Elliot wasn’t sure what to expect when Darlene came through the door, but her throwing her arms around him in a bone-crushing hug certainly wasn’t it.
‘We did it, Elliot! You did it!’ She let out a sound that was somewhere between a squeal of delight and a giggle, and Elliot was taken back to that night on the bench, when she’d been so overwhelmed with joy and child-like anticipation that she’d screamed at the top of her lungs for all the world to hear. Elliot cringed as he remembered what had happened after that moment; he’d thought she looked so beautiful- free, happy, and with a fire blazing in her eyes. Elliot had hoped then that he would one day feel unadulterated joy as she had done, and he found himself thinking the same now.
Darlene pulled away from Elliot, looking flushed with happiness, before her face contorted into a frown and she jabbed him hard in the shoulder.
‘Where the fuck have you been? You push the button, the world unravels, and you just disappear? What the fuck is that about?!’
‘I’m…’ Elliot trailed off weakly, ‘I’ve been… confused,’ he finished lamely.
‘What the fuck does that mean?’ It was scary, really, how passionate people like Darlene could swing wildly between different emotions. Elliot could never keep up, and he wondered why his own spectrum of feelings was so narrow. Had he been numbing himself for so long that he’d simply forgotten how to feel?
He realised that Darlene was staring at him, with a mix of concern and the dying embers of anger burning in her eyes.
‘Darlene, I need your help.’ Wrong answer.
‘*You* need *my* help?! We’ve been running around for days destroying any evidence of your plan Elliot. You unleash chaos, *without telling us*, disappear, and then we’re left to pick up the pieces? And seriously Elliot, what the fuck?’ This last question was accompanied by an angry jab in Tyrell’s direction.
Elliot for the most part had forgotten Tyrell was there, and blinked in surprise at Darlene’s outburst. Tyrell met Darlene’s glare with cold eyes, and a mask of indifference.
‘Oh, sorry, Darlene, this is Tyrell,’ Elliot attempted to explain with whatever small amount of confidence he could muster. ‘He’s-‘
Elliot didn’t think it was possible, but Darlene somehow managed to look even angrier than before, a large vein beginning to bulge in her forehead.
‘Are you fucking kidding me Elliot? How could you possibly have forgotten?!’ she screeched.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t remember anything since the hack. I-‘
‘You’re unbelievable Elliot. I’m not talking about the last few days. I’ve met your friend here plenty of times, and I’ve made it clear to you that I don’t trust him.’ *What? What the fuck is she talking about?* Elliot would have to talk to Tyrell about this later. A quick glance in his direction revealed that Tyrell was looking… defeated? If Elliot didn’t know any better, he’d say he looked disappointed. But there was no time to worry about that now.
‘Darlene, I don’t know what to tell you, but he helped us. It’s thanks to him that we succeeded.’ Elliot hoped this was true. He assumed it was, but who the fuck knew anymore?
‘I don’t care what you think of him Elliot, he has his own agenda, and if you know what’s good for you you’ll stay far, far away from him.’
Silence fell. Darlene tried to catch her breath, her chest rising and falling in quick, angry movements. Elliot felt numb, a look of blank resignation on his face. Tyrell just looked lost. Elliot had thought about this moment for so long. He’d thought about what life would be like after they’d bought the 1% to its feet, and turned the world on its head. He thought he’d feel free, joyous, *something*. Fuck, he thought he’d at least remember it. But instead he was confused, and every question he had gave rise to yet more questions, and once again he just felt so, so tired.
Finally, after a long few moments, it was Tyrell’s turn to speak.
‘Darlene, I know what you think of me, but I’m with you on all of this. I stand for what you stand for, it just took me far too long to realise it. And I certainly wouldn’t harm Elliot. Right now I’m hoping that you’ll put whatever you feel about me aside, and help us. We have reason to believe that someone knows we’re behind the hack.’
‘That’s not possible, we covered our tracks. Everything is destroyed.’
‘Yes, *you* did, but Elliot and I both disappeared after the hack, yes?’ Darlene nodded. ‘And neither of us have any memory of where we were or what we did.’
‘Shit, you guys are made for each other. You’re just as crazy as-‘
‘Elliot’s not crazy, and neither am I.’
Elliot felt compelled to argue, but stopped himself as he felt oddly warmed by Tyrell’s words.
‘Darlene, I didn’t forget for the same reasons as Elliot. I forgot because *someone made me*.’
That got Darlene’s attention. ‘How do you know?’
Tyrell explained, as best he could, the events of the last 24 hours, eventually handing over the piece of paper that was in his wallet to Darlene.
She examined it, confused. ‘Why would I have any idea what this means?’
‘You don’t know who could have written it?’
‘Again, *why* would I know that?’
Tyrell sighed dejectedly. ‘I don’t know. I just hoped-‘ Darlene cut him off as she turned to Elliot.
‘Elliot, I’m done with this bullshit. In my opinion, someone out there is pretty pissed with your friend here. You need to stay the hell away from him and move on with your life. Listen to me or don’t, but I can’t be involved in your life while he still is.’ She moved to let herself out, before turning and pressing a gentle hand to Elliot’s shoulder.
‘Be careful Elliot.’
After she left Tyrell walked slowly up to Elliot, surveying his face carefully. Elliot’s wide eyes gave nothing away and his posture conveyed weariness, but nothing else.
‘Elliot, I think I should go. Your sister’s right.’
*No. Stay. Please!*
‘I need to see my family, and try to rebuild my life. Darlene was right; you need to do the same as well. Take care of yourself Elliot.’ The look in Tyrell’s eyes belied his words, and Elliot sensed that it wouldn’t take much to convince him to stay.
Instead, Elliot stood motionless as Tyrell gathered his possessions.
‘Thank you Elliot,’ he heard Tyrell say sadly as he made his way over to the door.
And then he was gone.