Highway 285 was a shithole at the best of times, a single two-lane piece of crap winding through hills and trees on a path of least resistance probably originally charted by cows. But in the snow it was a goddamn monstrosity. Especially once it hit the remains of exit 34, after which it didn't even pretend to be a road - definitely not a paved one, at least. Even by any kind of redneck, rural fucking Colorado winter standards, it was something between "total crapshoot" and "nastyass deathtrap."

Not that Kenny McCormick really gave a shit.

Slamming a fist into the dash in a futile attempt to beat more heat out of it, Kenny flipped his brights on as the chain-wrapped tires of his battered, "blah" uHaul truck hit the four inches of untouched snow currently coating the road to nowhere. The truck groaned, sliding a few inches before finding its grip again, and he was glad for the full haul weighing the back down. No point in fucking crashing and hitchhiking all the way back just to drag it back out of a fucking ditch. Goddamn inconvenient.

The old sign - or the post where it'd been - passed by, and Kenny eased up, taking the turn nice and slow before coming to a stop in the uneven snowfall. He dug a cigarette out of the pack of Marlboro's in his pocket, lighting the thing and sighing as he looked through the windshield.

In the distance, barely lit by the glare of his brights, the uneven wall of metal and garbage announced his arrival at the town that TV forgot. Or towns, he guessed, rolling his eyes at that and flicking ash into the overflowing tray. Made it a bitch and a half each time he wanted to come home, remembering who'd he'd brought what last, who wanted what, why they were fighting this very fucking second and whatever other fucking dumbass political bullshit consumed kids with nothing better to do, but Kenny couldn't exactly say it was a fucklot of his business, either, at this point.

Kicking the underside of the dash one more time for good measure, he shifted the truck back into gear, stubbing the rest of his cigarette into the tray and sitting up straighter in the seat. The snow was coming down harder, wet and clumping, and on a fucking whim that was mostly motivated by the desire to not unload his shit in the cold Kenny turned right, moving around towards the Mayor's Office and its gate. As he turned, driving along the path along the wall, Kenny tossed a sloppy, mostly ironic salute at the old sign in its new place of honor, right between the door to somebody's Mazda and a front door that used to belong to the Stotches.

"Welcome to Smileytown"

Smileytown, 13th Year of our Mayor

They were fucking late of course, probably just some typical bitch shit from her Highness, some way to try and get one over on him as Eric stood out in the snow. Whatever, he'd stand waiting and wouldn't even point out how rude it was, the total epiphany of professional with his tie.

Beside him, Butters couldn't even manage tolerable, forget professional, as he wrapped his hands around his elbows and eyed the front door to the mayor's office longingly. "They are coming today, r-right? Eric?"

"Goddammit, Butters, what did I tell you to call me when we're in public." Eric sighed, just a bit, squinting up into the grey sky overhead. Butters mumbled something apologetic, and Eric ignored it as their 'guests' finally rounded the corner.

Breaking out into a massive grin, he eyed the group -- Kyle, Stan, Stan's bitch, that blond fag from France or whatever -- before throwing his arms out wide. "Welcome to Smileytown, assholes!"

"Fuck you," Kyle snapped back immediately, which Eric ignored in favor of addressing the only person in the group without a sandy vagina. "Stan, you dick, you're late."

Stan just looked at his bitch like the sad, pussywhipped fag he was, then shrugged. "You put a big fucking fence up and we had to walk all the way around, asshole."

"Oh, yes, yes, that's part of today's agenda, but before we get to that, please, do come in," Eric struck up his grin again, determined to show exactly how outclassed their sad little group was. Bunch of kids, really; Stan was wearing /football pads/, for Christ's sake. Butters meanwhile pulled open the front door and they all filed inside, Eric following and gesturing widely around the lobby. "Make yourselves comfortable while we start. Wendy, perhaps you'd be more comfortable in the kitchenette, mmyeah? I even hired some Raisins girls to bring out some wings in a bit."

Wendy just shot him a nasty glare. "Stuff it up your ass, Cartman."

"Well, I would, but I'm not a raging slut so-"

"God will you just shut the hell up?" Kyle almost shouted, fists clenching, "I told you guys this was totally pointless."

Eric just smiled serenely at him. "Kyle, Kyle, is that negative nancy attitude really how you want to start this?" he turned to the finnish kid, grinning conspiratorially. "Jews and women, and I right?"

Blondie just looked flatly back without saying anything. Fag. "Anyway please take a seat, as long as Wendy's not going to period all over it."

She sighed, shooting a look at Stan, who just shrugged awkwardly and plopped down on the couch. Wendy wedged in on one side and Kyle on the other, while the swede crossed his arms and hovered behind the furniture. Whatever, foreign asshole. Eric snapped his fingers at Butters to start bringing in snacks before leaning back, tenting his fingers thoughtfully.

"Well. Well well well. Well."

"You wanted this meeting, fatass, stop wasting our time and just fucking get on with it!" And Kyle was running his mouth again, hands balled into fists and glaring right at Eric like a rude ginger piece of shit. Eric just grinned behind his fingers, even more quietly gleeful as the redhead shook his head and looked at the others. "This is stupid; he probably just wanted to bring us over so a bunch of his assholes could cross the White Line and steal our shit!"

Eric blinked, wondering why he hadn't thought of doing that, but shook his head, recovering as a few of the Raisin's bath hootchies came out with chicken nuggets on trays. Eric had even scrounged up some fancy mustard with little brown flecks in it, just to really show those fuckers who was running the classy establishment. "Now, Kyle, why would I risk having my people climb over that giant pile of garbage you nasty fucks have let pile up there--"

"There's just as much shit on your side of it as ours, Cartman, at least ours is in bags," Wendy interrupted, folding her hands on her knees like this was some kind of faggy tea party bullshit. Bitch. "Besides, I'm sure it can't be that much of a problem, considering the fact that several of your citizens have seen fit to climb over it all anyway in order to come begging for supplies or shelter. And then half of them climb right back over, which I'm sure you have nothing to do with."

"Stan, okay, you got two bitches there on the couch with you, you need to control at least one of them, okay, if we're going to have a conversation leader to leader here? Okay?" Eric shoved a nugget into his mouth, ignoring that they weren't touching theirs. "And that's another thing! Stop fucking harboring those tax cheating, traitor scumbags who think they can piss me off and then not answer to my goddamn authority!"

"Dude, you're gonna have to talk to Wendy then. We just had elections, she's President." Stan nodded at his girlfriend like that made any fucking sense at all, and if he wasn't too pissed about their attempts to fucking cheat him out of bait for the new sock-bath fight-offs, Eric would have started laughing.

"See? This is what I'm talking about; clearly you guys have no idea how to run anything, letting all those leeches pick their own boss and then you get some bitch who's too dumb to even grow boobs yet--"

"Fuck you!"

"Just showing how stupid that'd be. I bet you let those kinderfucks who still jack off to the Provider vote, too. Jesus Christ." Getting nothing but a stony wall of silence in return, Eric turned to Butters, lifting up his eyebrows and laughing. "God, Butters, can you imagine? It'd be like if Smileytown decided they wanted you to be Mayor. What assholes!"

Butters laughed along, awkwardly, and Wendy just cleared her throat because she was a goddamn bitch feminazi who couldn't take a joke for five seconds. "Anyway, Cartman, while obviously we continue to welcome any immigrants who want to join Treasure Cove, we're concerned at the number of supposed "refugees" who appear to just be looking for a handout on your orders. Or are stupid enough to come back willingly just because you announced some retarded party."

"Shut the fuck up, bitch, my parties are awesome. Do you guys throw awesome parties for those poor assholes in Butthole Cove? See what all that democracy gets you, Butters? Jack shit and no parties."

"S-sure, Eric, that sure does sound pretty terrible." Butters reached for one of the trays, and Eric slapped his hand away without another thought.

"Parties don't change the fact you don't feed your fucking people, fatass." Kyle rolled his eyes, glancing at Stan for a second so they could have some faggy secret language bullshit while Eric just shoved another handful of nuggets into his mouth. Whinyass jew. God. "If you don't start taking care of them they're all going to come over and then you'll only have Butters to shit on, you derelect."

"Well of course they're going to come running to you assholes, they're fucking traitors and you keep fucking feeding them! God, it's like you've never beaten off homeless beggars before! And furthermore, those are my fucking traitors to do what I want with so you better not fucking 'accept' good for nothing shits like that dick Craig Tucker."

"Craig was requesting asylum and we granted it. The issue is not your inability to inspire loyalty or even apathy in your citizens, it's the deliberatetheft by your government," Blondie finally cut in, and Eric rolled his eyes again. If everybody in belgium or whatever talked like that, Eric didn't know how they didn't all punch each other in the face every single time one of them opened their mouths. Europeans were fags anyway.

"Well you better fucking stop! Look, I'm already totally picking up all the slack since you guys are apparently way too lazy and obsessed with Wendy's flat titties to take care of it! I built my goddamn fence, we're putting in more at the White Line as soon as Disarray's people get it off the top shelves of the hardward store, I don't know what else you want! Christ, it's never enough for you assholes."

"How about you stop trying to steal our fucking supplies all the time, you fat piece of shit?!" Kyle was on his feet, suddenly, and then Eric was too, glaring and stepping forward.

"Don't call me fat, Jew!"

"Don't even fucking start with that bullshit or I'll kick your goddamn ass, you morally bankrupt dickhole!"

"At least I'm not a ginger cocksucker," Eric grinned, not able to stop himself as Kyle flushed red and almost started forward. He probably would've, which would've been an awesome excuse to lock all four of them up, except for fucking Stan reaching forward and snagging his elbow.

"Dude, just ignore it."

"He's stealing our shit and using it for his own fucking enjoyment, Stan, have you seen those kids putting up houses near the White line over here? It's like a third world country!"

"Whatever, if those assholes wanted to be rich they'd fucking work harder, like I did." Seeing Kyle slowly deflating, like Stan's grip was a goddamn pressure valve or something, Eric just sighed and turned to pace a bit. "Anyway, if you're so concerned, maybe you shouldn't leave all the goddamn security up to me, mmyeah? Or you could always just surrender the half of the town you stole from me in the first place, and then nobody would be stealing anything."

"If that's the best suggestion you have, Cartman, I think this meeting is over." Wendy shook her head, standing up and brushing herself off. "Gregory, can you please make a note to ask Craig if he knows of anyone else jumping the line, and if they should be told about this fence issue?"

Of course the irish asshole's name would be something super faggy like "Gregory," and Eric made a mental note to make sure there were no secret faggy europeans lurking in Smileytown before he narrowed his eyes at Wendy. "Listen, Wendy, I know you're like, super jealous of my awesome town and the fact all these assholes actually do what I tell them instead of thinking they can do whatever they want? But that doesn't mean you have to be a goddamn, bitchy, uptight, slutty, flat-chested cunt about it. Okay?"

This time it was Stan jumping up and Kyle grabbing for his elbow, but of course the ginger retard missed, leaving Stan to grab Eric, hard. "Dude, just shut the fuck up. You've been a goddamn asshole all meeting so shut your mouth now before I kick your ass."

"You touch me again and I'll throw all of you into jail, douchebag! You can be the first ones to sock fight once the arena's built -- so just fucking watch yourself!"

"Yeah, right," Stan started, but Kyle had gone for him again, grabbing his arm and nodding towards Wendy. And that was sad, really, that Stan's pussywhipping was so bad it spilled over into the Jew. Eric just sighed dramatically, loosing his shirt from Stan's fists.

"Whatever. Get the fuck out of my city before I have Butters call the police on all of you. And that fence is going up, and if you know what's good for you you'll send all those traitors back here right now."

Stan just took a step back, closing the distance to Wendy and still glaring over his shoulder as they moved towards the door. Kyle was the only one who hesitated, eyes narrowed, staring at Eric like some kind of total weirdo. Or a fag. Fags did find him super buff and manly. "What, Jew."

At that Kyle just threw up his hands and made some girlyass huffing noise, trotting to catch up to his other traitorass friends, and Eric stared at the retreading form of the redhead for a long minute himself before shaking himself out, turning to the still-untouched chicken nuggets. "Butters, tell those bitches I'm not paying for those, and they need to get their asses back to that bathhouse before they gay up this whole place."

Treasure Cove, year 6

Bumph. Bumph. Bumph.

Wendy closed her eyes. "Stan, that's really distracting."

"Sorry, babe." The sound of the Nerf ball bouncing against the wall stopped, and she let out a breath, turning back to look at the budget for this month. It wasn't great - winter meant more fuel needed for the generators and fires, and on top of it one of the wells had gone off and they'd had to double their soda quotas for the past few runs while Mark Cotswolds and Kyle tore apart the library looking for a way to fix it.

She'd just made a note to check up on their progress when the thumping started again, softer this time. Twisting around, she looked at Stan, sprawled across their bed, tossing a battered orange Nerf football up into the air over and over.

Wendy frowned, faintly. "I thought you were going to go hang out with Kyle tonight."

Stan just shrugged, tossing the ball up towards the ceiling again. He almost missed it on the way down, avoiding hitting himself in the face by a scant inch or two, and for a second he had to pretend it was all intentional by narrowing his eyes at it. Boys, honestly.

Wendy propped her chin on her fingers, gently tapping the desk with her foot and waiting him out. After a few seconds he realized it and sat up, dark hair askew. "You wanna go out tonight?"

"What?" she continued to frown, a little deeper now as she glanced at all the work scattered over her desk, a massive solid Beforetime model previously stashed in the Principal's office. "Go out where?"

"Jimmy's? There's some kind of Justin Timberlake classics night going on. Come on, dude, it'll be fun." He just grinned at her, Nerf ball forgotten. "You can put on all those jelly bracelets or whatever, remind everybody why you're the hottest president Treasure Cove's had."

She rolled her eyes at that, more because she felt she ought to than any real irritation. "If I remember, nobody had the title president before I did. It was just 'Stan and Kyle'."

"Yeah, because neither of us looks good enough with a clipboard." He rocked up onto his feet, leaning down across her shoulders to push some of the papers up into a pile. "Weendyy. Come on a date with me, dude."

"Alright. I wasn't exactly getting much done here anyway.". Standing up and brushing back her hair with both hands, she accepted a quick kiss before shoving playfully at one shoulder. "Tomorrow, though, you go hang out with Kyle so I can finish this and we don't all starve."

For a second - quick enough it could have never happened - he almost frowned, but then he just nodded and kissed her again and walked across the old secondgrade classroom to dig for a clean shirt.

Smileytown, 15th year of our Mayor

"Kevin? Kevin are you in there?"

Blearily Kevin Stoley cracked open his eyes, blinking as he squinted miserably through the dark. The time - much like the answer to life, the universe, and everything - was a cosmic mystery thanks to the heavy quilt draped across his window, and with a heavy groan he rolled off of his futon and onto the floor.

Meanwhile, the pounding on his door continued.

"Kevin, you asshole, either wake the hell up or start looking for another job."

Pants were next, circa 2007 slick black straightlegs with a red stripe tacked down the side. They were a permanent part of his standard Smileytown police uniform that also happened - just so happened - to look an awful lot like the slacks Han wore in The Empire Strikes Back. Yawning enormously he stumbled toward the door, listening to Dissaray's voice slowly climb in frustration before he managed to yank the doorknob back and send a flood of light pouring in.

Disarray was not impressed. "God damn it, Kevin, you picked today of all days to sleep in?" Framed beneath the doorway, he scowled under the mess of wavy ginger curls that had escaped his ponytail. His officer hat was out and perched menacingly on his head - a patent leather black thing that meant that Shit Was Going Down.

"Today? What? Fuck what time is it?"

"Nine am."

"Thralls balls, why the hell'd you wake me up then?" Nothing ever fucking happened before at least eleven ... hell, most Smileytown citizens weren't even awake before eleven, which meant that the secret police didn't have to roll into the office before ten. One hour of precious sleep, gone forever. Kevin shot the taller boy a nasty look before stumbling back inside, giving he bed a long, wistful glance before plucking a new shirt out of his clothing box and scouring the floor for a comb.

Disarray didn't appear phased, following him in before stopping to cross his arms, shifting his weight to one leg. "Cartman Day celebrations began at nine."

Kevin spun wildly, one arm through the sleeve of his turtleneck, comb stuck in his hair. "...Oh shit. Oh shit."

"Uh huh."

"Oh SHIT!"

Jerking his head toward the door, Disarray trotted back out the way he came, cool as a cucumber as Kevin scrambled after. A stack of papers smacked into his chest and he grabbed at them fitfully, fingers twitching as he turned them over to frown down at the pencil scratchings. "That's todays schedule - festivities started at nine am with the parade. Start point is main street. The pie cook off is at twelve, one o clock is at the arena - sockbath fight to the death. And there's a new event this year at three at town square - everyone who gives a speech on what the mayor has done for them gets a free mug of rum to take to the dance tonight."

"Oh sweet Cthulhu. Oh merciful fuck."

"That's what I said," Disarray grunted as he squinted down the road at where various kids had already gathered, standing on their toes for a better view of the parade. From somewhere a paintball gun went off, ricocheting over the power ballad blasting from some hidden boombox, and Disarray's fingers twitched before tightening around his taser. Kevin meanwhile continued to slowly flip his shit as he suddenly realized that his taser was back at his apartment, probably nestled next to his badge and every other useful item that would be needed to maintain the peace during the town-wide mandated celebration of Eric Cartman's birthday. Last year there'd been five arrests, two injuries, and a fuck lot of drunk people by the time they'd made it to the end of Mr. Kitty's Dance Party. The year before they received permission to tase the crowd, it had been fifteen.

"Dude! Oh my God did you see the schedule?" a voice suddenly cut in ... causing him to jump half a foot into the air, spinning on his toes and nearly toppling over onto the cement. Instead of impending doom however, Kevin spotted the petite outline of his sister dashing down the sidewalk, decked out in a variety of official Cartmanday popcorn necklaces and cheep hats. She grinned enormously, flicking back a chunk of pink and black hair as she reached out with one hand, clasping her fingers around Disarray's shoulder as she shook him mercilessly. "I heard a rumor that - oh, hey, Kevin ... I heard they've turned a car into a giant float in the shape of Cartman's face. And it's going to spit candy into the crowd. Spit candy!"

Disarray shot him a harried glance, which Kevin gladly returned with a side of 'oh fuck.' "Sounds badass. You should go get a seat in the VIP box ... keep out of the trample zone and all that shit." Kevin only just managed to roll his eyes away as Esther gave the ginger kid a quick kiss before jogging off the way she came, multi-color necklaces swinging as she went. Meanwhile Disarray had already yanked out his docket, scratching across the top page in Crayola marker. "Kevin, I want you stationed here for the duration of the parade, same rules as last year. I'm going to see which raging fuckward forgot to mention a potential candy riot, and then round up some more able bodies. You got your taser on you?"

"I'm gonna go get it now, dude," Kevin promised, voice cracking apologetically. Of all the fucking stupid things to leave on all the fucking days- "It'll take five minutes, I swear."

"Good." His boss's face was even more stony than usual, mouth set into a hard line as he flipped his cop sunglasses down over his face. "It's gonna be a shit storm this year. So bring the 'saber too."

"Got it," he shouted in reply, saluting once before breaking into a run.

Treasure Cove, Present Day

The white line was totally abandoned, an empty zone of nothingness this late at night. Anybody still up on either side would be doing something more interesting than waiting around for the other side to start shit, Kyle figured. He'd rather be doing something more interesting than scanning the stupid thing with a telescope from the roof, at least. At least the sole government building provided a surprisingly decent vantage point, in addition to housing an entire town's worth of supplies and the councilmembers' private apartments in the guts of the largest structure their side of the wall (School, he had to remind himself occasionally - the word odd and foreign in the back of his throat, the same as any of the beforetime lingo that half the town had forgotten). That was the shitty part of being Head of Internal Affairs or Secretary General whatever the hell they'd decided his official job was nearly ten years ago. Not that anyone gave one single piece of a shit. Half the time even he and Stan got their positions confused, stepping all over each other's work and laughing about it like dumbasses until Madame President had to interrupt their conference with a not exactly subtle coughing fit.

The wind suddenly changed direction and he pulled his coat tighter, narrowing his eyes as it kicked up snow into his eyes. It was way too cold, and too late, and they were on battery rations again so he couldn't even listen to music while sitting out here like a dumbass with a toy waiting for the fatass to do something stupid.

From behind him came a huge bang, metal clanging on metal loudly enough to wake up half the school, and Kyle twisted around to see Stan's face, peering up through the hatch and looking sheepish. "Dude!"

"The wind did it," Stan answered immediately, clamoring the rest of the way up and struggling to pull the thing back closed against the breeze. Giving up after a couple minutes, he shrugged and walked over to plop onto the ledge next to Kyle. "Jesus it's cold up here."

"No kidding." Kyle blew into his gloved hands before picking the telescope back up, scanning the line twice. Beside him, Stan kicked his heels against the brick wall, leaning back and grinning idiotically. In the middle of the night when it was my-balls-are-frozen degrees farenheit. Kyle adjusted his scarf and waited it out while checking out the fencing around the Post Office. After a few minutes, Stan started humming, and the redhead gave up.

"Dude, what."

"What?" Stan turned around, shit-eating grin still plastered over his face, and Kyle rolled his eyes.

"Come on, man, you didn't come up here to just hang out. What?"

Stan laughed, then, rubbing a hand along his hair before sitting up. He couldn't have looked more pleased with himself if he'd tried as he rubbed his hands together then wiped them on his knees. "Yeah - dude, I just got laid."

"You - dude!" Kyle snorted and shoved his shoulder, sending him back into the snowbanks on the roof. Ten years of I Hate You I Love You dating, chewing his ear half off in the process, and finally he'd managed to nail Wendy Madame Fucking President Testaburger. "You came all the way up here just to tell me that?"

Stan just grinned. They could've had bottle rockets pouring down on them from Smileytown and Stan would probably still be smiling like a retard. Kyle rolled his eyes, trying to keep a straight face. "You're not supposed to run off and tell your friends until the next day, dumbass -- did you leave Wendy in bed by herself?"

"N- no!" Stan frowned, or tried to, and stood up to brush off the snow. Then, cocking one eyebrow and actually managing to look more self-satisfied, he added, "She needed to sleep."

"Yeah, I bet," Kyle drawled, picking up the telescope and doing another scan. Without turning back around, he tugged his scarf up further. "You better get back there before she wakes up."

"Can't." Stan cleared off the last of the snow and headed back over to the hatch, finally hauling it up this time. "Kenny's due in around now. Dragging the whole month's worth of supplies with him too. I promised Wendy I'd meet him. Make sure everything checks out and all that shit."

Kyle simply his mouth tugged off to one side in reply, staring into the telescope as though he could will something into exploding just for the hell of it. Kenny McCormick was a mixed bag of fucknuggets, and he sank down further into his jacket, scanning the line in silence for a few long seconds. "Do you think he's actually staying this time?"

"Who knows, dude." He could practically hear the shrug in Stan's voice, and with a quick, hard sigh Kyle finally packed up the scope, tucking it under one arm and shoving himself to his feet. His knees ached in protest, tingling as he tried to kick the blood back into his legs before stomping through the light layer of snow on the roof. Stan already had the hatch propped open for him, holding the heavy square of metal above their heads until he managed to scamper down the emergency ladder and into the nearly-pitch black hallway. It had been three weeks since he'd last seen Kenny, before their friend made his regular disapearing act off into God knows where. Smileytown, maybe - everyone and their mother knew that the fatass handed over big time tokens in exchange for supplies that he promply turned around and kept for himself and his upper crust. The leftovers were doled out in equal parts to the town's citizens - at least according to the ex-Smileys who'd managed to escape before the wall went up.

"I bet he's been dicking around in Denver," Kyle quipped over his shoulder as they moved past darkened doors, winding through rows of storage lockers before unceremoniously shoving open a pair of heavy metal double doors. The slam echoed back throughout the room, bouncing off of bleechers piled high with food and jars and enormous stacks of boxes as Stan skimmed his flashlight over the walls. Treasure Cove County General was a far cry from what they'd had under the birthgivers, but nowadays at least the "specialty" shelves kept up with a constant demand for the best and priciest items from raids on the neighboring towns - all thanks in part, of course, to Kenny's enormous balls of fucking steel.

Kenny was, of course, the only transporter whose goods they had to itemize, ticking off boxes down a pad of pink lined paper like some Beforetime ritual. Nobody questioned it. And nothing ever went missing. Then again Kenny was the only Outlander allowed past Treasure Cove's gates in the first place, hauling his monthly catch of water and batteries, shoes, and the occasional DS cartridge or twinkie. They had their own transporters, obviously - kids hired by the government and substidized with a nice little cut of the goods and a few extra tokens for the work. It paid better than moving a shop or running garbage duty, but every one of them was too pussy or stupid to steal from the big towns and get away with it. Kenny McCormick was liquid motherfucking gold, robbing meccas blind as big as Breckenridge and careening u-Hauls stuffed with Doritos down the highway without ever being seen. All inventory accounted for and always willing to compromise; always on time save for the trips where he'd disapear for days on end with some bullshit excuse about tits and beer that nobody ever believed.

Still. Kyle jumped slightly as Stan slammed the hatch doors open, reveiling an idling u-Haul just outside as a gust of balls cold wind swept through the old gymnasium. His stomach knotted instinctively every time he allowed himself to remember that Treasure Cove's entire survival was set squarely in the hands of an Outlander who visited the fatass every other month.

"Shipment's in," the cheery voice of Kenny McCormick announced, shouting over engine the as he somehow managed to back the hulking mouth of the truck up against the hatch doors without plowing through half the building. After a moment however he heard the slam of a door, and Kenny himself appeared, shuffling around the front of the u-Haul as he took a long drag from his cigarette. Halfway there he spotted them and waved, yanking his parka hood down around his shoulders.

Meanwhile Kyle gave him a quick wave in reply, trotting over to the back of the truck as he shivered and glanced up at the top of the door, shoving his scarf up into his face. "Hey, dude. How'd it go?"

Kenny gave a quick bark of laughter in response, dropping his cigarette to the floor and scraping his foot over it, his shoe squeaking loudly in protest. "Same old. Fucking asshole scavengers in Smileytown still think they can pirate my shit. Frisco's catching on though - I'd have your boys leave them alone until it blows over." Fingers catching under the latch, he lifted the metal paneling of the cargo door with a grunt, sliding it into the top of the truck with a bang. Inside Kyle could see a virtual treasure trove piled high with goods and supplies, including half a dozen cold cases of foods and drinks, boxes brimming with magazines and comics, and - standing proudly strapped to the back wall next to Kenny's motorcycle - a ten-inch solar-powered TV.

"Holy shit, dude," Stan suddenly barked, rushing past him in a blur of red and blue as he leaped up into the truck bed, nearly skinning his knees as he flung himself in front of the television. "Holy shit!"

Still standing in front of the door, Kyle could feel his own eyes widen in surprise, jaw slightly slack as he stared in awe. A rare few in Treasure Cove owned a working TV that didn't require a power outlet - typically emergency black and white boxes or radios that were an instant indication of who had way too many tokens on their hands. Jimmy's Place boasted a box that could even display in color - the prime attraction of the town's only five-star restaurant and comedy club - but a ten inch was unheard of. "Where the hell did you get that?"

"Sharper Image," he replied, grinning as Stan continued to caress the foot tall box of wonder. "I stashed one for myself too. And a few beers if you guys want to come over."

"Dude." At last Stan finally pealed himself away from the television set, sitting up to stare slack-jawed at his friend. "Dude. Yes. Hardcore yes."

Finally managing to compose himself, Kyle braced his palms against the truck bed and vaulted himself up into the u-Haul, grinning like an idiot as he reached out to grasp Kenny's arm. "Glad you're back, dude."

"Glad to be back," Kenny replied simply, his voice as smooth and easy as ever as he smirked and turned away, wrapping his palms around the first of the wooden boxes.

"And then he says he doesn't have any money! Like I'm some kind of Raisins Bath Girl floozy!"

"That wasn't what I meant, babe, I just meant if we ..."

"Don't you call me that, you ..."

Bebe's voice pitched upwards and almost cracked, and Wendy saw all three boys at the table simultaneously sit up, suddenly jerked back into awareness instead of staring into space like morons. Typical. Gregory at least had the sense to pretend he'd been paying attention all along, but Stan and Kyle were now looking at the two applicants before them like they'd never seen them. Wendy sighed.

Bebe was still half-shrieking at Clyde in that high, tight way, barely comprehensible as he interrupted every few lines with a "no, babe, wait ..." in some kind of vicious cycle. Just like their continual breakups that always ended up with them in front of Council, demanding arbitration for something or other.

Wendy cleared her throat loudly, pausing until she had both their attention. "I don't really think this is an issue for Council arbitration, guys. There's no property problem or law breaking."

"Ugh!" Bebe rolled her eyes in that overdramatic way, hand on one hip as she glared around the table and settled on Stan for no reason. "All you men are exactly alike!"

"...Sorry?" Stan offered, looking over at Wendy with a bewildered expression. She sighed, leaning forward onto her elbows, and plastered a smile right over the one that'd been dying for the past ten minutes.

"So in that case, Bebe, I'll see you later this week and Clyde ..." she stopped for a second, trying to think of a diplomatic way to suggest he stop being a stupid asshole, "Just grow up a bit, ok?"

Bebe snickered, and turned to walk right back out of the room without another glance at her ex-boyfriend. Grumbling, Clyde followed, and as the door closed behind them Wendy looked back down to her agenda for this week's hearing. Almost over, thank god. "Do we have any more public business?"

Kyle dug out a crumpled sheet of paper, starting to smooth it out on the tabletop. "Med Center is requesting a bunch of stuff for the next supply run to Breckenridge."

"Does it have to be Breckenridge? The crew almost got caught last run ... it's their own damn fault for following a schedule the Outlanders can figure out but nonetheless the current plan of action was to avoid it for a bit," Gregory started, pulling out the shipping schedule for the next month. Pickups and half-operational white vans out to North Park, Buena Vista, even Frisco if the weather held out, breaking windows and stuffing themselves with batteries and cereal and DVDs, tanks of propane and gasoline and, hopefully, whatever Rebecca Cotswolds had written on the crumpled piece of paper Kyle was handing over. "Of course, if it's urgent we could make a special trip or possibly request something of Kenny, provided he shows up soon."

Kyle shrugged, passing to Stan, who passed it right on. "I don't know; Ike just shoved it at me on the way out the door today. I guess I could ask them when I go drag him home for dinner tonight."

"Yes, please," Gregory accepted the note from Wendy, tucking it in with the rest of the shipping requests after a cursory glance. "Is that all?"

"Showdown game with the Cows is next week," Stan offered, receiving three blank looks in reply. "...Football? Against the John Elways?"

"So be prepared for a whole new set of applicants whining about bets they made and whether they have to pay up and who got drunk and punched who at Jimmy's postgame party ... awesome." Kyle rolled his eyes. Wendy had to agree, smiling to herself as her boyfriend shot his best friend a betrayed look.

"No, dude, see you don't get it because you don't understand how the game works ... "

"Because it's a pretty dumbass game, dude, and the Cows win every year anyway ..."

"What dude no the Broncos are going to rock this year they got that kid Francis and he's supposed to be awesome ..."

"Is that the kid with the fucked up teeth?"

"Anyway," Wendy interrupted again, carefully sliding her agenda notes into her peachy binder, "If football's the only other thing we have to worry about in the next week, that's fine. I really don't want anything screwing up this trip to Smileytown."

With that Gregory snapped his binder shut, putting down his pen and folding his hands under his chin. Stan and Kyle both suddenly looked more serious, previous talk about football and the state of that kid Francis' teeth forgotten. Wendy, meanwhile, stood up and walked to the door, sticking her head through.

The Mole was sitting in one of the flimsy stackable chairs that were everywhere in the old school building that was housed the Treasure Cove government. Sitting and half asleep, legs stuck out in front of him as a lit cigarette dangled from one corner of his mouth. At the sound of the door opening, though, he opened one eye and looked Wendy up and down. "You bitches done?"

"With official business, yes. And don't call me a bitch, asshole." Rolling her own eyes at having to repeat that for the sixth time today, Wendy ducked back inside and took her seat back at the cafeteria table, waiting for the Mole to drag his chair inside after him and shut the door securely behind himself. "Now, then. How do we feel about the goal of next week?"

"The tunnels are done ... not the one on the south road, but it was all roots and fucking bitch nature getting in the motherfucking way and we have four more anyway." The Mole, still not actually smoking the cigarette in his mouth, shrugged.

"Last time Kenny was here it didn't sound like any big shit was coming up with Fatass," Stan offered, exchanging some look with Kyle as if to confirm. The redhead nodded.

"Yeah, and all the intel Craig gave us says it should be quiet, especially at night in that part of town."

Wendy, tapping her fingernails against the surface of her binder, just nodded. "I'm just not sure about whether the kid he told us about, Mike, if he's worth our first shot. He might've changed his mind, or been arrested, or even be dead ... Craig's been here for four years, it's really not reliable information."

"So what are you suggesting, exactly?" Gregory asked, lifting one eyebrow at her. "Seems a bit late for that sort of doubt; this is a very long term plan coming to fruition."

"I know that, and I'm not saying we should give up, but if this is our first and possibly only shot at finding some allies in the regular people of Smileytown, we should be smart about it!"

The other eyebrow joined its twin. "Well if you're concerned we can always push it off another six months to a year and use even older information, unless you're all about to tell that Outlander Kenny what's going on and hope he doesn't decide to share it all with his friend across the Wall."

"You know, I don't appreciate being criticized for considering the safety of our citizens more important than the liberation of kids too dumb to come over before the Wall shut down completely, and that's all I'm trying to do here."

"There's not a lot of other choices anymore," Kyle said, before Gregory could retort with something smartassed, and Wendy turned back to look at him and Stan as they exchanged one more look. Then Stan shrugged again, the half-smile on his face somewhere between resigned and reassuring.

"It's all gonna be fine, Wendy, don't worry about it."

She looked from one of them to the other, mouth half-twisted as she tried to figure out exactly what they'd decided without saying, and finally just sighed. "If you say so."

Ike was going to be waiting for him outside the old cafeteria after the Council meeting, and they were going to go upstairs and heat up something for dinner on the little camping stove in their apartment.

At least, he was supposed to be there.

Kyle sighed and took one look around the shabby waiting area usually full of kids waiting to complain about something or other, now finally empty after a long day of arbitrating for Treasure Cove's citizens. Shaking his head, he pulled on his coat and shoved open both doors, starting off down the halfway shoveled walk. He was pretty done with this shit ... done with waiting for Ike to come home, done with his baby brother being elbow-deep in somebody's shattered ... whatever bones they were ... done with worrying that he, with a real job and responsibilities, was still having more fun and normalcy. And while the alternative wasn't any better ... Kyle tried, as he turned down main street and started having to slosh his way through a foot of undisturbed snow, to imagine his brother decked out in broken watches and warpaint, kneeling and chanting in front of the old Elway statue with the rest of the Kinder-cult ... it didn't give the younger boy a pass on pretending to be twice his age.

Stomping his way up around the corner where somebody had finally cleared a damn path, probably as Community Service for leaving garbage everywhere or not paying their tab at Jimmy's, Kyle wrapped his arms around himself against the cold and glowered. He was going to haul Ike home by his coat and stuff him with sandwiches and throw him out onto the playground.

The med ward was oddly quiet when Kyle entered, lights dimmed in the waiting area and lit mostly with battery-lanterns set in the curtained-off bed areas. Frowning and looking around, the redhead walked past the beds, mostly empty except for a few sleeping kids, and stopped at the desk near the end of the room, where Rebecca Cotswolds sat with a textbook. She glanced up at him, blinked once, and without comment went back to reading, leaving Kyle standing awkwardly in front of the desk. He frowned, just slightly, scratching the back of his neck.

"Um, hi."

"Hello," Rebecca answered, turning a page and still not looking up. "Do you require medical attention?"

She was still really pretty, in her own way, but smart or not it was really hard to talk to her. Kyle frowned. "No, I ... is Ike here?"

"Oh. He's in the break room." Rebecca tapped the tips of her fingers together, glancing up at Kyle quickly before looking away. "I do hope he hasn't been dwelling on this afternoon."

'What? Why, what happened this afternoon?" Kyle asked sharply, watching her bite her lower lip for a minute before he just sighed and turned. "Nevermind."

She didn't respond, of course, and Kyle just shook his head a little and pushed into the "break room" ... the oversized closet he and Stan had helped drag an old love-seat into years ago, as thanks for stitching up Ike's leg. Of course then his brother had gone and more than paid off the help anyway, bringing home a stack of medical books taller than he was.

That same brother was sprawled out on that same love-seat, staring blankly up at the ceiling of the closet even as Kyle pulled the door shut behind himself. "Ike? Ike, if you're just hanging out you should've come home, oing to take forever to get dinner ready."

"What?" Without moving, Ike looked up through his bangs, dark eyes centering on Kyle for a second before he just shook his head and scrubbed a hand over his face. "Ugh, fuck, I forgot."

"Even though I reminded you before you left this morning, and you promised you weren't going to spend all damn day cooped up in here getting covered in blood again ... did you even have lunch?"

"Stop yelling," his brother mumbled, slowly sitting up and still rubbing at one eye with his wrist. As he moved, papers and empty orange medication bottles spilled out across the floor, and the eleven year old pitched forward to snatch them back up awkwardly. "My head hurts."

Kyle sighed, crossing his arms heavily. This was ridiculous. Ike was way too young to be here, obviously without anyone caring whether he was sick ... "Are you sick? Goddammit, did somebody come in with something and now you're going to be up all night throwing up out the window again??"

"Stop yelling," Ike muttered again, tossing the bottles into a bin and drawing his knees up, wrapping skinny arms around them. "Today just really sucked balls, is all. And I wasn't about to waste medication for something probably psychosomatic ..."

"I don't ... you shouldn't ... you shouldn't even be giving people medication! You're eleven!"

Ike just shot him a long, flat look, as if to point out the multiple levels of irony in that statement. Whatever, though, since there'd been a whole team of them to run the town by the time Kyle was eleven, and they hadn't had a real choice, either, after the birthgivers were gone. Kyle just continued to frown at his brother, who only sighed and rubbed at his face again. He looked like shit, that was for sure. "So what about today was so bad you decided to zone out instead of coming home on time, if you're not getting sick."

"Patient died."

Oh, shit. "What?"

Ike pulled himself up heavily, leaning across the couch and snatching for the papers. Narrowing his eyes at the things, he sat back down. "At one-o-seven this afternoon patient Jarvis, T was brought in by his friends complaining of severe abdominal pain. Patient had developed pain some time earlier, according to friends, but had been mobile until getting knocked down playing basketball. That was this morning, apparently."

"Okay," Kyle, still frowning, sat down next to his brother, scooting closer and reading over his shoulder. His handwriting was awful, and Kyle had no idea how he was reading this, or how anyone else was supposed to use it.

"So obviously it's ... well, not obviously, but in Rebecca's opinion it was probably a burst appendix. We don't ... the books say to use an ultrasound or white-cell count to confirm diagnosis but we had to just base it on examination and symptoms. So he's going to die, probably, all because his fucking friends are too fucking stupid to bring him in ... he's too fucking stupid to come in two days ago when we could've put him on a trading truck ..." he caught himself, sounding exhausted and angry, which is the last fucking tone of voice Kyle wants to hear from his baby brother, but Ike just shakes his head when he wraps an arm over one narrow shoulder. "Both staff on duty conferred and came to consensus on the diagnosis, and discussed options considering the high probability of mortality for the patient. It was decided to attempt an appendectomy."

"A wh..."

"Surgical extraction of the ruptured organ," Ike says, dry and robotic like he's reading from a book. That probably was the definition from his stupid book. "Patient was rushed into surgery with both doctors attending."

"God, Ike, really? You and Rebecca cut open ..."

Ike snapped his head around, glaring, mouth set in a thin frustrated line. His hands tightened around the paper, crumpling it as he repeated from memory. "Organ was removed successfully. However, patient was already suffering from onset of peritonitis and additional complications from bleeding ... As a result patient was unable ... Attending physician attemp..."

Voice catching, Ike blinked rapidly, letting out a harsh breath. "Treatment proved unsuccessful."

Kyle sighed, squeezing the brunet's shoulder gently. "I'm sorry, dude."

Ike nodded once, leaning against him, turning his face into Kyle's shirt and still blinking. "And I know you're going to say it's 'cause I'm younger and too little to be a good ..."

"I think you're a great doctor." Kyle sighed, and pulled away to stand up, and pulled Ike up after him. "I just worry about you. You shouldn't be moping in a closet. Okay?"

Ike nodded, and took his hand. "My head still hurts."

"You want a ride back?"

"I'm not a baby," Ike snapped back, then looked at Kyle's raised eyebrow, and deflated with a snort before reaching up. "Um. Okay."

"Good. You can cook dinner, if you're so grown up," Kyle told him, hitching him up higher on his back and closing the break room door behind him.

Smileytown, 13th year of our Mayor


A mug came flying out from behind the counter, missing Craig's face by about three inches before smashing into the floor. He turned and looked at it, then back towards the counter, half-heartedly giving the figure scrambling around in cabinets the finger.

"OHGod we're out ... we can't be out! What if Cartman decides he likes coffee after all and comes expecting some and we're out IT'LL BE MY FAULT!" Tweek's head popped up over the edge, already nervous eyes widened impossibly in panic. "How can I have a coffee shop without any coffee AGH."

Craig stared, brows pulled together, until the blond's shaking got so bad he had to duck under the cabinet again in a frenzy of thrown bowls and cups and who fucking knew. He'd wanted to go to somewhere else ... anywhere else but Cartman'd insisted on Tweeky. Whatever, it was just easier to give the asshole what he wanted when it didn't really matter anyway. But now Cartman was late and he had to listen to Tweek spazz out like a retard.

"Wait I found some oh ..." the voice behind the counter stopped as suddenly as it started and then the blond let out a "AAGHHH" so loud Craig jumped in his chair. He turned to stare, somewhere between disgusted and confused, as Tweek jumped to his feet and collapsed over the counter, unopened coffee bag in one hand. "OH GOD IT'S DECAF."

"What the hell is decaf," Craig asked, almost immediately regretting it as it elicited a combination of tics and wailing. Tweek was seriously fucked, even for him, rolling around on the counter and knocking still plasti-wrapped baked goods everywhere.

"Why GAAH would anyone even make decaf it's like a cruel joke ohgod IT'S THE WORST THING EVER."

Craig rolled his eyes and turned back to keep one eye on the window. Asshole. Become mayor and suddenly you can be a giant dick about wasting people's time. Tweek, apparently gaining some kind of control, got his feet back on the ground and was busy pouring his coffee into one of the machines, 'decaf' or not.

"How am I going to make any monies selling decaf?? Somebody'll take over the store I'll be homeless and kindergarteners will eat me OH JESUS NOT KINDERGARTENERS."

"Jeeze, Tweek, will you shut the fuck up?" Craig muttered, leaning his chair back on two legs. "Nobody drinks coffee except you and Cartman and the sixth graders. Nobody cares."

"I care! GAH I care a lot!! Decaf gives me a headache OHGOD." The last bit was accompanied by a metallic crash that Craig didn't turn around to see, finally spotting Cartman's fat ass outside. The door chimed a second later, announcing the arrival of their Mayor who was, for some reason, without his usual gang of losers.

"About time," Craig said flatly, and Cartman gave him a swat on the head as he moved past to the other side of the table. Goddamn, that actually hurt ... who knew the fattie was getting some kind of muscle under the flab?

"Shut the fuck up, Craig. Tweek! We need coffee for our meeting. Extra sugar. And some biscotti."

"AGH Yes sir!! Oh god why won't this machine work I hope I didn't break it this is too much pressure-!"

Cartman seemed as content to ignore the blond as Craig, instead folding his hands together as he leaned forward. "Alright, you dickhole, I've got a proposal for you."

"Yeah?" Craig asked. "Not interested, dickhole. Was that all you wanted?"

"Hey! You didn't even hear me out, asshole. And I could have your ass arrested for that shit, so be glad I'm in a good mood. I've got things planned, Craig, big things, and you my friend have a prime opportunity here." Cartman had forgotten who he was talking to, apparently, waggling his eyebrows in a way that was probably supposed to be convincing but just made him look like a giant spaz. Craig considered getting up and walking out, but that probably would get him arrested, and Tweek had brought them some kind of weirdass coffee cookies, so instead he just picked one up, taking a bite. Cartman grinned, widely, and leaned back in his chair.

"Now then. We're a town divided, Craig, and I don't intend on allowing that to continue. So you have a golden chance here to do the winner of this game a big favor and not get your douchebag ass thrown in Disarray's cells for the next year and a half. What do you say?"

Treasure Cove, Present Day

"Set down! Hike!" Clyde belted as he scooped the worn pigskin up in his hands, taking several steps back before spiking it across the field. The overgrown stretch of ground was packed hard with snow, but that didn't stop the Cows from hurling over it, flecks of white kicking up into the air like a miniature snow globe. Halfway to the goal one of the taller girls caught the ball ... taking five steps before being tackled and dragged down to the ground by the hair. Seated up in the bleachers Craig rolled his eyes at the play, long legs stretched over the edge of the short barrier wall. Offense had begun to trudge their way back to the starting line, with at least four of the kids limping as they went. A few seemed to notice that they had an audience and peeked their noses up out of their regulation black and white coats - smiling and waving and only stopping after Craig promptly flipped them the fuck off. If the Cows didn't feel like starting every single game with half the team injured, then maybe ... just maybe - they shouldn't play football no-rules style. But that would be too fucking easy of course, and Craig watched as the injured girl stood back up to begin kicking the offending boy in the shins.

"Red, what the fuck! Stop it." Craig turned his head as Clyde crossed his arms, kicking impatiently at the snow with one foot. His call went ignored as the two players tripped each other onto the ground, brawling across the layers of white. "Ugh, whatever, dudes. That's it for today. Go home." The motley mix of kids finally took a clue and staggered across the field, pushing and shoving as they called their goodbyes. Even the two fuckheads who'd started the fight made their way back together, finally leaving the swatch of white field almost empty.

"Nice job, dude," Craig muttered dryly as he slid down from the bleachers, landing hard on the ground with a grunt. Fucking snow was in his socks ... his good socks, the first heavy wool ones that he'd managed to buy with the enticement moneys that the stupid fatass had given him ages ago. He rubbed one ankle against the other in annoyance, wrinkling his nose before raising his eyebrows at Clyde. "When's the game?"

The brunette meanwhile was busy twisting his back, stretching muscles that Craig was skeptical even existed. When in the fuck he'd gotten shoulders that broad, Craig had no idea. Maybe the goddamn beefcake-fairy had come to town when they'd all turned twelve. "Next Saturday, against the John Elways," he replied - as though the Cows were ever playing anyone not the John Elways. "You wanna come?"

"Yeah, why not." He'd gotten tall as shit too ... taller than any seventeen year old had a right to, and certainly taller than one-testicle Clyde Donovan should be. Anyone over six feet in Treasure Cove was immediately snatched up to play on one of the sports teams, and Clyde was the star quarterback for a reason. It made for a pretty sweet gig with the chicks though. Special invitations to after-game parties were anything but uncommon, and Craig almost smirked as he thought about the curly-haired blonde whose throat he'd had the pleasure of cramming his tongue down last week. "But hey, look. We should talk after, okay. It's important."

"What? Why?" Clyde bounced the football back and forth in his hands a few times before waving it in Craig's direction, one eyebrow raised. He shrugged in response, which Clyde apparently took as an affirmative before grinning and hurling the ball in his direction. "Bebe's putting on a spin the bottle challenge again; no way I'm missing it."

"I meant after that." The ball hit his hand hard ... the freckled surface almost completely worn down and tough as a fucking pig's ass. Grunting, he threw it back across the field. Clyde stepped back a few paces, chin turned upward as he gave a little jig before catching the stupid thing behind his back like a giant pussy show-off.

"Oh. Kay. About what?"

The ball came sailing back, slightly off to the left with a nice little spin on it. "You know. Stuff."

"Why can't we just talk here?"

Craig hissed as he caught the ball again, rolling his eyes as he dug his nails into its skin. God damned motherfucking idiot. Sometimes he didn't know why he even bothered. "Whatever, man. Just forget it."

"All right then." Such a fucking idiot, and Craig hurled the football back in pent-up frustration. His friends might all be dumb as a pile of shit bricks, but he wasn't stupid enough to think for a fucking second that psychopath Eric Cartman would let the wall stand forever. One of these days or months or years if he was so lucky, the whole thing was going to come crashing down, and fuck if he was going to be caught on the wrong side of these dickheads' stupid games.

Knitting his eyebrows in thought, he hardly noticed as Clyde attempted another of his ridiculous moves, striking a pose and sticking out one hand to catch the spinning ball. Only to have the hard surface slam into his outstretched fingers, bouncing off and spinning wildly into the snow.

"Aah-aah-AAAAHHHOOOWWWWW," he suddenly wailed, doubling over as he clutched his fingers in the other hand and dropped down to his knees. Craig meanwhile jerked around in surprise, eyes widening for a moment before he jogged across the small stretch of ground, thin legs leaping over the piles of snow.

"Shit. Sorry," he muttered, sliding onto his own knees next to the brunette and ignoring the bitchass wetness still creeping into his socks. "Is it bad?"

Clyde eyed him with a long look before slowly unwrapping his fingers, holding his right hand out gingerly. "Fucking ... fuck fuck fuucckk fuuuuaaaAAAAAAOOOOWWWwwstop it!!"

Craig raised an eyebrow, fixing him with a flat stare as he removed the thumb that he just had barely pressed into the fleshy part of his palm. "Dude, it's just a sprain."

"Yeah, and it fucking HURTS," Clyde snapped back, still sniveling ridiculously and sliding back into some fucking kindergarten sulk mode, shoulders hunched up toward his ears.

Some shit never changed. He sighed, scratching at the back of his neck and wondering where in the fuck he was going to find some clean socks. "Okay. Fine. So what do you do when you really hurt yourself playing this dumb game?"

"Drink a lot of beer," Clyde replied matter of factly, still babying his hand as he tucked it into his inner jacket pocket and wobbled to his feet. "A lot," he repeated pointedly, brown eyes staring out from behind clipped bangs, "Of beer." With one huge, final sniff he jerked his head in the direction of the Cow's multicolored clubhouse and slowly turned to trudge his way back through the snow. Craig meanwhile blinked as he stared at the other boy's retreating back, shaking his head before he sighed and followed suit.

Beer, it turned out, wasn't a bad fucking idea at all.

Smileytown, 14th year of our Mayor

The arena seats were full today, practically overflowing with whooping punks and kids huddled down under heavy jackets and scarves. The first day since December that anyone can stand being outside for more than twenty minutes at a time, and the crowd was out in full force. It showed, and Ruby Tucker sighed, half-bored as she hefted a soap-weighted kneesock over one shoulder. Her armor felt stale and unused, the pink stuffed unicorn strapped around her head itchy as fuck. The Kermits knotted around her shoulders didn't help either, and she fiddled impatiently with her champion's belt, pointedly ignoring the stupidshit noisy crowd chanting her name and waving pointless signs of pink and yellow. She was the goddamn motherfucking arena champion because she was good, not because of some half-assed calls of support, and she lazily flicked them off, waving both hands around as the yells doubled over.


The whole thing was dumb. Worst of all was Mr. Mayor - Mr. Mayo-ass as cellblock 3 liked to titter until a guard strolls by and they all shut up like the fucking pussies they were. Eric Cartman was in his usual place, perched high in his emperor's seat with a fucking crown on his head like some lard-ass Julius Caesar or Caesar Salad or the fuck ever dude it was - and Ruby gave the required bow to him as she strutted carelessly across the packed dirt. Her opponent was less gracious. Some little piece of cumshit - an older fuck with crinkly hair - probably a first-timer who clutched at his sock like his life depended on it, anticipating the brutal beating that he was about to receive at her hands. At least that part would be interesting. She linked her fingers up over her head, cracking the knuckles before sticking her tongue out at him, wagging it between her teeth as she shouted.

"Come on, you cum-licking shit for brains vomit fart. I don't have all fucking day. So get the fuck over here so that I can kick your pussy cocksucking ass."

The crowd fucking ate it up like moldyass string cheese, screaming its throat raw from atop the tall wooden wall. Titfaces. She flicked them all off again for good measure, rolling her eyes before hiking up her hand to get a better grip on her sock. She'd had half a mind to stop getting herself arrested just to piss them all the fuck off, speed-bumping a hiccup into their pointless little stupid shit arena games. Her criminal record filled a trapper keeper and a half of stupid shit, starting around two years after Crig left - trespassing - eating an orange and refusing to pay - flicking off the mayor during a public speech - it didn't mean a damn thing outside of what Eric Cartman decided it happened to translate into that day, and sometimes she was sorely tempted to start sweeping floors or selling shoes or whatever the hell the roundface fucks peering down over the safety wall did all day.

But this shit paid better than working anyway, and with a final rude gesture Ruby dashed forward to crack her soap across her opponent's face.

Smileytown, Present Day


"Wait," the Mole suddenly snapped, hand shooting out fast enough to nearly knock Stan backwards when he collided with it. Nearly, but not quite, and Stan turned to tell him to fuck off when the brunet held up a hand, giving one shake of the head. "'old on, something is fucked."

Stan snapped his jaw shut, turning to look at the house ... shack, really ... that was supposed to be Mike Mikowski's house, and the main center of Smileytown discontent as long as Mike hadn't gotten his ass permanently arrested in the last few years. That nobody could tell them, and it'd taken a lot of arguing between Council before they'd decided to go for it anyway, the chance to kick up a little rebellion against fatass' fucking regime too good to pass up. And here they were, guns packed up and ready as the Mole glared, eyes narrowed, at the whole point of sneaking over here tonight. It looked like shit, obviously built into the ruins of some half-collapsed Birthgiver house, but so did most the other things trying to be buildings in this part of the city so Stan couldn't see what'd set the other boy's already paranoid internal alarms. "What?"

"I fucking said 'old on, asshole, I want to fucking look." Shoving Stan with one arm again, the Mole took two steps further into the shadow of an overturned mail truck, muttering and keeping his eyes on the building. "Impatient bitches, fucking pissing their pants if they 'ave to wait one motherfucking minute, goddamn motherfuck..."

Stan tuned him out with a roll of the eyes, twisting around to look down the dark street, wondering if they'd beaten Kyle and Kenny here or if those two were inside, waiting, wondering where the fuck they were and ready to get this shit started already. Just because they'd split up in case of something going wrong didn't mean they'd really planned on that happening, and it wasn't like they had all goddamn night...

"Shit," the Mole suddenly hissed, fumbling at his waist for a second before drawing his airsoft up, eyes narrowed at the still darkened building as Stan snapped back around.

"What? Dude, what the fuck's the problem?"

"Look at the motherfucking footprints," came the response, hissed as the Mole's machete came off his back and shoved into the waistband of his pants. Stan did, tracing the series of imprints in the snowy ground with his eyes, not seeing whatever the fuck was supposedly the problem. The other boy twisted and must have seen the confusion on his face, because he scowled even more than usual. "Are you fucking blind? This asshole, he's supposed to be some kind of fucking unpopular asshole spit on by god the whole bitch town, oui? Why are there fifty footprints all over the fucking place in two 'our old snow?!"

Stan opened his mouth slightly, then just spun to stare at the moonlit yard, counting. "You think they know we're coming?"

"Non, I think there's fifteen fucking idiots coming to fucking borrow a cup of motherfucking sugar in the middle of the goddamn fucking night! Yes, you fucking dumbshit! They must 'ave found out." His normal glare had moved past scowling into some kind of indescribable expression of pissed off, and if Stan would've felt bad for whoever was going to be involved in the process of finding out how if he hadn't been hit with a sudden sinking realization.

"Shit. We have to find Kyle. He and Kenny are coming from where, that direction? We gotta intercept them, dude, they're not going to fucking realize ..."

The Mole just swore again, some dumbass French word that probably wasn't even a curse word but just sounded cool, and Stan shook his head again, standing up taller behind the truck in an attempt to see the other two coming. The night was quiet, too late and too cold for anyone else to be out on the street, so if they could just fucking wave them down before they went to the front door it'd be fine, they'd bail and the Mole would tear his way through everybody involved to find the fucking leak. It'd be fine. Just fucking fine.

"Come on," the Mole nodded in the direction that looked sort of right, at least enough that Stan couldn't fucking tell the difference, working off a mental map eight years old in the goddamn dark. Nodding, he followed, trying to mimic the half-bent jogging pace of the other boy, twisting his head just once to look back at the house they were supposed to be planning some kind of Smiley Rebellion in at the moment. Fuck everything.

They'd gone a while, ducking and weaving through the decaying buildings pulled tight and dark around them, and Stan was just about to ask if they shouldn't start calling for the other two when a massive crack, impossibly loud, rang through the streets behind them.

Stan was halfway to turning to see what it was before he was suddenly yanked down, thrown against the concrete and scraping the shit out of his hands as the Mole scrambled backwards and shoved him along at the same time. He cursed, and turned to shove the french boy back, pushing himself back up despite the other's protests.

"Run, you fucking idiot! No, stay down goddammit you're going to fucking get shot no like this motherfucking goddamn fucking..."

"Was that a fucking gun?!" It had to be, to make noise like that, not the shitty pellet guns and airsofts that'd been the weapons of choice in white-line skirmishes and the Stark's Pond Incidents. Stan stumbled the rest of the way to his feet, ignoring the Mole's cursing and stepping out of grab range. "Holy shit what the fuck are they shooting at?"

He realized as soon as he said it, though the look the Mole was shooting him was just extra confirmation of how fucking stupid that question was. Stan blinked, and took a few quick strides toward the source of the noise before he realized the other boy wasn't right next to him anymore. "Dude! We have to go fucking help them!"

"And get fucking shot?? This isn't fucking pussytime playground bullshit, you motherfucking idiot, running in and losing your fucking 'ead like some fucking 'alfwit bastard piece of shit, I'm not getting shot for that." The Mole had stood up after him, machete now in hand and glancing around the streets calmly. "We 'ave to get back to the tunnel."

"The ... fuck the tunnel!" Stan snapped, fists clenching, not about to run off like a selfish dickhole when two of his friends were probably running from Fatass's fucking goons and expecting to meet them here. He'd known it was a bad fucking idea to split up, probably a bad idea to bring in Kenny at the last second and hope for the best, and he'd definitely known it was a bad fucking idea for him and Kyle to go separately. "They need our fucking help, you dick!"

"'ow the fuck are you going to 'elp them, being fucking target for some bullshit power 'ungry cocksucker to fire at?! They will be going to the goddamn tunnel, we 'ave to meet them. Unless Broflovski 'as more fucking sense than you and will stay to wait?"

Kyle probably did have more sense than him, most the time, but Stan just glared at the other boy for a few long seconds before glancing back towards the gunshot ... or where he thought it'd come from, the sound echoing weirdly through Smileytown's empty streets ... and nodded. "If they're not there, though ... "

"Oui, go fucking running around a town you 'ave no idea about, get shot too, act like a motherfucking idiot and enjoy bleeding out across the snow, alone," the Mole just muttered back, shaking his head, stalking across the street with that same determined awareness. Stan glowered and followed, still pissed but not seeing any kind of alternative and even more pissed because of it. Fucking asshole was right ... he'd go running for Kyle and Kyle'd come looking for him and they'd both get lost and arrested. Or worse.

If he repeated it to himself it almost made running in the exact opposite direction that he really wanted to be going okay, it almost made sense ...

Until they rounded the corner and the mouth to the tunnel stood, a dark patch scratched from newly fallen snow, alone and abandoned. "Fuck."

The Mole, for once, didn't say anything that made him a gigantic fuckwit, and instead just turned right back around, lifting his airsoft and scanning the area with it. "Marsh. See if they're in there already."

Stan, more because he couldn't fucking think of anything else to do, nodded once and walked forward, crouching next to the hole and sticking his head down inside the loose-packed tunnel. "Kyle? Kenny, dude?"

"Anything?" the Mole asked from somewhere above him, back to Stan as he continued sweeping the gun back and forth into the dark. Stan snorted, took as good a look as he could, and started to sit back up.

"No, dude, so we need to fucking go get the..."

Another crack rang through the street, louder and sharper than the last, and Stan suddenly found himself down in the tunnel, the Mole half on top of him and kicking him in the ribs. "What the fuck?!"

"They're going to find the goddamn tunnel and then what ... we 'ave to fucking go."

"What?? No, dude, what about Kyle and Kenny, we can't just fucking leave them here!"

Two more gunshots, and the Mole glared and shoved Stan down the tunnel a few steps. From the mouth of the tunnel a little light leaked in behind him, making the french kid's scowl even more obnoxious looking, and Stan was about ready to just rush him and climb back up when he found the airsoft pointed right at his face. "They will come down 'ere and they will take zeir goddamn guns to ze other side and they will shoot everyone. Go, Marsh, or I will pull the goddamn fuckbitch tunnel down on your fucking 'ead and let you rot."

Stan glanced from the gun to the barely lit circle of sky behind the other boy, trying to figure out what he was supposed to fucking do that wouldn't end up with fatass laughing over all their dead bodies, when from behind him came a faint, dying call.

"Stan? Mole? Is that you?" And god fucking dammit if Wendy wasn't right there, waiting to be the first one to debrief and congratulate and move forward on whatever they were supposed to be bringing back, and Stan went through a nice horrible string of curses in his head before glaring at the Mole for lack of a better target.

"Fuck you, dickhole," he snapped, and the Mole just snorted and tossed the airsoft at him and pulled out a shovel, scraping it along the wall and closing the little circle of sky completely. Stan watched it disappear, and when his chest seized up and almost fucking strangled him at knowing what he'd just let happen, he stepped forward and socked the Mole right across his fuckass french face.


Kyle didn't know how long he'd been out for, how long he'd been left in some freezing room with a bag over his head since something had gone really horribly wrong and he'd found himself facing down a whole mini-army of kids in mirrored sunglasses and black caps in the middle of some dark abandoned Smileytown road. Long enough to panic, then stop panicking any start to plan, then long enough to realize and plans he made would probably be pointless by the time he had a chance to enact them. But however long it'd been the first thing he saw when the bag came off made it seem not nearly long enough.

"Why, Kyyle, so good of you to drop in!" The fat, grinning face of Eric fucking Cartman ducked into his vision, barely a few inches away, and the redhead immediately scowled and jerked backwards.


"Now, Kyle, no need for rudeness; I do hope your stay in Smileytown has been pleasant so far." Cartman leaned back a bit and Kyle realized he was crouching, bent down on the concrete floor in what looked like some old basement ... office building, not a house, there weren't nearly enough old boxes of stuff and no jury-rigged furnace burning on wood and recyclables. Glancing around once, Kyle set his mouth more firmly into a glare, already sick of this shit.

"Your stupid goons knocked me around, tied me up, put a potato sack over my head, and put me in here with you," he snapped back. He'd been sick of it when they were twelve and cut contact permanently, after the last disasterous meeting when Wendy'd been called a cunt and Stan nearly got the shit beat out of him by the fatass' stupid guards after jumping over the table. It was always the same crap ... lies and whining and bullshit. He tried pushing himself up, only to realize his wrists were tied together, rope looped up above his head over some knot of inoperable pipes. "So I'd say it's gone from bad to terrible."

Cartman, for his part, just kept his fake smile plastered on, even as he walked backwards, picking up something off the floor ... a pool cue, or pointer, or something ... and whipping it around experimentally. Kyle wanted to wipe the smirk off his face, wanted to put a fist right through those teeth, but even if he got up it didn't look like there was nearly enough slack on the rope to do shit, so instead he kept glaring. "What the fuck do you want, fatass. Tokens? Supplies? Power?"

"Oh, no no, Kyle, I'm afraid it isn't that simple." Cartman seemed pretty happy with the swish noise the pointer in his hand made, which Kyle was ignoring in favor of staring daggers into his fat fucking face, and walked over to drag a chair out from against the opposite wall. Kyle rolled his eyes. Of course he'd want to play some manipulative Machiavellian power game. But he had to want something, or he'd have had Kyle shot already. Cartman, leaning his stick against the chair, adjusted his tie ... and what kind of jackass wore a tie, anyway. "There's no point in asking for a ransom ... you see, I'm quite certain I have everything I need. Or at least, I will."

"You're an idiot."

The brunet blinked, fake smile slipping for a second as he seemed startled at the response. Then it immediately came back up, though there were more teeth this time. "Fine, Kyle, if you don't want to hear my genius plan you can just be surprised with everybody else. Though I'm afraid... you might not get to see it with them."

Fucking asshole. If he was going to kill him he should get it over with already so Kyle wouldn't have to sit and listen to his dumb bullshit. They'd beaten his pathetic attempts at raids and spies off easily for years and been able to build tunnels under a quarter of his city without being noticed. Any kind of plan he had would fall apart before it got off the ground, because even people who sucked up to Cartman hated his ass. "Whatever, fatass, even if you don't want a fucking ransom Stan isn't going to leave me stuck over here."

Cartman chuckled. "Oh, I doubt that, Kyle. Your stupid bitch of a leader won't want to admit to breaking her own laws, after all. Or are you forgetting we caught you sneaking around like a typical criminal Jew rat on my propertah?"

"Fuck you, you tub of lard!"

"And since Stan's too much of a whiney pussy to piss off his dyke girlfriend, that means you're my prisoner of war. What shall I do with you, Jew?" Cartman tilted his head, pretending to think. Fucking rat-bastard. Kyle growled in the back of his throat.

"How about you shut your fucking worthless mouth?"

Cartman couldn't have been any more smug if he'd tried. "How about you make me, kike?"

"AGH!" Kyle jumped up, barreling forward three steps before snapping to a sudden stop, one foot slipping out from under him as the rope pulled tight and yanked his arms back over himself. He caught himself, barely, and took a step backwards as Cartman let out a peal of that fucking obnoxious laughter that Kyle'd always hated, even back in the Beforetime.

"Oh ho, Kyyyle," he started, drawing out the name in as annoying a way as humanly possible, "well, well, well well well."

"Fuck you," Kyle spat back, narrowing his eyes as the fat fuck moved back to the wall, to the other end of the rope. "The fuck are you doing?"

Fatass fucking ignored him and just gave it a good yank, jerking Kyle backwards again and nearly off his feet. Stumbling, ignoring the sharp pain now pounding from his arms, Kyle tried to stand properly and found it impossible, now strung up onto his toes. Fucking shit.

Cartman, meanwhile, had picked his stick back up, smacking it gently into one palm as Kyle glared and wondered how close he'd have to get to be within range of a foot straight to the balls. Or strangled with his own fucking rope. Fucking asshole would deserve all of it.

Continuing, not bothered by the lack of response, Cartman stood, grinning retardedly as his stick continued to thwip, thwip into his palm. "Now then, Kyyle, if we're both clear on whose town and whose rules we are playing by now, I'll continue."

"Whatever the fuck you're going to say, you can shove it up your ass," Kyle snapped, finally giving it up and spinning slowly on the rope to glare. He swayed, unsteady, and tried to grip at the rope to pull more weight off his actual wrists as the fatass paused and eyed his stick with a thoughtful look. Then the brunet shook his head, wrapping his fingers around the smooth wood and giving it an experimental bend.

"Maybe another day, you fag." He grinned, licking his pudgy mouth, and Kyle, flushing slightly, bared his teeth.

"You fucking asshole! I'll fucking break your nose!"

Cartman only continued to grin in that annoying way. "We'll see about that, Jew. But I'm getting ahead of myself." Taking the stick in one hand, he swung it once, experimentally. "Why'd you assholes break into my city?"

Kyle let out a breath. He couldn't fucking help it ... somehow, he'd expected a lot worse. He lifted himself higher onto his toes, glaring back evenly. "Eat shit, you fat fuck."


If he hadn't been essentially suspended from the ceiling, Kyle would have dropped to his knees, doubling over as the wood slammed into his stomach. Instead he hung on his wrists, gasping hard, blinking rapidly.

Cartman laughed a little. "How'd you sneaky fucking rats get in?"

Kyle pressed his teeth together and didn't say anything.

"Wrong!" Thwam, and Kyle dropped again, flinching as the rope bit into skin and a trail of blood began to drip down one arm. Slowly, painfully, he put his feet back on the floor and tried to stand back up. Cartman was standing way too fucking close, smiling with all his teeth, seeming not to give a shit that his questions weren't actually being answered. Kyle coughed, once, and tasted bile. "We flew."

This time the rod smacked into his legs, sending spasms along his thighs and nearly causing him to collapse onto his wrists again. "Wrong again!"

"You're such a fucking asshole," Kyle muttered, straightening again despite the screaming in his muscles. Trying to focus despite the pain, he shot the fatass a dark look. "I'm not fucking telling you."

Cartman sighed, and without warning grabbed his neck, squeezing painfully and forcing Kyle to look at him properly. Brows drawn together over brown eyes, the taller boy smirked slowly. "The answer, you stupid fucking Jew, is tunnels."

Kyle stared. He stared for at least ten seconds, during which he might have been able to knee the fatass in the balls, bitten off his fingers, or at least spit in his face, but instead he stared because that was a good fucking guess. "Y- you're guessing."

"You've been building tunnels for three years," Cartman said, and for once his voice wasn't teasing or laughing or idiotic. He was actually fucking serious. He was fucking right. Kyle's stomach dropped heavily, and the brunet broke back into an amused expression. "And you have how many?"

Jerking away, Kyle shook his head. "I'm not telling you jack shit."

"Five!" Cartman corrected, snorting, and thwam, Kyle doubled over again. "Why? Because you're a fucking sneaky Jewrat!"

Thwam, thwam, thwam. Kyle's arms were numb, his whole weight on his bleeding fucking hands as the rod hit his stomach, legs, anything within Cartman's reach.

"So, since I know everything interesting already, what else should you squeal about? Hmmm?" Cartman hefted his rod again, considering it for a moment. "Where did the Birthgivers go?"

"I ... What?"

"Wrong!" Kyle twisted at the last second, grunting as the stick smacked heavily into his side. Fucking shit. The brunet laughed a little. "Go ahead and try to get away if you'd like, Kyle. It won't help." A pause. "How far is it to the end of Outlands?"



"How do the solar panels work? Where do babies come from? What's the capital of Nashville?"

Thwamp. Thwamp. Thwamp.

Kyle gagged, unable to even cough properly as blood and barf crawled up the back of his throat. Fucking ... fucking crazy goddamn ... Cartman paused, breathing heavily, joints white where they gripped his rod. Without warning, he reached forward, running one thick hand through red hair. Kyle jerked, twisting slowly on the rope, and through his narrowing vision glared at the brunet's ugly fucking face.

"Bastard," he mumbled, coughing again, watching warily as Cartman brought their faces close together.

"Kyyle." his breath stank of fucking chocolate and coffee, and it made Kyle's already aching stomach even more nauseous. Slowly, gripping his hair tightly enough that it hurt, Cartman reached forward to swipe at his mouth with his tongue, right where he'd bitten open his lip in pain. "Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?"

It was suddenly too fucking much ... jesus christ his tongue ... and shock and disgust joined the party with pain to push his stomach past its limits. And Kyle, eyes shutting and almost secretly a little pleased about it, barfed right onto the fatass' shirt.

Kyle slumped back against the wall, exhausted, out of breath as he gave up his attempt to scream down the fucking building. Even if anyone could hear him in the basement it was obvious nobody gave a shit; besides, the last thing he wanted was a sore throat to go with everything else. Leaning back, though, put more of his weight on his wrists, and after a few minutes he could feel his fingertips tingle as his already constricted veins strained to keep blood pumping properly. Sighing, he sat up straighter, curling and uncurling his fingers and squirming as best he could in the rope bonds, trying to find a more comfortable position.

Which was probably impossible, and exactly why he'd been left like this, arms tied over his head to some pipe lining the basement walls. Right at mid-height, too, which meant he was stuck half-crouching, unable to really stand up or sit down without either twisting his arms or putting even deeper welts into his already aching wrists. Fuck, they hurt. Everything hurt, actually; his head, his wrists, his stomach, his mouth ...

He felt his face go hot just thinking the whole goddamn thing, and Kyle grit his teeth and yanked on his wrists, not caring that it hurt as his head swam with rage and embarrassment and he didn't really give a shit if anyone could hear him as he started yelling at the ceiling again. "Cartman!! You worthless cocksucking fatass!! I'll kill you, you piece of shit!! I'll fucking murder you!!"

It helped sooth a little of the anger pulsing through him, pounding in his ears in hot, persistent beats, and he was about to let out another burst of threats when from the door came the distinctive sound of a lock sliding open. Twisting, he squinted through the dark. He could barely fucking see ... there was a tiny square window in the door, but Fatass had apparently decided lighting up the basement was a waste of power, so he was left with whatever managed to make its way down the stairs.

Then came a muffled, barely audible click and he went blind, swearing loudly and slipping to jerk, painfully, on the pipe as light filled the room and his eyes couldn't adjust fast enough. The door opened and he pried one eye open to see, blinking frantically as the dark shape slowly separated from the wall of white. Kyle felt himself tense, fists clenching and then relaxing again as whoever it was was obviously shorter and slimmer than that fat fucking nazi.

That he was reacting like that made him even angrier, ears ringing as his eyes finally caught up and stared in frustrated confusion at ... "Butters?"

Butters Stotch stopped short, eyes widening as he stared back at Kyle. He was carrying some kind of covered tray or something in his hands, and he balanced it carefully as he started moving forward again. "W-well hey there Kyle. How're you doin'?"

"How am I..." Kyle's anger drained away in the face of sheer, utter stupidity, and he had to open and close his mouth again at least once before his brain kicked back into operation. This was an opportunity. Finally somebody he knew, besides Cartman's sunglassed goons and the Fatass himself. "Butters, you have to untie me! I've got to get out of here."

Butters stopped about two feet away from Kyle and crouched, putting the tray on the ground. "Now, see, Eric said you'd say something like that."

"Of course he fucking did, he's the one who fucking put me down here like some kind of fucking prisoner!"

Butters frowned at him, looking back towards the door nervously as he uncovered the tray and promptly started fidgeting with the cloth. "H-he also said I wasn't supposed to listen to anything you said, Kyle, 'cause it'd be a filthy Jew lie from a dirty-traitor-ginger-rat. But, um, I brought you dinner!"

"Butters. Butters, this is serious," Kyle said quickly, desperation edging into his voice. "Butters, Cartman's a fucking sociopath. He ... he already beat the shit out of me, you can't leave me tied up here, he'll do it again. Please, dude, you're not going to just fucking leave me tied up, are you?"

"Well, of course not!" Butters said brightly, smiling quickly and pulling out a switchblade. Kyle nearly collapsed in relief, watching the blond boy unfold it. He'd almost thought Butters would leave him there. God. He'd have to get the fuck out of here quickly, before anyone realized ... go south into the woods maybe, since the Wall...

"If I left you all tied up there like that, how could you eat your dinner?"

It took a second to understand. "What?!"

Butters grinned, and dug something else out of his pocket, and flipped the tazer on. "Now, Kyle, Eric said if you tried to move at all until I'm out of the room I'm supposed to 'taze you stupid' so please don't move, okay? Then you can eat your supper. It's mashed potatoes and broccoli and a banana for desert!"

Kyle blinked, still hardly fucking believing it. Butters, apparently deciding his silence was agreement, stepped forward and slid the knife up into the rope, wiggling it around until the thing broke and Kyle's arms, half-numb from hours in one position, dropped to his side. He waited, even, till Butters had taken half a step away before he was on his feet, making a run for the door. Fuck all of this.

He got about three steps before there was a buzzing noise from behind him and what felt like a bucket of snowmelt poured over his head, freezing him in place as every muscle in his body screamed in shock. His legs dropped out from under him, leaving him to collapse on the concrete floor as his arms refused to catch him, or move at all, too busy twitching. He would have screamed, but it felt like his chest was impossibly tight, pushing out all the air as he lay limply till the buzzing stopped.

Kyle took a sharp, aching breath, dizzy. His arm and cheek had hit the floor and he could feel the scrapes beginning to ooze already. Fuck. Distantly, he heard Butters mumble something and felt the other boy doing something to his arms.

"... and after I warned you, even. Eric said there wasn't any point, that you'd probably make a break for it anyway, but I told him you wouldn't do that 'cause you're a smart guy, Kyle, but I guess he was right after all. Aw, Hamburgers, you made me spill your water. Now I gotta go fill the bottle up again."

Kyle blinked, trying to clear the dizzy feeling, and attempted to wipe at the scratch on his face before realizing Butters had tied his wrists back up. The cord was wrapped tightly around them both, chafing right where his skin was already raw, and knotted so one end of the rope hung free somewhere. He sat up, awkwardly, muscles still twitching with the aftershock. Butters, meanwhile, had picked up the spilled bottle and was finishing looping the rope-end around the pipe again in some kind of ridiculously complicated knot. Kyle yanked on it, hoping to pull the slack free, head slowly clearing, but the blond ignored it and pulled out some tape from somewhere, wrapping the knotted end in duct tape. "I guess that teaches me. I gotta learn to just listen to Eric the first time, or I'm never gonna get things right."

"Butters. Butters, please. Please don't," Kyle asked, climbing slowly to his feet and leaning back against the cord. The knots held, keeping him tethered with just a yard or so of slack. Not nearly enough to reach the door. Not enough to get out of here without help. "Butters, I know you're not a bad person, so you don't have to do this."

"Y-you shouldn't try that on me, Kyle, Eric already said you'd say that. I, um, already know all your Jew tricks so you should just ... just shut up and eat your supper, okay??"

Kyle's mouth dropped open, still disbelieving, and he stood and watched as Butters wagged a finger at him, put away his duct tape, and left. Just fucking left, and locked the door behind him. Like this was no big deal, or something. Like the Fatass wasn't probably just going to kill him ...

He swore. He swore again, and again, and when that did nothing he stomped and jumped and kicked and threw a giant fucking fit and punched one of the walls till his hands bled because no one he wanted to punch was here instead. The tray went flying across the room to splatter angrily and he imagined it was Fatass' head, and when it wasn't he swore some more. And it wasn't until the anger stopped beating through him and he'd calmed down again that Kyle realized he was fucking starving, after all.

God fucking dammit.

The wall district was still pissed as all hell, working themselves up into the worst frenzy he'd seen since the Cartmanday float had run out of ice cream two years back. Baseball bats waving. Protest rallies marching. That division of town had always been trouble to begin with, perched right on the edge of so much chaos Disarray wouldn't be surprised if it had somehow managed to seem in through their skin - but this was becoming excessive. And firmly in the realm of His Problem. Flipping shits at Cartman, of course, even though his boss had sent out multiple crowing victory speeches over the morning announcements, heralding his clever and bold victory over those Treasure Cove assholes, stringing up the spies who had been only seconds away from bombing the entire town. Disarray grimaced to himself, knocking his sunglasses down onto his face as he took a steady breath and continued to climb the stairs that lead into the Mayor's office. Crowd control only went so far when half the town was starving and the other half was teetering on the verge of chaos. Like kinderbrats prodding a dog sleeping on a bear with an airsoft gun.

Finally reaching the second floor, Disarray crammed one hand into his pocket as he walked briskly down the hallway, booted feat squeaking slightly on the floors until he came to an abrupt stop at Cartman's office. Knocking twice, he raised an eyebrow at the surprisingly cheerful ‘come in' that echoed back at him, pausing for only a moment before yanking open the door. "Oh. Butters," he greeted, blinking once at the blonde figure rumaging around in an enormous bin of papers. "Is the Mayor in?"

Butters for his part glanced up with a start, mouth working into a perfect ‘O' of surprise as he yanked a stack of folders up against his chest. "Oh, heya, Disarray. I thought you were Eric for a minute. Uh - no, he's out and about. Probably busy with, uhm - you know." His face fell slightly, and Disarray could feel his expression mirror what he saw. He most certainly did know - know enough to leave his post to come to bring it to the mayor's attention. The fact that spending half the day playing around in the basement of their building was hardly a way to run a town on the verge of chaos, but Butters interrupted him with a quick breath before carrying on. "I'm just trying to keep things in order here, you see, while he's away. He should be back soon though!" he rambled nervously shifting the pile in his hands. "Have you seen him?"

Disarray merely offered his boss's second a blank look before shaking his head in reply. Butters still seemed frozen in some sort of nervous anticipation, dropping a folder and picking up another before shooting a quick glance at a girl perched off in the corner who he hadn't even noticed earlier. Tall - tall enough to play for The Cows if she hadn't been thin as a rail - her long brown hair pulled back into a neat twist as she sat in one of the old office chairs, concentrating on doing something or another with her nails.

"If the mayor isn't here, should I just come back when you know he's around?" she asked, the smooth edges of her voice cutting through the awkward tention as she flipped her hand around, holding it up and then out as she inspected the red splatters across her nails.

"Oh. Well, I suppose so. No sense in you wasting all your time here, I guess," Butters drawled, visibly deflated as he scampered around the desk and over to her, folders still clutched under his arms. Shifting awkwardly he pulled something long and shiny out of his pocket - sparking in the light as he dropped it into her hands. "There you go, Lexus - a new Clair's necklace all for you. When Eric comes over you just be the best darned girlfriend you can be. You've gotta make it look real good - get him all nice and jealous."

"Sure, sweetie, whatever you want," she quipped back before sliding down onto the floor. Leaning forward to offer Butters a kiss on the cheek and a smile, she tossing a hank of hair over her shoulder before striding out of the room, winking once in Disarray's direction as she went.

Disarray for his part merely stared after her, a faint flush creeping up the back of his neck before Butters managed to interrupt him with a small coughing fit. "So, uh. General Disarray. You wanted to see Eric?"

He nearly let a ‘Professor Chaos' slip out, and Disarray instead shot him a wide smirk, carefully removing his sunglasses as he picked his way over to the desk. "Yes. Immediately. Thanks to the noise from Treasure Cove, everything is ten seconds away from going to hell, and Mister Mayor needs to get off his ass and do something about it."

He'd half expected Butters to defend their boss, falling easily into the faithful lackey roll that he'd been shoehorned into for years, but instead the shorter boy merely pulled his mouth off to the side, smoothing several crumpled papers over as he fitfully arranged and then rearranged them across the desk. "It's those shop owners again, isn't it?"

"It's a lot more than just the shop owners."

"Oh." Butters nodded as though he somehow already knew, and Disarray had to remind himself that there was in fact someone who did work around here. Wondering just how much Butters knew already, he cocked one eyebrow in his direction, patiently watching as the blonde wound his way around the desk and over to the narrow doorframe. Still fingering reems upon reems of documents, he frowned to himself, narrowed eyes meeting his own as he took no less than three quick, sharp breaths before opening his mouth. "General Dissaray, don't you-" was as far as he got before the door abruptly slammed open, smashing into his face as he staggered backward in shock.

"Watch it, Butters, Jesus Christ!" Cartman snapped, rolling his eyes with a sneer as he appeared around the chipped doorframe. With one arm he reached out, shoving Butters's shoulder away before stepping fully into his office (Butters's office, Dissaray had to remind himself again, his collection of mental notes stacking as he took a cautious step backward). His certainly seemed to be in a hell of a hurry - his normally pressed and clean buttondown spotted by something dark and greasy. Dirt, he realized after a long moment of staring at the flecks trailing down one sleeve and across his front pocket. His tie hung loosely around his neck as well as though he hadn't bothered to tie it this morning, and Disarray frowned in confusion, already jumping to eight different conclusions, none more pleasant than the other. Butters for his part seemed to pause as well, eyes flickering back and forth between the mayor and the place where the girl from earlier had been sitting earlier, and he he quickly cleared his throat, coughing into one hand.

"Say Eric, if you're not too busy I've got an awful lot of paperwork to go through today. Especially after that meeting, and everybody seeing those fellas from Treasure Cove come over and leave... and a lot of it's about all those sore people out in the wall district, and ... well - I could sure use your help."

"Not now, Butters," the mayor replied flippantly, hardly giving him a glance before breezing past him. Butters meanwhile sucked his breath sharply through his teeth before skittering sideways, blocking his path. Eric glared angrily, the quietest of growls beginning in the back of his throat, and Butters instinctively held his stack of papers up, shielding the lower half of his face.

"But Eric, I can't run everything all by myself. I thought - I thought maybe the two of us could go down Tweek's coffee house, huh, just like old time's sake? We could get some lattes ... well, you could get a latte and I'll get decaf ... and some biscotti maybe and those little hard cookies with the frosting on em, and then we could work on all this stuff together, just you and me. What do you say? I bet it'll be-"

"Butters, I said I'm fucking busy! Stop acting like such a clingy little fagot and take care of it." Eric's glare had fully blossomed across his face now, brown eyes smoldering. Pinned under his stare, Butters worked his mouth silently, jaw clicking up and down as he felt his willpower drain away. "Jesus Christ you're such a fucking girl."

"But Eric-"

"I'm the god damn mayor, Butters," Eric reminded him before easily sweeping him aside with one arm, broad shoulders muscling past as Butters struggled to regain his footing. "I'm a hellalot busier than you."

"You can't just ignore this, Cartman," Dougie interjected abruptly, railroading over whatever agreeing, half-response Butters had been about to give as he sidestepped toward the doorway. Cartman for his part glanced up in surprise, blinking stupidly as though he hadn't even noticed that he'd been there in the first place - bright orange hair miraculously blending in perfectly with the puce and tan wallpaper. Dougie simply took it as a compliment and straightened his back further, offering his boss the best Serious Cop look that he could muster. The sunglasses perched atop his head helped a bit. "My team is out in full force just to keep everyone from busting a collective tit and setting half the wall on fire. Your speeches are fine, but it doesn't change the fact that the wall district has TC-assholes popping up in their backyards every other night and day."

"So what." And Dougie could practicely hear the sheer amount of not-giving-a-shit in his voice, smooth and practiced as it rolled off his tongue. Cartman meanwhile turned back around and slammed open another drawer, still searching for whatever the hell it was. "It's not like we're the ones pissing all over their pink flamingos. I tried to let those faggots from the other side surrender today. They should be pissed off at Stan and his bitch and those french homos who keep trying to screw with my town."

"That's not how it works." Dougie would have sighed had his job description allowed for it; instead he simply crossed his arms and continued to fix the taller boy with a flat stare. Sometimes - sometimes he wondered how the town would have turned out if someone with half Cartman's ego and twice his brain had taken charge. Someone like Token Black or, god forbid, Butters himself who'd probably give away half the supplies in the process. "These people need stability. And Cartmonies would help too. Nobody cares whose fault it is if everyone else keeps resorting to vandalism to make their points heard."

Cartman simply continued to root around in the desk, noisily opening and slamming drawers in succession as he ducked his head down. "Yeah, and last time I checked I pay you assholes to keep the peace around here, though you all seem to be sucking fat hairy balls at it lately" he snipped, the last word broken into two distinct syllables. "I don't reward failures like that bitch across the wall. If they want Cartmonies they can get a job and earn them. Right, Butters?"

Disarray frowned in his direction, and Butters merely bit at his lip in reply, eyes flickering between the two of them nervously. "Well, uh - actually, Eric, Generally Disarray and me were thinking-"

"Ah-hah." In a flash Cartman whipped his arm up, all wide, dangerous smiles as he yanked out a small, black piece of fabric out of one of the drawers. Butters immediately blanched, the color completely draining from his face as Dougie frowned. Eyebrows knitted together he rocked forward onto his toes, squinting as Cartman waved the thing around like some sort of victory flag. Small and round - leather maybe - with a metal ring on one end, he barely had time to get a good look before he crammed it down into his pocket, fitfully adjusting his tie with his free hand before marching smartly out of the room. "Knew you still had it in here, you fag. I already spent all morning at that stupid meeting so you two better take care of this crap while I'm downstairs. I'm not gonna have my town overrun by a bunch of mealymouth whinyass wallfucks. Not when we're about to win. Throw everyone in the arena if you have to - at least that'll shut everyone up. Call it a victory battle royal and charge half price."

"All- all right then," Butters muttered into his letterhead as he watched his pass, moving down the narrow hallway to Eric's collection of smaller offices.

"And I'd better not see your ass for the rest of the day either. You hear me? If I see your fucking face in my office just once, I'm gonna punch you in the fucking nuts. Already had to solve one problem for you so it's the least you can do. This is your job, not mine."

Dougie for his part merely watched him go, jaw clenched as he followed Eric's retreating back with his eyes until the larger boy disappeared from view around the corner. Lips pressed together, his head snapped up abruptly as Butters sighed to himself, watching the other boy push his back off of the wall with the edge of his heel, returning once again to the scattered pile of summons across the desk. Fingers digging through the paperwork, he eventually emerged with a stack pinned together with a bright red hairclip, scribbing something across the front before holding it out across the desk.

"This might help a little bit," he muttered, eyebrows still knitted together as he dropped the papers into Dougie's hands. "Get them a little bit of compensation, you know. I'd be awful sore if my house was being stomped on every day with nothing being done about it."

Flipping the pages around Dougie caught a quick glance of ‘Cartmonies' and ‘celebration,' and he vaguely wondered what pool of slush funds Butters had managed to tap into. Not like Cartman ever bothered to paw through the budget to begin with, and Dougie glanced up over the top of the old lined notepaper, the edges of a stiff, plastered smile pulling at his mouth. "Thanks, Professor."

"Don't mention it, General. You tell me if it's not enough, okay? Eric-" And he faultered again, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand. "-May be busy, but we've gotta keep this town running."

Nodding, Dougie offered him a slightly more genuine smile before curtly turning on his heel and marching out of the room. Boots squeaking against the floor, he idly fingered the letters in his hands, wondering how long he could make it stretch and what the actual hell he was going to tell Kevin and crew.

At the sound of a click, Kyle jerked upright ... wrists pressed against his chest as he squinted into the pitch darkness of the storage basement. Sleep in this hellhole was futile at best, and his eyes ached as he turned them in the general direction of the stairwell, sitting stock still as he waited for confirmation from the wind or rat or whatever the fuck it was that had woken him up this time. Another lock slid out of place with a rough turn and he immediately skittered backward to press his back against the rough stucco of the wall ... fears confirmed as he listened to the footsteps that soon followed. The stairs creaked loudly with each drop, too heavy and slow to be Butters, and stopping suddenly at the sixth step down where the light switch hung.

The halogens switched on, flooding the room in harsh white light as he ground the bloody ropes at his wrists into his eyes ... blinking twice before glancing up through his fingers to where Cartman had shoved his beaming face just below the banister. "Hello, Kyle."

Fucking jackass. He glared over the tops of his knuckles as Cartman lumbered down the stairs, whistling cheerfully as he carried a faded tote over one shoulder. Halfway across the room he paused to kick at the space heater, toeing the on switch before using his ankle to scrape it forward a few yards across the concrete. Fatass seemed unnaturally pleased with himself today, likely still riding the high of ... of whatever the fuck had happened with Treasure Cove this morning ... and Kyle felt his stomach muscles instinctively tense. Cartman meanwhile hardly seemed to take notice, instead stopping just out of reach and plopping his bulk down directly in front of the space heater. Ripping the zipper open, he set to work digging around in his rock sack, one hand moving back and forth as he hummed snatches of some stupid shit song.

After nearly a minute and three verses of 'I am the dawg,' Kyle finally gave in, blowing a stray hank of hair angrily out of his face as he narrowed his eyes. "What the fuck are you so happy about, fatass."

"Oh nothing, nothing. Just that my awesome, genius plan has finally come to fruition."

He could've asked. He could've asked and pointed out that nothing fatass did was genius much less successful, and that he was going to see out the end of all of this face down in the bottom of a fucking ditch with a knife in his neck ... but instead Kyle pressed his teeth against the back of his hand, wrapping his fingers a few inches up the length of rope that led up to the ceiling pipe. Cartman seemed to notice the silence as well ... glancing up and raising an eyebrow, the corner of one lip twitching before he returned to rummage around in his tote. Clucking and making a few noises to himself, he dropped whatever the fuck he'd chosen back into the depths of the bag before straightening his back, folding his hands behind his head as he offered Kyle a shit-eating grin.

"You see, Jew, not only has the final step of my plan come to a close - not only am I about to assume full control of your crappy little town, but you are now ... officially - my property forever. Isn't that great, Kaaaahhl?" he finished with a flourish, clapping his hands together like a retard child as the bottom of Kyle's stomach dropped while his mouth worked wordlessly.


"Stan was so very sad to hear of your demise. So young. So tragic. So unfortunate to have perished in a fire the night you shitheads decided to jump the wall. He went super crazy and started pissing everyone off, you know," the brunette laughed, wiggling his hips to butt up even closer against the space header. "It was totally sweet."

"Stan's looking for me, you fucking asshole," Kyle reminded him harshly, voice catching as he rolled Cartman's words around in his head. It couldn't be. Stan would never - he wouldn't just fucking leave him in this place. He jerked his head back upright at the sound of scraping plastic, watching in utter confusion as Cartman pulled out what appeared to be a fucking bear head. "You're-" The fatass merely grinned, shaking the bear back and forth in his hand as Kyle belatedly realized that it was his tattered old speak and record box from Beforetime. "You're lying."

Gleefully Cartman pushed the largest button, setting it on the floor between them as he crossed his legs, resting his fat face on his palms and smiling sweetly. Kyle hardly had time to feel disgusted before the recorder suddenly crackled into life, the old, wrecked tape filled with static that rolled under the sound of Wendy's distorted voice as it echoed out through the speakers.

"-refuse to end this meeting until a ceasefire is agreed upon, as well as a release of all current hostages."

"I already told you, dumb bitch, I don't have your stupid Jew."

"We are prepared to offer a hefty sum for his safe return, Eric. If you take your head out of your ass for five seconds and listen-"

"How the hell am I supposed to return something I don't have? Unless it's just the body you're after. I know where the bones are; how much are you willing to give me for that garbage?"

"Fuck you, fatass!" Kyle's eyebrows shot up toward his hairline as Stan's voice grated raucously through the speakers, drowning out the others and rattling on over the static. "Just tell me where the fuck you've hidden Kyle or I'll swear to God I'll-"

"Stan, sit down!"

"Look, Stan, don't you think I want to have your crappy little town buy me a new plasma TV? Don't you think I want to take a swim in a bathtub of ho hos at your expense? Because believe me, that shit is way more valuable than your faggy little boyfriend. I'll tell you what though ... for just five bags of Doritos - I will totally deliver the charred remains of your Jersey ginger Jew right to your doorstep."

"Kiss my ass, you fucking-"

Cartman stopped the tape with a simple click, cutting short the loud, banging sounds that had started with the end of Stan's yells. "...You're a fucking idiot," Kyle finally spat as he found his voice, fury causing the edges of his words to shake while he shot Cartman a glare for good measure. The overweight jackass was still beaming magnanimously, arms crossed and back sidled up against the heater. "Nobody's ever going to believe your stupid shit without a body. Stan's going to-"

"Of course I gave them one," Cartman railroaded over his words nonchalantly, still splitting his face open with that motherfucking grin as he safely slipped the bear back into his tote. "I even had one ready from the night you fags came into my town. Stupid shit had to go and get himself shot and ..." He coughed into one hand before clearing his throat. "Well, from there it was just a simple matter of setting it on fire and letting imagination do the rest."

Kyle felt his stomach jerk suddenly to the left, swimming wildly and attempting to rip itself out of his gut and up through his throat. Someone had closed an invisible hand around his neck, and he tightened his fingers around the rope until they began to prick and sting, tiny slivers of coarse hair digging into his skin. No. No. Stan wouldn't believe it. He'd keep looking ... he'd probably been looking for the past few days and just couldn't find the right place was all ... he just needed -

"So now," Cartman continued, pulling a different flat, dark object from the bag. Even in the basement where everything smelled like dirt and blood, Kyle could still detect the faint scent of leather as the heavier boy fingered the collar in one hand. "What do I do with you."

Wide fingers reached for his neck, burning his skin, and he jerked away to scrape his cheek against the stucco wall. Everything was too tight, constricting his chest and squeezing the air out of his lungs. Cartman's face was close enough to spit in, to claw and bite, teeth digging in to the fatty part of his fleshy cheek and spilling blood down into his mouth. But instead Kyle's breath hitched, squeezing his eyes shut as he waited until Cartman had finished - snapping the collar's buckle shut and locking it with a key that he shoved into one pocket.

"That's a good Jew." Settling back on his haunches, Cartman looped one finger around the collar's D-ring, tugging Kyle forward as he gently ran a thumb over the bruise at the base of his cheekbone. "God, this is fucking hot, isn't it? I can do whatever I want now." Sliding his hand up to tangle through red hair, he paused a moment for a response before yanking on the curls on the last, jerking Kyle's head backward and producing an involuntary growl. Satisfied, Cartman shoved him back into the wall, straightened his back and pushing himself to his feet before walking across the room to where the other end of the rope had been looped up over the ceiling pipe, returning down to knot through the chain links of a storage fence. Cutting the rope with his knife, the brunette gave it a heavy yank, jerking Kyle up into a standing posture and nearly pulling his arms out of their sockets before re-tying the slack.

It was a familiar position, but it made the squeeze on his chest even worse nonetheless, clouding his head as he tried to remember how to breathe properly. No way ... no way would he give that fat piece of shit the fucking satisfaction and he blinked wildly, rolling his head upward against the stinging that had started in his eyes. Instead he stared resolutely at his wrists pinned above his head, swallowing thickly and only half-noticing when Cartman meandered back across the room, shivering and rubbing at one arm.

"Ugh, motherfucking piece of crap," he grunted, giving the side of the space heater a kick. "It's cold as a witch's fucking tit down here. You won't mind waiting till it heats up, will you?" He grinned, walking backward and disappearing up the stairs with a wave of one wide hand. "Since we're gonna have a long time together. If you're especially good, maybe I'll leave it on tonight."

The lights flickered off, leaving Kyle panting unevenly into the crook of his arm. He could still feel the warm air of the space heater, blowing at the back of his ankles while his bare toes dug into the concrete. Upstairs the heavy steps retreated and the door slammed, followed quickly by the metallic locks sliding back into place before the last dregs of footsteps slowly faded away into the darkness. Alone at last he squeezed his eyes shut again, grinding his teeth until it hurt. Fucking cocksucker goddamn asshole motherfucker shitface ... Stan had to be - he would fucking die before - Shoulders shaking, he swung his elbow around to join the other one, burying his face in both as refused ... refused ... to cry.


Treasure Cove

"Stan," Somebody said behind him, but he'd stopped listening somewhere between getting shoved out of the fatass' office and crossing the borders into Treasure Cove. "Stan?"

Maybe if he ignored them long enough his headache would go away, he'd lose this fucking terrible sinking in his stomach, and he would be able to figure out what the fuck had just happened and what he was supposed to do about it.

"Stan!" Wendy finally resorted to yelling, her voice cutting across the jumble of panic and half-finished thoughts.

"Goddammit what?!" Stan spun around, staring wide-eyed at his girlfriend as his shoulders stiffened. All he wanted was some fucking peace for five fucking minutes so he could go and ... he didn't even know. "What is the fucking problem?!"

She was angry, he could tell. He could also tell he didn't really care. Actually, he liked it ... somebody besides him ought to be fucking angry, ought to feel bad about all this bullshit. But angry or not she was still Wendy, and she took a deep breath before she started again. "Stan, that was totally unacceptable."

His head really was pounding. It was a weird, dizzying thudding, right in the front, and all he wanted to do was crawl into bed in a dark room till it went away. Even though of all the things he possibly should do or talk about right now, that was going to be the most useless. "God, really? This is really what you want to fucking talk about right now?"

Her hands clenched, and she stepped closer to narrow her eyes up at him. "Yes, Stan, you acting completely irrational and blowing our entire negotiations is what I want to talk about. You realize how badly that went?"

"Of course I fucking realize that ... we still don't have Kyle back, do we??"

She put a hand over her eyes, half-turning away and waving the other at him. Stan growled, low in the back of his throat, and was about to ask what exactly that was supposed to mean when Gregory butted his dumb fucking nose in.

"As unfortunate as Kyle's death is, we need to start focusing on the situation at hand..."

"Shut the fuck up, you prick, Kyle isn't dead!"

"Then what, pray tell, is that?" Gregory said dryly, waving over his shoulders to where the Mole had the dark sack slung over one shoulder. Stan's eyes darted towards it, jaw clenching, then back to the blond.

"It's a fucking trick! It's fucking Cartman, it's always a goddamn trick! He ... he can't ..." The pounding behind his eyes doubled, then tripled, and he closed his eyes for a second before there was a hand on his chest.

"Stan," Wendy said softly, and if she was angry anymore she was doing a damn good job of hiding it as she stepped close, "I know this has to be really hard for you."

"He can't be ..."

"But you have to understand; there's no logical reason for it to be a trick. Why would he keep Kyle alive this long and then not ransom him?"

Stan just shook his head, wordless, stomach twisting itself into a knot. She put a hand on his cheek, holding him still, and leaned up to give him a little kiss.

"And we have to watch out for everybody else right now, okay? You have to be reasonable because Kyle wouldn't want anyone else to get hurt from us making dumb mistakes."

Her hands were soft on his jaw, and it was really, really tempting to just lean into her, to go home and crawl in bed and cry for a while, to forget about everything till his stomach settled and his headache went away. To let the Mole bury whoever that was and not fucking deal with any of it till he was good and fucking ready.

Stan sighed, pulling away and rubbing at the bridge of his nose. Fuck. "We can't just give up on him, Wendy."

"Stan..." She made a face that was somewhere between sympathy and veiled impatience, and he shook his head.

"Yeah, I'll... I'll see you later." Touching her fingers with his own, he turned and left them to be reasonable and responsible by themselves, stalking through the askew rows of makeshift housing that had been cobbled together near the wall.

Nobody was outside today, a combination of the cold and it still being sometime before noon, but it wasn't like if he couldn't deal with Wendy he'd be able to deal with Casey Miller's chipper bullshit.

Kyle-- he couldn't. It was a fact, like how the sky was blue and Starks froze in December and kindershits couldn't be trusted. He couldn't, not for something as pointless and stupid as what happened. Stan's chest tightened again, and he stilled for a second to stare up into the dull, grey clouds blinking.

They'd fucked up pretty bad this time.

Somewhere down the road a door opened, kids spilling out into the street, laughing and shouting. Stan watched them, silent as they started off towards Starks or Jimmy's or Bebe's, the pounding in his head beating more and more heavily until he made a decision.

He wasn't. He couldn't be, so he wasn't, which meant somebody had to go help him. Like Stan had wanted that first fucking night, dragged swearing and angry down a collapsing tunnel by the same jackass who now owed him, and Kyle, some fucking help, whether his fuckass french self wanted to or not.

Stan turned right around in the snow.


Smileytown, Year of our Mayor 15

"So this bitch was allll over me, she saw how buff I was and thought she'd get a piece of this beefcake, and when she realized I was the Mayor, man, it's like I couldn't put it in her enough," Eric continued, waving a hand as he glanced away from the xbox at Kenny. Instead of the proper amount of goddamn respect for his obvious manliness, though, the blond just had a big shit-eating grin on his face, shaking his head slowly as he rocked to the side with his controller.

"Dude, no you didn't." An explosion rocked from Eric's sweet, large screen, high-def, generator-requiring TV, but the mayor didn't even glance at it as he crossed his arms and glared at the blond, who continued smiling. "Fifty bucks says you didn't even get to first base."

"Whatever, shithead, you don't have any monies," Eric snapped. Like he had time for some stupid bitch anyway. Girls did nothing but whine for money and wanted sex twenty-four hours a day and had to be taken on dates and all kinds of stupid shit. He was too important and too fucking busy to get distracted by some hoochie. "Like you fucking know anything about it anyway ... I bet you can't get any girls anyway, either, no girl wants to fucking eat moldy waffles for dinner you poor asshole."

Kenny snorted and tossed the controller down, leaning back to spread his arms across the back of the couch. "Fuck you, Eric."

"No, really, how many girls have you done?"

"Besides your mo-- birthgiver?" Kenny grinned like a smug dickhole, and held up five fingers. Then three more on the other hand.

Erin sat straight up in his chair, straightening out his tie compulsively. Fucking asshole had to be lying ... he wasn't even here half the time. Or maybe he was just banging fat old outland crackwhores. "Oh, whatever Kenny, if you had a girlfriend she'd be hanging around all the time wanting her cooch pounded. I bet you don't even have one."

"Nope." Kenny just snorted again like that made sense at all, still grinning like a goddamn dickhole. "But you don't either."

Eric scowled, wondering why the fuck he had this asshole come over all the time ... he was the goddamn Mayor of Smileytown, everyone in the city wanted to hang out with him and sure as fuck wouldn't be mouthy dicks when they did. Rolling his eyes, he sat looking at the ceiling for a second before a brilliant little idea popped into his head. God, he was brilliant. "Just for that, you black asshole, I'm gonna go get my girlfriend right fucking now. Who I have been on sixth base with, for your fucking information, so you can eat those goddamn words and buy me Doritos."

Kenny tilted his head and snickered. Flipping him off just for good measure, Eric stalked out of his lounge and down the hall, turning the corner and in a stroke of good luck for once finding butters walking the other direction. "Butters! Good, come on."

"O-oh! Eric, I was just looking for you, I have some reports about those kids in the Wall district who keep causing trouble..."

"Not now, Butters, God." Throwing open the door to his office Eric stalked across and into the closet, full of boxes brought over from his Beforetime house when he'd established himself as the ultimate authority in Smileytown. Letting go of Butters' arm, which he'd been holding to drag the blond after him, he reached up for a box clearly labled 'DISGISES' and tugged it down, ripping it open and tearing through the contents. "I'll show Kenny, fucking jackass ... here, put this on."

Butters barely caught the wad yellow hair, scrabbling at it before he dropped it and holding it up with one hand with a pinched expression. "Um, Eric... this's for a girl."

"Just fucking put it on, Butters, jesus." Eric, still digging through the disguise box, sighed and rolled his eyes to himself. Not finding anything else interesting, he straightened up and turned around, only to be faced with a pretty decent imitation of some dumbass Raisins girl.

"Um, Eric... I'm feeling kind of silly here," Butters stuttered, sticking his hands behind himself and rocking back a bit. "I mean, isn't this sort of... gay?"

"Butters, don't be stupid. It's only gay for you."

"Ah, yeah, I guess you're right there," Butters mumbled, unclasping his hands and staring down at them. "I don't really know if I make a good girl, though, Eric."

"That's 'cause you're not making any goddamn effort to look nice. Jesus, Butters, do I have to do everything around here?" Eric reached across his desk and grabbed some old papers, crumpling them up. "Hold still."

"Um, but..." Butters' face turned bright red as Eric stuffed the paper down the front of his shirt, pulling the fabric around to straighten everything out. Leaning back and considering, he grabbed an extra few sheets. "Oh, aren't those kind of big?"

"Nobody wants a girl with flat titties, Butters."

"Aww," Butters frowned down at himself and tugged on the hem of his shirt. "Well, if you say so."

"Right. Now remember, you're my girlfriend and completely devoted to me and my authoritah, and want my hot manly body every night." Eric brushed off his hands and grinned. With fake tits Butters actually made a half-decent girl, maybe even somebody who didn't have to pass out shampoo tokens for a living. This was going even better than he'd planned. "And if that asshole asks, just laugh a lot and talk about makeup and shit."

"Right. I can do that." Butters nodded, fidgeting and wrapping his hand around a lock of fake hair. "Eric, does this mean you're gonna buy me some Hello Kitty jewelry? They have a whole set of them at Red's and I was thinking they looked really cool..."

"God, Butters, you've been a girl for five fucking minutes and you're already nagging. Don't make me smack you cross the face." Rolling his eyes again and wondering if this had been a good idea after all, Eric just grabbed the other boy by the arm again and dragged him right back out of the office, down the hall and into the old side office that was his sweetass lounge. Kenny, who'd picked up one of the controllers again, looked up and managed to lift one eyebrow at Butters before bursting out into hysterical laughter.

Eric stopped short, staring as the blond flopped down on the couch, rolling around, and promptly fell on the floor where he continued to laugh. He was laughing so hard, in fact, Eric could see his eyes watering. Butters, meanwhile, had frozen in place, face bright red.

Fucking asshole. "Hey! What's so fucking funny, Kenny?? Shut the fuck up, you goddamn poorass outland motherfucker!"

"Jesus..." Fucker couldn't even talk, gasping for breath. "...Christ, Eric."

"Whatever! Whatever! You can just fucking leave if you're going to be such a fucking douchebag! This is my goddamn main-boning-bitch, you asshole!"

"That's ..." Kenny managed to take a deep breath, smothering his laughter with the back of one hand, "Okay. Okay, that's your girlfriend."

"Damn fucking right, jerkass," Eric said firmly, glad Kenny was remembering who was in charge around here. The blond boy picked himself up off the floor, rubbing at his eyes and leering at Butters.

"You're really sleeping with fatass here?"

Butters blinked several times. "Ummmm, yes. Eric buys me lots of pretty things to get me to stop nagging him and then we have, um," he paused, and Eric shot him a dark look, "h-hot s-s-sex."

Kenny put his mouth into his hand, nodding. Eric smirked and nodded. "See, Kenny? So now you fucking owe me. I'll take payment in ice cream, and it better not be fucking melted when you get back either."

"Okay. Sure, you win." Kenny lifted his hands in surrender, leaning back against the base of the couch. "Just one thing ... just give her a kiss real quick."

Butters squeaked, loudly, and Eric stopped short. Fuck. He hadn't thought he'd need to actually fucking do anything to prove this. For a second, he considered refusing; but Kenny had already surrendered ... the asshole might take it back like a goddamn cheat. Fuck. Besides, it was only gay for Butters, since he was the damn girl around here. "Fine."

Grabbing Butters by the arm, he yanked the shorter boy forward and gave him a quick peck on the mouth. Turning back to Kenny, he frowned at the disbelieving look on the blond's face. "That's it?"

Goddammit. Glaring at Butters, Eric shook his arm a bit. "Fucking kiss me back, you bitch."

"I ... I was just trying to be la-ladylike," Butters mumbled, rubbing at his mouth with his fingertips. Eric shook him again, hard enough to actually send him stumbling a little, and Butters's eyes widened. "Alright, Eric."

Giving Kenny one last glare for good measure and warning, Eric leaned forward again, pushing his mouth against Butters' and holding it there. He blinked, wondering how long a convincing kiss took, watching as Butters closed his eyes, when suddenly the lips under his moved a bit and something warm and wet touched him.

Eric froze, completely, realizing it had to be Butters' tongue, opening his mouth as it pushed toward him and feeling it swipe along his teeth. Then their tongues touched, and it was like a switch had been flipped.

Eric grabbed Butters' shoulders, yanking them closer, digging his fingers in for good measure as he opened their mouths wider and kissed him back. It was like his whole fucking skin itched, and all he wanted to do was push Butters against the wall and rub against him till it stopped, till he'd claimed all the other boy's mouth and bruised his lips. He would have, too, if from somewhere near the couch there hadn't been an alarmed "Oh shit dude!" and he remembered the whole fucking point.

Eric shoved Butters away, taking a few harsh breaths and swiping hard at his mouth with the back of one hand. Even then he could still fucking feel the damn kiss, but he managed to turn and give Kenny his best triumphant grin, pushing past the weird shit and going for his goddamn deserved victory kill. "Alright, asshole, proof enough? And I want chocolate, not that bullshit vanilla frozen yogurt shit."


Smileytown, Present Day


That was totally what it was, a showdown of epic proportions, nighttime battle, hordes of mindless tax-evaders and Arena bait, snarling and diseased, against the outnumbered and outmaneuvered police force, fighting for the very fabric of society against lawlessness and chaos. It'd be prime bait for the sweetest comic of all time, for sure.

Or would be, if they weren't locked out in the damn snow.

Kevin was just about to radio Bradley when the blond turned the corner, followed easily by Disarray, both of them with flashlights turned full blast even though the lights from nearby were spilling out a bit into the street. The redhead skidded to a stop, barely out of breath as he looked around and Bradley leaned down and wheezed a little.

"What the hell is going on??" Disarray snapped, face unreadable behind his glasses, and Kevin belated realized his own were in his other shirt's pocket. Dammit. Dammit dammit, and that would've been so sweet -- and good protection when the slavering hordes ended up spitting like they always did during arrests. Kevin just shook his head.

"Somebody broke in and started a riot, or a jail break or something -- there was a distress call but the transmissions ended by the time we got here." Jenny's voice over the radio had ended with shrieks and static, and all three of them'd tossed down their Pokemon cards in a panic. Kevin pointed towards the double doors to the building, one of the few Beforetime structures that Smileytown authorities used as the birthgivers intended, mostly since it was too hard to tear down and rebuild than it'd been to build the arena Around if. Bleachers were hella easier to move than steel cells, and the last thing the Mayor'd wanted was everybody busting out all the time like it was the Great Escape or something. Except now it was sucking hardcore and Kevin pointed at Gordon, still trying to yank them open in the middle of some kind of crazy ginger badass beserker rage. "We're trying to break them down but it's been pretty fail."

"Hell," Disarray muttered, and stared at the doors for a second as Gordon braced one foot against the half painted over 'PARK COUNTY SHERIFF' stenciled on front and yelled curses in Klingon. From inside the building something loud and probably breakable made a crashing sound and Kevin winced, hoping Jenny was okay and wasn't getting ripped apart and eaten all Day of the Dead style. "Okay. We're going to shoot the lock out."

"Tried it," Bradley interrupted, shrugging at the BB gun tossed over one shoulder and grimacing. "Totally ricocheted all over the place."

Their boss just shook his head, reaching around and unclipping the pistol clipped in the back of his belt. "I'm going to shoot it out and then Bradley and I are going to charge it and break it down. Kevin, you and -- Dammit, Gordon, get your ass over here!"

At the door, Gordon Stoltski finally gave up on the whole viking raider schtick and just kicked the door one last time before striding over, still muttering in some stupid Trek language like a nerd. "What's up?"

"You and Kevin are going in first. Keep it tight and be ready for anything." Another crash came from inside the building, and a scream, and Disarray just raised his pistol. "/Anything/. If it gets too tight, guys, use the sabers."

Out of habit and good Jedi training Kevin checked the plastic lightsaber hanging on his hip, a standard part of police equipment since he'd joined the force. Everybody respected a lightsaber, especially when they were getting socked over the face with it and tasered on the way down. Super badass. "Right-o"

"Okay. We want people down, no escapes, and need to find and get our man--"


"Colleague out safe." Disarray shot Bradley a good glare for interrupting, which was pretty BS since if Jenny was a dude they'd just be five dudes instead of some kind of awesome crimefighting team out to kick ass and chew bubblegum. Or even worse, be four dudes and who could take that seriously. "Let's do this, guys."

They nodded, and all four moved closer to the door, Disarray lifting up his pistol and firing one shot - a real shot, zombie-killing level firepower that only a few people in the whole city had - into the lock. Inside the building there were some yells, and another crash, and Disarray backed up a couple steps, and Bradley lowered into some sweetass ninja-ready stance until the redhead lifted a hand and he sprung into action.

"On thre- shit, wait!" Disarray barked, starting after, but Bradley hit the door with his shoulder and it busted open easier than a six pack of mountain dew at D&D night. "Goddammit Bradley. Kevin -"

But Kevin didn't hear whatever the rest of it was going to be, lifting his gun up and sprinting after the blond, past Gordon and the crumpled doors, barreling down the hall towards the cells yelling at the top of his lungs, just like the scene with Han in the Death Star. Somewhere behind him he could hear Gordon and Disarray, and Bradley picking himself up, so he just kept going, skidding to a stop in the front office, gun waving. "FREEZE, criminal scum!!"

"COPS!" somebody shrieked in the dark, and Kevin paused for a second to fumble for his flashlight before Bradley was there like a goddamn teleporter, flashlight high above his head and saber in hand. "Everybody bail!!"

"Wait -" "No, the other way!" "Fucker, get off my foot-" "Omigod it's the cops!!!" a final /crash/ came from the other end of the lobby, the loudest one yet, and Kevin sent a stream of pellets in the sort-of correct direction, trusting in the force to guide them until Bradley's flashlight recentered on the completely shattered front window, dark shapes of kids pouring out of it despite the pellets pouring into them. Then Gordon, shrieking something that might've been elvish, threw himself into the knot of people, followed immediately by Bradley and that was it for shooting. Disarray, whipping off his sunglasses, lifted his own light and swept it around the room as Kevin slung up his gun and pulled out the taser instead.

"Jenny?? Simon, you here?!"

Further in from the cells came a bang, and a half-muffled screetching. Disarray bolted for it without a second glance, and Kevin took half a look at the slavering horde that was mostly just escaping in a big swearing unhordelike mess, except for a few kids Brad had wrestled down to the floor, and followed his boss.

The cells, untouched from Beforetime and still just as good, were through another door and around a corner where whoever was on jail duty for the evening didn't have to hear them. Disarray shoved through the door, letting it nearly slam back on Kevin's damn face, and paused to wave his flashlight around once more. "Playtime's over, and anyone back here better come out with your hands visible, right goddamn now."

"Yeah, surrender now!" Kevin added, "or prepare to figh-"

Whatever hit him from behind hurt, weaksauce, some kind of sneaky behind the back rogue stunlock bullshit, and Kevin tumbled down against the concrete floor. His taser slid off across the floor but he let it, too busy yanking his airsoft back out and frantically looking through the dark and Disarray's spazzy flashlight. "What the fuck?!"

"Bradley, Gordon, get your asses over here we need more--" Something swiped at the redhead and Kevin took his shot, both eyes open as he let loose a spray of pellets. "Kevin watch it!"

"I got this!" he quipped back, back on his feet and following whoever was in here until they disappeared in the dark, guessing and firing anyway. "Got you!"

The only answer was return fire, pellets stinging like a bitch as both police swore and stumbled back. The door banged open again and fire came from behind them, bringing curses from the escapee and Disarray alike. "Calvary is officially here, boss! Come on punk, make my day!!"

"Fuck you, doucheturd, I got you too! Up yours!"

"No, up yours, arena trash! Where's Jenny?" Disarray's flashlight flickered across Brad's face, grinning behind his airsoft, then over to the opposite wall to get a flash of some dark haired kid Kevin didn't recognize. Who only squinted, and fired towards the light, and started coming straight for them as Kevin scrambled up finally.

"Fuck you, where's Kyle?!"

Kevin definitely didn't know anybody named Kyle, but it wouldn't be the first time they were accused of arresting somebody who didn't exist. "You're under arrest, douchebag!"

The stranger just shoved him, right into Bradley, as Disarray just kept the light centered on his face. Definitely some stranger, which meant he had to be from Treasure Cove, not old enough for an Outlander. Holy shitballs. "Yeah, right, go ahead and try it."

Disarray tried it, then, taser sparking to life and going straight for the stranger, who yelped and scrabbled back, doing a half decent backwards roll before snatching up his gun again. "Hey, goddammit!"

"You're outnumbered, surrender now before you get really hurt," Disarray snapped, advancing despite the pellets that were flying again, which Bradley - shoving Kevin off - was returning with extreme prejudice. Kevin scrambled back up, grabbing for somebody's lost flashlight and turning it towards the mess just in time.

"Boss, behind you!"


The stranger must've brought backup, another tall kid who barely missed a pretty sweet two-handed swing with a shovel (damn that was a cool weapon idea, ideal for zombies probably) as Disarray ducked and the first stranger shoved past him to advance towards the door. Kevin whipped out the last weapon he had - saber hanging, always faithful, on his belt - and extended it with a flicked wrist, sending it in a downward cut towards the stranger's neck before the kid just caught it in his hand like a massive cheat. "Hey!"

"Idiot, 'e's not 'ere, we should fucking go before they call more friends," the second TC kid snapped, voice harsh around some kind of weird british accent or something as he swung at Disarray again, and the first snapped his head around before glaring and ripping the damn saber right out of Kevin's hand and tossing it at Bradley.

"Fuck you, he's here somewhere-"


The british kid, who'd been half turned, suddenly went stumbling half down the hall, almost dropping his shovel as Disarray finally scrambled back up and shoved the pistol back into his belt. The other TC kid's eyes widened, massively, and he barely caught his buddy, both of them falling right into Kevin and Bradley. It was like some slow motion Matrix style stuff, except at the last second the british kid pulled something out of his pocket that he threw to the floor and suddenly there was noise and smoke and the sound of the door banging and Disarray cursing up a goddamn storm as their flashlights stopped working right in the smoke.

"Open the goddamn door, Kevin!"

He didn't have to, though, which was good because not even sherlock goddamn holmes was going to find the door in all this smoke and dark, since with a scraping noise it opened and Gordon was standing there, breathing hard with a really sweet black eye popping up already. "You guys alright? Some fuckass nIHwI' went right past me when I was cuffing Billy Turner."

"Go after-" Disarray paused, and coughed as they all stumbled out of the smoke which was now just pouring into the front like poison gas, and sighed and the window and open doors. "Gordon, Bradley, go after them and radio if they break in anywhere else. Kevin, help me find Jenny."

Two salutes and they were gone, and Disarray had just started dragging a cuffed and cursing Billy Turner back towards the cells when Jenny Simon, famed female fifth of the awesome squad that was Smileytown police, stumbled out of the smoke, hacking and glaring at them both. "You jerks hit me with friendly fire, jackasses! I'm bleeding!"

Kevin turned to Disarray, needlessly, and announced their first success of the whole stupid night. "Found her."


Treasure Cove

Marsh didn't say a fucking word the entire way back, which suited Christophe just fine, too busy collapsing their tunnel behind themselves while bleeding all over the goddamn frozen ground to give a single fuck what that idiotic motherfucker had to say. And that was a bitch piece of work, too, everything solid with snow and ice and the frozen piss and tears of hundreds of lost souls. Shit. Shit. The whole mission had been a complete failure, and it certainly hadn't been him who had been a total fuck up and lost his goddamn head like a pussy bitch two year old on espresso. So whatever he had to say, he wouldn't find any fucking sympathy from Christophe.

And, it seemed, as he climbed out of the dark, frozen hole, kicking his supports out behind him, it wouldn't be forthcoming from anyone else, either. Wendy Testaburger stood, arms crossed, all the righteous hideous fury of a woman truly scorned written across her face. Christophe had a terrible thought of his birthgiver before he realized she was directing the look squarely at her idiotic, motherfucking boyfriend.

Thank that faggot bitch God for some small favor, then. Sliding across the ground as unobtrusively as he might, Christophe kicked the last bit of dirt towards his tunnel, only to find himself backing into something sturdy. Glancing up behind himself, Christophe grimaced at the look on Gregory's face as the blond peered down, brows lifted.

"Don't you dare think you can bitch at me the way she is," he hissed, jerking a thumb towards the other two, who were only staring at each other ... Wendy with that competent fury, Marsh with the same stupid, dull exhaustion he'd trudged through their tunnel with. Gregory glanced over, then reached to pull him to his feet, not bothering to say a word as Madame Fucking President opened her mouth.

"Stanley Randall Marsh."

If it weren't already twelve below God's dick and snowing (again, what the fuck to this fucking country), Christophe would have sworn it got colder with those words. Maybe it did ... Marsh seemed to shudder, slightly, grinding the heels of his hands into his face.

"Don't do that, okay, Wendy? Seriously?"

"Don't do what, Stan, don't ask you what the hell you were thinking? Don't say this was exactly, exactly what I asked you not to do? Don't point out that while you were screwing around in Smileytown illegally, giving Cartman a perfectly valid reason to fuck us over, anyone could have come through your entryway? I ... what the fuck, Stan!?"

Marsh just continued to jam his palms into his eyeballs, like if he pushed hard enough he'd go blind or experience visions or push himself three hours into the past before he fucked everything up like some sort of half-brained, incestuous spawn of a retarded monkey and a pile of shit. Christophe snorted, quietly, and from behind him Gregory slid careful hands over his shoulder, looking for the source of the probably still-spreading bloodstain on his back. Goddamn bitches, with their goddamn badges and handguns. Slender fingers brushed over the wound and he hissed through his teeth, turning to glare and ignoring the motherfucking idiotic argument building before them.

"I had to. I had to, okay, I can't just leave him over there."

"He's not there, Stan! You're acting ridiculous!"

"At least I'm doing something!" Marsh snapped back, finally doing something besides mope and whine and trash empty holding cells, and Christophe watched through the corners of his eyes as Gregory tutted slightly and felt around the edges of the wound. "At least I'm not just fucking believing whatever fatass tells me and letting him get away with fucking everything up so I can pretend everything's fine!"

Wendy's mouth opened and closed, like a goddamn fish pulled from the sewer. "... What?!"

"Sit down," Gregory murmured into his ear, and when Christophe ignored it in favor of watching the show, pushed down on his bad shoulder with one palm. It hurt like a motherfucker, and the brunet sank to sit on a spare pile of wall material before his fucking pussy knees fell out from under him.

"Bitch," he snapped back, quietly, but the blond simply tugged at his shirt for a better view.

"... he's not going to fucking stop no matter how much we roll over and let him do what he wants, so I'm sure as fuck not leaving ..."

"... has nothing to do with Cartman ..."

"... how can you just stand here ..."

"... how can you be so irresponsible?"

"We ought to get you to the Medical Center," Gregory finally decided in low tones, pressing something against the source of the pain. Christophe scowled back at him, unimpressed, not particularly interested in sitting around a waiting room full of whiny bitches and crying pussy children until someone could stitch his back up. Gregory was perfectly capable of slapping a bandage against it if the blond weren't so busy firmly ignoring his expression.

"... then don't! If I'm such a fuckup! Then you don't have to worry about if I fuck everything up by being such a fuckup!"

Motherfucking bitch, this was the stupidest fucking argument Christophe had ever heard, and he had spent more time around drunk, high, undisciplined, idiotic teenagers than he'd ever care to remember. Gregory had apparently decided it was none of his business, and continued wrapping some strip or something around his chest and shoulder to staunch whatever was still leaking from his back like his mother's botched miscarriage. Fucking hell, that was annoying. "'Ow about we get me a few shots of vodka instead, ouai?"

"... What does that even mean? Why can't you just face ..."

"... idiots like those stupid assholes ..."

"... at least Gregory hasn't caused an inter-city incident or caught something on fire!"

Two sets of eyes immediately shot back towards the argument, which had, it seemed, gotten worse. They should not have even been arguing here ... out in the open, where anyone walking by would hear, and no doubt the spies on the other side of the wall would be recording every word like the maggots they were. Christophe glared, finally fucking finished with all this childish bullshit, tired and wounded with nothing to show for it because Marsh couldn't even follow a fucking decent plan when left alone, and now his fucking partner was being drawn into whatever motherfucking idiocy was being vomited like blood and broken dreams on the snow. Gregory simply smoothed his shirt down over the bandage, running a bloodstained hand through his hair. "Perhaps we ough to leave you two to it ... I'll take Christophe to the Medical Ward; shall ..."

He shouldn't have fucking bothered, since neither the President nor her idiot boyfriend were even looking over. Marsh had a sick expression on his face, twisted up with anger and frustration and all the sort of things that got people killed. Or dumped, left alone, jacking it to dusty pornographic photos on an abandoned couch in a dark, shitstained corner. "Because Gregory's so fucking perfect, right? Fuck Gregory! Oh wait yeah, you should fuck him, since I'm such a dick!"

There was a long moment of silence that Gregory took advantage of to shove himself under Christophe's good shoulder, lifting him up like he was fucking invalid or some bullshit. Idiot. It wasn't entirely terrible, though, as the last bits of adrenaline had fled his system and it was a great deal more difficult to walk steadily than it had been before sitting down. Head lolling, just a bit, Christophe could smell that faggy aftershave he used.


That was a dangerous tone of voice for a woman to have - even Christophe knew that - and if Marsh had the sense a deaf, blind, drooling, mentally challenged two year old possessed he would shut his fucking mouth. Which, it seemed, he did not.

"Yeah maybe you already did, since he's soo fucking perfect and I'm such an irresponsible dickhole, right? Goddammit why the fuck am I even listening to you fucking yell at me then I'm not fucking taking orders to abandon my best friend from some bitc..."

The crack that followed was deafening, echoing through the night like a goddamn gunshot, and before it even died away Christophe had gone to his knees into the snow, dragging the blond boy with him to avoid further fire. Nothing followed, and Gregory gave him the most stupid look possible, as though his quick instincts and desire not to be shot again was good cause for that sort of patient, amused affection. Fucking bitch British piece of shit. Ignoring the other boy standing up, he turned back towards the argument, where Wendy still had her hand raised , fingers splayed, and Marsh was gripping his face like he'd been stabbed. Or slapped. It must have stung like a bitch, too, from the expression on his face, though probably not as much as Christophe's fucking shoulder stung from that goddamn bitch gun as he was hauled to his feet because they shouldn't have even been in the goddamn bitch prison that long...

"Christophe? Chr... don't you dare black out on me or your cigarettes will be gone by tomorrow morning."

"Don't you fucking touch my cigarettes, bitch," he muttered back, getting his feet under himself at last as he refused to give a single shitting fuck about what those two behind him were doing.

Ike was on the fifth hour and third energy drink of his shift when the door to the Med Ward opened with a bang, letting in a flurry of powdery snow and an excessive amount of cursing.

Sighing and putting down the copy of Steinbeck he'd been rereading for the thirtieth or fortieth time, Ike grabbed an intake sheet off the desk and went to make sure whoever it was bothered to close the door in the middle of whatever undoubtedly retarded injury they'd given themselves. Rounding the hanging sheet partition they'd set up as some kind of extra buffer against the cold air coming in and getting everyone even more sick than they usually were, Ike had pulled the pen out of the front pocket with the faded remains of 'Judy's Nails' stenciled onto it and was preparing the intake when he glanced up and stopped short.

"Motherfuckering bitch fucking lost 'is goddamn 'ead, fucking idiot, tried to pull the 'ole damn building down on us both like some kind of fucking half-bred monkey shit on a goddamn sugar high." Christophe was half-hanging on Gregory, face turned into his neck and one arm over his shoulders while the other hung limply at his side. "It was supposed to be motherfucking sabotage, not some excuse to cry and throw a motherfucking tantrum like a goddamn baby that needs its fucking bottle over some fucking dead asshole like Brof-"

Gregory caught sight of Ike and elbowed the other boy, who hissed angrily and bothered to look over as well before just dissolving into muttered curses again. "Hello, then. Is Rebecca here?"

"No." Mouth twisting slightly, Ike glanced down at his clipboard, writing 'C-H-R-I-S-T-O-F-F (M-O-L-E)' out in sharp block letters at the top. "I have the night shifts this week. What happened to his arm?"

"Nothing. It's fucking fine, 'e is just being a bossy fucking asshole."

"It is absolutely not fine, and I'm not about to have you bleed all over the apartment because you're a stubborn idiot."

"Fuck you, bitch--"

"Bed three. Take off your shirt," Ike interrupted, rolling his eyes as he finished marking intake information and walked back toward the counter, tossing the clipboard onto said bed as he went. Scrubbing his hands with some purell, he snatched up an examination kit and walked back to bed three, pulling the curtain shut behind himself. "Now, what actually happened to your arm."

Christophe, shirtless and sulking on the bed, just shot him an unpleasant look that Ike promptly ignored in favor of pulling equipment out of his kit. Finally Gregory sighed in the most put-upon way possible. "He was shot."

"That was stupid," Ike pointed out, because it really fucking was, and stepped around to take a good look at Christophe's back. Whatever he'd been shot with it was something more serious than a pellet gun, a rounded wound a right past his shoulder-blade leaking blood angrily. Pressing his mouth into a tight line, Ike tugged on a clean glove and wiped gently at the spot with an alcohol pad, drawing a barked 'merde' from the boy on the table. "What the hell were you doing to get shot in the middle of the night."

"I was doing jack fucking shit! There wouldn't 'ave been any fucking shooting if Marsh wasn't crazy as shit and could follow fucking directions instead of losing his goddamn mind!"

The projectile was still in there, and Ike turned to fish out a pair of forceps and his surgery glasses, shoving them onto his face and leaning closer. Half-muttering in distraction, he asked, "Is Stan hurt, too?"

"Non, unless Miss fucking President of everything-" Gregory interrupted with a clearing of his throat that Christophe railroaded right over "-did more than smack him across his fucking whining bitch face. Which is less than 'e fucking deserves, motherfucker, for bringing down the goddamn motherfucking bitch police of that cocksucking fat shit-"

Ike glanced up, sharply, and across the bed Gregory did too, and Christophe suddenly shut his mouth with a snap.

"What." Ike leaned back, reading glasses sliding down his nose as he stared at the back of Christophe's head. "Why the fuck were you in Smileytown."

Neither of them said anything for a minute, lapsing into the kind of awkward silence he'd walked into the morning Wendy Testaburger ambushed him at the start of a his goddamn shift to tell him about Kyle, suggesting he go home afterward like that was even actually possible - Ike just narrowed his eyes, shooting them both a glare before picking up the forceps and promptly digging into Christophe's wound with them.

"Ow, fucking shit! What the fucking 'ell!?"

"I have to get it out," Ike snapped right back, leaning closer as he tried to get a decent grip on the slug of metal embedded in skin. Obviously it made sense to yell at him, as though he was the one who put it there or sent them back over the wall for some half-suicidal probably pointless rescue mission that wouldn't even have been necessary if they hadn't gone over in the first damn place like goddamn idiots. He switched angles, just a bit, drawing more cursing from the patient, and looked up over his undamaged shoulder to glance at Gregory before going back to work. "So I'm assuming no one found anything."


And since that was really all that needed to be said, Ike just pressed his mouth even thinner as he finally got a decent grip and pulled out the chunk of metal, immediately slapping down a piece of gauze as he dropped it in a nearby tupperware. Holding onto the gauze with one gloved hand, he picked up a threaded needle with the other, leaning forward again, starting in on neat, even stitches. "You're lucky that didn't pierce a lung."

"There, see, I fucking told this asshole I was fine, but 'e was goddamn whining like a bitch about coming down 'ere and I couldn't fucking 'andle anymore fucking bitching tonight..."

"Done." Taping down another clean piece of gauze, then a bit more tape just for good measure, Ike leaned back, stripping off his gloves and tossing them after the bullet. "Keep it clean, keep it dry, don't go to fucking Smileytown again, standard care instructions."

Christophe just grumbled, standing back up without much indication that a finger sized piece of metal had been fished out of his back. "Whatever."

Ike rolled his eyes but didn't say anything else, knowing that even if it did turn into a massive infection he'd end up taking care of it despite who's fault for ignoring completely basic levels of care it would be. Digging his pen back out he started filling out a summary, which would at least be helpful when Christophe would probably be back with a fever.

"Ah, Ike?" Gregory was still hovering at the curtain edge, eyebrows lowered slightly in either concern or that weird awkward 'official business' attitude Ike really had no patience for, at least not after Wendy. He kept writing, determinedly ignoring the older boy. "Are you holding out alright, considering?"

"It's fine." His chest hurt a bit, in a tight, hollow way, and Ike made a mental note to check his own blood pressure. Three large energy drinks in a few hours was likely causing some kind of arrhythmia. That was probably it.

"As I know Stan has ... well, tonight especially - seemed to snap somewhat,and I would imagine it's been more difficult..."

"If the skin around the wound appears red or shiny have him come back in before it turns into something life-threatening," Ike interrupted, voice flat as he tore off the bottom of the sheet where those exact instructions were written and thrust it at the blond. "Standard over the counter painkillers."

Gregory just glanced at the paper and sighed, nodding and taking the slip. "Thank you, then."

"Sure." With that Ike turned, leaving the biohazard trash to clean up in a minute as he recollected the tools. His eyes hurt, too, aching in the overly efficient rechargeable bulbs Med Center used, but at least Gregory was finally leaving. Picking up his tray, he walked back to the desk, closing his eyes and pressing his forehead against his desk until the distinct need to throw something sharp across the room subsided.

It was going to be a really long shift.


If there was one important thing to remember while living in Smileytown, it was to mind your own damn business. Anyone who got to be anywhere with the Mayor's office was somebody who understood that. And Douglas 'Disarray' Thompson, former General to Professor Chaos before he'd gotten weird and started hooking up with the Mayor himself, was no exception.

Dealing with theft, fights, damage, general dissent, and other stupid shit that stupid kids started? His business. Confiscating contraband and warning people when they were too close to disappearing for a while? His business. Running security for the Wall and cleaning up the mess that was the holding cells after some Treasure Cove punks came and trashed it? His business, and some severe shit to deal with.

The general weirdness that was Eric Cartman's administration, though, was not his business. What Butters did with the Mayor on their own time was also not really his business, even if Dougie could've fucking pointed out how fucked up it was. And the Mayor dragging that redheaded kid around his office on a leash? Definitely not his fucking business.

Unfortunately ... obnoxiously ... the fact that Smileytown's most wanted traitor-slash-escapee Craig Fucking Tucker was currently sitting in Cartman's hallway, cleaning his nails with a paperclip?

Actually his business.

"Tucker?! What the shit?"

Craig looked, face blank, and leaned back in the small chair. "Yo."

"What the fuck are you doing here?" It couldn't have been one of his guys who brought him in. None of them would have fucking forgot to radio him. How fucking long had he been back in town? Jesus, somebody was going to get fucking reamed and put on Wall duty for a fucking week for missing this. Taking a breath and dropping the evidence box he'd been bringing over for the Mayor, he put on his best Disarray voice. "You're under arrest, man."

Craig just sighed, rolling his eyes a little and looking towards the Mayor's door. He didn't seem like he was going to bother resisting, or moving at all, except to stick his long legs out so they blocked half the hall. "Whatever."

At that moment, whatever Dougie might have said to that, Eric Cartman himself appeared from around the corner, pausing and grinning widely as he stepped further out into the hallway. "Craig! About damn time. I thought you were coming back on Tuesday?"

Craig just shrugged while Dougie looked back and forth, blinking behind his sunglasses and making some quick reevaluations. Eric didn't seem bothered, still grinning, though after a second he had to stop and jerk hard at whatever was in his hand. From behind him out stumbled that Treasure Cove kid, the one they'd arrested on Cartman's orders during the previous raid and promptly filed under "none of their fucking business" once he was in the office's basement. He looked like shit, too ... whatever the Mayor was doing to interrogate him was probably pretty fucked up. Looking pointedly down at his bound hands, the redhead peeked up through his hair and then jerked up straight, staring right at Tucker.

"Craig?! What the fuck!?"

"Dude." Craig said, frowning just slightly. The Mayor chuckled, taking advantage of the other boy's distraction to yank on the rope and nearly pull him off his feet.

"Oh, Kyle, didn't I tell you? Who let me know allll about your sneaky, tricky little plans?"

"Who told... oh, fucking asshole!" Jerking against the rope, the Kyle kid burst a good few feet across the hall and threw himself at Craig, apparently attempting to strangle him with the lead still anchored in Cartman's hand. Tucker swore, and scrambled up, and Dougie, acting mostly on instinct, shoved himself between them both, taser in hand.

"Calm down ... Calm the fuck down!"

"You fucking sold us out?! You fucking dick! What the fuck is wrong with you?!" the redhead continued, trying to shove past Dougie. Cartman, apparently bored, gave a good hard yank on the rope lead and yanked Kyle off his feet completely, falling with a grunt to the floor. He made a high, frustrated noise, and gave Dougie a solid kick in the shin before burying his face in his bound arms. "You fucking assholes, I fucking hate you! I hope this place fucking burns down on top of your heads."

"Stop bitching, Jew. Goddamn." Turning to Craig, who had positioned himself firmly behind Dougie against the opposite wall, the Mayor sighed and rolled his head to one side. "Craig, go ahead and take a seat out in the lobby, I'll be with you in a second. Don't fucking touch anything or I'll let Disarray actually arrest you."

"Whatever." Giving the boy on the floor a wide berth, Craig walked back towards the front door, took a seat in one of the mismatched chairs, and immediately started cleaning his nails again.

He was kind of an asshole, Dougie had to admit. Cartman, meanwhile, had gotten his prisoner-who-was-none-of-the-police-business-anymore back to his feet, despite the fact he was still swearing and halfheartedly making a second attempt to go for Tucker. Giving up, the Mayor just rolled his eyes, stopping as they landed on the box Dougie'd brought.

"Fuck, Disarray, is that from last night? Here, hold him for a second and I'll put it up."

"That's really not my ... ugh, okay," Dougie tried, and gave up as Cartman shoved the rope at him and snatched up the evidence, slammimg his office door shut behind him.

Kyle stood, mouth twisted, glaring at him. "You're as much of a dick as those two."

"This is none of my business." Dougie announced, pushing his sunglasses further up his nose.

If he just repeated it enough, he wouldn't have to be involved in what he was starting to suspect was a giant, messy, stinking pile of Fucked Up Shit, and could just work on keeping the damn town running like he was actually supposed to.

Kyle just glared, not moving until the office door opened again and Cartman grinned widely, waving a hand for the rope. "Come on, Jew."

Almost getting ripped off his feet again, Kyle twisted to glare back at Dougie, eyes furious above a pretty impressive bruise across one cheek. "I hope this whole goddamn building falls down on all of you fucking derelicts. Fucking asshole."

Mind your own business, mind your own business... the office door slammed again, and Dougie just sighed, turning to make sure Craig wasn't robbing them blind.

Cartman went on talking, voice droning on and on as Kyle tuned him out and glanced around the room listlessly. He was fucking sick of listening to it ... the same bullshit, over and over and over and then he'd be on his knees with his face pressed to the floor. At least the office had carpet, he considered as his eyes wandered around, bare toes digging into the warm fibers gratefully.

It was still hard to believe this was his fucking office. Businesslike, shockingly neat, everything placed carefully in the place it clearly belonged, even stupid hideous bullshit like the radio-control toys and glass statuettes and fancy, empty bottles scattered like fucking artistic vomit over tables and shelves and nooks. Though the room really wasn't any different than it'd been before, at least at a guess, the whole day gone hazy through the endless rounds of dark and pain. Whenever that'd been. A few weeks. A few months. Fuck, he didn't know, didn't care anymore, the last few days (weeks?) wearing him down and down till he was probably oozing blood and bile into the carpet through cracked heels. He sighed through his nose.

"Kyle? Ky... Ey!" Arms jerked forward, Kyle skidded across the carpet in an attempt not to fall, stumbling to a stop in front of Cartman and immediately tucking his wrists back against himself. If he tangled his fingers it didn't hurt as much on his arms, but he'd nearly gotten a pinky wrenched out yesterday and it still ached stiffly as he wound the rope back around them. Cartman, meanwhile, looked down his nose through half-lidded eyes. "You better not be fucking ignoring me, Jew."

Kyle just stared back, mouth twisting downward slowly as the air in the room dropped about twelve degrees and he rubbed one foots against his other leg. God dammit. Why did he fucking care. It wasn't like it mattered whether Kyle heard him, he wasn't exactly asking for fucking opinions on any of it. Brown eyes just continued to stare, though, till he licked the edge of one lip carefully and Kyle just shook his head and looked away.

"Good," Cartman said slowly, reaching forward and rubbing a hand through red hair, like he was a dog being rewarded or something. Kyle glanced away, deciding not to fucking bother jerking out of reach, knowing the rope wound round his hands and neck would just pull him back. Instead he went back to staring at various points in the room, remembering to nod every once in a while so Cartman would leave him alone about the fucking listening thing. The hand hadn't actually left his hair, tightening in the very back as Cartman led him further into the room, reaching behind himself to turn the lock as he did. "Glad to see you're actually behaving yourself."

The redhead shuddered a little at that, involuntarily, wishing he'd fucking let go of his hair, almost wishing they'd just go downstairs so he could sleep again. His legs still hurt, aching, from last night. This morning. Some unknowable point in time that'd just happen again sometime soon anyway.

Fatass just tugged the lead gently, pulling him across the room and clipping the end to his desk handle. Kyle stood as far away as he could manage, fidgeting with where the strap fed through the D-ring at his throat. He'd tried untying it, loosening one end so he could get it off his hands, but it was secured and looped and impossible to see in the dark anyway, and he'd given up and stared into nothingness instead.

"Ugh, who dumped all this shit in here," Cartman was talking to himself, something he did a lot, even when he wasn't trying to get a reaction or scare the shit out of the redhead. A pile of crap had been dumped onto the desk, collection of some kind of weapon and broken bits of something and somebody's old clothing, and Kyle stared at it uninterestedly until something about it worked through the tired haze.

"What's that?" It was familiar, it was ... fuck, that was from home, he knew that coat, he'd seen it every fucking day before his whole life had been squashed into a never-ending series of assaults in the dark.

"It's nothing." With a flash he'd snatched it up in one fat hand, stuffing it into one of his desk drawers as though it'd never been there in the first place. Kyle's eyes widened.

"That's Stan's," he said, the words dropping out of his mouth like rotten teeth, unable to think of a single logical explanation for why Stan's jacket was in this fucking place. Cartman just stared at him, mouth jaw working as he made up some bullshit fucking story, and with a sudden, jerking movement that surprised both of them Kyle half-threw himself over the desk, grabbing wildly for the drawer on the other side as his legs kicked the air wildly. "That's Stan's, give it!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Cartman said in that too-calm voice, that fucking liar voice, even as he swatted at Kyle's hands. His eyes were widened, brows crossed as he tried to maneuver his chair into the space where Kyle's shoulders hung off the edge of the desk. Getting that jacket had suddenly and completely become the most important thing in his life, more important than not getting hit or avoiding attention or keeping his back to the wall. He had to have that jacket.

"Fuck you, fatass!" he snapped back, suddenly furious, furious and desperate to get his hands on that little piece of home, of safety and something besides the fucking basement and dark. He got the drawer open, banging his knuckles as he shoved both bound hands into it and wrapped his fingers in warm, dusty canvas. "You can suck my dick, asshole!"

Jerking up and away, scrambling to roll off the desk and definitely knocking over a lamp as he did, scrambling to the end of his lead, Kyle was too busy shoving his face into the familiar garment to notice the look of surprise on Cartman's fat face, to watch brown eyebrows tilt up and up and drop, calmly, into place. God, it even fucking smelt like home, or at least something besides pain and dirt and blood, which had somehow become the same fucking things. Somewhere in his chest, a hard little knot came untied.

"Okay, okay, you got me," Cartman said slowly, lifting both hands in surrender as Kyle peered up over the jacket, still holding it close, anger still beating dully in the back of his head. "It's Stan's."

"I knew it, you lying--" Kyle stopped, snapping his mouth shut hard enough it hurt, fingers going numb in the tips. "Why do you have this."

Cartman smiled, leaning back in his chair.

"Why do you fucking have this?!"

"Now, Jew, remember your fucking manners, or I might get annoyed." Fucking asshole was just grinning calmly, fingers tenting as he tapped at his lower lip. "And I don't think you'd like me to be annoyed at this... juncture in our situation, mmyeh?"

Kyle stared. He stared and slowly felt the blood drain out of his face, down his throat, choking him with the taste of bile and fear. No fucking way. It was impossible ... there was no way Cartman had captured him. "I don't believe you."

"Believe what you want." Reaching forward, Cartman unhooked the end of the lead from where he'd clipped it to the desk, wrapping it once around his hand. "Now stop wasting my goddamn time."

He tried to stop himself but ended up being dragged across the carpet anyway, flopping around in a sudden panic as the shock of seeing Stan's coat and remembering that he'd had a life out there once too and that he actually fucking hated Eric Fucking Cartman with all his fucking heart came to bear on his skull. And now things would just ... keep going the way they had. The way they would. Kyle slammed a heel into the desk, bracing against the tension. "Is he here??"

Cartman stopped, mouth slightly ajar as he held steadily to the lead. "What?"

"Is Stan in this building? Why ... Was ... was he in Smileytown?" He almost wanted to hope, almost, almost except that it would be so fucking crushing to lose it he couldn't. But if they were still working to pull Cartman's town out from under him, at least ...

"I'm afraid we don't let sneaky ginger jewrats hold the security clearance needed to know that," Cartman said smoothly, shrugging. "But nobody knows you're still alive except me. And Butters. So don't think this gets you out of being my prisoner."

His heart sunk into his stomach at that, even though he'd fucking tried not to let himself ... fuck. "Fuck you, fatass."

"Up yours, Jew."

They stared at each other for a minute. And Kyle, wrists beating uncomfortably in rhythm to the pounding in his chest, broke first. "So let him go, at least."

Cartman laughed. And laughed, and got really fucking obnoxious because he was a worthless ass motherfucker.

"Just fucking do it, you already have ..." He stopped, grinding his teeth even as Cartman's laughter came to a coughing stop as the brunet shook his head. They couldn't both be stuck here. "Let him go home."

"Oh, I don't know, Kyyyyle. Why should I help out you or your faggyass friends when you've been such an asshole to me?" Cartman put his hands behind his head, cocking an eyebrow. "I mean, telling me to suck your dick? Really, Kyle, such language. And from a bitchy little faggy girl, too."

He tutted, and Kyle dug his nails into his palms, face reddening as his pulse beat, loudly, against his ears. He was such a fucking asshole, he could never just fucking do something because it was the right thing to do. Goddammit. God dammit. "So what do you want."

"What do I waaant... hmmmm... what do I want ... what do I want?" He was fucking playing around, like this was a goddamn game, like he didn't fucking care either way. He probably didn't, actually, except for whatever was going to make life worse for Kyle, and the redhead wondered if he could move fast enough to strangle the fat fuck with his lead. Before he could do it, though, Cartman sat up, spine straight, and grinned. "Oh, I know."

"If it's my fucking Jew gold you can kiss..."

"You," Cartman interrupted, voice in the fake falsetto that made Kyle want to beat him senseless, "can suck my dick. Asshole."

Goddamn motherfucker couldn't be serious about anything, everybody just little ants for him to stomp all over giggling. Kyle growled, sick of fucking around. "Come on, fucker, what do you want in exchange for letting him go."

"Oh, I'm quite serious, Kyle." Cartman had a fucking smirk on his face. "Suck my balls."

"You ... your ... no fucking way!" There was no way, it was the one fucking thing he'd managed in all this fucking hellish time. Fatass had tried, once, and Kyle had just snapped his teeth loudly and nothing had happened. There was no fucking way he was going to ever, ever suck Eric fucking Cartman's balls. "I am not sucking your goddamn dick or your balls or anything, you fucking ..."

"I wonder," the fucking worthless piece of shit said, almost to himself, shrugging a little. "If Stan knows he's not even worth a single, little, insignificant blow job. 'Sorry, Stan, couldn't be bothered to floss a little extra tonight. See you later.' ...Although you won't, will you?"

His stomach made a really good attempt at crawling up through his throat and squeezing out his eyesockets. Kyle sucked in a breath. Fuck. Fuck.

"I mean, it's certainly your choice to make ... I can't force you to help your best friend."

"I ... isn't there something else?" He was definitely, definitely being strangled by his own intestine, everything in his chest squirming around painfully. The idea of Stan stuck in some twin basement room somewhere, tied up in the dark and not even ... he fucking hated Cartman coming down but at least the lights were on ... oh fuck. Kyle couldn't fucking stand it. "I'll ... I'll let ..."

"Sorry, none of your tricky Jew bargaining here, Kyle. Suck my balls, or I just can't guarantee the safety of any whiny hippy pussies you may or may not be friends with." Cartman grinned one last time, and glanced toward the lead in his hand, which he'd slowly unwound till it lay limp between them. He was fucking gloating already, Kyle could see it in his eyes and fat fucking face and straight back, and the worst fucking part was he was right.

Kyle stared at his feet, still tucked under the edge of the desk. "....okay."

"What was that, Kyle, I didn't quite catch ..."

"OKAY. Alright?!?! I'll fucking ... I'll fucking do what you asked, but ONLY if you fucking let Stan go first."

Brown eyes narrowed at him, and Kyle stared resolutely anywhere except back. "Then how will I know you won't go back on the deal? I seem to remember you jewing me out on this before. If memory serves."

Fucking hell ... he'd been a sick fucking piece of shit then, too, obsessed and selfish and crazy and they'd all brushed it off as the same bullying as always. Kyle wondered, kind of desperately, exactly how long the other boy had wanted to fucking do this shit. He swallowed. "Because if I do it you'll go back on it. Fucking psychopath."

The brunet paused for a long second, then got up and walked to the door. Pulling it open, he beckoned to somebody outside, another one of his fucking lackeys. Kyle leaned back, trying to see around the doorframe, but fatass's fucking bulk blocked any good view, so instead he looked back towards the carpet, already dreading this. "In ten minutes, I want you to go downstairs and release the prisoner in cell six, and escort him right back home. Unharmed, you fucking hear me? In ten minutes exactly, unless I come out here and tell you not to."

"No problem, Mr. Mayor."

"Good." Closing the door again, Cartman turned around, crossing his arms and leaning back against it. "You have ten fucking minutes, Jew, before I change my mind about what to do with your faggyass boyfriend. Better help me decide."

Oh, God. It was almost a prayer ... Oh, God, please strike him down this instant so I don't have to do this, please unlock the door to whatever cell it was so I don't have to do this, please make his dick fucking fall off so I don't have to...

"Tick tock tick tock..."

Kyle let out a long breath, feeling himself shake a little as he did, trying to find the resolve somewhere to do something ... anything ... except what they both fucking knew he'd do, because he knew, knew that if their positions were reversed Stan would do it in a fucking heartbeat. And he had more to lose, had a girlfriend to disappoint, and hadn't already, really, been in worse positions over the past few weeks anyway. So really.

Pushing himself upright, he walked over, lead trailing behind him across the carpet. This was going to be it, wasn't it. Even if Stan was released, Cartman would bullshit him and lie and manipulate him into thinking it'd been for some retarded reason, and Kyle would go on being dead, and nobody would ever come looking for him or think about him again and he'd go on sucking fatboy's dick till he died. Fucking ...

Stopping right in front of the motherfucker, Kyle blinked hard, determined not to lose it and give fatass something else to fucking laugh about. Instead he just stared at a spot on Cartman's tie, some grease stain long since settled into the silky fabric.

Cartman made an impatient noise. "Well?"

The redhead bristled slightly, still not willing to meet the other's eyes. "Well, I'm fucking here. You can ..."

He waved with his bound hands, realizing now he should just try and get it over with. Cartman snorted.

"That's not how it fucking works, you stupidshit ginger. You want a favor, you want to change my mind, so you can get started." He paused, reaching forward and adjusting the leather around the other boy's neck until it was fucking perfect or something equally dumb. "Unless you want to break it off?"

"Ngh. No. I'll do it."

"Then do it," Cartman snapped, and when Kyle hesitated another moment he put both wide hands over his shoulders and pushed him downwards. "Jesus, it's like you've never done this before."

Knees sinking into the carpet, Kyle chose not to respond to that, wondering if he was supposed to let Cartman take off his pants or what. After a second, though, the brunet just sighed and checked his watch, tapping one foot softly, and Kyle's jaw clenched. That fucking watch didn't even fucking work.

Reaching up he undid the top button of the slacks, fighting awkwardly with the zipper with his hands for a second before managing that too and slowly pulling the front of the pants open and kind of downwards. Cartman's boxers were already tented, fabric stretching as Kyle reached, hands shaking now, to pull him out. Fucking sick piece of a shit, getting off on this, making him do this at all, and Kyle squeezed his eyes shut and took a few quick breaths.

A hand rested over his hair, brushing through curls slowly, almost gently. "If you bite me, Jew, I promise I'll put a knife in your superbestfag's eye."

His heart was pounding, and if he didn't just fucking get it over with now he'd never be able to, so Kyle licked his lips once and, eyes still shut, leaned forward.

Cartman snorted, and must have shifted, because at first there was nothing and then something warm pressed against his lips. Oh, God, please burn this whole place to the fucking ground with both of us inside, if it means I don't have to do this. But whatever prayers were getting answered today, they weren't Kyle's, and instead he opened his mouth and tried, really fucking hard, not to think about what he was doing.

It wasn't ... it wasn't as though, objectively, what had happened ... continued to happen ... in the basement wasn't worse, wasn't more of an invasion, especially when the fat shit decided both of them should get off and groped and touched until Kyle's fucking body decided to be a goddamn jackass against his will. That ... that was worse, definitely, than the few inches of dick in his mouth.

At some point both hands had knotted into his hair, tugging every time another annoying little whine worked its way out of Cartman's throat. Kyle ignored them, ignoring as much of this entire fucking situation as he could, eyes still squeezed shut, but without warning fatass let out a shuddering moan and pulled, yanking his whole head forward at the same time he jerked his hips, hard.

Kyle's eyes snapped open and he gagged as it hit the back of his throat. He yanked against the hands in his hair, instinctively, even as his throat squeezed painfully. They didn't let go, though, and he gagged again and wondered vaguely if he'd throw up onto Cartman's dick. He pushed against fatboy's thigh with both hands, managing some kind of desperate noise that just pulled another moan from the brunet.

"Ahfuckk, you fucking sllll..."

The hands in his hair were fucking iron clamps, impossibly tight, holding him hard and still despite his growing panic, gagging and choking as he continued to shove and squirm. Then Cartman's hips moved backwards, and despite the dick still in his mouth Kyle almost let out a little noise of sheer relief before they snapped right back forward, rough and way too much.

He couldn't breath, couldn't fucking move or do anything as the fat fuck jerked, shoving himself forward over and over and nearly suffocating the redhead each fucking time. Couldn't even whine, gasp and beg for him to stop stop because each and every bit of oxygen and freedom was too goddamn precious to waste, so instead he thrashed, clawing at the hands gripping his head, back twisting angrily as he tried to fucking get away as his eyes watered. His mouth was flooded with sweat and spit and bile, and something else that Kyle couldn't spare the energy to think about, whole body spiraling into a panic as Cartman fucked his mouth. Eyes darting, he caught the brunet's ... dark and hungry and enjoying himself like the fucking sociopath he was ...

Then it was over and those hands released, leaving him loose to drop, coughing and spitting, to the carpet. Kyle moaned, once, pushing his face into the fibers, head aching where his hair'd been ripped out, throat still trying to choke up the entirety of his stomach as he dry heaved and wrapped his arms around his head. Oh god. Oh god what'd just happened.

"Jesus, Jew. Hungry little bitch, aren't you." Slowly, softly, strong fingers brushed the side of his head, right where he'd clamped into his hair. Kyle twisted his head, half-heartedly, too busy hacking up his lungs until he spat something thick and wet onto the carpet, not fucking giving a shit if it'd get him in trouble. His shoulders were shaking, heart pounding, whole body still wound tight with adrenaline and ready to run or fight or die swinging. "My little bitch."

"Hateyou," the redhead muttered, voice harsh and grating in his own ears, even as it caused enough round of coughing. The carpet was forgiving, at least, sucking up sweat and spit and tears as the shaking in his spine slowed down minutely. "Now let ... Stan goes home."

The fingers stroking his hair stopped for a second, and Cartman fucking snickered ... like it was fucking funny, like Kyle had fucking ... done that ... swallowed his goddamn ... for a fucking joke. Rolling over a little, arms still wrapped half-around his face like a shield, Kyle glared. "I fucking held up my part of the deal, now fucking let Stan go, asshole."

The motherfucker just grinned, looking like he was about to tell the funniest fucking joke he'd ever heard. "Who said I had Stan?"

Kyle froze. "What?"

"I never actually said I had your dumbshit boyfriend, Jew."

His hands went completely numb. "What?!"

Cartman tutted, and reached forward to brush a thumb along the corner of Kyle's mouth, still grinning like a goddamn retard derelict. "You made that assumption, dumbshit. I just didn't tell you you were wrong. You should learn to listen, dumb slut. I'm sure Billy Turner'll be glad you got him out of his week sentence, though."

Kyle just laid there. He laid there, and stared, and something hard and unhappy in him twisted angrily, squirming up along his bruised throat and busted fucking mouth, and shrieked, surprising them both. "YOU COCKSUCKER."

Another chuckle, even as the piece of shit stood up and turned half-away, brushing off his knees. "Really, Kyle, it's not really appropriate for you to call other people th..."

He didn't finish, too busy being tackled headfirst into the carpet as Kyle screamed again and leapt after. Cartman made a heavy, oversized kind of grunt, and Kyle shoved him down, adrenaline from earlier burning in his blood as he tore at brown hair, scratching and ripping and beating with the flats of his fists. He was bellowing, screaming obscenities and insults and words that weren't even words, too furious to think straight, vision bursting with white explosions. He was a perfect fucking weapon of hate and revenge, nails and teeth and knuckles.

"Ow! Ow, fuck, ow, let ... ow fuck get off fucking kike get ... Jesus!!"

That fucker. That motherfucking worthless fucking bitch racist asshole psychopath nazi nazi nazi. He rolled, and Kyle held on, just going for his face, still screaming though it fucking ripped the shit out of what was left of his throat. He'd kill the lying piece of shit, he'd do it right fucking now, wrapping bruised and busted hands around that fat throat even as the brunet wailed and swatted, panicked, back. "I'LL MURDER YOU. I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU PIECE OF SHIT I'LL KILL YOU..."

Cartman sputtered, choking ... good ... and going red in the face, and he'd do it, he'd murder him and finish it right here and now ...

He was ripped backwards with a start, lead yanking wrists and arms and neck till he keeled, flailing and kicking, back and off Cartman's bulk. Thrashing like a fucking crazy person, consumed, blinded in a wash of red and white as his veins beat with battery acid, Kyle rolled and howled, anything to get back and finish the fucking job, even as the fatass scrambled away in a panic on his hands and knees. The lead jerked again, and again, but he was just dragging the person with him as he went after, weeks-months-forever of rage and pain and unwanted touches piling up and fueling the fire. Somebody shouted, cursing, and he caught Cartman's stupid fucking stupid tie in one hand before the was an electric crackle, and pain, and nothingness.

"Talk," Kyle said, voice rough and hushed in the cold basement room. Butters blinked, surprised, and leaned back a bit.

"Huh? About what?"

"Whatever," was the answer, the redhead carefully not looking at him as he pushed food around on his plate. Butters figured he probably wasn't gonna eat it, since he'd hadn't eaten all that much in general and then he'd gotten tasered after all this afternoon, but he also wasn't gonna take it away while the other boy still seemed interested. It wasn't any fun to have your dinner taken away, no sir.

Butters sighed, and wrapped his arms around his knees, eyes wandering up towards the ceiling. He sure felt like there was a lot to say, actually ... problems of the past few days crowding up in his brain, questions an accusations and all kinds of noise ... but he wished he could go tell them to Eric instead of talking in this basement to some boy who he didn't even really like. Who was part of those problems. Who'd left a big old bleeding gash down Eric's face big enough that'd meant they had to get Terrence Mephesto to come put a big bandage on it. "Um, w-well, I guess, I mean, Eri ..."

"Not him," Kyle snapped, suddenly forceful as his eyes snapped up to give Butters a hard glare. The blond nearly shrunk under it, then blinked rapidly, a frown pulling across his face.

"Now, that's not fair, Kyle, you said anything, and if I want to talk about Eric I'm allow..."

Kyle slammed his fork down on the concrete. "Not. Him."

Butters' mouth dropped open before he snapped it shut loudly. It was bad enough that, that he had to come down here and sit in the cold while Kyle wasted his food like there weren't folks down in the wall district going hungry right this week after acting all crazy and getting tackled and tased to the ground in the Mayor's office.. But now he was being bossed around by some dumb prisoner who wasn't even smart enough to just give Eric what he wanted so he could go the heck away already. It was enough to make anybody angry. "W-well, Kyle, fuck you. I'm just not gonna talk to you at all if you want to keep Eric all to yourself or something like that, and I'll go talk to somebody else about my problems and you can just sit here by yourself if you're gonna be rude like that."

Kyle blinked slowly, face unreadable, and Butters gave him a quick glare before reaching forward and snatching the tray and fork away. Stomping up the stairs, he paused at the light switch. "And you need to start learnin to eat or I won't even bother coming down here at all. S-so there."

Like Butters would wanna talk to some asshole about his boyfriend problems anyway.

Cartman's bandage pulled awkwardly on his fat face every time he opened his mouth, and Kyle took a lot of satisfaction from that, from watching the thing crumple and twist and imagine (knowing from experience) how torn skin was doing the same thing under the gauze. It was a comfort, actually. It was something to focus on instead of listening to the bullshit pouring out of his fucking mouth. Leaning his head against the pipe, Kyle thought about next time, about putting a matching one on the other cheek, two ragged, dirty, rips blooming out from the center of bruises and scrapes. Or he'd just jam a thumb into his eye.

Fatass must have noticed he wasn't being listened to, because he'd trailed off with a tense, irritated expression. Kyle, face blank, met his eyes and tapped his fingers on the pipe. His whole fucking forearms, tied along the vertical metal so he was stuck on his knees with his back exposed, but at least he could roll his wrists around for once and lean against the pipe if fatass decided to leave him here for hours (again).

"As I was saying," Cartman began again, angry but trying to pull together that stupid I'm-Mayor-and-Master-and-Nothing-Can-Ruin-My-Fun bullshit, "You've been a bad fucking Jew!"

Kyle rolled his eyes and shifted as best he could, turning to look up at where the pipe disappeared into the ceiling. It looked pretty fucking sturdy. How this building had pipes in perfect fucking condition he didn't fucking know, but he'd tried shaking himself loose from way too many of them for it to be an accident. "Suck a bag of dicks, fatboy."

"You would like that, you homo," Cartman snapped, arms crossed as he toed at the overturned, cranked-up heater. "Maybe I'll fucking find one for you when we're done."

He flinched, and ground his nails into chipping paint in frustration. "Fuck you!"

That stupid placid smile sprung up on his face, self-satisfied and so fucking smug, and Kyle wanted to scratch it all off all over again. "But as of this moment, there seems to be some sort of misunderstanding."

"That's because you're so fucking stupid." If he scratched at the paint a bit more, bits of rust became visible along the rings and fiddly shit on the metal. Maybe they weren't all so damn sturdy. Out of the corner of his eye Fatass could see him losing interest in the conversation and nearly stomped his foot.

"No, it's because you're a sneaky, lying, dirty Jew who doesn't know his fucking place!"

There was definitely fucking rust through this pipe. His nails were going to break again, but maybe ...

"Which is my fucking property, you piece of shit!" Cartman's hand was in his hair, yanking him around, swearing right into his face. Kyle blinked once, and opened his mouth to spit, and glared as a heavy hand slapped over his mouth. Fucker wasn't completely stupid. Goddammit. Squeezing at his jaw with a thumb and fingers, Cartman grinned and leaned even closer. "You know what they used to do to propertaaaaah?"

Hand over his mouth, Kyle didn't bother attempting to respond, scowling from behind his hair. Fatass just wanted to fuck with him, to play this bullshit stupid game till he whipped out his dick or another rope or whatever it was going to be. Well fuck him.

"I think you do." With his free hand, Cartman waved at his bandage, and Kyle narrowed one eye in confusion. He was going to fucking scratch him back? That wasn't too bad. He was pretty sure his face was already fucked up from however many punches and slams and shoves down to rub against concrete. From behind a wide hand, he pressed his lips together and glared evenly back.

Cartman continued to grin in his usual fucking demented way, and ruffled his hair, and stood up (the three steps out of spitting range a lot fucking faster than the others). Kneeling once at the heater, he picked up whatever it was he'd brought with him, handling it gingerly and pulling the heater with back with him. Kyle narrowed his eyes at the thing, some kind of wand made out of metal with a handle. It must've been fucking hot, Cartman seeming hesitant to really grip the thing as he walked the long way around to where Kyle couldn't see behind himself. Fuck. If he ever got out of here he was sitting with his back to the wall forever.

"What the fuck is that thing, fatass?"

"You'll see, Kaaaaaaaaaahl," came the reply, singsonging in that annoying, half-frightening way that meant he'd see and he'd hate it. Kyle, swallowing once, gave a few more determined jerks on the ropes just to be sure he wasn't going to get a miracle today.

God, he guessed, hated him as much today as yesterday.

At least he could slide his legs forward a little, on either side of the pipe to jam his feet along the wall, scrunching till it would be a fucking pain in the ass to get his pants loose. He'd just braced himself when something touched his shirt, a weird hssh noise and the smell of something ... "Cartman, what the fuck?!"

Cartman gripped where he'd burned open the back of his shirt and ripped, tearing it the rest of the way open and leaving it to slide and bunch between Kyle's shoulders and the fucking pipe. Shit. Shit. "I'm really serious ... what are you doing?!"

"You forgot who belongs to who, Jew. You don't get to fuck up anything on my body."

God, fuck, his fucking hair was in his eyes when he tried twisting his head around. A clang of metal, a long silence ... he wasn't going to really ... Cartman took a breath into his ear and then ...

It felt, for a split second, like a knife made out of ice.

And then fire.

He must have jerked ... oh shit fuck that fucking hurt ... because Cartman swore, and swatted him upside the head, which barely fucking registered among the utter screaming from where his skin was on fire.

"You stupid fucking asshole! You fucked up my fucking line moving around like a fucking pussy!"

A hand shoved his hips to meet the pipe, and Kyle gamely didn't fucking barf on himself from the pain. Vaguely, he could tell something was being pulled or ... God, please let it not be sex ... but Cartman grunted once and let go completely and Kyle found himself tied below the waist too. "Car..."

Fuck a knife, it was like being stabbed by barbed wire, like having his skin ripped down and off in sharp, slicing lines. He flinched, and gasped, and whimpered as behind it came a throbbing, stinging sensation that was crawling along everything not torn away. He couldn't talk, could barely fucking think, nerves taut and busy shrieking in pain, pain, get away get away. Nails caught on metal and tore; his hips twitched, tied and pinned; his fucking back jesus fucking christ.

"That's better. Fuck, you need to learn to appreciate when somebody's trying to work, you asshole."

Laughter bubbled in his throat and choked him, it was like everything his body tried shut down halfway so it could bring a new wave of pain and high-pitched screaming somewhere in the back of his head. He was going to vomit. He was going to vomit and choke on it.

"Man, that smells so fucking weird. Did you ever have barbecued pork in Beforetime?" Cartman's voice was so fucking far away, on a whole opposite shore across the ocean of agony, which was good because pointing out pork wasn't fucking kosher wouldn't have helped. Kyle whined, instead, gripping at the metal pipe that was the only fucking steady thing left in the world as the room pitched sideways.

"This is so cool. I thought it'd be like paint but it's more like carving wood."

Below the stabbing, throbbing, impossible pain, heat was welling up, slow and heady like a sunburn in fast forward, sinking so fucking deep that his whole goddamn insides had to be cooking through. He couldn't ... his vision was going, right around the edges. Something (a hand, he hated hated those fucking hands) touched his hip, right on the raw open edge, and Kyle made a noise like a sick cat.

Fuck vomiting, he was going to die.

"Car ... sto ..." he shook his head, face pressed against the cool, beautiful, blessedly cold metal. His back was gone, it had fried off and Cartman was burning paths along his raw open muscle. "Pl..."

"Hmm, what?" Fucking ... he wasn't even paying attention, Kyle's nerves dead from screaming themselves raw, his face dirty with hot, wet tears, his whole body numb but for the open warzone on his back, he didn't even care. Something came up his throat and Kyle groaned.

"Please ... please, please," he gasped, head swimming again, half-wanting to just drop dead into the darkness. He was crying, he didn't care, it didn't fucking matter in the wall of pain that was his whole fucking ... "Stop please please."

"If I stop now it'll still have too much white space," Cartman said back, still distracted. Fucking idiot. The room was pitching backwards, he was going to black out, he was going to die. Crying.

"Car ... Eric please ..."

For a wonderful, amazing moment nothing happened, nothing touched him to make it worse, and then Cartman sighed. "Goddamn whiny Jew."

There was the sound of water, and a rush of cold, cold he'd never bitch about snow again he'd go live in a pile of snow forever and ever and Kyle sobbed in relief before blackness surged back up and grabbed him anyway.

Treasure Cove

"Where the fuck have you been, douchebag?"

"Hey, Stan, good to fucking see you too," Kenny replied, leaning back and slamming the truck's door shut. Back for five fucking minutes, just wanting to check his shit, and Stan was up in his damn face already asking questions he wouldn't fucking believe the answer to anyway. Where the fuck he'd been, how he'd got there, why it'd taken the better part of two weeks to fucking get back ... it was all pretty un-fucking-believable, and Kenny wasn't about to have the same argument as always when his curse and fate decided to be giant bitches and cockblock the fuck out of him. "What's up?"

The other boy just stared at him like he was speaking fucking French or some shit, eyes narrowed and clearly trying to get himself put the fuck together or something. "Dude. Jesus."

That was some helpful fucking information and Kenny just continued his walkaround of his truck, somehow miraculously in the place he'd parked it the day before they'd gone on fun-time fucking adventures across the White Line Wall Bullshit and Eric had lost his goddamn mind. Half expecting it to be drained of gas, or covered in graffitti, or filled with empty reeces cup wrappers left by feral ass kinderfucks, Kenny leaned up to check the mirrors and waited the other boy out.

"Dude really, where the fuck have you been, we could've used your fucking help with shit!" Stan just followed him right around, jaw set under some pretty douchey stubble he really needed to take care of before Wendy did it for him, and Kenny managed to not roll his eyes. "You leave your fucking truck here and what, fuck off to hang out with that fat piece of shit and come back here and expect stuff to be cool??"

"Not fucking exactly. Help with what, that whole ..." he waved a hand off towards the wall, kicking the tires at the same time. He hadn't thought they'd remember, not really. Maybe if they'd asked him more than four hours beforehand, if they'd realized he should've been around helping, not some last fucking minute addition only good for getting cornered and shot at while Kyle bailed. "Or whatever the fuck it was?"

"Yeah, asshole, with 'whatever the fuck,' jesus fucking christ. Figured fatass would've told you while you guys were living it up." His tone was low and angry and Kenny actually stopped, looked over and took a really good look at him. And hell if he didn't look like shit warmed over, circles under his eyes and fists clenched and some tight anger set back in blue eyes. "What the hell, Kenny? Kyle's dead and you're 'whatever the fuck' about it?"

Kenny stared at him. "What?"

Stan sighed, and pressed his fingers between his eyes, squeezing hard and shaking his head all at once. "They just. Dude, shit all went to hell and Kyle was by himself and Cartman's goons fucking ... they say they ... but we went back, Mole and I, he wasn't there ..."

He stopped, mouth working soundlessly for a second before he really looked at Kenny and frowned again, eyes narrowed. "And you've been disappeared like it's the damn return of the M-Word around here. So, dude, where the fuck have you been??"

God's goddamn hairy balls on a cracker, and Kenny rubbed a hand across his mouth before deciding he needed a bitchass cigarette, right that damn second. Pulling out his pack he lit one and took a long drag, staring right back at Stan the whole time. "Stop. Start over. What??"

"Why?" Stan had gone past angry into full on insufferable jackass territory, and Kenny just watched him evenly, taking a few more pulls of his cigarette. So Kyle hadn't bailed. Or he had and they'd gotten him anyway, right after Eric had stared down at Kenny from the other side of a pistol and fired. Fucking shitballs. "So you can go back to Cartman and tell him all about this shit and both laugh?"

Kenny tossed his cigarette down, grinding it out with his heel and shoving both fists into his pockets. "Fuck you."

"No, fuck you, dude!" Stan's fists were balled up and he almost looked ready to punch him, which would be a bigass fucking deal for the raging king of pussies, and for a second Kenny almost wanted it to happen anyway, if only so he could get the goddamn pounding in his ears to go away. He'd died ... Eric Cartman, his supposed best friend, had killed him ... and it'd been for jack fucking shit after all because Kyle was dead and his best friend was accusing him of pretty much approving of the whole damn show. "Where the fuck were you?!"

"Not over in fucking Smileytown, asshole. Jesus bitchtits if you think I'd be just fucking fine with Cartman going around killing people I consider friends ..." Kenny stopped for a second, catching on the word and the fact that maybe it wasn't as fucking true as he'd thought if Stan assumed he was ... could ever be ... in Cartman's fucking court on this, "I'm not, you asshole. And fuck. Sorry about Kyle. Really."

"God." Stan ground both hands against his eyes, looking upwards and so obviously at a loss that Kenny felt even more fucking guilty, wondering if there'd been a point he could've just talked them all the fuck out of it. Probably not, if they all thought he was half-in on everything with Cartman's dumb fucking ass. "I thought he was lying but..."

"How do you know he isn't?" Lighting another cigarette, half out of a need for as much nicotine as he could get and half because he had no fucking other ideas, Kenny leaned back against his truck, glancing up at Stan for a second. The darker haired boy just looked back, jaw working silently for a second before he let out a huge sigh and collapsed back against the truck as well with a shrug. He looked tired as fuck, and accepted a cigarette without complaint.

"Fatass gave us his body."

"Shiteater." The smoke helped, though Kenny was pretty sure he'd need two more after this.

"And he had to go and set it on fucking fire first like a giant dick, he couldn't even leave ..." Stan shook his head, and toyed with the cigarette without actually smoking it, and Kenny turned and stared at him for a second as a giantass ton of shit clicked into place like a goddamn drunk girl getting the perfect compliment.


"Said it was a fucking accident but the asshole probably just wanted one last ... god he's such a dick."

There was no argument to make to that, Kenny still watching Stan with widened eyes and his cigarette stuck between his teeth. Cartman was a fucking dick, the kind of dick who let people die for him, who killed people for dumb reasons to get dumb shit he had no rights to. The kind of obese donkeyraping dick that grinned at Kenny and said 'thanks' before shooting him in the fucking head. Kenny rubbed a hand over his hair, staring at the ground, trying to decide if even Eric fucking Cartman was enough of an immature little cock to do what he was guessing. Probably. Shit. Shit.

"Shit." Kenny stumbled up, turning around and hauling Stan up after him. "Where's the body?"

"Dude, what?"

"Is it still in fucking Smileytown? Motherfucker burned it up? Goddammit, Eric, the fuck is wrong with that fat sack of shit ..." Seeing that Stan wasn't following him, was just staring at him like a goddamn retard, Kenny huffed and tossed away the last of his half-forgotten cigarette. "Wasn't his body, dude. He's probably still over there."

"Yeah dude that's what I thought but we went over there to the goddamn jail and busted through every fucking cell ... nobody'd seen him, nobody knew shit, it ..." Stan almost lost it for a second, face nearly crumpling, but he snorted and rubbed at the bridge of his nose and took a breath instead. "He wasn't there so where the fuck else, unless it was him, but..."

"It wasn't. He's somewhere else." The more Kenny repeated it the more it made perfect fucking sense in the totally goddamn demented Eric way, utterly fucking bullshit and fucked up but ignoring those two things so fucking smart it was genius. Kenny was going to beat the shit out of him for it.

"Dude." Stan stood there, face blank, before his eyebrows suddenly knit together and some dumbass look of determination decided to show itself. "Dude!"


"We have to go get him!"


"We need to go talk to the Mole."

"Ye ... what?" Kenny stopped again, half-blindsided by the last bit, and Stan just shrugged at him and finally started off in some decent direction that wasn't the road to unbearable pussydom or general jackassery. Towards the Mole, for some reason.

"He knows what he's fucking doing, dude." Stan didn't even stop. "And we need a tunnel."

He'd need his shovel, obviously. And his gun, even if certain people insisted on shooting fucking slingshots and pellets and other pussytime playshit that he'd outgrown at four when he'd realized what a shithole life really was. Gloves. Little stupid round pills with a 'T' scratched into their surfaces that Ike had insisted he take four times a day if he didn't want to break down crying like a kinderfuck who'd just heard the motherfucking Provider promise to take them to the goddamn land of footballs and Snickers bars.

Unceremoniously dropping his canvas bag onto the floor, he ignored the clatter in favor of organizing his supplies as best he could with one arm, unceremoniously pitching items in before turning and snatching the next out of some corner of their disgustingly clean apartment. He'd had it halfway full before he turned and straightened and nearly jumped a foot in the fucking air when he came face to face with Gregory, lounging against the side of the door like the smug asshole that he was.

"You're leaving again?" Blink, eyes down at the bag and immediately back up again as though the blonde knew exactly what he was up to, sucking in information information through his eyes like a goddamn sponge. "I'd thought being shot once was more than enough for you."

Fucking hell. "They have a new plan. Less stupid." Gregory simply looked at him as though he'd tried to claim that brussle sprouts tasted better than shit, and so Christophe coughed loudly, not bothering to cover his mouth before elaborating. "Besides, I am in charge, so everything will be fine." He ducked his head, ignoring Gregory's piercing stare in favor of dumping at least fifty feet of rope into his bag.

"I can't exactly say that I approve, you know."

That goddamn oh-so put upon British faggot sigh, and Christophe rolled his eyes, getting a good look at the dark-specked ceiling before straightening his back and fumbling for a cigarette like his life depended on it. Dragging out a matchbook, he lit the thing, sucking in a grateful breath and holding the smoke in his lungs for a moment before violently spitting it back out again. "I don't need your goddamn approval. That fat fuck is throwing his bombs anyway; who gives a fuck if we pussy around in his back yard a little more. Even Madame President can't bitch about that shit."

Gregory simply continued looking at him as though his eyebrows were taking some sort of fucking roadtrip across his forehead, attempting to explore the northern region of his hairline. It would have been endearing if he'd not been so busy acting like a giant pussy bitch, and so Christophe instead exhaled loudly and crossed his arms, locking eyes with the other boy. At least half a minute passed in silence as they both squinted through the smoke. Christophe firmly Not Giving A Single Shit - Gregory still frozen with that fucking concerned look on his face and each desperately trying not to blink until at last Gregory rolled his eyes in exasperation, turning casually away as though losing was somehow part of his plan from the start. Christophe could feel the corner of his mouth quirk into a smile as he dug another cigarette out of his pocket, lighting it again the tip of his own before offering it out to the other boy.

Gregory accepted it with a nod and a muttered 'thanks' under his breath, sweeping a hank of blonde bangs out of his face before sticking the cigarette between his lips and taking a long drag. "What Cartman does and does not notice is hardly the point, Christophe."

"Then what is the point, Gregory." Such a fucking bitch, and Christophe took a moment to kick his bag onto its side with one booted foot, shoving it several inches closer to the door.

"I'll tell you. One ... the utter last thing we need at the moment is for Stanley Marsh to cause another inter-town incident. Two-" He held up a second finger, somehow managing to look like even more of a know-it-all asshole. "-This is an utterly pointless venture, seeing as we buried Kyle six days ago. And three, I am certainly not about to stand around while Stan and Kenny of all people concoct some ridiculous plan that ultimately gets you shot yet again." Christophe hated to admit to himself how stupidly attractive the other boy was when he ranted, eyebrows knitted together as Gregory stalked forward, quickly closing the distance between them. Hands already out, he smoothed his fingers lightly around the edges of Christophe's wound, still frowning as though he could see the damn thing through the heavy green fabric of his shirt shirt. "How is that, anyhow. Are you even well enough to go burrowing through some half-dug tunnel? And don't even bother telling me that you've been resting; I know you're far too stupid to actually listen to me when I tell you to do something."

"Fuck you, bitch," Christophe snapped back without malice, holding obediently still as he sucked down the last of his cigarette, tapping one foot impatiently as he stared at the ceiling and waited for him to finish his pussy-ass ministrations. After several silent moments he glanced downward, twisting his head around and attempting to see past the sea of hair filling up his vision. Sweeping some aside with one hand, he frowned. "'Ow is it then? Good enough to let me do my fucking job?"

Out of the corner of his eye he could see Gregory's eyebrows knit together, creasing over the bridge of his nose before he nodded to himself. He took a single, quick step backward and Christophe could feel the strands of curled blonde slip around his fingers. "Technically, yes. However that hardly means that I am enthusiastic about your following Stan through another poorly constructed, poorly thought out plan over a dead man. Even if it is your 'job'," he added as an after-thought, crossing his arms as though he obviously fucking knew better. Even though he usual did, that was hardly the fucking point, and Christophe tossed one hand carelessly into the air, bending over to zip up the half-broken teeth of his suitcase.

"Kenny says that Broflovski is alive, so we will see or some shit I guess. And if not I can give that fucking fat asshole a good reason to stay on his side of the fucking wall." Glancing up, Christophe shot him a genuine grin - the prospect of a night of pure, unadulterated fucking with those Smileytown bitches worth putting up with even the nonstop whining of every goddamn pussy this side of the wall. With his bag zipped closed he straightened his back and effortlessly slung it over his good shoulder, gripping the strap firmly in one hand. Crossing the few short steps toward the door, he flicked his gaze to the side to catch sight of Gregory walking beside him ... apparently finally coming to his goddamn senses and silent at last, thank God, that fucking faggot bitch. Reaching the door first, Gregory gripped the handle firmly in one hand, pausing before glancing up and shooting him a resolute look.

"Don't get yourself killed. Prat."

"I won't. Bitch. You can say you're sorry when I come back all victorious and shit with that fucking asshole's head on a fucking plate."

A small smirk crept its way into the corner of Gregory's mouth, and the other boy abruptly reached upward, grasping a fistful of brown hair and yanking him down into a kiss. It ended all too soon however, and Christophe kept the disappointment off his face as the blonde took a smooth step backward, tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear before reaching back to open the door for him. "Don't be stupid," he requested simply, as though this somehow wrapped up all of his unnecessary nosy bitch complaints into one neat package.

Christophe meanwhile rolled his eyes for the ten thousandth time that night before nodding once and waving over his shoulder before disappearing around the corner into the snow.


Kyle had dozed off at some point, halfway through the night like always. Or every other night. Or what the fuck ever, too tired and hurt and sick to really give a shit. He'd rolled onto his side of course, ignoring the tender itching lancing across his back. Hot and sweaty and twitching fitfully until finally exhaustion set in too deeply to fucking bother, dragging him down into half-fitful sleep - arms pulled up to his chest, curled into as tight a space against the wall as possible.

Tonight was no different than any other, except for the glass of milk that Butters had left behind that now sat, undrunk, as he frowned and rolled against the floor. Sleep pressed around him, thick and heavy and peppered with the slow hum of noises that seemed to come from miles away - bangs and scrapes that slinked closer and closer before reaching out to brush against the back of his neck.

And suddenly something was touching him, fingers gripped around his arms, pulling him upright and shaking his shoulders back and forth ... rough and insistent before his brain suddenly cracked into wakefulness like a rubber band ... eyes snapping open in fear. With both hands he slung his arms sideways, slamming them wildly in the half-dark before they collided with something and produced a yelp of surprise, the hands dropping him suddenly to the cement. Immediately he scrambled back to the wall, halfway to the end of his lead in the best position to kick just in case Cartman forgot to hike the rope today, fingernails ready and hands turned as his head pounded and he squinted blearily across the room-


The first thing he noticed was that he needed to shave his stupid ass face - tiny patches of dark hair clinging stubbornly to the angle of his jaw and nowhere else like a complete douche bag. The second was the slow-coming realization that Stan was here - Stan was here - and he stiffened on the spot, entire body frozen as he could almost hear the words clot in his brain, clogged up and stuck in the gears as it tried to desperately process what was obviously impossible. For one terrible, awful, awful fucking second he thought that Cartman had shoved him down here as well. Locked away to rot or watch or god knows what and he nearly lost it, heart pounding wildly, about to jump out of his chest until he suddenly realized that Stan had dived forward, one hand gripping a pocketknife that he'd angled underneath the rope around his wrists.

"Holy shit, dude, I thought ... how long have you been - holy fucking shit," he babbled, stringing along several more curses as he hissed and frowned, flapping his other hand around as his fingers searched for a free place to grip that wasn't covered by rope or blood.

"Wh-" His mouth was full of peanut butter, slow and sticky as Stan finally found a good angle and jerked the knife upward, slicing easily through the ropes. Arms dropping to his side he stared stupidly, unbelieving as Stan's face shifted down into his line of sight - his eyebrows knitted over each other in concern.

"Kyle? Hey ... are you ... Kyle?!" Kyle flinched away as one hand scraped the side of his face, the side he'd been grinding into the floor for the past week, and Stan jerked his arm back to hang, unsure, in the air before tentatively reaching forward to land on his elbow.

He'd died. He'd died and gone to heaven because there was no way ... no goddamn way that Stan fucking Marsh was in this god forsaken pit, shaking his arm, voice rising in pitch as he mouthed sounds and letters that didn't matter one single bit when every one of them was the most amazing fucking thing he'd heard in his entire life.

Someone's voice echoed off the wall and Stan craned his head back toward the stairwell, rocking back on his heels as though to leave ... oh shit - oh shit - and with a frantic gasp Kyle threw himself at the other boy's chest, arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders and hands buried in dark hair as he held him in place. He could feel Stan stiffen underneath him, hands probably flailing again before they pressed against his shoulder blades and fuck that hurt and stung and a half a dozen other things that he ignored in favor of pressing his forehead against his neck as he choked and gasped in relief.

"Hey, it's okay." The fingers against his back tightened. "It's fine, I promise. We're getting out of here"

And oh God how did he know ... how did he know to keep looking when Cartman had said and shown him and, no, of course he knew, of course he kept going because he was Stan Marsh and fucking amazing and holy fucking shit. Kyle meant to ask, to remind him of how motherfucking perfect he was, the words coming out as a muffled string of nonsense as he babbled against Stan's collar.

"Stan, the hallway's still clear." Lifting his eyes up over Stan's back he caught sight of Kenny, one foot on the stairwell as he plodded back downstairs, same old orange parka tossed over his shoulders as he frowned in their direction. "We should go now though."

"Yeah, I got it," Stan called back before shrugging Kyle off of his shoulder, head tilted to the side as he caught his eyes with his own. "Fatass doesn't know we're here yet ... you okay to move?"

His head had begun to clear slightly, fog and confusion dampening with the metallic click of Kenny reloading his airsoft, and Kyle nodded once before shoving himself to his knees. "Yeah."

Stan pulled him up the rest of the way, hands still ridiculously awkward with one on the tips of his fingers, the other under his elbow. Moving his hips was like steering a fucking cow, slow as all fucking hell, and they made it four steps before Stan wordlessly slung his arm over his shoulder, linking their fingers together as they hobbled up the basement stairs and into the halogen lighting. Kenny had already gone ahead, back to the wall as he frowned around the corner before signaling them, shaggy blonde hair flipping as he shook his head at the main corridor.

"We're going straight for the wall." Stan's voice was in his ear, low and heavy as they rushed across the carpeting, ducking in and out around corners. The purple room flew by to the left, and Kyle craned his head back, grinding his teeth before glancing up once again. "Christophe's already been out fucking the fatass's shit up; he'll set off a distraction if we need it, and we'll reconvene back at the border."

"Yeah, okay." The oval office passed by this time, locks tightly shut with a small strip of light pouring out just under the doorway, and Kyle actually pulled up in his walk, twisting almost completely around as his blood pumped loudly though his ears. Cartman was probably inside - signing papers or eating a twinkie or plotting ways to kill them all without any idea that that were standing right outside his fucking door, and Kyle grit his teeth again, swallowing heavily as he stared at the heavy wood.

Stan had jerked to a stop when he had ... fingers still tangled together ... and he frowned, a twinge of worry flickering through his expression. "Dude, come on, we have to go." Grasping for a tighter grip he shifted his legs, turning to reveal the utility belt strapped to his waist, and Kyle's eyes snapped down to the hunting knife fastened over his hip.

"-I'll be back in a second." Tugging his hand out of Stan's gasp he reached for the knife, ignoring Stan's confused mumblings as he tried to undo the line of snaps keeping it in place ... fingers stiffly awkward as they missed the small metal rounds over and over and what the fuck - until he finally ripped the leather free and jerked the knife out of its holster.

"Dude ... dude! Kyle!"

Something was heavy and wrong in his blood, burning through his wrists and his back as he ignored the frantic whispers over his shoulder and stomped down the corridor instead, back the way they came. Cartman was going to die. He was going to fucking die screaming with a knife in his throat, hacked and slashed through the fatty folds of his neck until every goddamn drop of blood had been spilled onto the carpet. Maybe he'd do it slowly, like the bastard fucking deserved, cutting into his liver or lungs and finishing it when he cried for mercy, fucking sick perverted motherfucking psycho-

"Kyle, stop!" Stan barked, louder this time, just as his hand gripped at his shoulder to spin him around. Kyle meanwhile growled angrily, slumping against the wall and easily dancing out of his grip and he took another half a dozen steps, only to be stopped again. "Dude, what the fuck!"

"I'm going. To kill him," he ground out, low and steady in his throat as he glared up at Stan through his hair, the other boy's face wavering back and forth between shock, confusion, and concern. His ears were killing him ... ringing with the sound of his own pulse ... and he fucking had to do this now. Stan wouldn't understand ... he couldn't ... oh fuck, no, he couldn't ever fucking ... and Kyle ducked away once more, half running down the hall as fast as his stupidshit aching legs would carry him.

Kenny caught him easily, wide hands closing around one wrist as he snapped him off balance and back against Stan's chest, both of them stumbling slightly. Folding his arms he frowned, blue eyes narrowed and pointedly ignored Kyle's furious scowl. "Dude. No. One, he's not here. Two, we need to get back to the wall as quietly as possible. Stop being a goddamn pussy and let's get the fuck out of here."

"Fuck you!" he spat, angrier than he should have been as he shoved past the blonde, hard. Cartman was here, he was sure of it. He'd heard him past the fucking door, just a few feet away and it would only take a minute ... a fucking minute to slip in and rip his head off with his fucking teeth and-

Without warning he was lifted clean off the floor, shrieking in a panic before realizing that Kenny had slung him over one shoulder, knees gripped together in one muscled arm.

"What the fuck - put me ... god fucking damn it, Kenny, put me down right now!!"

He didn't answer as both he and Stan broke into a run, moving far faster than the three of them had been able to go before, and Kyle twisted furiously in his grip, bucking and kicking as he swore furiously. They made it down the main stairwell, tile and carpet flying under his vision before stopping at the final exit to the building, where Kyle renewed his efforts, half-shrieking before Stan suddenly gripped the sides of his head in his hands, pulling up his face to meet his own.

"Kyle!" For a brief moment he stopped, face flushed and red as he panted and glared right back. "Dude, please. I don't- look, we're leaving. Cartman's not here; you need to stop this unless you want to get caught again."

That shut him the fuck up, teeth snapping together as he breathed heavily through his nose. He watched as Stan mouthed another "please," concern and something written all over his face before Kyle squeezed his eyes shut and nodded.

Beneath him he could feel Kenny take off again, slinging the heavy door open before running out into the snow.

Treasure Cove

Stan had taken Kyle off somewhere to lick his wounds and do their superbestboyfriends thing, and Kenny had gone home to drink.

Maybe he should've gone with them, he didn't know, or at least stuck around to help the Mole unload the shit he'd stole, but Jack Daniels and his Marlboros made a convincing argument for getting shitfaced. It seemed a perfectly fucking reasonable response, Kenny felt, to the shit they'd seen that night and the fact that Eric Cartman, his supposed best friend since they were still shitting their pants and the only fucking person on earth who he could even possibly discuss his shitty fucking power with, had apparently snapped and turned into some kind of psycho Buffalo Bill creeper. Or so he could fucking assume, a thousand goddamn pieces of evidence clicking together, all those goddamn arguments and comments and schemes all wrapped in a dark leather collar Kenny had brought back from some fetish store in Denver.

Fucking hell, Eric.

So he got fucking wasted off his ass, unable to even stumble through the shithole that was his Treasure Cove house to crash on an actual mattress, chain-smoking with his dirty sneakers propped on the arm of the couch until the sun started to rise and he fell asleep, empty Jack bottle dangling from one hand.

Till somebody ran a fucking jackhammer through his skull, splitting open his brains all over the threadbare cushions as they pounded on the door over and over. Kenny flopped over, landing awkardly on his knees as the iron band around his head tightened painfully, stumbling through the half-lit room to throw open the door. "Fuckwhat??"

Stan stood on the front step, arms crossed. "Dude."

Kenny frowned, trying to kick himself out of being hungover or still drunk or whatever the fuck was going on, probably slow-onsetting alcohol poisoning and he'd be dead by tonight. He rubbed at his face with one hand, blinking grit out of his eyes as Stan shifted to his other foot and just looked pissed. "What?"

"Cartman's standing at the wall with a bullhorn demanding negotiations." He rubbed at the bridge of his nose, then ran the hand through his hair, leaving dark hair sticking up in awkward cowlicks. It was a good fucking look for him, matching the dark circles under his eyes, and Kenny wondered if he'd slept last night or just sat staring at Kyle in case the redhead evaporated into thin air. The brunet continued, voice angry. "He keeps saying we started this whole thing and he's going to blow up the town if we don't return his 'property' ... he's fucking talking about Kyle like he's a goddamn toy we stole or something, acting like he has any fucking right ..."

He must have been really fucking pissed, bitching on and on while his volume spiraled upwards, and Kenny lifted both brows and shook his head once before butting in before it made his headache worse. "Dude. Okay. You're here because?"

"Wendy's going to fucking let him come over and talk." Well, that was fucking smart of her, if only so Eric couldn't just stand out there all day riling people up. "Which is fucking bullshit, we're not giving him anything, especially not Kyle after the shit he's been doing ... you should see his fucking arms ..."

"Stan. Calm the fuck down," Kenny interrupted him again, sort of dimly surprised that of everyone to show up at his door furious it was Stan fucking Marsh, pussy-hippy extraordinaire. Of course, if there was any reason for Stan to get that angry, Cartman getting fucked up with his best friend was a good one. "Eric's coming over here to talk?"

"Somebody else has to go and tell Cartman to fuck off," Stan explained, finally, like that made perfect fucking sense. Kenny stared at him for a second, yawned, and finally turned around to find a shirt that didn't smell like a bar. Stan just followed him, continuing. "And I can't because Wendy hates me right now."

"Yeah, I heard you fucked that up good," Kenny shrugged into a sweatshirt, sniffing it once and deciding it was fine. Wasn't like standards of hygiene were all that high in the land of no plumbing, anyway. Behind him, Stan just crossed his arms, scuffing at the already fucked carpet.

"Yeah, I acted like a dick. But somebody still has to fucking go smack Cartman around, okay?" He stopped, and squeezed his nose again, eyes shut for a long second. "Just ... he really, really needs somebody to put a boot up his ass."

"Yeah, he does," Kenny allowed, and sighed, scratching his neck awkwardly. "Okay, yeah, I'll go tell him to suck a wang. He fucking owes me anyway, the dicktit."

"Awesome." Without missing a beat Stan grabbed his elbow, half-dragging him out of the house before Kenny had time to object. The blond stumbled after him, trying to yank his arm away.

"Dude! What the fuck, not right this second! I'm fucking hungover and hungry, godfuckshit."

Stan was a goddamn asshole and didn't let go, just continuing to drag him down the street, and after half a block Kenny just rolled his eyes and yanked his arm away, stopping and glaring. Stan spun around, eyes widened, and before he could say anything incredibly fucking stupid Kenny held up a finger. "Before you fucking say anything, just don't."

"But you ..."

"You really think Wendy will hand Kyle over."

Stan's mouth snapped shut tightly, and after a second he shook his head. "But just ... he looks so fucking bad, dude. I took him home and it took like six hours for him to just go to sleep; Cartman did something, and now he's here acting like a goddamn jackass and if I can't go beat the shit out of him..."

Yeah, Eric'd done 'something,' for sure, and Kenny ground his teeth together as he thought about the exact kind of bullshit he'd seen the fat fuck pull with Butters. Lifting up both hands, he nodded once, stifling a yawn. Fuck, his head fucking hurt. Fucking Jack Daniels. "Okay, dude, but stop fucking dragging me around."

Stan visibly relaxed, nodding back, shoving his hands in his pockets and somehow pulling one of the back out with a stick of beef jerky. Kenny accepted gratefully, stomach aching sharply with the acid burn of too much liquor, falling into step as he unwrapped the thing and pretty much inhaled it. "So where's Kyle?"

"With Ike." Stan jerked a shoulder in something like a shrug. "If you're going to tell fatass where to shove it, I'm going to go back."

Kenny just rolled his eyes up, realizing immediately how fucking bad a damn idea that'd been as the fucking sun shot right up into his brain, and licked the last artificial beef flavoring off his fingers. "Go. Advice on shoving shit is pretty much my goddamn area of expertise."

"Cool. Okay." Stan stopped for a second and Kenny slowed too, watching the other boy until he suddenly reached out and patted Kenny's shoulder awkwardly. "Thanks, dude. For all the shit."

And fuck if that wasn't a big difference from 'fuck you and your cartman helping fuckery', so Kenny cracked a grin despite himself and the massive damn headache still pounding between his eyes. "Sure, dude. No problem. Go cuddle with your boyfriend and shit."

Rolling his eyes, Stan flipped him off once and jogged off, leaving Kenny facing the old shoe store, empty and pretty much like every other old abandoned building except that it was the closest building to Treasure Cove's massive gate. Smart, Testaburger, fucking smart, and without a further thought or consideration of his hangover Kenny walked right up, past a bored looking Gregory and a surly Mole crouched by the door, and shoved his way right in. Both of them looked up. Stopping, the blond lifted an eyebrow.

"Did I miss anything?"

"Keeenny, what the fuck are you ..."

"This is a private meeting, who let ..."

Shooting both hands up, Kenny waited them out and closed the door behind him. This had probably been a bad idea. Fuck. All he'd wanted was a chance to yell at Eric, to figure out if what he suspected was true and if so kick the shit out of him, but obviously they were playing some dumbshit politics game and now he'd get sucked into it too. "No, here, hear me out. I'm not on either side, right? So it's good if I'm here so nobody can go back on anything we decide. Like a, you know, judge or some fucking shit like that."

"There, see, Wendy, Kenny's here so you can leave already and take your period-rage with you, and us dudes can have a serious talk."

She just glared, eyes narrowed in a look that Kenny would totally admit was fucking terrifying The kind of look girls gave before they tried ripping your damn balls off with slick, polished nails. Not that Eric knew fuck all about girls, though, and the fat shit barreled on full stupid ahead.

"Like I said, your faggy boyfriend's broken into my town like three hundred times in the last two weeks-"

"There's no proof of that whatsoever," Wendy interrupted, voice clipped as she just continued to glare in that dangerous way. "If you'd like to lodge a formal complaint obviously my team will investigate-"

"Oh yeah, bitch, like I'd really blow up my own building and let all those freeloading fucks back out on my streets." Not getting any good response from Wendy, Eric glanced over at Kenny and waggled his eyebrows knowingly like a goddamn retard. Kenny just stared him down, wondering if he was really that stupid.

"My understanding is that you have issues with discontented citizens, Cartman, so maybe you should look there instead of throwing around accusations and demanding we just hand over Treasure Cove residents."

Eyes snapping back to her, Eric scowled suddenly and slammed a fist down on the table, suddenly and loudly enough that even Wedy jumped, totally fucking up her calm-and-collected thing. "Fuck that, the Jew's my goddamn property! And you better fucking give it back before I get tired of this bullshit and go find him myself!!"

The whole Madame President Icequeen thing shot anyway, Wendy glared right back, leaning forward over the table to stare Eric right in the eye. "Excuse you, asshole, Kyle isn't anyone's property, let alone yours!"

"Whatever, finders keepers, I found him sneaking around like a nasty Jew rat along with --" He stopped, mouth tightening for just a second as brown eyes flickered over towards Kenny. He blinked back, almost bothering to wonder what it must be like to forget shooting your supposed to be best fucking friend in the head before remembering that was a massive fucking waste of time and preteen girl angst, and then Eric was right back into filling the air with crashing waves of verbal shit anyway. "So that makes him my goddamn property, just like the rest of the fuckers in that shithole!"

It was a goddamn credit to her whole damn existence that Wendy didn't flinch at that, because motherfuck Eric sounded like a goddamn crazyfuck cartoon villain from some dumbfuck extended cereal commercial, and Kenny was busy staring at him for it when she simply folded her hands on the table. "Well, then, finders keepers would seem to apply here as well."

For a second it looked like Eric's gone full on mute, some kind of fucking internal breaker busting from the logic, but then he slammed both hands on the table, standing up so fast his chair went tumbling across the dusty carpet to crash into an old rack of shoe polish. "I am the goddamn Mayor and you will fucking respect that, you fucking skanky ass whore!!"

And then she was on her feet, too, finger jabbed up into Eric's face and just as angry. "I don't have to respect shit from a fat cancerous sack of insanity like you, and if you say one more word--"

"Sit the fuck down." Fucking getting way out of hand. Or it'd been out of hand for a longass time and Kenny'd never seen it, too busy coming back and forth and chasing tail on both sides to pay attention to what they were actually fucking doing with their lives and this whole godforsaken shitstain of a town. Both of them turned to look at him and he frowned, pointing at first Wendy and then Eric's chair, still on its side. "Just fucking sit down."

"Fuck you, Kenny, go back to Outlands already if you're going to be an asshole," Eric muttered, but he picked up his chair and sat in it, so Kenny ignored it in favor of facing Wendy. Christ and why the fuck was he the one here, trying to get some kind of goddamn grown up consensus from a bunch of Neverland rejects who didn't like him all that much anyway, negociating this crap?

He thought about Kyle clinging to Stan in that fucking basement, and Butters shivering as Stan shook him hard enough to chip a tooth, and just ground the heel of one hand into his eye. "Eric. Cartman. What besides Kyle do you want to go back home and stop being a raging fucking cuntnugget right now?"

"No fuck that, I'm not walking off after these assholes came into my town and fucked up my jail and stole my jew and won't even fucking surrender like I told them a week ago, Kenny, you missed it but I totally warned--"

Kenny just spun right around to face Wendy. "Kyle's not going anywhere."

"Of course not!" She looked at him like he was a total goddamn idiot, dark brows confused for a second before they pulled sharply downward. "None of you actually thought I would do that, did you?"

Stan was a fucking idiot, but that wasn't exactly news so Kenny didn't bother to answer and turned back to Cartman. "Nobody here is giving you shit, fatboy. Might as well just deal and go home before you have another fuckass tantrum and team eurovision come in here to drag you off."

Cartman opened his mouth and closed it again, looking like a fucking fish at some shitty roadside Red Lobster, before he finally rolled his eyes. "You guys... Kenny, you're supposed to be my friend, and you want to hang with these fags??"

"Eric, just go the fuck home and eat some HoHos and chill out." Kenny started patting himself down for a cigarette, which he was pretty sure were back at his house, but at this point he needed one bad enough to look anyway. Wendy just sighed, and folded her hands back on the table.

"And stop screaming at the bottom of the Wall as though that's going to do anything, please. People are still trying to sleep here, it's not even noon."

"I am so. Seriously. Pissed off right now, you fags, I'm going -- " Cartman had gone bright red in the goddamn face, fingers clenched around the tabletop until his knuckles went white. "I am going to burn this whole goddamn town to the ground and piss on your fucking ashes, and put a sweet ass new provider statue of myself right on your stupid school, and then we'll see. All you assholes are going to regret this. I'm seriously."

"Cartman." Wendy had gotten back some of that fucking stone cold professional shit that was sexy as fuck if Kenny had been the kind of asshole to say things like that about friends' ex-girlfriends, and she stood, walking to the door and opening it for them. "Get the fuck out of my city."

Kenny was generally a quiet fucking. That was probably why people used to underestimate him, to see hand-me-down clothes and sneakers with holes in them and write him off as poor, trashy and dumb. Well now he had tokens and Cartmoneys than you could shake a fucking gold-plated stick at, and it turned out what was trashy in a nine year old meant "dangerous bad boy" to hot girls. But even in Beforetime, he wasn't quiet because he was stupid -- he was quiet because he wanted to fucking listen. It wasn't like they needed more talking anyway, Kyle and Cartman flinging enough verbal diarrhea at each other to fill symphony halls. And it turned out if somebody was quiet and a good listener and willing to keep their unrelated opinions to themselves, it was about eight thousand times more effective when Kenny did want to school the shit out of somebody.

Unless the person getting told off was Stan fucking Marsh and the relevant topic was not being an emotionally distant unclefucker.

Jesus, it wasn't even like he'd been prepping to have this retarded conversation. All he'd asked was if Stan wanted some pot. And the only reason he'd asked that was because he recently found himself with an excess of the stuff, mostly a result of not having any better excuse to walk down to the outer walls and flirt with Tammy Warner's amazing tits. Who flirted right back, sold him a hit's worth, and closed the door gently on his ass.

He'd get it eventually, but for now he had more weed than even he knew what to do with, and had stupidly offered it to Stan when the other boy was obviously in High Full Sulk or some equally retarded melodramatic bullcockery.

"I mean it's getting really fucking hard to do all this shit on my own, and I'm still camping on Kyle's couch... It's weird," the brunet continued, and Kenny tilted his head and, deciding this was going to take a while, lit a cigarette. He had to stop using a lighter, at some point - they always fucking ran out or got lost and then he'd get annoyed at switching to matches. Ought to just switch once and be done with it.

Stan had kept talking, but it was white noise when he'd already blurted out his damn problem. Kenny took a long, slow drag, letting it curl its way back out with the steam of his breath. "Why's it weird? Cause Kyle's acting like a paranoid weirdass?"

"Weir... no, I think it's just..." Stan stopped, mouth working once as his brain caught up with it and strangled any kind of actual fucking progress. "Kyle's not acting like a weirdass, Kenny, don't be a dick."

"You just said," Kenny rolled his eyes upwards fiddling with the cigarette, "that you're stressed because it's weird to stay at Kyle's and you have no help with work."

"And 'cause Wendy dumped me, and 'cause fatass is trying to murder us, and a bunch of other shit! It's not just Kyle stuff."

"So there is Kyle stuff."

Nobody ever even heard themselves, half the time. Bother to listen to the actual words pouring out of somebody's mouth and you were fucking Oprah or something. Or Jenni Jones. Damn, she'd been hot back in the day.

Stan had one eye pinched up, like he hadn't really figured out where Kenny had gotten that.

Kenny, slumping against the front stairs, shrugged once. It wasn't even like he was pointing out something secret ... Kyle had been slowly flipping his shit since they found him in that fucking basement. Jesus' hairy balls, that had been pretty fucked up. Eric had finally lost it with that bullshit. "He's been acting pretty weird since he got back."

"Dude, Kyle's fine." Stan was frowning at him, eye still pinched up, "He said he was okay."

It became a huge effort to not roll his eyes in the most irritating way possible. God damn fucking ... he liked Stan, he liked Kyle, they were good guys, but fuck if growing up in the town that TV forgot hadn't left them with some tit-huge blind spots. Kenny took another drag, flicking ash out onto the concrete. Stan fidgeted.

"I mean he's not wearing band-aids or anything anymore, right? If he doesn't want to spill everything that happened, I'm not gonna... be nosy and shit. He said he's fine."

The other thing about being quiet was you could stare anyone ... anyone ... down. Kenny, puffing the last ashes, turned and just looked at the other boy.

Stan caved first. "Okay, okay, so even if he's not ... I mean, what am I supposed to do? He's spending half his time in closets and I'm supposed to be doing both our jobs and he won't even fucking talk to me right now."

Kenny sighed noiselessly, and looked at a melting snowbank across from the front stoop in consideration. He really, really didn't want to be the person explaining this shit. He really shouldn't be the one explaining it, really didn't see why Stan had to pick this fucking week to be more naive than a fifteen year old born again choir girl with a promise ring.

"....Okay," he started, slowly, trying his best to say just enough to give the motherfucker a clue. "Okay. Fucktits. You and Wendy are ... were ... fucking, right?"

"Dude, what?" Stan turned and looked at him, totally off guard, but Kenny had remembered his most sort-of kinda related except for where everything was really, really fucked up story. God pissing shitface, Eric, and this was another reason to fucking hate his obese ass - he'd always, always been covering for him. Christ. He stomped out the dregs of his cigarette, rubbing both hands against his knees.

"Have you ever been doing it and she, you know, starts her monthly monster?"


"No, I'm serious. I have a point, I swear. You ever take a swim in the red river?"

"Sick, dude!" Stan made a face, but didn't move to get up, and after a moment he shrugged awkwardly. "Once."

"Did she freak out?"

"She, um." Stan looked at his hands. "She told me to stop being a pussy because it was gonna happen for the rest of her life, and said I could sleep on the couch if I was gonna be an asshole."

Kenny stared. He stared, and considered, and then started laughing, because fucking hell, dude. Damn, Wendy was - she was something. Stan just frowned, waiting as the blond laughed and laughed and finally stopped himself by shoving half his fist into his mouth. Jesus. Wendy fucking Testaburger.

"It's not that funny, dude."

It was exactly that funny, but what the fuck ever. Kenny grinned and shook his head and managed to look serious again. "Whatever, man. So this one time I was with this girl. Great fucking legs."

A nod. "Who was it?"

"It doesn't matter," Kenny shrugged.

Stan had been a romantic at heart since he was eight fucking years old. "Yes it does. What girl?"

"She lives in Smileytown. It doesn't matter. So we're going at it and she ... you know."

Stan's face had turned a nice shade of nauseous, but he nodded.

"And she flips her shit, freaking the fuck out. And it was nasty and shit, but she's busting her tits here apologizing and shit. And I don't care that fucking much, fuck, shit happens -- so I kind of just ignore it and let her kick me out and say I'll see her in a couple days or whatever, no big deal, right?"

Stan just stared.

"But when I try and go see her the next week she blows me off, dude. Fucking cockblocks me and won't even talk. Which sucks, because her legs were seriously up to fucking here, man.". Kenny shook his head. Fucking tragedy, for real, and the biggest waste since Ester Stoley hooked up with that douchbag ginger kid.

"And then I hear later that she's upset, totally fucking brokenhearted or some shit because I dumped her? And there's rumors that I'm this big douchbag. Because I guess when she was blowing me off for a week, that was fucking girltalk for 'tell me you don't hate me' or equally retarded cockbull."

Stan was still staring at him. Kenny shrugged, once, inside his jacket. It was dumbfuk story, but the central point was there - people got embarrassed and weird about shit that wasn't really their fault, and really wasn't a big fucking deal to anyone else anyway. Although what had probably gone on in Eric's motherfucking Basement Funtime Fuckroom was a bigger deal than a blown hookup. Still, though. He should've fucking talked to Lola, he guessed, and Stan should fucking talk to Kyle.

Stan was still fucking staring at him. "You remember in the Beforetime? And sometimes we would go to Chef and sometimes we would go to Chef and tell him problems and he'd sing a song about something that made no sense at the time?"

Kenny gave him a dirty look. "All those songs made sense, you guys were just retarded as kids."

"And they weren't related to the actual problem?" Stan wasn't listening like a goddamn jackass. It was one thing to refuse to listen when Kyle wasn't actually saying anything, but Kenny was laying this all out as clearly as he could without all kinds of too much fucking information and he was still being a cockmaster. Kenny rolled his eyes and folded his arms into his sleeves.

"My story was completely fucking related, you dick. I was trying to be fucking nice and let you figure it out on your own."

"Well, I didn't!" the brunet snapped, finally, suddenly looking a lot more stressed out and frustrated than he'd been putting on. "I'm fucking tired and my goddamn best friend isn't talking to me even though he says everything is fine and my other best friend is telling me retarded sex stories!"

Idiots. Everyone he knew was a fucking mentally retarded idiot. "Fine, asshole, here's what you fucking learned today: sometimes people don't fucking know how to tell you they're having problems, so as much as you like being an avoidant unclefucker, you need to man it the fuck up and go ask what's wrong."

Stan glared as his head snapped around, missing the goddamn point as fucking usual. "I don't avoid things!"

"Yeah, dude, you fucking do. If you think it'll make you upset to deal with you wash your goddamn hands of it," Kenny snapped back flatly, starting to get kind of pissed. All he'd fucking wanted to do this morning was get high. Instead he was stuck listening to Stan bitch and ignore everything Kenny was fucking telling him, again.

"I don't do that! When have I ever done that, Kenny? Name one time."

Kenny gave him another look. "How about when I was in the hospital, you fucking shitbag."

Stan blinked a few times, and before he even opened his mouth Kenny fucking knew, he knew that had been utterly fucking pointless god-fuck-shitcock. "You were never in the hospital, dude."

Kenny leaned forward and put his face in his knees. Fucking-- god. Without looking, he fumbled for another cigarette.

Stan was quiet for a while, not moving, and then suddenly he scooted closer across the concrete. "Dude, I really don't remember you being in the hospital."

"I know. Just. Go fucking talk to Kyle. Okay? Eri- Cartman is fucked up, that whole thing was fucked up... Just go talk to him and do your faggy best friends thing." Taking a deep breath, he sat up straight and lit his found cigarette, taking a drag and eyeing the other boy. Stan at least looked sort of guilty, even if he couldn't know what he'd done, and Kenny felt the irritation drain out with a lungfull of smoke. "And fucking actually listen, goddamn."

"Yeah- yeah. I'm gonna go talk to him." Stan stood halfway up, stopping and frowning, rubbing at the back of his neck half-heartedly. "You coming?"

Kenny blinked, cigarette nearly falling out of his mouth. "What?"

"Well, you're usually better at listening anyway, so I was thinking we could both go ... both his friends, you know?" Stan shrugged, like he really didn't know what he was suggesting anyway. Kenny snorted.

"Okay. Just so you don't fuck it up worse."

"I'm not gonna fuck it up, Kenny, don't be a dick," Stan answered back, automatically, apparently reassured enough to act like a regular fucking dude. About time. "Come on, I think he was going to see Ike today."

The Treasure Cove medical ward had been decorated to a minimum - stucco grey walls lined in the shape of fat bricks - tiled floors and battery lamps lining the rooms where the window sunlight couldn't reach. At one point in time kids had plastered the walls in crayon posters reminding you to eat three meals a day and brush your teeth and some other bullshit propaganda from Beforetime. They hadn't made a re-appearance since Ike and Rebecca took over, and so the old rhinoplasty building stayed a desolate shade of white on colder white ... three large, squarish rooms and a fuckton of open scalpels. Technically though it was still warmer than the school apartments, and so Kyle tried his best not to shiver like a fucking kid as he sat on the examination table, legs pulled up under him.

The whole thing was fucking ridiculous. Fucking ... just stupid, was all ... his baby brother finally dragging him in for a checkup one week after his arrival back in Treasure Cove. Despite his constant protests that it was unnecessary, that he was fine, that Ike had enough shit to do tending to all the real injuries festering in the next room over. Burns and bruises from home made bombs that Cartman had been hurling over their wall like fucking candy. Kyle shivered again, clamping down on his teeth and gripping his elbows until they stopped. Instead they jumped to his back ... tiny arcs of frozen lightning that pricked and stung as they made their way down his spine.

Everything was just made worse by the fact that he wasn't actually fine, that he did feel like fucking shit, and that his baby brother had found him out. Closing his eyes he leaned forward and pressed his forehead to his knees, ignoring the layer of cold sweat sticking between his skin. He was pretty sure he'd caught a fever about two days ago - maybe more, who fucking knew. He could hardly keep track of the time before, everything a hazy, insomniac blur through the heat rolling through his head. The worst however was his back - hot and stinging cold at the same time, like a million tiny needles whenever the folds of his jacket rubbed too hard against it, tender and swollen like someone'd burned ... as if they'd tried to -

The door to his room slammed open, and Kyle jerked his head off of his knees, blinking quickly at Ike as he strode purposefully in to drop his heavy doctor's case in one of the assorted scattered chairs. Technically, he knew, this was the lobby area, formerly a waiting room that they'd crammed an examination table and half a dozen pieces of equipment into. Cartman's constant raids had guaranteed that they'd run out of available bedspace within the first three days. Wendy had promised a restructure the second they found the time, but for now all examination rooms and both doctor's offices had been converted into quarters for a dozen more stable kids. It worked halfway well - except for the fact that Ike had no sense of goddamn privacy, and Kyle felt his teeth clench as both Gregory and Christophe sauntered in after his brother.

Gregory at least had the goddamn decency to look embarrassed, pulling up in his walk as he hung, half concerned in the doorway. "You know, it wouldn't be any trouble at all if we were to continue this discussion afterward. I'd hate to interrupt any procedure you have scheduled."

"You're fine where you are," Ike replied, hardly paying attention as he fished out his stethoscope and a pair of scissors. "I can multitask."

"... Alright then." Immediately Gregory slid into the seat of a ratty tan recliner, and Kyle silently glared in his direction, clearing his throat and about to snap that he in fact minded, thank you very fucking much, when Ike decided to be a rude piece of shit and yank his left arm forward to examine the stitches. Christophe meanwhile had already thrown himself into the arms of a loveseat, sprawled across it like some scruffy French variation on James Bond as he lifted a cigarette to his lips, paused, and seemingly thought better of it before slowly shoving it back into his pocket.

"So, the plan. It is two attacks, one tomorrow at bitch fuck in the morning before the fat cow is awake. The second will be three days from then. They will probably throw as much back as they can, so clear some space because we are going to make those goddamn bitches wish their mothers 'ad aborted them at four months."

Ike meanwhile grunted under his breath, squinting as he snipped open the neat stitches in his arms, pulling out the tiny lengths of thread as he went. "I'll clear the space when Wendy Testaburger gets us the building she promised. We're almost at max capacity."

"Of course; I'll be certain to request it at our next meeting."

"Good. Shouldn't be a problem then." His fingers were fucking freezing against his wrists, pressing too hard, and Kyle bit fitfully at side of his mouth. The stitches were out, which was all he really agreed to ... the rest could be dealt with on his own, in his bed, under a goddamn blanket where he could sleep forever and ever without having to listen to dumb fucking military strategy or having to be prodded with a needle while on display. Scooting away he started to slide off of the bed, getting halfway there before Ike slammed his shoulder against his knee, glaring once before wordlessly shoving him back up onto the table.

Kyle narrowed his eyes in return before rolling them toward the ceiling. "Look, we're done, right? I feel fine, and you guys need to talk so I'm just going go back to-" Without warning the eleven year old shoved a thermometer into his mouth, nearly fucking choking him before he managed to gag and get the thing properly under his tongue.

"You look like a dog half-digested you and then threw you back up." His brother seemed unimpressed as he hooked the stethoscope buds into his ear and then placed the other end against his chest. "Breathe in." And of course he was probably fucking right, Kyle figured as he glowered and sucked a lungful of air through his nose. He'd gotten exactly one glance at himself in a mirror the day he'd gotten back to Treasure Cove and hadn't bothered to check again.

Ike meanwhile jerked his hand up to snatch the thermometer out of his mouth, holding it about three inches away from his eyes as he read the numbers. "One oh two. You fucking liar."

Despite the fever he could feel the flush rise in his cheeks as he rolled his eyes off to the side, away from Ike, past where Christophe was discussing some sort of bullcockery in low tones with Gregory. Whatever. The last thing he fucking wanted was to be holed up in some room in the med center, sharing space with fifty kids and probably sleeping even less than he did already. Ridiculous little snatches of sleep in the middle of the day when the sun was brightest because it was a week in and he still couldn't stay down for most of the night without waking Stan and Ike up. That was the worst part about it ... they needed to sleep, the whole town going to hell in a hand basket, and four times an hour he'd jerk awake at the slightest noise ... trees or the wind or cats or some other bullshit. Or sometimes dreams, fuck, convinced that he was back in the basement in the pitch dark, or that something was sneaking up behind him, wide, flat hands in his hair, on his neck-

Suddenly something touched his back, sharp, painful and fucking freezing, and he nearly fell off the examination table. At that last moment he caught one hand against the metal support, gripping it tightly as he rightened himself. Glancing up through his hair he could see Ike standing in front of the bed, one outstretched hand still poised in the air as he gripped the round, silver end of his stethoscope. His mouth was set in a thin, harsh line, eyes dark and furious through his glasses as he stared up at him.

"Take off your shirt."

The bottom dropped out of Kyle's stomach, bile climbing up through his throat as he swallowed heavily and tried to ignore the heated buzzing in his head. He'd thought ... well, he didn't know what exactly he'd thought, but he'd at least hoped he'd be able to make it through without anybody noticing - not until everything had healed over and faded away. Summer wasn't for six more months and he could wear long sleeves until then. Use a scarf. Never have to explain why he'd allowed Eric Cartman's fucking name to be branded into his back, except that now Ike was staring him down with his best Doctor's Look plastered across his face. Somewhere over his shoulder Christophe shot them both a half-annoyed expression, and Kyle worked his jaw nervously. "I don't-"

"If you still have open wounds, I need to get to them," he railroaded sharply over his words, frown deepening, eyebrows knitted together. "And you're not leaving until I do. Take off your shirt."


His brother blinked a few times at that, frozen in what may have been surprise before he rolled his eyes and reached for the edge of Kyle's sweater, only to have his hand smacked away. He jerked to a stop again, scowling furiously. "Kyle, come on. I don't have time for this-"

"Too goddamn bad then! You got your stitches out, so that's it; I'm done." He'd half-slid to the other end of the bed once again before Ike suddenly back stepped toward the door, feet flying across the tile. Reaching behind himself he deftly turned the lock, sliding it into place before crossing his arms defiantly in front of the doorway. Just like a spoiled little kid, and Kyle ground his teeth in frustration, the frantic, muffled pounding doubling over in his head. "Dude, what the fuck!"

"You're not leaving without proper medical attention," Ike replied, still as firm as ever.

"What, so now we are all trapped 'ere because you decided to be a delicate flower pussy?" From across the room Christophe had stood up, both thumbs hooked into his pockets as he scowled menacingly. "That brat 'as his shit together more than the rest of you bitches combined; you should fucking listen to what 'e 'as to say."

Kyle shot him a single dirty look in return before slowly and purposefully sliding to the floor with an 'I dare you to stop me' sort of look, cringing slightly as his bare feet hit the frozen tiles. It was a good contrast to the hot tingling sensation crawling across the rest of his skin at least, and he paused only a few seconds to find his balance before stomping his way toward the door. His brother, obviously, was dead set on behaving like an obvious know-it-all - hands outstretched as he shoved his palms against Kyle's chest. Grunting angrily, he made a futile attempt at shoving him back toward the examination table, managing to step forward a single step before Kyle scowled, thoroughly sick of this crap and wanting nothing more than to go home and slink into his bed for the next five years. "Ike, move," he muttered, half to himself as he easily shoved the eleven year old aside before stretching his fingers out toward the doorknob.

The heavy hand on his shoulder made him freeze immediately, and he could feel his heart jump up to cram itself halfway up his throat - the air suddenly escaping from his lungs as his chest tightened painfully. He couldn't breathe ... couldn't do anything at all except blink and move his mouth like a fucking fish thrashing on the floor until without warning he jammed his elbow backward, shoving his entire arm back as hard as he could to send it smashing straight into Christophe's sternum. Turning slightly, his eyes widened as he watched the other boy stagger straight into the chair behind them, tumbling headfirst over it to land out of sight on the other side.

"Don't fucking touch me," he barked, warily, voice cracking obnoxiously on the last syllable as he instinctively skittered backward and moved into the best defensive position he could muster ... weight on his toes, back toward the wall. Assholes. Every last one of them, set on stringing him up and doing God knows what. The pounding had spread down to his chest, his heart picking up it while his hands shook as though he'd just gulped five cans of soda. Fucking French piece of shit was still hidden from view, and frantically Kyle's eyes darted around the room, scouring over tile and sofas.

"The hell is going on?" Vaguely he recognized Ike's voice, high pitched and concerned, almost drowned out by Gregory's deeper tenor as the blond boy bent over the back of the recliner - only to jump right back as Christophe finally appeared, clawing his way upright and bleeding slightly from a gash above his right eye.

"Motherfucking cocksucker!" was all Kyle heard, slurred through his thick as balls accent before the other boy was suddenly Too Close, one hand reaching toward him before he lashed out again. This time a hand closed firmly around his wrist, yanking him forward and dragging him cleanly away from the wall. For a split second he flew through the air, awkwardly tripping over his own feet, and he frantically grasped at the closest thing ... fingers digging sharply into Christophe's turtleneck before sending them both crashing down onto the floor.

Hands were digging into his shoulders, fingers pressed into bone, and with a sudden panic he scrabbled wildly against the tile. His vision had narrowed to include just the two of them ... the heat blossoming in his brain despite the frantic rhythm of 'danger ... danger ... danger' thudding through his skull. One hand slipped, cold sweat sliding it across the floor as he frantically tried to get his weight under him. One knee was good enough and he darted forward to take a good sideways crack at the other boy's head. He was slightly off, just swiping his chin, but close enough to give him the time to claw his way to his feet, panting wildly as though his life depended on it. It wasn't enough ... lungs burning as he sucked in quick, gasping mouthfuls of air between his teeth. In and out, in and out, and even through the hazy veil of oxygen deprivation he could tell that something was Very Fucking Wrong. It was difficult to focus on anything other than the other boy who was slowly slinking to his feet. But the fact that his body was busy falling the fuck apart was a close second, the pounding heat behind his eyes and the jackhammer between his ribs finally too loud to ignore. This was not what he fucking needed right now - not now - not when he needed to listen for more than just the frantic roar of blood in his ears and the dizzying pain in his lungs. His chest ... and holy fucking shit he was having a fucking heart attack at seventeen - holy fucking monkey shitballs. For one long, slow second he half-forgot about the fact that Christophe was likely about to pound his head into the ground - more concerned over the fact that he was about to drop dead any goddamn second now from fucking cardiac arrest.

"Ike?!" he screeched blindly, trying not to focus on how he wasn't getting enough air, how his hands were shaking wildly, how he was about to be attacked again, dragged down into the dark where no one would ever fucking find him ... where he'd die alone and helpless, or live forever until Cartman finally decided to slit his throat-

"Got you, you fucking bitch!"

The ground suddenly came rushing up to meet him, slamming into his chest and knocking out what little air he'd had in his lungs. Face pressed into the cold tile, Kyle coughed and tried to focus on simply breathing ... getting several lungfuls in before a heavy weight suddenly perched itself on his back, something else slamming his wrists into the ground above his head. It was happening again and he bucked frantically, scarcely getting an inch off the ground. Hair fell into his eyes, into his mouth as he writhed and and twisted, trying to keep that son of a bitch off for as long as possible. It was only when a rough hand began to yank his shirt up, tearing cotton across skin that he began to shriek ... spitting fire and cursing as his voice cracked in raw panic.

"Don't fucking touch me ... don't ... fucking goddamn son of a ... no no don't NO STOP ... I SAID ... DON'T FUCKING ASSHOLE GODDAMN PIECE OF SHIT MOTHERFUCKERRRAUUGH!!"

Words poured out of his throat like bile, dissolving quickly into frustrated, meaningless babble. Still screeching he pressed his face into the floor, choking and bawling as hot, furious tears ran across the tile and he tried to guess at where the other hand had gone. Somewhere close to his hip, and he frantically tried to kick out again, spitting out a few choice words and practically having to scream over the staccato drums in his ears. Blood in his eyes. At least he could see here - the halogen lights somewhere above him - giving him a better chance to fight, to escape and run until his heart exploded in his chest. Run even though he was still pinned to the floor, helpless, back exposed with hot air on his neck - fat fucking son of a bitch could never close his goddamn mouth ... hands still nowhere to found, planning something or maybe gone, maybe actually gone, maybe, oh God, fucking, please please please-

Noises were whirling around him ... thick and too hard to make out through the thin-aired haze in his head. Slams and cries and furious yelling that whirled in and out like a Doppler Effect, flying past his ears too fast to catch more than the tail end of what was said. The weight on his back had moved two exactly inches to the left, one shoulder rustling as it reached backward and took not quite enough weight off of his spine. Until suddenly it released him completely ... shoved backward to tumble against the ground with a heavy thump ... and with a gasp of relief Kyle immediately scrabbled to his knees. Twisting frantically across the floor, he dragged himself forward a few feet before suddenly running straight into another pair of hands that gripped his shoulders - shaking him slightly as he yelped in surprise, twisting and clawing at the air.

"Kyle ... Kyle!!"

He stopped and Stan's face ... pale as all hell, mouth slack, blue eyes fucking enormous ... appeared in his line of vision, almost nose to nose with him as the other boy's fingers dug tighter into his arms. His eyes glanced down for just a second, skimming the edges of his bare shoulders before flickering back up again. And oh God what the hell was he doing. They still weren't safe here, his lungs clearing but his head still a hot, heavy weight of heat as Kyle muttered worriedly in the back of his throat. Stan looked ... he looked fucking awful, eyebrows twitching as though they weren't sure where to sit. Swallowing heavily he worked his mouth a few times, about to speak until suddenly he jerked his eyes upward and over Kyle's shoulder, eyebrows finally deciding on a direction and slanting decisively downward.

"You didn't mention 'e was crazy as shit! That would have been good to fucking know!"

Goddamn son of a fucking bitch was right behind him, and with a furious cry Kyle flung himself backward ... fingers clawing at his face until a fist swung out of his left field of vision and sent him cracking downward into nothingness.

Stan wanted to beat the shit out of the Mole.

More specifically, or maybe more generally, he wanted to beat the shit out of anyone who'd been involved with the fact that his best friend was lying, unconscious, on a table with his back like the wall of a fucking bathroom stall. And of those people the only one readily accessible was that fucking French douchebag. Wherever he went. Was dragged. Whatever. Stan leaned forward in his chair with a heavy sigh, rubbing two fingers over the bridge of his nose like it'd help.

Kenny, who was a fucking jackass douche sensible asshole and grabbed Stan before he could go after the kicking, flailing form of the Mode as his feet disappeared around the door, kept fidgeting with his jacket sleeves. Or shaking his leg, the heel of his sneakers tapping on the linoleum. Stan suspected he would have bailed already if after helping drag Kyle back onto the exam table the brunet hadn't specifically, desperately demand he stay, because Jesus fucking Christ what the fucking hell. As it was he'd sat as close to the door as humanly fucking possible, fidgeting and staring at the ceiling. Fucking lot of help he was.

Though to be fair Stan wasn't being much fucking help himself, knowing jack-all about what exactly to do when you walk into a room to find your superbestfriend on the floor screaming and thrashing like he was being murdered. He'd totally frozen up and ... God, this made him a fucking asshole ... been tempted, almost, for about a split second, to turn around and follow Ike, who'd let them in on his way out, face white and eyes humongous. Almost. Instead he'd jumped the Mole's fucking ass, which at least seemed simple and straightforward until Kyle didn't really get up right away, still screaming on the floor and Stan was hard fucking pressed to say what was worse, that moment right there or the moment in the basement when the redhead had stared straight through him.

Motherfucking Cartman.

The door slammed open and they all jumped except for Kyle who was still out of it, breathing shallowly against the arm pressed to his face. Stan leaned over and pushed it out of the way, trying to do something that didn't make him the shittiest best friend in the world, and deliberately didn't look at the wrecked skin shifting over prominent shoulder blades. He looked a little more comfortable now, neck less twisted, and Stan glanced over to see Rebecca Cotswold tapping the tips of her fingers together, brows lifted.

He bristled slightly, scooting his chair that half-inch further till the leg butted up against the table. "Where's Ike?"

"Ike has become emotionally conflicted by the situation at hand, and as the supervising physician I am assuming responsibility for the patient." Rebecca bit out the words in quick succession but she didn't seem especially bothered by the red and white and blackened mess, which was relieving as hell because Stan still really couldn't look at it. "My diagnosis is severe burns in throughout the dermis, would you concur?"


Kenny groaned, slightly, leaning forward and rubbing his hands through his hair, but Stan would bet fifty fucking tokens he didn't know what that meant either so he could fuck right off. "Those are burns?"

"Do you disagree?"

Stan stared at her and after a moment she turned around, pulling unmarked bins out of the equally unmarked cabinets, hands finally still as they fetched out gloves and bandages and tubes and vials. Stan watched, glad fucking somebody here knew what they were doing, and when he sighed and turned back towards his friend he was shocked to actually catch green eyes staring back at him, blinking uncertainly.


"Dude," he answered, and across the room Kenny looked up. Kyle's eyes darting around a few times before he tried to push himself upwards. He slipped, once, hands scrabbling off at weird angles from the scars around his wrists, but he managed to get mostly-upright. "Dude, are you alright?"

"Where's my shirt what fucking ... where is the oh shit wait where ... I ... Stan," he just said, finally. His eyes were still huge in his face as they kept scanning the room like somebody was about to jump him, and Stan reached out slowly.

"It's okay. Kyle. Dude, it's okay." It was obviously very fucking not okay, and Kenny snorted as if to point this out, but some of the tension wound up into the redhead's arms and shoulders shifted and drained down even though he still couldn't fucking hold still, fidgeting and looking towards the door. "Everything's okay, I promise."

"Actually I would estimate that he has a severe infection of his wounds, and appears to be suffering from psychiatric distress, possibly augmented by a fever." God, and fuck homeschool kids, fucking Rebecca blurting in like an awkward fucking bitch, Kyle staring at her and looking totally freaked out all fucking over again.

"What? Where's Ike. Don't... wait, don't..."

She turned, walking towards the table with a bin of crap, and Kyle tried climbing away only to fucking trip on his own limbs, taking a decent dive off the table before jerking to his feet. Stan hoped, deeply, with the kind of hope he normally saved for watching slowly hatching chicken eggs, that they weren't going to see another flip out. But instead Kyle scrabbled at his shoulder, fingers catching against the fabric as he positioned himself so that Stan was a physical barrier between himself and five foot nothing Rebecca Cotswolds in sparkly hair barrettes. So Stan caught the fingers himself, holding them for a second when the whole hand shook in his grip. "Dude. It's okay. You're fine, it's fine. Kyle?"

Kyle was busy eying everything in Rebecca's bin like it was toxic sludge, but he nodded, and Stan stood up to push him back towards the bed. She waited patiently, tapping her fingers together a little, and watched as the redhead slowly sat back on the paper-covered surface. "Turn around please."


"Dude, we've all already fucking seen it," Kenny broke in, sticking his legs out and tilting his head, and Kyle looked over as the blond shrugged. "Nobody else is going to come in, and none of us give a shit what he did, so just let her fucking put a bandaid on it before Cartman gets a real fucking laugh when you drop dead."

Stan wanted to fucking hit him for that, for the way Kyle's hand clenched hard in his, but the redhead's mouth just twisted angrily and without another word he shifted, leaning forward to rest his forehead against folded knees.

And Stan got a good fucking look.

He'd been seeing it out of the edges of his vision and trying his best to ignore it, but there's no avoiding the sharp dark lines of Cartman's name spelled out over the waistband of Kyle's pants, lined up carefully above his hips, and Stan just stood and stared even as Rebecca pulled out gloves.

"Jesus fucking Christ, dude," he muttered softly, and Kyle dug his hands into his hair, shoulders shaking, slumping over to the right even as Rebecca tore open an alcohol pad.

"I ... I don't want ... ow!" Kyle snapped, interrupting himself as she touched his back, wiping off the shining red and brown skin. She ignored him, just tearing open another and continuing to clean it off, and the redhead squirmed and continued to slowly collapse sideways, whining every time anything touched his back. Stan couldn't fucking tear his eyes away, from how fucking awful the skin looked and how utterly fucked up the shit burned ... Jesus Christ, burned ... onto him was.

Across the room, Kenny snapped his fingers at him without actually making a sound, catching his eyes and widening them meaningfully, flapping his hand towards Kyle when Stan turned to look at him. Slowly, the blond mouthed something that was probably 'don't stare' (or maybe, possibly, 'nice pair' as Rebecca pulled out a tube of something that smelled like mold), and Stan snapped his mouth shut and rubbed the back of his head. Then, when he didn't do anything else, Kenny rolled his eyes and flipped his hands at each other like they were puppets talking to each other.

Stan took a breath and grimaced, getting a scowl and another roll of the eyes in return, and so he turned back towards Kyle who might have been flipping the fuck out but at least wasn't being a fucking asshole, even if he had sort of just melted into lying on his side, curled up as Rebecca hummed in the back of her throat and put gauze over the skin. Stan swallowed. "Dude, you okay?"

Kyle just made a low little noise, shaking his head slightly, sliding onto his stomach and burying his face in foam pillow. Rebecca, packing up her bin and stripping off her gloves, butted in ... again - and even Ike being a goddamn asshole who ran out of situations would have been better right now because Jesus.

"They are definitely at least second if not third degree, and have not been treated properly until now. I highly recommend a series of antibiotics."

"That's not what I ... Yeah. Drugs, whatever." He dragged his chair back around the table, spinning it and sitting backwards, leaning forward to put his chin against the table cushion. "Kyle?"

Green eyes appeared from over the edge of the pillow to stare at him unevenly, tired and ringed with huge dark circles. They watched each other for a minute, and somewhere past the frame of Kyle's feet he could see Kenny smacking his forehead, and Stan tried again. "So. Are you really okay?"

His friend broke the gaze, looking off into the far corner and blinking once. "Dude, I don't know."

Stan, for a second, didn't know what the fuck he was supposed to say to that, to what had happened that left 'property of Eric Cartman' burned and scarred into his superbestfriend's skin, to whatever the fuck left him screaming on the floor. But then he tilted his head and blinked back and shrugged with one shoulder, awkwardly. "Okay. But, uh. Whatever it was ... I mean, I just want you to feel better, okay?"

Kyle peered at him out of the corners of his eyes, frowning for a second before he nodded, slinking deeper into the little pillow. Reaching out tentatively with one hand he hooked two fingers around Stan's thumb, threading their fingers together as the gauze across his back stretched with the movement. "Yeah. Okay."


If Craig had been the kind of person who gave a shit, being a goddamn pariah might've sucked. It was bad enough to give up a pretty cushy job in the town that actually had trash pickup, in a sweet apartment he'd shared with Clyde and his other famous douchebag teammates, just to come back to Smileytown and deal with Cartman's bullshit. But to do that and have everybody in town pretty much ignore him because of it was pretty fucking shitty.

Good thing he didn't care, then.

Ruby stuck her hands into her pockets, trotting along to keep pace with him and not saying anything. She'd made some name for herself, getting arrested on bullshit charges just to fight it out, and besides the missing front tooth and current black eye, Craig couldn't fault her for it. Better than he would've done.

"So what're you gonna buy me to make up for bailing like a jackass?"

"Got you something already," he offered back as they turned the corner, pulling his own hand out of his jacket pocket and flipping her off. She returned the gesture without much malice behind it, and that seemed to be that. No point in staying mad, now, with Cartman going ahead and doing the exact shit Craig had figured he would when he agreed to take the damn job in the first place.

Ruby, meanwhile, just rolled her eyes so hard they should've stuck that way and pulled him around the corner. "Whatever; come buy me some twinkies with all that spy monies you got."

"I don't have any spy monies," he said dryly, but arguing that point (and whether he'd have spent them on her if he did) became pointless as they both saw the crowd gathered around Tokens for Gold, the general food ... clothes ... everything you need and more, for low low prices store in this part of town. In a few parts of town, really, unless somehow Token had gone bankrupt in the few years Craig had been gone. Not likely.

It wasn't likely it was going to get mobbed, either, though, and here they were. Ruby brightened. "Hey, look, you probably won't even have to spend your filthyass lucre and shit."

"What the hell is lucre--" Craig started, but she'd busted ahead to go join the crowd outside the building, leaving him hanging back. No way he was going to jump into a mosh pit like that; somebody'd break his neck and then where'd he be. Not in Treasure Cove's sweet free clinic for broken neck fixing, that was a fucking certainty. Craig sighed.

On closer inspection ... meaning any at all ... it didn't look like the crowd had broken through the front of the store quite yet, seeming mostly concerned with milling around and shouting and banging their hands against the windows. Only a matter of time until somebody picked up a hubcap or broken TV off the ground and put it through the glass, though, and then it was going to get nasty. Craig just leaned against a defunct mailbox, figuring at the very least he probably owed Ruby the dignitity of having her mob-trampled body pulled out of the store.

"Everyone needs to disperse right now!"

The shouting came from right behind him and if Craig might've jumped if it wasn't a douche move. Instead he just turned, watching as Butter's ginger friend who'd somehow taken over the police jogged down the street with a bullhorn and Jenny fucking Simon behind him, both of them holding toy lightsabers.

Man, Craig hated this place sometimes.

"You all have to the count of ten to disperse and return back to your houses."

The milling group of kids turned, half paying attention and half still banging uselessly against the door and windows, and the assorted shouting picked up over the wind.

"Fuck you!"

"There's nothing to eat at our house!"

"It's not fair!"

"We want food!"

"Fuck the police!!"

Craig would give it to that ginger second grader ... him and one girl against the whole mob, and the dude didn't seem to give a single shit. Instead the redhead just started counting away into his horn.

"One. Two. Three"

"We want to buy food!"

"Or free food!" More shouting and some laughter from the crowd, which was definitely not going anywhere despite the counting. Half glancing at Craig where he was getting quite comfortable against his mailbox, Jenny pulled out a walky talky and made some dumb coded request, probably for back up if they weren't complete dumbasses.

"Four. Five. Six."

The mob didn't seem to want to wait for ten. Someone ... Craig could see a flash of strawberry pigtails, and just sighed ... had found a discarded barrel around the corner of the store and the mob cheered as they lifted it high, suddenly getting that weird loud dangerous energy that sometimes happened after really nasty football practices back in Treasure Cove. Jenny Simon swallowed and tapped the speaker of her radio, which crackled.

"Boss...." she started, but Butters' ginger friend just shook his head slightly.

"Seven. Eight."


'Nine' was probably swallowed right up in the crash as the metal barrel flew through the glass, and the mob shrieked and started streaming in, breaking the rest of the window as they went. Craig mentally braced himself for the sight of flames and dead bodies to start pouring out of the building, but as the ginger kid hit 'ten' and then pretty much didn't do shit about it, the mob seemed content on just stealing the shit ouf of Token's store and bailing. Half-surprised, Craig glanced over to the police, who were looking at each other in a lost kind of way. Lost enough he decided to break his primary rule of not getting involved in shit. "You going in there swinging?"

Ginger looked over and visibly sighed, the only real expression possible with those mirrored sunglasses. "Tucker, what the fuck are you doing?"

"I have diplomatic immunity," he answered back, which meant shit all to anyone in the world, but was something that fat shit Cartman had tossed around enough that Craig figured all his lackeys would know what it meant. Maybe. If they didn't they didn't seem to care that much, turning back to confer with each other before taking a few steps down the hill towards the store, where people were already starting to bail completely.

"Fuck the mayor's office!!"

"Bail, bro, they have tasers!"

"We're sick of this war bullshit!!"

Ruby ... because she was Ruby ... just sauntered up to them both, shoving a whole twinkie in her mouth at once and grinning widely at them both. "'ey, 'iirray."

"Tucker," Disarray said back, nodding at her once before looking out on the scene and just sighing again. "Better get out of here before I decide to give your fans another show."

It was enough to make her swallow, which meant Craig had to stand up and start walking down there out of principal, or something. "What, you're not gonna arrest me? I mean, not gonna complain cuz really stealing food is better than beating it out of dumb pimpledicked asssquirts in the arena but."

"Just.... go home." Shaking his head once, the two police looked at each other once more before starting back up the hill towards the office, Jenny cursing quietly when her radio finally came back with an answer Craig couldn't hear.

Ruby just grinned at him, and offered him a twinkie.

Treasure Cove

"Okay, here's the deal with chicks, dude," Kenny continued, syllables running together more than they should have as he fumbled for another beer. The good shit too ... two cases of Hefferveisen that he'd managed to find in some podunk liquor store that stocked more than Heineken and Sam Adams light summer ale. Fucking shit was completely wasted on Stan and Kyle of course, both of them completely trashed after seven cans and two dozen killshots. But it was completely and totally fucktits worth it to watch Stan sprawled across every goddamn inch of the interior of his U-Haul, attempting to balance an empty can on his head. It stayed still even less while moving at ten miles per hour down the only deserted road in Treasure Cove, only halfway back to the superbestfriends' home with Kyle meanwhile trying to cram himself even closer underneath the other boy's arm. It was possibly the faggiest thing he'd ever seen in his fucking life, and Kenny would have called them both on it if he hadn't won at least a hundred tokens across six different bets in the last five years due to the fact that Stan Marsh loved pussy a hell of a lot more than fucking his best friend rotten.

"The deal with chicks," he continued, slinging back a heavy sip of sweet-bitter awesomeness. "Is that they want to know you're listening. Every time they're pissed at you, you gotta shut your fucking mouth and listen and nod at whatever the fuck they want to babble about. Because usually it's gonna be about what you need to do to fix your shit. That's what you've gotta do with Wendy."

"I can't, dude" Stan moaned, voice climbing into an almost unbearable whine as the beer can rolled down his forehead and smacked Kyle in the face. And fuck, he'd slipped into Unbearable Pussy Mode again, just like he'd done ten minutes ago when he rudely switched the subject from Halo II to Wendy Testaburger . "How am I supposed to do that if she won't even see me, dude? She's proll - probably too busy fucking that fucking asshole... fucking asshole British prick dickmuncher-"

"No." Kyle interjected simply, managing to roll his eyes despite having somehow wedged himself into the foot of space between Stan's side at the back of his poor, abused passenger seat.

"-English piece of shit," Stan finished triumphantly, crossing his arms and accidentally sticking one elbow in Kyle's eye.

Christ, and he was even stupider than Kenny'd fucking thought, if Stan seriously believed that Gregory of fucking whatever was fucking Wendy or any chick for that matter. Shitcock.

"She's not fucking Gregory, dude," Kyle slurred against Stan's arm, eyes closed and looking ridiculously comfortable in his drunken, addled state. Which was seriously saying something given the past several weeks, and Kenny shot him a half-affectionate, half-disgusted glance before taking another long pull from his beer.

"Nnnghh... yeah, yeah, I know, but..." Stan trailed off, staring out the window at the enormous expanse of snow and nothing ... most of the lights out by now to save on candles and battery rations. The only thing left was the steady glow from Jimmy's place as they crept by, the standalone building approaching and eventually rolling off to become a bright smudge behind them. The lights faded for good as Kenny pulled hard on the wheel, guiding them vaguely onto the road that lead out of the residential district. President's Row was narrow and twisted, obnoxious as fuck to drive down even in the daytime, especially when trying to steer the U-Haul's jaded ass. Fortunately their complete lack of speed seemed to make up for it, Kenny's foot forgetfully sliding off of the gas pedal every once in a while as he flicked the brights on. After a few moments the U-Haul jumped slightly as they skidded over a patchy piece of road, jostling them back. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of Kyle as he slammed his back into the seat, the redhead hissing loudly between his teeth as he jerked sideways.

Almost immediately Stan's hand was on his shoulder ... the flat of his palm carefully steadying him as though he hadn't just slung back a third of Kenny's entire stash of Sunday proper. His grip tightened, and Stan shot him some sort of secret Superbestfriends look ... the same weirdass glances they used to give each other before Cartman went and fucked everything to hell. Kyle simply stared before giving a quick nod, and meanwhile Kenny frowned to himself - disgusted all over again at everything in the goddamn world as he drained his can and let it drop down to the mat at his feet. It had taken half a week for Kyle to start actually looking at him in the damn eye. Longer for Stan to leave his room, and a day more for Kenny to insist that they both needed to leave the fucking complex, get completely wasted playing video games, and forget about this shit for a night while the rest of society continued to shoot itself repeatedly in the face.

He'd never been that great at this sort of Friendship bullshit.

"...So what am I going do about Wendy?" Stan's voice suddenly floated across the silence, tinged with just a slight whine on the end. "Guys, you have to help me. She was my world. She was my everything!"

Kyle shot him a sideways glance, long and sympathetic before he attempted to push himself upright. Elbows pressed against the seat back, he made it about three inches before unceremoniously slipping back down, drunkenly wedged once again between Stan and Kenny. Crossing his arms in frustration, he blew angrily at a chunk of hair that had fallen into his eyes. "Dude, if she means that much to you, just explain that you're sorry, and ask her to come back. The worst she can do is say no."

"Or say that she's fucking Gregory," Stan muttered back sullenly, grinding his teeth and sinking low into his seat before Kenny sighed loudly, rolling his eyes and taking his hands off the steering wheel momentarily to fumble for another beer.

"She's not fucking Gregory, you fucking idiot."

"Yeah, says who." Something about alcohol must have forced him into permanent Whining Mode, and Stan slunk down even further, one foot hooked across the dash as he glared at Kenny over Kyle's shoulder. "You've seen them together. Who says they're not ... fucking ... fucking behind my back like a pair of-"

"Because Gregory's been fucking that French tit-twister for like two goddamn years. Idiot."

Almost immediately Stan froze, blinking stupidly and somehow managing to stand perfectly still despite the shaky tread of the tires beneath them. Mouth parted and hanging slightly open, he suddenly snapped it shut again as he cleared his throat. "...How do you know that?"

"How do you not know that?" Kyle shot back incredulously, voice warbling drunkenly as his eyebrows lifted up toward his hairline.

Meanwhile Kenny burst into a chorus of raucous laughter, joined by the much quieter sound of the redhead trying not to snigger into his sleeve. "Dude."

"What!" Stan spun abruptly, apparently in the mood to move and plow his head into the top of the cab or something else idiotic as he half-fell across Kyle, knee coming dangerously close to slamming into the stick shift. Kyle pushed back, and someone's palm smacked into Kenny's shoulder, sending the truck veering slightly to the left at powerwalking-speed before he managed to righten the steering wheel, laughing all the while. "What! How the hell was I supposed to know that? It's not like ... oh fuck. Fuck, I'm so goddamn stupid. I have to get her back, guys. What can I do to get her back?"

"Apologize?" Kyle suggested helpfully, trying with various levels of success to hide his smirk.

"Dude, come on, I'm serious. Besides that. Help me think of something." Stan meanwhile appeared to be burning a hole in his brain while thinking, eyes dark and narrowed as he stared pointedly at the ceiling. "I can stand outside her window and play Peter Gabriel."

"That is retarded."

"No, I like the window shit," Kenny interjected. "Chicks love that sort of romantic crap. If she won't actually let you in to talk, make her come to you."

"If you're shouting up at her window, you could write her a poem. Like Romeo and Juliet."

"No, poems are faggy."

"Write her a song then," Kyle replied, huffing slightly and looking slightly offended. "You're good at that, so go get your guitar and play for her. There. Super romantic."

"Hey, yeah... yeah!" Stan suddenly jerked upright, grinning like a fucking dumbshit as he twisted awkwardly around the too-small cab again. "I'll write her a song about how I feel! About how... how she's my muse and my life and inspiration."

Clearing his throat Kenny leaned backward, voice lilting upward into mock-song. "Oh, Wendy, you have the greatest tits. Also bitchin' ankles, just the way I like 'em."

"No!" Stan snapped, voice half-offended as he railroaded over what was legitimately the start to an awesome song. "It's gotta be more like ... Wendy, babe, you're like my shining sun. Since you left me, my world has been so lifeless and cold; I just want to hold you in my arms again."

"Ugh, dude, no crappy goth poetry. No girl wants to hear that."

"Well I have to do something," Stan snapped back, voice rough and harsh as Kyle frowned and jerked his head away. Almost immediately Stan reached out to sling his arm across the other boy's shoulders, elbow twisted purposefully high and away from the redhead's back as he continued mumbling horrific lyrics under his breath for several minutes. "We there yet?"

"Almost," Kenny replied, grin splitting even wider as he hit the gas ... the crisp scent of extreme cold leaking in through the open window to swirl around in his sinuses, mingling with the still-present cling of alcohol. It jerked his brain back into reality, reminding him that they actually had a purpose to this little venture. To fix Stan and get him out of Raging Pussy mode, to make everything the way it was and get back to his fucking gold-plated mansion in the hills so that he could bounce on Tammy Warner's tits without having to worry about his friends falling to pieces behind his back. Man. Tammy Warner's tits. Tammy Warner with the perfect fucking legs and the perfect fucking smile and the most smartassed, funny, foul, awesomely talented mouth-

His fingernails gripped into the steering wheel as he nearly drove past The White House, slamming on the breaks as they skidded to a stop at the front entrance to the council's old building. Both the meeting spaces and the apartment windows were pitch black ... everyone unsurprisingly asleap as Kenny tossed the U-Haul into park several yards away from the entrance. Within the cab Stan's forehead slammed unceremoniously into the passenger side window, nose smushed up against the glass as he scowled and ducked his head for a better view.

There she is, you guys," he slurred, voice uncharacteristicly solemn and coated with a fine haze of alcohol as he stared through the window at the darkened facade. "Fuck, fu- what if she won't take me back? What if I do everything right and she still says 'no?' What-"

"Dude, pull it together," Kyle suddenly snapped, sharper than Kenny had heard him talk for weeks as he reached out wildly with one hand. His fingers closed around the front of Stan's jacket as he jerked the taller boy forward, Stan's head rattling back and forth on his shoulders. Kyle meanwhile bristled, trying to look as tall as possible as he swayed and used his own grip to steady himself. "You can go and ask her to take you back. Or you can spend this entire time moping around, feeling sorry for yourself. You love her. So get out there and fucking show her."

Stan blinked slowly, stunned into silence by Kyle's sudden outburst as he sank backward against the door. After a moment however, he shook his head, at least three different expressions sliding across his face before settling into a wild look of determination. "Yeah ... Yeah!" he taller boy yelled, banging one fist into the top of the cab. With a surprising amount of speed for a drunk man, he turned and forced the passenger door open, sending a sudden blast of bitchtits-cold air sweeping through the cab before falling unceremoniously out of the truck. Stumbling face-first into a snowbank, he finally managed to scrabble up to his feet - pausing as tilted his head toward the night sky and opened his mouth.


"Dude!" Kenny nearly choked - hand slamming out to grip the wheel as he jumped in half-shock at the sheer fucking volume. Holy fucking titty shitcock balls. From somewhere on the second floor at least three lights flickered on, casting stark shadows against the snow as Stan continued to bawl drunkenly at the top of his lungs.


"STAN MARSH, WHAT IN THE FUCKING HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" The angel herself had appeared at the window farthest to the left ... dark hair disheveled and skewed across her face as she clutched a heavy blanket around her shoulders, frowning downward. "Do you have any idea what time it is?!"

"WENDY!" Stan's face broke into an abrupt smile, enormous and loving and still very, very drunk as he swayed slightly in the snow and stared up at her. "WENDY, BABE, I WROTE YOU A SONG! JUST ... JUST STAY RIGHT THERE. YOU GOTTA LISTEN TO THIS.""

"A what?! Stan it's two in the morning! You'll wake everyone up!"

Inside the cab Kyle had fucking lost it, laughing hysterically. Smacking at Kenny's leg, he pointed out the window, as though the blonde couldn't see the utter fiasco that Stan's love ballad had become, or Wendy's pale, confused face that was slowly sliding into something even more outraged.

"Stan, what is wrong with you?! If this is your idea of trying to ask me out again, just stop it right now. You need to turn your drunk ass right around and leave. If you really do want to talk, we can discuss it in the morning."

"NO, WENDY, COME BACK! PLEASE COME BACK YOU HAVE TO STAY AND LISTEN TO MY SONG I SPENT ALL THIS TIME MAKING IT BECAUSE I'M SORRY I'M SORRY AND I MISS YOU AND I LOVE YOU SO MUCH WEEEENDYYYY!!!" he bawled, stumbling again and actually half-falling into the snow this time, knees disappearing into the white drifts. Framed in the window Kenny could see her sigh, rubbing her fingers into her eyes as she leaned one sharp elbow against the window sill.

"...All right. If it means that much to you, I'll listen. But then you have to promise to leave and come back in the morning."

"I will," Stan called up after her, voice finally returning to a normal pitch as he fumbled about in the snow, arms flailing and kicking up flecks of white as he attempted to righten himself. "I promise." That seemed to soften her up a bit, her head cocking slightly to the left as she gave him a quick little half-smile. Glancing over his shoulder Stan gave the truck an enthusiastic thumbs up before turning back and taking a deep breath once again.


"STAN," she shrieked, screwing up her eyes and cupping her hands over her ears. "I said I'd listen to your song, stop yelling!!"


"What the 'ell is this shit?!"

From out of nowhere a heavy object slammed into the ground a foot from Stan's legs, making a sizable hole in the snow as it fell with a muffled "whumph." Snapping his jaw shut Stan suddenly craned his back, stumbling awkwardly as he leaned close to the ground and studied the gap with an interested look Meanwhile Kenny and Kyle shifted forward in the truck, craning their necks as they stared up at the lightened window next to Wendy's where The Mole was busy glaring menacingly through the open latch.

"Oh, I am sorry, did I interrupt your little pussy singalong, with flowers and sunshine and kissing each others' assholes?" he snapped, his eyes sunken rings of black and purple from twenty feet away. "No? Perhaps that is because it is the middle of the fucking night, you inconsiderate ass-fucker!!" Spinning almost impossibly fast, he turned and hurled something else out of the window ... this time sailing past Stan's head to plonk into a high snowdrift. "Now shut the fuck up so that we can fucking go to sleep!"

"Christophe, stop that!" Wendy barked, her voice treading roughly over the much quieter call of 'You idiot, stop destroying our things!' "What on earth is wrong with you? Just ... just go inside. I'll handle this."

The wild-haired boy glared back, frowning for several seconds before he finally turned away. "Fine. Do not forget to put your fucking lovesick puppy in his place before 'e wees all over 'imself."

"Mmhmm," she replied as the other window slammed shut, rattling the side of the building and sending small showers of snow drifting down onto the sidewalk. Sighing, Wendy turned back around ... flicking several strands of dark hair over one shoulder as she sank into the windowsill and cocked her head at where Stan was still staggering about, having successfully picked an alarm clock out of the nearby snow. "Okay, Stan, it's time to go home. Unless you want Christophe to put table a through your head."

"Whatever, I can take him," Stan slurred back, hands on his hips as he smirked in her general direction. "That French piece of British shit thinks he knows everything."

Her mouth inched upward slightly until she suddenly turned her back to them, fingers fumbling with the window latch. "Go to sleep, Stan. If you're really ready to talk, come by tomorrow for breakfast. You don't have to write another song. And make sure you get home safely. All of you!" she suddenly called, leaning out and staring pointedly at Kenny's truck. "Don't think I don't see you idiots sitting in there."

With one last grin, Stan waved before dashing back to the U-Haul, knees kicking up snow as he jumped and nearly stumbled for the tenth time that night. He reached the hood just in time for Kyle to somehow manage to wrench open the passenger door - leaning out to tangle his hands in Stan's own and jerk him bodily up into the truck. He was fucking wet as hell, getting snow and slush and shit all over the three of them as he laughed wildly, feet catching on the dash before Kenny managed to shove him off and into his own seat. "Oh man. Did you guys see it? Did you?"

"Dude," Kyle managed to get out before dissolving into peels of drunken, high-pitched laughter, careening into Kenny's shoulder before clearing his throat and beginning again. "Duuude."

Kenny didn't bother to pull away, instead grinning until his face hurt as he dipped his shoulder into a more comfortable angle. "And she didn't even hit you once. She must really love you, man," he pointed out simply before laughing yet against and dragging his foot off the break.

Wendy sighed as she slid into the corner booth of Cafe Bebe. Across the restaurant the proprietor herself shot her a wave before placing two bowls in front of a couple exhausted looking first graders before scampering across the restaurant and sliding into the seat across from Wendy, pushing forward a cup of cocoa.

"Girl, I don't care if there's a war going on, I am still waaaay too busy." Sighing once, she smiled lopsidedly at Wendy. "So what's the news?"

"Stan came by and apologized."

Bebe gasped, just a little, and immediately jumped up. Jogging back over to the third graders, she snatched up their bowls over their protests, shooed them up and out of their booth, and shut the front door on them with a hurried 'just find her some flowers and tell her how you feel!'

Wendy had just enough time to blow on the surface of her hot chocolate before her best friend plopped right back down, leaning so far forward onto the table that her curly hair brushed the surface. "Okay now spill it!!"

"Are you sure you should just toss your customers out like that without really listening to the problem first?" Wendy smiled, and took a sip. "I hate to tell you, Beebs, nobody comes here for the food."

"They were first graders. They only ever come to Chef Bebe for one kind of problem, and it's always 'find her flowers'. Boys are so stupid, god." Bebe rolled her eyes and leaned back in her seat. "Including yours. Oh my god, so he apologized?"

"Sort of. He was definitely sorry about everything." Wendy took another sip of her drink before shrugging, once. She actually did come to Chef Bebe for the food - or the drinks, at least - and not for the advice that cost an entree to hear. On top of tips, of course. So the fact that Stan had been wasted off his ass with his equally drunk friends wasn't something she was going to bring up, especially since she wasn't absolutely sure what she wanted right now anyway.

Bebe was all ears, though. "Are you going to take him back? Oh, honey, I know you have this life-long love thing going on but there's so many options, you're still young. I know this really cute second grader -- I know, I know, second grader, but oh, his ass, you have no idea."

"Bebe, Eric Cartman has been shooting rockets and firey garbage over our wall and has been for almost a week and I have no good ideas for how to stop him since my dumb boyfriend and his dumb friends wasted our emergency tunnel. Meanwhile I have Rebecca and Ike both demanding extra supplies we just don't have and the kindergardeners keep insisting the whole thing's a sign of -- I don't even know, a thunderstorm that spits out candy. And you want me to go hook up with a second grader?"

"It sounds like a second grade hookup would be a nice simple break, if you ask me," Bebe just said, half-slyly as she stole a sip of Wendy's chocolate and just grinned. One track mind, sometimes. Wendy sighed, and rubbed at her forehead.

Somewhere, a bell tinkled as the front door opened. Bebe sighed, and didn't turn around. "We're closed for lunch!"

"Actually, I was looking for Wendy. If you're having a personal meeting, though, I can certainly come back." Gregory's clipped tones floated over and Wendy looked up, shaking her head once.

"No, no, it's fine. Is something wrong?"

"Nothing especially pressing. I did, however, bring some ideas from the rest of the council." Walking over to the table, he paused for a second, clearly unsure if he should let Bebe get up first. The blonde girl, though, just shot him a huge grin and scooted further down the booth, patting the worn out seating.

"Don't worry, I don't bite."

Wendy's secretary of state blinked once and finally sat down, pulling out his trapper keeper and opening it neatly across the table, looking determined to ignore Bebe's existence as he did. "Apparently, after so charmingly serenading you last night, our drunken compatriots had some sort of epiphany."

"Wendy, he was drunk?" Bebe interupted, ignoring the put-upon look Gregory shot her as she clucked disapprovingly. Wendy just sighed.

"Not the time, Bebe."

"Apologies are just like kisses -- they don't count when they're drunk." Catching Gregory giving her a look, she just sighed and rolled her eyes. "Oh, sorry. Do go on."

He cleared his throat, which was completely unnecessary and just drew another eyeroll from Bebe, and handed over a sheet of notes. "It's actually not a terrible plan. Stan and Kyle showed up this morning and worked a lot of it out with Christophe before Kyle was dragged away by his brother for some kind of appointment."

He paused for a second and steamrolled ahead the second Bebe opened her mouth to ask. "Anyway, as we've all agreed the current status quo can't be allowed to stand, and that's more apparent now than ever, the idea is to simply break in with a controlled use of force."

Wendy frowned at him. That was exactly what they'd been trying to avoid, this whole time -- having to go over and shoot a bunch of Smileytown's most disadvantaged citizens in a bloodbath, just to take out Eric Cartman. Bebe, meanwhile, rolled her eyes again.

"That doesn't even make any sense. How are you even going to get over there in the first place? He's not just going to open his front gate for you, and if you try and climb the fence they can just shoot rockets right at your faces instead of onto my roof."

Gregory actually turned and finally really looked at her, and she just shot him a small smile and pushed at his shoulder so she could get up. "Except for that, though, you should go beat the shit out of him."

"Bebe-" Wendy started, but her friend just flapped a hand at her and picked up some errant dishes to take to the back.

"I'm a voter too, Wendy, just saying!"

Sighing, Wendy brushed her bangs out of her eyes, shaking her head once before turning back to Gregory. The blond just smiled pleasantly and turned back down to his papers.

"The best idea, at least of those we came up with this morning, is simply blowing up the wall."

She just stared at him. Stared at him for a long moment, just in case he was joking, even though Gregory never joked about these kind of things because someone on Council had to take them seriously.

"You're joking."

"That's what I said." Gregory shrugged, and looked back up. "It's possible. It's also completely unexpected. It would give us the largest element of surprise and the closest access to rebellious Smileytowners."

"I can't believe you're defending this." For a second, she rubbed at the spot between her eyes before catching it, sighing and silently reminding herself that she could sort out things with Stan after they were all out of immediate danger of being blown up or burned to death. And they would have time to actually talk. "This is crazy."

"With all due respect, Eric Cartman is crazy. And dangerous." Gregory just looked back at her evenly. "Someone might get hurt if we do this, yes, but they definitely will if we stand by and do nothing. This way we have a fairly good shot at taking him out cleanly and salvaging anything left of their government."

That was exactly what she wanted to deal with at this moment, whatever governing structures Cartman would leave behind when - if, she hadn't OK'd this insanity quite yet, if - he was taken down. But wanted or not, they'd have to, or risk another of the exact situation rising up in its place. "Any ideas on that from the boozy trio, while they're coming up with all our plans?"

"Kenny suggested Butters Stotch, who's apparently in some kind of manegerial position. Kyle objected, and had a few choice words to say about Butters, but nothing sustantitive." He just shrugged awkwardly and Wendy sighed, glancing out the window towards the looming form of the wall. Kyle probably wouldn't, based on the rumors that'd somehow sprouted up despite their best efforts at keeping everything under wraps. That Cartman had killed him. That he and Cartman had fought to the death. That he'd paid Cartman off with some kind of secret gold coins. That Cartman had cut off his arm and attached a working nintendo controller instead (that one had been from a Kindergirl, with all the solemnity that they spouted their usual crazy with). Other, worse things, supposedly from whoever lived in the classroom below the Broflovskis.

And then of course the issue of trusting Kenny to pick out a trustworthy substitute... but what choice did they have, really? Wendy just glanced at Gregory out of the corner of her eye. "I suppose--"

From outside came a scream, loud and high and panicked, and they were both on their feet looking when the alarm -- some hand-cranked thing Mark Cotswolds had strung together out of tape and grease -- started. Gregory just swore and took off without her, leaving his papers even, and Wendy sighed and tossed a few tokens onto the table and went out after him, just in time to see the first bottle rocket shriek its way over the metal hulk of the white line and slam into the ground, sparking and whirling.

Well. If they didn't blow it up, it looked like Cartman's stupid weapons probably would eventually anyway. Wendy sighed, and turned to go look for the rest of her Council.


"Okay," Disarray started, rubbing a hand over his forehead as he stared up at the Wall. Kevin preemptively straightened. "What's the situation?"

"Welll we've been setting up the bottle rockets every hour, just like orders said. Gordon burned himself the first time and Bradley's had to chase off a bunch of the local kids who keep getting all nosy and coming over, except then they went and I guess told all their other friends about it? And it's like a bigass show now which sucks 'cause the T.C. guys keep tossing shit right back, man, some jackass was doing some Splinter Cell stuff from some building before we moved down the wall from Oak Ave and we set up a warning sign not to hang out but those dumbass goth kids wanted to stake it out and Jenny got in a big argument with the girl about it and we almost had to arrest them --"

"Jesus," his boss answered, just lifting a hand to stop him and looking up and down the wall. "Bottle rockets? Is that what was in that crate the Mayor dropped down here?"

Kevin grinned, nodding. "Yup! They're pretty cool and I think we started a fire over there with a few of them -- it was mega-smokey for all day yesterday. Most the screaming and yelling stopped after the first day though, Brad thinks they they moved their civvies."

"Yeah, that'd be the smart thing to do." Disarray just sighed and glanced at the first few houses of the wall district, just across the street and probably still filled with kids looking to get the first free show since Cartmanday last summer. Disarray and Gordon had spent the whole first day of Operation: Kick T.C. Ass trying to get the district cleared out while the rest of the squad shot over garbage bombs and rotted food, but nobody really had anyplace to go, so they were in a dungeon without keys with the whole situation. At least Jenny'd scared almost everybody (since goth kids didn't count) into staying inside. Mostly. "If the wall catches from those things both cities are fucked, there's not enough snow down to handle a big fire."

"We can pile more snow on our side if it'll help but when the Mayor came by he was pretty pissed. He just brought more rockets down so we're gonna get to that, hopefully before T.C. brings out their snipers again or starts tossing raging kindershits or something," Kevin drawled, half distracted by the sight of Bradley and Kevin further down the wall, gesturing widely at each other over something. Something big, maybe, from the amount of trek-language swearing it looked like Gordon was doing (poser). Kevin narrowed his eyes slightly, sticking a hand out to poke at Disarray's arm even though the redhead had pretty much said never poke him ever. "Boss?"

Whatever the answer was going to be, though, didn't really end up mattering much because without warning the wall made a horrible, awful, death star trash compactor noise and slowly started to collapse down in a big wad of screeching metal and trash and fire, as if the frakking x-men were busting through or something. Between the grinding of car doors and ripped up chain link, somebody (it sounded like Jenny but was probably Brad) shrieked like a girl.

"Shit," Disarray said, and if it wasn't a bigass crazy meltdown Kevin would have grinned at him for just getting that line so damn right.

Except it was totally a bigass crazy meltdown and there was the sound of airsofts, and shouting, and Gordon and Brad had gotten out of the way but were definitely on the other side of the torn up mess that'd been the Wall a little while ago. Kevin stared, jaw hanging open a bit as smoke and Treasure Cove kids appeared through the new hole like this was Helm's goddamn Deep, but Disarray had grabbed his arm and was dragging them both behind a nearby corner.

"Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit," the ginger kept repeating, slinging his pellet gun off his back and squinting through the smoke. Kevin did the same, checking the latch on his belt in case he needed the saber, taser at ready as Disarray half-stepped back out into the street. "You're all under arrest! Place down any weapons and surrender yourselves to the Mayor's authority!"

That looked like the wrong thing to say, because immediately came the sound of pellet guns firing and Disarray slammed himself back against the wall, hissing at Kevin. "Fire, Kevin, goddammit!"

"I can't even see them!" Peeking around the corner, Kevin pointed his gun in the direction that seemed close and fired a steady stream. "We gotta get some like, smoke-goggles if they're gonna do this every time they attack us, dude, this fog of war stuff --"

"Kevin I swear to god just keep firing," Disarray snapped back at him, pulling out his radio and slapping it against his palm a few times before talking into it. "Disarray to base, we have major incident at Wall between Oak and Cedar, please advise. Major incident, Wall has been breached."

"Disarray, I really can't see --" Kevin started again, but the worst of the smoke smoke was blowing backwards, away from them and further down the district while the heap of the wall still pourednto the sky like a Tantooine funeral pyre. Kevin spotted the gaggle of T.C. kids right in time to see one of them aiming his own gun right at him. He yelped, ducking back to where Disarray had given the hell up on the radio as a stream of ammo whooshed past them into a nearby wall.

His boss, meanwhile, was cursing and trying to see around the corner without losing an eye, finally just lifting his own rifle in return and firing blindly back. Over the sounds of the guns and shouting -- Bradley shouting something about justice and the T.C. kids yelling other -- Kevin could hear the mess of the wall still shifting and sliding, sending more smoke and dust pouring into the air. Disarray stopped shooting for a second, listening, and turned to look at Kevin over the top of his sunglasses.

"Where did you guys leave the extra fireworks?"

"Uh." Kevin stopped, and felt the blood drain out of his face, eyes darting towards the mess of metal and smouldering rubbish. "Frakking nerf-shit."

The ginger just put a hand to his head, shaking it once as another crash came from behind them and somebody shrieked, the sound of it cut off as the sweet, totally epic, premium stash of gigantor-sized bottle rockets started shooting off in all directions like angry screaming ghosts or something. "Kevin, goddammit."

"Gordon left them there," he answered a little defensively, but any other explanations of why it was totally unfair to assume he'd done it and why it was extra uncool when the two gingers on the squad stuck together like that and why blame wasn't a great thing in the middle of an epic battle like this was cut off anyway when a rocket flew past their covered spot and bounced against the opposite house, dropping to the ground and shooting sparks everywhere like a big magic missile gone wrong. The door to the house cracked open and without warning some second grader bolted out, kicked the thing out into the street, and disappeared back inside without a word or glance at the two Smileytown's finest hiding across the street.

Behind them, the gunfire started again.

Kevin sighed, and turned to fire back as best he could, jaw clenched. If they were going to go down it was going to be them and all these T.C. mobs at once, some kind of epic Call of Duty kind of thing that'd be talked about forever. Disarray, meanwhile, was still looking at the closed doorway of that dumb second grader before he slung his rifle over his shoulder and unholstered the pistol. "Did you guys get any of the civvies out before now?"

"No dude I told you none of them wanted to go they were all watching the show and taking bets on how much of Treasure Cove was gonna burn up before they'd surrender." Kevin just kept firing, figuring number of shots would pretty much even out how shitty they were, but when he turned his head Disarray had stood up and was slowly walking out from cover, right out into the open middle of the frakking street before he lifted the pistol and fired, once, into the air.

"Time out!!!"

Everybody, even the T.C. kids in the clearing smoke, actually froze. One of the others turned to another, frowning in confusion, and over the sudden silence Kevin could hear him ask his friend "...Can he call time out?"

"Five minute time out to evacuate civilians!" Disarray called back, still holding the pistol pointed at the sky, and Kevin whistled slightly before slinging his own rifle onto his back and ducking out of cover. This was some straight up cowboy movie kinda stuff right here. The taller Treasure Cove kid -- the kid who'd asked his friend a question, the kid who was the asshole who'd trashed their jail -- looked at his friend again for an answer, and the redhead glanced back for a second before glaring out at Disarray and opening his mouth to answer.

"What the fuck is this!?"

Whatever the redhead had been going to say was made pretty pointless as the Mayor himself appeared from the still shifting smoke, face red.

Almost immediately all the T.C. kids -- all but the foreign kid, at least -- turned to aim at Cartman. Disarray, seeing it, pointed his gun at the kid from the jail, and Kevin, belatedly, scrambled to back him up, right as Bradley and Gordon and Jenny finally came up behind him from where they must've circled around behind the district houses. Cartman, unarmed and furious, looked around at the whole mess.

"What the fuck is this goddamn fucking bullshit?!"


"Give it up, fatass," one of them said, and the Mayor snapped his head to look at him, narrowing his eyes.

"Shut the fuck up, Stan. You're so seriously in trouble right now, I'm going to break every fucking bone..." Trailing off, the Mayor zoned in on that same pissed off looking redheaded kid, who looked weirdly familiar. Cartman, meanwhile, grinned. "Back for more, Kyle?"

"Shut the fuck up, you fat piece of shit!!" the readhead - Kyle - immediately yelled, taking half a step towards him before Stan shot an arm out and caught him. Kyle gave him a quick glare before turning and taking one more step towards the Mayor. "If you say one word, one more goddamn word --"

"Boss," Kevin hissed, very quietly, trying to not get into whatever was going on in front of them but not exactly sure what he should be doing, either. Disarray, though, was ignoring him, pistol still trained on Stan even though he was looking right at that foreign kid who was aimed squarly back at him. They were just staring at each other, and for a second Kevin wondered if their chief had just burned through the supply of total awesome badassery for the day and they'd have to figure this out themselves.

"Whatever, Jew." Not waiting for whatever furious retort was about to come his way, Cartman spun towards the police, glaring. "Disarray, what the fuck am I paying your losers for?? Arrest them!!"

"Trying, Mr. Mayor," Disarray just called back over, not moving, still eyeing down that foreign kid like they were having some kind of silent conversation or something. Maybe british people were all telepaths, and they actually were. Kevin caught Bradley's eye, nodding towards them with a questioning look.

"If you can't fucking arrest them then fucking shoot them, you stupid fucking ginger asshole!" Mayor Cartman half-screeched, and half the group - Stan and a couple blond guys - seemed to belatedly remember that the police were even there aiming at them and spun to join the dair haired kid in a stand off. Disarray, meanwhile, didn't move, and Cartman swore and stomped one foot. "I'm giving you a goddamn order!"

"We were negotiating moving to another area when you got here, Mr. Mayor. There's civilians and they're going to get caught in any kind of fire fight --"

"These fucking whiners?!" Cartman waved a hand at the shabby houses of the wall district, rolling his eyes and flipping off one particularly brave sixth grader peeking through a window. "Who cares!! They're all worthless douchebags anyways, just shoot these fucking assholes right fucking now."

From this angle Kevin could see Dougie blink behind his sunglasses, surprised, and the ginger actually tore his eyes over to look in Cartman's direction. "We've been blowing up rockets in their street all week. I'm not sending bullets through their windows. We're the police, not a damn army --"

"You will do what I fucking say or I'll throw every single one of you into the goddamn sockbaths!!!" Everybody had started staring at Cartman -- even the kid with the gun, though it didn't move -- as he stomped his foot away and pointed a finger at the whole group of Treasure Cove kids. "I'm sick of their rebellious, property stealing, sneaky ass jew loving shit and you being a pain in my ass and all of these tax evading, ungrateful fucking dipshits dragging down my goddamn town!!!"


A few more kids in the houses nearby had started watching, probably drawn by the fact that Cartman was screaming like a crazy cartoon badguy, dozens of dirty faces peering out of windows and cracked doors at the second biggest show of the week. First biggest maybe, if they weren't into special effects. Kevin glanced back at Disarray, along with the rest of the police squad, waiting for some kind of orders. The Mayor was the Mayor but there was a chain of command, this wasn't some free for all PvP kind of thing, after all. Disarray just stared, for a long time, and everyone watched him -- everyone except that Kyle kid, who'd slid back into the T.C. group and picked up a shovel from somewhere off the ground, sliding it half behind his back and taking a few slow, measured steps towards an almost incoherent Cartman. Top notch rogue type stuff, and Kevin almost nudged Bradley to point it out, except that it'd ruin it. And because Disarray had made a decision.

"Police, stand down."

"Aaahgghgkljsuguguuglglll--" Cartman shrieked, some kind of wordless rage boiling up from behind the tie and buttoned shirt to scare everybody in a twenty foot circle. He took one step forward, towards the Treasure Cove kids or towards the police, or even towards the wall itself, Kevin couldn't tell, shrieking —

And Kyle, who Kevin finally recognized as that kid they'd arrested at the Mikowski place, weeks ago when all this crap had started, stepped out, and with one, hard swing, smashed the metal surface of the shovel right into the Mayor's face.

The fat boy crumpled wordlessly to the ground, and as a whole everybody, even the kids watching from their front yards, turned to look up at Kyle. Who just narrowed his eyes at the fallen form of Smileycove's grand leader and tossed the shovel aside. "I told you, you fat shit, not one more word."

There was someone new at the Provider. Someone new-new, from across the White Line, come in all the new times to worship the Provider, just like Flora said when all the colored fire and lights came over all the walls. It was a sign, Flora said, and she talked to the Provider more than anyone, whispering into the pages of both Books, so Filmore said it was true and now there was someone here. Someone here to see the Provider and not to come to the Council or Med Center or stores like everybody else.

"What's he doing?" Quaid asked, poking Filmore in the shoulder until his friend turned and glared and made the Mmmm noise at him. Quaid quit it.

"He's. Um." Filmore rubbed a hand at the watch around his neck and shrugged. "I dunno. Where's Flora?"

Quaid shrugged, and looked back at the rest of them, five of them and none of them Flora with her strings of candy-wrapper beads. "Dunno. You gonna just let him sit there?"

"No," Filmore snapped, and jumped to his feet, and went over to the Provider where the someone from across the line was sitting. He had some kind of fancy watches on, big heavy silver metal that had a whole big heavy silver chain that connected to the provider, like in the Old Times when everyone tried to take the Books. Watches and big bruises all over, face swollen up like when Billy ate a whole carton of strawberries and then the Provider chose him. Filmore kicked the someone, bouncing back when it moved and groaned. "Hey!!"

It moved again, but the big heavy watches kept it still and Filmore turned to glare at them all behind the bush, waving them out. Quaid padded out, everybody following, even Flora who'd appeared somehow from wherever she'd been. She nodded at Filmore, who just kicked it again. "Helloooooooo!"

"Fucking.... what?" The someone opened its eyes and looked up at them, glaring out of the good eye. Filmore just looked back and hummed in his throat in case they needed to make it disappear. "Jesus Christ, are you serious? Kindershits?? They leave me here for Kindershits?!"

"The Provider has chosen you," Flora said seriously.

"The Provider has chosen you," they repeated, even Filmore, who shut up when Flora talked always.

"I am so seriously not in the mood for this shit. Unless one of you little fucks undoes these right now, I am going to stab all of you through the fucking eye with your own stupid cult necklaces."

"The Provider wants to play," Flora announced. The someone rolled its eyes, blowing up to dislodge brown hair as it did.

"The 'Provider' can suck my balls, ho."

Everybody started humming, Mmmmmmmmm sounding up in a cloud. The someone frowned, a little, like he wasn't sure anymore if he wanted to play.

"The Provider wants to play with you," Flora said, simply, and the kindergardners rushed forward, laughing.