Author's Note: No, I have not abandoned this story. :)
Sorry it took so incredibly long. Blame law school – I do.
Shout out to WIWJ - thanks for letting me randomly PM you talk over ideas for this fic, even if it has been awhile. :P
Warning: Spoilers for "In the Family Way" and "Kingpin Rising"
I did something a little different this time. Faith's thoughts are in italics. Bosco's are in brackets. I couldn't think of another way to do it.
The chapter is a little long, but if you hold out for the end, I guarantee you'll be surprised. ;)
Thank you to all my reviewers – you keep me going!
Chapter 4: Same Story, Different Song
She almost doesn't see him. If she would have left the office just seconds earlier, she would have missed his entrance entirely.
But she doesn't miss him – she sees him, large as life, shaking hands with Lieutenant Swersky down by the front desk.
She walks tentatively over to the railing at the top of the stairs, the file folder in her hand momentarily forgotten as her eyes bore holes into the side of Bosco's head. It's a sight for sore eyes to see him here, looking relatively healthy and whole, standing in the precinct house ribbing their boss just like old times. Just like nothing has changed. It's something she barely thought possibly months before – and she might be able to smile, if it weren't so wrong.
"I leave for a few months; you let the whole place go to hell?" She hears Bosco taunt. God how she missed this, how she'd hoped and prayed for this moment.
"You tryin' to piss me off the first two minutes—?"
"No, I'll hold that for tomorrow," Bosco retorts cheekily. "I'll be up in the locker room."
Realizing that Bosco is turning toward the stairs, a casual greeting forms on her lips. They haven't spoken to each other in a week, though she's left numerous messages on his voicemail. He's effectively shut her out of his life. And it's here, in this moment, that she feels the pain. Because this should be her moment, too.
Bosco wasn't the only one who had fought death on that cold hospital tile so many months ago. She'd fought it too, and she has her own battle scars.
This should be their moment – together. But it's not. Because it's wrong.
"Hey Bosco." It's quiet, almost fearful, and she's saved from watching his reaction to her presence by Lieu's interruption.
"Hey Faith! Guess who just got put back to full duty?"
'Full duty? What. The. Hell?'
[Faith's poorly schooled reaction is not lost on Bosco, who is surreptitiously watching her out of the corner of his eye. He watches as her face pales ever-slightly, the corners of her mouth tipping down into the barest of frowns as a blank look of incomprehension fills her hazel eyes.]
"Well, good to see ya," Bosco mumbles, shaking Swersky's hand before making a hasty exit. "I'll go get my gear ready."
'Gear? Ready? How did this happen? How could she have missed this?'
[Emotion begins to rise up in him – guilt, panic, desperation, fear – and he fights with himself to ignore it, to banish it from himself. Those emotions will only make him weak, and Bosco is damned if he'll be weak any longer. So he ignores the war raging inside of him, focusing all his energy on avoiding Faith's probing eyes at the top of the stairs. One foot in front of the other. Maybe if he ignores it long enough, it'll go away…she will go away.]
"Welcome back, Bosco," Swersky calls after him.
A chill runs down Faith's spine, and she flinches involuntarily.
'Welcome back, Bosco.' It should be music to her ears. Instead, it feels like somebody dropped an anvil in the pit of her stomach. She feels sick.
At the top of the stairs, Bosco pushes past her without acknowledgment.
'He doesn't want to face me,' she thinks, knowing that it is the truth.
It's the disbelief that drives her to follow him back into the locker room.
"So you're coming back?" 'Tell me this isn't what I think it is.'
A one-word answer. He's shutting her out, again.
"Good…that's good." 'This is very, very bad.'
"Yeah." Quick, breathless, and he won't meet her questioning gaze.
"So you re-qualified?" 'So you didn't listen to damn word I said.'
"Yep," comes the terse reply.
She can tell by his jerky movements that she's making him uncomfortable, but it's hard to be sympathetic after everything he's done.
He still won't look at her, but she won't give up so easy. Slowly, she eases down onto the bench next to him, her disbelief and concern masking the anger smoldering just underneath.
"How?" 'Be straight with me, Bosco….'
"I hit the target enough times," he says, throwing her own well-worn words back at her.
After every re-qualification down through the years, he would always ask her how she did, and she'd always shrug and say, "I hit the target enough times," and they'd laugh about it.
She's not laughing now.
"No, I mean what, are your eyes suddenly feeling better?"
'You know, maybe I wouldn't have to ask if, heaven forbid, you'd have answered the damn phone one of the hundred times I called….'
He freezes, cornered, then tries to dodge the oncoming bullet.
"You're gonna give me grief, now?"
"No, I'm not giving you grief, now; Bosco, you told me you couldn't see the target." It's an accusation, and her words come out in a rush of barely-controlled anger.
"I never said that."
"Yes, you did. And you asked me to shoot for you." 'And for god's sake - just a few days ago you were ready to OD on your pain medication….'
[He can't help but notice that she's still got a tight leash on her anger. Before he was shot, she'd be tearing into him by now. She still treats him like fragile glass, and that makes him feel weak. Faith needs to learn that he isn't fragile, anymore, he reasons. This isn't the hospital, and he's not broken anymore. He's going to show her that he's the same hard-assed SOB he's always been, bound and determined to get her off of his back. His hackles are up. He needs her to go away, lest he become weak again. So he strikes without mercy, even though it pains him. The words that roll off his tongue are swift and harsh – he knows how to get his message across.]
"Don't you have anything to do, detective?"
The snide retort matches the clear dismissal in his stormy eyes and his tone takes her off guard.
"Big, NYPD detective…I figured you'd be up to your ass in paperwork."
It's clearly an insult, coming from him. If she wasn't pissed before, she's furious now.
"Yeah, I got plenty to do," she says, irked by his brush-off. '
Yeah, I got plenty to do, and yet I'm taking time to sit here with you and make sure you're alright. What do I get for it? I get insulted.'
"Great, then why don't you leave me alone so I can get my stuff ready."
"I'll do that." 'Ass.'
She misses the regret in eyes as he watches her walk out the door.
[Perhaps the greatest irony of all, he realizes, is that in hurting her, he only manages to wound himself.]
It's been more than week since he asked her to shoot for him.
A week since she walked into his apartment to find him on the brink of self-destruction.
A week since he promised her he'd make an appointment with his neurologist…and a week since Faith woke up in Bosco's bed, alone.
In that time, he hadn't answered any of her calls, giving her no explanation for his disappearance. She'd gotten caught up in work, the worry for him bouncing around the back of her mind. She was hurt, angry, and scared.
He lied to her, again. He'd broken his promise.
And now he's been assigned to full duty?
He's not ready. She knows it, and somewhere deep down, Bosco knows it, too. What kills her is that she has no idea what to do about it.
Late that night, as she sits alone in her apartment, a lone thought assaults her mind, sending chills down her spine.
She doesn't want to admit it at first, but it's too clear of an image for her to ignore.
The department is doing the same thing to Bosco that they did with Glen Hobart – letting an unfit cop back on the force until he either snaps under the pressure, or worse.
She'll be damned if Bosco is going to end up like Hobart.
Her thumb traces over a photo in her hand. It's an old picture of them together, taken from their Police Academy graduation.
'God, were they ever that young?'
Bosco had refused to smile for it, trying to act all macho in front of the camera and their fellow cadets. She had found his attempts to look 'badass' hilarious, barely able to contain her sputters of laughter for the photo. He hadn't been fooling her, his happiness and self-pride evident in the ease of his facial expression.
For the past ten years, his friendship has meant everything, and she has to stop and ask herself whether or not it's worth doing this if it means she'll lose him.
A moment passes – half of a heartbeat.
She's surprised that the decision is an easy one. She loves him too much to let her selfishness take precedence over his well-being.
'I don't care if you hate me, Bosco,' she thinks, quelling the tears that threaten to overwhelm her. 'I only care that you're safe.'
Her mind is made up. She won't let this go.
She finds Vince's number in her little black address book, picks up the phone, and calls.
The next day, Bosco's back on the beat, and Faith all but forgets about her investigation as they try to track down 'vampires'.
She and Bosco actually manage civil conversation, and in his own way, he asks her forgiveness.
"You're good at this." [I'm sorry.]
Faith doesn't miss a beat. "Fooled ya'." 'I'm not keeping score, Bos.'
Still, "it" hangs over their heads like a dark cloud.
They're in the hospital, and she can see him at the desk, leaning over to sign some forms. His nose is nearly touching the paper, and it's obvious that he's struggling to see.
Faith's heart skips a beat. 'Oh my god, his sight is that bad?'
"Hey. You alright?" She reaches a gentle hand across the desk, her fingertips just brushing against his knuckles.
"Fine…s'just the damn print…it's so small…." It's a weak excuse, and she and Sully share a quick, knowing look over Bosco's bent head.
Later, when she demands to know why the older officer didn't say anything, she isn't shocked by his answer – just disappointed.
"You were riding with him, Sully…when were you going to say something?"
She keeps her voice low in the locker room, but her eyes flash with anger.
"Look, the guy's been through hell, Faith. He kicked and clawed his way from death's door just to be back on the force, and after all that I sure as hell am not gonna be the one to tell him that he doesn't deserve to be here!"
"It's not about what he deserves, Sully – he can't see!"
"Lots of guys have poor eyesight, Faith," Sully scoffs. "It's no reason to take three-quarters."
"He's not ready to be back," she hisses, burning with righteous indignation.
Sully throws up his hands, exasperated.
"Look, this is between you and Bosco. Leave me out of it."
"And if it gets him, killed?"
"He had trouble reading a form, Faith! Hell, tell him to get a pair of eyeglasses!"
"You don't understand." She shakes her head. "He's not ready to be back."
"Look, you need to work it out with him. I don't need involved in you and Bosco's drama."
He slams his locker shut, sparing her a withering glance as he pushes past her.
Clearly, this conversation is over.
She knows it's not unnatural for police officers to hold their wounded veterans in high regard, even to the point of hero-worship. She's seen it before. In fact, Bosco had once been blinded to Glen Hobart's troubles for that very reason – and it almost got him killed. The hero-worship is understandable…but it's also very dangerous.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she knows that what she is doing is likely to destroy their relationship; Bosco will not understand that she's only trying to help, and he will take it as a betrayal of the worst kind.
It's a high price to pay, but Bosco is worth it.
Faith is sitting on the couch, watching the end credits of Troy with her daughter when the phone rings.
Emily simultaneously makes a crack about Brad Pitt's butt, and Faith smiles as she pulls the receiver to her ear.
It's Bosco, sounding breathless and uncharacteristically unhinged. Her smile vanishes.
"You gotta come over. You gotta come over, right now."
"Bosco, just tell me what's wrong," Faith responds, her face scrunched up in concern.
"I can't. I can't just…please come over? Please, Faith. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important."
She reaches up to scratch her forehead, then lets out a long-suffering sigh.
In spite everything, she can't say no to him.
"Okay. I'll be there in ten."
She hangs up, and then stands to pull on her shoes and coat.
"Everything okay?" Emily asks, concerned by her mother's hurried movements.
"Emily – I am so sorry, sweetheart. Bosco's having some sort of crisis," she flicks her hand in an exasperated gesture, "and I have to run over there. We can talk about the movie later, okay?"
"Okay," Emily replies with a nod. "Tell Bosco I said 'hi'."
"I will," Faith promises, kissing Emily's head.
"Keep the door locked," she calls as she leaves; an unnecessary reminder.
All Faith can think about as she rushes up the stairs to Bosco's apartment is the last time she was here, when she found him with the pills.
She'd made him promise if he ever felt that low again, that he'd call her and wait for her.
His desperation over the phone left a lump in her throat; her pace quickens.
She knocks on his door only once before it is flung open, and she at once notices Bosco's disheveled appearance.
"Faith! Thank God!"
He grabs her hand excitedly, yanking her back into the apartment.
"Bosco – what the hell is the matter with you?" She cries, stumbling after him.
She is pulled toward the couch, and stops short as Bosco releases her suddenly.
She has to blink several times before she can believe what she is seeing.
"Bosco…." She raises her finger to point, her mouth formed in an 'o'.
"That's a baby."
He exhales harshly, flustered, and nods. "I know."
"There's a baby on your couch."
"I – I know, Faith."
She blinks several more times, staring in confusion and shock at the pink bundled baby lying asleep in a simple gray carrier on the couch.
Next to her, Bosco paces restlessly.
"Say somethin'," he demands.
"Is she yours?"
He gives her one of his death glares, and her eyebrows shoot up in surprise.
"Okay…well. That answers that question." She pauses. "Where did she come from, then?"
Bosco sighs, running a hand through his hair in agitation.
"Look we can talk about that later. Right now, I need you to do something for me."
Her brow furrows in concern. "Sure, what?"
"I need you to…you know…." he makes a vague gesture toward the child.
"Bosco, I'm not a mind reader," Faith tells him dryly.
"Can't you smell that?" He asks in frustration.
"Yeah. It stinks. I can't think with it smellin' up the place like this."
Faith has to bite her lip to keep from smiling.
"Bosco. Tell me you didn't call me over here to change a diaper," she says, trying to sound angry and failing miserably.
His expression changes to one of helplessness. "Please, Faith. Please. You gotta help me. I don't know what to do."
Hysterical laughter bursts out of Faith's mouth before she can stop it, and she has to bend over to relieve some of the strain on her ribs.
"Oh that's right. Laugh it up. Faith, this is serious," Bosco says irritably, but the corners of his mouth are turned up ever slightly, and there is no force behind his words.
Faith wipes the tears from her eyes with her fingers, then walks over to look down at the baby.
The child appears healthy, with a round face, delicate bone structure and long eyelashes. Thin strands of light brown hair curl around her ears and neck. Faith figures she can't be more than six months old.
"Poor thing. Having you as a babysitter."
"This isn't funny, Faith. Are you just gonna leave her sitting there in her own sh—?"
"Do you even have any diapers?" She interrupts before he can finish.
He hefts up a light blue bag that had been sitting next to the couch and all-but shoves it at her.
"I don't know what's in there, but I'm assuming it's baby stuff."
Faith zips it open and rummages around for a diaper, wipe-ems, and baby powder.
With the experience of a mother, she gently lifts the sleeping baby out of the carrier and lays her flat on the couch, carefully undoing the purple jumper.
"Now you're gonna watch me do this, Bosco, because I am not coming over here every time she needs a change."
He just nods, eyes wide.
"I can't believe you've never changed a diaper before," she mutters as she works.
She slides off the dirty diaper, and Bosco gags at the smell. "Oh, my god…."
"Come on, you've smelt worse on the job," Faith teases, smiling at his discomfort.
"I can't believe something so small and innocent looking can make a smell like that – ugh – my apartment's gonna smell like shit for a week."
"Stop being so dramatic. It didn't smell great in here to begin with – are you watching this?" She asks, pulling the adhesive ends of the diaper closed.
Bosco swallows, looking pale. "I – uh…I might need you to show me a few more times."
Faith just rolls her eyes, scrubbing her hands clean with the wet wipe-em before carefully placing the baby back in the carrier.
"She's a quiet baby. You really lucked out."
She walks out to the kitchen and drops the offending diaper in the trash, then turns toward Bosco and crosses her arms, leaning against the counter behind her.
"Okay – what's going on, here? Where did she come from?"
Bosco slumps into a chair at the kitchen table, resting his forehead wearily on his palm.
"You're not gonna believe me when I tell you."
Bosco rubs a hand over his mouth anxiously before speaking.
"I heard a knock on my door this morning. I opened it up and it was just…sitting there."
Of all the explanations she expected him to give - that certainly was not one of them.
"What?" Faith frowns. "But…who's the mother?"
He shakes his head. "I don't know, Faith. Nobody was around. I didn't know what the hell to do, I mean – I couldn't just leave it there."
"Bosco, you have to call Child Services," Faith says in a tone that conveys her firm belief that he should have done this hours ago.
Bosco ducks his head, picking at a small hole in the knee of his jeans.
"I'm not so sure I want to do that."
Her face contorts in confusion. "What? Why not?"
When he looks at her again, his eyes hold a haunted expression, and his hands press together in front of him, palms rubbing nervously.
"Because I think it's Mikey's."
A/N: Thoughts? Don't worry – Faith and Bosco will work out their issues…eventually.
P.S. - my mom always called them 'wipe-ems'. I honest-to-god have never heard of another name for them. Is there?