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And when the end came, it caught him unprepared. He, who had never trusted, not like this, not even during his brief marriage. And then he'd placed his heart in the hands of not one, but two separate people, one a friend, one a lover, both dearest to him than anyone had ever been. Except perhaps his sister.

He should've known. Should've known it wouldn't last, should've known they'd leave him, broken and alone. It had been too good, too sweet, too long; he should've smelled the sickly-sweet corruption lying just underneath the surface, waiting for the most propitious moment to break free. To break him.

He hated them. He loved them.

He hated himself.

It was his fault. He'd made himself too vulnerable. His fault he was hurting, his fault she was taken, his fault Alex-

No, not Alex. That wasn't his fault. How was he to blame for Alex's smile, for the way he could entice him with a look? A lie, all of it a lie, but oh, the taste of Alex's kisses, the noises he made when they moved against each other, with each other, in each other- No, not his fault, that, no-

Yes. His fault. He should never have believed. He never had, before Alex.

He didn't recognize himself anymore, a stranger in his own skin, his entire being only half the land he and Alex had set out to explore together, now made incomplete by the absence of the other.

And his apartment was a mirror of that. Here, in the living room, everything still the way they'd left it the last time Alex had spent the night, like a snapshot, frozen and drenched of life now: the half empty glasses on the coffee table, the remote lying forgotten on the floor, his throw draped haphazardly over the couch's arm. There, in the bedroom, traces of another kind, and it ached to look, to remember, to inhale the smells that still seemed to linger in the air.

For a whole afternoon he wandered around as if dazed, thinking not enough of Scully and too much of Alex, not feeling guilty enough over the indulgence. He wallowed, he cried, he raged at the world and the fates and any gods who might have allowed this to happen. And when the night came he gathered every last reminder of Alex he could find and threw them down the trash chute. A single pang of pain sneaked at him, and he almost doubled over from the intensity of it, almost wished he could follow all of the discarded sweetness down into darkness and decay. But instead he stood straighter, breathed deep and turned his back on all the memories they'd made, denying them forever, making up new truths as he re-entered his apartment.

To reside now in another kind of darkness.