No One Ever Talks About Global Freezingwritten by Mookie - illustrated by derscroot, Marskels, and neavvs
For all their faults, or perhaps in spite of them, Kenny McCormick loved his family. Said family included a moronic older brother who pissed him off frequently, like now, when Kevin was reaching over Karen, who was fast asleep, to grab the PSP.
"Quit it, asshole," he said, turning his body toward the aisle. "You wanted the window seat, so enjoy the view."
"There's nothing up here to see," Kevin complained. "Now gimme."
"Fuck that," Kenny hissed, trying not to call more attention to their dispute. He didn't need the flight attendants, or worse, their parents, to get involved. "You should have brought a book."
Which was a ridiculous suggestion, because Kevin didn't read even when he had to, but still, even a coloring book would have given him something to do. Fortunately they didn't have any extra money or Kevin would have gotten a beer when the drink cart came by, and the last thing he wanted was to have to deal with his drunk brother the whole way to Kauai.
It was still kind of hard to believe they were going, but one of his mother's recent addictions was entering contests. Lately she'd been obsessively sending in three-by-five index cards (no purchase necessary!) and arguing with her husband about the money she was wasting on stamps, as if the beer and cigarettes they both consumed on a daily basis wasn't the primary drain on their limited income. The only reason Kenny had been able to get the PSP in the first place was because his parents had won a settlement against Cartmanland (where the rest of the money went, Kenny had no idea), where he'd ended up impaled on a roller coaster when he was nine or ten. Most teenagers had to contend with acne and sudden shifts in social standing; Kenny died on a regular basis. He'd given up trying to get anyone to believe him; each time he died, he eventually woke up, whole and in one piece, in his bed, and no one was ever the wiser.
Although he did suspect that Eric Cartman knew, since he'd more than once acknowledged the frequency of Kenny's deaths. Plus Cartman often seemed to exist in an alternate reality of his own making.
"Seriously, you little shit, give it over."
"Suck my dick," Kenny retorted, hunching over his game.
Kevin made one last lunge for Kenny, slammed his elbow into Karen's nose in the process.
"Ow!" she wailed, clamping her hands over her face. "Kevin, what the fuck?"
Kenny put his arm around his sister, giving Kevin the chance to grab the game. He smirked at Kenny, who glared at him before returning his attention to Karen.
"You're bode such at-holes," she moaned.
Kenny reached over and punched Kevin in the arm, and his older brother just turned toward the window, ignoring him.
"Can I get you anything?" Kenny asked, trying to peer up at her face.
"Two new brudders," she mumbled, then slowly peeled her fingers away from her face. "Fuck, that hurt."
Kevin flinched, and although he kept his body facing the window, he turned his head to look down at his sister. "Sorry 'bout that, Kare. It was an accident."
"You were an accident," Kenny shot back at him.
"News flash, bro, we were all accidents. No offense, Kare."
"Excuse me," a voice to Kenny's right said. They all turned to look at the flight attendant, who asked, "Is there anything I can help you with?"
That was code for 'everyone is complaining about you, but I'm here to see if I can defuse the situation before it gets any worse.'
"I could use some ice," Karen said. "I bumped my nose on my brother's elbow when I turned to look out the window."
The flight attendant, Mary, according to her name tag, looked relieved. "Of course. I'll be right back."
"I really am sorry, Karen," Kevin said after she'd gone.
She leaned her head back against the seat. "I know you are, Kev."
"Tell you what. On the way home, you can have the window seat."
Kenny glared at his brother, who knew Kenny had called that seat on the way back. Kevin also knew Kenny wasn't about to take it away from their sister.
"Thanks, Kev," she said, and then Mary was back with a ziploc bag full of ice and a stack of napkins that looked like they'd come from first class. "Thank you," she said politely, and when Mary left them alone, she wrapped the bag of ice in a napkin and held it to her nose.
It wasn't long after that that the plane began its descent, and Carol McCormick, who had been asleep in the seat behind them the entire time, woke up.
"I can't wait to get one of those drinks in the coconut shell, with the little umbrella," she said.
"I can't wait to go to one of those luaus," their father said, draping his arms over the back of Kenny's seat. "A whole roast pig! And some of those fancy micro brews."
"Just don't go getting all used to them," Carol admonished. "We can't afford those high class beers when we get back home."
"Don't be a buzz kill, woman! We've got ten days! Can't a man dream?"
Kenny slid down in his seat and pulled the strings of his hoodie tight. He couldn't wait until they checked into the resort and he could get away from both of them.
It took a full fucking hour for them to argue over beds, where they were all spending their time, and whether they were all meeting for dinner. Then Karen came out of the bathroom wearing a bikini top and shorts, and that left Kenny and Kevin on virginity protection duty for the rest of the night. Neither of them were much in the mood to argue, since they were jet lagged, but fortunately Karen announced that she wanted to watch the hula dancers at the beach. Kenny and Kevin took one look at each other and grinned.
An hour later Kenny found himself sitting with his siblings at a small round table, trying not to get caught when he sneaked sips from Kevin's beer while his brother ogled the dancers. A couple were a little chunkier than Kenny liked, which meant they were exactly Kevin's type, but they were still hot. He'd expected to see them in coconut bras, but they wore some kind of midriff wrap that reminded him of Ace bandages. It emphasized the fact that some of the girls' boobs were definitely enhanced, like the pale skinned blonde in the middle. Her tits were way too fucking perfect to be natural. He ended up watching her more than any of the others, simply because with her pale coloring, she was easier to pick out in the group, and he was mesmerized with the way her hips swiveled and her pelvis undulated. Fuck, he shouldn't have had any of Kevin's beer, because he was starting to get a little aroused.
"I'm thirsty," Karen said, rifling through the little purse she'd brought to the beach with her. "I'm going to get a drink."
"Like hell you will," Kevin said. "Kenny, you go get it."
He wanted to tell his brother to fuck off, but he didn't exactly want his sister to go to go off by herself, either, not with the number of middle-aged creeps here. He made his way to the bar, wending his way around outstretched legs and chairs that were pushed too far from the tables, and he ordered two sodas for himself and Karen and a water for Kevin, who hadn't asked for it but was going to need it at the rate he'd been downing beers. He should let his brother suffer the hangover, but then he'd be the one listening to him bitch and moan in the morning. The drums that accompanied the dancing suddenly stopped, and everyone applauded.
"Show's over?" he asked conversationally, as the bartender placed the sodas on the table and picked up a hose to fill a third glass with water.
"No," a soft voice to his left said. "Just taking a break."
He looked up and saw the blonde he'd been watching earlier. She was sipping daintily through a straw, and Kenny stared at her lips as she sucked. She looked much younger than he'd thought when she was dancing — a trick of the lighting, or the makeup she wore, probably — and he suspected she was close to his own age.
"You looked really good out there," he said, then mentally kicked himself for being so lame and unoriginal. She probably heard that all the time.
"Thank you," she said demurely, lowering her gaze. He could see her lashes, long and lush, and he reached out to brush his fingers lightly against them, causing her to start.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "They just looked so soft."
She tipped her head to the side and studied him warily, making him feel about as suave as Scott Malkinson and as attractive as Eric Cartman.
"This young man bothering you, Marjorine?" the bartender asked.
She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth, then waved a hand airily at the bartender. "Oh, no, no," she assured him with a smile. "Just a simple misunderstanding."
The bartender pointed two fingers at his own eyes, then at Kenny, and finally left them alone.
She drummed her painted fingernails against the side of her glass and stared at Kenny. It was unnerving, to say the least, and it reminded him that he'd kind of acted like Kevin would have — in other words, like a real creep.
"God, I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."
"Hmmm," she responded. He felt like a specimen in a Petri dish with her intent gaze fixed on him. "It's okay," she relented. "But I'll have to ask you not to do that again."
"I promise," he said, crossing his heart.
She laughed, a tinkling little sound that seemed well rehearsed. It suited her.
"Marjorine," one of the other girls came up behind her. "You ready to go back on?"
She turned around. "Yes, of course. I'll be right there." When she turned back, a lock of hair fell into her face, and she brushed it away, not bothering to tuck it behind her ear. She took one more sip of her water and pushed it away from the edge of the bar, then slid off her bar stool. "It was nice meeting you..." she looked at him expectantly.
"Kenny," he managed to get out.
"It was nice meeting you, Kenny," she said with a smile that reached her eyes, then she winked at him and left to join the other dancers.
He got all the way back to the table before realizing he'd left their drinks behind and had to go back to get them. The jet lag started catching up to him during the second half, because he felt his eyelids drooping as he watched Marjorine dance. That night, in the room he shared with Kevin, he dreamed of blonde hair and big boobs and talented lips going down on him. He woke the next morning with the evidence of his very vivid wet dream on his stomach and hoped that Kevin never found out.
After they'd taken full advantage of the breakfast buffet, Karen and his mother decided to go for a walk on the beach. Since Kenny wasn't old enough to join Kevin and their father on their drinking binge, he was left to his own devices. The informational brochures in the hotel lobby indicated there were surfing lessons on the beach, which seemed like the sort of thing he should do before they went back home. There was always a chance he'd get torn apart by sharks, but then if he were going to die on this vacation, it could just as easily be from a pig roast spit going awry.
He was embarrassed to discover that the instructor, Haku, took his job very seriously. He wouldn't allow Kenny in the water until he'd demonstrated he could pop up on a surfboard that was just lying on the sand. He sighed but did what he was told until he was finally deemed able to go out in the water, where the first wave that came in knocked him clean off his board.
When his head broke the surface of the water, he sucked in a big breath of air, and determinedly climbed back on the surfboard. According to Haku, he was lucky that there weren't many others out today, as this was more of a beginner spot, which Kenny didn't think was meant to be insulting. He was fine without a crowd; he'd rarely been the center of attention and he didn't want to start by looking like another lame tourist, even if that's exactly what he was. Haku was relentless, and Kenny was exhausted by the time he was done and convinced he'd completely sucked, but Haku seemed pleased with his progress, so he agreed to come back the next day, even though he wasn't sure whether he would or not.
Every muscle was protesting as he made his way back toward the hotel, uncertain what time it was. He spied someone behind the beach-side bar and realized he could really use something to drink. Water dripped down his face and into his eyes, and he finger combed his hair back. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the ukulele version, of course, was playing over the speakers, and the bartender was singing the opening "ooo ooo ooo's" when Kenny sat down. He stopped singing immediately and came to the end of the bar where Kenny was sitting.
"What can I get for you?" His voice had a surprising southern lilt to it, and Kenny hated him on sight. He looked exactly like the kind of guy you'd expect to find on a beach — or in a beach movie — artfully shaggy blond hair, tanned skin, perfect white teeth, and the kind of boy-pretty face chicks were into.
"Juice," Kenny said, putting his head down on the bar. "Orange, if you have it."
The waves had kicked his ass more than he'd realized, because he dozed off for a minute, jerking awake when he felt like he was falling and hoping no one had seen it. Except for the bartender, who set down a tall thin glass of orange juice with crushed ice. Kenny reached into his board shorts for his wallet and realized he'd left it in the room so he wouldn't lose it in the ocean. "Shit," he said. "I'm sorry. I don't have my wallet on me right now. Can you just leave that here for a little while?" He got to his feet and looked longingly at the juice. "I'll be right back."
The bartender waved him back down. "Don't worry about it. You can give it to me later."
"I don't want to get you in trouble," Kenny protested, even though he didn't particularly care.
The bartender shrugged. "I'm always in trouble," he told Kenny, which seemed like either the biggest lie ever or bragging. It made Kenny hate him even more. "And you look like you could really use the juice."
Kenny picked up the glass and downed the juice, then wiped his mouth. "Thanks. I owe you."
The bartender shrugged again and picked up the empty glass. "I saw you out there." He pointed at the ocean. "You did pretty well, for a newb."
"Oh. Thanks." The guy probably said that to every tourist, hoping for a good tip. "You surf?"
The blond nodded. "Yep. It's a requirement of living here, otherwise they send you back to the mainland." His eyes were laughing, as if he'd said the funniest thing ever.
There was something about those eyes that gave Kenny a sense of deja vu, and not in a good way. He slid off the bar stool and stretched, then rolled his shoulders a few times.
"There's beach yoga later," Pretty Boy offered. "It helps with muscle stiffness."
"Yeah, great," Kenny yawned. "Hey, how late are you here?" When the bartender raised an eyebrow, he realized what that must have sounded like and hastily added, "so I can pay you back."
"I'm nearly done for the day, but don't worry about it."
Kenny found his easy dismissal insulting. He should just accept the free fucking juice, but he wanted to show the asshole that he wasn't just another dick tourist. "Tomorrow then."
The bartender nodded. "A hui hou."
"What does that mean?"
"What does what mean?" the bartender asked. It made Kenny think the guy may have hit his head on a surfboard one too many times.
"A hooey ho," he said slowly, hoping he'd said it right.
"Oh! Well, that means 'til we meet again.'"
Kenny nodded, even though the bartender wasn't looking at him, too busy polishing the top of the bar and singing.
"...the colors in the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people passing by, I see friends shaking hands, saying, 'How do you do?'"
He seemed to really like the song, and he was so damn cheerful about it it made him seem a little simple, but maybe it was just a Hawaiian thing. Kenny shook his head and went back to the hotel. While he was taking a shower, he found himself singing the second verse of the song, the only part of the song he fucking knew, and he hated when that happened. It was yet another reason to hate Blondie. Of course there were no towels when he turned off the water, which meant his brother was back and was bored.
"Hey, Dickwad!" Kevin yelled.
Kenny rolled his eyes. "Towel first!"
The door was opened and one was tossed inside, landing on the wet floor. Kenny scooped it up, toweled off his hair, and wrapped it around his waist before joining his brother in the room.
"Kenny! Hey, Kenny, check this out!"
A brochure, folded in the shape of a paper airplane, bounced off his forehead. He caught it instinctively, and against his better judgment, he unfolded it, revealing photos of bare chested men twirling flaming batons. Oh, hell, no. He might have taken a chance on going out surfing, but he'd been burned before — quite literally, and very painfully — and wasn't about to put himself through that again if he could help it.
"Wanna go?" Kevin asked.
"No fucking way."
"You sure?" he asked, and Kenny was suspicious of the glee in Kevin's voice, but he had a very real fear of fire and he wasn't going anywhere near it.
"Well, Dad and I are goin', and I think Ma's going with some other old broads she met today to watch guys dance around in thongs, so that means you and Kare are hangin' out tonight."
It wasn't quite the punishment Kevin seemed to think it was, but then Kev also had a legit ID for getting into bars, while Kenny had to make do with the crappy one he and the guys had made. It had only worked in one bar in Denver, but that place was shut down months ago for serving minors.
Besides, Kenny actually enjoyed spending time with their sister sometimes, and unlike Kevin, Karen could carry on an intelligent conversation. She was also indirectly responsible for his meeting Marjorine the night before. Maybe he could convince Karen to check it out again tonight so he could show Marjorine that he wasn't a complete psycho. Or at least stare at her tits from afar. He'd be okay with that, too.
Karen brought up the luau herself, because she was fascinated with the dance, and she hugged Kenny when he agreed that sounded like a good idea, explaining she thought he might have been bored of it already. This time the girls came out wearing strapless bikini tops, and their grass skirts rode even lower on their hips, but there was no blonde dancer among them. Kenny gave Marjorine no further thought as he watched these girls dance. It was like watching an elaborate clockwork automaton, the way those hips moved, and when they took a break, Kenny offered to get Karen a drink, just in case he could make small talk with one of them.
There were actually three of them standing by the bar, drinking water, and he tried to play it cool. They didn't know he was poor white trash from the wrong side of town, and they didn't know he'd tried to touch a total stranger's eyelashes because they 'looked soft.' He gave them a lazy smile and a nod, and they smiled back, and he felt pretty good about himself when one of them asked where he was from.
"Denver," he said, because no one outside Colorado ever heard of South Park, and she sat down next to him.
"Are you here on vacation?" she asked, seeming genuinely interested, and they exchanged small talk for a while. Just when Kenny thought he was making progress (she'd smiled often, made direct eye contact, and touched his arm a couple of times), her break was over, and he didn't see her again the rest of the night. He'd known flirting was part of her job and that he was just another tourist, but he'd hoped he was the one night stand kind of tourist. He was annoyed with himself for being disappointed.
"Not getting laid tonight, either, then?" Karen asked when they walked back to the hotel together. When he looked over at her in shock, she laughed. "Please, Kenny, I saw you try to come on to that other girl last night, too."
He shook his head, but didn't deny it. Sometimes he forgot his sister was pretty perceptive, and it wasn't like she was ignorant about sex. It was just embarrassing that she'd noticed.
She patted him on the arm. "Don't worry. I won't tell Kev."
He draped his arm over her shoulders. "Thanks, kiddo," he said, and they talked about what they'd seen and done during the day, and how quickly the week was flying by, and whether or not their father or Kevin had gotten into a drunken fight yet. Kenny was able to forget, for a little while, the fact that he'd probably have blue balls until he got back to South Park.
The fact that Kevin stumbled in hours later, smashing into the wall, the bed, then the other bed, reminded Kenny that Kevin was even less likely to score while on vacation. With the sound of his brother heaving in the bathroom, Kenny fell asleep with a smile on his face.
The next day, the three siblings had breakfast together while their parents 'slept in' - which, according to Kevin, meant fucking their brains out, because their mother had gotten all horned up watching the all male dance show the night before and drinking wine, not beer, with the other moms.
"Dad's putting it to her good," Kevin had said, and Kenny wondered if his brother really found it amusing or if was just his way of coping with their parents' overly enthusiastic and not very discreet fucks. Karen must have felt bad about Kenny's luck the previous evening, because she conned Kevin into taking a dance class with her, subtly pointing out that attractive, curvy women would be teaching them, and that left Kenny with nothing else to do. He thought about taking another surf lesson, but he kind of liked the idea of not having to do anything at all. Back home he was usually caught up in something of Stan's or Cartman's making, even though it often ended badly (especially for Kenny).
It was kind of nice being able to do his own thing, and right now his own thing was going to be lazing about and enjoying not being cold or hungry, because they'd be back in South Park at the end of the week and things would go back to their normal shitty state.
He decided to take a walk along the beach. With any luck, maybe he'd run into some girls who were tourists like him, ones who looked good in bikinis and wanted a tropical fling to brag about back home. He fluffed his hair to make it look more wind-mussed than usual and wandered along the shore for a while until he realized he was thirsty. He made his way back to the bar where he'd gotten the orange juice the day before.
Shit, he still had to pay for that, too.
The same surfer dude from yesterday was tending bar again today, and he greeted Kenny with a big smile and cheerful "good afternoon," which made Kenny look down at his bare wrist out of habit.
"It's one o'clock," Blondie told him, setting a glass of ice water down without being asked. When Kenny raised an eyebrow in question, the guy shrugged. "You looked thirsty."
Kenny supposed it was a safe bet, since his once wind-mussed hair was now plastered to his forehead with sweat. He took a sip of water, and then reached into his pocket for his wallet. "Dude, wait," he said, calling the bartender back. He tossed a couple of dollar bills on the counter. "For the juice yesterday."
The guy's eyes lit up, and he grinned. "Thanks! I completely forgot about it!"
Despite his simmering hatred for Blondie, the slight accent made Kenny curious, and he found himself asking, "So, where are you from?"
"Me?" he asked, as if there were anyone else around. "Well, I'm from here. I'm a native Hawaiian," he added, saying the last two words slowly and carefully, as if Kenny might not get it otherwise.
"Uh huh," Kenny responded. He wasn't sure if he should feel insulted by that or feel pity for the guy for his total lack of social etiquette. It was kind of like talking to Kevin.
Speaking of the devil, his brother announced his appearance by pounding Kenny on the back, and he sat down next to his brother while Karen took the seat on Kevin's other side.
"What's up, bro?" he asked, laughing, and then he stared at the bartender, leaning forward and squinting (because he refused to wear glasses and because they couldn't afford them anyway) until he could read the white name tag he wore. "Hey, Leopold, get me a beer."
Leopold took a step back as if Kevin had threatened to hit him, and shook his head. "I can't do that," he said apologetically. "Seein' as I'm not old enough to serve alcohol. But if you don't mind waiting a while, my dad will be here and he can take care of you. Can I, ah, can I get you anything else?" he asked, looking at all three of them anxiously.
"I'd love a pineapple juice," Karen gushed, making both her brothers turn and stare at her. When the bartender turned to get her the juice, she scowled at both of them, then smiled again as Leopold set the drink down in front of her.
Kevin sighed and asked for a root beer, but just so he could distract Leopold. He turned on the stool, crossed his arms, and glared at his sister.
"What?" she asked. "Like you two are the only ones who get to enjoy checking out the," she glanced at Leopold and blushed, "sights."
"Oh, the sights!" Leopold said brightly as he returned with Kevin's soda. "If you haven't already, you might want to check out the botanical gardens."
"Sounds boring. Is it free?" Kevin asked with a belch, earning a punch on the arm from his sister.
Leopold's face fell. "Well, no, you have to pay for the tour."
"Not interested," Kevin said, saving Kenny the trouble.
Karen pouted, and Leopold looked horror stricken.
"I - I can bring you, if you really want to see it," he offered. "I can get in free with my Mahalo Rewards card."
"Hold on there, Romeo," Kevin said, slamming his glass down and sloshing soda all over the sides. "Are you trying to score with my sister?"
Karen elbowed him to no effect, and Leopold looked like he wanted nothing more than for the floor to open him up and swallow him whole. He toyed nervously with his puka shell necklace, revealing a bandaged hand that Kenny hadn't noticed earlier.
"N-no, no! I mean, I can take you, too, if you want."
"Can you take my mom?" Karen blurted out. "I mean, I'm sure she'd really love to see it, too, and this idiot," she elbowed Kevin again, "wouldn't appreciate it."
Leopold nodded, making Kenny hate him a little less. "Yeah, sure, I'd ah, I'd love to take you and your mom, if you don't mind waiting until tomorrow, after my shift's over. We could make the three o'clock tram."
Mollified, Kevin took another sip of his soda, then he wagged a finger at Leopold and said, "You look familiar."
The bartender looked around, as if there were anyone else back there with him, and pointed to himself.
"Yeah, you." Kevin propped his elbow on the bar and stared for a while. His eyes fixed on the gauze wrapped hand and he snapped his fingers. "You were in the show last night. With the batons."
The blond flushed. "I was just fillin' in for the night. I do that sometimes."
Kevin turned to Kenny. "I thought the whole place was going to go up, like whoooosh!" he tried to illustrate a pillar of fire with his hands. "This guy in the front couldn't hold his booze and he stumbled up on stage," Kevin got up and staggered around, "and then he knocks into this guy," he pointed at Leopold, "and the baton goes like this," here Kevin made a rolling motion with his hands, "right toward Dad, but Leopold here grabs it." He actually sounded impressed.
"Oh my gosh!" Karen exclaimed, reaching over the bar to grab Leopold's wrist. She gently turned his hand over, palm side up. "Are you okay?"
"Well, it hurt a whole lot last night," Leopold said, glancing at Kevin and Kenny out of the corner of his eye and tugging his hand away. "But my dad said what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Kenny snorted. Fuck that, sometimes what didn't kill you only made you wish you were dead. Then if you were lucky, what did kill you made you stronger, but it kind of depended on exactly what killed you. Leopold didn't seem to notice, and Kevin got up and walked away, leaving Kenny to pay for their drinks while Karen asked Leopold if he was really okay with taking them to the gardens.
"I think you should go with them," Kevin said when they got back to their room.
"Why?" Kenny asked, glaring at his brother.
"You saw Karen." Kevin clasped his hands, brought them to his chin, and batted his eyes. "She's all Doris Nightingale over this guy."
"That's Florence Nightingale, you dumb shit."
"What the fuck ever. You know how she gets."
Kevin had a point. Karen had developed a strong protective, mothering instinct whenever her brothers were injured. She'd patched Kevin up after fights with their father or his friends, and Kenny on the occasions he didn't die, and she even took care of their parents when they were hungover. She'd make a great nurse someday. That didn't mean Kenny wanted to go to some boring old garden.
"Ma's going with them, and Leopold seems pretty harmless."
Kevin rolled his eyes. "Ma's going to be all ga ga over whatever boring shit is there, and just because Leopold's gay, doesn't mean Kare's not going to fall for him. Do you want to hear her sigh over her winter love the whole way home?"
Kevin sighed in exasperation and ticked off on his fingers. "George Michael. Lance Bass. Doogie Howser. All look like girls, all gay."
Kenny sighed. He'd thought nearly the same thing about Leopold himself, but there were plenty of straight guys who looked like that, too. That didn't mean Karen wasn't going to start crushing on Leopold, though.
"Fine," he bit out. "But I'm borrowing your ID tonight."' He could use a good stiff drink.
Kevin shrugged and pulled out his wallet. He tossed his driver's license on Kenny's bed. "I was planning on renting some quality porn tonight anyway."
There would be hell to pay when their parents saw it on the hotel bill, because Kenny was pretty sure their vacation prize didn't include unlimited porn, but that was Kevin's problem. Kenny spent a couple of hours at the bar of a neighboring resort, drinking and flirting and even getting to second base with a cute, flat-chested college girl from North Dakota.
He was still in a good mood about it the next morning, so when Kevin kicked him under the table and tipped his head toward their mom and sister, Kenny generously offered to go to the garden, too. His mother beamed at him, and then asked if everyone wanted to play some beach volleyball, kids vs. parents. It turned out to be one of the best family moments he could remember in a long time. The vacation had been good for his parents, because they were exchanging small touches and glances instead of punches and insults, and Kenny wished they never had to go back.
In the end, they all went to the botanical garden with Leopold, even Kevin. Kenny had felt a little bad when Leopold's eyes widened with shock as he met the entire McCormick family, ready for their own personal tour guide, but he recovered quickly and acted as if he did this sort of thing every day. Which, for all Kenny knew, he did.
It wasn't a place he would have picked out to visit, but it was still a lot cooler than he thought it would be. Leopold walked with Kenny's parents and had interesting stories to tell, some of which were clearly bullshit, including stories about the mischievous Menehune and some tale of star-crossed lovers, but his mother was eating it right up. His father only got loud twice, and both times, Leopold managed to get him to lower his voice without causing a scene. It was enough to make Kenny believe in any of the Hawaiian legends. Leopold said something, and Carol leaned her head on her husband's shoulder and smothered a giggle with her hand.
"Look at Ma," Karen whispered. "I've never seen her look so pretty."
Karen was right; Carol's eyes were bright with laughter and without fading bruises on her face or angry furrows between her brows, she looked much younger — much closer to her actual age. Sometimes Kenny forgot how young she'd been when she had Kevin.
Kenny reluctantly admitted to himself that Leopold was growing on him, because he was starting to kind of almost like the guy. And if Karen hadn't fallen head over heels for Leopold yesterday, she was going to after today.
Leopold was at work the next morning after breakfast, as usual, when Kenny sat down. Today island reggae was playing in the background, and Kenny wondered if it was Leopold's own personal selection or something chosen specifically for the tourists.
"Hi, Kenny!" he said brightly, reaching under the bar and picking up a glass. "Orange juice?"
Kenny shook his head. He'd spent enough money at the bar the other night. "Just water."
The water was so cold it made Kenny's teeth ache, and he watched Leopold as he worked. The blond seemed to actually enjoy what he was doing, singing along with the radio and whipping the tablecloths out with a flourish before spreading them out on the polished wooden tables. The music was kind of catchy, and Kenny found himself drumming his hands on the bar. He stopped the moment he realized Leopold had noticed.
"You like Rebel Souljahz, too?" he asked, sounding a little too excited.
Leopold gestured to the speaker overhead. "Rebel Souljahz. They're from Waipahu, over on Oahu, and they're playing outside the Fern Grotto tonight." He hesitated, then added, "I ah, I have an extra ticket, if you'd like to go."
Kenny almost declined. He barely knew the guy, who may or may not be gay, and he wasn't sure exactly how far away the grotto was or how they were getting there. Then he remembered how gracious Leopold had been about getting everyone into the gardens for free, and how fucking nice he was. The moment Leopold's face clouded with disappointment, clearly expecting a rejection, Kenny opened his mouth and said, "Yeah, sure. Sounds like fun."
Leopold beamed at him, and aside from Karen, when she was little, no one had ever smiled at him like that without having an ulterior motive. He hoped this didn't turn out to be some kind of time share pitch, because he'd heard all about that crap from the guys when they went to Aspen, when he'd been conveniently dead.
Any reservations he had about accepting Leopold's invitation were swept away when Kevin realized he had to serve as Karen's guard for the evening. Karen looked just as enthused at the idea, and eventually Kevin suggested renting mopeds (the fact that Karen wasn't yet 18 wasn't going to deter Kevin when he seized upon an idea). Kenny toyed with the idea of standing Leopold up and joining his siblings, but he wouldn't be 18 until next year, and since he'd left his crappy fake ID in South Park, it would be hard enough trying to rent a moped for one minor let alone two. He also remembered the dejected look on Leopold's face, the one that made him agree to go in the first place, and he knew he wasn't going to bail.
He almost bailed anyway when he met Leopold in the front of the hotel. Leopold was standing in front of a black Harley, and there was no fucking way Kenny was riding on that thing with another guy.
"No fucking way," he told Leopold. "They'll think I'm your bitch."
"My bitch?" Leopold said slowly, like the word was in a foreign language.
It took a lot of restraint to keep from slapping himself on the forehead in frustration. "Seriously, dude, how many guys do you know ride around on bikes?"
"Lots of them," Leopold said emphatically, until Kenny clarified how many of them rode two to a bike, and then Leopold nodded his head slowly. "Well, all right then," he said. "It's kind of far to walk, but we can take the bus instead."
At least Leopold could listen to reason, unlike Cartman. Despite the initial awkwardness, which Leopold seemed to forget almost immediately, Kenny enjoyed himself at the concert. The crowd was energetic, the band knew how to play to the crowd, and he liked some of the songs, so much so that he danced in the audience with everyone else, singing along with the refrain of several songs and feeling slightly buzzed by the end of the night (although that was partly due to the second hand pot smoke in the air). Leopold was affected by it, too, because he seemed a little more mellow and less fidgety.
They completely forgot about taking the bus back and walked the entire way back to the hotel, trading stories about stupid things they'd done as kids (Kenny's nearly all ending in dying, the latter part of which he omitted from his stories, and Leopold's all ending with getting grounded). It was nice to talk to someone who seemed so fucking normal for a change. Leopold told him how musicians used to perform inside the grotto itself, where the acoustics were supposed to be amazing, until a hurricane had come and destroyed it. Kenny told Leopold how his home town had been rebuilt a total of seventy-two times (at least since Kenny had been born), just to see how he'd react.
"No fucking way," was what Leopold said, his mouth open in shock, and that expression, combined with the unexpected swearing, had Kenny laughing so hard he had to stop walking to catch his breath, and then Leopold starting laughing, too, and the fact that they were both laughing made it worse, and then Leopold asked, "why are we laughing?" which set Kenny off all over again.
"Shit," Kenny said a few minutes later, rubbing at his face. "My stomach still hurts."
Leopold nodded, and some of his hair fell forward, into his eyes. Kenny watched as he brushed it back.
"You remind me of someone."
"I do?" Leopold asked. He toyed with his puka shell necklace. "Who?"
"I don't know," Kenny said, frowning in concentration.
Leopold released his necklace and rubbed at the back of his neck. "Well, we should get going. If I'm not home by midnight, I'll be grounded for sure."
Kenny glanced at his watch and shook his head. Leopold noticed and his eyes widened with panic. Kenny patted him on the back a few times, and Leopold took a few deep breaths to calm himself down.
"I need to learn to be more responsible," Leopold muttered to himself, then looked at Kenny. "Well, I'd better get home. Thanks for going with me."
If Cartman had said something like that, it would have been dripping with sarcasm and served as a very thinly veiled assignment of blame. Leopold sounded like he really meant it.
"It was fun," Kenny replied.
"Yeah, it was."
Despite Leopold's anxiety over being grounded, he grinned at Kenny, and Kenny couldn't help but grin right back, and he found himself singing one of the songs from the concert all the way back to his room.
Kenny slept in the next morning, as did Kevin, so they both missed the breakfast buffet and ended up fighting over whose fault it was, all the way to the beach where they ended up at the bar where Leopold worked. He was there again today, only he had dark circles under his eyes and moved a little stiffly, and although he smiled at them cheerfully, it seemed a little forced. He got them water, as they asked, and a couple of lemon wedges, and then some packets of sugar, and if he noticed that Kenny and Kevin were making their own weak, watered down lemonade, he said nothing.
Kevin tactfully pointed out that Leopold looked like shit.
"Yeah, I know," Leopold sighed. "I need to find my center, is all."
"Your center? What the fuck is that?" Kevin asked.
"It's ah, it's hard to explain, but it's kinda like finding a happy place, at least for a while."
It was weird to hear Leopold say that, because he always seemed to be a naturally happy, optimistic sort of person. Kenny had never thought the guy had to work at it.
"So you like what, go to a bar, get laid, what?"
Leopold shook his head. "No, no, it's not about going somewhere. It's about finding it in here." He pointed to his chest.
Kevin was surprisingly interested, and Leopold explained techniques such as yoga and meditation and breathing exercises, even going so far as to come from behind the bar to demonstrate one of the poses. Kevin ended up leaving Kenny alone with Leopold so he could change into something more comfortable for the beach yoga session that afternoon.
"Your brother's interesting," Leopold said, once Kevin had left. He was back behind the bar, leaning forward on his arms. "What's it like to have a brother?"
No one had ever asked him that before, and Kenny wasn't sure how to answer it. Kevin was a douche most of the time, but he was his brother, and despite all the shit he pulled, tormenting Kenny was exclusively his domain. Although Kevin was as dumb as a bag of rocks, no one was allowed to fuck with his family, especially his sister. He wasn't sure how to explain all that, so he shared a story about how he and Kevin had gotten into trouble for playing in the truck parked out front, pretending to drive it, and how they'd found a dead possum in there, and how they'd carried it around for a while like a toy until Karen got a hold of it, and how Kevin blamed the whole thing on Kenny.
He didn't know why he picked that story to tell, and he half expected Leopold to cringe at the description of the dead critter, but he seemed to understand the heart of it, and he laughed, looking a little more like himself. When he lowered his gaze and pushed some of his hair out of his face, Kenny realized why he looked so familiar.
"Hey, Leopold. You ever work the bar at night?"
"The bar?" Leopold asked. "No. Why?"
"Is Marjorine your sister?" Kenny blurted out. So much for casually bringing up the hula dancers and finding out if Leopold knew any of them. Then again, now that he'd figured out why Leopold looked so familiar, the resemblance was uncanny.
Leopold laughed. "My sister. I guess I can see why you'd think that."
"So you know her, then."
"Yeah, I know who Marjorine is."
"Listen, Leopold, we're friends, right?"
Leopold's eyes widened for a moment, and Kenny thought he might have pushed too hard, but then Leopold nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess we are."
"You think you could maybe put in a good word for me?"
"Why?" Leopold asked warily.
"I just...I really like her, okay?"
"You don't even know her," Leopold said with a frown. "Or talked to her."
"I talked to her! She seems really nice."
Leopold crossed his arms over his chest and looked like he didn't believe Kenny.
"Okay," Kenny admitted. "I think she's pretty, too, but she really was nice to me."
"You think she's pretty?" Leopold asked, sounding incredulous.
"Okay, dude, I know you must be related, because otherwise you'd know she's hot. Like really fucking hot. But she doesn't act like it. She acts like she actually cares about other people's feelings."
Leopold nodded. "Yeah, she does."
"Then can you at least tell her I'd like to meet her for lunch or even just talk to her for a couple minutes? We can do it in a public place, or you can join us, something. I'd also like to apologize to her."
Leopold looked torn, and Kenny gave it one more shot.
"I'll tell you what. Marjorine is supposed to dance again tonight, if you're interested."
Kenny was very interested. He didn't care what lie he had to tell to his family about his plans for the evening; if Marjorine was dancing tonight, he planned on being here. He'd even get here early so he could sit at one of the front tables. Leopold looked uncomfortable, as if he already regretted telling Kenny anything.
"Hey," Kenny said, feeling guilty. "What are you doing later today? Maybe you and I can hang out."
Leopold shook his head. "I've got to catch up on chores, and then I have homework."
The latter part surprised Kenny; even though he knew Leopold wasn't old enough to serve booze, he'd never really thought of him as going to school, and he hadn't really thought about other schools being in session while Park County was on winter break.
"But," Leopold said, "I'm not working tomorrow, if you want to go biking."
Biking sounded like the last fucking thing Kenny wanted to do, but he wanted Leopold to have only good things to say about him when he talked to Marjorine.
"Sure," he said, because he'd see Marjorine tonight and deal with the bike ride tomorrow.
"Okay," Leopold said with a nod. "I'll meet you out front tomorrow morning at five, then."
"Five in the morning?"
Leopold nodded. "It's less crowded then, and it's a lot hotter when the sun's beating down on you. Eat a light breakfast, and bring a jacket and some water."
Kenny hoped that Marjorine was going to appreciate what he was doing for her not-brother, because biking was already starting to sound a lot like zip-lining, and he'd literally died of boredom from that. He sighed.
"Okay. Five o'clock." There was no fucking way he was getting up that early, not unless he got lucky with Marjorine or something, and probably not even then, because he'd be too tired after making sure she was satisfied.
He took his time in the shower that afternoon, lathering up his dick with hotel soap and stroking himself. He didn't want to be too pent up when he saw Marjorine later, and he pictured what she'd look like naked, how her tits would feel in his hands, all silicone firm, and how she'd look as he fingered her, getting her ready to take his dick. He came almost immediately, and he thought he might need to jerk off again later, before meeting with her, just to be on the safe side.
He picked out the best of the crappy clothes he'd brought with him on this trip — the one shirt that wasn't ripped or sporting holes in it, the shorts with the fewest patches in them — and he did the best he could with his hair. He wasn't about to slick it down like some kind of Melvin or anything, but he kind of wished he at least had better shampoo to start off with. The stuff the hotel provided made his hair feel like straw, and he wasn't used to showering every day, let alone in hot water. He prowled around the beach until they started setting up for the show, and he grabbed a seat at one of the front tables, right in the center. He didn't realize how nervous he was until a waitress stopped by and asked if he wanted something to drink, and he had to wipe his sweaty hands on his shorts before pulling out his wallet to pay for it. His armpits were sweating, too, and he was ready to bang his head against the table. He downed the soda and then wished he hadn't, because it wasn't settling in his stomach very well.
He thought of Leopold and his talk about finding his center, and he took a few deep breaths to calm himself down. This was fucking ridiculous. It's not like he'd never talked to a girl before, and he'd certainly charmed enough girls to get to third base (and he'd fucked a couple of the sluttier ones, so it wasn't like he was a stone cold virgin, for crying out loud). An older couple asked if they could join him at the table and he nodded, figuring he'd have a better chance keeping his spot where he was with them there, and then the drums started and the girls came out.
Tonight their costumes consisted of strapless tops made of flowers, with matching blooms dotting their skirts and winding down their arms, ending on the backs of their hands. Their movements were slower than the dancers on the second night, more fluid and sensual without being vulgar, and Kenny sought out the lone blonde in the group, who was again in the center, but further toward the back this time. She was amazing, just like last time, and the way she moved gave Kenny a whole new set of fantasies to jack off to. He was a little disappointed when the first half of the show ended, until she approached his table. He hadn't even noticed the older couple had gotten up, probably to get a drink or run to the bathroom or something, and she sat down next to him. He so owed Leopold for this.
"Hey," he said, leaning back as casually as he could in his chair. "Thanks for coming over. Leo probably told you I wanted to talk to you."
"You wanted to say you were sorry," she breathed. "For what?"
"For acting like a real weirdo," he said, "and for the whole touching you thing." He demonstrated by brushing a finger against his own eyelashes.
"Thank you," she said, clasping her hands together in her lap. "Not many guys would apologize for that."
She probably had to fight off guys hitting on her all the time, and he felt suddenly protective of her.
"I didn't see you here the other night," he commented, looking for a way to ease into conversation. "How often do you dance?"
"I fill in from time to time. I can't dance the ami ku`upau."- Kenny assumed she meant the ridiculously fast hip rotations he'd seen the other night - "and they only need me when Kawailani is dancing."
"They need nine dancers then," she explained, as if that was a valid reason.
"Is she superstitious or something?"
Marjorine tipped her head to the side. "Not exactly, but the numerology of her name is nine, so..." she shrugged one shoulder. "And it's fun when I do it just once in a while."
"What do you do when you're not dancing?"
"Oh, this and that," she answered cautiously, and he hoped she didn't think he was a stalker or something weird. The waitress must have noticed Marjorine was sitting there, because she brought a pitcher of water and a couple of glasses. Kenny poured a glass and handed it to Marjorine, who sipped at it. "Oh, that's good," she sighed, and Kenny felt himself stiffen under the table. She drank half of the water before setting the glass down, then folded her fingers together again. "What about you?" she asked. "What do you do back home?"
"Hang out with my friends, mostly," he said, and she looked a little wistful, making Kenny wondered what made up 'this and that.'
The elderly couple returned then, and complimented Marjorine and got her to pose for a picture with them — a picture Kenny took with a camera that he was sure was far too advanced for them, and he wished he had a camera or a camera phone so he could have a picture taken with her, too.
After the show, Marjorine was lingering outside the thatched roof that made up the outdoor restaurant, and Kenny's heart started beating wildly in his chest. She'd waited for him.
"Hey," he said. "You want to take a walk along the beach or something?"
She nodded, and he resisted the urge to pump his fist. He was so going to get laid tonight.
"What do you and your friends do when you hang out?" she asked, and he tried to think of something to tell her that wouldn't make them all sound like total losers. "Well, once we saved a killer whale from captivity," he offered, leaving out the part that they'd believed the whale was an alien from the moon and that they'd sent the animal to its death in space.
When Marjorine looked suitably impressed, he told her stories about raising money for Chef when he was being sued, and performing at the mall in their short lived boy band, and he even threw in the time he'd reconnected the electrical wires for the hospital to save Dr. Mephesto (leaving out the part where he died).
With every story he told, Marjorine looked more and more fascinated. It was weird, being the one to do all the talking for a change, and when he told her about his brief stint as a vigilante, she looked like she'd met an honest to gosh real celebrity — only by then, he found that he enjoyed talking to her, because she was actually interested in him. She was interested in Kenny McCormick for more than just his dick, and for more than someone to do the shit no one else wanted to do, and suddenly he wanted to go home remembering that about her.
They parted ways in the elevator, when he got off at the ninth floor and she didn't, and he realized when he crawled into bed that he hadn't so much as held her hand the entire time, and if he dreamed about plowing her, he didn't remember the next morning when the alarm woke him up. He wanted to turn the alarm off and go back to sleep, but he'd promised, and if not for Leopold, he'd never have gotten the chance to spend the night with Marjorine.
He could barely open his eyes when he threw on a clean shirt and a pair of shorts, and he yawned several times as he stumbled out of the elevator on his way out front, where Leopold was standing next to a couple of bikes, wearing shorts and a light jacket.
"Hey, Leopold," he said, yawning again. "I wanted to thank you for last night."
"Last night?" Leopold looked a little apprehensive.
"Not that anything happened, I mean, I didn't even kiss her, I swear. I just had a really really good time."
"I'm glad," Leopold said, and he sounded tired. Kenny noticed his movements were stiff, like he'd hurt himself, although it may have been the backpack he had over his shoulders.
"You okay there, Leo?" Kenny asked.
Leopold winced as he swung a leg over one of the bikes, then forced a grin. "Everything's fine," he said through gritted teeth. The pained expression on his face suggested the complete opposite. "Ready to go?"
Kenny wasn't, any more than it looked like Leopold was, but he had promised. "Lead on," he said.
The bike ride there was bad enough, but when he realized in the early gray dawn that this was the downhill bike tour Kevin had read about on the plane, the one that sounded so much like the zip-lining trip Kenny had taken with the guys back in fourth grade, he wanted to shoot himself in the head then and there. He glanced over at Leopold, who was looking a little queasy, and a spark of hope flared.
"I gotta be honest, Leo," he said, not needing to fake the exhaustion in his voice. "I don't think I can make it."
Leopold breathed what sounded like a sigh of relief, and he nodded. "Okay," he conceded. "Besides, the best view at sunrise is from the lookout anyway." He carefully let the backpack drop onto the ground and removed a bottle of water. When he realized Kenny didn't have any of his own, he offered the bottle to him first, and then drank from it once Kenny handed it back. He gave Kenny a stick of beef jerky, too, and they chewed in silence. Once Leopold had tucked their empty wrappers in a side pocket of the backpack, they walked to the rim of the canyon, where the myriad of colors appearing in the canyon as the sun rose took Kenny's breath away.
My dearest friends.
I have journeyed with one of the natives of the island of Kaua'i, and we broke our fast at the Waimea Canyon. It is a place of breathtaking beauty and serenity. My native companion seems to care little for the rush and worry of the outside world, and my siblings have found tranquility in their own ways. Karen has taken up with the local residents to learn the art of the lei, and Kevin grows less angry with each passing day.
"What the fuck is up with Kenny?" Stan asked as he passed the note to Kyle.
I find it hard to believe such a place exists, and I must admit it will be with some melancholy that I will leave this island and return home.
Humbly yours, Kenneth.
"He probably met some girl with big hooters and is trying to get in her pants," Cartman said.
Kyle and Stan nodded. It wasn't impossible, and Kenny tended to be a lot more romantic when he was on the prowl, at least until he'd gotten what he wanted.
Karen's room adjoined the one their parents were staying in, and there were leis hanging everywhere, making the room smell like the botanical garden they'd visited. She was holding a red lei in one hand and a bright yellow one in the other when Kenny came in to get her for dinner.
"The yellow one," he advised.
"Thanks, Kenny," she said. "That helps a lot." She set the yellow one down carefully on the nightstand and draped the red one around her neck to join a pink one and a purple one.
Kenny's eyes narrowed. "That's an awful lot of leis," he pointed out.
"I made an awful lot of leis," she retorted, but she blushed, too, and Kenny walked up to her and pushed the flowers aside. There were no hickeys, but the pale skin of her neck was chafed near her collar bone.
"Kare," he said, gently touching the abrasion. "Who did this to you?"
"No one," she said, shoving him away. "And you're a fine one to talk, the way you're chasing after that blonde. I see you never came back to the hotel last night."
He debated on arguing with her, but if he told her he'd gotten up early to watch the sunrise on the canyon, she'd wonder why he didn't invite the rest of them, because he was not typically a morning person. If she thought he'd already scored with Marjorine, he had no problem with that. He was more worried about where she'd been and who she'd been with, and if he found out anyone had taken advantage of Karen, he'd get Kevin and they could both beat the shit out of the guy.
She must have seen it in his face, because her blush deepened.
"Please don't tell Kev. It was just a little bit of kissing," she said. "It's not like I want to go around looking like a cheap whore."
"Just don't go anywhere with him by yourself," Kenny cautioned, afraid if he put up a stink, she'd mulishly go off and act recklessly, like a typical McCormick. Thanks to Kevin, he'd been convinced that Karen was crushing on Leopold and here she was, sneaking around and making out with some other guy she'd just met.
She fingered the petals on one of the leis. "You know how Mom and Dad looked at the garden the other day, holding hands? The way Mom looked at Dad?"
Kenny nodded. He wasn't blind. He knew his parents looked like any other couple on vacation instead of the backwoods drunks they were known as in South Park — at least until they opened their mouths. He knew his parents loved each other, in their own way, but he'd never seen this side of their relationship. He'd never even imagined it existed.
"It was nice kissing Steve, and I liked him a lot, but I don't feel like that with him." She stroked one of the petals, tracing the outside edge. "No offense to Mom, but I don't want to get knocked up like her and end up married to someone just because he got me in trouble. I want to wait for someone who makes me want to smile like that every day." She looked dreamy. "I want someone who's my best friend first, above everything else."
She might feel like that here in this tropical paradise, and if anyone deserved that, it was Karen, but he wondered how hard she'd hold on to that dream when they got back home and some guy gave her false hope about getting away from the dump they called home.
"In the meantime," she added, "maybe I'll lez out with some of the girls from school, so we can get off without worrying about getting preggers."
Kenny looked at her in shock, and she was fucking grinning at him from ear to ear. He picked up one of the pillows from her bed and hit her with it. She dropped the lei on the desk and reached for the other pillow, and for the next five minutes, he showed her no mercy, until Kevin barged in and they ganged up on him instead. A couple of the leis were casualties of the Pillow War, but they were both laughing at the end.
The look on Kevin's face, she told Kenny later, had been worth it.
Kenny decided to try his hand at surfing again, feeling he should at least go back home with that as a story to tell. When he made his way to the beach-side bar, Kevin was already sitting there, talking to Leopold with more animation that Kenny thought his brother was capable of.
"Dude, that was totally sweet," Kevin was saying. "When do I get to try that?"
Leopold shook his head. "You know we can't light the batons for the students."
"What if we tried it out on the beach, just you and me, without the rest of the class."
"I don't know, Kam..."
"Cam?" Kenny asked, sitting down next to his brother.
"Short for Kamahele," Kevin announced proudly, pronouncing the first part like 'comma.' "That means 'the traveler.'"
Kenny shrugged. Good for him.
"He gave all the students Hawaiian nicknames," Kevin said. "Hey, Leo, what was it you called Kare?"
"Kaliona," Leopold answered.
"Know what that means?" Kevin asked. "It means 'the lion'. She looks all quiet and shit when she's sitting there making daisy chains, but this guy," he pointed at Leo, "he knows better. So, tell me, dude, what would you call this loser over here?" He jerked his thumb in Kenny's direction.
Leopold locked eyes with Kenny for a moment. "Kakahi," he finally said, dropping his gaze.
Kevin roared with laughter. "Ka ka. That's fucking awesome." He wiped his eyes and looked suddenly contrite. "Sorry, Leo. That was rude."
"Aw, it's okay, Kam. It does sound kind of funny if you don't know what it means."
Kenny didn't get a chance to find out, either, because Kevin back to convincing Leopold to teach him how to twirl real actual flaming batons. Leopold glanced over at Kenny, who slowly shook his head, and Leopold gave a slight nod of acknowledgment. "I'm sorry, Kamahele, but I can't. I'll get in real dutch with my parents and the owners if anything happens."
"Weak," Kevin muttered. "Okay. How about you do it, then?"
Leopold picked up a glass and started drying it with a towel, even though it hadn't been wet to begin with. Kenny was sure he was afraid to tell Kevin no, and he was probably right, because Leopold ended up agreeing, but only after exacting a promise from them both that they wouldn't tell any of the other guests
When they met up on the beach later that night, it was a good distance from where the hula dancers performed. Leopold and a couple of the hotel employees had set up a small bonfire on the beach, and a few sets of batons, most of which had streamers attached, were laid out on a blanket. Kevin helped himself to a beer from a cooler someone had brought, and Kenny took a coconut water for himself, because he felt like he had to try one, and then someone picked up a set of drums and started to play.
Leopold and some of the other guys came out and danced, but it was nothing like the hula dancing going on at the hotel restaurant. The men wore big bulky loincloths that looked like oversized diapers (he wasn't even sure where they'd gone to change into those), and the dancing made Kenny think of ninja warriors, but like the girls, they moved as one. Someone picked up the batons and lit them, then passed them out to the dancers, and as much as Kenny wanted to run to the back of the crowd, away from the flaming torches, he could see why Kevin was so fascinated. There was something about watching the flames circle in the dark, combined with the drums and the smoky air from the bonfire that was kind of primal.
When Leopold approached Kevin and Kenny, he was holding three batons in each hand, none of them flaming, and he and Kevin demonstrated a pretty impressive routine that combined baton twirling and juggling — and when the fuck had Kevin learned to juggle? Kenny, Stan, and Kyle had learned when they thought of joining the circus in sixth grade (Cartman had spent all of his time there with the fortune teller), but he'd never thought his brother capable of anything that didn't involve beer, cars, or guns.
Kenny dropped his batons several times, and Leopold tossed one of his to Kevin and the other to Kenny, and the two brothers juggled, passing the batons back and forth. Leopold came back with three more batons, and everything Kenny had learned at the circus started to come back. Just when his arms were getting tired, Leopold removed one baton at a time, until all nine were on the sand. The number nine made him think of Marjorine, and he stole a beer from one of the coolers himself, walking toward the shoreline while Leopold and Kevin laughed over something.
He was sitting on the sand, sandals off, toes digging into the damp sand, when Kevin joined him. His brother sat down in the sand next to him and handed him a second beer. Kenny finished off the one he was holding and twisted the bottle into the sand, so it wouldn't wash out to the ocean, and tipped his head back to take a swig of the one Kevin had brought. They sat in silence for a while, just watching the waves crash against the shore.
"I don't want to go back," Kevin said.
Kenny snorted and took another drink from this bottle.
"I"m serious! I want to live here and become a native Hawaiian, and learn all that shit Leopold knows."
"Like mixing drinks?"
"Fuck you, Kenny." Kevin sounded genuinely hurt. "He knows all kinds of cool shit — and what they did with the batons, that was fucking awesome. Some day I'm going to stop dropping the fucking thing, and I'll get to do it with real fire." He threw his empty beer bottle into the recycle bin, all the way over near the fire, and made the shot, then got up and walked away, leaving Kenny sitting on the ground dumbfounded. He stared back out at the ocean and drained the rest of his beer, and was seriously considering sleeping out here when Leopold sat down next to him.
"You looked like you weren't having much fun," he offered by way of explanation.
Kenny shook his head. "Nah. You guys looked great. Thanks for inviting us." Even though they hadn't really been invited so much as Kevin shoehorning his way in.
"Is that what it's like, having a brother? Fighting and making up later?"
Kenny turned to look at Leopold, who was drawing in the sand with his finger. He never really gave it much thought, but it kind of summed up his relationship with Kevin — the fighting part, not the making up part.
Leopold shifted his position so he could continue his drawing. The gauze bandage was coming unwrapped, and the end was dragging in the sand. Leopold didn't seem to notice; he was too absorbed in what he was doing.
"I had a dream so big and loud. I jumped so high I touched the clouds," Leopold sang as he got up onto his knees to get a longer reach. Kenny a clear view of his back, and even in the pale moonlight, he could see the marks on Leopold's back. It explained why he'd been moving so slowly when they went to the canyon.
"What happened to your back?"
"I'm never gonna look back, whoa-oh-oh, I'm never gonna give it up," Leopold continued, as if he hadn't heard.
"This is gonna be the best day of my life. My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife, oooo-ooo-oo-oo-oo," Leopold sang even louder as he scooted away from Kenny, continuing his work in the sand.
Kenny got up on his knees, too, and moved closer. "Leopold," he said quietly, giving up on overpowering Leopold's singing. "What happened?"
Leopold scrambled to his feet, kicking at some of the artwork he'd made in the sand. "Nothing," he said. "I just need to...to learn discipline, is all."
Kenny's eyes narrowed. "Discipline, like, martial arts?"
Leopold nodded frantically. "Yes. Like that." He rubbed at his nose, realized his hand was covered with sand, and went to wipe his fingers on his malo before realizing he was still wearing his costume. "Oh, hamburgers," he whispered, sounding small and scared and nothing like the happy go lucky guy Kenny was used to.
Kenny grabbed Leopold's wrist and brushed the rest of the sand off himself. "Wait here a sec," he said, running to the cooler to snag two more beers. "Here," he said, holding one out to Leopold. "You look like you could use this."
Leopold shook his head. "I'm not old enough to drink."
"It's okay. I'm not either."
Leopold accepted the bottle and held it by only two fingers, as if it was contaminated and he didn't want any contact with it. Kenny sighed. He didn't know why he was bothering, except he felt kind of bad for Leopold, and guilty about making Kevin upset.
"A toast," he suggested. "Just one sip, to toast our friendship."
Leopold looked torn, but when Kenny touched the neck of his bottle to Leopold's, he nodded.
"To my good friend Kenny," he said, lifting the bottle to his lips. One swallow later and Leopold was spitting it out in the sand. "Son of a biscuit, that's awful."
"It takes a while to get used to. If you drink it faster, you won't taste it as much."
Leopold nodded again and took a longer swig, wincing as he swallowed. "Still tastes like pee."
Kenny shrugged. "You could always shotgun it." He demonstrated, relaxing his throat muscles so the beer would go straight down.
Leopold managed to drink most of it before he started coughing and sputtering. "That gave me a headache," he complained.
Kenny glanced at the label on the bottle Leopold held and swore under his breath. He'd grabbed the impossible to find 130 proof Armageddon for himself, but had given it to Leopold instead.
"I think I need to sit down," Leopold mumbled, wandering toward the water's edge.
Kenny followed him and grabbed his arm, leading him away from the ocean. "Let's take a walk," he said, cursing himself for giving Leo the wrong beer. It was the kind of mistake a scared novice drinker would make the first time he snuck a beer. He'd been too stoked when he realized there was an actual fucking Armageddon in the cooler; that was the problem.
Leopold nodded, but he was beginning to stagger, so Kenny kept a grip on his arm. "So no brothers of your own, then," he said.
"Nope," Leopold said with a shake of his head. "Or sisters."
"So Marjorine. She looks like she could be your twin."
"Uh huh," Leopold nodded. "She could be. She's not, though."
Leopold jerked his arm away. "I know what you're doin'. You're only bein' nice to me because of Marjorine."
"No, I'm not," Kenny protested.
"Do you want to fuck her?" Leopold asked. "Because you can't. I won't let you."
Leopold was a definite lightweight. In addition to his slurred speech, any inhibitions or reservations he had about speaking his mind were completely gone.
Kenny took a deep breath. "Leo..."
"You don't even know anything about her," Leopold continued. "You don't know who she is, or what she likes, or where she came from, or anything."
"I know she's a good listener. I know she doesn't judge a book by its cover, and the only reason she dances is to help out the others when they need her. And I know that no matter how much she smiles or how many people she surrounds herself with, she's lonely."
Leopold stopped where he was and sat down on the sand, looking up at Kenny. "You saw that?"
"Yeah," Kenny said, dropping down next to Leopold.
"She's not who you think she is, you know."
Kenny shrugged. "You don't know who I think she is."
Leopold laughed. "Yes, I do. You wouldn't want to fuck her if you knew."
"I don't want to fuck her!" It was only a little lie, because it wasn't the only thing Kenny wanted.
"You don't?" Leopold looked confused. "You think she's ugly, don't you?" He looked like he was going to cry.
"I don't think she's ugly!" Kenny was developing a headache of his own.
"There are things you should know about Marjorine. I should tell you —"
"Then she should tell me herself, if she wants me to know."
"But you don't know her!" Leopold was getting agitated.
"But I want to! And what the fuck is your problem? You act like I'm going to get her pregnant and take off."
"No," Leopold shook his head. "You won't get her pregnant."
Kenny wondered if that was some kind of threat. It was hard to tell, because Leopold had been pretty blunt with everything else he'd said, but he also looked like he was falling asleep. In fact, Kenny was pretty sure he was asleep.
"Leo," he said, shaking the other teen. "Hey, Leo."
A small snore erupted, and Kenny sighed as he pulled one of Leopold's arms around his shoulders and stood up, hoisting Leo up with him. "Come on, dude, you're fucking heavy."
"Yeah, it's Kenny."
"I'm not gay."
Of course Leopold would think Kenny was coming on to him. Of course. It was just what he fucking needed. "That's great, Leo. Neither am I."
"I'm what they call bi-curious."
So was Kenny, but that was the sort of information he shared on a need to know basis only. "Sure, great. Anything else you'd like to tell me while you're at it?"
"I'm always screwing up," Leo mumbled. "I screw up, and I need to control myself."
"Leopold, what happened to your back?"
"Came home after curfew the other night. I don't know how many times I need to be told. You'd think I'd know better by now. My dad was like, 'Now Butters, this is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you,' but I think it hurt me a whole lot worse."
"Yeah?" Leopold asked, stumbling over his own feet. Kenny barely managed to keep them both from falling on their faces.
"You want to maybe crash with me and Kev in our room tonight, so your dad doesn't see you like this?"
"Like what? It's my face, isn't it? My stupid face looks like a girl's."
"Your face is fine," Kenny assured him. "You look like you."
"I do look like me," Leopold announced, sounding surprised.
"You are definitely bunking with us tonight," Kenny said. "Can you call your parents and tell them you're staying with a friend?"
Leopold turned around, cupped his hands around his mouth, and yelled, "Haku! Hey, Haku!"
"Hey, Butters!" Haku yelled back.
"Tell my parents I'm staying at a friend's tonight!" He turned to Kenny and blinked sleepily. "I think I need to lie down."
"You can do that when we get to my room," Kenny said. "But you need to walk."
"I can walk," Leopold assured him, and then stumbled again and fell to his knees. Thankfully Kenny spied Kevin standing with a couple of the hula dancers, drinking a beer.
"Kev!" he yelled, waving his arm in the air. "A little help here!"
"What the fuck did you give him?" Kevin asked as he hoisted Leopold's other arm over his shoulder. The two brothers managed to keep him mostly upright all the way to the elevator.
"An Armageddon," Kenny mumbled.
"An Arma-fuckin-geddon? Oh man, you'd better hope Tua never finds out you're the one who stole his beer. He got that shit from a friend in England or Scotland or Iceland or some land." He looked at Leopold's slack jaw and chuckled. "Shit, little fella doesn't drink much, does he?"
"Doesn't look like it," Kenny said, and he and Kevin shared a laugh.
"Just so you know, he's sleeping in your bed, Kenny."
"Whatever." There was a perfectly good loveseat in their suite that was almost long enough for Leopold to sleep in.
The problem with almost long enough, Kenny discovered when they got to their room, was that the loveseat wasn't actually long enough, and since Leopold was all floppy and clumsy, it was impossible to get him to curl up on the loveseat, even after they managed to get him out of the malo. They finally gave up and dropped Leopold in Kenny's bed, where he curled into a ball and fell asleep almost immediately.
"Dude, you got him so fucking wasted." Kevin scratched his head. "That was pretty fucking stupid, you know. His dad is probably going to kill him after this. What the fuck were you thinking?"
"I don't fucking know," Kenny moaned. "His back. Did you see his back?"
Leopold was in Kenny's bed wearing only his underwear, and Kevin looked at Kenny like he was stupid. "You just noticed? It actually looks a hell of a lot better than it did when we went surfing yesterday."
"You surf?" Kenny hadn't given any thought to what either his brother or Leopold had done after he got back from the canyon, because he'd grabbed brunch and taken a nap until he went to get Karen for supper.
"I do lots of things, dick hole. I'm even good at some of them."
Kenny winced. Kevin was definitely still upset, and Kenny supposed he couldn't blame him.
"Sorry, Kev. For being an asshole."
Kevin put him in a headlock and gave him a noogie. "You can't help being you," he said, and with that, Kenny knew he was forgiven.
They sat on the edge of Kevin's bed. "He's drooling all over your pillow. Might even puke in your bed."
Kenny punched Kevin in the arm, and Kevin punched him back even harder.
"If only Karen could see him now," Kenny mused.
"Leopold's a cool guy, but she's not gonna see him almost naked like this. Besides, now she's into this douchey prep school kid."
Kenny assumed this was the mysterious Steve that had been polite enough not to give her a hickey. "What douchey prep school kid?"
"Don't know, don't care. They all look alike to me with their hair and their faces and the way they talk. All I care about is that he remembers to keep his dick in his pants and his hands out of her shirt." Kevin cracked his knuckles, and Kenny figured his brother had probably had a 'talk' with Steve. He felt a little guilty for finding all this out after the fact, but Kevin was taller and meaner and definitely the type who would break a guy in half for fucking with his sister. He was secretly kind of proud of Kev for that.
Leopold twitched in his sleep, and mumbled something under his breath, and both brothers sighed in unison.
"Lucky bastard. I'm serious, Kenny, I think I want to stay out here. I've never felt this happy before."
Kenny understood his brother's desire to stay. He felt the attraction himself — to the weather, the people, to Marjorine, the food, the borderline luxury, and even hanging out with someone like Leopold, who was nothing like the guys back home. The thing was that Kevin had no job, no friends, no place to live, and there was a difference between the idyllic setting the contest had given them and the real world, even in Hawaii. He kept his mouth shut, however; he'd already upset Kevin once and for all he knew, his brother had thought of that already. God knew things couldn't be much worse than they were in South Park.
To be honest, he was a little envious that Kevin at least had a dream, even if it was one that he'd just thought of. He felt suddenly uncomfortable, knowing he'd underestimated his brother and that Kevin knew more about Karen's secret vacation crush than he did, and that he was responsible for Leopold being passed out in his bed. He and Kevin both sighed again.
"I'm goin' to bed," Kevin announced. He grabbed one of the pillows from his bed and gave it to Kenny. "Yours is over there," he said, gesturing toward the loveseat.
Kenny thought of taking a shower first; sometimes he did his best thinking in the shower and there was something therapeutic about cleansing his body, but when he stood up, he realized how exhausted he was. He curled up on the loveseat the best he could and fell asleep almost as quickly as Leopold had.
He was woken two hours later by the sound of screaming, and he nearly fell off the loveseat as he sat up, disoriented and wondering where he was. The scream stopped abruptly, and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He could clearly hear the long jagged breaths, the attempt to calm down, and he went to his bed where Leopold sat shivering, his arms wrapped around himself. Without thinking, Kenny sat next to him and put an arm around his shoulders.
"Breathe," he said, and Leopold did, more slowly this time, and eventually the shivering stopped.
"Sorry," Leopold mumbled. "That happens sometimes."
Kenny scooted back until he was against the headboard, taking Leopold with him, and they sat there for a while until Leopold asked, "Do you think I woke Kam?"
"He can sleep through anything," Kenny assured him. At least he could after a few drinks. Kenny had no idea how much Kevin had consumed earlier, but he must have had some pretty good ones if he'd slept through that.
"Um, Kenny," Leopold whispered, "I have to pee."
Kenny realized he still had his arm around Leopold's shoulders, and he lifted his arm and winced as the pins and needles hit. "Ow. Right there," he gestured to the bathroom.
"Do you have any toothpaste? My mouth tastes all icky."
"On the sink."
Kenny dozed off while Leopold was in the bathroom, and he woke with a start when the mattress dipped as Leopold crawled back into bed.
"Sorry, Kenny. I tried to go real slow."
"Don't worry about it," Kenny yawned. He should get back to the loveseat, or ask Leopold to go over there, but he was too tired to care where Leopold slept. His own body felt heavy and it was no wonder Kevin was knocked out, because whatever beers they'd been drinking were not the PBRs they were used to back home. He'd move to the loveseat as soon as he rested his eyes for a little while.
Just a little while.
He woke when the cold water hit him square in the face. He tried to sit up, but realized he was anchored by a heavy weight across his chest. He thought he might be in Hell and fought to get free when he heard Kevin laughing.
"Cute," Kevin said. "You guys are real cute."
Kenny realized the weight holding him down was Leopold's arm, and he wriggled to the side until he fell off the bed.
"So did you pitch or catch last night? You were catching, weren't you?"
"Come on. I could hear you last night. 'My mouth tastes icky.' 'Sorry, Kenny, I meant to go slow.' 'Oh, ow, right there,'" Kevin grinned as he recited some of their conversation in a tone of voice neither Kenny nor Leopold had used in context.
Kenny grabbed one of the plastic wrapped cups from the nightstand and threw it at Kevin's head, where it bounced off harmlessly. "You're such a dick."
"Yeah, but I'm not the one sleeping with another guy."
Leopold rolled over, smacked his knuckles on the nightstand and woke up, cradling his hand against his chest. "What time is it?"
"'Bout eight," Kevin replied. "You'd better get to work before you're late."
"I don't have any clothes."
Kenny glanced at the malo sitting on the desk. He supposed he wouldn't want to go home wearing that either, especially if the whole reason for not going home was to not get grounded.
"You can take something of Kenny's," Kevin offered, pointing at one of the two suitcases.
Leopold looked at Kenny for approval, and Kenny sighed. "Yeah, go ahead."
"Might want to take a shower first," Kevin said. "You reek."
"Oh, hamburgers," Leopold muttered, running into the bathroom.
Kenny, still dripping from the water Kevin had thrown at him, shook his head like a dog. "What the fuck are you doing up this early?"
"Someone has to look after you losers."
Kenny took his first good look at his brother, who never got up before noon after a night of drinking. He wondered if Leopold had woken him up after all, and then he noticed that Kevin looked presentable. He wasn't dressed up by any means, but he was freshly showered, his hair was neatly combed, and his clothes, casual though they were, were clean and unwrinkled. Kevin looked uncomfortable with the scrutiny, and he went to bang on the bathroom door.
"C'mon, Leo, get a move on!"
"I'm coming!" Leopold called back, and Kevin looked at Kenny as if to say 'I told you so.' Kenny flipped him off, and Kevin cuffed him on the back of the head.
"Get him some clothes. It's your fault he's going to be late."
Guilt was a strong motivator, and Kenny hated that Kevin was right. He pulled out a shirt he'd only worn once on this trip, and some denim shorts that had once been a pair of jeans (Kevin's first, then Kenny's), and after some hesitation, he threw in a pair of underwear as well, which made Kevin nod at him knowingly. He gave his brother the finger again just before the door opened and Leopold came out, totally nude and rubbing a towel through his hair. He spied the clothes Kenny had laid out and looked up questioningly.
"Yeah, yeah, those," Kenny said, turning his head. Kevin was laughing silently, and Kenny felt his face flush. It wasn't like he was trying to check out Leopold's junk, but it was right fucking there. It was like not watching a car wreck; you knew you shouldn't gawk, but you just had to.
The same guilt that made Kenny give up his bed and his underwear also had him walking Leopold to the bar. A brown-haired man, about the same age as Kenny's father, was behind the bar setting out cocktail napkins and toothpicks. When he saw Leopold and Kenny, he stood there with his arms crossed and a look of disapproval marring an otherwise handsome face.
"Is this the friend you stayed with last night?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," Leopold replied meekly.
"Butters, how many times have I told you not to go off with one of the..." he gave Kenny a once over, "...guests?"
"You are so grounded, young man."
Leopold's father looked at Kenny, clearly expecting him to leave. Kenny didn't know if it was because he wanted to finish scolding Leopold in private, or because he didn't like the way Kenny looked, but either one was reason enough for Kenny to sit down and order an orange juice. He even pulled a couple of dollars out of his pocket to show he was a paying customer, and with one final scowl, Leopold's father left them alone.
"Butters, huh?" Kenny asked.
"Yeah." Leopold set the glass of juice down and slid it across the bar. "That's me."
Kenny sipped at his juice, despite the nagging thirst. He had a feeling if he finished it too quickly, Leopold's father would call hotel security or something for loitering, even though Kenny was a hotel guest with every right to be there.
"Kenny," Leopold said with a sigh. "About Marjorine..."
He'd nearly forgotten about Marjorine. His stomach, already twisted in knots from guilt, and a little queasy from the unfamiliar variety of beers, did a flip. He was leaving tomorrow, and the vacation paradise he'd been living would come to a screeching halt. He missed his friends, but as Cartman had pointed out on a few occasions, his friends kind of sucked.
"Yep," he said. "About Marjorine." He ran his finger around the rim of the glass and took a deep breath. "Look, Leo, I know you're uncomfortable with the whole Marjorine thing."
Leopold blinked. "You do?"
"Yeah. And you know I'm leaving tomorrow, right?"
"Yes, I know." Leopold sounded incredibly sad.
"I hate to ask you this, but can you get Marjorine to meet me one last time? Just for a walk on the beach, to talk, so I can say good-bye."
Leopold started to shake his head, and Kenny leaned forward and grabbed his arm. "Please, Leo."
"But I'm - " He looked over his shoulder as if expecting his father to materialize suddenly. His gaze swung back to Kenny, and he sighed. "Well, all right, then," he conceded, and Kenny could have jumped over the bar and kissed him. Platonically speaking, of course. Leopold leaned forward and lowered his voice. "But it'll have to be late. Like midnight."
"You're a good friend, Leo," Kenny said, hopping down from the bar stool. A midnight rendezvous, on a night with a full moon. It couldn't get any more perfect than that. He was so ecstatic over getting to see Marjorine one more time, he didn't notice the way Leopold's fingers curled into loose fists, or the way he rubbed his knuckles together as he watched Kenny walk away.
They walked along the beach in companionable silence. Kenny liked that about Marjorine; she understood that you didn't always need to talk to fill the silence the way Stan or Cartman or Kyle did. For a girl who'd gone out and gotten implants, something that was sure to draw attention, she was surprisingly reserved. She reminded him of a blonde Wendy Testaburger, without the in-your-face causes to promote. Marjorine came to a stop and stared out at the moonlight reflected on the water, and Kenny stood next to her. He thought she'd comment on how pretty it looked, which it did, but then he thought she looked pretty, too.
Who was he kidding. He'd thought she was fucking hot from the moment he saw her, but he also liked her more than he'd liked any other girl, and that made him want to bone her all the more. Except that he was leaving tomorrow, and he'd never see her again, and as much as he wanted to get in her pants, he didn't want to ruin what they had right now, no matter how tempting it was. He looked over at her strong profile and the way her chin lifted slightly, as if in defiance of something in the universe, and he reached over to brush his knuckles against her cheek.
She sighed and leaned into the caress, then she jerked away and crossed her arms over her ample chest.
"Marjorine," he said, moving behind her and putting his hands on her shoulders. She was as tall as he was, making it a little awkward, but she shivered, then reached up to cover one of his hands with hers. It seemed pretty clear to him that she felt something, too.
"I wish I could stay here forever," he murmured, and he thought she stiffened for a moment, but then she relaxed and he thought he may have imagined it. Or maybe she was just fighting the urge to turn around and jump on him, wrapping her legs around his waist so he could lay her down in the sand and bury himself inside her. Fucking hell, just the thought of it had him half aroused. "Marjorine...don't you wish..."
She took a step away and turned to face him, and she looked so sad that Kenny wanted to cry. "No," she said, in that quiet, breathy way that she had. "I try not to make wishes anymore. I mean..." she sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. "It's like...okay, have you heard the tale of Naupaka and Kaui?"
Kenny shook his head.
She turned her back to him to face the ocean again. "Naupaka was a royal princess, who fell in love with Kaui, a commoner."
Kenny winced. He knew that in this story, he was the commoner, and the tone of Marjorine's voice didn't exactly promise a happy ending.
"They wished to be together, even prayed to be together. Some say Naupaka's sister Pele was jealous and killed them both. Some say they simply parted ways, knowing they could never be together, with Naupaka returning to the mountains and Kaui to the sea." She reached up to remove the flower in her hair, but Kenny grabbed her wrist to stop her. He spun her around and ran his hands up and down her arms, looking into her eyes.
"Marjorine," he said hoarsely. She was gazing at him with such raw emotion, he couldn't help but lean forward to capture her lips with his.
She immediately began to struggle, pushing against his chest with surprising force, and he tore his mouth away from hers.
"I'm sorry," he rasped. "Fucking hell, Marjorine, I'm sorry. I just..." he cupped her cheek. "There's something about you that makes me forget who I am or what I should be doing." He ran his thumb over her bottom lip, still damp from their kiss. "God, Marjorine, it's just...all we have left is tonight."
She blinked several times, and sucked in a breath. "Kenny, it's not — I just — you don't — " She swallowed, took another breath, and released it slowly. "There's something I need to — "
"Don't," he cut her off roughly. "If you don't want this as much as I do, tell me now, because I feel like I'll die if I don't kiss you."
He slid his hand to the back of her neck and leaned in a second time, much more slowly, and when she didn't turn her head away, he tentatively licked her lower lip, then trailed a few kisses along her jawline. Her breath hitched, and when he finally slipped his tongue in her mouth, she grabbed Kenny's shirt with both hands and pulled him closer to deepen the kiss. God, he wanted her. Just when her tongue started to tangle with his, and he thought it might be a good time to go for one of her boobs, she shoved him away, hard, knocking him on his ass. She yanked the flower from her hair with shaking hands, tore part of it off, and tossed the one of the pieces on the ground next to Kenny.
"I'm sorry, Kenny," she choked out. "I can't — you just don't — I have to — I'm not — oh, God, I'm so, so sorry." Her voice sounded rough, like she was crying. She shoved the fingers of one hand into her hair and gripped tightly, tugging like she was going to tear it right out of her scalp. For a moment, Kenny thought she was going to do exactly that, but she dropped her hands to her sides, curled her fingers into fists, and then turned and ran away.
As much as he wanted to chase after her, to explain she meant something to him, he knew what she was going to say. He was the commoner, the poor white trash from the wrong side of the tracks, and while Kenny was fun to talk to and cute enough to flirt with and make out with, that was all he'd ever be. He didn't care if he was being unreasonable or that Leopold might have been right about how he barely knew anything about Marjorine. This entire vacation had been like a trip to Fantasy Island, only there was no Mr. Roarke to explain the consequences or to provide sage advice when things went sour.
He picked up the torn flower Marjorine had flung at him and drew his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs and resting his chin on his knees. Marjorine obviously didn't want to want him, and all he had now was the memory of that one perfect moment when she'd kissed him back.
In the morning the McCormicks got one last free breakfast, being the last day of their vacation, but Kenny picked at his food, Kevin glared at his plate and didn't eat at all, and Karen looked at them both with concern. Kenny sat in the fucking aisle seat on the flight home and pulled his hood over his head and said very little, even when Kevin snarled at him and took the PSP again.
The magic of their vacation had ended the moment Marjorine had walked away from him, and only got worse when they set foot on the plane. Their father was well on his way to getting drunk, Kevin acted like they were mortal enemies, and Karen was huddled into herself, barely looking up at the flight attendant when she asked if Karen wanted anything to drink. Kenny didn't know if it was just that they were all dealing with the return to reality in their own way, if they'd all regressed further back than they'd ever been, or if it was just the way it had always been and he'd just forgotten during their short stay in Kauai.
When they got back to the shit hole they called home, Kevin took off for parts unknown and Kenny used jet lag as the reason he didn't get out of bed for a full eighteen hours (excepting those times when he needed to take a piss). Then his mother forced him out of bed and back to school, as he'd already missed the first two days after the winter break. It didn't much matter; Kenny hung out with Stan and Kyle and Cartman, did what they wanted to do, and said very little. As far as anyone else was concerned, there was nothing different about Kenny at all.
Nothing at all.
By the next week, however, something was different with Stan.
"The new guy is such a douche," he complained, slamming his bottle of Gatorade on the table next to his lunch tray.
"Really?" Kyle asked, taking a sip of his bottled water. "I like him."
"You would, Jew. You like him because he's a pussy and he comes to school dressed like an accountant. I happen to know that he is, in fact, a douche, but the real reason Stan's got sand in his vagina is because his ex-ho has been trying all week to get the fag to ask her out," Cartman offered. He took a big bite out of his hamburger and pointed it at Stan, spraying bits of ground beef and ketchup on the table. "Fuck that shit."
"How do you even know, Cartman?" Kyle asked. "You're not in any of their classes."
"That's what you know, Jew. The queer's in my gym class," Cartman said, taking another huge bite.
"Like you even go to gym class," Kyle pointed out.
"I go," Cartman corrected him. "I just can't participate, because I pulled a muscle in my groin."
All eyes swung to Kenny, expecting a snicker at the very least. Kenny shrugged, totally not interested, and took a sip of his school-provided milk.
"Something wrong, Kenny?" Kyle asked, sounding concerned.
"He got the clap on vacation," Cartman decided. "But he's too poor to get antibiotics for it."
"Guys," Stan said, "I don't know what to do. This guy is really smart, and Wendy really likes him."
"You're smart," Kyle said loyally.
"Yeah, but I'm not like, all nerd smart like you," Stan pointed out, insulting his best friend.
"It's a Jew thing," Cartman said, spraying bits of bread and burger on the table. "Kyle and Ike are both total nerds."
"Shut up, fat ass!"
"The truth hurts, Ky-ell. It hurts like Kenny's clap-infected penis. 'Ey!" he yelled suddenly, as he was struck by a plastic fork. He rubbed the outer edge of his eye. "Fuck you, Kenny."
Kenny just glowered at him, and then the bell rang, and he and Stan went to English while Kyle went to his calc class and Cartman headed for the nurse since he was nearly blind and he'd totally sue Kenny if he was fucking worth anything.
It was just Kenny and Stan on the bus after school, because Kyle had a mathletes meeting — one that the new guy was being actively recruited for - and Cartman was lying down in the nurse's office (which probably meant he was taking a nap) until his mom came to pick him up.
"Maybe I should join the mathletes," Stan told Kenny. "I mean, Kyle's on the team, and he's my best friend."
Since Wendy was on the team, that would give Stan another chance with her, where Kenny had had no fucking chance at all with Marjorine. He hated feeling like a whiny pussy but he was back to sleeping on a mattress with broken springs and eating cheap generic toaster pastries and listening to his parents screaming at each other, as if the whole fucking trip had been a dream he'd been rudely woken from.
It made Kenny itch to drop some acid. Kyle had tried it once, when the Broflovskis had moved to California for a while, and said he'd tripped his balls off. That sounded pretty cool to Kenny, who had been roped into helping Cartman with the smug that had enveloped San Francisco, even though Cartman supposedly hated Kyle. Kenny hadn't even been Cartman's first choice (so much for being his so-called best friend); Scott Malkinson had, but Scott insisted he couldn't go all the way to California without his insulin and some juice and so it had been Kenny who got sucked into the void when San Francisco went up its own ass.
It was one of the weirder ways he'd died, in that it was less like dying and more like ceasing to exist, until he found himself back in his bed, in his own clothes, and not remembering a whole lot of what happened in between, which had freaked him out a little for the very strangeness of the whole thing.
Maybe he could score some pot from his brother, if Kevin ever stayed home long enough to talk to. That would probably be better than tripping on acid.
Kevin wasn't around, but he must have been at one point because there wasn't a single beer left in the house by the time Kenny got home. Kenny ended up doing his math homework and reading half of the assigned pages for English (because there was only so much Shakespeare the average person could read without a translator) and doodling in the margins of his notebook instead of studying for a science exam that was he was pretty sure was this week.
He found out the next day, while waiting at the bus stop with the others, that a) Stan didn't make the mathletes team (no surprise there); b) the new guy did, and c) the new guy had gone with Wendy, Bebe, and some of the other girls for ice cream to celebrate. That Kyle and Ike had gone with them only meant that Stan grilled Kyle on how many times Wendy had touched the guy's arm, and how many times she'd laughed at something he'd said, and whether she'd leaned in close to him, and especially if either of them had eaten ice cream off the other's spoon.
The answers given (by Ike, who had an eidetic memory) were four, seven, and no (at least Ike didn't think so; he answered with the disclaimer that he hadn't gone for ice cream to study teenage mating rituals), and Kyle had been too busy answering the two hundred texts that Stan kept sending, asking those very same questions, for Kyle to have noticed what was or wasn't going on between Wendy and the new guy.
By lunchtime it was common knowledge that Wendy was going to the library after school to study 'with a group of friends' which had Stan all pissed off again, and Cartman asked why Stan even fucking cared, since he and Wendy were ancient history.
Stan got all huffy about how he didn't care, but he and Wendy were still friends and they hung out together and he thought she deserved better than some boring brainiac from California (which, if you thought of it, Kyle sort of was, if you counted the time in San Francisco), and Kyle pointed out the guy wasn't even from California, and somehow Cartman turned that into an insult against Kyle, and Kenny was tempted to kill himself just to get away from the drama for a day or two — maybe more, depending on the whims of his curse.
He didn't have to bother, because he was decapitated by an overpowered laser pointer in English class and was gone nearly a week that time. When he came back, he heard Wendy had a new boyfriend, who, in Kenny's brief absence, was already part of Craig's gang of losers, and it really was true that misery loved company, because Kenny felt a little bit better, knowing that Stan was miserable, too.
The first thing Butters noticed when he got off the plane in Colorado was how cold it was. He'd been told to dress warmly, but none of the jackets or sweaters he owned could have prepared him for this; not unless he put them all on at once. They waited at baggage claim for what seemed like an eternity, and after the last few unclaimed bags went around and around, and none of the other passengers were waiting there with them, it was clear that Butters' bag had gone missing. His father asked if he'd put the right claim ticket on the bag, but Butters hadn't put the sticker on, the nice woman at the counter, the one who smiled at him, had done it at the check-in desk at Lihue, just like with his parents' bags. Regardless, he knew it had to be his fault somehow, especially since it didn't seem like anyone else was missing theirs.
It took a while to fill out the missing baggage report, and they were all tired and disoriented with how dark it was, since the plane out of Kauai had departed at 6:00AM and their last flight landed in Denver at 3:00PM, according to Butters' watch, but he'd forgotten to reset it from Aleutian Time to Mountain Time. They were all a little hungry and cranky from the long flight, and the best part of the entire trip was when his dad went to the drive-through window at McDonald's. They couldn't eat in the rental car, so it was kind of cold and dry when they finally pulled up in front of the brown house they'd be calling home from now on, but Butters ate his cold Big Mac like it was the best thing he'd ever tasted.
They'd left their furniture behind, because it was cheaper to buy new than to ship what they had to the continental United States. The new furniture wasn't being delivered until tomorrow, though, so they went to a nearby sporting goods store for winter coats and sleeping bags, which they rolled out in the living room. Despite losing his luggage and knowing it was all his fault, it was kind of fun, the way he'd imagine a camp out must be like, and he was sure tomorrow would be a better day, even when he was too wide awake to fall asleep right away. He unzipped his bag as quietly as he could and knelt in front of the window facing the street, wondering what the neighbors were like.
He met one of them the next day, when the doorbell rang at 10:00 local time. Butters woke up confused and tangled in the sleeping bag, and he looked at his parents in a panic when the bell rang a second time. He stumbled to the door and pulled it open. Standing on his doorstep was a stocky young man about his own age.
"It's about time," the stranger said.
"Uh, hi," Butters said cautiously. "Who are you?"
"Cartman," the other boy said. "Eric T. Cartman."
"Butters," his mother yawned from her sleeping bag. "Why don't you go hang out with your friend outside for a while?"
"All right, then," he said, zipping up the coat he'd worn to bed and pulling mittens out of his pocket.
"Butters," Eric T. Cartman said. "Your name is fucking Butters?"
"Well, that's what they call me."
Eric put an arm around Butters' shoulders and walked with him. "Let me tell you how things are around here, Butters. May I call you Butters? Word on the street is you're going to Park County tomorrow. That means you'll spend the first part of your day in the main office — you'll want to watch out for Craig, by the way, because he's a total asshole — and then you'll be thrown into your classes, like a sheep to the wolves. It won't be easy, Butters. They'll eat you alive, new kid, junior year, from out of town." He looked at Butters appraisingly. "You need someone to show you the ropes, to point out the douche bags from North Park — you'll want to stay away from them, too — and you'll need to hang out with someone popular. That's where I come in." He reached inside his coat and pulled out a business card.
"Parental Revenge Center," Butters read.
"Not that side, the other side," Eric said, "although I'm also the CEO of that venture, if you ever find yourself in need of our services."
Handwritten on the back, in block letters, were the words Navigating the Social Hierarchy of High School and a phone number.
"You need someone like me, Butters. You're a fish, fresh meat, and it doesn't take long to fall in with the wrong crowd. You've got four months until summer vacation, Butters. Do you want to waste that time getting shoved into lockers?"
"We offer an excellent selection of services," Eric continued, pulling out a folded sheet of loose leaf paper. "You'll see our basic services start with pointing out the assholes to avoid, but you can upgrade to our Silver Package which tells you which electives to take and which to avoid, or our Gold Package which allows you to sit at the table of the cool kids."
Each option had a price next to it, and Butters handed it back. "I'm sorry, Eric, but I don't have any money for this."
"We offer a financing plan. You just need to provide a few details about any allowance you receive."
"Well my luggage got lost on the way over here, and I need my allowance to buy some clothes and stuff for school."
"You're breakin' my balls, Butters. Did you notice there's an a la carte option to help you pick out clothes that won't get you wedgied on the first day?"
Butters sighed. He liked Eric, with his enthusiasm and concern for Butters' high school experience, but he just couldn't afford it right now. "I'm real sorry, Eric, I just can't."
Eric folded the paper back up and tapped it against the palm of his hand. "That's coo', that's coo'. Well, keep the card, in case you change your mind."
"Thanks, Eric! So do you want to hang out later?"
"Butters, you're wearing flip flops and a winter coat. No, I don't want to hang out with you."
"You're right," Butters said, looking down at his feet in dismay. "I should get back inside before I freeze to death. Thanks, Eric. I'll see you around!"
"Yes, you will," Cartman said quietly as he watched the new kid walk back to his house. "You will."
Butters' first day at Park County was delayed, due to a snow storm, which introduced him to a back breaking day of shoveling, but when he finally got to the school, it went much like Eric had predicted. He spent a lot of time in the office, first waiting for their computer to get an internet connection to download his transcript, then filling out his student profile twice, followed by picking out classes and getting a schedule. The same kid that had been slouching in a chair outside the principal's office when he arrived was still there when he left, and when Butters glanced at him on his way out, the kid flipped him off.
He missed the first two periods, but he made it to Calculus, where he discovered the class here at Park County was way behind what the class he'd taken at Kauai High. At least he was able to follow along with the lecture portion of the class, dutifully taking notes and doodling in the margins when the teacher repeated everything he'd just said. It wasn't until the end of class that a crowd of students surrounded him, each with a hundred questions.
Yes, he was really from Hawaii, he told them. He was in Colorado because his mother had been transferred to a firm in Denver. No, his father wasn't an engineer, too, he was an accountant. No, neither of his parents were hula dancers, but he himself had danced with the hula dancers at the resort where his father had been a manager. Yes, Hawaii had internet and movie theaters and fast food; no, they hadn't had any volcanoes erupt lately. Yes, he could surf; no, he couldn't ski, unless it was on water; and he and his last girlfriend had broken up almost a year ago, so he wasn't involved in a long-distance relationship.
One of the girls in his class, Wendy, asked to see his class schedule, and upon seeing that they had many of the same classes, volunteered to show him around the school. He soon discovered Wendy was one of the more popular girls in school, and he had a good feeling about his first day, right up until lunchtime when he found his locker had been trashed. The outside pockets on his new backpack were completely torn off, the extra pencils he'd neatly arranged in a magnetic bin were broken, pages were torn from notebooks, and a dashboard hula doll hung by its neck from the top shelf.
"I know who's behind this," Wendy fumed next to him. "He won't get away with this."
Butters was flattered that Wendy was ready to defend him, but he remembered what Eric had said about his reputation as the new kid. The last thing he needed was for the entire school to think he was a little pussy who needed a girl stick up for him. Besides, maybe it was just one or two who were just hazing him, and that wouldn't be so bad. There were lots of kids at the school who seemed really nice, and it wasn't like he hadn't had his share of bullying to deal with back in Hawaii from time to time.
It didn't make the rest of the day much easier, however, because as the day progressed, he had to deal with the ball point pen someone had snapped in half and left on his desk in Physics. The dark blue ink dripped onto his new pants, and he tried to clean it up with stiff paper towels from the classroom sink. His parents were going to ground him for sure over that.
Then there was the spitball attack during health class — he only turned around once and got scolded for not paying attention to the slide show — and after that he tried to pretend he didn't notice every time a wet wad of paper hit the back of his neck. At the end of class, he leaned over the wastebasket and ruffled his hair, releasing a shower of spitballs, and after that, he thought he'd probably faced the worst they were going to throw at him, until the end of the day when, true to Eric's prediction, he was shoved from behind, followed by the locker door slamming shut.
"Hello?" He called out a few times. He could hear other students milling about, and he banged on the door from the inside, hoping someone would hear him. His legs were starting to cramp and his shoulders hurt from stooping and he started singing himself to pass the time. Suddenly the door swung open and he blinked a few times, his eyes adjusting to the bright light after the dark interior of the locker. Standing in front of him was a gangly preteen that Butters recognized from Calculus.
"They'll get bored after a while," Ike said, reaching out a hand to help pull Butters out.
"I hope so," Butters said, arching his back to stretch it out. "Thanks. I thought I might be stuck in there all night."
"It sucks being the new kid and being different," Ike observed. He said it like he had some experience in that, and Butters supposed he must, since he was like eleven or twelve and a junior in high school.
Butters reached into his locker for his backpack and shut the door. "Yeah."
"Just watch your back," Ike advised. "And make sure you have a cell phone on you at all times and that the battery's charged. Scott Malkinson spent an entire weekend locked up, and he's diabetic."
Butters wasn't sure which one was Scott Malkinson, but he nodded. "Thanks again."
Ike gave him a mock salute before he left, and Butters leaned back against his locker and closed his eyes. It wasn't just him, then, which made him feel a little better, but he still had to deal with the hazing. He was starting to wonder if maybe it would be worth taking advantage of Eric Cartman's Navigating the Social Hierarchy of High School. He just needed a job, since he'd stopped getting an allowance as soon as he was old enough to work at the resort.
The classes he'd missed the first day were English and Art, the latter of which was his favorite. He'd been thrilled when he found that there was an art class option and that it fit into his schedule, and the class was composed of some serious art students, like himself, those who were clearly there for an easy A, and a couple who looked like they were stoned.
Ike was in his class, and he was standing in front of a canvas frowning at what looked to Butters like an exact replica of Satoru Abe's A Path Through the Forest. It made Butters a little homesick just to see it, even if Satoru was from Honolulu and not Kauia.
"Oh," he breathed. "Oh."
Ike shook his head. "The branches here," he gestured to the upper left of the painting with his brush, "are too close to each other. And the leaves here," he pointed to the upper right, "should be different shades."
"I didn't even notice," Butters said quietly. He could feel the pricking behind his eyelids. The trees in the painting resembled nothing he'd ever seen in Hawaii, but he'd seen the painting at a museum once. He'd liked the colors used and the simplicity of the piece, and for a while he'd had a little postcard featuring the painting that he tacked to his wall, near the bed, but one day his mom had decided to repaint all the rooms in their house and had gone right over the postcard with a paint roller, and that had been the end of that.
He was so busy gazing at the painting that he didn't notice Ike studying him with just as much interest, even after he went to his own easel and tried to think of a well known piece of art to reproduce. He admired the work of others, but he preferred experimenting with his own style. He felt his talent lie in drawing, but he preferred sculpting, where he could use his bare hands to translate the images in his head to something concrete.
He was stuck for inspiration, so he used his phone to search for an image, any image, to copy. He finally picked up his pencil with every intention of drawing Dali's Still Life, but when the class was over, he stared at the near graphic image on his easel in horror.
"The Great Masturbator," Ike observed.
"Nice," a brown-haired boy who Butters vaguely recognized commented.
Ike shook his head. "I didn't think you'd be so mainstream as to reproduce Dali's work, but I give you props for choosing that one. Nice work on it, too, although the lion's tongue should be a little longer. You going to paint it?"
"I don't know. I didn't mean to draw it at all," Butters confessed.
Ike looked even more impressed. "The subconscious mind in control. That's fucking cool as hell. Do you have lucid dreams, too?"
"The kind where you know you're dreaming, within the dream. Maybe even control the outcome."
"No," Butters shook his head. "Sorry."
Ike looked at him speculatively. "Don't be. You have Calc next, right?"
Butters had the feeling Ike was asking in more of a conversational way than as an actual question. Everyone in the class had looked up yesterday when Butters approached the teacher's desk to turn in his schedule and the note from the office, and Ike seemed like the kind of guy who didn't forget things. He nodded.
"Come on. We don't have assigned seats; you can sit with me in the back."
"I, ah, I usually sit in the front."
"Yeah, that's great when you're actually learning something. I saw you yesterday; you were bored out of your mind."
"No, I wasn't," Butters protested.
"Well, I was," Ike said, "and I can tell you weren't really paying attention, but you still finished before Kyle."
"I didn't mean to." Butters rubbed his knuckles together. Ike watched the motion for a few seconds before slinging his backpack over one shoulder.
"You like math?"
Butters shrugged. "I guess so."
Ike clapped him on the back. "Good enough for now, but we'll work on that."
True to his word, Ike had Butters sit in the back of the class with him, and while their teacher droned on about the same lesson from the previous day, Ike passed him a folded sheet of paper that Butters feared was a note that would get him in trouble, but he opened it anyway. There were ten questions, ranging in difficulty and covering algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and calculus. When Butters looked at Ike questioningly, Ike picked up a pencil and mimed writing, and Butters got the hint and started the first problem. After each one, he'd look up toward the front of the class, to see if the teacher had gotten to something he didn't already know, and by the end of the class, he'd finished the sixth and started the seventh problem.
Ike stood up and picked up the sheet from Butters' desk, reading over it and then handing it to the redheaded student — Kyle, Butters remembered — standing next to him. When Wendy approached Butters to walk with him to the computer science lab, Kyle showed her the paper, and she looked at both Ike and Kyle and then at Butters before skimming the page. There was something going on, because they were all smiling at him, and even though they'd been nothing but nice to him, he felt a little nervous. He rarely got this kind of attention when he was just plain old Butters Stotch, unless it was something mortifying like getting hung on a fence by his underwear.
"This is perfect," Wendy said.
"Yeah," Kyle added. "Since we'll probably lose Rebecca." He looked at Ike pointedly.
Ike shook his head. "Don't try to pin that one on me. You're the one that woke her libido." He folded his arms. "And give me some credit. I wouldn't touch that skank without using protection."
Butters looked from one to the other, confused as to what was going on.
"Stay away from Rebecca Cotswold," Wendy said, taking Butters' hand. "She's nothing but a cheap slut who got knocked up at summer camp."
Kyle looked kind of wistful, and Ike explained, for Butters' benefit, that she'd been Kyle's first love, and that her brother Mark — who had beaten the shit out of Kyle in grade school for turning her into a whore — was in their calculus class, but he was still out with the flu. Rebecca, even though she was being home schooled, was also on the mathletes team, but wouldn't be able to compete.
"Oh, I see," Butters said, even though he didn't, and he walked with Wendy, sat down at his computer, and worked on a CD cover for a fictional garage band. The computer graphics class he'd enrolled in had started in January, and he had to catch up on all the visual design elements on his own time since the class had moved to the digital sequencing and MIDI production, but he'd done similar work for Haku's band back home. He winced a little at the thought, because Lihue wasn't really back home anymore, South Park was.
Except for the two short bouts of homesickness, his second day was much better than the first. Sure, he might have been tripped in the hall more times than could reasonably be considered accidental, and the bloody nose he got by catching a basketball with his face in gym class might have been caused intentionally, but some of the smartest kids in school seemed to like him — one who was a cheerleader — and when he was invited to go to Shakey's after school that afternoon, he hated having to say no, but they were still unpacking, and with all the snow he'd had to shovel, Butters hadn't had a chance to finish re-grouting the tiles in the bathroom or cleaning out the attic.
He was almost looking forward to the latter; when his father sent him up there the first time, in the dark, it had kind of freaked him out, but when the sun came through the little window in the front of the house, he could see the potential for more than just storage. Maybe his father would let him use some of that space to set up an art studio, since he couldn't just go out on the beach to paint anymore.
Butters took a deep breath as he looked at the sign out front identifying the building as the South Park Yoga Studio. It was one of the weird things he'd noticed after moving here. For a small mountain town, they had an awful lot of specialized businesses and industries — like their own dairy, their own yoga studio, even their own sperm bank — and yet they shared a high school and a community center with the neighboring North Park and Middle Park.
He was just glad a place like this existed, and within walking distance, because with all the snow around here, he couldn't do any riding until the spring. He'd always found walking to be somewhat therapeutic anyway, as it forced him to take his time and reflect on how to better himself. He took a deep breath and pushed open the door.
The inside was decorated like a rain forest — far different from the sandy beaches he was used to — but he appreciated the greenery and the water falls. The sound of the running water was soothing, and there was a pleasant scent to the air that he was unfamiliar with. He could already feel some of the tension that had been building up all week starting to melt away. The door opened behind him while he was leaning forward to sniff at one of the flowers to see if that was the source of the fragrance he'd noticed upon entering.
"Don't touch the orchids! They don't like when you touch the orchids."
Butters turned around. The warning had come from Tweek, a kid he recognized from school. If the messy blond hair and constant twitching hadn't been enough to identify him, there was the underlying panic in his voice and the appearance that Tweek had gotten dressed in a hurry, in the dark, and under duress.
"Oh, it's you," Tweek said. "Well, they still don't like when you touch the orchids."
"We must treat the orchids, like all living things, with respect," a soft voice chided. "Welcome back, Tweek." She eyed Butters curiously. "Have you brought a friend?"
"He's not my friend," Tweek said. "He's just some kid from school."
"I just moved here," Butters explained.
"Welcome to South Park," she said, making excessive gestures with her hands. "My name is Rain, and this," she gestured around, "is where you will bring yourself to new heights. Here is some information about our studio." She handed him a clipboard, to which were attached a few brochures, some black and white diagrams of basic yoga poses that Butters was already familiar with, and a liability waiver, which Butters signed and handed back.
"Have you ever taken yoga before?"
"Yes, ma'am. Back in Lihue."
She looked almost disappointed. "As a new student, we'll start you off at the beginner level." To Tweek, she asked, "Will you be starting with meditation again today?"
Tweek looked like she'd asked him if he wanted to eat razor blades or broken glass, but he nodded, and Rain apparently decided that Butters was doing the same, because she led them both to a small studio where Tweek sat down on one of the mats in a half lotus position and closed his eyes. Butters followed suit, but found himself watching Tweek rather than focusing on his own personal mantra, because he found Tweek's mannerisms fascinating.
Butters was used to two kinds of people; the natives and the haoles, some of whom tried too hard to act like they were one with the wind and sun. Tweek's serene expression was disrupted in bursts, sometimes by a neck spasm or random guttural noise, sometimes both, and always accompanied by the eye twitch that Butters was coming to associate with Tweek. He then felt guilty for intruding on Tweek's meditation, because it was a very personal thing, and he closed his own eyes and tried to find his center. He pictured the beach back home, but that led to the memory of the last time he'd dressed as Marjorine, when Kenny had kissed him, and when he'd discovered that he might be a little more than bi-curious.
It was probably a good thing he was dating Wendy — at least he thought they were dating; he'd been told he had a habit of misreading girls' interest in him — because being the new kid had brought him enough trouble already, without being queer on top of everything else.
Not that he was totally queer, because he wouldn't mind getting to touch Wendy's boobs, if she'd let him.
Although the meditation only accomplished bringing up feelings he had yet to sort through, Butters found comfort in the familiar yoga poses, and they seemed to help Tweek, too, who was noticeably calmer when they left.
"Hey, Tweek, do you want to grab some lunch or something?" Butters asked.
"Are you asking me on a date?"
"No!" Butters felt his cheeks turn red. "I just think it would be cool to hang out with you."
"Cool? You think I'm cool?"
It wasn't exactly what he'd said, but he did kind of think Tweek was cool, if only because he sought to better himself. He was also even more flexible than Butters was, and that was pretty impressive.
"Yeah," Butters nodded.
"Gah! That's too much pressure!" Tweek's fingers wound around strands of his hair, and he started pulling.
"Tweek, stop!" Butters reached up and removed Tweek's hands from his hair. "No one else thinks you're cool. Just me."
That seemed to do the trick, because Tweek didn't try to pull his hair again.
"I can't hang out," he said. "I have to work."
He turned and walked away, and Butters followed.
"Where do you work?" he asked. "I used to have a job back home, but I'll need to find something around here."
"I work for my parents," Tweek told him, and Butters explained how he used to work for his dad, and Tweek seemed interested (it was hard to tell with Tweek), and he definitely understood the pressure Butters had been under, trying to live up to his dad's standards. By the time Butters got back home, he had a new part-time job working at the coffee shop — because Tweek's parents decided that knowing how to mix up mocktails at a resort bar wasn't all that different than being a barista — and his first real friend since he'd moved here.
The next day, he couldn't wait to get to work after school. He sang as he cleaned the counters, he hummed to himself as he filled cups with coffees and espressos, and he handed change back to each customer with a smile. It felt a little bit like being back at the resort and tending the bar there, even if most of the people who came in were often rude and rarely as chatty as his customers in Kauai had been. Of course outside of school, most people he dealt with at the resort had been there on vacation, but at Tweek Brothers, he still listened when they wanted to talk, and Mr. Tweek never yelled at him the way his dad did, so that was a plus, too.
The atmosphere in the shop was pretty relaxed, and Tweek's father allowed him to work on his homework whenever there was a brief lull in business, and he was enjoying himself so much, he was surprised when Tweek's father came out to lock the front door and turn the sign from OPEN to CLOSED. Tweek even split the tips that had been left in the little jar on the counter with him, and even though it was only a couple of dollars, it felt good to have some money of his own again.
"Run along home, son," Mr. Tweek told his son. "Have a good night, Butters."
As much as he loved his new job, walking home with Tweek was the best part of the day, because Tweek, while still hyper and agitated, was somewhat less so, and despite his penchant for assuming the worst, he didn't expect Butters to be anything but himself.
Wendy seemed to like him a lot, but he wasn't sure what she wanted from him. Ike was like a cool little brother, but he was so smart, it was kind of intimidating. Tweek was the only person he could just hang out with, the way Kenny did with his friends. He felt a stab of guilt at how things had ended with Kenny — things that never should have started in the first place, and he pushed all those negative thoughts out of his mind and focused on the little grunts Tweek made next to him.
It was actually kind of cute, but Butters didn't think Tweek would appreciate being told that.
They got closer to the street where they lived when they ran into two boys from school who were standing on the sidewalk and blocking their path.
"Hey, fellas," Butters said nervously. He could almost feel Tweek twitching next to him.
"Hey," Craig said. Butters recognized him from outside the principal's office.
"Guess what?" the second one asked. He looked familiar, too. "We found a huge fucking crate of sponges. I mean like, huge."
"Okay," Tweek said. It was hard to tell if he was being wary or just his normal self.
"We're going to throw them off the bridge to see if they'll dry up the river."
"Don't!" Butters exclaimed. "You, ah, you don't want to do that."
"We don't?" Craig asked. "Why not?"
"B-because it's not good for the ecosystem."
Craig just stared at him, and Butters began to babble, explaining how if the sponges were antibacterial, it would introduce pesticides into the water and the plants and animals that lived there, and even if they weren't full of pesticides, they'd eventually end up in the food stream, and it was no different from throwing garbage in the ocean. When he wasn't interrupted, he went on to explain how beautiful the beaches back home looked, except for those times when garbage would wash up on shore, and then he fell silent suddenly, as any time he thought of the beach, it made his stomach hurt.
"Okay," Craig said.
"Okay?" Butters echoed.
Craig shrugged. "We can go tag the outside of the J-Mart in North Park instead."
"Oh, yeah!" the brown-haired teen exclaimed. "And Butters here, he's the one who drew the BJ in art class."
Butters opened his mouth to correct him, since The Great Masturbator didn't actually show full contact between the woman's mouth and the man's groin, but Craig was nodding in approval, and he decided the details didn't matter, since the oral sex was heavily implied in the painting.
"I've never had a BJ," Tweek announced.
"So?" Craig asked. "Neither has Clyde."
"Not yet," Clyde said defensively. "And like anyone's sucked your dick."
Craig shrugged, and although he acted like it didn't matter one way or another, there was something about his posture and forced nonchalance that suggested more than he was telling.
"Sometimes I want someone to suck my dick," Tweek mused. "But what if they bite it off?"
"Then they're doing it wrong," Clyde said confidently. "It's gotta be all lips and tongue, no teeth."
Craig had closed his eyes when Tweek mentioned getting his dick sucked, and when he opened them again, he realized Butters was staring at him. He extended his middle finger and reached into his jacket. Butters took a step back, expecting him to pull out a gun, but it was only a cigarette. Craig stuck it between his lips, lit it, and then took it out of his mouth and just held it waist level.
Butters looked at him curiously.
"He doesn't smoke," Clyde explained.
"Oh," Butters said.
"Except pole. He smokes that."
Craig gave him the finger, and Clyde grinned.
"Well, fellas," Butters said nervously. "I'd love to hang out with you some more, but I'd better get home, otherwise I'll get grounded."
He thought for sure they were going to rip on him for that, but Craig nodded. "Yeah. 'Rents. Can't live with them, but you have to."
"I think there's something in my brain!" Tweek shrieked.
Craig put his arm around Tweek's shoulders. "Trust me, Tweek, there's nothing in there."
"How do you know? You didn't check!"
Craig handed his cigarette to Butters, who held it as far away from his face as possible, and tipped Tweek's head to the side to look in his ear. He repeated the same thing on the other side, brushing Tweek's hair out of the way. "Nothing there," he repeated.
"Yes there is!" Tweek cried out in anguish. "I can feel it!" He tried digging his finger into his ear, insisting it was trying to steal his thoughts, and suddenly Butters knew what to do. He dropped the cigarette to the ground, ran home, around the back door so he could sneak into the kitchen and back out again. When he returned, Tweek was still batting at his ear and insisting they were trying to steal his thoughts.
"Now just hang on, there, Tweek," he said in a soothing voice. "It's just me, Butters. This is gonna take a minute or two, but you'll have to hold real still."
Tweek shuddered as he lowered his hand, and Craig grasped both Tweek's hand in his as Butters turned on the flashlight and aimed it at Tweek's ear.
"I can feel it," Tweek moaned. "It's driving me crazy." He squeezed Craig's fingers tight.
"Just a minute," Butters said. Tweek jerked his head away just once, but resigned himself to whatever it was Butters was doing while Clyde stood behind Butters and peered over his shoulder.
"It's still in there," Tweek complained.
"I know," Butters said.
"I see it!" Clyde exclaimed, causing Tweek to nearly break Craig's fingers.
"Shhhh," Butters shushed him. "Almost out." The hand holding the flashlight was getting tired and it shook a little, but he kept it aimed in Tweek's ear until the winged insect flew away.
As soon as he lowered the flashlight, Tweek asked, "Is it gone?"
"Yeah, it's gone."
Craig looked at Butters again with that weird piercing stare, and Butters would have started rubbing his knuckles together if not for the flashlight.
"I, ah, I had that happen to me once, in Virginia."
"I thought you were from Hawaii?" Clyde asked.
"Well, yeah, I am, but my gr-grandmother, she lives there, and so do my aunt and uncle, and I was there visiting one time and it happened to me." Why there were bugs flying around in the dead of winter in Colorado made no sense to him at all, but he supposed it could have been hibernating or keeping warm in someone's house. He could even picture it sitting in a tiny rocking chair wearing even tinier slippers.
"I didn't know you had a grandmother."
"Yeah. I have two of 'em, actually." He didn't like to talk about his grandmother too much.
"You'd better get home," Craig reminded him.
Relieved that no other grandmother related questions were coming, Butters nodded. "All right then. I, ah, I'm sorry about throwin' away that cigarette."
"I don't care," Craig said.
"Yeah, he doesn't care," Clyde piped up. When Craig looked at him, he said, "What? You don't even smoke!"
"I don't smoke," Tweek informed them.
"I know," Craig said as he finally let go of Tweek's hands.
They parted company then, and Butters went in through the back door again. He'd just put the flashlight away when his father came in the kitchen, wrinkled up his nose, and grounded Butters for smoking. He tried denying it, but in the end, it was easier just to accept his punishment, because his father wasn't going to believe him, and because it was for his own good, really, because smoking was bad. He sat at the window for a while, looking out at the few stars that were visible in the sky, and even though he missed Kauai something fierce, he was starting to like South Park a little, too.
"...and Wendy's throwing a Welcome to South Park party for this asshole. Can you believe that?"
Kyle could, because it was exactly the sort of thing Wendy and the other girls would do, but saying that out loud would only upset Stan more. He glanced at Cartman, expecting, and kind of hoping, for some sort of response from the fat ass, because then the pressure would be off him and the fact that Wendy hadn't dumped Butters yet. He'd been on the receiving end of Stan's jealousy over an egg babysitting project, and he hadn't even been interested in Wendy at the time.
"I can't believe that ho didn't invite me," Cartman bitched.
"Maybe because you're the one that shoved her boyfriend in a locker, tripped him in the hall, and convinced him that the school's haunted."
"Wasn't me, Jew. I can't help that her faggy little boyfriend is uncoordinated, and the school is haunted. Isn't it, Kinny? Kinny?"
Kenny was sitting at the lunch table with his head down on his arms. Kyle wondered if Kenny was asleep, sick, or just ignoring Cartman to piss him off.
"'Ey, Kinny!" Cartman bellowed, throwing a bottle cap at Kenny's head. It bounced harmlessly off Kenny's hood.
"Knock it off, lard butt, before we all get detention!"
"She invited me," Stan said. "Should I go? Do you think she wants me to go?" He spun his plastic fork on the table.
"You should go," Kyle said.
"Yeah, otherwise it makes you look like a big pussy."
"Shut up, Cartman."
"I seriously hate you guys."
Kenny was starting to hate them, too, but he went to the party anyway. He went because it was a party, and parties were his thing — or they had been, until a couple weeks ago — and Cartman had a point about there being free food. He could even pretend the party was for him, since his birthday was the day of the party, and not for some douche bag that Wendy was dating.
He went with Cartman, who everyone knew was going to crash the party. He could hear the Beach Boys playing in the backyard and rolled his eyes. There had been something on Facebook about a beach theme, because the new guy was from California or something, and the girls wanted to make their crappy little town in Colorado seem as much like his hometown as possible. It was an unseasonably warm day for March, so everyone's coats were piled on a table, one that they walked right past on their way to the backyard.
Cartman was barely through the gate when he grabbed a couple of pork kabobs, and he practically swallowed one whole, pulling the bare skewer out of his mouth and tossing it on the ground. Kenny rolled his eyes but he picked up a kabob himself and had just brought it to his mouth when he actually took a look at the decorations. The yard was adorned with inflatable palm trees and more hibiscus flowers than he'd ever seen in his life, and the girls were all wearing leis and hula skirts. They were in a half circle around someone, presumably Wendy's boyfriend, chatting and giggling as I Get Around ended and the next song began.
Kenny set the kabob down, his mouth suddenly dry. This song wasn't by the Beach Boys. He'd heard the band before, had seen them live, and he knew, even before the girls dragged Wendy's boyfriend out of his chair, who the party was for. Kenny had always been the one to watch from the sidelines. He was the go-to guy when people wanted to know the kind of shit that Kyle or Cartman didn't have a clue about. He was the one who paid attention when everyone else was caught up in their own problems, but when he saw the familiar blond demonstrate the ami, slow at first, so the girls could follow along, and then sped it up to keep time with the music, Kenny thought he might throw up right then and there.
He was so. Fucking. Stupid.
There was a reason the hula dancers had worn sarong tops, not bikinis, when Marjorine was with them. There was a reason why Marjorine couldn't dance the ami ku`upau like the others, and the reason she'd worn flowers winding around her arm and covering her hands was because she'd burned one of them the night before, catching a flaming baton. There was a reason why her tits were so fucking perfect, and it wasn't because they were implants.
Jesus Christ, there was a reason why he hadn't noticed any leg hair when Leopold, drunk as a skunk, had practically wrapped himself around Kenny in the hotel bed.
Kenny felt like he was no longer in control of his body. In a haze, he walked past everyone else, stepping through the crowd of hula dancers and right up to Leopold. He tapped him on the shoulder; Leopold turned, and the smile on his face froze as he stared at Kenny in shock.
Leopold was on the ground less than a second later, after Kenny punched him in the face, and someone, probably Stan, hurried him away while the girls were busy fawning over the fallen blond. He caught only snatches of the conversation. "What the fuck, Kenny?" and "He went down like a stone" (somewhat gleefully, that was definitely Stan) and "Holy shit, dude."
He didn't remember walking home after that, but he remembered finding the Pabst Blue Ribbon in the fridge, a six-pack with only one missing, and after he'd finished the fifth one, he really did throw up.
Butters' palms were sweating as he knocked on the door, and he wiped his hands on his jeans a few times before the door finally opened, revealing Karen McCormick.
"Leo!" Karen cried, rushing out and enveloping him in a big hug. She held on for several seconds, then finally let go and took a step back. "I can't believe it's you! I heard at school last week that we had a new student from Hawaii, but I never thought in a million years it would be you."
She hugged him again, but this time when she let go, she spied the black eye, and she grasped his chin and gently turned his head to the side to get a better look. "Oh, Leo," she breathed. Her bottom lip trembled a little, and then her eyebrows drew together.
"Who did this to you?" she asked, looking as if she were ready to kick some serious ass.
"It was an accident," Butters hastened to assure her. "It was more my fault than anything." He licked his lips. "Is, ah, is Kenny home?"
"Oh my gosh, Kenny! Does he know you're here? Of course he knows you're here; you must have at least some classes together, right? And Kevin! Wait until Kev finds out you're here!"
She grabbed his hand and tugged him inside.
"Kenny!" she hollered like a fry cook in a diner. "Kenny, get your ass out here!"
When Kenny didn't appear for a full two minutes, she turned and smiled tightly at Butters, who was standing there rubbing his fists together. "He's not feeling well today," she explained. "He was sick last night, and he hasn't come out of his room yet today."
Butters looked a little green himself, and Karen pressed the back of her hand against his forehead. "Oh, Leo," she repeated sadly. She stroked his cheek with her fingertips. "Do you have what Kenny has?"
"Probably," Butters mumbled.
"Sit down," she said, leading him to the couch. "I'll get you a glass of water."
He didn't want to sit down. He'd come here to find Kenny, to try to explain, but now all he wanted to do was run out of the house, across the train tracks, and perhaps keep running until he got to Canada. He smiled weakly up at Karen when she brought him the water.
"I'm sorry we don't have any ice cubes," she said, sitting next to him. "But I ran the cold water as long as I could."
"It's fine," Butters lied. "Really."
The water was fine; he just couldn't say the same for himself. He'd had no idea Kenny and his family lived here in South Park. They'd never been on a last name basis with each other, and when Kenny told him about all the disasters that had befallen the town, he'd never referred to it by name. It seemed impossible that he and Kenny hadn't run into each other before last night, but no more impossible than his parents deciding to buy a home in the quaint town of South Park rather than the bustling city of Denver. He finished the water and held the empty cup between his knees, and Karen moved closer and rested her head on his shoulder.
"I'm really glad you're here," she said. "You remind me that there are good things in life."
Butters felt the bile rise in his throat, and he swallowed it down. What would Karen think of him if she knew about Marjorine? Kenny was her brother; she'd be furious with him and maybe punch him in the other eye. He deserved no less. If he could, he'd ground himself for the mess he'd made of things.
He cleared his throat and rolled the cup between his hands, and Karen lifted her head and inspected his eye again, clucking her tongue in distress. Butters felt guilty that she was worried about him when it was his own fault that Kenny had punched him. He couldn't stay here any longer, not with Kenny sick over what had happened between them. He got to his feet and handed the cup back to Karen.
"Thanks," he said, unable to meet her gaze. "I've ah, I've got to get to work. C-can you tell Kenny I was here, if he's feeling better?"
"Of course," she said, as she walked him to the door. "I'll tell him. He'll be sorry he missed you."
Butters touched the skin beneath his eye. He doubted that very much. "Tell Kamahele I said hi, too."
She hugged him one more time. "I hope you feel better soon."
He hugged her back and closed his eyes. Her hair smelled like the hotel soap he'd used the night he'd crashed with Kenny and Kevin. He'd felt like shit after he woke up, and he thought he might have argued with Kenny over something, but Kevin had busted on Kenny, too, and it had made Butters feel like part of the family.
"Mahalo, Kaliona," he said as he released her. He took a few steps back. "Aloha."
She waved back at him. "Aloha, Leo."
His shift at work was interminable. His cheeks hurt from forcing a smile he didn't mean, and the scent of coffee and whipped cream elicited protests from his already upset stomach. He thought he'd done a pretty good job of concealing how he felt, right up until he handed a small coffee, black, over the counter to Craig Tucker.
"So you and McCormick have history," Craig stated.
Butters looked up into intense eyes so dark they were nearly black and realized the contents of his stomach were not going to stay down. He dashed to the men's room, puked into the toilet, and rested his head on the cool porcelain as he fumbled for the handle. It took a full minute for him to remember that the toilet rims in public places weren't exactly clean, and he threw up a second time when he realized what he'd been leaning in.
Butters scrubbed his hands and face, making the skin raw and red, before he was ready to go back out. Craig was still there, leaning against the counter, drinking his coffee as Tweek fretted about the environment.
"Everyone talks about global warming," he was saying. "But you never hear about global freezing. Maybe that's the real problem and they don't want us to know!"
"You're not going to turn into a Tweeksicle," Craig replied. It was clear he wasn't going anywhere, and Butters really didn't want to go back in the bathroom, so he cleared his throat and went back behind the counter and pretended his hands weren't shaking as he measured out the coffee beans to be ground.
"How do you know?" Tweek argued. "You don't know. You can't possibly know!"
Butters set down the measuring cup and put a hand on Tweek's shoulder, startling him. "But Ike would know, because he's a genius, and he hasn't said anything about global freezing."
Tweek twitched, and then he nodded slowly. "And he'd tell us, because he's not an asshole."
"Not usually," Craig inserted. He stared right at Butters again.
"Hey, uh, Tweek, where do we keep the grande cups?"
"The big ones? In the back."
"Can you get some? We're ah, we're all out up here."
"Gah! What if someone comes in right now and asks for a large coffee? We'll be so screwed!"
He ran to the back, waving his hands in the air, and Craig took a sip of his coffee. "You're a shitty liar."
"That's because I don't really like lyin'," Butters said defensively.
"Good," Craig said, finishing off his coffee. "Because liars are dicks."
He tossed the empty cup into the garbage can behind the counter. "So. You and McCormick."
"Me and Kenny?"
"Kenny's usually pretty laid back. He doesn't usually go around punching people for no reason, otherwise Cartman would be bleeding a lot more often. So what'd ya do, fuck his sister?"
"No!" Butters exclaimed, horrified at the idea. "I'd never - "
"Grabbed her tits, then." He studied Butters' face. "Maybe just shoved your tongue in her mouth."
Butters cheeks flooded with color. "No," he denied, shaking his head vehemently. "I never did that to Karen."
Craig was staring at him intently, like he'd caught him in a lie. He glanced toward the back room, but there was no sign of Tweek.
"Kenny's bi, you know."
"Bi. Plays for both teams. Likes dicks and chicks."
Butters' face turned a brighter shade of red, and he shook his head. Craig reached over to grab the front of Butters' shirt and yanked him forward until he bumped against the counter.
"Not everyone knows that," he cautioned, "and he'd like to keep it that way. Those guys are all assholes, but I hate Kenny the least."
"How — how do you know Kenny's, ah, that?"
Craig released his grip. "I just do," he said, and as if on cue, Tweek came out of the back room carrying five sleeves of large cups in his arms.
Butters turned around to look at the stacks of cups next to the espresso machine and back at Tweek.
"I, ah, I'm sorry, Tweek. I messed up. We have those cups after all." He glanced at Craig again and hurried to Tweek. "I'll take those right back, since I'm the one who screwed up."
The sooner he could get away from Craig's piercing stare, the better.
"He's usually a good worker," Tweek informed Craig. "Do you think Kenny broke him?"
Craig shrugged, because he really didn't know. All he knew for sure was that a) Kenny was into dudes, on occasion, b) that Butters knew exactly why Kenny had punched him and c) that there had been tongue involved somehow.
If Kenny had tongue wrangled with the kid, he couldn't blame him. Butters was a fucking dork, but he was kind of cute.
"You think he's cute?" Tweek asked, squinting one eye at Craig.
He hadn't thought he'd said any of that out loud, but he shrugged. "For a guy. What can I say, I guess I just have a thing for blonds."
"Oh," Tweek said. One eye squinted shut, almost like he was winking, and Craig wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed that Tweek didn't realize he was included in that group.
Kenny was starving by the time dinner rolled around, and he eyed the pouch of ramen noodles on the counter next to Karen. The pot of water she was minding was way too big for the meal she was preparing, but it was also the only one they had with a handle. Karen had probably used way more water than was necessary, anyway, to stretch the soup as far as they could, even if that made it taste like shit.
"Hey, Kenny," she said as he walked in the kitchen. She ripped open the flavor packet and shook the spices into the boiling water. "I had a surprise for you earlier, but you were sleeping."
He went to the sink and turned on the tap, bending over to drink directly from the faucet. When he was done, he wiped the back of his hand over his mouth and looked at his sister. "A surprise?"
She turned from the stove, her eyes shining brightly. "Guess who came by to see you?"
He didn't have to guess. Karen didn't give a shit about any of his friends (except for that one year she had a major crush on Stan, and that had led to the first real argument — the first of many — that Kenny had had with Karen, followed by a lot of her not talking to him). There could only be one person that Karen would consider a surprise, and it was the one person Kenny most wanted to avoid.
He'd spent a good deal of the night going over all the signs he'd missed, from not realizing who Marjorine was to not knowing that Leopold was the infamous new kid dating Wendy Testaburger. Had he even known Wendy's boyfriend was from Hawaii? He'd have sworn he'd heard California, and someone else decided he had to be from Florida, because of the accent, but even if Kenny had known it was Hawaii, there would have been no reason to suspect it was someone he actually knew. He'd only heard Leopold referred to as "the new kid," "the Stotch kid," and "douche bag" and "asshole" from Stan.
Even if he hadn't been dead for a week, he wasn't mathlete level smart and he didn't hang out with Craig and those assholes, so their paths weren't likely to have crossed. Had Kyle or Ike ever mentioned Leopold's name? He didn't remember; he'd been too busy feeling sorry for himself to have paid much attention.
By the time he'd finally fallen asleep last night, he'd started to feel guilty for how he'd reacted, but then he'd remember how much time he'd spent mooning over someone who wasn't even fucking real, and he'd get pissed all over again. Part of him wanted to hear what Leo had to say for himself, and part of him wanted to beat the shit out of that lying, catfishing fraud. The rest of him was still pissed at himself for being so fucking stupid. If Stan or Kyle had fallen for a dude in drag, Kenny would have laughed himself to death. Literally.
Karen was apparently not going to wait all evening for him to answer; she was too brimming with excitement. "Why didn't you tell me Leopold was the new kid in school?" she asked. "Oh! But it was a surprise to see him today, at our house! Did you two plan for it to be a surprise?"
Kenny shrugged, and that was enough of an answer for Karen, who turned back to the stove to dump the noodles in the pot. She didn't break the block of ramen into tiny pieces the way she usually did, so she was definitely distracted. "It's a shame both of you are sick," she added. "But maybe when he's feeling better, we can have him over for dinner."
It was bad enough Kenny had to go to school the next day knowing Leopold was there. It would be like wearing a big fucking scarlet letter, announcing to everyone that he'd spent a good portion of his vacation with a major boner for the guy. On top of that, Leopold had only seen them at their best, at a time when they were clean and well fed and sober. Leopold had come to his house, so by now he obviously knew they were piss poor, but he didn't need to see how very bad things were. Kenny shouldn't even give a shit, because he hated Leopold, but it mattered.
"He's not who you think he is," Kenny said angrily.
"He's not?" Karen asked, poking the softening noodles with a fork. She turned her head. "Who is he then?"
She had him there, because Kenny didn't know either. Having his sister doubt him pissed him off, though, and he crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. "Dunno. I just know who he isn't."
"And who isn't he?" she pressed. She set the fork down and joined him at the table.
"He's not..." Kenny waved vaguely. "That guy."
"That guy," she repeated slowly. "Leo's not that guy. Well, I'm glad you cleared that up for me." She frowned, and crossed her arms, too, and stared at him. A moment later, her eyes opened wide, like she'd just figured it out.
"Oh, Kenny," she said sympathetically, and he panicked. She sounded too understanding, too compassionate. He didn't want Karen to know what had happened. He didn't even want her to come close to guessing.
"You don't have to worry about me and Leopold," she said, leaning forward and putting a hand on Kenny's folded arms. "OK, maybe I had the tiniest little crush on him," she held the fingers of her other hand a fraction of an inch apart, "and he is pretty hot." She blushed. "You wouldn't notice, because you're a guy, but trust me, he is. But you don't have to worry. It won't be like the whole Stan thing again, I swear."
He let out a breath. She didn't know. It was a relief, in more ways than one, because he'd not even considered the possibility that Karen might want to date Leo, not since Hawaii when Kevin had put the idea in his head. At least there was one less complication with the whole Leopold Situation.
"Hey, where's Kev?" he asked, realizing he hadn't seen his brother in days.
The pot started to boil over behind her, and she heard the hiss of the water hitting the burner. "Shit!" she said, getting to her feet and turning the flame down. "I don't know," she said, poking at the noodle chunk with the spoon. "He doesn't tell me where he's going any more than you do."
Kevin had always been a bit of a come and go as he pleased kind of guy, even in middle school, but it seemed like Kevin was never around at all anymore — not since they came back from vacation. If not for the fact that he'd have surely run into him in Hell at some point, Kenny would have thought his brother died on a regular basis, too. It wasn't like his parents weren't dumb enough to go to the same cult meeting twice if there was free beer involved.
"Kenny?" His sister's voice broke him out of his thoughts. "Is something wrong?"
He shook his head and smiled at her. "No," he lied. "Everything's fine."
She beamed at him, and in the end, it was just the two of them home for supper. Kenny hoped this didn't mean his parents had been arrested again, because he really didn't need Leopold seeing them for who they really were, even though he'd probably heard about it by now.
The next time he saw Kevin, it wasn't in a place he'd expect to find his brother.
Rumors were flying all over the high school on Monday, and Butters could see everyone exchanging whispers as he walked down the hall, the black eye adding fuel to the already out of control fire. Some of the story was true; Kenny had sucker punched him, and Butters had broken up with Wendy. Rampant speculation added details to the story, like Kenny having had a thing for Wendy since middle school and Butters cheating on Wendy by fucking Karen McCormick (Craig had been ahead of the crowd on that one). The one about Karen bothered him the most, because she'd done nothing at all to deserve that.
He picked at his food at lunch until Clyde asked, "Are you going to eat those?"
He shook his head and gave his curly fries to Clyde, who swore they were the only edible food the cafeteria served, and he propped his chin in his hand and wished the day was over.
"What's wrong?" Craig asked.
"Nothing," Butters replied automatically, earning a disapproving glare. He hadn't known Craig for long, but well enough to know that Craig didn't like bullshit. "Everything," he sighed.
"That's what I thought," Craig replied, and he went back to eating, conversation over.
The worst part of the day was the mathletes meeting after school. Wendy was there, of course, which made it awkward enough. She'd understood, she'd said, when he'd explained that he wasn't ready to date again, and that even though he'd thought he wasn't harboring feelings for anyone back home, he realized he had been all along.. She'd asked him outright if he and Karen McCormick were secretly seeing each other, which he'd denied, and he'd apologized for ruining her party. She'd assured him that 'that Kenny McCormick ruined it' because he'd been the one to bring Cartman, and Cartman was to blame for it somehow.
Today she was talking to Kyle, and she looked up when Butters entered the room, then promptly ignored him. Butters felt tired and sick to his stomach and was considering going home when Ike arrived.
"They should just do it and get it over with," Ike said, nodding his head toward Wendy and Kyle.
"Totally," Ike said, then, a bit louder, yelled over, "Get a room!"
Wendy glared at him and Kyle rolled his eyes, and Ike went over to the white board to write out a problem for Butters to work on. It was hard to concentrate, but his parents wouldn't be too happy with him if he were the one who caused Park County to lose next month, and he just had to learn to concentrate more.
Ike was a relentless coach; every problem he gave Butters to solve was increasingly more difficult, and Butters tried to keep his eyes on his own board and not the one next to him where Wendy was working on hers. Despite his best intentions, his mind started to wander, and he made stupid mistakes, and Wendy yelled at him for not carrying a one and stormed off to the ladies' room.
"What the fuck," Kyle muttered.
"She's not OTR," Ike said. "If that's what you were thinking."
"I'm not thinking that!" Kyle denied, but his face turned a shade darker.
"OTR?" Butters asked.
"On the rag," Ike explained. "But Wendy's cycle is pretty regular. This isn't her time."
Kyle buried his head in his hands. "You are not talking about my best friend's ex that way."
Butters started, because Wendy was his ex, but Ike shook his head. "He means Stan."
"Stan? Marsh? The quarterback?"
"That's the one," Ike said. "And Kyle's BFF."
It made Butters feel worse somehow. Wendy, who was smart and pretty and just darn nice, had dated Stan Marsh, who, while not the most popular guy in school, certainly ranked among the Top Ten, maybe the Top Five. And Butters had dumped her. Of course he was grounded for that, too, so except for school and work, he wasn't allowed out of the house for the next few weeks.
Ike's gaze moved to the white boards, and he shook his head. "KB, you forgot to add the constant on that last problem."
"I did not!" Kyle protested, but he followed every line of the differential equation with his finger until he got to the end. "Son of a bitch."
"Rookie mistake," Ike said.
"I know." Kyle sounded irritated.
"You should just ask her out, dude. Thanks to Butters here, she's available."
"I'm not interested in Wendy Testaburger!" Kyle exploded, only to realize Wendy had chosen that moment to re-enter the room.
"Fuck you, Kyle Broflovski," she said. "I'm not interested in you, either." She eyed him and Butters, and grabbed her books from one of the desks. "In fact, fuck all of you. I'm going home to study."
Ike waited until the sound of her footsteps stomping down the hall faded, and then he turned to his brother. "Dude, she totally wants you."
"Can we just finish working on these?" Kyle gestured to a stapled handout on the desk.
"Sure," Ike shrugged. "And we will. But some day you're going to have to face up to the fact that you want to bone Stan's ex."
"Not interested," Kyle said, "and besides, bros before hos."
"Wendy's not a ho," Butters said, feeling the need to do that much for her at least.
"Stotch has a point, KB. If you were talking about Rebecca, sure, but Wendy's different."
"Stan's my best friend," Kyle said firmly, which suggested that despite his repeated denials, he was at least a little interested in Wendy.
"Welcome to Degrassi," Ike said to Butters.
Ike threw his arm around Butters and laughed. "Tell me, how can you not love this guy?"
It seemed like there was the tiniest bit of an insult in there, but affection, too, and it was the best Butters had felt about himself since Kenny had punched him.
Tweek had the night off, and Butters missed his friend, but business was slow on Monday evenings and he was glad that Tweek had a chance to hang out with Craig and Clyde. Butters really liked those guys, and except for Craig's penchant for getting sent to the principal's office, he wasn't sure why Eric had tried to warn him off. Craig was what one called complicated, despite his blunt manner, and Butters found him kind of intriguing.
Butters had just finished refilling the napkin dispensers when he heard the sound of a few coins being placed on the counter and realized a customer was waiting. He hurried over, pasted on his best smile, and looked up into the face of Kevin McCormick.
"K-kamahele," he stammered.
Kevin snorted. "Not lately. Got a word for 'stuck' in Hawaiian?"
Butters frowned, thought about it, and finally said, "well, I guess there's pa'a. That's kind of the same thing."
"Great." Kevin scratched his head. "You can start calling me that, because this traveler is stuck in South Park."
Butters glanced down at the money on the counter, about four cents shy of a small cup of regular coffee, black, and swept it into his hand. "'A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles,'" he quoted to Kevin when he brought him a cup of coffee.
"Well, then I'm fucked," Kevin muttered, sipping at the coffee. "Hey, this isn't bad," he commented. "Usually it tastes like shit."
"Oh!" Butters brightened. "I use bottled water to brew it." He leaned forward to whisper, "the tap water here isn't always very good."
No one had to tell Kevin that South Park tap water was shitty. He'd been forced to drink it most of his life — in school, at home when there was nothing else to eat or drink, and any time he had a few cents to get a fucking french fry but not enough to get a soda. They'd give you water for free, if you asked, but it was always water from some sink in the back, which meant you had a fifty-fifty chance of it being drinkable. And although Kevin couldn't prove it, he was pretty sure he always got the shit that had been sitting at the bottom of the pot when Mr. Tweek served him, not the freshly brewed coffee Leopold had given him. He liked that, being treated like his money was just as good as anyone else's.
"Somethin' botherin' you, Kam?"
Kevin snorted. "Life."
Butters nodded. "Well, life can be hard, but my father tells me all the time that -"
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Yeah, I've heard that shit, too." What he really wanted to do was point out that Leopold's father wasn't the best source of life advice, since he beat his son with a belt when the whim took him, but he liked Leopold and didn't want to bring him down to his level.
"Well," Butters replied, "sometimes I think that, too, but I don't want to indulge in that stinkin' thinkin', so I try to find ways to avoid it." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. "When we were on our way here from Kauai, we changed planes in Seattle. We had this really long wait, and I couldn't sleep on the chairs there."
He'd also been too excited and too nervous to sit still for long, so he'd gone for a walk around the terminal and finally ended up at the gift shop. His Mahalo rewards card was useless there, and he had only a little money on him, but his eyes had fallen on the spinning carousel of magnets and key chains, and one had caught his eye. He'd used the last bit of cash he had to buy the key chain, but he thought it was inspirational. "Anyway, I bought this," he said, holding the keys out to Kevin.
Kevin shook his head, refusing the keys, and Butters shoved them back in his pocket. "Well, it says that hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny."
"You really believe that, Leopold?"
Butters hesitated. "It's hard to when I'm having a bad time, because all I can think of is how sad I am, and how much I wish I wasn't, but maybe the hard times really are getting us ready for something extraordinary. And even if they don't, well, if we didn't have the hard times, maybe we wouldn't appreciate the good times so much." He bowed his head and rubbed his knuckles together.
Kevin sighed and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. It had been folded until it couldn't be folded anymore, and he handed it to Leopold, who opened it up and scanned it. When he looked up, Kevin confirmed the question in his eyes with a nod and a resigned, "yeah."
"So how are you going to fix it, then?" Butters asked.
Kevin blinked at him. "Fix it?"
"Well, yeah. You want to, don't you?"
Kevin hadn't really thought of it much. He and Kenny had always wanted more for Karen than what they had, but until Hawaii, he'd never really considered what he wanted for himself, and then when he finally did think of something, Kenny had made him feel stupid. Leopold, though, even now that he knew, he didn't act like he thought Kevin was stupid. He acted like it was just something Kevin had to fix, like it was that easy. He looked at life like things might actually turn out OK, and if Kevin hadn't seen the lashes on Leopold's back and heard some of the stories about his parents, he wouldn't have thought the kid had a fucking clue what hardship was.
"Fine," Kevin said. "But I want something else, too."
When Kevin told him, his eyes widened, but it took little convincing to get him to agree. Sure, Butters felt guilty over the whole Kenny thing, and maybe helping Kevin wasn't going to make up for that, but it was a start.
A student from Reno, Nevada started in April, thereby taking Butters' place as the "new kid." Wendy seemed to have gotten over their breakup, and had even started flirting with Mark Cotswold, who was the second smartest one in mathletes, after Ike.
When the snow started to melt, and Butters saw some of the flowers peek out for the first time, the sight of the unfamiliar plants hit him hard, reminding him that he was never going back to Kauai and he wasn't going to see naupaka or tuberose anymore. It made him all the more grateful for his job and mathletes to keep him from that stinkin' thinkin'. It was okay to miss Kauai, he reminded himself during yoga, as long as he found something positive about South Park to balance it out. The list was pretty long, considering.
He had his friends and his art class, and he really liked his job. Kenny still avoided him, and Stan acted like he didn't exist, but Kyle seemed to like him okay, most of the time. Butters had even found a friend in Eric Cartman, who had been nice enough to let Butters use a good part of his paycheck for an investment opportunity. He wasn't sure how hamsters could be trained to be service animals, but Lemmiwinks the Third seemed pretty smart to him, and Eric had a plan all worked out. He even invited Butters over for the weekend.
To Butters' surprise, he wasn't the only one invited. He was glad to see Clyde, Craig, and Token, who was one of Craig's best friends, even if he spent most of his time with his girlfriend and was already interviewing at Ivy League schools.
On the other hand, Stan and Kenny were there, too, and Butters wasn't sure what, if anything, Kenny had told them about their altercation. To his relief, no one seemed to expect the two of them to start punching each other, and he hoped he and Kenny could become friends. He rolled his sleeping bag out on the floor in Eric's basement and went out back to join the others, where he sat quietly, listening to the conversations around him, until Ike showed up and sat in the chair next to him.
"You were invited?" Butters blurted out, then he flushed red, because Ike could very well ask him the same question.
Fortunately Ike didn't seem at all insulted; he just laughed. "Stranger bed fellows have been made. Speaking figuratively, I assure you."
"'Ey, Hoser!" Cartman bellowed. "Did you bring it?"
"Hoser?" Butters asked as Ike patted his coat pocket in response to Cartman's question.
"I'm Canadian," Ike explained as Cartman approached. "And he saves 'Jew' for Kyle. Like, exclusively."
"Come on, Faggot One," Eric said to Ike. "Faggot Two," he added, looking at Butters.
"Hecubus," Ike shot back, getting to his feet.
"Suck my balls."
"I thought you were saving those for Kyle."
"Fuck you, Jail Bait. Someone," he said, looking at Tweek, "fucked up my sweet stereo system."
Tweek was twitching next to a portable CD player that looked like the ones on sale in the gift shop in Seattle. "I didn't even touch it!" he protested.
"Is that mustard?" Craig asked, pointing to the lid.
"No, it's not fucking mustard, Craig! That's the special edition artwork!"
"It looks like mustard to me."
"Is that a hot dog skin?" Clyde asked, poking his head between Craig and Tweek.
"No," Eric huffed, exasperated. "You guys just don't understand art."
"I understand it looks like you got this out of the garbage," Clyde said.
Eric looked like he was developing a headache. "Jail Bait, if you would."
Ike reached into his pocket and pulled out a harmonica, and he sat on an upside down crate and began to play the blues.
"Not that!" Eric yelled at him. "Jesus Christ, you hoser, this is a fucking party. Play something upbeat. Something Butters knows, so he can play along on this gay ass thing," he added, handing Butters a gourd drum shaped like a bottom heavy hour glass.
"Ipu heke," Ike said, admiring it. "Cool."
Butters nervously rubbed the top of the drum. He recognized the artwork on it; he'd drawn it himself. "Ah, Eric? This is mine."
"I know. I got it from your closet."
"You -" Butters started, but Ike simply shook his head.
"He breaks into Kyle's room all the time."
"Stay out of my room, fat ass!"
"Suck my balls, Jew!"
"See?" Ike mouthed, and Butters had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Even knowing Eric had violated his privacy and broken into his house,he felt a little more like one of the guys, especially if it put him in the same category as Kyle, who seemed to be pretty good friends with Eric, despite their arguments. They actually argued like an old married couple, the way his aunt and uncle did, except with a lot more swearing.
"Are you going to play something or not?" Craig asked.
Ike brought the harmonica to his lips again and played It's Gonna Be Me by 'N Sync. Butters bobbed his head along with the music for the first few bars as he wrapped the cord around his wrist, then he joined in. The strangeness of playing the ipu heke here instead of Kauai was replaced by the sheer joy of having it in his hands again, and he didn't realize he'd started singing, too, until they'd finished and Stan was staring at him like he'd just eaten his own feces. It was hard to tell what Stan really thought of him, though, because of the whole Wendy thing.
"Hey, here's your problem, lard ass," Kyle said from underneath the table. "You didn't have it plugged in all the way."
The music came on, a rip roarin' country tune, and just like that, it was as if Butters didn't exist.
"You think this is bad," Ike said in an aside. "Wait 'til you get to know the parents in this town." He pointed to Eric. "Cartman's mom is a crack whore, and if you're into weird fetish porn, you've probably seen her. My dad used to be a dolphin, my mom once declared war on my native homeland, and Stan's dad, well, let me put it this way. Stan's got his problems, but he's got his shit pretty well put together considering Randy's his dad."
Butters nodded, even though he had no idea who Randy Marsh was. It didn't sound like Stan's dad pushed Stan to improve himself the way Butters' father did, but then Stan was better at most things than Butters, so he probably didn't need it.
Eric called Ike over to settle an argument about something, and Butters thought he'd hang out with Tweek or Clyde (Craig still made him a little nervous), but he didn't see either of them, so he looked around until he spotted Kenny, hanging back behind Stan and Kyle. Eric's argument was with Kyle, of course, but Kenny was the one Butters was interested in. It wasn't that cold out, but Kenny had his hood up, concealing most of his face, and Butters tried unsuccessfully to catch his eye. He wanted to approach Kenny, but he was afraid, and he was disappointed in himself for not facing his fear.
He was so busy staring at Kenny that he didn't notice Tweek until his friend sat on the ground next to him.
"What's that?" Tweek asked, pointing to the art on the side of the ipu heke.
"It's a turtle," Butters explained, touching the shell shaped like a hibiscus flower. He'd seen a tattoo shaped like it once, when he was younger. "They're supposed to be good luck."
"How do you play that thing?" Tweek asked, indicating that either Butters' explanation was good enough for him or that his mind was moving too fast to dwell on a single thing for too long.
Butters demonstrated for almost a minute, and then he unwound the cord from his wrist. "Want to try?"
"No way, man. I'll break it."
It was a distinct possibility, but Butters didn't like hearing Tweek talk like that.
"Here," he said, offering the drum to Tweek. "It's sturdier than it looks."
Tweek looked like he was going to explode on the spot, but he took the drum and held it in front of him awkwardly. Butters gave him a nod of encouragement, and Tweek bounced the drum on the ground a few times, then slapped the side of it loudly. When Butters didn't correct him or try to take the drum away, he continued, his brow creasing in concentration as he tried to duplicate the sounds Butters had created.
"I think I'm supposed to hate you," Tweek said.
"You are?" Butters asked in surprise. "Why?"
"Because you just moved here and you're friends with my friends." Tweek drummed his fingers on the side of the ipu heke.
"But you're my friend, too," Butters protested. "I didn't try to take them away or anything."
"I know. But I was friends with Stan and Kyle for a while, when Kenny stopped hanging around them, and then they replaced me with Pip."
"Pip?" Butters didn't remember anyone by that name.
"He died," Tweek stated matter-of-factly. "But Kenny was back by then anyway."
"Back from where?"
Tweek shrugged. "I don't know! Jesus! I didn't know there was going to be a test!"
"It's fine! I was just wonderin', but it's okay if you don't know." Tweek didn't need to know that he'd made Butters curious about why Kenny had bailed on his friends long enough that they'd found not one, but two replacements for him, or why Stan and Kyle had even needed a replacement friend when they'd had Eric.
After Tweeks' revelation, Butters found himself watching the four of them. They seemed like the best of friends, even if they fought. Actually, it seemed like only Kyle and Eric fought, but they were obviously good friends despite that, otherwise they wouldn't keep hanging out together.
Three of them did most of the talking, and it seemed like Kenny rarely said anything, which was a big difference from the guy who'd talked Marjorine's ear off. If not for the fact that it was just so darn hard for Butters to talk in that quiet voice he used as Marjorine, he would have done all the talking; he tended to talk a lot, especially when he was nervous.
He didn't have much of a chance to observe them after that. Eric decided to set up a game called "Texas Rangers," and Butters was surprised to find himself playing a Meheecan alongside Stan and Kyle (who he assumed would have been on Cartman's team of rangers) instead of with Craig and Clyde (who were, equally surprisingly, on Cartman's side). He was the only Meheecan to get caught crossing the border, and he thought Eric might have fired off a few too many rounds of the pellet gun to keep Butters from making it into Texas. It had been kind of fun, though. No one called him a pussy for getting caught, and they all told off-color jokes at dinner. By the time it was his turn to brush his teeth, he decided it had been worth the bruises that were sure to appear in the morning.
He was preparing to crawl into his sleeping bag, but before he got to the bottom of the stairs, Eric asked him for a favor. Since he was a guest and Eric had been nice enough to invite him, Butters didn't even consider saying no.
Two hours later, he was still outside, banging the rocks together to scare the snipe out of their hiding place in the woods, and he was berating himself as loudly as he dared (he didn't want to scare the snipe away), worried that a curse would befall his family and all his friends if he failed to bring the good luck creature back with him. He wasn't exactly sure what a snipe looked like; he'd always thought it was a kind of bird but the way Eric had described it, it sounded like a cross between a badger and a bunny. According to Eric, the only way he'd know for sure when he saw one was if he got it in the beam of his flashlight, because of the iridescent stripe on its back.
His shoulders were aching from the weight of the rocks, too, and it was with great effort that he lifted one arm enough that he could rub at his eyes with the back of his hand. He tucked the rock under his arm and moved the flashlight back and forth, and he dropped both rocks and screamed when he saw the dark figure standing near one of the trees. He turned and ran, but without the light (he'd dropped that, too), he couldn't see where he was going, and he stumbled. "I'm sorry, Creature from the Dark Beyond," he babbled when he felt it grab his arm. "I d-didn't mean to intrude upon your sacred ground!"
"Jesus, Butters, it's just me," Kenny said, pushing his hood back so Butters could hear him better.
Butters reacted immediately. He threw his arms around Kenny and clung to him for dear life. Kenny just stood there, listening to Butters hyperventilate, then he awkwardly patted him on the back.
"I am so s-stupid," Butters mumbled into Kenny's hood. "Everyone else can do this. How am I ever going to be a man if I c-can't catch a single snipe?"
"Snipe hunting is bullshit," Kenny explained. "Cartman's playing a joke on you."
"Oh," Butters said. "Ha. Well, that was sure funny. I'll bet all the fellas are having a good laugh over this now."
It was hard to say if Butters was being sarcastic or sincere, but Kenny finally disentangled himself from the embrace and shoved his fingers through his hair. Most of them were asleep, and no one had seemed to notice Butters' absence when the lights went out.
Kenny had only noticed because he'd moved his sleeping bag as far from Butters as possible, and then he'd listened for Butters' footsteps on the stairs, just to mentally prepare himself for anything Butters might say, except those footsteps only made it halfway down when Cartman had intercepted him, and Kenny hadn't given it much thought — he'd even dozed off for a while — until he woke with a start, sought out the empty sleeping bag, and realized Butters was missing.
He wasn't relieved or anything when he found Butters; he just didn't like Cartman getting away with being a dick. Unless the person really really deserved it — and despite the whole Marjorine thing, Butters didn't deserve it.
They walked back to Cartman's house together. Butters rambled on about how he sure had fallen for that and how Eric had gotten him good, and how they were sure all going to have something to talk about over breakfast the next day. When they got to the back door, Kenny turned and looked at Butters.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Butters swallowed. "It was real nice of ya to come out and get me."
Kenny didn't want to be nice to Butters, and he didn't want Butters' gratitude. "It was nothing." In the light near the back door, Kenny noticed a twig stuck in Butter's hair, and he reached to pull it out. Butters turned his head at that exact moment so Kenny ended up cupping his cheek, and then Butters was gripping Kenny's coat and shoving his tongue down Kenny's throat.
Kenny was too stunned to push him away immediately, and when he did, Butters looked at him in confusion.
"Don't ever fucking do that again," Kenny warned him, and although he didn't slam into the house, his body language told Butters enough.
Butters leaned against the back of the house, looked up at the moon, and sighed.
Kenny continued to avoid him at school, and this time Butters couldn't blame him. The fact that no one called him a fag or a queer, even in jest, meant that Kenny hadn't told anyone about his complete and total misreading of the situation. It didn't make Butters any less distracted, however. In art class, he dropped his clay sculpture on the ground and had to start over; in Calculus he was called on several times for not paying attention. The latter made Ike stare at him curiously and ask him about it after class. Butters used the snipe hunt and lack of sleep as an excuse. Although Ike looked a little guilty that he hadn't realized Butters was out in the woods by himself that night, Butters wasn't sure Ike believed that was the only reason for his inattention.
He didn't feel any better about the whole thing until he got to work. There was something about cleaning at Tweek Bros. that he found calming, so unlike his chores at home where he never seemed to do the job to his father's standards. Then there were the few minutes he got to spare here and there, which he devoted to reading, and he enjoyed those, too. Of course he was grounded again for the week, except for work and mathletes, because he'd gotten home late after his weekend at Eric's. That meant he wasn't allowed to use the studio space he'd set up in the attic, but he felt he deserved it for what he'd done to Kenny. He was surprised Kenny didn't punch him again for that.
By the time the following Monday rolled around, he was looking forward to going to Stark's Pond after work. He'd discovered the pond his first week in South Park. It was the closest body of water nearby, and although the still water of the pond couldn't compare to the waves lapping on the shore, he could throw stones in it and watch the ripples if he wanted. He also liked to just sit out there and think, even though he didn't really meditate the way Tweek did.
He'd been doing a lot of thinking since Eric's party. He didn't know what had come over him, kissing Kenny like that. He'd known he was bi-curious since he was thirteen, when he'd had a tough time adjusting to middle school. Two new students, twins, started the same year he did, and they were haoles who had just moved to Lihue and whose father worked at the Fun Factory. Butters had assumed they'd be friendly and in need of some friends, being new to the island, but they'd harassed and belittled Butters and he'd retaliated by adopting a villainous alter ego. His father had found the costume in Butters' closet one afternoon and had declared it the "gayest thing he'd ever seen" - and that was saying something, because he'd caught his father going to the type of theater that didn't show movies like Mr. Peabody and Sherman or the Nut Job (although they had once shown something called the Nuts Job, which Butters later found out was not, in fact, a sequel to the animated film).
That's when his father told Butters that he wasn't gay, he was bi-curious, and he hadn't really thought much of it after that, because he'd never really felt attracted to guys. He'd noticed if someone was handsome, sure, but everyone knew that Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper were handsome, not just him, so that didn't really count.
Yes, he'd thought that Kenny was good looking, but he'd also noticed that Karen was pretty. He'd even asked her out, despite his father's hard and fast rule about not getting involved with the hotel guests. Kevin had squashed any thoughts he might have had about it being an actual date, though, and he went from seeing Karen as the type of girl he'd like to kiss to seeing her as a sister, just because of the time he'd spent with her brothers.
He hadn't given any thought at all to kissing after that, right up until Kenny kissed him.
Except Kenny hadn't kissed him, he'd kissed Marjorine. And Marjorine was him, really, but Kenny hadn't known that at the time, and Butters did — and Butters had kissed him back. That first time, Butters hadn't expected it, although he should have, because of the way Kenny had looked at him. It had been wrong to let it get that far, and he tried to tell Kenny. He'd really tried, at least he thought he had, but then Kenny had kissed him again, and Butters had felt a weird fluttery feeling in his stomach, and when Kenny's tongue touched his, he stopped thinking altogether and kissed him back. He didn't know much more about Kenny now than he had back in Hawaii, but he knew Kenny was a good kisser — so good that for a few seconds, Butters forgot Kenny didn't know who he was.
Even after he'd pushed Kenny away, he'd wanted to tell him the truth, but he'd found himself gulping for air, and thought he might start crying, which was exactly the sort of thing a flaming homo would do, and Butters didn't want to be a flaming homo. He hadn't wanted to like Kenny kissing him, but he had. He wasn't even sure what scared him more when he ran away like a coward, the fact that he didn't want to blubber like a baby, that he didn't want to see the look on Kenny's face when he told him who he was, or that he thought Kenny might punch him. Which had happened in the end anyway.
Then he'd gone and kissed Kenny for real, as himself, just because Kenny touched him, the way he'd touched Marjorine. Butters had thought maybe Kenny was too scared to make the first move, or that maybe he wanted to try it again, now that he knew the truth about Marjorine. He'd kissed Kenny, and it had felt right, and even better than the last time. His insides had gone all quivery at the feel of Kenny's mouth on his, and he'd imagined that Kenny had started to kiss him back, but he'd always been told he had a vivid imagination. He'd never thought of it as a liability until now.
He shoved thoughts of Kenny and amazing kisses away the best he could. He imagined packing them up in a little box, and wrapping chains around the box, and padlocking the chains together, and then throwing the key in a volcano. Some things were better left unsaid, and some were best left unknown. Although there was nothing he could do about the latter now, he could at least pretend everything was fine. He was going to have to, before he got to Stark's Pond, otherwise he was going to have even bigger problems to worry about.
Eric Cartman was an asshole.
Everyone knew it. Everyone had always known it, and 'asshole' was one of Cartman's better qualities, when compared to his bigotry and misogyny and borderline psychopathy. The snipe hunt he'd sent Butters on had been one of his kinder pranks. Kenny didn't like that he'd noticed Butters was missing that night, and he didn't like the way he'd felt when Butters had mistaken Kenny as a demon from hell. Demonius, who Kenny had met a few times after dying, was one of the better looking minions of Satan, and it was not a flattering comparison.
What had really bothered Kenny, though, was that Butters had been scared shitless, and had been out in the woods, in the dark, alone. It wasn't anything the rest of them hadn't gone through, but Butters wasn't from South Park. He hadn't grown up knowing what a fucked up town it was, and the little bit Kenny had told Leopold about his home town hadn't even come close to scratching the surface. He hated that he'd been relieved when he'd found Butters, safe and in one piece.
He hated that he'd liked when Butters had kissed him.
Kenny wasn't a homophobe. He'd dabbled in a bit of experimentation himself, giving head to Craig Tucker in tenth grade and getting a rim job from Craig in return. That had been the end of that, but it had been enough to open up a whole new world of pleasure to Kenny, knowing that there were other options out there. And he might have jerked off once or twice thinking of Craig's tongue in his ass, but variety was supposed to be the spice of life, and he and Craig went back to keeping their distance for the most part.
That Butters had ended up falling in with Craig and his gang defied logic, but then Kenny hadn't seen Butters until Wendy's party. He'd heard about him plenty of times, but he'd never been referred to as 'Butters' or 'Leopold.' He'd always been the new kid or the asshole who was cock blocking Stan with Wendy, and Ike only referred to him by his last name — all things that would never in a million years make Kenny think he'd ever met this guy before. He supposed other than the feel of Craig's cock in his mouth, he barely knew anything about Tucker, either, so who the fuck was Kenny to think he knew who Craig found interesting enough to hang out with.
Besides, Kenny had to admit that Butters made for interesting company. He wondered if Craig knew that Butters had been hula's version of a drag queen, or that he could twirl and juggle fire batons, or that he had a way about him of listening and making you feel like what you had to say actually fucking mattered to someone. He wondered if Butters gave Craig and Clyde and Tweek, and maybe Wendy, Kyle, and Ike, too — Hawaiian nicknames like he'd done for Kevin, Kenny, and Karen, or if Craig took one look at Butters, pegged him as a twink, and set out to get another hummer.
His fingers curled into fists at the thought of Butters bobbing up and down on Craig's cock.
He'd managed to hold out just over a week, and he might have held out even longer, but he'd woken up that morning with a raging hard on, and he'd practically jerked himself raw in the shower, thinking of anything and anyone but the one person who'd gotten him into such a state. When he saw Butters head toward the boy's room with a hall pass in his hand, it was as good as a sign as he was ever going to get. It took some convincing to get a hall pass, and in the end he'd had to cover his mouth with his hand and puff out his cheeks as if he were holding back some serious chunder, but by then Butters was already headed back to class.
That left Kenny with only one option. He ducked into the janitor's closet, and when Butters walked by, he grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him into the closet, slamming the door shut and plunging them into darkness. The only sound was their breathing, before Butters cleared his throat nervously. Kenny expected him to say something, but he didn't.
"You kissed me," he told Butters.
"You kissed me first," Butters whispered back.
"I thought I was kissing Marjorine."
"I know," Butters admitted. "But you were kinda doin' that, too, ya know."
Kenny's eyes were slowly adjusting to the dark, and he reached out to slide his hand behind Butters' head. He could feel the sharp points of the puka necklace hiding beneath Butters' collar.
"I can't stop thinking about it."
"Thinkin' about..." Butters trailed off, because there was no point in asking the question. There was only one thing between them that really bore that much thinking about. Kenny's fingers tangled in Butters' hair, and he yanked just hard enough to tilt Butters' head back.
"Kenny," Butters sighed, and it was a sound full of longing, one that echoed the way Kenny had felt ever since that last night in Hawaii.
It was their third kiss, but it was the first one they'd both engaged in knowingly. Kenny wasn't kissing the fictional Marjorine, nor was he kissing Butters Stotch, the dork who joined the mathletes his first week of school and fell for one of the oldest pranks in the book. He was kissing Leopold, who'd twirled fire batons and given Kenny a free fucking orange juice with no expectation of being repaid, who'd endured a beating and still taken Kenny to see the most beautiful sunrise on the fucking planet.
They were both breathing heavy when Kenny finally lifted his lips from Leopold's. Leo's hands were buried in Kenny's hair and he slowly lowered his arms. "Oh, hamburgers," he whispered. "I'm gonna be late gettin' back to class."
It should have annoyed Kenny that Leopold was worried about that now, after what they'd just shared, but he found it kind of cute and kissed him again, hard and fast, before opening the door and pushing Leopold out into the hall first. He raked his fingers through his hair, pulled his hood back up, and went back to class himself, leaving Leopold standing in the hallway staring after him.
What had just happened?
Butters touched his fingers to his lips, but he didn't have time to process it; he had to get back to class, because by now everyone else had surely finished determining the rate at which a ladder was sliding down a wall and moved on to how fast water was rising in a trough being filled to a specified height at a given rate. He did his best to act like nothing had changed in the short time he'd been gone, but he'd never had a very good poker face, and Ike had stared at him for some time after he slid into his seat and went to work on the trough problem.
By the end of the day, he'd accepted the idea that what happened in the closet was a Very Good Thing. If Kenny kissed him like that after all that had happened, that meant he didn't hate Butters; it meant quite the opposite. Butters wasn't sure what they were now, but they were something, and that something made him go through the rest of the day with the biggest, goofiest grin on his face. He couldn't stop smiling. He smiled at work; he smiled when he got home; he smiled when he went to bed; he even woke up with a smile. He was happy, honest to goodness, deep down, ain't nothin' gonna get me down happy.
It lasted until lunch the next day, when he approached the table where Stan, Kyle, Eric, and Kenny were sitting.
"Hey, fellas!" he said cheerfully. "Mind if I sit with you?"
"Yes, we mind if you sit with us, Butters. I gave you a job to do, and I have yet to see the results."
Butters smile faltered a little. He'd completely forgotten he'd promised Eric that he'd edit some video footage he'd filmed with Eric the previous weekend, a project for which Eric had asked him to stay after the others left, and the reason Butters had arrived home so late. Eric was taking a young film maker's workshop at the community center, and he had a very specific vision of the story he was telling, one that Butters didn't understand at all but that had involved Eric in drag, Mr. Kitty wearing a feathered Mardi Gras mask (Butters had also gone home with long scratches on his arm for that), and a lot of German techno music in the background.
"I'm sorry, Eric. I just had other things on my mind."
He glanced over at Kenny, but Kenny had his hood pulled up and was quietly eating a plain piece of white bread, acting as if Butters wasn't even there.
Eric snapped his fingers in Butters' face. "'Ey! Pay attention, faggot. The computer lab is open during lunch. Get your ass over there and get to work."
"Why don't you let him eat his fucking lunch, fat ass?"
"Blow me," Eric retorted.
He and Kyle bickered back and forth, and Butters slowly backed away from their table, his eyes trained on Kenny the whole time, and he kept backing up until he got to the door to the little courtyard outside, and that's where he spent his lunch period, picking at his food and allowing the birds to swoop down and nibble, until the entire avian population of South Park convened on one small picnic table.
He was still coughing up feathers when he got home from school, which was another reason to be grounded, and while he was stuck in his room in the evenings, he had plenty of time once again to think.
It hurt, Kenny's implied rejection, but Butters swallowed it down and tried to see it from Kenny's point of view. He'd struggled with his attraction to Kenny back in Lihue, back when he thought he'd never see Kenny again. Yesterday Kenny hadn't just pulled him into the closet to make out; he'd told Butters he couldn't stop thinking about it. He had to like Butters a little, at least, and he'd even told Butters they were friends.
The whole Marjorine thing had started when he was little, when his parents went out for chi chis and left him with Malana, the daughter of one of the hotel maids. Malana would sit Butters down while she practiced hula in front of the mirror. Butters, not wanting to be left out, copied her, and eventually Malana decided he was good enough to dance with her in her school's talent contest. She'd dressed him like a little girl, with ponytails and a grass skirt, and Marjorine was born.
He'd been grounded after that, but he'd had fun. It had weighed on his mind how something he'd enjoyed so much had been so wrong, according to his parents. It was also Butters' first introduction to his flawed, disobedient side. He usually tried to be good, and he trusted his parents' wisdom and tried to do what they expected of him. It was that just sometimes he needed to express himself, and before he'd discovered an outlet in art, there was the hula. He didn't learn to hula like the men until he was in his teens, some time after his father discovered the grass skirt in his closet, but Butters found he liked both types of hula equally, because they expressed a story in different ways.
Despite his desire to avoid disappointing his parents, he'd find himself roped into dancing with the women for one reason or another. His father finally realized there was something in it for him, and for the coffers, and when Kawailani's boyfriend got her into numerology and she became impossible to work with, Marjorine was recruited as the solution. The girls all knew him, and they looked upon him like a brother (no matter how much he'd wished otherwise), so it was only natural they'd protect Marjorine like their little sister.
Eventually Marjorine became an extension of Butters, much more so than Professor Chaos ever had.
Sometimes it was a little harder to look on the bright side, but Butters was pretty good at it. Although Kenny wasn't talking to him at school, maybe he was shy. There had to be a reason he wore the hood all the time, which was a real shame because Kenny was really good looking and he had a nice smile, but Butters knew all about wanting to hide sometimes.
One of those times came the day they went outside for art, to sketch something they could find in nature. While everyone else was focusing on trees and flowers, Butters spied a butterfly and chased it around the side of the school, hoping it would alight somewhere long enough for him to sketch it.
That's where he found Kenny and Emily Anderson wrapped around each other. Kenny's hands were under her shirt and his lips were moving slowly against hers, in that way Kenny had where he knew exactly what he was doing.
Butters slunk away quietly and he ended up drawing a leaf on the ground, one that was riddled with holes, chewed through by Japanese beetles. Ike noticed, because Ike noticed everything, and he looked at Butters thoughtfully. Butters almost thought he'd say something, maybe ask him why he was drawing something so ugly, but he didn't. He just went back to his own sketchpad and the maple leaf he was drawing, and Butters almost wished Ike would say something just so he could tell him off. Ike didn't, though, and Butters didn't get to hide.
The next time he wanted to hide came right around Memorial Day, when his grandmother came to visit.
"Jesus, dude, watch what you're doing!" Tweek cried out when Butters started pouring the coffee without a cup underneath it. Fortunately it was a coffee for Tweek and not a customer, but it still made a mess, one that both Butters and Tweek attempted to clean up at the same time, bonking their heads together and springing apart.
"Seriously, Butters!" Tweek scowled at him as he rubbed his head. "What the fuck is your problem?"
"N-nothing," Butters stammered. He might have kept up with the lie, too, because Tweek had a notoriously short attention span, but he made the mistake of making eye contact with his friend. Despite Tweek's brusque questions, he looked honestly concerned, and not just about things like government conspiracies and how Disney was going to further fuck up the Star Wars franchise.
Tweek laid his hand on Butters' shoulder. "I know," he said sympathetically. "It happens to me, too."
Butters blinked. "It — it does?"
Tweek nodded. "Every night."
"Me, too," Butters said, and the two of them sat down at a table, where Butters told Tweek all about his grandmother's abuse, and how at first, when he was little, she'd been bigger than him, and he'd had no choice but to take it. Now that he was taller and stronger than she was, there was nothing he could do to fight back, because she was old and mean but fragile, too, and he could hurt her if he tried defending himself, and then he'd get grounded for life if that happened and probably go to Hell, too. He told Tweek how he couldn't sleep at night because she'd come into his room to taunt him, call him a pussy and a queer and would slap him a few times, just because she knew she could.
Tweek looked at him curiously, and then asked, "What are the gnomes doing while she's there?"
Butters couldn't have heard that right. "The gnomes?"
"Yes! The underpants gnomes! I know they moonlight as Santa's elves, but that's not until at least October! They won't stay out of my room, and a guy needs his privacy. I mean, what if I wanted to jerk off?"
Butters didn't know what surprised him more, the fact that Tweek had gnomes invading his room every night or the fact that Tweek masturbated.
"There aren't any underpants gnomes," he finally said.
"Oh," Tweek said, looking disappointed. "Well, that really sucks about your grandma, too."
"Yeah," Butters replied sadly. "I just hope she doesn't plan on stayin' long."
"Maybe you could stay with a friend," Tweek mused.
"My house? Why would you stay at my house?" He twitched visibly.
"Well, because you said I should stay with a friend, and you're my friend."
"What if she comes to my room during the night after the gnomes are gone?"
The front door opened, and Mr. Tweek caught the tail end of the conversation. "Now, Tweek, what did we decide about the gnomes?"
"I didn't decide!" Tweek said, his voice high pitched and frantic. "You decided!"
"I don't know if you know this, Butters, but Tweek here suffers from ADHD."
"No, sir, I didn't know."
"Ngh," Tweek inserted.
Mr. Tweek patted his son on the shoulder. "If you need to go in the back so you can take a few minutes to find your center, you go right ahead."
After Tweek scurried away to do as his father suggested, with his cup of coffee still in his hand, Mr. Tweek turned to Butters.
"You're more than welcome to stay at our house, Butters, as long as it's okay with your parents."
"Th-thank you, sir."
"Now let me get you a cup of coffee. I think you'll like our new breakfast-dinner blend. It's like sitting near a babbling brook as the butterflies flutter past."
"No, thank you, sir, I -"
"Or perhaps you'd prefer our Brazilian Canadian espresso, which energizes you like a brisk walk at sunrise."
"I don't think -"
"Ah," Mr. Tweek said, nodding. "I see. You'll want some of this, then." He went behind the counter and put a cup under one of the machines, dispensing a generous amount before returning to where Butters was sitting and setting it on the table. He looked at Butters expectantly, and Butters, too afraid to hurt the man's feelings or to take a chance on getting fired, took a cautious sip.
Kevin was right about one thing, it tasted like shit. Butters grimaced and fought back the urge to spit it out all over the table.
"It's good, isn't it?" Mr. Tweek beamed proudly. "That's one of our exclusive Tweek family blends, not one of the overly complicated ones we get from Harbucks. That one there is like getting a big bear hug from your grandmother, isn't it?"
Butters, who was trying to force down a second sip, nearly choked, and Mr. Tweek pounded him on the back. "Don't inhale it, son. You want to take your time with that one. Savor it. And when you come over this evening, I'll be sure the Missus brews some of this for you."
He beamed at Butters, and when he went in the back to check on Tweek, Butters hurried to the sink and dumped the rest of the coffee down the drain.
A big bear hug from his grandmother.
To his surprise, his parents allowed him to stay at Tweek's for the night. He'd considered not even asking, but he chose to approach his father alone, while his mother and grandmother were out playing bingo. There was a price to pay for the privilege, namely letting his father take the Harley out for a spin while Butters was at the Tweeks', but it was worth it, even if Butters had yet to ride the bike himself.
They'd nearly left the motorcycle behind, and Butters had attempted to convince his parents to let him buy a new one once they settled in Colorado. Haku heard about this and said he knew a guy who could get it shipped to the mainland cheap. Unfortunately cheap came with a cost, because the Harley arrived the worse for wear, but despite the cosmetic damage, the engine was intact and he'd been waiting for months to take it out. He'd almost considering refusing his father's deal, but he was sure doing so would not only leave him at the mercy of his grandmother, but would also somehow end up with his being grounded.
After dinner (during which Butters forced down an entire cup of swill that really did seem like a bear hug from his grandmother, in that both were immensely unpleasant), he and Tweek went up to Tweek's room, where they played video games. To Butters' surprise, Tweek enjoyed Hello Kitty Roller Rescue, too, and they were up until quarter after three playing, when Tweek noticed the clock in the lower right hand corner of the screen and began getting agitated.
"They're coming soon," he said. "Oh, God, they'll be here soon."
"Who?" Butters asked, then, remembering, "the underpants gnomes?"
"What do the underpants gnomes do?"
"They steal my underpants!"
If he'd been with anyone else, he would've assumed Tweek was messing with him.
"How do underpants lead to big profit?"
"I don't know! They don't even know!"
"Well, that doesn't sound like a very well thought out business plan."
"Tell me about it," Tweek said, dropping his head into his hands.
Butters crawled over to the duffel bag he'd brought with him and carefully peeled away the pajamas he'd not yet changed into to reveal a small gourd drum. A second ipu heke was wedged in the corner of the bag, and he brought both of them to the center of the room, where he sat down with one between his legs.
"No way, man."
"Why not?" Butters asked.
"B-because! What if I break it? What if the gnomes want me to play during their stupid song?"
That the gnomes had a song didn't surprise Butters, although perhaps it should have. He patted the side of his drum. "Maybe we won't hear them if we play something of our own."
"Then we'll wake my parents and they'll make me take those again!" He pointed to a prescription bottle on his bedside table. "They make bugs crawl on my skin."
Butters thought he heard something, faintly, and he might have thought it was just his imagination again, but Tweek was pulling at his hair, so he probably heard it, too.
"Time to go to work, work all night. Search for underpants, hey!"
Butters might have started to run around the room in circles, screaming, as they seemingly came out of nowhere, but his feet were tucked under his legs and he didn't want to break the ipu heke.
"We won't stop until we have underpants. Yum tum yummy tum tay!"
Just as Tweek said, they rummaged through the top drawer of his dresser, collecting underpants, and they sang the entire time. Butters nervously began drumming along, and he didn't realize he was doing so until the gnomes froze and turned as one to stare at him.
"Who the fuck are you?" one of them asked.
"I'm Butters," he said. His tongue felt like it was stuck to the roof of his mouth and he wondered if he'd just given them some kind of mystical power over him by providing his name. Maybe it didn't count with nicknames; he hadn't told them his real name.
"Do that again," another one said.
"The drum," Tweek muttered. "They want you to play the drum."
"Oh. All right, then," Butters conceded, and he played the melody of their work song.
"We totally need to get one of those," a third gnome said.
"Totally," agreed the second one.
"How would we carry the underpants, then?"
They began to argue over who would get to carry the drum, and they continued fighting as they left, leaving underwear strewn all over the floor in their wake.
Butters considered asking about the gnomes — how often they came into Tweek's room, how long they'd been coming, if they'd ever done anything besides steal underpants, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know the answers to those questions. He cleared his throat, stroked the side of the drum, and bounced it on the floor a couple of times as he slapped its side. He tried to think of something lighthearted, something catchy, and he went with the song that had been stuck in his head since he heard it on television the week before.
"Pop tops poppin', flip-flops floppin', drop tops droppin' down," he sang, tipping his head toward the second drum he'd brought for Tweek.
Tweek sat on the floor across from Butters and pulled the drum closer, hugging it close to his chest. He fiddled with the cord nervously, and when he set it down, the drum, all twelve inches of it, looked like an odd shaped penis jutting out between Tweek's legs. Butters had to close his eyes as he sang to block out that image.
"It's makin' me wanna sing a song that goes like this..."
"Whoa -oh, whoa-oh," Tweek joined in suddenly, and Butters' eyes snapped open. He grinned at Tweek, and the two of them forgot about being quiet and not waking Tweek's parents, because they were having fun, and when they finished that song, Butters went right into Bastille's Pompeii without a break. To his delight, Tweek wasn't only singing, he was giving the drum a try, too, his frenetic movements perfect for the pace of the song. By the time they got to the second iteration of "How am I gonna be an optimist about this?" Tweek's eyes were closed and he was belting out the lyrics like the words came from deep inside him.
Butters had never realized what a nice singing voice Tweek had, probably because he tended to speak in short panicked bursts. He set his own drum aside and just watched Tweek, who was now putting his own spin on the song, slowing it down and telling the story as if it were his own. He'd never seen Tweek like this before, and he liked it. He liked it an awful lot, so much so that when Tweek, singing, asked if it felt like nothing changed at all, the answer to that was a firm no, and Butters showed Tweek that everything had changed by slowly leaning forward until he could feel Tweek's breath on his face.
He had a split second of indecision, of thinking this is a very bad idea, but he touched his lips to Tweek's anyway, fully expecting Tweek to skitter away, or take a swing at him or something. Instead, Tweek grabbed a handful of Butters' hair and kissed him back. The drum was rolled out of the way, and Butters practically fell on top of Tweek, but neither of them broke the kiss until Tweek's hips jerked upwards, slamming his crotch against Butters'. Butters tore his mouth away, arched his back, and came in his pants.
He rolled away, mortified, and babbled an apology as Tweek scooted behind him and rested his chin on Butter's shoulder. His arms wound around Butters and he pressed a gentle kiss on Butter's temple, and he made soft soothing sounds until Butters stopped trembling.
"I've never made someone come before," Tweek admitted. "It...it was fucking hot, man." He slid his hand under Butters' shirt and toyed with his nipples. "I thought Cartman was full of shit when he told everyone you were gay."
"I'm not gay; I'm bi-curious."
Tweek seemed pretty curious himself, because he licked the side of Butters' neck, making him shiver. He was lying. He'd enjoyed kissing Kenny, and he'd just gotten off kissing Tweek, and even if he'd jerked off thinking of Wendy a few times, while she'd been his girlfriend, what he felt for Kenny and Tweek went beyond curiosity.
That resolved in his mind, he started feeling guilty about leaving Tweek unsatisfied, and by the time they went to bed — separately, with Tweek in his bed and Butters on the floor in his sleeping bag — Butters had given (and Tweek had received) his very first blow job. It hadn't tasted very good to Butters, but he'd swallowed it all down anyway. There was something about making Tweek quiver from something besides caffeine and nerves that nearly made Butters shoot his load a second time.
When Tweek's eyes fluttered shut, Butters crept to the bathroom for a much needed shower, to get rid of the dried jizz on his pubes, He guiltily jerked off with a palm full of bath soap, and he thought of the unfamiliar, relaxed expression on Tweek's face as he came.
When he woke several hours later, bleary eyed and momentarily forgetting where he was, Tweek was peering down at him from the bed.
"Ah, good morning, Tweek." Butters licked his lips. They felt incredibly dry, but Tweek didn't seem to mind, because he leaned over and kissed him.
"So are we boyfriends?" Tweek asked. "Or just friends with benefits?"
"I'm totally cool with being FWBs," Tweek interrupted. "Relationships are too much pressure."
"S-sure," Butters said, even though he hadn't thought of anything beyond what they'd done last night. That Tweek seemed to want to do it again, yeah, Butters could live with that. "Okay," he agreed. "Friends with benefits."
Tweek was remarkably relaxed at breakfast, which led to a concerned lecture for the both of them from Tweek's parents, followed by an interrogation of Butters, asking if he'd brought any drugs with him. Tweek, agitated, blurted out that Butters had sucked him off, and Mr. and Mrs. Tweek fell completely silent, staring at their son, then at Butters, with open mouthed expressions. Butters thought for sure he'd get kicked out of the house and probably get fired, too, but Mr. Tweek just mumbled something that sounded like "at least it's not that Tucker boy," and after both of them had been given a foil wrapped condom and a red-faced "be careful," they were left alone.
"Want me to blow you before you leave?"
Butters mouth dropped open. "Wh-what?"
"Your dick. My mouth. I've never given someone a BJ before."
Butters' dick had grown hard the moment Tweek mentioned it, and he nodded mutely. They went up to Tweek's room, and when Butters dropped his pants, Tweek stared.
"Jesus, dude. You're fucking huge!"
"I'm sorry. You don't have to -" and that was as far as he got, because Tweek's tongue was swirling around the head of his cock. He slid his fingers into Tweek's soft locks and tried to stay still as Tweek's lips enveloped him, but it became too much when Tweek fondled his balls, and he spurted right down Tweek's throat.
"F-fuck," he gasped. "Oh."
Tweek released Butters' softening cock with a soft pop, and he leaned back and wiped his mouth, looking very pleased with himself. Butters couldn't even look at him as he packed his bag.
"You forgot one," Tweek said, pointing to the ipu heke on the floor.
"Oh," Butters said. "That's for you. Not because of, ah, you know. I brought it for you because you're my friend."
He finally glanced at Tweek, who looked ridiculously pleased, and it seemed only natural after that to kiss him good-bye.
His good mood lasted all the way home, until he walked in the door and was greeted with, "Hey, faggot."
With everything that had gone on between him and Tweek, he'd completely forgotten all about his grandmother being there. He was tired, and confused, and a little giddy over the fact that Tweek wanted to do it again sometime (not at work, ever, that was one of the ground rules, and not at school), and he sighed. "Yes, Grandma. I'm a faggot. A big, flaming faggot with a side of sodomite sauce."
It left his grandmother so stunned, she let him go up to his room, where he was able to lie in bed and relive the feel of Tweek's lips against his own (and on his cock, because that had been pretty awesome), and how right it had felt, and how Kenny McCormick could make out with any old skank he wanted to for all Butters cared.
"Guys! Guys!" Cartman yelled as he ran toward them at the lunch table.
"What?" Stan asked.
"You'll never guess what I heard."
"Probably not," Kyle muttered.
"I heard that, Jew," Cartman retorted, but he was too excited about his news. "I heard that Butters is gay."
"You're the one that started that rumor," Kyle pointed out.
"No, no, I'm being totally seriously. Jason said that he heard from Fosse, who heard it from Dog Poo Petuski, who said he overheard Filmore telling Ike that he saw Tweek and Butters making out at Stark's Pond."
"Uh uh," Kyle said, shaking his head. "Fosse's an idiot, and he thinks everything is gay, anyway. And you can't believe anything Filmore might have told my brother. He'd say anything to get one over on Ike."
"Filmore is totally gay for Ike," Cartman said, waving his hand dismissively. "But the point is that Butters is definitely gay."
"That means Tweek's gay, too," Stan pointed out.
"Didn't you hear me? We have proof that Butters is gay!"
"Why do you even fucking care?" Kyle asked.
Cartman huffed. "Because I fucking hate him."
"Then why did you have him stay at your house that time after the rest of us left?"
"Yeah," Kyle added. "Why did you do that?"
"My business is none of your business, Jew."
"Lover's spat?" Ike asked, sitting down next to his brother. He picked up a workbook from the top of the stack he was carrying and handed it to Kyle.
"Shut up, Jail Bait. Shouldn't you be out somewhere letting Filmore tongue your ass?"
"Yes, but Kyle forgot his notes for this weekend. Are you going to be there?"
"Hmm. Spend a weekend watching TV and eating Cheesy Poofs, or stuck in a school auditorium watching losers do math homework for a couple hours. Television and Cheesy Poofs," he held out one hand, palm up, "boring losers..." he held out the other hand as if he were literally weighing the two options.
"I'll be there," Stan said, and Kyle beamed at him.
Cartman snorted. "You are so pussy whipped."
Stan flushed. "I'm not going for Wendy! I'm going because Kyle's my best friend."
"And Butters is totally not gay. You are so fucking going because of Wendy. Get it through your head, Stan, she's got you by the short ones."
"I marked Morley's Trisector Theorem," Ike said, tapping the cover of the workbook.
"I thought Butters was going to study that one," Kyle frowned.
"Butters is working on the square root of two."
"Proof by contradiction? Why does he get the easy one?"
Cartman looked at Stan, raised an eyebrow, and said, "Still time to reconsider television and Cheesy Poofs."
Kyle and Ike continued to argue for a few minutes, until Ike got to his feet and snarled, "your problem is you need to get laid!" before storming off.
Cartman casually took a sip of his milk and said, "He's got a point there."
"Fuck off," Kyle said before taking off after his brother.
"Television and Cheesy Poofs, my man," Cartman repeated. "Television and Cheesy Poofs."
Kenny might not have been there for all they noticed.
He started going to Stark's Pond every evening after supper, climbing out his bedroom window so Karen wouldn't ask where he was going. There was no point in going any earlier, because Butters and Tweek both worked until seven or eight, and the first few nights Kenny got there, Butters was nowhere to be seen, although that could have been due to the upcoming mathletes competition or because he'd been grounded.
Kenny knew Leopold had anxiety over getting grounded back when they were in Hawaii, but he hadn't realized how often that was the case until Butters moved to South Park. It was possible that Butters was grounded nearly as often as he wasn't. Kenny continued his vigils, however, because he wasn't going there to spy on Butters and Tweek, anyway, and because when no one was there, it was peaceful and quiet, something his home was not. He was also surprised that he'd not realized what a great make out spot Stark's Pond was and that Tweek and Butters (allegedy) had.
The mathletes competition came and went (Park County ended up losing, although just barely, and Butters had naturally been grounded. It hadn't even been his fault; Kyle's defective kidney, cooperative for years, chose to act up during the final question, and when the redhead's nose sprayed a white milk like substance all over the white board he was using, it wiped out part of his answer, and he had to go back and rewrite it while pinching his nose with the other hand, thereby running out of time), and it was about a week after that when Kenny's stakeout paid off.
"Don't hold it so tight." That was Butters' voice.
There was a muttered response, and then Butters, soothing, added, "Relax. Don't force it; just let it come. Feel it on the inside."
"This is so fucking hard," Kenny heard next, and he recognized the voice at once. There was a pause, then "I want to see you first."
He crept toward the shadowy figures of Butters and Kevin and froze when he saw the flame. Panic filled him, and he ran the rest of the way, coming to a stop next to his brother as he realized what was going on. Butters hadn't noticed him yet; he was focusing on the flaming batons he was twirling, he ended his demonstration by tossing one in the air, turning around, and catching it behind his back on its downward descent. Kenny could barely see the flash of white teeth when Butters smiled at Kevin, a smile that dimmed when he realized Kenny was there, too. He doused both ends of the batons in a bucket of water that Kenny hadn't noticed earlier, and he handed them back to Kevin before crossing his arms over his chest.
"Leopold," Kenny returned, and he looked past Butters to where Kevin was twirling one of the batons, passing it from one hand to the other. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"What the fuck does it look like I'm doing?" Kevin answered, tossing the baton in the air and turning as Butters had done. He nearly caught it, but it rolled off his fingers and fell to the ground.
Kenny opened his mouth to stay something, but Butters jumped in. "He's good, Kenny, real good."
It was too late, however, because Kevin caught the look on Kenny's face, and he picked up the batons and held them over his shoulder.
"Thanks, Leopold," he said, deliberately avoiding looking at his brother. "I'll catch ya later."
Butters frowned as he watched Kevin walk away, and then he turned to Kenny. "He really is good, Kenny. He just got nervous with you watching."
"And you were going to light them on fire? Are you fucking crazy?"
Butters' eyebrows drew together. "Maybe I am, but you can trust me not to light them until he's ready. I know what I'm doing, you know."
"Since when are you and Kevin all chummy chummy anyway?"
Butters narrowed his eyes. "Longer than you and I have been friends."
Kenny felt a stab of guilt. He hadn't exactly been Leopold's friend. He'd thought about him often, but mostly about kissing him.
"I'm sorry," he sighed.
"You are?" Butters asked warily.
"Yes. For everything."
To his surprise, Butters launched himself at Kenny, catching him in a hug. Kenny stood stock still for a moment, then hugged him back. This close to Leopold, Kenny could smell the smoke from the batons, and the faint scent of whatever soap Butters used. Tufts of Butters' hair tickled at his nose, but he kind of liked it.
"I missed you," Butters confessed.
"Me too," Kenny murmured against Butter's ear. When Butters shivered in response, he fish-lipped the bottom of Butters' earlobe a few times before lightly sucking on it.
"Kenny..." Butters moaned, and he tipped his head to the side, granting greater access. Kenny ran the tip of his finger down Butters' neck, just above the jugular vein, and the sound of Butters sucking in his breath made him hard. Fuck, he'd never reacted this badly to anyone while sober.
It took little convincing to get Butters to lie down on the grass, and Kenny palmed Butter's erection through his jeans.
"Leopold," Kenny mumbled in between kisses.
"Mmm?" Butters asked, and he bit his bottom lip when Kenny unzipped his fly and touched him through his underpants.
"Fuck, yeah, Leopold. You feel that? I'm gonna make you feel so good." Through the front of Butters' briefs, he dipped his finger into the wet slit of Butters' cock, and Butters reacted by grabbing a handful of Kenny's hair.
He didn't bother trailing a line of kisses down Butters' chest; Butters had too many clothes on and Kenny wanted to feel Butters pull his hair when he made him come. Butters' dick popped out like a jack in the box when Kenny grabbed his underwear and yanked them down, and he took it in his mouth, as far as he could, and slurped at it noisily because he suspected Butters would like that. Which he apparently did because Kenny wasn't ready for how quickly Butters came, but he swallowed down as much as he could, then went back up to kiss Butters, forcing him to taste himself and to know that Kenny had been the one to bring him to this point.
Butters kissed him back like he'd never kissed him before. It was more than his lips and his tongue moving against Kenny's, more than commingled breath, and Kenny felt tingling in unexpected places.
"Kenny," Butters said when they stopped to catch a breath. "Oh, Kenny."
Ever eager to please, Butters gave Kenny head in return, and he was surprisingly good at it, making Kenny wonder exactly what else he and Tweek did when they were alone. Afterward, they lay on the grass, breathing heavily. Butters turned toward Kenny and pressed the palm of his hand against Kenny's chest.
"What are you doing?" Kenny asked sleepily. He couldn't stay out here all night, but he wasn't quite ready to get up just yet.
"Kapahu," Butters murmured. "The drum." He rested the side of his head next to his hand. "I like it."
It was a fucking weird thing to say, and now that Kenny had spent himself, he was starting to feel a little uncomfortable being out here. "You should get home before it gets too late."
Butters sprang away and yanked his pants up over his hips, hopping around as he pulled up his zipper. "I'm sorry, Kenny. I'm not tryin' to, ah, you know, and run, but I've got to get home."
Kenny tipped his head back and watched, upside down, as Butters struggled into into his jeans. "I know."
Butters dropped to a squat and planted another hard, quick kiss to Kenny's lips, then emptied the bucket of water on the ground and took off running, the pail clanging against his leg with every step. Kenny pulled the flaps of his fly together so he could zip his jeans before sitting up and rubbing at his face.
He wasn't sure what he'd hoped to accomplish by staking out Stark's Pond every night. He'd wanted to see for himself if Cartman's story about Butters and Tweek was true, but he shouldn't have cared one way or another. Butters was just the first guy he'd ever kissed (his contact with Craig had been an entirely below the waist affair). Butters had a too-pretty face, spoiled by a too-goofy grin; a too-perfect body covered up by clothes that were too neat, too clean cut, and sometimes, downright ugly; and a brain that impressed Ike Fucking Brovlofski when it came to boring school shit but that allowed Butters to be easily taken advantage of due to his willingness to please and a desperate desire to be accepted.
Once the novelty of his being from Hawaii had worn off, he was a fucking nobody. Except that Ike liked him, and Kyle, kind of. And Craig and Clyde, and obviously Tweek, and now fucking Kevin. And, if Kenny was completely honest with himself, he liked Butters, too. Like Kevin, he'd liked him when he knew him only as Leopold, and he'd barely known him then — and he'd definitely liked Marjorine, although that had a lot to do with her face and body — the former which he still couldn't believe he'd not realized was Leopold's, and the latter which had been artificially enhanced. His feelings for Leopold, or Butters, were complicated at best.
He went in the front door when he got home and went straight to his room, where he flopped sideways on the bed, face first. In this position, he was facing the wall, and his eyes fell on the plastic milk crate that served as a bookshelf. The small collection of books, largely unread since second grade, were stacked flat instead of upright, and he felt a sudden sense of panic, one that had him doing a quick mental inventory.
Son of a bitch, it was missing, the fucking book where he'd pressed the fucking flower Marjorine — Leopold — had thrown at him.
He didn't even know why he'd kept it; he should have thrown it away, but it was a reminder of a time in his life when his family had been happy, and now it was fucking gone. There was no reason for anyone to take the worn copy of Frog and Toad Are Friends, with its cracked spine and pages falling out, but it was the only hard cover book Kenny owned, and it was the best place to press a flower from a girl he'd fancied himself in love with, before he found out she never existed.
His parents would have no reason to take it. If it didn't have a pop top, they paid little attention to things in the house, and the pages were too stiff to make good rolling paper. Karen would never take something from his room without asking first, and even if anyone was ever dumb enough to break in thinking they'd find anything worth stealing, a torn and stained children's book would not be on their list.
There was only one person who might have taken it, just because he could.
Tweek was sucking on his collarbone, but not hard enough to bruise, and Butters squirmed beneath him. It shouldn't feel this good, being with Tweek — not after what he'd done with Kenny — but it did, and Butters felt guilty as hell over it. He finally pushed Tweek off him and sat up, running his fingers through his hair.
"I didn't give you a hickey, did I?" Tweek asked anxiously.
"I don't think so," Butters said. He took a deep breath. "Look, Tweek..."
"I suck at sucking, don't I? Nrrgh!"
Butters smoothed Tweek's sweaty hair away from his forehead. "I gotta tell you, Tweek, you're really good at sucking. I just need to tell you something." He grabbed both of Tweek's hands to keep him from pulling at his hair. "This friends with benefits thing, is it...exclusive?"
"I don't know. Are we exclusive? I didn't know we were exclusive! Oh, Jesus, I wasn't supposed to suck anyone else's dick, was I? Is this a relationship? Relationships are too much pressure!"
Butters released Tweek's hands. "No! I mean, not...I...wait, whose dick did you suck?"
"Why are you even asking me? Did you suck his dick, too? He told you, didn't he?"
Trying to keep up with Tweek's train of thought was making Butters' head spin, but he still felt the back of his neck grow warm. "Kenny?"
"No way, man. Kenny's too experienced for me." He twitched, and stared at Butters. "You and Kenny?"
The warmth spread to his face, and he nodded.
"Oh," Tweek said with a shrug, seemingly unconcerned.
Butters rubbed his fists together. "You're not mad?"
Tweek shrugged again. "I don't fucking care, as long as you use a condom."
"Did you use a condom?"
"No, but Craig hasn't fucked anyone yet. Kenny's fucked, like, everyone."
Butters didn't like hearing things like that about Kenny, and even though it wasn't Tweek's fault, he was irrationally pissed at him for saying it out loud. "Craig?" he asked, shifting the focus of their conversation away from Kenny.
"Oh, shit," Tweek said, clapping his hand over his mouth. "He's going to kill me!"
"He's not going to kill you."
"Fucking shit, yes he will!"
Butters ended up tackling Tweek, pinning him to the bed, and just holding him. It was kind of nice; most of the time they were together they were either working or playing with each other's dicks. Lying next to Tweek and feeling him tremble beneath him made Butters feel needed, and he lay his head down on Tweek's chest, listening to the erratic heartbeat, so different from Kenny's steady one.
"You're not in love with him, are you?"
Butters rubbed at his eyes. He must have dozed off, because it was dusk outside. "What?"
"Kenny. You're not in love with him, are you?"
"I barely know Kenny. You can't be in love with someone you barely know." At least that's what he'd tried to tell Kenny about Marjorine, but that was for obvious reasons. Butters had been in love lots of times. He'd spent a lot of money on girls that he'd assumed were girlfriends only to later find out that they'd only wanted something from him. It hurt every time, but he still believed in love, if not love at first sight.
"Are you in love with Craig?" Butters countered.
"No way, man. Love is - "
"Too much pressure," Butters finished with a grin. "If it wasn't too much pressure, you'd be my best friend, you know."
Tweek just shrugged, but Butters liked to think that he was secretly pleased, especially when Tweek leaned forward and kissed him. It was a slow, comfortable kiss, a sharing of something beyond physical intimacy, and when Tweek pulled away, the reflection of the overhead light made his eyes shine brightly.
"Makalohi," Butters murmured. Sparking eyes. They weren't as vivid a blue as Kenny's, and Tweek never looked at Butters with the sort of intensity that Kenny did, but despite what he'd said, Tweek really was his best friend, and there was something about kissing one's best friend that felt really good, in a totally different way than kissing Kenny had.
Plus Tweek didn't make a habit of blowing him off, and when he did, it was just because he'd forgotten and not because he was deliberately avoiding Butters. Butters was getting really tired of Kenny treating him like a yo-yo, but he still missed him. He missed the friend who'd gone to see Rebel Souljahz with him, the one who'd shared the sunrise over Waimea Canyon with. He kissed Tweek again, because he could, and because with Tweek, he knew where they stood. And if he didn't, Tweek would set him straight.
The only reason he wasn't grounded the moment he walked in the door was because his parents were out, but since he hadn't been there when they'd called the house, they knew he'd been out past supper time. The fact that he'd not been there to cook a meal they had no intention of eating was irrelevant, but it was for his own good. As he'd told Kenny back in Lihue, he needed to learn discipline. He just hoped his parents never found out that he was having oral sex with not one but two different boys, because he was sure to be grounded until he was old and gray, like his grandmother, who had thankfully only been able to torment Butters at night, after work.
Whether she'd returned to Virginia because she'd grown bored or because she really did have a seniors golf tournament, Butters didn't care. He was just glad she was gone. He was also just the teensy tiniest bit glad that she'd come to visit in the first place; otherwise he may have never spent the night at Tweek's, and this thing he had with Tweek may never have happened.
Because of what happened with Kenny, he was also just a little bit sorry about this thing with Tweek, and he hated himself more than a tiny bit for that.
"Do we have to?" Stan grumbled as the five of them headed toward the coffee shop.
"I need to get my notes back from Butters," Kyle explained for the fifth time that day.
"Can't you just get them back tomorrow?"
"Kyle needs them to jerk off when he gets home."
"Shut up, fat ass!"
Three of the four other heads swung toward the speaker, because it had come, not from Kyle, but from Kenny, who'd grown tired of listening to all of them.
"Yeah? Well fuck you, Kinny. Screw you guys, I'm goin' home."
"I need to study tonight," Kyle replied, as if Kenny's outburst and Cartman's reaction had never happened.
"Oh, man, I just hate going in there. Their coffee tastes like shit."
"We don't have to get anything," Kyle pointed out. "I just need to get my notes back."
"How do you know he even has your notes with him?"
"He'll have them," was Ike's first contribution to the conversation.
"Ike's there all the time," Kyle said, sounding apologetic.
"It's the only place I can get a cup of Tim Horton's," Ike explained unapologetically.
"They sell K-cups for that, you know."
"Not the same, man," Ike said, shaking his head. "Not the same."
They filed into Tweek Bros., Stan first, followed by Kyle, Ike, and finally Kenny, who had considered following Cartman's example and just going home. Ike went right to the counter, where Tweek was working, and he obviously did come here all the time, because Tweek got him a cup without asking what he wanted. Ike held it up to his face, closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply.
"Hey, Tweek," Kyle asked, looking around. "Butters in tonight?"
Tweek looked like Kyle had asked him to cut off his own hand. He made a garbled noise, and Kyle looked at Ike for translation.
"In the back," his brother said, taking a sip of his coffee. "Oooh, that's good."
Kyle waited a full minute before asking, "Can you go get him?"
Tweek grunted and walked toward the back, and Kenny wondered again why he hadn't bothered to leave when Cartman had.
"Hey, Kenny," Stan asked. "Isn't that your brother?"
Kenny hadn't noticed Kevin sitting at the table in the back corner. Kevin hadn't noticed Kenny, either; he had ear buds in and was staring intently at a porn magazine, moving his lips now and then as if he were singing along with whatever he was listening to.
"He's here all the time, too," Ike commented.
"Here ya go, Kyle," Butters said, coming from the back. "Ah, hey, fellas," he added when he noticed Stan and Kenny. "Can I get ya anything?"
"I'll have a coffee," Stan said, pulling out his wallet.
"I thought you said the coffee here tasted like shit," Kyle pointed out.
Stan shrugged. "Sometimes everything else does, too," he said, and Kyle nodded in understanding.
Butters asked Kyle and Kenny if they wanted anything, too. Kyle got a double espresso so he could stay up late and study, and Kenny didn't have any money on him, so he merely shoved his hands in his pocket and shook his head. While Butters got Stan and Kyle their coffee, Kenny looked back over to where Kevin was sitting.
It was hard to say how long his brother had been there, but the paper cup next to him was larger than the one Ike had gotten, so Kenny wondered where the fuck Kevin was getting the money for this shit. The other possibility was he was getting free coffee from his new best friend. Kenny's gaze dropped to the pressed flower on the tablecloth, and he walked over to Kevin's table and sat down.
Kevin scowled as he pulled the ear buds out, and then he slammed the magazine shut and leaned his elbows on it. "What do you want?" he snarled at Kenny.
"You fucking took it," Kenny accused him.
"The fuck I did," Kevin retorted, but he looked a little bit scared, too, and Kenny picked up the flower and waved it at him.
Butters, noticing something was about to go down, came around the counter and shoved Kyle's notebook at his chest. "It was great to see you guys, thanks for letting me borrow your notes, Kyle."
He started to usher them out, when Stan looked behind him and noticed Kenny waving something in his brother's face. "Hey, what's going on-"
"I didn't highlight anything," Butters said loudly. "I just used those little sticky flags, so you can take those out if you want."
Ike slapped both Stan and Kyle on the back. "I think he's trying to tell us to get the fuck out, guys."
"N-no, I'm ah..."
"Yes, he is," Tweek piped up.
"But we haven't paid for - "
"On the house!" Butters said, physically shoving them out onto the street. He turned his head to Tweek. "Not really, Tweek. I'll pay for them myself, I promise."
"I don't care," Tweek said with a shrug.
Outside the coffee shop, Stan and Kyle looked at each other.
"What the fuck was that?" Kyle asked.
"Not everyone has an awesome brother like you do," Ike said, lifting his coffee up in a toast.
"Seriously guys, you think we should go back in?" Stan asked. "Kevin could seriously fuck Kenny up."
He tried to go back in, but Butters had already turned the sign from OPEN to CLOSED, locked the door, and pulled the shade, even though you could see into the shop through the other glass windows in front.
"Stan, Stan, Stan," Ike said, patting him on the back. "Don't go projecting your issues with Shelley onto everyone else. Not all older brothers and sisters want to kill their siblings."
"Yes, we do," Kyle contradicted, and he and Ike argued good-naturedly as they walked down the street.
Inside the coffee shop, Butters was wringing his hands as he watched Kenny jumping to conclusions with Kevin again.
"It's all a big fucking joke to you," Kenny said, dropping the flower and slamming his hands on the table. "Ha ha. Very fucking funny, asshole." He tugged at the magazine under Kevin's elbows, and Kevin stubbornly refused to move. The outside cover of Jugs tore, and then the page after that, and then Butters' hand clamped down on his shoulder.
"Kenny, I think you should -"
Kenny turned and shoved him, and Kevin got up to protest, and that gave Kenny the opening to snatch the copy of Frog and Toad are Friends from the inside of the magazine.
"I knew it," he said. "I fucking knew it was you."
"What are you, fucking five?" Kevin yelled. "It's not like you were going to fucking read it!"
"Kenny," Butters interceded, placing a hand on Kenny's arm.
Kenny shook him off and slammed the book down on the table, splitting the cover. "It's not like you were going to fucking read it!"
Kevin looked like he'd been punched in the gut. Kenny felt Butters' hand on his shoulder again, and he stared at his brother.
"Fucking happy now?" Kevin asked, flipping over the table and punching Kenny in the chest as hard as he could. "Because that makes one of us."
He tried to yank open the door, not realizing Butters had locked it. Kenny tried to take a step toward his brother, but the light grip Butters had on his shoulder was like a vice, now, and he could only watch as Kevin turned the lock, pulled the door open, and ran down the street like he couldn't get away from the place fast enough.
"He can't read?" Kenny asked, stunned.
"He can read a little," Tweek offered. He walked to the door, put the shade back up, and turned the sign to OPEN. "Butters has been teaching him."
"Tweek!" Butters hissed. He released Kenny's shoulder and righted the table.
"Oh, fuck," Tweek muttered. "I wasn't supposed to say anything."
Butters walked over to where Tweek was standing. "It's okay."
"Aargh! I'm so fucking stupid!" Tweek pulled at his hair. "I can't do anything right!"
Butters grabbed Tweek's hands. "Stop! Just find your center," he said. "Okay?"
Tweek looked at Butters like he was going to argue. They stared at each other without saying a word, and eventually Tweek nodded.
"Can you, ah, give us a few minutes?" Butters asked, nodding his head toward Kenny.
"Are you going to suck him off again?" Tweek asked.
Butters cringed. "No, Tweek. I just want to talk to him, is all."
Tweek looked at Kenny, and if Kenny wasn't used to Tweek's nervous tics, he would have thought Tweek was winking at him.
"He's really good at it, you know," Tweek said snottily.
"I know," Kenny agreed.
"Tweek?" Butters prompted.
"He's being a dick," Tweek pointed out.
"He didn't know," Butters explained. "Just...just let me talk to him. Alone."
Tweek glared at Kenny — at least Kenny thought it was a glare; it was always hard to tell with Tweek — and he grabbed a cup of coffee before he went into the back again.
Before either of them could say anything, the bell jangled as the door opened, and Tweek yelled from the back "Customer!"
Kenny glowered at the man, who seemed oblivious to the animosity as he hemmed and hawed over what flavor iced macchiato he wanted. Once he'd finally decided on the vanilla and paid for it, Kenny followed him to the door and locked it behind him.
"I don't think you should do that, Kenny," Butters said, rubbing his fists together.
"You did it."
"I shouldn't have done it, either."
Kenny walked to the table Kevin had occupied and picked the pressed flower off the floor. He didn't realize Butters had followed him until he heard the sharp intake of breath behind him.
Butters paled. "You-you kept it."
Kenny shrugged. He hadn't meant to. He'd meant to leave it where Marjorine had thrown it, but it had been her enthusiastic response that had made him reluctant to forget that night. Even after discovering it had been Leopold the whole time, he'd been unable to get rid of it. Butters reached into his pocket and slowly withdrew a cheap plastic keychain, the kind you could pick up in the dollar store. There were no keys on it, but inside the clear Lucite was a single flower petal, perfectly pressed. Kenny didn't think, he just cupped Butters' cheek and kissed him.
It was like their first kiss all over again. Butters struggled at first, reluctant to give in, but Kenny's mouth teased at his, and when he murmured "Leopold" against tightly clamped lips, Butters yielded and kissed him back, and then, just like their first time, he pushed Kenny away.
Kenny set his flower down on the counter, then unhooked the key chain from Butters' finger. "You and Tweek...are you...?"
Butters shook his head. "Friends with benefits."
Kenny grinned. "Good," he said, and kissed him again.
"Aah! I knew you weren't going to just talk!" Tweek said as he went to the front door and unlocked it. "You two need to get a room!"
Kenny agreed wholeheartedly, but Butters shook his head, and belatedly Kenny remembered how they'd gotten to this point. He and Butters sat at the corner table, and Butters took a deep breath. "He didn't want you to know."
That was obvious. "How long have you two been..." Kenny gestured to the book, wincing as he caught sight of the damage he'd caused.
Butters blushed immediately. "Around the time of my party." What he should have said was "around the time you punched me in the face," but Butters didn't want to bring up that particular incident any more than Kenny did.
"I never knew," Kenny said. "He never told me."
Butters tipped his head to the side. "Would you?"
Would he have told Kevin he was illiterate, and give Kevin one more thing to bust on him for? Fuck no, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt that Kevin had kept something like this from him.
"He tried to get a job in Lihue," Butters said, picking up the book and tracing the letters on the cover. "A couple of places, I guess, but he couldn't fill out the applications." Kevin had shown him one of them, where he'd been able to write his name, but the rest of it had been filled with a jumble of letters, some of which formed words, albeit misspelled, but none that answered the questions asked.
Kenny shook his head and held out his hand for the book, which Butters passed over to him as if it were made of spun glass. Kenny opened to the first page, where Frog went to Toad's house, and tried to imagine not knowing what it said.
"'Frog ran up the path to Toad's house,'" Butters recited quietly. "'He knocked on the front door.' That was hard for him," he added, and for a second, Kenny thought he was referring to Frog and not Kevin, "the silent k in knocked."
Kenny closed the book and tried to fit the torn cover back together. "We have some tape in the back," Butters offered.
"Yeah," Kenny nodded. "That'd be great."
Butters brought him the tape and left him to his task, and neither of them said anything when Kenny handed the roll of tape back or when he opened the door and headed home.
Kevin wasn't home, and Kenny hadn't expected to find him there. Karen was home, though, and he was tempted to ask her if she knew, but didn't. If she didn't know, Kevin wouldn't want her to hear it from Kenny, and if she did know, Kenny wasn't sure what that meant about his relationship with his brother.
He went back to avoiding Leopold after that, because it was easier that way, and he tried not to think about what Leopold might be doing with Tweek, as his friend with benefits, one who knew that Leo gave amazing head. And if he thought about Leopold when he jerked off, that wasn't hurting anyone, not even himself.
Kenny was pretty good at lying to himself that way.
"Can I count on your vote, then?" Kyle asked Butters after school. They were in the classroom they used for mathletes, waiting for Mark and Ike to arrive.
"Sure, Kyle. I think you'd do a really great job."
Wendy looked up. "He'd be inheriting a disaster."
Of the current junior class officers, three of them were going to juvie — one for drug use, one for prostitution, and one for grand larceny. All the money that had been collected through various fundraisers throughout the year was gone, and they were talking about canceling the junior prom altogether, except they had no money to refund those who had purchased tickets when they first went on sale in April.
"We're all inheriting a disaster," Kyle pointed out. "But someone has to try to fix it the best we can."
She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded. "You have my vote, too."
"Ike?" Kyle asked as his brother entered the room. "What about you?"
"You know my vote will be based on the qualifications of the candidate and not on a sense of familial loyalty," Ike said, laughing when Kyle glared at him. "Seriously, KB, who else is more qualified than you are?"
"Who else wants that job?" Mark added. "You might run unopposed."
"Gregory wants it."
Everyone turned to look at Wendy.
"Gregory?" Kyle asked. "Gregory, from Yardale?"
"Yardale?" Butters asked, but no one offered an explanation.
"Shit," Ike said. "You might be screwed, bro."
"Guys! Guys!" Cartman said, running in to the room. "And bitches," he added, with a glance at Wendy.
"Is there a reason you're here, Cartman?" Wendy asked irritably.
"Is there a reason you're here?" he rebutted. "Shouldn't you be getting pregnant or something?" He looked over at Butters. "Oh, that's right, the last guy you were with wasn't into vah-jay-jays."
"Hecubus," Ike cautioned, before his brother could rekindle his volley of insults with the larger boy.
"Jail Bait. Anyway," Cartman said, puffing up his chest. "Anyway, you know how our junior prom is canceled?"
"Everyone knows about it," Mark said. "We were just talking about it."
"Yeah, well, I have an idea how we can still have a junior prom and make money while we're at it."
"No," Kyle said firmly, shaking his head. "No, no, no."
"Fuck you, Jew, you don't even know what my idea is!"
"Whatever it is, it's going to be offensive, and will probably rip on Jews, and might even get us suspended."
"And insulting to women," Wendy added.
"Why don't you two just fuck and get it over with?" Cartman snapped. "Oh, wait, because Kyle here doesn't want to deal with Stan's sandy vag."
"Shut up, Cartman."
"What's your idea?" Ike asked.
Cartman went to the white board and wrote, in big block letters, KYLE FOR JR CLASS TREASURER
"It's perfect," Cartman explained. "We need a Jew for an accountant, and Kyle's too much of a wuss to use the money on drugs or pussy. He's a suck up, so the teachers will be in favor of his campaign, and we buy good will from the entire junior class by making sure the prom goes on as scheduled. It's genius, if I do say so myself. Butters?"
"I think Kyle would do a great job," Butters said, echoing his earlier sentiment.
Kyle looked torn. He wanted to be a class officer because it would look great on college applications, but he also wanted to do something to restore everyone's faith in their school.
"You should do it, Kyle," Wendy said.
Ike slapped his brother on his back. "You should totally do it."
Cartman looked at him expectantly, and despite major misgivings, Kyle nodded. "Fine. I'll do it."
"Great. Come on, Butters, there's work to be done."
"I don't know, Eric, when we're done here, I have to go to work."
"Butters," Cartman said in an exaggeratedly patient tone of voice. "Student elections are next week. We don't have a lot of time."
Wendy and Kyle exchanged glances. "Go ahead, Butters. I don't think any of us are going to get anything done this afternoon anyway, and Kyle and I can go over his campaign strategy."
Mark's cell phone rang, but the call dropped when he answered it. He walked around the room, trying to get a better signal, and eventually ended up leaning halfway out the window.
"I'm going, too," Ike said, grabbing his backpack.
The three of them had barely left the room when Mark returned from the window, looking pale.
"Becca," he croaked, handing the phone to Kyle. "I have to go. Call me if you hear anything." He ran out the door before Kyle could give him his phone back.
"Mark?" Stan's voice was clearly audible on the other end of the phone call. "Mark, are you coming?"
Wendy covered her mouth with her hands, and Kyle put the phone to his ear. Wendy leaned closer so she could hear, too. "Stan?"
"Kyle? Oh, shit, Kyle, shit, she lost it. Oh shit, oh shit, man."
"Okay," Kyle said. "Mark's on his way, and we'll be right there. Stay calm, okay?"
"Don't hang up, Kyle, okay? Just don't hang up."
Wendy pulled her keys out of her purse and held them up. Kyle nodded. "Okay, Stan, I won't. We'll be there as soon as we can."
He grabbed his backpack and followed Wendy out into the hall. They were both wondering why Stan was the one calling Mark with the news, but neither of them wanted to speculate out loud.
Kyle held Mark's phone and let Stan ramble on, inserting the occasional "we're coming, Stan, just hang in there" as Wendy drove toward Hell's Pass. When she ran a red light, she reached over and squeezed Kyle's hand apologetically. He smiled weakly and wished the flutter in his stomach was entirely due to the traumatic event that his best friend and his first love were going through.
"I don't know, Eric," Butters protested. "I don't see how this is going to work."
"Sex sells, Butters," Cartman explained, adjusting the front of Butters' costume. "Tweek, we need more flowers!"
"Gah!" Tweek said, pulling the layers of tissue paper down around the paper clip. "How many more do I need to make?"
"Just fifty more," Cartman said. He scooped up an armful of the ones Tweek had already completed and dropped them out the window, then turned to Ike.
"How are those signs coming, Jail Bait?"
Ike turned the easel around to display an exact replica of the Mona Lisa made out of colored glass shards.
"The sign, you fucking hoser, not your faggy art project."
"I think she looks great," Butters said. "I wish I was as good as you."
"While you were outfitting Butters over there," Ike said, "I finished the signs." He gestured toward them, and Cartman picked those up and threw them out the window, too.
"You have your own style," Ike told Butters. "Be true to yourself."
"Listen to Jail Bait," Cartman said. "And right now, being yourself means getting up on that float and doing what you do best." He stuck his head out the window and yelled down to the parking lot, "Are you guys fucking done yet?"
"Almost!" Clyde yelled back, while Craig simply flipped him off.
"I hate that asshole," Cartman muttered as he turned back around. "Okay, guys, it's show time."
The float was actually an ice cream van that Cartman had acquired during one of his business ventures in ninth grade. It was decorated with brightly colored tissue paper flowers, and large signs on each side. He gestured for Butters to climb on the roof and once he was up there, handed him a box full of leis. A loudspeaker was mounted there, too, aimed mostly toward the street.
Cartman got behind the wheel and blasted the music, nearly deafening Butters. As the Spice Girls played, he sang his own improvised lyrics.
Nyah, I'll tell you what you want, what you really really want, he sang in his regular voice.
So tell me what I want, what I really really want, he answered himself, singing with a slightly different voice.
I'll tell you what you want, what you really really want,
So tell me what I want, what I really really want,
You wanna, you wanna, you wanna, you wanna, you wanna really really really wanna vote for a Jew.
On top of the van, Butters, dressed in a grass skirt, floral bra, and full make-up, danced the hula and occasionally flung a lei to the sidewalks on either side. He was nervous at first, worried about what everyone would think, but Eric had thought of that, too, because he'd staged Clyde and Craig on the sidewalk giving wolf whistles as the van drove by.
If you want a future that has a prom
Then vote for Kyle, 'cuz he's the bomb
Now don't go wasting your precious time,
Cast your vote for Kyle and we'll be just fine.
By the time Eric repeated the refrain, Butters forgot about being nervous. He'd done this since he was little; he didn't have to think, he just had to move. His arms swayed and his hips alternated between slower, more sensual figure eights to faster, sharper movements, as close to an ami ku`upau as he could pull off. It was like riding a tube — you never really forgot how, and once you got over being afraid, it was kind of exhilarating.
If you wanna have a party, with a DJ who's not lame
We need someone in office who can throw a prom with game
If you wanna fix this big mess, you have got to see,
Vote for South Park's Jersey Boy, that's our Kyley-B.
"Nice," Clyde told Craig. "Just look at the size of that rack."
"You do realize that's Butters in a skirt, and those tits are totally fake."
"Yeah, but if he was really a girl, I'd totally fucking hit that."
Craig believed that Clyde would try, at least, but he was right about one thing. Butters made a remarkably attractive woman. It was kind of disconcerting to see him like this, but he looked completely at ease in his own skin, and there was no doubt Clyde would try to hit on him if he were a real girl, because Butters gave off this friendly vibe that was hard to be intimidated by.
In fact, Butters was so the opposite of intimidating, Craig sometimes forgot he was there when they were all hanging out, except for nights like when they had the bonfire at Clyde's house, and Butters and Tweek brought their little drums that looked like misshapen people. He'd been hard to miss that night, because he and Tweek sounded so fucking good together, like what one lacked the other made up for.
It kind of bothered Craig, because he was used to Tweek's random outbursts and fits of paranoia and just general Tweekness, but except for that, he'd had fun. It had been pretty cool hanging out with those guys without Cartman fucking it up, because Cartman was the kind of guy you always knew was there, even when you wished he wasn't.
Still, Butters didn't seem to mind what he was doing, and even though as a group, Cartman and his friends got into things they should have left alone, Cartman had a better track record when acting on his own, especially when he was going up against Kyle. This time he was on Kyle's side, for his own reasons, and he just might pull it off. It might even be kind of cool to go to the prom, even though if anyone ever asked him, Craig would vehemently deny ever thinking that.
Speaking of people in denial, Craig spied Kenny McCormick standing at the curb. It had been obvious to Craig, from the moment he'd seen Kenny sucker punch Butters, that there was past history between them, but the way Kenny was staring at Butters now, Craig suspected there was something going on in the present, too.
"Dude, I think I'm getting a boner," Clyde whispered.
"I so did not need to know that," Craig groaned.
"Seriously, dude, do you not see what I see?"
"I see Butters in drag," Craig pointed out.
"You think he's one of those — what was it Cartman's mom used to be? A hemophiliac?"
"Hermaphrodite," Craig corrected him. The story that Cartman had been given, that his father was actually his hermaphroditic mother, had been bullshit, and anyone who'd actually seen Liane Cartman in one of the many niche porns she'd starred in would have known it was bullshit. He and Kenny had looked up hermaphrodite porn and Liane would have definitely been in that shit if she really had a dick. The only films she was in where she was the pitcher and not the catcher featured her wearing a strap on. Say what you would about Cartman, but his mother would do anything once, and most things more than once.
He looked back to where Kenny had been standing, but he wasn't there. Craig had a feeling that whatever was going to happen next wasn't going to end well.
He'd forgotten. Somehow, over the past few months, he'd managed to forget what it was about Marjorine that had gotten under his skin in the first place. He'd forgotten the smoking hot body, the "come fuck me" smile and the seductive hips. He'd forgotten, but he remembered now, and it pissed him off. Marjorine was his, his own secret indulgence in Hawaii, and now everyone in fucking South Park got to see her, too.
When the van finally came to the end of the street, and Cartman kicked Butters out and drove off without him, Kenny walked up to him.
"Leopold," he said, stretching the name out in a lazy drawl. "Or should I say, Marjorine?"
"K-Kenny! I, ah, I haven't seen you around much lately." He frowned, remembering. "Have you talked to Kamahele?"
"Kevin?" Kenny asked, even though he knew very well who Kamahele was. "No."
"Oh," Butters said, looking downcast. "I wish you would."
"I wish a lot of things," Kenny snapped, then he felt bad when Butters looked wounded. "Fuck, I'm sorry. It's just..." he shrugged.
Butters gave him a tentative smile. "Aw, it's okay. I know you didn't mean it. And I'm sure K-Kama-Kevin will come around. He was real proud of himself, you know."
Kenny shoved his hands in his pockets, and he and Butters walked together. It was kind of awkward, the silence between them, but kind of comfortable, too.
"I can't believe you kept it," he said finally. "The flower."
"Oh," Butters replied. "Well, I...yeah. Me too."
"I thought about you a lot. I mean, I thought about Marjorine a lot, but I missed Leopold, too."
"Oh," Butters repeated, softer this time. "Well, I thought about you an awful lot, too." He began rubbing his knuckles together, and Kenny found the gesture rather endearing.
They reached Butters' house, and Butters looked at Kenny. "Do you want to come in?" he asked, opening the front door.
Kenny looked at Butters, taking in everything from the tousled, wind-blown hair to the flip-flops on Butters' feet, and without saying a word, followed Butters inside.
Butters hung his keys on a little hook in the kitchen. It was quiet in the house — it didn't seem as though Butters' parents were home at the moment — and Butters walked up the stairs, leaving the invitation unsaid. Kenny went up after him, his eyes riveted on the firm ass preceding him, and then he was in Butters' room for the first time. He shut the door behind him, and when Butters turned around to face him, Kenny took a step closer and began nuzzling Butters' ear, eliciting throaty moans that went right to his cock.
He knew he'd found a particularly sensitive spot on Butters' neck when he heard a sharp "Kenny!" accompanied by a tug on his hair. He'd never known he had a thing for having his hair pulled, but there was something about making Butters lose control this way that really got to him. His hand found one of the silicone tits, and he squeezed it gently. They were remarkably realistic, and when a flick of his tongue along Butters' collarbone had Butters arching his back, Kenny could almost believe it had been his thumb grazing the artfully crafted nipple that had done it.
Butters began fumbling at the back of the bra, but Kenny stilled his hands. "Leave it on," he said roughly, and he kissed Butters, swallowing any protest that might have been made. Butters kissed him back, his fingers tightening in Kenny's hair when Kenny's tongue brushed the roof of his mouth, and he reached down between them for the front of Kenny's jeans. The moment his cock was free, Kenny tore his mouth free and gasped for air.
"Fuck, yeah," he grunted as Butters' light fingers played along his length. His balls were cupped in a warm, callused hand, and then the fantasy he'd had so long ago came true as Butters dropped to his knees and took him in his mouth, all the way. He wanted to watch; it was incredibly fucking hot to see those full red lips slide up and down, to catch sight of the long thick lashes flutter against the pale cheek as Marjorine focused on giving a fantastic blow job, but she was too good, and Kenny couldn't keep his eyes open. When she moaned, he could feel the vibration all the way to his balls, and he thought he might lose it then and there.
"Wait, stop," he said through gritted teeth.
His dick felt cold when her mouth slid off, the saliva rapidly evaporating, and he opened his eyes to see Marjorine looking up at him, her mouth still open. God, it was better than he'd imagined.
"On the bed," he ordered, and she meekly obeyed, sitting on the edge with her hands clasped.
He pulled her hands apart and knelt between her knees where he could slide his hands up her legs. The hair there was practically nonexistent, and he placed a few kisses on the inside of her thigh. As he expected, her fingers wound their way into Kenny's hair again, and when he tipped his head up to capture her mouth with his, she melted. His lips followed hers as she fell back on the bed, and he parted the grass strands of her skirt to grab at her hip, causing her to buck against him wantonly. The bulge in the tiny panties she wore reminded Kenny that it was still Leopold beneath him, not Marjorine. Marjorine wasn't real; never had been.
He didn't care. Fuck, he was so close to coming.
Leopold's tongue was practically wrapping itself around Kenny's, and Kenny had to pull away to catch his breath. He rested his forehead against Leopold's and dug his fingers into the sheet beneath them.
"Kenny?" Leopold asked anxiously. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing being inside you won't fix," Kenny groaned, and he closed his eyes, not wanting to see the look on Leopold's face. He hadn't meant to admit that out loud, but the words had been pulled from somewhere inside.
Several seconds ticked by, and then Kenny heard, very quietly, "Will — will it hurt?"
He opened his eyes and stared at Butters. There was no way he'd heard what he thought he heard. "What?"
Butters licked his lips. "Will it hurt? You b-bein' inside me?"
He'd died. He'd died and gone to Heaven because there was no way Leopold was seriously considering it. He groped around on the bed until he could lace their fingers together.
"I don't know. It might, a little. At first. But I swear to God, I'll be gentle."
Butters bit his lip, but he didn't look away. He seemed to be searching for something in Kenny's gaze, and finally he nodded. "Okay," he said. "Okay."
Kenny kissed him again, hard and hungry, and although Leopold had sounded nervous, the way he was kissing Kenny held nothing back.
"Are you sure?" Kenny asked, moving his lips to Leopold's neck again.
Leopold was panting, and grunting when Kenny sucked on his neck lightly, and he made a sort of garbled response that Kenny couldn't decipher. It wasn't until Kenny looked at him again that he nodded. "Yeah," he said, sounding like he might break. "Yeah."
It stroked his ego, Leopold's need to repeat himself, and Kenny kissed him one more time before getting up and searching Butters' room. His eyes landed on a bottle of hand lotion — good enough — and he pulled a condom out of his pocket (he always kept one on hand, just in case) and returned to the bed, placing the condom next to Butters' shoulder and uncapping the lotion. He squeezed a generous amount on his fingers, dripping some onto the bed in his haste, and then he reached between Butters' legs. Some of the grass strands stuck to his fingers as he searched for Butters' entrance, and they snapped off the skirt as he pulled them out of the way.
"'S cold," Butters said, biting his lip.
"Sorry," Kenny said, reaching for Leopold's hand again and squeezing. "Just relax and try to enjoy it."
"Yeah, okay," Leopold said, but he was gritting his teeth. Kenny expected him to repeat himself again, but he didn't, and for some reason, that bothered him.
"I promise I won't stick my finger in you until you're ready, okay?"
"Y-your finger? But I thought-"
"Oh, I'm going to stick my dick in there, too, but this will make it easier for you. Trust me?"
He circled Leopold's entrance with his middle finger, and Leo arched his back. "Yeah....nrrgh, yeah."
He went slower with Leopold than he ever had with any chick, and the tip of his dick was already wet, just watching Leopold's face. He applied more lotion and teased at the hole a little longer. When Leopold nodded, giving him permission, he thrust his finger in, forcing it through the tight ring of muscle. Leopold nearly jumped off the bed, and Kenny waited, keeping his finger still.
"Are you okay?" he asked, afraid of the answer.
"Kind of uncomfortable," Leopold mumbled, looking embarrassed.
It was uncomfortable for Kenny, too, the circulation in his finger getting cut off with how tight Leopold was, but he slid his finger out a little and then back in, going slowly and trying to gauge Leopold's tolerance by the expression on his face.
"Okay," Leopold said after a few strokes. "I'm okay."
With the addition of some extra lotion, Kenny got a second finger inside, but it was the third one that had Leo practically crying.
"Too much," he groaned. "Oh, God, I'm dying."
"Dying, bad?" Kenny asked, ramming his fingers in as far as they would go and crooking them, "or dying, good?"
It sounded like dying, good, to Kenny, and he yanked his fingers out and kissed Leopold as he tore open the wrapper and rolled the condom on, then squeezed an excessive amount of lotion all over it. He couldn't kiss properly and line himself up at the same time, but Leopold didn't seem to mind too much, grabbing the back of Kenny's head and doing most of the work for him, even if his mouth sometimes slid across Kenny's forehead instead of his lips.
When just the head of Kenny's cock was inside, Leo whimpered.
"Want me to stop?" Kenny asked, hating that he had to ask.
Leopold's hand was clenching and unclenching in Kenny's hair. "Feels like...like I have to..."
Kenny pushed in a little farther, and Leopold sucked in a breath. "Ow, ow. Kenny, it really feels like..."
He hadn't said no yet, so Kenny took a chance and thrust forward until he was fully sheathed inside Leopold, who sounded like he was starting to hyperventilate. Kenny wiped the hair out of Leo's eyes and kissed him again, gently this time.
"Oh, God, Kenny," Leopold cried. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Kenny pulled out a little and surged forward again, and he knew when he'd hit the prostate because suddenly Leo was arching his back right off the mattress and practically tearing the hair from Kenny's head.
"Yeah?" Kenny grunted, thrusting harder. "You like that?"
"Kenny," Leopold moaned. "Oh, fuck, Kenny, I — I - "
He came at Kenny's next thrust, all over his stomach and Kenny's chest, and Kenny groaned as he continued to fuck Leo — fucked him hard, and relentlessly, and with a sudden shout, he came, too, harder than he'd ever come before. There were aftershocks, and he twitched a few times before falling face down on the prone body beneath him.
He could lie here all day, his softening dick still inside, but he was apparently the only one who felt that way, because Leopold was pushing at his chest as hard as he could. It was like the beach all over again, and Kenny was so taken by surprise, he fell off the bed. He got to his feet, confused. The condom, full of his spooge, dangled from the end of his limp dick, and there was a puddle of white — hand lotion, not come — on the bed where Leo's ass had been.
"What did you fucking call me?" Leopold scrambled to his feet, his chest heaving.
Kenny stared, because Leopold was still wearing the flowered bra. The fake boobs quivered slightly, and Kenny vaguely remembered seeing them bounce as he'd pounded into Leo.
"What?" he asked, shaking his head and looking Leopold in the face.
"I said," Leopold repeated icily, "What. Did you fucking. Call. Me."
Kenny didn't know. He honestly didn't fucking know. He said lots of shit when he was getting off, usually something dirty. He might have called him a tight little ass, or a little bitch, but somehow he knew whatever he'd said was far worse than that.
"Leopold," he said, reaching out to touch him. His hand was knocked away.
"Get out of my fucking house."
"Out! Get out of my house or I'll...I'll throw you out myself!"
Kenny pulled his pants up and zipped them. "Leopold..."
"My name is Butters," he said, opening the door.
Kenny stopped in the doorway. Butters looked like he was tightly wound, and Kenny raked his fingers through his hair.
"Shit, Butters, I'm sorry. I know it was your first time, but I -"
"My first time? You think it was my first time?"
"No," Kenny lied. "I mean, maybe."
"You don't fucking know anything about me. I had a girlfriend you know. And I have Tweek. It's not like n-no one else has ever wanted me b-before you."
"Get out!" Butters screamed at him, and Kenny could hear the threat of hysteria in his voice. "Get out, get out, get out!"
Kenny left, and as he ran down the stairs, he heard the sound of something crashing against the wall.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He wanted to run back up and grab Leo, to make him listen. He wanted to let Leopold hit him, if that's what it took, and then to hold him until he stopped trembling. That's what he wanted, but what he did was go home, get drunk, and end up in a shouting match with his father, since Kevin wasn't home. Kevin was never home anymore, because Kevin hated him. Kevin hated him, and Leopold hated him.
And for that, Kenny hated himself.
Butters slid down against the door and rested his head against his knees. He was so stupid, so fucking stupid. This is why his father had tried to teach him self control, because he let his emotions and his depraved urges get the best of him. He didn't drink or smoke, but he did suffer from sex addiction. He didn't act on it, and he didn't think about it all the time, but he did think about it an awful lot.
He thought about pictures he'd seen — ones with big hairy bushes that freaked him out — and he thought about the movie he'd seen when his mother had sent him to tail his father years ago, hoping to find out what he was getting for an anniversary present. She hadn't taken it very well and had tried to send Butters out to sea on a surf board. It was a good thing Haku had been teaching him back then, because otherwise he might have drowned.
He hadn't meant to have sex with Kenny, but he'd really liked the way Kenny made him feel. It was like how Tweek made him feel, only more. And when Kenny had said he wanted to know what it was like to be inside him, it had scared him, but he'd wanted to know what it was like, too.
Kenny wanted him as Butters, and he hadn't faked that at all, because his dick was hard, like Butters' was. Butters had thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad, having Kenny do that, because he'd managed to take all of Kenny in his mouth, even though his experience up until then had been limited to Tweek's much smaller dick. He must have done a real good job, too, because when Kenny came in his mouth, he came an awful lot.
So he'd figured if he could adjust from blowing Tweek to blowing Kenny, then maybe having Kenny in his ass wouldn't be much different than the suppositories he used to use for his colon issues. It hurt, now, his ass, and he probably shouldn't be sitting on the floor like this. He struggled to his feet and lay down on the bed, on his stomach, and batted at the window curtain.
It had hurt a lot more than he'd thought it would, but just when he was ready to tell Kenny he couldn't do it, Kenny did something that made it feel really good. It had still kind of hurt then, but in a way that made him not care about the pain. Even though Butters had always thought Kenny was good looking, he was even better looking when he was making Butters feel things he'd never felt before. And in Butters' opinion, Kenny's looks were god-like when he was coming.
If only a truck or something had gone by so Butters couldn't hear what he said.
Kenny had hurt Butters before, and Butters had let him, because he'd kind of deserved it, but what Kenny had done this time was worse than anything Butters had ever done. Butters might have lied by omission, but he'd tried not to let things get out of control. Kenny found out, and despite a difficult reunion, Butters thought they were friends. At least he thought they were kind of friends, maybe not the kind of friends he was with Craig or Clyde and definitely not the kind of friends he was with Tweek, but still friends, otherwise Kenny wouldn't keep coming up with reasons to talk to him.
But now he felt dirty, and violated, and ashamed. He felt all these things because he'd started something back in Hawaii and Kenny had finished it, and it had torn a hole in Butters' chest that he didn't think he'd ever be able to repair.
He knew he'd feel better eventually, and a slightly masochistic side of him wouldn't trade what he'd had with Kenny for anything, just because Kenny had added something to his life that had been missing. Right now, though, he hated Kenny. He hated him so very much.
He'd only partly lied to Kenny. He had had sex before, although it had been with a friend of his who happened to be a girl and not with his actual girlfriend. They'd both decided they didn't want to fumble their way through their first time and agreed to get it over with. It had been good for Butters in that he'd come right away, and it had felt good, doing it while he was inside someone else, but she hadn't enjoyed it very much, and they'd both been kind of embarrassed when they were done, and they were still friends but it was never the same again, because now that Butters had done it, he wanted to do it again, and that was his addiction talking, because he was a sex-crazed deviant.
He wanted to do it again even now.
He abandoned playing with the curtain and started picking at a thread in the comforter beneath him. He didn't know if he'd ever be able to forgive Kenny for what he did — for crying out Marjorine! at the height of his orgasm. An old girlfriend's name, maybe an old boyfriend's name, would have been understandable, but not this. Anything but this. Butters turned his head to the side and pressed his cheek against the bed, staring sightlessly at the lamp he'd knocked over when he'd thrown his falsies, and tried very hard not to cry.
He was almost successful.
They arrived at the hospital just before Mark, thanks to Wendy's aggressive driving, and Wendy spotted him while she and Kyle were waiting for the elevator.
"Stan?" Kyle said into the phone. "Mark's here. We'll be right up, okay?"
Mark looked green, and Wendy gave him a hug. She hadn't really liked Rebecca all that much, but not all of that was because of the girl's reputation. Rebecca was smart and not afraid to go after what she wanted — even if that tended to be various boys at school — and to be honest, Wendy had been shocked to hear she was pregnant, because Rebecca wasn't stupid. Wendy didn't approve of promiscuity, because it reduced women to sexual objects, but she envied Rebecca just a little, too, because Rebecca made it look so easy. Wendy and Stan had never done more than kissing and a little over the clothes groping, and Wendy sometimes wondered if she was frigid.
This was not the time to psychoanalyze herself, however.
"She's okay," Kyle assured Mark as they got on the elevator. He gave Mark his phone back. "Your parents are in with her now."
Mark nodded, a little of the color returning to his face, and when they arrived at the maternity ward, Kyle and Wendy hung back to let Mark spend time with his family alone. They were really only here for Stan, after all, who they found standing in the hall, a can of soda in his hand, looking dazed.
"Stan," Kyle said, and he went to his friend's side as quickly as possible, throwing his arms around him and holding him tight.
"You came," Stan mumbled against Kyle's shoulder.
"I told you I would." They stayed like that for a minute, then Kyle gently disentangled himself. "Wendy's here, too."
Stan and Wendy stared at each other for a minute, then Wendy hugged him, too, and he held on to her a lot longer than he had Kyle.
"Come on," Kyle suggested. "Let's go somewhere where we can talk."
Stan nodded, and he grabbed Wendy's hand and held on to it the whole way to the cafeteria, where Kyle got a coffee and Wendy got a bottle of water, and they both sat on the same side of the booth, across from Stan, and waited for him to speak.
"She's okay," Stan said. "She's going to be okay."
They were silent after that, each of them taking sips of their drink, just to excuse their lack of conversation, and finally Wendy screwed the cap back on her water and folded her hands on top of the table.
"Was it yours?" she asked. Her voice was remarkably steady, but quiet, and Kyle wondered how composed she really was.
Stan wiped at his face. "It was just once," he said. "We only did it the one time. And I wore a condom, I swear I did."
Wendy swallowed, and there was another uncomfortable silence before she let out a breath. "I believe you."
"I'm sorry," Stan said, sounding like he might cry. "I never wanted to hurt you. Either of you," he added, looking at Kyle.
"Don't worry about it," Kyle assured him. There would be time later for being angry. It wasn't like he and Rebecca were an item, or even dating. He'd taken her to one school dance, and given her one kiss, back when they were kids. He kind of blamed himself for her almost dying, because if he'd never kissed her, she might never have given in to her sexual urges — maybe not even known they existed.
There were certain lines that one didn't cross, though, so it didn't matter that Wendy's lips were glistening, still wet from the water she'd consumed, or that he kept his inappropriate thoughts about Wendy to himself, while Stan had gone and fucked Rebecca. Until just now, when Stan apologized, Kyle didn't even know Stan realized he'd still had a bit of a thing for Rebecca after all these years. He wished he didn't, because it was going to be harder to forgive Stan later.
Stan's phone vibrated in his pocket, and he pulled it out. "Yeah?" he said. His mouth drop opened. "Are you fucking serious? Where? So I can... yeah?" A grin split Stan's face. "Okay, yeah, we will." He put the phone back in his pocket, and Kyle couldn't remember a time he'd seen him this happy, not since he'd turned ten and become a cynical asshole.
"Do you want to see her?" he asked, and with the excitement in his face, there was no way either of them could say no.
Kyle had assumed they were going to visit Rebecca, until Stan led them to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They washed their hands and put surgical masks on, and then they were allowed in, where a tiny baby, wearing little bitty eyepatches, rested in a bassinet flooded with light.
"Is she blind?" Stan asked, panicking a little. "And why is she blue?"
The NICU nurse smiled at him. "It's the light," she explained. "Her skin will absorb the light waves, and it will help clear up the jaundice."
"That's good, right?" He still sounded anxious, and Wendy grasped his fingers in hers.
"Yes," the nurse nodded. "It's good." She paused, then asked, "You're her father?"
Stan swallowed. "Yes."
Wendy reached for Kyle's hand, and he squeezed it gently.
"Would you like to hold her?"
"For just a minute, but yes." She picked up the infant and put her in Stan's arms, and the look of wonder and absolute rapture on his face as he looked down at her was too much for Wendy, who had to turn and press her face against Kyle's shoulder.
"Oh my God," Stan whispered. "She's perfect." He kissed the top of her head and looked both relieved and disappointed when he had to give her back. Kyle and Wendy left the room first, giving Stan a couple of minutes alone with his daughter, and Wendy struggled to get the top off her water until Kyle reached for it and she handed it over.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she said. "I'm just relieved that everyone's okay."
He let it drop, because Stan was coming out into the hallway, too, and he looked deliriously happy and a little dazed, the kind of look Kyle imagined he'd have if he ever got laid.
Wendy, on the other hand, was biting her lip, and it looked to Kyle like she might be fighting back the urge to cry, or maybe to punch Stan (he guiltily hoped for the latter), and he excused himself, claiming he had to use the bathroom, so he could give the two of them a few minutes alone. He dumped out the rest of his coffee, which made even the worst Tweek Bros. blend seem like five star coffee, and washed his hands and stared at himself in the mirror.
It wasn't fair.
Stan was his best friend, and as his best friend, Kyle knew he should be happy for him. He usually was, too, even though Stan had all the looks and the good health and a way with girls that Kyle lacked. The one time he'd tried to win over a girl had been when he'd serenaded Rebecca, and in the end, all his persistence got him was a broken heart and a broken nose, after Mark had pummeled him into the ground for turning his sister into a slut. Kyle hadn't meant to; he'd just wanted her to open her mind to the possibility of love, with him — the kind that involved holding hands and going to movies and kissing, not the carnal, naked variety (although once he'd hit puberty, he'd wanted that, too).
Kyle was taller than Stan, but he was lankier, too, and his lean frame lacked the more solid muscle mass that Stan had. He was smarter than Stan, but girls didn't care about that, and it was a fact that good looking people got farther in life than average or ugly people, no matter what the ghost of Abe Lincoln told him.
When the girls had made that list, ranking Kyle the ugliest boy in class, it had bothered him so much he'd tried to burn down the school. It mattered, what a person looked like on the outside, and even if Kyle refused to go along with the latest trends, that was different. Clothes he had control over; his hair and his nose he didn't. Keeping his 'fro trimmed short and close to his head helped some, and he had heard rumors that some of the girls thought he was cute, but none of them ever asked him out, and the ones he was interested in, Stan got to first. The first couple he'd tried asking out thought he was only being nice, because of Stan, and eventually he just gave up trying, figuring he'd have better luck in college.
When he returned, neither Stan nor Wendy was anywhere to be found, and he was unreasonably annoyed. He knew he shouldn't be, because Rebecca could have died and her child nearly had (unless Stan misunderstood what the doctors had said, which was always a possibility), and it was understandable if they'd forgotten about him, but he didn't care. It pissed him off, just like it pissed him off that Stan had gone after Rebecca, the one girl Kyle had had that Stan didn't.
He picked up his phone and stared at it, willing it to ring, when a text message arrived from Wendy. Rebecca was well enough to receive visitors for a few minutes, and Kyle did want to see her, because he still cared about her. He was glad Wendy had sent the text, because Stan probably would have assumed Kyle knew where the room was (not that he couldn't ask at the desk, but it was nice that someone was trying to make it easier for him), and when he got to the room, Stan was sitting at her bedside, smoothing sweaty strands of hair away from her forehead and holding her hand and looking like he had every right to be there.
"Kyle," Rebecca said weakly, smiling at him. "It's good to see you."
He went over to the bed and kissed her on the forehead. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you," he said, meaning it.
"I'm sorry," she said. She sounded tired. "I didn't mean to worry anyone."
He felt a lump in his throat. "We saw your daughter," he said. "She's beautiful." Actually, she looked like a wrinkled little alien to Kyle, but she was sure to have Stan's good looks, and if she had even half of Rebecca's smarts, she was going to be a force to be reckoned with, kind of like Wendy.
"Oh," Rebecca said, squeezing Stan's hand. "I want to see her."
Stan couldn't get up fast enough to ring for the nurse, and that, too, annoyed Kyle. He was a terrible friend, and he was glad when Wendy made her apologies and explained that they had to get home to study. Rebecca understood that, and thanked them again for coming, and as soon as the nurse arrived with a wheelchair, Stan was ready to help her out of the bed, so Kyle was glad he was missing that particular scene.
Wendy drove in silence, and it took only two wrong turns before Kyle realized she wasn't driving home, or to school, but to the airport, where she parked the car, turned off the ignition, and put her head back against the seat. "He still loves me, " she said, and Kyle kind of wished she'd kept that to herself.
"Yeah," he said. "So now what?"
She laughed, a harsh, bitter sound. "He loves me, but."
He turned to the side, as much as he could with his long legs in Wendy's compact, fuel efficient car. "But?"
"He loves me, but he's not in love with me."
He reached out to pat one of her hands, or maybe to pry her fingers loose from the steering wheel, but he banged his elbow on the ceiling of the car and she turned and looked at him, filling up the space. She laughed, a bark of short, guilty amusement, and suggested they get out of the car to get some fresh air. It was much more comfortable that way, and they both leaned back against the side of the car.
"What about you?" Kyle asked. "Do you still love him?"
She sighed deeply, and Kyle knew the answer before she even said it.
"Yes," she said. "I still love him. I'll always love him."
It was starting to get dark, and Kyle looked out at the runway. He was going to be eaten alive by mosquitoes soon, so he'd have a great time trying to get to sleep tonight between the itching and everything that had happened today.
"I love him, but."
Kyle turned to look at her again, leaning his elbow on the roof of the car. "But?"
She kept her gaze fixed on the horizon. "I asked him why. Why Rebecca. Know what he said?"
Kyle shook his head. She wasn't looking at him, but it didn't matter, because she was going to tell him anyway.
"He said she was smart, and she was pretty, and she was strong and despite what everyone said about her, she stood up for what she believed in."
Wendy sniffled, and Kyle knew why. It sounded like he was describing Wendy, the girl who'd broken his heart numerous times. "I asked him what made her different from me, and he said..." She sniffed again and Kyle reached into his pocket and pulled out a tissue — a habit his mother had forced on him at a young age. She dabbed at her eyes and wiped at her nose. "He said I intimidate him. That with Rebecca, he could be himself, but with me, he always felt like he had to be something more than what he really was."
She was crying openly now, and Kyle let her go on for half a minute before wrapping his arms around her. He tried not to think about how gross it was every time she sniffed, or what she might be doing to his jacket.
"The sad thing is," Wendy hiccuped against his shoulder, "I didn't even want to get back together with him. I still love him, but we're not right for each other. I think I've always known that." She made a particularly phlegmy snort, and Kyle winced. "I love him, but..." she clung to him, and Kyle grew increasingly aware of the way her body felt pressed against his and forgot how nasty his jacket would be if her snot was on it.
"You love him, but...?" Kyle prodded.
She let go and looked up at him. Her eyes and nose were red, and she must have been wearing a bit of mascara, because there were black smudges under her eyes, but Kyle only noticed the way she looked at him, cautious and afraid and a little hopeful.
"I love him, but I'm not in love with him. And I'm not in love with him, because..." her voice cracked. "Because..."
"Because?" Kyle smoothed her hair away from her face, much the way Stan had done with Rebecca.
"Because I'm in love with you," she said, and because Wendy didn't do things halfway, she gripped the front of his jacket and kissed him.
He'd known it was coming — or at least, he'd kind of hoped it was, when she'd said she loved Stan but. Expecting it and actually being on the receiving end of it were two very different things, though. He could feel guilty about what he thought in his head, privately, but this was real, and it meant that things between him and Stan might never be the same again.
Wendy's mouth was soft and warm against his, and she smelled good, clean and natural. Things would never be the same between him and Stan again, but they already were never going to be the same between Stan and Wendy, either. Stan had made his decision when he'd slept with Rebecca. Kyle was tired of coming in second to Stan, and he'd kind of had a thing for Wendy since she'd beaten the crap out of Cartman. He kissed her back, and she sucked in a breath when his tongue touched hers. He could feel it, the way she actually pulled the breath from his mouth into hers, and then it was like she just melted, and it went right to his cock.
Kyle lost his virginity to Wendy Testaburger in the back seat of her car that night, using the condom he got from health class when they explained safe sex. Although it had been really cramped in the back seat, and even though Wendy's hair had gotten caught in his jacket, making her cry a little, it had still been incredible, because Wendy was incredible. It was perfectly imperfect, and he was sure he was going to wake up any minute in the hospital, in the middle of some sort of delirium, but Wendy was still trembling beneath him. He pressed soft kisses against her neck, just so he could surreptitiously sniff her, to remember what she smelled like when he'd made her cry out his name.
He kissed her again, lazily this time, and she kissed him back for about a minute before she started pushing at him.
"I can't breathe," she explained, looking apologetic, and he laughed and kissed her one more time before opening the door and getting out of the car.
He waited outside for her, and although he didn't smoke, he wished he had a cigarette. Now that it was over, he felt guilty, and his stomach twisted in knots until Wendy climbed out of the car and stood behind him, sliding her arms around his waist. She kissed the side of his neck before resting her chin on his shoulder, and she sighed.
"What do we tell Stan?"
"I don't know," he said, covering one of her hands with his. "The truth, I guess."
She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed at them until he reluctantly turned around to face her.
"You know what this means, don't you?" she asked, clasping her hands behind his neck.
He shook his head, and she surprised him by grinning.
"It means we're going to campaign our asses off, and you're going to beat Gregory, and we're going to have the best junior prom Park County has ever seen."
He stared at her for a full minute before asking, "Wendy Testaburger, will you go to the prom with me?"
"I thought you'd never ask," she said, and kissed him again.
Kenny woke up with a pounding headache, one that wasn't helped by his brother shaking him. "Fuck off," he croaked. He threw his arm over his eyes and regretted the motion instantly.
"Pussy," Kevin scoffed. "If you can't handle the hard stuff, you should fucking lay off it."
Kenny moved his arm cracked one eye open. "Kev?"
Instead of answering, Kevin grabbed the end of the sheet that was tangled around Kenny's lower body and pulled, rolling Kenny right out of the bed and onto the floor.
"Come on," Kevin said. "Get up. You've got a big day ahead of you."
Kenny kicked his feet free of the sheet and felt immediately light headed. Kevin clucked his tongue. "Bed spins," he said, sounding not in the least sympathetic. "Or should I say floor spins?"
He hated his brother. He was glad that Kevin was talking to him again instead of avoiding him like the plague, but he hated him right now. He dropped his head in his hands and willed the room to stop spinning.
"Seriously, Kenny, get the fuck up."
"Why?" Kenny mumbled.
"You're an uncle. Now get the fuck up and take a shower before I carry you into the bathroom myself."
He left Kenny alone on the floor, and at first Kenny panicked, thinking Karen was pregnant, but Kevin said he was an uncle, not he was going to be an uncle. Oh, shit, that meant it was Kevin's, and the last thing Kevin needed — that any of them needed — was bringing another fucked up McCormick into the world. He ran into the living room after his brother only to find Kyle standing there, looking around the room but not really seeing anything.
"Kyle? What the fuck is going on?"
"Rebecca had her baby," Kyle explained.
"Kevin and Rebecca?" Rebecca Cotswold was the last person he thought would get involved with Kevin, but if she spread her legs for everyone, Kevin would be included in that group. And while Rebecca didn't seem to be Kevin's type, his brother's type ran toward girls who put out — a group that included Rebecca. Jesus Christ, Mark Cotswold and his father were both going to come over here to kill Kevin, and somehow Kenny would end up dying because of it.
"No, Stan," Kyle said with a frown. "Why, what did you hear about Kevin?"
"Nothing," Kenny shook his head, and it felt like someone was driving a spike through his skull. "Just a misunderstanding." He was so relieved it wasn't Kevin, he'd nearly missed what Kyle said. "Wait, Stan? Stan Marsh?"
"Yeah. We're going to the hospital to visit and I thought you might like to come."
"He said he went this morning. He didn't," Kyle clarified, as if Kenny might actually believe it. "He and Ike have been at Butters' house all day."
Kyle blushed a little. "Working on a smear campaign."
The fact that he wasn't irate or indignant over it meant he approved of what they were doing, even if his conscience was bothering him. It was possible he had other things on his mind, considering his best friend was a teen dad now and that he'd become one with the girl Kyle had pined over for years. Kenny didn't even want to fucking know.
"Can you wait five minutes so I can take a shower?"
Kyle's lips pressed together in a disapproving frown, but he nodded. "Okay. We'll be waiting outside."
Kenny wondered, if Cartman wasn't going with them, who the we was, but that question was answered when he saw Wendy's Jetta parked outside. Kyle reached out the window and motioned for Kenny to get in the back, as if Kenny were a simpleton and couldn't figure that out for himself. He always rode in the fucking back unless it was his dad's pick up or Kevin's piece of shit, and no one usually wanted to be caught dead in either of those. Granted, with the crappy breaks and rusted out floors, it was a lot easier to really be caught dead in either one of them, but still.
"Buckle your seat belt," Wendy told him when he got in, and he flipped her off behind her back but did it anyway. Not because she told him to but because Kenny already knew what it felt like to fly through a windshield and get impaled on a telephone pole.
"Here," Kyle said, turning around and handing a card and a pen to Kenny. "You can sign it, too."
Kenny glanced at the pastel pink gift bag on the seat next to him, tied shut with small pink curling ribbon. It was another of those situations where Kenny didn't have the money to pitch in for a gift but he got to put his name on the fucking card anyway. He always told himself he wasn't going to do it anymore, but there was always a reason why he didn't. Sometimes it was because Cartman bitched about having to put money in when Kenny didn't, so Kenny signed his name just to piss Cartman off. Sometimes it was because he'd died and had no time to buy anything himself, and he figured since they didn't even fucking remember he was gone, it was the least they could do for him. Sometimes he just didn't want to be a dick, because his friends meant well, and sometimes it was because he wanted to be included, but just didn't have the money, and he appreciated his friends' consideration.
Today he scribbled his name inside the card because there was no way he wasn't going to be involved, not when there was a whole story to be heard.
He returned the card to Kyle and stared at the back of Wendy's head, wondering what the fuck she was doing, going to see her ex-boyfriend's bastard.
Stan and Rebecca. He'd completely forgotten about that. Stan had shown up at his house one night, just before school started in the fall, looking like shit, and he'd tried to explain to Kenny how hard it was, when everything was shit, to cope, and how he'd tried again not to rely on it so much, but it was the only way to get through the day sometimes. He'd been so deliberately vague that it took Kenny a while to figure out that the 'it' Stan was trying to avoid was booze, and the two of them had ended up polishing off a couple of pounders from the otherwise empty fridge.
That's when Stan said he'd run into Rebecca Cotswold, at some book store where he'd gone to pick up some special order for Kyle, who had developed some weird avian flu and nearly died. The fact that Kenny had gotten the same exact strain and did die, and that he'd only just returned the very day Stan showed up at his door, he left unsaid, because if there was one thing Kenny was interested in, it was sluts, and everyone knew Rebecca was a major slut. A drunk Stan was an honest Stan, if a morose and bitter one, and Stan bitched about how he'd like to motorboat Rebecca's boobs but it would piss Kyle off. Kenny offered to let him crash for the night, but Stan chose to stagger off on his own, and that was the last time he'd ever mentioned her.
Kenny counted backwards on his fingers and wondered if Stan's next stop on his drunken world tour that night had been the Cotswolds, and if he'd climbed up the window and done Rebecca right there, in her own bed, with her parents down the hall. It seemed like a long shot; Kenny was sure he'd counted back 10 months instead of nine. Maybe the baby wasn't even Stan's.
As long as it wasn't Kevin, he didn't care who had planted his seed in Rebecca Cotswold.
Whether it was Stan's or not, the fact that Stan thought it was meant they'd done it at least once (assuming booze didn't make Stan impotent. It wasn't fair that some guys couldn't get it up at all when they drank when Kenny's father not only could but did). That would explain Stan's sudden interest in resuming his relationship with Wendy all year.
Kenny shifted his gaze from Wendy to Kyle, who was also remarkably calm about this.
"So you guys finally did it, huh?"
Wendy hit the brakes a little too hard as she approached the intersection. "What do you mean?" she asked, but Kenny caught the way she glanced over at Kyle.
Kenny was tempted to refer to the sex act with a variety of euphemisms, some more crude than others, but he felt kind of bad for them. Stan had kind of fucked them both over, and although he didn't get an answer to his question, what he'd really been asking was if they'd done it at all, and that was obvious now, even as hungover as he was.
The baby was cute, except for the weird blue light on her skin, and she looked kind of like Stan with all that dark hair. As usual, he said nothing, not when Wendy went up to Rebecca and hugged her, not when she hugged Stan next, and certainly not when Kyle and Wendy were so obviously trying to look anywhere except at each other.
They so totally did it.
"...how exactly is Butters involved in all this?" Stan asked, and Kenny felt his blood run cold, until he realized Stan was talking to Kyle, not to him.
"He's editing the video," Kyle explained.
"Then what the fuck is Ike doing?"
"He's asking the leading questions," Wendy responded. She walked to the window and looked outside, and if admiring the view of a brick wall wasn't a dead giveaway that there was something going on, it had to be because Stan was dealing with much bigger issues.
"And you really think this is going to work?" Stan wanted to know.
"Oh, it'll work," Wendy said, turning around.
"And this will help Kyle beat Gregory?"
"So the junior prom won't be canceled after all."
She nodded again.
"I always wondered what it would be like to go to a prom," Becca said. "Not actually go, but just what it would be like."
"You and Mark competed in the spelling bee when neither of you were going to school," Kyle reminded her. "Why can't you go to a prom, too?"
"You should go," Wendy announced. She had that determined Woman With a Cause expression on her face, and if Kenny hadn't already decided she and Kyle had hooked up, that was the clincher right there.
Rebecca shook her head. "Oh, no, I could never do that."
Wendy sat on the edge of the bed. "Listen, Rebecca," she said, taking the younger girl's hands in her own. "You made a mistake." She did take the opportunity to glare at Stan, briefly, before returning her gaze to Rebecca. "And South Park has seen its share of teen pregnancies."
Kenny appreciated that she didn't look at him when she said this, because it was a well-known fact that Carol McCormick had been just thirteen when she was pregnant with Kevin.
"I'm not worried about that," Rebecca said. "They already knew I was a sure thing before this happened."
Kenny swung his gaze to Stan, who looked uncomfortable and a little angry. "Hey, Kyle, can you show me where the gift shop is?"
Kyle knew very well Kenny didn't have any money on him, so it was an obvious excuse to get him out of the room. Kyle looked at Wendy, as though for approval, and Kenny rolled his eyes. The pussy whipping had already begun.
When they were alone in the hallway, Kenny brought it up straight away.
"When you are going to tell Stan?"
"Tell Stan what?" Kyle asked, trying one last time to pretend there was nothing going on with Wendy. Kenny simply quirked an eyebrow, and Kyle caved. "Shit, Kenny, I don't know."
"You're going to have to tell him sooner or later."
"I know, and I will. It's just not a good time right now."
"You know he and Wendy broke up back in sophomore year."
"I know! But he's always had this thing, you know?"
"Yeah, and he put his thing up Rebecca's cooch, and look where we are now."
"Fuck, Kenny, it's not like that."
Kenny lost it, because it was fucking like that. Stan was single, and so was Rebecca, and like Wendy had said, it wasn't like they were the first teenagers to deal with unplanned pregnancies. At least they both had their families for support, and God knew Randy Marsh would make things a hundred times worse, but in the end things would work out. They always fucking worked out.
Kyle could lie about it all he wanted, but he'd had a boner for Wendy for a long time. Kenny got the whole Stan thing, and yeah, he believed in the bro code to an extent. South Park was a small town, though, and there weren't that many people, let alone single girls. Maybe Kyle should have let Wendy be the one girl who was off limits, but he hadn't. Then he had the fucking nerve to think he and Wendy could keep it a secret.
Stan was going to find out, and it was going to be worse if he found out from someone who wasn't his best friend. Kenny couldn't believe Kyle was too fucking stupid to realize that, and he told Kyle all of this, and then he walked away, going out the stairwell so he didn't have to wait for the elevator like a douche rag. He could hear Kyle running after him, but he'd expected that, just like he'd expected the hand on his arm, and he turned.
"You're the asshole, Kenny," Kyle said, breathing hard.
"I'm the asshole? I'm the asshole."
"You think you're the only one whose problems matter," Kyle spat. "You think you're the only one who can see what's going on, and you think you fucking know best. You're as bad as fucking Cartman, but at least he doesn't hide being an asshole, like you do behind this," Kyle grabbed the hood and yanked it backwards, nearly strangling Kenny with the strings.
"Well maybe you should take a good fucking look at yourself. Stan might have more money than you, but that doesn't mean he deserves any less compassion. And who the fuck do you think you are, acting like you'd do the right thing if you were me? You ignore Butters one day and then look at him like you want to devour him the next, and don't think we don't all know about you and Craig."
Kenny's eyes widened a fraction at that, but narrowed almost immediately.
"At least Craig can handle your bullshit, Kenny," Kyle said sadly. "Butters can't."
"You don't fucking know anything about me and Butters," Kenny said, shoving Kyle up the stairs.
Kyle shoved him back, and Kenny toppled down the stairs. The impact with the concrete floor split his head open like a watermelon, and by the time he woke up in his bedroom, a number of things had happened, including:
1. After their argument, Kyle had run to Stan and confessed all.
2. Stan had punched him, and then they'd made up, because the nurse had brought the baby in and with her magical powers she mended the rift between best friends.
3. Stan had asked Rebecca to go to the prom with him, and she'd said yes, because apparently all she'd needed was a proper invitation and a date.
4. The four of them were going to the prom together, of course, in a rented limo, also of course, and everyone was laying odds on how long it would be before Wendy called Rebecca a slut, Stan or Rebecca started showing baby pictures, and Stan and Kyle were hugging it out again after some stupid fight over nothing.
Oh, and 5. Butters was grounded, but Kenny could have guessed that one without any help.
Kenny got good and drunk first.
It hadn't been hard; they never had food but there was nearly always beer in the house; usually not enough to even get a good buzz on but today had been his lucky day, with 'lucky' being an extremely relative term. He hadn't planned on drinking, but the plain brown bottles were just sitting there, some cheap home brew made with too many hops. They hadn't been in the fridge long because the beer was still piss warm, but what it lacked in flavor it made up for in pure alcohol content, and Kenny thought this might be how Leopold had felt the night he'd downed the Armageddon.
He was staggering as he made his way across the railroad tracks, and he wasn't sure he had the right house until he looked up and saw Leo at the window, gazing out at nothing in particular.
"Oy, Leopold!" Kenny yelled, and then, for good measure, he cupped his hands around his mouth like a megaphone. "Leo!"
"I can hear you," Leopold answered. "I'm right here."
"Can I talk to you?"
"You're talkin' to me right now."
Kenny laughed, too hard and too loudly. "You're funny."
It was hard to tell with bleary vision, but Leopold was either scowling at him or his face was kind of melting. Either way, Kenny didn't like it.
"Come on, Leo, don't be like that." Was that his voice? It sounded remarkably like Saddam Hussein.
"Don't be like what?" Leopold asked, and he sounded testy, like Satan would.
"Like..." Kenny gestured vaguely.
"Like me, you mean?"
"Yes!" Kenny said, nodding. Yes, he liked Leopold. He liked him very much. That's why he was fucking here. Apparently that's not how Leopold took it, because he looked pissed, and then he disappeared.
Kenny blinked up at the window a few times, and then brightened when Leopold reappeared. "Hey," he said, trying to give a cheeky Flynn Rider-esque grin.
For that assumption, his head snapped back, from the force of the whatever-the-fuck-it-was that had hit him in the face.
"What the fuck?" he asked, confused and angry.
"There! Since that's all you were ever interested in!" Leopold shouted down at him. His voice hitched, like maybe someone was strangling him from behind where Kenny couldn't see.
"Don't act like you're d-doing me any favors, coming over here. Now why don't you just g-get out of here, before I get grounded even longer," Leopold said, more quietly this time, and he crossed his arms over the window sell and rested his head on them, like he was taking a nap.
Kenny knew he wasn't taking a nap, because Leopold snored. At least Kenny thought he did, but he couldn't remember when he would have heard it. Probably at Cartman's. He stared up at Leo, willing him to look down at him again, but maybe Leopold really had fallen asleep. If he was tired, it would explain why he was so bitchy. Everyone was bitchy when they were too tired, and it wasn't like Leo to be bitchy. Had he said he was grounded? He was always grounded.
Kenny thought about calling up to Leopold again, but when he took a step closer to the house, his foot rolled over something soft on the ground, and he nearly twisted his ankle. He glared at the object, then bent over to pick it up.
He blinked at it a few times.
Leo had thrown the padded bra at him, the fake tits that had caught Kenny's attention from the first time he'd seen them strapped on Leopold's chest. Was that all he'd ever been interested in? Of course not. Marjorine - Leopold- had soft pretty lashes, too, and a genuine smile, one that wasn't a prelude to asking Kenny to do something that no one else would do, or one that promised retribution later, like he'd seen on his brother and on Cartman.
He sighed loudly, so Leopold could hear him, and walked away, the padded bra draped over both hands like he was presenting a shroud to Death itself. When he got home, he hid it in his closet and he wished he'd never seen the fucking thing.
Butters lay with his head on Tweek's chest, playing with one of his chest hairs and listening to Tweek's racing heart. They'd just had sex, because one of the things Butters liked best in the world was sex, followed by cuddling, and he could do both with Tweek.
Cuddling with Tweek was like calming a nervous baby chick, all soft and fluffy and quivering. It felt good after letting Tweek fuck him, because Tweek talked dirty, sometimes spouting nonsensical words mixed with profanity. It felt even better when Tweek hit that spot inside him, and Butters loved the garbled shout Tweek made when as he came inside Butters. Technically, inside the condom, but the condom was on Tweek's dick, which was balls deep in Butters, and that was practically the same thing.
He made little circles around one of Tweek's nipples with his fingertip, and when Tweek grunted beneath him, Butters paused.
"What's wrong?" Tweek asked.
"I'm a terrible person," Butters confessed. "A no good, rotten stinker."
"You're not a terrible person. Cartman's a terrible person."
Butters smiled against Tweek's chest. Eric had done a lot of terrible things, and yet they were still friends. At least he thought they were; Eric seemed to treat his friends the worst of all at times.
"It's just, I think of that girl, Rebecca, and how she almost lost her baby, and how Stan's a dad now, and here I am, thinkin' about my problems."
"Am I one of your problems?"
"No — no! You're..."
Perfect, Butters could have said, or the one person I can be myself around, even if it wasn't entirely true. Ike had accepted him for who he was right off the bat, but then Ike never had a problem following his own path. Kevin, too, he could be himself around, and Butters kind of liked thinking Kamahele looked at him like a little brother.
It had more to do with Tweek himself, though. He liked hanging out with Tweek when they were with the other guys, and he liked hanging out with Tweek when it was just the two of them. He felt something for Tweek that he didn't feel for the other guys and that was part of the problem. Tweek was his best friend, and his friend with benefits, and Butters had known from the first time they blew each other that's what they were. Yet somehow, despite his lapses of judgment with Kenny and Tweek's dalliances with Craig, they still ended up together like this.
The problem was, Butters felt like he was falling hard for Tweek — in fact, had fallen hard long ago, but had kept it to himself to keep from freaking Tweek out. Tweek had made his feelings perfectly clear on that. The other problem was Butters' more complicated feelings for Kenny.
When Butters thought of love, or fancied himself in love, or fantasized about what being in love was like, it had always centered around one person. To be in love with two people at the same time was contrary to everything he'd ever believed about love, a mythical, perfect love that made colors brighter and flavors richer and songs more melodious. Love was infinitely more complex than that. He felt a dull ache in his chest and he toyed with one of Tweek's chest hairs again.
"I love you," he said, because he was tired of keeping it in, and because if he didn't let it out, he might say or do something even more stupid.
"I know," Tweek said. "I love you, too."
Suddenly Butters was kissing Tweek, and he didn't remember how it happened.
"Blow me?" Tweek asked, sounding almost plaintive, and Butters did, because he would have given Tweek anything in that moment. It took longer to get Tweek off because Tweek had just come a few minutes ago, but it was worth the effort, because Butters loved the way Tweek came apart during orgasm. Butters didn't care at moments like that what Tweek did or didn't do with anyone else.
Tweek let Butters kiss him, even after he'd come in Butters' mouth, and their tongues leisurely tangled together until Butters came a second time, this time against Tweek's thigh.
"Are we boyfriends now?" Tweek asked.
"I, ah..." Butters' tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth.
"I might like to try it," Tweek said hesitantly. "For a little while."
Butters kissed him again, because he was happy — but this time the problem was he wasn't quite as happy as he thought he'd be.
"I can't do it, guys."
"Cut!" Cartman yelled, and Butters lowered the camera. "You have got to be fucking kidding me, Kyle. Tell me you are fucking kidding me."
Kyle got that stubborn set of his jaw, the one he saved just for Cartman. "I'm not kidding."
"This is a war, Kyle! You can't expect to go out there and win on the ginger vote alone!"
"The gingers hate me," Kyle reminded him. "Thanks to you."
Cartman made a small huff of disappointment. "I hate you, too, but I don't want that asshole Gregory to win."
"I'm not going to do it, Cartman."
Cartman went on a mini-rampage, stomping around and calling Kyle every name he could think of, some anti-semetic, some anti-gay, and he threatened to kick Kyle's ass if he didn't shape up, because he was not going to back a loser. Butters was a little intimidated, but impressed, too, at Eric's arsenal of insults, most of which he'd never heard before. He would have rubbed his fists together, but he was holding the camera, and he didn't dare put it down because it was Eric's and he didn't want Eric mad at him if it got broken.
"Is that what you want, Kyle?" Cartman was in Kyle's face, screaming now, little drops of spittle landing on Kyle's face. Kyle simply stood there, taking the high road, and it only pissed Cartman off more.
"It's what I want," he said, as soon as Cartman backed away from him, heaving with exhaustion.
"I hate you so much, Kyle, seriously."
"I think it's really honorable of Kyle to want to win without draggin' Gregory through the mud," Butters said.
"You're a butt munching faggot, so I don't care what you think."
"Well, all right then."
Kyle looked over at Butters. "No, it's not all right. You should tell fat ass here what you think more often."
Butters shifted his weight from one foot to another, and Cartman rolled his eyes. "Yes, Butters, please do tell us what you think."
"I, ah, I..." he took a deep breath. "I was wonderin' just who was runnin' for class president? Or vice president?"
Kyle and Cartman looked at each other, and they both tipped their heads to the side and rubbed their chins, looking like fun house mirror reflections of each other.
"I can't say I recall," Cartman mused.
"I don't know," Kyle admitted. "I haven't really been paying attention to the other offices. Oh, crap, you're not recording that, are you?"
"No," Butters assured him. "I was just thinkin' that maybe Gregory could run for president, and you could run for treasurer."
"I hate that asshole," Cartman reminded him.
"But you said you hate Kyle, too, and you're votin' for him."
"You know, Butters has a point," Kyle mused. "We could run as a double bill instead of splitting the votes."
"And this is why I hate Kyle," Cartman reminded them both.
"They could use your expert cinematography," Ike piped up from the back of the room where he was examining his hydroponically grown tomatoes.
"They could," Cartman said slowly. "But I don't think they deserve it."
"I'll give you five bucks," Ike said, waving it in the air.
"Five bucks, and Kyle sucks my balls."
"Ten, and I don't tell anyone about what's in that box in your closet."
"I hate you, Jail Bait," Cartman muttered, then, louder, said, "OK, we're burning daylight, people, let's go."
"Where are we going?" Butters asked as Cartman propelled him out the door.
"What's in the box in his closet?" Kyle asked his brother.
"'Ey! Jew! We kind of need you for this!"
Ike shrugged. "Didn't even know there was a box in his closet, but he seemed like the type to have one."
Kyle grinned at his brother and ruffled his hair. Ike gave him the finger in return.
"Come on, Kaaaaaaahl," Cartman bellowed from the hall. "We only have Butters until five o'clock!"
"Take off, eh?" Ike said in a deliberately exaggerated Canadian accent.
"Tell Mom I might be home late," Kyle told him before heading after his friends.
Ike took out his phone and texted Sheila Broflovski, informing her they'd both be home after supper. He would have called, but he knew better than to force himself to listen to his adoptive mother read him the riot act and provide a litany of dangers to avoid. The important thing was she wouldn't worry — or at least, wouldn't worry as much, and with Kyle's afternoon taken up with Butters and Hecubus, he didn't have to account for his own whereabouts — and he shouldn't need to, either.
He was nearly twelve, after all.
"I didn't think you'd be here," Tweek told Butters when he showed up for work.
"But I'm scheduled to work tonight," Butters pointed out.
"Yeah, I know, but your dad has been looking at me funny," Tweek's eye closed and he twitched a few times, "and that was before I stuck my dick in your ass."
"I didn't tell my dad about that!" Butters said, aghast.
"I know," Tweek said, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. "But shit happens all the time around here."
Which was true, but that didn't mean his father was going to find out. He probably would, because until he'd met Ike, he'd considered his father one of the smartest people ever. Or he might ask Butters outright, and then he'd know for sure because Butters was a terrible liar, but so far Butters had been lucky and he'd only been grounded for the usual reasons, like leaving his loose change in his pocket instead of the little jar marked "lunch money;" or hanging out with that gang of hooligans (Craig and Clyde); or the one time he forgot to hang his towel up on the rack after a shower, the day he was running late for school because he hadn't planned his day ahead like he should have.
"Where were you yesterday?" Tweek asked.
"Yesterday? I was helping Eric and Kyle with their campaign ad."
"I'm not voting for that asshole!"
"You think Kyle's an asshole?"
"Not him. The fat one."
"Eric's not fat; he's big boned."
"He's big assed," Tweek corrected. "And I'm not voting for him."
"He's not running," Butters explained. "He's just helping Kyle."
"Oh," Tweek said, and went back to saying nothing. Butters enjoyed this time with Tweek, when neither of them had to say anything. Usually Butters was nervous and had to fill the silence, but not with Tweek. He liked just listening the weird little grunts and clicks Tweek made. It was like having a little pocket pet around, only one he got to have sex with, so ten times better. Not that he only thought of Tweek that way, because it would make him no better than Kenny, but it was like being friends with benefits, only better. They were boyfriends with benefits.
The bell jangled, and Butters looked up to see Kevin McCormick. His face split into a wide grin.
"Can I get you a cup of coffee? Or a latte?"
"I just wanted to see if we were still on for later."
Butters turned a bright shade of red. "Oh. I'd almost forgotten."
"You're not going to chicken out, are you?"
"Chicken out of what?" Tweek asked, walking over to where Kevin was standing and clutching at Butters' sleeve.
Kevin looked from Tweek to Butters and back and shook his head. "Just something I owe Leopold here."
"For teaching you to read."
Kevin winced, but nodded. "Yeah. For that."
"Don't fuck with him," Tweek warned.
"He won't," Butters defended Kevin. "I swear."
Tweek looked back at Kevin, who looked annoyed, but said, "I swear, too, okay?"
"I guess so," Tweek relented, and then he went back to refilling the straw canister with too many straws.
"You don't have to," Butters reminded Kevin.
Kevin looked over at Tweek, who was stressing over not being able to put the lid on the straws, and then back at Butters. "Oh, yes, I do."
"Well, all right then," Butters said reluctantly.
"See you then," Kevin said. "Later, Tweek!"
Tweek swore loudly, but it was directed at the bent straws and not at Kevin. Butters joined him and removed the damaged straws, then straightened the remaining ones before replacing the lid.
"They're going to win, aren't they?" he asked Butters.
Butters had to rewind their pre-Kevin conversation in his mind, and then he nodded. "They sure are."
"So they're going to have the prom after all."
"Looks that way," Butters said. He opened the napkin dispenser and removed a two inch stack from the rear, then closed it back up.
"We should go."
Butters dropped the napkins he was holding and turned around. "What?"
"We should go," Tweek repeated. "To the prom. You know. Together."
Butters knew what the expression heart in his throat meant, because it was there, like a big fat stone. He'd always thought it meant something bad, something scary, but he only felt overwhelmed and unable to speak.
"If you don't want to go," Tweek muttered, turning his back to Butters. "We don't have to."
"No," Butters said, then "I mean no, not that I don't want to go, not no, that I don't want to go." The double and triple negatives were confusing him, now, and he shook his head. "I mean yes. Yes, I want to go. With you."
"I don't have to make any hats for this, do I?"
"No," Butters answered, not sure what had prompted the question. "Why would you need to make hats?"
"So people will show up. Everyone loves free hats."
Butters walked up behind Tweek and wrapped his arms around Tweek's torso. "People will come."
"I don't want to go."
Butters heart sank. He could feel it, out of his throat and down into his chest and somewhere in the pit of his stomach. "We don't have to go."
"No, I don't want to go...but I want to go with you."
Butters understood. It was little things like that, and like Tweek turning in his arms so they were face to face, just so he could grab Butters' face and kiss him, that made him happy. It wasn't a very long kiss, but they were standing in front of the shop, where anyone could see them through the glass windows if they walked by just then.
Anyone like Kenny McCormick, who was walking by just then, and who just kept walking, because that was all he could do.
"Come on, Leopold," Kevin said in exasperation. "You can hit harder than that!"
Butters was circling him warily, his fists raised, and he gave Kevin another timid punch.
"Leo, you have to put something behind it."
"I don't want to hurt you!" Butters protested.
Kevin rolled his eyes. "Trust me, you're not."
Butters punched him a third time, just barely grazing him, and Kevin raised his hand in a signal to stop. "Dude, stop."
"Did I hurt you?" Butters asked anxiously.
Only my fucking head, Kevin thought, opening the bottle of water he'd brought and draining half of it. He wished he'd had something stronger but he could hold off until he got home. This was his fucking idea, not Leopold's, but it was becoming increasingly clear that Leopold needed this.
"Come on, Leo, you've got to at least fucking try."
Leopold looked doubtful, and Kevin hated what he was going to have to do next. He walked over to Leopold and pushed him hard enough to knock him to the ground. When Leopold looked up at him, confused, Kevin knocked him back down again.
"You're a pussy," Kevin said. The words tasted bitter on his tongue. "A little bitch. Get up."
Leopold did, and Kevin pushed him down. "I said get up."
"I'm tryin'," Butters said, his voice quavering.
"You gonna cry now, pussy?"
"N-no," Butters denied, but he was blinking rapidly and Kevin knew it was only a matter of time. He didn't want to go there, but he was going to have to.
"Maybe your little twink boyfriend could use a good ass pounding by a real man."
"I'm not usually into dudes, but I could make an exception. He's scrawny enough. Maybe in a dress, I could pretend he was — "
He didn't get any further. Leopold had launched himself at Kevin, and they both rolled around on the ground. The fist to the head had Kevin's ears ringing, and then Leopold seriously started whaling on him. It took several tries to roll them over so he could get up. He ended up having to throw the rest of the water in Leopold's face to get him to stop. If it didn't hurt so fucking much, Kevin might have laughed at the sight of Leopold sputtering, water dripping from his hair and his nose.
"That was good, Leo," Kevin wheezed "I knew you could do it." He pressed both hands against one of his ribs. Fuck, the little bastard could throw a punch when he wanted to.
"I was just trying to get you to fight. I didn't mean any of it. Christ, Leo, what the fuck."
Leopold sank to his knees and puked in the grass, and Kevin wished he'd saved at least a little of the water. He took out a cigarette and lit it, offering it to Leopold, who shook his head. Leopold remained on the ground the entire time he smoked his cigarette, and after putting it out on the bottom of his shoe, Kevin sat on the grass next to him.
"So you, uh, want to talk about it?"
"It's okay if it has something to do with my brother." Bingo. Leopold shook his head, but his face turned an even brighter shade of red — which was impressive, because he was still flushed from their fight. "Hey, Leo, what you just did to me? You remember that next time someone gives you shit."
"Th-thanks, Kam. I really appreciate what you tried to do, but I don't think we should do this anymore. You d-don't owe me anything for teaching you to read."
"No, but you should stop letting everyone walk all over you. You're the shit."
"Oh, no, I'm not."
Kevin rolled his eyes. "You play with fucking fire and make it look easy, and even when you burned your goddamn hand, you were back at work the next day like nothin'. You're like a fucking Pinto with a monster truck engine."
"I'm just me," Leopold said, so softly Kevin might have imagined it. He bumped Leo's shoulder with his own, and that was all it took to set off a crying jag. Kevin wasn't good at this shit; he didn't like when Karen cried — he never knew what to do, and the few times he'd tried, he'd only said something that made it worse. He wasn't good at words when they were his own, and it wasn't like he could find some that would work better.
Or maybe he could now. It was probably a stupid idea, but it was all he had, so he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a tattered copy of C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair. The cover and the first chapter were missing, but that was okay, because this book was his, not Kenny's.
"OK, listen, Leo. 'Crying is all...rig...ridge-it...Crying is all right in its way...will..,while it lasts,'" Kevin read haltingly. "'But you have to stop....sooner or later, and then you still have to deck...to decide what to do.'" He closed the book and looked away, not wanting Leopold to see the blush staining his cheeks.
Leopold wiped his nose. "You're right," he nodded. "I do." He sniffed loudly and gave Kevin a watery smile. "Thanks, Kam."
Kevin wasn't even sure what he'd read; he's struggled so much with saying the words out loud, he had no idea what he was saying, but Leo was looking at him like he was a lot smarter than he really was, and no one had ever done that before. Well, except Kenny and Karen when they were very little, but these days they didn't remember him as anything but a shorter, dumber version of their father.
There were other books in the series; Kevin knew that because there had been more than one movie made. Maybe when he finished reading this one, he'd try reading one of the others.
And maybe by then he'd be good enough to fill out a fucking job application.
"You still have a thing for Wendy?" Ike asked Butters after school one day, when they'd been granted permission to come back to finish their mixed media projects. "Because the way I heard it, you broke up with her."
"What?" Butters asked, applying a dot of paste to a small bit of pink Styrofoam from an egg carton.
Ike was using wire, and he unwound a long piece from the spool and snipped it.
"Wendy. You've been kind of staring at her the past couple of days."
"No, it's just..." Butters looked around and then leaned in close. "I was just wonderin' what it was that she liked about me in the first place. And kind of what she sees in Kyle. Not that I don't think Kyle's great or anything, but it's just she was with Stan, and I thought she might end up with him again."
He was phrasing it poorly, because he wasn't exactly sure what he was wondering. Maybe it was because Wendy had seemed to like him a lot during the short time they dated, and he'd been very fond of her, but he hadn't loved her (although he very well could have, given enough time). It could have been because he'd heard so much about the power couple Wendy and Stan (also during the short time he'd dated Wendy), he'd assumed they'd end up back together through the mystical power of love.
Maybe it was because he didn't understand anything involving Rebecca Cotswold, or how Stan could have had sex with her if he loved Wendy, and he wondered how he could have had sex with Kenny if he really loved Tweek. Did it count if he and Kenny had gotten together before he told Tweek how he felt — before he was even sure himself how he felt?
"Well," Ike said slowly, "I hear that she loved Stan but wasn't in love with him."
"What's the difference?"
Ike shrugged. "Don't know. It's just always something people say when they break up."
"But what does it mean?" Butters asked.
"Why do you want to know again?"
Butters was turning as red as the piece of fabric in Ike's hand. "Just wonderin'."
"Listen, Butters," Ike said. He set down the scrap of cotton, once part of a bed sheet, that he'd planned on using next. "I was muff diving before you had pubes, and I can tell you this. Women like to label things. They want to have a name for everything, especially with relationships. They make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. We're still talking about women, right?"
"Yesss," Butters said in a way that told Ike the complete opposite.
"Theoretically," Ike said slowly, "the same should hold for guys. Forget this love or in love bullshit. You either love someone, or you want to bone them hard, or both. Know what I'm saying?"
"Yes," Butters lied. "I know what you are saying."
Ike studied him for a minute longer, then picked up a can of spray glue and shook it.
"You coming to my house later for the party?"
Butters' jaw dropped open. "Oh, hamburgers. That's today?"
"Yep." Ike tipped his head to the side, determined the location where he wanted to add the swatch of color, and pressed it to the canvas. His mother had insisted on a party to celebrate Kyle's victory in the recent student elections, even though he and Gregory had run unopposed. It was still an accomplishment, according to Sheila, and therefore would be honored with much fanfare.
Ike thought it was ridiculous, but since Wendy had a bunch of hot friends, and they were all coming, he wasn't complaining.
"So," he repeated. "You coming?"
"M-maybe," Butters stammered, rubbing his fists together. "If I'm not grounded or anything."
Ike stared at him a while longer, and then asked, "Mind if I take a look?"
Butters shook his head and took a step away from his easel so Ike could see it. A single white flower, its few petals made of white feathers, stood out against a variegated blue background. Fine grit sandpaper predictably made up the surface of the beach, dotted with a few pink seashells. The size of the flower gave the piece a close-up perspective, and Ike got the impression its size was important somehow.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Naupaka," Butters mumbled.
"I like it," Ike said in all honesty. "I like it a lot."
Butters shuffled his feet, blushing mightily, and Ike wisely dropped the subject.
"Hope to see you later," he said, returning to his own canvas.
"Is — is Kenny going to be there?"
"Everyone's going to be there," Ike replied, deliberately not making Butters feel worse by pointing out that Kenny had been one of Kyle's best friends since pre-school.
"Yeah," Butters said softly. "Everyone."
Ike hadn't been kidding, because it really did seem like just about everyone was in the Broflovskis' backyard. Butters nervously shifted the small paper bag in his arm as he rang the doorbell. He gave both the sparkling apple cider and the bouquet of daisies to Mrs. Broflovski when she opened the door.
"Aren't you a sweet bubeleh," she gushed over the gifts. "Kyle's right out back with his friends. You got right on out and help yourself to some of the blintzes. I made them fresh this morning!"
"Thank you, ma'am," Butters said. He wasn't going to eat anything; his stomach felt tied in knots, and if Kyle and Ike weren't his friends, he would have just as soon stayed home or gone to work like Tweek. Unfortunately his parents had decided that a party in honor of their class officers (only two of them, because no one acknowledged the secretary from North Park) was a chance for Butters to network and make connections, so here he was.
The last party he'd gone to was the one Wendy had thrown for his birthday, so it was weird to see her hanging on Kyle this time. Stan was seriously sucking face with Rebecca, possibly to prove to Wendy that he was so totally over her or to prove to himself that he and Rebecca belonged together. Ike had given his opinion on that, too, when Butters had asked.
He picked up a bottle of water from the cooler, more so he could hold it against his flushed face than for any other reason, and he gravitated toward Eric, who was talking to Gregory and his friend, a kid Butters only vaguely recognized.
"Bullsheet," Gregory's friend was saying. "You cannot really believe -"
"Oh, I believe it, Mole," Eric interrupted. "I've seen them with my very own eyes."
"Hey, fellas," Butters greeted them.
"Butters," Eric said with a gleam in his eye. "You're just in time. Tell this limey bastard here that there really are leprechauns."
"There really are leprechauns," Butters said automatically.
"You say zat just because this fat piece of sheet tells you what to say," the foul mouthed kid said. He took out a cigarette and lit it up. "Have you seen zem with your own eyes?"
"No, but I've seen the underpants gnomes, and they work as Santa's elves. Maybe they moonlight as leprechauns, too."
"Jesus Christ," Eric muttered. "Not that shit again."
"Yes, that sheet," Mole said, taking a long drag on his cigarette. He looked Butters up and down. "You are ze one from ze island."
"Yep," Butters said with an overly bright smile."That's me."
"Christophe," Gregory chided gently, and they began to argue in French. Butters didn't know what they were saying, but it sounded pretty anyway. He could have listened to it all day, but Gregory put a hand on the Mole's arm and gave it a light squeeze, and Christophe brought his cigarette to his lips and stopped talking.
Eric grabbed Butters by the arm and led him away.
"Are they friends of yours, Eric?"
"No. I hate those guys, seriously, but I might need them some day."
"Think about it, Butters. The president of our junior class this year will be the president of the senior class next year. Do you know what that means?"
"No," Butters replied.
"You're got to think big, Butters. You have to play the game. Sure, we need them now for this lame prom thing, but we use that to buy good will with the student body. Then next year, everyone starts off the year remembering who made it all possible. It's a foot in the door."
Butters spied Kenny over by the fence, alone, sipping at something that might have been soda or might have been something else.
"Butters," Eric said, snapping his fingers in front of his face. "Earth to fucking Butters, seriously."
"I'm sorry, Eric. What were you saying?"
"I fucking hate you so much, Butters. Wait here. I have to talk to our Jew treasurer for a minute."
"Well, all right then," Butters replied, but Eric was already gone.
He glanced nervously at Kenny again, who seemed oblivious to Butters' presence, and he felt his face grow hot. He was still angry with Kenny, but he was angry at himself, too, and he wished he had the guts to say something, but he was afraid. He was afraid he'd make things worse between them, and he was afraid he'd make things worse between him and Tweek.
In the end, he ended up ditching the party with Craig and Clyde and hanging out at the coffee shop until Tweek got out of work and they went their separate ways — Clyde and Craig to review some video footage on Craig's camera, and Tweek and Butters to have sex, because Butters needed it desperately.
He was grounded when he got home. Eric had called there looking for him, so his parents knew he'd left the party early, but he didn't care.
He really. Really. Didn't.
Stephen and Linda Stotch exchanged worried glances as their son stormed in from outside and stomped up the stairs.
"Butters," Stephen called up the stairs. "You are in big trouble, young man."
"Why don't you stick it in your ear?" Butters raged. He went to his desk and swept all the books and pencils to the ground and paced the room, muttering under his breath.
"Stephen, I don't know what's gotten into him. I haven't seen him like this since his hapa noa."
"Leave us, Linda," he said, gesturing for her to stay back. "I must face this alone."
He shut the door behind him and sat down on Butters' bed. "Have a seat, son," he said, patting the mattress.
"I don't want to have a seat!" Butters yelled. "I want you to leave me alone!"
"And I want just one night with Emma Stone, but that's not going to happen either." He watched Butters continue to pace angrily, stopping only to pick up this item or that and heft it in his hand, assessing its worth for throwing.
"Problems with Tweek?" Stephen asked finally, and Butters froze.
"That kid you hang out with all the time. The one at the coffee shop where you work. You know the one I'm talking about."
Butters felt like he might hyperventilate. He'd not really gone too far out of his way to conceal their relationship, especially since it had upgraded from friends with benefits, but he'd always feared the inevitability of his father's discovery. It had just always been one of those things he knew would happen 'some day.' He wasn't ready for that day to be today.
"Sit down," his father repeated. "It's time we had a talk."
Butters obeyed, positioning himself about a foot away from his father and clasping his hands in his lap nervously.
"This Tweek. Is he your boyfriend?"
Butters nodded miserably.
His father sighed and got to his feet so he could reach into his back pocket to take out his wallet. He removed a few bills and strode to the door, where he called for his wife. Once he'd handed the money to her and pocketed his wallet, he shut the door and returned to Butters' side.
"I didn't mean to," Butters tried to explain. He licked his lips, unwilling to admit the reason he'd broken up with Wendy had little to do with Wendy and everything to do with Kenny. "It wasn't because of Tweek, I swear. But Tweek is my best friend, and..." He trailed off again.
"And he gave you a good ass pounding," his father finished.
Butters looked at his father in shock. While it was true, that wasn't the reason he was with Tweek. More shocking was that his father knew he'd had sex with Tweek. He could feel his cheeks grow warm, and that was as good as a confession.
"Are you sure you're gay? This isn't just a phase?"
"I'm not gay; I'm bi."
His father smiled and ruffled his hair, as if he were Ward Cleaver and Butters was the Beav. "Yeah, me too."
They sat for a minute, and Butters hoped that maybe they were done when his father asked, "So what's bothering you then?"
"There's a reason you've been acting like, what was it? An emo chick on her period?"
Sucking in a deep breath, Butters asked, "Can you be in love with more than one person at a time?"
"I assume you definitely mean being 'in love,' because you know I love you and your mother."
"What's the difference?" Butters asked "how do you know if you're 'in love?'"
Stephen looked stumped for a minute, "That's up to you to decide. Which one makes you the happiest? Which one makes your heart feel like it's so full it's brimming over? Which one would you miss the most if they moved away and you never saw them again? Which one makes you want to bend over and take it, as hard as he'll give it to you?"
Butters really wished he hadn't added that last part.
"Most importantly, son, which one is capable of breaking your heart?"
Kenny, Butters knew immediately, because he'd kind of done that already, but Butters wasn't sure if that was an argument for or against being 'in love.'
"Look at me and your mother. Did I like going out and letting someone pound my ass? Yes, I did, but did I like how it made her feel when she found out? No, I didn't. And that's what you have to decide. Are you going to be happy with Tweek, giving up all the 'could have beens' with someone else? Or would you be happier indulging in that dirty, sweaty, physical act, and not need anything else? It's all part of becoming a man, making the difficult choices. Sometimes you think you've made the right choice but end up regretting it later."
"Do you regret being with mom?"
"Of course not," Stephen answered a little too quickly. "Because I love her."
"I love Tweek."
"That sounds like you've already made your decision," his father said. "So why are you so angry?"
"I don't know," Butters muttered. He felt his knuckles graze against each other, that nervous habit he couldn't break.
His father patted him on the shoulder. "Welcome to being a man." He got up to his feet. "I'm glad we had this talk, son."
"Me too," Butters said, not because it had actually helped at all, because it hadn't, but because his father seemed to know what he was going through. It was one of the few times he felt his father got him at all.
"You're still grounded, of course. And you're going to have to clean up this mess. And I think a good power washing of the windows will teach you some self-control. You don't want to break the windows or knock the shingles off the roof."
His father had just reached the door when he called out, "Hey, Dad?"
"I - " his tongue felt all thick in his mouth, like he'd eaten something with almonds. He got to his feet and hugged his father, squeezing as tight as he could.
His father patted him on the back a few times before giving in and hugging back. Butters would have started crying, but he didn't want his grounding to be extended for being a pussy.
"Those books aren't going to put themselves back on the desk, son. You'd better get to work."
Butters nodded, and as the door closed behind him, he crawled under his desk to pick up the ones lying there. He jerked his hand back when he spied the copy of Frog and Toad Are Friends that Kenny had given him for safe keeping, and then he did cry, not even caring if he was grounded.
As long as he wasn't grounded the night of the junior prom, because it was the one thing he was actually looking forward to.<
Craig leaned against the wall, looking bored, but when Clyde looked at him, a question in his eyes, Craig shrugged. Tweek was fussing with his jacket, trying to button it straight, and he was growing more agitated by the second. Finally Craig pushed himself off the wall and walked over to Tweek to button it himself.
"Ack!" Tweek said, his hands fluttering anxiously. "Why did I say I'd go to this stupid thing?"
Craig was wondering the same thing himself. Not about Tweek, because it was obvious why he was going, but why he was going himself, stag, with Clyde, who was going because he figured there had to be at least some girls there without dates — or, even better, newly single girls (proms were famous for big, over the top breakups) who would be willing to hook up, just to get back at their exes.
At least that was Clyde's theory. Craig didn't particularly give a shit, because the last thing he wanted was the baggage that came with that whole scene, but then, Clyde had always been a little clueless when it came to that stuff.
"Oh, man," Tweek said, his hands reaching up to his neatly combed hair. "I can't do this."
"Then don't," Craig said with a shrug. "We can hang out here and watch Red Racer."
"Oh, is that tonight?" Clyde asked, referring to the marathon of reruns.
"Yes," Craig said.
"No," Tweek said, trying to adjust his tie and knocking it askew. "I don't want to be a dick and stand Butters up."
Craig fixed Tweek's tie. This close to Tweek, he could smell the Axe shaving cream that Tweek had used, and he could see the tiny nicks on Tweek's face caused by his shaking hands. He took a step back when he realized he was inhaling a little too deeply and flicked off an imaginary speck of dust.
"You're not a dick."
"Are we doing this thing or not?" Clyde asked. He was admiring his reflection in the full length mirror, winking and posing. Craig shook his head.
"I feel like my head's going to explode," Tweek announced.
"It won't explode," Craig told him, resisting the urge to clap Tweek on the back.
Tweek grabbed at Craig's sleeve. "I'm not a dick."
"No," Craig said, turning his head and smelling Tweek's hair. Completely accidentally, of course.
"We're going?" Clyde asked, looking from one to the other.
"Yeah," Tweek said, tugging at his collar again. "We're going."
They went in Clyde's car, because Tweek didn't drive and Craig's car was a piece of shit. When they arrived at the school, where a couple of girls were already crying and hugging each other and a couple of kids were outside smoking, Tweek grabbed the head rest in front of him, the one Craig was using. "Oh, man, too much pressure."
"We can still bail if you want," Craig reminded him. He turned around to look at Tweek.
Tweek looked like he was going to ditch the prom after all, but he shook his head. "No, I'm good," he said, obviously lying. Craig admired him for coming, even if he thought it was fucking stupid.
They were, or at least Tweek was, meeting Butters here, because Butters had gotten suckered into helping set up the decorations and the music and whatever else had been needed. Craig fully expected Tweek would end up hanging with them all night, with Butters being run too ragged to spare even a minute, but he was wrong, because one minute they were hanging out near the punch bowl and the next, Butters was there, grinning like he'd won the fucking lottery.
"You came," he said, and Tweek reached out and grabbed his hands, holding on for dear life.
Butters hugged him, squeezing tightly, and Tweek mumbled into his jacket "I'm not a dick."
"No," Butters said, taking a step back and looking at him. "Wow, Tweek, you look....wow."
Tweek pulled at the bow tie, completely undoing it again. "You too, man." As nervous as he was, he could appreciate how Butters looked in a tux. He looked like he was born to dress this way, kind of like Token did. He dressed up for the first day of school, and he dressed up whenever he helped that asshole Cartman with one of his plans. Tweek didn't really get to see him during those times, even though Craig and Clyde did, because Cartman would never ask for Tweek's help with anything and Tweek wouldn't want to help him anyway.
It was still the first bit of enjoyment Tweek had all day, seeing Butters like this. He kind of wanted to unbutton Butters' jacket and then his shirt, assuming his fingers would cooperate, just so he could press his palm against Butters' chest the way Butters often did to him. Butters thought he had a heartbeat like a hummingbird, which would have been insulting coming from anyone else.
"You look fucking hot," he added, in case Butters hadn't gotten the message.
Butters grinned, that goofy grin that made him look a little bit stupid, but Tweek liked it anyway. He liked a lot of things about Butters, which was why he was here in this uncomfortable jacket and around all these people. He really wished he had a cup of coffee to calm his nerves, but Craig and Clyde had come too early and he'd not had a chance to grab some from the kitchen.
"Come on," Butters said, lacing their fingers together and giving a light tug. He looked like a kid ready to burst on Christmas morning, and Tweek glanced back at Craig and Clyde as Butters led him into the throng. Actually he glanced back at just Craig, because Clyde was busy hitting on one of the North Park girls at their school.
"Where are we going?" Tweek asked, because Butters wasn't leading him onto the dance floor as he'd thought, but past it, and out the doors on the other side.
They continued down the hall to the art room. Butters reached up over the doorway and found a key on the frame, then unlocked the door and turned on the light. A yoga mat was on the floor, and a water bottle with a lily in it, and when Tweek turned to look at Butters, his boyfriend was rubbing his fists together.
"In case you need to find your center," Butters said earnestly, and Tweek thought it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for him. He had to kiss Butters then, so he did, and when he felt Butters fingers thread through his hair, he jerked back as if burned.
"No way, man, it took forever to get it like this."
"Oh," Butters said, cocking his head to the side. "Do you like it like this?"
"I don't know," Tweek said, feeling embarrassed. "Do you?"
Butters didn't answer right away, and Tweek really really wished he had a cup of coffee. Butters reached up to touch Tweek's hair but hesitated. "Can I?" he asked, and Tweek nodded nervously. Permission granted, Butters put both hands in Tweek's hair and ruffled it briskly, until Tweek's hair was sticking up all over the place like it did every day he woke up.
"Fucking hell, man," he protested, but then Butters was kissing him again, and since his hair was already a mess, Tweek didn't care as much what Butters was doing to it.
"I kinda want to dance with you," Butters confessed, after they'd stopped to catch their breath. "Do you want to?"
"I don't know," Tweek said, clenching his fists. These questions were too hard to answer, because there was what he thought he wanted, and what he thought Butters wanted, and then what he thought Butters wanted him to say, and then there was the fact that he'd completely forgotten the question. "Fuck," he muttered.
"We can do it here, if you want," Butters said, hurriedly. "We don't have to go back out there."
That's right, Butters wanted to dance with him. Tweek nodded, because even though he didn't really like dancing — he felt too clumsy and awkward — he liked anything that involved close physical contact with Butters. There was no music, but Butters started to hum, and they swayed together, making a few turns but nothing fancier than that.
It took a few bars before Tweek recognized it as the first song they sang together the night Butters had met the underpants gnomes. Which was not to be confused with the second song they ever sang together. That one had become one of Tweek's favorites because that's when Butters kissed him for the first time. He hadn't even been interested in Butters that way until it happened.
"We should go back out there," Butters murmured in Tweek's hair.
Tweek didn't think so. He was perfectly happy staying here, away from those assholes, but he'd asked Butters to the prom (kind of), and he wanted Butters to get to enjoy all of it, not just their own special secret part of it. Even if their own special secret part of it was way better.
They went out to the dance floor, but they didn't dance. No one was dancing at the moment, because the music had stopped, and he and Butters mingled a little bit (but only with those from South Park). Then they each had a cup of punch — it tasted a little off to Tweek, but Butters didn't seem to notice — and then they ended up on the bleachers that were pulled out from the wall, sitting with Stan and Rebecca, who Tweek had kind of liked when they were kids because she was a little nervous and jittery like Tweek, up until Kyle went and turned her into a slut.
"Hey, Tweek, Butters," Rebecca said in that weird quavery voice she had, and Tweek sat down next to her. Butters started to sit, too, but the reason for the lack of music was some kind of problem with the audio equipment, so Butters was asked to take care of that, leaving Tweek on his own for a few minutes.
"So, Tweek," Stan said. "You and Butters?"
"Me and Butters what?" Tweek asked, leaning forward so he could see Stan around Rebecca. He wished he hadn't, because he hadn't noticed Kenny come sit on Stan's other side, but there he was, slouching on the step and looking bored.
"Kenny, is that your brother?" Bebe asked, sitting down next to him. Clyde was with her, and he sat down, too. He spotted Tweek and gave a confident nod. As if Bebe even noticed he was there.
"Where?" Stan asked. When Bebe pointed at the DJ, everyone craned their necks to get a good look at the DJ, except Kenny who was busy staring at the ceiling and Tweek who was busy staring at Kenny.
"He and Butters are friends," Tweek announced, hoping it would piss Kenny off.
"They are?" Stan asked. "Since when?"
"Hawaii," Kenny said, pushing away from the bleachers. "They've been friends since fucking Hawaii."
"Dude, what the fuck?" Stan muttered, but Tweek heard him anyway.
The music came back on amid cheers and applause, and Stan asked Rebecca to dance, leaving Tweek by himself. He started to squirm a little, and realized with the whole getting ready and fussing with his tie and everything else, he'd not only missed out on his cup of coffee, he'd never taken a piss before they left, and now that he was aware of it, he couldn't get to the boys' room fast enough.
Once at the urinal, he let out a long sigh of relief. It had really started to hurt, and he'd heard somewhere that you could die if you held your pee too long. He didn't know what 'too long' was, which was almost as stressful as having to hold it in the first place. Even then, he thought about pinching it off when the door opened, but his bladder was really full, and he was nearly done by now. He stared straight ahead, ignoring the person next to him. Especially when that person was one Kenneth McCormick.
He should just ignore him, Tweek told himself as he washed his hands. He should just ignore him, and leave things well enough alone, but he'd often had trouble with impulse control.
"Why do you care?" he asked, turning to Kenny.
"Care about what?" Kenny answered, drying his hands on his pants.
"About Butters. You know, how he helped your brother learn to read." It felt good, saying that, because Kenny had been a total dick about it. "And about me."
Kenny crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "I don't give a fuck what you and Butters do."
"Good. Because you had your chance." Tweek could have bitten off his tongue at that, because it was true. Butters had been totally hung up on Kenny, otherwise he wouldn't have fucked around with Kenny after becoming Tweek's friend with benefits.
What Tweek had done with Craig was different, because it was Craig, and because Craig sometimes did that shit without it meaning anything. Craig and Clyde had jerked each other off once, back in eighth grade, and Tweek only knew they'd done that because Clyde had cried about it afterward. He knew about Craig blowing Kenny last year, too, because everyone knew about that, but it hadn't meant anything either.
Tweek didn't think Token had been part of that scene, because he'd sort of drifted away from the group when he and Nichole got really serious. Jason came and went, as did Jimmy (both of them totally straight), and Tweek had been more of a back up friend. It was the one thing Tweek had in common with Kenny, being relegated to the token fourth in the group. Hell, Tweek had been the token fourth in Kenny's group of friends for a while, and he hadn't even known why he cared. Clyde certainly hadn't, but then Clyde had Craig, and Craig had Clyde, and it had been like that since they were kids.
"Are we done here?" Kenny asked, sounding bored, and it pissed Tweek off, because he could never pull off that nonchalant don't-give-a-shit attitude. He did give a shit.
"And you're a dick," Tweek said, because it was worth repeating.
He found Butters standing near the DJ table, swaying on his feet slightly. Kevin McCormick was standing in front of him, gently prying the cup of punch out of his hand, when Tweek joined them.
"Spiked punch," Kevin said over his shoulder. "Shit, I should have warned him about that. He's a total lightweight."
"Am not," Butters argued, his speech slightly slurred. "Am I?"
Tweek and Kevin exchanged a glance, and Tweek got under one of Butters' arms to support some of his weight.
"Like a fucking teen movie," Kevin said with a shake of his head. "Where the fuck is my lame ass brother?"
"He was in the bathroom a minute ago," Tweek told him.
"He'd better not have anything to do with this, because I'll kick his ass if he wasted our hootch."
A goth looking girl came up and handed Kevin a slip of paper. He squinted at it for a minute and then looked up. "Seriously?" he asked. She nodded gravely and then walked away.
"Fucking North Park girls. I hate requests." He flipped through the CDs on the table until he found the one he was looking for. "Keep an eye on him," he told Tweek. "Don't let him do anything I wouldn't do." He laughed, knowing as well as Tweek that was like posing no limits at all.
"My legs feel weird," Butters told Tweek as they walked across the dance floor.
"Kevin said you're drunk," Tweek explained. "The punch."
"The punch?" Butters said, stopping. "That's clever. Who would sus..." he frowned as he struggled over the word. "Who would suspect?"
Tweek shrugged. He'd been too stressed over the whole idea of the prom and people and paper hats that he hadn't given any thought to problems like poisoned food and drink. Which he was thinking about now. Would the little bit of punch he'd had earlier destroy brain cells? He was pretty sure booze did that, because that's what they were told in health class. It was kind of hot in here, too, and some fat chick Tweek didn't recognize was flailing her arms as she danced. He had to duck twice, and then he started walking again, hoping Butters would come with him.
Butters did, until the opening strains of a cello came over the speakers, and Butters came to an abrupt stop. Again.
"Oh! I love this song!"
It seemed to Tweek that Butters loved nearly every song for some reason. Some made him happy, and some inspired him to draw, and others made him think — and he could relate to nearly every single one of them in some way. There were songs Tweek knew and songs he liked, and some that he liked to sing in the shower or to sing with Butter when they were just hanging out. The lyrics to this song made Tweek think of poetry in English class, with everyone coming up with their own interpretation of what the author meant, like getting inside their heads and reading their thoughts. Tweek fucking hated that.
My God, amazing that we got this far, it's like we're chasing all those stars who's driving all those big black cars.
That seemed kind of depressing to Tweek, but Butters was hugging him like there was no tomorrow and nuzzling his ear. They might have been dancing, kind of, and then Butters sighed deeply during the short instrumental break. It made Tweek's heart hurt, made worse when the next verse started and Butters started singing along with it.
"Just don't let me disappear, I'm-a tell you everything."
Tweek hauled Butters off the dance floor roughly, not wanting to hear Butters sing the next line. Fuck the lyrics; it didn't matter what you wanted to hear; just because someone said something didn't make it true. That was Tweek's interpretation of that.
"What the fuck is wrong with him?" Stan asked as Tweek dumped Butters onto the bottom step of the bleachers.
"He's wasted," Rebecca said. "Just look at him."
Stan sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose, and then told Tweek to sit with Butters while he got some water. Rebecca went with him, because the shine of their new relationship hadn't worn off yet, and Tweek rubbed Butters' back.
"You going to puke?" he asked, hoping the answer would be no.
"I don't think so," Butters said. "I'm drunk?"
"You're drunk," Tweek affirmed.
"I'm going to be so grounded," he moaned.
Tweek put his head on Butters' shoulder and continued to rub his back while they waited for Stan and Rebecca to come back. He stayed by Butters' side as he guzzled the glass of water and asked for another, and he kind of liked just sitting here with Butters better than the rest of the prom.
"I'm sorry," Butters said after his third glass of water. Stan was getting testy at being sent for refills, but he did it anyway, because otherwise Tweek would have to go and he'd be the one stuck babysitting Butters.
Tweek was still leaning against Butters, and he toyed with the pleats in Butters' shirt. He might have assured Butters that he had no reason to be sorry, or he might have let Butters know that he was enjoying himself just fine, but Butters was way too in tune with every song that Kevin was playing, like the alcohol had turned on some kind of internal amplifier. Tweek got a very bad feeling when Butters tensed at the opening lyrics of one of them.
I had a dream so big and loud. I jumped so high I touched the clouds.
This song sounded optimistic and happy to Tweek, but Butters was shaking his head, like he had one of those brain controlling bugs in his ear, and he was staring across the gym, at one spot in particular. Tweek knew right away who had caught Butters' attention. It was written all over Butters' face, the confusion, the hurt, the fucking longing. Tweek sighed and got to his feet, too. It took until the end of the song to get up the nerve to tap Butters on the shoulder.
He wasn't sure exactly what he told Butters, because there was a ringing in his head the entire time and because Butters' face crumpled — Tweek hadn't thought of that expression as being literal, but that's exactly what Butters' face did. He tried to make it sound like he wasn't blaming Butters and that it was just too much pressure. He might have told Butters they could still be friends, because he wanted that — he needed that — and then he left Butters standing there alone as he ran out the gym, out of the school doors, and smack into Craig Tucker, who was hanging outside the school with a lit cigarette in his hand.
"What the fuck, Tweek?" he asked, checking him over for signs of injury. "Is there a fire or something?"
Tweek grabbed at Craig's arms. "I'm not a dick," he said, his voice high pitched and agitated. "Make sure he knows that, okay? I'm not a dick."
"Tweek," Craig began, but Tweek released his arms and walked away, and Craig watched him go before turning back toward the school.
He was probably going to regret it, but he had to see for himself.
It seemed like he'd gotten there just in time, because he found Butters yelling at Kenny next to the punch bowl.
"What did you fucking say to him?"
"I didn't say anything!" Kenny shouted back. "He's the one that started it."
Butters' eyes flashed, and he advanced on Kenny. "So you did say something."
"He did most of the talking," Kenny shrugged, and even Craig could see that his careless dismissal had been a mistake, because Butters slammed his fist into Kenny's face, knocking him onto the table and flipping the punch bowl over in the process.
"I'll give you that one for free," Kenny said, gritting his teeth and pushing himself off the table. "But not because of Tweek."
Butters hit him again, and then the fight was on. One of the table legs got knocked off and the entire thing crashed to the ground as they rolled around, punching each other. In less than a minute, a crowd had formed around them, yelling "fight, fight, fight!" while Eric Cartman brokered odds on the outcome. Craig himself put five bucks on Butters, because although Kenny had the experience and a remarkable tolerance for pain, Butters had rage and alcohol on his side.
To everyone's disappointment, it ended in more of a draw, when the cops showed up and pulled them apart, and Craig hung around until each of them was cuffed and in the back seat of a police cruiser.
"Ready to go?" Clyde asked.
Craig turned his head to see Clyde standing there with his arm around Bebe Stevens.
"No," he said shaking his head. He wasn't in the mood to be around them if Bebe was in a particularly amorous mood — and even less in the mood if she wasn't, because then he'd have to sit with Clyde all night while he bitched about it — or worse, cried.
Besides, Craig had plans, sort of.
Tweek was sitting on the ground at Stark's Pond when Craig found him. There was a large paper cup next to him, and he had his knees tucked into his chest as he stared straight ahead, into the darkness. Craig sat next to him without saying a word, pulling a cigarette out of his jacket and lighting it.
"Why do you do that?" Tweek asked.
"Do what?" Craig said, resting the hand holding the cigarette on his knee.
"That," Tweek turned his head and gestured to the cigarette. "You don't even smoke."
"Makes me look bad ass," Craig said, even though it sounded stupid to say it out loud. He'd never admit that to Clyde, but then Clyde had already given his opinion on Craig's habit.
"Oh," Tweek said, looking away again. He was fidgeting; even without looking directly at him, Craig could tell. It was in the sound of the fabric of his jacket brushing against his slacks, and just in knowing Tweek as long as he had.
"They don't think I'm a dick, do they?" Tweek asked. "Because I'm not."
"You're not a dick," Craig assured him.
"I did the right thing," Tweek explained.
Right for who, Craig wasn't sure, but Tweek sounded stressed out, so he said, "I know you did."
"This is why I just wanted to be friends with benefits," Tweek grit out with a gnash of his teeth. "This fucking sucks."
Craig picked up the cigarette to check on the length of the ash at the tip, and then carefully lowered his hand to keep it intact. "Everything fucking sucks."
They were quiet for a while again, and then Craig said, "They got in a fight after you left."
"Butters, I think. He really laid into Kenny."
"Good," Tweek said. "Kenny's a dick."
Craig thought Kenny was the best out of that bunch, but Kenny had had his moments of acting like a total douche lately. A few more minutes ticked by before Tweek asked, "how did you know where to find me?"
"This is where Butters would have gone," Craig answered honestly.
"It's stupid. This should be the last place I wanted to go."
Craig rolled the cigarette between his fingers and said nothing.
"It hurts," Tweek confessed. "Is it supposed to hurt when you're the one that does the dumping?"
Craig shrugged. "Dunno. Never been in a position to be the dumper or the dumpee."
"Sucks," Tweek said. "I hate this."
Craig flicked the ash from the cigarette into the grass without looking at it. "You love him?"
That was apparently all Tweek was going to say, and although Craig didn't really want to know, he asked anyway.
"Are you in love with him?"
"I think so. He had a list."
"Who had what list?"
"Butters. He kept a list on his desk. One half said 'love' and the other half said 'in love' and he had a bunch of things checked off under both."
That didn't really help Craig any, but he decided he didn't really want to know how deep Butters' feelings ran for Tweek.
"I'm not a dick," Tweek repeated. He was apparently very concerned about being perceived as one. "If you love someone, you have to set them free. Like on the coffee mug."
Most of Tweek's bits of wisdom had been gleaned from coffee mugs.
"He's in love with Kenny," Tweek sighed. "So I set him free."
"How do you know?" Craig asked. He might not want to know how Butters felt about Tweek, but how he felt about Kenny was an entirely different story.
Tweek pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and bent over to squint at it.
"One. In love takes you over. He stops everything he's doing whenever Kenny's around. Two. In love means you are emotionally obsessed. He pretends he hates Kenny, but he doesn't. Three. In love deceives you into thinking that warm tingly feeling is real love." Tweek crumpled up the paper. "Love fucking sucks, man."
It was hard to make out Tweek's expression in the dark, but Craig could picture it. Big round eyes, staring out at nothing. Teeth gnawing at a full bottom lip. Creases between his eyebrows.
"I don't know. I like Butters, like I like you and Clyde, but different, you know?"
Craig didn't know. He didn't want to know, either, but if Tweek needed someone to listen, Craig would listen.
"We're boyfriends, you know. Or we were."
That Craig knew. It was why he and Clyde had helped Tweek get ready earlier. Had that been just a few hours ago? Felt like a fucking lifetime ago.
"Are you supposed to know why you love someone? Because I didn't. I didn't even want to be boyfriends at first; it just seemed like we were already." He pushed his hair up away from his forehead. "Butters didn't know about the time our parents banished us from South Park because of me. And remember that time you and Clyde sued the school and got millions of dollars?"
Craig laughed quietly. That had been kind of sweet.
"So not fair. All I did was say Mr. Mackey had an ass like an ironing board, and that was only because Cartman said it first, and then I had to give him half my stuff!"
Which the counselor kept in his office for, like, ever. And Tweek didn't mention to Craig that even when they were kissing, Butters never seemed to notice that Tweek was a couple inches shorter (something Kyle tried to blame on all the coffee, but Kyle didn't understand that Tweek needed the coffee like he needed air or water).
Butters hadn't grown up in South Park, and he still believed in the underpants gnomes even before he saw them. Butters was the most real person Tweek had ever known.
"But now South Park got to him, too, and everything is going to hell, and there probably really is a global freezing problem!"
And one day he'd wake up, frozen solid and unable to move, and that's when the gnomes would find him and get pissed that his underwear were stuck to him in a block of ice. He fucking hated those gnomes, no matter what they did when they weren't busy stealing underpants, because they came into his room and stole his underpants. No sane person or otherworldly creature would do that.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Craig put the cigarette out on the bottom of his shoe and stick the butt in his pocket.
"You're not a dick," Craig assured him again.
"I tried not to be, I swear."
Craig rested his head on Tweek's shoulder and put his arm around his shoulders. This was it, this was his big chance. This close, he could smell the coffee on Tweek's breath, and it would be so fucking easy to just turn his head a little and brush his lips against Tweek's. He and Tweek had blown each other — only once, before he'd started hanging out with Butters all the time — but they hadn't kissed, because that would have gone past the experimentation and into full blown fag territory. It made what he did with Tweek no different than what he did with Kenny, minus the rim job. That had all been before Tweek and Butters got caught sucking face right here at Stark's Pond, when Craig learned Tweek was apparently unconcerned about that shit.
Tweek rested his head on top of Craig's, and at the unexpected contact, Craig closed his eyes and swallowed hard. So much for his grand plans. Fucking Clyde had better thought out plans, for crying out loud.
"Can we just stay here for a while?" Tweek asked. "I don't want to go home yet."
Craig didn't either. "Underpants gnomes?"
Tweek nodded, his hair rubbing against Craig's, and a moment later, he slid one arm under Craig's and sighed. Craig had heard a lot of sounds from Tweek over the years, and he thought Tweek sounded just a little bit content. When Tweek's fingers entwined with his, Craig bit his lip hard to keep from making a sound. It wasn't exactly what Craig had been hoping for when he found Tweek alone out here.
In a way, it was better.
"McCormick!" the guard said as he unlocked the cell door. "Bail's been posted. You're free to go."
Kenny stood in front of the desk, waiting for them to give him back his meager belongings. One dress jacket with torn left cuff. Black boots, his father's, a size too big, borrowed for the occasion. A worn leather wallet containing no money, just his drivers license, student ID, and a condom, just in case. One belt, imitation leather.
He put the jacket and boots back on before walking out of the police station, where his brother was waiting for him out front.
"Your friends posted bail," Kevin said unnecessarily. "And thanks to you, we're both in a shit load of trouble when Ma and Dad get home."
"Fuck off," Kenny said tiredly. He was in no mood to argue, and even if Butters had started the fight, Kevin was still right.
"Nice shiner," Kevin commented, clearly admiring Butters' handiwork. "Can you see out of it?"
Kenny closed his good eye. "Yeah, I can see."
Kevin drove home in silence, and Kenny figured Kevin had done his brotherly duty by picking him and was done with him. Apparently he wasn't, because he followed Kenny to his room.
"Want to talk about it?" Kenny glanced at his brother out of his good eye and Kevin added "Kare's at a friend's for the night — Craig Tucker's little sister, I think." He didn't need to tell Kenny that their parents weren't home — because if they were home on a Saturday night, they'd be fighting, yelling at the TV, or in their bedroom going at it hard enough to make the flimsy headboard bang against the paper thin wall.
"Fuck, no," Kenny said taking off the jacket and hanging it in the closet. He did the same with the shirt and then sat on the bed to untie the boots. He kicked the first one off, sending it sailing across the room, and yanked on the second. It resisted his efforts.
"Normally I don't give a fuck who you screw, but Leopold's different."
That was a fucking understatement. What his brother also meant was that he and Leo were friends of sorts, and that Kevin was feeling protective of Leo the same way he did Karen, even if he'd once threatened Leo because of Karen. It was great knowing Kevin thought more of Leopold than he did of his own brother, but then Leo was the one who'd known Kevin couldn't fucking read, so what did that say about Kenny?
Kevin got up and left, and Kenny tugged at the knotted shoelace. How the fuck had he managed to get it so tangled? He'd barely had time to get the fucking things on before the cop had opened the door and ushered him out.
He hated that Kevin was friends with Leopold and he wasn't. He hated that Leopold knew they could be a normal family, in the right circumstances, because no one else in this fucking town did. He hated that he thought he'd gotten to know Leopold during that week in Hawaii, but now realized that he hardly knew him at all.
He'd been hating a shit load of things lately.
Kevin came back in with an apple, a pen, and a lighter, and Kenny wondered at his good fortune, because Kevin almost never shared his weed. "You remember how to smoke a bowl?"
Kenny glared at his brother. "I know how to fucking smoke."
"Hold your finger over the fucking carb. I don't want you wastin' any."
Kenny nodded, because if he argued too much, Kevin might rethink the whole sharing thing. Kevin stuck the pen tube in one of the smaller holes in the apple and took the first hit. He covered the open bowl of the apple with his lighter before handing the whole thing over to Kenny. It was the best fucking thing that had happened to him all week, and they passed it back and forth a few times before Kevin asked him again. "Want to talk about it?"
"What's to talk about," Kenny said, holding the smoke in as long as he could.
"Leopold's not much of a fighter," Kevin said, staring at the ceiling. "You musta really done something, or said something, to get him to go after you like that."
"I liked it," Kenny said after his next hit. "What the fuck."
"You liked what?" Kevin asked, looking dumb and stupid and very Kevin like.
Kenny handed the apple bowl back to Kevin before flopping back on the bed. "I liked when he was..." Kenny made a vague Butters-shaped outline in the air just above his body. "...all fucking pissed off. God, that was fucking hot. What the fuck is wrong with me?"
Kevin sighed, and Kenny wished he'd never said anything. It wasn't like they had these brotherly bonding moments ever.
"Have you guys...you know."
"What, your best friend didn't tell you already?" Kenny snapped. "Sorry. Gimme," he said, reaching for the apple again.
"Sit the fuck up first. You act like this is your first fucking time."
Kenny sat up and he took an extra long hit, just to keep it away from Kevin that much longer.
"Did you bottom?"
Kenny choked on the lungful of smoke, and he handed the bowl back as he thumped himself on the chest. "What the fuck, Kevin," he croaked.
"I'm just askin'." He waited for Kenny to stop coughing, then asked, "so, did you?"
Kenny shook his head.
"Huh," Kevin said, and brought the pen to his lips.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Ken, I already know more about your sex life than I want to." He passed the bowl back to Kenny.
"You're the one who fucking asked!"
"Why the fuck did I do that?" He looked surprised that he would have done such a thing.
"Because you're a fucktard."
"I think you should bottom next time," Kevin announced, nodding gravely.
Kenny didn't often blush, but he could feel his face getting hot. At least he thought he did. He touched his cheeks with both hands when Kevin took the bowl back.
"Fuck that," Kenny said, lying back on the mattress again and throwing an arm over his face.
"I think the whole fucking thing is part of your problem. You don't see me having all these issues with Leo, do you?"
Kenny groaned. "I don't even want to think of you two doing anything like that."
"Good, because I'm straight, and you're a homo."
"I'm bi, asshole."
"Still not straight."
"I fucking hate you."
"I've hated you longer."
"Butters fucking hates me." Even to his own ears, his voice sounded hollow. Kevin was right. He was wasting perfectly good weed.
Kevin laughed, and Kenny wanted to kick him with the boot he was still wearing.
"And everyone thinks I'm the dumb shit in the family. Dude, if he fucking hated you, he wouldn't waste his time beating the shit out of you."
"He didn't beat the shit out of me."
"Next time, then. We'll have to work on that." Kevin slapped him on the thigh and stood up. "Want me to forge Dad's signature on your disciplinary slip?"
Fuck. He completely forgot that because the fight had taken place at school, during a school function, that he still had to deal with that part of the infraction. He wondered if they'd have him and Butters in together or separately.
His stomach growled, and he remembered that Kevin took the apple with him. His brother was going to finish smoking the rest on his own, and then he was going to get to eat the fucking apple, too.
Kenny was summoned to the principal's office during first period. Craig was sitting outside the principal's office when Kenny got there, and Kenny sat next to him.
"McCormick," Craig nodded.
Craig leaned his head back against the chair and stared at the ceiling.
"What are you here for?" Kenny asked, because Craig was always here.
Kenny shook his head. Craig was such a poser when it came to that shit, but he flaunted it anyway.
The door opened and Butters walked out, head bowed, between both his parents. Mr. Stotch stared intently at Kenny as they walked past, and Kenny wished he'd thought of pulling his hoodie up first, because he could only imagine what Butters' parents were thinking. He wondered if Leo's father recognized him as the guest Leopold had crashed with after getting drunk on the beach.
"Kenneth McCormick?" the secretary called. "The principal will see you now."
"Good morning, Mr. McCormick," the principal greeted briskly when he entered her office. "Have a seat," she gestured to one of the chairs on the other side of her desk. "Mr. Stotch just gave us his statement, explaining that he was the one who provoked the fight. Now you know the school has a zero tolerance policy, but Leopold insisted that he left you no choice but to fight back."
She lowered her glasses and peered at Kenny over the rims.
"Now I know it takes two to tango, but aside from your rather alarming attendance rate, your record doesn't suggest a history of unprovoked violence. I see no reason to doubt that Mr. Stotch is telling the truth, especially as I don't yet have his records yet from his previous school. Do you have anything to add?"
Kenny shook his head. "No, I don't have anything to add."
"Good," she said briskly, closing the folder on her desk. When Kenny didn't get up immediately, she glanced up. "We're done here, Mr. McCormick,"
The moment he opened the door, she yelled, "Tucker!"
Craig grinned at him as they passed in the hall, and Kenny shook his head, because she hadn't bothered going through her secretary for Craig.
It wasn't until lunch that Kenny found out, through Kyle, that part of Butters' punishment was community service around the school. Until the end of the school year, and all through the summer, he was to spend two hours a day doing various jobs around the school. He was also barred from attending any school functions for six months, and had to pay for the damages their fight had caused.
"They should have him start cleaning the football field," Cartman said, "because someone took a dump under the bleachers."
"Sick, dude!" Kyle exclaimed, and then he narrowed his eyes. "How do you know someone took a dump there?"
Cartman took a sip of his chocolate milk. "Because I have eyes and a nose, Kahl. Jesus Christ."
"Cartman was here early today," Craig announced. "His mom dropped him off at seven."
"No one asked you, Craig. Why the fuck are you even sitting here today?"
"This is our table," Craig pointed out.
"We always sit here," Clyde added.
"What did you do, Cartman?" Kyle accused. "You're the one who suggested we sit here today."
The answer came when a group of students starting pointing and laughing, and they all swung their heads toward the courtyard, where Butters was eating lunch by himself. This table, closer to the windows than their usual table, gave a good view of the streaks of bird shit dotting Butters' hair and shirt, and it looked like they'd dropped some in his lunch, too.
Kenny ended up back in the principal's office that afternoon, with a stern lecture about his role in the fight with Leopold Stotch clearly being bigger than either of them had admitted to, considering Kenny's proclivity to violence.
Kenny didn't give a shit what she thought; Cartman had had it coming for whatever he'd given the birds to eat that morning.
"K-Kenny," Butters said, swallowing nervously. "What are you doin' here?" His hair was still wet from washing it earlier, and he was wearing a brand new tee shirt with the Park County Griffin on it instead of the polo he'd had on before lunch.
Kenny dipped his scrubbing brush into the bucket of soapy water and went to work on the graffiti that adorned the wall next to the one Butters was working on.
"Community service," he answered as he scrubbed at the three foot drawing of a penis.
"B-but you shouldn't be here. I told Mrs. James - "
"Why did you do that?" Kenny asked, turning to look at him. "Tell her it was all your fault."
"Because it was. I'm the one who let m-my emotions get the best of me, and violence is no way to settle a problem." He reached up to focus his attention on the foul language spray painted just above shoulder height.
"Cartman," Kenny explained. "I punched Cartman."
Butters paused in what he was doing. "Why'd you do that?"
"Because he's an asshole."
A faint smile curved Butters' lips, then he shook his head. "You shouldn't have done that."
Did Butters know Cartman was behind the latest prank? Butters was smart, but incredibly na誰ve. He probably blamed himself for the birds all crapping simultaneously. Whether Cartman's experiment had been with the intent of vandalizing the school or targeting Butters in particular didn't matter to Kenny.
They went back to work without talking, and it reminded Kenny of the time he spent with Butters back when he thought he was Marjorine. It was a comfortable silence, and it was enough just being here with him. He'd managed to clean off the head of the penis and half of the length when Butters picked up the bucket and moved to Kenny's other side, where he could work on the balls.
"I'm sorry, Kenny," he sighed.
"Me too, Leo."
At the end of the two hours, a sixteen foot section of the wall was much cleaner than the rest, and Butters carried the pail and brushes when they went back in to sign out for the day. Kenny wanted to ask Butters what he was doing next, but he was sure he already knew the answer to that question.
"I"ll, ah, see ya tomorrow, Ken."
"Later," Kenny said, giving a lazy wave. He watched Butters get on his motorcycle and put his helmet on, and he continued watching as Butters rode away, toward South Park. He wasn't a big fan of motorcycles, ever since he'd been flattened by one as a kid, but that one looked pretty good between Butters' legs.
He went home on the late bus, where he sat next to Craig, who'd finished serving his detention for the day, and neither of them felt the need to make small talk the whole ride home.
Butters looked up at the sign over the door. He could feel the bile rising in his throat and he swallowed several times, forcing it back down. He briefly considered going home instead, but he didn't want to be a Cowardly Curtis or a Shirks Responsibility Seamus, so he straightened his shoulders and pushed the door open.
Tweek looked up as he came in, saw it was Butters, and went back to spooning coffee in the filter-lined brew basket.
"It's been slow," Tweek informed him. "If you want to take the night off, you can."
Butters felt like he was choking on the bile now. He'd know this would be hard, but it was much, much harder than he'd thought. He'd been wrong, so very fucking wrong, when he'd assumed Kenny would be the one to break his heart.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asked, so quietly he didn't think Tweek could hear him.
"No," Tweek said finally. He slid the basket into place and pressed the brew button, then turned to face Butters again. "I miss you."
Butters bit his lip, but it did nothing to keep the tears from pricking his eyelashes. "I miss you, too."
Tweek came out from behind the counter and hugged him then, and Butters held on tight. "We're still friends?" Tweek asked anxiously.
"Always," Butters assured him, and he let Tweek decide when the hug had gone on long enough.
It wasn't as bad as he'd feared, working with Tweek now that they were no longer a couple. They'd only been a couple in the official sense of the word for a little over a week, but the latest change in their relationship meant no more kissing Tweek, just because, and definitely no more sex, but that was probably for the best. It was hard to think straight when he wanted to get naked with Tweek. What he'd miss the most would be the cuddling, and listening to Tweek's heart beating rapidly in his chest, but Tweek didn't hate him, and they were still friends, and that was more than he deserved.
Craig and Clyde came in for cheese danishes around seven, and Tweek took his break to sit with them while Butters washed the few dishes that needed it. He watched the three of them. Craig sipped at his coffee and let Clyde brag about how Bebe Stevens so totally wanted him, ever since the prom. According to Clyde, after the fight had broken up the prom, the two of them had gone to the airport and made out, and Clyde had gotten under the shirt but over the bra. Tweek made gurgled noises and grunts at the pauses in conversation, and Craig seemed to focus more on Tweek than on Clyde, but Butters didn't blame him, because he did the same thing.
At the end of his shift, he walked home with Clyde, who lived like two houses down, and Craig lingered behind, waiting for Tweek to lock up. Butters felt a sharp pang of jealousy, even though he had no right to, and he listened to Clyde wax poetically about Bebe's boobs the whole way home. It kind of helped, because Butters did like boobs, and he impulsively hugged Clyde when they reached his house.
"What was that for?" Clyde asked, once Butters released him.
"I like hugs," Butters explained, glad that his blush wasn't visible in the fading light.
"Oh," Clyde said with a nod. "Me too." He was quiet for a moment, then added, "Craig's not much of a hugger."
Butters doubted Craig was any kind of a hugger, but he kind of liked that Clyde felt comfortable enough confiding in him.
Clyde opened his front door, and then turned around. "You should sit with us at lunch tomorrow," he said. "There aren't any birds inside. Usually."
"Okay," Butters replied, but Clyde had already gone inside and shut the door.
The rest of the week was spent prepping for finals, so Kyle, Wendy, and Butters spent most of their lunches with books spread out on the table, quizzing each other, while Stan and Cartman sat at the very end and ate. Cartman's lip was still puffy from where Kenny had punched him, and Kenny was usually outside with Craig, smoking behind the school.
Tweek was out there once with Craig, but as soon as he saw Kenny, he scowled, muttered something under his breath, and left. Kenny sighed as Craig handed him a cigarette, and he had a hard time holding it still so Craig could light it.
"What the fuck are you on, McCormick?" Craig asked, pocketing his lighter.
"I wish," Kenny said, taking a drag on his cigarette. He dug the heel of his hand into his forehead and looked over at Craig, who was staring at the end of his own cigarette as the smoke curled off it.
"You study?" Craig asked.
Craig rolled the cigarette between his fingers. "Kind of."
"No shit." Kenny flicked the ash off his cigarette. "Alone?"
"Of course not." Craig scoffed. "I have better shit to do with my time."
Kenny kind of agreed, but that's why he was a solid B or C student. If he liked the class, he'd remember what he learned long enough to regurgitate it for a test, and if he didn't, well, he wasn't going to suddenly get it this late in the year.
"So what's the story with Clyde?" he asked. "Are he and Bebe a thing for real, or just in his head?"
"Fuck if I know," Craig said, then "shit!" as the ash broke off the end of his cigarette. "Since when are you interested in Clyde's love life?" His piercing gaze met Kenny's. "You sure you're not more interested in Tweek's?"
Kenny wished he could deny it, but he was kind of interested, at least where Butters was concerned. "You have something to tell me about Tweek's love life?"
"No," Craig said. "Because it's none of your fucking business."
Kenny could see why Tweek pulled at his hair all the time. He kind of wanted to do that now.
"He's not back with Butters, if that's what you want to know," Craig relented. "But if you want to know more than that, you can ask him yourself."
"I don't," Kenny said, putting the cigarette out on the wall. "But even if I did, Tweek wouldn't fucking tell me anything."
"Who said I was talking about Tweek?" Craig put the cigarette out on the bottom of his shoe and put it in his pocket.
"When did you start doing that?" Kenny asked, gesturing to Craig's pocket.
"Ever since I heard it was bad for the ecosystem to just throw them on the ground, and not all of us want to burn down the school for real."
"Fuck you," Kenny muttered. It had been a long time ago, and Stan, Kyle, and Cartman had been just as much to blame for the dumpster going up in flames.
"Nah," Craig said. "I think you and I are both beyond that now."
Kenny gave him the finger, and Craig returned it, and they shared a small, secret smile before going their separate ways.
Pulling cleaning duty after school sucked ass, but it was made more tolerable because he and Butters were doing it together. Once Butters climbed up a tree to remove toilet paper that had probably been there since Halloween, and Kenny got a clear view of his ass that way. He'd never really taken a good look at it before, but he made a mental note that he would have to more often, especially if Butters was wearing jeans like he had on today. They dragged the full bags of yard waste and garbage to the front of the school and set them out on the curb for pickup the following day, and after they signed out at the end of their designated time, Kenny found himself desperate for an excuse to talk to Butters.
His conversation with Craig flitted through his mind.
"Hey, Butters, have you studied?" It was a dumb way to break the ice, because he knew damn well Butters had been studying, every day at lunch and probably at home and at the coffee shop, too.
Butters nodded and pulled on his backpack. "I have to. If I don't get straight A's this year, I'll be grounded."
Kenny also knew Butters was grounded right now, but since he'd had a hand in that, he didn't say anything.
"Do you need help?" Butters asked. "I was a tutor at my old school."
"Yes." Kenny jumped on the excuse immediately. "I could use a tutor."
Butters eyebrows furrowed. "Well, you can come by Tweek Bros. later, then. I usually study during break, but sometimes teachin' is the best teacher, so helpin' you will help me, too."
"You going there now?"
"Uh huh. Since I have to pay for the table and all the dry cleaning bills for everyone, I don't have to go right home after school, as long as I'm goin' to work."
"Mind if I walk with you?"
"Sorry, Ken, but I rode my bike today. I'll see ya there later, though, if you want to stop by."
Kenny watched Butters straddle the Harley, and he wondered what it would be like to straddle it, too, facing Butters, and what it might feel like to make out with the motor throttling. He had to picture Cartman naked to get his semi to go down, and he rode the bus back to South Park again. Craig was sitting with Tweek this time, so Kenny sat by himself, and if Tweek had a problem with Kenny following him to the coffee shop, tough shit.
Just to be on the safe side, he dug around in his pockets until he came up with enough for a small coffee, just so he had a reason to sit down at the table Kevin had used the day of their fight. He took out his math book, just to make it look good, and pretended to read it when Butters came out from the back.
"Hey, Kanani!" he greeted warmly, and Kenny felt like a portal had opened up and transported him to Kauai, four months ago, when Leopold was tending bar and assigning nicknames to everyone like he'd gotten a bunch of them at a tent sale. It wasn't what Leo had called him before; he wouldn't remember at all if Kevin hadn't pointed out that Kenny's nickname started with kaka, and he wondered if Leopold misremembered or had deliberately changed it.
He sipped at his coffee, and when Tweek went in the back, Butters snuck one of the broken pastries from the display counter on a plate and brought it to him, and he figured he might as well try to study while he was there, although he spent more time watching Butters interact with Tweek than he did reading the example problems in the book. Butters didn't seem to notice, but Tweek definitely did, because every time he looked over and saw Kenny watching them, he glared at Kenny like he wanted to shoot lasers out of his eyes, the way Craig had done in Peru.
Speaking of, the next time the door opened, Craig walked in. While he waited for Tweek to get his coffee, he spied Kenny at the corner table and made a beeline straight for him.
"McCormick," Craig greeted. He looked far too pleased and most un-Craig like, and it gave Kenny an uneasy feeling.
"Here," Tweek said, putting the cup down on the table a little too hard and splashing some over the top and onto the table. "Sorry," he said as an aside to Craig. "I'll clean that up."
Craig stared at Kenny, looking amused, as Tweek grabbed a rag and instead of wiping up the coffee spill, he pushed it from Craig's side of the table to Kenny's. Craig found this very amusing, because he was having a hard time drinking his coffee due to the smile on his face. Kenny used the napkin Butters had brought with the pastry to mop at the spill so he could put his book back down.
"He thinks you're a dick," Craig explained.
"Thanks," Kenny said drily. It wasn't like Tweek had ever kept that opinion a secret.
Craig broke off a piece of the pastry and popped it into his mouth. "Cobbler," he announced. "And it's apple. Butters made these."
It kind of made Kenny feel a little warm, knowing that, and a little more territorial over the dessert. He slid the plate toward the side of the table furthest from Craig and had another piece for himself.
Butters joined them around seven, and Craig got up from the table to talk to Tweek, giving them room to work. Butters explained the trigonometric functions as he drew and labeled a right triangle, then he created a little table for the formulas and their reciprocals. "Okay, Kakahi," he said, sliding the notebook over to Kenny. "Now try to solve all the functions for the angle theta."
Kenny tapped his pencil eraser on the page a few times, and Butters looked concerned.
"What did you call me?"
"Just now. You called me Kakahi."
Butters blushed. "I did?"
"So what's it mean? I know Kaliona is lion and Kamahele is the traveler, but you never did tell me what Kakahi meant."
"I didn't?" Butters said, getting to his feet. "I thought I did." He glanced over at Tweek and Craig. "Try those problems and I'll come back and see how you're doin' in a few minutes. I don't want to be a distraction."
For some reason Butters didn't want to tell him, and Kenny didn't press it, but the minute Butters walked away, Kenny flipped to the back of his notebook and wrote on the inside of the cover Kakahi. Underneath that he wrote Kanani, with a question mark, in case he had the spelling wrong, and then he returned to the page where Butters had neatly laid out the problem for him. With the table as a guide, it wasn't that hard to figure out; it was just boring, and when Craig returned to the table, he had a cup of chicken noodle soup.
"You done flirting with Tweek?" Kenny snarked.
"You done flirting with Butters?" Craig retorted, and he took a rather loud sip of his soup.
Kenny threw his pencil down on top of the notebook. "I fucking hate this," he bitched, rubbing his eyes.
"Me too," Craig agreed, and then added, "or are you not talking about trig?"
"Blow me, Tucker."
Craig took another sip of his soup, then shook his head. "Sorry, Kenny. You're on your own for that one."
"Son of a bitch," Kenny muttered. "Son of a bitch, you asshole." He said it in a kind of admiring tone, and Craig raised one eyebrow at him.
"Fucking Tweek. Seriously, Craig? Tweek?"
Craig blew on his soup, even though he'd been drinking it just fine a moment ago. "Fucking Butters?"
It was too fucking ridiculous for words, and Kenny started laughing. Craig joined in, although more quietly, until Tweek exclaimed "Holy fucking shit, dude, get the flashlight. Craig's got them now!" Kenny had no idea what the fuck he was talking about, but Craig obviously did, because he clamped his hands over his ears, and they both laughed harder.
As it turned out, Kenny understood secants and cosecants better than he'd thought, but he only cared about the megawatt smile Butters gave him when he took a look at Kenny's work, and the flutter of hope he felt when Butters suggested studying again tomorrow.
He flipped Craig the obligatory bird when Craig gave him a knowing look as Kenny watched Butters walk away, because Craig wasn't as discreet as he thought he was either. He kind of liked it, sharing something secret with Craig again. He'd forgotten how cool Craig was when he wasn't being a total dick, and since the Tuckers were just this side of the poverty line, Craig was the only kid in South Park who kind of got what it was like, even if his parents weren't convicted felons.
When he got home, he ended up smoking weed with Kevin again, because it seemed like the key to getting along with him these days, and because it helped him mellow out, and he jerked off lazily in bed, because he hadn't in a while, and he felt so relaxed after, he fell asleep with his limp dick in his hand, which wouldn't have been embarrassing if it hadn't been how they found him the next day, struck dead by lightning. Ironically, the only exam he missed during his short visit to Hell was trigonometry, which Damien, Satan's son, found fucking hilarious.
As much as Kenny hated his life, sometimes he hated his deaths even more.
Ike was a genius. He knew it, not only because he'd been referred to as such often enough, but because he'd be graduating high school and attending college when he was barely in his teens. He knew his memory was an advantage, because it was easy to apply what you learned when you could remember it. That that didn't make him any less intellectually superior to his brother, and especially his brother's friends, none of whom seemed to acknowledge his existence with the exception of Hecubus, who treated him with forced indifference and reluctant respect, depending on what he wanted or needed.
For Kenny McCormick to seek him out at school, in June, during finals week, there had to be a specific reason, and Ike didn't need to be a genius to figure out what — or more accurately, who - that reason was.
"I hear you've been experimenting with hydroponics."
Ike rolled his eyes. "Dude, seriously, would it kill you to take that thing off? It's like ninety fucking degrees in here, and if you want something, it'll be easier if I can actually hear you."
Kenny unzipped his hoodie and took it off, throwing it onto one of the desks. "Happy now?"
Ike shrugged. "I'm sure you don't really give a shit one way or another. What do you want?"
Kenny had a reputation regarding various substances, as did nearly everyone in his family, but Ike wasn't his brother. If Kenny wanted to get high or stoned or flat out wasted, that was his choice. Kenny wouldn't be the first one to ask about hydroponic cannabis, if that's what he was here for, and Ike wouldn't really blame him, considering what went down at the junior prom.
He'd made quite a few bucks from the fight, too, because he'd been the one to call the cops in the first place. (That had actually been Filmore's idea, and the deviousness of it was one of the reasons Filmore was his best friend.) Ike was a bit of a mercenary, but Kenny had been up and disappeared for twenty-four hours, and rumor had it he'd gone on a bender, or nearly overdosed, or some shit like that, so if Kenny wanted something harder than pot, he'd need to convince Ike that he could handle it.
Aside from that, Ike knew full well that Kenny didn't have any money, so he was going to have to offer Ike something else instead.
Kenny explained what he wanted, and he did so in a quietly intense voice so different from the muffled one Ike was used to. It made him sound smart and considered and a lot like Kyle. Ike had seen and heard Kevin McCormick, and the difference was like night and day. It was as if Kevin's brain cells had been destroyed years ago, but Kenny's were fresh and brand new, like they'd existed in a plane entirely separate from the vices Kenny indulged in from time to time. Maybe Kenny was a chimera or something, and had fused with a fraternal twin in utero. Ike didn't think brain cells quite worked that way, but South Park was kind of like the Twilight Zone, and anything was possible.
Fortunately for Kenny, Ike was intrigued by his request, even if hydroponics was hardly the way to go. It wasn't going to happen when Kenny wanted it to, because Ike couldn't manipulate time, but he'd get Kenny what he wanted when it was ready. Since Kenny really didn't have any other alternative, he accepted Ike's terms and left, because there was nothing left to discuss.
"What was that all about?"
Ike, who had been sitting with his feet on the desk during his final negotiations with Kenny, waved Filmore over.
"I hate when you do that," Filmore complained, but he walked over to where Ike was sitting anyway. "I'm not your bitch."
Ike grinned at him. "Not yet."
Filmore rolled his eyes. "I got your text." He folded his arms over his chest, clearly waiting for Ike to fill him in. When Ike told him what Kenny wanted, Filmore snorted.
"That's it? Try making it at least a little challenging next time." He narrowed his eyes. "Is that why you're making me do it? Because it's fucking easy?"
"Because I want it done right," Ike said quietly. "I wouldn't trust this with just anyone."
Filmore looked doubtful, but the compliment sounded genuine.
"Fine," he said, just as Ike knew he would. "But I still fucking hate you, Broflovski."
"I know," Ike said.
Filmore stood there another minute, then said, "If you're not doing anything this weekend, you should stop by. I've got Tiny Brains for the PS4."
He waited, seemed to expect some sort of obvious comeback, but Ike merely nodded, not committing one way or the other. Filmore turned to leave, but Ike called him back.
"What?" Filmore asked testily.
"Just wanted to let you know I still hate you too, Anderson."
Filmore chewed on the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling, and Ike shook his head as his frenemy finally left.
With Kenny's little project taken care of, Ike could get back to growing his own special strain of hydroponic cannabis, because Kenny wasn't the only one who liked to get baked on occasion.
The first day of summer vacation found Kenny taking trig in summer school while Butters was outside mowing the lawn. It fucking sucked, because he'd looked forward to hanging out with Butters, but he didn't start his shift until Leo's was ending. He totally got why Christophe was so pissed off all the time. The good news was that he had a chance to re-take the final he'd missed in four weeks instead of eight, and Kenny had every intention of passing, because it was fucking hot as Hell (Kenny would know) in the classroom with the A/C shut down. It was the end of July when Kenny fulfilled his obligation to the Park County School District as far as trigonometry went, and he was in a celebratory mood after getting his passing grade. He kind of wished he'd asked Ike for some premium weed while he was dealing with the little bastard, but he ran the risk of becoming Ike's indentured servant over it, so it was just as well.
Kenny walked home like he'd done for the past four weeks, because there were no school buses running from South Park to the high school during the summer, and today he thought he'd take the back roads rather than the main one. There were more trees that way, and a little bit of shade, and the decreased risk of getting run over, since all the old folks had already been to Country Buffet for breakfast even before the school day started.
He heard the motorcycle coming up over the hill, and realized that it couldn't see him. Since there was no sidewalk, he moved as far to the shoulder as he could, and even then he felt the cold fingers of fear down his spine as the engine grew louder. He was worried for nothing, because the motorcycle gave him a wide enough berth, but just as it passed him, the rider braked suddenly, spinning out and dumping the Harley on the ground.
"Jesus, Leo," Kenny said, concern over his own safety behind him. "What were you thinking?"
Leopold pulled his bike upright and put down the kickstand before pulling off his helmet and pushing his hair out of his face. "I almost didn't recognize you," he said, which didn't really answer the question. Leo was becoming adept at that particular skill.
"I passed," Kenny said, and Leopold grinned.
"That's awesome, Kenny! So that means you'll be working with me at eight tomorrow instead of ten?"
"Eight o'clock," Kenny nodded. He looked at Leopold's bike, still idling. "Where you headed?"
"Up to Hell's Pass," Leo replied, pointing toward the mountain peaks in the distance.
Kenny licked his lips. "You want some company?"
Leopold looked at his motorcycle and then back at Kenny. "You'd, ah..." He gestured to the seat.
"I think we're fucking past that at this point," Kenny said.
Leopold nodded and got on the bike. He reached into his jacket for a pair of sunglasses, put them on, and handed his helmet to Kenny.
"You're not eighteen yet," Kenny pointed out, even though he was more worried for Leo's safety than the helmet law.
"Neither are you."
Leopold's jaw was set, and Kenny had a feeling that arguing with him would be pointless. The only other alternative would be to walk the rest of the way home and give up the chance to have Leo to himself, without Tweek glaring at him or Craig enjoying the awkwardness. He pulled the helmet over his head and climbed on behind Leo.
It was the gayest thing ever, seriously. He was sitting obscenely close to Leopold; his crotch was rammed right against Leo's ass, and his thighs were pressed intimately close as well. To keep from lurching one way while Leopold leaned the other way, Kenny had to wrap his arms around him, and it was inevitable that he'd feel himself getting hard. He remembered when he and the guys had despised Harley riders and their obnoxious overly loud bikes, but Leopold had him rethinking that opinion. He kind of wanted to fuck on the bike, although it seemed logistically impossible, and when Leo hit a bump, Kenny bit the inside of his cheek to keep from groaning.
When they reached Hell's Pass, at least the bottom of it, Kenny dismounted first and walked a few feet away, willing his erection down. Leopold took his time turning off the engine and came to stand next to him a few minutes later, quietly accepting the helmet Kenny handed to him and balancing it between the handlebars before returning to Kenny's side.
"I owe you an apology," Leo said, staring up the mountain.
Leo had already apologized, and so had Kenny, but he supposed a simple I'm sorry didn't even begin to cover what he'd done.
"Don't worry about it," he said. "I'm the one who should be sorry."
Leopold began to rub his fists together slowly. "It's not your fault," he sighed. "I overreacted."
I practically raped you, Kenny thought, even though he'd given Leo plenty of chances to back out. It was the guilt talking, because it had been Kenny's idea for Leopold to leave the skirt and the bra on, just to indulge in a fetish.
"I used to like dressing as a girl," Kenny blurted out.
Leopold turned his head and stared at Kenny open mouthed. "What?"
"I used to dress like a chick. A princess," Kenny elaborated. "Had the long blonde wig and everything."
"Princess Kenny," Leopold murmured, then his eyes widened. "Princess Kenny? Like the anime? That was you?"
Kenny felt his face grow hot. He'd never been embarrassed before; he'd betrayed the X Box One side just because Cartman was a stubborn asshole and refused to let Kenny be a princess, even though as a wizard king, he'd still rank higher.
There was something about the way Leopold was looking at him now, though, that suggested Leo understood the cross dressing more than any of his other friends had.
"I didn't mean to start dressin' as a girl," Leopold said. "It just sorta happened."
It hadn't happened that way with Kenny, because he'd totally meant to do it. He was always into trying new things, experiencing new highs, and there was a rush in wearing a dress, in pretending to be a chick when everyone knew he wasn't.
"I put them on," he muttered, and he felt his face grow warm. Why was he fucking telling Leopold this?
"Put what on?"
"The..." Kenny cupped his hands in front of his chest, and Leo made an "ah" of understanding.
"I knew it was you, you know. I might have got lost in the role play, but I knew I was with you."
Leo sighed heavily, and Kenny felt his stomach twist.
"I know. Not at the time, but after I had a chance to calm down."
"Still..." Kenny said. "There's no excuse."
"I don't know," Leo said. "If I'd have shouted out Wendy's name while your...dick was in my ass, you wouldn't have thought that I pictured her doing that instead of you."
Kenny let that slide, because Leopold hadn't known Wendy as long as he had, and it was only Kenny's opinion that Wendy might enjoy wearing a strap on and fucking Kyle through the mattress one day.
"I wasn't really mad at you, later. I was mad at myself more than anything, because I'm the one who started the whole thing. I tried to tell ya, I really did, Kenny. I told you that you didn't know where Marjorine came from, or anything about her. And I almost told you, right after you kissed me. I was this close," Leopold held his fingers a fraction of an inch apart, "to tellin' you."
"Your hair," Kenny said. He reached out and brushed his fingers through the pale blond strands near Leo's ear. "I thought you were going to pull it right out of your head that night, but it was a wig."
Leo nodded. "I got a good hold of it, too, but I couldn't do it. I thought since I messed everything up, I wouldn't mess that up, too." He rubbed the back of his neck. "But I only messed it up worse. I could've taken the skirt off, and the bra." He wasn't talking about that night on the beach anymore. "You didn't make me keep it on."
That Kenny had sounded hungry and a little dangerous that day had been too difficult to resist, but that was Butters' fault, not Kenny's.
"And I'm the one who — who said you could — you know. And I'm the one who was messin' around with Tweek the whole time. So I'm sorry I was a jerk and threw my boobs at you."
"I'm sorry about Tweek," Kenny said. "I didn't try to get between you two."
Leopold bit his lip, then asked, "What did you say to him that night?"
"Honestly? I don't fucking remember. Tweek did most of the talking; basically told me to fuck off. He thinks I'm a dick."
Butters laughed nervously. "Tweek thinks everyone's a dick."
Kenny brushed the pad of his thumb below one of Butters' eyes, over the dark circles there. "He doesn't think you're a dick."
"He should," Butters sighed. "I am a dick."
"Did Tweek know about...us?" That was a stupid question, because Tweek had gone into protective mode one of the times Kenny had stopped by Tweek Bros. Kenny was pretty sure Tweek had called him a dick then, too. "I mean, how much did he know about us?"
"Everything." Leopold sighed, his whole body shaking with the effort. "I couldn't lie to him. He's my b-best friend."
"Does he know about Marjorine? Not what you did for Cartman, but before?"
Leo shook his head. "I couldn't be Marjorine again, not after." His eyes met Kenny's and then darted away.
Kenny smiled sadly. He was kind of touched that he'd had that kind of impact. He'd assumed he'd been the only one affected.
"But you were for Cartman."
Butters let out an exasperated huff. "He found the costume in my closet. Told me it was my duty to help Kyle win, and so I said I'd dress up and dance and all, but only because it was for a good cause. And I wasn't Marjorine. I was just me, wearing a skirt."
Kenny sighed this time. "Leo..."
Kenny shook his head. Leopold was so earnestly cute, he couldn't help leaning forward and kissing him. He had to curl his fingers into fists to keep from cupping Leopold's cheek, sliding his fingers through Leo's hair, or grabbing his shirt and tongue fucking his mouth. He was half hard again already, but he wanted to give Leopold the chance to react at his own pace. Kenny's heart rate quickened when he felt Leo's hand on his chest, and then there was a gentle push, and Leopold's lips left his.
"I can't, Kenny."
"Fuck," Kenny muttered, dragging his fingers through his hair. "Sorry. I'm...shit. Sorry. I'm sorry."
Leopold smiled, a subtle curve of the lips, and he shook his head. "It's just...it's...you're an awfully good kisser, Kenny, and I k-kind of..." he stared at Kenny's mouth for several seconds, then shook his head. "I just need my wits about me, you know?"
The politeness of the set down, the way Leopold wasn't afraid to admit weakness, and the raw, hungry look Leopold gave him when he said he was a good kisser — it was the kind of shit that made Kenny want to kiss him again. He tugged at the crotch of his jeans, where they'd become uncomfortably tight, and felt a little vindicated when Leopold swallowed.
"Sorry," Kenny said. "It was just a little snug down there."
Leopold nodded, staring at Kenny's crotch and dragging his tongue over his upper lip. It wasn't fucking fair, the way he teased Kenny and didn't even know he was doing it.
"So what do we do now?" Kenny asked, leaning back against the motorcycle.
"We go back," Leopold replied, and he sounded a little sad and tired. He picked up the helmet and handing it to Kenny. Whether he meant going back to the way things were (impossible) or just going back to South Park, Kenny was afraid to ask.
Kenny clipped the helmet strap under his chin and saw that Leopold was just standing there, sunglasses in one hand and keys in the other. He looked exhausted, and Kenny wondered what his parents had him doing when he wasn't working at the school or at the coffee shop.
"Leo?" he asked, touching his shoulder.
Leopold started, dropping the keys on the ground, and when he got down on one knee to pick them up, he made a little choking sound.
"Can't, Kenny," he said, grabbing Kenny's sleeve to pull himself back up. "Can't."
"Can't drive." He held the key out to Kenny. "Please?"
Kenny took the key and pressed his hand to Leo's forehead. "Should I take you to the hospital?"
Leo shook his head. "Just bed," he mumbled, and Kenny wished he'd said that to him in better circumstances.
He was a little worried about Leopold's ability to hold on during the ride back, but his arms stayed wrapped around Kenny the whole way, and Kenny was further assured by the constant weight of Leopold's body against his back.
Kenny killed the engine about a block from the Stotches' house and coasted the rest of the way.
It was tricky, getting off the bike without dropping Leopold on his face in the road, but he did it. Getting the helmet off one handed was a little trickier, and then Kenny crouched down on the sidewalk and shook Leopold gently.
"Leo," he hissed. "Come on, Leo. We're home."
Leo cracked open one eye. "Home?"
"Yeah. Ready to go in?"
"Sleepy," Leopold yawned.
Sleepy was barely scratching the surface. If he hadn't been with Leopold the past few hours, he'd have thought Leopold had gotten wasted, like "just shotgunned an Armageddon" wasted.
"Come on," he said, draping Leo's arm over his shoulder. "Maybe your parents won't ground you too much."
He rang the bell, but no one answered, so he rang it a second time and waited.
"No one's home," Leopold said, lifting his head off Kenny's shoulder. "They're in Hawaii."
"You mean like, vacation?"
Leopold nodded again, and Kenny's hands itched to wrap around Stephen Stotch's throat. Leo's parents had gone back to Hawaii, where Leopold had lived nearly all his life, and left him here, working to pay off his debt. There was probably some sort of lesson in there, but it still seemed fucking cold.
He checked the keys Leopold had given him earlier and saw one that might be the house key. He breathed a silent sigh of relief when the door opened, and once he dragged Leopold inside, he kicked it shut with his heel.
There was no way he was getting Leopold up the stairs to his bedroom, and was considering dropping him on the couch, but Leopold rubbed at his face and yawned.
"Thanks, Kenny," he said, sounding tired but not completely out of it. "You're a real pal."
"Yeah," Kenny said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "A pal."
"Do you want to stay for a few minutes?" Leopold asked. "I can make some coffee, or hot chocolate, or some soup."
Kenny shook his head. "Thanks, Leo, but I've got to get home." It was a blatant lie, but staying here with a tired, compliant Leopold was probably a bad idea. Their newly patched friendship was still too fragile to take any chances.
Leopold walked him to the door, and hugged him, and then as he pulled away, he kissed Kenny, just a light peck on the mouth, and colored instantly.
Kenny couldn't resist leaning in, just enough to nuzzle Leopold's jaw, where a patch of razor stubble was, and then he pulled away before he did something really stupid, like reminded Leopold what an "awfully good kisser" he was.
He waited outside until he saw the upstairs light go on, and despite the fact that he was so going to have to beat it when he got home, he grinned when Leopold opened the bedroom window and looked down.
"What are you doing, Leopold? You should be in bed."
"I just wanted to say good night." He lifted his hand and gave a timid wave.
He was too fucking adorable, or adorably fuckable — probably both. "Good night, Leo," he said, and he would swear he could feel Leopold's eyes on him the whole length of the block.
"Hey, homo," Kevin greeted when he got home. His brother was sitting on the couch, a lit cigarette in one hand.
"Karen at Tucker's again?" It was good that Karen had friends, but he wished that one of them wasn't related to a guy whose dick had been in his mouth once.
"That's what she said."
Kenny rolled his eyes and sat next to his brother, snagging the cigarette from Kevin's fingers and putting it to his own lips. Kevin snatched it back after Kenny took his first drag and leaned forward, sitting on the very edge of the couch.
One glance at the television showed a ticking digital clock, and Kenny rolled his eyes. Kevin was watching 24, which meant he would seriously hurt Kenny if he made him miss even a second. Kevin yelled at the characters on the screen for not listening to Jack Bauer, because he was Jack Fucking Bauer, and no one ever believed him until it was too late. Kenny had once played a drinking game where he downed a beer anytime Jack uttered the words "damn it," but there hadn't been enough beer for that game to last very long, and that's when he found out that Kevin took this show very, very seriously.
"Fuck me," Kevin said, dropping his head back against the cushions. "This show would be one episode long if people would stop wasting time interfering in Jack's plans." He lit another cigarette and passed it to Kenny willingly. "So where have you fucking been all day?" he asked.
"Out," Kenny said, because it was none of Kevin's business.
"You get your dick tickled?"
Kenny stared at him. "Did I get my dick...nobody fucking says that."
"Didn't answer my question. Did you?"
"Fuck off. Like I'd tell you if I did."
"So no then," Kevin decided, studying his face. "Or you wouldn't be such a whiny bitch."
"Sometimes I seriously fucking hate you," Kenny said, and he got up to go to the kitchen, because he realized he hadn't eaten all day.
"There's some bologna in there," Kevin yelled from the couch. "But only one slice of bread left."
Kenny wouldn't exactly call it a slice, because it was the skinny crust, but it would have to do. He rolled two slices of bologna into the paper thin bread and took a big bite, leaving less than half the sandwich left. One bite later and he was hungrier than when he'd started, and he wished he'd taken Leopold up on his offer of soup and cocoa.
He watched the rest of 24 with Kevin, and fought with him over the remote when it was over (Kevin won, because he was a dirty, dirty fighter, and knew exactly where Kenny was ticklish), and they ended up watching reruns of Terrance and Phillip, which Kenny would have chosen anyway.
He thought about asking Kevin how the reading was coming along, but his relationship with his brother was recently repaired, like his relationship with Leopold, and he didn't think this was the time to broach the subject.
"What?" Kevin asked, noticing Kenny looking at him. "Do I have a booger?" He pinched the tip of his nose to check.
"Going to wipe it on the couch, too?"
Kevin reached over and put Kenny in a headlock, then shoved his fingers in Kenny's mouth. "Why? Want to eat it yourself?"
There was no booger, but Kevin's fingers tasted like cigarette smoke and bologna, and Kenny bit down on the nearest digit.
"Ow, fucking douchetard," Kevin said, punching him in the side.
Kenny swung his legs up on the couch and kicked Kevin in the ribs. It was a mistake, because Kevin grabbed his foot in both hands and positioned them like he was going to break it.
"Go ahead," Kenny dared him, his eyes flashing.
Kevin patted the top of Kenny's foot. "As long as you know I could."
Kenny stuck his tongue out the minute Kevin turned his attention back to the TV and grinned.
He'd never admit it out loud, but it was good to have things back to normal.
Leopold looked like shit the next morning, but he greeted Kenny with a warm smile and went right to work, pushing the lawnmower out to the edge of the grass in front. It took him several tries to get it started, and he started singing as he pushed it in front of him.
"It might seem crazy what I'm about to say. Sunshine she's here; you can take a break..."
Kenny shook his head as he grabbed a push broom and to sweep the grass clippings that spilled over onto the sidewalk. He sang along with Leopold, who couldn't hear him over the motor, and swapped the broom for a rake when Leo stopped to empty out the bag.
It looked like he was struggling with it, so Kenny went to help him. Their eyes met when they turned the bag over the yard waste bin, and the circles Leopold had under his eyes at Hell's Pass the previous day were nothing compared to the ones he had today.
Kenny couldn't help cupping Leopold's face, and without meaning to, his thumb grazed Leopold's lips. Leopold's pupils widened, and Kenny let his hand slowly drop to his side.
"Want to switch?" he asked softly, and Leopold's eyes fluttered shut for a moment as he nodded.
Kenny took a deep breath as he got behind the mower. He had a love-hate relationship with power equipment and sharp moving parts, but at least if he got chewed up by the mower, he'd come back. Leopold didn't have that option. He'd nearly convinced himself he would end up mangled when the mower went into reverse on its own, but he finished the entire front lawn without any freakishly dangerous malfunctions, and when he turned off the engine, Leopold had a bottle of water ready for him.
By the time the noon sun was overhead, they'd cleaned up broken branches, pulled weeds, and cleaned up dog shit, and Leopold bumped his fists together as he invited Kenny to come for supper later in the day, after he finished his shift at work.
After the shitty sandwich he had last night, there was no way Kenny was going to refuse, and he walked Leopold to the parking lot, looking around for the Harley.
"Where's your bike?" he asked.
"I walked here today," Leopold mumbled.
"Oh," Kenny said, relieved that he didn't need to worry about Leopold riding home. "Then why did you come out here?"
Leo blushed. "This is where you were walking."
Kenny shook his head and threw his arm around Leopold. "Come on. You can take the bus back with me."
Bus fare for two would dig into Kenny's funds, but there was no way he was letting Leo walk home alone.
"You feeling okay?" he asked Leo when they found seats on the bus.
"Oh, I'm fine, Kenny. I'm just a little tired is all."
He was more than a little tired, because he fell asleep against Kenny's arm and had to be shaken awake when they reached their stop. Kenny stared into Leo's face when the bus drove away, looking for signs that Leopold was coming down with something.
"I'll meet you at Tweek's," Kenny said, meaning the coffee shop, and he winced as he realized Leo might think he meant the person.
"You don't have to do that."
"I know," Kenny said, running his fingers through Leo's hair. "I want to."
It was eighty degrees outside, but Leopold shivered. It wasn't all Kenny wanted, but he was taking baby steps this time.
"Leo," Kenny mumbled around the tongue in his mouth as he fumbled with the fly on his shorts. "Leo."
So much for fucking baby steps.
He really had meant to take it slow. He was rediscovering that Leopold was fun to hang out with, and he wanted Leopold know he felt there was more between them than this. It had started off by walking home with Leopold, just to spend a few extra minutes with him (away from Tweek's hawk-like gaze). He'd leaned against the front of the house while Leopold dug his key out of his pocket, and he'd laughed at some stupid story about a customer who'd absentmindedly put a brownie in his back pocket, making it look like he'd shit his pants, and when Leopold looked up again, their eyes met, and neither of them said anything, and thirty seconds later Kenny was inside the house, in Leopold's room, with his back against the wall, Leopold's lips on his neck, and his hand up his shirt.
Kenny was a big fan of sex. He liked it even better than beer or pot or cigarettes. He'd have sex all the time if he could, but he really hadn't wanted to push things with Leopold — not after what happened the last time. Not even after Leopold acknowledged his role in what went down.
However, if Leopold wanted it — and he did, since he'd been the one to kiss Kenny and not the other way around — there was no point dragging it out all summer long. Leopold's parents would be home in a week or two and Kenny didn't want Kevin to know what he was or wasn't up to where Leo was concerned.
Leo was rutting against Kenny's hip, making frustrated noises, and Kenny had to tear his mouth away from Leo's in order to get anything done.
"Fuck. Shit," he said, his chest heaving. "God damn, Leo."
Leo stripped off his shirt and flung it toward the closet, then scrambled out of his pants and underwear so fast, it was hard to believe he'd been nearly comatose on the bus earlier. He sprawled out on the bed, licking his lips, and Kenny leaned over him as he kicked his shorts away.
"You sure about this?" he asked, mouthing little kisses along Leopold's jawline.
"Uh huh," Leopold answered, and when Kenny's fingers wrapped around his erection, he arched off the bed. "Kenny!"
This time there was lube, real water based Astroglide, and condoms — the good kind — and Kenny squeezed some over Leo's cock and moved his hand up and down in long, slow strokes. Leopold made choppy breathing sounds that did wonders for Kenny's ego, and it was a desire to push Leopold over the edge that had him pushing Leo's legs against his chest. Kenny abandoned his plans to jerk Leopold off for the moment. If Craig fucking Tucker could do this, so could Kenny McCormick. It was his desire to be better than fucking Craig that had him on his knees and spreading Leo's ass cheeks apart.
Leopold barely got the nervous "Kenny?" out when he felt the slick warmth of Kenny's tongue probing an area that he'd never imagined would make his balls tighten.
"Oh, God, Kenny, I'm gonna come."
Kenny wanted him to. He wanted to see the expression on Leo's face as he came, but his current position made that impossible. He lifted his head and lowered Leo's legs.
"Kenny?" Leo asked, and there was a flush of annoyance on his face and a hint of desperation.
"Want to switch?" he asked, rubbing his thumb over the slick head of Leo's cock.
Kenny could feel his face grow warm, and he was kind of annoyed with himself. Kenny McCormick was open to anything, and he most certainly didn't get embarrassed during sex. Fuck, the tips of his ears felt hot, too. He cleared his throat and was further annoyed that he'd needed to do so.
"You on top this time."
Fucking Kevin. He had a whole new reason to hate his brother after this.
"Really?" Leopold asked. His voice sounded thick, and Kenny could feel Leo's cock pulsing in his hand, like a living, sentient being.
"Fuck, yeah," Kenny growled, kissing him again. Leopold let him, despite where Kenny's tongue had just been, and for a few more minutes, Kenny could almost forget what he'd just committed to.
Kenny was no stranger to sex. He'd had his first blow job when he was nine, went down on a girl for the first time when he was twelve, and lost his virginity at thirteen and a half to a girl who two years older. And then he'd indulged his bi-curiosity with Craig, who was brusque and rough and in no way could ever pull off dressing in drag.
Except for when Craig rimmed him, he hadn't really thought about letting anyone else touch his ass. It was just assumed that Kenny, with his knowledge and experience, would be the one to take the lead, and that worked out well for the two other guys he'd messed around with, and those had involved dick against dick hand jobs with one and lubed up thigh fucking with the other. He'd told Leo he didn't know if it hurt because he'd never been in a position to make that determination, and now he was scared and nervous and hard as hell just thinking about letting Leopold be the first.
"Do it," Kenny told him fiercely. "Fuck me."
Without warning, Leopold flipped Kenny over, onto his back. He took Kenny into his mouth, his tongue stroking Kenny's cock underneath and lightly grazing his balls, and Kenny grabbed his hair, trying not to pull it as he fucked Leo's mouth. He didn't even know Leopold had gotten his hands on the lube until he felt a cold finger circle his entrance, and he gritted his teeth when it pushed inside.
"Okay?" Leopold asked, his mouth still full of Kenny's cock.
Kenny grunted out his agreement, and he understood why Leopold had been uncomfortable when Kenny had tried to prep him the last time, because Leo was fucking him with two fingers now. It felt strange, different, and borderline uncomfortable, and he wanted to squeeze hard enough to push Leo's fingers back out until Leo pulled them out slightly and rammed them back in.
Leo lifted his head from Kenny's groin and sucked in the spittle that covered his lips."Did I get it?" he asked, and Kenny laughed a little, because he was tightly wound and frustrated and uncomfortable as fuck, and because Leopold thrust his fingers in a few more times, making flashes of color appear behind Kenny's closed eyelids.
"Christ, Leo," he moaned. "Stop."
"Stop?" Leopold asked, sliding his fingers out. It felt better, but at the same time, Kenny kind of missed it, too.
"I want to come while you're fucking me," he said, and fuck if that didn't make his face flood with color again, and what the fuck was wrong with him?
Leopold put lube on his dick, both before and after rolling the condom on, and he leaned over Kenny as he tried to line himself up.
"It might hurt a little," he whispered, just before he pressed his lips to Kenny's, and the first time he thrust forward, he didn't breach the entrance at all. His dick slid right over and under Kenny's balls. "Oh, sorry," he said, sounding chagrined. "Wait..."
He sat back on his heels and played with Kenny a little bit, then put on even more lube (was that even fucking necessary?) before trying again.
"Okay, wait," Leo said, the tip of his tongue sticking out between his teeth.
Kenny let his head drop back and closed his eyes, sure that this was the worst first time ever, and then he could feel himself being stretched as the head of Leopold's cock pushed inside. It was different from his fingers, and he was suddenly glad for Leopold's overly generous use of Astroglide, because once the head was inside, Leopold's mouth dropped open in a surprised "O" and he jerked his hips, slamming right against Kenny's prostate.
Kenny's fingers gripped the sheets beneath him, and he was breathing heavy. It had hurt a little, and he had newfound empathy for what Leopold had endured, and then Leo was sliding out and filling him again, and he stopped thinking and grabbed Leo's ass, urging him to go faster, harder, deeper.
"Kenny," Leo moaned. "Fuck, Kenny, I, oh fuck."
He was coming already; Kenny could tell by the shallow little thrusts and the whole body quiver. Leo surprised him again by sliding a finger along the stretched skin between Kenny's balls and where the fat, semi-hard dick was still deep inside him, and with just a couple of swipes, Kenny came, too, thrashing on the bed and crying out Leopold's name.
It wasn't until Leopold pulled out and rolled onto his back, gasping for air, that Kenny wanted to pretend all this had happened to someone else, because he'd never acted like that with anyone else before. It was fucking embarrassing - not the getting fucked part, which he'd enjoyed like whoa, but the way his body had gone all spastic during orgasm, like he'd never been touched before. He was sure his O-face had been less than impressive, too.
He wanted to get dressed and slink off home, but Leopold curled up next to him and started tracing little patterns on his chest as he listened to Kenny's kapahu, and Kenny thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad to stay the night here, just this one time.
When he woke up, his breath was rank.
Kenny pushed Leopold off him and got to his feet. He found his shorts and put them on, then went to the bathroom where he took a piss and squeezed some toothpaste onto his finger to rub it around his mouth, and then he went to wake up Leopold before they were both late to work.
Leopold's breath was no better, but Kenny kissed him anyway — a short, fast kiss with absolutely no tongue — and when he mentioned the time, Leo went from sleepy and satisfied to frantic. He hopped around the room with one leg through his shorts, and he tried to yank a shirt over his head at the same time, until Kenny calmed him down and helped him get his arm through the sleeve.
It was no wonder Leo had gotten along so well with Tweek.
They saw little of each other at the school that day; Kenny was in charge of mopping the floors and Leo had been given the task of cleaning the walls, which took much longer, so Kenny had done the length of the hall and gone to the next wing while Leopold was still in the first classroom. When Kenny finished all the floors and went back toward where he started, he easily found Leopold by following the sound of him singing.
"But all the possibilities, no limits just epiphanies, Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh..."
Kenny stopped just outside the door. He remembered the first time he'd heard Leo sing this song, the night Kevin had finagled an invitation to a beach bonfire, where he'd seen Leopold dance hula with the men and twirl fire batons and get totally stinking drunk.
It was the song Leo had sung when he tried to tell Kenny the truth about Marjorine. It was the night Kenny had told Leopold he knew Marjorine was lonely, when Leopold had looked at him like he'd figured out one of Ike's impossible brain teasers.
He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. He'd told Leopold that Marjorine was lonely because of the way she held part of herself back. It reminded Kenny of himself, how he was part of Stan and Kyle's group and yet wasn't. Kenny was affectionate, although not as openly as Leopold, and as much as he liked sex because it felt fucking amazing, he also liked it because of the connection he felt with someone else.
He didn't usually want that connection to last after orgasm, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.
Leopold had seemed shocked at Kenny's perception, and with the gift of hindsight, Kenny wondered once again how he'd been blind to the fact that Leopold and Marjorine were one and the same person.
Best Day of My Life gave way to Boom Boom Pow, and Kenny pushed away from the wall and stood in the doorway, waiting for Leopold to notice him.
"Hey, Ken!" he greeted. "I've still got one left, if you want to work in here with me."
Of course Kenny fucking wanted to work in here with Leopold. The job totally sucked otherwise. He joined in with Leopold when he went from singing Black-eyed Peas to Maroon 5 (one of Kenny's guilty pleasures), and between the two of them, they finished that room and half the next before their shift was up.
As they were washing their hands over the slop sink, Kenny noticed that Leo seemed less exhausted that he'd been the past two days, and he kind of liked to think that his ability in the sack had something to do with that — even if Leopold had done most of the work.
Leopold went to work directly from school that day, and Kenny went home, where Karen and Craig's little sister were sitting on the floor with an open notebook between them.
"Tough luck, Kare Bear," Ruby said as she made a line through something written down. "Looks like you're going to marry my brother."
Kenny snorted, causing Karen to blush, and she turned to Ruby and said "at least we'd be sisters that way."
"Or if I married your brother," Ruby said, propping her chin in her hands and staring at Kenny. He was suddenly uncomfortable, not sure if she was being a little douche like her brother or if she'd had some kind of crush on him that he'd missed, because he didn't need Craig all pissed off at him right now. Craig was the only person who was kind of going through the same thing he was.
Ruby was counting through the list, and crossed something else off. "But you'll live in a mansion, so I'll get to visit you and Craig wouldn't even know I was there!"
Of course fucking Craig got both Karen and a fucking mansion. It didn't matter that it was just some stupid girl's game, it still seemed unfair. Then again, in real life, Kenny was making great strides with Leopold, where Craig was stuck with a neurotic little bitch like Tweek.
His opinion of Tweek had nothing to do with Tweek's outright dislike of Kenny, or the fact that he'd been Leo's boyfriend, and had "messed around with" Leopold on a regular basis.
Kenny left them to their game and went to take a shower. Because it was August and the lack of hot water was almost a blessing, he took an extra long one, making sure he washed his hair twice so it would smell good the next time Leopold and he were making out.
Which, with any luck, would be tonight, when Leo got out of work.
Luck wasn't with him, because after working at Tweek Bros., Leopold had to go home and take care of the list of chores that had been left for him. He wistfully declined Kenny's offer to help, stating that there was no way he could focus on his work if Kenny was there. Kenny chose to take that as a compliment.
The next few days went much the same. They worked together in the morning, then Leopold went to work with Tweek or around his own house, and by the time the weekend rolled around, all Kenny could think about was getting naked with Leopold.
Leopold had clearly not felt the same, because when Kenny arrived at Leopold's house with a change of clothes and a toothbrush, he saw Craig and Tweek sitting on the floor where Ruby and Karen had been a few days earlier.
"Hey, Ken!" Leopold greeted, taking the Wall-Mart bag and toothbrush. "We're gonna be downstairs tonight, but I'll put these upstairs for now."
Tweek sat against the couch with his arms folded over his chest, and he glared at Kenny for a while before lifting his hand. He held his thumb and index finger about an inch apart and pinched them together a few times, then looked away.
"He's crushing your head," Craig told Kenny, and the bastard looked fucking amused as hell.
"Okay, fellas, you ready?"
They played Rock Band 3, with Kenny and Craig both on guitar, Tweek on drums, and Leopold on keyboard, and even playing with Tweek, who played remarkably well in short bursts, it was fun. The last time he'd played a game like this had been with Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, and the dynamic between the four of them was completely different. They had pizza and soda and Pop Rocks, because Leopold loved them, and neither Kenny nor Craig felt the need to smoke (or pretend to smoke).
Kenny hadn't brought a sleeping bag, because he'd assumed he was the only one spending the night and that he and Leo would share the bed upstairs, but there were enough pillows and blankets in the linen closet to make up for it, and they ended up in a circle, with their heads all toward the center, which was kind of neat, because if he really wanted to, he could stretch out his arm and brush Leo's hair.
Tweek was on Leo's other side, and next to Craig, which meant that the first time Kenny woke during the night, he'd inched his pillow closer to Craig's in his sleep. When he realized his breath was causing Craig's hair to flutter, he scooted back to his nest of blankets before anyone caught him.
The second time he woke up, he thought there had been a slaughter.
Leopold was sitting bolt upright and quivering. His legs were drawn to his chest and he was rocking back and forth, and although he was quiet now, Kenny knew the scream that had roused him for a sound sleep had come from Leo.
Almost as troubling was the way Tweek scrambled to Leo's side and put his arms around him.
"Think happy thoughts," Tweek murmured into Leo's hair, and in the dim light, Kenny could see Leo's fingers grip Tweek's pajama top tightly.
"Sorry," Leopold said. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't tell me," Tweek said accusingly. "I thought you were tired because you were up all night letting that dick fuck you."
"Oh, no," Leopold said. "That was just the once."
Kenny didn't think he liked knowing that Leo shared details of his sex life — which meant Kenny's sex life — with Tweek and he certainly didn't like that Leo didn't bother to point out that Kenny wasn't a dick. He also didn't like the casual way Leopold referred to it, or the 'just the once' comment, unless he meant the one time Kenny had topped.
Most of all, he didn't like that Leopold had woken up screaming.
He couldn't sleep after Tweek returned to his sleeping bag and Leopold settled down again. It was why he was aware of Leopold getting up and walking up the stairs, and after a moment of internal debate, Kenny followed him.
He found Leopold in the kitchen, holding an empty coffee cup and looking confused.
"Hey, Leo," Kenny said quietly. "Everything okay?"
"You are," Kenny explained. He moved slowly toward Leopold until he could pry the cup out of his fingers.
"I can't sleep," Leopold said, turning his gaze toward Kenny.
"Want to sit for a while?"
Leopold nodded, and then he turned toward the stairs. Kenny thought they were going to sit on Leo's bed together, but Leopold opened the window and climbed out onto the roof. Kenny scrambled after him, afraid that Leo was still half asleep and would fall, but when he got to the roof himself, Leopold was sitting with his hands flat behind him. His head was tipped back and he was staring at the night sky.
"What are you looking at, Leo?"
"Ke Ka o Makali'i," Leo murmured, tipping his head back. "The canoe bailer. I can't make out all the stars, but I see The Twins, Na Mahoe."
Kenny moved closer, until his shoulder was touching Leo's. "Where?"
Leo lifted one arm and pointed. "The two stars close together."
Kenny was not much for stars and constellations. The one time he was interested, it was the result of a mind control device at the planetarium that had made his head explode — quite literally — and the constellations never looked like what they were supposed to.
He wanted to see them this time. "Is that like Orion's belt?" he asked, naming the only thing he remembered.
"No," Leopold said. "There are three stars in Orion. See there?" he moved his arm a little to the right.
Kenny wasn't listening. He'd turned toward Leopold when he'd asked about Orion, who he didn't give two fucks about, and the wind ruffled Leopold's hair, wafting the scent of his shampoo in Kenny's direction. Kenny closed his eyes and inclined his head just enough to graze Leo's head with the tip of his nose.
He felt a little like he wanted to throw up, but in a good way, which made no sense to Kenny. He just didn't want to go back inside, and down to the basement, just yet.
Leopold, not getting a response from Kenny after he'd asked, turned his head, and his nose brushed against Kenny's.
"Kenny," he whispered, but Kenny could still hear it in his voice, the same pain he felt, and he tipped his head to the side before brushing his mouth against Leo's.
Because of their precarious position on the roof, Kenny kept his hands to himself, much the way he'd done at Hell's Pass, and this no-hands kissing was becoming one of his favorite things. He felt dizzy and lightheaded when he finally sat back and just stared at Leopold.
"You really are an awfully good kisser, Kanani," Leopold murmured.
"What does that mean?" Kenny asked.
Leopold swallowed. "Handsome."
"And the other one?"
"Yeah. That one."
"Unique, Outstanding." Leo brushed his fingertips over Kenny's forehead and then pulled his hand away, dropping it into his lap.
Kenny looked back out at the sky again. "That night in the hotel room, in Kauai. It happened then, too."
"I'm sorry, Kenny." Leo sounded truly contrite. He rubbed his fists together.
"Shit, Butters," Kenny said, not noticing his use of the nickname. "You can't help it."
"Oh, I can. I need to...to drink chamomile before bed sometimes, or listen to soft music. Not the fun to sing along with kind. And I have to do yoga or something to unwind before going to bed."
Butters had slept through the entire night after he'd slammed his dick in Kenny's ass, so that was one way to unwind. Kenny was tempted to point that out, in case Butters ever needed to 'unwind' again, but he kept his silence.
"What's it like?" Kenny asked.
Leopold shook his head. "I don't usually remember. I just know that something bad has happened, somethin' really bad, like someone I — I care about dyin'. Only it never happened for real. And sometimes it happens and I don't even remember, until my parents ask me about it."
It sounded kind of fucked up to Kenny, who died and came back several times a year, and he put an arm around Leopold and they sat there together, each lost in their own thoughts.
He hadn't realized he'd dozed off until Leopold shook his leg gently. "Kenny? Kenny, we should probably go back inside before the guys wake up."
"Does it happen often?" Kenny asked, grabbing Leo's arm.
Leopold shrugged. "I don't know. It could happen every night for all I remember."
Kenny released his grip on Leo's sleeve. "It doesn't," he said. "It doesn't happen every night."
Leopold smiled at him then, a tired smile that he knew he'd see a lot of the next day, but it was still a smile, and as long as Leo could find a reason to smile, things couldn't be all bad.
When they went back down to the cellar, Kenny didn't give a fuck what Tweek or Craig would think. He spooned up behind Leopold and matched his breathing to Leopold's until he fell asleep.
With the way things had been going with Leopold, Kenny had forgotten about the deal he'd made with Ike until Stan decided to have a summer vacation / baby shower barbecue in the backyard, while his parents and Shelley were in Denver for the weekend. This would mark the first time he was going somewhere with Leo on anything that could be construed as a date, and although he was looking forward to it, he was nervous, too.
Fortunately Leopold didn't expect hand holding or public proclamations of their relationship — whatever it was — and it didn't matter anyway because the moment they arrived, Leopold was intercepted to settle a debate about Star Trek. It made Kenny wonder who had invited those dorks, even if Leopold was one of those dorks.
Kenny spied the small Styrofoam cooler on top of the table and the larger Igloo underneath, and he was pleasantly surprised to see that one stocked with beer. He'd just popped the top off a Molson when he saw them together.
Leopold was talking to Tweek, using large, animated gestures, and Craig was standing off to the side pretending to smoke. There was no reason for Kenny to be jealous, but he still hadn't quite gotten over Tweek being the one to comfort Leopold after his night terror.
Craig noticed Kenny staring at them and gave him the finger in greeting, which Kenny returned, and he debated on going over there and risking Tweek's disdain when he heard a familiar voice behind him.
"A rather eclectic bunch, wouldn't you say?"
Kenny turned to look at Gregory, who was holding a clear plastic cup of either straight or seltzer water, with lime, and looking for all appearances as if he thought this entire party was beneath him.
"Greg," Kenny said tersely.
Gregory hated being called Greg. Kenny knew this because Gregory had been the second guy he'd dallied with, after Craig. He'd chosen Gregory because Gregory had been showing definite signs of swinging both ways, and because he was refined and well-spoken and the total opposite of Craig. Kenny had found Gregory attractive, and he'd wanted to see if he had a 'type' when it came to guys. He hadn't, because he'd thoroughly enjoyed thrusting his dick between Gregory's legs, but he hadn't cared for Gregory's existential angst after the fact. He had Kyle for the latter if that's what he wanted to deal with. He and Gregory had absolutely no reason to talk to each other since, and they'd managed that just fine until recently.
Kenny hadn't even known that Gregory was running against and then alongside Kyle in the recent student elections, although the whole Stan-fucking-Rebecca and Kyle-fucking-Wendy thing had been around the same time.
"Congratulations on your victory," Kenny said, raising his bottle in a mock toast.
A brief flash of anger appeared in Gregory's eyes, only to be replaced by cold derision.
"Thank you," he said. "Kyle and I hope to recruit others in September know anyone who might be interested?"
"Tweek," Kenny said, because Tweek was the absolute last person who would be interested and was the least decisive person Kenny knew.
Except when it came to Leopold. Kenny shot another annoyed glance in their direction.
Gregory inclined his head slightly to let Kenny know the subtle "fuck you" had been received. He took a sip of his drink, looking like he belonged at a country club and not at a party in backwoods Colorado that served beer to under-aged minors.
"Ike wants to talk to you."
Shit. Kenny had completely forgotten about that. He took another swig of his beer and tossed his head to get the hair out of his eyes. He didn't miss the brief widening of Gregory's eyes. It told Kenny that Gregory still found him attractive.
Kenny grinned. "Where is Mighty Mite?"
Gregory didn't answer; he just turned and walked away, knowing that Kenny would follow him. He paused only once, when he glanced in Leopold's direction. He was standing next to Stan this time, holding a swaddled infant, and one of his fingers was in the grip of a tiny fist. It was cute, but Kenny wasn't too fond of the way he looked next to Stan, like the two of them together were a happy little couple, both attractive in their own way. It was too ridiculous to even contemplate.
He followed Gregory around the house to where Ike was sitting cross-legged on the grass and playing harmonica. He wasn't alone.
Filmore Anderson, who was to Ike what Cartman was to Kyle, only not as loud and obnoxious and bigoted, was sitting in a lawn chair, playing with one of those rubber ball paddle games. On the other side, standing with a cigarette clamped between his lips, was Christophe, the foulmouthed agnostic member of some underground resistance movement. The kid kind of owed Kenny his life, since Cartman's inattention had gotten Christophe killed during the war with Canada, until Satan, at Kenny's request, made everything go back the way it had been before.
Kenny hadn't personally spent any time with the hot tempered mercenary, but he wasn't surprised to hear Christophe bitching about something, the cigarette bobbing up and down on his lip as he swore. He realized they were no longer alone and he glared at Kenny and Gregory. Kenny was sure whatever he said under his breath in French was not very complimentary.
"Kenny," Ike greeted jovially. "I believe you've met my associates."
Christophe snorted, and Kenny was struck by the sudden realization that instead of Filmore being the Cartman to Ike's Kyle, it was the other way around. Ike sounded eerily like Cartman when he was putting a plan into action, and Ike had the brains that Cartman lacked.
The idea that this already Unholy Trinity could be an even Unholier Quartet with the addition of Cartman was disturbing.
Ike grinned. "I'm just fucking with you. Filmore, this is Kenny. He's one of Kyle's friends. And Kenny, this is Christophe."
"The Mole," Kenny said, letting Christophe know he'd heard of him before.
"Imbecile," Christophe snapped, and he tossed his cigarette butt into a red Solo cup and lit another.
"Blow me," Kenny said, amused at how easily riled Christophe got.
"You'd like that, no?" Christophe said. "But alas for you, you are not my type."
Ike seemed to find that hilarious, and he played a few bars of a song Kenny had never heard (knowing Ike, he'd just composed it himself) before shaking the spit out of the harmonica.
"Gregory, can you grab your friend over here something to drink?" Ike asked. "And Ken, Kyle wants you to stop by some afternoon for lunch or something."
Kenny highly doubted Kyle gave a shit if he saw Kenny all summer, now that most of his time was occupied with Wendy, but if this was how Ike wanted it to play out, what the fuck ever.
Kenny knocked on Kyle's door the next day, and wasn't surprised when Ike opened the door.
"KB's out trying to get laid," Ike told him. "Let's go."
When they arrived at the clearing in the forest, Ike sat down on a tree stump and took out a small rolled cigarette that looked suspiciously like a joint.
Ike smoked pot like he'd been born to it, but the brat seemed to master just about anything he tried.
"I prefer using a bowl," Ike said, passing the joint to Kenny, "but it's not practical out here."
It was potent shit, and Kenny felt light headed and mellow almost immediately.
"Stan and Rebecca broke up, you know," Ike informed him.
"I wasn't sure if they were really going out to begin with."
Ike nodded. "They weren't at first. I think Stan needed to have a girlfriend when Kyle and Wendy started dating, to prove he was totally okay with it."
Kenny shrugged and beckoned Ike to pass the weed.
"You think Stan really loves Wendy?" Ike asked. "Or do you think he just likes having her as his backup plan?"
Kenny thought about the first time Wendy had broken up with Stan, and how Stan had fallen into a deep funk and gone goth for a while. It had lasted a long fucking time, right up until the end of the school year. Kenny had spent a lot of that time on his own, because with Stan busy embracing the pain of his soul, Kyle and Cartman were temporary best friends. Until one day when Stan realized he was sick of coffee, sick of goth music, and was fucking bored as hell.
It was kind of hard to think of Stan without Wendy and vice versa.
"I think he loves her," Kenny said. "But I don't think he gets her."
"Like Kyle does?"
Kenny handed the joint back. "Sure."
Ike held on to the joint, letting it burn idly, and Kenny mourned the loss of quality weed. "You ever have a thing for Wendy?"
Of course he had. A lot of guys had, but Wendy had always seemed a little too high maintenance. Ike nodded, as if Kenny had confirmed a theory he had. Had he said that out loud?
"She's got a reputation that's almost the opposite of yours. When it comes to sex, I mean."
Were they still talking about Wendy? Kenny snatched the joint from Ike. If the squirt wasn't going to smoke it, there was no point wasting it.
"Wendy's a chick," Kenny said. "A lot of them are like that."
"And a lot of guys are like you — no strings attached."
"Yeah, that's me," Kenny said, nearly crushing the joint between his fingers. "As long as it feels good, right?"
"I don't know," Ike said slowly. "Is it right?"
No, it wasn't fucking right. Kenny loved sex, but so did most guys. He was just more adventurous and honest about wanting it. That didn't mean he thought of girls as nothing but pussy and tits. It pissed him off that his friends thought he only cared about one thing. He'd actually liked Tammy Warner, even before she'd blown him in the parking lot of the T.G.I.Fridays. He'd fucking worn a purity ring for her, and watched fucking Grey's Anatomy.
He liked that girls wanted to have sex with him, but God, it actually got fucking old when that was all they were interested in him for.
"Of all Kyle's friends, you're one of my favorites," Ike was saying. "I can't put my finger on it, but there's something different about you."
Yeah. He was fuck ass poor. And he died all the time and came back, but mostly the poor thing.
"You're an old soul," Ike said. "That's not it, but you are. It's like you've lived more years than the rest of them, like you've seen things from generations past."
Kenny had; there were sinners in Hell from the dawn of time.
"Eric's fascinating, too. The shit that goes through his brain. It's like he created an entire universe of truths, and his reality spills into ours. Even for South Park, that's some weird shit."
That was probably true. Kenny looked at the joint in his grasp and wondered when it had gotten so small.
"That thing you wanted me to do?" Ike said. "Bad news, Ken."
Kenny blinked. "Bad?"
Ike shook his head sadly. "I thought Filmore could handle it." He glanced at Kenny. "You want me to try again?"
"I don't really need it," Kenny said. "It was a stupid idea anyway."
"This means you don't owe me anything. A deal's a deal."
Kenny wasn't sure he trusted Ike, only because Ike found Cartman fascinating. "You sure?"
Ike nodded. "Yeah. And you can keep that," he said, gesturing to the roach. "Just don't tell anyone where you got it,"
Kenny nodded, and he sat down on the ground and did his best to keep smoking, even though the paper was too wet to burn. He put it out and stuck it in his pocket, and he went home, wondering if the whole conversation with Ike had really happened.
He didn't wonder the next day, when he went to answer a knock on the front door and saw Filmore Anderson standing there.
"Here," Filmore said, shoving a plastic box into Kenny's hands.
"What's this?" Kenny asked, even though he could see through the clear top exactly what it was.
"It's what you wanted," Filmore said, sounding annoyed. "I thought Ike said you were the smart one." He walked away, leaving Kenny standing there.
There was a small piece of paper, folded in half and taped to the lid. Kenny pulled it off and opened it up.
He's my other favorite. Don't fuck up.
Kenny sighed. He wasn't planning on it, but there was a good chance he would anyway.
They took a ride out to Hell's Pass after Leo got out of work, and Kenny had a serious case of swamp ass when he got off the Harley. He pulled off the helmet and dug around in one of the saddle bags for the water bottle he knew was in there. He took a long drink while Leopold turned off the bike and hung up his own helmet in that precise way he had with certain things.
"Something wrong, Ken?" Leopold asked, watching Kenny carefully. He rubbed his knuckles together. "It's too hot, isn't it? I'm sorry I made you wear jeans to come out here, but it hurts an awful lot, getting' burned on the exhaust. And the bugs will start bitin' pretty soon when it starts getting' dark."
Kenny shook his head. Fuck, he felt like he was perspiring in places that didn't even have sweat glands, but that wasn't why he was agitated. It was nerves, plain and simple. He raked his fingers through his hair, causing the sweat drenched strands to stick up everywhere.
"Kenny?" Leopold asked, concern written all over his face. "Are you — did I do somethin' wrong?"
"No," Kenny said. "It's just...look, Leopold, Tweek is right. I'm a dick." he said. "And you were right, too. At first, I wanted you to hook me up with Marjorine, back when I didn't know she was you. But I liked you; I've always kind of liked you."
He didn't think it necessary to tell Leopold that he'd actually kind of hated him for his pretty boy good looks and his perfect smile.
"When I saw you with Wendy, when I saw you dancing with the girls, and I realized it had been you all along, I..."
"You punched me," Leopold reminded him.
Kenny wiped at the sweat running down his forehead. "Yeah, I know that. I was pissed, and I thought you'd done it on purpose, like it was something you did to tourists, for fun."
Leopold looked hurt, and Kenny shook his head again. "I shouldn't have thought that, because that's not like you, but I couldn't stop thinking about her — you — and suddenly I find out she's not even real."
The fist rubbing sped up a little at that, and Kenny reached out to still them before Leo rubbed all the skin off his knuckles.
"Not only that, you could see the shit hole we live in, see the losers my parents are. The only reason we could afford to go to Hawaii was my mom won some stupid contest."
"I know that."
"And that's the thing! It's like..." Kenny rubbed his thumb over one of Leopold's knuckles. "I thought at first it was because you weren't born here or grew up here. You didn't know what we were really like. But I was wrong. It's you, Leopold. You see the best in people, and I think you'd do that even if you lived here all your life."
"A native Coloradan," Leopold nodded.
"It pisses me off, the way no one else gets that." At the same time, Kenny kind of liked that no one else got that, like Leopold was his own secret treasure to unlock. The whole thing only made him more frustrated.
"I'm just me, Kenny. Just plain old Butters."
"No," Kenny said hoarsely. "You're so much more than that."
Leopold's mouth met his halfway, and Kenny dropped Leo's hands so he could slide one of his own up under Leopold's shirt. Leo wanted to touch him just as much, because Kenny felt his ass being kneaded, and he obligingly ground his crotch against Leopold's. It wasn't until he felt the crinkle in his back pocket that he remembered what else he'd wanted to say.
He grabbed the belt loops in the back of Leo's jeans and pulled.
Leo lifted his lips from Kenny's. He was breathing heavy, just as Kenny was, and his fingers were still clamped on Kenny's ass, like they had a mind of their own.
"I don't think we can do it here," he said, looking around.
Kenny couldn't help laughing. "No, it's not that." Well, it was almost always that, and the bulge in the front of his pants could attest to that, but he took a step back anyway, which got Leo to finally drop his hands. Kenny reached into his back pocket and pulled out a sandwich bag with a mangled white flower in it. He struggled a little with the fold over flap, but he was able to remove the flower without further damage.
It wasn't a native plant to Colorado, and Kenny had never actually seen one before. He would have remembered if he had, because the flower had petals on only one side. He held it out awkwardly.
"Naupaka," Leo breathed, his eyes growing wide. He took the flower from Kenny and looked at it like Kenny had given him a rare and precious jewel.
Kenny pulled a similar bag out of his other pocket and removed the second flower. As Marjorine, Leopold had told him a little about the legend, about the princess and the commoner, and it had fucking sucked. Without the full story, Kenny hadn't realized the significance of the torn flower Marjorine had thrown at him — the one he'd pressed in wax paper and kept hidden away in Frog and Toad Are Friends.
He held his flower up and rotated it so the side with no petals was facing Leopold.
"Kaui," Leopold choked out as Kenny touched his and Leo's together to form what looked like one complete flower. He twisted the stems together, wishing he'd thought to bring a twist tie, and covered Leopold's hand with his.
Leopold had explained that there were different versions of the story, but he'd never shared that there were different versions of the ending, either. At the time, all that had mattered was they would both go their separate ways (and of course the whole "Marjorine is really Leopold" thing that Kenny hadn't known at the time).
It was thanks to Karen and Ruby, working on a school project about myths and legends, that Kenny learned the rest of it. One version had the flowers growing apart, one on the mountain and one on the beach, as an eternal testament to the torn apart lovers. The version of the story that Karen (and Ruby, though she adamantly refused to admit it) preferred was the one that stated if the mountain and beach naupaka flowers were reunited, then Naupaka and Kaui would be together again.
"You're not just plain old Butters," Kenny murmured. He brushed the back of his fingers over Leo's chest. "You're Kakahi. And you're pretty kanani yourself."
"Kenny," Leopold said, and he burst into tears.
What. The. Fuck.
This was not how he'd pictured this going at all. He felt panicked, and he was usually the calm, laid back one. He had no idea how fucking Craig dealt with Clyde crying all the time.
He patted Leopold on the back awkwardly, and bit his tongue to keep from murmuring 'there, there.' His chest hurt, like his heart was clamped in a vice, and he tried rubbing the back of Leopold's neck. "I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, Leo," he confessed.
Leo wiped at his eyes, using the hand that held the joined naupaka. "S-sorry for bein' a crying pussy, Ken."
"It's okay," Kenny soothed, even though it didn't feel okay. At least it seemed the worst of it was over, because Leopold was sniffling and rubbing at his face, but it didn't lessen the pressure in Kenny's chest. He walked away, ran his hands through his hair, and went back, unsure what to do next. Leopold looked pitiful with his red nose and splotchy face, and Kenny pulled him into a hug.
That seemed to be the right thing to do, because Leopold hugged him back, squeezing hard enough to cut off Kenny's oxygen. He held on longer than was comfortable, and then he lessened his grip and rested his head on Kenny's shoulder.
Kenny closed his eyes and stroked Leopold's hair, and they stayed like that for a while, until Kenny opened one eye and noticed the setting sun.
"Shit," he said. "Leo. Hey, Leo, look."
Leopold turned his head, refusing to let go of Kenny. The sky was pink and orange, the sun just barely dipping below the horizon, and Kenny cleared his throat.
"It's no Waimea Canyon, but I thought it might look pretty from here."
Leo sniffled again and wiped at his nose, and at first Kenny thought he was disappointed. Then he felt Leo's hand slide down his chest, and he laced his fingers with Kenny's until the sun had completely set.
"No one's ever done anything like this for me before," Leopold whispered.
The words scared Kenny. "Leo, I'm not like this all the time. I already told you, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I like you a fucking lot, more than I've ever liked anyone, but that doesn't mean I won't find someone else I like even more. We're seventeen fucking years old - "
"Sixteen," Leopold interrupted.
"- and after we graduate, then what? I don't want to lie to you, Leo. You mean a lot to me but I can't make you any promises."
Leopold bowed his head. It was hard to read his expression, because the sky was gray and the light was fading fast, but Kenny could see him twirl the naupaka in his hands. Kenny's heart leapt to his throat when Leo finally looked up.
"I don't care," Leo said stubbornly. "We could spend our whole lives bein' afraid of something just because there's no guarantee, but we'd miss out on some really great things."
"I don't want to hurt you," Kenny said, exasperated.
"My heart's been broken before."
"How do you do it? How can you just accept that things could go to shit, and we'd end up hating each other?" He raked his fingers through his hair again. "God, this is ridiculous."
"Tweek and I don't hate each other."
The last thing Kenny wanted to hear about was fucking Tweek. He was jealous of the twitchy bastard, and he felt guilty, too.
"This might sound stupid," Leopold added, "But falling in love is like a beautiful accident. It just happens. That's the easy part. The hard part is what comes after all that adrenaline wears off."
His voice was calm but earnest, and Kenny could see what Ike had tried to tell him about old souls. He wasn't so sure he agreed with it, though. It was more a matter of what a person went through and how they came out of it.
"Kenny," Leopold said, rubbing his fists together. "Sometimes what we want isn't what we need, and sometimes what we need isn't what we want. And as long as you want, I'm okay bein' your friend with benefits or just your fr -"
Kenny kissed him, because it was both what he needed and what he wanted. He slid Leo's jacket off his shoulders and heard it fall to the ground, and he ran his hands up and down Leopold's spine. Their kiss was wet and sloppy and occasionally interrupted by harsh breathing before one of them dove right back in. Just when Kenny thought he might climax just from the kissing alone, he heard Leopold hitch his breath, and then moan. It was the thin, reedy sound that pushed Kenny over the edge, and he pressed his forehead against Leopold's as he came.
As he stood there, waiting to regain his bearings, he realized that a mosquito must have bitten him on the back, because it was starting to itch in that way that only mosquito bites did. He kissed Leopold one more time before twisting his arm behind him to scratch at it.
Leopold let him struggle for nearly a minute before he spun Kenny around, lifted his shirt, and scratched at it gently, using his fingertips and not his nails. It helped, but it wasn't quite enough. Kenny found that most things in life were never quite enough.
"I don't want a boyfriend," Kenny told him, and then he groaned as Leo's fingers traced the outer edges of the bite.
"I already had one of those," Leopold said. His voice was surprisingly steady, and Kenny wondered how he'd managed that, because that kiss had made his own voice all scratchy.
"Yeah, but you're a dick," Kenny said suddenly, and Leopold laughed, quietly at first, and then more loudly after Kenny joined in. It released the tension Kenny had been carrying around even more than the orgasm had. When their laughter died down, and Kenny saw the faint crinkles in the corners of Leopold's eyes, he knew. He knew, and it wasn't as terrifying as he thought it would be.
He cupped Leopold's face and kissed him again.
It was the first day of school when the package wrapped in plain brown paper arrived.
"What the fuck is that?" Kenny asked, eyeing the sloppily wrapped box in front of their door.
Karen picked it up and turned it over. "It's from Kevin!" she exclaimed, and she rushed inside. They'd barely dropped their backpacks on the couch when she started tearing it open. "It's for both of us," she explained, looking not at all guilty for hogging the package.
Inside was a smaller box, neatly wrapped in hibiscus patterned paper, and two envelopes.
"This is for Butters," Karen said, glancing at the small piece of paper taped to the box. She set it down on the couch and handed one of the envelopes to Kenny. "This one's yours."
She went into the kitchen for a knife to use as a letter opener, and while she sat down at the table to read her missive from Kevin, Kenny took his back out to the living room.
He slid the single piece of paper out and unfolded it.
Homo, it read.
I fucking love it here. My first show is tonite and if I don't fuck it up I get to do it every Fri.
Give Leo his gift but not til his birthday. Tell him I'm living my extraordinary destiny. He'll now what it means.
Tell mom and dad I miss them.
P.S. I miss you to fag.
P.S.P.S. Watch out for Kare. Her last letter talked abowt this kid Filmore a lot.
Kenny folded up the paper and tucked it back in the envelope. Their parents had been busted for dealing meth (again), only the charges had been reduced since there was no evidence that they'd actually made any money off it. Around the same time, Kevin had announced he was going back to Kauai, paying for his own ticket and planning to couch surf until he found a job.
The first letter he'd written had been to Karen, after he'd found work as a janitor in the very hotel they'd stayed at on vacation. The next letter he'd written to both of them, and he'd bragged about finally getting to twirl the fire batons for real. Both letters were short, like the one in Kenny's hand, but the fact that Kevin actually sat down to write them meant a lot. It was hard to believe his brother had been struggling over Frog and Toad Are Friends just a few short months ago.
He picked up the little box and turned it over in his hand thoughtfully.
"Hey, Kare," he said when she came back out. Her eyes were suspiciously wet but she was smiling. "Can you hide this somewhere safe until next week?"
She held out her hand and he gave her the gift before picking up his backpack and pulling one of the straps over his shoulder.
"Where ya goin'?" Karen asked, stretching the last word out. Kenny rolled his eyes, and Karen grinned at him. "Don't you have homework tonight?"
Her grin widened. "So. Going to hang out with your boyfriend, are you?"
She was such a brat. Kenny felt the tips of his ears grow hot, but he pushed his hood off his head and looked right at her. "Yeah," he said, and he could feel the corners of his lips curve upwards.