Elliot felt his heart stop as the pounding on the door continued. His eyes darted around anxiously as he considered his options. He quickly came to the conclusion, however, that the only person he really wanted to be on the other side of that door was Tyrell. After several seconds of indecisive pacing that felt like hours, the knocking stopped. Shit. It was now or never. Should he call out, find out who was on the other side? But what if it was Darlene, or worse, Angela? He wasn’t in a position to explain anything to them right now. What if it was Joanna?! He had the eerie feeling that her words to him had been some sort of threat, and being that she was easily twice as creepy as her husband, she definitely knew where he lived. Fuck.
For the first since waking up in Tyrell’s car his fear was verging on hysteria, yet at the same time he was so, so tired. Feeling disconnected from his body he lunged forward to yank the door open and was met with the sight of an unconscious form slumped at his feet. Elliot froze as his mind frantically supplied him with yet more questions, and the hysteria began to make him dizzy.
Like a kick to his shins that spurred him into action his brain managed to supply him with its first useful thought: the pale, unconscious form in from of him was Tyrell. A wave of emotions washed over him- relief, joy, fear, yet more panic – as he grabbed Tyrell under the arms and dragged him very ungracefully into the apartment.
With no small amount of difficulty given the difference in size between him and Tyrell, he managed to get him onto the bed. For the first time he properly took in his appearance. To his great relief, he looked completely unscathed, no cuts, bruises, or outward signs of physical harm. Good. However, he was pale (more so than usual), with dark bags under his eyes and a sheen of sweat on his forehead. Not so good. Hesitantly, Elliot reached for a pulse, breathing out a sigh when he found a steady rhythm. He was cold though, too cold, Elliot realised with alarm, and he quickly covered him over with a quilt. Satisfied that Tyrell wasn’t in any immediate danger, Elliot pondered what to do next, and fought away feelings of disappointment that he still had to wait for some answers.
Inspecting Tyrell closer, he realised that he was, sickly pallor aside, his usual immaculate self. Whoever had left him at Elliot’s door (and shit, why hadn’t Elliot thought to look out the window to catch a glimpse of who it was?!) had been uninterested in taking any of Tyrell’s possessions. The expensive watch was still on his left wrist, wedding ring son his finger, and a quick pat down revealed that Tyrell still had his wallet and phone. Clearly the person who left him here had known exactly who he was, and of his ties to Elliot. Had he left him there to send a message? Elliot ground his teeth together to stop himself groaning with frustration. This person, whoever it was, was yet another person who knew more than him, who understood more about his own life than he did. Why couldn’t he remember the last three days? Why were there more questions than answers?
Wait! This is weird. It is weird, right? You think so too?
He barked out a laugh as he realised that he was so hysterical that he hadn’t even acknowledged the fact that there, tied to Tyrell’s right wrist, was a single, red balloon. And honestly, with everything that was going on right now, maybe the balloon wasn’t even that strange. Though Elliot suspected it was. Untying it from Tyrell’s wrist he brought it to his face. Unsure what he was supposed to do with it, he sniffed it tentatively, before laughing again at his own insanity. Nothing made sense any more. Everything about this situation was so bizarre that Elliot couldn’t even begin to imagine what a normal person would do in his shoes. He found that thought oddly comforting, and with his confidence in his own sanity somewhat restored, he jolted into action. Deciding that he was just going to do what felt natural to him, he picked up a knife from the counter, and popped the balloon. Nothing happened (though he didn’t really know what he was expecting). Perhaps he was just hoping the noise would wake Tyrell up.
He briefly considered whether Tyrell needed medical assistance, but another check of his pulse and breathing reassured him that he didn’t, at least not for now. He also wondered if he should reach out to Joanna; surely she would still be worried about where her husband was. Elliot shivered as he remembered their unsettling conversation, and quickly decided that this wasn’t a road he wanted to go down. Also, selfishly, he knew he wouldn’t get any answers, and more than anything right now, he needed answers. He rationalised that Tyrell must have been left at his door for a reason, that some all-knowing part of the universe had brought him here, but once again, whether that was how a sane person would see it, Elliot didn’t know.
Overwhelmed by another desperate wave of frustration Elliot took Tyrell’s wrist and began shaking it. Gently at first, then more vigorously, in the hopes the older man would start to stir. Slap. A gentle blow to Tyrell’s face, then another, harder one. A few more slaps, until Elliot stopped himself abruptly, with a sharp intake of breath. Feelings of guilt washed over him, as an angry red coloured Tyrell’s cheeks. Still, the man didn’t even stir, and again Elliot wondered whether he needed medical attention.
Making a deal with himself that he would hold out for an hour before seeking help, Elliot resigned himself to the fact that he was just going to have to be patient. He leaned down to do another quick check of his pulse, feel the temperature of his skin (warmer now, thankfully), and gently brush the hair off his forehead (an act of kindness he saw as making up for the slapping).
In place of the usual fear and unease he felt towards the man, Elliot found himself feeling compassion, and the strange urge to make Tyrell aware that he wasn’t alone. Not wanting to hold his hand (too intimate), he settled for resting a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder, as he perched awkwardly next to him on the bed. It was strange seeing him like this. In sleep his features were relaxed, peaceful. His usual air of arrogance had dispersed, and Elliot couldn’t see the bright blue eyes that acted as a battlefield for the power, hunger, and unhinged madness that swirled within him. Even in his vulnerability though, there was still a sort of commanding presence about him, which Elliot found compelling. He moved again to brush the hair from Tyrell’s forehead, before closing his eyes, in an attempt to calm his raging thoughts.
It wasn’t long before a groan brought him out of his state of drowsy half-sleep, and he snapped his eyes open to focus on the man lying next to him.
Tyrell was stirring slowly, a pained expression clouding his face as he appeared to struggle to open his eyes. Reacting quickly, Elliot bolted round to the other side of the bed, crouching on the floor to be at eye-level with Tyrell.
‘It’s OK, you’re safe. It’s Elliot. I’m here. Tyr-’ Elliot was cut off by another moan as Tyrell slowly opened his eyes. Hazy, bloodshot (but no less startlingly blue) eyes met Elliot’s wide-eyed stare, and for a second it felt like time had stood still. Elliot, finally snapping out of his reverie, was about to ask Tyrell if he was alright, when the other man rolled over sharply and began to dry-heave violently over the side of the bed.
‘Shit!’ Elliot sprinted to the kitchen, grabbed the first bowl he could find, and quickly returned, placing it under Tyrell’s head.
Several long, and painful-sounding minutes of dry-heaving continued, as Elliot awkwardly held Tyrell’s fringe away from his face, and gently rubbed his back.
Eventually he finished, and managed to gingerly sit up, with his back against the wall.
Elliot, remembering how his dad used to look after him when he was sick, snuck off to fill up a glass of water, and grab a damp washcloth.
Tyrell flinched when Elliot rested the washcloth on his forehead, but gratefully accepted the water. Elliot noticed with concern that Tyrell was breathing with some difficulty.
‘Just breathe…slowly…in-’ Tyrell cut him off with some slurred words that Elliot couldn’t make out, but suspected weren’t English.
‘Tyrell, I don’t understand what you’re saying. Just breathe, don’t talk.’
Finally, Tyrell’s murmuring ceased, and he seemed to manage to calm himself.
After what seemed like an eternity to Elliot, he opened his eyes again, and Elliot was relieved to find that they looked sharper and more focused than before. He was still shaking, and looked feverish, but he seemed a lot more aware of his surroundings.
Elliot didn’t quite catch it the first time as Tyrell’s voice was quiet and hoarse, but the second time was clear as a bell.
‘Elliot…did we do it?’
‘You don’t remember anything?!’ Elliot’s shouts echoed off the bare walls of his apartment.
‘No,’ came the whispered response. Uncharacteristically, Tyrell sounded small and frightened, and Elliot saw that he was holding back tears.
Again it struck Elliot how strange it was to see him like this. The smooth mask of confidence and power had slipped away, and the swirling maelstrom of desperate energy it struggled to conceal had quietened too. All Elliot saw was fear and confusion so intense it mirrored his own. The face that he had once thought of as sharp and cold was now soft and childlike, and the piercing blue eyes that used to see right through him were now lowered with uncertainty.
Elliot battled his own overwhelming feeling of frustration until guilt took hold and he gently nudged Tyrell’s shoulder. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered.
Tyrell looked up at him, somewhat taken aback, before regaining what was left of his composure and hissing desperately, ‘I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t remember anything after you told me your plan. I feel like I come close to remembering something, but then the memory is snatched away from me. I can’t-’ Elliot could see that he was starting to get worked up, and if there was one thing he knew for sure, it was that he needed Tyrell calm right now.
‘The same thing happened to me. I woke up in your car, three days after we executed the hack. We did it Tyrell, we actually did it.’ For the first time, despite himself, Elliot found he was smiling, but this went unnoticed by the other man.
‘You woke up in my car? But I wasn’t there? That makes no sense.’
‘Exactly! And I spent three whole days looking for you, everywhere, before coming back here. And it turns out I needn’t have bothered because someone brought you here anyway.’ It was so ridiculous to say it out loud that Elliot would have laughed, had he not been so confused.
‘Who brought me here?’ Okay, good. Tyrell was doing what Elliot needed him to be doing. He was slipping into business-mode and asking questions. His emotions were slowly leaving his face, and the mask was coming back on. He still seemed drowsy, but this was a vast improvement. *This*was the Tyrell that was going to help him get to the bottom of things. This was why he was both intimidating and impressive in equal measures; his ability to shut down the parts of himself that were useless to him. His ability to manipulate not only others, but himself, to get the outcome he desired.
‘I don’t know. I didn’t get a look at them. By the time-‘
‘Doesn’t matter. What else do you know?’
‘I really don’t know anything,’ Elliot started dejectedly, before a strange image forced its way to the front of his mind, ‘except that you had a balloon tied to your wrist.’
‘A balloon?’ Tyrell asked slowly.
‘Yes. A red one.’
‘Like a-‘ Tyrell gestured the shape of a circle, apparently certain that he was somehow misunderstanding Elliot.
Tyrell pondered this for a moment before asking, ‘did you burst it?’
Elliot marvelled momentarily at the fact that Tyrell’s instinct had been the same as his. Maybe Tyrell was right about them having a connection, maybe they *were* meant to work side-by-side. But then again, hadn’t they already proven that by pulling off the hack? Elliot’s mind started to race again.
‘Yes, I popped it. There was nothing inside it. So the balloon means nothing to you?’
‘No,’ Tyrell sighed, as Elliot huffed in frustration.
‘How strange,’ Tyrell breathed, before doing something Elliot never could have pictured him doing – giggling. Elliot looked at him in alarm and found that a sheen of sweat was starting to form on his forehead again, and his eyes were swimming in a way that made him look delirious. Elliot was now officially certain that Tyrell had been drugged with something, and even more certain that this was a very foreign experience to him. He doubted that someone like Tyrell ever wanted to feel out of control, and he could see by the look on the man’s face now that he was feeling very uneasy.
Tyrell shook his head weakly and sucked in a shallow breath, squeezing his eyes shut as he did so.
‘OK, you need to lie back and take some deep breaths. I promise, this feeling will pass, you’ll be fine soon. I think maybe you should eat something.’
At this, Tyrell shook his head more fervently. Elliot knew that he was probably still feeling sick, but he suspected that soon he would want to eat. Besides, Elliot’s own stomach was rumbling aggressively, so he figured it couldn’t hurt to find some food.
Feeling Elliot move away from him, Tyrell let out a soft moan, which Elliot suspected was completely involuntary.
‘It’s OK, I’m still here.’ He continued to utter soft reassurances to Tyrell as he quickly looked through his fridge for something edible. He eventually discovered a frozen pizza (date of origin unknown, but should be fine, surely?) which he threw in his seldom-used oven.
Grabbing another big glass of water, he headed back over to where Tyrell lay, still shaking, and looking increasingly flushed. He managed to force some water down him, and got a fresh washcloth which Tyrell seemed to welcome more than last time.
After that Elliot could only look on helplessly. He had no idea what Tyrell had been given, but Elliot, having had more than his fair share of unpleasant drug-related experiences, thought it was fair to guess that he was probably feeling pretty shitty. And scared. And alone. *Fuck this.* Throwing caution to the wind Elliot grabbed Tyrell’s hand and gave it a firm squeeze. *I’m here.* Tyrell gave a gentle squeeze back, and Elliot took that as permission to lie down next to him and rub soothing circles with his thumb. Elliot gradually felt Tyrell begin to relax, and his breathing even out. Not long after that the events of the day caught up with him, and he too fell into a dreamless slumber.
Elliot jerked awake sometime after 4am. His mouth was dry, the light hurt his eyes, and there was a solid weight around his middle. Startled he turned around, to be faced with a sleeping Tyrell, who had apparently at some point in the night moved onto his side and slung an arm round him.
*Can you believe this? I’m not imagining this am I?* Elliot had to stop himself from laughing as the sheer ridiculousness of the situation hit him. If someone had told him a month ago that Tyrell Wellick, former VP of tech at Evil Corp would be in his bed, for all intents and purposes *cuddling* him, he would have laughed in their face. Or, in reality, been terrified.
He gently extracted himself from the larger man’s grip, and shuffled over to the kitchen for water, noting with relief that the oven timer still worked and his pizza hadn’t been cremated.
‘Elliot?’ came Tyrell’s voice, thick with sleep.
Elliot made his way back over to the bed, and was pleased to see that Tyrell was looking much better. His eyes were clearer, and his complexion had returned to normal.
‘I’m sorry, I made us pizza, but I think it’s gone a little cold. I could reheat it?’
Tyrell shook his head, and Elliot was fairly sure he was saying no to pizza in general, when the older man surprised him by reaching out and taking a slice.
He ate it carefully, seemingly deep in thought, before muttering, ‘Elliot this is disgusting.’
Elliot laughed, despite himself, and was surprised to see that Tyrell was smiling softly.
After their questionable midnight snack Tyrell seemed to be feeling relatively normal again, and asked if he could take a shower. Elliot got him set up with some clean towels and found a spare toothbrush (which he was fairly impressed he owned). While Tyrell showered he tried to find him some clean clothes, mentally cursing their massive size difference. Satisfied the oversized black tee and sweats he found wouldn’t look *too* ridiculous on Tyrell, he booted up his computer and continued looking through the news for information.
More and more news reports continued to flood in from across the globe, but they were nothing that Elliot didn’t already know. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out yet another frustrated sigh as he gave up and sat back down on the bed.
Once Tyrell was washed and dressed the pair sat on the sofa together. Seeing Tyrell in a baggy t-shirt and too-short sweats was yet another hilarious image for Elliot to process. It seemed like his brain was using so much of its power struggling to comprehend that the world as he knew it was now completely unrecognisable, that it simply couldn’t process this new version of Tyrell as well. Frozen pizza-eating, baggy sweats wearing Tyrell. *Tyrell 2.0.* He tried not to giggle. *Fuck, everything feels wrong. Nothing feels real anymore.*
‘…Elliot?’ Shit, apparently Tyrell had been saying something.
‘I was saying thank you. For everything. And especially for your…’ he chose his words slowly, ‘care and support.’
‘Okay,’ Elliot replied awkwardly, but they shared a small smile. Tyrell hesitantly placed his hand on Elliot’s shoulder. Elliot found himself fighting the urge to hug Tyrell, but settled with an awkward clap on the hand resting on his shoulder.
‘Elliot, do you know anything of my wife? I am concerned that if your plan went accordingly she might not be safe.’
Elliot had debated whether or not to tell Tyrell about his encounter with Joanna, but seeing the worry in his eyes, he didn’t feel like he could lie to him. *Plus he would see right through it anyway, and where would that get you?*
‘I…um… saw her. When I was looking for you. She looked well. So did the baby…’ he trailed off uncomfortably, reluctant to disclose any more information about their meeting.
Tyrell smiled a watery smile. ‘The baby. She’s probably named him, and I don’t even-‘ he stopped himself as his tears threatened to spill over. Wiping his eyes, he continued, ‘I’m glad they’re alright.’
Elliot squeezed his knee gently and gave him a small smile. Tyrell looked dazed for a moment, before visibly shaking himself and clearing his throat. ‘Right, we need to keep talking about what we know. Compare our versions of events, what we’ve learned, anything useful.’
Elliot blinked, fazed momentarily by the sudden shift in mood, before getting back to the matter at hand. ‘Okay, well you’ve probably realised that you weren’t robbed by whoever brought you here. Wallet, phone, your watch- all still there. So clearly whoever had you just wanted information. Do you have any idea where you were? If you answered any questions? I think they brought you here to send me a message, but what? I think we should take a look at your phone, maybe there’s something on there?’
Tyrell looked incredulous. ‘You haven’t done that already?’
Elliot looked down sheepishly, ‘Well, no, it seemed weird. And by the time I actually thought about doing it you were waking up, so-‘
Tyrell barked out a surprised laugh. ‘Elliot, you wasted no time in hacking me before, what stopped you this time?’ *Shit, so he did know about that.*
‘I don’t know, I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly,’ Elliot retorted irritably.
‘And besides, I thought you would have realised by now that we are allies. What’s mine is yours Elliot, no secrets. We are a part of each other now, and in turn, a part of something so much bigger.’
The intensity of his gaze, and the weight of his words unnerved Elliot. ‘Okay,’ he murmured, hesitantly.
This response seemed to satisfy Tyrell though, who quickly went about the task of retrieving his wallet and phone from his suit pockets. His phone battery had died, so Elliot found a charger, and they waited in silence while it booted up. Breathlessly they searched through it, emails, photos, audio files, video, *everything*, but there was nothing.
Elliot angrily punched the sofa cushion, while Tyrell grabbed his wallet and threw it angrily at the wall with a growl of frustration. Mid-air, it fell open, and they stared in shock as a small folded piece of paper fluttered out.
They both leapt to grab the note, but Elliot was faster. His heart hammering in his chest he carefully unfolded the paper. After reading the words several times in his head he numbly read them aloud to Tyrell.
‘If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.’
He tried not to cry with disappointment, and looking at Tyrell he could see that he felt the same way. He didn’t know why he even thought there would be some actual information on there, of course it would have to be some sort of riddle. Fuck this. When would they finally start getting some answers?
‘I don’t understand. The woods?’ He heard Tyrell ask.
‘Yeah it’s from the song.’
‘Song? What are you talking about?’
‘It’s a line from a song. A children’s nursery rhyme. It’s called the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.’ This time Elliot found no amusement in the strangeness of the situation. He just felt weary. The tiredness permeated his bones and made each movement painful. He just wanted to give up.
‘Are you kidding me? It’s a fucking song for children?! What is that supposed to mean?’
Elliot closed his eyes. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Fuck,’ Tyrell spat angrily.
‘Unless,’ Elliot started, feeling the gears in his mind shift once again, ‘it’s a threat. The next line of the song is ‘if you go down to the woods today, you’d better go in disguise.’ Maybe-‘
‘They know we did it. They know it’s us who executed the hack. They’re warning us!’
‘But why? Why would they not use this information against us? Turn us in, or make us fix it?’
‘I have no idea. But one thing’s certain, we need to be careful. Either we have an ally out there protecting us, or more likely we have someone very dangerous who has a lot of incriminating evidence against us and a plan to use it.’
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
‘Elliot I’m so sorry, this could all be my fault. I have no idea what I said to them.’
‘You forget I’m missing the last three days as well, I have no idea what I did, or-‘
‘Fuck,’ Tyrell cursed again angrily.
‘We just need to think about this, and come up with a plan…’ Elliot took a deep breath, ‘…I think there’s someone I need to call.’