DISCLAIMER: Los Hombres De Paco and its characters are the property of Antena 3. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was in the mood for some Montoya/Pepa buddy bonding fic because you know they're totally BFF now on the show. And he completely won my heart with how sweet he was when he realized Silvia and Pepa were more than just sister-in-laws. He needs some platonic love.
SPOILERS: For Episode 81, and speculation beyond that.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Buddy Cop Formula
By Misty Flores

 

She's gotta be somebody's baby
She's gotta be only somebody's light
Gonna shine tonight

Inspector Gonzalo Montoya would not admit this to anyone but himself, but he often wondered if Paco Miranda and his younger sister Pepa really shared the same blood. Aside from dark glossy hair, and big brown eyes, they looked nothing alike. Where Paco was soft and round, Pepa was lean and slender. Where Paco was clumsy and unsteady, Pepa was sure footed and graceful. Paco, prone to panic attacks and not the most intelligent man in his precinct (though Gonzalo would admit, he had the most heart), bumbled his way through cases and more often than not solved them through sheer will and luck. Pepa, with nothing more than a gun and a fake surrender, had tricked the very Kaiser herself into giving herself up.

They seemed different as night and day.

And yet, as the months rolled on and Pepa settled into his precinct, gorgeous and untouchable, it wasn't hard to see what made Pepa a Miranda. Like her brother, Pepa was driven by instinct, not protocol. Like her brother, Pepa was a natural leader, who led with grace and charisma and not orders, and although she had no official team to lord over, as just an Agent, Pepa had more authority over Paco's men than even Mariano at times.

And like her brother, Pepa seemed destined to love a Castro woman for the rest of her life.

Gonzalo Montoya had worked for every single thing he had gotten. He had risen through rank at such a young age not because of favoritism, but because he was a good cop, who visualized what he wanted and had always gotten it.

Until he was stationed in San Antonio. Until he was confronted with the shaky ethics of the hombres de Paco, who loved each other like family and defended each other like a pack of wild dogs. Until he came face to face with the beautiful, unattainable daughter of the Commissioner, Silvia Castro, who it seemed would never stop loving her ex-husband Lucas, no matter how uninterested he was. Lucas, who was arrogant and gruff, rude and unfocused, angry and impulsive and everything Montoya thought a good cop should NOT be.

Montoya's world of smug self-confidence came crashing down, and he wondered if his charm went with it, because ever since he had come to San Antonio, ever since he had fallen for Silvia, nothing had gone for him the way it was supposed to.

Oh, he had landed Silvia – but not really. He may have given Silvia his heart, but she had never given hers in return. There was always some excuse – some reason as to why Silvia couldn't – or wouldn't – love him. They had shared a tragedy – the thought of his unborn baby still caused an ache inside of him that burnt – and even that had not been enough to keep them together. At the time, he had thought the reason was her love for Lucas.

Nearly a year later, Montoya had come to understand why Silvia had never been able to love him. It had nothing to do with Lucas, and everything to do with arrogant and gruff, rude and unfocused, angry and impulsive Pepa Miranda.

It had to be the highlight of his year; to discover that the crush he had been nursing for months on Silvia's sister-in-law had been as pointless as the months he spent trying to earn Silvia's love. Pepa had arrived in San Antonio, and three months later, Silvia Castro, who had once told him she didn't think she could love anyone but Lucas, had moved her into her home, her heart, her life, with a smile that could have so easily made Gonzalo bitter as hell, because she was really in love.

It was the kind of love Gonzalo had once dreamt of giving her. Not the pain that her unrequited "love" for Lucas used to give her, but the kind that made her eyes shine and made her smile and laugh more than she had in years.

Maybe Montoya should have taken exception, because really, was there anything worse than discovering that your ex-girlfriend had stolen the woman you were after from right under your dense nose? But he didn't. It was honestly just all so confusing, there was nothing to do but accept the fact that Silvia loved Pepa, and Pepa loved Silvia, and all that Gonzalo would ever have was this: pressed against a wall, hand wrapped around a pistol, eyes locked on an intensely serious face, giving a silent nod that told Pepa everything she needed to know.

Around the corner of the dark corridor where they were now hidden was a drug lord and at least five of his armed men. Around the corner was evidence that would lock him up for good. They had exactly two minutes to sneak in, surprise him, arrest him, before he slipped away and they would lose him for good to the borders of Buenos Aires.

On this side, there was him and Pepa, with just a Glock each and their own furiously beating hearts.

Wait... he thought, listening carefully for the creak of steps, eyes locked again on Pepa's, shaking his head carefully. Wait…

She didn't wait. Pepa went on her own instinct, rank be damned, and when the creak came too close, moved a sinewy body and jerked forward with her arm, catching the man with the butt of a gun crashing into his Adam's apple. Montoya didn't waste time cursing. The pained gurgle of the man was enough to alert the rest, and suddenly there was shouting, and he was right there beside her.

"Freeze!" he shouted, gun up and eyes narrowed. "Police!"

They didn't freeze.

The guilty ones never did.


Out of breath, adrenaline still surging through his veins and the sweat of excitement cooling on his forearms, Gonzalo Montoya noted to himself idly that had he known he would have landed in a brawl-slash-shoot-out with Carlos Peiz and five of his henchmen, he might have skipped out on his morning run.

His legs splayed out in front of him like a wooden puppet's, and the metal of the car door he was sprawled against felt almost too cold, but he was too busy recovering to worry about it. From a few feet away, Pepa finished reading the rights to the last unconscious man, and made her way over. With a smirk, a huff and a wheeze, she slid down beside him, disrupting the dust of the dirty floor and nearly making him sneeze.

"Allright?" he asked, after a moment, head falling back to rest against metal door with a dull clank.

Beside him, Pepa shifted. He could feel the brush of her arm against his thigh, could see in his peripheral vision the scowl that was already working on her gorgeous face as she wiped at the blood that cooled on her cheek.

"Silvia is going to kill me," she muttered, and sounded so much like a hen-pecked husband he couldn't stop the chuckle. Pepa heard it, glared, but ignored it. "She hates when I get into fights."

"Mmmm," he acknowledged. "That's not the only thing she's going to be pissed about. Look at this – prints all over her crime scene."

Prints and bodies. Carlos Peiz may have been out cold, unconscious body handcuffed against a table, but half of his henchmen didn't fair nearly as well. Montoya's original strategy of securing the scene and quickly and painlessly taking down the men had eroded quickly into a cage-fight out of a buddy-cop movie.

The Inspector inside Montoya told him that this was a big problem – particularly the blood leaking all over the bricks of cocaine that were now messily strewn about. Silvia would have every right to be upset. Had this been done by one of Paco's men, Montoya would have dragged them into his office for a good verbal lashing.

"You couldn't wait for my signal."

"I did wait for your signal," came the flippant retort. "The creepy guy was gonna kill us. That was my signal."

"You should listen to protocol."

"I listened to my instincts."

"We could have been killed."

"Pfft. We're alive."

"It could have really gone wrong."

A sharp fingernail poked into his side. "Montoya, take the stick out of your ass for a minute and look at that." Pepa's fingernail flicked to the room – the mess of a crime scene, with bodies littered and men groaning, and nearly 40 bricks of cocaine – more than enough to convict Carlos. "We kicked their asses."

It wouldn't do to encourage her. She was, after all, only an agent – and even if she was a special-forces-trained elite agent- she should NOT have been questioning an Inspector or ignoring orders.

At the moment, he was so happy to be alive he could only find pleasure in the basics: they had won – the bad guys lost.

Exhausted, he lifted up a palm in her direction.

Pepa met it with a fierce smack of her own.


Pepa, of course, had been right about Silvia. She had been furious.

What Gonzalo had NOT expected, however, was the fact that Silvia did not take out her frustration on her live-in girlfriend. No, instead, his ex arrived on the scene, took one look at Pepa, and proceeded to fuss over her scratch to such an adoring extent that Pepa openly squirmed with embarrassment.

Curtis, who had arrived at the crime scene two minutes too late to do anything but accidentally rip open a brick of cocaine with his boot (Typical of one of Paco's men), had watched idly and commented, "It's almost not fair, isn't it? They're too beautiful to be gay."

Though Montoya would admit to thinking the same thing once or twice in the last few months, his resulting glare toward Curtis was enough for the curly headed agent to color quickly and move fast toward the yellow crime scene tape. Across the way, Silvia quite obviously won whatever argument she had been having with Pepa, because Pepa was now trudging disagreeably toward the ambulance truck.

He had been so involved in watching the brunette agent snap at the poor paramedic who was attempting to tend to the gash on her cheek, he nearly jumped when he discovered a short redhead blazing green eyes up at him.

"Silvia!" he said, and felt oddly uneasy. "Hola. Sorry about the mess."

Inspector Castro's eyes glittered. "Can I speak to you?" she asked, before she turned on her heel and walked toward the very corridor that he and Pepa had snuck into to surprise the drug lord.

Montoya knew Silvia well enough to know when a question was an order, and although technically, he was her superior (though it was a very small technicality), he also knew that when Silvia ordered, one should obey.

That still was not preparation enough for the wave of righteous fury directed his way when the redhead pounced on him the minute he turned the corner.

"What were you THINKING?!" she snapped, poking at him with a finger, digging hard enough into his ribs to make him wince. "Running into a warehouse with NO back up? No vests?!"

"Silvia-"

"I expect this from Pepa – she doesn't THINK, but you? You, Gonzalo!?"

The poking kept coming, forcing him to back-peddle so fast he crashed into the wall with a thump. "Silvia, listen to me."

"You are an INSPECTOR," she hissed.

"I know that."

"And yet you just follow Pepa when she says, 'Let's surprise him'?!" Silvia had a redhead's temper, and it was directed at him in full-force now, face as flushed as her roots as she glared up at him, so very FURIOUS about this- "Do you realize how much could have gone wrong? You could have been killed. PEPA could have been killed! Did you not hear my father tell you to WAIT FOR BACK UP?!"

"Of course I did-" he began, hands up as he eased away from the wall and her sharp, bruising little jabs. "But Pepa-"

"PEPA is not the Inspector!" she nearly shrieked. "You are! You're her superior! You tell her what to do! You keep her in line! You do NOT follow her into gun fights and then HIGH-FIVE about it afterwards!"

The fact that Silvia was telling him everything he already knew, and was only transparently furious because he had put her girlfriend in danger, caused an uncontrollable rush of anger.

"Oh, that works REALLY well for you!" he snapped, unable to help himself. "Inspectora Castro, being her superior didn't stop you from jumping into bed with her the first chance you got!"

It was exactly the worst thing to say. Silvia's red-face grew pale, her eyes grew round, and her plump mouth fell into a sudden 'oh'.

She had every right to slap him.

"Silvia," he began, voice laced with regret and worry, and when Silvia's hand came up, he shut his eyes and braced himself for the inevitable smack of palm against his cheek.

It didn't come. Holding his breath, Gonzalo inched an eye open and discovered instead Silvia Castro, hand pressed to her mouth, in the midst of struggling not to LAUGH.

Apparently, his dumbstruck expression did not help matters. Silvia eyes nearly teared up with inappropriate mirth, and then Gonzalo felt like a fool when she eeked out, "Oh, now you're just jealous that I got there first."

A horrible flush enveloped him, and Silvia only laughed harder. "Shut up," he muttered, cheeks burning, because was this really happening? Was his ex-girlfriend gloating because she had stolen another girl from him?!

"Oh, Gonzalo," Silvia wheezed, and then she was in his arms, squeezing him so tight, laughing heartily in his ear. "I'm sorry, I just… "

He tried very hard to remain furious. "It's not that funny."

"It kinda is," she mumbled against his shoulder, shoulders still shaking with laughter.

"That's Pepa talking."

"Well, yes," she said, pulling back and smiling up at him, watery eyes brilliant and beautiful as her palms pressed against his cheeks. "I live with her. She stains. Like permanent marker."

The analogy was odd and so very Silvia, and despite his wounded pride, Montoya found the edges of a smile working its way onto his lips. "Stop it."

"You would know."

"Shut up."

"Montoya, you went into this place guns blazing like Dirty Harry and Pepa said you High-FIVED after!'

"So?"

Silvia's smile still left him breathless. "So," she said, hands squeezing at his shoulders. "Maybe I have a girlfriend. And maybe you finally found yourself a partner."

The frank statement stunned him. Silvia pressed a kiss against his cheek and stepped out of his arms.

"Just promise me something," she said, tangling her fingers in his. "You'll take care of each other. All those buddy-cop movies Pepa watches, there's the crazy one and the one who follows the rules. That's what makes them work together so well. That's what keeps them alive." She let go of his hand and paused, regarding him honestly. "I'm counting on you to bring her home to me, Montoya."

He could say nothing to that. Instead, Gonzalo only watched as Silvia wiped at her tears and with a small smile, headed back to work her crime scene.


Gonzalo never knew why Pepa Miranda got away with things the way she did. Technically, she had been assigned to Paco's team. She followed Paco's orders, because he was her brother. When push came to shove, Pepa, like the rest of Paco's men, chose Paco every single time.

But Gonzalo didn't look at Pepa like he looked at even Curtis. When he glanced at her, he was asking for an opinion, for advice. Rarely did he give her an order - often when Pepa was at his side, he didn't need to give it. Pepa was a good cop. She knew what to do.

Except when she didn't.

The night after the hotel fiasco, months after his talk with Silvia in the corridor of the drug bust, Montoya entered the locker room and caught Pepa crying.

It was too quick to notice, almost. She glanced up with teary eyes, startled, and furiously turned away, wiping at her eyes with a glare that told him not to ask, not to pry, not to even think about mentioning what had happened between her and Silvia on this particular mission.

In all honesty, Montoya didn't want to talk about it. Listening in to Pepa's rant to her brother about Silvia and her need for a baby had just reminded him...

He wondered sometimes, what his baby would have looked like. If it would have had chubby fingers and toes - how beautiful Silvia would have looked at six months, at eight.

He never felt it kick - hadn't known it had even existed until Silvia was shot and he was told it hadn't survived. Silvia had not even planned on telling him - he had been happy with Ruth, before he had discovered her true colors, and Silvia ...

Silvia had simply given up on any hope of loving Montoya.

He dreamt about his baby - and a future of what-ifs. Silvia, apparently, had dreamt of a new baby, one she could feel growing inside of Pepa. A new baby with the love of her life, Pepa Miranda.

Montoya could have hated Pepa, if he wanted to, for not grabbing with both hands what was being handed to her.

But he couldn't. Pepa was crying in the locker room - ten at night, because she had broken Silvia's heart without meaning to, and if he left her here, she would do something stupid.

Because she was Pepa, and god knew WHAT Pepa would do with her open wounds bleeding and locked out of her own house by her broken lover.

"What are you staring at?" she asked, all attitude and warning in her growl, glaring at him with all that attitude and intensity that had captivated him the moment she showed up with her gun drawn in that warehouse, over a year ago.

Grimacing, he sighed, and reached for her leather jacket, tossing it to her. "Get up," he said brusquely. "Let's go."

They ended up not at Cachis, but at a bar a few blocks down - seedy and dark. Together, they sat at the bar, sharing tapas and too many shots.

Pepa drank too much, but he expected it. She needed to drown away the pain, even if she said this was what had gotten her into trouble in the first place.

"Wait... wait..." Gonzalo's words were slightly slurred, but he kept going valiantly. "So... you were drunk." Pepa's head bobbed in an exaggerated nod. "And horny." Again, a nod that nearly cracked her forehead on the bar. "And THAT'S when she popped the question?" She raised her bottle at him in confirmation. "FUCK," he said, and shook his head in drunken wonder at Silvia's gall. "That was... that was mean!"

"I don't even remember it!" Pepa blared, loud and over dramatic. "You know what I remember?"

He shook his head.

"FUCKING REALLY GOOD SEX and Silvia talking WAY too damn much," she mumbled. "She talks too damn much all the time."

Thumb tracing against the condensing liquid of his bottle, Montoya nodded to the bartender and raised two fingers. "She doesn't talk that much."

Pepa's brow rose expressively. She leaned forward, eyes narrowing as she emitted in a loud whisper, "She talks to me all the time!"

Pepa smelled like beer, cigarettes, and all night stake out. Montoya wrinkled his nose. "You couldn't have taken a shower in that locker room?"

"Go to hell, Pretty Boy." Pepa crossed her arms and buried her head into her makeshift pillow. "Silvia wants a baby."

Even buzzed, the mention was sobering. "I know."

"I'm gonna give her a baby." Drunk Pepa's words were too loud, but in this bar, no one seemed to care. Her head lifted from her arms and she stared at him with all the sincerity a drunk person in love could muster. "If Silvia wants a baby I'm gonna give her a baby, Gonzalo. I'm gonna give her TEN babies. She can name them all Iker - she can have a football team of little Ikers."

And now Montoya was beginning to see exactly how Pepa got in trouble in the first place. "I think Silvia deserves to know how you really feel."

"She KNOWS how I feel!" Pepa shot, nearly splattering him with spittle. "The whole fucking TEAM heard it! FUCKING PACO." Her trembling arm nearly knocked over the beer bottle, and suddenly the bartender was there, glaring at them both.

"I'm cutting her off," he snarled. "Take her home."

"Fuck you!" she spit. "I can't go home! My girlfriend HATES me!"

"Listen-"

"Hey." Montoya swallowed, flashed his badge, and it was enough to cause the cranky bartender to edge away slowly. "Relax."

"No." Pepa's eyes blazed furiously. "I'm giving her a baby, Gonzalo. She wants a baby, and I'm gonna give her one. Because I love Silvia. I LOVE HER." Gonzalo swallowed, but believed it with all his heart. "But not some anonymous donor. And not you," she added shortly. "Sorry," she said absently, as if in all of this THAT would be what would bother him.

"Don't be sorry," he said, and managed a weary smile. "I would have said no."

"Good." Pepa apparently decided the less said about that the better, because her eyes narrowed, and she began to stare at him. "You're so pretty, Gonzalo."

The statement made him gulp. "Pepa..." he began thickly.

"We need to find you a girlfriend. You need a girlfriend." She blinked, eyes suddenly roving around the bar. "How about that one? She looks easy."

"Okay," he said, fishing into his wallet for fifty euros. "Time to take you home."

"No, let's get you laid," she said, pushing away his hands, well meaning attempts to get her off the stool before she fell off. "One of us should be getting laid tonight." The blonde girl she had been pointing at before now stared at them both. "Hey!" Pepa said, loud and obnoxious. "He's cute right? You want to sleep with him?"

"... And we're going," he said, arms gripping Pepa around her waist and pulling.

"Seriously!" she yelled over her shoulder and into his ear, making him wince, "My girlfriend used to sleep with him, and apparently his dick is HUGE-"

"PEPA!" he snapped, when the bar erupted in laughter. "Let's go, Partner."

The chortles followed them all the way outside.


He had only lifted his hand to knock when the door to Silvia and Pepa's apartment flung open. Standing inside the doorway was a red-eyed, splotchy version of Silvia, who stared at him, and the dozing woman in his arms with what could have been surprise, relief, fury, or a combination of all three.

"Hi, Silvia," he began, voice suddenly thick with awkwardness.

Silvia crossed her arms, eyes roving from him to her lover in his arms, mouth open and eyes fluttering. "She's drunk," she spit, and the mood had definitely gone to infuriated. "Instead of coming home, she went out and got DRUNK."

"That was my fault," he said immediately, shifting the weight of the sinewy and lean figure of Pepa Miranda. "I caught her in the locker room after... what happened..." Silvia's eyes shifted away from him, audible breath sucking into her mouth. "And she was crying. I couldn't leave her."

"So you took her to a bar?" she asked, standing at the door, glare now reserved for him.

"Yes." Silvia looked so empty. So devastated. And yet her eyes kept drifting to the woman in her arms - she couldn't stop looking.

She needed Pepa like she needed air.

"Gonzalo-" she began, tired and infuriated.

"I took her to a bar," he interrupted shortly, "And now I'm bringing her home to you."

Silvia eyes darted up immediately, met his intensely.

Just like that, he knew she remembered - the promise she had asked of him. What it was he had done.

For Silvia. For Pepa.

Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, but her eyes closed and her shoulders slumped, and with an exasperated nod, she moved away from the door. "Put her on the couch."

He did, muscles straining as Pepa went from dozing to full on comatose. She flopped onto the couch like a mannequin, and when Gonzalo stepped back, Silvia took his place at her side, palm on her forehead, inspecting the damage.

Her knuckles lingered at a strong chin, traced over the unconscious form of Pepa, before Silvia remembered their circumstances and with a self conscious glance at him and a snort of incredulous fury, jolted up and crossed her arms.

"I should go." He smiled as best he could, and walked to the door.

"Gonzalo." Silvia stared at him. "Thank you for bringing her home."

"She loves you, Silvia." He couldn't help but say it, blurt out something he was sure she already knew. "She just needs time."

"Good night, Gonzalo." Silvia's voice was firm. Angry.

Montoya inhaled deeply.

He nodded again, and after he went home (alone - Gonzalo was reasonably sure no one got laid that night), it occurred to him as he lay in bed that he would devastated if Silvia and Pepa didn't survive this.

He wasn't sure why he was so surprised by that revelation, but it was oddly comforting in the most disconcerting way.


A fierce rumbling woke him.

When he fought his way through a dizzying fog of medication and the dull ache pounding at his left side, the first thing he was aware of was a loud rumble coming from a blurry form of a brunette.

Beeps beat rhythmically at his side, and as awareness came to Gonzalo Montoya, he felt the weight of reality anchor him to scratchy white sheets.

Blinking, swallowing with an impossibly dry mouth, Gonzalo head spiked with pain at the fluorescent lights, and he winced and closed his eyes.

He tried again, focused on the blurry form, and slowly, sensation began to trickle in. Bandages stretched tight at his side. An IV pricked his skin, dripping fluid inside of him, and HOLY HELL did his head hurt.

The blurry form was emitting a curious buzzing, and as the form grew clearer, Montoya suddenly recognized that the brunette was actually Pepa Miranda, slouched in an uncomfortable hospital chair, twisted like a pretzel, snoring like it was a contest.

Her SNORING had woken him up.

The very idea was so damn amusing that he actually chuckled, something he immediately regretted when his side flared up in pain, and the laughter morphed into a genuine cry of agony.

The figure bolted up, and suddenly Pepa was blinking herself awake, gun out and cocked on pure instinct.

"Relax, Pepa!" he wheezed, wincing and squirming, suddenly exhausted. "I already got shot."

"Gonzalo?"

"Si, Gonzalo," he rasped, and offered a drugged smile to his best friend. "The bastard who took a bullet for you."

"Fuck you," Pepa snarled, "That bullet had your name all over it." But the tears in her eyes were real, as she reached for his hand and squeezed. "Call it even?"

"Only fair," he answered, eyes shutting as he tried to gain his bearings. "I still owe you from the last time." Her fingers tangled with his, held tight. "How long was I out?"

"About a day," she rasped, and he could hear it now, the exhaustion in her voice, the way her grip was nearly bruising. It had been bad then. "Huge fuss for such a scratch, Pretty Boy. Who knew you were so dramatic."

"Don't tell me you stayed here the entire time. Silvia would have killed you."

"Silvia knew I couldn't be anywhere else," she told him, with a wide grin the likes of which could only come from Pepa Miranda. She rose to her feet, and looked down at him, long dark hair falling from her shoulders like a curtain. "Rest. I'm gonna get the doctor and tell him you're awake."

He closed his eyes and squeezed her hand again, letting go as she pulled away and left the room.

"Pepa, I brought some café-" The words faded away as Gonzalo's eyes opened, and there was Silvia Castro, wide eyes focused on him as she stared through the doorway.

"Hola, Pelliroja," he managed, and Silvia's grin was so wide it was infectious.

"Gonzalo," she whispered, and rushed forward, nearly tossing the coffee she had brought for Pepa, throwing her arms around him and gripping him so tight she made him wince. "Oh, sorry!" she said, and immediately began to fuss at him. "Did Pepa see you? Has the doctor been notified? You have a fever-"

"Stop, stop-" he tried to shake her mothering touches away, but managed only to make himself wince again. "Pepa's gone to get the doctor. Why are you here? Where's Iker?"

Iker, Montoya's two-year old god-son. Who Montoya suddenly desperately wanted to see.

"He's with Sara and Lucas," Silvia said. "We'll bring him later this afternoon." She gripped his hand, stared down at him, tears glistening in his eyes. "But rest first. He'll climb all over you, and you know only Pepa can keep up with him when he's that hyper."

Montoya, who nearly died in a bust gone bad, had taken a bullet for SubInspector Pepa Miranda - his best friend. Pepa who had arrived in San Antonio, and three months later, had moved into Silvia Castro's home, her heart, her life, with a smile that could have so easily made Gonzalo bitter as hell, because Silvia was really in love.

It was the kind of love Gonzalo had once dreamt of giving her. The kind that made her eyes shine and made her smile and laugh.

Maybe Montoya should have taken exception. But he didn't. It was honestly just how things were. There was nothing to do but accept the fact that Silvia loved Pepa, and Pepa loved Silvia, and all that Gonzalo would ever have was this - two best friends. A family.

It was the best thing he could ever hope for.

"I like Pepa," he rasped, and Silvia blinked, thrown by the statement. "I know, it's years too late," he struggled, exhausted and in pain, and somehow still content. "But I'm happy for you."

Silvia finally seemed to understand, as she settled gently on the bed and laid a palm against his heart. Her wedding ring glinted on her finger. "I want to see you happy too, Gonzalo."

"I'm happy," he said, and winced in pain. "Well, okay not right NOW, but generally. One of us has to be the perpetually single rascal," he added, "to balance out the married sane one. That is the buddy cop formula."

Silvia's watery smile trembled at the statement. "Thank you," she said, quiet and sincere.

"For what?"

"You always bring her home to me."

He shrugged, and made nothing of it. As long as Pepa was breathing, she would always go home to Silvia.

But even so, as long as he could, as often as he could, he would never stop making sure that Pepa got home to Silvia. Even if he had to take a bullet for her to do it.

It was just what partners did.

The End

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