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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open

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Last night when they went to bed, Cary hoped that he would wake up after a good night's sleep and the longing ache in his chest would be gone. But this morning, like every morning since the last time he separated from Kerry, the ache is stronger.

He knows the ache is stronger in Kerry, too. When the relay went off yesterday— She did her best to resist, but losing the feeling of having the Davids inside her only made her need Cary more.

Cary can't neglect Oliver's treatment, not again. And Oliver needs time to work on himself without relaying for David. He needs time to let his mind and soul and body heal back together. But as long as Kerry has the Davids inside her, she doesn't need Cary inside her.

Or at least they’re— A sufficiently therapeutic prosthetic. Like the artificial bodies keeping Amy and Lenny and Ptonomy's minds from drifting.

Cary looks away from Oliver's test results and sighs. He knows he has to talk to Kerry, he knows that. He can't be a bad example for the Davids. He and Kerry need to be whole like Oliver needs to be whole like the Davids need to be whole. He knows all of that.

But here he is, trying to ignore all of it anyway.

It's a rare moment of calm in the lab, with Ptonomy and Amy helping Syd and the Davids up on the roof. Cary finished Oliver's tests first thing after waking him up. It's too soon to say if there's any definite improvements. One night of unified sleep can't undo twenty-two years of detachment and sleep deprivation, but Oliver's recollection of Melanie over breakfast is a promising sign.

Kerry is giving Oliver his physical therapy up in the loft. And Lenny, surprisingly, is sitting on a beanbag chair. It's not the chair that's surprising. Yesterday, Lenny stuck to David like glue, determined to guide him through a long and intense day of therapy for his whole system. Perhaps she feels bad for how the day ended. But they could hardly have predicted that fixing David's lamp would make him realize exactly how Farouk manipulates him and send him into another panic attack. What's important is that they all worked together to keep him from going away. David passing out afterward— If that was anyone's fault, it was Cary's.

They all have to watch out for each other and take care of each other. That's the only way they're all going to make it through this. Lenny has been quite forceful about not wanting help from anyone, but she has at least cooperated with the tests to track her mental state and its gradual deterioration. The tests were run overnight by Division 3's research team, and Cary pulls up the latest results.

Ptonomy and Amy are still doing well. Amy's doing much better than expected. They were worried that she would be the first to go, having been disembodied the longest, but she's had the most touch therapy of the three of them. The Davids are deeply tactile, and now Syd needs extensive touch therapy herself. Ptonomy has also made the effort to touch more, hugging Amy and Cary and Kerry, sharing touch with Syd. Cary's even found himself hugging Oliver quite often, just in case that will help him— And because Oliver is his friend and Cary's so glad to have him back.

But Lenny is not a hugger. Since getting her android body, she's shown significant discomfort with being touched by anyone, with verbal and physical refusals despite the fact that human touch is one of the best treatments for her condition. She only accepted one hug from David yesterday morning, and even that was clearly difficult for her.

Cary might have missed the signs when Oliver first started to become detached. He might have failed Oliver again on his return, failed Melanie. But he's been a diagnostician for decades. Identifying symptoms is part of his job. And the way Lenny is sitting, staring at nothing— She might as well have left her android and gone back into the mainframe, for all that she's present.

Yesterday must have taken a lot out of her. Last night's tests showed significant declines in concentration and attention. She seemed fine over breakfast, but thinking back, she was quieter than usual, only engaging when it meant helping David and Syd. If she was in a living body, that could be excused by tiredness, solved by sleep and rest. But android bodies don't get tired. Disembodied minds can't sleep and can only rest in shallow ways.

She's struggling, just like Oliver struggled all those years ago. Cary can't go back and tell himself what was wrong, can't save himself and Oliver and Melanie from all that heartache. But he can use what he knows now to help Lenny. The problem, as it always is, is how to get her to allow herself to be helped.

Cary pulls up Lenny's file, compiled by Ptonomy with the mainframe's resources. It's clear that Lenny has endured an enormous amount of trauma, perhaps not developmental but certainly complex. To start, there's her true history of substance abuse, prostitution, and violence. All of that would be bad enough on its own. But she was, as David put it, made into a cocktail of Lenny and Benny, and then suffered a year of disembodiment with Farouk as her primary host. So she also has, to some degree, trauma from being Benny. She has trauma from the things Farouk did while he was using her as a mask. She has whatever influence remains from Farouk's mind and possibly even some from Oliver and David. That she's as functional as she is is a testament to her resilience and her need to survive.

Despite their differences, she reminds Cary very much of Syd. Emotional suppression for the sake of solitary survival. A thick, protective layer of anger around her heart, and then a cool, cynical exterior. Even their touch issues are similar, if for different reasons. Given what they know now about Clockworks and what Lenny endured there, what she endured even before that—

Cary isn't a therapist. He does his best to share what wisdom he's gained from his own struggles, but he doesn't have the training or experience that Melanie or Oliver had, that Ptonomy has. Sexual assault isn't something he's ever really dealt with, despite what happened to Kerry last year with Walter, despite what happened with David and Syd.

Sex isn't something Cary's thought of much at all, despite not having the embodiment issues that Kerry has. He's simply never felt that kind of desire for anyone of any gender, and with the complications of his life, he always felt that was for the best. Kerry is the love of his life. Few would be able to accept second place in his heart, and the alternative, of setting Kerry aside for someone else— That's simply unimaginable, if not impossible.

They're two minds in one body, two halves of a whole. And yet here they are pretending to be two separate people when that's never what they've been.

Cary turns his attention back to Lenny's file. Despite Lenny's refusal of treatment, Ptonomy suggested, along with the obvious diagnosis of complex trauma, a secondary diagnosis of trauma-induced haphephobia. Sexual trauma, physical and mental trauma. In the recording from her cell, Lenny said Farouk raped her over and over. Perhaps that was metaphorical and not literal, but in the end it doesn't truly matter. She was a captive mind, used and abused purely on Farouk's malignant whim. David's situation was the same. The things Farouk did to them have very little to do with conventional desire. The things the orderlies did to them, and whatever violence Lenny met on the streets—

Cary knows his limits. He's no better suited to helping Lenny with all of this than he is to helping David with his possession trauma and everything that's tangled up with it. That's Ptonomy's territory and Lenny has to want to do the work. She's quite clearly not ready for that, but they still have to keep her from drifting away. So what Lenny needs, if she's unable to accept human touch, is— A sufficiently therapeutic prosthetic.

And luckily enough, they already have one right here.

§

"Mind if I join you?"

Lenny looks up to see Cary. He has Syd's cat in his arms. Lenny can't remember its name. She doesn't like Syd and she sure as hell never liked cats. She doesn't have much of an opinion about Cary, except that he's usually attached at the hip to Kerry or Oliver.

"Yeah, whatever," Lenny shrugs. He can sit wherever he wants to sit. It's his lab.

Cary sits, perching at the edge of the loveseat next to her. He pets the cat. "Have you ever had any pets?" he asks.

Lenny starts to answer, but then she has to think about it. She remembers a lot of things. "Benny had a dog. Treated it like shit, surprise surprise."

"But not Lenny?" Cary asks. "Perhaps a cat?"

"Wrong kind of pussy," Lenny says, dismissive. She gives the cat a wary look. "Why'd you ask?"

"I was looking at the results from last night," Cary says, clearly reluctant to break bad news. "Your condition is deteriorating faster than we hoped. Last night and today, you've been having trouble with your concentration and attention. Have you noticed?"

Lenny wants to say of course she noticed. But— Shit, she's supposed to be helping David. "Where's David?"

"He's in the garden with Ptonomy and Syd," Cary says, growing even more concerned. "Don't you remember?"

"Right, yeah," Lenny says. Now she remembers. David, Syd, breakfast, couples therapy, got it. "Just needed a reminder. I gotta go up there, David's probably freaking out." She moves to haul herself out of the beanbag chair, but Cary reaches out and stops her. When his hand touches her arm, she flinches back. "Back the fuck off," she warns.

"My apologies," Cary says, pulling back. "But you're in no condition to help David right now. Your mind is drifting."

"Don't tell me what I can't do," Lenny says, irritated. Who the fuck does this guy think he is?

"Lenny," Cary says, concerned. "Please. How will David feel if he sees you like this? You need treatment."

"I'm doing your stupid treatment," Lenny replies. She jumped through their hoops all night, for all the good it did her.

"Only some of it," Cary says, and now he's getting all doctory. She knows the type well, they always think they know best. Bunch of pricks. "Sensory stimulation isn't enough. You need human touch."

"Yeah, tell me about it," Lenny says. "Aesthetically accurate my ass. Division 3's a bunch of prudes. The geeks that built this thing probably couldn't find a clit with both hands." She rubs where her cunt would be if this android body had a cunt, just to make Cary as uncomfortable as possible. David's not around so she doesn't have to play nice.

It mostly works. Cary turns beet-red but he doesn't leave. "Regardless," he says. "Your reluctance to allow yourself to be touched— I understand it's not comfortable for you. I thought perhaps Matilda—"

"I'm fine with touch," Lenny insists. "If you wanna give me some pussy, Kerry's cute."

Oh, now he's pissed. He was pissed off before, when she and Kerry came back from the cafeteria, having a good time. But he's not the yelling type, she can see that. He'll tell Ptonomy and get her in trouble, but what does she care? What is she even doing here?

Right. They won't let her leave. They might be paying her but she's still their prisoner, just like David.

"Lenny," Cary says, making an obvious effort to be patient with her. "We just want to help you."

"Maybe I don't want your fucking help," Lenny sneers.

'What the hell’s going on down there?' Ptonomy's voice comes in over the mainframe. Ha, Cary didn't even get the chance to tell on her. Serves him right.

There's a thump as Kerry jumps down from the loft. Girl's got strong thighs, Lenny'd love to have them wrapped around her head. But Kerry only has eyes for Cary, and when she sees he's upset, she gets upset, too.

"Cary, what's wrong?" Kerry asks, coming over. Oliver's on the stairs, taking the easy way down.

"Lenny's showing symptoms," Cary says, all serious. "She's becoming detached."

"I can help," Kerry offers, brightly.

"I don't think that would be wise," Cary says, but Lenny's already getting to her feet. She's not going to turn down that offer.

Kerry's got a hot bod, slim and soft but all muscle underneath. Lenny holds her tight and Kerry holds her right back, she’s so sweet Lenny could eat her right up. She soaks up the hug like it's vapor. Shit, being disembodied is the worst. She needs a hit and she can't take anything, she needs to get laid but she can't fuck. This is the best she's felt in days. If she could just get off, she'd feel real good.

Well, she can't get off. But she bets Kerry can.

"Mmm, so nice," Lenny moans, rubbing against Kerry, testing the waters. Kerry's a little frigid but nothing she can't warm up. "I could teach you so much, baby."

Kerry tenses but doesn't pull away. "Teach me?" she asks, confused.

"About this," Lenny says, sliding her hands down to grab that tight, muscular ass, and then lower—

Kerry shoves Lenny back so hard she lands on her ass. Lenny looks up to see Kerry's shocked face.

Shit. Shit, what was she doing?

"That's enough," Cary says, getting between them even though Kerry can obviously defend herself. He turns away from Lenny. "Kerry, are you alright?"

"No," Kerry says, upset and confused. "You're not supposed to touch there," she yells at Lenny.

"I'm here," Amy calls, rushing in. "I came as fast as I could." Kerry rushes into Amy's arms and buries her face against her. "Shh, it's all right," Amy soothes.

Cary looks upset that Kerry didn't go to him, then turns on Lenny. "Don't ever do that again," he warns, furious.

"It was an accident," Lenny lies, raising her hands. It wasn't an accident, but— She's not even sure why she did it. She's horny, sure, but Kerry barely handles eating, she doesn't want sex. Lenny doesn't get off on girls who don't want it.

Lenny doesn't. But shit, Benny did.

"Shit, I'm sorry," Lenny says. She gets back to her feet and Kerry looks back at her, tensed warily like she doesn't want to leave Amy's arms but she's ready to kick Lenny's ass if she has to.

"Amy, can you take Kerry to our room?" Cary asks. "I'll take care of things here."

"What about Oliver?" Amy asks.

"I've got Oliver," Cary says. "Just take care of Kerry for me. Please?"

Amy gives him a sympathetic look, then coaxes Kerry to leave the lab with her. Once they're gone, Cary sits back down and gestures to Lenny to do the same. Oliver joins them, though she doesn't know what good he can do when he's still swiss cheese and can't read her mind.

"Feeling more yourself?" Cary asks, unsympathetic but making an effort not to be.

"Uh, yeah," Lenny says, and now she's the confused one. She feels like— She's waking up from something. "What just happened?"

Cary's expression softens. "You've been drifting. Your mind was losing coherence because you refused touch therapy. Ptonomy can't come down, he's busy with Syd and David, so you need to explain what just happened. Now."

"All right, all right," Lenny says, exasperated. "I dunno, I just felt like— I didn't care. And I was— I'm not an asshole, okay? I mean yeah, I'm not a good person, but I'm not like— that. I don't dig that shit. I don't take other people's bodies."

"So why did you do it?" Cary asks.

Lenny hates this. She just wants to roll with what she has, like she told David to do. She doesn't want to deal with the mountain of shit she's been ignoring with all her might. But apparently her mind is falling apart already. She didn't enjoy having her mind dissolve the first time around. She likes it even less now that she knows what's happening to her.

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. She knows what this means. She hates it with every fiber of her being, but she knows what this means.

"I got mixed up," she admits. "Too much Benny in my Lenny cocktail. Hey, who'd have thought a manipulative drug dealer would get off on taking advantage of people? Total shocker."

"Is that normally a problem for you?" Cary asks. "Benny's impulses?"

"I dunno, I've only been out of the shit beetle's head for like, a few weeks, and I spent most of that locked up," Lenny defends. "Maybe if you'd left me in my body I'd actually be the real me and not this jumbled mess."

"That wasn't your body," Cary reminds her.

"It was a hell of a lot better than this one," Lenny says, angrily. "I was alive, you know. I was fucking alive and I didn't have to deal with this shit anymore. You assholes murdered me. I'm doing my best to play nice."

"I understand that you're angry," Cary allows. "But this behavior is unacceptable."

"I'm sick," Lenny defends.

"If you're sick, then you need help," Cary replies. "That's how this works."

Lenny growls with frustration. Somehow this is karma for talking Syd into accepting help. She swore she wasn't going to get pulled into this therapy gangbang and now here she is.

But messing with Kerry like that— The more she comes back to herself, the worse she feels. Fucking Benny. Fucking shit beetle. Fuck fuck fuck.

"I didn't ask for this, you know," Lenny tells Cary. "I didn't ask to get my head fucked over. I didn't ask to get murdered by you or Farouk and I sure as hell didn't ask to get turned into a cocktail."

"Neither did David," Cary reminds her. "He doesn't bear the blame for any of the things he did under Farouk's influence. But he does bear the responsibility for doing the work now that he's free. The same goes for you."

"You call this free?" Lenny sneers. "I got a body that can't eat or come or get high, and I can't even take it for a joyride because it's 'property.'"

"And David has a crown that hurts him and limits his powers," Cary counters. "All of us are doing everything we can to save David so we can stop Farouk. You want that too or you wouldn't be helping us. None of us are free until this is over. That was made very clear to you once already. And frankly if it were up to me, you wouldn't get another chance to hurt David or Kerry."

"Thanks," Lenny drawls.

Cary gives her a considering look. Then he gets up, walks away looking for something, and then finds it. He comes back with Matilda.

"You're going to sit with Matilda and you're going to pet her," Cary tells her. "You need touch therapy, not sex. That's what helped you just now. If you want to stay in control of yourself, you will cuddle that cat and then you will do whatever you have to so you can hug people without molesting them. Is that clear?"

"Crystal," Lenny mutters. Cary gently shoves Matilda into her arms and Lenny takes her. She never liked cats. The ones in the street were mangy and gross and hissed if she got too close. And Benny? Forget it, Benny would feed a kitten to a rabid dog just for kicks. And Farouk?

She doesn't like to think about what Farouk would do. She feels even sicker wondering if she was thinking his thoughts and not just Benny's. Even with him out of her head—

"David can't know," Lenny insists. They didn't tell him about her other fuckup, they sure as hell can't tell him about this.

"Actually, he has to," Cary says. "He needs to know so he can be part of your therapy, just like you're part of his."

"I'm supposed to be his cruise director," Lenny protests. Lenny wishes she could go back to yesterday. Yesterday was great. She was David's hero all day, and now she's the problem.

"You still can be," Cary says. "Oliver is a patient and he's part of David's therapy. David needs you to help him get better. He won't think any less of you as long as you're trying."

"What, that's all I have to do?" Lenny mocks. "Try?"

"Yes," Cary says, firmly. "We know your history, Lenny. Given what you’ve suffered, this won't be easy for you or us. But the alternatives are all much, much worse."

"All right, all right," Lenny moans. "I'll pet the fucking cat." She pulls Matilda close and pets her, and tries not to feel incredibly annoyed that it helps her feel better. Fucking detachment syndrome. Matilda better not have fleas.

"Oh," Oliver says, suddenly. "If you'll excuse me, I'm needed on the roof."

"Oliver?" Cary asks, concerned.

"Ptonomy says if you have the situation under control, he'd like to wrap up David's foundation work before he brings David and Syd back down. That will require the relay. I could stay here if you like?"

"No, you should go," Cary says. "We'll be fine. Help David."

"Of course," Oliver says. As he walks away, he leans down and gives Matilda a scratch behind her ears. "Such a good kitty." He looks at Lenny with too-knowing eyes. "Be nice," he tells her.

"I'm always nice," Lenny lies. But she keeps petting the cat.