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A Perfect Night

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Jowd leaned on the fence that ran along the perimeter of the dining area, his gaze fixed on the rosy sky. The sun was slowly descending, its reflection creating a shining ray that cut through the waves below. He closed his eyes and focusing on the sound of waves lapping against the side of the cliff. There was something he found soothing and gentle about it, provided he didn't think too hard about what lay down below. He appreciated the hubbub of nearby voices and the strains of music flowing through the air. They reminded him that he was here on the surface, his feet firmly rooted to the ground.

The sound of heels tapping along wood alerted him to someone's presence. He felt a hand on his arm and opened his eyes to see a slightly concerned looking Alma peering at him.

"Are you alright, honey?" Alma gently squeezed his arm.

"I'm fine. You don't have to worry." Jowd smiled at her. He let his gaze linger on her, taking in her appearance. She was looking absolutely stunning, wearing a new dress that clung to her body and sparkled in the light. Her usual ponytail was absent, her hair hanging around her shoulders. A lump formed in his throat. She really looked so beautiful.

Alma didn't fail to notice the look in his eyes. "It's okay." She reached up to stroke his face. Jowd's hand covered hers, giving it a gentle squeeze.

"I know." Jowd looked out to the sea and Alma followed suit.

"It's such a beautiful view." Alma rested her hands on the railing as she looked out to sea. "Oh, there's a boat."

Jowd noticed the distant silhouette of a boat making its way across the sea. "So there is." The last time he had been on a boat seemed like such a long time ago when really, it was less than a year ago. In another timeline, at that. He had hardly been in a hurry to get on another one for obvious reasons.

Alma cupped her face with one hand, shifting her gaze to Jowd. "You know, you really do look quite fetching in a suit."

"Hm." Jowd glanced down at his attire. The green coat had been replaced with a darker green jacket, coupled together with matching pants. "You think so?"

"Absolutely." Alma looked back at the sea. "It's nice to get dressed up once in a while."

"Especially if we're coming to a place like this." Jowd smiled. "I imagine if I turned up in a pink smock, they would kick me right out." He finished his sentence with a chuckle.

Alma looked at him out the corner of her eye, raising an eyebrow. "You would have had to get past the both of us. And there's no way we would have let you pass."

"Haha, I suppose you're right." Jowd caught a flash of white out the corner of his eye and glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, here he comes."

Alma looked back as well, noticing the twirling figure come their way in a swirl of white fabric. His elegant spin came to a halt just in front of them, his body bending over in a deep bow.

Cabanela straightened himself, showing them a cheerful smile. "Taaable's ready." He strutted over to the fence. "What a beautiful view. Yeah, there's nothing like it, baby. Such a lovely looking restaurant too."

"And Jowd's cracking jokes about turning up in a pink smock."

Cabanela cast a wry look at Jowd. "Now why doesn't that surprise me? It won't kill you to wear a suit once in awhiiile, you know."

"Hmph." Jowd folded his arms. "That's easy enough for you to say. You got to keep your coat."

Cabanela placed a hand on his hip, looking amused. "What's the matter, baby, jealous? Anyhoot, I still had to go without my scarf. But it's a small price to pay for a lovely evening together." He put both hands on the fence and inhaled. "Ahh. How about that fresh sea breeze. Yeah, I'm looking forward to this."

"We can thank Emma for recommending this place." Alma stepped away from the fence. "Now, let's get to our table. Can't keep the staff waiting."

The three of them made their way through the cluster of tables, following their waiter to a table located in the corner of the dining area. They took their seats and menus were handed out.

"I'll choose the wine, shall I?" Cabanela picked up the wine menu. "What do you want to drink, Jowd?"

"I'll have a brandy." Jowd picked up his menu and started reading. "Hmm." His features settled into a look of deep concentration.

"Quite the fancy selection, I see," Alma commented as she perused the pages of her own menu. She wasn't surprised to see the high prices either, but that was of no concern. They had plenty saved for this special evening together.

"Yes, there are a lot of fancy words."

"Don't be afraaaid to ask if you don't know what they mean, baby."

"Oh no, I can understand just fine." Jowd smirked. "Maybe I should have brought Sissel along. This would have been a learning experience for him. Knowing him though, he would have raced down the phone line the moment Alma made the reservation."

"So you want to have witty side conversations with a ghost cat while we're enjoying a romaaantic dinner together, do you?" Cabanela cocked an eyebrow at him.

"You really think I'd do that?" Jowd's smile didn't even waver.

"Wouldn't put it past you," said Alma. "Sometimes it's plain as day when you're having conversations with Sissel."

"Oh? Am I that obvious? And here I thought I had a great poker face."

"Well, you're good at keepin' a straight face. Sometimes, even to a distuuurbing extent."

"That's only natural. After all, I had to keep one for five years."

Alma and Cabanela reacted with puzzled looks at first. Realisation quickly dawned and they awkwardly averted their gazes. Cabanela turned his attention back to the wine list.

"Sooo, how about a Cabernet Sauvignon, Alma?"

"That sounds good, yes."

Cabanela clicked his fingers to summon the waiter, then ordered the drinks. "Now then, let's see what's on the menu." He opened it up and studied the list of dishes. "Hmm. Niiice selection we have here."

Alma closed her menu and set it down on the table. A quick glance revealed that Jowd was still deep in his perusal of the menu. She leaned back in her chair, focusing her attention on the gentle melody flowing through the air. Her gaze trailed over the two men, both of them hunched over their menus while the candlelight cast shadows on their forms, and a swelling sensation grew in her chest. A sigh escaped her smiling lips.

Jowd and Cabanela had both decided on what they were having by the time the drinks came to the table. After making the orders, everyone lifted their glasses and clinked them together, letting out a "Cheers" in unison.

"Oh, this wine is good," Alma commented, after taking a sip of her wine. "You made a good choice, Cabanela."

"Glaaad to hear it." Cabanela leaned back, sipping at the wine. "We want this evening to be perfect in every way after all."

"Yeah." Alma rested her chin in one hand, holding her wine glass in the other. "Of course, it's enough for me that the three of us are together. I couldn't ask for anything more than that, knowing just how lucky we are."

"Good point," said Cabanela. "I couldn't agree more, baby."

"Every day is a miracle." Jowd sipped at his brandy. "A wonderful miracle."

Alma swirled around the liquid in her glass, gazing into the crimson depths. "And I'm sure we have a wonderful future ahead of us. We'll always be together, no matter what." She looked up, a smile forming on her face.

"I wonder what the future will bring us." Cabanela looked thoughtful for a moment. "No doubt Jowd will become the chief of police. I can just see it. He's not the nation's best detective for nooothing."

"Chief of police, eh?" Jowd smiled. "Hmm. Well, I certainly wouldn't turn the offer down, but I'm sure that's a while away yet."

"Hmm." Alma looked sideways. "It's probably never going to happen, but..." She trailed off.

"You got a thought you wanna shaaare with us, baby? Don't hold back now."

"Sorry, it was just a bit of a ridiculous thought, but if polygamy was to ever be legalized in this country... well..." Alma shook her head. "Honestly, what am I even saying? It was just a silly thought."

"That doesn't sound like a silly thought at all. Riiight, Jowd?"

"Right. It's probably not going to happen anytime soon, but if it did... well, I would be all for it."

"Wow, now you're seriously making me blush." The smile on Cabanela's face widened. "You would really do it?"

"Of course we would." Alma exchanged a glance with Jowd. "No question about it. I just feel a bit bad for bringing it up, knowing it might never happen."

"Well, you know what I think?" Cabanela put his hands out, putting one over Alma's and the other over Jowd's. "We don't need any certificates or whatever. We all love each other and that's all that matters for me. But thank you for the thought, I reeeally do appreciate it."

"Well said, Cabanela." Jowd nodded. "You are part of our family." He reached for Alma's hand. "And I'm so glad that we have each other."

Alma's eyes glittered and she lowered her head, letting out a sniffle.

"Ahh. Now we've gone and made our baby cry."

Alma reached into her handbag with an awkward laugh. "Honestly. Now I'm getting all emotional." She withdrew a tissue and dabbed at her eyes.

Cabanela sat back, looking from one to the other. "You know, I totally want to give you both the biiiggest hug right now, but I guess we can't be doin' that right in the restaurant, with all those people around."

Jowd lifted his shoulders in a shrug. "Just pretend they aren't there."

"Later, yeah?" Alma glanced at her husband with an amused smile.

"Suuure." Cabanela relaxed in his chair, exhaling while his gaze swept around the restaurant. "Such a lovely atmosphere, this place. I'm glad we came here."

"Makes a nice change, doesn't it?" Alma leaned forward, resting her chin in one hand. "We don't get to eat together at fancy restaurants very often, what with it being so expensive."

"I don't really mind," said Jowd. "The Chicken Kitchen is good enough for me." As he received narrow stares from Alma and Cabanela, he quickly added, "But of course, this is a fine place. I'm absolutely thankful we came."

"Look at him, trying to pretend we don't know how he really feels about fancy restaurants." Cabanela smirked. "He isn't happy unless the food can be slaaathered in ketchup."

"Let's not be too hard on him. He even got dressed up for tonight after all."

"I'm sitting right here, you know. No need to talk about me like I'm not."

The conversation went on for a short while until food was brought to the table. Cabanela had ordered seafood linguine, Jowd steak, and Alma duck breast. They took a moment to marvel at the presentation of the food before diving right in.

"Whoo-whee, this is absolutely delicious," Cabanela declared. He rolled more of the pasta onto his fork and expertly slurped it up, twirling the fork as he did so. "It's out of this world."

"Mmm." Alma swallowed and nodded. "This is lovely." She glanced at Jowd. "How is it?"

"Not bad at all." Jowd cut out another piece of steak and chewed before swallowing. "Definitely one of the better steaks I've ever eaten."

They continued to dine upon their food, making occasional conversation as they did so, until their stomachs were full and the plates were clean of food.

"Phew." Jowd wiped his mouth with a napkin then sat back and rubbed his stomach. "I'm stuffed."

"That was amazing. Definitely worth it," said Alma.

"I couldn't agree with you mooore. What an absolutely perfect evening this has been so far."

"Yeah, what he said."

The waiter came over to collect the plates and everyone made the unanimous decision that there was still room in their stomachs for dessert. The desserts turned out to be as every bit as good as the main course had been. With those consumed in their entirety, everything was paid for and they left the restaurant.

"Oh." Alma had turned her gaze up to the sky, letting out a soft gasp. "Look at the sky."

Cabanela raised his head, taking in the same view as Alma. "A clear night tonight, I see. Such a beautiful sight."

Jowd looked up as well, viewing the dazzling array of stars sprinkled overhead. His gaze trailed over to the luminous moon shining bright as it hung over the sea. "Yeah, it's a nice view, alright."

"Hmm. Maybe we could take a walk along the pier," said Alma. "Would you be alright with that?" She turned a mildly concerned gaze toward Jowd.

Jowd shrugged. "No need to ask me, I'm fine with it."

"Well, you know, I just don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"Ha. I make people uncomfortable enough myself, I probably deserve it."

"Yeah, no kidding. I swear, it's like you're making a spooort out of it," Cabanela remarked, raising an eyebrow.

"Hmm. I wonder," Jowd responded with a smile.

Alma made an exasperated sound, smiling herself as she exchanged a look with Cabanela. Shaking his head, the inspector spun around and started strutting off along the pier, his coat billowing behind him. Jowd put an arm around Alma, who huddled close to him as they took off in the same direction. Their ears filled with the sound of water crashing against rock, accompanied by the taps of shoes on wood.

The journey along the pier was not a long one. At the very end, Cabanela came to a stop and gripped the wooden fence. He looked out to sea, deeply inhaling the fresh night air. Alma and Jowd joined him, leaning on the fence and looking out.

"It's been such a lovely night," Cabanela murmured. "Just the three of us, spending time together, eating great food. Getting to see this view."

"Yeah," Alma said quietly, her lips turned up at the corners as she gazed at the moon's shining reflection stretching across the rippling waves. She turned her head toward Jowd, who was looking straight ahead with a calm expression on his face. Her hand moved to cover his and he glanced at her. "I'm proud of you."

"Hm? Whatever do you mean?”

"I know you've been uncomfortable about the sea for a long time. You're doing really well tonight."

"Really, it's not that big a deal."

"You don't have to play dumb, maaan. It's plain as day when there's something going on with you." Cabanela turned his body toward them, placing a hand on his hip. "But we're aaalways here for you, you know."

"Yeah, I know. Thanks."

They stayed there for a while longer, talking and looking out to sea before they decided it was time to be getting home. Just as Jowd and Alma started walking away, Cabanela let out a sudden exclamation.

"Hold on a second, aren't we forgetting something?"

Jowd and Alma stopped in their tracks, turning to throw quizzical looks his way. They exchanged brief glances with each other, then looked back at him.

"Er, I don't think we are?" Alma raised an eyebrow. "Is there something else you wanted to do?"

"Remember what I said before? About how I wanted to give you the biggest hug?"

"And you want to do it now?" said Jowd. "We can do all the cuddling we want when we get home."

"Oh come ooon, don't be such a wet blanket." Cabanela held his arms out.

Alma moved in first, pressing herself to Cabanela and putting an arm around his waist. Mumbling a 'Well, why not?' under his breath, Jowd entered the embrace and the three of them enclosed each other in their arms, holding on tightly and basking in the warmth of their bodies. They stayed like that for a while, just lingering in each other's hold, clinging to the moment and unwilling to let it end.

Finally, the hug was broken and they stepped away from each other.

"Now thaaat was a good hug." Cabanela beamed from ear to ear.

Alma deeply exhaled, eyes half closed and mouth stretching in a smile. "Yeah."

"And there will be even more of that once we're home, so let's be off, shall we?"

Alma slipped her hand into the one Jowd held out and offered her other to Cabanela. With their hands firmly intertwined, the three of them set off in the direction of the car park.