Chapter 2: Midnight Minus 27 Dayswritten by fallingwthstyle - illustrated by Hausinge and Sifl-senpai
Kenny raised his wine cooler bottle and clinked it against Butters'. "This is going to happen tonight." He was smiling happily, while at least three other conversations swirled around them. "You can feel it too, can't you?"
Butters took a sip of his drink. "I can, Kenny! I really can...and we'll know in half an hour."
There was a lot of excitement at their house, much of it from Kenny's enthusiasm, which had been unwavering for the past two days. A dozen people were scattered around the living room and kitchen of their house, all gathered tonight for a purpose: The Mega Millions lottery game jackpot had soared to $450-million, and the entire country was infected with lotto fever. South Park was no exception, and they were gathered together to watch the drawing later, each of them hoping one of them would win and change all their lives.
Wendy (Doctor Testaburger, Stan reminded himself; she had been an emergency room physician at Hell's Pass for six months now) was talking to him, sitting on the couch while looking at her single lottery ticket, a strip of paper with five sets of numbers on it. Kyle had gone to fetch fresh drinks, leaving an empty space on the couch on Stan's other side.
Wendy said: "So...just so we're clear: If one of us actually wins tonight, we're all going to retire and live in mansions for the rest of our lives, and go on that New Year's cruise to the Mediterranean Sea; and if someone just misses the jackpot and wins $250,000, we're still going on the cruise but we can forget the mansions."
"That's about it," Kenny replied. He and Butters were squashed together in their recliner. There was a small stack of cruise line brochures on the table in front of them, and Kenny had been handing them out all evening like Halloween candy. He was completely convinced that someone was going to win tonight, and that a few of them were actually going on this insane New Year's vacation across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea in three weeks. "Butters figured out that with the airfare to New York, the cruise tickets, visas, airfare home from Athens and so on, it should cost about seven thousand dollars apiece. It'd be awesome if eight or ten of us got to go."
Craig Tucker said irritably: "You know...the only reason I agreed to come to this is because I want to see your faces when nobody here wins. And even if one of you assholes actually does win, I don't want to go on that cruise, so I'll just take the money."
"Craig shalt not be a buzzkill," Kenny pronounced solemnly. Craig had been nursing the same Big Gulp cup of bourbon and water for the past hour and was starting to get extremely drunk, and Kenny made a mental note to make sure that Tweek drove them home later. Tweek had been drinking nothing but coffee all evening and was his normal jittery self.
Kyle came back with two wine coolers, handed Stan one of them and sat down on the couch beside him again. He pulled his lotto ticket from his shirt pocket and studied it again.
Butters looked down at his own ticket, which held just a single set of numbers, reading them to himself yet again. They were 09, 11 (for his birthday, September 11); 23 (for his age), 17, and 45 (because he had been born at 5:45 in the afternoon). He and Kenny had laughed over his choice of the megaball number, 14; they had chosen it because it was the combined total length in inches of their erect dicks. They had carefully measured each other just for this, giggling helplessly. Kenny's megaball number was 15, because he wanted to round up ("It's almost fourteen and a half, Butters!") but Butters had insisted on rounding down because this was the way things were done ("almost only counts in horseshoes and nuclear warfare Kenny, and besides, if Stan's dad had measured us, it'd be in the twenties!")
Cartman arrived to the party last, only twenty minutes or so before the drawing, hurrying through the front door and heading straight toward Kyle. He was clutching an absurdly thick stack of lottery tickets, probably hundreds of dollars' worth. Craig lifted his head from Tweek's shoulder, suddenly interested.
Cartman walked up to Kyle and barked: "I need to talk to you. Now."
"Yeah, hi Eric, nice to see you too," Stan said.
"Oh geez, Cartman," Kyle said, eyeing his stack of lottery tickets; it was at least the thickness of a couple decks of playing cards. "I wonder what about...Jews and numbers? How much did you spend on all that, anyway?"
"Three thousand, two hundred and eighteen dollars, Kyle," Cartman answered immediately and glared at him. "Are you going to help me or what?"
Stan laughed. "Two hundred...and eighteen dollars, fatass? Let me guess: That was every bit of money you had."
Cartman ignored him and stared at Kyle. "Well?"
"Help you do what, Cartman?" The conversations all around them had stopped; Craig was trying not to throw up in his drink from laughing while Tweek rubbed his shoulder nervously.
"Organize this into some kind of logical order...Kahl" Cartman replied, as if it should be obvious.
"You want me to organize three thousand sets of lottery numbers into some kind of logical order...in twenty minutes?"
"Not up to it, huh? I thought you were hard core Jewish, Kyle; guess I was wrong."
"Give me this!" Stan was still laughing as Kyle stood up and snatched the stack of tickets from Cartman's hand and started rifling through them. "This is a mess, Cartman! These are all quick picks...there's no way to do anything with this before the drawing. You're going to have to just go through them one at a time later to see if you won anything."
"Nothing you can do, ah, Kyle?" He was starting to sound less hopeful. "Losing your Jewdoo, maybe?"
"Stop insulting my religion, asswipe!" Everyone in the house was listening now; it had been some time since most of them had been treated to a good Kyle/Cartman argument. "And yeah, if I had about three weeks and you were paying me a lot of money, I could enter all these into my computer and let it hunt for winners."
"Guys," Kenny said laughing and holding up his hand. "Call a truce or something. Cartman, go get a drink. We'll help you check your tickets afterward."
"We will, huh? Nice of you to volunteer me." But Kyle was grinning as he handed the tickets back to Cartman. "Yeah...we'll help you check." He rolled his eyes.
Cartman went into the kitchen to make himself a drink, and soon after he returned, whatever show none of them were watching on the TV cut away to a commercial break, and the familiar music of the lottery drawing drew everyone's' attention.
"Turn it up!" Token called from across the room. Butters held up the remote and turned up the TV volume. Several people had pens ready to write down the winning numbers.
The white ping pong balls swirled inside the lotto machine, and as one rose to the top, the announcer said: "The first number is...twenty three." Butters raised his eyebrows, his eyes flicking back and forth from his ticket to the TV as the second number came up: "Nine." When the third number—"Forty-five"—came up, Butters poked Kenny sharply in the ribs with his elbow and pointed at his ticket.
"Holy fuck, Butters!" Kenny said as the fourth number ("eleven") came up next. "He's got those four numbers! He needs a seventeen now—"
From the TV: "Seventeen."
Half the people in the room shouted something, and bedlam started breaking out around them. "Holy crap, Butters!" Kenny said. "He just needs a thirteen!" Butters had just won $250,000 and now it was down to the last ball to decide whether he won that or the enormous jackpot. Butters was bouncing in his seat, staring at his ticket. Several people began chanting: "Thirteen...thirteen..."
"And the mega ball number is...Twenty one."
There were a lot of groans, but Kenny was thumping a hyperventilating Butters on his back, and Stan and Kyle got up from the couch to sit on the arms of the chair and started gently pummeling him too.
"You just won a quarter of a million dollars dude!" Stan said happily while Butters stared unbelievingly at his ticket. "Holy shit...we are actually, actually going on this cruise!"
Kenny looked ecstatic. "I knew someone here was going to win tonight. I just knew it!"
Cartman was looking through his stack of tickets despondently. Everyone else gathered around Butters to congratulate him.
After a few minutes, Kenny asked, "All right...so who's actually going to go on this cruise with us?"
"We are!" Stan answered immediately. As vice-presidents of McCormick-Stotch Enterprises, Stan and Kyle had plenty of freedom to take two weeks off for a vacation.
"You know I'm going," Cartman said without looking up from his tickets. He pulled one from the stack, eyeing it ruefully. "There's two dollars I won."
"I've got some vacation time coming," Wendy said. "I'll put in for it tomorrow...hell yes I'm going!"
Token shook his head. "Much as I'd like to, I have to bow out. But you guys are going to have a great trip. Take lots of pictures." Jimmy, Bebe, Thomas ("No, I...shit cock! ...can't go either") and Clyde all had other plans for the holidays as well.
That left Craig and Tweek. Craig slurred, extremely intoxicated, "I'm going to my uncle's in New Hampshire to go hunting over the holidays. And you don't really have to give me any money."
"That's good to know," Kenny said. Tweek was shaking his head, looking at the floor.
"I dunno," he said. "I—ah!—would sort of like to go on that cruise!"
"Go ahead," Craig replied darkly, taking a large gulp of his drink, dismissing him.
Tweek sighed sadly. "I won't go without you," he said quietly, without the slightest tic or tremor.
There was an awkward silence. Kenny finally broke it. "So...six of us then?" He looked around the room for last minute takers. "Darn...I was hoping for at least a couple more."
The party began breaking up after that. Butters whispered something to Kenny, and they managed to separate Tweek and Craig and keep them there after everyone else had left. Kenny cornered Craig next to the front door.
"Dude, no offense but—" Kenny glared at Craig. "You need to quit being such a fucking dick to Tweek. And give me your keys; you're not driving home. Butters said to tell you he'll pay for your trip to New Hampshire if you knock off the bullshit."
Craig pulled his keys from his jacket pocket and handed them to Kenny. "Whatever man," he said and went out the front door. Kenny watched him weave his way to the driveway and get in the passenger door of his truck.
Butters had Tweek in the kitchen under the pretext of helping carry dishes and empty glasses from the living room. "Kenny's in the other room getting Craig's keys. He's bein' awful mean to you...are you all right?"
Tweek shook his head sadly. "I don't know man!" He was wracked by a violent shudder. "He gets this way when he drinks, you know? And..."
"Well, hey!" Butters wanted desperately to cheer him up. "If you want to go with us, just say the word! He can go to his uncle's and you can spend the holidays cruising half way around the world with us guys!"
Kenny came into the kitchen and deliberately bumped into Butters. "Craig went to wait in his truck," he said, handing Tweek Craig's keys. "He might even be passed out by now. Are you going to be okay?"
"I—I think so." He was agitated, obviously wanting to leave. Kenny took a step back so he wouldn't feel cornered.
"Hey, when you get home," Butters said. "If you don't feel safe..." he gestured, indicating their home. "Y'know?"
Tweek nodded vigorously. "Okay man. Thanks!"
Once Tweek had left, Kenny and Butters finished cleaning up the mess from the party, then went upstairs to their room. They had just gotten undressed and into bed when headlights splashed across their bedroom window and they heard a vehicle pull into the driveway. They looked at each other and sighed. "That'll be Tweek," Kenny said. Butters got out of bed first wearing just boxers and went to the window to look outside.
"Yep, that's his car. Looks like he's just sittin' there, too."
Kenny was already up and putting on his robe. "Guess we'd better make some more coffee."
"Oh, Kenny!" Butters sounded distressed. "He just got out...and got into the back seat. I wonder if he's thinkin' about sleeping there?"
Kenny scratched his head. "How about you make the coffee while I go outside and see what he's doing?" They went down the stairs together.
"All right. Just be careful y'don't sneak up on him. Make sure he sees you coming, or he'll be replacing both the upholstery and the sunroof."
Kenny laughed, hard. "Okay, Butters." Butters went into the kitchen and Kenny opened the front door after turning the porch light on. He saw Tweek sit up in the back seat and look at him. Kenny walked over, and Tweek leaned over and opened the back door and bowed his head. Kenny saw immediately that he was crying.
"Oh—hey, now!" Kenny looked helplessly over the top of the car, then slowly climbed in next to Tweek. He hesitated a moment, then put his arm over Tweek's shoulders. "What's all this?"
"Oh God!" Tweek pitched forward, pressing his face into his knees, rocking back and forth sobbing. Kenny rubbed his shoulders, waiting. He looked up and saw Butters coming out the front door. "Me and Craig had a big fight after we got home! He—GAH!—told me he doesn't want me to go to New Hampshire with him." Tweek looked up as Butters joined them, standing just outside the car looking in at them, then buried his face in his knees again. "I think he's ashamed of me!"
"Aw, man." Kenny rubbed his shoulders harder, rocking him. "Why don't you come inside and we'll sort this out."
"Can I just stay out here? I don't—don't want to be any trouble."
"Tweek, it's twenty degrees outside!" Butters said. "It'd be a lot less trouble if you just come in now than if we have to spend ten minutes talkin' you into it and then you just do it anyway." Kenny looked up at him gratefully; he didn't think he would have been able to be as blunt. Butters voice softened: "Come on, man."
Tweek looked up miserably and nodded. He followed Kenny out of the car and they went inside. Once Tweek was sitting on their couch he was calmer, scrubbing at his face with his sleeve, and Butters left him with Kenny to bring in coffee. He returned a moment later with three cups: Two regular size ones, and one of Kenny's enormous beer steins; it held 84 ounces, was carved and painted with intricate skulls and roses, and was ridiculously big. Butters had filled it with coffee the way he knew Tweek liked it: Strong and black, with a lot of sugar. Tweek looked at it and laughed through his tears, reaching for a tissue from the box Butters had also brought and blowing his nose.
Tweek started talking after he'd drunk some coffee. "I—I just don't think he wants me anymore!" he said mournfully. "If he goes to New Hampshire, I'll be by myself over the holidays...oh god!...I do want to come with you guys!"
"Good!" Kenny said, gripping his shoulder and rocking him. "And we want you to come with us!" Butters was nodding vigorously.
"But!" Tweek shrilled. "There's six of you, and three cabins! If I go, that's seven! And then you have to get another cabin..." He shook his head violently. "It's too much money just for me..."
"Uh huh," Butters said angrily. "You just don't worry about that, mister. If you want to go, then you're going."
Kenny said: "Tweek, I was hoping eight or ten of us were going to go, so we were counting on getting at least four cabins anyway. Seven is better than six..." He looked up at Butters and smiled. "And Tweek, there's another practical reason why you should go with us." Kenny waited for Tweek to look at him, and when he finally did, he continued: "Right now there's six of us going, and three cabins, like you said. So it'll be me and Butters, Stan and Kyle...and Wendy and Cartman." Kenny grinned and gave him a playful shove. "Let that sink in for a minute."
Tweek hiccupped; it was almost a laugh. "I see what you mean!"
"Yeah! Now if you go with us, then you and Wendy can share a cabin. She likes you dude, and you'd be a hell of a lot better bunkmate for her than fatass would be. The two of you will probably hardly ever even see each other. Then we can just stick Cartman in a room by himself and everyone's happy."
"And we'll make sure Eric gets the shittiest cabin!" Butters chimed in, and Tweek finally laughed for real. Anytime Butters swore was hilarious to him. "Come on, Tweek! We want you to come."
Tweek nodded, drying his eyes on another tissue. "All right. Ah—thanks!"
"Good. Then that's settled." Kenny tapped Butters' ankle with his big toe, hoping to remind him of something. "Then let's get some sleep." Kenny stared pointedly at Butters when he said that. Butters apparently got the message as he nodded at Kenny.
"I—ah!—guess I'll sleep on the couch..."
"Maybe," Butters said, looking to Kenny for guidance.
"Tweek," Kenny said carefully. "Craig told us, like six months ago when he had that accident and thought he'd have to spend the night in the hospital that you can't sleep by yourself. He said you have really bad nightmares and toss and turn all night. If that's still a problem for you...we have a king sized bed, so there's plenty of room..."
Tweek was shaking his head. "Nuh—this is why I was going to sleep in my car! I don't want to be—"
"Any trouble," Butters finished for him. "We know. You're not...so come on."
Tweek bowed his head and said sadly, "No wonder Craig thinks I'm a freak!"
"Ah, don't say that man!" Kenny's arm was still on Tweek's shoulder and he gently pulled Tweek toward him, urging him to get up. They climbed the stairs together and went into the darkened bedroom. Butters nudged Kenny and turned on their black light. Tweek gasped; every surface of the room except for the floor was covered in myriads of glow in the dark stars. They were on the ceiling, the walls, doors, furniture, the headboard of the bed...
"Oh my God...Tweek whispered reverently. "This is awesome."
"And when we do this..." Butters turned off the black light again, leaving just the stars glowing. "It's almost bright enough to read by for a couple minutes."
"We think there's something like 7,000 stars in here now," Kenny said, as if Tweek had asked. He climbed into bed. "Butters wants me to yank up the carpet in this room and put some kind of black linoleum shit down so he can do the floor too, but I told him we have to draw the line somewhere."
"And I told Kenny we can draw it at not putting any under the bed." Butters lay down next to Kenny, both of them moving to the far side of the mattress so Tweek would have room. He pushed his legs into the blankets. "Nobody would see them there, anyway."
Tweek looked directly at both of them and solemnly said, "Gnomes." He grinned, and a moment later they were all laughing hysterically.
"Oh Jesus Christ!" Kenny cried. "There went my final argument."
Tweek carefully laid down on the bed next to Butters. "I'll help you with the carpet, Kenny."
"That's swell, Tweek." Kenny was still laughing as he lobbed one of his pillows at Tweek's head. "I'm going to hold you to it."
Tweek settled the pillow under his head and looked up at the ceiling. "You know...you guys are—ah—really good friends."
Butters leaned over to pull the blanket up to his chin. "So are you, Tweek." His eyes narrowed; Tweek was already asleep, snoring quietly.
"Wow," Butters whispered. He rolled over, wrapping an arm around Kenny and burrowing into the blankets. "I've never seen anyone fall asleep that fast; not even you, Kenny." He kissed Kenny's neck. "I love you...good night."
Kenny kissed Butters' forehead. "You're a good man, Leopold. I love you too...sweet dreams."
Kenny and Butters awoke together the next morning. Tweek wasn't in bed and they thought he'd left, but then the smell of bacon cooking reached them. They got dressed and went downstairs. Tweek was just putting bacon, eggs, and toast onto two plates and looked up when they walked into the kitchen. "Ah! I—I was going to bring you breakfast in bed!"
"You didn't have to do that, Tweek!" Butters said. "And how come you don't have a plate?"
"I want to get home and check on Craig," Tweek replied, pouring two cups of coffee. He had refilled Kenny's beer stein and had already drunk most of it. "Guess I'll...go see if I still have a home." He drained the last of his coffee.
"Okay, Tweek," Kenny said. "Will you call us later and let us know how things are? And, you know, you can come here anytime, okay?"
Tweek nodded gravely. "Thanks, guys. I will. Uh...just thank you."
After he'd left, Kenny and Butters sat down and ate the breakfast Tweek had made. "I hope he's all right," Kenny said.
"I know. Craig's been drinkin' a lot lately. Maybe he needs to get help?"
They ate in silence for a few minutes. Butters finally said: "Y'know, it's be less hassle if we just buy all the cruise tickets now and put that lottery ticket in the safe. We can cash it in when we get home."
Kenny nodded, and after breakfast Butters called their travel agent. He booked seven airline tickets to New York, seven cruise tickets from New York to Greece, and seven tickets back home from Athens with a layover in New York. Tweek called later that afternoon; it seemed there was an uneasy truce in place with Craig, so Tweek wasn't homeless. Craig left for New Hampshire three days before their own vacation began, and Tweek stayed with Kenny and Butters during the final buildup to their own trip. Three days later, seven of them left for New York for what they expected to be the vacation of a lifetime.