Alma was most decidedly not a night owl. Let her husband and their friend see the hours of the night no person should be forced to see. So, it was with some displeasure she woke up in the darkness at a time she would have preferred not to have known.

Her displeasure faded to the worry and confusion that had become a regular part of her days. She could dimly see Jowd's shape sitting up in the dark. She joined him and lightly touched his arm.

"Nightmares again?" she asked softly.

"I don't recall," he said in a voice that sounded far too neutral.

Her heart would have sunk if it didn't feel like that was its default position these days. Lies again.

"Something is bothering you," she tried.

"Everything is fine."

Then why does it feel like I've lost a part of you? Why does it feel like you've lost me? I'm right here, love, always. The words stuck in her throat. She wondered what would happen if she could say them? What would be worse: denial or answers?

"You should go back to sleep," Jowd said.

As if she could right now. She gripped the blanket hard. "I wish you'd talk to me. Like you used to." That was pushing it admittedly. He was never talkative, but compared to now he'd practically been a babbling brook. That brook had been drained dry and filled with concrete for all the reaction she could get out of him.

He sighed and Alma felt a triumphant bitterness at that small token of life.

"There's nothing to talk about. What am I supposed to say?"

"What about parks? How about a bad day and stray cats?" Part of her felt foolish. What part could a little black kitten play in all this, yet she couldn't shake the feeling he was somehow tied up in everything, whatever that everything was. Besides, as Cabanela would say instinct was better than any ooold roadmap when you're stuck in the fog and currently she felt as though no fog was as obscure as her husband.

She heard that false smile in his voice, another wall wrapped up neatly in a poor attempt at good humour. "I didn't think that day was exciting enough for another retelling," Jowd said. And, now came the all too familiar self-deprecation. "Hardly my finest moment. How about another tale?"

"The truth," she murmured and was met with silence. Door slammed and locked up tight. It was her turn to sigh. "But, I'll take the tale of eking out a bit more sleep," she added unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. Too damn late to pick a fight, too damn early to get up and try to forget about it. And, what were the odds on forgetting? She sunk into her pillow. Discussion ended before it really began as usual. She closed her eyes to Jowd still sitting, an immutable rock, one who had been her rock, but now had all the distance of a mountain peak.

When Alma awoke again, for a moment the space beside her felt empty and she felt a pit of fear in her stomach. Had she gone too far? Then a warm hand slid over hers, comforting, present. She let her eyes fall shut and turned her hand to hold onto his. Getting up could wait. For now she wanted nothing more than to bask in this real connection, a hold that didn't make her feel like glass, a hold that made her feel like she was here and not about to vanish the moment he let go, a hold that didn't leave her with more questions than answers.

Nothing was solved, not even remotely. For now she would take what she could get in this long war of attrition.