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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open

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Syd's jealous. Syd's unbelievably jealous of Lenny, privately dying inside of jealousy of Lenny for being snuggled up with Amy, and Lenny just basks in every relayed thought. Everyone should be jealous of Lenny right now, she's got the best seat in this place and she knows that for a fact. Even Divad's jealous, mixed-up kid that he is, and he's been holding Amy's hand and haltingly talking to her for a while now, despite Syd's dramatic interruption.

They'll all have to wait their turns. Lenny's not giving up the one thing that's helping her feel like herself again, whoever herself even is anymore.

Maybe Amy was right to give her the foundation speech. The inside of her head is starting to sound a lot like the inside of David's. It's just— She thought she had a handle on things. And maybe if she hadn't lost her body again she would have been just fine, but—

Going back to her old life, blowing off some steam, yeah, it felt good. That party felt real good, and driving New Janine out of her tiny brain felt even better. But when it was over, she could think was: what the hell was she doing there? Yeah, Amy annoyed her into getting off her ass, but finding that car, going off to save the world? Fuck yeah that felt good. Like it felt good to help Ptonomy claw David back from the shit beetle. Like it felt good to be David's hero all day yesterday.

But being a patient isn't entirely awful if it gets her this. Kerry felt good, yeah, for a brief, glorious moment. But clinging to Amy like a baby monkey makes her feel more than good. It's like some lizard part of her brain is getting its chin scratched. She's never been much of a cuddler, she was too jumpy to just lie in some chick's arms without doing something about it. But this? She could do this all day.

She sighs and nuzzles against Amy's shoulder. She shifts her grip around Amy's waist, tempted again to explore, but she doesn't want to end up having to cuddle with, like, Ptonomy or Cary or Oliver. They’re great and all, helping the Davids, but that's a hard no. If she has to cuddle someone else, she supposes she could handle baby-monkeying a David. Kerry's out, the only reason she hasn't already kicked Lenny's ass is because Amy talked her out of it. And Syd? The two of them can barely hold a civil conversation, forget snuggles.

It's a shame they gotta keep this whole situation so tight. Yeah, there's the night crew helping out with the science stuff and Ptonomy's getting some private time with his family. But this is a psychic battlefield, and the game pieces are relationships, emotions, ideas. The Admiral's already busy running simulations, running the odds with the pieces they have.

They could bring in New Janine. She's a known factor, no ties, and it's not like it would be hard for D3 to find her and drag her in. But as cute as she is, Lenny'd feel shitty putting her at risk of being tortured forever. Besides, Lenny's banged plenty of chicks like her, and they're fun for a night or three, but then—

Lenny's not sure what. She has two sets of memories, and the one she remembers better isn't the one that's real. It was one thing when she thought Benny was alive somewhere, living it up as an asshole junkie. Being trapped for so long, barely knowing where and who she was? It was soothing to think of Benny that way, free and wild. It made her feel less dead. But surprise, Benny's the dead one, he wasn't even alive when Farouk killed her. Which means the Benny parts of her aren't even Benny at all. They're just— Some bullshit Farouk dreamed up after years sitting around David's head while David sat around a mental hospital. They're David's memories of Benny and whatever Farouk got from all his spying, which must’ve been a lot, but— It wasn't the real Benny copied into her. It was Farouk's Benny.

That's what she is. A Farouk-Benny cocktail, sweetened with Lenny syrup to make it go down easy for David.

The knowledge makes her feel sick. It makes her want to run to the sink and throw up like David did, like Syd did, but this body's got no stomach to empty. There’s no bile or spit, there's no physical release for what she's carrying inside her. All she can do is hold on to Amy and breathe, because at least these bodies do a good simulation of breathing. Aesthetically accurate.

Fuck. She doesn't think she'll ever be able to let Amy go.

Lenny searches around for a distraction, and she doesn't have to go far. David and Dvd are back up in the loft with Oliver and Kerry, and David and Dvd are, ah— Thinking about each other. It's almost as halting as Divad's attempts to open up to Amy, to share his pain and guilt and anger. Dvd and David are all mixed-up too, but in a sweet kinda way. Dvd doesn't want to hurt David by wanting him too much even though he wants him a lot, and David isn't sure what he wants but keeps feeling things for Dvd anyway. He doesn't even know if his feelings are old or new or some combination of both, but there's something about loving Dvd that feels familiar and after the cherry memory David is jonesing hard for familiar. She wants to tell them to just kiss and get over themselves already, but Ptonomy made it extremely clear to everyone that they have to give David space to work as much of this out for himself as he can. He needs a kick once in a while to help him get past his massive denial skills, he needs loads of guidance, but— The kid's gotta do this himself or it won't be his.

Lenny relates to that way too much right now. She doesn't know what's hers anymore. Fuck, did she even call David 'kid' in her real memories? Benny was a lot older than both of them, maybe that’s where it came from. Her body's memories are frustratingly hazy. This must be how Oliver feels, straining for something he can pull out of the fog that isn't snatches of poetry. It's the fucking worst, she doesn't know how he's so calm about it. It creeps her out, thinking she might get so detached again she won't even care.

She didn't care about being detached when Farouk had her. If anything, she was grateful that nothing felt real. She felt that way about Clockworks, the way they had her drugged up all the time. Floating through life is how she's survived in all her memories. And now, if she doesn't get anchored fast, she might lose herself for good.

But Lenny's always been a survivor. She'll give that to Syd, survival's everything to her, too. The difference between them is she never wanted to survive alone.

David was her drug buddy, before Clockworks and in it. She knows how much he loves her, how much he wants to get closer to her the way he has with everyone else. She knows he wants to help her the way she's helped him. But she was the shit beetle's mask. She was the body he wore to hurt David, to torture him, to rape him. She doesn't want to admit to David that part of the monster is still inside her. She just got him back, he's all she has. If she loses him now, what's left to stop her from floating away again?

Amy’s got the same problem. Hell, so do Syd and Dvd. The four of them have each had a turn being all that David had, and he got them all hooked one way or another. Lenny doesn’t feel like she has to own David like Syd and Dvd do, she needs to live her own life. But she can’t lose him either, she just can’t.

She wonders if that's how Farouk feels. She knows how jealous he is, how possessive, how much he wants to own David, body, mind, and soul. Except even if he somehow made himself all David had, even if that got him hooked, he's the reason David needs so badly in the first place. How fucked up is that? Maybe she should be glad there's some Benny in her cocktail. Whatever he was actually like, at least he wasn’t Farouk.

Or Divad. It's incredibly fucked up that David needs to hurt himself so bad it takes two of himself to fit it all in.

"He can't handle hearing the whole world," Divad is saying, still going on about David. For the alter that supposedly wants to be his own person, he's as obsessed with controlling David as Farouk is. "When Farouk remade him, he knew, he made David doubt everything so he wouldn't go crazy again."

"I don't think that's true," Amy says. "Farouk didn't want to protect David. He sabotaged him, did terrible things to him all the time."

"I was the only thing keeping David in line and the monster took me away from him," Divad insists, tightly. "I stopped David from— I saved him from himself, I did what was best for the world."

Syd gives a small, sharp gasp. 'Just like Farouk,' she thinks, horrified.

Amy sends a question into the mainframe, then sends the surveillance clip she gets to Lenny: Syd and Farouk palling it up in the cafeteria right after David got knocked out and dragged down to the cells. Lenny was pissed off the first time she saw that footage. What the fuck was wrong with Syd, sitting down for drinks with the shit beetle?

"Shut up," Syd says, in the surveillance footage. "I know what you're doing and it's not going to work."

"Then you still love him?" Farouk asks, being a piece of slimy shit as usual. "Your David? You will let him back into your head, your heart, your body, after he has violated them?"

"He needs help," Syd says, defiant.

"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."

Saved him from himself. Did what was best for the world. Lenny flags the words and sends the clip to Ptonomy to chew on when he's done with his break. They might not be able to pick through Farouk's head directly, but with the Davids reenacting their trauma all the time, they don't really have to.

"I think," Amy says to Divad, carefully, "Your system has never wanted to hurt anyone, even itself, even when parts of it were very scared and angry. Dvd has some of the same powers as David, but he's only ever used them to protect your system, to keep it safe. Do you think Dvd has too much power?"

"Dvd's not David," Divad protests.

So only David has too much power. Lenny slaps another flag on the clip. Farouk used that idea to convince Syd to take David down in the desert. If it's in Divad's head, too, then he used it on David. Except power is the only thing Farouk cares about, she knows that for a fact. The only reason he'd say someone shouldn't have power is because he wants it for himself.

While Amy keeps working on Divad, Lenny skims through the surveillance feeds to soothe herself. It's weirdly relaxing to watch everyone like this, invisible and all-seeing. She could easily travel beyond D3, take a swim in the data feeds like Ptonomy used to. There's so much in the mainframe, it would be easy to lose herself there— But that's how Oliver lost himself on the astral plane. The thought pulls her back to the body she's in, to the body she's holding. If she's gonna stay herself, she needs to stay present, grounded. She needs to stay in the physical world, not the vast computer that's serving as her mind. She needs to be Lenny, not Benny, and absolutely not the shit beetle.

She's gotta take her own advice, she knows that. But knowing doesn't make it any easier.


Lenny has to share Amy for a while so Divad can get a few hugs in, but then she gets right back to her baby-monkeying. And then Ptonomy comes back and breaks up the fun. It's okay, if she starts to drift she can get another fix. And right now she feels like her lizard brain has been given its fill of chin-scratching.

Ptonomy calls everyone over and they gather at the table. Time for another snack, apparently. But he brought too many servings. Cary's still out so they should only need four, but there's— Seven?

"Before he had to go into Kerry, Cary and I discussed ideas for how to help Oliver reconnect with his memories," Ptonomy explains. "So for some of our meals, we're going to eat foods that have personal meaning to Oliver. Oliver, you traveled a lot. You like a lot of different foods. With each of these meals, I'm going to show you photographs from the times you were in the places where you might have eaten these foods. Our goal is to see if anything clicks, and if it does, to use these triggers to strengthen those connections. If David and Dvd are okay with it, I’d like you to stop relaying so you can focus on your memories."

He looks to the pair of empty chairs where David and Dvd are sitting. She caught David thinking about taking Dvd’s hand when they sat down, so he and Dvd must be holding hands again, as snuggled up as David is ready for them to be. Lenny's never gonna get over invisible David, no matter how many times he steps out of his body.

"We’re okay," David says. ‘I have Dvd.’

Lenny can’t see Dvd’s reaction to that, but she’s pretty sure it’s a happy one.

"Relay going off," Oliver announces.

"So what’s with the extra bowls?" Divad asks, probably to distract himself from whatever hearts are flying around David and Dvd’s heads.

"The extra bowls are actually for me, Amy, and Lenny," Ptonomy says, and starts distributing them.

"Uh, say that again?" Lenny asks. "We can't eat."

"We can't," Ptonomy agrees. "But we need these bodies to feel as real as possible, so we're going to try something new." He turns back to Oliver. "After David's comfort food was such a success, I thought we'd start with one of Oliver's. And since we're having success with China— This is congee, or Chinese rice porridge. It's a staple of Chinese cuisine. This is chicken congee, seasoned with green onions, ginger, and soy sauce. It's generally served for breakfast with yóutiáo, a Chinese pastry." He distributes long strips of fried dough, each wrapped in a napkin. He also gives Oliver a stack of photos.

Kerry gives her bowl a wary sniff. "Smells okay," she says, but she doesn't look certain.

"The congee is soft," Ptonomy says. "So it should be easy for you to eat. You might have more trouble with the yóutiáo, but you're supposed to dip it in the congee before you eat it. That'll soften it." He turns to Divad. "Divad, this is a chance for you to try something new and experience it with your system's body. I know your system never got the chance to travel, so think of this as the first step on your own personal world tour."

Divad smiles at that. "Thanks, Ptonomy."

"And Syd, I'm not sure if you've ever had this, but if not, it's something new for you, too. But what's more important is that we're sharing it together, as friends and family."

Syd gives a quiet smile, and looks at Divad and Amy, hopeful.

"What do we do?" Amy asks.

"Start with sensory therapy, like we've already been doing," Ptonomy says. "Smell the food, feel the yóutiáo, stir the congee. Stimulate your senses as much as possible."

Lenny's used to that by now. She picks up the bowl, feels the warm ceramic against her hands. She breathes in the steam from the congee. It smells savory, chickeny, the ginger and soy reminding her of all the cheap Chinese takeout places she used to eat at. With her mess of a brain, food as memory therapy isn't a terrible idea for her either.

She picks up the yóutiáo. It's like an unglazed doughnut, or a churro without the cinnamon-sugar. Seems kinda boring, but she feels the crusty texture, smells the oily dough. She wouldn't mind eating it, if only she actually could.

When the three of them finish, Ptonomy continues. "Okay. So the problem we have is that we can experience food through smell and touch, but we can't complete the sensations of eating. But being part of the mainframe does give us a real body: the Admiral's. So we're going to try something. He's got his own serving of the same food. And he's going to eat for us, and the mainframe will route his sensations to us."

"Uh, I thought if we felt his body, it would overwrite us," Lenny says, concerned. "The mainframe's supposed to protect us."

"That's true," Ptonomy agrees. "But these short bursts shouldn't be a problem. It might feel a little weird, but if we mimic the actions we're experiencing, using the same foods, it'll give us the illusion of eating with our android bodies."

"This is absolutely weird," Lenny says, despite her entire life being a mountain of fucking weird. "Okay, whatever, let's do it."

"I'm ready," Amy says, hopeful.

"Okay," Ptonomy says. "We'll start with just the congee. Whatever we experience, just try to follow it. Just don't actually eat anything."

The three of them have been sharing experiences back and forth over the mainframe, but those experiences are from the past, like extremely vivid memories. This comes to her live. She's already holding the spoon, but she feels herself take the spoon. She feels herself lift the spoon and follows the sensation. She brings it into her mouth and— She tastes the congee, the rice, the ginger, the chicken. She feels herself chewing the soft grains, the small chicken pieces, the little circles of green onion. She feels herself swallow, feels the food in her throat and then a warm weight in her stomach.

Lenny has never been so aware of every single step of eating in her entire life.

"Weird," Divad says, watching their synchronized not-eating.

"Super weird," Kerry agrees, fascinated.

The sensations fade. She looks at Ptonomy and Amy.

"It'll take some getting used to," Amy admits. "But it felt real. It felt like eating."

Lenny's had too many times in her life where she barely had enough money to feed herself. And when she did get fed regularly, like at Clockworks, the food was crap. She just wanted to shove it into her stomach as fast as possible so she didn't have to taste it. Eating so slowly and deliberately is massively fucking weird. No wonder eating freaks Kerry out so much. "I've always been a fast eater. Is the Admiral gonna savor every bite?"

"These meals are therapeutic," Ptonomy reminds her. "Feeling the entire process will help our minds stay coherent. And if he eats too fast, we won't be able to move our bodies to match him. That will break the illusion. Let's try the yóutiáo."

It's easier now that Lenny knows what to expect. She mimics biting down on the pastry, chews and feel the resistance of the soft, crunchy dough, tastes the oil and the salt and a hint of sweetness. She likes it a lot better than the congee. She's never really been big on porridge.

Fuck, she's eating. She's not, but like— It really feels like she's eating.

"Okay," she says, as it sinks in. "Can I like, make requests?" She could have Twizzlers again, she could have chocolate, she could have an actual drink.

"Absolutely," Ptonomy says, pleased. "But remember that the Admiral has to actually eat for us to experience it. We can't abuse this. So we're not getting him drunk."

"Dammit," Lenny sighs. Ptonomy knows her too well. She didn't even get to ask.

"And for the sake of everyone's therapy," Ptonomy continues, "we'll still share the same foods as much as possible."

"Shit, this is wild," Lenny says, grinning. "Okay, from now on, I'm in charge of desserts."

"David wants to know if we can all ask for things," Divad relays.

"Everyone can contribute their requests," Ptonomy says. "Some things are fixed, like Oliver's memory foods, but the rest is flexible. Think about what you want and let me or Lenny or Amy know, and we'll work it in."

"Um, how about pizza?" Syd asks.

"I'm sure we can manage that," Ptonomy says.

"Dvd wants Hawaiian," Divad relays.

"Really?" Syd asks, disbelieving.

"David also wants Hawaiian," Divad relays. "I’m good with that."

Lenny thinks the Davids only like that because it has fruit on it. The Davids don’t have a single sweet tooth so much as an entire set.

Syd gives the empty chairs a tolerant look. "I’ll have green peppers and mushrooms."

"Boring," Lenny says. "I want a meat supreme." Yeah, just piles of pepperoni and sausage and bacon all slathered in cheese. Her mouth isn't watering because it can't, but it totally would if it could.

"We'll work something out," Ptonomy says, amused.

"Is pizza hard?" Kerry asks. She pokes at the yóutiáo. "I really don't like hard things."

"The top is soft," Ptonomy says. "But it has a chewy crust. You should rip up a few pieces of that and put it in the congee for a while," he says, pointing at her yóutiáo.

Kerry starts pulling tiny pieces off the pastry and drowning them in the congee.

"Divad, how do you like yours?" Syd asks.

"It's nice," Divad says. "It's like chicken soup with rice, but, um, more rice than soup."

"It is," Syd says, with a small smile. "Um, my mom used to make a lot of soup. For the salons. Everything was always— A presentation, fancy recipes. Sometimes she'd make the same dish over and over for days until she got it just right." She makes a face. "I'd get really sick of it, so I'd, uh, sneak out for pizza instead."

"So pizza's your comfort food?" Divad asks.

"Yeah, I guess it is," Syd says, looking between Divad and the empty chairs beside him. "It's not that far from cheese on toast."

"Yeah," Divad says, quietly. His eyes flick to where David is sitting, but he doesn’t relay anything. Whatever’s happening must be thoughts, expressions. Based on Divad's vague air of annoyance, Lenny’s sure if they could see David's face, he’d be looking at Syd all sappy. She knows David’s sappy face extremely well. There’s a part of her that’s annoyed at Syd for that, but she doesn’t know if it’s Lenny or Benny or—

She doesn’t know. There’s a lot she doesn’t know, and she’s starting to realize that’s not the kind of problem they can afford to ignore.

‘Hey, Ptonomy,’ Lenny says over the mainframe. ‘Think we can fit in that Benny session today?’

‘I think so,’ Ptonomy sends back. ‘You’re having trouble?’

‘Is it that obvious?’ Lenny asks.

‘We’re all keeping a close eye on each other,’ Ptonomy says. ‘We have to.’

‘Yeah,’ Lenny sighs. ‘I’m not drifting, I’m just— A cocktail. A shit cocktail.’

‘Don’t think of yourself that way,’ Amy says. ‘It’s not good for David, it’s not good for you.’

‘David's cocktail isn't full of Farouk,’ Lenny grumbles.

‘I know you feel defined by Farouk’ Ptonomy says, patiently. 'But so does David. If you can see the good in him, you can see it in yourself.’

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Lenny moans, but it’s hard to argue with that. She and David really do have way too much in common. Cocktail minds, messed-up memories, and hell, turns out he’s not even straight. She really should have figured that out ages ago, even before she was mixed with Benny. Hell, maybe she knew but Farouk made her forget.

Fuck, that’s creepy. It makes her feel like there’s no solid ground under her feet, just like David and his quicksand. She needs to know who Benny really was so she can figure out what parts of her are him and what’s Farouk and what’s left that could actually be the real her, if there’s anything at all. And the best people to help with that are Divad, Dvd, and Syd.

Syd knew the real Lenny for a year. Sure, they weren’t best buds or anything, but they were together pretty much all the time, a little mutual protection squad. And Farouk might have dipped into Syd’s head and nosed around, but every time he tried to do more than that, his changes never stuck. Syd’s powers might be a pain, but they’re a mental parasite’s worst nightmare. She just has too much coherence for him to do any real damage. He's still found plenty of ways to fuck with her, but he can’t make her lose who she is. If Lenny’s truly jealous of anything, it’s that.

"Oliver, does the food remind you of anything?" Ptonomy prompts. He reaches over and spreads out the photos so Oliver can look at them as he eats.

Oliver dips his yóutiáo and takes a bite, savoring it. He looks at the photos again, closes his eyes in thought. "Ordering peas in the French restaurant," he recites, "Whole garlic bread, cheese, and coffee hot. Pink ponk of the rain on the roof tin below my shuttered window."

"Okay, there's something there," Ptonomy says. "Keep tasting the food. Think about the feeling the poem gives you. Try to see yourself in the poem, eating the food."

They all watch Oliver eat, curious to see if this will work.

"It rained when you were in China," Ptonomy reminds him. "Listen to the sound of rain against the roof. Were you in the shelter? Somewhere else?" He nudges the photo of Melanie in a Chinese dress. "Maybe you were with Melanie."

"Melanie," Oliver murmurs. "There was a lamp."

"What kind?" Ptonomy prompts. "Electric? Candle?"

"Oil," Oliver says. "Conspirators at cafe tables discussing mystic jails."

"You were talking to someone," Ptonomy suggests. "Were you talking to Melanie? Can you see her with the lamp?"

Oliver's brow furrows. "Chinese coffee in small glasses."

"You were drinking something together," Ptonomy says. "Was it coffee?"

"Coffee," Oliver says, and opens his eyes in surprise. "I remember."

"Tell us," Ptonomy says, excited.

"I remember— Melanie," Oliver says, eyes distant as he looks at the photograph. "She was wearing this. It was late, we were tired, but— We didn't want to go to sleep."

"So you drank coffee?" Ptonomy asks.

Oliver nods. "I think— We were out somewhere. And then we came back."

"Stay with the memory," Ptonomy urges. "Try to remember the taste and smell of the coffee. Follow the feelings, let them lead you."

Oliver closes his eyes again, concentrates. "The skin trembles in happiness. The soul comes joyful to the eye." The words should be happy, but he doesn't sound happy. He shakes his head, disturbed.

"This is a powerful memory, Oliver," Ptonomy says. "Even in the ice cube, some part of this memory stayed with you. It's coming back to you now, don't fight it."

Lenny spent a lot of time with Oliver over the past year. They were both lost to themselves, barely anything but dolls for Farouk to pose and play with. But at least when they were together, they weren't alone. They were— Detachment buddies, floating through an ocean of horrors so they didn't drown.

She never saw him cry. Nothing's been real to him for decades, why would he cry? And now tears leak from his eyes.

"Oh," Oliver says, noticing them. He wipes them away and more fall in their place. "I think— I feel quite sad about something."

"About Melanie?"

Oliver looks confused. "I don't— I'm not sure."

'I wish Cary was awake for this,' Ptonomy mutters over the mainframe, and then aloud: "Take your time. Amy, could you get Oliver a coffee?"

"Of course," Amy says, getting up.

"Stay with the feeling," Ptonomy tells Oliver. "Don't let that sadness get away. I know it hurts, but there's so much connected to that pain. There's love so powerful it held on when everything else was gone. There's a whole life waiting for you to remember it. Just keep holding on to it."

"The churning of the ocean," Oliver recites, distressed. "I'm afraid where I am. No rest, no dreams— Who weeps for this pain?"

"Hey, it's okay," Lenny says, intervening. She pushes away the photos, the food.

"Lenny—" Ptonomy says, annoyed.

"Stop pushing him," Lenny tells Ptonomy, annoyed back. It's David all over again. "And forget the coffee. Forget all of this."

"He needs to remember," Ptonomy urges.

"And what's he gonna remember, huh?" Lenny asks. "What's that gonna do to him?"

"He needs the truth as much as we all do," Ptonomy says, certain.

"He's better off as a happy zombie," Lenny insists.

Ptonomy gives her a knowing look. "This isn't about Oliver."

"Fuck you," Lenny snarls. "You don't know."

"We know," Ptonomy says, firmly. "We know what he did to you, Lenny, and to Oliver. Just like we know what he did to the Davids. It's okay to be scared, but we have to keep going."

Lenny absolutely doesn't want to keep going, that's the last thing she wants. But before she can snarl that out, Oliver's hand touches her arm, and she startles.

"Back off," she spits, teeth bared.

"I appreciate your concern," Oliver tells her, calm again despite his reddened eyes. "But I want to remember."

Lenny stares at him. How is he so calm? No matter what happened to them, he was always so calm, and she thought— She just figured he was too far gone to care, but—

The kettle whistles, and Amy goes to make the coffee. She brings it over and gives it to Oliver, who stirs it before raising it to his mouth and breathing in deeply.

"The skin trembles in happiness. The soul comes joyful to the eye." Oliver cries as he recites the lines again, but— He's okay.

Lenny realizes she's been waiting for him to fall apart, to let out his emotions in some kind of uncontrollable explosion. But that's David's thing, not Oliver's. She never knew Oliver before the ice cube, but Cary remembers. From what he said, Oliver never floated through life. He used to feel plenty and he handled everyone else’s shit on top of his own. Maybe that was too much for him in the end, but Oliver was probably the least fucked-up person on Earth until the detachment syndrome got him and Farouk nearly finished the job.

She's the one who’s always been fucked-up and doesn't want to remember. She barely even wants to remember being Lenny. The only good thing in any of her memories is David, and what does that say about her? What's left of her for anyone to save? She’s not even real. Maybe she never was.

"Reality is a question of realizing how real the world is already," Oliver tells her, and it feels more like actual advice than some random quotation. "My fingertips touching reality's face, my own face streaked with tears in the mirror of some window at dusk. Gods dance on their own bodies, new flowers open, forgetting death. Are you prepared to be reborn?"

Lenny just stares at him.

Oliver takes a sip of the coffee and smiles.