Christmas Ain't Christmas
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. Please see the note on the main page. The title comes from the song Christmas Ain't Christmas by The O'Jays.
Previously on Third Watch:
Christmas was always a time of turmoil and disappointment for Bosco. From his parent’s fighting to the years with no presents. The season depressed him, even replacing a family’s gifts that had been stolen by burglars didn’t lift his spirits. Not after arresting a pedophile masquerading as a store Santa. And this Christmas, he was in the hospital.
Christmas was always a time of turmoil and disappointment for Faith. From her father’s drinking to the years that went by with her working instead of being home on Christmas with her children. The season depressed her, even spending a part of Christmas day with her kids didn’t lift her spirits. Not after working all night Christmas Eve arresting drunks, thieves, and junkies. And this Christmas, she was alone.
Episode 37: Christmas Ain't Christmas
“It’s a brisk twenty degrees across most of New York City tonight, with a strong chance of snow after midnight!”
“Wow! That sure sounds like we’re going to have a white Christmas, Wendy!”
“We sure, are, Chet! That’s going to make for a lot of happy little boys and girls in the morning!”
“What the fuck ever.” Bosco hit the button on the remote and the perky news crew was replaced by a Macy’s commercial. “There’s already – a foot of snow – on the ground, morons.”
It wasn’t as if the local talking heads had anything of interest to say, he’d just been killing time until Suspense Theater came on. A dose of Columbo was just what he needed to keep his mind off of things.
“Friday night’s Suspense Theater will not be shown tonight. Instead, we bring you A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim.”
“Ah, no, you gotta – be kidding me.” Christmas was playing hell with his TV schedule. At any one time over the last few days at least ten different versions of A Christmas Carol had been playing on fifteen different channels.
Bosco considered throwing the remote at the TV, but the last time he’d thrown it the floor nurse hadn’t given it back until he’d apologized and promised not to throw it again.
One humiliation per day was all he could stand, and he’d already had a bath today. Having his ass washed by some ugly orderly had pretty much maxed out his humiliation meter for at least a week. Where were the pretty nurses when he needed a bath?
“Give me just – one thing that’s – not about Christmas.” Flipping channels, he watched as the Santas, Rudolphs, elves, and happy families went by. “Just one damn thing – even a fucking – infomercial.”
Giving up on finding anything not Christmas related, Bosco shut the TV off and tossed the remote on the tray across his bed.
His mother had finally gone home and left him alone, promising to come back first thing in the morning. Despite his efforts to get her to visit his aunt and cousins, she was bound and determined to keep him company on Christmas day. All day.
All day every day. Bosco rubbed a hand over his face, careful to avoid the bandaged wound on his right cheek. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his mother, he loved her more than anything in the world, but she was driving him nuts. She parked her butt in the chair next to his bed first thing every morning and started yapping.
It was the first time he could remember his mother ever being up and dressed by eight in the morning – let alone actually going somewhere. Yet, there she was every morning by eight and she didn’t leave until nine at night, the time she and the nurses had agreed was time for her to go home.
“Get a job, Ma.” Sighing, he turned to look at the small Christmas tree she’d put on the window ledge. “So what? It’s just – another damn day.”
Christmas had never been his favorite time of year. He’d learned real quick that Santa wasn’t real, and only rich little kids got what they wanted for Christmas. Poor kids got what was on sale. They got nothing if their parents were broke. Or drunks who’d spent their last dollar on booze.
Every Christmas Mikey would be sure that Santa would bring him exactly what he wanted, and every year he was disappointed. The next year he’d forget and go through the same disappointment all over again.
Tears welled up in his eyes and Bosco wiped them away angrily. “You never learned – did you, Mikey? Ain’t no fucking – Santa.”
At least this year Mikey wouldn’t have to worry about what might be under the Christmas tree. He was dead.
Bosco couldn’t wipe the tears away, they were falling too fast. Giving up, he curled up on his good side and let them out. Nobody seemed to understand how he felt about Mikey’s death. It hadn’t happened months ago for him and he couldn’t get the image of his brother’s headless torso lying in the street out of his mind.
“I’m sorry, Mikey.” Every time he thought he’d dealt with his grief over Mikey’s death, it bit him in the ass and reminded him of how he’d failed. “I tried to keep you safe – I’m sorry.”
The door opened and he ducked his head down, wiping at the tears on his cheeks.
“Mr. Boscorelli, did you need anything?” The nurse stopped at the end of his bed. “We’re going to be a little short staffed tonight, so I thought I’d see if you needed ice water or anything before I took off.”
“I’m fine.” He had the built in excuse of his jaw still being stiff for not saying any more than he had to.
“Well, you hit the call button if you do need anything.” She watched him for a moment, judging from the way he was hiding his face that he was crying again. It was no secret that he’d been shot on the day of his brother’s funeral, and she could only guess at the grief he was feeling. “Try and have a Merry Christmas, Mr. Boscorelli.”
“Officer. Officer Bosco – “ Pain edged up his jaw in warning. His own damn name was too much of a mouthful, but he was tired of being called Mr. Boscorelli. “Officer.”
“Good night, Officer Boscorelli.” The nurse corrected herself. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry fuc – fucking Christmas – to you, too.” Last Christmas he’d sent Mikey cigarettes and other things that he needed to stay safe and comfortable in prison. This year he couldn’t even do that much. He couldn’t even go put flowers on his brother’s grave.
What kind of man locked his kid brother up? What the hell kind of brother was he? “Useless – damn useless – “
Anger flared and Bosco struggled to sit up, his weakened body fighting against him. The bedside tray was in his way and he shoved it aside. Everything on it went flying, the remote bouncing across the floor with the batteries making a quick get away. The pitcher fell onto the bed and he picked it up, slinging it at the window. Ice water splattered as it bounced off the window and knocked the Christmas tree off the ledge.
Faith stopped inside the doorway, watching a battery spin at her feet. “Bosco?”
Not now! As much as he loved to see Faith, Bosco couldn’t deal with her now. He wanted to scream and smash things until he wore himself out. “Out – get – out –“ Frustrated that he couldn’t get his voice above a whisper, he covered his face with his hands.
“You want me to leave?” She picked the battery up. “I can, but I’ve got nowhere to go.”
“Go home – Em and Charlie – “
“Are at Fred’s.”
The kids were at Fred’s? Bosco lowered his hands, his own pain forgotten. “Fred?”
“It’s his holiday. I got them at Thanksgiving, remember?” Picking up the other battery and the broken remote, Faith laid them the tray, moving it over his bed once again. She picked up the tree and shook the water off of it before sitting it back on the ledge.
“It’s okay.” She sat down in the chair next to the bed. “I figured your mom would be gone by now and you might like some company. I can go home though, if you want.”
“No. Stay.” He wasn’t that big of a jerk. Faith had to be miserable without Emily and Charlie.
“I dropped Em off at Fred’s and I just didn’t want to go home, you know?”
Her eyes were puffy and Bosco could tell that she’d been crying. “Sorry.”
“What are you sorry for, Bos?” She reached out and patted his arm. “You didn’t do anything.”
“Fred hates me.” Nobody had told him, but Bosco knew that he was a large part of the reason Fred had left Faith. It didn’t take a mind reader to see that the fat jagoff had thought he was in love with his wife. Well… he was, but it wasn’t like he’d been trying to get Faith to leave or anything.
“Fred hates me, too.” How it had all turned ugly and nasty, Faith wasn’t sure. It had slid into indifference years ago, but they’d never hated each other.
“We’ll hate – him back.” They could form the Fred Haters club. Membership was free. “Get t-shirts.”
“I don’t think we can get one big enough for his face to fit on.” When Bosco laughed and clutched his gut, Faith winced and rubbed a hand over his arms. “Sorry, Bos.”
“I thought, if it was okay, that I’d come by tomorrow, too.”
Wasn’t she supposed to spend Christmas with Miller and his kids? Bosco cocked his head to one side questioningly. “Miller?”
“His daughter doesn’t want to spend Christmas with ‘the girlfriend’, so I’m on my own.” Her laugh was wobbly. “On the other hand, I’ve been upgraded to the girlfriend and promised a really expensive dinner, that’s good right?”
Yeah, he was so happy about that he could just die. “Em and Charlie like him?”
“Yeah, they do.” She frowned. “Well, they’re nice to him, anyway.”
“They like him.” Bosco nodded. He had no idea if they did or not, but he’d say whatever it took to make Faith happy. “Good guy.”
“Yeah.” She smiled. “He’s really good to me, Bosco. It’s a nice change after – well, it wasn’t always crappy with Fred.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. She’d joined the academy with the idea of leaving Fred and that had been over thirteen years ago.
“I’m trying to be nice, it’s Christmas.” Faith blinked hard as tears threatened again. “I’m trying, Bosco.”
“He’s a jagoff.” Reaching up, he took her hand. “He never – deserved you.”
“I can always count on you.” Smiling despite the tears, she clutched his hand. “You’re my best friend, Bos.”
“Always.” If he had the guts, he’d tell her he wanted to be more than her best friend. Bosco rubbed his thumb over her fingers. Faith deserved someone better than him. All he’d do would be to screw up her life even worse. “Partners.”
“Yeah. Always.” It wasn’t certain that Bosco would ever come back to the 55, but if he did, she was going to figure out a way they’d be partners again. “Jelly’s making me crazy. I can’t do anything right as far as he’s concerned.”
“You’re a rookie. You’ll learn.”
“We can hope.” One more day like today and she’d be ready to go back to being in the bag. “Today I screwed up and contaminated some evidence. I put these two pipes these guys had in the same bag and you’re supposed to bag them separate. So now the guy may be able to claim that his pipe wasn’t the one with the dope in it that the other guy’s pipe was. And the other guy can – well, you get it, right?”
“Yeah. Not good.” Bosco thought about it for a moment. “Pipes full?”
“I dunno. I haven’t looked.” Jelly had yelled at her to go home and she’d bolted. “Maybe.”
“Dope in both – it don’t matter?”
“You know… you could be right.” She smiled at the thought. “I’ll have to check. Thanks, Bosco.”
He shrugged. “Part of the job.”
“I think part of it is he makes me nervous. He’s watching me, which he’s supposed to I guess, but I don’t feel like he trusts me.”
“Not yet. Have to – earn it.” After so many years of knowing how to do her job and do it well, being back to square one had to be frustrating. “Remember my first – time in ACU?”
“I wish I’d seen it.” Faith smiled. Bosco had told her about showing up in his ‘undercover’ clothes and being told to change. “Sergeant Reyes said you were cute. I don’t get the Minute Man joke, though.”
“She said – I’m cute?” Bosco smiled as much as his face would allow. He’d liked Reyes. Maybe if he’d worked with her instead of Cruz, things would have worked out better. He nodded in agreement with her opinion. “I’m cute.”
“Bosco, you deserve to be a detective a hell of a lot more than I do.” Lieu had sidestepped the question when she’d asked about Bosco getting a promotion. The brass wasn’t convinced that Bosco would ever be able to walk again, let alone come back to work. “You’ve done a lot more and you’re smarter.”
“You sick?” He reached up to feel her forehead.
“What? Can’t I say something nice?”
“That my – Chris – Christmas – present?”
“Actually…” Faith grinned. “No.”
“What is it?” They’d rarely exchanged gifts at Christmas. He was always a bit depressed and she was always bitching that she didn’t get the night off. At some point they’d compromised with him buying something for Emily and Charlie and Faith buying him dinner.
“I’m not telling.”
“You’re mean.” Bosco pouted.
“Since when do you want a Christmas present anyway? You were 55 Scrooge every year.” Knowing what she did about Bosco’s childhood, Faith softened her comment with a smile.
“Since now.” He snapped his fingers as a thought came to him. “Ma – she was going to – get their presents.”
“She did.” Faith nodded. “Charlie does not need more video games, by the way. And Emily didn’t have to have those boots.”
“I know.” Emily and Charlie both knew he was good for the one gift their mom wouldn’t get them. It gave him a good feeling. “Ironic. You’re off – they’re gone.”
“Yeah. I’m sure somebody’s getting a good laugh.” This was the first year since she’d joined the department that she’d had Christmas off. “I know Fred is. You should’ve seen him, Bos. When I dropped Em off – “
“Don’t – “ Her lips were quivering and he could see she was close to tears again.
“He said ‘have a merry Christmas, Faith’. The bastard knows I’m going to be home alone.” Tears trickled down her cheeks and she swiped at them angrily. “He said ‘this will give you and Bosco more time alone together’ like we’ve been out partying every damn night.”
“Faith, don’t – please.” Bosco reached up and caught her hands. “Don’t do this – to yourself – please – “
“I’m sorry, Bos. Maybe I should go home.” Even as she said it, Faith was clutching his hand, laying her cheek against it as she had countless times while he was in a coma. “I’m just bringing you down, too.”
“Shows what – you know. I was all – ready there.” It felt good, her face resting against his hand. Too good. Reluctantly, he pulled his hand away and laid it on his stomach. “Mikey – I miss him.”
“Oh, Bos – here I am whining over not seeing my kids – “ Faith grabbed the box of tissues off the bedside table and wiped her face off. “I completely forgot about what you’re going through.”
“’M okay.” He shrugged. “Wish I could put – flowers out – there. You know?”
“I know, Bosco.” Mikey’s burial had fallen to her with both Rose and Bosco confined to the hospital. She’d stood at the open grave, wondering if she’d be burying Bosco next to his brother in just a few days. “I’ll get some nice flowers and put them out there for you, okay?”
“Beer. Bottle of beer.” Mikey would appreciate a drink more than flowers.
“Once you’re out of here, I’ll spring for a six pack and we’ll go visit him.” There was no doubt in her mind that Bosco would make a beeline for the graveyard as soon as he was able to.
“Yeah.” The last Christmas he’d spent with Mikey, they’d had a beer out on the front porch before Mikey took off to score a hit.
“This sucks.” Faith wiped at her eyes. “We can’t even have our own Christmas tradition this year.”
“We have one?” When had they gotten a tradition?
“You always buy me an extra large hot chocolate with extra whipped cream to keep me warm while you go to midnight mass.” Her bottom lip trembled again. “You don’t remember?”
“I remember. Didn’t know it – was a tradition.” Women had weird ways of classifying things. Just because they did the same thing every year for over 10 years didn’t make it a tradition.
“Well it is. Damn, who’d think I’d miss sitting in a cold car?” Getting up, she went to the bathroom to wash her face.
He did. Bosco closed his eyes and tried to remember sitting in 55 David, bitching about the cold and ducking calls. He’d give anything to be there right now.
“Sorry, Bos.” Faith sat back down. “Everything is making me cry tonight.”
“S’okay.” Not having her kids on Christmas had to be like having a chunk cut out of her heart. He couldn’t get Em and Charlie for her but he could get her some hot chocolate.
Bosco reached for the drawer in the bed tray. His mom kept a few dollars there so he could buy magazines from the candy striper that came by every few days. The tray wasn’t quite in the right place and he dropped the money onto the bed.
“What are you doing?” Faith picked up the dollar bills, noticing for the first time that the bed was damp. “Why is the bed wet?”
The innocent look didn’t fool her for a second. “You dropped the pitcher on the bed, didn’t you?”
“Fifth.” Ramping up the ‘who me’ part of his look, Bosco smiled as much as he could.
“You’re gonna think you’ll take the Fifth.” She picked up the call button and pushed it. “Bad enough you throw a temper tantrum, but you made a mess.”
“Accident, my ass.” Before he could come back with his patented response to that, Faith shook her finger at him.
“Did you need something, Mr. Boscorelli?” A voice came over the speaker.
“We need a dry blanket and sheets.” Faith answered. “He accidentally spilt water on the bed.”
“I’ll have someone right there.” The speaker clicked off.
“Is it just the blankets?” She pulled the covers down and laid her hand on his stomach. The ugly hospital gown was dry, thankfully. Changing Bosco wasn’t fun for anyone. “You know, it’d serve you right if you were wet.”
“Go get choc –.” Bosco winced. Taking the wires out of his mouth hadn’t helped one bit as far as he could tell. “Cocoa.”
“Bosco, you can’t have hot chocolate. And where would I get it at this time of night?”
A nurse came in with clean sheets and blankets. “There’s a café just around the corner.”
“I’ve eaten there a few times.” If coffee counted as food. “You think they have hot chocolate?”
“I don’t know why not. They have everything else.” The nurse began stripping the damp covers off the bed.
“Go get some.” Bosco told her. Faith could at least have her half of their tradition. “Tradition, remember?”
“I remember.” Faith smiled and leaned down to kiss his forehead. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. Maybe I’ll sneak you a sip.”
“Fat chance.” Chocolate was off limits. Along with beer and anything remotely solid.
“That was sweet of you.” The nurse said after Faith left.
Normally he ignored the nurses, but this time he had to agree with her, so he nodded.
Dry covers were quickly put on the bed and a new pitcher of ice water set on the tray. The nurse patted his foot. “If you need anything else, you just let me know.”
She left and Bosco picked up the pieces of the remote, wondering if he could fix it. Wedging the batteries in, he hit the power button. The TV came on. He had triumphed over technology. Who’s your daddy?
“VH1 presents A Diva Christmas Carol”
“Hell no.” His grin faded as he hit the channel button and nothing happened. “No.”
“Starring Ebony and Vanessa Williams.”
“No!” Bosco pushed the buttons desperately.
Faith winced as she walked into Bosco’s room. “Since when do you like this kind of music?”
He didn’t answer and she walked over to the bed. “Bosco? Where are you?”
“Under here.” He peered out from under the covers. “In hell.”
“Change the channel for God’s sake.” Picking up the remote, she hit the power button. The TV went off. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Didn’t work.” Bosco sat up, glaring at the remote.
“After you threw it on the floor, it’s no wonder.”
He pointed to the cup she’d set on the tray. “Cocoa?”
“Yep. With extra whipped cream, which you can have a taste of, but no chocolate.” As much as she’d like to let him have a spoonful, his stomach was in no shape for chocolate. Carefully, she scooped up a spoonful of whipped cream and held it to his lips.
It wasn’t like he couldn’t feed himself, but stolen moments like this were all he could have of Faith, and Bosco treasured each one. He closed his eyes at the sweet goodness melting on his tongue. This was no hospital crap – this was the real thing.
“I thought you’d like that. And…” She went to the door and opened it. “I thought you might like this, too.”
Bosco opened his eyes as someone walked into the room. The man was NYPD, but across his shield was the word chaplain. He raised the bed up a bit. “Hello, father.”
“Hello, son, how are you doing?” The man held out his hand to Bosco. “You look much better than you did the first time I saw you, I must say.”
“First time?” Bosco shook his hand. He didn’t remember ever meeting him before.
“They brought me in to give you last rites.” Turning, he set his bag on the bedside table and pulled his overcoat off. “I honestly thought we were going to lose you. But you fooled us all. I should have known – we Italians are hard to kill.”
“Bosco, this is Father Lampiasi, from 1PP.” Faith took the overcoat and hung it over the back of the chair. “I called him and told him that we had this tradition and that we weren’t getting to do it this year.”
“You got cocoa.” Confused, he looked from her to Father Lampiasi and back. Wasn’t she happy with her damn cocoa?
“Your lovely partner tells me that you go to midnight mass every Christmas Eve.” Father Lampiasi opened his bag. “It’d be a shame for you to miss it this year after all you’ve been through.”
“I’ll be outside, Bos.” Faith picked up her cup of cocoa again.
“Where are you going?” The chaplain caught her arm.
“Well, my part of the tradition is that I sit outside and wait for him.” She smiled weakly. “I’m not really a practicing Catholic.”
“And God knows it takes plenty of practice.” He winked at her. “Still – Officer Boscorelli, do you mind if she stays with us? I’d think both of you could use some comfort tonight.”
“S’okay.” Tears burned his eyes as Bosco realized what Faith had done for him. He wasn’t a practicing Catholic either, but Christmas Eve mass had always seemed to lift him up during an otherwise depressing time. “Stay.”
“You sure, Bos?” The midnight blue eyes were bright with tears. “I’ll just sit over there and be quiet.”
“Sit right here, child.” Father Lampiasi patted the chair next to the bed. “It’ll take a few moments for me to get things in order.”
Faith sat down obediently, taking the hand that Bosco held out to her. She squeezed gently. “Merry Christmas, Bos.”
“Merry Christmas, Faith.” He squeezed her hand harder. I love you.