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Colin stood beside the dresser, staring down at his wallet, phone, watch, and the small pile of coins, keys, and sugar-free gum he had pulled from his pockets last night. As he reached to take his wallet, a glint of light touched the Celtic knotwork etched into the gold of his wedding ring, and he paused.
Tomorrow, he thought. He grabbed his belongings and then moved to the bed, gazing down at his sleeping husband. Joshua had gathered Colin’s pillow into his arms and was nearly wrapped around it as he slept. He’s dreaming that it’s me, Colin thought with a smile. Joshua’s posture as he slumbered with the pillow in his arms mirrored the position their bodies often formed as they slept, with Joshua holding Colin close against his body.
He bent and pressed a kiss to Joshua’s hair. “Have a good day, baby,” he murmured. He started to rise but stopped when a strong hand wrapped around his wrist.
“Where you goin’, hot stuff?” Joshua murmured, tugging until Colin sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Work, of course. Gotta put on my white hat and go fight bad guys.”
“Stay here and make love instead!” Joshua begged. He turned onto his back and reached to caress Colin’s cheek. “I’ll make it worth your while, stud.”
“Don’t think I wouldn’t love it,” his husband replied, then bent to kiss him again. “Gotta go, love. Court in forty-five minutes.”
Joshua gave a whimpering moan, his hand tightening on Colin’s wrist. “Staaaay!”
“Can’t do it, darlin’,” Colin told him, grinning as he rose. “It’s verdict day. Judge Robinson will hold me in contempt. Make the same offer when I get home, and you’ll get a different response.”
Joshua sighed and released him. “Fine!” he said in faked indignation. “Be that way!”
Colin snickered and ruffled Joshua’s hair. “Don’t pout, snookums. See you tonight.” He grabbed his briefcase and moved down the stairs, laughing as he heard Joshua give another fake whine.
An hour and a half later, he sat in his office, savoring a feeling of victory after winning a guilty verdict in a challenging felony assault case. The case was complicated because much of the evidence was circumstantial. But working with the ‘Albemarle County Crime/Assault Task Force,’ which functioned under his jurisdiction, he had gathered enough proof to secure a legal victory. In addition, the police work, in this case, had been remarkable in its speed and thoroughness, and Colin felt a swell of gratitude toward Donald Anderson and Shannon Nash, the two officers involved with the case.
He took a long breath and glanced at the calendar covering his desktop. Various dates were circled, some in blue indicating an arraignment; orange, showing jury selection; or yellow, a pre-trial conference, but tomorrow’s date was circled in red and adorned with a hand-drawn heart, April 20th— his and Joshua’s third anniversary.
“Three years,” he whispered, reaching to touch the calendar, tracing the heart with a fingertip. “Best three years of my life.” He had already looked up the meaning of the ‘third’ anniversary and had purchased a gift he was sure Joshua would love. And yet a lead heavy weight gathered in the pit of his stomach. “It’s not enough,” he said, gazing at Joshua’s picture. “Not nearly enough.”
Their anniversary plan was to have dinner with their two best friends to celebrate the event, and unknown to Joshua, Colin had ordered an anniversary cake from a local bakery. He had already wrapped his gift, purchased a card, and arranged to pick up the cake on his way home. Still, he thought as he rose, grabbed his briefcase, and headed for another court appearance. It’s not enough. I need to do more. Much more.
He left his office early the following day to deliver the cake, beautifully wrapped gift, and anniversary card to Danny, McCafferty’s owner. “Make the table look beautiful, will you, Danny?” Colin asked as he laid his various packages on the bar.
“Count on it, Colin.”
Colin paused and frowned as he scanned the gifts he had arranged for Danny to display. Then he wrinkled his nose and shook his head.
The following evening at six-thirty, Colin and Joshua arrived just after their best friends to find the table decorated with an elegant anniversary tablecloth, and napkins, with Colin’s gifts and cake adorning the center.
“Colin!” Joshua exclaimed, wrapping him in his arms. “You got us a cake!”
“I did,” Colin said, kissing his husband’s cheek.
“Might know the icing says ‘We can last forever’,” Nate said with a giggle.
“Of course!” Colin replied. “What else?”
“Did you do all this?” David asked, indicating the table decorations.
“Well, I brought my presents and the cake over earlier today, but I think Danny did the rest, bless him.”
“Well, your anniversary dinner’s on us,” Nate said and lifted his glass.
“And so is the champagne,” David added. “Congratulations, you two. Many more. In fact, many decades more!”
“Thank you,” Colin said, lifting his glass to David.
Joshua had placed his gift next to Colin’s and turned to chat with Nate about how lovely the table looked. His beautiful angular face seemed to glow, and Colin couldn’t help but smile. God, he looks so happy, he thought. He gazed at the table with its beautifully wrapped gifts and lovely decorations and sighed. It’s not enough, he thought. Not enough for him. He deserves more.
He felt Joshua’s hand touch his. “Baby, what’s wrong?”
“You just looked… sad for a second.”
Colin scoffed out a soft, self-deprecating laugh. “I’m just…” he stopped as the waiter approached with their dinners. “Let’s eat,” he said, leaning close to kiss Joshua’s cheek. “I’ll explain later.”
Once dinner was over and the table cleared, Joshua handed Colin his gift. “Happy Anniversary, my magic man.”
Colin opened it to find an exquisite leather-bound journal. “My god, Josh, it’s beautiful,” he breathed.
“That’s gorgeous, Josh,” David remarked, reaching to touch the leather binding.
“Deena asked him to keep a journal as part of his therapy,” Joshua explained to their friends, referring to their therapist Dr. Deena Mallory.
“That was a while ago,” Colin said, turning the journal over to examine the back. “And I discovered that I like journaling. It’s… helpful.” He examined the pages and smiled at Joshua. “Unruled!”
“I know that’s what you prefer.” He touched Colin’s arm. “That one has enough pages to last you. But when you fill it, I’ll get you a new one.”
Colin leaned close and kissed him tenderly. “Always my healer,” he whispered, his voice trembling.
“Just as you’re mine,” Joshua whispered in reply.
“Now it’s your turn,” Colin said, handing Joshua his gift. He leaned close and murmured into his ear. “It goes with the cake.”
Joshua opened his gift to find a beautiful leather frame enclosing the sheet music to ‘We Can Last Forever’. “Happy Anniversary, darling,” Colin murmured into Joshua’s ear.
“My love, it’s wonderful,” Joshua said, pressing kiss after kiss to Colin’s lips. “Thank you!”
“Can we eat the damned cake now?” Nate griped. “Damn, it smells good!”
“Wait!” Joshua exclaimed, holding up his hand before turning to his husband. “I still want to know why you looked so gloomy a minute ago. What’s bothering you?”
Colin huffed out a sigh through his nose; his lips pressed together. Then, for a moment, he gazed in silence at his husband. “It’s not enough,” he said finally. “None of this is enough. Not for how much you mean to me. Not after everything you went through last fall. I feel like this is an empty gesture compared to what I want to give you… what I ache to give you.”
“Colin,” Joshua breathed, his eyes filling with tears. “My beautiful Yedid, having you is all I need or want ever.Having you! Having us!”
“I know,” Colin said, wiping the tears from Joshua’s cheek. “I know that’s how you feel. But…” he grimaced, “it’s not enough for me.” He captured Joshua’s hand. “God, I wish I could marry you all over again. Say my vows to you again. Promise all of it again.” He kissed Joshua tenderly. “Once just wasn’t enough.”
“So do it!” David said, laughing. “You can renew your vows anytime you want.”
“Get a priest and a rabbi all over again?” Joshua asked with a quick grin.
“You don’t need them,” David told him. “You can repeat your vows in your bathroom. In your living room. On a street corner. Anywhere you like. You don’t need all the fancy trimmings. You know the words. All you need is each other.”
Joshua turned to Colin and smiled, but Colin didn’t smile back. Instead, he gripped both of Joshua’s hands and drew him close. “I love you,” he murmured. “Say your vows to me, my darling.”
“Right here,” Colin said. “Right now.”
Joshua’s eyes slowly filled with tears, and he nodded. “OK,” he whispered, his voice choked. “But… you go first. I’m… I’m…” he stifled a sob. “You go first.”
“Wait!” Nate cried. “Wait, wait, wait! Need music!” He leaped to his feet, dashed to the jukebox, and shoved several coins into the slot. His fingers flew as he punched in the numbers, then he rushed back to the table. “Now!” he said to Colin.
Colin drew in a deep breath just as ‘We Can Last Forever’ began to play. He smiled and drew Joshua close to him. “I, Colin,” he said, his voice husky with emotion, “take you, Joshua, for my lawful wedded husband. To have and to hold from this day forward.” He saw the tears in Joshua’s eyes overflow onto his cheeks, and as he began to speak again, his breath caught as his own eyes slowly filled. “For better or worse,” he whispered, then swallowed hard. “…for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” He leaned forward and kissed Joshua tenderly. “We will last forever,” he whispered, then leaned back and smiled at Joshua. “Your turn, bud.”
“Oh lord god,” Joshua moaned, swiping at his wet cheek. He drew a deep, trembling breath and gripped Colin’s hands, determined that he would not break down as he had at their wedding. “I, Joshua, take you, Colin, for my lawful wedded husband,” he murmured, his voice low, his eyes gazing straight into Colin’s. “To have and to hold from this day forward. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.”
Colin clutched Joshua against his body, his fingers winding through Joshua’s dark curls. Again and again, he kissed his husband with such intense passion that Joshua could scarcely breathe.
David and Nate burst into cheers and applause. “Now that’s how to celebrate an anniversary!” David told them, laughing. “Just beautiful!”
“And Josh managed to get through it without bawling his eyes out,” Nate teased.
“Just barely!” He wound his arms around Colin’s neck and kissed him. “In McCafferty’s?” Joshua murmured against his ear. “McCafferty’s Colin?”
“Why not?” Colin replied. “This is where we had our first kiss, our first date, our wedding reception….” He grinned at Joshua and winked. “It looms large in our legend.”
“Well, Colin, is it enough now?” David asked.
“Truthfully?” Colin said, gazing at his friend. “No, it’s not.” He gave a small shrug. “I’m glad we did this, but even this isn’t enough.” He looked around the table. “But I’m starting to discover something.” He took Joshua’s hand in his and raised it to his lips. “Whatever it is that I’m searching for… it’s something that can’t ever be found. Truth is… nothing will ever be enough.”
He shook his head, still gazing at Joshua, his face alight with love. “Not for the way I feel about you, about us. No gift could say it. Not even our wedding vows could say it. Those words were a great beginning, but, my god, we’ve come a long way since then.” He leaned forward and kissed Joshua, a long, slow, intimate kiss that brought swift tears back to Joshua’s eyes.
“You’re the finest man I’ve ever known,” Colin told him. “The kindest, the sweetest, the most giving. You strengthened me in ways I didn’t know I needed but that I needed like air to breathe. No gesture could ever be enough. It’s gonna take me a lifetime.”
“And I have a lifetime to give,” Joshua told him, his voice choked with tears. “I love you so much. Thank you, my Yedid… my beloved.”
“Oh my god,” Nate moaned. “You are the sappiest couple on Earth. No question. You two leave David and me in the dust. I need an insulin injection just from listening to you!”
“I think it’s sweet,” David said. “I love hearing the hard-nosed, independent cop who liked romance about as much as a case of the clap profess his undying love for the quiet, unassuming guy who captured his heart.”
“I’ll never know how I did it,” Joshua said, both arms wrapped around Colin’s arm, hugging him close. “I’m still trying to work that one out.”
Colin laughed and kissed his hair. “I think you fed me a love potion.”
David smiled and got to his feet. “And as glorious as this is, we must say goodnight. We’ve both got early classes.” He embraced Colin. “Thank you for letting us share this with you, and happy anniversary.”
“You belong with us,” Colin told him. “You’re our best friends and a huge part of everything we care about.”
“Thank you,” Nate whispered, hugging Colin, then Josh. “This was fun, and the cake was delicious.”
“See you this weekend,” David said, then took Nate’s hand, and they moved toward the door.
Joshua watched them go, leaning against Colin’s shoulder. “I hate for this night to end.”
Colin rose and stretched. “I’m going to grab the cake box from behind the bar so we can pack it up. You grab our gifts.” He bent and pressed his cheek to Joshua’s, his lips nearly touching his ear. “Then we’ll head home where this night will continue… if you catch my drift.”
Joshua laughed. “Your meaning is crystal clear, my love. And I can’t wait!”
Colin retrieved the cake box and returned it to Joshua, who was packing their gifts into a bag. “You ready to go home, husband?”
They gathered their tributes, waved goodbye to Danny, and wandered out the door and toward the car. “I hope you enjoyed our anniversary,” Colin said. “The third isn’t one of those golden moments but I want all of them to be special.”
Joshua said nothing as he climbed into the car and buckled his seatbelt. Then he reached to touch Colin’s arm. “You make every moment I share with you special, Colin. I’m the luckiest man alive.”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to fight you for that title,” Colin said with a quick grin.
“Well, when we get home, I’ll wrestle you for it,” Joshua told him.
“Happy anniversary, my Yedid.”
“Happy anniversary, my sweet Jewish boy.”