The moment passes too quickly, as always, and Tanim is left hollow and listless in its wake. With trembling hands he lowers Daren’s head to the carpet, smooths the hair from his brow.

No, not Daren. The fantasy passes along with the rage and suddenly the face before him is no longer his lover’s but a stranger’s, unfamiliar beneath the mask of blood and bruises. There are similarities – that broken nose might once have been sharp and angular, those bloody lips thin and sardonic, the hair a pale blond that in the right light might be mistaken for… – but not enough. This man isn’t Daren, just some whore whose name Tanim has already forgotten or never knew.

“Shit,” Tanim gently draws down the dead man’s eyelids over dulled eyes that are blue, not black; he can never get that part right, not completely, and in the end it’s always the eyes that give the strangers away, that stir the spark of anger inside him into a maelstrom of wrath and misery.

“You act as if you didn’t know this would happen,” The note of mockery in the voice makes Tanim flinch and he shakes his head, scrubbing at his mouth with the back of one hand as if to wipe away everything from the last hour; the taste of unfamiliar flesh and semen, of blood and alcohol, the sobs that threaten to vomit up from his throat even now. “Shut up,” is all he manages to growl, a whimper breaking through the words. “And yet you continue to do it,” the voice presses in amusement. “Why?”

“Because it’s not you!” This time the sob does burst forth, a ragged, broken howl as Tanim turns red-rimmed eyes up to his companion. He falters as he meets the others cold black gaze. “It’s never you…” The man leaning against the windowsill only shrugs, clearly unimpressed with Tanim’s outburst, and nods to the broken body at Tanim’s side. “You better clean up soon,” he cautions, “you only rented this room for two hours.”

As Daren turns his head to gaze out the window, Tanim averts his eyes once more to avoid glimpsing the jagged, seeping wound where the back of his lover’s skull has been crushed in.

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