You say, “My dreams are graveyards of ghosts, too, lately,” and so I take your hand and bid, “Show them to me.” We need not fear our graveyards; what harm can the dead do to us now? They may reach out with jealous spectral fingers to touch our warmth and feel our pulses, yet they cannot drag us down into the cold dirt with them. They are naught but the remnants of people who no longer exist (though somewhere someone living still bears their name), memories which fade and curl with time. Do not be afraid as you walk through the graves of your past, our fingers entwined, our steps silent on old leaves and older earth. Stop by one and tell me who lays here, who they were when you knew them, what power they have to come crawling back out of the ground in which you’ve buried them. In turn I’ll take you to mine and tell you about the girl whose heart I broke, the boy who broke mine, the dreams in which they slip through the cracks in the locked door of my subconscious. You need not walk alone in your graveyard. Let me follow at your side and soothe your ghosts back to their everslumber. Then, hand in hand, we will walk out again.
Another fever. Bad this time, too. Tanim slides the back of his hand from Daren’s hot brow and down his cheek, brushing his thumb over the man’s cracked lips. He wonders again, as he has wondered so often since they met, what monster left such lasting damage on his companion. Bruises fade; bones heal; but the nightmares, the physical and emotional trauma, the brokenness verging on madness, those will cripple Daren the rest of his life. Of course, Daren will never admit the abuse he’s suffered or the identity of his abuser. And normally Tanim would respect this decision, honor Daren’s need to keep the darkest aspects of his past to himself, but tonight…
Tonight Tanim can’t bear to watch Daren twist and shiver in the fever’s hold, eyes glassy and breath uneven, too weak to block out the terrors which claw at the edges of his consciousness. Tanim’s heart aches with the knowledge that nothing he can do will fix Daren, rage rising in his throat with the burn of sour bile. He can’t fix Daren, no, but he can bring his lover a modicum of vengeance. Taking Daren’s limp hand in his, Tanim leans over and asks softly, “Who was it, Daren?”
“Nnn…” Daren shakes his head dizzily, eyelids fluttering, not yet delirious enough to answer. “Stop, Tan…”
“Shh…” Tanim strokes Daren’s cool skin. “It’s okay,” he soothes. “Tell me, darling. Please.”
“I-I…” Black eyes try to focus, fail, and Daren turns his face into the sweat damp pillow with another shiver. The sickness is pulling him back down into uneasy sleep and Tanim knows now is his best chance to draw the secret from Daren’s disoriented mind. “Tell me, Daren,” he urges gently, gliding his fingers through the man’s silky hair as he bends so close their lips nearly touch. “Tell me who hurt you all those years ago, my love. It’s easy; just say one name. Let me bring you justice. Please, Daren.”
Shuddering, Daren speaks a name and sinks into fevered sleep. Tanim smiles.
“Thank you, darling.”
welcome me, dead land
I’ve wandered far to come here
place of ghosts and bones
let the sun burn and bleach me
a parched grave for a parched soul
I set words adrift
trusting to the unknown sea
will they find your shores?
I dream sometimes about the things that might have happened to him. Sometimes I’m standing by, watching in the helpless immobility of the dream as Daren is beaten, brutalized, broken down and open. Sometimes I’m witnessing this violence from inside, trapped within Daren’s panicked, paralyzed mind, and no matter how much I long to lash out in defense I can do nothing to protect myself. To protect him. Even waking to find Daren safe at my side does nothing to ease the crushing sense of hopelessness that lingers after the nightmare’s end.
When I wake from those disorienting dreams I want to rouse Daren and swear I would have come. If I had known, if I had been able, I would have put myself between him and anyone who wished him harm. I would have taken those blades myself, or I would have turned them on his assailants. I would have done anything to keep Daren safe. I want to promise him a thousand times that it would have been different had I been there to rescue him from his own fate.
I don’t tell Daren about these dreams, though, because I wasn’t there. I didn’t arrive in time. I came long after he had already retreated inside his aching body and damaged mind. It does no good for me to tell him what I would have done when it changes nothing for him now. I can’t undo his trauma; I can only try to heal as much as I can, even when I know so little about his past. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
Who were you before?
I long to know that man, too
I will love his ghost
[ The newest picture I commissioned from the amazingly talented E. M. Engel. I can't get over her gorgeous artwork! Also, check out my banner; it rotates between pictures of my lovely boys each time you refresh. ...and yes, I've been clicking obsessively just to look at Tanim and Daren. I'm not obsessed, I swear. ]
Daren hurts. Every part of him hurts. He knows he should get up but he can’t bear to move a single muscle and so he remains crumpled on the floor, head cradled in Tanim’s lap like a sick child. He knows, too, that he shouldn’t speak, yet he finds his cracked lips parting and the unexpected, unwanted question rasping softly, “Why me, Tanim? I’m not worth it.” A tremor shudders up his body and he breaks off for a moment as his muscles spasm. After, sucking in a pained breath, he forces himself to continue, though now the words barely escape his lips. “I’ll hurt you. You’ll be the one left behind. Right now you’re lonely, but at least you’re not grieving.”
Tanim sighs over him in the darkness. He arrived too late during this latest attack, nightmare or seizure or whatever strikes Daren so violently, to keep the man from tumbling out of bed and earning yet another set of bruises. Daren knows Tanim blames himself for that – for a lot of things. Tanim’s fingers glide absently over Daren’s sweat damp hair as he replies with painful honesty, “Of course I’m grieving. I’m grieving for you; for what I don’t have but can’t let go of. I’d rather grieve for what I’ve lost than what I’ve never known.” He swallows to steady his voice before adding, “Have faith in me, Daren. Please.”
Daren means to laugh at such naïveté yet the sound that emerges from his aching throat is closer to a whimper than a mocking snort. “You’re a fool, Tanim,” he chastises, but instead of pulling away he turns his face into the solid warmth of Tanim’s thigh. He hurts so deeply that when Tanim replies gently, “You’re no less of one,” Daren doesn’t even bother arguing. Instead he allows the soothing caress of Tanim’s fingers through his hair to lull him into an exhausted and mercifully dream-free sleep.
[ This piece gave me soooo much trouble. Jeeze. ]