Groundswritten by rensrenegade - inspired by an original artwork from melonami
Melonami: I wasn't really sure where to go with this picture as my first thought was cute coffee shop AU/first date. But then I kind of took a dark turn somewhere off of bittersweet and just went for bitter, so. I really hope you don't mind. I thought it was a great picture and it was definitely fun to write for your piece!
Tweek was done.
It was too much.
It was just too damn much and he just couldn't take anymore. He couldn't bear to waste time, to sit still, to take a moment to just pause and breathe. No. He had things to do, someone to be, and he was going to drown himself in responsibility, in a life he didn't want to lead.
Tweek Tweak was in his second year of college and it was all just a bunch of shit. The classes, his work, his study habits, his dorm, his grades were all blown to hell; and he didn't care. He really, really didn't care.
Except that was a lie. A blatant lie getting him through his cup of coffee at four in the morning in his quiet dorm room. He stared at the document, at the cursor blinking on the word processor, and sighed heavily. Ambient music blared in his ears, and with a final shake of his head he clicked the red "x" and closed the document.
'Would you like to save your changes?' the message seemed to taunt him. Scowling, Tweek clicked 'don't save' and slammed his laptop shut.
"Jesus," Tweek's roommate groaned sleepily, "Tweek, it's so late it's early." The blonde sighed and set his coffee mug back on the small table in the corner of their tiny dorm.
"Sorry Craig," he mumbled and lay in his bed. The blankets were cold and his pillow lumpy. Grimacing, he stared up at the bunk above him and coughed gently into his hand.
Midterms were tomorrow. Not that he even cared; caring was out of the question, especially considering he just discarded one of the most important papers he would write for the semester. A couple hours of sleep wouldn't do him well either; why should he even try? Nothing was working.
Well, his brain was. Somehow the gnomes he saw as a child stealing his underwear had wriggled their way into his head, like ear worms, slowly biting away every last shred of his sanity. All of his hopes and aspirations were gnawed away by his crippling anxiety and apathy. Getting out of bed was a chore he didn't complete half the time. He didn't see much of a point anymore.
And those gnomes were a metaphor for a bigger monster he was not able to face. But they chewed and whispered his weaknesses into his ear. Not good enough. Fucking spastic. Tweaker.
But for him the gnomes would stay. He couldn't face the fact that he was, in every sense of the phrase, fucked up. He didn't have the time or the energy. And he really didn't care enough. Not anymore. Maybe a year ago he would have. A year ago things would have been different.
Last year Tweek would have gone to the university health center and talked to one of their counselors. He would have told his parents and worked things out. Maybe take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Meditate again. Pick up a hobby. Take a breather. Believe that all of it mattered and he'd make a difference in the world.
But now he was just a grain of sand in the world; what he did with his life didn't matter. A counselor would rather talk to someone who actually needed help rather than listen to his jaded self whine his ass off about living in this disillusioned world that forces everyone to keep up appearances.
And he was a Jones himself. "Everything's fine," he'd tell his parents over the phone once a week. "I'm fine," he'd tell his friends from high school. Fine was a four letter word along with "bull" and "shit" and they all seemed to go pretty damn well together.
These were the thoughts that kept him up all night, rattled to the core, staring at nothing while self-deprecating wars of indifference ran through his head. And if he was lucky he'd fall asleep to the universal cry of 'not good enough' and wake up feeling empty.
Empty was better than a waste of space.
And he did wake up feeling empty, an hour and a half later with a splitting headache and nausea gripping at his insides. Craig was breathing deeply above him in his bunk, which alerted Tweek that he was fast asleep and that he had to be silent for the next few hours.
Or at least until he got out of the dorm room.
He grabbed a wrinkled shirt from his drawer, a pair of pants he wore yesterday, along with a button up shirt that he never took the time to actually button. Tweek then grabbed his key card to the residence hall from their shared desk, along with his university card to pay for his usual coffee at this time of day that had somehow taken him into a deficit on his bill. Not that he cared; and he sure as hell didn't have the money to pay that off now. So he couldn't register for classes next semester- it didn't even matter, who knew if he'd even be here by then?
He was one low-letter grade from getting the boot anyway. Honestly it would probably be the best thing for him; except he really didn't want go back home in sunny California to his sunny parents and shiny happy people world where he seriously believed the town's water was treated with Prozac and Xanax.
Tweek didn't go to the coffee shop at the university quadrangle; no, he wouldn't pay for overpriced syrup from Shitbucks and listen to hipsters moan on and on about how they discovered the flat white first and how Bon Iver is a fucking sell out. Instead he went to this little tucked away shop that made the best pastries he ever had.
It was called Grounds, and it reminded him a little of his parents' coffee shop back home in Bakersfield. The workers were all generally nice and were on a first name basis with him now. After all, he'd been going there a year and a half to avoid the common sheeple and to get a decent coffee. Actually, the coffee was pretty good too.
There was the manager, Eric, who was a stout overweight man in his thirties who was seriously considering owning a Scooters instead. Then there was Bebe, the main barista, who always liked to make the fru-fru drinks with extra whipped cream and could sweet talk any customer into buying double. And then there was Kenny, the probable college drop out who just liked to make coffee and bake food... probably himself too. But enough about that.
Over time these three people, well more like Bebe and Kenny, had treated him kindly and usually gave him discounts, or didn't let him pay at all. One time he recalled Kenny 'fucking up' a batch of muffins so he got to have a couple on the house. They had tasted just fine to Tweek.
But Grounds was the place where he could feel at least a little normal, a little calmer, and not have to worry about the pressure and overwhelming anxiety from school. And he was always there, like clockwork, at 5:30 in the morning. And he'd smoke a cigarette and wait for them to open the doors; although sometimes Bebe sneaked him into the back door, much to Eric's chagrin.
"Mornin'," Kenny greeted with a crooked smirk as he unlocked the doors, "you're like the walking dead, dude." Tweek twitched and glanced around. Walking dead? Oh God.
"Ugh," he groaned sleepily, "I'm fine, just tired. G-get me a coffee, my head's about to burst." Kenny chuckled as he disappeared behind the counter for a moment.
"Late night partying?" Tweek snorted; right. Like he'd ever party. He could barely speak to anyone without swallowing down the involuntary urge to vomit as it is. A party would kill him.
"No, just, whatever, get me c-coffee," Kenny sighed and piled in a scoopful of coffee beans, before grinding them. The sound should have been a stressor, but it reminded him of home as the machine whirred loud enough to fill the entire store with its annoying buzz.
Tweek sat at the table and browsed the internet on his phone; begrudgingly he ended up on Facebook where everyone was bragging about their perfect midterm scores and how amazing they are; trying their best to seek approval from people who wouldn't give two shits if they weren't connected on social media. Begging to have their low self esteems fed and their egos lifted in a temporary high of acceptance.
"Cheer up, Buttercup," Bebe's sweet voice rang as the back doors opened. She tied her apron around her waist and hopped over the counter to Tweek's table. In her hand was a bear claw, and she offered it to him without saying a word.
"They're not even on the menu yet, Chef McCormick's just trying out a recipe. Wanna be our guinea pig?" Tweek shrugged and took it from her. He took a bite of the pastry, and his eyes widened in surprise. Huh, not as good as the ones in California. But damn.
"It's great," he said, after swallowing the soft pastry. Kenny grinned, poured the coffee from the espresso maker into a cup, and joined them at the table.
What reassured Tweek is that he had never seen them interact this way with any other customers. So for some unknown reason these two took a liking in him and actually genuinely seemed to care about his well-being. It was nice and reassuring, and he actually felt kind of okay with them.
"So, tell me," Bebe said with a growing grin. Tweek grimaced and practically hugged the coffee mug to his chest. "What ever happened to that boy who asked you out from your economics class? What was his name...?"
"Butters!" Kenny chirped, and Bebe nodded energetically, "yeah, you never told us."
"I said no?" Their smiles faded as their eyes narrowed on him, "I-I'm not the d-dating type, I'm n-not gonna w-waste anyone's t-time." Bebe took his hand and he instantly wanted to pull away yet he didn't. Instead he just sat there, trying his best not to look displeased. Kenny smirked a little.
"You're not a waste, that's perfectly fine. Such a shame, that boy is way cute. Wouldn't you agree, Ken?" The blonde rolled his eyes and shook his head.
"Shut up," Tweek looked between the two.
"I thought you two were... t-together."
He jumped and made a small squeal in the back of his throat as they burst out laughing. Apparently the thought of them as a couple was hilarious, and he felt a bit stupid for suggesting it. Like, he should go and hide under his bed until they forgot about him stupid.
"No, no, no..."
"We were," Kenny added, sounding a little less amused.
"In high school, but he didn't have what I was looking for."
"Oh," that didn't make sense. From what he could tell Kenny was a really nice guy, maybe not much ambition, but he could bake really well, so at least he had that going for him.
"Meaning boobs." Oh. Well then.
"So we just moved up here and basically put on a front for our families that we're happily in love while I'm in one room scissoring with my girl and he's... well playing video games and eating four day old pizza."
"So you're like... both gay?" Kenny shrugged, Bebe waved her hand, and Tweek blinked in confusion. "Oh i-it doesn't matter, I just, it's weird. You guys went to a s-small town school r-right?" They nodded, "so... so how did you like... not get harassed for it?"
"No one knew, that's the key," Kenny said, "or at least you try your damn hardest not to let anyone find out."
Well, that's where he went wrong. He made it a little too obvious; not that he could complain. The people in Bakersfield were very accepting; if 'accepting' meant throwing rocks in your parent's house and throwing various rotted vegetables and food products at him during the school day.
He never even got the chance to come out, the kids in his class more or less dragged him, kicking and screaming, out of the closet and...
Tweek shook his head and closed his eyes as he gulped down the espresso; it was bitter and strong, just the way he liked it. Bebe's drinks were too sweet. Kenny catered to his caffeine needs.
"Ey!" The sound of Eric's booming voice from the backroom was heard, and both Bebe and Kenny stood up, "I didn't tell you lazy dykes to sit around and do nothing!" Bebe flipped him off, although the obese brunette could not see, and Kenny sighed as he stood up.
"I-I'm sorry," Tweek mumbled; the facade of 'okay' had dwindled, leaving him feeling raw. He just wanted to get this feeling away; he hated it. Anything to block it from his mind. Anything to make him just sleep and clear his head and to just breathe and feel fine.
"No, dude, you're fine," Kenny said with a soft smile, "Eric is just an asshole."
"Glad you realize that now," Bebe mumbled. Tweek's eye twitched.
"No..." he trailed off. Kenny's cheeks were a little pink and he grabbed the back of his neck awkwardly. Without saying another word, he disappeared behind the counter and busied himself with stocking the teas.
Bebe jerked her hand in an obscene manner and Tweek shuddered; this time on his own doing.
"Sorry to leave you with that mental image," she said. He shrugged nonchalantly, although the thought was truly horrid. Mostly because he didn't think Kenny deserved to be in a relationship with someone as cruel as Eric Cartman. He was just void of all things emotional. Heartless.
Wait a second.
"C-can I talk to Eric?" Tweek asked quietly. Bebe and Kenny both looked at him in surprise. "I-I'm wondering if I could apply for a job here a-and... I've got the experience I j-just." Kenny beamed and ushered him forward with his finger.
Tweek passed into the bar and felt a hand on his shoulder.
"C'mon, bud," Kenny said, kicking open the waving doors. "FATASS!"
"Ey, you poor fuck!" Eric yelled from his office, "I'll have you know that-" the man shut up when he saw Tweek, and his eyes narrowed.
"This angel wants to speak with you," Kenny said, then nudged Tweek forward. He disappeared before Tweek could say anything to combat the affectionate description, and he found himself looking up in fear at none other than Eric Cartman.
"What do you want?"
Tweek made a quiet squeak in the back of his throat and instantly flinched when Eric raised his hand. He watched as his fingers ran through his hair, wiping back the drops of sweat that seemed to always remain on his forehead.
"I-I was wondering if I could apply here, I've got the skills and experience. M-my parents... own a place in Bakersfield and..."
"You really want to work here?" Tweek nodded a little. "I'll get you an application. Is that all?"
The blonde let out a heavy sigh and noted the vein in his forehead. The glazed look in his eyes. The slight sweat dampening his forehead. He was on something; he had to be.
"I-I want what you're on," Tweek finally mumbled, eyes on the ground, "wh-what... pills? Medicine? I-I want it." Eric laughed darkly and shook his head.
"Shoulda known you're a fuckin' tweaker too. You want that shit you talk to Kenny. I want no part of this."
"B-but..." Tweek trailed off, then shook his head. "C-can I at least have the application?"
"I don't need another space cadet, get the fuck outta here."
Tweek lowered his head and sighed softly as he emerged from the back room. Bebe and Kenny grimaced as they saw his dejected demeanor, and Bebe put an arm around him.
"It's okay, there's another place just down the street you can work at. They're just as good as us, and..." she trailed off, probably because Kenny gave her a look, and Tweek shrugged his shoulders.
"Kenny," Tweek finally said, "c-can I talk to you?"
"I mean alone."
Bebe mumbled something about needing to call her girlfriend about something and quickly retreated through the doors. Kenny smiled at him, and hopped up on the counter.
Tweek looked down at his arms. There were several scars along his forearms and bicep, but only a few were of interest to him. Little needle puncture marks in the crease of his elbow. Little cigarette burns along the soft part of his forearm.
He was a tweaker.
Kenny followed his eyes and quickly folded his arms.
"Can you get me some?"
"You know what I'm talking about. Eric told me. I... please. Just something to calm my head, I can't think. I don't want to feel, I just want to sleep and forget everything and. Please?" Kenny grimaced and shook his head, then scrubbed a hand through his shaggy hair.
"No, no, dude. You don't... I don't do that anymore. And you wanna know why? I lost nearly everyone who loved me. They couldn't stand me. You don't just dive in with this. Drugs aren't... okay, listen." Kenny sighed heavily and tilted his head back as he considered his next words. "This is not a path you want to go down."
"How do you know?"
"You're better than that, you don't think I know you're feeling low?" Kenny asked, "I'm not going to let you throw what you've got away. I did and look where I'm at now."
Tweek didn't think it was half bad, or bad at all. He would be happy in Kenny's shoes. This is what he knew. And if he could manage to do it with the mind of a zombie then, yeah, he'd do it. He'd do just about anything to get the voice in the back of his head to shut up and the crippling weight of his unwanted emotions removed from his chest.
"It's my decision."
The blonde in front of him just stared with a sad expression on his face. With a sigh, he grabbed the notepad from his apron and clicked the pen. He wrote down a number and handed the paper to Tweek.
"This is the guy I used to buy from. I knew him from high school. Damn it, be careful. I can't tell you not to but I'll be here when you need me." Tweek smiled a little, thanked him, and left.
He never took him up on that.
In fact, he stopped going to Grounds all together.
Tweek spent all week battling himself as he stared at that phone number scrawled in Kenny's chicken scratch handwriting. Everyone in high school had thought he already began doing drugs way back when; he was called Tweek the Twink Tweaker. He never shook that name; even now as a twenty year old man trembling in his dorm with his phone in his hand as he stared at the number on the screen.
"Who is this?" A voice asked; the man didn't sound quite like what Tweek imagined.
"F-friend of Kenny's, I-I-"
"You looking to buy?"
"Meet me at 17th and Broad, wear a yellow shirt."
That wasn't how he thought the beginning to a drug deal was supposed to go, but he had never been a part of one so what did he know? Tweek pocketed his phone and searched through the minimal wardrobe he had. A yellow button up.
Why were there always buttons?
They were meeting at a McDonald's. Tweek shook his head in disbelief as he walked to the front doors and entered the warm building. It was better than waiting in the bitter cold for a man he didn't know and could potentially kill him. Meeting in public was reassuring to his already fried nerves.
Was he sure he needed drugs?
The blonde squeaked as someone sat down in front of him at the booth. He nearly spilled the soda he bought, and clutched his arm. He narrowed his eye. This guy sure didn't look like a drug dealer, or someone strung out. In fact, he looked clean cut. A nice guy.
"My name's Stan," the raven-haired man extended a hand, "and you're a friend of Kenny's?" Tweek nodded.
"Y-y-..." he trailed off, and took a deep breath, "yeah." Stan smiled a little.
"What's got you down?"
"I-I'm not h-here for t-t-therapy," he choked, "I'm here to get high."
The older man looked taken aback, then shrugged.
"Alright, well, what are you looking for?" Tweek blinked. Oh God. He didn't know anything about drugs.
"Whatever will make me black out. Forget everything and everyone. Get me out of here."
"Sounds rough." Tweek glared at him. "This is an expensive road you're going down. You need to be careful, alright? Don't go to other people. You trust Kenny, you can trust me. I'm not going to fuck you over like a ton of these guys will. Let's go to my apartment, I'll show you how it's done."
Never in a million years would Tweek have thought he'd be in a complete stranger's car about to go take whatever drugs he'd be offered, especially without knowing what they were. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know; in fact, he didn't. If he knew the name, he wouldn't do it.
And he needed this.
Coffee just wasn't enough anymore.
The buzz wasn't strong enough.
And it didn't clear his mind.
"Kyle, visitor," he heard a low moan from one of the rooms as they entered Stan's apartment. "One of Kenny's friends."
"Oh, goodie!" the voice said before falling into hysterics. "Have you seen the carpet, man?"
"What about it?"
"It's transcendental, it's... whoa, my arm is like a fucking noodle..." Tweek slowly looked to Stan with raised eyebrows, and caught a crooked grin.
"His go to is acid." The blonde nodded slowly and looked into the dimly lit living room, where a poofy and red-haired man lay on the couch, staring up at the ceiling rather than the floor.
Stan sat on the floor in the living room, which was wood rather than carpeted Tweek noted, and patted a spot next to him. Tweek hesitantly sat down and watched as Stan procured a tin box. Inside was a collection of needles, two syringes, some ground substance, water, and a rubber band.
"This is what you're looking for," Stan said, then took a needle and syringe, "these are clean, always make sure they're clean," and attached a needle to the syringe. Now, you're gonna load this up," he paused, pouring in the substance, and then mixed it with water, "and that's going to get it straight to your bloodstream. You'll be gone in minutes."
Tweek blinked and began to pull away as Stan took his arm. He winced at the biting pressure from the large rubber band wrapped three times around his forearm, and tilted his head as Stan rubbed the soft part of his arm before tapping the vein under his elbow.
"Get the blood flowing, pop the vein up. You've got tiny veins, dude," Stan said, coaxing the skin to expose more of the blood line. "Almost... now, you're sure about this?"
"You know what I fuckin' hate?" Kyle asked to no one in particular, "fucking four-legged stop signs."
"What are you going on about?" Stan asked, turning behind him and shaking his head as Kyle held a hand in the air and grabbed at something.
"Stupid fuckin' stop signs getting in my way... why are they always yellow?"
"Yeah," Tweek mumbled, "I want to forget."
"What are you running from?" Stan asked, shaking the syringe gently in his hand once Tweek's vein had risen just enough. Tweek's eyes focused on Stan, who brought the needle closer and closer to his skin. He winced as he felt the puncture and easy slide, before nudging his vein. "There."
"Myself," Tweek finally whispered as Stan squeezed the mixture into his blood, "that's all."
Tweek was gone.
Craig didn't say much to him about what he was doing. He wasn't attending classes, didn't even do his midterms, he just didn't care. And that was Craig's thing. For as long as he knew Tweek, he was a guy who cared a lot about what he did. But now...
Now he wasn't sure what he cared about. Except getting high. He tried to hide it. But it wasn't easy hiding a high where you're writhing on the floor and chewing on the leg of your chair. It wasn't easy hiding the track marks, the weight loss, the bags under his eyes. The lifelessness in his eyes.
Craig's best friend was gone. And he was too chickenshit to say anything, to do anything about it. After all, he was the man of apathy. He wasn't supposed to care. All of his life he didn't get in anyone's business, didn't ask, didn't tell anyone what to do. He just stayed in check and slipped through the cracks. How would he be in the right to tell someone what to do? He wouldn't.
The raven-haired teen looked up in the cafeteria and tried his best to smile as the ever-cheerful Leopold Stotch ran up to him. He was this freshman in one of Tweek's classes that had confessed his crush on Tweek. They were good friends, and he had come around their dorm a few times. Craig just dealt with him.
"Hey..." he trailed off; he never really talked to anyone at all during the day. Or night, really. In fact, aside from classes he just went to the dining hall for lunch and dinner then spent his nights on the internet procrastinating homework until hours before it was due.
"How are ya? Gee, it's sure been awhile since I've seen you and Tweek," Craig nodded and sighed. Yeah, ever since Tweek started shooting up whatever it was, meth probably, Butters was never around. Come to think of it, as much as Craig didn't really like the always-chipper teenager he wouldn't be so much of a drag to talk to every once in awhile.
"I'm alright, you?"
"Well, just alright? We should work on that. C'mon, I was just about to get the best cup of coffee around. They've got real good croissants too and... well, don't look at me like that!" Butters said, cheeks slightly pink, "it's my treat. It's been awhile an' I missed you!"
"I missed you too," he found himself saying, and begrudgingly followed the bright blonde out of the cafeteria.
"So, how... how's Tweek?" Butters asked, wrapping his arms around himself as a gust of cold November air attempted to knock him down. Craig bit back his laugh and slowed down so Butters wouldn't have to jog to keep up with him.
"Uh..." he trailed off; what was he supposed to say? Lying to this guy would be like a mortal sin. Telling him the truth would break his heart. "He's not around much." Butters nodded with a grimace.
"Yeah, Professor England asked me if I knew anything about how he was doing and well, he won't reply to my texts so I figured I must've done something wrong to-" Craig shook his head.
"No, dude, it's not you. He's just... being an asshole right now. He'll come around." Butters beamed at that, and blushed a little.
"W-well, you sure it's not me? I-I didn't want to pressure him with hanging out. I-I mean I like him an' all but, I didn't mean it was a date-date. It was just... hangin' out is all." Craig rolled his eyes.
"No, he's just being a grade A asshat." Butters opened his mouth to respond, possibly to argue with him, but was silenced by a walking blonde poofball squeezing him in a hug.
"Butters!" Ahh, so the poofball was a girl.
Craig watched in surprise as she kissed his cheek and took his hand.
"Oh God, I've missed you!" She cried, laughing as Butters grinned.
"I-I know! I've missed you too! Is Kenny here?" The girl nodded and began to lead him inside, yet stopped when she saw Craig.
"Sweetie, who is this?" She asked coyly, narrowing her eyes. Butters blushed darkly and shook his head with enough force that Craig was worried his head would fly right off.
"N-no, we're not... he's Tweek's roommate." Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of Craig, as if this news surprised her.
"You don't say," she said, "he hasn't been around for awhile, how is he?" Craig rubbed the back of his neck in nervousness.
Apparently Tweek was more popular than he thought.
"Close the God damn door, you stupid dyke!" Craig's eyes widened at the voice that bellowed through the facility. The quiet hum of customers died at the sudden shout and Craig waited for the girl's reaction. She just rolled her eyes, shut the door and extended her hand.
"My name's Bebe."
"Why don't you two sit down; Butters, your usual?" She asked. Butters nodded and she eyed Craig. "You're not a coffee drinker."
"What makes you say that?" She smiled a little.
"You don't look strung out like everyone else here," He gave her the benefit of the doubt and shrugged his shoulders. Personally he never much cared for the taste, and after being roommates with Tweek for a year and a half he swore off of caffeine for life.
"Hey, Ken!" Bebe called, gave Butters' shoulder a squeeze, then retreated behind the counter, "Oh Ken doll!"
"Yes, my darling?" Bebe rolled her eyes at Kenny's pompous tone as he ran from the back of the shop.
"Butters is here, and he brought a friend," Craig wasn't sure if "friend" was the proper word but... ahh, he couldn't argue. The lanky blonde beamed at the twenty year old next to him, and Craig picked at his croissant.
He tried to avoid situations like this. Craig didn't have anxiety like Tweek, but people in generally were just a no-go for him. He'd rather spend his time aside from homework watching television shows, playing video games, or reading books; he preferred to deal with people who weren't real. People he could actually put up with.
"Are you two on a date or-" Craig scoffed at that and shook his head. Butters' cheeks were a bright pink as he gawked in horror at Kenny. "What? I didn't know!"
"H-he's," Butters stammered, "he's Tweek's roommate. We're friends." Kenny's eyes shifted to Craig, then down at the table, then back to him.
"O-oh, Tweek, man, he hasn't been around in awhile..." Butters shook his head, "I hope he's doing alright." Craig shrugged. He didn't know how close Tweek was to these people; he wasn't about to tell them there was something seriously wrong with him. His parents deserved to know before them and even then Craig wasn't sure if he'd have the balls to call them up if things got that bad.
"He's... not around much," which meant that he was. Usually he was in their dorm or at some dude's house. And if he was with him, well, he wasn't really. His body was but his mind was somewhere else.
Those twitches and noises weren't from anxiety anymore. And hearing him moan and watching him writhe around on the floor was something he didn't think he should have gotten used to. But he had. Instead of stuffing something flat on his tongue as he would with someone having a seizure, he just stepped over him, put on his earphones, and fell asleep. That's all he could really do there anymore. Even then he felt a pressure on his chest. Tweek's pressure.
Kenny nodded grimly and scratched at his arm. Bebe smiled sadly.
"Well, next time you see him, tell him to stop here, alright? We really miss him." Butters nodded along with them. Craig just stared at Kenny's arms and sighed.
After talking with Bebe and Kenny for a half an hour or so, Butters and Craig left the coffee shop to return back to the university. Butters had one more class for the day and Craig decided to just go to his dorm, put on his headphones, and watch television on his laptop. He didn't think telling Tweek about his visit would be worth it; he probably wouldn't remember, anyway.
Craig scanned his key into the residence hall keypad and typed in his pin. A click was heard and he pulled hard on the door. It slammed shut behind him as he walked through the automatic doors now, into the lobby full of students lounging around not doing much of anything.
People always reminded him of cattle and he usually went against the herd. This was the case as he walked to the stairs, rather than the elevator, and trudged up the four flights to his floor. He could hear music from an open room and quickly walked to his dorm. Fumbling with his card again, he managed to unlock the door on the second try and barely opened it before sliding through the crack. Lately they had been locking the door; he didn't want anyone coming in here because of Tweek's noises.
Who knows what the floor thought they were doing?
Craig sighed heavily as Tweek paced the room with jerky movements. His arms punched out, his feet avoided certain tiles as he hopped around. Huh, so that must be where the term 'hopped up' originated. Craig shook his head as he climbed the bunk bed, curled up in his warm blankets, and opened his laptop.
It hurt him to realize he was used to this. That he didn't so much as flinch when Tweek punched the wall, opening his hand. That the quiet moans and squeaks heard from him weren't more than just him mumbling to himself as he did his homework. He shouldn't enable him, should he?
Well, that's what he was doing. But there was only so much he could do as a person, as a friend. Butters was closer to him in terms of emotional connection and look how they turned out.
"Hey," Craig finally said, then closed his laptop after watching an episode of 'Firefly'. "Hey, wanna go get some coffee?"
"Ngh..." Tweek gasped, then threw his arm back; a loud smack was heard as he punched the frame of the bed.
"Don't fuckin' call me that!" Tweek cried, his eyes flashed with violence for a moment. "Not a fuckin' tweaker!"
"It's your name, dude. Let's go get you some water, at least..."
If his gut feeling was right taking him to Grounds was exactly what he needed to do. Craig needed to show Kenny what he did to one of the nicest people Craig had ever had the chance to know. If his intuition was right then Craig would hate Kenny for ruining his best friend.
Tweek was better than that, than him. Than this addiction festering in his veins.
Craig prayed to whatever deity would listen this time that Tweek wouldn't make too much of a scene as they walked back to the shop. They didn't have much time; small town shops like that usually closed by six if they were lucky.
So he bundled Tweek up in a coat and gloves, then grabbed his arm and tried his best to keep him supported and walking normal.
If people were staring Craig didn't pay attention. It didn't matter, for all they knew Tweek was hurt. For all they knew he was drunk and they had too much fun in their dorm.
But their floormates knew better and it made him sick to know they knew what was going on. They didn't have to ask; one good look at the wreck on his shoulder and it was beyond obvious that he was high off his ass on whatever kind of amphetamine poisoned his blood.
"You're going to stop this," Craig grumbled as he walked down the stairs of their residence hall. "I'm going to tell your parents, you're going to therapy, and you're going to get better. This is fucking bullshit, you hear me, Tweek? That... if this is his doing, he's dead. 'Cause you're better than this. God damn it, I hate you so much right now you fucking asshole," he groaned as he wiped away the trail of drool that dripped down his coat from Tweek's open mouth. "You're sick."
"Fuck you," Tweek mumbled, voice slurred and slow. It was unnerving; it sounded almost primitive. As if it took ever ounce of willpower to speak at all. It shouldn't be difficult. This shouldn't be happening.
Craig sighed and stared at the closed sign that hung on Ground's door. He saw Bebe wiping down the tables and knocked gently. She looked up, smiled at him, yet her face fell immediately when seeing his companion drooling on his shoulder.
The poofy blonde-haired girl ran to the door and yanked it open.
"Get inside, Jesus Christ, what the hell happened to him?" Craig remained silent as she helped him sit Tweek down at a table. His head slumped onto the surface, and he twitched. His eyes stared vacantly ahead at something, and Bebe quickly poured a glass of water and some coffee.
Maybe it could sober him up a bit.
"Kenny!" She cried, water sloshed out of the glass as she ran over. "Jesus, he's high as a kite..." Craig shrugged and folded his arms over his chest.
The blonde emerged just as before, and was at the girl's side in the blink of an eye. Craig bit back his anger, hid his clenched fists, and stared at Tweek, who struggled to sip the water from the straw.
"Fuck..." Kenny trailed off, "how long has he been like this?"
"Today? I dunno. You tell me how long he's been going at it, though." Craig grumbled his dark reply. Kenny appeared taken aback, and he shook his head.
"Yeah right, look at your fucking arms, you tweaker."
Kenny remained silent and tugged down the sleeves on his shirt.
"What makes you think I had anything to do with this? I would never want him to do this. My mistakes are my mistakes. I'd never tell anyone to go down this road."
"He didn't come home stoned until he started coming here. And wow, what a concept, look at your arms. You're the reason he's shooting up." Bebe narrowed her eyes on Kenny, who shook his head.
"I'm clean, I haven't in-"
"I don't give a shit!" Craig yelled. Tweek jumped, startled from the sudden loud voice, "you fucking broke my friend, you asshole!"
"Shut up, Craig," all three of them stared with wide eyes at the slumped over blonde. Slowly, he raised his head. The vacancy in his eyes was replaced with a dark glower, heightened by the deep bags under his eyes and the gauntness in his cheeks. "You don't know what the fuck you're saying."
"You're going to- he's going to kill you!" Craig cried, "I don't want to come home o-or wake up one morning and find you dead with a fucking syringe in your God damn arm!"
"It's not his fault," he replied in a slow monotone. "This is my choice. He had nothing to do with it. I'd rather you die than have me go back to the way things were before. You don't fucking get it, do you, Craig?"
"Get what?" Craig wasn't one for attachments, but to hear Tweek just calmly say he would rather him die... well, that felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped on him. He bit his lip, looked to Bebe, who had fierce eyes set on Kenny, who shook his head and whispered to her quickly, low enough that Craig couldn't hear.
Tweek shook his head and stood up on wobbly legs. He reached for the coffee, some of it sloshed on his hands as he lifted the plastic cup to his lips; he gagged as he took a sip.
"I hate you. I hate everyone, everything, I can't stand it. At all. This," he waved his hand; Craig hissed as the hot coffee splashed onto his t-shirt, setting in his skin, where it scalded. He pulled the cloth away, and caught Tweek's nervous eye. "This is all fucking shit. You all are, you don't care about me, and if you did... well you'd be so fucking proud of that I found a way to cope with all of you."
"Tweek," Kenny said, standing up. He was shoved back by Tweek, who curled his hand into a fist.
"Don't act like you fucking know me, none of you. I hate you."
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" The blonde screamed, who then pushed Bebe away from him, shutting out her comfort, throwing her against the table. Kenny caught her, and held her as he took a step back from Tweek. "You don't know me, you don't, you don't, you DON'T!" His hands went to his head and he shook violently, then collapsed to the floor. His fingernails dug into his temple, then clutched deep into the woodwork below him, trying to pull something apart. "Make it stop, make it stop..."
"What?" Craig asked; a part of him felt like running. This was too much. Honestly he was more than a little terrified and more than half tempted to call the police. Tweek needed help. He had been too stupid to see it. But he needed to do something. He couldn't let one of the nicest people he knew turn into someone so cold, so twisted.
"The voices, there's bugs in my skin, it itches... they're biting. Just like you. Just like all of you, can't get away, can't get it out..." He bit down on his arm, drawing blood, and his fingernails began pulling at his skin. Kenny knelt down, held his hands back, and tried his best to pin the now furious Tweek who tried so hard to get one shot at him.
Craig let his shirt, now stained back down on his scalded skin, and winced as the cloth stuck to his flesh. It would feel like peeling away skin he took it off later.
"Tweek, Tweek, it's all in your head, you're fine, there's no bugs, you're okay," Kenny said. Craig wanted to kick his jaw or bash his face in. There was no reason he should be comforting Tweek. He was the one to get him into this mess.
"I'm not CRAZY!" Tweek screamed, tossing his head back and hitting Kenny straight in his mouth. Kenny spit, and Craig felt a pull at his stomach when he saw a bloody tooth on the floor. "YOU ARE! YOU ALL ARE!"
"We've got some extra shirts in the back, sweetie," Bebe said, nodding toward the bar. "If you come with me, I can get some stain remover on there and then... we can you something else to wear, alright?" Craig looked at Bebe warily, then at Tweek, who rocked back and forth on the ground with his head in between his knees. "Please?"
The look in her eye told him he should just do it, as if she was going to tell him something in private. He followed her to the back room, sat on a counter, and took off his shirt. Craig wrapped his arms around himself, trying not to shiver, and stared down at the red burn on his stomach. It was tender, but nothing he hadn't experienced before.
But Bebe was on the phone, completely disregarding his shirt, and Craig blushed a little.
"-to report a patron, he's... he's high on something. And I'm afraid he's going to start hurting people. He needs to be taken in," she paused, tears in her eyes as she looked to Craig, who dropped his shirt.
She was calling the police on Tweek. He was going to be arrested.
"26th and Randolph, Grounds Coffee, I'll... please hurry?"
Bebe set her phone down and exhaled shakily.
"Here, hon, lemme see your shirt," she mumbled, picking up the dropped t-shirt from the floor and reaching up into one of the cupboards. He watched as she sprayed it down, then opened a box and tossed him a Grounds t-shirt.
"Thanks," he mumbled, unsure of what else to say.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I just... I care about him so much. Ken... Kenny does too, h-he wouldn't have gotten him into this..."
"Yeah, well, Tweek's not the type to just go out and find a drug dealer." Bebe sighed heavily and hung her head. Nothing else needed to be said. Nothing else could have been said.
Tweek was an addict who needed help. And they were doing it the only way they knew would be effective. Craig just wanted things to go back to normal- the way they were before. Maybe this would do it. Maybe being faced with criminal charges would show Tweek that he is not that person; he's better than that.
And maybe he could have done better as a friend, or at the very least as his roommate. He isn't the type to intrude on anyone's business but perhaps he should have tried a little harder. Maybe if Tweek...
There were no maybes or what ifs. What's done was done and there was nothing any of them could do about it.
Bebe and Craig walked silently back to the storefront. Craig was expecting to see Tweek and Kenny fighting, hear some yelling, or one of them passed out or something. He wasn't expecting to see Kenny sitting at the table with his head in his hands with no Tweek in sight.
"Kenny, what the hell happened?" Bebe asked. The blonde raised his head but kept his eyes on the ground.
"He left. He hit me with his head and I dunno, kinda blacked out or something. I don't even think a minute went by and he was gone."
Bebe ran a hand through her curly tendrils. Craig clenched his fists and stared at the blonde man before him with as much distaste as he could feel. This was his fault in the first place. It was his fault for him leaving.
The police arrived almost ten minutes later; sirens, red flashing lights and all. But they arrived to the remnants of a disturbance call. They checked the campus, Craig and Tweek's dorm, the surrounding vicinity; Tweek was gone.
Tweek had vanished without a trace.
A missing person's report was filed. Tweek's parents were contacted and they flew to Colorado with one goal in mind. However, they left, bereaved of a son who they could not find. It was as if any record, any trace of him was wiped out, and he never existed in the first place.
Yet his belongings had remained in his dorm until his parent's packed them up and took them home.
Butters visited Craig less and less, until he finally stopped showing up at his dorm at all. A disillusioned freshman. Craig found out from Butters' roommate that after finals he dropped out and went back home to the community college in his county. The real world was too real for now, Craig supposed.
The coffee shop at the corner had boarded up by the spring. He never went back there. Craig didn't really care what happened to them, after all they ruined his best friend. They deserved to be shut down, they deserved to disappear without a trace. Out of sight, out of mind.
Except that wasn't the case. Craig would give anything to make sure Tweek was okay. Alive, at least. But there was no word, no reassurance from anyone. Tweek who? You sound like a tweaker, kid.
Craig sighed and packed his belongings after finals week. Home for the summer. And he felt like saying good riddance to CSU. To just disappear. After this year, well... he was done.
Craig had had enough.
It was all too much for someone who craved normalcy and a simple life to take.
He couldn't stand the whispering and the drama, the police visits, the news reports, seeing blonde hair and wondering if that was Tweek.
No. He couldn't take it anymore.
With one final check in the dorm, his packing was complete. A check-off from the RA and he'd be going home. To stay? He wasn't quite sure. Maybe he was a little disillusioned too.
"Wait," the RA said and bent down to look under Tweek's bed, "you forgot something."
Craig was handed a tin box, and he stared at it with sadness in his eyes.
"Thanks," he mumbled, and walked out with his final belongings.
He browsed the social media websites for any updates from Tweek. None. His parents said nothing as they drove home; what was there to say? They never said so much as "hello", and even then it was in the form of nine fingers down.
He tuned out his sister's excited chatter of going to CSU next year. Craig didn't have it in him to tell her it was all a crock of shit. To go somewhere else. Somewhere better. It didn't matter, she'd find out the hard way.
Five hours later he sat in his room, back home, and it didn't feel right. It's as if everyone here had frozen for a year and expected him to act like everything was the same, everything was normal. It wasn't. Nothing would ever be the same.
Craig flipped the lock on the tin box and stared for a moment at the super hero characters, faded at the top. It looked like an old retro lunch box, with rust at the corners from age. It seemed like something Tweek would have.
He stared at the paraphernalia inside. A rubber band, a syringe, needles, water, and rocks. It was meth. Under the rubber band was a slip of paper with a phone number written in chicken scratch handwriting.
Craig pulled out his phone and called the phone number.
"Yo?" Craig asked; what kind of greeting was that? The voice was unfamiliar. Soft. Distant. This person was high. "I've got a couple questions for you."
"Who is this, the police?" Craig rolled his eyes. In the background on their end, he heard someone should, "hang the fuck up!" Not Tweek.
"No, my friend... he was a buyer from you. Tweek? D'you... does he still buy from you?" The man laughed.
"Buy? Oh, God, no. Not anymore." Craig sighed heavily with relief. "He doesn't need to. He's the best at selling it, pays me off with what he earns. Say, how d'you know him?"
Craig stared at the tin box as his heart fell in his chest.
He was a drug dealer.
Tweek was in contact with this guy. Perhaps sees him every day.
And worst of all he was still tweaking.
"He was a friend of mine. Tell him I... nevermind."
"What's your name, I'll let him know you were calling around." Craig closed the box.
"No, no, don't. Forget this ever happened." A chuckle was heard on the other end. That probably wouldn't be so hard.
"Alright, well, you got my number somehow. You ever looking for something, I'm your man. Got it?" Craig hung up at that. What he wanted wasn't for sale. What he wanted wouldn't come back.
He reached for the rubber band, wrapped it around his arm the way Tweek always did. He then grabbed the syringe and a needle, and held it above his wrist. He rested the point against his forearm, closed his eyes, and sighed.
"I hate you," he whispered, then threw the syringe.
How could Tweek find release in that? He snapped the rubber band from his arm and threw it in the box, then kicked it off of his bed. A clatter was heard as the contents spilled out, yet he stared out his window, into nothing.
Craig cleaned up the mess he made, hid the tin box under his bed, and walked down the stairs. His parents were in the living room, his sister nowhere to be found. He walked into the kitchen and grabbed the coffee pot.
He was never a coffee drinker. But Tweek was never a tweaker. People change. They do things they never thought they would. Become people they hated and were afraid of as kids.
Craig listened to the coffee maker gurgle as the water heated and dripped into the pot.
He poured the coffee into the mug and held it in his hands. It was hot against his fingers, and he briefly remembered Tweek throwing his coffee onto his shirt, scalding his stomach. This time he felt the hot drink sting in his throat, bitter as it warmed him from the inside out.
It was bitter, and a bit comforting. A lot like feeling empty. He was tired of feeling empty. But at the same time, empty was a lot better than a whirlwind of emotions. He'd stick to numb, to bitter.
Until it was too much to take.
And then he wouldn't know what to do. Or who to be.
Empty was all he really knew.
And he never wanted that to be too much.
But if it was, if he was...?
Well, he'd figure it out.
If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!