dragontatt (dragontatt) wrote in shelter_diner,
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Fic: Bend But Don't Break

Title: Bend But Don't Break
Author: dragontatt
Pairing/Fandom= Shaun/Zach from Shelter
Rating: Mature, R- whatever you wanna call it, there's lots of sex...
Disclaimer: Shaun, Zach and the wonderful world of Shelter do not belong to me. Not profit is made and no insult is intended. Honest!
Word Count: 10618

For the Finish It All Off Ficathon by sinandmisery and goingtoqueens

Betea'ed by the almighty fizzerbass, all praise Her Name!!






When Zach is around Shaun it makes him want to be all the things Shaun thinks he could be. It’s like meeting up with him again opened up a whole new world of possibilities for a life he’d given up on.

Which is why, when it turned out Shaun had to be away on a final publicity tour for his last novel the very same week Zach started at CalArts- well, that just about ruined everything, didn’t it?

He sat on their bed after Cody was asleep on Sunday night watching Shaun pack his shaving kit and a suitcase full of clothes he didn’t normally wear…khakis, button-down shirts, dress socks for fuck’s sake, and as each article of clothing was carefully folded and placed into a neat stack with its counterparts, the knot in Zach’s stomach grew bigger and bigger.

The room had been mostly silent for some time now, the only really noise a soft clank as Shaun pulled yet another Oxford shirt- pink, this time- from the closet and slid it into the travel suit bag on top of Shaun’s already packed assortment of corduroy jackets- complete with elbow patches for that academic look.

The near-silence was deafening. It seemed everything had already been said, and even though Zach knew full well the logic and merit of every one of Shaun’s statements and explanations, just as he knew how childish it was for him to be sulking in silence, it still felt like abandonment. He’d had enough of that over the years, in one way or another, and he didn’t think he could stand it if Shaun did the same.

One final and careful squish of his piled-up clothes, and Shaun zipped his suitcase with a sigh. “Well, that’s done,” he said softly.

“Uh huh,” Zach mumbled, chewing absently on the side of his thumb.

“Hey, look at me.” Shaun sat down by Zach’s knee and then reached out, catching his chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting it so he could look Zach in the eye.

“Babe, you know I’d stay if I could- I’d give anything to be here for you on your first day. But it’s in my contract- they point, I go. You know?”

“I know that,” Zach said softly. “But I was just counting on you to be here- for luck. Or so I won’t chicken out.” He paused and ran one hand gently over Shaun’s knee before going on, “Or, you know- in case I suck.”

“Hey now, none of that crap. I fully expect you to be brilliant, with or without me. You do know how proud I am of you, right? For everything,” and he waved his hand in a vague, all-encompassing gesture.

Zach nodded- there’d been a lot of stuff to take care of when he and Cody had moved in with Shaun, and since Shaun had been under a deadline for the new novel, it had fallen to Zach to take care of most of it. Changes of address, a huge pile of paperwork to get Cody registered for school, and lining up a home health nurse to drop by once a week to check up on his dad now that both he and Jeanne were gone. And that was on top of packing, moving, unpacking, picking out new furniture for Cody’s room- he’d pretty much taken care of it all by himself- well, with Cody’s help, which was often worse than no help at all- while Shaun barricaded himself in the study and pounded out his thankfully now unstuck latest book.

“That’s different though,” Zach said a trifle petulantly.

Shaun laughed and said, “Why? Because it was stuff you had to do instead of stuff you wanted to do?”

Zach’s mouth twisted ruefully a moment before he smiled, bashful in his guilt.

“Well, everything’s smooth now, right? All the boxes finally unpacked, Cody’s psyched about school starting in a couple weeks, and it’s all set up with Carol downstairs for her to watch him while you’re at school?” He ticked off the items one by one on his fingers. “Anything else that needs to get done?”

“Uhm- no.”

“All right then- don’t you think it’s time you put all that drive and energy and worry into chasing after your dream instead of taking care of everyone else for a change? I mean, the new book’s almost done, and once I get back from this tour, everything should be a lot calmer.”

“Calm? Around here?” Zach laughed, a joyful sound in their small bedroom, and went on, “Dude, I won’t believe it till I see it.”

Shaun grinned in relief as Zach finally seemed to break out of his funk a little. “Well, perhaps I overstated the calmness- but once I’m back I’ll be able to help out a lot more. I promise.” He reached out and threaded his fingers with Zach’s, thumb rubbing a soft arc across the back of Zach’s hand.

Zach sighed at the gentle touch, and unconsciously leaned closer to Shaun.

Shaun smiled, and ran his other hand in a circle on Zach’s thigh before saying, “You know, since I can’t get out of this stupid trip, how about you show me off in style?”

Zach smiled back, doing his best to hide the traces of sadness he knew still lingered in his eyes, and he leaned gratefully toward Shaun. He lifted one hand to the back of his head, pulling him close, and kissed him softly. He had a sudden, overwhelming urge for this man in front of him, a need to touch, and to taste, and to re-memorize all those glorious parts of him before the airport limo came to pick him up in just a few short hours.

~~~~

Five a.m. came way too soon, and Zach’d only had about an hour of sleep when he felt Shaun press one last, soft kiss to his shoulder before slipping quietly out of their bed. Zach rolled onto his side, tucking his arm under his pillow and pretended to sleep while Shaun pulled on his clothes in near silence and then picked up his suitcase and travel bag. A moment later, Zach felt, rather than heard, the front door shut. He reached down and pulled the sheet higher on his shoulder to ward off a sudden chill, and he stared off into the distance until he finally fell asleep.

~~~~

Monday morning came bright and early for Zach when Cody came bouncing in just a few short hours after he’d finally drifted off to sleep. He pulled the sheet off Zach’s head to make sure he was awake and started chanting relentlessly for pancakes.

Zach held back a groan and managed a smile. “Morning, Codes.”

Cody grinned before clambering up on the bed and plopping down criss-cross-applesauce in his Bob the Builder footie jammies. “So where’s Shaun now?”

Zach blinked once and thought back to a conversation he’d had one late night with Shaun a few weeks ago. One of the things he’d been worried most about when Shaun had told him about his trip- well, besides his own first day of school- had been how Cody was going react with Shaun gone for two weeks. He’d gone through so much change and upheaval in his short life and things in LA had just gotten settled into a nice routine.

When he brought it up, Shaun agreed and then asked thoughtfully, “So how about if we show him my whole itinerary, maybe even plot it out on a map, and then he’ll know where I am the whole time, and he’ll know exactly when I’m coming home. You think that’ll help him out?”

Him and me both. “That’s a brilliant idea,” Zach said with a smile.

Shaun grinned and said, “And here I thought all this time you only loved me for my good looks and not my big brains.”

Zach turned to face Shaun fully, a somber look on his face and said seriously, “Actually, you’re wrong on both counts- I only love you for your big dick.”

Shaun’s eyebrows shot up for a split second and that was the only warning Zach had before Shaun pounced. Two seconds later and Zach was flat on his back with Shaun on top, stripping him as fast as humanly possible. Zach giggled as Shaun’s fingers grazed a particularly ticklish bit of skin and then he reached up and yanked Shaun’s shirt off over his head, because after all, turn about was fair play.

Zach shook his head to clear it of all those naughty thoughts before turning back to Cody. He said, “Why don’t you go get your map and we’ll see?”

Cody scampered off, small feet drumming a staccato rhythm as he ran down the hall only to return with a large rolled and laminated map in one hand and a well-read computer print-out in the other. He scooted up close to Zach and carefully unrolled the map before bending over it in deep concentration.

“We’re here,” he said, pointing a stubby finger at Los Angeles.

“Yep- and where was Shaun going first?” Zach asked.

“Well, he had to get to the east coast,” Cody said, a purely unconscious bit of awe evident in his voice as he plopped another finger down somewhere in the general vicinity of Maryland.

“Right, but he’s starting out in Florida, and then he’s gonna work his way north, all the way to New York City,” Zach explained, trailing his finger up the coastline as he did.

“He flew out from LAX this morning, and it’s not even nine o’clock yet, so he’s still in the air. He should land in Atlanta in a couple of hours.” He pointed to Georgia on the map. “Then he heads on to Orlando.”

“So I can’t mark this one off yet?” Cody pointed to the first destination on the itinerary- Orlando, Florida- where Shaun was scheduled for two radio interviews, two book signings, and a question-and-answer session at some retiree book club where they completely managed to ignore all the homosexual overtones in Shaun’s last book in favor of the mystery aspect of it. Zach still wasn’t sure how that was going to go over.

“Nope,” Zach said. “Remember when Shaun told you not to get too eager? Cause then it’d seem like he’s gone forever?”

“Huh,” Cody said in an uncharacteristically thoughtful voice, and Zach’s heart clenched for a moment. But then Cody turned to him with a grin and said, “Okay- but do we have any chocolate chips left for my pancakes?”

And so that was how it went the entire time Shaun was gone- every morning and every night Cody would bring out his map and Zach would show him what city Shaun was in at that moment. Then Cody would carefully mark it off on the itinerary, with a crooked checkmark that sometimes went right and sometimes went left.

Things were smooth the first two days- Zach was free the whole time and Cody was thrilled to have Zach all to himself. There were skateboard lessons in the parking lot, and late-night Disney movies marathons, complete with popcorn, in Zach and Shaun’s bed. They even borrowed Buddy the dog from down the hall and took him to the beach for an afternoon of Frisbee and swimming.

Of course there were lonely times too. When Zach carried Cody carefully to his bed that first night, way past midnight, Cody rolled over and mumbled, “G’night, Shaun.”

Zach was speechless for a long moment before he said, “Night, pipsqueak,” in a soft, rather Shaun-like voice.

And when Zach finally made it to bed that night, it was hard to get to sleep- the bed was too big, too empty, too cold- and in the end he had to wrap himself completely around Shaun’s favorite pillow, the one that still smelled like him, before the need for sleep could overtake the emptiness in his heart.

Tuesday night, after a rather odd dinner of macaroni-and-cheese, and cinnamon toast- what could he say, he was a complete pushover after all- he got Cody parked in front of Nick Jr., and then he settled on the couch to wait for Shaun’s promised phone call.

And he waited, and he re-calculated the time lag, and he fretted, and he waited some more. Finally, a little after nine, when Cody had just drifted off, the phone rang. Zach jumped a bit even though he’d been expecting that noise all evening, and then he grabbed the phone.

“ ‘Lo?”

“Hey babe- it’s so good to hear your voice.” Shaun’s voice sounded small and far away. It also sounded like he was a little bit wasted.

“Hey, yourself. Where are you?” Zach pulled his knees up to his chest and then wrapped his free arm around them.

“I’m still at that book club meeting- at the retirement home? These people are crazy,” Shaun chuckled.

Zach could tell Shaun wasn’t alone- it sounded like a rather wild party was going on around him. There was muffled music in the background, and the echoes of other voices, and then Zach heard Shaun saying politely but firmly, “No thank you, Mrs. Markowitz. I really don’t need any more wine right now.”

“Shaun?”

“Yeah, I’m here, babe- these old people really know how to party,” he said in a carefully soft voice. “But guess what? Turns out they weren’t ignoring all the gay stuff- I’ve met at least three or four ladies who’ve proudly told me how cute their gay grandsons are. I think they’re trying to set me up,” he finished with a giggle.

Oh great. “You tell them you weren’t available?” Zach asked, through only slightly clenched teeth.

“Course I did- you know I love you. I miss you.”

“Miss you, too.”

“You guys doing all right?”

Zach could hear Shaun refuse yet another drink, and he rolled his eyes before saying, “We’re fine- sounds like you’re a little wasted though.”

“Well, I told you these people know how to party. Listen, I’m gonna have to go in a minute. These ladies won’t take no for an answer, and I really don’t want to be hung-over on the flight to South Carolina tomorrow.”

“Yeah, sure, I mean I can hardly hear you anyway,” Zach said in a rush.

“Hang on, Zach- give me a sec, okay?”

Zach could hear Shaun shuffle around a bit, and then there was a soft ‘clunk’ like he’d pulled a door closed. The music and background chatter vanished and all he could hear was Shaun.

“That better?”

“Yeah.”

“So, are you excited about tomorrow? Got everything ready?” Shaun made a soft grunting noise and Zach figured he must have settled onto a chair or sofa somewhere.

“Yeah, yeah- I think I’m ready. Got my schedule, the campus map, all my books are packed, and Cody’s already asleep so maybe he won’t be such a bear to wake up in the morning.”

Shaun laughed. “You know, for such a sweet little ankle biter, some days he just gets up on the wrong side of the bed.”

Zach laughed for a second and then stopped. The space was silent between them a moment and then Zach said softly, “I wish you were here.”

“Oh babe, I wish I was too. But you’ll be great, I know it. And just remember, none of the other freshmen have been there before either, so you’re not starting out behind. In fact with everything you’ve been through, I’ll bet you’re more mature than all of them.”

“Mature?” Zach snorted softly and went on, “Doesn’t that mean boring?”

“Not if you’re in a retirement home in Florida apparently. Listen, I really do have to go now, but believe me when I say I know you’ll be wonderful, okay? And I love you.”

“I love you, too. Bye,” and as Zach turned to hang up the phone, the music flared up again in his ear, and he could hear a loud but shaky voice say, “Oh, there you are, Mr. Andrews. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

And then the line went dead.

~~~~

Zach woke with a start on Wednesday morning, and for a minute he lay there wondering why he was awake so early. But then it hit him with the force of a hammer blow- school. He was finally starting at CalArts, something he’d been waiting for since he started high school. He rolled over to take a look at the clock. 6:54 a.m. Perfect, plenty of time to take care of everything before heading to his very first class, ‘What Makes It Art?’ at 10.

He was in and out of the shower so fast it seemed the water droplets barely had time to dampen his skin before he was moving, drying them off and heading to Cody’s room to wake him up.

“Hey Codester, guess what day it is?” he called out cheerily as he crossed the threshold into Cody’s room, fingers crossed for luck on both hands.

A grumpy mumble answered from somewhere underneath a camouflage comforter, and then a small blonde, tousled head peeked out and said, “Pancake day?”

Zach smiled in relief and said, “Sure thing, if you’re up and dressed by the time I get the batter made- otherwise I’ll just have to feed ‘em all to Buddy.”

Cody gave a small smile, but stubbornly stayed where he was, burrowed under the covers.

Zach walked over and held out a hand. “C’mon, I’ve got school, and you get to hang out with Jeremy all day, remember?”

The thought of spending all day with his best bud- the one who happened to have a really cool guinea pig named Oscar- was enough to get Cody moving, and before long they were both sitting down to a pancake breakfast, although Zach’s were sans chocolate chips.

Zach sat silently as Cody chattered on about this and that, and let the aimless conversation roll over him. His cheerful mood had been swept away by a wave of doubts, leaving in its place a mass of tangled nerves that settled heavily in the pit of his stomach. He put down his fork with a sigh, second pancake practically untouched, and made a conscious effort to stop bouncing his knees under the table.

A part of him logically knew that he’d do fine- or at least knew he couldn’t fuck up too royally on his very first day. But the rest of him callously ticked off all the numerous things that could go wrong, the ways he could spoil all his dreams and ruin the rest of his life.

Cody spent a few minutes with his head bent over his map, marking the book-club meeting off his copy of Shaun’s itinerary, but eight thirty finally came and Zach sent Cody to grab his knapsack. They’d carefully packed it the night before with some snacks- just in case Jeremy’s mom didn’t have the right kind- plus half a dozen Matchbox cars, three tubs of Moon Sand, and his favorite stuffed dinosaur, the one Shaun had given him. Zach figured Roary would probably stay well-hidden in the depths of Cody’s knapsack, but it was good he’d be there just in case.

He grabbed his own bag, which had been packed for almost a week now, and slung it over one shoulder before herding Cody out the door and down one floor to Jeremy’s apartment.

As soon as Carol opened the door, Cody scampered off without so much as a good-bye, hollering for Jeremy in a loud, definitely not inside voice.

“You be good, Cody,” Zach called after him.

“He’ll be fine,” Carol said. “I’m used to loud boys. How about you- you going to be alright? You look a little- stressed.”

Zach rolled his eyes in frustration and said reluctantly, “I just wish Shaun was here- I know I wouldn’t be nearly as nervous then.”

Carol smiled, flashing a glimpse of brilliant white teeth, and said, “Then here, let me give you this from Shaun.” She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a warm embrace. She was taller than Zach, just like his mom had been, and he unconsciously rested his head on her shoulder a moment.

She pulled back, propping her arms on his shoulders casually with her wrists crossed behind his head and said, “You shouldn’t be nervous- I’ve seen some of your work, remember? It’s awesome and so are you. Now- go kick ass.” And she shoved him out the door with a grin, turning at the same time to yell at Jeremy to please get the guinea pig out of the sink.

‘Mother’s intuition’ Zach thought in awe as he jogged down the hall before heading to his car. He knew he was probably leaving way too early, unless traffic was just terrible, but he figured he could use the extra time to refamiliarize himself with the campus a bit before heading to his first class.

He got on Interstate 5, heading north, fingers nervously drumming on the steering wheel as he negotiated unruly drivers on all sides. He turned the radio as loud as he could stand it, and twisted the dial to some random station, trying to drive away his fears with pure noise power alone. He sang along, loud and off-key with all the songs he knew, and made up nonsense words with those he didn’t, and he didn’t turn the volume down till he pulled into the parking lot in Valencia.

He glanced at his watch- 9:25. Traffic had been a bit heavier than he’d expected, so he figured he’d just make his way to his class- second floor, main building- and hang around till it was time.

He locked his car door and looked around for a moment. Off to his left was a rolling green lawn where several groups of students were talking and laughing in the early morning sun. And there, dominating the landscape in front of him was the main building, five stories tall, where hopefully he’d be spending the majority of his life for the next four years.

He walked slowly to the building, trying hard not to look like an awestruck hick or something, but he was pretty sure he was failing miserably. Even though he’d been here once before, a part of him then had thought he’d never be back. At the door he took a deep breath, and pictured Shaun in his mind, telling him how proud he was of him. It didn’t help much, but it gave him enough nerve to get through the door and up the stairs.

He wandered down two hallways before he found his class, a bright room filled with sunshine streaming in from the windows. It was mostly empty, just a couple of people who’d already staked out desks in the back of the room, and one of them looked to be asleep, so Zach had his choice of seats.

He glanced around and finally settled on the fourth row from the door, fifth seat back- a nice inconspicuous spot, just in case he needed to hide. He dropped his backpack on the floor, and slid into the desk, slumping down with legs outstretched into the aisle.

He let the near silence of the room wash over him a moment, but instead of calming him, the silence only served to intensify his nervousness. He bent his legs without thinking and started bouncing his heels on the floor, car keys jingling in his pocket a moment before he realized what he was doing, and he forced his legs to stop, pressing hard against his thigh with one hand.

He shook his head, and reached down to grab his knapsack- drawing always helped him relax. He unzipped it and reached inside for a spiral notebook. He slapped it facedown on the desk with a little more force than was strictly necessary, before reaching down again. He pulled up a Velcro flap, and slid out a green Sharpie.

He flipped the notebook over, his mind already churning with ideas of what to draw to calm himself- and then he stopped. There was an envelope taped to the cover of his notebook, Zach written at an angle across it in bold felt-tip.

Shaun. The tension and uncertainty evaporated from his body like a dewdrop in the morning sun, and a relieved smile spread across his face.

He took a quick glance around to make sure he was still relatively alone and then opened the envelope. He unfolded the single sheet of paper and spread it out on the desk in front of him, unconsciously trying to rub out the creases as he bent over to read it.

Zach smiled, and took a second to carefully re-fold the letter and slip it back into the envelope. With a thumb and two fingers he wiped at his suddenly watery eyes before tucking the envelope into the middle of his notebook and reaching deep into his backpack.

There, at the bottom, tucked beneath his books and his favorite marker set, was an unfamiliar object- it was long and sort of round. He pulled it out carefully, and held it in front of him a moment, staring. It was made of canvas, rolled loosely and tied shut, and it looked vaguely familiar. He set it down gently, and loosened the long ties that held it closed. He unrolled it inch by careful inch, and his jaw dropped when he saw what was inside.

~~~~~

Zach had wandered every tiny, crowded aisle of his new favorite LA art store at least twice, taking no particular path, just going where his feet took him. He internally debated the relative merits of fine line versus blunt tip, red sable versus ox hair, Winsor & Newton versus Liquitex. In other words, he was in heaven.

He rambled down one aisle, and drew quick sketches with every sample pen and marker on the entire row. He roamed another way and carefully compared the textures of all the different types of drawing paper. He even posed the anatomical models in awkward yet anatomically correct positions before strolling off with a grin.

And just when he’d decided he didn’t really need anything beyond a new sketchbook and a set of colored pencils, he turned down one last corner and came to a dead stop in front of an end cap he’d never noticed before.

There, in a shiny glass display case, was a brush set, laid out in a sweeping, graceful arch- their black handles gleamed under the fluorescent lights and the tips of their shockingly white bristles came to an almost painful point.

A small card lay in the corner of the case, discretely proclaiming them to be the




They were the most beautiful things Zach had ever seen. He picked up a box from below the display case just to hold it in his hand, just to see how it would feel to even think about being able to afford to spend that kind of money. No way could he do it, not really, but it was nice to pretend for a moment, and besides he was curious about the sizes and what the bristles were made of. He turned the box over to read the information on the back, purely out of curiosity.

He was still holding the box ten minutes later when Shaun walked up.

“There you are- c’mon we’ve got to go pick up Cody from the party.”

“Look at these,” Zach said, holding the box out to Shaun. “Aren’t they great?”

Shaun took a cursory glance at the box and opened his mouth to speak but then he noticed that Zach had turned away and was gazing at the brushes in the display case with a look of awe, or maybe just plain rapture, on his face and so Shaun took a closer look at the box in his hand.

545 bucks? Wow. “You going to get ‘em?” he asked slowly.

“I was thinking about it – they’re terrific, and with the scholarship, I don’t have to spend everything I saved on books, so…” He trailed off and leaned a little closer to the case, his breath making a tiny, foggy patch on the glass. “Just think what amazing stuff I’d be able to make with those,” he went on in a wistful tone.

Shaun moved closer and handed Zach the box before saying carefully, “You’re right, you could make amazing art with those brushes, but you know what? I’ve seen you make amazing art with the brushes from Cody’s dollar-store watercolor sets. Are your old ones worn out already?”

“No, but I know everyone in my classes will have new sets.” Zach shuffled his feet and half turned away from Shaun.

“Maybe so- but you don’t need a new set. It’s not the brushes that make your art so amazing, it’s you.” And he put his hand gently on Zach’s chest, right over his heart. “It’s this. And besides- do you really want to spend all the money you have saved just to keep up with a bunch of people you haven’t even met yet?”

Shaun knew Zach too well and appealing to his brokeness did what talking about his talent could never have done- get him to put the very expensive brush set down and walk away without a backward glance.

~~~~~

Zach blinked, and looked down at the brushes in front of him. The black handles gleamed just as brightly now and the bristles were still sharpened to a dangerous point- if anything, they were even more beautiful than before.

Zach shifted his foot slightly as a couple of students made their way down the aisle, and then he ran his fingers softly along the row of brushes, all grouped neatly in tiny pockets, and he smiled.

“Hey man, nice set.”

Zach jumped a little at the unexpected voice over his shoulder, but then he turned to send a half smile to whoever it was.

Whoever it was turned out to be a guy about his own age, with green eyes and long black hair who was staring with obvious hunger over Zach’s shoulder at his brushes.

“Thanks.” Zach shot a glance at the door as more students filed in, by twos and by threes, chatting and texting with abandon.

“I tried to talk my Mom into buying me a set like that, but she said she wasn’t gonna spend that much money till she was sure I wouldn’t drop out in the first semester.”

Zach nodded, and started rolling the canvas back up, pausing to adjust a couple of the larger brushes so they wouldn’t touch each other. “I didn’t have enough money for these myself- they were a gift.”

“Nice gift- you’re lucky.” The guy finally sat back in his chair as the clock above the door audibly clicked into position at 10 o’clock.

Zach grinned as he tied the strings in a carefully even knot before tucking the whole thing back into the bottom of his backpack. And as the teacher finally came into the room, setting off a hush that washed over the room like a wave, Zach turned and whispered softly, “In more ways than you know.”

~~~~

Wednesday night Zach fell asleep while waiting for Shaun’s call- even though most of his nerves had disappeared after reading Shaun’s letter, it was still an exhausting day. So when the call finally came, it took three rings before he could roll over and answer with a sleepy, “Hello?”

“Hey babe, how was your day?” Shaun sounded cheery and completely sober this time.

Zach yawned wide and sat up, scratching absently at his head. “It was great, but that was mostly thanks to your letter. You have no idea how much better it made me feel.”

“I thought it might help, and what about your little present?” Shaun asked with a soft chuckle.

“Oh, that was just the icing on the cake. You’re brilliant.”

“Well, you know,” Shaun said, voice full of false modesty. “Maybe when I get back you can show me just how much you appreciate me?” His voice dropped to a whisper as he spoke.

“Oh, I think I can figure out some way.”

“God, I miss you.” Shaun sounded tired all of the sudden. “It’s only been half a week but it seems like forever since I’ve seen you.”

“I know,” Zach said softly, curling his free arm around a pillow and drawing it in close to his chest. “But we’ll both survive.”

“Wow-so now you’re the one being an adult about this? Not sure I can handle that,” Shaun said in a bemused voice.

“So, the student has finally surprised the Master?”

“Ah, young Butterfly, you surprise me all the time.”

~~~~

The next week and a half sped by- school and homework took a large part of Zach’s time. Luckily, Cody was still enamored of both Jeremy and Oscar so he didn’t mind spending every day and part of the weekend with them, but privately Zach knew that he’d be much happier once Shaun was back so he wouldn’t feel like he was abandoning Cody completely. Not to mention all the other reasons he wanted Shaun back.

It was late Thursday afternoon, and Shaun was due home in just two days. Cody was out with Carol and Jeremy at Monkey Joe’s, where the boys could ride giant inflatable slides and play video games till they were ready to collapse. Then Cody was going to spend the night with Jeremy, so Zach had the entire evening to himself. He was expecting Shaun’s call in a little while, and planned on finally letting himself be talked into trying out phone sex, but for now he was working on a special project.

He was sitting at the table in the bedroom that he shared with Shaun, in front of the big window with all the good afternoon light. He had his headphones on, humming tunelessly as he bent over his project. With scissors in one hand, and an intense look of concentration on his face, he made two careful snips, completely lost in what he was doing.

So much so, that he never heard the front door open, didn’t hear a voice call his name, didn’t hear the soft shuffle of footsteps on carpet, never expected to feel a single hand land, warm and soft, on his shoulder.

So of course, he jumped, and he might have let out a tiny shriek- it was a manly shriek to be sure but a shriek nonetheless. He jerked his headphones off, and spun around on the stool in a single, panicked movement, scissors held at the ready, low in his fist.

Zach’s pulse was racing and his eyes were wide but to his surprise, instead of some burglar, in front of him stood a grinning Shaun.

He looked tired, but happy to be there. He was wearing a god-awful ugly tie- blue with orange checks, and his pink Oxford, which was wrinkled and mostly un-tucked. He held his hands up at shoulder height, and took a playful step back before saying, “Whoa, dude. Watch out- it’s just me.”

“Jesus, you scared the fuck out of me.” Zach lowered the hand holding the scissors and rested it on his thigh. He blew out a loud breath, and then frowned at the amused look on Shaun’s face. “It’s not funny, dude. And what are you doing here anyway? You’re not supposed to be here till Saturday.”

“So I’m home early- doesn’t mean you have to stab me over it.” Shaun chuckled again as Zach glowered at him.

“You think that’s funny, huh? Well, I’ll show you funny,” and without thinking Zach stood up and took one small step forward. He grabbed Shaun’s ugly tie with his free hand and brought the one holding the scissors up, and then with one quick grunt of effort, Zach cut Shaun’s tie in half, four inches below the still neatly tied knot that was nestled just below his Adam’s apple. He stared at the orphaned piece of fabric in his hand a moment before looking up at Shaun with a rather bashful grin.

For his part, Shaun just stood there, staring at Zach, a mixture of shock and amusement on his face. “Dude, I cannot believe you just did that.”

“I kinda don’t believe I did it either, but you know what?” Zach giggled a little wildly for a moment before going on, “I always did hate that damn tie.”

“You did? What’s wrong with my tie?” His mouth twisted ruefully at the smile that came over Zach’s face, and then he tried again. “I mean- what was wrong with my tie?”

“It was ugly. Like seriously ugly.” He dropped the piece of tie on the floor. “And by the way, I don’t really like that shirt either.”

“You don’t? I thought it made me look kinda hot.”

“Nope.” Zach shook his head emphatically. “And I’ll tell you why-for one thing it’s not really your color, but more importantly it’s not nearly form fitting enough. It hides your biceps.” Zach waggled his eyebrows comically.

“Oh, really? Well, there must be some way to fix it.” Shaun smiled slyly at the look that flashed across Zach’s face. “I mean, you did fix my tie, right?”

“You have a point there,” Zach said with a gleam in his eye, and he brought one hand thoughtfully to his chin for a moment. He reached out and tugged the shirt free in the few places it was still tucked in while saying, “Let’s see now, how can I fix that ugly thing?”

Zach took a slow step forward, and raised the scissors before pausing to say in an amused voice,” You, ah, might want to stand really really still for this.”

He held Shaun motionless with his gaze for a moment and then he plucked at the fabric of Shaun’s sleeve, pulling it well away from his body before pinching it together with his thumb and forefinger. Then, oh so carefully, he took a snip, blades flashing in the sunlight that still streamed in over his shoulder.

Shaun gave a tiny gasp but otherwise stood silent- and completely motionless. He watched in fascination as Zach inserted the tip of the bottom blade into the small slit he’d just made, and then, with tiny precise movements, made a series of nearly identical cuts in the sleeve of Shaun’s shirt.

When he finally finished, and pulled the piece of fabric he’d cut out away before dropping it negligently on the floor, the skin of Shaun’s bicep was revealed in a near perfect oval. Zach stepped back a moment, eyeing it critically.

Shaun bent his arm experimentally, and Zach grinned at the way the muscle of his arm flexed and bunched in the opening he’d made. Shaun looked at Zach, and worried at his bottom lip with sharp white teeth for a moment before running the tip of his tongue over it.

Zach raised one eyebrow in an obvious question, and Shaun nodded, a tiny jerk of his head that might very well have gone unnoticed if Zach weren’t watching so closely. Zach started on the other arm, stepping a tiny half-step closer so he could reach better. As he made the first little snip, and the scissors went ‘snick,’ he felt Shaun lean close to him, running his nose softly over the back of his head, and inhaling the scent of his hair.

A few more ‘snicks,’ and the softness of Shaun’s skin was revealed inch by careful inch. Zach ran one gentle finger over Shaun’s arm, and a tiny wave of goose bumps spread out in a circle from the mere touch of his fingertip. Shaun gave a nearly inaudible moan, then said softly, “Cody is gone for the night, right?”

“Uh huh,” Zach said absently in that tone Shaun recognized as complete and total artistic concentration. He dropped the second pink oval on the floor and then pulled the back of Shaun’s sleeve tight so the cut-out framed his bicep.

“Are you done?” Shaun’s voice was breathy in Zach’s ear, and he smiled to himself before shaking his head and saying, “Not even close.”

Shaun groaned and dropped his head back, baring his neck, before letting out a deep breath.

“Hold still,” Zach admonished while deciding on his next move. He made a quick snip on the fabric on the outside of Shaun’s wrist, just above the cuff, and then dropped the scissors on the bed next to where Shaun was leaning. He slid both thumbs into the slit he’d just made and then with a flex and several mighty pulls, he ripped the sleeve open almost to Shaun’s shoulder.

Shaun twisted his arm to look at his sleeve, and Zach smiled as the fabric flapped and fluttered in the breeze, tiny threads dangling from both sides of the torn opening.

He reached for the scissors again and confidently repeated the tear on the other sleeve before tossing the scissors casually on the bed. He took a quick step back to appraise his actions, and Shaun tipped his head up to look at him.

Shaun’s eyes were dilated nearly black in the dwindling light, and Zach could see a tiny pulse beating rapidly in one temple. His breathing was shallow, and as Zach glanced down he could see Shaun’s hands were bunched into tight fists on his thighs.

“That’s better,” he murmured, almost to himself. “Still not quite enough though.”

He picked the scissors up again, and made a couple of quick cuts in the air, just for practice, and as he watched Shaun’s face closely, he could see the other man’s pulse speed up even more. He made them go ‘snick, snick’ again, and then in quick succession, he cut the threads behind every single button down the front of Shaun’s shirt, sending them flying across the room from the sudden release of tension. One clattered brightly onto the table behind Zach but most landed almost noiselessly somewhere on the carpet.

He pulled the front of Shaun’s shirt to the side, exposing most of his stomach and chest before running three fingertips gently down the newly exposed skin. His touch was soft and Shaun drew in an audible breath as Zach’s fingers passed by on either side of his bellybutton to land momentarily on the waistband of Shaun’s trousers.

Shaun held his breath until Zach moved his hand and then let it out in a disappointed puff.

Zach smirked, and ran his hand in a horizontal line just above Shaun’s waistband, and when he reached the tender, slightly ticklish skin of Shaun’s side, he said, “Turn around,” in a voice that would brook no argument.

Shaun stood straight from where’d he been leaning against the bed, and turned around. He leaned forward slightly without being asked, and propped his arms against the bed almost wearily, and he waited. Not being able to see what Zach was up to made the wait seem interminable and the skin on the back of his neck prickled as he strained to hear any small noise.

Zach moved up behind him in near silence, and then made two cuts in the tail of his shirt, once again ripping them open, all the way to the shoulder seam, with his bare hands. The tan skin of Shaun’s back peeked through the tears in the shirt and then Zach ran his hand across the bottom, making the tatters move and sway, bare skin enticingly revealed and then hidden once more as the fabric swung to a slow stop.

Zach moved closer, pressing up against Shaun’s back, and he felt the other man jump slightly before pressing back hard against his groin. He leaned close to Shaun’s ear and whispered, “Turn back around,” before moving away.

Shaun groaned but slowly turned around before saying, “Are you through playing yet, young Butterfly?” in a voice that clearly revealed just how little control he had left.

Zach smiled though, and shook his head. “I still have lots to teach you.” He pushed down on Shaun’s shoulders, and Shaun sank onto the bed. He started to lean back, but Zach grabbed the remnants of his tie with one hand and gave a quick yank, and Shaun stilled.

Zach picked up the scissors once more and held them carefully in one hand before climbing onto Shaun’s lap, straddling his thighs.

Shaun’s hands automatically came up to grab Zach’s ass, partly to keep him from falling backwards onto the floor, but mostly so he could rub firm circles into the rounded flesh there.

Zach flexed his hips a moment before he started carefully cutting the collar out from under the remains of Shaun’s tie- tiny snips that ate through a millimeter of fabric at a time. As he neared the apex of Shaun’s shoulder, he made an awkward cut and the scissors slipped a bit, point digging into Shaun’s neck.

Shaun let out a soft hiss but didn’t move. Zach looked at him closely before examining his neck. There was a red mark, but no blood, and Zach leaned over and planted a soft, sorrowful kiss there. Shaun moaned, and tilted his head, offering more even as he pulled Zach closer with a rough jerk on his hips.

Zach pulled away, ignoring Shaun’s offering, and started on the other side of the collar, again making slow methodical cuts. The ‘snick snick’ of the blades was the only sound in the room except for Shaun’s breath, rasping loud in Zach’s ear.

Zach strained to reach the back of Shaun’s collar, and he moved up onto his knees to get to the last few inches.

Shaun pressed his hands firmly into the middle of Zach’s back, pulling him close. His face was pressed into Zach’s belly, and on his chest he could faintly feel the length of Zach’s erection as it strained against the waistband of his boxers. He let out a loud huff of breath, warm against Zach’s belly even through his tee shirt, and brought one hand forward to gently trace the outline of his cock.

Zach made a last careful snip and then closed his eyes with a tiny groan when he felt Shaun’s warm hand cup him through his shorts. He dropped the collar on the edge of the bed, and then pushed away, sliding his knees off the bed and standing up straight before tossing the scissors on the table behind him.

Shaun gritted his teeth and looked up at Zach- this game had been going on for far too long now. He opened his mouth to speak but Zach interrupted.

“Stand up.”

Shaun’s lips tightened, and he tilted his head appraisingly, and Zach said, “C’mon, I need to see how you look.”

So Shaun stood, and held his arms out rather ironically before making a slow circle in place. The tatters of his shirt swung slowly as he moved, swaying with the rhythm of his body, and shy bits of skin peeked out here and there, and then were quickly covered again. As he came to a stop, facing forward once more, the slits on his sleeves fluttered to a close, ending Zach’s last glimpse of smooth muscles, and he looked up at Shaun’s face and swallowed abruptly.

“You look-,” he shook his head as he paused, “-so fucking gorgeous like that.”

The corner of Shaun’s mouth twitched into a tiny smile, but he stood still, waiting.

Zach took a half step forward, carefully not touching Shaun as he leaned closer. “In fact, there’s only one thing you could do right now that would be any more perfect.” He leaned back to appraise Shaun’s reaction.

Shaun tilted an eyebrow at him, but he still waited, motionless.

Zach leaned even closer, till his lips were almost brushing Shaun’s ear, before saying, “Fuck me- now.” His voice was low and rough, and he was standing so close to Shaun that in the split second after he’d spoken, he felt a shiver run the length of the other man’s body, and he smiled.

Shaun closed his eyes, and then he moved- he brought his far hand up to the back of Zach’s head, and pulled him roughly around for a kiss, grabbing his face to hold him still and practically biting his way into Zach’s mouth.

Zach moaned and slid his hands up around Shaun’s back, entangling them in the shreds of his ruined shirt to pull himself even closer. He held on as Shaun spun them, and his feet tangled so he had no choice but to hold even tighter, or fall. His fingers pressed into Shaun’s shoulder as Shaun pushed him backwards onto the bed, following closely and never breaking their frantic kiss. Zach moaned again, sliding one hand into Shaun’s hair, fisting it tightly between his fingers.

Shaun pulled away, then kissed him once more, fiercely, ending it with a tiny snap of his teeth before growling out, “Don’t you move.” And then he pushed away.

Zach blinked a couple of times as a sudden chill ran over him, but stayed where he was- half on the bed, half off, feet planted firmly on the floor to support himself.

Shaun stripped off his pants and boxers before stalking over to the nightstand, where he quickly pulled out the lube and a condom before coming back to stand next to Zach. He let out a deep breath and then dropped the items carelessly on the bed. He looked down at Zach, who was looking back at him wide-eyed. Shaun gave a tiny smile and then leaned over, grabbing Zach’s shorts at the thighs and pulling them down to pool at his ankles. He did the same with his boxers, after carefully lifting the waistband so they wouldn’t snag on his erection.

Then he stood tall. He should have looked ridiculous, wearing only a tattered shirt, remains of his tie hanging loose around his neck. But when he looked down at Zach, Zach shivered slightly and pressed his fingers into his thighs to stop them from trembling.

Shaun slipped one hand underneath Zach’s thigh and lifted, rolling him up before grabbing the other leg. He stepped in front of Zach, and propped one calf on his shoulder as he popped open the bottle of lube. He dribbled some on his fingers, spreading it around as he dropped the bottle back on the bed.

He held Zach’s other leg wide and reached between them. Just before his slippery fingers touched Zach, he raised an eyebrow at him, and Zach nodded and pressed closer. Shaun slid his fingers in between Zach’s cheeks, and then ran the pads of both fingers in a slow, gentle circle around his entrance, spreading the lube around so everything would slide easily.

Zach let out a tiny sigh, and his eyes fluttered closed as the tip of Shaun’s finger pushed gently inside him.

Shaun gritted his teeth as he felt the smooth, silky way Zach’s body relaxed to let his finger inside, and his cock throbbed in anticipation.

Zach’s back arched uncontrollably as Shaun’s finger reached deep inside, rubbing that one spot firmly and sparks danced in front of eyes. He gasped out, “Hurry.”

Shaun moaned, but said softly, “Don’t wanna hurt you.”

Zach cracked one eye open and grinned up at him. “You know I kinda like it that way,” and he ground down hard against Shaun’s finger. “So, c’mon- please?”

Shaun groaned and jerked his finger out, reaching for the condom. He rolled it down his aching cock with fingers that trembled, and then he hurriedly rubbed a fresh dollop of lube down his length with a little sigh.

He tossed the lube somewhere near the head of the bed and pushed Zach’s leg forward from where it’d been resting on his shoulder, spreading his legs in a wide ‘v.’ One deep breath to calm himself, and then he thrust his hips forward, pressing the head of his cock between Zach’s slippery cheeks in search of his hole. As he felt the warm skin start to give around the head of his cock, he groaned yet again, clenching his teeth in effort as he fought the urge to slide all the way in.

He tried to move as slowly and smoothly as he could, but instead his hips jerked forward an awkward two inches, and Zach groaned and thrust his hips toward him, driving Shaun deep inside.

Shaun gasped, and grabbed Zach’s hips with both hands, holding him still and giving them both time to adjust.

“Oh, c’mon- move,” Zach pleaded, reaching down to pull frantically at Shaun’s fingers.

“You do want this to last more than thirty seconds, don’t you?” Shaun grunted out.

Zach rolled his eyes then nodded before letting out a frustrated breath.

It took a slow twenty-count, with his eyes squeezed tight before Shaun could calm down enough to start moving. Slow thrusts at first, and shallow, easing his hips back and forth a mere inch at a time.

But then Zach opened his eyes to glare at him, and Shaun grinned before giving up on slow and easy, and he went with long strokes that bottomed out deep within the delicious tightness of Zach’s warm body.

At the end of each stroke, he gave a little extra thrust forward with his hips, and Zach let out a tiny grunt each time as the head of Shaun’s cock rubbed firmly across his prostate. Shaun pulled Zach’s other leg up onto his shoulder, and then held Zach’s hips tight, pulling his body against him as he thrust forward, neck arched back as he worked.

Zach opened his eyes and stared up at Shaun- his torn shirt was spread wide in the front, and the skin of his chest was gleaming with sweat. The ragged tears along his sleeves swayed back and forth as Shaun moved inside him, groaning and straining. His neck was arched gracefully, and Zach licked his lips at the mere thought of the taste of his skin.

Zach’s cock was achingly hard, and had been ever since he’d made that first cut in Shaun’s tie. He stretched out one long arm and managed to grab what was left of that blue and orange monstrosity, and he gave a quick yank.

Shaun looked down at him, pupils blown wide in the dimness of the bedroom, and as Zach watched Shaun watching him, he raised his free hand, licking his palm once before wrapping it firmly around his cock. Shaun groaned, and his hips jerked forward awkwardly before he re-caught his rhythm. He bit his bottom lip and watched, wide-eyed, as Zach echoed his pace, stroking his own cock in time with his thrusts.

Shaun dragged his gaze away from Zach’s busy hand, and looked at his face- Zach’s eyes were closed and he had a look of ecstasy on his face as he lay there, legs spread wide. He stroked his own cock, thumb running once around the tip, and then his eyes opened to see Shaun staring at him, and he smiled.

He said, “God, I’ve fucking missed this,” and Shaun had to close his eyes as he suddenly remembered their first time together, how he’d practically had to beg Zach to come for him and now he was just laying there, taking all the Shaun could give him and loving it. Shaun sped up his thrusts with a groan, knowing he couldn’t last much longer.

Zach moaned when Shaun sped up, slamming impossibly deeper inside him and he arched his back and splayed one arm carelessly over his head. He rolled his hips in a circle, forcing Shaun even deeper and he gasped out loud as a particularly vicious thrust sent up fireworks behind his eyelids.

His every nerve ending tingled, and tiny shivers ran down his arms and across his back. He could feel his heart pounding wildly in his chest and he opened his eyes again and gasped out, “That’s so good,” in a breathy whisper.

Shaun clenched his teeth a second, and then said, “You like that, huh?”

Zach panted out a laugh, and nodded, biting at his lower lip before letting out an ‘ahhh’ as he arched against Shaun.

Shaun slid his hands up Zach’s legs, grabbing at his ankles before turning to press an open-mouthed kiss on the side of Zach’s foot. “I knew you would,” he said with a moan. And he slammed back inside Zach with a groan as the nerves in his lower back suddenly flared to life, catching fire and sizzling outwards like a freshly lit fuse setting off a trail of sparks. “Oh God, Zach. Fu-uuck….” he panted, fingertips digging deep into Zach’s calves.

The muscles in Shaun’s legs trembled and shook from their efforts, and sweat beaded up on his forehead before running down into his eyes, blurring his vision. He blinked and twisted his head to wipe his stinging eyes on what was left of his shirt, but he never stopped moving, thrusting hard into the heat of Zach’s willing body.

And Zach just lay there, one hand fisting his cock in time with Shaun’s wicked thrusts, the other entangled in the sheets, thoughtlessly pulling them from the far corner of the bed. His head was thrown back and his eyes fluttered open momentarily before closing again, and then as Shaun watched, enthralled, his body arched like a bow and with a guttural shout he was coming, semen spurting white through his fist and landing in a puddle on his chest before dribbling down to his shoulder.

Shaun gasped as Zach’s body clenched tight around his cock, and then every nerve that had been smoking and smoldering for so long now suddenly flashed over, erupting into flames just under his skin. He threw his head back and with a loud cry of “Ahhh- God, Zach,” he came, emptying himself out deep inside Zach’s body.

The only noise in the room for a long moment was the rasping breath of both men. Shaun stood there, head thrown back and eyes closed, running one hand softly along Zach’s hip.

Zach gradually unclenched his hand from the sheet and shook it a bit before reaching down to wrap his fingers around the side of Shaun’s hand. He ran his thumb in a gentle arc near the tips of Shaun’s fingers before opening his eyes. He smiled up at Shaun and said softly, “I’m glad you’re home.”

Shaun tipped his head up and smiled down at Zach before slowly and carefully pulling out of him. “Me too.” He slid Zach’s legs down on either side and leaned in close enough to kiss him. He could barely reach without losing his balance, but he managed to press one soft, heartfelt kiss to Zach’s mouth before standing back up and reaching down to pull off the condom.

Zach glanced at Shaun’s chest and grinned. “Now your shirt looks even better.” He pointed at the ovoid blob of come that had been transferred from Zach’s skin to the shirt.

Shaun looked down and snorted in amusement before throwing the condom in the small trashcan beside the table. He loosened his tie a bit more and then pulled the remains of his shirt off over his head. He reached over with a grin and used it to wipe the rest of Zach’s chest clean and then turned the toss it into the trash can.

“Don’t you dare- that shirt is a work of art. Besides, I might want you to wear it again.” Zach pushed himself higher on the bed with his hands, all the while watching Shaun closely.

“You know, you could always just make another one,” Shaun said with a tiny wiggle of his eyebrows, but he turned and tossed the shirt into the dirty clothes hamper instead. He pulled off his tie and dropped it carelessly on the table before heading off to the bathroom.

Zach rolled on his side, head propped on one arm, and sighed softly as he closed his eyes.

Shaun came back with a wet washcloth and as he climbed on the bed behind Zach, he asked, “So what were you doing with those scissors anyway?” He gently ran the washcloth between Zach’s cheek, cleaning away the lube and then tossed it towards the hamper, too.

“Well, Cody said he wanted something nicer than jeans for his first day of school, and Carol gave him these old dress pants of Jeremy’s. They’re way too long though, so I was going to hem them.” He gestured to the table as he rolled on his back, pointing to his mom’s old Kenmore sewing machine that he’d dutifully packed in the move from San Pedro despite of all of Shaun’s good-natured ribbing about it.

“Ah- see, that’s the difference between you and me.”

“What? A rich bitch like you would just buy a new pair, is that it?” Zach rolled onto his side and stretched out one arm, draping his hand softly against Shaun’s chest.

“Naw, but a lazy-ass bitch like me would just staple ‘em,” Shaun said with a sly smile.

Zach laughed, and his eyes lit up. “I’m not sure how lazy you are. I mean, you did just have quite a workout.”

Shaun scooted a little closer, and ran one gentle hand across Zach’s shoulder, and then down his arm. “Well, I only do that when you’re around to encourage me.”

Zach slid his head across the silky fabric of the pillow case, pressing a tiny kiss to Shaun’s forehead, and to his nose and then his mouth. He ran his lip gently along the curve of Shaun’s chin, and pressed one final kiss to the scar just underneath it, and then said, “It’s a good thing for you then that I’m here, old man.”

Shaun pulled Zach closer, bringing his head down to rest in the hollow of his shoulder, and both men closed their eyes. And as the last bit of light slipped below the horizon, and the room faded into darkness, Shaun said softly, “Definitely.”

Tags: [a] dragontatt, [f] fic
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