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When My Fist Clenches, Crack It Open

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Clark's just leaving the cafeteria, coffee in hand, tablet under his arm, when he almost walks right into Syd.

Syd does her automatic hop backwards. "Oh! Sorry."

"Sorry," Clark says, also automatically. He shakes the spilled coffee from his hand. Lucky thing he spent so long staring into his cup that it was too cooled for him to burn himself.

Or rather, for Syd to burn him, again. It's a wry thought. He supposes it's better than blaming David.

"Everyone else is busy," Syd says, with some effort. "Can I--"

"Tag along?" Clark asks. Ptonomy and his damn rule. It's not like having company stopped Melanie from snatching Past David, or Farouk from snatching the Loudermilks. Clark's a big boy, he doesn't need a hall buddy. But fine. "Sure."

He walks, and Syd lines up next to him. They reach a conference room and go inside.

"You brought Sydney," says Miriam, with a welcoming smile. "It's so good to meet you. We've heard all about you." She doesn't offer her hand.

"Just Syd," Syd says.

"Of course," Miriam says. "I'm Doctor Albani, but you can call me Miriam. And this is Doctor Marcelle Broadus." She gestures to Marcelle.

"I didn't mean to interrupt your meeting," Syd says.

"We're just finishing up," Marcelle says. "Miriam and I are leading some group work. Perhaps you'd like to join us?"

"Group work?" Syd asks, her interest piqued.

Marcelle hesitates, then looks to Clark. "I understand that-- You're all sharing your treatments openly?"

"Go ahead," Clark says.

"Ptonomy and Amy," Marcelle tells Syd. "And I believe-- All the Davids?"

Syd's expression falls. It's subtle, but Clark knows how to read her. "I don't think I should," she says. She glances at the door, visibly ready to bolt, and Clark gives a great, entirely internal sigh.

"She's with me," Clark says.

Minnie's eyebrows raise. "Are you sure?"

"It's fine," Clark says, as smoothly as he can. He'll take one for the team. He gives Syd an expectant look, and Syd stares back at him.

"I'm sure we'll be working together soon, Syd," Miriam says, and then she and Marcelle head out.

"Please, sit," Minnie says. She takes a seat at the head of the conference table, and Clark takes the side seat closest to her. Syd goes a few chairs away on the opposite site, tucks herself neatly into her seat.

Clark sips his coffee. Definitely too cool now, but ah well.

"Okay," Minnie says, settling in with her notes. "Last time we talked about your work and the emotional impact it's had on you. Did you talk to your husband?"

Clark braces himself. "Yes. We spoke."

"Tell me about it."

Clark delays by taking another sip of his coffee. "It didn't go well."

"How so? Was he-- Upset?"

"He's concerned that-- These sessions will make-- A negative impression on the Division heads."

"It's not typical for patients to allow their superiors access to their private sessions," Minnie points out. "I would be happy to hold our sessions somewhere else."

"No," Clark says. "Hiding them would be worse."

"Okay," Minnie accepts. "I've worked with whistleblowers. How likely is retaliation?"

"If I'm seen as a traitor, very," Clark says, plainly. "The Divisions didn't get this far by playing nice with their enemies."

"Do you consider yourself their enemy?"

"No," Clark says, firmly, and he believes that. "I want the same thing I've always wanted. To do my job and protect the human race from extinction. That's why we agreed to work with Summerland in the first place. And that wasn't my decision, I'm just--"

Clark stops himself. He doesn't like showing his anger, but he's angry.

"You're angry," Minnie observes.

"I've given my life to this organization," Clark says. "I think I'm owed some courtesy."

"And courtesy is-- Understanding?" Minnie asks. "Flexibility?"

"It's respect that my loyalties haven't changed," Clark says, and it takes effort not to glare at the surveillance cameras. "They told me to work with David Haller, with mutants, instead of killing them. That's what I'm doing. Simple as that."

"But Daniel didn't see it that way?"

Clark sighs. "No. He's-- Most Division employees-- Consider this alliance to be temporary. That once the current situation is resolved-- Things will go back to normal."

"Normal being genocide?"

"Yes."

"Will they?"

Clark pauses. "That depends on-- How the situation resolves. Quite frankly, it depends on David Haller."

"How does David feel about that? He was instrumental in this arrangement, right?"

"Yes," Clark says. "I don't think it was-- Entirely intentional. But he wanted peace, so-- Here we are."

"That's a very fragile peace, to depend on one person," Minnie says. "Especially one who-- Already has a great burden of his own."

Clark glances at Syd. Her expression is impassive, but she's paying very close attention. Good.

"So how do you feel about that?" Minnie asks.

"I don't care for-- Helplessness," Clark says. "I've always needed to be in control. Relying on-- A traumatized and mentally ill mutant to decide my future, the future of the entire world-- It makes my bosses deeply uncomfortable."

"Would they be comfortable with a healthy David Haller?" Minnie asks. "Are they genuinely worried about his mental state, or is it just-- An excuse?"

"Maybe both," Clark offers. "This arrangement was-- More palatable for them before-- All this."

Minnie checks her notes. "Yesterday you said, even without David, the world has reached a tipping point. Cary told me the same thing. The Divisions weren't forced to change because of David. He was just-- The last straw. A very powerful last straw, but-- This is bigger than one mutant."

"Yes," Clark agrees.

"But Daniel still thinks things will go back the way they were?"

Clark shifts in his seat. He takes another sip of his coffee. He should have got a fresh cup before--

"Does it upset you, that Daniel doesn't feel the way you do?" Minnie asks.

"Maybe he's right," Clark defends. "Maybe I'm compromised."

"Are you?"

"No," Clark says, certain.

"It must have hurt, to be accused of that. Especially by your husband."

Clark's jaw tenses.

"Tell me about him," Minnie says. "You met at work?"

"Yes," Clark says, forcing himself to relax. "A field assignment. We hit it off. It was-- Casual at first. I didn't really-- I wasn't looking for something long-term."

"Why not?"

Clark hesitates, thinking of-- Parachutes that don't open. "This job is dangerous. We put our lives on the line every day."

"That kind of danger makes strong bonds, whether we want them or not. Is that what happened?"

"Maybe," Clark admits. He remembers how-- One day he just-- Needed for them to be together no matter what their assignments were. How Daniel became-- Essential to him. It terrified him, falling in love, but-- He's never been a coward. "I love him. I trust him. I thought he trusted me."

"Did he say he didn't?"

"If he trusted me, he'd back me up," Clark says, letting his annoyance show. "He'd understand. He knows what I'm doing here, he knows everything I know."

"Ah," Minnie says. "You think what you experienced should have changed him the way it changed you?"

"We've always felt the same way about our work," Clark says.

"And now you don't."

"No." Clark shifts again, restless. He hated arguing with Daniel, hated feeling-- Misunderstood by him.

"Let's go back a bit," Minnie says. "How was your relationship with Daniel affected by the attack last year? You were badly burned, almost died. How did he feel about that?"

"He cried himself to sleep every night," Clark says, plainly.

"So it was very traumatic for him, almost losing you."

"Yes," Clark admits, calming a little. "We have a son. Adopted."

"You chose to adopt even though your jobs are dangerous?" Minnie asks.

"Yes."

"Was the adoption your idea or his?"

"His," Clark admits.

"Would you say that Daniel had-- Less fear about your safety, before the attack?"

"Probably. When I recovered, he-- Wanted me to be safe. Take desk duty. But I couldn't."

"Because you had to stop David?"

"Yes."

"Okay," Minnie says, considering. "So maybe you haven't always felt exactly the same way about your jobs. Daniel felt confident enough in your safety to start a family with you. And then-- He nearly lost you, he saw you suffering terribly. He tried to protect you but you wouldn't let him, you went right back into the field, with a revenge mindset. And now-- You're at risk not only from mutants, but from your own organization."

"You think he's just trying to protect me?"

"He's your husband," Minnie says. "Is that so hard to believe?"

Clark softens, but he's still upset. "He should trust me."

"Because you know the right thing to do?"

Clark wants to say yes to that, but--

"Doubt is normal," Minnie says. "Especially with decisions this huge. I think what you need to do is listen to your conscience. What does it tell you?"

Nothing he wants to hear.

"Okay," Minnie says, when he doesn't answer. "Would it be fair to say that-- David has been your primary motivation since the attack?"

"My motivation is doing my job," Clark says, firmly.

"Of course," Minnie soothes. "But after the attack, what was it that motivated you through what must have been a very challenging recovery? Was it love for your husband, your son? Or killing David?"

None of your goddamn business, Clark wants to say, but bites it back. "I wanted him dead, yes. I wanted to finish the job."

"And when you got back to the field, when you found him-- What happened?"

"You've read my notes."

"Tell me anyway," Minnie says. "Tell me how it felt."

Clark forces himself to remember. "We had him," he says, remembering that brief, glorious moment of victory. "We had all of them. And then-- He just--" He waves his hand, the way David waved his hand and effortlessly swept all the soldiers into a pile. "We knew he was powerful. What happened in Clockworks, the tests, but that was--" It made his blood run cold. "Before, he was-- Wild, unstable. But he was-- Focused. In control."

"And that made him more dangerous, or less?"

"More," Clark says, knows. "Absolutely."

"You've been helping him get back to that state," Minnie points out. "That's the goal of his system's therapy, to put them in control of their life. Do you feel that-- You're helping David become more dangerous?"

"Yes," Clark admits, with some small relief. Acknowledging that. "He was powerless, vulnerable. Without Farouk's interference, we--" Would have. "Could have killed him." The Admiral insisted there was a chance, but-- Clark was certain David would never get better.

"Do you regret that you didn't?" Minnie asks. "Not that you didn't kill David last year, before you could be burned. But that you didn't kill him two weeks ago?"

The answer should be the same, Clark thinks. But somehow it's not. "No."

"Tell me about that."

Clark shifts in his seat. He glances at Syd, looks at his coffee, then back at Minnie. "I don't want things to go back to normal."

"You don't want to go back to killing mutants?"

"No," Clark admits, relieved again. "Obviously if they're a threat--" He pauses, starts again. "I want to keep the world safe, humanity safe. That hasn't changed. I want to do my job."

"But something has changed for you," Minnie says.

"Yes."

"You're-- Re-evaluating the threats mutants pose?"

Clark considers that. "Yes." He hesitates. "When David's treatment started, I was-- Angry. I wanted him dead, not-- So I looked for solutions."

Minnie's eyebrows raise. "Solutions?"

"He was never going to get better," Clark says, even though he's been proven wrong. "So I thought-- Keep him sedated. Get Cary to-- Find a way to-- Make David Haller harmless."

Minnie taps on her tablet. "By-- Removing his mutation? I understand that's not possible."

"It would've turned him into someone else," Clark admits. "But that someone else would have been-- Free to go." It haunts him, sometimes. Making the offer. David's-- Bleak desperation to-- Erase himself from existence. Clark wanted to be happy, seeing that, but he wasn't. "I've never been suicidal. I never understood-- That mindset."

"Does it bother you?"

"I have compassion," Clark insists. "I'm not cruel."

"Are you saying that because you think you were being cruel then?" Minnie asks.

"Maybe," Clark sighs. "Yes. Cary was-- I've honestly never seen him even half that angry." Cary was absolutely furious.

"How did that make you feel?"

"Inhuman," Clark admits.

"That's an awful feeling."

Clark nods.

"You respect Cary's opinion?" Minnie asks.

"I suppose," Clark says. "I didn't really-- Think much of him, until all this. He was just-- Another resource. We'd tell him to make something and he'd make it. He left the-- Moral guidance to Melanie."

"But now you're ready to work with him. On Division 4. Do you feel-- His moral guidance will help you not be inhuman again?"

"At the moment he's not exactly available," Clark replied.

Minnie just gives him a look.

"Yes," Clark sighs.

"Even though Cary's definition of humanity is different from what yours used to be? From Daniel and the Divisions' definition?"

"Maybe we were wrong," Clark says, needs to say it. No, he's not a coward. "We were wrong. I was wrong." It feels good to admit it, and awful. It makes him feel worse than inhuman. There is so much blood on his hands, on the hands of everyone involved. So many people were so sure that they were right. He was one of them. Daniel is still one of them.

"That's a hard thing to accept," Minnie says, and he can tell she's begrudgingly impressed.

"Yeah, I'm sure I'll get a medal," Clark drawls. "Right before they put a bullet in my brain."

"So you do expect to be executed?" Minnie asks, sobering.

"That depends on David Haller," Clark sighs. He does not like having his fate tied to a mentally ill mutant. But there's no going back now. "He forced the Divisions to change."

"And you want him to do it again?" Minnie asks. "Just wave his hand and-- Change their minds? Isn't that exactly what you don't want him to do?"

Clark sighs and crosses his arms, frustrated.

"I get it," Minnie says. "He changed you, and you want him to change everyone else, too. So you can all feel the same way again. But the reality is, you never all felt the same way."

"We did," Clark insists, but feels childish for it. And Minnie obviously doesn't buy it. He gives an aggrieved sigh. "Fine. What am I supposed to do, convince them to see the error of their ways?"

"Maybe," Minnie says. "But that won't be easy. In the meantime, if you need to talk to someone who shares your new views, it seems to me-- You already have that." And she tilts her head at Syd.

Clark turns and looks at Syd, and Syd looks back, mildly surprised.

"I understand that-- You chose to isolate yourself from everyone during David's therapy," Minnie continues. "And I understand your reasons. But if you're trying to change so you can become David's ally, Cary's ally-- Then maybe it's time you stopped staying away from them."

"Cary's not here," Clark says, again.

"Actually, from what Ptonomy and Oliver wrote in their notes, it's likely that Cary and Kerry are very present, even when Past David can't see them," Minnie says. "You can already talk to them. What you need is-- A way for them to talk to you. You'd like to speak with Cary, right?"

Clark nods.

Minnie turns to Syd. "Syd, what do you think?"

"Um," Syd starts. "I guess-- As long as you're not-- Thinking hostile thoughts about David." She gets a resolved look. "Yes. It's a good idea. Cary will definitely like it."

Minnie turns back to Clark. "Clark? How are your thoughts today?"

Clark thinks about spilling coffee on his hand. "Safe enough, I think. Though it's probably-- Going to be harder, being with him."

"That's true," Minnie admits. "Syd, I believe-- You have some recent experience with triggering situations? With David?"

Syd looks slightly horrified that Minnie knows about all that, but she calms. "Yes. Um. If you feel upset then-- Step back. Acknowledge your feelings. Help yourself feel better and then-- Talk about it."

Clark resists the urge to roll his eyes. "Sure," he says, sarcasm leaking out anyway.

"You can mock it," Syd says, with tolerant amusement. "It's weird for me, too. Accepting that I'm not in control of how I feel. But I'm not, and neither are you."

"I'm in control," Clark insists.

"No," Syd says, shaking her head. "And that's okay. It's actually-- Normal." She gives a small, wry smile. "Humans, mutants. It's the same."

"Fine," Clark sighs, not in the mood to argue. "You gonna give me a notebook, too?"

Syd's smile widens.

"Damn it," Clark mutters. Damn Cary and his stupid ideas and his stupid notebooks. Why is he doing this? It would be so much easier to just--

No. No, he can't--

He swallows, sobered.

"Clark?" Minnie prompts, concerned.

Clark doesn't answer. His throat feels tight. His heart hurts, thinking of-- Daniel's voice on the phone, upset and angry and worried.

"What if-- I change and-- He doesn't?" Clark asks, needing. "Daniel?"

"That's possible," Minnie admits. "But-- I believe your job here is-- About understanding people. And helping them make the right decisions. Yes?"

Clark gives a short nod.

"Daniel must love you very much," Minnie says, gently. "But he's scared, too. He doesn't want to lose you, for your son to lose you. Especially after almost losing you once already. Did you-- Truly come back to him, after the attack?"

Clark's breath catches. He wants to say yes, of course. But-- "No," he admits. He was always thinking about David, always thinking about killing him, about how that would make everything okay again.

But that was never true. And now-- If they lose David--

"I should call him back," Clark decides. He needs to-- Apologize. Fix what he broke, or at least-- Make a start.

"Yeah," Minnie says, with a soft smile. "I think that's a very good idea."