Tanim had thought it would be easier than this. He assumed by the time the end came he would be used to silence, to absence, to aloneness. After all, had he not already been alone so much of the time? Not physically, perhaps, but in other ways. There were times he hadn’t even been sure Daren was aware of his presence, to say nothing of whether the man actually desired his companionship. His eyes, already too dark to read anything within their depths, would go flat and distant as if Daren saw some different place and time, or perhaps nothing at all. Tanim could hardly blame Daren if he had removed himself in those moments on purpose; after all, Tanim might have done the same to escape the constant pain if he’d been the one trapped in a failing body. Yet forced to watch Daren be there physically and yet so very not there emotionally, Tanim had thought this a small glimpse into his future. A sense of what it would be like to move through empty, untouched rooms, to once more lay awake without the comfort of another’s warm weight pressed to his side. He had been wrong, of course. This was loneliness beyond anything he had even begun to imagine in the dark nights of those final months and weeks. Watching Daren waste away had broken his heart, true, but losing him removed it completely.


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