"Stay calm," Divad says, as David paces back and forth, frantic. He's freaking out, just as bad as he was before Divad started managing him again. "Everything's going to be fine."
"It's not," David says, between too-fast breaths. "It's not. It's really not."
"I thought you had this," Dvd hisses at Divad.
"This is your fault!" Divad hisses back. "Look what you did to him!"
On the bed, David's body is strapped down again, back in full restraints. Every time David calms down enough to look at himself, he starts freaking out all over again. It probably doesn't help that there was blood, or that David's jaw has a nasty bruise that's swelling up. It probably doesn't help that there are people hovering around his unconscious body and shaking their heads and acting like the world just ended.
It probably doesn't help that Kerry is crying and that Syd looks like she's going to be sick.
The blood's gone, anyway. Cary cleaned that up when he checked the crown and checked David's head. He's holding an icepack to David's jaw now, trying to bring down the swelling before it gets too bad. Dvd is outside of their body with the others again, but he can still feel the power of Kerry's right hook. He rubs his jaw, glad for once that he doesn't have to be the one in charge of their body. Though right now no one's in charge.
"I just needed more time," Dvd mutters. If he'd just had more time, he could have got that stupid crown off for good. He couldn't break it from the inside so he had to get at it from the outside, with hands.
"God, for once in your life will you just give up?" Divad yells, then curses as him yelling only makes David even more stressed out.
They can hear David's hamster-wheel thoughts, cycling over and over. He's terrified, convinced that he'll never escape this situation. That all of his friends will write him off as a lunatic, as crazy, as a worthless madman too dangerous to ever let see the sun again. And when he's not thinking that, he's thinking how even if he somehow gets out of this, he'll never escape Farouk, he'll never stop being tortured. Farouk will torture him and torture him until his mind breaks into countless fragments and one of those fragments is finally crazy enough to end the world and he kills everyone. And David can't bear that, he can't bear any of that, he just wants to die, please, please, let him die.
Dvd wishes he didn't have to hear any of that. He really, really wishes he didn't.
"I was trying to protect him," Dvd insists. This isn't his fault. It's the shit beetle's fault, like always. "This place isn't helping him, it's making him worse."
Divad rounds on him, furious. "Right now the only thing making David worse is you. You know what? You wanted to be in charge so bad? Be in charge. This is your mess, the last thing David needs right now is to have to clean it up."
"Fine, I will," Dvd says. Not that he'll able to do anything until their body is ready to wake up again, or that he'll be able to do them any good when he's stuck in a body that can't even move because it's strapped down. He rubs his jaw, braces himself. Damn it, this is gonna hurt.
When he opens their eyes, it's later, and yeah, their jaw is killing him and so is their head. He doesn't know how later it is because there's nothing in this place that gives any sense of time. It's a prison designed to torture the prisoner, and that's just more proof that Dvd made the right choice in trying to get David out of here. It's not just Farouk trying to drive David crazy, it's this place, it's these people who claim to be his friends. Parasites, that's what they are, using him for his powers, throwing him away the moment he's too much trouble for them. They're all the same, all of them. If Divad wasn't so far up his own ass, he would see that and help him instead of letting these people fuck David over again and again.
But anyway, Dvd knows it's later because he doesn't hear anyone crying or talking. He can't see much with their head strapped down like this. He looks as far as their peripheral vision allows, and notices someone.
It's one of those weird robot things. Vermillions. It must be Ptonomy's. Ugh, the last thing Dvd needs right now is another sanctimonious moralizing asshole. He gets enough of an earful from Divad all the time.
The Vermillion notices he's awake and shifts closer. It stares at them, right into their eyes, then leans back.
"I'd ask you to hold up a card, but..." says Ptonomy.
"Ha ha," Dvd sneers. "Very funny. Lemme out of this."
"Still Dvd, right?" Ptonomy guesses. "I'm sorry, you're not going anywhere. We can't trust you not to hurt David."
"I'm not the one who punched him in the face," Dvd says. "You people are the ones hurting him with this stupid crown. Keeping him stuck in this prison cell, treating him like an animal." Pathetic. "You know what the worst part is? You all think you're so much better than him, that you know what he needs, and you're wrong."
"And you know what David needs?"
"I'm the only one who's ever known what David needs," Dvd says, and yeah, it feels good to say it, especially to one of David's so-called friends. "I'm the only one who's always had his back, no matter what happened. All those people who claimed to love us? They abandoned us, over and over. They found a hole to stick us in and walked away. They try to kill us because they can't deal with what we are."
"You don't think David needs help?"
Dvd laughs. "You call this help? You're just that shit beetle's puppets, dancing on a string. Torturing David for him while he sits around being pleased with himself. And you call yourself his friends?" He scoffs. "We know what you’ve been thinking about him since we came back. None of you trusts him. You’re all afraid of him, all of you. It’s no wonder it was so easy for the shit beetle to trick you into turning against him. He doesn’t belong here and if we’d just left right away everything would be fine."
"You wanted David to leave?" Ptonomy asks. "After you got back from the desert?"
If only they had. "We had a plan," Dvd says. "We all agreed. We made David agree to it. After that blonde thing tried to kill us, he finally saw that there was no reason to stay. It was time to get away from all of this bullshit and go somewhere else."
"Where did David want to go?"
"I dunno, a farm or something. It sounded boring but whatever, I don't care where we go. He just wanted to be somewhere quiet, away from all you people. But you wouldn’t let him."
"Okay," Ptonomy says. "So what was the plan?"
"Simple," Dvd says, proudly. It was mostly his plan and it was a good one. "Stay long enough to watch Farouk fry, and if he tried anything, kill him. Turn him into dust. We know how to do it, the shit beetle used our body to do it. Give him a taste of his own medicine."
"So why didn’t you? Kill him? Why wait at all?"
Dvd grunts in frustration. "David kept changing the plan. He wouldn’t stop obsessing over Syd. You know, I didn’t mind her as long as she made him happy. But ever since we got back it’s been nag nag nag. Stop Farouk, help Farouk, don’t leave, go away. Then just when we’re finally about to smash his head in, she comes up with a gun and starts rambling on about how David’s gonna end the world, and then she shoots us! Fuck her! It was kind, what we did to her, making her forget whatever bullshit mind control the shit beetle did to her. I wish I could forget what he did to me, to David, to all of us. But I can’t. I have to remember because if I don’t know all the bad things that happened to David, I won’t be able to stop them before they happen again."
Shit. That was a lot. He didn't mean to say all of that. And now their throat is tight and there's water in their eyes.
"That sounds like a lot of pain to hold on to," Ptonomy says.
Dvd doesn't cry. David is the one who cries. But now he's the one in their body and their body wants to cry. Dvd won't let it win.
"Well, I have to," Dvd says, roughly. "That’s what I’m here for, that’s why David needs me. I keep him safe, I protect him from anything that tries to hurt him."
"You haven’t been able to protect him from himself."
That hits harder than Kerry's fist.
"David’s suicidal, and not for the first time," Ptonomy continues. "Do you really think you’re helping him by taking him away from his treatment? What if you'd succeeded? What if you got him away, but all that did was give him the opportunity to do what he’s been trying to do for days?"
"No," Dvd insists. "No. I wouldn’t— That wouldn't happen."
"Are you sure about that?"
"No!" Dvd says, loudly. "No, I wouldn't let him! I know, I know he tried before, but I stopped him. Even with that shit beetle always in the way, I got rid of that stupid cord. I saved us!"
"You couldn’t stop him from putting that cord around his neck in the first place. You couldn’t stop him from stepping off that chair."
There are tears leaking out of their eyes. Dvd squeezes them shut.
"What makes you think you could stop him again?" Ptonomy continues, his musical, calm tones slicing through Dvd's guts like a knife.
"I'd stop him," Dvd says, gritting their teeth.
"How? By controlling him, the way Farouk controlled him? By making him a prisoner inside his own body? You’d be just like Farouk, torturing him, making him suffer because you won’t let him get the help he needs."
More tears, flowing out hot and fast no matter how much Dvd tries to stop them. Their stomach hurts and their chest hurts and everything is awful. It's been so long since Dvd was in control of their body for more than a few minutes at a time. All he's been able to do for years is step in to save their life. He forgot what it was like to live in their body, to be at the mercy of it. It's no wonder David hates being alive if he always feels this way.
"You're right," Ptonomy says, softer now. "We did let David down. We thought we helped him but all we did was leave him vulnerable to more pain. I think you know exactly what that feels like, and you know how much we need to make up for that now."
"I just want--" Dvd gasps, their throat tight. "I just want to make it stop." It's been so hard, so hard. David's hurting all the time and Dvd didn't know what else to do. He just wants David to stop hurting.
"That’s what we all want," Ptonomy says. "But there’s only two ways to make David's pain stop, and that’s either to let it win, or to face it and help him through it. I don’t think you’re a coward. So what I want to know is: are you gonna step up and work with us, or are you gonna leave David vulnerable to more pain?"
Dvd doesn't want to let the pain win, to let the shit beetle win. He can't stand that. But staying, letting David suffer in this place, letting them hurt him, how can he stand that either? But god, David wants to kill himself so much. It's worse than it was when David hung himself. It's so much worse. Farouk's threats truly are the only thing keeping him alive, and that hurts the most out of all of this. That the shit beetle is doing what Dvd is supposed to do. Dvd wants to kill him a billion times over for that. He wants to turn every speck of his body to dust, every atom, and then stomp on the dust until even the atoms don't exist anymore.
God, he hates this. He hates all of this. He wishes they'd run away and never looked back.
"Okay," Dvd spits out. "Fine. You win."
The Vermillion leans back like its relieved. "Thank you, Dvd. You're doing the right thing."
"Wait," Dvd says, because he has to try. "The crown. Please, it hurts him so much."
"I'm sorry," Ptonomy says, and maybe he actually means it. "I know it hurts him. But it's not forever, even if that’s what you and David are afraid of. If David gets better, he won’t need it anymore. If you want to make all the pain stop, then help David get better. Will you do that? For David?"
More tears, and still he can’t stop them. "Yes. For David."
The Vermillion goes quiet for a few seconds. Then it reaches out and opens the restraints. Dvd fumbles out of the bed the moment their body is freed. He stumbles backwards until he's in the corner, as far away from Ptonomy as he can get. It's only when he catches their breath that he realizes he's standing in the same spot that David is, that he's standing through him.
David is curled up in a tight ball, blocking everything out. He's gone away again, lost in his despair where nothing can reach him. Dvd looks and finds Divad sitting a few feet away, his head bent with grief.
Dvd sits down between them.
"I'm sorry," Dvd says, to both of them. Even if David can't hear him right now. He's sorry for making things worse.
"He's right, you know," Divad says, his voice rough even though he doesn't have a body making things hard to say. "We can't do this on our own. We can't protect him. Again."
"I know," Dvd accepts. "But I don't-- David trusts people, but I don't. I can't."
"You have to," Divad says, looking up to meet his eyes. "We have to. These people are the only chance David has."
"Shit." Dvd knows he's right. He knows. But it's so hard. Not trusting people is the only way he's been able to keep David safe. He's always been on the alert, waiting for the betrayal to come, waiting for their warm smiles to turn cold and angry. It never bothered him before that he was always right.
He doesn't want to be right, not this time. He truly, truly doesn't want to be right. Because if he is right, and David's friends abandon him like everyone else has, then even Farouk's threats won't be enough to keep David alive. And then--
No. No, Dvd's not gonna let that happen. Not again, not if there's anything he can do to stop it. He's not giving up. He's never given up, not ever, not once, no matter how bad things got. And he knows how bad things got, because Farouk's favorite way to torture him was to make him remember all the things that David forgot.
"You take over for a while," Dvd tells Divad. "I got this."
Divad doesn't argue. Dvd steps out, and Divad steps in. David's body gets up and goes back to the bed, sits down, and starts quietly talking to Ptonomy about what's happening to David now.
Dvd can touch David again, so he does. He gets as close as he can and wraps his whole body around David, holding him with all of himself, willing him to get better and come back to them. They've both had to do that for David so many times, so many, many times. Farouk would torture David until he broke, and then leave the shattered mess for Divad and Dvd to frantically try to piece back together. And then he would do it again, and again, and again, and--
Dvd hates how trapped they are, still, after everything they've done to escape. He understands David’s despair. His anger is all he has to protect him from feeling it himself.
They have to do this. They have to get David through the pain, whatever it takes, no matter how hard it is. They have to bring him back and help him get better. They only just got David back. They can’t let Farouk take him away from them again.