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Kindness Falls Like Rain

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Gabe laughs and Zach sips at his coffee – it's almost lukewarm, only Zach's pretty sure the waiter just brought out a fresh cup – before setting it back down on the diner table, fighting to pretend that he's not about to go catatonic. He realizes that he's lost the thread of this conversation, and he knows that Gabe is just trying to pretend that nothing has to change, but it does. Everything's different now.

"It's okay," Shaun says, and Zach would scream that it's not okay, that it can't in any way be okay, but that would require admitting to himself that he feels anything at all. "We'll be here."

"Yeah, I know," Zach says, because Gabe and Shaun can just stay here, and not have to face death with questions like Where are we going to get the money to pay for the funeral? and Who's going to look after Cody when Jeanne's at work? and What the fuck is he supposed to do about CalArts?.

Shaun leans forward to place his hand over Zach's, but Zach's not willing to be comforted and Shaun guiltily withdraws his hand. "You still going to make graduation?" Gabe asks.

"Yeah." Zach nods. He picks up his coffee just to set it down again, unsipped.

Gabe glances around the diner, but if he's looking for a distraction from one of the other patrons he's going to be disappointed. It's early Sunday morning and the three of them are practically alone.

"Just leave it guys," Zach says, interrupting anything Gabe might have been steeling himself to say. "I'll be fine."

"Okay," Shaun says, glancing between Gabe and Zach. "Want to go surfing?"

Zach nods gratefully, because that's really the reason he called up Gabe in the first place. He welcomes the chance to lose himself in the waves because he's tried everything else.

Cody starts crying while the priest reads from Romans and Zach plucks his nephew out of Roy's inattentive arms to take him outside. The funeral service doesn't mean anything much to him, and he's honestly pleased to have an excuse to miss most of it.

Zach's still standing just outside the door, bouncing Cody up and down, when the service lets out. Jeanne is one of the first few people out of and she heads immediately for Cody and Zach.

Zach braces himself for her to snatch Cody back, but she takes one look at his face and stops, which is odd, because Zach is pretty sure he's still in control of his emotions. He's shifting Cody, ready to hand his nephew over, when Jeanne clasps him in a hug.

She moves on, Roy's arm snaking itself around her waist, and Zach stands still, clinging to Cody as people he doesn't know offer him their condolences. "Your mother was a wonderful person. She always brightened my day."

"Yeah, thank you," Zach says, trying to simultaneously avoid being hugged and figure out if he knows the woman talking to him. He figures she's probably someone his mom worked with, but he isn't sure. The woman could just as easily be a cousin or someone from the book-club.

Cody has fallen asleep and Zach shifts to be slightly more comfortable and give the hint that he's done with this conversation. He's surprised that accepting people's condolences feels more like he's helping them with the grief process than that they're helping him.

He realizes that there's almost no one left in the church, which means he should probably head to the cemetery soon. Unfortunately he's not quite sure where Jeanne went and she's the one with a car. He's starting to worry when he spots Tori. Worst case scenario Zach can keep Cody on his lap and she can give them a lift.

"How are you doing, monkey?"

Zach shrugs. "Monkey?"

Tori smiles softly at him, and Zach smiles back at her without thinking about it. "Monkey," she repeats.

It isn't Zach's idea for them to get tattoos as a graduation present. He's not thinking in terms of graduation presents and no one can really give him what he wants anyway. In fact, Zach is pretty sure it was Shaun's idea, which is odd, because Shaun is the one who isn't graduating.

They're waiting in the tattoo parlor, and Zach is sure that Gabe thinks he's doing this to cheer up Zach. None of them are drunk, or hungover, which Zach is more than a little surprised at. Partly because a month ago he had felt like never being sober again, and partly because this is Gabe he's talking about, and they just finished their last high school class. Ever. "I still think you should design it, man," Shaun says to Zach.

"What the fuck?" Zach asks. "I said I don't want to, okay?"

Shaun nods. "I just think you'd do a great job."

Zach figures he's done enough by allowing the words Lucky 3 on the tattoo when he feels nothing of the sort. "Why do you think that?" Zach snaps. "You've never seen any of my drawings! You don't know how good they are."

"I'm sure they're great," Shaun says.

"CalArts didn't think so," Zach mutters, not even sure what he's saying until the words are out, and then it's too late for him to do anything about it. There's a pause, and for a second Zach thinks the other two are just going to drop it.

"What do you mean?" Gabe asks.

"I mean, I didn't get in. Can we just drop it?" Zach stands up and starts to pace, unwilling to make eye contact with either of them.

The tattoo artist pokes his head into the waiting area and Zach walks over before the other two have a chance to react. "I'm going first," Zach says, trailing the tattoo artist and wondering how he had let Gabe talk him into this.

Zach waits with the other students, grateful for the power of his graduation robe to hide the fact that he's dressed for work, rather than in a fancy suit like all the other graduates. He's resisting the urge to look out into the crowd because he knows that Jeanne has a pediatrician appointment for Cody she has to be at now, and there's no way his dad could have gotten here on his own.

"Gabe Andrews," the principal calls, and Zach glances up from the floor to his best friend to grin at him. Gabe's looking out into the crowd of well-wishers, rather than at Zach. But then, as Gabe steps forward to accept his diploma he glances deliberately at Zach and raises the sleeve of his graduation robe up to his shoulder.

Zach grins at the tattoo on Gabe's upper arm and glances out into the crowd to see if he can see Shaun. He can't, but, for the first time since his mom died, he feels lucky all the same.