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When the Lights Go Out

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The day Jeanne came back for Cody, despite all their best arguments and lawyers’ efforts, was also the day that Zach left. He’d walked around the apartment like a zombie, wandering from room to room, face almost expressionless but for the red rimmed eyes and unshed tears, fingering the toys and clothes Cody left behind. Shaun didn’t know what to say, he felt as hollowed out and as empty as Zach looked, but he thought they could grieve together, make a new plan to fight for the kid who was more their son than hers but it wasn’t happening that way.

Zach felt shattered. It was as if every bone in his body had shattered and the splinters were poking out of his skin making him ache in a way he never had before. He could feel the weight of Shaun’s gaze on him, questioning, full of understanding, full of love but he couldn’t turn and meet it. He’d failed them both. He’d failed their family and Cody was gone.

Who would have thought that Jeanne would meet a decent guy in Portland, and marry him? He certainly hadn’t and neither had Shaun. But she had and Cody was gone. He was gone and they weren’t allowed to see him until she thought he’d adjusted properly. Suddenly Jeanne was mother of the fucking year and he was floundering. It had all fallen apart.

He felt Shaun touching his shoulder, offering and seeking comfort in the same breath but he didn’t want it, not right now, when he still couldn’t breathe and the walls were closing in. He shrugged Shaun’s hand off, “Not right now.” The words caught in his throat as he said them but he forced them out anyway and turned to face his lover. Shaun was staring at him, his gazed hooded and it felt so much like deja’vu that he had to leave. “I…” He looked around and grabbed his hoodie, car key and bag, “I need to get out of here.”

He scrambled toward the door before Shaun could say a word and left, the sound of the door slamming shut behind him reverberated through the silent apartment. Shaun looked around the room, the empty spaces that had been filled by Cody were glaring and now he wasn’t sure where he stood with Zach, who suddenly seemed as closed off as the day they’d broke up well over a year ago. He sat down hard, not noticing he was on the floor. Twice in the same day he’d watched what he loved most in this world walk out the door.

Zach’s blood pounded in his ears as he climbed into the old Bronco, slamming the door shut he started screaming, beating the palms of his hands against the steering wheel ignoring anything else. He needed the ocean, the soothing waves but it was already heading toward dark and there was no way in hell he was surfing at night the way he felt right now, not with this reckless thrumming through him. So he turned the engine over, listened to it crank a few times and swore softly before trying again. This time it caught and he headed over the studio space he shared with a few other students. If he couldn’t surf he would paint.

Shaun didn’t know how long he’d sat on the floor, but it was full dark and his knees ached from the way they were folded underneath his body. He leaned forward, braced his hands and slowly moved. He’d never felt so old. He looked at his watch and saw it was after midnight, much later than he expected and still no Zach. He turned on a light so Zach could see where he was walking, resisted the urge to call and stripped. He knew he should eat but he wasn’t hungry, he was just exhausted and the bed was still messed up from this morning but it had never looked so inviting. Even without Zach.

He closed his eyes against the pain. As he lay down he could see the echoes of him, Zach and Cody laughing and having a pillow fight, he could feel the love and remember how happy they had been just days ago. Now it was just a place to lay his head and wait.

Zach threw the canvas he was working on to the floor. It was Cody; over and over every time he started it was him, Cody and Shaun. He slumped against the wall, his elbows resting on his knees as they supported his head. He couldn’t stop it anymore, sobs tore from his chest, barely audible but they felt like they were shaking the room. He couldn’t stop them, he couldn’t push them away. He felt he was dying, falling…his knees gave way and his ass hit the floor hard and he didn’t have the will to move. Zach laid down where he landed, head resting on his arm, fist stifling the sobs and fell asleep.

“Hey, Zach.” He turned his head toward the voice and sat up quickly. “What the fuck dude, why are you sleeping here?”

“Fuck, Quinn, just leave it alone, okay man.” Zach stood, grabbed his ruined canvases and put them in the garbage pile. He didn’t want to think about why he’d slept on the floor, why he couldn’t go home, or why he still felt to raw to breathe.

“Hey, man, if you and Shaun are fighting, it is cool. But don’t let the Pro catch you crashing here." Quinn watched his friend flinch and wondered what the hell had happened - gay or straight everyone he knew envied what Zach had with Shaun. “Mi casa es su casa, dude, my couch is always open.”

Zach turned and looked at his friend and gave him a weak smile. “Thanks man, but I’m good.”
Quinn shrugged, “Cool, dude. You leaving?”

“Yeah,” Zach pulled his phone from his pocket and wondered why Shaun hadn’t called. He closed his eyes and remembered Quinn was watching him closely. “Catch you in class tomorrow.”

“Sure, man. Just remember, my couch…”

“Got it.” Zach knew it was rude to cut him off but he just couldn’t stand there and listen. He hurried down the walk, nodded as he heard his name being called but couldn’t stop to talk. Why hadn’t Shaun called, that single thought raced through his brain over and over as he climbed in the Bronco. Had he lost him too? He didn’t want to think that way, but how could he not.
Sometimes it felt like Cody was the glue that held them together and without him, what were they?

 

Shaun woke alone. He closed his eyes and listened to see if there were any sounds in the apartment other than his breathing but sighed sadly when he heard none. Zach hadn’t come home. His throat tightened, and he tried to swallow back the tears but he couldn’t stop them. His deepest fear, the one he tried to never, ever lend his voice to was coming true. Zach had only been here because he needed help with Cody and now that Cody was gone he was too. Shaun pulled Zach’s pillow close and inhaled his lover’s scent. He’d given Zach everything he’d had, loved them both more than he’d ever loved anyone but it hadn’t been enough. It hadn’t been enough. He curled around the pillow and tried to fall back asleep, denial wasn’t his thing but more than anything he hoped this was all a terrible nightmare.

 

Zach’s cell rang as he parked outside the apartment, hope unfurled inside him but quickly died when he saw it wasn’t Shaun. “Hey, Larry.”

“Zach, I’m glad I caught you. Look, I found a lawyer who says he can get help you get Cody back. He is right in L.A and wants you two to come see him tomorrow at 9 am. He’ll hop right on the paper work and get the ball rolling. He’d see you today but he is in court. This is his specialty, and he never loses.”

“Larry, that’s great…” A tiny ball of hope sparked in his chest as Larry spoke.

“And don’t worry about the cost; I’m footing the bill no matter what Shaun says. Got it?”

“Um, if that is what you want. “ Zach wasn’t going to argue, sure he made money selling a few paintings here and there, had his job and Shaun was selling another book by they were by no means rich enough to afford a prolonged court battle. “Thanks, man.”

“Hey, anything for you and Shaun, kid.” Larry hung up and suddenly Zach was left to wonder if it were still him and Shaun. He headed up to the apartment and was greeted by the Cody shaped silence. He closed the door behind him quietly went to find Shaun. He looked into the kitchen, Shaun’s office and than headed to their room. He was shocked to find Shaun still in bed.

He dropped his stuff on the floor, walked over to the bed, and felt his heart shatter again. He could see the barely dried tears clinging to Shaun’s eyelashes, and he could tell his pillow, which Shaun had in a death grip, was damp. He crawled onto the bed, lay next to his lover and took his hand. He watched Shaun’s eyes flutter open, and hoped he would be forgiven for running.

Shaun felt the bed dip and the sudden warmth of another body next to him, he opened his eyes knowing it was Zach but unsure of what to expect although when Zach took his hand he felt instantly better.

“I’m sorry.” Zach blurted it out as soon as Shaun’s hand tightened around his. “I just…” he sighed as the words wouldn’t come.

“It’s okay Babe, you’re home. That’s all that matters.” Shaun reached out, cupped Zach cheek and slowly started brushing his thumb over it. He had been an idiot for not believing in what they had.

“No, it isn’t okay.” Zach moved into Shaun’s arms, twining their legs together and resting his head on Shaun’s arm. “I should have stayed yesterday. Cody…” Zach felt his voice break, “Cody is yours too.”

“Yeah he is.” Shaun nodded as he spoke. “He is.”

“I was just…”Zach stopped, closed his eyes and pushed the words out, “I was afraid that without him there wasn’t an us.”

Shaun didn’t know what to say, Zach’s thoughts had mirrored his own and neither of them had ever voiced the fear. He moved back and looked Zach in the eye. “I love you. With Cody or without.”

Zach nodded, he couldn’t stop the tears that were building behind his eyes. “Yeah.” He swallowed hard. “I love you too, no matter what.” He leaned in and kissed Shaun softly. “But we are going to get him back.”

“Damn right we are.” Shaun pulled him close again, resting his chin on Zach’s head reveling in the comfort of having his lover there. “Damn right we are.”