It was as if someone had pulled the plug on his brain. When he looked back on it, Craig's mind couldn't seem to ever settle on the exact sequence of events. Clyde might have shouted, he thought Gillian might have said something to him. He remembered feeling a hand on his shoulder. Someone must have dialed 911 because sirens started to cut through the night. What had he done, Craig had asked himself, what he had he done while they all waited for the help to come? Had he said anything? Had he tried to stop anything? Was it because of him, had it been his fault? And then there were strangers in his home and they were taking him.
Amidst all of it, Tweek was the only thing that stood out, like a lantern in the fog. His arched back, his fingers curling and uncurling, the way he thrashed about like a fish out of water, completely helpless. His thin body was trapped in convulsions, and at one point he kicked out at a small end table. It fell sideways, the vase upon it sliding off. Craig didn't remember the crash as it smashed into the floor.
He'd tried to follow them, tried to follow as they took his friend and loaded him into the back of an ambulance, but one of the EMT's had stopped him, insisting 'family only.' That was when Clyde said he and Gillian had had to run out and hold Craig back. He did remember that part – the sick, desperate feeling clawing at his chest, as he struggled against Clyde and Gillian who had only been able to restrain him by jumping up and toppling him to the ground. His chin was buried in the fresh snow, his eyes just able to make out the receding ambulance from his sideways view. The cold stung his cheeks and seeped into his clothes, and it was hard to breathe with more than two hundred pounds on his back, but all he could feel was the cloud of confusion and distress that seemed to creep into him and expand until he was left to lie there in the snow, long after Clyde and Gillian had dismounted, long after Tweek was gone from sight, still immune to the cold.
Tweek didn't remember anything. He didn't understand why he had been in a hospital bed, why people were telling me he'd had a seizure. Oh no, he had told the doctors, I think I'd remember if I had a seizure.
Actually, no, they had replied, confusing Tweek even further, some lasting effects generally include memory loss. Tweek had no response to that. The injuries he had sustained from Kenny's were assumed to be self-inflicted, as a result of his probably rolling and hitting things during his seizure, and Tweek decided not to contradict this.
A smell-less hospital bed, series of uncomfortable tests and questions, and disturbingly long lack of coffee later, Tweek found himself shuffling back up the front steps to his home, his parents following quickly behind, showering him with questions and ideas about his comfort. Are you tired? Are you dizzy? Would you like something to drink? What do you want for dinner? We want you to rest, now, just rest! Is the TV bothering you? We can turn it off, would you like some extra pillows?
As if regular everyday questions hadn't been enough to drive Tweek close to insanity, this new, consistent pestering was enough to make him want to tear his brain out. This being implausible, he'd resorted to ripping out his hair more frequently than before. It became a common occurrence for the next few days to find little clumps of blond tufts upon the house's floor. His parents had kept him home from school, for which Tweek was both upset about and grateful for. For one thing, there was no one he wanted to see more than Craig, Clyde and Token, if only to ensure that although he had fallen to pieces, the rest of the world hadn't. But an unavoidable disadvantage to returning would be confronting Kenny. So for a week, when his mother had hesitantly asked him if he felt up to going to school, Tweek had lied, and she, overcome with maternal affection and worry for her only child, had quickly agreed that he better stay home, at least for one more day.
It didn't matter. Because the next time Tweek saw Kenny, it wasn't even a school day, but a Saturday afternoon, a week after his hospital visit. The loneliness that had been drilling into him all week had finally become too much for him to bear so, after an hour of fighting to persuade his mom that he felt perfectly capable of leaving the house and returning alive, he slipped on his shoes and moved to open the back door to his house.
"Augh, Christ!" he exclaimed, jumping back, "What are you doing here?"
Kenny, his arm half raised as though he had been about to knock on the door, took a step back, looking startled.
"Tweek? Honey, are you okay?" drifted his mother's concerned voice from the kitchen.
"Fine! Fine!" he replied, his voice strained as he moved outside quickly, shutting the door behind him. Had another second passed he was sure his mother would have been there to quote more of the medical research she had recently been acquiring on her late-night wikipedia searches.
"So…" started Kenny, eyes staring painfully away. He had his hands buried in his pockets, his cheeks lit with pink from the cold. "I heard…what happened. Are you okay?"
Tweek stared back, wishing Kenny would meet his gaze, "Yea—nhng—I'm fine." He twitched violently, splashing some of the coffee from his paper cup over his hands; his thermos was still at Craig's.
Kenny smiled slightly, "Back to normal?"
Tweek shrugged, "I guess."
They remained standing on the front steps, neither looking at the other. Tweek busied himself with studying his coffee, wondering how long he would have to remain there before Kenny decided to leave.
"Er, it's, nice you came," started Tweek, his body starting to shiver from the cold instead of his usual quaking, "But…I'm sort of…."
"What?" asked Tweek. Kenny had spoken so softly he'd hardly been able to catch what he had said.
"I'm sorry," repeated Kenny, finally looking up to meet Tweek's eyes, "I was drunk, I don't know…I'm so sorry, Tweek, I just wasn't myself, I would never have hurt…." He hesitated, almost averting his gaze again, "I'm sorry. I won't…if you're mad…that's not even enough." He sighed, "I know I'm probably not the first guy you'd go to but if you ever, if you ever need anything, anything at all – you can ask me, I mean, I owe you, I…" He trailed off, his mouth still hinging up and down as though testing the next words it was looking to say.
"Nng!" replied Tweek, choosing to end Kenny's apology, "I forgive you."
Kenny looked relieved, "So…we're…"
"Just – gck! – fine."
He looked like he was going to say something again, but Tweek shook his head, turning and stumbling down the steps with his back to Kenny. He didn't want to hear anything else the other teen had to say. Kenny was hardly the first person he'd wanted to hear ask him if he was 'okay.'
But as he walked away, he could feel himself almost grow lighter, like some great burden had been shed. It was as though he'd been blind and unsure and now everything was just so painstakingly obvious, it was a wonder he had missed it before. He took a sip of his coffee, his mind lost in thought and realization, as his feet continued to trace a familiar path.
Clyde's exclamations were met with nothing but merciless slaughter as Craig poured virtual bullet after virtual bullet into the head of his soldier, reducing Clyde to a flat computerized mess on the screen.
"Dammit," he muttered again, waiting for his character to respawn as he watched Craig destroy more virtual lives. "Can you give me at least five seconds?"
"Sorry," muttered Craig absently, eyes glazed over as they stared forwards at the television screen. He was hardly paying attention to the game he was currently playing. He had been a mess all week, his untidy hair remaining unhidden by his blue hat, which he hadn't worn all week. He'd been more withdrawn and surly than usual – Butters had been nearly reduced to tears when Craig had gone off on him just for asking to borrow a sheet of paper. Cartman had gotten mad in turn, and Craig had offered to punch him so hard "it'll send the fat flying off your bones, you fucking lardass!"
"So, Craig," started Clyde slowly, moving his reborn soldier through an abandoned building, "I've got a date with Red tonight."
"Yea? Well, fan-freakin'-tastic for you then."
"I'm not done," muttered Clyde, "Anyway, she was sort of wondering if you wanted to come, too…with Heidi."
"What, like a double date?" asked Craig as he chucked a grenade at Clyde's character.
"Yea, like a double date," replied Clyde as his soldier exploded. He chucked the game controller to the side, shifting his position so he was looking at Craig, who still had his eyes level with the TV screen, "Come on man – I mean, Heidi's no Red, but she's pretty hot I guess."
"I care about Heidi about as much as I care about Butters," replied Craig, sending his soldier forth to shoot more players, "Maybe a little less."
Clyde was silent for a second, as if contemplating whether his next words were worth saying.
"You should go see him."
For the first time, Craig tore his gaze from the screen, "Who?"
"Who do you think?" replied Clyde, rolling his eyes as he moved to turn off the game system, "His mom can't keep him locked up forever. I bet if you just went to his house, she'd let you in. Or he would."
Nobody had heard from Tweek for the past week. His mother had decided it was best to keep him secluded, so all attempts at visiting or calling had been met with the calm but firm voice of Mrs. Tweak, insisting that her son be given ample time to recover.
"You think I haven't already tried? His mom's crazy."
"It's been a week."
"Yea," muttered Craig, moving out of the living room. He grabbed Tweek's thermos from the end table, which he had been bringing with him everywhere since it had fallen into his hands, as if he was expecting to need to return it at any second, "See you later Clyde."
"See you," replied Clyde, a little surprised by his hasty exit, though Craig hardly heard it as he moved outside of Clyde's house and to the front sidewalk. Hands in pockets, head tilted downwards, Craig had practically spent his whole life perfecting his "leave me the fuck alone" look. Clyde's transitioning from a refused double date to going to see Tweek had left him a little shaken. Just because he didn't want to go out with Heidi…Clyde was overselling her—personally, Craig found her as attractive as a tray full of school cafeteria slop.
He tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. He'd never noticed how lengthy it was, usually his hat had kept it all in check. He felt the thermos he had tucked under his arm slip a little, and he readjusted his grip. I should return it, he thought dully, hardly thinking as he turned the corner. Tweek's house was on the way towards his, and the last thing the kid needed after a seizure was another one due to lack of coffee thermos. The corners of Craig's mouth seemed to pick up a little at this thought.
Tweek had come out publicly pretty much the second he'd realized just where his interests lied, not because he was particularly brave or confident, but because he couldn't handle the pressure. It hadn't been his intention to shout it out and then faint, but Tweek was just unpredictable in that sense, even to himself. And Clyde, Token, and Craig had all calmed him down and assured him that everything was fine, and nothing had changed.
But that had been a lie. Because for Craig something had felt noticeably different, and after watching Tweek being carted off in the ambulance, the torn feeling in his chest had affirmed everything Craig had been suspecting before.
As he turned the corner onto Tweek's street, Craig was no longer the only person with his eyes stuck on the sidewalk and his mind embroiled in other matters. And with two distracted people walking towards each other, it was hardly a surprise they collided with each other.
"Hey!" exclaimed Craig, stepping back, "Watch where you're fucking goi—" He stopped, glaring at who he just realized was Kenny McCormick.
"You weren't looking either," muttered Kenny sullenly.
"Fuck that," replied Craig, fists clenching and unclenching, "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Last I checked it was a free country."
"Not for you, not on this street."
"Get out of my way, Craig, I don't have time for this shit."
"You're the one who's shit!" yelled Craig, grabbing the neck of Kenny's shirt, an impressive move considering Craig was shorter by at least half a foot, "After what you did to Tweek, and you've got the balls to come walking in here again?"
"Look, I was drunk, I never—"
"Oh, so you were drunk. Well the fact that you were fucking stupid enough to drown your nonexistent brain in alcohol makes it all okay."
"I don't owe you anything," snarled Kenny, moving his hands forward to shove Craig back. He'd hardly made the effort before Craig had let go, only to swing his right fist crashing into Kenny's jaw. Kenny staggered backwards, gingerly fingering his jaw, his face portraying shock for a split-second.
"Just do us a favor – stay away from Tweek," spat Craig. He remained still for a moment, then shoved past Kenny, who stood only glaring at Craig's back.
The picket fence with the peeling paint, already rundown after only a year of its mounting. The brown snow-covered bushes, coupled with the equally patchy lawn illuminated only by small colonies of weeds. The cracked walkway to the molded concrete steps, crowned by a bare, unfriendly door. Hanging shutters by curtained windows.
Tweek stood at the gate, taking in every aspect of the house as if it was his last visit. It was plain, in some cases seriously neglected, but Tweek would have it no other way. He liked to think that the house, in its standoffish, unkempt exterior, didn't care. That the dying lawn and shabby front was its own way of giving the finger to the rest of the block's trim, conforming homes.
Tweek pushed open the front gate, jumping when the hinges gave way suddenly to send the gate falling to its side. He made his way up the front steps and knocked hesitantly on the door, again jumping when the door opened almost immediately to reveal Craig's father.
"Augh! Um, ah, h-hello Mr. Nommel," greeted Tweek, shrinking a little beneath Mr. Nommel's un-approving gaze.
"What do you want?"
"I was wondering if, if Craig's here?"
"He's not home." Craig's father's blunt, indifferent tone easily told Tweek that he was an unwelcome visit.
"Oh…" They stood there for a moment, Tweek conscious of the fact that he was tearing at his hair again. But Craig wasn't there to stop him, to hold his hand and tell him it was okay, "Do…do you know where—"
"…Do you know—"
"Dad," came a different, higher voice. Tweek stopped as he watched another person appear in the doorframe. Gillian, in paint-spattered overalls and hands covered so thickly in paint that it took Tweek a second to realize she wasn't wearing gloves, was staring up at her father. "Don't be so rude," she quipped, rolling her eyes before turning to Tweek, "I think Craig went to Clyde's, but he's coming home soon – he's going to help me with my art project!" She grinned, then stepped back a little, "Come on, you can wait inside!"
"Gillian…" started Mr. Nommel.
"Whatever, dad," muttered Gillian, flipping off her dad as Tweek hesitantly shuffled inside, avoiding Mr. Nommel's gaze.
"Come on, I can make some coffee – that's like, all you drink, right?" asked Gillian, not waiting for a response as she led Tweek to the kitchen, going over to the sink and turning on the faucet to wash her hands. Tweek watched in fascination as her hands stained the steady stream of water so that it matched the paint covering her skin, "I might need some help, I mean, Craig's really the only one who makes coffee."
"Craig doesn't even like coffee," replied Tweek, fiddling with the buttons of his shirt, eyes darting about the room.
"Duh, he doesn't make it for himself," replied Gillian, grinning towards Tweek over her shoulder. Tweek couldn't decide what to make of this comment, so he said:
"You're a – ghn! — a painter?"
"For fun," replied Gillian, drying off her blue-tainted hands as she grabbed a bag of coffee grounds from one of the cabinets and then moved to fill up their coffee pot with water, "I'm not really good, but Craig always says I am." She stuck out her tongue a little as she measured the amount of coffee grounds to use, "He's supposed to help me with this project for my art class. We have to do a portrait, so he's gonna let me paint him. Pretty brave of him." She finished setting up the coffee pot, and soon the soft gurgle-like sound of brewing coffee became noticeable.
"So-o-o," said Gillian, slipping into a chair at the kitchen table across from Tweek, "You can sit down, you know. I'm not sure if Craig ever told you this, but these chairs we have in here are actually here just for that purpose." She smiled.
"Er, I, I know what chairs are for," replied Tweek stupidly as he moved to sit.
"I heard about your seizure thing," said Gillian, twirling a strand of brilliant red hair around her finger, "Sorry about that. Are you okay?"
"Aghck! Yea, I'm fine, thanks."
"Nice eye," said Gillian, referring to the black eye Tweek now sustained, thanks to Kenny, "I heard about that, too."
"Christ! Craig told you about that!?"
"He didn't tell me," she replied innocently, "I heard him telling Token about it when he was over here a few days ago."
"Well…that's fine, too," said Tweek nervously.
"So last Saturday…where were you guys?"
"Yea, last Saturday Craig lied to Clyde about where he was, so," she was grinning excitedly now, "Where was he?"
"We…we just walked home."
"And it took four hours to get home?"
"Wha—Where do you think we were?" asked Tweek, his voice strained. Why was he having this conversation in Craig's house with his younger sister?
"Oh, I don't know," shrugged Gillian, staring towards the kitchen cabinets. "He's been pretty messed up all week, you know."
"What?" exclaimed Tweek, a noticeable edge now present in his voice, "Is he okay? Is he sick? Christ, did I traumatize him? Oh Jesus, is he in an asylum? Did they lock him up? Oh shit, oh Christ! Did –"
"No!" yelled Gillian, reaching over to the table to grab Tweek by his shoulders and shove him back in his chair, which he had jumped out of moments before, "He's not sick. He's just been like, more moody than usual, y'know?"
Tweek was silent a second, nervously chewing his lip as he thought, "Nnnoo…"
"He's been pissier than usual, basically. He hasn't even been wearing his stupid blue hat."
Tweek winced, as though the insult to the hat had been a personal blow towards him, "Is it…why?"
"I think it's 'cuz of you," replied Gillian, smiling a little in spite of the fact that they were discussing her brother's current depressive state, "'Cuz he's been so worried."
"Jesus Christ! It is my fault! That's awful!"
"Awww, I think it's cute!"
"C-cute?" sputtered Tweek, jumping up again, but this time because the small light at the base of the coffeemaker had turned green, signaling the coffee was ready, "That's…he's…he's sick! And, and, for cute, I mean, Christ that's, it's just – crazy, why the hell, I think, I just," he stopped talking at that point, having managed to dislodge the coffee pot from the maker and pour himself a generous portion. Gillian watched with a bemused expression as Tweek swallowed the coffee as easily as she would breathe air.
"Impressive," commented Gillian when Tweek had lowered the now empty cup.
"Th-thanks," replied Tweek, experiencing a slight spasm so that he almost dropped the ceramic mug he had clutched tightly in his shivering grasp. For a while, both he and Gillian were silent, until, quietly, he asked, "Cute?"
Craig had always felt like the Tweak's house was something like a secret, hidden from those unworthy of knowing the truth about its location. Almost the entire first floor of the house was what made up Tweak Bros., Mr. Tweak's self-run coffee shop. Continue past the backdoors of the shop, though, and you would end up in a narrow kitchen. Next to that was a small, cramped dining room which also hosted a set of stairs that led up to the second, more roomy story of the house which supported the bedrooms, bathrooms and a small living room.
Craig rarely entered through the front of the house through the shop, preferring to use the backdoor which led directly to the kitchen. Currently he was standing on the back step, shifting his weight as he waited for someone to come answer the back door he had just knocked upon. He glanced at the thermos he had been tossing from hand to hand, discovering that he felt, for some inexplicable reason, nervous.
The doorknob turned, and Craig ceased throwing the thermos to stand still as the door swung back.
"Oh, hello Craig," greeted Mrs. Tweak in her characteristically calm voice, "How are you?"
"Fine, yea. Is Tweek home?"
"Oh, you just missed him."
Craig blinked, "What?"
"Yes, he just left a few minutes ago."
"Do you know where he went?"
"No, he didn't mention anything. I would tell you to call his cell phone, but he broke it last week."
"Huh," muttered Craig, then to Mrs. Tweak, "Well, thanks. Sorry for bothering you."
"Oh no, it's fine. Would you like some coffee before you leave?"
"No, I'm good. Thanks again," he replied, before turning and heading down the steps and back around to the front of the house again.
There was no place left to go now other than home. He liked to think that maybe Tweek had felt the same, that he'd be headed towards his house now, too, that after a whole week of being isolated the first place he would chose to go would be to see Craig.
And if he didn't? Craig continued walking, pausing only to light up a cigarette. For once, he felt that rare sensation, the fleeting feeling that perhaps the one thing he was after was maybe beyond his grasp, that his confidence and determination were not going to be enough for him to win out. Fuck that, he thought, reaching the front of his house, when Gilly's done with her project, I'll just go back. I'll find him.
Craig took one last drag before stamping out his cigarette and walking into the house, stopping in the doorway to take off his coat.
"Craig?" called a voice he recognized as Gilly's.
"Where've you been?"
"I told you, I went—" he had turned around to reply to his sister, whom he had heard approach from behind. But at the sight of who was standing behind her, his voice had shut off. The last time he'd seen Tweek had been a sideways view of him being strapped onto a gurney. Now he was standing—shaking—there behind Gilly, a souvenir mug with the Brooklyn Bridge on its front clutched in his quivering grasp. It was as if last Saturday had never happened, other than Tweek's healing black eye. Craig felt a brief urge to jump outside, go track down Kenny and punch him in the face. Again.
"Nng – Hey Craig."
"Hey Gilly," said Craig, though he was still watching Tweek, "Get lost."
"Oh, yea, hello to you, too," muttered Gilly, though for once she offered no argument as she listened to her brother and left the front hall, leaving the two of them in silence for a few seconds.
"It's weird seeing you without your hat," said Tweek finally, making an effort to smile.
"It's weird seeing you," replied Craig, subtracting a little of the distance between himself and Tweek as he stepped forwards, "Are you…okay?"
It was like that classic episode all TV shows do, where the two main characters end up switching bodies for a day. For that instant, Craig actually felt and let in the doubt and worry he had always blocked out with a wall of indifference before. And Tweek, after a week of being more repressed and isolated than usual, was feeling more free and confident than he could ever remember. At that moment, he felt like almost anything was within his reach.
Like, for instance, Craig. Craig, who, had never expected that Tweek would be the one to close the distance between them, to drop the coffee mug with a dull thud on the carpet, and with his newly freed hands to reach up, take Craig's face in his hands like Craig had done to Tweek only a week before, and bring him into the kiss that at that instant, both of them realized they had been waiting far too long for.
"So?" I asked, "What about me?" It's still raining. Tweek's mug is nearing empty, which means we'll have to get up to visit the kitchen soon.
"You Craig…" he said, pulling a little away so that he could turn his head around and look at me. He smiled – goddamn, every time…Tweek's not really a smiler, with his constant ticks and twitching eyes, it's kind of a hard look for him to keep up. So his smiles are short, infrequent. Sometimes with me he does it more, and then he'll spasm or something so his mouth is sort of like a weird crooked line. I couldn't care less though.
"You make me forget about the coffee."
I love him, ruined smiles and all.
A/N: Yea I'm gonna stick my note down here! Sorry this update took so long, there's three reasons for that. 1) I got a six-day-a-week job/internship, 2) I was on internetless vacation last week, and 3) as opposed to chapters 1-3, I had no plan at all for 4. All the Craig parts were really hard for me to write for some reason, so I think the pacing is a little off in this chapter but hey, CONCLUSION! The kiss might be a little OC but I like a proactive Tweek sometimes. Thank you so very much to those of you who have read and reviewed. Hopefully this is not my last Craig/Tweek fic.