"Now listen, you two," Carey said from inside her bedroom, "just promise me that you'll be at least partially civilized while I'm performing tonight, okay? No repeats of the other night?" She gazed into the mirror as she applied the finishing touches to her hair.
"We'll be perfect little gentlemen, Mom," Zack called to her from his spot on the couch.
"Sure, Zack. Of course you will," she said as she walked into the living room. "I'll settle for normal, non-destructive little gentlemen, though."
"Don't you trust us, Mom?" Zack asked her, feigning a look of hurt.
"Who's this 'us'?" Cody asked. "I'm not the one that gets into trouble every moment he's awake."
"You're never completely innocent either, Cody," Carey said as she sat beside them. "Just don't blow anything up, okay? I know I'm asking a lot but I'd really like to think I can leave you two alone for a few hours and come back to a room that isn't in shambles."
"She's talking to you, you know?" Cody grinned to his brother. Carey stood up and prepared to leave.
"I'm talking to the both of you, not just your brother." She walked behind them and leaned down, kissing them on the top of their heads. "Be good. Or else." Carey grinned and walked toward the door.
"We will," both twins replied at once.
"Dinner's in the 'fridge. I'll see you all in a while," she said as she left the room.
"Why does she think that she can't trust us?" Zack asked as he flipped channels.
"Oh I wonder," Cody said with an incredulous look. "Maybe because we, and when I say 'we', I mean 'you', always find some way to mess things up."
"Not all the time."
"Most of the time."
"Okay. Most of the time." Talk between them dwindled as they became engrossed in the television.
A short while later Zack broke the silence. "I'm hungry now. You?" Cody assured him that he was also hungry and got up, heading for the kitchen.
"Lasagna or...whatever this green, fuzzy thing is, Zack?" He said as he stood with the refrigerator door open.
"Dur, lasagna," he answered as he sprawled out, taking most of Cody's space. Cody took it out and popped the whole dish into the microwave. A few moments later he returned to the couch with two steaming plates of pasta and cheese.
"Here you go," he said as he handed Zack one of the plates and sat down, giving his brother a stern look until he scooted over and made room. Another hush fell over them as they devoured the meal, both plates scraped clean within minutes.
"I'm still hungry," Cody announced as he got back up. "Want some more?"
"Nah, I'm good." Zack patted his belly and put his hands behind his head. Cody took both plates with him as he went back into the kitchen. One was dropped into the sink while the other sat on the counter waiting to be piled high again.
Cody pulled the dish of lasagna back out again and cut himself another chunk. The plate put in the microwave with the timer running, he put the rest back in the refrigerator, pausing as he noticed a large plastic bowl covered in cling wrap on the shelf below where the pasta was sitting. "Hello, what's this?" he said quietly as he pulled the bowl out. Handwriting that was undoubtedly his mother's had labeled them as Cherry Bombs For Party with a black marker. His eyes widened as he saw small, round, red objects through the hazy plastic, any thought of what exactly a cherry bomb might be or whatever party they might be for being banished from his mind.
Cody'd always had a passion for cherries and discovering a bowl full of them was on par with opening Christmas presents. Years before Carey had begun buying small jars of the fruit just for Cody after she realized how much he liked them. They'd been a standard treat for him since he was little and he still loved them just as much. This though...this was much more than a small jar. This was...Heaven!
He pulled it out and set it on the table, his mouth already watering a bit at the thought of a wonderful snack. He pulled the wrap back and inhaled the sweet aroma of cherry juice. His nose wrinkled slightly as he caught a whiff of something else but he ignored it. He had more important things to do than play Name That Rather Harsh Smell.
Self control soon left him and he sat at the table with the bowl before him. They tasted a bit funny, he quickly noticed. Not bad, just a very odd aftertaste to them. Cody savored them, chewing each until it was nothing but mush before swallowing and picking up another one. Somewhere behind him the microwave went off but Cody didn't hear it.
Zack finally noticed Cody hadn't returned with more food only after a commercial broke the hold the television had over him. He turned around and saw his brother sitting down with a large bowl before him. "What are you doing?"
"Eatin' cherries," Cody responded, his voice more than slightly slurred.
"Looks more like you're wearing them than eating them," Zack said as he made his way to the table. It was true. Cody's face was smeared with the juice and more than a fair bit had dribbled down the front of his white turtleneck.
"Mom is sooo going to kill you, Cody," Zack said. "Those were the staff party tomorrow night!" Cody grinned at him.
"Maybe she should have put a note on them then?" Zack's lips turned to a smirk as he stretched the plastic wrap back out and pointed to the black letters.
"Cherry bombs. For party," Zack said with a grin, glad to finally win a point with his brother on something. "How many did you eat?" Cody appeared to be trying to figure it out but just gave Zack a wide grin as an answer.
"She's going to kill you," Zack said again.
"They're good," Cody exclaimed as he swallowed another one.
"She's going to kill me too," he murmured as he sat down, putting a hand to his forehead.
"Yes?" Zack's voice was filled with how-am-I-going-to-get-out-of-this.
Cody leaned forward conspiratorially and attempted to whisper. "I don't think my legs work anymore." Zack leaned back as he got a face full of Cody's breath.
"That would probably be because you are drunk, Cody!"
Cody looked at him with a crazy grin. "I'm not drunk!"
"Do you have any idea what cherry bombs are, Cody?" After no answer seemed to be forthcoming Zack told him. "They're cherries soaked in alcohol."
"I'm not drunk," Cody again offered as a defense.
"Oh yeah. You are. Big-time. Your breath could just about put a yak into a coma." Cody's reply to that was to utter "Bah!"and wave his brother away with his left hand.
"You know, Cody, I'm willing to bet that if Mom were a gambling lady, she'd have bet the house that I'd have been the first of us to go on a bender." Cody promptly fell out of his chair, taking the bowl and most of the tablecloth with him as he went down. Red cherry juice covered what were until then the few remaining white spots on Cody's shirt, his jeans, and a good part of the tiled floor.
"Cody!" Zack hopped out of his own chair and was on his knees at his brother's side less than a second later.
"I'm okay, I'm okay." He looked at Zack with glazed eyes and offered his hand. "Help me up?"
"You're sure you're alright?" He asked and was answered with another of those grins. Zack decided that they were quickly becoming annoying. "How about you sit right there for a minute while I clean this mess up, huh?" Cody thought that was a great plan. Zack began scooping up the cherries and putting them back in the bowl while Cody gobbled all that were within his reach.
"I think you've had just about enough of those, Cody," he said as he swept all the cherries near Cody away into the bowl.
"Hey Zack," Cody said softly, causing his brother to look up at him. "Here." Cody took his juicy fingers and drew lines across Zack's cheeks.
"What are you doing?" Zack asked as he pulled away.
"War paint. You're an Indian now." It was only the smile on Cody's face that prevented Zack from clouting him at that moment.
"And I thought I was the one in the special classes..." Zack said as he cleaned up the remaining loose cherries. Cody began clapping his hand over his mouth in a rather failed attempt to make Indian noises and Zack couldn't help but smile a little. Cody broke into full-fledged giggles and Zack, unable to resist his brother's always-infectious laughter, quickly joined him in hysterics.
"There is absolutely no hope for you, bro," Zack said as he wiped tears of laughter from the corners of his eyes with the back of his hands. Cody loosed another volley of Indian sounds and they cracked up again.
A few moments later they'd come to some sort of calm and Cody spoke. "Hey Zack?"
"What?" He said, a trace of laughter still in his voice. If Cody made those noises again he'd bust a gut.
"I hafta pee."
"Erm...Okay?" Cody's face began to go slack and Zack's eyes widened. "Don't you dare!" He recognized that face from all the times he'd seen babies mess themselves. "C'mon, let's get you up." He squatted on the balls of his feet and put his arms beneath Cody's armpits and tried to lift him. "You know, it's a good thing you're not 80 pounds of dead weight or anything," he said with a grunt as he pulled Cody half way up, slipping one of his brother's arms around his neck and powering the two of them fully upright, "or else this would be hard." Cody snorted.
After what seemed like an eternity he finally manhandled Cody into the bathroom. He stood near the toilet with Cody draped over his shoulder like a cloak and waited for him to get busy. "Whenever you're ready there," he said, giving Cody a little elbow in the ribs.
"I can't get the snap open," his brother told him and Zack rolled his eyes.
"I don't know if you will remember this in the morning but you so very owe me, Cody." He slid behind his brother and moved his hands to his waist. "Lean back so you don't dive into the bowl, Cody," he said. Taking his brother's weight against his chest he deftly undid the button.
"You're taking things from here, bro," Zack informed him and settled back to wait, filling his mind with anything he could to make himself forget that, standing directly in front of him was his drunk brother attempting to pee. "I should have made you sit down," he said to himself.
"Nothing Just pee, huh?"
"Three shakes is enough, buddy," Zack said after the flow stopped. "Any more than that and you're playing with it." An unintelligible snicker reached his ears. Zack reached a hand around his brother's chest. "Flush." Cody leaned forward and did so awkwardly, proving Zack right that his brother had few motor skills remaining at the moment.
"Alright. Let's get you ready for bed so you can sleep this off and Mom doesn't see you."
"I don't want to go to bed yet, Zack."
"I didn't want to spend the night babysitting you either, so neither of us are getting what we want." Zack escorted him to their bedroom amidst Cody's protests.
"First thing we need to do is get you out of those clothes, Cody."
"They're sorta dry," Cody protested, running his fingers over his shirt and jeans.
"They might be but let me tell you something, Cody." His brother met his gaze. "You reek of booze so they're coming off." There were no more objections and between the two of them, they got Cody settled on his bed without incident.
"Arms up, bro," Zack said as he grabbed the hem of Cody's shirt. "Up!" Slowly, Cody raised his arms and Zack started pulling the shirt off. "This would be a lot easier if you weren't weaving around, Cody," Zack told him while he was moving back and forth.
"To the music, Zack," Cody told him.
"What? What music?"
"In my head."
"Well turn it off for a minute."
"You can't turn Kanye off in the middle of a song, Zack," Cody said with the utmost seriousness, his crossed eyes staring at Zack's own.
"I really wish I had this on video right now, Cody. I could blackmail you until we're both old and grey. Or sell it on the Internet. Either one." He took a step back and watched as Cody tried to get his groove on with his shirt half-removed. Finally Cody stopped.
"Yeah...she's still a gold digger, though."
"O-o-kay." He shook his head and stepped back in, yanking the shirt the rest of the way off before the disc player in Cody's head could change tracks. Zack tossed the shirt toward their garbage can, banking it off the wall and in. "Shoes next."
Thankfully there was no Riverdancing in Cody's head as Zack untied the laces and slipped the trainers off his feet because the squirming caused by the simple touch of fingers on Cody's soles were enough. He decided then and there that Cody would be sleeping in his socks that night.
"Almost done," Zack said and put his palm on Cody's forehead."
"What are you doing?"
"This!" Zack gave a little push and Cody went over like a house of cards, flopping spread-eagled on his back.
"No, probably not. But very fun!" He grabbed the cuffs of Cody's jeans and gave a tug, both the jeans and Cody's boxers sliding down thin hips. "Grab your drawers, bro. I don't want to see the moon or the sun tonight." Cody looked at him with puzzlement for a second before he got it and promptly began to laugh, grabbing the waistband while Zack pulled again. The jeans joined the shoes in a pile beside the bed.
"This is the part where you stay under the covers and go to sleep," he told Cody as he tossed the blanket over him. "I'll be out in the living room, got it?" A moan answered him. He got off the bed and walked to the door, flicking the light switch as he stepped through, pulling the door closed behind him.
"I'm never having kids," he told himself as he leaned against the wood. "Ever." Zack made a quick detour into the kitchen and wiped up the remainder of the spilled cherry juice and stuck the bowl back in the 'fridge. "Maybe Mom won't notice..." he said as he shut the door. He buried the used paper towels in the garbage.
Zack then wandered over to the couch and laid across it, feet at one end and head at the other. He thumbed the remote and began channel surfing to put the events of this night out of his mind, hoping that he wouldn't be disturbed by the sounds of his brother retching in the next room. Cleaning cherries up was one thing, but that would be something else entirely.
Zack's solitude lasted for nearly an hour before he heard their door creak open. Looking up, he saw a tangle of blankets, boxer shorts, and bare skin heading in his direction.
"Bathroom's the other way, Cody," he said to the mass of fabric and boy.
"I don't need to," Cody told him as he walked to the front of the couch.
"Are you okay?" Cody was now standing directly in front of him and completely blocking the television.
"I think so. I just feel pretty nasty. Like I ate a shovelful of dirt and bugs.
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, you smell worse than that."
"Exactly how would that make me feel any better?" Cody asked as he sat by Zack's feet.
"I'm not sure but I've always wanted to say it."
"For the record, it didn't." Cody sighed.
"Noted." They were quiet for a few minutes and Zack was beginning to wonder if Cody hadn't nodded off again when he felt the couch shift and heard a stomach gurgle at very close range.
"I think I need to lay down again, Zack." Zack was about to tell him that doing so would probably be a very good idea when Cody began a slow roll, leaning into him as he stretched out. The move seemed to take an hour and looked rather difficult to Zack. When Cody finally settled in his head was laying on Zack's chest and the rest of his body was between Zack's legs.
"Comfortable?" Zack asked as he adjusted himself a bit, his voice an octave or two higher than normal after Cody's shoulder landed squarely in a very sensitive spot.
"Yes, actually," Cody responded and Zack could almost hear the grin in his voice.
"At least one of us is then," he said as he maneuvered into a slightly more bearable position, coming to a rest so that he was halfway laying behind Cody.
Cody busied himself with the blankets for a moment, untangling them from his spindly limbs so that he could cover himself. Zack let out more than a couple of 'oofs' as he was head butted in the stomach or shouldered in the crotch.
"Even dogs don't move around that much before they settle down, Cody. Be still already."
"Alright, alright," he said as he got cozy. "I think you're getting a little pudgy in the middle, Zack," Cody told him.
"I am not!" Zack replied indignantly.
"Just a little, really. And besides, it makes you more comfortable." Cody brought a hand up from beneath the blankets and gently poked Zack in the belly, surprising him into a giggle.
"Hey!" Zack said as he pushed the finger away. Cody went still and Zack turned his attention back to the television.
"Zack?" Cody said a bit later, again just as Zack was thinking he'd fallen back asleep.
"Hmm?" Zack's brain was beginning to wind down after the night's events and words were becoming a scarce commodity.
"Thanks for taking care of me tonight." The two made eye contact and Zack couldn't help but smile.
"It's okay, Cody."
"Just consider it down payment for when you have to bail me out sometime down the road, huh?"
"I think we can do that." Cody flashed that award-winning smile again and closed his eyes. Zack ruffled Cody's hair a little, letting his arm fall away and come to a rest draped across his brother's chest. Zack heard Cody's breathing change into the deep, rhythmic sounds of sleep and it wasn't long before he followed his brother to the realm of dreams.