#1133

A scene raised to canon, replaying like a revenant trapped in a time loop: Tanim on one side of the door, barred from where Daren huddles on the bathroom tile beyond and “You okay?” Tanim asks, knowing the other is not, and is expectedly rebuked, I’m fine. Go back to bed, Tanim,” Daren’s words thinner than usual as if it pains him to force them up his raw throat. “Come out here and prove it to me,” Tanim requests, patient as always even when longing to be back in bed for what’s the point if he returns alone? “Open the door, lovely.” But the voice brushes him off again, “It’s nothing, go to sleep,” to which he threatens, not unkindly, “If it’s nothing, then open the door. I’ll break it down if I have to; you know I will.” From beyond a sighed “You would, wouldn’t you,” and finally the latch is turned and the door swings open. Tanim swallows, finds and loses words, then, “When were you planning on telling me?” to which Daren only shrugs, “When you cornered me about it in the bathroom, I suppose.” It isn’t a surprise, of course, for Tanim has smelled the blood on Daren’s lips before, yet somehow the images conjured in his mind couldn’t match in either horror or resignation the reality of seeing the red smear on the man’s lips. Thrown off balance by this sudden confrontation with reality, Tanim forces a dutiful head shake and the promise so often repeated it’s lost all meaning, “It doesn’t matter right now, darling. Let’s just go back to bed.” Daren draws cracked lips back in a grimace, a smile, a winced admittance of inner agony, and admits, “To be honest, I’d rather get very, very drunk,” to which Tanim finds himself laughing, humorless though the sound, and agrees with private relief, “I think we can manage that.”

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