OKAY I HAD THIS WEIRD INSPIRATION AND I HAD TO GET IT DOWN.
Um, please don't abandon this, I like to think it ISN'T clichéd. I'm not a super angsty person, so don't expect this to be a super-angsty fic.
YES this Fic is stupid, get over it. I imagine it'll bust, but that's life. I'm no people-pleaser; not anymore.
Swallow Your Pride, LOL
Kenny has a dark and totally serious PROBLEM, so his friends help him out. Yay! Effed-up Irony. Give it a try, you may be surprised. SK, KSKen friendship lol
The lunch bell has sounded. Two friends sit at their end of the long table, comfortable in each other's presence. As usual, their third friend has not yet joined them. It is a good ten minutes into the lunch period before he appears, silent and haggard, out of the crowd of noisy teenagers.
They greet Kenny in their own ways, and he greets them back in his. He sits and stares at his brown lunch bag, looking distracted.
Stan and Kyle always treat him as if he is their friend, but Kenny knows them too well and sees how they guiltily wish to be left alone. He has known about the two of them for a long time; maybe even for longer than they, themselves, have known. Their feelings are obvious to Kenny in how they treat each other with that conspicuous and practiced indifference. They have been this way for almost a month.
It has also been about a month since Kenny's problem started.
His arms tense all the way up when he reaches into his lunch bag. He can feel their solemn stares on his arms.
'No,' Kenny begs silently, hand disappearing into the bag. 'Don't look at me...stop looking at me.'
But they always watch and they have known from the start: it isn't something Kenny can hide.
Kenny has always been picked on for being poor, but it has never felt this bad to him. His friends, his real friends, have never stared at him in this way. They watch as Kenny reluctantly pulls his hand (and lunch) out of the protection of the brown bag.
Kenny is embarrassed – so embarrassed of himself that it almost hurts.
Kenny likes to believe that he can no longer feel pain. Numb is convenient, after all.
But that doesn't stop the painful heat rising in his cheeks as his "friends" look on and never say a thing.
Authority wouldn't say a thing about it, either. Kenny knows. They just don't care about "petty" things like this. It's probably semi-normal in authority's eyes.
Kenny eats silently, keeping his arms and hands as much out of sight as he can. The clock has become his only real friend. The clock, ticking minute-by-minute closer to the end of the lunch period, is the only one who can relieve him of this scrutiny.
No...they couldn't possibly understand.
Ever since he returned from school, Kenny has been napping.
Soon, he is shocked by the harsh and pure physicality of his father's drunken bellowing and battering. Kenny is violently knocked awake.
"Get the fuck out of my house!" The always-pleasant man yells after his son, watching the skinny blonde sulk away. Kenny has been kicked out...as usual. He walks along the snowy sidewalk without making a noise, watching the ground with wide eyes and welcoming the biting cold, if only for lack of a real way to ignore it.
He is so hungry, but too poor. Too poor, and too proud to steal or borrow money. Sometimes he wonders why he bothers, really. Pride is for those who are in a position one can actually be proud of.
Kenny still believes he can't feel pain. If pain is all you know, you can't really distinguish between pain and not-pain anymore. For all he knows, he may, in fact, be constantly happy.
Numb is still convenient.
An hour later, as usual, Kenny returns, making certain that his father is asleep inside before he sneaks back in.
Making as little noise as possible, he goes into the kitchen that is barely seven times his own size and opens the first drawer on his left. He pulls an old steak knife out from it.
You see? Kenny cuts.
Every cut he makes is careful and lined with undirected gloom. He does not blink or flinch. He cuts...slowly...slowly...wondering if this is real pain. Numb is convenient, but pain is better. This could be happiness, too - though Kenny doubts this.
He really doesn't understand the practice or the payoff of cutting in its entirety, but he feels he has no other options.
He watches with no small emotion as the liquid red trails languidly about his arm, staining his hand. Such a hateful red.
Kenny hears a noise behind him and goes rigid; he knows his father is standing in the doorway. A bitter smile graces Kenny's face as he tastes the stench of alcohol in the air. Some nights, his father watches him cut. It chills Kenny to know how little the bastard cares; doesn't even seem to consider that he has the potential to stop his son's bizarre practice. It wouldn't take much effort, honestly. Kenny believes he still loves his father and that his father still loves him.
Kenny is numb, but he still has some tricky understanding of what is right and what is wrong. This, for the most part, strikes him as wrong.
Mr. McCormick finally grunts in some sort of irritated and drunken amusement, growling at his son to wash the fucking knife when he's done.
When his father has disappeared into the other room, Kenny numbly hold his arms under warm water and washes the evidence away as best he can.
The knife remains in the sink, unwashed; still dirtied with the red remains of misdirection and untold shame.
After sunrise, Kenny makes it to the bus stop as slowly as possible. There wait Eric, Stan, and Kyle, dressed for warmth and carrying their clean (on the outside) bookbags.
Kenny's only form of jacket is his thin, gray hooded sweater. He has had it for five years; it still fits. It hardly keeps him warm. It used to, but not anymore.
Eric is thinking (scheming?) and doesn't pay Kenny's approach any heed. Stan and Kyle, however, immediately set their stares upon him - as if they had been waiting especially for him.
'Stop looking stop looking stop lookingstoplooking,' Kenny burbles at them in his mind, and he isn't surprised to see his request has not been granted.
He feels their eyes travel from his elbows to his forearms and his wrists. The tattered gray sleeves, covering all of this, sway as a harsh, frigid morning wind blows past. Kenny feels the backs of his upper arms go cold.
Numb is convenient; numb is usual, but Kenny has to admit that he can't really isolate himself enough when it comes to Stan and Kyle. Even when they merely look at him, Kenny is forced to feel something – the usual reaction being shame. He wouldn't mind their approval...
He isn't able to consider why this is.
Kenny's fist tightens uncomfortably under the two boys' stares, forcing a small 'crackle' from the old brown bag he has been using over and over to carry his lunch to school.
Kenny has not greeted them, nor does he begin to make the effort.
When the bus is here, he steps aboard quickly. Kyle sees sadness in his friend's weathered face. Stan is less observant, but he has a special sort of unspoken connection with Kyle that allows him to understand that their friend needs their help.
In the evening, Kenny finds himself returning to the dark place his father had, once again, booted him from.
Immediately, he retrieves the knife and his eyes water pitifully as he starts to cut.
His father does not come to watch; not tonight. Tonight, Mr. McCormick is passed out cold on the piece of shit they call a couch.
Sniffling gently, Kenny frowns in concentration and his eyes are dry again before he can consciously think about the meaning of his tears.
Careful, careful. Slowly...hold the knife straight. He hates that he cuts, but he can't allow himself to fault the action in any way.
It is with this cold irony in mind that Kenny first notices Stan leaning against the door-less frame of the kitchenette.
They stare at one another silently, but Kenny quickly averts his gaze from that of the other boy. As if Stan weren't there, Kenny systematically moves the blade again.
"Kenny..." Stan starts cautiously.
"Get out," Kenny replies, not maliciously. He leads the sharp knife through another cut, grimacing slightly.
Stan clicks his tongue.
"Kyle and I are worried about – " he stops, blue eyes brightening. "Are you listening? Kenny. Kenny... Kenny! Put down the knife."
"Sorry, no." Kenny mutters, positioning the blade yet again.
"Put it down," Stan repeats after inhaling deeply. "What the hell are you trying to prove by doing this?"
Kenny is quite for a long few seconds before he decides to speak.
"He hates me," Kenny says vaguely. He still has not looked at Stan.
Stan frowns, puzzled. "And...so is this your revenge, or something? I don't get it."
"...It's not revenge," Kenny sighs noiselessly. Not revenge. Perhaps punishment; perhaps a way to understand something. Anything. "Stan...go away, seriously."
Stan ignores it, pressing the matter further. "Well, what, then? Why...why this, Kenny? You...don't have to do this."
Kenny's hand sits flat upon the counter, the knife held under it. His back is still to Stan.
"There is nothing else for me," he tries.
Stan's dark eyebrows rise to meet his hairline. He only has to turn a bit to his left in order to reach the refrigerator. He opens it.
"...Shit," he groans sympathetically and closes the fridge with a shake of his head.
"Kenny, this isn't right. It's just – just so – " He fumbles on his words, frustrated; " – wrong. You don't need to – dammit, Kenny, put down the fucking knife!"
"I don't think you really care," Kenny states with a disturbing tone of cold science. "I think you may just want me to act normal so your boyfriend will pay attention to you again."
Stan's face pales three times over, but he does not relent. He does not ask how Kenny could possibly have figured them out, and he is partially too afraid to find out how they possibly could have slipped. A part of Stan wants to yell at Kenny for resorting to this unreasonable and immature nature of argument, but he doesn't have the heart to get angry about it. Not right now.
"Kenny...really...what's wrong? What does that mean? Are you telling me you're lonely? You think Ky and me don't want you around?"
Kenny throws the knife into the sink with a noisy clatter, turning to Stan angrily.
"Don't chalk it up to anything more than it is!" He growls, embarrassed that Stan has drawn such a personal conclusion.
Stan ducked his head slightly.
Having effectively silenced Kenny with this unexpected reply, Stan leans over and wraps his arms around the blonde's stiff shoulders. He holds Kenny for a long, awkward moment.
Kenny has begun to relax into him, but he quickly regains his mind.
"Stan!" he hisses urgently, struggling. "No; just – let go! If my dad sees you hugging me - !"
"Listen," Stan interrupts, still embracing his friend. "Dude. No matter how - ...I don't care how much fucking pride you think you have; when shit's bad, shit's bad. You can't be too embarrassed to ask – you gotta learn to ask for help."
"And...I don't really, um...know how you exactly figured out about me an' Kyle, but...it doesn't mean we don't still care about you, Ken."
Stan sighs and lets Kenny free, grabbing the smaller boy's wrist and staring into his eyes. There is a – a knowing sort of relief written in those china blues, and Stan is also relieved, even with the knowledge that he should have had this talk with Kenny a long time ago.
"Kenny," he says seriously, watching as Kenny's eyes sort of itch their way back to the knife in the sink.
Kenny hesitates a bit. "What?"
"I don't care how embarrassed you are to ask for money," he pauses. "...But I never want to see you do this again."
Kenny stares at him, chagrinned.
"No! No 'but's. I don't care if that's all your dumb fuck of a father – " and Kenny smiles, though unsure of whether or not he really appreciated the sentiment; " – can afford; for your sake, for my sake – if you need lunch money, I will give it to you."
Stan took a moment to breathe, subconsciously careful of his own asthma. Then:
"Stay over at my place tonight," he says. "I'll order pizza."
Kenny only watches at Stan makes himself breathless all over again with excitement over the idea.
It's silly – so silly, and yet – Kenny finds himself following Stan out the door at 1:12 in the morning, listening to his friend's good-natured grumbles;
He really can't feel numb around Stan and Kyle. It's pretty impossible. This, he is sure, is closer to happiness than the heart-sting he gets when he's cutting that stupid vegetable.
And it is a pride – and a pain – that Kenny is surprised to be relieved of so easily and in so short a time. He smiles to himself, and to Stan who knocked sense into him, and Kyle who probably had motivated the action, and to Eric, who had done absolutely nothing, as usual.
There, you see? He is smiling; grinning at the thought of the unmade tomato salad that he'll never have to taste again and the liquid streaks of red pulp around the knife sitting in the sink, forgotten.
He promises himself to never again underestimate their ability to understand. They are his friends, after all.