Colin was leaning against the back of the couch chatting with David. “Yeah, I feel bad for Danny,” he said, referring to the owner of their favorite pub, McCafferty’s. “That pub is his livelihood and now it’s been ordered closed because of this damned virus.”
“Bad enough we have to practice social distancing and can’t hang out together,” David said with a chuckle. “But to close down an innocent pub? That’s cruel!”
Colin laughed, then coughed and waved his hand in front of his face. “Jesus, Josh!” he spouted, moving away from where Joshua stood, a can of spray disinfectant in one hand and a damp cloth which reeked of bleach in the other. “Didn’t you just do that an hour ago?”
“Yeah, but that was an hour ago,” Joshua muttered. He threw Colin an apologetic look then shrugged and ambled toward the kitchen, spraying everything in sight.
“What’s wrong?” David asked.
“Ohhhh,” Colin drawled out, his voice husky, “it’s Josh! He’s been hosing this place down with disinfectant for days. It smells like the bottom of someone’s pool in here and I can’t get him to quit!” He walked out the front door and onto the porch, sucking in deep lungsful of fresh air. “That’s better!”
“Colin, don’t be annoyed with him,” David advised.
“I’m not annoyed,” Colin replied. “I just wish he’d stop! I mean, Jesus! How sterile can one house be? And what were you saying about Danny?”
“I was about to suggest we take up some kind of collection for Danny to help him financially until this virus starts to recede and he can re-open.”
“Good idea,” Colin replied. “I’ll start reaching out to guys I know, and you do the same.”
“And I mean it about Josh,” David cautioned him.
“You can’t breathe the air in there!” Colin said, half-annoyed, half-amused. “He’s choking me to death with all that bleach and Lysol.”
“It’s something he can control,” David said.
Colin heard David sigh heavily. “This situation is out of control and he knows it,” David continued. “That kind of thing scares Josh. He doesn’t like it when things are out of control. But he can control how clean and sterile your house may be, or at least he thinks he can. When he’s – as you put it – hosing down your house with disinfectant he feels like he’s doing something to keep the two of you safe. It gives him the sense that he has a little bit of control in what is essentially an uncontrollable situation.”
“Hmm,” Colin grunted out with a grimace. “I’ve kinda been giving him shit about it.”
“Well, I can understand. I hate the smell of that stuff myself. But he’s scared, Colin. He’s battling a global pandemic with a can of Lysol spray. Go easy on him.”
“Now I feel like shit,” Colin grumbled. “But, yeah. When you put it that way, I understand why he’s so OCD about it.” He glanced toward the house where he could see Joshua’s shadowy form moving around in the living room. “I’ve got to try to calm him down a little before he asphyxiates us.”
“Is he going to work?”
“No. The clinic cancelled all their counseling sessions for the next couple weeks. And his group therapy sessions are definitely cancelled… at least for now. So, we’re both here at home, binge watching Netflix and playing Mass Effect until our eyes glaze over.”
“Go for a walk or something. Give him something else to think about.”
Colin chuckled. “Oh, I can do that alright.”
David scoffed. “Well, OK, yeah, that’ll work. But what will you do with the twenty-three and a half hours left in the day?”
“I’ll think of something.”
“Good luck with that. I’ll call you back about Danny.”
“Yeah. I’ll start a list. Talk to you later.” He ended the call and moved toward the front door pausing before he entered to take a deep breath. As he stepped into the living room, he saw Joshua running a damp cloth over the wooden archway that led to their dining room. Colin puffed out a long breath and strode toward him.
“Hey,” he said, taking Joshua’s arm. “How about taking a break. You’ve been running yourself ragged and I feel sure there isn’t one flat surface in this house that you haven’t scoured within an inch of its life. Stop. Sit with me for a minute.”
Joshua looked up at him, his brown eyes wide. “You think I’m nuts don’t you.”
“No. I think you’re wonderful.” He tugged on Joshua’s arm, leading him to the living room, then gently pressing him down onto the couch. As he stepped back, he deftly removed the cloth from Joshua’s hand. “I’ll take this for now.” He sniffed it and wrinkled his nose. “Bleach?”
“It kills bacteria and viruses,” Joshua explained.
“Not to mention Irishmen,” Colin said, with a smile and a wink.
Joshua averted his eyes and sighed. “I know how annoying I must be.”
Colin left the couch and wandered to the front door just long enough to toss the bleach-soaked cloth outside, then he returned to Joshua’s side. “Let that thing air out,” he said, then wrapped his arm around Joshua’s shoulder and drew him close in his arms. “Would you do me a favor and just relax for a minute?”
Joshua sighed and turned sideways so that he could nestle against Colin’s body and was warmly embraced in return.
“I just spoke to our guru of all things righteous and good,” Colin said, nuzzling against Joshua’s dark hair.
“And what did Professor Gardener have to say?”
“He said I should go easy on your compulsive need to scour our home free of any and all evil, nasty germs that may be lurking there.” He felt Joshua’s body quiver with soft laughter. “He also said that disinfecting our home with those noxious liquid cleansers is your way of trying to exercise even a little bit of control in the midst of a fairly uncontrollable situation.”
Joshua nodded and buried his face against Colin’s shoulder. “The Professor’s a pretty smart guy.”
“I know he is,” Colin said, tipping Joshua’s face up until their eyes met. “But I want you to listen to me. OK?”
“If I thought for one split second that you were in danger, I’d be browbeating Adam Casey morning, noon, and night to get us tested and taken care of. I’d be beating down the doors of every urgent care in Charlottesville. I’d be a mental and emotional wreck. I’d be fuming with rage every minute of every day. I’d be plotting eighteen different ways to get us to the North Pole or somewhere relatively safe. I would not be sitting here all relaxed and happy, playing Mass Effect and binge watching Supernatural!” He tightened his hand under Joshua’s face. “You get me?”
Joshua laughed and grabbed Colin’s wrist, pulling his hand away. “I do get you, Irish.” His hand cupped Colin’s cheek and he kissed him tenderly.
“I’d never let anything happen to you, Josh,” Colin promised, his voice low and rich with feeling. “Never. So, you know when you need to worry?”
“When I see you start to worry?”
“Exactly!” He leaned back and flashed his dimples in a grin. “Do I look worried?”
“No. Quite the opposite.”
“OK, then. Enough with the constant spewing of bleach and Lysol. I might not catch the Coronavirus but I’m pretty damned sure I’m in danger of lung disease from sucking in Clorox fumes.”
Joshua cocked an eyebrow and shrugged. “Just trying to keep you germ-free, Irish.”
“I have several ideas in that regard,” Colin said, hauling Joshua across his lap until he was cradled in Colin’s arms.
“Well, first off, did you know that sweat kills bacteria?” He leaned back, nodding with a pretense of sage wisdom, eyebrows lifted, smirking in a smug half-smile. “Did you know that DOCTOR Josh?”
Joshua fell forward onto Colin’s chest, shaking all over with laughter. When he lifted his head, he was wiping tears from his eyes.
“Sooooo….,” Colin began leaning close enough to rub his nose against Joshua’s. “If you really want to kill some germs…,” he tilted his head toward the stairs, “… come upstairs with me and get sweaty!!”
Still choking with laughter, Joshua wrapped both arms around Colin’s neck and kissed him with fierce passion. When he finally leaned back from their kiss, he nuzzled Colin’s cheek. “I’d be thrilled to be a soldier in your war against evil bacteria,” he said, his voice firm, then kissed Colin again. “I have the feeling we’re gonna make a great team.”
“I get that same feeling,” Colin said, gently lifting Joshua off his lap and rising to his feet. He took Joshua’s hand in his and lifted his arm toward the stairs as if holding a sword aloft. “Evil bacteria beware!” he cried out. “Colin Campbell’s army approaches. Thou are doomed!”
Still giggling, Joshua followed Colin up the stairs. “There’s not a bug alive who’d stand a chance against you,” he told his husband as they moved into the bedroom.
“Damn right!” Colin said, jerking his T-shirt over his head. “Now get into uniform and let’s go to war!”
“Uniform?” Joshua asked as he tossed his jeans and briefs into a corner.
“Get naked and get into bed,” Colin said in a stage whisper.
“As you wish, my general!” Joshua said.
Colin grabbed him around the waist and together they tumbled onto the bed. “CHARRRRGE!”