It ends in April.
Leon can no longer eat. His lips are dry and cracked, his tongue swollen and white, his face pocked with open sores. Rain dribbles water onto his lips, can’t tell for certain whether any of it makes it into his mouth.
Pneumonia has settled deep in his lungs, racking his chest with harsh dry coughs that leave him curled around himself and Rain’s own chest aching to hear it. He has bedsores as well, open weeping wounds on arms and legs, covering so much of him it’s impossible to lay him in a position where none of them touch the sheets.
“He has a few days,” Dr. Phillips tells them. “I can give you some morphine. You’ll need to inject it straight into his veins.”
“I can do that,” Enrique says. Rain squeezes his hand. They’re both run ragged, caring for both Simon and Leon. Leon will go first, but Simon won’t be far behind.
He spends two days in a morphine-induced fog, asleep most of the time and unaware the rest of it. Rain sits at his bedside and slips his fingers under Leon’s, not even daring to squeeze his hand.
On the third day Leon suddenly emerges from the haze, his eyes focusing on Rain. He’s on no less morphine, but somehow the very last of him breaks through. Rain thinks he tries to speak, but it comes out a scratchy croak. He takes up water in the straw and lets it slowly into the corner of Leon’s mouth.
“Diego,” he calls urgently. “Sorrento. Enrique.”
They hurry in, and from their expressions Rain knows that they know.
Leon swallows and slides his eyes toward the water glass.
He gives a nearly-imperceptible nod. Rain gives him another strawful, then one more before Leon turns his head away. He parts his lips, licks them with the tip of his tongue.
“Come – ” he begins, then breaks off to cough. It’s become no more than a hoarse rattle. “Come… hold me.”
Carefully, so carefully, Rain crawls next to him on the bed. Diego takes his place in the bedside chair, and Sorrento sits on the edge of the mattress, laying a hand just above Leon’s knee.
Leon struggles to take a breath. “Let him leave,” Enrique says softly.
Diego takes his father’s hand and bends over to kiss it, the lightest brush of lips on knuckles. “It’s okay, Dad. You can go.”
Leon’s body is frail as a bird in Rain’s arms, fragile bones beneath paper-thin skin, his heartbeat a weak flutter in his breast. He touches his forehead to Leon’s cheek, as Leon had once done to him under the stars of Saratoga, asking for his poetry. Words well up, but none of them are enough to hold a lifetime of love and fights and laughter and tears and music that could have been. Should have been.
“I’m just going to – ” Leon coughs again. “I’m just… going to… close my eyes. For…” He fades out, and Rain’s heart stands still. “For a minute,” he says at last.
“Leon,” Rain whispers, and he says the words. The only words there are, and he fills them with everything there’s no more time to say. “I love you.”
But Leon never replies.