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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open

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When Syd wakes up, she remembers everything.

She doesn't panic, doesn't cry. She looks at her reflection and touches the cool surface of the mirror.

Her mind has always been her own, the essence of her inviolate soul. And now it's not. Now it's the aftermath of a battleground, the war come and gone, all the buildings blown to rubble.

She remembers what Melanie had said, what had seemed so utterly convincing in the moment. That mind readers were too powerful to trust. That she had to rely only on herself, her own thoughts, her own ideas. Syd believed that. She'd always believed that, except—

Beware of ideas that are not your own. For months the warning echoed through the halls of Division 3, for so long that they just became noise, for so long that she stopped listening to them at all.

Melanie wasn't Melanie. Farouk told Syd what he was doing to her even as he blamed David for it. He read her mind and showed her what she wanted to see: that all her fears and doubts were real, that the only way to stop them was to stop David. To stop the monster, the villain he'd become, was going to become. Will become? Always was?

She pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger. Everything exploded, and then David—

David made her forget. He violated her mind. He did that to her. That's not love. And then he came to her, strange and urgent, and he had sex with her, knowing what he'd done.

He did that to her. Her David, the David that she loved, who always asked permission, who respected her boundaries, who was gentle and sweet and vulnerable and brave. He betrayed her and violated her, and the worst part is she doesn't think he even knows that's what he did. She doesn't think he knows the difference between right and wrong, between real and unreal, between love and violation, not anymore.

She doesn't understand what happened to him. Was Farouk right? Was David always this way and she just didn't see it? Was she blind, did she look at him and see only what she wanted to see? Or did something change him, turn him into this, into just another man who thinks he has the right to do whatever he wants to everyone around him, even the ones he claims to love?

Did she ever know him at all?

Nausea hits her and she bends over the sink and tries to throw up, but there's nothing in her but bile. The dry heaves run their course, then she washes her face and mouth with cold water, her knees trembling.

She sits down on the cold tile, a stabbing pain in her chest as her heart rips open, the wound deep and angry. She cries, though she doesn't want to, because her grief is unbearable.

And then she pulls herself back together like she's always done. She stands and forces her legs to hold her steady. She washes her face again and looks at her reflection and promises herself that she's going to take back every inch of the control that's been taken from her. Her pain is her armor, it's how she survives. She wraps it around her wounded heart until the throbbing grief is dulled, contained.

As she reaches for the door, there's a knock from the other side. It's Clark.

"We have a situation."


When they reach Cary's lab, Amahl Farouk is standing there. Syd startles back and has to swallow her scream.

"What's he doing here?" she asks, bewildered by Clark and Cary's calm. She turns on Farouk. The inhibitor crown is gone, and he's healed and dressed in his suit. "Are you controlling them?"

"Not at all, my dear," Farouk says, with his salesman smile. She wants to punch it and shatter every single one of his perfectly even teeth. "I'm merely here to be of service."

Cary gives her an apologetic shrug, then looks to Clark to explain.

Clark sighs. "Division 3 has made an alliance with Amahl Farouk in order to deal with a greater threat."

"And what threat is that?" Syd asks, though she already knows.

There's a thin veneer of pity on Clark's face, but underneath there's determination, relief. "David."

"No," Syd says, shaking her head. "This is just another one of his tricks." She rounds on Farouk. "It's not going to work, not on me."

"The decision came from the top," Clark tells her. "Admiral Fukuyama's mind can't be controlled. It's not a trick. David is a danger to himself and others, and we need your help to stop him." He pauses, and then, with his typical brutal kindness, says, "We know what he did to you."

She goes still.

"I— I saw, when I was reviewing the sensor data from Le Désolé," Cary explains, knotting his fingers together in awkward apology. "He did something to your mind while you were unconscious."

"That's—" Syd begins, but doesn't finish. Can't finish.

"Concerning, yes," Clark says, making his own conclusion. "But it's only one piece of a very disturbing picture. We know the truth about the orb, where it came from, or rather when. We know that Cary makes it decades from now and you send it back."

"Not me," Syd says, because that wasn't her, the future her she saw cozying up with Farouk. But then maybe it is. Who is she now but her own dark future, cozying up with Farouk?

Clark puts on his pity again, but she doesn't believe it. She knows he's glad. She doesn't have to be a mind reader to know that Division 3 has always been scared of David Haller. They tried everything they could to kill him until he became too powerful to kill, and then they worked with him because they needed him to stop Farouk. And now...

"Farouk told us what he learned from you, in the future," Clark explains. "That David turns and once he does... This is our only chance to stop that future. To save the world from what he becomes."

"No," Syd says, shaking her head. "That's not fair. You're condemning him based on what? Farouk slaughtered your men, over and over. He killed Amy. He's a murderer, a liar, a monster."

Clark doesn't answer. Syd holds her head. She feels like she's losing her mind all over again.

"Syd," Cary says, taking a step towards her. "Even if it's just a chance... We're the ones who sent the orb back. We have to believe that we made the right decision, that this is our best shot at saving the lives of billions of people."

"So, what?" Syd challenges. "We're just gonna execute him?"

"Not if we don't have to," Cary says. He reaches for his work bench and picks up a crown similar to the one he'd placed on Farouk's head just hours ago. "I made another one, even stronger, with, uh, Farouk's help. We just need to get it on David's head. Then we can give him the help he needs."

"He'll never let you," Syd says. Not the way he is now.

"If he refuses treatment, then we will have to execute him," Clark says, and it's an honest fact.

Syd turns around and walks away from them, just far enough to get some space. She can't believe this is happening. She needs time to figure this out, but they don't have any time. As soon as he thinks to check, David will read their minds and then—

He's sick. Oh god, he really is sick. What he did to her, the way he's been since he came back, the thing he might become. He's sick and he needs their help.

"Okay," she says, dully.

"With your permission," Farouk oozes, "I will protect your minds so that he will not suspect. You will have to act quickly."


"David," Clark says, beckoning him to the center of the room. "Over here."

As David enters the courtroom, her instinct is to warn him, to give him the chance to get better on his own terms. But as he saunters over to Clark, she accepts that she made the right decision. Looking at him now, from a distance, she sees how much he's changed. He isn't himself. He's arrogant and smug and cocky.

"Just want to thank you," Clark continues, playing along. "You saved us all."

"That's what I do," David says, taking the praise like it's his due. "Where's Farouk?"

"They're bringing him in now. Let me just— I have a few questions before we get started. Let me just grab my pad." Clark walks clear as casually as he can.

"Yeah, okay," Syd whispers, giving the signal.

When Cary triggers the cage, she allows herself a moment of satisfaction, seeing David caught, knowing he'll be punished. But then she just hurts again, because once he's scared all she can see is her David. He bounces off the cage wall, whirls in confusion, starts trying to break free.

And then Farouk slithers in like the snake he is.

The moment David sees Farouk, Syd realizes their mistake. David's never going to trust them while Farouk is in the room. David starts pouring everything he has at the cage, desperate to escape and go after his enemy, his parasite, the thing that's tortured him his entire life. The smiling monster she has to work with because David might turn into a monster so big he'll kill the world.

It's not going to work. She has to try anyway.

"David, stop, please," she begs, trying to calm him. "I know that you don't want to believe me, but we want to help you."

David isn't listening. He only has eyes for Farouk. "Let me out! Now!"

"David Haller, your treachery has been discovered," declares a Vermillion. "The inevitability of your future crimes."

"We are informed by Sydney Barrett and the Shadow King of events that will transpire in the days to come," continues another. "The remains of the orb that took you have been analyzed. The probability that they have been created decades from now by the male Loudermilk is 98%."

David turns to Cary, betrayed. Cary shrugs; what could he say?

"This is a mistake," David says, looking around the room, angry, pleading for sense. "Future crimes? Things I might do? Are you—" He cuts himself off, shakes his head like he's trying to clear it. "Wait. What's— what's really going on?" And then, predictably, he focuses back on Farouk again. "This is you," he growls.

Farouk says something in another language. His voice is calm with mock sadness. "Seeing you like this, what you have become. The sweet boy undone by revenge. It fills my heart with such sorrow."

"Liar," David snarls.

As Farouk takes his seat, Syd knows that if they have any hope of pulling this off, it's up to her to find a way past David's anger and reach him. Despite what he did to her, despite her future self's warnings, she doesn't believe he's lost to her, not yet.

"David, I know how hard this was for you. What he did to you. The life that you lived." She stands up and approaches the cage, needing to say this to his face, to let him see how much she means it. "To think that you were sick for all those years, and then to be told that it was a lie, that you have these powers. This monster in your head, everything Melanie said, that you weren't mentally ill, when the truth is—"

"Syd," David pleads, begging her not to say it.

"You're both," she finishes.

The truth hits him like a gut punch. He reels, eyes darting in every direction. And then he suddenly lashes out at her with an accusing finger. "No! Shut up and let me think!" And then, calmer, dazed. "Just let me think." He presses a hand to his head, groans. "Something I do in the future? That hasn't happened yet? That isn't even me?" He laughs darkly. "Don't you see? This is some kind of mass psychosis."

"You're upset," Cary says, gently denying him. "Your mind can't reconcile the person we see with the person you think you are."

"But we can help," Syd insists. "Medicine and therapy."

David stares in wide-eyed devastation. "Back to the psych ward? David the zombie." She thinks for a moment that maybe this will work after all, that maybe the truth is getting through to him. But then he riles. "Well, bullshit! You want me gone so bad? Fine, I'm gone."

"No," Syd pleads.

"You will allow treatment, or we will be forced to terminate," declares a Vermillion, and that makes everything worse.

"You're gonna kill me?" David says, outraged. "No. No." He rounds on Syd, stares her down. "I want to hear you say it. That you're gonna kill me if I don't let them turn me into something different. Something easy. Something clean."

This is it. Her last shot at reaching him, at reaching the David she loves, or used to love, if he was ever there at all. She walks right up to the cage, as close as she can. "David," she begins, and every word is wrenched out of her with agonizing pain. "You drugged me and had sex with me."

She watches the truth sink in, a slow-motion disaster that she started and can't afford to stop. "No, that's not—" And she was right, of course she was right. He didn't know that he'd hurt her, he didn't know what he'd done.

He knows now.

Her David would have apologized. He would have been horrified, disgusted at what he'd done. But the David in front of her just wails like a lost child. "I need you," he whispers, like her pain is nothing, like only his pain matters. Like a boy loves his mommy or a dog loves a bone.

Maybe Farouk was right. Maybe her future self was right all along. Maybe he's always been a monster. He's a monster now.

"I'm a good person," David says, starts chanting the affirmation as he turns and turns, looking around the room trying to find someone who will believe him. "I deserve love. I'm a good person. I deserve love. I deserve love."

No one believes him. There's no one, and he's so, so lost.

And then suddenly he's angry. Focused. Controlled.

"You know what? I'm done," he declares. "You had your chance."

"No," Syd pleads, but it's too late. She failed. She backs away as David powers up again, as the cage strains to hold him.

"Cary," Syd calls.

"The gas." A Vermillion gives the order and the cage starts filling up. David waves it away, but it keeps pouring in, filling up the small space.

"Cary?" Syd asks, as she stands back with him.

"The field should hold," Cary says.

Syd's not so sure, because David's giving this everything he has. But for all his power he still needs to breathe, and as fast as he waves it away, the gas creeps up to fill the cage. And then she can't even see him through the haze.

The cage goes quiet. Syd looks to Cary, to Clark.

"Give it a minute," Clark says, holding up a hand. "It takes a lot to knock him out."

They wait but nothing happens. Did he teleport out when they couldn't see him? Is he waiting for them to drop the walls so he can attack? Clark gives the signal, and Syd waits, holding her breath as the walls drop, as the gas dissipates.

David is lying unconscious on the floor.

"The crown, now!" Clark orders, and Cary rushes in to put it on. David whimpers when it activates, body straining as the neural spines dig into his head, and then he goes limp again.

They have him now, for all the good it will do them.

"Take him," Clark orders.

Several soldiers haul David up and put him into a wheelchair. His head lolls back, and Syd takes a sharp breath in. She remembers David the zombie. She knows why he's afraid of this, after Clockworks, after so many years of misguided treatment that only made his life a misery. She's afraid for him, too. But this is the only way to help him, to stop him from doing things that he would regret if he was still able to regret doing them.

As they wheel David away, a Vermillion speaks. "Amahl Farouk, Shadow King. Your cooperation in this is now complete."

Farouk bows his head in acknowledgement. "Then I am free to go?"

"No," says another Vermillion. "Your services are required for another task. You must remain here until David Haller is neutralized or destroyed. There is a sixty-two percent chance that he will make an additional attempt to escape."

Farouk grins widely. "Then you wish me to be his jailer? It would be my honor, Admiral."

"Sixty-two percent?" Cary mutters. "Seems low after all that."

Syd wonders, but she's more concerned about Farouk. "I'm sorry, no," she insists. "We can't help David if he's involved. You saw what happened. David won't trust us if we're working with him."

"You're not," Clark says, all his conciliatory gestures gone now that he has David where he wants him. "He's working for Division 3. You also happen to be working for Division 3. It's your job to make sure that he doesn't have to do his job. Those were the terms you agreed to. If you have a problem with that, you can leave. We'll deal with David our way."

Syd stares at Clark, and he stares right back at her. "Fine," she says, not liking any of this at all. It's cure or kill, and she doesn't know if there's any hope of curing whatever's wrong with David. But she has to try. She's the only hope he has left, whether he realizes it or not.

"My dear," Farouk says, magnanimous in his victory. "Let us not start our new relationship on bad terms. Please, join me for a coffee." He gestures towards the door. "We are allies now. We must be civilized."

The last thing she wants to do is sit across from the monster that gleefully tortured David his entire life. But the actual last thing she wants to do right now is a tie between going down to David's new cell and waiting for him to wake up, and going back to her room to sit alone and feel absolutely miserable for doing the right thing.

"Fine," she says, and walks out, not looking back to see if Farouk is following.


Farouk almost moans as he takes his first sip of coffee. He ordered a café serré, a short shot of espresso so concentrated one sip would keep anyone else awake for days.

Syd ordered a shot too. Whiskey, despite the early hour, because she can't deal with any of this completely sober. She only takes one sip, though, because she can't risk being anything other than completely sober when she's sitting across the table from a monster. She'll get drunk tonight, safe in the privacy of her room.

Not that anywhere is safe anymore. Not that her room was safe last night. Maybe if she'd been sober when David came to her, she would have had the sense to say no.

"You cannot blame yourself," Farouk tells her.

"I'm sorry?" Syd says, glaring at him.

"I apologize," Farouk says, holding up a hand. "It’s impossible not to hear such loud thoughts."

"Well, try," she says, and resists the urge to throw back the whole shot of whiskey.

"It’s the truth," Farouk says.

He's still wearing those sunglasses, so she can't see his eyes, but she knows it wouldn't make any difference to see them. There is nothing about him that she will ever trust.

Farouk puts his hand over his heart. "You wound me, my dear. I’m only trying to do what is best for the world, as I always have."

Syd scoffs. "I'm sorry, when have you done anything for anyone but yourself?"

"I was a great king," Farouk declares. "My people thrived under my protection."

"I read Division 3's file on you," Syd says, unmoved. "You were a criminal before David's father stopped you. Your people were criminals. You hurt innocent people then the same way you hurt them now. You might have fooled me once, but—"

"Twice," Farouk smirks, and takes another tiny sip.

Syd's nostrils flare as she breathes in sharply. "I never believed your fantasy Clockworks was real."

"No," Farouk says. "But you believed your David was."

Nausea roils through her.

"That is when he changed, is it not? When you took me out of him with a kiss?" He chuckles. "I was the gift, remember? Le don. You should never have tried to take him away from me."

"Shut up," she whispers, but god, god, what if it's true? The timing, it makes sense, what if—

"What he did to you last night. It was truly sickening to see him hurt you so. He tried to trick you into loving him. But that is his nature, you understand? He is empty, a shell full of power. There is nothing to save."

"Shut up," she says again, louder this time. "I know what you're doing and it's not going to work."

"Then you still love him? Your David? You will let him back into your head, your heart, your body, after he has violated them?"

"He needs help," Syd says, wrapping her pain tighter and tighter around her heart.

"Perhaps," Farouk says. "Perhaps it is my help that he needs. I have guarded him all his life, saved him from himself. A little boy with too much power. Can you imagine the devastation? One tantrum and he wishes away his mother, his father, his country. I have always done what is best for the world."

Syd says nothing. She can't breathe.

Farouk takes another sip. "I would like to thank you, my dear. Not only for your noble efforts today, but for all you have already done for me in the future. Your assistance has been invaluable."

Everything hurts. Her soul hurts. She forces herself to breathe. "What do you want from us?"

"Right now? I only want to enjoy being back in my body, and to finish this delicious cup of coffee."

She can't take anymore. She stands up.

"Until next time," Farouk says, raising his cup to her as she turns and walks away.