhelmed him, and now it floods through her. It's surreal to want herself so much.
I'm here, she tells him, speaking in his mind. She can feel how much her presence calms him. He's so fragile, still, for all his limitless power; there are wounds in him that may never heal. It hurts her, too, to not be able to take him in her arms. But their pain is what makes this real.
He can feel her desire for him and her arousal. She's still sated with afterglow, but watching him has made her cunt throb impatiently. He aches for her, too: his skin hungers for hers, his hands claw the air, his cock strains for the wet heat of her cunt. His whole body is taut, needing her so much, feeling what she feels, and unable to do anything about it.
"Syd," he begs, looking to her and seeing his own eyes clouded with lust. When he closes his eyes he can still see himself through her. He turns onto his side again, grabs at the sheets, the pillow, anything but her or himself.
Touch yourself, she tells him, and sends an image to him of what she wants. He complies, his eyes still screwed shut; he releases his grip on the bed and grabs his cock, and they both gasp as he holds himself too tightly. Every stroke sends shivers of pleasure through her as she sits perfectly still, her hands at her sides.
She's been men before, she's been him before. She's had the experience of being in his body and touching it, if only for functional purposes. But his body isn't an empty vessel that she's inhabiting; he's in here with her and she's in there with him. She feels him reacting as she clenches her cunt, feels him yearning for her to bring her hand down to touch herself, to mirror him.
He opens his eyes to plead with her. She looks so composed, so self-possessed, but he can feel how much of that is a lie. Inside, she needs as much as he does. In a flash of insight that could come from her or from himself, he realizes that she holds herself so tightly because it's how she protects herself. That if she gives in, if she follows her impulses, it will get herself and others hurt.
The monster is gone from his head, but he knows exactly how she feels. They're such different people but so many of their scars are the same.
He eases his grip on himself to something more pleasure than punishment. He wants to share this experience with her, wants to smash her illusion of control by breaking himself. He stops fighting and gives in.
She wants him to use his powers, so he will.
In the white room, he only has to want for a thing and he has it. But reality is no different from any other plane of his existence. The trick lies knowing what it is that he wants.
When he escaped from Clockworks in Syd's body, he brought her suitcase with him. And tucked in among the practical toiletries and neatly-folded clothing was a dildo. It was black, of course, and small enough to be discreet, but there was no denying what it was and where it had been. It was clean and neatly packed in its own little bag along with condoms and a half-used tube of lube. He'd left it in Amy's basement with the suitcase and forgotten about it entirely until now.
Poor lost luggage, it's time to come home.
"What?" Syd asks, with a bewildered laugh.
He puts the luggage in her closet and places the bag between them on the bed. When Syd sees it appear, he feels the confusion and surprise that pass over her face, and how she burns hot with embarrassment.
He smirks. Two can play at this game.
"I forgot that was in there," she says from behind her hands.
He sits up and empties the bag onto the bed. He thumbs open the lube and pours some onto his fingers. He reaches behind himself and--
"Chilly," he grins, then swallows a gasp as he presses slick fingers into himself. A strap-on wouldn't work with Syd like it did for Philly, they'd be too close, but--
As he works his fingers deeper, wider, Syd's composure cracks. She sits up straight, biting her lip, and then squirms, her brow furrowed with concentration.
"Maybe you should--" He moans as he hits a particularly sensitive spot inside himself. "Lie down."
She glares at him, but lies down, burying her face against her pillow. If she means to hide herself from him, it doesn't work. Her body is throbbing in time with his; her pleasure spikes the same way his does as he opens himself up. When he rubs against his prostate, she shudders and turns to him; her hair has fallen across her face and her cheeks are flushed pink.
"David," she moans. It's the most beautiful sound. God, he wants to kiss her.
Instead, he pulls his hand free and picks up the dildo. He hefts it in his hand, as thoughtful as he can manage when he has both their pleasure clouding his head.
"What do you think?" he asks, holding it out to her. "Is it long enough?"
She stares at it, then at him. Then she grins. "Make it longer."
He loves her so much. He makes it longer. He puts it on the bed and she picks it up.
"Make it wider," she says, a manic gleam in her eyes. When he balks, she says, "Just a little."
He makes it wider. He can probably still handle that much, even if it's been a long time since Philly. He lies down on his side, offering his back to her.
They've done a lot of things in the white room, but she's never fucked him before. They haven't had much need for toys; the white room is an ideal world so they don't have to worry about recovery time or the pain of too much friction. In that space, their bodies give whatever their minds want them to give.
She slips a condom over the dildo and slathers it in lube. This is her toy, even if it's not its usual size and shape. She knows very well how to use it on herself. But this is his real body he's trusting her with. She could really hurt him and she doesn't want to do that.
"Don't worry," he tells her, obviously aware of her hesitance. "I'll guide you." He reaches a hand back to her. Despite his assurance, she can feel that he's nervous, too. But he trusts her and she trusts him.
With its extra length, the dildo is too soft to simply push inside him. He takes hold of the tip and starts working it into himself, his fist flush against his skin. She stiffens, feeling his discomfort, the strong resistance of his body despite his desire. She balks, but she can see and feel his determination. He wants them to have this, he wants to make this work.
He grunts as the flared head of the dildo finally pierces him. She stills with him, feeling stretched and almost painfully full.
His pleasure catches her off-guard. He's stroking himself to help his body adjust, to help hers. Each of them has a white-knuckled grip on one end of the toy. She slides a gloved hand into her pants and copies him, adding her own pleasurable sensations to the mix. With the glove on, with their doubled sensations, she can almost pretend that it's his fingers stroking her clit and sliding through her folds.
She wishes they could lie face-to-face for this. She can feel everything he feels but she needs to see his eyes. She can't, so she watches the side of his face, watches the shift and strain of his body as the dildo fills him, fills her. She wants to lie down and surrender herself to what they're both feeling, but she refuses to let go of the toy that connects them.
God, he's so full, she's so full. It's almost too much. It would be too much if not for his hand on his cock and her fingers on her clit, their pleasure cutting through the pain. It's nothing like when he fucks her from behind in the white room, their desire bending their bodies together so they fit. It's so much more, so much harder. It's real.
By the time they've filled him to the brim, their bodies are sheened with sweat, and they're so hot it feels like they're burning with fever. At the end of it he lets go so she can push the last inch of it inside him, so she can take control. He grasps at the bed and at himself as she pulls the toy back and pushes in again, and she's trembling even as she puts all her strength into her arm.
"David," she moans, drunk on sensation, dizzied by it.
"Don't stop," he pants, pushing back against the dildo. She can feel how his body moves around it, how the inside of him clings and slides, how his body remembers and welcomes this fullness.
She drags the dildo back and the head scrapes inside him, and she almost falls on top of him, insensate with pleasure. She has to use her other hand to brace herself, but it doesn't matter, his pleasure is enough for both of them now. She pushes the toy back in and he writhes beneath her. She fucks him until her arms burns and her hand pricks with anxious needles because she's pushing the dildo too deep; she keeps fucking him, fucking herself, oh god, oh god.
She comes when he comes, his fist tight on his cock as it pulses, his body clenching hard around the dildo, his mind screaming her name deafeningly loud in her head. Untouched, her body shudders with his, and their climaxes mix and blur and sweep everything else away. She falls against the bed, trembling, breathless.
"I'm here," she tells him, reaching for him and then stopping herself. His heart always breaks a little when she does that, but then the rest of him has been shattered to pieces so it's fine, it's fine.
Without any pressure, the dildo slides out of him. He doesn't have the strength to stop it, and it falls off the bed with a comical thump. He laughs breathlessly and buries his face against the pillow.
He realizes that he must have let go of their connection when they came. He doesn't feel what she feels anymore. "You okay?" he asks.
She smiles. "Yeah." She smiles wider. "Was it good for you, too?"
He laughs and blows her a kiss. She blows him a kiss back.