“Ah, the ice prince returneth,”

Daren doesn’t reply as he turns to lock the door behind himself. He can feel the weight of Tanim’s gaze as the man watches his every movement, calculating each second in which he neither speaks nor raises his eyes. “Silence,” Tanim’s voice feigns lightness to veil bitterness, but doesn’t succeed. “Of course.” Daren hears the soft ring of crystal on polished stone as Tanim sets down his drink. When he speaks again, his voice is much closer; Daren can smell the alcohol on his breath. “Do you want me at all? In any way? Do you even love me, in whatever fucked up way you can?”

“Stop before you make a fool of yourself,” Daren cautions wearily, moving sideways to put Tanim in his periphery. Undaunted, Tanim mirrors the movement so they face one another. “No,” he replies, half refusal, half entreaty. “No. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of hoping you’ll throw me a scrap of what passes for affection from you.” His voice rises, edged with desperation and fueled by drink. “I’m tired of wondering what keeps you here, and whether the next time you leave will be the last time I ever see you. You give me nothing to hold onto, nothing to make me think I even exist to you most of the time, but then you…” he gestures helplessly, “you flip and suddenly I’m worth something, or at least there’s something I can offer that you actually want. But I can’t predict it and I can’t rely on it, and in between I ache for what I can’t ask for from you, even though there are nights when you give it freely.”

“Tanim, don’t–” Daren’s words are cut off as Tanim interrupts, closing the distance between them, “I don’t forget, you know. I can’t just divorce the person you are every other second of the day from the person you are for just a moment when you admit you want me. Don’t you want me? I’m not crazy. I didn’t make those moments up.” He takes hold of Daren’s wrist with both hands, not painfully but with an intensity he wouldn’t normally dare. His eyes are at once too dull and too bright. “Some part of you wants me. I know it. You know it. Why do you deny it? Why do you deny me?”

“Tanim, stop,” Daren tries to pull his arm away but Tanim’s grip only tightens. Then his hands are locked around both of Daren’s arms, and as he pulls his lover closer his words rush out with a fervor bordering on hysteria. “Some part of you isn’t dead or frozen, I know it, and I know I can reach it if you’d just let me, if you’d just let me in I can–”

Daren doesn’t need to say anything this time; the knife says it for him, pressed point first into the center of Tanim’s chest. He uses its thin, honed edge to force the man back, a wet red stain blossoming through the cloth of Tanim’s shirt. Tanim’s arms fall away as he looks down to the tiny blade buried an inch into his flesh, his expression moving with inebriated delay through confusion, surprise, and understanding. Either the pain or the shock, or perhaps both, serve to clear his head a bit and when he looks back up, his eyes are focused and filled with fear. “Darling,” he lifts one hand as if to touch Daren, a gesture of guilt and regret, but lets it fall just as quickly, “I didn’t- you know I would never-”

“Get out,” Daren’s voice holds none of the trembling emotion of Tanim’s; his words are as cold and precise as the blade in his hand. “Don’t come back until you’re sober.” For a moment Tanim seems to consider arguing, or perhaps pleading for forgiveness, but the dark wall of Daren’s eyes warns him to obey. So instead he takes a step back, leaving the knife between them as if hanging in space, blood dripping from its point to stain the white carpet, and leaves without another word.

Only once the door is closed and Tanim’s footsteps have receded does Daren lower his arm.

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