For Better or for Worse – part II

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Chapter One – Waking Up Without You

Caleb rubbed a fist over his eyes, suppressing the nearly constant urge to yawn at this point in the evening… or was it morning?

Hard to tell these days. It was difficult to tell what time he woke up on the ground, what time he went to sleep, or if it was night time. He had no memory of what day he’d fallen asleep, who he’d slept with… Or even when he’d left the tavern for the first time. 

He sighed, letting his head fall back against the floorboards. He was beginning to regret sleeping in the treehouse… Not that he had anything against it, but he was beginning to come to realize how often he’d wake up there, unable to remember a time when he hadn’t been there. 

He groaned at the loud knock, glancing toward the door as he waited, rubbing his eyes again. 

Nott let her eyes flicker back to his face as the door opened to reveal Caleb’s head, then smiled softly. She wasn’t quite sure how he felt about her bringing him food or the other way around, but she seemed to like the idea and even brought him a few small trinkets whenever she came across him down there.

She sat down next to him on the floor, looking over at his plate. He’d made his homemade biscuits, so she knew he must have been hungry. “Good morning.” He said a bit too quickly, making her smile. “Morning.” She answered quietly, taking a bite of her own biscuit.

“What are you doing down there?” He asked quietly, a bit of panic going through him as he remembered Nott had already gone when he’d awoken. He sat up as if to stand, but stopped as she held up a hand to stop him. 

“I was looking for you. Where have you been all morning?” Nott asked softly, the worry slowly leaving her expression. 

“I’ve just been wandering.” He answered softly, sitting back down, “I… I guess I fell asleep down here.” 

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” She asked quietly, looking him over again for any marks she had missed and wondering if he was injured. 

“No. I didn’t really move much.” He shrugged a little, looking down at his plate, “I guess I’m just used to sleeping with someone else.” 

“I think it’s lovely, Caleb.” She said softly, smiling, “You are so dear to me, and so kind and caring. I am honored to be with you.” 

“I’m glad you are, Nott.” Caleb said gently, taking a small bite of his biscuits as he continued to ponder the idea that his strange sleep patterns gave him. He felt suddenly very thankful for those strange sleeping patterns.

Chapter Two – Waking Up With You By My Side

Caleb rubbed a fist over his eyes, suppressing the nearly constant urge to yawn at this point in the evening… or was it morning?

His mind felt hazy and unfocused – the world felt so far away, and yet strangely, it didn’t feel like it was that far away, in fact it felt as if it could never ever close, or that his feet were just as far apart as before. 

Nott was sitting next to him, but his arm was still stretched out and her head resting on his shoulder, her free hand resting on her cheek, and Caleb was vaguely aware that he’d been talking a bit. Or at least he would have been if he could concentrate on anything other than his own ragged breathing and dull throbbing headache. 

“Do you want some water? You look like you haven’t slept in a while… Or is it morning?” Nott said softly. 

“Hmm? Oh yeah, uh no, thanks.” Caleb replied as he carefully shifted her so he was better positioned to make use of her support, but still leaning rather awkwardly against the wall.

She glanced over at him, her eyebrows arching when she noticed he’d started fiddling with his hands rather than sleeping. “What’s the matter? You’ve been mumbling for a while now.” she inquired. 

“Nothing, it’s fine.” Caleb insisted, but Nott didn’t buy it for a single second. “It’s just the exhaustion, it probably is, but I’ll be fine.” 

“You don’t look fine!” Nott snapped. “And let’s be honest, you’re the one who has the headache. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell, what am I going to do with you? You’re my best friend, maybe I should have done this sooner.” 

“Nott, you’re an amazing friend. You know that – but you just seemed a little stressed out and tired, I didn’t want to be a bother… And then it got really quiet, like everything ran really slow. Like I was hearing it all from outside.” 

“It’s alright, Caleb. It’s a bit of a stretch…” 

“It’s fine, honestly.” Caleb finally responded. Nott was pretty easy to read – after all, she could tell when she had something on her mind. 

“Are you sure? I can just hold you.” 

“Nah, I’m fine, honestly.” 

Nott was quiet for a moment, seeming to consider something. Caleb was beginning to wonder if perhaps she had something more on her mind – that was, until he felt the soft touch of her fingers against his shoulder. “Can I put my arm around you?” 

Caleb blinked a few times before shaking his head. “I’m fine, honestly. I’ll be alright here in a minute.” 

“Okay… Good.” Nott gave his shoulder a light squeeze, before leaning back against the wall again, and this time, resting her weight fully against his body. She was a pretty nice person to have around and she was kind of strange for her kind, but Caleb never really minded or cared where her friends were from. Caleb knew she was the same way before he met her. But now that he knew, his whole world seemed to go grey, it was almost like it was made of nothing but colors; colors that he never knew existed.

“You know,” Nott started. “You seem really lonely over there, even though I’m right here.” 

“Oh yeah?” Caleb laughed, but the laugh didn’t quite reach his eyes, “Then why don’t you go and give me some company over here? I’m sure I could use it.”

Nott chuckled, even as her voice had become flat. “I’d be happy to do that.” She said. The soft brush of her hand against the crook of one of his arms began to send shivers down Caleb’s spine. He wasn’t sure exactly why… But he was glad to feel it. 

Caleb turned his head slightly, and Nott gave him the smallest of smiles. Maybe she smiled all the time, but here, in the dark, it felt real. He couldn’t help but return her smile. 

“I’m just going to close my eyes, I’ll be right there.” Caleb promised, before slowly, he felt himself starting to drift off. Nott was right there by his side, but she wasn’t real, or a figment of his imagination; she was right there. And he knew that for certain. He was certain he felt her pressed up against his side… Or was it the other way around? Either way, there she was, and that was something that made it so very difficult to be sad.

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