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Silent Night

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Seeing that the medication was finally doing its work, and that her son was sleeping peacefully Rose Boscorelli looked over at the other woman in the room and nodded toward the door. "Can we talk?" She asked softly.

Faith lifted her gaze to meet Rose's, nodding slightly as she rose to her feet. Casting a glance at her sleeping partner, she drew in a breath and followed his mother to the hallway. "What's up?"

"The doctor says he can go home soon," Rose told her, wringing her hands together.

Her eyebrows furrowed a little with uncertainty. "That's good news, though."

"Oh, yes." She nodded. "It's great news. Maurice is going to be home for Christmas, but...I'm worried."

She was silent for a moment. "About what exactly?"

"Well he's just...he's so angry all the time and he's cranky and..." Rose closed her eyes. "Why can't he just be happy to be...alive?"

Faith looked down at the floor. "Rose...he's just...things are different and you know Maurice, he...doesn't do different well."

"I'm so afraid that I'm not gonna be able to take care of him like this," she whispered.

"Of course you'll be able to."

"Faith...I can't handle it when he's like this. What kind of a mother am I?"

"'s been a rough few months," she said softly. "Don't be so hard on yourself."

"I just don't want this to put a strain on our relationship." Her eyes watered. "He's all I've got left."

Swallowing hard, she looked up at the other woman, at the desperation in her eyes. Her gaze shifted to where her partner was lying asleep in bed inside his hospital room. And she knew what she had to do. "He can come home with me."

* * *

Faith tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, straightening her shoulders as she knocked on the door of Bosco's room. "I heard you're being sprung today."

He looked over at her, and nodded his head. His expression unreadable.

She forced herself to smile, knowing that even though he couldn't talk, this was going to be a battle. "Well, that's great news. No more hospital food, no more nurses wakin' you up every five minutes to check your vitals." She stepped into the room.

Reaching forward he grabbed the small dry erase board that was on the tray in front of him and slowly scribbling on it. 'Yippie'

This is going to be more difficult than I thought, she realized. "Well, any place is better than the hospital, isn't it?"

Closing his eyes he let out a breath, and nodded slowly. He knew he needed to shape up and lose the attitude, but he just couldn't seem to stop himself from being so bitter.

"That's good to know that you agree." She moved over to the closet and pulled out his duffle bag, beginning to pack some of his things into it.

His eyebrows furrowed as he watched her begin to pack his stuff. Licking his lips he then swallowed hard and opened his mouth to ask what she was doing. It didn't surprise him when he was unable to produce any sound, but it still frustrated him to no end. He quickly erased his previous comment from the board, then tapped his hand on the tray to get her attention. 'What are you doing?'

She turned to look at him. "Packing your stuff so when the doctor's say you can go, you don't have to be here any longer than necessary."

He pointed at his chest. "I'll help," he mouthed.

Faith shook her head. "No, just relax. You don't really have that much stuff here anyway."

Bosco erased the board once more. 'Ma?'

She paused. "What about her?"

'She coming?'

"I'm sure she'll be by to see you later this evening."

He took a deep breath and set the board down before relaxing back into the bed.

"Do you need anything?" she asked, gazing at him for a moment.

Rolling his head to the side he looked at her, touched his throat and opened his mouth. I need my voice, he thought.

Her eyes were sad. "I know. And it'll come back. It's just gonna take some time."

Closing his eyes he turned his head away. Faith and his mother were the only two people who seemed to believe that his voice was actually going to come back. A couple days earlier one of his doctors had suggested that it might be a good idea to learn sign language as an easier way to communicate. That suggestion had resulted in the dry erase board in Bosco's hand being launched in the doctor's direction.

"But, until you're stronger, you're gonna be stayin' with me cause I took some leave time. So, are you hungry? You want somethin' to eat? I could go to the cafeteria."

Bosco quickly turned to look at her, his eyes questioning.

"I think they have lasagna...or hamburgers...they always have hamburgers. You want one?"

His eyes narrowed and he shook his head, annoyed that she hadn't realized he was wondering about the first part of what she'd said.

"Oh, okay, well, maybe later." She turned and started packing more of his stuff once more, hoping he wouldn't pose an argument about staying with her.

Angry with her for ignoring the subject he wanted to discuss he grabbed the board and scribbled. It was always obvious when he was upset or frustrated not only because his face showed it, but because his handwriting became even worse. He banged the board on the tray and turned it around for her to read. 'What do you mean you took leave? I thought I was going home. Whose idea was this?'

Sighing softly, she looked at him. "It was my idea."

Not bothering to grab the eraser off his tray he used the side of his hand to erase the words, and began to write again. 'Not a good one.'

She shrugged. "Seemed like it at the time." She went back to packing up his things.

Bosco's eyes narrowed as he repeated the process of erasing, writing and banging on the tray table. 'Don't turn away. You know I can't 'talk' to you if you do.'

She jumped slightly at the loud banging sound, and turned to look at him, her own eyes narrowed. "Stop acting like a three year old."

'Stop treating me like one' He wrote, clearly frustrated.

"I'm not. I just don't want to argue with you."

He huffed then ran both hands through his hair before slumping back against the pillows. Their ability to communicate had been lacking before the shooting, and this definitely wasn't making it any easier.

"Look. I know the idea of stayin' at my place isn't exactly thrilling to you. But you're gonna have to deal with it because until you're doin' better, you have no business bein' on your own."

Slowly he reached out and picked up the board again. 'Fred will be pissed.'

Faith let out a breath. "Don't worry about Fred."

'How can I not? I'm gonna be staying with you guys.'

"No. You're gonna be staying with -me-."

'You and your family.'

"Look, I've taken care of it. There's nothin' to worry about."

After a moment he nodded his head and closed his eyes.

Rubbing the back of her neck, she moved over to sit beside him on the bed. "It'll be okay, Bosco."

Bosco looked up at her, his eyes tired and full of concern. He didn't see how it was going to be okay.

"I promise," she said softly.

He studied her for a moment then picked up the board. 'Wake me when it's time to go,' he wrote, his handwriting and expression telling her that he was calming down.

"I will." She hesitated, then touched his arm, rising to her feet.

He reached for her, grabbing hold of her shirt sleeve.

She glanced at him, her eyebrows furrowing. "You need somethin'?"

A very faint smile touched his lips and he shook his head before letting her go.

She managed a small smile in return. "Get some rest."

Bosco nodded as his eyes drifted shut.

Faith watched as his body relaxed a little and he drifted off to sleep. Then she let out a breath, wondering if she'd made the right decision after all.

* * *

Bosco took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he watched Faith unlock the door to her apartment. It would only be a matter of time now before he had to face Fred, and it was the last thing he wanted to do.
She pushed the door open, flipping on the light. She'd cleaned the apartment the night before, knowing Bosco would most likely be released the next day. A lot of her furniture was gone, but she still had the sofa, the coffee table and the entertainment center. She'd had to buy a new TV because Fred had taken that when he'd left. Drawing in a breath, she led Bosco inside, closing and locking the door behind them.
He stepped into the living room, ready to make his way to the sofa when he paused in his steps and looked around, shocked at how little was in the room. It had been a long time since he'd been in the Yokas apartment, but this was a lot different. Too different.

"It's...a little different," she murmured, noticing his shocked expression. "But make yourself comfortable."

He turned to look at her, a confused look on his face, but he nodded his head and continued over to the sofa.

"I'll get you some water." She headed into the kitchen, fixed him a glass of ice water, and took it to him.

Before taking the glass from her he held one hand out, palm up and made the motion of writing with his other hand.

"Oh. Right." She moved over to the door where she'd left his bag, and retrieved his dry erase board. "Here you go."

Setting the board on his lap he took the cap off the marker with his teeth as he held the water in his other hand. 'Where's everyone?'

Faith was silent for a moment. "Gone," she said simply, turning and heading into the kitchen again.

'Gone where?' He held the board up over his head incase she turned around.

She didn't.

Bosco waved the board a little then turned to see what Faith was doing. When it didn't look like she was going to turn around he pushed himself off the sofa and headed into the kitchen.

She heard his footsteps and closed her eyes for a moment. "Gone as in, they don't live here anymore."

His eyes widened and he touched her arm.

Faith shrugged, not turning to look at him. "Long story."

He wrote on the board and set it down on the counter. 'I have lots of time.'

Letting out a breath, she opened her eyes to look out the kitchen window. "Fred met someone else, and he took the kids and left. Long story short."

His eyes were sad as he grabbed a papertowel off the counter to wipe off the board. 'He's stupid.'

She shrugged again, fighting the tears that threatened to fall.

'He's a jag-off.' Were the next words he scribbled on the board before dipping his head down to look into her eyes.

"Yeah, well." She forced herself to take a deep breath. "To be honest...I'm probably better off without him. It's not like Fred was some great prize. But I think that...if I lose Emily or Charlie...that'll kill me."

His eyebrows furrowed and he quickly began to write, really hating the fact that he couldn't talk with her about this and show his support. 'Lose them?'

"Fred's suiing me for custody," she whispered.

Leaning against the counter he let out a breath and gazed at her.

She wiped a tear from her cheek. "Apparently it doesn't look too good for me."

Bosco ran a hand through his hair.

Forcing herself to take a deep breath, she moved away from the counter and over to the fridge, where she pulled out a pan of meatloaf and stuck it in the oven. "I hope meatloaf's okay with you for dinner."

He nodded his head and moved over to where she was standing. For a moment he just gazed at her then he reached out and put his hand over hers.

She tried to smile, but couldn't quite manage it.

Unable to speak and tell her that everything would be okay he gave her hand a squeeze, hoping it would help assure her.

"Thanks," she said softly.

He nodded his head then pointed toward the living room, letting her know he was going back to sit down.

"Okay. I'll be out soon."

Bosco nodded again then slowly made his way back to the living room where he eased himself down on the sofa, and relaxed back against the cushions. Of all times to not be able to talk to Faith and tell her that he was there for her, this had to be the worst.

* * *

After nearly two hours, Faith gave up trying to talk to Bosco. He wasn't even pretending he was interested in anything she had to say, his eyes focused on the television screen as he sat slumped on her sofa. He hadn't made an attempt to touch his dry erase board in an effort to communicate with her. Frustrated and annoyed with him, she left the living room and headed into her kids' bedroom to make sure that everything was set up for his stay. She'd decided he could take Emily's bed since she wasn't going to be sleeping in it in the near future, and she'd gone to some effort to make sure everything she thought he might need was in easy access.
Out of the corner of his eye he watched her walk out of the room, and let out a breath. He wanted to talk to her. Wanted to answer her questions and ask questions of his own, but he didn't want to have to write everything out. He wanted to talk, and he couldn't. And the longer he was unable to use his voice the more he thought about never being able to talk again. Never being able to tell Faith or anyone what he was thinking. He didn't want to rely on always having something to write with. But what he really hated was the fact that he didn't like listening to other people talk, even Faith because it made him feel sorry for himself.

She sat down on the edge of Charlie's bed, picking up his stuffed monkey and gazing at it. It had been nearly two weeks since the first custody hearing, and that was the last time she'd seen her kids--the day she'd been pulled out to talk to Captain Finney about Donald Mann's death. Sighing softly, she set the stuffed animal back down, then stretched out on the bed, laying down with her head on the pillows.

Bosco stared at the television and upon seeing yet another commercial about Christmas shopping and time running out to save on great deals he grabbed the remote control and turned off the TV. For a moment he just sat there enjoying the silence before grabbing his dry erase board and heading down the hall to find Faith.

She had drifted off to a light sleep on her son's bed when she heard footsteps. Not used to someone else being in the apartment, she jerked awake quickly.

Seeing the startled look in her eyes Bosco held up his hands, an apologetic look on his face.

She let out a breath, rubbing her eyes. "What's up?"

'Were you sleeping?'

"Just nodded off. You need something?"

'Almost Christmas.'

Her eyebrows furrowed. "Yeah..."

Leaning against the doorframe he erased the board with the cuff of his shirt, and bit his lip as he began to write. 'I need to go shopping.' There was a slightly nervous look on his face as he turned the board for her to read. He hadn't been out in public in a long time.

Faith was silent for a moment. "Yeah, okay. We'll go tomorrow."

He looked down at the sweats he was wearing and frowned. 'Need to pick up decent clothes at my place. Can't go out like this.'

"We'll go to your place first."

Bosco glanced over at Emily's bed then slowly moved over to sit down.

"I hope that's okay...I didn't want you sleepin' on the couch. It's not really very comfortable for extended times."

He nodded his head then swallowed a couple times as he prepared to try and speak. His mouth opened and he tried, but he still couldn't do it. Rubbing his throat with one hand he wrote with the other. 'Thanks.'

"You're welcome," she said very softly.

For a long moment he stared down at the board after having wiped it clean. He knew he'd been a jerk today and he hadn't been the easiest person to be around in quite a while. Sighing he began to slowly move the marker over the white surface. Once he was done he looked at it for a while before turning it toward her. 'I wish I could talk to you.'

Her eyes were sad. "I wish you could too. And you will. When the time is right."

He pressed his lips together. 'I'm not so sure anymore. Dr. didn't seem optimistic.'

"Screw the doctor." Her voice was hard. "That same doctor said that you wouldn't wake up and if you did, you wouldn't be able to walk or feed yourself ever again. What the hell does he know?"

The strength in her voice made him look up at her.

"You're gonna talk again, Bosco. I know that. Just like I knew you were gonna wake up. Because you don't quit. Ever."

He gazed at Faith, studying her and not seeing any hint of uncertainty in her expression he nodded his head.

"Now I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. I think that meatloaf's about done."

Bosco closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply. 'Smells good.'

She stood up and moved over to where he was perched on Emily's bed. She rested a hand on his shoulder. "How about we eat dinner, watch a movie and hit the hay so we can go shopping tomorrow?"

Reaching up he covered her hand, his eyes meeting hers. He hoped she could see that he was sorry for earlier and that he didn't mean to be such a miserable guest.

Faith offered him a smile. "I know you're sorry." She kissed his forehead. "Come on."

Managing a smile in return he stood up and followed her out into the kitchen. He was starving and he couldn't wait to eat real food.

* * *

They'd stopped at Bosco's apartment so he could change into something he considered a little more presentable and practical for Christmas shopping. It took a while but he finally found a pair of jeans and a hooded sweatshirt that didn't hang off of him too much, and then he topped it off with a leather jacket and a stocking cap to keep him warm. It had been so long since he'd been in his apartment he'd almost forgotten what it looked like and where everything was. The trip there had been a little depressing when he realized it would still be quite a while before anyone would allow him to attempt living on his own. However, Faith's words from the night before, when she'd told him the doctors hadn't expected him to recover at all gave him a little hope.

Though that hope was dashed as he attempted to do some shopping for the few people on his list. Sales associates kept coming up and asking him if he needed any help and he kept trying to say he was just looking, but of course...nothing came out. So he'd started shaking his head, which only led the pushy associates to ask more questions. When they'd finally realize that he couldn't speak they began treating him like he was deaf as well, talking louder and sometimes even treating him like a child. Faith had been trying to keep her distance in order to let him feel a little independence, but after issues at three different stores he'd given Faith a desperate look, letting her know that independence wasn't such a great thing right now.

"All right, what are you looking for?" She reached for the list.

He pointed at the top of the list where his mother's name was written, but there was nothing beside it. No gift ideas. He just wanted to get her something really nice.

She thought for a moment. "Perfume?"

He shook his head. Perfume wasn't right, not this year. This year it had to mean something.

"Hmm." Faith continued to think about it as they walked. "What about...a framed picture...of you?"

Bosco reached for her arm, turning her toward him as he pointed a finger at his chest. "Me?," he mouthed.

She nodded. "Yeah. And before you start, no it's not arrogant. Trust me, as a mother, there's not a whole lot better gift to get then a picture of your kid."

Reaching into his back pocket he retrieved the small notepad Faith had located at her apartment and given to him so he wouldn't have to carry around the dry erase board to communicate. He pulled a pen out of the inside pocket of his jacket. 'How recent a picture?'

She shrugged. "Up to you. If you want, we could have one taken today, or you can use one you already have."

He thought about it for a moment. 'Do I look okay today?' He knew his face hadn't had the best color lately and he'd looked tired.

Faith smiled. "Yeah, you look great."

'You really think she'd want this?'

"Yeah, of course. She'll love it."

He put the notepad and pen away and nodded his head.

"All right, so that takes care of your mom. Who else is on this list?" She scanned it, shaking her head when she saw her name. "You don't need to worry about gettin' me anything."

Bosco touched her arm and nodded his head.

She shook her head once more. "Bosco, you saved my life. Beyond that..."

He got the notepad again. 'That was a gift for me.'

Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "What?"

He bit his lip, realizing he couldn't back out of this one. 'I needed you. Couldn't let you get hurt. Guess it was for both of us."

Faith's eyes softened as she gazed at him. "Oh, Boz."

Their eyes met, and he let out a breath. That wasn't something he'd expected to tell her any time soon.

She touched his cheek. "I need you too."

He managed a small smile then scribbled a note. 'Everybody probably likes me better now that I'm quiet.' Bosco joked to lighten the mood.

A soft chuckle escaped her lips. "Not me. I like you just the same." She winked at him.

He winked back then pointed over toward the portrait studio near the front entrance of the store.
Nodding, she smiled and led him over to the studio.

When they got there Bosco stood off to the side as Faith did all the talking for him, letting the woman behind the counter and the photographer know what the picture would be for. While Faith was busy with that he wrote a note while she wasn't looking and then handed it to the woman behind the counter when Faith was with the photographer picking out a background for the photo. When the woman gave Bosco a questioning look before reading the small slip of paper he placed his index finger to his lips letting her know not to say anything.

Faith took a seat, laying her head back against the wall and smiling as she watched the woman take several pictures of her partner.

When the photographer informed him she would be taking two more pictures Bosco held up his hand to stop her for a moment. He then snapped his fingers repeatedly to get Faith's attention.

She raised her eyebrows. "What?"

He beckoned her over with his index finger.

Frowning, she set her purse on the floor and moved over to where he was seated. "You need somethin'?"

Bosco nodded his head, then quickly wrote, 'stand behind me'.

"What? Your mother doesn't want a picture of me."

'Maybe I do.'

She looked at him doubtfully.

'Act like you like me.'

"What do you mean, 'act like I like you?' If I didn't like you, we wouldn't be here."

He circled the first three words he'd written when she'd first come over to him.

Sighing softly, she reluctantly moved so she was standing behind him.

Grinning because he'd won, he turned and reached for her hands bringing them up to his shoulders as he glanced up at her.

A smile touched her lips as she met his gaze.

He pulled her hands around a little more so her arms were around him loosely then turned back to the photographer, nodding his head. It felt good to have a moment like this, a moment where he was happy and wasn't thinking about anything else that happened.

Faith's smile widened involuntarily as the woman snapped the picture. It had been a long time since she'd had her photo taken, and even longer since she'd been in a picture with Bosco.

When all the photos had been taken Bosco gave the photographer a nod of thanks after she informed them of when the photos would be ready to be picked up. He then looked at Faith and motioned toward the exit, signifying they had more shopping to do.

Grinning and feeling cheered by his apparent Christmas spirit, she followed him. "Where to, Captain?"

Though no sound escaped him his shoulders shook a little as he chuckled, and he reached for the list that she was holding. He pointed to her son's name.

Glad that she'd made him laugh, her eyes sparkled. "Shopping for Charlie. That's always fun. Toy store?"

He nodded, his eyes bright. Shopping for Charlie was always fun, and Faith was the only person he'd ever admit to that he enjoyed browsing the toy store.

She led him down the mall walkway toward Toys R Us, stopping when she realized he'd paused in front of a window of another store. She backtracked to see what he was looking at.

Bosco stood outside the pet store, not exactly sure what had drawn him there in the first place, but he was mesmorized by the small puppies in the window. Three of them were playing together while one was lying alone in the corner. He tilted his head to the side and approached the window, tapping his finger by the lone puppy and smiling when the dog lifted its head to look at him.

A smile tugged at her lips as she watched him gazing at the lone puppy.

He stared at the small beagle and watched as the dog tried to sniff his finger through the glass. Bosco then moved his finger along the window, the pup following as he did so.

"I didn't know you liked dogs."

A soft blush touched his cheeks, for a moment he'd forgotten that he wasn't by himself. 'Always wanted one.'

Gazing at him for a moment, she smiled, patted his shoulder and then took his hand, pulling him into the adoption center.

He gave her a questioning look.

"Excuse me." She walked up to the clerk working at the desk.

The woman lifted her head and smiled softly. "May I help you?"

"How much are your beagle puppies?"

"Eighty dollars," the woman informed her.

Faith didn't hesitate before pulling her checkbook out of her wallet. "We'll take one."

Bosco grabbed her arm, his eyebrows raised.

"Early Christmas present."

He shook his head. "Too much," he mouthed.

She shook her head. "We want the one that's over by itself," she said, pointing the puppy out to the clerk.

"Okay." The woman smiled and stood up. "I'll go get everything you'll need to take him home."

"Thank you."

He was just staring at Faith, shocked that she was actually getting him a puppy and wondering why she seemed so insistent about it.

"It's not that much money." She looked at him. "He seems sweet."

'You don't have to get him for me.'

"I know I don't have to. I want to."

'Are you sure? I don't really need a puppy.'

"Everybody needs a puppy." She smiled.

He grinned. 'He is kinda cute.'

"Well, you should get along great then."

Bosco cocked an eyebrow.

"Because you're cute too," she said, winking at him.

Shaking his head he smiled.

She smiled back, looking over as the woman carried the puppy toward them.

"His name is Cooper, but he doesn't answer to it yet so changing it won't be a problem."

Faith grinned. "Cooper. Bosco and Cooper. It's cute."

"Bosco? Do you guys have another dog?"

Bosco's eyes narrowed slightly.

Faith couldn't suppress the chuckle that escaped her. "No...his name is Bosco."

"Oh, my." The woman covered her mouth with her hand. "I am -so- sorry."

She snorted, chuckling again.

"I'm such an idiot sometimes." The woman's face was bright red as she handed the puppy to Bosco. "Um...why don't we take care of the paperwork?"

"Yeah, we should do that." Glancing at Bosco, Faith couldn't help but laugh at his expression.

He glared at Faith then shook his head and went to sit down and get acquianted with his new buddy.

Grinning, she chuckled once more before reaching for the paperwork.

As Faith filled out the paperwork the woman looked over to where Bosco was playing with Cooper. "Please tell him I'm sorry. I never even thought..."

"Don't worry about it." She waved her hand.

"Is he your boyfriend?" She asked curiously.

"Bosco? No...we're just friends. We work together."

"Oh." She nodded. "Well I think he'll be very happy with Cooper. He's a sweet puppy. Not too many people who stopped by paid much attention to him though."

Faith was silent for a moment. "I think it'll be good for him."

"They seem to already have a connection," she said softly, nodding toward them.

"Yeah, they do," she agreed just as softly, gazing at them.

"Well...if you'll just sign right here I'll get you your receipt and Cooper's papers and you're all set."

"Thank you." She signed the last form and slid it across the desk.

A few moments later the woman handed Faith a small packet of papers. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas." Faith smiled and walked over to Bosco and Cooper. "You guys ready to go home?"

He looked up at Faith then pointed toward the shopping list in her hand. They'd barely gotten anything.

"We can't really take Cooper shopping," she pointed out.

Bosco frowned then set the dog on his lap as he wrote in his notebook. 'He'll fit in my jacket. No one will know.'

She chuckled. "Bosco. If someone finds out, we'll be kicked out."

'How am I gonna get my shopping done?'

"We'll...go again tomorrow."

'Who's going to watch Coop?'

Faith thought for a moment. "We'll...get your mom to dogsit."

'She's gonna freak.' He looked up at Faith and smiled.

"She'll fall in love with him."

Looking down at Cooper, Bosco scratched behind the dog's ears before glancing up at Faith again.

"Hey there, Cooper." Her voice was soft as she reached down to pet the dog.

Bosco smiled as the puppy sniffed at Faith's hand and then leaned into her touch.

A smile spread across her lips. "You're a good boy, aren't you?"

'Looks like someone else feel in love with him.'

She glanced up at him. "Yeah. Looks like."

Cradling the puppy Bosco carefully stood up, and hesitated a moment before kissing Faith's cheek to show his thanks for the gift.

Her eyes sparkled a she gazed at him. "You're very welcome."

Holding her gaze he smiled. He hadn't felt this good in a very long time. Right now it didn't even matter that he couldn't talk

* * *

Rose smiled warmly at Faith as the woman greeted her and invited her inside the apartment. "Where's Maurice?" She questioned as she looked around the living room then glanced toward the kitchen.

"Oh, he's just getting ready to go. Would you like something to drink?"

"No thank you. I'm fine," she replied as she took off her hat and scarf. "So, you're going shopping today?"

"Yeah, he's wanting to do some Christmas shopping."

Her eyes widened slightly. "Really? You mean...he's ready to go out in public?"

"Well, we were out yesterday actually, we sidetracked." Faith offered her a smile.


Her smile widened a little. "Yeah. Uh..." She turned to look over her shoulder. "We got a puppy."

Rose stared at her for a moment then held up a hand. "Did you just say that you got a puppy?"

She nodded. "Yeah, that's...sort of why Bosco asked you to come over...we wanted someone to watch Cooper while we were out."

"Cooper? The puppy? Maurice wants me to babysit for your puppy?"

“Yeah, he's..." Faith couldn't help but grin.

She raised an eyebrow as she waited for Faith to continue.

"A little beagle puppy. He's very sweet." She paused, glancing over her shoulder once more. "I just...I guess I thought that...Maurice...needed someone he didn't have to talk to," she said softly.

"Oh." Rose nodded her head slowly. "I never thought that...So this puppy is his?"

"Yeah." Her voice was soft. "He really seemed to connect with it, so..." Faith shrugged.

"He did?"

She nodded slightly, a faint smile on her face as she remembered checking on Bosco the night before, expecting to see Cooper in the kennel beside his bed. Instead, she'd found the puppy in bed curled up beside Bosco as they both slept. When she'd questioned him about it that morning, Bosco had wrote her a note saying that Cooper had been whining and he was simply trying to make sure that the puppy didn't wake -her- up. Unable to bite back a grin, she'd nodded, pretended she bought his story and left the room.
"So he's doing okay with this...with Cooper? He's not having a hard time or anything?"

"No, they're getting along very well."

"I never even thought about it," she whispered. "I didn't think that Maurice would need someone he didn't have to worry about talking to."

"It didn't occur to me until we were at the mall yesterday walking by that 'Love at First Sight' adoption place."

"You're one smart lady to figure all this out," Rose told her, smiling softly.

She shrugged, a faint blush touching her cheeks. "But if you don't want to babysit, you and Maurice could go shopping and I'll stay here with Cooper."

"No. No." She shook her head, grinning. "I'll take care of Cooper. You two should go have some fun...well, if shopping with Maurice -can- be fun."

She chuckled. "Thanks, Rose."

“No...thank you," she whispered. "I really appreciate what you're doing."

Faith met her gaze. "It's no problem," she said very softly.

"Has he been causin' you any trouble?" She asked quietly.

"No, he's...we've been good. It's goin' good, Rose."

"Okay you tell me if things change, and I'll take him to my place."

"I will. But...right now everything's fine."

“Good." Rose reached out and touched Faith's arm. "This means a lot to me."

"I know it does." She gazed at the other woman. "I really don't mind. It's kinda not be here by myself."

She nodded in understanding then smiled when she heard her son coming down the hall. "Hey, baby."

Bosco smiled softly and waved.

Cooper chased him down the hall, right at his heels.

When they got to where Rose and Faith were standing Bosco bent down and patted his thighs, the puppy put his front paws up and he scooped him off the ground.

Faith smiled at the sight, her eyes soft and full of warmth as she gazed at the two of them.

Reaching for one of the notepads that Faith had placed around the apartment, making sure one was always in reach so they could communicate without having to scrounge around for paper and pen, Bosco simply wrote 'Cooper'.

Rose smiled. "I know. Faith told me. He's adorable."

She reached over and scratched behind the puppy's ears. "You be a good boy for Rose, okay?"

Bosco grinned as the puppy sniffed Faith's hand. He then set Cooper on the floor and grabbed the notepad once more. 'Thanks for watching him.'

"Sure thing, Maurice."

"You ready to go?" Faith asked him.

He nodded his head before kissing his mother's cheek and writing one more note. 'Love you.'

"I love you, too." She took his face between her hands and kissed his forehead. "Buy me something good," she teased him.

Faith smiled, grabbed her keys and purse and headed out the door to give Bosco and his mom a moment.

He swallowed hard and there was a look of concentration on his face as he tried to speak to his mother. When his attempt failed he shook his head sadly.

"It's okay baby," she whispered.

Bosco pressed his lips together and nodded slightly.

"You have a good time with Faith."

He nodded his head, and kissed his mother once more before reaching down and petting Cooper goodbye.

The puppy barked, looking up at him with big brown eyes.

He frowned slightly, not wanting to leave the puppy. Crouching down he gave the beagle a good scratch behind the ears.

"I'll take good care of him," Rose promised.

Looking up at his mother he smiled softly. Apparently he didn't have to talk for her to understand him.

She smiled back. "Now go before Faith leaves without you."

He stood up, and gave her a small wave before heading for the door and grabbing his jacket on the way out.

Rose shook her head, smiling as she watched him leave.

When the door closed behind Bosco, Cooper tilted his head to the side then trotted over to the door waiting for him to come back.

“He'll be back soon, Cooper. Come say hi to your grandma."

* * *

Faith's hair was still damp from the shower when she exited the bathroom and headed down the hall to the living room. She found Bosco sitting on the sofa, his arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face. "Hey...what's wrong?"

He turned to look at her, a mixture of anger and sadness in his eyes. After holding her gaze for a moment he shifted his attention to the telephone that sat beside him on the sofa.

Her eyebrows furrowed and she followed his gaze. "Someone called?"

Bosco nodded his head.

" tried to answer the phone?" she guessed.

He nodded again then reached for the legal pad that sat on the endtable. 'I forgot,' he wrote, underlining it twice. 'How the HELL could I forget?'

She sighed softly, then sat down beside him on the sofa. "Instinct kicked in. The phone rang, you answered it. I woulda done the same thing."

Angrily he flipped the page to get a fresh sheet of paper. 'It's not coming back.'

"Yes, it is."

'I'm not any better.'

"You have to give it time, Bosco."

'It's been too long!'

Faith was quiet for a moment. "'re gonna get your voice back. I don't know when, but I know you will."

'I hate this! I can't live like this!' He pressed so hard as he wrote that he broke the pencil lead.

She flinched as he threw the pencil down on the floor and rose to his feet angrily. "Bosco. Calm down."

Closing his eyes tight he ran his hands through his hair then grabbed clumps of hair. To prove his point, that he was angry because he couldn't express himself he tried to yell, but that did nothing but cause strain on his throat.

She stood up so she was facing him and she took his face in her hands. "Stop."

He tried turning his face away, he didn't want to look at her as his lower lip trembled.

"Bosco," she whispered. "Stop. It's okay."

He shook his head. It wasn't okay. It would never be okay again.

Tears stinging her eyes, she moved away from him. "You shouldn't have saved me."

His eyes widened and he grabbed her arm. He tried to talk, and winced at the strain then quickly grabbed the legal pad and looked around for something to write with. Furious at himself for not having some way to communicate right away he pulled her over to where he knew there was a pen, and scribbled frantically. 'Don't EVER say that! EVER!'

She didn't look at him. "You'd be all right if you hadn't saved me, Bosco. You wouldn't have gotten hurt."

'I would NOT be all right,' he wrote quickly, his writing barely legible. He held the paper up in front of her for her to see.

"I'm tired. I'm gonna go to bed."

He wanted to scream at her. Yell at the top of his lungs that he needed her and that he didn't care that he'd gotten hurt. What he cared about was not being the person that he was. Dropping the notepad he took hold of her, turning her toward him then held up one finger asking her to wait a minute.

She sighed softly, rubbing the back of her neck as she looked at him reluctantly.

When he knew she was staying put he picked up the notepad and began to write again. 'I'm glad I saved you. I just want the doctors to FIX me so that I' He paused and stared down at the paper, not sure what to write next.

Faith closed her eyes. "I'm sorry, Bosco," she whispered. "If I could change things...I would."

He nodded his head before moving the pen over the paper again. 'I'm just angry at myself.' He tugged on Faith's sleeve to get her to look.

"Why? Bosco, it's not your fault."

"Cause I can't fix this.'

Her eyes were sad, still sparkling with tears. Wordlessly, she wrapped her arms around him in a hug, hoping he wouldn't push her away.

For a brief second he remained still then he returned the embrace, holding her tight.

"I wish there was something I could do to make this easier, but I don't know what it would be. I still believe you're gonna get your voice back, Bosco. I don't know when, but I really believe you will."

His hands clutched at her shirt and he nodded his head slightly. He wasn't going to cry. It was better to stay angry.

"I love you, Boz," she whispered. She kissed his cheek, then pulled away enough to lean her forehead against his.

The breath caught in his throat and his lower lip trembled. If he wasn't carefully she was going to break him, and he wasn't sure he was ready to break. He lifted his hand to touch her cheek.

She kissed his lips softly without thinking about it. "No matter what...nothing's ever gonna change that."

He swallowed hard, and nodded slightly. He shifted his hand slightly and gently ran his thumb over her lips.

She lifted her gaze to his face. "Boz," she whispered.

Even if he could speak he wasn't sure what he'd say right now. Instead he just gazed at her, his eyes soft.

Faith held her breath, unable to look away.

Bosco kissed her softly then mouthed that he loved her too.

Tears sparkled in her eyes and she touched his cheek with one hand.

The next thing he did was try to tell her that he was sorry, his lips moved but the sound didn't come out. He let out a breath and sighed.

"I know. I know, Bosco." She kissed his cheek.

A faint smile touched his lips and he reached for his notepad and pen. 'Too tired to watch a movie?'

She smiled. "Not if you aren't."

He took her hand and led her back over to the sofa.

"What movie do you wanna watch?"

Bosco shrugged, pointed at her then pointed at her movie collection as a way to tell her to decide.

"Why don't we just see what's on TV?" she suggested.

He nodded and sat down beside her, reaching for the remote control.

She smiled faintly, then grinned when Cooper barked and put his paws up on the sofa, looking at Bosco.

Looking down at the puppy Bosco felt himself relax a little more, and he reached down to help Cooper up onto the sofa. He set the beagle down between himself and Faith, and couldn't help but smile when the puppy climbed onto his lap. He ran his hand over Cooper's fur then looked over at Faith.

She shook her head, amused. "He's already got you wrapped around his little paws."

He looked down at Cooper then back at Faith. 'Thank you,' he mouthed.

"You're welcome," she said softly, reaching over to pet Cooper.

His smile widened when the puppy sniffed, then licked at Faith's fingers.

"Hey, I think he likes me."

Bosco looked around and spotted a small notebook and pen on the table behind the sofa. Reaching back he picked it up. 'How could he not?'

Faith chuckled softly.

'My puppy's smart.'

"That he is." She smiled and scratched under the dog's chin.

Smiling softly he slouched, relaxing back against the sofa cushions.

She gazed at him for a moment, then took the remote from him, flipping the channels until she came across 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

He was gently stroking Cooper's fur, lulling the puppy to sleep when he raised an eyebrow at the movie on television. 'You like this one?'

"'s kinda depressing, but...hopeful at the same time." Her voice was soft.

For a moment he gazed at her, thinking about how depressing things were for him right now, but how much hope Faith had about his situation. He nodded his head in agreement to the movie.

They sat in silence for a few moments, then she shifted slightly, patting her leg. "Here. Lay down."

He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"Don't give me that look."

Bosco chuckled then slowly shifted on the sofa, lying down and resting his head on her leg as Cooper settled in beside him.

Faith smiled, turning her attention back to the movie as she slid her fingers through his hair, resting her hand on top of his head.

Bosco glanced up at Faith then turned his head and kissed her knee through the material of her jeans before shifting his gaze back to the television.

She glanced down at him, more than a little surprised by the action.

Petting Cooper with his right hand, he shifted a little, bringing his left hand up and allowing his fingers to rest lightly on Faith's leg. It was nice to be so close to both Faith and Cooper. The two of them had shown him their unconditional love which he truly appreciated.

She reached down and rested her free hand over his, leaning over and kissing his forehead lightly.

He curled his fingers around hers and silently prayed that someday he'd be able to tell her how much she meant to him.

* * *

He and Cooper had both fallen asleep on the sofa before the movie was over, and Faith had woken them so Bosco could get a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed. While he'd gotten ready for bed Faith had taken Cooper outside one last time before they would all turn in for the night. When she came back inside he was looking down at the photograph of himself that he'd selected and had framed for his mother.

"She's gonna love it," she said softly.

Bosco glanced up at her then reached for his dry erase board. 'I don't look all that bad anymore.'

"You never looked bad to start with."

He grinned. 'Liar'

She made a face at him. "I don't lie."

'Thanks for the idea.' he pointed down at the picture.

"You're welcome." She lowered Cooper down to the floor and he instantly bounded over to Bosco's side.

'I'm not putting him in the kennel tonight.'

"There's a shock."

He shot her a look.

She grinned. "Oh, come on, Bosco. That wasn't exactly news. We might as well take the kennel back."

'I just don't like locking him up.'

“Well he's not a criminal."

Bosco nodded his head in agreement then picked up the puppy and set him on the bed. 'It's late. My mother will probably be over real early.'

"Probably. You should get some sleep."

'Gonna wrap this first.'

"You want some help?"

Smiling softly he shook his head.

"Okay." She lingered in the doorway. "Well. I'm gonna hit the hay then."

He held up his hand then stood up and walked over to her.

Her eyes were questioning as he approached.

His eyes were soft as he lifted his hand to her cheek then leaned forward and placed a very gentle kiss on her lips.

She closed her eyes, leaning into his touch and returning the soft kiss.

When the kiss ended he pulled away and smiled softly.

"Goodnight, Bosco," she said softly.

"Night," he mouthed.

Faith kissed his forehead, touching his cheek for a moment. "Sweet dreams." She pulled away and headed for her bedroom.

He watched her walk away, the smile slowly slipping from his face. After a moment he closed his door and turned to look at Cooper where he sat on the bed. Bosco made his way over and sat down on the floor to wrap his mother's gift. He looked at it for a moment then set it aside and reached under the bed for the other picture. The one he'd secretly gotten the woman behind the counter at the photo studio to have made. The smile returned to his face as he gazed at the picture of himself and Faith, with her standing behind him, her arms loosely draped around his neck, her chin resting on top of his head as they both smiled for the camera.

It was nice to have a moment like that preserved on film. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't remember another moment like that between the two of them in the last couple of years. Things had been so tense, and they'd been at odds. But he always knew that he needed her and that if anything ever happened to her it would destroy him. Faith was his best friend and his only confidant. There was no way he could survive without her. He knew that, but he couldn't help but wonder if she did. And he was afraid he'd never be able to tell her that. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to say the words.

Sighing he set the photo down. When Cooper barked softly Bosco looked toward him. The puppy just gazed at him, and he couldn't help but grin. Faith had known just what he'd needed when she'd gotten him the puppy for an early Christmas gift and he needed to let her know how much he appreciated the gesture and everything she'd done for him. His gaze drifted over to the large notepad and pen on the nightstand.

Maybe he could tell her.

* * *

Faith was awakened by a soft bark early the next morning. Her eyebrows furrowed but she didn't open her eyes. "Too early," she mumbled, pulling the blankets up over her head.

Bosco slowly pushed Faith's bedroom door open then crossed over to the bed, with a grin on his face he set Cooper down at the head of the bed.

She groaned, refusing to get up.

He sat down on the bed, and reached out to shake her.

"You're evil," she muttered.

He chuckled as he sat there with his dry erase board held up for her to see if she'd ever open her eyes.

Sighing, she reluctantly shoved the covers off her head and slowly opened her eyes to glare at him.

Smiling at her he pointed to the board. 'It's Christmas.'

"Yes, I know that."

Turning the board around he wiped it clean. 'Get up.'

"Bosco..." She looked at the clock. "It's not even six o'clock."

'Didn't you hear the phone ring?'

Her eyebrows furrowed. "No."

'Ma called. Left a message. She'll be here by 7.'

"Great. That gives me another hour to sleep." She closed her eyes.

Shaking his head he wrote more on the board then tapped her shoulder until she opened her eyes once more. 'Knowing her she'll be here in 15 minutes. Probably called on her way out.'

Sighing, she sat up, rubbing her eyes. "You're worse than the kids."

He gave her a look then wrote in big letters. 'Guess someone doesn't want her present.'

Faith rolled her eyes and picked up Cooper. "Good morning, puppy."

'Sure, ignore me now.'

Grinning, she glanced at him. "Good morning, Bosco."

He nodded. 'Little better.'

Leaning over, she kissed his cheek. "How's that?"

Bosco shrugged.

Cooper barked softly.

He looked at the puppy and scratched behind Cooper's ears before turning back to Faith.

"What? You want me to pet you?" she asked lightly.

Giving her his best puppy dog look he nodded his head.

She chuckled, then reached out and patted his head. "Good Bosco."

Leaning forward he kissed her cheek then stood up and motioned for her to follow him.

Her eyebrows furrowed a little, and she held onto Cooper as she rose to her feet.

Once he was in the living room Bosco moved over to the Christmas tree that Faith had set up in the corner. He crouched down and retrieved the gift he had put there only a few minutes ago.

A smile tugged at her lips and she sat down on the sofa, taking the package from him. "You really didn't have to get me anything."

'Wanted to.'

"I know." She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and let go of Cooper, who jumped over to sit on Bosco's lap.

Bosco immediately scratched behind the puppy's ears. He smiled softly, realizing how attached he and Cooper already were to each other.

Drawing in a breath, Faith began to unwrap her package, her eyebrows furrowing slightly.

He bit his lip as he watched her, worried that she wouldn't like the gift.

She turned over the large flat frame, her eyes widening slightly as she found herself gazing at the picture of her and Bosco from only a couple days before. "Oh, Boz," she whispered.

He let out the breath he was holding.

Her eyes sparkled with tears when she looked up at him, unable to speak.

Smiling at her he gently brushed the backs of his fingers along her cheek.

"Thank you," she whispered.

He nodded his head. 'Turned out real good.'

"Yeah, it did," she agreed, looking back down at the picture. They were both smiling, her arms were draped around his shoulders, her chin resting on the top of his head. They looked relaxed and happy--something neither of them had been together in such a long time.

Bosco took a deep breath then tapped her shoulder.

Faith lifted her gaze to meet his once more.

Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans he pulled out the letter that he had written her before going to bed the previous night. He hesitated for a second, then handed the folded piece of paper to her.

Her eyebrows furrowing slightly, she gazed at him a moment longer before unfolding the letter and beginning to read.

He swallowed hard as he watched her.

I wish I could say all of this to you because I think the time is right. I think it's time to put everything else behind us. All the stuff that happened the last couple years. Looking at the picture of the two of us makes me realize how happy we could be if we'd maybe just let go of all the other crap that happened.

I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for me lately. Visiting me in the hospital. Opening your home to me. Getting me Cooper. All of that has helped me more than you'll probably ever know.

Since I woke up and found out that I couldn't talk I've been so angry, but I've never regretted what I did for you...for me. I've always needed you. When you were shot it nearly destroyed me, and I couldn't let either of us go through that again. I'm sorry if I've made all of this hard on you, if I've taken my anger out on you. I just don't like not being the person I was, and I truly hope that you're okay with me the way I am. I really wish that I could talk to you and express myself better. Writing has never been my thing. I wish we could communicate easier because I miss the simple things, and I don't like having to work so hard to get you to 'hear' me. Maybe if you'll do it with me...that sign language thing might not be such a bad idea.

Merry Christmas, Faith.

Drawing in a breath after she re-read the letter a couple of times, she looked up at him. Wordlessly, she reached out and touched his cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.

He covered her hand with his own, and closed his eyes.

She kissed him softly on the lips. "I love this picture...but the best present I got this Christmas...was you wakin' up."

Bosco rested his forehead against hers. "Faith." Her name passed his lips in a very rough, barely audible whisper.

Her eyes widened and she quickly pulled away to look at him. "Boz."

He was just as shocked as Faith, and he reached up to touch his throat.

"You spoke," she whispered.

He nodded his head slowly, still stunned that that had been his voice. Swallowing hard he then licked his lips before attempting to speak again.

"I'll go get you some water." She quickly stood up.

"Wait," he managed to get the word out before she'd gotten very far.

A wide grin on her face, she turned to look at him.

Bosco set Cooper aside and stood up. There was a smile on his face as he looked at Faith. He rubbed his throat for a second. "Couldn't happen...on," he said slowly, his voice very soft.

She hugged him tightly. "Merry Christmas," she whispered.

"Merry Christmas," he whispered back, returning the hug as Cooper barked.

She kissed his cheek, her eyes bright as she pulled away to look at him.

"I never thought..."

Faith smiled, touching his cheek. "I knew it."

"You're my...strength." He paused to swallow. "Thank you."

She kissed his forehead. "That goes two ways," she whispered.

He cupped her face in his hands and just gazed at her.

"I love you, Bosco."

"Love you," he whispered, his voice still raspy from not having been used in so long.

Hesitating only a second, she leaned closer, kissing him softly as her eyes drifted shut.

He eagerly returned the kiss.

She slid her arms around his waist, shifting closer to him.

When the kiss ended he wrapped his arms around her. "So're with me."

She smiled, her eyes sparkling. "Always."

Bosco nodded his head, and a wide grin spread across his face. "This is incredible."

She grinned, as well. "Yeah, it is, isn't it? A Christmas miracle."

"In more ways than one," he whispered before kissing her once more.

Closing her eyes again, she smiled against his lips. He was absolutely right.