Tanim rolled over for the hundredth time and heaved a restless sigh into the dark living room. Clouds obscured the sky beyond the windows but he didn’t need to follow the path of the moon to know how long he had lain awake already. Just as sleep eluded him last night, he knew he would never manage it tonight either, not with mind and body both so fixated on the beautiful torment sleeping just down the hallway. There was no point in dwelling on something over which he had no control yet still the two conspired to conjure scenarios agonizing in their perfection and impossibility. Firm hands, hot skin, eager lips crushing his mouth in a passion as hungry and needy as his own–

Enough. Tanim reigned in the daydream before it could progress any farther and strain his already too frayed nerves. He knew what lay at the end of that road and couldn’t bear the rush of loneliness and guilt, not again. If he was doomed to another sleepless night of obsessing over Daren then at least he could face it without letting emotion overwhelm his ability to judge the situation. Surely if he worked things through logically he would realize he was simply overreacting. With another noisy exhalation, this time a poor attempt to force out the worst of his nerves, Tanim settled onto his back and tried to untangle the knot of emotions he could no longer ignore.

This is what you know, he began, comforted by reducing the issue to a bulleted list. First, you know Daren is far more damaged than you ever suspected.

At this he shifted anxiously, a chill shiver raising the hair on his arms at the memory of Daren thrashing and sobbing in the throes of a night terror. Tanim knew he wasn’t prepared to deal with someone so wounded. He had never entertained the delusion that Daren carried no baggage, of course, but he could never have predicted the man suffered such crippling trauma. The plan to nurse Daren back to health dissolved that first night as Tanim tried and failed to wake him from the nightmare which rocked his sickly frame. Though it ached to admit, Tanim couldn’t heal Daren’s psychological and emotional damage as easily as his body, no matter how desperately he longed to play the knight in shining armor. Which lead to the next uncomfortable fact.

Second, you know you love him.

Here his stomach twisted, his heart wrenched, and his throat constricted as if even his body couldn’t bear to acknowledge such a shameful secret. Tanim hadn’t meant for this to happen. He had been lonely, yes, and drawn to Daren from the beginning for reasons he didn’t understand at the time, but his intentions never surpassed hope for a little companionship. Even taking Daren in after he found the man sick and delirious had been nothing more than one friend helping another in need, right? He had managed to convince himself of that once but in the anonymity of the empty night Tanim suddenly questioned every excuse he’d made to steal just one more moment with Daren. Of course, in the end whatever he had wanted, subconsciously or not, didn’t matter anyway when faced with the final irrefutable truth.

Third, you know you can never tell him.

Tanim buried his face in the bunched blankets to muffle the sob lodged in his throat. Only rooms away the man he pined for slept on, in Tanim’s bed no less, oblivious to the power he held. Even if his motives may have been less pure than he cared to admit, he held no such fantasies Daren shared the same aspirations for their relationship. The moment Daren realized the depth of Tanim’s attraction, that would be the end; homeless or no, he’d be out the door and gone forever. Tanim couldn’t bear to lose Daren now they had reached such a comfortable place in their friendship. He would rather drown the heartache in alcohol each night and remain some part of Daren’s life than put voice to the unrequited longing and face complete rejection.

Maybe in the end that was best anyway. If wallowing in self pity lead to too many sleepless nights, facing this dilemma head on had done Tanim no better. Certainly it illuminated no unseen solutions nor provided even a modicum of comfort; if anything he felt more wretched, not less. At least indulging in a fantasy or two provided momentary pleasure before the hopelessness of his situation necessitated a generous nightcap. He craved one now just as badly and surrendered to the urge, kicking off the tangled blankets and making his way across the dark expanse. The daydreams only brought him loneliness, the doomed nature of his need only guilt and despair, but the open bottle of bourbon stashed at the back of the bar offered a few hours’ blessed oblivion from everything. Tonight it would have to suffice, as it had for so many others.


[ Daren isn’t actually oblivious to any of this because Tanim is very, very bad at hiding his feelings. ]


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