‘What? What did you do Ty? I’m sure it’s not-‘
‘I had sex with Joanna.’ He kept his eyes fixed on Elliot, anxiously awaiting his reaction.
Elliot tried to hide it but the hurt flashed across his face, plain to see.
‘Are you going to get back together?’
‘God, no, definitely not! This was just… it was closure Elliot. It meant nothing. Well, it didn’t mean nothing, but it certainly didn’t mean what you’re thinking it meant.’
Elliot nodded in understanding, but the tears welling in his eyes betrayed him. He turned on his heel and started to walk away.
‘I want to be alone.’
Tyrell just nodded, rooted to the spot. He wanted to move, felt a desperate need to shower, but he couldn’t bring himself to put one foot in front of the other. Instead, he sank down onto the floor, resting his back against the door. He could smell her on his skin, her usual perfume mixed with the salty tang of her sweat. It was an unwelcome reminder of what they’d just done, and his stomach churned.
A thought entered his mind with sickening force: he was about to be truly, terribly alone. If Elliot left him, which he was sure to do, he would have no-one. He hadn’t been alone like that since he lost his parents, and God knows he hadn’t handled that well. He’d barely made it through his last two years of university, pushing away anyone who came close to him. Not that there were many who’d tried; he’d been clear from the start that he was there to learn, not make friends. He’d become dangerously single-minded, channeling every ounce of his energy into his studies, to the detriment of his health, and all other aspects of his life.
If Joanna hadn’t come along and put him on an even-kilter again he’s fairly certain he would have burnt out, or worse.
He was weak, he realised now. He had a fierce intellect, and exuded power and confidence when he needed to, but that wasn’t the same as actually being strong. He had never been able to cope with his emotions, felt disgusted by his own vulnerability, and always had fear sitting uneasily in his gut. As if somehow, no matter what he did, he would always be two steps behind. How right he’d been about that.
He’d joked about not being human, but had always secretly wished that were true. He longed to feel safe, and the unpredictability of life scared him. With computers there was always a logical reason for every outcome. Every error had a cause, which you could find, and therefore fix. They didn’t think for themselves, and you could make them do what you needed them to. Life, and people, weren’t like that. He wasn’t like that. He didn’t know what caused his errors, and he certainly didn’t know how to fix them.
Computers could be restored to a safe point; you could erase the parts of their history that were damaging to them. If all else failed, they could be wiped, rebuilt- you could start afresh. Nothing could wipe him clean, and the faults and bugs inside him would linger menacingly in the background, waiting to cause glitches later on.
Joanna hadn’t fixed him- that would have been impossible. But she’d been his workaround, helping him to bypass his problems and run effectively despite them. And now Elliot had taken her place.
Elliot had helped him through one of the most difficult times of his life, and seemed to understand him in a way that both comforted and frightened Tyrell. But Tyrell also knew the younger man had bugs of his own, and hoped that Elliot knew he could depend on him in the same way. They could help each other, and be better together. Now though, this was looking less and less likely.
Tyrell started to feel like he did on that awful night when he’d learned he’d never see his parents again. Like the world around him had dissolved into darkness, leaving just him. He’d come dangerously close to self-destructing then, and now there was nothing to stop him. Nothing and no-one. He didn’t even have a goal to pursue now; he literally had no purpose.
He suddenly found himself breathing in too much air, and began to feel light-headed. He pressed his hands against the floor to ground himself, and to try and relieve the tingling in his fingertips. Tears started to roll down his cheeks. He was alone, and this time he didn’t see a light at the end of the darkness.
Like a hand pulling him forwards, a realisation hit him. This wasn’t over yet. He could fight for Elliot, surely there still had to be a chance. Shakily he pushed himself up and went to look for him.
Elliot hadn’t known where to go in the house. He’d wanted desperately to leave, but there would have been an awful sense of finality to that, and he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. But now, he was stuck in Tyrell’s house. The house the man had shared with his wife for however many years. It felt wrong, like an invasion. Elliot had wormed his way into Tyrell’s family and it was too soon, too quick. How could he have possibly expected Tyrell to be ready for a relationship with him when he was barely out of his marriage? A confusing, heart-breaking mind-fuck of a marriage at that?
He felt like the house was invading him too, in a weird way. Like the memories and secrets hidden in its walls were slowly creeping in, and settling into his bones. It didn’t feel right him being there.
Where should he go? He couldn’t go to their bedroom- that was far too intimate. The kitchen felt wrong too. It was where they’d shared their meals, asked about each other’s days, entertained friends, and probably drunk too much wine.
In the front room he could see a ghost of the two of them lying together on the sofa. Maybe Tyrell would have his head in Joanna’s lap while she played with his hair. Maybe she would be sprawled out while he rubbed her feet. It was called a living room for a reason; they’d laughed, fought, cried, kissed and talked in this room. No.
He almost settled on the bathroom. Bathrooms were clinical. They were where you took care of your bodily functions, where you cleaned yourself. Brushing teeth, showering- there was nothing exciting about what went on in here. But then he imagined that this was where Joanna had discovered she was pregnant. Maybe even where she’d told Tyrell. Maybe they’d cried together afterwards. No.
He eventually found himself in the large walk-in-wardrobe. Tyrell’s things took up most of the space, so Elliot suspected that when Joanna had lived there she’d had her own separate wardrobe.
Yes, this was definitely Tyrell’s own space. It was where he put on his suit in the morning and prepared himself for the day ahead. It was where he transitioned himself into professional mode, fingers nimbly fastening his tie, and adjusting his cuffs. It smelt like him- his cologne and freshly laundered clothes. The air was cool and Elliot felt calm here.
He looked around. Everything was meticulously organised by colour, and he noted with amusement that Tyrell had an unreasonable amount of shirts. He smiled, unable to stop the feelings of fondness he felt washing over him.
He ran his fingers over the cool silk of Tyrell’s ties, and studied his collection of expensive-looking watches, not quite daring to pick any of them up.
He jumped when he heard Tyrell’s voice behind him.
‘Why are you in the wardrobe Elliot?’
‘Um…’ he faltered, unable to think of a reason that didn’t sound insane. Tyrell didn’t seem to mind.
‘I think the one with the brown strap would look good on you.’
Elliot blinked, confused.
‘The one you were just looking at, I think it would suit you,’ Tyrell said with a small smile.
‘Um…okay,’ was all Elliot could manage, his mind not really keeping up with what Tyrell was saying.
An awkward silence hung in the air.
‘Elliot, I don’t want to lose you,’ Tyrell’s voice was so small Elliot almost didn’t catch what he said.
Tears blurred Elliot’s vision.
‘You still love her.’ It wasn’t a question.
‘Of course I do Elliot!’ he cried, a look of total desolation on his face. ‘We were together for thirteen years. Even knowing that none of it was real doesn't erase how I feel about her, or change my memories of our life together. To me it was all real. I know that it wasn’t, but I can’t make myself believe it.’ He dragged a hand through his hair in frustration.
‘And I hate her Elliot! As much as I still love her, I hate her for using me. I hate her for stealing those years away from me. I hate her for making me trust her and then making me doubt everything. Everything Elliot! I don’t know how to trust anyone anymore. But somehow, despite that, I trust you. And now I’ve betrayed you, and I hate myself for that.’ He stopped to catch his breath. Elliot sensed he had more to say so he kept quiet. He wouldn’t have known what to say anyway.
‘Yes, I love her Elliot, and I hate that I do…’ he paused, taking in a deep breath, ‘…but I know that I definitely don’t hate the fact that I love you. ’
Elliot blinked. They’d alluded to love, but never said it to each other in so many words. Elliot wasn’t very good at all that, and he’d felt it unnecessary to put labels or pressure on anything. They both knew how the other felt, and that was enough for him. But hearing it now from Tyrell’s mouth, he realised he’d been wrong. It was good to hear it, amazing in fact.
‘Of course Elliot! I love Joanna because of our history, and because feelings don’t just go away suddenly, no matter how much you’d like them to. But I love you because of what we have right now, and our future.’
Elliot smiled, and Tyrell breathed out a small sigh of relief.
‘I’m so sorry, holding my son for the first time, it overwhelmed me. And then seeing her, I just couldn’t… I needed… ‘
He struggled to articulate his thoughts. ‘It felt a snapshot of what our lives were supposed to be. The family we should have been. And it was too much-‘
‘I understand. You don’t have to explain.’ He reached out to touch Tyrell, but the taller man flinched away.
‘Let me shower first?’
Elliot just nodded. As Tyrell started to walk away, Elliot called out to him.
The older man turned to face him.
‘I love you too,’ he smiled.
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