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A quiet, comfortable ambiance plagued the waiting room. Sure, he felt relaxed, but that only heightened his paranoia. Interior designers had coated the room in beiges, goldenrods, and soft, olive greens. People used color to subconsciously influence your perception of the world whether that was politicians with their red ties or banks with their teal lettering. Teal. The color of trust.

The room he sat in conveyed trust, understanding. ‘We know why you’re here,’ the walls assured him, ‘You are about to enter a place free of judgment.

Krista’s waiting room looked almost identical.

Or maybe all therapists’ offices had the same aura.

He wished he could melt into the tasteful chairs with their muted checkerboard pattern and sturdy wooden armrests, but there lurked a question behind every comforting seam and stitch: Why?

Why did they want him at ease? So they could assault him with his guard down? Or was their game more subtle? After he settled into the comfortable (but not too comfortable) chairs, he’d slip up, broadcast his tell to whoever was watching.

Who was watching?

A quick survey of the room revealed no one. Not even a receptionist. A flurry of movement drew Elliot’s eye, and a blond, sharp-suited man took a seat cattycorner from him across the room.

Tyrell.

The sky blue from his tie lit up his piercing, reptilian eyes, and with a glance at his watch, he picked up a Forbes from the side table. As Tyrell flipped each waxy magazine page, Elliot grew more and more uncomfortable with his silence. The last time they’d spoken, Tyrell had revealed how much he wished they could meet, so for him to all but ignore his presence set Elliot on edge.

The urge to hide, however ridiculous, overpowered him. Elliot tucked his hands safely away into his hoodie’s pockets only to feel something menacingly viscous lining the cloth. Removing his hand from the pocket, he found blood dripping down his palm and fingertips onto the coffee-colored rug. Panic set in as he followed the blood to a hole in his sweatshirt. The entry wound. A smeared red line ran down the chair’s angular armrest. How long had he been bleeding?

“Hey!” His call across the room met an unresponsive Tyrell. He stretched his ears to make out sound, any sound, and for the first time in his minutes-old memory of the waiting room, he heard voices. Not discernable voices. Muffled, indistinguishable voices of people having a conversation beyond a solid white door.

The door stood behind Elliot with an authoritative air of possibility. Only the Truly Important had ever attempted to open this door, he imagined. Elliot stood, now conscious of the dull throbbing pain emanating from his belly.

With the click of the black doorknob rotating, a woman in a high ponytail exited.

“Angela?” Elliot said first to himself and then to the departing figure, “Angela!”

No reply.

A distant memory of their kiss on the subway tickled his consciousness, and he felt the reality around him slip. The only way Angela wouldn’t respond to him is if she didn’t hear him or if…

“This isn’t real.”

Footsteps shuffling over the rug signaled Tyrell’s approach. The impressive door swung inwards for him, and Elliot pressed forward to follow, slipping a few fingers between the wall and the door to gain entry.

This new room housed a luxurious queen-sized bed covered with a pitch-black comforter. Grotesque abstract art hung on either side of the bed with a square clock to the right. Frosted windows let in the dark, night sky, preventing anyone from seeing inside or out for that matter.

“I know you need to rest. I just—“ Tyrell started before a reclining figure interrupted him from the bed.

Mr. Robot lay next to an IV drip and heart monitor apparatus, all of which looked woefully out of place in contrast to the room’s carefully crafted aesthetic. Without his glasses or ever-present jacket, he looked strangely vulnerable, powerless.

“You want answers,” he nodded his head, failing to acknowledge Elliot’s presence whatsoever. The white light from the bedside lamp flickered.

Tyrell hesitated, refusing to approach the bed out of fear that he’d somehow cause him more damage, “I want to understand why this had to happen.” Gone were his reptilian eyes, replaced by soft irises the color of a newborn child’s nursery.

A sigh, and Mr. Robot tried his best to hoist himself up a few more inches to improve his vantage point, “I’m not going to mince words, Tyrell. There’s a part of me…a very small fragment that I no longer have control over. An idealist fragment left over from my childhood, buried under years of repressed trauma until one day—the day I first came up with fsociety—this fragment found its way out. Like some sort of goddamn Jumanji board of self-sabotage.” His wry laugh turned into a cough.

“Will this happen again?” Tyrell struggled to put the problem into words, “I mean, when does this…thing take over?”

That is exactly why I gave you the gun,” Mr. Robot pontificated, “because for the most part, I’m in charge, but there are moments when I find myself waking up to lost time—time when he must’ve taken over.”

Elliot drifted closer to Mr. Robot out of some quiet, irresistible horror. These were his experiences, his fears, his thoughts repackaged to fit Mr. Robot’s agenda.

“I put my absolute trust in you,” he continued, “to save me from myself, and you delivered. I’m only glad you took aim at my stomach instead of my head.”

The last comment played as a joke, but nevertheless, tears filled Tyrell’s eyes at the mere thought of killing him. Mr. Robot recognized the poor timing and beckoned Tyrell to his bedside, gesturing to him to kneel and take his hand. “You did exactly what you had to do, and I thank you.”

Tyrell pressed his red cheeks to their clasped hands, and Mr. Robot tilted his forehead into his palm, wiping the tears away with a few calculated strokes of his thumb.

A soft kiss onto one of Mr. Robot’s knuckles held Elliot’s attention, and his predicament fell into place. How was he to stop Stage 2 under the suspicious, watchful eye of his alter’s lover? Their chess game had shifted, and for once, Mr. Robot had the advantage.