He was supposed to be angry.

Inspector Cabanela was stretched out on his couch with his leg propped on the coffee table, pant leg pulled up over the wrecked skin of his shin. He had taken yet another fall during the workday, chasing after some idiot with his hands on certain sensitive documents (and who had later tripped himself over a homeless man in the streets). Cabanela was wearing a grin despite the pinpricks of blood and white tears of flesh that outlined his leg. Like he was proud, like he'd won something.

And that much, well, that much Jowd was angry about. He'd been rolling his eyes and lecturing Cabanela the whole way here.

The grin broke over a hiss when Alma pressed a wet rag to his leg and tsked. "Inspector, when will you learn to be more careful?" she said, a hum to her voice, the kind she affected when talking through Kamila's tears. She had her fingers around his thin ankle gentle as cotton, a smile soft like fleece. Cabanela shifted, wincing.

"About when criminals learn to stop breaking the law, baby," he sang, and she just quirked her smile a little wry and shushed him.

Jowd knew he was meant to be upset.

Alma cleaned the dirt out of Cabanela's wounds with the practiced hand only a mother had. Jowd wouldn't have been surprised had she smoothed a colorful bandaid over the worst of the scrape and kissed it better. She rolled the hem of Cabanela's pants back down flat and patted out the wrinkles. Jowd's wife drew her thumb down the line of Jowd's colleague's tibia in a feather-light motion that stretched just a little too long before she gave him a smile, a pat on the knee, and stood up again. She pushed herself into Jowd's side, fitting against him warm and tight. The inspector on his couch stretched his legs and relaxed more into the cushions.

"Thank you, Miss Alma," he said. Jowd only noticed that the trademark grin had softened into a smile because it suddenly came back full force. Alma's arm came around the back of Jowd's waist, and he rested his hand on her shoulder.

"Be thankful you can thank her," he said. "One of these days your excess enthusiasm will get you killed."

Even through the shrug and the smile, Cabanela had these hard determined eyes that fixed on Jowd. "Don't you worry, baby. Someone's gotta be around to take care of you two."


Jowd knew he should be angry at Cabanela, angry at Alma, maybe, the way they'd hover at the edges of each other and let their smiles slide into each other. Knew it from how she wore his ring and he wore hers, from how Kamila looked much like Alma and a little like him. He knew Cabanela was a little strange and a little pushy and a little dangerous.


"I'm pretty certain we're the ones taking care of you," he said, dropping his other hand onto Cabanela's sharp shoulder, looking down at him imperiously (something he'd learned from too many days at the precinct). The shake of Cabanela's laugh passed through his shoulders, into Jowd's hands, into Alma's body.

But Jowd knew too the reflexive relaxation that came whenever he put a hand on the inspector, the puppy-dog adoration, the warm and open look of trust that edged with unfamiliarity because Jowd was near certain it was saved just for him.

And he knew that he wasn't angry.