A/N: Hi everyone. So, as you know, I finished 'Getting By' in May, and have been doing little bits and bobs since then. As I thought would happen, Shaun and Zach just won't leave me alone, so I'm going to just present one-shots of various lengths placed sporadically through their lives together. I hope you like them; feedback is, as ever, gratefully appreciated.
The restaurant is busy for a Thursday and half the neighbourhood seem to be laughing and chatting at the tables around them. The mid-spring sun is just dipping below the horizon, and the gentle music playing through concealed speakers sets the mood perfectly. For most people, anyway.
Shaun pushes moodily at the pasta on the plate; the one time he's allowed himself carbs in the week and he just can't muster up the enthusiasm to eat it. Zach tries to ignore his moody face, eating away at his spaghetti and looking straight ahead, until finally he stops, swallows and puts his knife and fork down, leaning forward to put his elbows on the table.
"C'mon, what's going on?"
Shaun does a flap with his hand, as if to say it's nothing important, I'll get over it. Zach sighs and reaches over the table to grab his hand.
"Tell me. You've been weird all evening." Shaun shrugs and drops his head into his hand.
"I don't know, I just feel kinda bummed out." Zach looks at him, eyebrows raised.
"Yeah, I can see that. You gonna tell me why?"
"I just…the house feels weird, you know?"
Zach understands. Cody, now thirteen, has gone on holiday camp for the first time, and from the sounds of it, is having a great time. His rushed weekly phone calls have been full of tales of how awesome everything is, and how there's a really beautiful counsellor there, who Shaun teases him about until he sulks and threatens to hang up.
"Aw, are you missing Cody?" Shaun glares at him, Zach smiling fondly. A silence falls as Zach looks at Shaun's glum face, heart thrumming an irregular beat, wondering if now is finally the right time.
"So, uh, I talked to Mark today."
"Yeah? He doing alright?"
"Yeah, they're buying a big old house with some inheritance money Adam got from his grandma or something."
Shaun rolls his eyes; his tolerance of Adam is low at the best of times, and it seems today he can't bring himself to muster any enthusiasm.
"Of course they have."
"Anyway, that wasn't what I was going to say. Mark said they'd talked about kids."
Shaun looks at him, non-plussed.
"Yeah? Well, I guess everybody's doing it now, huh? Just got to that age."
Zach hmmm's in response.
"You ever think about it?" Shaun looks at him strangely.
"What do you mean?" Zach shrugs; shouldn't'a said anything. Too late to take it back now
"You know, kids." Shaun raises that eyebrow again.
"Ah, Zach, I don't know if you'd noticed or whatever, but we already have one. He's at camp."
Zach shakes his head in exasperation.
"No, like…a baby. A little kid." Shaun goes quite still for a moment, hand still inside Zach's.
"I…uh, what are you saying, Zach?"
Zach draws back, goes on the defensive a little. Shaun sees it all over his face; that still-crippling feeling of God, what an idiot. Shaun sighs, reaches for the fingers threatening to slip away from his completely.
"Oh no you don't, what are you getting at?"
Zach looks down and picks at an invisible piece of fluff on the tablecloth.
"I just thought, you know…"
"Ah, no, I can't read your mind, so you're gonna have to just let me know what you're thinking. And hey," he says, before Zach can mumble an excuse, "if you're allowed to know I'm thinking, surely I'm allowed into your head too, right?"
Zach nods slowly, eyes flicking downward. Taking a sip of his beer he clears his throat.
"I…uh…d'you think we should, uh, adopt?"
Shaun stares at him, unsure if he's heard right, praying he did.
"I'm sorry?" More sure this time, Zach raises his voice.
"Would you want another kid?"
They look at each other, Shaun's eyes searching Zach's face for some kind of sign as to where this has come from.
Shaun frowns, brow pulling together as he replays the conversation over again, his writer brain running through the possible meanings to each word.
"How long have you been thinking about this?"
Zach shrugs; hard to say really. Had it been when he realised before too long Cody wouldn't want to hang around with them anymore? Or had it been when he saw Mark and found out they were looking for a surrogate? He can't put an exact time frame on it, but it feels like it's been on his mind forever. He dares a look straight into Shaun's face, and can't pick apart the different expressions there. There's the trying-to-be-cool-and-indifferent mask, offering a neutral, impartial ear to whatever he has to say, underlaid by the god-please-I-want-this-so-badly face and the I-don't-want-to-get-my-hopes-up-but-this-is-the-missing-piece-of-our-family face.
"I don't know. It's been going round in my head for a while, but I didn't know if you'd want it."
When Shaun first realised he was irreversibly, unchangeably gay, he'd suffered an irrational bout of guilt at not being able to produce grandchildren for his mother. He couldn't quite put his finger on the reason why, because Angela had never really been one for small children or getting messy or dirty. Their relationship had improved once he stopped being a child, came out and grew up. After the initial shock and what will the neighbours think, Angela, in spite of all her other faults, had become a staunch gay rights supporter. In his private thoughts Shaun still held firm the belief that she enjoyed the slight edge, the kudos, it gave her; Hi, I'm Angela, and this is my son, Shaun. He's gay, you know. And a writer.
In the distant, long ago years BZ (Before Zach), he'd had other boyfriends, some serious, some not. Even when he and Stephen had lived together for three years, the subjects of marriage and kids had never really come up, as stupid as it may seem. Shaun had once asked what he thought on it, and Stephen had looked at him blankly, opened his mouth to reply and got distracted by an email of his Blackberry. End of discussion.
The arrival of Zach and Cody in his life had come at a time when he was questioning pretty much everything about his life; career (novelist or screenwriter?), relationships (too many idiots, not enough positivity) and what he wanted for the future (kids, house, car). It really couldn't have come any sooner, in his mind. Now, hearing Zach offer the final missing piece to their otherwise great life is like the fourth of July, Christmas and every Birthday ever, rolled into one.
"Shaun?" Shaun blinks; out of his reverie. He smiles at Zach, trying to pick the right words and tread carefully.
"Yeah, sorry, miles away. Is this what you want, Zach?"
"Well, yeah. That's why I said it."
Shaun wonders if he's completely aware of what he's saying.
"I didn't think you'd ever want to do this."
Zach shrugs; I didn't either, but I guess that American Dream with the white picket fence and a couple of kids and a dog just got to me.
"I want it if you want it." He says simply, and Shaun feels such a tidal surge of love and joy and adrenaline that he can barely contain himself. If they weren't in a restaurant he would be laughing and shouting and kissing Zach for all he was worth.
Instead, he simply grabs both of Zach's hands, hard, and stares into his face, trying to communicate a bit of what he's feeling.
"There is nothing I want more."