At 2:45 am, something beeped.
It woke me, but decided to ignore it. It was one beep—nothing urgent. I could live with a random, middle-of-the-night beep, particularly because it didn’t wake up Wes. He remained cuddled into my chest, heavy but not a burden. I wrapped my arms around him and shifted to the side, so he was between me and the wall. He let out a soft snore but otherwise gave no indication he’d awoken. Satisfied to hold him for the rest of the night, I closed my eyes and started to drift off again.
I scowled into the darkness, waiting for a follow-up noise so I could pinpoint where the beep was coming from. All that greeted me, though, was silence. Silence that continued for so long that I was nearly asleep again when…
“What the fuck?” I couldn’t stop the annoyed rumble from escaping.
Wes snorted himself awake. “Whazzat?”
Another beep, this time after a shorter interval. “I don’t know. Something in the kitchen?”
“Is it a carbon monoxide detector?”
Good question. I was relatively sure carbon monoxide wouldn’t kill either of us, but there was a non-zero chance it would be an unpleasant experience nonetheless. I scrubbed a hand over my face, the prickle of my early-morning stubble scratching my palm. “I’ll go look,” I said with a sigh.
“Yeah, it’s coming from the kitchen,” Wes said, propping himself on one arm.
I scanned the small space that was the kitchenette. It consisted of a tiny stove, a tinier microwave, and a half-size fridge, along with a counter that took up two-thirds of the rear of the cabin, a sink stuck in the middle of it. There were two upper cabinets which I’d checked out earlier—they held only dishes and cups.
“This is getting fucking annoying.”
“Thought you were a predator,” Wes teased. “Mr. My-Hearing-Is-Better-Than-Yours.”
I glared at my husband. “You want to help or just make fun?”
“Oh, make fun. Definitely.”
“You—” I froze as the beep sounded again, then brightened as it occurred to me where it was coming from. The room next to the kitchen. “The bathroom.”
I yanked the door open, none too gently, and immediately spotted the culprit. As Wes had guessed, it was a carbon monoxide detector, one that plugged into an outlet. A red zero flashed on its display and as I stood there, it emitted another beep.
“Aha!” I pulled it out of the wall and held it up. “You were right. It was the carbon monoxide detector.”
“Are we being poisoned?”
“No. It was showing a zero.”
“Then why was it beeping?”
I was about to say I didn’t know, when something occurred to me. I’d been searching without the lights on this entire time because, well, vampire. I flipped the light switch in the bathroom, unsurprised when the light didn’t turn on. I recalled hearing about a similar situation from a colleague when I was still a cop, when someone had called 9-1-1 for a mysterious beeping sound during an outage. “Power’s out.”
Wes crumpled forward, his shoulders shaking as he laughed into the futon mattress. After a second he lifted his head, grinning from ear to ear. “No sheets or blankets, a leaky roof, and now no power. I’m sorry, are you sure this is supposed to be fun?”
“We would’ve been better off camping.” I placed the detector on the counter in the kitchen and returned to the futon.
“Despite the risk of encouraging you to think I actually want to rough it,” Wes said, chuckling, “I have to agree. At least then we’d have our own tent, which I assume would have no leaks, our own bedding, and there wouldn’t be a need for a carbon monoxide detector.” As I opened my mouth, he held up a finger. “Don’t take that as permission to plan a camping trip, Mr. Rojas-Westerson. Not. Interested.”
Grumbling, I rearranged myself on the futon with Wes between me and the wall again. “This good?”
Wes sighed a happy sigh, one of the best sounds in the world. “Yeah.”
“Maybe I’ll ask Evan to go camping.”
“Evan and Sam. You could be their camping daddy.”
Oh my god. “Never say that again.”
“What? You’re old enough to be their father.”
“That is not what comes to mind with the phrase ‘camping daddy.’”
Wes tucked his face into my chest, shaking the entire futon with his laughter. “Would you wear leather?”
“Call them a good boy and a good girl?”
Wes laughed harder.
Something suddenly felt unstable beneath us. It was subtle—a creak, maybe, or the futon shifting in a way it shouldn’t shift. “Wes, I think you need to stop—”
“Why? Think me laughing is going to bring the leaky roof down on—”
The collapse of the futon beneath us cut off whatever Wes had been about to say.
I lay there for a second, stunned that the bed actually gave out. Looking down at Wes, I found him looking up at me, biting back more laughter. A smile grew across my lips, then I bent my forehead to rest against his as I let out the guffaw that had been building in my chest. Wes joined me, until tears ran down both our faces.
“This is so fuckin’ ridiculous,” I managed after about a minute. “Let’s go home.”
“Finally. But, for the record, I want it to be known that I didn’t suggest that!”
“Duly noted. C’mon, if we get packed up and on the road, we can hit up that truck stop we passed for breakfast.”
I was about to get up when Wes stopped me with a hand on my arm. “Hey, Hud?”
He pushed himself up on one arm to press a kiss to my lips. “Thanks for trying.”
“A for effort?”
He wrinkled his nose. “Eh. More like a C.”
“C?” Before he could react, I had him pinned down, my fingers finding the ticklish spots along his ribs. “I’ll show you a C.”
“Stop—wait—that doesn’t even make sense!” Between bits of laughter and gasps for air, suddenly he was gone—disappeared like the ghost he sometimes was.
“Not fair!” I called out.
His voice drifted down the stairs. “If you think I’m going to put up with being tickled when I can teleport the hell away, you don’t know me at all.”
But the thing was, I did know him. For all his flaws—and not liking roughing it was a big one—he was the perfect partner for me. I wasn’t sure if I believed in the capital-G God anymore, but I owed whoever had made our paths cross again a giant thank you.
And maybe a “What took you so long?”