Actions

Work Header

Danger on Deck

Chapter Text

Henry opened his bedroom window and put his index finger to his mouth to indicate for his coworkers to be quiet as they cautiously crept into his room. Charlotte was first, and she gracefully slid through the open window before sitting down on the edge of Henry’s bed with a tablet she had borrowed from the library in her hand. She was followed by Jasper, Schwoz, and finally Ray, whose ankle got caught on the windowsill, and he slipped and tumbled over with a loud thud. The entire crew shushed him, and he shot daggers at them as he scrambled to his feet.

“Be quiet! My parents are asleep!” Henry hissed. Ray straightened out his jacket again as he plopped down on the couch in between Schwoz and Jasper.

“Sorry,” he grumbled, “Why’d you call us all here at two a.m., anyway?”

“Because, since this Mystica person hacked into the Man Cave computer and the security system—” Henry began, standing in the middle of the room in order to face everyone.

“Which you promised me wouldn’t happen again,” Ray interjected, glaring at Schwoz. Schwoz just shrugged apologetically.

“I didn’t think it would!” he responded defensively.

“Well, if you had upgraded the security system like I asked you to,” Ray quipped.

“I did!” Schwoz shot back.

“Anyway!” Henry interrupted, silencing the two, “Since this Mystica is pretty much able to watch our every move now, I felt like this would be the safest place to meet. I called you all here because I think Charlotte has something. Charlotte?” Henry said, gesturing to his friend.

“I think I finally have a location. But, you guys aren’t going to believe it,” she said, looking between the others before turning her attention to the tablet in her hand. Ray and Henry crossed their arms over their chests, mirroring one another, while Jasper and Schwoz leaned in closer to Charlotte, all of them sporting curious expressions.

“What is it?” Jasper questioned. 

“I was finally able to track the IP address of the hacker, this Mystica, that’s been hacking into systems all over town. But their location is a bit…odd,” she started, pressing a few buttons on the tablet. The boys shared a puzzled expression before turning their attention back to Charlotte.

“Well, where are they?” Ray interrogated. Charlotte met his gaze for a beat before she spoke. 

“They’re on a luxury cruise liner. Some ship called the S.S. Tipton,” she stated as she turned the tablet towards them, which displayed an image of a cruise ship with the words “ S.S. Tipton ” written on the side of it in large, dark green lettering.

“You’re joking,” Jasper responded in disbelief. Charlotte shook her head.

“No. I checked and rechecked; that’s where the IP address is from. Told you you wouldn’t believe it.”

“So, where is this S.S. Tipton?” Ray inquired, gesturing wildly with his hand.

“Right now? In the middle of the ocean,” she answered, and the boys all let out a collective sigh of frustration. “But, they’re going to be docking in Bordertown in a couple of days. Although, I’m afraid it’s only for a few hours. They’re really only stopping to stock up on supplies before taking off on their main voyage once again.”

“Okay. So, we go to Bordertown and we find this Mystica. Problem solved,” Henry announced.

“And how exactly do you plan to do that? There’s over two thousand people on that ship at any given time, and they could be anyone,” Charlotte replied, skepticism etched on her face. Henry bit his lower lip in thought, feeling himself getting more frustrated by the minute.

“So, then what do we do?” Jasper asked after a moment.

“Well,” Charlotte began, turning the tablet back around, “there is one solution. There just so happens to be a high school on board, Seven Seas High, and as luck would have it, they still have some spots available.”

Henry scoffed.

“I know you’re not suggesting we just drop everything and start attending school on some cruise ship,” he deadpanned.

What’s Swellview without Kid Danger? ” he thought to himself. Charlotte shrugged.

“It’s not like we have a lot of options here. This Mystica’s been causing chaos all over town, running both of you ragged,” she said, gesturing to Henry and Ray, who both admittedly looked more tired than usual. Henry was sure it had been a solid week since he had gotten more than a few hours of sleep. 

Their newest foe, Mystica, had been wreaking havoc in Swellview all week. They set off alarms all over the city, but they were cunning. They made sure the false alarms were just random enough that Ray and Henry couldn’t ignore them, for the one time they did, it ended up being an actual emergency. They had also figured out how to hack into systems that were supposed to be nearly impenetrable such as the banks and government offices. 

“There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to catch them within that few hours they’re docked in Bordertown, and after that, we’re screwed. They’re going to continue to ravage this town and they’ll be in the middle of the ocean so we’ll be powerless to stop them. Schwoz and I have done our best to stop their advances, but it hasn’t been easy. Whoever they are, they’re extremely tech-savvy. They always seem to be at least ten steps ahead of us.”

The group shared apprehensive glances.

“It’s not like I can just leave Swellview, though. I mean, Swellview needs Kid Danger,” Henry argued.

And I need Kid Danger, ” Henry thought. Ray scoffed as he stood up.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. In case you’ve forgotten, I was Captain Man long before you became Kid Danger, and I took care of this town just fine. I think I can manage a few months without you,” he declared, a cocky smile on his lips. Henry raised his eyebrows.

“Doubtful,” he murmured to himself. Ray’s smile immediately disappeared as he stared at his sidekick.

“Excuse me?” he retorted.

“I said ‘doubtful,’” Henry shot back, challenging Ray. Ray sneered as he stood up and started making his way towards Henry, but Henry wasn’t backing down.

“You know what?! You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Ray initiated, pointing at Henry, and he and his sidekick starting getting in each others’ faces.

“No, you don’t know what you’re talking about!” Henry barked, and just like that he and Ray were bickering and talking over one another. The remaining trio shared an exasperated look before Charlotte reluctantly stood up to put herself between the two.

“Guys! GUYS!” Charlotte exclaimed as she put herself in between them, pushing them apart. Schwoz and Jasper both shushed them then, and the squad went silent for a moment as they listened for movement outside of Henry’s door, waiting to see if they had inadvertently woken one of his family members. Henry and Ray reluctantly kept quiet, but still shot dirty looks at one another. Once they were sure everything was clear and they hadn’t disturbed Piper or Henry’s parents, Henry spoke again.

“Either way,” he spat, glaring at Ray for a beat longer before he met Charlotte’s gaze, “I don’t know if I really want to leave for an entire semester. Besides that, how are we going to pay for it? Do you really think my parents are going to be able to send me on a luxury cruise for that long?” he countered.

“Well, we don’t exactly have to stay the entire semester. Whenever we catch the hacker we can just fly back at the next port. But, this way we’re giving ourselves plenty of time to find them and finally put a stop to this madness. As for payment, I was kind of hoping…” Charlotte trailed off as she looked at Ray expectantly. Ray caught her gaze and raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

“What? You want me to pay for it?” he asked in a high-pitched tone, pointing an index finger to his chest.

“Well, this could be technically be considered a work trip and you are our boss,” she pointed out, crossing her arms over her chest, giving him a look that told him he shouldn’t even try to argue with her. Ray frantically looked to his other coworkers, hoping one of them might be on his side, but they all just watched him expectantly. He let out a sigh of defeat. 

“Fine,” he grumbled. Henry still wasn’t convinced.

“Jasp. You’ve been pretty quiet. What do you think about all this?” he questioned as he looked at his friend. Jasper met his gaze and shrugged.

“I don’t know, I mean. I think it sounds kind of fun,” he said softly as he grimaced a little, obviously hoping Henry wouldn’t be too upset that he disagreed with him in front of everyone. Henry just rolled his eyes, feeling annoyed.

“This sucks,” he muttered, tossing himself back onto his bed. Ray pursed his lips.

“You’re right, kid. Sailing around the world on a five-star cruise for free sure does sound like a total nightmare to me,” he deadpanned. Henry just shot him a look as he sat back up.

“I’ll only go on one condition; Piper has to go too. There’s no way my parents are going to let me go if Piper doesn’t go also. Do you know the kind of tantrum they’d have to deal with?”

The group shuddered at the thought before the three kids looked to their boss intently, waiting for his response.

“Whatever! Piper can go too,” he snapped after a moment, his voice dripping with disdain. He crossed his arms over his chest as he began to pout.

“I figured Ray would agree so I already took the liberty of sending in our applications and getting everything ready. Everything is pretty much set. We just need to figure out how to ask our parents,” Charlotte said as she shared an uncertain look with her two best friends.


Convincing Henry’s parents to allow him and his sister to just hop aboard a cruise ship and attend a new school away from them wasn’t exactly the easiest of tasks. Ray had offered to come over and talk to Mrs. Hart in person but Henry immediately refused. Instead, he pitched the idea to Piper first and she had practically jumped for joy, and with their combined power and given the fact that Ray had offered to pay their way, their parents had no choice but to say yes, even if they were a little skeptical and suspicious over Ray offering to pay for all four kids. But, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity after all.

Charlotte’s parents were a little easier to convince. They weren’t so sure at first, but Charlotte had lied and said that she had been awarded a spot on board because of her flawless academic record. They were sad to see their little girl leave them so soon, but they had always hoped that she would have the opportunity to travel the world someday.

Jasper’s parents were the easiest to convince. They didn’t care what he did, as long as they didn’t have to pay a dime.

Now, here it was just a couple of days later, and the squad along with Piper, and Henry and Charlotte’s parents, were standing on the dock in Bordertown, the S.S. Tipton towering behind them.

“Now, remember, even though it’s a cruise ship, you’re there to learn,” Henry’s mother, Siren, said sternly as she looked between her two children. Piper had her nose stuck in her phone and she dismissively waved her hand.

“Yeah, yeah,” she muttered without looking up.

“Watch over your sister, okay?” Siren said, looking intently at Henry. Henry nodded.

“Of course, Mom.”

Siren looked at her two children for a minute before she pulled them into a tight hug.

“Be safe. We love you,” she said as she let go.

“Will do, Mom. We gotta go, we need to check-in and everything,” Henry said, gesturing towards the ship.

“Do you want us to come with you? Help you get set up and everything?” Siren asked hopefully. Henry shot a look to his two friends.

“Don’t worry, Mom. We’ve got it. I love you,” he said, before picking up his luggage and starting towards the boat. Siren’s face fell a little.

“Alright,” she responded in a dejected tone, “Remember to have fun, too. And write us often! Send pictures! And call us the second you get cell service!” she yelled after them.

“Have fun, kids. We love you,” their father, Jake, said as he put his hands on his wife’s shoulders and started to pull her away.

“Thanks again for giving the kids this opportunity, Ray. We can’t thank you enough,” Siren said, turning her attention to Henry’s boss. Ray put on his best flirtatious smile.

“Anything for you, pretty lady,” he responded as he started to approach her, but Henry reached out and grabbed his arm to stop him.

“We’re going to get checked in now. Ray, I think you need to sign some stuff, can you come with us, please?” he said through gritted teeth. Ray rolled his eyes but followed Henry’s orders. Henry waved goodbye to his parents again, before he, Jasper, Piper, Ray, and Schwoz started up the ship’s ramp and onto the boat. Charlotte said her goodbyes to her parents and gave them a quick hug before she joined the rest of the group. Once they stepped on board, they followed a crowd of people into a lobby type area where a short, dark-skinned man in a dark navy blazer, shorts, and knee-high socks was welcoming guests with a warm smile. Once the group had reached the front of the line, the man smiled brightly at them.

“Welcome aboard!” he bellowed, “I’m the cruise ship manager, Mr. Moseby. Are you new students here?”

The kids nodded in unison.

“Wonderful, wonderful! You’re going to love it here,” he said.

“Doubtful,” Henry thought to himself.

“One of our school’s teachers, Ms. Tuttweiller, is handing out student handbooks and room assignments on our main deck, the Sky Deck. If you follow me, I can show you where to go,” Mr. Moseby said, and he led them down a narrow deck and out onto the Sky Deck. To the side there was a smoothie bar, and in the middle of the deck on a platform was a hot tub. Scattered around the deck were also various tables and chairs for guests to lounge in. In the middle of the deck sitting at a table was an attractive red-haired woman handing out large binders to a long line of students and parents. Mr. Moseby pointed towards the woman.

“That’s Ms. Tuttweiller over there, there is where you can get your room assignments and student handbooks, and she can answer any questions about the school you may have. Please, don’t hesitate to come find me if you need any more assistance,” he said, and with a polite smile and a wave goodbye, he was gone again.

“Hey, Pipes. Can you go get us a spot in line? I gotta just talk to my boss about something real quick,” Henry said. Piper looked up for a second before rolling her eyes.

“Whatever,” she replied, turning her attention back to her phone and starting towards the back of the line. The rest of the group stood off to the side a little, away from the crowd in order to talk as they formed a circle and leaned in.

“Okay. So, are we good on the plan? You guys track down the hacker and the second you locate them, you call me,” Ray whispered as he anxiously looked around him, making sure no one was listening to their conversation. Just then, all three of the kids' phones dinged at once, indicating a new text. They all pulled their phones out of their pockets and frowned when they read their respective messages.

Anchors away! Congratulations on finally figuring out my location. I can’t wait to get acquainted with you, Kid Danger. Let the games begin!

Henry felt his heart speed up as he stared at the message. The trio frantically looked around the deck, but almost everyone was looking at their devices. The text could’ve been from any one of them. The group shared tense looks. 

It was killing Henry not knowing who this Mystica was or what they were planning.

“We’re good on the plan. Hopefully, we can find this hacker quick and be on a one-way trip home at the next port,” he declared as he continued to glance around him. Ray stuck his head above the others to look at the long line ahead of them.

“Let’s go find your bratty sister and get you guys checked in, then,” Ray said and they broke their formation. Henry was a few paces ahead of them as he led them towards the back of the line, scanning it for Piper.

“Heads up!” they heard someone yell nearby, and before Henry could even process what was happening there was an elbow colliding with his face, a searing pain shooting through his nose, a blonde boy around his age crashing into him while he tried to catch a football. A warm trickle of blood reached Henry’s lips as he stumbled to the side from the impact, slamming into someone. There was a loud crash, and a tray of smoothies spilled all over Henry, the cold liquid streaming down his face and the back of his shirt as he and the waiter he ran into fell back onto the deck, empty smoothie cups now scattered all around them. Henry slowly reached up to wipe the smoothie from his eyes, before looking up to meet the gaze of his assailant. The boy was wincing at him, an apologetic look in his baby blues.

“Henry, are you okay?!” Charlotte squeaked, concern dripping from her voice. She and Jasper helped him up while Ray and Schwoz helped the waiter. The kid that ran into Henry put his hands out in front of him as he clamored towards Henry, stopping just a few inches away from him. He stood just a couple of inches shorter than Henry.  

“Dude. My bad,” he said as he swept his blonde hair from his eyes.

“Nice going, Zack.” Henry heard someone say beside him, and he looked over to see a boy with a towel in each of his hands standing beside him. He looked almost identical to the kid that ran into him, except for a few minor differing traits. He was taller, the same height as Henry was, and he was a tiny bit skinnier. His hairstyle was also just slightly different from the other boy’s. He handed Henry one of the towels.

“Please tell me there’s two of you and I’m not seeing double,” Henry joked, beginning to wipe away some of the smoothie, careful not to touch the spot on his face Zack’s elbow had collided with. The Boy with the Towels let out an airy laugh, causing Henry’s heart to pound. Henry smiled at him, noticing his electric blue eyes were sparkling in the afternoon sun. Henry’s gaze moved to the navy blue name tag pinned to his almost all-white uniform, the name “Cody” written out in tiny white lettering. Zack scrambled to his brother’s side, putting a hand on his shoulder as he smirked at Henry, causing Henry’s expression to turn sour again.

“Sure, there’s two of us, but I clearly got all the ‘hot’ genes,” Zack quipped. Cody shot daggers at him for a beat, while Henry scoffed.

He severely disagreed. 

“You’ll have to excuse my twin brother,” Cody said, yanking himself out from under Zack’s grip as he took the other towel he was still holding, wrapping a corner around his index finger as he started wiping away the smoothie on Henry’s shoulder. Henry felt his heart pound even harder at his touch. 

“I said ‘my bad’!” Zack responded defensively. Cody just shot his brother a look before turning his attention back to Henry.

“Dude, your nose is bleeding,” Jasper mentioned, concern dripping from his voice as his eyes scanned Henry, presumably looking for any more obvious injuries. Henry instinctively reached up and put a finger to his nose before looking down at his now crimson-stained finger.

“You better get to the infirmary,” Cody stated, moving his hand away and Henry immediately met his gaze, suddenly feeling disappointed.

“Well, do you think you could show me where it is? I’m new here so I’m not entirely familiar with the layout of the ship yet,” he said, a dreamy tone to his voice. Henry could see his two friends share a sly smile out of the corner of his eye, and he was sure they’d be teasing him about this later. Cody grimaced slightly.

“Well, I’m kind of in the middle of my shift right now. But, Zack can show you,” he offered, gesturing towards his brother. Henry’s heart sank, his face faltering as he shot an irritated look at Zack, but Zack seemed oblivious to his disdain as he gave him a lopsided smile.

“Are you a new student here? Have you gotten your room assignment and stuff yet? If not, I could get that for you while you go get checked out,” Cody proposed with a smile, and Henry was sure his heart was going to beat right out his chest. He fumbled over himself to respond.

“Uhh…yeah. I am,” he replied. Charlotte and Jasper stepped forward then.

“We can get his stuff for him. We’re his friends. I’m Charlotte and this is Jasper,” Charlotte said as she gestured towards herself and Jasper, “And this is Henry,” she finished, pointing to Henry.

“Right, Henry! That’s me,” Henry declared, squeezing his eyes shut for a second, feeling stupid over the fact that he hadn’t thought to mention it. When he met Cody’s gaze again, he was smiling at him. 

“My apologies for not introducing myself sooner. I’m Cody,” he said, pointing to his name tag, “And I’m sure you’ve probably gathered that this is my brother, Zack.”

Zack smiled as he gave a small wave to the group before his eyes landed on Henry once more.

“Great, well your friends here can get you all checked in while Zack takes you to the infirmary,” Cody affirmed, tossing the two now dirty towels into a dirty pile on the deck. Jasper and Charlotte nodded in response. “Maybe I’ll see you in class or something,” Cody said, giving Henry another smile before he started back towards his work station. “Oh, and Henry. I really hope you’re okay,” he added sincerely. A blissful smile spread across Henry’s lips, his skin suddenly feeling warm as Zack gestured for him to follow him as he started to lead Henry across the deck. He stopped at the smoothie bar to grab a couple of napkins for Henry to use to try to contain the bleeding before leading him down to the lower deck towards the infirmary.


Once the euphoria of being around Zack’s insanely cute brother wore off, Henry felt sticky from the smoothies, his nose was throbbing with pain, and he felt annoyed that he had to spend more time with the person that had caused all this instead of his new crush.

Just his luck.

Once they reached the lower deck, Zack continued to lead Henry down a long hallway, walking a few paces ahead of him, his hands jammed in his jeans pockets. He would turn back occasionally to make sure that Henry was still close behind.

“Sorry again about all this,” he said, his tone sounding genuine.

“Uh-huh,” Henry muttered, still clearly exasperated. He could tell that Zack meant it, but his splitting headache was preventing him from feeling very receptive to apologies at the moment. 

Once they reached the end of the hallway, they stopped in front of a door that had a circular orange sign that read “Infirmary” in navy blue lettering. Zack opened the door and stepped inside before holding the door open for Henry. Henry stepped through, his head bent back slightly in an attempt to stop the bleeding, as Zack shut the door behind them. A blonde woman in a pink nurse’s uniform was sitting at a desk covered in various papers. She looked up at the pair and sighed when her gaze landed on the two napkins shoved into Henry’s nostrils.

“What happened?” she asked in an aggravated tone. Zack winced a little.

“He had a tiny run-in with my elbow and a tray full of smoothies,” he answered sheepishly. The nurse stood up as she rolled her eyes.

“Of course this was your fault,” she commented, shooting a dirty look at Zack. She grabbed a clipboard and a couple of papers off of her desk and she handed them to Henry along with a pen.

“Fill these out and follow me,” she said as she led Henry and Zack into an exceptionally small exam room. The walls were lined with white cabinets and various medical posters. Underneath the cabinets on the left-hand side was a sink and counter containing assorted medical equipment and glass beakers filled with cotton balls and tongue depressors.

“The doctor will be in soon,” she announced before leaving the room and shutting the door behind her. Henry sat down on the exam table and started filling out the paperwork while Zack explored the room. Once Henry was finished, he put the clipboard down beside him and put his head back again, silently hoping the bleeding had finally stopped. Zack grabbed the clipboard from him.

“Want me to take this out to the nurse?” he inquired as he absentmindedly scanned Henry’s answers.

“Go for it,” Henry deadpanned, as he put his hand on his nose, praying that the pain would start subsiding soon. Zack continued to look at the paper as he made his way over to the door. He grabbed the door handle and paused.

“Wait. Swellview. That’s an interesting name for a town,” he said, before continuing out the door. Henry reveled in the few seconds of peace before Zack joined him once more, sans clipboard. He slumped into the chair sitting perpendicular to the exam table, his elbows resting on his knees as he blew air out of his cheeks.

 

Twenty minutes passed, the pair still waiting for the doctor to come and examine Henry. Zack checked the time on his watch before sitting up straight again. He let out a deep sigh and started bouncing his left leg anxiously.

“Am I keeping you from something?” Henry interrogated, his tone biting as he watched Zack check his watch for the fifth time in two minutes. Zack seemed unfazed by Henry’s harsh tone.

“Huh?” he responded looking up at him, snapping out of his train of thought, “Oh, no. It’s nothing.”

“You can go. I don’t need you to stay here with me,” Henry retorted, as he put his head down and pulled the bloody tissues out of his nose, tossing them into the trash can next to him. Zack stood up and jammed his hands into his front jeans pockets.

“Well, this is kind of my fault. The least I can do is stick around for the diagnosis,” he responded, beginning to pace. Henry watched him irritably. He wasn’t sure what he found more annoying; the pacing or the fact that he insisted on staying.

“It doesn’t seem like nothing,” Henry declared, watching Zack glance at his watch yet again. Zack let out a sigh.

“Sorry, it’s just. My shift at the smoothie bar started ten minutes ago. But, it’ll be fine,” he replied. Henry’s demeanor softened ever so slightly.

“Won’t you get in trouble with your boss, though?” he questioned, hoping for a moment that that might be enough to get him to reconsider staying. Zack shrugged.

“I’ve been getting in trouble with my boss since I was twelve. He’ll get over it.”

Henry furrowed his eyebrows as he looked at the other boy.

“You’ve been working here since you were twelve?” he questioned in disbelief. The corners of Zack’s mouth quirked up.

“No. My boss, the guy that manages the hotel side of the cruise, Mr. Moseby; guy in shorts and knee-high socks you might’ve seen in the lobby when you came on board?”

Henry nodded in response.

“We’ve met,” he replied as he waited for Zack to continue.

“He used to be the manager at the Boston Tipton where I used to live. My brother and were known for causing all kinds of chaos,” he explained. Henry raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“You lived in a hotel?!”

Zack grinned.

“Yeah. My mom sings in the lounge so one of the perks was getting to live in a suite.”

A small smile spread across Henry’s lips.

“That sounds…well, sweet. No pun intended.”

Zack’s smile widened. 

“It could be.” Just then, Zack focused in on something on Henry’s face. 

“What?” Henry snapped, hating Zack’s sudden scrutinizing gaze.  

“You’ve got a little blood still,” he said, and Henry instinctively reached up, feeling what felt like bits of dried blood on the outside of his nostrils. Zack made his way over to the counter with the sink where he grabbed a paper towel and wet the end a little. He rung out the excess water before he faced Henry again.

“May I?” he inquired, gesturing with the paper towel in his hand. Henry looked at him hesitantly before reluctantly nodding. Zack went to stand on the left side of the exam table and he leaned in close to Henry in order to get a better look. Henry’s nose was still throbbing, so he instinctively moved back and reached for Zack’s hand when Zack started towards him. Zack stopped just a few centimeters short of Henry’s face as Henry gripped onto his wrist, still reflexively trying to push him away.

“Are you gonna let me do it?” Zack asked, a playful smirk on his face. Henry looked at him, an uncertain expression on his face.

“Be careful, it still really hurts,” he replied, reluctantly letting go of Zack’s wrist. Zack gently placed the wet end of the paper towel on Henry’s nose and Henry hissed from the pain that shot through him on contact. He moved back and grabbed Zack’s wrist again, trying to push him away, but Zack wasn’t having it as he continued to try to wipe the blood off.

“Ow. Ow!” Henry exclaimed as he shot daggers at Zack. “It really hurts, dude!”

Zack took the paper towel off again but still held it close to Henry’s face.

“Do you want to do it then?” he responded, holding the cloth out to Henry. Henry relaxed a little.

“No, there’s no mirror in here, I can’t even see it. Just, be more gentle! It really hurts!” he declared.

“I will,” Zack promised. Henry allowed him to continue but he still clutched onto his wrist as Zack placed the paper towel on his nose a little more tenderly this time. Henry winced at the pain but allowed him to proceed.

“There. All clean,” Zack said, lowering his arm a little. “So, where is this Swellview?” he inquired, folding the towel still in his hand.

“It’s-” Henry started, but before he could finish, the door swung open and a pretty black-haired woman in a white lab coat stepped into the room.

“Henry Hart?” she asked as she glanced over her dark moon-rimmed glasses at the name on the metal clipboard in her hand.

“Yeah,” Henry responded. She smiled as she looked up at him.

“Hi, I’m Dr.-” she started, but she stopped when she caught sight of the scene in front of her. Both boys realized then that Zack was still leaning in close to Henry and Henry was still holding onto Zack’s wrist. He quickly let go and Zack’s hand hit the exam table with a thwap . Zack tossed the folded up, dirty paper towel into the wastebasket next to him before stepping back to allow the doctor to exam Henry.

“Zack. Why am I not surprised you’re involved in this?” the doctor said as she shot him a look. Zack just shrugged sheepishly. “I’m Dr. Davis. Let’s take a look shall we?” 

She made her way over to Henry, a polite smile spreading across her cherry red lips. Her black kitten heels made a clicking sound on the tile floor. She reached up and lightly touched Henry’s nose as she examined him. Henry winced once again at the pain.

“What’s the verdict, Doc? Is he gonna live?” Zack asked playfully. Henry rolled his eyes while Dr. Davis smiled.

“I think he’s going to make it. Luckily, you didn’t break anything; your nose is just bruised. Just put an ice pack on it, ten minutes on, ten minutes off, and take over-the-counter pain meds periodically for the pain. It should stop hurting within the next day or two. If it doesn’t, come back and see me, okay?” the doctor explained, and Henry nodded in response.

“Okay. You’re free to go. Try to be a little more careful next time,” she proclaimed, talking more to Zack than to Henry as she started back towards the door. She waved a small goodbye to both boys before disappearing out into the hallway.

“Will do!” Zack called after her before turning his attention back to Henry.

“Do you think you can find your way back to the Sky Deck? I’m super late for my shift now, and I still need to stop by my cabin and change into my uniform,” he said, pointing his finger towards the open doorway.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Go ahead,” Henry responded as he hopped off the table, waving his hand dismissively. Zack let out a sigh of relief, making a beeline for the door. 

“Thanks, dude! Maybe I’ll catch you later,” he announced, vanishing before Henry could even respond. A second later he stuck his head back in. “Oh, and Swellview? I’m really glad you’re okay,” he added with a smile, his eyes gleaming before he sped off again. Henry paused, feeling a smile tugging at his lips in spite of himself as he started towards the door.

Chapter Text

After Zack left Henry in the infirmary, he practically sprinted to his cabin to change into his uniform before making his way back to the Sky Deck to start his shift at Easy Squeezy. Once there, he found his very angry coworker manning the counter in his absence. 

“Zack, your shift started forty-five minutes ago! I have to stay at the counter until you get here, and do you really think I want to spend my off time filling out drink orders?!” he seethed. Zack resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“Tom...there’s no one even here,” he refuted as he gestured to the completely empty smoothie bar. While the Sky Deck was packed with new and returning students along with their parents, most of them were busy waiting in line to get their room assignments, or catching up with classmates they hadn’t seen over the summer, so the juice bar was entirely deserted. Tom pursed his lips as he started to remove his apron, moving out from behind the counter as he did so.

“Still,” he stated, a little more calmly now, “You’re just lucky I didn’t tell Mr. Moseby.”

Zack turned his back to him and scoffed as he started clearing empty smoothie cups off the counter.

“As if I’m afraid of Mr. Moseby,” he sneered with a smirk. He turned around and jumped when he saw a very serious Moseby standing not one inch from his face. Tom stood behind Moseby and just gave Zack an arrogant smile before walking away.

“You should be,” Mr. Moseby asserted as he glared at Zack. “Lucky for you, I have more pressing matters to attend to at the moment besides reprimanding you for being late again. Have you seen your brother?”

“Not since this morning,” Zack answered as he put the smoothie cups into a bin for dirty dishes under the counter and picked up a dishtowel, “What do you need him for?”

“I wanted to see if maybe he could get this thing to work,” Moseby replied as he held up a black tablet with a glitchy screen.

“Here, let me see it,” Zack said, tossing the dishtowel to the side as he grabbed the tablet from Moseby’s hands. Moseby tried to protest, but Zack was already slamming the tablet down on the counter, much to Moseby’s dismay. After a second, the tablet’s screen stopped glitching and faded to black.

“Well, that’s all I know to do,” Zack said with shrug as he carelessly tossed the tablet back to a now very frazzled Mr. Moseby. Moseby scowled at him, but Zack was unfazed as he picked up the dish towel again and started wiping down the counter.

“What’s that for, anyways?” he inquired, jutting his chin towards the tablet.

“It’s what you’re supposed to use take orders and payments now, but neither Tom nor I have been able to get it to work all morning.”

Zack paused, shooting a clueless look to Moseby, prompting him to explain further.

Arwin automated the whole ship…” he continued, but Zack held up a hand to stop him, cutting him off.

“You don’t have to say anymore.”

“Exactly. So, if you see Cody will you tell I’m looking for him?”

“You got it, chief,” Zack declared as he returned to his task of wiping down the counter. Moseby nodded in response before beginning to walk away, just as London rushed up to the counter. Before Zack could even open his mouth to say hello, she was talking excitedly at him.

“Zack! Did you seriously break someone’s nose this morning?” she questioned as she sat down. Moseby quickly wheeled back around.

“Hello to you too, London,” Zack responded sarcastically.

“You did WHAT?!” Moseby exclaimed, his eyes practically bugging out of his head. Zack winced a little.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds! I didn’t break it, it’s just...bruised,” he answered softly. London looked visibly disappointed while Moseby just glowered at Zack once more.

“You injured another student?!”

Zack grimaced.

“’Injured’ is a little dramatic. He’s okay!” he replied hastily. Moseby stared at him, now clearly exasperated.

“Zack, it’s the first week of school. Classes haven’t even started yet. Can you please try to stay out of trouble? Just for a little while?” he begged, his voice low. 

Fat chance of that one,” Zack thought to himself.

“Yeah, yeah,” he answered, dismissively waving the cloth in the older man’s direction before resuming his work. Moseby continued to watch him with a pleading expression, and Zack exhaled sharply, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, I promise,” he said in a defeated tone. Both of them knew deep down that he was lying, but they also knew that arguing any further would be futile. Moseby scowled at Zack for a beat longer before he finally started away from them again. Zack watched him disappear off the Sky Deck before he tossed the dishtowel aside and turned his attention to London.

“So, do I get a hug or a ‘nice to see you again, Zack’ or anything?” he asked, moving out from behind the counter and putting his arms out in case she decided to accept his offer. London playfully rolled her eyes and grinned as she stood up.

“I suppose,” she teased, putting her arms around him. “It is nice to see you again,” she said sincerely, “but I did see you just two weeks ago. We do live in the same hotel. Remember?”

“I know. But, that was two weeks ago, before you decided to jet off to Paris again,” he said, his arms still wrapped around her. As the pair let go, a familiar head of curly black hair approached the counter.

“London! Welcome back!” Woody announced as he pulled her into a tight hug. 

Woody had come aboard a few days before and was therefore already reacquainted with Zack and Cody.

“Hey, Woody,” London responded, returning his hug. Once they let go, Woody turned his attention to Zack.

“So, are the rumors true? Did you really break that poor kid’s nose this morning?” he questioned. Zack rolled his eyes.

“No! It’s just bruised. And what do you mean ‘rumors’?”

“Dude, it’s like, all over the school already,” Woody responded and Zack exhaled sharply.

“Seriously?! Man, why is everyone placing all the blame on me? You’re the one that threw the football! Thanks for bailing on me after that, by the way,” Zack grumbled, gesturing to his friend. Woody threw his hands up in defense.

“Hey, just because you were going down doesn’t mean I had to go down with you. Besides, you didn’t have to elbow the guy in the face in order to catch it.”

Zack shot him a look but didn’t respond. Just then, their other friend, Bailey, made her way over to the group, and like Woody, she had come on board a few days before and had said hello to London when they had met in their shared room earlier that morning.

“Zack, did you really-” she started, but Zack cut her off.

“It’s just bruised!” he cried before she could finish, throwing his arms up in exasperation. As if on cue, Henry started strolling across the deck next to them, an ice pack pressed to his nose as he made his way over to his friends. “Look, see! He’s fine! It’s barely even a bruise,” Zack announced, gesturing to Henry, although thanks to the ice pack, they couldn’t really see much. “Hey, Swellview! How do you feel?” he called after him.

“Like someone elbowed me in the face,” he called back without looking, his tone biting. Woody, Bailey, and London exchanged amused glances before watching Henry make his way across the deck again.

“What did you just call him?” Bailey inquired, breaking her concentration from Henry to look at Zack.

“Swellview. That’s where he’s from,” Zack answered. Bailey snickered.

“That doesn’t sound like a real place,” she scoffed. Zack furrowed his eyebrows.

“You’re from Kettlecorn,” he pointed out. Bailey opened her mouth to respond but paused for a moment, clearly trying to come up with a rebuttal. 

“Fair enough,” she said finally, turning her attention to the new kid again.

As all this occurred, Mr. Moseby and Cody approached the counter, and Zack caught the end of Moseby’s sentence.

“So, maybe you could take a look at it? See if you can get anything to work?” Moseby asked hopefully. Cody smiled at him as he took the now dead tablet from him.

“Not a problem,” he responded, turning it over in his hands as he examined it for a beat. Moseby grinned at him, seemingly satisfied with that answer.

“Thank you,” he replied before he started tending to the guests on the Sky Deck. Cody turned his attention to his friends now, giving them a quick hello.

“What are we looking at?” he questioned, scanning the Sky Deck.

“I was just showing everyone that Henry is fine,” Zack answered, gesturing to Henry, who was now standing on the other side of the deck near the railing with the girl Zack and Cody had met earlier that morning, Charlotte? (Zack made a quick mental note to try to talk to later because boy, was she pretty) along with the two older men Zack never got the names of. The group kept their attention on Henry for a moment, and after a second he turned to look at them, his face twisted in confusion when he noticed they were all gawking at him.

“Alright, you already gave him a nosebleed, let’s not freak him out by continuing to stare at him,” Cody mentioned, clearly also taking note of the puzzled and slightly agitated look on Henry’s face. The majority of them swiftly looked away then, while Cody mouthed out a “Sorry,” followed by a sheepish grin, and Henry immediately smiled. As Zack watched the interaction unfold, a strange sensation started forming in the pit of his stomach but he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.

It almost looked as if Henry was...blushing? But, Zack decided it was just his eyes playing tricks on him. 

Still, he couldn’t help but notice Henry periodically stealing glances in their direction, and Zack was almost positive that he was looking right at Cody.

But why would he be doing that?” he wondered to himself. He speculated for a second that maybe Henry was actually checking out London or Bailey, and maybe from the angle they were both standing it only seemed like he was looking at Cody.

But, somehow that thought didn’t make the strange sensation in the pit of his stomach feel any better.

Henry only eventually stopped looking over at them once his other friend from earlier that morning rejoined their group.

“Zack!” he heard someone exclaim behind him, and he turned to see Moseby standing at the counter, gesturing wildly to a few guests that had sat down and were impatiently waiting for someone to come fill their orders. Zack exhaled sharply.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming,” he responded with a dismissive wave of his hand, and he was sure he saw Moseby start actually fuming out of the corner of his eye. He said his goodbyes to his friends before making his way over to the guests to begin taking orders.

******

After Henry watched Zack take off in order to start his shift, he started out of the infirmary in order to find his way back to the Sky Deck to meet up with coworkers once more. The nurse had provided him with some over-the-counter pain medication to take as well as a disposable ice pack to put on his nose on the way out, and he thanked her as he gently placed it on his face, hissing at the slight pain that shot through him on contact.

It took him a little longer to find his way back; he hadn’t been paying much attention to where they were going when Zack had escorted him down there. Lucky for him, there were signs plastered up everywhere, and those, along with the map Jasper had sent him via text, was able to lead him back.

Once he got there, he saw Zack standing near the Easy Squeezy juice counter in his work uniform, a green polo shirt, khaki shorts, and a navy blue apron tied around his waist. He was with a few other kids Henry didn’t recognize.

“Hey, Swellview! How do you feel?” he heard Zack call after him as he walked past their group.

“Like someone elbowed me in the face,” he shot back without looking at him. He felt a twinge of guilt over his sharp tone, but considering his head was throbbing and he still felt uncomfortably sticky from the smoothies that had spilled all over him earlier, that guilty feeling was fleeting. He spotted Ray, Charlotte, and Schwoz on the other side of the deck and he made his way over to them.

“Hey! How’s your nose?” Charlotte questioned as he approached, concern dripping from her voice as she instinctively reached out to him, stopping just short of his face.

“It’s okay. It’s not broken, luckily. Just bruised. Where’s Jasper?” he asked as he glanced around the Sky Deck, trying to spot their other friend. 

“He just went to put your stuff in your room. You guys are roommates,” Charlotte responded, shoving her hands into the front pockets of her jeans.

“Yeah, he texted me about that. He didn't tell you what our room number is, did he? I really want to go change and get this smoothie off of me,” Henry said, running his free hand through his hair and grimacing at the sticky sensation he felt on contact. Charlotte just shook her head in response.

Henry got an uneasy feeling then that someone was watching him, and he quickly glanced around to see that Zack, Cody, and their three friends were still watching him. His face twisted in confusion and he felt his irritation grow as he tried to figure out why they were all staring at him. He saw Cody say something, although he couldn’t work out what, before they all hastily looked away again, save for Cody, who gave Henry a sheepish smile as he mouthed the word “sorry.” Henry felt his annoyance slip away, his heart-rate speeding up and the corners of his lips tugging upwards into a grin, as the two of them shared a look. After that, he kept sneaking a few glances over to Cody, and he was sure that Zack had noticed but he didn’t care. He finally stopped when Jasper rejoined the group. Before Jasper could even say hello, they heard an announcement ring out over the loudspeaker, “All ashore that’s going ashore.

“Well, I guess that’s it for us,” Ray declared, gesturing between him and Schwoz, “You guys figure out who the hacker is and you call us. Don’t do anything without me. We don’t know how dangerous this guy is,” he warned.

“Why are you assuming it’s a guy?” Charlotte shot back. Ray just rolled his eyes but didn’t respond. The group fell silent as they watched each other in a slightly uncomfortable silence for a beat. Finally, Henry and Ray said goodbye and gave each other an awkward quick half-hug. Jasper threw his arms around Ray, much to Ray’s dismay, but he returned the hug after a second before they both said their goodbyes. Once Ray got to Charlotte, they both watched each other awkwardly before deciding on a goodbye high-five.

Schwoz was a lot less shy than Ray was, and he gave each of the kids a big bear hug as he choked back a few stray tears.

“Remember, as soon as you find anything out you call me,” Ray reiterated to Henry one last time. Henry nodded in agreement, and with a final wave goodbye, Ray and Schwoz were making their way back to shore.

Henry turned to Jasper then, but before he could ask for their room number, Jasper’s eyes were wide and he was hitting Henry’s arm excitedly, practically bouncing on his heels.

“Henry! Henry! Do you know who that is?!” he nearly shouted.

Henry was taken aback by Jasper’s sudden outburst, and after a second he removed the ice pack from his nose so he could use both hands to grab onto his friend in an effort to get him to stop hitting him.

“Who?” Henry interrogated, his tone mildly agitated as he followed Jasper’s gaze to the group Zack and Cody had been standing with just moments ago, although now both of them were at the juice counter, with Zack filling out orders and Cody fiddling with some type of electronic, so it was just a curly-haired boy and two girls.

“The girl!” Jasper exclaimed, gesturing wildly to the remaining trio.

“Which girl? There’s two of them,” Henry replied, puzzled. Jasper exhaled sharply with a roll of his eyes as he looked to Charlotte.

“Charlotte?” he said, his tone indicating that he was hopeful maybe she knew who he was talking about, but she just shrugged. “That’s London Tipton!” he declared as he looked between his two best friends, obviously waiting for them to have some type of reaction, but they just stared at him, perplexed. “Hello? What boat are we on?!” he continued, gesturing excitedly. Realization dawned on Charlotte and Henry’s faces then.

“So, she owns the boat...” Charlotte commented, her statement sounding more like a question as she furrowed her eyebrows.

“Well, her dad does. But, it’s not even that. Haven’t you guys ever seen her web show? ‘Yay, me! Starring London Tipton’?”

Charlotte and Henry shared a confused glance and a shrug and Jasper rolled his eyes again.

“Yay, me! London Tipton!” he echoed as if repeating her name would suddenly give them knowledge of who she is. Jasper’s last proclamation got the attention of the brunette girl in a sparkly outfit that had been standing with the twins before. She looked at Jasper curiously as she made her way over to them. Jasper’s eyes went wide and he moved behind Henry slightly as she approached.

“Do I know you?” she inquired once she reached them, cocking her head to the side as she studied them. Jasper just stared at her, obviously unable to form coherent sentences as she waited for a response.

“No, you don’t. This is my friend, Jasper. He’s apparently seen your web show,” Henry responded for him, pulling a reluctant Jasper out from behind him as he pushed him closer to London. London smiled then as she looked at Jasper.

“You have?” she asked excitedly. Jasper grinned sheepishly as he met her gaze.

“Yeah! I’ve seen every episode!” he answered eagerly. Charlotte and Henry shared an amused look over their overenthusiastic friend, while London watched him for a second.

“I like you,” she stated finally, “I was just about to go to the boutique to get some new clothes. Come with me and tell me how pretty I look!” she declared, grabbing Jasper by the collar and not really giving him the option to say no as she started dragging him away, although given by the look on his face, he didn’t mind much. The remaining two chuckled as they watched their friend being yanked across the Sky Deck. Henry’s amused smile faded suddenly as he realized he still didn’t know what room number he was in, and he really didn’t want to wait any longer to get the smoothie off of him.

“Wait, Jasper! I need our room number!” he called after them, but they were already out of earshot. Henry started across the deck after them, turning to Charlotte as he went. “I’ll catch up with you in a little while!” he said to her before he started off after the pair once more.


A few hours later, Henry had showered and changed and was now standing in his cabin with his suitcase open on his bed, although he wasn’t really unpacking it as much as he was just thinking about unpacking it.

Unpacking it meant staying, and staying was the last thing he wanted to do.

He heard a knock at the door, and he quickly zipped his still full suitcase back up and haphazardly threw it in the closet, shutting it before going to answer the door. He found Cody on the other side of it, holding another disposable ice pack. 

“Hey! I brought this for you. Just in case,” he said, awkwardly reaching out to hand Henry the ice pack. Henry smiled as he took it. The pain medication had taken away his headache, and his nose was down to a dull ache now, so he wasn’t really sure he needed the ice anymore, but Cody had been nice enough to bring it to him.

“Thanks,” he said, pressing the ice to his face.

“How’s it feeling, by the way?” Cody inquired, gesturing towards Henry’s injury.

“It’s not so bad now. The headache is gone, at least,” Henry responded, and Cody smiled a little at that. They fell into an awkward silence for a beat . “How’d you know where to find me? I don’t remember passing you in the hall yet…” Henry started, “Did I tell you my room number and I just forgot? Maybe Zack hit me harder than I thought,” he finished, that last part more to himself than Cody. Cody grinned sheepishly as he glanced down at the floor for a moment.

“Zack kinda...hacked into Moseby’s computer and found your room number for me.”

Henry furrowed his eyebrows, and Cody shoved his hands into his front jeans pockets.

“And, now that I’m saying that out loud, it sounds kinda stalkerish,” he added, meeting Henry’s gaze, causing Henry’s heart to skip a beat as he grinned, but his smile faded after he truly registered what Cody had said.  

Did he say “hack”?

“Say that again?” Henry said. He was certain he had heard Cody say “hack” but he wanted to be entirely sure before he jumped to any conclusions. Cody’s eyes went wide as he put his hands out in front of him.

“I didn’t ask him to hack into Moseby’s computer in order to find your room number! It wasn’t like that. He was already doing it; he does it every year. He reassigns anyone that’s assigned to his room so that he's able to keep the room to himself. Surprisingly, no one has figured it out yet,” Cody explained hastily.

“Right,” Henry mumbled, still stuck on the part where Zack had hacked into a computer. He thought about going to tell Charlotte this, but he was enjoying talking to Cody, even if he was only half-listening to what he was saying at the present moment.

“So, usually after my friends and I get back on the boat we have dinner together; we were going to do it tonight, but Moseby’s got me working on the ship’s new computer system and I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be done in time...” Cody began again, snapping Henry out of his train of thought as he met Cody’s gaze.

“Why do you say that?” he interjected.

“Well...our friend Arwin, from the hotel- Zack mentioned he told you about the hotel?”

Henry nodded in response.

“He was the maintenance guy there, he automated the whole ship, and if you knew him, you would know what a huge mistake that was,” Cody explained. Henry chuckled.

“I think I know what you mean,” he replied with a grin. Cody smiled.

“Anyway, I was wondering if you and your friends wanted to join us? For the dinner tomorrow, I mean.”

“I don’t want to crash your dinner with your friends…” Henry responded, although deep down he didn’t really mean it. He was excited at the thought of getting to have dinner with his new crush.

“You wouldn’t be crashing! It’ll be fun,” Cody insisted with a grin, and Henry was finding it hard to resist those baby blues.

“Okay. Sure,” he replied, and Cody’s smile grew.

“Great!” he said as he pulled his phone out of pocket, “why don’t you put your number in and I’ll text you the place to meet us once I find out exactly where that is. Well, if I get cell reception that is. You’d be surprised how quickly we lose contact once we leave port.”

Henry nodded, taking Cody’s phone and keying in his name and number before handing it back. Cody looked down at his phone for a second and smiled, seemingly satisfied before he slipped it back into his jeans.

“I guess if I don’t have reception, I know where to find you.”

Henry secretly hoped then that they did lose reception just so Cody would have an excuse to visit him again.

“I’ll let you know the time and place and everything when we work out the details,” he said as he started to back up into the hallway. Henry nodded in response. “I’ll see you and your friends tomorrow night. You know, if I don’t see you before then,” he finished, giving a quick wave goodbye before he started down the hall once more.

“Wait, hold up!” Henry called after him. Cody stopped, turning on his heel to look at him once more.

“Yeah?”

“This is probably a dumb question, but is Zack going to be there?” Henry asked, unable to hide the hint of contempt in his voice. Cody let out an airy laugh.

“Actually, no. He’s got other plans. He’s going to dinner with our other friend, London. They do that once a month. Nobody else is invited. We don’t know what they do or talk about but,” Cody responded with a shrug as he turned to leave. Henry contemplated Cody’s words for a beat.

“Do you think maybe he’s secretly dating London and they just don’t want the rest of you to know about it?” he inquired. Cody stopped dead in his tracks, his back still to Henry. He remained frozen in place for a second before he slowly turned to face Henry, a curious expression on his face. 

“I didn’t until now,” he said slowly. Henry could tell by the look on his face that he was actively trying to figure out if what Henry suggested could be at all true. His expression softened for a moment as he smiled.

“No, they wouldn’t. London’s older than us, so it'd be kinda weird if...well, I guess it wouldn’t be that weird now that we’re older... But, it’s not possible. We’ve known London forever. Unless…” he rambled, his face turning serious once more. Henry then watched as Cody flip-flopped between believing the notion was completely bogus to seriously contemplating it again as he mumbled to himself.

“It was just a thought,” Henry interjected after a while, and Cody seemed to snap out of his thoughts as he met Henry’s gaze.

“Right. I’ll just... talk to Zack about it later. I’ll see you,” he said, and with a quick wave goodbye, he started off down the hall.

After Henry watched Cody disappear around the corner, he made his way down to the deck where the girls’ rooms were located. After a second of searching, he found Piper’s room, and he knocked on the doorframe of the open door of her cabin. Piper looked up from her open suitcase that was sitting half-empty on the bed closest to the door. Sitting at the desk on the opposite side of the room was a dark-haired girl around Piper’s age that Henry assumed was her new roommate. From the looks of it, she was already completely unpacked and moved into their new cabin.

“Hey, what’s up?” Piper asked as she went back to unpacking.

“I’m kinda hungry, so I was going to see if I can find Charlotte and Jasp and maybe get some food. You wanna come? Your new roommate can come too…” Henry suggested, gesturing to the girl sitting on the opposite side of the room.

“No, thanks. I really want to finish unpacking and getting all moved in,” Piper responded without looking up from her suitcase, excitement dripping from her voice. Henry felt a twinge of guilt then. He was hopeful that they wouldn’t have to stay on the boat long, but he didn’t think about how this would impact his little sister, who wouldn’t really have a clue as to why they would be leaving so soon. “Besides, Mara and I have plans later. By the way, Mara, this is my older brother, Henry. Hen, this is my roommate, Mara,” Piper said, gesturing to the both of them respectively. Henry nodded to the other girl and she gave Henry a sweet smile.

“Thanks for the invite, but no thanks. I have...other plans in mind,” Mara replied an air of mystery to her voice. Henry furrowed his eyebrows for a second as he looked up at her, her thick, dark-rimmed glasses reflecting some of the light from the open porthole. The way she said that made him feel a bit uneasy, but he decided not to press the issue.

“Uhhh...okay. No problem, then,” he responded. Piper smiled at him as the three of them remained silent for a beat.

“Was there anything else?” Piper questioned after a moment, a hint of irritation in her voice.

“No, that was it,” Henry said as he stood up straight again, “Just...be safe. Stay out of trouble. You know the rules.”

Piper rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. Henry looked at her with a serious expression and she grinned.

“I got it. I’ll see you later,” she responded as she made her way to the door. Before he could even say goodbye, she was shutting the door in his face.

“Later,” he said to no in particular, before he went to go search for his two friends.

Chapter Text

Finding Jasper and Charlotte proved to be a more daunting task than Henry initially thought. He had gotten Charlotte’s room number from Piper before he left, but when he got there, the room was completely empty. Just as Cody had mentioned to him, cell phone reception was already shoddy even though they had only left port a few hours ago, and he couldn’t get a strong enough signal to call or send a text to find out where either of them were. Henry had remembered London mentioning something about a boutique as she dragged Jasper away, but he had checked a few of them around the ship and neither of them were to be found.

He continued his search for almost forty-five minutes, but he was coming up empty. He decided as a last resort to check London’s room to see if maybe Jasper had gone back with her after her shopping spree, but if that didn’t work, he was going to just go to his cabin and wait for either of his friends to come to him. 

He was currently standing at the front desk of the cruise ship’s lobby, arguing with a red-headed S.S. Tipton employee in a maroon blazer, who was refusing to tell Henry London’s cabin number. They had gone back and forth for several minutes, but she was adamant. 

“You don’t understand, I’m literally just trying to find my friend. He was with London earlier, so I just want to see if he might be in her room. That’s all, so if you could just give me her room number,” he said, frustration dripping from his voice. She pursed her rosy pink lips, clearly doing her best to keep her cool and maintain a professional manner as she began talking over him.

“I’m sorry, but as I’ve already told you, I am not at liberty to divulge that information,” she responded as sweetly as possible, but Henry could detect the impatience in her voice. He sucked his lips in for a moment before letting out a heavy sigh of defeat as he stepped away from the desk. 

Maybe Kid Danger would have better luck… ” he thought to himself for a second, and he even went so far as to wrap his hand around the gumball tube he kept stashed in his pocket, but he changed his mind at the last second. He decided it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to draw that much attention to himself.  He pulled his phone out of his pocket and walked back out onto the deck, holding his phone above his head, moving around to different spots, trying desperately to get any semblance of a signal, but to no avail. He exhaled sharply as he slipped it back into his jeans. 

What now?

Cody was friends with London so he could probably tell Henry where it was, but he said he was going to be working on the ship’s computer most of the afternoon and into the night, and Henry assumed that the ship’s computer was most likely located in a place that was restricted from students and passengers. He bit his lower lip and glanced out at the passing ocean for a second as he thought over what he wanted to do next. The bright blue water was glistening in the afternoon sun, and Henry could hear the waves crashing against the side of the boat over the sounds of the passengers around him.  

There was one other person he knew that he could ask, and he knew exactly where to find him, but unfortunately, it was about the last person he wanted to see. He thought about skipping straight to his second plan of going back to his cabin and waiting for Jasper to return or for Charlotte to find him, but deep down he just wanted to find his friends, devise a plan to catch Mystica, and get the hell off this ship. His nose started to ache again as his mind wandered back to his earlier encounter.

He let out a resigned sigh as he slumped back to the Sky Deck. He scanned the deck for a minute, hoping maybe his friends would be there so he could avoid the entire interaction altogether, but still no luck. Zack was behind the counter, leaning forward on it with his arms crossed in front of him, his face only inches from a cute girl that was sitting in one of the orange chairs at the bar across from him. He had on a flirty smile while he talked, and she giggled after a moment and tucked a stray hair behind her ear, tilting her head to the side, listening intently. She used an index finger to lightly stroke his forearm. 

Henry found the whole sight absolutely nauseating. 

He approached the counter, and Zack turned to look at him once he reached it. 

“Hey, Swellview,” he said cheerfully. Henry flashed a quick, unenthusiastic smile. Zack returned his attention to the girl for a minute, who hadn’t taken her eyes off of him the entire time. 

“I’ll be right back,” he said with a wink and she immediately blushed, glancing down at the counter, evidently flustered. Henry resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
“I gotta go anyway, but I’ll see you tonight?” she said as she stood up. Zack’s smile grew. 

“Definitely,” he responded. They kept making eyes at each other as she walked away, and Henry felt his stomach turn, but he hoped his disgust wasn’t showing on his face. After she disappeared off the deck, Zack turned back towards Henry and approached him. 

“What can I get ya?” he asked, using one hand to grab a pencil that was tucked behind his ear and the other to pull a notepad out from the front pocket of his apron. 

“I don’t want anything, I just need to ask you a question,” Henry answered, resting his hands on the counter. Zack let his arms relax at his sides.

“Shoot.” 

One of the other waiters walked by them then, carrying a large tray of smoothies and few ice cream sundaes, and Henry kept his eyes on the tray as he walked by, his stomach growling. He realized then just how hungry he was, but he shook it off as he met Zack’s gaze again. 

“Sure you don’t want anything? I can make you a smoothie…” Zack offered, clearly noticing that Henry was practically drooling at the sight of food. Henry shook his head.

“I’m fine. You’re friends with London Tipton; do you know where her room is?” he inquired. 

“Of course I do,” Zack started, but he stopped after a second, narrowing his eyes and crossing his arms over in front of him, “Why do you want to know, though? You don’t have a crush on her, do you?” he finished, his tone slightly exasperated and his face twisting in disgust.  

“Okay, that kinda blows the secretly dating theory out of the water,” Henry thought. He blinked rapidly a few times and shook his head slightly, a little taken aback by Zack’s reaction. 

“No, no, nothing like that. She was with my friend, Jasper, earlier and I can’t find him so I just wanted to see if maybe he was still with her,” Henry explained. Zack’s expression returned to normal as he uncrossed his arms. 

“Oh, okay.”

His lips slowly spread into a sly smile.

“I’ll tell you where London’s room is if you tell me about that girl you were with earlier.” 

It was Henry’s turn to narrow his eyes.

“Charlotte? Why do you want to know about her?” he questioned.

“She’s cute,” Zack responded simply.

“What about that girl?” Henry asked, pointing to where the good-looking girl he was flirting with just minutes ago was previously sitting. 

“What about her?” 

“She said ‘see you tonight’ so I’m assuming that means you guys have a date so why would you be asking about Charlotte?” Henry interrogated. 

 “Yeah, I do have a date with her tonight, and I’ve got plans tomorrow, but the rest of my week is wide open. So, you guys have a thing or what?” 

“No, we’re just good friends,” Henry replied, a hint of disdain in his voice. Zack didn’t seem to notice.

“Is she seeing anybody at all? Although, I’m honestly okay with that,” Zack said with a playful smile. Henry took a deep breath before responding. 

“No, no. She’s single,” he retorted, through slightly gritted teeth. 

But she’s too good for you, ” he thought. Zack’s mischievous expression combined with his slightly sleazy comment made Henry start to feel a little protective of Charlotte, but he knew she could take care of herself and a part of him was hoping he’d be there to witness her rejection. Zack’s lips curled into a grin.

“Cool, thanks. So, London’s room; do you know where the girls’ deck is?” he asked. 

“Yeah, I was down there earlier,” Henry answered, and Zack’s lips turned upward into a devious smile as he cocked an eyebrow.

“Oh?” 

Henry exhaled sharply and shut his eyes for a second, his patience growing dangerously thin. 

“I was visiting my little sister,” he replied in an agitated tone. 

“Sure you were,” Zack remarked, disbelief in his voice. As he was talking, another waiter walked by with more food, and Henry kept his eyes on it again. 

“Dude, seriously. Let me get you something. We’ve got a pretty extensive dessert list,” Zack said, turning and using his pencil to point to a menu hanging on the wall behind him. Henry looked it over for a second.

“Seriously, I’m good. I haven’t eaten anything since this morning, so I probably shouldn’t start out with dessert.” 

Zack rolled his eyes. 

“You sound like Cody.” 

Henry smiled a little at that. Zack leaned forward on the counter closer to Henry as he crossed his arms over in front of him. Henry scanned his face for a second before taking his hands off the counter and moving back, a little bothered by the fact that Zack was invading his personal space. He was so close that Henry could almost count the freckles on his nose.

“Considering you got a major boo-boo today, I think that legally gives you a free pass to eat whatever you want,” Zack said with a smirk, watching him expectantly. Henry studied his face for a beat as he thought it over. He was pretty much starving at that point, but he didn’t really want to get off track or extend this interaction any longer than it needed to be. 

“I don’t need anything,” he lied. Zack straightened back up. 

“You’ve been staring at every plate of food that goes by. At least let me make you a smoothie. What’s your favorite flavor?” he insisted. Henry could tell he wasn’t going to give up, so he decided to just give in. Besides, a smoothie was actually starting to sound pretty good right about then. 

“Tropical mango,” he breathed in defeat, sitting down in the chair in front of him. 

“Tropical mango it is!” Zack echoed enthusiastically as he started throwing ingredients into a blender. Henry pulled out his phone while he waited, checking to see if maybe they had gotten to a spot where he had signal again, but still no luck. He swiveled around in his chair, absentmindedly watching the other passengers on the deck before he heard the whir of the blender behind him. A few moments later, he heard Zack say, “Enjoy!” and he whirled back around to see him set a yellow plastic smoothie cup down in front of him, that was filled to the brim with yellow liquid to match the cup, garnished with a red paper umbrella and a pineapple slice inserted on the side. He grabbed a purple bendy straw from a container full of them and pushed it into the smoothie. He smiled at Henry and held his index finger up to indicate that he’d be back in a second before he went to take the orders of a few more customers that had sat down. Henry glanced at the cup for a moment before he leaned down, taking a sip out of the straw.

He hated how absolutely delicious it was. 

He was so hungry and the smoothie was so good, that Henry decided after a moment to just bypass the straw entirely and start pouring it directly into his mouth. He got about a quarter of it finished before Zack turned to face him again, and he swiftly set the cup on the counter and leaned back in his chair, not wanting Zack to witness how much he was thoroughly enjoying it. He was still kind of annoyed over his injury, and he didn’t want to give Zack that kind of satisfaction. 

“So, whatcha think?” Zack asked, twirling a dishtowel in his hand. 

“It’s alright, I guess. It’s not the best I’ve ever had, but it’s fine considering how hungry I was,” Henry responded coolly. Zack’s lips slowly spread into a grin.

“Right,” he replied turning away from Henry. “Oh, and Swellview,” he said before turning on his heel to look at Henry once more, “You’ve got smoothie all over your mouth,” he commented with a toothy smile, his eyes lingering on Henry for a second longer before he started wiping down an empty part of the counter. Henry instinctively reached up to his mouth and sure enough, when he moved it away and looked down, there was smoothie all over his fingers. He used the back of his hand to gently wipe it off a few times before Zack silently put a few napkins down in front of him, a smug expression on his face. 

Henry felt his skin get hot. He bitterly grabbed a napkin and finished wiping off the remaining smoothie before he went back to his drink, shooting daggers at Zack, who was now filling a few more customers' orders. Henry was thankful that more people had joined them, keeping Zack occupied for the time being as he finished. 

Zack came over after a few minutes and looked down at the now completely empty cup for a beat after he picked it up.

“Just alright, huh?” he said with a pleased smirk, meeting Henry’s gaze. 

Henry was really starting to hate that smirk. 

“Yeah, well, like I said, I was starving, okay. I would’ve eaten anything,” Henry responded irritability. Zack put the dirty dish in a bin under the counter.

“Want anything else?” he inquired as he picked up a dish towel and started wiping down the counter in front of Henry. 

“No, thanks,” Henry answered as he started reaching into his pocket for his wallet, “What do I owe you?” 

“It’s on the house,” Zack responded without looking up. Henry furrowed his eyebrows as he looked at him, slightly puzzled. Zack stopped what he was doing to look at him. 

“Consider us even for that,” he elaborated as he gestured to Henry’s nose. 

“Somehow I feel like one single smoothie isn’t equivalent to almost breaking someone’s nose,” Henry countered. 

“The keyword there being ‘almost'. I didn’t break it, it’s just bruised. So, I’d say even.” 

Henry opened his mouth to argue but he shut it again after a second, ultimately deciding against it. He put his wallet back in his jeans pocket. 

“Thanks,” he mumbled as he stood up, almost hoping Zack wouldn’t hear him, “So, London’s room number?”

“301.” 

Henry gave him an awkward half-smile as he started across the deck. 

“Later, Swellview,” Zack called after him. Henry froze for a second, pursing his lips. That nickname was really starting to grate on him, but he settled on letting it go for now as he started back towards the girls’ deck. 


London’s room ended up being just a few doors down from Piper’s and Henry was able to locate it rather quickly. He lightly knocked on the door and a few seconds later it swung open to reveal a beautiful girl with dirty blonde hair around Henry’s age. She stood almost at eye level with him, and she smiled, her smile causing her brown eyes to glisten. 

There was something vaguely familiar about her, but Henry couldn’t quite place what it was.

“Hey! Can I help you?” she asked, her voice warm and sweet. 

“Uhh...yeah. I was looking for London,” he responded. 

“You’re in the right place, but she’s not here right now. I’m her roommate, Bailey. Bailey Pickett,” she said, extending her hand out to Henry. Henry hesitated for a second, not really used to anyone their age being so formal, but he recovered quickly and shook her hand. 

“Henry. Henry Hart.” 

She looked at him curiously as she tilted her head a little, looking as if she was trying to place him. 

“Henry…” she started, and her eyes went wide as her lips curled into a toothy grin, “Wait a minute! You’re the guy from this morning! The guy that Zack almost…” she trailed off, her smile immediately disappearing as she winced. “How does it feel, by the way?” She gestured to Henry’s nose. Henry instinctively put his hand to his face for a second. In all honesty, it still hurt a little, but Henry had gotten hit so many times in his job that he had eventually taught himself how to ignore the pain. 

“It’s okay now. I can barely feel it.” 

Henry remembered her then as the girl standing in the group with Zack and Cody earlier that day on the Sky Deck when he was saying goodbye to Ray and Schwoz. 

“That’s good,” she replied, and they both nodded as they fell into an uncomfortable silence.
“Well, as I said, London’s not here right now, but you’re welcome to wait for her if you’d like,” she said politely as she stepped aside a little, holding the door open for him. Henry thought it over for a beat. It might be a little awkward waiting around with a stranger, but he didn’t really feel like sitting in his cabin by himself.

“Well, if you’re cool with it...” he responded slowly, as he stepped inside. 

“Of course!” she said sincerely as she shut the door behind him. 

This is definitely London’s room ,” Henry thought as he took a look around. The wall opposite the door was covered in some type of pink velvety material, and pictures of London, along with London cuddling a small Pomeranian, were hanging up all over it. Pictures of London at various ages were also scattered all over her desk. Henry smiled a little to himself when he noticed a small enamel pin of the bisexual pride flag sitting in front of one of the pictures. There was a pink trunk with a giant black “L” in fancy lettering sitting at the foot of her bed, and a curtain of fairy lights illuminated the wall at the head of her bed. 

Bailey’s side of the room was a lot less flashy than London’s. A plain dark blue trunk that was slightly smaller than London’s was situated at the foot of her bed. Hanging above it at the head was a collage of what looked like quilt squares with a sign that read “Bailey’s World Tour” in forest green lettering. On the wall opposite London’s pink one were pictures of Bailey and her friends, along with a few of what looked like a farm. Henry also noticed that she had a lot of stuffed farm animals, especially pigs, scattered around her side of the room. Henry stopped to look at a picture of her and Cody that was hanging over her desk as he spoke. 

“No offense, but I’m kind of surprised London has a roommate. Since her dad owns the boat, I just kind of figured she’d be in a big fancy suite or something,” he said, before turning to look at Bailey, who was now sitting on the trunk at the end of her bed. 

“Her dad won’t allow her to have her own suite. Trust me, if London had it her way, that’s exactly how it would be,” she responded with a roll of her eyes. From the expression on her face and the tone in her voice, and given what Henry had already seen of London, he was starting to suspect that she probably wasn’t the easiest person to live with. 

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what did you need her for, anyway? Maybe I can help you,” Bailey questioned, her friendly expression returning. Henry leaned back onto Bailey’s desk and crossed his legs over in front of him.

“Nothing, actually. She was with my friend earlier and I’ve been looking for him, so I just wanted to see if maybe they were still together.”

Bailey nodded in response and the two fell silent. She tried to create polite small talk by asking him how he liked the ship so far and if he was excited about starting a new school on a luxury cruise liner, but Henry was having a hard time faking enthusiasm, so they quickly landed in an awkward silence again.

After a little while, Henry finally decided to ask her about some of the pictures of the farm. Bailey’s face lit up, and she started telling him all about growing up on a farm in a tiny town called Kettlecorn, Kansas. The awkward tension between them instantly melted away, and Henry felt the corners of his mouth tug upwards into a grin as he genuinely enjoyed listening to her talk about her hometown. Even though he didn’t grow up the same way, Kettlecorn reminded Henry of a lot of Swellview just for the sheer eccentricity of it. After she was finished she asked him about Swellview, and given by the look on her face as he spoke, she apparently made the same connection between the similarities between Swellview and Kettlecorn. He ended up telling her all about what it was like working in Junk n’ Stuff along with Ray and Schwoz and his two friends. He was careful not to reveal too much that would cause her to ask questions that might blow his cover, and he realized how boring his stories sounded in comparison to hers. Still, she listened intently, and she seemed legitimately interested in what he had to say. He ended up talking with her for close to an hour, and by the end, he felt completely comfortable around her, like he was talking with someone he had been friends with for years. 

Towards the end of the hour, the door swung open, and London strutted through it followed by a breathless Jasper, who was carrying a mountain of shopping bags that covered the entire upper half of his body. 

“You can set those down over there,” London said as she waved her hand dismissively in the direction of her bed. Jasper used his foot to close the door behind him before he struggled over to London’s bed and tossed the bags down, exhaling sharply as he let go. After the bags no longer covered his face, he noticed Henry, and he furrowed his eyebrows as he put his hands on his hips, still trying to catch his breath. 

“Henry?” he said. 

“I’m guessing this is your friend?” Bailey said as she pointed to Jasper. Henry nodded as he got up off of Bailey’s desk, where he had been sitting while they talked.

“Yeah. Jasper, this is Bailey. Bailey, this is my friend, Jasper,” Henry responded as he gestured between the two of them. 

“Hey,” Jasper said breathlessly as he gave her a little wave. She smiled at him and gave him a little “hey.” London picked up a compact mirror off her desk and started fixing her makeup, completely ignoring the three of them. 

“What are you doing here?” Jasper asked Henry after his breathing finally steadied. 

“Looking for you. I don’t have any cell reception so I couldn’t text you,” Henry answered. Jasper just nodded in response. “I still have no idea where Charlotte is.”  

“C’mon, I’ll help you find her,” Jasper said as he gestured towards the door, “Later, London,” he called back to her, but she was too enthralled by her own reflection to realize anyone was talking to her. 

“Thanks for letting me wait here. I had fun,” Henry said to Bailey with a smile. Her lips spread into a wide grin as she stood up.
“Me too. We should hang out again soon.” 

Henry nodded in response. He went ahead of Jasper and reached for the door handle, but he realized just a second too late that it was already swinging open towards him, and there was a loud thud as it collided with his face, and he felt a shooting pain in his nose for the second time that day. 

“Hey, London-” he heard a familiar voice say from the other side of the door, and a second later he saw Zack standing in front of him, his hand still on the door handle as his jaw dropped open. 

“SERIOUSLY?!” Henry practically shouted as he stumbled back a little on impact, gripping onto his now throbbing nose. Henry never missed his super-fast reflexes more than he did today.

“Damn, Swellview, we gotta stop meeting like this,” Zack said playfully, and Henry seethed.

“Hen, are you okay?!” Jasper asked as he put a hand on his shoulder, his face and voice dripping with worry. Bailey rushed to his other side. 

“Here, sit down,” she said, as she led him over to the trunk at the foot of her bed and she and Jasper helped him down. They heard laughing on the other side of the room, and the four of them looked over to see London pointing at Henry and practically cackling. 

“London!” Bailey exclaimed. 

“What? That was funny,” London shot back defensively. Bailey glared at her, and she eventually stopped laughing. 

“That was kinda funny,” Zack said, stifling a laugh. Henry shot daggers at him, and he gripped onto his watch as he seriously contemplated hitting him with one of the lasers from it, but he thought better of it. Zack’s amused look disappeared when he noticed Henry glaring at him.

“Geez, Zack, are you determined to break his nose?” Bailey said as she shot a look at Zack. Zack threw his arms up in defense. 

“Okay, the football I’ll give you, but you can’t blame me for this one! How was I supposed to know he was on the other side of the door?!” 

“You could’ve tried knocking,” Bailey shot back. 

“When have we ever done that?” Zack remarked. A second later, Piper burst into the room.

“Hey, we heard yelling and a loud noise, is everyone okay-” she started, but she stopped when she noticed her brother, “Henry?” 

“Piper, what- Henry?” Mara said, following Piper into the room just a few seconds later. 

“Piper?” Jasper said, furrowing his eyebrows.

“Jasper?” she responded.

“Okay, do you guys all know each other or are you just really good at this game?” Zack inquired as he looked between them. The group ignored his question as they focused on Henry, save for London, who was already bored with the situation and had gone back to looking at her reflection. 

“What happened?” Piper questioned as she approached Henry. 

“Zack hit him with the door,” Bailey replied. Henry stood up, still gripping onto his nose as he glowered at Zack.
“Do me a favor and for my own safety, stay the hell away from me,” he growled as he pushed past him into the hallway. Zack’s face fell a little, and that was the first time Henry saw genuine upset on his face at his obvious disdain, but he was in enough pain that he didn’t really regret or feel guilty about what he said. He started down the hallway back towards his cabin, practically fuming as he walked, and he was quickly followed by Jasper, Bailey, his sister, and Mara. 

“Henry, wait! Can I see it?” Bailey asked, as she lightly put a hand on his shoulder, her voice soft and soothing. Henry calmed a little at her touch, not wanting to direct his anger at the wrong person, and he stopped and turned to look at her as he gestured for her to go ahead. She gingerly grabbed his chin and moved his face from one side and then to the other as she examined his nose. 

“Luckily it isn’t bleeding...and it doesn’t look misshapen...are you having trouble breathing through it?” 

Henry took a few shallow breaths through his nose, and even though it stung a little, he didn’t struggle with it. 

“No,” he responded simply. 

“It doesn’t seem broken this time around, either. I think Zack just deepened the bruise,” Bailey said, her face sympathetic, “I would recommend the same thing as before; an ice pack and maybe some over-the-counter pain meds, if you weren’t taking them before. I can take you to the infirmary if you want the doctor to look at it again, though,” she finished as she let go of him. Henry’s expression softened slightly.

“That’s okay. I just want to go back to my cabin,” he responded. 

“Listen, Henry....I know he didn’t say it, but I know Zack is really sorry for all of this. I’ve known him for a couple of years now, and even though he’d hate to hear me say this, he’s actually a pretty gentle person. He would never intentionally hurt someone. Especially twice in the same day,” she said, a bit of a playful edge to her voice at that last sentence as she tried to ease the tension a bit. Henry rolled his eyes and let out a sharp breath. He wasn’t very receptive to hearing nice things about Zack right now.

“Thanks for letting me hang in your room today. Piper, Mara, be safe and stay out of trouble. I’ll see you guys later,” Henry said, directing his attention to his sister and her roommate for a second, “C’mon, Jasp, let’s go,” he finished as he gestured for Jasper to follow him. He turned and started back down the hallway towards his room, and Jasper followed along silently. 

 

Once they made it back to their cabin, they found Charlotte sitting at Henry’s desk, which was pushed against the wall opposite the door.

“There you guys are, I’ve been waiting here forever! I’ve been trying to work out a plan-” she started, but she stopped dead in her tracks when she noticed Henry gripping onto his nose. “Are you okay? What happened?” she asked as she rushed over to him. 

“Zack hit him again,” Jasper answered. 

“On purpose?” she questioned.

“Does it matter?” Henry retorted. 

“Well, he’d be kind of a dick if he did it on purpose,” Charlotte remarked. Henry just gave her a look. Jasper then explained to her what happened as the two of them helped Henry to his bed. 

“Jasp, can you grab me two Tylenol PMs out of my suitcase?” he asked as he sat down. 

“Sure,” Jasper responded as he started towards Henry’s closet, but he stopped after a second, “wait, PM? Dude, it’s like 4 o’clock.” 

“I don’t care. I’m taking those pills and I’m going to bed,” Henry replied. Jasper just looked at him for a beat before he did what he was told. He handed Henry the pills before making his way over to his side of the room. He dug around in a backpack he had sitting on the floor next to his bed, and he pulled out a half-empty water bottle. 

“Here,” he said, as he tossed it to Henry. 

“Thanks,” Henry responded as he caught it with one hand. He used it to take the pills Jasper had handed to him before he threw it back. He started pulling his shoes off then and he tossed them carelessly on the floor between his bed and his closet. 

“Do you…want us to go?” Charlotte inquired as she gestured between her and Jasper. 

“I don’t care what you do. Stay here, don’t stay here. But, I’m going to sleep,” Henry answered as he buried himself in between the sheets, not even bothering to change his clothes. Jasper and Charlotte just exchanged a look. 

“We can go back to your room?” Jasper suggested, looking at Charlotte.

“You don’t want to do that, trust me. My new roommate, Addison, is very sweet but she’s...a bit of a motor mouth. She talks so fast it almost makes me dizzy,” Charlotte replied.

“Guess, we’re stuck here, Hen,” Jasper said as he glanced over at Henry.

“I don’t care,” he replied as he pulled the blanket up over his head.

“Just let us know if we start to bother you,” Charlotte said as she sat down at Henry’s desk again, while Jasper sat down at his desk across from her. 

“Sure thing,” Henry responded, his voice muffled under the blanket. He closed his eyes and prayed that the medication kicked in soon so the pain in his face might finally stop.

Chapter Text

Zack plopped down into his seat next to Woody in the back row of the classroom just a few minutes before the first bell of the day rang. He decided since it was the first day of classes, he’d at least attempt to be on time, but by tomorrow he’d most likely go back to his routine of being chronically late. Woody already had his face down on the desk, fast asleep, and Zack knew he’d be following suit any minute. He put his head in hand, leaning on his elbow as he shut his eyes, allowing his mind to drift. A few seconds later he heard his name being called, and his eyes fluttered open to see his brother swiftly sitting down in the desk in front of him.

“What’s up, Code Red?” Zack asked, not really waiting for an answer as he shut his eyes again.

“I need to ask you something and I want you to be completely honest with me,” Cody said, his voice serious. Zack’s eyes snapped open as he straightened up in his seat, his heart beginning to pound.

Does he know?

“Okay...” Zack answered slowly, doing his best to maintain his nonchalant demeanor as he waited for Cody to speak.

Has he finally figured it out?

“Are you…” Cody began, pausing for what felt like a lifetime to Zack. The longer the silence lapsed between them, the more tense Zack felt, which wasn’t a feeling he experienced often. “I can’t believe I’m about to ask this,” Cody mumbled more to himself than Zack, and Zack swallowed hard as he started frantically working out excuses in his head.

“Are you secretly dating London?” Cody inquired finally, leaning forward on the back of the chair towards Zack ever so slightly, watching him expectantly.  

“It’s not what you- Wait, what?” Zack blurted out. He was so focused on trying to find an answer for the question he thought Cody was going to ask that he hadn’t even registered the actual question. He blinked for a moment.

“Are you dating London?” Cody echoed, “It’s okay if you are, I mean, it’s kinda weird, but she’s pretty, so I get it-”

“London… Tipton?” Zack interjected.

“Do you know another one?” Cody retorted.

“Let me get this straight,” he started, leaning forward on his elbows as he met Cody’s gaze, “You wanna know if I’m secretly dating London… Tipton…” he finished, a smile threatening to break out on his face at any second. Cody let out a sharp breath, now clearly getting annoyed.

“It’s a simple yes or no question, Zack.”

Zack kept his eyes on him for ab beat waiting for him to crack, to yell “gotcha!” but his expression remained serious. Zack’s lips spread into a wide grin.

“You’re kidding, right? Like, that’s a joke?” he questioned, doing his best to stifle a laugh. Cody’s eyebrows came together in confusion.

“No, I’m completely serious,” he responded, and Zack couldn’t hold back his laughter any longer. Cody’s agitated expression deepened.

“Secretly dating London?!?!” Zack bellowed incredulously. His voice was so loud that a few of their classmates turned to look at them, and Cody muttered out a “sorry” as the two of them leaned in closer to each other. Woody’s head popped up as he tried to rub the sleep from his eyes.

“Here!” he called out groggily.

“Dude,” Zack said as he started lightly hitting Woody’s arm.

“What? What’s happening?” Woody interrogated, irritation dripping from his voice as he clumsily swatted Zack’s hand away.

“Cody just asked if I was secretly dating London.”

“Tipton?” Woody replied incredulously, his eyes snapping all the way open as his gaze swiftly flicked to Cody. Cody exhaled sharply as he turned around in his seat. “Yeah!” Zack exclaimed with a toothy grin.

“That’s ridiculous,” Woody snorted, “Can you imagine you and London actually dating?!”

“I know!”

He and Zack broke out into another fit of laughter and Cody let out a huff as he whirled back around to glare at them.

“Well...you guys have those dinners every month that you don’t invite any of the rest of us to...and you’re both so secretive about it,” he stated, obviously annoyed that the two of them were practically laughing at him.

“So?! Woody and I have dinner together sometimes too, doesn’t mean we’re secretly dating!” Zack remarked as he gestured to Woody, and Woody shot Cody a look as if to say he agreed with Zack.

“Well, you aren’t secretive when you’re with Woody,” Cody shot back defensively, “You and London sneak around every month and don’t tell the rest of us anything, what else are we supposed to think?!”

“You know she’s with Maddie, anyway, ” Zack said dismissively.

“Like that’s ever stopped you before,” Cody quipped. Woody and Zack shared a look and shrug then, because, well, that was true.

“You know how I feel about Maddie, though. I would never do that to her.”

“I do know how you feel about Maddie. You guys could have like, a throuple thing going on or something,” Cody said with a shrug.

“Well, I’d be lying if I said that thought hadn’t crossed my mind a time or two,” Zack replied coolly as he and Woody shared a grin, “But London’s so much like a big sister to me now. It would just be…” he trailed off, shuddering at the thought, “Besides, her and Maddie are pretty...what’s that word? It’s spelled like M-O-N-O… Mona...mono...mon...?” Zack stared down at his desk and snapped his fingers as he searched for the right word.

“Okay, don’t hurt yourself,” Cody replied sarcastically as he put up a hand to stop Zack, “Monogamous.”

“Right. That.”

“So then what are those-” Cody started, but Zack tuned him out when he noticed London strutting into the classroom, and he started gesturing wildly for her to join them.

“London, London! Come here!”

She did as instructed, clearly puzzled.

“What?” she inquired when she reached Cody’s desk.

“Ask her what you just asked me. Go ahead. Ask her,” Zack uttered excitedly, an amused smile on his face, as he gently shook the back of Cody’s chair. London looked between the two twins as she waited for one of them to speak. Cody rolled his eyes and let out a sharp breath.

“Forget it,” he mumbled, turning around to face the front of his desk.

“No, no. Ask her,” Zack urged, practically bouncing in his seat. Cody crossed his arms over in front of him, as he turned sideways in his chair once more.

“I just asked if you and Zack were maybe secretly dating,” he muttered.

London stared at Cody for a beat before she turned her attention to Zack and a second later they both started practically cackling.

“As if I would ever date him,” London sneered in between laughs, pointing an index finger at Zack. Zack immediately stopped, his smile vanishing as his amusement was replaced with offense.

“Hey! You could do worse,” he declared defensively. London’s expression turned serious as she sized Zack up for a moment, her eyes scanning him from head to toe and back again before she opened her mouth to respond, but Zack held up an index finger to stop her.

“Don’t,” he warned, and she rolled her eyes as she clasped her mouth shut, sinking down into the desk directly in front of Cody.

The final bell rang indicating the start of class as a few more stragglers shuffled into the classroom, taking their seats around the four of them.

“What are those dinners about then?” Cody demanded as he looked between Zack and London, and the two of them shared slightly wide-eyed looks.

“Good morning, class!” Ms. Tuttweiller chirped as she strolled into the classroom.

“Sorry, Code Red, class is starting. Gotta listen,” Zack responded, his voice getting softer with each word as he turned his attention to their teacher. Zack could tell from Cody’s facial expression that he wanted to press the issue, but he also knew his brother well enough to know that he wouldn’t be willing to do it during class. Cody shot Zack one more aggravated look before he turned his attention to the front of the room. Ms. Tuttweiller grabbed a clipboard off of her desk and started taking attendance, and after she called Zack’s name, Zack put his chin in his palm, leaning on his elbow once again as he allowed himself to begin drifting into a light slumber.


An hour and fifteen minutes later, the bell rang, startling Zack awake, and he shot up as he looked around for a minute, still in a daze as he tried to get a bearing on his surroundings. He noticed everyone around him was packing up and heading out of the class, save for Woody who looked just as disoriented as Zack felt, and Cody, who was watching Zack expectantly.

“About those dinners-” Cody started, but Zack cut him off as he quickly began collecting his stuff.

“Sorry, dude, gotta get to class. Don’t wanna be late on the first day!” he called back, rushing out of the room before Cody could corner him.

“Don’t think we’re done with this!” he heard Cody yell after him, and Zack just rolled his eyes as he continued down the hallway. He finally stopped when he felt like he was far enough away that Cody wouldn’t be able to catch up with him, and he pulled his phone out of his pocket as he started logging onto the school’s website.

Since Arwin had automated the entire ship, everything was now online, including all the students’ new class schedules. Zack scanned the screen for a second, searching for his next class.

Chemistry with Mr. Okapenny.

Zack did a double-take, his brows coming together in confusion. He could’ve sworn when he looked at his schedule earlier that morning that his second class was French, but he just shrugged as he carelessly shoved his phone back into his pocket and made his way down to the science lab.

Six tables, each equipped with a sink and a Bunsen burner took up the middle of the room, with two stools placed at each table. Posters about various chemical reactions and lab safety were plastered all over the sky blue walls. Mr. Okapenny, a stout man in a red sweater vest with a blue button-down long sleeve shirt underneath and khaki pants, stood at the back of the classroom, organizing papers on his desk. Zack scanned the classroom for a second looking for an empty seat, when he spotted an attractive red-head in a pink miniskirt on the other side of the room. She was absentmindedly doodling in her notebook, and Zack felt a smile tugging at his lips as he made his way over to her. He put on his best flirty smile as he sat down at the empty desk in front of her, turning around so that he was facing her.

“Hey, I’m Zack,” he said, his voice like silk. She looked up at him, her green eyes gleaming, and her rosy pink lips spread into a playful grin when she caught sight of him. He felt his pulse quicken.

“Amy,” she responded, leaning forward towards him.

“You must be new here because I’m fairly sure I’d remember such a pretty face.”

Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink as she tucked a stray hair behind her ear.

“It’s my first semester.”

“Ah, well, allow me to be your welcome buddy,” Zack said with a clever grin, “I better give you my number, you know, just in case you need help finding anything or anything,” he said as he gently took the pencil out her hand. He tore a piece of paper off the corner of her notebook and wrote down his number before handing it to her, using his free hand to sweep the hair from his eyes as he did so. She smiled as she took it from him, admiring it for a moment.

Just then, a pretty girl with curly-black hair approached Amy’s table, and she smiled warmly at her as she sat down, but her expression turned sour when she caught sight of Zack. There was something vaguely familiar about her to Zack, but he couldn’t quite place her.

“Hey! Tanya, this is Zack. Zack, this is my friend, Tanya,” Amy said, gesturing between the two, a warm smile on her lips.

“Oh, I’m familiar with Zack,” Tanya said, her voice like acid. Zack furrowed his eyebrows as he studied her for a moment, trying desperately to place her, but to no avail. “We went out a few times last semester, and I thought we were really connecting, until he stopped answering my texts and phone calls, started avoiding me, and I eventually found out that he had his phone disconnected, even though he told me it was broken. Finally get that fixed, did you?”

Ah, yes. Now I remember her,” Zack thought. He started to defend himself, to explain to Amy that Tanya was only telling half the story; how she was conveniently leaving out that she used to obsessively call him fifty times a day to find out where he was and what he was doing, but he decided against it when he caught sight of Amy’s bitter expression.

“Is there any possible way I could salvage this?” Zack asked, but given her expression, he already knew the answer to that question. Amy shot daggers at him as she took the piece of paper with his number on it and ripped it in half, allowing the two halves to fall onto the desk in front of her. Zack sucked the air in through his teeth and let out a sigh of defeat as he turned around to face the front of his desk.

“Does anyone still not have a partner?” he heard Mr. Okapenny say from the back of the class, and Zack raised his hand.

“Zack,” Mr. Okapenny said as he approached his desk, “Meet your new lab partner. This is-”

“Dude, your face!” Zack blurted out when he looked up to see the sizable black and blue mark on the right side of Henry’s nose. Henry just glared at him.

“...Henry,” Mr. Okapenny finished as he let out a sigh, “Zack, please play nice,” he warned, his tone exasperated.

“Sir, is there any possible way I could get literally anyone else as my partner?” Henry pleaded desperately. Mr. Okapenny looked at him apologetically.  

“Sorry. Everyone’s already been paired off,” he said with a shrug before making his way to the front of the room. Henry let out a heavy sigh as he slumped down into the chair next to Zack.

“Are you okay?! That’s a pretty hefty bruise...” Amy questioned as she looked at Henry with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Henry responded, and she and Tanya reached out to gently grab each of Henry’s shoulders for a second. Zack saw the slightest smile tugging at Henry’s lips over the attention, and Zack rolled his eyes as he hunched down a little.

Mr. Okapenny instructed two of their fellow classmates to start handing out textbooks as he gestured to a stack of books on a table in the back of the classroom, and a hunky, muscular kid in a football jersey, along with a skinny kid in a flannel shirt and dark-rimmed glasses stood up from their desk in the middle of the classroom and made their way to the back of the class. The muscular one grabbed a few books and handed them to the other kid before he grabbed a few himself, and each of them started passing them out to both sides of the class.

“Okay, let's dive right in, shall we?” Mr. Okapenny announced. He started going over the rules and procedures of the class, but Zack had already stopped listening. The kid in the football jersey made his way to Zack’s desk, and Zack looked up at him as he set a textbook down in front of him. He flashed a polite smile at Zack, and Zack smiled back as he felt his heart start pounding his chest. The kid’s smile immediately faded when he looked over at Henry, and he paused in front of him after setting a book down for him.

“Dude, you good?” he inquired, studying Henry’s bruise with interest.

“Yeah, I’m okay. It doesn’t hurt today,” Henry replied, his face flushed as his eyes flicked to the desk, clearly getting flustered at the attention. Zack’s stomach started twisting into a knot.

“You know, I’ve gotten hit by 200-pound linebackers before and I’m sure it probably hurt less than that. You’re one tough dude.”

Zack rolled his eyes as he vehemently flipped open his textbook. Football Jersey Guy grinned at Henry, and Henry returned the smile, causing Zack to cross his arms over in front of him, his chest tightening.

“Luke, I’m kinda teaching a class here,” Mr. Okapenny said to Football Jersey Guy as he gestured to the empty seat he had been sitting in a few minutes ago.

“Sorry, sir,” Luke replied sincerely before he turned his attention back to Henry. He winked at him and grinned before he started back towards his desk, and Henry’s lips curled into a smile. Zack felt his chest getting tighter.

“You’re one tough dude,” he mumbled to himself in a mocking voice, rolling his eyes, as he continued to angrily flip the pages of his textbook, “So stupid.”

“What?” Henry whispered, a puzzled expression on his face. Zack’s heart started pounding as he met Henry’s gaze.

Did I say that out loud?

“Hmm?” he responded, his eyebrows raised as he looked at Henry. Henry narrowed his eyes a little.

“Didn’t you say something?”

Zack shook his head.

“Nope.”

Henry watched him for a moment longer, and Zack could tell from his facial expression that he didn’t exactly believe him, but much to his relief, he didn’t try to press the issue. Henry turned his attention to the textbook in front of him as he started absentmindedly thumbing through the pages.

After a few minutes, Zack stole another glimpse at Henry, and he noticed that he was now hunched over the desk, trying desperately to hide his face. Zack glanced around to see that a lot of the other kids were staring at him, and he felt a twinge of guilt.

“Psst. Henry,” Amy whispered as she leaned forward on her desk. Henry turned in his seat towards Zack so that he could listen to her without raising Mr. Okapenny’s suspicions.

“Yeah?”

“I could try to cover that up for you,” she said, grabbing her purse from under her desk as she started rifling through it, “I’m sure I’ve got some concealer in here somewhere…”

Zack turned in his chair so he was facing Henry, his elbow resting on the desk beside him, as he watched the interaction.

“That’s okay,” Henry responded politely. Amy paused for a moment as she looked up at Henry again.

“Are you sure? I’m pretty sure we’re close to the same skin tone,” she continued, holding her hand out to Henry’s in order to compare. Mr. Okapenny looked over at them then, and Amy and Henry quickly moved away from each other while Zack swiftly turned his attention back to his textbook. Once Mr. Okapenny was no longer focusing on them, Henry turned back around and let his arm rest on Amy’s desk. She pulled out a tiny tube of concealer and swiped a little bit onto the back of Henry’s hand. “See? Same shade.”

“No you’re not,” Zack chimed in matter-of-factly, keeping his eyes on the textbook in front of him.

“Excuse me?” Amy retorted. Zack turned around in his chair and met her gaze then.

“No, you’re not. It might look okay on his hand, but your hands aren’t always the same color as your face. That shade’s too light,” Zack explained simply, and he delicately took Henry’s hand with the concealer on it as he held it up to Henry’s face. Henry instinctively moved back and yanked out of Zack’s grip as he glared at him. Mr. Okapenny looked over at them, and the three of them hastily turned away from each other as they did their best to appear like they were paying attention. Once his eyes were off of them again, Zack turned in his chair, facing Henry, as he looked back at Amy.

“And while we’re on the subject,” he continued, and Amy scoffed, furrowing her eyebrows, obviously offended that Zack was arguing with her over this, “that bruise is a pretty deep shade, so what would really work is a better concealer and some color corrector.”

Amy blinked, clearly taken aback from Zack’s words, while Henry just stared at him, dumbfounded.

“Excuse me?” she echoed, crossing her arms over her chest.  

“Col-or corr-ect-or,” Zack repeated, overenunciating each word, “You know? Sometimes comes in a little thing with purple, yellow, green-”

“I know what color corrector is,” Amy snapped, leaning forward on her desk, “what I wanna know is how you know what color corrector is.”

Zack shrugged.

“I know things. I’m more than just a pretty face,” he replied. Amy continued to stare at him, seemingly dissatisfied with that answer, prompting him to elaborate. “Several reasons: I know how to hide black and blue marks, I spend a lot of time with girls, especially London. Sometimes I’m in the room when she’s filming one of her beauty vlogger videos,” he explained as he counted the reasons off on his fingers, “You pick up a few things.”

Henry furrowed his eyebrows and frowned slightly as he looked at Zack, and if Zack didn’t know any better, he’d almost swear that there was the tiniest hint of concern in his eyes.

“What do you mean you know to hide black and blue marks?” he breathed. Zack’s lips curled into a cheeky grin.

“I’m touched you’re so worried about me, Swellview,” he said, “But, fear not. I’m just talking about hickies.”

Just like that, any concern Henry felt for him immediately vanished as he squeezed his eyes shut, his and Amy’s faces twisting in disgust, while Tanya just rolled her eyes.  

“I’m so sorry I asked,” Henry remarked, his aggravated temperament returning.

“Do you still want to try it?” Amy offered, holding up her concealer as she looked at Henry. Henry looked at the tube in her hand and then to Zack, and his annoyed expression turned to determination as he kept his eyes glued to him.

“Do it,” he stated, his tone almost challenging Zack, as if proving him wrong was the most important thing in the world to him at that moment. Zack just shrugged, unbothered by the whole situation, as he went back to scanning his open textbook. Amy and Henry kept their eyes on Mr. Okapenny for a while, until he finally turned his back to them in order to write something on the board, and Henry swiftly leaned onto Amy’s desk. She opened the tube and started gently applying the concealer to his bruise, being careful not to press too hard. Henry winced a little as she worked, and after a second she sat back, her face faltering.

“Huh,” she said. Zack looked up to see her handiwork, and his lips curved into a smug smirk. Just as he had predicted, the color was too light and it stuck out on Henry’s face, and the concealer didn’t cover the bruise entirely, so there were still hints of purple sticking out here and there.

“How does it look?” Henry inquired, looking at Amy, but she just grimaced. Henry turned to look at Zack now, and Zack just gave him a toothy grin. “Don’t tell me he was right,” he expressed bitterly.

“Sorry,” Amy responded, pulling out a tissue from her bag. She used the water bottle sitting on her desk to wet the end as she handed it to Henry, “Here.”

“Do you have a mirror?” Henry questioned, taking it from her. She just looked at him apologetically and shook her head. “How ‘bout you?” Henry inquired, turning his attention to Tanya.

“Nope. Sorry,” she replied.

“Shall I?” Zack said, a huge grin still plastered on his face. Henry shot him a look.

“No, I’ll do it,” he said, as he started tenderly wiping his face, “Did I get it?” he asked after a moment.

“No, you still got some right-” Zack began, pointing an index finger to Henry’s face, but Henry just cut him off. “I didn’t ask you,” he growled, and Zack just put his hands up in surrender, an amused smile still plastered on his face. Henry looked to the other two girls.

“You still have some right there,” Tanya said as she pointed to the spot on her own face. Henry tried to wipe off the remaining concealer once more.

“No, right-” Amy started, pointing to her face.

“Did I get it now?”

“No.”

“How about now?”

“Nope.”

“Now?”

“Nuh-uh.”  

Zack put his hand out, gesturing for Henry to give him the tissue then.

“Ready to accept my help yet?”

Henry glared at Zack for a beat longer before he rolled his eyes, letting out a sharp breath.

“Fine. Just do it,” he grumbled as he practically threw the tissue at Zack. Zack smirked as he caught it, enjoying this more than he probably should have been. “Be careful, it still hurts when you touch it,” Henry continued.

“Yeah, I know the drill by now,” Zack replied, and he waited until Mr. Okapenny’s back was turned again before he gingerly put the tissue to Henry’s face. Henry flinched a few times at his touch, but it clearly didn’t hurt as much as it did the day before. Zack smiled slightly to himself as he stifled a chuckle.

“What?” Henry interrogated.

“I think me wiping stuff off your face is starting to become our thing,” Zack commented, and the look on Henry’s face told Zack that Henry absolutely despised that thought, which just made Zack enjoy it that much more. “There,” he said after a few beats, moving his hand away from Henry's face, but keeping his eyes on him. Henry twisted around in his chair and hunched over the desk, his eyes scanning the open textbook in front of him.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, his voice so low that Zack almost hadn’t heard him. Zack’s lips curled into a cheeky grin.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that. What’d you say?” he asked, and Henry’s eyes went dark, his face twisting into a scowl.

“You heard me.” “No, I didn’t. You’re gonna have to speak up,” Zack replied with a smug smirk, and Henry pressed his lips into a thin line as he shot daggers at Zack.

“I said. Thanks,” he muttered, pausing in between words. Zack’s smile grew.

“That’s what I thought you said. Careful, Swellview, that was almost friendly.” Henry glared at him.  “Do you really want to cover that up?” Zack continued after a second, “Cause I can help you, if you do.” Henry turned to look at him, clearly contemplating his options. Zack knew that accepting more help from him was about the last thing he wanted to do, but considering the majority of the other students were still staring at him, whispering, most likely speculating about his injury, he didn’t really have a lot of options left. He let out a heavy sigh.

Fine. What do you have in mind?”

Zack scanned the room quickly, formulating an excuse to get them out of the classroom.

“Gather up your stuff, we aren’t coming back,” Zack instructed as he started unscrewing the cap of his water bottle sitting on the desk. Henry did as he was told, a puzzled expression etched on his face.

“What are you going to-” Henry started, but before he could finish, Zack knocked over the bottle, spilling water on Henry and himself. “What the hell?!” Henry exclaimed as he shot up, with Zack following suit.

“Oh, no, Mr. Okapenny, Henry just spilled water all over the both of us. Can we go to the bathroom to dry it off?” Zack announced theatrically. Mr. Okapenny stared at them for a moment before he let out an exasperated sigh, pointing to the door.

“Just go.”

“Thank you,” Zack replied, quickly grabbing his stuff before he began pushing a now furious Henry towards the door.

“You couldn’t have just asked to go to the bathroom?!” Henry growled through gritted teeth.

“He never would’ve let us both go at the same time,” Zack responded, his voice low, “just keep moving,” he said, and he swiftly pushed him into the hallway. He finally stopped when they were out of sight of the class.

“So, not only do I have a giant noticeable bruise on my face, but now the front of my pants are completely soaked!” Henry barked.

“Relax, Swellview. We’ll make a quick pit stop at your cabin so you can change before we head to our final destination,” Zack said, pulling out his phone and shooting a quick text to London. They started down the hallway, walking side by side.

“Why is it you’re always spilling things on me?” Henry grumbled.

“It’s funny?” Zack teased, and Henry stopped walking for a second to glare at him. Zack spoke when they started walking again. “The smoothies weren’t my fault, anyway. You’re the one that ran into that waiter.”

“Yeah, after you elbowed me in the face!” Henry shot back.

“True. I didn’t push you into him, though. You did that all on your own.”

Henry narrowed his eyes a little as he scowled. “Semantics.”

The pair walked in silence for a beat.

“Where are we going, anyway?” Henry asked, his voice somewhat calmer now.

“London’s. She’ll have what you need.”


Once they had stopped at Henry’s cabin so Henry could change into a different pair of jeans, Zack escorted him down to London and Bailey’s shared cabin. He opened the door to find London sitting in a chair on her side of the room, facing the door, her legs crossed and her nose stuck in her phone. “Hey, what’s the nine one- Woah,” she uttered when she caught sight of Henry. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she shot up, making her way over to him. “Is that because of you?” she questioned, turning to Zack as she pointed to the bruise on Henry’s face. Zack pressed his lips into a thin line, ignoring her question. “You think you can cover it?” he inquired. She shot him a look. “Don’t insult me,” she deadpanned. “Have a seat,” she said to Henry as she pointed to the chair she was sitting in just moments ago. Henry did as instructed while Zack closed the door behind him before hopping onto Bailey’s desk across from Henry. London disappeared into the bathroom and Zack could hear her start rummaging through things. She emerged a minute later carrying a hot pink train case in her hands, and she heaved it onto the desk next to Henry. She flipped the latches and opened it up, pulling out the two trays that extended out on each side, the entire thing filled to the brim with her cosmetic supplies. Zack did his best to stifle a laugh when he noticed the bewildered look on Henry’s face. She then grabbed a small white container along with a triangular-shaped sponge, and she got to work dabbing on some type of yellow, creamy stuff to Henry’s face. “Does that hurt?” she asked him after a second.

“No, you’re fine. Also, thank you for this,” he said, his voice sincere, and she smiled.

“Man, when I offered to help, all I got was yelled at,” Zack said flatly as he jumped off the desk and made his way to London’s side.

“First of all, your version of helping was spilling water all down my pants,” Henry snapped as he glared at him, “Secondly, I wouldn’t have needed help at all if you hadn’t injured me in the first place!”

Zack’s eyes flicked to the floor while London snickered.

“Ha, you got yelled at,” she teased, and Zack scowled at her.

“Shut up,” he quipped irritably. London gave him another playful smile before she went back to covering Henry’s bruise. Zack went to stand on her other side as he started absentmindedly rummaging through her makeup case.

So, where do you wanna go for dinner tonight?” he asked London, “And nowhere with a dress code, I don’t want to have to wear a monkey suit,” he added before she had a chance to answer as he pulled a thin green tube out the case, examining it for a moment.

“Fine, but you’re gonna have to meet me somewhere in the middle. I am not choking down another greasy pizza,” London retorted, and Zack rolled his eyes as he started twisting the cap off the tube in his hands.

“You’re the only person on planet Earth that doesn’t like pizza.”

“I hate pizza,” Henry commented, his eyes snapping to Zack.

“Ha! See?” London remarked smugly as she shot a look to Zack, but Zack ignored her as his eyes flicked to Henry.  

“Do you really mean that?” he began, and Henry started to nod in response, “Or are you just saying that because you’ve decided it’s your new life mission to prove me wrong at every turn?”

Henry pressed his lips together, staying silent as he glimpsed at the floor, and the look on his face told Zack that it was definitely the latter. “That’s what I thought,” Zack replied and Henry’s expression turned sour. Zack went back to fiddling with the tube in his hand as Henry spoke again.

“Can I ask a question?”

“You just did,” Zack quipped without looking up, and he could feel Henry’s eyes boring into him.

“Go ahead,” London responded sweetly as she shot a look to Zack. Zack screwed the cap back onto the tube as he carelessly tossed it back into London’s case.

“Cody said you guys are kind of secretive about your dinners, so… if you don’t mind me asking, what are they all about?” Henry inquired, an inquisitive look on his face. London and Zack shared a smile.

“Can you keep a secret?” London questioned, and Henry nodded in response. London turned to Zack then. “You wanna tell him or should I?”

“It’s mostly just an opportunity for London and I to get together and bitch about our other friends,” he explained as he met Henry’s gaze. Henry furrowed his eyebrows as he frowned a little.

“So… You guys have dinner once a month just to gossip about your friends?” Henry asked incredulously.

“Okay, wait a minute,” Zack said, holding his hand up, “Let’s get one thing straight. I do not gossip.”

“Zack, that’s exactly what it is,” London countered. Zack shook his head.

“No, no,” he began, but London started talking over him. She started to tell him to “just admit it,” and “Bitching, gossiping, it’s the same thing,” but Zack just kept repeating the word “no” over top of her.

“In any case,” he bellowed loud enough to drown her out, and she just rolled her eyes as she shut her mouth, going back to dabbing stuff on Henry’s face, “You don’t get to judge us,” Zack stated when he noticed Henry’s judgmental expression, “You can’t tell me there isn’t at least one person in your life that you haven’t bitched about to your friends at least one time or another.” Henry’s eyes snapped to the ground for a beat. He mumbled something that sounded an awful lot like the name Ray, but his voice was too low for Zack to know for sure. "What?” Zack inquired.

“Nothing,” Henry said hastily as he met his gaze.

“Fini,” London announced in her best French accent as she took a step back, admiring her handiwork for a second. She grabbed a mirror off her desk and handed it to Henry and he held it up to his face as he studied the spot for a moment.

“Whoa. You can’t even tell you did anything. It’s like it just… disappeared,” he said, his tone impressed. London gave him a proud smile. “Thank you,” he said sincerely as he stood up, putting the mirror back down on the desk. He grabbed his backpack off the floor next to him before Zack and London started leading him to the door. “So, what’s our excuse for cutting class? Like, what’s our story for why we’ve been gone so long?” he inquired, uncertainty dripping from his tone, but Zack just rolled his eyes.

“Relax, Swellview. London and I skip class all the time. It’ll be fine,” he stated, and London nodded in agreement. Zack opened up the door and all three of them jumped a little when they saw a very angry Moseby standing right on the other side of it. Zack winced as he turned to look at Henry. “Of course, we usually always get caught,” he added. Henry glared at him.

"First day of classes and you’re already cutting. And look at this! You’ve managed to drag a new friend down with you,” Moseby declared in an aggravated tone.  

Henry looked at Zack, his eyes dark.

“We’re not friends,” he growled, and Zack crossed his arms over his chest as he rolled his eyes.

“Wise choice,” Moseby responded. “You know the drill. All three of you. Detention.”

Chapter Text

Henry strolled into the classroom where detention was being held that afternoon just a few minutes before it was scheduled to begin. He was the first one there besides the teacher, Ms. Tuttweiller, who was currently sitting with her feet up on her desk, enthralled with a corny romance novel while she nibbled on a twizzler. Two metal buckets sat on her desk, a paint scraper in each. 

“Have a seat,” she said to him without looking up, and he exhaled sharply as he slumped into a desk in the back row, absentmindedly running his finger over a groove in the table and leaning his head against his other hand. London strode into the room ten minutes after detention was supposed to start, typing away on her smartphone. 

“You’re late,” Ms. Tuttweiller said, peering over her book for a moment to glare at her. London paused to meet her gaze. 

“And you’re surprised by that?” 

Ms. Tuttweiller let out a sigh as she rolled her eyes.
“Sit down,” she instructed, her tone severe as she used her half-eaten twizzler to point to one of the desks, and London went back to typing on her phone as she sat down in a seat in the middle of the front row. The three of them remained silent for several minutes, the only sound in the room coming from the clicking of London’s keys and the occasional page turn of Ms. Tuttweiller’s book. Fifteen minutes after the three-thirty mark, Ms. Tuttweiller slid a bookmark into her book and stood up. 

“Where is Zack?” she demanded, speaking more to London than to Henry, exasperation dripping from her tone. London and Henry shared a look before they both shrugged.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and he won’t show up, ” Henry thought. Much to his chagrin, he’d been stuck around Zack most of the day considering they had almost every class together, save for the first and the last. His only reprieve came when he ended up sharing a class with Jasper and Charlotte along with Cody and his other friends, providing a much-needed buffer between him and Zack.

As if on cue, Zack burst into the doorway then, seemingly out of breath. 

“I’m here!” he announced as he stepped into the room and Henry felt his heart rate increase, a hint of a headache coming on at the mere sight. Ms. Tuttweiller shot daggers at him. 

“Zack,” she started, her tone like acid as she took a few steps towards him, “You’re supposed to be here when the little hand is on the three and big hand is on the six,” she finished condescendingly, pointing to the analog clock hanging on the wall above her desk. Zack rolled his eyes.

“I know. I’m sorry, I had--” he began, but he stopped, his eyes flicking to Henry for a moment before he spoke again, “...Something to take care of first.” 

What was that about? And why did he look at me when he said that?

Henry squinted at Zack as he watched the rest of the interaction unfold. 

“Well, since you seem to think it’s okay to waste my time, I’m going to waste yours. You just earned yourself detention for the rest of the week,” Ms. Tuttweiller declared as she crossed her arms over her chest, her eyes boring into him. Zack let out a sharp breath as he swept the hair from his face.

“We both know I would’ve ended up with detention anyway. This way I’m just ahead of schedule,” he quipped as he slumped down into the chair on London’s left. “What’re the buckets for?” he inquired as he pointed to the metal pails sitting on the teacher’s desk. Ms. Tuttweiller’s lips curled into a grin. 

“I’m glad you asked. You three are going to spend this hour scraping the gum from underneath the desks,” she said as she placed one of the buckets on Zack’s desk, placing the other one on the empty desk next to him as she looked at Henry for a moment. Zack and Henry both let out a groan, while London’s attention stayed glued to her phone. “I only have two so you get to take turns. Have fun!” she chirped as she grabbed her book and started towards the door. She stopped in the doorway, turning to face them again, “If you need me, I’ll be in the teachers’ lounge. Reevaluating my life choices,” she mumbled as she disappeared into the hall. Zack turned sideways in his chair, facing away from London as he looked back at Henry. London stood up then as she started towards the open doorway.

“Okay, I’m out. Cover for me if Tuttweiller comes back, will you?” she said as she glanced at Zack, not really waiting for an answer as she started towards the door.

“Oh no!” Zack snapped as he shot up, and London paused, turning to face him, “The last time Ms. T busted me for covering for you, she made me clean her cat room. You know how much cat hair I inhaled that day?!” 

Henry and London’s faces twisted in disgust. London rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to argue, but Henry spoke before she could. 

“I’ll cover for you,” he chimed in as he stood up and went to stand directly behind Zack. 

“Thank you, new kid,” she uttered sweetly as she gave him an appreciative smile, but her face turned sour again when her eyes snapped to Zack. She stuck her tongue out at him before turning her attention back to her phone as she pranced out of the room. Zack whirled around to face Henry, his lips spread into a sly smile as he wrung his hands together. 

“Well, since you’re feeling so generous, do me a favor and cover for me too, would ya? Thanks, pal,” he said as he winked at him and made a clicking noise with his tongue before he started towards the door. 

“Oh, no!” Henry snapped as he grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him back, “I’ll cover for London since I owe her for this,” he explained as he pointed to the spot on his face where his bruise was, “But I don’t owe you shit. If you want to leave, go ahead, but I’m not covering for you.” 

Zack crossed his arms over his chest and exhaled sharply as he kept his eyes locked on Henry for a beat, seemingly contemplating his options. 

“Fine. I’ll stay,” he sighed, his lips curling into another clever grin, “But, you know, Swellview, if you wanted to spend some time with me, you could’ve just said so.” Henry shot him a tight-lipped smile as he picked up one of the buckets and shoved it at him somewhat forcefully, hitting him in the stomach a little harder than he intended too. Zack pressed his lips together and let out a tiny groan that he tried to disguise as just clearing his throat, and Henry felt a twinge of guilt over the sense of satisfaction he got from that, but his guilt swiftly dissipated when Zack quickly recovered. Zack took the scraper out of his bucket, and Henry grabbed the other one as he followed suit. Henry crawled underneath the desk closest to him, laying on his back as he started removing a piece of pink gum from the underside. Zack crawled underneath the desk directly beside Henry, mirroring him as he got to work. 

Zack always stayed right next to Henry. Whenever Henry would move on to a new desk, Zack would move to the one right next to it. Henry felt mildly annoyed by this, but Zack had been keeping his mouth shut for a while, allowing them to work in silence, the only sound in the room coming from the paint scrapers scratching against the underside of the desks, so Henry didn’t mind it all that much. 

Of course, that didn’t last forever. 

“Can I ask you something?” Zack asked suddenly.

“You just did,” Henry retorted in a mocking tone, briefly remembering their conversation in London’s cabin earlier that day, “And, no you can’t,” he said, his face twisting in disgust as he pulled the paint scraper back and the green gum he had been working on stretched out in front of him.  

“What do you like to do for fun?” Zack inquired, ignoring Henry’s response as he scraped the paint scraper on the side of the bucket, trying to remove a large piece of bubblegum that was stuck to the end of it. Henry hesitated, turning to look at him, his eyebrows knitted together and his eyes narrowed in confusion. 

“What?” 

“What do you like to do for fun?” Zack echoed, as he started scraping a new piece of gum off of the desk. “When I asked your friends about it-”

“Woah, woah, back up,” Henry interrupted, sitting up a little as he turned towards Zack and briefly met his gaze, “You asked my friends about me? Why?” he questioned, his wariness increasing with each passing second. Zack stayed silent for a moment, his eyes flicking downwards as he clearly contemplated his answer. 

“Curiosity,” he said simply, but Henry had a strong feeling that he wasn’t telling him the whole truth. 

“Curiosity,” Henry repeated, disbelief dripping from his tone. 

“Yeah,” Zack responded with a shrug, “Anyway like I was saying, when I asked your friends about it, they kinda made it sound like you’re always working. Like, you don’t really get to do much outside of work and school. So, I thought I’d just ask you directly: what do you like to do for fun? Or, what do you do in your spare time?” 

Henry stared at him hesitantly for a beat. He could feel his suspicion growing with each passing second, as he found it odd that Zack was suddenly so interested in him, but he tried to keep himself from jumping to any serious conclusions just yet as he went back to removing gum and thinking over his answer. 

He hadn’t really noticed it until now, but he really didn’t do much outside of work. In fact, he couldn’t really remember a time since he started working for Ray that he had any free time to himself, except maybe the time when he should’ve been sleeping. And even then, Ray would sometimes get him up in the middle of the night claiming that there was an emergency, even though nine times out of ten it was nothing.

“I’ll take any answer here,” Zack continued, yanking Henry out of his train of thought, “Video games. Watching tv. Hanging with friends. Going on dates. Hell, I’ll even take knitting as an answer.” 

“What person our age knits?” Henry snorted. 

“Cody,” Zack answered matter-of-factly. Henry glanced at Zack for a second before he went back to searching for some type of answer. 

“I guess I spend a lot of time with friends,” he said slowly, his tone uncertain.

“Are you spending time with them at work, though? Because, if it’s at work then it doesn’t really count because you’re… well, working.” 

Henry let out an exasperated sigh.

“Why are you so interested in my personal life?” he snapped. 

“I told you, I’m just curious,” Zack answered coolly, unfazed by Henry’s sharp tone. 

“Well, it’s weird so stop it.”

“Well, I think it’s weird that somebody our age doesn’t seem to know what fun is.” 

“I know what fun is!” Henry shot back defensively, his patience now dangerously thin, as he sat up, moving a bit closer to Zack. Zack followed suit, moving closer to Henry as he let his arms rest on his bent knees in front of him. 

“Then prove it. When was the last time you had any?” 

Henry opened his mouth to respond but quickly shut it again. He couldn’t really think of an instance right away. There were a few moments he thought of, when he was goofing off down in the Man Cave with Jasper, Charlotte, and sometimes Schwoz, but it’s not like he could very well tell Zack that. 

Zack’s lips curled into an arrogant smile, and the longer it took for Henry to answer, the bigger his smile got.

Alright, you know what?” Henry barked as he stood up, “I don’t have to prove anything to you. What I do or don’t do in my spare time, whether I’m working too much or not enough, whether I’m having fun or not, is literally none of your concern.” Zack just put his hands up in surrender, as Henry moved to the other side of the room. “I think we should just… work in silence from now on,” he continued, his voice a little calmer. He slid underneath one of the desks, his mind racing as he furiously scratched at a piece of purple gum. 

I have fun.

Why does he care so much, anyway?  

And what does it matter to him what I do in my spare time? 

Maybe I do work too much. 

But, who cares?

I love my job. 

Henry’s mind continued to reel, distracting him from the task at hand, and thanks to this, the piece of gum he was currently working on came off sooner than he expected, dropping straight into his open mouth. 

“Oh! Gross!” he cried as he immediately spit it out on the floor next to him, instinctively sitting up and feeling a shooting pain go through him as he smacked his forehead into the desk with a loud thud. He tenderly rubbed the spot he had just hit as he heard laughter coming from a few desks away. 

“You think this is funny?!” he snarled as he shot daggers at Zack. 

“That would be why I’m laughing,” Zack retorted. Henry, now entirely fed up and wanting nothing more than to wipe that stupid smile off of Zack’s face, picked up the gum that had just fallen into his mouth and threw it at Zack, landing it right in the crook of his neck, and he immediately stopped laughing, his face twisting in disgust.   

“Oh!” he exclaimed as he swatted it away before he started furiously wiping his ear on his shoulder, “Just what I wanted. Your spit on my neck,” he growled in a sarcastic tone as he shot up, and Henry watched as he smacked his forehead into the desk just as he had done moments ago. Henry chuckled as he shot him a satisfied grin. 

“That’s what you get.” 

Zack glared at him for a moment before he stuck his hand in the bucket next to him and pulled out a handful of gum, launching it directly at Henry. Henry flinched and instinctively turned his face away just as he felt them pelt against him in a million different places. 

“Did you seriously just stick your hand in a bucket of used gum just to throw it at me?!” he seethed incredulously. Zack kept his gaze locked with Henry, his eyes boring into him. 

“Oh, trust me, I’ve done much worse!” he bellowed. Henry just stared at him for a moment, his brows knitted together and his eyes narrowed.

“Okay, do me a favor, and never ever explain to me what you mean by that.”  

Zack’s lips curled into another pompous smile, shooting Henry a look like he had already won this little battle between them, and Henry pressed his lips together as he picked up the bucket next to him and started marching over to Zack. Zack’s grin immediately vanished as his eyes went wide. 

“Woah, woah, wait a minute, Swellview. What’re you doing?” he asked, the tiniest hint of alarm in his voice. 

“Oh, I think you know what I’m doing,” Henry replied, and Zack held his hands up to stop him. 

“Now, hang on. Just wait a second, Henry,” he said, his tone practically begging for Henry to stop. Henry froze in place, his lips curling into a smirk.

“So you do know my real name. I was beginning to think you just forgot it and you were calling me Swellview as a clever way to try to disguise that fact,” he said as he made his way to Zack’s side. Zack swept the hair out his eyes as he continued to try to appeal to him.

“Of course I know your real name! I was just calling you by a fun little nickname because we’re friends, and that’s what friends do! You know what else friends do? They help them out! Remember earlier today when I helped you?” he sputtered, his eyes practically pleading with Henry. 

“By helped, do you mean when you spilled water all down the front of my pants, or when you got me thrown in detention?” 

Zack grimaced and Henry’s lips spread into a wicked grin. 

“Okay, okay!” Zack exclaimed as he held his hands up, just as Henry began to hold the bucket over his head. “Let’s just call a truce. Can we please call a truce?” he implored. Henry lowered the bucket a little as he pretended to think it over.

“Hmm… let me think about that. Uh, no,” Henry replied as he immediately dumped the contents of the pail all over Zack with a pleased expression. Zack recoiled and put his arms up to shield himself just as the gum fell all over him. He turned to look at Henry once it was over, determination etched all over his face as his eyes went dark. 

“Alright. You wanna play, let’s play,” he growled as he made his way over to Ms. Tuttweiller’s desk and started picking the lock on the bottom drawer. 

“What are you doing?” Henry asked, puzzled. Zack bit down on the tip of his tongue as he pried the drawer open and started rummaging through it. 

“Ms. T confiscated this from me last semester… let’s see if it’s still here,” he mumbled to himself as Henry continued to watch him. “Aha!” he uttered triumphantly as he pulled out a small metal canister with a bright red cap. 

“Silly string. Seriously? What are you, twelve?” Henry scoffed. 

“The exact response I would expect from the guy who doesn’t know what fun is,” Zack retorted as he shook the can before taking the cap off and pointing it at Henry. 

“Well, that’s at least better than used gum,” Henry muttered as he took a step towards Zack. “But, c’mon, Zack, this is ridiculous,” he said as he took another step closer to him. Zack put his other hand underneath the one holding the silly string, gripping onto it like he was holding a loaded gun as he continued to aim it at Henry. 

“You started this,” he retorted. 

“Me?! You shouldn’t have laughed!” Henry snapped, but he tried to regain his composure once more when Zack tightened his grip on the canister. “Okay, Zack, seriously. Don’t do this.”

“Why? Are you afraid?” Zack teased. Henry furrowed his eyebrows and squinted. 

“Of a little cheap plastic string? Yeah, I’m terrified,” he said sarcastically as he took a step closer. 

“You get any closer and I will shoot.” 

“This is stupid. We already have a bunch of gum to clean up. Don’t make it worse.” 

“You should’ve thought about that before you dumped a bucket of chewed gum all over me.”

“Just give me the silly string.”

“No.”

“Give it,” Henry repeated, his tone severe. 

“No,” Zack replied, his tone defiant.  

Henry exhaled sharply. “Zack, just give it to me,” he said, exasperation dripping from his tone as he gestured for Zack to hand over the silly string. The corners of Zack’s mouth quirked up into a sly grin. 

“Swellview, please. We just met and that’s so forward,” he quipped, and Henry pinched the bridge of his nose as he took a deep breath and mentally counted to ten in order to keep himself from doing something irrational, like hitting Zack with one of the lasers on his watch, or strangling him. 

“Give me-” 

“NO!” 

Henry launched at Zack then as he tried to pry the silly string from his grip, and he heard a hissing sound as it started streaming all over both of them as they fought for control. Zack’s lips curled into a playful smile, and as much as Henry hated it, he could feel a smile tugging at his own lips as he continued to try to steal the canister from Zack. Zack finally pulled the silly string out of Henry’s hands as he bent backward, his back against the desk as he held his arm out above his head, trying, and succeeding, with keeping the canister away from Henry. Henry continued to reach for it, his entire body practically pressed against Zack’s.

“How are you doing this? I’m literally taller than you,” Henry grumbled, his fingertips grazing the bottom of the can as Zack held it just out of his reach. 

“By like, two inches. Three at most.” 

“That’s three inches you’ll never see,” Henry sneered with a smirk as he met Zack’s gaze. An odd expression crossed Zack’s face for just a brief second as Henry felt him tense up, and Henry realized then just how close they really were. Zack’s face was only inches from his own, and Henry’s chest was pressed into Zack, along with pretty much most of the rest of him, and he wasn’t sure for a moment if the heart he felt pounding against him was Zack’s or his own. He quickly ignored that fact as he went back to reaching for the canister, and he caused it to slip out of Zack’s hand as it fell to the floor with a loud clang. Both boys locked eyes for a second before Henry made a beeline for it. 

“Ha!” he declared with a triumphant smile as he held it over his head, but his smile disappeared and his arm came to rest at his side when he noticed that Zack was now pointing an entirely new canister at him with a sly grin.

“Wha-?” 

“Ms. T confiscated one from Woody too.” 

Before Henry had any time to react, neon blue plastic string was streaming all over him. He took off to the other side of the room, and Zack immediately went after him, still spraying him. Henry reached back a few times, hitting Zack back before he stopped, putting a desk in between him and his current assailant. Henry put his hands down on the ends of the desk as he leaned in closer to Zack, and Zack copied him, his lips curled into a lop-sided grin, his blue eyes gleaming. 

“Make your move, Swellview.” 

Henry’s eyes flicked to the canister in Zack’s hand before he met his gaze again, and Henry knew that Zack was waiting for just the right moment to strike. They kept their eyes locked for a beat, neither of them moving or making a sound. 

Luckily for Henry, his reaction time was a second faster than Zack’s and he aimed the silly string right at him and pressed down on the nozzle, nailing him right in the face.

“Oh, unfair!” Zack cried as he cowered away, but he was smiling as he did it. Zack then sprayed him back as they circled around the desk, before Zack started across the room with Henry hot on his trail, the entire room becoming a giant blur of red and blue silly string. 

Zack’s ankle eventually got caught on one of the legs of the desks during one of their chases, and he lurched forward, losing control of the canister in his hand as it landed on the ground with a loud clang. Both boys paused, meeting each others’ gaze for a moment before they both dove for the canister at the same time. 

Henry landed on it first with half of Zack landing on him a second later as he tried to grab the canister from Henry, but Henry held it close to his chest and out of his reach. 

The pair of them popped back up after a moment, with Henry gripping onto both canisters in each hand as he aimed them directly at Zack, his fingers on each nozzle as his lips curled into a devilish grin. Zack swept the hair from his face, his eyes going wide.

“Oh, shit,” he muttered as he tried to jump out of the line of fire, but Henry went after him as he started showering him in silly string. Zack put his hands up to shield his face as he started backing away from Henry, with Henry staying with him, always just a few steps away. 

“Okay, okay, I surrender!” Zack declared as he was backed into a corner, and Henry stopped for a moment. 

“Oh. You surrender?” he echoed, taking a few steps closer to Zack so that they were only a few inches apart as he lowered his arms. Zack hesitantly put his arms down a little as he met Henry’s gaze. 

“Yes, I surrender,” he continued, visibly relaxing as Henry started to turn away from him. 

“Oh, well in that case...” Henry started before he swiftly whirled back around, and Zack threw his hands back up to shield his face as Henry started enveloping him once more. Zack grabbed onto Henry’s wrists as he tried to direct the stream away from him, but he had the disadvantage of not being able to see what he was doing considering Henry was aiming right at his face. So, Henry continued to tower over him, burying him in a mountain of silly string while Zack futility held onto him. After a second, Henry could’ve sworn he heard Zack laughing, and he was surprised when he felt a laugh escaping from his own throat.

“What in the world is going on here?!” the two of them heard a voice cry beside them, and both boys froze in place, their eyes going wide. The pair of them slowly turned to see Ms. Tuttweiller standing in the doorway with her arms crossed as she shot daggers at them both. 

“He started it!” they both exclaimed simultaneously, each of them pointing to the other. Ms. Tuttweiller took a few steps into the room.

“Where’s London?” she questioned as she started surveying the damage. 

“Uhh...she…” Henry stuttered out, turning around to look at his teacher while his mind scrambled for a viable excuse, but he was coming up empty. Henry glanced back at Zack, and Zack quickly stepped up next to Henry as he spoke over him.

“She...went to go find you,” he sputtered as he put a hand on Henry’s shoulder, and Ms. Tuttweiller turned to meet his gaze, “Yeah, she tried to stop us when, you know, we started fighting with the silly string, but we weren’t listening, so she went to go find you in hopes that maybe you could stop it. Right, Swellview?” 

Henry glimpsed over at Zack for a second before he turned his attention back to Ms. Tuttweiller.

“Right, yes, that’s exactly what happened,” he said with a nod before he tried to subtly shake Zack’s hand off his shoulder. Ms. Tuttweiller narrowed her eyes as she looked between the two.

“Mhm,” she responded skeptically, “I’ll deal with her later. As for you,” she continued as she directed her attention to Henry, “I would give you detention for the rest of the week as well, but I feel like putting the two of you in a room together would be a bigger punishment for me than it would be for you. Instead, I’m just going to sit here,” she said as she sat down on her desk, crossing her legs over in front of her, “While the two of you clean up this mess. You can go when the room is clean.”

“But, Ms, T-” Zack began. Ms. Tuttweiller held up a hand to stop him. 

“Get to work,” she demanded. 

“But-” Zack continued. 

“No 'buts'!” Ms. Tuttweiller barked, and Henry heard Zack start snickering next to him. 

“You’re a child,” Henry snapped as he glared at him, but Zack just shrugged. 

“She said butts! It was funny!” he replied defensively.

“A child,” Henry shot back.

“You have to admit that was funny-”

“I don’t have admit to anything because it wasn’t, you’re just-” 

“Boys!” Ms. Tuttweiller yelled, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment, “Get to work,” she demanded. Henry and Zack shared a look before they started cleaning up their mess, while Ms. Tuttweiller watched over them from her desk like a warden in a prison. 


At around six o’clock, almost an hour and a half past when detention was originally supposed to end, Henry and Zack cleared out the last of the silly string and gum, save for some remnants still stuck to them, and Ms. Tuttweiller finally told them they were free to go. 

“Mind if I walk with you? You know, since our cabins are just a few doors down from one another,” Zack asked as they both stepped into the hall. 

“Yes, I do mind,” Henry replied, as he started towards his room, with Zack following after him, immediately falling into sync with him. 

“I love this whole back and forth banter thing we’ve got going on,” he quipped with a toothy smile and Henry rolled his eyes. The pair of them walked in comfortable silence for a while, each of them picking away at leftover pieces of silly string. 

“I think I’m gonna be finding silly string for at least the next week,” Henry commented as he pulled another chunk of it from his hair.

“At least now you know what fun is,” Zack replied as he started picking bits off his sleeve. Henry glared at him.

“I wouldn’t call that fun.” 

“I know the concept is foreign to you, so you probably wouldn’t recognize it when you experience it, but what we just had back there? That was fun.” 

“Having to stay in detention for an extra hour and a half to clean up a mess that you initially caused is not exactly my definition of a good time,” Henry countered. 

“Okay, so the clean-up wasn’t all that great, but the stuff before it was. C’mon, I’m pretty sure I heard you laughing at one point.”

“That was...I didn’t- That never happened,” Henry lied. Zack stopped at his cabin door, turning to face Henry, the corner of his mouth quirked up. 

“Why won’t you just admit that you had fun with me today?” 

“Because I didn’t,” Henry snapped, but he felt the tiniest twinge of guilt when he was certain he saw a hint of disappointment flash in Zack’s eyes, but it disappeared just as quickly as it came. 

“Whatever you say, Swellview,” Zack replied with a smirk, but his tone wasn’t quite as spirited as it had been before. “In any case, there was one good thing that came out of this whole ordeal,” he continued as he opened up the door to his room and stepped inside, turning to face Henry again as he leaned against the doorframe. 

“What’s that?” Henry inquired as he met Zack’s gaze. Zack stayed silent for a beat as he kept his eyes locked with Henry’s. 

“I at least got you to smile at me,” he responded, a smile dancing across his lips that caused his blue eyes to gleam. Henry watched him for a moment, his words lingering in his mind. He opened his mouth to respond, although he wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say, but Zack started talking again before he could. “It was definitely a welcome change from all the glares.” Henry’s eyes flicked to the floor for a second. “Later, Swellview,” Zack said, a smile still plastered on his face as he shut the door, leaving Henry alone in the hallway. Henry stood there for a minute, his mind replaying their conversation before he started towards his cabin, a smile tugging at his lips.

Chapter Text

Henry opened the door to his cabin to find Jasper sprawled sideways across the foot of his bed, his legs dangling off the edge as he scrolled through his phone.

“Hey. Where’s Char?” Henry inquired as he shut the door behind him before making his way over to his side of the room.

“She left a little while ago to get changed for dinner. She should be back any second,” Jasper answered without looking up. “Where have you been?”  

“Detention,” Henry replied, pulling a clean shirt out of his closet and turning around to toss it on his bed as he started unbuttoning the one he was currently wearing.

“Detention’s only an hour,” Jasper pointed out, sitting up a little to look at Henry, puzzled.

“Yeah, well, thanks to someone,” Henry began, a hint of disdain dripping from his voice, although he was surprised to find that the heat he normally felt in his chest at the thought of Zack wasn’t quite as intense as it had been before. He stopped talking when he noticed that Jasper was now approaching him, his eyebrows furrowed, clearly perplexed. “Dude, what’re you doing?!” he demanded, instinctively moving back a little and trying to block Jasper’s hand as he started picking at something in Henry’s hair.

“Is that… Silly string?” Jasper questioned, holding up a small piece of neon red plastic string.

“Oh. Yeah. Part of the reason I was stuck in detention for so long,” Henry responded flatly with a roll of his eyes, tossing his dirty shirt on the floor next to his bed before he started pulling on the clean one. Jasper cocked his head to the side, continuing to watch him with a bewildered expression, clearly waiting for Henry to elaborate. A second later, they heard a knock at the door.

“It’s open,” Jasper called out, his gaze still locked on Henry. He finally tore his eyes away when the door opened and Charlotte stepped inside. Both boys' eyes landed on her.

“Well, don’t you look nice,” Henry said with a smile, admiring for a moment how pretty she looked in her skirt and crop top.

“Doesn’t she always?” Jasper commented, his eyes now glued to Charlotte. Charlotte glimpsed at the floor for a moment as she tried to conceal a smile. A second later her eyes moved to Henry, curiosity now etched on her face as she approached him.

“Is that-?”

“Yes, it’s silly string,” Henry stated, his tone exasperated as he rapidly ran both hands through his hair, trying to shake out any remaining remnants. Charlotte continued to watch him for a second, obviously puzzled, before she looked over at Jasper, but Jasper just shrugged.

“He hasn’t told me. All I know is it involved Zack,” he said, moving to sit down at the foot of his bed, and Charlotte’s expression returned to normal as she nodded in response.

“Speaking of Zack,” she started, looking to Henry, and Henry felt the corners of his mouth tugging upwards ever so slightly as his previous conversation with Zack in the hallway just minutes prior flashed in his mind, “He was asking us about you today,” she finished as she gestured to her and Jasper.

“So I heard,” Henry responded, buttoning the last few buttons on his shirt. “You know, he asked me about you too,” he continued, looking at Charlotte with a teasing smile.

“Me? Why? When?” Charlotte replied, her eyebrows knitted together, and the corners of her mouth turned down.

“That first day we came onboard. He thinks you're cute.”

“Well, if the rumors I’ve heard about him are at all true, there’s no way in hell that’s happening,” Charlotte said as she sat down at Jasper’s side.

“Why? What’d you hear?” Jasper inquired as he looked over at her.

“That’s he dated and dumped at least half the girls on this ship.”

Jasper and Henry shared a look before Henry sat down at the foot of his own bed and started pulling off his sneakers, but he paused for a moment, “Wait… When did he talk to you guys?”

“I don’t know, I think right after classes ended,” Jasper said.

“Yeah. In fact, I think it was right around the time detention was supposed to start,” Charlotte replied.

So, that was the thing he had to take care of?

“What kind of stuff was he asking you?” Henry pressed, a suspicious feeling beginning to form in the pit of his stomach again.

“Just what you like to do for fun and stuff,” Jasper answered with a shrug.

“According to him, he feels bad for all the trouble he’s caused you since you got on board, and he’s just trying to find a way to make it up to you,” Charlotte added. Henry watched them for a beat.

“Well, what did you tell him?”

The two shared a look of uncertainty.

“Well…” Jasper started, his gaze snapping to the ground.

“We weren’t sure what to tell him,” Charlotte said. “It’s not like we could very well say crime-fighting, and you don’t really do much else these days…”

Henry’s eyebrows knitted together as he looked at the floor.

“We also told him about your work,” Jasper continued, and Henry’s eyes went wide as they snapped to him.

“You what?!” he declared.

“Not about that!” Jasper added hastily, the tiniest hint of annoyance in his voice, “Just about Junk n’ Stuff.”

Henry stared at the two of them, his mind beginning to race. There was something about this that didn’t quite feel like it was adding up.

Was Zack truly feeling remorseful?

Or was he cleverly getting information on Henry under the guise of finding a way to apologize to him?

And if he was who Henry was starting to think he might be, telling him about Junk n’ Stuff, even the mundane side of it, was a potentially risky move.

A light tapping on the door yanked Henry out his train of thought.

“Come in!” he and Jasper called out simultaneously. The door swung open and a second later Cody stepped into the room. Henry felt his heart rate increase as he shot up, any suspicion or lingering thoughts of Zack immediately leaving his head.  

“Hey,” Henry said as smoothly as he possibly could. He could see his two friends grinning and rolling their eyes out of his peripheral vision, but he chose to ignore it.

“Hey,” Cody replied with a smile, “I was just getting ready to head to the restaurant. I wasn’t sure if you’d know where it was at or not, so you guys want to walk with me?” he asked, looking between the three of him as he pointed towards the hallway.

“Sure. Let’s go,” Henry declared, and Cody started back out of the room with Henry in tow.

“Uhh… Hen. Aren’t you forgetting something?” Charlotte called after him. He and Cody paused in the hallway as Henry tried to figure out what she could be talking about.

“Oh, right,” Henry said as he walked back in and grabbed his brown leather jacket off the back of his desk chair. “Thanks, Char,” he said with a wink and a click of his tongue before rejoining Cody in the hall.

“Shoes, Henry,” Jasper yelled after him. Henry froze once more, glancing down to see that he had never actually finished changing his shoes, so he was still wearing one sneaker on one foot and just a sock on the other. He looked up then to see that Cody was now trying to conceal an amused grin.

“I’ll be right back,” he mumbled, avoiding his gaze as he slumped back into his room. Jasper and Charlotte were standing next to the open door with teasing smiles, which only grew when he looked over at them.

“Shut up,” he grumbled before making his way to his closet.  


Several minutes later, Cody led the three of them into a restaurant on the Main Deck, aptly named the Prima Marina. Straight past the entrance on either side were two staircases that led to a second-story dining area that wrapped around the first-floor dining area, with two-person tables pressed against the railings that looked out over the whole of the restaurant. The walls were dark, with false candles on each of the tables and low lighting to create a dimly lit ambiance. Light fixtures shaped to look like jellyfish hung high on the ceiling. The room was filled with circular tables covered in white tablecloths. The carpet was made up of different hues of blues, and underneath each of the tables came a dark blue glow of lights in order to make the ground look like the glistening ocean floor.

Before the hostess could even say anything, Cody and Henry spotted Bailey at a table close to the other end of the restaurant, waving them over. She was sitting next to a husky, curly-haired kid in glasses Henry recognized from the Sky Deck his first day onboard, although he had never gotten his name. The group started over to her, and Henry noticed a familiar pair of blue eyes land on them from a table along the way.

“Hey, Code Red,” Zack said once they were directly next to his table. The four of them stopped for a moment.

“Hey. What are you doing here?” Cody asked, his eyebrows furrowed.

“Tonight’s my dinner with London. Just, waiting for London,” Zack said as he gestured to the empty chair across from him.

“Ah, yes. You’re oh so secret dinners,” Cody responded scornfully, “When are you finally gonna tell me what these are about?”

Zack rolled his eyes.

“You really have to let that go.”

“Don’t worry,” Cody replied, clasping his hands down on Zack’s shoulders a little forcefully as he bent down next to his ear, “I won’t.”

Zack rolled his eyes, pushing the hair from his face as Cody straightened back up. Zack’s eyes then moved directly past Henry’s two friends as they landed on Henry, his lips curling into a smile. Cody gestured for them to follow him again as he started over to the table with Bailey and his curly-haired friend, but Henry hung back for a beat.

“You stalking me now, Swellview?” Zack teased. Henry crossed his arms over his chest as he met Zack’s gaze. “Oh good. I see we’re back to the glaring,” Zack proceeded before Henry could even speak, his smile immediately vanishing.

“You’re the one seeking out my friends in order to ask a bunch of questions about me. If anyone’s the stalker here…” Henry quipped as he gestured to Zack. Zack smirked, and even under the glow of the dimly lit room, Henry could see a playful gleam in his eye.

“Touché.”

“Hey, Henry, c’mon! I want you to meet somebody!” Henry heard Cody call out to him, and the pair of them looked over to see that Cody had his arm slung around Bailey’s shoulders as he waved him over. Zack met Henry’s gaze once more, and Henry noticed that annoyance was now etched all over his face.

“I guess you’re being summoned. See ya, Swellview,” he said as he turned back around in his chair and Henry made his way over to his friends. Bailey and Cody were standing side-by-side on the other side of the table directly across from him, while their curly-haired friend was seated on Cody’s left, with Jasper sitting on the other side of him. There was an empty seat in between Jasper and Charlotte, presumably saved for Henry, with Charlotte sitting next to what Henry assumed was going to be Bailey’s seat.

Cody was practically beaming at him as he gestured to Bailey.

“Hen,” he started, and Henry felt his rate increase somewhat at the nickname, “I want you to meet my girlfriend-”

“Actually, we’ve met,” Bailey interjected as she smiled at Henry, “Hello, again,” she said with a little wave, but Henry had only half heard her as his mind was now stuck on the word girlfriend. He felt a sinking feeling invade his chest.

“Girlfriend!” he responded, his voice much louder than he intended as he clasped his hands down on Jasper and Charlotte’s shoulders on either side of him, causing them to jump a little. He did his best to plaster on a fake smile. “Did you hear that, guys? Girlfriend!” he continued, his voice just a few octaves below a shout. Cody and Bailey’s smiles faded as they and their other friend watched Henry with puzzled expressions and Henry did his best to calm himself as he slumped down into the chair in between his two friends. “That’s just… so wonderful for you two. I’m so happy,” he finished through gritted teeth.

“Okay…” Cody replied slowly, a confused expression still etched on his face as he clearly tried to shake off that little interaction. “This is our other friend, Woody,” he proceeded, gesturing to the curly-haired kid in glasses sitting next Jasper as he and Bailey sat down.  

“Hey,” Henry mumbled as he nodded to the kid, jutting his chin out for a moment before he grabbed a piece of bread from the basket in the middle of the table and ripped a portion off somewhat forcefully with his teeth. The group sat in silence for several minutes, an awkward tension now hanging in the air between them. Each of them picked up the menus in front of them as they started pursuing them.

Charlotte held hers up, creating a shield between her and the others as she leaned in close to Henry.

“You okay?” she asked, concern dripping from her voice.

“I’m fine,” he replied, glancing over at her as he forced a smile. He could tell from Charlotte’s expression that she wasn’t exactly buying his answer, but she didn’t try to press the matter any further. “It’s probably for the best, anyways,” he added, dropping the façade for a brief moment as he allowed the dismay to show on his face.

He decided then that it was for the best. Was he disappointed Cody had a girlfriend? Sure. But, he knew deep down that his time on this ship was limited (he was hoping extremely limited) and so he shouldn’t have allowed himself to grow so infatuated with someone he was only going to be around for a brief period of time anyway.  

He swore then that he wouldn’t allow himself to make that same mistake twice.

Charlotte gave him an apologetic smile before putting her menu back down and moving away from him.

“You know, Hen,” Jasper started without looking up, his voice low like Charlotte’s had been just seconds ago, “I know you said Zack thinks Charlotte’s cute, but did you notice back there that he seemed to only have eyes for you?” he concluded, finally moving his eyes off his menu in order to look at Henry, his lips curled into a teasing grin. Henry’s brows snapped together and he narrowed his eyes a little as he looked at Jasper. He knew Jasper was just trying to cheer him up by joking with him, but the fact that all of Zack’s attention was seemingly focused on him didn’t make Henry feel anything other than wary.

“Hey, that’s true!” Charlotte whispered back as she pointed to Jasper, and the two of them shared a playful smile. “He didn’t even look in my direction. It’s like I wasn’t even there,” she added, her smile fading. “I don’t know if I should be relieved or offended.”

“Relieved,” Henry and Jasper replied simultaneously.

“Who’s relieved about what?” Woody asked as he set his menu down in front of him, and the trio’s eyes flicked to him, somewhat startled, as they had almost forgotten for a second that there were other people at the table with them.

“Relieved that…” Henry stuttered, his eyes moving between his two friends, his expression desperate.

“Relieved that....this place has crab cakes!” Jasper announced suddenly, pointing to crab cakes on the menu, “Henry loves crab cakes.”

“It’s true, I do,” Henry stated, nodding as he met Woody’s gaze.

“Me too!” Woody uttered with a wide smile. A perky blonde waitress in a formal uniform came over to take their orders then, and once everyone had finished, Cody jump-started the conversation by asking everyone what they had done over the summer. Henry, however, was having a hard time focusing considering that Cody and Bailey were being obnoxiously lovey-dovey. He had his arm around the back of her chair, they were practically glued together at the sides, and whenever their food arrived, they’d pick a piece up with their fingers and feed it to each other. Around the time they started the baby talk is when Henry felt a wave of nausea wash over him.

“Are they always like this?” Jasper muttered as he leaned in close to Woody for a second.

“No. They’re usually much worse,” Woody responded and Jasper moved away from him again, his eyebrows raised as he shot a look to his two friends.

Henry picked at the food in front of him with his fork, but he couldn’t bring himself to eat much as he felt like he was going to vomit every time he looked at the happy couple. He watched as Bailey picked up a piece of bread and fed it to Cody before the two of them shared a bunny kiss. He knew at this point the disgust was showing on his face, but it wasn’t like the two of them were paying attention to anything else to even notice.

He finally tore his eyes away when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out, his heart jumping into his throat when he noticed he had gotten a new text from an unknown number.

Careful, KD. Wouldn’t want your new crush to find out how jealous you are.

His heart started pounding in his chest as he frantically scanned the restaurant. His eyes soon locked on a pair of familiar blue ones, and Henry felt his stomach twist into a sickening knot as Zack smirked at him. He noticed that Zack was holding onto a phone underneath the table, but it was a different phone than Henry had seen him with before. Realization suddenly dawned on him as he turned his attention back to the table.

“I’m so sorry to do this,” he began, trying desperately not to sound panicked as he shot up, “but I just remembered we’ve got this huge project due tomorrow that we’ve haven’t even started yet so we’re gonna have to take a rain check on dinner. Thank you so much for inviting us, but we’ve gotta go,” he finished as he grabbed onto Charlotte and Jasper’s upper arms and promptly jerked them out of their chairs. Jasper’s fork hit the plate with a loud clang, while the spoonful of soup Charlotte was in the process of eating spilled all over her and the table. They stumbled out of their chairs, shooting Henry aggravated looks as they both yanked themselves out of his grip. Bailey and Cody finally turned their attention to them, their eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

“A big project? But, it’s only the first day,” Bailey pointed out.

“Right, well. This isn’t for school,” Henry sputtered, his mind desperately searching for a viable excuse, “It has to do with our parents. And stuff back home.”

The couple shared puzzled looks.

“Well, maybe we could help you,” Cody suggested as he started to stand up.

“No!” Henry exclaimed, and Cody slowly sunk back into his chair, his bewildered expression deepening. “No,” Henry echoed, his voice a little calmer, “This is something we have to do on our own.”

Woody stood up then. “Well, if they’re leaving, I’m leaving,” he stated. Cody’s eyes flicked to him.

“What? Why?!” he inquired.

“I just don’t want to be here,” he replied with a shrug, and with that, he was gone.

“Woody!” Cody called after him, irritation in his tone, but Woody just waved his hand dismissively. A second later, he turned back around, grabbing his plate of food and shooting Cody and Bailey one more look before he went to join London and Zack at their table.

“Again, so sorry about this,” Henry continued, clutching his two friends by the arms again as he started to pull them away.

“Wait. Can’t I at least get mine to go?” Jasper questioned, exasperation dripping from his tone as he gestured to his plate.

“No. We gotta go now,” Henry responded.

“But-”

“Now!”

Jasper let out a deep sigh as he rolled his eyes, but he didn’t try to argue anymore.

“Just...text me your cash app of choice and we’ll pay you back for all this. Okay? Okay. See ya!” Henry proclaimed, and with that, he started swiftly dragging Jasper and Charlotte across the restaurant, much to their dismay.

Once they were out in the hallway Henry finally let go as he quickly glanced around for a beat, making sure there was no one around to overhear them. Charlotte and Jasper stared at Henry with agitated expressions.

“Alright, dude, what the hell?” Jasper snapped.

“Seriously. You made me spill hot soup all over my favorite outfit!” Charlotte growled, trying futility to wipe off the soup that was now staining her skirt. Henry looked between the two, worry etched all over his face.

“Guys… I know who Mystica is.”

Chapter Text

“I figured out who Mystica is,” Henry repeated as he led Charlotte and Jasper into his cabin. 

“Already?” Jasper responded, and Henry and Charlotte shot him a look. “What? Just feels soon, that’s all. I mean, we just got here,” he mumbled as he sunk down onto his bed. 

“Okay, so who is it?” Charlotte inquired as she took a seat next to Jasper. 

“It’s…” Henry started, pausing for a minute as he looked between his two friends, steeling himself for their inevitable reaction once he dropped this bomb on them. “It’s Zack.”  

Charlotte and Jasper remained silent for a moment as they shared a look.

“I’m sorry, Zack?” Charlotte echoed. 

“Zack… Martin? Like, one half of Zack and Cody, Zack?” Jasper replied, both of their eyebrows knitted together and their eyes narrowed slightly as they looked at Henry. 

Okay, not exactly the reaction I was expecting, ” he thought as he rolled his eyes.

“Yeah. The very same,” he answered.

The pair glanced at one another, doubt etched on their faces.  

“Okay, I hear what you’re saying,” Jasper began, skepticism dripping from his voice, “But I was on the Sky Deck that second day we were here, during one of his shifts at the smoothie bar, and I watched him spill smoothie ingredients all over himself and the counter no less than three times because he kept forgetting that you have to put the lid on the blender before you press start.” 

“Yeah, I mean… No offense to Zack but he seems kind of…” Charlotte said, trailing off as she snapped her fingers together, clearly searching for the right word. 

“Flaky? Ditzy? Goofy?” Jasper offered. 

“I was trying to find a nicer way to put it, but that works,” she replied. 

“Okay, but what if the whole flaky, goofy thing is just an act?” Henry suggested. Jasper and Charlotte shared another look and Henry exhaled sharply, his frustration growing by the second.  

“Okay… Assuming that’s true for a minute…” Charlotte responded slowly, “Why would he be targeting Swellview? I mean, what’s his motive here? As far as we know, he’s never even been there.” 

“As far as we know,” Henry reiterated, emphasizing the words, “Besides that, we don’t know he’s targeting just Swellview.”

Charlotte studied Henry for a beat, her expression still twisted in uncertainty. 

“You know if it was going to be either of the twins, I’d be more apt to think it’s…” she started, and both her and Jasper’s eyes went wide as they looked at each other. 

“Cody!” they declared simultaneously. 

“It’s not Cody,” Henry tried to interject, but the pair started talking over him. 

“Yes! Why didn’t we think of him before?!” Jasper uttered excitedly.

“Whenever I was researching this place his name, along with his girlfriend’s, kept coming up. I guess they’ve both won a bunch of awards for academics. So you know, he’s got the brains to pull it off,” Charlotte explained. 

“Not only that, but we know he fixed the ship’s computer the first night we were on board so that pretty much tells you right there that he knows his way around a computer,” Jasper added.  

“Also! Why would Mr. Moseby pick Cody specifically to fix it? I mean, out of the hundreds of employees on this ship he picks a sixteen-year-old high school student ?” Charlotte continued. 

“It’s not Cody,” Henry persisted, but his friends continued to ignore him. Jasper’s eyes grew round as he pointed at Charlotte. 

“Oh! And we know from this that he has access to the ship’s computer, which I’m sure not a lot of people have, and a computer that size…” Jasper said. 

“Would most likely be powerful enough to hack into places all over Swellview. Even while in the middle of the ocean,” Charlotte finished for him. 

“Although, could it really be used for that? I mean…” Jasper muttered, and he and Charlotte started mumbling over one another as they tried to work out the specifics.

“Guys!” Henry exclaimed, and the two of them finally stopped to look at him. “It’s not! Cody!” he asserted. Charlotte pressed her lips into a thin line. 

“Are you saying that because you genuinely believe that? Or because you’re letting your crush cloud your judgment?” she said, pursing her lips and raising her eyebrows as she peered at him. Henry stayed silent as he kept his gaze locked with hers. 

He didn’t want to admit it, even to himself, but his friends had planted the tiniest seed of doubt deep within him. 

“Yeah. No offense, Hen, but you don’t have the best track record when it comes to people you’re attracted to,” Jasper remarked, and Henry’s eyebrows snapped together as his gaze moved to him.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, there was Veronica the Wall Dog,” Jasper recalled, and Henry scoffed. 

“That doesn’t count, I was undercover.” 

“What about Heather the jewel thief?” Charlotte commented.

“That’s-”  

“Oh! Or Noelle, Ms. Shapen’s niece,” Jasper interrupted. 

“Hey! We were both attracted to her!” Henry shot back defensively, and Jasper rolled his eyes. 

“Okay. That’s my one to your three.” 

“What about-” Charlotte started, but Henry cut her off. 

“Alright! I get it,” he snapped as he crossed his arms over his chest, “But, I’m telling you, it’s not Cody. It’s definitely Zack.” 

“Okay. What’s your evidence?” Charlotte interrogated, the skepticism in her voice returning. Henry paused for a second, his gaze flicking to the floor as he started chewing on his thumbnail.

“Well, I mean, just think about it. It makes sense. He’s been there every time we’ve gotten a text,” he began as he started to pace the floor, “We already know that this Mystica knows my secret identity. And everything he’s done so far… It’s the perfect distraction to keep me occupied. I mean, two seconds after stepping foot on the boat, he elbows me in the face. That was a pretty big distraction for a while,” he continued, his nose throbbing slightly at the memory. “The bruise, skipping class, getting me thrown in detention, the silly string, all of it was the perfect way to keep me busy. It all looked circumstantial, coincidental, but it wasn’t. The more time he spends keeping me busy, the less time I have to work out that he’s Mystica.” 

“Or, if Cody’s really Mystica,” Charlotte proclaimed and Henry stopped on his side of the room as she popped up and started pacing in the same spot where Henry had just seconds ago, “Maybe he just manipulated his brother into causing the distractions for him. It was just a matter of making sure you guys got thrown together in a way that makes it look coincidental. Like, say, making sure you have almost every class together or picking the same restaurant tonight. I mean, you said that Zack mentioned that he’s always in detention or skipping class, and he doesn’t seem like the most… Gracious person. I’m thinking maybe this is just typical Zack.” 

“Okay, but why would Cody do that?” Henry retorted with a puzzled expression.

“Same reason you’re claiming Zack would; throw you off his trail and to keep you distracted. I mean, he was there that first day when Zack elbowed you. And considering both Zack and Bailey were there the second time it happened, I’m sure you growling at him to ‘stay the hell away from me’ got back to Cody somehow. So, he might’ve assumed your genuine hatred would be enough to divert you and keep you occupied.” 

Henry stared at her for a beat.

“Cody was surprised to see Zack at the restaurant, though. Remember?” he responded. 

“What was that you were saying earlier? About it all being an act?” Charlotte said, her lips curling into a satisfied grin. Henry exhaled sharply as he tried to find a way to dispute her claims. 

“Alright, how about this? Cody couldn’t have sent that text because I was looking right at him when it came through,” he declared triumphantly. 

“His phone could’ve been under the table, he could have a partner who sent it… I mean think about it. We text in class all the time but we’ve pretty much perfected the art of doing so while still making the teachers think we’re paying attention to them instead.”

“Okay...but…” Henry sputtered, trying to work out exactly what to say to that, “Okay! The text was about him though,” he continued as he pulled out his phone and started searching for it, “See? It says, ‘Careful, KD. Wouldn’t want your new crush to find out how jealous you are.’ I mean, he’s my new crush so? What do you say to that?” 

“Henry, think about it! We already know Mystica is crafty... And subtly talking about himself like that as Mystica is a clever way of making sure we automatically cross him off the suspect list,” Charlotte remarked. Henry studied her for a moment, his mind beginning to reel. 

“If Zack isn’t Mystica, then why was he asking you guys all those questions about me?” 

“You’re right. Asking what you like to do for fun really spells out criminal mastermind to me,” Charlotte replied sarcastically and Henry narrowed his eyes as he scowled at her.  

“Maybe he just likes you?” Jasper proposed, meeting Henry’s gaze. 

Henry froze for a minute, blinking rapidly, his mind suddenly stuck on Jasper’s words. He had never really considered Zack liking him as being a possibility, but now that he was…

“Listen, I know that it’s him,” Henry announced, now suddenly desperate for a change of subject, “When I got that text, I looked over and he was looking right at me. And he kinda smiled like… Like he knew what I was freaking out about and like he was... toying with me.” 

“Hen, he’s literally always smiling at you. That doesn’t prove much,” Jasper chimed in, his brows knitted together, and Charlotte gestured to him like she agreed with what he was saying.

“It’s not just that. Both of the twins have those really old flip phones that haven’t been relevant in like, ten years. I remember because I thought it was strange considering I’ve never seen anyone under the age of fifty use one. But when I looked over at Zack, he wasn’t using a flip phone. He had a smartphone,” Henry explained. The three remained silent for a beat, with Charlotte and Jasper staring at Henry blankly, like they were waiting for him to continue.

“And? That’s it? You made me miss dinner because Zack was holding a smartphone?!” Jasper demanded, his tone agitated as he tossed himself back onto the bed.

“Why else would he need a burner phone, Jasp? Other than to harass all three of us as Mystica?” Henry shot back. 

“How do you even know it was his?! He might’ve just borrowed it from London for a second!” Jasper snapped, sitting back up to meet Henry’s gaze. 

“Henry,” Charlotte started, clearly trying to keep her voice calm, “There’s a million reasons why he might have two different phones. That’s not nearly enough evidence.”

“Okay, how about this,” Henry continued, “That first day we were on the ship and Cody brought me an ice pack, I asked how he knew where to find me and he told me Zack had literally hacked into Mr. Moseby’s computer. I mean he literally just told me right there who the hacker is!”

“Or maybe Cody did it and he’s just blaming it on Zack,” Jasper remarked. Henry let out a sigh of frustration as he plopped down onto his bed. 

“Even if you’re right,” Charlotte replied, “Everything you’re giving us is circumstantial at best-”

“Circumstantial or not, I’m telling you guys, it’s him!” Henry interjected.

“Okay,” Charlotte said, her tone suddenly tired, “Then we need to collect substantial evidence against him before we do anything. Which means, I need you to be patient,” she continued, addressing Henry, “We don’t have enough yet for you to be doing anything hasty. Promise me you won’t do anything impulsive?” she finished, her eyes practically pleading with him.

“Or stupid,” Jasper interjected, and Henry scoffed as he crossed his arms over his chest. 

“I promise,” he said, but both of his friends stared at him skeptically. He rolled his eyes. “I promise!” he insisted. 


“Zachary Martin!” Kid Danger bellowed as he stepped out onto the Sky Deck where Zack was currently having lunch with his brother and their two friends. Zack froze midway through taking a bite of his sandwich, the rest of his group followed suit as all eyes landed on him while his eyes moved to Henry. Henry approached the table, his shoulders back, as he kept his eyes locked on Zack. “You need to come with me. Now ,” he demanded, pointing a gloved finger at Zack. Zack set his sandwich down, his lips spreading into a toothy grin, his eyes crawling all over Henry as he examined Kid Danger’s costume, but before he could say anything, they heard a loud gasp coming from the other side of the table, and Henry looked up to see that Woody was now gawking at him, his eyes as big as saucers. 

“I recognize you,” he said as he slowly stood up and started approaching him, his gaze glued to Henry. Of course, Henry was used to people in Swellview recognizing Kid Danger, but it was highly unusual for anyone outside of Swellview to do so, and the way Woody was staring at him like he knew exactly who he was, was making Henry feel all kinds of anxious.

“No you don’t,” Henry shot back, instinctively taking a few steps back, stumbling on a few chairs along the way. 

“Yes I do,” Woody insisted and Henry’s heart started to pound. 

“No, you don’t ,” Henry asserted, putting his hands up to stop Woody, silently hoping that he wasn’t about to expose him in front of everyone. 

How did he figure it out so fast?

“Yeah, you’re-” Woody began, and Henry squeezed his eyes shut, his mind reeling as he tried to quickly think of an excuse. 

“Okay, let me-” 

“Kid Danger!” Woody announced, and Henry’s eyes snapped open as he met Woody’s gaze.

“What?”  

Kid Danger ?” Zack snorted, and Henry’s eyes went dark as they started boring into Zack. 

“Zack,” Cody hissed as he shot a warning look to his twin. 

“What? It’s a stupid name,” Zack responded with a shrug. Henry continued to glare at Zack but he didn’t say anything. 

 “I’ve read all your comic books,” Woody continued, pointing an index finger at Henry. Zack, Cody, and Bailey all exchanged puzzled looks. 

“Comic books?” Cody mouthed, but Zack and Bailey just shrugged. Henry looked between the three of them for a moment, before turning his attention back to Woody. 

“You have? I didn’t think anyone outside of Swellview was even aware of our comic books,” Henry commented. 

“So, you’re from Swellview?” Bailey asked, her eyes narrowed, and Henry felt his heart rate speed up again.

“Well, yeah-” 

Before Henry could finish, Woody let out another loud gasp. 

“Is Captain Man with you?” he squeaked before he put his hands together in front of his face with a giddy expression. Henry shook his head, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

“No, he’s not.” 

Woody’s face immediately fell as he let his arms rest at his sides. 

“Whose Captain Man?” Cody whispered to his brother and his girlfriend.

“How the hell should I know?” Zack muttered back.

Shouldn’t he know this? 

Unless it’s part of his act to appear innocent. 

Yeah, that must be it. 

It has to be.

“Oh,” Woody replied, clearly disappointed, and Henry let out a heavy sigh. He was pretty used to people being let down that Captain Man wasn’t with him, but it didn’t make it any less annoying or frankly, disheartening. “Well, you were always my favorite anyway,” Woody concluded, and Henry forgot for a moment how annoyed he was with Zack as he felt a smile tugging at his lips. 

“Really?” he inquired, and Woody nodded excitedly in response. Henry felt a warmth spreading through his chest. 

“Okay, who are you?” Cody demanded, and Henry’s mind returned to the mission at hand as he looked at him.

“I’m-”

“I told you; he’s Kid Danger,” Woody interjected incredulously as he gestured to Henry, scoffing as he met Henry’s gaze. 

“What he said,” Henry responded, pointing to Woody. Cody narrowed his eyes a little. 

“Yeah, I got that, but what does that mean? What is all this?” Cody said as he gestured to Henry. 

“He’s a superhero,” Woody replied. 

“No, really,” Cody shot back. 

“That’s… He’s right. I’m really a superhero,” Henry said. Cody’s eyes went round as he shot a look to Zack.

“You pissed off a superhero?!” he cried as he hit Zack on the arm and Zack just glared at him as he rubbed the spot where he’d just been hit. 

“You know, you do look kind of familiar,” Bailey chimed in, narrowing her eyes as she slowly stood up, making her way over to Henry. Henry instinctively moved back again, his heart starting to pound and his blood turning to ice. Zack’s eyes moved to him then as he pushed the hair from his eyes.

“Yeah… I swear I’ve seen that glare before,” he added, squinting as he studied Henry. 

Henry was starting to grow tired of this innocent act. 

“Don’t play games,” he snapped, and Zack’s brows knitted together as he peered at him for a beat. 

“I wasn’t aware that I was,” he replied, looking to Cody with a puzzled expression, but Cody just shrugged. Henry noticed then that Bailey was still observing him with an odd look, and so he tried to quickly get the mission back on track. He grabbed the shoulder of Zack’s leather jacket, forcefully pulling him out of his chair.

“You’re coming with me right now.” 

“Hey! Hey! Alright,” Zack barked as he yanked himself from Henry’s grip. “If you’re planning on manhandling me like that, you could at least buy me dinner first,” he quipped as he started readjusting his jacket, scowling at Henry.

“Okay, hang on,” Cody proclaimed as he stood up, “Why does he need to come with you?” 

“He’s in huge trouble,” Henry responded, his tone like acid as he shot daggers at Zack and Zack just rolled his eyes. 

“What did you do ?” Cody seethed, his eyes glued to his twin, exasperation dripping from his tone and etched all over his face. Zack shrugged in response. 

“This could really be for any number of things,” he answered, his eyes darting to Henry, and Cody pinched the bridge of his nose as he let out a sharp sigh, “Although, I’m not sure what I’ve done to this guy specifically,” he added. 

“Oh, so much,” Henry retorted.  

“So.. You know him?” Bailey inquired, squinting at Henry as she pointed at Zack. Henry felt his heart leap into his throat.

“Uhh… well.. not personally. I just know of him. I’ve learned about him through my sources,” Henry stammered. Bailey continued to stare at him.

“And those would be?” she pressed, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“Confidential.” 

“Yeah, Bailey. Haven’t you ever read a comic book?” Woody interjected in disbelief, and Bailey just looked at him.

“No,” she replied incredulously. Henry pulled a pair of handcuffs out of his utility belt as he turned back to Zack.

“Put your hands out,” he instructed. Zack’s lips curved into a smirk as his eyes flicked to the handcuffs in Henry’s hand before he met Henry’s gaze once more. 

“Handcuffs? Really? That’s-” 

Henry pulled out a laser, holding it just a few inches from Zack’s neck before he could finish, his eyes going dark. 

“Not another word,” he warned. Zack’s gaze snapped to the laser in his hand, and Henry saw the tiniest hint of fear flash in his eyes as he shut his mouth, but just as quickly as it appeared, the fear vanished and was replaced with something Henry couldn’t quite recognize. His lips crept into a grin as his eyes slowly moved back up to meet Henry’s. 

“Woah. Whatever you say, KD,” he remarked, a playful tone in his voice, “But, seriously, what is this? Am I being punked?” 

Henry exhaled sharply as he stared at Zack.

Leave it to Zack to not even take his arrest seriously. 

Henry contemplated hitting him with the laser for a second just to wipe that stupid smile off his face, but he didn’t feel like having to deal with dragging his unconscious body off the Sky Deck or explaining to his friends what had happened.

“No. Now just… Put your hands out,” he repeated, frustration in his tone. 

“Hang on a second,” Bailey said as she stepped in between Henry and Zack. “This kind of seems like it’s an arrest.” 

“That’s because it is,” Henry responded.

“Woah, what?!” Zack and Cody both cried simultaneously. 

Just like that, Zack suddenly didn’t seem so amused anymore.

“Well, Zack,” Cody began as he took a step towards his brother, “I always knew this day would come, I just didn’t expect it to get here so soon.” 

“Thank you, Cody, that’s super helpful,” Zack replied sarcastically through gritted teeth. 

“What exactly are the charges? And, do you even have the authority to make an arrest?” Bailey interrogated as she glared at Henry. Henry’s mind started racing as he tried to figure out a way to answer the first question. 

Okay, mayyyyybe I really should’ve listened to Charlotte and Jasp.

“First of all, yes I do have the authority and secondly, he-”

“KID DANGER?!” Henry heard a familiar voice practically shriek a little ways beside him, and he turned to see his little sister swiftly making her way over to him. 

Oh no.  

“What are you doing here?” she asked excitedly as she pushed past Bailey and Cody in order to stand directly in front of him. 

“I’m… On a very important mission,” he replied, praying that she wouldn’t press the issue any further. 

“That involves Zack?” Cody inquired as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Well-” 

“Wait, I recognize you,” Piper said as she pointed to Zack, “You’re the guy that hit my brother in the face.” 

“You’re related to Swellview?” he responded. Piper furrowed her eyebrows, a confused look crossing her face. 

“Who?” 

“Right, sorry. I just call him that for fun. And sometimes cause I think it annoys him,” Zack quipped with a grin, and Henry saw the faintest smile cross Piper’s face, “It doesn’t matter now, though, we’re good. We’re friends.” 

Henry scoffed as his gaze flicked to the floor, and when he looked back up, he noticed that everyone was watching him with curiosity. 

“Sorry. I just know if someone hit me with a door, I probably wouldn’t forgive them that fast,” he stuttered out.

“Wait, how do you know Kid Danger?” Woody inquired, looking at Piper, and Henry internally thanked him for that quick change of subject.  

“Everyone in Swellview knows Kid Danger,” Piper responded, “Besides that, I’m president of the Man Fans.” 

You’re the president?! You’re Piper Hart?!” Woody practically shouted, his tone eager, and Piper nodded in response. 

“Okay, what’s a Man Fan?” Zack inquired. 

“Oh my god, Kid Danger! What are you doing here?” Henry heard another familiar female voice announce dramatically behind him. 

“Oh, there is so much going on right now,” Cody muttered as he squeezed his eyes shut and started massaging his temples. Henry turned around to see Charlotte and Jasper quickly making their way over to him. 

“Thank goodness you’re here! On a boat. In the middle of the ocean,” Charlotte finished through gritted teeth as she glowered at Henry. 

“Do you know him?” Bailey inquired as she pointed to Henry, and Charlotte and Jasper shared a look.

“Of course we do!” Jasper stammered, and Henry and Charlotte’s eyes went wide, “He’s Kid Danger! Everyone in Swellview knows him.” Charlotte and Henry visibly relaxed while Bailey just continued to stare at them, her arms crossed over her chest. 

“Told you,” Piper declared. “But what are you guys doing out here?” she demanded, turning her attention to Charlotte and Jasper, “And where’s Henry?”

“Yes, where is Henry?” Bailey interjected. 

“He’s back at our cabin, trying to…contain an emergency that we need Kid Danger for. Right now. Immediately,” Charlotte proclaimed theatrically, turning her attention back to Henry. 

“Now? I’m kind of in the middle of something,” Henry replied, his eyes darting to Zack and back again.

“Now,” Charlotte echoed, her tone severe. Henry let out a deep sigh as Charlotte and Jasper began to lead him away from the group. 

“Well, if it’s an emergency, maybe we could help too,” Bailey suggested. 

“Ooo, yeah! I wanna help!” Piper declared enthusiastically. 

“No!” Jasper and Charlotte exclaimed simultaneously, and the remaining five watched them with puzzled looks. 

“No,” Charlotte continued, clearly trying to appear calm, “With Kid Danger’s help, we know we can handle this. Besides, you know Henry would never forgive us if he found out we willingly put you in danger,” she said, looking at Piper.  

“Danger?! What exactly is going on?” Cody interjected, clearly alarmed.

“No, no! Not… not danger… just. It isn’t serious, we just.. We really need Kid Danger. Okay, bye,” Jasper stuttered, and he and Charlotte grabbed each of Henry’s arms as they started hastily dragging him away. He turned back around, meeting Zack’s gaze. 

“We’re not done,” he snapped, and Zack smirked, his eyes going dark.

“Oh, I hope not,” he growled, and he and Henry continued to scowl at each other until his friends finally pulled him out of eyesight. 


Charlotte and Jasper led Henry-as-Kid-Danger back to Henry and Jasper’s cabin, careful to make sure no was around before they stepped inside. The pair pushed Henry in first before following him in, closing the door behind them. 

“How did you even know I was there?” Henry asked, his voice small as he turned to face a very furious Charlotte. She and Jasper silently pulled out their phones, pressing a few buttons before they both held them up to Henry, the screens displaying slightly pixelated shots of Kid Danger on the Sky Deck just moments ago. 

“It’s already all over the internet,” Jasper said, and Henry’s gaze flicked to the floor. 

“Oh.” 

“Now everybody knows Kid Danger is on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean,” Charlotte declared, her voice like acid.

“So?” Henry replied. 

“So?!” Charlotte snapped, “So, Hen, everybody knows Kid Danger is from Swellview! And we’ve already told everyone we’re from Swellview! How long until someone starts connecting the dots?” 

Henry stood there for a moment, mulling over Charlotte’s words. He thought back to how Bailey was eyeing him, interrogating him, like she was suspicious, like perhaps she was connecting those dots, but he didn’t dare bring that up now. 

“Not only that, but you just put everyone on this ship in danger. This isn’t like Swellview. I know this ship is big, but it’s not that big, so there aren't a lot of places for a superhero to hideout. And now every criminal on planet Earth knows where you are!” she continued. 

“I.. Didn’t think about that,” Henry replied softly and Charlotte let out a deep breath. 

“What were you even planning on doing with Zack, anyway?” Jasper inquired as he stared at Henry. 

“I don’t know. I thought maybe Charlotte could search his phone or his laptop or something.” 

“Okay, best case scenario there, you somehow turn out to be right and we gather a little evidence on him. Worst, and most likely scenario, you turn out to be wrong, and Kid Danger kidnaps an innocent teenager,” Charlotte replied. Henry just watched her for a beat as he stayed quiet. 

He was starting to feel slightly regretful and a tinge guilty that he had blatantly broken the promise to his friends. 

“It wasn’t kidnapping, it was an arrest,” he remarked. 

“Okay, one, you’re not actually a cop, two, you don’t have probable cause, and three, if you followed through back there and you turned out to be wrong, it would’ve been kidnapping,” Charlotte explained as she counted the reasons on her fingers. Henry let out a sharp breath.

“I’m sorry! But, I’m impatient! What do you want me to do? How do I prove that it’s him?” he pleaded as he sat down on the edge of his bed.

“I don’t know! Get to know him and see if you can get him to slip up. Ask to borrow his laptop. Steal his phone! Get creative,” Charlotte said as she threw her hands up, “Wait, that’s it,” she continued as her eyes went round. Henry just stared at her, his eyes narrowed and his brows knitted together. 

“What’s it?” Jasper inquired. 

“Steal his phone. If you can get your hands on his phone, I can break into it and finally get an answer on whether you’re right or not.”

“Okay, you were just yelling at me for one thing, and now you’re telling me to steal his phone?” Henry asked incredulously. Charlotte rolled her eyes. 

“Stealing a phone is a lot different from kidnapping a whole person,” she shot back. Henry let out a sigh. 

“Alright, fine. I’ll do it your way.” 

“But, be careful,” Charlotte warned, “If you’re right, and he is Mystica, then he’s really clever. Mystica’s always been a few steps ahead of Schwoz and I so you can’t tip him off that we’re onto him.” 

“I-”

Before Henry could even finish, they heard a ringing sound and the trio looked over to see that Henry was getting a new video call from Ray on the tablet laying on his desk. He quickly pulled a tube of gum from his pocket and popped a gumball in his mouth before blowing a bubble and transforming back into his civilian clothes. He swiftly sat down at his desk and propped the tablet up, hitting the green answer button a second later. 

“Hey, Ray, is everything okay?” Henry asked as Ray’s face filled up the screen. 

“Yeah, everything’s fine here,” Ray began, leaning back on the rotating couch in the Man Cave, “But, I’m just curious, did you guys locate and or capture Mystica and you just… Didn’t bother to tell me?” he inquired, and Henry turned around to shoot a puzzled look at his friends who were now sitting side by side on Jasper’s bed. They just shrugged and Henry turned back around to face his boss. 

“Uhh, no. Why?” Henry responded.

“Ah, okay. Well, you wanna explain to me what this is all about, then?” he asked, and he turned the tablet towards the wall of monitors, where a news segment from the local Swellview news station, KLVY, was playing. The two anchors, Trent Overunder and Mary Gaperman, were sitting at their usual spot behind the news desk, a crude photo, clearly taken from someone’s cell phone, of Kid Danger on the Sky Deck was displayed on the screen in between them. A headline at the bottom read, “ Kid Danger on vacation? ”  

“This just in,” Trent began, and the camera moved to him, a shot of Kid Danger at a different angle flashing on the screen next to him, “We’re getting reports of a Kid Danger sighting just moments ago on none other than a luxury cruise liner; a ship named the S.S Tipton . Several eyewitnesses claim…” Trent’s voice trailed off as Ray turned the tablet back to face him, a now serious expression etched on his face. Henry watched him for a moment, his mind reeling as he tried to think of a good excuse. 

“Did you guys find Mystica?” Ray repeated. 

“Actually, Ray, yes we-” Henry started, but a second later he felt a hand on the back of his chair as Charlotte’s face appeared at his shoulder.

“No, we didn’t, Ray, false alarm!” she yelled over Henry as she shot him a look. 

“Yes, we-” Henry began, but Charlotte cut him off again.

“No, we didn’t,” she said through gritted teeth. 

“Okay, where are you?” Ray inquired. 

“I’m not sure-” 

“We don’t need you right now, Ray,” Charlotte interrupted, and she and Henry started fighting for control of the tablet. 

“C’mon, Char, we have to tell him!” Henry argued. 

“There’s nothing to tell!” Charlotte shot back. 

“Yes, there is!” Henry hissed, struggling to pull the tablet from Charlotte’s grip.

“You know how Ray is going to get if you drag him all the way out here and you turn out to be wrong!” Charlotte retorted.

“Uhh, guys? Is everything okay?” Ray inquired, and Henry and Charlotte froze, sharing a look before they turned their attention back to the tablet. 

“We’re fine!” they both uttered simultaneously before they started fighting for control again. 

“Okay, Schwoz, start locating that chip we put in Henry,” they both heard Ray say and they stopped as Henry stared down at the tablet.  

“I’m sorry, the what?!” he declared, and Ray looked into the camera once more, panic now etched on his face.

“Uhh? What was that, kid? Crrk. You’re breaking up. Crrk.” 

“Ray, I can clearly see you making the ‘crrk’ sounds,” Henry replied with a roll of his eyes, but Ray ignored him. 

“Alright, I’ll take to you later, Hen,” Ray said, and before Henry could even respond, the screen went black, the words “Call Ended” flashing across the middle of the screen. Henry met Charlotte’s gaze then, and she was giving him the most colossal “I told you so” face he had ever seen.

“Don’t. Say. A word,” he warned.

Chapter Text

After Zack watched Jasper and Charlotte drag away the alleged superhero, Kid Danger, he turned to his brother and friends, who were all gawking at him, while Henry’s little sister, Piper, was staring at the ground, clearly deep in thought. 

“Okay, what the hell just happened?” Zack blurted out, his mind reeling. 

“I can’t believe you almost got arrested by Kid Danger,” Woody declared in disbelief. “You’re so lucky!” he whined, and Zack turned to stare at him, his eyebrows furrowed. Woody looked to Piper then. “It’s so cool to finally meet you in person! You’re taller than I thought you’d be. Of course, I’m not used to seeing you outside of a tiny screen,” he concluded as he held up his fingers to make a rectangle, trying to mimic the shape of a smartphone screen. Cody crossed his arms over his chest as he let out a sigh.

“Can somebody please start explaining some things?” he pleaded, exasperation in his tone.  

“She’s president of the Man Fans,” Woody replied, gesturing to Piper.

“That much we gathered,” Cody responded, obviously trying to keep his composure. 

“And what exactly is a Man Fan?” Zack interjected, holding up an index finger. 

“It’s the official fan club for Captain Man and Kid Danger,” Piper answered, finally looking up from the ground to peer at Zack. 

“I tried to become a member before, but the old president wouldn’t let me join since I don’t live in Swellview and can’t attend the meetings. But after Piper took over, she let me join and I’ve just been attending the meetings virtually,” Woody explained. 

“But the better question is, why was Kid Danger going after you?” Piper inquired as she stepped directly in front of Zack, pointing to him as she continued to study him with a contemplative expression. By the tone in her voice and the way she was looking at him, Zack wasn’t sure if he was actually meant to answer that question or if it was supposed to just be rhetorical. 

“Yeah, I mean… what in the world did you do that would warrant an arrest ?” Bailey questioned in bewilderment as she stepped in front of Cody in order to get a better look at Zack. Zack met her gaze as he shrugged.

“Well, think , Zack. This is serious!” Cody finally snapped as he scowled at him.

“Alright!” Zack retorted, holding his hands up to signal for him to calm down. “First you have to promise that you won’t snitch.”

Cody stared blankly at him.

“Well, if you get
arrested !”

“But, I didn’t,” Zack shot back. 

“Yeah, but you were going to. You just got lucky.”

“Maybe so, but I still didn’t.”

Cody exhaled sharply, and he and Zack started arguing, with each of them getting louder as they tried to drown out the other. 

“Guys,” Bailey said, but they ignored her. “GUYS!” she roared, putting herself in between them as she held her hands out to both, and they finally stopped bickering while still shooting daggers at one another. 

“Cody promises not to say anything as long as you don’t actually get arrested,” Bailey continued through gritted teeth, giving Cody a serious expression. They kept their eyes locked on one another, as if Bailey was challenging Cody and Cody was trying to decide whether it would be worth it to fight back or not. He finally let out a sigh of defeat. 

“Fine,” he grumbled with a roll of his eyes. Zack pushed the hair from his face as he started to think it over. 

There was that fake I.D. he got a week before coming on board, but he hadn’t actually used it yet. 

There were a few things in his cabin that he might get in trouble for, but nothing that could be deemed illegal

Well, except…

Zack grimaced as he looked at Cody. 

“Okay, you have to promise me that you’re not gonna freak out.” 

Cody sucked in his lower lip as he continued to glare at his twin. 

“I can’t make that promise.” 

Zack rolled his eyes as he exhaled sharply.  

“What is it?” Bailey questioned coolly, putting a soothing hand on Cody’s shoulder, staying calm for the both of them.

Well, I might have-” Zack began, stopping mid-sentence as his eyes flicked to Piper. He stayed silent, his gaze now fixed on her as his mind searched for a euphemism to use so he wouldn’t have to say the actual word right in front of her. 

“You might have what?” Cody barked, his tone sharp. Zack looked between his brother and Bailey for a minute.

“I might have… Brownie mix stashed in my cabin,” he stated, squeezing his eyes shut for a beat as he mentally reprimanded himself for not thinking of a better way to describe it. 

“What do brownies have to do with anything?” Bailey remarked, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion as Cody narrowed his eyes, obviously just as perplexed. 

“Ooo! I want brownies!” Woody uttered excitedly. 

“How is brownie mix illegal?” Cody muttered, his tone more puzzled than angry at that point, “And when have you ever baked anything?” 

“Okay, it’s not the brownie mix itself,” Zack sighed, “How do I say this? What do people sometimes put in brownies to make them… special?” He kept his eyes on Cody, silently hoping for a second that twin telepathy was an actual thing so that maybe he might get it. 

Judging by the way Cody was just staring blankly at him, that definitely wasn’t the case. 

“Love?” Cody answered, his clueless expression deepening, and Zack rolled his eyes as he let out a sharp breath. 

“Yes, Cody, I have love stashed in my cabin,” he sneered, “Aren’t you supposed to be the smart one?!” 

“Ohh! I know!” Woody chimed in eagerly as he snapped his fingers together, “Is it chocolate chips?” 

Zack bit his lower lip as he looked at Woody incredulously. 

“Woody,” he stated, and Woody just nodded with a toothy smile, blissfully unaware of Zack’s growing frustration. “How are chocolate chips illegal?” 

Woody’s face slowly faltered. 

“Right,” he mumbled. 

“He clearly means weed,” Piper deadpanned, and Zack pinched the bridge of his nose as he squeezed his eyes shut for a few seconds, gesturing to her to indicate that she was right. “I’m thirteen, I’m not stupid,” she added, acid in her tone as she glanced at Zack and he opened his eyes again to meet her gaze.

“Zack!” Cody hissed as he took a step towards him. “Drugs?! Seriously?!” he bellowed, and few heads turned to look at them.

“Would you keep your voice down?!” Zack growled and Cody put his hands up in defense as he backed off a little.

“I’m sorry, but! Really?!” he seethed. Zack rolled his eyes, putting his hand out to Cody to signal for him to wait a moment as he turned his attention to Piper. He could see Cody out of his peripheral vision, putting his hands on his hips as he began to pace impatiently. 

“Please don’t tell Henry I told you that,” Zack begged, his eyes meeting Piper’s, “He still hates me, and I’m feeling like finding out from his little sister that I have drugs stashed in my cabin is not the best way to get on his good side.” 

“Don’t worry,” Piper replied breezily with a dismissive wave of her hand, “Keeping things from Henry is my specialty.”

“You better hope none of us say anything, considering you could get kicked off the boat, or worse!” Cody snarled, throwing his hands up. 

“But that still doesn’t explain Kid Danger,” Piper continued, her voice calm, clearly ignoring Cody and his hissy fit, and Cody looked to the sky in exasperation, “He wouldn’t go after you for something like that,” she said, her eyes glazing over in thought. Cody’s eyes landed on Zack again as he gave him a disapproving glare that could rival their mother’s.  

“I thought you said you and Henry were friends now?” Bailey commented, obviously also ignoring Cody.

“I might have exaggerated a little,” Zack responded as he made a gesture with his thumb and forefinger.

“A little?” Piper scoffed, “He hates you.” 

“But, he’s coming around! You’ll see,” Zack finished with a confident smile. Both girls watched him with skepticism etched on their faces. Bailey squinted a little as she kept her gaze glued to him.

“You know, I’ve never seen you work this hard for a friendship… or anything, really-” 

“Hello?!” Cody snapped, waving his hands around wildly to try and get their attention. Zack pushed the hair from his face. He could see Piper beginning to sneak away from them out of the corner of his eye and he internally wished that he could do the same. 

“It was nice meeting you!” Woody called after her, blowing her covert exit, and she gave him a lackluster wave before disappearing. Zack met Cody’s gaze again to see that his eyes were practically bugging out his head. 

“Oh, would you unclench?” Zack remarked, “I’ve been getting that stuff since sophomore year and I haven’t been caught yet.” 

“Just because you haven’t been caught before doesn’t mean you never will,” Cody shot back, “You’ve obviously been caught for something ,” he finished, gesturing to the spot where Kid Danger had been standing.  

“You heard mini Swellview, though. He wouldn’t go after me for that,” Zack responded casually with a half-hearted shrug.

“That’s true. If the comic books are any indication-” Woody started.

“Yes. Because I’m sure the comic books are just like real life,” Cody interrupted sarcastically.  

“As I was saying,” Woody grumbled through gritted teeth, shooting daggers at Cody for a beat before looking at Zack once more, “Piper’s right. Captain Man and Kid Danger don’t usually go after people for small stuff unless they’ve got nothing better to do. And if he’s here, then that probably means something major is happening on this ship. Are you sure you haven’t done anything?”

“Yeah, Woodstock, I’m pretty sure,” Zack sneered, “I think I’d remember if I did something that was both big and illegal. Besides, I promised Moseby I’d behave for a little while so I thought I’d at least wait a day before I started my usual antics.”  

“There’s something about this whole thing that isn’t adding up,” Bailey commented, her arms crossed over in front of her and her eyes glazed over in thought as they stayed glued to the place where Jasper and Charlotte had hauled Kid Danger away just minutes ago. “There’s just something about that Kid Danger guy...” she added, trailing off.   

“It was a bit odd that he seemed confused by the question ‘what are the charges?’” Cody pointed out as he turned to look at his girlfriend, his voice much calmer now.

“Exactly. And how did he even know you were you?” she questioned, finally tearing her gaze away to look at Zack as she pointed to him. 

“What do you mean?” Zack asked, furrowing his eyebrows. 

“He said that he didn’t know you personally, but he was still able to tell the difference between you and Cody-” 

“Damn. That’s what I should’ve done. I should’ve told him you were Zack,” Zack interrupted, lightly smacking Cody’s upper arm. Cody shot him a dirty look. 

“Yes. I’m sure that’s her point,” he deadpanned, his eyes lingering on his twin for a beat longer before he turned back to Bailey. Bailey rolled her eyes before continuing.

“I know there are enough differences between the two of you that most people can tell you apart; even people that might’ve just met you. But, would someone who’s supposedly a total stranger be able to do the same?” she concluded.

“You’re right. He didn’t really even hesitate,” Cody acknowledged, a contemplative expression crossing his face, “Even London still mixes us up at times, and she’s known us for at least four years now.”  

“I don’t think that’s so much she can’t tell the difference as it is she just doesn’t care,” Zack said flatly, and Cody’s expression told Zack that he agreed with that statement. 

“So... You think maybe it’s somebody that we know?” Cody asked after a moment as he studied Bailey. 

“Maybe,” she replied, but there was a hint of doubt in her voice, “Or maybe just somebody that knows you,” she added, her eyes snapping to Zack. The four of them remained silent as they considered Bailey’s words. 

 “Well, whoever he is, I’m definitely not a fan,” Zack announced finally.

“Aww. Why not?” Woody cried, disappointment etched across his face, and Zack just peered at him in response. 

 

****

“You know, when you asked me if I wanted to hang out Friday night, I assumed you meant we’d do something like laser tag or bowling,” Jasper muttered as Henry bent down so that he was at eye-level with the lock on Zack’s bedroom door.

“Just keep watch,” Henry grumbled as he inserted a hairpin he had stolen from Piper into the lock. He had convinced a very reluctant Jasper to help him search Zack’s cabin for evidence that might point to him being the hacker, while Charlotte had told them both that they were on their own. Bailey had invited her, Piper, and Piper’s roommate, to a sleepover in her cabin, and the memory of Charlotte telling them very sternly that she “ deserves the night off ” flashed briefly in Henry’s mind.

“Can you explain again why we’re even doing this?” Jasper whispered as he surveyed both ends of the hallway. Henry exhaled sharply with a roll of his eyes. 

“I told you; I spent all week with Zack and I’m no closer to proving he’s Mystica or figuring out how to get his phone. And it’s getting especially difficult since he’s spending less and less time around me,” Henry explained, never taking his eyes off the door. “It’s almost like he’s...starting to avoid me or something,” he mumbled. 

“Gee, I wonder why,” Jasper responded sarcastically. Henry paused, turning to stare at him. 

“Okay, why’d you say it like that?” he demanded, letting his arms rest for a beat.

“Maybe because you’re always giving him the cold shoulder? Every time he’s around you give him a death glare-”

“That’s not-” 

Jasper ignored his interruption as he continued on.

“And some of the things you say to him are a little...” he trailed off, his gaze flicking to the floor. It was as if he was trying to choose his next words carefully, and Henry stood up to face him. 

“A little...?” Henry pressed. 

“...Harsh?” Jasper finished finally, meeting Henry’s gaze.

Henry scoffed. 

“Besides the first couple of days we came onboard, name one instance.” 

“Wednesday afternoon in class,” Jasper remarked, his tone sharp, as he turned to lean on his shoulder so that he was fully facing Henry now, “He asked you if you had plans this weekend and you replied, and I quote, ‘avoiding you.’” 

Henry stayed silent for a beat. 

“Okay... But that’s-” Henry began, but Jasper cut him off again. 

“And there was earlier today when the group was talking about their plans for tonight and Zack mentioned something about a date and you said, and again I quote, ‘how unfortunate for her.’” 

“Well-” 

“I’ve got three more examples just like that ready to go,” Jasper interjected. Henry opened his mouth to respond but immediately shut it. He racked his brain for a response, tried to find some way to defend himself, but when he couldn’t, he knelt down to start picking at the lock again. “So…” Jasper proceeded, his tone much less severe, “can you really blame Zack for starting to avoid you a little? I mean, would you want to be around you?” 

“No...” Henry said with a resigned sigh, “But, that’s because I don’t want him around,” he finished defensively. 

“And you’ve made that pretty clear,” Jasper pointed out, the tiniest hint of an edge returning to his voice. “My point is, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in there,” he continued, gesturing to Zack’s bedroom door, “And you don’t want him to shut you out completely, you’re gonna have to chill a little. You catch more flies with sugar.” 

“Honey.” 

“What?” Jasper replied with a puzzled look. 

“The expression is ‘you catch more flies with honey.’” 

“I knew that,” Jasper commented confidently, and a small grin crossed Henry’s face, but it quickly faded as he considered Jasper’s words. Deep down he knew he was right, but he was silently hoping they’d find something and it wouldn’t have to resort to that. A second later he heard a familiar click, and he turned the doorknob, pushing the door open slightly as he shot a satisfied smile to Jasper. Amazement crossed Jasper’s face as Henry straightened back up.

“How do you even know how to do that?” Jasper inquired as he followed Henry into the room. Henry’s nose crinkled from the pungent smell that assaulted his nostrils immediately upon entering. 

“I learned how in the hopes that Ray might stop kicking down doors all the time,” he answered, using the back of his hand to cover his nose and mouth as he started stepping over dirty clothes that littered the floor, the carpet underneath barely visible. 

“Did that work?” 

Henry paused for a moment as his eyes flicked down.

“Not really,” he said, and Jasper nodded as if that was the exact answer he was expecting. 

“Alright, a hundred bonus points to the first person who finds the weed that’s stinking up this place,” Jasper commented as he shut the door behind him. 

“I knew it smelled familiar,” Henry responded, “Although, I’m pretty sure it’s more than that,” he added, his face twisting in disgust. 

“Oh, there’s definitely more than that, that’s just the most prominent.” 

“How hasn’t he been kicked off this boat yet?” Henry inquired out loud, intending for it to be more rhetorical than anything else.

“Maybe because one of his closest friends is London Tipton.” 

“Still,” Henry said, his eyes scanning the room. 

One of the bi-fold closet doors was wide open and it looked as if most of his stuff had been carelessly tossed inside. Any articles of clothing that weren’t strewn about the room were hung haphazardly on hangers, and his bed, which was actually two beds pushed together to make one, was unmade and messy. The wall where the head of his bed was situated was made to look like a beach at sunset, with a porthole right smack dab in the middle of it. A skateboard and a guitar hung on the wall opposite the closet, along with a banner from Ireland, decorated in the colors of the Irish flag. Various pictures hung above his desk. 

“What exactly am I looking for?” Jasper asked, both of them taking care to not step on anything. 

“Anything that might point to Zack being Mystica,” Henry answered as his eyes skimmed the pictures above Zack’s desk. Most of them showed a much younger Zack, Cody, London, and a blonde girl that looked to be around London’s age, in what Henry assumed was the Tipton hotel. There were a few closeups of an amp and someone playing the guitar that was dangling off the wall on the other side of the room. 

Henry observed for a moment how carefree and happy Zack looked in all of them, and for a fleeting second, he felt a twinge of jealousy. 

“Hey, look!” Jasper announced, and Henry looked over to see Jasper standing in front of Zack’s open closet, “Someone finally beat you in the ugly flannel department,” he teased and Henry playfully glared at him for a beat. Jasper closed the one door that was originally closed when they entered before he went to the other side of the room.

“You think he knows how to play this thing?” he questioned, and Henry turned around slightly to see him eyeing the guitar on the wall. 

“How would I know?” Henry said, and Jasper shrugged. Henry’s gaze moved to the desk as he approached it before he began opening up the drawers. They were filled mostly with junk; postcards from places Henry assumed Zack had visited so far, pens and pencils, and half-finished homework assignments from years prior. He closed each of them carefully, trying to be sure that they left the room exactly how they had found it, although it already appeared as if someone had ransacked the place, so he wondered for a second if Zack would even notice. 

He started combing through the papers laying on top of the desk, and he instinctively frowned when he started reading some of the comments left on them in bright red ink by the teachers; things like Terrible , Very bad job! , and other negative remarks were sprawled across the top of them all. 

As much as Henry hated it, he could feel himself sympathizing with Zack in that moment. He didn’t exactly get the best grades himself, and he knew what it was like to have teachers that punished you for factors outside of your control. 

“Wow. I didn’t know people even used CD’s anymore,” Jasper remarked, snapping Henry out of his train of thought, and he turned to see Jasper holding a stack of CDs, his brows knitted together in a frown. “Guns n’ Roses, Queen, Twisted Sister, Metallica… You think he listens to anything from this century?” he finished, flipping through the albums in his hands, stopping to observe the back of each one for a beat. 

“I’m not really interested in his music taste, Jasp,” Henry quipped as he turned back towards the desk. He cocked his head to the side slightly as something at the bottom of the pile of papers caught his eye. He pulled it out and immediately recognized it as the old, beaten up black spiral notebook Zack was often doodling in during class. It looked as if Zack had dragged it through hell and back. The corners were rounded out from years of wear and tear, and there were a few deep creases on the cover. Henry started to open it when he heard Jasper exclaim excitedly behind him. 

“Dude!” 

Henry abandoned the notebook as he swiftly made his way to Jasper’s side.

What? Did you find something?” he questioned hopefully. 

“Yeah,” Jasper answered as he turned the picture frame in his hand so that Henry could see it, “It’s a photo of Zack at Pride.” 

Henry looked down at the photo to see that it did indeed look like Zack and a few of his friends in the middle of a Pride parade on a sunny day. He was on one side of the group, with Woody on the other, London at Zack’s side, and the blonde Henry had seen in some of Zack’s other photos at London’s other side, squished in between London and Woody. They all had their arms around each other’s shoulders, huge smiles plastered on all of their faces. London had a bi pride flag painted on her cheek, the other girl in the photo with a similar face painting except it was of the lesbian pride flag. Woody had an ace flag tied around his neck so that it was flowing behind him like a cape. 

“What does this have to do with anything?” Henry interrogated, a hint of aggravation in his tone as he looked up at Jasper. Jasper met his gaze with a grin. 

“It could mean that I was right and he does have a crush on you.” 

Lately, Jasper had gotten it in his head that Zack wasn’t actually the hacker, and the reason why he was trying so hard with Henry and making subtle comments was because he liked him; that his little quips were meant to be taken as a subtle form of flirting.

But, Henry knew that wasn’t actually the case.

He knew deep down that it was just Zack’s game, a way to get inside his head.

Henry rolled his eyes, his eyebrows pressed together as he took the picture from his friend a little forcefully and placed back on the shelf.

“Focus,” he snapped, and Jasper rolled his eyes. Henry made his way back over to the desk, inspecting the notebook he had been looking at just moments prior. He began thumbing through it and was stunned to find that it was filled with intricately detailed drawings. There were popular superheroes, landscapes, and some portraits of the blonde in the photos from the hotel, along with a couple of other girls Henry assumed Zack was either friends with or dated at one point or another. 

As much as he didn’t want to admit it, even to himself, he was impressed with how remarkable they were. He marveled at the thought of this past week where he was sitting in class, listening to the teacher drone on, entirely unaware that right next to him, Zack was creating masterpieces with just a crumbling notebook and a No. 2 pencil. As he flipped to the end, he found several pages full of comic book style panels, featuring Zack and Woody as a superhero team, fighting their arch-nemesis that was made to look a lot like Cody. Henry smiled a little, sliding into the desk chair as he studied the artwork, delicately running his fingers over the page, careful not to smudge anything.

“Tony Hawk?!?!” Jasper bellowed, and Henry whirled around, snapping out of his daze as he frowned at Jasper. 

“Shhh!!!” he hissed, pressing his index finger to his mouth for a second, “You want people to know we’re in here?!” 

“Sorry. But, check this out,” Jasper continued in awe, his voice much softer now as he pointed to a picture on the wall. “There’s literally a photo of him skateboarding with Tony Hawk. This guy is so cool,” he gushed, his eyes sparkling. Henry let out a huff as he stood up, closing the notebook and putting it back at the bottom of the pile where he found it.

“He’s a criminal, Jasper,” he deadpanned, although he wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince Jasper or himself of that at that moment. 

“Says you!” Jasper shot back, “And so far you have no proof of that.” Henry pressed his lips into a thin line, shooting a look to his friend before making his way over to Zack’s bed. He winced as he stared down at the pile of dirty clothes and shoes lying in the space between the bed and the closet. 

I really don’t want to do this, ” he thought. 

“Dude, I’ll give you ten bucks right now if you get down on the floor and look under Zack’s bed,” Henry said as he pointed to the floor in front of him, meeting Jasper’s gaze. 

“Fifty,” Jasper countered and Henry’s brows snapped together.

“Twenty,” he retorted, a trace of disbelief in his tone. Jasper narrowed his eyes as he kept his gaze glued to Henry’s. 

“Twenty-five.”

Henry exhaled sharply, pressing his lips together as he crossed his arms over his chest. 

“Fine. Deal,” he grumbled and Jasper shot him a satisfied smile, making his way over to him, before he knelt down onto the floor, getting on his back and sliding the upper half of his body under the bed. 

“See anything?” Henry asked, staring at the spot on the bed around where Jasper would be. He could hear things moving, like Jasper was rummaging through them. 

“Not really,” he answered, his voice slightly muffled, “there’s some Victoria’s Secret magazines addressed to London aaaaaaaaand,” Jasper continued, pausing for a few seconds while Henry guessed he was scouring through stuff, “An unopened pack of cigarettes,” Jasper finished, sliding back out for a moment and sitting up as he turned the pack over in his hand, looking at Henry. 

“Anything else?” Henry pressed, his tone slightly desperate. A shred of irritation flashed in Jasper’s eyes as he went back under. 

“No. Just more dirty clothes, some candy bar wrappers, and an empty pizza box.”  

Henry let out a sigh as he started to pace.

“There has to be something that we’re missing-” 

“What exactly are you looking for?” a familiar voice rang out in the room, and Henry froze in place, his eyes going wide as his blood turned to ice.

“Henry?” Jasper said slowly, and Henry waited several seconds before answering. 

“Yes?” 

“Please tell me that’s not who I think it is,” he pleaded, the apprehension in his voice coming through crystal clear. Henry cautioned a look to the door, and his heart leapt into his throat when his eyes landed on Zack watching him from the now open doorway. Jasper started crawling out from under the bed as Zack took a few steps into the room, his eyes fixated on Henry.  

“You know, Swellview,” he said, his lips curling into a smirk as he swept the hair from his eyes, “When I called you a stalker, I meant it as a joke, not a suggestion.”

“I wasn’t stalking-” 

“What are you doing in here?” Zack demanded without waiting for Henry to finish. Jasper was on his feet once again, and he and Henry shared wide-eyed looks as Jasper made his way to Henry’s side. 

“You know what, Jasp?” Henry stated as he pretended to survey the room, reaching a hand out to grab Jasper’s shoulder, “I’m just now noticing that this isn’t our cabin.” 

“You know?” Jasper responded, pretending to look around as well, “I see that now,” he said, and he and Henry shared another look.

“We should go,” Henry declared, pointing an index finger at the open door, and he and Jasper made a beeline for the hall. 

“Hold it!” Zack declared, holding his hands out to stop both of them, and the two boys stopped dead in their tracks as they looked to each other in defeat. Zack crossed his arms over in front of him as he took a step closer to Henry. 

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rat you both out right now?” he growled, his eyes boring into Henry’s. A devilish smile crossed Henry’s face as he moved closer to Zack.

“I don’t know. Should we start with the Victoria’s Secret magazines and the cigarettes? Or just go straight to what that overwhelming smell is?” 

“You found it?” Zack commented, squinting as his gaze moved to Jasper. Henry and Jasper shared puzzled looks. 

“Well-” Henry started, his gaze snapping to the floor. 

“Aha! So you have no evidence,” Zack uttered triumphantly.

“The cigarettes are still there,” Henry countered, pointing to the bed.

“And I can say you put them there! I think there’s plenty of people that could attest to the fact that you can’t stand me. And now you’re just trying to get me busted.”

Henry stayed silent for a beat and he could feel Jasper’s eyes on him. He could practically hear Jasper chanting “ I told you so! I told you so! ”  

“Who do you think Mr. Moseby’s more apt to believe? Certainly not the chronic rule breaker...” Henry remarked, hoping that Zack wouldn’t be able to tell that he was bluffing.

“Might I remind you that you’ve broken the rules just as much as I have, and you’ve only been here six days,” Zack retorted with a smirk, “It’s my word against yours, pretty boy.” 

“Yeah...well... Jasper hasn’t!” Henry stuttered.  

“Oh, please don’t put me in the middle,” Jasper muttered, but Zack and Henry ignored him as they kept their eyes locked on one another. Henry’s face was now inches from Zack’s, and even though he was just a tiny bit taller, it felt like he was towering over him at that moment.  

“Alright. I promise not to breathe a word of this to anyone, but you two have to promise the same...” Zack offered, his eyes shifting from Henry to Jasper and back again as he put his hands up in surrender. The two boys glanced at one another. 

“Deal,” they answered simultaneously. The room remained uncomfortably silent for a beat. 

“Well, I think we really should go now,” Henry announced, and he and Jasper headed for the door once more. 

“Oh, no you don’t!” Zack declared as he reached out and grabbed onto Henry’s arm, holding him back. Henry stumbled backward, surprised by Zack’s strength. “You broke into my room and went through my stuff so, at the very least, I think you owe me an explanation as to why.” 

“How come he gets to go?!” Henry whined, pointing to Jasper who was now stepping into the hall, but Zack ignored the question, his gaze glued to Henry. “Jasper. Jasper!” Henry hissed, but Jasper just turned around and winked at him with a toothy grin before he disappeared, leaving Henry to fend for himself. Henry exhaled sharply, taking note to get Jasper back for that later as he cautioned a look at Zack. 

“I thought you had a date tonight...?” Henry muttered, an uncomfortable tension now hanging in the air between them. Zack let go of Henry’s arm and backed off a little to give him a bit more space. 

“It didn’t work out,” he replied simply. 

“There’s a shocker,” Henry murmured with a roll of his eyes, and Zack shot daggers at him. 

“Really?” he snapped, and Henry’s expression turned apologetic, remembering the conversation he had had with Jasper earlier. 

“What happened?” he inquired, an air of sincerity in his tone. 

“I forgot her name. I rolled the dice, called her by the first name I could think of, ended up being wrong... Apparently, girls don’t like that,” he explained, sweeping the hair off his face as he spoke. 

“You’re a real stand up guy.”

“Says the guy that broke into my room,” Zack retorted and Henry’s gaze snapped to the floor. Zack made his way over to the door to shut it, leaning against the doorknob for a beat as he spoke. “You wanna tell me what you’re really doing here?” he demanded. Henry’s mind started racing. He knew he had to be discreet from this point forward so as not to raise Zack’s suspicion anymore then he might have already. 

“You want the truth?” Henry questioned, and Zack’s lips curled into a playful smirk.

“No, I was kinda hoping you’d lie to me,” he teased. Henry felt his heart rate increase. He knew there was a way he could still get out of this unscathed but it was about the last thing he wanted to do: appeal to Zack’s massive ego.

“You piqued my interest,” Henry said casually, and Zack’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, the smile never leaving his face.  

“I piqued your interest?” he echoed in disbelief.

“Yes,” Henry replied, resisting the urge to gag when he saw the satisfied smile on Zack’s face. Zack continued to eye Henry, and Henry wondered if maybe he was trying to decide if he was telling the truth or not. 

“Did you ever think about maybe just... Talking to me? Asking me what you wanted to know?” Zack questioned. 

“Yeah...” Henry started, his gaze shifting to the floor for a beat, his mind racing, “But, I knew that if I started asking you questions and showing any interest at all you’d get that arrogant smirk on your face that you’re getting right now!” he finished, his voice getting louder as he pointed at Zack’s face, which now had the same smug expression that Henry had seen a million times before, etched across it.

“Well, I’m sure me catching you breaking into my room was a much better alternative for you,” Zack joked, grabbing Henry’s wrist as he moved his hand away. “You know you’ve mentioned twice now that you’re interested...” he pointed out. 

“Definitely not in the way you might be thinking,” Henry responded hastily.

“What way am I thinking?” Zack replied, the corner of his mouth quirked up, and Henry was sure his blood pressure was spiking. 

“Okay, we’re getting way off track here,” he commented, beginning to yank himself out of Zack’s grip, but he ended up using much more force than he needed to; as soon as he displayed any indication that he wanted Zack to let go, Zack immediately did. He must’ve also picked up on the fact that Henry no longer wanted him so close as he took a few steps back.

“Tell you what,” he proceeded, as he sat down at the foot of his bed, “I’ll give you five questions where I promise to answer with nothing but the honest truth…” 

“Ten,” Henry interrupted, and Zack’s smile grew. 

“...but you have to promise to do the same,” he concluded.

“Okay, eight.”  

“Do we have a deal?” Zack inquired, and Henry considered his offer for a beat as he kept his gaze locked on Zack’s. He knew deep down that if Zack truly was his enemy like he so vehemently believed, then it would be dangerous to reveal any parts of himself to him. 

But, on the other hand, if he really was Mystica, then he already knew he was Kid Danger, so Henry supposed that it wouldn’t hurt to open up to him just a smidge. 

Besides, if he asked a question that was too personal, he couldn’t very well call Henry out on a lie without condemning himself in the process. There’s no way he’d know he was lying unless he had gotten that information from elsewhere; like hacking into his phone, for instance. 

“Okay. Deal,” Henry said with a smile as he sat down next to Zack.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Zack declared as he gestured for him to go ahead before resting his elbows on his knees. 

There were about a million questions that flashed in Henry’s mind then, the most notable one being “ Are you Mystica? ” but he knew it wouldn’t be nearly that easy. 

“Why do you have two phones?” he inquired after a beat, trying to sound as casual as possible. Zack pulled his smartphone out of his front pocket, both boys eyeing it for a moment. The phone switched on for a few seconds and Henry noticed that the lockscreen was a picture of Zack sandwiched between London and the blonde that kept showing up in his pictures and drawings. 

“Our mom doesn’t make a lot so she can’t really afford for Cody and I to have smartphones. I make enough in tips that I’m able to afford one myself,” Zack answered. 

“Well, then, why not get rid of the flip phone?” Henry quickly responded.

“It’s easier to screen my mom’s calls that way,” Zack said with a wicked smile, “she doesn’t even know I have this.” Henry watched Zack turn the phone over in his hands, internally wishing that he could just take it right then and there and give it to Charlotte. 

“Have you always lived in Swellview?” Zack questioned, and Henry finally tore his eyes away from the phone to look at Zack. 

“Yep,” he said simply. 

“Have you ever been outside of Swellview before this?”

“A few times,” Henry responded, standing back up as he started to pace, “That first day I came onboard and Cody brought me an ice pack, he told me he had gotten my room number from you because you had hacked into Mr. Moseby’s computer,” he continued, pausing as he looked at Zack again, and Zack nodded in response, keeping his baby blues fixated on Henry. “How’d you do it?”

“I put in the password.”

“Well, how’d you get the password?”

“Why is this starting to feel less like getting to know me and more like an interrogation?” Zack inquired, and Henry’s heart started pounding.

“Been through a lot of those, have you?” Henry quipped, hoping that Zack couldn’t detect the faintest hint of panic in his voice. Zack’s lips slowly curved into a smile. 

“It’s easy. It’s just his mother’s birthday,” he answered as he leaned back on his elbows. “Three questions left, better make ‘em interesting.” 

“Who’s the girl?” Henry blurted out, his curiosity finally getting the better of him, but he immediately regretted it when he realized he had just wasted one of his questions. A puzzled expression crossed Zack’s face. “On your lock screen. I recognize London but I don’t think I’ve seen the other one around here before,” Henry concluded as he sat back down next to Zack, this time a lot closer to him than before. 

“Oh. That’s Maddie,” Zack explained, turning his phone on for a moment as his eyes flicked to the screen. “She’s London’s girlfriend back home. But, no matter what she tells you, I fell for her first,” he said as he slipped his phone back into his pocket, and Henry felt a mix of sympathy and disappointment wash over him. He wanted to ask about her some more, ask him to elaborate on that last comment, but he didn’t want to pry. Zack had apparently picked up on this.

“You can ask about her, it’s okay.”  

“I’m not even sure what to ask,” Henry said truthfully. “I guess...What’d you mean when you said you fell for her first?”

Zack’s gaze snapped to the floor, and for the first time since they met, he seemed completely serious, and Henry felt a twinge of guilt for asking something so personal so soon. 

“Sorry. You don’t need to answer that,” he said, but Zack cut him off as he met his gaze once more. 

“Don’t be. It’s okay, I told you you could ask about her, and I meant it. I had this sort of... puppy love crush on her when I was a kid. I mean, I was completely head over heels,” Zack recounted, a smile crossing his lips, the memory sparkling in his eyes. Henry’s lips were threatening to curl into a grin at any second. “But,” Zack continued, his smile fading, “She’s three and a half years older than me so...it was never quite meant to be. Besides, her and London are very happy together, and I’d never do anything to jeopardize that.”  Zack’s voice was calm, nonchalant, but Henry could see the tiniest hint of heartbreak flash in his eyes, and he felt a twinge of pity for him then.

“Do you still love her?” he asked before he was even aware of what he was saying. 

“Why? Are you jealous?” Zack teased without missing a beat and Henry playfully rolled his eyes. 

“Keep dreaming,” he quipped, smiling a little in spite of himself. 

“Yeah, I still love her,” Zack replied, his earnest tone returning. Henry’s smile disappeared, his compassionate side forcing him to continue to feel empathetic for Zack. “But, I’m not really in love with her anymore,” he added, meeting Henry’s gaze. There was a serious tension hanging in the air between them then, and for a brief moment, Henry could feel his perspective beginning to change. 

He still believed that Zack was the hacker, but it was like suddenly, he was much more than that. He had interests and hobbies and crushes, he had experienced unrequited love, he had felt heartbreak. He had bad habits, and an interest in rock music, and he could create masterpieces with just a no. 2 pencil.

He had a whole life outside of being Mystica...

...and Henry wondered for a moment what that must be like. 

“Any other siblings besides Piper?” Zack questioned after a second, yanking Henry out of his train of thought. 

“Nope. It’s just us,” Henry answered, his mind still lingering on Zack for a beat. 

“Ah. Another thing we have in common,” Zack replied with a smile. 

“What else-?” Henry began, but Zack cut him off. 

“Sorry, you’re out of questions.” 

“What?! I am not,” Henry snapped.

“Yes, you are. I know math isn’t my best subject but I think I can at least count to eight,” Zack said playfully. Henry thought it over for a beat and he realized that Zack was right.

“Wait, no. Give me one more,” he pleaded. Zack’s smile widened. 

“Nope, sorry. Thanks for playing, better luck next time.” 

Henry crossed his arms over his chest, a pouty expression crossing his face. 

“Meanwhile, I still have three left,” Zack continued with an arrogant smirk. 

“And they would be?” Henry replied in a sour tone.

“Sorry, you’re still out of questions,” Zack teased, and Henry rolled his eyes. “I just have one more for now,” Zack proceeded, and Henry looked at him with curiosity. “You want to do something with me tonight?”