"Cody, wake up."

The voice is buzzing in my ears, like a mosquito, and I want to swat it away because my head is fucking pounding for some reason and I don't need the mosquito's goddamn whining on top of that.

"Cody, come on, mate. Gotta wake up now."

"Nrghf," I mumble, not exactly sure what I'm trying to communicate. Something along the lines of 'Piss off and leave me alone'. The mosquito chuckles but it doesn't sound like a mosquito anymore, it's more like sandpaper - rough, with a wolfish edge. For some odd reason, I kind of like it.

"Oh my God - he's dead!" someone else wails loudly and the mosquito buzzing is back in full force. "Co-Co's dead - and at my party! My social life is over!"

"He's not dead, Rissa," the first voice explains calmly, then adds with a quiet laugh, "Leastways, not fully, he's not."

"Great. We've established he's not dead," a third voice interjects, snide and impatient. "Now we can leave."

"Hang on a minute. He still hasn't woken up," the gravelly voice says. Laying on my back, I'm beginning to work out who it might be and I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not. I keep my eyes closed and remain still while I decide.

"Oh for crying out loud! Here, I'll wake him up!" the third voice snaps. There's the sound of shuffling feet and then a loud smack as someone slaps me callously across the face. I groan and roll onto my side, my whole face feeling three times its normal size and throbbing all over.

"Bloody hell, was that really necessary? He's just been bludgeoned with a plank of wood!"

"Well, at least he's awake now."

"Co-Co? Co-Co, are you awake now?" A hand brushes my hair back and I want to tell it to sod off and stop messing with my coif, but instead I force my eyelids open, blinking vaguely until I can see the round face of Larissa above me, her eyes bulging like Betty Davis on crack. I groan again to let her know I'm conscious and swat weakly at her hand which is still combing my hair down.

Slowly the world comes into focus and I can see pink walls, pink curtains, a pink dresser. Even the comforter of the bed I'm lying on is pink. There's a body sitting next to me which I assume is Lupe from the leather wristband in the edge of my vision, and standing across the room, to my bewilderment, is Didier.

"You alright, Cody?" Lupe asks softly and I twist my head to peer at him.

"Why are you helping me?" I query shakily. There's a contemptuous snort from across the room and my gaze zeroes in on Didier. "Why are you helping me?" Wait, scratch that, Didier's not helping me - he fucking slapped me! What I really want to know is why he's here. Both of them, actually. Larissa I can understand, after all, it's her house. But I've been as much of a jerk as I can to Lupe in order to keep him the hell away. And Didier, well, he's Didier. He only does something if there's a blowjob in it for him.

It's Lupe who answers. "Uh… Rissa needed help carrying you inside…" He scratches the back of his hair (making it even scruffier, if that's possible) and glances at Didier for reasons I don't care to fathom.

"What? No, you two were already-"

"ANYWAY," Lupe cuts Larissa off loudly before softening his tone, "you're awake now, so it doesn't matter."

Didier snorts unflatteringly and turns towards the door. "Whatever, Fell. I'm leaving, since it's not dead, unfortunately," he adds as an afterthought, glaring towards me. I assume by 'it' he means me. He pauses after this statement, as if waiting for me or someone else to ask him to stay. Like Hell I will. When Didier realises he's unwanted he leaves, scowling and slamming the door shut behind him.

Fucking twat.

"What's the time?" I mumble, suddenly remembering that I only wanted to stay at the party for an hour or two. I push myself into a sitting position, ignoring the wave of dizziness that spreads throughout my skull. Larissa is still hovering over me, constantly touching me as if to reassure herself that Devon hasn't murdered me and, subsequently, her social life, with a two-by-four.

"Nearly midnight," Lupe says. He's not wearing a watch - just that leather wristband with some tribal-looking etchings on it - so I have no idea where he gets this information from.

I nod anyway, attempting to process his words. My brain feels like goo right now. "I should get going."

"Do you have a ride?"

I open my mouth but nothing exits.

"I can give you a lift," Lupe offers casually, digging in the pocket of his jeans for his keys.

"That's okay. I can… call my parents."

He brushes my suggestion off. "Don't bother; I should be heading home, too. Gran sends out a search party if I'm not back before The Sopranos finishes. She loves that show. I'll drop you off on the way, no trouble."

"Your Grandma watches The Sopranos?" Larissa interrupts, wearing her Thinking Face, the one that makes her look like a victim of severe mental retardation, which she sort of is.

"She thinks Tony Soprano's a dreamboat." Lupe lifts one shoulder and lets it drop lazily. Apparently he doesn't share his Grandmother's taste in mafia men, though I don't know why he would.

After that Lupe and Larissa help me to stand up. Ignoring the fact that every time I move my neck feels boneless and my head threatens to fall right off my body, I'm not exactly sure why I let them help me at all. I guess I'm in shock. It's not everyday I get the living snot beaten out of me at a party.

When I'm off the bed and on my own two feet, I assure them both I'm perfectly apt to walk without assistance. Larissa instantly lets go of me and I nearly pitch straight to the floor. I would have if it weren't for Lupe hesitating and thus still holding my left arm, keeping me upright.

"Whoopsie." Larissa giggles. I get a horrible premonition of her accidentally murdering someone only to utter this same response. "Whoopsie! Didn't mean to hit you with my car!" Giggle.

Lupe shifts so he has an arm hooked around my back, under my pits, basically holding me up, and helps me out of the room without Larissa's assistance. It takes a while to get downstairs with me walking gingerly and attempting not to lean on Lupe too heavily (though it would be preferable if I didn't have to lean on him at all). Most people have already left the house and the few who haven't are strewn about the places in various stages of intoxication. Devon is nowhere to be seen.

"He took off right after," Lupe explains, noticing my searching glare. I give the barest of nods to acknowledge that he's spoken.

At the door Larissa makes a big show of saying goodbye. "I'm so glad you guys came, especially you Co-Co. I never see you at parties and stuff. I hope you had a great time." Yeah, it was just dandy, thanks. "Save me a seat next to you at school, 'kay?" Not bloody likely. She hugs me around my middle and, on reflex, I bring my free hand up to cup her neck, thinking how satisfying it would be to squeeze the oxygen out of it. She lets go too quickly for me to act on my thoughts, hugging Lupe. He loosens his hold on me so that he can hold her to him.

"Can we go already?" I huff. Watching them hug only makes me irritated and impatient. "We're wasting time and I want to get home, go to bed, and forget about tonight."

They let go of each other but not before Lupe wastes another few precious seconds kissing Larissa's cheek goodbye. My nails dig roughly into my palms.

Finally, Larissa returns inside, shutting the door and leaving Lupe and I alone on the porch.

"I can walk on my own now," I snap at him, pushing his arm off me and putting a short amount of distance between us, fighting against the boneless feeling in my legs. "Where's your car?"

"Just around the corner," he tells me, leading the way. We walk in silence, me glaring at the plane between his shoulder blades and focusing the rest of my energy into keeping upright. There are a few cars around the corner, family sedans and SUVs belonging to the neighbours mostly. But Lupe doesn't stop beside any of them. Instead, the car he stops beside earns him an incredulous look. He can't be serious. "I know what you're thinking," he says, "but I can explain. It's my sister's car, not mine."

"Sure it is," I mutter, as he unlocks the baby pink Volkswagon Beetle. I should be worried about what the smell of his brains might do to me in such an enclosed area, but my nostrils are currently clogged with dried blood, which makes smelling anything other than my own coppery smell almost impossible.

The interior of the Beetle is immaculate, no discarded wrappers on the floor or stuffed in the ashtray. It still has that new car smell, like polished leather, which barely penetrates my sinuses, blocked as they are. The only thing out of place is the grimy-looking iPod resting on the dashboard with a cord connecting it to the car's stereo system. When Lupe sticks the key in the ignition we're treated to the blasting sounds of music.

"Oh, shit!" Lupe hurriedly adjusts some knobs and the volume lowers to a more acceptable level. "Do you like Jackie Wilson?" he asks, glancing at me briefly before pulling away from the curb, tapping his thumbs against the wheel to the beat of the music.

"Who?" I ask absentmindedly, trying to find an angle to rest my head on the window which doesn't result in further pain. I'm not having much success.

Either Lupe doesn't hear me or he ignores me. "Dude, I love Jackie Wilson. All that old soul is really good stuff, y'know. Sam Cooke, Spencer Davis, Marvin Gaye. They don't make 'em as smooth as those guys anymore."

"Right," I murmur, pretending to know what he's waxing on about. Listening to him talk about these people I'm unfamiliar with makes me feel like I've been living under a rock, a really big, undead rock.

We don't talk much after that save for when Lupe asks directions to my house. I consider lying to him only because I'm not sure giving him my address is such a good idea, but in the end I'm too groggy to think of a false address, so the real one it is. Lupe spends most of the drive humming under his breath to the music and from what I can hear he's not much of a singer. I've heard deaf people with better voices than him. Strangely, though, I don't exactly mind listening to him quietly butcher the songs, it's almost comforting in the same way as white noise.

My parents' car isn't there when Lupe pulls up outside my house and I heave an internal sigh of relief. I don't exactly feel like dealing with them right now.

Lupe turns the ignition off, the music ceasing with it, and I know he's waiting for me to get out. I don't, not yet, even though an enormous part of me is screaming that I should. "Look, Lupe," I start uncertainly. "About tonight… uh… I just wanted to say…th-thanks. Y'know, for… helping me."

"No worries," he responds and his voice is so steady and certain, so unlike my own, that it makes me hate him just that little bit more.

"Well, anyway, I should… uh…" I jerk my chin towards my house, indicating that it's time for me to go in. I reach for the doorhandle.

"Not yet," he says hurriedly, putting his hand on my arm to stay me. Hesitating, I glance up at the living room window where Mrs. Levitz is pressing her Jewish-Ukrainian nose against the glass before turning back to Lupe, surprised to find that he's now the one who looks nervous. "Listen, Cody, I should've called an ambulance tonight."

"What?! No - look, I'm fine! I'm fine. I didn't need an ambulance." I gesture to myself as if to prove this, but it's redundant considering how bruised my face feels and probably looks.

Lupe waits for me to stop freaking out before continuing. "You weren't breathing, Cody, and I couldn't find your pulse at all. I didn't tell the others because… well, I didn't tell the others."

"So why are you telling me?"

He shrugs and scratches the back of his neck lightly. "I guess I just want to let you know you can talk to me, if you ever need to. I promise I'll try to understand."

I stare away from him, feeling myself close up even as he's still uttering the words. When I speak my tone is cold, frigid. "Just because you helped me out, Lupe, doesn't make us friends."

Before he can get another sentence in I've thrust the door open and am making my way as fast as I can to my front door without face-planting. I don't hear Lupe start his sister's car and drive off, but I know he does.

"Who was zet boy with prissy car?" Mrs. Levitz verbally assaults me the instant I'm in the house, half-cast in light from the living room, half hidden in the shadows of the entryway. "He was hendsome, must be because he is Jewish. You did good, Cody."

I give no more acknowledgement than a half-hearted grunt before I'm climbing the stairs to my room.

"What happened to your face?" Caleb asks when I'm standing at the top of the stairs, exposed in the strip of light from his open bedroom door. He should be asleep, it's way past his bedtime. Iggy pokes his head up from my little brother's pocket as if also wanting to see the mess left behind by Devon and his two-by-four.

"Nothing happened," I grumble sourly, going into my own bedroom and shutting the door firmly behind me. I consider just collapsing on my bed but go for the mirror on my closet door instead to see for myself what drew the attention of my brother and his guinea pig.

The first thing I notice is that my coif is horribly mussed. I reach to fix it before I've even realized just how bad the rest of my head looks. The left side of my face is smeared with blood which has dried in a dribbled pattern from the peak of my hair to the edge of my jaw. More blood stains my pallid skin from my nose and a split dead centre of my bottom lip. The right side of my face is little better, covered in large, tender patches which will turn into ugly bruises before the weekend is over. I look like I've been beaten to a bloody pulp, which, basically, I have. School on Monday is going to be a nightmare.

I scrape away most of the blood with a damp towel left over from my shower this morning. I still look terrible and I feel exhausted, but I still don't go to bed right away. Instead, I open up the laptop my grandparents bought me last Christmas, making sure the wi-fi is connected, and Google 'Jackie Wilson'.


A/N

Who knew writing six 2000 word essays in five weeks could take so much out of a person? I'm still not done, but I thought I'd use this to procrastinate a bit more. Oh, and if anyone has seen La Horde let me know what you thought of it!