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Cabanela leapt gracefully off his bicycle, letting it run itself into the small bike rack Jowd had installed for him next to the front porch. He sauntered up the stairs just as easy as could be, taking each step lightly until he stood on the porch, and raised his hand to knock. He took a deep breath—nothing so obvious as a sigh, of course, but after the day he’d had, he was ready to spend some time with his favorite people in warmth and light. The quietude of their house struck him as being infinitely better, this evening, then the solitude of his own.

Kamila answered the door and beamed up at him. “Uncle Cabs, you’re here!” She looked intently at the toy wrench in her hand—despite knowing what was coming for her, Jowd and Alma hadn’t quite decided to give her adult tools yet. “This one doesn’t work,” she informed him with 6-year-old gravitas. “I want Papa’s tools.”

“Well, now, baby,” Cabanela said, smiling down at her as he took the toy from her hand and tossed it over his shoulder out into the lightly falling snow, where it would be buried in an hour, “I thiiink we can figure somethin’ out…where is your Papa anyway?”

She pointed wordlessly up the stairs and made a moue as the light fixture swung in response to a heavy tread from above. “He’s up there, looking for something. He and Mama had a—a…” Her eyes narrowed in the effort of recollection. “I think the book Sissy and I were reading called it a tiff.”

Cabanela’s heart sank but he kept his smile on for her. “Where is Sissy? The kitty cat not with you today?”

She shook her head, eyes intent on the small device she had begun to fiddle with when he tossed the wrench away. “He and Mama went out after the tiff. She said she was gonna take him on a walk. It was weird though… he was sleeping all floppy like he does sometimes. It didn’t seem much like he wanted to walk to me.

Cabanela quirked an eyebrow at the stairs, then took off his coat and scarf and hung them on the hook. “That sounds like a job for your ol’ Uncle Cabs then. Don’t you worry, I’ll get you that wrench.” He danced over to the stairs, then whirled and came back, sweeping her into a hug while she giggled. “Now you juuust keep smilin’ just like that,” he told her, and went to see Jowd.

He found Jowd attempting to shove the bulk of himself under the bed and sat lightly down on the bigger man’s back as Cabanela inspected his own fingernails.

“Makin’ our baby mad, is it?” he said “What happened there, hmm?”

Jowd jumped, bumping his head on the bedframe, and shuffled backward before straightening and dumping Cabanela unceremoniously on the floor. Cabanela, having expected exactly that, landed lying sidewise with his head in his hand and looked up at Jowd. “Weeell?”

Jowd shook his head. “It’s nothing,” he said heavily, and stood. “It was my fault.”

“Your fault as in actually your fault, or somethin’ you’re taaakin’ on yourself?” Cabanela asked, his gaze shrewd.

Jowd snorted. “Does it matter?”

“Does to me, baby,” Cabanela said, hopping up and angling in to drape his arms around Jowd’s neck. “So deal me the deal and let’s work this out. What’s under the bed?”

Jowd allowed the embrace but didn’t wrap his arms back around Cabanela, and after an awkward second disentangled himself and stepped backward.

Cabanela’s arms fell to his side and he straightened. “I dooo somethin’ wrong, baby?” he asked, voice as light as he could make it above the sudden pounding of his heart. “I thought we were all right at lunch…”

Jowd’s gaze dropped to his lips, which indeed had been thoroughly kissed in Cabanela’s office at lunch, and his gaze shuttered. “I was looking for my spare tie clip under the bed. I think I dropped my usual one in your office.”

“So we’ll get it tomorrow, baby, no big deal…”

“Alma gave me that tie clip,” Jowd said, his face even more grim, “and I dropped it because I wasn’t paying attention.”

Cabanela cast his mind back to when he’d left his office; he’d been irritable, but he’d done his usual once-over to make sure it was neat and tidy for the next day. “You suuure you left in there?” He raised his hands in surrender at Jowd’s gaze. “All right, all riiight, but I didn’t see it on my way out.”

Jowd shrugged. “Alma, rightfully, was upset that I dropped it. She said she was going to get it.”

“And leeet me guess.” Cabanela put a hand on his hip. “Our little friend was in there.”

“Yes.”

“So she’s angry because you left him there?”

“No, Sissel can take care of himself.” Jowd shook his head slowly. “She’s upset because…” he stopped and swallowed.

“Spit it out, baby,” Cabanela said, heart gone from racing to lead in his chest.

“She thinks we spend too much time together,” Jowd said simply. “Time without her.”

Cabanela’s mouth fell open, theatrically of course, but still with actual surprise. “Our baby, jealous?”

“Not sure why else she would have gotten so frustrated,” Jowd said uncomfortably, shifting his shoulders under Cabanela’s sharp gaze. “It’s my fault, like I said.”

“I maaay be only the nation’s second-best detective but there’s somethin’ not right here,” Cabanela said. “You know our Alma. She talks things out, unlike we two bumblers.”

Jowd turned away. “It doesn’t matter. If she wants this to end, it ends.”

Cabanela swallowed against the world gone suddenly dark and cold as the snowy evening outside and put a hand on Jowd’s shoulder. “Leeet’s not jump to conclusions just yet, baby. I tell you what, I’ll make dinner—her favorite this time—and see what happens when she comes back. What do you say?”

Jowd’s neck was tense under Cabanela’s fingers, but he nodded at last. “I think we have dinner supplies already so no need to go to the store.”

“Greeeat. That means you can get that unused toolbox of yours out of storage and watch the kiddo do some of her magic,” Cabanela said cheerily. “You two better get her a set of her own tools or I’m going to have to be one of thooose uncles.”

“That’s you, always throwing a wrench in my plans,” Jowd said, and laughed. It wasn’t actually humor, but it was a start.


Alma stood in the door of Cabanela’s office, looking exasperatedly over the room as she took her gloves off and stuffed them in the pocket of the winter coat he’d just given her. The office was as clean and tidy as ever, although her eye was caught by a new addition on a small shelf—a picture of she, Jowd, and Cabanela taken while they were out ice-skating together the previous week. She smiled and walked over to it, drawing one fond finger down photo-Cabanela’s nose.

On his desk, the bag she’d left there began to wriggle and Sissel poked his nose out, followed by the rest of him as he stretched out long and luxuriously.

“So Jowd’s tie clip is here, then?” she asked him. He nodded his head and blinked slowly at her.

“Where is it?” sha asked, looking around. The office was meticulous as ever and she could see no sign of it until Sissel paced across the floor and batted at it. She leaned down to examine the thing; it was bent and battered. It appeared to have been carelessly kicked behind a small shelf full of objets d’art and reference books. “It’s not like Cabanela to miss these things.”

She took a breath, then picked it up and hesitated over the trash can, which she noted with sharp eyes was full of crumpled paper and a leaking pen that appeared to have been thrown in with some force, based on the streak of ink following it down the garbage bag. At last, she dropped it in.

“Well, that’s that,” she said. “Out of curiosity, how’d you get from there to my bag?”

He twitched his ears at her, and his whiskers swept forward in a smile as his eyes squeezed.

“Fine, cat, your secrets are safe,” she smiled back at him, and put her bag back on her shoulder. “Ready to go?”

He cocked his head at her. She wasn’t completely sure, but it seemed like he was wondering why she’d come if finding the clip wasn’t her purpose.

“I thought you might like your body back. I know you didn’t need it, exactly, but I needed a walk and thought you might want one too,” she said, avoiding the question of the clip. He gave her the cat version of a shrug and paced to the door.

“Hold on, I was going to call Cabanela while I was here,” she said. “Jowd’s in a mood and I was hoping he might have some thoughts.”

Sissel sat, tucking his paws in small and wrapping his tail around him neatly. Waiting.

“Thank you. I won’t be a minute.” Alma picked up the phone on Cabanela’s desk and dialed the numbers she’d known by heart for years now. It rang a few times, but he didn’t answer. “Hmm. I don’t think we had any plans tonight, did we…?” She disconnected from his line and her fingers hovered over her house number, but she didn’t dial.

“You know, your friend is extremely frustrating sometimes,” she told Sissel, who yawned. “I suppose you could go and see if Cabanela is home for me, or see if he’s at his place…”

Sissel paced over to the desk and jumped up. An instant later his ears swiveled, and his gaze fixed on hers. “So you went already, huh?” Alma smiled a little. “And?”

He reached up and scratched an ear three times.

“Three people there?” Alma said. “Kamila, Jowd, Cabanela?”

An eye squeeze, and he jumped back into her bag.

“Well, good. Saves me a stop.” She pulled her gloves back on. “It’s chilly out there… are you going to be all right riding in the bag?”

He flattened his ears at her.

“Ah. Right. Dead.” She scratched his chin anyway, marveling at the smooth coolness of his fur as always. “I have a few more stops before we go home,” she told him. “I suppose I should get dinner too. If Cabanela’s there, it’s pasta tonight.”

He meowed at her, but she missed the cue as she blew a kiss to the photo of them, turned off the lights, and closed the door; she knew his language well at this point but like cats meowing at humans since the dawn of time, not everything got through.


Cabanela rolled up his sleeves and washed his hands before pulling out the chopping block and a selection of vegetables to chop into bits for a nice hearty beef stew. He uncorked some red wine, letting it sit and breathe, then began chopping carrots with slightly unnecessary force. He could hear Jowd speaking to Kamila in the living room, and so he was alone for the moment. For once in their house, he relished the solitude while he thought hard.

His head was in an uproar; they’d just celebrated Alma’s fourth birthday since Sissel had come into their lives and then they’d had all the usual celebrations of winter holidays and he’d seen them several times since then. Alma hadn’t seemed any different than usual. What had he missed?

He finished chopping a carrot and reached for an onion to dice it fine, eyes already stinging as it released its gasses. He sniffed, then sniffed again as the knife moved methodically through the motions. After a moment, he turned away from the onion to run the knife under hot water, only to nearly run into Jowd, who’d neatly appeared behind him.

Jowd put his hands up, his mouth quirking behind his beard.

“First Alma, now you. You’re loud…what are you doing in here?”

“I beliiieve that’s my line, my old friend,” Cabanela said. “I was cutting onions and I looked up, my eyes full of tears… and there you were, baby.”

Jowd’s eyes went dark, dark blue. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” Cabanela waved the knife, then placed it delicately in the sink as he turned the water on. “Maaake dinner?”

“Don’t…” Jowd’s voice trailed off as his hands fisted and his arms dropped to his sides. “Don’t cry. Don’t say those words. Just… don’t.”

Cabanela turned away from him. “I seem to have struck a nerve, baby.” He stared down into the sink, watching the steam billowing as hot water ran across the knife and went down the drain. He jerked as Jowd’s arms went around him and Jowd’s head rested on his shoulder. “What happened to us being done?”

“It’s not.” Jowd turned his head into Cabanela’s neck. “I…”

“You what?”

“I owe it to Alma for her to have the perfect life,” Jowd said. “I owe her…everything.”

“I thiiink we agree on that, baby,” Cabanela said. “Perfection’s just a start, I’d say.”

“But… I owe you my life. Her life. My daughter’s life. Lynne’s. Everything and more.”

“They aren’t mutually exclusive, maaan.” Cabanela began to move away, and Jowd gathered him in without letting him go.

“Not anymore, no. And I can’t… I can’t let them be. Even if...”

Cabanela went very still. “What is it you’re saying?”

“I don’t know. But I do know that…” Jowd’s voice dropped to a mumble as he pushed his head further into Cabanela’s neck.

“Didn’t catch that,” Cabanela said airily, over the pounding in his heart. “You’ll have to say it agaaain.”

“I love you. I love her.” Jowd pulled away, turning Cabanela to face him. “I love you.”

“You know I love you too, baby, and her too, but—” Cabanela took a deep breath. “I’d neeever come between you two—”

A faint sound in the doorway stopped both men in their tracks. Cabanela’s throat dried as he met Kamila’s accusatory gaze.

“You can’t!” She said, her babyish voice furious. “You can’t!” Without another word, she turned and ran, fleeing from them, kicking over Jowd’s rarely-used tools and ignoring them as she ran headlong out the door.

“What—Kamila!” Jowd roared. “Come back!” He began to run after her, but his knee, never too certain in cold weather, wobbled dangerously and he nearly went down. In a flash, Cabanela was past him, putting a steadying hand on his shoulder and then just as quickly off again as he sprinted.

“I got her, baby, don’t you worry,” he yelled back over his shoulder. “I’ll bring her back.” He heard the phone ringing as he left the house, and hoped it was Alma on her way.


Alma strolled dreamily through the snow, mind on the recent holiday festivities. Lynne had been unable to attend, as her parents had required her attendance at some overseas corporate party or another; although she’d been much missed, Alma, Jowd, and Cabanela had enjoyed watching Kamila open presents from everyone from her grandparents to Jowd’s coworkers at the station, even the medical examiner. They had a similar stack for Lynne, waiting for her to return from her overseas engagements. Cabanela had given her her new coat, and she’d given him a sweater she’d picked up for him on a hunch. His beaming regard at her was a memory she treasured; it warmed her as she picked her way through increasingly treacherous terrain.

She’d made her stops, and the pasta she’d picked up was heavy in its boxes in her arms. Sissel had meowed a few more times but evidently gone ghostabout again somewhere after the restaurant. She didn’t mind.

She thought of Jowd and sighed. What was she going to tell him when she got home? She had been legitimately angry but no longer, and the conversation they’d had made her wince in shame. Maybe she should have brought chicken instead, she thought.

“Mama!” The voice was faint and the wind was strong. Alma almost thought she’d imagined it, but no, there it was again. “Maaamaaaa!!”

“Kamila?” Alma hurried her steps, picking her way through the slippery roads toward her daughter’s voice. “Kamila, where are you?”

There she was, barreling out of the dark and burying her face in her mother’s midsection as she babbled. Alma dropped the bag of food and the pasta spilled out over the snow while Kamila spoke, her voice low and thick with tears. “Uncle Cabs and Papa had a—a tiff too and Uncle Cabs said he was gonna… he was gonna…”

Cabanela materialized out of the dark as well. Alma looked up at him and her voice was low and quiet. “What is happening here?”

“You can’t let him leave, mama!” Kamila’s voice was a wail. “I love Uncle Cabs!” She turned from Alma and threw her arms around Cabanela.

“No one’s leaving!” Alma said, looking from Kamila to Cabanela. He was shivering in the cold as flakes collected on his hair, and she registered that he’d run out in his shirt sleeves, no coat or even ever-present scarf. “You… you aren’t leaving, are you?” She pulled her own coat off and drew it around him and Kamila both, fingers lingering on his shoulders as her eyes searched his.

“N-not if you don’t want me too, baby,” he managed to get out, teeth chattering but his face heroic. “Get under here, you’re not wearing muuuch more than I am.”

Alma gladly drew herself into his arms and they began to walk back toward the house in a shuffling huddle while Kamila’s tears died down to sniffles.

“Would someone like to tell me what this is about? What tiff?” Alma said. “Where’s Jowd?”

“His knee was givin’ him issues—”
“He thinks you don’t love him and Uncle Cabs anymore—”

Alma closed her eyes. “He’s continuing to be Jowd, and then Kamila misunderstood?”

Cabanela was quiet. “Diiid she misunderstand, baby?”

“What?”

“Jowd thinks you’re jealous of the time we spend together at work.”

Alma blew out a puff of breath, watching it crystallize in the cold air. “I was… afraid he was thinking that.”

“Is it true?”

“No.” Alma’s voice snapped in the cold air, quick and sharp. Cabanela’s eyes widened.

“That was a pretty quick answer, baby.”

“Because there’s nothing to think about there. It’s not true.”

Cabanela’s face sagged in relief. “Then whaaat—”

A long, dark car pulled up next to them, and the window rolled down. “Detective Cabanela! Alma! Kamila!” Lynne poked her head out the window, and almost immediately pulled it back in, peeking at them over the darkly tinted glass. “What are you doing out here? It’s cooold!”

“For the second time this evening I think that’s my line, baby,” Cabanela returned. “Thought you were with your parents overseas?”

Lynne’s face tightened, her still childish but rapidly maturing features looking too old for a moment. “I told them to let me come home.” She opened the door. “Get in! Their driver can give you a ride home too.”

They piled into the car, which was warm and smelled tantalizingly of roast chicken. There was a pile of presents next to Lynne.

“I was just coming to visit you,” she said, a little uncertainly.

“Who are all the presents for?” Kamila interrupted, her eyes round as she took it all in.

Lynne looked at them and made a face. “For me, from my parents’ coworkers and stuff. It’s all things like monogrammed paperweights and stuff bought by assistants.” Her face brightened, and she dug into the pile, coming out after a moment with an inexpertly wrapped largish box. “But this one’s for you!”

“Oooh.” Kamila poised to rip into it eagerly, worries forgotten, but paused. “We have lots of stuff for you too at home. Will you come and stay with us tonight?”

Lynne glowed, but then her face dimmed. “They—” her emphasis made it plain about whom she was speaking, “—said I had to go home tonight. I was just going to drop off your gifts… I have something for all of you! And then take my dinner home…”

“Oooh. Is it chicken?” Kamila sniffed interestedly.

Lynne nodded. “At least I get my favorite even if I have to eat it all by myself.”

Alma’s eyes met Cabanela’s, and she squeezed his hand under the coat. She knew his knuckles had gone white with repressed anger, as they always did when the subject of Lynne’s family came up.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said. “Lynne, would it be all right if Kamila stayed with you tonight?”

Lynne smiled joyfully. “I’d love it. Do you want to?”

Kamila bounced in her seat. “Yes! But…” she stilled. “Mama, you promise no one is leaving?”

“I promise.”

“Uncle Cabs?”

He was quiet for a long moment until Alma elbowed him in the ribs. “Prooomise.”

Lynne grinned, although her eyes were sharp on Alma’s and Cabanela’s joined hands. “Great!” She looked up. “Oh, and we’re hom—we’re here!” She pulled a few more gifts from the pile and juggled them as she leaned forward to speak to the driver. “I’ll be back out in a few minutes. Do you want to come in or wait?”

He chose to wait, and they walked inside. An instant later, Sissel meowed long and loud and hopped out of the bag, trotting into the kitchen where Jowd leaned against the kitchen counter, his face drawn, but it eased as he took in the parade.

“Quite the procession.”

“Are you all right?” Alma said, and went to his side, Cabanela floating naturally to the other as they supported him.

“Yes.” He stood on it, testing the weight. “Just tried to move too fast and I wasn’t prepared.”

“Lynne is going to take Kamila to her house tonight,” Alma informed him.

His face changed, brow wrinkling. “She is? Are her parents there?”

“You know her caretaker will be there and if she’s not, Lynne will call us and they’ll come back,” Alma said.

He nodded, keeping his eyes on her face. “And Cabanela?”

“We have some things to talk about,” Alma said. “Let’s get the girls on their way for now, and we can send Sissel with them if it makes you feel better.”

They were interrupted with a cry of joy from Kamila as she finally opened her present from Lynne: a well-appointed set of the finest tools on the market. Alma cast a questioning eye at Lynne, who grinned conspiratorially and said she’d asked her current housekeeper’s wife for advice about what was the best set, then talked her parents’ assistant into buying them for her.

Alma shook her head. She shouldn’t encourage it, but she’d seen how Lynne’s parents treated her over the years. Let the girl get some joy out of the wealth they threw around so easily but refused to spend with her. And Kamila was so ecstatic it was hard to see any harm.


After a whirl of activity, they bundled the girls and Sissel back into the car and promised Lynne they’d open her gifts to them the next day, then returned to the kitchen. Too late, Alma remembered the pasta she’d spilled. The attempted beef stew was a shambles, and Lynne and Kamila had taken the chicken with them, much to Jowd’s dismay. She pulled open the pantry and began making sandwiches.

“So,” she said over her shoulder. “I’m told you think I’m asking Cabanela to bow gracefully out of our arrangement.”

“Aren’t you?” Jowd said, his voice low. “Sissel came home before you did and said you weren’t angry, but the things you said… and you threw away my tie clip...”

Alma turned around and put a stack of jam-and-butter sandwiches on the table. “Jowd, why was that tie clip so important to you?”

“You gave it to me,” he said, but without conviction.

“Did I? I don’t even remember doing so,” Alma said. “And even if I did, Jowd my love, it’s only a thing...a thing you don’t even use properly!”

Cabanela nodded fervently and took a sandwich.

“And of course I wasn’t angry over what you two do during your lunch time together,” Alma said, her voice firm. “I trust you. I love you. Both! Although that said I would of course love it if you both made more of an effort to come see me and give me kisses occasionally during my lunch…but I wasn’t ever angry about that.”

“Then whyyy?” Cabanela asked.

“I suppose it started when I reacted poorly. That joke…” Alma told Jowd. “I didn’t mean to make you worry or… start your anxiety spiralling.”

Cabanela took a deep breath, the relief rising from him practically palpable. “What joke is this, baby?” He asked Jowd.

He fidgeted. “I said I’d ask Sissel to jump back in time to the death of my tie clip and redo it.”

“Seems preeetty harmless, baby,” Cabanela said to Alma.

“It is! Just one of his jokes.” Alma opened her eyes wide. “But also it made me wonder what else he’d redo, if he could. What other arguments, what other things he’s rewound, or tried to talk Sissel into rewinding.” She sighed. “I know the story of the other ten years. I know he wants this version to be perfect. We all do. But I want you, both of you, as you are, imperfect or not, useless tie clip that I don’t even remember giving you or not. And then our…misunderstanding just took off from there.” She paused and looked a little uncomfortable. “It’s a bit of a complicated feeling,” she said at last. “I could see how upset Jowd was to lose this gift that I don’t even remember giving him, and it made me feel like… like I wasn’t trying hard enough. Like I wasn’t enough, tie pin or not, for him to feel like he never had to worry about me being disappointed in him. Your perfection is so…effortless, Cabanela. But I’m neither perfect nor effortless, and it’s frustrating! So I was angry at myself and lashed out about this ridiculous joke that was honestly no worse than any other part of his humor…because it worries me when Jowd gets this way about us. About our relationship. About me.” She swallowed and looked at Jowd. “I can’t live up to perfection and I won’t try.”

Jowd looked stricken and put down his sandwich. “You know that wasn’t my intent.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Cabanela took Alma’s fingers and kissed them. “You know I work hard to be this fabulous because it’s what you both deserve from me.”

“I’m so sorry, Cabs,” Alma said, and turned her hand so she could kiss his fingers back. “I didn’t mean to bring you into it at all.”

“You’re perfect for us always, and don’t you think otherwise,” Cabanela said, his voice firm and uncharacteristically without its usual flair. He and turned to Jowd. “So wheeere in all this did you get the idea she wanted me gone?”

“It was the worst thing I could think of, based on what was said,” Jowd said, after a long pause. “And it did spiral from there.”

“Quiiite the admission.”

“Mm. The truth, nevertheless. And I’m sorry too.” He looked over at Alma. “I…can’t promise it won’t happen again. Bad jokes and all.”

“I know. And I can’t promise I won’t get anxious about what you’re thinking when you do,” Alma said. “That’s the perfect imperfections I signed on for. You can promise me that you’ll, oh, say… come and take me to lunch and we’ll work it out though, rather than jumping straight for the absolute worst possible plan. There was enough of that for one of my lifetimes, and we’re passing that on to Kamila. She should never have jumped to the conclusion she did, but she gets more than her looks from us.”

Jowd winced and nodded.

“Same goes for you, Cabanela,” Alma said firmly. “You don’t have the same anxieties we do, I know, but you’re just as bad at taking the worst outcome and running with it sometimes. And when you feel like you’re about to do that, my demands are lunch and kisses, in some order.”

Cabanela grinned and blew her a kiss with his free hand, nodding easy assent.

“But I’d say none of us, not me, not the nation’s best detective, nor the nation’s second-best detective are at their best today,” Alma said, and reached out her hands to take theirs across the table. “Cabanela, you came here after work because you were upset about something, didn’t you? And then we just dragged you into our own...frustrations.”

“And how’d you knooow about that, baby?”

“You didn’t notice the broken tie clip in your office, your trash was full and hadn’t been emptied, and you had a leaky pen today, which I’m sure offended your sensibilities.” Alma shrugged. “Just a hunch.”

Cabanela’s admiration for her shone in his face as he beamed. “Looks like Jowd and I juuust got demoted to second- and third-best detectives in the nation, baby.”

“No, no,” Alma said, and laughed. “I just know and love the best in the business and picked up a few tricks.” She took a sip of her wine. “So let’s adjourn this to the couch and you can tell us all about it? And then… I think maybe we should plan a small trip away. We’re all on edge and could use a little family time. We could invite Lynne…make it a real occasion.”

Jowd scooted his chair one way, Cabanela the other, and they ended up in a huddle at one end of the table with Alma in between them. For a long moment, they sat together in silence with their arms around each other before Alma kissed them both and hugged them close, melting into their warmth on either side of her.

“Now. Tell us what happened today, Cabanela,” she said, her eyes soft as they rested on his face, “and let’s try this evening again.”

The house rang into the night as Cabanela regaled them with the suitably dramatized story of his terrible, no-good, very bad, awful day, followed by stories and jokes, and somewhere in there, mutual and fervent kisses all around. Winter’s night gave way to a morning touched by spring; they began again, knowing their always didn’t need to be rewound and replayed to be just the way it needed to be.

O

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