Cabanela sat, perfectly at his ease, at the small round table by the window, looking out at the city lights in the rain. The waiter had come around twice, asking if he needed anything. Cabanela had just smiled and said the rest of his party would be along in a minute. Unusually, he’d managed to get Jowd to agree to a restaurant besides the Chicken Kitchen—or Point X, as he inexplicably liked to call it—and Cabanela and Alma had jumped at the chance to try something new. He had called in a favor and gotten the three of them reservations to the newest, most exclusive restaurant in town. It was the kind of place that was mostly glass and metal, candlelight mingling with the warm but minimalist wood accents on the walls and flickering off white linen to create the kind of ambience that screamed “angel investor.”
He had made sure to dress for the occasion, pulling out his favorite bespoke suit and the handmade leather shoes he’d never wear to the police station for fear of something in the unit getting out of hand and destroying them. Hair in place, smelling nice, feeling good. Just needed his dinner partners to make the evening complete.
The waiter came by a third time. Alma and Jowd were quite late, but he ignored the uneasy feeling and assured the waiter yet again he was fine. The waiter nodded and walked away to answer the ringing phone, stirring up a small breeze that blew the candle on the table out.
Cabanela sipped his water and considered the rain for a moment. Lightning flickered in the distance as thunder rumbled. The rain intensified, pounding down on the outside walls and slicking down the glass in sheets. The waiter came back to his table. “The phone’s for you, sir.”
“Ohhhhh?” Cabanela strolled over to the phone.
“Oh, Cabanela, thank goodness you’re there. We’re going to be late.” The connection was bad, but he could tell that she didn’t sound quite her normal calm self. The edge of tension in her voice was disquieting.
“Whaaaaat’s happenin’, baby? Something I can do to help?”
The phone’s connection dropped, leaving Cabanela to hold the receiver and listen to dead air. He briefly considered calling a cab, as he’d done to get here, but the restaurant was only a few blocks from Jowd’s place. Faster to walk, and even faster to run. The rain was coming down hard, but what did it matter? Something was wrong. He needed to be there.
He splashed through the streets, heart clamoring. Maybe it was nothing. Surely it was nothing. Of course it was nothing. He ran faster. As he pounded up the walkway to the house, the door was open, and light streamed into the misty night. The cat sat, backlit in the door, meowing a greeting. Cabanela stopped. They’d long since worked out their own kind of personal language between themselves, and the cat didn’t sound tense, or not particularly, anyway. It sounded amused.
He walked into the house, still dripping, and took off his ruined shoes, leaving them at the door. Swiping his sopping hair out of his eyes, he danced up the stairs. In the bedroom at the end of the hall, Alma was just finishing an adjustment to Jowd’s cufflinks.
Jowd, resplendent in three-piece suit, and Alma, radiant in her evening gown, seemed to glow as Cabanela stared down the hall. He almost hated to intrude on their warm little world, cold and dripping as he was, but he must have made some small noise. Jowd’s head jerked up, eyes fierce as his body tensed, and their gaze met.
A long shocked second, and Jowd’s bellowing laugh rent the air. Alma reeled.
“Jowd! What--?” She turned to see. “Oh. Oh, dear.”
“Haaate to crash the party, baby, but if the mountain won’t come to me—” he gestured to Jowd. “Well, you can see the rest.”
“Oh, no, Cabanela, I’m so sorry. Jowd wanted me to call, but the storm knocked out the line, I think, and I was just hoping we could get out the door before you started worrying. It really wasn’t urgent! We were both running late from work, that’s all.”
“Me, worry? No, I just thought I’d take a niiiice stroll in the rain, nothing like it. Although—Jowd wanted you to call?”
“Looks like I got all dressed up for nothing, Alma,” said Jowd, chuckling drily, neatly avoiding the question.
“I wouldn’t say for nooothing, baby.” Cabanela smirked. “I don’t know what it took Alma to get you in this outfit, but I have to say it’s worth it just to see you look this uncomfortable.”
“Ugh, let’s not talk about that.” Alma rolled her eyes. “He looks so nice in this suit and it’s like trying to slice a mango with a rusty spoon to get him in it.”
Cabanela gestured to himself, unable to resist giving a low bow as he flourished. “Anyhoot, I’m no longer in any state to join you, so you two go on. Shouldn’t waste your evening—"
“Absolutely not,” Alma said firmly. “You need to get dry and warm and this was supposed to be our night together.”
Jowd turned to rummage in a drawer. “Here, you can wear some of Alma’s pajamas.”
“I’d be insulted but her sleepwear is far nicer than yours, baby.”
“Can’t argue there.”
Cabanela sloshed forward, taking the clothes out of Jowd’s hands. “I’ll juuust go change and shower then.”
Alma smiled. “I’ll open that bottle of wine you brought last time?”
Jowd grinned too. “And I will call the Chicken Kitchen and have them deliver.”
When Cabanela came down the stairs, tousled, slightly damp but warm, he found Alma and Jowd in the living room, candles already lit and wine poured. He flopped on the couch between them, their arms automatically coming up to wrap him in their love as he leaned into them.
“We really are sorry.” Alma kissed him. “I know how much you were looking forward to trying that restaurant.”
“Ah, well, you knooow I’d rather be with you both than wait anyway. Next time we’ll all just go together.” He curled their fingers in his, bringing them to his lips.
“Next time?” Jowd pulled away, face slightly horrified. Both Alma and Cabanela had to laugh.
“Yeah, baby, I’ll call in the morning and get a reservation for next week.” Cabanela said, still snickering. “You don’t get out of it that easy.”
“Well, I get to pick the movie tonight then.” Jowd smirked, knowing how this would end.
Alma and Cabanela looked at each other. A night at the fanciest restaurant in town, or Jowd’s taste in movies? It was barely a choice.
“I’ll call and make sure the reservation is completely cancelled tomorrow.” Alma said. “Cabanela gets to pick the movie.”
The food arrived. The movie was watched. Still they sat on the couch, wrapped in each other and talking of everything and nothing, until Cabanela finally fell asleep midsentence, head nodding and falling onto Jowd’s shoulder.
“How rare,” said Jowd, smiling a little sadly. “He sleeps like a human being after all.”
“Let’s not leave him down here,” said Alma. “Those legs of his are way too long and he’ll be uncomfortable.”
Jowd carefully disentangled himself from Cabanela’s clutching arms and bent down to scoop him up, lifting him to his chest, trying to keep his arms and legs from dangling too wildly.
“Go on up and turn down the bedclothes? I’ll be right there.”
Alma went ahead up the stairs as Jowd made sure his grip was firm and Cabanela was balanced before he attempted the same.
Sissel jumped on the back of the couch, eyes lazily half-closed. “Everyone at the restaurant is OK. No one died this go-round.”
“The place where he was sitting was completely covered in broken glass from the lightning strike though. It turned out to be this weird scary ball of the stuff? It floated right through the wall and exploded. That restaurant’s going to be closed for a while.”
“Well, we got him out in time. That’s all that matters. He didn’t regain consciousness while he was—?”
“No, and I didn’t try to wake him. Get in, get out. It was easy; I just had to drop the phone connection and he left the restaurant on his own, no hesitation.”
Jowd nodded. “Good. That’s— good.”
Cabanela’s hands clenched on Jowd’s arm as he slept, muttering softly. Jowd carried him up to bed, and if Alma noticed how tenderly he cradled him, or how gently he tucked the sheets around Cabanela, she didn’t comment, limiting herself to kissing both her men good night as she climbed into bed herself.
The storm raged outside, but quiet and peace reigned in here. Once again, everyone was safe, and the world turned on through the night.