Title: With Paciencia y Fe We Remain Unafraid
Author: Camberleigh Fauconbridge
Rating: PG - 13 / T
Pairings: Usnavi/Vanessa, Nina/Benny
Summary: AU. Kidnappings, ransoms, break-ins and murders are becoming horrifyingly common in Washington Heights as one by one the neighbors are becoming victims. When Nina is held for ransom and Vanessa is attacked, the actions of a mysterious serial killer test everyone's ability to see the next sunrise.
Disclaimer: In the Heights is the property of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, all of the casts and all of the creative teams that have produced any production of In the Heights. No money is being made from this story, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Vanessa stood near the gate of the cemetery, close enough so she looked a part of the mourners and far enough so she could make it out of the cemetery as quick as she could. The deceased was a girl from her street, someone she occasionally saw, but as it was revealed that the girl didn't have any family, Vanessa felt obliged to come. Abuela had cajoled a few of the others to come, so Vanessa wasn't alone. Vanessa was glad; cemeteries gave her the creeps.
Vanessa listened to the priest— the girl had been Catholic, apparently— talk about the girl's life and accomplishments and twisted a thread from her black shawl between her fingertips unconsciously. The shawl was the only black item she wore. It didn't even really belong to her; she had borrowed it from her mother's closet. Her mother had been too drunk to notice it was even gone.
Vanessa pushed thoughts of her mother out of her mind as the priest encouraged them to bow their heads and pray over the girl. She fought down rising panic— how much longer would they have to stay in the cemetery?
A hand briefly touched her elbow. She looked sideways to see Usnavi; neither was religious, but they communicated discreetly because of the other mourners. You okay? he mouthed. He had evidently seen her trying not to panic. She nodded, smiling and fighting the urge to ditch the entire ceremony, and the prayer ended a few moments later.
The coffin was put in the freshly dug grave, and the mourners lined up to toss a handful of earth onto the smooth surface of the coffin's lid. Vanessa hadn't thought of this. Being in the back of the line— great planning, Vanessa, she thought as the mourners lined up to pass the coffin. When her turn came, she tossed the handful of dirt quickly and only glanced at the coffin. As nonchalantly as she could, she passed the others so she could be one of the first to leave.
She stood on the sidewalk, waiting for the others and trying to breathe properly. When Usnavi left, he went straight to her. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asked quietly. From the many long years that their friendship had lasted, Usnavi knew Vanessa didn't want other people to see the slightest hint of weakness or vulnerability.
"I'm fine, Usnavi," she insisted, trying to dismiss it by turning and hailing a taxi. She knew Usnavi could see right through it, but she had to think about other things; like what she was going to do with her mother once she got home.
When a taxi finally came to the curb, Vanessa was joined by Usnavi, who was headed home as well, and Nina. Vanessa knew Nina wasn't completely happy unless she was with Benny; but Benny had gone into the main city to pick up something no one except Usnavi knew about, and Usnavi wouldn't tell anyone.
Once Vanessa had given the address to the driver, the taxi pulled away from the curb and merged into the afternoon traffic. Usnavi asked Nina who was taking Abuela home; Nina replied that her parents were. Out of everyone on the street, Usnavi and Nina had the closest relationship with Abuela, and it showed.
Vanessa folded her mother's shawl into her bag and asked, "Do you know what happened to the girl?"
"Someone said that she was stabbed," Nina responded.
All three were quiet.
"A suicide?" Vanessa finally said.
Nina shook her head. "I don't think so. They said that there were signs of a struggle or something. Apparently she had a few bruises that didn't seem to be self-inflicted."
"Do they know who did it, then? A boyfriend, maybe?"
"From what I know she was single. I don't think she brought anyone to her apartment."
"So, what they think…" Usnavi said, "…is that someone went after her?"
Vanessa hadn't thought of that. She sat back, horrified. "But why would she—"
—a gunshot, loud and abrupt, was heard behind the taxi.
Instantly, Usnavi put a hand of Vanessa and Nina's shoulders and forced them down so that all three were bending at the waist. "What the hell is going on?" Vanessa shouted.
"I don't want to find out," Usnavi answered. He addressed the driver. "Step on it, will you?"
The driver obliged— he couldn't bend down, at any rate— but it didn't seem like enough. A bullet hit the rear windshield and went through the small window beside the backseat window. Nina screamed as the glass shattered over them, and the driver went as fast as he could through the traffic.
Something felt terribly, terribly wrong. The girl being murdered by an unknown enemy, and now the gunshots that almost seemed to be aimed at their taxi— it didn't make sense.
Little did they know that this was just the beginning.
Author's Note: To the guest reviewer Graffiti Pete (this is the only way I can figure out how to contact you):
I am deeply honored that you, a cast member in a regional production of In the Heights, deem this insignificant story passable enough to present it to the rest of your cast mates. I must confess that previously I did not have the interest to continue; since you showed your support, however, I am determined to, at the very least, complete this. Please inform me if I have mangled any character's development; I am merely a fan of In the Heights, having seen the musical once, in 2010, so going off information I learned three years ago might create some unforeseen problems that you, being in a production yourself, will surely be able to identify.
Thank you very, very much for your support. Break a leg in your own production!