Even deep asleep, Tanim could sense Daren’s restlessness at his side and woke as abruptly as a parent alerted by their child’s faint cry. He rolled over to find his companion sitting against the bed’s headboard, forehead pressed against drawn up knees. “Can’t sleep?” Tanim pushed himself up as well, trying to shake off his own grogginess.

“I’m fine,” Daren didn’t even bother to lift his head when he spoke, his words muffled and monotone. Unconvinced, Tanim touched a tentative hand to his elbow. “Is it the pain?”

“Stop,” Daren jerked his arm away as his head shot up, lips thinning in a snarl and eyes flashing with the pain he refused to acknowledge. “I’m fine, Tanim.”

“Now who’s the terrible liar?” Unable to touch Daren, Tanim willed his voice to bridge the gap between them instead. “Come on, love. You can’t sleep; you can’t eat; you’re even more withdrawn than usual. How long do you think you can last like this? It isn’t going to get better. Not anymore. You have to take something for the pain.”

As quick as Daren’s rage had flared, it died back down to a tired smolder. This time he only snorted and shook his head at the suggestion. “A couple handfuls of Aspirin aren’t going to touch this.”

“I’m not talking about Aspirin,” Tanim rolled his eyes in a gesture to rival the other man’s dismissal, his usually endless patience already wearing thin from the argument they’d had too many times before. “Of course you need something stronger than that.”

Daren’s own black eyes narrowed at him through the darkness. “You know I won’t go to a doctor.”

Tanim groaned but managed to control the urge to roll his eyes again. “I really hope you’re being stubborn because you’re in pain and not just because you love arguing over everything,” he warned with a frustrated glare of his own. “Look, I told you I was lost for a long time. You think I managed that with over the counter meds? I can get you what you need without ever seeing a single doctor.”

Daren stared at him a moment, though if he was crafting a new excuse or wondering what particular prescription medications the other man had abused, Tanim couldn’t tell. Eventually he turned away and mumbled, “I won’t take anything that messes with my head. My mind’s muddled enough as it is.”

“Fine. Do whatever you want,” This wasn’t an argument Tanim wished to have at all, let alone at two in the morning. If Daren wouldn’t cooperate, neither would he. Without another word he turned away from Daren and prepared to go back to sleep, or at least to pretend to sleep while he seethed in silence. Juvenile? Yes. Did he care? Not really.

Tanim never got an opportunity to give Daren much of a cold shoulder, though. After a tense silence he felt the mattress shift as a warm body settled against his and Daren’s arms hugged him close. “I’m sorry, Tanim,” the younger man murmured, placing a penitent kiss beneath his lover’s ear. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Do you think it’s easy for me to see you in such agony?” Try as he might, Tanim was too tired to hold onto his anger. He meant the question as an accusation but instead it came out like a wounded plea, choked by the lump in his throat he couldn’t swallow down. Without the rush of anger fueled adrenaline, Tanim felt only defeated and tired.

Daren remained silent for so long Tanim began to think he wouldn’t reply at all. Just when he figured the man wasn’t going to respond, that he’d chosen brooding over facing the statement’s truth, Daren finally grudgingly admitted, “After a while you forget what it’s like to not be sick. You get used to being in pain; it becomes your new normal. You forget, too, that other people don’t feel what you do. That they’re not used to it and it scares them.” He heaved a sigh and buried his face in the curve of Tanim’s neck. “I don’t mean to worry you, Tanim. I just forget I’m not the only one affected by this anymore. Let me think about it, okay? I haven’t exactly had the best experiences with medications.”

Tanim exhaled slowly as he tried to relax into the younger man’s tight embrace. Nothing made him more miserable than when they fought; with so little time left it seemed a horrible waste of breath. Compromise was better than nothing. “Think about it,” he conceded as he pressed Daren’s knuckles to his lips. “That’s all I ask.”


[ I tend to avoid writing pieces in this back and forth dialogue/action style because I can never decide where to put paragraph breaks. It frustrates me to no end and eventually I’m like fuck this, make it ONE GIANT PARAGRAPH FOR ALL I CARE, which is why I prefer writing monologues or something with no dialogue at all. Also, somewhere along the way I really started to hate this piece. Grr. ]