Disclaimer: I do not own the characters and I am not affiliated in any way, shape or form with anyone who does – but Vincent, James and Greg are all personal creations.

Cody paused outside the door of the unfamiliar house, trying to calm himself down. He knew that he looked far too excited to enter yet, anyone seeing the grin stretched across his face would ridicule him. He had to make it seem like this was an everyday occurrence and not his first ever high school party.

"Hey," he attempted to sound nonchalant as a couple walked in past him, wondering why the girl had giggled at the site of him. He shrugged it off, took another couple of deep breathes in preparation and pushed open the door.

It looked like everything he had expected it to be; normal. Not the normal that he was used to, because most teenagers would consider friends sitting around and studying or mockingly imitating the popular crowd to be abnormal. It was the kind of normal that he had never believed he could attain.

He saw Zack lounging against a wall and fought the urge to bounce over and tell him how much fun he was having already. Zack was deep in conversation with Vincent Harrison, someone Cody tried his best to avoid. The most popular person in school of either gender, when Vincent wanted to mock someone the target was almost always Cody or one of his friends. He didn't feel safe around him.

Vincent caught his eye and smirked and Cody snapped his head away, looking at a framed photo of some poppies that adorned the living room wall. He hadn't known that Vincent was going to be there; if he had known then the chances were that he would not have come. He shook his head lightly; of course he was going to be there. He went to almost every party.

"Friends, Romans, Classmates, lend me your ears." Cody couldn't resist chuckling underneath his breath and the bad pun but the music fell away immediately and everyone obediently turned to see what Vincent was saying. "We have a stranger among us, someone that a few of you may already be familiar with. James and Greg…?"

Cody blinked, a flash of bright light offending his eyes. When he could open them again he saw that two people were shining torches onto his head from either side of him. The rest of the room had been plunged into darkness but he could still hear people starting to laugh, even if he couldn't see past the pool of light in front of him.

"Now," he hated the way that Vincent's tongue seemed to curl around his words, savouring every syllable. "My soldier Zack here has informed me that this is fifteen year old Cody's first real party," there was a pause while everyone waited for the next sentence, "come on guys, is that any sort of reception? Cody here deserves our pity, not our silence. Now on three; one, two, three aww."

Everyone echoed him and Cody felt the blood rush against his cheeks. "I don't need your pity…" the moment he had spoken he regretted it. He wasn't used to standing up to people, preferring to stand in the background and take whatever punishment was doled out upon him.

There was a shuffling of feet cutting clear through the silence as he Zack moved into the light. For a brief moment Cody felt his spirits lift, no matter what else was happening he could count on his brother to help him. He had always been able to. That was before he saw the bowl of punch in Zack's shaking hands and the sorrow in his eyes. "I'm sorry."

"Don't," the words croaked out of him as he felt his hope evaporate, "please don't."

"I'm sorry."

He felt the liquid tip over him, running down his hair and forming trickles down his forehead as the half-melted ice cubes bounced against his body, cascading onto the floor. The sound of laughter was deafening as he saw Zack move away from the light, only to appear a moment later when the lights of the room were turned back on to reveal a hand-painted banner hanging behind Vincent, reading "welcome extra terrestrial."

He wasn't sure if he wanted to scream, cry, fight or just curl up into a ball until they all went away but when he saw Zack carefully setting the bowl back onto the snack table he knew what he wanted to do.

He turned around and, slamming the door behind him, he began to make his way back to the Tipton.