If you didn't already know this... I'm an asshole.
edit: People are yelling at me for calling myself an asshole. I apologize.
He tried to visit as often as he could.
His dad came with him sometimes, but he was usually busy with work. He and his aunt had both warned him what was happening: the blindness, the memory loss, the sickness – he got it. He wasn't stupid.
His grandmother, his indomitable, steadfast grandmother, was dying.
But he hated the idea of her alone in the hospital (he's told he got that from his grandfather), both his father and his aunt drowning in surgeries and lawsuits and he didn't blame them at all, but he couldn't stand the thought of his grandmother being alone.
From what he'd heard, she'd been alone long enough to last her entire life.
He pushed through the doors to the hospital wearing his school uniform, nodding to the two orderlies that knew him by name, smiling back as they smiled at him and then he walked the familiar path toward her hospital room.
He shifted his backpack on his shoulder before he walked slowly into the room, taking her in.
She was sitting upright in her bed, the pillows fluffed behind her, a blanket folded neatly over her lap that he knew she had fought her attending nurses about that morning when she'd woken up. Her eyes were closed, and for a moment he thought she was asleep, but then he caught sight of her fingers circling the ring on her left hand.
He reached up and knocked gently on the doorframe.
She didn't startle, simply turned her head toward the sound, opening her barely seeing eyes towards the door, waiting.
"Hey, Grandma," he said softly.
She immediately smiled, and he stepped further into the room, letting his backpack slide from his shoulder so he could rest it on the floor by his chair beside her bed. He took the hand she reached out to him, leaning down and proffering his cheek he knew she was looking for, waiting until she kissed him to sit down in his chair.
"Hey, you," she whispered, her smile still in place, "how was school?"
He shrugged, "It was fine. Chemistry is still giving me some trouble."
She shook her head, "Your father was never good at Chemistry either. But you'll get it," she smirked, "probably a lot quicker than your old man did."
He laughed and she smiled again, and he felt his heart lift slightly at the sight.
His grandmother had been so beautiful. He'd seen pictures of her on her wedding day, candid shots his grandfather had taken when he thought she wasn't looking and she could have been a model when she was younger. Seriously. He wouldn't have been surprised if she had been a movie star. He remembers one time he asked his grandfather to describe what his grandmother had been like when he'd fallen in love with her, and he had knocked him speechless.
It's the only time he could remember that his grandfather couldn't think of something to say.
He remembers that she had teased him mercilessly for it.
But time is cruel, and time bends spines with gravity and dulls eyes with the loss of best friends and spouses and blindness. It wrinkles skin and pulls on hairs until they turn white, then it plucks them out of scalps like flower petals.
His grandmother was no exception.
But when his grandmother smiled, he could see it. He could see that beautiful, young, woman she used to be.
"The doctor's told me yesterday," he continued, breaking away from his thoughts, "that if you respond well to this new round of medicine, they think you'll be able to come home in a few weeks."
Her smile turned sad, and she started shaking her head, her eyes staring past him.
"I'm never going home, sweetheart," she said softly, simply, the meaning hanging between them like a curtain.
He bit back his reassurances, swallowing loudly as he looked away from her for a moment.
His grandmother had seen too much, felt too much in her life to want empty comforts.
No matter how much he wanted to give them.
"Did you bring it?" she said softly.
He nodded, reaching down and unzipping his backpack, pulling the familiar, tattered book out of the bag.
She asked him for it every time he came. And he'd offered to leave it here every time he did, and she insisted he keep track of it.
"The nurses move things when I'm not looking," she'd admitted to him softly one day, "I don't want to lose it."
She looked down as she felt the weight of the book in her hands even though he knew that she could barely see it. He could have handed her any black book and she wouldn't have known the difference.
Actually, as he watched her hands, her old, skinny, wrinkled hands that steadily ran over the cover of the book, her fingers reverently tracing the worn out spine of the book she couldn't read by herself anymore, he's pretty sure she would be able to tell. She probably had every millimeter of that book memorized – every dog-earred corner, every loose page, every scratch on the cover, the outline of his grandfather's face on the back.
"It's his birthday tomorrow," she said softly, and he startled slightly in his chair, surprised she had been keeping track of the days.
"Don't seem so surprised," she grumbled, huffing slightly, "of course I remembered."
He had to bite back a smile.
The great Detective Katherine Beckett, forever astute.
"Dad said he's going to stop by tomorrow," he said, "after he stops by the cemetery."
"Oh, good," she said, still concentrating on the book in her hands, "It's been so long since we've talked."
It'd been three days.
"Will you read to me?" she whispered, running her fingers over the cover once again.
"Of course," he said, sitting up straighter.
Her fingers clenched around the book for a moment, like it was painful for her to let it go, before she held it out. He took it from her, watching as she clenched her hands into tight fists as if she was fighting to keep the feeling of the book in her palms.
He waited for a moment until she had settled comfortably against her pillows, learning a long time ago that she preferred to do it by herself without any help.
"Do you want to pick up where we left off?" he asked, sliding his chair closer to the bed so he could speak softer.
She shook her head, closing her eyes.
"No," she murmured, "let's start at the beginning today."
He nodded, already flipping to the first page.
They always started at the beginning.
He cleared his throat.
He'd read to her, peaking at her occasionally to see her mouthing the words as he read them aloud, the words long since imprinted in her memory. He'd listen to her tell the same stories he'd already heard about the first case she'd ever spent with his late grandfather. He'd read until she fell asleep, and then, he'd tuck the book back into his backpack, kiss her on the forehead, and go home.
And then he'd be back tomorrow.
He took a deep breath and started.
"It was always the same for her when she arrived to meet a body…"