CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: EPILOGUE
Tweek woke him up at seven. He had been awake for hours already.
During the warm months of summer, it was rarely possible for Craig to sleep through the whole night. This was particularly the case when he spent the night in Tweek's room. Eastbound and poorly isolated, the room was a sauna.
However, since this particular August morning was kind of a big day, he probably wouldn't have slept well even if it had still been springtime. Craig had been slowly returning to the conscious world for a while, calmly listening to his boyfriend trod around the room and pack the last few things away.
Said boyfriend did not have much patience for him at this time.
"You need to get up now," Tweek said, mercilessly pouncing on him to get his attention and prevent him from falling asleep. "Everyone's gonna be here soon."
Craig grunted in response, and Tweek leaned down to place a quick kiss on his nose before getting off him.
Craig obediently rolled off the frameless mattress the second Tweek got off his back. Under normal circumstances, being awakened this early would put him in a foul mood, especially after a night of poor sleep. But not today. He had been counting down to this day for weeks.
"Who's Clyde talking to?" he asked when he noticed the loud conversation emitting from the living room.
"Vicky. She just got here," Tweek answered and threw him a shirt. "You better hurry up before Clyde's flirting makes her leave again."
Craig nodded and put the shirt over his head before tiredly searching the room for his jeans. It was challenging, but he finally found them behind the largest pile of cardboard boxes.
When he emerged from the room, Clyde and Kenny were entertaining Vicky on the couch while Tweek moved around the kitchen to make breakfast. Craig could barely make out the three people on the couch from all of Clyde's boxes taking up the floor space surrounding it. Vicky caught sight of him quickly, though, and acknowledged his presence with a big smile.
"Good morning," she greeted him. Kenny and Clyde peered around the boxes and cheered.
"Heeey! Look who's finally up!" Clyde exclaimed.
Kenny snorted. "Like you would have been up yet if you hadn't been sleeping right in the middle of the living room," he teased.
"Probably not," Clyde laughed and turned his attention back to Craig. "Ready for the big moving day?"
"Of course," Craig said with a happy smile and strode to the kitchen area to take the plate of food Tweek was holding out to him. Tweek began biting his nails the moment he had his hand free. He must still be a little anxious about moving, Craig guessed and grabbed the hand so he couldn't bite the nails anymore.
"It'll be fine," he reassured Tweek while soothingly stroking the back the boy's hand with his thumb. Tweek said nothing, but smiled at the gesture.
The pair sat down by the table, just a few feet away from the couch, but so heavily surrounded by boxes it might as well had been a private island.
The apartment was a maze. That was of course to be expected when you combined the boxes of three different people's belongings, but it was still kind of a pain, and it made moving around very tricky. Thankfully, it wouldn't be a problem for much longer.
Today was the day Tweek and Craig finally moved into their new apartment. They had officially decided to live together on Christmas Eve, but it had taken them months to find a place they could afford on their combined paychecks. When they eventually found one not too far from Kenny's place, they jumped at the chance.
Craig had temporarily moved into Tweek and Kenny's apartment a week earlier when he had come back from visiting his family in South Park. They hadn't really considered it an issue that he would have to take all of his boxes with him. The plan had been to just stack them on top of Tweek's boxes. Easy.
Unfortunately, during their time back home, Clyde and Bebe had broken up, rendering Clyde homeless. It was lucky Clyde had the option of taking Tweek's room, but since Tweek (and subsequently Craig) hadn't actually moved out yet, Clyde couldn't unpack.
He probably wouldn't have fully unpacked for months, regardless, but right now he had no choice but to stay on the couch, in the center of a fort build from his belongings. At least until Tweek and Craig left and he could finally move his things into the room.
Tweek had been so stressed about having Clyde's boxed mixed in between his own. He had anxiously worried they would accidentally take some of Clyde things and leave behind their own. Craig didn't really see the big issue with that, but being the problem solver that he was, he had color-coded every box in the apartment. Red sticker - don't take.
"How much time do we have?" Craig asked as he chewed the omelet Tweek had cooked for them. Tweek learning to cook had come with a lot of perks for him. He had been impressed with the boy's baking skills since they were kids, but now that Craig had access to regular home-cooked meals, he was honestly so proud of how well Tweek had adjusted to adult life.
"Kyle said they would be here in about…" Tweek eyed the time on his phone, "… ten minutes."
"I'm so excited to see your new place," Vicky said and snaked her way through the maze to sit by the table with them. Clyde looked mildly displeased to see her leave. Craig sent him a warning look.
"It's really great," Tweek said with a smile. He nudged Craig's foot under the table. "We moved the guinea pigs in last night."
"Aw, that's great," Vicky smiled. "That's probably less stressful for them."
Craig nodded. He was anxious to see them and had spent the greater part of the night worrying about them. The water bottle could be leaking, or have fallen down. Or one of them could have fallen sick and no one would have been around to notice. His poor babies.
The intercom buzzed, and Kenny swiftly got up to answer. He was the only one seemingly unbothered by all the new obstacles in his path. Maybe it was easier if you had waiting experience. When he opened the front door Craig could hear Stan and Kyle's bickering echo up the stairs.
"All I'm saying is that it's just not scientifically accurate to-"
"Hey, guys!" Kenny interrupted Kyle merrily, earning him a relieved look from Stan. "Come in, come in!"
Stan patted Kenny on the back in a friendly greeting before walking as straight towards Craig and Tweek as was physically possible with all the boxes. "We parked the truck right downstairs. Everyone ready to start soon?"
Craig nodded, and Tweek made a nervous but confirming sound while swallowing the last bite of his breakfast. Everyone looked to Clyde who was still sitting on the couch in the clothes he had slept in. He grinned sheepishly and jumped off the cushions.
"Alright, alright. Gimme two minutes," he said and locked himself in the bathroom.
"Figures," Kyle muttered and struggled his way out of the hug Kenny had trapped him in before entering the apartment and offering Vicky his hand politely.
"Hi, I'm Kyle," he introduced himself before pointing to Stan who was eating the leftovers directly off the kitchen counter. "And the slob over there is Stan."
"I'm Vicky. I work with Tweek," she answered and took the offered hand. "Nice to meet you."
As if encouraged to speed up by the sound of Vicky interacting with another guy, Clyde burst out of the bathroom fully clothed.
"Ready!" he declared with his toothbrush still sticking out of his mouth. "Let's move some shit!"
O – O – o – O – O – o
With seven people in their moving crew, they managed to move all the boxes and furniture out of Kenny's apartment in less than an hour. When they pulled the truck to a stop in front of their new place, Token was waiting for them by the building's front door.
Clyde was the first out of the truck. He darted across the street to jump Token with an overly enthusiastic hug.
"See. I told you he couldn't bear living without me," Token teased with a grin as the others made their way to him.
Craig offered him in a quick one-armed hug before unlocking the door and hurrying up to his pets. It wasn't that he wasn't excited about seeing his friend for the first time in almost a year. He just had his priorities sorted.
When he was sufficiently reassured Gwen and Guinea Pig-Tweek were both well and happy in their new, and much bigger, cage, he headed back down to the street to assist the others in moving boxes upstairs, and give Token a proper welcome.
Logically, adding yet another person to their crew ought to mean they would be done in no time at all, but such was not the case. Token showing up significantly slowed down Clyde and Tweek who were both eager to catch up with him.
Eventually though, they made it up with the last items in the truck. They hadn't purchased any chairs yet, so all of his old classmates took to sitting around on the floor between the boxes; exhaustedly complaining about the heat while Vicky and Tweek unpacked the kitchen.
Craig would have loved to join either group, but settled for doing some practical work on his own. They couldn't very well unpack in rooms that were dirty, he thought, and winced when he realized it was his mother's voice he had just heard inside his head.
When he was finally done cleaning their new bathroom, he ordered pizza for everyone to thank them for helping out. He couldn't even fathom having to move all of those boxes just him and Tweek. This moving might have taken the crew a couple of hours, but had it been just the two of them, they would still be at it when the sun went down.
When the food arrived, Craig, Tweek and Vicky joined the rest of the gang on the floor in time to hear Clyde brag about the crazy single life he was about to embark on.
Life was weirdly circular sometimes, Craig thought as he looked around his friends munching on pizza slices. It simultaneously felt like yesterday and ten years ago they had last sat together, eating pizza and wondering about the future. He looked at Tweek sitting next to him and noticed that he was watching the others with a nostalgic look too.
Kenny's phone rang in the middle of him telling Token about Clyde becoming his roommate. Once he saw who was calling him, he quickly left the room to answer without offering any excuse or explanation.
"Sorry to hear about you and Bebe," Token told Clyde.
Clyde shrugged casually, but his eyes were vacant for a moment before he managed to recover and put on a big smile.
"Don't worry about it. Honestly, this is the best thing that could happen to me," he said with forged enthusiasm. "Finally gonna get that wild, partying college life with my new roomie!"
Craig had to put in a lot of effort to stop a snort from coming out. Tweek didn't even bother holding his back. They both waved their hand dismissively when Clyde sent them a quizzical look. He would learn soon enough that Kenny by no means was the ever-partying guy he had been in high school. Kenny had bills and a fulltime job.
When Kenny returned to the room, he wore a humongous smile on his face. It was contagious enough to make Craig wonder if he had to inquire about the reason behind it.
"What's up, Ken?" Stan asked, beating Craig to it.
"It's official," Kenny announced dramatically. "Eric Cartman is going to prison!"
The room flooded with everyone's immediate reactions of joy and relief.
It was about time the sociopath was put behind bars. Craig also couldn't deny that the message took a great deal of his worries away from him. He had been deeply concerned about what Cartman was up to. Especially seeing as Cartman's last scheme to have someone follow Craig around with a camera had nearly cost him his relationship.
He slid an arm around Tweek's shoulder and placed a kiss on top of his blond head. He was never letting anything take that boy away from him again.
"He was found guilty on all charges. He'll be locked up for a long time," Kenny said with a pleased grin. Clyde woo-ed around the pizza slice in his mouth.
"As well he should," Kyle said while casually leaning on the shoulder of Stan who nodded in agreement. Craig still found it funny how almost nothing had changed in their way of acting around each other since they began dating. He supposed it spoke volumes of their closeness before.
"I feel bad for his mom, though," Tweek said, looking a little distraught at the thought. Craig squeezed his shoulder and kissed the top of his head again. It was sweet that Tweek cared. A part of Craig still felt like Liane Cartman had to be assigned at least some of the blame for the way her son turned out.
"Don't worry. My mom already started a support group for her," Kyle said and rolled his eyes at his mother's activism. The movement must have brought the surface of Stan's watch into view because he immediately frowned and nudged at Stan while gesturing towards the time. Stan's eyes widened.
"Ah, shit," Stan muttered and quickly jumped to his feet along with Kyle. "Sorry, guys. We have to leave now if we're gonna get back to South Park in time to return the truck."
Tweek and Craig both rose to their feet as well to walk them to the front door.
"No problem. Thanks so much for helping out today," Tweek said. He elbowed Craig.
"Yeah. Thanks a lot," Craig said, remembering his manners and hoping his naturally flat voice didn't make it sound sarcastic. He could have used his customer service voice, but these people knew him too well to fall for it. He hoped they also knew him well enough to recognize when he was being sincere.
Stan grinned and patted him on the back. "No problem, ex-roomie. Good luck with your new place," he said with a wink.
Craig smiled too. It was going to be weird not having Stan sleep 14 feet away from him. He hated to admit it, but despite Craig's initial frustration Stan had turned out to be a pretty decent roommate.
Stan and Kyle waved their goodbyes to the rest of the gang and left holding hands. Tweek and Craig returned to the floor to their remaining guests. Almost everyone resumed the conversation about how much Cartman deserved to go to prison except for Token who continued to eye the door his old classmates had left through.
"Is it true what I heard back home?" he asked. "Those two are dating now?"
"Yep," Kenny answered with a proud grin. No one was as much a supporter of that relationship as he was. Probably not even the boys in question themselves. "Have been for about eight months now."
"Huh," Token said and raised an eyebrow. "Well, that's about time. They've been circling each other for years."
Kenny and Clyde burst out laughing.
"Dude, I'm honestly amazed you hadn't heard yet," Clyde said through a fit of chuckles. "Like he said. Eight months!"
"Give me a break, man," Token said, faux defensive. "I was in California for the majority of those."
Clyde snorted. "And whose fault was that. Traitor."
"Don't you start that again," Token warned with a laugh. "You can't still have abandonment issues over that."
"I most definitely can, Token the Abandoner," Clyde retorted and threw a dry chunk of pizza crust at him. "I hope you're having fun on your California adventure while the rest of us freeze our asses off all winter."
Craig couldn't keep from smiling at their antics. It was like going back in time and sitting between them in the cafeteria of their high school again. Tweek snuggled up against his side, nudging at him to move his arm back around him. Craig was well trained and did as requested. He nuzzled his nose into Tweek's hair until he realized he was being watched. Kenny flashed him a teasing smirk before getting to his feet.
"Well, I think it's about time for me to head home too," he announced with a tired stretch. He glanced at Token and Clyde. "You guys ready to head back?"
They both looked mildly displeased to have been interrupted mid-banter but nodded in agreement nonetheless. Token had agreed to spend the night in Kenny's apartment, partly so he wouldn't have to drive all the way back to South Park, and partly because Clyde had pestered him into hanging out with him for a few days.
Once more, Craig and Tweek walked their friends to the door, thanking them for helping out. Kenny bowed a formal farewell to Vicky and forced a goodbye hug on Tweek and Craig before finally following the bickering duo outside.
Vicky had risen to her feet when they turned back to their living room. She was digging passionately through her purse and eventually fished out a small package.
"Now, I know for a fact that you've probably made at least a thousand lists of things you needed for your new home," she said with a knowing smile in Tweek's direction. Craig snickered and Tweek blushed embarrassedly. They had fourteen to-buy and to-do lists in a box somewhere.
"So, I wanted to give you a little housewarming gift that you don't actually need, but I hope you'll like anyways," she said, nervously tucking a lock of hair behind her ear while handing Tweek the present.
"Thanks, Vic. You didn't have to," Tweek said and opened the present with Craig curiously hovering over his shoulder with his arms around Tweek's waist. Inside the package was a beautifully framed photo of Craig and Tweek from her birthday party a few months earlier. The two of them were cuddled up on her couch, seemingly in the middle of laughing at something hilarious.
Craig smiled fondly at the obvious love and affection radiating off them. A homemade frame full of coffee beans protected the picture, like a little homage to the café that brought Vicky into their lives.
"Thank you," he said genuinely. "This is perfect."
She flashed him a pleased smile while Tweek agreed. "It really is. Thank you so much for this!"
"I'm glad you like it," she smiled and let Tweek hug her.
Craig hadn't known what to make of the girl initially. Obviously he had been pleased Tweek had made a friend at work, but it had also worried him that she had known them mostly through the most difficult months of their relationship. He had worried a great deal about what she thought of him based exclusively on those months.
Upon meeting her, all of his concerns had vanished. If she had a problem with him, she hid it immensely well. Mostly she just seemed happy when Tweek was happy. She also had a seemingly endless patience and understanding for Tweek's anxiety. This meant that for once Craig had an ally who could be there for his boyfriend when he couldn't. That made her invaluable, and he was grateful to have her around.
"Well, I should get going too," she said and pulled her purse strap over her shoulder. She gave each of them a tight hug.
"Congratulations again," she said. "I'm so happy for you."
They watched her disappear down the stairwell and didn't back away from the threshold until they heard the sound of the front door closing behind her.
When they turned back to the mess of boxes that was their new home, Tweek let out an exhausted sigh. Craig rubbed his back comfortingly and eyed the packages containing their new couch, a gift from his parents. He made the executive decision they had to put it together before going to sleep. But not necessarily right now.
"30 minute break first?" he asked.
"Yes, please," Tweek agreed.
They dropped back down to the floor and checked their phones for the first time that day. Tweek's dad had tried to call both of them several times, once more proving himself way more invested in their relationship than they were ever going to be comfortable with.
Craig's boss Helen had left a single message about whether he would be able to come in an hour earlier for his next shift. He texted her back immediately.
The last couple of months had been interesting at work. As promised, Helen had given him more tasks and responsibilities, and that made going to work a lot more exciting.
He still didn't care much for retail, though. While he might have finally mastered the art of not flipping customers off, he still didn't need the exasperation that came from working so directly with other human beings.
Despite his general hatred for mankind, he had actually managed to get along pretty well with the coworkers on his new work schedule. It was a lot more fun to work when he knew he had a crew of tolerable people to spend the shifts with.
When Craig glanced up after replying to Helen's text, Tweek rose with a tired groan.
"I'm just gonna make sure the piggies have food and water," he said when Craig opened his mouth to inquire about the sudden movement. Craig smiled. He loved that Tweek cared about the pets.
He watched him leave the room before returning his gaze to the phone in his hand. Warren had texted him a few weeks earlier. Craig hadn't even wanted to open the text, but he was somewhat glad he did.
Warren had actually wanted to apologies for his behavior. He was seeing someone else now and had felt the need to apologize for not taking Craig's relationship with Tweek seriously enough to know when to back off. Craig had accepted the apology. After showing the message to Tweek.
When Tweek returned to the room he didn't sit back down on the floor next to Craig. Instead he looked from Craig to the boxes with a frown.
"Can we just put the couch together now and call it a day?" he asked.
"Sure," Craig smiled and let Tweek pull him to his feet.
They unboxed the couch and put it together piece by piece until they had an actual usable piece of furniture. Then, despite their initial agreement to end the effort there, they pushed the console desk up to the wall across from the newly assembled couch and began setting up the TV along with Craig's Xbox.
"Finally!" Tweek cheered from the couch when Craig managed to install the channels correctly on the TV.
Craig dangled the remote with a proud smirk. "TV works. We're officially moved in," he said before trudging over to plunge himself down on the new couch. More specifically, on top of the boyfriend already lying there. Call it revenge from his awakening that morning.
Tweek whined in complaint under the weight of his body, so he kissed him apologetically and shifted to lie behind him with his chest pressed against his boyfriend's back. It was a surprisingly spacious couch. Craig supposed it would come in handy in the future.
"So that was it then," Tweek muttered, and Craig could tell from the sound of his voice he was smiling. "We're officially living together."
"Yeah. We are," Craig answered, feeling the happiness bubbling in his chest at the prospect.
He glanced over Tweek to take in their surroundings. Weird as it seemed, this was his home now. He put an arm over Tweek and burrowed his face into the back of his neck. It was their home now.
He imagined all the times they would get to spend together, just the two of them alone. No matter how busy their individual schedules might be, from then on they would still get to see each other every single day, and nothing could match how grateful that thought made him.
He hugged Tweek tight against his chest. While he was not enjoying the process of turning into a functioning adult, he was very much looking forward to growing older together with Tweek.