The soft beep of the card lock makes David's heart leap in his chest. He tries not to show too much excitement, he tries to stare down at his coffee instead of at the opening door. But the moment Syd walks into the lab, the only thing he can do is look at her.
"Morning," Syd says, cheerful.
"Morning," David manages, shyly.
Syd gives him a knowing glance as she puts down her bags. As usual, Amahl takes the food, fishes out their breakfast, then takes the rest out of the lab. David watches as Syd gets settled, puts her files down at the computer terminal for later.
David gives a sigh of contentment. The coffee mug is warm in his hands. Their breakfast smells richly spiced, and now-- That smells like home. This home, the only home that matters. He takes a sip of his coffee. It's strong, bitter, but-- That's how it should be. It's what he needs.
"How did you sleep?" Syd asks.
"The usual," David admits. The nightmares are as strong as ever, but-- Vaguer now, more-- Shapeless fear than-- Reminders of a past he only wants to forget. He wakes, clinging to Amahl in their shared bed, and Amahl holds him close, takes the fear away. He's always safe with Amahl.
His attention is pulled back to the present as Syd returns to set the table. David helps her. It's one of the few things he's actually allowed to do. His eyes barely linger on the flimsy plastic knives at all.
He's better now. He's better. He just has to-- Keep rebuilding his strength. And then-- He'll be useful for more than just-- Passing out paper plates and napkins.
Syd's hand covers his. He didn't realize it was shaking until she steadied it. He focuses on her touch and it calms him.
Syd gives a small, pleased smile, and she sits down. David sits, too. If she keeps holding his hand, one of these days he won't be able to let go. At least if he's holding Syd's left hand when it happens, she’ll still be able to hold a fork and write.
Syd's amused by his thought. "You're worth the risk," she assures him.
David hopes she's right. He hopes--
Amahl returns. They settle in for breakfast together. Family time, David thinks, glad. Even though he's--
No. Don't think about it. If he just-- Doesn't think about it-- It doesn't matter. What matters is this, it's now, it's-- What he's going to be. It's getting better so he's useful. So he's worth all of this, all their time and care and-- It just has to be worth it.
He looks at the flimsy plastic knife next to his plate. But he doesn't take it. Because he's okay. He's okay.
Syd's hand settles on his back. He focuses on her touch. Her touch helps so much, even now that-- Amahl touches him again. Holds him. He shouldn't-- It feels selfish to need both of them. One should be enough. One was enough with--
Amahl's hand settles on his shoulder. David turns and sees Amahl's calm expression. He looks back at Syd's calm expression. Everything's fine. He breathes in, out. He takes a bite of his food. The intense flavors are-- Distracting. He lets them distract him. He eats more.
"Amahl," Melanie says. "David's making very good progress, don't you think?"
"Absolutely, my dear," Amahl says, pleased. "And I believe we have Syd to thank for that. Her presence has truly had a 'positive effect.'"
"Thanks, Dad," Syd says.
"Syd, darling, you've helped David so much," Melanie tells her. "I think-- Perhaps it's time."
Syd seems to understand immediately.
"Time?" David echoes, unsure.
"For something more intensive," Melanie explains. "A more advanced form of touch therapy.”
David’s not sure he likes the sound of that.
Amahl chuckles. “We’ll start this afternoon, with your massage. Syd?”
“I’m ready,” Syd says, confident. "Don't worry, David. Everything's fine." She reaches up and cups his cheek, caresses down his neck. Strokes him again. David swallows.
And that's the end of the conversation. There's no point in him asking for an explanation. He's just a patient, still, to Syd and Melanie. He's still a patient to Amahl. And if he knew too much, it would ruin things. He can't risk ruining Amahl's work. Especially now that--
He thinks, for a moment, of everything he's lost, and it's so much he can barely breathe. He blinks at the tears in his eyes and reminds himself that-- He just has to get through this. As soon as he's ready, he'll be Amahl's key and then-- Amahl will take all the pain away. Like he takes the fear away after David's nightmares.
David just wants to be better. But there's only one way he'll ever get better. If Syd's-- Intensive touch therapy-- Will help with that-- Then it's fine. It's fine.
"Okay," David says, accepting. And Amahl and Syd and Melanie all smile, pleased, and-- David knows that means he's doing the right thing.
He tries not to think about it anyway, through the morning tests, through lunch, even through his short session with Melanie. He hasn't been up for much talk work since-- But Melanie said it's okay. She said-- Sometimes getting better feels like getting worse.
And then it's time. He goes behind the screen and strips down, wraps the towel around his waist. As always, he hesitates before he walks out from the screen. Shy, Amahl calls him. Syd just gives him an expectant look, patient but unyielding. They’re his doctors. All he has to do is let them help him.
He steps out from behind the screen, and when he sees her-- He can't stop how he feels.
Whenever he looks away from Syd for more than a few minutes, and then looks back at her-- The sight of her entrances him. She makes him-- Nervous and excited and flustered and-- He just wants to be with her all the time. He's never felt this way about anyone before. And she's so-- Different from him. Even though they're almost the same age. She's focused and calm and in control, she has a family and a job and he--
He doesn't know if he wants her or wants to be her. Maybe both. Definitely both. But he definitely can't think about that. He's her patient. That's all.
David obediently lies down on his front. Syd lifts away the towel, then drapes it back in place. David is tense, like he always is at the start. He always was with Amahl, too. Amahl is in the room, of course, sitting a few feet away with Melanie, and David can feel his gaze as almost-- A physical touch. But it's Syd whose hands get to work on his body, wringing the stress from it with the same punishing force Amahl used.
It hurts. David wishes-- It would only hurt. Pain is easier than--
But it's always the same. After the pain comes a euphoric glow, a warm contentment that fills David from head to toe. Syd touches him entirely and David is putty in her hands. And then--
"Time to turn over, David," Syd, says, softly. She lifts the towel, and David musters the strength to turn onto his back. And Syd sees--
What she always sees. His arousal. He burns with embarrassment and shame, his whole face and chest red hot.
"It's just your body healing," Syd reminds him, like Amahl always did. "Lie still. Let it happen."
She lays the towel back down, finally, giving him-- The barest privacy. Not that he has any. Not that he's ever had any.
He calms a little as Syd continues the massage, unbothered. His embarrassment eases but doesn't go away. With Amahl, he could accept his arousal as-- Purely physical, but-- With Syd--
It's all tangled up, with Syd. With how he feels for her, with-- The way she makes him feel. Every time he looks at her. Every time she smiles.
When she gets to the end, David allows himself some small relief. He still has to lie here, exposed, until his body calms itself, but-- The worst is over. And then--
Syd moves back up his body. She puts her hands on him and-- Caresses him. Not a massage, not at all like a massage, and as David goes very still, her hand drags down, down, to his hip, and then under the towel.
He can't help it. He flinches back, but then-- Syd's hand grips his inner thigh, a strong hold, and David goes still.
"Shh, it's okay," Syd tells him, calmly. "This is just part of your treatment. Right Dad?"
"Of course," Amahl says. He stands up, walks over. Stands on the other side of the bed. "Intensive touch therapy. Relax, joonam." He pets David's hair, then caresses down the side of his face, his neck. His hand comes to rest over David's heart. "You are always safe with Amahl."
Despite everything David's feeling, he can't refuse this. He haltingly brings his own hands up to cover Amahl's. He feels the weight of Amahl's palm flush against him, a steady pressure holding him down. "I'm-- Safe with Amahl," he tries.
"Again," Amahl orders, gently.
"I'm always safe with Amahl," David says, certain this time. His anxiety eases.
"Very good," Amahl praises. He strokes David's forehead and hair with his other hand. "Are you ready to let Syd give you your treatment?"
David hesitates, but-- Gives the only answer he can give. "Yes."
Syd releases her grip, pulls her hand away. She moves closer and touches David's cheek, strokes it. David feels surrounded, almost-- Trapped. But they're just-- Taking care of him. Helping him, like they always do every day, all day long. And Syd looks down at him with-- Such a calm, pleased expression-- Just like Amahl's--
He's okay. He can do this.
Amahl gives one last press against his heart, and then he lets go, steps away. Moves back to his chair to-- Observe. David looks at him for a long moment, and then-- Looks back to Syd.
"You and Dad are so close now," Syd tells him. "A son, to replace the son he lost. A father, to replace the father you lost."
Grief squeezes David's heart. "Yes," he admits.
"It's been hard for me, watching you," Syd continues. "I know he loves me. I'm his daughter. But the way he loves you-- And-- The way you love him--"
She places her gloved hand over David's heart. David's breathing goes shallow.
"I know how you feel about me," Syd says. "I hear it every day, in your thoughts. I see it in your eyes. You have such-- Expressive eyes. Full of love for our Dad. For me. But I couldn't let myself have you." She pauses. "You've never had sex with anyone. Except-- For the monster. Right?"
David can't begin to process that. "We didn't-- I mean-- We-- He--" He swallows. "Sometimes it-- Made me feel good, but--" The Dvd mask. The monster wore it and-- Made David think it loved him. It controlled his body and used it to make David-- To make him calm, compliant.
"It took care of you, gave you pleasure," Syd says. "When it was King, it loved you very much. I think-- Some part of the monster felt for you the way I do."
"You think-- It loved me?" David asks, wary, confused.
"You loved the monster," Syd says. "When someone gives you that much love-- You have to love them back."
And then she leans down, unhurried, and kisses him. David freezes under her, shocked, and then-- Melts. She's kissing him. He's kissing her back. He can hardly believe--
She breaks the kiss, pulls back. David is lost in her eyes, in her lips. He wants to kiss her again and never stop.
Syd touches a gloved finger to his lips, hushing him. Then she straightens up and-- Starts to undress. David's eyes go wide, and he looks over at Amahl and Melanie, but-- They're just watching, like this is completely normal and fine.
David looks back at Syd. She's taken her shirt off and folded it neatly, set it aside. She's toeing off her shoes, removing-- Her tights, her skirt, and now--
He stares directly up at the ceiling, not daring to look anywhere else. He hears the rustle of fabric, and then-- He can't help but glance. And then he can't look away.
She's naked. Syd's completely naked. Except her gloves. Somehow that only turns him on more. God, he's so painfully hard.
In response to his thought, Syd looks down at the towel. She lifts it away, folds it neatly, places it with her clothes.
Is this happening? David feels dizzy, lightheaded. This can't be real. He must be dreaming, but-- He never has dreams like this, only nightmares and fear and--
"I'm your doctor, David," Syd tells him. "That means I can touch you, but-- You can't touch me. But now-- That's going to change. Do you understand?"
David doesn't, but-- He wants to.
"I'll show you," Syd promises. And she cups his cheek, caresses down his neck, his chest. She kisses the base of his throat, once, and then-- Takes his arm and caresses his scars. Kisses them, planting soft kisses along their ragged length. And then she brings his hand to her breast.
David feels the soft, heavy weight of her in his hand, and it's like it wakes him up. He paws her, too roughly at first, but she's patient and he eases. He tries to sit up and she pushes him back down.
"Stay," Syd tells him, and David stays.
She takes his hand from her breast and guides him to caress her. Her skin is soft and warm, and he feels her breathing against his palm. And then the curve of her belly, the soft trail of blonde hairs--
His breath catches as she cups his hand over her pussy. She's wet, slicking his fingers. He dares to bring his fingers up-- And she gasps in pleasure.
"Syd," David breathes, needing. He reaches up inside her, greedy, and she gasps again. He has no idea what he's doing but he's never wanted anything like he wants to make her gasp. "Syd," he says again, wondrous, pleading. He needs her so much.
Syd grips his hand like she wants to force it deeper, but pushes it away. David tries to reach for her and she forces his arm flat on the table.
"You're still my patient," Syd reminds him. "We have to do this right, okay? Otherwise we could set you back."
"Okay," David echoes, remembering-- This is a treatment. And Amahl and Melanie are right there, watching. "What do I-- What do I do?"
Syd looks past David to Amahl and Melanie, seeming to-- Look for permission. She gets it, and then--
She climbs up onto the bed, crawls over David, and then sits, her thighs straddling his waist. "Just do what I tell you, okay?" she says, looking down at him.
David manages a nod. He remembers Syd breaking into the lab and-- Wanting to obey her. That's still what he wants.
"Good boy," Syd says, pleased by his thoughts. She cups his cheeks again, leans down and kisses him. "Kiss me back," she murmurs, and he does. They kiss and she touches his face and his hair and his neck.
Eventually Syd breaks the kiss, pulls back to look at him. "Do you still want me to be your girlfriend?" she asks him.
"Yes," David says, eagerly. "Please?"
Syd gives him a considering look. "I'm not your girlfriend. Just like Amahl isn't really your Dad. But we could be. We could become--" She kisses along his jaw. "A real family. Father and son. Husband and wife."
"Wife?" David echoes, stunned.
"We could be one, just like-- All married couples should be," Syd says, and the words are familiar. Amahl said something like that, about Melanie.
"She is part of me, and I am part of her," Amahl says. "Would you like to be one with Syd, joonam? Would you like to become-- A Farouk? If you married my daughter, you would truly be my son."
The need David feels in response to that is so strong it hurts. To belong with them, to be truly a part of their family, to be-- Loved and safe with them forever--
Not David Haller but-- David Farouk?
"That's a lovely name," Syd praises. "Say it out loud."
David swallows. "David Farouk," he tries. It's strange, but-- It feels good. It feels right. He wants it, he really does.
"And once you're Dad's key," Syd tells him, "you won't have to be David anymore. You could be-- Joonam. Would you like that, Joonam?"
The way she says it-- It feels less like an endearment and more like-- A name. His name. He can leave David Haller behind forever. He doesn't want to be David.
"I want it," David says, heartfelt. "I want to be Joonam." Joonam Farouk, Amahl's son, Syd's husband. For the first time, he can actually-- See a future for himself. As part of them.
"Say your name," Syd says. "The name we'll give you."
"Joonam Farouk," David says, and that feels-- Perfect. Yes. He wants it so much, with everything he has.
"A beautiful name," Amahl sighs. "Don't you think so, my love?"
"It's wonderful," Melanie praises. "I think that deserves a reward, don't you, Syd?"
"Tell me you want to be ours forever," Syd tells David. Her blue eyes are sharp with hunger.
"I want to be yours forever," David promises.
"Me and Dad?" Syd prompts.
"You and Dad," David answers.
Syd moans, even more than she did when David fingered her. She closes her eyes, bites her lip. Then she sits up, looks down at him, and fingers herself. David stares at her hand, entranced.
"Tell me your name," Syd demands.
"Joonam Farouk," David says. He clutches at the bed, wanting to touch her so much but-- She hasn't said he could.
Syd groans. She rubs back against his erection, which is so full it curves to meet her. Even that small touch is enough to make David gasp and squirm.
"Tell me your father," Syd demands.
"Amahl Farouk," David gasps.
"Do you want to be one with us?" Syd challenges.
"That's all I want," David swears, straining. "Please."
Syd shifts above him. She reaches back, takes hold of his cock. "Promise me," she demands. "Promise you mean every word."
"I swear," David cries.
Syd stares deep into his eyes, searching for some hint that David doesn't mean what he says. But it's the truth, all of it. He'll do anything for them, anything.
Satisfaction comes over Syd's face. And she rises up and then--
David cries out as she sinks down onto his aching cock. He's been so aroused for so long it hurts. But the wet heat of Syd's body is the only thing that matters.
"Touch me," Syd orders, and David rises up, embraces her, kisses her the way he desperately needs to. They moan into each other's mouths as they caress and paw at each other, as Syd rides David and David thrusts his hips up into Syd. He feels like they could literally become one if they could just get close enough, and it feels like they're trying. He sobs with joy and pleasure and gratitude and relief, moaning Syd's name, moaning Amahl's name, moaning Joonam, and Syd moans in exquisite joy, triumphant, claiming.
Neither of them can last. They've waited so long for this, both of them. Syd wraps tight around him, holding him inside and out, raking David's back even through her gloves. And the pain pushes David right over the edge.
He sobs as he comes, pouring into her, wanting to pour all of himself into her forever. Wanting to just be hers and Amahl's and lose himself in them forever. To never be David Haller again.
Syd screams and goes stiff, pulls him in so tightly. He can barely breathe but he doesn't care.
They collapse together, deeply entwined. Syd kisses him, still hungry but soft, easing. Her body throbs around him, and he swears he can feel their hearts beat together, synchronized, like-- They're truly becoming one.
A new system, David thinks, euphoric. They can be his new system. If he can just let them all the way in--
"Soon," Syd murmurs, promises. "So soon, Joonam. My sweet boy. Your sickness will be gone."
A blanket drapes over them, and David looks up to see Amahl standing over them, looking down at them with-- Intense satisfaction.
"My sweet boy," Amahl says, just like Syd. His hand rests on David's flushed, sweaty forehead. His hand slides down, closing David's eyes. "Sleep," Amahl orders, warmly. "Dream. And then-- We will wake together."
The last thing David knows is the press of Amahl's lips. And then he falls deeper into Syd's embrace, and then--