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We Are More Than Just This

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"Do you mind?" the girlfriend asks, her eyes clear and blue as they peer upwards to his floating form.

He hovers in the center of their library, hands resting upon his knees, legs crossed.

This is how the girlfriend finds him when she stepped inside to pluck a novel from the shelves. He had been meditating. Meditation was something David learned in the hospital and he'd shown him how he could use it for his self. Something hippy dippy about balancing your energy.

"Mind what?" he answers.

They tend not to have much to say to each other so he expected her at least regard him with a polite smile and leave.

But she stays, clutching the book she chose to her chest, arms concealing the title of the novel. She digs one foot into the ground contemplatively for a few moments and her hair dips forward, shielding her face.

He starts to open his mouth but closes it as the girlfriend's eyes suddenly perk back up at his, brightened.

"A story?"

She takes a seat on the sofa with wooden legs and cream cushions. It's positioned in front of the enormous curtain-less bay window that lets all the light into the room.

Doesn't seem like she's really giving him a choice here.

Her Siamese cat- yeah hers, not theirs- Samson tip toes into the library right behind her. His whiskers are long and silver, catching the light while he noses around as though to investigate the atmosphere. He stretches his back against the the leg of the sofa, scarred with naughty scratches around the edges, meowing up at the girlfriend before becoming occupied with licking his paw.

He'll never admit it to another soul, but he's starting to understand why David had fought so hard against his delusion theory.

He gets why it works so much for David, having her in his life. Their relationship dynamic is built upon the crumbs of broken paradigms for the conventional. Nothing like the past ones that had all combusted through their phases of inevitability.

This one is gentler and yet more ferocious.

Divad has observed how sometimes David doesn't know what to say or do and the girlfriend takes the lead before they can.

Sometimes they just watch as she touches him through her gloved hands to relax him, or how she looks through his eyes, almost like she can see them watching her back, deciphering what he needs and what he means when his words fail him.

"Syd, she's my link between all things. No matter how far I may wander, she is the anchor low and deep inside my soul."

It had sounded like something right out of Tennyson's work. How stupidly romantic, he scoffed when David said it.

And yet utterly understandable, if Divad wanted it to be. He thinks he does.

As part of David's primary system they function under the agreement that while he is their host, he is not their leader. And each of them are free to choose and do what they please so long as they nor anyone else harms him, the host. He hates to say "host" at the risk of sounding too alien-y but these rules are..somewhat abode by.

He and Dvd spend most of their time in contention with each other over what to do with David. Dvd is a tightly clenched asshole and Divad knows he can be one too but at least he isn't willy nilly with it. Unlike Dvd, he likes to consider both action and consequence.

They may not be stronger than David but they understand their scope of power better than he does and they never hesitate to advance with them. They understand, since most of the time they are co-conscious when they're out, how to protect David better than he can protect his self. They're not his babysitters or anything. Sometimes David just doesn't know how to get out of shit on his own and intervention is necessary.

Dvd is obsessed with freedom, obsessed with movement.

Divad doesn't mind the stillness. In fact, he prefers it.

Davey is the child. A ten year old who almost never makes a peep. He's always hiding behind the others and when he's not he's peeking out with those round inquisitive eyes of his. He claims that there is a world that he sees in the corner of his eyes. Divad doesn't understand that boy very much. Something might be a little off with him. A bit of cuckoo action going on there. 
 
Rational Mind is the very personification of his name. He's mister technicality. Wielding British humor to get through David's rough episodes, he knows his way around every wind and bend of every problem that ever bubbles to the surface. 
 
And then there's God-Mutant. He's intense and intimidating. He dwells in a tent in the center of a thundering desert abyss. He rules with a character of indifference on a throne surrounded by skeletons from creatures known and unknown, the entire universe swirling in the crystal ball in his palm. He's the most powerful of them all and it places a weighted and indescribable sort of feeling inside of Divad.

And that's the primary system.
 
They're each so unique in mind, power, needs, and desires. And when it comes to the girlfriend and their intentions, it's no exception.

Dvd wants her gone, if he's going to be blunt. David wants to be lost in her all the time because she is the planet he orbits around. God-Mutant is neutral, she's neither a threat nor a casualty to him. Rational Mind never has anything to say about her either because he only exists to guide David and he doesn't see her as a danger to him. Davey sees her as the nice blonde 'Miss Sydney' who will protect him and let him stay up past his bedtime to watch movies and play video games if he makes his eyes twinkle bright enough.

And Divad, well...

"Would you like to listen?" the girlfriend slides her thumb along the edge of the bright red bookmark pinched between the pages. "It won't be from the beginning, I've already started it and I'm not starting over."

"That's fine." He could ask her to leave. This is his personal time after all.

He doesn't know why he agreed. A part of him senses that this must be a disguised extension of the olive branch after the fight that had happened before.

Dvd had pretended to be David just to get under the girlfriend's skin and the two ended up getting into a pretty ugly dispute.

She doesn't even have to do this, does she know that?
 
Because this is their thing. The girlfriend and David. Ever since Clockworks where they'd spend their day room privileges reading every book they could get their hands on. Which is amazing because David has never been much of a bookworm before he met her.

The fight wasn't really her fault. It was Dvd's. And it's not as if he himself had anything to do with it anyways.

- "Whatever," Dvd's voice is situated between a whisper and a snarl.

She's much tinier when he looks down at her from the air. Her orange shirt has yellow polka dots on them with frills on the sleeves and it makes her look so unimposing, so farm girly, Divad can't help but feel like there's some sort of role he ought to fulfill here. So he obliges her.

The amber glow of the noon sunlight spills over the girlfriend as she tucks her hair behind her ear. She curls on her side, hips wriggling as she makes herself comfortable. She clears her throat.

"'As I set down these notes on paper, I'm obsessed by the thought that I may be the last living man on earth. I have been hiding in this empty house near Grovers Mill - a small island of daylight cut off by the black smoke from the rest of the world. All that happened before the arrival of these monstrous creatures in the world now seems part of another life...a life that has no continuity with the present, furtive existence of the lonely derelict who pencils these words on the back of some astronomical notes bearing the signature of..."

Her voice is elegant and focused. And not dull and unimaginative like a schoolteacher's who is just in it for the check. Even the cat seems to be listening, one ear perked towards her.

It takes him back to when he was born. He remembers it clearer than a sunny sky. In the beginning there was loneliness. Everything was swept in blackness and air whistled across the vast empty space. At the end of this long space was a door. And behind it was a room engulfed in flares of white light and in the center was a congregation of people. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. Different faces shouted and gestured frantically. Too bright to see, too loud to hear.

That's when he had met Davey.

Davey is the one who told them about the Devil with the Yellow Eyes. The monster who was always there, weakening them, hiding them from David. The boy is very easily frightened, but he's more knowledgeable than his age ought to allow. He's emotionally sensitive and dependent upon David's stability. It's probably why he sees her as 'Miss Sydney' too. If she ever left, it'd wreak havoc on David and resultantly on Davey, and conclusively, on their system. 
 
"I'm sure you've been tempted to leave a number of times. But it's a good damn thing that hasn't happened yet."

The girlfriend's mouth pauses on the shape of the words from the book.

He hadn't meant for that to slip out. At least not like that. But he doesn't shy away from her attention.

"His teachers called him disruptive. His therapists drugged him up til he was nearly comatose. Our adoptive parents were driven to confused grief. And his exes, oof, his exes. 'Why don't you love me, David?' 'You never understand, David!' 'What's wrong with you, David?!' Of course, they didn't know. Not in the beginning. 'Schizophrenia' they said. We have omega level power and there was a monster who sought to steal that from us and they put him in a looney bin and us with him because they didn't want to understand the truth. To expect someone after all that, to come out standing on their own two feet without any kinds of major fuck ups is a real joke. Sure, yeah, punish the crazy guy for being crazy and hope that if we stay sedated and sing kumbaya every week at group therapy that we get better. Makes sense. You have no idea how much we hated that."

"Actually I do," the girlfriend answers. "I know exactly how much you hated it."

"Why'd they throw you in there? You never told David." Us. 
 
"So what makes you think I'd tell you?" she tilts her head. Not with challenge. But it's assertive. Dvd would've called it her being a bitch. But he decides he secretly admires how she guarded herself just now.

- "Can't you go back to meditating?" Dvd thrusts his arm out.

"This character in the novel you're reading. We feel like that sometimes." Divad changes the subject.

Except they've had no before. Not quite.

David, he's had a before, even if it's something that exists in the brief beginnings of his life before the shit beetle found him and brought all his corruption to infect him with.

They only have after. Always after.

"It sounds pretentious but, it's the best thing about books." the girlfriend muses. "Sometimes all it takes is for someone who doesn't know you at all to know you best. That's real power. Connection to people you've never known and will never see. All you need are your words."

They're worlds apart. They've known of each other for a little while now. But they don't know each other.

And perhaps, he thinks to his self, it wouldn't be so bad if he takes initial steps. Perhaps that'd be best for everyone.

"I never really liked science fiction until I met David," the girlfriend continues. "He's bored by the other classic literature types but he's obsessed with these kinds of stories so I started getting into this genre. I found a lot of the protagonists in these stories are people who are alone, forced to navigate a world of unexpected hell. They're not always about killing the aliens and getting the girl. Sometimes they're about learning how far your will can carry you and how much you have in common with the ones you'd least expect."
 
Divad descends slowly to his feet.

Samson pauses his ministrations, tongue peeking between his lip as he looks between him and the girlfriend curiously.

"You really are unlike the others."

The girlfriend gives no response to that.

"You're dutiful to him." And not like a dog bolting across the room every time their owner unlocks the door. More like a gladiator, his right hand in combat. His sword and his shield. He's seen it. The way she locked herself around him as a stream of bullets sprayed their way. The way her future self had drawn a heart around her with a ribbon of light, an unexplained yet resolute look of pain in her eyes, trapped in an apocalypse they were meant to cause. "You don't want to be around here during times like this. Around me. But you come back. No matter who pushes you away. You come back just for him."

- "Maybe it's because your little delusion egg theory was directed to the wrong person. Maybe it's not David who's fucked in the head. It's her. She clearly can't take the obvious fact that she doesn't belong here with us," Dvd says gratingly.
 
"Because that's what love is," the girlfriend says quietly.

A hot bath, you told us. All it does is make you stupid and weak.

Did she truly believe that or was it poetic lines of bullshit she'd been spewing because she was harboring so much bitterness at the time? She's tricky but he's inclined to believe the latter.

- "She's a fraud if we're getting technical," Dvd says.

"I love him. Maybe they loved him too. But what we have..." the girlfriend's voice trails off.

Nothing can compare.

She doesn't say it aloud but he can see it like a ticker banner across her forehead.

The girlfriend wraps her fingers around her compass necklace. If she opened it, the arrow would be pointing right at his center to the man resting inside of him.

"I don't just come back for him, though," she looks him straight in his eyes. "This is my home, too. And Samson's. And our animals'. It's part of my life. And besides, it's not like the switching is the only thing that ever happens. David does things too."

"And you," Divad's worlds spill over.

The girlfriend makes a face. "Yeah. But this isn't about me is it. It's your asshole friend."

He feels Dvd's face behind his, expression contorting as he dares the girlfriend to say anything further about him.
 
"Well. Everyone has their limits," Divad counters, proud of his self for his quick thinking.

"I suppose I haven't reached mine yet."

I wasn't referring to you, Divad thinks to his self. It's not like it's only her and David living here. It's them too. And not just their primary system. The outer ones too. God knows everything that they feel and think in the outer depths.

"In Clockworks, none of us could communicate because he found us and sealed us in coffins and the harder we screamed, the quieter our voices became. He did that to us, the-"

"-Shit beetle?"

Something about her acknowledgement of their nickname for Farouk makes him laugh softly. He feels Dvd elbow him.

Piss off, I'm not letting you out. You already had your time.

"Yeah, the shit beetle. Even though David annoyingly filled our space with all his lovey dovey thoughts and feelings about you, at least those were his happiest moments at Clockworks."

It was psychological fireworks. Delirium, elation, and dopamine flying everywhere like dandelions in the wind.

And sure, there was his best friend Lenny Busker, but they got into a lot of trouble together, often resulting in broken furniture or triggering other patients' outbursts. And they never sat down and told David, but the shenanigans were extending their treatment, or sentencing, as Dvd puts it, at Clockworks. Not that they would ever have gotten out had it not been for-

Well.

Her.

Oh.

Right.

He half expects the girlfriend to reciprocate with her own memories with David in Clockworks but instead he finds a glimmer of conflict in her eyes.

"Your friend would disagree," she shrugs derisively.

"Dvd? Well, he's not exactly the romantic type."

- "Hey-"

"No. I'll give him credit for his imagination, though. He has a very colorful way with words. I'm an 'overrighteous cunt' and 'the bitch who made David her bitch' and I should 'fuck off to hell'. It's so hard to categorize all the ways he tells me he  resents me now. It all starts sounding the same after some point."

The awkwardness suddenly returns between them. It permeates through Divad and he gnaws at his bottom lip, feeling uncomfortable with his current feelings.

To think there had been a time where he and Dvd colluded with David to leave her behind after that stint in the desert. Now he's here sitting next to her and her cat listening to science fiction stories and having an actual conversation. Learning. Understanding.

"I can't make David come out right now" Divad blabs.

David is swaddled in the unconscious volume. Dormant until he's strong enough again to take back control.

"I didn't ask-"

"Yeah I know, sorry."

- "Why are you apologizing to her?"

Divad shoots a glare towards Dvd.

"What I mean is, David just needs time. When he found out what happened, what Dvd did, pretending to be him, and what he said to you, he panicked. He panicked real bad and he wouldn't stop panicking and we tried to calm him down but you two are just so-" Divad pictures a neutron star collision and it's the perfect simile.

"But I wasn't mad at him. I know it's not his fault- the fight. I know it wasn't him, I know it was the other guy. That he was pretending to be David just to get at me. He should've talked to me instead of-" she shuts her eyes, taking a breath. "I would just like for him to know that. You can tell him, I'm not upset at him."

Divad raises his eyebrows slightly. Wait.

"He isn't hiding from you if that's what you think." It's exactly what she thinks, he can tell.

"Look, it's complicated to explain but when David gets in certain mental spaces, he has a very hard time climbing back out. He's not gone because he's scared of you." He's scared of fucking their relationship up. "We talked about it, for what it's worth? Dvd and I. We talked about what he did to you and to David by extension. We're going to try to work on that." he's pleased with how that had come out.
 
He'll be the first to admit that they aren't always particularly nice to David when it comes to certain things, but he'd felt pretty bad about David's reaction to Dvd's stunt this time and it demanded something of an evaluation. He doesn't think it'll mean much in the end because god knows how stubborn Dvd is. 

The girlfriend makes a face in acknowledgement.

His words seem to mean very little to her because they both know there's nothing that can control or change the volatile tension between Dvd and the girlfriend.

Samson murmurs and hops in her lap, eyes lighting up as he demands affection from her.

Damn, they kind of look alike, the girlfriend and the cat. Blonde splashing everywhere, paws black just like her gloves, big bright blue eyes that show only what they want you to see.

Her gloves stroke beneath the cat's chin. Purring with appreciation, Samson bevels accommodatingly beneath her palm. The girlfriend's cheeks fill with a gentle smile and he realizes it's only the second time she has smiled since she came here.

There's something warm about the way she smiles at her cat, it washes away the coolness in her eyes when she had become upset just moments ago. He finds he's taken an interest in her subtleties.

- "You're staring." there's disdain in Dvd's voice.

"How can you stand that annoying and cloying behavior?" suddenly the back of Divad's head is itchy. "Don't you have...you know, that touch phobia?"

"Samson doesn't touch me where I'm not covered. See?" he does see. "Humans and mutants treat trust like a punching bag. It's supposed to strengthen us and be a healthy source of exertion. But really we just hit it aimlessly. We can't help ourselves, it's in our nature. In the animal kingdom, it works differently. Trust is never betrayed. Trust is coded into their instinct. Trust is systematic. Right, baby?" she dotes on the cat and he eats that shit up.

"Yeah right. You wouldn't feel that way if a thousand pound bear was backing you against a tree."

"I'd simply touch him. Now I'm the thousand pound bear." her eyes raise as if daring him to challenge the honest logic of her statement.

Divad folds his hands in his lap, contemplating his next words.

"You can tell David yourself that you're not mad at him. When he comes back, I mean. Better to hear it from you than me. You're the love of his life and all. Your word means more to him."

Something imperceptible replaces the previous warmth in her eyes and she stops petting Samson, going back to holding her compass necklace. She nods soberly.

He tilts his head to the book.

"What is that you're reading, by the way?"

The girlfriend lifts the book so he can see for his self. The novelization of the 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds.

"Would you like me to continue reading?"

He gestures to the book. "Please," he says almost quietly.

- "Aw, hell, Divad. Don't tell me y-"

Can you just be quiet for five damn minutes? Divad hisses to Dvd.

Hiding his scowl towards him from the girlfriend's pensive eyes, Divad is careful to mind hers and Samson's space as he crosses his legs to relax more.

The girlfriend moves upright, sliding back against the arm of the couch, pressing her thighs to her chest.

He admits her reading voice is exceptional. He let it dance over his tympanums, mingling with Samson's soft purrs and the pages scratching against each other as she turns them.

The meditation had been good but in his personal honesty, this is good too.

Too good.

In the unconscious volume, he can see David, curled up like a fetus, eyes still shut. He can feel the tempo of his heart dancing. He's not about to wake. Divad is still central in command, despite Dvd's presence. But David's being stimulated. A mother plays Mozart on her headphones and presses it to her pregnant belly for the child to hear. The girlfriend reads science fiction stories about aliens and identity crises.

Divad narrows his eyes.

Had she done this knowingly? He thinks of the manner in which she had come into the library, meek and doll-eyed.

Fuck, she might've, she might've come here to spend time with him. With Divad. But another part of her, because she's wealthy with intuition, must know too that she's reaching David this way. Comforting him. Almost as if she were reaching into their soul and caressing his trembling form in his troubled sleep. Because that's what love is, she'd said.

Here he was thinking he was indulging her when really, she's indulging him.

Time passes without real recognition. He no longer hears the words from the book.

Just her, falling into continuous vibrations with everything else. He watches her lips shaping every word that her eyes follow and Samson obediently relaxing on her toes.

This is so unbelievably domestic.

"Tonight the Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations coast-to-coast have brought you The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, the seventeenth in its weekly series of dramatic broadcasts featuring Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air. Next week we present a dramatization of three famous short stories. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System." her voice dies down conclusively.

And then she shuts the book with a self satisfied smile, seemingly adrift in her own world.

She braids her drapes of blonde hair into a low ponytail. Then she pulls an orange bandana she'd apparently stuffed in the pocket of her dark brown jeans and ties it at the base of her ponytail.

"It's feeding time." her eyes finally meet his, as if to explain why she has to leave now.

And then she's gone. Just as calmly and delicately as she had come in.

Room's quiet now. Quieter than it had been when he was meditating by his self.

Samson is staring hard at him.

"What?"

The cat's ear perks to the direction the girlfriend had gone in.

Why are you standing there, dipshit? Go help her.

Right. He ought to help. It's what David usually does when it's feeding time. He tugs his boots on and hauls a sack of chicken feed over his shoulder and gets the hose ready to fill up the water tanks to give them all fresh water for the night.

But his instincts tell him the girlfriend wants to be left alone and will come back inside to have dinner. It's one thing for her to invite herself into his presence. The library is where she spends a lot of time after all. But Divad feels intimidated at the idea of inviting his self into her presence while she does farm work. Decidedly undecided, he leaves her alone. 

By the time the clock strikes the next hour, he has already heated up some leftover spaghetti and drank a few jars of orange juice empty while Dvd grew bored with cohabitation and drifted back to his own world.

And the girlfriend still hasn't come back inside.

Divad kicks his feet up on the coffee table, perplexed by the emptiness and frustration he's feeling.

What the hell are you doing, man? he groans to his self. He rubs his face, malcontented and confused. Oh fuck it. He gets up, pushing his dishes in the basin of soap in the sink.

On his way past the screen door, from the corner of his eye, he catches something twinkling through the tiny grids.

Amber colored liquid swirls with silver from the moonlight in a liquor bottle and a gloved hand is wrapped firmly around the body of it. The lips connected to it belongs to the girlfriend and she is taking a long swallow, eyes screwing shut from the no doubt harsh kick of it.

Hands barely dried, he teleports to the front porch just as the liquid is rushing down her throat.

His fist clenches at his side realizing he's unsure of what to say to her. Where did she even get alcohol from? They don't drink.

"Are you here to spy on me?"

Lowering the bottle slowly from between her lips, her eyes meet his almost intimidatingly.

"I'm not..."

Despite it being the truth, he sees she doesn't buy it.

"Then go back inside," she says, turning her head away from him.

No, he wants to counter. But he keeps his words at bay, leaning against the pillar opposite her. He folds his arms across his chest.

What happened? Is this when she drinks? When she feels badly? Is she feeling badly still? He thought the talking and reading may have made a difference in her mood. She'd been solemn when she left but he didn't know she was getting a drink. How...why does that bother him? It doesn't matter. Yes it does.

"It's late," Divad clears his throat. "And a little chilly." He rubs his arms as the nighttime gusts scrape over his skin.

She shrugs as if it's all inconsequential to her. But he can see the goosebumps on her arms from the chill as well.

"I didn't get thrown in," she murmurs.

"What?"

"To Clockworks. I didn't get thrown in. No one forced me." she points a gloved hand outwards, gesturing vaguely. "There's no one on this goddamn earth that can force me to do a goddamn thing. I admitted myself there."

"Why did you do that?"

She takes a smaller gulp from the bottle, scrunching up her face. "Stop it. You don't have to pretend to care about anything about me."

Divad feels his cheeks and ears getting hot, finding his self offended by her words.

"Are you drunk?"

"Nowhere near it."

"Are you trying to get drunk?" Why else does one drink?

The girlfriend twists the cap back on to the bottle and dusts her pants off as she stands. "I said you don't have to pretend to be concerned about me. But if you must, you can do me a favor and lock the barn up. I'm gonna go shower and head to bed." she tucks the bottle under her arm and shuffles past him, pausing at the door. "If David wakes up while I'm still asleep, tell him I said everything is okay."

The screen door clacks shut and she leaves him to be surrounded by the earth and the stars.

Divad steps off the porch into the grass, hanging his head back to look up at the sky. He shakes his head.

"Holy shit..." he laughs to his self as his understanding grows.

She admitted herself there.

To Clockworks. To that prison. David never had a choice. David never had the free will. He was forced in there. But she came all on her own. She walked through those doors and pried David's prison bars apart with her very two hands.

Holy shit, he thinks again.

The girlfriend doesn't trust anyone who can hurt her more than she can hurt them. And as infinitely powerful as they are, she can still handle it. Them. That's why she's not like the others. That's why she's not afraid. It's why Samson is allowed to be up and underneath her whenever he wants. That's why she always comes back after a fight. It's not just about love, about being in love, about loving someone. It's about her trust in the unspoken guarantee of control. She has to know, she has to know the power she has.

What are we to you?  Divad mulls. What am I to you?

She has designated a different acknowledging manner towards each of them, always a distinct look in her eyes.

But for David, it's a uniqueness of its own entirety. It's personal. It's meaningful.

She never shares those looks with them.

And the truth is...

Wow, Divad thinks to his self, shutting his eyes under the sparkling bodies in the sky. Wow.

He would not mind. He would not mind if she looked at him like how she looks at David too.

 

 


-





He's caught in the abyss.

And what's this vessel, this entombment? His flesh? It doesn't feel as though it belongs to him.

Everything is on fire. It roars. It bellows. It's trapped on the inside, like he's a burning building, and he feels people, all of the people inhabiting him, screaming. Some are angry and some are scared. But all of them are desperate and they're pressing against every part of him, clawing and elbowing and gnawing at his insides.

Do something, they shout.

They're so close to ripping his skin open and swarming forth like violent smoke. And worst of all, he wants to do something but he's numb in his stupor. In the roaring reds, he thinks he can make out the hazy outline of a man he knows and doesn't know at all. His father? It's his father. It's the Professor. He thinks he's killing them and he doesn't know why. He still can't move.

And then something furry and sharp swipes him across the face.

David pounces up, his cry strangled.

Samson yowls and swats at his legs.

Huh? What the hell? Anxiety tramples through him so roughly, David's vision is blurred and his head pounds. When he finally focuses his eyes, he looks hard at Samson.

"Syd?" he finds his voice.

Samson blinks precisely. No.

Oh, it's just the cat. David tries to control his labored breaths, running his hand through his hair before landing it on his chest.

"What's going on?"

You were shaking the room, the cat thumps his tail. Stop doing that.

"O-Oh." That happens sometimes, when he has nightmares. Fuck, was that what that was? He's not in complete control of his abilities in his sleep and when he's in distress shit just...happens.

The space beyond the pillow barrier is empty. He realizes he doesn't even remember falling asleep next to Syd.

- "She's out by the pond," Dvd startles him. He's leaning against the dresser, arms folded across his torso, his face cross.

"Jesus," David clutches his shirt. "You scared me."

Who are you talking to? Samson's tail dances left and right, surveying the open air.

"Uh-"

- "Don't bother, you already know he can't see me anyways." Dvd pushes his self off the dresser. "What the hell was that, by the way? Why'd you kick me out?"

"What are you talking about I just woke up."

- "Of your dream space. We were dreaming and you kicked me out."

"I-I didn't. I don't even...why are you attacking me?"

- "For fuck's sake, it obviously wasn't on purpose, don't pick at him." Divad appears from beside him, his face equally cut with exasperation.

- "You probably told him to kick me out, didn't you?" Dvd thrusts his finger in Divad's face. "Ever since you and Miss Nice Hindquarters started getting social, you've been acting colder to me."

David feels his head getting pricklier. He's barely recovered from being slapped out of his sleep by the cat.

"Guys, whoa...who is 'Miss Nice Hindquarters'?"

"Your girlfriend." they retort simultaneously.

David raises his eyebrows.

"Whoa, look, guys. I'm already confused and I just woke up. I can't fucking breathe. So I'm gonna need you to back down for a minute, alright? Both of you, please. Christ."

Under his pleading gaze, they remain there, tensely staring at each other, both of their fists clamped tightly. They're the sorts that would rather eat their own fist than ever listen to him so he's sure they're about to get into a fight at his own expense.

Dvd's lip trembles in bridled fury before he retreats back into their psychic junction of space. He feels Divad reenter him as he chases after Dvd with a hushed but livid voice.

What the hell is your problem... their voices echo down a tunnel until he meets muteness. They've lock him out their conversation.

He can't be bothered with that right now. Movement. David needs to move. Shower. Showering is good. Showering helps.

Showering doesn't help. He's so high strung, he can't stand the sensation of the cool shower water so he shifts it to warm and that just worsens things. He scrubs his self resignedly, eyes staring down at the suds pooling around his feet and drifting down the drain.

- Bad bad bad-

- Nochmal. Fehler

- No-. No! I will always be mad at you.

- Just-just get it right for once. Can you do that, David? Can you get it right? I'm talking to you!!

They taunt him, the others, they waited their turns like goblins lurking in the shadows and now they want a piece of him too.

Fine. Go on. Take it. David grumbles. Their voices get louder.

- "Come on, David," Rational Mind scares the shit out of David. He backs into the shower wall and his hands zap down to cover his crotch.

"Oh- dammit, man!" David really, really hates when they do this to him.

- "Please, mate. We have the same cock." Rational Mind rolls his eyes. "Water's gone cold and you're just staring off into space letting the other guys run you over. We're feeling knackered, yeah? Well? Come on. Out the bath." He gestures like a bossy nanny and David is too busy being mortified to respond.

"Can you let me get dressed at least!?"

Rational Mind shrugs his arms.

David slams the knob off, heating up until all the water steams off of him. He tugs on some clothes and brusquely swipes his arm behind him, rearranging the mess he'd made in their room in his sleep. Opened dressers snap shut, drawn curtains whoosh closed, and Samson rushes out the room to avoid getting caught up in the swift commotion.

Everyone is still screaming at him.

He feels so shitty.

- "It's alright, David. You're just having an off day." Rational Mind steps out from behind him.

"Right, an off day," David mumbles.

- "Be a good lad and have some toast and a cuppa, right? Your girlfriend left some behind in the pour over carafe."

David nods like a good lad would.

- "Remember, the idea is to avoid another episode of mental collapse. By the way, your chickens missed you this morning so be sure to stop by and say hello. If you want me to tell the others to fuck off, I'll tell them to fuck off." Rational Mind pats his back before fading again.

Avoid another mental collapse. He's already mentally collapsed, isn't he?

He decides he's not in the mood for coffee. He boils some tea instead and he blows lightly over the rim of his mug between small sips while he waits for his bread to pop up from the toaster.

When he steps outside, half eaten slice of toast in one hand, he takes a big long stretch. If he's going to feel shitty, he might as well get to work while he's at it.

He gets to the chicken coop where some of the roosters loiter around outside the coop while the hens huddle over their nests.

They've been falling short on their egg supply lately. David assumes it's from the change of the season. Usually around winter, their egg production rate is slower. But for the new year, it seems they've swapped cycles. They're probably going to start molting soon.

"Hey guys," David greets them. They greet him back with exhilarated busy clucks.

Fortunately they aren't as demanding of their animals as the neighboring farm territories are. Those farms are ran by strictly efficient people who generate their main income off the thousands and thousands of acres they own. They're the sort of people that sell their mass produce to organic markets in the city and enter their animals in all sorts of competitions and the like. The mega corporate farms are even worse. Things are far more easy going here.

He can hear Dr. Kissinger and all his psychologists before him going, You need stability, David. Make a healthy foundation, David. And build a structure that fits perfectly around you. Make your structure so strong that when things become difficult you can lean up against it. Would they be proud of him now? Would they be proud of where he is and what he's doing with his life?

Unlike the shower water, the sun feels very good on his skin. He welcomes the warmth, inhaling and exhaling deeply.

Up here in the country, the bustling city is hidden from them by the lush verdant encircling them. Everything here is truly good. Their home. Their animals and their entertaining lives. The way the weather bends around the earth.

"I'm sure Syd already came by earlier to collect whatever eggs you may have for us. I still wanted to check in on my girls, though." David kneels down, stroking some of the hens' backs. He can feel their excited heartbeats under the palm of his hand.

The chickens really love Syd. All the animals do. There's something inherent about her that causes them to interact as if they have known each other in previous lives. David can read the animals' minds to figure out what ever it is that they may need but Syd doesn't have to do any of that. She can just look at them and know what to do. It could be a mutant thing. But that's probably just the Syd Effect.

She had remarked at Summerland that living in the country sounded nice. She seemed to love their time in the Summerland woods together. Chasing each other through the dirt paths and digging their bare feet into the grass while he rambled on and on about what ever crossed his mind was something they did often.

They'd spend their private moments together drawing their names in the dirt with broken branches and lining the grooves with the rocks they'd collected on the way. Syd would get icked out by the bugs but she still laid in the grass on her side to watch him talk. Between those moments, he'd decided then that someway, somehow, this was what their life together was going to be.

David cranks his eyes back open, feeling sharpness hiss through his head.

"Okay, okay," he gets up and heads for the garden.

He's met with familiar patches in all shades of green. Their fruit and vegetable produce are kept in neat garden boxes and green fencing separates the fruit and vegetables from the oats and wheat and the floral garden area.

Every time he comes here he thinks of his mother. She was a well researched botanist which was spurred on by her passion for gardening. Every morning he'd look out his window and see his mother in her sun hat working on the plants. He knows he inherited his affinity for gardening from her. The thought of her in his head makes Davey squirm like a baby stretching out after taking a long nap. He feels the boy's face scrunch with fondness.

"Like this, David. Neatly. In squares." he can hear his mother's gentle voice, feel her hand covering his with guided movements as he etched into the dirt.

David nods, uttering under his breath as he gathers the garden hose from the shed and turns the nozzle to a light spray. "Yes, Mama. Neatly. Just like you taught me."

He sprinkles water across the spinach, the alfalfas, the squash, the potatoes, the strawberries, and raspberries, and lemons and so on. He saturates the oat and wheat patches and moves on to the hedges and the shrubbery, spraying them until they're glistening under the sun.

The fruit and vegetables are very much a necessity considering most of what they eat and drink is grown by their own hands.

Though David is more hands on with the garden area while Syd does a better job with the animals, he and Syd both work the territory over. But the floral garden is just for him and him alone to care for. He's proud of the work, proud that this is something he knows how to do on his own. No alters yelling in his ear telling him what to do and nothing Syd needs to take over for in case things become too jumbled up with him.

He watches some weeds sprinkle away with a motion of his hand. The deviled things sneakily sprouted around the potted plants up against the low fencing. He could see them charting their course for the vegetable garden. Bastards, he smirks, killing off the rest.

Like his mother always did every now again to maintain the shape of each plant, he gathers some garden shears to dust around some of the shrubbery and flowers. He clips from a batch of buttercups, deciding it would be nice to give them to Syd. She's always drying them out and using them for decorative bookmarks and other crafty things.

- "Oh how thoughtful and romantic. You gonna sing to her too?" Dvd teases bitterly, pushing his self out of him and kicking through the cut grass.

He should be used to it. He's got people in his head. He talks to them. They talk to him. They become him. But sometimes it still trips him up. It's weird staring into your own eyes, staring at your own face. Even though they look the exact same, they couldn't be more separate individuals than they already are. He can't believe that's how he looks when he's bitching around. How on earth does anyone put up with it?

"You've been in such a foul mood since I woke up. Did I do something to you or what?"

Dvd scowls, tearing his eyes away from him.

"Hey." David grabs his shoulder. "I'm talking to you. Just say it." Dvd yanks his shoulder back hard. "Why are you acting like such a dick?"

Divad pries his self out of their body and steps right between them, interjecting with the ever so efficient timing that he always has.

- "You didn't do anything wrong, Dvd is just being a dick like you said."

- "I was only teasing him, so fuck off." Dvd says.

- "That's not teasing, that's just being an asshole."

Rational Mind appears, pulling David's attention towards his most trusted alter.

- "Ehm. What happened to being a good lad? You're supposed to be avoiding a mental collapse, remember? You've got to be more like me and ignore these bastards. They're just sniveling around, looking for trouble. Look at them, they're still fighting."

They are. And David leaves them there, putting away his gardening tools, and shutting his eyes as he concentrates his energy into teleporting to their pond.

His girlfriend is laying on her tummy, her feet up against the back of the wooden lounge chair. Her hand is working delicately as she pencils into her sketchbook. She's wearing her headset, her hair a blazing gold underneath the warm radiance of the sun. She must have just gotten finished with her day chores because her hair is down. Usually she has it braided or tied in a high ponytail when she's working.

- Le temps est magnifique aujourd'hui!

He agrees. It is.

"I see you," Syd purrs, her voice barely above a whisper.

She always does that when ever he comes up from behind her. He has learned years ago that he can't sneak up her because she always senses him.

"Hi." she turns back, biting her lip with a deep smile, her freckles across her nose, forehead, and cheeks more visible than ever now that she's been in the sun for so long.

It's the small movements she makes like that that makes David want to rub his eyes, knock himself up the head, just because he still can't believe he's hers. Outcomes borne of infinity and this lifetime is just the one where they have each other. He doesn't mean to get so existential but today he just feels like he hasn't seen her in weeks and he's almost overwhelmed by the evocation.

"Hey," David beams back. "Freshly bloomed." He extends his arm to her.

He watches her place her headset beside her, coming to her knees to accept the buttercups from him. Her cloaked fingers brush over his as they exchange. She trails over the pink petals while she admires the silky curve of each one.

- I bet you wanna admire her silky curves too, dontcha.

- Ignore him, David. He's such a pervert.

"These are so beautiful." her eyes are twinkling. "Thank you, baby. I love them."

I know you love that, he thinks proudly to his self. His eyebrows quirk up, glancing over at her sketchbook.

She was sketching a picture of their new family of ducks wading around in their pond. They've gotten their little yellow bodies soaked in the water as they follow behind their mama. Some trip over their feet and others collide into each other as they waddle around too quickly. 

"I'm glad you're awake and about," Syd presses one of the buttercups to the top of her lip, inhaling its scent.

"Yeah I uh...am awake now. Just did a bit of gardening and coop inspection. What are you listening to?" David nods to her headset.

"Recordings of radio broadcasts. I've been really getting into them and gathering my collection since the last flea market we went to. There was that old man in the trucker's hat who had the huge crate of cassettes stacked to the brim along with vintage transcripts? Said they belonged to his son who left his horse ranch behind to go study food in South America? He wouldn't stop talking about it even after we made the purchase. Remember?" Her eyes are alight with her memory.

He nods stiffly. He's feigning. He doesn't remember any flea market at all.

"Anyways this one is a thriller series called 'Macabre'. It's something they listened to in like, the military to keep their selves entertained while they were on tours and things like that. I'm on the fifth installation. Here. Listen to a bit."

She fits the headphones over his ears before he can protest and crackling voices pop across his eardrums. Jarring horns blast and bells whistle dramatically. He doesn't know how she can stand to listen to this stuff and enjoy it. He hates noisiness. It always adds to his already cluttered and scrambled head. But he endures it for some minutes and he watches his girlfriend pick her sketchbook back up, tucking the buttercups into the wiry spine.

A new look glints in her eyes.

He almost expects one of his alters to start complaining and groaning but he supposes they're probably too busy bickering among each other to even care right now.

He curls into the lawn chair beside hers, his ears exploding with sound. Jesus, Syd. He can't bear the noise any further. He returns the cassette player, stretching his neck to sneak a glance at her sketchbook.

"No peeking." Syd snaps the book to her chest, giving him a look shifted between stern and playful.

Even at Clockworks, Syd would creep over and start sketching him without warning and he wasn't ever allowed to budge or see how the product was turning out. He knows she's a talented artist because he's seen plenty of her other drawings and paintings. But any portraits she's done of him are for her eyes and hers alone.

He wonders if she has sketched the others before. When they're fronting. He never really inquires about what she does with his alters.

"I'm going to safely assume you didn't sleep well either last night?" David asks, dreading her response.

Syd laughs wryly. "If you count sleeping in a shaking room and then having to lay out on the sofa then yes I slept amazingly, David."

David winces.

"But... I know you made me promise not to wake you when things like that happen so there wasn't much I could do anyways," his girlfriend blows some eraser residue off her paper as she looks up between him and her sketchbook.

"Yeah you know why," David sighs. Because it's dangerous when he's in his capricious states of sleep. The usual horrors can occur. Accidental projections of her into his dreams and things like that. It can be pretty horrifying for both of them. He can't imagine what it would've felt like for her to be squelching among the others inside him, burning violently in the fire last night.

David puts on his boyish expression that usually softens her, resting his head against the cool wood of the chair.

"In my defense, you snore sometimes. You also hog up the bed space. My restlessness can be symptomatic of that."

"I do not. I'm a neat sleeper and I sure as hell don't snore, David." Syd creases her eyebrows together.

- "Don't try to bullshit her. Drop the boy charm, it's not going to be very effective this time. Trust me, mate."

"Okay, okay. You're right. It's very loud in here sometimes." David points to his head. His girlfriends nods, a familiarly sympathetic look in her eyes. "I mean all the time. It's just so loud. They aren't particularly thrilled lately. I think Divad and Dvd are in a bit of a tiff or something. Dvd is mad at me which, not that that's out of the ordinary, but he seems to be even angrier at Divad which is...weird."

Davey has started playing kickball and he's making a thumping mess up there, a mix of red bouncy balls and feet pattering on the surface of his head. Davey senses his eyes on him and the boy stops mid kick to tuck the ball into his side and wave to him shyly.

- "Sorry for the noise," he apologizes meekly.

"Over what?"

- "That's between us," Dvd pushes Davey out the way to step out of their head, appearing behind Syd and scrunching his face hard enough to look monstrous. He vanishes like a flash grenade just as David tenses up.

"Nothing that matters."

Fuck you, he hisses to Dvd. Don't do that again. 

"It matters if it's tormenting you in your sleep," Syd responds. She's fortunate not to be privy to the commotion in his head. "More often than usual, lately. In case you think I haven't noticed."

It takes a moment to register as the noises in his head veers to a halt. Noticed? He's been having more nightmares like this? He doesn't remember that.

His thumb is tucked in the anxious clamp of his fist.

"Yeah, look, I don't quite...I don't want you to worry about it, that's all. Like, I'm an abandoned stray puppy you found on the side of the road one rainy day and now you feel totally compelled to care for me."

"Abandoned stray?" Syd scoffs, shaking her head as she makes soft marks into the paper.

Shit, why did he say that?

- "Wow, that wounds us, it really does, David."

David sighs, pressing the bridge of his nose at his errant stupidity.

"Keep still," Syd says. "You were at the perfect angle."

He watches her biting her bottom lip, not even bothering to fold her hair behind her ear as it drips down the side of her face.

I'm sorry, his voice floats into her mind, I didn't mean it like that.

He truly hadn't intended for any of that to come out that way. He's such a fuck up sometimes.

I know, his girlfriend answers softly, Besides. Being a puppy isn't so bad. You're adorable and you get all kinds of treats.

Syd may have remarked that based upon her own body swapping experiences. The thought of it rolls out some of the tension in him. He smiles a grateful one.

Her face remains shielded from his view. The sun creates shimmers in her hair and it reminds him of how the flames in his dream looked as they began to calm.

"You know it's...it's like mercury or something just swirling all around up here. Like, you know how you can taste copper right before a nosebleed? I know something isn't all right but I don't wanna...and I don't think they do either so-" he sighs, "So I just don't want you to worry."

"What we want and what we need aren't the same," Syd shakes her head.

"Well in my world, it tends to be," David answers. He tilts forward, resting his cheek against his knees.

His lives are divided. With Syd, with the real world, with his self, with his systems. Each of those things want and need something from him every day. If there is a line, quite rankly, he doesn't know if that line will ever reveal itself to him.

Syd finally slides her hair behind her ear, looking back up at him.

"David. If you think you're staving something off by not being open about it, you know you're wasting your time, right? I'm always going to worry. It's how I'm chemically designed. It's futile trying to control that. And it's been futile from the moment you made me yours at the hospital."

His heart starts pounding at the veracity of her words. That's romantic as hell. He'd pen something like that in his diary.

- You don't even have a diary.

Maybe I'll just get one.

- You won't even need one when you've got us.

Syd clears her throat, pulling him back outside his head.

"Do you talk to them about your dreams at least?" she asks. "Do they talk to you?"

David can only shrug. They don't really want to talk about it for some reason. Or perhaps they know he'll tell her if they do. Or maybe...maybe when they were dreaming, it wasn't the same dream. Maybe all his nightmares are telling different stories. Maybe it's so cluttered no one can keep up anymore and so his mind decided to dispose of the memories altogether. That's just how it goes sometimes.

"Sorry for being so difficult," he pouts.

"Hey Mister Sad Face. I'll make a deal with you," Syd leans in close, wisps of her hair tickling his skin when it swings forth. "If you catch me, I'll let you see your portrait."

She gives him a smile full of dare and promise and then gracefully, she hops over the side of the lounge chair and breaks into a streak.

Her buoyant laughs pass through the air like bubbles and they pop a gobsmacked David right in the face.

- Courier! Maitenant!

He snaps his jaw shut and not as gracefully lunges after her, letting her voice carry him until he's sure there's nothing but air beneath his feet.

He's Davey again, feeling the grass blades tickling his legs and his mop of curls falling over his eyes as he hops behind Amy, yelling, wait up! It's hard to see ahead when you're this small but he knows where she is because he can hear her laughter of delight guiding him. He doesn't care about the dirt and the pebbles caught in his rain boots or the scrapes on his knees. His elation is so strong that he doesn't care about anything at all.

Some of their goats perk up at the commotion and come galloping behind him, close at his heels. He looks back at them, laughter bubbling and popping in his chest. They squeal behind him with encouragement.

From the pond to the garden path he had come from, across the new growth of pasture, David follows Syd until the fire from his dream is blown out of him and all that's left is smoke undulating gently from his ribcage.

"Hey!" David calls after her, waving his arm out.

Syd trips and tumbles into the earth, rolling until she's flat on her back. Her sketchbook is strewn haphazardly across the grass, exposed pages turning from the breeze.

With a flash of panic, David fears that she's injured.

But her body begins to move and her small laughs fill the open air as she catches her breath and pushes her hair back from her face.

David skids to a halt, falling to his knees and laying beside her.
 
He doesn't even care about the drawing anymore.

"Syd?"

"David?'

They breathe each other's names at the same time and she giggles sweetly at the synchrony.

He truly feels like he hasn't heard her laugh in centuries.

"I like that face," Syd says, her voice honeyed, her eyes gleaming. "Are you a little happier now?"

Happiness?

What he feels in this moment is different from happiness. It's much warmer than happiness. And it pours through him like wine down the slim tunnel of a bottle.

"There is something that troubles me." he hangs his head coyly.

"What is it?"

"I haven't told you I'm sorry about last night. And for the last few weeks. I don't exactly remember, but I'm sorry. And I want to make it better."

- "God, man. You are so corny."

"You're making it better right now," Syd says it gently, like an earnest message of assurance.

- "You're both unbelievably corny."

"You look so beautiful like this, hair in the grass, gazing up at me right now," David's eyes gaze over her admiringly. "I wish you could see what I see..."

He sees a faint blush frothing over her cheeks and down her neck. He can feel the energy of her, active as the core of a volcano. They are matched in thoughts and he doesn't have to pry her mind open to know it. His girlfriend bites her lip deliberately as she reaches back to curl her gloved fingertips around the grass blades. Is it cloying to wish they were him? He wants her to be clutching him right now.

"You're sweet."

Fuck, he really loves her.

She's fraught and broken like him. But she's more controlled, protected by her assured finish. Her insecurities are found at the end of a long labyrinth that she carved from the stones of a hard childhood. Her flaws are her armor. And goddamn is her armor so polished he sees his reflection when he looks at her.

David bumbles, stutters sometimes, asks a lot of questions because he has to. His flaws are the cyclic cause of his indecision and insecurities. But he has the advantage of pacifism. He wants to be good. That's what everyone tells him. And that's his armor, he supposes.

Her thoughts are careful, considerate, sometimes shy and most of the time exactly right. His thoughts are always fragmented, jagged, and invariable.

He envies her sometimes.

He never tells her. It doesn't seem like the type of thing you should tell someone you love.

It's not bad. It's not the sort of envy marked with malice. He isn't venomous and embittered. He's envious because it's something he'll never have. And in that longing he treasures her understanding and willingness. She should be looking at him with poison in her eyes. She hasn't been getting proper rest lately and it's clear she worries. She should be yelling at him and kicking him and damning him.

But instead, fuck, look at her. She's watching him with nothing but tenderness. And he could wrap his self up in that tenderness if such an option existed.

"Look, if I'm still having problems, I'll just start sleeping on the couch, or, hell, I'll sleep in the barn."

"David." Syd's face loses its tenderness and becomes steely. "That's not funny. You know how I feel about that." They have an understanding about their bedroom. He guesses it's akin to how married couples take their marital bed as something deeply sacred. "You know what? Maybe we should have Cary and Ptonomy over. See what they say? Or we can visit them at Summerland,"

- "What? No."

David rejects that idea immediately. The moment he involves them in their issues is the moment it will rip a brand new hole in the fabric of their life right now. He is very appreciative of Ptonomy Wallace and Cary Loudermilk and all that they have done for him, including giving him his official diagnosis after discovering and categorizing his split personalities, but friends should just be friends.

He's seen what happens when they assume anything beyond that role.

- "It's often the mark of imminent chaos."

- "Also, they're very bossy and they don't take constructive criticism," Divad adds.

"Well then you should talk to him about it. Your father." David tenses up when Syd says that.

"My father...?" he groans.

"Well yeah. Maybe these are just nightmares. Maybe it's something more. Something...only he can help you with. You should see him teach, David. He really knows his stuff. He's talked before about-"

"I know," David sighs, growing piqued. He knows a few things about the man.

When they found him, after the expunging of the shit beetle, it had been like finally catching up to your ghost. Hastily, his father had welcomed him and his girlfriend to stay at his mansion, a boarding school for gifted people such as their selves. But the school is a very busy place.

Like Syd, Dvd and Divad feel pretty squeamish about living in a place with so much traffic. They've got more than enough of that in each other's heads. Whereas Davey delights at the premise of being around others his age because there are young children that attend the school as well.

Summerland has children, but David never saw any when he was there. He only knew there were children there because he'd see the books and toys and decorative alphabet carpets in passing.

The Professor's school is rampant with little mutant younglings with bright futures ahead of them, all under his guidance.

Things David never got to experience.

It's far too much.

Their few conversations have been hindered by awkwardness and David just knows that he isn't prepared to be around his father for a considerable amount of time right now. His father knows of them, his alters, but the others have chosen not to engage with him either. There's a lot of hardened and hurt feelings and everyone still needs time. David most of all.

Syd sat in on a couple of his classes so she could get a feel for him herself. She seems to like the man alright enough. So much that she's been pressing and nudging David about getting to properly know him and each time he's met her with whine and protest.

The Professor is part of a world that's far bigger than David could ever imagine. And when he sees him, all he can think of is the fact that he will never fit in that world. After all, thirty some odd years ago his father placed him on the doorsteps of strangers who would come to raise him as their own and he never looked back.

At least he had grown up loved. Mr. and Mrs. Haller had done everything by the goodness of their hearts, and David misses his family all the time, especially his sister.

But like it is with all things shrouded in secrets, something always felt indistinguishably off. He always felt haunted and hunted by things unknown.

Sure, the shit beetle stole half of his life from him, but in all candidness, no matter how inadvertent, his father had done so too.

David knows all about bad decisions made with good intentions. And he's even more familiar with how long it can take to forgive things like that.

So they, his alters and his self, unanimously agreed to shelf the offer.

Besides, they have the farm. They don't need all of that otherness.

He's spent thirty years in psychic prisms of hell, the peace and quiet that the farm offers is far more preferable. Well, as much as peace and quiet as he can get given that he's, um, him.

Haw haw, very funny
 
David sits up, ready to close the lid on this subject.

"Damn, I really overslept, huh. I have to go take care of the rest of my chores so we don't fall behind like last time-"

He stops immediately when he sees the expression on his girlfriend's face.

There's pleading in her eyes. Her lips almost look downturned. 
 
David slowly comes back down to his knees beside her.

"Well, maybe I don't have to right now. There's enough time in the day, and it's nothing major, right? I'll-I'll just take care of that stuff later." he sees the anxiety in her trying to level itself. Strike Two, dumbass. She'd said he was making her feel better just by being there and what does he do just moments later? Try to run. He swallows his feelings about her bringing up his father again. That's not important right now. What's important right now is them.

- "Mate. You need some stimulus. It'll help you relax. I see you watching her hands. Go on and ask her. You know bloody want to."

David tilts his head, probing his girlfriend's mind while her hand strays through the grass around her.

Syd. Can we touch?

He notices her pupils dilating under the inquiry.

Here? You're not wearing gloves.

I don't need them. I just...

"Need to touch you," the rest of his sentence spills out his mouth as he grips the earth underneath him to control his self. "It doesn't matter how. I just would like to feel any part of you."

Her haphephobia is always going to be a pretty big deal. It'sfluctuate.

Moving to the country and setting up a farm cajoled more physical attention from her. They discovered that since settling here, she's been subconsciously making improvements with her touch sensitivities.

At Summerland, she got goosebumps at the thought of holding his hands even with gloves. He could sense her unease if he so much as sat too close to her.

There are still days where she can't handle clothed contact at all and she stiffens if someone comes near her. Those days she's covered up to her neck and her shoulders are almost touching her ears, she's so tense. But there are other days, a stroke here, a cuddle there, she gives him drips of touch.

To normals, these are baby steps. To them, these are leaps across the moon.

- C'est kitch. Vous etes un enfant.

"Lie back," Syd tells him. He listens, turning off his knees and sitting on his bum. Palms pressed into the grass, David stretches his legs out as he realizes what Syd is going to do. His girlfriend reaches for her sketchbook to snap it shut before delicately laying her head in his lap.

"You can play with my hair if you want," she smiles up at him. David grins back, obliging his hunger to touch her. Rational Mind is right as always.

They could've gone to the White Room to do this. It's not just the place they go to have sex. They do other things there too. But this is nice, truly nice. It's perfect.

"Were you really going to let me see your drawing?" he asks, slipping his fingers through her tresses, watching the shine roll over every strand.

"Of course not. I just wanted to make you smile for a little bit. Don't hate me," Syd makes a play pout that causes him to grip her locks mid stroke. He forces his self not to think about the pressure of her head in his lap and how her head is awfully close to his dick.

She pulls out one of the buttercups she'd tucked into the spine of her sketchbook and reaches up to slide it behind his ear.

"David?"

"Hmm?" David asks, suppressing a moan. The stem tickles his skin.

"I wish you could see what I see, too. In more ways than you realize."

"What do you see?"

"I see the things you don't."

"Like what?"

"A lot of things," she snorts. Her face suddenly becomes somber. "A lot of things..."

David's smile slowly fades. She's not bantering.  

"I want to rest for a little bit, David." Syd sighs. "We have some time. Let me nap here." David rolls a strand of hair in his fingers. He tells his self to treasure this right here. Treasure how she's laying against him and allowing him to touch parts of her.   

He takes the buttercup she slid behind his ear and tucks it behind hers instead. He picked these flowers for her and he feels they belong on her.

Her eyelids close shut and he imagines it's like rotating a volume knob, shutting the entire world around her off. He wishes he could do that too.   

 



-





Dvd wants a smoke.

Thumbnail pressing deep into the pad of his index finger, he decides right then and there that he wants a smoke.

The linoleum beneath his feet is filthy, damp footprints of dirt tracked and smeared across the expanse.

They don't smoke. They haven't so much as looked at a cigarette in several years. Not since Clockworks.

Why now? Why now? he asks his self.

Because he fucking wants to, dammit. He wants a fucking smoke and there's nothing anyone can do to stop him. It's his day, it's his time.

There's the self justification he needs. His own will.

Dvd ambles his way through the gas station, scouting out what they have here.

He'd taken a few trips to some neighboring towns, crashed some parties, set a few things on fire, pet some dogs, fought with Divad. He might've wreaked some havoc to blow off some steam so to think.

He finally found his way here when he got bored with his self guided random expeditions.

He'll have to go back to the home at some point and the thought of it, the thought of being around her right now, it nibbles away at his conscience and he needs a new distraction.

Something he can have to his self. Something painful but rewarding.

Cigarettes. They smell like shit, they're cancerous, and they'll soothe his anxiety. Two for the price of one, eh?

"Move it," he tells the old man in the threadbare overalls who is bent over the counter looking through the candy rack. He has chocolate bars clenched in his arthritic hand when he turns to look back at him, his face covered in a scraggly grey beard.

"You probably haven't even got any teeth to eat that with," Dvd scowls.

"They're for my pregnant daughter, asshole," the old man spits back.

Dvd scoffs, rolling his eyes, letting the man pay the cashier and push past him.

He grabs a fistful of twizzler packets and the sugariest soda with a fructose syrup count so high he can guarantee it tastes like pen ink and plops them on the counter. He looks around for some peanuts to throw in but they're all unsalted and really, what's the point in peanuts if they haven't any salt on them?

The cashier is nosing through the magazine rack, looking to be distracted by some celebrities' lives.

"Cigarettes?" Dvd gestures to the neat row of cigarette boxes behind the cashier. This place must stay stacked with them. He bets truckers come here for this kind of shit all hours of the day, noon, and night. Stopping by here on their miserable jobs to kill their selves slowly as drive through each day. Drawn out, languid, perfunctory.

What a sorry piece of shit this guy is. In his mid-fourties, hairier than a gorilla, hair long and stringy as if he hadn't washed in months and he's probably balding under his denim cap. He's a real bastard in a way. Selling this shit to people. Making a fortune off it, really.

He knows he's one to talk since he's buying a pack right now. He's allowed to be disgusted in his indulgence. Some people might call it hypocrisy. Dvd calls it being honest.

"Oh," the magazine rack nearly topples over as the cashier is startled. "That'll be fifteen bucks."

"Fifteen? Is this a joke?"

"Son. It's a gas station," the cashier holds his hand out expectantly. "Either you want your stuff or you don't."

Dvd sucks his teeth, snagging a chocolate bar his self to add to his order.

He tosses a crumpled twenty on the counter. David will be annoyed that he's spending some of his money without his permission but oh well. He thinks he won't let David know at all that he took his wallet with him when he fled from the farm. He can already hear him and Divad lecturing him about "respecting each other's properties".

- You know the girlfriend hates that shit too. It won't just be us you're hearing from.

Dvd puts a wall up, temporarily muting Divad. What part of it's his time doesn't he get?

He stalks out of the gas station, noting that it's approaching the next morning. How long's he been out? Five days now, maybe a week. Maybe a smidge more. Days bleed into each other now. He didn't bother sticking around on the farm. The mundanities of it shot his anxieties over the wall and he needed to exert it in his own special way.

Well, he laughs to his self, through chaos of course.

But he doesn't feel like causing any trouble in the other towns anymore. That hunger for that sort of mayhem is gone. Now he feels satiation and resultant boredom.

He hates being bored. He doesn't feel existent when he's bored. He needs to feel things.

He returns to the farm, ignoring the stirrings of the animals as he teleports across the pasture up to the attic where he expects not to be disturbed.

He hasn't been up here in a while, he realizes. Everything is engulfed in dust. It swirls in the faint and cool light entering the circular window from the advancing early morning. Seems no one has been up here lately either. The boxes are where they were first placed them when they first moved in, Syd and David. Full of all their unused shit.

Dvd kicks one of the boxes aside, hearing something clatter inside the cardboard casing. He nods his head to the path before him, clearing a wave of dust from the place where he wants to sit. Thank fuck there's nothing moldy or rats or anything like that up here. He thinks.

He empties his plastic bag, ripping open the chocolate bar wrapper first and then the packet of twizzlers. He snaps his teeth sharply around the corner of the chocolate bar and then gnaws off half of a twizzler, laying his head back against the wall as he enjoys the taste of gelatinous cherry and sweet dark chocolate at the same time.

It's times like this when he misses Lenny the most.

She introduced them to twizzlers. Back in Clockworks where things were so scary and complicated as hell and yet much simpler and safer at the same time.

She had rolled up in her wheelchair in the day room, eyes always swollen and rimmed with red, almost as red as the stripe down her uniform.

Hey kid, she'd chuckled lightly to David, shaking the pack of twizzlers in their dreary eyed face. Check it out. Fresh produce.

They never knew where she'd get them from. If you were fortunate to have anyone on the outside who gave a damn about you, you could receive gifts from them. Some candy or knickknacks or special care packages. But you had to fight like hell to get the doctors to approve it.

Amy always wanted to give them- David -snacks. Jellybeans one day. Cupcakes another. The doctors always said the sugar would conflict with his medication and mood swings so he wasn't allowed to have any. Bullshit, though. Never stopped them from giving him cherry pie every time it was on the menu.

And poor Amy never quit. Every visit she showed up with a snack for David. Her spirit was naively persistent. She meant well, yeah. But fuck her. She tortured the hell out of David with her baked goods and shiny candies knowing it was a losing battle. She'd start eating the snacks sometimes right in front of them while David watched sulkily and longingly.

Lenny was different. She was shrewd. Everyone thought she was just a trouble making junkie but that was only the half of it. She was a true conniver. As far as anyone knew, Lenny had no one, no connection to the world from the inside of Clockworks. And whatever connections she did have, she never spared them. She once said that the streets had dubbed her Cornflakes Girl and it was the streets that landed her in Clockworks in the end.

So Lenny the Cornflakes Girl got her hands on her monthly supply of twizzlers and she shared them with David while the orderlies were distracted.

That was the only snack they ever ate in Clockworks.

Dvd sighs. He could find Lenny out there in one of the cities, probably bunking up with one of her many girlfriends, getting lost in vapor and liquor. At least she's happy living her life that way.

That sort of freedom is the kind you take. Life doesn't just give it to you. Dvd yearns for something close to that.

He can hear the chickens in the barn out below. Their muffled clucks are incessant. God, they never really sleep do they?

He imagines snapping his fingers and poofing them into air and feathers just for the hell of it. Something like that would make Lenny laugh. Lenny always liked to trash shit.

- "Look who's back," Divad appears, finally pushing through his wall of silence he put up in front of him.

Dvd rolls his eyes, thoughts darkening again. He stuffs his face with more chocolate and twizzlers.

- "I thought you said you were too good for this place."

"I am. In fact, I'm set on leaving again soon anyways. This is just a pit stop." he lies through stuffed cheeks. They both know they're never leaving this place for good. Not so long as the others have anything to say about it. "I'm going fucking nuts on this fucking farm. What the hell are we doing? Surrounded by gardens and rabbits and goats and ducks and chickens?"

- "Animals and grasslands sounds like paradise to me," Divad retorts coolly.

"Only someone complacent with being a fucking loser would say that," Dvd rolls his eyes. "You know if it were truly up to me, we would be doing more than just...this."

- "Like what? Mind control? Setting people's property on fire? Bullying old men in drugstores? Total annihilation and all that?"

"Gods, Divad. We're gods. We should be anywhere else but here."

- "In Christian theology, their god was born in a manger and raised by a carpenter. So technically speaking and using your logic, us living on a farm is apropos." Divad retorts like the smartass he is.

"Well we were raised Jewish. So fuck Christian theology. And just because you like living here because you get to make eyes at the blonde thing now more than ever doesn't mean the rest of us do." when Divad's expression changes to something defensive, Dvd raises his voice, knowing he's on to him. "Don't bullshit me. It's obvious you're in love with her. Now you're just as sick as David. That's why you never leave this place. God you two are just the same person at this point."

Dvd bites another big chunk out of his chocolate bar, brows furrowed while he chews aggressively.

David is the most petulant man he's ever known. He's always mad at him, always attempting to boss him around. Dvd don't do this. Dvd don't do that. And now Divad is the same way.

He's judgmental and righteous as hell all of a sudden. He and Divad were a team once, they were partners in crime. He used to fill the space Lenny left behind in their life.

They used to be above David, seeing things for what they are and not through starry eyed lenses. Now one of them has stooped down to his level.

- "...Excuse me?" there's offense in Divad's voice.

"She pretends to love us. You can't see that?! You and Rational Mind always love to be the problem solvers and act like you know everything. You're the big observers but you really don't know shit, do you?"

- "I'm not in love with her. Just because we speak to each other now and hang out sometimes doesn't mean I'm in love with her. This isn't the fourth grade, Dvd."

"'Hang out sometimes' do you hear yourself? Just the fact that you're even speaking to her is enough. Look past the fat ass and the doe eyes and maybe you'll see it. How she pretends to love us. All she ever wants is David. She only cares to understand him. Never us. Do you really think if we weren't sharing his form that she'd give us the time of day? If we didn't have his eyes? His voice? If I looked like any other man or woman, she'd shoot me dead on her first chance. Or did you forget that we stared down a smoking gun that she aimed at us before?"

Some strategist you are. I see things more plainly than you and you know it.

- "That wasn't- She was under the shit beetle's control- I'm not in love with her. You've got it all wrong," Divad responds. "You're just wrong."

If they hadn't spent every atomic second of their lives underneath each other, their consciousnesses pressed right against each other, like an over stuffed pillow, he would've been believable.

You guilty fuck. He stabs his words into Divad's temple.

"Did you forget about her diagnosis in Clockworks? Antisocial personality disorder. Do you know who gets diagnosed with those? Serial killers. People who dig graves for fun and make artistic displays out of their victims' corpses. She's a sociopath and it's pretty damn fitting diagnosis."

- "You know damn well those Clockworks kooks misdiagnosed us. They tried to slap manic depression on us on top of schizophrenia. There's no way you actually believe they got her diagnosis right in there too."

"At least WE know why WE ended up there. You don't even know what she's in there for. She could've killed or raped a bunch of people for all we know. Used her powers to cover it up but the guilt wouldn't stop biting her ass so she used the hospital as a self imposed prison."

- "Jesus, Dvd." he can see Divad's face scrunching up in the pale light. His teeth are gritted. "You really say the sickest things sometimes. You really fucking do."

"You just defend her! I don't wanna hear this shit coming from you. I say sick shit about her because she sickens me."

- "She sickens you but you love it when she fucks, right?"

"Bullshit!" Dvd roars, his fist crushing the remainder of his chocolate bar into pieces. He feels his head pounding furiously.

- "Then why do you take over sometimes? Why do you tell David what to do sometimes? You even talk to her sometimes while they're fucking. You even touch her. You're not immune like you love to pretend you are."

"Same reason you do it." Dvd answers, suddenly feeling accosted and angry that Divad had even picked up on it. Not that it means anything because it sure as hell doesn't. "Because we like when David feels good. And besides, you say it like it's that way all the time. It rarely ever happens. So fuck off."

It grows numbing and quiet between them after that.

Dvd peels apart the remainder of his candy bar wrapper, scooping up the splinters of chocolate he made in his outburst and sucking on them until the sweetness, somehow bitter now, melts into his tongue like snowflakes.

- "Do you hate me?" Divad asks.

Dvd pauses his motions, looking up at him. He almost looks and sounds like Davey. Does he hate him? They are like brothers, right? Can family hate each other? He hates their father. But can he hate the one person who has been by his side since birth? For once he decides to consider his words. "I hate her. I hate this farm. That's why I leave this place every chance I get. I thought I made that clear."

- "You know, the girlfriend..." Divad sighs. "Syd says...she doesn't..."

"You call her by her name again?" Dvd narrows his eyes.

- "I've been saying it a long time if you actually paid attention instead of being wrapped in fury all the time. David might see things through rose colored lenses but you see things through fire. You'll never get clarity in all that smoke, Dvd."

Both of their heads whip in the direction of the attic door as they hear gentle footfalls approaching. Shit.

The knobs clicks open and the wooden floor squeals under the weight as two slippered feet step in. Blonde tresses slip in next. Then two blue eyes, large and instinctive, appear through the crack.

"David?" the blonde thing calls out. She can't see him at first because there's no light aside from the small beam coming through the window. Dvd can see that she's using her compass necklace. It must've pinged and woken her from her sleep as soon as he teleported to the pasture.

Her hand slides along the cobwebbed wall until it finds the light switch.

Dvd doesn't even flinch when the harsh white light fills the room. Divad moves a little to the side even though he knows she can't see him right now. Not unless he projected his self from David's conscious. Which he can't do right now because he's dormant.

The blonde thing looks down at the junk food and the unopened pack of cigarettes on the ground. And then her eyes meet Dvd's who is rigidly staring at her.

"Oh..."

Disappointment. Yeah right he's not David. David is back in the unconscious volume, comfortably comatose.

- You should put those away, Divad starts, nodding to the cigarettes.

"Get out." He's talking to both of them but neither of them budge.

"What are you doing with those?" a line forms between the blonde thing's brows.

"I said get out."

"Answer me, Dvd." He can't stand the way she says his name. She says it like she wants him to know she hates him as much as he hates her.

"Do the math, blondie." he replies.

"He doesn't like those."

"He's not here right now."

"But it's his bod-" she stops herself, mouth pressing into a firm line as she draws back.

Oh do go on. Say it.

Prove his words right that she only cares about what they do because it's David's body they share. Let Divad see the truth again the way he once did back in Le Desole. She will never respect their individualism with genuine honesty. She will never respect them.

Even though it's his damn body too. It's all of theirs'.

- She's right. This isn't what David would want. Or what we should want. We've gotten too far with our sobriety to taint it because you're in the middle of a tantrum.

"'Our' sobriety?" Dvd says aloud, still staring hard at the blonde thing even though he's talking to Divad. "David was the junkie. Not us. And it's a fucking cigarette. Everyone smokes. It's fine she can drink herself to sleep every time we're here because she can't stand the sight of us but it's bad if I want to have a whiff for the same reasons?"

At first the blonde thing betrays nothing against his words.

"And how come we haven't told David by the way? That his girlfriend is a selective alcoholic?"

Then the blonde thing stiffens.

"That's none of your business."

- "It's not our business."

They say it at the same time and Dvd looks between them both, suddenly feeling as though he's stumbled upon their collusion and they're ganging up on him.

"Oh really..." he nods slowly to his self, embittered by their synchrony. "What ever happened to that 'no secrets' rule? Was that bullshit, too?"

The blonde thing doesn't say anything about that and neither does Divad.

"Then as you were," Dvd motions to the door with a twizzler.

This is a battle the blonde thing has lost. He sees it in her eyes, her wanting to fight her own instinctual defiance. She can't fight his power and logic with her attitude and entitlement. Not if she doesn't want her boyfriend to know about her depressed drinking. They both know it'll make David feel so guilty it'll make him sick and then he'll probably never come back out again. They'll both have to gain something and nothing from this. A bitter compromise.

When the door shuts behind her, Dvd chuckles, shaking his head.

"Love is so fucking selfish. That's why it's so easy to manipulate."

- "Then you must be heartless and proud." Divad says, his voice heavy and brusque.

"At least we agreed on something tonight." Dvd gnaws on his twizzer. "Why the hell are you looking at me like that?"

- "You didn't have to be that rude. She was just concerned."

"What? She's a hypocrite. She just does whatever he wants and David is always gonna let her get away with it because he's lovesick puppy for her like she's the shiniest bone on the planet. And you too, goddammit. She's using both of you. I won't be the sorry bastard that falls for it next."

- "When will you understand that not everything in life is rooted in concrete, Dvd? Perceptions can change. People can change..."

"Don't go all sage on me! There's nothing about her that proves your statement."

- "I'm not just talking about her. I'm talking about you too. About us. All of us."

"You wanna talk about change?!" Dvd says through gritted teeth. "No one knows about it better than me. You all change about as quick as the weather. I thought we'd be in a different place in our lives. All the roads once led to a different future. But look at us now. You're in love with David's blonde thing and I'm sitting in an attic in a home in the middle of a farm about to smoke my first cigarette. So you see? You know, like I know, that change is the exact fucking problem."

- "Change is only a problem when it's needed and you fight against it. Look what you're doing now. You think a cigarette's gonna stick it to the universe and make you feel good about your anger?"

"No, I think it's a cigarette that I'm going to smoke," Dvd responds glaringly. "You didn't deny it this time."

- "Deny what?"

"You're in love with her."

- "There's nothing to deny because it doesn't exist. And you're not going to smoke that cigarette, Dvd."

"Or what, you gonna stop me? You gonna fight me?" Dvd bites another chunk out of his chocolate bar. The food squishes in between his teeth while he chews pointedly hard.

- "No. I'll just make damn sure you never smoke again. One day you're gonna end up regretting being such a sour piece of shit."

Dvd's jaw pauses. The succession of Divad's words sends a sharp and uncomfortable sensation through his chest. His face scrunches up.

"And you're gonna end up disappointed when you realize the blonde thing is nothing more than that. A thing. And I'll always be the closest person in your life that truly gives a damn about you. I'm all you'll ever have by your side. A sour piece of shit. And you'll realize I'm exactly what you deserve, Divad."

He hopes his words hurt him.

He's sure it does. Divad backs into their head, slamming the door shut to their childhood room.

Good. Run and hide.

This is who they are now. They lie to each other and insult each other.

He doesn't understand these things.

Why can't they just be enough for each other? So much of their early lives have been lost to other people. Other things Amy. King. The shit beetle. Philly. Benny. The doctors. The blonde thing. The farm. Their father, their true father, the bald fucker who propped them on strangers' doorsteps when they were a defenseless baby.

They are a system. A system is a system because. They connect. They love. Yes, love.

It might be fucked, they might not get along in the most delicate manner, but Dvd does love David. And he loves Divad. He always will. And that's why he's always going to be so angry.

David's the one who made them because he needed them so there shouldn't- there shouldn't be anything or anyone else. There should be no interlopers.

He snaps his fingers, warm energy flowing through him until he creates a small petal of fire. The flame dances perfectly between his thumb and index finger. He can almost see his self watching his self. The flame a tiny orange dot in the reflection of his watery eyes.

Everyone forgets. Or doesn't know. Or doesn't care. But he was in love too. Maybe even before David. He might think he's the one who had the balls to ask her out, but David was so starry eyed and uncoordinated that he fucked it up on the first attempt, almost fucked it up permanently.

Dvd thought she was a spook at first but at the group therapy session, he found that he liked her upfront attitude. Her honesty. He liked that she didn't want to be there, just like they didn't. She didn't buy into the-mentally-ill-must-be-institutionalized rhetoric that the pathetic world of normals enforced on them. She desired the freedom to just be. He understood her.

So he mustered enough energy under the great suppression of the shit beetle and sent out the tiniest signal he could, gave David the confidence to ask her straight up, no bullshit, no dancing around it, be his girlfriend.

And then she said yes.

And it set off a chain reaction of events no one could ever foresee.

David gives the blonde thing all the credit for "waking him up" when really it's him he has to thank.

Tear rolling down his cheek, the tobacco burns Dvd's lungs but not as badly as his anger and pain does.

He's alone now. First David. Now Divad. She took them both. Seduced and bewitched them, They'll have to learn the hard way he did. He once was in love with her too. But all that changed after the desert.

The smoke shoots between his lips like a stuttering car muffler. Fuck, this was a lot harder than he thought it'd be. It feels like plumes of smoke are undulating in his throat like explosions from a plummeting building.

His head stirs like it's on a spin dial. The pressure of his body becomes so light, he feels it pop. He thinks he's going to be sick. Thank goodness he'd been sitting down already before he lit this cigarette.

He takes a second puff and he gags in between rough coughs.

Frustration flies through him and he decides he can't stand this anymore.

Raising his other hand, he makes the entire cigarette go up in flames until it disintegrates, falling into a small hill of ash between his legs.

He covers his face with a trembling hand, cursing under his breath.

Between his fingers he spots the cigarette pack on the floor beside him.

He picks the box up and hurls it across the room, smacking so hard against the wall it bursts.

Dvd doesn't know what to do.

He just knows that something's gotta happen. Soon.

 


_

 



Davey rolls on his tummy and giggles. He's covered up to his elbows in mud and grass streaks and his rain boots squeal as he clunks them together.

Flopsy, Mopsy, Peter, and Cottontail, wiggle their furry bodies across the earth and they nibble lightly, sometimes on the grass blades and sometimes on Davey's fingers knuckles. He's glad David and Miss Sydney let him name them after the Peter Rabbit characters Papa used to read to him in the afternoon on weekends when he was home from work.

Their teeth feel as light as pin pricks and their whiskers tickle his face every time they hop by.

The scent of the earth around him after the rain had gone is so gentle and pleasant.

When Davey woke this morning, it had been raining heavily and Miss Sydney had already gone out into the deluge to usher the goats that were pasteurizing into their shelters so they wouldn't get sick.

When she came back into the house, she was soaked, wet strands of hair pasted across her face like spiderwebs and her clothes were stuck to her skin to her skin.

She looked at him the way adults do when you've entered the room during a private conversation. She seemed guarded and unsure of how to react to him standing in the living room.

Then she told him not to go outside yet. That he had to wait or else he'd catch a cold or worse- pneumonia. She put some waffles in the toaster for him and went and showered.

He ate his breakfast and waited the rain out, coloring with sharpies over last week's newspapers. When the rain slowed from torrential to light drizzle until the sun had come out.

He was giddy about that. It meant he could finally run around and help out on the farm.

Miss Sydney made him bring the rabbits from their cage to their pen out on the grass while she checked around to make sure nothing ended up damaged or waterlogged from the unexpected onslaught of rain they had woken up to.

Now that the earth is warm, everything sprinkled lightly with dew, it's safer for the rabbits to be outside again.

Davey may or may not have gotten carried away when he was transporting them and ended up chasing them across the field until he tumbled about and got his clothes all dirty. And so they played and played. And he got dirtier and dirtier.

But he eventually rounded them up in the large pen in the grass and he remembered to bring out their litter tray so they didn't leave bunny poo pellets all over him while he laid in the grass with them.

The rabbits are the most special creatures on this farm. They are most dear to him. He loves their wide angled eyes and their long twitchy ears and how they feel like velvet when he runs his fingers over them and how their noses wiggle while they prance around, exploring the massive world around them. They are curious and restless and impossibly adorable. He feels the strongest desire to protect them, a feeling more intense than anything he's ever felt before.

"Look what I've got, guys," Davey digs into his pocket and pulls out a shiny red apple.

Miss Sydney usually gives them rabbit food from one of the shops in a nearby town but Davey is certain that food from the garden is far more interesting than boring brown vitamin pebbles.

He's seen David give them carrots and lettuce so he knows he's not breaking any rules.

It's not quite a secret, but he pretends it is nonetheless. If he pretends it's a secret arrangement for special treats, it's much more exciting this way.

They huddle around him, clamoring for pieces of the apple. Their cheeks work furiously and tiny crunching noises fill the space between them.

"Settle down, everyone," Davey rubs his hand over their backs, "There's enough apple for everybody to share."

Rubbing his hand over Flopsy's spotted ears, Davey sighs pensively.

This is his favorite place in the world, he thinks. A smile floats over his face. He knows it. He knows this is his favorite place in the world.

They had come here after the Devil with the Yellow Eyes went way.

- "Killed," Dvd's voice lurks in the corner of his head. "Get it right. We killed that son of a bitch."

"I don't remember any of that." Davey's brows draw close, suddenly sitting up. He leaves the apple in the grass for the rabbits to keep going at.

- "Guess what, kid, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes isn't here anymore so you don't have erased memories. It was as clear as day. We took him out. All of us.

"But- but I never hurt anybody," Davey exclaims. "One day he was gone. I never had anything to do with that."

- "Eh whatever, you're just a kid, it's all fuzzy and fucked when it comes to young minds."

Davey winces when he hears Dvd swear and he thinks very, very hard that he would like for him to go away and stop troubling him.

The skin around his cheeks feel cold and his lips tighten when he feels his bad thoughts rising inside him.

He comes back down to the grass, laying on his back and spreading like a starfish as he breathes in and out weightily.

Cottontail leaves the apple to her siblings and comes over to rub her face against Davey's.

Her fur is so soft and reminiscent of the earth smell around them. Davey shuts his eyes and feels his chest losing the pressure, growing warmer, filling with love. The rabbits' effect on him is instantaneous.

This is all that matters.

Everyone is safe here. Everyone is safe, and loved, and protected. No one treats anyone badly just because they are smaller or quieter.

Davey has been so alone for such a long time. For most of his life, he's almost certain.

He watched the other people fill up the black space he was born in, he watched them become angry, watched them screaming and jabbing their fingers in his face, and when he crouched low and made his self disappear, he watched them scream at each other. It's all they'd do. Scream and shout and cry and blame. No one wanted to hear a thing he said. No one ever cares to hear a child's admonitions.

When the others came, the ones who took to David's form and became his primary system, they weren't interested in being his friend or even protecting him against the monster he warned them about.

Everyone was busy with their selves. It was just like being in the room of bright lights and screaming people. And when the Devil with the Yellow Eyes found them next, he locked them away in coffins, and there was nothing anyone could do. Not for a long time.

Davey counted every minute and every hour. He certainly did. Six thousand two hundred five days. Then Miss Sydney came. Then one thousand one hundred sixty days. And now freedom.

He remembers the last times he felt safe like this.

Mama had a bakery and flower shop in the city. She loved to grow things in their garden and she loved to bake things in the kitchen. He remembers her shop with its pink and yellow and brown hues, and how it was built right on the corner on a sharp bend at the bottom of a hill. Davey used to fear that someday a car would turn too sharply and crash right through the storefront. Such a day never came.

Mama would sit him on top of the counters and she'd let him lick left over cake batter off of a giant plastic spoon while she iced someone's order of meringues or souffles or cupcakes.

King would trot into the shop sometimes even though Davey was certain he left him back at the house, that he was playing ball with Amy or something. He remembered how everywhere King went, Angriest Boy followed, and where he followed, so did the monster.

He'd hide underneath the tall counters because he could hear the Devil With the Yellow Eyes breathing like a gurgling pot of soup. He thought, maybe if he hid hard enough then the monster wouldn't get him. If he made his self small enough, the monster wouldn't think of him anymore and find someone else to frighten.

But that never worked. And one day, something bad happened. Davey doesn't remember what it was. But Mama never took him back to the shop. She had closed it down and she never told him why. Like a clock winding in rapid motion, he watched her become sadder and slower until she wilted like a flower. Davey knows the monster was involved in whatever it was. The monster was always involved in the very bad things that happened.

When the days of the shop passed, Mama spent less time in the garden and more days in her bed.

So his nights became filled with Papa starting up his blue pickup truck and packing up some of his space equipment from his workplace and driving Davey deep into the fields, right to the edge of the earth, sometimes it felt like.

Davey would have his afflicted nights and his Papa would teach him things he knew about the stars, about planets, about galaxies, about life far beyond their physical reaches. He would pretend he was one of those gaseous entities in outer space. Could the monster find him then? Up there in the stars?

They still talk to him. The stars. And they tell him all kinds of brilliant things. But it's still a secret. No telling, no telling anyone what the stars are saying or else they'll never talk to him again.

Most recollections of Mama and Papa are like smudges now. They are memories messily wiped back and forth with a dirty rag. He misses them. He misses being whisked away from his night fits and having tall counters to hide behind when he feels afraid.

He knows they were the last people that made him feel safe, that made him feel looked after and cared for.

Now no one really loves and takes care of Davey when he's around. Except for the rabbits.

And except for Miss Sydney.

"Davey!" he hears Miss Sydney's voice in the distance.

Oh! After he put the bunnies in their pen he was supposed to head back into the barn to sweep up the bales of straw that the goats knocked over when they sneaked inside.

Miss Sydney had gone around the back to make sure the plants didn't drown from heavy rain. Some water was fine but too much of anything could be dastardly. Dastardly is one of Davey's favorite words. He smiles to his self when he thinks of it.

Miss Sydney once said he's a precocious child but he has a few problems that make things difficult for him to express his abilities. Davey believes everyone in the world has problems. He can't imagine existing without them. At least it gives them something to do right? Problems keep you busy. Problems remind Davey that he's real and his feelings matter no matter what Dvd or Divad say. Problems are why Miss Sydney takes care of him and gives him things to do on the farm when he comes around.

Standing up, Davey dusts some of the grass off his clothes.

"Gotta go!" he tells the rabbits who just wiggle their noses up at him and continue feasting on their apple.

Wrenching his fingers into fists, he clenches his eyes hard, focusing on trying to teleport into the barn. He's seen David and the others do it. He his self has only teleported on accident. He doesn't really have control of these things. The others explained to him that the doctors got it all wrong and that he had been special, special like the rest of them, Miss Sydney too, but they never showed him how to use his gifts on command like they can.

He's gotta move quick or else Miss Sydney will be disappointed when she finds out he'd been fooling around instead of helping on the farm.

"You can do it Davey." he whispers to his self. That's what Mama and Papa would say at his soccer games. He could hear their words echoing in his head as he ran across the field. He repeats it firmly. "You can do it. Just concentrate."

He feels flurries of sparkles in his head, like a snow globe, then blackness, then his ears pop as he opens his eyes.

His breathing is labored but he thinks he's okay. It's dark in here but he can tell from the smell and the texture of the ground that he's in the barn. Yes! He's done it! He really wishes he had someone to high five right now.

Daintily, he walks to the wooden beam with the solar powered electric board built in and strains as he reaches his arm up to turn the dial.

"C'mon..." he groans, thinking how unfair it is that David and Miss Sydney built the thing so high up. Huffing in frustration, he tries using his powers again, stepping back from the panel and spreading his fingertips. It works.

The switch flips and clicks and the room lights up and Davey quickly gets to work. He pulls the bales by their strap and stacks them on top of each other. He's glad they are smaller and lighter otherwise he'd never get the job done. And it's not just hay they knocked over. Some of the feed bags and buckets are tossed to their sides. The goats really made quite the mess in here.

He can hear Miss Sydney approaching the barn.

When she pulls open the door, he folds his arms behind his back, batting his eyelashes and grinning as wide as he can.

She gives him a once over and in a delayed response, Davey remembers all the filth on his overalls. She gives the sort of laugh adults do when they're both exasperated and amused. She knows he had been goofing off. He smiles even harder.

"All done?" she has a basket hooked at her elbow.

Davey nods quickly, glancing back at the stacks of hay, albeit their sloppiness.

Miss Sydney reaches a gloved hand into the basket, pulling out a sweet potato.

"Do you want to help me shave these? I know I'm not much of a cook but I found a recipe last week on the internet and now is as good a time as any to make some pie."

Pie? Pie is his favorite thing in the world. David always says that pie has everything that you could ever need. Crust and filling. There's no arrangement in the world that can be more perfect than that.

He jumps with joy and runs up to hug her but then he remembers Miss Sydney's rules about touching and he sees her body lock up.

"Um," Davey ducks his head, biting his bottom lip as heat simmers across his cheeks. "Yes please," he answers timidly.

Slowly and carefully, Miss Sydney unwinds and extends her arm out to him.

"You can hold my hand."

He stares for a moment at her gloved offering. Then a smile fills his face, grinning so hard he's baring his teeth. He takes her hand and they walk back to the house.

She makes him wear an apron even though it's much too big for him and he had already dirtied his clothes earlier. Together, they boil and shave the potatoes and mix it with sugars and spices and milks and butters and use spatulas to messily spread the filling inside the crust mold.

It's hard not to see Mama when he looks up at Miss Sydney sometimes. She isn't as verbal as Mama was. She doesn't praise him as much as Mama did. But her gestures are familiarly kind and to Davey that means more than enough.

Even though they have to do some more work around the farm, Davey is told not to overwork his self because he's not used to farm duties like everyone else is. So he instead plays with Samson and Samson's toys and he watches cartoons on television while the pie cools off and Miss Sydney finishes up outside.

When she comes back in, the pie is cooled so he sets the table like he's seen David do a thousand times and watches her cut two slices, one for herself and one for him.

They take their seats and Davey beams up at the blonde woman, wide eyed and expectant.

"Miss Sydney? Is it good?" he asks before her lips even close around the fork. His legs swing spiritedly under the table while he anticipates her.

Her eyes flash with surprise.

The "mmm" sound she makes isn't very becoming. Her jaw stiffens and then unwinds robotically. She raises her eyebrows in a cartoonish way.

"It's um, it's pie." she takes another careful bite.

When Davey picks up his fork, he understands her reaction. The filling doesn't hold very well and it's far too sugary. Davey has to squint his eyes while he chews. He has never been the greatest at masking his emotions.

The sound of the animals outside mingle between the wave of silence and their forks scraping against their plates. Neither of them speak. She keeps her knuckles pressed to her cheek while she mechanically finishes the rest of her pie and Davey finds his self mirroring her pose.

She goes to the fridge and pours both of them a tall glass of milk.

Davey drinks his down in big gulps, eyes watching Miss Sydney from the other end of the table.

He places his cup down slowly, taking a careful swallow and wiping off his milk mustache. He sees she hasn't finished her pie. Nor has she drank any milk. She's looking down, staring at nothing, like how he'd find Mama sometimes after the bad thing happened that made her bakery close down.

"Miss Sydney?" Davey asks softly. "Are you sad?"

She looks up as if he'd woken her from sleep.

"No," she fixes a smile on her face, "Just tired." she answers quietly.

But she doesn't say anything further to assure him. She does look tired. But tired on the inside. Like how David says he feels. Davey doesn't know what being tired on the inside feels like. But he tries to imagine it's like the loneliness he used to feel. It makes his eyes sharpen and sting.

He wishes he could hug her and squeeze her tight but he knows he isn't allowed. Sometimes when he forgets, she screams loud and shrilly like she'd been struck with hot iron.

Divad also says Miss Sydney has a sickness in her head like David does. But Miss Sydney doesn't share with other people like they do. Hers is something different. Maybe the sickness in her head makes her sad.

Miss Sydney stands up. "All done?"

Davey nods.

She cleans up his dishes while Davey sits in the chair, contemplating many things.

Samson comes around his leg and Davey picks him up, burying his face in his fur and kissing his face while he strokes him.

Miss Sydney leans down in front of him, hands on her knees.

"You've done good today. Thank you for helping." she tuckers her gloved finger under his chin and she fixes her voice slow and sweet like how Mama would when she'd ask him to do something. "Can I ask David to come out?"

Davey presses his lips together to think about it.

Already, he feels David beginning to stir on the inside. He thinks David wants that too.

"Is that okay with you?"

He realizes he's feeling a bit sleepy now. He has had a good day and he's ready to go back inside and rest for a little while. He can feel David blinking his eyes open and he smiles up at Miss Sydney and nods.

He places Samson down at his feet.

He then retreats into his bedroom and turns on his constellation lamp. He stares at the bright light and the shadow of the stars dancing over his walls until his eyes can't take it anymore. When he shuts his eyes, the final thoughts passing through him are of Miss Sydney and that he hopes she won't be sad for much longer.

And then he has returned. Suddenly six feet tall again, hovering over his girlfriend.

She's looking up at him with softness and it's almost haloed around her. He wonders if it's a trick of the light or if her eyes are truly glistening.

"David?"

The name is faint. Who is? Oh yes. Him. He is David.

"David?" her hands feel better than they have ever felt as they capture his face. "Are you there, baby?"

"Yeah," he chuckles slowly as if he's out of breath. "I'm here."

"Hi," her voice cracks a bit and she has to clear her throat. "I made some pie with Davey. Its not very good but. It's pie." she shrugs almost diffidently.

"Yeah, sure," David answers, a little slurred. "Pie s..sounds real good right now."

 

 


_

 




Rational Mind shuffles around the scattered debris of bones and sand, arms digging deep into his pockets as his thoughts challenge his nerves.

God-Mutant grunts imperceptibly. He's lax against his throne, crystal ball in his hand, one foot in his seat like an arrogant prince of many lands and infinite luxury. This place is his kingdom and he feels like a randomly selected guest who has received an invitation to fulfill nefarious deeds.

"Murphy's Law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Anything that will happen will happen. I'm certain I've been wasting time fretting about. I say to myself, 'oh well you can't control everything that goes on.' I mean I quite literally can't. I haven't got those fancy reality warping powers like you and the pyrokinesis gig like Dvd and all the other extensive list of powers we all round up to make. I mean, I've got the ability to mentally project. But is that going to help if I just pretend I'm on an island somewhere sipping out of a coconut and getting a nice tan? No. Of bloody course not. I'd come back from my little fantasy to see all's shambolic. And then who's to blame?"

Rational Mind ponders if the man is even really regarding anything he's saying, much less his presence.

A crackling sound pops beneath his boot and he pauses mid-pace. He stepped on a bone. Glancing back up at God-Mutant, he shrugs apologetically.

"Pardon."

Seems these bones aren't of much value to him because God-Mutant is still entranced by his crystal ball. At least he assumes it's a crystal ball. What else would it be made of? It must be something only intended for God-Mutant's eyes because all Rational Mind sees when he stares into it is the back of the tent.

This isn't quite his thing. Talking to the other alters? He doesn't do that very often.

David is the person he talks to the most and those conversations are designated to the instances where he needs some guidance or encouragement or just plain rescuing.

The rescuing doesn't happen as often. Not since they came to the farm.

He remembers the day of his own culmination. It had been under extreme circumstance, that much was clear. He felt suffocated and stretched out like he was passing through a birth squeeze. Then he was plunked into loud darkness and his purpose had come to him quite head on: help David. Help him get out of that mental coffin.

Some job he'd done, huh.

"Look, mate, if there's something you know, I would really appreciate hearing it. You called me here, and you haven't had anything to say. I'm walking back and forth rambling on and on like a lunatic and you're just playing the part of the theme around here. Desert and bones. Did you summon me to remind me that you've got a proper taste for the dramatics? Give me any sort of clue, at least. Otherwise you're just pulling my leg and for that, I'll happily fuck back off to what I was doing before you rang."

- "Do you play games?" God-Mutant finally speaks, easing his crystal ball down.

"What..." Rational Mind squints.

- "It is a simple question. Do you?"

"No. Do I strike you as the sort of bloke to play games?"

- "Chinese checkers? Backgammon? Texas Hold 'Em?"

"What the hell is your point, man?"

- "Not even Rock Papers Scissors? I am fond of that one."

"For heaven's sake, man."

- "Have you ever noticed that the most frequented games that have withstood centuries of time are games that involve chance? Do you know why people love playing games of chance?"

Oh, Christ, here he goes. This is exactly why he doesn't talk to the others, especially not him.

- "People, encouraged by their arrogance, truly believe that they possess the ability to beat the odds. They are so addicted to their own imagination, to the sheer conquest of a challenge of fate, that even in chances that are slim to none, a future so doomed, they stand defiant. For them, their delusion is strong enough. For us, it is our reality. We can beat the odds. We can decide them, change them, or be rid of them. Swipe the chess board clean. Blow the cards away. Send the marbles sprawling every direction. Sweep the challenge of fate into dust. I see it. Do you not?"

Rational Mind stifles a groan. "I don't mean to sound like an arse, and your words are wonderfully poetic, I should say, but, only what can happen will happen. So." he quirks his lips and shrugs sardonically.

God-Mutant nods, and his hair, long and stiff, sticks straight up as if it were provoking gravity itself.

- "True. Though we all submit to this consensus about our nature, it is still flawed in an instance of absolutes. I bring you your choice of example, only what can happen will happen, until it does not."

Rational Mind pauses. He tenses up, realizing he's referring to a deeper matter and not just spewing cacophonies of fake deep bullshit. Maybe it's both.

"Why are you telling me this? Is there something I have to prepare David for?"

God-Mutant purses his lips. "I do not like that. Your presumed sense responsibility over David. You are not the important person that you think you are. The primary basis of our existence is our purpose and what that entails. But purpose is not to be confused with importance."

He kneels into the earth, grabbing a fistful of sand. He flexes his fingers and they sprinkle between each limb back to the ground. "You have seen the visions David has been having as well."

"Visions- You mean his dreams?" Rational Mind asks.

- "Dreams are just an embodiment of the hidden corners of the subconscious. It is influenced by things that are to come, by what you know. And by what you do not know. And fortunately for me, for all of us," he swirls his finger around the top of the crystal ball. "I know everything that is happening."

"I..." Rational Mind's mouth falls open, struggling to gather his words. "We're dying in those dreams."

- "Not always," God-Mutant shakes his head in slow tandem with his words. "Not always. Sometimes it is the other way around. Sometimes we are the ones killing him."

Rational Mind feels his throat dry out. His protective instinct towards David courses through his being.

- "You understand why that cannot happen. To either of us. The outer systems are not involved. They exist in their worlds. We exist in ours. In David's. He is the epicenter and we are closest to him. If he erupts..." his hand motions out languidly as if to represent a conclusion of thoughts.

"Okay well," Rational Mind swallows. "What the hell is going on?"

- "It is soon time to meet with the Professor." God-Mutant glosses over his question in the blasé holier than thou arsehole-ish way that he always regards everyone around him.

"Why?" Rational Mind asks warily, "I don't think David wants to. And Dvd and Divad have already voted against that."

- "They do not matter." God-Mutant answers.

He can't say he disagrees because they are loathsome arseholes. But this is coming from someone who just said that each of them serves a purpose. What's he getting at here?

"Well...What about his woman? Sydney?"

- "What about her? She wants the same thing that I want. Reunification with the Professor."

"What do you want reunification for?" Rational Mind makes a face.

- "No one can escape when the bell of curiosity strikes," God-Mutant's smirk reminds him of a devil figure in a baroque art piece.

"The first time we talked about it, you told David you could give a toss. Now you change your mind because the 'bell of curiosity' struck? What sort of a prat do you take me for, really?"

God-Mutant's smirk grows into something both secretive and impassive.

"You're scheming," Rational Mind raises his finger slowly. "I'm right aren't I?"

- "If by that you mean letting things flow through their requisite and natural course, as your esteemed Murphy's Law insists, then we are both scheming," God-Mutant swerves around his accusation. "It is her persistence, David's woman, that David will yield to above all else. So she is valuable during times like this."

"I wouldn't count on that. Dvd has been really keen to break her and David up and he's really thrown a spanner in the works these last few times he switched. Their fights get nasty."

- "Dvd is a cockroach who wants to wallow in wastelands because it is all he knows. You will talk to him and you will explain to him that he is causing too many upsets lately and that if he does not learn to deal with his outbursts, he will be dealt with instead."

"You want me to talk to that hotheaded arsehole? I'm not your henchman like in one of those shite mobster movies."

- "No." God-Mutant steps down from his throne and Rational Mind fights the instinct to step back. He fastens his fists and though he is no match for him psionically, he'll still stand his ground.

This place is very warm but God-Mutant's hand is cool when it claps over Rational Mind's shoulder and it's an uncomfortable contrast. "But you love David and you will follow the path that points to his best interests more truthfully than the rest of us. So you will do as I say. That is why I called you here. You are all about inevitability are you not? That is something we have in common."

"I'm about logistics," Rational Mind retorts. "You go on a soliloquy about purpose and visions and chance and beating the odds and about it being time to meet the Professor. Obviously you know something big is coming. And you feel eager to set the wheels in motion. So why don't you stop with the dramatic sermon and just be upfront with me?"

God-Mutant smiles and laughs in a way that could almost make him feel small and insignificant. Intimidatingly, that's the word for it.

- "Not something big."

"What?"

- "You said that I know 'something big' is coming. I am telling you that you are not quite correct. It is not something big. It is unquantifiable."

"What, like, end of the world sort of thing? Because for god's sake we cannot deal with that again. After the parasite and the safeheads and-"

- "Not the end of the world either. It is a truth that has not been yet revealed to me. And it cannot be revealed until we meet him. The Professor. That is what she tells me."

"Who is she?" Rational Mind feels as though all he's been doing is asking questions.

God-Mutant points to his crystal ball, floating undisturbed beside his throne.

Rational Mind feels his self blanch when the ominous orb twinkles when he makes eye contact with it.

God-Mutant pats his shoulder and moves past him to step out of the tent, leaving Rational Mind in the company of bones and heat of the surrounding torches of fire.

Rational Mind nibbles on his bottom lip, tucking his hands into his pockets.

The curtains sway from the outer winds but the cold never reaches beyond the threshold.

He shakes his head, unsure of what to make of whatever the hell that was that just happened. He can'[t think here at all.

He disconnects from God-Mutant's psychic conjunction and goes back to his place where he where he resides. The classroom.

The blackboard is awash in white chalk residue and the purple chairs are all aligned in neat symmetry facing the board as always. Everything is perfect and organized for whenever he needs to work here. He designed it that way.

Rational Mind steps forward to the center floor, chalk materializing in one hand. He reaches up and draws long arching lines of graphs and equations until his arm is tired and the chalk stick is grounded down to one tiny stub. Wiping his chalky hands on his pants, he steps back to examine everything.

It's just as he thought. It's not computable. He doesn't have all the variables to make it so. Talk to Dvd? Berate him into obedience? Impossible. God-Mutant won't have him running around looking like a damned fool and wasting his resources where they're not to be exercised. His purpose is to work towards David's wellbeing and David's wellbeing alone.

Well blimey, Dvd's impulsive and destructive mood swings are affecting David's wellbeing aren't they? Of course.

Oh God-Mutant, you bastard, Rational Mind thinks, You won't get involved with Dvd because you don't need to. You don't do anything you don't need to do, do you? You just divvy up our jobs because your crystal ball says so and you get to sit back and watch.

He'll bet God-Mutant hasn't said a thing to the others.

Rational Mind wipes over his chalkboard and redraws the equation, entering different variables this time. The results are still confounding.

It still doesn't explain what The Professor has to do with all of this. And there's something else he's forgetting.

He presses his fingers to his lips.

Oh.

It finally begins to click for Rational Mind. He can't work his way around it because he's in an internal quandary.

Uncontrolled factors. Meeting The Professor would mean too many changes. That could open more holes in David's heart. They might also leave the farm. Losing the farm means losing his structure. It might destabilize David even further.

Ah but he's forgetting. The woman, David's woman, she's the invariant factor. If she's going to keep pushing David to pursue a relationship with The Professor, it would mean David would have her support. She is part of his structure too. Maybe he won't completely destabilize.

Rational Mind scrubs the chalkboard with the eraser rigorously, changing the entire equation by flipping it in reverse.

What will happen will happen, no matter what. Rational Mind can't bend reality. He can only make sure he's prepared to aid David in whatever way he can. He clears his throat though no one else is in this room.

"Fine then, God-Mutant," he says, setting the chalk stub down. "I'll do what you say. I'll talk to Dvd. Then I'll let inevitability do the rest of the legwork."




-

 

 

"David, wait," she sobs.

"What? What happened?"

Syd cries needy whimpers into his skin while her hips quiver sharply beneath his. David pulls his hand from between them, wiping his fingers on the pillow strewn beside her head. Her nails press piercingly hard into his skin.

"Do you want me to pull out?" David breathes sharply.

"Fuck, no," Syd shakes her head. Wisps of damp hair stick to the sides of her face. Beads of sweat have collected on the space between her eyebrows. She pulls his forehead down to hers. He feels the trembles in her hand at the base of his skull. "I only need a second, please."

He just made her come a second time and he had slid inside her to mingle with the pleasure pulsating across her walls during her orgasms. It not only feels like vibrating electricity for him, it also prolongs her climaxes he'd learned.

But sometimes her orgasms are too intense for her. He knows how hyper stimulated she can get. She has always been extremely sensitive to his touch and when it comes to sex, it's most definitely no exception.

When she's overwhelmed by her orgasms she tends to shove him away from her, recoil into herself, become distant and quiet as it abates.

But this time she's clinging to him with the grip of an eagle. She's not permitting him to move and he's perfectly fine with that.

Except her walls are clamping down on him with her contractions and he doesn't want to come inside her while she's well, recovering. He tries to concentrate, holding his breath and prying his mind from how hot and wet and compact she is.

David kisses her temple, trying to relax her. His lips trail tenderly across her temple, down her cheekbone, over her jawbone, and sweetly across her lips. She receives his efforts and though he hasn't spoken any words, she nods and whispers beneath his kiss, "okay." Her hips stop jolting and her breathing grows tamer.

"I love you, baby," he says it like a promise, a reminder to her. He feels like he should be delicate with her right now. His previously busy hand roams down her thigh, curling around her ass and he hoists her leg higher up.

"I love you, too," Syd returns. "I'm ready now. Please." She tautens her thighs around his body accommodatingly. Her nails press into his shoulders with urgency.

He doesn't allow a moment to pass. Her contractions are under control. He can think again about how soaked and warm and good it feels being inside her. He slides back slowly, glimpsing between them where they're connected. His dick is glistening with her slick. Fuck. He rolls his hips before thrusting back in to the very hilt.

She responds well to that, rolling her head into the pillow. He moves slow but hard, grunting in tune with the way their skin claps together from each thrust.

It's not long before they're making raucous and indecent noises again.

"Can you come again? Are you too overstimulated?" David's losing control and he has to know.

"Shh..." she shakes her head. "Just let go, David. I need to feel you come."

Her pleading permission makes him want to be so obedient. To come just for her. He shuts his eyes, moaning and grunting her name and she moans her dirty encouragements and squeezes him tighter as he gives way and thrusts faster. He feels her flexing around him, coaxing him with every clench beyond his control.

He will let go, into the cascading wet descent that is her pussy, and he finally comes, shooting for the stars inside her. He throbs between her thighs, gnashing his teeth as he gets swept in the vibrant rush of pleasure.

Fuck, she's clenching every time he releases inside her, suspending him above the space beyond the edge he'd already fallen over.

"Aw, aw, fuck, Syd," David croaks. "Shit." He spasms until he's emptied completely inside her, nothing left to give. Chest to chest, he feels her heart galloping and her breathing becoming labored.

Realizing he's crushing her, he pulls out and rolls on his back. Is his dick still throbbing? He looks down. Yes.

He's still breathing roughly as he runs a hand with faint tremors through his hair.

The bedding is warm enough to protect them from the soft chill the opened windows bring inside. The light curtains sway gently, incongruent with their harsh breathing.

He's sure it's darker outside in the real world now.

How long have they been here?

He had finished trimming and cleaning their goats' hooves and when he went into the barn to put the tools away, he found her in there on her knees on the stool and she was reaching up for the rusted buckets of paint on one of the top shelves. Her dark jeans clung to her ass like second skin and the straining noises she was making sounded all too familiar and it went straight to his dick and he wanted her right there. White Room. Now, she'd told him when she stepped down and met his lust drunk eyes.

Thankfully on the farm, when they're in the mood for sex in the White Room, they never have to find discreet locations like they did at Summerland and Division Three. Much to their surprise, and their pleasure, the animals are less disruptive than the mutants and agents were.

"I need-" he hears Syd's voice perk up but David has already thought of it, snapping his fingers, and a cloth materializes between his fingers. He hands it to her. She doesn't like being sticky for too long. And to be frank neither does he so he wipes his self off too.

She rolls onto her back when she's done, letting him know she's feeling receptive to cuddling. David smiles and he snuggles into her. She drags her fingers through his hair and he hums. Maybe he is like a puppy at all. If he had a tail, it'd be wagging right now.

"When's the last time we did this?" the words slur from his lips.

"Cuddled?" she smooths her palm down the back of his neck before running it through his hair again. "Or made love?"

"Both, I guess."

She snorts.

"Hmm...can't give a definite number, it's not like I'm keeping track or anything. It's probably been a bit of a minute. You've been switching for longer amounts of time lately, so that threw us off a little. I don't think too hard about it. I've got lots of things on my mind anyways."

"Oh," David's eyes dot around frantically. He tries to steer the subject towards a different place. "Things like what?"

"Things." he feels Syd's shoulder rub against his cheek as she shrugs. "It's funny, Davey told me a good joke. 'If you've got a lot on your mind, just tilt your head and your problems will fall right out'. He says he learned that from you."

"Oh really?" David asks dryly. He's never uttered such a thing to the boy.

"Hey?" she nudges him and he peeks up from the safety of the crook of her neck. "Are you asking because you think you're losing time again?"

He blinks.

"Do you?" she presses. Her eyes move like they're searching his.

"No," he lies.

He's such a shitty liar and they both know it. He couldn't put together a lie if an instruction manual came with it.

His girlfriend stops raking her fingers through his hair. She moves from under him, tucking her hair behind her ears as she grabs one of the blankets from the foot of the bed, and wraps it around her body.

- Mad at you again and again and again! someone starts shouting and stomping.

She always uses physical distance as one than more than one kind of barrier. He worries that he'd done the wrong thing. David follows her movements, propping his self up on his elbows.

She takes a seat on one of the loveseats, opposite the one they were fucking on before they moved on to the bed, peeling the curtain back to observe the ocean waves outside. He hears a low breath pass between her lips. She has grown pensive.

"Syd," David calls.

She doesn't answer him and he knows damn well she heard him.

"Syd," he calls again.

Still no answer.

- Leve-toi.

Sighing, he gets up, tucking one of the sheets around his waist and joins her on the loveseat.

"Baby..."

He knows she's listening but she still won't look at him. She still keeps one hand pushed under her breasts as she clutches the blanket.

- Don't be a coward. Are you a coward, David?

David licks his lips, pushing her hair over her shoulder, the pads of his fingers circling the smooth knob of skin there.

"Am I allowed this?" he whispers, "Hmm, Syd?" he leans forward, lips brushing over the paths his fingers took. He feels her resolve shift as her neck bends because she's sensitive there. It's working. David smiles, closing his lips over her throat. He can see slight discoloration there from his ministrations earlier.

He cups her breast through the blanket.

"I want to fuck you again," he swirls his tongue across her jaw bone. He begins to pull her blanket back down when she bluntly breaks her silence.

"I spoke to your father on the phone today."

Oh, what the fucking hell? David's head drops to her shoulder and his other hand wrings itself into a tight grip.

"What about?" lips smushed into her skin, he stiffly tries to dampen his annoyance.

"Not as much as you think. He just wanted to see how we're doing."

David's hand falls from her breast and he can feel Dvd inside him getting red with agitation. Yes, they do feel that way right now. Very agitated. The mood is soured and his dick has gone soft.

"I mean...we're doing fine aren't we?" David pushes his self up from the loveseat and they're no longer in the White Room, joined back to their physical realities in their bedroom, where he teleported them.

"That's-" his girlfriend blinks hard, taken aback by the sudden transportation. He knows she doesn't like being jerked around like that and he hides from how she narrows her eyes at him. "-What I told him. That things are going fine on the farm. Then we uh," she flops on their bed beside him, swirling her finger into the comforter. "We ended up talking about you."

The sound of that causes his chest to grow heavy. He retreats his psyche to their childhood bedroom where Dvd and Divad are already standing as if they'd already been anticipating him.

No one moves a lip. They all connect with each others' eyes.

Did you guys know about this?

He hears Divad's mm-mm.

- No way, you think we just lurk around the house when you're fronting? We've got better shit to do. Dvd makes it evident that he's offended at the implication itself.

- We really didn't know about the phone call, David. We would've said something if we did. You were occupied and so were we, Divad responds.

Garbled as if they're planted inside a fish tank, he hears his girlfriend's voice warbling on their outside.

"He also asked about how you've been managing. He's curious about your 'condition' as he calls it. He asked other things like, if you're eating enough and if we've got bills we can't handle, he'll be happy to pay."

- Why don't you shut this conversation down. We don't want to be bothered about this right now.

"Fatherly questions I suppose," Syd continues. "I wouldn't know. And he told me to tell you that he'd like for us to come visit the mansion again. But I'm sure he really meant you. You're his son after all."

- At least when you were fucking her we didn't have to hear her moaning all about your old man again.

David comes back to his personal consciousness.

"Hey. Are you listening?"

"Hmm? Yeah." David shakes his head, as if it'll straighten out the scrambles and fumes up there. "What?"

"Were you talking to them while I was talking to you?" Syd slights her eyes. "Forget it." she stands up before he can answer, the mattress adjusting like jello under him.

"Syd...I'm not- wait." but it's him who waits, unsure if his words will come out right.

- What did I say? Don't be a coward. Are you a fucking coward?

- No, but he doesn't have a death wish either.

"I didn't make a big fuss the few times you've attended some of his classes. I know you wanted to test the waters and all that, and maybe you thought you'd be doing me a favor by, I don't know, infiltrating I guess. But phone calls? Syd..." his words disappear before they can reach the edge of his tongue.

"What?"

"Forget it," David shakes his head.

- Maybe he does have a death wish after all.

- Meu deus...

"No," Syd creases her arms across her chest. "Tell me."

"Maybe you shouldn't have..." David folds his hands in his lap, tapping his thumbs. That's something Davey does all the time and it's a tick he ended up adopting along the way.

"Are you saying I crossed a line when I went to the mansion?"

"I don't know... Maybe."

- Try definitely.

"But I asked you about it. For weeks, David." Syd's eyebrows curve together and her lips tauten.

"I know you did."

"And you said you didn't mind. You said you were fine with it. I even showed you the notes I took."

"They were good notes, Syd," David says. "But-"

"-It's not like it was a walk in the park for me, David," his girlfriend tramples all over his words. "Being surrounded by all those people was very hard for me. I only did it because I thought I'd be helping you." Her cheeks are reddening now. Her chest moves rapidly. He'll bet her lungs are moving fast like butterfly wings. He knows his are.

"Syd-"

She pushes her self off the bed, yanking their bedroom door open and storming down the hallways out the house.

David instantly catches up to her when he teleports behind her. The force of his molecules recombining sends gusts of wind and light behind her and she whips her head around to face him.

"Don't do that," Syd jabs a finger at him, close enough to touch his chest. He's amazed that between his frustration and panic that he even realizes she's not wearing gloves right now. "If I move, it's because I want space."

David suppresses a gasp. The expression in her eyes lets him know she's going to scream if he so much as flinches near her. That hurts.

"I won't come too close. Look," David gesture frantically to the space around him. "I'll stand six feet away if that's what you need. Just...let's talk. Please."

Syd shakes her head, laughing wryly. "Why lie? You don't want to talk about it, you just don't want me to be mad at you anymore."

"You're mad at me?"

Syd's jaw gapes. She opens her arms and slaps them to her sides. The clapping sound echoes in the air. "Nope. I'm feeling perfect and peachy. You only let me think you were okay with something when you really weren't. I pushed myself to do something that I thought was to your benefit, and instead I look like the bad guy."

David feels Dvd shoving at him, clamoring to share his seat of control with him. He hears Dvd roar, raise his arm, and splits his conscious clean down the middle. He hears his own softer voice echoing Dvd's steeled and tense timbre.

"Listen to yourself," they say, "'I' 'I' 'I'. That's the problem. We met that man and we made our decision. All of us."

"'That man'? Really? And you call that a decision? It was you stalling and I thought I made it clear when I said I'd stand by your decision whether you wanted to get to know your father or not. You didn't have to lie to me."

"You couldn't tell we didn't mean it?" they grit back.

"Fuck you. I'm not the psychic one in this relationship. You don't get to mislead me to placate me or whatever and then get upset with me for going off what you're giving. That's not fair."

"'Fair?!-'" they start.

"-What do you want me too do, huh? You're walking around knowing you've got a gaping hole inside of you and you know there's a person out there that can fill it up."

Dvd begins to shake. There isn't anything that upsets him more than to be told that there's something wrong with him, wrong with them. There's nothing wrong with them. There is nothing fucking wrong with them! He closes their fists into tight balls and he can feel their fire shooting through their veins ready to push through their fingertips until it's stopped by David who still miraculously wields the dominant half of control between them.

Stop it! David says to Dvd. He can't slip because if he does, he'll lose completely to Dvd and this fight will take a turn for it's ugliest side yet. Stay out of this. Please. I didn't ask you for help. He never asks Dvd for help. He just assumes he's needed and he always fucks thing up worse and faster than David's already doing.

"We don't have a- I d-don't have a hole inside me," they struggle through his words. Dvd's snarling back at him. He feels the muscles in their face, like dragging slabs of brick through molasses, as Dvd tries to force his scowl through David's already tense expression. He probably looks like a fucking lunatic right now. "And- if I did, someone has already filled it up. You're that person. Syd."

David's heart beats raspingly. Dvd suddenly stops struggling with him. His muscles come to a still and he looks at David as if he's been cut wide open and stabbed deep into the wound twice over. He sniffs, lips downturned and backs slowly away from him.

He feels their body, their conscious, become his again. He staggers for a moment. It always hits him like vertigo. He has to roll his eyes a few times in his head before he remembers he's talking to Syd and she's angry at him and he drifted off to dissociation land for a second.

A long and depressed breath passes between his girlfriend's lips. Her shoulders relax their selves, surrendered. It looks like some of her vexation had turned into something else.

"David," her tone of voice reminds him of how those doctors sound in those medical dramas when they have to break devastating news to unsuspecting families. "You know I'm with you in everything, in all ways, I am with you." she begins to shake her head. "Something's wrong..."

His heart beats harder. It rams itself between his lungs like it's desperate to escape.

- Breathe, mate.

"What's wrong?" he prepares his self for hearing her say it.

"With you, David." she says. "Something's wrong with you and you don't see it- that there's something going on at all. Or you just play dumb whenever I ask. Like I don't know you. Like you're not my man. And I'm pushing, David. Pushing myself, pushing us, through this fog we're in when all you've gotta do is blow to clear the air. But your lips are sealed. You won't do anything about it."

"Is this about the nightmares? Because Syd, I swear I can control them. I did some research about how you can improve your sleeping patterns without meds and-"

"-That's not what this is solely about. See? You're doing it again. Trying to placate me like I'm some child," Syd shakes her head. "You're not taking me seriously. You're not taking your situation seriously. You don't remember the last time we had sex. You don't remember that you've been Davey for a week and that we got Legos for him to build with or that me and Divad fixed the wiring for the goat pen three weeks ago. And now I'm wondering if you really ever talked to me about seeing your father or if you just don't remember that at all either."

"I don't fucking know anymore, alright?!" the pot blows off the lid. He sees her entire body steel when he raises his voice and she takes an inch step back. Fuck. Calm down. He evens his tone. "I'm sorry. God. I'm sorry, Syd, I didn't mean to yell." he breathes. "You know that's part of the disease, part of my condition. I'm not gonna remember everything. Sometimes they don't even tell me things they're supposed to fill me in on after a switch."

"I understand, David. You can't control that. But the lying?"

Yeah. The lying. That was pretty bad. David cups the back of his neck, making a face.

"At the time, I remember I didn't really want you to go there. But I pretended. Because...because you seemed hopeful about it. You made it sound like a really good idea. Like my soldier doing emotional reconnaissance. But then..."

"Then what?" her voice is hushed.

He feels like he's being pushed against the wall, elbow to his throat, knee to his groin. He might as well let it spill.

"I think I'm jealous. He's my father and you know him better than I do. And he calls you on the phone apparently. And I know- I know, I made my choice to put his offers on the back burner because- for a lot of reasons -but it just makes me feel like again, everyone else has a piece of him that I never got to...and I'm playing this game of tug of war. Fear and anger on one end. Complacency and obliviousness on the other. And I'm the damn rope."

Like he's pulling his self apart. He knows he shouldn't have reacted bitterly towards her. She's not the problem here. He's an asshole.

- Nope, that's Dvd. You're definitely not an asshole. Clueless, sure. A little out of touch, definitely. But you mean well. You both do. And I don't quite think your girlfriend would appreciate you referring to yourself as an asshole. She doesn't think of you that way. And we can also hear your thoughts, you know.

"David...you've got it all backwards. The Professor's students know him better than both of us combined. As far as I know, today was the first time he called. And I'm definitely not the one he wanted to pick up the phone."

He doesn't know what to say to that. He feels like a tree stump.

"I'm the one who's got every reason to be jealous," Syd continues.

His eyes shoot up like lightning.

"What? Why? What-"

It looks like her eyes are glistening. Her palms cross over her sides, as if to hug herself. She's standing there frigidly but she can't be cold. It's still warm despite the time venturing well beyond the evening. She must be uncomfortable. He wishes he could move closer to her.

"I uh, never had a father," she says. "I mean, you know I had a couple of fathers, if that's what you could call them, but I'm talking about my real father."

David's eyebrows raise.

He treks through his catalogue of Syd's background.

He knows about Joan Barrett. He experienced projections of her. Existed through some of her speeches. He's seen the peculiarities of the woman who raised his girlfriend. Despite what she allowed him to see, Syd has always guarded certain parts of her childhood and any aspect about her father has been so off limits, he'd unconsciously factored out his probability of existence altogether. He realizes he's pictured her as an immaculate conception all this time.

- I've gotta say, damn.

Syd inches her way closer to David. They're still feet apart. But she budges a couple of inches. Maybe she needs comfort too.

"You asked me earlier what was on my mind. Well your father called here and he was making small talk but I knew he really wanted to know about you. And when he finally asked, you could hear it in his voice. The excitement and reluctance. But more than anything, the concern. And then all the things I didn't even realize were weighing on me became pretty damn apparent. And it really got me thinking about something I hadn't thought about for a long, long time. So I'll tell you a little something. Can't call it a story because there'd have to be something to fill the pages." she takes a pause, rubbing her forehead. "I don't know anything about my true father. I don't know anything about what he's like. I mean, you've seen it. My mom took lovers as often as she drank." she chuckles, sardonic but reserved.

David swallows the words he doesn't even have. When he was captured in the loop of his girlfriend's life, he never saw Joan in the arms of the same man for too long.

"My mother didn't own a picture of him. And I looked for it. After she died. I looked through her most private belongings and through her archival boxes that she kept in a separate compound across the street from the penthouse. She kept no trace of him. And I don't know if that was because she hated his guts and wanted to suppress as many reminders of him as she could or if she truly didn't know him. I don't favor my mother apart from the blondeness. So I know it's him I look like. I am literally his ghost. And in the world I came from, if you didn't have both of your parents in your life, you were seen as a pariah. God must've done something to punish you not to be able to have two parents in the world that could love you. Nonetheless one who barely loved you in the first place."

"What do you mean? Of course mother loved you," David blurts.

He watches her lips gently curl into a melancholy smile.

"No, baby. She tolerated me. Like an unopened wedding gift, sitting in its original packaging with a bow and a card attached and signed by some guest you don't even remember inviting, collecting dust. It gets moved around sometimes. But only to make room for other things. And by the time it does cross your mind, you don't have the conscience to just give it away to someone else because that gift is yours. It was for you. It'd be wrong. Doesn't mean it matters to you. It's guilt adjacent to superficiality, really."

"Syd...you don't mean that." he doesn't like hearing her refer to herself as some forgotten kitchen appliance.

- She called you 'baby'. I don't think she's that mad at you anymore, haha.

"You don't know what she was like...after her boyfriend and I...she got colder and colder. So no, I never had anyone who loved me. My mother didn't even love me enough to at least give me up to someone who could."

"Maybe she loved you enough to know that she couldn't give you up." David tucks his hands in his pockets. He shrugs when Syd looks up at him wonderingly. "Where would you go, Syd? With your...problems? They'd just lock you away in a mental hospital."

"I was gonna end up in a few of them regardless," Syd laughs bitterly. "Or did you forget that as well?"

How could he? He recalls the upsetting but familiar image of her, barely a teenager, in a psychiatric hospital, strapped to a bed and sedated to unconsciousness, her mother playing the role of a stumped onlooker.

"Otherwise how else would we have met?" Syd tilts her head sadly and flashes him one of those helpless smiles that makes him give her a half smile in return. "All I'm saying is, I understand. The tug of war between the pain and anger and the comfort of not knowing just in case it's worse than you thought? I understand. And the things I don't understand, I want you to help me to. But you can't do that if you don't take those steps. You have a chance to know where you come from. You can also learn about your..."

Mother. She doesn't say it.

He has thought about it. It scares the living hell out of him. There's an entire half of him that belongs to an entire whole of someone else. Not just a father, a mother too.

"If there's anything I've learned about living with origins of the unknown is that it burrows a hole inside you that can't be filled. It's just noise in there, David. And you don't know how to tune it out. Not anymore. Not now that you know and you have known who your true father is. You can't ignore it and you can't end up fucked up the way I did."

He pictures how he'd seen his girlfriend grown up. She lived her life in isolated chaos. She was dictated by her afflictions from touch. Her mental illness. He saw her bullies taunt her for being without a father and he saw her suppressing everything when she went home every time, never having a mother's bosom to turn to because she was deathly afraid of touch and the emotional distance between her and her mother had stretched so wide, she long lost an inclination for comfort from her. He saw how she lived a life equally as inviolate as it was scarred.

"You shouldn't call yourself fucked up," he says. "You're not. Not to me."

Syd tilts her head, smiling helplessly. She doesn't refute his statement. But she doesn't accept it either. He doesn't have to read her mind to know that she long made hers up when she said that. I mean it, he wants to say. But he thinks it's like trying to pierce iron walls with a measly arrow.

"I think it's all connected," Syd speaks, "Everything you won't tell me and the small things you do. I think it's all leading down to one common denominator. Your father. So I think you should call him. I think you should stop pretending it's not hurting you and that your denial isn't wearing you down. I know I'd do it. If it were me? If it were my father? It would scare the complete shit out of me, but I'd do it. Shit, I sound like a fucking therapist or something." she presses her hand to her forehead self consciously.

David shakes his head, trembles rolling through his lip. "No. You sound like my girlfriend who loves me."

"I do love you."

"Yeah. I know you do..." David's eyes begin to burn. Feeling Davey inside of him shaking up, he wipes the wetness from his eyes. The sudden caress of Rational Mind's hand passes over him. He rubs circles upon his back like a soothing nanny.

- "Alright, mate. Let it out."

He squeezes his eyes shut to fight the tears.

"I'm not the one that's sad. It's Davey," he snivels. "Please make him calm because he's making me upset."

But the more he fights, the stronger his tears come.

- "He's feeding off you, mate. You're scared and overwhelmed. So is he."

"Can you please just do what I ask and comfort him instead?"

"David." the sound of his name in Syd's voice floats between the distortion.

His cheeks are still wet and he realizes he never closed his eyes at all. He's still here. His girlfriend is disfigured by the blur his tears created. Why the hell is he crying?

"I didn't mean to make either of you upset like this." Syd starts, coming a foot closer to him. She keeps her hands glued to her self but he can hear in her voice that she wants to assuage both him and Davey.

"You didn't, it's just. Me. Us. Not us, us. Them, us...I've gotta...Shit, I've gotta talk to them. I've gotta- especially Davey, you know?" he blabbers like some inconsolable toddler and he hates that he can't get this under control. "He's so confused about all of this. And Divad and Dvd they're-"

"Yeah. I understand," Syd nods. "Hey. It's okay, David. Please. Look at me."

He does, even though his eyes are still wet.

"We don't have to make an immediate decision. We can try baby steps. I think we're good at baby steps."

Davey hiccups and nods, as though he's listening to her as well.

"I think so too," David sniffs, offering Syd a half smile after he wipes his face again. "It's not like I never think about it, you know? It's not like I never think about my father. What it must be like to live in that mansion. What being around him, loving him, being loved by him, must be like. It's just...everything that happened to me, Syd. Everything that I lost. It all started with him."

"But David," Syd says softly, "There's always more to a story than we think. You might learn that your father isn't the monster he unknowingly left you with."

David looks down, nodding mutely.

From the porch, Samson comes out and meows to make his presence known.

"H-how come you never told me about your father?" David asks.

Syd sighs, looking contemplative for a few moments. "Don't know. I don't dwell on it. Not like I used to years ago before I met you. And you never asked so I never felt the need to say. And really, there was never anything to say anyways. Only what he left behind. Me."

David yearns to reach for her and rejuvenate his self with a light caress across her fingers.

He wants to slip her hair behind her ears so he can see her face completely unshielded as his lips descend upon hers. He wants to drift them back to the White Room and be back between her legs and he wants to feel her arms tightly around him like she's his cage. Anything, anything to make them both feel better and cover up the rawness he knows they're both feeling right now. Sex and cuddles aren't on the menu anymore though. Words are all that'll be of use at the moment.

"I'm sorry I hurt your feelings when I said you overstepped," he says. "You weren't. I got angry. I shouldn't have. You were doing the right thing. You followed your heart. And your head. And your gut."

"Thank you for saying that. It makes me less mad at you," He notices Syd edging closer to him. They were feet apart moments before. Now, just inches. "So..." she casts her eyes down and slowly her gaze returns to his. "Does this mean you'll at least consider it?"

- "Hell no."

David nods just one nod, another unexpected teardrop rolling down his cheek.

"Really?"

He nods again and it scares him because he doesn't wholly know if he means it, like he's so heavy he's sinking, yet he's only half full. His heart races like he's terrified.

- "Hold on. You're not actually thinking about it, are you?"

Dvd projects his self out of their body so he can look him in his eyes.

- "Holy shit," he scoffs. "You're thinking about it. You're actually thinking about it."

- "Dvd-" Divad begins to interject.

- "Don't 'Dvd' me. He left us. He never came back. He left us. Did you see him looking for us? Fuck no. Case closed."

"All Syd said was-" David starts.

- "He's our father, not hers. Don't fall for the blonde thing's bullshit she's just crying to you about her baggage because she's trying to get you off this farm because she's bored here."

"Funny I thought that's what you wanted."

- "Where the hell's Rational Mind maybe he'll talk some sense into you." Dvd barks.

- "Actually," Rational Mind mimics knocking on the door. "I've given it consideration long before any of you lot did. You have my support, David. No matter what decision requires it. You know the rules here."

David smiles gratefully at Rational Mind. He returns his attention to Dvd.

"As I was saying, Syd said we can do baby steps. And I think she's right. We aren't making any immediate decisions yet. We still have the farm to worry about and things like that. So, in the meantime, we should all uh, convene at some point and, just think about it. Talk about it."

Divad nods staidly. He doesn't seem to be in a confrontational mood. He's always been less inclined to explosive fits than Dvd but he's not used to this level of placidity from him. Has he been this way for a minute lately and he just hasn't noticed?

- "Is that truly what you're even ready for?" Dvd asks. For a brief moment he looks sincere as opposed to venomous and afflicted.

"I don't know, Dvd. I don't think I'll ever know." That is the full truth. He's intimidated by the mere thought of hearing his father's voice again.

"What do you think is gonna happen? You think he's gonna want us? All of us? We're not all gonna sit around like fucking hippies and bond over lost time if that's what you think. There's nothing for me to consider. Count me out of this whole conversation."

- "Really, Dvd? Real fucking mature," Divad says.

- "Kiss my ass," is the most intelligent response Dvd can muster up.

He shouldn't expect anything different from Dvd. He never acknowledges anyone else's reasoning. He's like magma hardened into dark igneous rock. He exists only in those two states. Blazing lava and solid stone. Too hot to touch, too solid to break.

Davey has run off to hide and David doesn't know if he should pluck him out of the corner to ask him for his input. He tried once before to talk to him about seeing their father. The boy heard the words huge home and students and he only cared about that. He didn't really register the other things. Maybe he never will.

David gets annoyed by Dvd's response. Fuck's sake, he never said he was going to meet with his father again. He just said they should all sit and consider it. God knows it would feel a lot better and a lot easier if everyone was on board. Not everything has to be littered with conflict across the way. David's scared. He knows he is. So he needs everyone to see what Syd sees. He needs everyone to work together. At least Divad and Rational Mind have spoken in favor of consideration. He'll take what he can get right now.

David's eyes round up back to Syd. "Sorry about that," his lips wiggle to the side timidly.

Her fingers are drumming rhythmically against her compass necklace. She'd been watching him argue back and forth with his alters. She can't see or feel them the way he does so he's certain he just looks like he's having another psychotic episode. Well, he supposes he technically is but to him, being co-conscious is completely different from switching altogether. It's awkward when he's co-conscious or arguing with them projected from his body in her presence.

But she doesn't comment on it. She seemed to have been waiting for them to finish.

"We uh, we agreed," David chirps. "To give it thought again. Weigh it all out. Baby steps." It's not fully true, but they'll figure it out.

"Well that's good, David. That's really good." Syd nods lightly.

He's temporarily distracted by the busy melody of male crickets scraping their wings together in hopes to find a lover springs across the spacious expanse of the night. But the weight of Syd's admissions about her father start to devour him. He can't get the feeling out of his stomach.

"Syd, I want you to know you don't," he swallows feeling his self get stupidly emotional again. "You don't have to push us through anything if it's...if it gets like this again, just,"

"Just what? Walk away?" Syd's hands screw together.

"No I just meant...not like that Syd-"

"I won't let you sink before my eyes, David. If you're in deep waters, I'm the life raft. You will always swim towards me. You got that?"

David nods profusely, ashamed of what he started to say to her in the first place. He bites his bottom lip. He won't cry anymore tonight. He looks at his girlfriend covetously. There she is. Representative of everything he'll never deserve in the world. Who is he kidding. He needs her.

- Don't self deprecate, mate. Think loving thoughts. Remember: you're pretty and loved, Rational Mind soothes.

Syd takes a step forward contemplatively and then backs away decidedly.

Make sure you come to bed, tonight, he hears her voice in his head while she looks him sternly in his eyes.

David nods promisingly.

Samson's bright blues are staring daggers at him. You better, he says. Or else. You have no idea how much she's-

"Come on, Samson, come on, baby," Syd's voice cuts off their psychic conversation as she beckons her cat. "You've gotta eat." Samson gives David one final warning glance before following perkily behind his owner.

He spins around, uncertain about being left to his own thoughts. His alters aren't giving anything away. They've each returned to their own devices, a strange quiet rolling over all of them. 

Anxious thoughts begin to collect within him so David finds his self walking along the farm, doing check ups on the animals, making small talk, refreshing their feed for the night, and making sure the perimeter fencing around the pasture is secure.

David exhales, kneeling down to pluck an errant wildflower from the small dirt patch near the fence entrance, grass worn down from all the traction. He rolls the stem between his thumb and index finger.

The air begins to stir. He ignores it, dismissing the ordinary night breeze. A harsh wind cuts over him almost indignantly and he whips his head back, taken by surprise by the sharp gust.

Is that truly what you're even ready for?

While he scouts the horizon, Dvd's voice etches and erases it self over and over in his head like a jacked CD.

There's nothing. Tinier orange glows haze over the hills where other people's homes are tacked in the middle of their large farms. All the night sounds are as they've always been. Whistles and grunts and chatters. Some of their animals are busy sleepers while others are serenely silent. Nothing. It's nothing. David blows a low breath between his lips.

Is that truly what you're even ready for? You think he's gonna want us? Is that truly what you're ready for? You think he's gonna want us? You think he's gonna want us? Is that truly-

When he looks back down at his boots, they're covered up to his ankles in sand. He freezes, shock locking his joints down. Then he panics, twisting around flightily. The weight of the sand above his boots is stronger than it should be. He almost eats a mouthful of gold granules but he's quick enough to suspend his self, forcing out a telekinetic blast that causes him to float above the ground on his back.

The sky above him isn't dark, but indigo with yellow and white lights, unblemished by clouds. Barren trees sifted between the sands scatter out on the horizon with great distances between each other. The windy roars over his ears but he doesn't feel one bit cold. He must be having one of his episodes. That's right. Or did he teleport to a desert accidentally? No. No. He would've felt light emanating from his body.

"Syd!" David tries to yell but her name is buried in his throat. It occurs to him very promptly that he can't make any sounds at all. He can't hear the others either. Dvd, Divad, Davey, Rational Mind, they're all sunken in his consciousness too. They're visible but unreachable.

As his rushed eyes peer over both his sides, he begins to recognize animal bones. He's no paleontologist but he was raised in the country, he knows cow skulls when he sees them. They're everywhere. Jagged ivory figures halfway buried through time. There's a chilling familiarity about this place encroaching upon him and just as he's meeting the recognition halfway, it vanishes.

Just- vanishes -all of it. Ripped from beneath him, it's usurped by an all encompassing volume of white. The white then becomes imbibed by black and it stretches forth for an insurmountable distance. For quick moments, he feels squished between two worlds of emptiness.

The wildflower he had picked from the dirt patch is now hideously compressed in his palm. And the desert? The desert is gone.

 

-

 

 

It all unfurls beneath God-Mutant's furrowed glean.

The crystal ball floats by his command as he circles a path around it. One hand is tucked behind one arm as the other hand rests upon his chin.

The ball shows David and his woman their tumultuous racketing rush of passion. He sees flesh writhing and grinding and he hears sounds from their bodies, from their lungs and mouths. He watches David's face descend and disappear between his woman's thighs the woman's cries crescendo.

The other voices try to butt in, they try to take command, but the pleasure for him must be bottomless because he does not respond to them or concede. His face descends and disappears between his woman's thighs and they continue their ministrations until they have both reached their climaxes.

God-Mutant watches David become soft, their bodies become sheeted in dew, and how he nods like a pliant child when his woman speaks.

Sex is of meager interest to him but he is gracious to the affect it has on David. It is not a particularly necessary precursor. David would do anything the woman asked. So blindly so, God-Mutant thinks. But he does not disfavor it.

The others do. But he knows the woman's purpose and there is no reason to contest it.

The crystal ball glows, warbling and murmuring as he commands it to show him every variant of these moments. There are minor differences in each but he is satisfied with what they yield.

This is the definitive outcome. The chaos of uncertainty has been brought to its knees.

God-Mutant ends the projection, his crystal ball hovering back to his hand.

He looks outside his tent to gage the hour.

When gravity yanks on the pulley of time, the earth turns its back on the sun and basks its lands and oceans in the cool lunar light, that is when this desert and all its creatures come out to life. And so does he. He is nocturnal like the creatures of this world. He supposes he embodies every characteristic of the desert. He is entwined with its ecosystem.

The desert is where he was created. He was birthed in these sands abandoned by linear time, looped in infinity. Knowledge, power, and purpose charged through him at the speed of light. But he has always been steady in spite of all that he is. David wants him that way. David wants all of them the way that they are.

They are all like compasses and David is the magnetic force pulling them along.

It is night and God-Mutant would like to stretch open into the outer world for a while.

David put their body to sleep hours ago. His breathing is even, unhindered, and unlabored. God-Mutant trains his ear upon it. It is a gentle tempo. Not unlike the tranquil mode of the desert.

He projects his self from their body, careful and adept so that their body remains uninterrupted in its sleep. It is rare for them to rest so inviolably. David has the most difficulty sleeping, much like Davey. The only person who can coax that child into sleep on a whim is David's woman, Sydney.

God-Mutant's eyes pan across the bedroom. The door has been left ajar. The cat is on one of the dressers asleep. His eyes linger over photos of David and his woman, framed and hung up on the walls. Some are from before his time. Some after. They are smiling vibrantly or making silly expressions in some while gazing intently into the camera in others.

The tall mirror placed at the end of the room shows him where he can see their body on the bed beneath the covers.

Their body is on its back, their hand splayed comfortably against their chest, the other beneath the blanket.

A long pillow is situated between them and his woman like it always is but their psyches are not connected together in the White Room.

His woman has her blanket drawn up to her chin, her hair woven into two long golden plaits. God-Mutant moves closer to her. He can tell she is scrunched beneath the blanket. Air passes between her lips nearly as fast as her eyes flit behind her lids. A small and uncomfortable moan escapes her mouth. She must be having a difficult dream.

He does not enter her mind to see what it is.

She must sense him because her fist wrings the blanket even tighter to her person.

Fear not. I only wanted to thank you, Sydney Barrett, he whispers into her head. She stirs but doesn't rouse, Your persistence is worthy of admiration. You have the will to act. And I do like that about you.

His eyes continue roving over their bedroom. The décor is an amalgamation of them both. Her minimalism and love of collections and his love of geometric figurines and cool toned colors. Small potted assorted breeds of cacti line up against the window.

"Hmph," he smirks beneath his breath when he sees the miniature cacti. They are nothing compared to the vegetation of the desert. He fixes his eyes back upon David and his woman. His shadow elongates his figure and it looms over their bodies like a spire.

David's woman scrunches even tighter beneath her blanket. He imagines if she tautens even more she'll shatter into pieces.

He speaks into her troubled head.

I believe you will unlock something for him. Something beautiful. And I would like to see what it is.