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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open

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David is not ready to talk about Benny. He doesn’t see how he’ll ever be ready to talk about Benny. He can’t see what the point is in learning even more about— How he’s hurt himself. They’ve really solidly established that David’s been extremely thorough about hurting himself in every possible way. Remembering how he hurt himself with Benny just cannot make anything about his situation any better.

“I understand how it feels that way,” Ptonomy allows. “But we still have to talk about Benny.”

“Of course we do,” David mutters, sourly. “Tell me, what was the point in making me put ‘I have the right to say no’ in my foundation work if I don’t actually have the right to say no to anything?”

Ptonomy gives him a considering look. “You feel ready to have more control over your therapy. You made your own therapy list, based on Syd’s, and you have concerns about all the areas that need work, about fitting it all in.”

David hardly needs to confirm that when Ptonomy already has all those thoughts on record, but he does anyway. “Yeah, I do. Are you going to tell me I’m too sick for that?”

“Absolutely not,” Ptonomy says. “That list and your concerns are a very good sign. You’re learning the skills you need to be in control of yourself, to be your own David. We all want that very much. But to get there, you need to acknowledge and process your trauma, even the trauma you can’t fully remember. And that includes Benny.”

“So in order to learn how to make decisions for myself, I have to let you decide everything for me?” David asks, annoyed at Ptonomy for being reasonable. He always has to be so reasonable and it pisses David off.

“Consider me your training wheels,” Ptonomy says, unruffled. “You’re not strong enough to ride solo yet. But we got you on the bike and you’re pedaling.”

“Do you have to have a cute metaphor for everything?” David grumbles.

“Do they help you?” Ptonomy asks.

Yes, David thinks, and is annoyed about that, too.

Ptonomy smiles, amused.

“C’mon, band-aid time, remember?” Lenny says. “Let’s rip this thing off already.”

“That reminds me,” Ptonomy says, turning to Lenny. “I believe there’s another band-aid that needs ripping off. How about you show David how it’s done?”

If looks could kill, Ptonomy wouldn’t need to worry about his detachment syndrome anymore. But Lenny sighs in angry surrender.

“So, uh, David,” Lenny starts, forcing her words out. “Look, you know we need to do this to help me, right?”

David nods. She needs to untangle Benny and Lenny— And Farouk. “You’re not Farouk,” he tells her again. It doesn’t make any sense to him that she’s Farouk. As far as he’s concerned, there’s Lenny and there’s Farouk and— Even if it’s hard for him to pull them apart in his own mind— It wasn’t her that did those things. It wasn’t her. She was just a mask, she’s his best friend and he just got her back and he’s not going to let Farouk ruin what they have.

Lenny softens. “You’re sweet, kid. I’m gonna miss hearing your thoughts when you’re better. But I gotta get better too so I can be there for that.”

"You're not dying," David tells her, then hesitates. He looks at Amy and Ptonomy. "You're not dying, right?"

"No," Amy assures him. "But-- This morning, while you were in the garden, there was an incident." She looks across him to Lenny, expectant.

Incident. David hates that word. Doctors and cops and therapists love to call things incidents, especially while privately thinking about how they're David's fault. David always tried not to think about their thoughts because he thought they were delusions, but-- Now that he knows they're not--

No, stay focused. He needs to help Lenny. He looks at her. "So what happened?"

"Look, this whole-- Detachment thing," Lenny starts. "We're still figuring out how to manage it. Our android bodies help a lot, but-- Just having a body's not enough. We gotta use em. But they weren't, like, designed for this. There's a lot we can't do, things that would make us feel more ourselves. And for me-- The things that make me feel like myself-- Mostly they're, uh, junk food, mind altering drugs, and sex."

David knew about the food situation, and drugs-- Well, he supposes that's just another kind of food. And taking mind altering drugs probably wouldn't help when she's trying to stay herself. But sex? He can't help but glance at the android bodies around him.

"Yeah, if you ask me, aesthetically accurate is a joke," Lenny grumbles. "I mean, these things are a real upgrade from the Vermillion, but--" She sighs. "Anyway. So I kinda-- Wore myself out yesterday. But I can't sleep, either. And I'm not a hugger."

"You've been hugging Amy all day," David protests.

"I don't like people touching me," Lenny says, firmly. "But touch helps Amy and Ptonomy feel like themselves. I tried other stuff, but-- It wasn't enough. So this morning-- I wasn't feeling great. Cary noticed, he tried to help, but-- Then Kerry tried to help. And I, uh-- Took more than she wanted to give."

David frowns, not sure what that means.

"Fuck," Lenny mutters. "Look, I grabbed her pussy, okay? I molested her."

David instinctively shifts closer to Amy, and then feels bad about pulling away. He did that to Dvd and look what happened. But he can't--

"Hey, I'm not happy about it either," Lenny says. "You know how many times some asshole took more than I wanted to give? Why do you think I don't like being touched? But banging some hot chick until she loses her mind is one of the only things I've got and-- I needed it so I took it, and then as soon as I got enough to feel like me again I felt like shit."

David wraps his arms around himself, feeling worse himself. It's bad enough that Dvd used sex to control him. If Benny was-- God, was he-- In love with a rapist? Did Benny rape him?

"That's the thing," Lenny says. "Because whatever we remember from before Clockworks, it's not the truth. It's what Farouk put inside us so he could use me to rape you. And maybe the truth is great. Maybe you loved Benny and you got high together and everything was fine. Maybe all the bad stuff inside me is from Farouk, I don't know. But Farouk knows and I do not want him using me to rape you again."

If Lenny keeps talking this way, David isn't going to make it through this session because he's going to be sick again. And today's been hell on his stomach already.

"I'm sorry," Lenny says, backing down. "I know you don't wanna think about this stuff. I don't wanna think about it either. But I hurt Kerry because-- I'm not stable. I suppressed my trauma just like you. So we have to figure out what happened, we have to talk about it, and we have to learn how to stop it from happening again so we can both be better. Okay?"

It's not okay. David desperately wants to make this entire conversation stop. He wants Lenny to just be Lenny and he never wants to think about Benny or Farouk ever again. He just wants all of this to stop. Please.

"I'm sorry," Amy says, stroking his back, trying to soothe him. "I just want all of us to be happy, too. But denial won't make this go away. We all have to face the truth. But we're facing it together. Nothing we learn will make us love you any less. I love you, Davey. I always will."

David already spent a good while letting Amy hold him and soothe him just so he was calm enough to have this session. He feels selfish asking for more, but-- He can't get through this without her.

"It's okay," Amy soothes, and urges him to stop holding himself and hold her instead. "It helps me, too, remember? If there's anything that helps me feel like myself, it's loving you."

David lets out a harsh breath and lets Amy hold him. He knows they need to talk about this, he knows. He knows there's worse things waiting for him. But facing them is agony.

When David feels able to, he lets go of Amy and wipes his eyes, faces the group. Syd and Divad sitting together in one loveseat, and Oliver and Ptonomy in the other. Dvd and Kerry upstairs, apart from them but-- Surely listening.

"We're gonna take this slow," Ptonomy tells him. "One step at a time. The plan is to start with what you and Lenny remember about those years. And then Amy and Divad can tell us what they know."

"Why?" David asks. "Divad was there, he can tell us what happened."

"This is about more than just the objective truth," Ptonomy says. "And even though Divad understands now that what happened wasn't your fault, during the years you and Benny were together, Divad was was a prisoner in your system's body. That's going to affect how he remembers what happened. Dvd will be the same. Remember, they had to experience whatever you experienced. Which means your relationship with Benny was also, to some degree, their relationship with Benny."

David looks over at Divad with dawning horror.

"Yeah," Divad admits. "And Ptonomy's right. I know now that-- You did the best you could. You didn't know we were there. But back then--" He gives David a regretful look. "I'm glad now that-- You couldn't hear the things I said to you."

"Divad, I'm-- I'm so sorry," David says, even though it hardly feels like any amount of apologizing could even begin--

"You didn't know we were there," Divad says again, firmly. "Farouk did this to us, okay? He trapped me and Dvd and made you forget and kept us apart. Remember what Ptonomy said? It hurts now because you're coming back to us. And we agreed that-- If we love each other and work together, the pain will stop. I want the pain to stop. So-- Before we start this, I want you to know that-- I forgive you."

"I don't even know what you're forgiving me for," David protests.

"It doesn't matter," Divad says. "We're a system and-- I want our system to be a safe place for all of us." He glances at Amy. "We've all made a lot of mistakes but we're trying to be better. And-- We can't get better without forgiveness. So I forgive you. And I'll keep telling you I forgive you until you actually believe it."

David doesn't know if that's-- The nicest thing Divad's ever said or the most exasperating. Maybe both. It doesn't seem fair to-- Force him to-- Accept forgiveness. But-- Refusing forgiveness is just a way he hurts himself. And he doesn't want to do that anymore.

"Okay," David says, accepting that Divad's going to be doing that, if nothing else. "Um, thank you. I think, um, it'll probably help."

"Good," Divad says, and leans back, satisfied.

"Divad, that was lovely," Amy says, approving.

"What did he say?" Syd asks.

"David, why don't you tell her?" Amy prompts.

David huffs, but does it anyway. "Divad said that-- He forgives me. He wants our system to be a safe place for all of us. And, um, we all made a lot of mistakes but we're trying to be better, and we can't get better without forgiveness. And, uh, he's going to keep telling me he forgives me until I actually believe it." He feels himself blushing at the last part and looks away.

"Amy's right, that was lovely," Syd says to Divad. "Thank you, Divad."

"Tell Syd she's welcome," Divad says, and looks even more pleased with himself now.

"Divad says you're welcome," David relays, and realizes-- Divad and Syd are suddenly awfully friendly. When did that happen?

"I kinda like her," Divad points out. "I told her she's not allowed to hurt you, but-- I wouldn't mind if she stuck around."

David feels-- Weirdly jealous. "But I haven't-- I still have to--" He glances at Syd. He still has to work through what happened, how she hurt him. Divad can't-- He can't forgive Syd before David does!

"Well, I haven't entirely forgiven her," Divad admits. "Just like I haven't entirely forgiven Amy. But you're the one told us to make up already. Dvd's gonna take forever to forgive anyone, someone's gotta pick up the slack. And hey, we're thinking about going to college together."

"College?!" David says, looking between them. "How would that even-- No. No, we are not talking about this now. This is-- We can't even leave the building, much less go to college, that's-- Do you have any idea how much therapy we need before we could go to college?"

"Oh, so much therapy," Divad admits, cheerfully. "It's on my wish list anyway. And Syd's. Maybe you should be thinking bigger than a tropical vacation."

David sputters. "I am thinking bigger," he protests. "I put down-- I want good memories and-- To be whole. How is that not ridiculously huge?"

"Yeah," Divad admits. "But that's just what you'll get from doing all this therapy. Don't you want-- Non-therapy things?"

The idea of trying to think beyond therapy seems-- Stunningly audacious to David. His entire life has been nothing but trying to get better and failing catastrophically. The possibility that he might actually succeed is miraculous enough. And Farouk is still watching them, waiting to make their life a living hell again and-- Lenny said it, he has a giant list of mental illnesses and psychological problems.

"Yeah, we're a mess," Divad admits. "But we agreed. If we love each other and work together, the pain will stop. So you need to start thinking about what you want to do when the pain stops."

David just doesn't know what to do with that. "Five minutes ago you tried to erase me," he protests.

"Five minutes ago you almost cut us with our busted lamp," Divad says, sobering. "Did I mention we're not stable yet? When we're up we make progress, and then we crash, and then we use that progress to pull ourselves back up again. I've been paying attention, I know how this works. So when we're up, we have to make as much progress as we can. And even if we all crash at the same time, we have all these people who are actually helping us. So it's gonna be okay."

David stares at Divad. That sounded-- Amazingly like something his rational mind would have said.

"Well, I am your rational mind," Divad insists. "But I was being tortured and-- That made me push us in the wrong direction. Now I know which way we need to go, because-- You showed me. So I'm pushing us your way."

"You're full of compliments all of a sudden," David jokes, self-conscious.

"I had some breakthroughs," Divad says. "Look, I know the whole-- Fragments and fusions thing-- It's a lot. You need time to process it. But you and Syd and Dvd acknowledged your feelings even though you aren't ready to be together. So now it's my turn. I want our new system to be good for all of us. I want us to make each other happy. I'm not angry with you anymore and-- That lets me feel how much I love you and how much-- I miss what we had before I decided I knew what was best for you. I'm sorry. I was wrong."

David’s just completely at a loss. He's glad, but-- It's so unexpected. "Um. I want-- Our system to be good for all of us, too. And maybe, um, when it's Dvd's turn-- We could spend some time together? We haven't really-- Talked, much."

"I'd like that," Divad says, pleased. "I'm sorry I've been-- Hard to reach. I've been trying to keep myself from thinking about a lot of things. It's hard to get better when you're refusing to be honest. Opening up hurt, and seeing the truth hurt you-- That was the worst part. But you need the truth about us. And you need the truth about Benny."

Damn it. David was really enjoying not thinking about Benny.

"Your rational mind is telling you to keep doing the work," Divad says, wryly. "But it's like Amy said, we're facing it together, so-- Let's keep doing the work together. Okay?"

David takes a deep breath, lets it out. Divad knows everything that happened, or at least his version of it. And Divad says he forgives him. So even if-- What happened was awful-- At least he has that. And he's not facing this alone. "Okay," he says, and turns to Ptonomy. “Let’s rip this band-aid off already.”

“Okay,” Ptonomy says, pleased. “David, since you’re feeling motivated, start us off. Tell us how you remember meeting Benny.”

David closes his eyes and concentrates. He thinks back, back, before Clockworks, before Philly, back to— College? No, college was over. He got his letter of expulsion and—

“Someone told me about a party off-campus. I wasn’t going to go, but— My roommate said the worst had already happened.” What was his name? David can’t remember his name. “He said— I should stop being miserable and have some fun on my last night. He went to the party with me, but— I lost track of him once we were there. I was upset, I drank way too much. I just—“ David pauses as the old feelings come back to him, faded but— somehow still raw. The anger, the guilt, the sheer sense of— Failure. The frustration of nothing helping, the medication not helping. He couldn’t understand why it didn’t help.

He knows now. It didn’t help because it never helped. And nothing helped because nothing was allowed to help. But he didn’t know any of that then.

“I don’t really remember what happened next,” David admits. “I don’t know if— Maybe there was something— I just felt really weird, really—“ He shakes his head. “And then I was outside in the alley, sick, and— Lenny was there. She, uh, helped me. Gave me some water. And then— It’s hazy again, but— I remember— Not wanting to go back to my dorm, to the college— So Lenny— Let me sleep at her place.”

“And the next morning?” Ptonomy asks.

“I was so hungover,” David admits. “My head was throbbing. I remember— Black coffee and— Breakfast cereal. Taking the bus back and— Amy was there, she helped me pack. We loaded up her car and she took me home.”

“Okay,” Ptonomy says. “Lenny, tell us what you remember. How did you meet David as Benny?”

David opens his eyes to look at Lenny.

"I don't, like, actually remember being Benny," Lenny points out. "I was me, but-- A different me. I was a dealer so I went to a lot of parties. Everybody was always happy to see me because they knew I'd make them feel good. That was my thing, right? So at one party, there's this guy, he's obviously having a bad time. So I give him something to cheer him up. But it turns out he's on some kinda meds, he has a bad reaction. I get him outside, give him some water. I tell him I'll get him home, but he doesn't wanna go home or to the hospital. I felt kinda bad since I made his night worse, so I let him crash at my place and made sure he didn't choke on his own vomit. In the morning he was okay, he had to go, and I thought I'd never see him again."

"Okay," Ptonomy says, considering. "The two versions you remember are pretty close. And David being drugged and sick, Benny taking care of him, that matched your dynamic in Clockworks. Amy, what do you remember from when you came to get David from college?"

"Well, Dad was there with me," Amy says, already concerned. "Farouk must have made you forget that. And-- You didn't have a roommate that year."

David startles. "What do you mean, I didn't have a roommate? I definitely remember--" He rubs his face, upset. This is King all over again and they've barely started.

"You had a medical exemption. We did ask the resident assistant to keep an eye on you after your seizure," Amy offers. "Maybe that's who you're remembering?"

"Probably not," David sighs. Of course he saw people who weren't there, that was-- Part of his schizophrenia. He heard things, saw things. He didn't know what was real. Now that he has-- At least a slightly firmer grasp on reality, all of that is-- A lot harder to face.

"Even though some of that was your powers, Farouk gave you those hallucinations," Ptonomy reminds him. "The hallucination of a roommate gave him another way to manipulate you. I think-- We need terms for the layers of reality we're discussing. There's the things that were real to you and to people outside of you. Your dorm existed. Amy visited you and we have records of your time there. Let's call that-- External reality."

"External reality," David echoes. "Okay."

"And the next layer, that's things you remember experiencing but that can't be externally confirmed. They're internal to yourself, your body, your system. Divad and Dvd can share their perspective on those things. We'll call that internal reality. But then after that-- We have the problem of genuine and altered memories. So for example, your genuine external reality was that Amy and your dad came to take you come from college. But your altered external reality was that only Amy was there."

"Okay," David says. "That makes sense."

"Good," Ptonomy says. "So we'll use those four terms: external and internal, genuine and altered. But I don't want you to feel any judgement about the ways in which those experiences come into conflict. Farouk was the one who decided the reality of your experiences. He changed your memories and he was able to use hallucinations to create the reality he wanted you to experience. To put it simply, as long as he was in your head, he was in control. You do not bear any responsibility for the decisions you made during that time. That responsibility belongs to Farouk."

Amy tightens her grip around David's waist and on his hand. David grips back.

"That's-- Really horrific," David admits. It used to be that all he saw was his shame, but now--

"It is horrific," Ptonomy agrees, soberly. "This is memory work, David. We're confronting your past from the perspective of the present. As we do this, be in your body, in the moment, but then find some distance. Try to see it from the outside. Take in the new perspectives that are being shared with you, let them help you change how you feel." He turns to Lenny. "And the same applies to you. Lenny, you are not Benny. The memories you share with David from before Clockworks are not your memories. You are not responsible for Benny's genuine or altered realities. Recognize that this is not your story."

"Aye aye, cap'n," Lenny says, with a mocking salute. But David can see that she's trying.

"Amy," Ptonomy says. "What happened after you and your dad arrived?"

"David wasn't there," Amy says. "We were worried, but-- Before we could go look for him, he showed up. He was in bad shape, he'd obviously been out all night. He smelled like alcohol and he was in a terrible mood, he just wanted to get everything packed and go home. We knew he was devastated about being expelled, so that's what we did. We didn't push him to tell us what happened."

"Okay," Ptonomy says. "So David, the external, genuine reality of what happened is that you received your expulsion letter and went somewhere, likely to a party, to drown your sorrows. But something went wrong and you didn't get back until the morning. Amy and your dad helped you pack up your things and took you back to your childhood home." He turns to Divad. "Divad, now tell us what you remember. Was this the night David met Benny?"

"It was," Divad says, unhappily. "Look, by this point-- Me and Dvd had tried everything to get control back. We still kept trying, but-- Being expelled-- It felt like-- The monster had won. The life we had, the life I built trying to save us, all that was over. We were all upset, but-- That day was really hard for me." He gives a bitter laugh. "Not that it mattered when I couldn’t do anything about it." He sighs. "Okay, so-- We all experienced our body’s hallucinations. So we all saw the roommate, but me and Dvd knew he wasn't real."

"Okay," Ptonomy says. "So you and Dvd were mentally present in your system's body during all of this? What about your bedroom?"

"We could go there, but-- Who knew what we'd come back to?" Divad says. "Hiding felt like giving up. And Dvd could sometimes-- The monster allowed him to take control if our life was in danger. Just enough to save us, but--"

"Farouk couldn't get rid of your bedroom," Ptonomy says. "But your need to protect David made it impossible for you to stay away." He pauses. "Let's get back to that night. Farouk’s hallucination brought David to the party. Is that what happened?"

"Yeah, we went out," Divad says. "But that party wasn't just-- kegs and beer pong and loud music. We were on heavy psych meds, we shouldn't have even been drinking."

"And then Benny gave David drugs?" Ptonomy asks.

"No," Divad says, and looks at Lenny with barely contained anger. "He slipped something in our drink. That was his way of 'making us feel good.' We saw, we warned David but he couldn't hear us. We drank whatever was in there and it hit us hard."

David looks at Lenny, and she looks back at him. "That's not what I remember," she says, upset.

"Because this is Benny's story, not Lenny's," Ptonomy says, firmly. "Divad, please continue."

"The place was packed," Divad says. "And it was loud and dark. But Dvd saw Benny watching us. When David put our drink down, Benny dosed it. But he didn't know about our meds. David got really agitated, he was freaking out, and then we got sick. We made a big mess right in the middle of the party, really killed the vibe. People got pissed, we were totally out of it. Benny told everyone he'd take care of it. He took us outside, got us some water. He tried to get us to leave, but David--" Divad sighs and looks to David. "You did what you always do when you're upset. But we weren't there to comfort you. Benny was."

David shifts, rubs at his face, takes some calming breaths. "So you're telling me-- Benny tried to rape me. But I got sick from whatever he gave me so-- Instead I-- Turned to him for comfort."

"He took us to his place," Divad says. "He actually-- Tried to sober us up. Black coffee, a shower, then he tried to take us home. I think-- He felt guilty. But you were really clingy, you needed touch, comfort, so-- He gave us that."

"What are you saying?" David asks, feeling panicky. "I made him have sex with me? He drugged me!"

"Oh, he definitely wanted to have sex with us," Divad says. "But he tried to make us leave and you wouldn't. You needed Dvd and didn't have him."

"Dvd made me have sex with him, too!" David protests.

"Dvd had sex with you because that was what you needed," Divad counters.

"Do you realize how insane that sounds?" David asks, incredulous. And Divad is supposed to be his rational mind?

"Okay, let's take a moment," Ptonomy says, intervening. "We need to stay focused on what happened with Benny. Divad, no matter how much David needed comfort, he was clearly in no condition to consent. If Benny truly cared about David's well-being, he would have taken David to a hospital and told them what he put in David's drink. But he didn't do that, did he?"

"No," Divad admits.

"I know you're trying to move past your anger now," Ptonomy says. "And you're making big strides with that. But you haven't yet worked through the anger you felt back then. I know those feelings are raw. But you need to find some distance so you don't hurt yourself and your relationship with David."

"You're right," Divad says, backing down. "David, I'm sorry. It wasn't your fault."

"Thank you," David says, exasperated. "Of course it wasn't my fault! Farouk made me go there and then Benny drugged me! At what point did I actually have a choice about any of that?" He leans back, trying to calm himself. Fuck. Fuck, of course it's awful. Why would anything in his past not be awful? Why did he think it would help to have Divad forgive him when it wasn't his fault in the first place!

"Divad, tell us what happened after that," Ptonomy says.

"We slept," Divad says. "In the morning, we felt awful. Benny tried to make us eat something, but David didn't want anything. All he could think about was the letter and packing up and going home. Benny gave us his number and he kissed us goodbye. David-- He thought he didn't deserve to be loved, so he threw out the number."

"So I did think Benny loved me?" David asks, flatly.

"You didn't know why we got sick," Divad says. "You thought Benny rescued us, took care of us and made us feel good. But that whole part of our life was over." He turns back to Ptonomy. "Amy and Dad brought us home, but home didn't help. Amy and Dad found Doctor Poole. He was supposed to be this great therapist for schizophrenics."

"Amy, tell us about that," Ptonomy says.

"All that's true," Amy says. "David's condition wasn't improving. And our house was so far out of the way. It needed to be for Mom's sake, but-- She was gone. When David was doing well in college, I thought-- It was my chance to have a life for myself. Move to the city, make new friends, go on dates, get a good job. I was just starting to build all of that when David was expelled. And when we found Doctor Poole, it seemed like-- The best thing to do was move David close to the doctor who could help him."

"But you didn't have him live with you," Ptonomy says.

"No," Amy admits. "I wanted my own life. We found an apartment between my place and Doctor Poole's practice. That way David could have support but also some independence."

"So that brought David back to the city," Ptonomy says. "David, when do you remember meeting Benny again?"

"Um, I ran into him at a convenience store," David admits. He closes his eyes and tries to picture Benny instead of Lenny. Benny is not Lenny. "I didn't remember him at first, that night was really hazy, but-- He remembered me."

"I bet he did," Lenny mutters.

"He asked if I wanted to get a drink," David recalls. "He said-- He knew some great parties. I said-- I wasn't really a party guy, so, uh, he said-- We could do something just the two of us. Wow, all of this is-- Really different coming from Benny."

"Lenny, what do you remember?" Ptonomy asks.

"I sure don't remember hitting on David," Lenny insists. "Yeah, I ran into him again. He looked kinda lonely, the kid was obviously in need. I thought a party might cheer him up. And if he didn't want to party, then we could just get high and leave all the bullshit behind us. Hey, I remember giving him that pill and him taking it because he wanted it."

"Because Lenny wouldn't drug someone to have sex with them," Ptonomy says. "And you didn't. Benny did. So tell us what you remember Benny doing."

"Oh, right," Lenny says, getting it. "Benny ran into David and thought a party would cheer him up. But David wasn't up for that, so Benny offered to share his stash with him. Benny knew that, uh, David couldn't take the hard stuff, so he offered something light. Take the edge off, you know?"

"And David agreed?"

"Yeah. He and Benny swapped numbers, made a date," Lenny says. "Not that kind of date. Well, I guess it actually was that kind of-- Whatever. Benny went over to his place and we-- They got high. Had some pizza, watched TV. It was chill."

"David, does that match what you remember?"

"Yeah," David agrees, though now he knows the truth was definitely something different.

"Amy, were you aware of any of this?"

"No," Amy says.

"Okay," Ptonomy says. "Divad, go ahead."

"Farouk didn't change much about the convenience store," Divad says. "Except that we obviously knew Benny was hitting on us. And David wanted Benny to make us feel good again. So yeah, the next day, Benny came over. We got high and ate pizza and watched TV. And we fucked. That’s when David fell in love with Benny."

"And I didn't figure out what he did to me?" David asks.

"Benny had other things on his mind when we were together," Divad says. "You loved how much he wanted us. The fact that he wanted to get us high and do things to us-- You liked it."

"I'm sure there were times when David didn't want the same things that Benny wanted," Ptonomy points out. "What happened then?"

"I told you, Farouk messed him up," Divad says. "He made David trusting. It's the same thing that happened with Syd."

"So if David was unhappy or hurt by Benny's actions, he blamed himself," Ptonomy says. "He felt his suffering was a punishment he deserved. Even when he felt angry or resentful, he accepted that Benny knew what was best for him."

"Yeah," Divad sighs.

"So what you're actually saying is that Farouk didn't change David at all," Ptonomy says.

"What?" David and Divad both ask, confused.

"The behavior you describe David having with Syd and Benny is exactly the same behavior he displayed with you and Dvd," Ptonomy tells Divad. "His shame, his neediness and passive acceptance. All of these are traits David has displayed since you became a system."

"But Farouk changed him," Divad insists.

"Farouk made David forget you and Dvd," Ptonomy says. "But all that did was make David search for someone outside your system to re-enact with. David accepted that Benny knew what was best for him because he grew up accepting that you and Dvd knew what was best for him."

"You're saying Benny and Syd were our fault?" Divad asks, upset.

"Your whole system was under Farouk's control from the start," Ptonomy points out. "So no, it's not your fault. But if you want to break that pattern, you need to recognize it in yourself. And you're starting to do that, both you and Dvd. You're recognizing that all of you need personal boundaries, that loving each other means respecting each other as equals."

"Farouk didn't change me in college," David says, grappling with that. "He changed my memories, but-- That was all?"

"We can't underestimate the power of memory," Ptonomy says. "And yet as Divad and Dvd admitted right from the start, David has always been David."

"I've always been me," David says, shocked. "I'm the ship."

"You have continuity," Ptonomy says. "Even without the memories you lost, you have continuity."

"But my rational mind, and all the fragments," David protests. "If all those parts of myself just walked away, how can I be me?"

Ptonomy considers the question. "We don't know how Farouk restored you. But I think-- It would help to remember that you're a system. No matter how many pieces that system is in, no matter how those pieces are arranged, collectively you are still one system. Whatever happened, Farouk couldn’t change that."

David grapples with that and fails. He barely understands what it means to be an identity, much less a system. Trying to understand all of that on top of piecing together his real past-- It's too much.

"Okay," Ptonomy allows. "We can set that aside for now. Let's get back to Benny."

"Great," David says, weakly.

"David, tell me about how your relationship with Benny worked," Ptonomy says. "What do you remember doing together?"

"A lot of drugs," David admits, trying to visualize Benny in place of Lenny again. "After college, I was-- Struggling. I saw Doctor Poole a lot, and-- I think he helped as much as he could. He was a lot nicer than the doctors I had before." Or at least that's what he remembers. "Sometimes I'd be okay for a while, and it really seemed like I was finally getting better again, that I could be-- What I remembered being in college." Except he was never what he remembered being. Those are Divad's memories. "But it never lasted. And when that happened-- Benny was always there for me."

"So you remember Benny keeping you company and helping you feel better with drugs," Ptonomy says. "And you don't remember Benny hurting you, manipulating you?"

"Well, I mean," David starts, uncertain. "The drugs wouldn't pay for themselves. And Amy got mad if I used too much of the money in my account. She didn't like Benny very much. She said he was a bad influence, but--" God, it feels awful to say this now, knowing what he knows. "Our friendship was the only thing I had for myself. He was the only one who-- Really helped me survive."

"I'm sure it felt that way," Ptonomy says, understanding. "No one knew you didn't have schizophrenia. They didn't know that your symptoms weren't symptoms, that they were Farouk intentionally giving you hallucinations and delusions, confusing your thoughts. They didn't know that the medication only made things worse for you."

"No," David agrees.

"And when you were with Benny, when you accepted the drugs he gave you, you felt better," Ptonomy says.

"Yeah," David sighs, thinking back. "I mean, it didn't make everything stop, but-- It was better." The vapor was the best, but it wasn't until the end that Benny found that for him. Benny was like having another doctor, his own personal pharmacist, always looking for what would make David float higher.

After six years of being drugged completely out of his mind in Clockworks, the drugs have lost their appeal. He doesn't want to lose himself anymore, he doesn't want to give up everything he is to pills or vapor or anything else.

"So if you couldn't use the money in your bank account, how did you pay for the drugs?" Ptonomy asks.

That brings David back to earth. "Um. We'd pawn stuff, or trade it. First the stuff Amy bought me, and then, um, things I took from Amy, from other people." He looks at her. "I'm really sorry."

"I know," Amy says, giving him a reassuring rub. "It's okay."

"I did a lot of work on all that with Doctor Kissinger," David admits. "I knew it was wrong, stealing from people. But if we didn't have money we couldn't get the drugs, and without the drugs--" He swallows.

"Farouk gave you a way out of your pain," Ptonomy says. "But it required you to hurt yourself and the people around you. I know you struggled with that."

David nods. "But, uh, the guilt-- Just made me need to escape myself more. It stopped being-- Just for the bad times. I was high all the time, that was the only way I could-- Stand being alive." And one day even that wasn't enough.

"Okay," Ptonomy says, gently. "Let's go back. Lenny, what do you remember about Benny's relationship with David?"

"It was definitely about the drugs," Lenny admits. "I mean, Benny wanted David to feel better. He liked David a lot, he cared about the kid. But he used David. He took David's shit, but he didn't use all that just for David's drugs. He paid himself first. He was just a low-level dealer and he was dipping into his own supply. He needed David to cover that, so he made sure to keep David happy."

"Really?" David asks, surprised.

"I'd apologize, but it wasn't actually me," Lenny says, apologetic anyway. "And I think the real story is probably worse."

David puts his face in his hands and whimpers. Even in his altered external reality, he had no idea what was going on.

"So you remember Benny's relationship with David as being more exploitative," Ptonomy says to Lenny. "Benny kept David high, and David being high made him vulnerable."

"Yeah," Lenny admits. "We-- Benny and David did drugs together a lot, and— When David was out of it, sometimes Benny went shopping. If David noticed something was missing, Benny told him he gave it to him to pay the costs. Benny made sure that David was too high to care, and David just got used to it." She's not pleased. "Benny was a dick."

"Yeah, I guess," David admits. But he still feels-- He's trying to separate Benny from Lenny, Lenny from Farouk, but-- Learning all of this is only making him more emotionally confused.

"Amy, what do you remember of David and Benny's relationship?" Ptonomy asks.

"When David first told me about Benny, he said he was a friend from college," Amy says. "I was happy that he was reconnecting with someone. I thought it would be good for him, he was very lonely. I didn't know how they really met, and when I found out about the drugs-- I tried everything I could to convince David to stay away from Benny. I even tried paying Benny off. But nothing worked."

"That must have been very frustrating," Ptonomy says.

"It drove me crazy," Amy admits. "I thought-- If David just focused on his therapy, if he could keep a steady job-- I needed him to be okay, for himself and-- For me." She looks at David, as apologetic as Lenny. "I'd taken care of you all my life. Watching you get worse-- Doctor Poole was supposed to help you, but he wasn't enough. I started looking for-- Somewhere you could stay."

"Even before I--" David starts. He always thought-- It was the suicide attempt that forced him into Clockworks.

"I didn't know how else to help you," Amy says, pained. "You wouldn’t stay away from Benny. And all those drugs-- I always worried that one day you'd take too much."

"I'm sorry," David says, even though he already apologized to Amy so many times in Clockworks. When he wasn't begging her to take him home. Kissinger was always going over all the things David did wrong, and being trapped in that place-- It felt like a punishment for how badly he'd ruined his life, ruined Amy's life. A punishment he deserved but was still desperate to escape. But isn't that his whole life? He was always being punished and desperate to escape it, even though he knew he deserved whatever he got.

"You never deserved any of this," Divad tells him. "I meant what I said before. I'm gonna keep forgiving you until you accept it. The only reason this happened was because we had a monster in our head. It's like Benny. Benny could have taken us to a hospital and let us get real help but he didn't. He kept us for himself. That's what Farouk's always done, he kept us for himself."

"That's exactly what he did," Ptonomy agrees. "And now that he's out of you, we're helping you take yourself back from him. You want that, right?"

"Right," David says, holding on to that. He wants to take himself back. He wants to be his own David.

"It's important to face what you did," Ptonomy says. "But what happened was not your choice. Acknowledge what happened, learn from it so you can avoid repeating those mistakes, and then let it go. Forgive yourself and allow yourself to move on. How about we give that a try now?"

"Now?" David asks, surprised.

"You forgave yourself for changing Syd's memories," Ptonomy says. "Try forgiving yourself for stealing from Amy."

David looks at Amy, uncertain.

"It's okay," Amy assures him. "I love you. I forgive you for everything that happened, just like you forgave me. I want you to forgive yourself."

David rubs his face, feeling a jumble of emotions. Forgiving himself for Syd, that was-- It just happened, he didn't even try to do it. He doesn't even know-- It was just-- Suddenly he felt--

He steadies himself with a breath.

He forgave himself for Syd because-- He acknowledged what happened. He was scared and confused and heartbroken and he was desperate to undo what Farouk had done to them. So he tried to undo it. But he knows now that-- He should have asked for help. He should have left Syd as she was and told someone what happened. And now that he's learned that, holding on to the guilt and pain of that moment-- He knows it won't help him. He has to let it go.

And Amy--

"I stole from you because-- The drugs were the only thing I had that helped me," David admits. "And maybe-- I was angry with you for not understanding that. But the drugs didn't help me the way I thought they did. I wish we both knew the truth, that-- We could have found the help I really needed. But we know now and I have that help and--" He can do this. "I forgive myself for stealing from you."

He tenses, still feeling like forgiving himself is wrong, but-- Amy pulls him into her arms.

"I love you," she says, and-- It's okay. He forgave himself and it's okay. He holds her back and feels-- A release. Just a small one, it's still-- Difficult to forgive himself for any of that. But it feels like-- It's actually okay to start letting go. He knows a better way to survive than just-- Trying to make himself go away. He doesn't want to go away.

"That was wonderful," Amy tells him, a smile in her voice. "I'm so proud of you, David."

David pulls back and wipes at his eyes. "Thanks," he says, shyly. He can't believe he did that. And it felt-- Good? It feels good.

"That was excellent, David," Ptonomy praises. "That was a big step. Let's take a break, and then we'll rip off the rest of that band-aid."