TITLE: THE REPLACEMENT

AUTHOR: MINN

DISCLAIMER: I don't own nothin' - mores the pity - just playing. No character was really harmed during the typing of this nonsense. The creators of Third Watch are, of course, gods. (But if you ever do get stuck for ideas guys, gimme a call...HAH!)

CHEERS! to all the kind folks who said such nice things about my maiden outing "Grace". Just remember, if you encourage me, you'll NEVER get rid of me...

EXPLAINATION: This wasn't HALF as much fun to write as Grace was, so don't feel too bad if you find yourself not liking it. Consider this as back-story - the journey to Grace, if you like. But be patient. Nothing in the Minn-verse ever happens quickly...

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PART EIGHT

Lockey saw him first. He spun around to catch the older man's attention but realised Manny had already seen; his face was as white as a sheet.

Faith glanced up at Lockey, wondering at the sudden halt in movement and conversation. Someone approaching to her left caught her eye and she turned.

There he stood. The intensity of his gaze was such that she couldn't find it in herself to move or say a word for a good length of time. His face was a picture of conflicting emotions, but those eyes of his still held the look, the one she had lost herself in so many times in her dreams.

"My God," he murmured. "It is you."

To his astonishment Faith suddenly stepped forward and reached out her arms to him. Her eyes never left his until their lips met, gently at first and then with greater urgency. It never even occurred to him not to return her kiss with just as much, if not more, passion and intensity.

She was shaking as they parted. "I want to come home," she whispered, "I want to be with you and the kids..."

"Whoa, Faith," he said, pushing her away slightly.

She stared at him, confused.

"Faith? That's my name? Faith?"

A chill ran through him. "You don't know?"

She frowned.

"Faith," she repeated. She looked away and stared fixedly at the ground for some time.

The others looked on, holding their breath. Manny couldn't help noticing the look of anguish that was clouding Bosco's face.

"Faith, do you know who I am?" he asked.

She stared at him. "I'm Faith. You're...you're..."

With a sudden and unexpected motion she pushed him violently away, appalled.

The look on Bosco's face became a mixture of horror and little boy bewilderment.

"Faith, I'm sorry..."

"I'm Faith Yokas...I'm married...to Fred. We have two children...Charlie and Emily...Oh my God, Charlie and Emily!"

Faith whirled around to face Manny. Lockey and the others shrank from the fury they saw in her face.

"My children! I have children Manny! And a husband with a heart condition! They probably think I'm dead!"

Manny looked away. "Faith, I'm so sorry..."

"You lied to me Manny! You son of a bitch, you lied to me!"

She rounded on Bosco, who could barely bring himself to meet her eyes.

"Don't just stand there like an ass, Bosco! Get a couple of units down here!"

"You're arresting them?"

"What do you think?" she spat impatiently. "And then call Fred and have him meet us at the house."

"Don't you want to do that yourself?"

"I do, but the shock of hearing my voice might just be a bit much for him, don't you think?" She snatched the hat she was wearing off her head and threw it at him. "Don't you ever use your damn brain? You always let your johnson do your thinking for you, don't you Maurice?"

Bosco turned away and dragged his mobile from the pocket of his jacket. Behind him Faith faced Manny down and told him in no uncertain terms how many charges she would be laying against his sorry ass that day.

-

"Sister Alison asked me to tell you she's praying for you."

Manny looked up at him and nodded gently.

"I can't thank you enough for taking Bob and Meredith to the shelter, Officer Boscorelli. And for bringing Gerald here."

Bosco shrugged. "No problem." He turned and looked over to where Manny's elderly lawyer friend stood arguing the toss with Swerskey out in the corridor.

Manny looked across to Lockey who sat glaring at him from across the room.

"We're at that bridge now, old man," Lockey growled.

"I'll figure something out," Manny said.

"Riiight."

Manny inhaled heavily. "I take it Faith has been reunited with her family?"

He watched Bosco carefully as the younger man recounted how Fred had scooped Faith into his arms, and how they'd stood in the middle of the precinct house sobbing. How thrilled Charlie and even Emily had been to see their mother and Faith's own immeasurable delight at seeing them all.

Manny could plainly see the torment Bosco was attempting to hide with a show of 'I don't care' bravado.

"Faith deserves every happiness," Manny said quietly.

Bosco nodded and stared at the floor for a while. "Why'd you do it Manny?"

Manny sighed. "Purely out of concern for the well being of people who have so foolishly put their trust in me."

Bosco crossed his arms and waited for more.

"I needed to find a replacement, Officer Boscorelli, someone with enough heart and courage and acumen to make a good leader. Faith has all those qualities, and more." He nodded at the frown that crossed Bosco's face. "I am an idealist, a dreamer. And a damned old fool."

"You said it Manny," Lockey said sourly.

"I don't know what will become of them all without me, you see," Manny continued. "I suppose I imagine for myself a greater role than I actually have in the scheme of things."

"I think Sister Alison is going to have a few words to you about that Manny," Bosco replied.

Manny chuckled. "I'm sure."

He regarded Bosco for some moments. "You love her, don't you?" he said after a while. "Faith I mean."

Bosco's eyes glanced at him briefly. Then without a word he turned and left the room.

-

"I dropped the charges."

Faith watched her partner for any sign of a reaction. Bosco merely nodded and continued writing notes in a small journal balanced on his knee.

"Did you hear me?"

He shrugged. "I heard. What? What d'ya want me to say?"

"Fred wasn't that pleased," she continued. "At least, I don't think he was. It's sometimes hard to tell with him any more."

"I could understand if he was," Bosco mumbled. "Some old maniac kidnaps his wife and tries to turn her into his little protege."

"It wasn't like that. Manny did it for the sake of the others."

"I get that too Faith." He flipped the page of the book he was reading and began taking notes once more.

"What's with these books you've been readin' lately?" she asked.

Bosco shrugged. "They're books."

"Why do they all have black covers?"

Bosco shrugged.

Faith glared at him. "So what are they about?"

"What?"

"The books. What are they about?"

"Stuff."

Faith rolled her eyes. "For godsake..."

Bosco continued reading.

She watched him. She had taken time off to be with her family after being reunited with them, thankful also for the opportunity of not having to deal with Bosco immediately. When she returned to duty they had both done a very good job of pretending that all was business as usual, that nothing unusual or untoward had occurred. That had suited her at first, but now their mutual avoidance of the subject was beginning to bother her a little. He still had trouble meeting her eyes and was still going to some lengths to avoid her whenever and wherever possible outside of working hours.

"I wonder how they're all doing?" she murmured.

"Who?"

"Manny and the others."

"Wanna go down and check on them?" Bosco answered without looking up.

"D'ya mind?"

He shrugged, closing up the book and journal and stowing them in the pocket on the door. "If you're out of the car yakking to someone else, I don't have to listen to you. Sounds like a plan to me."

Manny sat in the sun, a mug of coffee in his hands. Meredith sat next to him her knees clasped under her chin, rocking back and forth. At the sight of Faith rounding the corner in her uniform she fled down into the basement.

The same warmth and fondness Manny had always regarded her with still gleamed in his eyes as she approached, and she found herself relieved by that.

"Gerald tells me you have dropped all charges," he said softly, motioning her to the chair next to him. "Thank you."

"It doesn't mean I forgive you for what you put my family through Manny," she replied.

"I ask not forgiveness, merely understanding."

Faith regarded him fondly. "I understand why you did it. It was wrong, but I understand."

There was relief in his eyes.

"So what brings you back, Officer Yokas?"

"Faith," she said. "I just wanted to check in, see if you're all doing alright."

Manny's eyes sparkled. "We're all fine. There are going to be a few changes soon, but all for the good. Thank you for caring," he said softly. "Is all well with you and yours?"

"Things are getting back to normal," she replied.

Manny nodded and sipped his coffee, thoughtful. "I'd imagine that might be a little difficult given what happened between you and Blue Eyes."

Faith scowled at him.

"It disturbs you, doesn't it? That he was the first person you remembered, not your husband."

She looked away and didn't say a word.

"You're scared you might have feelings for him."

"I don't have feelings for Bosco!" she snapped.

"Not consciously," Manny murmured, "and not that you would allow yourself to have. But your subconscious mind says otherwise."

Faith shook her head sharply. "It just goes to show how screwed up my mind was. It was a complete fiction - Bosco's nothing but an immature, arrogant, bigoted little know-it-all."

"Are you sure?"

She glared at him. "I work with him every day, I should know."

"Faith, take it from someone who knows. Sometimes people will show us just exactly what we expect them to show us. With my students I always found that if I believed them capable of great things, sooner or later they would prove me right." He chuckled at the look of disbelief etched on her face. "I'm picking your first impressions of Officer Boscorelli weren't great?"

"First, second, third impressions..." she mumbled.

Manny smiled. "But sometime, somewhere you have had a glimpse of some other side to him, some potential. With your memories and your assumptions out of the way your subconscious has run with what is left, the potential. It 'created a fiction' as you put it. Well, maybe for the most part it was. But I think the love you saw in his eyes, which you responded to, is real enough."

Faith stared into the distance. "There are moments when he drops the bullshit act..."

"What is he like when that happens?"

She shrugged. "He's kinda...sweet, I guess. Vulnerable..."

"Troubled childhood?"

She nodded. "Father used to beat them."

"Issues," Manny murmured.

"...for Africa," Faith replied. "But don't we all?"

"Some of us need to work a little harder in overcoming our pasts Faith, and require a little more support in the process. I get the impression he trusts you - and you would be one of the few people in this world he has extended that privilege to."

Faith stared at the ground just in front of her.

"It's a beautiful thing to watch someone evolve into the potential you've glimpsed in them." Manny watched her quietly. "But that's what you're most afraid of, isn't it?"

"What?"

"That Maurice Boscorelli will some day become someone you will no longer be content to keep at arms length."

Faith looked at Manny, horrified.

"The one constant in the Universe is change, Faith," the old man said gently. "Our growth as human beings depends on it."

She got up quickly and seemed for a moment intent on leaving. But she lingered.

"If there's anything any of you need Manny, just call me OK?"

Manny nodded and smiled up at her just as the radio she wore burst into life.

"We've got a call Faith," he heard Bosco say.

"OK," she responded, gazing down at Manny.

"Sometimes Life has bigger plans for us than we do ourselves," he said gently.

Faith turned on her heel and without another word walked away.

Ta Dah! Boy, I bet you're glad that's over...