I. Rational V. Irrational
You knock on the door. The rational part of your brain hopes that he doesn't answer.
If he doesn't answer, you can go home and pretend that this never happened. That you never felt like he was meant to come back here, right now, right when you'd been feeling more trapped than you ever thought was possible and he was like a breath fresh air in the room full of dust you'd been living in for the last year.
You could pretend that entire night never happened. You could pretend that he never kissed you, that you never looked at him and silently begged him to kiss you because you were scared out of your fucking mind at how real your feelings for him were.
You could pretend that he hadn't looked at your drawings and known instantly, understood everything you'd been saying, everything you'd been feeling, when you drew them. You could pretend like he hadn't, because that's what made you do it. He looked at that picture of Cody and his room and just got it, and your heart fucking ached with the want for him that had built up over the last few days.
If he doesn't answer the door, you could pretend that none of this ever happened.
But the irrational part of your brain, the part that knows there's something there between the two of you, hopes that he will answer.
If he answers, you have no idea what's going to happen, what you're going to say, what you're going to do. How you're going to apologize for being such a jerk. How you're going to tell him that you're pretty sure you're in love with him and you can't hold it in anymore because you're just so sick of holding everything in. You're not sure of anything except that you've been waiting all your life to feel this way about someone, and you're not just going to let that go.
You're not just going to let him go.
You knock on the door and these two parts of you, the rational and the irrational, are raging over whether or not you want him to answer.
You can't handle this. You can't handle him not opening the door because then this all would have been for nothing.
But you can't handle him actually answering either because then...then this would have been for everything. Every fucking thing in your life up until now because you know that if he answers, this will mark the first day of the rest of your life.
You're staring at your shoes when suddenly the door opens and he's there.
And you're so fucking glad that he answered.
II. Not Stupid
Shaun wasn't stupid.
The things Zach had said to him were hurtful, yes, but he wasn't going to just let Zach walk out of his life that easily. He would have to be a complete idiot to do so.
And Shaun was not an idiot.
Zach wasn't stupid.
He knew that from an outsider's perspective his and Shaun's relationship looked like it was just that of a summer fuck, but he knew that to be completely untrue. He knew that he meant more to Shaun than just a simple fuck. He also knew that Shaun meant a great deal more to him that just that.
He wasn't going to let Shaun go back to LA without ever apologizing for those awful things that he'd said. Or without telling Shaun exactly how he felt and what he wanted.
Shaun told him that he would never get what he wanted unless he took it; well, that's exactly what he was going to do. He was going to take Shaun's advice to heart. He'd be an idiot not to.
And Zach was not an idiot.
Shaun was such a fucking idiot.
He should have known that Zach wasn't ready go public with their relationship yet. Zach had never had a relationship outside of what he'd had with Tori, and he'd certainly never had a relationship with another man. If he were in Zach's position he wouldn't have been ready for that either. He shouldn't have pushed him so hard. He knew that he'd pushed Zach away, and now he just had to go back to LA and deal with it. Finish his shitty book and move into that shitty apartment all by himself.
Sure, that had been the plan when he'd first rented it, but once he'd planted the idea of Zach living there with him in his brain, he'd found the idea endlessly pleasing. But Zach was staying, and Shaun was leaving. And that was it; that was the end of their story, in big, bold letters.
He was so fucking stupid.
Zach was a fucking idiot.
Those things he'd said to Shaun were awful. He'd criticized who Shaun was. Shaun was upfront about things and he told people exactly how he felt and Zach admired that about him because he didn't have the courage to do that.
He'd been angry and scared and confused when he'd said all that stuff.
Confused about Shaun. About Jean. About himself. About his life.
But that was no excuse.
Such a fucking idiot.
Shaun was no idiot.
He'd known from the first night at the beach that he was going to kiss Zach. He didn't know how Zach would react or even if he would try to kiss him first, but he knew that it was going to occur. Soon.
There was a sexual energy that rested between them that he found increasingly hard to ignore. Only, it wasn't just that. It was that Zach had the sweetest smile and the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. It was that he had a natural talent for surfing – and art. It was that he cared for Cody without a word, simply because he was Cody. And it was also the way Zach looked when he was surfing. Shaun really did try his best not to stare too obviously, but the way the muscles in Zach's calves and arms had flexed when he hopped up to a standing position on his board, that had definitely caught Shaun's attention.
Shaun wasn't an idiot.
He knew that if he wasn't careful, he'd fall for Zach. And he was definitely not going to let that happen.
Zach had no idea what he was doing.
Driving home from Shaun's parents house that morning, all he could think was that he had no fucking idea what he was doing. With Shaun. With his life. With his potential.
But with Shaun, the not knowing wasn't so bad because this was Shaun and it was real and happy and good. He probably even loved Shaun. And not knowing was scary but it was also not scary because he did know what he was doing with Shaun. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was just being free. Being himself and having fun and stealing kisses and having sex with this guy who he was pretty sure he loved.
He was wrong before.
He knew exactly what the fuck he was doing.
He was falling in love.
No way was he going to let Zach off the hook that easily. He'd said some awful things and he'd also said that he was unsure, and he wasn't just going to throw himself back into Zach's arms – those strong, skilled, beautiful arms – just to be hurt again. He wouldn't let himself.
So, he asked Zach what had changed.
And his answer had surprised Shaun, shocked him, made him deliriously happy. Zach wasn't running from him anymore. They were about to embark on an incredible journey, but they were going to do it together.
He'd fallen for Zach just like he'd told himself not to.
He was so fucking stupid.
III. Zach Loves
When Cody huffs his breath out to blow the hair from his eyes, Zach feels it. When Cody is a lump under the covers and the only thing visibly Cody is the shock of sandy brown hair peeking out at the top, his heart constricts with it.
When Cody runs to Zach after a nightmare and cries into his chest, and Zach can barely make out what he's saying over the sobs in his voice, Zach wonders how he ever lived without this.
With his art, it's like...he doesn't really know how to explain it in words because he doesn't need words, but doesn't that say everything?
It's like, it just is.
When he's painting, this rush flows through him that's like the best drug because it just calms everything. There's no voices, no sound, no people when he's painting. It's just him and a brush, and the sound on his life gets turned down and all he can hear is the swish of the brush against the canvas.
When he's painting, he feels it. He feels everything, and it's the only time when he's not afraid to.
He feels it in the morning when he wakes up, when he rolls over and is met with warmth and softness and love.
He feels it when Shaun looks at him, the way his eyes travel over Zach's entire body, taking it all in even though Zach is sure that by now Shaun could read his body in total darkness.
Zach first felt it stirring on that day they went surfing. It was the way Shaun was so genuinely surprised that Zach liked his book. And the way Shaun was always so mesmerizing to watch while he surfed, the assured stance of his body on the board, the way he dove headfirst into everything the ocean threw at him. He'd always been aware of Shaun, how tall he was, his weird sense of humor that Zach never really understood. But, that day, he found himself noticing other things, too. Like the color of Shaun's eyes, blue, with sort of green specks, like the sea after a storm, and Zach remembers thinking that was a good way to describe Shaun. Calm, easy-going, warm. That was when he first felt it in motion. Something inside him was shifting, coursing itself through him, and it left him feeling...loved.
He felt it then, and he feels it now.
At night, when Shaun joins him in the shower after putting Cody to sleep, and he hugs him from behind, his firm chest pressed tightly against Zach's back, he feels it.
When Shaun is inside him, Zach's chest aches with it. Shaun's eyes never leave his, and he's there, always, touching a place so deep inside him, taking up residence in this place inside Zach he never knew existed, and he feels it so much in those moments that he thinks he's going to burst.
Zach feels it late at night, when he can't sleep and his thinking wakes Shaun up, because Shaun knows. He always knows. He always knows and he's always there, with a warm embrace and a soft kiss and a tender whisper of what's wrong. And it's times like that when Zach feels it the most, when Shaun's presence in his life, in his mind and his body and his fucking soul, are everything, and he wonders how he ever lived without this.