A/N: Hey everybody. You didn't really like that last chapter, no? I try not to be a review whore, because that's awful, but such a large drop off from last chapter has made me a little worried! Anyway, maybe this one will go down better.
So, as I said in the last chapter, this is Cody getting in one whole heap of trouble. I'd be interested to know what you think he should/could have done differently in this situation. I personally think he's kind of justified…
Set a couple of weeks after Chapter 2.
At lunch on Thursday Cody meets Cameron and Dominic
"Hey Andrews, how's your sister?"
Cameron sees Cody stiffen, and their buddy Dominic sitting with them frowns questioningly.
"Leave 'em Cody, they're assholes." Cameron says, loud enough to hear, but the boys stood towering over them smirk and laugh at the sight of Cody's back, rigid with tension. Slowly he puts down his cellphone, stands up and turns round.
Jean-Pierre is taller and built heavier than he is, but Cody's no weakling; he can see in a second how he could use speed to his advantage when taking him down.
"Kinda weird isn't it? Three guys in a house with one girl."
The other idiots around him oooh mockingly, nudging each other and grinning.
Keep calm, he isn't worth it, he tells himself. Pop would say that his parents just bought him up ignorant.
"You can take her to all your faggy meet-ups, right?"
Through the foggy sound in his head Cody hears Cameron start arguing with the cronies, and is vaguely aware of Cameron and Dominic squaring up to them. He hasn't moved his eyes from Jean-Pierre though, and the visions of stamping on his head that keep flitting through his mind.
"Your parents will probably really enjoy having their own little Barbie doll. When they dress up like chicks at least she won't feel alone."
Calm, calm, calm.
"I guess you can all take turns with her, right? Then when you…"
Cody's punch comes out of nowhere; a right hook that throws Jean-Pierre's head to the side and causes him to lose his balance. Dominic crows a laugh and pushes right back at the kid that pushes him hard, grabbing his shoulders and tumbling him to the ground.
Cody looks down at the guy sprawled on his ass, spitting some blood and a tooth on to the floor and trying to get back to his feet.
"Can't take it huh? Fuckin' fags, you're all so touchy."
The next blow lands satisfyingly on his cheekbone, which shifts beneath his hand. On his knees above him Cody adjusts his balance so he has both hands free. Jean-Pierre swears loudly and swings blindly at him, missing by a mile because his eye is tight closed above his cheek.
"Get off me you psycho!" he curses, grunting as he uses all his weight to knock Cody off him and on to the floor. Rolling himself to the side Cody recovers, hand squeezing tightly at the arm that appears in front of his neck.
They roll awkwardly, and Cody has his arm raised for another blow, spurred on by the other fights around him, when the sound of an adult shouting stays his hand. Principal Ellison stands, backlit by the sun, face dark.
"All of you, my office, now."
Shaun grins as he finishes a chapter, pushing the chair back from the desk and stretching his arms out. He can't help but feel pretty damn smug about this book; it's just writing itself. Ideas pour from his head, channelling themselves through his hands as he watches in amazement.
He looks over to where Annie snoozes on the mat in her play area and smiles softly. His cellphone buzzes and he picks it up, propping his feet up on the side table in the study.
The expression on his face changes from happy to confused to concerned and angry as he listens to the voice on the other end of the phone.
"He what? Yeah, okay, I'll be there in ten."
Scooping Annie up, grabbing her coat and slipping his sneakers on, he grabs the car keys and strides out of the house, closing the door firmly behind him.
Cody knows how much trouble he's in. He and the other guys involved sit in a line outside the Principal's office, parents swooping in with murderous faces to stand and glare as they march them in.
Cameron's parents arrive and Cody winces; Juliette has clearly been crying and Emma looks so mad he just can't watch. Cameron stands up, red-faced, and follows them in to the office without a word.
Jean-Pierre's dad comes in, and Cody almost feels sorry for him. He's a small, skinny man, a harassed expression etched into the lines on his face. He shakes his head at Jean-Pierre, who scowls and looks down at the floor.
The door opens again, and Shaun enters, Annie sleepy in his arms. In a way, Cody's disappointed, because he knows that if Dad had come in first and gotten mad then at least Pop could have diffused the situation. But, after a second glance, Cody realises that actually calming a situation down is the last thing on Pop's mind.
Shaun walks over, an expression of such disappointment on his face that Cody wants to curl up and die. He stands in front of him and raises his eyebrows as if to say what the hell? Cody wants to spill everything out; tell him about the sick shit Jean-Pierre said, how he tried so hard to stay calm, but the guy just kept pushing and prodding. Somehow, though, the words fail in his throat, and he can't do anything but feel awful.
When the Principal shows Cameron and his parents to the door, Juliette, Emma and Shaun all share the he's so dead look and just shake their heads in absolute disbelief. Cody's just getting to his feet and picking up his bag when Zach comes in, all agitation and worry, and Cody knows things are only just getting started.
The Principal ushers them in, and Cody walks into the airy room with the huge desk and chooses the seat furthest away from her piercing gaze. She shakes Shaun and Zach's hands and sits down, smoothing her hair behind her ears.
"I'm sorry we have to meet in such unfortunate circumstances," she starts, and Cody stares down at his shoes, "but as you know Cody was involved in an incident this lunchtime where he used physical force against another student."
Zach doesn't even look at him, and Cody just wants him to say something instead of keeping up this awful, punishing silence. Shaun senses the tension and clears his throat.
"Could we hear Cody's version of events? I'm not defending what he's done, but I'm sure you can appreciate this is quite out of character for him." Principal Ellison lets her gaze fall on Cody, who forces himself to look at her face.
You've done the crime, now you gotta face the music.
"By all means, I was just going to suggest that. What happened, Cody?"
Cody tries to move his mouth but no sound comes out, and it strikes him that she might not believe him; might believe the kid with the father who's a lawyer, not the kid with two fathers. One look at his beautiful snoozing sister only confirms that he was right to do what he did. His silence stretches on for six or seven seconds, until Zach says sharply;
"We're waiting. Talk, Cody."
"I, uh, I was sitting with Cameron and Dominic at lunch, and Jean-Pierre started saying all this stuff." Shaun looks at him, an eyebrow raised.
"Stuff? You're going to have to be more specific. What stuff?"
Cody doesn't want to talk about it; doesn't want to see the expression on his parents faces when they realise what the kid was implying.
"Just…junk about my family." He sees Zach's jaw tighten and Shaun's shoulders droop just a little.
"What exactly did he say, Cody?" the Principal says, and he thinks he detects a slight softening in her tone.
"He was talking about my sister, like, nasty stuff."
This time Zach manages to turn his head to look at him, and Shaun's face looks a little green as his eyes flick down to Annie.
"What about her?" Zach says, voice a little croaky, and Cody feels his face heating up. "He said that we would take her to f…faggy meet-ups and we'd all dress up like women and that we'd," he stops, bile rising in his stomach as he can't bring himself to look at them in the eyes, "we'd all take turns, you know…"
The silence is heavy, and even the Principal looks disgusted. Shaun's hands are shaking with anger, and Zach's eyes are glazed, his mouth twisted tightly. The Principal collects herself after a few seconds and clears her throat.
"Right. That is what Cameron West and Dominic Goldstein have also said, so in that respect I think we are clear on the provocation. However," she says, and Cody's heart sinks, "on the matter of the violent action itself; our school code makes it very clear that we do not tolerate violence of any kind in our halls. Because of this I am obliged to suspend you for two days, along with Mr West and Mr Goldstein. Having said that," she continues, holding a hand out to placate Shaun, who looks ready to argue with her, "we also abhor discrimination and inappropriate language, and please rest assured Jean-Pierre Kalides will be punished accordingly."
They get to their feet and Zach shakes her hand, while Shaun nods politely to her. As they turn to leave, Cody could swear he sees the faintest ghost of a ghost of a smile on her lips, but it disappears so quickly he wonders if he did see it.
They walk past Jean-Pierre and his father on the way out, Shaun casting a steely eye over the boy who holds a cold pack to his eye. The Principal sweeps to the door and eyes Jean-Pierre stonily, standing back to let them past.
The ride back in Shaun's car is quiet, and Cody stares gloomily out of the window at the cars and buildings flying past. Zach had told Shaun quietly that he was heading to the store on the way back, and he'd meet them at home.
Pulling up outside the house Cody reaches in to the front seat while Shaun retrieves his coat, unbuckling and lifting Annie up into his arms. She squirms and yawns as he adjusts her to sit on his hip properly.
"You owe me one big time you little brat," he says softly to her, and she gurgles in response.
Shaun takes her from him when they get in to the hall and flicks him another disappointed gaze and shakes his head.
"Get to your room; You're grounded for two weeks." Shaun says, a little sadly, and Cody is only too happy to obey.
He slams the door behind him and flops on his bed, kicking off his shoes angrily and turning his stereo on, pumping up the volume.
Zach pulls into the drive a few minutes later and Shaun sighs at the look on his face. When he walks through the door Shaun picks up the baby and heads upstairs.
"Just…don't be too hard on him, okay?"
Zach says nothing and climbs the stairs after him, striding down the hall to open the door at the end. Cody looks over at him and sits up, flicking the stereo off.
"Save it. I'm not interested."
There's silence for a moment as Zach glares at him and Cody shrinks a little under his gaze.
"You go in to school tomorrow and you apologise to that kid for beating the crap out of him, okay?"
Cody looks Zach square in the eye.
Zach pulls his head back, surprised.
"What do you mean, no?"
"Dad, I'm not apologising to him. He needs to shut his damn mouth about my sister."
Zach shakes his head in disbelief.
"You don't get it, do you? You might think it's just a fight, but it isn't! Cody, people judge us on our behaviour, and what will people think when they see you fighting and giving some kid a black eye? It won't look good." Cody opens his mouth to protest but Zach's wild eyes stop him.
"You listen to me; you have to try a little bit harder than everybody else, right? You have to behave better and try to stay out of shit, and be the best person you can possibly be, okay? Because the world isn't gonna do you any favours. Shaun and I can't be there all the time."
With that he stalks out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Cody blinks in horror at the closed door and clenches his fists, breathing deeply. His Dad never says stuff like that, and since when did he start referring to Pop as Shaun? It feels like he's turning his back on him. It makes Cody want to go after him and say please, Dad, don't be mad, I'm sorry.
But he knows he can't back down on this one.
Shaun lays the Annie in her crib and backs out quietly as Zach leaves Cody's room. They walk down to the front room and Zach throws himself into the armchair, leaving Shaun staring at him.
"What?" Zach says curtly after a moment.
"I'm just curious."
"You. Like, what's got into you?"
"Don't start, Shaun, I'm not in the mood." Shaun bristles and crosses his arms.
"That's obvious. What was with the talk up there?"
"You, giving Cody the bitter 'be-good-or-else' spiel."
Zach tightens his jaw and looks away.
"He did something stupid, he gets the punishment."
"That sounds like your dad talking."
Zach stares at him in disbelief.
"What? I sound nothing like him."
"When you were eleven you and Gabe broke a window with a baseball. The old guy walked you round to your house and your dad pulled you inside and tanned your ass for breaking somebody else's shit. I came to pick Gabe up and you were crying while your dad hollered at you. I remember, Zach, I was there. He sounded like he really hated you, and I hate to break it to you, but that's how you sounded up there."
Zach blinks at him. He's all but forgotten that day, and feels intensely uncomfortable at the comparison between he and the man he gave up on.
"That's bullshit, Shaun. I love Cody."
"I know you do! Jesus, you're so frustrating! I know you care about him; that's why I know there's something going on in your head. Why don't you say what's really bothering you?"
"What do you mean?" Zach asks quietly and Pop laughs harshly.
"This; this anger. You're taking it out on Cody and it isn't all his fault!"
"No? Who was the one who got us dragged into school to see his Principal because he was fighting?"
"He's a teenage boy, Zach. You remember being one of those, right?"
Cody creeps down the stairs; ice water fills his stomach as he listens to the raised voices.
"Yeah, thanks Shaun, I do remember that. I also remember not causing shit for my parents." Shaun groans, and Cody can almost picture his face.
"Yeah, because you were dealing with freaking Jeanne and her fall-out, and your mom getting sick. Cody's fifteen years old – he's a good kid normally. He does his homework, gets good grades. You heard what that kid said; are you honestly telling me that if somebody had said that and you'd heard it that you wouldn't have gone crazy at them? I know I would!"
Silence falls again and Cody can almost hear the penny drop in Shaun's head.
"That's what this is about, isn't it? What that kid said?"
Zach's face confirms everything, and Shaun rubs his face with his hands wearily.
"Just…talk to me, Zach."
"I just don't get it, you know? I thought as we got older people would just leave us alone. I mean, we've got two kids and a mortgage just like everyone else. I pay taxes, I go to church at Christmas, I recycle. So why are we still getting the shit? It makes me scared, Shaun. Like, what if somebody tried to hurt our children because of us? We had to try so hard to get Annie, and brought Cody up to be a good kid, and still it just keeps coming."
Shaun grabs a hold of Zach's hand and squeezes it tightly.
"You listen to me; Cody is a good kid, and you know it. One fight does not mean a life of crime, for God's sake. He's grounded for two weeks and that is punishment enough for a guy that age. And as for him protecting himself? After today I'm not too concerned right now. This fight is not a reflection of us and how we bring our children up. The kid that started it is a foul-mouthed ignoramus who's gonna find his life a whole lot more uncomfortable until he changes his views. So please, stop being so hard on him because you think people will judge us."
He steps closer to him and pulls Zach into his arms, resting his head against Zach's temple.
"We're doing fine, okay? We just gotta keep going and doing what we do. And hey," he says, grinning, "we don't have to do any dishes for the next two weeks."
Zach gives a feeble half-laugh, but it's enough for Shaun, who presses a kiss to his cheek.
"Glass of wine?" he says, and Zach nods, closing his eyes and letting his shoulders slump.
Cody walks down the stairs slowly, heart thumping painfully. Opening the door to the living room he stands up straight and walks over to where Zach still stands.
"Dad?" Zach opens his eyes and looks at him, and Cody knows he's sorry for getting so mad.
"I…uh…I'm sorry." Zach contemplates him for a moment.
"For making you and Pop come down to the school and getting suspended."
"You're not sorry about hitting that kid?"
"No. And I'm not gonna be. I'm sorry I made you mad though."
Zach nods slowly.
"I'm gonna head back upstairs."
"You okay now?" Shaun says from his spot with his head on Zach's lap as they watch a movie.
"Yeah, I guess. I just worry sometimes."
Zach tugs gently on Shaun's hair.
"Ha freaking ha. You know what I mean. It just feels like we're sometimes fighting idiots who still don't think we should have all this together." Shaun thinks for a moment, reaching his fingers up to stroke the back of Zach's hand gently.
"Zach, you gotta let go of that chip on your shoulder one day. Yeah, there are assholes out there, but you know what? I don't care," he says, craning his neck round to look Zach in the eye, "because I got you and our children and a home, just like you said. So the rest of them can just…go fuck themselves."
Zach snorts, grinning as he bends down to brush his lips gently against Shaun's, curved up into a smile. They stay like that, bent around each other, nudging each other gently with noses and lips, until a wail breaks the air.
"I'll do it."
A/N: So yeah, a little bit of angst for you there, with a sort of soppy ending. Though Cody is certainly not off the hook for the next couple of weeks! Feedback is appreciated.