He can't take another morning of waking up and looking into her eyes and seeing...not guilt. Not love either. Just...a blankness, as if she can't see him at all.
It wouldn't be so hard if he could just stop remembering what she used to look like. The way she used to look at him rather than through him. Laughing eyes and curving lips superimposed over her face like a ghost. Like their ghost.
Suddenly he's angry, furious at all that's left them.
At all that's left of them.
He stops thinking and gets up. Pulls on a shirt and jeans and his boots, his hands shaking with a restless energy that's only calmed when he's out on the waves these days.
Before he leaves the room, he looks back at the bed. "Ali?"
Nothing. She doesn't even turn to look at him.
He makes a fist and presses it to the doorjamb, debating for a minute whether he should push it. Not that that ever gets him anywhere.
When he drives into town, he doesn't really have an idea of where he'll end up, so when he walks into the tattoo parlor, it even surprises him. But then a sudden burst of clarity hits him. Cole's never been religious but it's almost like a benediction, which is fitting, he supposes.
It only takes a couple hours, but his side is sore and he won't be able to surf for at least a week.
It's worth it though, he tells himself. It has to be.
He goes to the ranch, works himself to the point of exhaustion, and that night before he climbs into bed next to his wife, he slowly, carefully peels the bandage off his hip.
The skin is red, angry and raw, but it's still beautiful.
Her eyes are closed when he climbs under the covers and kisses his wife until she opens them.
"I want to show you something," he murmurs, then turns, easing the covers down low enough that she can see it.
Cole waits, breath held, staring at the wall, for something...anything from Alison.
He's still waiting when the sun rises on a new day.