Zeke walks all through the house with Tyler following directly behind him, clinging to his jacket and. They go outside and walk all the way around the perimeter of the house. Zeke takes Tyler through the house a second time just to satisfy him that they were not in any danger, checking every place anyone could possibly be hiding. Tyler looks through each room nervously as they walk through and finally accepts that Zeke was right, there was no one there but the two of them, they had been too thorough in their search for anyone to have been there with them. The more he thought about it now the less it made sense for the guy to have been standing in the doorway while Zeke was there, and for Zeke to have not been able to see him. He hadn’t questioned it at the time, because it looked and felt so real, but there was no way anyone could logically have been there and it made even less sense that given the opportunity, an intruder wouldn’t just attack them. Still, the search through the house was reassuring, even if he didn’t know what to believe, he could see now that there was no threat. Whether there ever had been or not, wasn’t important right now, they could deal with that problem later.
“Feeling better?” Zeke asks as Tyler sinks into the lounge chair with his head in his hands.
“I could have sworn he was there. He was standing right in the doorway.” Tyler replies bewildered, he felt embarrassed that he’d caused Zeke even more trouble.
“Tyler. I’m really worried about you, are you sure you’re ok.” Zeke asks as he crouches in front of Tyler.
“You think I’m crazy, I’m not crazy!” Tyler says angrily, not even sure he believed it himself but feeling stubbornly defensive. Zeke bites his lip as Tyler lashes out at him again, remembering that Tyler was in a vulnerable position and wasn’t doing it out of rudeness, but out of fear.
“Ok. Just relax. If there was someone here then he’s not here now and you’re safe.” Zeke promises Tyler. “Just relax.” Zeke repeats. Tyler starts crying and Zeke moves to sit beside him, he puts his arm around Tyler, holding him tight for comfort. As much as Zeke was terrified of what was going on with the poor guy, he couldn’t help but feel relieved thatsomethingwas giving them a chance to move past the mistakes from the day before, being able to sit together like this and prove that he could protect and comfort Tyler and that he was someone that could be trusted and relied on was bittersweet. “It’s ok. I’m not going anywhere, you’re safe. I promise.” Zeke tells him. Tyler doesn’t say anything, just leans against Zeke and tries to make sense of his confusion. As time passes and neither felt like moving or letting the other out of their sight, Zeke and Tyler fall asleep resting against each other on the couch.
Zeke wakes up alone and immediately panics, his thoughts going to a dark place while he curses to himself for falling asleep and not noticing Tyler had moved, his next concern coming as he reaches towards his pocket only to find his gun was gone. He gets up from the couch and starts calling out as he rushes down the hallway and bursts into the bedroom. The light was on in the bathroom and the shower was running, which might have been reassuring if Tyler hadn’t already attempted to kill himself once in there already.
“Tyler are you in there?” Zeke calls out urgently, reaching for the door and rattling the handle, fully prepared to break the door in if he didn’t get a response.
“Yeah, what’s up?” Tyler calls out back to him, the tone in his voice was so casual and normal that it was hard to believe only a few hours ago Tyler had been so afraid that he was imagining someone in the house. “Zeke? What’s going on?” Tyler asks again on not getting a response.
“Oh nothing, I was just checking on you. Are you alright?” Zeke asks, leaning against the door relieved and taking a deep breath.
“I’m fine. I’ll be out soon.” Tyler answers as he turns off the shower.
“Ok, I’ll uh, I’ll be in my office then.” Zeke tells him, leaving the room to give Tyler some privacy. Tyler gets out of the shower and starts drying himself off then looks in the mirror. His eyes focusing on the fresh scars on his arm, before he sees something shift out of the corner of his eye. He closes his eyes and shakes his head.
“There’s no one here.” Tyler tells himself quietly, turning and looking around the bathroom, as he turns back to the mirror he jumps at his own reflection. “Bloody hell.” Tyler rolls his eyes as he starts roughly drying himself off, annoyed. Despite knowing he was alone and that Zeke was out keeping him safe, Tyler was being cautious as he left the bathroom. He walks out and looks around the room, even checking under the bed and in the wardrobe before he starts getting dressed. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Zeke’s protection, just that he needed to prove to himself that there was nothing here. He gets dressed in pale coloured clothes to hide the lack of colour in his skin. Physically he was deteriorating from the inside and he knew he couldn’t keep it from Zeke much longer, certainly if he got any worse it’d be completely obvious. He was embarrassed by himself but the habits were so deeply dug that he didn’t know how to pull himself out of it. Tyler heads into Zeke’s office to see him, he places the gun on Zeke’s desk and walks over to the couch, lying down and making himself comfortable.
“How are you feeling after a sleep?” Zeke asks, taking the gun and cleaning it, wanting to remove Tyler’s finger prints off it immediately.
“I’m alright. Sorry I took that. I just thought if anything happened, I wanted something to protect myself.” Tyler shrugs, looking up at the ceiling.
“You should have woken me up. Have you ever even used a gun?” Zeke questions.
“NoI just figured that it’d look intimidating.” Tyler looks over at Zeke who was not at all disguising his amusement. “Or I could have just shot them. It’s just pointing and pulling a trigger.”
“I find it hard to imagine you being intimidating, I’m sorry to say.” Zeke smiles.
“And yet I get the feeling you’re afraid of me.” Tyler states confidently.
“I’m afraid of you hurting yourself, not anyone else. Do you want to talk about what happened?” Zeke could see the reluctance in Tyler’s face as he asks.
“I’m crazy right? What’s there to talk about?” Tyler looks at Zeke blankly.
“I don’t think you’re crazy. But you’re struggling and I don’t know how to help without having all the information.” Zeke sighs, walking around to the front of his desk and sitting on it. Tyler fakes a smile and just shakes his head.
“Nah, there’s nothing you can do.” He says with a heavy sigh.
“Tyler, here’s where it’s at ok, because you said we need to just be open with each other and ‘cut the shit’ when we talk right? So last night, you were terrified, you were certain there was someone in the house and you were absolutely beyond consolation or reasoning about it. Now I want to have you taken care of the way you need to be and if that means handing care over to Corey who knows how to handle this kind of thing a thousand times better than I do, I will. The problem is that would mean it coming out that you were alive and that I had been living with you this whole time, and that will result in things not being great for me in terms of work. I will make the sacrifice for your benefit, but it’s not a sacrifice I want to make lightly so I need to know, do you need Corey to take care of you at the facility?” Zeke asks urgently. Tyler eyes Zeke curiously, it seemed absurd that he would risk his job over this and yet Zeke appeared completely sincere.
“No, I’ll be fine.” Tyler shakes his head, though he couldn’t help but wonder if Zeke really would give himself up, for Tyler’s wellbeing. It seemed like an insane idea, but yet really considerate and kind of him to even consider losing everything to make sure Tyler was ok. It gave a sense of importance, that Zeke really was willing to protect Tyler at any cost.
“This is not something you can just pretend isn’t a problem, if you are struggling, if it’s real to you and it’s that serious then we need to get you taken care of properly. I do not want to find you dead in my house after having another episode like that and deciding you can’t handle it. I want you to be healthy, I want you to be safe. No matter what that means for me...”
“ZekeI said I’m fine.” Tyler snaps, getting up from the couch and walking over to the desk where Zeke was standing. He pauses in front of him just a little too close and for a moment Zeke was wondering if Tyler was going to try to hurt him, or kiss him, but Tyler’s eyes shift from Zeke to a photo on his desk. “You know when you see a scary movie or show and the bad guy turns up in your nightmares?” Tyler asks then picks up the photo and looks at it. “WellI guess you can still have nightmares even when you can’t sleep.” He states, passing the photo to Zeke and walking towards the door.
“Is this who you thought you saw?” Zeke asks, eyeing the photo and then looking back over at Tyler.
“Yep. Just a scary photo of a scary face I’d seen in here. Nothing more. A walking a nightmare. Sorry to have fucked up your entire night over it.” Tyler states, shaking his head.
“Ok great, we know what it was, now we just have to work out why and stop that from causing you distress anymore.” Zeke throws the photo back on his desk and walks over towards Tyler happily, he’d assumed already that it was some kind of hallucination but thought it’d take more to convince Tyler that so this was an instant relief.
“I know what caused it and I am already planning how to not let it happen again.Sothere you go, I’m sure you have actual proper work to do today, that doesn’t include babying me, so you do that and I’ll sort out my issues, if I need your help, I’ll ask for it, deal?” Tyler states. Hesitant to give him the space hewanted,Zeke lets Tyler go without another word.
Tyler’s paranoia calmed down a bit in the days that followed. During the day he was mostly fine, minus the panic attacks that struck him at the most random of times and generally only when he was home alone. For the most part the medication was starting to help soothe him though the worst of his lows. When Zeke was home Tyler would act happy and like there was not a problem in the world. His reason for acting this way was purely that Zeke was paying him more positive attention if he was happy. They would sit together and talk and joke around as if nothing was wrong. They were both pretending for each other's sake, that things were fine. Zeke was worried about triggering Tyler in any way and Tyler was worried about inconveniencing Zeke so the two of them just didn't talk about the hallucinations again. It was as though they thought they could fake their way into a completely different life. Tyler loved the positive attention he was getting and made an effort to smile for Zeke, they had found their way out of the discomfort with each other and were now finally getting use to living with one another. Conversations about what to have for dinner and arguments about what to watch on TV were their new normal, no talk of life and death, it was nice to feel like they could just relax and enjoy each other’s company. From time to time when Tyler was in one of his deeply depressedmoodshe’d be more withdrawn and Zeke would try and cheer him up or hug him, which Tyler hated having to refuse but he was struggling to get his eating under control and was becoming so sickly thin and weak that he couldn't risk Zeke finding out, he knew if Zeke put a hand on him he would easily notice how unwell Tyler was. Try as he might though, Tyler just couldn't get himself to eat while Zeke wasn't there watching him, and if he happened to get overwhelmed he would find himself in the bathroom trying to bring up the last meal. There was something about being out of control in the situation he was in, that made him so badly crave some form of control. The only thing he had any control over was his body, he was proud of himself if he managed a day without cutting or purging, because every hour Zeke wasn't there to stop him, he was left to try and fight the urge on his own. Zeke had started calling Tyler everyday, telling him in the morning what time he intended to call and instructing Tyler to pick up the phone and not speak until he knew it was Zeke, but to hang up if it was anyone else, the conversations were limited, but the one thing other than Zeke coming home, that Tyler looked forward to most in his day.
“Hey, it’s just me, how are you?” Zeke’s voice was coming at a time when Tyler had needed it most, as he was in the middle of one of his lows, feeling as though the glass in the bathroom was screaming for him.
“I’m fine.” Tyler replies and leans against the wall beside the phone.
“I’ll soon change that.” An unfamiliar voice broke into the conversation. Tyler freezes at the words, his smile fading instantly and a chill running down his spine.
“Ze..." Tyler starts but is quickly cut off.
“That wasn’t me. Hang up quickly. Don’t say anything just hang up.” Zeke orders. Tyler does as he’s told then runs to the bedroom, he grabs a pillow and goes into the bathroom and locks the door. He sinks into a corner of the room and hugs the pillow to his chest for comfort.
“It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.” He chants to himself in a panic but as soon as he finishes trying to reassure himself, the phone starts ringing again.
“Who are you?” Zeke asks, quickly trying to trace the call before he lost the connection.
“Ohwhere’s the fun in that? Who’s ‘your friend? Should I kill him or just torture him?"