Okay, I finally just decided to say screw revision for the weekend and to get on with this. I have to offer my utmost apologies to all of you who have been reading the series. Believe me, it has been in my mind constantly since the last chapter that I uploaded. I also want to offer a particular apology to Draufganger. I was particularly horrible to him when I was going through a stressful time and that wasn't fair. To be honest, I'm not sure I did this chapter the justice it deserves. But whatever I'm sorry again for the extreme delays and I hope you think it's a good chapter.
College Life: Chapter 7
"Mum, what's wrong?"
"It's daddy... he- he..." Another wave of sobs racked the lionesses' body. A change came over Leo. Diego noticed it; it was something he'd never seen in the wolf up until now. The emotion on his face had changed from one of concern to one of true fear and the tiger could clearly see the blood leaving his lover's face.
"Mum, what's wrong with granddad?" Leo asked, he licked his lips nervously and was having trouble keeping his breathing rate steady.
"He suddenly went downhill yesterday. Mammy said that he was cooking in the kitchen and he fainted. If it hadn't been for Charlotte, their dog, nobody would've known." She took a deep breath and buried her face into Leo's shoulder and continued her explanation. "You know what she's like, mammy thought she was trying to steal food and it was only when she went into the kitchen to get her out that she saw daddy on the floor. They took him to hospital but they're not entirely sure what's wrong with him. But given his current condition the doctors think that he only has... that he only has" Leo's mother was shaking uncontrollably in his arms. Leo was terrified, he knew his grandfather wasn't well, but he thought the old lion still had some kick left in him. Leo thought he must've had a few years at least. "The doctors reckon he has a few days at most to live."
Luca wailed and sank to her knees. Leo remained standing. The wolf was in shock, he didn't know what to think or to do; he was helpless. He hadn't even realised that his heart rate was in the 200 bpm range or that he was almost breathing fast enough to nearly hyperventilate. Suddenly he felt Diego's strong hand on his shoulder. The tiger pushed Leo to his knees and then hugged both Leo and his mother close to him. A choked sob escaped Leo's muzzle and he felt Diego lean his head against his.
"Leo, it's ok to cry, let everything go." Leo smiled weakly at Diego before tear after tear started flowing from his eyes. Diego felt slightly awkward holding Leo's mum but he realised that in difficult times, social norms were discarded. He pulled both of them so that their heads were resting against his chest.
10 minutes later, Leo and Luca's spring of tears ran dry and mother and son embraced each other.
"Ok mum, what are we going to do?" Leo asked as he wiped the last few tears off of his mother's muzzle.
"Ok, um, you're father and I both have important meetings today, he's already left to prepare for his. And my boss won't let me take today off regardless of what pops up. So this evening, after six, is the earliest we can fly over. Is that too early for you?" She sniffed, pulled a tissue out of her sleeve and blew her nose.
"That's fine. Diego can come too right?" Leo asked nervously. "Oh Diego, Granddad lives over in Ireland, would you be willing to come with us if mum lets you.
"I'm not sure if that's a good idea." Leo's mother said with a sigh, "You know what your grandmother is like about homosexuality and the idea of you having a boyfriend."
"Please Mrs. Agito; I want to be with Leo during this time. Even if his grandmother hates me, it won't be anything that I'm not used to. Please, I want to support your son, this isn't easy and he will need someone with him if his grandfather only has as short a time as the doctors say."
"Alright, I'll pay for your flights, and you can stay in the house with us."
"Thank you" Leo and Diego said in unison.
"Is there anything I can do for you mum?" Leo asked.
"No I'll be fine sweetie." Leo's mother left to get dressed for work. Leo walked back to the bed that he and Diego had been sleeping and lay down on it. He looked at his psp that lay on the other bed. Despite his excitement yesterday to play his new game, the only thing he wanted to do know was curl up into a little ball. He got under the blankets and hugged his legs up to his chest as he wrapped his tail around his body. He felt the blankets being lifted and Diego got in behind him. The tiger wrapped his big arms and legs around him and Leo took comfort in his mate's physical presence.
"Leo, I'm so sorry. But we'll get through this alright. I'm here for you. I'm a shoulder for you to cry on. I know you're strong Leo, but I'll always be here no matter what." He nuzzled the wolf and purred lightly to his lupine lover. Leo gradually uncurled himself and let Diego cuddle him to sleep. They slept till 1 in the afternoon before Leo decided he couldn't stay in bed any longer. He moved to try and wriggle out of the tiger's arms without waking him. He'd almost got out when Diego grabbed him and nuzzled his neck.
"I've been awake for the past half hour y'know. Don't think you're going to escape now." The tiger gave a light hearted growl and kissed Leo gently on the back of the head. Leo laughed and then sighed, remembering what had happened before he'd gone back to sleep, or maybe it was only a bad dream. Yeah, maybe he was only waking up now. He'd had realistic dreams like that before.
"Diego, did my mother come in earlier?"
"Yeah, she was upset and she told you about your grandfather."
"So it wasn't a dream..." Leo sighed and stared out of the window from where he lay. In the past few years his grandfather had lost his hearing to the point was almost deaf. As a result Leo had spent less and less time with his grandfather when he visited. He kept thinking he'd have more time, but now that time was suddenly cut short. It was only at times like this that one could appreciate how short life truly was. Leo couldn't help but hate himself. The only reason he hadn't spent time with his grandfather is because it was too difficult having to say every word slowly and articulate himself. What a fucking petty reason, I really am an asshole. Somehow Diego sensed Leo's thoughts and he instinctively pulled the wolf closer to him.
"Leo, just make the best of the time you have left."
"Yeah..." Diego pulled on the wolf again and nuzzled his neck. The tiger scratched Leo's belly and the wolf growled happily. Leo had never told the tiger about how much he liked his belly being scratched, but he was glad that the tiger had worked it out for himself. Having his belly scratched by someone else always helped Leo to relax, and for Leo, relaxing was something he really needed. Soon enough, Leo was snoring quietly. Diego smiled to himself; the wolf needed to sleep.
Diego stayed awake while Leo slept, whenever the wolf started to murmur or whine in his sleep the tiger would pull on him gently and blow lightly on the back of his head. About an hour later Leo growled and opened his eyes. He sighed and got up.
"You ok, hun?" Diego asked as he let Leo leave his embrace.
"I'll be fine; I just want to play my keyboard for a bit." Diego merely nodded in response as Leo sat down at the keyboard next to his bedroom window. The wolf played some type of piece in what seemed like a minor key to the tiger. After a few minutes Diego realised that Leo was merely free styling, and the sad melancholy tune was his attempt at letting out his emotions. Suddenly the wolf lost his rhythm and his chords clashed in a bad way. He growled angrily and switched off his keyboard. He sat still with a scowl on his face. He suddenly felt Diego's strong arms envelope him.
"Diego, I can't help but feel that it's my fault. I mean I saw him in the summer and I knew he wasn't all that well, but I didn't say anything. I stopped praying after summer, I was angry at God, angry with religion. My grandmother, his wife, had thrust religion so far down my throat that, for me, prayers meant as much as an actor's lines in a production he doesn't even want to be in. So I stopped praying altogether, stopped praying for my family, my friends and I stopped praying for him. I wonder if this is God's way of getting back to me or if my prayers were the only thing keeping him going. If I couldn't even help my granddad, how can I ever help someone I don't even know? I'm going to make a shit medic."
Leo sighed and then smiled as he felt Diego's nose press into the back of his head as the tiger licked him.
"Shhh," Diego said, taking a break from his licking, "There's nothing you can do for your granddad. Don't blame yourself, you could never know how bad his condition was, and for all you know it could be an acute condition that only occurred since after you left. And don't say you're going to be a bad medic, cos that means I'm gonna be even worse, and I don't want to be thinking about how much I'm gonna fail in the future."
Leo turned round in the tiger's arms and licked Diego's muzzle.
"Thanks, you're probably right, I just feel like I didn't appreciate my time with him. I mean, it feels like one day he's fit and healthy and now he has nearly no time left."
"Well, just make the most of your time with him when you get over there. What's his name by the way?"
"Yeah, I will. And it's Peter."
The next few hours passed slowly. Leo couldn't motivate himself to do anything. When Diego offered to play chess the tiger beat him 3 times in a row. Leo eventually decided to call the hospital where his grandfather was staying to see if they could administer Diego's chemotherapy while he was over there. Unfortunately the staff in the hospital weren't particularly helpful and said they would require Diego's doctor to call himself, despite the fact that Leo knew the chemotherapeutic agent that Diego needed and its required dosage. Diego's doctor was helpful as always and managed to arrange everything for the tiger. Leo couldn't help but think that the staff were being overly difficult; sure, if it had been something like morphine or some kind of addictive drug that he was asking for he could understand their reticence. But nobody goes out of their way to get chemotherapy for the sake of it unless they were the ultimate masochist of all time.
Leo got all their stuff together for the trip and later that evening, at about 8PM, the family, including Diego, arrived in Dublin Airport. A large sign with the word "Faílte" was spotted by the tiger.
"Hey, Leo, is that Irish?" He asked.
"Yeah, it means welcome" Leo said with a smile; glad that he could at least remember some of his Irish from when he was a baby. "Oh, by the way, most of the road signs over here will have the Irish translation of the town name, they aren't separate places in case you are wondering, but you'll see what I mean later on." Diego nodded in response; it seemed like something obvious but the tiger couldn't help but feel a bit daft when he was surprised by the fact that the signs were written in Irish in Ireland.
"So how's it pronounced? Fay-eel-te?" Diego asked as they passed the sign and headed towards baggage reclaim. Leo stopped walking and stared at the tiger. His paws were clamped around his muzzle trying not to laugh and Diego could hear Luca giggling in the background too. After he managed to compose himself Leo started walking again and put his arm round Diego's shoulder.
"Well, Diego my dear lovely tiger, you have to understand something. Irish has the most fucked up pronunciation in the world. For example, that word back there is pronounced fall-cha. And how do you think this is pronounced?" He took out a piece of paper, wrote the name Siobhan on it, and showed it his tiger. Diego frowned trying to work out what the Irish had done to such an innocent looking word.
"See-ob-han? I dunno; I don't have a clue." He said laughing; he knew Leo and Luca were getting no end of pleasure from his inability to pronounce Irish words. He was glad though, it took their minds off of more saddening thoughts.
"It's Shi-vawn" The wolf replied with a smile.
"Gosh with messed up pronunciation like that, no wonder you Irish people are crazy." He sighed, giving Leo a cheeky wink.
"Tell me about it, I was crazy to marry into it" Stu said from in front with a light hearted chuckle.
They got their bags and drove along the motorway to Leo's home town of Kinnemar. Luca had phoned ahead but hospital visiting times were over in Mullinkelly Hospital, where Leo's grandfather was being treated, and the staff were not willing to make an exception for the Agito family.
It was 9.30 when they finally drove into Leo's hometown. It was small. A lot of it looked like it had been there for a while, but there were also a lot of shops and restaurants that looked like they had only been put up in the last few months. Leo pointed at one new restaurant and an old chip shop next to it.
"The people in my town are incredibly boring and unwilling to try anything new. See that old chip shop? That was there when I was still a cub and it's still going strong. Now compare it to that new restaurant, it looks like a modern Indian establishment. That's been built in the last few months and it will probably be closed in the next few months. Last year it was a Mexican restaurant and the year before that it was an English style café-deli type thing. Oh and that toy shop up there was a green grocers for the last two years and was an estate agents before that. But that's the recession for ya."
They drove into the drive way of Leo's house and went inside. Luca and Stu went in ahead and turned right to go down the corridor which led to the main area of their small house. Diego was about to follow them when he felt Leo put a paw on his shoulder and directed him in the other direction.
"My room's up that way hun." He said giving the tiger a playful pat on the rump in the right direction. They were halfway up the corridor when Leo heard the sounds of claws tapping on the tiled floor at the other end of the corridor. He turned around to see a brown and white English pointer looking at him. He grinned and held his arms out towards the dog wagging his tail happily. "How ya lug?!" He cried out to Charlotte the dog. She woofed at Leo before sprinting up the corridor towards him. Fortunately for him, most un-evolved dogs still recognised others by scent alone; otherwise she would have run away at the sight of him. Diego turned around and smiled.
"Aww, she's cute."
"Yeah and she's not gonna stop when she reaches me so you may wanna get out of the way." He said with a laugh as he moved to the side, Charlotte kept speeding past him, unable to get any grip on the tiled floor. She continued past Diego as well and slowed down before colliding with the door at the end of the corridor. Leo laughed at the family dog and went over to her. He crouched down and scratched behind her ears. "Yer a lug y'know that. Sure y'are, y'eejit. Now off ya go." He said with a smile as he pushed her back lightly back down the corridor. She frowned at Leo, before turning and walking back down the corridor. The wolf always admired the un-evolved dog's ability to change her facial expression; it was something that he hadn't seen any other dog do quite as well as she could.
As she passed Diego she turned around and stuck her snout between his legs and sniffed, trying to recognise this new scent. Up until this point she'd only noticed Leo's scent. He hadn't showered in two days so his had overpowered Diego's from a distance.
"Oi!" Leo said as he pushed her away from his partner's nether regions. Diego was fully clothed, but that wasn't what mattered. "The only person who's shoving their nose up this tiger's ass is me." He turned her around and pushed her back up the corridor. Once more she went speeding down the hallway and collided with another door on the other end as she tried to turn and make her way to the sitting room.
Diego hugged Leo from behind and rested his head on the wolf's shoulders.
"I'm sorry but what was with the Irish accent that you just randomly put on when speaking to her and where are you going to shove your muzzle?"
"Um, somewhere where my grandmother will take offence to while we're staying in this house."
"Oh, yeah. Say, why does this bedroom door have a glass pane in it? I mean how are you supposed to have any privacy? That net curtain doesn't hide anything." Diego said, somewhat shocked by the lack of thought that had gone into the design.
"Yeah, it was the only part of the house designed by my grandmother. Even the adjoined toilet has a glass pane in the door. But that's what happens when an old woman gets involved in a man's job." Leo replied with a sigh before looking round to see if his grandmother had somehow snuck up on him. Fortunately, Luca and Stu seemed to be keeping her currently occupied. "And I'm sorry, but for tonight, we really need to hold back on any intimate gestures. To my grandmother we have to be just friends."
"Alright." Diego said, already wanting to kiss Leo on the muzzle again.
They put their things in Leo's room and made their way down to the sitting room. Luca and Stu were talking with Theresa, Leo's grandmother, an elderly badger. She didn't recognise Leo at first and she was surprised to see another furless guy behind him. Before she had a chance to ask questions Leo broke the ice.
"Nana, this is my friend Diego. He's in my medical class and was staying with me for the holidays in London when we heard the news and we couldn't really leave him back in London so we took him with us. I hope that's ok with you. Mum and I can pay you if you want." Theresa was Luca's mother. Stu's parents lived back in the UK and it seemed unfair to call on him to pay for Diego's stay.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous" Theresa replied, "Of course he can stay; no trouble."
The next half hour passed slowly for Leo and Diego. Not being able to show any sign of public affection was killing them, especially when they were used to being so open about it. Eventually everyone retired to their rooms. Theresa offered to make up a separate bed for Diego but Leo stopped her before she got halfway up the corridor.
"Nana, I'm 19, I think I know how to make a bed at this stage" He gave her a weak smile, "You go to bed, you've had a tough day and you need your sleep"
Theresa wasn't going to argue. She gave Leo a big hug and was making her way back down to her room when she turned around on her heel.
"Don't forget to say your prayers now!" She called out before returning to her room. Leo sighed; he couldn't help but think that prayers weren't exactly his forte. He had prayed for Diego to be cured of his cancer, but since then it had only spread. He had prayed for years on end for his grandfather's hearing and physical state to improve, or at least to stop getting worse, but now his health and hearing were worse than ever. Leo wouldn't deny there was a God; God probably just hated him for one reason or another.
Leo rummaged around in his old room and found some bed clothes. He then pulled out a spare mattress from under his bed and set it out on the floor next to his bed. The wolf started to put the sheet on the mattress when he felt a paw on his shoulder
"I can make a bed too you know, and I know you certainly need your sleep Mr. Tough guy" The tiger's words almost sent the wolf to sleep there and then. It wasn't that they had any type of hypnotic effect; rather they made the wolf suddenly aware of just how tired he was. He nodded, unable to see whether the tiger had registered his nod from behind, and collapsed in a tired heap onto his bed.
"Love you Diego..." He whispered.
"Love you too Leo" Diego whispered back. The big cat had thought that Leo had whispered in case his grandmother was near, it was only after about a minute that he realised that the wolf had been falling asleep even as he uttered his last 3 words. The tiger sighed to himself when he noticed that Leo was fully clothed. He looked through the door to see if there was any hint of the wolf's grandmother before he slowly stripped Leo down to his boxers.
Leo and Diego were woken up early by the sound of Charlotte's incessant barking. Leo grumbled before standing up, pulling on a dressing gown and padding down the corridor.
"Dumb bitch, can't she read the mood?" He opened the door to the sitting room and moved aside as the Charlotte raced out past him and started clawing at the back door. "Ok! Shut up. I'll let ya out."
Leo quickly opened the door then grimaced as a blast of cold air made its way under his dressing gown and up between his legs. Charlotte was long gone by that stage and had already managed to get about half way round the garden. Leo watched her as she sped past the door again before he turned round and closed it behind him, knowing that, as long as the door wasn't locked Charlotte would be able to open it and get back in when she was done. Everything was so... normal. It could have been any other Christmas holiday for Leo, but reality came back thick and fast. Would today be the last of a series of days in which he would see his grandfather? The thought alone was enough to make him lose all hope, and a strong pair of feline hands was all that stopped him falling to the ground.
"Oh... hey Diego... thanks for the catch. Um," A knot was forming in Leo's throat, "I need to sit down"
Diego lent his partner his shoulder as he helped him into the sitting room where the wolf fell into one of the armchairs. Leo didn't need to say anything, the look in his eyes was enough to let Diego know exactly how he was feeling-lost would have probably been the best word to describe it, and if Diego was honest, he almost felt the same. It wasn't that the tiger was lost in himself, but he couldn't think of any way he could comfort his wolf, after all, if his grandmother saw them getting too intimate all hell could break loose. This is why I fucking hate religion Diego thought to himself. What would Leo have done in this situation?
"Would you like me to get you some breakfast Leo?"
"No thanks" came the short reply.
"A certain wolf once told me that breakfast was needed to kickstart the metabolism"
"And a certain wolf's Grandfather wasn't dying, Diego" The wolf growled then shook his head, "I'm sorry it's-"
"There's nothing to be sorry for."
"No, there's... it's just that... urgh... sure I'll have some breakfast or something. Do you know where it is?"
"I'm a tiger, hunting for stuff is what I'm designed for, just leave it to me"
A few minutes later the two of them were sitting in the sitting rooms with bowls of some kind of bland wheat-based cereal. Charlotte had managed to open the back door and also the sitting room door and was now trying her very best to stick her muzzle into Diego's bowl. It wasn't much of a bother for Diego but Leo seemed to find it slightly funny and he let the corners of his mouth curl up slightly into the faintest of smiles.
"Why's she only going for my breakfast?" Diego asked as he tried to skilfully eat and keep his bowl away from Charlotte at the same time.
"She loves her food and knows I never giver her any food while I'm eating. I'm the only person whose food she will ignore if it's left unprotected, though you might want to watch out for yours."
By this stage Charlotte had carefully manoeuvred her head between the tiger's arm and his side so she was just within licking distance of his breakfast but much to her behest it was snatched from her at the last moment. "At least some things never change" Leo said with a sigh.
Leo looked around the room while Diego wolfed down the last of his breakfast and showed the empty bowl triumphantly to a disappointed Charlotte. Diego's eyes soon followed Leo's and he caught site of a variety of photos on the walls that he had not noticed the evening before. There was family picture with a wolf and lioness in the centre holding a baby wolf cub. That must be Stu and Luca with Leo when he was still young. On one side stood a lady badger which Diego recognised as Leo's grandmother and on the other side was an elderly lion with his chest puffed out. His eyes betrayed his serious posture. Behind those eyes, which themselves lay behind a pair of spectacles, was a soul that was brimming with happiness and pride. They were the eyes of an old man who finally had a grandson.
As Diego looked around he saw other pictures on the walls with various members of the family. Leo was in most of them and the old lion never looked as proud or happy as when he was with his grandson. There was a photograph of them playing football together and even a photo of him helping Leo to ride a bike.
Diego smiled and looked back to Leo. Tears were running down the wolf's face.
"He was the best grandfather a child could ever ask for... and now..." Leo choked a sob, "and now he's almost gone. I haven't even told him that I'm gay yet I was always so afraid that he might disapprove, but at the same time, I didn't feel right keeping that from him."
Diego was about to say something when the phone rang just outside the sitting room. Diego quickly answered it.
"Hello, this is the Agito residence... yes... yes someone's here I'll just get him for you." Diego put his paw over the receiver and turned to Leo. "It's for you. It's the hospital; they want to talk to someone of the family."
Leo took a deep breath and wiped the tears from his face. He quickly composed himself and took the phone from the tiger's paw.
"Hello... why?... No, what's the specific problem?... I'm a medical student so try me... Oh God... We'll be there as soon as we can. Wait, where is he?... Intensive care, okay, thank you." Leo hung up the phone and stood frozen for a moment.
"He's got sepsis, Diego. He already has pre-existing medical problems... they don't think he'll survive the day.... They want us to come say goodbye. Fuck I hate crying!!" Diego pulled Leo against his shoulder as the wolf started to sob once more.
"It's ok to cry Leo. Put we need to wake up everyone else as well. I can wake up your mum and dad if you want and you can wake up your gran. Okay?"
It wasn't long before the family was dressed and in the car on the way to Mullinkelly hospital. When they got to reception Leo asked for where his grandfather was. On hearing the name the receptionist, a thin cream ferret, turned to a nearby nurse.
"Cara, take these guys up to room 22 in the intensive care ward on the double"
"But, I'm on my break." The nurse, a young rabbit, moaned.
"Oh, don't worry, if you don't take them up you'll be on more than just a break after the complaint is filed." The receptionist hissed. The nurse knew what that meant. The ferret would only ever use that harsh tone for one reason; if a patient was dying. She quickly made her way to the Agito family.
"Hi, I'm Cara, if you'll follow me I'll take you to where you need to be."
The family followed her through the twists and turns of hospital corridors until they reached room 22.
"Should we see him individually or as a group?" Leo asked.
"We might not have enough time to see him individually, Leo. You of all people should know that" Luca snapped.
"Yeah I guess you're right." Leo replied. But I still haven't told him... "Diego can come too right."
After a moment of consideration Luca agreed. They walked into the room together and saw a frail figure lying in a bed with his glasses on the table next to him. The lion's mane was anything but lustrous, his body seemed to have no muscle whatsoever, his breathing was ragged at best and his face was that of someone in pain.
Someone had set a chair next to the bed so Luca sat in it and held her father's paw in hers.
"Daddy, how are you?" She asked. The lion didn't respond to her question, nor seem to acknowledge it.
"Luca, are you there?" He whispered between breaths.
"Yes I'm here daddy" She articulated each word and had her mouth as close to the lion's ear as possible. Yet the Leo's grandfather continued to look confused.
"Yes I'm here daddy. We're all here" She said holding the lion's paw and stroking it affectionately. She turned to her mother briefly. "You never told me his hearing had got this bad. Can he even see?"
"Well he doesn't have his glasses on. But Moira down the road also thinks he has macular degeneration. She's a nurse so I guess she knows what she's talking about." Lucas' mother replied.
Peter reached out with his other paw and started tapping various points on the lioness' paw. Everyone looked on confused, except for one member of the group.
"Has he got dementia now? I know his granny did, but I didn't realise it had affected him too." Luca was thinking aloud but before anyone could say anything Diego suddenly interjected.
"He's not got any mental disease, he's trying to communicate. Here let me show you, I need his paw for a second." The lioness reluctantly gave up her father's paw to someone who was almost a complete stranger. Diego started tapping various points on the lion's paw and when he finished the lion grinned.
"It's nice to meet you Diego. And thank you all for coming, you really didn't need to." The lion said between raspy breaths. Diego turned to the family who was looking at him in shock.
"It's the deaf blind manual alphabet. I recognised it the second I saw him tapping Luca's hand. If what you are saying about his poor hearing and sight is true, then he probably tried to learn it before both his senses fully deteriorated. But regardless, what would you like me to tell him?"
"Tell him of course we were going to come make sure he's all right and that Leo's doing very well in Camford" Theresa said.
After a few moments of tapping and the occasionally slide along the lion's palm he smiled once more.
"Are you enjoying it Leo, I'm sure it's a lot of work right?" The ability to finally communicate was encouraging but everyone could tell that the lion's breathing was getting worse.
"Tell him it's a lot of work but I've found an excellent study partner." Leo said with a wink. Diego smiled and once again tapped out the message onto the lion's paw. The lion smiled and nodded once more.
"And how is work Luca, how are things with Stu coming along?"
"Tell him I said everything's good but I have some rather incompetent members of staff. Use those exact words if you can." Diego nodded and once more tapped out the message. Eliciting a chuckle from the lion, but his current state made it sound like a terrible hacking cough eliciting more fear in the family than relief.
They communicated for almost an hour. It was all small talk though. Nobody really knows what to say to a dying person. You don't want to admit the possibility of their death though. Every simple statement seeks to remind you that perhaps things some things never change and that perhaps, if you try to keep things sounding as normal as you can that maybe, just maybe, things will return to normal. But deep down everyone knows this is not the case. After almost an hour Peter's breathing left little time for speaking. Just getting enough air was becoming difficult for him. He tapped something onto the tiger's paw. Diego nodded and tapped back. The family looked expectantly at him but he explained that it was something private.
The time was almost upon them. Peter was gasping for each breath but there was nothing that the family or the doctors or the nurses could do to save him at this point.
"Tell him that we all love him very much and that we are thankful for all the time we spent together and that we will always keep him in our hearts."
Diego never managed to finish the message. Halfway through the tapping Peter breathed his final breathe. Diego stopped tapping and looked up at the family.
"I'm so sorry..."
Luca Theresa and Stu let their emotions take control and didn't resist the urge to weep. Leo remained silent and leant against a wall. I never got to tell him...
A moment later he felt Diego wrap his arm around his shoulders. But at that moment nothing could help him. His grandfather was gone. The man who had helped him learn to read, to ride a bike, to bake cakes, to play football; the man who had even played the sega and the playstation with him; the man who even in his late 80s would still always ask if he wanted a hot chocolate was gone. And Leo had never had a chance to properly explain himself to him.
The family silently left the room but Diego held Leo back for a moment.
"That private message was for you" He whispered into Leo's ear. "Your grandfather said he's always known how you feel and he doesn't care who you love because at the end of the day you're his grandson and he knows you'll always make the right decision... He loved you very much, Leo."
"I know, I already told you he was and always will be the best granddad in the world."
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