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Life and Death

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“Dude, he’s so small,” Gabe said as he watched Zach tuck the baby on his arm into his chest. The small form barely the length of Zach’s arm.

“He is. And he feels so light. Like I’m not really holding anything,” Zach said, carefully brushing his hands over the sleeping babies head, smoothing out the almost non-existent hair.

“But he’s right there. So real,” Gabe said as he reached out, his hand paused a few inches from the baby. “Can I touch him? Like will it…” Gabe trailed off as his hand hovered in the air.

“Yeah, you can touch him. We have to be careful, but my mom said babies are tougher than they look,” Zach explained as he leaned forward, bring the baby closer to Gabe’s hand.

Glancing between the tiny form and Zach one more time Gabe nodded before reaching out and running the back of his finger along the baby’s arm, grinning when the baby’s small fingers tried to grab at the finger. “He’s awake?” he asked surprised, looking at the baby’s closed eyes.

“I don’t think so? I mean he’s not crying?” Zach answered unsure as he shrugged.

“He cry a lot?” Gabe asked, looking up at Zach.

“Unless he’s feeding or sleeping,” Zach explained as he looked down at the body who twisted a little, snuggling into Zach’s chest, Gabe’s finger forgotten.

“He’s so adorable, you are going to be able to get all the chicks,” Gabe joked as he stepped back a little before glancing around, “speaking of chicks, where is Tori?”

“She went home last night, her mom doesn’t like her spending the night since Jeanne started showing,” Zach said shaking his head.

“What? Does she thing being pregnant is contagious?” Gabe said with a chuckle.

“I don’t know. It’s not like Tori hasn’t spent the night before, or me over there and they never had a problem but once everyone knew Jeanne was pregnant,” Zach added with another shrug as he started to slowly sway as the baby cooed in his sleep.

“Whatever man. We both know you’re too smart for something like this to happen,” Gabe stated as he plopped onto Zach’s bed, “unlike others,” he added with a smirk.

“Gabe,” Zach said disapprovingly as he rolled his eyes.

“Speaking of your sister, where is Jeanne? Shouldn’t she be with the little guy?” Gabe asked as he looked toward the door and the-empty-house beyond.

Zach shook his head “she’s barely been home since the hospital released them. Any reason to get out of the house she takes. Right now, it’s picking up some formula and diapers for Cody. Mom went with her to make sure she got the right stuff,” he went on to explain.

“And came back?” Gabe suggested, smirking again when Zach gave him a look. “So, this guy’s name is Cody then?” he then asked.

“Yep. His name is Cody Michaels. My nephew,” Zach said with a smile as he beamed down at Cody.

“He has you so whipped already,” Gabe said with a laugh as Zach threw a pillow at him.

***about 60 years later***

“I’m here. I brought it,” Cody said as he slid his hand under Zach’s, smiling at the light squeeze Zach gave him.

“I knew you would,” Zach answered, his voice barely more than a whisper as he pushed himself upright on the bed.

“Let me help you,” Cody offered as he helped Zach sit up against the pillows, pausing when Zach’s closed his eyes and rested for a few moments.

“Thank you,” Zach said as he opened his eyes and looked toward Cody’s other hand which held a small velvet box, “Thank you for bring it. It’s time they’re together again. They belong together, we belong together,” Zach whispered, reaching forward to take the box.

“Not yet. Father can wait a little longer,” Cody whispered back even as he handed the box over.

“He was always patient with us wasn’t he Cody,” Zach agreed, setting the box on his blanket covered lap and bring his free hand up to Cody’s face, wiping the salty water from his face.

“Even when I almost deleted his fourth book,” Cody joked with a smile as Zach lowered his hand.

“You were ten, and it reminded him how important it was to have backups,” Zach grinned back as he picked up the box, his smile becoming serious as he worked to open it, whispering thanks when Cody helped Zach with the latch.

Both men where quite as Zach ran his hand over the wedding ring within, a simple engraved metal band that meant so much. “It’s time it wasn’t alone anymore,” Zach said as he pulled off his own ring.

“Are you sure?” Cody asked, taking hold of the box as Zach used both hands to push his ring into it’s place beside Shaun’s.

“It keeps slipping off and they belong together,” Zach stated with a smile as he closed the box.

“Just like you two,” Cody added as he lowered the box.

“I’ve missed him these last few years. But I don’t think he’ll have to wait for me much longer. I’m just so tried,” Zach explained with a smile, even as he leaned back into his pillow-his eyes half closed.

“What if I’m not ready to lose my dad,” Cody asked swallowing hard, his hands tight around the box.

“I’ll always be with you. Just as your father has always been with us,” Zach said, smiling as he looked toward the photo of him and Shaun, taking years before on a sun kissed beach, fresh from the waves-or maybe about to ride them, Zach couldn’t quite remember.

“But it’s not the same,” Cody pointed out, looking from the photo back toward his dad.

“No. It’s not,” Zach agreed, finding Cody’s hand and being it up between them, “But you won’t be alone. You’ll have our family,” he stated, running his hand over Cody’s own wedding ring as he smiled. “With them you’ll never be alone. Just as I never have been.”

“They’ll miss you too,” Cody stated, glancing toward the door.

“I’m not leaving yet. Let them in,” Zach requested, nodding toward the door.

He smiled brightly when the rest of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren poured in.