A/N: It's probably a bad idea to start a new multi-chapter fic when I'm in the middle of an extremely busy semester and I have other stories that I could be working on, but whatever. I got this idea and I couldn't rest until I actually wrote it down. What can I say? Plus I'm totally a review monger so ... yeah. Anyway, hope you all enjoy! I can't promise it will be updated very soon, but I do have thoughts on where I want this fic to go, and I don't want it to end up unfinished!

One more tequila shot couldn't hurt, Zack Martin reasoned. Of course, his reasoning skills weren't exactly in tiptop shape, since he was already inebriated, but whatever. It was his birthday, after all-who the hell cared?

He ordered the shot and downed it, just drunk enough that he didn't even need the lemon slice the bartender placed before him. He had his sights set on a pretty girl he spotted on the dance floor, who was dancing with a couple other girls.

Stumbling his way over to her, he cut in front of her friends, placing himself directly in front of her and matching her provocative dance moves. He was about to kiss her, when-

Suddenly, a hand pulled Zack away from the girl, and flung him away from her. Since Zack was already drunk and, therefore, could barely stand as it was, he went flying and fell to the floor. He scrambled up and stared at the offender, a man who had to be at least a foot taller than Zack. "What the fuck are you doing with my girlfriend?" the man demanded.

If Zack had been sober, he would have just backed off. As he was decidedly un-sober, however, he decided it was a good idea to shove the guy back. This just set the guy off more, and he drew back his arm to punch Zack. Zack shut his eyes just before impact, bracing himself for the blow.

There must have been someone looking out for him, however, because the blow didn't come. Zack tentatively opened his eyes to see a bouncer holding back the guy, who was clearly fuming.

As the bouncer led the irate man away, another bouncer approached and took Zack by the arm. He began roughly pulling him towards an exit.

"What are you doing?" Zack protested, digging his heels in and trying to prevent the man from dragging him any further.

"You gotta get out of here, buddy," the bouncer said, holding the door open for him. "Fighting."

"It wasn't my fault!" Zack protested, even as the door shut behind him, barring him outside in the cold. "He started it!"

Sighing, Zack began trudging down the street. His apartment was only a few blocks away anyway, luckily, so he didn't have a far walk.

The walk and the cold began to sober Zack up, which was just what he didn't want to happen. This was terrible. He couldn't be sober right now, couldn't couldn't couldn't. When Zack was sober, he had a hard time not thinking about people he didn't want to, especially on a night like this, a night when he knew there was at least one other person out there celebrating his birthday, too.

Fuck. Twenty-three. We're old. I'm old. It was hard to think in the singular, even now that Zack hadn't seen his brother in four and a half years. Growing up, it had always been Zack-and-Cody, Cody-and-Zack; Zack turned around as quickly to someone calling out Cody as he did his own name.

Much to his chagrin, Zack could feel tears springing to his eyes at the thought of Cody, which was why he preferred not to think about him. Thoughts of his twin were always in the back of his mind, fighting for dominance, which was why Zack used alcohol to keep them at bay. It wasn't like he was an alcoholic, though; oh no, he wasn't. He had a steady job, he paid rent. He was not an alcoholic. He was just a man who happened to drink to escape his feelings. That wasn't a crime, was it?

Zack hated the feeling he had right now, of emerging from a fog. He needed to stay in that fog, where thoughts of Cody and Carey were far away. Drink, drink, drink. He couldn't be sober on a night like this.

Finally. Reaching his apartment, Zack rushed inside, grabbing the flask of whiskey he kept in his fridge, and downed some, feeling the liquid burn his throat right down to his stomach. Finally, finally. Release.