TITLE: THE ONE CONSTANT

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

CHEERS! to all the kind folks who said such nice things about my maiden outing "Grace", and about the follow-up-story-that-isn't-really, "The Replacement".

EXPLAINATION: This here tale gets into the nuts and bolts of how Gracie came to be. If you have no idea who Gracie is, it might pay you to have a wee looksee at my other stories "Grace" and "The Replacement", which basically lead up to this here offering.

FORGIVE ME!: Everything I write I can guarantee is the work of my own sick and twisted little mind - but if anything I write does resemble something that's gone before I can assure you it's pure coincidence - (hangs head in shame) because I don't actually READ much fic (sorry to all the wonderful authors on this site!) But have had occasion to catch up with a few stories recommended by others and have enjoyed them immensely. (Can I stop greasing now?) Also, if you see a phrase or a word that seems a bit odd it's because I'M FOREIGN!!! New Zealand English is a WHOLE different animal - but I've tried to be careful.

SOMETHING ELSE TO NOTE: Season Four of Third Watch hasn't started screening in New Zealand yet so I haven't actually seen the 'new improved' Fr*d or The Anti Cruz. I promise I will do rewrites the MINUTE I do get the opportunity to see them, but in the meantime I beg your collective indulgence on this - if these two characters sound a little "off" in this fic, don't worry - I'll fix the blighters eventually! And so on with the show...

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THE ONE CONSTANT

Part 1


It was a beautiful arrangement.

The cascade of soft velvet roses was fringed with delicate fronds of green and the tiny white faces of flowers she did not know the name of. Well, flowers really weren't her thing. Still, she couldn't help but admire the elegant simplicity of it. She couldn't remember choosing it; perhaps some kindly person had thoughtfully relieved her of that decision.

She took a deep breath in. What did it matter...

Keeping her eyes firmly on the floral bouquet before her, she listened, roaming the airy expanse around her with her ears. Behind her and beside her came the muffled sounds of sobbing. Somewhere in front of her a good friend was addressing the gathering in halting phrases, retelling tales of better times with warmth and humour as his voice allowed. His words poured over her. Such nice words. So heartfelt.

More speakers stood before them, each one as unequal to the task of completing a sentence without their voices betraying them as the last. She kept her eyes firmly on the flowers, tracing and retracing each petal and each green frond with her eyes. She sat and endured their anguished attempts to make it all better with words, even though nothing could. She wanted to run. She wanted to flee the place and never look back.

A small whimper drew her attention away from the sounds of grief and her stoic contemplation of the roses. Nestled in the crook of her arm her baby daughter stirred, another small whimper escaping her before a yawn made its presence known to the world. Gently Faith stroked the tiny creature's soft cheek, and the little girl was soon back to the business of sleeping.

Oh to be as her daughter was, safe and unconcerned in the arms of someone who loved her.

Faith's eyes found their way back to the floral arrangement and remained there as proceedings wore on to their tear-filled conclusion.

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"Oh she's so precious!"

Faith wasn't exactly sure which relative or other was enveloping her baby daughter in her voluminous arms but was quickly made aware that Gracie didn't appreciate it any.

"Oh sweetheart, wassamatter? Wassamatter little precious one..."

Faith reached forward and rescued her distressed infant from the woman's clutches.

"She's a little clingy right now," Faith muttered, holding Gracie to her. "I should put her down for her nap soon."

"Of course," the woman crooned. "She's so precious. It's such a tragedy."

Faith turned away and headed for a quieter area of her parent's house. But it seemed wherever she went a constant stream of relatives and friends were intent to follow, armed with compliments on how strong she'd been, how well she had handled things, how beautiful the service was. How fortunate she was to have three beautiful children to remind her of happier times.

She wanted to scream.

Faith scanned the room and her eyes fell upon the familiar figures of her colleagues, Ty and Sully, who stood near the kitchen looking uncomfortable.

"Please don't ask me how I'm doing, OK?" she said as she joined them. "I feel as miserable as anyone in my situation would be feeling right about now. You'd think that would go without saying, wouldn't you?"

Sully nodded with a look of quiet understanding. "It's hard to know what to say, Faith. People are just trying to be kind."

"I know. I just..." She shrugged.

"Can I hold Grace for a while?" Ty asked.

Faith gently passed her daughter to him, and the little girl uttered not one word of protest.

"She likes you Davis," Sully observed. "Doesn't think much of me."

"She didn't think much of the big mama over there either," Ty said nodding in the direction of the unknown relative. "Maybe she just doesn't like fat people."

Sully glared at his partner, unimpressed.

Ty grinned at Faith, who couldn't help indulging in a small smile in spite of her mood.

"Thanks for being here, guys," Faith said. "I appreciate the support."

"Least we could do," Sully replied and Ty nodded in agreement.

Faith gazed at Gracie in preoccupied silence for some moments, and noted her daughter seemed as fascinated by Ty as he was enamoured of her. "Have either of you heard anything lately?"

Ty glanced at Sully briefly and then fixed his gaze upon the baby in his arms. Sully cleared his throat.

"Nothing lately Faith," he said. "But that's a good thing, right?"

"Yeah," Faith murmured. "No news is good news."

They could both tell by the anguished look on her face that she did not believe a word of it.

"If there's anything we can do, Faith, just ask, OK?" said Sully, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

She nodded. "Keep your eyes and ears open for me, Sul. I have to know, one way or the other."

Faith's mother exited the kitchen near them. "Shouldn't Gracie be going for her nap?" she asked.

"Yeah ma," Faith replied.

Ty handed Grace back to her. "You hang in there Faith," he said.

"Anything Faith," Sully said as she took her leave of them. "I mean it."

In the quiet of her room she gazed down at the beautiful infant in her arms. With every passing day Grace Eve grew more like her father, a resemblance so striking Faith sometimes found it heartbreaking to even look at her.

She lay Gracie down in her crib and tucked her soft blankets around her. Gracie's sparkling blue eyes were fixed upon her mother and Faith was haunted yet again by the resemblance. She was her father's daughter; it was unmistakable.

Faith lingered beside her daughter. The little girl peered around, no more interested in napping than her mother was in rejoining the sad crowd outside. In Faith's mind image after sad image paraded past, bitter recollections of the events that had culminated in this day. Finally it rested upon the image that had brought her to the brink of a breakdown earlier that day; the look of anguish on the faces of her older children as they watched their father's casket being lowered into his grave.

Since Fred's death Faith had felt as though she was walking through her life anaesthetised, part of what was happening around her, yet strangely disconnected from it. But now, as the odd sense of disbelief, the numbness others had mistaken for strength fell away, what stood in its place was raw, unfettered emotion.

The floodgates opened. Faith stood next to her baby girl, her body shuddering as she sobbed.

She was alone now. Her three children had no father. And the aching sense of guilt that pressed down upon her threatened to crush her where the grief over Fred's loss had not.

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TBC - just keep this in mind if you're thinking you might already have the plot sussed - Minnfic can be a little, shall we say...unpredictable...Nyahaha...so it might pay you to stick around a while...and keep a bucket handy...