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Disclaimer: I don't own anything having to do with "Third Watch". That honor belongs solely to Edward Bernero, John Wells, and a bunch of other damn lucky people.

Authors Note: Wow, what has it been, like almost two months since I updated this thing?  I am so sorry, I'll try to be better next time, but I can't promise anything… I tend to procrastinate. Sorry! =)

Anyway, This is the first real chapter, but hopefully I've been successful in building the base for the story.  Also, just a note… details of what exactly went down in Noble's suite may be a little fuzzy… at first, but by the end of the chapter you guys will have a better idea of what happened. J   And yes, it all may seem a little shipper-esque at first with the B/F stuff, but I promise there will me TONS more to this story than the shipper angle!

Thank you all so, so much for your wonderful reviews!!  Your support means the world to me, so thanks again! :o)

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The Way Things Change

Chapter I ~ "Morning Views"

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It had been 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 16 seconds, roughly, since she had left him.  She had snuck out, seemingly undetected, slowly prying herself away from the warm and comforting body that lay beneath her.  She never thought it would, but it actually hurt.  The act of leaving, of forcing herself away from the one thing that had brought her comfort in all this unbelievable mess, had hurt.  Not just imagined or theoretical hurt either, but real, stinging, burning, hurt.  The kind that rips at your insides, and makes you want to dissolve into a puddle of desperate tears. 

But, she had gone through with it.  She had taken the typical Faith stance, kept her head down and pushed right through, no matter how much it killed her to do it.  She was just thankful he never woke up.  She couldn't even begin to imagine what she would've done if she had to face him.  To have to see the look in his eyes as she fumbled through a half-assed attempt at an explanation would have been too much.  Hell, to look into his eyes at all would have probably stopped her heart, or at the very least convinced her to do the one thing she couldn't.  Stay.  

Bosco was funny like that.  He didn't have to say a damn thing to turn her world upside down and bend her to his will.  All he had to do was look at her with that unwavering intensity that always seemed to stop her cold, and it would be over.  She would do what she knew she shouldn't, all because she just couldn't help herself when it came to him.  After all, the day that lay behind them was a prime example of that very fact.   When it came to Bosco and what he needed and what he wanted, she had no control and better judgment almost always went right out the window.  That's the way it had always been with them, and part of her doubted very heavily if that would ever change. Because she knew she would never stop caring about Bosco, never stop feeling the need to help him, never, no matter what mess he got into or what profoundly ridiculous scenario he found himself in the middle of.  It would always be them against the world. She just hoped he knew that.

Then there was what had happened not six hours ago.  What in god's name was she supposed to call that?  In the space of few hours she had gone from being terrified at the idea of losing her partner, her friend, to breaking to down like a miserable wreck in his arms and crossing a line she had held sacred for many years.  Bosco had peen perfect though, offering her the gentle and caring shoulder to cry on that she hadn't even known she needed. And in the process, he had given her so much more, more than she had ever thought possible.  She supposed she could chalk it up to just another random act of kindness on Bosco's part. 

Wait… am I really classifying that as an act of kindness?  What the hell is wrong with me?'

Okay, so perhaps 'act of kindness' was not the best phrase.  But it was something… whatever it was.  Nothing, doesn't feel like that, nothing, doesn't make your head swim and take your breath away at the same time.  No, that was definitely something.

Yeah… It's called sex, Faith.

Faith felt her stomach do an unsettling flop at the thought.  She could call what her and Bosco just shared anything she wanted, but deep down she knew better.  She had just done the dirty with her partner.  She had just cheated on her husband, her now caring, understanding, lord-lovin' husband.  And she had no idea how she was supposed to face Fred in the aftermath of it.

So there in lay the explanation for her aimless wandering of Manhattan's cold, dank, early morning streets.  She was doing what any guilt-ridden wife would do, delaying the inevitable. But she imagined it was a recourse that could only take her so far. 

Looking up from her tunnel vision grip on the sidewalk ahead of her, her eyes noted the pinkish glow burning at the base of the concrete giants that clogged the horizon.  The sun would break over the rooftops in a matter of minutes, and she was nowhere near where she was supposed to be.  A sudden chilling gust of early morning air, tousled her open jacket, and set loose wisps of her blonde hair.  Bringing her arms up around herself to shut out the cold, she trudged on, wondering, in vain, if she could make it home before the sun's full warmth spilled over Manhattan.

Feeling an unexplainable urge to look up, she once again took stock of her surroundings, believing for a moment that her eyes were deceiving her.  Faith found herself only a street crossing away from a place she knew very well, a place where she and her partner had spent the lulls in many a shift… the bridge, or under it to be exact.

She made her way to the dirt clearing at the edge of the water and cast her eyes out, taking in the sun's slow break over the horizon.  It had been so long since she'd witnessed this.  She'd almost forgotten just how beautiful it could be.  Though behind the simple, yet breathtaking pleasure of watching a sunrise, lay a nagging sadness that forced the soft smile that graced her features to fade away.  A new day was upon her and the only thing she could think about was what had gone on during the day before, and what would eventually come in the days to follow. 

Fred wasn't the only person she would have to face, and her potential marital problems weren't the only ones that were waiting for her, because sooner or later, Cruz would be back. 

However, Faith had her money on later, just not much later, because Maritza Cruz was nothing if not strategic.  She doubted the woman could wake up in the morning without a well-crafted plan up her sleeve, let alone face the two officers that held her fate in their hands. No, good old "two bags" would definitely come stumbling back into their lives; it was only a matter of time. 

It was what would happen after that that baffled her and scared the hell out of her at the same time.  The shape the future would take was anyone's guess because Cruz was utterly unpredictable, what went down in Noble's hotel room more that proved that.  Faith only hoped Cruz wouldn't wait too long to rear her ugly head, because waiting in limbo never really appealed to Faith.  If her career as she knew it was going to be blown apart, than she would rather it be quick, because Lord knows it wouldn't be painless. 

Closing her eyes she recalled those heart-stopping moments from the night before, and she wondered how Bosco would handle the certain Cruz face-off that awaited them.  She knew he was angry, angrier than she had ever seen him, and briefly, a part of her wondered if Bosco would ever make good on the threats he had chased Cruz away with the night before…

---------- Flashback ---------

~ Noble's Hotel Suite, Previous Night

Faith stumbled back as Bosco stepped between herself and Cruz, sending the ACU sergeant backward a good few feet with a violent shove.

"You stay the hell away form her!"  Faith had never heard her partner's voice take on such a panicked tone, not in all the years she had worked with him.

Cruz steadied herself on the wall, her fingers tensely gripping at the black Glock 9 she held in her hand. She seemed taken back, more so than Faith was, as she held Bosco's furious stare. 

"How could you do this to me?" The sergeant demanded, her jaw clenched in pure hatred.  "You were gonna help me get him…"

"Its over, Cruz… just leave." Bosco warned in a low, angry rumble, as the sergeant inched toward them. 

"Everything was gonna work out," Cruz said, her words barely making their way past her lips her voice was so choked with anger.

Bosco took a small step back, using his arm to slowly push Faith behind him, out of harm's way.  "Cruz, just go!"

"Buford… he was finally gonna pay…" Cruz continued to move toward them, shaking her head in panicky disbelief, not caring to heed Bosco's desperate warnings.

"Would you just get the hell outta here!" he roared.

Faith wanted to say something to help Bosco, but she thought the better of it.  Cruz was far too unstable at the moment for Faith to throw her voice into the mix.  So, instead she held her tongue and slid herself to the side of Bosco as far as his protective arm would allow.

It was immediately a movement Faith regretted, as Cruz's furious gaze brushed past her "star", and locked onto Faith.  Faith felt her heart freeze, and she suddenly remembered how Sasha had once classified Cruz…as weak.  The idea had seemed ridiculous before, but as Faith found herself on the other end of Cruz's raw fury, the absurdity of the notion slipped away. Cruz was weak, and the weak minded were capable of absolutely anything.

"You…" The word escaped Cruz's lips in a low, guttural rumble as she took yet another daring step.

Bosco's whole body tensed in panic.  "I'm warning you, Cruz.  Don't come any closer!"

"Yokas… you did this.  You turned him against me!"

Faith eyes shot to Cruz's hand, and to the gun she held in it as the sergeant continued to move forward.  If they weren't careful, they could have a repeat showing of what had just gone down.  Only Faith imagined they wouldn't be so lucky the second time around.  

"I mean it, Cruz!  Get back!"

"I won't let you get away with this, Yokas," she spat, defying Bosco's warning yet again and making a final move toward Faith.

With everything in him, Bosco reacted and drew his weapon from his holster again, this time pushing the mouth of the gun into Cruz's chest. "I said stay away from her!"

The sergeant's arms flew up in surrender as her widened eyes frantically tried to comprehend what was going on.

Faith knew the look on Cruz's face all too well.  It was the look of realization, and a desperate one at that. Cruz had just lost control, and no one knew that fact better than the sergeant herself. 

"You won't kill me, Bosco… you're not like that."   Cruz was grasping at straws now, softening her angry, contorted face as her voice suddenly dipped to a sickening purr.

"Don't be so sure of that Sarge," Bosco warned, unfazed by Cruz's ploy. "The only reason you're still breathing is because I missed.  And I don't know about you," he paused, tapping the tip of the gun against her chest. "But I'm willing to bet I won't make that mistake twice."

A twisted smile crept across the sergeant's face and she leaned herself defiantly into the gun's point.  "This is different, Bosco…" she said, her eyes glinting with a spiteful arrogance. "You don't have the balls for this."

Faith could only watch as Bosco took another step toward the sergeant, slowly sliding the point of the gun from Cruz's chest to the base of her neck.  "Try me," he whispered.

An excruciating quiet engulfed the room as Bosco and Cruz silently faced off, each one daring the other to make a move.

"I'm warning you, Cruz.  If you don't get the hell outta here right now, I'll pull this trigger without so much as flinching."

The sergeant's wild, vengeful eyes bounced between Faith and Bosco.  Her calculating mind was dissecting her every option, simply to find she only had two.  Leave and live to fight another day, or stay and die right along with her cause.

She stepped back, finally, and Faith found herself thanking god that Bosco knew better than to lower his weapon too quickly.  The sergeant stood there for a moment, her dark eyes glued to Faith's, before silently turning away.

She was almost out the door when Bosco's harsh voice sliced through the tense quiet of the room, "Ritza."

The sergeant stopped in her tracks, but kept her back to Bosco. 

"I meant it.  You come near her again, and I will kill you myself," and with that, Maritza Cruz disappeared into the night.

--------- End Flashback ---------

Blinking her eyes open, Faith dismissed the thought.  Bosco may have been angry, but he would never actually kill Cruz. His words had just been an attempt to make it all go away, to make her go away.  Only chances were it wouldn't work, at least not for long.

Faith took in a deep breath and glanced at her watch.  It was already almost seven in the morning and she still wasn't home.  It looked like she had succeeded in putting off the inevitable after all, because Fred would be out the door to work in just a few minutes and she would be free to collapse into bed without having to explain her whereabouts.

A sad smile traced her lips as she scanned the water one last time.  It was true, she wouldn't have to face the music this morning, but tonight, she imagined, would be an entirely different story. 

  - - - - - - - - - -

Pulling a faded PD shirt over his head, Bosco crossed his slightly cluttered bedroom floor to the window.  He could see the pinkish-orange glow of the morning sun swirling vividly across Manhattan's dim, gray sky, signaling to the world the start of another day.  Briefly, pointed memories of the last sunrise he watched played back in his head, bringing a sad smile to his lips.  The memory of that morning still seemed so fresh, like it had only happened yesterday.  But at the same time, it reminded him of a part of his life that felt so incredibly distant now.

Still, he couldn't ignore the eerie similarities that surrounded both that morning and this one.  Both found him as well as his friends in the wake of tragedy, and turmoil.  And both left him feeling angry, confused and unbelievable sad, as though part of him had withered away and died.  But as far as the likenesses went, they ended there, because more than a few things were gravely different about this morning.  Bobby, and now Alex were gone, and the group of friends had not gathered to share their pain in comfortable silence. Instead the group had scattered in private grief to places where solitude could be their only comfort.  Or so had been the plan. 

Leaving the station that night, he believed there was nothing in his near future save deep, regretful thoughts and lots, and lots of alcohol. He had been dead set on forgetting every aspect of the night he'd had the unfortunate pleasure of living through, to sandblast it from his memory, if only for one night if nothing else.  In short, he'd intended on getting thoroughly shit-faced, thoroughly.

He hadn't quite gotten there though, seeing as though he was gloriously free of the excruciating headache he had prepared himself to be suffering through. He supposed he had Faith to thank for that.  If she hadn't shown up, he just might have succeeded in drinking himself clear into oblivion.  Maybe that wouldn't have such a bad thing, he thought.  At least in oblivion he wouldn't have dwell on the fact that one of the only true bonds he had in his life was waiting for him --utterly destroyed— on the other side of his apartment door.  And he was fairly certain he could pinpoint the moment the deathblow to his friendship with Faith had been delivered. It all began to crumble hopelessly, albeit pleasurably, the moment her lips touched his.  Worst of all, he hadn't done a damn thing to stop it.  He knew she was vulnerable.  In fact, he couldn't recall ever seeing Faith so unglued before.  But that and possibly all the knowledge and levelheaded thinking in the world, wouldn't have stopped him.  More importantly, it wouldn't have stopped her.

He remembered the panic that had assaulted his body when she crumbled in his arms.  What in the hell was he supposed to do?  He was the cause for all of it, and still she came to him, a man that for all intents and purposes, she should have hated.  Maybe she does.  Maybe it was her retribution, he thought woefully.  What better way to punish a man than to share with him something so intense, so incredible, only to rip it so brutally from his arms a few short hours later?  None that he could think of.

He watched her go.  She didn't know he was awake, but he was.  He lay there silently feigning sleep as he watched her carefully gather her clothes, slip them on and go.  He had to admit, for something that didn't involve any physical pain; it had to have been one of the most agonizing experiences he'd ever endured.  He wanted so bad to reach out, to stop her, to say something… anything.  But he didn't.  He just let her go.  After all, what else was he supposed to do?  Ask her to stay?  The very idea was so absurd it was almost funny.  But what was even funnier was that he got the feeling that if he had gotten up the courage to ask, she would have done it.  In a heartbeat.

Well, maybe in a way it was self-preservation, which had to have been better than self-destruction, which is exactly what asking her to stay would have been.  They had already done enough damage for one night.  Hell, maybe for a lifetime.

It's better that I let her go, he thought, closing his eyes.  Less for her to explain. Less for her to feel guilty about.

But as Bosco looked out his bedroom window, he couldn't help but wonder where she had gone to after leaving him.  She made her departure from his arms, from his bed, and quite possibly from his life, almost three hours ago.  And, according to a very irate Fred, who had called him not twenty minutes ago, she still wasn't home.  But he wasn't overly worried.  Faith knew how to handle herself, and if he was right, and he was pretty positive he was, Faith was just walking it off.  She had probably trekked through half of Manhattan by now, just trying to get her thoughts together before heading home. He didn't blame her, not one bit.  There was a hell of a lot to get together, especially now after everything that had happened and after everything that was going to happen.  

Just then, the sound of knocking pulled him from his thoughts.  He clenched his eyes closed in annoyance and willed the sound to go away.  Who in the hell would be knocking on my door at 7 in the… Bosco's heart froze. Faith, he thought.  It had to be her.

Unable to keep the slight grin off his face, Bosco strode to the door, worked the locks, and pulled it open, only to be greeted by the last person in the world he expected to see.

"Oh, what's the matter, Bosco Boy?" she purred in feigned concern as she watched the smile fade from his face.  "Not the partner you were expecting?"

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T.B.C….  So… how did you guys like it?  Give it a review and Let me know what you thought… pretty please… =) Thank you soooo much!  And for those of you who are enjoying it, I won't keep you hanging too long, thought I'm fairly certain you all know who the mystery knocker is, lol.  Aaww, come on.  Jus think of it this way, the sooner I bring her in, the sooner I can kick her butt the hell out. =D