Gabe didn't come down to visit Shaun, Zach and Cody until they've been living together for six months. It's not that he didn't want to, but as he told Zach, it was just weird. The two people he loved most in the world were apparently in love with each other. He wasn't sure how to act around them anymore. They'd invited him down several times, but he always found an excuse not to go. Then he figured he was being kind of an asshole, so he had Larry buy him a plane ticket because he'd meant it when he told Zach that they would always be bros. And hell, at least this time he actually liked his brother's boyfriend.
Tim, Shaun's ex, was everything Zach--Or Shaun for that matter--wasn't. He was a fucking accountant who collected coins and was a neat freak. Okay, so maybe Gabe had puked all over their mosaic coffee table, but that was no reason to be as big a dick as he was. And the fact that he had wanted Shaun to forget about working on his second novel to do something sensible like teach English didn't sit well with Gabe either. Shaun was a writer like Zach was an artist. It wasn't something either of them did for fun, it was who they were, and if Tim or Jeannie or anyone else couldn't see that then they were blind and stupid.
So yeah, maybe it was for the best that they'd found each other. And hell, it wasn't like he didn't know that Shaun had been crushing on Zach for a long damn time. He had tried to hide it, but Gabe had always known. Sure the fact that Zach apparently returned those feelings -- more than returned them -- had been a huge fucking surprise, but when he thought about it, he really couldn't have picked out better people for either one of them, so he sucked it up and went down to visit.
At first, it'd been like old times. Zach picked him up at LAX and they went out for a quick surf session before they met up with Shaun and Cody for dinner. Zach told him about school, both his and Cody's, and rambled on about how awesome Shaun's new book was. It was better than old times actually because Zach was happy. Gabe couldn't remember Zach being truly happy since his mom died.
And as awkward as he thought he'd feel watching the three of them together, he didn't feel that way at all. They looked right together. They looked like a family. Cody rode piggyback on Shaun's back while they all walked down to the pier for ice cream after dinner. And if the chocolate ice cream moustache that Cody was still wearing when he fell asleep in Shaun's arms was any indication, the kid was the happiest he'd ever been as well.
And Shaun... Shaun had the family he'd always wanted.
Gabe stumbled into the kitchen from where he'd been passed out on the couch. "I'm so hungover."
Shaun turned around from the sink where he'd been washing dishes. "Something's never change, little brother."
Gabe set his head down on the kitchen table. "What time is it?"
"Nearly noon. You want coffee?"
Shaun grabbed a mug from the stand on the counter and filled it for Gabe. "Here you go, and Zach made you a plate of his famous hangover hashbrowns for when you feel up to food."
Gabe smiled at that. Zach's hashbrowns had gotten him through more hangovers than he could count. "Where's he at?"
"School. Cody too. In fact, I need to go pick Cody up. You want to come with or enjoy a few more minutes of quiet before being faced with a very happy, talkative six year old?"
Gabe looked up at Shaun through his bloodshot eyes. "Quiet."
Shaun laughed. "I figured. I'll take Cody by the park and give you a little more time to recover. The hashbrowns are in the oven. Try not to burn the place down."
Gabe drank his coffee and then did what any younger brother would do, he snooped around the place. He looked at the pictures on the wall, mostly of Shaun, Zach and Cody. He smiled at the artwork on the fridge, both Zach and Cody's. The place looked and felt like a home.
Gabe was just hungover enough that he could admit that he'd always been a little jealous of Zach, which was funny considering the fact that Gabe was the rich fuck and Zach was the ghetto trash. But it was Zach's mom who always remembered Gabe's birthday with more than just a check. She made him cupcakes and made him wear a silly hat.
And it was Zach's mom who picked the gravel out of his knees when he'd wipe out on his skateboard and kissed the top of his head to make it better. Sure, he grew up with everything money could buy, but he never had that kind of connection with anyone in his family, except maybe Shaun. And watching the three of them together, Gabe got it. They were what a family was supposed to look like. Zach and Shaun had taken the best from their own childhood's and were making sure Cody grew up loved and supported. And man, his head hurt way too much for such deep fucking thoughts. It was clearly hashbrown time.
Gabe wrapped the towel around his shoulders and walked out onto the balcony that Zach was using as his studio. Shaun had set up a canvas hood to protect the area from the weather. It was one of the first things that Zach had pointed out to him when they got back from surfing. Gabe stopped in his tracks when he realized that both Zach and Shaun were there. Shaun was standing next to Zach and they were both studying Zach's latest painting. Zach was saying that it still needed something and Shaun was saying yeah it did, Zach's signature at the bottom. Shaun nudged Zach's shoulder with his own and Zach looked at Shaun and smiled, leaning over to kiss his jaw. It was then that Shaun noticed Gabe at the doorway. "Will you tell this guy how fanfuckingtastic this painting is so he'll quit worrying about it."
Gabe smiled and walked out to meet them. "Well, it ain't bad for ghetto trash, that's for sure."
Zach laughed. "Yeah, well what do you rich fucks know?"
"You're right dude, I know dick about art, but it looks awesome to me. And big brother here never learned how to lie, so we both can't be wrong."
Zach lowered his head and fought the blush that was rising. That was new, Gabe thought. Normally Zach would have said something self-deprecating. He could see Shaun's positive influence at work.
"You sure you don't want to go to the party with me?" Gabe asked after Shaun had gone in to go check on Cody. "You don't have class tomorrow and I'm sure my big brother would be willing to play babysitter for the night. He'd love it."
Zach shook his head. "Yeah, he would, but I'd rather stay here."
Gabe nodded. He didn't think Zach would want to come, but he had to make the offer. "You seem happy. So does Shaun."
Smiling, Zach leaned back against the railing. "We are. And so's Cody most of the time."
"Only most of the time?"
"He misses his mom."
"No offense, but Jeannie was never much of a mom to him. She didn't exactly take after your mom."
"I know, but she's still *his* mom and that's tough for a kid. Shaun's great with him though. We both take him to school and he picks him up because I have class."
Gabe could understand that he guessed. Jeannie might be shit, but she was the only mom that Cody had. But he was glad that the Codester was with Zach and Shaun now. The kid couldn't ask for better parents. "You guys are a good team."
"Yeah, we are. You're all right with this?"
Finally someone was talking about the elephant in the room. Another way Zach had grown. Before, he would have never been the one to bring it up. "I told you. It doesn't change anything. We'll always be bros. And now we really are bros."
"So why hadn't you been down to visit?"
Maybe Zach was getting too good at it. "Okay, I admit I thought it would be weird seeing the two of you together."
Zach looked down, not meeting Gabe's eyes. "So you do have a problem with it."
"No, I don't." He grabbed Zach by the shoulders until he looked at him. "I don't. I thought it would be weird, but it's not. It's right. I'm a little jealous though."
That got Zach's attention. "Jealous?"
"Yeah, you guys are a family."
Zach smacked him on the back of the head. "You're our family too, you idiot."
"I know. And I'll come down more often now, I promise."
"You'd better. Now get the hell out of here and go to your party. Call if you need a ride."
"Still taking care of everyone aren't you?"
Zach smiled and walked with Gabe back into the apartment. "Sometimes, but now I've got someone to take care of me too."
And Gabe really couldn't argue with that, but he sure as hell wasn't going to admit it. "That's code for you guys are gonna get jiggy with it as soon as I leave, aren't you?"
Shaun came up behind Zach and wrapped his arms around him. "Maybe even before you leave."
Zach laughed at what must have been a horrified look on Gabe's face and leaned back into Shaun's embrace.
"I think that's my cue to jet. I'll see you guys in the morning." Gabe was pretty sure next time he'd do less partying and more hanging with the fam. Something told him, he'd probably have a better time that way.