Let’s say I have cancer.” He opens his eyes to glare at me. “I don’t like this.” “Just hear me out. I have cancer, and there’s nothing more they can do for me.” He goes still, and for a moment I don’t even feel his heartbeat through his chest, like the thought of my heart stopping stopped his. “I don’t have much time left,” I whisper, letting him feel the possibility of me being gone. “But then someone discovers the cure for cancer.” He tips his mouth to the left and he traces the curves of my knees. “There’s just one catch.” I dip my head to capture his eyes. “The man who discovered the cure—he’s a white supremacist.” He looks back at me unblinkingly for a second before allowing himself one blink—just one. “Do you accept the cure for cancer?” “What good is this when—” “Answer the question. Do you accept the cure for cancer from a white supremacist to save my life?” “I’d accept the cure from the devil himself to save you. You know that.” He sighs. “It’s not the same.” “What’s the title of Dr. Hammond’s book?” He rolls his eyes. “You know the title, Bris.” “Humor me.” “Virus. The title of his book is Virus.” “And the point is that racism is a virus that’s constantly changing, constantly adapting, right?” I ask. “That it adapted when slavery was outlawed and when Jim Crow was eradicated and when segregation was legally struck down. It works its way into our systems, like our penal system, right? It’s a nasty bastard that just keeps morphing and surviving like a cockroach.” Now I have his attention. He’s stopped countering my every word, stopped protesting and thinking this is a useless exercise. He’s finally listening. “The person who finally cures cancer won’t be perfect,” I tell him. “They’ll just be the person who figured out the cure for cancer, and the people who live because of that won’t care that he cheated on his taxes or stepped out on his wife. They’ll care that he cured cancer. Dr. Hammond has a cure, at least for part of the problem. With his ideas and your resources and influence, imagine how much good you can do.” “He doesn’t think we should be together, thinks I’ve been societally conditioned to ‘acquire’ you.” Grip’s flinty look doesn’t dissuade me, even though that is some bullshit. “I bet there are more things you agree on than disagree.” I prop my elbows on his shoulders, leaning into him and persisting. “I bet when he gets to know me, I’ll go from being a ‘they’ to being Bristol. Isn’t that what you said months ago when you performed ‘Bruise’ for the Black and Blue Ball? That sometimes it takes us being around each other and getting to know each other, at least giving us the chance to go from being a category to who we really are? As individuals, who we really are?” He shakes his head, genuine humor apparent for the first time since his steps stuttered through our front door. “So, what?” A grin tilts his mouth. “You remember every word I say?” He really has no idea. “If I only get one life with you,” I mutter into his neck, “then, yes, I’m holding on to every moment and every word you say.” He pulls me away from the crook of his neck, studying my face. His eyes darken, emotion redolent in the air between us. “You’re so precious to me, Bristol,” he says, his voice the perfect blend of raw and reverent.