The morning of the ‘Unite the Right’ riots in Charlottesville.
Joshua poured a cup of coffee and took the seat next to Colin. “I damn joined the counter-protesters last night.”
Colin wheeled to face him, his eyes narrowed to dark slits. “Do not do that!” He grasped Joshua’s arm in a tight grip. “I mean it, Josh. Do not come down there!”
“It was a fleeting impulse which David immediately quashed. He told me he’d stop me if he had to tie me to a chair.”
“Thank god,” Colin said, still gripping Joshua’s arm tightly. “Josh, I mean it. Please stay home. I understand why you want to join the counter-protestors and fight these Nazi bastards and I love you for it. But it’s going to get ugly down there today, Josh. Very ugly. Especially for someone with your ethnic heritage. Knowing you’re safe at home is the only way I’ll be able to do my job.”
Joshua frowned, but nodded. “I understand.” He leaned forward to kiss Colin’s cheek. “If you promise to hang onto your phone and to call me when you can.”
“I will,” Colin told him. “But don’t worry too much if you don’t hear from me. I suspect I’m going to have my hands full.”
“How bad could it get today, Colin?” Joshua asked.
Colin’s brow furrowed. “You know what we’re dealing with. I’m afraid it could get very bad today.”
A rustling at their back door startled both of them, and they turned to see David and Nate walking through their utility room carrying bags obviously filled with food.
“We brought breakfast!” Nate told them, setting the bags on the table. “Get some plates.”
Colin rose. “I can’t stay, I’m due at the station.” He bent over the table and sniffed the contents. “Smells good though!”
David took Colin’s hand in both of his. “Please be safe.”
Colin nodded but did not speak then turned to accept Nate’s hug. “Thanks,” he whispered.
“Don’t worry about Josh. We’ll be with him.”
Colin nodded then turned to Joshua who stood watching, teeth clenched against the dread that filled his mind and heart.
“Gotta go, babe,” Colin said.
Joshua walked to his side, wrenching his mind away from his fears, resolved that Colin’s last view of him today would reflect his faith in the man he loved and the courage to face whatever this day might bring.
They embraced tightly but neither man spoke. Then Colin drew in a deep breath and kissed Joshua lightly… briefly. “Chin up, bud,” he said. “Be home later.”
“Please be safe,” Joshua said, his voice a hoarse whisper.
“Always my intention,” Colin replied with a quick grin, then his expression grew grim. “Remember what I said, Joshua. No matter what you see… stay home!”
Joshua hissed out a breath, his mind burned with reservations. But he couldn’t bring himself to add to the stresses already weighing on his lover and gave a tight nod. “Got it.”
Colin bent toward him, his lips brushing Joshua’s ear. “Ta`mo chori istigh ionat,” he whispered, Gaelic for ‘my heart is within you’, a phrase Joshua knew well.
“Ani Ohev Otcha,” Joshua choked out, responding with the same words in Hebrew.
Without another word, Colin wheeled and strode out the back door. He didn’t see Joshua sink into a kitchen chair and collapse forward, the heels of both hands pressed to his forehead.