First chapter by anyrandomtuesday, rest by Denise D'Penha
Zack: Dodgin' Bullets
"Zack, where's my Chemistry homework?" Cody asked me as he entered the room to the Suite at the Tipton that we lived at. I had taken his homework after he'd fallen asleep the night before so I could get the answers right, my mom was bugging me that I needed to pull my grades up or I'd never graduate from Cheever's High-I nearly get held back in eighth grade, and she had to make a huge deal about it ever since. It had become a nightly thing with me, and I lied to the teachers saying Cody was "tutoring" me. He didn't even know about it, and yeah, I knew one day it would blow up in my face.
"Why would I have it?" I scoffed at him, even though I was really wondering what I had done with Cody's paper. I stared hard at my oatmeal-yeah, our mom made us eat healthy after the hotel staff took a blood test and learned about the dangers of a bad diet. I eat almost all sugar, or well did, so she made me cut back. I still craved the chocolate sprinkled donuts with chocolate icing. Okay, and chocolate sprinkles, but so not the point. I had suddenly lost my appetite, and that was really something coming from me. I couldn't remember what I'd done with Cody's homework after I'd copied it.
"Zack?" Cody asked as he stepped up right beside me, hovering over with that annoying face he makes when he thinks I've done something stupid that will cost him. But this time, I hadn't done anything wrong-well, not counting that I had taken it to copy from it. But, I didn't lose it, I was sure. I put it right back-but I hadn't. As I dropped my spoon, I remembered having a slice of cold pepperoni pizza when I was busy copying his work. I had spilled my soda, and his paper had gotten soaked. Okay, that wasn't bad. I'd just tell him where to find it so he could go and retrieve it. No biggie. Where did I do with it after spilling soda on it? I had wiped up the mess with paper towels-a lot of paper towels-OMIGOSHINESS; I threw it away with the paper towels! Why was Cody always right?
As I scrunched my face up, I took a deep breath. "Cody," I said with a hint of quivering in my tone.
"No, no, no! What did you do?" He screamed at me. Jeez, it was only homework-he didn't need to yell about it like a baby. Loser. He should have been proud that he did well enough I wanted to copy from him.
"Look, I needed help, so I was using it to check my answers-"
"You were copying it!"
"Or, I was copying it." I agreed as I squeezed my eyes tight.
"Well, where is it?"
"Well…" I said as I braved a peek at my brother. Suddenly, it all came out in a rush, "I was eating pizza in here, and I spilled my soda. So I was cleaning it up and ended up picking up your homework with the paper towels-"
Cody's eyes widened so far, I swore they'd pop right out of his skull-which would have been cool to see. "You threw it AWAY?" Again with the yelling?
"I didn't mean to!" Okay, so what if I yelled back-he started it, which means I had every right to keep the theme going.
"If you'd keep your hands off my stuff-"
"Hey, that's not fair!"
"Okay, fine." Cody said kindly, even though his eyes were still furious. I cocked one eyebrow at him because I felt something worse coming. "If you'd do your OWN homework, I wouldn't tell you to keep your hands off my stuff!"
"Cody!" Mom shouted as she came into the room, drying her hair off. "What is with the yelling?"
I tried to defend myself first, but Cody beat me to the chase as he pointed his right index finger in my face. I had half a notion to bite it, but I wasn't ten anymore. "He stole my homework, copied it, and ruined mine!"
"Zack!" Mom's tone was definitely angry. I'd been caught yet again. "Were you cheating?"
"No!" I lied, my voice cracking which proved I was guilty. Darn puberty and the voice changes! Even a few years back, I could have gotten away with it.
"Zack." Mom sighed and crossed her arms as she gave me that look. The look that said "Zack, I'm very disappointed in you" before she ever did. She opened her mouth again, and she actually said "Zack, I'm very disappointed in you."
"I know," I said glumly. I felt bad, but not bad enough to take the time and energy to do the work myself. I'd give it a few weeks, let Cody chill out then start copying from him again-my grades could take on a few weeks of failing papers, but only because I'd been copying from Cody.
Huffing, Cody turned toward me and got right in my face while I leaned as far back in the kitchen chair as I could. "I hate you," he hissed before running towards the door.
"Cody!" Mom scolded, and I laughed. She looked at me with that "don't even start" look so I raised my hands as a sign of surrender. "Don't you ever say that you hate your brother. Sure, he's rude, inconsiderate of others-"
"Gee, thanks Mom." I cut in, frowning. That was how she chose to defend me? List my faults? Great mothering techniques there.
Letting out a heavy sigh, Cody spun on his heel and glared at me. "Mom, he doesn't respect me! And, he never will!"
"That is still no reason for you to say you hate hi-you know, young man, hate is a very strong word." As Mom talked, I crossed my arms and nodded to Cody with a smug grin. Mom would eat away at him, really lay the guilt on him-it always worked.
"Yeah, yeah." Cody replied as he furrowed his eyebrows. "But I still hate him." Then, he ran out the door, slamming it behind him.
As my mom turned to me, a frown upon her face, I scoffed. "Jeez, did he wake up on the wrong side of bed?"
As my mom shook her head, she told me, "Go to school." Wow, a great way to start the day-alienating both my mother and brother.
All day long, Cody hadn't spoken one word to me, not even looked at me. Normally, I valued those moments because my brother could be a major nerd and talk about a lot of stuff I didn't even understand or could pronounce. But I felt really guilty for copying his homework. We were in lunch, and Cody hadn't sat with Mark, Bob, and me. No, he'd chosen to sit with Barbara at the nerd table just so he didn't have to stare at me through lunch. Joke was on him, if there was a reflective surface anywhere close, he was basically looking at me anyway. Idiot. But, I was guilty and had to find a way to make it up to him. As I picked at the crust on my sandwich, it came to me. I'd give Cody the copy I'd made from his work and take the grade I deserved-an F. It was going to kill me to grow up enough to do that, but I would just to get rid of the annoying little voice in my head saying I'd done wrong. Stupid conscience.
That was the plan, and it would have been a wonderful plan. I never got the chance to use it.
I never even noticed the kid sitting in the front dressed in black until he started walking towards the teachers table. There was screaming, so I looked up-just like everyone else in the cafeteria. The kid had to be a senior, but he was very short with greasy hair and thick glasses. Probably the kind of kid that got teased everyday by the jocks. His screaming was intended for the teachers, who stood up and tried to calm him down. I saw the English teacher reach out towards him, but the kid backed up and seemed to hug himself. "NO, I want something done!" He screamed loud enough so that everyone, who had gone silent, heard.
The teachers were too quiet to hear from where I was sitting, but the English teacher seemed to be handling it well. That was what I thought until the guy hunched over. Bob leaned towards me and asked, "What's he doing?" I shrugged while answering, "You got me." Then, something black and shiny flashed in his hands. My eyes widened as my body recognized the danger long before my brain processed what I had seen. That guy had a gun…in school. And, he was aiming it at the teachers, the people who were supposed to make us feel safe or at least try to control us while we were away from our parents.
My insides went icy cold a split second before the thundering shot from the gun broke through the screams from people who had recognized the gun as well. Shaken, I was rooted in my seat even as everyone scrambled around passed me. Soon enough, I was alone at the table-I didn't see where Bob or Mark had hurried off to. My brain sluggish, I turned my head as the guy in black with the gun turned towards the jock table. He said something, then cackled as the jocks cowered before the weapon. I drew in a breath and forced myself to look away a split second before the shots fired. Dropping beneath the table, I held my palms over my ears just to get the ringing to stop. I was hyperventilating and didn't even feel stressed enough for it. In fact, I felt so cold and numb that I was surprised I was still aware of anything at all.
For the next few minutes, I stayed curled up under the table as shots kept ringing out through the air. "God, just make it stop," I whispered once when the guy started shooting one shot after another until the gun started clicking empty. He'd reload-he already had once, all that mattered was the time it'd take him to get the new clip in. There was no time to run from the cafeteria though; there wasn't that kind of time for escape. Up until that point, I hadn't formed a coherent thought about anything except how loud the gun was and when was it going to stop? But, I was rudely awakened to the world outside of my head when I heard a troubled scream. "ZACK!"
My head snapped up from where I had it hidden against my curled up knees, and I looked around from beneath the table. "Cody," I whispered as I crawled forward. I could see him running closer to my table, but it seemed like he was running towards the exit-I tried to sit at the table beside the door because it was easier to slip out of the room if I was in trouble when the door was at my side. I guess that was what drew the attention to my brother, aside from his panicked screaming for me.
I heard the gunshot, saw Cody scream and stagger, but didn't register it until my brother fell to the tile floor before my table hugging his stomach. It did register, though, soon enough. Even with him that close, I screamed, "CODY" and dove over to him. I didn't even check to see if the guy was still turned towards us-I didn't care because my brother was bleeding. There was a puddle forming already, and I felt my body start to tremble. "Cody," I whimpered as I lifted up his hands and saw it. The wound was sleek and shiny with blood, which kept pouring out. All I knew about cuts was to put pressure on them, but was I going to use to do that? Quickly, I realized I had two shirts on, my usual style, so I pulled the top one off and wadded it up. I pressed it to Cody's side, clenching my teeth and grimacing when he screamed out in pain, and held it down with as much force as I could. "Cody, I'm so sorry," I told him. "I shouldn't have copied your homework."
Tossing and turning, Cody whimpered and cried out as he tried to reply. His hair was a mess, and I didn't know how it could have gotten that way or why it mattered. I believed my brain was trying to distract me from the severity of what was going on. My brother had been shot and was bleeding like crazy. I felt the heat of the blood seeping through my shirt, and I had to swallow down a whimper or a cry. I was a lousy brother-I couldn't stop the bleeding. I'm sure Cody would have been able to.
"Don't worry 'bout…" Cody's breathing was labored, and his face twisted from the pain. "The paper," he finished before finally opening up his eyes-I nearly looked away when I saw the intense pain through his eyes. I was failing my baby brother. How could I let that happen?
"Cody, I don't know what to do," I cried out, my voice cracking as tears flooded my eyes. I wasn't the one who wanted to be a doctor. Then it hit me, Cody wanted that. He wanted to be a doctor, and lawyer, and be a part of a N.A.S.A. mission-the first doctor/lawyer in space. But, he was the one lying on the floor bleed out while I, the one who Cody kept saying would end up in jail at some point in my life, was the one trying to stop it.
As Cody cried again, tears sliding from his eyes, I felt my heart shudder and looked away. A tear slid from the corner of my eye without me being able to stop it. I had to help Cody, somehow there had to be a way.
"Zack." Cody croaked out, his voice raw. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and saw a deep calm upon his face. Was he accepting it? Was he giving up? I wouldn't let him.
"Yeah, Codster," I said as I put on a brave face, a smile that felt real on my face even if it wasn't. I was terrified, guilty, and felt betrayed even by the look on Cody's face. How could he be so calm about it?
Trying to breathe deeply, Cody let out a strangled scream again before he started panting shallowly. "Tell Barbara I loved her. And Mom, too."
"No, Cody-" I tried to argue, not wanting to hear what he was saying. Not wanting to believe it was happening to be honest.
"Tell Mom I love her, and I'm sorry." His bright eyes were fading, I was sure of it. I breathed faster even as I shook my head furiously.
"You tell her that yourself-you're getting out of here today. You'll see. The ambulance will be here soon, they'll take you to the hospital where you'll get all fixed up." I was babbling faster than my brain could keep up, but I didn't care. I wasn't going to let Cody give up on me. He had the right to live. Not just the right. He had to live.
"Zack," Cody whined, tears sliding out of his eyes. "You have to." Those eyes fluttered, and I shook Cody gently just to get him to open his eyes wider. He also cried out in pain, and I felt horrible for having to hurt him more. But, it was for his own good.
"No, now come on. Tell me about the periodic chart." I had to coax him into focusing on something or else I'd lose him right there, and that was not happening.
With a shaking nod, Cody took up the challenge. "Helium, Hydrogen, Hafnium, Holmium, Mercury-"
"Mercury," I cut in. "What's that doing with all those H's?"
Even with that much pain and fear, Cody gave me a smile that he always gave me when he knew something I didn't. "Mercury's symbol is Hg." His voice slurred as his eyes started to close.
"Hey, hey, that's not all of them!" I shouted, watching his eyes open wide from shock. Blinking twice, Cody shook his head and made an "oh" with his lips. "S-silicon, selenium, strontium, samarium…" Again, Cody's eyes fluttered and voice droned off.
"CODY!" I cried out, not even trying to hide my fear anymore. His eyes opened up just a sliver-it wasn't much, but I went with it. "You're not done, buddy. You were telling me about Sanatari-ation?" Okay, I sucked at listening to Chemistry stuff, ergo why I copied Cody's work in the first place. I felt the guilt hit me again over that.
"Zack, I'm sorry." Cody whispered, tears steadily falling from his eyes.
"Why?" The word barely escaped from my lips-I was petrified to know why Cody was apologizing. I prayed it wasn't the reason I assumed it to be. He couldn't be giving up, he wasn't dying! Yet, wasn't he? His blood had soaked through the shirt I held against the wound, and it was warm against my palms, and I felt my heart sink even further. How much blood had he lost? Was it too much?
There was a struggle in Cody as he fought with his eyelids just to keep them open. He looked me right in the eyes, and I felt my lip quiver. "I don't hate you," he cried out, more tears pouring from his eyes. "I don't hate you," he repeated in a whisper.
"I know that." I assured him. "I never thought you meant it-you were angry, and rightfully so. I was a jerk, remember?"
"King of the jerks." Cody kidded, but there was no smile or any humor in those eyes. He was losing the fight.
Hyperventilating again, I shook my head. "No, no. Stay with me, Cody," I begged as tears started to trickle down my cheeks. "You're going to be the first doctor/lawyer in space-remember?" My voice was squeaky and breathy as I went on.
"Was going to be." Cody whispered, his eyelids falling and leaving just a sliver of his irises.
"NO! Don't talk like that." I ordered. "Please! You have to hold on." My tears splattered on my brother's face, and I saw his lips quiver, too.
"I'm so tired. Hurts…so…much." He was starting to lose consciousness again, and I shook him one more time.
"I'm sorry, Zack." Cody told me again, and I couldn't take it.
Shaking my head, feeling my hair hit me in the eyes, I let out a ragged cry. "NO," I squeaked. "It should be me lying here on the floor, not you. You have the future."
"Zack," Cody weakly said, furrowing his eyebrows at me. He was so pale, but there was a flash of determination. "Take care of Mom, okay?"
"Cody," I protested, but it was too late. I stared into my brother's eyes but knew he wasn't looking back at me. There was a blank stare there, no life-like a puppet staring at me. Frozen in place, I felt that icy numbness spread through me like a blizzard until I couldn't feel a thing but the aching in my heart. "Cody," I repeated, tears pouring from my eyes-my body knew the truth my brain wouldn't accept. Taking a staggering breath, I pulled my right hand up and touched my brother's face. He was warm, but something was wrong-he didn't respond. "No," I whimpered, "Cody?"
Realization hit me like a semi-truck, and I suddenly couldn't breathe. "CODY!" I screamed even though I knew at that moment he was truly gone. I'd failed my brother. No, I failed my twin. "Cody," I cried as I leaned my forehead down against his and let the tears fall without restraint.
How long I was there crying was anyone's guess. But a scream cut through my mourning, and I lifted up to see my Mom across the cafeteria, hands clamped over her mouth. I started to smother again, forgetting how to breathe as I watched her race towards me. The tears returned, blurring my vision so that I couldn't see my mother get stopped by paramedics. All I heard were voices, mostly my mom screaming, "They're my boys! Why can't I go to them?" She sounded as hysterical as I felt inside. This couldn't be happening, I was dreaming. I prayed that I was dreaming-that the pepperoni pizza was giving me nightmares, like it always did.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry," I heard a gentle voice tell Mom. "But," then her voice grew too soft for me to distinguish. I didn't need to, my mother's mourning scream was proof enough to know what had been said.
Next thing I knew, paramedics were pulling me away from Cody, and I fought as hard as I could to get them to stop. "Leave me alone!" I screamed to them, my voice cracking. They were asking me questions, if I was hurt. Stupid question, if you asked me. No, my twin died because I wasn't competent enough to save him, I was fine. Morons.
But, I stopped struggling when a familiar scent flooded my nose. "Mom," I sobbed and latched onto her as more tears came. "I tried, but I couldn't get the bleeding to stop," I rambled. "There was so much blood, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't know." I felt her drop down to floor with me in her arms.
As my Mom's hands stroked my hair, I heard her crying almost as hard as I was, but she was still trying her best to soothe me. "No, you did all that you could," she was coughing out the words in between bouts of crying, and I felt worse.
"But Cody would have been able to get the bleeding to stop," I protested, "After all, he was the one with the future."
That was when my mom took my face in her hands. "Don't talk like that," she warned.