TITLE: Always and forever
DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything but Amy and Olivia.
SUMMARY: Kind of a "Worst case scenario" for Bosco's future....
SPOILERS: Up to and including season six.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: OK, so this is the story I swore up and down I'd never write. I wasn't planning on doing a story about the consequences of the season opener until I'd knew for sure what they were, but this story wouldn't leave me alone no matter how hard I tried to ignore it and soon it totally blocked my ability to write "Do you really want me?" (Which was the reason it took me forever to update.) So in order to be able to move on I gave up and wrote it. Bee and Joey convinced me it's good enough to put up so here we are.... Please let me know what you think, by reviewing or by mail or pm. ï
Thank-you Joey for your endless support and thanks to Schmoo for her wonderful shipper videos "Lullaby" and "In this heart" that actually was one of the reasons this idea popped up in my head. ;)
WARNING! This is a dark story with no happy ending!
ALWAYS AND FOREVER
I glance up to see Amy standing at the desk, looking uneasy. She's rather new here at the nursing home. I can't remember exactly how long she's been here but it has been a couple of months at least. She's really good with the patients and has a kind heart, although she's a bit shy.
I look kindly at her. "What's up?"
"I think there's something wrong with Bosco."
"You mean Officer Boscorelli in room fifteen, right?" I ask, making sure she hasn't mixed up the patients, because there're quit a few of them here.
She nods again.
I frown. Officer Boscorelli in room fifteen is one of those who have been here the longest – almost three years - and there's usually no problem whatsoever with him. Mainly because he can't do much, I have to admit that. He can't move, speak or eat by himself. He's a four, which in our language means we have to do everything for him. The doctors say he doesn't even know what's happing around him but I'm not completely sure that's true. Anyway, the fact that Amy thinks there's something wrong with him worries me.
"What makes you think that?"
She shifts nervously. "He seems distressed."
"In what way?" I ask, a bit confused, because I wonder how she can tell that since he doesn't even seem to acknowledge the world around him.
She blushes slightly. "He's drooling more today and moving his head back and fourth and clenching and unclenching his fist all the time."
I can tell she feels stupid but there's no need for that. She has done really well. Bosco can't do much to show how he feels but she noticed a change in his behaviour anyway – just like a good nurse should.
I stand up and squeeze her shoulder lightly. "That sure sounds like something is wrong. Let's go and take a look at him."
A look of relief crosses the poor girl's face and she nods eagerly.
I can tell she's right as soon as I enter Bosco's room. He's drooling an awful lot today and he's opening and closing his left hand – the only one he can move – continuously.
I walk up to his wheelchair and sit down beside him, taking his hand in mine and say softly, "Hi, Bosco. How are you today?"
The hand immediately stops moving but besides that he shows me no acknowledgement whatsoever – as usual.
I wipe his mouth with a Kleenex. "Bosco, what's the matter? You feeling ill?"
I move my hand to his forehead to check for a fever. He feels cool to my touch, but his hand starts moving again and the drooling increases, like he likes to say something. I wipe his mouth again and then lean in and look into his eyes. They are empty – as usual, and still I think he knows I'm here - probably even who I am. The reason I think so is because I've seen him with Faith.
Faith is his old partner and none of our other patients have a relative as faithful as her. She comes here every single day, talking to him, taking him for a walk or feeding him with mashed fries. I know, it sounds disgusting, but he can't eat anything that isn't mashed because he doesn't remember how to chew anymore. But Faith says he loves fries, so mashed fries it is. Sometimes I think it's these awful fries that actually keep him alive because he sure doesn't eat much of what we offer him.
When he's with her he always seems less out of it. I have even seen him shift his eyes towards her a couple of times but the doctors say it's involuntarily. I think they're wrong, though, and so does Faith. She always talks to him like he could understand every word she says, and he probably can. She's very protective of him and I think she would do anything for him. She wants everything with him to be perfect. She buys clothes for him to wear, although that means she has to do his laundry herself. But she doesn't want him to wear ours because she doesn't want him to feel like he's in the hospital. She says he hates hospitals. That's why his room is filled with plants and the reason we all get to call him Bosco. She's paying extra money to make sure he gets the best care possible. She even yelled at my supervisor once because we'd forgotten to shave him.
Most people here think she's doing it out of guilt, because he took the bullets that made him this way to save her, but not me. I think she does it because she loves him. I don't know why I think so, but there's something in her eyes when she looks at him, something very different from guilt. It's the way the old ladies look at their husbands. It's the kind of look that comes from knowing the other person inside and out. The kind of look you share when you've spent a lifetime together. I feel so sorry for her. If she really loves him as much as I think she does, then coming here every day must be like hell.
Suddenly, I realize that it's been a while since I last saw her – at least three days. That doesn't necessarily mean that she hasn't been here. I'm not here 24/7 but I still find it odd.
I catch Bosco's hand again. "Has Faith not come to see you in a while? Do you miss her? Maybe you're worried about her, huh? Is that it?"
That's when I see it. He shifts his eyes toward me. It's the first time in three years but it convinces me I'm right. It is Faith he's worried about, and why wouldn't he be? She's still in the force and as her old partner; he ought to know how dangerous her job is.
I look up at Amy. "Amy, can you go and check the visitors list for the last seven days? Find out when Ms. Mitchell last visited Bosco will you?"
She nods and disappears through the door. I turn my attention back to Bosco.
"Don't worry, we'll sort this out. If she hasn't been here for a while I'll call and check on her for you, OK?" I say reassuringly and squeeze his hand. He doesn't acknowledge me. He's lost in his own world again.
Amy comes back and looks worriedly at me. "She hasn't been here since Monday."
I frown. Monday... it's Friday today. That means she hasn't been here for four days. That's very out of character for her. No wonder he's worried, but then again, he isn't supposed to be alert enough to realize that.
I squeeze his hand again. "I call to check on her for you, OK?"
I stand up and look over at Amy. "Stay with him until I come back."
She nods and sits down beside him, taking his hand. And when I leave the room I can hear her speaking softly to him.
I try both Faith's home number and her cell phone, but she doesn't answer either of them. I play with my pencil, debating with myself whether I should call the precinct or not. We have a number to call in case of emergency. If something is seriously wrong with Bosco and we aren't able to reach her any other way. The question is: is this an emergency? I know she's a busy person with an unpredictable job, and he's not sick or anything. But I have a feeling he will be, if she doesn't show up soon. I decide that the situation is close enough to an emergency and pick up the phone and dial the number.
A kind male voice informs me that I'm at the 55th precinct. I clear my throat. "I'm Nurse Evans at Hemingway's nursing home. I'd like to speak to Detective Mitchell."
At first my only response is silence but then the cop in the other end says, "I'm sorry but she's not available at the moment."
"That's OK. Can you just ask her to call us when she gets in? It's important."
Again there's this odd silence before he answers. "I'm sorry but that's not possible"
I sigh irritably. What's his problem? How hard can it be to ask her to call us? "Look I don't want to be difficult but it's very important. Our nursing home has her as a next of kin to an Officer Boscorelli, who lives here, and we really need to get in touch with her."
The silence from before repeats itself and then he says in a sad quiet voice, "Just hang on. I'll put you through to the lieutenant."
The lieutenant... that can't be good. I can feel my heart rate increase and I pray to God – for Bosco's sake – that this isn't going to be bad news.
"Swersky." The voice is demanding, yet kind and tired.
"Hi, I'm Nurse Evans over at Hemingway's nursing home. I'm sorry to bother you like this, but detective Mitchell said we could call here if we weren't able to get hold of her any other way."
His voice is still kind but he sounds even more tired when he answers, "That's OK. What can I do for you?"
"I need you to ask her to call or come by here as soon as possible because Officer Boscorelli seems very distressed at the moment and we think he misses her. She hasn't been here in several days and he's used to see her everyday."
For the forth time today, something I say is followed by complete silence and it's really starting to get on my nerves.
He clears his throat. "Um, I'm sorry. I should have called you sooner but it's just that I didn't think Bosco was aware enough of his surroundings to know whether someone was there or not, and...."
His voice breaks and I just know that what's probably is Bosco's worst nightmare has come true.
"Lieutenant Swersky, has something happened to Faith?"
I can hear him swallow hard. "Yeah, she got killed three days ago."
I close my eyes as tears sting them. Poor Faith and poor Bosco, how am I going to be able to tell him that she's never going to come back?
"I'm very sorry."
He sighs. "Yeah, it's a big loss to all of us. She was a great detective and a wonderful person."
"I know, she has been wonderful to Bosco and everybody here is going to miss her. She was a very good and kind person."
There's silence again but now, that I know what's causing it, it doesn't bother me.
The lieutenant clears his throat again. "So... he really knows if she's there or not, huh?"
"There's no way to know for sure, but he always seems less out of it when she's around and it's obvious that something is bothering him right now. And the only thing that's different from every other day is Faith's absence."
The poor man sighs again. "It's not that I don't believe you, but you have to understand that telling him she's dead is something that I always have hopped that I never would have to do."
The sorrow and despair in his voice is heartbreaking and I wish there was some way for me to take away some of his pain. Suddenly I realize there is. "You don't have to. I can do it for you."
"No, I have to do it myself. I owe it to him. He was once one of my best and most devoted officers."
"That's very easy to imagine," I answer quietly, hoping to make him feel just a tiny bit better.
"Tell me, if you go back to him now and tell him nothing, will he know then that you're keeping something from him?"
"OK, I better come over right away then."
"You don't have to do that. I can make something up until you have enough time to get here."
He laughs a short, bitter laugh. "Don't bother, if Bosco is even vaguely aware of his surroundings he will know you're lying – and I might as well get it over with anyway. I'll be there in ten minutes."
"OK, see you then, bye."
I hang up the phone and shake my head, quickly drying a couple of tears that I haven't been able to hold back. I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm usually much more professional than this. I have no idea why the things and people around Bosco get to me so much, but they do.
I stand up and walk down the hallway to his room. Amy is still there holding his hand. I knock on the doorframe lightly and she looks up. I motion to her to come. She squeezes his hand. "I'll be back soon."
She walks up to me and asks anxiously, "Did you get hold of her?"
I walk back to the desk before turning around. "She's dead."
Amy gasps. "Oh no!"
I nod sadly. "Yeah, it's really awful. Their lieutenant is on his way over here to tell him. I'm going to stay with Bosco when he leaves. You and Greta have to put out dinner without me, OK?"
She nods. "What about Bosco's dinner?"
"Don't bother to save it for him. I'm pretty sure he isn't going to eat anything tonight."
She nods again and then walks down the hall to talk to Greta.
Just a moment later an elderly man in uniform walks through the door. He looks kind and yet you can tell that you don't want to have him as your enemy. His hair is grey and there are deep worry lines on his face. It's a face marked from too much worry and too little sleep. He walks up to me and offers me his hand.
The look in his eyes is tired and sad and I can tell that the task he's about to perform is way too familiar to him. This is a man who has seen a lot of good officers die in the line of duty.
I offer my own hand. "Nurse Evans, but most people call me Olivia."
He smiles slightly. "So, Olivia, tell me about Bosco."
There's a catch in his voice. He's trying hard to not to show it, but I know he's scared. Scared of what he's going to face and scared of what's going to happen.
I give him a gentle smile. "When was the last time you saw Officer Boscorelli?"
He looks like he's about to cry but when he speaks his voice is steady. "The day before they took him here."
I nod knowingly. "Then you know what he looked like then, and he looks pretty much the same now. He still can't walk or talk, or do anything to help himself and he still drools a lot. But the scare on his face has faded and he can move his left hand, although most of the movements – at least according to the doctors - are involuntarily."
He raises his eyebrows. "But not according to you?"
I smile. "Like I said; it's hard to tell, but I've been doing this for almost ten years now and there's something – at least was – when Faith was here."
A shade of sadness crosses his face at the mention of her name but he nods knowingly. "Sounds like Bosco. So, let's get it over with, shall we."
"OK, his room is just down the hall; just give me a minute to prepare him."
We walk down the hallway to Bosco's room. The lieutenant stays in the doorway as I walk up to Bosco and sit down, taking his hand in mine.
"Bosco, there's a Lieutenant Swersky here to see you."
His eyes are empty, but his hand squeezes mine so hard it feels like he's going to break it. I squeeze back reassuringly and stand up and walk back to the door.
"I think he's as ready as he'll ever be. Just remember to hold his hand. That's the best way to tell him that you're here and want to talk to him, and don't forget to wipe his mouth when he drools a lot. Faith always said that he'd hate it if he knew what was going on."
He looks down on his feet and murmurs under his breath, "Yeah, he sure as hell would."
I give him a look of sympathy and ask, "You want me to stay?"
He looks relieved when he replies, "Could you?"
I smile reassuringly. "Sure."
We walk together back in the room and Lieutenant Swersky sits down beside Bosco while I'll take a seat on his bed.
"Hi, Bosco." He takes Bosco's hand and carefully wipes his mouth with a clean Kleenex before leaning in to be able to look into his eyes. When he continues, his voice is soft and sincere. "Long time no see. I know I should have come here earlier but the doctors said you didn't know what was going on anyway, so I guess it was easier not to...." He clears his throat, "...and now I wish more than anything that I'd never have had to come and I bet you do, too."
Bosco drools more than ever and the lieutenant takes the opportunity to compose himself while wiping his mouth again.
"The nurse says the doctors are wrong, that you do know what's going on – at least every now and then - and so does Faith. They both seem pretty smart to me." He licks his lips nervously. "So if you know what's going on then you know why I'm here, right?"
Bosco doesn't react in any way. He just stares into nothingness with empty eyes. The lieutenant scoots closer and tightens his grip on Bosco's hand. His voice drops another notch and is now almost inaudible "Bosco, Faith is dead. She was shot three days ago."
There's no doubt that Bosco hears him, though, because when the lieutenant utters the words "is dead" he makes the first and only sound I have ever heard from him in three years. It's a low, painful moan and it sounds like we're stabbing him or something, which I guess, in a way, we actually are.
The lieutenant squeezes his hand. "I'm sorry. I know you're gonna miss her."
Bosco jerks his head to the side as if he's trying to get away, then he's starts to breathe in short, shallow breaths and the drooling increases again. The lieutenant looks over at me for help. I stand up and move to Bosco's side. The lieutenant moves away and I take Bosco's hand in one of mine and put the other one on his shoulder.
"Calm down, Bosco, just breathe. It's gonna be OK. You're not alone."
He doesn't seem to acknowledge me, but when I wipe his face with a Kleenex he gives out a sigh and his breathing calms down. "That's right, just breathe," I say soothingly and push the call button.
Just moments later, Amy walks into the room. I look up at her. "Stay with Bosco for a minute, will you? I'm just gonna walk the lieutenant to the door."
She nods gravely and sits down beside Bosco.
"Just make sure he doesn't hyperventilate, OK?"
She nods again and I put my hand back on Bosco's shoulder, squeezing it lightly, as I lean in to look into his eyes. "I'll be right back." I get no response but I'm sure he heard me.
Lieutenant Swersky and I walk side by side in silence until we reach the front door, then he stops and turns toward me. His eyes are shiny, and it isn't hard to tell that he's struggling hard not to cry. "You were right; he does know what's going on." He makes a face. "But right now I sure as hell wish that he didn't."
I just nod in agreement. This isn't a time for words because there aren't any that could make this even the slightest bit better. For a few minutes we just stand there in silence but it's a good silence, and I'm pretty sure it's comforting for the poor man.
Finally, he clears his throat. "So she really came here every day?"
"Yeah, she did – every single day. Sometimes very early and sometimes very late but she always came."
"Does he have any other visitors?"
"Yeah, his mother comes here once a week, usually on Saturdays."
"No one else?"
I shake my head. "No, no one."
He sighs deeply and tiredly runs his hand over his hair. "OK, I'll try to come here everyday, or send one of his old co-workers if I can't make it myself. I don't want him to feel abandoned."
"That's a very good thought," I say softly, touched by how much this man seems to care about his officers.
He looks unhappily at me. "You know, sometimes one or two of my officers becomes more special to me than the others. I know it's wrong but I can't help it. And..., Faith and Bosco...they...they were special.... Don't ask me why – but they were, and how oddly it might seems, I think I owe it to both of them."
I smile softly. "Been there, done that; that's only human. It isn't hard to imagine that they were special to you. They were special us, too - Bosco still is."
He looks calmly at me for a few moments and then he says, "I know Faith paid a great deal of money to make sure he got the best possible care. I can tell she got good value for her money."
I can feel myself blush. I'm not used to receiving this kind of credit. "Thank- you."
He smiles wearily. "You're welcome. See you tomorrow. Bye."
When he's gone, I take a deep breath and start walking toward Bosco's room. My job now is to try to comfort him, but I'm well aware that that's probably an impossible mission.
Amy looks relieved when I enter the room. "I'm glad you came. He's not looking too good. I think he needs to lie down."
I only need to take one look at Bosco to realize she's right. He's white as a ghost and his breathing is still not completely normal. He isn't hyperventilating but it seems like he's taking breaths that are too shallow. When I get closer to him, I can see that his eyes are running, especially the left one. It does that on a regular basis because the big scar on his face makes it difficult for him to close his eye properly, and it gets infected very easily. But the fact that the other one is running, too, makes me think that he's crying. If I told anyone they would say I'm wrong, and that's only his eye bothering him again. But I can't help but wonder if he has been crying all the other times when his eye was running, but hopefully it's just today.
I take the lift from the corner of the room, move it to his wheelchair and start to secure the items we need to lift him over to his bed. "Come on, Bosco, let's get you into bed."
Amy wipes his mouth and eyes before helping me to get him settled. We make quick work of moving him to the bed and turning him onto his left side before covering him up with blankets, and then Amy quietly leaves the room. I sit down beside him and wipe his face before taking his hand. It's cold as ice and my heart is bleeding for him. His life is already as close to hell as you can possible come and he really doesn't deserve to lose his best friend, too.
His hand isn't moving anymore but his eyes are still running, and he keeps drooling worse than I have ever seen him do before. I gently wipe his face and notice that the box of Kleenex is almost empty. I make a mental note to get another one from his closet before I leave.
I squeeze his hand. "Sshh, Bosco. I know it hurts but it's gonna be OK. You don't have to worry. We're gonna take good care of you, you'll see. Faith has made a long list of what we have to do to take care of you the best way possible and I promise you that we will follow it down to the letter. Lieutenant Swersky promised that he'll come and visit you every day. I know it isn't the same but at least you won't be alone. And you still have your mother, remember?"
He doesn't respond at all, just lies there staring out into space with his empty blue eyes. They have a wonderful color and I think they must have been irresistible when there was life in them, too. Still holding his hand, I rub his back soothingly. I can see how his eyelids are getting heavier. Eventually, he closes them completely, and when I hear his breathing even out as well, I know he's finally asleep.
"Just rest, Bosco. I'll be back soon," I whisper softly, and absently run my hand over his hair before standing up and turning on the lamp on his bedside table.
It's already dusk and it's going to get completely dark before he wakes up again, and one of the instructions on the list is that we have to make sure that there's always some light on in his room, because he hates the dark. I reach into his closet and take out a new box of Kleenex and place it on his bedside table. As I stand there and look at his small, still form in the bed my mind drifts off to Faith's list.
Always make sure he has clean clothes and never has to wear the ones belonging to the nursing home.
He has to shower once a week and be shaved and washed every day.
Brush his teeth twice a day.
Make sure we put Vaseline in the left corner of his mouth and down on his chin so all the drooling doesn't destroy the skin and cause wounds.
Wipe his face as often as possible with a clean Kleenex and make sure there are always some on his bedside table, and tell her when he runs out of them.
Always put on "Sport Center" so he can watch the jets-games on Sundays, and let him watch "Animal Planet" and "ESPN" the other days.
Make sure he sits in his wheelchair at least four hours every day.
Don't put him in the living room together with the other patients because strangers make him uncomfortable.
Always have some light on in his room because he hates the dark.
Then there's a long list of things he doesn't like to eat, and a lot of other little things about how to make him as comfortable as possible. Most of the things we would have done anyway, but it's easier for us to take good care of the patients if we know what they like. I remind myself that I have to makes sure that everyone reads it through again, now that she isn't here to make sure everything is done the proper way.
"Bosco, please try to eat just a little bit more," I plead, but he doesn't open his mouth. I put my index finger at the corner of his lips, in an attempt to trick him to open up. It usually does the trick - but not today. Today he just completely and utterly out of it.
I sigh. He's so thin you can see almost every bone in his body. He's eating like a bird – always has. Actually, that has been our greatest concern ever since he got here, but this past week, since Faith died, it's even worse. He practically doesn't eat at all. Amy even went out and bought fries yesterday in an attempt to make him eat better, but he just ate a couple of spoons. I called his mother today because we need to have a meeting on how to handle this. We need to know if we should try to feed him through a tube or an IV, or if we should just let him be.
I wipe his mouth and pick up the tray as I say, "I'll be back and put you back in bed soon, OK?"
He should probably sit in the wheelchair for a bit longer but he's very pale and looks exhausted today – which isn't surprising considering he isn't eating – and I think he just needs to get some rest. He doesn't respond. He hasn't shown any sign whatsoever that he understands what's going on around him since Lieutenant Swersky told him Faith was dead. And I can't help but wonder if losing Faith has finally made him lose his mind completely.
When I reach the hallway, Amy comes hurrying toward me. I look at her questioningly.
She steps closer and whispers, "There's a girl in the hall claiming she's Faith's daughter."
I smile. "Then she probably is. Take this and I'll go and talk to her." I hand her the tray and head down the hall to the reception. I spot a cute young girl, looking very much like Faith, standing by the desk.
I walk up to her and extend my hand. "I'm Nurse Evans. What can I do for you?"
She takes my hand and shakes it. "I'm Emily Yokas. I'm Faith Mitchell's daughter. I'm here to talk to someone in charge and to see officer Boscorelli."
I smile gently because it's obvious that she's both nervous and uncomfortable. "I see. Well, I'm in charge of this shift so you can speak to me."
She nods. "How is he doing?"
"He isn't eating properly but besides that, he's as OK as he can be."
She looks down and bites her bottom lip. "What does he look like nowadays?"
"You haven't seen him since he got shot?"
She shakes her head without looking up.
I smile and repeat the same information I gave Lieutenant Swersky a week ago.
She listens in silence and when she looks up, there are tears in her eyes. "Mom said he understands what you say when you talk to him. Is that true? I mean, the doctors said he doesn't have a clue what happens around him, right?"
"I know they do," I answer softly. "But I think your mother was right. He knew she was here and I'm sure he understood when we told him she's gone."
She nods and holds out a plastic bag for me to take. "I brought some Kleenex. Mom said he uses a lot of them, and since it was a week since she was here I thought you might have run out...."
I give her another gentle smile and take the bag. "Thank- you. I opened the last box this morning."
She smiles back and shifts nervously. "I know she used to wash his clothes, is there someone else doing that now? I know it's very important to her that he doesn't have to wear yours."
She blushes, probably worried that she has offended me in some way.
"Don't worry about it. We have made arrangements with his mother about that and we're making sure to follow the list your mother made up on how to take care of him."
The redness of her face deepens as she continues, "I know it costs a lot of money to provide his care and I'm wondering for how long...." Her voice trails off and she just stares at her shoes, her whole face bright read.
I put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry about it. Your mother has recently paid the bill for this month and then we will see, but I promise you that we're not going to put him out on the street."
She bites down on her bottom lip again, so hard she draws blood. "I know. I'm coming from the lawyer who had her last will, and I want you and Bosco to know that she has made arrangements to take care of the costs for his care for the next 25 years - or until he passes away. But if he's still alive 25 years from now, I want you to contact me, so that I can make new arrangements."
I just stare at her in amazement. Now I know for sure that Faith loved him, and that her daughter loved her enough to makes sure that the man she loved is taken care of properly.
"How old are you?"
I nod slowly. "OK, I'll draw up some papers for you to sign."
"Can I see him in the meantime?"
"Sure no problem. You want me to come with you?"
She smiles slightly. "No, thank-you for the offer, but I need to do this by myself."
I nod my understanding. "I'll show you to his room."
She stops outside the door for a moment, watching his still form in the wheelchair by the window. Then she takes a deep, shaky breath and looks over at me for some kind of reassurance.
I give her an encouraging smile. "You'll be fine. Just make sure to hold his hand and wipe his face."
She nods and walks into the room. I watch her sit down and take his hand before wiping his mouth.
"Hi, Bosco, the nurse said you're almost out of Kleenex, but don't worry, I brought a couple of new boxes.... Um...but that's not the reason I came here. I came to talk about Mom's funeral and some other stuff I want you to know...."
I can feel a big lump forming in my throat and I turn around to leave – after all, she said she wanted to be alone with him - but before I do, I notice that Bosco's eye has start watering again.
The morning is dark and cold. It's November and it feels like there's going to be snow before this day is over. I hurry through the door to the nursing home – glad to get into the warmth. I quickly change into uniform and head out from the locker room to the front desk. Nora – the night nurse – sits by the desk, writing something in the case books. I'm the first from the day shift to arrive and I sit down next to her.
She looks up and smiles. "You're early."
I smile back. "Shit happens all the time."
She chuckles lightly and goes back to what she was doing.
She looks up again. "Very, but Bosco is worse."
I can feel my heart sink. "He is?"
She nods sadly. "Yeah, he is. His fever was up to 103 when we checked at our two o'clock round. I gave him something for it, but...." She pauses for a second, fiddling with her pen. "I don't think he's gonna make it much longer."
She shakes her head and then shrugs. "No, but who knows; he seems hard to get rid of but Maria is with him now – just incase."
I nod sadly, trying to get rid of the lump in my throat, telling myself that he's just another patient and patients die all the time. There's nothing new and nothing to get so upset about – and still – all I want to do is cry.
Just a couple of moments later, Amy and five other nurses from the dayshift arrive. Nora gives a full report and leaves. The room is suddenly filled with talk and laughter from people chit-chatting and planning the work of the day, but I mange to make eye contact with Amy and motion for her to follow me out in the hallway.
She looks unhappily at me. "So he's really dying?"
I sigh. "It looks that way, yeah, and I don't want him to do it alone. I'm gonna call his mother and I want you to sit with him until I come back. Then I'm gonna stay with him until she arrives, OK?"
She nods and heads down the hallway to his room. I sigh again and pick up the phone to call his mother to tell her that her son probably isn't going to survive the day.
I sit by his bed, holding his hand, watching him move his head from side to side. I can tell that he – for some reason - is very uncomfortable. It's probably because of the fever. I stand up and go over to the sink to wet a washcloth, thinking that if I try to cool his face he might feel better and calm down a bit. I don't want him to suffer, because I know Faith would have hated if he did.
It has been three weeks now - close to the day - since she died and it has been two weeks since her daughter came and told him that Faith had made sure he would always been taken care of, and one week since he got sick. It's pretty unusual for him to be sick – at least nowadays. When he first came here he got sick all the time, but then he was still weak from the whole ordeal and maybe he didn't like it here either. Once he'd adjusted, he started to get healthier everyday and I can only remember him getting sick twice after that – pneumonia both times, and that's the case now, too. The other times it was easily fixed with antibiotics, but not this time. This time he keeps getting worse.
It doesn't surprise me one bit, though. He has barely eaten since she died, and those tiny signs of life and sanity you could see in his eyes from time to time are completely gone. I'm really starting to think that the only reason he'd endured it all was because he wanted to be with her, and now – now that she's gone - he just doesn't care anymore. I have a feeling he loved her just as much as she loved him, because she must have loved him. There's no other explanation. Why else would she have made sure he was taken care of if she died? I mean, he does have a Mom who could have taken care of that part. I don't know for sure, though, because there's no one to ask and it's none of my business anyway.
I sit down again and wipe his face with the cold washcloth. He flinches slightly, but then his movement stops and he lies completely still. He's face looks relaxed and I'm glad to be able to give him some comfort. I look at his cracked lips and stand up to find his Chap Stick. It's on the bedside table, next to the box of Kleenex. There's no need for them any more, though. The fever has left him so dehydrated that he doesn't have enough saliva to drool anymore. We're not giving him any fluid in an IV, because his mother doesn't want us to force him to eat or drink, or try to keep him alive if the antibiotics don't help. She thinks he has suffered enough. I think that's a wise decision. I think Bosco would agree if he could. I have tried several times to get him to acknowledge me - both before and after he got sick - in an attempt to figure out what he wants, but it was all in vain. I'm not surprised, though, after all, I'm not Faith.
I sit down again and run the Chap Stick over his lips. The touch causes him try to lick them but his mouth is too dry. I take a compress and secure it in the grip of a forceps, dip it into a cup with water and carefully wipe his mouth with it. He gives out a sigh and tries to swallow. I do it all over again with a fresh compress, then reach over and take a Kleenex to wipe away some water that has trickled from the corner of his mouth. When I look back at him his eyes are open. It's the first time in days and for some strange reason it makes me so happy that I don't even need to fake a smile.
As usual, he doesn't respond – just stares out into space - but that's OK. I didn't expect him to acknowledge me. He's out of it most of the time on a good day and with the fever and all, there's no reason to believe today would be any different.
I take the wash cloth and wipe his face again and he gives out a small whimper.
I frown. "What's wrong, Bos? You in pain?"
I realize my mistake as soon as I say it and his reaction only confirms my fears. His eyes widen and shift toward me, but as soon as he recognizes me he immediately closes them again. In his feverish state he thought she was here. I can't really blame him. I have never heard anyone except Faith call him Bos, and I'm sorry for making him believe she was back. But it just felt natural to call him that and it's easy to see why she did.
I carefully squeeze his hand and softly rub my thumb over it. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fool you," I whisper.
He opens his eyes again and this time I can see pain in them. He gives out another soft whimper and I know he must be in a great deal of pain, because he doesn't usually try to make any sounds. I'm not sure if the pain is physical or emotional, but it really doesn't matter. I'm not about to let him suffer.
I stand up and squeeze his hand again. "Don't worry I'll go and get you something for the pain. I'll be right back."
When I get back his eyes are closed again, but he moves his head back and forth and clenches and unclenches his left hand over and over again, the way he only does when he's very distressed – like the day we found out that Faith was dead. I sit down and inject the painkiller into his thigh, almost closing my eyes when I do so, because he's so thin it feels like I'm going to inject it into his bone.
When I look back up, his eyes are open again. I take the washcloth and wet it in a bowl of water I brought with me along with his syringe.
"You're planning on dying on us, aren't you?" I ask softly while wiping his face again.
He slowly shift his eyes toward me again and that's all it takes for me to know I'm right.
"It's OK. I know you miss her and long to be with her again. And that was why you hung around in the first place, wasn't it? To be with her?"
I catch his anxious hand in mine and feel him squeeze it.
I swallow hard, willing myself not to cry because good nurses do not cry in front of their patients. "It's OK. I know she loved you, too, and I'm sure she's waiting for you right now." I watch his face relax and squeeze his hand again. "But you have to hang in there for a bit longer, OK? It would kill your mother if she didn't make it here in time."
I hear quiet foot steps approaching and I look up to see Mrs. Boscorelli. She smiles a weary, heartbreaking smile. I stand up and squeeze Bosco's hand one last time before moving out of the way.
I watch her sit down, take his hand. "Hi, baby."
The peace on his face when he hears her voice tells me it's going to be over really soon.
She looks up at me. "You want me to stay?"
She smiles and shakes her head and I quietly leave the room, knowing it's probably the last time I'll see him alive – but that's OK. I know he's off to a much better place – off to be with Faith. I just hope God finds them as special as Lieutenant Swersky and I do.