"Hey!" Grace said as Dillon opened the door before her.
"You're here," he said, surprised by the fact that she'd shown up.
"I decided that I wanted to be here with you. It is New Year's Eve after all, isn't it? No one should be alone," she countered as she noticed the fact that he wasn't exactly stepping out of her way. "I am still invited, aren't I?"
He nodded and stepped back, extending his arm into his apartment. She smiled, despite the way she saw him cringe, and walked in, slipping out of her fluffy winter coat and hanging it on the coat rack. She wore a navy blue sweater that he'd given her for Christmas and a pair of fleece mittens.
He looked considerably warmer in a sweatshirt and fleece pajama pants, even though she doubted that was the case. She could understand why, but still, she wished he would dress a little differently. Or maybe have napped. He looked so very tired. She almost wanted to leave with the parting message of get some rest and that she'd see him in the morning
"So, where's the party?" she asked softly.
"Funny," he countered as he closed the door and locked it behind them.
They crossed the living room to the couch. He picked up the remote, wincing slightly at the discomfort of the movement. He smiled at the time on the camera. 11:04.
He lowered himself onto the couch beside her, kissing the top of her head as she scooted closer to him.
"You ready for the new year?" he asked.
"Another year of the same old schtick? I guess," she commented with a shrug as she rested her head lightly on his shoulder.
"Not entirely the same old," he countered. "There are going to be a couple of differences.
She nodded silently as she watched the evening's emcee appear on screen, the captioning mentioning something about the evening's band. Hadn't that singer died years ago?
She wanted to wrap her arms around him, but knew better than to do that. He wasn't comfortable with touch anymore. She had to remember that. What little contact they were making was a miracle compared to the past few weeks.
He unmuted the television when a petite brunette appeared on screen almost purring a cover of an old song from the 1980s. She hadn't done a bad job, which surprised them both. Maybe it was a sign of the evening.
Dillon wrapped his arm around her, his hand curling around her shoulder. His thumb lightly rubbed a circle into the material of her sweater.
"Thank you," he whispered softly into her ear.
"Don't," she replied, looking up at him with light brown eyes.
"Would you like something to drink?" he asked, looking from her face towards the kitchen.
"Not really," she admitted.
"Would you mind if I got something then?"
She turned her eyes towards the television and shifted to let him get up. Her eyes followed him as he walked into the kitchen with slow steps. The fridge door opened and she heard him rustling around for something, though she didn't know what.
It was a minute or so before he returned carrying a dark bottle of beer, a lager she was surprised to see, and a coke bottle. He handed her the soda as he took his seat.
"I thought you didn't like lagers?" she inquired, nodding to the bottle in his hand.
"This one's all right," he commented before taking a long swig. She watched as his Adam's apple bobbed. Maybe not so much of a swig as she watched him down the contents of the entire bottle. "If you chug it anyways."
She laughed softly as he belched and placed the bottle on the coffee table before them. She leaned over and kissed him softly, tasting the alcohol on his lips. He froze at her sudden movement, and took a moment to connect what had just happened as she fell back into her previous position on the couch.
There was a light chuckle that drifted from his lips as he fell back against the cushioning. His hand came up to idly play in her dark hair, cut into what he always called a layered mess. He watched as a young couple could be seen waving to the camera and, before he realized his own actions, he was kissing her.
Her hands clenched at his sides, clutching to the sweatshirt he wore as he lowered her gently onto the sofa, making sure to support his weight despite the tremors it sent coursing up his arms and into his shoulders and chest.
They wrapped themselves up in each other unconsciously shifting so that he came to rest between her legs. His lips drifted from her lips along her jaw and finally down her throat until they came to rest just above her pulse point. He sighed tiredly against her heated skin as he relented in his assault.
"I love you," he whispered as he looked up at her
"I love you too," she replied, stroking his face with long delicate fingers.
"I don't think I'm gonna last until midnight," he stated sheepishly. "I'm so tired."
"It's okay," she said. "If you want, I can consider that our New Year's kiss."
He laughed softly, carefully shifting them both so that he was on his side with her beside him.
"Would you sing for me? Along with the next band? I miss hearing you singing."
She nodded. "If you tell me your New Year's resolution."
"Really?" he asked, blatantly disbelieving. She simply nodded again and he sighed. "No more fighting. That's my resolution."
She nodded wordlessly and curled against him. There was nothing she could say. So instead, she sang, this time along with a pink haired woman playing a violin. She trembled at times, her voice unable to reach the depths that the singer did. By the time the song was over, she could tell he was asleep. His quiet snores filled her ears and soon quieted.
"One minute left!" the emcee announced over the television, drawing Grace out of her light slumber. She jumped and turned to look at Dillon whose snores had quieted while she'd dozed. She lifted her hand to lightly stroke his face one more time.
Her fingers trembled against his skin.
He was so beautiful.
How could she have let him do this?
This was what he wanted though.
She closed her eyes silently.
She needed to get up soon.
To leave his arms.
For the last time.
She kissed his lips softly relishing in the fact that they were still warm.
"Happy New Year!"
"I'm dying," he told her where he sat on the couch across from her. "That's what the pain is. Chondrosarcoma. Cancer…Stage 3. And it's spreading… Doctor said if they'd caught it sooner…"
She sat there frozen as he spoke. He talked about how he should have gone when the pain started instead of waiting until it was enough to leave him from suffering from sleepless nights even with the help of over the counter pain killers.
"I've been told that I'm only going to get worse… Fast… And I don't want that to happen," he stated.
"What do you… No," she started before realizing what the somber tone of his voice meant. "You can't. That's instant Hell."
"I don't think I believe in Hell anymore. Or Heaven. Or God or any of it. How can I knowing that something like this is what's going to kill me?" he asked, his voice cracking beneath the weight of the revelation.
Grace felt tears pool in her eyes as she realized how bad it must have been for him. His faith had never been devout, but he'd never been one to give into atheistic thoughts, or even consider them.
"I'm doing it on New Year's Eve. Just before midnight. I want you there with me," he said. "I don't want to be alone."
She shook her head and stood. "You want me to stand by and watch you die? I don't… I can't. That's an impossible request, Dillon. I don't know how…"
"I ask because I know that living with this is going to be almost impossible. I'm not asking you to kill me. Just to be there," he pleaded.
She shook her head and stood. "I'm sorry," she muttered softly before she walked up to and out the door of his apartment. She reached the stairwell and sat on the top step, sobbing softly into the sleeve of her pink sweatshirt.