Sweet Prince In Blissful Slumber Unaware
By Maquis Leader
Author’s notes: This story is set in the Season 6: Reloaded universe. It stands alone and you don't need to read the other chapters before you read this one, but I invite you to do so. Please see the note on the main page.>
Previously on Third Watch:
Episode 19:Sweet Prince In Blissful Slumber Unaware
“You know, the holidays are going to be here pretty quick. It’s cooled off, and that’s a relief. But I’m not looking forward to the snow. We should move to Florida, don't you think? Get a suntan instead.”
Rose hit the end of the row that she was knitting and carefully made the stitches to make the turn. “I don’t know what the hell this thing is going to end up being, Maurice. It started as a potholder and now look at it.”
She held it up, glancing at where her son lay, hoping that he’d wake up and say ‘Ma, what the fuck are you doing knitting?’ or something. Anything. Instead, the heart monitor continued to beep and Maurice continued to take slow, even breaths as if he’d sleep forever.
“Oh, baby, what am I going to do?” Rose put her knitting down and pulled her glasses off to rub at her eyes. “You know, I can’t keep this up forever. You have to wake up. It’s been months. You’ve gotta wake up and make liars out of these doctors.”
Maurice didn’t answer and she got up out of her chair to stare out the window. “They keep telling me you’re never waking up. I keep saying no – no, they don’t know you. They just don’t know you.”
On the street below, an ambulance pulled into the parking lot, lights flashing. “There’s some other poor sucker they’re bringing in. Wonder if they’ll end up sleeping their life away?”
A van for a funeral home came into her line of sight, and Rose turned away. “Jesus…”
Looking at her oldest son – her only son now – lying bandaged and unconscious as he had been for months, Rose clutched at her chest as a wave of despair washed over her and the misery crushed her heart. “What the hell did my boys do to deserve this? They’re good boys! I was the one who made all the mistakes – I messed their lives up! Why take my babies?”
Everyday it was harder to cope with the reality that she was going to lose both her sons. Her dreams of being a grandmother some day were never going to come true. There weren’t going to be any second chances at being a better mother. She wiped angrily at the tears on her cheeks, but they continued to fall.
Michael was dead and buried, and visiting his grave had helped to ease that pain. But Maurice lingered. Not dead – but not what anybody could call alive. He existed. Rose sniffled and turned to look at him again. He looked peaceful. Eyes closed and sleeping as if waiting for someone to wake him up. “Sleeping Beauty, huh, Maurice? Only there ain’t no Princess Charming.”
When they’d removed the ventilator, she’d almost hoped that he wouldn’t be able to breathe on his own, that Maurice’s body would give up and shut down. Instead, he’d gasped a few times before settling into the steady breathing pattern that she heard every waking moment and even in her sleep. In and out, in and out, echoed by the steady beeping of the heart monitor.
“Why don’t you give up, baby? Huh? What are you hanging on for?” Walking to the bed, Rose trailed her fingers over the left side of his face – the perfect side. “What the hell are you hanging on for? Don’t you know there’s nothing left?”
His hair was long and she combed her fingers through it, the dark auburn strands curling with a life of their own. “The doctors say you’re gonna be a vegetable even if you do wake up. You won’t even be able to talk 'cos of what that bullet did to your face. Maurice, your face – oh, your beautiful face – ” Fresh tears ran down her cheeks.
She’d tried to wake him, waiting until the nurses weren’t around to run ice cubes over his bare skin, jabbed the bottoms of his feet with a needle, and once even put the headphones for her radio over his ears and turned it up as high as it would go. There’d been absolutely no response. Not even a twitch. It was as if his body was empty.
“Oh, Maurice. What do I do with you?”
Every day she sat with him and talked to him until she was hoarse. Massaged his arms and legs, working in vain to keep the muscles from wasting away. Faith had bought sensory tactile therapy toys to rub along his skin to try to stimulate his senses and wake him up, and Rose had rubbed the silly blue rabbit over Maurice’s skin until she’d nearly rubbed it off.
Every night she kissed him and went home, promising she’d be back in the morning. She’d send up a prayer to God to please let her keep the one son she had left. Went home and slept with the phone on her pillow so she’d be sure to hear it when they called to tell her he was awake. Or if he’d died.
And still he slept. And the wound in her heart wouldn’t heal. She couldn’t mourn Maurice like she could Michael. He wasn’t dead. There was no way she could be happy because he wasn’t alive either.
“Months, Maurice – ” She pressed her hands to her face. “It’s been months, already! Jesus, will you do something? Wake up! Or die! Just get it over with!”
“Years – they’re saying that you could stay like this for years – I can’t do this, Maurice!” Turning away, Rose walked over to the other bed in the room. “I can’t live with this pain – you’re not dead but you’re not here! Oh my God, what am I going to do?”
Picking up the pillow, she buried her face in it, using it to stifle the screams that demanded to be let loose. Months of despair and frustration poured from her until her throat and chest began to hurt, and Rose lowered the pillow, gasping for air. Why the hell was she even bothering to be quiet? It wasn’t like Maurice was going to hear her.
She walked back to the bed and looked down at him. Peaceful and dreaming of God knew what. If he did wake up, it’d be to a nightmare of mental and physical handicaps. A picture of Maurice in a wheelchair, staring off into space while she tried to feed him baby food popped into Rose’s mind.
“Oh, my God…” Maurice would rather die than live that way. Her son was too proud to be a cripple – to be totally dependent on anyone. “Oh, Maurice, baby…”
Holding the pillow up over his face, Rose searched her soul for the strength to lower it. To hold it over his face until the steady breaths and beeping stopped forever. She tried – but her arms refused to lower the pillow. Throwing it across the room, she sat back down in the chair and took his hand in hers.
“I’m sorry, Maurice. I’m sorry, but I can’t. I just don’t have the strength.” Pressing kisses to the warm skin, she begged for his forgiveness. “Mama just can’t do it. I know you wouldn’t want to be this way, but I can’t. You’re my baby, and I love you so much.”
One last kiss to the palm of his hand, and Rose laid it carefully back on his chest. Picking up the discarded knitting, she slipped her glasses back on. “We’ll just keep going, baby. It’s all we can do. It's just all we can do, right?”
“Where was I? I was… oh… the holidays.” She sniffled one last time. “Your Aunt Marie, she’s putting that fancy siding on her house – you know how she likes to rub it in that she has a house on the Island? Wants it all done by Thanksgiving so we can all be impressed. She’s got some contractor coming in with this supposedly never needs painting or replacing siding – which is good, ‘cos that no good husband of hers would never paint it anyway. So I told them, I said it was a waste of time and money. And you know how much good that did me, right?”
Rose paused for a moment before continuing. “Put a potted amaryllis on Mikey's grave today. I thought it'd look pretty for the holidays.” Sighing, she backed up a stitch to catch one she’d missed. “Had to get the plastic, ‘cos the silk were thirty four ninety nine – on sale if you can believe that, huh?”
It had broken her heart to get plastic flowers, but she wasn’t working, and her unemployment checks were barely paying the bills. Plastic was all she could afford. Michael would understand, he always had. Maurice was her difficult one. Faith kept trying to give her some of Maurice’s paychecks but Rose wouldn’t take it. She wasn’t that desperate. Not yet anyway. “Plus, you don't want to get anything too – “
Was Maurice’s hand moving? Rose slowly lowered the knitting. She’d been fooled before by muscle spasms and occasional twitches that were just Maurice’s body reacting to the lack of exercise. His fingers moved – up and down. And then again – up and down. Mesmerized, she watched his fingers repeat the movement once more.
Daring to look to his face, she saw that his eyelids were flickering. For a moment, she caught a glimpse of midnight blue before it was hidden once again. Rose pulled her glasses off. “Maurice?”
She laid the glasses aside and slowly reached for his hand. “Maurice? Maurice?” His eyes flickered open, and she got up from her chair. “Nurse!”
Turning, she yelled toward the open doorway. “Nurse!”
Rose leaned over Maurice, blinking away the tears that clouded her vision. His eyes were closed. Fear gripped her that she’d imagined it all.
Then Maurice’s eyes flickered open again, and she smiled down at him. “Hi, it’s Momma – hi, baby – hey, honey – “ Poor baby, he looked so confused and she couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say. “Hi.”
There was a sudden rush of people into the room, and Rose stepped back reluctantly as they began checking Maurice’s condition. One of the nurses poured a cup of ice water and put the straw to his lips. There was a slow and careful swallow and Rose nearly clapped with joy.
Maurice was looking over the nurse’s shoulder at her and Rose did her best to keep where he could see her as the nurses moved around him. He looked less confused, but more frightened than he had been when he’d woken up.
“It’s okay, baby. Momma’s right here.” She smiled at him, trying to reassure him. The doctor came in and her smile faltered. Please, don’t tell me my baby’s not going to be okay!
The doctor gave him a quick once over and then turned to her. “He’s very alert – I’m surprised, but it’s a good sign. We’ll do some tests tomorrow and see where we are.”
Was the son of a bitch disappointed that Maurice wasn’t drooling on himself? Rose kept the smile plastered to her face. For now, she’d be nice. So long as they didn’t try to ship him off to some home for handicapped people – she’d continue to be nice.
When the doctor finished the list of tests he planned to run – at the city’s expense, thank God – Rose thanked him and he left, taking the flock of nurses with him.
“Finally, I thought they’d never leave.” Rose sat down in the chair next to the bed and took his hand again. “Maurice, baby, I’ve been waiting for you to wake up for so long I’ve left permanent butt marks on this chair.”
He looked at her, and she knew he was trying to come to grips with what was going on. She could see him working his tongue around inside his mouth. “They had to wire your jaw shut, baby. Where were they when you were thirteen, huh? But you’re gonna be okay.”
A faint sound came from him, and he moved his mouth, grimacing.
“No, no, don’t talk, baby.” Stroking her fingers over his cheek, Rose smiled at him again. “You’re safe and everything is fine.”
When Maurice shook his head and made another weak sound, frowning and blinking back tears, she stroked his cheek again. He turned his face away.
“What is it, baby? Are you in pain?” Those damn nurses would have their asses back in here if he was.
He shook his head no and stared into her eyes as if he were trying to tell her something. “I don’t know what you want, Maurice.”
When he sighed and turned away again, Rose reached for the cup of water the nurse had poured for him. “Want some more water? Are you thirsty again?”
His arm moved up to block her, and she sat back down and rubbed her hand along his leg. “I’m sorry, baby, I don’t know what you want. Please don’t worry, everything is okay, I promise.”
Maurice took her hand, turned it over, and began tracing something on her palm. “What? What are – “
It hit her suddenly – he was making an ‘F’ on her palm. “Oh, my God, Maurice! I’m so sorry – I didn’t understand! She’s okay, baby – she’s okay! I’ll get her on the phone!”
Dropping a kiss on his forehead, Rose bolted from the room to find a phone. The nurses gave her a funny look as she snatched up the phone at the nurse’s station and dialed the number for Faith’s cell phone.
Her voice nearly deserted her with Faith answered. “Faith, honey, it’s Rose! I’m sorry if this is a bad time, but I needed to call you, to tell you – ”
Faith interrupted her. “Is he okay? I mean, he’s okay, right?”
“More than okay.” A sob escaped her. “He’s awake, Faith.”
“Oh, my God, Rose! He’s awake! I – I don’t know what to say!”
Fresh tears, of joy this time, ran down Rose’s cheeks. “He’s awake – and all he wants is to see you. I may have worn out my welcome already – seeing as he’s asked for nothing and nobody else but you.”
A sigh reached her ears and Rose smiled, she could almost see the smile on Faith’s face.
“Oh, Rose, this is so wonderful! I’m – I’m – speechless! I can’t even think clearly!”
“He’s been trying to talk – and I know he wants to – but the doctor and nurses are telling him not to, so you know what that means.”
They shared a laugh. There was nothing keeping Maurice from doing what he wanted to do. Rose was just overjoyed that he was awake to be a pain in the ass.
“Listen, Rose, would it be a problem if I brought my son along? I had quite a scare with Charlie today, so I’m keeping him close by for awhile.”
It amazed her that Faith would ask, didn’t she realize by now that she was family? “That would be fine. I’m sure Maurice will love to see him. I’ll tell him you’re coming. We’ll see you soon, Faith.”
Faith thanked her and again Rose found herself amazed that Faith wouldn’t think she’d call. Though she had forgotten to call right away, but she had a damn good excuse. “You’re welcome – now hurry, okay?”
“Good – “ She laughed. “Because he’s itching to see you.”
Hanging up the phone, Rose rushed back to see Maurice staring at the door expectantly. As she walked in, it dawned on her that there was a phone on his bedside table. No wonder the nurses had looked at her like she'd lost her mind. "See how crazy you make me, Maurice?"
Sitting in the chair next to the bed, she took his hands in hers. “Faith’s on her way, baby. And she’s so happy you’re awake.”
He closed his eyes and after a moment tears trickled down his cheeks.
“Baby, oh, baby – don’t cry.” She wiped the tears away. “I should’ve realized sooner that you’d be worried about her. I was just so happy you’re awake.”
Rose looked up as a nurse came in. “He’s doing good.”
“I know, and we’re really happy about that.” The nurse smiled at her as she injected medication into the IV. “Word’s spread, and Doctor Proctor and Doctor Hickman have both called up to tell you how happy they are to hear he’s awake.”
“See there, baby?” She patted his chest, careful to avoid the side that was injured. “You’ve got all kinds of people that want to see you!”
“He’s going to sleep for awhile.” The nurse tossed the needle in the biohazard container. “Believe it or not, he’s going to be very tired after all that sleeping he did.”
Maurice’s eyes had opened again and he looked frightened. He made strangled sounds she couldn’t understand. “Maurice, baby, it’s okay.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Boscorelli.” Leaning over him, the nurse patted his shoulder. “You’ll wake up.”
“See there?” She held his hand to her heart with one hand, stroking his cheek with the other. “Go to sleep, and when you wake up, Faith will be here.”
The beautiful eyes were panicked, and she wanted to hold him as she had when he was little and the world frightened him. “Momma’s here, baby. Go to sleep.”
“How did this pillow get on the floor?”
Rose started and turned guiltily. “I… I dropped it.”
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” The nurse pulled the pillow case off and took it with her to toss in the laundry hamper. “I’ll get a clean pillow case.”
“Thanks.” Turning back to Maurice, she found his eyes were closed. He’d given in to the medicine and fallen asleep. “Forgive me, baby. Please forgive me.”
Rose kissed his hands. “Thank you for coming back to me. I promise I’ll do my best to be a good mother this time. I promise.”