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Paper Flowers

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It's a locked ward, extremely locked. David wasn't even allowed to leave for his father's funeral. So of course he and Syd can't actually go out on a real date, dinner and a movie, holding hands in the park, a kiss goodnight on the doorstep.

David's not sure why he even thinks that's what their date would be like. For some reason, being medicated into a stupor for years has made him much more of a romantic. Or maybe it's just Syd that makes him feel like his heart is going to burst every time she glances his way with those playful, serious eyes.

He wants to give her everything. He wants to do every romantic, over-the-top thing he's ever seen in movies or read in books. He wants to fill her room with flowers and hold her in his arms as they dance the night away.

Instead, while Syd is at her session with Kissinger, he sneaks over to the crafts table. Under the watchful eye of an orderly, he uses blunted scissors, clear tape, and an old magazine to make a bouquet of glossy paper flowers. Petals of celebrity faces and stems of tightly-wrapped ads for clothing, cars.

After her sessions, Syd usually goes somewhere private to lick her wounds. He waits as long as he can stand to, then finds her at her favorite window, staring out at the city.

"Hey," he says, the bouquet tucked behind his back. When she turns to him, his heart feels like it's going to burst; it always does.

She notices right away that he's up to something, of course. He can't hide anything from her. "David?" she asks, with wary amusement.

"I thought that, you know, since you're my girlfriend, we should -- we should go on a date. A real date." He holds out the bouquet, half-terrified that she's going to laugh at his pathetic display. He still can't believe that she agreed to date him in the first place. He still can't believe he asked her.

She takes the flowers, carefully avoiding his hand. She doesn't laugh, not at all; instead she holds them against her chest like they're something precious. She looks at him like he's something precious.

"Okay," she says, smiling in that private way she has. "Now?"

"Okay," David says, unable to stop from grinning.

There aren't a lot of places they can sit together, and they're not allowed to take food outside of the cafeteria, so that's where they go. David gets cherry pie, of course, because it has everything he needs -- and he really has everything he needs now that he has Syd, too.

"So," David begins, trying to remember how all of this used to work back when he was in the real world. It feels like another life, like he was another person. "You come here often?" he tries.

Syd laughs around a mouthful of brownie. "Very," she says, her fingers over her lips. "Can't seem to get away."

David laughs at that, and takes a forkful of pie. He stares into her eyes as he chews, and she glances away nervously before staring back with boldness. God, she makes his stomach flutter. He barely even cares about the pie when she looks at him that way.

He wants to kiss her. He agreed not to touch her. She definitely does not want to be touched. He eats another forkful of pie.

It's surprisingly almost like a real date. They chat around the reality of their lives, they flirt with and tease each other. When they've finished eating, they go over to the common room, where Lenny has been sprawling herself over the chairs in front of the television on his behalf. When they arrive, she nods to him and dances away, her head full of music.

"What are we watching?" Syd asks.

It's a good question. Patients aren't allowed to choose what's played; it's usually old movies, all scheduled ahead of time and controlled by the nurses. Sometimes the nurses break the schedule to watch whatever they want to watch. There's a soap opera playing, he can't remember the name, but he's watched it on and off and there's usually something about evil twins and amnesia.

They sit together -- not too close -- and watch the soap opera. His attention drifts away from it and over to Syd, and he watches her until she catches him watching her. He looks away, but feels her eyes on him; when he turns back, she looks away again.

"Come on," Syd says, when the show ends -- not that they watched much of it anyway. She stands and he follows, too happy just being near her to care what they'll do next. They walk through the halls, going nowhere in particular because there's nowhere they can go.

She twirls the bouquet in her hand and gives the paper flowers a sniff. He used circles from the perfume samples for the centers of the flowers. She smiles at him, peeking through her lashes.

You're so sweet, she says, but her lips aren't moving when she says it. David knows not to respond when that happens, but he smiles back, happy that she said it, even if it was only him imagining that she said it.

"So, um," he says, as their wandering feet bring them back to her favorite window. "Maybe we can do this again sometime?"

"Maybe," she says, but her eyes are sparkling.

He wishes he could kiss her, and maybe she does to, because she sniffs the flowers again, then kisses one, so quick he would have missed it if he could ever stop looking at her. That tiny kiss falls like a hammer-blow to his chest, and he stands there, utterly dazed for who knows how long, until --

"David Haller, nurses station. This is warning number one."

Their time is up. She must see the devastation on his face, because she reaches out for him, then pulls back her hand.

"Take me to the library," she says, too quickly. "Tomorrow. For our next date."

"Okay," he says, remembering how to breathe again. "Tomorrow."

She smiles then, a full, real smile, just for him. Then she shakes her head. "Go, before you get warning number two. Go!"

He goes, but he can't help looking back over his shoulder. She's already turned away, looking out at the city again, but she's holding his paper flowers in her hand, pressed against her heart.