Elliot had never run so fast in his life. He burst through the front door and took the stairs two at a time until he reached the door that led out onto the roof. His lungs burned, and lactic acid pumped through his muscles. His body was screaming at him, but he took no notice.
Despite his panic, he took a second to compose himself and walk out onto the roof slowly, not wanting to startle Tyrell.
From the street it had been impossible to say for sure that it definitely was Tyrell standing up there, but Elliot had known instinctively that it was. Now, slowly walking towards him, his fears were confirmed, and he swallowed down a wave of nausea.
‘Tyrell,’ he called out gently, as if approaching a frightened animal. ‘It’s Elliot.’
Tyrell had his back to him and didn’t acknowledge Elliot’s presence. The only movement that came from the man was his hair being gently ruffled by the breeze.
‘Tyrell,’ he tried again, ‘I won’t pretend to know what you’re going through, because I literally have no idea. But I’ve been where you are right now man. I know how it feels to not care about anything anymore. To feel like everything is impossible. To feel like everything just hurts too damn much, and you just need it to stop. But you’re strong Tyrell, strong enough to get through anything. And when you don’t feel like that’s true, you’ll have me to remind you. I’m here, and I always want to be, if you’ll let me.’
Tyrell didn’t reply, but shifted closer to the edge. Elliot’s stomach lurched.
‘Tyrell, please,’ he begged. ‘I mean it, I’m here. Whatever has happened, we’ll deal with it.’
‘For better or for worse, right?’ Tyrell croaked, voice hoarse from lack of use.
‘Promises, Elliot. They’re just words. Vows. Nothing. Breath and ink. Nothing means anything. Everything is a lie.’ He sounded so small, and Elliot was confused by what he was saying.
‘Tyrell, please just step away from the edge and talk to me. Not everything is a lie. I’m not a lie.’
‘But you lie to yourself, Elliot, I know how your mind plays tricks on you. You don’t know what’s real either.’
Elliot grasped desperately in his mind for a response to that.
‘Not always, no. But I know you’re real. And I know what we did is real. And I know that I like you, and care about you. And I know Flipper likes you. Those things are real, and they should matter Tyrell.’
Elliot could see that Tyrell was crying by the way his shoulders shook slightly. He carried on determinedly.
‘I know lots of things are real. I know that I trust you, and that’s hard for me. I usually see the worst in people, but not when I look at you. And I know you trust me too. I know you care about me. So please, if you don’t care about yourself enough right now, do this for me- don’t step off this roof. Because if you do I don’t know how I’ll cope. I need you.’
After an agonizing silence, Tyrell turned to face him. Elliot choked out a sob of relief.
Tyrell looked at him with wide, desperate eyes, searching his face for signs he was lying.
‘I don’t know how to believe you Elliot!’ he cried, ‘People say what they think you need to hear, so you’ll do what they want. I don’t want to be a puppet any more,’ he spat. He brought his hands up to pull angrily at his hair, and let out an anguished scream that echoed in the night air.
‘Tyrell, listen to me. I’m not lying to you. However you want me to prove it, I will. Just give me a chance. Let’s go inside.’
‘No!’ Tyrell roared, swinging round to turn his back on Elliot again. Elliot’s heart leaped into his throat.
‘This big, amazing, wonderful thing we did Elliot – they wanted it. Evil Corp were behind it. I don’t know how, or why, but it was happening Elliot, long before you came along.’
‘Tyrell, you’re not making any sense. How is that even possible?’
‘That’s just it Elliot, nothing makes sense!’ He laughed bitterly. ‘I don’t make sense, the last thirteen years of my life don’t make sense. Nothing was real, everything was-‘ he struggled for the right word, ‘manufactured. I was manufactured. Just like a robot, built for purpose.’
‘Please tell me what you’re talking about Ty, I want to understand,’ Elliot’s voice was choked with tears.
‘They used me. They built me, set me loose when they needed to, and watched me destroy everything. Like a virus. And what do we know about viruses Elliot? They need to be wiped out.’
‘This can’t be true,’ Elliot breathed in disbelief. Tyrell laughed maniacally.
‘Well it is. I’ve been a slave to them for thirteen years, and I didn’t even know it. My life has been their design.’
How could Elliot even respond to that? It was so crazy, and so awful that he didn’t think anything he could say would make a blind bit of difference. Finally though, a thought struck him.
‘But that wasn’t your whole life. You have a wife, and a son. That’s a beautiful thing Tyrell, you have a family!’
Tyrell slumped forward, leaning his hands on his thighs. Elliot thought he was about to be sick. Instead he laughed a truly awful, bitter laugh that trailed off into harsh sobs.
Elliot panicked. Oh God, they’re dead. No, no, no, how could this happen? Elliot suppressed a sob of his own.
‘Tyrell, I’m so s-‘ he cut himself off as Tyrell fell forwards onto his hands and knees. He was now dangerously close to the edge.
Elliot seized his opportunity and ran towards him. He knelt beside Tyrell, who was now shivering violently, his teeth chattering. Elliot yanked off his hoodie and draped it around him. Grabbing Tyrell under the arms, he managed to pull him backwards, positioning him so that he was lying down on his side. He rested Tyrell’s head in his lap.
Elliot held him tight, rocking him gently, and used his other hand to smooth the hair away from Tyrell’s face and stroke his head comfortingly. Tyrell gripped the forearm wrapped around his chest as if holding on to a life-raft. Elliot breathed out a shaky sigh of relief that immediate danger had been averted. Tyrell was crying, big noisy sobs that shook his whole frame, and Elliot hugged him so hard he was afraid he might be hurting him. Elliot could no longer hold back his own tears, and he watched them drip down into Tyrell’s hair.
The night air blustered around them and the ringing in his ears drowned out the noise from the street below. All Elliot could focus on was the rush of his own thoughts, and the solid weight in his lap that was clinging to him so hard it was as if Elliot were the only thing keeping him tethered to reality.
‘…Elliot?’ he dimly registered that Tyrell was asking him something. ‘Elliot, can we get off the roof?’
Elliot smiled, a watery but genuine smile of relief. He helped Tyrell up and walked him back to the apartment, with a gentle arm around his waist.
Back inside, Tyrell settled himself gingerly on the sofa. Elliot bought over a couple of waters and took a seat next to him.
‘Ty, I’m so sorry,’ Elliot started awkwardly. Tyrell sipped his drink, not really taking in what Elliot was saying. ‘I really didn’t-‘
‘They’re not dead,’ he whispered.
‘What? But I don’t-‘
‘They’re not dead,’ he repeated firmly, as if this closed the matter.
Elliot continued to stare at him in confusion until finally he took a deep, shuddering breath.
‘Joanna was part of it. She worked with Evil Corp. She helped them to manipulate me.’ He lowered his eyes, humiliation colouring his cheeks.
Elliot’s mind reeled and he hoped somehow he was misunderstanding Tyrell’s words.
‘I really don’t understand what you’re telling me.’
So Tyrell told him. He explained how after Evil Corp had chosen him as their pawn, they’d recruited Joanna to keep him in line. He admitted with shame that none of his accomplishments were reflective of his own skill or merit. And he admitted with a broken heart that Joanna had never really loved him. Well, she had, but in a ‘make the best of a bad situation’ kind of way, and not in the all-consuming, passionate way Tyrell loved her.
Lastly, he reasoned that if he could be tricked into spending thirteen years with someone who didn’t love him the way he thought they did, he must not actually understand what love was. That was perhaps the hardest admission of all. Tyrell prided himself on being able to read people, yet for the majority of his adult life most of the people he knew had been lying to him and he hadn’t even realised. It made him feel weak, and more than that, it made him feel stupid. And Tyrell Wellick was anything but stupid.
Fuck. Elliot felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. What was a person supposed to do with a realisation like that? To learn that your whole life, and everything you built your world around was a lie? How could someone move on from that? To an extent, Elliot knew how it felt. He knew the fear of being tricked, of not knowing what was real and what wasn’t. But this was so different, and the implications made his head hurt.
Looking at Tyrell’s sad, wide eyes, he seemed like a little boy. To some extent he kind of was, in the sense that he’d never experienced the true freedom and independence of adulthood. In the years where he was supposed to carve out an identity for himself, someone else had been holding the knife and doing it for him.
‘It must feel like your identity has been ripped away from you, like you don’t even know which parts of yourself are real, and which ones are fabrications.’ Elliot mused out loud.
Tyrell looked taken-aback. ‘Yes, Elliot, that’s exactly how it feels,’ he whispered.
Elliot desperately needed Tyrell to know something.
‘I understand you Tyrell. I feel like I know you better than myself sometimes. You might feel like you have no-one and nothing right now, but that’s not true. You have me, and I can tell you that the way I feel about you is 100% real. No agenda, no ulterior motives.’
‘And how is that Elliot?’
It might not have been the appropriate thing to do, but it felt like the only way to make Tyrell understand. Without a second thought, he leaned in and kissed him.