DISCLAIMER: Los Hombres De Paco and its characters are the property of Antena 3. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Through Episode 79 - Season Finale
By Misty Flores
1. I may have failed but I have loved you from the start
She was so involved in her book that the clatter at her window scared the hell out of her.
Silvia Castro jumped, inhaling sharply and pressing a palm hard against her chest as the book went skidding off the bed in a flurry of pages.
At her bedroom window, a pale face pressed against the glass.
It was midnight black outside, but Pepa Miranda's striking features were always recognizable. She grinned at Silvia and once again rapped at the window, pointing impatiently with a slender polished black fingernail to the hook that locked the window in place.
"Come on!" she said, her whispered hiss muffled. "It's fucking cold out here!"
She should have been irritated. It was past midnight. She had only been home a day, and the reading list from her classes was massive. And normal people did not dangle outside bedroom windows, even if they were Pepa Miranda, who seemed to live to make Silvia's father go prematurely gray.
And yet she wasn't irritated. A small smile worked itself onto her face before she could stop it, and though she had gotten over the fright of discovering her sister-in-law's face pressed against the glass, she still felt herself a little breathless. Even if she hadn't seen that much of Pepa since she had gone away to school, she couldn't ever shake the giddy feeling that occurred every time the much taller, cooler girl would send a smile in her direction.
She smoothed her unruly red curls away from her face, feeling silly and self conscious in her sleep attire: a ragged t-shirt and threadbare shorts. Pepa's reckless grin grew wider and the other girl once again scratched at the window.
"What? Now that you're in college, you're too good for me?" Pepa asked, and nearly slipped off the ledge, a move that sent Silvia dashing for the window.
"Stop it! You're going to wake up my father!" she scolded before she could help herself, fumbling for the latch. "How did you even get up here?"
Balancing precariously between the window sill and the iron rod of the adjoining railing of her neighbor's balcony, Pepa's brow rose as she caught her eye. "Come on, Redhead," she said, and adopted a playful pout. "You want me to beg? Please?" With a shameless wink, she puckered her lips and pressed a smear of red lipstick against the glass: a perfect kiss.
The action caused another blush, and feeling ridiculous, Silvia fought her smile and finally got the latch open, shoving up the window and allowing a glossy head with dark hair streaked with purple to poke its way inside.
"How ya doin', Redhead?" asked a breathless Pepa, cheeks flushed with exertion.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, and Pepa's legs flailed, causing her to yelp before Silvia grabbed hold of bony leatherclad shoulders and hauled her in. "You're insane!"
"Shh, your dad!" Pepa snarled, and then only made it worse when she flopped over the ledge like a seal, landing on top of Silvia with a thump and a grunt.
"Oomph." Silvia gasped, winded as Pepa tumbled off of her and began to giggle. "Shhh!" she hissed, and then discovered to her horror that she was giggling too; chortled laughter that came out like a snort.
Pepa collapsed beside her, shoulders shaking as she pressed fingers to her mouth and offered a stern, loud, "Shhh!" that only made them laugh harder.
The laughter immediately stopped when a rap pounded harshly against the door, and the knob started to turn.
"Silvia? What's happening?"
"Shit," Pepa breathed, and panicking, Silvia grabbed hold of her comforter and yanked it off the bed, jerking it over her sister-in-law and clutching it to her chest.
Silvia's father, sleeping mask still perched on his forehead, entered the room, looking quizzically at the scene she presented, sprawled over the floor with her blanket spread around her.
"Hi, Dad!" she squeaked, and presented as innocent a smile as she could. Plastered against her, Pepa pinched her side. It was all she could do to fight the grimace.
"What are you doing?" he asked immediately. "I heard a racket."
"I fell off the bed," she said, and as subtly as she could, dug an elbow into the warm figure behind her, causing a snickering that would have been audible if Silvia had not erupted in an over-dramatic cough.
Her father, a police commissioner who was suspicious of everything, just narrowed his eyes. "But the lights are on."
"Because I was studying." Flustered, she smoothed an errant red curl behind her ears. "I fell asleep studying, and had a nightmare and fell off the bed. I'm sorry if I woke you." Another pinch, this time harder, and Silvia once again brought her elbow down hard. "My pillow," she said to her father, who caught the movement. "Just trying to even out the feathers."
"Daughter, it's after midnight!" he growled, and thankfully, looked too tired to go much further than that. "Turn off the light and get some sleep."
"I will," she said, nodding enthusiastically. "Good night, Dad."
He hesitated, but turned. Silvia held her breath until the door clicked shut.
A snort of laughter immediately arose the minute she lifted the blanket, and unable to help herself, Silvia smacked at the shoulder of the widely grinning clown. Sometimes it was really hard to believe they were the same age. "What is the matter with you?!" she snapped, determined to be irritated. "What if he had found you in here?"
"Oh what's he going to do?" Pepa asked, kicking aside the comforter with her chunky boots and leaning against her dresser, digging into her pockets. "Arrest me? The big bad Commissioner?"
"Or ground me," Silvia growled, rolling her eyes as she headed to the bedroom door and carefully eased it open, making sure the coast was clear before she locked it shut.
"Pfft. All you do is study," Pepa said, and found what she was looking for: a pack of cigarettes. "What's the difference? Besides, I'm already grounded. It's not so bad, you know."
"You're grounded?" Silvia settled on the bed, watching carefully as Pepa now fished into the pocket of her tight jeans.
"Mmm." With a grimace, Pepa arched her back and yanked out her hand, coming up with a lighter and smiling in appreciation, bringing up a knee that poked through a torn hole of the ripped denim, and propping her elbow against it. With the leather jacket, the tight black shirt underneath it, and the ripped jeans, she looked just like a female James Dean. Silvia didn't know why the thought made her shiver, but it did. Self consciously, she crossed her arms and legs.
"For sneaking out."
"You can't smoke that in here," she said immediately, and Pepa rolled her eyes, and moved for the open window. Silvia's spine stiffened and her breath caught, until she realized Pepa wasn't actually leaving. Instead, the girl just resettled herself against the open window, and leaned out, cigarette dangling from her lips as she held a flame to the other end.
To be so relieved was embarrassing. "So if you're grounded for sneaking out, how are you here?"
Pepa didn't answer immediately. Silvia had plenty of time to study a slender neck as the skinny girl took her time inhaling on her cigarette, eyes fluttering closed in appreciation for the nicotine, before she blew out a cloud of gray smoke into the crisp night air.
Silvia inhaled herself when she realized she was going dizzy from holding her breath.
Silvia was studying to be a doctor. She knew the dangers of smoking, and yet she couldn't bring herself to scold, not now. Not when she hadn't been this close to Pepa, her own bad influence and constant source of fascination, in months.
Her father hated her. He told her constantly to stay away from Pepa. That she was a bad seed, and Paco's parents didn't know how to manage her. She was out of control and was headed in every wrong direction. That she was the reason her sister's in-laws fought so much, and she was this close to getting kicked out of the house. Silvia knew all that. She had seen it. Even Lucas didn't know how to keep up with her, and told her that sometimes it was like Pepa had a screw loose in her head.
But she couldn't help it. She liked Pepa. And Pepa, with her silly smile and her winks and her crazy hair and clothes, liked HER. Silvia, shy and quiet and often told by her sister Lola that she would grow into her looks, hated her red hair and wore colors that clashed. And still Pepa, stunning Pepa, with her dark-rimmed eyes and crazy gorgeous smile, would call her beautiful. She looked at her like she thought she was beautiful.
And when Pepa did that, Silvia always believed she was beautiful. Always.
"I snuck out," Pepa said, distracting her from her thoughts as she flicked ash out of the window, head falling back to rest against the wall.
The logic was puzzling. "You got grounded for sneaking out so you snuck out?"
Pepa's smirk was wicked. She took another drag, and then offered the lit little stick to her.
Silvia immediately shook her head, feeling like a child as Pepa shrugged and went back to her smoking, staring out the window.
"I just couldn't take the arguing," she said, so quietly Silvia almost didn't hear her. "That's all they fucking do. All night. Had to get out of there, you know?"
"So you came here," Silvia said, hugging her knees to her chest, rocking a little bit on her unmade bed as Pepa cast another strangely vulnerable glance in her direction.
"You want me to go?"
"No," she said immediately, and was rewarded with another one of Pepa's smiles that twisted her insides and made her blush. "I just mean it's been a while. It's nice to see you." She felt stilted and awkward; impossibly dorky.
Another drag, another sigh, and Pepa, arm out the window, studied her with a sudden scrutiny that made her squirm.
"Look at you," Pepa breathed. "The little college girl." Pepa's gentle teasing brought another splash of color to her cheeks, and Silvia found her head ducking, smiling modestly. "How many hearts have you broken, huh?"
"No one," she said, and felt embarrassed about it.
"Come on," Pepa said, scoffing. "Isn't that what college is for? Redhead, there has to have been a couple."
"No," she said, and nervously picked at a curl. "Well, there have been a couple." If flirting awkwardly with Javier counted. "But there's so much studying-" Pepa issued a disgusted snort, as if the concept was just too foreign to warrant any validity. "But no one serious."
The cigarette was brought to Pepa's lips, and the girl inhaled, brown eyes narrowed and studying her closely. "What?" she said, head tilting as the smoke left her lips. "Still saving yourself for Lucas?"
At the mention of Paco's ward, Silvia felt a cold flush shiver down her spine. Smile frozen, she picked at her sheets.
"Because, I can guarantee you, gorgeous, he's not waiting for you."
"I'm not waiting for Lucas," she said, feeling naked and open. She felt delicate, like her insides had suddenly turned to shards of glass, and any movement would cause a painful rupture inside of her.
And still, she could feel Pepa's gaze burning into her, judging her. The mouth that smiled so easily now turned down almost cruelly, and a horrible thought came to her.
"Are you waiting for Lucas?" she asked, suddenly terrified and unsure why.
But Pepa only snorted, shaking her head in disbelief. "Are you kidding? He's practically my nephew." Her eyes glittered. "He's practically your nephew too."
"Oh, you mean like we're sisters?" she shot back, and was rewarded when the growing malicious smile on Pepa's face froze.
"You deserve better than him," Pepa snapped. "He's a slut, okay? He's not worth waiting for. And you're an idiot if you think he's gonna change."
The judgmental, knowing tone made her feel foolish, and faced between feeling foolish and angry, she quickly embraced anger. "It takes one to know one, doesn't it?"
Pepa blinked. "I'm not the fool sitting around waiting for a guy who's never looked at you twice."
"No, you're doing so much better, going off with any guy that breathes. Please, Pepa, you think Lucas is a slut?"
The minute she said it, she regretted it. A wave of shame rolled over her, but pride kept her face stony, as she watched Pepa absorb the insult, and then without a word stab the end of her shrinking cigarette against the window sill.
"Fine," she heard, before Pepa swiveled onto her knees and pushed the window sill, opening it up wider.
"Where are you going?" The question blurted out of her before she could stop it.
"What do you care?" Pepa was already halfway out of the window, hesitating only to figure out how to get back onto the neighbor's balcony without killing herself.
It gave her enough time to slide off the bed and reach for the fleeing girl's waist. "It's after midnight."
Palms flat against hips encased in tight denim, Silvia tugged. "So Sara's first communion is tomorrow, and if you end up dead or arrested everyone will kill you."
"Let me go."
"Just stay here," she snapped. "You can leave in the morning."
"Fuck you. Let me go."
"No." She jerked, managing a hard tug that had Pepa sprawling back, out of the window. Fingers curled around the loops of Pepa's jeans, and she tugged again. Suddenly Pepa's firm backside was pressed directly against her front.
She could hear Pepa's heavy breathing. Her hands braced against Pepa's low slung jeans, had slipped up to her waist, against a flat stomach, with muscles that twitched underneath her fingertips. Her breasts pressed against Pepa's jacket, and the scent of leather and nicotine mixed with the sweet scent of Pepa's purple tinted hair.
The sensation that jolted down between her legs was so startling, she bucked and jerked her hands away, nearly shoving Pepa out the window in the process.
Suddenly breathless, Silvia's heart began to beat horribly fast, and it only got worse when Pepa, now completely still, turned and stared, eyeing her with an unreadable expression.
Her heart panged. Literally.
It was so confusing, Silvia felt dumb. In the face of Pepa's gaze boring down on her, her brain just stopped working, even as she struggled hard for something, anything to say.
Her arms went to her chest. She stepped back. "Just stay," she managed, face burning, eyes now on the floor. "Okay? You can leave in the morning."
Pepa just kept looking at her.
Silvia felt like screaming.
Eyes still on the floor, she weaved wide around Pepa and shut the window firmly, throwing the lock. She grabbed the comforter and flung it over the bed. Then she methodically went to her dresser, pulled out an oversized shirt and marching up to the other girl, held it out.
After a long moment, an uncharacteristically silent Pepa took it. Their fingers brushed against the fabric. Silvia exhaled, insides trembling.
Turning on her heel, she marched to her bed, and carefully began to pull back sheets. She glanced up once to discover Pepa unbuckling her jeans, and she swallowed hard, eyes jerking guiltily back to the bed.
She strode to the door and shut off the light, and then without another look to the girl in her room, flung herself into the bed, and curled into the corner.
When the bed creaked, when she felt the brush of a warm, slender back smooth against hers, Silvia's heart jerked erratically.
They lay there in the dark, but with every bit of her body suddenly throbbing, a very confused Silvia could scarcely lay still, much less attempt sleep.
"I'm sorry," she blurted quietly, staring at the wall. Pepa shifted, ass brushing against hers, and causing her to bite her lip in agony.
After a moment, Pepa spoke. "You don't need Lucas." The heat of Pepa's back pressed against hers was scorching. "You're beautiful, Silvia."
Whenever Pepa told her she was beautiful, Silvia always believed her. Always.
Her eyes stung suddenly with tears. Fingers clasped hard at her pillow, and she swallowed hard.
"Good night, Pepa," she managed, voice as clear and calm as she could manage it.
A moment. Then, "Good night."
Though Pepa didn't move or speak again the whole night, Silvia didn't sleep at all.
The next day, high on a marijuana joint given to her by Pepa and exhilarated from dancing, Silvia kissed her sister-in-law on a crowded dance floor, in full view of an orchestra and two hundred guests.
She was eighteen years old. It was her first kiss.
She was forbidden from seeing Pepa ever again.
There was no need.
Two days later, Pepa ran away from home.
Lucas snuck into Silvia's room, using the window that still had the red imprint of Pepa's kiss, to tell her the news.
Silvia cried into his shoulder. With his leather jacket and scent of cigarette smoke and his clean hair smelling of shampoo, he smelled like Pepa.
Lucas was her second kiss.
2. A girl like you is impossible to find
Pepa Miranda had slept with nearly forty girls and over a dozen guys by her twenty-sixth birthday. Her friends chocked it up to Pepa's good looks, charm and lack of impulse control. Pepa let them believe it. A few of them had even made the mistake of falling into bed with her, but that was their own fault. She had developed a reputation in Sevilla's lesbian crowd, and girls should have known by now that Agent Pepa Miranda was a rascal who retained an illusive heart.
Oh, she had tried to give it. She was, after all, a self professed romantic fool, and she fell into relationships with a desperation that, upon first glance, seemed like reckless abandon. But they never lasted, no matter her good intentions were initially. No matter the woman (and they were always women), no matter how amazing or gorgeous or in love with her they tended to be, they never lasted. They always asked too much from her. They wanted to marry her, wanted her to do something that would guarantee them that Pepa Miranda would be theirs forever, like she was tied to them with an iron chain.
"Why is it so hard for you to just commit to me?" asked a particularly beautiful Subinspector, on the tail end of an ultimatum in an argument that preceded a break up.
Pepa didn't tell her the reason. She didn't tell anyone, because honestly, she didn't want to admit why it was so impossible for her to say forever, even to herself. She knew how stupid it was. For all of her friends' beliefs that Pepa lived in the moment, the truth was that Pepa was eternally haunted by the past.
It damaged her. Stunted her, emotionally, which was to be expected. Being disowned by a father and being blamed for her parents' divorce by a brother she adored and then running away tended to have scarring effects on one's emotional maturity. At least that was understandable.
What wasn't was the completely idiotic idea that she could be ruined so completely by one kiss. One sloppy, passionate kiss laid on her by a nerdy, skinny little redhead who snorted when she laughed and blushed at the drop of a hat. At eighteen years old, after numerous hook ups with random boys who she thought she had to like just because her friends did, little Silvia stepped into her arms on a crowded dance floor and pressed her lips against hers.
Pepa Miranda had given her heart away in that moment, and had yet to get it back.
She had managed bits and pieces of information over the years, mostly through Lola, Paco's sweet, sweet wife. She would quietly send her an occasional email, a letter; gentle reminders that the years were passing, but she had not been forgotten. It was through Lola that she learned of the death of her father. That Paco had been made Chief Inspector and then had been demoted. That Silvia had married Lucas and then divorced him.
Eight years after she left home, she gathered her courage and called her big brother. Six months later, he left her a voicemail full of gentle regret and hope. It made her sob quietly in her car, ducking her head to detract attention.
She had been broken up with her Subinspector two awkward days when her Commissioner called her into her office and told her to track down Julio Olmedo, a criminal she had almost nabbed once before. He was involved in a crime syndicate. It involved long hours on stake outs, and offered no reward but danger. Bored and dealing with a heartbroken Subinspector who wanted to kill her, Pepa saw no reason to refuse.
That was how she ended up in Madrid. That was how she wound up in an empty warehouse pointing a gun at a man who would turn out to be her brother. That was how she ended up wandering the corridors of the San Antonio precinct, directed to the shooting gallery in an effort to blow off some steam.
When she saw a flash of red hair, the familiar profile, her breath caught and her stomach contracted, as if she had been dealt a sucker punch that could bring her down to her knees.
Up until that moment, Pepa hadn't been aware of it. But she had been looking for Silvia for eight years.
On the roof of the San Antonio precinct, the wind had picked up, ruffling through her dark hair and wisping across her cheeks. Pepa dangled one leg over the edge of the roof, booted foot circling lightly above the cars and traffic below.
She was not smiling, but she rarely did when she was alone. Huddling deeper into her leather jacket, adjusting the gun in her side holster, she lifted the cigarette to her lips and inhaled deeply.
"Don't tell me you're still doing that."
Apparently, she wasn't alone anymore. Turning her head, Pepa regarded the red headed Forensics Inspector who followed her up. There was a hint of a smirk playing on full lips, as Silvia crossed her arms and arched a brow, trying to look as stern as she could as she glared at the cigarette in Pepa's fingertips.
With a challenging snort, Pepa exhaled loudly through her nose, allowing the cigarette smoke to puff into the air and disintegrate. "Just once in a while," she said, and even that was exaggerating. Her time as a cop had killed the urge to smoke, oddly enough.
Maybe some part of her was growing up after all.
Still, on nights like this, with the smog covering the stars and the world wicked down below, it seemed to level her in a way alcohol never did.
She could feel the gaze of the beautiful red head burning into the side of her face. Pepa, curiously numb, didn't bother to glance back. She knew what would happen when she did. Lovesick, Pepa's stomach would tighten, and her insides would tremble. She would shiver, but not from cold. Already, the hairs on the back of her neck were beginning to rise with awareness, because that's simply what happened with Silvia Castro looked at her.
"Are you okay?"
Bitterness overtook her. "What, do you care?"
The silence that followed her snap was almost comforting.
Pepa was surprised to see her here at all. Silvia had been making it a point to ignore her, always being civil, but looking the other way anytime Pepa entered the room, ever since she had fled the gay bar two days ago.
Paranoia had Pepa thinking it was perhaps some sort of delayed homophobia, that perhaps now that Silvia had been confronted with the full extent of Pepa's sexuality, she had decided it was too much. But Silvia had appeared offended at even the suggestion, and Pepa had pressed no more.
Fear suggested that perhaps Silvia had decided she had had enough with Pepa and her obvious interest, and was distancing herself to make her point.
Point taken. At the moment, Pepa had other things to think about anyway. Like her brother and the fool he made of himself at the briefing earlier that day. Like the fact that other than Silvia, she had no other friends at this precinct other than Gonzalo Montoya, who blushed like a ten-year-old boy every time she even looked at him, and that was just pathetic. Like the only reason she decided to stay in San Antonio was because this woman had asked her to, because Pepa had gotten it into her dumb head and her foolish heart that maybe Silvia somehow wanted what Pepa had ached for for eight fucking years.
Bitterness was dangerously close to overwhelming her, so Pepa lifting up her other knee and slung her legs over the other side, let them both dangle down over the edge of the building.
Behind her, Silvia inhaled sharply.
"I care if you accidentally pitch yourself over this building." Ah, there it was. The nervous-worrying that Silvia had never grown out of. "Seriously, Pepa, at least lean back or something."
The slow grin worked its way onto her lips before she could fight it. Head flicking back, she discovered Silvia closer than before, looking shy and worried and adorable as she tried to manage the wild bangs that whipped about her face in the chilly air.
"Don't worry, Princess," she drawled in response, huddling into her coat, letting her booted heels clap against the brick. "It's not that far down." Proving her point, she leaned over, keeping herself on the ledge with a hand caught against the concrete and the heels of her boots braced against the wall.
"No, look-" Torso bending forward, she reached out with the lit cigarette, preparing to flick the ash. "You see-"
When the warm body plowed into her back, it took her with so much surprise she lost her grip on the cement. Flailing, she pitched forward, nearly slipping off the edge when a crushing grip wrapped around her waist and jerked her body back.
The cigarette slipped from her fingertips and floated down to the busy street below.
Panting with surprise, Pepa sucked in a dizzying breath, eyes wide with irritation.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?!" she snapped, palms reaching up to clamp at the hands that held her with bruising intensity. "Let me go."
But Silvia's hold only tightened. "Let you go?! You nearly killed yourself!"
"I didn't kill myself!" she growled, fingers digging into Silvia's, tangled at her waist. "You almost pushed me over!"
Her adrenaline had surged. Her heart was racing. Too overwhelmed, off balance, Pepa simply closed her eyes and gave up, head falling back against the shoulder that supported her as she recovered from her near death experience.
As her breathing slowed, she became aware of the body she was pressed so intimately against. Arms secured around her in a phantom lover's embrace, and fingers tangled with her own, pressed against her tightened abdomen, scorching the line of skin revealed between her belt and the shirt that rode up in the struggle.
Irritation fled immediately in favor of nearly unbearable arousal. Afraid to move, afraid to breathe, Pepa's eyes drifted open, hauntingly aware of the cheek that slid against hers as Silvia breathed heavily. The puffs of air drifted along her sensitized neck, and Pepa's teeth clamped down on her bottom lip in reaction.
Pressed so intimately behind her, Silvia did not move.
When her fingers, tangled with Silvia's, tentatively smoothed along a sensitive palm, she heard a sharp inhalation, felt the body jerk against her.
Her insides dropped, but she kept her face passive as Silvia delicately untangled herself. When the arms slipped away, Pepa was suddenly frigid.
Silvia's face was on the ground as she stepped back, like Pepa had burned her. Her cheeks were flushed with red, her breaths audible and fast.
And it was there. Every sign, every look, every encouragement that this was what Silvia wanted. That there was more to this than just friendship. That Silvia wanted more.
Heart in her throat, Pepa couldn't speak. Feeling flushed, dizzy, she straddled the roof and weaved over to the other side, let her old friend have her moment to recover.
She shakily zipped up her jacket and inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with cold Madrid air.
"Don't do that again," she heard in a breathless tone, and her eyes lifted to see Silvia staring at her, arms crossed over her torso, mouth pursed together sternly. In the luminous eyes, fear and insecurity danced back at her, and it was there, Pepa was sure it was there: arousal.
It was a look she had seen eight years ago, the night she snuck into Silvia's bedroom window. The night Silvia wouldn't let her go.
The recollection brought with it a shaky exhalation, before Pepa straightened and stilled.
Without a word she pivoted and stepped up onto the ledge.
"What are you doing?!"
Turning toward her, Pepa held out an open palm.
Like a nervous cat, Silvia eyed the appendage. "What?"
"Come here," she said gruffly. Silvia didn't move. "Come on, Silvia," she said again, a hint of laughter catching her tone. Her mouth pulled into a reassuring smile. "Trust me."
There was a long, terrifying moment, and yet when Silvia's palm fitted into hers, Pepa felt herself only grow quieter still. The buzzing inside of her ears ceased, the cloudiness in her brain dissipated, and Pepa felt level.
As if she were handling something gentle and precious (and she was), she pulled the other woman toward her and with a small smile of encouragement, coaxed Silvia up onto the ledge with her.
Below them, cars weaved through traffic. Lights blinked on and off, like fallen stars. Around them, the wind snuck into every crevice.
The woman beside her was stiff, and grew stiffer still when Pepa carefully stepped in behind her. Red hair whipped around Pepa's face, and she smiled at the sensation as she gently pressed her palms against the slim hips, bringing her carefully back into her.
"You said you wanted me to show you these things, remember?" she breathed into Silvia's ear, the minute Silvia's stiffening seemed to drift toward panic. The words did their work. A tense, breathless moment, and then Silvia's body seemed to relax. Pepa could see a smile begin to work itself onto Silvia's features, and her own broadened in response. Always gentle, she smoothed her palm around Silvia's waist, until her hand was flat against a warm stomach. "Lean forward. Not too much," Pepa instructed, and when Silvia shot her a startled glance, she shook her head vehemently. "Schht," she admonished, and nodded again reassuringly. "I got you."
After a moment, Silvia seemed to believe her. Tentatively, carefully, Silvia leaned forward, until a roof no longer existed and Silvia was floating on top of the world, literally.
"Holy shit," she breathed, enthralled. Pepa laughed.
The unconscious shake caused Silvia to nervously fumble for Pepa's hands. Their fingers tangled immediately as Pepa's grip tightened.
"Don't let go," Silvia warned her and Pepa felt a pang inside of her as her heart constricted.
"Not for anything," she promised.
She hadn't let go for eight years. She wasn't sure she even knew how.
3. This is not what I intended
Silvia had come to terms with her attraction to Pepa under the misguided notion that somehow, acknowledging it would give her some sort of measure of control over her body's reactions. Crippled by fear, she needed to find some way to let it go.
That had not been the case.
No, coming to terms with her feelings for Pepa had only inflamed them.
Where before she had only allowed herself shivers and confused jolts of energy that sunk deep within her heart and further between her legs, now there were spasms. A furiously beating heart, and the relentless ache to feel Pepa's mouth against hers every time her old friend even glanced in her direction.
When those dark eyes settled on her, the reaction was primal. She would feel overheated, breathless, dizzy and ridiculously giddy, with wobbly feet like she had just exited a carnival ride. When Pepa touched her she branded her; set nerves on fire and prickled goosebumps on Silvia's skin.
She wanted to touch her. She wanted to run fingers through Pepa's hair, feel the silken strands tickle her fingertips. She wanted to press herself against Pepa and arch against her. She wanted to taste Pepa's smile, inhale her scent.
She wanted Pepa more than she ever wanted anything in the world, and it was frightening when she understood that, because then there was no letting go. There was only yearning. There was only lust. There was only crippling infatuation that built on every look. Every touch. Every moment Pepa's mouth quirked and she smiled, driving Silvia into lovesick insanity.
It wasn't new. She knew that now. At eighteen years old she had battled the same affliction masked as giddy hero worship, and it had taken only a marijuana cigarette and the feel of Pepa wrapping her arms around her before she had given in to her impulses. Tasted Pepa for the first time.
The consequences of that forbidden moment had scarred her. Lesson learned, Silvia's body was paralyzed, warring with her own need for self preservation.
Her lust roared, her heart trembled, and Silvia feared.
It was that fear that kept her from going to meet Pepa for dinner. It was that fear that kept her from telling Pepa the truth in the elevator that morning. .
It was that fear that kept her glued to her desk, staring at a brunette woman striding confidently through the bullpen with a man with curly black hair, and fighting with herself not to jolt out of her desk and follow Pepa to the ends of the earth.
Fingers snapped in front of her face, making her blink and nearly go cross-eyed. Silvia straightened, eyes torn from the form of Agent Pepa Miranda ambling through the San Antonio precinct to that of Inspector Gonzalo Montoya standing right over her desk.
Shaking off the sudden irrational flash of anger, Silvia felt dizzy as she tried to focus, bringing her palm down from her chin and straightening away from her desk.
"I'm sorry, Gonzalo, what were you saying?"
Slightly confused, he offered a grin on his puckered lips, before he held up a clear plastic bag containing a wallet.
"Fingerprints," he said, as if he had said it a hundred times. "I needed you to run that test."
Unable to help herself, Silvia once again found her attention drifting, sliding to a nearby desk where a lanky agent slunk into a chair and unclasped a gun from her holster, laughing with Curtis as the other agent leaned against her desk.
As if alerted by some sixth sense, Pepa paused. Look growing suspicious, she shifted her attention to Silvia's desk.
Immediately, Silvia sucked in her breath and jerked her gaze back to her own desk. Fumbling, she pasted on a smile and snatched the bag out of poor Gonzalo's outstretched hands.
"Right," she said, face flushing when her peripheral vision caught brown eyes beaming in her direction. "I'll run the test and get it back to you tomorrow."
Ever observant, Gonzalo furrowed his brow, and then swiveled in the direction of Pepa's desk.
Pepa was now openly staring, a curious smile playing across her full lips. Forehead creasing, she offered the two of them an exaggerated wave with her gun.
A flush of mortification enveloped her, and Silvia busied herself immediately with Gonzalo's bag and pushing a wild red curl out of her face. Gonzalo, however, took his time, an absurdly idiotic grin floating across his features as he waved back, twiddling his fingers.
When Pepa met his eyes and laughed, Silvia felt an ugly, horrible feeling overwhelm her. Red-faced, she pushed away from her desk before she stapled Gonzalo's dick to it. "I'm going to get the test done, Gonzalo."
The smile slid off his face when she shoved past him and headed for the corridor.
She didn't wait.
He caught up with her in the corridor. A masculine hand grabbed hold of her elbow, slowing down her pace. Immediately, she jerked her arm out of his grasp. "What?!"
Once again, Montoya offered her a befuddled expression before holding up the plastic bag with the wallet in it. "You forgot this."
Oh. Biting down her lip in embarrassment, Silvia felt herself deflate. "Right," she mumbled, malice gone from her tone. With an apologetic expression, she took the bag.
He smiled kindly, slipping large hands into his pockets and regarding her. "Are you okay?"
No. "I'm fine," she said, managing a tight smile. "Just have a headache, that's all."
He remained suspicious. "Are you sure that's all?" he asked, a smile stretching across his face that on any other day, would be charming. Today, it made Silvia want to slap him.
"Yes," she said stiffly. "That's all, Montoya."
She tried to leave, but a gentle palm laid on her shoulder, trapping her into place.
"It's Pepa, isn't it?"
The blood drained fast from her face. Her mouth lost all moisture, and not even swallowing could help as she dizzily gasped.
"What?" she squeaked.
He grimaced knowingly. "It's my fault. I should have been more considerate. Silvia, I know she's your sister-in-law."
"Yes," she breathed. "She is."
"And with you and me and... our history..." Gonzalo pursed his lips. "I should have asked. I'll ask now. Silvia, would it be okay with you if I went after Pepa?"
The headache she lied about having now surged forward and pounded between her temples. Gonzalo smiled hopefully at her.
"I... Gonzalo..." Reeling, she sucked in her breath and tried to calm herself. She opened her mouth, ready to say something diplomatic. Vague. Because Montoya had obviously not picked up on the signals that Pepa preferred...
She sucked in her breath, and discovered a sudden burst of lingering jealousy and insecure doubt. Just because Pepa preferred women didn't mean...
She had never seemed to mind Gonzalo hitting on her before...
Screwing her eyes shut, Silvia licks her lips and drew in a labored breath. "Gonzalo... No." Her eyes blinked open.
Gonzalo's easy smile froze.
The stricken expression didn't do much to dissolve the irrational jealousy, but it did enough. Biting her lower lip, Silvia sighed and grabbed his wrist. "Come on." She led him quickly into her laboratory, dragging him inside and shutting the door. "Okay," she managed, and put her palm against her temple. "Gonzalo... about Pepa..."
"It's weird for you..." he said, and looked so devastated, Silvia warred between patting him on the head sympathetically or clocking him with her pistol.
"Actually," she licked her lips. "I think it might be weird for her."
That was true enough.
He blinked, and shuffled his feet. "Oh."
"I mean..." Silvia struggled for a rational explanation. "You know Pepa and I are close and... we are sister-in-laws..."
"Oh," he said, and Silvia blinked, surprised it was that easy. "No... you're right. I mean... with you and me... for her..." He swallowed hard, Adam's apple bobbing. He hesitated. "She doesn't like me, does she? You can be honest, Silvia."
No, she couldn't. The words stuck deep in her throat, and blocking them was the animalistic urge to claim Pepa as her own.
Her fingers tensed, and she gritted her teeth in a phantom smile. "She thinks you're a great guy," she said, as honestly as she could. "I just... I just think..." she sucked in a breath. "I think you should maybe let this one go."
The suggestion processed on his handsome face, and then there it was, a shake of his head, a captivated smile.
"No," he said, and squared his shoulders. "No, I'm not going to let her go."
"If you were in my place, would you?" Impulsively, he kissed her cheek. Dazed, Silvia stood still, helpless as he strode toward the door and tossed a wink in her direction. "Thank you, Gorgeous."
Frustration and helplessness sunk deep into the pit of her stomach, and weakened, Silvia slumped back against the steel counter, gripping the edges for support.
Her eyes drifted closed, and suddenly she was in an elevator, caught breathless by beautiful brown eyes and a kind, captivating smile.
She feared everything. Feared being labeled a lesbian. Feared her father's reaction. Feared Pepa's own intentions. Feared the way her heart would race and her palms would sweat in Pepa's presence. Feared the way her emotions would take hold of her, force her into kneejerk reactions motivated by jealousy or lust or the need to be touched.
But most of all, she feared the fact that she had never, ever felt this way before. Because she thought she had been in love before, but she hadn't been. Not like this.
And if she let go of her fear, if she allowed herself to drown
Silvia knew that this time, she would never recover.
4. I know you don't think that I am trying
At a street festival in San Antonio, Pepa Miranda emptied out her pockets on a shooting game in order to try and win Silvia a stupid, cheap dog she could have bought in a toy store for next to nothing.
Pepa was a perfect shot, and even though these games were rigged, she would have won the damned dog for Silvia. She was sure she would have.
But acutely aware of Silvia's magnetic gaze on her, her fingers trembled, her aim soured, and every shot veered off its mark.
The failure had been particularly upsetting, because Pepa wanted desperately to give Silvia everything.
If Silvia would only take it.
At the moment, Silvia would have only taken the dog.
"Let it go," her niece, the only reason they were here in the first place, laughed. Sara grabbed hold of her hand, tugging her away from the stall before she jumped the counter and collared the attendant. "You can't win at everything."
"They're fucking cheaters!" she hollered, voice going hoarse from the significant amount of shouting she had done over the course of the evening. "Let me try it again-"
"No!" Sara's hands landed on her shoulders, and her baby niece tugged again. "You're crazy! Stop putting so much effort into it! It's a waste-" There was laughter in her tone, but the phrasing was sobering.
Pepa's body tensed, her head jerked. "What?"
"I said you're wasting your money!" Sara arched a challenging brow, and then shook her head. "Tell her, Silvia."
Silvia, red hair gleaming underneath the colored lights, creating something like a fiery halo around her head, simply stared, mouth twitching.
"What would you want with a stupid little dog, anyway?" Sara asked her other aunt.
That got a reaction. A blush, an embarrassed grin. "She said she could win it for me. I wanted to see if that was true." Silvia slid her gaze back to Pepa.
A shiver coiled up her spine, and now it was her turn to feel embarrassed. "They're cheaters!" she accused, dangerously close to wailing. "I've got half a mind to arrest those fuckers-"
She was halted by two pairs of hands clamping sharply at her elbows.
"No, no, no-" Silvia ordered quickly, eyes rolling up in exasperation. "Leave it." Pepa's breath caught when fingers smoothed against her vest and quickly drifted away again. "Don't go 'Dirty Harry' on them over a dog."
"Yeah, let it go!" Sara said again, and giggled at her stubborn glare, until the easily distracted charge caught sight of something else. "Look!" she squealed. "Dancing! Come on!"
Like a five-year-old, her younger niece grabbed hold of her palm and tugged, dragging her reluctant form away from the booth and weaving through the crowd toward the lit floor.
Teeming bodies writhed away on the small designated space. Sara offered a delighted whoop and pushed her way inside, shouting for them to catch up. It took Pepa an elbow or two to work her way inside. The crowd was so packed in together there was barely room to stand, much less dance, but Sara obviously did not mind it one bit. Young, beautiful and carefree, her head lifted blissfully toward the sky and she danced with her eyes closed, lost in the music.
A surge of affection slid through Pepa at the sight, and with it came a pang of regret. She would have loved to see Sarita grow up. From the precocious mischievous child to the fun-loving adult she had become, Pepa could see Paco's tenacity and Lola's goodness shining from those eyes.
When her eyes began to mist, Pepa cleared her throat, hopping up and down to at least mimic a dance as her head automatically swiveled, finding Silvia already watching her.
Her sister-in-law, a forensics inspector, missed nothing. Silvia's gentle smile widened, and Pepa sighed raggedly, feeling oddly fragile as she glanced away, rubbed quickly at her misting eyes.
Silvia said something, but the pounding bass and the shouts of the people around her turned the sentence into garbled noise. Frowning, Pepa shook her head uncomprehendingly, pointing to her ear and shrugging.
Eyes rolling, Silvia stepped forward, ready to speak again when a body slammed into Pepa from behind, sending her sprawling forward, directly into the path of the oncoming red head.
The near collision was averted when Silvia's arms came up to her elbows, holding her steady.
"Holy fuck!" she breathed. "You okay?"
Now only inches away, Silvia's face gleamed nearly iridescent in the moonlight. The crowd pressed closer, and Silvia suddenly yelped, jerking further into her arms. Unable to help herself, Pepa's fingers flexed easily against soft skin.
Silvia laughed, the only thing she could do under the circumstances.
"It's insane!" Silvia shouted. "I shouldn't have come in heels!"
Silvia wobbled, illustrating her point. Pepa managed an easy smile and with deliberate casualness, smoothed open palms around Silvia's waist, anchoring her against her. "You better hold onto me, then."
Dark eyes rose to connect with hers.
The music pulsed around them. A smile creased through Silvia's mouth.
She didn't let go.
5. Tonight will be the night that I will fall for you
Instinct had overtaken fear, and the result was this:
Eyes closed, Silvia's moan was breathless and tortured. Every working sense had short-circuited into malfunctioned bliss, and there was simply no other remedy but to clutch at Pepa's naked shoulders, and hold on.
Lips and teeth dragged tantalizingly against the column of her throat. Elegant palms and long fingers moved relentlessly all over her body, branding every single inch of skin they touched and leaving shivering goosebumps in their wake.
"You're beautiful," Pepa whispered against her and Silvia's fingers clenched in response.
When Pepa told her she was beautiful, she believed her. Always.
Panting desperately, she grabbed hold of Pepa's nape, tangling fingers into dark locks and manipulating Pepa's mouth up her jaw and into her lips.
No longer eighteen, drunk on love and not drugs, Silvia's kisses were deep and wet. She lost all restraint, groaning low into her mouth when Pepa's fingers tangled fabric at the small of her back, bringing her closer than before, pressing her long firm body against her and manipulating Silvia like a puppet, until her back hit the wall and there was nothing but the firmness of Pepa writhing against her.
She wanted it. She was helpless against it. There were things Silvia would not think about, because the fear had not vanished, it had only ebbed in favor of this lust, this emotion, but when Pepa's tongue tangled with hers, when Pepa kissed her like she wanted nothing else in the world, she drove everything away but the need for Silvia to kiss her back just as deeply.
A slim thigh slid between hers. Pinned between the wall and Pepa's unyielding body, Silvia's core throbbed when Pepa pressed against her, hips jerking helplessly. The whimper erupted from her throat before she could stop it.
She immediately regretted it when Pepa froze, tearing her lips away to stare, expression unreadable as her eyes searched her face wildly.
Silvia's heart pounded, her chest heaved, and on fire, she shook her head frantically, clawing at Pepa's shoulders and drawing her in again, pressing her mouth to hers in supplication. Pepa growled low in response, strong hands working at her hips to bunch Silvia's dress up and lifting her frantically, until Silvia's bare legs were wrapped around her waist.
She surged forward, and Silvia's helpless cry was muffled only by Pepa's tongue sliding between her lips. Pepa rocked against her, pressing into her through underwear and jeans and the merciless buckle of a belt.
She was drowning. She was dying. She was being tortured. She could explode from pure sensation and that was okay. That was all right.
This was exactly where she needed to be. Every thrust drove her deeper. Kisses were abandoned for hard panting, noisy breaths pushed in and out of open mouths, foreheads tilting together and eyes locking.
Silvia's palm clasped at Pepa's neck. Nails scratched at Pepa's scalp when the rocking grew fevered, clumsy, and Silvia clutched Pepa to her, and then it happened.
Her head snapped back against the wall, the cry wrenched from her throat was muffled by a slim hand clapped over her lips, and Silvia came apart against the wall in the bathroom of her sister's house.
With Pepa. She was with Pepa. Who lifted her palm off her mouth and replaced it with her lips, offered her a desperately tender kiss that broke her, and then wrapped her arms around her and buried her face into her sweaty neck.
For a moment, there was only breathing. Trembling.
When Pepa began to move, ready to let go, Silvia's legs tightened against her waist. "No don't," she pleaded.
Not yet. Not now. Not ever.
6. Best thing about tonight is we're not fighting
Alone in her bed, Pepa's eyes were wide open, and her thoughts whirled actively. With a sigh, she turned in her bed and directed her gaze toward the window, eyeing the beams of artificial light that streamed into her apartment from the street lights. Palm curled under her head, she felt cool and calm, and it disturbed her.
She remembered Lucas from eight years ago. Remembered a handsome young man with a generous smile. Remembered always trying to tackle him. Wrestle him. Getting her arms pinned behind her and hearing his laughing voice in her ear telling her to give up. She was never going to beat him.
He would sneak her cigarettes. Give her a patronizing look and push them into her hands, telling her to get it out of her system before she turned Paco and her parents' head prematurely gray with stress.
Her father worried. Paco worried. Everyone worried about her and Lucas, but it had never been that way for them. Not even when she got older, went from awkward and gangly to slender and striking without even realizing it. She never looked at Lucas like Silvia and Sara did, and maybe that should have been her first clue.
She used to hate how Silvia used to look at Lucas.
When the shit hit the fan, when she stormed out of the house to shouting of her father warning her not to come back, it was Lucas who found her. Pressed a wad of twenties into her palm and told her she was making a mistake.
She wouldn't listen to him, of course. Pepa didn't listen to anyone in those days, and she had been drowning in hurt, unable to process anything but her own pain. She remembered coming out of her fog long enough to ask him to tell Silvia goodbye for her.
Eight years later, immersed in Paco's life and Paco's family, Pepa had never quite allowed herself an intimate friendship with the man Lucas had become. Not because she hated him. Not because she didn't like him. Just because it just never happened.
Lucas was broody and quiet. Lucas was on a dangerous assignment that kept him away from everyone. The closest they came to any sort of real bonding was the night of the first family dinner, hours after Don Lorenzo stormed out and Silvia had gone home. They sat quietly on the balcony and he pushed a cigarette into her hand.
Silently, they sat and smoked, until she shifted her eyes to stare at him.
"You married Silvia."
A pregnant pause, and then a shrug as Lucas brought the cigarette to his mouth. "Yeah, I did."
She battled resentment and jealousy, and tried to mask it with a long drag, an exhalation of smoke.
"She cried when you left." With that, he got up, pressed his palm meaningfully against her shoulder, and walked inside.
That was the Lucas she knew. And Lucas was dead.
Dimly, she could hear noise in the living room. The rattling of a doorknob, a creak and then heavy footsteps.
Though her breath caught, Pepa didn't move. She kept her eyes on the window, her back away from the bedroom door.
She didn't expect Silvia tonight. The news of Lucas' death had been given to them via cell phone when Silvia's service was restored on their way back from Pepa's romantic surprise anniversary celebration gone awry. Saldago had been the one to call. Silvia, who up until that moment had her fingers clasped hard in Pepa's as they drove, barely had enough energy to untangle her fingers from Pepa's and place them carefully in her lap before she quietly told her in a devastated tone what happened to her ex-husband.
Since then, Silvia had been buried in a lab. Her phone calls were sent to voicemail. Povedilla, the kind dork who managed to see Silvia when he tried to pick up Lucas' ashes, quietly told her Silvia was barely managing to hold it together.
Pepa wouldn't have known.
Heart in her throat, she kept still when she heard the door open. Though her eyes remained fixated on the window, she no longer saw it. Instead, she focused on the sounds behind her. Shoes kicked off made dull thumps. Fabric falling from skin caused a quiet whisper.
The sheets lifted and she felt a flush of cool air, before the weight of the bed shifted, and suddenly there was the sensation of soft naked breasts pressing against her back. A pale arm slid between her neck and the pillow, another weaved over her hips and then Pepa was cocooned from behind, fingers blindly searching for hers.
Her eyes shut tight, and two single tears flowed down her cheeks before she could stop them. She latched onto Silvia's hands and brought them close. Kissed closed fingers and didn't let go as Silvia buried in behind her, nose in her nape, inhaling deeply.
When Silvia nudged aside Pepa's hair and pressed her open mouth just under her ear, she caused an unexpected shudder. Silvia's hold only tightened, and again, she pressed another hungry kiss against her neck, sucking gently at the sensitive skin, hardening nipples dragging along her back.
A charged moment, and then she felt Silvia shift, unclasping her fingers and shifting back on the bed, pulling insistently at Pepa until she was forced to change direction.
Silvia's eyes were dry, but they were red, swollen. She had done her crying. Her lover's red hair was wild today, drifting down her pale shoulders in soft curls, as if Silvia had dragged her fingers through them in that nervous gesture of hers.
Without a word, Silvia reached up and carefully wiped at Pepa's unexpected tears. Another moment, and then she scooted forward, clasping Pepa's neck and pulling, until her mouth was moving hungrily against hers.
A palm pressed at her shoulder, and Pepa was pushed firmly flat on her back, Silvia following her with her tongue and her mouth. She straddled her, naked warmth settling on her hips as Silvia, breathing noisily through her nose, kept her mouth pressed against Pepa's. Fingers dug underneath Pepa's ragged shirt and yanked up.
Silvia wanted sex. She wanted sex to forget. She wanted sex to feel alive, because she was grieving for a man she had once thought she would spend the rest of her life with.
The shot of pain that flashed like lightning inside her chest nearly wounded her, but Pepa only lifted up and allowed Silvia to nearly rip the shirt off of her. The underwear was next, frantically pulled and kicked off, and then Silvia spread on top of her, pushing a knee between her legs and kissing her deeply and without reservation.
Pepa's heart pounded, her head throbbed, but her arousal was real, as Silvia tore her lips away from hers and slid down her body, leaving a streak of moisture on her thigh and sucking a nipple into her mouth.
Silvia, who had been buried in lab tests and death for two days, wanted an escape. Pepa would give it to her.
She would give Silvia anything she asked for.
Two days ago they made love on a futon. This night, she gave herself over to sex at the hands of Silvia. And still, it was never like it had been before, with her other partners. It was Silvia who thrust her tongue deeply into her and moaned in desire and triumph when Pepa fisted handfuls of red hair in supplication.
It was Silvia who wanted to be taken quickly, fucked deeply and roughly, who clawed down her back and when it was over, held her naked and sweaty body tightly against hers, almost as if she was afraid to let go.
Pepa felt heavy, collapsed on top of her smaller lover, feared suffocating her but when she tried to move off of her, Silvia's hold only tightened.
"No don't," she heard, and she heard it. The broken voice. The strained emotions. And then the tears finally came.
Silvia began to sob. Wracking sobs that overtook her, as she wrapped her arms around Pepa and cried wetly into her neck.
Heart in her throat, Pepa held her. She pressed kisses against her hair and cheek, smoothed palms against a naked back and let Silvia cry.
When the sobs became shudders, she carefully fished for the sheets and maneuvered Silvia like a broken doll, until she was spooned in behind the red head, left forearm cradling Silvia's over her chest, right hand across Silvia's stomach, fingers tangled tightly together.
They lay together silently for a long moment.
"The funeral's tomorrow."
Silvia's statement was quiet, voice weak, drained. She stared straight ahead.
"Okay," Pepa said immediately, and pressed another kiss to Silvia's shoulder.
"I always knew Lucas was going to get himself killed."
Eyes watering, Pepa said nothing. Silvia shifted, pressed herself tighter against her.
"Do you know why I fell in love with him?"
Mutely, Pepa shook her head, then, realizing her lover couldn't see her, managed to croak, "No."
"Because he reminded me of you."
The statement was unexpected. Her mouth parted in an uncontrolled gasp. At the noise, Silvia craned her neck to look back at her. Luminous eyes watered, but on her face was a shaky, sincere smile.
"I love you, Pepa."
Relief hit her so fast, so hard, she lost herself. The tears slipped and her face crumpled, and when Silvia's hand rose up to palm her cheek, she whimpered, hold tightening around her.
Silvia pressed a kiss to her temple, Pepa felt it blindly. Forehead tilting against Silvia's shoulder, tears streaming down her cheeks, she finally let go.
7. I'm yours to keep
To those who did not know Agent Pepa Miranda, or at the very least know her well, she came across as transparent. That was because for the most part, she was.
Of course, if one did take the time to look beyond a model-gorgeous face and a tall, slender figure, one would see that Pepa was not transparent at all. Beneath a blinding smile and a smirk was a sober, damaged romantic fool.
Sometimes, though, it really seemed that God had not granted Pepa that internal filter that governed others, kept them in check with logic and reason. Pepa was impulsive. She was abrasive. She wore her emotions on her sleeve with a smile or a scowl, and when she laughed, it was a loud, boisterous sound that floated across the room and overtook everything else.
She did things with no fear and with full commitment, and as her superior, Silvia Castro knew that those qualities made Pepa a great cop. Those qualities also made her a dangerous cop, to be watched and governed as closely as Lucas.
As her long-term girlfriend, Silvia found herself battling between frustration and elation. Just like when she was a child. She would sometimes stare at Pepa and feel completely flummoxed, unsure what was going on in that crazy head. Other times, when the world was black and Silvia was suffocating, one look at Pepa's deep brown eyes, and the feel of Pepa's hand clasped in hers, and she could suddenly breathe again.
Most of the time, she was just happy. Happier than she had ever been.
Unless of course, they were having dinner with her father.
Rational logic had no place in those situations. Instead, the entire family dissolved into some ludicrous Loony Tunes reenactment, no matter anyone's initial good intentions.
Pepa would try. For her sake she would. She'd maintain a good-natured attitude, until her off-color sense of humor sent the strained smile careening off of Don Lorenzo's face. And then of course the judgments would start. Pepa's intentions. Pepa's reckless behavior. Pepa's addiction to violence. Pepa's 'drug problem'.
Silvia, of course, would have to intervene and remind him that a few marijuana cigarettes when they were eighteen did not mean Pepa had a drug problem, and Pepa would go from stung to amused, which only made things worse, because then her lover would actively begin to say things to set him off.
It would get worse from there.
This particular night, at a quiet dinner with just the three of them at her father's house (which Pepa cheerfully called a 'recipe for disaster'), what started all of it was Silvia's careful revelation that she and Pepa had decided to move in together.
Unfortunately, there was only so much a loving father could take. His face grew red as a tomato. He gulped an entire glass of wine, and then proceeded to ask Pepa whether she was accustomed to living in sin.
Pepa happily and respectfully answered that they had practically been living in sin since the second month, and they were just making it official.
That didn't help. Her father's face went from cherry red to pale white.
Five minutes later, Don Lorenzo was going hoarse from shouting, and was actively spitting, and Pepa, face purple, was nearing suffocation trying to hold her chortles in.
Silvia had had enough.
"DAD," she snapped, slamming her hand down on the table. "Stop. Enough." He blinked, caught by surprise, and Silvia used that moment to swivel a glare toward her amused girlfriend. On cue, Pepa's expression straightened. She stood, and immediately left the table.
She sat quietly for a moment, allowing her father time to get his temper under control, before offering him a frank and loving stare.
"She's not going away."
His response was a labored sigh. "I know, Baby, I know, but why don't you just think about what you're doing-"
"Dad, I'm going to marry her."
Had she not known better, she would have thought her poor father near a heart attack. He deflated, stared forlornly at his dinner.
"Has she asked-"
"No." Sucking in her breath, gathering her courage, she continued, "I'm going to ask her. Not right away. But I will ask her. And she'll say yes." He glanced up, met her eyes, tested her sincerity with a tense glance. "She loves me, Dad."
In retrospect, it was amazing that that was all it took. Her father, so strong and proud, exhaled slowly, eyes moistening with unshed tears. Wordlessly, he reached out and took her hand, clasped it tightly.
"I know, hija," he managed, voice rough with emotion. "I know she does."
That even her father could see it caught her in a particularly vulnerable place, and the emotion overwhelmed her before she could control it. Sucking in a deep breath, she wiped valiantly at her suddenly stinging orbs. Her voice did not waver. "I let her go once before. I'm not doing it again."
He processed that, and maybe he didn't get it. Didn't understand how an eighteen-year-old girl could fall in love with another eighteen-year-old girl so completely so as to hold that love inside her for eight years.
But he didn't have to get it. He just had to accept it, and because her father was at heart a good man who knew that Pepa loved her, he did.
His nod was small, but it was enough. Through her tears, she wound her arms around him tightly, and held him close.
Twenty minutes later, she went searching for her missing girlfriend, and found her in her old bedroom.
The beautiful brunette was settled against a tattered old dresser, next to a familiar window.
The image brought back another memory, a clear view of this woman, nine years earlier, with torn jeans, heavy make up, and purple streaks in her hair.
Sensing she was no longer alone, Pepa glanced up, and shot her a beautiful grin.
"I wonder if I can still climb out of here," she mused, and moved to try and jolt up the window.
"Don't you dare," Silvia snapped, laughing good-naturedly. "I'm not going to break my back trying to keep you from falling. I'll let go."
Pepa caught her eyes, grinned mischievously. "No you won't."
No, she wouldn't. Licking her lips, Silvia felt suddenly fragile, and a little giddy. She dug her hands into her back pockets and cocked her head, studying her lover.
"You wouldn't look bad with purple streaks."
Pepa blinked, and then grinned. "Oh really? I've been thinking more like pink this time."
"Pink I would hate."
"Look what I found."
Brow rising curiously, Silvia came forward, knelt down beside her and glanced at an old imprint on her window, red lipstick in the shape of a pucker.
"Check it out, Redhead." Pepa tapped at the glass. "Think your dad would ground you if he caught us making out in here?"
Silvia rolled her eyes, and offered an unsteady smile. She reached forward and immediately, Pepa's hand was there, tangling their fingers.
Reverently, Silvia reached for the window and gently stroked around the lipstick.
After a moment's pause, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against the spot.
"What you don't want the real thing?"
Knocked off her feet with a yank, Silvia burst out into laughter, falling into Pepa's embrace.
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