The Cops – a short story.

“Colin, please!” Joshua begged. He reached to try to grab Colin’s sleeve as he paced their living room, but Colin jerked away.

“Leave me alone, Josh!” he snapped, then grimaced and shot his husband a contrite look. “I’m sorry, baby. Just let me work through this. Go to David and Nate’s house. Just let me…,”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Joshua said, then he sighed and bowed his head. He’d never seen Colin this distraught. Seldom seen him this beside himself with rage. He had been seething with white-hot anger for hours, ever since he heard the news from Minneapolis.

Joshua had tried repeatedly to calm him with no success. Finally, he simply sat and watched as Colin strode through the rooms of their house, cursing and venting his fury. Joshua said little other than to murmur his understanding and support. He knew there was little else he could do. Colin had to work it out. He had to process his wrath in his own way and in his own time. Eventually he would wear himself out. This kind of intensity couldn’t last forever.

“Jesus!” Colin spat out through clenched teeth, still stalking through the rooms of their house, unable to cease his relentless pacing. “I want to fucking beat those bastards within an inch of their worthless lives!”

“I know, honey. I know. But you can’t. You can’t do anything. They’ve been fired. There’s an investigation going on. They won’t get away with it.”

“You don’t know that!” Colin spat out. “We’ve seen it before, Josh. Cops – well fuck that, I won’t call them cops because they’re not! They’re not cops. They’re not police officers! They’re murderers! And that’s how they need to be treated!” He wheeled to face Joshua, his teeth bared in rage. “We’ve seen them get away with it!”

“These guys won’t,” Joshua said, trying to keep his voice level.

Without warning Colin jerked to a halt and stood stock still, his eyes fixed on the windows leading to their front yard and the Rivanna River beyond. For several seconds he was silent. His breathing slowed. His face twisted into an expression of profound grief and Joshua saw his beautiful honeyed-green eyes fill with tears. He rose slowly from the couch and approached Colin with measured movements. “Colin?” he whispered, taking his arm. “Honey, come sit down with me.”

Colin stumbled to the couch and sank down beside Joshua. The volcanic rage had suddenly drained away leaving only a crushing storm of anguish which roiled in his chest like a ball of fire. A pain he could barely contain, barely endure without crying out.

“Sweetie,” Joshua whispered. He reached to brush the tears from Colin’s cheeks. Colin was still staring straight ahead of him, silent and motionless. Gazing into their unlit fireplace while tears tracked down his face in a slow, steady stream. He seemed only dimly aware of Joshua’s presence, totally focused on some excruciating inner vision.

Joshua felt his own eyes burn. Felt his own throat ache and tighten. Colin’s obvious agony was almost more than he could bear. “Sweetie, please talk to me,” he murmured, pressing his forehead to Colin’s shoulder.

“I keep thinking about Jerry,” Colin whispered, his voice shaking and thick with tears. “He died being a good cop.”

“I know, baby,” Joshua whispered, reaching to stroke Colin’s hair, struggling to hold back the sobs which threatened to overwhelm him. Jerry Burgess was a campus police officer and Colin’s friend. He was killed in the line of duty only a few short months ago, and Colin had summoned every ounce of strength he possessed to stand honor guard at his friend’s casket.

“He could have done a lot of things the night he was killed,” Colin said, his voice shaking. “He could have drawn his piece and shot the guy. He could have pulled back and called for backup which would have escalated the situation out of all control. But he didn’t. He tried to reason with the perp. He tried to be one of the good guys. He played it by the book. And now he’s dead and his three kids have no daddy.”

“Colin, god, honey, please don’t do this to yourself,” Joshua moaned. Again, he reached to brush his fingers across Colin’s damp cheeks. “Please, honey. You’re going to break my heart.”

“I hate those guys, Josh,” Colin ground out, his teeth once again clenched tight. “I fucking hate them! Do you know what guys like that do to cops like Jerry? Cops like me?” He lowered his head and swiped his sleeve across his face. “They make it twice as likely that people won’t trust us. Won’t come to us. Won’t listen to us. Won’t believe us.”

He leaned back and raised his face, staring at their ceiling with its oaken beams. “They make it twice as likely that we’ll end up dead.” He sat up and wheeled to face Joshua. “D’you know why I love being a cop?”

“I know some of it,” Joshua replied.

“I love being a cop because it’s an honorable profession. You fight for what’s right. You fight for decency and justice. Serve and protect. That’s what we do… or at least what we’re supposed to do.” He lowered his head and Joshua’s hand fell away. “Where the fuck was the honor in what those assholes did? Where was the decency? The protection? The service? The justice!

“Colin,” Joshua said, once again cradling his husband’s face in his two hands, “there was none of course. They are the worst of the worst and you’re right. The damage they do to honorable police officers like you – like Jerry – is incalculable.”

“It’s like he died for nothing.”

“No. He did not die for nothing! Colin, listen to me!” Joshua once again held Colin’s face  between his palms and forced him to meet his eyes. “You have to fight, Colin! You have to keep fighting for what you believe in! You have to keep on being the decent, honorable man you are! You can’t ever stop. You can’t let animals like those guys turn you bitter. You can’t let them defeat you. You have to fight for Jerry and all the other cops just like him who are good, decent men who would never ever engage in that kind of brutality. You have to keep being Colin Campbell. Don’t let them change you, Colin. Please don’t.” His last words were choked out between breathless sobs and Colin quickly wrapped him in his arms and held him close.

“You,” Joshua whispered against Colin’s shoulder, his voice still quaking with sobs, “are the warrior. The perfect line which never wavers.” His arms tightened around Colin’s neck, clutching him close. “Please, please don’t let the ugliness of the world change that, I’m begging you.”

Colin nodded then breathed out a soft laugh. “Well, not so perfect maybe.” He drew in a shuddering breath and leaned back. “I guess I had to get past the rage,” he mumbled, his fingers brushing across Joshua’s damp cheeks.

“Five stages of grief,” Joshua murmured. “For you anger usually comes first.”

“I’ll tell you something,” Colin said, wrapping his arm around Joshua’s shoulder and drawing him close. “On this one I will never get to acceptance. Not fucking ever!”

“I wouldn’t want you to.”

Colin nodded, then kissed Joshua’s cheek, before rising from the couch and moving toward the dining room.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to call Lenny,” Colin said. “I want a meeting. I want a union meeting. I want a discussion about this. I want the guys at the station to have a chance to talk about how they feel.” At the dining room table, he turned and threw Joshua a wan smile. “Not everyone has their own personal shrink to help them through this kind of thing.”

“I can have a couple counselors come to the precinct to talk with any of the cops want to see them,” Joshua said. He rose and walked to Colin’s side. “Grief counselors. There are probably a lot of cops who feel the way you do. They need the chance to vent. To talk about their feelings. Tell Lenny I’ll send some people tomorrow if it’s OK with him.”

“Will one of them be you?” Colin asked, holding his phone in his hand.

“If you want me to be there, I’ll be there.”

“Do you even have to ask?” Colin said, then hit the speed dial to talk to his boss at the campus police station.

Joshua returned to the couch and fell onto it while Colin spoke to his Lieutenant. He felt as emotionally drained as he knew Colin felt, but he also felt a glimmer of hope. He lifted his eyes to the ceiling, then closed them, drawing in slow, even breaths until he felt Colin sink to the couch beside him.

“He’ll call the meeting,” Colin said. “And he said to bring the counselors.” He half turned on the couch and drew Joshua close in his arms. “Christ, Josh, I feel fucking exhausted.”

“Let’s just stay home today and watch TV. Something easy on the eyes and on the emotions.”

“Whatever you want, honey. I can’t even think straight right now.”

“How about ‘School of Rock?” Joshua suggested. He turned sideways and gazed at his husband. Colin’s face was pale. His lower lip still quivered, and his brow was furrowed. He was still struggling with the pain and anger. He was still fighting his way back to the end of grief’s journey… acceptance. And though Colin would never ‘accept’ what had happened in Minneapolis, he would achieve an acceptance of his role in this ongoing story. He would do what he could. And Joshua would be by his side.

Colin glanced at him and gave him a small smile. “School of Rock sounds good.” He wrapped Joshua tight in his arms, holding him so close that Joshua could barely breathe. “Thank you,” Colin whispered, his voice once again thick with tears. “I love you so much.” He released Joshua from his embrace and swallowed hard.

“And I love you,” Joshua replied, then grabbed the remote. “A little Jack Black?”

“Good for what ails you,” Colin murmured, then settled next to Joshua, one arm around his shoulders, holding him close against his side. He turned his head and buried his face against Joshua’s dark curls. Then drew in a deep breath and allowed himself to relax against his husband’s body. Peace was a long way off. But it was coming. Colin could see it, like a glisten of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It was there. Steady and unswerving.

And it had a name.

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Skateboard – a Colin and Josh short story –

It was morning in Glencoe and Colin stood at the dresser shrugging into a T-shirt. “C’mon, bud,” he said over his shoulder. “Throw on some clothes. I’m starved, and Jess promised me waffles.” A scuffling sound from behind him caught his attention and he turned to see Joshua half-way under the bed, struggling to pull something free.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Joshua clambered to his feet, a huge smile lighting up his face. In his hands was a large, beautifully decorated skateboard. “I forgot this was here!” he crowed.

“Pretty fancy.”

“It’s a Designarium,” Joshua said, holding the board at arm’s length, looking it up and down. “I’m gonna go out back and see if I can land a few.”

“What are you going to jump?” Colin asked, following close behind him.

“The steps out back,” Joshua said. “When I was in college, that’s how I relaxed when I came home for the weekend.”

“By risking your neck on a skateboard?”

“You mean to tell me you’ve never taken air on a skateboard?” Joshua questioned as they strode through the kitchen and out the back door.

“Yeah. When I was a teenager in Scituate me and some of my friends used to go to Skateboard Park.” He shrugged. “I was really into Little League though,” Colin said, “and it didn’t leave much time for other sports.”

“Were you good at it?”

“C’mon, Josh,” Colin said with a smirk. “I’m good at everything.”

Joshua snorted out a laugh. “Sorry. Forgot who I was talking to for a second.”

Colin chuckled and threw Joshua a wink. “I never really worked at it. I could have been good probably.” He shrugged and watched as Joshua began to ride the board around him in a slow circle. “I could do jumps. Easy stuff. Nothing more. I didn’t want to get injured and have to sit out the season.”

Joshua nodded and grabbed the board. “Watch me!” he said, bounding up the steps which ascended the small hill crowning the Abrams backyard. “I’ll be right down!”

“Josh!” Colin called. “Wait a second. Are you sure…,”

“Might as well let him go,” a female voice advised.

Colin wheeled to see Joshua’s mother, who had wandered out behind them carrying two mugs of coffee. “Mom, he hasn’t done this stuff in years. He could get hurt!”

Bracha sat down on the garden wall and eyed Joshua as he stood at the top of the hill spinning the skateboard’s wheels as if testing them. “I suppose he could,” she agreed. “But you won’t stop him. Believe me, I tried. Many times.” She smiled up at Colin. “He rarely ever fell. And he never hurt himself. He’s good at it!” She indicated the top of the hill. “See?”

Colin wheeled just in time to see Joshua speeding down the steps, jumping from one level to the other as he descended from atop the hill. His knees were bent, and he controlled the skateboard with effortless ease.

“Dammit!” Colin sputtered. He strode forward to meet him as Joshua reached the patio and slid to a stop.

“Stuck it!” Joshua crowed. With one foot, he began to push the board forward, circling the spot where Colin stood scowling.

“Josh, you could get hurt!”

“Nah,” Joshua replied, then flipped the board up into his hands. “I’m going again!”

“Josh!”

“C’mon,” Joshua drawled, walking backwards toward the steps. “I never tried to keep you off your motorcycle.”

“Josh, you…,” Colin began, then hissed out a frustrated breath as Joshua turned and trotted once again to the crest of the hill.

“God damn it,” Colin muttered, watching with a furrowed brow as Joshua knelt and adjusted something on the bottom of the board.

“He’ll be OK, Colin,” Bracha said. “Come have some coffee. Josh knows what he’s doing.”

Colin slunk back to the wall and sat down beside his mother-in-law who handed him a filled coffee mug. “He could get hurt,” Colin muttered again.

“Doubtful. He’s skated down those steps five-hundred times.”

“Only takes once,” Colin grumbled. He sipped his coffee, watching as Joshua started down the hill again.

“Ya hoooooo!” Joshua cried as he careened down the concrete steps, laughing aloud every time he took air, sending the board to a lower level. Colin watched him, his heart in his throat. But at the same time, the delight in Joshua’s laughter and the exuberant grace with which he rode filled Colin with a kind of awed wonder. He had fallen in love with Joshua’s sweet smile even before he knew his name. And now his heart nearly burst with love as he watched the man he adored fly down the hill on his beloved skateboard. Completely given over to the childlike joy of the moment, Joshua seemed almost magical.

Bracha heard his breathing falter. “Jesus, Mom,” Colin whispered, then swallowed hard and swiped a hand across his cheek. “He doesn’t have a clue how much I love him.” His eyes returned to Joshua, watching as he flipped the board into his hands and once again jogged up the hill.

“Not a fucking clue,” Colin whispered.

Bracha watched him but gave no response.

“If I lost him…” Colin said, his voice choked. He shook his head then turned to face his mother-in-law. “He’s my whole life, Bracha. If anything happened to him…” he shook his head again.

“Sweetheart,” Bracha murmured, reaching to lay a comforting hand on Colin’s shoulder, “I think he does know how much you love him.”

“I don’t know how he could, Mom,” Colin whispered, his eyes once again fixed on his husband. “Hell, I’m not even sure I realize how much I love him. Then I see him in a moment like this and, Jesus, he’s so perfect and beautiful and his smile just…,” Colin’s breath caught. “It damn near stops my fucking heart.” He turned to face Bracha wincing comically. “Sorry ‘bout the language.”

She waved away his apology, then her eyes widened. “Wait a minute! He does have a helmet.”

“Where is it?” Colin cried, leaping to his feet.

“I think….,” Bracha replied. “I think it’s in the garage. On a shelf near the door.”

Colin bolted to the garage where he spotted the helmet at once. Clutching it tight in his hand he trotted back to the garden. “Josh, get over here!”

Joshua laughed and rode the board to where Colin stood, the helmet held out in his hand.

“Put this on.”

“Colin, I was in college when I wore that. It won’t fit me anymore.”

“Put it on!” Colin demanded. He shoved the helmet toward Joshua. “Wear it, Josh. Or I’ll take the skateboard.”

“Colin, come on!”

“Don’t think for a minute I won’t do it.”

“Oh lord god,” Joshua groaned. He took the helmet from his husband and pulled it on, twisting it slightly to fit it over his dark curls then turned back to Colin, arms outstretched. “Happy now?”

“No. But I’m happi-er!”

“Talk to him, Mom,” Joshua entreated, as he scooted the board to where his mother sat watching. “Tell him I do this all the time.”

“Yeah,” Bracha replied, her voice dry. “Seven years ago, you did. And I insisted that you wear the helmet then too.”

Colin returned to his seat beside Bracha and sipped his coffee once before squinting up at his husband. “Keep it on, Josh. Or I’ll put that board where even Scotland Yard couldn’t find it.”

“Sheesh!” Joshua griped. He flipped the board into his hands and trotted back up the hill.

“Would you really?” Bracha asked, smiling at him.

Colin cocked an eyebrow in her direction. “What do you think?”

***

Later that evening, Bracha drew Joshua into the dining room. “You know,” she told her son, “you scared the hell out of Colin today.”

“You mean with the skateboard?”

“Yes.”

Joshua frowned and shot a glance at his husband, who was engaged in a vigorous chess game with Abel, Joshua’s brother. “I know he was concerned…,”

“No, Joshua,” Bracha interrupted, “he was way more than concerned. The thought that you might get hurt scared him to death.” Her grip on his arm tightened. “Just wear the damned helmet if you’re going to ride that thing. You’d never let him ride a motorcycle without one.”

Joshua nodded. “You’re right, mom, and I will. Never occurred to me that he’d be that worried.”

“He adores you, Joshua,” Bracha said, her voice soft. “It was…,” she drew in a breath and shook her head. “It was actually quite touching, hearing him talk about it.”

Joshua’s eyes remained locked on Colin, but he nodded again. “Thanks for letting me know, mom.” He sucked in a quick breath and bent to kiss his mother.

He heard Colin and Abel laughing and moved to Colin’s side. “Did you kick his ass?” He asked, draping an arm around Colin’s shoulders.

“Split,” Colin said, smiling broadly. “He won one, and I won one. But mine was the better win!”

“Naturally,” Joshua said, pressing a kiss to the top of Colin’s head.

“Smug bastard,” Abel grumbled, getting to his feet. “But that’s it for tonight, bro. I’ve got to be in Chicago early tomorrow morning.” He and Colin bumped fists, then he laid a hand on Joshua’s arm. “Night, you two.”

“Night, Abe,” Joshua murmured.

Colin stood up and stretched, then dropped both arms around Joshua’s neck. “You ready to go up, bud?”

Joshua nodded and they moved to climb the stairs, Colin’s arm still around Joshua’s neck as his arm encircled Colin’s waist. “You ever notice that we go to bed earlier when we’re here?” Colin asked.

Joshua nodded and laced his fingers with Colin’s hand as it dangled around his neck. “I have,” he replied as they stepped into their bedroom.

Colin moved forward and began to strip off his clothes, dropping them on the floor as he walked. Joshua smiled as he disappeared into the bathroom and bent to retrieve them, dropping them onto a chair before beginning to undress.

By the time Colin emerged from the bathroom, Joshua was in bed. “You’re fast,” he said with a grin, then crawled into bed beside Joshua and gathered him close in his arms.

“Mm,” Joshua moaned softly. “God, you feel good.”

Colin kissed the top of his head. “So do you.”

Joshua shifted in bed nestling closer to his husband’s body, his hand moving across Colin’s chest, sighing in bliss as the firm, warm muscles bunched beneath his fingers. “Listen,” he murmured, “I want to apologize to you about today.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“As my mother was quick to point out to me, I started flying down that hill without even considering how you might feel about it.”

Colin’s lips pursed and he drew in a long breath. “I confess it made me a little nervous. You haven’t ridden the skateboard for years. You could have been a bit rusty.”

“I should have found the helmet before I started doing jumps. I was stupid.”

“You weren’t stupid. You were excited.” He turned toward Joshua and drew him closer. “Seeing you flying down that hill today…,” He breathed out a soft laugh. “You were so happy, Josh. Like an innocent child. Fearless… filled with joy. Your smile was just…,” he stopped, then gave a half-embarrassed shrug. “You were so beautiful you took my breath away.”

His honeyed-green eyes met Joshua’s. “I loved seeing you like that.” He traced the arch of Joshua’s cheekbone with his fingers, then slid them to his chin and lifted Joshua’s head until their eyes met. “But wear the damned helmet, would you?”

Joshua nodded and whispered: “I promise” just seconds before Colin’s lips captured his in a fierce, passionate kiss which he repeated again and again. They both tightened their arms, pressing their bodies close under the covers, savoring the exquisite sensation of smooth skin sliding against smooth skin.

Joshua drew in a shivering inhale. “I love you so much, Irish, and I do apologize,” he whispered. Then threw Colin a puckish glance and slid his palm down the length of Colin’s body. “And I think maybe I could come up with a good way to make it up to you.”

Colin laughed out loud and kissed Joshua again. “I love you, my beautiful Jewish boy. And as far as making it up to me goes, we’re both here in bed stark naked. God knows that opens up a ton of wonderful possibilities. So, have at it, bud! Take your best shot!”

Joshua pressed his face to Colin’s bare shoulder and giggled. “Sounds like we have the makings of a great evening ahead of us.”

Colin turned to his back, grinning, and drew Joshua on top of him. “Of that I have absolutely no doubt.”

 

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