Something was following him.

It wasn't just in his head, no matter how they tried to convince him otherwise. They being a select group of his classmates who were not his friends. He might have tried being their friend all those years ago, but all he'd gotten for his efforts were a tense showdown with George Lucas and a reputation for being an advocate of toddler murder.

Which he wasn't — not now and not back then - but if anyone asked, he still stood by his statement that it was easy. It was the one thing no one had ever disagreed with him on. Well, except for Butters, who had pointed out that a toddler murderer would have to look into those innocent little eyes and that cute little face and still go through with it. His passionate depiction of the scene had made Clyde cry, which in turn had pissed Craig off and given Tweek a headache, but except for Butters, no one had disagreed with him.

Whether anyone agreed with him right now was irrelevant, because he was being followed. He could feel it, the weird spine-crawling sensation of being stared at. He could feel eyes boring into him, right between the shoulder blades, and he shivered. He closed his eyes to send a silent prayer to the heavens that he would get through this day. Mid-prayer, the scent of maple syrup, cinnamon, and strawberry jam heralded the arrival of Eric Cartman, which meant Tweek was safe for now — at least from his unknown stalker. Cartman's presence meant the other four were nearby, and as long as Kyle, Kenny, and Butters were there, Cartman had no reason to direct his attention or his insults toward Tweek.

Or so Tweek thought.

"Good morning, Tweek," Cartman greeted in an overly cheerful, sing-song voice.

Tweek opened his eyes and gave a sidelong glance in his classmate's direction. "What do you want?"

Cartman touched his hand to his chest and adopted a wounded expression. "I'm just saying good morning. What crawled up your ass and died?" He glanced over Tweek's shoulder and grinned. "Ooooh, of course. My bad."

Alarmed, Tweek turned around to see what Cartman was looking at and slammed right into Craig as he did so. "Oh, fuck, I'm sorry," he babbled. Craig's hat was askew, and Tweek tried to straighten it with shaking hands until Craig jerked it off his head and stuffed it in his pocket.

Behind him, Cartman was laughing, and Tweek tugged at a lock of his own hair. "Sorry," he whispered to Craig, who simply shook his head. Tweek didn't know how Craig did it — the whole ignoring Cartman thing. It wasn't even that Craig ignored him all the time; hell, he and Clyde sometimes hung out with Cartman willingly. It was more that he seemed to have found the sort of balance that Tweek failed to achieve no matter how hard he tried.

He lowered his gaze to the ground, where the melting snow and slush formed a rivulet of dirty water running toward one of the storm drains. A couple of candy wrappers and a plastic bottle cap were caught up in it, too, and Tweek pictured a tiny Eric Cartman sitting in the cap and spinning around, heading right for the drain. The image made him smile, but only for a second. Cartman was like herpes; just when you thought he was done making your life hell, he'd come back worse than ever. The corners of Tweek's mouth drooped, and in his mind's eye, it was he, not Cartman, adrift in a soda cap and helpless to stop the tide of water.

Distracted by his own thoughts, he might have missed getting on the bus if Craig hadn't stuck his head out of one of the windows and asked, "You coming?"

Tweek took a deep breath and looked up. The doors on the bus were just starting to close, and it was only because one of Jimmy's canes hadn't quite cleared the bottom step and was preventing the doors from closing all the way that Tweek wasn't left behind.

Everyone hated Mondays, but they were particularly hard for Tweek. He hated the change from his weekend to weekday schedule, which threw off his already erratic sleep cycle. He hadn't slept all night (he hardly slept, ever), and he was jumpy all morning, but it was even worse after lunch during wood shop. He tried to focus on his work; he really did. The thing was that he was still being stared at, only this time, the unwanted attention was unquestionably from Eric Cartman.

"Why do you keep looking at him?" Craig asked suddenly, staring at Tweek through sawdust covered goggles.

Tweek hadn't even realized he'd been obsessively glancing over his shoulder. He opened his mouth to explain, but then Craig pushed his goggles up on his head, giving Tweek a clear view of eyes so brown they were nearly black. Tweek swallowed and dropped his gaze to the uneven row of nails he'd hammered into the bench they were working on. He'd always sucked at wood shop, but it had either been this class or study hall. Study hall had rules of its own, depending on the teacher in charge, and Tweek found it to be either completely ungoverned or eerily quiet. He hated extremes, and when he heard that Craig had to take shop as "an acceptable outlet for his aggression," Tweek signed up, too.

Pounding nails with a hammer, even haphazardly, was oddly soothing, and he supposed it might come in handy if he ever had to arm himself against crab people or killer snowmen come to life.

"Hey," Craig said. Despite his monotone delivery, he sounded genuinely concerned. "You okay?"

Tweek had nearly forgotten why Craig was asking in the first place.

"He's up to something," he explained. "I just know it."

"Cartman's always up to something," Craig pointed out. "It's better to just let him get on with it."

Tweek opened his mouth to explain, to get Craig to understand that he couldn’t stay out of Cartman's way if Cartman's plan involved him, but the words got stuck in his throat. He grunted instead, and Craig stared at him a moment longer before pulling the goggles back down and setting a new plank of wood on the jigsaw table.

Tweek swallowed hard and looked away. He accidentally met Cartman's eyes across the room, and his blood ran cold. He'd seen that calculating look on Cartman's face before. Whatever Cartman had planned, Tweek knew he wasn't going to like it one bit.

Mondays were the worst, but Tweek hated Tuesdays — and Thursdays — just as much. Those were the days the entire sophomore class had to take health, which consistently gave him a whole new list of concerns. During the first quarter, Tweek had worried about developing narcolepsy, and he'd made the mistake of expressing this concern at lunch time. Stan had pinched the bridge of his nose and stated, matter-of-factly, that Tweek did not have narcolepsy, which only made Tweek all the more convinced. It had taken Craig, Clyde, and Token to talk him down from that proverbial ledge.

It was midway through the second quarter when he'd freaked out over personal care products like anti-perspirant and mouthwash because he hadn't realized they were classified as drugs. He'd only continued using them because it was the lesser of two evils. He wasn't about to let Cartman rally everyone into giving him a forced sock bath the way they had to Kenny during the lice epidemic of fourth grade.

He had tried once to get around the issue by using one of those deodorant crystals, but then there had been that incident in the locker room when Kyle had wrinkled his nose and accused Cartman of stinking up the entire place. Cartman had naturally shifted the blame for that to Kenny, which no one believed anyway, so Tweek had gotten away with it for the most part.

He was pretty sure Craig knew it was him, though, because they'd walked home from the bus stop together that day, and he'd have sworn that Craig had taken a deep whiff, his brows drawing together. He'd never said anything, for which Tweek was grateful, but the close call sent Tweek straight to the shower the moment he got home. After that, he'd coated his armpits with three layers of Mitchum, praying that he didn't develop carcinoma.

He still checked his arm pits every day, looking for lumps, but to date, he'd avoided that particular bullet.

Today the sign on the door redirected the boys to a different room, segregating them from the girls in the class. This could only mean one thing — they'd reached the unit on sex and reproduction. Tweek felt he'd had quite enough of that in grade school, but the school district's policy was that sex ed would be taught in tenth grade — the year before they turned seventeen. Apparently the advice from their dearly departed elementary school chef had not gone unheeded.

Tweek was the last to arrive at the new location, because he'd ended up on the wrong floor entirely, but fortunately Craig had saved him a seat so he didn't get stuck sitting next to Cartman. That privilege went to Kyle Broflovski, who didn't seem to mind as much as he pretended to.

Case in point: today's discussion on contraceptives.

"Mountain Dew is not a legitimate form of birth control, Cartman!"

"Neither is taking it up the ass, but when's the last time someone got pregnant from that?" Cartman retorted. "Back me up on this, guys," he said, directing his comment toward Craig, Clyde, and Tweek.

Craig flipped him off but otherwise let the comment roll off his back. Tweek, on the other hand, tugged on his hair and wondered why Cartman had it out for him lately.

"Well, I heard that drinking Mountain Dew shrinks your wiener," Butters offered. "And...and your balls, too!"

"Drinking Mountain Dew does not shrink your wiener, Butters," Cartman said, giving him a dirty look. "My dick is huge."

Kyle snorted, and Cartman gave him an even dirtier look. "Everyone knows that Jews have small penises."

"Everyone does not know that!" Kyle shot back.

"Oh, well, I'm sorry. All Jews have small penises, but not everyone knows it, then."

"I thought Jews had bigger penises," Clyde mused.

"No," Cartman said slowly, as if Clyde were a complete and total retard. "It's another Jew trick. They just look bigger because they cut off the tip."

"Well, geez," Butters said, wringing his hands. "I was circumcised. Does that mean I have a little penis, too?"

"No," Craig said. "But Cartman does."

"How would you know, Craig?" Cartman sneered. "Been spying on me in the locker room?"

"You're the one who measured everyone's penis and posted it up on the board," Craig reminded him.

"Not all of us are obsessed with everyone else's penis size, Craig," Cartman huffed. "You're so gay."

"No, I definitely remember you were the smallest," Kyle said, nodding.

Cartman turned toward his rival. "I was ten, asshole! I had a...a growth spurt, since then!"

"What about your balls?" Stan asked. "You drink a lot of Mountain Dew, Cartman. Do you have tiny balls, too?"

"I do not have tiny balls!" Cartman denied. His face was bright red, but his focus was still on Kyle.

"How do we know?" Kyle smirked.

"If you want to know about my balls, Kaaaahl, they're right here, still waiting to be sucked."

"Okay, boys, that's enough," Mr. Riley, their gym teacher, said as he looked up from his smart phone. "Penis size isn't important, no matter what the girls tell you. It's just a way for them to manipulate you into buying them expensive gifts. They just want you to make up for what they pretend are your shortcomings."

"Do you have a small penis, too?" Of course it was Butters who asked, because only Butters would consider it an acceptable question. Either that or because Cartman put him up to it, but still, only Butters would ask.

"Of course not! I'm just sharing what I've learned from friends of mine who, uh, who have...who are less than average, and have been taken advantage of."

"Ooooh," Butters said, nodding his head. "I just thought, since you drive an H2 — "

"There is nothing wrong with driving an H2! It has reliable on-road and off-road capability!"

"My father said -"

"Maybe your father has a small dick! Ever think of that?"

The class fell silent, and they all stared at their teacher for several seconds, before Butters said, "No, sir, I didn't."

"Well, maybe you should," Mr. Riley said, somewhat mollified. "And no, just because you drink a lot of Mountain Dew doesn't mean you can't get a girl pregnant. It might reduce your sperm count, but you can still get her knocked up."

"Cartman doesn't have to worry about that," Kyle said, folding his arms over his chest. "No girl would let him anywhere near her."

Everyone laughed, even Butters, who did so nervously.

Cartman glared at all of them, murder in his eyes, and then suddenly he smiled. That smile meant nothing good, and Tweek slid down in his seat.

"I don't see you with a girlfriend, either, Kahl. And I have had girls want to be near me," he added. "Isn't that right, Stan? Butters, back me up here."

"Heh heh, yeah, Stan," Butters said. "Like that time that Wendy kissed Eric in front of the entire school!"

"In third grade!" Stan sputtered.

"I see. Hmmm, yes. So something doesn't count if it happened that long ago?"

"I...well, no," Stan said, looking at Kyle for reassurance.

"No, no, I agree with you totally, hippie."

"Yeah," Butters echoed.

"So we agree that things that were said, or done, or measured, that long ago might have changed?"

"Uh...yeah," Stan said.

"I have no further questions, your honor."

Mr. Riley looked at Cartman, confused, and then shrugged his shoulders. "Let me tell you something else. Another thing the girls will use to make you buy them expensive jewelry: female orgasm." He shook his head. "It's just another lie. You'll spend all this time and money chasing something that doesn't exist, like trying to track down a leprechaun for his pot of gold. Balderdash!" he said, thumping his fist on the desk in front of him.

"But...but Mr. Riley," Butters began.

"You boys are smarter than that, aren't you?" Riley said, staring right at Butters.

"Ye-yes sir, Mr. Riley, sir!"

Riley grinned and sat back down. "Good. Now let's move on to the ways women will try to get pregnant on purpose, just to trap you into marrying them or worse, to get part of your paycheck..."

"You know, I'll bet Riley is a terrible lay," Clyde decided after school, in that knowing sort of way that the newly non-virgins of their class had.

Tweek thought Clyde was probably terrible, too, but then he'd never understood what Bebe had seen in him, ever.

"Probably," Craig agreed.

They were outside Craig's house, because Craig was working on restoring a bicycle he'd found a couple of blocks away, set out with the trash on garbage day. He was patiently threading the new chain over the cogs and jockey wheels and other terms that made no sense to Tweek. He did admire the contrast between Craig's grease-stained hands and the bright silver of the new chain. There was balance there, and balance was something Tweek strove for.

"There is so such a thing as a female orgasm," Clyde explained.

"Uh huh," Craig nodded, slowly pulling the chain and watching as the pedals began to turn.

"I gave one to Bebe," Clyde pressed on.

"Okay," Craig said.

Clyde seemed satisfied that his sexual prowess was without question, so he stopped bragging and squatted down next to Craig, ready to hand over the rivet extractor, which apparently also served as a rivet inserter.

Tweek kind of envied them for their closeness. Craig and Clyde had been best friends like forever. Tweek might find Clyde annoying at times, but no more so than any of the other guys he'd grown up with. Next to Craig, Clyde was probably one of the most real of all their classmates, and even on a day like today, when he was feeling a little full of himself, he wasn't being too much of a pompous dick or preachy asshole.

Maybe Clyde had been a little bit of a pompous dick in grade school, but the girls were to blame for that. Girls were evil; they made lists and had boobs, and he'd seen what they did to Butters at that unholy sleepover. It was a good thing the boys had destroyed the future predicting device when they'd gotten their hands on it, because there was no telling what the girls might have used it for.

Tweek was glad that Butters had made his way back into Cartman's circle of friends, because Butters was better at doing all their dirty work than Tweek had ever been. Being their friend had been way too much pressure.

It was their fault, after all, that he and Craig had gotten in a fight in third grade. He and Craig hadn't exactly been friends back then, but once they'd finished fighting, they'd ended up with a sort of bond between them that Tweek didn't have with anyone else. Sure, Clyde was still practically Craig's brother, but the relationship between them was completely different from the one between Craig and Tweek. Tweek couldn't say how it was, but he knew that he liked it. A lot.

He sighed and looked at his watch.

"Oh, man, I've got to get to work," he said, fidgeting with the zipper on his coat.

"Okay," Craig said. He glanced up. "See you tomorrow."

"Yeah," Tweek said, twitching. "Tomorrow."

"Hey," he heard Clyde say as he walked away. "You think Riley's got a smaller dick than Cartman?"

"Maybe," he heard Craig reply, and then he was too far away to hear anything else they might be talking about.

He felt like he was being watched again, this time while he was brushing his teeth. He'd felt it earlier, too, at Tweek Brothers, but that was because Cartman had shown up to haggle over the price of a pie. It had just been easier to give in and let him have it, but it hadn't been enough.

It was never enough with Cartman.

He was now sure that whatever was following him had something to do with Cartman, but the why escaped him. It wasn't like he was black or Jewish or a hippie or a girl. He wasn't even friends with Kyle.

He spat into the sink and let the water run an extra long time, to rinse every last bit of paste down the drain.

He wasn't friends with Kyle, but he was friends with Craig. Had Craig said or done something to piss off Cartman? Maybe their last joint enterprise had gone south, which would mean he was pissed at both Craig and Clyde, and therefore pissed at Tweek by extension.

Did Token have these kinds of problems? He was friends with Craig and Clyde and he was black. If anyone knew what he was going through, Token would.

He answered on the third ring.

"Hey, Tweek. What's up?"

"Cartman's out to get me."

"Oh." Token was quiet for a few seconds, and then, "Why?"

"I don't know! I'm not Jewish!"

"Uh huh."

Tweek wasn't sure if that meant he understood or if Token was just trying to humor him.

"What do I do?"


Nothing? Tweek tugged at his hair. He'd rather deal with the gnomes; at least with them he knew what to expect.

"I mean, there's nothing you can do to stop him, because he's going to do what he wants one way or another. The only thing you have any control over is not letting him get in your head. Let him do his thing and let him think he's getting what he wants, but don't listen to him. Just pretend to. It makes him happy, and then he'll move on to someone else. Probably Kyle."

It sounded a lot like something Craig would say.

"Listen, Tweek, I know it's hard, but sometimes we're our own worst enemies. So he rips on you for now. Let him. Sometimes when he thinks he's getting away with something, something good comes out of it. Look at me and Nichole."

"But you guys broke up in like fifth grade."

"That doesn't mean it wasn't good while it lasted. The point is that you can't outwit Cartman. If he wins, it'll be ten times worse for you. If he fails, it'll be something he did to fuck it up himself. It's not worth stressing over."

"Too much pressure," Tweek whispered.

"What was that?"


"Hey, a bunch of us are getting together after school tomorrow to play basketball. Want to join us and we'll make it a game of two on two?"

"Okay." There was safety in numbers, and usually Token played basketball with Craig and Clyde, who already knew how much Tweek sucked at it.

And if Cartman showed up, maybe he'd have already moved on and would start giving Token shit instead.

"All right. Sleep well, Tweek."

"Thanks." He hung up without bothering to point out that sleeping well would mean being able to sleep in the first place. He sat up in bed, his knees drawn to his chest, and stayed that way until morning.

"Nice," Clyde said, admiring the finished bicycle.

It would never fool anyone into thinking it was anything other than what it was — refurbished curb side garbage — but Craig didn't give a fuck. This bike meant he could get himself to school and back without having to ride the school bus with a bunch of assholes. Especially when Token already had a car, and Clyde was going to inherit his dad's old car as soon as he managed to pull off a B in math. Which might mean never, but Clyde was trying real hard and was even thinking of asking Butters to tutor him.

If Clyde got a car, he'd end up taking Bebe to school in it, assuming they lasted that long. That would leave him with Jimmy, who Craig liked well enough but who didn't know when to stop with the never-ending jokes, and with Tweek. He wasn't exactly comfortable with the idea of sitting next to Tweek the entire ride to school.

He ran his fingers over the newly taped handlebars. The paint was still chipped, but he was pretty fucking proud of what he'd accomplished. Maybe next year he'd have a job and his parents would let him get his license. All he'd heard since he turned sixteen was how they just didn't have the money for the additional insurance premiums, because some bullshit statistics said teenaged males were big liabilities behind the wheel of a car.

Fuck them. For now he had the bike, which was more than he'd had at the beginning of the year.

"Hey, Craig, nice bike," Cartman sneered as he approached the bus stop.

"Oh, wow," Stan said, coming over to admire Craig's handiwork. "You did all this?"

"Of course he did," Cartman answered. "Craig's mom is so poor, she went to McDonald's and put a milkshake on layaway."

Craig would be so glad when Kenny came back to school.

"See you later," he told Clyde, and he took off on the bike, glad to be away from all of them.

The ride to school wasn't bad, except when the school bus passed him and Cartman yelled a couple more "your momma so poor" jokes out the window. Clyde and Tweek were already waiting for him near the bike racks in front of the school.

Tweek kept looking around nervously — more so than usual — and Craig was willing to bet that Cartman had said something to him on the bus. He didn't have time to ask Clyde about it before the bell rang, and then he spent half the day outside the principal's office for an M-80 going off in one of the boys' room toilets.

As if Craig had the money for a fucking M-80. And as if he really wanted to reduce the number of working toilets by one. Cartman had already taken out two of them with his massive dumps, and it wasn't like the school was in any hurry to fix them. If this kept up, the school was going to remove the doors to the stalls — and this right after they'd repainted them from battleship gray to desert sand. There was probably some psychological reason for it, but the only thing Craig cared about was being able to use the bathroom if he needed to. In privacy.

It really wasn't that much to ask.

They let him go back to class right after lunch, and he got to shop just in time because Tweek was standing there with his goggles on top of his head and a look of sheer panic on his face. The reason for his distress was apparent as soon as Craig saw that Tweek had broken the bench seat he'd been working on all week.

"What happened?" Craig asked. He couldn't look away, as if it might somehow not be smashed to smithereens if he stared at it long enough.

"They're out to get me," Tweek said, his voice cracking.

Craig didn't bother trying to convince Tweek that he was being paranoid. It was about as effective as trying to talk Cartman out of making a bet with Kyle. Instead, he swept the pile of splinters into the scrap bin and put on his work apron. He'd was in the middle of cutting the second two-by-four when Tweek finally set down the hammer, and they worked together in relative silence, if he didn't count Tweek's occasional outbursts.

The seat was the easiest part to reconstruct, but it did set them back a day. Craig decided to stay after school to work on it now that he had the bike and didn't need to worry about the bus.

He hated school, but he loved shop class. He liked working with his hands, because wood and metal didn't expect anything from him. People like Kyle and Cartman could spend their time arguing over politics and philosophy, but Craig enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that came from building something.

He'd done all the cutting for the back of the bench himself, since he'd wanted a curved top edge. It was risky enough letting Tweek use a power saw for straight cuts; asking him to actually turn the wood as he moved it through the jigsaw would only stress him out more.

Craig shook his head. Tweek was something else. He'd already agreed that Craig could have the finished product, too afraid there might be angry wood nymphs seeking vengeance to want it for himself.

He took a step back and inspected the work. It would be ready to stain after they put it together, so it should be finished by the weekend. He hoped his mom liked it. He was going for a rustic look, as his mom tended to like things like that, and it saved Craig from having to give her a birthday gift like a coupon book for chores. It wasn't so much that Craig minded doing the work; it was more that his mother redeemed the coupons at the worst possible times.

He owed Tweek for this, even if Tweek didn't think so. Maybe he'd stop by the coffee shop on his way home. At least Craig would let him know about the progress he'd made, so Tweek could stop worrying about the way he'd gone all Thor on the bench.

"Do you know why a m-m-m-milking stool only ha-has three legs?"

Clyde tore open a packet of sugar and dumped it in his coffee. "Why?"

"Because the c-c-cow has the udder. What's the d-d-difference between a sn-snow man and a sn-sn-snow woman?"

A second and third pack of sugar joined the first. "What?"

"Sno-sno-snow balls. Thank y-you very much. You've been a great audience."

"Hey," Craig said, sliding into the booth next to Clyde. He watched in fascination as Clyde tore open three more packets of sugar and shook them out into his cup.

"Ha-have you heard this one, fellas? T-t-two antennas met on a roof, f-f-fell in love, and got m-m-m-married. The c-c-ceremony wasn't mu-much, b-but the reception was ex-ex-exceeeee-excellent."

Craig looked up from the mountain of crystals forming in Clyde's coffee. "That one was pretty good."

"Th-thank you, Cr-Craaaay-Craig," Jimmy said before picking up his own cup. "Where have you b-b-been this afternoon?"

"School," Craig said, stabbing the sugar with a plastic stirrer. When he let go of it, the plastic remained upright. "Seriously?" he asked, turning to look at Clyde.

Clyde shrugged and wiggled the stirrer around to break up the mound. When one large clump stubbornly refused to fall, he put it in his mouth and sucked it off.

"Have some coffee with that," Craig suggested. The horrified look on Clyde's face made him laugh, and he grabbed the cup and took a sip from it himself. It tasted as terrible as it looked.

"I'm not much of a coffee drinker," Clyde admitted.

"You know wh-wh-what he used to buy the c-coffee?" Jimmy asked.

Craig waited for the inevitable punchline.

"Harbu-bu-bu — Harbucks!"

"Ah!" Tweek said from behind Jimmy. "Don't say that name around here!"

"This is a Ha-harbucks, Tweek."

"That's what they want you to think!" he said, wringing his hands in his apron.

Craig took a deep breath and gestured to the empty space next to Jimmy. "Have a seat, Tweek."

Tweek looked right and left a few times before sitting down. He eyed the still dissolving pile of sugar in Clyde's coffee and without asking, picked up the cup and drained the rest of it.

Clyde put the stirrer down on his napkin and leaned back in his seat. "Help yourself," he said, stretching his arms over his head. "Caffeine makes you impotent anyway."

"Impotent?" Tweek asked, his hands shaking as he set the cup back down.

"You know, unable to ge- to ge- to get it up," Jimmy explained.

Tweek shook his head. "No."

"No, I'm pr-pretty sure that's what it m-m-means."

Tweek looked at him, annoyed. "I know what it means, but it's not true."

"See?" Craig said, tearing off a corner of the napkin and flicking it at Clyde. Clyde retaliated with a slightly larger piece.

"Well," Tweek amended, tugging at his collar. "Not always true."

"See?" Clyde mimicked.

"I agree with Tw-Tw-Tweek," Jimmy said. "Everything in mod-mod-mod-"

"Hey," Clyde interrupted. "You heard Riley the other day, about how Mountain Dew could, you know."

"You yourself said Riley is full of shit," Craig reminded him.

"No, what I said was Riley is probably a total chode in bed."

"Riley has a chode?" Tweek blinked at him.

"No, Riley is a chode."

"Do you even kn-kn-know what a ch-chode is, Clyde?"

Clyde suddenly looked less sure of himself. "A douchebag?"

"A ch-chode is a p-p-penis that is w-wider than it is l-l-long."

"Cartman has a chode," Tweek announced.

"Ew, Tweek." Clyde wrinkled his nose. "No one wants to know about Cartman's dick."

"We already know what it looks like," Tweek pointed out.

They had — in fact, most of South Park had been exposed to it — and it hadn't been a pretty sight. Tweek was right, too, because Cartman did have a chode.

Tweek made a started sound and slapped the back of his neck suddenly.

"Everything alright, Tweek?" Craig asked.

"N-no — yes. No! They're out to get me!"

When Tweek jumped to his feet and ran toward the men's room, the others all exchanged glances.

"I'll go ch-ch-check on him," Jimmy volunteered, leaving Craig and Clyde together at the table.

Clyde tore a few strips off his napkin and then turned to Craig. "Does he know?"


"Does Tweek know. know."

Craig folded his arms over his chest and gave Clyde his best glare. "About. What."

"You. And him."

"There is no 'me and Tweek.'"

"Don't you want there to be?"

"I don't know what the fuck you're talking about."

Clyde tore another strip off and rolled it between his fingers. "Oh. I just thought, since you've kind of tried avoiding him -"

"I'm not avoiding him. We have shop together."

"What about after school?"

"I'm here, aren't I?" Craig could feel his lips curling into a pout, but he couldn’t help himself.

"Yeah, but so are me and Jimmy. I just figured since you don't like to be alone with him," Clyde shrugged. "I don’t know."

"That's right," Craig bit out. "You don't know."

"I just thought — I mean, Bebe and I thought - "

"You talked with Bebe about this?"

Clyde's eyes grew wide, and he opened and closed his mouth a few times, but nothing came out.

"You know what? Fuck you." Craig got to his feet. "Fuck you, and fuck Bebe."

If he weren't so pissed off, he might have accused Clyde of being impotent and suggested that maybe Clyde was all talk and couldn't fuck Bebe, but all he wanted to do was get away before Tweek and Jimmy came back. And before Clyde started crying, because Craig had yelled at him.

The worst part was that Clyde was right.

Craig preferred when things were simple and direct, and his feelings for Tweek were anything but. He didn't know when it had changed. None of the girls had made him feel this confused, but neither had any of the boys, either. For a long time, he'd considered himself either asexual or just very discriminating, considering the limited choices that South Park had to offer in the way of partners.

One day Tweek was just his on-again off-again friend, and the next, Craig found himself noticing that Tweek had pretty blue eyes. Then he noticed he also had kind of a nice ass, and the following summer, when they were all crowded together in the back of Mr. Donovan's car on the way to Pi Pi's Splashtown, he'd kind of liked the way Tweek smelled and the way it felt when Tweek was sitting next to him, vibrating with nervous energy.

Somehow Clyde — or Bebe — had figured it out. Maybe the newness of their relationship made them super sensitive to the feelings of others, but Craig doubted it. He was probably just that obvious.


He was lying on his bed, his forearm over his eyes, when he heard the knock on the door.

"Go away," he said.

"Craig?" Clyde said, pushing the door open a couple of inches.

That was Clyde, taker of no hints ever. When he said nothing, the door opened a little more, until he heard the first footstep into his room. He was kind of glad that Clyde didn't know enough to stay the fuck away.

"Hey," Clyde said when he reached the bed. He didn't just sit down on the bed, not Clyde. He actually climbed into the bed and stretched out next to him. Craig could just picture Clyde with his fingers clasped together, over his stomach, staring at the ceiling. They used to do that when they were kids, talking shit about the other guys on nights that Clyde slept over and got too scared to sleep on the floor by himself. Those had been good times.

"I'm sorry," Clyde said, sounding miserable. "I didn't say anything to Bebe, I swear. She's the one who said something to me. I mean, I kind of thought, maybe, but you never said anything, so..."

Craig could feel the shrug of Clyde's shoulder, the one pressed against his own.

"It's fine," he said.

"It is?"

Craig grabbed the pillow from behind his head and hit Clyde with it.

"Douchebag," Clyde grumbled.

"Chode," Craig shot back, a grin teasing at his lips.

If he ever forgot why Clyde was his best friend, it was moments like this that reminded him.

"Oh shit," Tweek muttered under his breath as they headed to phys ed. "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit."

He was more on edge that usual the next day, and it took all of Craig's willpower to resist clamping his hand on Tweek's shoulder and giving him a reassuring squeeze. He wasn't about to broadcast his feelings to the entire student body; he was still getting used to the idea that Clyde knew about them.

Instead, he tackled the matter head on, the way he did most things.

"What's going on?"

Tweek, who had been rapidly scanning the hallway, swung his gaze toward Craig. "They're out to get me!"

Craig frowned. Tweek had a full roster of fears and phobias, but it wasn't like him to fixate on the same one this long.

"Who is?"

"I don't know! I just know that they've been following me for weeks! Gah!" He was fiddling with one of his shirt buttons. He'd been doing that all morning, and it was now hanging on by a single thread.

Craig took a deep breath. He wanted to tell Tweek not to worry, but that would be like telling a dog not to lick its own ass. Tweek was going to worry, and the only thing Craig could really do was to help him worry less.

He was so focused on Tweek, he didn't notice Eric Cartman coming out of the boys' room, nor the way Cartman steepled his fingers together and smiled.

It had been an accident, Cartman claimed. He hadn't meant to kick the soccer ball right in Tweek's face, and he adopted a wounded expression at the accusation, right up until Kyle agreed that it had to be an accident because there was no way Cartman was capable of accomplishing anything that athletic on purpose.

Craig led a bleeding Tweek to the locker room, where he ran a wad of brown paper towel under the faucet until it was somewhat soft. When he tried to dab at the streaks of blood on Tweek's face, Tweek recoiled, and Craig lowered his hand.

"Want me to get Clyde or someone to do this instead?"

"No!" Tweek grabbed at Craig's arm, shaking it violently until he dropped the paper towel. "They're in the water!"

"What's in the - "

Craig never got a chance to finish that question, because the toilets began to rumble.

"They're angry," Tweek whimpered. "They know!"

"They know what?"

"I tried to kill them! I never should have tried to blow them up!"

Fucking hell, Tweek was the one who'd tried to flush the M-80 down the toilet. A puddle began to form under one of the stalls as if the toilet was overflowing. It might have been someone else in another part of the school trying to cherry bomb a toilet, but Craig knew better. It had something to do with Stan and Kyle and Cartman, because this kind of weird shit only happened when they were involved.

Tweek backed up until he bumped into the row of sinks, and then he stepped away quickly, looking from sink to toilet. The puddle on the floor spread, and then a bubble appeared, followed by a second one.

By the time Clyde barged in to see what was going on, the first mutated life form lifted its head out of one of the bubbles.

"Sea men!" Tweek cried out. "Oh fuck, I should have known!"

The sea man raised its arm and threw something at Tweek, which bounced off his bare arm.

"I'm going to die," Tweek moaned, sinking to his knees and burying his face in his hands.

"What's going on?" Clyde asked.

"Sea men," Tweek mumbled through his fingers. "We made them in fourth grade. I never wanted to be a god!"

"Where did they come from?" Clyde asked, followed by a loud "ow!" as a tiny pitchfork struck him in the cheek.

"We all pitched in for the eggs, but Cartman supplied the sea men."

"Ew, these things are made from Cartman's semen?" Clyde said. "Ow!" he said again, this time kicking at one of the bloodthirsty creatures.

Craig closed his eyes for a second. In Peru, all he'd wanted to do was to walk away, but no. Even doing the sensible thing got him caught in the middle of an alien war. He wasn't going to get to walk away from this, either.

His eyes snapped open and he looked at Clyde. "What did you say?"

"I said 'ow.'"

"Before that."

"That these things came from Cartman's semen?" He took off one of his sneakers and threw it at a small line of sea soldiers. "Look, you can tell. They're all kind of derpy."

Craig looked at Tweek, who was huddled on the floor and chanting to himself about finding his center, and then the door opened again.

"Dude. What. The. Fuck," Stan said, his mouth agape.

"God damn that fat ass," Kyle swore. "I knew he was up to something."

Of course the two of them just stood there, marveling at the abominations that Cartman had created. Craig gnashed his teeth together, then pointed at them both. "Help Clyde hold them off. I'll be right back."

The convenience store was only a couple of blocks away, but it took Craig a few tries to dial the correct combination to his bike lock. Once he wrested it free, he rode like the hounds of hell were after him. In hindsight, he could have probably gotten what he needed from one of the vending machines in the cafeteria, but he didn't have any change and they never ever took dollar bills.

He got stuck behind a woman indecisively shopping for scratch off tickets, and he juggled the bottles in his arms and tapped his foot until she finally settled on one. It felt like hours later when he was able to pay for his purchase and sling the bag over his shoulder.

He'd only made it a block when he realized the bag had a hole in it. One of the bottles fell out and managed to get caught in the spokes of his front tire, sending him head over handlebars. He was still in his gym clothes, so it was all bare skin on pavement as he collided with the ground. He winced in pain as he gathered all the bottles to his chest, and then he ran the rest of the way, leaving his bike lying on its side.

By the time he got back to the locker room cum battlefield, Clyde, Kyle, and Stan had been joined by Kenny (where the fuck had he been all day?) and Timmy, while Cartman stood near the sinks giving an impassioned speech to his army in broken German. Craig tried to get Clyde's attention — or anyone's attention, as long is it wasn't Cartman's — but they were all too busy throwing useless weapons like balled up paper towels. They were all barefoot, too, so they'd apparently followed Clyde's lead and used their shoes as well as their socks. It was like they went out of their way to make every problem more difficult to solve.

Craig shook one of the bottles of Mountain Dew, unscrewed the cap, and threw it toward the first stall, then repeated the action. As the spray of greenish-yellow soda hit the sea men, they melted away, eventually leaving nothing more than a wet, sticky floor.

"Noooo!" Cartman wailed. "No, my beautiful sea-ciety! I was their god! Just me this time!" He covered his face with his hands and started to cry.

Craig pushed through the crowd of people to find Tweek still huddled on the floor, and he dropped to a squat in front of him, pulling Tweek's hands away from his face.

"Hey," he said softly. "Hey."

"I never wanted to be a god," Tweek quavered. His eyes were screwed shut.

"I know," Craig soothed. He smoothed Tweek's hair away from his face, touching his fingertips lightly to the faint bruising on Tweek's cheek.

"Dude, that was seriously fucked up." Stan's voice was a little breathless, like he'd fucking enjoyed it.

Craig was more interested in how Tweek was doing. "Tweek," he said, ignoring the back slapping and high fiving going on around him.

Tweek didn't open his eyes, but they weren't shut quite as tightly as they had been. He grabbed on to one of Craig's arms and squeezed.

"Hey, Tweek, are you okay?"

"They were after me," Tweek breathed.

"Yeah, they were," Craig said, stroking Tweek's face. "But they're gone now."

Tweek opened one eye. "Gone?"

Craig gave him a crooked half-smile. "Gone."

Tweek opened the other eye and looked around him. "Is that Mountain Dew?"

"Hey, Riley was right!" Clyde announced, finally catching up with what had just happened.

"Ha, Cartman!" Kyle gloated. "I told you that shit lowered sperm count."

"I hate you, Kyle," Cartman sobbed. "I hate you so fucking much."

Craig hated all of them. Well, most of them. Okay, just some of them. He glanced up at Clyde, who was giving a none-too-subtle lift of his eyebrows and a tilt of his head toward Tweek.

Fuck it. He tugged a little on Tweek's hair, and when Tweek looked up, Craig covered his mouth with his own.

There was definitely a God, one who had nothing to do with brine shrimp eggs and jizz, because Tweek kissed him back. When they stopped to catch their breath, Craig sat back on his heels and ran his fingers through his hair.

Tweek just blinked at him for a few seconds, then grabbed the front of Craig's shirt in his fist and pulled him forward for another kiss.

Craig could hear the applause in the background, and he lifted his middle finger and waved it around the crowd without breaking the kiss. Suddenly Tweek tore his mouth away and lifted his hand, which was streaked with Craig's blood.

"Shit," he said, staring at it. "Shit."

Clyde got on one side of Craig and Tweek got on the other, and they helped him to his feet. Now that it was over and the adrenaline rush was gone, everything fucking hurt. He smiled a little when he watched Tweek grab a paper towel and run it under the water, then squirt some soap on it.

He sucked in his breath and winced as Tweek cleaned him up, and he let his eyes drift closed. With the spectacle over, the rest of the class went back to the gym, leaving Craig alone with Clyde and Tweek.

"You were right," Tweek murmured.

"About what?" Craig asked.

"Not you," he said, scrubbing a little too vigorously at the scrape on Craig's cheek. "Clyde."

Craig opened one eye and stared at Clyde, who smiled hesitantly. "Just call me Cupid?"

"Douchebag," Craig muttered, giving him the finger.

"Yeah. I love you, too. You know, like a brother." With that, Clyde left, and it was just the two of them.

Tweek got a new paper towel and went to work on Craig's arm. "Shit, man."

"Uh huh."

"Does it hurt?" Tweek asked. He looked anxious.

Craig took another deep breath. He'd kissed Tweek in front of the biggest bunch of assholes in the school, and Tweek had kissed him back. He felt lighter somehow.

"No," he said, closing his eyes and leaning against Tweek's shoulder. "Not anymore."




If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!