“I’m just gonna go for a walk,” Tyrell says and then he crumples.
For a moment, there’s just the sound of the wind in the trees and then Robot says, “Well thank fuck for that.”
“Now he’s in no position to argue,” Robot explains. “Come on. We need to get pressure on that wound and figure this out.”
He’s going to die, Elliot thinks but his legs are carrying him forwards anyway.
“We’ll figure this out,” Robot is saying and Tyrell’s blood is warm, slick under Elliot’s frozen fingers. His breathing is shallow. His skin is pale. Robot holds one hand over the wound, unwinds Tyrell’s tie with the other. Come on, come on, he chants. Come on, come on, come on.
“That’s not big enough,” Elliot hears himself say. “It won’t stop the bleeding. He’ll need surgery. He’s -”
“I’m not going to let him die!” Robot snaps and Elliot feels it all crash over him. Robot spent more time with Tyrell, pulled his strings, made him dance to whatever tune he felt like playing that day but there was always something. Something deeper. Fiercer. Elliot gets a glimpse, feels dizzy, like he’s falling, like he’s high.
I love – Tyrell says, a million years ago in a dimly lit arcade.
Elliot closes his eyes a moment.
“Alright,” he says. “Maybe Phillip can help.”
But not here. Not out here in the middle of nowhere.
He hears a motor in the distance, looks up to see headlights between the trees.
Fuck. Back up.
We’re not leaving him, Robot says so Elliot drags Tyrell off the road into the trees.
Luckily, it’s only Darlene.
Phillip doesn’t respond to Elliot’s text but a man shows up to Allsafe with a medical bag all the same. He tuts when he sees Tyrell, mutters that he can’t do much here but he’ll do his best.
Elliot stands in the furthest corner from him, sleeves of his hoodie pulled down over his hands. Darlene is somewhere in the middle, arms folded tightly. The clench of her jaw says she’s annoyed but she’s swaying slightly, rocking on the balls of her feet, consumed by nerves.
She doesn’t get this. Doesn’t get Tyrell. Elliot hasn’t tried to explain. Robot hasn’t said a word since they carried Tyrell out of the back of Darlene’s car. Since that long, agonising ride. There’s a void where he should be, cold and empty, like he’s hiding.
The doctor works for about an hour.
“He’ll be pretty out of it for a couple of days,” he says, handing Darlene a handful of pill bottles. “These are for the pain. These are antibiotics. These will help him sleep. Keep an eye on the wound and his condition. You’ll need to change the dressing in a day and clean it twice a day after that.”
When he’s gone, Darlene shoves the pills at Elliot.
“Merry Christmas,” she says. “I’m going to get some sleep. We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
Before she goes, she casts a glance at Tyrell, still and sprawled across the dusty couch. Her mouth is tight, her eyes are wide, she’s trying to understand. The corner of her mouth twitches and she almost turns back to Elliot, almost asks but doesn’t.
Tyrell stirs. Murmurs something that comes out clumsy and slurred. His eyes flutter open, dazed as he glances between the two of them.
“Am I dead?” He asks and Darlene rolls her eyes.
“Merry fucking Christmas,” she murmurs to herself.
“You’re not dead,” Elliot says, when Darlene’s gone.
Tyrell is frowning at him, blinking hard. Elliot has to look away, can’t take those eyes. They’re so full of confusion, like this is the most incomprehensible thing that could happen.
You honestly don’t care about me, do you?
“You should sleep,” Elliot says. “It’ll help you heal faster. I should know.”
Tyrell exhales shakily, settles back against the couch. Listens to what Elliot says.
A few hours later, he gets a text from Phillip. Wellick is dead. Everything is in place.
He’s still asleep when Elliot has to go pick up Darlene. He’s restless, hair curling with sweat, his lips move but no sounds come out.
He’ll tear his stitches; Elliot thinks and the thought rattles about in the emptiness of his head. Robot is still dark, quiet. Tyrell will probably worry if he wakes up and no one’s there so Elliot scrawls a note before he leaves.
After Virtual Realty, they wait for news from Phillip.
“Do you need a doctor?” Darlene asks quietly. She’s joined him on the floor, back against the couch Tyrell sleeps on. Elliot’s leg is outstretched, hers are drawn up to her chest.
Elliot’s head is tipped back, his eyes closed. From where he’s sitting, he can feel the heat of Tyrell’s body.
“Elliot,” Darlene prompts, gently.
Elliot sighs. He doesn’t know. He probably does but, in a few hours, it might not matter. “I’m fine.”
She doesn’t so much sigh as she exhales. She knows he’s lying but she either can’t be bothered or doesn’t care enough anymore to press him on it.
“Jag ar ledsen,” Tyrell mumbles above them.
This time Darlene does sigh, twists so she can look up at him, irritated. She huffs again when she looks back down, cuts a glance at Elliot. “Are you in love with him?”
Elliot feels himself tipping forwards. Breathes deeply. “I think he’s in love with me,” he says but he really means I know.
Darlene snorts. “That’s not what I asked.”
Elliot is quiet for a long moment. He listens to the distant sound of traffic, the wail of sirens, Tyrell’s unsteady, unhappy breathing. He fiddles with the cuffs of his hoodie. “Not me.” He says it quietly, whispers it but by the sharp intake of breath, Darlene hears it.
He can tell what she’s thinking. He’s a part of you. He is you.
She touches his shoulder, just barely.
“Well, congratulations, I guess. They deserve each other.”
“You saved me,” Tyrell says, except it’s less of a statement and more of a question, his voice all rough and unsteady. It’s the first coherent thing he’s said since that frozen forest. The first thing in English not Swedish. The first time Elliot’s sure Tyrell knows who he is, where he is.
It’s been a day since Virtual Realty. They’ve delayed White Rose’s plans again. Elliot’s leg is stiff and swollen, Darlene’s gone out for supplies.
Elliot is changing Tyrell’s bandage. He doesn’t look up. Doesn’t want to. Doesn’t want to know what Tyrell’s thinking. Whether he’s confused, angry, elated. There’s something in his chest though, something dark and heavy that tugs, makes him want to look up, draws him in like a magnet.
It’s hard to resist so he clenches his jaw, focuses on his task.
In the van, he said to Robot, he wanted to be done. He wanted to be done with this, with us. But Robot had ignored him, kept pressure on the wound, kept checking Tyrell’s pulse, desperation choking the both of them. This is Robot’s mess. He should be here to clean it up.
“Elliot,” Tyrell says, his voice soft, imploring, accent lilting stronger.
Elliot breathes out. Doesn’t look up.
“I told you I wasn’t gonna let you die.”
Tyrell draws in a breath, swallows thickly but he stays silent as Elliot works and Elliot is grateful. It’s easier to pretend this way, to slip into autopilot but he hears Darlene coming back, leans the wrong way on his bad leg and short-circuits. He falls awkwardly, knocks hard against Tyrell’s wound and Tyrell hisses, jerks away.
“Shit, sorry.” Elliot says and he looks up without really meaning too.
Tyrell’s face is pale, his eyes are damp. “It’s fine,” he grits out but his teeth are gritted, his chest is heaving. He’s bleeding again and Elliot swears under his breath, reaches for more bandages to press against it. Tyrell lets out a miserable, shuddering breath and tips his head back, squeezing his eyes shut.
“I’m fine,” he says again, firmer this time, like maybe he can will it to be true if he has enough conviction. Liar, Elliot thinks but maybe he says it out loud because Tyrell’s breath hitches. He shudders, cracks.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. This is my fault – I’m so stupid – I should’ve known they would be listening. I should have checked the driver’s pulse.” His words run together messily, it takes Elliot a few moments to untangle them, to understand what he’s saying. He has no idea what he’s supposed to say back. Tyrell’s not wrong, after all but there’s no sense in telling him that. It’ll just make things worse.
Besides, he hears Darlene come in behind them. No reason to make a scene in front of her.
“It’s fine,” Elliot says.
“No, it isn’t,” Tyrell insists. “This is my fault. I ruined things. I could have ruined everything – we could have been caught and – ” His voice is getting higher, louder. Darlene is staring at them both looking exasperated, annoyed.
“Tyrell,” Elliot interrupts him, says his name sharply, says his name like Robot would. It has the desired effect. Tyrell stops mid-sentence, stares up at wide-eyed. “It’s fine. You didn’t ruin anything, no one was caught and you need to stop yelling so I can fix this.”
He’s quiet after that. Still. Only thanks Elliot when the bleeding has stopped and he’s patched up again. Elliot says nothing back, stands up and steps out towards the bathrooms to wash his hands. Darlene follows him, lets out an exaggerated breath and sags against the wall.
“And I thought you were a mess,” she says. “At least you can keep your shit together in public.”
The corner of Elliot’s mouth twitches. It’s not quite a smile but it’s the best he’s been able to manage for a while. “We’re not in public.”
Darlene waves a hand. “This is an office building so technically, still a place of work.”
The water here only runs cold, Elliot grimaces but he supposes he should be grateful it’s still running at all.
Darlene is watching him closely. Elliot’s too tired for this. His leg is aching, his head is pounding. He looks at her pointedly and she shakes her head, looks just as worn-out as he feels.
“I’m just trying to figure out what the Other You possibly sees in that guy.”
Elliot joins her against the wall and shakes his head. He’s tried to figure it out too, searched high and low in the scraps of memory he and Robot share, analysed every exchange, every errant thought but he’s still mostly coming up empty.
Except maybe that’s not quite true. Maybe there’s something. Something about that pretty face, those pretty eyes. The perfect hair, the expensive, well-pressed suits. The drivers, the job, the whole persona. Something about how it didn’t hold up even for a second, how under even the most cursory glance it fell away and underneath –
Underneath there was this desperate, feral thing. So eager to place, so desperate for approval and for fucking what? He was smart, real fucking smart and brave and determined but none of that was at the surface. That was all second level shit, the tools Tyrell only took out when someone had pointed him in a particular direction, set him a task so he was the perfect plaything for a while.
And maybe after a while that wore off. Maybe after a while that vulnerability, that desperation laid down roots, started to sprout, to wind its way down deeper.
In the back of his mind, he feels Robot stir.
“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” he says.
Tyrell is quiet when he next wakes. It’s late. Elliot is working, back to the couch but he can feel Tyrell’s eyes on him. This latest disruption has White Rose spiralling. She’s getting angrier and angrier. Making mistakes. It’s only a matter of time before he can bring her down once and for all. And when he does –
He tries to push his chair across to a different screen but his bad leg protests, makes him wince, suck in a breath.
Behind him, he hears Tyrell shift, imagines he’s sitting himself up.
His voice is soft but it still makes Elliot jump, jars his leg even more. “I’m fine.”
Tyrell swallows. It’s a few moments before he speaks again, before he asks, “Did – Did it happen when – ?” He sounds guilty. He sounds small.
Elliot twists in his chair to look back at him briefly and shakes his head. The office is lit only by the streetlights outside and the dim blue-white light of Elliot’s screens so he can’t tell if Tyrell believes him or not.
He goes back to work. After another few moments Tyrell speaks again.
“So, what happens now?”
What are you going to do with me? He’s asking. Annoyance is starting to prickle at him. This isn’t his mess. This is Mr Robot’s but he’s still gone and Tyrell will only sit quietly for so long.
Glancing back at him once more, Elliot shrugs. “I dunno man. I guess it’s up to you. You’re dead now, so.”
Even in the half-light he can see what little colour Tyrell has drain away.
“Not like that,” he says, quickly. “Phillip Price arranged it. It’s a good cover.” He turns away before he can see Tyrell’s reaction. Maybe he’ll be annoyed. After all, it’s a lot easier for him, Elliot Alderson a nobody from nowhere to be dead and resurface. Much harder for the former CFO of E-Corp. Much harder when your face is plastered all over news shows and papers, when there are already Reddit threads and YouTube videos dedicated to how your death is a cover up.
“How – ” Tyrell starts. “What was the story?”
“Suicide. You’ve been depressed since your wife’s death. Everyone you work with attested to it, said you hadn’t yourself since it happened.”
He’ll hate that, Elliot knows. Price knew too. It’s probably why he picked it. It makes him seem weak. Human.
Unfortunately, we’re all human, he told Elliot once years ago before all of this. Except me, of course.
“Not everyone believes it,” he goes on. “Some people think it was a coverup. Revenge for 5/9. A kidnapping gone wrong. Sorry, I guess.”
They sit again in silence after that until Tyrell says, “If you’re still going after White Rose, I want to help.”
Elliot looks at him.
“I’ve been shot, Elliot. I can still think. I can still type. And if I’m stuck here for the foreseeable future, I should make myself useful.”
Elliot dreams he’s back in the forest, snow crunching beneath his feet, his fingers numb, stuffed in the pockets of his hoodie. He can hear Tyrell singing.
“Stop,” he says, tries to shout it but he’s so cold his teeth are chattering. His voice catches. “I told you it’s annoying.”
He turns around but Tyrell isn’t there anymore.
The singing starts again, more distant and this time it’s not just Tyrell. Robot joins in, his father’s voice, stumbling over the Swedish words. It’s cut off by that high, eerie cry.
Where are you? Elliot thinks.
Robot is laughing and then there’s that cry again only this time it sounds like Tyrell.
Elliot breaks into a run. Doesn’t know whether he’s running away or towards the sound but Tyrell is somewhere screaming and Robot is laughing and his leg is agony and his leg gives out, sends him sprawling to the ground. Police lights flash.
Someone touches him, reaches out to shake his shoulder and –
- for a moment, he’s in an apartment, Tyrell’s apartment but when he speaks, it’s Robot’s voice. It’s Robot’s hand on Tyrell’s shoulder. Robot that leans in. Tyrell tastes like vodka, his skin salty with tears.
Is this real? Elliot thinks. Or do you just want it to be?
Then he’s awake and Darlene is shaking him.
“Go home for a bit,” she orders. “I’ll watch him.”
He must have fallen asleep at the desk. He scrubs a hand over his face, glances backwards. Tyrell is asleep too, still sitting up, head tipped back against the couch.
“Go,” Darlene says. “You’re like, a week overdue for a shower. I promise I’ll play nice with him.”
Elliot goes, doesn’t really put much thought into it.
“Pick up lunch,” Darlene calls after him. “And maybe dinner. Something green! I think I can feel the diabetes developing.”
His door is still broken. He forgot about that. At some point, he’ll probably have to find a new place.
It’s weird. He can’t really remember living anywhere else but there must have been stops between his parent’s house and here. He can’t really remember having a clear end in sight either, having an afterwards. A when this is all over. He’s never really put much thought into it beyond daydreams, fantasies.
He’s not really sure what he’s supposed to do but a shower seems a good place to start.
The hot water feels good. Eases his leg a little. Clears his mind.
When he steps out, he pauses by the mirror, bends over the sink to stare right into it.
“I know you’re in there,” he says. “You can’t hide forever.”
But there’s nothing. No snappy response. No deadpan one-liner. No tut. No kiddo. Just the sound of his neighbour’s stereo and a baby crying in the apartment below.
Elliot grips the sink so hard his knuckles turn white. This is the kind of shit he needs Mr Robot for. What was it Krista kept saying about Mr Robot? That Elliot’s subconscious had created him to protect itself against the heavy stuff? The real stuff?
“Come the fuck on,” he hisses. “What? Things get too real for you and you leave? You’re a fucking coward.”
Maybe he hears Robot laugh somewhere in the distance. Maybe he’s just hoping.
When he gets back to Allsafe, Tyrell and Darlene are sitting side by side on the couch together. They’re both tapping away on laptops, neither of them speaking.
He dumps the food on the desk in front of them and they both lean forwards at the same time. Darlene beats Tyrell to the food by technicality because Tyrell forgets about the bullet wound and bends anyway, lets out a little cry.
“Yeah, bet you’re feeling pretty stupid now, dip-shit,” Darlene says.
Tyrell sucks in his cheeks and glares at her like a slighted kid. Darlene ignores him pointedly. Elliot guesses he gets to be the adult here by default.
“Did you mess up your stitches?”
Tyrell shakes his head, looks marginally happier that Elliot seems concerned about his wellbeing.
Darlene rolls her eyes, sits back with a huff. “Feeling better?” She smiles when Elliot nods. “Great. I’m also feeling a lot better that you’ve decided to shower. Now we just have to figure out how to hose down our esteemed guest.”
Tyrell glares at her again but when his gaze flicks to Elliot it’s softer, an admission of guilt.
Elliot closes his eyes briefly.
Tyrell can’t sleep.
Elliot knows this because from his sleeping bag on the floor, he can hear him tossing and turning, can hear him sighing. Getting more and more frustrated. He’d like to ignore him. He’d really fucking like to because in three or four hours he’s got to be up again but that thing in his chest, the thing the Robot planted, coaxed into being, won’t let him.
It pulls him up, has him shuffle across the room to sit down on the floor, back against the couch.
“I’m sorry,” is the first thing Tyrell’s mouth.
“It’s okay. I don’t sleep much anyway.”
“You’re lying,” Tyrell says and fuck he sounds miserable but there’s this curl of warmth in his voice that Elliot knows is just for him and he feels sick with it. Dizzy with it. It makes him want collapse in on himself. Makes him want to run as far and as fast as he can get away from this.
It’s a lot.
But he can’t. Not now. Not anymore.
He draws his knees up to his chest, fidgets with the sleeves of his hoodie. Tries to think about something they can talk about. Something not about this, not about right here. He remembers Tyrell reciting that poem, desperation in his voice, arms spread wide. The only English his father knew.
“Tell me about your parents.”
That must floor him because he’s quiet for a very long time. “Why do you want to know?” he asks, voice tight.
Elliot shrugs. “It’s something people talk about, isn’t it? Normal people.”
Tyrell laughs. It’s maybe worse than that curl of warmth in his voice. Makes Elliot’s chest tighten uncomfortably. He leans forwards, can’t help the smile. “Sorry. Guess I forgot we’re pretty far from that now.”
Tyrell is still laughing. It’s drifted off a little into something soft and breathless.
Elliot sits back, tilts his head so he’s looking up at Tyrell. Tyrell almost reflectively drops his gaze, cheeks tinged pink but he looks back up again quick enough, like he just can’t help himself.
Trust me, kiddo, he can’t.
Look who’s back.
Yeah. Well. Things got a little too real for me. You know how that is, right?
“This’ll all be over soon,” he says to Tyrell.
Tyrell frowns, it takes him a few moments to catch up.
He burnt down the world for you. For us.
“What will you do?” he asks and Tyrell blinks, his frown deepens. He doesn’t know. Maybe he did once upon a time when he had a wife, a son, a job. When he had someone pointing him, aiming him, pulling the trigger. Joanna, Robot.
It wasn’t like that.
And suddenly Elliot feels angry. He knows what he feels like to be powerless, to be out of control, to only exist to follow a series of instructions, to dance to someone else’s tune but for Tyrell it doesn’t have to be like that. He doesn’t have Mr Robot in his head whispering instructions, deciding what to let him see, what to let him hear, what to let him know. He chose to throw himself at his wife’s feet, to go after the job she wanted him to have. He chose to follow Mr Robot, to throw everything else aside.
He chose to end up like this.
He chose it.
“You don’t know, do you?” Elliot hears himself say. It comes out sharp and bitter.
For a moment, Tyrell’s eyes go wide, he shifts backwards, flinches like he’s been burnt but it’s all over in seconds. He rearranges his expression into something cooler, more neutral. He’s used to this by now, Elliot guesses and that annoys him even more.
“You’re helpless without someone telling you what to do now, aren’t you? You’re so desperate to be loved that you don’t know how to think independently anymore. It’s pathetic, Tyrell. You’re pathetic.”
Tyrell’s jaw is tight. He’s much closer now. At some point, Elliot must have stood up, stood over him and then leant in close. One knee is on the couch, he’s inches from Tyrell’s face.
Say something, he begs. Defend yourself. Tell me to fuck off.
But Tyrell turns away, expression carefully flat.
And fuck him. Fuck him. He wanted them to be gods once but now he’s here, letting Elliot yell at him, letting Elliot call him names and he won’t do one thing to stop it because he’s just so damn desperate for Elliot to like him back.
Kiddo, you might want to –
This is his fault as much as it’s Tyrell’s. But that’s what he does. Uses people to get what he wants.
“Have you ever done anything just for yourself?” Elliot asks. “Just because you wanted to?”
Tyrell turns to face him.
There’s a moment where Elliot’s mind goes blank. Wonderfully, blissfully blank. No Robot. No buzz of anger or sorrow or loneliness. No White Rose. No Angela. No nothing.
And then Tyrell is kissing him.
His hands are cradling Elliot’s face. It’s softer than he thought it would be. Gentle, tentative. His hands are shaking. When Elliot pushes him back he keeps his eyes squeezed shut. “I’m sorry,” he says, breathing slowly and deeply. “I just – ”
Elliot doesn’t know if it’s him or Robot that moves them forward, that kisses Tyrell again. Tyrell’s gasp is muffled against his mouth. He’s sitting up now and Elliot is half in his lap, has one hand Tyrell’s hair, the other rest on his chest where his heart beats rabbit-fast. His shirt is unbuttoned so Elliot slides his hand underneath the fabric to his bare skin.
“Elliot,” Tyrell says, half-sobs and it sounds like a prayer.
And Elliot wants to be closer to him – needs to be closer to him – but the couch is too small for two. He pulls back, “We should go to my apartment.”
Tyrell blinks at him, dazed. Elliot has no idea if he heard, if he was really listening.
Doesn’t matter. He’d follow you anywhere, Robot all but purrs.
The morning light catches the gold in Tyrell’s hair, plays across his cheek bones. He sleeps on his side. When Elliot woke up, he was curled close against his back, breath warm and steady on the back of Elliot’s neck.
He sent a text to Darlene last night that he was taking Tyrell back to the apartment, made sure they weren’t followed. He’s set programme, hopefully the programme to run and now he’s back in bed, watching the sun come up behind Tyrell Wellick’s head.
This is your fault.
Robot snorts. This was all you, kid. I’ve got more self-control than that.
Maybe this is all dream. A fantasy. Like his mom’s house, the prison. A lock of Tyrell’s hair has fallen across his eye and Elliot reaches out to brush it back. He lets his touch linger without really knowing why and decides that if this is a fantasy, it’s much better than usual.
Tyrell comes awake with a soft gasp. His eyes widen when they focus on Elliot, his lips part. He draws in another breath, moves away a little too fast for his wound and swallows a whimper, eyes clamping shut a moment.
“Hey, easy,” Elliot says. He still has one hand outstretched. It slides down, cradles Tyrell’s jaw. He brushes a thumb across Tyrell’s cheek, tilts his head back up. They’d be eye-to-eye but Tyrell’s eyes are still shut. “Okay?”
Tyrell nods. Lets out a breath. He raises a hand, curls it around Elliot’s wrist. “Is this real?”
If he’s asking you that, he’s in real trouble.
Elliot smiles faintly. “I have no idea. Does it matter?”
Tyrell smiles too, opens his eyes. “Jag älskar dig,” he says very softly, very seriously.
Robot laughs. “I warned you about that.”
Tyrell smiles again. “You don’t speak Swedish. It doesn’t count.”
Elliot isn’t sure which of them says, I got the gist, but he's pretty sure he's the one the shifts closer, says, "It counts, Tyrell."
Tyrell moves forwards too, tucks his head low so their foreheads are pressed together. His eyes are closed again, he breathes out, sags against Elliot.
There's something that Elliot doesn't say that he thinks maybe he should but Tyrell doesn't seem to mind. Maybe Elliot's words were as much of an admission as anything. Maybe that's all he needs. All he wants. Maybe he knows Elliot far too well.
Maybe Elliot should run.
"What will you do when all of this is over?" Tyrell asks.
This, Elliot thinks or maybe he says it out loud because Tyrell laughs. Elliot decides he likes the sound, waits until he's finished to speak.
Tyrell shifts, looks up at him. He swallows guiltily and for a moment, Elliot tenses. "I want to find my son."
Elliot relaxes. "Oh. Well, okay. Maybe I can help with that."