A/N: This is my first Suite Life fic, so please be gentle! I love reviews. Hope you enjoy!
Shades of Grey:
He knew something was wrong before he opened the door. He wasn't sure what, but something was off, different. He wasn't sure where he was or what was going on, only that everything around him was in a thick haze, surrounded by silence, a stale stench of copper in the air. He was scared, his heart pounded wildly as he crept forward, and all of a sudden he was falling, falling, falling….he hit the ground with a thud, coming face to face with his brother, who was laying still on the ground before him.
"Oh my God." Cody gasped, kneeling at his brother's side, his pants growing damp from the blood that surrounded his body, "Zack? No!"
Time seemed to fast-forward, leaving Cody dizzy as he tried to make sense of what was happening. He looked down, his chest aching with pain as he began to shake his brother roughly.
"Wake up! Please Zack, I can't do this alone. Please Zack, please!" Cody sobbed, resting his forehead against his brother's icy forehead, "Please, please."
Cody awoke with a start, his brother's name on his lips. He sat up, reaching for the light switch. He had to make sure Zack was ok; he had to make sure his dream hadn't been real. His heart sank when he spotted his brother's bed, which had obviously not been slept in. A surge of fear surged through his veins as he scrambled out of bed, tugging on the white t-shirt that had worked itself halfway up his chest throughout his nightmare. Flinging open the door, he was disappointed to find the living room empty, which meant his mother hadn't come back from her show yet. He exhaled slowly, rubbing his forehead. If she wasn't back yet, then it probably wasn't very late. There was no need to worry, no need to panic.
"What are you doing up?"
Cody shrieked loudly, nearly falling over his own feet as he spun around, coming face to face with the person he had been searching for.
"Chill, man." Zack laughed, holding his hands up, "What's with the screaming?"
"Where have you been?" Cody lectured, crossing his arms over his chest, "I wake up in the middle of the night alone. What if Mom would have come up early and found out you snuck out? What girl is so important that you'd risk getting grounded forever just to see her on a school night? I was worried sick about you! I had no idea where you were, you could have been dead on a street--"
Giving Cody a playful shove, Zack walked into their bedroom, "Relax, I got home before Mom did, no harm, no foul, right? I've been home for awhile now, I grabbed a bite to eat and I took a shower. Stop worrying so much, you're starting to sound like Dad….or worse, Mom."
"Well someone has to act responsible here, and it's obviously not going to be you!" Cody seethed, "Do you try to get under my skin like this or is it just some natural born talent?"
Zack was silent for a moment before he looked up to meet Cody's gaze. A soft smile appeared on his lips as they both shrugged, "Talent."
As Zack got ready for bed, Cody sat on his own bed, crossing his legs, "Hey, Zack?"
Cody watched as Zack tossed his hoodie into a pile of clothes in the center of the room, "Have you ever had a dream so real that you could have sworn it actually happened?"
Zack was caught by surprise by the slight tremor in his 'younger' brother's voice, taking a few strides across the room to flop down on the bed next to him, "No, why?"
"Oh, it's nothing." Cody shrugged, embarrassed now that he brought it up. What was he supposed to say? 'Zack, I had a dream that you slit your wrists open on the bathroom floor?' If he started saying stuff like that, everyone would think he was starting to lose it. After all, didn't those prone to committing suicide have generally low self-esteems? Zack had the strongest self-esteem out of anyone Cody had ever met. It was ridiculous.
"Are you sure, man?" Zack asked, his eyes scrunching as he stared at his brother's face, "You look upset about something…sorry I didn't call or something, I didn't mean to freak you out."
Cody shrugged, "It's nothing, don't worry about it. We should get some sleep, it's late."
"Sure." Zack replied, rolling off of his brother's bed, falling into his own moments later, "Night."
Within minutes, the soft sounds of snoring echoed in Cody's ears, but he found himself unable to sleep, still plagued by the nightmare that had awoken him earlier. He couldn't put his finger on it, but he felt like this was something important, something he needed to be aware of and to remember. When the sun rose the following morning, he was still lying in his bed, trying to comprehend why this dream was bothering him so much.
For the first time in years, Zack was the first person out of bed. He reached over and turned off his alarm, which had been blaring for nearly 5 minutes. Normally, Cody would have either gotten up to turn it off himself or, if waking in a particularly cranky mood, yell at Zack to turn it off. He looked over at Cody, seeing he was awake, suddenly worried something was wrong. Cody was one of those morning people who always seemed to wake up cheery and energized, much unlike Zack, who never seemed to fully wake up until sometime after third period.
Sitting on Cody's bedside, he put his hand on Cody's forehead, "What's wrong? Are you sick?"
"No, I'm fine." Cody replied with a yawn, pushing himself up with his elbows, "Just tired."
"Didn't you sleep well?"
"No." Cody said softly, stretching and forcing himself out of bed. This was going to be a long day, he could already tell. The only good thing would be that when he went to bed tonight, he'd be too exhausted to think about nightmares and worst-case scenarios, he'd hopefully fall into a dreamless abyss.
"I can tell Mom you're sick so you can stay home and sleep." Zack offered, slipping on a pair of jeans he found in the pile of dirty clothes, "Or I can tell her we're both sick and we can hang out today and enjoy a 'mental health day'."
Cody smiled at Zack, both knowing that would never happen. Cody hated to lie to his mother, and he found school to be too important to skip for no good reason. He crinkled his nose as Zack pulled a shirt out of the dirty clothes pile, taking a whiff and nearly gagging. As Zack continued to rummage, Cody reached into the dresser, pulling out a clean shirt for his brother, "Try this."
"Then I'll just have more clothes that need to be washed."
"Since you only wash your clothes once a month, it shouldn't be an issue." Cody replied, rolling his eyes and carefully picking out his outfit for the day. Unlike Zack, who would throw on the first thing he came across then stagger into the kitchen to wolf down breakfast, Cody liked to chose his clothing carefully and take a long shower in the morning before joining his mother and brother for breakfast.
"I thought you may want to try tofu patties instead of sausage today." Carey announced as she slid Zack's plate in front of him.
As Cody walked to the bathroom, he made a mental note to take enough time to miss that adventure in cooking. He could only imagine the look of disgust on his brother's face as he eyed the healthy alternative dish his mother was pushing today. He smirked as he turned on the shower; his mother couldn't cook normal food, what made her think she could manage this?
As he stepped into the steaming water, he noticed Carey's razor sitting on the ledge. His dream came back to him full force and he quickly shut his eyes in hopes of blocking the images out. He had never been rattled so badly by a dream; it was really starting to freak him out.
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud knock on the bathroom door, "Would you hurry it up, I need to go!" Zack's voice rang through the door, "I swear, you're worse than a girl!"
Turning the water off, Cody reached for his towel and quickly dried off, slipping on his robe. He grabbed the hairbrush and opened the door, nearly falling as Zack pushed past him. He rolled his eyes, shutting the door behind him as he heard the sound of Zack's zipper coming undone….his brother had absolutely no patience.
Once he was pleased with his appearance, he forced a smile onto his tired face and made his way to the kitchen table. He stabbed his fork at the tofu patty, deciding just by its appearance that he wasn't going to eat it. Pushing it around on the plate a few times, he wished Zack would hurry so they'd have an excuse to leave. As if his brother had read his mind, Zack emerged from the bathroom, slinging his backpack over his shoulder and calling out, "Time to go!"
"Wait, let me get my things." Cody replied, pushing his chair back, "I need to get my library books out of our room."
"I'll meet you downstairs." Zack replied, opening the door and calling out a quick bye to Carey before making his way to the elevators, slamming the door behind him.
As Cody emerged from his room, Carey was hanging up the phone. Giving him a hug, she began her morning routine, "Now be careful on the way to school and don't forget to wear your helmet. Do you have your homework? Your lunch money? I don't want you two stopping by the candy counter after school, you obviously are filling up on junk and aren't eating the meals I cook for you. Oh, and tell Zack to stay out of trouble."
"Ok Mom, I'm going to be late." Cody replied, shaking his head with amusement. He could practically recite her speech in his head after so many years of practice, "Bye!"
He didn't give her a chance to respond before racing to the elevator, hoping Zack was waiting for him and hadn't wandered off somewhere. Spotting his brother on the outside steps, he raced to catch up.
"Don't forget your helmet…mom says."
"She never told me anything." Zack said with a shrug, straddling his bike.
Cody smirked, "Maybe she just is more concerned for my safety than yours….after all, how much damage could a bump to the head do to you?"
"Yeah, she wouldn't want her wittle bab- waby Cody-wody to get hurt now, would she?" Zack retorted, "Race you!"
Before Cody could come up with a witty response, Zack was dusting him. As he struggled to catch up, he couldn't help but notice the sick nagging feeling that had taken residence in the pit of his stomach as he suddenly got a flash of the gruesome scene from his dream once more. Something was wrong; he could feel it, in the air, in his gut, in his bones. It shook him to the core, causing an involuntary shiver. What was going on? Why did everything seem so ominous? As he shivered once more, he had a feeling he'd have his questions answered soon enough.