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Prompt: Shelter, Shaun/Zach, h/c fic in which 18 year old Cody is in a car crash and his dads spend the night at the hospital worrying about him.
Fixing the Damage
Zach paced the length of the waiting room and back again. He couldn't handle this, he couldn't do this, couldn't be here. His anxious footsteps circled the room again. They shouldn't be here, neither of them and people, doctors, kept looking at him like they knew. They knew he wasn't good enough , knew it was all fucked up, he was all fucked up and . . . He couldn't breathe . . . if this cost him Cody . . . his hand slammed out against the wall, he let his body follow it, turning to slide down the wall to the floor before bringing his knees up.
How long would they keep him here waiting without telling him what he needed to know? How long before . . .?
A door opened, but he already knew it wasn't the door he needed to open, not the one the doctors would come through to tell him about Cody, so he didn't move. He didn't react, just kept his head down and his stubborn grief hidden. There were no tears, not yet, but he could feel them building inside, feel them waiting for him to give in finally. His world was about to end and he didn't know whether to wish it would just hurry up and get it all over with.
"Fuck, babe!" Zach heard as someone hit the floor beside him, felt as arms wrapped round him and pulled him close. He tried to resist, wasn't like he deserved this, wasn't like he'd ever deserved any of it, but Shaun wasn't going to take no for an answer. He went limp and unresisting as the older man tucked his head into the spot on his shoulder that let him hide his face in Shaun's neck and breathe. He felt the weight of Shaun's head resting on the top of his, his arms holding him close, one hand sweeping circles on his back. The tears came then, like a tidal wave washing away his final defences as inside he knew that Shaun would never forgive him for this either, not once the truth came out.
Shaun's voice murmured on and on, soft and soothing, promises that everything would be okay, but how could it? Zach wanted to demand that he tell him how anything could ever be okay again, but he couldn't string the words together for the sobs that were still choking him.
Shaun had dropped everything as soon as he'd received the choked phone call from Zach. It had taken him minutes to excuse himself and leave the 'event' he'd been attending. Publishers' schmoozing, nothing more. He only needed his ego stroking so many times at events like that. He knew well enough how much it didn't mean, how false it all was.
Even after all these years, he still preferred an evening at home with Zach. Not like Zach was any different. For all the acclaim he'd received over the years for his art, it was only with a mix of coercion and threats of bodily harm from both Shaun and Cody that Zach would attend any of his own opening nights. He hated the attention of anyone other than his own family, was never comfortable in the limelight.
It was one of the reasons Shaun rarely took him along to events like this evening's. He knew Zach would always be there at a book launch but the rest was just torture without due cause. Zach was a homebody, he held their family together, made it work, gave them all everything.
It broke Shaun's heart to see Zach so destroyed. If he hadn't spoken to a medic on the way in, he'd have believed he was here too late. It had been a difficult couple of weeks, Cody was stressed at school, had been pushing at boundaries all the time. Zach had been working all hours trying to get everything finished for his latest exhibition and Shaun had been out of state on a promotional book signing tour on and off for the last couple of months. They'd been stretched, just like any normal family would have been, there had been arguments and disagreements, compromises and compassion.
And Jeanne had put in an appearance as well.
Over the years, Shaun's patience with Jeanne had worn thin. It had taken too many years of pushing before she had agreed to 'sacrifice' her parental rights. He wouldn't have minded so much if she'd been around, visited, tried in some small way to maintain contact with Cody, but she hadn't. In the early days, Zach would phone her weekly, hope to reach her while she was sober and in a good enough mood that she would at least say hi to her son. She would ask for money and Zach would take on another shift at the crappy diner just so he could send her money, because 'she was struggling without their shared income' or so he'd say.
Shaun had thought differently on the matter. It had taken the willpower of a goddamned saint not to try and force Zach to stop it, to see what he refused to see, that she was just being a manipulative bitch, that she had no call on his money or his patience, that he was already taking care of her responsibilities in looking after her son. He'd been too frightened that Zach might misunderstand, might believe that Cody being with them was anything less than what he wanted. Taking care of Cody wasn't the issue, Jeanne was.
In the end, she'd phoned to speak to Zach and by some sheer fluke, Shaun was home and Zach had forgotten his phone when he'd left that morning. He'd answered, listened to her miserable drivel before offering a compromise. He'd pay her and she'd sign the papers that made Cody theirs. She would be his aunt and merely his biological mother, not his actual real mother who could affect his life in any way, change everything on a whim as she'd threatened to do more than once and she would make no more demands for money from Zach. The two people he cared most about would be protected if she accepted his offer. He'd hung up before she could answer, half afraid of what her answer might be and even more of what Zach's reaction would be.
Three days later, she'd called Zach and demanded to speak with Shaun again. Sums of money, dates with lawyers, it had all been agreed pretty quickly and he'd passed the phone back to Zach and left the room. Cody had been getting ready for bed and he'd gone to make sure the young boy was doing as he'd been told. A few minutes later and he was sat on the edge of Cody's bed, reading a story as Cody settled ready for sleep.
Zach had appeared in the door, face pale and slightly shocked looking and Shaun had been worried about what his reaction might be. "Cody," he'd said quietly. The little boy had sat up, looked at his uncle in concern before climbing out of bed and crossing swiftly to hug Zach. Zach had lifted him up, settling him on his hip. He was almost seven now and growing quickly and it probably wouldn't be much longer that he'd be so openly affectionate.
Zach had brought him back to the bed, settled down next to Shaun and leant against his side as he'd begun to explain to Cody what was going to happen. Shaun had been amazed to hear as they'd spoken of previous conversations, times when Cody had asked Zach to be his Dad and when Zach's explanation had wound to a close, Cody had wrapped his arms tighter around him and said, "So you're gonna be my Dad for real and I get Shaun too. That's so cool." Shaun knew Zach's hadn't been the only tear filled eyes and when Cody had asked, "Can we go for pizza to celebrate when it's all happened properly?" he'd have agreed to far more than such a simple request.
It had been so simple in the end. Over the years they'd been secure as a family, but now . . .now Cody was eighteen and he wanted to be an eighteen year old and he wanted to party and have fun and surf and date . . . He reminded Shaun of Gabe in so many ways. But it was tempered. He'd wanted to do well in school. Zach had brought him up to appreciate the things he had, to not take anything for granted and Shaun was proud of the way their son thought about things like that, of the way he cared for family, for friends, with the way he balanced school, family and life in general. He'd always made sure that Cody knew just how hard Zach had had to work to get to where he was now, to make sure he knew how much he was loved and cared for and how far his fathers had been willing to go to keep him safe and protected. He'd held his tongue short of badmouthing Jeanne, but in truth, Jeanne was a washed up husk of who she'd used to be. She'd visit from time to time, phone when she needed money and Zach made sure that she was looked after, but Zach couldn't heal the rift between her and her son.
Cody would be curtly polite to his mother, but wouldn't tell her anything beyond the basic answers. Shaun knew that even that was only for Zach's sake but it made Jeanne more bitter and she would turn it all back on Zach again. Even when Cody turned to her just two years ago now, having walked in on an argument between her and Zach, and told her to her face that if it weren't for Zach, he wouldn't give her the time of day, because she wasn't worth shit for the way she'd abandoned him time and time again. Shaun couldn't help but cheer inside for his words, until he'd looked across and seen the pain on Zach's face. Zach . . . He'd only ever wanted the best for them all. He'd known that Jeanne was a useless pile of shit as a mother, but it had never stopped him wanting her to at least try to get it right.
She'd turned on Zach then, called him a fag which wasn't anything particularly new but then accused him of ruining her son. It hurt. It hurt him to see her say it, heaven only knew how deeply it hurt Zach and Cody or how much it cost Zach to throw her out. He'd been nice about it too, which in some respects only made matters worse. Zach had politely told her to leave, seen her to the door, and told her not to bother coming round again if she was going to say things like that and that she should call before coming in future.
By the time Zach had made it back to the kitchen, Cody had been ready to let loose with his own anger and Shaun still wished he'd had the foresight to divert that attack. Unable to let the anger out at his mother where it belonged, he'd channelled it in Zach's direction, called him weak and pathetic for the way he let Jeanne talk to him, for the fact he hadn't stood up for them. Zach had taken the tirade and when Cody had finally begun to lose steam, he'd said quietly, "Enough. Go to your room. You don't talk like that to us."
Shaun remembered how Cody had glared, eyes wild and furious for an instant before he stormed to his room and slammed the door. Zach had just gathered the plates from the table and begun to clear up without another word. Shaun had tried to put an arm round him, pull him close but he'd just shrugged away and continued with the clearing up. Shaun had sighed and said he was going to talk to Cody, seen as Zach's defences flew up, shoulders tense, back rigid, heard the soft words, "You think he's right?"
He hadn't let Zach shrug him off again, instead he'd pulled him closer, pressed a kiss to his temple and said, "The opposite. I think you're unbelievably strong and understanding and you're much better than the rest of us. If it was Gabe, I couldn't have given him the chances you've given her. I wouldn't have tried so hard but I understand and it makes you the better person. Cody doesn't understand that and I want him to at least try to understand. He's a teenager, Zach, he's full of angst and hormones and self-righteous indignation at the world anyway, sure that he's right about everything, but this time he's wrong about you and I can't stand by and let that slide. I don't care if he never speaks to Jeanne again, but he's not going to treat you like that, not after everything you've done for him, not with how much you love him."
Shaun wondered if Zach knew what had happened. If he'd been here so quickly, got through and into this waiting room away from the melee outside, if he'd been here alone, there was the possibility he hadn't heard what had actually happened.
"Zach . . . Zach, babe, come on. Sssh now, calm down now," he soothed, "They're working on him and I'm sure he'll be okay. They're doing everything they can. We've just got to hang on in here." He prayed that Cody would be alright, because the alternative was too horrific to contemplate.
"I – I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Zach sobbed into his neck.
Shaun pulled back, cupped Zach's face in both hands and looked him straight in the eye and said, "This is not your fault. It's not your fault and it's not Cody's." All he could think was that he was glad Cody had called him earlier in the evening, told him about the argument he'd had with Zach; an argument about cars and curfews and school nights.
He'd answered the phone to Cody's voice sounding sorrowful, "I fucked up with Dad again. He – he told me I had to be home by ten and I told him to fuck off. I didn't mean to, sometimes I – I just . . . I don't get it. Why do I do it to him? Why do I keep throwing it in his face?" It wasn't like Shaun really had an answer beyond teenage angst but by the time they'd hung up, they'd both been laughing and he knew that Cody would apologize to Zach when he made it home before curfew.
Except he hadn't made it home before curfew and now they were in this waiting room with Zach thinking he was in some way to blame for the accident. "He called me earlier, told me you two had argued. He told me he was sorry, that he wanted to say it to you but your phone was still in the car when he left and he couldn't get an answer on the home phone. I talked to the police outside . . . they told me what happened."
Zach's eyes were staring at him, desperate as if he was going to be able to take away the pain. "Cody was on his way home, plenty early enough to be back in time for curfew. The other car had a tire blow out, they lost control as they passed Cody on the freeway, ploughed into his car and took it off the road with them. The emergency services had to cut him out of the car. It took them a while to get him out, get him here and find out who to contact. He wasn't late, he wasn't angry and this wasn't your fault or his. It was an accident, that's all."
"If . . . if something . . . if he doesn't . . ."
"We're not going anywhere, he's still our son and the doctors are going to do everything they can to fix him up."
The door at the far end of the room opened and Zach was up on to his feet and across the room to the doctor before the door had time to swing shut again. Shaun followed, stopping behind him, a solid reassurance at his back.
"Cody's parents, right? Zach and Shaun?" They nodded. The doctor smiled, "It's good to meet you both. Fine boy you've got there. He's been asking after you both. He seems particularly anxious to see Zach? You're his Dad?"
"We're both his Dads . . . we adopted him, but I'm his actual uncle. His mother was my sister."
"I see. Well you've got a fine boy there and he's going to be fine. He's been lucky, considering what I've heard about the mess the car is in. Amazingly apart from some bruising and a few cuts and scratches, the worst injury is a broken arm. He's had a bit of a knock to the head but there's no concussion. Good solid car you had, one of the more safety conscious models and it shows when you get the people inside cut out with so little damage. So do you want to come back and see Cody now? I figure we could let you check him out for yourselves, put your minds at rest and then we'll get started on the release papers and you can take him home."
"We – we can see him ? . . . He's going to be okay?" Zach gasped.
"More than going to be! He is okay, like I said broken arm and then just some bruising and cuts. He's all fixed up and ready to go home and be in his own bed. I've got some meds that he'll need to take for a few days to keep the inflammation down and to help with the discomfort he'll be in. Any problems just bring him back in." With that the doctor waved them both through the door and led them to the room where Cody was waiting.
Shaun felt a pang of relief when he saw his son's face, its cheerful smile still there despite the bruises, the weariness and the discomfort. Zach had stopped in the doorway and didn't seem about to move any closer when Cody looked up and said, "Dad." Shaun pushed Zach forward, urging him closer as Cody said, "Dad, I'm – I'm so sorry about before."
Zach still didn't seem able to move himself forward, still seemed stuck. A glance at his face showed he was biting his lip, further down Shaun could see his hands clenched. "Zach, come on, dude. He's okay, you can see it now, he's okay!" Shaun urged again.
"Dad? Shaun, is he okay?" Cody asked trying to sit upright.
Cody's efforts to move seemed to be enough to snap Zach out of his stupor. He pushed himself forward, voice broken as he said, "Code, Cody, Cody . . ." moving closer to lean in and hold his son. "You're alright, you're alright," he repeated, pressing a kiss to his son's hair.
"Dad, I'm okay," Cody reassured, lifting his uninjured arm to pat Zach's back. "I'm sorry about the car and . . . and about earlier. I didn't mean what I said."
"I don't care. So long as you're alright," Zach murmured, still not letting go or moving back.
Shaun stepped closer, giving a gentle but insistent pull on Zach's shoulder. "Come on, let our boy breathe and let me have a hug too." Zach stepped back, apologies slipping from his lips until Shaun stopped him with a quick kiss before turning his own attention to checking Cody over and giving the teenager another cautious hug. "You about ready to blow this joint, dude?" he asked, unsurprised by Cody's eager nod. "Okay, well I'll leave Zach here to help you get ready and I'll go finish off the paperwork and get the scripts for meds from the doctor and then we can be ready to go. Did you drive down, babe?" he asked Zach with a question.
Zach fished in his pocket for the keys to Shaun's car, handing them over as he turned his attention back to Cody and helping him up. A nurse came in as Shaun left to see to the paperwork and she went over a set of instructions with Zach and Cody for how to treat his injuries and what to look for.
Zach sat in the back of the car with Cody, not ready to let him out of reach for an instant. Shaun decided he was better off not thinking about the state Zach must have been in on the drive to the hospital and how he was lucky to only be collecting one injured member of the family and not two.
Back home, the two men both fussed over their son as they helped him get ready for bed, adjusting pillows and making sure he was comfy. Cody smiled and laughed gently at their attention, affectionately calling them both mother hens. He was tired, the meds in his system making him drowsy and it didn't take long for his eyes to be heavy and his words slurred. With the main light off and just the dim light of a bedside light, he began to drift to sleep, Zach sat in a chair at his side. "Night Shaun," Cody murmured softly. "Thanks for coming down to get me and . . . and I'm sorry about your thing tonight."
"Sleep now, Codes," Shaun said, reverting to the childhood nickname that they'd stopped using what seemed like so long ago now. "And there was never a question, never any doubt that I'd come, we'd both come. You're more important than anything else to us. Don't go forgetting it." He brushed the bangs away from his son's face with a soft smile before stepping back and leaving the room quietly.
Zach had remained at his side, Shaun had watched from the door for a while. He'd seen as Zach adjusted and readjusted the covers trying to make sure Cody was covered properly, he'd brushed invisible spots of lint away from the cover.
"Dad, Zach . . . Dad, I'm sorry about everything I said earlier. It wasn't true. I just . . . I love you and there couldn't have been anyone better than you and Shaun to be my dads. No one . . ." his eyes heavy with beckoning sleep lifted to meet Zach's, "No one could ever have done as much or loved me as much as you and I love you and I'm sorry." Shaun could hear the tears in his son's voice, was relieved when Zach moved from the chair to the bed to softly stroke the side of his son's face, muttering reassurances and promises that none of the love was conditional and that the early argument was in the past and all that mattered now was Cody getting better.
Shaun moved away into their own room to start his own preparations for bed. He'd been in bed about twenty minutes when Zach finally appeared. Zach shuffled around the room, picking up clothes and tidying round until Shaun said, "Zach, leave it now and come lie down with me." Zach nodded and headed for the bathroom, returning a few minutes later and shedding the last of his clothes into the hamper before climbing into bed alongside Shaun.
Shaun pulled him closer, feeling the tension still coursing through him from earlier. He settled deeper into the pillows and pulling Zach with him and beginning to reassure him that everything was going to be fine. The gentle pass of his hand up and down Zach's back, the soft puff of air as he talked across the top of Zach's head, it was all so familiar, all so calming that he could feel as the tension in Zach's body eased and finally the exhaustion of the night took over and Zach fell asleep safe in his arms.
All of his family were safely home now, resting, battered and bruised, physically and emotionally, but they were here, in their safe haven with all they would need to heal together.