Chapter 1: The End
Do you remember that Tom Hanks movie? The one where he wakes up as a grown up after going to sleep as a thirteen-year-old boy?
The night before we left I had a dream like that.
I was walking along the boardwalk on my own.
All the lights were lit and flickering away on the rides and stalls, but it was silent, even my footsteps were muffled like I was walking through snow.
I got up to the fortune telling machine, but instead of Zoltar, there was an animatronic of the killer from that movie Darlene and I used to watch, wearing his Mr Money style mask.
I put my hand in my pocket and fish out a coin, pressing it into the slot before pulling the plunger, taking half a step back when it lights up and starts to move, eerie fairground music jangling broken toned from the speakers below it.
The mask has a smear of blood across one eyebrow, and it moves like a real person, not jerkily like you’d expect, it’s torso flails and writhes as the mechanisms grind away below..
There’s blood on the inside of the glass.
There’s blood on the tips of its white-gloved fingers.
There’s blood pooling around the edge of the mask and under its top coat.
I want to run but like all dreams, I’m trapped here, my feet as heavy and immovable as they would be encased in concrete and stood in a tar pit… So I watch.
Its jerky dance comes to an end, and with a grinding whirl and soft ping, a card is deposited into the dispenser.
I can’t feel my hands, my fingers are numb and shaking, and I drop the card as I fumble for it and crouch down to pick it up off the boardwalk.
It’s a tarot card.
Death rides a pale horse and swings his scythe with permanent accuracy.
There’s blood on my fingers.
There’s blood on the card.
I rise up to stand and Darlene’s in the box, the mask’s slipped to reveal her shocked face, her unseeing pearl-like eyes, her hair a matted mess of blood and dirt, and her mouth opens to reveal a mass of squirming bugs, and she screams, she’s screaming.
I shout myself awake, but Tyrell's already there, eyes wide with fear as he leans over me, his hands on my shoulders stopping me from thrashing about, the paleness of his skin makes me feel like his heart must be running almost as fast as mine.
“It’s ok…” He whispered shakily, taking a deep breath like he needs to steady himself.
“It’s ok… Just a dream… It’s ok….”
As the adrenaline rush falls, my chest tightens and I’m crying.
I know it’s more of an automatic response, a leftover from brain chemicals, a way for my body to release tension, but I still feel foolish.
He wraps me up in his arms and croons to me.
He tells me over and it was just a dream, but I remember how Darlene would tell me dreams are your heads way of working things out, of sifting through all the evidence and finding the answers t the questions you hadn't even asked yet.
I hope she was wrong.
“So.. How are you finding it? Being back here..”
Krista's smiling at me, and somehow her manners different, and I think it’s because she's talking to me on a level...Not like a child.
I’m not sure what to think about that.
“It’s fine… Weird… I forgot how fast everything is in the city.”
I give her a smile and she beams back.
I'm her sucess story, but really, th is is a courtesy call.
I need to refill my meds and I have to see her to do it.
“I hear Sweden’s beautiful… Dramatic…”
I nod, but honestly, I only saw the five-mile radius around the cabin. We didn’t go out much.
Tyrell and I, sequestered in our own bubble, I met exactly three other people while we were there, and they all worked in the storewe brought our groceries from.
We needed it I think, some time to gather, to lick our wounds and learn how to be ourselves again, to learn how to be...
Can I be honest?
I can always be honest with you, right?
Those few weeks were the happiest in my life.
I discovered a part of me I didn’t know existed. A part of me that liked to be outdoors, that liked to get up early and walk in the woods around the property. I liked to take early nights and drink spiced coffee, I liked open fires and just…. Being.
And I watched as Tyrell did the same.
I watched him slowly slip each piece of his old self away like a heavy armored structure, and with each bit that fell, he seemed to breath a little better, smile a little easier, I saw a funny, almost goofy side to him I hadn’t realized was there, and I loved him.
I loved him more.
I loved him still.
So why does it all feel so false now?
We debated moving back to his old house, but in the end, he decided to sell and split the proceeds with Joanna, seeing as she already had a base in Denmark and was letting an apartment when she was in the city.
I let him find us somewhere to rent, I don’t know why I didn’t want a say in it, but I’m kind of disappointed in myself that I didn’t.
He’s picked a place that’s all brick, steel, and glass, and it’s almost as if he wanted to move as far away from the cabin as he could, which set up a tiny squirm of discontent in my stomach.
I wondered if he’d found as much peace there as I did.
I wonder if he’s glad to be back.
Everywhere I put my desk makes me feel exposed.
In the end I arrange it in the corner of the spare bedroom, monitors facing the only wall.
Tyrell doesn’t like it.
He says it looks like a corner full of crap, that we have a perfectly good study I could set up in there.
“He does like to tell you what to do, right?”
It’s been nearly three months since I last saw Mr Robot.
Is it bad that I kind of missed him since coming back… I don’t want to say home.
I don’t feel like I’m coming home.
“Well… your shit on toast certainly landed the right way up huh?”
He looks the same, flicks off his cap and puts it on the couch next to him before fishing around in his jacket for his smokes.
“You can’t smoke in here.”
He laughs, that dry raspy crackle that always sounds like it might end in a cough, but never does.
He places the cigarette between his lips and lights it with a click, a soft inhale, and sighed exhale as he leaned back on the cushions.
“So this is it? After everything? You’re living in a penthouse apartment that looks like it came off the pages of ‘Corporate Asshole and Greed monthly’… center page mind you… So all those little guys down in the lower ranks can jerk off to it while they cry in front of their big screen TV’s… You’re living here on the money your boyfriend makes at Evil corp… And you’re ok with that?”
He has a way of making that niggle in the base of my brain grow alarmingly real.
“It’s not like that.”
“Oh really?... Well… enlighten me kiddo…”
I don’t know what to say.
I look around me at this place that isn’t mine, this place I don’t belong, and it feels like Tyrell came home and simply slipped straight back into that heavy suit he’d worked so hard to shrug off in Sweden.
At breakfast the other morning, I mentioned he’d lost his accent again, and he only laughed and shrugged.
“It’s hardly done to sound foreign when you’re acting CTO Elliot... If I want to be taken seriously I have to play the game… You know that.”
But I didn’t.
I don’t want him to play the game.
I want him to get excited over coffee syrup and tiny red birds that used to turn up at the feeder outside the cabins window.
I want that Tyrell.
And the more he starts to regress to what he was… So do I.
“Darlene said you were back.”
Angela sounds tinny on the phone, and in the background I can hear the woosh of traffic, like she’s in a town car with the window cracked a little.
“Yeah… About three weeks now.”
“You sound good.”
Her voice is clipped, and I feel bad about not calling her earlier.
I was scared though.
I never really said sorry to her for what I did.
For what he did.
“Thanks… You too…. Darlene said you had a new job.”
“Yeah… At Evilcorp, of all places… But you know what they said… About tents and pissing…”
She laughs a little, but it sounds hollow.
Why does everything sound so hollow since I came back?
“We should meet for lunch or something… Are you free tomorrow?”
“Yes… I can do that.”
What else am I going to do?
I’m not working yet, there’s no rush according to Tyrell, he’s got everything covered, but I don’t like the slightly claustrophobic feeling that comes with being kept.
“I’ll text you address, I’ll meet you there at one tomorrow… tunnel coming up… I’ll talk to you later Elliot… It’s good to…”
The call cuts out and for a while I just stand next to the couch and I try to ignore the way Mr Robot’s smiling at me.
“Are we going to be alright?”
We’re lying in the warm soft bed at the cabin, face to face under the thick blankets.
There’s a lamp on the bedside table that only throws out the softest of glows, and I like to lie with my back to it, I like the way it lights up his face.
His question is almost whispered, like he’s scared he might not like the answer, but I only nod.
“Of course… Why wouldn’t we be?”
He lifts a hand to press to my face, letting it lie warm and heavy on my cheek.
“What if it’s too different… What if what we have here isn’t the same when we go home.”
“Then we’ll make something better.”
He smiles at that, wide and genuine, eye’s crinkling in amusement.
“Something better… I like that… Could it be better than this though?”
I know what he means.
I know how this life that we’ve made for ourselves is little more than some elaborate rpg.
Elliot and Tyrell in the woods, living like its 1900 and pretending they’ll never need to deal with anyone ever again.
He presses his lips to mine and I think maybe he feels the same way that I do.
Scared for what the future brings.
Scared that we won’t survive the real world again.
I’ll lose myself in the taste of his mouth and the feel of his body against mine.
I’ll forget that there’s anything beyond these walls, I’ll pretend it's only miles and miles of snow jeweled forests, that only elk and birds will visit, that we’ll make it so we feed ourselves from the land around us like we’re in a fairytale.
I’ll listen to him pant he loves me over and over as if he can’t get enough of the way the words feel against his tongue, and I’ll slide my own against his to taste them too.
I’m never going to leave the forest.
I can’t sleep.
Tyrell sleeps deeply next to me on our new mattress in our new bed, in our apartment no one has ever lived in before, and the light from the buildings around us throw harsh shadows over everything.
His back's to me, and when I turn on my side to face him, I can only see the back of his head.
I want to slip my fingers through the long hairs at the back of his neck, but he had them all neatly cut off when we came back.
He’s sleek and shaved and it’s like sleeping next to a mannequin.
The tip of his cigarette glows a moment as he takes a drag from where he’s sat in the shadowy part of the bedroom.
“You left him behind in your dream… He doesn’t exist here.”
For the moment, I ignore him.
I shift up closer to Tyrell and press my nose to the back of his shoulder.
He smells like good cologne, and my chest aches a little as I wish he still smelled like woodsmoke and pine.
Chapter 2: Facade
The city in early fall is an eclectic beast that wants to charm you with the idea of golden leaves and frosty air, hands wrapped around paper cups of pumpkin spice lattes, but only gives you the kind of chill from persistent drizzle that pierces your bones and burrows into your marrow.
Angela looks different.
At first I think it’s her hair.
She’s lightened it from her usual honey blonde to something just this side of platinum, styled it a little differently.
Or maybe her clothes.
She always looked smart, but now she looks… Polished.
Buffed and primed like a show pony.
Is this what working for Evil Corp does to you?
Do you walk through the doors and find the rough edges filed away, little pieces of yourself left in the foyer to be cleared up by janitorial staff that work quick and quiet and never look you in the eye?
How much of herself did she leave there?
How much has Tyrell?
The places she’s picked for lunch is making me uncomfortable.
Too much glass, too much light, the menu says things like gooseberry smear, and watercress mousse... and I’m very underdressed.
“You look good… Refreshed… Maybe that’s all you needed… A vacation.”
She’s smiling at me indulgently, and I wonder if she’s just talking to fill the silence or if she’s honestly stupid enough to think my problems were only caused by my lack of me time.
I give her the benefit of the doubt and presume it's the former.
When our food comes I look down at my plate for a full minute wondering if someone forgot to actually put food on it.
These places are less somewhere to nourish yourself and more like renting a table with some sauce on a dish you pretend to eat while you network and drink instead.
A place for all functioning lunchtime alcoholics to converge and do their thing.
Angelas glass is nearly empty.
My blurted apology makes her startle and look up.
“... About… Your birthday, before I left… “
“And for not getting in touch… I should have, it was shitty of me not to.”
“Elliot… It’s ok…”
“Will you stop!”
She’s half laughing, but there’s a tone in her voice that’s warning me to quit.
“You already apologized before you left. Anyway… I know that wasn’t you in the club.”
She shrugs one slender shoulder up as she scrapes her fork across a red drizzle and some rocket leaves.
I didn’t apologize.
I know I didn’t.
I spent most of my time in Sweden letting that realization churn away poisonously in my gut… So…
“It’s all water under the bridge.”
I’ll nod, it seems the safest thing to do.
Silence broken only by the teeth jarring metallic scrape of her fork on china.
You know that feeling when you realize you asked the wrong question?
Angela sits up straight, picking up her glass and draining two thirds of it before delicately dabbing ather mouth with her napkin.
“I’m no longer living with Ollie.”
“Oh… I’m sorry?”
I probably shouldn’t have phrased that like a question.
She waves a hand at me like she’s shooing the idea of him away.
“We wanted different things in the end… It’s better this way… And I got an apartment through work so… moving up in the world.”
Her smile’s as hard and false as this restaurants facade.
I wish I knew what to say, how to act.
How to be her friend.
Do you recognize me like this?
The last time I wore a suit I was eight years old.
Tyrell took me to get fitted, he doesn’t do off the rack, and besides, he said we wouldn't find one that fit otherwise.
I couldn’t be more uncomfortable if he'd made me wear a latex leotard, but here I am, stood in this room full of people I don’t know while young men in aprons and bowties hand out drinks on platters and old men with tumblers of scotch bray like donkeys at jokes that aren’t funny.
“You have to be there… Everyone is taking their partners and.. It will look bad if you don’t go…”
He worked on my tie as he spoke, clicking his tongue in annoyance before moving behind me to tie it that way, watching us both in the mirror as his hands worked.
“Besides… I want to show you off… The man that dragged me away from my work for nearly three months..”
He chuckled as he kissed the side of my head, and when he moved away, Mr Robot's left in his place.
He doesn’t say a word, just stared at my reflection like it’s the most disappointing thing he’s ever seen, then slowly shook his head.
I should know who this is, but my mind’s blank.
I’m halfway through sipping my drink so only manage a startled nod as I swallow.
He waits a moment, as though giving me the opportunity to not embarrass myself, and by extension, Tyrell, then smiles, shark like, all teeth and hard eyed.
“Phillip Price… I’m something of a big deal around here..”
He leans in conspiratorially as he speaks, then laughs as he straightens up, not waiting for me to get the joke.
“Mr Price! Can I introduce Elliot Alderson…”
Tyrells at my side, and for the first time, I notice how dead his own smile is, I feel how his fingers dig into my shoulder as he rests a hand there, and I feel like I’m being presented.
“We’ve already met.”
He doesn’t take his eyes off me, and his gaze is as piercing as Darlenes.
I wonder if he can see through me enough to catch a glimpse of Mr Robot just a hair's breadth away, and I feel naked under his stare.
“Oh! I see I'm just a little too late then!”
Tyrells laugh is achingly awkward.
“Well it wouldn’t do to break the habit of a lifetime Tyrell…”
I feel his fingers tighten painfully on my shoulder at Prices put down,and suddenly I have to move...
I’m not sure if I actually spoke, but if I did, it was quiet enough that I could hardly hear myself, and I pulled away from Tyrell and walked as fast as I could through the crowd heading for the bathroom.
Although I’m taking great gasping breaths, none of it seems to be getting as far as my lungs.
With one hand on the sink, I tear at my tie, dragging it down hard and over tightening the knot as it gets halfway.
I can’t do this.
The heat of the room, the cloying smell of 300 hundred different colognes, the ghost of cigar smoke that seems to be embedded in the wooden panels of the room, perhaps from a time before it wasn’t frowned on to smoke indoors.
This whole place is like a resting place for the one percent and I...
Tyrells stood behind me, and for just a moment, I think he’s going to hug me, to tell me that it’s ok, we can go, but instead his face sets hard.
He’s angry, and it takes me a moment to realize he’s angry with me.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
I stare at him.
“You’re embarrassing me…”
“You’re making me look like a fool in front of Phillip Price!”
He spits his name out like there’s a sour taste in his mouth, but rolls it again, telling himself Price is a delicate acquired taste only the privileged are allowed to sample.
“Are you… Are you kidding me?”
“Do I look like I’m kidding?”
His voice takes on a shrill pitch, although he lowers it to a near whisper.
“Pull yourself together, fix your tie and get back out there.”
It’s only when he’s left the bathroom that my shock dissipates enough for that lead weight in my stomach to grow heavier, colder.
I’m not even angry.
Not yet at least.
For exactly ten seconds I think about doing what he says, then I pull myself together, like he asked, take my tie off, dumping it in the sink, then leave the bathroom, turning right instead of left, and heading to the elevator.
“Why aren’t you leaving?”
Mr Robot paces around the living space, waving his hands angrily while I sit on the couch staring out the window at the lights across the street.
He softens his voice, stopping to crouch in front of me, forcing me to acknowledge him.
“This… isn’t what you want...Look… I know we’ve had our… differences in the past, but I’ve always had your best interests at heart, you can see that right?... So sure, you had some fun with this guy in the land of meatballs and weird candy… But there’s a reason I tried to warn you off him… And this is it… He might be all fun and frolics sometimes, but that’s not him...Not really. The Tyrell you saw tonight? The ass kissing, bratty demanding asshole? THAT’S Tyrell.”
My voice is the softest of whispers.
“You know I’m not.”
He sighs, moving to sit next to me, rubbing his hand along his face slowly
The lights blur behind the tears I’m working hard on keeping at bay.
“How long you gonna pretend I’m not right?”
I press my lips together hard enough that they start to go numb, and when the apartment door opens I jump.
When I turn to look at Tyrell I see a flicker of alarm on his face, then relief, then anger clouds his features again, his hands fisted at his sides.
“Where the hell did you go?”
I stand up but don’t go to him.
“I had to get out of there… I didn’t feel well.”
For a second he doesn't say anything, just stares at me, then Tyrell picks up a coffee cup and throws it hard against the wall, making me stumble back in alarm.
“When someone postures like that, he’s really telling you he wants to hit you… “
Mr Robots voice is soft against my ear.
“Are you kidding me right now? You KNEW how important this was to me! All you had to do was sip wine and laugh at Prices stupid fucking jokes…. And instead you go running to the bathroom like a child and…”
“I’M NOT YOUR WIFE!”
His eyes widen in surprise when I shout, and I realize he’s probably never heard me raise my voice that much.
“I’m not Joanna… I’m not going to play the game… I don’t WANT to play the game…”
Tyrells face is the colour of fresh bruising, and he’s on me faster than I anticipated, pressing me up against the floor to ceiling window.
I wonder if it might break.
It’s unlikely… but still, that monkey part of my brain is panicking a little at the notion.
“Don’t talk about her.”
“Don’t expect me to step into her fucking shoes…”
There’s a moment where I think he might break, that he might draw back his fist in anger and knock me down, that he might close his hands on my throat and choke me… But he just stares, breathing hard through his nose a moment before pushing away from me with a snort of disgust, leaving me off balance and half bent over.
As he stalks out of the living room and into the bedroom, slamming the door behind, I feel the steady reassurance of Mr Robots hands on my shoulders, his voice softly paternal.
“Better take the couch tonight kiddo.”
Chapter 3: Silence
Is this how it happens?
Is this how it ends?
What an anticlimax.
I don’t go.
Not now at least.
I wake when I hear the shower turn on, and for a moment, I lay still and quiet on the couch, listening to the tiny sounds of him getting ready for the day.
It’s at once peaceful and familiar, and kind of terrifying how normal it all is.
When the shower stops, I get up off the couch and run my hands slowly through my hair, like I can reset everything, physically move my brain back a few days.
A few weeks.
A few months.
Then I get up and go make coffee.
Tyrell looks different.
He looks like someone took a cloth to him and polished him to a high sheen.
I thought he was groomed before, but now he looks almost like a caricature of the young businessman, suit sharp, tie expensive, hair put in place like it didn’t dare let one strand fall across his brow, cheeks shaved so tight it made me wonder if he’d ever had stubble in his life.
He takes the coffee and sips at it while he flicks the tv on to the news.
I make eggs.
We’re not talking about last night.
We’re not talking about anything.
I should be mad. I should be in his face and demanding an explanation for his behaviour, telling him I’m gonna leave, telling him I deserve better… But I’m plating up his eggs and putting them on the counter in front of him and he gives a soft grunt of thanks.
Who is Tyrell?
And how many times do I need to ask that question…
“I feel like I’m four different people.”
He confessed this to me while sitting out on the porch of the cabin, the late spring sun throwing dappled shade across the grass, peppered with wildflowers so tiny and delicate it was like someone had painted them on glass and lay them on the lawn.
Perhaps I can understand that confession better than most, but I’m not sure he and I are the same in that respect.
“How do you mean?”
He sighed deeply, and for a moment I thought he might drop it, his tendency to grow more introspective the closer it got to us leaving was making him clam up on a lot of subjects lately.
“I don’t know… I feel like, There was me before all this, then there was me with Joanna… and me with you… And maybe there’s another me as well… The real me.”
“You’re not real with me?”
I don’t try and keep the hurt out of my voice and he notices, reaching across to take my hand.
“No.. No, Elliot… That’s not what I meant… I feel like maybe there’s someone better, that you’ll bring that out of me eventually… I want to be my best for you…”
And that’s it friend.
How can I turn my back on someone who said things like that to me, who wanted nothing more than to be the best they ever could for me.
How can I turn my back on someone who whispered their darkest fears and wildest dreams to me under the covers in the small hours of the morning.
How can I turn my back on someone who made it their mission to save me.
“Isn’t that how it always works?... They make you dependant on them and then… So long kiddo! The honeymoon’s over!”
I ignore him, but he’s got the kind of voice that buzzes annoyingly around your ear like the mosquito you can’t see.
I watch Tyrell as he eats his eggs, his eyes fixed on the TV as the anchor runs through the business news.
This isn’t my Tyrell.
My Tyrell woke up to birdsong and rain pattering on the tin roof of the cabin.
My Tyrell woke me up with coffee and kisses.
My Tyrell didn’t care what other people thought about him, he only cared about us.
So what happened?
It’s like the plane flew across the ocean and I left him standing at the Gate in Sweden.
Perhaps he’s still there.
Perhaps he misses me.
“Pretty fancy place…”
Darlene moves around the living room with the slow, careful deliberation she reserves for things she considers possibly worthy of ridicule but she probably won’t say anything out loud unless it’s clever.
She’s a lot like Angela in that respect.
She cares too much about what people think, even if she comes at it from another angle. She wants everyone to know how dissatisfied she is with everything, she doesn’t want to look like she cares.
“So… Rich executive boyfriend and brand new executive apartment… So why do you look like someone kicked your puppy… Who is fine by the way… Thanks for letting Cisco keep her… He’s fallen madly in love with the little shit machine…”
It wasn’t hard to say yes… Tyrell didn’t want a dog in the apartment.
I maybe should have paid more attention to that .
“I’m just kind of tired still…”
“Like jet lagged? After nearly a month? O-k…”
She raises one eyebrow in question, but doesn’t push me for more.
“This place got a balcony?”
The balcony’s small, not big enough for furniture, but we can both sit out on it, and with the door closed we can smoke without setting off any alarms.
It’s cold this high up, but better than going all the way down to the street to grab a cigarette.
“To be honest, I’m not sure where this thing with Cisco’s going… I mean he’s cool and everything, I guess… But he’s always asking for more… LIke, he’s bugging me to move in with him properly, give up my apartment because I stay over at his all the time…. But to be honest, I stay there more often because it's easier than catching the train back downtown you know?”
I nod along as she speaks, but sometimes it’s hard not to glance over at her and remember my dream, remember the bugs crawling out of her mouth, remember her screaming…
“Hello? Are you even listening?”
I take a long pull on my smoke so it hides the fact I needed to take a deep breath to steady myself, then I exhale slowly.
“He loves you?”
“God yes… It’s so annoying…”
“Do you love him?”
Her expression shifts a little, and for the first time, I see something soft there, like my question peeled back a new layer.
“I don’t know…. Which… I guess means no… I mean, if you love someone, you know you do, right?”
I nod again.
Yeah that’s the way it works.
“Anyway… Enough about that…”
She shakes herself off like a dog, wiggling her fingers so that ash falls unnoticed by her onto her shoe.
“Whats the deal with you?... You like, gonna be this kept man now? Gonna play house and clean up and cook meals and shit?”
My answers firm.
I didn’t realize I already had the answer to that question.
Tyrell kept telling me I didn’t need to work, that I could just work on personal projects if I wanted, but the idea suddenly feels me with unease.
“I’m gonna get a job.”
“Really? Well, your life… But if I had a rich boyfriend and a super fancy home, You wouldn’t catch me getting back on the job carousel that's for sure…”
We’re eating in.
Tyrell used to do all the cooking at the cabin, but since we’ve got back he’s stopped, and we’ve either got take out or gone out to eat.
Tonight though, I cooked.
He walks into the kitchen with a mixed expression of wary sheepishness and curiosity.
“Yeah… Just pasta… Starting easy…”
And there it is, the smile I thought he’d left behind, the one that’s almost goofy, but wide and genuine.
He takes off his jacket and comes over to me, pulling me into a hug, and although we’re both hesitant, I hug him back.
“You constantly surprise me Elliot… I don’t deserve you.”
“No… He doesn’t..”
No, no, no… I don’t need him here…. I can handle this.
I purposely ignore the fact that Mr Robot is leaning against the counter a few feet away, stirring a spoon through my sauce casually, and lifting it to taste.
I hug Tyrell harder and he does the same.
“Tyrell… Last night…”
“Let’s not talk about it… ok?”
He pulls back as he speaks, and his smile shifts just slightly, a little falser.
“I can’t wait to taste all this, smells so good... “
He kisses my cheek then plucks his jacket up from the stool he’d draped it over, heading back to the bedroom to hang it up.
Mr Robot follows his progress then turns his head to look at me, raising his hands in surrender to the whole thing, and by the time I look at him again, he’s gone, and a part of me wishes he’d stayed.
I feel like I need someone on my side.
“I’m gonna start looking for a job…”
Tyrell glances across the table at me, pausing mid-chew before carrying on.
“You don’t have to do that… Money’s not a problem.”
“I know… But… I wanna do something… I wanna work…”
Here’s the rub friend.
If I were his wife, this would be about the time he talked about kids… A way to keep me in the house, to keep me beholden to him.
“Well… I’m sure we can find you something to do… Have you thought about calling Giedion?”
I’m not going back to Allsafe.
I don’t want to feel like I’m stepping back into my old life.
This is what Tyrell has done.
They asked him to come back and he did, because it’s safe.
“I think I’ll look around first… Find something more challenging…”
“Well… Ok… Good for you…”
He smiles, but it’s indulgent and for the first time, I hate him a little bit..
I don’t sleep on the couch, but I may just as well have.
We didn’t talk about last night.
Maybe I should have pushed it, but I was tired I didn’t want to fight.
Only, it feels like we fought and no one told me.
He’s sleeping deeply next to me while I stare at the ceiling.
“What are you doing?”
I don’t know… What AM I doing?
“Is this how you want things to be? Because you had a few fun weeks together, you’re gonna devote yourself to this asshole who belittles you and berates you, who wants to control what you do and doesn’t want you to earn your own money?.... You ever even watch a damn lifetime movie before? Next he’ll get you to stop talking to Darlene… To Angela... He'll isolate you..."
I listen to him rant away, letting him fade into the background.
He’s right of course.
This whole thing has a 'this is how abusive relationships start ' feel to it, and maybe I’m just that dumb person who willfully ignores all the signs… But no… I’m not that person… My eyes are open.
I’m watching him.
Why didn’t I think of that before?
Quietly I get up and grab my phone, heading into the living room so I don’t wake him.
Mr Robot’s waiting for me on thecouch, and I sit next to him while he watches me tap out a text.
Elliot to Angela
Can we meet up tomorrow?
I have a favor to ask
“What are you doing?”
He squints at the screen then smiles slowly.
“Clever… Clever… He’s going to be so pissed about this…”
I know he is.
But I’m willing to take that chance.
Chapter 4: Useful
(Kiss me like you miss me) Come on
(Hold me like you can't let go) Oh baby
(Like you can't live without me) c'mon babe
(Show me while were dancin' slow) dancin' slow
(Kiss me like you miss me)
The radio in the cabin only picks up the local commercial station that has nothing on its playlist from after 2003 or so.
I’ve gotten used to closing my eyes and kissing Tyrell with a nearly noughties soundtrack in the background… Makes me feel like I’m in a movie with Keanu Reeves or something.
Makes me feel like a kid again.
We’re all grinning kisses and grabbing hands, like a couple of teenagers making the most of having the house to themselves.
We have nothing to do but be with each other.
No other interests.
He lays over me, his hand reaching between us at the same time mine does, and we’re chuckling into each press of our lips, each gentle nip, and of course we lose those smiles the moment that pants are unbuttoned and eager hands seek out warm flesh, and then we’re all panted hot breaths and sighs, and still the music plays on, and like the movies… We’ll gradually fade to black.
I wait until Tyrell leaves for Denmark before meeting Angela again.
She’s done as I asked, even though she was hesitant.
“Are you sure? I mean… This isn’t you…”
“I can do it, you’re my best friend, after all, I’m not going to say no to you but… I don’t want you to feel like you’ve made a huge mistake after…”
“No… I’m ready.”
She sighs softly, leaning forwards to pushback my hood, unzipping it all the way down before helping me out of it… And my hearts going like an express train as she leans in to kiss my cheek.
“It’s ok… You’ll be fine.”
She leans back then adjusts my tie before smiling at me.
“Go on… I’ll be waiting for you when you come out.”
I try and smile back but I’m pretty sure I only grimace, then turn away from her and head through the tech department door for my interview.
Angela pulled some strings, set it up for me, acted as my main character reference… All I have to do is not blow the actual interview.
“You must be very excited!”
Krista smiles wide at me from across the room, waiting for me to look like I might actually be excited .
“This is your first real job since Allsafe, right?”
I nod, then throw her a sort of smile.
“So… You’ll be working in the same building as your friend… Angela?”
“Yes... Different departments but… We’ll see each other.”
“... And in the same department as Mr Wellick.”
And there goes the knot in my stomach, tightening hard.
“He’s actually acting CTO… So, technically he’s my boss…”
Only, he doesn’t know this yet.
“Do you envisage any problems with that?”
How easily the lies pour from my lips sometimes.
When they do, I can’t help but wonder if Mr Robot's here at the same time, that he’s talking through me while I’m still here .
“No, we have a very stable relationship… It will be nice to see more of him…”
Tyrells not back for another three days.
We message back and forth a little, he tells me he misses me, but I’m not sure how genuine it is.
No… maybe it’s genuine.
He sounds softer on the phone when he calls, like I’m talking to my Tyrell, the one who didn’t get on the plane.
I wonder if he would still be there if I went to him, or would me turning up just remind him of here, make him revert again.
“I got a job.”
“You did!? That’s great! What is it?”
“Pretty much the same I did at Allsafe… should be easy.”
“So who’s it with? Do I know them?”
Mr Robots at my shoulder, bent down to listen.
“Tell him who you work for..”
“Um… It’s with Ecorp.”
For a moment I wonder if we’ve been cut off.
He knows the answer to this, how can he not?
This time the silence stretches longer, and I feel Mr Robots breath against my cheek as he strains to hear as well.
“Well… Elliott… You can’t do that.”
Tyrells voice is clipped and careful, like a parent getting ready to explain that they’re not angry, only very, very disappointed.
“I already did… I started yesterday.”
“So… take it back! Quit!”
This time I feel Mr Robot hold his breath, I get the distinct feeling it’s like watching some trashy soap opera to him, he’s all wide-eyed fascination.
“How do you think it looks for the acting CTO to have his partner working one up from the guy who scrubs the damn toilets…. Do you have any idea how that makes me lo..”
I cut him off as efficiently as a knife through a phone cord, I’m sure I hear the snap of his mouth shutting, teeth against teeth.
“Do you have any idea how you sound Tyrell?”
My voice is calm, but inside I’m shaking, or maybe it’s the vibrating I can feel from Mr Robot all but bouncing up and down in his seat.
“You pompous, arrogant, stuck-up asshole… How dare you put down my work… How dare you try and make me fit some shitty mold you made to try and impress all the other simpering, ass-licking fake bastards you work with… And as you pointed out… many, many times…. You’re ONLY acting CTO… Stop talking to me like you’re hot shit, cus you’re not..”
I hang up before he can say anything, and as I press a shaking had to my face I feel Mr Robot leap up, hollering in delight.
“Oh man! Oh shit! You really did it now!... Oh Christ in a sidecar… That’s one bear well and truly poked!”
His arms are around my shoulders, shaking me back and forth in a parody of a victory hug.
He stops when my phone rings.
Tyrells name flashes up, and I swipe to ignore before turning my phone off, but not before calling Angela.
“Thanks for letting me stay.”
Angela's place is starker than mine, wasn’t sure that was possible, but she smiles when I drag my things in.
“Don’t be silly… Of course I’m going to let you stay… Stay as long as you need.”
I know she doesn’t really mean that… No one does, it’s just the polite thing to say.
She’ll expect me to be gone in ten days or less, any more than that and I’ll start to be a nuisance.
I left my monitors at Tyrells place and packed the hard drives in cases, I’ve only brought a few clothes.
Maybe I don’t plan on staying long.
Maybe I plan on starting over.
Either way, I’ve traveled light.
“Tyrell called me… Asked me if I knew where you were.”
Her tone’s casual. I can feel her looking at me as I plug in my laptop.
“I told him I’d let you know he was trying to get hold of you when I saw you at work.”
She smiles as I look up.
“Do you want something to eat… I was just about to order in.”
We’re sat on her couch watching the movies I bought her for her birthday.
She hadn’t opened them.
I’m not sure what that says.
Maybe that she wanted the right moment and that moment was now, with me.
“I kind of like the third movie the best.”
She admits this almost cautiously, because she knows I’m going to disagree, but I’ll give her that… I’m staying in her apartment after all.
Truth be told… I kind of like that one too.
Don’t tell anyone.
I decide not to turn my phone back on and just head into work with Angela the next day.
She takes a town car, and it’s kind of nice to not use the subway for a change.
How the higher page bracket live...
Bob’s my manager.
He’s overweight, but I'm not sure if that's why he sweats so much.
He relies on the rest of us to walk him through the basics of security systems, but I like the fact he leaves us alone.
It’s not so different from Allsafe, the cafeterias better.
Walk with me friend.
We’ll bypass the gym this time, my clearance takes me all the way up to the twenty-fifth floor, me and Bob and two others working on the main server.
We could be anywhere.
There’s a feeling of familiarity I always get when working with the bones of computing systems.
Like when you walk into a McDonalds in a new town… It’s just a little bit different, the layout of the restaurant, the staff, but you'll look up at that menu and it all makes sense again, it’s all laid out just as it should be.
Three days in and they’ve learned I’m not going to chat about anything but work, I like that.
I feel appreciated.
I feel useful.
I shut the door on Mr Robot.
Give me this.
Give me a job, something to occupy my brain again.
Don’t preach to me about ethics and morals, are they any worse than any other company really?
Ok, maybe a little, but it’s all part of the same machine, and right now, I don’t have the energy to go on some great crusade.
Just let me be.
I catch sight of him walking down the fourth-floor hall through the glass wall.
I don’t think he saw me.
Ok, he saw me, he looked right at me and his expression didn’t change once.
One part of me’s relieved that he didn’t come over, the other part?
Not so happy.
“You gotta talk to him at some stage…”
Angela’s walking slowly down the street with me as we eat our lunch on the way back to the office.
“I know but… It’s complicated.”
She rolls her eyes and suddenly she’s thirteen again, all elbows and knees and teeth, rolling her eyes so hard you can almost hear them rattle in her skull.
“Jesus Elliot you’re so dramatic… Just… Talk to him…”
I like her like this, annoying and bossy.
I like the sameness of it.
“I’ll call him tonight.”
It’s a lie, but not a very big one.
We ride the elevator up to her floor before parting ways, then the door closes leaving me alone for another floor before the doors slide open, and I’m face to face with Tyrell.
I can’t tell if he’s surprised to see me, but he steps in smartly just before the doors close leaving us almost nose to nose.
For a moment we just stare at each other, then he moves quick enough to make me flinch, because for just a second I think he’s going to hit me, but instead, he puts his hands to my face, pressing me back hard against the elevator wall, and kisses me.
I should pull back.
I should pull back and tell him he can’t just walk up to me and make everything alright with a kiss.
But his mouth presses hard to mine, and his lips part, and I can taste the desperation on his tongue, and at this point, I’m sure he can taste it on mine.
He pulls back the second the elevator stops, running both hands through his hair, his gaze fixed to mine, lips parted as if he wants to say something, then as the doors open, he leaves, and when they close again, I’m still leaning against the back wall, and only start to breathe again once the doors are shut.
Chapter 5: Assertive
I’m not sure what’s going on.
I’m not sure the way I’m reacting could be considered the correct way.
I’m only sure that I like it.
It's been three weeks and we still haven’t talked.
I don’t mean that we haven't talked about the important stuff, I mean we haven’t talked at ALL.
Twice more we’ve kissed in empty elevators, another time we ran into each other in a service stairwell and he pushed me back against the wall so hard I ended up with bruises along the bony parts of my shoulder blades.
He kisses me like he hates me, and I’m right there with him, my own teeth careless against his lips that we just push into each other like neither one of us wants to be the one to draw back and say… Enough… This is crazy.
Last time, I found myself working in the server room and he came in a few minutes after, locking the door behind him.
This is it, I thought, Now we’re gonna talk, he’s gonna apologize for being an ass, I’ll apologize for walking out. We’ll thrash this out like rational adults.
I don’t need to tell you that’s not what happened right?
He kissed me for a minute, maybe two, then spun me around so my hands were pressed against the cooling unit his own hands going over the top of mine, his mouth pressed to the back of my neck as he slowly started to rub his hard-on against me.
I don’t move.
The fan inside the unit vibrates under my hands, but it’s not loud enough to hide the way his breath pants against the back of my ear, and I lean into his grinding, giving him something to rut against.
It’s childish and obscene and primal, and when he lets go of my hands I keep them pressed to the metal unit while I feel him fumble with his fly.
For a moment I think he’ll start at mine, that his hand will sneak around and pull at my pants to work them down my hips, but instead I feel him yank my shirt out of my waistband, pushing it up towards my shoulders, his other hand stroking himself fast until he comes across my exposed skin, exhaling hard against my neck after.
My fingers press hard against the unit.
His breath ragged against my skin.
My lip clamped between my teeth.
His hands…. His hands….
They slide slowly up my sides, then he’s moved back quickly, like he’s just remembered we’re not doing that.
We’re not touching like that.
I hear him straighten himself up, the rustle of his shirt, the zipper being tugged home, the soft jingle of his belt buckle, then he pulls my shirt back down carelessly shoving it back into my pants so that I feel his mess stick against the cotton, then he’s gone.
And I’m hard.
I moved out of Angela's place last week.
She said I could stay but, I was already five days past my two-week self-imposed limit, so I moved my stuff into a low rent hotel a couple of blocks away from the nearest subway station.
It's nothing special, but it’s clean, and the working girls are discrete and friendly when I pass them in the hall.
It's in this hotel bed I lay while thinking about him.
I think about what we’re doing… No… What he’s doing… He always instigates.
I think about the fact that he’s trying to humiliate me, that he’s angry enough to try and make me feel like shit, because I know that’s how he felt.
No… hear me out.
I’m not blameless friend.
I know what buttons to press.
I know his insecurities, the frayed thread his ego hangs by, and I tugged it hard and left him on the floor picking up the shattered pieces of his confidence.
Don’t misunderstand me.
He’s an asshole, and sometimes… Yes… I hate him.
But it’s a complicated emotion.
Like the song goes, There’s a thin line between love and hate.
It IS a little humiliating… After the server room incident, I had to make my way to the nearest bathroom and scrub cum off my shirt with hand soap at the sink… But every time I thought about it I found myself getting hard.
I’ll lay on this bed and listen to the sounds of people talking and laughing in the next room.
In a while, they’ll fuck, but it’s white noise to me.
I’ll lay in this bed and slowly palm across the front of my shorts.
I’ll lay in this bed and close my eyes and think about what it would have been like if instead of coming across my back, he’d dragged my pants down as well, worked his hand across my cock, stroking me hard as he slowly worked his way inside me.
What if instead he’d put one arm around my throat, the other around my waist, what if he’d fucked me hard against the cooling unit and come inside me with a strangled grunt, then finished me off until I came as well, a throbbing sticky mess in his hand.
I’m already halfway there, one hand stroking hard, the other covering my eyes as though I don’t want to see, but I’m coming hard, and even as I whine into a fractured moan, I wish he was here.
I wish he was here.
“Maybe you need to consider taking affirmative action.”
Krista's disappointed in me.
I told her I broke up with Tyrell.
I think she has a kind of professional crush on him, the man who saved my life, the man who made me sane.
Temporarily at least.
I haven’t told her about our trysts.
I’ve simply said we fought, we’re working in the same building, we don’t talk.
None of it’s a lie, it’s all perfectly true.
I’m just omitting some of the side points.
“Well… Like taking the lead, being the one who makes that stand… If nothing else, you still have things at his house, you need to be speaking to arrange to pick them up even if you don’t want to go back.”
Do I want to go back?
“Do you want to go back?”
I stare at her.
“I don’t know.”
I honestly don’t.
I can’t see how we can slip back into being a couple again.
What we expect from each other seem to be beyond our respective grasps.
I suppose I can do that.
A little before lunch I head up to his office.
It’s hardly a chore to access his PA’s email and his diary, I’m not even going to say I hacked her, it’s too simple, so I knew he was free, I just had to catch him before he left for lunch.
As I reached his floor I paused to insert a diary entry, making out I have an appointment with him.
I waited until now so she didn’t point it out to him, but when I arrive at her desk and say I’m here for my meeting, she looks flustered and confused that she’d missed it.
I tell her not to worry. I’d talked to Mr Wellick this morning on the phone, he’s expecting me… No need to see me in, and she’s all relieved smiles as she gets her purse and heads off to lunch.
I wait outside his door until I hear him moving towards it and when he opens it, his expression is one of genuine surprise, and as I push him back inside his eyes widen further.
This time it’s me that grabs him, turning him so that his back is against the now closed door, pressing up to kiss him hard, his mouth still only a moment before he’s kissing me back, his breath stuttering again as I reach down to grasp him through his pants.
I walked in here without a plan, honestly, getting in the office was as far as I’d got, but now I’m sinking to my knees, pulling roughly at his belt and dragging his pants down just enough so I can take hold of his cock, squeezing it gently before stroking him with long firm movements.
I watch his eyes as I do.
I watch the way his mouth turns soft, lips parted as he pants with shallow breaths.
I watch as I strip that last bit of haughty arrogance from his face, and when he’s rock hard against my palm, I finally move my gaze off his and run my tongue slowly up his length.
He moans, and as I take him in my mouth his hands move to my head, his fingers raking gently across my scalp as I work my mouth along him, closing my eyes and inhaling slowly, flicking my tongue along the ridge between shaft and tip in that way I know he loves.
He might be ridged in my mouth, but the rest of him is soft, like every ounce of anger was slowly seeping out of him, the urgency of the last couple of weeks, the way he grabbed and pushed and grew selfish in his need to make me feel bad, and try and make himself feel better.
But he hadn’t.
I didn’t even need to speak to him to know he felt like shit.
His grip tightened in my hair as he started to come, half bent over me as he whined into each huffed breath, then slowly straightened to lean back against the door.
I swallowed, then slowly, deliberately, ran my tongue along him, mouthing softly across the head until he shuddered, then I sat back on my heels, wiping my wrist across my lips as I looked up at him, then said,
“We should talk…”
Chapter 6: Blink
Sometimes I blink and find myself standing outside my old apartment.
I don’t know how I got here.
Sometimes, it takes me a few minutes to even remember what day it is.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“So… I’m seeing someone…”
Darlene gives me that sideways glance she uses when she wants to check how I respond so she can get in there quickly with a cutting response, but I only nod, taking a sip of my iced coffee through the straw as we sit in the Ron’s two blocks away from my building.
This is the bit where I’m meant to say….
“Yeah? Do I know him?”
“Her… Actually… And no, no one you know, I kind of met her at a bar and we got talking…”
“Ok.. So… Tell me all about her…”
I like this.
I like sitting here in this moderately quiet coffee shop letting my sister tell me about her new date.
I like the way it makes me feel grounded, like she’s pulled me out of my own head for a few minutes and let me peek into hers.
For once, the inside of her own brain is full of hope and excitement.
“Ok… So… She’s pretty... Obviously… Long red hair… Kind of awkward, not YOU awkward, but still... It’s cute… Um... Her name’s Dominique, but everyone calls her Dom… aaand… She works for the FBI”
Darlene mumbled the last part in the hope I wouldn’t quite catch it, but I did.
“For real? I mean, when you say works for the FBI do you mean….”
“Yeah… ok! She’s an agent…”
She’s smiling though, and I can’t help but smile back.
“Your dating an FBI agent…”
“So… No blazing up in front of her then…”
“Not… Just yet… baby steps…”
She laughs, and I suddenly realize I haven’t heard her laugh so openly for a long time, maybe even years.
“Does this mean you’re about to become a respectable law abiding citizen?”
“GOD no!...I’ll have to drag her down to my level… It's the only way.”
Tyrell’s avoided me the last few days.
Perhaps he needs time to think.
To think about what he wants, how he wants us to be, if he wants us to be anything.
On the surface we should fight for each other, I know we should, but under it all, I wonder if we’re too fucked up to move on from this.
I should be sad.
Why am I simply… Accepting?
“Has he hit you yet?”
I startle, and find myself stood in front of Tyrells old house, Joanna next to me and looking up at the building as well.
How long have I been here?
How long have I been talking to her.
“Hm… It’s only a matter of time… I know he likes to put on his little lost boy act, but under it all, he has a brutish streak.”
I hadn’t actually answered her, but she spoke like I had.
“I had a lot of things tied in with Tyrell you see… Finances, the house… and our baby… It wasn’t so easy for me to walk away, even when he got physical with me.”
I turn to look at her now, and her face is all large hurt eyes and soft mouth.
She looks like someone had Disney draw her for their next movie, only right now, I’m not sure if she’s the princess or the villain.
For the first time ever… I don’t know which of them to trust.
It was so simple before.
Joanna was the bad guy, the schemer, the petty one with a vindictive streak a mile wide, who wanted what she wanted and wanted it now….
But was Tyrell really so different?
I’d thought so, but maybe I was wrong.
Maybe he simply uses the act he thinks I’d swallow the easiest.
Maybe he was always the one who knew what buttons to push.
“I have to go…”
She smiles at me, softly, almost maternally. It’s an Angela smile that doesn’t fit quite right under her hawk-like gaze, and I leave her still standing outside the house, andnot really sure if she was really there I was dreaming again.
“Are you coming home?”
Tyrell’s straight to the point.
He walked into Rons with all the confidence of a young prince who knows he’s in charge wherever he goes, even if no one else realizes it, snapping the button of his jacket open as he sits down, so the front doesn’t crease, staring across the small table at me with a tundra-esue glare.
He wants me to say yes.
To bow my head and nod and let him take my hand and be soft with me again.
That’s what he wants.
But he’s not going to get it.
“I don’t have a home right now.”
“Don’t be obtuse Elliot… I mean are you coming home with me?”
He looks shocked.
“I thought we had an agreement?”
“What are you talking about? Any agreement we had ended when you decided to become a prize-winning asshole.”
He doesn’t like it when I answer back.
His eyes narrow, lips pressed together to become a bloodless slit.
He wants my adoration.
He wants be helpless and dependant on me.
He wishes I was the same as I'd been the day we first met… scared and needy.
“No… Last night… You said…”
“What do you mean last night?”
But you know what he means, don’t you?
You know what he’s about to say.
“When we met last night… You said you were ready to talk about coming home… You said we could work things out and…”
There’s a dawning realization on his face that’s almost comical.
Who were you talking to Tyrell?
It wasn’t me. Not really.
Mr Robot slides into the seat next to him and smiles across at me.
The apartment is still stark, still cold, and as I face Tyrell, his gaze slips from me to somewhere past my shoulder, then follows Mr Robots progress towards him.
He licks out across his lips before parting them, reaching out to press his hand to his face and pull him closer.
The image flickers and dances before my eyes.
It’s Mr Robot, it’s me.
He’s kissing him… Kissing us.
There’s no barrier there, on the deepest level we’re just the same, and every press of Tyrells mouth to his I feel like a ghost whispering across my lips as I watch them.
That’s not me.
Can’t you tell the difference?
Don’t you WANT to know?
His hands are around his throat, and they both move to the floor, Tyrell straddling him, straddling me, my hands passively above my head as he grinds himself against my crotch tightening his grip.
I feel my breath shorten into the same strangled huffs that Mr Robot forces from his parted lips, and I mouth the words as he speaks them.
“Worthless little shit…”
Tyrell groans, doing as he asks, his fingers digging into his neck.
“Stupid little slut… My slut… Mine…”
He groans, moving back to yank his fly down and pull himself free, rising up with his knees either side of Mr Robots hips, his one hand still on his throat, the other stroking himself hard and fast until he comes with a gasped cry, shooting his load across Mr Robots stomach as he quickly pushes up his shirt.
I’m watching myself looking up at him triumphantly, my flickering face like a piece of card on a string… me on one side, Mr Robot on the other, being spun so fast you couldn't tell which picture you were looking at anymore.
Tyrell frowns across at me and the chatter of the coffee shop seeps back in.
But not as much as I am.
“I have to go.”
“No… No, you don’t… wait, don’t leave… Elliot… This isn’t just about us….”
He’s grabbed my hand and I look down at it.
“It’s happening again… Isn’t it.”
I snatch my hand away and head out to the street.
It’s happening again?
No… It’s never NOT happening.
There’s only periods of calm among the usual shit storm that makes up the moments of my life.
For just a while, I’d thought I had everything together, but my sanity, mySELF… was only ever a badly built house of cards, balancing on the edge of a table, waiting for that first bump in the road.
Tyrell built it… And he knocked it over.
His voice in my ear makes me flinch and walk faster.
“You can’t outrun me kid… Why would you want to… I’m the only one who’s always here for you.”
But he’s only laughing softly, and right now, I wish I had something long and sharp to push into my ear, if only to shut him up.
Heeeey.... Sorry it's taken longer than usual.
Work's been hell and wifis been patchy and brain's been blaahhh...
Anyone still following this fic?
Shoot me a comment if you are and I'll do my best to update quicker! ♥
Chapter 7: Memories
I’m like a junkie, I can see that now.
I kicked the pills, but I never kicked the thing that drove me to them.
I don’t want to.
I’m living with Tyrell again.
Did we make up?
I don’t know.
Have you been watching this unfold the last few weeks?
I turn around and I’m in his kitchen making coffee.
I open my eyes and I’m in his bed, his lips pressed against my neck.
I look up from my plate and we’re out to dinner in some restaurant I’ve never seen before, and I’m wearing a suit I don’t remember buying.
I wash my face and spy bruises on my neck when I look up at the mirror, sometimes finger marks, sometimes teeth.
My life is reduced to tiny snapshots, fleeting moments.
I’m not in control anymore.
Mr Robot’s slipped seamlessly into my place, smoothing things over with Tyrell, making amends, going to work, being open and gregarious with people we don’t know or care about.
We’re no longer a team.
I’m the part of us that only slips out from time to time, but whenever I do, Tyrell looks happy.
He looks so happy now that he’s not with me anymore.
I wonder if he knows?
A part of me thinks he does, and just doesn’t care.
Mr robot is more accommodating, more outgoing, more sane than I will ever be.
Perhaps they deserve each other.
I could go to Krista, get medicated again but my life is simply a series of seconds.
Pour the coffee.
Take the subway.
Ride the elevator.
Clean the kitchen counter.
Rinse my hair in the shower.
Throw my head back as he holds my face and drives into me and I’m coming.
Perhaps this is just the way it’ll be now.
I leave notes.
Not me, scrawled with my finger on the steamed bathroom mirror.
Not me, written on the back of an envelope left on Tyrells desk.
Not me, sent in a text he can’t delete.
“He’s seen them all you know… And he ignores them.”
The expression that cat that got the cream seems fitting here.
He lounges on the couch, his couch now I guess, smile wide, eyes sly and knowing.
“Look kid, we all knew this day would come… It was inevitable… You can’t cope without me, and frankly, even with my help, you were fucking it up most of the time… It’s only sensible that I take the wheel from now on...I’m keeping us happy, and looked after… We’re working out now, did you know that? Just a little cardio… Tyrell doesn’t want us too bulky.”
He laughs, reaching up to straighten his cap.
“We’re not working for Ecorp anymore either… ditched that desk job… working on our own little project…”
I’d punch him but it seems redundant.
“Take a backseat, enjoy the ride... When you feel better, maybe I’ll let you out a little more…”
“Who are you talking to?”
We look across to where Tyrell is now stood, home early and halfway through slipping off his jacket, slowing as he frowns.
“No one… Just… talking to myself, you know...”
He laughs, but I’m glad to see Tyrell doesn’t join in, just takes his jacket off and hangs it on the back of the chair.
“Hard day at the office dear? I was going to order Thai... You in the mood for that?”
He stands up and walks to Tyrell, putting his hands on his chest and smiling up at him, but I’m still here, like a toy he forgot to put away, or maybe, the phone he forgot to hang up so I’m hearing everything that’s said after.
Tyrell looks uncomfortable, taking Mr Robots hands in his own and almost making a barrier between them.
“Thai’s fine… Are you ok?”
“Yeah! Of course! Why wouldn’t I be? Got you here, what else could I need?”
He kisses him and I see Tyrell soften a little, hold his hands a little tighter, and then I’m there, I’M holding Tyrells hands, I’M kissing him, and I pull back with the shock of it, looking up at him with wide eyes and I KNOW he can see the difference.
“It’s not me…”
I force the words out, stilted and croaked.
I can feel him furiously trying to rein me back and I fight him so hard I can feel Tyrells fingers grinding against each other as I squeeze them tightly.
“Fuck you… You lost all your privileges Elliot.”
Mr Robots voice hisses inside my head, and then Tyrells shocked face recedes back, like I'm looking at him through a cardboard tube that's getting longer and longer, I’m fading away, further into my head, and a million miles away I can hear his voice worriedly saying my name, over and over.
But I’m not there anymore.
It’s nice down here.
Sometimes I find myself wandering through my memories, like picking out a tape and blowing the dust off before putting it in the VCR.
The qualities grainy, sometimes that annoying black tracking line creeps in at the bottom… but there…
There’s four-year-old Darlene with a mass dark curly hair sticking out from under her hat, her cheeks rosy with cold as she helps me put the finishing touches to the snowman we made.
I watch as we spend the afternoon making snow angels and catching fat snowflakes on our tongues.
Her gloves get wet and cold so I give her mine, ignoring the icy numbness of my fingers because she’s smiling in a way she never does inside the house.
“We should take a photo!”
I agree that we should, dad’s camera’s just upstairs after all, won’t take a moment to run and get it.
But as I reach the stairs the tracking covers the whole screen, and something inside the player grinds… So I didn’t get to watch the rest of that.
Fourteen-year-old Angela sat on my bed.
I’m sixteen years old and we're passing a piss weak joint between us as we talk.
She’s into The Shins right now, and she has New slang playing on loop on my CD player.
She wants to talk.
Not talk… But TALK, only neither of us know how to navigate anything more important than bitching about teachers and parents.
It seems lately that she’s always on the edge of saying something important and pulling back at the last moment.
Years later she’ll learn to hide all that, to bury it deep so even I forget that there was a time she needed me to be the friend I couldn’t be.
Instead she starts to laugh as I tell her about how the history teacher we both share split his pants in third period revealing muppets shorts underneath, and there’s something so pure and open about that laugh, and although she still needs to grow into herself, even though she’s still too awkward to be thought of as pretty, she’s suddenly beautiful and I lean in to kiss her.
It takes a second to realize I’ve made a terrible mistake, and she pulls back fast, half horrified, half embarrassed, her cheeks flaming red as she looks away.
“I’m sorry... I thought…”
She shakes her head, moving off the bed away from me and gathering her things.
“No… It’s ok…”
She smiles, but it’s no longer beautiful.
It’s small and tragic.
“I should go…”
I should have said something.
I should have gone to her and taken her hands and pushed her to talk.
To tell me the thing inside her that was so big and so poisonous, that she was slowly fading away to nothing but a cypher.
She wanted to go home.
But she didn’t want to, and perhaps at first it could be written off as a reaction to her moms death, to the inevitable sadness in the home, but later?
She didn’t want to go home and I didn’t know how to ask her why.
Why don’t you feel safe there Angela?
Why do you feel safer in this house full of shouting and slapping. In this house were I bruise so easily, were my little sister bears circular scars on her upper arms in the shape of cigarette ends.
How is this home safer than yours?
Her eyes, already big, not yet grown into her face properly, are magnified by tears she pretends aren’t there.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I only nod as she leaves, and it's not until I hear the door close downstairs that I realize she left her CD here, and song plays on, and on, and I don’t turn it off.
I’m watching my life.
I’m piecing together the shattered moments and trying to make something new.
I’m trying to stick them together like cunning Japanese pots inlaid with gold.
Just leave me alone.
It grows louder until there’s a noise like an express train, all roaring wind and whistling until I have to put my hands over my ears, until I’m screaming as much as he is because he’s being dragged back and I'm being pulled forwards, and as we meet in the middle he grabs at my sleeve, desperate to be brought along as well.
“Don’t let them do this! Don’t let them take me from you!”
He screams, and then he’s wrenched away, tumbling back into the dark as I rush towards the light gasping and flailing like I’m breaching water, only now able to breathe again.
And the light’s so bright.
It’s too bright.
Chapter 8: Calm
Did you forget to take your meds?
I thought you’d left me.
It’s been a while, right?
What’s been happening in the world while I checked out?
I’m not sure where I’ve been, but I’m glad you’re still here.
You can always tell the prisoners from the guards because the prisoners wear jumpsuits and the guards uniforms.
In here, you can tell who gets to leave at the end of the day because they’re allowed things like shoelaces and scarves and buttons on their clothes.
The rest of us are perpetually clad in sweatpants with elasticated waists, plain t-shirts, and soft cotton sweaters.
Clothes that neither harm nor excite.
We’re toddlers who can’t be trusted to put on anything more complex than a shoe with velcro straps.
I miss him.
I’ve spent hours digging away inside my own head trying to find him, but he’s not there, or he’s hidden somewhere I can’t get to, and the loneliness is overwhelming.
There’s this feeling of incompleteness, like someone amputated a limb, and the ghost of it’s still there, I keep expecting him to be there, to feel him, to hear him, but he’s not.
Sometimes, it hits me hard, and all I can do is curl up in a corner and weep that he’s gone.
Mr Robot is gone.
I am gone.
Krista doesn’t see me anymore.
She’s not allowed to.
The hospital is locked down and all the doctors and therapists work here.
It’s so they can share their notes internally I was told, but I think it’s just so they can control us all better.
Angela came to see me, her eyes red-rimmed and glassy, her perfect hair only highlighting how puffy her face looked.
I don’t say much to start.
I leave the chocolate bar she brought me sat on the table between us, I don’t answer her questions, and the silence stretches further away.
When she starts to gather her things to go, it feels like I suddenly realize she’s there, that she’s real, and I put my hand out to hold her sleeve, making her stop.
“Why did you go? You didn’t want to.”
She’s frowning at me, her gaze flitting to my fingers curled around the material.
“When I kissed you… You were… fourteen…. I was sixteen… You didn’t want to go home, you never wanted to go home, but you did…”
“Elliot… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
But she does.
I can see it in the way her skin pales just slightly, I can feel tension and heat radiating off her skin, see the whiteness of her knuckles as she clenches her hand automatically.
“You were afraid.”
“What were you afraid of?”
“I have to go…”
“Who… were you afraid of?”
She wrenches her hand away and breaks my grip, and there’s that face again. It’s pure anguish.
She hates me.
Not because of who I am, or what I do, but because I’ve forced her to remember.
Her composure is cold and false.
It’s not even her own.
It’s fake control learned from some shitty self help audio.
I can almost hear the words in her head.
'I am strong.
I am calm.
I can move on from this.
My past does not define me.'
It does…. I’m sorry Angela. It does.
When Tyrell visits it’s with cups of coffee he’s made himself set in neat travel mugs.
I don’t recognize them.
I wonder if Mr robot brought them…
“Vanilla… I remember you saying you liked that kind best of all when we were in Sweden… I imported the coffee for you, from that store… remember? The owner had a mustache like a walrus you said…”
He laughs, but there’s a nervous edge to it, almost verging on hysteria.
He’s only just keeping it together.
Tyrell has been here nearly every day.
I don’t always remember, but I asked to see the visitors book and he’d signed himself in and out. It was all there in black and white.
“Do you see him sometimes?”
I have to ask the question.
Just because I can’t feel him, doesn’t mean he isn’t there.
He nods slowly.
“Two… maybe three times.”
He doesn’t ask me who.
He doesn't need to.
“Can you…. Can you tell us apart?”
This time his nod is less hesitant.
“I can now… His voice is different, it has a different cadence… And your eyes… They change somehow.”
“How is he?”
If it seems a strange question he doesn’t let on.
“He’s angry… Most of the time he’s angry. He throws things and yells. I think he’s afraid.”
“He’s scared of not existing anymore.”
“Help me understand this Elliot…”
He reaches for my hand across the table, and I let him take it.
“Was he better to be with? Was he easier to live with than me?”
My question makes him pause, and it’s a while until he answers me.
“I was with you. I’ve always been with you. Once I realized this was happening, I got you help...Not him… You.”
He hasn’t exactly answered my question, but he doesn’t have to.
I remember how he smiled when he looked at us.
We were finally behaving how he wanted, and that was all thanks to Mr Robot… Not me.
I look at him, really look.
He’s sporting a light stubble, his hair looks like he got out the shower and simply ran his hands through it, it has that almost fluffy texture happening because there’s no product on it.
“Why aren’t you at work?”
“I wanted to see you.”
“But… I saw the book… you sign in at eleven nearly every time… You can’t have any vacation time left…”
“How are you taking time off to see me when…”
“They fired me.”
The silence feels like someone fired a gun and we’re sitting in the aftermath, our ears ringing.
“Price fired me… Or… Let me go…. He appointed a new permanent CTO, he said it would be awkward for me to stay… I have a good severance package and references… and…”
He trails off.
“It was all you ever wanted…”
He looks over at me and nods, then frowns and shakes his head.
“I don’t know… It was what SHE wanted… I don’t know anymore…”
I stand up, walking around the table, and when I get to him I lean down to hug him.
His arms go around me tentatively, then harder, and I feel him take a deep breath in, exhaling with a soft shudder.
His breath is hot against my neck as he whispers.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to bring my problems in here with me.”
“Your problems are mine… Mine are yours… That’s how it works, right?”
His hands clasp at the back of my too soft sweater, and just for that moment, I’m not the one who needs propping up.
I’m not the one who needs petting and soothing, and it feels good.
It feels like I have a tiny bit of control back.
We don’t kiss.
But I lean my forehead down to his and close my eyes as we stay that way for a while.
I pull back to look at him.
“Elliot… I’m talking to someone… About how I am. I want to be better for you, when you come home… You’re coming home with me... Right?”
I can see that happening.
What happens after isn’t so clear, but I know we’ll leave here hand in hand.
“Well be ok.”
He smiles, and it’s beautiful.
“Well be ok.”