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The wooden walls of the barn were streaked with vertical cracks, sunbeams slipping through to provide a weak light in the enclosed space. Elliot followed these cracks with his eyes as he waited for the laptop to process his code. Anything to keep himself occupied, to distract him from the figure leaning languidly against the table to his left. Once he ran out of new patterns to find, he dropped his attention to his hands in his lap.

The bandage on his right hand was starting to bloom with red again. He must have opened the wounds up. He hadn’t even noticed the pain, not when his sister’s life had hung in the balance just moments ago. Now, Darlene was waiting outside the barn. She wasn’t safe, but she was alive, and that was all that they could hope for at the moment. Elliot feigned interest in the rapidly spreading crimson stain, head dipped low to avoid conversation.

“How’d that happen?” Leon asked. He flicked his gun to gesture towards the wound, keeping it held in a relaxed grip.

Elliot shrugged. He was determined to escape the conversation that he knew they needed to have. He couldn’t even look up from his lap. He didn’t know what to say or what to do. Everything was so unclear between them now. How much of their relationship was entirely fabricated? He didn’t know where he stood with Leon anymore. He didn’t want to misstep and further destroy whatever it was that they had had before.

Back when Leon had brought him to meet with Dr Wang, Elliot had been so unsure. He thought about the way that he had flinched at Leon’s hand on his arm. It had been purely instinctual, but the guilt that Leon had tried to hide was tearing Elliot apart. Any trust built between them in prison was now damaged from all of the lies and violence that had come to the surface.

“You and I both know that we gotta talk about this at some point,” said Leon, dipping his head in a futile attempt to catch Elliot’s eye. Childishly, Elliot stayed silent. “Come on, cuz. I’m sure you’ve got questions. Go ahead, ask. I’ll answer whatever I can.”

The resulting silence hung between them, tainting the stale air of the barn. Elliot wanted to say something, he really did, but he just couldn’t. He thought that Leon would understand that, like he had back in prison. Why was he pressuring him to speak now?

That wasn’t fair, Elliot knew. Leon deserved more than what he had to offer — a blank wall to bounce ideas off of. That was all Elliot was to him, after all. It made sense that Leon was starting to realise this, that Elliot just wasn’t capable of sustaining conversations like he could, and Elliot couldn’t blame him for getting frustrated. Elliot was worthless, inconsequential.

Lost deep in the worst crevices of his mind, Elliot blinked and realised that Leon was suddenly a lot closer than he had been before. His brow was furrowed, eyes intense on Elliot’s face, so much so that it burned. He could feel heat gather at his cheeks at the attention, but there was nowhere to hide now.

“You know I wouldn’t hurt you, cuz,” Leon said, voice soft.

That was something else entirely. Elliot almost wanted to correct him, that he wasn’t afraid of Leon hurting him. If Whiterose ordered him to kill Elliot, that was what he had to do. Nothing personal. He had seen the way that that FBI agent, Dom, had looked when she returned from her “talk” with Irving. The look in her eye, like there was no other option, like the only alternative to working for the Dark Army was Hell itself, was ingrained into his mind. Is that how Leon feels? Like there’s no escape? No alternative?

If that’s the case, then he wouldn’t complain if Leon had to hurt him. Everybody does what they have to do, and Elliot couldn’t fault him for that. In response, however, all that Elliot can do is shake his head, almost imperceptibly. It wouldn’t matter if Leon hurt him, if that was what he needed to do.

“Come on, Elliot. Look at me.”

It hurt to ignore his voice, and so Elliot forced his eyes back up to meet Leon’s. The adrenaline from his meeting with Grant was flushing out of his system, leaving his body heavy and his mind numb. He didn’t feel ready for this.

Maybe Leon saw this in his expression, because he brought one hand up to hover by Elliot’s jaw, looking for permission to hold him. Elliot nodded, and the familiar feeling of Leon’s cool palm on his skin was like a balm on his exposed nerves. He couldn’t avoid tilting his head into the pressure, eyes slipping closed as he felt soft lips press against his own. The familiarity of it all — Leon’s reassuring presence, the way he feels against his skin — has Elliot’s eyes glistening with unshed tears. He let out a huff of breath that he didn’t realise that he was holding, feeling Leon’s lips quirk against his own as he relaxed into him.

The sweetness of the kiss hurt Elliot’s chest. If this was a goodbye, he never wanted it to end. The instability of both of their roles within the Dark Army’s scheme left them wondering if they would even see each other again. Each meeting was like a breath of fresh air, resurfacing from uncertain waters.

Finally, as they parted for air, Elliot began to feel grounded enough to speak.

“I didn’t think I’d get to see you again.”

It was true. After Trenton and Mobley, after that day when he sat on the beach and watched the waves, after he held that bag of morphine pills in his lap, it was undeniable just how true the statement was. He almost killed himself before he ever got to see Leon again. He almost stripped himself of ever getting a chance to kiss him again.

The tears that had threatened to fall were spilling over now, leaving trails down his cheeks for Leon to thumb away.

Throughout this entire exchange, Mr Robot had been standing in the background, staying uncharacteristically quiet as he watched the two. However, once Elliot began to think back to that day he had spent with Mohammed, he became rigid, intense glare boring a hole into the back of Elliot’s head. Since they had been reunited, Elliot hadn’t had the chance to confide in Mr Robot about that moment — nor had he planned to, if he was honest — but now he knew that there was no escape. He needed to come clean about it to Mr Robot, but that was something for later. Elliot had enough on his plate for the moment.

Leon looked like he was about to say something, but the laptop suddenly let out a beep that tore them all away from the serene moment. Elliot glanced over, making sure that everything was in order and quietly regretting his earlier hesitancy to talk. Now that time was running away from him, he just wanted to stay by Leon’s side. No matter how difficult the situation was, everything felt less impossible now that he had Leon again.

Their eyes met once more, lingering as though they were drinking each other in, and then Leon kissed him again, soft and gentle. Elliot lost himself in the short kiss once more, and then Leon reluctantly pulled away to gather up the laptop and store it away.

Before leaving, Leon turned to face him, hand resting on Elliot’s waist one last time.

“I promise, I’ll see you again, cuz.”

And with that, he was gone, and Elliot was left to heave in one more wet breath in the silence of the barn.